Monday, April 23, 2018

#900 FAR MEN - GUERREROS DEL ESPACIO (Around 1985)


Here is one of the most interesting MotU "Made in Spain" bootlegs. At this point, most people will already know them, not only in Spain, but also in other countries. They have been easy to find for quite a long time already (since eBay and other platforms became mainstream), but this is starting to change, since each time there are fewer and fewer available.

The Guerreros del Espacio (lit. Space Warriors) is a short series of six figures made around 1986 by the Spanish toymaker Far Men. This company was based in Beniparrell, Valencia. I wrote several years ago a first entry dealing with another famous toy made by this brand, but at the time all information was quite uncertain.

Last year, our friends from La Cueva del Terror Podcast interviewed the founder of the company José Iniesta and his son (Kiko Iniesta, who is a great MotU fan) in one of their podcasts. The interview was focused mostly in this particular toyline, although they also talked about other products and toys. I would recommend you to listen that podcast (if you can understand Spanish) because it is great how father and son explain what they did, how did the factory work and so on.

If you cannot understand Spanish, I will summarize the most important information here:
The toy company was a spin-off of a bigger company specialized in casts (manufacturing and repair), plastic casting and other types of casting called Matrival. This company was founded in 1975 in Valencia as a small casting workshop by José Iniesta and a partner, but it is now a great company producing parts for brands like Peugeot, Mercedes, Ford, Magna…

By the beginning of the 80s the owners decide to expand their business making toys. Their first toy was a cap gun made in metal, but they had to stop production after some legal changes in 1983 following the accidental death of a boy using a similar gun from competitor Redondo. The decision to make metal guns was influenced by their partners Bullycan, since they did not want to directly compete with each other.

After that, they produced only plastic toys, like Bullycan, but initially in different scales or different types. Among the toys they produced were again some guns that shooted plastic caps (similar to bottle caps) and the famous Far-Boys, inspired at the time by the even more famous Airgam Boys.




The Guerreros del Espacio was launched shortly afterwards, around 1985. Far Men decided to make a version of such a successful figure, but with low costs. Most parts of the figure were produced by Far Men themselves, except the body part, which is hollow and needed a plastic blow molding procedure that, at the time, was not available at Far Men, so it was outsourced, just as the cards and bubbles. The figures that are decorated with some paintwork were finished and assembled in a nearby prison (by prisoners) but also in private homes mostly by housewives for an extra income.

The design of the heads is different from the ones used by Mattel. The sculptors were people very especialized in creating wood or plaster models that would later transfer into an injection cast. They were hired for that work, but they were not employees of the company. The company didn’t make any backstory or gave name to the figures.


The inspiration for these figures was clear to Mattel, who sued the company. The trial was won by Far Men, since Mattel had no copyright for their Masters of the Universe at that time in Spain.

For the following two years or so, the company was producing lots of cars, trucks and other vehicles until the concurrence in the toy sector became higher, and Far Men was finally shut down. Their owners focused their efforts in Matrival, which was growing and receiving the first orders for the automobile industry. Far Men was very small compared to the main business.

Despite producing toys under their own brand, Matrival was also producing casts for other toy companies, like Hasbro’s or M.B. One example is the Action Man toyline from the 90s. This cooperation continued until M.B. closed their Spanish branch in Riba-Roja in 2003.

Far Men sold mostly to distributors Spainwide, who then offered the toys to shops, press kiosk and street vendors who offered toys in fairs, festivals and other popular festivities.

Back to the Guerreros del Espacio, note that the packaging is barely a small cardboard (not printed at the back) that holds the figure inside of a blister bubble. Both parts are attached by means of staples, and the yellow background is actually smaller than it should be, or the figure is bigger than it should (10.5 cm tall), since it is covering the header of the blister with the name of the toyline.
This logo is already quite remarkable: it shows the two main characters, that is, a He-Man and a Skeletor lookalikes. The hero has a headband and the villain carries a horned-helmet.
In the lower part of the card, there is some legal information and the logo of Far Men.


This small card was intended to fit a larger display to be hang in the wall of the shop. Each corner was inserted in one slot, so six toys could hang on the wall while for sale, and be removed individually when sold.

There is a second type of blister, simpler, with a lighter shade of blue as background colour and without the small He-Man and Skeletor on the top corners.


The weapons included (one per figure) are also very imaginative. This one is a copy of an Airgamboys accesory (some kind of harpoon).


The body cast for Guerreros del Espacio was used for a series of American Football players with helmet, ball and a plastic T-shirt. There was even a figure of B.A. Baracus that came with metal chain on his neck. Both are very sought-after nowadays.

