Dinosaur Dracula!

Monster Balls from the ’80s!

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You should steal that image and put it on a t-shirt. Then, when you’re out in public, pretend that walking really hurts.

Ladies and gentlemen, it’s time for us to talk about MONSTER BALLS. I’d wanted to write about these for over ten years, but the eBay prices were always too dissuasive. A few months ago, I finally found one that I could afford.

I finally got a MONSTER BALL.

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The package doesn’t list a year, but it’s safe to assume that they’re from the late ‘80s. MONSTER BALLS were pretty obviously meant to steal some glow from AmToy’s Madballs.

It takes a certain familiarity with goofy ‘80s toys to understand why MONSTER BALLS are incredible, so for those without that certain familiarity, I’ll do my best to explain.

Madballs, those lovably gross rubber monster balls, took certain demographics by storm when they debuted in 1987. Almost immediately, other toy companies stole the concept, whether to make straight-up bootlegs, or — as was the case with MONSTER BALLS — new creations were still direct pitches to existing Madballs fans.

So what appears to just be some obscure rubber Dracula head is actually a whole lot more. My MONSTER BALL is a relic from one of the weirdest and most wonderful fads of the ‘80s!

There were four different MONSTER BALLS available. Each came in the same package — the one with the helpful suggestions on what a person could do with their MONSTER BALL. (“Throw,” “catch,” “bounce” and “hit.” I’d add “squeeze,” and maybe “tuck under your shirt to give the illusion of a misplaced breast.”) (more…)

Five Random SPOOKY Action Figures!

Continuing with my “Five Random Action Figures” series, I thought I’d make this edition a little more appropriate for the Halloween Countdown. This time, our five random action figures are all TERRIBLE MONSTERS!

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Camouflage Swamp Thing
Swamp Thing, 1990

This toy series found root (heyoooo) in the Swamp Thing animated series. Good lord, what fantastic figures! Most notably, the villains came with what were essentially finger puppets, which they could (loosely) wear over their heads to become “monsters.”

There were several different Swamp Thing figures available, of course, and Kenner did a great job in differentiating them. One Swamp Thing glowed in the dark. Another had his left hand attached by a string, to serve as an organic snare. A third could actually fall apart, into what was supposed to look like a pile of harmless branches, even if it really just looked like a dismembered Swamp Thing.

The guy pictured here is Camouflage Swamp Thing. With a little cold water, all of his green parts will turn brown. (I guess to assist him with sneak attacks from the mud?) It was the same gimmick that those old Matchbox cars had, but it was a hell of a lot cooler to do it to Swamp Thing. (more…)

NECA’s Mego-style 8-bit Jason Voorhees.

Remember last year’s SDCC exclusive Jason Voorhees figure? You know, the “8-bit” one? Of course you do.

…but unless you’re a serious Friday the 13th fan, here’s something you probably don’t know: That figure started a minor revolution. I touched on this in my last Monster-Mania report, but my friend John has the story in much greater detail. “8-bit Jason” has taken the horror world by storm, and as if from nowhere, seeing Jason Voorhees with a blue mask and purple skin has become nearly as common as seeing him the “right” way.

For years, Jason’s screwy look in the old Nintendo game was something people made fun of. How couldn’t they? Why did they make Jason blue and purple, anyway?

But these days? Forget it. As strange as it sounds, that look has become a beloved part of his lore.

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So of course I was going to be all over this new figure, again from NECA. Everyone went berserk when the news broke a short while back. With nary a peep, NECA and Toys “R” Us teamed for another 8-Bit Jason figure, this time in a larger “Mego” style. (If you’re unfamiliar with Mego’s ancient exploits, the toys they made were essentially blends of “dolls” and “action figures.”)

This new Jason is a TRU exclusive, and after checking multiple stores multiple times on multiple days, I found zip. I’m not sure exactly how many of the figures were produced, but early on, they were obviously being gobbled up by dealers. Who could blame them? For the first week or so, the toys were selling for triple their retail price on eBay.

Eventually, TRU put the figures online. Never before had my fingers typed a credit card number so fast. (It’s sold out as of this writing, but since New Purple Jason doesn’t seem to be as rare as was initially feared, I’d advise against paying eBay rates. Just keep looking!) (more…)

Krang is back, brother.

I mentioned this on Dino Drac’s Facebook page, but it’s way too important to lose in the social media ether.

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Returning as part of the Ninja Turtles Classic Collection, it’s motherfucking KRANG. One of my favorite action figures EVER, and by far my favorite TMNT character. Hell, maybe my favorite character PERIOD.

Lots of capped words, plus a “motherfucker.” Can you tell that I’m excited?

