Friday, January 24, 2014

The Kelly Kapowski Birthday Celebration

Today is the 40th birthday of Tiffani-Amber Thiessen. Known to every man who has a pounding heart as the immortal Kelly Kapowski of Saved By The Bell fame. To celebrate, here's a small gallery of her in her Saved By The Bell days.

















-Chad

Flashback Figure Friday: The Real Ghostbusters Wolfman

The Real Ghostbusters line was a thing of beauty. I mean, sure, it wasn't 100% accurate of the actors we saw on screen, but at that point, little care did we. In fact, I think we had gotten accurate movie versions, the charm wouldn't have been the same. Maybe I'm in the minority here, but I feel like the cartoon became a bigger hit with kids than the movie did. And why not? Monsters, mayhem, humor, and Egon. So when it was time to get toys, we got 'em alright! And they were amazing. Most boys in my age group and social circle had at least 1 of the Ghostbusters and one wacky looking ghost as well as a vehicle of some sort. And if you were real lucky, you had the Ecto-1 and the Firehouse. Now, I had a second hand Firehouse, but I still had it. Eventually Real Ghostbusters went beyond the call of duty and presented more stuff from the supernatural world. Possessed humans and crazy looking monsters spawned from the most demented minds at Kenner. Eventually, the line decided that it was time to have the Ghostbusters take on the Universal Monsters. Yep. Dracula, Frankentstein and his kin were taking on the crew. I mean, come on, Winston would be able to take on a possessed butterfly, but the Mummy? Ok, now we just got serious. This was an interesting take on the growing toy line and Ghostbusters folklore.


There they are. Pretty cool? Eh, ok. Not the greatest representations of the Universal Monsters, but it was still cool to see them in the line. All great characters of horror lore(although it still shocks me that Quasimodo was made). And while the Dracula was always the most popular one, I have to say my personal favorite is the Wolfman. I don't know whether or not it's his stance, his sculpt, his action feature, or whatever. But it was definitely one that stood out.


With his torn up shirt and messy jeans, you can tell he's been having a rough day at the office. Perhaps his coffee mug was stolen while the printer got jammed. I don't know, but cartoony or not, you still don't want to trifle with him. I'm feeling like while Wolfman has always been intimidating, this one is more of a cereal mascot. The sculpt and paint job is simple enough to make you want to grab him off the shelf and put him in your collection. His paws, teeth and snout are pretty well done. Of course, by the late 80s, most sculpts and paint jobs were as simplistic as you could get. I imagine most sculptors and designers were thinking toys had to be as kid friendly as possible.


Again, while kid friendly, it still stood out. His actionf eatur emay be the most fitting in the entire line. You squeezed his legs and Wolfman's head cocked back and made him look like he was howling to the moon. The leg-squeeze mechanism had been done by this point throughout many figure lines, but this is probably the one that made most sense. Pretty cool, huh? Not in the least. My only complaint is he doesn't have a soundbite of him howling. It could've been done, but I won't lose any sleep over what could have been.


The Universal Monsters would eventually get much more accurate and faithful sculpts thanks to toy companies McFarlane Toys and Diamond Select. Both companies would do fantastic work, but we have yet to see a Wolfman that looks like he should be selling Happy Meals. But I have that someday we'll see one again. In the meantime, it's a fun figure to be on your shelf with the rest of your horror collection. I know I do. He actually looks pretty cool next to my Freddy figures.

Although he's constantly eyeballing one of those Food Fighters figures...that can't end well...

-Chad



Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The Greatest Moments In Royal Rumble History

You know what time it is...It's time for the Rumble...The ROYAL RUMMMMMBLLLLEEEE!



Ok, Vince McMahon I'm not. Clearly. But, if you're a wrestling fan, January means one thing and one thing only: The Royal Rumble. Which, for those who aren't into wrestling, is a match where 30 men enter the ring and have to throw each other out for a chance to headline Wrestlemania. It's that simple. You get thrown out and both feet touch the floor, then it's thanks for coming, try again next year. Or in other words, a 60 minute game of "Hot Lava" while grown men touch each other. And as weird as it sounds, fans look forward to it. Every year since 1988, it's been a big lead in to Wrestlemania and definitely gets fans pumped. Whether WWF/WWE was hot at the time or not, you can usually rely on Royal Rumble to make you excited to watch the product. And with a tagline like "No friends. All Enemies. Every Man For Himself" you know something is gonna go down.



