Thursday, May 31, 2007

SOTW: Week 12

As we sort through the repairs and I get a chance from time to time I thought I would update when I can. We really lucked out as far as water damage goes, it's going to be more of an inconvenience until things are repaired. Anyway enough about that...

This weeks Stormtrooper is the second figure in the Hasbro Star Wars Unleashed Set. Again this trooper represents the scene at the beginning of Star Wars: A New Hope (Episode IV) where the Empire boards the Rebel Cruiser in search of the Death Star Plans. Was I the only kid back in 78' that wondered why they just didn't vaporize that ship?

This one's pose is more action oriented in nature, almost running, a nice variation from last weeks "guard" pose. Again, these remind me so much of the little green army men from younger days, this one more so. He sort of reminds me of the standard issue flame thrower guy from those sets.

I haven't been near a toy store for a week or two now, but not only are these guys available, my all time favorite Stormtroopers, the Sand Troopers are starting to make appearances.

1966 Batmobile!!!

Just a quick post (sorry about the photo quality). As my wife and I were hitting the local grocery store for supplies to keep us going as we do some demo. I wandered down the toy isle and stopped at the Hot Wheels section. I picked this up and stood there for a few minutes in disbelief. I really never thought I would see one of these in person, except at high price, scalper's tables at the local toy shows, and then I wouldn't purchase from them because I wouldn't want to support them.

Well here I stood in a grocery store with my 98¢ prize, my wife found me wandering around with this cheesy grin and a somewhat dazed look on my face... I told her I was still in shock from the washing machine flood.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

We've been flooded out!

It seems our washing machine has decided to do some renovations on our little home so it may be some time before I start up full swing with the post for a while. Monday afternoon the washing machine would not stop filling with water , and it kept filling, and filling, and filling. Only one room in the entire house was spared, the kitchen, and right now I have about 15 or so industrial fans and 3 de-humidifiers chugging away, going on about day three now!

Hopefully I'll be back at it soon!

Monday, May 21, 2007

SOTW: Part 11

This week's Stormtrooper is part of the Hasbro 2007 Star Wars Unleashed sets that are hitting stores nation wide as we speak. It took me a while to find a set that I liked, because this line seems to suffer from lousy paint applications. Even the set that I finally settled on had some areas that did not look to great. These come four figures per package and each figure is about 1.5" to about 2.5" in height.

The Unleashed line was originally thought up as characters in extreme poses, and had been a popular seller at their original height of about eight inches per figure. Each would come with a detailed base and they turned out being more of a little statue that an action figure. These newer battle sets are smaller in scale than the original line and the extreme poses seem more realistic in nature now and are generally more of a "troop builder" sort of collectable. For those not in the know, a troop builder is a term that applies to a collector that purchases several of the same figure to build an army, sort of like the miniature collectors of the older hand painted army soldiers.

Speaking of army soldiers these guys remind me of those little green army men, what I wouldn't have given back in 78' for a army of little plastic Stormtroopers to take on my green and tan army men. Though you could get a lot of army men for the price of one of these four packs, man how times have changed.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Freebie Friday!

For the next few months I will be featuring a freebie every Friday, Freebie Friday! if you will. What's a freebie? To me a freebie is defined as follows:

free-bie (also free-bee)
Is something that is given to a person for no exchange of money, free of charge. Further, an item that is not given as a present, ex: birthday present or christmas present, but not to include gifts handed out as promotional items.

These are items that I have been given for one reason or the other because I collect something along those lines or I like characters from that particular form of entertainment. Needless to say free stuff is the best stuff!

To start this off, I bring you something I just scored this week. It's another Justice League promotional sign. What makes this one pretty cool is it has been die cut and layered so it has a three dimensional feel to the artwork. I snapped a pic of this on a background so you could see the characters sort of bursting off the background. This was just being thrown in the Photo Studio here at work and I asked if I could hang it up and I was told I could do whatever I wanted to with it since it wasn't used anymore.

Well it's now going to be hanging in my office here at work as soon as I get some hangers! I really like items like this, so let me hear some feedback if you want me to continue with Freebie Friday.

Who knows it might be interesting, it might be lame, but every Friday won't be the same!

Okay that was my sad attempt at ad copy.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Mego Knock-Offs Assemble!

