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December 31, 2009

Memoirs of a Spazer…

Filed under: Co. POPY,Toy Love — Sanjeev @ 10:36 am

It was tough trying to figure out how to start this brog. I feel like I have volumes to tell…but with my mind racing as it is, trying to maintain some semblance of coherence is tougher that you’d think. I mean, I could start by talking about the day I decided to PM the seller in the middle of my vacation on the Cape. I could wax poetic about when I first got back into “kid’s” stuff like robot toys, cartoons, and the like back in high school. Hell, I could even begin with how being a latch-key kid paved the way to my super robot fandom…not to mention the unfathomable hours spent in front of the fucking tube.

Passion. That’s a good place to start. A lot of us have different collecting focuses, habits…allowances. In fact, pick any two of us and I’ll bet our respective toy fetishes are pretty diverse. I’ve always been a bit of a journeyman in terms of collecting. Granted, I may drink a bit too deeply in the glowing rubber dinosaurs, but I appreciate a pretty stoopidly-wide variety of toys. As such, I’ve always striven to get my favorite specimens of each food group…rather than seeking completion of any one particular line or another. But then, I’ve always been surrounded by the likes of JoshB, Fraser, and Nekrodave. The Raideen/Voltron aficionado, “Mr. C-10”, and the Jumbo master. It was only a matter of time before I started showing signs of radiation poisoning…

One beloved favorite of mine has always been Force Five. Having been born in ’78, I was real young when it aired. Oh, it had such an impact on me, though. It fueled my young imagination where real life generally sucked. Everytime my folks and I drove past a huge building like the air traffic control tower over at Logan airport, I’d envision it sprouting arms and walking across the landscape. When I looked up in the sky on a bright sunny day, I pictured the Space Dragon (Daikumaryu) cruising past the clouds like a fat bumblebee. For some reason, though, none of the shows grabbed me the same way Grandizer did.

Somehow, Grandizer brought it all together for me. Conflicted hero from another planet. Groovy black outfit. Badass robot-flying saucer combo. To me, he was the shit. Grandizer’s my passion.

So how does this particular grail tale begin? Well, I started collecting toys more or less “officially” about 10 years ago, though it took a while before I really jumped into vintage. I mean, prices had come down since a decade before with the rise of eBay and Y!J, but all those zeroes were still daunting as fuck. I forget when I picked up my first GA-37, but it was a *while* back…and only stung a few Benjamin’s worth. It wasn’t until about four years ago when I broke the thousand-dollar mark with a lovely Godaikin T28. Dave joked that this was the end for my ass…’cause, y’know, once you’ve spent over a grand on a toy, dropping g’s ain’t no thing, apparently!

Well, fuckin’-ay, maybe he was onto something. Not long after busting my four-figure cherry, I got an offer from a TBDXer for a Popy JM Grendizer in killer shape. Shit. Decision time. A fellow Masshole who didn’t mind a local pickup. A sick deal. And, with Jumbo prices just beginning to soar, the timing totally made sense. So where was this hesitation coming from? First major (non-Shogun Warrior) Jumbo? Fuck that, this was arguably the ultimate Grendizer toy! No. Knowing me like only I do, the hesitation came from the knowledge that once I threw down for this puppy…I’d have to track down a Jumbo Spazer in *at least* as nice shape. Balls…

But, I mean, look at this gods damn thing. It’s fucking gorgeous! Is it any wonder why the hesitation melted away in an instant? No doubt, from that point on, I was committed. I had my Grendizer JM and I was happy as a pig in shit…and I knew I’d have my Spazer someday. The birth of a grail quest.

And for years, I watched nearly half a dozen Spazers come and go on the open market–for ludicrous money–and usually in meh condition. My hope of picking one of these toys up waned. But I haven’t been sleeping… Over the years, I’ve been busy. Being a part of this community and heading out to many of the great events Alen, Erik, and company have put on has really made a difference in my collecting life. And a lot of these guys I’m truly honored to call “friend”. As Mason is fond of saying, fuck toys: the friendships forged in this improbable hobby come first.

And this summer, the karmic boomerang wafted over the gentle Cape Cod air…my way.

While on vacation in P-town, Nekrodave told me about a TBDXer who was thinking of selling his Jumbo Grendizer and Spazer. I knew this person through some friendly PMs about, of all fucking things, Popy Ulysses 31 toys. Thing is, Dave told me he was going through some hard personal stuff–he wasn’t just selling the toys for the hell of it. That sucks, y’know? So I PM him…and was real with him. See, even if we’re not tight, it’s tough whenever a member of the community goes through some shit that forces them to sell something they love so much. It’s kinda like the Solondz auction at Morphy’s… Anyway, we e-mailed, shot the shit for a while, and it turns out he’s mad cool. Yeah, what was going on with him sure sucked, but at the very least, we had a chance to help each other out here.