And since 1988, we've gotten some extraordinary moments that left a huge impression on fans that are still being talked about to this day. This years edition takes place this coming Sunday the 26th. There's always a lot of talk and rumors flying about the Rumble. Who will enter, who is already penciled in for winning, who will be a surprise entrant. It's all part of being a fan. And if the last few years were any indication, this year will be pretty darn memorable.



Speaking of memorable, let's take a look at the greatest Royal Rumble moments in the history of this illustrious event. Some may shock you, some may make you cry. But either way, it's time for THE RUMMMMMMBLE!



1989: Demolition Face Off








While Flair's entry at number 3 was brutal, it's not as brutal as picking number 1. That's what happened to Demolition member Ax in 1989. The most unenviable spot in the Rumble possible. Ax's chances of surviving were absolutely miniscule. In fact most would say impossible. Most would be correct. Because when there are no friends, teams and alliances split up and turn on each other. And that's what happened when Ax's tag team partner Smash came out at number 2. Delivering a memorable and entertaining 2 minutes in which the, at the time, tag champions absolutely held nothing back in hopes that either man would be the last man standing. As entertaining as it was to see two face tag team partners go at it, they wouldn't last longer than 2 minutes when Andre The Giant made his way down to the ring to try his hand at the Rumble. But alas, it wasn't meant to be for any of the combatants as the returning Big John Studd was the winner at the end of the night.



1992: Ric Flair Is Once Again the 60 Minute Man.



The late, great Gorilla Monsoon said as Flair entered as the dreadful number 3 entry of the 1992 Rumble that "No has entered the Rumble at number 3 and lasted til the end". Well, Gorilla would soon eat his words a good hour or so later when Ric Flair bested 29 other men and became the vacant WWF champion. In what was my all time favorite Royal Rumble match(and considered by some the best to this day), the legendary Nature Boy took a hearty beating from the best the WWF had to offer at the time including Macho Man Randy Savage, Jake the Snake Roberts, Roddy Piper, British Bulldog, Shawn Michaels,Hulk Hogan, The Undertaker, The Big Bossman and so many more. Flair himself has said that he felt it was one of the greatest events ever with some of the greatest talent amassed in one ring in one night. And with the who's who of pro wrestling that took a chance at a chance to become the one and only WWF Champion, it's hard to disagree with that statement.



BONUS: Bobby Heenan's Commentary.



Touted by many as the greatest color commentator, Bobby Heenan gave the performance of a lifetime. Bordering on the line of panic and hysterical, Bobby played the biased heel who only wanted to see his charge Ric Flair win. And while the Rumble match itself was amazing to watch, it wouldn't be the same without the legendary announcing skills of the Brain. In describing the events, you actually believe the Brain would've had a heart attack had Flair lost. And of course, on the babyface side, Gorilla couldn't help but poke the bear by telling him how there's no chance for Flair to win. But Bobby AND Flair had the last laugh as we closed the show with both men and Mr. Perfect celebrating the amazing win.




1994: Bret Hart/Lex Luger Win The Rumble...At The Same Time?!?!?!






The 1994 Rumble was plagued by the humiliating "Death of the Undertaker" storyline earlier in the night. With the silliness of The Undertaker floating up to Heaven via the video wall out of our minds, we sat and watched as Diesel threw out 7 wrestlers in a row. Diesel's popularity would take off after this and the rest is history. But the ending of the match is what everyone remembers the most. For the first time since it's inception and the only occurrence since, TWO men won the Royal Rumble. WWF's two biggest names at the time were Lex Luger and Bret "Hitman" Hart. At the end of the match, both men were the last two standing and after a rather short brawl, Bret and Lex both tackled each other over the top rope and hit the floor at the same time. And after much back and forth and bickering, it was decided by WWF President Jack Tunney and officials that BOTH men had just won the Rumble. Shocking stuff indeed. And a total game changer. Both men would then go on to Wrestlemania to face off against then champ Yokozuna to challenge him for the strap. While Luger was unsuccessful and floundered in the WWF, Bret won the strap and his place in wrestling history as one of the greatest champions and performers ever. And maybe, in hindsight, Bret won that night after all.







1995: Shawn Michaels Sets A Record



1995 was a horrible year for wrestling in general. Bad gimmicks, embarrassing PPV events, horrible wrestlers in the top position. Yup. How anyone survived that year and still remained a fan is way beyond me. But as awful as it was, one man was the shining light and made the entire year watchable. Shawn Michaels. Yup. HBK was able to shine through and put on great matches regardless of his opponent or mindset. And it all started at the 1995 Royal Rumble. While the match was an abbreviated 45 minute version of the normal hour match, Shawn did the impossible and pulled number 1 and lasted until the end. Putting on a great spectacle has always been Shawn's specialty and this night was no different. After what we believed to be his elimination by the British Bulldog, Shawn mustered the strength to make sure only one feet landed on the ground. Able to find the strength back into the ring, he knocked out his old rival and became the man to head to Wrestlemania 11. After a great show of strength and agility, Shawn was on his way to become not only a the face of the company but the greatest WWE superstar ever.