I am totally digging these new Signature Series Figures from Hasbro. These are a continuation of sorts of their previous line of "mego like" figures that featured DC characters. This time around it's Marvel that's getting the retro retread treatment. I like these because they remind me of Megos back in the day and I finally get a chance to get characters that I didn't get back then.

So far Hasbro has churned out a pretty good number of these things starting with Spider-Man, Black Costume Spider-Man, Doc Oct, and the Green Goblin. The second series featured Captain America, Wolverine, Dare Devil, and Iron Spider-Man (from the Civil War story arc). Somewhere in between they did a couple of Target exclusives of First Appearance Spider-Man and the Punisher. That's just the Marvel characters!

More recently they produced a Cyclops figure and rumor has it a Sandman figure will make an appearance soon. My hopes are high that this line continues strong into the future, but by the looks of Hasbro's spotty distribution of these and the series trickling down to just one figure per release, I'm afraid it might be the DC line all over again. I hope I'm wrong on this one.

My goal has been so far to get one of every one of these toys Marvel and DC. So far I've been pretty good about picking these up, to date I am missing only a couple of the DC figures, hopefully Ebay will turn up these at decent prices.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Collection Wall

I'm in the process of re organizing the "collection wall" in my home office / studio. For the longest time it has featured Batman, but the idea behind the wall was to be able to rotate various items from my entire collection and make more items viewable. I really do not like having anything in storage and I think it's much more enjoyable to see what you collect. I think this may be one of the reasons I started this blog, as I bring things out, I can shoot a picture, remember a story about it, and actually enjoy it.

So I thought it would be cool to see how everyone else views or displays their collection, don't be shy, if it's in totes and boxes, it's in totes and boxes (I recently found a whole tote buried in the bottom of a closet that had toys I didn't even remember buying). I always find it interesting, seeing how others display and organize their collectable prizes. So chime in while I get things organized.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

It's Astroboy!

Some more Kubricks goodness on Tuesday! I picked this Kubricks up from one of the most awesome, back alley, toy shops in Hong Kong! I was finishing up my shopping in this little (and by little I mean about the length and width of a full size pickup truck) shop when I spotted this Kubricks by the cashier.

I topped off my purchases with Astroboy here, and made my way to the second most awesome, back alley, toy shop in Hong Kong, which was right across the alley.

For those of you who are going "who's Astroboy?", he was a Manga character created by Tezuka Osamu in the 50's that later became a television show in the 60's. Considered by many to be the birth of Anime (Japanese Animation). Japan knows him by his name Mighty Atom, but either way it's a fun little comic / cartoon. I would recommend checking out the reprinted stuff from Dark Horse or maybe tracking down some of his cartoons.

Monday, May 14, 2007

SOTW: Part 10

"Join me and I will complete your training" Hey why not? Darth Vader seemed to have a pretty sweet gig right? Not for Luke though he was a Jedi, like his father before him! Wait a minute... Oh well, this weeks Stormtrooper of the Week (SOTW) is from a set of Topps Empire Strikes Back cards, printed in 1980.

These can still be found at comic shops across the land, but this particular card is from one of my first encounters with a wholesale club concept that has changed the way America buys bulk. All my friends and I would go and beg our parents to take us to Sam's which had just moved into a bowling alley right next door to Wal Mart, go figure, huh. The place really didn't seem as big as it does now, and come to think of it it really wasn't in that location long.

We would save our allowance and newspaper money to buy these chewing gum cards by the box load and tear home to see who could chew the most gum while sorting and trading cards. The stacks of cards and stale chewing gum never seemed to end.

The illustration cards were always some of my favorites (next to the Ralph McQuarrie cards), while simple in design they had pretty dynamic poses of the characters. The backs of the cards would carry quotes or facts about the movie which were always good for a quick reference to all your favorite moments in the film. These were probably one of the reasons I decided to start a career in illustration.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Working in the Garden!

I know, I know, it's not the latest in toys, but it is something I've been working on with Judy recently. Click the picture to check out some photos.

It's a work in progress,

Friday, May 11, 2007

StudioHowell Sketchbook

I have decided to separate my artwork blog from the Eclectorama Blog. To date this blog has focused on memorabilia and toys and I thought it would be nice to feature my illustrations and designs in their own space.

I'm not sure how often I will update it, but it will be a good way to get just the artwork filtered out.


