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RETRO REVIEW: Rock Lords

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If there’s one thing that 1980’s toy culture taught us, it’s that you can pretty much turn any object into a transformable toy. We know of the vehicles. The Transformers. The GoBots. We even looked at a transformable Pepsi can (thanks Computer Warriors!). Heck…even McDonalds had a series of menu favorites that transformed into a robot. “Is that an awkwardly small Styrofoam box full of McDonald’s delicious Hot Cakes?”

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Well, it was around 1986 when the folks at Tonka decided to create a new spin-off series from their already popular (though not as popular as Transformers) GoBots line. They were known as the Rock Lords and featured a number of characters that transformed between robots and rocks. 1986 was also the year that Masters of the Universe gave us Stonedar – the Heroic Leader of the Rock People.

Apparently, kids around ’86 were consumed with rocks. I remember having a weird rock collection with things like sulfur and quartz glued to a piece of cardboard. They actually sold kids this stuff…and our parents bought it.

But what might have touched off the whole rock creature fad was the nightmare inducing children’s film – The NeverEnding Story. Weird shit came out of West Germany in the 1980’s (99 Luftballoons?), but there was nothing more devious than The NeverEnding Story. It’s the film that introduced youngsters to Rockbiters. They were basically cannibalistic – though they weren’t actually portrayed that way - rock men who ate rocks.

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REVIEW: Hot Toys’ The Winter Soldier

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I’m of the persuasion that the superior Marvel Studios produced films are those distributed by Disney. Part of it is that more of the characters I like are in those films. There are also less reboots. And I feel they do a much better job holding their segment of the Marvel Universe together cohesively.

It just so happened that my two favorite films from the Marvel Universe were both released in 2014 – Guardians of the Galaxy and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. There were some stark contrasts between the two. Guardians had a good number of laughs in it…while The Winter Soldier felt like their first real traditional all-out “action film”.

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Like all of the Marvel superhero films, we’ve seen a large number of licensed toy products. One of those companies that consistently gives collectors high-quality 1/6th scale toys is Hot Toys. And Hot Toys released six toys based on the Captain America: The Winter Soldier. One of those, which we’re reviewing here thanks to Sideshow Collectibles, is the 1/6th scale Winter Soldier.

In the film, the Winter Soldier – formerly known as Bucky Barnes – was portrayed by actor Sebastian Stan. Now, Stan isn’t a household name with truly recognizable face, but it looks like Hot Toys has nailed the likeness. Actually, a pair of portraits are included here: one without a mask and with black around the eyes; one with the lower face mask and removable goggles.

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REVIEW: BusyBody

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In an age where your biggest home entertainment question revolves around whether or not you “cut the cord”, Eye Think Inc. has introduced a product that beckons from well before the analog era. Essentially a 3D zoetrope with a mirror at the center, the BusyBody features a mirrored turntable with ten bendable figures.

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We were sent a BusyBody to check out for this review. It’s made up of a large turntable with mirrors (ten in total) on all sides of the center pillar. In front of each mirror, there’s a small hole where the little blue bendable figures are inserted.

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You then pose each figure a little different from the previous one and spin the turntable. All you need to do is look at the mirror to see the animation you created. Check it out below.

The BusyBody clearly isn’t a collectible figure. You’re not going to set it on your shelf. But it is entertaining and you and/or the kids in your life will probably get a kick out of it. There’s also the ability to get multiple play opportunities out of the BusyBody. Just change the poses of those little blue guys a little and get an entirely new animation.

Eye Think Inc. currently has the BusyBody available to purchase for $24.95.

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RETRO REVIEW: The Saga of Crystar, Crystal Warrior

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It was way back in 1982, while Toto was singing about Rosanna Arquette and Olivia Newton-John was coaxing you to get Physical, that Remco released one of their best remembered lines – The Saga of Crystar, Crystal Warrior. The toy line was released a little before the 11-issue Marvel comic book series of the same name. That series included a few Marvel crossovers, including Nightcrawler.

With a background story that sounds eerily familiar to L. Ron Hubbard’s creation myth, it’s not a surprise that the world of Crystallium (that’s really the name of where the story takes place) and the battle between the Order and Chaos didn’t catch on with youngsters.

