Plastic Disasters!

Why was it so hard for us as children to deal with the loss of a good toy? I know I dealt with it a lot; of all the toys I had in my youth, none survived. Many, for one reason or another, ended up in the landfill. Others disappeared without a trace. Some were taken from me. These are my worst memories of losing, breaking or otherwise ruining toys. I'm not going to mention the occasional Ninja Turtle missing a hand or the countless Batman figures that lost their capes. These are much more traumatic and to some extent still cause me a swell of emotion.


First, the RoboCop figure saga. When RoboCop came out, I was only 3 or 4. I was so hooked on RoboCop that my dad took me to see the movie, not realizing that it was rated R. He claims it as one of his biggest parenting regrets. It was about the most violent thing he had seen up to that point. The only thing I remember (other than ED-209 saying, "You have 10 seconds to comply!", and live-action RoboCop looking really cool) was some guy's eye hanging out of his head.

Anyway, I watched the cartoon and had a bunch of the figures and vehicles. First problem was that I was always losing RoboCop's helmet. I would go crying to my parents whenever I couldn't find it and we would tear the house apart until it was located. RoboCop figures just do not look cool without a helmet:

Looks like Patrick Stewart

My parents thought it was an evil marketing scheme because they had to buy at least one replacement due to lost helmets. After the first one or two, they started super-gluing the helmet to the head right out of the packaging. Smart parents.

Then one day, I took RoboCop with me to the playground and somehow, I left him there. Not sure how I managed to just up and forget I had brought my favorite toy with me. It wasn't as though I lost him. I remembered where I had left him, but when it was time to go I had forgot that I had brought him with me and left without him. I realized it around bedtime and went crying to my parents. My dad changed out of his pajamas, put socks and shoes on my feet and took me out there in the dark. We looked and looked to no avail.

Calvin's dad is grouchier than mine.

I'm sure that my dad already knew as we were on our way that some lucky kid got a free RoboCop complete with a glued-on-helmet upgrade. The next day he took me to the toy store to get yet another RoboCop action figure.

The best thing about buying all of these RoboCop figures is that there was this promotion that if you sent in some Proofs of Purchase (and probably a couple bucks for S&H), they would send you a FREE Night Fighter RoboCop. It was glow in the dark, had cap firing action and had a giant machine gun as one of the arms. I had enough figures from the series, so in the mail, I got this:

That helmet got glued on first thing.

Swamp Thing

Swamp Thing made an effort to come back into the limelight in the late 80's. I don't think it went too well for him, but I thought it was cool.

Swamp Thing premiered in DC comic books in 1971. In 1981, Wes Craven directed a Swamp Thing movie. Roger Ebert said that it was "One of those movies that fall somewhere between buried treasures and guilty pleasures." There was a very campy, low-budget sci-fi/comedy sequel called the Return of Swamp Thing in 1989. In the early 90's, There were two television series: a live-action series that was also low budget, but that cut out the camp, and an animated series that lasted 5 episodes. It should be noted that the animated series had a spoofed version of "Wild Thing" as a theme song ("Swamp Thing... You are Amazing"). The cartoon rode the Eco-Friendly wave that spawned such shows as Captain Planet. I may have been one of the only ones, but I had several figures and a play set.

Camouflage Swamp Thing. Born on the Bayou, baby!

On a family vacation to Ruidoso, New Mexico, during a nature hike, I took my Camouflage Swamp Thing figure down to the river bank to dip him in and activate the color changing feature. I must have underestimated the force of the current because it ripped him out of my hand and swiftly carried him away, never to be seen again. I was mad at myself because, of the Swamp Thing variants, he was the coolest.

Trash Bag Bunch

Some Spanish TBB figures still on their cards, still in their bags.

Another of the Earth awareness lines geared toward kids was Galoob's Trash Bag Bunch. There were good guys and bad guys here. The Trashors were the bad guys. Apparently, they reveled in pollution and filth and making the planet a terrible place to live. The Disposers were a team put together to clean up the pollution and dispose of the Trashors.

The real gimmick was that each figure came in a trash bag, and it was a mystery which figure you were getting. When you got home, you dropped the bag in a bowl or sink full of water and it would dissolve, revealing your figure. I think I remember hearing that there were some bonus bags that had 2 figures.

The Disposers

The Trashors

Released in 1991, these little plastic figures were in some ways a precursor to Galoob's Z-Bots. Those familiar with Z-Bots may recognize some similar features, especially in the robots from this line. One major difference is that Trash Bag Bunch figurines have no moving parts.

This Disposer, TrashBlaster, looks just like a Z-Bot.

I really wasn't as bummed out about this one, but I took one of my TBB figures, Trashor, with me on our church's annual father/son camp out. After playing with it for a bit, I set it down on one of the rocks that made the fire ring and went to get an A&W from the cooler. When I came back to it, the fire was much bigger than it had been, Trashor had fallen into the pit and all that was left of him was a smoldering puddle of plastic. The foul-smelling yellowish smoke issuing from the puddle of plastic had to be a pollutant, which is pretty ironic. I thought it was kind of cool.

The evil and filthy Trashor: real life polluter.

