Monday, December 31, 2012

"Toy Story" - Part II - Mego Super-Friends!

What's shakin', Crime-Fighters?  

Back in the early Seventies, toy producer Mego wisely began to snap up the rights to a whole cornucopia of licenced products.  They soon started to produce a series of eight-inch tall action figures based on both Marvel and DC comic book heroes and villains.  Collectively, these bad-ass dolls became known as the "World's Greatest Super-Hero".

Given my burgeoning interest in the Super-Friends and comic books at the time I'm not surprised that I was such an easy mark for these toys.  Especially when confronted with such compelling in-store displays:

Pretty soon Mego had to change their cardboard box packaging because kids were tearing into them like rabid terriers in order to get a peek at the figures inside.  That's when they started producing the clear-panel window boxes:
Even if parents were able to keep their kids out of department stores, there were also catalogs to contend with:

Comic books ads:


And some blatantly racist *slash* sexist (yet undeniably compelling) television ads:

"The Falcon: that great black super-hero!"  Jesus.  

Out of the first four figures that were released, I had Superman, Batman and Robin.

Aquaman eluded many a young collector because he was short-shipped; only two per case pack.  Although the King of the Seven Seas is frequently ridiculed, the fact that he was amongst the first wave (pun not intended) of characters released is pretty high testimony to his popularity at the time. 

Even though they featured cloth costumes, excellent facial sculpts and about fourteen points of articulation, they were nowhere near as durable as Hasbro's G.I. Joe.  Their little plastic gloves and boots would routinely split, their belts would break and their capes would fray and then unravel like a blanket in a Warner Brothers cartoon.  The most immediate problem, however, was the sticker-on-fabric super-emblems would quickly lose their glue, fall off, and then get covered in more crud then the average toddler's lollipop.  As you might expect, there came a point in time when they just wouldn't stay on anymore.

Nevertheless, I totally loved these guys.  Since they were fairly affordable, my parents were pretty good sports about replacing the once that I really liked.  Sometimes their little internal rubber bands would break, and they fell apart like C-3PO in The Empire Strikes Back.  This was like the Mego equivalent of a massive coronary and there was very little hope of the plucky little dolls bouncing back from such trauma.

Such was the fate of my original Batman, who actually came with the removable cowl.  A similar fate befell his two super-pals.  Robin's "R" emblem immediately vanished, then he broke his utility belt and then his rubber spine completely disintegrated one day.  As for Supes, he lost his "S" chest insignia, one of his super-boots fell apart and eventually G.I. Joe's main nemesis, the Intruder, broke his back during a particularly heated fracas.  Which goes to show that the Doomsday storyline really could have been cooked up by a four year old.     

Noting how much I played with them and how crushed I was when they fell apart, my folks were kind enough to buy replacements for "the big three".  My second Caped Crusader (with the goofier-looking molded pinhead) eventually lost his belt, but I still have him.  My second Superman is also in storage somewhere.  Robin lost yet another belt and broke a leg but his spine is still intact.  Having said that, every single one of these understudies also lost their emblems.  

A few years later, Mego released their Marvel assortment, including Captain America:

Getting Cap was pretty cool because I was already familiar with him thanks to the comics.  But it was his totally pimp plastic shield that I really dug.  Sadly, when my Mark I Captain America inevitably fell apart, he didn't get replaced.  Maybe that's because I'd since become totally obsessed with this dude:

To me, Spider-Man will always be the ultimate Mego, mainly because he was completely self-contained: no stickers to fall off and no gloves and boots to lose.  Eventually the front of Spidey's tunic got all stretched to crap, and I honestly can't remember if this was due to a particularly strenuous bout of crime-fighting or because one of my asshole friends did it. Whatever happened, he was eventually replaced by a successor who I still have today.

Unfortunately, in an effort to make him look more like the original Spider-Man, I eventually took a marker to his head and traced out the web-pattern molded into his plastic mush.  Even though I did a pretty decent job (Hey, it pays to be an anal-retentive kid), I'm sure it did very little to improve the figure's value.

I loved Spidey so much that I actually opted for the Amazing Spider-Car over the Batmobile when I was forced to make a heart-rending choice between the two:

In retrospect, this was a pretty stupid decision since, in the comics, Batman was a helluva lot more reliant on the Batmobile then Spider-Man was on the Spider-Car.  In fact, the Spider-Mobile storyline which was running in the comics at the time (starting with Amazing Spider-Man #130) was actually a pointed and sarcastic diatribe against mindless greed, consumerism, sponsorship and advertising.

I also rejoiced when the Super-Foes were released, especially the Joker:

The Cesar Romero-style Clown Prince of Crime's silk-screened suit was pretty elaborate.  He also came with removable brown loafers, a nylon purple coat and a Dolemite-style pimp cane, appropriate for beating ass.  After being kicked in the knutz repeatedly by Batman and Robin, the Joker eventually gave up the ghost and fell apart as well.

Then there's The Penguin:

Like the Joker, ol' Pengy here had an elaborate printed costume, removable vinyl tuxedo jacket with tails and a pair of black dress shoes.  On the lame side, he didn't come with a trick umbrella!  Now, that's criminal!

Since the The Penguin is kind of a lame villain, he didn't get nearly as much abuse as the Joker did.  In fact, the only real indignity he ever suffered involved his nose and a pair of fingernail clippers.  Despite this unfortunate dalliance with plastic surgery, I'm almost 100% sure that LaToya Jackson here is still sealed up in a box in my parent's basement.    

Speaking of lame-ass villains, here's Mr. Mxyzptlk (pronounced Mix-yez-PITTLE-ik for all you verbal masochists out there):

So, you might ask yourself, why would Mego produce this schmuck instead of Superman's real arch enemy Lex Luther?  Well, back then Luther didn't really have a flashy super villain shtick; he was just some bald dude in an Armani suit.  So I guess someone at Mego must have thought that this imp from the Fifth Dimension would be a more colorful-looking and compelling choice.

