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A Box Chock Full of Vintage Awesome

As a follow up to the Pop Culture League blind box challenge from several weeks ago, Cool & Collected offered up mystery boxes to those of us who participated. For the low price of $20, I jumped at the chance of opening a box full of unknown but surely totally cool stuff. Lo and behold, last weekend, a rather heavy box was dropped off at my front door.

I was totally shocked with how much stuff was packed in the box! It just happened that my nephew, who is 4 years old, was at our house. He joined me, my wife, and our fifteen year old son as we gleefully went through it all. Check the pictures below for the full record, but here are some highlights!

  • As a Transformers fan, I was tickled to see Air Raid, a robot who transforms into a black jet. It’s my first vintage Aerialbot, oddly enough. Also: my first Happy Meal transformer, a hamburger! Always wanted to get these.
  • My wife is a Snoopy fan, and I love outer space… Astronaut Snoopy is perfect!
  • The 45 record of “Buy the World a Coke” makes me want to buy a record player.
  • An A-Team stamp? MOSC? Yes please!
  • You can never have enough Jawas.
  • I now own action figures from Hook and Water World. I never thought I’d be able to say that.
  • Even the comics were great choices: Iron Man, Indiana Jones, and NFL SuperPro!
  • I need to get a poster up in the game room for all the cool vintage stickers I’ve now amassed…

Major props to Brian at Cool & Collected. We had such a great time opening this stuff!

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?

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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.

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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?

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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.)

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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…

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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…

Red & Blue Robots

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Family Portrait

During my six weeks off school this summer, I got new shelves for my office/painting/computer room. Two large and two small golden oak bookshelves, which I’d had for over a decade, easily, were replaced. Now I have three large and one small black bookshelves. This is something I’ve wanted to do for some time. We moved one of the old shelves into our bedroom, and took some of my books with it. This left me with considerably more space for displaying my stuff. Namely, my painted tabletop miniatures and my toys.

My Transformers and other robot toys look 1000% cooler on the black shelves. All of the colors and shiny bits really pop in a way that they didn’t before. I was perusing the shelves and noticed an abundance of one color scheme in particular: red and blue.

My shelves are loaded with red and blue robots. This is only natural, as I have a psychological issue that compels me to buy Optimus Prime toys. (Details on that here, and here.) But even if you took all the Optimi (plural of Optimus, naturally) out of my collection, there are still a high proportion of azure and crimson color schemes among my beloved robots. I thought it would be fun to highlight some of my favorites, ranging from my earliest toy memories to the newest stuff.

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Art by the amazing Chris Tupa

Dragun was the first Shogun Warriors toy I ever owned. Obtaining him was a traumatic event, which I wrote about in my first book. There were other robotic world defenders on the shelves that day, but Dragun was the one for me. My beloved red and blue Shogun Warrior was lost sometime in the 80s, but someday I will find another at a reasonable price.

Voltron (no, not the one with the lions) – I loved the Lion Force Voltron show as much as the next guy. Actually, I obsessed over it way more than the average kid, but whatever. It was the other Voltron, the one composed of fifteen different vehicles, that was most appealing to me. Vehicle Voltron is not as iconic as his animal based counterpart, but there’s no denying the sweetness of the more unified color scheme, which is, of course, heavy on the red and blue.

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Xabungle with ridiculous firepower attachments

Xabungle – several years ago, a friend informed me that a local gaming store was going out of business and having a huge sale on board games and Magic cards. Among the many things I purchased that day was my first fancy Japanese imported toy (that wasn’t a Transformer, naturally). Xabungle is a premium Soul of Chogokin figure from a rather obscure early 80s mecha anime. With a color scheme like that, and a price of $40, how could I resist?

The appeal of red and blue robots has even made its way into recent toy purchases.

