Dad’s Den of Pop Culture – A New Venture

Hey folks – I’ve been away from the blog for a bit, but I have not been idle. I’ve decided to give making videos a try, specifically talking about vintage/retro pop culture – toys, television, movies, books, etc. I’m currently posting on YouTube, Rumble and Odysee, if you happen to prefer one over the others. My YouTube videos are embedded below if you’d like to check them out. I haven’t done any regarding role playing games yet … but I certainly will.

My goal for this first year is to post one video a week, with maybe short videos on the weekend when a topic strikes me. My inspiration, aside from watching lots of video creators and thinking it looked like fun, was to share some of the “treasure” I’ve accumulated over the last 50 years in my den.

Oh, and for all those folks who once pondered whether I was a real person, and not a group, because of how many games and magazines I published – here I am, revealed in all my “glory”. Just a guy.

My latest video, looking at the martial arts craze that hit America somewhere in the 1950s, and a particular toy that is a part of that craze, Aurora’s 1975 Kar-a-a-ate Man!
This video is about three public domain books that I think are not only worth reading, but worth adapting to a visual medium for all those budding movie makers, animators and comic book artists out there.
I may not have made any videos about Dungeons and Dragons yet, but I have made a video about a TSR game – in this case the All My Children game they published in the 1980s. I also review, as you can clearly see, the Dallas game published in 1979 by Yaquinto.
On a monthly basis, I’m posting videos highlighting some of the toys (and maybe other items) I’ve acquired. I’m making the February video this weekend, and posting it this Wednesday.
Not too long ago, I recovered some childhood toys from my parent’s old house. This video shows off some of the transforming robots I managed to keep. Future videos will take a look at my childhood G.I. Joes and Star Wars figures.
My erstwhile plea to let shows aimed at kids remain kid-friendly. I’ve been bugged for a while at the way writers have introduced their own teenage angst into Scooby-Doo.
A video about why even pretty “meh” movies from the past can be worth a watch.
My first real video, showing off some toys from the Japanese 100 yen shop, Daiso, that recently opened locations in Las Vegas.

Well, that’s my lineup so far. I’m pretty new at it, and have lots to learn – hopefully I’ll improve as I go. If you give them a try, I hope you enjoy them and tell your friends.

And I’m not done with the blog – I still want to finish my little series about Space Angel, and I’ll post from time to time when the notion hits me.

Ghosts of Christmas Past

When I was a kid in the late 70’s and early 80’s, I was a lucky son of a gun. An intact family, lots of love, food on the table, etc. I also got plenty of toys to play with – legos, Star Wars figures, Hot Wheels, a bike – no complaints.

But there were a few items circled in the annual Christmas catalogs that didn’t appear beneath the tree. As good as I had it, we weren’t rich, so there were a few items that didn’t make the cut. I suppose that’s true with most folks – and maybe more for some than others. I also suppose most folks, when they’re my age, look back with gratitude for all they got, and just a little nostalgia for the ones that got away.

Here are my top three presents I never got … but still kinda want:

#3 – Mouse Trap

A good friend had this one, and it was in the category of stuff I desperately wanted to play with, but which she never wanted to play with. Drat the luck. This thing absolutely fascinated me, but to this day I have never laid hands on it, and have no idea how it actually works.

When I mentioned this to my daughter, she remarked that she remembered seeing one at grandma’s house (i.e. my mother) when she was little. I have no idea how it got there, or where it went … but I know I never saw the darn thing!

#2 – The Millennium Falcon

Another toy that was just across the street at my friend’s house, I at least got to play with this one. I’ll admit that I felt, at the time, that being a boy, and my friend a girl, that it was mildly unfair that she had a Falcon and I didn’t. Now I’m much more mature … I realize that it was unfair that a non-nerd had one, and a big old nerd like me didn’t.

#1 – Mazinga

Or, as I would have called it then – that big shogun warrior with missile fingers that really shoot. If there’s one really expensive piece of nostalgia that I get tempted to buy, this guy is it. I had one chance to see one in real life – a kid that moved in next door for a very short period of time. As usual for my luck, he didn’t want to play with it, preferring to play poker instead. If that sounds weird, keep in mind that my generation were raised on re-runs of M*A*S*H, and while we didn’t have stills in our bedrooms, we were able to imitate all that poker playing the doctors did.