Ah, no.  From all reports, this overproduced yutz choked up bargain bins well into the Eighties. 

Frankly, I don't have a clue why I owned this guy.  I think it's because I wanted the Riddler for Christmas but he was sold out and I got this prolific clown as a substitute.  At that tender age I hadn't even read a comic book featuring Mxyzptlk so I had no clue what his powers were.  In fact, I always thought it was kinda cruel that Superman wanted to routinely beat up this poor, gay Winston Churchill impersonator.  Honestly, even if they'd made Brainiac instead, I probably wouldn't of known what his abilities were either.  But at least I wouldn't have felt so guilty presiding over all of the Super-abuse.

Mego also produced licenced figures for such diverse fare as One Million BC, Planet of the ApesThe Wizard of Oz (?), Happy Days (??) and Laverne & Shirley (???).  Although none of that stuff really interested me, I did gravitate towards their Star Trek line, presumably because I saw the "The Corbomite Maneuver" one Saturday morning and it scared the poo out of me.

As such, I ended up with Mr. Spock:

Even back I had the sense not to mix up Star Trek and Super-Heroes, so I don't recall Spock ever applying his own joy buzzer/neck pinch to the Joker, scanning Mxyzptlk with his tricorder (presumably in an effort to figure out who the f#@k he was) or phasering off a few inches of Penguin-flab.  As a result, Spock is probably my best-preserved Mego.  In fact, the only mishap he ever suffered was a broken tricorder strap which my Dad tried to melt back together using the oven burner.  Even though the strap was considerably shorter and a tad charred-looking, it stayed together to this very day. 

I'm pretty sure that the Enterprise's science officer still in stasis somewhere in my parent's basement.  It's a damned good thing, too, since Spock is one of the best Megos ever produced.  His cloth tunic is the perfect color, his props are all to scale and the facial sculpt for Leonard Nimoy (which predates Realscan by decades) is actually not too bad. 

In addition to the 8" figures I also had a soft spot for Mego's "Comic Action Heroes":

Out of these, I'm pretty sure I only had Superman, Batman, Robin and Spidey.  I don't recall owning any of the villains but that might be due to the fact that these guys practically fell apart as soon as you looked at them sideways.  Compared to their overgrown counterparts, these constipated-looking three and three-quarter inch characters only had four points of articulation and some pretty horrendous costume designs.  In fact, ol' Web-Head here kinda looked like he was pirated...

Let's see: barrel chest, no neck and little spindly arms and legs.  Who does he remind me of?  Hmmmmm...

Pretty soon another major marketing juggernaut came along and trumped the "World's Greatest Super-Heroes".  Which is kind of a shame since I would have loved to own Aquaman, Batgirl, Catwoman, Green Arrow, Isis, Riddler, Captain Marvel (dubbed "Shazam" for bulls#!t legal reasons), Supergirl, Tarzan (?), the Teen Titans (Speedy, Kid Flash, Aqualad, and Wonder Girl), Wonder Woman, Conan (?!?), Falcon, Green Goblin, Hulk, Human Torch, Invisible Girl (begging the question, how many kids were sold an empty box?), Iron Man, Lizard, Mr. Fantastic, The Thing and Thor.

But, back then, there was a finite amount of allowance and giftable events.  By the time Spring 1978 rolled around, every cent I could procure was immediately blasted off to a "Galaxy Far, Far Away". 

But, alas, that is a tale for another time...



A very proud l'il me with Mark II Batman.

After getting Mark II Batman and Superman (seen here) as a Christmas gift, I managed to feign excitement while opening that fat, useless f#@k Mxyzptlk.  Man, I deserve a friggin' Oscar. 

The Three A-Megos!  Superman, Penguin and Mxyzptlk amidst a riot of 70's kitsch.   

Me and my buddy Bradley inadvertently re-enacting the Spider-Clone Saga.  I give the odds to my Spidey since he was clearly on good terms with G.I. Joe and could requisition shit from the Adventure Team.    

EPIC PARODY   Bless you Robot Chicken for bringing these beloved toys to life...

EPIC BOOK  Super-collector Benjamin Holcomb produced "World's Greatest Toys": an amazing and reverential 256-page hardcover guide to Mego's 8-inch Super-Hero Action Figure Toys.  Although it's technically out of print it may still be avaialble through aftermarket sources.

FAIL  "And,'s The Falcon!  And he's still black...did we mention that?" 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Comic Book Confidential: Fabulous First Issue!

Excelsior, True Believers!

I'd like to say that my reading career got started with Shakespeare and Chaucer, but the first things I remember reading were comic books.  They were completely fascinating to me

And let me tell ya, even at a ripe young age of four, I had some pretty damned good taste.  As far as I know, Detective # 450 was the very first comic book I ever owned:

Granted, my copy isn't nearly in as a good a shape as this one.  The cover is hanging on for dear life, there's ball point pen marks tracing some of the lettering and many of the pages are dog-eared.  But considering that it's close to forty years old now, it's in remarkably good shape.

The book itself is fantastic.  Mercifully, it was written long after Batman had veered away from being jokey, prime-time zeitgeist fodder and back into The World's Greatest Detective.  The story kicks off in style with our hero grilling a sweaty, overweight mob boss named Harcourt about the assassination of a United States Senator.  During this scene we get one of the book's coolest lines:

Harcourt: "Y-you can't do this!  The Supreme Court says I have to be told of my rights first!"
Batman:  "True, the police can't interrogate you without counsel...that's one reason I'm not a policeman!"

Absolutely bad-ass.

