Saturday, March 9, 2013

Almost Vintage: Bif Bang Pow! Six Million Dollar Man 8" Figures

In the 1970s, many kids tuned into the Six Million Dollar Man TV show week after week.  Colonel Steve Austin was an astronaut that needed cybernetic replacements for some of his body parts after a horrific crash while flying a new test craft.  These implants gave him extraordinary strength and abilities.  To be like Steve, many of us dreamed of stopping runaway cars with our bare feet, jumping over 15 foot walls, and tussling with mythological beasts like Sasquatch (Big Foot).

Kenner made a great line of Six Million Dollar Man (SMDM) toys in the mid and late 70s and we loved them.  They still hold a special place in the hearts of many "kids" from the 70s.  However, the end of the show also ended the toys and we were left to leave childhood behind and begin to grow up.  Many, many years later a lot of us started digging through boxes in the garage, scouring yard sales, and searching online for Kenner's old SMDM toys to reclaim a bit of our childhood.  In a way, the end of the Kenner toys signaled the end of an era and Steve Austin was left to be mostly forgotten (apart from a couple of made-for-TV movies in the 80s).

Fast forward to 2012.  A new toy movement has been in motion for a few years which many refer to as "Re-Megos."  Several lines of 8" action figures from different companies have been released that follow the style and size of figures produced by the late, great company Mego in the 1970s.  Mego never had a license for SMDM and so we never got 8" action figures of Steve and his "buddies" from the TV show.  However, that has recently been remedied by a newish company called Bif Bang Pow!  BBP has been producing Mego-like 8" figures for several years now and have just recently tackled the Six Million Dollar Man.

As of now, BBP has released 3 versions of Steve Austin, a Bigfoot, and Dr. Rudy Wells.  In the near future, they will be releasing figures of Steve's boss Oscar Goldman, a Fembot, Steve Austin in Astronaut suit, Barney Hiller (The SEVEN Million Dollar Man), and Mr. X (the character that the classic Maskatron figure was based on).

This first figure is Steve Austin in his iconic red track suit.  This outfit is most associated with the SMDM and was featured in the opening credits each week.  Bif Bang Pow! has also used an ingenious way of showing Steve's "bionics" if you look under his track suit.  His left forearm and each lower leg is cast in clear plastic with "bionics" silk-screened in silver on each body part.  We never really saw Steve's bionics in the television show very much except when he'd open a panel on his arm or take some bionic-revealing damage.  So, the clear limbs aren't TV accurate but they sure are fun and a welcome way of showing that Steve has special abilities.  Steve also comes with a red talking keychain that has dialogue from the show's opening segment and some bionic sound effects.  Although it would have been neat to have Steve's sound-effects integrated into the figure, itself, as originally planned, I am glad that BBP found a way to give us this sound feature, anyway.

I have only two gripes with this figure.  The first is the size of his head (and this problem seems to pertain to many of the figures in this line).  It's a bit too big and seems out of scale when put next to many other Mego and ReMego figures.  It's kind of a minor "nit," though, and I know that BBP is working on this for future figures.  Regulating this with factories abroad must be a difficult thing to do.

The other has to do with Steve's likeness.  In my opinion, it's a fair bit off-the-mark from the way that Lee Majors looked in the TV show (for one thing, Majors was always pulling his eyebrows down close to his eyes.. almost like a constant squint) .  That's not to say it's completely off as there is SOME likeness there.  Many collectors were turned off on this line by Steve's likeness and it may have hurt the overall acceptance and sales of this line.  For me, I'm just thrilled to be buying SMDM toys in 2012 and 2013.  This is a very reasonably priced toy.  So, I'm not going to cry "foul" if a couple things are off.  And, at the end of the day, this is a TOY.  I like to consider what I would have thought of a toy as a 9 or 10 year-old with stuff like this.  Would this have been good enough, back then?  Absolutely… and I would have had a blast.

The packaging is a nice representation of how Mego packaging was produced in the 70s.  I've shown one of the packages here.  Each character is packaged on the same card art with just the character's name changing.  This is just fine with me since this is how Mego approached their packaging, as well.  

BBP also released Steve in his Khaki outfit that was seen on the show many, many times.  They even included his trademark belt-buckle!  This figure was released in two versions… with and without mustache.  This was done to represent Steve's changing look on the show as Lee Majors did have a mustache for a season or two.  It's a variant that actually makes me laugh.  I never would have ever thought I'd have a SMDM figure with a mustache.

 Bif Bang Pow! chose a slightly different method for representing Steve's bionics on this Khaki version.  They screen printed the same bionic graphics on flesh colored appendages instead of clear ones.  It's kind of a nice effect, too.  You can almost imagine that you are seeing Steve's bionics through open panels on this version.

Also recently produced was Bigfoot!  Some of the show's greatest episodes centered around Steve finding and fighting the mythological beast.  Bigfoot is on a taller body than the other SMDM figures and uses a stuffed suit to represent his fur and girth from the character on the show.  The head sculpt is a very nice representation of Andre the Giant's costumed portrayal of this beast.  Bigfoot also comes with a talking keychain that has many different sounds bionic should effects… different than Steve's keychain, I might add.

