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Timewarp: Toys R Us 1987


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Antique Store Finds: Reborn

As I've mentioned previously, I recently moved to a remote part of the Navajo reservation, which is miles from civilization. That being the case, whenever I am lucky enough to get back to a city, I make sure to haunt the local antique stores. So here's another round of photographic fun, snapped while rummaging through decades old collectables.

G.I. Joe Lunchbox

I'm willing to bet that at least one of you out there owned this exact lunch box. And if not the G.I. Joe model, then a very similar offering from the Aladdin company, featuring your favorite TV characters. Despite the fact that they were just big stickers on a generic plastic lunchbox, you can't deny how awesome the artwork always seemed. In this case, I'm not a Real American Hero expert (I'll leave that to NLogan), so I can only name 2 of the Joes featured here off the top of my head. It looks like we have Roadblock swinging out from the jungle to join the action and of course, Sgt. Slaughter.

The inclusion of this professional wrestler in the G.I. joe universe was such an exciting reality bending situation in my childhood. The idea of real person being made into a toy was not necessarily innovative and Scooby-Doo had famous actors guest starring as themselves in cartoon form all the time. But I think it was the fact that the Sgt. Slaughter character had already been around for years and was then was grafted into a toy line/comic/cartoon as an integral part of the lore, that made it all so fascinating. 

MC Hammer Doll

Admit it,  as soon as you saw this doll, the borrowed Rick James riff of "U Can't Touch This" started blaring through your head. MC Hammer's time at the top of the charts may have been short-lived, but his cultural impact could not be denied. Suddenly "Hammer Pants" were a part of our cultural lexicon and everybody was attempting his signature sideways shuffle, as if it was the Moonwalk. LIke the Rosie O'Donnell and Vanna White dolls I featured in previous articles, celebrity "Barbies" were an expected piece of merchandise to see on store shelves. In addition to a toy version of the man who was Too Legit 2 Quit, there was also an animated cartoon series on Saturday Mornings. 

Hammerman was the absolute cheapest animation you were likely to come across while eating your Cinnamon Toast Crunch, but the idea of a guy named Stanley inheriting magical talking shoes that transformed him into Hammerman to fight villains was too unique to ignore. It was never my favorite, but I definitely tuned in and even owned a official VHS copy for many years. Though in an era where even Roseanne Barr/Arnold got her own cartoon show (anybody remember Little Rosey?), maybe it's not such an accomplishment.

Joe Camel Merchandise

What a different world we lived in from the 80s to the early 90s, when a mascot for cigarettes was almost as well known as Mickey Mouse. Joe Camel was everywhere from restaurant vending machines to bus stop billboards during my childhood and though he never made me want to smoke, I definitely thought of him as a "Cool Guy". Which is most definitely the reason you don't see Ol' Joe around anymore.The amount of promotional merchandise emblazoned with his image over the years was staggering. 

This particular display shows us the many faces of joe Camel through drinkware. We have Joe the Jazz musician, Smokin' Joe the race car driver and even Joe the beachside lounger. You just know he was listening to Kokomo by The Beach Boys while he's stretching out in that hammock. The most iconic look for me was "Miami Vice Joe", where he had clearly raided Don Johnson's wardrobe. Click here to read my look back at the pop culture impact of cigarettes in the 80's.

Power Rangers Micro Machine Figures

Micro Machines was not a brand known for producing figurines, but rather miniature cars and vehicles. That's why this Mighty Morphin Power Rangers set really caught my eye on the shelf. First of all, that box art is beautiful with all 5 rangers taking action poses, you can even see a few Zords in the area below the logo. I find it odd that the Black Ranger is holding a pistol, since a double-sided axe was Zack's weapon of choice. Though I guess the whole team did have holsters with laser guns, they just seemed to be very rarely used on the show.

The figures themselves have a nice, detailed sculpt for their size. It's interesting to note that Goldar features a "Punching Fist", while The Dragonzord has "Punching Arms", which really adds to the play value. The only bummer is that along with a generic Putty henchman, we get Billy, the Blue Ranger instead of Tommy, the Green Ranger, which would have been more appropriate given the Zord included in the set. Still, this is a unique find I never knew existed.

Ninja Spawn

Last time around I wrote about the struggle Toy Biz had during the later years of their X-Men line, to come up with new action figure ideas. In that case I presented Ninja Rogue as evidence of their desperation, but apparently even the innovative McFarlane Toys succumbed to the trend as well when they produced Ninja Spawn. As you can tell from the Reduced price tag reading $3.99, this martial arts variant was not a top seller.

