My Top 5 Boy Toys
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Author’s Note: this is a post about toys, not about hunks.
I have no idea how many toys have passed in and out of my fingers.
Batman, Heman, Superman, The Ninja Turtles and Dick Tracey all shared real estate in a big plastic bin in my closet.
Toys stuck to their type, unless there was a “clash of worlds” bout, some of which were as exciting as:
Big GI-JOES vs. Small GI-JOES
“Swarm em’ boys!” the small General Hawk would cry as the small GI-JOES overpowered their larger cousins.
The Big GI-JOES had “realistic hair.” Their realistic hair never saved them from being swarmed by smaller Joe’s, of which we had many more.
Other matchup’s weren’t so hot.
Hot Wheels vs. Ninja Turtles
“Step on the cars dudeeeeees!” Michelangelo would cry.
Toy Soldiers vs. Anything
Oh look! The soldiers are frozen in such cool poses! This one has been shot. Isn’t even holding a gun. Why is he an action figure? The only action this soldier is doing is dying. They don’t stand a chance against any figure that can bend its knees.
The best matchup ever, in my years of toy-playing was a triple threat:
GI-JOE and BARBIE vs ALADDIN
My cousin, Katie, owned a small, pink section of a plane in which Barbie could act out ever girl’s dream of being a stewardess. “Barbie Stewardess” came with one outfit and a hand cart with realistically painted beverage cans lining the sides.
Katie wanted to follow the instructions of the “Barbie Stewardess” playset. She wanted Barbie to do the duties of a stewardess, and she must be the best! Look! Mr. Penguin needs a can of coke in isle three! I have that! I can tell because my hand cart has realistically painted beverage cans.
Bored out of our minds by watching Barbie fetch soda for stuffed animals, my brother Alex and I decided to spice up the “Barbie Stewardess” storyline. We’d brought a Large GI-JOE from home to be our reinforcements against Katie’s girl toys. And good thing we did, because Disney’s Aladdin was on that plane, and he was a super secret fucking terrorist!
“No he’s not!” Katie cried. “He’s a prince!”
“The only thing he’s prince of is terror.” My brother shot back.
Aladdin was well trained, even though his fingers were molded together into permanent, flipper like cups. In seconds, it was all over. Aladdin took Stewardess Barbie and the rest of the passenger’s (Mr. Penguin, his wife Mall Barbie and Kermit the Frog) hostage and announced his demands. He wanted to be given control of the world, and he wanted to marry “Stewardess Barbie” even though she was already engaged to GI-JOE
“Barbie doesn’t like GI-JOE. Barbie like Ken!” said Katie, pleading us to see reason.
Unbeknownst to Aladdin, GI-JOE was riding in the plane’s baggage hold below (i.e. resting on the carpet beside the plane) and had heard every word! He had to save the world, and stop Aladdin from marrying his fiancée, Stewardess Barbie.
Aladdin was growing violent. He had shot Kermit in the Leg for information, but Kermit had passed out and “wasn’t gonna be tellin’ nobody nothin.” He was now harassing Mr. Penguin, who’s wife Mall Barbie kept pressing him to “Just be a real Penguin and punch his lights out. He doesn’t even have a gun!”
GI-JOE had a gun, and was in position. He kicked in the plastic door flap and rolled into the room.
Aladdin threw Stewardess Barbie aside and shouted:
“GI-JOE! I knew you would come. I’m gonna marry your girlfriend! but first I’m going to kill you BWHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”
Their battle was epic, plastic head cracking against plastic head, small plastic gun firing invisible bullets making invisible puncture wounds that oozed invisible blood.
Aladdin put up a good fight, but took two to the head in the end. He flopped to the floor of the plastic airplane, a pretend gaping hole in the plastic fez molded onto his head.
GI-JOE grabs Stewardess Barbie and totally make out cause their engaged.
All in all, the most exciting fucking day of Stewardess Barbie’s life.
Katie never wanted to play with Alex and I after that.
That experience is one of reasons why Boy Toy’s always seemed cooler then Girl’s Toy’s when I was a kid.
There was the Baby Alive doll, whose sole function was to shit its pants.
But not all Boy’s Toy’s were created equal. There were the elites and the wannabies. The following are the elites, toy’s with whom I had the most fun, created the most storylines for, and broke the most.