1998: 3 Faces of Foley

Mick Foley may be the only man in the history of the Royal Rumble to enter three times in the same night. Yup. Throughout 1997, we had seen all 3 of Mick Foley's personas make their entrance down to the ring. Cactus Jack, Dude Love and Mankind all participated in some of the more memorable moments on Monday Night Raw throughout many arenas all over the country. But when it was time for the Rumble, Foley pulled out all the stops by entering at three separate occasions. Cactus Jack was the first entrant of this years installment. But, tt seems that after his first elimination as Cactus Jack, Foley's hopes for Wrestlemania glory were dashed. But, Mankind pulled number 16  and while he was eliminated afterwards, the Hardcore Legend then shocked everyone by coming back at number 28 as Dude Love. Even though he didn't win the Rumble, he provided a very memorable moment(or 3 different moments) in WWE history.


2002: HHH is the King of Kings.

After a lethal injury in Summer of 2001, HHH returned 6 months later to the surprise of everyone to win the 2002 Royal Rumble. But he wasn't going to have an easy time doing it. Goldust, Mr. Perfect, the Godfather were amongst the popular superstars of the past returning to stop him. Arch rival Kurt Angle would be the one that the King of Kings would last eliminate to become the number one contender for Chris Jericho's Unified Title at Wrestlemania. While I'm not a fan of HHH in the least, this may be one of the most inspiring moments in Rumble history.


2008: Cena Wins LOL

Whether you like him or not, you gotta admit, John Cena can garner a fan reaction like none other. And when he had a sidelining injury in late 2007, it was time for new superstars to step forward. Fans thought this would be the night that we see a new face of the company be crowned. But, when it came time to reveal number 30, fans were absolutely floored to discover that Cena came back early from recovering his pectoral muscle to win the Rumble and go on to a memorable Wrestlemania main event with HHH and Randy Orton.

2011: Boston Is Run On Diesel Power





In the first ever 40 entrant Royal Rumble, we saw Kevin Nash don his Diesel persona for the first time in almost 15 years. Rumors had been running rampant that Kevin Nash would be arriving in Boston to partake in the yearly event. But no one would suspect that he'd show up as Diesel. Photos hit the internet that Nash had dyed his hair, so rumors started flying that, yes, Diesel was back. And once his music hit every fan who sat through his matches of the 90s immediately became unglued from their seats as they watched Diesel return to the ring to the ovation of the night. And you could see the fan coming out in modern day WWE superstars who grew up loving Big D. While unsuccessful of winning the Rumble, his impression was felt and he stuck around for a feud with HHH and CM Punk. Not bad for someone who's already made a huge impact on the business.



2012/2013: Kofi Kingston Auditions for Spider-Man



Kofi Kingston is an amazing talent that never seems to get his break in the WWE. His high flying abilities and his jaw dropping stunts make him one of the most exciting Superstars today. And whether he was doing a handstand on the outside or even using a a commentators chair as a pogo stick, Kofi has found a way to make the Royal Rumble his moment to shine and steal the audiences attention. Instead of continuing this description, I have to share the video with you. You really will have to see it to believe it. You can view these amazing feats below:













There are so many moments in Royal Rumble that were memorable. But these are the moments I remember when I talk about this amazing event. Even at my age, I can still suspend disbelief and enjoy being a fan for an hour. I'm looking forward to experiencing more moments this coming Sunday. Besides, rumor has it Jake The Snake Roberts is a shoo-in to be an entrant. And that will be a sight to see. Don't forget to tune in!



-Chad



Sunday, January 12, 2014

Remembering The Dark Knight Collection



The year was 1989 and the Tim Burton's amazing Batman movie was sweeping the entire nation. Heck, not just the nation, but the world. Fans everywhere were clamoring for a brand new Batman after 20 years of "Biff!", "Zammo!", and "Pop!" and Adam West dancing around like a fool. By the time Tim Burton got his creepy hands on Batman, the game changed. No longer was it a campy affair. No. This was some real serious stuff. Batman was finally being taken seriously all over again. It changed everything about the way we look at superhero movies. Without Batman 89, we wouldn't have the slew of DC and Marvel movies we do now. Although, DC still needs to get their butt in gear and kick off that Alexander Knox spinoff,(although, maybe he did move on from being a news reporter to becoming a Sports Agent?) I'll forgive them enough to consider Batman 89 my all time favorite movie and consider Michael Keaton the best Batman ever.

