Nobody has ever said “What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been”, Right?

Seriously, I just coined that phrase right?

7 years ago today I was bored on a car ride and made this dipshit little video.
https://youtu.be/OBrVxZaKcT4
If you had told me all the shit that would follow I probably would have said “AHHHH, WHO THE FUCK ARE YOU!?!?” mostly cause I can’t remember if I knew you way back then.

Over the course of the last 7 years everything has changed, for me personally and for the world at large.
In that time, I’ve gone from decidedly friendless, but I’ve made and lost quite a few folks that I thought were friends, I’ve said goodbye to family members, and I’ve watched things on this planet take dangerous turns.
Sometimes, it truly does seems like we live in the darkest of all possible worlds.

But for these last 7 years, to paraphrase Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction, “I have tried, Ringo, I’ve tried real hard to be a shepard.”
I’ve spent hours writing, talking, recording, editing, worrying, and doubting myself, alone and with good Ol Fitz (& others), because the world (and life in general) can be a harsh, unrelenting, shitty place and it has knocked me and many others that I know and care for on our asses and dared us to stay there.
But most people, when they get knocked down like that, go looking for something to make them feel better.

5 and a half years ago, I wrote a piece for my TS-D/JA Productions blog titled Then Why Do It?, in which I explain why I kept going.
But just incase you don’t want to reread it, I will reiterate here just exactly why.
When you hear from somebody that they have had a shitty day and were the lowest they have been in a while, but that all changed because they read a dumb little book review I wrote and could feel my passion oozing through their screen, or they listened to a podcast and we made a joke that made them laugh for the first time in days, or they watched or heard a skit we put out somewhere and it gave them a little boost…that shit is powerful, man!

Selfishly, hearing shit like that pulls me up, even if only a little bit, from whatever I’m going through.
But taking that out of it, and to go back to what I used to say when I wrapped up almost every post on the old site, the world can be a terrible place so do whatever you can to change that, no matter how many people that hits.
I’ll keep trying to improve the day of the 50-60 people that regularly listen to the pod or read this site.

Alright, gang, WHORE TIME!

And if you want more of us and our goofy ass stylings, don’t forget to read & answer a brand new edition of The Nerd Blitz Question Of The Week every Tuesday, a New Fitz’s Toy Chest at least 1 Thursday a month, New installments of The Nerd Blitz Book Review usually once or twice a month, continuing New episodes of the 3 shows (The Nerd Blitz, The Nerd Blitz Book Club, & The Nerd Blitz Commentaries) we’ve always done!

The best ways to support us would be spreading the word on Twitter or following us there @NerdBlitzPod, subscribing, rating, and reviewing where ever you listen to podcasts, getting yourself a shirt over at our RedBubble (we hope to have new designs coming soon), buying any of our albums on our Bandcamp page, or by going over and kicking in to our brand new Patreon page Patreon.com/NerdBlitzPod (where we will be posting podcasts, new & old, and creating brand new skits).

Thanks for reading, gang.

Fitz’s Toy Chest #16: Dengar

The Empire Strikes Back expanded the Star Wars universe in enormous ways when it debuted in 1980, from the saga’s first on screen land battle to the revelation of a main character’s parentage.

One of the more subtle, yet equally impactful moments of the film has to be the brief introduction of Boba Fett and his crew of bounty hunters. Fans already knew to expect the debut of Boba Fett, but we had no idea the motley assortment of unsavory characters that would be joining him.

In just a few seconds of screen time an entire underworld subculture was introduced, mysterious and intriguing. No explanation was given, no backstory, not even names, but these new villains’ brilliant designs were seared into my 7 year old brain.

One of those new characters is the focus of this edition of the Toy Chest. The battle scarred bounty hunter with a bandage wrapped head and repainted Imperial armor pieces, Dengar.

Dengar
Company: Kenner
Acquisition Year: 1980
Acquired via: Christmas gift?
Years In Possession: 40

If having a name that if you swap 2 vowels literally spells “Danger” isn’t reason enough to steer clear of this guy, his grizzled appearance definitely is.