5) Battle Beasts
Our neighbors, David and Jack Talsma, had the greatest toy collection of all time. They had all the GI-JOE vehicles. They even had the anti-aircraft gun mobile command set. Cobra didn’t stand a chance!
But the greatest of their treasures was their Battle Beast collection
Battle Beasts were a Japanese import and, therefore, were impossible to find in Michigan. The figures were composed all of your favorite animals with awesome cyborg attachments!
There was Deer Stalker, a stag with a sweet 80’s visor and a drill hand, and Rocky Rhino, a rhinoceros with a mace for a hand and a harpoon, and they road around in giant plastic play sets, one was a tank shaped like a rhinoceros beetle and the other a flying fortress molded after a phoenix.
It was 1996. The Talsmas were moving to Hawaii and they were holding a garage sale. Every single one of their coveted toys was up for grabs, including their entire set of Battle Beasts in two McDonald’s carrying cases, one marked David the other marked Jack. My brother and I bought everything. Everything. It was like a triple fucking Christmas.
Battle Beasts weren’t all about fun and games. They were political. Each Beast belonged to one of three factions: Earth, Fire and Wood. You would rub a heat sensitive sticker on the front of each Beast to reveal his Power Faction in a rock-paper-scissors type game (fire beat wood, wood beat water, water beat fire)
My brother Alex and I quickly memorized the “Power Faction” of each beast, making the rock-paper-scissors game pointless, but the Power Factionsdid help set up intricate power plays between beasts, usually between Rocky Rhino, the hard-nosed leader of the Wood Faction and Deer Stalker, the brilliant but power hungry king of the Fire Faction while Blitzkrieg Bat played both sides.
The Battle Beasts now lay dormant in the cement and stone cellar of my parent’s house in Reed City, in a shelf of honor reserved for toys just too damn good to sell, and will someday surely be written into my will and passed to my next of kin.
4) Master’s of the Universe
One aspect that always sunk a toy line for me was when there was a distinct lack of villains. How many fucking different Batmans do you need? Do you need both Hang Glider Batman and Ice Shield Batman to defeat The Mad Hatter? The fucking Mad Hatter? Why was this guy even an action figure? He comes with a tea cup? Is he supposed to throw that at Flame Thrower Batman’s head?
Therefore, the thing that really set Heman above the rest was that he had so many enemies. Everybody wanted a piece, from Skeletor to the Snake Men. And every Flea Market I’ve ever frequented has introduced me to a new foe on Herman’s endless shit list. Look out, it’s Bumblebee Man! Beware the fist of Bearded Guy!
Skeletor was always behind it all, pulling the strings from the shadows and riding around on his large, purple jungle cat.
I also had a headless version of Skeletor which became his evil ghost twin. He would show up halfway through the action and give Heman spooky warnings.
One of the best “Clash of World’s” bouts I ever had was with Master’s of the Universe figures and GI-JOE.
The storyline was: A team of elite GI-JOES was selected to infiltrate a pyramid located deep within the Amazon, a pyramid that housed countless traps and Heman villains, in order to capture billions in Nazi gold. I stole the idea from a Macintosh game called Pathway’s Into Darkness, a first person shooter made by Bungie long before they created the Halo series.
Once they entered the pyramid, the GI-JOES were picked off one by one. Snowjob was carried off by Bumblebee Man on the staircase of doom, while General Hawk met his end by triggering a trap that filled a room of the pyramid with blood. Only Roadblock made it to the end, where he sacrificed himself to defeat the ultimate evil lurking deep within the pyramid’s imaginary bowels. I even drew a picture of the pyramid, marking and describing each of the rooms and subsequent traps.
Needless to say, I had a lot of time on my hands as a kid.
3.) Star Wars
Everyone in Star Wars became a toy. EVERYONE. That random guy in the Mos Eisley Catina with horns, yep, action figure.
They even made a figure of Admiral Ozzel.
Admiral Ozzel, in The Empire Strikes Back, is choked to death by Darth Vader after a fatal blunder. True to life, the plastic Admiral Ozzel came with his hand wrapped permanently around his throat.
All right! A toy with ultimate choking action!
I owned the figure of Ozzel, he would always show up in the midst of an epic battle between the Empire and the Rebels and start to choke and, in doing so, foil the Rebels.
