Saturday, March 30, 2019

Maybe You Should Have Watched G.I. Joe



One of the biggest hot buttons across the internet these days is equality, representation and diversity. People of all creeds, colors and lifestyles are coming out of the woodwork professing how great it is that film and television these days ensures a representation of practically every lifestyle one could opt into.

Well, not to bash all those out there who love to shout, "It's about time!" But, maybe they should have been watching the original G.I. Joe cartoon between 1983 and 1986. Heck, even the 1987 movie and 1989 to 1992 second series. Or for added emphasis, collect the toys and comics.

Between all of these avenues, G.I. Joe introduced a plethora of characters from all walks of life. Men, women, and all from various races / countries. Not only that, but the majority of them had stories focused strictly on them to emphasize and highlight that they weren't just some background character there to check off a box.

Women were shown as strong, intelligent and self reliant characters who were respected by their teammates. Typically when captured (and the men were captured too), it was a result of self sacrifice while chasing down the enemy. When this occurred, the men didn't rally and shout, "We have to save the women." Instead, they would make encouraging comments, such as, "Scarlett will be okay. She can handle herself."

They also stood up to those few times where people did try to disparage their female comrades in arms. For example when an Admiral is scoffing Lady Jaye to Flint and his response is, "She's not just a lady. She's my teammate!"

Several episodes even focused directly on the ladies. An example is season one's, Spell of the Siren. Not only does The Baroness take over as the leader of Cobra, but G.I. Joe only comes through as a result of Cover Girl, Lady Jaye and Scarlett defeating the enemies by themselves. At the end, Scarlett destroys the conk, and when asked why, states, "Just making the world safe for you men," to which Lady Jaye responds, "Somebody has to."

In terms of equal representation, the Joe team was superb at ensuring all walks of life were held in high regard.

Some of my favorite episodes were the likes of (1) Red Rocket's Glare, an episode which focuses on Roadblock and his family and (2) Chaos in the Sea of Lost Souls, which  introduces us to Quick Kick, who defeats Storm Shadow to help save both Alpine and Bazooka. Speaking of Storm Shadow, his original nemesis on the Joe team wasn't Snake Eyes, but rather Spirit. I don't feel the need to point out what the races of each person is, suffice to say, there is a good variety of representation in this paragraph alone.

G.I. Joe, while a real American hero, didn't stay inclusive of the borders of the USA. Heck not even Cobra. Both had skillful teams, formed among the best of the best from all sections of the world. Some of my favorites from both sides are;

Australia - Ripper, Torch, Major Bludd
Belgium - Thrasher
Canada - Back-Stop
England - Buzzer, Big Ben
France - Tomax, Xamot
French Indochina - Firefly
Germany - The Baroness
Japan - Budo
Mexico - Long Range
Wales - Monkey Wrench

Mind you, that doesn't even count any of the characters which were USA based, but have mixed or non-American roots. Additionally, it doesn't include those who's origins remain unknown to the G.I. Joe community in order to keep their past a mystery.

At the end of the day, G.I. Joe may be a cartoon, which may lead to people dismissing it vs. human characters in actual movies. However, representation is still representation. Hasbro could have easily made every character a male, a staple in the world's military services during the 80's, but it didn't. It saw the value in relatable characters to all walks of life, while also instilling in young minds that color, sex and creeds don't limit a person's potential. Nor should it close your mind to what that person can offer as a valued teammate or friend.

Representation will continue to evolve in this ever changing society of what is and isn't socially acceptable. However, it isn't a new concept, and it shouldn't be treated as such.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2019

Retro Spins: Weird Al Yankovic - Weird Al Yankovic



Weird Al Yankovic
Weird Al Yankovic
1983

In the '80's, even an accordion playing comedian with the art for parodying could make it big and hit the charts. In a world of new wave pop, synthesizers, neon colors and punk nobody expected or was prepared for the likes of Weird Al Yankovic. With his bushy mustache and out of control hair, Yankovic certainly didn't look like a star. However, he soon carved his own niche among the likes of Michael Jackson, Madonna, Duran Duran and other iconic 80's staples.

Mind you, it wasn't overnight success for Yankovic. His self titled debut in 1983 went relatively unnoticed with the only charting track to be Ricky - And mind you it by no means blew the charts up. It entered into them at number 90 and disappeared the following week.  It wouldn't be until Al got the approval from Michael Jackson to parody his hit song Beat It that the world would start to really take notice.

