Action Figure Spotlight: Megalon (Trendmasters, 1996)


Today, we continue our in-depth look at the three hardest-to-find Trendmasters action figures, with Megalon.  We all know there was a tendency in the 1990's to bulk up action figures (see: Baragon), and certainly no one ever saw Megalon take this wide, Masters-of-the-Universe pose in his own film (if he even physically could do that), but looking at the figure from the perspective of hindsight, he's still kind of wonky.  The immediate thing that stands out about him is his strange coloring, whereas the actual kaiju is, well, brown.  Very brown, in fact:

In fact, the tiger-stripe motif is the only thing that breaks it up, and on bad prints of the film (which are legion), he looks like a blob.  Although it's easy to make fun of 90's action figures, it's sort of understandable why Trendmasters tried to brighten him up a bit.  I always wondered if the green was to accentuate his insect-ness (is that a word?), even though we are getting dangerously close to  "grasshopper" territory here.  

I wonder, if you repainted this figure brown (please don't), if it would look more like his film counterpart.  

Of course, we would have to do something about the enormous, inaccurate tail...I forgot to say this in Baragon's post, but all three of the final GODZILLA WARS figures were going to be reissued in the failed Doom Island line (carded and without sound features this time), wherein most of the reused figures received a black wash, which accentuated their sculpts.  Megalon, though, did get repainted, but somehow got intensely more green, like you slid the contrast over:

It reminds me of the time period in the 1990's where every toy had the word "cyber" in front of it.

Remember, also, in the 90's, when packaging action figures in dramatic poses became more of a thing? Then, you'd open the figure, and find it really couldn't stand in any other position, if at all! Megalon has some of that problem.  He stands, but only because of the giant tail we mentioned.  Other than that, he just isn't very posable at all.  He pretty much is relegated to the one position, looking down.

But, in fairness, I guess that's true about most of the other figures in this line, from Godzilla on down.  A figure like this would've really benefitted from some knee joints, and probably swivels as well.

This loose example I used to own is missing the wings, so here is a rare photo showing this figure's back, where the most artistic license was taken. The film Megalon does indeed have a tail, just a stumpy one:
All in all, a firmly middle-of-the road action figure: a solid 5 out of 10 in design, but a 9 out of 10 in rarity.  
So far, in my re-appraisals of these last three figures, it's my least favorite of the group.  I'm surprised to say it, but we will look at my favorite next time!


The Things That I See: Godzilla Miscellaneous Edition

Today, let's address a handful of random, Godzilla-related things that have piled up, but don't really have a place of their own.  Hopefully, this won't be too boring or disjointed:

First off, since the best coverage you can find regarding the famous Mattel Shogun Godzilla is off-site, it became obvious that the instructions aren't included anywhere here, so let's quickly rectify that with some high-quality scans, in case somebody is missing them:

This sheet is actually less than half the size of a sheet of bond paper, measuring  5 & 9/16" by 7 & 3/16".  There is also a variant, which looks like this:

Secondly, after years of searching, I finally obtained what turned out to be a crisp, vibrant copy of the advance movie poster for GIGANTIS, THE FIRE MONSTER.  Since Toho has pretty much obliterated this American version (you'd have to go all the way back to the VHS release to find a print with the GIGANTIS title card), it doesn't get talked about a lot, but it should:

I mean, it's the first sequel, the first film to pit Godzilla against another monster (and therefore the first Angilas/Anguirus), and also the only vintage American Godzilla film to have an advance poster.  While advance posters were nothing new, even in monster movies, I've always thought that it showed Warner Bros. was putting some extra money/attention behind the film, although you could argue the opposite, since it ended up in a double-feature release with TEENAGERS FROM OUTER SPACE.  I will say, I was unprepared for how vibrant the color is on this poster; it's almost day-glo like a highlighter.  Pretty snazzy for 1959.

Let's pause for a moment, and test your Godzilla knowledge, with this 1978 comic book ad.  Or not.