In the process of it changing superhero movies, it also changed how superheros are marketed. By 1989, most of our favorite heros were relegated to either Saturday morning cartoons, action figures, trading cards and a very small amount of chintsy toys available at the drug store. I for one remember a Marvel Secret Wars binoculars as a kid. Cheap, but they were pretty cool. (Although, why a superhero such as Spider-Man who need binoculars when he has Spider-Sense is beyond me.) Once Batman hit though, it was all open season for companies to get in the merchandising game. Action figures, trading cards and small cheap toys were still available, but everything else such as cereal, clothes, child size Batmobiles, gum, posters, shoes. And that's just the stuff off the top of my head. Between 1989 and 1992, if you could think it, it probably already had Batman on it. And let's face facts: we still remember the taste of the Batman Cereal. Today though, as much as I'd love to say I have a box of Batman Cereal to be opened and taste tested, I'll be covering one of my favorite toy lines ever. The Dark Knight Collection by Kenner.

Dat logo.


Upon the movies release, rookie toy company Toy Biz(later known for their longstanding relationship with Marvel) tried their hand at action figures by releasing a "DC Super Heroes" line consisting of three characters from the movie(Batman, Joker and Bob The Goon) and the usual cast of DC Comics superstardom(Superman, Wonder Woman, Robin, etc.). And it couldn't be an 80s toy line without some vehicles and a playset. Thrown into the mix was a Batmobile, Batwing, a Batcycle and a Joker Van and a Batcave.  Make no mistake about it, these were a hot item. While the Batman figure with a retractable bat-a-rang belt was rather memorable, the rest of the line wasn't. In fact, it wasn't even Toy Biz's actual work. The molds for most of the DC Characters(non-movie) were just reused molds from the old Kenner Super Powers line. And not to mention, the cheaper production made the figures less inviting. This seemed more like an experiment or so just see what Toy Biz could do, and to be honest, they weren't that great. Once 1989 ended, so did Toy Biz's chance of continuing a partnership with DC. Because it seemed like another company was waiting right around the corner to pick up the license to the mega-blockbuster...
Toy Biz's Batman figure. It may not have been much but we ALL had one.





Toy Biz's Batcave as well as their Joker and Batman offerings. Credit: Ebay

Starting in 1990, 80s action figure juggernaut Kenner, who had held the Super Powers license only a few years prior, took a stab at making an assortment of Batman figures as well. While Toy Biz figures were kinda cheap and bright, these figures were a little more on the higher quality and darker looking figures to properly suited the movie.  Instead of just releasing ONE version of Batman and ONE version of the Joker, Kenner decided to start a trend that would leave an impact of superhero toys forever: Variants. Yep. While Masters of the Universe created multiple variants of the same character, Kenner perfected the idea by rolling out so many alternate Batman figures. The Dark Knight Collection had several variants and versions of Batman and The Joker that didn't appear in the movie or...well...anywhere else. To this day, I don't ever recall seeing Batman appear in a comic wearing all gold. Now, I'm not saying these were bad figures. Hardly. In fact, it spiced up a concept that, by all means, should've ended after Toy Biz sent their toys out. But, the varieties of Batman and Joker were a hit for Kenner and the variants would continue over many toy lines and many years.



Variants that were showcased in the Kenner toy catalog. Credit: 1989Batman.com



The figures accessories were a great draw too. Grappling hooks, rocket launchers, and small weapons were implemented to draw more sales in. And it worked. I can remember coming home from Kiddy City and tearing open my Crime Attack Batman and watched as he immediately went to to work on eliminating the terror of Sky Escape Joker. The only complaint I had as a 7 year old was their arm and knee joints didn't bend like they're Super Powers predecessors. Still, the sculpts and paint jobs for these figures were pretty darn amazing and couldn't be beaten. To this day, I'd gladly say the Bruce Wayne/Michael Keaton sculpt was one of the best sculpts to this day. Take a look at the likeness below.
For 1990, it sure was a great likeness. Credit: My collection.

