Thursday, 10 November 2016

Letter from America: The Big Spend-Up*

Welcome to the biggest Examples of Crap I Waste My Money on post you’ll ever have to suffer, I had a big bunch of money left over from going on holiday so decided to spent roughly £200 of it on eBay, however at the same time I was selling a few odds and ends on the site and thus the money didn’t go down quite as quickly, it was rather good fun but it was still wasting money on toys and I need a blog post out of it to fully allay the guilt. Normally I’d split this into a multi-part post like the Nummy Treats Letter From America but I feel it needs to be this large to get across how much shit I bought in one afternoon.  So are you sitting comfortably and suitably sedated? Then I’ll begin.  

Proof that you can get the occasional bargain on eBay today, I paid half of what they’re still selling this set for at Toys R’ Us. It’s been tough to resist buying Astra’ even at her high price because Monster High flat out needed an alien to continue filling out their horror archetypes and Mattel did an excellent job of her design. However virtually the moment I unpacked her I realised she looks JUST like a friend of mine and now that is all I can see when I look at her. To worsen this situation said friend has a (fairly justified) reputation for being adorable but a bloody thirsty would-be serial killer who kidnaps famous people in large butterfly nets so now not only do I see my friend but I’ve also become convinced that Astranova is in league with the Martians from either War of the Worlds or Mars Attacks or both. I really wish her floatation station made the ‘ooooooh-laa’ sound.

McDonald’s Barbies!
The early 1990’s Barbie sets are some of my favourite McDonalds toys and some of my favourite toys period, I ever make a top 100 toys list, these are going to be in it in around the 60s. They really caught my eye as a kid; each was based on a real Barbie on toy shelves at the time but shrunk down and turned into figures that to my childhood brain could technically be termed as either action figures or mini-figures, they were Barbies that not only would it be ok for me to play with within the constraints of the bullshit ideas on gender my family had at the the time but they’d be compatible with everything I usually played with. But *sigh* I was still a boy and a boy who relied on his parents or grandparents for purchasing everything that wasn’t paid for with birthday or Christmas gift money (I was 5) and I never bought a Maccys with either of those, and as each of these Barbie promotions were run simultaneously with an equivalent Mattel promotion for boys – one was Attack Pack, Hot Wheels: Streex was another – so I never got a single Barbie figure, it didn’t matter so much when it was Attack Pack because Attack Pack was undeniably the shit, but I’ve never cared for Hot Wheels (with the exception of their Smash & Crash series, so much fun). As we know, if you deny a child a toy they want when they’re a child, they WILL come back as an adult and buy it regardless of the cost. I now have two complete sets, expect a tribute post.

Roswell Figures!
WHAT ARE THESE THINGS!?! I found them on an Independence Day search and I have no idea what the hell they are or where they’ve come from! They’re five inches tall and unarticulated and they confuse and scare me!

Neural Claw Batman!
This seems to me like quite a lot to pay for one 1990’s action figure that got completely normal distribution worldwide, sometimes I say things that make me sound like I’ve never had sex – I can only assure you I have. This is probably my favourite Batman figure though so 12 quid didn’t seem too bad. Yeah my favourite Batman figure is Neural Claw Batman, I just think he looks so damn good; yes he’s got ‘extreme’ anatomy and he doesn’t stand up very easy but that mix of black, metallic purple and red with dinosaur wings (I’m sure they’re supposed to bat wings really) and huge terrifying claws (that can attach to either his hands or wings) and that hint of Keaton!Bats just does it for me. I would kill to have the whole Legends of the Dark Knight line remade as collectors’ figures, with a sculptor who knows what a human body actually looks and doesn’t base legs off of a Rob Liefeld drawing of the Harlem Globe Trotters but if they can only do one for their Multiverse line, they should do Neural Claw Batman. Get on it DC Direct or DC Collectibles or whatever you’re calling yourself today. 

