Thursday, September 25, 2014

[80s WEEK] The Lost Art of Toy Packaging Art

A list of 80's toys reads like a who's who of toy legends: Transformers, Masters of the Universe, the 3.75 inch G.I. Joes, etc. With that kind of pedigree on the shelves, their toys had to stand out from the crowd. And they did that with awesome packaging art! The 80's were awash with toylines that featured packaging printed with colorful and hand-painted works of art that oozed with character and breathed life into these otherwise static pieces of plastic.

In this age of digital art and Photoshop (and certain laws that prohibit you from overselling a product's premise), we'll never have this kind of toy packaging again. So let's look back at some of the awesome card and box art of 80's toys!


As if to illustrate my point right there and then, the Dino-Riders toyline came in boxes emblazoned with hand-painted art that depicted the awesome combination of dinosaurs and lasers! Granted, a toyline about dinosaurs strapped with laser guns and missiles probably didn't need box art at all, but I appreciate Tyco's effort to go the extra mile to blow children's minds.

And Tyco's mind-blowing effort extended to the back of the box, with a painting of a huge dino vs. dino brawl that will be forever etched into my mind as the greatest picture ever.

Good lord look at this thing you guys.

My Google-fu has yielded zero leads as to who painted these dino-tastic box covers (if you know who it is, hit us up at the comment box below!), but they can rest easy knowing that the Dino-Riders toys will always be one of my favorite toylines in no small part to their amazing box art.


The first-generation Transformers toys in 1984 caught many a kid's and parent's eye with  futuristic box art that really captured the era these Robots in Disguise were born in. From the slick character portraits done by guys like Jeffrey Mangiat, Richard Marcej and Mark Watts, to the awesome mural-like paintings done by David Schleinkofer seen at the back of the box, the Transformers were brought to life before you even opened them up!

Character portraits by Jeffrey Mangiat.

There's a certain charm to the retro-futuristic box art of Generation 1 Transformers, and the artists who worked on them obviously saw the insane potential of these little robots, as evidenced by the back of the box mural done by Jeffrey Mangiat that could only be best described as a Transformers fans' fevered dream.

I don't know what the hell is going on, but what I do know is that it's awesome.

One would argue that today's Transformers packaging have better-looking and edgier art that better represent modern Transformers toys, and you could be right. But they can never be as epic as the 80s made them out to be.


The G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero toyline was brilliant in that the packaging was as much a part of the toy itself. The file cards made you feel like you were really recruiting badass soldiers in your make-believe army, and their portraits helped sell the toy's persona as much as the comics and the cartoon did.

And what portraits they were! Hector Garrido is responsible for the character portraits printed on the card fronts of the early 1980s GI Joe toys, from the heroes to the villains to even the tanks and other vehicles. I loved how it looked like they were all striking a pose just as a huge explosion obliterated everything behind them.

Front card art of the early G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero toys.

Look at this cheeky bastard striking a pose.

The stark black background combined with Garrido's explosive art made for really striking and in-your-face packaging, a perfect fit for a toyline about two factions locked in bitter combat for the fate of the world.


Let's face it, there was nothing manlier than the original Masters of the Universe toyline...the boxes they came in could make you grow chest hair just by looking at it!

And it's all thanks to the gorgeous packaging art. He-Man and co's toys came in boxes illustrated by prolific 80's artists like William George and Rudy Obrero, who took the campy back story of a muscular action figure with 5 points of articulation and turned it into a fully-realized medieval fantasy world that would make Frank Frazetta blush.

Battle Cat box art by Rudy Obrero

Snake Mountain box art by William George

Castle Grayskull box art by Rudy Obrero.

What's great is that these artists made ridiculous concepts like the Battle Bones and Dragon Walker (the most inconvenient mode of transportation ever) look mighty awesome. The toys may have gotten you hooked, but it was the paintings on the box that pulled you into the weird sci-fi barbarian story of He-Man and his fellow Masters of the Universe.

