|My Dumb Opinion: Toys of the Past
||[May. 22nd, 2013|06:10 pm]
Someone on facebook posted a link to "Things only 80's kids understand" or words to that effect. Inevitably the subject of the infamous Cabbage Patch Kids came up somewhere. This got me thinking about the toys I used to care about when I was a kid, because it sure as hell wasn't the Cabbage Patch Kids, (a) they were for girls. If you were a boy and had one of these you either had a relative that didn't understand they were a girls toy or you were one of those boys that played with girls toys and most likely kept that secret from the world at all costs. But I digress (which I'll probably do often). Anyway I remember when I was a kid in the mid 80's the big three toy lines my and my friends gave a damn about was Transformers, G.I. Joe and He-Man. Let's discuss them now.
He-Man: Let's get these guys over with first, shall we? The He-Man franchise was always sort of a distant third place in the hearts and minds of me and my friends and probably only because they were mass-produced enough to trick parents into thinking you really wanted them. I don't think any of us really wanted or asked for He-Man action figures, we just sort of wound up with them after Christmas and birthdays.
The problem is that taking the He-Man characters seriously was something of a challenge. It was difficult to take He-Man, Man-At-Arms, Skeletor and Beast Man seriously. Taking Fisto, Buzz-Off, Moss Man and Stinkor seriously was impossible. And forget Ram Man. No one could take Ram Man seriously. It took you most of the day to be able to say his name out loud without laughing. Who in my neighborhood wanted to be Ram Man? Go ahead, guess. If you guessed "no one" then you're correct. And yet everyone seemed to have a Ram Man action figure. Maybe he cost less then all the other He-Man action figures. I certainly can't see someone paying full price for it.
The main problem with about 90% - 95% of them, however is the way they were built. Their arms were bent and could only go up and down, not side-to-side. Thus is was difficult to imagine them being any kind of threat to another action figure even with a sword of power. Their waists turned back and forth, so that helped a little, but it still seemed kinda dumb. It was fun switching the arms for one character with another, though.
He-Man: Oh no! My arms have suddenly turned all blue and Skeletor-like....and the Prom's tomorrow!
The real problem with the design though was the legs. the were bent as well so the characters were all trapped in an eternal squatting position. This lead at least 32 1/2 minutes of diarrhea jokes to every single afternoon the Masters of the Universe toys were brought out. Another reason to avoid having to play Ram Man...you were left out.
G.I. Joe: What else can be said. G.I. Joe was always sort of competing with Transformers for 1st place. First they were a lot more available. Every one of my friends had maybe one or two transformers, but had half a dozen G.I. Joe action figures at least. Plus they started putting ninja and ninja-like action figures into their repertoire. Remember Storm Shadow? He was the Anti-Ram Man. EVERYONE wanted to be Storm Shadow. Storm Shadow was the only reason ANYONE wanted to be a character from Cobra. Well him and Zartan.
The problem with G.I. Joe, though, was also the design. Owning a G.I. Joe action figure was a lot like owning a pet with a particularly short life-expectancy. It was going to be awesome right out of the box but they'd slowly fall apart until they were mere shadows of their former plastic glory. The thumbs were usually the first thing to go. Years of pushing them in a vain attempt to get them to hold the weapons correctly would eventually take their toll and sooner or later they'd just drop off leaving you with an eternally left-handed Quick Kick, at least until the left thumbs dropped off. Then it was the codpiece. By the then your Joe was looking like a 4F to used World War II terminology. Then the rubber band would break and you'd have to either retire the action figure or take the rubber band from one of your less-beloved GI Joe action figures (usually Lifeline).
Duke: Duke wins the award for "Action Figure No One Wanted to Be". First of all if you were Duke someone would inevitably call you "Dookie" for the rest of the day, providing endless hilarity for every child but the poor schlub who got stuck playing with him. As if that weren't bad enough then Hasbro had to slap a big stupid grin on his face. The action figure would have at least looked cool if it wasn't for that big dumb look on his face. No one else had that. The expression on everyone else's action figure usually was this passive "I'm at the DMV without a magazine." look. But here was Mr. Conrad "Duke" Hauser with his "I'm a freshly lobotomized Amway salesman" grin on his face and just sort of made you want to go home and watch TV instead.
Silent Weapons: Silent Weapons was the action figure we were all looking forward to. On the back of the box he was referred to as "Silent Weapons" and had this whole "Bruce Lee" look. Finally, we thought, someone who might be able to Kick Storm Shadow's ass! When someone finally did get good ol' SW, though we found out his name was Quick Kick. "Really?" we asked "Really," he replied "Quick Kick." Let this be a lesson. In the cartoon action figure universe you'll never be able to kick a ninja's ass if you have a dumb name. Thank god for Snake Eyes.
Zartan: Zartan was an awesome action figure, and he was even awesomer in the cartoons, but the problem was that you really couldn't play with him outside for more then about 20 minutes at a time. See for those of you who don't know he turned blue when exposed to sunlight. That, for some reason, was the coolest thing an action figure had ever done ever. Ever. But then whatever kid had brought him out would start getting all neurotic about him turning blue forever or somehow screwing up the color-changing aspect of him, or having his thumbs and crotch fall off. So basically Zartan would end up being the action figure equivalent of the good silverware that your family only brings out on special occasions.
The funny thing about Zartan, though, is that he had a mask. A mask that would only work if the hood hadn't been pulled off the action figure yet. Thus it became a minor point of ridicule, especially if he'd was wearing the mask after his skin turned blue.
Torch: Uhhh...Zartan, I don't think the mask is gonna work.
Zartan: Of course it will work! The mask looks nothing like me.
Buzzer: But boss, you're blue. And dressed in the same weird outfit you always dress in.
Zartan: They've been shooting guns at us for years and haven't hit a single target once, they're not exactly a brain trust.
Firefly and Torpedo: Firefly was some kind of ambush expert for Cobra, Torpedo was a Navy Seal in a wetsuit. In my neighborhood, though they were surrogate ninjas for the kids whose parents hadn't gotten him Storm Shadow yet.
Transfomers: Transformers would have been a consistent #1 if it weren't for the fact that no on ever owned any. When I was growing up most of us had one, maybe two transformers. And if one of those transformers was Bumble Bee then it really only counted as 1 1/3. Their rarity was probably a good thing since it caused us to not notice that the both of the radios were three or four times the size of the Volkswagen Beetles and of comparable size to the 18-Wheeler. The 45 caliber handgun was taller then the F15 jet, and...well you get the idea the proportions are all wrong. There's something unintentionally hilarious about Soundwave's (and Blaster's) respective sizes when you think about the size of the people that would presumably fit into the transformers that were actual vehicles.
"Shall we take the stereo to the beach?"
"Uhhh...I don't think we can?"
"Hey, I want to listen to my Fat Boys cassette tape...someone get me the 50 foot step ladder and the poking stick."
"Well there's yer problem, yer boom box is outta batteries there. Yeah that'll take me about a month and a half to fix. Plus I'll need to rent a crane."