Wow - has it been 20 YEARS ALREADY...?!? Time sure flies when we're... ah, toying around? ;)
The Remco toyline that I affectionated the most was actually DISMISSED (I now find out) as nothing more than a bunch of KNOCK-OFFS... Now, how can this be when they were action figures based upon characters that PREDATED everything else on the market back then; including mighty Mattel's (alleged) Masters of the Universe (aka "MotUs" - et bouche cousue, as I always say! *LOL* In-joke - for Frenchies only! ;)
Verily this "knock-off" label is nothing more slandering and libelling - Remco should sue! Alas, how can Remco sue those it targeted as its potential customers; especially now that Remco does not even exist anymore?!?
Aye, Remco was guilty of not knowing what it wanted to do: was it doing licensed toys from established characters such as Warlord, Arak, Hercules, Conan and Sgt.Rock - fulfilling many a collector's and a comic-book fan's dream in the process? Or was it doing all these not for them to stand on their own at all (although they could, being "fully poseable" and all...!) but merely to advertise them as "compatible" or "playable" WITH the damn "MotUs"...!!! (I believe that the phrase used was "plays with Masters of the Universe" - which was odd right next to "enter the lost world of the WARLORD" on the packaging! What were kids supposed to do here - stopover the "lost world" (of K-MART as it was - just to pick up the action figures there!) and then hijack it out of there and head right back to the (far less interesting) realm of He-Man & Co. - hey, they're the Masters - right...!
With the variants of Conan, it got really complicated too, as the dilemma it posed for the kid was multi-folded now... The variants were, basically, 'Conan The Barbarian' and 'King Conan' and a beastly-skin clad Conan, no doubt the surrogate "King of the Jungle Conan" - an outrage for all of Tarzania that was inspired by the comic-book classic story penned by the great Roy Thomas in which Conan slays "Amra", a redheaded Tarzan clone, to free his beloved Bélit, queen of the Amazon River or something...! (Conan & Bélit were a match made in - well, some kind of heaven, not a Christian-influenced one though... But I digress! However, Conan & Bélit didn't last forever; Conan, like James Bond, had to become single again for the duration and livelihood of his series (ha!) and so, just like Mrs.Tracy Bond (brilliantly played by the divine Diana Rigg in OHMSS) Bélit was sacrificed. The difference being that Conan & Bélit were given many months together (but out of wedlock!) in a long story arc that has never been equaled since - Bond & his bride had ONE MOVIE to live their love story and consummate it. End of digression.) And so, a kid with these Conan figures who finds himself, to boot, asked to "play within the realm of MotUs" with them, has to be confused there... Conan killed a Tarzan clone - what will he do to He-Man, the Philip Wylie Gladiator doppelganger re-imagined in a sword-and-sorcery context?!? The many clods that populated the 'MotUs" universe at the time would NOT take this as well as the lone LION who stood by and watched Conan triumph over his master, Amra... Said lion even recognized Conan as its new master then. Man-at-Arms & crew would GANG UP on Conan instead! Well deserved, I say - and hours of fun for the kid staging all this controversy! *LOL*
No, my fiends... ah, I mean friends! ;) Warlord is not a "knock-off" - but "Sunhawk" here sure is! The Galaxy Fighters' headliner, Sunhawk, seems to rip-off both Warlord AND Remco - since the company that made it is called SEWCO! REMCO did not sue SEWCO though - and both companies went belly up anyways, so... It's all pretty much a moot point now!
