June 2012 Recap

Below is a recap of all the post we've covered in June 2012. If you missed any, or simply want to see them again, click on each "title" to be taken directly to that post. As always, thanks for reading.

Toy Story 2
The Wizard of Oz
Batman - Hush
More Cereals of the 80's
Robocop: Ultra Force
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Years 3 and 4
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

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Batman: Mask of the Phantasm (Kenner)

In the prime of Batman the Animated Series two things happened. The first was that an animated film was produced for the big screen. The second was that a small toys based on said film were produced.

The film, which opened on Christmas Day in 1993 delves deeper into the established animated series world bringing along with it a more in depth look at Batman's origin, Bruce Wayne's love life, and a future villain of the caped crusader. The story revolves around a new mysterious figure, The Phantasm who has arrived in Gotham and is seeking out targeted criminals to eliminate them. As the story unfolds, so to does the mystery, and eventual revealing of the identity behind the Mask of the Phantasm.

The animation is superb, the story exciting, and the voice acting, coupled with the sound effects and soundtrack, on par with any major motion picture. To say this movie is a must see is an understatement.

Technically a sub-series of the Animated Series line, the Mask of the Phantasm toy line did little to excite fans. With all the characters introduced in the film at their disposal, it is uncertain why Kenner decided to focus instead on yet another line of toys that was essentially nothing more than repainted Batman figures.

The only two "gems" to come from the series were the Joker and Phantasm figures, which at the time quickly skyrocketed in price on the secondary market. These prices have since subsided considerably, and in most cases you can get them for cheaper than their original retail price.

While it didn't see the success on the secondary market as the prior two mentioned figures, Retro Batman was also quiet popular among collectors who were eager to get a "regular looking" Batman figure, which was scarcely available during this time period due to the oversaturation of the market with repaints of the character.

There were no vehicles, playsets, or accessories produced for the line.

As we mentioned above, it is a shame that Kenner never capitalized on this particular series of toys as it could have. There were so many characters in the film that would have translated into the figure line - main characters such as Alfred, Commissioner Gordon, and Detective Bullock. None of these three main characters ever saw a figure in the animated series line. Then there were the second stream characters such as Arthur Reeves, Salvatore Valestra, Chuckie Sol, Buzz Bronski and more who could have been incorporated easily into the line.

There is nothing sadder to toy collectors than when they see a line that had all the potential in the world fizzle out due to poor marketing and support from the developers. What a missed opportunity for Kenner and Batman fans.

Join us next time when we take a look at Guitar Hero!

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: 1990 and 1991 (Playmates Toys)

It's been over three years since we visited Playmate's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in our original post. Years three and four (and beyond) have been a long time coming, and we're happy to revisit a toy line we have been so fond of over the past few decades. Let's jump right in!

By 1990 the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles were huge. They had a monthly comic book series, a daily cartoon, a movie (with a sequel in the works), toys (of course), a role playing game, and even a full blown concert tour - "Coming Out Of Their Shells," which was sponsored by Pizza Hut. Turtle Mania was a fast traveling train that surely wasn't going to derail any time soon.

Playmates continued to support and produce the TMNT line with its latest toys and accessories. The third year, while not as strong as the prior years, was certainly larger. This time around, Playmates even produced variant figures. It would also mark the beginning of what would become an overabundance of variations to the turtle figures themselves (see year four for further information).

Leo the Sewer Samurai, Mike the Sewer Surfer, Don the Undercover Turtle, Raph the Space Cadet

The first variant figure was the new April figure which now sported a version that had a white "Press" badge on the front left side of her shirt. The figure was also produced without the badge.

April O'Neil (no press badge), April O'Neil (with press badge), Fugitoid, Mondo Gecko, Muckman and Joe Eyeball, Mutagen Man

The most notable and easy to spot variant figures are those of Ray Fillet. The figure comes with three different color variation vests.

Napolean Bonafrog, Panda Khan, Pizzaface, Ray Fillet (yellow vest), Ray Fillet (red vest), Ray Fillet (orange vest)

Scumbug, Slash, Triceraton, Wingnut and Screwloose

Two larger sized bugs were produced for the series that were also intended to be vehicles of sorts.