Alien Attacker!
Well this was a failure. This was listed as the Alien Supreme Commander, the big gun of the Independence Day toyline and a figure I’ve lusted after since I was a kid. Surprise! It isn’t, it’s the Alien Attacker – what’s the difference? Well the Supreme Commander is much bigger but you can’t really tell that from an eBay photo with nothing else in it for scale and otherwise the two look almost identical, I spent a whole morning going back to it and comparing it to photos in a state of frustrated uncertainty. I had to watch several YouTube videos until one told me that the proper Alien Supreme Commander is 14 inches tall, this figure ain’t 14 inches, The Shockmaster can put his arm around the bastard’s shoulders. Thus the only way to tell the difference without something standing near it is that the Alien Attacker has a metallic blue line on his torso and the Supreme Commander does not (because his opening head lines up better, I think). I'd feel ripped off but it’s such an easy mistake to make that I don’t think the seller meant to do that; I’m much more inclined to believe he looked up the figure he had and listed it under the name of the one that looked the most like it. I’m still annoyed though, mostly at myself. I know, let’s look at Happy Dinosaur!

Happy Dinosaur!
I have no idea what search lead me to Happy Dinosaur but who cares because he is so delightful it could be weaponized and used to take out tanks. There’s no maker’s mark or date but given his colour scheme I’m leaning towards him being released in the wake of Jim Henson’s Dinosaurs and the brief Not The Mamma Craze that ensued (seriously, for about a half a year that was ‘TIMMEH!’ levels popular, most people seemed to just know the show as ‘Not the Mamma’) which would put him around late ’94 to early ’95 – he doesn’t look his age does he? Happy Dinosaur may be the cutest thing I own, I am a miserable fuck (medically) but looking at his face fills me with joy, it’s like having a baby that’ll never grow up or shit on me, I think I’m getting broody. Also Happy Dinosaur is huge, he’s about the same size and that fucking not-Supreme Commander up there, no, bad thoughts, look at Happy Dinosaur, let him feel your heart with wonder.

McDonald’s Dinosaurs!
Britain received some exclusive McDonald’s sets, including one of those  Barbie sets and another of my favourites: McRockin’ Foods, but we also didn’t get some promotions that were available in America – we didn’t get all of the Changeables or Funny Fry Friends, we didn’t get the McBoo Pails nor did we get all of the McNugget Buddies promotions (though we did get an exclusive set). Other than those there are few I’m bothered enough about to put the extra money into importing or paying more for from a UK seller (as I did here) but of course this is obviously one of those few. As much as I like Jim Henson’s Dinosaurs the show I am 100% more about the Hasbro toyline, I recently (finally) completed my set of those (the only Robbie I’d ever seen in person I bought – it shouldn’t be that hard to find a dinosaur in Converse All-Stars) and I thought these would make a nice compliment to them, further this is (I think) the only figural representation of the gran: the one that use to give Earl shit all the time in true sit-com mother-in-law fashion and looked like the Queen Mum. Habsro chose to make B.P. Richfield instead – seemingly a sensible move as he was a Styracosaurus in a business suit, that’s toyetic as anything ever devised – but I swear he became one of the biggest peg warmers of my generation, these came out in when I was six and I don’t think Toys R Us got rid of all their Richfields until I hit puberty.

Yeah this cost the same as a third of Neural Claw Batman, and it came boxed, and it explodes. I thought Mikey was the coolest alien in Men in Black and I don’t seem to have been alone, I mean he was in the music video. I don’t feel the need to own many Men in Black toys, I adore the film but it’s not something I need a lot of merchandise for – I have a figure of J, K and Edgar and now I have a Mikey that explodes and carries a severed audio-animatronic head, all I’m after now is that big Edgar bug who as the centrepiece of the line (unless you really like exterminator vans with space ships cashed into them…hmmm… I think I do kind of like that on reflection). The reason I bought Mikey first? He explodes and has a severed audio-animatronic head is why, sure a giant bug made of terrible CGI special effects is cool but it isn’t an alien Incredible Crash Dummy. 

Wingnut & Shredder!
It’s getting really quite difficult to get TMNT figures for a decent price, especially in good condition, everyone is convinced they’re collectible (because they are) and price them accordingly which is a pain as I have some irritating holes in my vintage Playmates TMNT collection and want to fill them, but don’t’ want to spent £30 a figure doing so. These two represent two different ends of the ‘trying to get a bargain’ spectrum: Wingnut was a genuine bargain, he’s completely complete except he that didn’t come accompanied by his sidekick Screwloose, which is fine because I still have Screwloose; yeah I lost both of Wingnut’s wings but didn’t lose Screwloose – if you’re rolling your eyes going ‘oh, well that’s ridiculous, fuck’s he on about? What a nerd’ the silliness in this situation is not a fan thing but an ‘it’s much harder to lose two big grey things than one small yellow thing’ thing. Slice ‘n Dice Shredder is the opposite, he seems like a bargain until he turns up and he isn’t complete and in fact has a broken piece (one of his shin guards); so if you want a complete version (like I do) you now have to buy another at some point, which when combined with what you spent on this one is going to cost noticeably more than just paying the extra you didn’t want to pay in the first place. I hope you’ve learnt something today and that something is being a tight bastard doesn’t always pay off – except with man-bats who have ears that look like Kellogg’s Cornflakes.  

