6/13/18

Bootlego Ultraman and Baltan minifigures!

Yes, these are Chinese bootlegs, but they are irresistible ones...I was very surprised to see these pop up, as the people who produce "bootlego" have moved into lots of original directions. First up is Ultraman:

It goes without saying (or typing), but I certainly hope they produce some more of the Ultra Brothers in the near future.  I ordered two of these figures, and I'm glad I did, because the dreaded Quality Control issues definitely come into play with a figure that has such a complicated paint job.  I had to mix and match parts to make one passable figure...he's not 100%, but close enough.  You will see the leftover parts shortly, in a photo below.
Next up is the Baltan:
I hope they don't go too crazy with villain kaiju, but Ultraman definitely has some great and iconic foes to be made.  There is a design flaw in the giant claws, in that they won't insert completely into the arms, and with bootlego, if it "don't fit," you "don't force it."

Baltan attack! (Insert scary slow-motion laughing here.) Here you see some of the "factory error" parts that I couldn't use, including an Ultraman head that is so mangled and mispainted, it looks downright creepy!
"GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!!!!!!!"

6/4/18

World's Fair 1982 Shopping Bag!

In going through a drawer looking for something ELSE this weekend, I uncovered this shopping bag from the 1982 World's Fair in Knoxville, Tennessee! As you can see, Pac-Man was all the rage at the time.  I also remember a giant motorized Rubik's Cube that rotated as it "worked itself." Both those things were huge at the time.  I think this bag has survived so well because of the thick plastic they used to use!

By the way, I did eventually find what I was looking for:  a feather from a vintage Big Bird suit that a friend got for me 20 years ago! Mission accomplished, with a bonus.

5/25/18

40th Anniversary of the LEGO Minifigure

Here, side by side, are two minifigures, 40 years apart! On the right, the very first minifigure, the Policeman, from set #600, made in 1978.  On the left, the "chase figure" from the newest (Series 18) set of Lego Collectible Minifigures, who is based on him!  As you can see, this first minifigure featured a sticker on the body, rather than printing. Happy birthday to the Lego Minifigure!  

5/18/18

Bootleg Gigan Figure (unauthorized, c.1985?)

You have probably seen this at some point in your travels.  It's almost a Gigan figure, but if you look closely, you will see that whoever designed this thing completely  missed the hook hands.  But, hey, good try.
The yellow figure on the right, I have had for some time.  The one on the left is a brand-new acquisition, and somehow it's an inch shorter than the yellow one.  At one time I had operated under some mis-information and thought that Imperial had made this, around the same time as their 1985 Godzilla (they didn't), but nobody knows who did.
I can tell you that both just say that they were made in China (on the feet), and do NOT have any Imperial logos anywhere.  So, it's basically what collectors call a "Chinasaur," and just an interesting collecting oddity.  
The list of Godzilla bootleg items is a pretty interesting one, and could be a whole topic in itself.  It's one of those lists that grows on a daily basis, and will never stop being added to!

5/14/18

"Godzilla King of the Monsters!" Poster (Banning Enterprises, 1985)

Without a doubt, the two biggest tidal waves of American Godzilla merchandise from my youth, were:  1978 (to promote the Hanna-Barbera series, etc.) and 1985 (to promote, of course, GODZILLA 1985).  Today's item belongs to that second group.  

What we have here is a lovely 24" x 36" poster, by an artist named Aldrich.  It was produced by Banning Enterprises, and, much like today's posters, came rolled up in a plastic sleeve:

Inside was a flyer that included a surprisingly accurate history of Godzilla.  You really have to give them credit; aside from misspelling "Serizawa," they did a great job:
On the back, an advertisement for THE GODZILLA FAN CLUB, where, for the cost of only $2.50, you would get a button and a year's subscription to THE GODZILLA GAZETTE! It would be interesting to know whatever became of this endeavor...I don't see how $2.50 was enough for a year's worth of newsletters, even back in 1985.


4/30/18

Mechagodzilla 1974 Arrives At Last (SH Monsterarts, Bandai, 2018)

First offered up for pre-order LAST OCTOBER (that was one long wait), the newest SH Monsterarts figure, Mechagodzilla 1974, has finally arrived. And, he is stunning, which is probably no surprise.


There are surprises right out of the box.  Firstly, he is painted, rather than completely molded in plastic, which means he looks amazing.  There is a sheet of soft plastic around him, even inside of the plastic tray--in fact, the only English I have seen on the instructions refers to handling the figure extremely carefully because it is painted! Clearly, they are trying to tell us something.

