80s

thats_incredible_dynamite

From 1980 to 1984 “That’s Incredible” was worth staying up for. I remember being enthralled with heroic rescues, amazed at human feats of incredible danger or artistic merit (to a ten year old) and closing my eyes during the surgery segments they seemed to have every other week.  

If you think about it, That’s Incredible was Youtube and Facebook pre-internet. Even in the intro below they have video of cats sitting in pots. Why would they do this, unless they somehow predicted what our lives would be like now.

Hats off to you Davidson, Crosby and Tarkenton, you are indeed prophets of this new age.

mighty_orbots

I will forgive you if you don’t remember this one. 

The Mighty Orbots cartoon ran from September to December in 1984. Most likely I saw every single episode, but am hard pressed to remember any sort of plot. I consumed everything related to giant robots and I couldn’t let this one pass by.

I remember thinking at the time that it felt like a sanitized version of the mecha anime I was used to, even compared to Transformers.  The animation is more sophisticated than I remember and it is clear that a Japanese studio was involved.  (TMS Entertainment

I expect that traditional US toy companies and network executives didn’t really understand why Japanese media was resonating with children and their attempt to capitalize on it was a tepid version of what was already available.  In the end it was sued out of existence by Tonka who was licensing the GoBots line from Japan and clearly copying elements from other toy lines including Godmars.  It lasted only thirteen episodes and the toys are nonexistent except for the rumor of prototypes and preview catalog pictures like the above.

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You will get some crusty ole’ individual who shakes their fist and insists that Huckleberry Hound was superior to the nonsense that is on TV days but this is colored by experience. I also legitimately feel the absence of the Saturday Morning Cartoon block. Aside from the warm comfort of nostalgia you can objectively see that the content, quality and morality of children focused animation has become progressively stronger. 

There is some argument that the decade old trend of non-sequitur in cartoons has weakened this trend, but even then I can argue that the intelligence of early Spongebob, Ren & Stimpy, and even Uncle Grandpa are still shoulders above the tepid toy driven programs of the eighties.

I love seventies and eighties cartoons and newer experiences will never take away from those experiences, try and watch some of these older programs though and they can become a bit tedious with adult eyes.  You will see repeated and reused animation sequences, plotlines that go nowhere or make no sense and dubious moral choices that would end in tragedy in real life.

Note that I am not talking about cartoons in the first half of the 20th century that were written and designed for adults before intrusive censorship and the idea that cartoons were only for children. In some ways modern animation reclaim this legacy, cartoons that have broad appeal but are clever enough to speak to both audiences without pandering to either.

Do shows like Adventure Time, Steven Universe, Gravity Falls, The Regular Show, Bee and Puppycat and so on spark your imagination or leave you wishing for days of yore? Please discuss in the comments or join us on Facebook

Source: Are today’s cartoons the best that kids’ television has ever been? | Polygon

croc_master_large

What 80’s G.I. Joe did well or at least what I loved the most was taking truly gonzo characters and impractical abilities and then carving out a story with a straight face.  Look at this guy above.  Clearly over-specialized, he was only called out when security demanded the use of a crocodile.  In my mind I imagine him as a TSA employee with his own office and he is called out every once in a while when someone tries to smuggle a baby croc in a bag. Most of the time he just sits in his cubicle trying to play Candy Crush through his full-face leather mask and breathing tube.

From hisstank.com:

Croc Master is a former alligator wrestler and burglar alarm salesman who founded Guard-Gators Inc. in an effort to commercialize the use of alligators for home security. He now keeps Cobra Island secure with a large bask or ultra-aggressive crocodiles that cruise the maze of shallow canals that weave through the island. His system suffers a setback when Blowtorch uses heat-blasting weapons to cut a dry channel directly through the island, bypassing all the ravenous crocs.

Source: G.I. Joe 50th Anniversary Python Patrol Croc Master Photo Shoot – HissTank.com

From the recently held Wonder Festival in Japan we have some amazing shots of prototype garage kits for Mazinger. (Tranzor Z for the American robot fans) I’ve lost track of all of the manga and anime variations of Mazinger, but the products linked below are gorgeous modern representations of the character regardless of how they fit into the continuity.  

Great Mazinger was also part of the North American Shogun Warriors line if that rings any bells.  I’m linking the English dubbed anime opening to spark your memories.

