Feb 27, 2013

Atari's Hercules Pinball

I've been making my way through the mammoth book Atari Inc.: Business is Fun, which I'll be posting more about when I finish it. It's gotten me very nostalgic for the golden age of arcades. Then I started thinking how some of my internet pals are around a decade younger than me. Those few years make the difference between experiencing the birth of home consoles along with the height of the coin-op arcade and growing up with a home console.

Now I know you youngins have likely been to some kind of arcade but to me the arcades of the early 80s are something I'm gratful to have experienced first hand. It was a time before they were mostly filled with multi-player driving, dancing, and fighting games and despite the limits of technology, there was an incredible variety from game to game.

video game arcade room

My dad often took me to a local bowling alley called Capeway that had a decent sized arcade area with video games and pinball. To get this thing back on track, I wanted to share a particular pinball machine that you may not know about: Atari's Hercules. For me pinball is all about the licensing or it's got to have a great gimmick. This time, size matters!

Image from NYC Pinball
Look at that thing! To give you a better idea of its size it uses a pool cue ball instead of the standard size pinball! Atari tried their hand at pinball for a few years ultimately getting seven machines out. Hercules was their final one and what a way to go out!

This video gives a comparison of Hercules against a standard sized pinball machine.
There's a bit of under the hood stuff as well for you electronics nerds.
If you want to see game play, skip to about 3:14 mark.

I think this is one of the few exceptions where something you remember as being huge when you're a kid actually is. If I had weighted wristlets at the time, I would no doubt have felt compelled to wear them to play this beast of a machine.

Feb 25, 2013

LoEB Post - The Oscars

league of extraordinary bloggers logo

Well, the official Oscars have come and gone, not that I really care. I thought "We Saw Your Boobs" was pretty funny and very Family Guy-ish. I haven't seen Brave but I doubt it will move me like Frankenweenie or speak to me as much as Wreck-It Ralph. What do they know anyway? They effectively ruined action movies for a few years by giving Best Special Effects to The Matrix and forcing us to endure way too many bullet-time wannabes.

But that's not what I'm here to blog about today! The latest assignment from the League of Extraordinary Bloggers, in keeping with a recent theme, is just a couple words:

The Oscars

One image springs to mind when I hear the word Oscar.
One shining example of creative genius that has changed lives.
Something known across the world, that transcends cultural and linguistic barriers.
I am, of course, talking about Oscar the Grouch.

Oscar has been voiced by Carrol Spinney since day 1. He got the idea for the voice after talking to a NYC cab driver, go figure! I had the chance to meet Mr. Spinney at a local con a few years ago and he was just the nicest guy you could imagine, which is really more fitting with his other Sesame persona of Big Bird. How's that for dichotomy?

Carrol Spinney Sesame Street Big Bird Oscar muppet autograph

Carroll told me how during his time in the US Navy he went by his middle name (Ed) because...well, I think you can put that together on your own!

Here's a few things about Oscar that might come in handy on trivia night...

His trash can is like a TARDIS, it's bigger on the inside. Over the years, Oscar has claimed it to contain a farm, skating rink, bowling alley and a pool among other things.

Oscar was originally orange during Sesame Street's first season

Image from Wikipedia
Although he hasn't been seen in over a decade, Oscar used to get around via Bruno the Trash Man. If I were a city worker and found a foul-mouthed creature living in the trash, I don't know that I'd carry him around...unless someone was making an '80s movie about us.

He has also been seen walking with just his legs sticking out of the can in some early '70s episodes where he's played by none other than Hervé Villechaize!

Oscar's best friend is his adorable pet worm, Slimey.
I always liked Slimey as a kid. He was incredibly emotive for such a small guy.

"The Grouch" like "The Hutt" denotes Oscar's species. Yes, there's more of them!

He has a girlfriend named Grundgetta, or Grungie.

What other Leaguers are posting about "The Oscars"
Shezcrafti belts out the Best Songs of the 80s
Best Action Figures of Oscar Winners is covered by Tophat Sasquatch
The Combat Workshop spotlights a model of the Ki-43-i Hayabusa, or Oscar.

Feb 23, 2013

Zag Toys - Marvel Nog'nz

I've really been enjoying the different lines of collectibles that Zag Toys has been putting out. The down side is that they're blind bagged, the plus side is that they're only a couple bucks and can satisfy that need to buy when you don't find anything else on a toy run.

Their latest offering is called Nog'nz and thanks to a contest on their Facebook page, I won a few packs. I'd seen photos online and their design sort of reminded me of Crazy Bones.

grab zags marvel nog'nz blind packs
Each pack comes with a checklist and two Nog'nz.
But there's two things that make these more fun than Crazy Bones: they're based on Marvel Comics characters and they're fully painted instead of cast in a single color.

grab zags marvel nog'nz magento gambit doctor doom doctor strange green goblin thor

As the checklist shows, they manage to cover the hot properties with all 45 Nog'nz: Spider-Man, Avengers, X-Men and Fantastic Four. The back of the checklist suggests a few games you can play with them. I think they manage to capture quite a bit of character into each little head. I was excited to get my two favorite Marvel Doctors: Doom and Strange.

grab zags marvel nog'nz doctor doom doctor strange beta ray bill black widow scarlet spider

Word has it the next series will be based on DC characters.
You can keep up with @ZagToys on Twitter.

Feb 22, 2013

Another Savers Score

I had an appointment with a job placement agency earlier in the week which is about an hour away. While I was on my way there, I happened to pass another Savers store. I made a point to check it out on the way home and found more cool stuff!

First up is a couple of interesting looking books. The graphics and title on the spine of River of Gold caught my eye enough to pull it and give it a looksee. While I continued to browse the shelves I found the first book in the series also.

I did a quick phone check to find out there are three books in the series but the last wasn't there. The combination of "in the spirit of Raiders" tag on the first book and the back covers sold me anyway. Especially River of Gold talking about the lost city of Amazon warrior-women, piranhas and head hunters! $2/each

Next was something I randomly found while standing in the checkout. A 1964 Disneyland souvenir book for It's a Small World! Despite the fact that I think this ride would be vastly improved by the addition of an infrared blaster system (or even paint or pellet guns), I'm fascinated by Disney Imagineering.

Disneyland 1964 It's a Small World Souvenir Book

The first half of the book is packed with photos and a written guide of the ride.
The back half gives a behind the scenes look at how it was created and works.

Walt Disney Disneyland 1964 It's a Small World Souvenir Book

Here's the center spread.

Walt Disney Disneyland 1964 It's a Small World Souvenir Book

If this were Haunted Mansion or Pirates related, I'd definitely add it to the archives. Recent Ebay auctions have closed around $15-$20. Considering I paid 29 cents for it, I might flip it.

Lastly, I found another cool game but this one's even older than  The Phantom: Ruler of the Jungle game I found from 1966! Although I don't know exactly what decade it's from. The interwebs tell me Milton Bradley started producing it in the 1890s. In researching I've also seen plenty of different box covers tagged as being from the 1930s and 1940s.

Milton Bradley Table Croquet 4333
The mallets are about 8" long to give you a size reference.

The box has a bit of wear and a couple of split corners but considering it could be anywhere from 70-120 years old, it's not bad! There's no parts list but it looks to be complete with the exception of a foot from one of the wickets. The directions are printed on the inside box lid. $2

There's something a little odd about the cover art that I didn't really notice until I looked at the large size image. Take a look at that guy on the right. The color in the photo is a little off, but he's wearing a purple suit, has green hair and thanks to his cheek blush, looks like he has a big red smile! I hope he doesn't ask anyone if they want to see a mallet disappear...

Feb 20, 2013

Mailbox Invaders - Glyos Figures

If you're a fan of classic sci-fi toy lines like Battle Beasts and Z-Bots, you may be familiar with the more recent Glyos line by Onell Design. And if you're not, you should be!

Glyos are part action figure and part construction toy. Every Glyos part is made to be interchangeable with other Glyos parts. Think about that for a minute. Imagine being able to swap arms, legs, heads, torsos on every Star Wars/GI Joe figure you had!
These figs come in around 3" tall and plenty of articulation.

I wanted to show off my recent addition, SRU Commander Arclurran Sarvos. He's actually my second Glyos figure. My first one was Verexxan Armorvor, which is very Battle Beast-y.
Here's what I got with the Commander...

3 heads, 2 upper torso, 2 lower torso, l/r arm, l/r leg and 2 kerchief kind things (2nd row, left). This is one of the coolest things about getting a Glyos figure, they always pop a little something extra in with your order. I should note the hands and feet are also removable.

Here's a few pics of the Commander in different combinations

Check out those belt pouches!
Alas, poor Horvax, I knew him well...
Invisible surfboard

I didn't used to follow the Onell Design blog closely so I didn't even know when this batch of figures was going on sale. I was lucky to be watching Twitter when it happened. They sell out quick so you have to know what you want to get your order in. It's not easy trying to pick just one! If I had more time to decide, I probably would have gotten a Deep Space Glyan instead.

But I do like the Commander. I've got plenty enough parts to change him up every once in awhile. My only teeny-tiny complaint about him is the left arm being straight out with no bend in the elbow. It looks odd to me where his other limbs aren't so rigid. But like I said, it's a very minor nit to pick. These figures are a great value for the price!

Here's a few shots of the Armorvor.

I don't know why I went with this color.
There was a red/white version that's much more dynamic.
The head has two sides to it...

and here's the other side. He's also holding his gun. I think it's a gun, it kinda looks like a toy spaceship! He also came with an extra head...

Head Swap!!

Feb 15, 2013

The Phantom Board Game (1966)

After not having been in a few weeks, I decided to hit up Savers thrift store yesterday. They always have an assortment of books, toys and games but I'd never found anything really interesting until yesterday. As I was browsing the shelves stacked with board games, I saw "The Phantom Game" calling my attention.

Being the Halloween geek that I am, I had to pull the box out and have a look at it! Well, it wasn't that kind of phantom but the pulp hero. I've never gotten into The Phantom like I have other heroes such as The Shadow or Doc Savage. I've seen both modern movies, read a few comics and saw him on the Superfriend-y Defenders of the Earth cartoon.

As I inspected the box I noticed it was from 1966 so I popped it open to check the contents. The rule sheet was right there with a list of parts. Excuse me, not parts, implements. That's what they call the contents. Everything was there (and musty!) except for The Phantom Ring. Yet I noticed one of the "implements" was clay which was still in the box. Yep, I said clay...more on that later. Most pulp heroes have their trademark that they're known for and as little as I know about The Phantom, I know his skull ring is how he leaves his mark.
Would the game still be playable without it? At $1.99 I didn't care.

The Phantom Ruler of the Jungle board game Transogram 1966

For the most part, it's in great shape considering its age. The right side of the box has a ding/dent in it but it's nothing too major. The clay has been removed from the box and game pieces and thrown out.  You're probably wondering why a board game came with clay. Each player has to complete missions on the board. The way you mark them complete is by placing one of your colored tokens on it and putting a blob of clay on the token. You then press the skull-shaped Phantom Ring into the clay to leave the mark of The Phantom.

An original Phantom game ring. Image from BoardGameGeek
So you can play without the ring but you need something to replace it. Only one player can have it at any time but there are spaces you can land on to steal it. Since having it is the only way to score missions, it sounds like players will be fighting to be the one true Phantom!

The Phantom Ruler of the Jungle board game Transogram 1966

Usually when I find something like this, I scope out Ebay on my phone in the store for fun. But this was so cool that I just grabbed it and didn't think to check until later last night. Come to find out, complete copies in decent shape are going for around $150! I don't think my copy would go into triple digits, but on the other hand, I don't know how rare it might be.

Feb 13, 2013

LoEB Post - Love, Exciting and New

Another week, another assignment from The League of Extraordinary Bloggers!
Luckily, this one doesn't require sharing 5 bathrooms with 4000 other people.

Write a stream of conscious post listing the things you love and hold dear. 

The length of this post vs how long it actually takes me to write it will probably be way out of proportion as I try to self-edit and keep myself from going on and on and on...

My parents and wife! They've been amazing as long as I've known them.

You, yes you there reading this! I had no idea how starting a silly little blog would change the way I interact with the internet and introduce me to so many great people.

Comments! I can see how many page hits a post gets but seeing comments gives me a little more validation that someone's interested in what I'm writing.

Star Wars! (even some parts of the prequels) Being able to escape to another place I know so well whether through movies, TV, games, music or other audio things...

Music! Oh my god, there is sooo much music I love. Stuff that's been with me forever and takes me back (Pac-Man Fever album), stuff that I listen to when I'm down (Trans-Formers soundtrack got me through some tough times), stuff that I blast when I'm pissed at the world (Calabrese, Zombina and the Skeletones and tons of other punk & metal) and stuff I put on to zone out to (anything relating to Tron).

Tron! If you've been reading for a bit, you know how much I love this franchise.

Halloween! The movies are ok but I'm talking about the holiday and the fall season. Bringing out the Salem Creep every year and scaring the pants off people. Having Trick or Treaters come to the door, especially when they're Star Wars or something else pop culture related.

Photography! There are few things I enjoy more than going to a cemetery alone, wandering the stones and taking pictures. I do like taking photos of other things too, as you might have seen. But, gravestones don't move around and try to be funny in pictures...usually.

Movies! Oh so many to list but I have a spot in my heart for the horror/scifi of the 50s, 60s and 70s. In particular if it features Vincent Price or something being a lot bigger /smaller than it naturally should be, I'm there!

Cartoons and Saturday mornings! Adventure Time, Regular Show, Gravity Falls, the Aquabats Super Show. Being able to revisit stuff I haven't seen in ages like Battle of the Planets (and the original Gatchaman), Thundarr the Barbarian, StarBlazers and StarCade.

Games of all kinds: board, card and video! As far as we've come tech-wise I still love the hell out of old school arcade and vintage games, especially my Atari 2600 favorite: Yar's Revenge.

And I'm going to wrap with toys! I always feared as a kid that I'd get too old for toys. Glad I was wrong! LEGO minifigs, action figures, capsule toys from vending machines, Halloween themed Playmobil figures.

What other League Members are lovin
Lair of the Dork Horde
Branded in the 80s
Sideshow Cinema

Feb 11, 2013

Mail Order Monday is Here to Pump *CLAP* You Up!

Let's face facts, kids. Your average comic book reader is not usually a paragon of physical fitness. Almost anyone that picked up a comic since the 60s will probably tell you they ran across a Charles Atlas bodybuilding ad at some point.

Today's ads are something a little different. Just wearing these manly leather and lead "wristlets" (wait, did I say manly?) every day will increase your arm strength! Well, duh. If you wear weights on your arm and go about your daily activity, it's going to build up your muscles because you're lifting extra weight, ie: weightlifting.

weighted wristlets 1971 comic book body building ad
Weighted Wristlets (1971)
And if you're not happy with the results of these, you can return them within 10 days! I imagine some young men got to day 9 and thought they could feel it working and if they just kept wearing them past day 10, they'd be sure to bulk up.

But if that amazing 10 day trial offer and the image of someone breaking two boards barehanded isn't enough to entice you, how about this guy?

Joe Welder Strong Arm Bracelets 1971 arnold schwarzenegger bodybuilding ad
Joe Weider Strong Arm Bracelets (1971)
Now that dude is ripped! Certainly he must have gotten like that by using these leather wristlets! Who's Joe Weider, you're asking? He's considered to be the father of modern bodybuilding...at least according to this web page.

But forget about him, I have a feeling this guy's going to be back in bigger and better things!

Feb 6, 2013

Now Hear This - Awesome Snakes

I'm trying out a new feature on the ol' blog today in an effort to keep it from becoming a gallery of my latest toy purchases. My intent from the start was to share all kinds of interesting things so I'm going to expose you to music you may not be aware existed...

Have you ever thought to yourself, "Man, I wish there were more songs with snake lyrics."? Even if you haven't, you should still check out the band Awesome Snakes.

Awesome Snakes were a two person punk band from Minneapolis that put out one CD (Venom) in 2006. The members were Annie Holoien (aka "Annie Awesome") and Danny Henry (aka "Danny Snakes") who did this as a side project while they were both still in another band called The Soviettes.

One of the things that bums me out about the slow death of music stores was the ability to walk in and just browse album covers. There are more than a few bands I "discovered" back in the day by seeing a cool album cover and deciding to check it out. You can argue that the internet has made this easier but it's nowhere near as much fun as physically flipping through those cardboard sleeves. And its nowhere near as satisfying when you find that one kick ass cover that you can bring to your friends and introduce them to it.

Why did I decide to give Awesome Snakes a listen?
The answer is in their CD cover

If that still doesn't answer the question for you...

It's not really something that's come up much, but I am a huge fan of hair bands from the 80s/90s.
 They even used umlauts in their band name! The band's sound is very simple: drums and a bass run through a fuzzbox. What really grabbed me about them is their use of snakes, sound clips and the random change up between song styles.

It's nothing world changing but I think it's straight out fun. I seem to take an instant liking to bands like this including Cake, They Might Be Giants and The Aquabats because of their original, off-beat lyrics. Like a lot of punk, most of the 15 tracks on this album are under two minutes long. Unlike most punk, just over half the songs have the word snakes in the title!

If you have Spotify, you can listen below.
You can also hear clips on the Venom Amazon page
Just be aware there is the occasional droppage of swear words

Feb 4, 2013

S.L.U.G. Zombies Series 4 Hunters

If you've got swarms of little green zombie figures, it only stands to reason they need someone to fight against, right? Here are the remaining figures from S.L.U.G. Zombies Series 4: the humans! Please excuse my playing with the photo filters.

Buckskin Bill

S.L.U.G. Zombie series 4 buckskin bill
He's stopped on a dime because that's the only way he'd stand up
 Survival Skill: Wrote the book, "Survivial Skills"
 Likes: His trusty sidekick, Rascal
Dislikes: When Rascal has an accident
Favorite Quote: "Who waits 'til you see the whites of their eyes? Just shoot!"

Ah, another zombie hunter out of time. It only makes sense considering the wide variety of time periods the zombies are coming from. Bill's decked out in the standard Daniel Boone frontiersman gear, complete with flintlock rifle. He's also got a coonskin cap, except his isn't dead! That's a great example of taking the figure just a bit further to make it funny.


S.L.U.G. Zombie series 4 Johnson

Survival Skill: Sure fire aim
Likes: Unloading two guns at once
Dislikes: Cleaning out her hamster's cage
Favorite Quote: "They call me...Johnson."

Twin pistols, fingerless gloves, tiny backpack, ponytail. There's no question what video game vixen inspired this character! I have no idea why they went with the name Johnson though.

Sawblade Sampson

S.L.U.G. Zombie series 4
 sawblade sampson

Survival Skill: A saw for a hand, a shotgun in the other!
Likes: Sharpening his sawblade
Dislikes: Being asked to carve the turkey every Thanksgiving
Favorite Quote: "How about a haircut? I'll start just below the chin."

I hesitate to even say this is "inspired by" because the resemblance is dead on. Sure it looks more like a giant electric carving knife than a chainsaw but I'm not telling him! 
Hail to the king, baby!

Play-It-Safe Sammy

[No photo on record]

Survival Skill: Run & hide
Likes: His industrial strength hazmat suit
Dislikes: Sharp objects
Favorite Quote: "Don't forget to wash your hands!"

Sammy is playing it so safe, I don't even have a photo of him! He's the only figure from series 4 that I don't have but I'm not concerned. As you may guess from his bio, he's decked out in a full body hazmat suit and is toting a machine gun. Personally, when I think weapons and hazmat suits I'm thinking of a flamethrower. But that's just me.

And that wraps up Series 4 of S.L.U.G Zombies! Will there be more? The site's poster checklist shows graphics for Series 5 and 6. Hopefully we'll get some news on the future of S.L.U.G.s from New York Toy Fair later this month.


Feb 1, 2013

Monthly Movie Recap - January 2013

Here we are kicking off another year of watching movies!

Tangled (2010)
I really liked this one. It's a lot of fun and the songs are worked in well. The look of it is a little different from the usual CGI animated movies, in a good way. Even though Rapunzel loses her "power" at the end, I wouldn't mind seeing these characters in another movie.

Cool: The chameleon and horse steal their scenes; Zachary Levi is great
Lame: Sometimes it seems her hair is prehensile and sometimes not?
Rating: 7.5