G2 Superion – I purchased this set to customize into a Seeker-based Decepticon combiner. When it arrived, seeing it in all its blue and red glory, I had serious reservations about painting it. I’ve resisted as far as the limb robots go, but I think I’ll keep Silverbolt around, he just looks amazing.

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Even Dia Battles’ shadow looks sweet

Dia Battles v2 – Roughly half the first series of Transformers came from a toyline called Diaclone. I’ve always enjoyed learning about them, but the prices for vintage toys were insane. Recently, the line was rebooted in Japan. My interest in Diaclone was mainly based on the toys that eventually became Transformers. That all changed when I saw the new Dia Battles. As soon as I saw the delectable cherry red and glossy blue color scheme, I knew I’d be ponying up for it. No regrets, the toy is amazing! I can’t wait for more toys in the line.

Fortress Maximus – I couldn’t quite afford Metroplex when he came out a few years back, but there was no way I was letting Fortress Maximus go out of stock before I got one. He’s the biggest Transformer ever, right? Obtaining one is a necessity. I ordered him early, and he looks totally amazing. His size is his greatest asset, for sure, but the fact that he happens to feature reds and blues in his color scheme makes Fortress Maximus even better.

 

Trimming the Fat: A Toy Story

84aAs most people reading this blog know, I am a huge Transformers fan. I’ve loved the Robots in Disguise since I first laid my eyes on them way back in 1984. Due to the Great Optimus Prime Incident (see my first book for details), I have taken my love for Transformers on into adulthood. One of the most enjoyable aspects of my fandom is reading Transformers toy reviews and viewing galleries. One of my favorite reviewers/photographers/writers is Maz over at the TF Source Blog. He recently wrote about the need for focus as a collector, that there are now simply too many toys to keep up with in a reasonable sized budget.

The article really spoke to me. My collecting urges have changed often through the years. I still have many Transformers toys from when I was a kid, and added many more from the Transformers series that were on the air when my kids were growing up (RiD and the Unicron Trilogy, mainly). There was a phase when I felt compelled to purchase every single Optimus Prime toy that came out. Sporadically, I filled in gaps in my G1 collection as best I could. When I could afford them, I grabbed the more expensive, adult oriented Masterpiece toys. There are always cool new Transformers on the local shelves, and I generally pick up those that interest me, even slightly. I ended up with a very scattered collection, with some great individual pieces, but no coherence or harmony in sum total.

84dI decided to look at my collection with a critical eye, and get rid of what I didn’t need in order to truly focus on what I wanted. First of all, my priority was Generation One toys. My collection would include the toys that I had as a kid, and also those I didn’t have but really wanted. As a fan from the very start, Transformers characters from the first two years of the toyline and cartoon are the most important to me. Optimus Prime, Prowl, and the rest are, in my view, the most desirable Transformers ever made. Due to budget constraints, I have reached a compromise, mixing cheaper reissue toys in with originals as needed. There’s no reason to pay a premium for a minty original when a reissues can be obtained at a more reasonable price.

One of my original goals as a collector was getting all the Transformers released in 1984, but I never quite finished it. About five years ago, I obtained a Huffer, and that completed my ’84 Autobots. For the Decepticons, I lacked only Frenzy and Rumble, the two humanoid cassettes. These two aren’t particularly expensive, but it seemed there was always something else taking up my toy money each month. And so, though I was very close, I never did pick them up. With my newfound emphasis on focus, I made it my #1 mission to obtain these two toys. The complete ’84 toyline would be the foundation upon which my new, streamlined collection would be built.

Photo May 15, 9 38 39 PMWhat next, then? For years, I’d considered completing the 1985 toyline to be out of my budget. Many more toys were released in 1985, for one thing. Additionally, several of them never got reissued, including the Dinobots and Shockwave. On the other hand, I had lucked into a few decent pieces, notably a lot containing two Dinobots and Jetfire as well as dozens of other lesser finds for $100. It turned out that of the forty toys on the list, I needed less than ten. Completing the ’85 toyline would be my secondary priority.