Out of the scope of this entry is the other MotU bootleg line with the same name but slightly bigger figures (14 cm tall) that were saled under the brand Guerreros del Universo (Warriors of the Universe). These were similar in construction, but had no waist articulation and were clearly based on MotU casts, without many modifications. My guess after listening to the interview is that the 14 cm figures came earlier than these, and both are made by Far Men (Mr. Iniesta cannot recall very well if this other line was also produced by them or not). These other two toylines were not marked in the blister with the name of the maker, so it is up to this point unclear if it was really Far Men that built them.


FACTS and FIGURES:
  • Name: (No Name)
  • Toy Line: Guerreros del Espacio
  • Year: Around 1985
  • Company: Far Men (Spain)
  • Size of the figures: Around 10.5 cm

Monday, April 9, 2018

#899 WWF – DEMOLITION MINI FIGURE (Around 1991)

Since April was “traditionally” a month in which I only showed bootleg and knock-off toys, I will continue doing so in this entry and the next one.


This figure is extremely rare. I am quite certain is one of those little toys sold inside plastic balls in vending machines on streets. For 1 Euro (or 100 pesetas at the time), you get one surprise toy.

Those toys are mostly crap, but since recently I have been observing how big the attraction that these machines have over children is. The slot-machines are kind of mesmerizing to children, and I guess I was no exception when I was younger. I recall looking from below to check if I could see which ball would come next.

I think I found this figure in Spain. It is made of plastic (it is made of some soft PVC, without points of articulation), and could represent any Demolition member, that is, Ax, Smash or Crush. Since the face is so poorly detailed, I don’t dare saying it is one or the other.

As you can see, also the cast, thepaintwork and the finishing are poor, but despite all these negative aspects, it is a great collectable item, that very few people have (or may have). I wonder if it was already a China import or if it was finished somewhere in Spain, what would make it even more interesting.

I cannot say anything else about it. Manufacturer? Year? Country of origin? Anybody?

For the purpose of this entry, I photographed it together with a Hasbro figure and it’s “bigger size” knock-off figure presented in entry #537.


FACTS AND FIGURES:
  • Name: DEMOLITION MINI FIGURE
  • Toy Line: Unknown
  • Year: Around 1991
  • Company: Unknown Manufacturer
  • Size of the figures: 5-6 cm

Thursday, March 22, 2018

#898 HEIMO - MAX AND MORITZ PVC FIGURES (1977)




Max und Moritz is a German illustrated story written by Wilhelm Busch in 1865. The book has 7 chapters, all of them rhymed in couplets.

I knew the book, but it wasn´t until recently that I had it in my hands and I could read it a little bit (it is difficult if you are not fluent in German). The stories and the illustrations have a lot of things in common with later comics and cartoons. Max and Morizt are two naughty boys doing nasty things. The chapters are also called "tricks", and describe one mischief of the two main characters: stealing a roasted chicken from a kitchen, sawing a wooden bridge, putting gunpowder in a smoking pipe... until they meet their fate being shredded in a backery.

As many cartoons, the stories are kind of violent, at least with today's mentality, so I think, the book is not so popular anymore in German speaking countries as it was before.

But what brought Max and Moritz to this blog today is the series of figures made by Heimo in the late 70s. The series comprises 8 figures plus one variant. Just for clarification, Max is the brunette boy, Moritz is the blonde boy. Note in this picture below that the two Max figures have different hair colour: one brown, the other black.


The original 8 figures were

  • Max (hands on back)
  • Max (with smoking pipe)
  • Moritz (hands on back, red shirt)
  • Moritz (with gunpowder flask)
  • Widow Bolte
  • Tailor Böck (sitting)
  • Teacher Lämpel
  • Meister Backer



And the variant is

  • Moritz (hands on back, green shirt instead of red)


The variant is not more difficult to find than the ordinary one. Heimo figures were produced massively, and even today, they can be found on ebay at relatively low prices (considering its age).

Also note that Max and Moritz were available in two different casts, the first represents them doing nothing, with their hands in the back and smiling, as they were lovely little boys. The other two versions are taken from chapter/trick 4 (Streich 4), were they fill the pipe of teacher Lämpel with gunpowder. Max has the pipe and Moritz the flask with the gunpowder. In some catalogues this figure is referred as "with inkwell" ("mit Tintenfass"), but this must be an error, since there is no inkwell in the whole book.

Illustration taken from de.wikisource.org
Figures are marked POLYMEDIA, most probably because they came out as a merchandise for a TV series made between 1977 and 1978. The producer was Polyphon Film- und Fernseh GmbH in Hamburg, ans was directed by Hermann Leitner and John Halas. The years would match and also the style of the figures and the colours.

As menstioned before, a nice complete set of figures, not difficult to find, nor expensive. The figures are somewhat bigger than the usual Heimo from these years, and are about 6 cm high, which makes them more attractive than other figures like those made of Wickie, Heidi or Disney.

