Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Retro Spins: Men At Work - Business As Usual



Men At Works Business As Usual (November 1981) took a little time before it charted in July of 1982 with Who Can It Be Now which worked its way up to the number two spot until starting to slip in November of that same year. However, at this point, the group had a second hit make its way to the chart - Down Under, which would become its most popular song of all time. The song would make it to the number one spot by January of 1983 where it would stay for a few consecutive weeks before starting to fall slightly before taking the number one spot again in February. The track would continue to drop through the remainder of the year, but be joined at the same time by the follow up album's single, Overkill.

When I turned on the album I immediately had a thought. Business As Usual was like listening to an Oingo Boingo album with the absence of the charm, quirkiness, fun and range of Danny Elfman's lyrics and his multi-range vocals. It wasn't terrible by any means. Unfortunately, its greatest weakness is that it's just okay.

With the exception of hits such as Who Can It Be Now, Down Under and Be Good Johnny its remaining songs really aren't all that catchy or memorable. Quite honestly too many of them sound the same as well. I couldn't tell you which was which and I literally just finished listening to it.

I'm not ready to give up on this one. I think I'm going to give it a couple more days and listen to it again to see if any of the songs (other than the obvious hits) pop out and stay in my head for more than two seconds.

Men At Work - TBD.

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Monday, May 21, 2018

The Centurions: Power Xtreme (DC Comics)



The Centurions: Power Xtreme
DC Comics
1987

I honestly don't remember much about the Centurions. I watched a few episodes here and there as a kid, but it definitely wasn't one of those, "Gotta get home and watch the next episode," type things. In fact, as a kid I only had one of the toys - Ace McCloud and the only thing I really remember about that was it had a ton of holes in it to attach accessories I kept losing.

Well, despite its lackluster appeal to me personally, I won't deny it was probably a fun toy line and cartoon for many others. It too, like so many toy lines before or after it, also spawned its own comic book series.


DC Comics produced a four issue mini series to test the waters (so to speak) to see if there would be further interest in the series to shift it to a monthly title - Such as the company had done numerous times with toy related titles. Sadly, this would be as far as the series would go...

The Centurions: Power Xtreme
London Editions Magazines
1987 - 1988

...That is unless you lived in the UK. Much like the Thundercats comics from Star, popularity was much larger in the UK for the Centurions - Well, a little bit more anyway. Enough to garner ten additional books between 1987 and 1988.


To date, these have been the last of the comic books published to feature the characters. In fact, beyond fans, there seems to be very little rumblings in the world of the Centurions these days. That's a shame. If done correctly, there is certainly enough interesting concepts around the property which could be re-visioned and revitalized into a worthwhile reboot. You know, just don't let Michael Bay do it.


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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Made A Couple Birthday Cakes



When I'm not collecting toys or CD's, I like to spend my time baking cakes and cupcakes for people. Here are a couple birthday cakes I recently made...

The bottom layer of this one is a butter cake with fresh strawberries baked into the top. The second layer is a vanilla cheesecake with more strawberries baked into the top.

The layers are separated by whipped cream which also coats the entire cake. Rainbow sprinkles surround the entire sides of the cake and it's topped with hand dipped chocolate covered strawberries.

I made this cake for a co-worker / friend who I've known for about eight years now. She celebrated her birthday in April and was happy as can be with this cake.

She shared a little with her mom and mom's boyfriend, then promptly ate the rest by herself....Would it help if I said she was pregnant?

This second cake was actually for my friend's (mentioned above) mom who celebrated her birthday just this weekend. I'm eagerly awaiting feedback as to what she thought of it. 

Her mom is a big chocolate fan, so I went all out in that regard. Both layers of this cake are triple chocolate fudge. The layers are separated by a thick layer of strawberry whipped cream which contain both fresh strawberries for texture and pure strawberry extract to drive home the flavor.

Surrounding the cake is a generous layer of chocolate ganache. This not only holds everything together, but stuffs the open area around the perimeter of the layers to securely hold them up.

The cake is "decorated" with a little whipped cream around the bottom and top with a nice pillow of it in the dead center. Along the perimeter of the top are fresh cut strawberries.

I'm eager to hear what her and her mom thought of the cake.

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Thursday, May 17, 2018

Painted Memories: A New Hope




Please share your own thoughts, memories and stories in the comment section.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

In All Things The Universe Is Balance





For every cause there is an effect. For every action a reaction. Harmony. Chaos. They both work in conjunction with each other to form a balance in the universe. There is no better way to analyze this basic principal than by the GIF below.



