Two-Fisted Toy Talk!

These Toys Aren't Going to Photograph Themselves…

Bygone Icons

For a toy photographer, inspiration takes many forms. Unlikely, indirect muses I can cite include the following:

Jonny Quest

I have never been a regular Jonny Quest viewer. I’m certain I haven’t seen every episode of the original series, and I doubt I’ve seen as much as half of them, and whenever I do watch an episode (once every few years, at best), I find that my attention quickly wavers. Jonny’s pup Bandit boasts all the charm and quiet dignity of Snarf from the original ThunderCats series, and many of the villains are about as subtle as the assassins from the late-’60s Captain America cartoon, who fire their pistols at American scientists while uttering the most hilarious evil battle cry ever: “Down with democracy! Down with freedom!”
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Image appears courtesy of Pulp 2.0

But in small doses, Jonny Quest is like a shotgun blast of charming pulp inspiration. I prefer watching just a clip on occasion rather than a complete episode, but two of the most satisfying hours I’ve known this year were spent watching Chris Webber’s incredibly thorough and simultaneously loving and evenhanded documentary about the Jonny Quest series. It is available in several ten-minute chunks on YouTube, and in one massive file at Webber’s blog.

Among the many fascinating things I learned from Webber’s documentary is that Jonny Quest was most likely inspired by a series of “Science-Adventure” or “Electronic Adventure” novels starring a young sleuth and adventurer named…

Rick Brant

You can get a dozen or so novels starring Rick Brant for your Kindle for just a couple bucks. With my burgeoning love of all things old school pulp, I did not hesitate. I have only read Smugglers’ Reef so far, but I’ll dip into the rest of them as soon as I finish reading Isabel Allende’s Zorro, about which, as I’ve already promised (warned?), much, much more soon.

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Image credit: Barnes & Nobles

My hasty Smugglers’ Reef review at Hiss Tank says it all: “Characters say things like ‘gosh!’ and they’re all essentially indistinguishable from one another and it’s all very corny and innocent and dated, and I am enjoying it immensely.”

Most of the cover artwork from the series suggests that Rick Brant is blond, but I’ve nonetheless decided that the guy in this next photo is a grownup Rick Brant:
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‘Cause why not?

Another indirect inspiration, which I’ve briefly addressed before:

The Titles Of Vintage G.I. Joe Adventure Team Sets
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Image Credit: Hydra5 at Flickr

Dig it: “Search For The Stolen Idol”. That’s every story starring Indiana Jones or Allan Quatermain, all wrapped up in five simple words. There’s also “Recovery of the Lost Mummy” and “Search For The Sasquatch”, among others. So fun!

I also want to address an Honorable Mention in the form of a property that I suspect could have inspired my hobby, if I’d ever had the opportunity to see it:
The Secret Saturdays
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For all I know it’s a terrible show, but all the promotional artwork just screams “Vintage Hanna-Barbera Adventure”, so I suspect I’ll be a fan if I ever manage to watch an episode. I did see the toys during a visit to the States a year or two back, and they have a pleasant simplicity similar to that of the Batman Brave And The Bold toys. Unfortunately, they also share the lackluster articulation of those Batman figures.
The pattern is clear: I derive an inordinate amount of pleasure from mostly forgotten relics from the less reputable corners of popular culture. It’s not even false nostalgia, really; I don’t feel that life was better in the 1960s, and Jonny Quest aside, TV animation sure as hell wasn’t better in the 1960s (or ’70s or ’80s or ’90s) than it is today. The innocence of these bygone icons just appeals to me, this despite the skepticism and open hostility with which I regard anyone who suggests that innocence is a necessary component of a healthy and rewarding pop culture. Maybe it’s not innocence I see in these properties after all, but instead an endearing sort of naïveté.

I’ll close with a photo that has nothing much to do with the topic of this post:
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