The story proceeds with what appears to be a flashback.  Harcourt is seen hiring a master assassin named Jeremy Wormwood to procure Batman's cape and cowl, presumably just for bragging rights.

Tipped off by a clever riddle ("Where Beowulf and young Babe Ruth stand side-by-side with John Wilkes Booth, Batman will find a plot uncouth"), the Dark Knight swings his way sans Batmobile to Father Knickerbocker's Wax Museum.  Once there, he's lured into a steel re-enforced room with a 10,000 watt wax-and-flesh-melting bulb mounted in the ceiling overhead.  Via intercom, Wormwood orders Batman to surrender his cape and cowl.  Faced with what appears to be certain death, the Caped Crusader is forced to comply. 

Wormwood returns the prize to Harcourt, who makes the assassin undergo an ultraviolet ID scan to prove that he isn't the Batman in disguise.  As Harcourt pours a drink for the both of them, he manages to coax Wormwood into confessing his role in the Senator's murder.  After the retainer turns his back for a second, the cape and cowl suddenly springs to life.  After a brief but vicious fracas, the killer is soundly defeated.

After the Caped Crusader pummels Wormwood into submission, we get another great exchange:

Wormwood: I surrender.
Batman: We've already established that.  

Before the Caped Crusader vanishes from sight, Commissioner Gordon asks him if he could have escaped from Wormwood's "Death Trap" if he had to.

"That assassin's 'escape proof' masterpiece?  Actually, while all the molten wax in that room was soft, it was also heavy enough to fill the hand portion of my glove, which I could have knotted securely to make a kind of throwing hammer!  No matter what material the heat bulb was made out of, it certainly couldn't withstand both a battering and that extreme heat for long!"

Of course he would have escaped!  He's the goddamned Batman!
As if the story isn't awesome enough, the accompanying art was provided by the truly amazing Walter Simonson, who'd graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design just two years prior.  Walt would go on to provide some memorable art for both DC and Marvel throughout the Seventies and Eighties.  In fact, if not for Simonson's work on The Mighty Thor, I probably would never have given that character a second glance.

In addition to showing Batman as an "Avenging Creature of the Night" who's capable of three-dimensional thinking, "The Cape & Cowl Death Trap" also showcases his penchant for disguise.  Without a great deal of effort he's able to pass himself off as a dewy-looking, morbidly-obese mob boss.  Even though Batman isn't depicted as a black-clad, psychologically-damaged maniac with a bad case of adenoids, he's still more subtly bad-ass then any of his cinematic incarnations.  I'm still waiting patiently for this incarnation of Batman to come to the big screen.

In addition to "The Cape & Cowl Death Trap", Detective # 450 features a Robin solo story called "The Parking Lot Bandit".  What's kinda cool about this tale is that it features Dick Grayson as a Frosh at Hudson University trying to unravel the mystery of a serial purse-snatcher who uses the victim's stolen ID and keys to rob their homes.  The surprisingly sophisticated mystery plot by Bob Rozakis actually gives young readers an opportunity to play amateur sleuths.   Add in some tremendous art by Al Milgrom and a very young inker named Terry Austin and you've got a Robin story that isn't just filler.  

I'm a realist when it comes to stuff like this.  Even though I was technically in possession of this comic when I was only four years old, I can't be sure exactly when I read it and digested exactly what was going on.  But I'm also confident that kids can be pretty sharp and I eventually came to absorb this remarkable piece of pop art, even if it was by osmosis.

At the very least, I can say in all confidence that I'm not a Batman bandwagon jumper.  Apparently I've been a fan of his since I was four years old.

EPIC PANEL  This panel, from page eight of the comic, could very well be my all-time favorite image of THE BATMAN...

ROBIN THE BOY FAIL-URE Comics just haven't been the same since it became frowned upon to routinely pimp-slap your ward...

Thursday, December 20, 2012

December 21'st, 2012 May Not Be What You Had In Mayan

Hey, Fellow Survivors!

A lot of folks seem to think that this is our last day on earth but if something nasty does happen to us I'm pretty confident that:

(A) It won't happen tomorrow.
(B) It won't come in the form of a John Cusack-style apocalyptic conflagration whereby our planet suddenly falls apart like a dollar-store umbrella after hitting an unmarked expiry date.  

No, it's much more likely that the following things will happen over the next few years instead:   
  1. President Barack Obama ushers in strict new gun control legislation and a gaggle of idiots who don't think firearms have changed since the Constitution was drafted in 1787 (like Ted Nugent, Chuck Norris and NRA pinheads David Keene and Wayne LaPierre) begin to wage open rebellion against the government.  To stave off the threat of anarchy, Obama is forced to declare martial law and chuck the rebels into FEMA camps.  Unfortunately he's permanently overcome with a wave of paranoia and doesn't stop at "just a few rebels"...
  2. A massive solar flare is blamed for the breakdown of the global power grid.  Without television, video games, tablets and smart phones to act as an opiate for the masses, people soon realize that they have absolutely no clue how to keep themselves alive.  It doesn't take long before they turn on one another like wolverines packed into a dog crate which has been gyrating in a paint mixer for two hours.  
  3. Some wacky supervirus breaks out of its test tube prison.  Why was such a plague cooked up in the first place?  Apparently it's the scientific equivalent of climbing Mount Everest: you just do it 'cuz you can.      
  4. We get a real, live zombie apocalypse courtesy of some crazy drug, widespread infection or a good ol' fashioned space probe coming back from Venus.  Gorehounds who've been marinating themselves in nothing but episodes of The Walking Dead and the collected oeuvre of George A. Romero see this as a glass-half-full scenario and start ventilating one ghoul after another without so much as a twinge of remorse.  Unfortunately, it's often difficult to tell the living dead from the average bus commuter, so, y'know, a coupla (hundred) mistakes are bound to happen. 
  5. America goes off the Fiscal Cliff, China calls in all overdue loans like the global Cosa Nostra and currency in North America becomes as valuable as Monopoly money.  This ushers in a one-world economy *slash* government in which all of humanity becomes as homogeneous, uniform and boring as the Ocampa from Star Trek: Voyager.  Of all the scenarios I'm positing here, this one scares me the most.
  6. Secret experiments regarding the creation of a human /ape hybrid suddenly come to light.  In an example of life imitating art, these "humanzees" get really pissed off after watching Tim Burton's abominable Planet of the Apes remake and go completely Donkey Kong on our asses.      
  7. Alien spaceships appear over every major city on Earth, just like Independence Day, which ripped off V, which ripped off Arthur C.Clarke's Childhood's End.  Despite this atrocious lack of originality, most slack-jawed yokels fall for it hook, line and sinker.  This unites all of humanity together into one big homogeneous, uniform and boring race, kinda like the Bajorans in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.  Pity the whole alien invasion thing is fake
  8. Some balsy journalist ends up blowing the lid off of some completely nutty conspiracy theory (HAARP, 9/11, we never landed on the moon), rocking people's world views and freaking them totally the f#@k out.  This leads to to the scenario described in #1 but this time out Chuck Norris doesn't seem like so much of an asshole. 
  9. Israel picks a fight with Iran or North Korean missile tests become more persistent and annoying than Gangnam style parody videos.  Seriously, we've seen so many of those gorram things lately the End of Days seems like sweet, sweet release in comparison.   
  10. But then there's my personal favorite: something causes all of us to realize that humanity is way too self absorbed and ignorant.  Humanity collectively agrees to put aside its petty greed and frivolity and concentrate on eliminating poverty, encouraging creativity and progress and taking care of our planet and its all of its inhabitants. 
Now, hopefully it won't take an economic crash, supervirus, alien invasion, elite expose or a zombie apocalypse to get us to come to our senses. 

EPIC ENTERTAINMENT  Gloriously sensationalistic, completely lopsided and more then a little paranoid, Jesse Ventura's Conspiracy Theory is always worth a few yuks:

FAILED ENTERTAINMENT  If I had a choice between watching this piece of poo or suffering through a real cataclysm, I'd gladly take the latter...

Sunday, December 9, 2012

"Toy Story II" - El Joegante

Greetings, Toymasters! 

When I was six years old, there was no-one cooler then G.I. Joe.  And, no, I'm not talking about those growth-stunted, three-and-three-quarter-sized midgets.  I'm talking twelve whole inches of bearded, Eagle-Eyed, fuzzy-headed, fully-articulated love.

Wow, that sounded bad.

Anyhoo, these bad-ass, figures were part of the G.I. Joe Adventure Team.  From the early-to- mid Seventies, the American toy company Hasbro produced a veritable army of foot-tall figures and a slew of matching outfits, vehicles, weapons and gear.

Since the Vietnam War had soured parents on toys with a blatantly military bent, the original G.I. Joe from the 1960's got a more "adventurous" makeover.  Instead of exchanging suppressive fire with World War II-era villains like the Germans and prospective enemies like the Russkies, this new Joe was much more keen on exploring deserts, mountains, rain forests and underwater environments.  Instead of recreating flashback scenes from The Deer Hunter, the Adventure Team tried to stem the tide of ecological disaster whilst risking being eaten to death by the very same ecology that they were attempting to save.

This era of Joe featured a rubbery and oxymoronic "Kung-Fu Grip" which allowed him to tote rifles, knives, canteens, pistols, flare guns, binoculars, shovels, compasses, pick-axes, machetes, map-cases, cameras, spear-guns, pretzels and A&W mini root beer mug handles.  Unfortunately, by the time you swapped these props out a hundred times a day for seven months, Joe's fingers would start falling off like a chronic case of leprosy.

Also pretty cool (in theory) was Joe's highly-vaunted "realistic hair".  A pretty elaborate flocking technique was used to give the Joes a fuzzy crew cut and beard.  Unfortunately Hasbro didn't tell kids that the glue used to keep these wigs on would eventually dissolve, usually after Joe had clocked his four-hundred and twenty-eighth straight hour submerged in the family bathtub.  Regardless of their flaws, the Adventure Team Joes were definitely my number one choice of toy in the B.S.W. (Before Star Wars) Era.   

This was the first G.I. Joe I ever owned:

In case you can't tell, that "medallion" around his neck is actually the Adventure Team logo:

Although it was just a cheap piece of plastic which probably turned your chest into the Green Lantern insignia, as a card-carrying AT member you were expected to wear your medallion at all times.  In retrospect this was kinda handy since you could just flash it to other kids in the schoolyard to see which ones were part of the Adventure Team Illuminati.

The cool thing about Joe was all the sweet, sweet swag you could deck him out in, including this bitchin' ride:

The jeep was actually part of the "Sandstorm Survival Adventure" which also included everything you see here (that last part is best read in cheesy announcer voice, BTW):

Oh, so you like the Transformers, huh?  Well, did Optimus Prime ever come with a mother-f#@kin' crocodile, yo?

What's that?  Why would there be a crocodile, a raft and a rain poncho in a "Sandstorm Survival Adventure" kit?  Well, it's! why don't you go away and play with your stupid radioactive adolescent black belt newts! 

Admittedly, I'd like to call bullshit on Hasbro for that whole "male pattern baldness when exposed to water" crap.  How the hell were kids expected to dress Joe up in the following outfit and not marinate him in bathwater for three to six hours a night?

This reminds me of a quick / funny / sad story.  On August 16, 1977 me any my friend David ("His name is my name too!") we playing with our G.I. Joe's in nearly-filled-to-capacity bathtub just like every other night.  All of a sudden my mom, visibly upset, came into the bathroom and said "Hey,  listen, I got some bad news to tell you."

