Wednesday, 30 March 2016

A Tribute To... Goosebumps Monster Bags*

Goosebumps Monster Bags baby! A real favourite of mine from 1996 and (I believe) Hasbro, everything about these were great. They worked the exact same way as Galoob’s 1991 flash of brilliance Trash Bag Bunch, I was originally going to make a snarky comment about this not being too surprising because Hasbro own Galoob but it turns out they didn’t buy that company until 1998 so instead of recycling an idea, they just nicked it instead. If you don’t recall Trash Bag Bunch, or are just too young or too sexy to know/care about them they were the best way of handling the blind bag concept possible – the figures came in rubbish bags full of slime that dissolved in water. Monster Bags are just that but even better – because they’re action figures, and Goosebumps.

I was all in on the Goosebumps fad in the mid-90s, if any imaginary readers remember my Two TMNTSweeties post you’ll

know that I still own a stack of the books and am so shameless about my past with them that I proudly have them on my bookshelves as an adult, but I had Goosebumps everything – stationary, pyjamas, clothes, posters, board games, I had Goosebumps slippers and I didn’t wear slippers (putting Goosebumps in the elite Pointless Slippers Club with only Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Sonic the Hedgehog for company) – so any Goosebumps action figures, my preferred medium of toys as you may have guessed, was the height of awesome; but ones that came in dissolvable bags of goo? What’s higher than the height of awesome? The Rock of Eternity? Whatever it is, Monster Bags were there for 9 year old me. My mum not so much, she never liked any of these dissolvable things and as I found out in the toy isle of Tesco the other day, she’s still not keen.

The figures weren’t blind bagged, but rather each soft fabric bag (the best way to describe a Monster Bag is, you know when paper gets really used and becomes almost like cloth? They feel like that) came on a somewhat superfluous blister card clearly detailing which one of the four characters came inside along with instructions on the back, each card also included a small plastic knife to rip

open the bags with once you’d soaked it. The bright green bags (most Goosebumps things were either purple or hot green, if you recall) contained equally neon slime with a slightly crystalline/gritty feel to them that had to be submerged in warm water. Whatever this shit was it was clearly supplied by a Sly Sludge, I think you can see it in my pictures but just in case – my Slappy and Mr Mortman STILL have green stains in their nooks and crannies after 20 fucking years. I think the intention was that you ‘cut’ (read: ripped) the bags open on a nearby flat surface but my nan would never have gone for that, this is the woman who put a sheet down on the garden patio when I used Real Ghostbusters Ecto-Plasm, so I opened mine in the water and thus can tell you exactly what that sludge felt like because too this day I can feel it every time I wash up or am forced to drink a J2O– gritty thick water, like everything liquid or semi-liquid from Dr Dreadful but grittier. What you were left with was not a figure, but parts to be assembled, yes – just to make these things even cooler, you could swap all their parts though personally I never did this (I didn’t do it with He-Man either, hell I didn’t do it with Socket Poppers and that was the whole point of them, I just like my figures to look accurate, I was such an anal child). Once you’d done all this you were left with one of four figures from the Goosebumps novels. I’m sure at least one imaginary reader is thinking ‘what an unnecessary load of extra crap to do to get a figure’ but I couldn’t disagree more, the extra effort made me appreciate them more and they remain so memorable because of their gross method of unpacking - and bags of slime improve any toy for kids.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Plundor's Easter Bunnies!*

Greetings, it is I: Plundor the Spoiler, ravager of the spaceways and conqueror of Draedus, well I was until that He-person turned up, silly brute, how can one not be interested in money? Ah ha ha ha.

I am told that on your insignificant little planet around this time you like to celebrate death with rabbits, and as the biggest, evilest, pinkest bunny around this is, well, right up my alley. So I have observed your puny world and it’s amusing little distraction ‘the internet’ and plucked from it the finest five long eared ladies you should worship far more than you already do.

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Trading Card Theatre: Space Jam*

Space Jam trading cards are boring.

 I thought for sure there would be some entertainment value in a £1.66 complete set of Space Jam trading cards. I was wrong. Of course I’m still going to wring out a blog post out of it for my new ill-fated idea: Trading Card Theatre.