These are just some of the iconic 80s toy packaging art that defined the toy-playing childhoods of a generation. Box art like these aren't just for show...they kickstart the imagination process. As legendary GI Joe writer Larry Hama puts it, they "[trigger] the internal fantasy machine to fill in the holes, gloss over the mold lines, forgive the compromises for the realities of manufacturing and creates that wholly personal 'state of play' wherein universes are born." And that's what makes them extra awesome.

I hope you enjoyed our look back at the different box art of 80s toys as much as I did researching about them! Which box art do you remember from your childhood? Leave me a comment below and let's fangasm about it! Thanks to MEDUSAWOLF's blog, Monster Brains, the Transformers Wiki and Dino-Riders World for the images and other important info.

Check back tomorrow for more of Behold the Geek!'s 80's Week! Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

[80s Week] 5 Awesome 80s Cartoons (You Probably Don't Remember)

When it comes to cartoons, 80's kids had it good. They subsisted on what was probably the best decade for all things animated, with tons of cartoons for both boys and girls to enjoy. But while we rave about classics like He-Man, Transformers, and even BraveStarr and Care Bears, there are some cartoons that may have flown past your radar but were just as awesome.

So join me as we look at 5 awesome 80's cartoons you probably don't remember but should!


While packaged together with such luminaries like Street Frogs and Karate Kat, TigerSharks was obviously the only one worth your younger self's time. TigerSharks featured the same great animation from Rankin/Bass (who also made their better-known brothers and sisters Thundercats and Silverhawks), cool character designs (Team leader Mako's shark/human hybrid design was glorious), and memorable villains. And who didn't want their very own Fish Tank to transform in?


Check out that intro! You know your city's crime rate is bad when you've got goons with machine guns in their chests shooting out with beat cops packing laser bazookas. C.O.P.S. was like a crazy mash-up of G.I. Joe and Police Academy, filled to the brim with badass characters on both sides of the law.  The stories were simple fun, but it was the cops and crooks that populate it that made it awesome. My favorite by far was the C.O.P.S. leader Baldwin P. Vess, a tough-as-nails (literally) cop fighting crime in a future time. Makes you wonder what kind of crooks you got in your city when the sight of a buff black dude in sunglasses who happens to be a bulletproof cyborg doesn't scare the crime rate way down.

Sky Commanders

The dubious practicality of moving around mountains using precariously perched wires aside, Sky Commanders was pretty exciting for a cartoon, as almost every episode could end with people horribly plunging to their deaths on the rocky canyon below. Sky Commanders had a great, diverse cast (if not a bit on the stereotype side) and big bad General Plague sounded delightfully evil (thanks to Bernard Erhard's voice work), not to mention all that cool high-wire action and suspense made you want to buy the toys (which meant the cartoon's doing its job!).


Proof positive that nobody cared for the mental health of 80's kids was Inhumanoids, that insane cartoon that took your nightmares and turned them into a cynically fun 13-episode series. It chronicled the adventures of the Earth Corps, a group of scientist heroes, as they battled the Inhumanoids, monstrosities from beneath the earth's crust that could only come from the mind of HP Lovecraft.

Inhumanoids was 2freaky4me even as a kid, as episodes featured, among other unspeakable things, innocent people being trapped in a monster's hollow ribcage and a giant demon trying to seduce the Statue of Liberty. Even the opening song, with the growling demonic voice chanting a guttural "Inhumanoids! Inhumanoids!" on cue still creep me out to this day.

Ulysees 31

Some of you may scratch your heads and go "Who?" But you'd do well to remember this French-Japanese animated series. Basically the Odyssey in space, Ulysees 31 featured Greek gods acting like assholes in a sci-fi setting. Poor Ulysees was banished to the farthest reaches of space ala Star Trek: Voyager for pissing off space Poseidon, who cursed his crew to deep slumber until he can find the realm of Hades and return home.

The cartoon was memorable for its trippy English intro and its dark themes of isolation and regret. But what I mostly remember is him rockin' the Bee Gees beard and being a bad enough dude to have an honest-to-goodness god hate his guts.

