Friday, January 27, 2012

Awesome Toys from my Childhood

I spent most of this week writing a script for a one-shot superhero comic that will, if all goes according to plan, hopefully be published late 2012 to early 2013. Cross your fingers. I spent what remained pitching stories to GrayHaven comics for the first batch of Gathering anthologies due out in 2013.
In working on one of the pitches, a superhero story geared towards younger readers, I spent some time thinking about my own childhood, and the adventures of my young imagination. I had a sudden flashback to a villain from my youth, a nightmarish creature of metal and hatred, who terrorized my toys in a reign of terror even Darth Vader would have found tasteless and unnecessarily extreme. That villain… CLAWTRON

Doesn’t look like much, does he? Clawtron was one of Fisher Price’s attempts to cash in on the Star Wars craze. It’s funny now to see how innocuous he looks, because in my memory, he is the baddest of the bad-asses. His name alone made G.I. Joe soldiers hide under their cots and caused Luke Skywalker to just back slowly into his X-Wing Fighter and fly away.
Of course thinking about old Clawtron also reminded me of some of my other favorite childhood toys. Not the ones you’d automatically think of. I was an only child, and never wanted for much of anything. So I had just about every Star Wars and G.I. Joe toy ever made, not to mention a good smattering of Masters of the Universe, MASK, and more super-heroes than you could shake a stick at. But what I’m talking about here are those random toys that come from seemingly nowhere and get incorporated into a kid’s play pattern. The toys that were never intended to rub shoulders with the Han Solos and Cobra Commanders of the toy world, but somehow still did.  Here are a couple of mine.


Yeah, this is another Fisher-Price toy. On its own, independently, it was completely awesome. It had an elevator into which you inserted the little cars. Then you’d crank the elevator to the top, and the cars would come shooting out, sliding down the ramp. Pretty slick. But this toy found a second life with me as a playset for my Star Wars figures. In my childhood imaginings, Luke Skywalker and Co. were EVER finding themselves landing on earth, and once here, they apparently had nothing better to do than to take their intergalactic civil war to an urban parking structure. More Stormtroopers met their ends being tossed off of that roof by Chewbacca than by Rebel laser fire, let me tell you.


An Alien from the Micronauts series of toys, Membros was… weird. The fact that he had a glowing brain pretty much automatically meant he was a villain. But he was so odd looking that even amongst the Galactic Empire he was a bit of an outcast. Membros did have one huge advantage over other bad guys, though; His weapons all plugged directly into his arms. So Han Solo or the Princess could literally never disarm him. I remember that Membros eventually became Clawtron’s right-hand (right-claw?) man, and the butt of much of the master villain’s abuse. The Beast-Man to Clawtron’s Skeletor, if you will.


Yeah, apparently I had a lot of Fisher Price toys. The gorilla in this one fascinated me. He looked like one of the monsters from the Herculoids, so I always made him an ally of the heroes. The family in the set mattered little to me. They usually filled the roll of “innocent civilians” that the G.I. Joe team had to rescue. Although I do remember the dad’s Burt Reynolds moustache was so macho that I usually gave him a Stormtrooper blaster and had him join in on the ass-kicking. The lion and tiger were often deployed as threats to our heroes in jungle environments. (Spoiler Alert: Snake-eyes from G.I. Joe can totally beat up a lion.) Probably the best parts of this set were the cages and the net. I cannot possibly tell you how often those were used to imprison captured heroes while the villains monologued about their plans to harness all of the world’s energy crystals. (The part of the world’s energy crystals was, of course, played by a bunch of Lite-Brite pegs).

The game itself was basically a version of Operation. But the shark of course, was a huge threat to any nautical adventure. Like Clawtron, this has achieved a more mythic status in my memory than the actual toy merits. Until I looked up images of this, I remembered a sinisterly realistic shark with dangerous rows of razor-sharp teeth. I remember being AFRAID of this toy. This poor guy has these huge beady eyes of surprise, as if he’s being force-fed to death. He looks more like Jabberjaw than the megalodon of my childhood memories.
Ah, to be young again.
Anyway, if you someday read a comic I wrote where the heroes are fighting a sinister ebony robot with claws for hands, you know that it’s really the three year old version of me who’s doing the writing.  Even more so than usual.

