Friday, February 25, 2011

S.T.A.R. Team's Lord of Darkness!

Most of you probably know about Ideal's answer to the lack of Star Wars toys back around Christmas 1977, which briefly took over toy shelves as the parent-confusing S.T.A.R. Team! To call this a Star Wars ripoff would be a massive understatement. Ideal basically slapped together a small menagerie of characters such as the R2-D2 wannabe, Zeroid, the C3PO/cantina alien hybrid known as Zem 21 (who I wrote about over on my Action Figures page seen HERE) and the stunningly blatant Lord of Darkness.

Now, I've written several times about the Christmas of 1977, during which I went without any Star Wars toys (like every other kid in America) but that didn't stop me from going over to the next door neighbor kids' house and immediately making fun of their newly unwrapped knock-off S.T.A.R. Team figures. I think it went something like, "That's not Darth Vader! That's a FAKE!"

I could be a little jerk back then.

Well, fast forward 33 years and I still hadn't forgotten the toys, which despite their dubious origins, still got played with somewhat regularly. Thus my schadenfreude turned to avarice and I found myself, in my ever increasing fits of nostalgia, wanting a set of S.T.A.R. Team toys for myself.

I managed to score a Zem 21 last year at a local toy show and now, through the magical powers of eBay, finally have my very own Lord of Darkness!

This bad boy was a little hard to find. Not so much due to how expensive he is (he's not), but more in how difficult it can be to find one in decent shape.

The silver chest piece (which doesn't really come out in these pics) is very often chipped off and shredded, probably due to the material from which it's made. But this guy seemed to have most of the silver still on his chest so I went for it. Sadly, no one even big against me and I got him for the starting price. Poor Lord of Darkness. No one loves you!

One thing I remember most about him from my youth was his astonishingly derpy face. I think that the silver part of the mask are supposed to be his eyes, but the round black areas above them and below the brow look like big, goofy cartoon eyeballs, giving him the I'm-so-wittle-and-cute cross eyed look. And his eyebrows just look worried to me.

Another small issue with this figure was the fact that he only came with one boot (not originally, that would be silly... this particular used figure, I mean), but luckily I managed to buy a new pair of boots for a couple of bucks on eBay. Turns out that this dude just wore the standard Captain Action black boots and they're all over the internet for sale.

But one this that sort of freaked me out was his pitch black foot. In fact, his whole body is molded in black, but there's something about seeing his little black foot with its little black toes and little black toenails that gave me the heebie jeebies.

Another thing I'd like to point out is his belt which is such a stunning ripoff of Darth Vader's Chest... ummm... buttons, that I can't believe Ideal didn't get sued. Oh well, it was the '70s.

Still, I know I make fun, but this figure is a major part of my childhood memories, even if he did belong to the neighbor kid.  So how he's posed on my shelf, occasionally kicking my poor Zem 21, whose joints are so rattlingly loose that he can't stand up on his own. Man that Lord of Darkness is one mean dude.

Now all I have to do is keep him on that shelf, displayed for all the world, and wait for that moment when one of my friends' kids comes into The Nerdatorium, looks around, points, and goes, "That's not Darth Vader! That's a FAKE!"

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Bonus Post! It Snowed in Seattle!

Last night we got about 3" of my favorite form of precipitation and, inspired by Chunky B's post that he posted a while back, I decided to quickly snap some shots before starting my work day.

I grabbed my vintage Taun Taun, Wampa and Luke (I know, that's not technically Luke, but I never had the Hoth Luke as a kid, so I always just pretended that my Hoth Rebel Soldier was Luke instead. And that is still the case 30 years later.) and headed out to the backyard!

Okay, I better get to work.

Lego Minifig of the Week! #8

Friday, February 18, 2011

Star Wars Micro Collection Wampa Cave!

Way back in 1982, when Empire Strikes Back fever was waning, in the pre-dawn moments before the coming sunrise of Return of the Jedi, Kenner did whatever they could to keep interest alive. One of the offbeat products of this period was the Star Wars Micro Collection, a series of plastic playsets, peopled by miniature, fully-painted, die-cast metal figures of our favorite Rebels and Imperials, re-enacting famous scenes from both A New Hope and Empire Strikes Back.

These proved to be about as popular as lip herpes, and kids avoided them like the plague. The were small, unarticulated and relatively expensive, thus turning off parents who were reluctant to buy miniature static versions of toys they had already purchased for their kid. I, on the other hand, thought they were AMAZING!

Luckily for me, I spotted them at a discount store during a shopping trip with my Mom, clearanced to such a low price point that my meager leaf-raking moola was more than enough to pick up two full sets. One was the Death Star set with crush-o-matic garbage shoot and the other was the stark white expanse of the deadly Wampa Cave.

Almost 30 years later, that Wampa Cave set is mine again.

As a kid, I absolutely adored these sets. They were less toy to me than diorama; a three dimensional trading card, freezing in time my most favorite scenes from my all-time favorite movie. I kept both sets set up on permanent display on my bookshelf next to my bed, where they held a rare place of honor in the chaos of my bedroom; toys that were never played with, outside the occasional nudging of one of the figures with a hearty "Pew! Pew! Pew!"

The set included a stark white plastic cave, with clever puzzle piece moldings with which to connect the other Hoth sets (which I never did find). And the figures themselves, heavy in the hand and finely detailed made the onlooker feel like they were the eyes of the galaxy looking down on an adventurous and desperate tableau.