Firstly though, like the Gen13 set I bought from the same seller, these aren’t a completely complete set, they don’t have the special Animotion insert/chase cards and that sucks, because little lenticular images of scenes from Space Jam sounds awesome, but as they sell for $12 each I can maybe see why the couple didn’t put them in their 3 for a fiver box of shitty trading cards under their table. Secondly these cards came out before the film, as well as being a bit presumptuous it severely limits what the card set can include, my favourite type of trading cards for films are the ones that had the whole film in screen grabs so I can read along with the set, hell the Little Shop of Horrors set had more of the film than the film by including cut scenes. Instead this is what we got:

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Trading Card Theatre: Gen 13 '96*

I don’t think this is going to be a regular feature, but I bought a bunch of trading card sets at a convention and I’m pretty sure I can get blog posts out of all of ‘em and by damn I’m not wasting that opportunity for content.
First up is Gen 13 ’96, the second series of Gen 13 trading cards Wildstorm put out that cost me roughly £1.66, so I shouldn’t complain too much that the set didn’t include the alloy chase cards but I will mention that it didn’t so you know why I left them out. Gen 13 Volume 2 was easily one of my favourite books of the ‘90s and remains something I re-read fairly often, it wasn’t clever, it wasn’t deep, it wasn’t dark and gritty, it didn’t deconstruct anything, it was just filled with likeable characters in enjoyable stories with work from a bunch of creators I liked – people like J. Scott Campbell, Jim Lee, Gary Frank and Adam Warren – though it did have work by Ed Benes but y’know, nobody’s perfect. For this set I’m just going to pick out noteworthy cards I think are worth talking about or showing to the internet, the way I figure it even if nobody cares about my opinions on trading cards from 20 years ago at least this’ll include some rarely seen art by some recognisable names in the industry, after all, I bet you didn’t know Kelly Jones drew a Gen13 picture.

Monday, 14 March 2016

7 Things From Ebay!

Just a quick one today

I don’t trust Pintrest. It’s not that I think the site itself is unreliable it’s simply that I don’t trust it to last forever, or at least for my lifespan – I’m old enough to remember MySpace, MSN Messenger, Kazaa & AOL Chat and I see no reason to believe that the likes of Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and yes Pintrest won’t end up the same way so I still do things the old fashioned way – I save any pictures I want to my hard-drive and then back them up on an external hard-drive, I may be a dinosaur, but I’m a dinosaur that’s not going to lose access to this selection of April O’Neil fanart any time soon. My biggest folder, and the one that requires the most maintenance just to allow it to function properly, is not the hentai folder but one simply called ‘Reference’.  It’s pretty self-explanatory and is mostly stuffed with photos of rare toys, concept art, card backs and scans of wrappers and fliers. This leads us to today’s time waster my imaginary chums, as I’m just sorting through some pictures to put in that folder now, now a lot of the images I can’t repost with a clean conscience because they belong to fellow bloggers or forum posters, but the eBay stuff? That I have no guilt about - especially the guy charging £350 for old masks - so are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin.  

Boglins Masks!
Well these are fucking terrifying (and terrifyingly expensive too) now a regular Boglin is hand sized – what do we reckon, 10 inches at the biggest? These things are head sized and look like carnies from the most unnerving circus ever to travel the backgrounds of America where your car just had to break down and of course they’re the only thing around and of course they turn out to… *ehem* my point is that they’re bigger than regular Boglins and freakier than regular Boglins but weirdly they’re a whole regular Boglin – they have arms and a tail - so they’re not so much dressing you up as a Boglin as they are making it look like you’ve got a Boglin Headcrab, very strange.

Cadbury’s Little Horrors!
I totally had these! In fact there’s a plastic crate in my shed with Tipp and Snipz still on them! I picked these for this article just so I could tell you that. These glow in the dark stickers were given away by Cadbury’s, the chocolate company, in the early 1990s and 8 different sheets were made (I have a picture of the complete set but it’s small and I don’t remember where I stole it from) but I honestly can’t remember the exact method of distribution and because they’re not American I can’t find anything on the interwebs about them, I’m pretty sure they were packed in with something but they seem a little large for a standard chocolate bar. If any Imaginary Reader out there knows more, do tell me please.     