Do you have any favorite 80's cartoon that deserved mention in this list? Leave me a comment below and let's talk about it! Watch out for more 80's goodness as we celebrate 80's Week here at Behold the Geek! Thanks for reading!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends Movie Review

If you're going to watch just one live-action adaptation of an anime in your life, you'd do well to watch Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends.

After the events of Kyoto Inferno, Kenshin Himura (Takeru Satoh) is serendipitously found by Hiko Seijuro (Masaharu Fukuyama), the man who taught him his sword-fighting style. Kenshin will need to train harder than he's ever had before, because he will have to face disgraced ninja Aoshi Shinomori (Yusuke Iseya), the government, and his own fears before he faces off against Shishio (Tatsuya Fujiwara) in the battle that will determine not just the future of Japan, but whose legend will live on once and for all!

Mad props must be given to director Keishi Otomo, who is given the thankless job of balancing between staying faithful to the anime and giving us an action-packed samurai epic. But the original anime wasn't just a clash of was a clash of ideologies, with both Kenshin and his enemies trying to prove their worldview with every stroke of the sword. So a lot of the nuances get lost in the attempt to condense 30+ episodes of characterization into a 2-and-a-half hour film.

You notice it in Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends when characters suddenly appear in a scene without logic, or fan-favorite characters (like the Juppongatana, who were introduced with much fanfare during the previous movie) get shoved aside or hurriedly moved along to make way for Kenshin's inevitable fight with Shishio. I may be bold in saying even Aoshi didn't need to be there, for all the good he'll do for the film's story aside from being required to be there in the final fight!

But all of this is just the rambling of an OG Rurouni Kenshin anime fan. Folks who've never seen a single episode of the anime in their life will be a lot more forgiving with the things Otomo omits, mainly because they'll enjoy what he did leave in...action, and lots of it. And this is where The Legend Ends raises the bar and goes all out.

Every sword contact, every close call will leave you literally breathless thanks to Otomo's flair for digging the camera deep into the action. Sanosuke, Saito, and Kenshin's climactic battle against Shishio in particular is a visually stunning sequence, beautiful in its chaos of clashing fighting styles, and I'm not kidding when I say I was on the edge of my seat the entire time!

But really, when all's said and done, The Legend Ends is all about Takeru Satoh and Tatsuya Fujiwara, who both gave career-defining performances. Satoh nailed being both a vulnerable soul and a stone-cold killer as Kenshin, while Fujiwara was scary good as Shishio, who finally gets to let loose in this film to give us the live-action Shishio we deserved. Racked with pain and hacking blood, Fujiwara's Shishio still manages to look like he can wipe the floor with everybody else!

Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends may not fully satisfy the discerning otaku, but it's amazing to watch them attempt it. It may have its faults, but no one can deny that The Legend Ends is a highly enjoyable samurai action flick and a fitting and glorious finale to what could be the most successful adaptation of an anime to live-action we've seen. Highly recommended!

Opening across the Philippines on Sept. 24, 2014, “Rurouni Kenshin: The Legend Ends” is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Enterbay Jean-Claude Van Damme Figure Does Splits, Kicks Your Ass

Col. Guile fans, rejoice! Hong Kong-based company Enterbay has unleashed promo pics of its latest creation: a 1/6th scale Real Masterpiece figure of legendary ass-kicker Jean-Claude Van Damme!

Van Damme himself worked closely with Enterbay to make sure this is as close to the real deal as it can get, and it shows...the figure captures the rugged action hero likeness of the Expendables 2 star! Not only that, but Enterbay actually developed a new base action body just to match JCVD's legendary flexibility, allowing him to do spinning heel kicks and splits to your heart's delight.

And yes, JCVD's figure can do a full split, just like nature intended! If I had the money, I'd get this just for kicks. Get it?

Anywho, fans of The Muscles from Brussels can get Real Masterpiece Jean-Claude Van Damme once it goes on sale at Enterbay's Hong Kong store starting September 12. Check out more pics over at Enterbay's site.
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