Death Star Playset

On a recent Saturday afternoon, I spent some fantastic quality time with my nine year old daughter.  Together we enjoyed playing with Star Wars figures, in this case some of those from my vintage collection.

I also dug out my Death Star playset, and we set about playing scenes from the film.

Or at least I did, she was more interested in making her own stories up.  Why won’t anyone sensibly recreate the movie with me?  Ever?!  Ah well, at least she had fun.

Now, your Highness, we will discuss the location of hidden Rebel Base…

Perhaps she would respond to an alternative form of persuasion?

All of my Star Wars toy collection means a lot to me, but there are a few items I have that I’m really proud of – and stoked to own.  This Death Star Playset is one of the outstanding pieces in the collection.

It’s made from cardboard sections that slot together, creating a number of rooms in which to recreate scenes from the film.  Rescue Princess Leia and escape via the garbage chute?  No problem.  Have Han Solo chase a squad of stormtroopers into a dead end?  Easily accomplished.

It was bought second hand – along with a few other playsets – back in the early 80s, when I was about 10.  Someone advertised them for sale in the local paper, and my Dad bought them for me.  I was very happy as I’d wanted this playset (and the others) for a long time.  I think the lot cost about £20 at the time, which is a pretty good price.

The Death Star on it’s own is probably worth a lot more than that now.  Although it’s not in mint condition – the box is pretty beaten up (always was) and there are a few tears here and there, as you can see in the photos.  In the USA, they had a plastic Death Star, and this Palitoy UK cardboard version is quite sought after over there.

It was fantastic fun, bringing back a lot of great memories.  I enjoyed setting the figures up and recreating little scenes from the film. The cell block fight and the trash compactor were great, in particular.

Recreating mini versions of the film with my figures was always a major goal for me – still is!  With this playset that aim became much more attainable.  When I was a kid, I only had two stormtroopers and one Death Squad Commander, so my Death Star looked a little empty.  Over the years I’ve added a few troops to the collection (very cheaply) and now the whole set up looks much more impressive.

The main reason I’d dug the Death Star out was to place my new “retro style” Grand Moff Tarkin figure in there.  I got him for Christmas along with the Escape the Death Star board game.  Tarkin was never made for the action figure line originally, and he was a glaring absence when trying to recreate the movie.

However, I didn’t realise that my new Tarkin was sealed on a card inside the board game box.  I didn’t dare open him.  So the Death Star is still not quite finished.

Should I have just opened Tarkin anyway?!

The Greatest Carboot Sale Find… Ever

Carboot sales can be hit and miss, to say the least.  Not that I go very often – I’m certainly no bootsale buccaneer, sailing the seas of junk.  Every now and again, I pay a visit and keep my fingers crossed for a bargain.

So I was stoked to find something amazing on a recent excursion – something I’ve wanted for nearly forty years.

If you’ve read my previous post about my Smurf figurine collection, you will know that I’ve always wanted a Smurf house as well.  I’ve always had a dream of having a tiny Smurf village full of the little blue fellas.

And what do you know?  I found this house at a carboot sale recently, complete with seven figures, for a tenner.  I didn’t even haggle (not my strongest skill, anyway) – I just parted with the cash and embraced a lifelong ambition – to own a Smurf house.

Now bearing in mind that these houses are currently going for over £30 on Amazon, I think I got a good deal.  I could’ve been charged 50p for each Smurf (at least), never mind the house.  So I think this is a real bargain.

After all these years, I am finally the proud owner of my very own Smurf house, and I am very happy indeed.  This is, without doubt, the greatest carboot sale find ever.

Ewok Village Playset

I have a lot of Star Wars toys.  Not everything, but a lot of stuff.  Most of it was collected when the toys were originally released, back when I was a kid.  Luckily, I’ve kept them all, and since the late nineties I’ve sporadically added to the collection.

The Ewok Village Playset was a toy I never owned as a kid.  Released as part of the Return of the Jedi toy line, it’s a large and feature packed set that provides a perfect home for your cuddly-yet-vicious little Empire destroyers.

There’s a fire for roasting Han Solo; a net for capturing rebels; a throne for C-3PO; an elevator for lifting figures up – and a secret escape chute for them to escape down.  All of these neat play features and more; plus it makes a cool diorama for displaying your ROTJ action figures.

When I got into collecting Star Wars toys again in the late 90s, the Ewok Village was on my list of “wants”.  I tracked this example down to a toy shop in Manchester and picked it up for £60, if I remember correctly.