Dragon Return!
Either you’ll understand the appeal of this or you won’t because all I got for ya is “look it’s a little clockwork Bruce Lee with an Engrish name, it’s so crap it’s amazing!”. I was actually considering buying this, I’m not a very big Bruce Lee, in fact I think I’d say that I’m not fan of Bruce Lee but I am a fan of these dumpy little ‘walkers’ and a fan of crappy bootleg toys and the more inexplicable and wrong the more I like ‘em and making a cute little knock-off toy of a dead man may well be the pinnacle of knock-off toy wrongness, well that or that Batman squirt gun where you fill him up via his butt and push his penis.  

Jem Costume and Mask!
I finally found a Ben Cooper costume that I’d actually buy. Collecting these shitty old Halloween costumes by Ben Cooper and Collegeville and their ilk is apparently a thing, it’s a nostalgia thing I think as these things were everywhere in 1970s and early ‘80s America, all pretty much consisting of a mask, and a plastic smock with a picture of the character on it, not the most convincing costume but weirdly charming (you should see their Jaws one, or their Village People one!). As whacky as they are I can’t say I’ve ever found one that made me go ‘I really want that’ until this one turned up on a Google Image search for something completely unrelated, my love of Jem & The Holograms is strong and if anything could convince me to overcome the issues inherent in the concept of a grown man buying a little girl’s plastic outfit it’s a Jem mask that looks strangely like Elizabeth Taylor.  

Monster Paper Dolls!
I’m still toying with the idea of buying one of these but I really doubt I’m creating a demand for them, even though you should want one. Despite looking like a modern ‘ironic’ novelty gift it apparently came out in 1983 and frankly I just want it for all the various ways you can make The Bride of Frankenstein look sexy, as funny as Dracula’s saggy old man body and The Monster’s sock suspenders are, obviously. But I just can’t bring myself to pay £15 for what amounts to a large picture of an undead woman in her undies even if it’s this undead woman in those undies, if I do I promise to scan and upload the Bride in all her outfits, because I’m sure you’re all as sexually obsessed with her as I am.

Trouble Troll!
Unlike everything else on this list, this one I’m including for a serious reason. Troll Fighters are a rare bootleg line from Simba that had the genius to mix He-Man, Madballs and Norfin Trolls into one beautiful mess. These turn up so rarely that even pictures of them are hard to find, this is the first one of Trouble Troll I’ve seen (other than the one on the backs of the blister cards) though he’s missing his armour (you could easily nick one from the more common Galaxy Warriors: End of Time, TT’s is blue) I just felt that this image should be preserved and kept online for other bootleg action figure enthusiasts, and so I feel like I’m part of things as I am hopelessly priced out of getting these (though I have a nice few from Troll Force, yes there were two He-Man/Norfin Troll mash-up knock-off lines).

Evil X-Ray Wretch Armstrong!
Oooh yeah. The 90’s Stretch Armstrong line doesn’t get enough praise, I think it’s because they turned Stretch Armstrong into a grinning Steve Irwin and I can understand that, the 90’s Stretch himself does not command the respect of his 70’s predecessor but he had some wicked baddies. Vac-Man is the one who gets all the attention but my personal favourite was Wretch Armstrong, the Bizarro to Stretch Armstrong’s Superman the character was really just an updating and expanding of the old Stretch X-Ray for the 1990’s neon plastic and gross out toy generation of playthings. They gave him light up guts and, because it was the 1990s, a neon orange gun with a hook, missile and chainsaw on it and attached it to a head like a punk rock cenobyte, I can’t see why any boy wouldn’t want to play with this. I totally had a Wretch Armstrong, but I really couldn’t figure out how to look after these toys and they all either broke or went hard (or in the Vac Pac’s cases, turned into Beanie Babies) I regret this but as a child I just couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t treat them like ordinary action figures.  