Star Wars? "Space Gun"

Believe it or not, I wasn't a Star Wars fan as a young child. I probably would have been, but I barely heard or saw anything about Star Wars before I was 10. I remember going to some neighbor kid's house one day and he and his brother had a bunch of Star Wars toys. I thought it was some cool stuff, but I didn't see any of the movies until New Year's Eve 1994 (going on 95), when my dad bought A New Hope on VHS.

The same kid with the Star Wars collection, however, had a cool "Space Gun." I remember that it was handgun size, was mostly white and that the end of the barrel had an orange cap on it.

I remember it looking something like this. Please note that I have no idea what it actually looked like.

This "Space Gun", as I always called it, may or may not have been an actual piece of Star Wars merchandise, but I liked it a lot and so I convinced him to trade me a Captain America action figure for it.

The Captain America figure I traded away. Shoulda just kept him.

A short time later, while I was packing my own carry-on bag for a family trip to visit my grandparents in Maryland, I threw this gun in. I think this was in 1991. Now, I don't know why my parents let a 7 year old pack a bunch of toys all by himself, but a full 10 years before September 11, D/FW Airport Security took my space gun away. They wouldn't allow it on the plane because it might scare other passengers. It definitely looked nothing like a real firearm. My parents and I were kind of bewildered. I probably caused a small scene and the airport said they would mail it to us, but I never saw it again.

Not exactly what they found in my bag.


What kid in the 90's didn't love X-Men? When I was in elementary school, even the girls were watching it. They liked that there were girl characters and a couple romances, I suppose. Any-who, my first X-Men toy came before I was even a fan, as a birthday present from this kid named Steven. He brought this to my party:

His hands looked like tentacles after the chewing incident.

He told me that the visor was to shoot lasers from. Laser vision? Awesome. I thought Cyclops looked very cool in this futuristic lookin' suit. I also always liked bendable figures because it was fun to put them in funny poses that would never hold. The tragedy of the bendable Cyclops was that someone or something chewed up his hands and feet until they were unrecognizable. I was sorely bummed out. He looked stupid. Who or whatever was the culprit also gnawed on his head a bit, which made the paint on the visor start peeling off. I am the second kid of six and we had a stupid Border Collie named Chester, so it could have been anyone.

The same thing happened to my bendable Rocketeer figure, which was also really cool, and which I was also pretty upset about. If you ask me, the worst feature of bendable figures is the Chewiness.

Well, shortly after the birthday party where I received bendable Cyclops, the TV series came out and was hugely popular. I watched it a lot and became rather X-Men obsessed. I started collecting all things X-Men including trading cards. My favorite character at the time was Cyclops, of course, as I was familiar with him and his powers. One day in a pack of trading cards, I got this beauty:

Next door lived a kid named Ben, who was a major nerd, but who also was just my age, so we played together a lot. One day while we were playing with all of our X-Men stuff between our houses, we got into a fight about something. I don't remember what about, but we both went home angry, leaving our stuff outside. Later that day, I went to get my stuff and found everything just right except for my Cyclops card which was crushed and balled up. I was pretty mad, but I was also amazed to find out what a passive-aggressive guy he was. I never said anything about it to Ben. I just tried not to tick him off and then leave my stuff lying where he had access to it.

For Christmas one year, I got these awesome 10 inch Cyclops and Wolverine action figures.
By the way I thought this costume was even cooler than the previous one.

My grandmother gave me Cyclops and my great-grandmother gave me Wolverine (actually, I'm certain they both just gave my parents money with which to get me something, but, you know, thought-that-counts). A short time later, my great-grandmother died. One day while playing base with my brothers, during an intense battle scene, my older brother lifted the Wolverine figure high above his head and body slammed him onto the carpet of my bedroom. Astoundingly, he broke all apart. The two pieces of his torso separated and Wolverine's limbs and head flew all about the room. I was supposed to be past the age where you cry about broken toys, but the sting of Grandmother Stevens' death was still fresh and that was the last gift she had given me. My brother felt bad but I wasn't upset with him. Anyway, we glued Wolverine back together with some of my mom's nail glue. It never really held too well. He was always fragile after that.

Why can't toys look this cool when they break?

Another X-Men character that became one of my favorites was a bit more obscure. Havok was Cyclops' brother. I had the action figure and thought it was really fun because he had projectiles that came from his hands. Under Havok's cool jacket, his suit looked like a hand-me-down of one of Cyclops' old uniforms. So true to life. I thought it was fun to have two action figures that were brothers. But I'm crazy. Anyway...

Havok X-Men figure before he was ruined.

One day I found a big black Magic Marker lying around. Unfortunately, at the same time, I was playing with Havok. Some stupid, youthful, wild hare possessed me to pull of the cap and color his blue suit black. It didn't turn out too well. You see, Magic Marker tends to have an oily purple sheen to it, and it was all streaky looking. Not only that, but it smeared all over his hair and face and everything else that wasn't originally blackish purple. It was embarrassing. I thought he looked ridiculous and I was mad at myself for taking that marker to him. I tried and tried to wash it off, but, dude, come on. It was MAGIC Marker.

So there you have it. My worst memories of losing or ruining toys. What would be on your list?