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July 25, 2011

The Greatest Majin

Filed under: Sanjeev,Toy Love — Sanjeev @ 10:29 pm

As usual, I have to start at the beginning

Most of the heads I roll with sorta know me as the local go-to guy for Godzilla trivia. No, not for any impressive honors or accolades I’ve earned…hell, I’m hardly the foremost expert in tokusatsu (though I certainly like to think I know my shit!). I sure love that scaly bastard and I ain’t shy about it, but I like to think I’m down with ALL daikaiju–the myriad giant monsters that fascinated me every Saturday morning on Creature Double Feature.

But what made CDF an extra-special experience for me was that it was one of the few times during the week my father and I would regularly spend together. He was a bit of a hard scifi nut, so it wasn’t much of a stretch for him to get down with the old-timey American scifi and various tokusatsu featured on the program.

Anyway, there was one particular series of movies that absolutely blew my fucking mind at that tender age–a kaiju offering so unlike the often-campy Godzilla and Gamera flicks I was used to. It started with AIP’s English-dubbed Majin, The Monster of Terror…where I saw a GOD in the form of a giant stone statue come to life after several men drove a giant steel pike into its forehead. This enraged god’s subsequent rampage climaxed with him pulling the pike from his forehead…and impaling the evil warlord with it. Fuck me. I think I was five years old. This was NO Godzilla dancing a jig after beating up an ambulatory pile of shit.

Keep in mind that I was (and am now) an atheist: see, my parents taught me all about Hindu mythology, and while I enjoyed hearing these stories from my people and learning about our customs and traditions, there was no expectation placed on me to believe in these deities. And my family had just moved to the (very Catholic) suburbs of the Bean, so my only experience of “God” was through these people I didn’t really understand yet.

So here was this depiction of god being a vengeful, deathless force of nature and justice…not some amorphous, benevolent dude who made people feel guilty for doing shit. Mind=blown.

Fast forward to last April. Over the past few years, folks like Jim M and Mark K–amorphous benevolent dudes, in their own right–have been shepherding my inexorable slide towards collecting vintage vinyl. I had been no stranger to Daimajin toys, but now it was time to go big or go home. I finally got me an original 1966 Marusan Daimajin figure.

And it is glorious.

The toy finally arrived a couple weeks ago…and with some rather curious timing, my old camera finally died last Friday. What you’re seeing are the very first shots from my brand new camera–and thankfully, the weather yesterday was quite agreeable…divine intervention, hmmm???

Anyway, the toy is stunning. I’m kinda glad I waited until I could fully appreciate the vintage aesthetic before picking this guy up. I know some people like more move-accurate sofubi…or just crazy-mint specimens of vintage pieces. This is neither. And I’m absolutely fine with that.

Granted, when he arrived, he was kinda grimy. No, I don’t mean he was about to steal forty bucks outta my wallet and sneak out a window–I mean, he had been well-loved over the decades and had picked up his fair share of dirt. Oh, and curiously, his legs were reversed (I’ve seen this before on other vintage specimens–funny how so few people thought to correct the awkward stance). I just disassembled the figure and took my time with some warm, soapy water and a soft-bristle toothbrush. A labor of love, no doubt.

The toy stands 9″ tall and is obviously made of blue vinyl with sparing silver and metallic green sprays. The paint rubs are numerous…but they don’t bother me in the slightest. It’s an old toy. It was played with by some child and appreciated enough to have been kept carefully in such nice shape for all these years. That weight of history is a big part of what makes vintage vinyl so special to me.

There are no cracks or other structural flaws with the vinyl. What’s interesting is that the sword hilt made of the same vinyl as the rest of the figure; on the hidden side is a simple plug that fits into a hole on the figure’s belt. The scabbard, however, is made of a very soft rubber. It’s simply glued on at the guard. I’m pretty sure that in the myriad reissues from M1 and Marusan, the whole sword is a single piece of vinyl.

Not too much more to say about this toy, so I’ll just leave you with a few more shots…

Hope you enjoyed the read and pics!

May 20, 2011

What have I done…?

