Friday 29 December 2017

Examples of Crap I Waste Other People’s Money On Christmas 2017 Edition

This is either going to make sense or sound prickish, let’s see: it was really quite difficult to do this Things I Waste Other People’s Money On Christmas post this year, not because all my family and friends decided to stop giving me gifts or because everyone gave me crap presents but because of the complete opposite. The way I do these posts - which I respect are just filler posts but I enjoy them – is that I don’t choose ‘the best’ items but instead I choose between five and ten that I can think of a paragraph or so of text for, I joke about this but this is genuinely how I decide what purchases or gifts end up being spotlighted – the problem this year is that everything was on roughly the same level and that means that just about everything qualified, even the random complimentary Fidgit Spinner.
I’m still not satisfied with this, perhaps when I tell you that this article still doesn’t include a three foot light up man nor anything Kinder Egg related nor James May nor a pop-out cartoon Wampa nor a wind-up Chewbacca robot nor a near-life size Ghost Type Pokémon nor a unicorn candle that cries rainbow tears you’ll understand my (first world) issue. But anyway, are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin:

So I Quite Like Sting…
That’s Sting the wrestler not Sting the tantric-sex-having-rainforest-saving-message-in-a-bottle-sending-reggae-ruining-Quadrophenia-and-Alanis-Morissette’s-cover-of-King-of-Pain-are-the-only-good-things-about-him singer Sting (BELL BOY!). I do like Sting, he’s one of my favourite wrestlers, I’ve been a fan since I was a kid (Pre-Hogan WCW used to be shown on terrestrial telly in the UK) but this is actually a complete accident, the only Sting I planned on unwrapping this December 25th was the Hasbro WWF style one in the middle. Then I finally found a Raphael as Sting (who’s been a bitch to find here) in (of all places) Tesco while I was getting the Christmas Day/Boxing Day shopping with my family so my mum bought it for me as a last minute gift THEN I found Defining Moments Sting in Home Bargains while doing last-minute present shopping (I was desperate) and the till went down and would only accept cash and I didn’t want to line up for an ungodly amount of time AGAIN (because everyone else was desperate and in Home Bargains) and the only cash I had was some my grandmother had given me to get some presents for myself earlier in the month that I still had so he became a Christmas Present ‘by necessity’ and as I’d used that money I gave it to nan to wrap up and that’s how I ended up with three Steve Bordens. God I’m boring.

Heroes of the World Fighter (TMNT) Card Back Art is Amazing!

My knock-off kick continues with the arrival of my set of four Heroes of the World Fighter turtles!

Still too cold to go in the loft...
The figures are pretty sweet, they’re soft plastic and smaller than you’d think but utterly adorable. Fuck all that shit though because we’re here to talk about the boxes because Heroes of the World Fighter has the best worst card art of any toyline ever, have a hi-res scan of it:

clicky to enlargey

Friday 15 December 2017

War Orcs in a World of Enemies!

I am returned from the grave! Let this day be known hereafter as Easter, and stuff your kids with sugar and caffeine in thanks!

It’s been a bad six weeks or so for me, I’ll tell you about it sometime – until then I found something festive: Angry Brussel Sprouts!

Note: photos are being taken under my Christmas tree because
it's too bloody cold to go up in the loft where my regular set-up is.
Pretend it's a fantasy forest, I did.
Meet the War Orcs in a World of Enemies, or possibly just War Orcs or possible Orc Hoard (and they’re also being sold under Orcs: The Legion of Thunder too) you know what these bootleg and knock-off toys are like. They’re apparently by companies Legion Toys and Toy Bank but as far as I can see neither exist, well Legion Toys do exist but they’re a small Buenos Aires art toy firm that do technically make knock-offs but they’re those ‘ironically cool’ knock-offs that think that being ironically cool makes copyright laws cease to exist. There’s nothing ironic about our War Orcs, they’re straight up World of Warcraft knock-offs and have no shame, I love them.

Monday 30 October 2017

Examples of Crap I Waste My Money On: Winter MCM 2017 Edition

I am so tired.
Sunday was exhausting and I’m not over it yet, we spent the daylight hours at the final day of the winter MCM London Comic Con – or getting there – and then after returning I hosted our group’s annual Halloween get together which ended at quarter to 12. That may sound early but after five hours of convention, three hours of travelling and then 4 and a half hours of socializing midnight seems pretty late, and then I still had to clear up. The Halloween do was a great success – no egotism there it wasn’t a success because of me, it was just success in my domicile – MCM meanwhile was probably the best MCM ever, spread over two halls it had more dealers than ever before, a slew of impressive names signing, a large artist alley and stalls from a host of big guns from CEX to Bandai, in terms of balance between the various things to do it was easily the best MCM I can remember and in terms of the amount of each thing to do it was the best MCM I can remember – I only wish I’d got to see more of it. 
The fact that I didn’t wasn’t the fault of MCM – it was the fault of TFL Rail, the current private company who own the trains in London (thanks Maggie, privatisation still giving us all issues decades on) – they closed a whole segment of the overground rail but put on no replacement bus service, stranding us in Ilford. I’m assuming the thinking behind not bothering to put a bus service on was because there were buses that run from Ilford to Stratford – the part of the railway line closed – anyway. HOWEVER have you ever been to Ilford or been to Ilford and tried to get a bus? I’m guessing not as most of the readers of this blog are imaginary – Ilford is a place where joy goes to die and half of it is a confusing ring road, it’s a horrible place and a horrible place to navigate if you don’t go there a lot, and I don’t because I avoid Ilford like the fucking plague. So instead of a replacement bus service that stops outside the station (or nearabouts) we had to walk around a bad area looking for an 86 bus going the right way. It took us over 2 hours to do a 50 minute journey, I was exhausted before I got to the convention, which closed at 5, we got there at 20 to 1.
I feel better now. Anyway of course I still bought a load of crap and spent over £100, wanna see?

