Friday, November 30, 2012

Figure Friday: Storm Shadow Anecdote

As I'm back home for a birthday celebration, this will have to be a short one. But non the less an interesting - and for me, an extremely potent experience as a toy collector. Basically, this is the story about one that got away. Storm Shadow. The ninja.

Storm Shadow was released to the toy stores in USA in 1984. He didn't come to Norway until '86, and was discontinued in around 1988-1989. But we all know that some toys sat on shelves for months after being discontinued. Years even. Only last year, I heard about a guy who found 1994 Joes in the far back of a provincial toy store. Typically, the toys that sat on the shelves that long wasn't the popular ones. They were the boring, filler characters, the wacky toys, the extremely expensive ones.

Storm Shadow was really neither. He was, and continue to be one of the most popular characters in 80s pop culture. He sold out, even in Norway. He was a fantastic action figure in every way, he was a cool character in the comic, and as a toy he came packed with great accessories. A deliciously simple, yet detailed sculpt. Magnificent card art, and a relatively low price. Kids loved the white ninja.

So I had really no expectation of finding him in my stores by 1990, when my interest for Joes really kicked in. I had already read about Storm Shadow in the comics, and he was by far the coolest character, in my opinion. He was sort of a villain, yet still able to fight alongside his ninja buddy, Snake Eyes. After a while, he even joined the G.I. Joe team, in their battle against Cobra, his previous employer/captor.

But there we were, on a holiday in Denmark, me, my sister and my parents. Just doing a pit stop for gas and food, before heading off further down the highways of Europe. I fulfill my duties as a kid, and instinctively head straight for the nearest toy store. This wasn't even a real toy store. It felt more like the good umold fashioned multi-purpose store. They had a little bit of everything.

Near the exit, in a crate, I come over a bunch of Joes. This wasn't all that surprising. In Norway, Denmark and the rest of the western world, G.I. Joe was a pretty popular toy line. But I immediately notice that something is different. These figures are far too old to be in store. These are the discontinued figures from a couple of years back. I had never even seen these in stores. I panic. I frantically search through the lot, craving pretty much every single one of them. I know that's out of the question, but I may be able to get one or two of them from my parents...

And that's when I find him, near the bottom of the bin. Storm Shadow. On clearance sale.
I shouldn't be this lucky. And I wasn't either. I ran out, trying to find someone with the money to buy me the grail, but my father couldn't be bothered, and my mother wasn't nearby.
I was never the type of kid to cry when I didn't get a toy I wanted - because, honestly, I got a shit ton of toys. This wasn't the case with Storm Shadow either. The very next day, we stopped in Germany, and I got the two-pack with the Crimson Twins - toys I still have to this day, and I had momentarily forgotten about the Cobra assassin.

But it has always been there, the memory of the one that got away. A reminder that I should be better at jumping opportunities that arises, and that I should always have saved up a couple of coins, should a fantastic toy deal come around.

Enjoy your weekend, people!

I never got Storm Shadow as a kid. A friend had him, and I was really jealous, but at the same time, at least I got to play with him from time to time. And honestly, it adds to the mythology of the toy that I never had him myself. So what happens when I become an adult and notice that it's possible to buy old toys through the internet? I get myself a couple of pristine examples of Storm Shadow. No big deal, just getting my self the grail. Satisfying? Sure. The surge of nostalgia, the possession of a wonderful toy. It's all there. But it doesn't make me forget that I had it in my hands two decades earlier.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Dinner suggestion: Chicken-Pasta salad

I made a proper Christmas dinner this weekend, just for the fun of it. The entire kitchen was utilized, all plates on the stove were in use, it took me a good hour to make. It really was fun. But that won't do in the normal weekday. Here's a recipe that will take roughly around 10 minutes, if you time it perfectly: The chicken-pasta salad. 

Start by boiling some pasta. Any will do, but the spiral-shaped fusilli is obviously the best...

Fry some chicken properly. Add spices if you want. I used some oregano and black pepper. 

While you let the pasta cool, slice up some tomatoes and cucumber. Larger bits looks more delicate, in my opinion anyway. 

Add feta cheese if you want. Parmesan will of course also work. 

Oil, salt and pepper, and you're good to go. Pesto on the side, and you have a really simple, quick and tasty dinner. 


Monday, November 26, 2012

Encore Trailbreaker and Hoist pt. 2

A few days ago, I told a few stories about what Transformers we had in our stores. For various reasons, we never got Trailbreaker or Hoist in our local toy store, and oddly enough, I kinda wanted them. 