However, that's a step too far for today's retro spin. Rather than talk about his monsterous In 3D album from 1984, I actually want to re-visit his aforementioned debut album.

Yes, even I as a kid never heard this album until after In 3D the follow up, Dare to Be Stupid. However, when I did it quickly became one of my favorites. First and foremost, can we take a moment to examine that beautiful cover? Every song is represented somewhere within all of that mix mash of artwork. It's like a hide and go seek game.

Then there's the actual songs. Because Al didn't have the following he does today, securing the rights to popular 80's hits to parody probably wasn't an easy feat. As such, the album relies more so on his own compositions - Which quite honestly I like, appreciate and respect more than his parodies. These kinds of tracks truly give insight to the madness within Weird Al Yankovic's head and I honestly wish he would focus more so on this these days than parodying "hit" songs I don't even know.

I've heard this album so many times since 1983 I don't honestly get too picky with it. I let the thing play from start to finish and while I have my personal favorites, I don't discriminate too harshly against the ones that aren't. Honestly, there's not many of them that aren't.

As I grew older, my "love" for Weird Al slowly started to dissipate. However, a lot of this was due to the fact he was parodying songs I either didn't know or like. This started around the mid 1990's, which would make sense considering I didn't broaden my music horizons much farther than 1991 - 1992 and even then those years don't necessarily "excite" me.

Still, I love to revisit his older works from his 1983 debut up through the 1988 soundtrack, UHF. The songs hold a lot of memories for me - Such as sitting on the grass in the backyard of my grandfather's house with my sister listening to the Dare to Be Stupid album on her battery operated boombox. Stuff like that is really important to an aging man such as myself these days. Simpler and quitter carefree times. Thanks for the memories, Al!

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Monday, March 25, 2019

Evil Dead 2 (NECA)



Evil Dead 2
NECA
2012 

The Evil Dead films was a series I used to really, really like. Then they became cult classics, and everyone seemed to be talking about them. Maybe I'm just a greedy sort of guy, but I really don't like hearing conversations from people about films I'd known and loved for years like it's some sort of brand new thing. This has happened to me with films such as Clerks, Dazed and Confused and of course, Evil Dead.

But, I suppose these films weren't made specifically for my enjoyment and like all things, there's bound to be millions of fans for any one thing.

 7 Inch
Deadite Ash*Farewell to Arms Ash*Hero Ash

The irony of the popularity of Evil Dead is that there really wasn't any merchandising surrounding the series. Not even the most commonly known Army of Darkness. It wasn't until developers such as NECA, Mezco and to an extent McFarlane Toys popped into the toy scene that we really, in general, started seeing a lot of unconventional toy series. Of course among them was Evil Dead, Army of Darkness, and the character Ash above all.

 7 Inch
Hero From the Sky Ash (SDCC 2012)*Henrietta

Though it was a very limited series, NECA's 2012 Evil Dead 2 line will fill the void you may or may not have in the way of Ash action figures. The downside to this is that you're going to get a whole lot of this figure and not particularly anything else. Beyond Ash, Henrietta was the only other figure produced.

 8 Inch
Hero Ash*Deadite Ash

Like most things NECA related, this line has skyrocketed considerably on secondary markets. Individual (carded) figures can set you back anywhere from $30.00 to $60.00 for the basic seven and eight inch lines and upwards of $100.00 or more for the SDCC exclusives.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Cause If You're Gonna Sell, You May As Well Be A Jerk About It...



I often like to peruse ebay looking for "large" listings of toy collections. Not necessarily because I'm interested in buying them, but rather because I just like looking at people's collections, sold or otherwise.

During one of my searches, I came across this particular one;


Picture wise, it was a pretty awesome collection.
 
Then I got to the actual description, and that's when my nose immediately turned upwards. This guy comes off as quite a jerk.



Okay, I get it. You're proud of your collection, which is odd at the same time that you want to sell it, but can you not come off as a complete jerk about it? The description has a foul stench of arrogance, and as a potential buyer, that's a turn off. I've dealt with a lot of dealers over the course of time of my collection being built and I can tell you, for me at least, their overall attitude was a contributing factor in whether or not they got my money.

This guy points out in his description that his collection is well worth the asking price, and he could care less of what someone's opinion on the matter is. He further states he's not budging on his price. Well, I hate to tell this guy, but he should absolutely care about the opinion of someone else on the price. Especially if that someone was interested in his collection and wanted to make a fair and reasonable offer.

