Instant Nostalgia: Go Figure

Iconic moments of action figure bliss
October 14, 2009
Well I'm back, at least for long enough to say I haven't run completely out of article ideas. I've actually been working on a personal project in the form of film over the last few months, you can check my profile out for more details (if you care). But we're here to stir the memory pot so let's get going!

There are certain iconic images of the past frozen into my psyche that many of your articles unlock as I read them. It might be toys, video games, cartoons, but whatever the medium the very mention of these items results in a little something I like to call: Instant Nostalgia. So I thought I would share a couple of my personal "Insta-Nos" inducing bits of retro-goodness with you all. As it turns out, all of these memories revolve around action figures, go figure (pun intended).

One of the defining products of my childhood was a fast food tie-in to one of my favorite toy lines and TV shows of the time: Super Powers. I missed out on the official run of Super-Friends (though I often caught the re-runs). In my Saturday morning heyday "Super Powers: Galactic Guardians" was the official vehicle of DC Comics animated adventures. So when Burger King offered the amazing Super Powers cups below, I was adamant amount about owning at least one of them and it's easy to see why.

Just look at that plastic magic! Fully sculpted figures of Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Darkseid acting as humanoid handles while they held your cup in place for you! These things were just a little smaller than the actual Super Powers action figures and had no articulation, but the sculpts were so detailed you didn't care. We were strictly a McDonald's family, but with my desire for these cups burning hot like the red sun of Krypton I'm surprised I didn't just steal the car keys and drive myself Burger King.

Actually what did end up happening is that I hung around my classmate Erik's house until dinner time one day after school. You see Erik had revealed to me during recess that his Mom was taking him to get the cups from BK that night and I thought I might be invited to tag along if I was in the vicinity. Was the plan successful? You bet! The only problem is, I got the Wonder Woman cup.

That's right. Erik got big, bad, Darkseid and I ended up with the delightfully dainty Amazon Princess. To be honest it wasn't a huge disappointment, but I would have much preferred Supes or the B-Man. Wonder Woman was like the vanilla in the neopolitan ice cream of the Super Powers trinity, eventually you would get to her, but nobody got her by choice. I eventually did score a Superman from the set at a garage sale some time later, but he was sans cup and the hysteria had passed. Still whenever I see my BK Superman/Wonder Woman set, looking like giant super wedding cake toppers I relive the excitement and anticipation of that moment in time.

Continuing on with the food related tie-ins, there is an occurrence from my youth that I don't think can ever be duplicated that seared itself into my brain based purely on the absurdity of it all. Going to the supermarket as a kid was a much anticipated event for me. It wasn't just the fact that I might be able to obtain a "free sample" Gummy Worm from the long-forgotten candy buckets, no, it was something more.

TOYS! It seemed like every aisle was secretly packed with impulse buy toys that no child could resist at least asking for. Maybe it was official Garbage Pail Kids sticky hands in assorted colors or those rock balls that could be smashed together to create a cap gun like crackle and pop.

Either way, they were desperately trying to squeeze an extra $2.50 out of our parent's wallets/purses anyway they could. Nothing however could have prepared me for the awesome sight I beheld while walking down the cereal aisle one day. Hanging on a peg between the Ghostbusters and Mr. T cereal was an action figure of such wacky ninja action and power that I could not turn my eyes away even for a moment.

One figure name is worth a thousand words: The Chuck Norris Karate Kommandos (Kung-Fu Training GI) action figure. Need I say more? I don't, but I will. It was hard to comprehend how a toy that obviously belonged in the hallowed halls of Toys R Us ended up in the cereal aisle of Alpha-Beta. I had seen the cartoon once or twice, but it never struck me as worthy of an action figure series, so seeing that molded plastic hero so out of his element led me to believe that I must have dreamt it. Seemingly in slow-motion my Mom pushed me by the display as I, securely seated in the shopping cart, did not even dare to dangle my legs in fear of accidentally challenging the mustachioed martial arts master. So in awe of its existence was I that I didn't even ask her to buy it for me, instead I reverently savored the moment and treasured it always.

To cap off this installment, worthy of discussion are three Mego action figures that I can only assume I inherited from my older brother when I was around 4 years old and lost by the time I was 7. I must assume, because my brother has never claimed to be the previous owner and I don't think Mego figures were still in production by 1986, so I couldn't have requested them on my own. The first two figures were pretty standard Spider-Man and the Incredible Hulk figures, the third I will leave as a mystery for now.

Of the Incredible Hulk figure I remember that his joints were very loose, so if you shook him his limbs would just flail around uncontrollably. Despite this torturous treatment the Hulk always managed to keep his purple pants on, which is more than I can say for Peter Parker's alter-ego. My Spider-Man figure went through two distinct stages during the brief three years that I owned him.

The first was fully clothed in his classic cloth uniform and the second was buck very naked. Who knows where the costume ended up, the tiny metal snaps the kept the costume secure were so fun to play with I'm pretty sure I wore them out allowing the costume to fall off into oblivion. Seeing Spider-Man in all his nude plastic glory was very odd to me as a child, especially since his mask design was molded to his head and his hands were permanently red (rhyme along with me!). But no matter how disturbing the naked-time Spider-Man looked, it was nothing compared to his Mego compadre, Officer Ponch!

Yep, I owned a Ponch from C.H.i.P.S action figure. Now this I know my brother didn't give to me, since I was huge C.H.i.P.S fan as a young child (I even had the official ride-on motorcycle). This must have been sitting on the shelves at K-Mart for years until I happened by one day and begged my Mom to buy me my own Ponch. "I want that Ponch!" I must've exclaimed.

They were an odd trio Ponch, Hulk and Nudie Spider-Man, but I sent them on all sorts of adventures climbing on boxes in my garage anyway. But then they disappeared, never to be found again amongst my discarded toys of yesteryear. In my mind I imagine that Hulk eventually gave in to peer pressure and dropped his purple pants to join Spidey's nudist colony, causing Ponch to arrest them both for public indecency. Ponch hauled them off to the slammer, but then a oil tanker overturned on the 405 Freeway bursting into flames and speeling doom for our three Mego Maniacs.

Sweet Hulk, may your joints find peace in the afterlife. Naked Spider-Man, enjoy your eternal reward: Pants. And Officer Ponch, keep on keeping on. The highway to heaven will be safer with you on duty in the Celestial Highway Patrol.

Oh and in case you're wondering, I never experimented with "Naked Ponch". Some things are just not meant to be seen...sickos.
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