Now Available: Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice Books!

publication1MAJOR ANNOUNCEMENT!

September 22 is the first day of fall, and you know what that means! It means that for weeks and weeks now, everything from Pop Rocks and coffee to Oreos and marshmallows has been available in pumpkin spice flavor. I’m at the cutting edge of marketing expertise, and so I have found a way to give the people what they clearly want:

LIMITED EDITION PUMPKIN SPICE BOOKS!

Yes, that’s right! Both I Was Geeky When Geeky Wasn’t Cool and Don’t Stop the Geekin’ are now available in Pumpkin Spice flavor. For a limited time, each copy of my books will include a Scentsy scratch and sniff rub and smell sticker in that most delightful of aromas: Pumpkin Roll. Thoughts of falling leaves, crisper temperatures, and candy corn will enhance the already amazing experience of reading one of my books.

How will you use your sticker? Here are a few ideas:

  • Place sticker over the picture of my ugly mug on the cover
  • Use sticker to mark the page you are currently reading
  • Relieve nervous tension by rubbing and sniffing the sticker constantly
  • Use the sticker to repair any pages torn when you inevitably drop it from laughing so hard
  • Soak up tears you weep while reading the sad parts
  • AND MANY, MANY MORE!

You might be asking yourself: how much extra do I have to pay to have a wonderful piece of olfactory technology on top of a handsome tome which is already an exceptional value? That’s the best part! These Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice versions of my books are available at the same low cost as they always have been: just $10!

HURRY, HURRY, HURRY! Don’t delay! You don’t have long to get your hand numbered, signed Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice books. Only 36 are available! Make sure you get yours, TODAY!

Purchase your copies here!

Both My Ebooks Are FREE Today Only!

I was geeky when geeky wasn't coolMarkBook2_CoverYou might be wondering… Marc, are there Limited Edition Pumpkin Spice versions of your ebooks? Sadly, no. There is no app for smells at this point in the development of pointless technology. However, both ebooks are FREE instead! Today only, download copies of I Was Geeky When Geeky Wasn’t Cool AND Don’t Stop the Geekin’ for the low, low price of $0. What a deal!

Click on the book covers to be taken directly to Amazon and grab ’em quick!

 

Thank You for Your Compliance

PopCultureLeague-Logo-Big

Here’s the Pop Culture League Challenge for this week.

Aliens Among Us

“If aliens visit us, the outcome would be much as when Columbus landed in America, which didn’t turn out well for the Native Americans.” –Stephen Hawking

What a fun quote! I decided to treat it as a full on writing prompt. Here’s what I came up with, around 2000 words or so. I’d love to hear what you think! Comment here, or contact me @marcallie on Twitter.

 

Thank You for Your Compliance

A Short Story by Marc Allie

Alex rolled left, barely dodging a deadly phazon missile. His alien opponent, piloting a saucer-shaped spacecraft, dove past Alex’s tri-rocket warship before breaking away for another attack. Brow furrowed in concentration, Alex jammed his control stick left, then right, before firing off a volley of three laser bursts. The first two projectiles went wide left, but the third hit true. The enemy saucer exploded into a blinding flash of white light. Alex smiled and checked his score at the top of the TV screen. He had almost surpassed his previous record, and still had two lives remaining.

Just as the next wave of aliens began their attack, a knock sounded at the front door. Alex’s mother yelled from the kitchen. “Honey, can you answer that? My hands are all sudsy.” Alex sighed in disappointment, dropping the black and orange joystick on the thick shag carpet before walking over to open the door.

Three people stood on the welcome mat, the bright porch light shining down upon them. Two of them were men, both in black suits and ties. The third figure was a woman with brown hair pulled back into a tight bun. She wore a frilly white blouse with large shoulder pads, and a knee length black skirt. A clipboard was in her hand, while the two men held walkie talkies. The man in the middle, the tallest of the trio, grinned at Alex.

“Alex Guest, I presume?” The man’s smile never wavered as he spoke. Alex nodded, then yelled back into the house for his mother. The four of them stood in uncomfortable silence as Alex’s mother came to the door, wiping her hands on a kitchen towel.

The tall man spoke again. “Ah, you must be Mrs. Guest! It’s so good to meet you both. My name is Agent Johnson. These are my associates: Agent King,” he gestured to the man on his left, who nodded solemnly, “and Agent Lewis.” He smiled widely at the woman, on his right. She smiled back at him, showing almost impossibly white teeth, before they both turned back towards Alex and his mother.  “We’re with the CIA.” Agent Johnson reached into his jacket pocket and produced a laminated white card.

At first Alex couldn’t quite make out the words on the card; they seemed fuzzy, indistinct. He blinked, then the badge came in focus. There was a head shot, name, and a fancy logo. Everything seemed to be in order. It looked exactly like government I.D. badges he had seen in the movies.

“Listen, Mrs. Guest. We are here today to talk to you about a very exciting opportunity for Alex. May we come in?” His mother looked at Alex with a hint of indecision on her face. Then she cleared her throat and invited them inside.

Mrs. Guest quickly ushered the visitors to the overstuffed brown leather couch. She dashed off to the kitchen for refreshments while Alex took a seat in a recliner across from the couch. The wide grins on the tall man and woman never wavered. The shorter man wore no expression at all. All three were staring right at Alex.

Alex took a closer look at the odd trio as they waited for his mother to return. He hadn’t noticed it outside, but all three had waxy, shiny skin. Their eyebrows were very thin, and groomed so smoothly that he couldn’t see any individual hairs. The one called Agent Johnson moved his head left and right, surveying the room without blinking. His eyes came to rest on the wood-grain video computer system in front of the TV.

Johnson spoke as Alex’s mother entered the room bearing a tray of four glasses. “Alex, I see you have been playing computer video games! That one is Stellar Warlords, am I correct?” Alex nodded as his mother gave each guest a glass and a straw. None of the agents even spared her a glance. Agent Johnson continued, eyes still centered on Alex. “Thank you for the refreshment. You are very good at Stellar Warlords, aren’t you, Alex?”

Alex shifted in his seat. “Yeah, I’m not bad. I actually sent my high score in to Computer Games Magazine a few months ago.” Alex reached into a pocket on the recliner and produced a copy of the magazine. He flipped to a well-worn page and pointed. “See, here? I’m one of the top ten players in the United States!”

Agent Johnson didn’t even glance at the magazine before replying. “We are quite aware of your abilities, Alex. In fact, that is why we have come. We are here today to talk to you about a very exciting opportunity. We are offering scholarships to an elite military academy for the best and brightest young video game players across the entire American States.” The tall man was still smiling. Alex wondered if his cheeks were beginning to hurt.

Agent Johnson continued talking to Alex’s mother, giving her details about the scholarship, explaining that skill in video games was an indicator of future potential in military service. Alex listened for a while, but then his attention shifted to Agent King. The short man leaned forward, head turned, watching Agent Lewis take a sip from her straw. Then he leaned forward, grabbed his own glass, and began to take a drink himself. He moved the glass to his mouth before wrapping his lips awkwardly around the straw. His cheeks twitched slightly, but the level of lemonade in the glass never changed.

Alex refocused his attention on Agent Johnson’s conversation with his mother. “Yes, Mrs. Guest, this is a very exciting opportunity. Only the best and brightest have been selected. Alex is in an elite group. And of course there is no expense for you whatsoever. It’s all taken care of by the federal government. All we require is your consent.” As soon as the agent stopped talking, he grinned immediately, his teeth as stunningly bright as those of Agent Lewis. Agent King didn’t share the same odd smile, instead sitting as expressionless as ever.

Agent Lewis moved her hand to her ear and produced a pencil. Alex hadn’t even noticed the pencil before; it must have been stuck in her hair. She placed the pencil on her clipboard, smile never wavering, and spoke for the first time. “We have just a few questions for you before we go. You don’t mind to answer a few questions, do you?” Her voice was saccharine sweet, like a teacher talking to a class of preschoolers.

“No, no, we don’t mind at all,” Alex’s mother said. Alex felt a bit differently. The whole situation struck him as strange. It seemed far-fetched that the CIA was recruiting kids who were good at video games? What was with these weird agents? They seemed like strangers from another country. They reminded Alex of the foreign exchange student that had been in his fourth grade class. He didn’t understand things that everyone else knew, like playing kickball.  These agents didn’t seem to understand how people acted, either. They made Alex nervous.

Agent Lewis spoke in her sing-song voice. “Tell us about the rest of your family. Where is Mr. Guest? Are there any other children?”

His mother didn’t respond immediately, her eyes swelling with tears. Alex spoke up instead. “Dad was a Navy pilot. He, uh, died. In a training accident, two years ago. I’m the only kid, no brothers or sisters.” The entire time Alex spoke, Johnson and Lewis never stopped grinning. Agent King swiveled his entire head to look at his colleagues, then opened and closed his mouth repeatedly. He reminded Alex of a goldfish.

“Very good, very good,” Agent Lewis sang. She scribbled a few notes on her clipboard without looking at it, eyes fixed on Alex. “You probably play Stellar Warlords with your friends, Alex, don’t you? Are any of them as good as you are?” She never blinked. “We’d like to talk to your friends about a very exciting opportunity, also.”

Alex responded as his mother wiped a tear from her cheek. “I take turns playing with my buddy Lou sometimes, sure. Lou beat me a couple times, but never got a score high enough to send in to the magazine.” The female agent scrawled halfheartedly on the clipboard.

“Lou is your friend’s name? Is Lou a male or a female? And where does he/she live?” Alex was taken aback at the odd question. He glanced at his mother, and saw a flicker of unease cross her face. There was something wrong with these people, with this whole situation.

Smiles and silence filled the room. Agent Johnson, still grinning, crossed his legs. One black pant leg came up. Alex could see part of the agent’s leg above his black sock. The leg was pale gray and hairless. A thin green tube ran out from under the sock. Alex watched as the green tube pulsed and quivered. The throbbing green tube made him feel sick to his stomach.

Mrs. Guest stood and spoke, her voice stern and forceful. “Lou is a boy, and he lives next door. Why do you need to know that?” She put her hands on her hips. “What’s with you people? You ask about my poor husband and don’t show a hint of remorse or compassion at his death?” Her eyes got shiny again. She pointed a finger at Agent Johnson. “I’m beginning to think you aren’t really with the CIA at all.” She raised her voice. “Russians, maybe, is that it?” She looked over at her son. “Call the police, Alex, something’s not right here.”

Agent Johnson stood as Alex jumped out of the recliner and ran across the living room. “Mrs. Guest, I think we have everything we need. Thank you for your compliance. We appreciate it very much.” He smiled again, this one bigger than ever. “Let’s thank them for their compliance, agents, shall we?”

Alex rounded the corner, standing next to the phone, as Agent Lewis sang “Thank you for your compliance!” He turned and saw the female agent rise to her feet, the clipboard dropping off her lap. The clipboard wavered like a mirage for a split second, vanishing before it hit the floor.

Agent King and opened his mouth in a round “O” shape. The noise that came forth wasn’t a voice at all. An unearthly warble filled the room, as if a flock of birds had crash landed on a xylophone. The two men stood up as Alex grabbed the phone, jamming 9-1-1. There was no dial tone. The buttons made no noise. Heart pounding in his chest, Alex let go of the phone. It flopped back and forth on the cord.

Mrs. Guest cried out as she turned and ran towards her son. Agent Johnson rotated his head, a bit too far for a human, looking at the shorter agent. “No, no, Agent King, that won’t do. THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMPLIANCE! Try it again.” Alex’s mother wrapped her arms around him. He was shaking with fear. He buried his face in his mother’s neck. They held each to each other tightly.

Agent King’s mouth opened again. “Angku oryerk ahmylizz. Angku oyer kahmpliamnzzz. Kahmpliiiaants.”

“Close enough.” Agent Johnson raised his walkie talkie. The air crackled slightly, and the walkie talkie seemed to melt in his hand. It reformed into a metallic spider-like apparatus. Johnson pulled one of the chrome leg-things on the device and a thin beam of green light shot out. The beam touched Mrs. Guest and she was gone. In her place was a cloud of hot, pinkish steam that smelled like burnt bacon. Alex didn’t even have time to cry before another green beam shot out. He, too, disappeared in a burst of steam. In seconds, both clouds dissipated, leaving three things standing alone in the shag-carpeted silence of the living room.

One of the things stuck an appendage down its throat. It coughed a wet, barking cough, then withdrew what now once again appeared to be a human hand. “Thank — you — foryour– com-pli-ant-s,” it said. The tall thing adjusted its teeth and smiled. The three of them walked out, heading to the house next door.

 

 

 

 

New Co-Optimus Review: Stardust Galaxy Warriors Stellar Climax

sgwsc_coopreview_screen3I love me some old school shoot’em ups! Gradius, R-Type, the 19XX series, all of these series are favorites of mine. There’s just something wonderful about the simplicity of flying right (or up) and shooting stuff. And it’s even better when you can share the experience with a friend.

I just had the chance to review an indie video game release that tickles my shmup fancy and allows for no less than four couch co-op players. It’s called Stardust Galaxy Warriors Stellar Climax, and it’s pretty great.

I really enjoyed playing Stardust Galaxy Warriors. It looks good, plays great, and is definite throwback to a simpler, sweeter time when filling a living room with friends and playing a video game together was the norm. The soundtrack is particularly great, as well, and makes the whole experience that much more enjoyable. Any fan of shoot’em ups, whether casual or hardcore, will find something to like here. I’d even recommend it to shmup newbies, purely on the strength of the four player couch co-op. It’s definitely worth a look!

Check out the entire review over at Co-Optimus!

Flea Market Find: Vintage Trading Card Edition

PopCultureLeague-Logo-BigThe Pop Culture League challenge this week:

Buying Blind

Who doesn’t love gambling on a blind box or mystery package?

Well, I sure don’t, and judging by the responses of other League members, I’m not alone. As a toy collector, nothing is worse than spending some hard-earned cash for just the chance to get a toy you want. I feel the same about Magic: the Gathering cards, Dice Masters packs, and the like. I’d rather look online for exactly what I want.

That said, I certainly enjoyed one particular type of blind buy item when I was younger: trading cards! Busting open a pack and looking at a checklist to see if you got them all was a good way to spend a few dimes, back in the day. On Labor Day weekend, we did a little flea market shopping, and I found three items that struck my fancy. Coincidentally, they were all trading card related, so why not talk about them for the challenge this week?

I was surprised that the alien card packs were all the same. But the two bucks I wasted on the two extra packs means my loss is your gain! I’m giving away the extras. Just post a comment here if you are interested, and I will randomly choose two commenters and send them the cards. The date of the alien encounter from card #8 is September 19, 1961, so I will end the giveaway commenting period on September 19, 2016. Good luck! These cards are out of this world! (Groan.)

Here are a few other interesting Blind Buy posts:

  • Green Plastic Squirt Gun has two really nifty Tron figures that would look great next to my new trading card box!
  • 2 Minute Toy Break shares my disdain for blind buy toys, but reminds us all of the coolness of toys found in cereal boxes.
  • Calvin’s Canadian Cave of Cool has a deep loathing for blind buy stuff, as well as Build a Figure toys, which have been a thorn in my side for years now.

The rest of the Pop Culture League posts can be found here. Don’t forget to comment below if you want a groovy set of holographic alien trading cards!

Star Trek Haikus – Now Animated For Your Pleasure

animated05After a few weeks off, I am back in the thick of another Star Trek series. This time, it’s the early 70s Star Trek cartoon. Unlike pretty much every other incarnation of Star Trek, I had never seen an episode of the cartoon until I began watching recently. Overall, I am quite surprised with the quality of the show, though admittedly it does show its age from time to time.

It’s very cool to see some of the best concepts from the original series get revisited. An example would be the Guardian of Forever, from City on the Edge of Forever (the best Star Trek episode ever). The second animated episode, Yesteryear, has Spock use the Guardian to go back in time, visiting his younger self in order to fix a time travel mix-up. Tribbles show up again, as well, and that episode was quite entertaining. I really wish we could have traded a lame 3rd season episode for one of these two stories!

I’ve made some slight changes to the Star Trek Haiku page. All of the Original Series haikus are now in chronological order, in a gallery of their own. The Animated haikus are in a gallery sorted by most recent to oldest, and have their own subpage as well. I will also be posting the haikus on Twitter @marcallie if you are into that sort of thing.

There were only 22 episodes of the Star Trek cartoon produced, so this won’t last nearly as long as the first go round. Still, it should be fun! I’m growing to love Star Trek more and more with every episode I watch. I may need to revisit Star Wars soon before my split loyalties are tilted in favor of the future, rather than that galaxy far, far away…

 

Help! My House is Being Invaded by Wax Saucer Men!

PopCultureLeague-Logo-BigThis week’s Pop Culture League Challenge is a fun one! Here’s the question:

House of Wax: The local Wax Museum is having a fire sale and you have the opportunity to add a life-size, life-like action figure to your collection. Who do you choose?

First of all, if I were to be put into such a situation, I would probably pass on having ANY life-size wax figure. I am terrified of my own shadow once the sun goes down, and there is no way I’d want a realistic figure of any sort looming around and scaring me half to death when I momentarily forget that it’s just a sculpture. For Pete’s sake, I just about peed myself when a buddy put our life-size cardboard Princess Leia in my bed when I was out late on a date. It just wouldn’t be good for my blood pressure.

93463652_3ef5479914Having said that, I’m going to go off the wall, and reach way back into the memory bank. When I was a tiny tot, back in the late 70s, McDonald’s gave out space themed rubber erasers in various colors in Happy Meals. I had several, including a cool flying saucer and a rocket ship, but my favorite was a strange alien. I recall it being blue or green, but may be misremembering. I dearly loved that little alien but he was eventually lost or thrown out to wherever cool old toys disappeared to.

Fast forward to the mid 90s. I was a big monster movie buff, and picked up a copy of the Encyclopedia of Monsters at a local bookstore. It was full of pictures and information on hundreds of old horror and sci-fi movie monsters. Lo and behold, I turn the page and there was an alien that looked almost exactly like my old rubber eraser. It was from a movie called “Invasion of the Saucer Men”.

A few years later, when Ebay became a big thing, I looked there for a copy of “Invasion of the Saucer Men” for sale. There weren’t any legit copies available, but there was a nice bootleg VHS tape that I gleefully overpaid for. My expectations weren’t really high for the movie, and it absolutely met them. It’s one of those that’s so bad it’s good. Frank Gorshin as an obnoxious drunk is particularly fun, and at one point a severed alien hand grows an eyeball and attacks on its own. The fingers are sort of like needles, and inject alien blood that affects humans like alcohol. Seems weird, yeah, but Aliens have acid for blood and that makes about as much sense, right?

invasion-of-the-saucermen

So, without a doubt, if I were forced to get a wax figure for my collection, it would be one of the oddball alien Saucer Men. The look of them is iconic, in my opinion, and when you add in the C-movie cheesiness as well as the callback to a McDonald’s Happy Meal toy, you really can’t go wrong. BONUS: Invasion of the Saucer Men is on YouTube in its entirety. What a glorious time we live in!

Honorable mentions: a wax version of Godzilla or Optimus Prime.

Here are a few other entries that really stood out for me this week:

Collector’s Universe goes way back in time for a prehistoric amphibian.

Pop Rewind shared my trepidation for selecting a wax figure, because they are straight up creepy, really, seriously, they are.

And Cool and Collected chose my favorite actor that never wore a Godzilla suit.