Look, Krang was my gateway drug into All Things Turtles. Not sure if I’ve told this story before, but while I got on the TMNT bandwagon early, I didn’t get on it from the very start. On a trip to the grocery store with my friend and his mom (excitement), I bought a spiral notebook with the Ninja Turtles on the cover. I didn’t know much about them at that point, and my purchase had more to do with “oooh shiny new notebook” than “oooh Ninja Turtles.”

toonBut later that afternoon, my friend showed me what I’d been missing. We watched the cartoon in its normal weekday afternoon slot, and I was IMMEDIATELY taken with Krang. By then, he already had his now-trademark robot body. (The bald guy with the bedroom in his stomach.) Between Krang’s look, voice, and weirdly laissez-faire approach to villainy, he was “my guy” from Minute 1.

HE WAS A TALKING PINK BRAIN.

LIVING INSIDE A HALF-NAKED ROBOT’S STOMACH.

FOR CHRIST’S SAKE.

Now firmly turned onto TMNT, I became a megafan. I watched everything. I collected everything. I ate Crunchabungas and gained 20 pounds. I saw the first movie on opening night. Same with the second. I’ve had many obsessions, but TMNT was up there with the biggest of ‘em all.

Of course, I was waaay into the action figures. Hobbies have often turned me to lunacy, but man, I was especially crazy when it came to Ninja Turtles figures. When a new wave came out, I’d force people to bring me to toy stores every single day. Maybe I was spoiled, or maybe it was because my pleading was on the level of someone begging off a serial killer.

“YOU DON’T UNDERSTAND. THIS MEANS EVERYTHING TO ME. I WILL QUOTE THE ROOM FIFTEEN YEARS BEFORE IT GETS MADE. TAKE ME TO GEOFFREY NOW.” (more…)

Five Random Action Figures, Part 7!

Since we’re up to the seventh installment of this series, I guess I can skip the preamble. Here are random action figures. Five of them!

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Biker Scout
Star Wars, 1983

Behold, one of my favorite figures from Kenner’s immense Star Wars collection. Something about the Biker Scout’s boxy head appealed to me in a way normal Stormtroopers didn’t, and excluding the Emperor’s Royal Guard, this was the Star Wars figure I bought most often. (Sometimes I needed to replace a lost figure; other times I just wanted more Biker Scouts.)

Critics be damned: When I hear “Star Wars,” my mind jumps to Return of the Jedi. It’s fitting that my most beloved “Imperial” characters were exclusive to that movie.

The biggest reason to own a Biker Scout was to have an appropriate figure to place on Kenner’s “Speeder Bike” vehicle. (The one that blew apart with the push of a button… which was an awesome feature until you realized how easy it was to hit said button by accident.)

Speeder bikes featured prominently in ROTJ, of course, and I grew up wanting to ride one more than any other fictitious vehicle. Every time I was in my parents’ car, stuck in Jersey shore traffic, I’d imagine myself on a speeder bike, casually zipping to Wildwood just above the many hoods. In those dreams, I’d be dressed in the Biker Scout’s uniform. (more…)

13 toys sold on Amazon… in 1999!

In November of 2000, I placed my first-ever order with Amazon. Reviewing my account, it looks like I bought Charmander earrings, two Furby Babies, and twenty of the exact same Darth Sidious figure, just because it was marked down to a buck.

Probably shouldn’t have admitted all of that, but here’s the point: I’d guess that the vast majority of you have been ordering from Amazon for nearly as long. Maybe even longer. Many of us have ordered so frequently that our purchase histories read like diaries. It’s been our collective corner deli for everything that isn’t food.

I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at Amazon as it existed back when a lot of us were first hearing about it, so I dug up an old version of site.

This was Amazon, on August 27th, 1999:

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Maybe Amazon’s comfort factor stems from how little it’s changed through the years. Today’s version of the site is slicker, more responsive and less heavy on the ten paragraph advertorials, but it’s still basically the same.

The screenshot isn’t a mockup. That’s what people saw on the Amazon homepage on 8/27/99. As I clicked through the site, so many memories came flooding back. I had to remind myself that 1999 really was fifteen years ago, and that it wasn’t crazy to see so many new movies in VHS format. (God, we’re all so old.)

I spent most of my time in the “Toys & Games” category. Holy nostalgia. The neat thing about sifting through Ancient Amazon rather than an old store catalog is that you’ll see much obscurer things. A catalog will remind you about “big launch” releases, but even back then, Amazon carried everything. It was as much “shit parade” as “hit parade,” and I loved every second of it.

To commemorate the hours I spent navigating dead links (and forced redirects to more dead links), here are thirteen random playthings Amazon sold back in 1999. (more…)

Highlights from TRU’s 1986 Summer Catalog!

I was separating a stack of papers into “keep” and “toss” piles, and buried underneath so many hotel receipts and menus for dead restaurants, there it was…

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Yeah, this one went into the “keep” pile.

It’s the Toys “R” Us Summer Fun Book, from 1986! Lightweight and only around a dozen pages, I’m guessing they came packed with Sunday newspapers.

The contents aren’t nearly as voluminous as what we used to see in Sears Wish Books, but there was certainly enough to make me a remember a time when “toys equaled life.” Here are some of the highlights: (more…)