Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Atom Buster (Webb Electric Co. / 1950s / U.S.A. / 6.5 inches x 11 inches)

Big, bad, and bold: It's the Atom Buster!

This is definitely a fun toy. All barrel-shaped and covered in fins, it evokes the classic 1950s fear of atomic annihilation. Like I said, a fun toy!

The Atom Buster fires a blast of air at a tissue-paper target printed with an image of a mushroom cloud. Which begs the questions: Is it firing an atomic blast and the cloud is supposed to be the result? Is it firing a blast of air at the mushroom cloud, presumably to "bust" it, as the name suggests? But then why is it shaped like a bomb itself? And why does a gun need bomb-like fins? And why did a company called Webb Electric make a toy that's not electrical?

Frankly, we may never know. Some mysteries of the universe are never meant to be solved.

The gun was originally available in yellow, green, and red, with yellow being by far the most common. Red and green are about tied for scarcity -- I've seen a couple of each over the years. The boxes are all identical, and feature the yellow gun. However, there are three dots -- yellow, green, and red -- on the face. A circle around the dot denotes which gun goes with the box. It kind of makes you wonder if Webb Electric Co. knew that collectors, 50 years later, would want to know if they had the correct gun-box combination...

I once owned a yellow, boxed example of the Atom Buster -- it was one of the first few ray guns I bought. It wasn't a perfect piece, though. The bottom fin was missing, something neither I nor the seller realized during the auction (because the break was so clean, and I'd never seen a mint example before). So I was always looking for an upgrade...

One day, a dead-mint, boxed green example popped up on eBay. It was complete with the tissue paper target, too, and I wanted it bad. It was a buy-it-now sale only, and the price was just too high for me at the time. I let it go and figured that was that. It didn't sell, though, and a week later it appeared again -- with the price cut by a third! I stared at it longingly, but again, I had to let it go. Still, it remained unsold and a week later it appeared again, this time at half the price. Finally affordable!

Except that I'd just spent a lot of money on something else and was flat broke.

This time, the gun sold -- of course! Thus is the life of a ray gun collector.

It all worked out in the end though when I snagged this mint-in-box red one a couple years later. I like the red better, anyway, so there!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Yikes! Long Time, No Post...

Just got back from a few days away and I really need to post something. I know, I know, I'm a bad, bad blogger. I've a couple pieces in the pipe, I'll start getting them up by tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Moment of Activism

I like to avoid politics on this blog. Unless a robot is running for office or someone's attempting to infringe upon my right to bear ray guns, I consider politics to be off topic. We can get enough of that stuff from other sources, anyway. So I apologize in advance for this post, but it's something that I feel is important. Plus, it's a tri-partisan issue (yep, tri-), so hopefully no one will feel like I'm attacking their party directly.

It's come to my attention that three senators -- Joseph Lieberman (I-CT), Susan Collins (R-ME), and Tom Carper (D-DE) -- have drafted a bill that will provide to the government what is essentially unlimited authority to shut down web sites and web providers. There's a lot to the bill, so I'll simply post a link to a site that seems to have a pretty good grasp of the story. It also heavily quotes Lieberman, so you're definitely getting it straight from the horse's mouth.

I hope I don't need to explain why this is bad news, and I hope that people understand that this is absolutely an issue of free speech and that this bill flies in the face of our constitutionally protected rights. Read up, and if you're so inclined, please find a way to let your own senators and representatives in the house know that you do not support this bill.

By the way, I won't be posting comments for this one. In an effort to avoid any crazy political arguments, discussions, rants, or accidental offense to anyone, I think I'll just limit it to the original post. This is purely informational. I hope everyone understands.

Now I'll step off my soapbox. Tomorrow: More toys!

...I wonder if I'll have any readers left...

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Original Science Fiction Artwork, Pt. 3

And now, the last of the three part series on the Attic's collection of original science fiction art. For those who are finding this via direct link, or who are just too darn lazy to scroll down, here are links to part one and part two.

1. "Far Horizon," by Morris Scott Dollens. 19" x 15". Ca. 1952. Casein on board.

Morris Scott Dollens was another of science fiction's most famous fan artists. He specialized in astronomical and interstellar landscapes, and produced hundreds such works over a more than 40 year career. He also experimented regularly with different painting techniques and stylistic approaches, often combining photos of models with paintings and other elements to create early multi-media montages. He's credited with publishing one of the earliest fanzines, and his work regularly appeared in both his own publications, and those of other fans (such as Roy A. Squires).

In 1952, Dollens published -- with Squires -- Approaching Infinity, a small chapbook of artwork and what can best be described as science fiction prose poems. While at times kind of cheesy, it nonetheless displays some of Dollens' earliest, most visually complicated art, pieces that combine his love of different media with his grand sense of wonder.

I've enjoyed Dollens' art for a while, so when "Far Horizon" came up for auction, I knew I wanted it. I also kept thinking that it looked vaguely familiar, but I couldn't quite place it. It wasn't until after I won the auction that I thought to check my copy of Approaching Infinity, which I've had in my vintage book collection for a while. Imagine my glee when I discovered that there, on the "About the Artist" page, was a thumbnail reproduction -- about one by two inches -- of "Far Horizon." While it wasn't part of the Approaching Infinity narrative, I guess Dollens liked it enough to use it on the page representing himself. Very cool!

From the George H. Scithers collection. Scithers was a science fiction fan, author, and Hugo award winning editor of both Amazing Stories, Asimov's Science Fiction, and various anthologies and collections. He worked with a who's who of authors and artists, and had a massive impact on the worlds of science fiction and fantasy. Scithers passed away on April 9, 2010.