Killer Bee, Needlenose

The regular vehicles had a familiar feel to them, which carried over from the first and second series of figures (1988-1989). While they weren't necessarily things shown in the TV series, they definitely had a feel to them that was solid in the TMNT world.

Sewer Dragster, Turtlecopter, Sewer Party Tube, Sewer Seltzer Cannon, Sewer Army Tube

Psycho Cycle, Oozey, Mutant Module

Playmates introduced a sub-line into the series known as Wacky Action. These figures were "motorized" by way of a wind-up mechanism on their backs. Each figure had its own unique "action" when engaged.

Breakfightin' Raphael, Creepy Crawlin' Splinter, Headspinnin' Beebop, Machine Gunnin' Rocksteady, Rock N' Rollin' Michaelangelo

Sewer Swimmin' Donatello, Slice N' Dice Shredder, Sword Slicin' Leonardo, Wacky Walkin' Mouser

Though part of the Wacky Action line, these related vehicles kept their look and feel of the regular vehicles line.

Sludgemobile, Toilet Taxi

Series four (1991) became the beginning of the end for a lot of Turtle fans, but at the same time continued to rake in enough money that the series continued for several more years. The biggest problem with the toy line would quickly become an overabundance of figures based on the Turtles.

Worse was that the variations seemed to be no more than an excuse to produce figures. From athletes to soldiers to punkers and beyond, Playmates seemed determined to dress the Turtles in any fashion of clothing they could come up with. It was overkill at its best, and the beginning of an oversaturated market of Turtle toys.

Chrome Dome, Dirtbag, Groundchuck, Hose 'Em Down Don, Make My Day Leo, Sergeant Bannans

Space Usagi, Tatoo, Walkabout, Skateboardin' Mike, Wyrm, Zak the Neutrino

With Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze in theaters, it was inevitable that figures would be produced - Though surprisingly, not many.

Tokka was produced with both an orange and green shell, though since you cannot see this variation by looking at the front of the package, we have only included a photo of the green shell version.

Rahzar, Super Shredder, Tokka

The first new sub series produced in 1991 was the Headdroppin’ line. The figures were designed to do exactly as they sound like they did, I.E. drop their heads into their shells.

Headdroppin' Leo, Headdroppin' Mike, Headdroppin' Don, Headdroppin' Raph

Mutant Military figures was the second sub-series of 1991. This depicted the Turtles as a particular branch of the military.

Lieutenant Leonardo, Midshipman Mike, Pro Pilot Don, Raph the Green Teen Beret

Rock'n Rollin' Turtles was the third sub-series of 1991. These figures depicted the Turtles in music genre appropriate garb.

Classic Rocker Leo, Heavy Metal Raph, Punker Don, Rappin' Mike

Sewer Sports All-Star Turtles was the fourth sub-series of 1991. These figures depicted the Turtles in various sports related gear.

While some collector's consider the prior mentioned Skateboardin' Mike to be a part of this line, you can see from the design of the two cards that it really isn't.

The line consisted of two sets, three with red boarders, and three with yellow for a total of six figures.

Shell Slammin' Mike, Grand Slammin' Raph, Shell Kickin' Raph, Slap Shot Leo, TD Tossin' Leo, Slam Dunkin' Don

Storage Shell Turtles was the fifth sub-series of 1991. It consisted of the four basic Turtle figures with a unique twist. Their shells could be open to reveal a storage area for their accessories which came packed in with each figure.

Storage Shell Leonard, Storage Shell Michaelangelo, Storage Shell Dontalleo, Storage Shell Raphael

Talking toys were a major attraction for children of the early 90's. Thus, the sixth sub-series of 1991, Talkin' Turtles were a huge success.

Talkin' Leonardo, Talkin' Michaelangelo, Talkin' Dontaello, Talkin' Raphael

If one thing was consistent with the Turtles toys, it was the vehicles. Much like the prior year, it stayed on par with the overall look and feel that fans had come to expect from the series.

In fact, two of the vehicles were so similar, that they just threw the Roman numeral II at the end of the name.

