Fitz’s Toy Chest #6 – Bossk

Welcome back guys to another random pull from Fitz’s Toy Chest!

Last time I put the spotlight on a Kenner Star Wars figure it was a mail away figure and this time I’m keeping with the same theme.

The Empire Strikes Back introduced not only the most famous Bounty Hunter in the Star Wars universe but gave us and entire TEAM of a intriguing characters in what was basically a throwaway moment aboard Vader’s Star Destroyer.

Out of that crew the coolest and more interesting member has to be Bossk (not counting Boba Fett obviously). And Kenner must’ve felt the same because not long after the new ESB line of figures came out they gave Bossk the distinct honor of being first mail in figure since Boba Fett.

I saved up my proofs of purchase, mailed them off, and anxiously awaiting the agonizing 8 weeks for delivery. And guess what? It never arrived.

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Bossk
Company: Kenner
Acquisition Year: 1980/81
Acquired via: Mail-in* (*special circumstances)
Years In Possession: 38

 

In today’s world of 1-click purchases on Amazon and 2 day shipping, it’s unthinkable that in 1980 you would literally put little pieces of cardboard in an envelope, address it, stamp it, and mail it, and then wait MONTHS to get your “free” figure.

But that’s exactly what I did.

Only my figure never showed up. I was crushed. What happened? Where was it? Was it ever going to come?

Weeks turned into months. By the time Christmas arrived that year I had given up on Bossk completely. It was so unfair. I did what they said. I mailed in my proofs of purchase and they stiffed me!

Then something amazing happened. When I was digging through my stocking I found….Bossk!!!

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Santa Claus sure was smart. He knew Kenner did me dirty and set things right.

It wasn’t until many years later that I put the pieces together and realized what had actually happened. And it was years after THAT (after I started to understand how cash strapped we were when I was growing up) that I understood WHY it happened that way.

Obviously that Bossk had been intercepted before I could find it in the mail, and it was the perfect way to pad Christmas without spending any additional money.

Anyway, onto the figure itself.

20180922_131001I was always fascinated by the shape of this fugure’s gun. Kenner reused a lot of weapons between different figures, for example X-wing Luke and Han shared the same gun, IG-88, Snowtrooper and Dengar all had weapons in common, hell even Boba Fett’s gun was just a repurposed Stormtrooper blaster.

It always stood out to me when a figure was given a unique weapon, and Bossk’s was definitely unusual.

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I also liked how the ESB bounty hunters were such a mishmash of other costumes. With Bossk it was the inclusion of the rebel pilot chest harness that captured my imagination. I’m not sure why but it looked very primitive and wild on him.

All in all, Bossk was one of my favorite action figures from the old Kenner line. He really stands out.

Well that’s all for this week gang, come back again in 2 short weeks for another dive into Fitz’s Toy Chest!

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Fitz’s Toy Chest: #5 – Hound

What’s up guys, welcome back to Fitz’s Toy Chest!

I’ve mentioned it before, but there were 3 main pillars of toy collecting in my life. I’ve shown you pieces from two of them so far, Star Wars and G.I. Joe. This week I’m digging into the third.

In 1983 I started seeing commercials for these new toys that could change from cars and jets into robots. As you can imagine, they blew my mind.

These toys were called GoBots and they were tits. I had at least half a dozen, maybe more. They were small, rugged and pretty inexpensive.

Then, in 1984 I saw something that made GoBots look like the hot garbage they actually were. Commercials started appearing for a line of GoBot killers. They were of course, Transformers.

Hound
Company: Hasbro
Acquisition Year: 1984
Acquired via: Gift
Years In Possession: 34

744.jpgAt first I was resistant. I’m loyal to a fault, even in regards to toys. I didn’t want to like these GoBot ripoffs, but it didn’t take long for them to break me. They were bigger, shinier, more well designed and overall sexier than the the GhettoBots.

Their cartoon was even light years ahead of the shitty Challenge of the GoBots show.

Many of the G1 Transformers were just repackaged and rebranded toys from Japan. They were made with higher quality craftsmanship and the steps to “transform” them were far more complex. They were like action figure Rubik’s Cubes.

Of course they were also way WAY more expensive than GoBots, which presented a challenge for me, a kid from a lower middle income family.

I would obsess over the sale ads in the weekend paper, pointing out which ones were the coolest looking. For some reason I was drawn to the army jeep (maybe because it reminded me of G.I. Joe?)

It took awhile, but one day my dad came home from work with a surprise. My first Transformer. I don’t know where he got it, but it was the jeep, Hound.

