Monday, April 16, 2012

The one that got away...

This week's League topic is one that haunts me.
We all collect something. What is a holy grail item you hope to find at a flea market, toy show, or comic convention? What else do you collect?
Well. This will be a little long-winded, but it will seem a little more epic if you know the whole story.

Of all the toys I ever had, one series of them always will stick out more than any other: Kenner's Super Powers Collection. The first four we got (I can't remember which two were first, but I remember that we got them at the Mervyn's in Dublin, California) were Green Lantern, Aquaman, Joker, and Robin. I want to say Green Lantern was one of the very first, but I could be wrong.

At the time, Kenner was already occupying tons of shelf space with its Star Wars collection, but I hadn't seen any DC heroes since being tempted at a random Toys R Us by leftover pegwarmers from Mego. The novelty to the Super Powers Collection, aside from having my favorite heroes (I've always been more of a DC guy than a Marvel guy), each figure came with a mini comic book and a special power action feature. Most were activated by squeezing the figure's legs. It seemed like half of them were a punching action, but Green Lantern would swing up his right fist, Wonder Woman crossed her bracelets above her head, and Robin had a special karate chop. A few had features activated by squeezing their arms. Flash ran (duh), Aquaman kicked his legs to swim (double duh), and Brainiac had a special power action "computer kick."

Brainiac was vac-metallized, so he looked all chromey, which was badass; but this particular figure didn't last very long. One arm squeeze too often, apparently; his arm busted right off.

The first wave of figures covered pretty much the main heroes and villains DC had; I think the most obscure character in that was maybe Brainiac, and only in that I was more accustomed to his green humanoid look rather than his then-current robotic redesigned look. I remember needing Wonder Woman, Hawkman, and Penguin to complete the series right before Christmas. My brother and I freaked out when we opened up the Hall of Justice playset on Christmas morning, and even more ecstatic when those three chracters slid out of the box (my parents had sneaked them in there) when we opened it. We also had the Lex-Soar 7 (which I'm pretty sure I got for my birthday that year), Batmobile, and the Supermobile vehicles.

The second wave of characters came out after we'd moved to Tracy, and I was in junior high school. Seeing an action figure of Martian Manhunter sitting on a peg at Thrifty after school one day was the sign I'd been waiting for that the figures were hitting the stores. I wasn't as familiar with this wave of characters; I'd just been introduced to Jack Kirby's Fourth World characters via the Superfriends cartoon in its penultimate season the year before, but that was just Darkseid, Desaad, and Kalibak. Mantis and Steppenwolf were new to me. But most exciting to me was Firestorm, my newest favorite hero.
And yes, I totally sent away for that Clark Kent figure.

Our first Firestorm figure ended up on our carport roof after the flying mechanism we'd devised went awry. Green Arrow's three or four arrows vanished from his quiver very shortly after he was opened. The vehicles in this wave were all made up; at least the Supermobile and Batmobile existed in the comics in the last wave. We got the hero spaceship, the Delta Probe One, and we got the gigantic villain vehicle, the Darkseid Destroyer. We didn't get the other vehicle, the Kalibak Boulder Bomber until a year or so after the Super Powers series ended -- on the bargain aisle at a Montgomery Ward store in Modesto, of all places. Ten years ago, I picked up another Darkseid Destroyer at Comic-Con, and you can see my adventure putting the damned thing together here.

In these pre-Internet days, we didn't know if and when another wave of figures was coming unless we happened to see an article in a magazine or heard from a friend. Our only recourse was to check out the toy section of any store that had one, wherever we went, especially if we were outside our usual sphere of retail establishments.

I had actually heard about a third wave of Super Powers figures, but we hadn't yet seem them. Once while on our way to visit relatives for the weekend, my parents stopped at Kmart before we left town so they could grab some stuff they needed. It was only going to take a few minutes, so my brother and I were to wait in the car.

"Check the toy aisle!" my brother and I said in unison. It was an ingrained habit. My parents rolled their eyes and headed inside. A short time later, they returned with a few bags, most of which went in the trunk. My mom kept one of them up front with her; I assumed it had snacks for the hour-or-so drive.