Struck by her sombre tone we temporarily suspended our intense hunt for the good (but clearly not great) white shark.  We both turned around to face her, our rolled-up-yet-still-somehow-drenched sleeves and saturated Adventure Team members (?) dripping all over the bathroom floor.

"What?  What is it?" I ventured, worried by impending response.

My mom took a deep breath, wrung her hands together and said:

"Elvis Presley just died."

Me and David exchanged a brief glance, shrugged, turned around and then plunged our respective Joes back into the briny deep.  Nothing could stop the hunt for that poor, sad, anemic, clearly immature shark, and certainly not an obituary for the King of Rock n' Roll.  Stunned by our sacrilege, my mom heaved an exasperated sigh, turned away and then brought the bathroom door to with more mustard then usual.  To calm her frazzled nerves she sparked up a smoke and telephoned David's mom in an effort to find solace in someone other then her weird, obsessive spawn.
Because of the false advertising propagated by all that pimp "Danger of the Depths" gear, my first Joe eventually went bald and then started to fall apart so eventually I had to dump him.  Co-incidentally this is the exact same reason why most marriages end.  

Anyway, I soon recruited a new Joe for the ongoing mission.  This was Moving-Eyes Land Commander G.I. Joe.

This dude was pretty pimp 'cuz he had a lever on the back of his head that you could move left or right to make his eyes shift back and forth.  This could be used to indicate that Joe was always wary of incoming danger.  Or that he was just about to shoplift something. 

One summer we went to the Bill Lynch Fair in Sydney.  This was back when going to the fair was a big deal so the fairgrounds took up three-quarters of the mall parking lot.  Anyway I was walking through the place with my Dad and we came across a massive Bingo tent.  One of the Bingo prizes was this incredible-looking thing:

The Training Center's sheer awesomitute is nicely illustrated in this vintage television spot:


This was something that I hadn't seen in the local stores.  Although it was clearly a thing of tremendous beauty my parents quickly made it crystal clear that there no way I was going to get it.  As we drove home that evening I envisioned all the awesome adventures that Joe might have in the Training Camp™.

The next day I came home from school and went to put my books in my room.  Lo and behold, this thing was standing right in the middle of the floor, fully assembled:

Somehow my Dad managed to go down to the fair, play a stack of Bingo cards, win the thing, bring it home and assemble it, all in six hours.  Who's got two thumbs and the greatest Dad in the history of the word "Dad"?  This cowboy.
Eventually Hasbro realized that a real man of action like Joe was probably getting bored with wrestling around in the dirt with vermin, so they brought in some additional characters.  Actually the real reason they did this was probably because their sales were about to tank because of this dude:  

That's right, folks: it's Steve Austin, The Six Million Dollar Man.  Well, more like the Thirty-One Million Dollar Man if you adjust for inflation.  Y'know the funny thing is I eventually got one of these Bionic bastards for Christmas and he didn't have half the personality of Joe!  He barely had any articulation.  The rubber skin on his mechanical arm dried up like some weird foreskin and fell off in a few months.  Finally, his "bionic" eyeball was so lame it was like you were looking backwards into your own brain.

Clearly threatened by this paper tiger, Hasbro cranked out a couple of "super-heroic" figures to compete directly with Monsieur Austin.  Namely the handi-capable "Atomic Man" Mike Power:

And the incredibly lame "Bulletman: The Human Glans":

Even as a six year old kid I could see that these guys were nothing but pale imitations of other characters.  If I wanted to go bionic I had Steve Austin and if I wanted to have a superhero brawl, I could just use my Megos.  Even though I recognized these two clowns for the charlatans that they really were, even I had to admit that Joe needed better adversaries then a pygmy crocodile and a guppy-sized shark.  Ergo, I put this dynamic villain on my wish list:

Yeah, so, in case you didn't catch that "the Intruder is the enemy of G.I. Joe".  What can I say, it was an appalling lapse of judgement on behalf of my six year old self.

Although I did have a pretty awesome G.I. Joe collection, there were three other vehicles that I really wanted but never got.  First up was the Capture Copter:


Then there was the "Big Trapper":

And finally, to reinforce that these toys were all about The Life Aquatic with G.I. Jou, here's the Sea Wolf submarine.  C'mon, it's a freakin' submarine, people!

Alas, I never did acquire these childhood Holy Grails, mainly because another marketing juggernaut would soon eclipse everything and, back then, parents didn't feel obligated go into debt just to bribe their own children and assuage their own guilt.  But before I get to that, I'm gonna talk about another "butch" series of dolls that preoccupied my formative years.

Next time out the Emblogification Capture Device takes a look at the Massive Marvelous (and DC-elous) Multiverse of the Megos!  


Meeting Joe for the first time.  I still wear these same P.J.'s on special occasions, BTW.  

Here's Joe "humbling" his rival Dr. Steel, Iron Sheik-style.  As you can see, one foe Joe couldn't defeat was Male Pattern Baldness. 

 Pals to the end.  The end, of course, being 1978 when Star Wars action figures came out.   

Mark II Joe with an unidentified master of disguise.  




ADVENTURE TEAM FAIL  Man, talk about "The Intruder".

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Just Another Black Friday

Greetings, Loyal Readers!

The following story came about after I did some independent investigation about our current financial quandary and then watched one too many scary Black Friday videos.  I hope that it's not too "real".



Every muscle in Lynn's body was as taut as an iron cable.  She knew that if she dropped her guard for even so much as a second she'd probably be crushed.  The last time she was in a crowd this frenetic was at a Foo Fighters concert back in 1997.  She'd made the mistake of venturing into the mosh pit during a boisterous rendition of "Monkey Wrench" and barely escaped with her cranium intact.  But that was a long, long time ago when people risked life and limb for something so frivolous a cause as entertainment.