With one exception (to come) I’m pretty damn satisfied, I worry about buying too much of one type of item at conventions because I have a shitload of baggage and one of them is that I worry I’m becoming obsessed. I was particularly concerned I was buying too many action figures, especially as three of them cost £15 or more – but seeing it all together, well mostly (to come), sure it’s nearly all toys but not all the same type and that’s enough to calm the nagging little voices in my head – well the ones that nag me about being obsessed anyway. Now to go into specifics the way I do with these – so are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll (finally) begin:

£15 ($19.71)
Achievement unlocked! This is my last Thundercats figure! The only figure I was missing for a complete set. I still want to replace a few so I’m not done with the line as a whole but this is the only character I was short and woo-hoo! That said he’s really a case of ‘Only Missing X Left Syndrome’, something that I made up but I think should be relatable: It’s the willingness to pay more for something when that something is the only one missing from your set regardless of how comparatively rare it is: £15 for Cruncher at a convention isn’t extortionate by any means, especially as the Berzekers are generally priced higher because of their bulk (I’ve never bought a Thundercats figure new so I can’t tell you if the Bezerkers cost more at retail but they were packaged the same as a regular carded figure) but the Berzerkers aren’t especially rare (unlike the Rampagers) and I’m sure I could get him cheaper, even at a con, if I tried but because he’s the last one, because he’s there and because he’s affordable enough I had to buy him right there and then. I’m not displeased, the Berzekers (Hammerhand, Cruncher, Top Spinner and Ram-Bam) are my some of the nicest figures the 80’s put out and finally having a complete set is satisfying - as is this Cruncher, he has a little bit of paint ware of one hand (and appears to be laying down some sick beats, we’ll forgive him for that too) but I’m sure he’d be in a worse state if I’d had him since childhood like poor Ram-Bam and Top Spinner.   

Random Little Guys!
£4 ($5.26) for the lot
One seller – the one I bought the Golden Girl figure from – had a tray on his table filled with mini-figures, lots of people have these chess board looking buggers and they’re usually filled only with 3 year old Pokémon and bootleg anime gashapon – neither of which I’m averse to owning but nothing too amazing. Not with this geezer though, check it out: two Kombattini, a Trash Bag Bunch, a Bone Age figure and a vintage E.T. Figurine – all for less than a pound each, by convention standards that’s not free, that’s him paying me. I’m especially pleased with the Kombattini (which are the Spanish version of Army Ants) - it’s hard enough to find them in the wild and find them with their abdomens but to find them at a convention and find them at a convention for an affordable price on the last day of the con, that my imaginary chums is a reason to feel smug. Not a very big reason and arguably a bit of a sad reason but fuck it; I’ll take my little victories where I can find them, even if they’re little victories about rubber ants.

Lil’ Mechagodzilla!
£3 ($3.94)
This is probably my favourite buy from the show – simply because I’m not sure it was actually the stallholder’s to sell and nor was he. When asking for a price for it the seller didn’t seem to recognise it at all and obviously and openly pulled a price out of his arse on the spot. I’m sure it WAS his but the way the whole thing went down made it feel it’s equally likely that I’d just paid him £3 to buy something someone had left on the edge of his table. It left me with a smile on my face and a small rubber robot in my bag.

Screamin’ Meemie!
£20 ($26.28)
I fucked up on this one. The seller – who I also bought other stuff from that was all fine – had three Head Poppin’ Madballs, one I owned (Wolf Breath) and two I didn’t (this guy and Bruise Brother). I got a bit excited at seeing a Screamin’ Meemie at less than eBay prices (I’ve been very keen to replace the one I lost) that I didn’t pay proper attention to the figure itself, the seller popped it straight into a bag and I didn’t notice until later that he has an obvious chunk out of his nose, now I have to get him a new head which’ll jack up the price to eBay prices or thereabouts - I should have bought Bruiser Brother.  Now I don’t think the seller was out to fuck me as such – though he didn’t bring up the damage – he just did what he always does ‘do you want a bag? You do, ‘k’ *puts it in bag* and I did get a working Screamin’ Meemie body out of it (Head Poppin’ figures with busted mechanisms are common, for those who don’t follow eBay auctions on Madballs figures – you weirdos), I just should have had a closer look at the figure before I blew the price of a decent meal out on a toy. Shit, fuck, arse.