He includes an extra set of hands (that have the finger missiles already fired), as well as a lightning bolt effects piece, which attaches to a ball joint on a stand, which is pretty cool.  The little door on his chest opens for firing (mine was extremely difficult to open; I had to find the thinnest possible knife blade to slip in there, worrying about scratching the paint).

Also, as you can see in the instructions, he can convert to "flying mode." There is a switch on his neck that is disguised as two of the smaller fins; flipping it allows you to position his head as shown below.  Also, his shoulder armor also can fold down (but again, even the instructions say this can damage the paint, so why bother?)
My best Mechagodzilla '74 up to this point has been the Bandai Creation vinyl from the American series, and it is honestly a work of art.  Let's compare the two:
Interestingly, the vinyl is taller...the waists are at the same level, and even the shoulders are close, but everything above that is longer on the vinyl.  And, I should point out that while again, the vinyl figure is gorgeous, that is pretty much the only pose it can really make.

The fins are both accurate; the Monsterarts has an articulated tail, and probably more than even is necessary.
One weird thing on the Monsterarts figure are the spiked "knee pad" armor; they are actually loose, and can spin completely around.  Likewise, the flexible accordion-like connectors are either rings, or some other type of loose part, that also rattles around a little.  The soles of his feet are tiny metal plates, which was a surprise to me when I stood him on the glass tabletop!
What you are probably wondering is:  is he worth $100?  ($94.99 on Amazon as of this writing.)  Well, that is rather a hefty sum for an action figure, but I would say a solid 4 out of 5 stars.  With SH Monsterarts, the value has a lot to do with what is coming in the future...they have been very short in the vintage department (they have made  a '64 Godzilla, and I think a '54 one?), but if a 1974 Godzilla was to appear, it would make this MechaG even better! I would like to say that this is the start of a vintage onslaught from Bandai (heck, I think they made every single character from the 1990's Godzilla series), but I can only hope.....it's a love-hate thing, because if they do jump into full-blown vintage, it's going to be expensive!

3/29/18

FOOM #21 (Marvel, Spring 1978)


Marvel took a few stabs at fan clubs over the years, and probably the most successful and widespread was FOOM (Friends of Ol' Marvel).  This fancinest incarnation of the fan club featured a very nice, quarterly, magazine-sized publication that lasted for 22 issues.  Items associated with the fan-club, including poster sets, command very high prices to this day.

The 21st issue included a feature that showcased the rise in popularity of science fiction (I wonder why), and included interviews with each Marvel artist or writer who worked on a current Marvel title, such as SEEKER 3000, STAR-LORD, GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY, as well as a splendid Jack Kirby interview where he details his joy at being offered 2001 and taking it to the next level--which he certainly did (and creating Machine Man in the process!).
But one of the best moments in the magazine is the Roy Thomas article about bringing STAR WARS into Marvel comics.  The interview is worth reading for several reasons (in fact, there are a couple of tidbits I was looking for that will go into the next edition of THE CANTINA COMPENDIUM, see sidebar), but one of the coolest revelations that I have never heard mentioned anywhere is that he was present at the infamous "rough cut" screening at George Lucas' home, where the first, non-dynamically-edited version of the film (which still included WWII dogfight footage in place of space battles) was shown to Lucas' friends and colleagues.  This event is often referenced as a major turning point in the development of the film, and it's probably one of those moments where, if it hadn't existed, I wouldn't be typing about this film today.  It was this showing--often referred to as "confusing," or even "disastrous"--that caused Lucas to think about re-jiggering the pacing of the film, adding some much needed inserts that would be filmed in the US, and--most importantly--re-editing the film with Richard Chew and, most crucial of all, his wife Marcia Lucas. 
Interestingly, Thomas doesn't give us a single adjective to let us know his opinion of how that screening went.  Instead, he uses the event as an example to show how much Marvel was required to come up with on their own, having only that viewing, the novel, and some black-and-white stills to work from!

There is also a mention of Marvel's weekly UK comic titles, which included Star Wars, and necessitated some new cover art, since the stories were broken up into weekly (and black-and-white) segments.

It's interesting to look back on the mid-to-late 70's, when Marvel was riding high with TV adaptations of super-heroes, and, as mentioned, a certain science fiction film that changed everything.  FOOM as a magazine was recently revived as a glossy, comic shop-publication (which included a Marvel Value Stamp, there's a blast from the past!), so it will be interesting to see if it continues.