Source: Sen-Ti-Nel at Summer WonFes 2015 | CollectionDX

gaiking

In what is beyond good news for old school anime fans Discotek has announced that they will be producing a new unabridged version of the 1976 giant robot classic Gaiking for the first time in North America.  Gaiking had been previously available in a horribly cut up version when I originally watched it as part of the Force Five programming block and later as a set of abridged DVDs from Shout Factory.

This new version that arrives next year with Japanese audio and English subtitles is a gift for long suffering anime fans like myself.  It will contain all of the character development (and probably filler) that a four decade old baseball themed robot anime can provide. 

Come celebrate with me by soaking in the original Japanese intro and let the glee of colorful giant mecha and monsters wash over you.

Source: Discotek Adds 1976 Gaiking, Wicked City Anime – News – Anime News Network

ghostbusters_logo

Just getting back from vacation now, so I am still oiling my robot parts to talk about the geeky and/or obscure.  Ghostbusters isn’t obscure but it does inspire geek feelings even in the most starched, polo shirted of us and plenty of news and images have been rolling in.

This deserves a full blog post because we have all the women together at once in the new jumpsuits. It isn’t an official promo image so no posing or action shots, still I am thrilled with every bit of news I am seeing out of the production so far.  It feels like Ghostbusters with the bonus that it has been filming in Everett, MA. Take that New York, it’s our turn!

Ghostbusters is directed by Paul Feig, stars Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon and should be released next summer.

ghostbusters_together

werewolf_by_night

Without directly knowing, Mike Ploog has been with me my entire life. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized that Mike has intersected with the things I love from childhood to the present day.

There are a variety of images I could have chosen as the lead for this, but I think simple demonstrates his talent best. Mike Ploog seems to effortlessly display movement. When you look at a Ploog sketch you intuitively know what is going to happen after and what has happened before. You can feel Werewolf by Night’s mouth open in close in a menacing growl, his shoulders roll and his hands moving towards you. You instinctively feel that you are in danger. It takes a great talent to convey that.

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Mr. Ploog was in the marines for a decade before working for the mighty Filmation and Hanna-Barbera and then with the great Will Eisner on the Army’s Preventive Maintenance Monthly. During Marvel’s horror era Mike Ploog was the artist for the creation of Ghost Rider and Werewolf by Night. He drew some of the most dynamic versions of the Man-Thing and several other titles.  His career in the film industry is nothing short of astounding working on design, illustration and story boards for Ralph Bakshi’s Wizards and Lord of the Rings, Heavy Metal, The Thing, The Dark Crystal, Superman III, Supergirl, Return to Oz, Disney’s forgotten Black Cauldron, Young Sherlock Holmes, Little Shop of Horrors, The Witches, The Tick television series, The Prince of Egypt, Titan A.E. and 2000s X-Men.

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Ploog’s early comic work drew me to his style in the seventies, even when I didn’t quite understand who he was but then he followed me throughout my teenage years by working on and influencing some of the greatest fantasy ever put to film.  Almost without exception, if I was obsessed with a fantasy film Mike Ploog was behind the scenes laboring on it in some fashion.   Carpenter’s The Thing is my favorite horror film, Superman III inspired me to become a software engineer (weird, but true), I fought with my parents because they were going to see Lord of the Rings without me, I can sing most of the songs from Little Shop of Horrors and Young Sherlock Holmes is a bizarre masterpiece that also introduced the world to John Lasseter, now Disney and Pixar’s Chief Creative Officer.

I’ve passed these loves down to my children and I hope they do the same.  There is something special about each and every one of them and Ploog’s contributions large or small resonate still.

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After almost fifty years of working in creative industries Mike Ploog is releasing an art book filled with his life’s work.  This will be 320 pages of illustrations and examples from his career. The Kickstarter will run through July 16th of 2015 and I highly recommend you pick it up. In my mind, supporting a man who has given so much to what we love is an important thing to.  His work draws you in and seeing it together like this will pull you back into worlds of your childhood and inspire creatives of the future.

art_of_ploog

robolad

Oh Robolad (or Robolar, I can never tell) you taught me so may things.  If I consume only candy bars I may wake up dressed in a glittery jump suit. You taught me that the Mars space program is so poorly funded that their spacecraft is constructed from cardboard boxes and poster paint.  I now know that the denizens of Mars have a Boston accent.  

Hundreds of times in the eighties I heard that earth fruit is “Yummy and not bad”, so much so that every word of your important message is burned in to my brain and I can repeat it today.