At a glance, this appears to be nothing short of a boy walking outside to dump a pot of water on someone's head. Or possibly it's a depantsing joke gone wrong. Look closer. Are either of these really what is going on?

Let's look at all the players involved in an event which is about to go completely wrong for almost everyone involved.
 

Player 1: Stander
Player 2: Faller
Player 3: Spiller
Player 4: Hitter
Player 5: Dog

The events which unfold all result from the actions of Player 1 who in turn causes a massive reaction. This all begins as Player 1 stands up from a bench to pet Player 5, the dog.

In doing so, Player 2 who is on the other end of the bench falls to the ground as the side of the bench where Player 1 was sitting flips upwards from the sudden loss of balanced weight.

At this time Player 3 just so happens to be walking outside with a pot of water. As Player 2 falls towards the ground, he instinctively grabs for anything he can to stop his downward momentum. This just so happens to be the shorts of Player 3. In addition to this, the bench which is now flipping upward hits the pot from Player 3's hands causing it to spill all over Player 4.

In an attempt to save his pants, Player 3 abandons the pot which completes spilling all over Player 4. Player 4 now reacts to the sudden dowsing by way of grabbing the pot and smacking Player 3 over the head with it.

Player 5 backs away avoiding the situation entirely.

The universe has completed its circle. Either that or this was an incredibly well choreographed stunt.

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Source

Star Wars Trailers, and Why I Find Them Useless



Star Wars fans in general seem to go gaga over every little two second snippet they can see of an upcoming Star Wars film. They gush over all the details in that brief moment, speculate about what it's about and hypothesize the internet up with rumor after rumor all based on nothing short of speculation. Which leads me to the conclusion that Star Wars trailers are pretty useless.

Let's take a recent film as an example. Go ahead and take a moment to watch the trailer if you will.



Watching this trailer, you get a solid understanding of what the movie is about and not only that, it gets points for being flashy and pretty. Sure, you don't know the characters in and out, who the villain is or overall how it will all come together. However, you know the world is pretty much garbage, many people prefer to spend their time in an alternate reality known as the Oasis and the creator of said place has passed away. In his wake he's left an Easter egg somewhere in the "game" and the person who finds it will not only be financially set for a lifetime, but also gain control of the place.

Great! Tells me everything I need to know about the movie to determine whether or not I want to see it.

Then there's Star Wars. Movies guarded in such high esteem secrecy that the trailers tell you little to nothing in the expectation that the name alone will make you see the film.

You can watch any trailer for any of the Star Wars films and walk away with nothing but pretty pictures. Let's look at the trailer for Solo.



Okay. What did you get from that? Someone is putting together a crew for a job. The end. You have no clue what the film is about. What the job is for. Where they're going. What the end goal is. Nothing. In essence this is a poor and pretty useless trailer set to do nothing but appeal to fans who will sit back and speculate non-stop about what they've just seen.

Star Wars wants you to see it because it's Star Wars. Not because it has an appealing story it wants to "sell" to movie goers. I mean at the end of the day it may be a great movie, but based on this trailer if I were to try and sell this movie to someone outside of Star Wars Fan Band Wagon the conversation would go as such.

"Hey you should see the new Solo movie."

"Why? What's it about?"

"It's about someone putting together a crew for a job!"

"What kind of job?"

"I don't know."

"So why should I see it?"

"Because it looks great!"

"What looks great about it?"

"It's got a lot of flashy scenery."

"Okay, but what is the story about?"

"Um.....Someone putting together a crew for a job."

Where are they going? What are they after? What's the end goal? Solo relies to heavily on the concept that people know the entire back story for Han Solo from various books, comics or other Star Wars films. Well what if they've never seen a Star Wars film or read a single piece of Star Wars literature?

A good trailer is one which mixes eye catching visuals to put you on the edge of your seat and a brief synopsis of the story to lay out the expectation in your mind. Without a solid combination of both of these you're left with little to get excited about...Unless you're a raving fan already...Which is who these trailers are clearly made for.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Retro Spins: Philip Bailey: Chinese Wall



Philip Bailey
Chinese Wall
1984

Philip Bailey's Chinese Wall (from October 1984) fires off with a double barrel shotgun blast of delight. The first track Photogenic Memory grabbed me so hard from the start with its catchy drum intro that I had to a buckle a seat belt for the exciting ride I was sure I was in for.

Then track two started...And it went downhill from there. The words boring, annoying and high pitched come to mind with the remainder of the tracks on the album. The only other saving grace to be found is the Phil Collins duet, Easy Lover - Which would hit the charts in November of 1984 and stay on them until March of the following year.