Lastly, here's a discovery that surprised me.  Remember how the first official version of the GODZILLA vs. MEGALON DVD had lots of extra (unapproved) material, and was then withdrawn? Well, don't fall for E-bay prices, you can actually still obtain the pulled version.  It seems Tokyo Shock is alive and well, and selling their leftover stock on Amazon (under the name Cinema Scape).  You can buy a bundle that includes sealed copies of the blu-ray as well as the withdrawn version, together.  And it's the real deal.  What's uber-strange though, is the label under the shrink-wrap:

My guess is that they had to label their stock when the hammer came down, to keep it straight when a bare-bones version was demanded, but even so, it was surprising to see this label.  Keep in mind that only the DVD ever included the forbidden extras, but who wouldn't want the blu-ray anyhow? Unfortunately, while the recalled version is an important Godzilla collectible, the (video) extras aren't so hot.  I never understood Toho pulling the DESTROY ALL MONSTERS disc, but in viewing the MEGALON ones again, you can see why it was done.  The extras are obviously from a VHS tape of various film sources (including Super 8), and there is a 7+ minute stretch of trailers that are so bad, they had to be window-boxed (shown in a small television graphic that limits it to maybe 25% of your screen) to be viewable.  Oh well.  We would still recommend buying it, while you still can! One of these days it'll be crazy expensive. A sealed 1983 VHS copy of KING OF THE MONSTERS ended for over a thousand bucks this weekend, so you never know!


Action Figure Spotlight: Baragon (Trendmasters, 1996)


Waaaay back in 1996, before social media, the rise and fall of forums, and toy websites with any current info, news traveled much slower than it does today.  The best way to hear from fellow collectors was a thing called newsgroups, which were bulletin board-type areas organized by subject matter.  It was here that information was shared--and believe it or not, deals were made (the format didn't allow attachment of photos, and trades or purchases were made sight unseen!).  It was there that I first read of the discovery of three late-breaking figures being released at the tail end of the GODZILLA WARS line, without fanfare.  Figures that nobody really knew were coming, especially because there was no clue of their existence.

You probably know that one of the flagship items in Trendmaster's two Godzilla lines are the boxed action figures with sound (the company referred to them as "6-inch," but in reality they are closer to 5 inches tall).  Here is the back of the box for the GODZILLA WARS series:

However, not all of these were made in GODZILLA WARS packaging, and there was never a sound "Anguirus" figure at all, so you can see how keeping up was pretty confusing.  (Another wrinkle was that most of the sound figures were sold in carded versions, with the sound features removed, but that was not the case for these final three figures).

And so, on that autumn day in 1996 when I first read that there was a Trendmasters Baragon, Megalon, and Varan, I left at lunch and traveled to Kay-Bee Toys (you are missed), which was less than a mile from my work! And there they were; with their familiar KB price tags with the original price lined through and another written in red pen.  They miraculously had one of each.  I lined up the three figures on the shelf in front of me, and took a step back to get a good look at them, and...walked away.  I know; I'd like to tell you they were just too muscular in a 1990's way for my tastes, but also, I was extremely poor back then, and that was probably closer to the reason.  Instead, I tracked the "big three" down in very recent years.

And today, those boxed figures are pushing two hundred dollars apiece. Great Scott!

Seeing as how we recently launched a Trendmasters Godzilla Checklist Page, it seems like a good time to take a closer look at these three figures.  Today, we begin with Baragon.

In defense of my 1996 self, try to remember that this is what Baragon actually looked like:
And that this is what we actually got:
I personally see more King Caesar in this finished figure...but man, those biceps are jacked.

"Snap into a Slim Jim!"

They did get at least incorporate the ridges on his back (something you can't really see in boxed examples).
I can't speak to what his roar sounds like, as the batteries in mine are kaput, but Trendmasters roars never were right anyway; they were just for fun.  It would've been more than awesome if Toho had supplied audio for them, come to think of it (as it is, King Ghidorah actually purrs).

