Toy Talk
Volume XLI

By Mark Patraw
Posted on 5/19/14

I didn't purchase quite as much stuff as the previous week, but the last seven days were still fruitful, so, I accumulated several more items that I wanted. The thrift store's toy stock has been picking up again, in terms of quantity/variety, which can only bring good things my way.

In this chapter of Toy Talk, starting in the front row, on the left, and moving right, we have: a 2008 Hasbro G.I.JOE: 25th Anniversary Tripwire action figure (fifty cents on 5/8/14); a 2004 Manhattan Toys Groovy Girls Oki plush doll (twenty-five cents on 5/7/14); a 1994 Bandai Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Evil Space Aliens Grumble Bee action figure (fifty cents on 5/17/14); and a 1984 Coleco Sectaurs Battle Beetle mount/puppet (one dollar on 5/8/14). Finally, towering over everyone else in the back, is a Marin Chiclana Castanets Dancer doll (one dollar on 5/10/14). If anyone reading this knows more information about any of these items, that I haven't already discussed below, and would like to share, or just chat about toys, feel free to e-mail me and let me know!

Have a suspicion that your cat litter box has been mined (and not with feces)? Better send ol' Tormod S. Skoog in to check it out then.

Here we have a 2008 Hasbro G.I.JOE: 25th Anniversary Tripwire action figure. This particular toy was available in either a comic book two-pack, with Cobra Commander, or as a single carded release [the figures are identical, but the individually packaged version came with one extra accessory, a transparent container housing the desert element for the M.A.S.S. (Molecular Assembler Scrambler Sender) Device, a machine, from the cartoon, that can teleport people/objects around the world]. I had dozens of G.I.JOE figures as a child, but I never had Tripwire, not even the garishly repainted Listen 'N Fun or Tiger Force versions, so, it was nice to finally snag a copy of him.

As you can probably guess, Tripwire's specialty is the removal of explosives, and landmines in particular (demolitions is also part of his skill set, so, in addition to locating and deactivating bombs, he can also switch gears and blow stuff up). Personality-wise, Tripwire is a complete spaz and klutz, except when it comes to deactivating explosives, at which time he's all precision. So, generally, the other Joes don't want him around, unless they need a landmine found or defused, because he's always tripping over stuff and breaking things (that can't be good for his self-esteem).

The flesh-toned paint has rubbed off the nose on my sample, but, other than that, Tripwire is looking pretty sharp. He's mostly the olive green color of the plastic that he was molded from, but the light and dark grays provide some much-needed contrast. His uniform has lots of sculpted detail, everything from the wrinkles and folds in the fabric to the grid-like texture on the armor plates is well defined. Tripwire was one of the older G.I.JOE characters (the original toy first appeared in the 1983 wave of figures), which is why his outfit is more realistic and somber than later JOEs, who became increasingly outlandish as the franchise progressed.

The 25th Anniversary G.I.JOEs featured much-improved articulation, in comparison to the older toys, and Tripwire doesn't disappoint in that category. He's got a ball-jointed neck, mid-torso, and hips; pin-and-disc ball-jointed shoulders, elbows, and ankles; double-pin-jointed knees; and rotating cut wrists. The absence of waist movement is a bit unusual, but the range of motion provided by the mid-torso joint fulfils essentially the same purpose. Tripwire can assume all sorts of poses and can stand unassisted, thus, he gets top marks from me when it comes to mobility. At the top of his helmet, he's 4.1" (10.5 cm) tall, which is a bit larger than the vintage 3-3/4" (9.5 cm) G.I.JOE figures.

While he isn't complete, I was lucky enough to get three accessories with my secondhand sample of Tripwire: the backpack, one of his landmines, and his belt. Brand new, he would have come with a black mine detector (with an attached hose that plugs into the hole on the upper right of the backpack), three land mines (which can all be stored, one on top of the other, in the large circular depression in the backpack), the backpack itself, a belt, and a display stand. And, as I mentioned in the introduction, the single carded release of Tripwire also came with the yellow desert element for the M.A.S.S. Device. I'm not sure why Hasbro felt the need to give him a removable belt, as that doesn't seem to serve any purpose, and his waist looks awkward when it's off.

After I got home with Tripwire, it occurred to me that I should have searched the bottom of the toy bin I found him in more thoroughly, because I might have found one, or even both, of his missing landmines. I returned to the store the next day and had a look, but didn't come up with anything. Oh well, I should be happy that I got any of his accessories, as secondhand toys seldom have them.