Turtle Blimp II, Cheapskate II, Leo's Turtle Trike, Raph's Turtle Dragster, Rocksteady's Pogocopter

Halfway through the release of vehicles, the boxes were redesigned (of sorts) to now show a much nicer image. Rather than depict a cartoony look, they now had a fantastic painted look to them.

Don's Kookie Carnival Card, Leo's Jolly Turtle Tugboat, Ninja Newscycle, Shreddermobile, Shell Top 4X4

Sewer Sub, Turtle Tank

It's important to note a couple aspects of the vehicles for 1991. For starters, the Sewer Sub and Turtle Tank have box variations. The ones not shown contain the same artwork, but a blue stripe with white stars around the edges.

Second, while the majority of the vehicles don't say so, there are some that are put of the various sub-series of figures. These are as follows;

Don's Kookie Carnival Car (Wacky Action)
Leo's Jolly Turtle Tugboat (Wacky Action)
Rocksteady's Pogocopter (Mutant Military)
Sewer Sub (Mutant Military)
Turtle Tank (Mutant Military)

Beyond that, the rest of the vehicles are considered to be part of the main toy line.

The Turtle line was definitely growing. The toys for 1990 and 1991 far outweighed the amount produced in the first two years, and each subsequent line would seem to only get bigger and bigger. We'll definitely be back to visit the Turtles again in the near future, but until then, thanks for reading.

Join us next time when we take a look at Batman: Mask of the Phantasm!

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Robocop: Ultra Police (Kenner)

We're incredibly amazed that Robocop became the household name it became among children. Let's be honest here. The movie is one of the most violent pieces of cinematic action film out there, especially for its time (1987). The sheer brutality in the scene where Murphy is murdered is stomach churning enough for the casual viewer to shut it off, and is made only worse in the director's cut.

Don't get us wrong though, in terms of sci-fi characters, Robocop is one bad...(shut your mouth). Despite the violent nature of the movie itself, the Robocop concept was ported to a children’s animated show, and action figures (as they so often do) followed. The television series itself didn't last long (12 episodes).

As we mentioned, Robocop got his start in the first film in 1987. The premise focuses on Officer Alex Murphey who after chasing down some bad guys with his partner Anne Lewis is brutally murdered. His body is reanimated as a cyborg by mega-corporation Omni Consumer Products (OCP) who has recently entered into a contract with the city to run the police department due to the high crime rate in the city. Thus, Robocop is born.

Two sequels as well as a short lived live action TV show were produced. Though they have a strong following in their own right, they are not highly acclaimed by critics and casual viewers.

Marvel Productions produced the animated series of the show in 1988, and even though it kept a lot of mature themes to it, there were changes made to make it more kid friendly. A perfect example of this is the removal of bullets, and the inclusion of laser weapons. The series also followed a more sci-fi setting as opposed to the real world Detroit setting of the film. An odd inclusion was the red light on Robocop's visor which ocassionally panned back and forth.

Despite its short lived animated life, Kenner produced an impressive sixteen figures, and nine vehicles for the line. Each figure had its own unique packaging, and even though the figures didn't have the articulation of say your average G.I. Joe figures, the design and quality seemed on par with the look of the show (and to an extent, the movies).

While some might find the figures to be lacking in quality, there is no denying that the vehicles, and the ED-209 "figure" were of a pretty decent quality possible for a child's toy line. Kenner really appeared to have put a lot of work and care into the items.

Robocop: Ultra Police may not be a toy line for everyone, but for those select few who do appreciate the toys for what they are, it's a pretty darn good collection.

Join us next time when we take a look at Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Years 3 and 4.

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More Cereals of the 80's

Our original post on cereals from the 80's was so popular among our readers that we thought we'd bring you a look at even more of our favorite cereals from the past.

Not every cereal can have a popular toy line or hit television series - animated, live action, or otherwise, to back it up. Some cereals were simple concepts that not only caught on with kids for what they were, but also tasted good - And by good, we mean that great sugar taste kids love. Others were off the wall concepts based off of franchises such as Pop Tarts, or Dunkin Donuts. We guess what we're saying is that the inspiration for a company to produce a cereal can come from anywhere.