All in all, a solid 5 out of 10.  I think I was most disappointed in this figure because Baragon is one of my favorites.  It's not that I wanted this figure to be cute, but it turned out as...a lumpy brown mess.  In the retrospect of the many dusty decades that have passed since their release, I'm not 100% sure I would've made it through with "the big three" intact, but I'm thrilled to have acquired them at this point.  They became White Whales after enough time passed, as these sorts of things often do.  Join us next time, and we will look at another of these guys!


1978 View-Master Calendar (GAF, 1978)


Some of the most pleasant discoveries are the finds that you never knew existed.  It's like that dream you had as a kid, where you go to a store or sale of some kind, and find a toy or item that was completely unknown to you but is the best thing you've ever seen, and you wake up clutching it.  Well, it's sort of like that, only in this case, I get to keep the goods, Dr. Freud!

This won't be a super photo-heavy post, but here is the 1978 View-Master calendar, which I think we should assume was a promotional item for dealers.  You could easily imagine seeing this hanging on the stockroom door of a mom-and-pop toy store (if you ask what that was, you're in the wrong place, of course).  There are lots of cool characters, who (naturally) appear in View-Master reels.  For our purposes here, though, we are most concerned with the month of April:

Godzilla had his own View-Master reels, which came in several permutations, including but not limited to:

...which were all part of the merchandising campaign that included the Hanna-Barbera animated series (they were able to keep the license a few years)...and also lots of other good stuff

This calendar measures 17 x 23 inches, so it's not too giant, but still big enough to see. What's more, and you couldn't plan this better if you tried: it lines up with 2023.  It's like fate.

These sorts of things are very hard to photograph, so here is a photo that is slightly sharper than the one above, just a bit more skewed.  Just in case anyone wants to actually use one.  Otherwise, you'll have to wait until 2034!


The Randolph Tapes 26S - Confidence (1986)


SO...here is a bit of a tangent, but not too much, as we have talked about subliminals before around here.  It's a subject that's always fascinated me.  I don't even know what my actual opinion on it even is.  If I hadn't've seen that great Robert Culp Columbo episode as a young kid, maybe I wouldn't be fascinated with the subject.

I stumbled onto this cassette for the princely sum of one dollar, and snatched it up.  There's not a huge amount to say.  It begins with an interesting introduction, and the rest of the tape is mostly ocean sounds.  The idea is that there are positive messages underneath, which are meant to build your CONFIDENCE.  Whether it does, I can't say.  You can see examples of the messages in the scan above (in red text).  The question is: why is it better to have your subconscious mind hear the messages, rather than your conscious one?

I think the answer has to do with changing behavior, and when I look at the huge range of topics offered on other tapes (below), it makes me think people were simply looking for an easy way out.  Why try so hard to stop smoking or relate to people, when you can perhaps just program yourself to do it? This is when things start to derail for me.

I mean, really...there is actually a tape available for "HUMOR."

But all that pales in comparison to the listing for "DEVELOP E.S.P." What the...?

Develop...............E.S.P. I can't even.

About this time, my cynical mind kicks in, which thinks it would be hilarious if the same tape of ocean sounds was sold under all of these different headings.  I will say that I tried lots of different AI and de-mixer programs on these ocean sounds, trying hard to uncover exactly what is beneath them.  The closest I ever got was a buzzing sound that almost sort of sounded like words sometimes, but unfortunately was a total failure otherwise. 

As to the question about results, you can try it for yourself and see! You didn't think we'd get this far without letting you hear it, did you? Good luck. If you develop any powers, though, I would at least like a donation.


Godzilla Dr. Pepper Ad (35mm Theatrical Version, 1985)


A small metal film can arrived in the mail this week, about 4 inches in diameter.  Inside was a short roll of 35mm film!

This is a print of the theatrical version of the famous Dr. Pepper Godzilla commercial! We have covered many, many items on this blog that were included in the massive Dr. Pepper tie-in campaign for the release of GODZILLA 1985.  It was an extensive (reportedly $10 million) advertising campaign that seemed to be everywhere for a short time.

