Sunday, 30 August 2020


The Joy Of Toy

Toy Ventures Issue 1

I’ve been following @Plaidstallions, the creator of the new Toy-Ventures magazine on Twitter, for a short while now... having discovered them by way of retweets by @MegoMuseum and others. Very recently, the gentleman responsible for the account has produced Issue One of what we all hope will be a long running magazine and, since I’m a man wholely in touch with the memories of my childhood possessions (name me one guy who has actually, ever ‘grown up’) and I remember a lot of the stuff coming out over here in the UK too, I thought I’d go ahead and order the thing.

Now, I don’t review magazines that often on here. In fact, outside of magazine format comic books I think I’ve only ever reviewed a magazine one other time on this blog in just over ten years and... that was quite some time ago. However I wanted to flag this one up because it’s a really nice product and, well... how often do print based magazines come out these days?

I’ll get to my slight criticism right away because a) it’s minimal and b) probably unimportant to most people anyway. The thing is, I’m a graphic designer and... just don’t ask a graphic designer about another designer’s work is always a good policy for the most part so... yeah, I’d say the font size is a little too large for comfort in some areas and some of the background washes on the text are just a little too heavy in places for quick legibility. Although, having said that, you never know what ‘dot gain’ is really going to do to a design until you get it back from a printer so that’s always a risky business anyway and it’s certainly worth doing because... well... it’s legible enough. Those kinds of issues are always trial and error anyway.

Okay, that’s my only slight negative on the whole venture.

Everything else about this is quality and, large print or not, there are certainly some nuggets of information to be gleaned from the issue, which works as both an informative guide for collectors of various highlighted toy lines while also being damn fine entertainment. I had a huge wave of nostalgia just hitting me as soon as I got this out of the envelope... not just from the cover but also from the free little ‘trading cards’ of various action figures over the years which accompanied it. Some of the design detailing in the magazine itself is really cool and I especially liked the inclusion of the little price tag in the top right corner on some of the ‘toy branded’ pages in the interior spreads.

This issue of the magazine is an Azrak-Hamway tribute edition and most of the toys featured are made by them so, if you’re wondering why some of your favourites from certain toy lines are not here, I’m sure they’ll be coming in future editions. This one is split into seven main articles which comprise the following:

Set Phasers To Fun is a look at various Star Trek toys such as phaser and U.S.S Enterprise water pistols and character parachute figures. I loved the little ‘pin ball’ sets in this section which, to be honest, took me back while reminding me just how disappointing those little pinball sets really were compared to the real thing.

The Guide To ‘Official World Famous Super Monsters’ does exactly what it says on the tin, so to speak and looks at the history of the various and sometimes copyright bending Universal Horror action figures comprising Dracula, Frankenstein (well, the monster at any rate), The Wolfman, The Mummy and The Creature From The Black Lagoon. And most of their many variants, both in body colours, widths, accessories and boxes/card displays are shown here. There were a lot of these for reasons explained in the mag but I found it interesting that the slight variant of the astonishingly beautiful Frankenstein monster I had from one of these moulds was not pictured or included in the many versions listed here. The green hands I had were of a slightly different orientation to the ones displayed in this article. However, if you’re interested in information about how, say, the moulds were inspired by the famous Aurora model kits or which box artworks had bleeds or borders/punch holes etc then this is something you might want to spend some time with.

Now, Skydive Like Apes! This is a look at some of the outrageous and brightly coloured rack toys inspired by the Planet Of The Apes license. These include parachute apes, friction wagons and even a nice Dr. Zaius stunt cycle. It also includes a reproduction of a ‘Notice To Trade’ retraction of a Mego & 20th Century Fox VS Azrak-Hamway legal dispute, accompanied by a photo of some wonderful ‘knock off’ action figures from their range of ‘Action Apeman’ toys. Nice.

I Wanted The Best... KISS mike
is a tale of obsession of trying to find a specific piece of KISS merchandise over the years which is both tragic and moving. Not going to say much about this one but it’s a story with a very unexpected ending.

Rack Toys: 1999 is an absolutely wonderful three page item about various rack toys produced to tie in with the Space 1999 TV show (which I reviewed here). This included the little light up ray gun I used to have as a kid and, honestly, loads of stuff I never knew even existed. I mean, a lot of kids had one of the two versions of Dinky’s Eagle Transporters but, did you know that there were ‘friction’ versions of the Eagles produced for sale?

Realistic Floating Action takes a look at the various Super-Hero themed parachute sculpts that were all over the shops in the 1970s and early 80s. There’s a lovely quote from a former Senior Vice President of AHI/Remco alluding to the fact that the sales dropped when kids started questioning the credibility of flying characters like Superman ever needing a parachute. I can vouch for that... it’s exactly why I didn’t get interested in things like a Superman parachute or Superman car when I was a kid. Who fell for this? As some of the other sections, there are also photos of some versions of these toys which never made it onto the shelves and were only built as prototypes or, in some cases, just didn’t get much distribution. So this is valuable visual info.

Adorable Horror looks at the Universal Monsters inspired Bend-Em toys. I used to like Bend-Ems as a kid... until the wire in the arm or leg broke and you could no longer... you know... bend ‘em. I don’t remember owning any of these horror ones though, so this was a nice surprise.

The magazine finishes off with a couple of double spreads of more photos of the Universal Monsters figures and, although it’s something of a quick read... it’s one I’ll probably keep delving into for weeks and years to come because, as much as some of this stuff can be found online, having actual printed photographs of these things and the ability to quickly flick through them is definitely a more quality experience.

Toy-Ventures Issue One is, for me, an essential purchase and, if you think you had the same kind of childhood as I did, you’ll probably find one or two special things lurking within its pages too. I’m definitely looking forward to Issue Two now, which will hopefully release sometime in December.

Toy Ventures Issue One can be bought from Mego Museum and you can check out the Plaid Stallions website here.