"Oh, we got something for you guys," my dad said, gesturing for my mom to open the bag. She produced two figures from the third wave of Super Powers and handed them to us. After a few minutes of geek squeeing, swapping figures, and more geek squeeing, we started chatting about which figures we wanted to get next.

My mom interrupted us by handing us two more third-wave figures. A few minutes later, two more after that. And then one more. We had seven of the 10 figures, and we had gotten them all in one shot! That's still one of my happiest memories of childhood.

Over the next couple of weeks, we snagged the other two. Now this wave was generally more obscure, and I think that was part of why there wasn't a fourth wave. I think they should've spaced out these characters with some more better-known characters. Also, there were two characters that were complete mysteries to us: Cyclotron and Golden Pharaoh.

Let's make those bastards look for something that doesn't exist!
Neither of them were in my issues of Who's Who, and unlike Samurai, who also was not in the comics, they were also not on the Superfriends cartoon (1985 ended the show's long run with the overly long title of "Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians"). They seemed to be completely made up. Cyclotron's power action was sort of the opposite of Red Tornado's: instead of squeezing his arms and his legs spinning, you squeezed his legs to activate his "twister punch." Oh, and he was a robot. With a removable faceplate. And he was "built by Superman and programmed by the Justice League of America's computers."


We were taunted by two things. First, this wave didn't have comic books. Second, on the back of the cards, they showed the All-Terrain Trapper, a weird-looking He-Man-reject-looking vehicle with a clear ball on the front; and the Tower of Darkness, which appeared to be Darkseid's version of a Hall of Justice. No matter how high and low we looked, we NEVER found them. Turns out they didn't make it to production.

Thanks for nothing, douches!

But the biggest pain is that there was only one figure we never got from the whole series: Cyborg.

Oh, yes, you *will* be mine...

To this day I still don't have one. I see them on eBay fairly often, but I can't drop justifying spending up to $300 for one. Over the years I've picked up other figures here and there, as has my brother. But that one figure still eludes me, and my only hope is to either magically be so rich that spending $300 on an action figure doesn't make me physically ill to contemplate or that I find one in a store somewhere for $30 or less.

I actually have only one recurring dream, and I've had it for over 25 years: we go to a store, check out the toy aisle, and we see a smorgasbord of Super Powers figures shining on pegboard. Most of the time there are not only the rare figures like Cyborg, or ones that I needed to replace (Samurai met an untimely death when in a fit of rage directed at my brother, I hurled it against the wall, shattering him. Samurai, not my brother), but figures that they never actually made.

If you want an idea of what that might be like, when I read this story about the near-mythical fourth wave of Super Powers figures, I had that same weird feeling. Or when I saw pictures of this guy's collection.

So while I've been able to procure almost every other coveted item from my childhood, that's really the only one that haunts me.
Morning update to add links from around the rest of the League:

Sunday, April 01, 2012

The perfect movie for Michael Bay to remake...

This week, we leaguers were to ponder the following:
We can all agree that Michael Bay makes everything better. After he’s done with the Teenage Alien Ninja Turtles movie, what should Michael Bay blow up next?
Admittedly, I'd probably see it.
Plan 9 From Outer Space.

Hell, yeah.

In this updated remake of the Ed Wood classic schlockfest, Eros and Tanna are aliens who have been tasked with keeping Earth's scientists from creating an element that, if not handled properly, could destroy the whole system. Unfortunately, they are not the most competent among their peers in charge of keeping galactic peace.

Their previous eight plans failed to prevent work from being done on the project, and while the weapon is still in development, they have only time for one more plan, so if they blow it again, there's going to be a big empty space where our solar system used to be.

Plan 9 deals with the resurrection of the dead. In addition to having an instant army of zombie soldiers to do their bidding, Eros and Tanna also hope to sew chaos around the world by the mere presence of people's loved ones rising from their graves. And since this is the Michael Bay version, the technology that revives and controls the dead is unstable; the bodies can blow up at any time, which means the aliens need to get their act together as quickly as possible.

