Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Retro toybox: MANTECH: Robot Warriors

MANTECH Robot Warriors was a toy line produced in 1984 by the famous Remco toy company, makers of many classics to be discussed later.

The basic idea behind MANTECH is a familiar one: humans augmented with technology. In a similar fashion to the more famous Centurions, MANTECH featured interchangeable parts and weapons. The difference is that all their parts were interchangable...theoretically...more on that later.

Research turns up surprisingly little about these forgotten plastic gems. There were vehicles, a comic book series, tv commercials, a standard good vs. evil storyline, but little else. Unfortunately, the line failed soon amidst the onslaught that was the 1980's toy market.

In my personal collection, I only have two figures. LaserTech (the blue good guy) is one of the few examples of a classic toy I have in the original packaging. I got a great deal on it from ebay last year. SolarTech (the red good guy) is the only one I originally had.

Notice that in none of the pictures above do SolarTech's upper legs detach from the body. Well, they're supposed to, but mine are glued on. Remember when I mentioned that all their parts were interchangeable? Well that's not exactly true. That's how they were advertised, but I found out the hard way that some of the parts are hard, brittle plastic that doesn't work well with the softer, more rubbery parts. I tried to plug the upper leg piece into a shoulder (why? why not? heck, I was a creative kid...) and the peg snapped. SolarTech spent the rest of the 80's with a masking tape pelvis cast--and in exile at the bottom of the toybox.

Each figure came with a comic book--similar to He-Man, Sectaurs, MASK, and about every other line at the time. The book wasn't really a masterpiece of epic literature, it really just gave a quick impression of the basic storyline and character roles (as well as advertise some of Remco's other products.)

So there they are...or were...MANTECH. I remember daydreaming about them and drooling over the commercials, but that goes for a hundred toys from the 80's. If you're looking to start a collection, they do turn up on ebay from time to time. Prices aren't usually too bad either.

That's all for now. Stay tuned for more cartoons, toys, and all the other goodness you've come to expect from this blog!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Retro Cartoon Corner: Flash Gordon

This is the first entry in a new series of articles spotlighting forgotten cartoons, primarily from the 70's and 80's...but there are really no limits.

Flash! Ah-AAAAhhhh....oh wait, it's not that Flash Gordon. Too bad, I love Queen.

To start off, I really must admit I don't remember this cartoon. According to Wikipedia, it aired from 1979-1980. That means it should have been on in the prime of my sleepy-eyed cereal crunching Saturday morning euphoria, but I missed it. Must have been on the same time as SuperFriends. I never missed SuperFriends. But I digress....

Although "Flash Gordon" is the actual title, it gets referred to as "The New Adventures of Flash Gordon" to avoid confusion. 32 episodes over two seasons was all they had. The first season was originally a TV movie that got cut up into chapters. All of this info is readily available on Wikipedia for those who are interested.

Now the opinion portion of the review. After all, isn't that what the internet is all about? People voicing meaningless opinions in the vain hope someone will listen? Anyway, here's my story: I've had my eye on this series since it was released on DVD, but I didn't want to pay for it. Jump ahead to last Saturday--I stopped by my favorite new and used book/movie/music bargain store, Half Price Books, and after picking up some cheap used vinyl and graphic novels, I noticed a shelf of DVDs. There it was: Flash Gordon, the complete series. Not even used...brand new! And best of all...it was only $6.48! Needless to say, I snatched it up.

So after viewing the first disc (yeah, I know, I should watch it all before reviewing...sue me...no wait, don't....I'm broke...) I have to say that I'm enjoying the show, but it is fairly limited. It's a familiar style Filmation project, so fans of Blackstar, Tarzan, Lone Ranger, etc. will know what to expect. The animation appeals to me, but some find it simple. It's an opinion thing...I'd rather watch this than any anime, but that's me. The story is decent and involves some subtle commentary on cooperation, racism, sexism, and general problem solving. My four-year old daughter thought it was great, so doesn't that say it all?

As with all great shows, there were action figures. They were very simple 3.75" figures that seem to be fairly easy to find on ebay, but not always cheap. I don't own any of them, so I can't really comment on them.

So there's the first quick review. Fans of this site (Fans...ha!...I crack myself up sometimes...) should look forward to future articles on cartoons, action figures, and whatever else crosses my mind. I should also mention that in addition to Flash, Half Price Books also had BlackStar, SpaceSentinels, and Defenders of the Earth available. I went to three locations, and all three had a different selection. Prices ranged from $6.48 to $9.98 for the different shows. I strongly encourage all classic cartoon fans to find a nearby location and check it out. No, I don't work for them...it's just one of my favorite stores.