Even taking nostalgia into consideration, the 25th Anniversary G.I.JOEs are much better than the ones that I had as a kid. While Tripwire isn't the most exciting character in the JOE ranks, he's still a very well designed and executed toy that I would recommend to anyone with an interest in the franchise or even just military-themed action figures in general.

Methinks a certain young lady just grabbed an armful of clothes off the floor at random when she got dressed this morning.

This is a 2004 Manhattan Toy Groovy Girls Oki plush doll. Along with Gwen, Reese, O'Ryan, Vanessa, and Yvette, Oki is one of the "Main 6", and ethnically, I believe she's supposed to be Asian (probably Japanese, given her name). This particular doll is one of the smaller versions [9.3" (23.5 cm) tall], the "normal" Groovy Girls are larger and have removable clothing that you can swap with the other characters in the line. Speaking of which, it turns out that the seventy-five cents doll that I mentioned not buying in the introduction to Toy Talk Vol. XXXIX was one of those larger Groovy Girls. Maybe I should have bought her after all, if for no other reason than to make comparisons between the two.

Oki's body is comprised of polyester fibers. The fabric material is good quality and all the stitching is well done. Her facial features are embroidered. She's somewhat ragdoll-like in construction, so, Oki just kind of flops around, particularly the legs. You can't get her to stand or sit without some kind of support behind her. If she gets dirty, Oki should only be surface washed, with cold water, and no bleach, and then left to air-dry. Given those instructions, I imagine bad things would happen if you stuck her in the washer and/or dryer.

Oki's black tresses, with sky-blue highlights, are made out of yarn, a material I'm very fond of for doll hair. The rooting is good, although she's bald in the middle of the back of her head, but that's not noticeable with most hair styles (her locks would probably be too thick if they were uniformly rooted across the entire scalp). The doll came with her hair styled up into a waterspout ponytail when I bought her (as shown in the first trio of photos above), but I don't think that's how she was originally sold. Looking at images online, double ponytails appear to be Oki's look, and, I have to admit, I much prefer her hair that way, which is how I'm going to keep her displayed from now on. I tried it down too, but that wasn't very attractive because her tresses are unevenly cut (although, to be fair, that may very well be the fault of her previous owner, not the manufacturer).

Oki's permanently attached outfit has kind of a hip, 1960s look to it. She's wearing tall brown boots, with sky-blue soles, and faux zippers on the sides; sky-blue pants with brown polkadots; a shiny white mini skirt, with green trim, and a faux zipper on the left side (for some reason, the skirt makes me think "waitress" when I look at it); and a sleeveless top, with a cool psychedelic swirl pattern, accented with a pseudo-bow at the neck (it's actually just a couple of loose coils of material, tied in the middle, to fake the shape of a real one). The ensemble is kind of busy, and a bit mismatched, but the overall effect isn't bad.

Oki is very similar to the Ty Teenie Beanie Boppers Paula Plapperstache doll I looked at in Toy Talk Vol. XXXIV. Paula is shorter and chunkier, but she has the benefit of an internal wire armature, which allows her to be posed, and her sewn facial features are more detailed. Both are good, but I'd pick Paula if I could only own one of them.

Overall, Oki is a fun addition to my small collection of plush dolls. She's got a friendly face, nice (albeit a bit uneven) hair, and her funky outfit makes her stand out from the crowd.

There's no such sting as giant bee men!

Here we have a 1994 Bandai Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers: Evil Space Aliens Grumble Bee action figure. In addition to this stinging insect, the twelve-figure assortment also included Pudgy Pig, Slippery Shark, Minotaur, Two-Headed Parrot, Snizzard, Eyeguy, Knasty Knight, Spidertron, Drammole, Peckster, and Stag Beetle (previously covered way back in Toy Talk Volume IV)

On the live-action Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers television show, the venomous arthropod first appeared in the self-titled episode Grumble Bee. He made additional appearances in Orchestral Movements in the Park (although he was only an illusion, created by Trumpet Top, in that story, not the "real deal") and the three-part Wedding, where he was a guest at the nuptials of Rita Repulsa and Lord Zedd. The Grumble Bee character was voiced by Richard Cansino. Years later, the costume was re-used, with a different paint job and a few other cosmetic changes, to create the friendly Waspicable character in The Wasp with a Heart episode of Power Rangers in Space.