I even gave Walking on the Chinese Wall a second try when I read it charted in a couple weeks after Easy Lover dropped off. Hated it. I mean, hated it. Couldn't turn it off fast enough.

I do have to say I firmly believe Photogenic Memory is far superior to Easy Lover. However, the lesson learned here was that sometimes a greatest hits from Phil Collins can suffice for getting the songs you want which are featured on another artist's studio album.

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Monday, May 14, 2018

M.A.S.K. (DC Comics)



M.A.S.K. (Mini Series)
DC Comics
1985 - 1986

M.A.S.K. was one of the biggest successes for Kenner post their Star Wars franchise years. The toys combined intriguing characters with multi-function vehicles and playsets which provided hours of entertainment for kids. It didn't hurt that the line was backed by a highly popular animated series which lasted for two seasons and encompassed seventy-five episodes.

As was quickly becoming the norm for the era, toy developers were looking for marketing campaigns which allowed them to grab kids attention. Though animation was a great tool for commercials, stringent laws limited the amount of seconds a commercial could feature "cartoon" footage.

To help get around this, several big name toy companies sought out comic books as an alternative source of marketing. Pretty much every toy line from the 80's had a coinciding book through either Marvel, DC or Star Comics.


M.A.S.K. actually began its history in comic pages via three mini comics which were included in the actual packages of the toys. However, in 1985, DC Comics developed a mini series of four issues for comic book racks which ran until early 1986.

M.A.S.K.
DC Comics
1987

The mini series garnered enough popularity that DC Comics launched a monthly series in 1987.


Unfortunately, popularity dropped quickly by readers and the series was cancelled after just nine issues.


IDW attempted to revitalize M.A.S.K. in comic book for in 2011 where Matt Tracker was depicted as a police officer. However, this series never saw publication. Instead in 2016, a re-introduction / re-re-visioning of the series was produced which ran for ten issues through August 2017.

M.A.S.K. was initially slated to be a part of Hasbro's proposed cinematic universe which was in the works. However, the film got lost in the shuffle of flip flop responses from the studio (Paramount) and folks working on it who would one day say it was happening and then the next day retract and say it's not happening. As of April 2018 it is once again on the green light list. We'll see where it goes from there.

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Thursday, May 10, 2018

Painted Memories: The Bat





Please share your own thoughts, memories and stories in the comment section.

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Wednesday, May 9, 2018

To Survive A War, You Gotta Become War



An expert in Guerilla Warfare.


A man who's the best with guns, with knives, with his bare hands.


A man who's been  trained to ignore pain.


Ignore weather.


To live off the land.


To eat things that would make a billy goat puke.


In Vietnam his job was to dispose of enemy personnel.


To kill, period.


Win by attrition.


Now Rambo was the best.


Yes! Finally! I finally got my hands on Coleco's 1986 Rambo figure! It took me forever to track down one that had all the various accessories with it...Mainly because I ended up having to buy it in the package.

I talked the seller down quite considerably on this one because of the condition of the package. Don't let the picture fool you. The top 1/3 won't even stand up straight if you're holding it. It flops backwards. In person, it looked like it had been hit by a car and left for dead on the highway.

Fortunately for me, I didn't want the cardboard backer, so I think this turned out to be a win / win for both the seller and I. He got a fair price and I got the figure.

I think the figure got rescued just in time from it's cardboard prison too. It has an ever so slight sticky / tacky feeling to the arms and chest - Which is of course caused by the plasticizer. For those of you who have no clue what I mean, I"ll quickly explain.

As silly as it sounds, toys need to breathe. If you leave them in baggies, protector cases or even in their original bubble for excessive periods, the plastic can't breathe and when the plasticizer begins to break down, it can't escape. The end result is it clings back to the figure which is what causes the sticky layer.

If caught soon enough, you can simply soak your toy in ten parts water to one part dish soap for a few hours. In most cases this will remove the stickiness.

It's sad to think this, but unfortunately nothing last forever. Mind you, you don't have to worry about this in your lifetime if you take care of your figures as it can take anywhere from 450 to 1,000 years for plastic to completely break down.

"Isn't science fun?" - The Punisher.

Well, anyway...I'm sure most of you didn't come here today for a science lesson. So, back to Rambo.

As many readers of The Toy Box know, I have been looking to add this particular figure to my collection for quite some time now. Let's just have a look for a minute, okay?





Wonderful!

I love how it perfectly captures the look of Stallone (by 80's standards). One glance and most people can tell right off the bat who it is. There's even chest scars. Coleco did a fantastic job in this department. I also love all the great accessories he comes with.