I don’t think that shop is still there now.  Or at least, I’ve not found it on subsequent visits.  It seems to have vanished mysteriously into thin air…

Although opened, this Ewok Village was complete in box, with all the bits packed inside in little baggies.  It’s easy to assemble – before long you can start to recreate some moments from the film.

And that’s exactly what I wanted to do here, with this series of photos: showcase some of my figures from the original line, as they appear in the film.  I decided against doing a further photo session with more modern figures due to time!

There are two scenes recreated here.  Firstly, the Rebels held captive by the Ewoks, whilst 3PO sits on his wooden throne.  Han is held above the fire, about to make a tasty celebratory meal.  The others are gathered (not tethered to wooden poles as in the film, as nothing like that exists for these toys) as they attempt to persuade their way out of the situation.

Unfortunately, a figure of Leia in her Ewok robes was never made for the original line, so she’s not present.  Maybe I will have to create this again with the later figures after all, as that the Princess in that outfit was made later on.  But hey, I’m not aiming for 100% screen accuracy here, just the best I can with what I have available.

I love ensemble scenes using action figures, so another I wanted to recreate was the end of the film.  The Empire has been destroyed, the Galaxy is free: the Rebels celebrate their victory with their short, furry allies and all looks good for the future.

The ghosts of Obi-Wan, Yoda and Anakin are represented by their vintage figures, plus the main heroes are joined in their rejoicing with numerous members of the Rebel Alliance on Endor.

Ensemble scenes like this are my favourites in the movie, because it’s fun to spot random characters and details that were dropped into the film.  This is the sort of thing that creates the rich diversity of Star Wars, and what constantly intrigues me.  So, it’s nice to try to create something with toys that aims for as wide a scope.

So here are the two scenes: reasonably screen accurate, but not shackled to that original image.  I did the best I could, and it was great fun.

One big mistake?  Yes, I forgot to take a photo of the box the Ewok Village came in.  Never mind, you can Google that, should you need to.

May the Force be with you!

Meet my friend Emu

Meet my friend Emu.  Not the easiest pal to have around; he can be a little temperamental, to say the least.  Sometimes friendly, just watch out for that beak to curl – it’s a sure sign that things are going to go downhill fast…

Masters of the Universe Toys – Part 1

By the power of Grayskull!

Masters of the Universe exploded into popular culture – and my young, impressionable mind – to become one of the greatest toy lines of all time.  The characters and mythology of Eternia – built through toys, comics and an unforgettable cartoon series – has become a classic of popular culture.

The genesis of these toys has been documented elsewhere: I can thoroughly recommend the excellent documentary “The Power of Grayskull”, which you can watch on Netflix.

So here, I’ll take the opportunity to reminisce about the MOTU toys that I have in my collection – most of which have been with me since they were first released.

Prepare for full on, raw and dirty NERD MODE.

Let’s make things a little easier, and focus on just one selection of MOTU figures for now – the Heroic Warriors.

It all began with my purchase of the lead character: He-Man.  He looked so cool, very detailed for the time and a totally new size and type of design.  I was a dedicated Star Wars collector as a kid, so decided I’d buy just one MOTU figure, and that would be He-Man, of course.

But things never work out that way, and the main man would soon be followed by many friends and enemies.

The He-Man figure shown here is my original from the early eighties, complete with weapons (axe not shown) and in pretty good nick.

I never got any of the toy lines vehicles or playsets.  But I did buy He-Man’s trusty comrade, Battle Cat.  My young mind was blown by a hero who rode around on a giant green tiger!

The Battle Cat in the picture is not my original.  That one mysteriously went AWOL whilst these toys were stored in my parents’ loft.  This is a decent replacement that I picked up on eBay for an affordable price.

There are still no suspects for the theft of my original toy(s), other than the blokes who fitted some flooring in their loft a few years back.  Bastards.

Anyway, I mentioned He-Man’s buddies – and in the next pic you can see some of the earliest heroic figures to join He-Man’s quest.  Here we have Man-At-Arms, another original and complete.

There’s also Teela, who is complete though I forgot to photo her with accessories.  Teela was actually my sisters figure, who has found a home in my collection (sorry, Sian).

The next photo of Heroic Warriors includes Man-E-Faces, Ram Man, Zodac and Orko.

Zodac was the earliest release of these, though I only bought him recently (2019) at a Comic Con.  To be honest, I thought I already had him.  Zodac is only in fair condition; he’s a bit grubby and has no weapon.