The yellow-and-black monstrosity looks great. The insectoid sculpt sports a lot of fun details and textures, like the barbed heels, veined wings, diamond-pattern antennae tips, and the cute little stinger projecting out of his posterior. Rather than using opaque yellow plastic, I think the wings would have looked better and more realistic if they had been molded from a translucent/transparent medium instead (I know that they're opaque on the original costume, I'm just saying). The black stripes/dots on Grumble Bee's arms and back are vibrant and look great, but, more paint detailing would have helped to bring some of the other subtler details of the sculpt to life (this is a figure that would really benefit from a wash and/or dry-brushing). The antennae and wings are a little warped on mine, but, I'm just thankful that he even has them and that they're in good condition--I see a lot of toys with missing appendages in thrift stores.

A complete sample should include a really cool-looking honeycomb-shaped gun that would clip onto either forearm. That's exactly the kind of silly and creative weapon design I'd expect to see if the character had been part of a Playmates' vintage Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles assortment. Missing accessories are typical of secondhand toys, but this is one of the times where it hurts more than usual, as I'd really like to have that neat firearm.

Grumble Bee is moderately mobile. His antennae, wings, shoulders, and wrists all have rotating cut joints and the hips are ball-jointed. Neck articulation would probably be a no-go because of his action feature, but the addition of elbow, knee, and ankle joints would do wonders for his poseability. Excluding the wings, Grumble Bee is 4.6" (11.7 cm) tall.

Everything tastes like honey to me!

Repeatedly pressing the red button, jutting out of Grumble Bee's back, causes his three-pronged red "tongue" to emerge and retreat. That reminds me of Masters of the Universe Tung Lashor's action feature, although, in the purple serpent's case, that motion was controlled by spinning a wheel instead of manipulating a button. Technically, according to the original packaging, it's supposed to be a "stinger shooting" feature (which was a poor choice of words, because, with a bee, that implies a rear-firing projectile), but, it appears to be slimy monster tongue action to me, so, that's what I'm going with. While it works great and looks fine, I think flapping wings might have been a better choice, given the character's physiology.

As I've written before, I don't have much interest in the heroic Rangers themselves, but I do love the goofy guys-in-monster-suits that serve as their weekly opponents. Grumble Bee is a great-looking figure that would appeal to me regardless of what intellectual property he originated from. He could have used some more articulation and paint detailing to make him extra special, but, all things considered, Grumble Bee is another wonderful insect monster that I'm very pleased to add to my collection. Because they're both bug-men, I've decided that he and Stag Beetle are best buddies and tag team partners.

Have you seen my other glove? It must have crawled away again . . .

This is a 1984 Coleco Sectaurs Battle Beetle mount/puppet. As you can probably guess from the name, and this item's physical appearance, the Sectaurs toy line revolved around an insect, and, to a lesser extent, arachnid, theme. In North America, this critter was sold, boxed, with the Pinsor action figure, who was one of the good guys, but, in Europe, the two were marketed separately (given how relatively expensive the Sectaurs toys were, especially the rider/steed boxed sets, that was actually a better arrangement for people who just wanted to collect the humanoid characters).

Story-wise, Battle Beetle is Pinsor's tele-bonded steed. The creature is pretty wild and dangerous though; only Pinsor can keep it under control. Without its master's constant supervision and calming effect, Battle Beetle has a tendency to flip out and go berserk. I don't own a Pinsor figure, so, I guess I'd better expect trouble!

Battle Beetle (I can't tell you how many times I accidentally typed "Battle Beast", the title of yet another 80s toy line, instead while writing this article) is a cool-looking arthropod. The surface of the exoskeleton is well sculpted with segmented plates, resembling a suit of organic armor. While this character is supposed to be an insect, I have to say that the overall effect is much more crustacean-like. The bulk of the toy is molded from a greenish-blue plastic and embellished with metallic purple and brown airbrushing, which is an attractive combination of colors. The eyes are made from transparent material, set on top of a glittery blue background, giving them some depth. Its furry abdomen adds an element of realism, as many living insects are "hairy" like that when viewed under magnification. The fuzzy posterior also gives it that extra-creepy, gross-out factor that little boys love.