I was obsessed with Star Wars toys. They filled my closet. I had to have it all, every stupid fucker in the Mos Eisley Catina or Jabba’s Palace was in my shoe box. But these weren’t all for play. Oh no, these toys were an investment.
Star Wars introduced me to the obsession of toy collecting, and how certain variants of a figure are worth more to collectors then others. In the 1995 first Power of the Force issue of the basic line, all the jedi’s light sabers were short and, as it turns out, a massive choking hazard. The figures were quickly re-issued with longer light sabers, meaning that:
Short sabers + Choking hazard = COLLECTABLE!
As with any obsession, there were the holy grails. One particular figure from the original 70’s line of Star Wars figures (that, by and large, look like rejects from The Partridge Family) was the uber rare figure of Yak-Face.
Yak-Face was a guy who, you guessed it, had the face of a yak.
His parents were literalists.
Well, Kenner (the manufacturer of all Star Wars figures) thought that a toy named Yak-Face was really dumb and no kid in their right mind would buy it.
Kenner’s European branch thought differently, and unleashed Yak-Face upon thousands of hapless European children.
The toy failed.
And Yak-Face was soon forgotten. That is, until the kids that bought Star Wars toys in the 70’s grew up and continued to buy Star Wars figures with real money.
Yak-Face, being such a useless, inferior toy, was exceedingly rare, and collectors went wild trying to track it down. So…
Idiotic Toy = COLLECTABLE!
I had a lot of fun with my Star Wars armadas, but business always seemed to get in the way. I still have a few scattered vehicles and figures lying about, the last shattered survivors of a once obsessive collection.
GI-JOES were my go-to action men. I made thousands of B-Movies with hack job scripts and bad accents, all starring the GI-JOES. Basically, this amounted to me shutting myself in my room with a bunch of action figures and talking to myself for hours, shouting things like:
“You’ll never get the secret plans… you’ll have to kill me first! YEARGGGGGGG!”
My favorite scenario was that of one lone Joe taking on the rest. Didn’t matter which faction the figure belonged to, GI-JOE or COBRA, they were all evil and must be stopped. Snake Eyes was my go-to lone wolf, the single ninja assassin taking out thirty Joes-gone-bad.
As the years progressed, the plots became more complicated. There were twists, turns, sometimes the scenarios even had bad endings, with Snake Eyes getting taken down in a hail of bullets and the world blowing up.
The Joe’s fought zombies, they fought turtles, they fought Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, did battle with Legos, and holed up in intricate Lincoln Log fortresses that would always blow up in a spectacular explosion, scattering logs to the far corners of the room.
I remember exactly when I played out my last B-Movie with the Joes.
It was Christmas Eve and I was twelve. I was up late bringing the latest story to its epic climax, which was Snake Eyes and General Hawk squaring off on the back of a Jeep. General Hawk was knocked off the Jeep by a well timed kick from Snake Eyes and was holding desperately onto Snake Eye’s leg. Snake Eyes pulled a grenade from his belt, pulled out the pin, said “Bombs away,” before shoving the grenade into General Hawk’s mouth and kicking him away. General Hawk then fell off a well placed cliff before exploding right before he hit the ground.
I put my toys away and, for the first time since I’d completed a GI-JOE storyline, I felt empty. Something had left during the night, and the enjoyment of plotting intricate scenarios with my Joes never returned.
LEGOS, the grand-daddy-masters of all toys.
You could build anything, from police stations to pirate ships (well, almost everything, a LEGO nuclear reactor was in talks but never came to fruition)
My brother Alex and I had three large, plastic bins full of loose LEGO pieces, with the occasional pirate ship hull or castle wall jutting out from the scrap heap. We would dive into these bins again and again, the chaotic mix of two piece, three piece, five piece blocks swirling together to form multi-colored planes, trains, and automobiles.
Alex’s LEGO creations were always structurally sound, with key load bearing pieces that ensured a safe, playworthy vehicle.
My LEGO creations were all deathtraps, poorly conceived and executed amalgamations of rainbow colored pieces that would fall apart at the slightest touch.
LEGO’s proved, once and for all, that I was not destined to be an aerospace engineer.
However, the desired end of all of my LEGO creations was not functionality, it was destruction.
I built gigantic LEGO planes that would crash land onto LEGO islands where the LEGO passengers would get eaten by LEGO cannibals.