Jason Vorhees Mr Potato Head!
£11.99 ($15.75)
I honestly don’t have much to say about this beyond ITS A MR POTATO HEAD DRESSED AS JASON VORHEES AND IT WAS CHEEEAAP!! I just realised when taking the photos that I had a Mr Potato Head dressed as Jason Vorhees and I really wanted a picture of that on my blog, ever so sorry. 

Cheap Care Bears Stuff!
£7 ($9.20) for all of it
I often think people think I’m joking when I refer to my borderline obsession with vintage Care Bears merchandise and my compulsion to buy it - I’m not. I genuinely love the vintage-era of Care Bears (roughly 1982-1990) and even though my focus is the 13-inch plush and poseable figures pretty much any merch that isn’t badges, jewellery or clothes (they all make me feel sick) is fair game if I come across it. Here’s proof, a carded figurine and a stack of Panini Sticker Album stickers. I generally don’t keep my stuff boxed or carded because I think that toys should be played with but I’m keeping that figurine carded because I’m a hypocrite but more so because I just love the art and colours of the cards for the figurines and poseable figures and I’ve not had the chance so far to get any carded at an affordable prices. The stickers were in a huge box of shit trading cards, I was so genuinely overjoyed to find ancient Care Bears stickers at five for a pound, people stared.

This Tim Burton book!
£17 ($22.33)
This got left out of the haul photo because I forgot, I’m just-run-a-marathon level tired remember?  This book is very shiny and I will admit that I looked at it because I wanted to see what the shiny thing was but I bought it because I’m actually a big follower of Tim Burton - I’m almost certain that I’ve never brought it up on here but I am. I don’t think he’s perfect; I have films of his that I don’t much care for and I have this thing where I regularly get sick of A Nightmare Before Christmas and won’t watch it for a year or so to allow it to regain its ‘specialness’, a thing that no-one around me seems to understand – which is fairly common with my quirks really - but I’ve been following his stuff since Batman Returns and I’ve seen everything he’s done before and since (I missed Dark Shadows at the cinema though, I fail), I’m a big fan. And this book looks lovely; I’ve only flicked through it since stalls get pissed off if you stand and read their books cover-to-cover (unfair i know) and I’ve been busy since but it’s laid out lovely, it’s got a nice amount of text, it goes film-by-film up to Ms. Peregrine’s and has a complete filmography time-line that folds out, it’s also really shiny.

And now I’m done, I’m going back to bed, you can’t stop me and I refuse to feel lazy: I got to bed at 3am yesterday after being up at half five the morning before (I just woke up, no reason) and doing loads of shit. I have today spare and I’m gonna use it to try and sleep myself back to life , thanks for reading my crap, I appreciate it – a lot.

Saturday 21 October 2017

A Tribute To: Horror Pets

Carrying on our 'Favourite Haunts' series we haaaave: a favourite horror-themed toyline of mine!

No matter how good they are, some toy lines just don’t take off – sometimes their source material bombs (the Black Hole), sometimes there’s reasons beyond sales or quality (the SPACE Adventures of Bucky O’Hare), sometimes they’re just too bloody expensive (Sectaurs), sometimes they just don’t sit well with parents (Skeleton Warriors), whatever, they get one wave, one push, and then they’re gone. The good thing about today’s internet culture is that it has allowed the few kids who did love these toys to make them known to a wider audience and turn flops into cult classics, giving the likes of Food Fighters, Spectra or Mad Scientist the appreciation they damn well deserve. But even then some great toys still fall through the cracks; Horror Pets is one such line (and that was a lot of build up for pull-back animals).

There’s not really much to tell you because these poor sods have virtually zero internet presence, no one is online doing interviews about their role in making Horror Pets: they were released in 1994 by Mattel and were seemingly far more commonly stocked in the UK and Europe – where they were definitely available at Toys R Us – than in the US, and multi-language cards are thus more common than US ones but despite that they remain cheap on the second hand market. They were split into 3 sizes: Insectoids, Scuttlers and Monsters with the smaller two using the standard pull-back mechanism (albeit with slightly altered mechanics to give them a more ‘life-life’ movement) while the big Monsters were battery powered, you turned them on and they went careering around lighting up and being creepy, well so long as the ground was lino. They were advertised with the standard ‘look boys they’re gross – scare your sister’ rhetoric that is still being used today, does it really work? I’m an only child you see. So yes, despite being best described as ‘rubber animals stuck on top of pull back cars’ they were and remain far cooler than the sum of their parts. What sets them apart from boring rubber animals is threefold – one) they’re a lot more durable and a lot thicker sturdier rubber, they don’t feel like ‘jigglers’ (which make me feel sick) but rather like big McDonald’s toys; b) they’re all designed and sculpted in their own cartoony style giving a unique and easily recognisable look that sets them apart from the standard rubber frog or centipede and 5) the big ones’ eyes light up, you can’t go wrong with light up eyes. 