Well, now I'm (apparently) an adult, and I can buy all the toys I want - to a certain extent. Pair this with the various reissued robots, and there's suddenly no reason for me to not have the likes of Trailbreaker and Hoist. 

And here's cool - or ironic part, depending on your point of view: I suspect I enjoy these two robots more now than I would have as a kid. 

I mean, at this point there is something deliciously retro about these toys. And, I can appreciate them from a historical aspect. As a kid, though, I'm sure I would have found them a bit outdated, specially in robot mode. 

Now, I'll let the pictures speak for them selves here, but some information: Both came with identical accessories: two hands, two rockets and two other appendages I cannot identify. The transformation is obviously similar, but the truck compartment on Trailbreaker and the small trailer/lift on Hoist make them slightly different. In robot mode, both are almost immobile. They have some articulation in their arms, but really: they're as static as action figures possibly can be.  

That being said, their party trick is a good one: Firing arm cannons. Literally. I've complained about spring loaded missiles on G.I. Joe figures, but here - on these two transformers - they are absolutely perfect. All robots should have hands that can fire, come to think about it.  

Another "play feature" is the compartment space for a driver. A small hatch on the roof opens, where in you can place your Diaclone drivers - or any tiny figure. Keep in mind that these toys were not originally made for the Transformers line, but probably for one of the countless obscure transforming robot lines in Japan in the late 70s - early 80s. I like this. Just as the cockpits on the Dinobots, it's something that adds to the rich meta-history of the toys. 

Both came with the same sticker sheet, and it's just the robot mode that gets additional decals. The stickers doesn't show at all in vehicle mode. But thankfully they already have a printed Autobot symbol. 

All in all, cool toys, does well on the shelf in both modes. Opening toys makes my day a little bit better, which is why I encourage all you MOC/MISB collectors to do the same: Open your toys, people. 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Figure Friday: Encore Trailbreaker and Hoist pt. 1

Earlier this month, I wrote an article on Encore #10, the Minibot set. I got a bit excited, because - while simple in construction - there is definitely something special about the original Transformers.
So today, we dug out a few unopened sets from the closet: Encore #13 Autobot Trailbreaker and #14 Autobot Hoist.

Now, this will be the first of two shorter articles, as I'm a bit under the weather today. Still, spirit is high, few things help more than to play with robots.

The Encore line is still active, and I'm really thankful that Takara has found a niche market for these toys. Obviously not intended for kids, as they will prefer more modern toys, these would do really bad in a toy store today. And purists will obviously prefer the vintage toys, not reissues. The Encore sets are basically re-issues, all though they have minuscule variations to set them apart from the original toys.

I'm at least safely placed in this niche market. I don't care if they're not original, 25 year old. Transformers for me are just fun toys that brings nostalgia. I don't consider myself a Transformers collector. The fact that it's the same mold, same styling, made by Takara, and that it's presented pretty close to how the old ones were...It's good enough for me. It's a re-issue. At a tenth of the price, if not less. And for a non-purists, that's the way to go.

The Encore line is still active, and that's a delight. From Encore 1 - which was Optimus Prime, I believe - to the rather recent, and absolutely fantastic Soundblaster and Broadcast, we've been given a nice mix of well known and obscure characters. The announced Encore Fortress Maximus blows my mind. I just can't believe they took it that far. I'm still on the fence on Fort Max, because aside from him being monstrous, he's not really a great Transformer. He's big, and displays ok, but he's no where near a Jetfire or Soundwave, in terms of how good he looks on a shelf. Don't believe me? Take a look at Fort Max robot mode from the side or the back.
He's really cool in base mode, I'll admit. But so is Powermaster Optimus Prime, Metroplex and Scorponok. The latter two I already have, and the former is easily obtainable.
But when all is said and done, it is Fortress Maximus.
Will I take the plunge with the biggest Transformer ever made?
I'm undecided.

Encore 13 and 14 are tiny compared to Fort Max, but really fun toys. I'll get more into the toys themselves in the next part - which may come Monday. What I will give you today is pictures, and a short anecdote.

Back in the day, we had rather limited access to toys. Growing up in the far reaches of the planet, specially when it came to toys, there were a lot of characters we only saw in the comics and cartoons. This went for pretty much all the toys I collected. There was always those characters you never saw. Maybe one kid had gotten something on a holiday trip, or from relatives abroad. But our toy stores were usually just mocking us with their pathetic and boring stock.

Trailbreaker was one of those toys I really wanted. The Transformers comic, which I absolutely loved, had ads picturing other toys in the line. This was just cruel temptation of course, since no toy store I knew of stocked them. But there was something else about Trailbreaker. He just looked so cool, black with red detail, metal parts. I even found his name cool, all though I barely understood the meaning of it. He was breaking something, that much I figured. And as a kid, breaking stuff is cool.