The clock is ticking...

The rest of the League sounds off:
  • Chris Tupa was brave enough to admitting to enjoying MB films, and would like to see more. Some of his ideas don’t sound that crazy!
  • The Claymation Werewolf was so excited for this week’s topic, that he actually wrote his response last November. (He must have a Delorean with a flux capacitor in his garage.)
  • Brian at Cool & Collected thinks Michael Bay would have had an interesting take on hit films of the 80′s.
  • Ashley at Life with Fandom has an idea that actually sounds pretty cool. Bay couldn’t screw up a cartoon could he? oh wait.
  • Dex at AEIOU and Sometimes Why had another concept that might actually work under the skilled tutelage of Michael Bay.
  • John at the Revenge of the Cosmic Ark wants to see how Bay handles some poppin’ and lockin’.
  • Kevin at Team Hellions figures MB would be the perfect fit for a wrestling movie (but I’m not sure America could handle that much testosterone).
  • And finally, I guarantee that Tom at Freak Studios did more research than anyone else for his response.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Maybe the zombie apocalypse wouldn't be so bad

This week's League assignment:
Which TV or movie hero do you want beside you when the zombie apocalypse arrives?
Man alive, this is hard to choose. I mean, do you pick someone like MacGyver or the Professor from "Gilligan's Island" for their resourcefulness? Do you pick House so he can eventually diagnose and cure the zombies? Hell, why not Felix the Cat? He's got everything in his magic bag of tricks. Wile E. Coyote would be great at setting traps, and even if he blew himself up, he'd be back.

After much deliberation (a good 45 seconds or so at least), my choice is Wonder Woman.

She's superhumanly strong, an excellent fighter and tactician, and well, she looks like Lynda Carter.

"That tree ate my kite--and it's laughing!"

Plus, we could just dick with the zombies by hanging out in her invisible jet and taunting them with chants of "Bite me!"

Monday, March 12, 2012

The logical thing for me to geek out about

This week's League assignment:
“What media announcement had you throwing fist pumps and doing roundhouse kicks in the air, and did the final result live up to your dreams?”
Generally speaking, I don't get that excited about things (and have been duly branded a killjoy or alien because of it), but if there was one thing that got me geeking out more than anything else, it was the announcement about "Star Trek: The Next Generation."

Back then, though, there wasn't the day-by-day kind of updating we're used to now, where we'll see on multiple Web sites if the director of a project decides to dye his pubes chartreuse and how that indicates how he will totally ruin our favorite character.

I'd heard rumblings about a new Star Trek show, and pretty much all I knew was that it didn't involve Captain Kirk and crew. But I didn't really hear much of anything else until I saw the trailer for the show on the "Star Trek IV" video release.

I was 12, going on 13 when the show debuted, and I was heavily into all things Trek at the time, so this was really the perfect show at the perfect time for me. This was also around the time I was trying to emulate a certain Vulcan crew member from the original series (the logic involved there was that if I didn't have discernible feelings, they couldn't be hurt. Junior high school was the pits), but despite my cool demeanor, people still knew I was excited about it.

I only wore a costume to a con once. Honest.
Watching the show now, though, the first season in particular, is a bit cringe-inducing. But I still love it, because it reminds me of a time where I had yet to assimilate every bit of Trek lore (no pun intended).

I was telling a friend at work recently about being at a Trek convention after the first season of TNG had aired, but before the second had started, and getting news updates at one of the panels: Jonathan Frakes had grown a beard after shooting the first season, and we didn't know if they would let him keep it for the second season of the show.

A Star Trek convention in 1988 was sorta like having the Internet stuffed into a hotel. Often baseless speculation about your favorite shows, buying a bunch of useless crap you didn't need but coveted nonetheless, and of course, weirdos in and out of costume. I know; I was one of them.