But let's veer back towards the majority of the pictured characters in this edition of the Saudades Blog - toys that I have owned myself indeed!!! Warlord, Deimos, Mikola and Machiste all came from the same source: Mike Grell's 1973 creation which became a long running comic-book series called "Warlord" (originally: "enter the lost world of the Warlord" indeed!) Hercules was a version of the classic Greco-Roman hero published by the same publisher as Warlord - DC Comics Inc. Arak came via the same way - also a DC property, so Remco said "why not add him too!" Those that should have been added as well, and were inexplicably not, are the ones I always wondered about... Characters DC had published way before and that could have fit the bill: Kamandi, Anthro, Tor, Valdemar, Shining Knight, Silent Knight, Atomic Knight (later considered for the Super Powers line by Kenner!), Viking Prince, Viking Commando, Firehair, Gnarrk (!) and... Claw! Why not Claw indeed - he was, for all intents and purposes, no more than a lankier Conan with the devil's curse (and mark and PAW...) upon him! He REALLY could have used the "beefing up" treatment that Remco gave to all the characters (every figurine's body was tha same mold, basically; that is why they all have the same basic biceps and thorax! It's called smart action figure manufaxcturing; it cuts on costs that way!) as "Claw The Unconquered" was drawn by one Keith Giffen - and, as such, waaaaaaaaaaay too skinny for a sword and sorcery hero! Giffen always had that problem; he draws such skeletal figures, the only character truly well-drawn that way is his silly Ambush Bug hero spoof! But I digress yet again... Claw The Unconquered looked, by consequence, very effeminate in his fantasy get-up; complete with the gauntlet that seemed to have more in common with Michael Jackson's one-glove fad than Conan at all! Claw was, also, truth be told, a flawed hero that did NOT deserve the title of "unconquered" (which was dropped in a later re-imagining of the character, which made him more superhero-like, a contemporary of Superman, and a member of "Primal Force" - he was indeed to be the team's Karate Kid/Shang-Chi with a little bit of Wolverine thrown into the mix! "Primal Force" had many archetypical types in its roster - a Jack O'Lantern, a strong female lead, a token big guy (the Goelm, no less - at first, very Easter Island statue-like, but then with softened up traits, far more human-like...) and a winged warrior, to name but a few. It all failed nonetheless, though...) With all that in mind, I took to make FUN of Claw; "The Unconquered" became the "Uncon-queer-ed"! His overall look was indeed just a tad faggoty-faggoty, if you know what I'm screaming - sort of a Chris Jericho of Fantasy, wielding a sword - which is nothing more than phallic symbolism...! Yikes... I am sure the original creators of the character (Ernie Chan and scribe David Michelinie - an old foe! *lol*) had no foresight of these sort of problems coming to plague their Conan clone of sorts... At least the revamped Claw of Primal Force was without these problems; but it served no purpose as he and the entire Force are without a home, a series, a home of any kind - unless they call LIMBO theirs... (I did type LIMBO - not himbo! Enough insults geared at Claw without adding that one! Anyway, the character's none of those things; he was just drawn that way! Besides, he's making a COMEBACK now - with CONAN's old buddy RED SONJA by HIS side! But that is another mindboggling story...)
Here's Jericho - Lionhearted? I think not! And the only RING RAGE here was from the fan - infuriated at wasting time and money watching this primadonna act like a fool and do nothing noteworthy at all! Claw had other problems plaguing him, at least... But back to our scheduled program now...
It is a shame that so-called "toy connaisseurs" dismiss the Remco line as a mere "knock-off" - entirely due to two very subjective and superficial things! One - the noticia "plays with Masters of the Universe (but also) Blackstar AND OTHERS...!" Gee - can't anyone admit to the EXISTENCE of one's COMPETITION? Is honesty rewarded with libelling and unwanted labels such as "knock-off" then? (Speaking of wrestling, we all know it too well, Vinnie Mac's WWE took YEARS to even ADMIT to the existence of rival WCW - and only did so when WCW was the uncontested number one in the ratings war! So it goes in the business world - but it is all the more reason to applaud Remco's initiative in recognizing the rivals for the kiddies' cash and attention and admitting to what they ALL wanted: a simple piece of the pie, man!) Two, Remco "sinned" in the eyes of many by throwing in too many extras: that is absurd, for extreas are, usually, GOOD! But not in this case: the picture above has a minor character purposefully set in a more meaningful roel than he was even MADE FOR... All because of his passing resemblance with the MotUs' Skeletor! "Skullman" is but a minor addition to the Remco line-up, not at all the main villain that Skeletor was (Deimos, riding the horse, is the top villain - a sorceror) and "Skullman" was not even a part of the Warlord line per say but really a minor and incongruous part of the sister line "Warrior Beasts" that was an all-henchmen bunch (since all the other figures with the exception of Deimos were heroes! Heroes need somebody to fight in order to be deemed heroic one iota; don't you know that by now?!? *LOL*)
Snakeman of the Warrior Beasts is NOT to be confused with Sahak of the Galaxy Warriors brought to you by SUNGOLD (kudos for the original name - for both the character and the company!) Still - it's another rip-off...! But there's MORE...
Snakeman of the Warrior Beasts is ALSO NOT to be confused with Kobraa of the Galaxy FIGHTERS (themselves not to be confused with the Galaxy WARRIORS...!) - all of which could be said to be Masters of the Universe rip-offs/knock-offs/clones...
My favorite such warrior beast was not "Snakeman" above (nor was it "Skullman" - much less!) - although I owned both. My fave was the Wolfman below...
"Craven the Raven-man" below sure looked intriguing too - but I never liked beaked characters much, so I passed on him! (Should have passed on Blackstar's Palace Guard birdman too - and, of course, on Hawkman altogether! But that is another story! *lol*)
Undeniably, these do NOT look like "knock-offs" or even derivative characters whatsoever - the originality and quality of the craftmanship injected into each and every one of them (with the possible exception of Skullman, maybe!) is just too great! Plus, the Warrior Beasts were created to support the Warlord line; they could even serve as villains to the MIGHTY CRUSADERS, superheroes that Remco was also doing at the time (under license from Archie Comics this time; and, yes, they too were the same size and with the same body mold - hence, they too could be compatible with He-Man's family!!!)