Hands down, if you were looking for a franchised cereal, the company you wanted to talk to was Ralston. In its time, Ralston produced the majority of brand name franchise based cereals, and even churned out a fair amount of self inspired/invented ones. Not only were the cereals great tasting - again, for kids, but were backed by high dollar marketing, and several multi-million dollar companies depending on a hit breakfast item for kids.

Last time we looked at several of those franchise based cereals. Today, we're taking a look at the other side of the market with overnight success cereals, most of which were developed "in house". Much like the franchise based breakfast cereals these ones made a huge splash, than fizzled away into obscurity.

Those were some of our favorites, but what about you? What cereals did you gobble up as a kid, and wish you could find on the market today? What would bring back your happy memories of a childhood spent on the couch watching Saturday morning cartoons? Let us know in the comment section.

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Voltron (Panosh Place)

We're not big fans of Voltron around these parts, but we know and respect a good toy line when we see it.

Voltron had a huge following in both the USA and Japan. Though the series differed drastically from shore to shore, the true form was there - A giant robot made from five lions piloted by five humans who used the giant robot to fight evil in the universe.

The series ran for 124 episodes during the 80's, and consistently ranked among the top shows in the US. What separated the shows from the Japanese versions was that the US versions were heavily edited to remove a lot of the violence, and other graphic related content. With this in mind, there are few US viewers who have seen an actual full length episode of the show.

With the success of the series on US shores, Panosh Place purchased the rights to produce a toy line based on the famous cartoon which ran from 1984-1986. While the quality of the figures weren't necessarily on par with that of other action figure lines on the market during this period, they were still wonderfully sculpted to match their television counterparts.

There were twelve figures in all;

Doom Commander, Hagar the Witch, King Zarkon, Prince Lotor, Robeast Mutilor, Robeast Scorpious

Skull Scavenger, Hunk, Keith, Lance, Pidge, Princess Allura

Much like the television series, the lions were the meat of the toys - So appealing that people who weren't necessarily aware of the series still purchased them.

The rarest of the lions these days appears to be the red one. While an average auction ends for $50.00 to $80.00 for the others, the Red Lion goes for $100.00 to $130.00.

Yellow Lion, Red Lion, Black Lion, Blue Lion, Green Lion

The Castle of Lions is the only playset produced for the series. The playset folded open to reveal a larger play area inside.

Castle of Lions

Five vehicles were produced for the line.

Coffin of Darkness, Coffin of Doom, Doom Blaster, Skull Tank, Zarkon Zapper

What's oddest about this line is that Panosh Place disappeared virtually overnight without a trace, and to date there is little to no information pertaining to the company. Approximately halfway through the toy line a Mattel label started showing up on the packages, yet the toys could still be found with either a Panosh Place or Mattel label. So what happened? Did Mattel buy the company? We honestly don't know. Let us know in the comment section if you do.

There have been many incarnations of Voltron toys to date, and the series was even revived for a short period of time, but nothing seems to capture the spirit of the original Voltron like the toys from Panosh Place.

Join us next time when we take a look at Robocop: Ultra Force.

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In 1983 V was released as a two part mini series for prime time television. The series mixed a Gestapo like fascism story swirled together with a sci-fi twist. It was a match made in heaven, and quickly led to a second mini series, V: The Final Battle which brought the story to a (some what) conclusion.

In the series (or rather, the first mini series), the planet Earth is visited by a race of aliens claiming to be there on a mission of peace. They are looking to the human race for help and study, and in return offer to share with the entire planet the secrets they have unlocked about the universe, including extensive space travel. As the story unfolds, we find that the aliens who look human are actually lizards in disguise. Worse, they're goal is to suck the Earth dry of its water source, and harvest the human race as food.

Upon finding this horrible plan out, Mike Donavan (Marc Singer), joins a small resistance group determined to stop the Visitors from destroying everyone they know. With the help of the struggling resistance group, lead by Juliet Parrish (Faye Grant), and a select few Visitors who sympathize with the humans, they conduct mini strikes against the alien race, lead by the evil Diana (Jane Badler), pushing them back from the front lines of their cities.