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I loved it.

Did I mention the added fun of putting all the decals on yourself? They came completely unadorned with a small sheet of stickers and an instruction booklet. The instructions not only showed you step by step how to transform the toy, but where to put all the stickers.

Much like the Joes, Transformers had a profile card on the packaging. The gimmick with these cards were the ability stats were “encoded” for secrecy. To “decode” them, you placed a thin piece of red trandparent plastic over the card which canceled out the red noise printed over the stat graph. It was genius and captured my imagination.

20180902_152939.jpgOver the next couple years I took it DEEEEP with Transformers. It defined my Christmases in 84/85. It seems like that period lasted so much longer. It’s hard to believe that it was really just 2 years between my first introduction to Transformers and the release of Transformers The Movie which effectively killed my passion for the line for many years. Looking at it now, that movie is fantastic, but it’s hard to watch so many characters meet their brutal end. Definitely scarring for a kid.

Luckily I got over it, and to this day I love the G1 Transformers and enjoy revisiting the original cartoon (fuck you Beast Wars) from time to time.

Well, that’s all for this week guys. Join me again next time for another peek inside Fitz’s Toy Chest!

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Fitz’s Toy Chest: #4 – Anakin Skywalker

Welcome back to another edition of Fitz’s Toy Chest!

This week I’m going to take you back to the world of 80s Kenner Star Wars and share with you the very LAST figure in the original line that I ever purchased….

Anakin Skywalker
Company: Kenner
Acquisition Year: 1991/92
Acquired via: Purchase, Decades Of Toys
Years In Possession: 27

Yes you read that right, 1991/92.

But Fitz, wasn’t the original Kenner line defunct and totally out of stores by 1987?

You’re correct, it was.

By 1991 there was only one way to get your hands on Star Wars figures outside of the odd garage sale or flea market, and that was at a vintage toy store.

Before the very late 80s early 90s, there really was no such thing as a vintage toy store. You can practically thank the Kenner Star Wars toys for creating that niche business.

During my senior year of high school my friend Ken and I noticed a new store had opened up near the high school in the tiniest shithole building you could imagine. We saw it driving home one day and what grabbed our attention besides the garish yellow painted brick facade was the fact that out front the owner had set up some very familiar play sets.

“Is that the fucking Ewok Village?” I said in disbelief. It sure was.

The store was called Decades of Toys and it was a glorified hoarder’s basement.

When we finally went in there one day there was shit stacked EVERYWHERE. And nothing was even approaching “mint” condition. It literally felt like someone just gathered up all the old toys from everyone they grew up with and opened a store to sell them. I’ve since seen nicer flea market stalls.

But despite the thin film of grime and dust on everything, it was awesome to see so many vintage toys in one place. Not just Star Wars either, he had a little bit of everything.

The kind that owned the place looked like Doug Henning’s mildly retarded brother. Or a thinner version of the filmaker’s friend in American Movie. He didn’t say a word as we browsed around his shop, instead he just sat there grinning at us behind a pile of toys. It was pretty unsettling to be honest.

He had the gray trays from the old Star Wars vinyl collector case set out on a counter displaying loose figures for sale, and one caught my eye. It was one of the very few figures I never got my hands on.

It was Anakin Skywalker. The old man version from end of the original cut of Jedi. Sebastian Shaw was the actor. And I had to have it.

20180901_111426.jpgAnakin was orginally one the many mail away offers that Kenner had over the entire Star Wars run. It was a genius marketing tool that they basically invented out of necessity when the toys weren’t ready for Christmas ’77. The first mailaway figures were the ones that came in the famous “early bird” set. Of course my first mailaway opportunity was the famous (or infamous) rocket firing Boba Fett (which of course arrived minus the advertised rocket firing action). Every major expansion of the line had a mailaway offer. Star Wars had Fett, Empire had 4-LOM and Bossk, Jedi had Nien Numb and the Emperor. Mailaways were awesome. All you had to do was save up 5 proofs of purchase and mail them in and a short 6-8 weeks later BOOM a new figure showed up in the mailbox.

Anyway.

20180901_110629.jpgAnakin was one of, if not THE LAST, mailaway figure Kenner offered and for whatever reason I just wasn’t in a hurry to get him. I guess I thought there was plenty of time, and they always reissued the mailaways as a carded figure that you could buy in the store. But by the timr that happened for Anakin, the line was winding down and getting harder to find in stores (at least new figures and not the same peg warmers that were always available and would eventually be clearanced out).

So I never got him.