Is he human? Is he part robot? Is he…wounded? Why is his head wrapped up like that? Should he really be out working with a head injury? These are all questions I asked myself the first time I saw Dengar. Long before a younger version of the character appeared in the Clone Wars and we were shown that indeed those head wraps are a fashion choice, there were all manner of fan theories and EU stories about his headgear and face scars. Kenner managed to do a pretty decent sculpt of Dengar’s head and wrappings, it’s one of the more accurate looking human figures they did.

The first time I saw this figure was at a friend’s birthday party. One of his gifts from another kid was a package containing 2 Empire Strikes Back figures. One of them I cannot for the life of me remember, but the other was Dengar. I’m able to remember that because I can still hear the kid who gave my friend that present frantically trying to explain to my him “That’s Dang-gar! His name is Dang-gar!”.

Regardless of how he butchered the guy’s name, I was way more interested in these toys than in playing outside with the rest of the kids. It’s a bit pathetic looking back on it, but my action figures really were my best friends. They were usually way more fun than playing with other kids.

Dengar was one of several figures to come with a very distinctive long rifle accessory that was brand new for the Empire toy line. He shares this same rifle design with the Hoth Snowtrooper and his fellow bounty hunter the intimidating droid IG-88. (None of whom actually had a weapon like this in the film)

In fact this rifle to me is one of the hallmarks of the Empire line. When I think of the ESB figures I always think of this gun. It was so cool looking, nevermind that it was so long and the figure’s arms so unarticulated that it was impossible to have him hold it in anything remotely like a realistic position. Raising his arm to aim that thing always looked ridiculous and made it incredibly difficult to get him to not fall over.

Very much like my Han Solo in Hoth gear figure, Dengar’s skin has not aged well. The paint has faded and discolored considerably, and the white parts of his outfit have also yellowed with age. (Growing up in a house with two parents that smoked did my toys no favors and many of them suffer from nicotine yellowing)

So while Dengar had shamefully short time on screen, we were able to fill out his personality with our own imaginations thanks to this awesome figure.

That’s all for this time gang, thanks for reading. Come back next time and watch this middle aged man gush over childish nonsense while refusing to stare into the oncoming train that is old age.

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Fitz’s Toy Chest #15: Han Solo (Hoth)

Few action figures trigger sense memories for me more than the subject of this installment of Fitz’s Toy Chest.

Welcome back guys, this time around we’re going to take a look at one of the coolest, yet curiously inaccurate figures in the Kenner Empire Strikes Back collection. Straight from the frozen halls of Echo Base, my first ever ESB figure, Han Solo in Hoth Gear.

Han Solo
Company: Kenner
Acquisition Year: 1980
Acquired via: Purchase (Venture)
Years In Possession: 40

The summer of 1980 was filled with Star Wars memories. For some reason this Han Solo figure has always been a key to accessing many of those memories. I can feel the humidity outside, smell cut grass and rain in the air.

These memories are all fragments, but the clearest one is of a stormy day spent visiting a nursery center with my mom, grandma, aunt and cousins. It was common for this group to spend several days a week together going shopping or to the zoo. We would all crowd into our station wagon, the cousins in the back seat or the “back back” of the car (i.e. the cargo space between the back seat and hatchback, which was totally safe).

On this day, I can remember being in the back of the station wagon with my cousin who had already scored 2 of the new Empire figures. He had the rebel hoth commander (which we would always consider to be Luke until they finally made a Luke Hoth figure much later), and Han Solo in his Hoth gear.

I can still see us huddled in the backseat in the gravel parking lot of the nursery, the adults having bought some kind of flowers or another. It suddenly got really dark, like night time dark as black clouds rolled in and we had to shelter in the car waiting for one of the usual tornado/hail producing severe thunderstorms we have at least every other week here in the midwest.