These figures were quite the enjoyable playthings and still hold a special place in my heart as one of my favorite toys from that era. I had quite the handful including the Batmobile, which still ranks as my favorite Batmobile design. Many other vehicles were released in the line such as the Batwing, Joker Cycle, and a Batcave among others. The Batcave mold used in this toy line, would be used by Kenner/Hasbro for many years through many other Batman lines throughout the 90s and proved to be a pretty popular item. Although, in my opinion, the Toy Biz Batcave was my personal favorite of the two.
Kenner's Batcave. Credit: 1989Batman.com






At the same time, Kenner was willing to offer children the opportunity to become Batman themselves with roleplay gear including a utility belt, a walky talky, binoculars and even a Batman mask to further the fantasy. And again, it was pretty cool. What wasn't cool was when we got in trouble for beating up our older brother while calling him the Joker. Sorry, Ian.



Top and Bottom:Crime Control Set Roleplay Set and  Batman Armor Set. Both photos credited to 1989Batman.com


Interesting sidenote, apparently Robin and Penguin were to appear in this line as well. But according to James, writer of 1989Batman.com: "Initially the early Batman Returns figures were slated to be included in the Dark Knight Collection as its last wave. The packaging would have featured the large artwork seen on the Returns' package, but with the DKC logo. This might help explain why Robin and the repainted Super Powers Penguin ended up in the Returns line (since neither reflected what appeared in the film). Of course, this could have simply been Kenner's way of buying time until the Returns line was approved and ready to ship and these figures were intended to be the first wave of Returns all along...". So with that said, it seems Dark Knight Collection could've been a lot more of an "Expanded Batman Universe" toy line if continued. Maybe more movie-styled designs of comic characters who hadn't appeared in the movies could've gotten the Kenner treatment. But of course, with more movies, means more designs and more toy opportunities. Of course with the release of the Batman sequel Batman Returns, Kenner realized what a money maker they had and continued the variants well into the late 2000s over numerous Batman related lines. Eventually Dark Knight Collection ended and quietly merged into the Batman Returns line.

From 1990 to 2006, Kenner held the DC Comics properties close until it was time to move on. After a very long and fruitful partnership, DC Comics granted Mattel the license to their action figures. While the new figures are pretty amazing and fantastic display pieces, nothing will replace the fun and uniqueness of the Dark Knight Collection.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm seeing my Joker provoke that Shadow Wing Batman on the shelf and it can't end too well...

Much thanks and credit to James of 1989Batman. I couldn't complete this without his assistance and allowing me to use so much of his catalog scans and photos. Please check out his very informative blog for everything Batman.

-Chad

Friday, January 10, 2014

Flashback Figure Friday: Mondo Gecko


At the height of the Ninja Turtle craze, Playmates was banging out some awesome figures. Most of which we remember fondly, some not as much. But today, I present to you a figure we all remember: MONDO GECKO

The First Mondo Gecko circa 1990


As with most of the toy line, the figure itself was pretty outrageous. Playmates touted the fact that they could make unusual creations out of plastic and coat it in neon and Mondo Gecko may be one of their best offerings. Between his "move aside, I'm a rebel" look, rad street gear and gnarly skateboard, his presentation made every 7 year old boy beg their parents for just one more figure and it sure as heck wasn't gonna be Fugitoid. No. This was one figure we all NEEDED. Mondo Gecko seemed to be an ally of the Turtles, and while my knowledge of his appearance of his appearance in the cartoon is fuzzy, I'd imagine he sounded like a stereotypical 80s/early 90s radical party dude/surfer who was always repeating stuff Spicolli would say to Mr. Hand.
I can't figure out a good caption that would do this justice.


Getting back to the figure itself, the oddness that is Mondo Gecko always seemed to stand out even in the weird world of the Turtles. And quite frankly, it's not one thing you can point to. It just stands out. Sure, by 1990, a skateboarding lizard shouldn't shock us or even wow us, especially when we have Turtles traveling to space, but it did. And to this day, I still can't put my finger on what made him such a cool figure.  Sadly, messing up a great concept is what Playmates was known for in the later series by giving fan favorite figures a lot of awful variants. And in 1992, Playmates decided to make a second version of Mondo Gecko. This time bedecked in hippy gear resulting in what looks like a giant acid trip gone wrong...
"Rock N Roll Mondo Gecko" circa 92. Just Say No.


As far as his return, I haven't kept up with the new series like I should, but I have serious doubts Mondo Gecko would return as a figure. It's a pretty solid figure, but one that was very dated. I sincerely hope I can walk into a store again and see Mondo on the shelf again, but alas, it may be just a dream.

-Chad

PS-There's still time to enter the Snowday Emergency Kit! Just click here and read how you can read some awesome stuff!!!

Photo Credits(respectively):  StrangeKidsClub, The TurtlePedia, and The Sewer Den.