I will never forget you Robolad, or Robolar…whatever your name is.

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When I go back and watch things that I loved in my early teens I don’t always see the charm in them that I did. I notice flaws and tired tropes that were new to me at the time.

The experience is no longer the same, a bit of the magic is gone, but I remember how they made me feel the first time. The fantasies of my childhood were filled with good vs. evil and the good people winning the fight despite the hardship that they had to endure.

This all seems trite to a cynical adult, but I really believe in these things and those memories remind me of my original hopes and dreams for the future. It isn’t a bad future and despite all my grown-upishness I still want that future.

If you grew up in the eighties and caught Robotech after school or woke up early before you catch the bus I hope all those fond memories float back for you too. Here is the original Harmony Gold intro as a reminder.

Vectrex_machines

I’m in the middle of building a tabletop arcade machine, which I will talk about more later but something came up when I was mucking with the software.  I saw that the game emulator handled Vectrex files.

You may not recall Vectrex, but I have a long memory when it comes to video games.  I remember walking in to Child World in Saugus, MA in 1982 and seeing this glorious mini-console on display.  I think I was about nine.

Vectrex had a couple of things going for it that I really dug. It had a screen built in, which in the early eighties was a huge boon because you had to kick people off the tv to play video games since most houses had only one tv and the graphics were vector which rocked pretty hard in my book.  Alas they were expensive and the game library was limited so they went the way of the dodo I believe even before the great video game crash.

Check out the ad here, I’m sure you’ll agree that this was rad.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=UNV4VTQFtsI%3Fw%3D640

Image by Marcin Wichary (Flickr: Vectrexes) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I won’t go into much detail because you just need to watch it. The first trailer was not impressive, this one turned me into a bumbling nostalgic idiot. Enjoy.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=JsC1XSroHwY%3Fw%3D640

There are a certain group of people who will find this hilarious.  The rest will just be confused.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=3nsDv_lkaLw%3Fw%3D640

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Blomkamp has a few more comments on the bit of work he did for a theoretical Alien sequel.  I actually like a lot about Alien 3, but agree that it should be thrown out as part of the universe.  I tend to pretend that Alien 4 just didn’t happen and that makes the world a better place.

I am a big fan of Blomkamp, and some of the vision here would be a lot of fun to see on screen, but I am tired of any sort of idea that Ripley is an alien hybrid and  Ihope he doesn’t go in that direction if this film ever gets made.

via The Mary Sue

I don’t know what it was about the original combining transformers, but I was possessed with them as a kid.  Especially Devestator.  This guy meant business, you could tell because he was chartreuse.  Lime green always means business.

As reported by Kotaku, Devastator will be part of the new Transformers Combiners line.  Pics and individual shots can be found here.

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I’m not sure who to attribute this to, but I think they deserve a medal.

swampthing

Since 1982 I’ve seen Swamp Thing about a dozen times and I have never seen the poster above.  Hulu is using this as the thumbnail for the movie in search.  I can’t find anything about the poster online either which is a bit unusual.  The depiction of the creature looks a good deal like the actor who played him, the late Dick Durock but the illustration of the iconic Barbeau is really odd.

Durock played the heavy in a wide range of films and television. Check out his filmography here.  Durock also played a memorable ‘old man Hulk’ during the Incredible Hulk tv series in a two part episode titled “The First”.

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The scenery chewing Louis Jourdan is also here adding gravitas and cartoon villainy. It is an early comic book movie and if I didn’t have eight layers of nostalgia distortion in front of my eyes it may be unwatchable, but since I am not inclined to think critically about such things it is just like a hot cup of cocoa on a snowy day.

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In retrospect the eighties were kind of terrible, completely rad at moments but overall kind of lousy.  I guess everyone who lives through a decade probably feels the same way.  People can look back at decades they didn’t live through and synthesize it down into iconic looks and moments and the eighties had lots of those moments.

As kids we had some wonderful entertainment during that decade. Media companies know who has the money now and are playing to our nostalgia.  I honestly have no problem with this, reliving the best moments now without all the awkwardness of trying to fit in parachute pants and Members Only jackets.

If he above is true then a Jem reboot was bound to happen. What  you see above is IDW Publishing’s updated take on Jem and the Holograms.  The cover was released early this month and yesterday we got a glimpse at Jem’s antagonists The Misfits.

