Alright, I admit it––I had a frickin’ fantastic childhood in every aspect of it. I had a great dad, wonderful siblings, and an extended family that never made any moment lackluster. And growing up with by far the best toys ever made certainly helped, and I was never at a lack for toys. Sure, while there were countless times I’d receive a Galaxy Warriors or Galaxy Fighters (bootlegception!) action figure instead of a legit Masters of the Universe one, for the most part, I had all the action figures, vehicles, play sets, and video games that I could possibly want during the 1980s and ‘90s.
Well, almost all of them.
During the holidays and especially on my birthday, I always look back on my memories and reminisce about all the cool toys I owned, but I also can’t help but think about the few toys that I really, really wanted but never received from Dad, distant relatives, or Santa Claus. So I present to you––in no particular order except perhaps coolness––twelve toys I never received (and still think about from time to time ‘cause they’re so damn cool) in all their glory.
Dungeons & Dragons; LJN, 1983
Growing up, I had one figure from LJN’s Dungeons & Dragons toy line––Deeth––as well as the five-headed dragon queen Tiamat, and yes, the enormous Fortress of Fangs playset. But I really wanted Warduke, mainly because he creeped me out with that red-eyed absent face of his. (Though his outfit probably could’ve used a couple more passes in the drawing room.)
Batman: Mask of the Phantasm; Kenner, 1993
Sure, the Phantasm is essentially a ripoff of the Reaper from Batman: Year Two (Detective Comics #575 to #579) and Batman: Full Circle, its less-than-successful sequel, but still, any character that dons a metal skull for a mask and a sickle for an arm warrants some respect in my book.
COBRO POGO BALLISTIC BATTLE BALL
G.I. Joe; Hasbro, 1987
Okay, so some of these toys I wanted aren’t necessarily (nor will they ever be) cool, but this one was certainly interesting––so much so that I wanted to own one as a kid despite my not owning a single G.I. Joe action figure except Law & Order mainly ‘cause my first best friend growing up was a German Shepherd named Champ. But compared to the Cobra Firebat and even the Cobra Rattler, the Pogo is quite the failure in design and functionality.
Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars; Mattel, 1984
What a thoroughly badass vehicle this was––and still is! Heck, as a borderline adult, I’d still love to own this rolling death-machine straight outta Mad Max! And the fact that Doctor Doom can pilot it (with perhaps Kang as his copilot) makes for some bonus badassery.
ALL THE DINOBOTS
Transformers; Hasbro, 1986
I only ever had Slag, Sludge, and a broken Swoop that, to this day, I have no idea how I acquired. (Perhaps Kareem, my good friend at the time, gave it to me simply because I asked for it and it was broken––who knows?!) But I always wanted more Dinobots and would ask for them at every birthday and from Santa come Christmastime, but Snarl and Grimlock have always elluded me. However, I did own G2 versions of Grimlock, Slag, and Snarl, but I’ve since sold the former and still have the red stegosaurus in my Vault because he’s broken.
NES ADVANTAGE JOYSTICK & NES MAX
Nintendo Entertainment System, 1987
While I loved the original rectangular, hard-edged NES controllers, when I saw both the NES Max––so sleek and equipped with a cycloid instead of the traditional control pad and two turbo buttons––and the NES Advantage, mimicking the more standard arcade game experience with its large format A and B buttons and joystick, I longed for them so I might add a 1-up to my game. Truth be told, though, as much as I loved video games, I was never a very good gamer, so this turbo-charged lifestyle was not in the cards.
The Real Ghostbusters; Kenner, 1987
As an avid fan of the cartoon based on 1984’s Ghostbusters movie, I amassed a rather large collection of spooks and specters, Stay Pufts, and Egon Spenglers. And while I had the very intriguingly designed Ecto-2, I never owned an Ecto-1, which would’ve been bar none the coolest, most iconic vehicle in my collection at the time next to the Batmobile from Batman: The Animated Series and the Robo-1 from Kenner’s Robocop and the Ultra Police line.
MY PET MONSTER
American Greetings, 1986
Looking back, it was sorta messed up that this blue-furred little monster came with a pair of shackles, but those orange manacles were part of the lure that was My Pet Monster. And even though it didn’t speak like Teddy Ruxpin or have a TV series like ALF (not when it first came out, anyway), it looked like such a neat, slightly horrifying character with horns, fangs, and a little tuft of red hair atop its head that balanced out its fearsomeness with a childlike innocence. Break the chains, Monster!
Worlds of Wonder, 1986
Once upon a time in the futuristic era of the late 1980s, there was Lazer Tag, in which you ran around with an octagonal target strapped to your chest and aimed a sleek blaster at your quarry and, by the magic of infrared light, fired invisible laser beams at them hoping to make their sensor sound off before they hit yours. That same fateful year, Entertech/LJN’s Photon, The Ultimate Game on Planet Earth (a touch dramatic) launched with a phaser that was in no way as sleek and sci-fi as Lazer Tag’s, but used the same technology to the same effect. That’s the one I had, green helmet and all. Looking back, though, it was actually pretty darn cool to be a “Photon Warrior” for a while.
NEC Home Electronics, 1990
It’s not that I didn’t love my Nintendo Game Boy as a kid, but there was something about the highly advanced TurboExpress, which I wanted primarily because I really wanted to play Splatterhouse. (And Bonk’s Adventure, if I’m being entirely honest with myself.) But after buying a Sega Game Gear, I quickly realized that, despite a color backlit screen, I was a fan of Nintendo’s game catalog through and through.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles; Playmates, 1986
Some kids wanted G.I. Joe’s U.S.S. Flagg for the sheer size and scope of the playset itself, but for me, it was the Technodrome, Krang and Shredder’s wicked-cool moving fortress of fear and devastation. Seeing it in the cartoon was always a highlight for me, and the toy, at least in the Sears and J.C. Penney catalogs of my youth, did not disappoint. What was somewhat disappointing was that I never got to own my own Technodrome.
TENDRIL, D’COMPOSE, AND METLAR
Inhumanoids; Hasbro, 1986
I have very foggy memories of Inhumanoids, the grotesque, borderline terrifying cartoon by Sunbow Entertainment, but I do know that the Hasbro toyline it was based on was, at best, a bit lame. Except for the actual inhumanoids––and these giant ones featuring glow-in-the-dark fangs and truly gruesome features like D’Compose’s chest cavity, which opens and closes, were the must-haves at a whopping 14 inches tall. But alas, all I ever had was Herc Armstrong and Auger––and no inhumanoids for them to battle against.
Many holiday seasons and blown-out birthday candles later, I would come to own one out of these twelve unfulfilled toy wishes––Warduke––which occasionally makes a home in my toy vault. Perhaps this year will be all about hunting down the remaining eleven of these personal grail finds. Sounds like a good mission to embark upon––after all, my birthday is just around the corner. (February 21st!)
* *. *. *. *
As always, thanks for reading Nostalgia’s Revenge! and Retrofied. I’ll be back in a month or so with some more retro goodness. Until then, have a safe holiday season, and a spectacular new year ahead, fans!
J.T. Trigonis is a published author, professor, and born-again collector of vintage action figures, comic books, and CDs.