Filed under: Alen Yen,Nekrodave,Sanjeev,Stoopid — Sanjeev @ 3:34 pm

How did we ever get here from there? Have I truly gone too far this time? And perhaps most perplexing, how have I(we) kept this a secret for almost two weeks now??? Gentlefolk, submitted for your approval: the depths of my collecting madness, or one helluva sweet ride.

This is an emotional tale. On one hand, I feel a swell of pride in my chest for having “taken one for the team”. It sounds strange–I know. But ultimately, this was something that had to enter the fold. One of the massholes had to take possession of this thing…for the sake of the community. And honestly, “possession” isn’t even the right word. This isn’t a thing one can possess. One can only strive to be a worthy custodian of this item. Someone who cares for, preserves, and even restores a treasure–for the good of us all and for the good of future generations.

And on the other hand, the drunken frat boy in me is straight out his damn mind over this score! Guys, I bought a fucking Grendizer coin-operated kiddie ride.

It all started a couple Mondays ago. On the morning of the 9th, still bleary-eyed from the rude interruption of my weekend, I was greeted by an e-mail from JoshB with the images above, urging someone to adopt this unlikely piece of ephemera. All the usual suspects were copied. The idea was for one of us local Beantowners to buy this thing and haul it down from Salisbury on the north shore of Massachusetts, where it once thrilled (and likely baffled) kids from within a now-closed arcade.

Who would step up to the plate and throw down?

Was there ever any doubt?

The decision was made before I even started my computer. But the tone of the conversation was quite clear: this WAS going to become part of the family. There was no doubt. At any point.

Josh helped put me in touch with Nick, the seller from Salisbury, and he turned out to be a solid dude. The “Goldrake” on the side of the unit threw him off, but with a little research, he quickly found CDX, headquartered north of Boston. Seemed only natural for Nick to contact Josh and ask about ride and see if there would be any interest in buying it. Oh yes.

On Tuesday, I finally talked to Nick on the phone. He was eager to move the ride…and, honestly, I was eager to get it off his front lawn and somewhere safe (my mother’s garage!). The following evening, there was a bit of a false start when Dave, stalwart as ever, drove back from the Brimfield Antique Show to pick my ass up from work and go haul the machine in his minivan. We met with Nick and shot the shit for a while…but ultimately we discovered that the fucking thing was too tall to fit in the van! The length and width were fine, but that damn fin! Grumbling, we drove back south, empty-handed.

[Y'know, we were also planning to meet our friend and fellow collector, Marco, after the trek (some of y'all might remember him from the Morphy's auction a couple years back). He was visiting from Italy specifically for the Brimfield show, and it woulda been hot to show him the ride, which we're fairly certain was made there in the 70's!]

But as we all know, failure is not an option. Fortunately, there was no rain for the rest of the week, so the ride would be safe from the elements. I coordinated with Nick and we ultimately decided that I was gonna suck it up and rent a damn U-Haul and do this shit proper on Saturday. Once again, Dave proves his might by volunteering to help haul the ride. And better still, Alen had some time in the afternoon to chill–and since he was on the way back down south, Dave and I dropped by for some homemade eggrolls and hang-out time with Miya.

Alen thanked me: if I hadn’t thrown down for this thing, he would have had to. It didn’t need to be said. We all knew what was at stake here.

Y’know, a fresh set of eyes often emphasizes the utter absurdity of what’s right in front of you.

Yen almost immediately tries to mount the ride, reverse-cowgirl.

Up until that point, Dave and I had been running a mile a minute since around lunchtime. Nick clearly had plans for his Saturday, as we had only exchanged a small bit of conversation before heaving the ride into our other ride and pushing off. So for the first time, I got to see this thing in broad daylight…and finally, the gravity of the purchase started to sink in.

Holy shit.

It’s always good to get in some face time with the Godfather, but eventually we had to split. The ride back to Braintree was filled with talk of the Bruins‘ playoff outlook. Incidentally, the grippy bed-liner in the pickup insured there would be no shifting of the ride while I drove gingerly down the highway. But make no mistake about it: I constantly had half an eye on the rear-view, watching Grendy bob gently up and down on the boom arm.

