Odds ‘n Ends

  • Toynewsi reports that Playmates may be re-releasing the classic Toy Your Rich Friend Had*, the Technodrome. Anyway, I still think Playmates is leaving money on the table not doing a proper Masters of the Universe Origins-style line of the original figures with added articulation. (I just can’t give them credit for these – it’s so close, but for some reason they gave the Turtles smallpox scars.)
  • But speaking of MOTU Origins, if Playmates can re-release the Technodrome, where the heck is my Tyrantisaurus? I bought a bunch of MOTU Origins but I don’t have them on display, as I mostly prefer the Masterverse stuff. However, if Mattel were to re-release the Tyrantisaurus, I would go all-in on Origins again.
  • *Full disclosure: I was one of those kids that had the Technodrome (and Fortress Maximus…)

Such heroic nonsense

Throwback Thursday: Mega Bloks Plasma Kreaps

Plasma Kreaps (Originally posted April 11, 2008)

I was randomly thinking about this toy the other day and decided it would make for a fun TT. Back in the late Aughts, Mega Bloks was trying to branch out to some other toy formats, and one of the ones they came up with the Plasma Kreaps.

Plasma Kreaps were sort of a mix between 1980s gross-out toys and Japanese gashapon aesthetic. What you got was a creepy-looking crate. Inside the create was a ball of gross white latex, within which were the parts to the toy. They were mostly horror-oriented things like gargoyles, ghouls, skeletons, demons, and so forth.

As for my post about it, for some reason I decided to do it as a comic strip where DCUC Detective Batman opens the box with assistance from Snake Eyes. Also, germane to my previous post, there’s a Madball.

As anyone who knows me at all can tell you, no, I no longer have any part of that Plasma Kreap, having sold him off or given him away it one of the many collection purges I’ve done over the years. But looking at him now, I wish I had him back – if only for that awesome crate, which would look fantastic in one of my fantasy displays.

Fixing (and upgrading) PremiumDNA’s Madballs Figures

It’s fairly well-known among collectors that the 1980s fad known as Madballs – foam balls shaped like monsters – also had a short-lived action figure line with notoriously poor quality control.*

The line was officially called “Madballs Head Popping Action Figures,” produced by AmToy in 1986. The bodies of the 5″ figures were inspired by the design of the specific Madball itself. My own favorite, Oculus Orbus, was just a veiny eyeball, so the action figure featured a body evocative of the tiny muscles that control one’s eye.

Oculus Orbus (image from Figurerealm.com)
Madballs Head Popping Action Figure Oculus Orbus (Image from FigureRealm.com)

The “Head Popping” name referred to the line’s gimmick: when a button was pressed on the back of the figure, the head was launched into the air via a spring. It’s worth noting that these heads were solid rubber and surprisingly heavy, so the spring had to be strong to compensate for that weight. When not being fired at an unsuspecting parent, sibling or neighbor kid, the heads were held in place via a tiny tab. If – or should I say when – that tab broke, the heads would no longer stay on the body, as the spring would simply just launch it off immediately.

I won’t guess at a statistic, but if the number could be obtained, I would happily put big money down on a bet that more than half of all extant vintage Madballs figures have broken tabs. As a kid, I owned Oculus Orbus and Wolf Breath and yes, both had broken tabs. If I recall correctly, my solution was to work to break the spring so that the heads could just rest safely (if not securely) on the bodies.

Over the years Madballs themselves have been resurrected a few times, but the figures remained rare – especially on card or with the aforementioned tab. And so it was with some excitement that I learned that a new player in the action figure market, PremiumDNA, were bringing Madballs Action Figures back. I ordered Oculus Orbus and another of my favorites, Horn Head.

(Editor’s note: I am aware there is a long, troubling story associated with how PremiumDNA got their start. I have neither the time nor inclination to go into it here. If you want the details, this article is very thorough. Suffice to say, I ordered these figures before I was aware of the situation.)

It took quite a while, but – somewhat to my surprise – the figures did finally ship. When I got them in-hand, I was surprised again to discover – they were great figures! They’re 6″ tall, very solid and surprisingly heavy, with great articulation and nearly all the parts can be swapped among the characters. They also came with loads of accessories, including alternate hands. Unlike the original figures, there was no head-popping gimmick, so there were no tabs to worry about.

I happily put these figures on display in my room. And then one day, Oculus Orbus fell off my desk and…his head snapped off.

Or more specifically, the peg that held the head on snapped off. You see, these new figures’ heads were held on by a long, narrow peg ending in a ball joint. This long, narrow plastic peg just stuck out from the body, and that set-up was clearly just as fragile as it sounds. Thinking about it later, I realized the pegs probably would have broken simply from pulling them the heads on and off a few times.

To say I was angry about that broken head is an understatement. The irony of it all only added to my frustration. I had spent $50 on something that had arguably proven even less sturdy than a figure from forty years earlier.

I managed to come up with a Frankenstein-like fix for Oculus Orbus that involved using a Dremel to glue in a metal peg that sat inside the base of the peg and the upper torso. This wasn’t perfect, but it made Oculus Orbus usable.

Then Horn Head broke. Almost the same thing happened – I dropped Horn Head, only this time it was from maybe two feet off the ground. He didn’t even hit that hard, but snap went the peg.**

Broken Horn Head figure
The aftermath of falling maybe two feet. You can see just how thin and tenuous the base of the ball-joint’s peg is.

Now I was so annoyed I just tossed both figures into baggies and left them in storage, figuring I’d give them away to some enterprising customizer or even just throw them out at some point.

But then, my friend Doc Thomas (who has written for this blog before) told me to try some rare earth magnets. This wasn’t as uniquely clever as it sounds; Doc Thomas suggests magnets to fix everything from broken toys to ethnic conflict. But in this case, it seemed worth a try.

So I went and got some magnets at a hardware store and super-glued them on to the figures. And guess what?

The heads stay on perfectly now. They’re still articulated and can move horizontally and even a little bit vertically (although even when they had the ball joint, they didn’t move very much vertically, so this isn’t really a loss). Obviously, the heads can be easily swapped for fun. And most importantly, if the figures fall and the heads come off, they go right back on. The only potential issue I can see is that the paint on the bottom of the heads might get worn over time, but that’s only because the heads weren’t designed for magnets.

It’s clear PremiumDNA should have designed the Madballs figures this way from the start. Embedded magnets in the torso and head could be even less obtrusive than the ones I’ve used here, and completely eliminate the breakage issue. It also makes it easier and more fun to swap the heads or just remove them to display them as “regular” Madballs, because there’s no concern about breaking the peg accidentally.

I’ve noticed toy companies are beginning to make better use of magnets; NECA’s recent Ultimate Feral Predator uses a magnet to attach its backpack. I think it’s a novel way to solve some tricky design issues, and I’d be happy to see more of it.

I’m very happy to be able to enjoy these figures again. If I decide to pick up their upcoming Wolf Breath, I may deliberately break it so I can do the same to that figure. And if you got these figures and ran into the same issue, well, now you’ve got a solution.

*In fact, in the Rifftrax of Retro Puppet Master, there is a moment where Greg Sestero (of The Room fame) is gingerly setting up his puppets for a magical spell, and Bill Corbett jokes, “This is how carefully I handle my Madballs action figures.” Talk about an inside joke!

**You might be getting the impression I drop my action figures a lot. I don’t! Well, I don’t think I do. At least not any more than anyone else does…look, as I mentioned, the PremiumDNA Madballs figures are surprisingly heavy and the big heads make them awkward to handle. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

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Intriguing WaPo article about Hot Wheels & emerging economies

Here’s an intriguing article about how toy production has moved around over the decades, and how that often relates to the world’s emerging economies.

If you want to know where the world economy is headed, look at the bottom of this toy car

In early 2022, Mattel — which makes Hot Wheels and Matchbox toy cars — made a move to “near-source” some production, bringing its supply chain closer to the United States and away from Asia and China: It announced an injection of $50 million to its factory in Mexico. So I expected to start seeing toy cars manufactured in Mexico. […] This past holiday season, my children and I took turns visiting the toy section of a large store just outside Washington. It was like a game: find a random car, take a picture of the box and the car’s underside, send it to our group chat. We found none from Bangladesh, Ethiopia or Mexico. They came from Malaysia, Thailand and, surprisingly, China, still. In the journey toward the inevitable transformation of economies, it seemed the world had taken a few detours.

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The Resurrection

“The boundaries which divide Life from Death are at best shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends, and where the other begins?”

Edgar Allan Poe

Figures are Vorgus Vermillius 2 and Wal-torr the Mad by Four Horsemen Studios

Diorama by Seething Customs

I Need a Weapon

Custom Weapon accessory by eBay user mugenites

NECA announces more American Werewolf in London

Dog soldiers

With Toy Fair having been cancelled this year, toy companies have been able to spread their reveals over weeks rather than having to dump them all over a cold February weekend. This has made for some fun, late-night antics from NECA in particular.

A few weeks back, NECA revealed they had obtained the license for the horror cult classic An American Werewolf in London. At the time they only revealed the titular werewolf, but overnight they revealed the Nazi werewolf soldiers from the famous fever dream sequence.

We have no information yet on whether this will be a single figure release with four different heads, a two-pack with two different heads, or a four-pack with one head each. (If I had to guess, I’d go with an Ultimate figure with four heads.)

NECA has been making a lot of popular reveals lately (last week’s blockbuster Gargoyles reveal came just a tad before my decision to actually try blogging again, but I’ll try to cover that in more detail in the future). Between American Werewolf in London, Back to the Future, Gargoyles, Defenders of the Earth, and their cartoon-based Ninja Turtles line – to say nothing of their recent acquisition of Universal Monsters – NECA seems to have recovered quite well from the loss of Toys R Us a few years back.

Now, on a more personal note, if they would just reveal how that King Kong accessory pack will be released…my hope is they’re coming with a “Meat Eater” figure.

Council of War

In Search of Stryker

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