I loved Man-E-Faces as soon as I saw him – a mild mannered actor, he was cursed by Skeletor to become a monster or robot at random.  Or something like that, anyway.  Turning the button on his head revolved Man-E-Faces to one of the three less desirable versions of himself.  Great character with loads of playability!  Bought him when he came out.

Ram Man was very familiar to viewers of the cartoon as he appeared regularly.  Portrayed as a non-PC in the modern age dimwit, he never the less had power as well as comedy value.  The figure came with a spring loaded leg feature to enable Ram Man to become a human battering ram.  Another I’ve owned since the dawn of time.

Orko was a figure I picked up much later, only a few years ago.  As the comedy side kick of He-man, and one of the major recurring characters in the cartoon, Orko was a necessary purchase – but one I didn’t get round to back in the eighties.

Finally, the remaining heroic characters in my collection are all ones I’ve purchased in later years – Moss Man, Sy-Klone, Fisto and Buzz Off.  I picked them up cheap and added them to my collection.

Whilst Buzz Off and Fisto are decent figures, Moss Man takes the Mattel staple of re-using existing parts to a new low: he’s just Beast Man painted green and given a furry flock effect.

There is one more pic: I couldn’t forget Prince Adam, could I?  My Adam figure was bought in more modern times, I never had him as a kid.  Unfortunately he’s missing his attractive waistcoat, but never mind – you can’t really re-enact the MOTU cartoon without this guy, can you?

Plus, removing Battle Cat’s armour gives us his fearless friend, Cringer!

Not a bad collection of Heroic Warriors – though the biggest gap is Stratos, who I thought I actually owned till I did a stock take recently.  I’ll keep an eye out for him…

I still love these toys, and they’re still played with – my daughter and I have been known to have a battle or two.

Next time, I’ll share pictures of the Evil Warriors – including everyone’s favourite skull faced villain, Skeletor!

Liverpool Comic Con 2019 – Part 1

Liverpool Comic Con

Friday 8th March – Sunday 10th March 2019

Exhibition Centre Liverpool

 

The Albert Dock was under ferocious attack from strong winds as I made my way to the Exhibition Centre for Liverpool Comic Con.  It was bitterly cold, the sky was grim – I wondered how the American guests would enjoy the weather on this visit?

Not to worry though, inside the event all was transformed into a safe refuge.  Getting in seemed very straight forward and hassle free, and as with all things Liverpool, there was a great atmosphere from the start.

This was my first visit to Liverpool Comic Con, though I’m very familiar with the city from numerous gigs, nights out and shopping trips.  Great place.  My buddy Adam was going to the convention and I tagged along to check it out.

Inside, my first impression of the huge event hall was of the life size X-Wing fighter on display – smack bang in the middle.  Sadly it was a pretend X-Wing from the new films, not a proper Episode IV to VI Incom T-65 – but it was impressive none the less.

Also on display were the A-Team van, a Back to the Future DeLorean and KITT from Knightrider (amongst various other replica vehicles and props).  It was a real thrill to see all of the cool items and grab some photos.

I’m always a big fan of investigating the merchandise stalls at a Con, and this was no exception.  There was plenty to see and spend some cash on.  Sadly there’s never enough cash, otherwise I’d have spent a fortune.  As it was I picked up some Masters of the Universe figures and Marvel comic books, so all good.

The guests were interesting, though none of them particularly appealed to me so my wallet stayed closed there.  Top of the bill were Teri Hatcher (Lois Lane), Dean Cain (Superman) and Burt Young (Paulie from Rocky) – so an impressive calibre of stars.

The real stars however were the Cosplayers.  There were some fantastic Cosplayers of all types and ages, displaying amazingly talented creations.  I tried to get as many photos as I could, which you can see here.  Thanks to everyone who posed for a photo!

All in all, Liverpool Comic Con was a great day out with enough entertainment for everyone.  I’ll definitely try to visit again next time.

In Part 2, I’ll share some pics of the props that I photographed.  In the meantime, enjoy these shots of the awesome cosplayers.

Visit the Liverpool Comic Con Website here.

Smurfs

How did the Smurf fascination begin?  I remember being a little kid in the late 70s and everyone in my class loving the “The Smurf Song” by Father Abraham and the Smurfs.  We were little and I guess we thought they were cute.

Then a couple of years later, on a family holiday in West Wales, I got one of the promotional Smurf figures from a petrol station.  It was the artist smurf.  I chose him because, even though he was a painter, I liked art.