I was scared shitless (I’ve always had a fear of bad storms, it’s only been less of a problem in recent years thanks to many pharmaceuticals). I focused all my attention on that Han figure. He was like my guide through a bad acid trip. The more I focused on him the less I heard the crazy thunder and hail beating down on the car.

Finally it was safe enough to drive home, but I will never forget those intense minutes, and the piece of sculpted plastic that kept me from having a meltdown.

I eventually got my own Han Solo in his blue parka. Yes, blue. It was blue in the movie right? Kinda looked blue to me. Except Harrison Ford’s actual costume parka was not blue at all. It was actually brown. I lived my entire life believing the lie that his Hoth coat was dark blue in Empire Strikes Back. It wasn’t until I got the Star Wars costume book a few years back and saw the real garment used in the film that I realized it was brown.

Apparently there was a color timing issue with the original theatrical prints that made the coat look blue. It even fooled Kenner, obviously. It wasn’t until later modern r-releases where the problem was cleaned up. Even then it’s really hard for me to tell it’s not blue (and no I’m not colorblind). I felt like such a moron for never knowing that.

As you can see my Han has considerable paint wear. This is most likely from playing with him in the snow. Unlike Snow Job, I actually did get to use the Hoth figures outside in snow banks during the winter of 80/81. The paint wear on his legs is probably from having him “ride” the Kenner Tauntaun, which meant sticking the figure hip deep into a to tight trap door on the Tauntaun’s back. You would scrape a figure’s legs across the edge of the opening every time you inserted or removed the rider.

Another thing about my particular Han figure is that this is another member of the Broken Neck club in my collection. Not sure how it happened but one day his head came right off. It’s been super glued in place ever since.

I’m not sure if this is an official “feature” or not, but something I always liked about this figure was that you could pop his DL-44 blaster’s ammo clip into the molded holster loop on his hip and have him carry his weapon that way. Pretty cool.

I’m surprised and a little sad about how poorly the color on his face has aged. It’s turned quite yellow and jaundiced looking over the years.

Over all I really loved this figure and it’s probably just behind the Bespin Han in terms of my favorite Kenner interpretation of the character (but it’s a dead heat, Bespin Han was always just more versatile in different play scenarios).

Well, that’s enough oversharing for this week, I hope you enjoyed the baring of my soul. Come back next time for another dose of (probably at least mildly) toxic plastic playthings.

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Fitz’s Toy Chest #14: Slag

When I was a kid, like, a little little kid, I was way into dinosaurs. They really captured my imagination. I can remember in first grade doing dinosaur coloring pages while we were learning about them, and visiting the natural history museum that used to have giant life size-ish T-Rex and Triceratops statues on display outside (sadly no actual dinosaur skeletons in their collection, I wouldn’t get to see real bones until decades later when I visited the Field Museum in Chicago). I knew all the names, it was a somewhat brief but very intense obsession that faded into just a general love of dinosaurs.

So when one of my favorite toy/comic/cartoon properties introduced dinosaur characters in 1985, you can imagine my excitement.

Previously we covered their leader Grimlock, but today I’m going to share the surliest and second strongest of the Dinobots and my very FIRST Dinobot acquisition, the mighty triceratops…Slag!

Slag
Company: Hasbro
Acquisition Year: 1985
Acquired via: Purchase (Toy Chest)
Years In Possession: 35

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During the period of my life where I was heaviest into Transformers, my dad and I would go over to his grandma’s house (his mom’s mom, my great-grandma) to do handy man type stuff for her. Sometimes afterward, I could talk him into going to the toy store on a Transformers run. The “toy store” at the time of course was Toy Chest. I’ve talked about this place before but Toy Chest was a local store that only had 1 location that I’m aware of. Before Toys R Us or Children’s Palace moved in, Toy Chest was where it was at. I have so many fond memories of that place.