3/19/18

Godzilla vs. Megalon "Big Box" VHS (Star Classics, 1985)

Godzilla vs. Mecha...Lon...
In the earlier days of VHS, you may recall, there existed over-sized packaging which is today often referred to as the "big box."  Most likely, this was primarily done because manufacturers were worried that most VHS were shoplifter-sized, and could fit into a coat pocket.  (If you remember this, then you also remember that when compact discs hit the market, they were also over-packaged, for the same reason, in "long boxes".)


Today, we are looking at what is probably the only Godzilla film to be released in the big box format, and of course it would be GODZILLA vs MEGALON.  Issued by Star Classics in 1985, it's infamous for a few reasons, of which the packaging is the first.  Secondly, you will notice that they mistakenly used a cover photo from GODZILLA vs MECHAGODZILLA, which is bad enough, but thirdly, on the back of the box, they list the release date as being "1940."


Interestingly, Star Classics--the very same year--also produced a regular-sized edition of MEGALON, this time in a yellow box rather than the light gray seen above...and, even though they flipped it,  still retained the same Mechagodzilla photo! They did fix the year, though.


I've attempted to catalog all of the Godzilla VHS releases in the USA here:  Godzilla VHS Chronology.

3/6/18

From THE GOLDEN MAGAZINE (October, 1969)

Recently, in the bottom of a box of random crap I got from a relative, there was a coverless copy of a kids' magazine called THE GOLDEN MAGAZINE, from October of 1969.  Even though it's several years before my time, interestingly, there's an ad AND an article about the new Saturday morning cartoon season, which was just beginning.  You will note some big names that were just being launched, in the scans below...

Note that in the ad above, H.R. Pufnstuf is revealed to be a "dragon." I certainly never got that out of the show...I don't know what I thought he was.  I was a Krofft fan overall, but that show always weirded me out as a kid.
Also note a couple of things that never stood the test of time, like "Here Comes the Grump" and "Jambo." Live-action on a Saturday morning...!

THE SPHINX ACTIVITY CORNER

Kids! You can color along at home!
Here is the article about the October 1969 Saturday Morning Cartoon scene:

The use of mostly "production art" to illustrate these shows is interesting. That would never fly today; there's too much money at stake (I mean, they cut off the star character's FACE on the Scooby-Doo picture!!!).  Here are some observations:
*Smokey the Bear had a cartoon show? What was it, a 30-second PSA stretched out to 30 minutes?
*HOT WHEELS - The only thing I ever remember reading about this show is that it was pulled because it was discovered to be "a 30-minute toy commercial." What did they expect?
SKY HAWKS - Yawwwwn. That sounds about as boring as JAMBO.
SCOOBY-DOO - Hard to imagine a time that this was DEBUTING and wasn't a staple...notice that the description mentions that the gang are all "high-school students."  I certainly never remember that being referenced....how in the world would THAT have worked, with them driving all over Creation in a van all day to solve mysteries????

Overall, ABC's schedule looked dreadful, but I would've had a hard time choosing between CBS and NBC.  I guess I would have flipped back and forth for the likes of Underdog, the Pink Panther, Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbera goodness, and Superman...or I could have done an Elvis and just had multiple TV's going!

2/22/18

The Lowdown On This "GODZILLA vs THE SMOG MONSTER" DVD...

Have you seen this DVD, in places like Amazon or Ebay? Have you wondered what was up with it? I had wondered for a long time, and I broke down and spent a whole four dollars and 80 cents to find out...here goes:

1) Could it be a copy of the American version of the film, on a factory-made DVD?  Nope. Firstly, the cover says "GODZILLA vs THE SMOG MONSTER," and shows Godzilla 2000...that's a little bit like putting Harry Truman on the front of your George Washington biography, but I suppose we can overlook it for the time being.  Nevertheless, it's our first clue that something is amiss.
2) I should point out that the title of "SMOG MONSTER" is incorrect here.  SMOG MONSTER can mean only one glorious thing, and that is the AIP dub that played in American theaters and on American TV for years.  This, my friends, is GODZILLA vs HEDORAH, specifically, Toho's (inferior) International dub of the film. 

3) Even though the tiny screenshots on the back cover are a convenient 4:3, this film is letterboxed...I haven't done a subtitle comparison, but it looks to me that this is a complete bootleg of Sony's 2004 DVD, which was re-released by Kraken in 2014, and is still available! In short, this disc should not exist.