Further, he then goes on to contradict his own claim that his collection is worth the asking price of $25,000.00 by stating based on his own calculations that it's worth $15,000.00 to $20,000.00. So which is it? Is it worth $15K, $20K or $25K? It can't be worth all three.

The seller then goes on to say he doesn't even care if he sells these items or not, because he will enjoy them in the interim. As a collector and potential buyer, this is totally baffling to me. Why would you invest the time and money to collect, then list it for sale with a statement that you don't even really want to sell it? Why list it? Just keep it. You're clearly on a mission to turn people off from buying it anyway.

This whole listing is a complete conundrum to me. I really don't wish the guy any ill will. If he truly wants to sell these items, which again, I'm not too sure on, then he needs to tone down the attitude. He's shooting himself in the foot with his own mouth...or keyboard if you will. Sales 101 - Be a likeable salesman.

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Retro Spins: Billy Idol - Don't Stop



Billy Idol
Don't Stop
1981

If last week's album was too long, Billy Idol's Don't Stop qualifies as too short. Then again, the album is actually the singer's debut EP. As most of you know, EP's aren't exactly supposed to be chalk full of tracks.

The EP features four songs; Mony Mony, Baby Talk, Untouchables and Dancing with Myself and an MTV interview. Fans of Idol will want this album strictly for being the only studio release with Mony Mony and technically the only one with Dancing with Myself until the 1983 reissue of his self titled album. Sure, you can get them both on compilations...But it's not the same thing!

Though brief, the album is a great introduction to what the world would soon expect from Billy Idol. It was commercial punk at its best. More importantly it's fun. Each track hits hard and leaves you wanting more. The twelve minute interview with Martha Quinn at the end of the album is a great flashback to the heydays of MTV and also a usual look into the life of Idol from those days and how it all began for him.

Oddly, for as popular as Mony Mony and Dancing with Myself were, the tracks never made their way to the charts.

Overall, great EP! A handful of perfect songs from Idol. The LP version is readily available on secondary markets, but these days the CD version is getting harder and harder to find. The cheap end is still going to cost you roughly $20.00 - Which isn't terrible I suppose.

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Monday, March 18, 2019

Earth's Mightiest Heroes! The Avengers (Toy Biz)



Earth's Mightiest Heroes! The Avengers
Toy Biz
1999 

Toy Biz has produced a lot of Marvel superhero action figures and I've covered quite a few of them. To the point where I honestly don't know how much more I can say on the subject.


From Iron Man, to Fantastic Four, to Spider-Man, to Alpha Flight and the entire Marvel Universe as a whole, it's pretty much been covered by Toy Biz. It seemed only natural an Avengers line would eventually come. Granted in 1999, there was obviously no Marvel cinematic universe to help peddel these to.  Still, this didn't slow down sales of Marvel fans who swooped up pretty much every figure they could get their hands on - Especially the female ones.

The Avengers line of course met this call with a nice version of Scarlet Witch. This particular line was actually noteworthy for being the first series to produce and release a Scarlet Witch and Loki figure.


Toy Biz rounded out the series with a fantastic four pack which featured the original Avengers which featured Iron Man, Thor, Hulk, Ant-Man, Giant-Man and Wasp. The package also included six separate ants to accompany your Ant-Man figure.

I also appreciate Toy Biz's attempt at scaling the figures. Giant-Man stands about one and a half times the height of Hulk, Thor and Iron Man. Meanwhile, Ant-Man and Wasp come up only to the knees of Giant-Man. Then of course there are the ants, which are about a third of the height of Ant-Man and Wasp. Overall it's a really nice set.


These days people are practically giving away the entire line. The figures sell for only a few dollars and the Avengers set can sell for as little as $20.00 - All of this of course mint in their packages.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Retro Spins: The Cure - Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me



The Cure
Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me
1987

I don't think I'm going to be a fan of The Cure. This was their first album I've ever heard and I don't think I really want to hear anymore. Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me was honestly just too long (approximately an hour and fifteen minutes) and didn't feature much that stood out for me.

My first introduction to the band actually occurred in 1994 when I saw The Crow and subsequently bought the soundtrack. From the album, my standout favorite was Burn - Which of course is by The Cure. Though I didn't immediately go seeking any of their other work out, I always enjoyed the tune. In fact, it wasn't until my visit to Timmonium in March of 2018 that I actually bought my first official album from the band. For those of you who haven't put all of it together yet, it was this particular CD I'm talking about today.