My fellow leaguers weighed in on this as well:

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Mr. Jones and me

Scanned from my copy of "The Monkees Go Mod.
Barring plague, pestilence, or a trip to a toy store, you could always find me in the same place every weekday at noon when I was almost 5 years old: watching "The Monkees" on Channel 44 (KBHK, represent). Sometimes I'd be eating lunch, sometimes not, but by God, I was not missing my favorite show.

I had a brief panic when I started kindergarten; after all, what if I was in the late class? I'd miss my chance to catch my favorite song. Fortunately, I was among the "early-birds" and was done with my crushing courseload by 11:30. Even walking home with my mom, that still gave us enough time.

Not long after the school year started, my mad reading skillz caught my teacher's attention. So did my penchant for following instructions too literally and pointing out errors, but the reading thing was at least good. As a result, a girl in my class and I got to spend time in Ms. Wilson's first-grade class for some advanced reading. First-graders, of course, put in a solid school day of work, and they didn't get to reading time until later in the morning, so while we didn't have to stay all day, we'd be there for an extra hour, getting out the same time as the late-birds.

Actual photo from the moment I realized it.

Just barely 5 years old--and if this happened before November, not even 5--and I'd already learned something about school that would come back to haunt me: being "smart" meant extra crap to do. Instead of being excited about the extra attention, all I could think about was missing "The Monkees." After that, I only was able to catch the show on holidays and sick days; it ran in that noon slot until October 1981 (I just looked in my TV Guide collection in the Siftin' Archives). After that, I don't remember catching it at all until the big revival in the mid-80s on MTV.

As a little kid, my favorite Monkee was Davy Jones, and for two reasons: he was short and the girls didn't mind. I was already on the losing side of elementary school height wars, and though I ended up a gargantuan 5'7 ("Hey, I can can see my house from up here!"), I was often among the shortest kids in my class and almost always shortest among the boys. But Davy was short, and it didn't seem to bother him.

Hell, he even called it out at the beginning of "Daydream Believer":
Know what I mean, like don’t get excited, man. It’s ’cause I’m short, I know.
A third semi-reason was that, being a huge Beatles fan, I was fascinated with British accents. I thought one of my classmates had a British accent; when I asked him if he was from England "like Davy Jones," he looked at me with that "WTF are you talking about" look I'd already grown accustomed to from people. He didn't clip his R's because he was British. He had a speech impediment.

By early 1986 when MTV brought back the show, I was briefly ecstatic. Ecstatic when I was at my cousin's place watching it on MTV, but bitter because our town had yet to get MTV. We got 2-13 (fortunately Channel 44 was cable channel 12) and Showtime or some nonsense. But I still got the compilation album that summer, "Then & Now... The Best of The Monkees," and I listened to it constantly. Davy had "A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You" and "Valleri," the latter of which was among my favorites. "What Am I Doing Hangin' Round" probably got the most repeat play on my little stereo, primarily because the title was pretty much how I felt about junior high school at the time, but "Valleri" would often cheer me up.

So if he was okay with it, I'd deal with it, too.

I got really big into The Monkees' music (since no one played the show anymore) near the end of high school when I inexplicably found a presumably 80s-reissued "More of the Monkees" album at my local Payless Drug for a few bucks. As a result, my very first CD box set was Rhino's "Listen to the Band," which was not just four CDs of songs, many of which I hadn't heard since I was a kid (it seemed like a long time then) or stuff I'd never heard at all, but a book filled with liner notes. Shortly after that, Rhino reissued the individual albums with even more extra tracks and info, and I've worn most of those out, too. Now I'm on the latest re-releases.

Andrew Sandoval's awesome book, "The Monkees: The Day-By-Day Story of the 60s TV Pop Sensation" is everything I wanted back when I was getting obsessed after high school, and even now, I've read it more than twice. And now recently I've been watching it on Antenna TV with my kids.

I guess this is all just a long way of saying that when I found out yesterday that Davy Jones died, it saddened me more than I expected. Probably since he, Micky, Peter, and Mike have been such a large part of my pop-culture-drenched life, I suppose. Or that it reaches my narcissistic Tootsie Roll center and reminds me that I'm getting older.