What about 1986, and beyond? At this point in my childhood, I had moved on from Transformers. I had moved on to G.I. Joe heavily in ’85 and ’86. After that, I was in junior high and more interested in computers and Dungeons & Dragons than toys. Still, due to the original movie, 1986 was a high point for the Transformers, and some great toys were released that year. I decided to obtain G1 originals of only the characters from the movie. I also added in Metroplex and Trypticon, since I already owned the former and always loved the Mechagodzilla look of the latter. These would be the only G1 original toys that I would actively seek out to add to my complete ’84 and ’85 collection.

For the remainder of the ’86 line, and all the toys that were released thereafter, I would be content with newer releases of the characters. Nearly all the major characters from G1 have shown up, often repeatedly, in the Transformers releases of the past decade. A good example would be the ’86 combiners, which have now been wonderfully remade in the Combiner Wars series. With the beautiful new versions of Defensor and Bruticus on my shelves, I feel no need for hunting down all the pieces for the G1 originals. Honestly, those original toys weren’t great in the first place. Generally speaking, I find the Diaclone and Microman based toys from the early years superior to the Transformers-specific releases of later years. It doesn’t make much sense for me to spend time and money tracking down old toys I have no affinity for, simply to check a box off on a spreadsheet. (Yes, I track my toys on a spreadsheet, and yes, I know that is nerdy.) I am totally fine with new toys that are improved versions of these classic characters.

Photo May 15, 9 38 58 PMOnly one decision was left to be made: what about the Masterpiece line? I already owned nearly all the ’84 Decepticons, lacking only Megatron, as MP Megs wasn’t really a Masterpiece in my estimation. Optimus and Prowl were my favorite two G1 toys, so I had them as MPs, as well as the beautiful blue Bluestreak. After mulling it over, I decided to limit myself to Masterpiece versions of only the ’84 toys. I might possibly expand this to the Season 1 cast, depending on what the official releases turn out to be. Shockwave looks really nice, for instance, and I already own Grimlock, but there’s no telling whether they’ll finish the Dinobots or Insecticons as Masterpieces. Only time will tell.

A brief note about third party toys: I don’t own any right now, and don’t see that changing anytime soon. The only exception might be addon kits and that sort of thing. I would love to pick up alternate feet for all my CW Combiners, for instance. For a budget oriented collector like myself, third party toys are too expensive relative to the official releases. I’d rather put my funds toward the legitimate toys instead.

Here’s the TL;DR of what I decided to focus on from this point forward, in handy bullet point form.

  • G1: All ’84, All ’85, Movie only ’86
  • “Classics”: pretty much anything I like
  • Masterpiece: All ’84

thumb (1)Once my focus had been decided, I took a long, hard look at my collection for toys that didn’t fit. It didn’t take long to find some candidates for removal. Several years ago, a coworker gave me a box of G1 Transformers, including several Headmasters. These were in really nice shape, good toys, but I have little appreciation for them. I didn’t consider their worth, but when I looked them up on sold Ebay listings, I was amazed. Taking some pictures, I offered these toys on a trading group on Facebook. Within a few days, I had arranged a large trade that would fill in many holes in my collection. Frenzy, Rumble, Shockwave, Ramjet, and Micro-X (a good enough Reflector for me) arrived in a huge box of die cast and plastic goodness. In one fell swoop, my ’84 and ’85 G1 Decepticon collections were complete. I literally ran around the house with Shockwave in gun form, zapping everything with his gloriously loud sound effects. It was one of the greatest feelings I’ve had as a collector since I finally got a G1 Optimus Prime toy as an adult (a story I wrote about in my first book).

Did I miss seeing those Headmasters on my shelf? Not really. It’s more than enough to have the pride of having owned them at one point in my life. t turns out this was an excellent decision. All but one of the toys I traded away will be released in the Titans Return toyline later this year. This will allow me to pick versions of these characters up with better engineering and a much more reasonable price tag. I will be more than content with the modern versions of Mindwipe, Chromedome, and the rest sitting on my display shelves.