Don’t worry I’m done now, I can’t think of a suitable concluding paragraph other than the advice that if you’re looking for a picture of something and that something is an odd old toy, put ‘eBay’ after the name and you chances of finding it will be a lot better (and you might find it in higher resolution too) and then you too can write nothing posts like these for your blogs, won’t that be fun for all?   

Friday, 11 March 2016

A Tribute To... Beetlejuice's Rock 'n' Roll Graveyard Revue

This week’s bout of depression has created an unusual side effect in a huge wave of nostalgia for Universal Studios and the realisation “of course it’s all on YouTube”, the internet has given us many bounties – most of them involving naked people, yes - but being able to experience old theme park attractions you thought you’d never experience again, exactly how you remember (or close enough) is one of it’s tastiest. I’m returning to Florida this year and I’ll of course be returning to Harry Potterland featuring The Simpsons Universal Studios, and I will damn well enjoy it, but the Universal Studios on my childhood is no more, Kong, Jaws, Mr Stay Puft, Doc & Marty and now Beetlejuice and the Universal Monsters have been shuffled off for undeniable cash cows like The Simpsons, Harry Potter and Minions and things that can never hope to have the longevity of these or the things they’ve replaced like Shrek, The Mummy remake and the Bayformers, and I say that as a confirmed fan of the Mummy remake and someone you better believe is going on all of those properties’ rides. But thanks to YouTube and a site for downloading videos from it that I do not know exists, at all, I am now totally ok with this; because I can experience the Kong ride any time I want - without the taste of American Tourist Sweat™.

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Ten Other Great Songs By... The Jam!*

I kept meaning to do a Pogues or Billy Bragg one of these to tie into the Kirsty MacColl one but I left it too late so bollocks, let’s have some direction, some reaction and some creation.

Welcome to my second instalment of Ten Other Great Songs By… where I gush about the songs you’ve never heard of by bands you don’t know the name of but would recognise if you heard them, eschewing the one or two hits the act has to tell you about 10 other great songs they recorded. This format was designed for the likes of Ian Dury, Kirsty MacColl and Billy Bragg, who only had a couple of hits and a couple of ‘Teenage Kicks’, signature songs that weren’t chart successes at the time (and haven’t been since) but are now very well known, sometimes more than their actual hits (i.e. Teenage Kicks by the Undertones, which is far better known in the UK than their actual bit hit My Perfect Cousin). It wasn’t meant for bands like The Jam.
Though their popularity never translated across the Atlantic because the band didn’t really like America all that much when they first toured (mostly, and I’m not kidding, it was the higher drinking age, all of them were under 21 at the time!) The Jam are considered one of the great British Bands, often held in higher esteem than many of their major influences (The Kinks, The Who…) due to putting out music for only five albums and six years and staying broken up. A three-piece consisting of drummer Rick Butler, bassist and occasional songwriter Bruce Foxton and lead vocalist, lead guitarist, principal songwriter, style icon and god among men Paul Weller, the bastards had a whopping 13 top 20 singles and they only released 19,  with only one single overall ending up outside the UK Top 30 and that song, ‘The Modern World’, easily qualified as a Teenage Kick thanks to its strong ties to the ’77 British Punk movement and thus appearing on lots and lots of Punk compilations. Though you could probably whittle down their ‘big songs’ to number 1 hits ‘Going Underground’, ‘Town Called Malice’, ‘Start!’ and ‘Beat Surrender’, slightly less bit hits ‘When You’re Young’, ‘Eton Rifles’, ‘Down in the Tube Station At Midnight’, ‘David Watts’ and ‘That’s Entertainment’ (which reached number 21 – on import) plus their punk anthems ‘In The City’ and ‘The Modern World’ and the (relative) bomb that was ‘News of the World’ thanks to its status as the theme tune of a popular panel show I’m just gonna say “fuck it” and ignore all of their A-Sides and Double A-Sides and make this an all album track and B-side affair, the sign of a true fan! So are you sitting comfortably? Because for those of you watching in black and white, this one is in Technicolour: