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August 19, 2010

"Takin It Back... Way Back" - 80's Toy Edition by Joe ESQ

Hey kids, it’s the day before Friday and that means its time for another installment of Throwback Thursday to hopefully help get you through your day and make that weekend come just a little quicker. Last time, much to the delight of no one judging by the ghost town that sprang up in the comments section, I reviewed some Rap Attack mixtapes from the mid 90’s. Maybe they were a little too local or obscure, I dunno. The songs were all great though, so whatever. What the hell do you people know anyway? Jerks.

So where was I? Oh yeah, this week, I’m switching things up a bit, as this column isn’t going to cover music at all. Instead, your throwback this time around is toys. 80’s toys. Forgotten 80’s toys. That’s right, in response to the complete lack of response my last article got, I’m going even MORE obscure. Whatever, I live dangerously. Anyway, without further ranting from me, here are 5 cool toy lines from the 80’s that I’m pretty sure nobody but me even remembers.

The 80’s were a great time for toys. Far better than today, despite all the advances in tooling, sculpting and articulation, conceptually the toy lines of the 80’s violently molest anything you can find on the shelves of a modern Toys R Us. Toys were a way bigger deal in the 80’s too. Aside from TRU, there was Child World, and Lionel Kiddie City, both of which were also giant stores dedicated solely to the sale of toys. Beyond that, stores like Sears, Consumers, Macy’s (when it was still called Macy’s/Bamberger’s), Gimbel’s, and Bloomingdale’s ALL had toy departments where kids could get their action figure fix. Don’t believe me? Go to Toys R Us today, and aside from wrestling figures, you’ll find shelf space dominated by Star Wars, Transformers, GI Joe, and He-Man, all toy lines that were born in the 80’s. Of the big toy companies of the 80’s only Hasbro and Mattel still survive today, but back then companies like Revell, Remco , Tomy and Ideal contributed just as much to the wealth of great boys toy concepts that were abundant in the 1980’s. Let’s check some of them out!

MANTECH: Released by Remco in 1983, Mantech were among the first action figures I can remember owning. I don’t remember what the story line was, but they were really cool figures, around 8 inches tall, and all of their limbs and accessories could be interchanged in pretty much infinite combinations. There were only 6 figures ever released. The good guys were Laser Tech, Aqua Tech and Solar Tech and the bad guys Nega Tech, Doom Tech and Terror Tech. They also had 2 vehicles, the Traxon and the Terrorizer and a playset, the Battle Station Laser II.

Apparently, Mantech was also the first instance of me being a completely spoiled child because I had every one of these. The Battle Station was particularly cool, especially to 4 year old Joey. It was enormous, it had all kinds of computers and weapons, and tons of pegs and holes where the weapons that came with the figures could attach. Unfortunately, as most toy lines from the early 80’s that didn’t have a cartoon or movie for support, Mantech was crushed by the Star Wars and He-Man juggernauts. There was allegedly a Marvel comic book tie in, but unfortunately that wasn’t enough to save Mantech from becoming a forgotten 80’s toy.

*** Please Click read more Below to see the rest of Joey Esq 80's Toy post***

PARASITES: Released by Matchbox in 1985, I don’t know all that much about these. In fact, of every toy line on this list these are the only ones I never had as a kid. But thanks to the blessing/curse that is my audiographic memory, the commercial is pretty much ingrained in my head. “From Halley’s Comet come… The Parasites!” They were essentially little cars that flipped up to reveal a robot folded up inside and were basically Matchbox’s attempt to capitalize on extreme popularity of the Transformers. Since I never had one, I have pretty much no emotional attachment them, and can’t really think of much else to write.

Plus I couldn’t even find the cool commercial I remember, I did find this one instead. It sucks, and don’t ask me who the fuck Peter Greenwood is either. Ok fine, this entry was terrible. The rest of the list is better, I promise.

POWER LORDS: Released by Revell in 1983, Power Lords were definitely an attempt to cash in on the He-Man’s popularity but they were pretty cool toys in their own right. Each toy had its own action feature. The main character, Adam Power, could transform into a cool-looking alien by pressing the button on his waist. By transform, I mean you push the button and his upper torso would spin around to reveal a different body on the other side.

The Story went that Power had a cosmic Power Jewel he used to protect the galaxy from the evil dictator, Arkus. Arkus wanted to steal the Power Jewel and capture Volcan Rock, Power’s stronghold, in his quest to conquer the galaxy. Adam Power was joined by Shaya, the Queen of Power and Sydot the Supreme. Arkus also had minions, with possibly some of the most awesome character names in toy history – Raygoth the Goon of Doom, Griptogg the Four Fisted Brute, Tork the Turning Terror and Disguyzor the Deadly Deceiver.

Almost unbelievably, there are no Power Lords commercials anywhere on the internet, so you’re all gonna have to settle for the Power Lords comic book advertisement that was on the back cover of like every Marvel comic in 1983.

MANGLORS: Manglors were released Ideal Toy Company in 1984 and 1985. My mom was a neat freak and I was never allowed to have “slimy” toys, so Manglors should have been off limits to me. Fortunately for 4 year old Joey, Grampa Joe didn’t know about the restriction so I had me a Manglor. The first wave consisted of Manglord (which was initially released with a playset Manglor Mountain), Manglosaurus and Manglodactyl. The second wave, which were packaged with plastic eggs, included Manglodemon, Manglizard, and Manglodragon. I had the Manglizard in case you’re all wondering. Manglors could be bent, twisted and even ripped apart and reassembled as their bodies were rubbery and kinda sticky.

While looking for pictures of the things for this article I found out that the line was the subject of controversy. Consumers Union's children's publication, Penny Power challenged the claim that Manglors could be torn apart and reassembled, and found that they could not get the product to live up to its advertising claims, leaving a Manglodemon in many pieces that they were unable to reassemble. The packaging of the toys encouraged children to mix and match the parts of the various Manglors, but Consumers Union claimed it was not possible to get them to hold together as demonstrated. This goes directly against my memory though, because I remember ripping my Manglizard up and reassembling it. I also remember the thing was so fuckin sticky that it collected every bit of lint in the living room… which now that I think about it, made it impossible to put back together. Eventually anyway.

STARRIORS: Created by Tomy and Marvel comics in 1984, Starriors are probably my favorite toy line on this list. A huge amount of time and energy went into creating a back story for the Starriors, each toy came with a mini comic book, and Marvel produced a 4 issue limited series written by Louise Simonson and with really beautiful covers by Bill Sienkiewicz.

The story went like this: In the future, solar flares threaten all life on Earth. Earth's scientists build three classes of intelligent machines, Protectors,( to restore the Earth for human use), Destructors, (to ward off any potential alien invasions), and Guardians (to protect humanity after they go into a hibernative state underground). The brains of the Starriors, called control circuits, are crafted in the human image. The leader of the Destructors, Slaughter Steelgrave, becomes insane at the thought of deactivation upon the restoration of the humans, and enslaves the Protectors after what he believes to be a successful attempt to destroy all of the Guardians. Eventually, the human race and the Starriors' mission is forgotten as a reality and regarded as a myth - none of the Starriors had been activated when the humans disappeared. Sometime later, a human skull is discovered. The story begins just as a band of Protectors, eventually joined by a few dutiful Destructors, sets out to release the humans from their overly prolonged hibernation.

The Starriors toys all had a mechanical feature. Most of robot action figures were simple windup toys, you wind them up and the weapon in their chest or on their arm would spin or gyrate. The larger “dinosaur” type toys could walk or roll on their own and transform. The smaller ones also would roll on their own. The comics gave each character a well fleshed out origin and personality, which for me, made them even cooler.

Two of my favorite toys from the line were Deadeye and Cricket, and the Armored Battle Station playset. Instead of being windup, Deadeye was remote controlled (the Cricket character was actually the remote) and could be made to roll forward by clicking the Cricket control. Deadeye also fired discs from his mouth. The Armored battle station was just a really cool playset, and the giant cobra could be fired off the front like a battering ram.

Well that’s it for this week. This was fun, and in writing it I thought of about 10 more obscure and forgotten toy lines, so I definitely have another one of these in me.