My new focus on exactly what I’d like my collection to be like has renewed my vigor for Transformers. I feel like my collection is in a very good state, and with a few more strategic additions in the next year or two, will be “complete”, or at least, as complete as it will ever be. I’m sure there will be new toys that come along that I will want to pick up, but the bulk of my collection will remain focused on exactly what really matters to me: the toys that bring back the strongest, fondest memories of playtimes in my past.

The Origin Of My Optimus Prime Obession

A few years back, I entered a contest to win a rare Japanese import Transformer. Known as Star Convoy in Japan, he was unknown here in the States, as he appeared in a Japan-only TV show. I knew I had to have it, and so I wrote this fun little piece as my entry for the contest.

The 1984 JC Penney’s catalog.
A big, brown UPS truck.
My mother-in-law.

These three things, which might seem totally random and unconnected, are important pieces of the puzzle that gives undisputable proof as to why…

I need Star Convoy!!

Back in ’84, I was a wee lad of 10 years old, and totally addicted to Transformers. I watched the cartoon every day, and I’d talk about it with friends on the way to school. I had the cool red Transformers lunchbox (what I’d give to have one now). My little brother had decided to collect the “bad guys”, which was great because I loved those Autobots. I had a red Bumblebee, Prowl, Sunstreaker, and a couple more. But there was one special Transformer I wished for: the intelligent, courageous, American-as-apple-pie-and-baseball leader of the Autobots, Optimus Prime himself!

When the JC Penney Christmas catalog arrived, I frantically tore through the pages, and there he was, in all his primary-colored, tractor trailer glory. My brother asked for Megatron, of course, and I dreamed of the battles we’d have. Of course, Optimus would always beat the snot out of Megatron; it was no contest! I listened secretly as my Mom ordered the toys over the phone (to be shipped via UPS, this will be important later) and cackled in maniacal glee! The greatest Autobot would soon be mine!

Christmas Day came, and I frantically opened presents, looking for Optimus. But none of the boxes looked to be the right size! I tore open the last box, and saw…

Another Prowl!? ( If this story were a movie, at this point the camera would zoom in on my poor, waifish, preteen face, and the music would be swelling with feeling.) I looked up, open-mouthed, in shock. Across the tinsel and wrapping paper carnage, my brother was ripping into his Megatron, whooping in delight. My dad explained that Penney’s had called and that Optimus was sold out, but if they got more stock in, they’d deliver one. He knew I had busted the windshield off of my Prowl (who hasn’t?) and that he was a favorite of mine, so he bought me one to replace it. It was a wonderful gesture on my parents’ part, as Prowl was a cherished toy too, but police cars just aren’t giant red tractor trailers. I know there were other Transformers I opened that day, but I cannot remember them clearly. I look back fondly on that Christmas, and yet I would be haunted by the disappointment of it for a long time to come.

For months, maybe even years, whenever I’d see a UPS truck I’d stop and yell “Hey maybe my Optimus Prime is in there!” I came home from school one day that spring, and beheld a UPS truck pulling out of my driveway. (Again, if this story were a movie, at this point, the music would crescendo in emotion, and in slow motion I would be running across the neighborhood, fists pumping the air, hollering, with tears of joy and fulfillment glistening down my cheeks.) I burst through the door, asking my mom for my Optimus Prime. Alas, my hopes were cut down faster than a tree in the Brazilian rain forest. The UPS truck was delivering merely clothing, and not the robotic guardian of freedom for all sentient beings. Again, I was devestated.

The years passed. I enjoyed and carefully kept up with my Transformers, but I never did get an Optimus Prime. I moved on to other things, like band, girls, college, and so on. The “Optimus Prime incident” became something of a joke among the family. In an odd coincidence, the first wreck I ever had occured when I rear-ended a car… after passing a UPS truck. I’m fairly certain Megatron was the driver. I only use the Postal Service to this day.