FACTS and FIGURES:
  • Name: MAX AND MORITZ
  • Year: 1977
  • Company: Heimo (Germany)
  • Size of the figures: 6 cm

Thursday, March 8, 2018

#897 MICRO MACHINES - SHAKE & SNIFF COLLECTIONS #2, #3 and #4 (1992)



And yet another Micro Machines subseries, and maybe one of the most curious ones, the Shake & Sniff.

The series consists on trucks with long trailers, whose main feature is that the trailers have some smell, depending on what is printed on the sides of the trailer. An example: if the truck is carrying bananas, the trailer will have a banana smell. For that purpose, the trailer has some small holes drilled in the back part, but I do not know how does the interior look like, probably has some kind of cardboard or sponge impregnated in some scent.

Another feature is that the trucks come with opening doors and the cabin moves up to reveal the motor of the truck. The trailer have small practicable feet so they stand when they are not attached to the truck. This same feature applies to the "Semi-Truck" series from 1989, from which the Shake and Sniff could be considered a continuation or an improvement. The Semi-Truck collections were also available after the Shake and Sniff was withdrawn form the assortment only one year later (1993).

The collection started (and ended) with 4 collections, with 2 trucks each. I am currently missing collection #1, which could be the most difficult to find since one of the trucks smelled like garbage. Definitely, not the best commercial appeal compared to the other three collections.

Collection #1
Cab- Over with Garbage Load
Streamliner with Pine Load

Collection #2
Streamliner with Rootbeer Load
Cab- Over with Vanille Ice Cream Load




Collection #3
Streamliner with Choc Chip Cookie Load
Super Cab with Bubble Gum Load



Collection #4
Streamliner with Popcorn Load
Super Cab with Banana Load




In Spain, the series was called “Mover y Oler” (Move and Smell).

FACTS AND FIGURES
  • Name: Micromachines Shake & Sniff Collections #2, #3 and #4.
  • Scale of the cars: 1:150 aprox.
  • Year: 1992
  • Company: Galoob (U.S.A.)
  • Size: approx. 2 cm

Monday, February 19, 2018

#896 SCALEXTRIC - FERRARI 312 B3 (Ref. 4052) (1975)


Collectables from decades ago are each time more and more difficult to find. It is natural. They end up in hands of collectors, and these keep them for long periods of time.Only in extraordinary events, like the last crisis (from 2008 to 2012 or so), the offer grows and the prices fall. Since 2016 or maybe even slightly before that I have observed that prices are going higher and higher. At some point in the future, the prices will fall, but this is another topic.

With Scalextric I have observed exactly this behaviour, and I haven´t bought many in the last 3 years. This is one of them and the second is a yellow Porsche Carrera that will be shown when I update entry #420.

This is a car that I didn´t have yet in any version, so I was happy to find it. It was not very expensive considering it is complete, but still used and without the original box.

The car was first released in 1975 and discontinued in 1982, although rests could still be found in shops during a few years more.




A Ferrari is always an attractive car, but this model here was also 1975´s World Champion, driven by the young Niki Lauda. In the decals we can read the name of the Austrian pilot or the name of the Swiss pilot Clay Regazzoni, the "first" pilot at the time and the one who recommended Lauda to Ferrari in 1974.

Scalextric represents the model from 1974, using decals with both names, but also 4 different race numbers (RN): 11, 12, 20 and 35. This is also a common practice, since some sets were sold with two identical cars in different colours, and they needed at least two race numbers, and in case of Formula 1 or other famous racing cars, two pilot names.

The car ran the 1974 season with RN 11 (Regazzoni) and RN 12 (Lauda). Scalextric also assigned RN 20 to Lauda and RN 35 to Regazzoni in the alternative decals.

In 1973 and 1975 the same car that took part in some races, although the decoration used at the time may differ a little bit from the one chosen by Scalextric.


By the way, this car was available in red (like the real Ferrari), (dark) green, yellow and blue. So far I have only the green one, but I keep looking for the other three. If I ever get them, I will update this entry to make it more complete. Making cars in different colours was of course cheaper than making them with different casts, and most times, a circuit came with two cars of the same brand, only with different colours. That way the races were tighter, since different cars have different behaviours during the race. This F1, like most F1 is quite flat and has long rear axles, so I guess it is very fast. Green is maybe the less atractive colour, because some details have low contrast with the grey motor part, and also low contrast with the black tracks.

Note that the model has lots of pieces, many more than the average scalextric car. And also that the base or chassis has the same colour than the body. A real beauty.



FACTS AND FIGURES
  • Name: FERRARI 312 B3 (Ref. 4052)
  • Scale: 1:32
  • Year: 1975
  • Company: Scalextric Exin (Spain)
  • Size: approx. 15 cm

Monday, February 5, 2018

#895 HERACLIO FOURNIER - MASTERS DEL UNIVERSO and HE-MAN (1988 and 1991)



Two of my most favorite decks of cards of all times are these Heraclio Fournier. Of course He-Man and the Masters of the Universe are two of my favorite toylines, so any related article is for me very interesting. But I am also a collector of Heraclio-Fournier card decks, so my interest is double.