The Crusaders' own COMET - complete with his Cyclops-like visor that predates the X-Men leader's look!
AND the Beasts could maybe even have been used (a bit of a stretch; but bear with me!) as ring opponents for the WRESTLING ALL-STARS TAG-TEAMS that Remco was ALSO producing back then - under license from the AWA this time! Ric Flair and Larry Zbysko formed one team - the Nature Boy's detractors always did say that Flair had a beak for a nose, so I could see him battle Craven there! *LOL* Other teams included Baron Von Rashke (master of... the CLAW hold! See - Remco really could have done a Claw figure too!) and Rick Martel, the Road Warriors (immensely popular at the time) and, I may be wrong, but... the Killer Bees? Unless I'm confusing with the many insect-inspired Crusaders there (The Fly... The Web... etc!?) Remco really HAD IT ALL - for all tastes! All in ONE STYLE though - with the sole exception of Sgt.Rock and his Howling Commandos (oops - those were Sgt.Fury's guys making such a ruckus! Rock took it easy - was cooler than Fury too - so his men were simply known as the Easy Company!) who sort of mimicked the G.I. Joe new figure format - no longer "compatible" with... Barbie, this time! Hasbro made figurines compatible with Kenner's Star Wars line - and no one ever complained nor called either a "knock-off" of the other! It was great that they all fit in together so well, actually; kids could mingle the apparent legions of Star Wars types with the G.I. Joes and everyone could go for a spin onboard the Millennium Falcon after the big fight! It was cool! ;)
But I was digressing again - and therefore straying from the subject! Mea culpa! :! My conclusion is obvious by now, though: the Warlord family is NOT a bunch of "knock-offs"! It is unfair to dismiss them as such - for they are all-original characters who appeared for their first (and only) time ever as action figures in this line. It certainly is NOT "DC Direct" that will re-issue a 1975 Hercules (the time when DC last published their version of the hero) or an Arak - cancelled since the late 1980s! Even Warlord is a long shot nowadays - what do you think is the case for his supporting cast of Machiste, Mikola and Deimos? These were licensed goodies that the conditions in the market at the time (combined with Remco's ambition) allowed for - NOT "KNOCK-OFFS"! You want to see real knock-offs, 100% derivative cheapies? I'll show you some right now:
Behold the "power" of HUK (!) (or is it hack?) of the famed (?) GALAXY WARRIORS... Now there is a guy clearly devised to combat He-Man himself in his own territory! Add to that cheap production values, a name evocative of another (albeit green) behemoth and an engaging look (everybody likes vikings - especially with those historically inaccurate helmets on!) and you have a winner, for sure! (No - Remco did NOT make this one! The body mold is different - cheaper indeed. I remember seeing it on very cheap GENERIC WRESTLERS' bodies - at some dollar store I dropped by!)
Now, I could feel personally insulted here too - as "Galaxy Warriors" coupled with a VIKING to boot, seems to be stepping upon MY territory as well... However, my very own Quantum Warriors are light years ahead (in every imaginable way too) of this dreck - and that is a fact, Jack! But, speaking of wrestling once more - and of that GENERIC "quality"...
NOW THIS is generic - derivative - and 100% true blue KNOCK-OFFS; even down to the packaging! THESE are NOT The Four Horsemen!
Notice the ingeniosity at work here: they took to make use of the name "federation", as the WWE is no longer the WWF - so they could do it! And the masses STILL think of the WWE as a "federation" - hence, it helps! They went as far as using the likeness of a real Horseman and current WWE employee, Chris Benoit, on the packaging; no idea how they got away with that (maybe - they did NOT?) AND they have the right number there alright: FOUR! Four action figures in one pack is a very good deal for ANY kiddie, sure... Quality must NOT be there, but the other "Q factor" -quantity- sure is! (Duh!) The mimicking though is very poor - and thus it has next to NO artistic value! Who are these Horsemen wannabees supposed to be? Starting at left, the first figure looks more like Christian Cage (currently with TNA) but BALD (the expression also evokes GEORGE 'THE ANIMAL' STEELE, oddly enough!) - the next one could be Buddy Landell (not Ric Flair, for sure! But a replacement Nature Boy, at least!) - the next one could be Simon Diamond, one of the actual Extreme Horsemen down south in the now defunct Florida-based "Major League Wrestling" (they took the name solely because they anticipated Stone Cold Steve Austin or some other foulmouthed creep to call them the "bush leagues" sometime down the road, sooner or later, simply out of spite or because said creep is just shooting his mouth... I am sure!) AND, last and definitely least, there's this fourth figure who seems a bit lost there... He bears a striking resemblance with either Brian Pillman (a former Horsemen, sure, but...) or maybe even Owen Hart - and both of these guys are DEAD. All in all, a very bizarre line-up there - and thus, no points whatsoever with the true connaisseur and collector!
