My love for Star Wars notwithstanding, I am not a science fiction fan. I don’t read comic books (ahem, graphic novels). I don’t generally like super hero movies. I think the glut of comic book movies is crowding out the diversity of big screen stories you might have seen only a decade ago.
Therefore, I am most assuredly not the target audience for a comic book convention. Yet, I found myself at TerrifiCon recently, covering it for our bother site, TwoCentsTV.com. It is clear that a convention combines a certain kind of obsessive fandom with a nostalgia for one’s youth. I am certainly susceptible to nostalgia.
I was a G.I. Joe and Transformers kid. From something like 1984 to 1987, I was glued to the television set from 3 to 4, reveling in the sheer cartoony violence. I can still remember the stories over 30 years later.
Cobra carving up the moon with a big laser that was powered with volcanic rock, diamonds, and a fancy kind of water (that probably not what it was, but please don’t tell me any different).
The Autobots and Decepticons’ constant search for energon cubes across a rocky desert landscape that had to have been Nevada. I always wondered why President Reagan didn’t know the Transformers were out there conducting a full blown war. And, at least in the case of G.I. Joe, a lesson at the end of every episode. I could float away until it was time to go outside and play football on the street.
Those shows might have been the most ingenious bits of toy advertising this side of Mickey Mouse and Lord knows I was completely susceptible to its charms. I had the toys everywhere.
I had the GI Joe headquarters permanently set up on a picnic table in the wood paneled basement family room. Constant carnage ensued. It was just great.
Cobra never captured GI Joe headquarters, partially because they were always caught between the murderous crossfires from the big cannon on the front of the base and the machine gun on the back on the jeep and because I never had enough Cobra figures to have it make sense. My parents wouldn’t buy me multiple Cobra Officers and Cobra Troopers, so the vast legions on the television show firing shots that never hit anyone were represented by two measly guys. It was just never any contest at all. Especially when Gung Ho and Duke and Shipwrecked and Doc got involved. The Baroness tended to be the only bad guy to survive the battle – she was totally a babe.
Transformers didn’t have permanent standing in my toy menagerie. They had to be checked out of the toy room. Let’s say I wanted to bring out my Family Feud board game, they had to go back in. One in, one out. But when they came out, it was just paradise. It was a race to see how fast I could learn to transform them from the vehicular form into a robot – Megatron was the most difficult because a German Luger didn’t readily or easily shape into a robot the way a car did. (A silver German Luger – what was Hasbro thinking when they put that out?)
My Transformers collection was less complete – no Bumblebee, the little yellow Autobot Volkswagen. No Star Scream, so I had to focus all of my evil cowardly energy on Cobra Commander (same voice). And no Soundwave – a boom box were a metallic distorted voice that spit out cassette tapes of mayhem (“Lazerbeak, eject. Operation: ANNIHILATION!”) To this day I go on eBay to see if I can find one for my desk at work.
Three decades later, its amazing how I still summon what the toys felt like, how they moved, what everyone’s name was. When I walk through a comic book convention surrounded by people dressed as characters I don’t know, watching stuff I’ve never seen, I am really looking for my own thing, my own little piece of the past.
I found them. A couple of patches. A GI Joe logo and an Autobot insignia.
I spent my allowance on them. $20. Best money I’ve spent since 1986.