Hoist was another toy I didn't have, but he always looked a bit goofy. In the comics, he was bulky and unappealing. Naturally, he's almost identically to Trailbreaker, but I didn't know that as a kid. I had never seen the toy version of Hoist, not even in adverts. But if he had been present in the ads, make no mistake about it, I would have wanted to have him.

The reason for the discrepancy between the ads and the stock in my local toy store could be that the comics I read were already a few years old, making the ads irrelevant. The first series of robots had gone and passed by the time I got into Transformers. But I'm not sure that is the reason. You could still find various minibots like Bumblebee, Cliffjumper in stores. And the first version of Optimus Prime was readily available almost up until the release of Powermaster Prime. I suspect the weaker characters like Trailbreaker and Hoist weren't imported in the same numbers as the more popular ones, and they were certainly not worth a re-stock.
So we were left drooling over older ads, wondering how awesome they were.

I guess this is about the grass on the other side of the fence, and how much more appealing it looks. Sure enough, these are great toys, but the selection in my local toy store was actually decent. We had enough cool Transformers. We had the various Combiners, Headmasters, and a bit later on, the Pretenders, to mention a few. We didn't suffer a single bit.

And now, thanks to Encore reissues, I can find out if the grass really was greener on the other side.

Did Trailbreaker live up to my expectations? Check back Monday. Enjoy your weekend, people!

Part 2 of this article is here.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Lego Haunted Mansion?

After mentioning it for several weeks in various articles after it was announced - and talking about it in my daily life at every possible opportunity, some people were wondering why I still had not picked up the Lego 10228, Monster Fighters Haunted Mansion. For several reasons, I should have.

First and foremost because it's a game-changing set. Sure enough, it's not common in retail, apart from a selected few Lego stores. But it's readily available on The reason it's game changing is because it's a modular building in a sub line. It's a massive set that appeals to the adult collector within a sub line that mostly catered to the younger fans. I love the modular buildings, and this set fits right in.

Halloween and glow-in-the-dark toys are at this point synonymous
Another reason why I should have picked it up by now is that Halloween came and went, without me really celebrating it here in the blog. Like I did last year. I apologize for that. But while it annoys me a bit that I didn't make a Halloween-themed article, it annoys me more that I didn't have the 10228 in time for the holiday.

And finally, just look at the set. Look at the glow-in-the-dark ghosts, the boarded windows, the radically sloped bricks in the roof, the pillars, the colors,, the cobweb in the cellar, the box art.
It's a stunning set. And I want it.

So why isn't there already a lenghty Figure Friday on the Haunted Mansion?

Ask my girlfriend, who, for some reason, won't allow me to buy it...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tomato Sauce Revisited

I'm having so much fun with tomato sauces these days. A rabid fan of customization of... anything, the endless ways of doing tomato sauces brings me delight.

I guess I'm also a bit inspired, after watching The Layover, with Anthony Bourdain. An episode where he visited Rome - a city that didn't really come off as a great place to visit, but one thing stuck: Bourdain's praise of their simple pasta with tomato sauce.

Tomatoes in Norway tastes nothing. Literally nothing. Water with substance. So there's really no other way to use them, than to add taste.

This one had a large portion of onion, maybe two fifths were onion, the rest were cherry tomatoes. I also added garlic, oregano, pepper, salt, a small spoon of sugar and a nice amount of olive oil. I let it cook for roughly an hour. Deliciously chewy, under-cooked pasta, and a few slices of salami makes the entire meal.

Fun, versatile, extremely cheap, and really the only way to use tomatoes that doesn't taste a thing.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Figure Friday: Lego/Star Wars Anecdotes

Kids today have it easy, but at the same time I feel sorry for them. Part of what was fun about Lego was that you could build anything you wanted, and since we never got the movie specific sets, we had to use our imagination - and any bricks we had access to. Sure, the specific sets, like the $3000, 5000 pieces Millennium Falcon set Lego released three years ago is a cool one, but I can imagine it felt just as good to build our own, as it is to get a ready made set. I built Star Wars Lego as a kid, I built the Landspeeder, the Speederbikes, I made Tie Fighters, X-Wing fighters. I made Luke, Darth Vader. I tried my skills on a Star Destroyer. And of course the Millennium Falcon.

A fellow Redditor who calls himself xerxes_fifield stumbled upon a creation from his childhood, and shared with the rest of us, over at . A magnificent recreation of the Falcon. Far more impressive than the sets we're treated to these days, simply because this was made by a kid, using what ever bricks the kid had access to. Here's several more images of the creation, along with some comments. It's really worth checking out.

