The Evil Horde Fright Zone playset was released in 1985 for the Masters of the Universe toy line. It featured a caged cell, a dead tree that could capture action figures and a “snake” that could drag off unsuspecting foes. It wasn’t the largest playset the MOTU line had to offer, but it was a great companion piece to Castle Grayskull and Snake Mountain.
I was still very deep into all things Masters of the Universe in 1985, and already had Castle Grayskull and Snake Mountain. But the Fright Zone eluded me for some reason. Maybe my parents were suffering burnout from all of the MOTU stuff in the house or me running around yelling “I Have the Power!”. Whatever the reason, I never ended up with this.
While a lot of fans my age would rather have had the Slime Pit, the Fright Zone was where it was at for me. Maybe it was the Halloween vibe it puts off or the way it feels like an outpost in some far-off corner of Eternia, but either way, I wanted it then, and I wouldn’t say no to it now.
With Christmas getting ever so closer, let’s take a break from everyday life to remember some of our favorite old Christmas gifts. I’m listing five of mine here for you to check out, but please, drop some of your favorites in the comments at the bottom!
I’ve got a feeling I got this in 1984 since it probably wouldn’t have been like my old man to buy it in 1983 when my fandom was just blossoming for all things He-Man. He generally liked to wait until he was sure I was really into something before dropping a lot of dough on it. But what kid out there who was lucky enough to get this for Christmas wouldn’t enjoy it? I know I flipped for it. I’ve got an old polaroid of me just after opening it, and I’m crying. They had to be tears of joy. But this was the highlight of my Christmas that year, and countless battles were fought around, in, and for Castle Grayskull in the following months and years.
You’ll remember that I rambled on in-depth on the Terror Drome back when I described my mega haul of Christmas toys from 1986, so I won’t add much here, except to say that this was the largest piece I had in my assortment of G.I. Joe toys. With G.I. Joe being both my favorite toy and cartoon at the time, it was a huge deal for me to get such an important piece of the toy puzzle with this thing. I absolutely loved this thing and used it for so much of my G.I. Joe play. It was also very handy when it came to having wrestling matches with my figures too. Forget War Games, I was having Terror Drome matches. The REAL most dangerous match in the world.
G.I. Joe Tomahawk
Also from Christmas morning of 1986, the Tomahawk would also go on to see a ton of playtime in all of my G.I. Joe battles. The Joe side of the battle had plenty of vehicles, and with the exception of the Whale Hovercraft, this was my favorite one. I never owned the hovercraft myself, so this was the best thing I owned on that side of the fence.
Super NES Super Set
I was a Nintendo guy. I had friends who were Sega guys, but this old boy was firmly in the Nintendo camp. I played Nintendo daily, so when this thing came out, it was all I could think about asking for in the 1991 Christmas season. It was touch and go on whether I would actually get one or not. My brother kept telling me that I wasn’t getting one because my Dad’s line of thinking was that I already had a Nintendo, so why would I need a new one? But it turned out that was just a ruse, because on Christmas morning, there it was under the tree. Of course, it went on to see hundreds or thousands of hours of playtime, and it still ranks as my favorite video game system of all time.
DC Comics Silver Age Classics Box Set
I got this set in 1992…right at the beginning of my comic fandom zenith. I was soaking up whatever comics I could find like a sponge, so my Mom thought I would like this set. It featured old stories, so it would have to be worth something she thought. Well, in monetary value, she was wrong. But in pure enjoyment, she couldn’t have been more right. I was over the top with excitement at the fact that I could now read some of the most important stories in the history of the DC Universe. It was a twelve-issue set and featured reprints of the issues that featured the first appearances of the JLA, Flash, Green Lantern, the Legion of Super-Heroes, and Swamp Thing. It also featured the first team-up of Green Lantern and Green Arrow, as well as the first appearance of the “new look” Batman. Who knew you could put such a price on happiness?
Well, there’s some of my favorites Christmas presents from through the years. Be sure to share some of yours in the comments.
The He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special debuted on television in 1985, and I was there for that original broadcast. While the franchise was on the verge of starting to lose steam as a property, it certainly wasn’t losing steam with me. I was still watching both half-hour cartoons every afternoon after school, and still playing with the toys on a daily basis at this point. So when this special dropped, I was excited for weeks on end leading up to it. For years and years, there really wasn’t any way to see this special again, but thanks to the power of the internet and online videos, we can watch it any time we’d like.
With that said, find some time to relax and give this old special a watch again. I’m sure it will bring all kinds of memories flooding back for you.
Friday Five is a quick list of five things with a common theme, and instead of doing a big write-up, I’m doing it in pictures (or videos) with just a couple of sentences to give context to the picks.You can play along by adding some of your own in the comments.
I’m not sure exactly when this ad is from, but it’s either from 1981 or very early 1982, as the quip at the bottom of the scroll says more figures will be coming later in 1982. And the fact that it only features characters from the original wave of figures, solidifies that thought.
The Beast Man interpretation is pretty cool in this one. I’m sure it would have been difficult to convey this look onto a plastic action figure, but that would have been a great-looking figure. It would have also been good if this interpretation was what we had gotten in the animated series as well. It would have been pretty hard to portray him as a goof like they did if the character looked like this.
Here’s another one from the early days, and it’s a sale ad from a newspaper. Again, only some figures from the original wave are featured. It’s interesting that it’s Beast Man and Stratos featured in the ad and no He-Man and Skeletor. But even though they are featured prominently, the ad seems geared more toward promoting Castle Grayskull instead of the figures.