4) Finally, since this film is one of a handful that is unavailable on DVD in its classic American version, if you want the AIP dub, you have two choices:  track down one of two VHS versions, OR, there are some fan-made projects out there that sync the AIP dub to a widescreen print of the film:  seek, and you shall find!
Orion Home Video's official 1989 release of the AIP dub!
The following year, Simitar released a legal (or semi-legal?) budget version. I've always assumed it was at least semi-legal, because eight years later, they were allowed to license a whole pile of Godzilla films!

2/20/18

Jimmy Castor's Godzilla Songs...and Their Releases (1979-85)

We all know that Blue Oyster Cult wins the award for "Best Godzilla Song" (and really, how can you beat that?), but there are lots of lesser-known Godzilla-themed songs out there that never get talked about.  For some years now, I've been gathering songs about Godzilla to put into a chronological project, and I kept running into a song called "Godzilla" by 70's funk-master Jimmy Castor; in fact, it pops up more than once in the timeline (as you will see).  Frustratingly, you can't just pull up the different versions on the YouTubes to compare (it seems only one version--the 1985 12-inch--is even on there).  You also can't find a CD release of them, or streaming Amazon versions to hear.  SO, I had to just track them down and buy them all.

There are two versions:  the 1979 version, and the 1985 version, which has some variants:

The 1979 Version
Release #1: 1979 -  One caviat to this project is the little-known 1979 kids' record I LOVE MONSTERS, where Castor took his most famous song, "Troglodyte," and built an album, adding some other odes to monstrous characters including Godzilla, The Mummy, and even embracing Star Wars mania with a song about "Vadar" [sic].  This is a very expensive album, and also, just not out there for downloading anywhere, from what I can see.  "Godzilla" is listed as running 3 minutes and 58 seconds.
12-inch single
Release #2: 1980 -  LP, 7-inch, and 12-inch: Apparently, the MONSTERS album wasn't distributed too well, and Castor liked his Godzilla song (and the Mummy one too), enough to carry them over to his next album, called "C," which came out in 1980.  "Godzilla," also listed at 3:58, was released as a single, backed with "The Mummy."  
LP label
7-inch single
(Note that the title on the LP & 12-inch labels is written as the Japanese characters for "Gojira," which is also the way it's written on the album's sleeve, which must have confused some buyers!)  For our purposes here, the song is taken from the 7-inch single.  My 12-inch copy was a little skippy, but I can confirm that they are identical releases.

The 1985 Version:
Release #3 - 1985 (7-inch):  I was actually confused for some time as to why there were two versions of the song, until the "1985" year jumped out at me, and I realized it was an attempt at a cash-in for GODZILLA 1985...and why not? I think this is really more of a re-mix with some new bits added, than a straight-up remake of the song, but either way, it created another version.  The label says it runs 3:45.
The B-side gave us yet another version, "Godzilla (Instrumental)," which is a little misleading, because it really only omits Castor's verses, and all the other spoken and sung parts are present.  Listed as running 4:05.
Release #4 - 1985 (12-inch): As you probably know, 12-inch singles exist so that you can have more of a certain song to dance to, so therefore, the song on this release runs longer.  Listed at 4:28, in fact.
And, therefore, the B-side (also "Godzilla (Instrumental)") is longer as well.  Listed at 4:12, oddly...for some reason, the instrumental versions run longer than their A-side.

Okay, you've made it this far! Are you one of the seven people in the world who think this is significant? If so, read on for your reward!

Let's have a quick recap of the different versions of this song that exist:

1) 1979 version: I LOVE MONSTERS  (3:58)
    1980 single/12-inch/"C" LP:   (3:58, believed to be exactly the same as above)
2) 1985 version: 7-inch A-side (3:45)
3) 1985 version Instrumental: 7-inch B-side (4:05)
4) 1985 version: 12-inch A-side (4:28)
5) 1985 version Instrumental: 12-inch B-side (4:12)

Now, I suppose you'd like to hear them all? Click below:

The Jimmy Castor Godzilla Songs

Two footnotes:  First, I threw in "The Mummy." I know if I had slogged through an article like this, I'd have been interested to hear it too...such as it is.  It's a bit like "King Tut" without the Steve Martin.  Also, you will notice that the tracks are all shorter than the listed times...I did some extensive speed testing of my turntable this weekend, and these are correct! What can I say? Labels lie.