He wasn’t exactly the same white whale as say a Yak Face, but when I saw him there in Decades of Toys, I wasn’t about to pass him up.

I want to say he was maybe $6 at the time? Even carded figures back then were still incredibly cheap compared to 2018. He wasn’t carded but he was absolutely pristine. The plastic still had a glossiness to it.20180901_105036.jpg

Maybe a year later Doug Henning moved from one shithole across the street to an even shittier shithole, and that’s where he stayed until, shocker, his business folded by ’93.

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Well that’s all for this week, come back next time for another deep dive into a middle-age man-child’s happy place.  That didn’t come out right.  Come back in 2 weeks for another Fitz’s Toy Chest!

Fitz’s Toy Chest: #3 – Rock ‘N Roll

Welcome back guys. After two weeks of Star Wars talk, I’m going to switch things up and dive into what would become the second of the three main toy collecting pillars of my childhood.

In 1982 I was a full blown Star Wars junkie, but things had slowed a bit. Jedi was still a year away, and Empire was 2 years in the rearview. Then, one day I saw this commercial:

It’s amazing that it was this shitty zero budget commercial with the terrible voiceover that grabbed my attention, but grab me it did. What WAS this? Who were these guys? They weren’t from a movie or a TV show (not yet anyway), but I knew immediately I had to have them.

It wouldn’t take long for me to discover that, while there was no movie or cartoon featuring these new badass commandos, there was a comic book launched in coordination with the toy line.

3-7I’m pretty sure for me the toys came first, and then I found the comics shortly thereafter. Marvel used to have these 3 packs of comics. They had one for X-men, they had one for Transformers (issue 1-3 of a 4 issue mini-series, wtf you guys?), and they had one for G.I. Joe comics. I remember bringing that 3 pack home from Grandpa Pidgeon’s (Think Target if Target had a serious meth habit. They were awesome). It had issues 3,4, and 5. After that I was hooked on Larry Hama’s enduring masterpiece and it informed the backyard adventures I had with this toys for years. It was also the perfect gateway comic for me. Sure I had a few Batman comics before that and of course Star Wars comics, but these were different. They felt more grown up and serious. Later, G.I. Joe #1 would be my first wall book purchase. I dug them that much.

But I digress.

My mom was kinda reluctant to let me start a new collection of plastic junk, she was no doubt afraid how deep I would take my parents with these toys based on my obsession with Star Wars. And she wasn’t wrong to feel that way.

She finally gave in and one day I was given the green light at the Venture on Page Avenue. That store was Target’s trashier cousin. That store was probably the place I got most of my figures. Trips to Toy Chest were a relatively rare treat. Venture runs were a weekly affair.

Straight from Fitz’s Toy Chest I present my very first “small joe”

Rock ‘n Roll
Company: Hasbro
Acquisition Year: 1982
Acquired via: Purchase, Venture
Years In Possession: 36

2746913-37901.jpgI’m not sure what drew me to Rock ‘N Roll but that’s who I picked. Maybe it was the dope ass double ammo belts, or maybe it was because he had the biggest gun, I honestly don’t remember. What I do remember is how fantastic the card art on these figures was.

That’s one thing I should mention about these old figures is the packaging itself was as impressive as the toys themselves. I would study the pictures of the other available toys on the back, and for the Joes and Transformers, carefully clip out the character profile cards. You just don’t see that anymore and it’s a shame.

40099.jpgLike all of the first series of Joes they released, this Rock ‘N Roll is a “straight arm” figure. If you don’t know what that means, it means the arms do not have rotational articulation at the elbows. The 3 3/4″ Joes had very impressive articulation for the early 80s (in fact they remain far superior to modern figures in my opinion). Where Kenner Star Wars fugures only had arms that moved at the shoulder and legs that moved at the waist, Joes had bendable elbows, knees, waist, ball jointed shoulders, etc.

They were infinitely more posable that Kenner figures, but the first series still fell short in one area. This was rectified a year or two after the first figures came out with the introduction of “swivel arm battle grip” which allowed the arm to pivot at the elbow, giving the Joes more realistic grip on their guns.

Later, all of the original series would be reissued with the swivel arm battle grip. So as you can imagine, these first straight arm version 1.0 figures are much more valuable and sought after than the reissues from just a short time later.

DSC_0227Becauss I’m an OCD nerd that craves an unhealthy amount of information about the things he likes, my favorite part of the figures were the file cards on the back of the package. Almost all were written by the Joe comic writer Larry Hama. They started out as character bios that he would write for his own use while writing those books, but Hasbro saw what he was doing and thought they would be a great added feature for the toys.