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I’m not sure why the line wasn’t more popular. Well…it might have something to do with going up against some new toy lines like Masters of the Universe, G.I. Joe, Return of the Jedi, etc. Plus, as you can see from the 1983 Sears Christmas Catalog, it’s not like the retailers were giving them much help. When your ad is basically space filler next to The Other World and Castle Zendo, it’s only a matter of time before you’re in the bargain bin at the local McCrory’s (I hope at least one person gets this reference).

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The series of figures featured the good – the Order – and the bad – the Chaos. The leaders were a pair of twin brothers – Crystar and Moltar. Crystar, the good one, appears to be made of crystal, while Moltar, the bad brother, looks like molten lava.

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RETRO REVIEW: Computer Warriors

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The 1980’s were the heyday of transforming toys. Once the Transformers and Go-Bots hit it big, it felt like a dozen other transformable toy lines showed up on the shelves of your favorite toyshop.

Back in 1989, Mattel produced the Computer Warriors toy line. The series consisted of eight different transformable sets, from a small (plastic) soccer ball to a calculator to the splendid Pespi can shown above.

The storyline behind it goes something like: there was an accident with a secret government computer that created a wave of evil Virus troops that were able to hide in everyday objects. To combat the evil, the computer then generated the heroes – the Computer Warriors. And that’s how you get little guys covered in what appear to be circuits living inside of a can of cola.

The Pepsi can includes a little figure named Gridd. He’s a “Heroic Mechanic Specialist”. Well, a heroic mechanic and an electrical engineer. “Cloned from a quantum mechanics program, he understands everything there is to know about the mechanics of any object.” Wait a second! This is just the reverse plot of the original Tron movie. The programs are invading the real world.

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Gridd comes with a “hyper hoverjet” that features guns and bombs. The wings fold up so that it can be concealed in his Earthly home – that can of Pepsi. The sides on the plastic can come down when you press on the top tab. This lets you gander at the inner working of a can of “Pepsi. A Generation Ahead”. (That was the 1989 slogan…they went back to “The Choice of a New Generation the next year)

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REVIEW: Carbonation Toys’ FizzKids

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It all started when a 53’ trailer carrying 1,800 cases of canned soda pop was headed south on Bubble Blvd. and the driver lost control, crashing into Plush and Lush Toy Company.

But what has the town talking is what happened to the toys. Residents report that — miraculously — the formerly soft, cuddly stuffed animals appear to have transformed.

According to Carbonation Toys, this is the creation story for their FizzKids line. The FizzKids is a series of six solid vinyl figures. Each one is contained within its own aluminum can style packaging. 

The can is about the size of your favorite carbonated beverage. It features a little pop cap on the top as well as nutritional facts on the cardboard tube can. Inside of the can exterior, there’s a clear plastic capsule where the figure resides. It’s one of the more unique packaging designs that I’ve seen over the past 10 years of reviewing toys.

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There are six different figures in the FizzKids Series 1. Each figure/character has it’s own corresponding carbonated beverage flavor. There’s Alien Limeade (Alien), Bone Crusher Root Beer (Boy), Cranked Cola (Cat), Rummy Cola (Rat), Vicious Dog Sparkling Water (Dog), and Zombie Juice (Zombie).

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I like the variety that Carbonation Toys has chosen for this series: Cat, Dog, Rat, Zombie, Human, and Alien. (The standouts – in my opinion – are the Cat and the creepy little kid) But I also like that the sculpts are so varied. Maybe it’s that I’m so used to seeing platform toys in this scale.

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REVIEW: Doc Savage – Double Danger Deluxe Version

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‘The Man of Bronze’ - Doc Savage was created by publisher Henry W. Ralston and editor John L. Nanovic at Street and Smith Publications, with additional works by Lester Dent. Doc’s popularity transcended the pulps moving into radio, comic books, and a feature film. Doc has been interpreted by some of the greatest artists. This beloved adventurer is considered to be the model for the ‘super hero’ with his strength, intelligence, speed, physique, and wealth – he even has a ‘Fortress of Solitude’. The name Doc Savage is synonymous with courage, danger, and adventure - remaining a heroic pop-culture icon to this day.