 Bigfoot's arms are a bit stubby in proportion to the rest of the figure, but again, this is a pretty minor "nit."  This is a great, fun figure that does great justice to the TV show and also Mego heritage.

Bif Bang Pow's 8" Steve and Kenner's 13" figure of Steve

Big and Small Bigfoot

"Get 'im, Steves!!"

I love this line of toys and am looking forward to all of the forthcoming SMDM releases from Bif Bang Pow!  I don't know how many characters they can do past the ones that have been announced but I'd welcome any that might be announced in the future.  

Monday, February 25, 2013

1978 Mattel Shogun Warriors Godzilla

In the 70s, cable television brought the Japanese Godzilla movies to a whole new group of young fans that hadn't had much exposure to the monster before.  I remember it always being a pretty big deal when the Denver station would run a Godzilla movie.  I didn't have cable but a friend up the street did.  So, I got to watch a bit of Godzilla here and there at his house.  

Mattel brought Godzilla over to the US as a toy in their large-sized Shogun Warriors line.  It seemed a little bit out of "left field" to have a big green monster as part of a line of toys that we knew, exclusively, as a robot line of toys.  Although it seemed a bit odd, it was still really cool to see a huge Godzilla toy on the toy shelves.  He didn't seem to have as many features as most of the other Shogun toys but that almost didn't matter because he was GODZILLA.

 Godzilla is a bit shorter than the other toys in the line but if he had been in scale and also the full 24" tall, he would have needed a much bigger box than the rest of the line.

Godzilla features articulation at the shoulders, wrists, hips, and tail.  He looks like he'd have neck articulation but the visible seam is just part of his construction and doesn't allow for any head movement.  Godzilla is made of the same type of "shampoo bottle" plastic as his robotic brothers but seems to have a hard plastic head.  This may be due to it needing to house the mechanism for his "fiery breath" tongue.  More on that in a second.

Godzilla, despite NOT being a robot still has a couple of action features.  His left fist shoots off at the press of a button (further up on his forearm) and actually packs quite a wallop.  He also has a lever on the back of his head that extends his "ugly tongue" as one 1978 COMMERCIAL puts it.  Another COMMERCIAL called it a "blast of fire."  It's basically a silk-screened piece of pliable plastic but is still a fun feature.  Other than wheels on the bottom of his feet (like all Mattel Shogun Warriors), that's about it for features.  


Interestingly enough, instead of using the superior Popy version of the same toy and importing it to the US like the other Shoguns, Mattel opted to create their own Godzilla with a much less intimidating look than his Japanese counterpart.  He's definitely a "softer" Godzilla than the Japanese toy.


 At any rate, this US version of Godzilla is a still a fantastic toy and provided hours of fun for the kids that had one.  I didn't have one as a kid but enjoyed looking at the Godzilla box on the toy store shelf.  I picked this one up last year and I'm very glad I did.  He makes a very nice addition to my growing Shogun Warriors collection.

Now, I just have to decide if he's "friend or foe."  As the commercial puts it, It's up to me to decide.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Mattel Shogun Warriors Mazinga

Mazinga!  I picked this guy up last year to add to my Shogun Warrior collection.  I lucked out and found one in pretty nice shape.  After tracking down a few original accessories, he's complete and all original.

The Shogun Warrior toys were distributed in the US by Mattel in the mid-to-late 70s.  They were created by a Japanese company, Popy, and were produced as characters from several different Japanese licenses (cartoons).  Mattel brought them over to the US with a few minor modifications and sold them under one banner and license… The Shogun Warriors.

As toys go, these Shogun Warriors were huge… around 2 feet tall.  To a kid, these things were immense.  Even as an adult, these things seem very large and Mazinga is no exception.

I didn't have a Mazinga as a kid but a friend down the street had one.  I had a Dragun but was secretly jealous of my friend's Mazinga.  Mazinga just had an intimidation factor that the other Shoguns just didn't have.  His horns, pointy head, Vader-like grill on his face, and red chest armor made him look like something not to be messed with.  He could shoot 3 rockets from his fist at the same time, or one at a time.  He even came with two swords should he run out of missiles and have to cut down his foes "Medieval Style."  If things got really dicey, Mazinga's pilot could jettison from the top of Mazinga's head in a separate craft.  How cool is that?!

My appreciation for these large Shogun Warrior toys seems to grow with age.  In the history of US toys, they were really something different and special on the toy shelves back in the 70s.  While in Japan these characters' popularity continues today with new cartoons and toys, in the US we haven't seen true Shogun warrior toys in decades.  I'd love to see Mattel or another company take the necessary steps to rerelease these guys or continue the concept with brand-new Shogun toys.  I'm sure the fact that Shoguns are actually from different Japanese licenses is a hinderance.  But, hey, they made it happen once, right?

As a kid, I was more into things like 12" Gijoe, Star Wars, and the Six Million Dollar Man.  However, in adding more Shoguns to my collection lately, I have a renewed appreciation for them…. and, Dang! do they look cool on the shelf.