You can read the rest of the Pop Culture League entries for this week here.

Johnny Carson Reads Kids’ Wish Lists from 1978

screenshot-2016-09-06-21-29-59We recently cut the cable again, and have been limited to over the air TV viewing. My favorite channels are the retro stations that show only classic stuff. I’ve been enjoying old Tonight Show reruns, and it brings back so many good memories watching Johnny Carson do his thing. As a challenge, I like to try and guess the airdate based on the guests appearing. Over the weekend, I watched an episode with Ann-Margret and Joan Rivers, originally aired on December 13, 1978. (I was off a few years on my guess.)

The most memorable part of this particular show wasn’t the monologue, or Joan Rivers’ crude humor, not even Johnny’s flirtatious interview with Ann-Margret. It was a short segment where Johnny read kids’ letters to Santa. These were actually written and sent to the Post Office by kids in 1978. Johnny pointed out funny things the kids wrote before ending the segment with a call for donations to needy children. It was so incredible to hearing what toys kids wanted back in 1978. I immediately started looking around on the web for information on these toys. It was a fun little research project, and I thought I’d share what I found here. If you are at all interested in vintage toys, or have nostalgia for the time, you should check out the links below. Hopefully at least some of these fantastic toys made it into the hands of those kids almost four decades ago…

Image from Mego Museum

Captain America

Though Johnny didn’t say exactly which of the many Captain America toys was requested, odds are it was a Mego. These were the gold standard for dolls, I mean, action figures, back in the 70s. I don’t recall having Steve Rogers in Mego form, but I did have Spidey. I whirled the wall crawler around our house on a length of yarn, endangering many of my mom’s breakables.

UFOs Past Present and Future

This request was unusual, and the phrase refers to both a book and a movie based on it. I’m guessing the book was what this particular kiddo was wishing for. The movie (narrated by Rod Serling, no less!) is fully available on YouTube at the link above. I watched a half hour or so, and it brought back memories of reading every book on Ufology in the school and local library when I was young. I’m certain I would have gotten along well with the kid who requested this one.

remco782

Image from Plaid Stallions

Spider-man Copter

I vaguely recall seeing ads for this toy in between the story pages of my aunt’s collection of comic books. A helicopter may seem like a strange choice of vehicle, since Spidey practically flies around on his webs anyway. I suppose a copter could be useful for oversea travel, or perhaps in the skyscraper-less suburbs. The copter is mentioned at the end of an old commercial for “Energized” Spider-Man, a toy that climbs up a string in realistic fashion. The clip is on Youtube and definitely worth a view.

Play-Doh Fuzzy Pumper Barber Shop

Play-Doh is still, to this day, a toy aisle staple. Making things out of brightly colored modeling compound is lots of fun! And there’s nothing quite like the smell of a freshly opened can of Play-Doh, is there? I couldn’t recall offhand what a Fuzzy Pumper Barber Shop was, but after watching the commercial (link above), I distinctly remembered it. I could spend a few hours shaving green Play-Doh off a plastic guy’s face, couldn’t you?

image35180

Image from Star Wars Databases

Star Wars

Unsurprisingly, Star Wars toys were big in 1978, and were mentioned in several of the kids’ wish lists. The most common request was for Star Wars action figures, and I am sure it was a rare tree, indeed, that was lacking a Star Wars figure that year. Two other, less well-known toys were also mentioned. One was the Star Wars Give-A-Show projector. Before the age of the VCR, this was the best way to see parts of your favorite movie in your own home. If you were on the go, the handheld Kenner Movie Viewer had a Star Wars cartridge available. I would have loved either, or both! (Please, please both.)

nmay

Image from Sizzlerking

Sizzlers Nightmare Alley

I don’t have a particular affinity for Hot Wheels or remote control cars today. But cars and toys based on them are very appealing to kids, especially when they are fast and/or sporty looking. I didn’t have the Sizzlers Nightmare Alley race car track, but my brother and I did race each other on a similar set. To be honest, I had more fun going so fast around corners that my car flew off the track.