The Making of the Bat Boat

So since I've been showing off some "off the wall" Batman stuff this week in honor of our special guest from LOG, I thought I would go out with a Bang, Biff, Pow!

For your viewing pleasure the 1960's Bat Boat or rather a company brochure for the Bat Boat. Now, I do not have a lot of older pieces in my collection and I certainly do not have a lot of catalog, brochure, magazine pieces, but being a designer I am drawn to paper products and older advertisements. It's just something about that era. So I do have a copy of this brochure. Why just a copy? The owner didn't want to part with the original, and since we had a color copier at work, he was more than happy to loan it to me to make a copy for my collection.

So here's the story. I guess I should proceed this with the following, you never know where you'll find Batman stuff. Okay having said that, I was the art director for a waterpark ride manufacturing company for a few years in the early 2000's. We developed water "rollercoasters", slides, and tons of what we called water toys. Those were giant hippos, elephant slides and what not. Nine times out of ten if you have been to a water park, indoor or out, you've been on one of the slides we developed. So this manufacturer is smack dab in the middle of Texas, probably fifteen minutes away from my house, outside of town. It was the best drive to and from work I have ever had, in the three years there I was in maybe a total of three traffic jams.

Well one day in the Spring I decided to check out a local hobby store at lunch and while I was in there I found the Polar Lights model of the vintage Bat Boat. I bought it just for the package art. Well on my return to work I decided to take my new prize in and show the art team what I had found, and when I was finished showing off my latest trophy I sat it on top of my monitor to gaze at while I worked the rest of the day. The building which we occupied was once the Texas branch of Glasstron Boats, more precisely their engineering and development branch, and to take it a step further our head engineer and our park layout designer both used to work for Glasstron.

So now the park layout designer worked for me and when I showed him the boat he launched into a spill about how Glasstron used to build boats and they even built that boat. Of course I didn't believe him, I've heard one to many of his fish stories, so he rang the head engineer. David, the head engineer, comes down to the Art Department and starts telling me about the Bat Boat he helped design. David is a very straight shooter, there was now doubt in my mind that he was speaking the truth. He told me about testing it out on a local lake, doing the float test in the factory, and trying to make this thing look like a Bat Boat and still be able to run like a regular boat. Now my Park layout guy starts chiming in about blue prints and David says they are long gone, moved with the company files, but he still had a brochure. He brought in the next day for me to see and make a copy and now it's up here on the blog. All in all it was a great couple of days to be a Bat Fan. I scored a cool model with an even cooler box, and got to listen to war stories of the good ole' days of making Batman's trusty Batboat. It was like I was there on the lake chasing down the Penguin, quick where's the Bat Shark Repellent!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Medicom Kubricks

Seems like I have a nice little Batman groove going, So why not continue with a little Batman? This is none other than the 89' Batman in the fun little Kubricks style. Kubricks is a toy line from Japan, from a company called Medicom. I have to say they make some of the coolest stuff. I hope to feature some more Medicom wares in the future. These toys are under 3 inches in height and all share some basic features, such as the same shaped head, basic body, arms, and legs. I guess these would be close to Lego mini figs, a little bigger, and I like to think these were the inspiration for Minimates from Art Asylum. I do have a few examples of Kubricks with sculpted heads and not the standard cylinder, these are mainly animal type characters, the ones I have include Bruce Lee. I'm guessing that they needed to have a better likeness of Mr. Lee than the cylinder could reflect, though Art Asylum did a pretty good job with their version.

Medicom has run the gamut with these guys. They cover popular Japanese properties like Astro Boy, Neon Genesis Evangelion, Shin Getter, and even a set from the cult classic Battle Royal. They didn't stop there though, they started hitting the American licenses as well, Edward Scissor Hands, Planet of the Apes, Back to the Future, Star Wars, and of course Batman just to name a few.

So far as I can tell they have covered Batman with assortments from the following eras of the Dark Knight; Batman the 1989 Movie with some Batman Returns thrown in, Batman The Animated Series (including a couple Batman Beyond characters), The comic book style Batman, and finally the more recent Batman Begins Movie. I'm still working on getting most of these, but to date this 89' Batman is my favorite of the Batman Kubricks.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Batman Carnival Capers Sign

As a follow up to yesterday's post here is the Batman Carnival Capers Signage that was produced for amusement trade shows back in 1996-1997, by the now defunct Play By Play Toys and Novelties.