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Atypically the original Jem was the #1 syndicated cartoon between 1986 and 1987 and while no pre-teen boy would publicly admit it, it was watched pretty widely by all kinds of kids.

Reboots generally can be a mixed bag, especially when something has a cult following as large as Jem does.  I think I can safely say they gave this to the right people.  In a recent io9 piece, writer Kelly Thompson and artist Ross Campbell both expressed a love for the original material and a willingness to modernize and experiment.  There seems to be this sweet spot with reboots where you can only recapture the magic if you respect the fans, but are not slaves to them or to the original material and they seemed to have figured out exactly where that is.

The first issue comes out in March, you can read the official announcement here.  I’m linking the original intro below to jog those nostalgic memories.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aRyDxEBiQUY

 

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For a blog named Giant Japanese Robot, I certainly do not have enough posts about Giant Robots.   Part of this is that I am just a regular joe with a job and I post in the time I have and whatever is catching my fancy.  For a while in an earlier incarnation of this site I talked a good bit about advancements in modern robotics, but if I was honest with myself what I really enjoy are those clanky giant mecha that I grew up with in the seventies.  They were huge, colorful, humanoid and completely improbable.

There is a shared camaraderie among those that grew up in that period and watched those shows.   I’ve met folks from a bunch of different places around the world who watched them under different names and dubs and the feeling is still the same.  If the following gives you chills then you know you are in the club.

I spent a lot of time in the basement workshop as a wee boy trying to make giant robot costumes with zero success, so when Raymond Ramos mentions and posts pics that he is working on Gaiking cosplay I am interested, but a bit doubtful.

I was wrong, so wrong.

Raymond Ramos is a local guy who does cosplay, and he absolutely kills it.  From Raymond’s Facebook page you can see that his favored cosplay appears to be perfecting Blade, but he has also done Bane, G.I. Joe and an intimidating Blade Thundercats mashup.

Here is Raymond with the final Gaiking costume compared to an illustration of the robot.

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Another more detailed shot of him at Rhode Island Comic Con.

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I’ve seen a lot of people attempt giant robots in cosplay, but never so successfully, at least with the Go Nagai style robots.  Check out his page and support him.  Local artists like Raymond put in a ton of work because they love the genre and they love seeing people react to their creations.  People like him make the world a bit better.

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Earlier we discussed DX9’s completely sweet homage to GoBot Cy-Kill HERE.  Apparently Dx9 is in the habit of taking things that are lame and making them awesome.

In 1986 we got to see Transformers: The Movie and it was deeply confusing to children, including myself.  Major characters died, there was a curse word, there was Orson Welles in his final role before he died.  Then out of the wreckage of the planet Junkion we received one of the greatest gifts a movie like this could provide, a transforming junk robot motorcycle with a mustache.  As a bonus this motorcycle, Wreck-Gar was voiced by Eric Idle of Monty Python fame and was accompanied by a Weird Al song, a holy trinity of eighties rad.

While easily besting the later Transformers movies by Michael Bay in plot and art direction this movie was essentially an advertisement to sell a new set of toys.  I quickly ran to Child World to find a version of Wreck-Gar and was crushed to find there wasn’t one.

They did eventually release a toy, but imagine my disappointment when in my head I had the uber cool image above and what we received was he below image.

g1-wreck-gar-toy

Blocky, no mustache, poorly articulated.  This wasn’t Wreck-Gar, this was the Transformers equivalent of an accountant. NOTE: I mean no disrespect to accountants, you provide a valuable service, I salute you.

Now, this was mostly remedied by a 2011 release of a new toy in North America.  That figure had some nice lines, even if the face was sculpted so it looked like he should be wearing a truckers cap.

As we mentioned in the earlier Cy-Kill article, DX9 makes some pretty sweet stuff for the grown up toy collector.  They finally did Wreck-Gar justice, even if this figure is not called Wreck-Gar, but Splinter. So, it isn’t ‘officially’ the Transformer I pined for as a child, but good enough.  Dude looks like he is ready to mess up some Decepticons and then down an oil can before his next fight.

This figure will set you back close to $100.  I have seen it at Amazon and specialty toy shops online.  Probably not the best purchase for your smaller transformer fans.

splinter (Custom)

 

Thats all to be said about this.  Feel free to be chatty in the comments and I’ll leave you with one of the greatest songs ever performed. Enjoy.