When the opening track, The Kiss, started I got a little on the edge of my seat excited. I loved the deep guitar work and the build up it was going for. Catch followed this track and while I wasn't as hooked it sounded decent. Then the album just kept going and going and going and going until I finally found myself drifting off uninterested.

It wasn't until seven started that the album once again got my attention. However, this was only because the "sound effects" throughout the track were very reminiscent of Burn from The Crow. The song itself wasn't all that great.

Track eight is one many people would probably know if they heard it, but maybe not by the title, Just Like Heaven. It's one of three of the tracks from the album to hit the charts in 1987. The song made it to number forty by December of that same year, but by January was working its way back down.

The Cure had very mild chart success with Why Can't I Be You and Hot Hot Hot. Both tracks debuted fairly low on the charts and only lasted a week each.

Overall I think what really killed this album for me was the excessive length and not really hearing anything different from song to song. It all just kind of meshed into one giant track. While I have one other Cure CD in my library, I don't see myself pursuing anything further from the band unless the second (unheard) album blows me away. We'll see.

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Monday, March 11, 2019

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Hasbro)



Star Wars: The Last Jedi
Hasbro
2017 - 2018 

Love it, hate it. At this point I've heard so much garbage from both sides of the spectrum that I've adopted the following credo; "The only opinion I want to hear about Star Wars movies is my own." I'll also reciprocate by sparing all of you what it is. See the movie yourself and decide from there.

As obvious as the sun rising each morning, between 2017 to 2018 Hasbro released a boatload of toys to coincide with Star Wars: The Last Jedi.

Between talking about Star Wars over and over on this site and all the back and forth banter online, I'm just going to leave this post with the toys.

Finn (Resistance Fighter)*First Order Stormtrooper*Kylo Ren

Luke Skywalker (Jedi Master)*Poe Dameron (Resistance Fighter)*Rey (Jedi Training)

C-3PO*Chewbacca*General Hux

Resistance Gunner Paige*Resistance Tech Rose

Obi-Wan Kenobi*Yoda*DJ (Canto Blight)

General Leia Organa*Jyn Erso (Jedha)*Luke Skywalker (Jedi Exile)

R2-D2*Rey (Island Journey)

C'ai*Emperor Palpatine*First Order Flametrooper

Imperial Probe Droid with Darth Vader*Rathtar with Bala-Tik

Wampa with Hoth Luke Skywalker*Rathtar with Bala-Tik (Force Link 2.0)

Solo transition packaging released during the final The Last Jedi waves
Enfys Nest's Swoop Bike with Enfys Nest

Force Link Starter Set with First Order Stormtrooper and Elite Praetorian Guard

Battle of Crait with Rey, Rose, First Order Walker Driver and First Order Gunner
Kohl's Exclusive 4-Pack with Luke Skywalker, Rey, Resistance Tech Rose and First Order Stormtrooper Officer

Target Exclusive Era of the Force with Darth Maul, Kylo Ren, Mace Windu, Rey, Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi and Yoda

Target Exclusive Return of the Jedi 3-Pack with Emperor Palpatine, Luke Skywalker and Emperor's Royal Guard

Resistance A-Wing Fighter with Resistance Pilot Tallie
Canto Blight Police Speeder with Canto Blight Police

Resistance Ski Speeder with Captain Poe Dameron
Kylo Ren's TIE Silencer with Kylo Ren

Walmart Exclusive Poe's Boosted X-Wing Fighter with Poe Dameron

First Order Special Forces TIE Fighter with TIE Pilot

BB-8 2-in-1 Mega Playset with Elite Praetorian Guard and Supreme Leader Snoke

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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

Retro Spins: The Buggles - The Age of Plastic



The Buggles
The Age of Plastic
1980

Yes, we all know The Buggles' Video Killed the Radio Star was the first song to debut on MTV on August 1, 1981, but the duo comprised of Trevor Horn and Geoff Downes is so much more than that.

The album The Age of Plastic was so far ahead of its time and personally speaking, I feel like it really paved the way for what the music of the 80's would become. It's ironic in a way because the album's instrumentation ushers in a new era of music while the lyrics involve themes of nostalgia and anxiety about the possible effects of modern technology. While not all of the songs blew me away, I did get a sense that they were all intended to be fun. As such, I enjoyed the album overall. Granted, not all the tracks made it to my personal mixes and shuffles.