While that $21.47 price tag after rebates sounds appealing, if you adjust it for inflations, it works out to be $65.92 in 2022 dollars. That’s right in the range I would think it should be. The figure’s price of $3.88 translates to $11.91. At that kind of price point, I’m surprised I ended up with as many figures as I did as a kid.
This ad is from 1982 and from a newspaper as well. Besides advertising several cool toys, this ad promotes the ability to meet He-Man and Skeletor in person at the local department store.
Those in-person meeting opportunities still fascinate me. They certainly weren’t going to happen in my neck of the woods. I’ve seen just a few pictures online, and don’t believe I’ve come across any stories from anyone who actually went to one. If you ever got to go to one, by all means, please share your story in the comment section.
This is a beautiful ad right here. It’s an ad from some kind of trade magazine trying to entice store owners to carry the product. Using Star Wars figures in the background is a nice move as they try to show that those toys are the past, and He-Man is the future. It details how popular the line was the year before, selling over five million figures, and promising more new figures to come. Towards the end, it mentions the opportunities for in-store experiences like we saw in the previous ad. I’m sure with the powerful imagery featured, and those statistics on sales numbers from the year before, this ad convinced a few more stores to get on board.
And finally, we come to an ad from late in the brand’s heyday. This is an ad for the Masters of the Universe magazine, which was a quarterly magazine that was only available through subscription. It features three actual issues in this ad, and if you want to see what this magazine was all about, check out the Time Capsule feature here on Retro Ramblings to browse through the entire issue pictured on the far right.
When it came to magazines like these, I always drooled over them. They were available featuring brands like MOTU, G.I. Joe, The Smurfs, Barbie, and more. The closest I ever got to that was a subscription to LEGO’s Brick Kicks magazine in the late ’80s. I was disappointed by it, but I believe I would have found this magazine fully worth the time since I was a bit younger and it would have been geared more towards my age.
Oh, how I wish I still had all of my original MOTU figures. One of the great crimes I’ve committed in my life is letting all the toys from my childhood go by the wayside in various ways. But I’m slowly working to rectify that situation, and am tracking them all down again. This Jitsu figure is an example of this, as this is not my original figure, but one I got from eBay.
I had more than my fair share of MOTU figures back in the day, and I’d put Jitsu in my top ten at least. He may actually be high on the list, but I’d have to sit and think about what order they would actually go in. That may have to be a post sometime in the future. But anyway, what I liked about this figure was the big golden judo chop hand he had. That thing was just so cool, and in my world, that hand could destroy just about anything with two exceptions. It could hurt He-Man, but not put him out, and it couldn’t destroy the iron fist that Fisto had. As a matter of fact, when Jitsu’s hand met Fistos fist, it was like what happened in The Avengers when Thor’s hammer struck Captain America’s shield. Yeah, they waged some hellacious battles in my bedroom through the years.
In my playtime, Jitsu was right up there in the ranks of Skeletor’s favored minions alongside Beast Man, Trap-Jaw, and Tri-Klops. He was there to take out any weapons that the Masters had on the field. Just get him close enough, and that golden judo chop could take out anything. Probably every time Skeletor was able to breach Castle Grayskull in my world, it was because Jitsu chopped the door down with ease, and not even the magic of Grayskull was strong enough to stop him.
Race Car Driver from The Construction Company (1985)
The Construction Company line of toys may not be one you’re entirely familiar with, but it was around in the mid-late ’80s and was a building block system that hoped to rival LEGO and Construx. While I was willing to give it a chance, it just didn’t overtake them as far as I was concerned. It had a cool gimmick though as when you put the building blocks together, they had these little locking mechanisms built into them that you had to use a plastic screwdriver to lock the pieces together. This meant that your creations wouldn’t just fly apart if you dropped them or rammed them into something. That cool feature was also a bug in my eyes when it came time to undo your creation so you could start another one. You had to unlock all those same pieces.
One of the sets I had was a race car, and this figure was the driver of said car. As you can see in the picture, the figure wasn’t well articulated, as his arms could move up and down, and his legs could move forwards and backward. That didn’t leave much for you to do with the figure other than putting him behind the wheel of the car or having him standing next to it. But after all the work it took to put the car together, it wouldn’t have felt complete without a driver, so I’m glad he was included anyway.
Rick Steiner WCW Wrestling figure from Galoob (1990)
By 1990, my wrestling fandom was really deep. And growing up in the south, NWA/WCW was my wrestling. I always preferred it over the WWF/WWE. And in 1990, The Steiner Brothers were the most bad-ass tag team on the planet. When Galoob released their first wave of WCW Wrestling figures, I was excited. But when I got my hands on them, I was deflated much the same way I was when playing with the WWF LJN Superstars of Wrestling figures. The total lack of articulation really took the joy out of trying to play with them the way you would think was intended. Without articulation, you couldn’t do many moves or holds when playing.
But as show pieces, these figures were pretty damn cool. You can put these up on a shelf and have pretty nice collector’s pieces. But back in 1990, I didn’t care about putting them on a shelf, I wanted to play with the damn things. As far as wrestling action figure lines go, this was one of my least favorites. I had several, and all they ended up being good for was to have standing around. These days, that’s just fine with me, as I have several figures from the line on display. But if you want fun wrestling action from old figures, stick with G.I. Joe. They’re way better for putting on actual matches.
That’s all for this edition. Maybe next time I’ll include some figures with more articulation or something.