Hugs and kisses,

Thursday, January 5, 2012

2012: The Year In Review in Advance

Happy 2012, everyone! Hope the New Year is finding you well so far. My holiday season was appropriately joyous and wonderful. I had a lovely birthday, a fantastic Christmas, and rang in the New Year with Jenny at our friends Mike and Sarah’s house. It was a great evening, and I would describe it in greater detail, but it has been pointed out to me that the sense of humor possessed by my inner circle of friends would, if shared with the outside world, make us all look like psychopaths.
I watched the proliferation of “Best of 2011” lists last month with a sort of looming dread. Was this the sort of thing that was required of one who blogged? If so, I’m ill equipped to deliver. My attention span is similar to that of a small, nervous dog who has managed to consume a large triple espresso. I sometimes forget things that are happening WHILE they are happening.
Okay, not really, but I do a poor job of cataloging things in an efficient chronology. It’s a side effect of being tragically behind on the cultural bell curve.  Any “Best of the Year” lists I generate would, by my nature, be filled with materials that are decades old which I have JUST discovered, and have decided are the very height of French cool.
It’s easier for me to do a list of what I’m looking forward to in the coming year. I can always handle recognizing things that haven’t happened YET. So that’s a safer, and more pleasurable activity for me. Always looking forward, friends!

When I was much younger, I watched a documentary on Nostradamus which ended, as so many things from the 80s, with images of nuclear missiles flying through the night, and the world ending in a massive mushroom cloud. I tried to hide under my bed for a week. Something about that trauma stuck with me. I’m phobic about the apocalypse. So the Mayan calendar debate bullshit regarding the end of the year has made me twitchy. I know it’s stupid. I know YOU know that it’s stupid. But, like most phobias, there’s nothing that rational thought or discussion can do to really break the tension. So I’m looking forward to barreling right up to, and past, December 21, 2012. Then I can breathe a huge sigh of relief and wait for the next opportunity for crazy people to promise me I’m going to die.
Best rebuttal I have heard for the Mayan doomsday comes from my buddy Joe Porto who pointed out that he has had a calendar every year that ended on that year, and so far, nothing has come of it. “Calendars are stupid” was his conclusion.

Even if the world does end, I won’t care that much, because I will have seen The Hobbit the previous week. We’ve got The Avengers this summer, a new Nolan-directed Batman movie, the Ridley Scott is-it-or-isn’t-it-an-Alien-prequel Prometheus, and many more. I’ll be blowing a lot of my allowance in the movie theater this year.

This year: Avengers vs X-Men. Are you excited? If not, you don’t really like comics, and we can’t be friends anymore.

4) COMICS! (That I made)
Got a lot coming up in 2012.
- I will have stories appearing in Greyhaven Comics “The Gathering” five times this year, each exploring a different genre (Sci-fi, Fantasy, Super-Heroes, Western, and Romance).  
- Chris Hopkins continues to grind away at the pitch art for Wacky Zack Must Die, and hopefully we will be pitching it to publishers this Spring.
- I’m writing a one-shot for Greyhaven Comics I should have done in the next two weeks.  If the artists’ schedule allows you may be seeing it in late 2012 or early 2013.
- I will be developing a horror/super-hero pitch for Shadowline Comics with artist Leonardo Gonzalez.
- At least two new graphic novels are getting written before the end of the year. One is an historical comedy/romance. The other is a sci-fi sex farce.
All this, and my ongoing attempts to get Chris Page to co-write “THE ADVENTURES OF RAPTOR-GUN”, the heartwarming tale of an urban vigilante whose gun shoots velociraptors.
Comics. Rules. Everything. Around. Me.

This October marks five years of marriage to the gorgeous, the brilliant, the hysterically funny, the ridiculously talented Jenny Langin. We have tentative plans to revisit the site of our honeymoon, that is to say, spend a week in Disneyworld. It’s going to be awesome.

I promise that I will try to blog as much as time allows. If my blog updates are fewer and farther between, I promise that it’s because I am hard at work on some awesome freelance comics stuff. And not at all because Jenny bought me Skyrim for Christmas.
Hugs and kisses,