£22 for both
Unless you luck into one at a bootsale – and it almost invariably will be Bumbelion or Butterbear though I did find Tycoon at such a gathering for a £1 – you’re not going to get a vintage Wuzzle for less than a tenner. I’m not sure how I feel about this, on the one hand I like that the average Wuzzle has the same resale value as a standard vintage Care Bear as it kind of puts them on the same level as a much more popular and far more collected franchise and as a Wuzzles fan (and Care Bears fan) that makes me proud. On the other hand I had to pay the entrance fee for a mid-size tourist attraction to get two played-with condition soft toys sent to me from less than 20 miles away. Still Koalakeet is undeniably adorable, my house is 12% cuter now he’s in it (and given my house already contains Happy Dinosaur, it was already Hello Kitty-level adorable).   

Sagitar and Modulok!
£30 for the two
So it took me a while to work out why I was having trouble finding a Sagitar for sale from a UK seller: Sagitar has a different name in the UK (several New Adventures’ characters did, including Icarus) and I’d forgotten that, unfortunately I remembered this AFTER I’d already bought one from America and paid expensive shipping for it *sigh*. Still it’s great to have Sagitar, even if some paint did get knocked off his nose in transit so he now looks like Sagitar who’s been out on the piss all night. It’s even greater to have a complete Modulok (who’s supposed to be mostly red), I still have my childhood Modulok but I don’t think he was ever complete and if he was he sure ain’t now. Honestly though, having a complete Modulok is more for bragging and bragging to yourself and maybe two other people online because no one can tell, but I sometimes need to brag to myself about having complete He-Man toys…I’m so alone.    

Animal Water Squirters!
From 1995, I can’t seem to find another McDonald’s set with less respect or resale value from this time-frame; no one seems to care about this set, at all. Except me of course because I bought a whole set and am so happy about it I’m putting it on a blog. For those unable to keep up with all my bullshit I was 9 at this point and still not over Happy Meals, I only went to Maccy’s once during this promotion and went with my dad, unusual as he hates McDonald’s. I guess we were with my aunt, uncle and their kids because I got the toucan and for years two hippos were scattered around my aunt’s house. I really wanted that hippo as a 9 year old, it feels so distinctive and looks like a giant plastic versions of those pink shrimp sweets, I used to randomly find it at their house and just hold it, enjoying how it felt. I’d forgotten all about this until I was using one of those eBay auctions where you select one of several items, they confuse and annoy me but I wanted those Dinosaurs toys, and while being nosey at the other items I found this set and remembered my longing for a pink hippo – instant buy.

TMNT Bubble Bath Containers!
I’ve been really keen to replace my set of these but y’know it’s hard to convince yourself that you should spend a tenner on a 20 year old toiletry instead of food. These really are some of my favourite pieces of TMNT merchandise though – yes the bubble bath containers – I just really like the ‘art style’ used on them, they’re clearly based on the first wave of Playmates toys (except they’re all wearing Leonardo’s belt because someone didn’t do the research) but still have their own unique style. Also each one is a completely unique sculpt, head and all, that’s a lot of money to spent to something that could very easily be the exact same thing with four different colour headbands. I guess whoever made these figured that TMNT bubble bath was such a sure-fire bet that they could risk it, and you know what? I think every house in the early 90’s that had a child also had one of these, so they were probably right.

At last! I hate the term ‘grails’ because, well, because I’m a stick in the mud but if I did like the term then these little glow-in-the-dark mail-always would definitely be a grail for me. They’re from an obscure Smarties promotion in the early 90s, well I say obscure but everyone I knew was sending off for them at the time and the characters were part of a large ad campaign including TV, it’s just the internet that decided they were insignificant even by internet standards. The only place I could find them shown (or even mentioned) was an ancient site chronicling the history of Smarties packaging. Now I have a complete set again (I lost two, which broke my tiny black heart) I intend to rectify that, starting with this post.