I'm entertaining the idea of grabbing a Colonel Trautman and the white shirt, Fire-Power Rambo, but I'm honestly in no rush to do so at this time. I got the one figure I really wanted and I'm happy to just sit back and admire it for the time being.

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Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Retro Spins: Go-Go's - Beauty and the Beat



Go-Go's
Beauty and the Beat
1981

The Go-Go's burst onto the scene in July of 1981 with their debut album Beauty and the Beat and immediately saw success as their song Our Lips Our Sealed quickly hit the charts in August of that same year and clawed its way to the top twenty's by January of the following year.

Though it would start to slip down the charts again at this point, We Got the Beat which had also made its debut on the charts in January climbed all the way to the number three spot before starting its decline.

However, by July a third Go-Go's tune was working its way up the charts - Vacation from their follow up album. This hit made it to number eight before starting to fall off the charts again.

With how popular the Go-Go's were, it pains me to say Beauty and the Beat is pretty terrible (in my own personal opinion). Sure, I'll take Our Lips Are Sealed and We Got the Beat, but that's about it. Nothing else on this album impresses me. I don't know if I'm missing something, being picky or if the Go-Go's simply aren't for me.

I tried listening to this album from start to finish and quite honestly I was so bored with it to the point where it became annoying background noise. You know the kind where you're like, "I really wish that racket would stop." The worst part about it was that with the simple click of a button I could have ceased my torment, but pushed forward to the end thinking something else on this album had to be good. Honestly, I found nothing.

Like I said above, I'll stick to the two chart toppers...Which now that I think about it, clearly I'm not the only one. I like the only two songs on the album which managed to chart. So at some point the entire country must have felt the same way I do right now.


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Monday, May 7, 2018

You Are 8 Years Old...



2 Minute Toy Break came out of nowhere today with a Round Robin Challenge which when typing a reply in his comment section got so long I figured I would just go ahead and post it here. He posed the question of what five toys would you bring with you if you were eight years old and headed for a road trip with your parents. Like I said, my comment on his page was getting rather lengthy, so I decided to go ahead and create my own response here.

As a child of parents who were always traveling for work and / or vacation (overseas and abroad in the USA), we seemed to always be on the road. Yet oddly, I never tended to bring toys with me as they were either in boxes traveling across the ocean or I just never really thought to bring any. Instead, music cassettes and Mad Libs (which usually got us in trouble) often accompanied us on trips.

However, that's not to say there were no toys involved. One of the great things about my mom was she never left us really wanting for anything. We were very privileged to own a lot of toys and with the exception of very few often got pretty much what we asked for. Yes, we were spoiled.

It was because of this spoiling that often times when on road trips we would pull into a not so local Toys R Us or tape store and be told we could pick something out for the road. Mom often used these trips to gauge our interest in things and also do preemptive Christmas / birthday shopping.

On these many trips I recall three specific items I picked up to occupy myself on the road.

Number 1: Remco Karate Kid Figures

By 1986 I was a massive fan of The Karate Kid, so when I saw Remco's line of toys hanging from pegs at a Toys R Us I knew these were the figures I wanted for the remainder of our trip to California for a round of Disney Land, Sea World and Universal Studios.

I believe I actually got quite a few of them on this particular trip and I want to say it was essentially the full run of purple carded (first wave) figures. At a minimum I know it was Daniel, Mister Miyagi, Johnny and Kreese.

Number 2: G.I. Joe Night Force Sneak Peak and Lt. Falcon

It was 1988 and though my interest in toys was dwindling fast in favor of the Nintendo Entertainment System I still enjoyed grabbing a G.I. Joe figure here and there. However, when you're on the road and your GameBoy has run its course, it's time to get back to some good old fashioned plastic action figures.

Okay, so Sneak Peek and Lt. Falcon aren't the greatest of Joes available. However, the fact remains the two kept me mildly entertained while traveling to visit my sister in college.

Number 3: Prince's Graffiti Bridge

You'll notice you have a lot of free time when riding in eight hour shifts for a week straight in a passenger seat as you travel from the West Coast to the East Coast. You'll also find yourself relatively bored out of your mind.

When we stopped at a retail store mid-way across the country in 1990 I had long since stopped playing with toys (sad, I know). As such, I needed to find other avenues of interest to keep me entertained for the next leg of the trip. After making my way to the tape section I found Prince's Graffiti Bridge and decided then and there I had to have it.

Mom wasn't big on albums with "Parental Advisory" stickers on them, so truth be told I don't know how I got away with getting this one. She may have been so tired herself that she just said, "If that's what you want."

