Big Boys and their Sci-Fi Toys
Written by Dan Collacott
To the frustration of billions of long suffering partners out there, most men (and some ladies) never truly grow up. We all like to indulge in science fiction escapism and the many on screen and material diversions that brings. Toys and memorabilia are two such diversions. Whether we seek to recreate a lost youth or childhood memory, or make up for what we didn’t have.... but always longed for.
Some take it a stage further to full on collecting and dealing, some just want to recreate a show or film in their house with toys, props and replica items. The final level most sci-fi enthusiasts take their obsessions to is cosplay, an expensive science fiction past time that takes a level of commitment I couldn't even begin to discuss here.
ME Me me
For me personally the toys I have collected since I reached adulthood are mainly a call back to what I didn’t have as a child. Like mine, most kids' parents either couldn’t afford the toys our sad little hearts desired, or those toys never made it to this side of the pond. Annoyingly, we knew they existed because they showed you brightly coloured pictures of them on the back of boxes or in the ‘other toys in this series’ style leaflets you got with others in that range.
Today’s generation riots over what it can’t have, in terms of trainers, bling and iPads, whereas I only ever got mildly grumpy about the fact no-one would buy me the Mask toy Rhino (big truck that did loads of cool things). Not sure Plan B could have rapped about kids not being able to get hold of Soundwave from Transformers because he wasn’t released in the UK! What would that song sound like?
In da riots I broke in da shops cos I aint got no keys,
I went large an stole me an Optimus Prime from Gamleys.
I blagged a Star Trek Enterprise and some other cool bling
But on the way out I got shanked up!
Some skag head wanted my battle damaged X-Wing!
Star Wars – A New Con
Like many of my generation I fell in love with Star Wars aged around 4 and by around 7 or 8 had a fair number of the toys available in the UK. Most Star Wars ships made by Palitoy and Kenner were pretty damn cool but they had plenty of parts you could lose easily and they were even easier to snap or break. In the end my collection was so well-worn and played with that when I sold it at a boot fair it looked more like it had been through an asteroid field than a boy's bedroom. Of course I should have held onto some of the figures and my beloved Darth Vader carry case but even these got mindlessly flogged.
Then came my moment of epiphany. Aged about 12 or 13 I stumbled unwittingly into a Kent toy fair. To my delight there were stalls containing all of the boxed Star Wars toys I had never had the chance to find and collect. Many from far flung places such as America, Canada and Mexico that had never made it to Britain’s fair shores. Then came the horror of how much they were being sold for! Even the ones I had once owned. So I vowed to scour every boot fair and exploit every friend I had by conning them out of their old unwanted Star Wars toys! And, with the help of my parents, I managed to amass a pretty impressive collection very quickly. Most importantly I was able to trade some of the figures I found for the ships and figures I had never owned. I even had a couple of professional vintage toy sellers to trade with and as a result of this my collection had some of the following highlights:
1) A boxed mint condition B-Wing (not that rare but still awesome!)
2) Every figure ever sold from the first three films (including Yakface as seen left, that my mum found for 5p at a boot fair) including a mint carded Imperial Dignitary and a Jawa. I had almost all figures loose with weapons except Blue Snaggletooth and some of the fabled prototypes that never went into circulation.
3) I even found a boxed Star Destroyer Play Set in Lanzarote on holiday and brought it back through customs! (My parents loved me that day).
I had soft toys (mainly Ewoks) books, records and much more, but I sold the lot to clear my student overdraft and because I needed to sideline my geekier habits in favour of having a girlfriend (seems that didn't last long!). I still have a large R2D2 with death star plans in him, a few Banthas, an original EV9D9 and many Kubricks. On the whole I have to avoid the clutter that comes with collecting the now ridiculously bloated world of Star Wars toys. There is literally no model or figure that hasn’t been remade, even from the original moulds! Still, I wouldn’t say no to a Blue Snaggletooth even now!