My dad bought me Belcha and Skaar for my birthday in 1994 (thus forever making these ‘summer toys’ in my mind), I had never heard of Horror Pets, I had never mentioned them or indicated in any way that I would like to own some but that’s never bothered my dad, it still doesn’t really, he has one criteria for buying me gifts – he has to think they’re cool. As I understand it he was in Toys R Us looking for something I actually wanted, saw these and impulse bought them while my EX-step mom rolled her eyes at his enthusiasm for weird rubber animals. I thank him for that.

The smallest and cheapest Horror Pets, though quite ingenious in their own way these are the ones that interest me the least, in fact I only own 1 (Attakka) and I can’t find him. Each bug averages at about 2 and a half inches long and comes with a hard plastic hinged ‘lair’ for them to hide in, the Lairs are by far the coolest thing about these – not that the bugs are bad, but there’s just a few boring generic filler sculpts mixed in with the cool guys – probably because they needed so many compared to the relatively few Scuttlers and Monsters and couldn’t be so choosy with who made it to production. There were (to my knowledge) 12 different Insectoids released, each bug is unique (though the mechanism inside is the same) but only 6 lair sculpts were made, meaning that two bugs each use the same lair, albeit painted differently for each. The mechanism these use is pretty cool btw, even though you pull it back in a straight line, the bugs zip off in wiggly lines, mimicking the rough movement of a beetle, and the rubbery material allows the bugs to twitch and wiggle with the movement, it might not be Robosapien but it does give a pretty good approximation of the cardback’s boast that ‘they move like they’re alive’.

Antla & Skul
Always open a gig with a big number – these two dwell in the cracked and maggot filled skulls of an unknown creature (they’re a bit horse-like and a bit dingo-like but I think they’re just supposed to be generic animal skulls). The skulls are fantastic, they could as easily be found at the foot of the Space Jockey as in your own backgarden and wouldn’t look out of place in either; I prefer Skull’s more realistic coloured headbones to Antla’s blue alien noggin but not by much. The bugs themselves are good showing of what I meant about generic filler mixed in with the cool guys; for the cool guys we have Skul, who I’m guessing I supposed to be a death’s head moth, with his detailed and stylised body sculpt, an instantly identifiable and likable face and his badass skull design on his wings, he looks like a cross between The Punisher and a Toxic Crusader. For the filler we have Antla, who I’m pretty sure isn’t an ant but rather some kind of beetle…oh I just got it, he’s a stag beetle isn’t he? And stags have antlers – antler, Antla – clever but why would you choose a play on words that’s also a play on words of another bug that is also often the colour of Antla? Illogical. Antla has a mean little cartoon face of his own but really he’s just kind of boring.

Howla & Vennum
No need for you here Marvel Comics lawyers, we have changed the requisite amount of letters. To counteract these two being some of the cooler Insectoids they have to live in the most boring lairs, it’s just a rock, yeah it has a millipede but it’s still just a rock, they must see Skul or Lomaz’ houses and be hella jealous. I owned many of these as a child and Vennum’s shell reminded me more of a muscle shell (muscles being quite plentiful on the coast I live nearest too) and I just assumed it was one and Vennum was some kind of beach scorpion; I didn’t understand part sharing at age 8. Howla the wolf spider’s damn cool, boasting the most detailed and easily identifiable cartoon face design of the whole range which, while inaccurate, is nice and menacing, he also comes in a great range of green, including a metallic arse, with an arse that metallic he should have a far swankier pad than a rock. Vennum the scorpion can’t quite measure up to Howla’s greatness but he does live on the beach so that’s something, scorpions are rarely uncool though his face is a little less cartoony that I’d like, his colour scheme at least is pleasing, he looks like ‘do no cross’ tape, and you wouldn’t want to cross a sunbathing scorpion would you?

Stompa & Gorga
I’ll be honest; I have absolutely no idea what these two live in, as a child (when I owned Stompa) I considered his lair an alien egg and I can’t really come up with anything better than that as an adult thus I’m declaring them to live in the eggs of four armed alien moles, though possibly they could be dirt mounds of some kind. I also can’t place what beetle Gorga is, I know it, but I just can’t think of its name and it’s pissing me off, not that it matters, Gorga’s definitely on team filler, he’s just a bug with a standard buggy paint job and a butt that looks like spotted dick. Stompa the centipede’s a little better and his prominent place on the card art kind of makes him feel a little bit above the others, he’s also a unique species in the line – there’s only one ‘pede in Horror Pets and that’s Stompa, though his face makes him look more like he’s been caught in someone else’s photo than that he’s zooming out of his weird-ass lair to eat your sister’s toes.