Standing in that nebulous lineup for the past five hours, Lynn realized that she'd been in similar situations plenty of times before and all of them were self-inflicted.  Indeed, she'd stood outside of a Wal-Mart, Best Buy or Target store on countless occasions on the eve of Thanksgiving or early the following morning.  Instead of being at home, warm and cozy with her family and friends she'd often be found languishing in an outdoor queue and willfully risking exposure.  All of this for the privilege of participating in an organized stampede and then getting into a shoving match with a complete stranger over a competitively priced Kindle Fire Tablet, Logitech Webcam or a leather iPad case.

'What an idiot,' she thought to herself as she braced her foot against the glass door.

She looked up and caught a glimpse of fear in the eyes of the blue-vested minimum wage junkie just inside.  She imagined that from his perspective the throng barricaded behind the door must have bore a striking resemblance to the shuffling, brain-dead ghouls in George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead.  Here they stood, pawing at the doors of a retail store, desperately trying to gain ingress to a place they were irrationally compelled to gravitate towards since it "meant so much to them in life".

Lynn was jolted from her mental reverie as some very large and very strong people crushed into her from behind.  She battled a wave of claustrophobia as her own clenched fists dug into her torso.  She had to keep her arms gathered up around her chest in order to protect her ribs from getting crushed, otherwise she'd have the air squeezed out of her like a rat in a python's grip.  She could only imagine the purple and greenish bruises that were starting to appear just underneath her breasts.

She dared to reach down and make sure that her satchel was still closed and oriented in such a way that she could keep an eye on its precious contents.  She knew that if it had been left slung across her back it would probably be completely empty by now.  For the tenth time she unzipped it a crack just to silence that irrational voice in her head which insisted that if her money was out of sight it had probably been stolen.  Mercifully, the significant chunk of her life savings was still present and accounted for.  This was good since the stores had stopped taking credit cards weeks ago.

The odd sight of her money stuffed loosely into what could pass for a bank robber's sack made her think of a story Mr. Peavey, her High School History teacher had told her ages ago.  Lynn hated most of her subjects but liked History because she never thought of it as a bunch of disparate fact and dates, but as a series of stories.  And Mr. Peavey was very good at telling stories.

'After World War I the Allies decided to punish Germany's aggression by, essentially, invoicing them for the entire war.  In order to pay these impossible debts, Germany was forced to print its own currency hand over fist, resulting in what's now known as hyper-inflation.  Well, as you can imagine it didn't take very long before the Papiermark was about as plentiful and subsequently as valuable as Monopoly money.  Can you imagine... pushing a wheelbarrow filled with cash down to the market just to buy a loaf of bread?'

Inflation.  Debt.  Fiscal Cliff.  Every recent warning that Lynn heard through osmosis had since fallen on deaf ears.  'Probably because I didn't hear it from Mr. Peavey', she mused.

When the jittery employee standing just behind the threshold began to fumble with a comically over-sized key ring the crowd took this as an omen and surged.  Lynn winced as a three-hundred pound man avalanched into her, smudging her cheek into the glass.  Just before her face had a chance to go through it she managed to slide her arms down to the metal door handle that was pressing into her mid drift and shove back violently.  It was the only way to win a modicum of space for herself and, more importantly, the microscopic passenger resting somewhere inside her belly.

Directly behind her right shoulder someone angrily shouted:

"Calm the fuck down!  Push one of my kids again and I will stab one of you motherfuckers!"

The threat was so loud that the skittish store employee jumped back from the door as if tasered and then dropped his keys.  The crowd instantly took this as a sign of weakness and began to shout and pound on the glass.  Lynn immediately felt her innards turn to ice.  Things were already starting to fall apart and the doors weren't even open yet.      

"Stand back! Move back!" screamed the store clerk as he bent down to recover the keys, his eyes never leaving the roiling crowd.  Absently, Lynn wondered if he was the only person to show up for work today and if he regretted that decision.

Then, from out of nowhere, she heard someone bellow:

"Out of the way!  Get the fuck out of the way!"

She glanced up to see the crowd part like the Red Sea off to her left.  Three heavy-set men and a wiry, unkempt woman were running towards the glass doors holding a newspaper dispenser above their heads.  In response to this odd sight Lynn was instantly teleported back to that Foo Fighters mosh pit.  At any moment she expected to get kicked in the head by a Doc Marten-wearing crowd surfer.  Just as quickly she was distracted by a fleeting glimpse of the stale newspaper headline inside the box as it sailed overhead towards the door.  It read:


The concrete base of the newspaper machine went through the glass window without a hint of resistance.  Lynn flinched as it crashed into a vacant-looking shelf and then slammed violently to the floor with a loud BANG.  She stood there for a moment, stunned, as the reservoir of humanity immediately began to pour through the improvised breach like fluid lanced from an abscessed wound.

Lynn cursed herself for taking a moment to absorb what has happening.  By the time she got inside, a huge chunk of the crowd had already begun to ransack the store.  She also saw that the door's defeated guardian was lying off to the side nursing an angry-looking head wound.  She paused for a moment to make sure that he was alright before snatching up a wayward basket and charging into the fray.

She hurried past the racks still laden with night lights, spa kits, cameras, Blu-Rays, shower heads and designer fragrances.  All of this was landfill now.  Instead, Lynn sprinted through the nearly-vacant grocery, pharmacy and hardware sections, snatching up cans of tomato soup, bottles of Advil, toilet paper, batteries and several jugs of water.  By the time she was done the plastic handle of her basket was bowed from the weight. 

