Friday, January 2, 2009

Fun and cheap toys - GoBots and DC Infinite Heroes!

Not everything in your collection can be a Star Saber, USS Flagg, or a Futuron Monorail set.
After all, many toys become "valuable collectors items" (YECH) over the course of time, and do not stand up well to handling.

I have always maintained an "A" line that I collect - Star Wars, Gi Joe, Transformers - something where I am likely to collect most of the releases that are...released, from a line which has an extensive number of figures and characters.
And additionally, a number of secondary lines that I collect for the fun of it, or due to an interest in the characters, but usually something that won't be too extensive. Some of them are fairly short lived - Mezco's South Park, for example - and in the end, take up one small shelf in a room, thus preserving their survival when the great cullings occur when I have too many toys*. Madballs is another in this category.
Something like WWE Wrestling figures from Jakks, to use another example, have too many releases to stay on top of, a number of exclusives which are a pain to obtain (or so rare that it is stupid - one of 100 on something that thousands of collectors legitimately want?), and take up a lot of space - so I collect them for a few years, get fed up with it, and blow out the line on eBay or on collector's forums.

One of my all time B-lines is Computer Warriors from Mattel. A solid mix of vehicles and micro-figures add up to a lot of potential fun.

Recently, I have added a number of figures to the collections from a long-time B line of toys - the Gobots from Tonka - and a growing army of figures from a recent Mattel line, DC Universe Infinite Heroes.

These were not cheap. Their die-cast is real, but they are not.

Above we can see a couple of examples of Gobots. These particular two figures are not what I could call cheap, especially for what they are. Gobots are known for being very floppy, terribly named in many cases, and suffering in comparison to a much greater robot-to-something line. I am referring, of course, to Web Diver, but you knew that already.
I did not have fond memories of the Gobots. Mostly, this was due to my mother "throwing" (her code word for "I gave them to some other kids") away my Gobots around...1992 or so. I forgot about them...mostly. The ones that stuck in my mind were some of the most basic ones - Tank, Loco - who were of the "bend me in half and I am my alt-mode" variety. I had forgotten how nice some of them were - Defendor being a favorite.
One of the most frequent criticisms I see of Gobots are that they are not as good as Transformers - the K-Mart Transformers, as referenced in Kevin Smith's Clerks II. I can't disagree with that comment - they aren't as good as Transformers, in most cases.
But when one peels back the curtain, we can see exactly why this is - they were never meant to be direct competition for Gobots.
Gobots were directed at a completely different audience in Japan than Transformers were. There is an entire sub-division of toys sold in Japan that are sold through vending machines. I hear that many, many items are sold this way - video games, used female panties, food...even toys. So Gobots (or Machine Robo, as it was titled in Japan) was meant as a quick toy on the go, unlike Transformers, some of which required memorizing exactly where every arm, knee, shoulder, windscreen, and head fold up to make it resemble a realistic car.
You want a mind-shattering fact that explains the R and D that went into Gobots? They had contests to let KIDS decide what vehicle modes should be used! Yeah. Transformers never did that - mostly because Takara would probably wind up getting sued somehow, and changing the entire space-time continuum and insuring that we got a live-action Gobots movie last year. But in any case, it explains a trash truck getting picked as a vehicle. Can you imagine being the robot who gets that alt-mode by mistake?
CyKill to Flytrap - "Go hide as a trash truck!" Sounds like the kind of thing someone would be writing fan-fiction about...
SOOOO...a few hundred words later, I picked up some Gobots last year for a couple bucks at a toy show...and they weren't half-bad. I checked eBay prices - and saw that some lots of figures were selling for cheap, giving a collector a price of approximately $2 per figure! Cheaper than original retail. Of course, buying them originally you didn't have missing arms, rotted tires, etc, but I put together a pretty extensive Gobot run for pretty cheap (10 basic figures to go!).
Like any other toyline, I am down to the figures who go for some money - the early figure Pumper, being discontinued early on, being the oldest chronological figure I still do not have.
Some of the later figures, as can be seen on Super Toy Archive, can be quite pricey.
If you decide to collect Gobots, just remember - do not expect something at the complexity level of a Transformer, and you should have a good time.

Now, about DC Infinite of my favorite lines of all-time is Super Powers from Kenner. You can see the entire line-up at this Flickr page. Awesome stuff - Kenner really had sculpting down, for most of the lines they ever did. They wrote the playbook on how to make successful toylines, in my opinion (and then threw it all away on Congo, Waterworld, Capitol Critters, and a few other horrific stinkers). It's hard to beat the character selection they had - most of the biggies from that era of DC are represented. I could argue a few nostalgic favorites - Mr. Bones, perhaps - and the character selection in series 3 was a bit off - Tyr when there are no Legion characters? Cyborg all by himself? Characters Kenner designed (Cyclotron, Golden Pharoah) instead of more New Gods? But those are nit-picks.
I had wished when DC Direct started up that they continued where Kenner left off, but they went to a much larger scale. Eventually, they announced "Pocket Heroes". They would be smaller than Super Powers, but promised an awesome selection of characters - Golden Age. JLA, JSA, the Legion, etc, etc. This is what we got:

A bit stylized, to be sure, but I liked the figures. I was more angry that they did one or two figures from a family, and then canceled the line.
I have been leery ever since of collecting any DC line. I have a couple of the Mattel DC Universe Classics - Eradicator, Despero, Captain Atom, Wonder Woman - but I don't want a comprehensive DC Universe in a six-inch scale. My someday-to-be-photographed five and six inch scale display is filled to the brim with figures.
I want a figure line I can put into a box and put away if I need display space.

Enter Infinite Heroes.

The figure you see above is a Qwardian Weaponer.
Now that you have Googled him, I will say that he is an enemy of the Green Lantern Corps, part of an entire race of aliens which lives in the Anti-Matter universe. And not well known to non-comics fans, I think. There have been a lot of DC cartoons over the last few years that I have not watched, so who knows? He could have been a major Justice League villian.
I held out on these for a few months, because frankly, the price was too high - the above figure was $6 to $7 at most retailers. Also, the quality on the first releases was hit-and-miss - Superman has giant hands, for example.
Target has priced these, if in a single pack, at $5-$5.25. Which works for me. They are fun and cheap, especially when the six-inch figures are around $10-$12 each.
A three-pack of IH ranges from $12.99 at TRU, $15 at Wal-Mart, to $16-$18 at Target. Targets in the NJ/PA area have prices that differ from store to store, inexplicably.
It was Dr. Fate who finally broke me. I have always like the design for Dr. Fate. So I picked him up, and a bunch of his friends. Pictures have popped up of the plans for this line in 2009 (character choices, better articulation, sculpting fixes), so I knew it was time to get on-board.
They are not for every one, but I love the asthetic. It feels very classic to me, to minimize the sculpted parts and create the outfit with paint. Not something I want to see on a line like Gi Joe or Transformers, but it works well for these.


I already linked Super Toy Archive for Gobots.

Super Powers - google ToyOtter and Super Powers. No more can be said after you see those sites.

Infinite Heroes - as the line is still in its infancy, there is no definitive checklist site or archive out there. Check out Joe Acevedo for a visual archive. The Rumor Buster has a text checklist that I find slightly hard to read due to the release date information, but it is also useful. eBay and also can help you know what is currently in release.

*is there such a thing? HELL YES.

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