It's amazing how many times you can run the same tape through a Walkman when you have nothing but time on your hands - Something I desperately wish I had these days.

Well, that about wraps it up for this post. No, this is not me taking the helm on any form of Round Robin Challenges, so don't look to me next week for the topic. Rather just a dump of thoughts which would have been a massive comment on Tony's site. However, I will say if the mood strikes me I may partake in others if someone posts them.

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Thundercats (Star Comics)



Thundercats
Star Comics
1985 - 1988

Thunder...

Thunder...

Thundercats. Ho!

Was it two "thunders" and a Thundercats, or three of them and then Thundercats? Getting too old to remember.

Thundercats burst onto the animated scene in 1985 and stood proudly holding its own against popular shows such as G.I. Joe, Transformers and He-Man to become an iconic cartoon, toy line and yes, even a comic books series.



Marvel Comics produced twenty-four issues of the series under its Star Comics banner. The series initially ran as a bi-monthly title (for the first eight issues) and then shifted to a monthly title.


Unfortunately you won't find any "big" names in the comic industry behind the title. Writers Ford Gilmore and John Lyman as well as artists Brett Booth, Joe Prado Al Vey and Eric Nguyen remain relatively unknown in the world of comics.


Fans looking for even more Marvel related Thundercats stories should turn their attention to the Marvel UK publications which ran for a whopping one hundred twenty-nine issues between 1987 and 1991. Marvel UK also produced several seasonal specials, trade paperbacks and hardcover annuals.


Though Thundercats went dormant for some time thereafter, by 2002 the Thundarians were back in the limelight via DC's Wildstorm banner which churned out several mini-series until 2004. However, it's worth noting none of these stories are considered cannon due to the numerous inconsistencies found within them.


Panini Comics, owners of Marvel UK would once again begin publishing Thundercats stories in 2012. These issues focused on the 2011 iterations of the characters for the very short lived animated reboot. Much like the cartoon, the comic series didn't last long either (eleven issues).


Thundercats can still be found periodically in print form - The most recent being the 2016 crossover with He-Man from DC Comics. Of course fans still wait for the long announced never seeming to be coming live action film.

In closing, there has been a fantastic fan made trailer for a Thundercats movie floating around for several years. I'm sure many of you have seen it already. If you haven't take a minute to check it out below.



I have to admit - I'd see this film if it were real.

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Thursday, May 3, 2018

Painted Memories: Activating the Turbo Boost





Please share your own thoughts, memories and stories in the comment section.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Retro Spins: Alphaville - Forever Young



Alphaville
Forever Young
1985

The 80's brought with it a ton of one hit wonders - Many of which came from Germany. Today I'm looking at one such band - Alphaville.

With the help of MTV, the band found mild success with their hit Big in Japan which was released on their September 1985 album, Forever Young. However, it would be the album title track which would put them on the very high chart numbers, piquing for one week at 95 and disappearing the following week - Much like the band in general. Forever Young (the song) would go on to be covered numerous times over throughout the decades and to date remains the bands most popular.

The album is heavy on the synth pop from start to finish with the only detour from this being the bass guitar driven and highly discussed in forums, To Germany With Love - One of my personal favorites on the album.

Standout tracks for me have always been A Victory in Love, Big in Japan, To Germany With Love and Forever Young. Even after listening to the album in full for Retro Spins I didn't hear anything else that really stood out for me. In other words, nothing new got the honor of being sent over to the IPOD for my 80's shuffle. Oh well. I'll happily stick with the four tracks I already like.

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Free Comic Book Day Is Coming!



May is once again upon us - Which means Free Comic Book Day is approaching. For those of you who don't know what exactly this is, let us explain. Free Comic Book Day was established by American comic book publishers in an attempt to bring new readers into the world of comics, and in general get people to read more.

The first Free Comic Book Day was held in May of 2002, and since then has become a staple on many people's calendar, occurring the first Saturday of every May (with the exception of 2004 which was held in July). Mark your calendars for May 5th folks, and head to your local comic shop for your free books.

Though the books given away on this day vary greatly from publisher to publisher, the event typically surrounds the release of a comic book based movie. This also explains why in 2004 it was moved to July as it was set to coincide with the release of Spider-Man 3. For those wondering, this year's anchor movie is Avengers: Infinity War.

To help keep everyone in the mood, we're hosting our traditional month long event. Join us each Monday during the month of May as we showcase one of our favorite comic book series which have come and gone over time, but left a fantastic mark on the comic book industry.

This year we'll be looking at some of our favorite 80's properties which either made the leap to comic books, or started as one and blossomed into icons of the era. We hope you'll join us each week!

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