The actual dimensions are 2' x 4' and the "poster" itself is a high output print mounted on foamcore with a high gloss laminate coating (so please excuse the glare from the flash).

This lived in my son's room when he was younger and when he decided to get rid of a few posters, I moved it to the back of the office door for safe keeping.


Tuesday, May 8, 2007

More Styleguides!

Today for your viewing pleasure I have a couple of style guide pages.

First up since Spider-man seems to be on everyones minds these days I have a page from the Spider-man Animated Series Style Guide. Spider-man's Animated series came along around the mid nineties on the heals of another great superhero animated series. I'll admit I was a fan of both, and the Spider-man series did seem rather well done for younger market. Characters where bright and colorful, even the villains, and the toys that were spawned for this cartoon matched the animated versions quit well. even today these are some of my favorite toys from any Spider-man show or movie.

This page is the main Logo and Character detail page. It gives commentary on logo colors as well as the main colors of our hero, Spider-man, and is one of the "upfront" materials of the guide. This style guide is similar to most, giving you the main details of the heroes first, some poses in black and white, villain colors, situational art, repeat patterns, and some alternate logos. All in all some nice artwork, very clean and ready for scanning. When this guide was produced, you would have to scan and streamline your artwork, then color and place on a given product. It was sort of rare then to get artwork CDs accompanying style guides and even then it was some of the larger licenses that did this.

Second, but not by any means second to Spider-man, is a situational artwork page from Batman: Carnival Capers Style Guide. This guide was a continuation of the Batman: The Animated Series Style Guide, and was one of many attempts by Warner Bros. to come up with stories or situations to place there animated heros in, and use villains that were featured in movies to help continue the brand. I would say that Warner Bros. along with Disney were two of the best at doing this, the idea was to keep the characters fresh and up to date.

I actually used this piece of artwork, though in it's black and white form and streamlined and then colored, to produce an amusement show poster for Play By Play. Later, a year or so after the line was finished we were cleaning out the art department and we all had a chance to grab a poster or two to take home, they were going to be trashed. These posters probably set the company back about 80 to 120 bucks each, we would produce one or two of each license, for a total of about 20 to 40 posters at about 2 foot wide by 4 foot tall. We had these things printed out on something like a high gloss dura trans and mounted on foam core, they were nice, too nice to be trashed. The one that I kept was this one and I still have it today, the design is not that great (not the artwork itself, but the design I set up), but it was my first of many show signs and it was of my favorite hero. I'll drop a pick up of it later on in another post in it's new home.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Weekend Report: Free Comics and Spidey!

Just a quick note on this past weekend. Besides helping the ever lovely Judy plant some new foliage in the backyard gardens, I did steal some time to hit a comic book shop on Free Comic Book Day and participate in making Sony Pictures richer by attending a showing of Spider-Man 3.

This would be my first Free Comic Book Day that I have attended and I have to say it wasn't what I expected. After reading all the hype and events that they have in other cities I was thinking it would be sort of a little comic book party. So I took a lunch break from the yard work and on the way to pick up some take out I stopped at my local comic haunt. There were about three people in the shop, two clerks and the usual Magic card player chatting it up with the guy behind the counter that specializes in card games. I was greeted by the second clerk and he immediately let me know it was Free Comic Book Day.

So here's what I thought going into this for the first time. I knew that the comic industry printed comics specially for this day so I wasn't going to walk away with just any comic for free, so, so much for making it away with Detective Comics #27. Like "my" shop even had that, right? I did think that maybe that they would give you a chance to pick up two or three various titles, some variety if you will. So I asked "what's the limit?" expecting to here a couple. One, one per customer. Okay so at this time I'm asking all three of my readers if, one, they attended Free Comic Book Day? and two, what is your comic book shops policy on Free Comic Book Day?

Needless to say I walked around the shop, they had rearranged a few things since I had been there last, and ended my journey back at the display of free comics. I looked over the titles and selected one that I liked the illustration style of the cover and said "I'll take that one". Now I wasn't aware that I would also get a choice of a free mini poster, so that was a bonus. Transformers or the New Fantastic Four Flick. Silver Surfer won on that one. The comic? Lets just say that later that night I decided to do my research and was checking out LOG and low and behold my comic wasn't listed as one of DC's finest that were to be given out this year. You guessed it I got a recycled Free Comic Day comic. Yep, none other than the 2006 Free Comic Book Day Justice League Unlimited comic. A side note my son went with me and so I thought if he didn't want his comic, I might have a chance for a second, but he left empty handed, saying nothing peeked his interest. Kids, you can't even give them free comics.

