4/22/16

THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK "Story Cards" (Dixie, 1981)

Now we are to the vintage SW promotional sets that I haven't even finished yet, but plan to.
Star Wars-themed Dixie Cups were always a thing, from the very beginning of the saga.  They continued through RETURN OF THE JEDI, and many styles were produced, in many, many boxes, which featured cool artwork and cardboard items that could be cut from the back of the boxes.
Card 2 Front
In 1981, to further promote THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK, a series of "Story Cards" were included inside "specially marked boxes."  The cards, if you can call them that, were really just heavier-stock paper, and small at that, and came in strips of four.  The idea was, you could assemble the entire set, and send off for an ESB poster that had spaces to attach your cards.  The completed poster told the story of the film.
From what I've read, the strips were pretty random, and I'm sure it was hard to complete the set.  The mail-away poster also included one of two OTHER 4-card subsets (I think one was Rebel and one was Imperial?), making completion even more difficult.
Card 6 Front
What I have so far are two strips, one cut, the other uncut, for your enjoyment!
Card 8 Front

 

Card 14 Front
 

Uncut Strip: Cards 22, 12, 5, and 15.
I'm on the hunt for a complete set, and you can be sure I will update with scans whenever that finally happens.

4/19/16

Godzilla Minimates SERIES 3 At Last!

For a series that was originally supposed to stop at 1, we are extremely lucky to see Series 3 arrive! Thank you, Art Asylum.  Now let's take a closer look at the figures that make up what is really a 5-pack!
Burning Godzilla is not my favorite incarnation of the Big G, but as the first two Godzilla Minimates they gave us were pretty similar, this one is iconic enough to be different.  Plus, I understand that you have to include a Godzilla with each series, or they probably wouldn't sell as well.
Also, his flaming breath is removable, like the one from Series 2.  If you have a Lego-sized book, he can do an impression of the Statue of Liberty.
Next up is Rodan, and I am sort of split on this figure.  He's good, but clearly hearkens to later incarnations of Rodan.  Not that that's a bad thing, he just turns out sort of bulky.  
Also the wings are a bit wonky, but how do you make a Minimate with wings, and still have him be posable? As I recall, the Vulture's wings are single pieces, but Rodan's are bigger, so I'm sure it was a matter of playability.
You end up with unnatural poses, such as the one above, but then again, Rodan's hands are, honestly, not very useful to him, in actuality. (I started to put "in reality" there, which is a field day for you psychology students out there, I'm sure...let's move on!)
Before I forget, they do give you one of the standard Minimate "flight stands," so that Rodan can fly, which was a nice touch!
Megalon is next, and I think that this Minimate is a work of art.  It may be because he's an under-represented character, or it may be because his movie is much maligned, but I'll defend him to the end.  After all, he's my favorite giant bug kaiju that spits flaming poo-balls.
Plus, they nail the decoration on his back.  Just an all-around perfect Minimate.
Ah, but there is still more.  We had previously gotten an adult Mothra, and Art Asylum now regales us with not one, but TWO of the Mothra larvae!  What's more, instead of phoning it in, and making them completely identical, one torso bends upward, while the other is ground level.  It's small touches like that one that make me happy.
I have to say though, I was confused from the initial photographs about the footprint-looking spaces on their sides.  I wondered if it was a lever to make the heads extend or move, but I was wrong.  One of the apparent tennants of the Minimates line is to make them interchangable, so that kids can combine parts in a way they want to.  I mentioned "playability" earlier, and I know that there will be some grumbling about these spaces (and each larva has two, one on each side), and that's when their true purpose hit me.
Just wrong, on so many levels.
All in all, a very welcome and solid Series 3.  No further series have been announced, but we can always hold out hope.  If we could just have a Series 4 with Angilas, King Ghidorah (which would be tough, admittedly), and Baragon...or a DESTROY ALL MONSTERS box set...I can dream.

4/13/16

Lego 30603 - Classic TV Mr. Freeze Polybag!

Since we covered the amazing 1966 Batcave set, we'd be remiss if we didn't mention this late addition.  A polybag from Lego--one of those deals where you get it if you order $75 or more--it can be found for reasonable prices through dealers. (For now.)
Played on the show by three actors, this one to me looks like the Otto Preminger Mr. Freeze, mostly because of the eyebrows.  But they nailed it either way.  If I remember my trivia correctly, the show popularized the character name, as there had only been a "Mr. Zero" in the Golden Age comics.  I'm just freewheeling here, without looking it up, mind you.
The wind-up key on the backpack is a nice Lego touch!  Since they were able to issue Mr. Freeze by himself, it makes me wonder about any other potential future releases.  A Batgirl with her motorcycle would be a nice addition!

4/1/16

Star Wars "Darth Vader Card Game" Fun Meal (Burger Chef/Coca-Cola, 1978)

While not really Star Wars TRADING cards, this item does include vintage Star Wars cards, of a sort.  You may know that fast food chain Burger Chef had a Star Wars promotion that included a whole slew of their "Fun Meal" boxes, with punch-out models of spaceships and droids.  (As well as a set of four famous posters that were offered.) Also included in that promotion was this particular "Fun Meal" box, which featured the Darth Vader card game.