Anyway, on this particular day I was able to get my dad to take me on a toy run. The Dinobots had just been introduced on the cartoon and I’m not sure I was even aware they were making toys of them yet. When we rolled through the Transformer aisle, I dug through the boxes on the shelf and was floored to find Slag right in front of me. Of course the coolest of the dinos was the T-Rex but the Triceratops was a close second. I had never seen a Dinobot toy in the store and it was the only one they had so obviously I snatched it up.

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In my opinion, of all the Dinobots, Slag has the most aesthetically pleasing robot form. The intricate engineering of each moving part on a lot of the early Transformers always fascinated me. All the parts always seemed to fit just right.

An example of this would be Slag’s lower jaw that flips down into his chest to reveal his robot face. The shape of the jaw is visually interesting to me, the chrome angles create interesting reflections, and the jaw itself fits into a cutout in his chest that leaves it almost completely flush.

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Unfortunately my Slag suffers from a loose jaw joint, so in Dino mode he’s always a little slack jawed. Like all the Dinobots he is portrayed as pretty dumb, so it’s fitting I guess.

He also has one of the more interesting transformation features in that the dinosaur’s legs curl up and its haunches each rotate 180 degrees to form his giant robot legs and feet. And one of the hallmarks of all of the original 3 Dinobots is his rib cage that opens out into “wings”

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Slag is easily my sentimental favorite of the Dinobots. Grimlock may be the better character, but in my opinion Slag is the better toy.

Well, that’s all for this edition of Fitz’s Toy Chest, I hope you enjoyed this window into my childhood. Come back next time for more well-loved blasts from my past!

AND!

Don’t forget on 4/16/2020 (that’s tomorrow unless you’re reading this in the future) we’ll be dropping the 4th Anniversary NerdBlitz pod super show!

 

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Fitz’s Toy Chest #13: Snake Eyes

Welcome back everybody, I hope you’re ready to go deep deep DEEP into the nerdy waters because this week I’m pulling out one of the all time greatest figures ever made.

After touching on this character a little bit last time when we profiled Stalker, I felt it was only natural to follow that up with a full feature about my favorite Joe, Snake Eyes!

Snake Eyes
Company: Hasbro
Acquisition Year: 1982
Acquired via: Purchase (Venture)
Years In Possession: 38

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With just an Uzi, a satchel of explosives, and an all black outfit, Snake Eyes hit the pegs and became the most unlikely success ever. It is well known that Snake Eyes was never intended to become the complex, tortured badass that he would evolve into over the years. No, Hasbro created Snake Eyes as a complete throwaway character. He was an attempt to fill out the Joe ranks as cheaply as possible, which resulted in the all black paint scheme. Without having to paint tiny bits like belt buckles or backpack straps, they could produce this figure at a fraction of what the other more detailed figures cost.

But thanks to Larry Hama’s excellent characterization of Snake Eyes in the Marvel comic series and the intentionally omitted personal details on the figure’s file card, Hasbro failed at creating a throwaway character and succeeded beyond their wildest dreams in creating a character that could rival the likes of Wolverine in popularity.

I have to admit, as intriguing a character as Snake Eyes would become, his original figure was a snooze in my 9 year old opinion. He was certainly one of the last figures I bought. However, the more his character was fleshed out in the comics, the more intrigued I was by his backstory. What the toy lacked in color the comic more than made up for in characterization.

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From the killing fields of Vietnam to a Ninja clan in Japan and then on to being a member of the most elite fighting force the world has ever known, Snake Eyes is easily the most interesting character in all of the G.I. Joe pantheon.

This character supplied me with some of the most memorable and vivid scenes I would ever read in a comic book. Seeing the accident that disfigured him and left him unable to speak, the masterpiece that is G.I. Joe #21, watching him send his ally Kwinn’s body off in a funeral kayak in the arctic, and his epic battles with Storm Shadow.

In the comics, whenever Snake Eyes appeared in civilian clothes (which was rare) he would trade his black face mask for a different mask, a human mask made of rubber and a pair of sunglasses to try and pass as normal and hide his horrifically disfigured face. Such a small touch that gave this character so much humanity. He was almost a god in terms of ability and toughness, and yet you felt bad for him because he could never be just a truly normal person.