Or maybe it's because he was short, you know?

Sunday, February 26, 2012

The ideal 80s movie sequel

This week's assignment for The League of Extraordinary Bloggers:
The '80s and '90s were filled with kids and teens in the movies. Which movie would you like to see a sequel made in 2012 with the original cast members, who have aged the same as you and me.
You're probably thinking I'm going to say "The Goonies."

I don't want a Goonies sequel because, well, I'm a pessimist. There's no way it could please everyone, and the big problem is that the movie would have to try anyway. Had this question been asked before the Super Bowl ad in which Matthew Broderick riffed on "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," my answer might have been different. But between that and this year being my 20-year high school reunion, I just think of how I was in 1985 and how puffy and old I am now. Do I really want to be reminded of how old I'm getting?

And aside from the idea that Andy would be married to Mikey rather than Brand (it would make sense and provide some conflict), I don't know what else I would want. Because for something like this, it's almost like it's not enough to do a straight sequel. You'd need to add something unexpected, or at the very least, try something that is just completely out of left field. That way, even if it fails, it would be a semi-interesting failure. And once I wrote that sentence, I had my idea for an 80s movie sequel.

"Shermer, Illinois."

It's a documentary about a small Chicago suburb during the celebration of the 200th anniversary of its incorporation. The documentary crew interviews the town's inhabitants, past and present, about what living in Shermer means to them. This way, you get to see what happened to your favorite characters from most of the John Hughes movies without having to frame a whole new story you end up not caring about to frame around it. Because isn't that the part most people are interested in anyway? Whatever happened to that guy? Here are a few ideas.

Samantha Baker: I know I'm a cynic, but did anyone really think Jake Ryan and Sam were going to stay together? I'd like to think that she got married to someone else. How about...

Phil "Duckie" Dale: Sure, he was initially attracted to Sam when they met because she reminded him so much of his friend Andie Walsh (not to be confused with the possible Andy Walsh of the aforementioned Goonies sequel), but they found they had a lot in common once they really got to know each other.

Clark W. Griswold: He canceled plans for a vacation with his family so they'd be in town for the celebration.

Andrew Clark: He's the high school football coach, and his wife, Allison, is the art teacher there.

Ferris Bueller: Recently moved back after serving time in prison for insider trading. Lives with his sister, Jean, and her husband, Jake.

Kevin McCallister: Marketed a safety product that uses a GPS signal to keep tabs on children. He lives by himself.

Gary Wallace, Wyatt Donnelly: Rich off their asses with a Siri competitor that can actually manifest in holographic form.

Feel free to add your own. I could do this all day, but it's almost bedtime, so I have to stop.

Update, Monday morning. Here's what my fellow leaguers came up with, as listed on Cool and Collected.. There's some awesome stuff in there!