The lead track from the album is of course Video Killed the Radio Star which would become the bands one and only real hit. However, what's interesting to note is that the track debuted towards the tail end of the year prior to the album's release and never charted in 1980 or even when the video was shown on MTV in '81. It debuted at number eighty-six on the charts in November of 1979 and only managed to make it to number forty before drifting back down and off. It was off the charts prior to the new year turning over - Which is truly surprising to me. 

I first heard the song on volume forty-six of Springbok which was released in 1979. However, Springbok never used the real artists or their tracks. Instead they hired unknown people for their compilations. It's because of this that a lot of songs I grew up with were in fact never the original artists for me until I moved to the states in the early 80's. It's not The Buggles, but the below cover of the song is by no means bad. In fact I really like the sped up tempo of the cover.


Even with that said though, I'll always take the original artists.

The Buggles called it quits after two albums, but their popularity by no way shape or form faltered from this. Just take a look at the below from 2004 where they made an appearance. The audience loves it and honestly so do I. It's fun!



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Monday, March 4, 2019

Speed Racer (ReSaurus)



Speed Racer
ReSaurus
1999

I've never really been a fan of Speed Racer and personally found the show to be a little boring. However, I did take the time to watch to 2008 film on Netflix (which the below toy line has nothing at all to do with). Visually it was both fascinating and a little sickening at the same time with all its bright colors and ever shifting camera angles (especially during races). It wasn't by any means bad, but it also wasn't anything that was going to be winning any Academy Awards for best actor, director, etc. It was a popcorn flick and sadly I had no popcorn.

Speed, like so many iconic characters before him, got his start in the 1960's under the guise of Mach GoGoGo (in Japan). The character was created by Tatsu Yoshida and in his early years spent most of his time on printed paper. However, most will remember him from the forthcoming USA syndication of his 1967 to 1968 animated series which ran for fifty-two episodes.

Since his inception, Speed Racer has seen many types of mass market products. However, the first "major" toy line for the characters is noted as the 1992 line by Pangea Corporation for Ace Novelty Toy Company (which we won't be looking at today). These products focused not only on the original animated series of Speed Racer, but the highly popular New Adventures of Speed Racer - An animated series developed strictly for US (and English speaking) audiences.

The continued success and ever increasing popularity around the glove eventually lead to ReSaurus obtaining the rights for the characters and producing a series of action figures as well as the Mach 5. The series included two waves of five inch figures  which totaled eight figures - Nine if you include the exclusive Lee's Action Figure News Toy Review Racer X.

Wave One
Speed Racer*Pops Racer

Wave One
Trixie*Captain Terror

Each figure featured a tone of racing related accessories from flags, to air pumps, tools, trophies and more. The only thing the line seemed to be missing was a massive playset and a few more cars to actually play out a race.

Wave Two
Grand Prix Speed Racer*Racer X

Wave Two
Inspector Detector*The Assassin

Lee's Action Figure News Toy Review Exclusive
Racer X (Metallic)

Though the Mach 5 was the only vehicle to end up getting released, ReSaurus planned a third wave for the series which would have Racer X's car, the Shooting Star. The third wave would have also included a twelve inch Speed and Trixie. However, no new five inch figures were confirmed prior to the line being cancelled. Images can be found online of the box for the Shooting Star as well as prototypes for the twelve inch dolls.

Mach 5 with Spridle and Chim-Chim

Some consider the ReSaurus line of Speed Racer figures to be the best of any action figures created for the characters. However, it certainly wasn't the last.

Speed Racer
Toynami
2005

The 2005 Toynami Mach 5 gets an honorable mention today because the mold used for the vehicle is actually the same which was developed for the car in the above noted ReSaurus line. While the molds for ReSaurus's Spridle and Chim-Chim were also used for this particular "set", Toynami produced its own Speed figure.


There is some irony to be found with this line. If you look on secondary markets, the Toynami version of the car can sell for upwards of a hundred dollars in the box. Meanwhile the ReSaurus version sells for around thirty-five. The Toynami version doesn't seem to be any harder to find than the original ReSaurus version, so at this point I can only speculate people are paying for the brand name and perhaps don't know they're getting the exact same molded car.

As for the figures, they're readily available and a dime a dozen. Most sellers price them around $30.00 each and most buyers spend between $7.00 and $10.00 for them - Mint on card. Don't rush into this line throwing money around left and right. Wait for the right seller to come alone. Otherwise you're going to overpay.

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