Dinosaur Dracula!

Five Random Action Figures, Part 35!

Welcome to a special holiday edition of Five Random Action Figures. For maximum effect, you gotta drink eggnog and wear footie pajamas while reading this.

This time, I’m limiting myself only to figures that I personally got for Christmas back in the ‘80s. Two were already in my collection; the remaining three were purchased specifically for this article, and not at all because I thought it’d be awesome to own Serpentor again.

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a1Serpentor
G.I. Joe (1986)

More “sci-fi” than the average G.I. Joe character, Serpentor was cloned from the remains of civilization’s most notorious warriors and strategists, like Julius Caesar and Attila the Hun. (This was later retconned, but since the retcon was even more out there, that “sci-fi” descriptor still fits.)

As the new leader of Cobra, Hasbro gave Serpentor the royal treatment. At first, his action figure was only available with the Air Chariot vehicle, which meant that kids had to work extra hard if they were gonna convince their parents to buy Serpentor during a regular trip to Toys “R” Us. Most of us had to wait for our birthdays, or in my case, Christmas.

Actually, I received him a few days before Christmas. This involved breaking my vow to not ask for him early while making my pitch at our old ratty Sears. My mother took the bait, as if I was really gonna spend a week living with Serpentor but never actually seeing him. C’mon.

Once she acquiesced, I had 3-4 days to play with Serpentor before Santa’s arrival. I never got bored of him. Even on the afternoon of Christmas, when the crowds were gone and I could finally pay full attention to my presents, I remember feeling guilty that I still wanted to play with Serpentor more than my “new” stuff.

I think it was the sparkly cape, but it could’ve just as easily been the Halloween snake mask. Or maybe it was the little cobra that came packaged with Serpentor in lieu of the traditional rifle. Man, this guy had a lot going for him. Easily among my top 5 favorite G.I. Joe figures. Read More…

More Highlights from the 1989 Sears Wish Book!

Let’s dig up more highlights from the 1989 Sears Wish Book.

cover

I’ve already plucked a dozen of the catalog’s best items for an older Dino Drac article, but it seemed silly to waste the rest of it. After all, Sears Wish Books have more pages than most novels, and beyond the 8-12 items that I typically feature are hundreds more of equivalent coolness. I think we can squeeze a little more juice from these lemons…

tmnt

TMNT Shooting Gallery!
($11.88)

The gun didn’t actually shoot, and instead acted as an aiming device for you to pelt targets with a barrage of tiny metal balls.

I had the TMNT Shooting Gallery, and can confirm that it was stronger in concept than execution. The cheap plastic trigger only sometimes worked, and the aiming system was so off-kilter that you could’ve scored comparably while completely blindfolded.

Despite those flaws, I freakin’ loved this thing. The “gallery” was made to look like a pizza parlor, but one that’d been infiltrated by the likes of Krang, Bebop and a bisected Shredder.

Increasing the tension was April O’Neil, who hid in the background to run the cash register. Don’t shoot April, kids!

I rather liked this parallel universe wherein April worked at a pizza parlor and Shredder had no visible pupils. It was as if Donatello killed a butterfly during Turtles in Time. Read More…

Christmas Eve, 1986.

Christmas Eve, 1986. That was the big one. My family’s biggest Christmas party ever, with a houseful of rarely seen aunts and uncles, kids under every table, well-wishing passersby, one dog and two ferrets. It was insane.

tape

One of my cousins filmed the highlights on our clunky Panasonic video camera. I found the tape just last night, after having spent the last 15 years believing it’d been tossed during a hasty springtime purge.

It’s awesome, but hard to watch. Five family members, including my father, are no longer with us. There are points when the camera catches a huddle of them together, like an eerie foreshadowing. Others are still around, though these days I only see them at weddings and funerals. Still others — friends of the family — have been out of our lives for so long that I can’t even remember their names.

But hey, any thirty-year-old home movie is gonna be a bittersweet watch.

Most of my siblings are now married with kids of their own, and given the enormous size of our combined families, it’s amazing that we still get together for Christmas. Personally, I think we’re as much honoring tradition as celebrating. “Crowded and chaotic” is all we ever knew of Christmas. If Christmas isn’t those things, somebody messed up.

Below are eight observations about our 1986 Christmas Eve party. (I’m leaving out the more family-oriented stuff, so apologies in advance for robbing you of my father’s sperm bank joke, which he told while frying calamari.)

#1: It was madness.

Tables stretched from one end of the dining room to the corner of the living room — basically the width of the whole house — and there still weren’t enough chairs for everyone. Some people ate on the couches. Other simply stood in corners.

The house was crawling with people, even in its darkest corners. At one point in the video, my cousin hosted a makeshift tour, going into each unlocked room on both floors. Even in an unfinished office tucked away downstairs, bodies were everywhere.

Christmas Eve was always that way, and I loved it. I loved that our usually-boring house suddenly teemed with life. I loved that there was action at every turn. I felt like we were partying in the center of the universe. Read More…

Classic Christmas Commercials, Volume 8!

Scary truth: Christmas is less than a month away, and if you so much as blink, the season will be over. Gobble it up while you still can!

Look at pretty lights and listen to cheesy music. Watch Scrooged, and nod along with Frank’s meaning-of-Christmas speech. Suck the end of a candy cane until it’s all nice and pointy, and then use it to threaten your enemies.

I myself will celebrate the old fashioned way: By writing a thousand words about Christmassy TV commercials from 1985.

Below: The latest edition of Classic Christmas Commercials, back for another season of thrills, chills and YouTube videos with terrrrrible audio quality. Enjoy!

Chicken McNuggets for Christmas! (1980s)

I’ve mentioned this ad on Dino Drac before, but if ever a commercial merited two love letters, it’s the one where sentient Chicken McNuggets argue over how they’d prefer to be eaten.

This was just another of several McDonald’s commercials that pushed Chicken McNuggets as the go-to appetizer for holiday parties. I can’t say that I’ve ever seen McNuggets treated that way “in the wild,” but I still grew up believing that that was how adults lived.

Like you’d have this sitcom cliche office party filled with expensive clothes and box wine, and some magic butler would be walking around with a tray of Chicken McNuggets. That’s what I thought adulthood was about. That and jet skiing.

Side note: On the long list of fictitious pets that I’d kill to own, I’d put a living Chicken McNugget between Gizmo and the Puckmarin. He could be my little pocket buddy, who’d crouch on cue so I wouldn’t have to pay for two movie tickets. Read More…

Dino Drac’s Stuffed Artichokes Recipe!

Let’s talk about artichokes.

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Many of you do not fully comprehend artichokes, and that’s understandable. They’re vegetables with fifteen asterisks, and they look like tiny sleeping Audrey IIs. Hell, even I don’t fully comprehend them.

Nevertheless, in my family, no Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve dinner is complete without at least two dozen artichokes. Stuffed with flavorful goodies, what begins as an army of organic maces ends as a salty, tender side dish.

The artichoke sponges up whatever surrounds it, so if you throw enough cheese, garlic and oil at the thing, it’s bound to taste good.

Let’s walk through this… Read More…