As for Snake Eyes the figure, this was the first place I had ever seen an Uzi sub machine gun. It looked so weird, so much different than the M-16 or M-60 models that the other characters came with. I didn’t even know how to pronounce the word. Was it Uzzy or Ooozie? Why was there a longer thinner piece coming out the bottom of the gun’s grip? (It’s the oversized magazine, dummy). In fact, I was convinced that the extra plastic on the bottom of the handle was a mistake and broke it off of the original uzi that came with this figure. D’oh!

The glasses molded onto this figure always made me wonder, how did his sunglasses stay on? It wasn’t until much later that I realized they were goggles, you can even see a wonderful little detail on the back of his head that shows the strap of the goggles coming out the mask and going back in. I assume so he can adjust the way they fit?

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Unfortunately as you can see, even an elite mystical ninja warrior is not immune from the dreaded broken thumb disease. For years this figure had the faintest of white lines on the base of that thumb, a telltale sign that it was about to come off. I was extra EXTRA mindful of that, but alas, sometime in the 90s it finally popped off.

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Snake Eyes has gone through many design changes over the years, receiving several costume changes/upgrades including what I consider the pinnacle of this character’s look in 1986, but this is where it all started. The red headed step child of the original Joe team who turned out to be the real star of the franchise. Funny how things like that work out.

That’s all for this week guys, hope you enjoyed it. Come back next time for more broken toys and mind numbing childhood anecdotes!

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Fitz’s Toy Chest #12: Stalker

Welcome back guys to another installment of Fitz’s Toy Chest. This time out we’re headed back to 1982 where a few pieces of plastic and an o-ring combined to make the ultimate soldier.

When Hasbro launched the G.I. Joe 3 3/4 line in 1982, they did so with 13 figures. If you look at those first 13 figures you can tell that one of their mandates must have been to try and make the team as diverse as possible which is something they continued to do throughout the Joes’ run in the 80s.

Sure the majority of the original team was still comprised of the usual array of white dudes, but Larry Hama made sure to include 3 minority characters right off the bat: badass female commando, a Hispanic heavy explosives soldier, and the subject of this week’s Toy Chest, a former gang warlord from Detroit turned green beret…Stalker.

Stalker
Company: Hasbro
Acquisition Year: 1982
Acquired via: Gift
Years In Possession: 38

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The G.I. Joe comic and the file cards all written by Larry Hama were my first introduction into the world of the military. It was the first place I heard the term “Grunt”, the first place I saw the word “Commando”, or heard about a “Geneva Convention”. It was also where I was introduced to the concept of a Green Beret.

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How I came into possession of this figure was that it was a surprise gift from my grandma. We were at her house one day and she said she had a present for me and she produced 2 G.I. Joe figures from a plastic shopping bag. She said pick the one you want, the other would go to my cousin the next time he came over. The two figures were Breaker and Stalker. I chose Stalker. Why? He was the most interesting looking to me. He didn’t look like the other Joes. Not only was he a different ethnicity than all the other characters, his paint scheme was strikingly unique as well.

Most of the original Joes all used the same couple of body molds and only differed in the paint schemes (obviously Scarlett being the exception). By this time I already had Rock N Roll and Clutch, both bearded white dudes like Breaker, but Stalker was something else entirely. From the camo paint scheme on his fatigues to the green beret on his head. I can remember thinking “What is up with that weird hat?”.

Also, his gun was pretty cool looking too.

Breaker’s military specialty was “Communications Officer”, BO-RING. Stalker’s was listed as “Ranger”. What the hell is a Ranger? I didn’t know but it sounded cool as hell.