Oh and finally, ten years ago, I did buy a reissue Imperial Shuttle from a comic con in Florida for $70 (my first comic con!), only to sell it for about £60 profit because I was poor and didn’t have the room for the stupidly enormous thing. One day I shall have the room… oh yes, one day!
Even more expensive than Transformers were toys from the 'M, M, Mask!' 80s cartoon series. This show consisted of crusaders who fought crime using illusion or more specifically cars and vehicles that all transformed into erm.... other types of vehicles, usually cooler ones! Or had bond type concealed missles and weapons. As mentioned I wanted Rhino but only got Hurricane which was a bit crap and Firefly which was less crap (more here)! Below is an original advert to get you in the M, M, Mood!
Profits in Disguise
Millions loved the 80s cartoons, comics and movie (no not the terrible Michael Bay dobbins) but for most (including me) Transformers was all about the toys, after all the whole series was created to sell toys, and boy did it work!
Only thing was they were very expensive and by the time they were ruling the toy shops my parents were already fed up with buying me expensive plastic crap. Plus it became a real effort to get the ones I wanted (mainly because like a lot of Star Wars toys they didn't come over here).
My first Transformers were the little cheaper ones such as Bumblebee, Cliffjumper, Poweglide etc. My first full sized one was the black Decepticon jet, Skywarp! Then my uncle bought me Starscream as for some reason the jets seemed the cheaper option, no idea why. By this time I was desperate for a Dinobot or Soundwave or Megatron. But again the latter two didn’t even make it to Britain!
I did manage to get a few cool ones such as Astrotrain, Prime and even Metroplex, so I can't really complain. And finally twenty years later I now own Soundwave and some of his transforming cassettes but I still haven't got Blaster his Autobot counterpart!
Slightly Different Robots Also Pretending to Be Other Things
I also had the occasional GoBot (Tonka/Bandai’s challenge to Hasbro/Takara that actually came before the Cybertonians showed up) but I only had the small and medium size ones. GoBots had some huge and very cool toys. I even owned a few of the really rubbish Rocklords, yep a robot dude or creature that turns into a rock, seriously!
Transformers remain the coolest toys ever to be made and thankfully they are still made. Good news for all you manchildren out there, Transformers got even more serious, expensive and collectible! That is if you avoid the recent movie spin offs.
There is a current series called Masterpiece Transformers which are basically huge very high quality, part metal versions of the generation one originals. I bought Megatron for around £80 quite recently on ebay, check his bad self out below.
Other toys I wish I had as a kid and would buy now if I could really justify the cost (and display space).
1) Dinobot Swoop (Swarp in Japan, Assaillo in Québec, Reptilo in Italy)
The Bombardier of the Dinobots was a Pteranodon and the most intelligent and coolest looking of the Dinobots. He was also a popular cartoon character and never released in the UK. A complete Generation 1 Swoop will set you back between £60-£100 complete depending on condition and three times that boxed.
2) Droids A-Wing (1985)
This wasn’t released as part of the original triology, despite featuring in Return of the Jedi. The A-Wing has been remade many times since 1985 but the original version remains the most sought after and valuable.
3) Tatooine Skiff
This was meant for the Droids line (based on the cartoon that followed the films) but never got there, instead dying off with the final Star Wars Power of the Force line in 1985. Very limited and very realistic looking and almost impossible to find on the collectors market now. But they remade it (or close to it) with a 1999 version, also called Power of the Force just to confuse you!
This Decepticon was the military operations commander and a laser canon who was an even cooler looking gun than Megatron! In the cartoon he was cold, logical and loyal to Megtron. In the comics he was much more power hungry and overthrew Megtron as leader. His history as a toy is complicated as he was made by ToyCo and not Diaclone and called Astro Magnum. The mould was eventually bought by Hasbro and re-released blue in colour rather than grey and called Shockwave. Earlier versions of him seem to be easier to get hold of than the actual Hasbro versions which also cost £200+ with box. I had the Radioshack version as a kid and to this day I don’t know if this was considered a bootleg or just a variation.