Generic toys are good in a sense though; they are certainly so for the truly creative child who can then create his very own characters, injecting the figure with the personality, characteristics and style that he himself comes up with!
Much better than a licensed piece of crap (like Batman, Superman or Spider-Man) that comes with its own million-and-one pre-set rules and personas and becomes stale within ONE SUMMER...
Who will ever care to see the first Spider-Man, the first Superman or the first Batman movies again - huh? It's a one-time "cheap thrill" - in the theater! An outing - period! With generic toys at home, thy child will have a MILLION films to produce, direct, "act" in and provide aaaaaaall the sound and special effects for - usually with home appliances and the like! *LOL*
That is - if thy child is half as imaginative and creative as... moi! ;) Back in 1986... Approximatively...!
A couple more proud representatives of those action figures of my youth... With all those snakemen and wolfmen, there had to be ONE Tigerman! The Sungold Galaxy Warriors had him... Tigers USED to be my favorite wild animal - until this... And, below, since we mentioned BLACKSTAR... His aquatic nemesis: NEPTUL! He's a mean one...
And since we spoke of him in another installment this month here...
Here he is - Blackstar!
It was either this guy or the insipid "Power Lords" back then - and I couldn't stomach the latter's pathetic attempt at a power trip, so...!
A vast amalgam of elements borrowed
(or outright stolen) from various sources, Blackstar featured a plethora of tiny beings called "Trobbits" - not even a clever attempt at disguising a Tolkien Hobbit as something else...! Lest it was a mere homage...? Ah - okay then! ;)
For some reason, the first figure from this collection that I owned, was the above pictured, standing tall for thee PALACE GUARD! Stern-looking and boring as he looks, he filled his purpose, I'm sure... (Actually, I wouldn't know - I don't recall having EVER seen the cartoon featuring these characters! All I know is that the P.G. came in two versions - and I was stuck with the tritest one! The second revamped look had much better tones of color on him... But that same stern aura and bright beak! I took this as my cue to never again have a parakeet...)
Ahh - here is the meanie from the sea again - NEPTUL! Nep - tool? Anyways... I always took to the sea and, therefore, I liked characters who came from it... The atrocious Masters of the Universe had two: Merman and Hydron, that I recall... Popeye was a favorite (though redundant) cartoon Sinbad was a fave of sorts, too... And of course, there always was Aquaman! The sea is the only mysterious realm accessible to anyone of us - so, that is why all of my epic fantasy stuff allegiance adheres with greater ease to the seafaring heroes (or even ghouls, like Neptul here) than any space-faring dud...! (Hmm... Did I mention that Blackstar is a space-faring guy? One who rides some kind of giant dragon too... Horseback-riding on a dragon - in outer space. Rrrrrrrrrright... BUT - Blackstar's first name is JOHN - and as such, he is true hero material! :) Never known a John that wasn't! Make that JOÃO... ;)
But back to Neptul and the sea... *lol* Let's just conclude that just as in the case of the infamous Gillman (a.k.a. Gilly a.k.a. the Creature from the Black Lagoon) I am more than ready, still, to make an exception with Neptul as well... And label him, as Gilly, as a vastly misunderstood sea creature!
No such quarters for this next guy though...TO THE PIT YOU GO, GUY! This little critter above is one generic yellow demon that came usually in a twin pack with a villain... Palace Guard's little buddy - for instance! There was also a pink one... (No comments - but also no surprise to me! *LOL*) THAT, in a nutshell, was the big thing about Blackstar toys; they were ALL "twin figure packs" One of the earliest such things, I do believe! Kids were delighted to get two figures instead of just one per pack! Even though the second one was either a cheapie Trobbit or a cheapie demon...!!! But the concept would evolve and improve, in time - especially when the Toddster started making them toys too...!
Note: the Blackstar demons are not to be confused with the Super Powers ' own parademons! They're of the same ilk though - for sure...
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Born in the Age of Aquarius, destined to seek out truths in many an art form, trained as a historian and a journalist but truly a prose-lover... Luciano is out to dispel any clichés and reinvent them all both to the tune of a little something called the truth as also to his own image - and being old-fashioned, he does not mind that distinction one infinitesimal tiny bit at all...! "There are two ways to spread the light; be the candle... or the mirror that reflects It." I have chosen to be the latter... okay? ~*~
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