  • Reis O’Brien at the Lair of the Dork Horde wants to see an intergalactic rematch in The Last Starfighter.
  • Shawn Robare, of Branded in the 80′s would love to see more hairy situations with a sequel to The Peanut Butter Solution.
  • Christopher Tupa thinks David Bowie still has what it takes and wants to revisit Labyrinth.
  • Dex at AEIOU and Sometimes Why also wondered whatever happened with the Labyrinth.
  • Michael May’s Adventureblog thinks Tom Cruise should make a followup to Legend (maybe they could call it “Legend-wait for it-ary”).
  • TL at Flashlights are Something to Eat wonders whatever happened to the kids from Shermer High’s Breakfast Club.
  • Brian at Cool & Collected (that’s me!) was also curious about how the Breakfast Club spent the last 30 years.
  • Iok from That Figures chooses to forget the Crystal Skull even happened, and wants to see another Indiana Jones movie.
  • Paxton Holley at the Cavalcade of Awesome imagines Matthew Broderick as a top NSA cryptographer in the sequel to War Games.
  • The Claymation Werewolf was surprisingly the first to chime in on The Monster Squad (but not the last!).
  • Soon after, Double Dumbass on You quickly turned in his report on The Monster Squad.
  • And Kevin over at Team Hellions also imagined a sequel to The Monster Squad. (Hollywood, make this happen!)
  • Fiji Mermaid at Sideshow Cinema wants to revisit those nice young boys from Kids.
  • Tom at Freak Studios was the only one brave enough to tackle a Goonies reunion.
  • I haven’t seen Olivia Newton John in a while, but John at Revenge from the Cosmic Ark would love to see a modern sequel to Xanadu (he also had a couple of honorable mentions:Message from Space and Star Crash).
  • The Sexy Geeks House of Swag wants to go Back to the Future a fourth time…
  • While Colin at Fairplaythings looks into the future 30 years, in anticipation of a Kick Ass sequel with a 75 year old Nic Cage.
  • BubbaShelby at Toyriffic also cheated a little and wondered what Scott Pilgrim would be up to in 30 years. (That’s okay guys. The League encourages cheating. We call it “being creative!”)
  • Harley at the Eidetic Memory tackled the only animated entry this week in choosing Hey Arnold!
  • And finally, Jeff at Siftin’ came up with a documentary idea that absolutely NEEDS to be made: Shermer, Illinois.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Meet my fellow leaguers!

Hey, to follow up on last week's post about "Superman II," in case you want to see what other pop-culture junkies picked as their go-to movies, go check out these posts from my fellow leaguers, as listed on Cool and Collected.
  • Christopher Tupa is still searching for One Eyed Willie’s treasure. Be sure to check out his illustrations! (Goonies)
  • TL at the “Flashlights are Something to Eat” blog came up with one of the more obscure choices that instantly flooded me with nostalgia for summer camp. (Poison Ivy)
  • Charles Raymond at Geek Show Ink likes Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • …while Stacey Raider of Pendragon’s Post prefers the Temple of Doom.
  • Jeff Sparkman at Siftin’ gets brownie points for dressing up in tights in support of his pick. (Superman II)
  • Jason Wilson at I Fart Online was of the same mindset, but didn’t wear the tights. (Superman)
  • Justin at Generals Joes also likes his superheroes, but he’s more of a Marvel fan. (Spider-Man TV series)
  • I thought for sure that Predator was going to be the choice for Fiji Mermaid over at Sideshow Cinema but another horror movie took the honor. (Fright Night)
  • Monsterfink’s Midnight Monster Spookshow totally surprised me for NOT choosing a horror movie. (Yellow Submarine)
  • “I know you are but what am I?” Michael May’s Adventureblog chose a true icon for his movie: (Pee Wee’s Big Adventure)
  • I swear, sometimes I think Shawn Robare and I were separated at birth. Branded in the 80′s chimed in with one of my all time favorite movies. (Red Dawn)
  • Bantor2 over at Eidetic Memory brought back some serious testosterone-fueled nostalgia with his movie. (Bloodsport)
  • The Claymation Werewolf never disappoints with his unique take on pop culture. Any Johnny Utah fans out there? (Point Break)
  • Paxton Holley at the Cavalcade of Awesome chose a movie that I was sure would get several mentions. “Marty, we have to go back!” (Back to the Future)
  • The Sexy Geek’s house of Swag also has fond memories of MJ and Doc Brown. (Back to the Future)
  • In true form, Jeremy at Geek Chunks had a truly weird selection. (Weird Science)
  • Dex1138 at the AEIOU and Sometimes Why blog has seen his “Go to” movie a lot. A whole lot! (Star Wars)
  • The doubledumbassonyou blog picked a trifecta, and I can’t argue with any of them. (Big Trouble in Little China, Transformers: The Movie, and Flash Gordon)
  • Another fan of those fighting robots: Fairplay Things: (Transformers)
  • And in closing, CT from the Nerd Lunch crew has the distinction of selecting the only movie on this list that I just don’t understand. (Buckaroo Banzai)
We've got another topic to work on for next week, so at the very least, I'm moving back up to weekly blog updates! Miraculous!