But that’s enough from me, what toys did some of our writers obsess over when they were mini-people? Here are some of their cool answers below!
What was your favourite sci-fi toy as a kid?
“My Voltron robot... he wasn't made up of the 5 lions (too poor for that) but he was still pretty cool. I melted him in the fireplace in a fit of experimentation one time. Taught me a few things.” Shane Lightowler
“Something I never hear people talk about is 'centurions'. I loved that cartoon and the toys were fantastic - mixing and matching the artillery from one with another. Excellent stuff!” (now there's a show begging for a reboot!!).
“My toy tricorder” Bernice Watson
"Batmobile & James Bond Cars. Not sure if they count as Sci-Fi toys though? I really just had lego and could make whatever I wanted anyway." Denis-Jose Francois
"Galvatron, who I called Gavintron. Awesome toy and he was (the only?) Transformer who had batteries in him and could light up and make noises and annoy my parents even more. He was a 'fick-off' Robot. I would like to mention that Ultra Magnus was a sh*te toy, I would have swapped him out for Wreck-Gar any time." Gavin O'Reilly
What sci-fi toy did you want and never got as a kid?
“Oh man, there were so many! I think I would've really liked a Star Trek uniform as a kid. I would have worn it everywhere. Upon reflection that's probably why my parents never indulged that particular desire.” Bernice
“Following the transformers 80s movie, who I wanted more than anything was Hot Rod. I looked everywhere I possibly could but it was like it ceased to exist. Rodimus Prime was everywhere though. Never did get my hands on him.” Imran
"Probably Shockwave- I had a crap non transformable version which really didnt cut it." Gavin
"Thunderbird 2 with detachable pods." Denis
What sci-fi toy or collectible would you most like to buy now (if you had the money and room)?
“M41A Pulse Rifle from Aliens...(http://forbiddenplanet.com/40991-aliens-colonial-marine-m41a-pulse-rifle-replica/)... and the flame thrower, then I would duct tape the two together. F*ck yeah!” Shane
“I think I'd like a big model of one of the Star Trek ships, maybe the Defiant or the Enterprise E? But they're really pricey and have no practical application so I've restrained myself so far.” Bernice
"Omega Supreme. Though I do keep eyeing up the Iron Fist/Powerman double pack that is in Orbital Comics but I have resisted buying them just because I really dont have anywhere to put my favourite crime fighters." Gavin
"Large scale lego Death Star." Denis
Other most desired 80s & 90s sci-fi toys:
1) Thunderbirds Tracey Island (1992)
2) Buzz Light Year - Toy Story (1996)
3) Robosapien (2004)
4) Zoidzilla (1987)
5) Nintendo Entertaintment System (1983)
And finally Zoids
I loved Zoids, they were model based robots that were bought as wind up model kits which once built looked like very futuristic insects, animals or dinsosaurs. They came out in 1984 and were divided into two distinct factions, the Blue Zoids and the Red Mutants. Their story was told in the UK Zoids comic but as far as I know they didn't have a cartoon series or movie to go with the toys. I owned Zoidzilla but had to get my dad to build it!
Zoids 2 came out in 1994, and they keep being re-released in different formats.
Some of the worst from the past:
Visionaires: Knights of the magical light
They were similar to He-Man but only a bit more medieval. In the TV cartoon series they had animals that would jump/fly out of their chests. The toys had holograms on their chests that were kind of cool, but on the whole they didn’t make much sense!
Furry alien who sounded a bit like Mel Brooks, crap! But not so crap that it is stopping someone somewhere from bringing him back….. go figure!
I also don't get Star Wars Bust Ups or the millions of Bobble Head toys or expensive giant busts out there (and I love Busts!)
And to the 80s, we salute you!