Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Mattel Shogun Warriors Logo 


1978 - 1980


The Shogun Warriors, like The Micronauts before them, and the Transformers after them, was a toy line that consisted entirely of Japanese toys and characters repackaged for the US market.

Originally manufactured by a toy company named Popy (which was an off-shoot of BanDai and more than deserves its own write-up as a legendary company and toy maker), the "Shogun Warriors", as they were renamed by the licensing company Mattel, were launched in the US in 1978. 

Mattel Shogun Warriors Great Mazinga / Popy Mazinger Z
 Original Popy Mazinger and Great Mazinger figures.

It's hard to even know where to begin with the history of this line as it consists of so many popular Japanese characters and so many varied forms and sizes of figures and vehicles.

As children in the US had no idea who these characters were, Mattel simply put them all in the same "universe" and labeled the line "Shogun Warriors" (awesome name, by the way!) But, the truth is that most of these characters did not actually cross over with one another and each had their own cartoon and comic books in Japan.

Each character was a giant robot in their respective cartoons with a human driver(s) to control them. Some were just a single robot while others were formed from a combining of several vehicles to form the robot itself.

 The Shogun Warriors line consisted of a few different types of figures. The most popular were the 24" vinyl figures that featured shooting fists, missiles and wheels on their feet.

Mattel Shogun Warriors Great Mazinga - Dragun - Diamos - Raydeen  - Giaking
 From L to R: Great Mazinga, Dragun, Diamos, Raydeen and Gaiking.

In Japan, these are called "Jumbo Machinders", and there were well over a dozen characters produced for the Japanese market. For the US and Mattel's line, we received seven figures: Great Mazinga, Raydeen, Gaiking, Diamos, Dragun, Godzilla and Rodan.

Mattel Shogun Warriors Catalogue
 From Mattel's toy catalog.

These figures were like a kid's dream! They were simply massive-- and they were full of cool action features!
Sadly, a few changes were made to some of the figures for the US market as we received "dumbed down" versions of the figures to keep things within budget for Mattel to produce. (So, in essence, these were not direct imports. Since Mattel even went so far as to change the molds on some of the figures, it would seem that they licensed the molds and then produced the figures from them themselves.) Mazinga did not include his "scander" jet pack, Raydeen was missing his bow hand, and a second run of figures removed even more features-- such as Mazinga's awesome chest-piece being changed from a plastic "V" to a simple sticker! (Awful!)

Mattel Shogun Warriors Great Mazing - Second Release
Second release Great Mazinga.

But the 24" figures were not the only ones to be changed. There was also an awesome 5" die-cast line that were made from the original, popular and classic Popy molds! (These figures were what Popy was known for in Japan. There, the figures were called "Chogokins" after the fictional metal that Great Mazinga was made of in the cartoons.) These figures also featured shooting fists and missiles (and Mazinga got his "scrander" in this version!) The first issue of these figures featured the articulation of the original's, such as Mazinga's knees and Posiden's ability to turn his legs into tracks. But, once again, in the second releases, Mattel took away some features in order to keep costs low by reducing the articulation and sticker detailing.

Mattel Shogun Warriors 5" Figures - Series 1
 Series 1 of the 5" die-cast line.

The first line consisted of Great Mazinga and a trio of robots that actually were from the same cartoon: Dragun, Posiden and Raider. (These robots, in the cartoon, consisted of three different piloted ships that could combine three different ways, each combination creating one the the three aforementioned robots.) The second series was labeled "Two-in-Ones" as they could "transform" in some way into a different form. (Mostly by either laying them on their backs or by moving a flap or two into a different position.) These robots consisted of the ones that, in their original cartoons, were created from combining vehicles; except for Raydeen who actually transformed in the cartoon to a bird-like vehicle. He is considered the first "transformer" and the first ever transforming toy (as he appeared in the original Popy line.)

Mattel Shogun Warriors 5" Figures - Series 2
 Series 2 of the 5" die-cast line.

The smallest figures in the line were 3" and featured the most characters, consisting of 10 different figures. These were small and poseable, but didn't have any of the action features of their larger counter-parts. They were also made of mostly plastic, unlike the heavy die-cast figures in the 5" line.

Mattel Shogun Warriors 3" Figures
The 3" figure collection from the Shogun Warriors line.

There was also a healthy line of different vehicles-- most of which were the ones that combined to create the different giant robots in their respective cartoons (although they didn't actually have this feature as toys-- at least not in this line.) 

Mattel Shogun Warriors Vehicles
 A selection of the vehicle assortment from the Shogun Warriors line.

Aside from the Diamos truck, which was the transformed version of the robot itself, most were not named in a ways as to be associated with one another or their robot counter-parts from the cartoon.
On of the most popular vehicles at the time (although not the rarest these days) was the "Solar Saucer" which featured a launching 3" robot (Grendizer). Grendizer was another hugely popular cartoon character in Japan.  The European market, however, received the larger version of this toy with the fully-poseable, die-cast 5" Grenadizer from the original Popy line. This toy is highly sought after by US Shogun collectors and carries a hefty price tag in good condition.

Mattel Shogun Warriors 5" Grendizer w/Saucer - Goldrake
The Europe-only release of the Grendizer Saucer "Goldrake".

Finally, there was the holy grail of the Shogun line: the Shogun Combatra Deluxe Set. This was a set of five vehicles that combined to make the robot known as Combatra. The vehicles were die-cast and, once assembled, created a robot that was over 12" tall! Due to the fact that is was an amazing design full of die-cast, and that they vehicles actually combined to make the robot, as well as the fact that is was only produced for a very short time, it has become the most popular piece in the line. To find one at all is a feat in itself-- but to find one in collector condition and complete is almost impossible!

