Dinosaur Dracula!

Five Random Action Figures, Part 17!

It’s time for the latest edition of Five Random Action Figures, which takes the total number of figures featured over the course of this series to a cool 85. We’re almost up to a hundred! I’ll try to plan something special for that edition, and by “special” I hope I don’t mean “grab the first five figures from the nearest plastic tub.”

In any event, this edition is special in its own way, too. All of the figures spotlighted below were purchased last Saturday at the Atlantic City Boardwalk Con!

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a-5Blanka
G.I. Joe / Street Fighter II, 1993

It’s been over twenty years, and I’m still rocked by the oddity of placing Street Fighter II characters under the G.I. Joe umbrella. Rocked, but thankful. Hasbro definitely knew how to work those characters in this scale, and doing so provided the added bonus of letting us envision Dhalsim making Tomax yelp by kicking Xamot in the face.

Blanka, resplendent in his jade greenness, might be the collection’s shining star. Hasbro ditched the idea of Blanka being a crouching, ape-like beast, instead presenting him as a sort of Average Joe (Average G.I. Joe) who just happened to have punky skin and hair.

I dig the transition. I couldn’t see Video Game Blanka saying much more than BLEEEAAARRRRUUGH, but in a pinch, I could totally see Action Figure Blanka narrating historical biographies while sipping boysenberry tea. This Blanka is the Grey Hulk to regular Blanka’s Green Hulk, which makes the figure’s emerald hide all the more confusing. (more…)

This is the most ’80s thing ever.

I found it, I found it. The most impossibly ‘80s thing of all impossibly ‘80s things.

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Ironically, for all I know, it might’ve come out in the ‘90s.

This Sun Kids combo pack blends two things that perfectly bookend all of my other childhood memories: Cheap sunglasses with neon frames… and puffy stickers. I honestly could not choose a better two items to represent “1986” in the form of meretricious pharmacy toys. (more…)

Toys from the 1984 Consumers Catalog!

Today I’m gonna show you the highlights from the 1984 Consumers Distributing catalog. Don’t run — it’s more interesting than it sounds!

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I’ve mentioned Consumers Distributing before, but to save you a click, here’s a primer: The odd stores were more like OTB centers, where instead of wheeling around shopping carts, you stood at little kiosks filling out catalog order forms. Workers would then seize your goods from a warehouse in the back. If not for the financial frivolity, it might have seemed dystopian. With little space dedicated to “ambiance,” costs were kept down, and Consumers could price things lower than most department stores.

Physically being there was never much fun. With so few things on display, the store was all-business and not at all for mindless browsing. Still, I had a special affinity for Consumers, since their catalogs were nearly as good as Sears Wish Books!

Even as a kid, I couldn’t believe their prices. Everything was cheap, but certain things were really cheap. (Of course, this often led to disappointment. You’d go to Consumers clutching their clearance pages, only to find out that nothing you wanted was in stock. 49 cent Karate Kommandos? I knew it was too good to be true.)

Those old catalogs have been one of my “grail searches” over the years. I was recently able to acquire a big pile of them, and they’re every bit as sweet as I remember. For starters, let’s check out the highlights from their 1984 catalog!

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Star Wars Figures!
Price: $2.97 each

If I’ve not made this clear in prior articles, Kenner’s original Star Wars line is my favorite action figure series of all time. Those toys shaped my childhood, and were absolutely what drove me to become a collector in my teen years.

One of my literal earliest memories is of sitting in my childhood bedroom, throwing a party for my Star Wars figures with the Ewok Village playset. There were over a hundred available, and I damn well tried to collect them all. While falling short of that lofty goal, I certainly had every single figure pictured in that spread. What amazes me is how each one sparks a different memory.

The Gamorrean Guard? My mother brought me along when she visited her best friend, who happened to be my godmother. I didn’t see her often, but she always lived up to her title with great gifts. That afternoon, she gave me the Gamorrean Guard, and hoped it’d keep me quiet as she and my mother smoked their way through eighty cups of coffee. It did.

Nikto? On some ridiculously long ago evening, I was at TRU. (Which, come to think of it, is the same TRU I just did that shopping spree at.) The goal was to get a new Star Wars figure, but as the line’s vitality was already waning by then, the pickings were slim. From the poor selection, the only one I didn’t have was Nikto. I chose him begrudgingly. He was a fresh face, yes, but not a very interesting one. I should’ve just gotten an extra Boba Fett.

The Emperor? As mentioned in this article, I got him through one of Kenner’s mail-away offers. You haven’t lived until you’ve received an ostensibly free Star Wars figure by mail, trapped within a stark white cardboard coffin.

I’ll stop there, but I could write similar paragraphs for each of the pictured figures. God, I loved that line. I still do. Nothing else has come close. (more…)

The $55 Toys “R” Us Shopping Spree!

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I found an old Toys “R” Us gift card while cleaning, and was happy to discover that it still had 59 bucks left on it. I hope the card enjoyed those eight months under our microwave.

This left me with three options. One, I could save it until the Christmas season, when I’m due to blow hundreds of dollars on gifts anyway. Two, I could put it towards one extravagant item that I wouldn’t be able to afford without a 59 dollar assist. Three, I could immediately drive to TRU and blow it all on goofy crap.

An easy decision. Let’s go on a shopping spree!

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My TRU visits are usually fruitless. I’ll go in, look around, want stuff, but ultimately leave empty-handed, confident that groceries and rent are more important than a few extra Ninja Turtles.

By contrast, a gift card shopping spree is an open invitation to be six years old. Even so, fifty bucks doesn’t go as far as it used to, and if I wanted an overstuffed shopping bag that fired on every cylinder, I had to play it smart. I had to be choosy.

The hardest part was keeping track of my total. These days, almost nothing in TRU wears a price sticker. I had to continually run back to that little scanning-zapping-thing for mental math. (The reason this became a $55 shopping spree rather than a $59 shopping spree was my own paranoia. I didn’t want to spend one cent of my own money, so at the last second, I removed the big bag of Peanut M&M’s. As it turned out, I could’ve bought them and still been under my limit. Damn.)

I didn’t just stick with my usual three aisles. I covered every inch of that place, looking for sales and clearances. (And also Sea-Monkeys, which are now so well-hidden that an entire game show could be forged around challenging contestants to find them in TRU.)

The results are below. I wasn’t just aiming for cool stuff, but a variety of it.

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Five McDonald’s Happy Meal Boxes.

Let’s take a look at five old McDonald’s Happy Meal boxes, and see how many tangentially related paragraphs they inspire. You may consider this a surrogate sequel to my article about old fast food bags.

God, I write about a lot of garbage!

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Back to the Future Happy Meal!
Year: 1991

Wow, a Back to the Future Happy Meal?! Okay, sure, it’s based on the animated series rather than the movies, but this is still pretty Big Time.

(And besides, the seemingly little-loved cartoon series definitely had its charms, not the least of which being an impressive amount of continuity between it and the movies. The show actually remembered and factored in what happened in the films, whereas so many other movie-to-toon adaptations ignored everything but the names and gimmicks.)

The BTTF Happy Meal set included four toys — all of which being character figurines irremovably stuck inside action-packed vehicles. With apologies to Marty, the only one worth tracking down is Doc in the DeLorean… because DeLorean.

As for the Happy Meal box, it’s one of those neat ones that doubles as a playset after a little help from scissors. I loved boxes like that. True action figure playsets were expensive, and kids rarely got new ones outside of birthdays and major religious holidays. During the off season, a Happy Meal box that worked on the same principle as Castle Grayskull was even better than a toy DeLorean. (more…)