My greatest joy was to take vehicles that my brother had carefully constructed (Oh look, a vintage Bi-Plane!) and smash them to bits. Not maliciously, of course, but simply because a well constructed machine is that much cooler to destroy.
The LEGO universe has changed since I was a kid, and I now feel that the amount of plastic bins of random parts are being quickly replaced by carefully molded, licensed tie ins (Harry Potter LEGOS!!!!) that are about as creative as paint-by-numbers kits.
Our plastic bins of old-school LEGO wonder have survived the test of time, and have now been passed onto our nephews Grayson and Gentry, and niece Gaia, who will undoubtedly spend hours of their childhood carefully constructing things of LEGO beauty before smashing them to bits.
THE WALL OF SHAME
Not all Boy Toy’s were as fun, or safe, as my top 5. Here’s a quick roundup of some of the most notable toy rejects from my childhood:
Wow! You can mold floam into anything! That kid made a floam dinosaur in the commercial! A floam hat! HOLY SHIT! I got floam for Christmas… I can’t wait to….. wait… what the fuck is this goop? I can’t mold this into anything… wait… now it’s dry? What the fuck!
Every kid had a dried, walled up ball of floam that they would occasionally pull out and curse at, one of the great joys of growing up in the 90’s.
It’s an easy bake oven that makes bugs!
Part of the “repackage girl toys and market them to boys by making them gross,” wave, CREEPY CRAWLERS offered all of the danger of the easy bake oven without any of the brownies. The only thing the Creepy Crawler’s Oven really did well was heat up and burn someone.
Burn your friends, Burn yourself, with CREEPY CRAWLERS!
What’s lamer then firing a foam dart at your friends? Firing more foam darts, in rapid succession! Not only did NERF foam darts quickly get lost, but projectiles made out of foam are about as aerodynamic as a kitchen sponge. This would lead to anti-climactic gun fights where you would pull out your awesome NERF crossbow, aim it at your unsuspecting friend, and then watch your NERF arrow get carried away by the wind and planted by a nearby tree.
The only thing worse than a NERF gun was the Super Soaker Oozinator, another entry into the “gross” genre of boy’s toys and possible one of the worst ideas for a toy EVER. Any parent who was stupid enough to buy an Oozinator for their child got what they deserved.
There you have it, loyal BFD readers, the good the bad and the gross boy’s toy’s from my idealized youth.
What were your favorite toys growing up? Or, what was the toy that you loathed so much that even to speak its name around you was blasphemy?
BFD wants to know, post below!
I remember for years I begged my mom for just a little bit of Gak. She was afraid that I would make too much of a mess, in which I would reply “Of course, that’s the point”. Then Floam came out, at the same time as Smell My Gak. I wanted Pizza Gak, my mom said I could get Floam. I declined. Fast forawrd 2 months, I was desperate for sustenance, and my friend was surprisingly bored with his Floam. So I gave him my lunch money, he gave me the Floam. We weren’t that good of friends after that. All it would do was crumble! The shit wouldn’t even bounce like they did in the commercials! It just dried all the time, and smelled like absolute garbage. After 2 hours, I had lost all faith in Nickelodeon-based toys. That was, until Keenan & Kel’s Emergency Good Burger and Orange Soda Kit came out. Delicious!
ah yes…when you are an aerospace engineer, every lego plane or spaceship you build actually flies.
Unless it’s the Space Shuttle Columbia. Ohh!
ahh…legos…so many hours devoted to the creation of modern marvels…everything from lego flocks of birds to lego cities…
one thing that sticks out from my childhood was when me and my older brothes used to construct entire cites out of popsicle sticks…fill them with unwanted toys….add a little well placed gasoline…. then build a ramp for my flaming hotwheel car….jump it into the citie and watch it burn…
It’s cool that you get to see people who read your blog in person. I know plenty of Chicagoans read this blog, but we’d never recognize each other on the street.
My List Goes:
1. CJ (hopefully he takes being number one in a good way)
2. George Clooney
3. JTT (Jonathan Taylor Thomas for those of you who aren’t as close.. This is more of a reminiscence)
4. Ken (he was a boy, technically, I think, and a toy)
5. Creepy Crawlers
And yes, I read the disclaimer, I just chose to ignore it.
Honorable mention: Jason Statham