*** But wait… BONUS THROWBACK!

Ok, aside from being obscure, every toy line on this list has one thing in common with each other, none of them had a cartoon (which is probably why they ended up being forgotten). Well, as a bonus throwback for you, here’s a cartoon that never had a toy line. Vytor, the Starfire Champion was a cartoon that aired very briefly in 1989 when it preempted either GI Joe or Transformers for a week one afternoon and was never seen or heard from again. Except in my head, because I swear to you, thanks to my audiographic memory, I’ve had had this theme song stuck in my head for the past 20 years. I’m serious, a theme song I heard 5 afternoons in 1989, and I can sing the fucking thing verbatim. I told you it was a curse. Honestly though, if you have any memory at all of this, you get SERIOUS geek points.


  1. 'Mantech', sheesh. I'd forgotten about them. I had that bad guy in the middle and the guy in the yellow suit....any toylines other than He-Man GI Joe, MASK or Transformers I was able to buy...I was only allowed to have 1 good guy and 1 bad guy from what I recall. I was good at talking my mom into anything if I could present could enough stipulations. The '1 good guy, 1 bad guy' rule worked pretty well. Along with the 'c'mon, they're the same size as He-Man and I can play with them together' rule.

    Don't know much else about the rest of those...but wow does that 'PowerLords' ad bring back memories. It was only on the back of EVERY comic book released that year.

    Good job Joey! I look forward to more of these write-ups on 80s toy culture. Obscure or otherwise.

  2. Amazing. I don't remember ANY of these toys. After all these years, I still don't know how you remember it all! I do remember calling you one afternoon about 5 years ago because Katie and I were debating if there were lyrics to the Super Mario Brothers song. And sure enough you started reciting the lyrics. Again, amazing.

    I look forward to the next article!


    PS Nega Tech. Now that made me laugh!

  3. I fucking LOVED that Power Lords guy when I was a kid. You brought back some great memories kiddo... can't wait to see you chat up those other lines we talked about!!! Keep em coming homie... Later!

  4. Hey T, nice of you to join us... can you please become a follower of the blog? I hope you like what we have to offer

  5. Wow. Vytor the Starfire Champion. All of the rest in this article I knew about, and even own a few Starriors. But I saw Vytor the one week it aired and was disappointed that the show disappeared shortly thereafter. Loved the, at the time, cutting edge CG graphics and video effects, and the Trimarang and Wing Shield combo was really inventive. Thanks for dusting off such a very old corner of my memories!


  6. Hey, I'm Peter Greenwood ! I did bunches of radio commercials in Australia.
    In the States I voiced Power Rangers and The Rescuers Down Under for Disney.

    So in response to your "Who the Fuck is Peter Greenwood" there you go.. Now who the fuck are you ?

    1. Ooh someone was googling his own name and found my article. Look dude, no one cares who you are. But to amuse myself, I'll respond to you anyway.

      First, according to the comment box thingy, your name is Anonymous, not Peter Greenwood. That doesn't matter though because both names have an equal level of notoriety. In fact, anonymous is actually a synonym for Peter Greenwood, so you get a pass on that one. Although "uncredited" is an even better one. More on that later though…

      So, do they teach reading in Australia? Because the words "who the fuck is Peter Greenwood?" do not appear ANYWHERE in this article. What I actually wrote was "don't ask me who the fuck Peter Greenwood is". And, I wrote that because I didn't want to have to explain to my readers that "Peter Greenwood is a chubby, sphere-headed fucknozzle with bad teeth who is holding that telescope in front of his face with little TOO much familiarity while yelling excitedly about things coming… if you catch my drift".

      They have radio in Australia? Seriously? I'm gonna break the news to my fellow Americans, because we had NO idea you guys had advanced that far technologically. Dude, I hate to break it to you, but Australia is pretty much the Southern Hemisphere's answer to Canada as far as Americans are concerned. We know you're there, we have vague ideas about what you do, but you also couldn't be more irrelevant.

      And, you did a voice in "The Rescuers Down Under?" The sequel to a movie about Disney's least popular (bordering on entirely forgotten) franchise? The movie that had the least successful box office performance of any of Disney's movies that came out during its 90's Renaissance? And you admit to that? More people are reading this comment right now than saw that movie. What happened, couldn't book a part in "All Dogs Go To Heaven part 4"? Also, I checked IMDB. You're listed at the very end of the cast list with a nice little "uncredited" in parenthesis. That's very impressive.

      Speaking of impressive, you played "Aquafiend" in a couple of episodes of Power Rangers! That's cool… only, it was in the year 2000. A good five years after Power Rangers' popularity peaked here in "The States", and thus, quite lame.