Articulation is minimal. The pincer arms pivot inwards, when you pull back the ring on the underside of the head, and the abdomen loosely pivots up and down, but that's there more to facilitate your own wrist movements, while you're wearing the creature on your hand, rather than to provide the beast with any mobility. Lying flat, Battle Beetle measures an impressive 12" (30.5 cm) long and 4.1" (10.5 cm) high.

For a thirty-year-old toy (and typing/saying that really makes me feel ancient), my sample is in nice condition. On loose, secondhand ones like this, the hairy abdomen covering and/or the fabric glove are often missing, but, as you can see, both are present on mine. Other than some minor scratches and paint rubbed off here-and-there, Battle Beetle is in very fine shape.

Inserting your hand into the black glove, on the underside of Battle Beetle's body, allows you to control the creature in a puppet-like fashion. There are a couple of plastic rings, that you slide your middle finger through, and pulling the foremost one backwards makes Battle Beetle's pincer arms close inward, which you can use to grasp, and carry, other action figures. Your remaining three fingers, and thumb, serve as the chitinous monstrosity's legs (i.e., you "walk" with them). The glove must be "one size fits all", because I had no problem getting my adult hand into it, and there was still a lot of room at the ends of the fingers (it'd probably be a loose fit on a young child's hand though).

Once again proving that there must be something wrong with me, I left the creature on my hand the entire time that I was shopping in the store until I absolutely had to take it off in order to pay for it at the cash register. It's not like I was afraid of somebody stealing it from me or anything, it just felt "right" there (that glove is rather comfortable). Oh yeah, there was also a little girl in the toy aisle (maybe 3 or 4 years old) and she just stood there and stared at me the whole time that I was trying the puppet on and testing out Battle Beetle's arm clamping feature--I suppose she might have been frightened by the creature, but, more likely, she was probably just wondering why on earth a grown man was playing with toys.

I don't currently own any Sectaurs action figures, so I volunteered the Marvel Legends: Face-offs Leader to perform in my insect rodeo.

Battle Beetle's permanently-attached black saddle, is, of course, for seating an action figure on. There are a couple of pegs on the back; those are probably the connection points for Pinsor's removable strapped harness, which would keep him securely anchored to his mount during a play session. And, if you're wondering, no, neither Grumble Bee nor Stag Beetle can fit into Battle Beetle's saddle (their waists/hips are too thick), which is a shame, as they'd be wonderful Sectaurs stand-ins, given their physiology.

As a child, I had the General Spidrax action figure, who was the leader of the evil characters, and Night Fighting Dargon's Parafly insect ally (I believe both items were secondhand acquisitions), but I was never fortunate enough to own one of the big hand puppet mounts like Battle Beetle. It's taken three decades, but, at long last, one has finally found its way into, and onto, my hands, which makes me very happy. Now, I just need to find an actual Sectaurs figure to ride on him (Spidrax is long gone). I never liked Pinsor, so, if I could have any of them, I'd go with my favorite character from the franchise, the villainous Skulk. Speaking of which, here are some progress photos of a mini Skulk figure that I began modeling early last year but never finished:

I've got a plastic bag full of unfinished stuff, actually. Most of those art projects I just lost interest in (like Skulk), while others I simply quit because something went wrong and I gave up in frustration/anger rather than trying to correct whatever went awry. When I was younger, I used to finish all of my pieces, no matter how bad they were, and they usually turned out all right in the end--I should have stuck with that philosophy. One of these days, I might put together a "Museum of Unfinished Projects" web page and add it to the site.

¿Le importaría que me acompañen en un baile, mi amor? (Would you care to join me in a dance, my love?)

Here we have a Marin Chiclana Spanish castanets dancer doll. My initial impression of this woman, in the store, was that she was a flamenco dancer, but, after doing some research, it seems that castanets (small hand percussion instruments, in other words, the cymbal-like objects in her hands) aren't typically employed in flamenco. The Spanish folk dance Sevillanas is the style that usually incorporates castanets into the performance. The instrument name is derived from the Spanish word for chestnut, castaño, which they somewhat resemble in shape. If you'd like to watch some real castanets dancing being performed by some lovely ladies, then check out this YouTube video.

There are numerous versions of these Spanish-dance-themed Marin Chiclana dolls available, sporting a wide assortment of dress styles and colors--it wouldn't be very hard to track one down if you're interested. They don't appear to be worth much money (which, given their relatively low quality, is no big surprise)--most of the samples I looked at on eBay were in the $5-30 range, with few, if any, bidders. I'm guessing that these are mass produced as inexpensive souvenir pieces rather than as serious "art" dolls.