Grail inbound. It takes a while to iron out the details ’cause I’m a paranoid schmuck. A couple hiccups and false starts. Eventually, a hero enters the picture. No, he doesn’t wear spandex or pilot a super robot (at least, not to my knowledge). He’s “Julian X”, my agent in France. Well, okay…he’s actually just my coworker. Anyway, he agrees to meet with the seller in person, pay in cash, verify the toy, and take possession of it. Fan-fucking-tastic! My closest homeboys are cheering me on and periodically ask for updates. I’m psyched as shit, but I tell them firmly, until I have this thing in my hands, I’m not letting up one iota of excitement.

Julian schedules the pickup for a Friday evening. Ask Mason–that whole week, I’m counting the fucking hours. Thursday rolls around…24 hours before the scheduled pickup…I get a call from the Man. He casually tells me, on the way to one of our clients just outside of Paris, that he has the toy. A whole day early. I need to change my pants. And despite being “used to” my colorful personality, my group at the office is wondering why I’m doing the Running Man.

All that’s left is to ship it over here to the US, right? Well, what takes place over the next couple months still has us shaking our heads. Apparently, the French postal system leaves much to be desired, and like Public Enemy, Julian and I simply Can’t Truss It. We’re both busy guys who travel a lot, so doing the legwork of researching shipping options ranks about as low as dental cleanings. Suddenly, brilliance strikes: our company attends major engineering trade shows every year in Paris, and we always have a huge booth set up with faux walls, stools, big-screen monitors, the works. Well, it’s gotta get there somehow, right? Let’s let our company’s shipping agent handle all the details!

Excellent. Now I have a shipping agent. Uhh. Well, anyway, I explained the situation to the nice lady at the agency. She understood. Then she promptly blew me off. For weeks. Awesome.

I eventually start calling daily for updates. She keeps saying she’s waiting on her shippers to get back to her with quotes for insuring this beast. After over a month of this, I start calling multiple times a day. Julian and I start thinking we shoulda just dropped the box in regular air mail, declare it as being worthless, fuck insurance, fuck US customs, and just cross our fingers.

FINALLY, I squeeze it outta her. Apparently, none of her carriers can insure an antique toy. I guess it makes sense. How do you prove it’s value? How do you prove it’s condition before shipping if it gets supposedly damaged in transit? Anyway, I ask her how much it’ll cost without insurance. Her “most trusted” carrier quoted us…$2500.

I laughed in her face.

Fuck the world. We went with Fedex for a couple hundred bucks.

But over the months (ugh), Julian’s been busy. He’s assembled the most impressive shipping box I’ve ever seen. It’d make Fraser blush. When he originally picked up the toy from the seller, they verified the contents, then sealed the box airtight in cellophane. Later, Julian locked that shit down in two thick layers of bubble wrap, a layer of bunched up newspapers, and *two* layers of cardboard made by doubling-up four huge shipping boxes.

Julian e-mails me once the Fedex guys pick up the box. It arrives a few days later at my office. Later that night, after waiting so long to ship the damn thing, after months of haggling over payment and the logistics of picking the thing up, after years waiting for the right Spazer to come along, after a decade of rekindling my childhood love of super robots and collecting toys…my grail is here.

And it’s one magnificent son of a bitch.

I mean, the outer box is worn, but there’s no major damage to the thick, heavy cardboard. The toy inside has never been unwrapped, let alone assembled. Now, queue the hate: I collect toys, not objet d’art…so you’re fuck-damned right, I pulled that bastard out, put it together, and flew it around the room! And, oh, it is fucking glorious.

Despite being older than me, there were only a couple minor issues with the toy. The Spin Saucer launcher in the starboard wing is powered by a rubber band. Yeah. That crumbled instantly. Fortunately, taking the launcher apart and replacing the band took less than a couple minutes. Also, the red “stickers” on the main hull of the saucer are clearly peeling. They’re not really stickers, though: they’re thick vinyl cutouts. I’m considering carefully removing them and replacing them with modern vinyl decal material. Either that or figure a way to re-adhere them to the toy. Oh, one weird thing: the handles (included, but not shown above) shoot missiles that are actually a tiny bit smaller than standard JM missiles. Imagine my shock when I tried to pop one of Grendizer’s missiles into the handles…only to realize it wasn’t even engaging the spring!

Anyway, thing’s built like a fucking tank! It’s construction is mostly heavy-duty plastic with steel hardware for the wheels on the bottom. No, I haven’t tried sitting on it (I’ll leave that up to photoshop). Oh, the vertical stabilizer is blow-molded polyethylene. Dave approves. The colorful insert on the floor of the interior is printed cardboard…same thing with the Duke Freed image in the cockpit (which is capped off by the same clear plastic you’d find on your average carded action figure!). It’s big, heavy, and gorgeous.

Together again, for the first time.

Yes, I’m one happy sumbitch. I just wanna thank all you, bastards: without my friends in this hobby paving the way, my love for this stuff never would have evolved as it has. Thanks for letting me share this with you guys! One love.

Grandizer, GO!!

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