Image from Innerspace Online

Image from Innerspace Online

Micronauts Battle Cruiser

The Micronauts! As as kid, I read the comic based on the toyline. I loved Acroyear! As an adult, I recognize that the Japanese toyline (Microman) gave birth to some of the best Transformers toys later on. I believe I had a few Micronauts toys as a kid, but sadly none remain in my collection. Taking a look at this Battle Cruiser, though, makes me want to get one, and fill it with all sorts of interchangeable cyborg goodness. And Acroyear would look cool on my robot shelf…

shootoutinspace3

Image from Bug Eyed Monster

Shootout in Space

I was unfamiliar with this toy, but after learning about it I totally want one! It’s a futuristic target shooting set. A sweet white spacegun that would look right at home on Buck Rogers shoots a burst of light. The target has a rotating platform full of rockets on top of it. If you hit the target, a rocket shoots up into the air, and a new one rotates into place. I can only imagine how cool it would have been to shoot lasers at invading rockets in my own back yard. It really doesn’t get much better than that as a kid in the late 70s, does it?

SDCC 2016 G.I. Joe vs. Transformers Soundwave H.I.S.S Tank

IMG_4603G.I. Joe was a big part of my childhood. Not as much as Transformers, for a variety of reasons, but the Real American Heroes were the last toys I was into as a kid. I still have a good part of my childhood Joe collection, in my original collector’s case, in fact. But all that remains are figures, not any vehicles.

As an adult collector of vintage toys, I’ve tried to focus on Transformers, Power Rangers, and robot toys only, and for the most part I’ve succeeded. But I made an exception for G.I. Joe. In 2007, the 25th Anniversary G.I. Joe line caught my eye. I limited myself to buying only three figures: two versions of Cobra Commander, and a sweet gold-headed Destro. I had Destro when I was a kid, as he was still on store shelves in 1985, when I was suffering a severe case of Joe-mania. I never had a Cobra Commander, as by ’85 he was only available via mail order. I eagerly snatched up a light blue, helmeted version of the head Cobra baddie, as well as a darker blue hooded version. The three have been displayed proudly on my bookshelves ever since.

Several years back, Hasbro began making G.I. Joe/Transformers crossover sets. They released a Skystriker colored as Starscream, and a purple tank decoed as Shockwave. These caught my eye, but sold out quickly, and were quite expensive to pick up on the secondary market. I wasn’t too upset I missed out, honestly, as space has always been an issue for my collection and G.I. Joe vehicles are quite large.

This year, another crossover set was released. This time, the iconic Cobra Rattler was repainted as Autobot Powerglide, with Scarlett as pilot. Cool, but not mind-blowing. The other half of the set, though, awakened my collector’s instinct in a big way. It was a H.I.S.S. tank decorated to look like Soundwave. (The driver is Zartan, but I don’t really care about him too much.) One look at the pictures online, and I knew that I had to have this toy! There are so many cool things about it that I love:

  • Soundwave is one of my favorite Transformers, one of the ’84 originals. With the cool voice and the cassette minions, Soundwave is awesome.
  • I had a H.I.S.S. tank as a kid, and loved posing my Cobra guys all over it. The tanks were shown in the cartoon all the time, too.
  • The tank has so many callbacks to Soundwave’s design! The clear and gold cockpit is similar to Soundwave’s cassette door. The cannons and missiles up top are shaped exactly like his weapons. With the stickers on, the deco is even more representative of everyone’s favorite evil stereo, with all sorts of red and black lines and silver trim.
  • The color scheme was a perfect backdrop for my trio of modern figures. Hooded Cobra Commander is the same shade of blue, and Destro’s black/red/gold color scheme fits right in with the stripe accents. Helmeted Cobra Commander is the wrong shade of blue, but hey, someone has to drive.

There was just problem: it was a waste to drop $99 plus shipping for the whole set when I only wanted the tank. However, a friend online (Rob of Tformers and Radio Free Cybertron fame) did a review of the set, and was willing to part it out. I was able to obtain Soundwave for a very reasonable price, and just a couple days later, I was applying stickers to a H.I.S.S. tank for the first time since December 25, 1985.