Before we look at that, check out the cool art for the main section of the box.  As you can see, each section would have been punched out, because the assembled box held the food and drink.  But what a shame it would be to interrupt this artwork!
When assembled, the box had a 2-sided back panel that stood up vertically, and this was where the FUN was located.  In this case, we get a punch-out game of tiny cards, about half the size of a standard trading card.  What's more, many of the images are promotional; official reference images instead of just screenshots.
When the 23 cards are punched out, kids could play a matching game, apparently similar to "Old Maid," except that Darth Vader is the Old Maid (there's a sentence).
It's really a clever concept, and the boxes are a smart design.  I never had a Burger Chef in my area, so I couldn't really tell you how long these boxes were used.  McDonald's, on the other hand, maintained their Happy Meal box design for years.  Here's a better look at the instructions:
Luckily, a lot of these boxes were preserved, and are still out there.  I know if I had gotten one of these as a kid, I would have punched the cards out and used them, so I'm glad to have everything in one place.  Storing it carefully is going to be an issue, because it's bigger than a magazine-sized comic bag, and a tiny bit wider than a "treasury"-sized comic bag.  I guess I'm going to have to use an LP-sized bag to protect it.
As you can see, we are quickly running out of vintage SW card sets, but I have one more honorable mention to save for next time.

3/31/16

Scalpers Can SUCK IT (part three)

[ENGAGE RANT]

I haven't reported on this in a while, because of general disgust.  BUT.  This is becoming an almost weekly event in my life.  I have photographed two recent instances, but trust me, there have been more.

As I have pointed out in two previous articles, Walgreen's and Target are being ripped off quite a bit in my area, and losing all kinds of money (by the way, Walgreen's is the largest retail recipient of shoplifting losses in the nation, did you know that?).  And, what's more, if you've read my previous articles, then you know they completely deserve it.

Which doesn't make any of this right:  just because stupid people exist, doesn't mean that theft is okay (despite what politicians do).  I call them "scalpers" because it strikes a chord, but that isn't accurate.  Scalpers are people who (pretty much) legally buy items and resell them.  It's bad form, but it's capitalism.  Thieves are people who, well, steal things.  Because they want them "more" than you, and think that they "deserve" them more than you, or your children, who (pretty much) plan on buying the items with hard-earned money, or allowance.

Ranting aside, here are the two examples I have run across in the last few days.  Far be it from me to waste my energy showing them to the store manager.  I've tried it, nobly, and failed, ignobly, so somebody else can take over on that failed crusade.


 On the left, what I believe to be the new "Venom" figure, which has been replaced, crudely, with some sort of X-Men figure that is so lame, I have no idea who or what it is.  On the right, a Carnage head that's been stolen from another new Spider-Man (which almost seems tame to me, lately, in the wake of some of the bolder things I've seen):
Again, the figure is correct (although lame: Blizzard), but the two pieces of the Hulk-Buster Build-A-Figure have been lifted, and replaced with...a Happy Meal toy keychain thing and an action figure stand....I mean, not even trying.  And, keep in mind, Zippy the wonder-retail-employee let this pass, and gave the guy his refund!   

You could say that this is what happens when action figures become $22, but that doesn't help anything, and losses definitely won't lower manufacturer prices.  Lego used to have a similar problem, (in-store theft) which is why minifigures are scattered in various bags today, and harder to quickly find.  So what is the outcome here? That retailers stop allowing toy returns? Which of course, punishes the rest of us!

[TERMINATE RANT]

We now return you to your normal Internet day...

3/30/16

Vintage Star Wars Cards: Random Foreign & Bootleg Cards!

In the early days of Star Wars collecting, you were lucky if you had a book, or a friend with knowledge, to help you to know what was out there.  These days, of course, we have the Internets, so we are much better off.  In my Star Wars card collecting, I picked up some interesting oddities along the way:

Here is card #64A from the UK Topps Star Wars set.  I have read that the first (Blue) series was identical to their American counterparts, but for the second series, the photos were scrambled, and the numbering was always followed by an "A."  As far as I know, the backs were unchanged.  For example, this card features the photo and slogan from American card #78.
The Topps cards were also issued in Mexico, but apparently the actual release was done by another company.  Here are the front and backs of card #13:
And here are both sides of card #45, with the lightsabers still uncolored, just as in the American cards:
The back includes something else you don't see anymore:  the stain where the piece of gum used to be!
In Japan, the cards were better, because of course they were.  Yamakatsu (who also issued more than one set of wonderful, small Godzilla cards) issued a set that was almost postcard-sized (no doubt because of the Japanese fondness for bromide cards) and glossy.  It was a smaller set, with only 33 in the entire series.  Strangely, they don't appear to be numbered; at least I can't find any clue on this one that I have.  The back gives the collector a couple of spaceship diagrams, too:
I don't know much about this card, other than what's on the back.  It's more of a slip of glossy paper than a trading card, and it's about 50% of the size of a standard trading card.
It's #76, and came from Costa Rica, as you can see.  I was lucky enough to get the wrapper that it came in:
And as you can see, definitely made in Costa Rica.  No idea how many came in a pack, or how many there were in the whole set.
The Greek bootleg set is a very famous, and very notorious, set among collectors.  It apparently showed up in 1980, and it's supposed to be a very large set, and a very difficult one to assemble, if that's even possible, due to limited availability, and being a bootleg and all that.  If I remember right, there are even cards in the set that have nothing to do with Star Wars (once again, bootleg). Here is the front of card #136, and here is the back:
As you can see, it's extremely un-fancy, but what did you expect?  I was also lucky enough to get the wrapper, which is even cruder:
I'd love to see more of these, but I've honestly never run into any more in all my years of collecting.
In Canada, the Return of the Jedi Topps cards were issued by Opee-Chee, and otherwise identical to their American counterparts (except for being bilingual).  Here is the front of card #24, and below is the back:
These days, we are used to seeing extra languages on our products, but back then, you never saw that in the US.
The above card is #250 from a series of small cards that were issued in Sweden.  That's all I know.  Apparently the set was big enough to include some unique pictures and artwork.  The cards also had plain backs with no printing.

Similarly, in the Netherlands, a small-sized card set was made for Return of the Jedi.  The Darth Vader card is #2, and the Boba Fett one is #61.  They also had plain backs.