During her mad rush, she spied a furtive-looking employee hastily assembling a pallet filled with bread.  Unfortunately, by the time she got there, the plastic trays had almost been picked clean.  Lynn was forced to engage in a brief altercation with a panicked-looking Asian man after he tried to snatch a multi grain loaf right out of her basket.  After blasting him with several choice epithets he seemed to experience a moment of clarity, gave her a knowing look that suggested penitence and then turned back towards the empty pallet.

With spurts of violence breaking out everywhere, Lynn decided that it was time to leave.  En route she noticed a display shelf stocked with pads and instinctively made a bee line towards them.  Just before she got there she bumped into a pair of store employees who were attempting to wrestle a customer to the floor like a pair of ice hockey referees.  The jolt gave her pause for thought and it finally dawned on her that probably didn't need them anymore.

She flirted with the idea of grabbing a few packs for the distant future but decided against it after another hooligan appeared from out of nowhere, grabbed one of the store employees and whipped him into a shelf filled with razor blades.  Lynn thought the better of it, turned away and began to sprint stop-start towards the exit, hoping to extricate herself from the store with both her spoils and savings intact.  Unfortunately, it was not to be.

As she approached the battered front doors she quickly realized that the keymaster had plenty of reinforcements after all.  A phalanx of about ten or twelve employees blocked the exit, armed with what appeared to be the entire sporting goods, hardware and hunting sections of the store.  A supervisor distinguished herself from the line up, shifted a primed crossbow to her off-hand and then repeatedly stabbed a finger towards the few manned cash registers that were already beginning to back up.

By the time all of her acquisitions were accounted for, Lynn was forced to leave behind a pack of batteries.  Although it was heart-rending to turn over such a disproportionate amount of cash, she also knew that it had to be done.  What other choice did she have?

To add to her annoyance, the store had run out of bags, so Lynn stuffed as much as she could into her now-empty satchel and then carried the two jugs of water out in either hand.  Her spirits were instantly buoyed as soon as she left the oppressive atmosphere of the besieged store.  A quick glance at her watch revealed that she was also making better time then expected and she humored the possibility of cobbling together a humble repast for her husband before he got home.

It would have been great to have Bryan by her side today but she also knew that this just wasn't feasible.  Indeed, it was encouraging to know that at least one of them still had a job to go to.  Although his pay had been severely slashed by what his supervisors now grudgingly referred to as "austerity measures" and he was usually gone anywhere from sixty to eighty hours a week, his work was still a Godsend.  Without it, she knew that there'd be no way to stay afloat financially with a kid to feed and another on the way.      

Lynn came to a sudden halt as she rounded the corner and found herself staring at a small cadre of lean-looking young men, several of whom appeared to be holding baseball bats.  She immediately broke eye contact with them, put her head down and resumed her course.  As she felt their collective eyes pawing at her and heard their coarse laughter, she started to double-time her way towards the parking lot at the back of the store.

As she started down the dirt trail which eventually led to their apartment building one of Mr. Peavey's follow-up lectures popped into her head:

'Eventually the Weimar Republic tipped into economic anarchy.  Hate crimes, violent uprisings and widespread thuggery became the order of the day.  The situation became so toxic that it eventually gave rise to one of the most degenerate regimes in human history.'

Through the haze of her mounting fear, Lynn absently wondered if humanity was on the cusp of eclipsing that level of barbarism.  Just behind her she heard the sound of several pairs of boots sliding down the gravel path.

And that's when she dropped the water, shrugged off her bag and began to run.




Sunday, November 25, 2012


Greetings, What-Iffers! 

Here's a fun little alternate reality to ponder in light of recent headlines...

1878 - After an extended period of concentrated discrimination the Ohmish people of Europe decide that they will never be free of persecution until they have their own state to live in.  Immediately they set their collective sights on establishing a new homeland within the expansive, prosperous and peaceful borders of Canada.  At the time, 97% of the population of Canada is identified as Canadian while only 3% of the population is Ohmish.

1882 to 1914 - Named after the prominent Ohmish activist Bygor Flemmeth, Britain and the United States spearhead the Flemmeth Accord which commits to the establishment of an Ohmish homeland in Canada.  Although they harbor no pre-existing ill-will towards the Ohmish people, the Canadian government is in vocal opposition to the Accord, claiming that it's in direct violation of the MacKenzie - Grant Declaration of 1915 which guaranteed Canada's right to self-determination.  Regardless, the Accord is ratified by the United Nations in 1917.  Not long after, close to 70,000 displaced Ohms immigrate to Canada.  Over the course of thirty years, Ohmish lobbyists continue to pressure Britain into establishing the infrastructure required to establish statehood for the Ohms in Canada, including the creation of an armed defense force.     

1922 - Census data has 88% of the total population identified as Canadian with 11% listed as Ohmish.

1920 to 1931 - Almost one-hundred and ten thousand new Ohmish settlers arrive in Canada.  Almost immediately hostilities flare up between the native population and the immigrants.  In reaction, the Ohmish Defense Force, now a fully constituted military presence, begins to evict Canadians from Alberta and Saskatchewan.

1931 -  Census data has 82% of the total population identifying as Canadian while 17% are Ohmish.

1932 to 1945 - During the Nazi's rise to power, European Ohms suffer an intense period of persecution as well as the horrors of mass genocide.  Before the end of World War II in Europe, 294,000 Ohms immigrate to Canada.  To make amends for the Holocaust, there is a renewed push to have a section of Canada declared the official homeland of the Ohmish people.  

1947 - With clashes between Ohmish immigrants and native Canadians spiraling out of control, Britain turns the problem over to the U.N. who propose splitting the country up into two separate states.  Canadians are evicted from Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec, leaving them with 43% of the country's land mass, despite having 70% of the population and legal ownership of 92% of the land.
On the flip side, the Ohms receive 56% of the country's land, despite having 31% of the population and technically owning only 8% of the land.