While the story focuses itself around these characters, it is established in the beginning that the Visitors have placed "Mother Ships" in central locations around the entire world, and fighting takes place with various resistance groups against the aliens. These stories are further explored in the highly sought after paperback series which spans over several novels.

Though the second mini series (V: The Final Battle) brings the show to a satisfactory conclusion as the humans appear to finally push the Visitors from the planet, a TV show was put into production which followed it up. The series saw terrible ratings even at the height of "V" popularity, and is considered unnecessary by many fans who found the story to be bland and counter conducive to the alien's original plan.

In the series, the Visitors return once again to Earth, despite the humans finding a red powder which kills them on contact, and once again start taking humans. Though rather than taking them as a food source, they now have various camps in place to hold them as prisoners. It's the complete opposite goal that they once had in place. Apparently now the Visitors don't need food and water, they just want prisoners, and furthermore, what happened to the red dust that kills them on contact? Like we said, the series was unnecessary. It really did nothing more than ruin a once good thing.

Between 1984 and 1985, LJN began production on a toy line. However, with the TV series failing to win over fans as the two original mini series had, and being cancelled as a result, production on the toy line quickly ceased.

Prior to its cancellation, LJN managed to release a twelve inch Enemy Visitor doll. Though initial sales in the 80's were poor at best, the doll stands as a cherished item to fans of the series.

With its colorful packaging, and pretty spot on sculpting, the doll is actually one nicely done piece of plastic - Especially considering the company behind it.

But, had the series continued on, what might have been? Well, to get that answer, one need only flip through the pages of the 1985 LJN catalog. There you'll find a four page spread showing what plans were laid out for the line...

...Pages 32 and 33 showed the doll which made its way to the market...

...While pages 34 and 35 held an impressive tome of 3 3/4 inch figures and vehicles. If you look towards the bottom right hand side of page 35, you'll also see some of the items in their packages.

We can't help but feel like this was a set of toys that many collectors truly missed out on. Not only would it have sold impressively during the shows prime, but today we can imagine many collectors would be eager to add the pieces to their collections.
If only some toy company out there would revisit this series...

Join us next time as we take a look at Voltron.

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Batman - Hush (DC Direct)

Hush is a series that took place in the monthly Batman comics between 2002 and 2003 (Issues 608-616). The series was written by Jeph Loeb, and penciled by Jim Lee. The series was a major success among Batman fans, and since its release has been collected and reproduced numerous times in trade paperback format.

The series intertwines between the various villains in the world of Gotham City, and even takes readers into Metropolis for a cross over with Superman. Eventually the series climaxes in the true plot where it is revealed that The Riddler, now cured of his cancer, knows the true identity of Batman.

The story has been praised for having a lot of unforgettable moments in Batman history, and at the same time been criticized heavily for a lot of the simplistic plot points that leave Batman looking inept and unable to handle a basic situation - Such as his rope being cut in the very first pages of the series which results in him falling to the ground, and cracking his skull open. Still, the series has sold several individual books, and collected graphic novels, so the story clearly was highly received by fans.

While a sequel was planned, it never came to be. Several of the plot points were followed out and/or continued in later books by various comic alumni, but an offical sequel was never released.

In 2004, DC Direct launched a line of figures based on the series. Sixteen figures, and one (repacked) exclusive were released over the three waves of toys produced between 2004 (series 1 and 2) and 2005 (series 3).

The exclusive figure, Jason Todd, which was released through ToyFare magazine was nothing more than a figure from the upcoming second series. While this version contained the ToyFare logo at the top of the package, there are no differences between the exclusive and retail versions of the toy.

Batman*Hush*Jason Todd (ToyFare Exclusive)*The Joker*Poison Ivy*Huntress

Superman*Nightwing*Jason Todd*The Riddler*Catwoman*Harley Quinn

Stealth Jumper Batman*Alfred*Commissioner Gordon*Ra's al Ghul*Scarecrow

The series has some of the best scuplts available for Batman figures and villains, and therefore is highly sought after by collectors of both the comic and toy variety. It's also one of the only places you'll find a figure based on Alfred the Butler. If there are any complaints, it was that the series ended too soon. The potential for more key villains was there, such as The Penguin, Two-Face, Clayface, Killer Croc and even heroes such as Batgirl and Robin. Even if they didn't necessarily appear in the actual "Hush" story, the figures would have been great to see produced.