      Can't you hear, can't you hear the thunder?

      But, since you asked the question, I decided to do a little research and find out just who is Peter Greenwood… and it turns out in addition to the DeNiro-esque resume listed above, you played "Support Group Chubby Guy" in an episode of King of Queens, again uncredited. And, you played a dude named Tiny (I love ironic nicknames), yet again uncredited, in an episode of "Lucky Louie" (a show which I personally loved, but lets be honest, viewers gave less than 3/10ths of a fuck about).

      So, in conclusion, go crawl back under whatever Outback rock you oozed out from and stop bothering innocent internet bloggers who happen to mention you in passing because your name was inexplicably on the title of a YouTube video that you're by far the least interesting part of. The last thing I need is some D list Aussie pseudo-celebrity interrupting my day. Don't you have some vegemite to eat? I know you're hungry. Thanks for the bump this is giving an article I wrote 3 years ago though, we here at CCD never mind the extra hits!

      P.S. I'm editing your IMDB to add "JoeyEsq's Biggest Fan, and CCD Groupie (uncredited)"

    2. I knew I shouldn't have told you about this comment Joey... damn Peter Greenwood, you done fucked up now! Lol... and take it easy on Canada, Kal is a canuck and they are nowhere near as irrelevant as Australians!!!!!

    3. Yeah I didn't mean to specifically offend Canada. I mean, I love the Hart family, and Montreal is one of my favorite places on Earth. I'm just saying when you want to impress the average American, referencing your Canadian (or Australian) credentials isn't going to get you very far. Football fans don't care about your record in the CFL, you know?

  7. I never knew you did toy posts. Really great stuff here. I have been studying up on the 80s lines and this really focused me. I have those Starrior comics.

    1. Kal, I actually did 5 or 6 of these, you should be able to find them if you search. I also plan to do quite a few more, but I'm a lazy, lazy man.

  8. OK,

    now you earned my respect with your clever response, I also do licensing for classic television shows.
    As a toy fan you might.. just might like the "My Favorite Martian" stuff I have produced.
    I enjoy having the shit kicked out of me if it's smart, that was smart.

    Well done.


  9. Ahh, c'mon! You're supposed to attack back, not be all cool and stuff! Now I feel bad. Like REALLY bad! Dammit!

    Anyway... thanks for the compliment, I guess... it was... fun (?) responding.

    Man... I really don't know how to handle this!

  10. Joey,

    Take it the way it was intended I have never taken myself seriously, That commercial was shot in three hours on a Friday afternoon.
    It was just vomited out there on the cheap, I did the costumes and sets myself..super low budget.

    Hey the whole acting thing is mostly BS, I do it for shits and giggles.

    I worked at Hanna Barbera and ended up down stairs where they sold rights for toys.
    From there I worked on Empire Strikes Back and helped design the first pinball machine from the films.
    I really dig making pop culture stuff restoring films and just doing different stuff.
    So why attack a really cool blog, come on only a A hole would do that..

    Enjoy your stuff it's well written and researched so take that..

    this is more to the point of what I do.

    Keep it up Ok.


    1. Peter,

      As editor and creator of CCD it is cool of you to have a bit of fun with us, even at your own expense. Joey can be a bit aggressive when questioned (lol), but deep down inside he is a really cool kid who loves his 80s toys. I don't think we ever meant to malign you... but truth be told, I am glad you felt we did because now we have had this great dialogue!!!!

      Now that we have all that squared away, I hope you will become a follower of our humble little blog (just click on the right side 'follow' button). I plan on turning this whole back and forth into another post, so when I do I would like for you to see it. So become a follower... lol

      Thanks for the entertaining comments once again... and Joey, take it easy on prospective followers, will ya? Just Kidding... GET EM!!!!!!


  11. Hey Mike,

    You know I love Joey's style you never ever need to correct him on anything.
    Like Louis CK who is smart and one hell of a great guy he speaks his mind and I dig that.
    Shit I had the crap beaten out of me in comic form by my buddy Mike Baron in a issue of his book "Badger" and I loved it.
    So Joey is freakin cool and I look forward to reading more never water him down.. hate that wimpy crap.

    Cheers and oi oi oi.


  12. Man... you compared me to Louis CK and you're friends with Mike Baron... I love this dude now.