My most vivid memory of this figure comes from a weekend when some out of town relatives came to visit. I didn’t know these people but they came by to say hi to my mom. It was just a woman and her two kids, the dad couldn’t make the trip from California. At one point the youngest kid, maybe 3 or 4 years old came running out of my bedroom yelling “Daddy! Daddy!” Everyone freaked thinking he got scared or hurt, but then we saw he was holding Rock ‘N Roll. Turns out his dad was a career soldier, that’s why he couldn’t leave the base to come to St. Louis. This poor kid thought my action figure looked like his dad and he was sad he couldn’t be with him back home!

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I’m not sure what his dad looked like or if he walked around the house with and M60 and full battle fatigues, but it took some prying to dislodge Rock ‘N Roll from his hands when it was time for them to leave.

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Well, that does it for this edition of Fitz’s Toy Chest. Come back next time where I will put the spotlight on the very LAST of the 80s Kenner Star Wars figures that I ever bought!

Fitz’s Toy Chest: #2 – Obi-Wan Kenobi

Last time on Fitz’s Toy Chest, I shared the story of my very first 3 3/4″ figure. It was not surprisingly from Kenner’s line of Star Wars figures. That figure would prove to be the very tippiest tip of the iceberg.

So, without further ado let’s see what’s in Fitz’s Toy Chest this time…

Obi-Wan Kenobi
Company: Kenner
Acquisition Year: 1978
Acquired via: Purchase, Gacen Drugs
Years In Possession: 40

222-2088-001.jpgIt should come as no surprise to anyone that I’m keeping with the early Kenner Star Wars theme, but there’s another reason why I chose to showcase Obi-Wan this week.

Last time I teased one of my earliest Star Wars memories, something my mom said as we were rifling through the figures for the first of what would be many MANY times over the years.

At that time I’m not sure that I had even seen the film yet, and if I had it was once at the most. It would be years and years until my mom would see the first Star Wars, not until the arrival of VHS in fact. So between the two of us we knew next to nothing about the world of Star Wars, and I can see and hear as clear as if it were yesterday, my mom taking a figure off the peg and lowering it down to me (yes, I was that small at the time) to look at. She said “Oh look at this one! This is Luke Skywalker’s father!”

The figure she had chosen was, you guessed it, Obi-Wan. So close mom. So. SO close.

It was a reasonable assumption, and I’m sure she only made the connection because the old white haired dude had been hanging next to a figure boldly labelled LUKE SKYWALKER, but turns out she wasn’t nearly as far off as I thought at the time.C3PO Card Back

The other thing about some of the old Kenner figures, especially in that first line, was their smell. There were no “soft goods” in those days and instead of cool cloth capes, Obi-Wan, Leia, Vader, the Sandpeople all came with crude vinyl approximations of capes.

When you first cracked open one of those figures you were hit with the smell of those vinyl capes. It was almost like a new car smell. In a way I guess it was the kid version of that. There have been many times over the years where I catch a whiff of a similar plasticky odor (like a fresh shower curtain for example) and I almost get goosebumps. That smell is forever imprinted in my olfactory system.

Sadly, those capes weren’t very durable and after a few years of heavy play they always developed splits around the arm holes that eventually grew until the cape was in tatters and unusable. As you can see my Obi-Wan’s was lost to the ages.

DSC_0222Old Ben was my first experience with the “telescoping” lightsaber feature that Vader and Luke also shared. I remember I used to think it was cool to take the blades out and swap the colors between the three characters. That’s probably why my Obi-Wan has my original Vader’s red lightsaber instead of the proper blue one. Who knows what became of the original. I would always lose the blades and then sometime later they’d turn up again. There were times I remember replacing a missing blade with a round toothpick. Very ghetto, but they worked just fine.

1978/79 would eventually see a second wave of Star Wars figures released. That second wave consisted mostly of brightly dressed cantina creatures and droids. It would be the start of Kenner’s long legacy of putting “blink and you miss them” characters front and center, encouraging kids like me to make them the main protoganists in their own adventures.

Before long I would have the entire line of figures from the first film, and then the wait for Empire would begin…

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Thanks for indulging me for a second time, come back for another installment in 2 weeks! Next time I’ll be switching lanes and sharing something from another line of toys that dominated my childhood and oddly enough led me to a lifelong love of…comics!

 

Fitz’s Toy Chest: #1 – C-3PO

Before we get started on this new semi-regulary blog feature, I want to take a minute to thank everyone that helped name this blog by voting in the poll we ran a few weeks ago.

