Sunday, February 6, 2011
Spotlight on retro toys: WWF LJN & M.U.S.C.L.E!
Hey guys, Manga4life here to bring you another exciting blog as “Retro Month” continues here at The Thought Corner, today we will be taking a look at some of the great (and weird) wrestling based toys that the 80’s had to offer. Well, more specifically we will be taking a look at two specific toy lines that dominated much of the 80’s for me, these particular toy lines were some of my favorite while growing up and it’s my pleasure to write an article covering the classic WWF LJN action figure line and the M.U.S.C.L.E (Millions of Unusual Creatures Lurking Everywhere) series of mini galactic wrestling toys.
If you grew up in the 80’s then you have a clear idea of what toys I am talking about here, these two toy lines rank among the most popular of the 80’s alongside the He-Man, TMNT, Thundercats, Transformers, GI Joe, and Ghostbusters action figures and their legacy still lives on today due to collectors all over the world still showing interest in collecting and completing these sets. First off, I think I’ll cover the WWF line of action figures since they have such a high demand with today's hardcore vintage toy collectors and because I used to love these things so damn much, as do most fans who grew up with the WWF back in the 80’s. It’s funny, there isn’t really much “action’ to be had with these figures due to the fact that they were 8 inch rubber sculpts designed with one pose in mind and hardly any movement unless you pulled really hard, doing this could cause the figure to bend and become stretched which usually rendered the toy useless in the end. The LJN line of WWF toys were really a strange beast in the fact that the figures themselves were very large and weight close to a pound each, they had no movement and came with limited accessories, basically LJN placed a huge rubber action figure on a backing card that looked like a wrestling ring and packaged them with a mini-poster and kids all over the country ate them up in droves. I guess LJN and Vince McMahon knew what they were doing back in 1985 when the line first debuted, sales were strong and the first series was officially a hit which led to the toy makers releasing a new series of characters every few months or so, before you knew it almost every major wrestler in the WWF roster was available on store shelves and Vinny Mac was realizing his dream of making the World Wrestling Federation a world-wide phenomenon. Soon after the standard line of figures became a hit LJN would release other toys based on WWF wrestlers at the time too, they began selling mini versions of the 8 inch figures that featured bendable wires inside the sculpts so you could pose them and stretch the superstars into wrestling holds, soon after that they released a line of thumb wrestlers as well as a home video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System, other novelties would follow.
WWF merchandise was running wild and a lot of it was based off of the success of the original 8 inch rubber toy line and how well they were received by the consumer, but as the 80’s moved along the relationship between JLN and the WWF was coming to an end and Vince would soon sign a deal with Hasbro in 1990 to launch a new set of action figures and other merchandise. The last series of 8 inch WWF LJN toys were released in mid 1989 and to this day remain the rarest and most valuable that the company has produced. They were released in Canada first and featured some of the newer stars the WWF had acquired over the most recent year (1988-1989), soon after they were released in Canada LJN released them in limited quantity in the United States with no fanfare behind the launch and only those who were looking for them were able to hunt them down, these days the figures in the last wave of toys can go for upwards to $500 per figure if the packaging is still in good condition. Personally, I would probably rank these toys as some of my favorite that I had back in the 80’s as a child, my memories of going to the store and picking out a new wrestler was certainly a highlight of my younger years and I’ll always remember playing with these big rubberized grapplers fondly.
Now it’s time to fondly remember a very unique line of toys that graced us with it‘s presence some 25 years ago, these tiny little pink/flesh colored action figures could be found in mass quantity almost everywhere you went during the 1980’s and if you still live in the same place as you did in your childhood you probably are still finding them stuck in vents and small crevices throughout your household. That’s right ladies and gentlemen, I’m talking about M.U.S.C.L.E, the toy line that fused intergalactic wrestling with creatures from outer space!
One very unique thing about this line of toys is the way that they were packaged in retail, you could purchase a 4 pack of assorted M.U.S.C.L.E men, a 10 pack “trashcan”, a 28 pack box, a mini arena playset, or a championship belt which turned into a wrestling ring and storage center. Soon after the success of M.U.S.C.L.E in the United States they decided to re-released these guys in multiple colors, some were evn exclusive to the wrestling ring playset, but it was just another way to get kids interested in the product and it worked like a charm. Kids everywhere had M.U.S.C.L.E figures and there were so many available that there was always a reason to check the racks to see if you can spot someone who you haven’t gotten yet, it was always tough to complete the collection because they always came in multi-packs and the selection was assorted so you couldn’t just go out and purchase a single M.U.S.C.L.E man for lets say, $.99 or so. Still, everywhere you went there was a display of these little wonders and the sales of the toys were so strong that it led to a video game for the Nintendo Entertainment System as well as a board game, not to long after these hit store shelves other merchandise was spotted bearing the brand’s image and for 3 or 4 years the M.U.S.C.L.E line was a huge success in the United States. The idea for this brand was originally born in Japan through a series of manga called Kinnikuman, after the manga became a success a line of toys called Kinkeshi was released and soon the popularity traveled from Japan to America, what’s even more impressive is that some 13+ years later a cartoon called Ultimate Muscle was released and dubbed to air on a Saturday morning cartoon block by 4Kids. Now that’s longevity! Over the years quite a few of the figures within the line have become quite rare, one or two even fetching over $25 a piece on eBay, but usually you can complete an entire set (236) of these classic figures for about $50-$60 through online auctions, there are lots of collectors still out there and vintage toy collections have a big market so there will always be M.U.S.C.L.E’s floating around online and throughout flea markets throughout the United States.
Well guys, that's all I've got for you today, please continue to follow The Thought Corner throughout the month of Februrary for more exciting articles and other goodies pertaining to classic material from the 80's! As always, reach for the stars and enjoy the ride guys!
As always I want to thank those who took the time to read my blog, it's much appreciated and you can always check me out at www.twitter.com/manga4life as well as TZ and FUNI.
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