Sparc & Grabbit
When I was wee (and owned Grabbit) I assumed the lairs of these to be a clam, I was a stupid child who was forced to spend way too much time at the seaside (my grandparents owned a beach hut, too many Saturdays were wasted on the cold, windy, salty, empty of all entertainment seafront of Clacton-on-Sea). Now I figure it’s just a rock, but unlike Howla and Vennum’s boring dwellings this rock has decoration to make all the other bugs green with envy – the remains of a huge spider in a web, these two bugs are so tough they killed a spider a full head taller than them – in its own web – and left it on display. Grabbit looks the part too, with his angry cartoon eyes (though some paint jobs make him look drowsy, my old one did); a classic beetle with HUGE fangs he could easily take down a giant spider. And Sparc has superpowers, he’s a firefly bitches; no spider can resist his glowing arse! Sparc’s another generic design though, he’s just a regular firefly (he’s even regular firefly colours give or take) with a slightly exaggerated mouth.          

Stinka & Lomaz
Between lair and bug this pair are easily the coolest Insectoids, again I know ‘cool’ is as subjective as ‘awesome’ but again there are standard ‘cool’ things, like metallic arses. Stinka the fly looks the grossest, with his obvious hairs and just by being a fly, flies are gross, and he has a really spiteful looking set of eyes, look at him, narrowing them into slits, Stinka fucking hates you, plus – metallic arse. Lomax meanwhile is the black widow spider from hell – or at least an episode of Aaaghh Real Monsters – with ginormous sharp teeth (it’s teeth are bigger than its head) and multiple beady red eyes and generally speaking black and red is a good combination of colours with multiple uses, it can be used to mean sexy, post-apocalyptic, dangerous or in this case, scary as fuck. What secures their status as ‘coolest’ is their lairs, you may be thinking “yeah, the others have skulls and venus fly traps, what’s so good about these” – look hard, these two live inside the curled up skeletons of monsters. I think they’re supposed to be small dinosaurs but with their colouration and design – which is nothing like any dinosaur I’ve ever seen – they look more like Gieger-esque alien corpses; in fact by living inside a metallic silver alien skeleton and being a black widow spider-monster I am naming Lomaz ‘most Metal thing this month’.

Attakka & Cruncher
Attakka is the only Insectoid I have left, though I put him in a box at the back of the loft and couldn’t get to him for this article, as such I can say from experience Attaka is kind of naff – he just looks surprised all the time, especially if he’s running on bumpy ground, he doesn’t say “I eat little girl’s noses” he says “aaaah! I can’t stop! Why is it so bumpy? Aaaah!”. Cruncher meanwhile is the single most boring toy in this entire line, he’s just a normal bug, sure he has a little bit of metallic going on but he’s just so…normal; if you put him next to Howla or Grabbit you’d think they were from completely different lines, and Cruncher’s line were sold in three packs in £1 shops. I reckon after sculpting the utterly awesome lairs for these they just thought ”well everyone’s going to buy these because of the giant, evil, veiny Venus Fly Trap, just throw the in two bugs we rushed out at the end, or came up with at the beginning before we had a definite style down”. The lairs are really sweet, I think I actually prefer Attakka’s yellow ‘desert’ style colouring (I once owned both of these), Cruncher’s trap looks very much like an enemy in a 16-bit video game, not that looking like something out of, say, Mick & Mack Global Gladiators or Three Dirty Dwarves is a bad thing but it gives it a look that doesn’t’ really fit with either the exaggerated monster style of Horror Pets nor the realistic style of its inhabitant. These are also the sturdiest lairs too, the others are far from cheap but, I think maybe so kids didn’t break the teeth of the Venus fly trap off, these are pretty thick plastic, the other lairs are closer to Mighty Max or the 90’s Poly Pocket while these are closer to Street Sharks.

Mid-size and mid-price point the four Scuttlers come the closest to the standard rubber animals in feel and thickness– I think it comes from a combination of lots of limbs, their size and the size of the mechanism in them - as such they kind of gross me out sometimes – especially Mondo. They’re also noticeably shinier than their smaller and larger peers.

Please note that my poor Fangz has a warped wing, he came out of the box like that – both his wings should be up like he’s divebombing.  As the least like the standard rubber toy, Fangz is my favourite of the Scuttlers, he has a far more solid feeling to him than the other three despite having thin wings and ears – I can’t explain that, but you can trust me, I’ve spent many a minute feeling Horror Pets. He’s also boasting the nicest face design and sculpt, not quite going as wacky and Ren ‘n’ Stimpy style as Repto or as ‘badly drawn’ (or unbalanced) as the others.

With his bulging eyes and huge mouth Repto also reminds me of the art style of one of those obnoxiously ‘wacky’ cartoons from the 90’s like Ren ‘n’ Stimpy, Cow and Chicken and Rocko’s Modern Life (I take that back, Rocko was pretty sweet) but as I’ve never seen Repto resort to unnecessary gross earwax joke.  Like all the Scuttlers Repto benefits from having a smaller mechanism compared to the size of his rubber animal allowing him to jiggle and bounce far more than the Insectoids or Monsters when he moves, but having the thickest limbs makes him less kinetic than the two arachnids

I hate Mondo, to me he’s easily the worst toy in the line.
You need more? Ok. I hate him because his thin limbs and small mechanism make him feel like a standard rubber spider – and I hate those. He’s easily the worst toy in the line because he looks so cheap, and by feeling like a rubber spider, he seems to cheap: the paint apps on his fur are just sprayed on willy-nilly without any rhyme, reason or attempt to make them look like lighter patches or fur or make them fit in with his sculpt, plus his face is just awkward with weirdly placed, he looks more like a Horror Pets knock-off (they didn’t exist to my knowledge – even the knock-off people couldn’t be bothered with this line and they knocked off Battle Trolls and Jim Henson’s Dinosaurs). So in conclusion Mondo is easily the worst toy in the line and I hate him.