Mattel Shogun Warriors Combatra Deluxe Set
Shogun Combatra Deluxe Set.

Again, like most toys lines of the time, Shogun Warriors only lasted a few years, but it is still beloved by toy collectors worldwide for its obvious nostalgia, amazing designs and awesome action features. If you grew up in the 70's, there's no doubt that you owned at least one of these figures in one form or another!

 Shogun Warriors "jumbos" commercial.

All photos are copyright their respective owners.

Monday, July 30, 2012


Mattel Major Matt Mason Logo



1967 - 1970  


So who is Major Matt Mason? He is an astronaut, an explorer, and a pioneer toy brand.
In 1969 the world sat captivated as Neil Armstrong took the first steps on the moon and uttered that famous phrase, "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." And so it was that children all over America, in their own minds and adventures, took those steps with him.

In the years leading up to this historic event, the world watched as America entered the "space race" with their NASA program.

From these events, many boys toys were born, but perhaps the most memorable of them was Mattel's Major Matt Mason.

Mattel Major Matt Mason Carded Figures
 The hero of the series, Mason himself, was available in many different variations.

Before MMM, most boys "action toys [figures]" were in the 12" range, but this limited the ability to create a large line of affordable vehicles and playsets. What Mattel decided to do was shrink down the figure size to allow for a greater world for these characters to live in, and thus for boys to play with (and parents to buy).
As for the figures themselves-- which consisted of Mason and his astronaut pals: Sgt. Storm, Doug Davis and Jeff Long-- they were produced without joints (other than a swivel head) and instead were made as "bendy" figures: rubber figures wrapped over a bendable wire armature. While this was a unique and interesting design, it didn't lend itself to the longevity of the figures.

Mattel Major Matt Mason Space Mission Team Boxed Set
Mason and his allies in the Space Mission Teams Set

The wires often broke under heavy use, leaving the figures floppy rubber "corpses", and the paint on the rubber easily flaked off and/or stained from boys playing with them roughly or outdoors.
Because of this, not many figures from this line are found in "collector condition".

As inventive as the figures were, it was the playsets and vehicles that really made this line shine for most kids. Unlike today's toys-- which are based mostly on good guys vs. bad guys--, these were made under the concepts that NASA was trying to accomplish: exploration of the unknown and the advancement of all mankind. There was a true sense of wonder that this line evoked in most boys as they were able to play out their own adventures just as they watched man take his first steps on the moon.

Mattel Major Matt Mason Catalogue
 Some of the wonderful vehicles and playsets from the world of Major Matt Mason.

Also, many of the playsets and accessories for this line were based on early NASA concepts and prototypes which only added to the realism of what Mattel was trying to accomplish.

NASA Moon Landing Prototype Suits
 NASA's prototype suits that served as inspiration for the Major Matt Mason line.

Later in the line, Mason was joined by new allies, including some "alien" buddies, namely Callisto, Scorpio and the over-sized Captain Laser, who honestly didn't seem to fit into this line at all.
Sadly, Major Matt Mason, with all his amazing playsets and vehicles and astronaut and alien pals, didn't last very long; only about two and a half years. It seems that as boys imaginations moved beyond the "space race", Mattel's MMM line came to an end as well.

Mattel Major Matt Mason Alien Allies - Casllisto - Captain Laser - Scorpio
Mason's alien allies.

For many children who grew up with these toys, Mason lives on as a benchmark toy in their childhood, capturing not only their interest, but the spirit of an era in American history as well.

As it stands now, MMM is one of the few popular toys lines that has never seen a resurgence, but that might be changing soon. Rumors persist that Mattel is gauging interest in the line for a possible come-back, and a major motion picture is in development with Tom Hanks and the producer and star. So, for those with fond memories of this line-- or collectors like me, who are just fascinated their design and place in toy history-- keep your fingers crossed that we all might see Major Matt Mason in the toy isles once again!

Classic commercial! They just don't make them like this anymore!

All photos are copyright their respective owners.  

UPDATE: 8/23/12

Mattel Major Matt Mason Boxed Sets from SDCC 2012 Comic-Con Display

Mattel Major Matt Mason Boxed Sets from SDCC 2012 Comic-Con Display

Mattel Major Matt Mason Boxed Sets from SDCC 2012 Comic-Con Display

Mattel Major Matt Mason Boxed Sets from SDCC 2012 Comic-Con Display

Mattel Major Matt Mason Boxed Sets from SDCC 2012 Comic-Con Display

Mattel Major Matt Mason Boxed Sets from SDCC 2012 Comic-Con Display

Mattel Major Matt Mason Boxed Sets from SDCC 2012 Comic-Con Display


Monday, July 23, 2012


I've been such a hard-core toy collector and historian (if such a thing exists) for so long that I decided to have a little fun with my obsession and create a blog dedicated to all the wonderful toys and collectibles from the last five decades!

Granted, my knowledge about each specific brand and license is often spotty at best, but if I can at least help pass along some of my appreciation and enthusiasm for the history of toys (most specifically boys action figure lines)-- especially to newer collectors who may not know the origins of some of their favorite lines and characters-- then I feel I've at least done something right.

If you have any more insight or knowledge of the lines I'll be discussing here (and especially if you have any more pictures, including personal ones!) then I invite you to post in the comment section of that post.

I hope you all enjoy your time here and that I can infect some of you with the toys collecting bug! (Although if you're here, you've probably already got it!)