Spawn is many things, a murdered military hitman, a soldier of hell, even a protector of the homeless, but what I don't recall is his time spent practicing the art of Ninjitsu. His massive, sentient cape alone would be enough to ruin any covert mission, but I assume the smell of his rotted, burning flesh would also be a giveaway when trying to get the drop on the bad guys. Still, it's nice that they gave him a hood to hide that ugly mug. Sorry Al, better luck next time.

Zen, Intergalactic Ninja

Well, from one questionable Ninja to another. Do you remember Zen, Intergalactic Ninja? I  sure do, because this "Cosmically Cool!" figure was constantly taking toy rack space away from the figures I really wanted during every trip to Toys R Us in the 90's. He never had a cartoon (which is surprising), but I always felt like he could have easily been part of an hour long cartoon block with Bucky O'Hare in the 6am time slot. Though Zen never got the animated treatment, he did come packaged with a comic book produced by Archie comics.

Judging by the fact that cover claims to be printed on 100% recycled paper and the box in the lower left hand corner states that, "Zen's creators will donate a portion of their worldwide organizations dedicated to DEFENDING THE EARTH!", I'm gonna guess Zen was going after that Captain Planet money. Though it makes me wonder, why an alien is so environmentally conscious about the Earth, when he doesn't even live here. I suppose I'll have to read the full 3 issue mini series to find out. 

Mad Scientist Operating Room

Finally, here's another off-brand set from an infamous toy line, that I never knew existed. MAD Scientist toys specialized in gross-out features like dissolving flesh tanks and alien monsters who dared you to rip their slimy guts out. What I never actually considered until finding this, was that there was a literal mad scientist behind the insanity. It seems so obvious now, but seeing him on the shelf was truly a mind expanding experience.

This Operating Room playset contained the titular Mad Scientist himself sporting a devious grin and Albert Einstein hair-do. Though obscured in my photo, he apparently came packaged with "7 Crazy Operating Tools" including a bird on a stand, frothy foam in a can and most baffling of all, a cigar smoking skull with flower horns. Sadly, an actual operating table does not appear to be crammed in the box, but at least he seems to be living up to his name.

Before I go, I have to share the image above that I found in a Google search. Not only was there a mad scientist figure, but a full-on dress-up set! I never knew Mattel was so confident in the character that they assumed kids would want to role play with bulging eyes and monster teeth. The addition of the "Monster hypodermic needle with disappearing blood" does sound pretty cool though.

So, did you ever own one of these forgotten playthings? Please tell me one of you at least read the Zen comics, so I can get some closure on that blue freak's motivations. You can hit me up on Twitter @hojukoolander where I'm always sharing my most recent retro finds.

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mickyarber Posted on Jun 22, 2017 at 12:45 AM

Of course I had the GI Joe lunch box, and I remember the mad scientist line of toys. My cousin Stevie had them, and like so many of his toys, the rest of us weren't allowed to touch them. I still need to get around to writing that "Stevie the Tyrant" article.

Great read as always my friend.

Hoju Koolander Posted on Jun 09, 2017 at 01:40 AM

@OldSchool80s I actually owned a New Kids On The Block doll that had a similar cassette gimmick, though it just featured an interview with the group from what I recall.

@Vaporman87 When I worked at Disneyland as a costumed character I actually met M.C. Hammer while dressed as Kronk. He was still rocking a Walkman and it was 2001!

@jkatz Yeah, Joe Camel was the least of our concerns. All of our Hollywood heroes from Ghostbusters to Arnold were lighting one up back in the day.

jkatz Posted on Jun 08, 2017 at 10:48 PM

I remember my family had a Joe Camel bath towel when I was really young. No idea where it came from or what happened to it, but given that I was regularly in contact with it for a period of time and never got addicted to smoking, I think all that hysteria was largely unfounded. *reaches for e-cigarette*

Vaporman87 Posted on Jun 08, 2017 at 10:09 PM

Man. Still can't believe we actually lived in a time when M.C. Hammer was not only famous, but actually spawned figures and a cartoon. If not any other time, surely that time would have been the right one for complete reality implosion.

OldSchool80s Posted on Jun 08, 2017 at 08:48 PM

Love that the MC Hammer doll includes a "Real Cassette" inside! Fun finds. I rarely purchase anything when I go, but it definitely is entertaining from a nostalgia perspective.

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