Clawz is a much better toy, despite, or perhaps because of, his thinner limbs he’s made of far sturdier rubber, taking away lots of ‘cheap rubber toy’ feel that makes Mondo fall so low in my opinions, but his flat shape and again those thin limbs and long tail make him a top jiggler, I’ve always been convinced he’s faster than the others too but I think that’s just me being mad, he does zip along but thanks to his texture and colour he looks more like a really speedy piece of liver than a horrific scorpion. Oh well, I’m sure loads of little sisters are scared of liver.

The centrepieces of the line, three large, boxed, battery operated toys with light up eyes and sound effects. As well a achieving the ‘scuttering’ movement through a different mechanism to their little brothers (and sisters?) the three are made of harder and far less shiny rubber, they’re also amongst my favourite toys.

Have you seen Elvira: Mistress of the Dark? The film with Elvira and Kenickie from Grease in it? It features a Tic-Tac pie at one point and Belcha looks a bit like that Tic-Tac pie, or at least he reminds me of it enough that ‘oh I see you’ve made your famous Tic-Tac pie’ is often the first thing I think of when I see the frog. Now I’ve connecting him with small minted sweets in your mind – Belcha is fucking awesome! For me he’s the Horror Pet I think of first when I think of Horror Pets (and I think of them fairly often, actually), and as he’s displayed so prominently on the box art for the whole line I think I’m justified in that. Why do it think he’s so awesome? He’s a clawed and fanged monsterfrog with light up eyes that’s covered in spikes (albeit Tic-Tac looking spikes) with a mouth that looks like Audrey II, I just find that awesome in a toy design, I apologise if you don’t and feel sad for you. There’s also a weird thing I have: I’m terrified of real frogs and toads, I won’t go in the garden if one’s been seen there in the last…week, so I tend to really hold any toy frogs that don’t freak me out in high regard and as realistic frog toys tend to do that, monsterfrogs for me are the way forward in the world of frog shaped playthings.


I’ve had Belcha and Skaar the longest, having (again) received them for my birthday in 1994, and I have oodles of nostalgia and love for Skaar because of this and I don’t want Skaar to be offended or think I love him any less by saying this but…he’s kinda one of the weakest Horror Pets, certainly the weakest Monster (though look at his competition). He’s mostly just a cartoon rat and not very original with it, he does have those weird red…spines? Warts? Gnat bites? Whatever they are and that earn shim the ‘kinda’ in ‘kinda one of the weakest Horror Pets’ but beyond that he’s just a fairly standard cartoon rat – wearing lots of lipstick. If I was someone’s little sister I don’t think I’d be too worried by him after the initial jump scare and immediate confusion that he might be a real rat, I’m kind of leaning more towards little sisters using him for tea parties, still at least with his one raised eyebrow he can show his disdain for that. to say something nice about poor ol’ Skaar he looks the best in movement, he’s really rat-like and his tail jiggles really well, it’s a bit upsetting.

If you think I’m being a bit harsh on Skaar’s execution up there, here’s Arakno to prove me right. Mattel’s design team decided to execute ‘giant spider’ as: skull faced Xenomorph spider – which by itself is cool but then they decided to make him metallic! In comparison they decided to execute ‘giant rat’ by just drawing a giant rat and adding some red lines on his arse, not bad but certainly not as creative as mace monsterfrog and Xenomorph spider. I never owned Arakno until I was an adult and discovered that eBay thing everyone’s always talking about so I still enjoy a quick, quiet thrill when I see my two Arakno, sad yes but since when I have claimed to be anything but? The reason I have two Arakno is because the first one I bought – despite being sealed and boxed – had most of his legs fall off immediate after being depackaged, each of his legs is glued onto his body and that glue had dried up. I don’t know if this is a common problem – my other Arakno didn’t have the issue but it might be something to watch out for because if it can happen to Arakno then it can also happen to Belcha’s limbs and Skaar’s tail so if you see one second hand somewhere, give those a little tug just to make sure they’re still stuck on.

Good god I wrote that much about observations on rubber animals? And you read it? Thank you so much! These fairly plentiful online (especially the Scuttlers and Monsters) and they’re far from expensive so if you’re looking for a new monster toyline to collect I heartily recommend them, the bigger types have a really nice value for money feel to them (except Mondo, Mondo can go fuck off), they have a consistent look so look superb as a group and the Monsters look great in cabinets, plus so few people know what they are you can be all smug and hipster and shit. Personally I find them a lovely complement to the old Mattel Monsters (Suckerman, The Krusher and Gre-Gory), especially Gre-Gory – hell they’re pretty much Gre-Gory’s bastard offspring! 

