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.
THE FISHER-PRICE LITTLE PEOPLE PLAY FAMILY ACTION GARAGE
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.
FISHER PRICE FAMILY SAFARI
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 JAWS BOARD GAME
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,