When we got back to Mama Jeev’s garage, we unloaded and returned the pickup in time for the opening face-off…

…But NOT before the final, most crucial step in the journey:

So the plan for now is to house this monstrosity in the car hold. I’ve since rolled him onto a tarp and wrapped him up like a Hershey’s kiss hopefully to keep bugs, rodents, or whatever from making a home outta him.

Ideally, I intend to ply repairtechjon with drugs and women to get him to help me make it do right by the time the Summit rolls around. Godspeed, lil Goldrake…and a big shout-out to all the massholes. Remember: if it weren’t for peer pressure, just imagine the untold glories that would otherwise just pass us by! ;)

And the proud new papa:

March 22, 2011

Big, brown, and luscious

Filed under: Sanjeev,Toy Love — Sanjeev @ 6:57 pm

…like me.

Got this guy in a huge cross-planetary trade with a friend of mine. Some twenty inches of Tetsujin decadence. Wearing red pumps. Courtesy of M1. Dig it.

March 6, 2011

Bullmark Megalon

Filed under: Co. BULLMARK,Sanjeev,Toy Love — Sanjeev @ 12:57 pm

Every now and then, ya gotta break out the big guns…

For Bullmark collector, there was a bit of a ruckus about a month ago. In rapid succession, a number of highly sought-after Toho vinyls popped up. Far and away, the more celebrated of these was the legendary green Godzilla that Brian Flynn scooped up!

Also causing a stir around the same time, a mysterious Mechagodzilla appeared that Mike Johnson told me was an especially rare vinyl variant. IIRC, that went for around 500k…far too rich for my blood at the moment…

Ah, but with all eyes and anxious keyboards watching what would happen with these two titans, the humble Megalon appeared (“humble”, my ass!). And no one seemed to notice! It was listed originally for 200k, which arguably isn’t a bad deal at all…even with today’s exchange rate. No action. The auction recycled. No action again; it recycles again. In the middle of its third week, I had Tokyobuyers contact the seller and offer 150k. No response, but upon the third recycling, the seller dropped the starting bid to 150k and added a BIN of 200k. Still no action…and the very morning of Brian’s green Goji, I swooped in and scored it…30 minutes before Brian’s fabled purchase!

Broke as hell, but happy, I received Megs and a bunch of other Bullmarks last week. Walker, Nekrodave, and I took a nice little group shot at the shop Wednesday night:

Anyway, here’s more fun with Megalon!

February 22, 2011

Blow me…

I think the caption says it all. I couldn’t ask for better inflatable friends.. ;)

E

February 7, 2011

An epic adventure of pork buns and box variants.Part 2

Filed under: Josh Fraser,Nekrodave,Regan Miller,Sanjeev,SUMMIT,Toy Love,Warren Schwartz — Josh Fraser @ 9:59 pm

Box variants… at Sifu’s house.

Sanjeev: With my jollyness still filled with dancing cha siu bao and other delights, we left Chau Chow City. It had already been a great day–Dave and I had just spent the previous night crashing at my place, talking about movies, sports, and He-Man. It was a blast to see Ryan and Ed again…not to mention Mason and getting to meet his squeeze, Lisa. Regan and Josh? Good peoples, of course–always a great time. Ben…well, can’t go wrong with the lil squirt… :P

Josh: After everyone parts ways, Dave and Sanjeev hang out with Regan and I. Not much is going on, until Uncle Warren and I talk on the phone and plan an impromptu get together at the God father of Sofubi’s box filled room.
This is a first for both Sanjeev and Dave. I can see the excitement on their faces as I mention the potential plan. It takes little convincing and we head over to Warren’s for an afternoon of toy induced mayhem. And in true fashion turns out to be a memorable evening.
We arrive and jump head first into the deep end. Dave and Sanjeev look from corner to corner, scanning over boxes and bags and handle various loose toys that are scattered about.

Sanjeev:Now, I’ve had the pleasure of hanging out with the Sifu several times before–and it’s all true: he’s a fantastic guy!–but I’d never actually had a chance to visit his home. So now an opportunity to do so? You kidding me!?