By 2001, I was married, and had a young son and a newborn on the way. I had heard from a friend about the new Transformers line, Robots in Disguise. When I saw that though Optimus Prime was now a fire truck, he looked very similar to the old Optimus I never had, I became determined to purchase him for my son. Of course, I did this when he was away visiting relatives for a month, and I went ahead and opened it for him, but, yeah, pretty much it was his. Playing with Transformers with my own children was an indescribable experience.

Soon after this, Toys’R’Us reissued the original Optimus Prime! I told my parents, and informed them that they could correct one of the greatest injustices of modern history if they’d purchase this new Optimus for me. Then I could be done with this obsession, and forever become a well adjusted, productive member of society. They jumped at the chance, and finally, after almost twenty years, I opened up Optimus Prime. I put on the stickers. I transformed him. Again and again. (Here, the end credits would be rolling and a remake of some classic tune by a cool new band would be playing.) Everyone lived happily ever after.


Or did they?

For Christmas in 2003, we visited my wife’s family in Michigan. My mother-in-law does it up right, and we always have a good time. Well, it just happens that she has a Sam’s Club membership, and saw this toy there, and remembered the Optimus Prime story I had told her, and lo and behold, I open up a yellow fire truck Optimus Prime! This got the wheels to turning in my head, as now I had a fairly decent collection of Optimus Primes going on. The next Christmas, I asked my mother-in-law for an Energon Optimus Prime since they were on sale for half off. And again, on Christmas day, I opened an Optimus Prime. By now my family had all realized that the Optimus Prime incident had left far deeper scars within my psyche than was previously suspected.

Over the past year, the Optimus Prime collection has grown. As in, it has gone from about six to two dozen of them today. I’ve been able to get great deals on some cool figures like RiD Scourge and Universe Ultra Magnus. I even bought a 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime on sale one day when everyone in the house was home sick with the flu. I told my wife he just happened to be right between the cough syrup and the chicken soup, which oddly rang up for twenty bucks each.

Now what does all this have to do with Star Convoy, you ask? Well, as Christmas approaches this year, I’m looking for a cool Optimus prime related item to ask for. I see that the holy grail of all Optimus Primes, so rare and hard to find he’s not even CALLED Optimus Prime, the ultimate Generation 1 leader, Star Convoy, is being reissued. Now, the problem is, I’m just a poor 5th grade teacher, and on that salary I can’t justify purchasing an $85 toy. Sadly, though my mother-in-law and my own mom love me and all my strange little quirks, I know asking for a toy over $40 is not gonna fly. (I determined this after seemingly innocent conversations with each of them that I am sure they had no suspicions about.) So, in order that I might relive that tragic, destiny altering day twenty-one years ago, and open another Optimus Prime, I implore you, the judges of this contest, to grant a wish to me, my two sons, and my entire extended family, and choose me to recieve Star Convoy, the ultimate, timeless piece of Transformers history.

I promise that Star Convoy will be opened only on Christmas Day. He will be played with and proudly displayed. He will probably get loose joints, be the playground for an army of mini-cons, get smeared with juice and who knows what else, but above all, he will be loved and enjoyed like all of our toys are. I thank you for reading and for your consideration in this contest!

(I am sending a copy of this plea to my mother-in-law and my mom, in the hopes that should I not be chosen to recieve Star Convoy, they will take pity on me and their grandchildren and buy one for us anyway!)

I’m pleased to report that I won the contest! As promised, we opened it open Christmas Day and have enjoyed it ever since. Star Convoy is the most valuable toy I own, with the possible exception of the toys I still have leftover from my childhood. Not so much because of it’s monetary value, but for the great memory I had opening it with my kids.

The Big Wall-O-Transformers, October 2009

It’s Still 1984 Here

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