I may have never bought another Smurf at all, after that first one, except that he got chewed up by our dog.  So I went to buy a replacement but couldn’t find the same one, and bought another.  So the collection began…

Smurfs became another one of the toys that would get played with, amongst me and my friends.  Some of the other kids had smurfs too, so we could put them all together and create little stories.  I have loads of fond memories of playing with them, outdoors on warm summer days.

Of course, there was the Hanna-Barbera cartoon too, which kept interest rolling along. 

Over time, I picked up more smurfs to add to the collection.  On holidays, sometimes a souvenir would be a Star Wars figure; other times a smurf or a comic book.  I remember my Gran always used to buy my sister and I a smurf when we went shopping with her.

Occasionally, I’ll find a character that I don’t already have at a toy collector fair or Comic Con.  Maybe even a carboot sale.  It’s still fun to find a new one to add to the collection.

I think the attraction of smurfs was the variety; like may other things I’ve collected, it’s fun to have a diverse collection of different characters.  I used to draw designs for my own Smurfs when I was a kid, too – just the same way as I designed my own superheroes.

Anyway, you can see here most of my collection (and some of my sister’s that I have for “safe keeping”).  Some of the classic characters, like Papa Smurf, Smurfette, Brainy – even Gargamel and his cat, Azrael.

Some of my favourites are the Clown, which is really detailed.  Plus of course the Skateboarder, which I’m really proud of.  I bought him before I’d ever stepped on a skateboard, so I have a real fondness for that one.

There’s loads of others out there, and I’d really love a smurf house for them.  Or several houses, to make a smurf village!  Unlikely that’ll ever happen.

That “Smurf Song” found it’s way into my burgeoning vinyl collection a while ago.  I did eventually replace the artist smurf, too.  Still got my first one, though, mangled and chewed up though he may be.

Dedicated to my great childhood friend Brendan O’Neil, who inspired my imagination all those years ago.  RIP.

Toy Cars from TV Shows

Cars were some of the earliest toys I ever had.  Small Matchbox, Dinky and Corgi cars; larger Dinky and Corgi too.  I had loads of them, many of them are still around in a giant plastic tub at my parents’ house.

Some of my favourite cars were the television and movie tie-ins; models that were based on the cars in my favourite programmes and films.  In some cases, these cars were more inspirational than the human characters.

Here are two cars that I have in my collection, neither of which date back to my childhood, however!  In fact, both are re-issued versions of 1970s classics that I always wanted but never owned.

First up is the fantastic Ford Gran Torino from Starsky and Hutch.  I Loved Starsky and Hutch when I was a nipper in the 70’s, and I always loved this car.  Such an iconic design; the white go-faster stripe flash down the side of the striking red vehicle.

I did have a smaller version of this car when I was a kid; hopefully it’s still around somewhere.  I’m really stoked to own this larger version though, with the mini Starsky and Hutch metal figures.  Starsky is even wearing his trademark cardigan!

Next up is another classic of late 1970’s TV – the General Lee from The Dukes of Hazzard.  This is the car that gave me lifelong love of Dodge Chargers.  The Confederate flag on the roof is anachronistic and awkward these days, but hey – they were simpler days.

The flag has dubious associations, but that car is COOL.  Plus it also has tiny little figures of Bo and Luke Duke with it.  No Daisy Duke though, sadly.

I never owned the General in any form when I was little, so this piece is really great to have, especially for a Charger fan like me.

Both of these cars are 1:36 scale models, re-issued by Corgi and just like the 1970’s toys I remember so well.

I’ve enjoyed this little drive down retro toy car lane; I think we’ll pay another visit with some more specimens soon.

MCM Birmingham Comic Con 2017 – Part 2

NEC Birmingham

18/19 November 2017

Here’s Part 2 of my trip to MCM Comic Con in Birmingham recently.  I took plenty of photos – far too many for one blog post – which meant that a second chapter was required!

As I said last time, there were dozens and dozens of Cosplayers at this event.  They covered characters from many different genres, be it superheroes, science fiction, fantasy and horror.

There were DC and Marvel characters; horror monsters and fantasy heroes; Disney Princesses and Star Wars characters.  You name it, you would probably have seen a costume from it.

From well known characters to the obscure; from old classics to the latest creations, there were fantastic cosplay examples of all types.  Some resembled totally authentic movie replicas and some were novel, original reinterpretations of the familiar.

All of the people that I photographed were, as always, incredibly gracious and happy to have their photo taken.  My thanks to every single one of them.