I love this toy. Love, love, love it! It’s a huge solid hunk of plastic, the design is classic yet modern, and there are all sorts of slick molded details.  Having the Soundwave H.I.S.S. tank on my desk is totally awesome. (It’s too sweet to keep on a shelf, out of arm’s reach.) My only complaints are that some of the stickers don’t quite fit into the molded sections, and the peg on the back is too large for the hole in Destro’s foot. Presumably the peg is sized for vintage toys? Not sure why, but maybe I can mod it somehow.

Overall, I am thrilled with this new addition to my collection. I will admit, though, that owning it is a dangerous thing. Having just one entry from a toyline really bothers the completist in me…

First Quarter: My Earliest Video Game Memory

PopCultureLeague-Logo-BigIt’s time for another Pop Culture League challenge. This week, the question is: what is your earliest arcade or video game related memory? This is a tough one. Early memories are the most unclear. I’m often able to date a memory based on a comic book I was reading, or a TV show episode I was watching. But for my earliest memories, these little signposts for dating are missing. Still, I’m pretty sure what my earliest video game experience was.

I had a buddy who lived pretty close to me, close enough that I could walk to his house even when I was 6 or 7 years old. (Times sure have changed, I probably wouldn’t have let my sons walk that far when they were that age!) My buddy had some cool toys, your requisite Star Wars stuff, mainly, and a lot of it, since his father worked at Sears. Gotta love that employee discount! One of the neatest entertainment options at my friend’s house was his Sears Telegames Video Arcade. This was almost exactly identical to the more well-known Atari system, but my pal’s dad was a company man through and through and so the Sears branded version was what he got.

CombatatarigamepackThe two of us spent hours and hours playing two games in particular. The first was my favorite: Combat. Most all Atari cartridges claimed to contain lots of games inside, but they were really just variations on a theme in most cases. Not so with Combat! You had tanks, AND Red Baron-style biplanes, AND jets, too! It was the best thing ever.

The second game was Air-Sea Battle, and there was lots of variety in that cartridge as well. You shot airplanes, boats, even clowns and ducks in a shooting gallery style variant. My buddy always liked to play outside, but I would have skipped the great outdoors and all of its adventures for a bit more time playing invisible tank wars.

Eventually I convinced my parents that we needed an Atari ourselves. Having Combat available in my own home was incredible, but you needed two players it, which was less than ideal. My little brother was… little, and my parents would play from time to time, but not for hours-long marathons, which is what I was looking for. Eventually, we got other carts that allowed me to rely only on my own availability: Centipede, Phoenix, and Pac-Man, among many more. I was dazzled by Centipede; it looked and played almost exactly like the arcade version. (At least, I thought so at the time.) I wasn’t familiar with Phoenix in the arcades, but I read and reread the manual detailing the story and looking at the awesome art for hours, in addition to zapping bird invaders. Pac-Man isn’t a good port, but it didn’t matter to me, nor to my dad, who took a liking to the game as well. I remember him coming home after work, taking off his dress shirt and shoes, flopping down on the couch, and taking turns playing Pac-Man with me in his undershirt and socks. It almost sounds like a scene from The Goldberg’s except my father kept his pants on!

6305851a5649a6a59c9321839d99b33f

Here are a few other entries in this week’s Pop Culture League challenge that I found cool and/or interesting.

The Last Hometown shares his memories of one of the greatest ealry arcade hits, a “monolith of beauty”, Space Invaders.

The Nerd Nook went the photo route, recalling a Pac-Man cocktail cabinet at a Pizza Hut. Makes me wish I had a slice of ham in one hand, and a cherry red joystick in the other.

20 Years Before 2000 went with the Simpsons arcade game. I played plenty of arcade games before that one, but very few that were as fun with a group of friends as the Simpsons!

The rest of the entries can be found over at Cool and Collected. I’m looking forward to next week’s challenge!