Sanjeev: It’s kinda funny…Warren is such an open and warm person, you almost get the feeling you’ve known him all your life. And with Regan and Josh’s awesome brog posts chronicling their epic visits, it even feels like you’ve been there! Almost. Well, we rolled up to his pad that afternoon and I was beaming.
Warren welcomed us in with his usual sincere open-heartedness and as his wife baked cookies (which we never actually got a chance to try! :P ), he led us upstairs to the toy lair. I was honestly expecting a bit more of a mess, but the place was surprisingly organized. Sure, there were loose treasures laying about, waiting for greedy hands, but the overall feeling I got was that of reverence. Like, these were things to be enjoyed, but also that they told a decades-old story about how a generation played. It was beautiful.

Josh;Needless to say, Warren shows us vintage gold, and we work our way into the side room where he has two boxes sitting next to one another. These are not just any boxes… these are boxes that barely anyone on the planet has one of, let alone two.

Spoken about before and documented a few times, the coveted Bullmark Red Baron missile firing vinyl.

Warren had bought the second box not long ago and had wondered which one to keep. Knowing that I was an obsessive idiot…er.. I mean interested in box condition, he asked me to advise which of the two to hold onto.

It took me 5 seconds to reach my decision.

“You keep both”
“Really”

Yeah. Here is why.

As it turns out,( and is obviously evident to those who have looked at the photo above), Warren had in my humble opinion inadvertently stumbled on one of the greatest packaging finds of recent memory.

Both boxes were variants, and not simply a matter of a different pantone being used on a logo… these were visibly different from afar.
The box Warren won with the original auction (with toy) was on the windowsill on the left. The main logo on the top of the box was about twice the size, and although somewhat faded compared to its counterpart, it was evident that the second box with the smaller logo was in fact earlier! Not only that, the secondary logo on the left of the Red Baron head was simply a cut out piece of paper placed by the hands of some long forgotten but careful worker.

As with some Gaiking boxes in my collection of GA51′s I have seen variants of all sorts. Printing is expensive, and though we all look at them with awe now, vintage toy boxes started their lives out simply as a way to get the contents from point A to point B. So printing new screens for a new run or redoing a whole box was sometimes out of the question. Often they simply cut out a new logo and pasted over an existing out of date or incorrect image. This was well before digital printing, and looking at the old skool fix, warmly reminded me of my own early years as a graphic artist at my first job in the early 90′s. These boxes were a beautiful reminder of a point in time when mistakes were not so easily fixed by the click of a mouse.

In addition there were less important variants on the secondary logos on the sides of the box, really showing the evolution. In fact, for a moment I even daydreamed that the second box Warren won, might potentially be the early proto or proof copy for this very toy. How could one in their right mind, a man who searches the globe for one character above all others part these two boxes again, when they so effortlessly tell a history together, thirty years after their creation.

After coming down from that high, Warren takes Regan over to the Astro Mu corner and she finally gets her first vintage Capsule Robo vinyl. Warren had an extra apparently! The girl is simply besides herself with happiness and we all are basking in the good natured mood that hums about the room.

Sifu then rushes off to find something none of us have seen, to complete the circle. The Astro Mu playset.
A hush hits the room and a billowing of old vinyl meets our collective nostrils. I have flashbacks of my early childhood Sesame Street place mats in upstate New York in 76′, as Warren with a grin, pulls out the printed vinyl sheet complete with Atromu battle scenes printed ever so innocently on the intense blue of the background.

Shock and awe ensues and so an idea dawns on us all to reenact the scene on the cover of the box as best we are able in the time we have left. Warren is game, and I jump at the opportunity to embarrass myself further on the internet (complete with epic black socks) with him.

Ta da’…

As always, an afternoon we won’t forget.

Sanjeev:The Red Baron box discovery and the Astro Mu playmat were, of course, little slices of magic. Heh…and I admittedly had butterflies in my stomach when Warren asked to see Gin Gin! But really, unsurprisingly to me, the best part of the trip was the man, himself. Warren simply exudes joy and passion for these silly things! He really gets what it’s all about. Even surrounded by his own cherished collection, he never once hesitated to let us pick something up and try it out. Hell, he didn’t bat an eyelash when Josh came up with the idea to recreate the scene on the cover of the Astro Mu playset!

I gotta say, it was a most pleasant way to cap off the Dim Summit and I’ll always take a piece of that experience with me.

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