It left me wondering if kids these days actually use Lego the way we used to? We built what ever we could imagine. I suspect kids these days - because the insane amount of cool sets available - simply have it too easy, and forgets that you can actually build anything in Lego.

I wish I could find my proudest creation from my childhood, but there are two good reasons why that won't happen. The first being that all my Lego is right now safely accounted for in my closet. The second reason is that my proudest creation was destroyed by a kid my sister was watching.
I had built the mighty Predaking in Lego. It was a perfect recreation, it was huge, with wings, and it was totally bad ass.

Not toy bad ass... it was comic version bad ass.

And this kid, he could have been around 6, at least a few years younger than me. He found my model, and destroyed it. Admittedly, he was slow... That's me being kind. He was the kind of kid that ended up eating sticks of glue, and painting his face with permanent markers. But still... that Predaking, it was the coolest Lego set ever made. They don't make Lego like that these days, and kids have a very different approach to Lego.

I found a Star Wars Lego set in my closet I had forgot I owned. In fact, just last weekend, I saw the set in the stores and thought for my self "hmm, I should buy that set before it runs out of production". Admittedly, I have quite a few unopened Lego sets, but not nearly enough that I should forget what I actually have. The weird thing is that I can't even remember buying it.

It's Luke's Landspeeder, and it really feels like this set has been available for years. It's been around for at least 5 years, and it's noticeable by the old, outdated hairpieces on Luke and Ben Kenobi. Still, I've always wanted this set, it represents memorable scenes from ANH, and like I said, I ended up building my own Landspeeder back when I was a kid. This one is almost just as cool.

Now, a friend of mine are these days getting his Indiana Jones costume ready for a convention over in England. It's amusing how nitpicky he is about the details, but according to him, his peers have a vicious attention to detail. That's fair. I'm excited to see how his costume turns out, and how expensive it will become. But I noticed something really amusing. Surely enough, this convention - your typical fanboy convention - had the usual amount of guests. There was some actors and actresses from obscure tv-shows, and your usual suspects of Star Wars actors that had minor roles. Harrison Ford doesn't show up these places, nor do they ever get Carrie Fisher. I suspect you could find your Billy Dee Williamses and Mark Hamillses (how Gollum was that?) at Comic Con. But this wasn't SDCC, this was England. Who do they get?
The guest of honor at this convention is the guy playing the Stormtrooper that repeats "These are not the droids we're looking for!".
Enjoy your weekend, people!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Earl Norem Art, Classics Castle Grayskull news

I was chatting with a friend, a fellow fanboy. He's heavily into Conan the Barbarian, and fantasy in general - among other things. He showed me a link to a fan page for artist Earl Norem.

Norem is the one that did several of the greatest comic book covers of Conan, and he also made artwork for Mattel during the heyday of Masters of the Universe. In fact, only last month I showed a few of his Masters of the Universe posters.

Here are the Conan covers. So many epic pieces, it blows my mind. Conan getting jumped by frozen dead soldiers is a great example of Norem's style.

And here's the link to the MOTU part:

A piece that fascinated me was this one:

It says "the jungle is the setting of this battle between He-Man and Skeletor". Clearly. Except it's not really a jungle, more a savanna. Crazy as it may seem, this image actually makes sense. They are the Masters of the Universe, are they not? It makes sense that they do battle all around the universe, not only on their planet, Eternia.

Indeed it's He-Man vs. Skeletor, the World Tour.

He-Man has found a stand-in for Battle Cat, and Skeletor has found suitable minions. All though I suspect the IQ level of his new horde are a significant improvement over his usual gang of losers.

In related news, Mattycollector got the satisfactory amount of pre-orders for Classics Castle Grayskull. Their nifty thermometer may have been a clever marketing trick, but honestly, I found it exciting and fun.

Now we wait. Rest assured, for the price we're paying, enthusiast will be ready to complain over every single detail that gets revealed, up until release late next year. But at the same time, it's good to see so many fans be really happy about the news that we're getting Castle Grayskull. It's safe to say that it's been the highest demanded toy in this line, and I'm sure it will please almost all of us.

You can pre-order Castle Grayskull over at up until January.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Scorponok Base Mode

I had an opportunity to play a bit with my toys this weekend. Quite literally. Now, these days, I don't really play with my toys that much. The biggest reason is that I usually have either other, more important things to do, or that I simply have several other ways of recreation that for some reason takes precedence.