Lesson, do your research before hand and make arrangements with your accomplice before you go into the shop to grab you a second comic, even if they don't see anything they like. Oh well at least I did get a cool mini poster and a free comic to read and pass along to some younger reader who will just thinks it's cool to get any comic. Hope everyone had a cool Free Comic Book Day and I'll give some of my readers a chance to see Spider-Man 3 before I go on about it. Oh and the pic on this post is of the Spider-Man 3 plush that the company I work for produces for the amusement market. You can check out more plush goodness here!

SOTW: Part 9

Aren't these a little short to be Stormtroopers? Here's some more of those Hasbro Galactic Heroes. These are again part of the latest wave in Star Wars goodies that are out at retail right now.

This set features Han Solo and Luke Skywalker in their Stormtrooper disguises when they snuck aboard the Deathstar to rescue Princess Leia.
Besides not being able to see well with their helmets on they blend in with the rest of the Imperial Forces aboard the soon to be doomed battle station. So not only could you use them to help fill in the ranks of a little galactic army, you can use them as intended and pretend they are stuck in a trash compactor or are running loose through the halls of the Emperor's greatest weapon.

Whatever, they are here for your enjoyment as this week's SOTW (Stormtrooper Of The Week). You know I could have stretched this one to last two weeks since it was a two pack. Would I do that to you? You bet, I'm running out of Stormtroopers, and I have to make these last through December. I'll give you a break this time, enjoy the freebie.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Flip'n Yoda

Bill, eclectorama's resident proof reader and now contributer, has donated this find to the archives of eclectorama. This is from the Burger King Star Wars promotion a few years back. I remember trying a couple times to score some really cool toys from this promotion, but after a couple times through the drive up window and not getting any of the cool swag I was trying for at the time I gave up. Plus I'm sure I did my heart well by cutting my losses and moving on from another junk food for toys binge.

Fast forward to now, and Bill finding himself at a garage sale finds this little sweet Yoda that when wound up does a flip. I have to admit, I'm a sucker for wind up toys. There is something so basic yet fun about winding these things up and watching them do their stuff, no batteries required!

Bill also picked up another one of my favorite characters from the original films, but he is going to have to wait for a future post to be revealed.

Tricorder Fun

This is a Tricorder toy from the Playmates Star Trek series that proudly takes up space in the Eclectorama Collection Archives. It is a lot smaller than the props used in the show, but what it lacks in size it makes up for in lights and sounds. I picked this up when Star Trek was all the rage, they had just released the Phaser and the Communicator so I had to get the Tricorder to complete the set, right? This is another one of those toys that takes me back to the days of the "build your own" Star Trek accessories.

When you think about all the stuff Star Trek predicted I'm amazed that the Tricorder is not as popular as say the iPod. Communicators gave us cell phones, diskettes (even though their outdated now) were featured several times on the show before they existed, what about mini skirts... oh wait they had those at the time the show was filmed, but women in the military that was a concept explored by the show, and not just nurses but in command positions. All before there time.

So where's the Tricorder? According to this article some were made, but I don't think anyone took the company too seriously and it went out of business. either that or Star Fleet bought all 10, 000 of the production run. It's too bad that someone doesn't pick up where these guys left off and really develop a device that can scan and register different atmospheric and physical events for research for your home use.

When you think about it, all a tricorder is, is every type of scanner you could imagine rolled up into a nice little package. Who wouldn't want one? " Oh yeah the Tricorder says here your fuel mixture is to rich." or "Looks like you need a new liver, well according to the Tricorder anyway." how about "Are you sure you can eat that, the Tricorder is giving me some very strange readings?" Funny thing is while they were making the real world equivalent to the Tricorder, Playmates Toys was making a fake version of the same device that I passed off as a "plumbing scanner" when my sister was telling me about her kitchen sink one time " Ah, there's your problem, it's the P trap, seems to be clogged, according to my readings you'll have to replace the whole fixture."

See there's a need.