These photos are a tribute to the talent and craft, research and dedication that these people put into their hobby.

Is there anything else to say about the day?  Well I wish I had won the lottery, so I could spend a ton of money on all the goodies I saw.  Books, comics, magazines, DVDs, toys, posters – simply too much stuff to list or discuss here.

I was lucky to pick up Grandpa Munster Funko Pop for a nice cheap price (he can keep Lily Munster company on my shelf).  Unfortunately I couldn’t afford the Bride of Frankenstein Funko though – she was far too expensive.

The day was finished off nicely with the Q&A session with Anthony Daniels.  If you need me to tell you who he is, what are you doing reading this blog?!  I’ll tell you anyway.  Anthony Daniels is, of course, the golden worry pot C-3PO in all the Star Wars movies.

Mr Daniel’s Q&A was highly entertaining, covering many stories from his experiences in a galaxy far, far away.  His anecdotes were both amusing and enlightening, and his delivery kept the audience enthralled.  Sheer gold.

At the end, we set off on our journey home several pounds lighter (cash wise) and having had a great day out.  MCM Comic Con Birmingham is highly recommended to all.  The next one is March 2018 – hopefully see you there!

The MCM Birmingham website is here.

Looks like a Part 3 might be required for this Comic Con – quite a few more pics to post.  Stay tuned…

Star Wars Figures – the First 12

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Star Wars Figures – the First 12

I’m lucky to be old enough to have seen the first Star Wars film – Episode IV: A New Hope as it’s now known – back when it was first released.  I was five years old and the film was a sensation with everyone I knew in school.  It’s very hard to explain just how big a deal Star Wars was to us back then: absolutely everyone was captivated by it, and I was no exception.

Back then, we were a good few years away from video players and there was no way to view the film repeatedly.  There were stories of teenagers who saw the film twenty times at the cinema, but that wasn’t going to work for a tiny kid my age.

So other than the Marvel UK comic, the only way to relive the movie that I loved was with Kenner Star Wars figures. img_5012

I can remember first seeing the toys and being fascinated by them.  They looked really cool – we’d never really had action figures of this size, and straight out of a movie, like this before.  I was desperate to get R2-D2.  Just R2, if I couldn’t get any of the others.

After a long while I managed to persuade my parents to buy me an R2-D2 toy.  I can still recall seeing the figure, on the card, in the shop window.  There was a cycle and toy shop on the high street in Connah’s Quay in those days, known to us as the Bike Stores, which was the place to get your fix of 1970’s toy goodness. img_5013

So I got R2 and I was set.  Except it didn’t stop there.  I started collecting all the figures, and as many of the spaceships and playsets as I could, over the years.  Star Wars figures became an obsession that I still have today.

I can still remember how and when I acquired these toys, for the most part.  I remember R2 was first, I chose him as he was my favourite character.  Then I got Chewbacca from the same shop some time later, and eventually Luke from a shop in Flint.

Photos here are of the first twelve figures released from the film.  In the UK, they were all produced by Palitoy, rather than Kenner. And yes, I had them all on cards and opened them up to play with them.  Most of the figures on these photos are the original ones I collected in the late 70’s to early 80’s.  Some are replacements I bought around twenty years ago, so I could have better quality examples in my collection.

Unfortunately, my first R2-D2 figure got a bit wrecked.  There was a story in the aforementioned comic about the heroes being trapped on a water world.  So I took them all in the bath with me.  The detail on R2 was made from a paper sticker, which surprisingly (to five year old me) came off.  Luckily my friend Brendan later gave me his R2 and C3PO, shown here.  I repaired my R2 with a home made sticker, and gave this one a different colour so he could be a different droid.

Luke is a replacement I picked up in the late 90’s.  I bought Leia as the line was coming to an end in the mid 80’s, to replace my sisters battered version, so I’d have a good quality figure of my own.

Chewie still looks pretty good, and I still have his bowcaster all these years later.  There are two versions of Han Solo shown.  The “big head” version is mine from the late 70’s, the small head I picked up years later so I would have the variation.  The big head is my favourite of the two!

I’m not really a collector of variations, but I’ve also got two different hair colour Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi figures on show here.

Finally, I didn’t have this many stormtroopers when I was a kid.  I could only dream about having a whole squad!  I’ve picked the others up occasionally over the years at carboot sales and so on.  You always need troops!

Thanks Brendan O’Neil for R2-D2 and C3PO, and hours of playing Star Wars figures. img_5020