The Doc Savage 1/6th scale collectible figure comes from Go Hero and Executive Replicas. This is one of several collaborations that the two companies have worked on in the past or are working on into the future. The Doc Savage figure is available in two different versions: the Silver Age version and the Go Hero Exclusive Double Danger Deluxe version. For this review, I’ll be looking at the Double Danger Deluxe (DDD).

Not knowing much about Doc Savage, I had to do some research. I wasn’t surprised to find out that one of the professions of this fictional character was that of a doctor. But I was a little surprised that he wasn’t at all related to ‘The Macho Man’... Fans of the character will be delighted to know that this is the first time the good Doc has been made available as a 1/6th scale figure. 

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RETRO REVIEW: Roy Rogers gives you the Snorks

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Apparently, back in 1988, the Roy Rogers restaurant chain was looking to compete with McDonalds by trying to outdo their Happy Meal toy lineup. Since picky little kids really drove parents fast food choices, it was often up to what chain had the best toy that specific week.

But in 1988, Roy Rogers decided to give away figurines based on the Hanna-Barbera cartoon - Snorks. The 3-inch tall Snorks figurines that Roy Rogers gave away were actually produced by Schleich. And Schlech is a German toy company that’s still around today (and still releasing new Smurfs toys).

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Growing up in Pennsylvania, I was able to partake in the Roy Rogers’ menu once or twice as a child. And since these toys are really all that’s memorable about the restaurant – I guess the fact that it was named after an old western film star made it unique – that might have something to do with why the chain never made it past the mid-Atlantic.

The Snorks cartoon series originally ran from 1984 to 1989. While there were hopes that it would rival The Smurfs in popularity, it never achieved that type of success. The two cartoons had a number of the same voice artists, editors, and producers. This likely led folks to think what I thought as a kid – “the Snorks are the underwater Smurfs”.

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REVIEW: Rise of the Beasts

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From a time before time, the villains of myth and the heroes of legend have returned to continue a savage battle that will determine the future of humanity.

With barbaric kingdoms, led by power hungry animals in the form of men preparing to conquer the earth, mankind must place it's hope in the lion Thufur Asa'Yid, The Sword of Krix!

As ancient armies equipped with advanced science and technology erupt from underneath the earth all over the world who can stop ..

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The Rise of the Beasts is a new line of 1980’s inspired mini figures in the same vein as Battle Beasts. And like several other contemporary lines that have been influenced by Battle Beasts, these feature Onell Design’s Glyos joints. That means you can switch out all of the parts and pieces with other toy lines that similarly feature the Glyos joints.

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To date, there have been two characters released – the African Rhinoceros and the Emperor Scorpion. Depending on the paint and color scheme, the character has a different name. And in addition to painted versions of these two guys, there are also a few unpainted ones that nearly cut the price in half.

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Speaking of price, they sell for $7.00 per painted figure and $4.00 per unpainted. I’d probably go the painted route as the added personality you get from one of the painted figures far outweighs the $3.00 extra you’ll need to pony up.

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RETRO REVIEW: Barnyard Commandos

It’s possible that you remember a little line from 1989 called Barnyard Commandos. It was something straight out of Animal Farm…if George Orwell had dreamt up strapping heavy artillery to the backs of talking pigs and sheep.

The R.A.M.S. (Rebel Army of Military Sheep) and the P.O.R.K.S. (Platoon of Rebel Killer Swine) were rival groups of farm animals that somehow got into radioactive materials left over from an abandoned military experiment. Was it a big government conspiracy that they were trying to trick little kids into thinking that radioactive waste creates wonderful monsters rather than causing cancer and/or a painful death?

Playmates, which also released those other mutants – the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, produced the toy line. In all, there were 16 characters produced – 8 P.O.R.K.S. and 8 R.A.M.S. There was also a 13-episode run of cartoons that’s likely still available at your local Blockbuster Video in VHS form.

I went on eBay and picked up a trio of Barnyard Commandos – all from the P.O.R.K.S. lineup. When I received them, I noticed the first one had a bubble that was slightly opened on the bottom. I opened the thing up and could have sworn that a live pig had been trapped in there for the past 26 years.

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