Above we see the fearsome Wampa, the meat-fisted, horned visage of a wintry carnivore!

And what's this? The Wampa has hung up his prey, the luckless former farmboy, Luke Skywalker dangle unconscious, oblivious of his fate. Wake up, Luke!

Meanwhile, an Imperial probe droid skims across the snowy surface, suddenly distracted by a hairy beast bellowing out of the freezing wind!

Just then, the Wookie's unseen cohort, Han Solo, takes his shot. And it's a hit! But the signal has been sent. The Empire has been alerted to the whereabouts of the Rebel Base.

We better get out of here, Chewie. We've got a fight ahead of us.

I know I collect a lot of toys from my youth, but this one seemed to really pluck at the strings of nostalgia with a strength unlike most of the others. The set is clearly used, with a few dings here and there, and Chewie is missing his gun (why he had a separate plastic gun that could be removed is beyond me), but all in all, it's exactly like I remember it.

So here I am, 30 years later, placing this set once again on a bookshelf, retaking its rightful place of honor, and the circle is complete.

Now, back to eBay to look for that Death Star set!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Marvel Universe Ghost Rider!

Inspired by my good friend from Brazil, Fabio, I have picked up a few more Marvel Universe figures. You all probably saw the post from last week of the Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends 3 pack that I posted. MU's are hit and miss with me. Some of the figures are awesome and other are utter garbage. I can't believe there is such a wide swing between one figure or another in the same toy line, but that's is how it seems to me.

However, one figure I picked up on the same day as the Spidey set was one that I have never seen in stores (mostly due to my area being very poorly supplied and lousy with scalpers), and only saw once at a toy show (for $30... see what I mean about the scalpers?), but one lovely day at Toys R Us, I spotted him, hanging on the pegs, calling out to me... the one, the only... Ghost Rider!

Ghost Rider has always been one of those characters that, although never making it into my top 10 favorites or anything, I still always considered him one of the coolest characters in comicdom. I had 2 or 3 Ghost Rider comics as a kid and thought they were killer and would later get pretty into him when he received a big boost in the early '90s.

The figure itself is absolutely KILLER! The sculpt of the skull and the translucence of the flames is just awesome. One of my favorite features is his included quasi-molten chain of pain! I was so excited to find him that I immediately went over to the toy vehicles section and looked for a motorcycle for him. Most of the 1:18 scale bikes were Japanese style crotch-rockets, but I did find this pretty cool Harley for him that... hey... wait a second...

"Woooohoooo! I'm ridin' a motorcycle, baby! How cool am I? I'm Biker Spider-Man! Aaaaawwwww YEAH!"


"Oh... ummm... yeah... my bad. Bigflameheadedjerkiwasjustsittingonit..."

Anyway, the bike is a bit small for these figures. Why is 1:18 scale so hard for toy designers to nail down? Whatevs... he looks pretty friggin cool on his new Harley and maybe one of these day's I'll bust out the glue gun and orange paints and make his a set of flaming wheels.

So there he is, kiddies! The mighty Ghost Rider! I want to thank Fabio for inspiring me to take another look at Marvel Universe figures! Thanks for reading, gang!

Friday, February 4, 2011

LJN's Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Vintage Mercion!

I... love... LOVE, I say... LJN's 1983 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons figures, and have waxed poetically time and time again about the sheer frightening awesomeness of Warduke, or the gleaming righteousness of Strongheart, but I have never really talked about any of the other figures in the line, and as I was looking over my AD&D collection the other day, I decided that it was fine time to give a little spotlight to my favorite Good Female Cleric, Mercion.

I scored this Mercion figure after almost two years of trolling eBay for a decent and affordable one (to no success) in a deal made on an action figure forum. Mercion is one of those figures that I never had, but was always aware of, thanks to seeing her on the backs of the cards and once in real life on the shelf of a childhood friend who took far better care of his toys that me.

Now, not to be a total pig here, but let's be honest, she's pretty cute. And there's something to be said about courageous women in full armor.

Okay, now I'm being a total pig. Woot! Woot! Booty shot!

Actually, the main reason I stripped her down was because it was pointed out to me on my Flickr page account that her tunic and cloak appeared to be inside out. But once I got those off (carefully, due to the almost ancient strings holding the cloak on), I was astonished by the killer sculpting of her armor, especially for 1983. I mean, you can see every little strap and buckle, every fold in her glove, every row of woven chainmail. Even her hair seems to be artfully sculpted, far beyond the usual fare served up in the early '80s.

Which brings us to her clothing. Again, I'm a sucker for realistic cloth clothing on figures (I know some people hate it), so you know that I'm simply over the moon that this little figure (she's one of the shortest figures in the line) came with a cloth tunic, tied with a small length of black ribbon for a belt, covered by a silver, sparkling cloak (the sparkle didn't really come through in the picture, but trust me, it's pretty badass looking).

Here she is in her Cleric's tunic...

And now with her cloak and mighty staff of head-bonkingness...

Which it looks like she's going to need, since there seems to be trouble in this part of the forest. PRepare yourself, Mercion!

Anyway, to sum up, despite the fact that I never had this figure (thus lessening my nostalgic ties to it a bit) and the fact that my AD&D collection is made op of frightening foes and larger than life heroes, this little, gentle-faced, sun-haired Cleric somehow manages to stand out of the crowd. A capable young woman in a dangerous world.

But, I think I'm going to call in Strongheart just the same. I mean, that is Warduke approaching.