So which Christmas wishes didn’t come true for you? Leave a comment below – misery loves company!

When we’re done crying, let’s be thankful for all our blessings and get ready for a groovy Christmas!

Dungeons and Dragons in 3-D

And by 3-D, I don’t mean a movie, but those splendid D&D action figures made by LJN in the 1980’s.

Figure this one out. Dungeons & Dragons hits big with kids in the 1980’s. It hits so big that it gets a Saturday morning cartoon and an action figure line. But here’s the weird part – the cartoon and action figure line are separate, as in barely any overlap. Why?

TSR was almost an overnight success, and its leadership wasn’t necessarily ready for prime time. Anyone who knows the TSR story knows this, so there’s no need to cover it here. By the 1980’s, toy companies and cartoon makers had figured out how to join forces and sell crap to kids – G.I. Joe, Transformers, Go-Bots, Chuck Norris’ Karate Kommandoes, Rambo … they were all doing it. But not TSR.

Instead of Hank the Ranger and the gang, the action figure line featured a collection of characters of whom nobody had ever heard, with no real adventures or exploits to inspire childhood play. Some of the action figure line made an appearance in the Shady Dragon Inn (a book I love, by the way), and in a module called XL1 – Quest for the Heartstone, but that was about it.

And since I’m complaining – remember how the G.I. Joe figures had the cool file card on the back of the packaging with data on the character, and how Transformers came with stats that required the red translucent plastic to read. I mean – Transformers had ability scores! Did D&D figures have that? No. The game that’s all about ability scores and character sheets doesn’t use this on their packaging. Jeez!

OK – Complaining over – let’s take a look at the toys the younger siblings (yeah, right!) of D&D geeks were enjoying in the 1980’s, along with some handy links to buy these sweet babies …

There were apparently two waves of figures, which were divided into GOOD and EVIL sides. The top dog on the good side was Strongheart Good Paladin. I had this figure as a kid, and it was pretty groovy – nice cape, sword. I also dig that it looks something like a real knight. Strongheart showed up in the D&D cartoon, although there he was armed with a magic golden hammer.

Strongheart also got a bitchin’ mount – Destrier Mighty Battle Horse. He looks like he works the same way the Star Wars tauntaun did, where you stick the rider into a spring-loaded door atop the mount, with the rider’s legs molded onto the horse’s body.

Other mounts included a nightmare and bronze dragon.

Along with Strongheart, the forces of good included …

Elkhorn Good Dwarf

Melf/Peralay Good Elf

Mercion Good Cleric

Northlord Good Barbarian

Ringlerun Good Wizard

Bowmarc Good Crusader

Deeth Good Fighter

Hawkler Good Ranger

Northlord looks like he borrowed his helmet from Dark Helmet. Mercion is apparently super hard to find these days, in case you happen to be sitting on one and need a quick infusion of cash. Also, notice how the slightly realistic Strongheart gives way in the second wave to the somewhat silly-looking Bowmarc. ‘Tis the way of things, I’m afraid.

This brings us to the evil figures. I don’t know who the leader of EVIL is, per se, but Warduke EVIL Fighter (above) has to be their coolest figure – he’s like the Boba Fett of D&D action figures. His quest to do horrible things to people is aided and abetted by such jerkwads as …

Kelek EVIL Wizard

Zarak EVIL Half-Orc Assassin

Drex EVIL Fighter

Grimsword EVIL Knight

Mandoom EVIL Warrior

Zorgar EVIL Barbarian

You can’t say that the forces of evil were underrepresented here – plenty of foes for the good guys. It’s really a very good toy line that I think would have been pushed over the top with an accompanying cartoon. Zarak, the other figure I had, might have showed up in the cartoon. I definitely remember that Kelek and Warduke were in an episode of the cartoon series.

There were three “giant” figures in the line – Ogre King, Young Male Titan and Mettaflame the Fire Giant. I don’t know if the dragonne was a mount or just a monster. Ogre King is pictured below:

Along with the articulated figures, there were numerous molded figures in the line. As a kid, I assumed they weren’t really for playing alongside the other figures, but maybe I was wrong. I’m trying to remember how they measured up to Strongheart, but frankly – it’s been too dang long. I remember having the troglodyte and goblin and two men-at-arms, but there were also skeletons, a bugbear, troll, hook horror and some others. The hook horror is pictured below.