Sunday 15 October 2017

Quick Crappy Review: Grossery Gang Putrid Power Putrid PIzza & Dodgey Donut

I had a bit of a shopping spree:

It was nice, nothing cost that much and all of them brought more satisfaction than any three toys in the store that cost three times their price could/would and you know what’s great? They all (just about) fit October’s Halloween theme – we’ve got mutants, Ghostbusters and Kane, who’s pretty much the wrestling equivalent of Jason Vorhees. So whatever I review I’m good but I’ll be honest I have no idea how I’m gonna review Playmobil or Hasbro style WWF figures so we’ll just deal with the straight-up action figures, I can do that.

Meet the Grossery Gang Putrid Power Action Figures. My knowledge of Grossery Gang before today (whereupon I did some customary research for this post) was that they were one of various bling bag lines that had risen in the wake of the success of Trash Pack, cool but too vast for me to get into when I hadn’t finished my collections of the mini-figure lines that made my childhood a delight yet let alone start on modern lines like Trash Pack or Fungus Amungus or those M.U.S.C.L.E. like alien wrestlers (I forget their name). Turns out they’re produced by Moose Toy (who also make Shopkins and the Ugglys Pet Shop) and are a direct spin-off from Trash Pack that’ve been on sale since last year (2016). My interest in the line was only piqued after the tweets starting making the ‘rounds about their new Putrid Power figures and specifically the characters Putrid Pizza, Dodgey Donut and Fungus Fries (Fries isn’t out yet), why? Well do they look a bit similar to you, like you’ve seen them before? Or you remember them even though they’re new? I don’t think we’ve got any actual confirmation on this but the whole internet has pretty much agreed that if these aren’t direct homages to Food Fighters (specifically Private Pizza, Major Munch and Fat Frenchie) then they might as well be and coincidence is a marvellous thing.

I cannot stress my love of Food Fighters enough, their bizarre concept, their flat out awesome characters, the fact that they’re pretty much dog toys kids are allowed to play with all just make them utter gems to me. So like many others the merest whiff of a tribute, or even a similarity, was enough to make me buy ‘em, it’s taken a little while because the Food Fighter-esque figures have been sold out everywhere I’ve looked, with only the non-Food Fighter-like figures remaining, unloved and unwanted because they didn’t recall a cult-favourite toy line once sold for about a dollar fifty but now I’ve got ‘em so you get my two penn'orth as well, lucky you.

Putrid Pizza was the one of the three I was least excited about getting, simply because he’s such a radical departure from his Food Fighters equivalent (Private Pizza) and I couldn’t figure out why you’d want to avoid a pepperoni eye patch on your pizza man? Now I have him though? I fucking love him and I shall tell you why: while playing about with him I realised he as effectively Food Fighters and Toxic Crusaders combined, that made me like him, but that thought also lead onto the realisation that had Food Fighters been released (or revived) in the 1990s, Putrid Pizza is what they’ve looked like and that made me delighted. Putrid Pizza is effectively filling a whole in my childhood I didn’t know needed filling. He has everything I liked about the 1990s toys I grew up with – detailed and skilled sculpts, bursts of neon paint, whacky themed accessories and actually pretty decent articulation, sure it’s all nostalgia but it’s also all there on PP here.

In comparison I have very little of note to say about Dodgey Donut – possibly because his appeal should be self-evident in the photos: he’s a barely sane doughnut man wielding a nunchuck and drooling slime. I greatly enjoy that his gauntlets/socks are made up of icing and they sure do look and feel like what they’re supposed to be, I wonder if they moulded icing? That sounds messy but worth the effort. DD has a more modern look all over really, and a more realistic feel to him, PP has some damn fine sculpting that really does look like burnt cheese (I want to chew it) but he’s still blasted in various Toxic Crusaders neons whereas the texture and little paint apps on DD make him really look like a doughnut, I want to eat him and don’t feel bad about it. On another note but one related to DD as it’s more obvious with him: these figures are small, technically they’re 3 ¾ inch scale but they’re such bizarre proportions and such a variety of proportions that they seem a lot bigger than they are, this ‘seems better than they are’ carries over to the articulation, there isn’t much there – PP has five joints and DD only four (because he has no neck, being a doughnut) but they’re all ball joints or close facsimiles thereof and all the limbs get a great range though PP’s head doesn’t, it’s less of a ball joint and more of a wobble joint but it’s still a ball joint, it still gets more range than a swivel joint and still makes the toy feel ‘better’ than five points of articulation would feel if they were only swivels.   

