On this Christmas Eve, as Geeks around the world open and watch people open presents around the world, I always like to think back to Christmases of yesteryear, when LEGO was (fairly) new, cartoons dominated toys, and 8-bits were all we would ever need. To cap off this holiday wish list series of Tops o’ the Lot I’ve decided to take everyone back in time to when I was a child, and this is one time when me being a spoiled rotten brat of the 1980’s is going to pay off. So, without further ado, we have some classics, and we have some vague awesomeness, but it’s all throwback, in Outright Geekery’s Top o’ the Lot: Christmas Wish List: Retro Edition.
Honorable Mention: LEGO
I mentioned LEGO in a previous post, and it was a huge part of everyone’s childhood, but I wanted to give it a special mention yet again because of the simplicity of the 1980’s sets. Past, present, future; that’s all we had. No film tie-ins and complicated pieces. They did everything and they did it with relatively so little. I was the kind of kid that asked for one thing every Christmas, and sometime in the late ’80s, the 9 or 10 year old me had a freaking suburban metropolitan with a very large budget for its space program and huge medieval times theme park with all the LEGO sets Santa brought me. I grew out of them and gave them to Goodwill…I regret it.
It may have been a ‘lesser’ building set but Construx were the building blocks that I literally cut my teeth on. Released by Fisher-Price in 1983, my mom jumped on these hardcore when I was about 6 when LEGO was out of my age range and she couldn’t justify buying expensive Duplo Blocks for my boy-self to build with for only a few years. I played with them for years, well into my LEGO years, even combining the two into childhood imagination driven monstrosities. Plastic beams of various lengths, 6-sided ‘knots’ that fixed the beams together, plates that covered those larger shapes, and enough hinges, wheels, ropes, hooks, and other various knots that bent, spun, and otherwise rocked to fuel all kinds of builds. The best part about building toys from the ’80s was the working man aspect of them. That’s a freakin’ forklift! Miss these, I have no idea what happened to them.
The ’80s was big into toy lines associated with cartoon series, and vice versa, and there were of course the big two (see below) but it seems like every kid had a third line, and mine was M.A.S.K. Some kids had Masters of the Universe or Thundercats or some other TV-based toys, but mine was the Mobile Armored Strike Kommand series of vehicles that changed from normal cars, trucks, and bikes to hidden forms of helicopters, tanks, and military command bases. Plus, there were action figures with helmets that granted special powers…it was very ’80’s. Released from ’85 to ’88, the set included favorites like the ’57 Chevy/Tank, the Dune Buggy/Glider, the Corvette/Seaplane, and, my favorite, the Camaro/Fighter Jet. Because every kid dreams of finally being able to drive…a secret, heavily armed vehicle of destruction. Episodes are available on Youtube with a quick search. My mom sold these at a yard sale.
3. Nintendo Entertainment System Power Set
My dad did NOT like to spoil his kids, but he was a tech geek before being a tech geek was cool, and his geek tech of choice was Atari. I still have his (mine) original Atari 2600 console (with the wood grain), but my dad had early Atari computers…yes! computers, with keyboards, external floppy disc drives (Google it, kids) and ram measured in shit-a-bytes. But my old man loved that shit, and still does despite technology ultimately catching up, and surpassing him (he refuses to get a Facebook account), but he was dedicated. His feelings toward Japanese hardware was borderline racist. “Great chips; bad boards,” he used to say. So it took my sister and I a few years to talk the old man into getting us an NES, but lucky for us we waited for the weirdest version, the Power Set. It included the home console that forever redefined the genre, the NES, the classic, well overdue for a revisit light gun, and the second worst peripheral ever the Nintendo Power Pad. Of course SMB and Duck Hunt are classics, but World Class Track Meet on the Power Pad was ridiculous. First off, running was completely out of the question, and the use of hands was the best way to go. Second, even using ones hands, this games was impossible unless you had a violent, but consistent, bang the floor repeatedly with your fingertips motion. Thirdly, no matter how you used this, toes or hands, it hurt your toes or hands! But we had a blast with this in my house. I still have an NES, but not the pad, gun, or that game. Not sure where they went.
2. The U.S.S. FLAGG
Did I mention I was a spoiled kid? Well, I was. Did I also mention that I used to ask for one single thing for Christmas? Well, I also used to do that for birthdays, and for one of those birthdays I requested nothing but G.I. Joe stuff from friends, family, and anyone else who would listen. It was a military draft like nothing seen before. I got a plethora of bases, vehicles, figures (even duplicate figures, which was actually awesome with Cobra Troopers and for Zartan missions). You name it, I had it! Trucks with guns, planes with guns, hovercraft, jets, multiple Trouble Bubbles (Google it, kids), and every codenamed character and character carrying case on the market. All but one, that is. My birthday is in July, so this thing became like the Holy Grail to me. I needed it on my side of the playroom. My aquatic adventures were simply incomplete and unworthy of the epic conflict that is G.I. Joe. That epic piece is the U.S.S. Flag aircraft carrier. This 7+ foot long behemoth was based on the actual Nimitz class carrier, and was singularly amazing! I’ll never forget that Christmas morning. I came downstairs, pushing my sister out of the way as I passed right by the kitchen entryway into the living room. My eyes searched frantically under the already lit tree for the huge box that I knew was required to contain the awesomeness that was the Flagg. I opened gift after gift (did I mention I was a spoiled rotten brat of a kid?) to no avail, and as LEGO set and already familiar G.I. Joe toys fell to the wayside, I sat on the floor, knees under me, exhausted from the exercise in futility. She actually made me wait. I opened the boxes on toys, put stuff together (even applying stickers, which takes time), and even tried on clothes before she went in the kitchen to make breakfast. “Come help me make pancakes,” she called. I sighed, but got up because it was Christmas, I was hungry, and making pancakes was kind of fun, and just before I rounded the corner she says, “and move this huge box out of my way.” It wasn’t even wrapped; my mom was sinister and demented, but she wasn’t outright evil. I didn’t get any pancakes. They were old and nasty by the time I was hungry enough to be pulled away from the new flagship (literally) of my collection. I thanked her a few days later, after being reminded, of course. My mom rocked ass! She gave all my G.I. Joe stuff to my poor cousins when she thought I “outgrew” them. I visited them a year later and pieces of toys were littered throughout their backyard. So, yeah, it’s a love/hate thing.
1. G1 Optimus Prime
Winter 1985. I’m a young elementary school student that suffered through the dregs of math and English class to do one thing: watch after-school cartoons. And the go to series were obviously G.I. Joe and, the Robots in Disguise, Transformers. I already had a bunch of Transformers toys (I mentioned I was spoiled, right?) but in 1985 there was only one toy on the minds of kids everywhere, and especially this kid. The Kenworth K100 that turned into the leader of the whole damned team of cartoon heroes, Optimus Prime. My mom didn’t go evil with this, she went the opposite, letting me open it on Christmas Eve. I got a lot of clothes that year. I still have that G1 Optimus, and I’ve added a few more, along with (almost) all my Transformers from when I was a kid. But none are cooler than Prime.