Finally, the existence of Castle Greyskull meant that every good toy line needed a playset to go with it. D&D got the Fortress of Fangs, which is admittedly not super awesome – at least, not as great as Greyskull.

Wonderbook 2020, Part I

You know what I used to love? The annnual Christmas catalogs from Sears and Penneys. One fine day, the mailman would deliver these big books with thin pages, all color (well, mostly color) with just about everything those stores had to offer. And in the back was the toy section – the promised land of childhood. I’d lay down on the floor and go through page by page, putting circles around the stuff I wanted – the stuff I might find under the tree Christmas morning. So fun!

There’s a fantastic website – WishbookWeb – that has scans of many of these catalogs in their entirety. Well worth the time to check it out … but hey – this is 2020, and God knows we need some good times, so I’m bringing the wishbook concept back!

No, I’m not printing a catalog. But I am going to try something here where I collect cool products – some new, some old – from around the internet and present them to you as my Wonderbook 2020. Just so you know – I’m not making money off of this, and I’m not connected with the people and stores involved other than as a customer or fan.

Three provisos and a comment:

1) Each of these items will be available for sale when I post the wishbook – whether it still is for sale when you click on it – or whether the link still works – I cannot guarantee.

2) I’m not putting the prices down, but I am using the following code: $ = Less than 10 dollars; $$ = 11 to 30 dollars; $$$ = 30 to 50 dollars. These include shipping on Ebay items.

3) All of the pictures are the property of their respective owners – I’m just using them to illustrate the products to help sell them – if any of the image owners want them removed, I will be happy to do so.

4) Finally – I got the idea for this from the Plaid Stallions blog, which posts 5 Awesome Things on Ebay every Friday

So, without further ado … the inagural  Wishbook 2020!

Head-to-Head Sports Action …                   Without the Fresh Air

[A] Tabletop Air Hockey: Battery-operated and loads of fun in a small package. Every year I try to grab something like this to entertain Christmas guests, and this one did not disappoint … $$

[B] Tabletop Foosball: No batteries needed for this miniature foosball table, but assembly is required. This was another Christmas surprise at my house, and proved quite challenging … $$

[C] Tabletop Billiards: I know, you don’t get fresh air playing pool, but I needed a snappy title line for each section. I don’t have this one, but maybe this year! Those miniature pool cues are awesome … $$

 

 

 

You’ll Never be Bored with these Board Games

[A] Star Wars – Hoth Ice Planet Adventure Game: So help me God, I don’t remember this game. This is a reproduction, and comes with a little action figure – what a deal!  … $$$

[B] Star Wars – Escape from the Death Star: Another reproduction, I scored one of the originals at an antique shop recently for a song. It’s a simple game, but fun, and worth it for the box alone … $$$

[C] Silver Hawks: I always thought the Silver Hawks cartoon was cool, but was too old for any of the toys. Still, this box is gorgeous, the board is cool, and you get little standees of the characters … $$

[D] Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea: This show was beautifully bizarre and tons of fun, and the design on the game is beautiful. This one is vintage … $$$

These Figurines Will Liven Up Your Game Table

These beauties are from the Dragonriders of Styx playset and I think they’d make a sweet addition to any fantasy RPG.

[A] Black Demon … $$

[B] Red Demon … $$

[C] Blue Knight with Shield … $$

[D] Blue Knight with Sword … $$

[E] Blue Knight with Halberd … $$

[F] Blue Knight with Pole Axe … $$

[G] Blue Archer … $$

[H] Blue Wizard … $$

[I] Green Viking … $$

[J] Dragonrider … $$

[K] Ogre … $$

Experts Agree – Iron-Ons are the Fashion of the Future!

Join the millions of happy people who have slapped the likes of Nick Nolte or Han Solo on a shirt with nothing buy a towel, a hot iron, and a smile!

[A] Dodge Van: Nothing speaks to the 70’s like sweet, sweet vans … $$

[B] Do Unto Others: Well, nothing speaks to the 70’s like sweet vans except dorky sayings like this one … $

[C] Star Wars Han Solo: I didn’t have this one as a kid, but boy would I have worn it with pride … $$

[D] Star Wars Jawas: A stunning statement … $$

[E] Nick Nolte: This one is so ridiculous I’m tempted to buy it myself, just to know it finds a good home … $$

Stay tuned for more folks – and try to have some fun if you can manage it.