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It was not long after I started reading the Joe books, maybe a year or 2, that I discovered the Black Eagles series of novels by John Lansing and learned a whole lot more about Vietnam (it was still a few years before Platoon would hit theaters and probably a decade before I would actually watch it). What drew me to those books initially was a image like this:

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Notice the green beret? I was immediately drawn to this cover by that beret. I knew what that was, that was what Stalker wore and I was instantly intrigued. Who knows, one of these Black Eagles book may show up as a Nerd Blitz Book Club entry….

Later in the Joe series, they delved more into Stalker’s service in Vietnam where it actually served with Hawk and Snake Eyes (before he was disfigured martial arts master). Those panels were the first images I remember seeing of a line of green fatigued soldiers in boonie hats wading through waist high grass, something of a cliche in Vietnam movies but at the time was brand new to me.

As for Stalker the action figure, unfortunately you can see that he suffered the same fate as an incredibly high number of those original 13 Joes, the infamous broken thumbs!

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I recently read in Mark Belamo’s fantastic G.I. Joe reference book that the incredibly brittle thumbs on these figures was due to the composition of the plastic they used. It was found to be too brittle and the next assortment of figures would be the first with a reformulated plastic that was slightly more pliable to solve the broken thumb problem. Sadly, almost all of my originally Joe’s are missing at least 1 thumb. I was normally very careful with my toys even as a kid, but even I could not avoid this problem, much to my dismay.

Join me next week when I pull another gem from my bag of tricks! I promise that soon we’re going to diversify and change things up from the normal Star Wars/G.I. Joe/Transformers-fest that this feature has been up until now. What could that mean? What other vintage toy lines could I possibly have in the Toy Chest? You’ll find out soon enough!

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Fitz’s Toy Chest #11: R5-D4

Welcome back again guys. It’s time to open up the toy chest and rediscover another vintage treasure!

This week we’re going way back to circa 1979 to take a look at one of the figures released in 1978 as part of the first expansion of the Kenner Star wars line.

The Kenner line started off with just 12 figures but soon expanded to 20 when they began producing figures for “blink and you miss them” background characters like Snaggletooth, Hammerhead, etc.

Our subject this week is one of the more unlikely additions, since their entire on screen performance consisted of rolling forward a few feet and immediately exploding. While this proved to be possibly the most critical turn in the entire Saga, it doesn’t really do much to make for an exciting action figure.

Today we’re going to take a look at none other than the owner of the baddest bad motivator in the galaxy, R5-D4.

R5-D4
Company: Kenner
Acquisition Year: 1979?
Acquired via: Purchased ???
Years In Possession: 41

When I think back to those early days of Kenner Star Wars collecting, believe it or not the place that I’m reminded of most is Sears.

I can still see the 60s/70s tile on the floor that looked like millions of tiny stones embedded in the floor. The brown metal door frames of the entrance, with the big wide handles, and the snack bar that greeted you just inside the entrance. It had high bar tables and smelled like butter from all the ever present spilled popcorn on the ground.

It was just past this snack bar that the toy section could be found. My palms still get a little sweaty when I think about seeing the old 12 and 20 back figures on the pegs. I can still remember seeing an endcap display containing a pile of landspeeders and cantina playsets.

And it was there that I saw R5-D4 on the pegs for the first time.

Not the most glamorous figure to be sure, but being the only other astromech besides R2 in the original line made him kinda cool. (Even though this figure is 75% the exact same as the R2 figure)

He has the same leg sculp and body as the R2 figure with just a different color scheme (an odd orange color reminiscent of the sauce in Spaghettios)

One thing about the Kenner astromechs is, they weren’t overly concerned with the accuracy of their dome sculpts. Obviously the technology in the 70s didn’t allow for super detailed figures, but these droids only look like their onscreen counterparts in the loosest sense possible. However, that only adds to the charm in my opinion.

R5’s 3 orange “eyes” are just as real in my head canon as R2’s giant blue “eye”. Neither look anything like the film prop, but who cares?

As always thanks for reading, and I’ll be back soon to share some more gems from my personal collection of old ass plastic junk.

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