The first deck "Masters of the Universe" was released in 1988, followed by the "He-Man" deck in 1991. Both comprise 32 cards, plus the cover card with the instructions printed on the back. Both decks are very similar, with very few differences. Beside the design of the cards, the card back has different colours, (purple or orange), the rules belong to two different games and also the numbering of the cards is different.

Let’s stop at this last difference.

The Masters of the Universe deck has its cards numbered from 1 to 32, and then in the lower part of the card, we can read the name of the character, object or place depicted, plus some text in brackets. The first 12 are “Master Bueno” (or Good Master), the cards numbered 13 to 23 are “Master Malo” (or Bad Master), numbers 24 to 29 are “Horda del Terror” (name given in Spain to the Evil Horde), 30 and 31 are “Vehiculos” (or vehicles), and card 32 is “Varios” (or various). To the rules of the game, the Evil Horde, vehicles and various cards all belong together to a third group, so we may summarize, there are cards belonging to the “good”, “bad” and “others” groups. Note that there are some inconsistencies, like Hordak being marked “bad” instead of “Evil Horde” or Zodac being marked “bad” as well.





The He-Man deck uses the more common division in four families with 8 cards each (for example red 1, red 2, ... up to red 8, then yellow, then green and finally blue). In this case, all red and yellow cards represent characters or vehicles belonging to Skeletor and the bad guys and the blue and green families are showing only characters and vehicles of He-Man’s team.


And now, let’s focus on the illustrations.

The "Masters of the Universe" deck shows very interesting concept art drawings of many characters from waves 1 to 4. These illustrations were unknown at the time, what made it even more interesting. I have seen some of these in comics from Egmont (from the UK) or Ehapa (Germany), but I do not know where do they came from. None of them is taken from the cardbacks (except Zodac). I have checked the “The Art of He-Man and the Masters…” book, but I found none of them… any real expert who can put me on the right track here?

The text that go with each figure are sometimes freely chosen from the appearance of the figure, probably because Heraclio-Fournier did not have much background information about this or that figure. Note for example that the artwork for Stinkor shows the “Stench of Evil” over his head, and it vaguely looks like fire. In the description it is mentioned, that it owns a fire armour that makes him almost unreachable. This is just an example, but there are others.



And now, let's continue with the "He-Man" deck. Note that most cards show a picture of the actual toy, with only a couple of exceptions (both Battle Punch He-Man cards, green 1 and green 3). Note that the figures that represent the actual toy are taken from official Mattel catalogues and promotional leaflets. Interestingly, the cards show even the last figures released in 1992, which were never available in Spain.

This deck has no text, except for the names of the characters or vehicles.


Sorry for the quality in the He-Man deck pictures, they were taken several years before the MotU deck, and I didn't put much care in them.

FACTS AND FIGURES:
  • Name: MASTERS DEL UNIVERSO and HE-MAN
  • Year: 1988 and 1991
  • Company: Heraclio-Fournier (Spain)

Monday, January 22, 2018

#894 MIGHTY MAX - SHRUNKEN HEADS aka MICRO HEADS (1993)



Some of the smallest Mighty Max sets were the Micro Heads. They are really small, and have space for exactly one Mighty Max figure, although in some cases it is kind of tricky to fit the figure inside the case.

Each head of these micro sets represents one of the well-known monsters or some recognizable horror icon: Dracula, the Mummy, Frankenstein, a skull, a zombie... what makes them very attractive to all horror fans. Each head opens revealing a very small scenery including the moster (casted) in it. The Mighty Max figure that fits each set mostly has some accesory in its hands that fits the theme of the adventure: a stake in the Vampyre set, a spray can in Insect, pliers for Lobotix…


Another interesting feature is that the figure fits almost milimetrically in the case, it took me quite a while to fit all figures in their correct positions, it might be quite challenging. I haven’t found out how to fit the figure in the last set (Insect), if anyone knows…


Here are the eight sets’ interiors. Note also the nice combination of colours in each set and altogether. There is a great production design behind this toyline.

VENOM



LOBOTIX




 MELTY


MUMMY




RAT



VAMPYRE


ROCK MONSTER




INSECT


FACTS and FIGURES:
  • Name: Venom, Lobotix, Melty, Mummy, Rat, Vampyre, Rock Monster Insect  (Shrunken Heads or Micro Heads)
  • Toy Line: Mighty Max (wave 2)
  • Year: 1993
  • Company: Bluebird (Great Britain)
  • Size of the playset: Around 3,5 cm long
  • Size of the figures (Mighty Max): 1 cm
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