But let me make it absolutely clear: I collect toys, and toys are meant to be played with. I've talked about this a few times in the past - the definition of play. For some, it's creating scenarios, similar to how we played as kids. For some, it's simply holding the toys, looking at them, posing/transforming/building them. And then there are those that still haven't opened them, who simply take time to enjoy their MOC/MISB/unassembled toys. I guess you can throw in those that have a hobby of opening toys here.

And yes, in a way or another, I fit in all these categories. Playing with toys is a lot more than just clashing them together while making explosion sounds.

So when I had the in-laws over this weekend - kids, dogs and everything - we didn't let the opportunity slip away. We broke out lots of different toys and played with them. We're talking Transformers, Masters of the Universe, Macross, Lego. Toys were transformers, built, posed, opened, traded, given away. Stories were shared, and I believe everyone found a toy they preferred.

Little brother of my girlfriend took it upon himself to transform Scorponok into base mode. I knew about the base mode, but I never gave it a second thought. He's such an amazing toy in his other two modes, so I never saw the reason to make him into a base. Surely he couldn't rival Metroplex/Metrotitan?
Well, he's pretty damn cool as a base. Very similar to Powermaster Optimus Prime, but a lot cooler.

Like with so many other Transformers leader toys/bases, there's a flip-switch that will send a small car down a ramp. There are ramps on the sides, and hatches for repairing damaged Decepticons. The two vac-metal side panels work as towers and the gun splits into two pieces - one as exhaust pipe on the left side and the other as a radio transmitter on the right side. I'm just guessing here, but it's my toy, right?

Good fun. Enjoy your day, people.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Figure Friday: Castle Grayskull videos

Neither of these are particularly new - in Internet time. But they are still fantastic videos.

The first is toy reviewer Pixel Dan's informative and entertaining video on the old Castle Grayskull from Masters of the Universe. It just shows what a monumental play set this was, and it should be obvious why many enthusiasts regard this as quite possibly the best play set ever made for a toy line.

The other video is Pixel Dan and Daniel Benedict (winner of this year's Create a Character contest) just goofing off. It's meant to be a encouragement to those sitting on the fence with the new Masters of the Universe Classics Castle Grayskull. And at this point, I too am excited over the possibility that it gets made, so head on over to mattycollector and make a pre-order.

Enjoy your weekend, people!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Change is good and robots are cool

The world has changed, ever so slightly.

And change is good. Of course, this time (luckily, some would say), the change was not as dramatic as it could have been. And certainly not as dramatic as last time it the world changed. But it's still change. And change is good.

Change is a good thing, but for many it can be frightening. Familiarity, on the other hand, is a comfortable thing. Naturally, changed based on something familiar is something most people can tolerate.

The proposed Masters of the Universe Classics Castle Grayskull is familiar. But the size and cost is drastically increased over the toys we're used to from this toy line. Right now, the most expensive figures have been the Wind Raider and the Giants, at roughly $50. Castle Grayskull is $250.

I had several issues with CG a few weeks ago, and I even said that it was set up to fail. Now it looks like it may see release. Toyguru still says we're a few pre-orders away from the goal, and of course I encourage you to go order one. I did.

I like what we're being promised, and while I don't expect to be blown away*, I welcome the change - if you can call it that. It's been far too long since we saw a major playset in a contemporary toy line. Last I remember was The Pit from 2009's G.I Joe line. It wasn't all that great. In fact the best thing about it was that it came with a decent version of Hawk.

*Truth be told, I do expect to be blown away. The designers Four Horsemen have always done phenomenal with the budget they're given by Mattel. I can imagine they are just as excited as the fans to see a Classics Castle Grayskull.

I don't think I need to help Mattel sell the Castle Grayskull project, but should you be on the fence, read this thread from Toyguru, and head on over to Mattycollector and get your order in.

Now, on to something slightly different, yet relevant to the topic.

Writing a blog - you have to assume people are interested in what you're writing. Otherwise there wouldn't be a reason to write it. Sure, I can treat Toys and Bacon as a diary, and for all intents and purposes, it is. But I also know that it has a value to my readers.
Well.. at least most of the time.

My point is that even when I'm painfully irrelevant, the words here have value to someone. And I have to continue being me, writing like I do and keep doing this thing. I may change ever so slightly, and I plan to announce a small change to the way this blog is produced in the near future.

But the essence of the blog will still remain. It will be personal, and random, not scripted and fake. It will be a blog about humans, a blog by humans. It won't be automated, forced and mechanical. There's a reason for this. I truly believe people are more interested in people than they are in robots.


Wait a minute.. That's not right, is it?

Enjoy the day, people! Keep on changing!