The majority of the figures can be purchased for between ten and twenty dollars, while some of the villains can fetch as much as forty to fifty dollars each - Such as Catwoman and Poison Ivy.

This is a great series of toys based on Batman, and ones that surely shouldn't be passed up.

Join us next time for our look at V!

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The Wizard Of Oz (WB Toys)

Written in 1900 by L. Frank Baum and W.W. Denslow, The Wizard of Oz wouldn't see worldwide acclaim until its best known adaption in 1939 when Judy Garland depicted Dorothy on the big screen in MGM's film. While it had been adapted several times prior to that in film form, the 1939 version offered a truly visionary look at the story, blending color and black and white film, with a fantastic cast and soundtrack featuring original music by Harold Arlen.

In the film, Dorothy is caught in a twister that lifts her home, or rather her Aunt and Uncle's home into the air, depositing it in the magical Land of Oz. The story focuses on Dorothy, accompanied by her dog Toto, trying to find their way to the Emerald City, all in hopes of finding a way home. On the way they meet some fantastic friends/characters such as Scarecrow, Tin Man and Cowardly Lion.

They also meet the villainous Wicked Witch of the West who is bent on destroying Dorothy and claiming back her sister's Ruby Slippers, which would make her the most powerful witch in the land. The shoes came to be in Dorothy's possession when Glinda the Good Witch magically removed them from the feet of the now deceased Wicked Witch of the East, transferring them to Dorothy's. The Wicked Witch of the East was of course killed when the house Dorothy was in landed on her.

Fast forward to over 50 years after the film was released to 1998. WB Toys produced these six wonderful plastic adaptations from the film. Featuring all of the main characters; Dorothy, The Scarecrow, The Tin Man, The Cowardly Lion, Glinda the Good Witch, and the Wicked Witch of the West. They were a true Oz fan's dream come true.

The figures themselves had little to no articulation, but came with some wonderful accessories as seen in the film. From the Cowardly Lion's medal for Courage, to the Wicked Witch's broom, each figure was accompanied quiet well by an accessory.

The bright packaging depicted the Yellow Brick Road leading up to the Emerald City with each figure sealed in a plastic oversized bubble. The logo and corresponding figure's name were depicted at the top of each package.

The figures are a little difficult to track down in mint on card condition. Prices vary from five to thirty dollars per figure, but very few are ever sold on secondary markets as most collectors simply aren't looking for them. Still, if you're a fan of the film (or any other media version), these are some pretty fine looking toys.

Join us next time for our look at Batman - Hush!

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Toy Story 2 (Thinkway Toys)

After having huge success with Toy Story figures in 1996, Thinkway Toys once again jumped at the opportunity to create figures based on the 1999 sequel, Toy Story 2. Unfortunately for them, no sooner than they began production in 1998, they lost the rights to produce anything affiliated with the Toy Story license, and the series came and went after only five figures.

What's disappointing and questionable is that the five figures produced under the Toy Story 2 banner were all repacked figures from the first series of toys Thinkway had produced - A total disappointment to fans that were eager to see new toys. What makes it questionable is it makes you wonder if Thinkway knew they were going to lose the rights to the toys, so they quickly pushed the repackaged ones on the market in some kind of attempt to give Disney and Pixar the middle finger. This would also make sense as the figures came out almost an entire year before the new film even hit theaters. Unfortunately, we the general public will never know the answer to those questions, so we'll just have to continue to speculate.

In 1999 Mattel purchased the rights to produce the toys, and launched their own line of Toy Story 2 figures. Thinkway's toys quickly disappeared into clearance isle oblivion never to be heard from again.

Today Toy Story toys have seen three different companies take a crack at them. Though each one seems to be no more than slight modifications to the prior ones, with the only major difference being the over inflated price tags. If life was a comment page, Thinkway could at least leave a post which read simply, "First!"

Join us next time for our look at The Wizard of Oz!

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