Each figure comes with an exclusive Grossery Gang mini-figure – which is a damn sensible idea as far as I’m concerned, it takes the figures from an optional extra to a must-have extra for collectors of the main line – from what I can figure out these are technically the ‘pre-transformed’ versions of the figures, at least for these two. This is the first time I’ve ever handled a Grossery Gang mini-figure and…I don’t like it, they feel like wet cake. I suppose this could be intentional, they are after all supposed to be gross – it’s in the title – but they feel too soft and too wet and I’m sure they’ll degrade over time (and if that’s the case then I can’t understand why any toy company would choose a material that degrades for a toy based around collecting). Aside from the feel though I think they’re adorable and work as a nice counter to their mutated forms, instead of a fearsome pizza and a deranged doughnut we have a sad little pizza slice with all his cheese fallen to the bottom (foreshadowing his action figures’ body) and a confused little half eaten doughnut.

And so this disjointed mess comes to a conclusion and that conclusion is: these were so worth the frustration finding them entailed. They cost £7.99 in the UK, a fair price for a toy their size but damn cheap for their levels of awesomity, sure that awesomity is strongest to a niche market that’s completely outside of the target demographic but if you’re part of that (and I am) £7.99 is fuck all – buy these weirdos friends, buy them so that there may be a second series with burgers, pancakes and hot dogs!  

Monday 9 October 2017

Top 15 Buffy the Vampire Slayer Episodes

The next medium for our Favourite Haunts series is television, and that can only mean Buffy!
Just in case you don’t know (shame on you!) Buffy the Vampire was a 7 season long American television show created by Joss Whedon and spun off from a movie, also called Buffy the Vampire Slayer. It was a mid-season replacement show in 1997 (meaning the first season is short because it replaced another show that failed) and ran until 2003. The premise is that there is always a Slayer, a girl imbued with powers in order to fight monsters, when one dies another activates and is guided by a Watcher. The titular Buffy is (initially) a highschool student who moves to Sunnydale, California after the events of the movie where her original Watcher was killed – unfortunately Sunnydale sits atop a ‘hellmouth’, a portal and site of huge mystical energy, it is literally a weirdness magnet. So Buffy, along with her best friends Willow and Xander, are drawn back into the world of Slaying, where she’ll stay through high school, into college and then adulthood.
Season 3 of Buffy was showing in the UK when I got into the series, I was in my early teens and it’s pretty much the perfect show for depressed, socially outcast, fucked up teenagers who like monsters and pretty girls, I remain hooked – mostly because nothing’s really changed, I’m not teenager anymore but that’s about it. I like everything about it and it has the bonus of being very useful when I’m suffering from depression: see no matter how bad my life is I can watch Buffy and know that no matter what, it’s not as bad as Buffy’s – if I’m mildly depressed I can watch Season 3, if I’m REALLY depressed I can watch series 6.  
Beneath all the drama and the shipping and Faith's trousers Buffy is a horror show (I think they forgot that every so often too) so it’s perfect for the Halloween season, it even has two episodes set on Halloween that are both fantastic (but not fantastic enough to make this list, the episode ‘Halloween’ only narrowly missed out though) so this is the perfect opportunity for me to knock out a mega-indulgent ‘favourite episodes’ countdown list! Woo! Also, why top 15? Because (spoiler alert) I’ve got two two-parters  in this list and this is ‘episodes’ and no ‘stories’ so technically they’d each take up two slots if we’re being PICKY so to play it safe and get all the episodes I want on the list, it’s a top 15. So are you sitting comfortably? Then I’ll begin:

Tuesday 3 October 2017

Giant-Size Werewolf By Night #2

Welcome to what AFB is doing this October, out of a need for Halloween-y blog content I’ve resorted to just talking about things I’m always happy to talk about and have picked some of my favourite horror-themed things from the quagmire or stuff I enjoy. I’m calling them ‘Favourite Haunts’ because I’m witty like that.  We’re starting off small because I can’t be arsed to make gifs today.  

The first American comic book I ever owned was Giant-Size Werewolf By Night #21.
“That’s a little odd” you may say if you were real, especially once you’re told that I bought it in 1991-ish and it was published in 1974. I’m going to post the cover; I feel this should clear up any questions:

Frankenstein vs the Wolf Man? Fuck yeah! I’m sure a lot of parents would prefer their five year olds never get within 15 feet of a horror movie but as far as my dad, his brother and their father was concerned you are a bad human being if you can’t quote Universal Studios’ Dracula, so they started me off young and I took to these old films instantly, honestly I took anything monster-ish instantly, by 1991-ish I was a confirmed Real Ghostbusters fanatic. Anyway I may have told this tale before but fuck it: my local shops are all built around a roundabout and that roundabout is roughly 11 houses from the house I grew up in, the road it’s on backs onto one of the rows of shops. As a child my mum had dragged me ‘up the top’ one day to do whatever she needed to do, which involved going to the chemist (what is now Boots, it used to be Time Pharmacy back before everything was a chain store). As being in a chemist is crushingly boring for adults let alone children I got permission to hop one or two shops down and visit a charity shop that isn’t there anymore, it was, I think a cat-based charity. In the shop, which always smelt, was a box of various magazines, I’d gone in looking for toys but having seen THAT cover on the top of this little box of periodicals I picked it up, flicked through and asked how much it was, the woman behind the counter gave it to me for free, dismissing it ‘that little thing’, so I have that old lady to thank for decades of being a sad bastard, thanks lady!