The commercial is fondly remembered by fans, and goes back to a time where fun tributes that were free of politics were possible to produce and be enjoyed.  However, most people don't know that there are actually two different commercials, and four versions total!  However, as reading about fun commercials is like dancing about architecture, it would be criminal of us not to show you the actual ads....so let's dig in!

The first ad actually predates the release of GODZILLA 1985, and is 30 seconds long and was shown copiously on television.  This ad was graciously posted to YouTube by the colorfully-named "assmanbbq."

Like many TV commercials with a big budget, there was a one-minute version of the ad as well, which we will return to shortly.  This recording was uploaded to YouTube by a user named "ThreeOranges," 16 years ago!

The commercial was, of course, hugely successful, and a sequel was released, this time in color, to promote Diet Dr. Pepper, with a female monster showing up! Kudos again to "assmanbbq" for keeping this classic alive.

Which brings us back to the 35mm version, which for once I am SUPER-fortunate to not have to pay to convert, because a kind soul called "FT Depot" has already done it for us on YouTube, in HD no less! This version was shown in movie theaters where GODZILLA 1985 played, which accounts for the different aspect ratio (there is slightly more information on both sides of the frame, and at the bottom as well; the television version looks a little squished to me, now that I compare the two).  This version is slightly longer, as well, because it included several seconds of an end card reading "HOLD OUT," which was one of their slogans at the time.

Thanks to the many fans who have preserved these commercials over the years.  It would be incredible to finally have a proper DVD/Blu-Ray of GODZILLA 1985, which of course would have to include this ad (and "Bambi vs. Godzilla" as well for completeness), but alas, that's something that's also left up to the fans, who luckily are up to the task.


M.U.S.C.L.E. (Mattel/Bandai, 1985-87)

I didn't know it way back in the day, but yet another of my favorite toy lines also came from Japan (doesn't everything?).  Back then, the whole line was shrouded in mystery, but today, we know its complete origins.

In 1985, completely out of nowhere and in the middle of a toy world dominated by 4-inch action figures, Mattel suddenly launched packages of 2-inch, flesh-colored, non-posable rubber wrestling figures, and a new toy line was born.  They christened it "M.U.S.C.L.E.," and went so far as to make it an acronym, standing for "Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere." Their permutations seemed endless, as did the amount of different figures available.  After all, they said "Millions" right there in the title! 

As it turned out, Mattel had entered into a partnership with Bandai (which wasn't their first) to bring figures from a popular Japanese franchise, Kinnikuman, to America.  Kinnikuman encompassed comics, animated series(es), toys, and much more, and had run for years (and still does).  Every figure had a name, and was a character from the long-running series' universe.  But instead of adopting the property, they simply dumped the figures on the toy-buying public.  They did bother to change the lead character to "Muscleman," and rename a character "Terri-Bull" to serve as the bad guy, but everything else, including the allegiance of each character, was up to you.  And you know what? It worked.

Like many folks, I prefer adaptations that are as accurate as possible for Japanese properties brought over here, but the lack of any information with this line really sparked kids' imaginations. You made your own teams; it was wide open for interpretation.  "Hey, this guy is a light bulb; this guy is made of bricks!" (One guy was actually a urinal, but we didn't know that at the time, and neither did Mattel, I'm sure.) One thing that Mattel/Bandai did right was to make the figures harder rubber, and much more durable.  In Japan, they were part of the "keshi" craze; soft rubber, eraser-like figures that come out of gashapon machines [see this post for an awesome Godzilla keshi set].

So how many figures were there? In that first year, a mail-order promotion began appearing, allowing you to order your own poster checklist, which revealed that there were 233 figures.  However, this wasn't the whole story, because the Wrestling Ring playset included 2 exclusive figures, and there is also one rare non-poster figure that somehow got in (and in recent years has been proven to exist in sealed packages), setting the officially-accepted count for a complete flesh-colored set at 236.

And, an entire set of 236 fits in an "oversized-shoebox" size archival box! We should do a post on everything we've learned about how to store things safely long-term (yes, they are all individually bagged, but don't buy your ziploc bags at Michaels or Wal-Mart. You want polypropylene, NOT polyethylene. 