Alien Supreme Commander!
Oh look, it’s the actual Alien Supreme Commander…*looks at Happy Dinosaur* this figure is fucking huge and I am legitimately considering leaving Happy Dinosaur by my bedside to chase away negative thoughts for the rest of my life. At 14” it’s only 2 inches taller than an Action Man or vintage G.I. Joe but with its tentacles splayed this thing is almost spherule and that additional width makes it seem ginormous. As such I’m ok with paying as much as I did for it (it came with a box but it got banged up in transit so I threw it away in disgust), he doesn’t scream anymore (he needs new batteries) but I consider that a bonus – I don’t want the bloody thing screeching every time I want to take out his little bendy host and that bendy host is cute, bendy and perfect size to menace everyone from Action Force to He-Man so he’s gonna be in and out more than a porn star.

The Game of Jaws!
So if you do really exist and have read more than this article, and I can understand why this post might put you off but please don’t go, you may notice that not many 70’s toy turn up here. This is because 70’s toys are expensive, sought after, rarely have a Buy it Now option and rarely show up at boot sales and most of all, I just don’t care that much about many of them, well many of them that aren’t Action Men or Bionic Men. I’m not even that mad on Kenner’s Star Wars (though I undoubtedly have my favourites and I am REALLY fond of those favourites). But sometimes there’s a toy from the 70’s that I just want an irrationally large amount – for instance, the huge plastic shark that made up The Game of Jaws. It is huge, it is a shark, it is glorious – what more do you need me to say to you? This is a real classic monster toy, though I don’t think that anyone who owned it actually played the game (it’s a basically a cheaper Operation for children with less steady hands) but instead just had it menace their various Megos (imagine Mego Fonzie jumping this bastard!) and now I own Brucie here I can see the appeal of owning Mego Aquaman for perhaps the first time. Arthur would look so badass leading the Game of Jaws into battle, Ocean Master and Black Manta would shit their wetsuits at first glance (if Mego had made them).

Ok so these technically aren’t from the spend-up, a friend bought them for me, she works for a Charity Shop and she assumed (rightly) that I would want them. Both of them are amazing and they allow me to finish up with a window into my mind. I have two types of toys – For Display Toys are for shelves and cabinets or earmarked for shelves and cabinets to come once money, space and furniture arrangement allows; most of this post are For Display Toys as is the horned T-Rex which I’ve called Clive. Clive is one of the ‘classic’ Chinasaurs and is thus set to stand with his fellows in a mixed vintage toy cabinet I’m planning, the Independence Day, Men in Black and He-Man figures are also going to be for this display, as is most of the McDonald’s stuff. The other type is Around The House Toys, these are not for display so much as to make my living quarters a more bearable place to be, the sharp-toothed Ankylosaur who I’ve named John is an Around The House Toy as is Happy Dinosaur, they’ll probably end up living next to a console or in a box or by some books or even in the bathroom (though they’ll get mildew-y, so maybe not) just making everything a little more me. On John and Clive personally, I’m particularly fond of Clive not just because he recalls Godzilla but because his horned nose recalls the original mix-up with Iguanodon (they thought his thumb spike was a horn) and thus ties him into the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs – the first Dinosaur models ever and something of a mini-obsession of mine. As for John I love it when cheap Chinese toy companies make herbivores into carnivores, it’s so wrong and yet so right – so he’s a winner even if he wasn’t my favourite dinosaur (and Ankylosaurs sure are my favourite dinosaur) and you bet he’s gonna fight Imperial’s King Kong during some spring clean or another, I will stop everything I’m doing to make them battle.  

And this concludes our final Letter from America. From now on I will stop talking about my holiday and go back to posting barely connected (if at all) crap on various things I like and reviews of toys. I hope my imaginary chums haven’t been too bored, and thank you all for reading.    


  1. Wow, that is a LOT of stuff!! I am glad I looked at this post because I did not know that a character named Koalakeet in the Wuzzles even existed and I LOVE the Wuzzles. This probably means that there are others that I have no clue about either! I also really enjoyed seeing the various McDonald's Happy Meal toys that you got. I have to start getting some of these myself. Made me feel like I need to go on a shopping trip hehe!

    1. yay, I helped! Alright I helped someone spend money but still, helping! Wuzzles are wonderful, the second series of Wuzzles were Koalakeet, Pandeaver, Piggypine, Tycoon, Skowl and Woolrus. Tycoon and Koalakeet seem to be the most common and Skowl the rarest. I think Ghost of the Doll has pictures, if not, I do.