Another major disparity in the division soon becomes apparent: the Ohms have been granted the most fertile and prosperous territory in the country.  Although native Canadians are quick to protest the division, their disparate efforts are easily extinguished by the Ohmish military.  Before the end of the year, the Ohmish army has assumed control over all major metropolitan Canadian cities.  The expulsion happens so fast that many Canadian families are forced to flee from the chaos without taking their belongings with them.

At the end of 1947, unconfirmed reports begin to circulate that one-hundred Canadian men, women and children were killed during the occupation of Degelis, a town close to the New Brunswick border.  Fear and mass panic ensues in the wake of these reports as displaced Canadians scramble to relocate anywhere behind their newly designated re-settlement zones.

1948 - In May Ohmstad is officially declared a state.  In reaction, Australia attempts to intervene on behalf of Canadians by sending relief supplies as well as military equipment and personnel.  There is an abortive attempt by the native Canadians to fight back but sheer logistics are against them and the attack fizzles.

By the time the Ohmish army is finished consolidating the borders of their new nation, the Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and most of British Columbia have also been annexed; nearly 80% of the country's land mass.   From Atlantic Canada and a small patch of land on the west coast now known as the Prince Rupert Strip, hundreds of thousands of refugees languish in hastily assembled camps, some still in sight of their former homes which they still legally hold ownership of.

Most of these towns are systemically obliterated, either re-fashioned into Ohmish settlements or flattened in order to convert them into fertile land.  By the end of 1948, its estimated that nearly five-hundred Canadian villages have been destroyed.

1956 - Concerned that such a heavily-armed new nation now sits so close to its borders, the Soviet Union makes several tentative aerial incursions into what was once British Columbia.  The United States intervenes, nearly prompting a Soviet amphibious invasion of Alaska.  At the last minute, the U.N. steps in and tensions slowly begin to abate.

1967 – A renewed attempt on behalf of Australia to support a Canadian armed uprising stalls within a week.    

1973 – Australia, New Zealand, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland conduct a clandestine joint effort to sponsor a third Canadian uprising.  The resulting month-long conflict is better co-ordinated but ultimately does very little to dislodge the Ohmish occupation.  When their involvement in the rebellion is revealed, all four sponsor countries face heavy sanctions imposed by the United Nations.   

1974 – The F.L.C. (Front de libération du Canada) becomes the sole political representation for the Canadian people at the United Nations.  

June–December 1982 – The New Brunswick War takes place.  Weary of constant guerrilla attacks along their Eastern border by the F.L.C., several divisions of the Ohmish Defense Force invade New Brunswick.  This results in the expulsion of Canadians from most of "The Picture Province" and the creation of a security buffer zone in what was once York and Northumberland counties. 

1987–1991 – "We Rise": The first truly unified Canadian uprising occurs against the state of Ohmstad in both Nova Scotia and along the Prince Rupert Strip, resulting in a protracted series of deadly skirmishes.  But whereas the Ohms are using arms and armaments procured from American and British defense contractors, the Canadians are forced to use stolen weapons, antiquated equipment and improvised explosive devices.  

1993 – A tentative cease-fire in the form of the Stockholm Accord is signed in Washington between Elme Narsfursian of Olmstad, John Chrétien from the F.L.C. and Bill Clinton of the United States.  All parties agree on the principle of Canadian self-determination and the Olms also promise to withdraw from contested regions along the Prince Rupert Strip as well as Restigouche and Madawaska counties in New Brunswick.   

2000–2005  – "We Rise Again!": With the Olms still firmly entrenched in the regions that they promised to vacate, a second mass Canadian uprising occurs along the Prince Rupert Strip and in New Brunswick.  What begins as a massive co-ordinated demonstration by Canadians soon turns violent after the Ohms deploy their military to tamp down the protests.  Without the weapons and equipment needed to compete against the overwhelming might of the Ohmish army, the Canadians launch a protracted campaign of guerrilla attacks.  For the first time ever there are reports of suicide bombings conducted within the state of Ohmstad.  Destitute and separated from their lands and loved ones, this sees to indicate that some Canadians have become so patently desperate that they have nothing to live for.  

2002 – Due to the increased frequency of Canadian suicide attacks, Ohmstad constructs the Madawaska / Resitgouche Wall, claiming that it's required to protect their citizens from acts of Canadian terrorism.  True to the barrier's intent, suicide bombings decrease considerably over the next three years.  Canadians who are routinely forced to cross through the security checkpoint for work or other reasons now find that quick travel is next to impossible.  To Canadians, the wall becomes yet another symbol of restriction and detainment within their own country.     

2005 – Under pressure from the United Nations, Ohmstad begins to abide by promises made during the Stockholm Accord and begin to withdraw their citizens from twenty settlements along the Prince Rupert Strip as well as Edmundston, Kedgwick, Campbellton, Charlo and Dalhousie in New Brunswick.   

2008 to 2009 – The Prince Rupert Skirmish: An extremist wing of the F.L.C. uses a battery of obsolete rockets procured from clandestine sources to target several major Ohmish cities including Farfhand, Nurben, and Liederzaus (formally Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary).  In response, Ohmstad Defense Forces attack dozens of targets in the Prince Rupert Strip with planes, tanks, helicopters and artillery.  Dozens of civilians are killed on both sides.    

2012 to now - The Ohmish Defense Force initiates Operation Shell-Shock, a full-scale military operation in the Prince Rupert Strip in response to hundreds of rockets being launched at military targets within the state of Ohmstad.  When challenged over the attacks, radical F.L.C. leader Stephen Harper claims that his only intent is to force some semblance of stability in Western Olmstad by attacking what his claims are "terrorist assets".  The Ohmish campaign escalates after Harper is assassinated in November.

To be continued...