After the first year, Mattel could've kept adding new figures, but instead the decision was made to re-issue existing figures in new colors.  Sometime during that second year, kids' interest waned, and the line folded and blew away in the wind.  It would've been interesting to see the animated series adapted and new figures issued, but it wasn't meant to be.

There is quite a bit of confusion over the colored figures; for example, not every figure is available in every color (in fact, far from it). Also, counting the original flesh color, there are ten different colors available, as can be seen below:

The light purple color is mega-rare, because only five figures were made that way, which we will get to in a moment.  First, let's talk about the ways that the M.U.S.C.L.E. (I hate typing that) figures were sold.

Four-packs were the most popular, because they were the cheapest, AND you could see what you were getting.  Much allowance was scrounged and maximized to buy as many four-packs as possible. Yards were mowed.

10-packs were sold in an opaque garbage can.  I never cared for these as a kid, because I couldn't see the figures I was purchasing (especially with the wrapper on).  The trash can may seem random, but it's actually another Bandai carry-over.  In Japan, assortments of keshi figures (usually Ultraman enemies, from what I've seen) were sold this way.

There were four different 28-packs, and they were the top of the line, and obviously the most expensive.  Unlike the other sizes, they were not randomly packed, and included figures you could get nowhere else.  This is a second-year example that included colored figures:

While the back of the 4-packs sets up the hero and villain, it was the back of the 28-packs that gave us the closest thing to a backstory, with an included comic strip! I suppose no other item in the line had enough room on its packaging:

Speaking of Bandai and keshi, the 28-packs always remind me of their awesome Ultraman sets (which are sets of 30 figures):

Every great toy line needs a playset, and the crown jewel of the M.U.S.C.L.E. toy line was what every fan wanted:  the wrestling ring.

It wasn't even that large of a playset, but the concept of joysticks to move your figures and make them fight was brilliant.  On paper. Unfortunately, it's probably for the best that I didn't get one that Christmas, as they are pretty fragile.  The plastic clips that hold the figures tended to break easily (intact examples usually have white stress marks, at the very least).  But that wasn't all:  the orange cardstock that served as the floor tended to get scratched up quickly, AND the elastic bands that made up the ropes around the ring were prone to breaking or getting lost.  

Bandai produced this item themselves for Mattel.  Notice that the back of the box shows a prototype version of the playset with different joysticks, and, most notably, different clips to hold the figures! Too bad we ended up with the fragile ones. (They really should've been metal.)

We mentioned the rare light-purple color.  There was also a board game, which included ten figures.  What's important here is that, while light green was already an existing color, the five lavender-colored figures in the game are the only ones ever produced that way.  Because of this, complete examples of the game can be tough to come by.

We have already mentioned the mail-away poster, but for completeness, there was also an NES game, a FREE figure in select jars of Nestle Quik (that was awesome), and something called the "Battlin' Belt" that was the Kenner Chewbacca Bandolier Strap of the M.U.S.C.L.E. line.  I see what they were going for, but I thought it was dumb, even as a kid.  However, these are the types of items that always end up worth a fortune, because fewer people bought them originally.  

All in all, one thing you can definitely say about this toy line is that it causes hardcore nostalgia.  It's certainly one of my favorites from the 1980's.  Discovering its origins and finally getting questions answered through some great websites (links below) has been extremely rewarding over the years.  I've noticed in recent years that you just don't run into the figures like you used to.  It used to be commonplace to see a couple in a random bag of toys in a thrift store, but that never happens to me anymore.  I'm sure they are being hoarded, because prices have been climbing! 

If you are interested in learning more--much more--about M.U.S.C.L.E., here are some places you should go:

The University of M.U.S.C.L.E. - This is the definitive website on the subject.  Do you want to know which figures were available in which colors? Are you curious which figures make up the different 28-packs? They have the answers.

Nathan's M.U.S.C.L.E. Blog - Jump to each figure by number, and see exactly how and where it was available! Great in-depth info also on each type of item in the line.