The doll's sculpt is splendid, particularly her pretty face and expressive hands, but, I must acknowledge that the plastic body is very cheap in construction. It's hollow with unattractive mold lines. I expect that this doll would be relatively easy to damage if you handled her too roughly--excessive force could dent, or permanently collapse, parts of her hollow anatomy. On the upside, that also means that she weighs very little. There are a few very minor black smudge marks on her plastic skin, but, other than those, she's in excellent condition.

Unlike most dolls her size, this one is pretty much an immobile statue. The arms may have rotating cut joints at the shoulders, as they seem to move a bit when pressure is applied, but I'm afraid to try turning them, for fear that they might just snap off. At the top of her headdress, the woman stands 12.8" (32.6 cm) tall.

Her tresses are a bit unusual in that they appear to made out of what looks and feels like sewing thread, rather than the more typical nylon, saran, or acetate fibers used on play dolls. It also seems to be glued into place. I don't have much interest in styling hair (I don't even like messing with my own, which is why I usually keep it very short), so that doesn't bother me. Her locks, swept up and piled on the top of her head in an elaborate bun, and accented with three pink fabric roses, look great as-is, and that's good enough for me.

Her elaborate dress is what immediately draws your eyes and it is simply a magnificent garment. The top is made from pink material covered with another layer of black lace (which provides the pattern), and the flared shoulders are accented with the same. You can't see it very well, because the veil obstructs your view, but the garment has an open back. The skirt of the dress consists of a pink base layer (with white interior) which is then covered by three rows of ornate ruffled pink and black lace. There's an internal wire armature sewn inside, so that you can "pose" the skirt to some extent, which is a feature that I always enjoy seeing incorporated into toy clothing (just be careful not to bend it too much, as flexible metal is subject to stress fatigue and will eventually snap). She appears to be permanently sewn and/or glued into her clothing, so you won't be removing it without a lot of trouble. If you could manage to get it off, I imagine that, with a bit of modification (namely the addition of a velcro closure, zipper, or snaps, in the back) it would fit Mattel Barbies and similarly-sized dolls.

While the dress is definitely the centerpiece of her ensemble, she's sporting some other nice costume elements as well. A pair of gold teardrop earrings dangle freely on either side of her head, but they're actually attached to her hair, rather than her ears. There are matching gold bracelets on the wrists (which are made from thin shiny material, not plastic or metal)--the right one had come unglued and was starting to unravel, but that was an easy fix. The delicate black lace veil is wrapped around the large projecting comb that sticks up out of the back of her hair, and the lower ends of the veil are also sewn into the waistline of her dress (I'd prefer that it had just been left hanging, but that's a minor complaint, as I can always snip it free if I want). And, last, but certainly not least, her tiny plastic castanet instruments are tied to her fingers with red thread.

Her feet, clad in white, high-heeled shoes (which are separate, removable articles, just like on a play doll), are attached to a simple rectangular tan stand, which sports a raised Marin Chiclana logo molded onto its surface. Thin metal rods rise from the base, through holes in the soles of the feet and shoes, and then up inside her hollow legs. Out of curiosity, I attempted to remove her from the stand, but, during the process, I held her up to a strong light, and I could see the silhouette of those internal wires running pretty far up into her calves, so, I decided I'd better leave well enough alone, for fear of damaging her. Generally, the stand is enough to keep the doll erect, but the trailing bottom of the dress also provides some support and helps keep her upright.

The thrift store had her over by the knick-knacks, instead of with the other dolls, which struck me as a bit of an odd choice. Granted, she's definitely more of a display piece than a plaything, but I'd still classify her as a doll without hesitation. Taking her down from the shelf, I fully expected that she'd cost several dollars, based on her size and the intricate dress design, so, I was pleasantly surprised to discover the one dollar price tag. After quickly inspecting her for damage/flaws, and checking for copyright/manufacturer markings, I immediately decided that this exquisite lady was coming home with me.

I love this doll despite her somewhat cheap construction. She's attractive, the upper body pose, particularly the arms/hands, is very distinctive, and her flamboyant and intricate costume if a visual delight. She's much more than the sum of her parts in my eyes. If I ever see another Marin Chiclana piece, with a different dress/theme, I'll probably buy her too.

« Return to my Toy Review Index

Site hosted by Build your free website today!