Obviously Fitz’s Toy Chest won out over the other (much catchier title Figure Fan with Fitz, man). That name really grew on me and honestly I came THIS close to overturning the vote result to go with that one.

Ultimately we let the vote stand and went with the title that I came up with. Fitz’s Toy Chest may sound generic and cliche, but there is actually a specific reason I wanted to use it.

When I was a kid, long before we had major superstores like Toys R Us (#RIP) the big toy store in our area was called…wait for it…Toy Chest.

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This store was amazeballs and it was my paradise from about age 5 up until about age 12. I can remember the front corner of the building had giant letter blocks going up it, and a kinda like Home Depot has grills and lawn mowers out front this place had swingsets and playhouses lined up along the front along with the obligatory 70s/80s shitty steel swimming pool/animal troughs.

(Side note: This was the exact place that in 1983-ish I would see the Endor Garrison and Speeder Bike swingset. It existed. Look it up.)

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Sometime in the early 80s, the almost equally awesome Children’s Palace opened a location just down the street. This competition from a larger chain store with multiple locations would eventually drive Toy Chest out of business.

And Jesus wept.

The rest of my childhood toy buying days were spent begrudgingly going to Children’s Palace or the taint of toy stores, Kay-Bee. And while Children’s Palace was a mostly acceptable replacement for Toy Chest and I still have many fond memories of going there, nothing can touch the joy that was shopping at Toy Chest.

A good portion of my toy collection came from that store, as well as some big fish that got away (I’m looking at you Superion).

So the name of this feature is a direct homage to that hallowed hall…

And…

Now that I’ve wasted time explaining all that, let’s open Fitz’s Toy Chest and see what’s inside…

C-3PO
Company: Kenner
Acquisition Year: 1978
Acquired via: Purchase, Gacen Drugs
Years In Possession: 40

In 1977 a movie was released that changed movies forever and made such a profound impression on my 3-4 year old brain that I’m still in love with it and everything that has been spawned from it 4 decades later.

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The same monumental change that Star Wars brought to movies, it also brought to movie MERCHANDISING. And out of all the thousands and thousands of different kinds of Star Wars merchandise created and sold over the years, NOTHING could ever compare to the original line of action figures put out by Kenner. These toys were heavy and in a lot of ways crude representations of the beloved characters seen on screen but somehow felt as real to me as any flesh and blood actor.

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They were clunky but full of heart and joy. Kenner produced 100 or so different figures in a surprisingly short 8 year span from 1978 to 1985, never seeming to lose their uncanny ability to create the perfect assortment of characters and vehicles from all 3 films (compare this to the modern Hasbro line that started out as a Kenner reboot in ’95 and is still pumping out uninspired poorly sculpted toys 20 years and 8 movies later).

Of course much of my reverence for these toys comes from the fact that they were so much a part of me for all those formative years. I may very well have felt the same about the new line if I had been born in the early 90s. But I doubt it. There is just something about these figures, from the packaging to the solid heft of them in your hand that make them seem more like pieces of art than just a toy.

In 1978, not long after I had seen the movie for the first time, I got my first action figure. It was one of the original 12 released famously months and months after the initial hurricane of Star Wars mania. And as the title of this post has already spoiled, it was C-3PO.

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I can still remember being in the aisle of one of our two neighborhood drug stores (oddly the other one never got into the toy game) with my mom, watching her rifle through the figures on the peg. I’m not sure I knew what they were or had any interest in them, I’d never really seen toys like that before. “Action Figures”, especially in the 3.75″ scale were unheard of before Star Wars. But my mom was convinced I would love them. She would say “Oh look at this one! Oh how about THIS one!” and lower them down to my level so I could see each one. There’s even one particular statement she made that is forever burned into my brain to this day, but I’ll save that for the next volume of this blog…

Eventually, for no reason in particular, I chose C-3PO. He wasn’t my favorite character in the movie but for some reason I was drawn like a magnet to his gleaming gold finish.

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I still remember taking him home, my own miniature treasure, the first of what would become an army of tiny plastic friends which would see me through childhood, well into adolescence and remain as much a part of me as my own organic appendages into middle age.

That afternoon I laid on the couch, and with no other figures to interact with 3PO, I created a cave out of a pillow and imagined him hanging out in there by himself waiting for his master to show up.

Which he would eventually.

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Thanks for reading guys, I’ll be back to share another piece of my collection and more boring stories that no one but me cares about!