2. "Approaching The Nebula," by Donald Simpson. 10" x 7". Ca. early 1970s. Watercolor airbrush and ink on board.

Don Simpson was a well known science fiction and astronomical artist who presented at many of the science fiction conventions in the 1970s. His work was often commissioned by George H. Scithers.

"Approaching the Nebula" was used as part of the cover art for L. Sprague de Camp and Catherine Crook de Camp's A Science-Fiction Handbook, Revised, which Scithers published in 1975. According to the auction in which I purchased the painting, Simpson said that he used "a technique I did a lot of art with at that time, a mixture of spray paint and Prismacolor colored pencil. I didn't have an airbrush, so I bought cans of spray paint and used stencils (raised above the paper when I needed a soft edge) and various modulation techniques I figured out, such as delicate touches on the spray-can button, or a wire near the nozzle to make the stream turbulent for textural variation. The spaceship design was heavily influenced by the works of Tim Kirk." (Don Simpson, as told to Jane Frank)

Personally, I think the technique lends a lot of atmosphere to the painting, giving it a sense of loneliness that you'd expect if you were on a space ship zooming towards some far off nebula. Technique and theme coming together -- it makes for a perfect piece of art.

And that's all for the Attic's original art. Back to toys this week!


Much of the biographical information contained in this post comes from the be-all and end-all of books about science fiction and fantasy artists, Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists of the Twentieth Century: A Biographical Dictionary, by Jane Frank. It's an exhaustive study of the subject with hundreds of in-depth entries about pretty much everyone who's ever produced any sort of art within the genre. Highly recommended!

A nice review:

Copies are available at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

And if you're looking for science fiction artwork yourself, check out Jane Frank's online store, Worlds of Wonder ( She's been collecting and selling artwork for decades and really is one of the tops in the business.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Original Science Fiction Artwork, Pt. 2

Continuing with the previous post, here are four more pieces of original science fiction art. I'll be concluding this in part three, which I'll write once two final paintings show up in the mail. Ooooh, the anticipation! (Note: Part 3 is up!)

1. "World of Null-A," by Eddie Jones. 15" x 9". Ca. 1970. Gouache on board.

As I wrote here, England's Eddie Jones was a regular part of the science fiction art scene, and his work helped define how sf looked in the late Sixties and Seventies. His most famous series of paintings were for the covers of various Star Trek novels, many of which were written by author extraordinaire James Blish.

This painting was done for a European edition of A. E. Van Vogt's science fiction classic The World of Null-A. The art depicts the novel's hero standing in front of the giant, building sized computer that helps rule the world in the far future. All the detail, the bold colors, the moody atmosphere -- it's all part and parcel of what makes Jones' art so damn compelling.

2. "Unknown," by Jon D. Arfstrom. 3" x 3". Ca. 1940s or 1950s. Scratchboard.

Jon D. Arfstrom started as a fan artist in the Forties, contributing piles of illustrations to fanzines. Much of his work was published by legendary 'zine publisher, book dealer, and letterpress printer Roy A. Squires in his Fantasy Advertiser. By 1951, Arfstrom was contributing work professionally to various pulps, including Weird Tales and Other Worlds. He eventually grew beyond genre work, becoming a well known mid-western artist.

Though he's a formidable painter, Arfstrom remains one of my favorite black and white illustrators -- and I absolutely love this particular piece. The detail is astounding. Scratchboard is pretty unforgiving; the art is created by literally scratching away the black surface to reveal the white part of the board. If you screw up, the only way to fix the mistake is to cover it over with black paint -- but it never looks right.

I have no idea if it was ever published; I'm guessing yes, and I'm guessing it was in one of Roy Squires' fanzines. He was a prolific publisher, though, and I haven't had the opportunity to hunt down the artwork. One of these days I'll get around to it.

3. "Unknown," by Malcom H. Smith. 4.5" x 3". Ca. 1950. Gouache on board.

Malcom H. Smith began his professional career in 1940 with submissions to Amazing Stories, which was published by Ziff-Davis. He eventually joined their staff, working his way up to art director when they expanded their line of titles. Smith also contributed regularly to Other Worlds, Imagination, Fate, and other pulps. At one point, he completed hundreds of paintings for the nonfiction book Life On Other Worlds -- but sadly the project was shelved. (Apparently, at least one of the paintings made its way into a collection.) Smith went on to work as an artist for NASA at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama.

Now, there's a bit of a mystery surrounding this particular piece. First, there's no proof that Smith actually painted it. I've spoken to a number of experts who all agree that it certainly looks like something Smith might have done -- the aliens, in particular, appear in some of his covers. There's also agreement that despite some issues surrounding the proportions of the woman in the painting, the line work and color show the solid technique of someone who knew his way around a paint brush. So what gives?

This painting came from the collection of legendary science fiction fan Forrest J Ackerman, a man who had befriended pretty much everyone in the field and who had amassed over the years a stupendous, museum-sized collection of ephemera, movie props, books, and yes, artwork. With that in mind, the leading theory, proposed by many of the people I spoke to about this piece of art, is that perhaps Smith painted it as a quick sketch for Forry -- maybe as a gift. It'd certainly explain the roughness.

While I'm only about 90% convinced that this was done by Smith, I choose to accept it as fact. It's a nice idea, and it's about as close to owning a real Smith as I'm ever likely to get.

Regardless as to who did it, I think it's an awesome piece of art, a funky take on alien invasion scenarios and yet another opportunity to ask, "Why do aliens keep abducting naked earth women?"

4. "The Commuters," by Jack Gaughan. 4" x 6". Ca. 1961. Watercolor (I think) on paper.

Jack Gaughan was one of the premier science fiction artists in the 1960s. He began working in the field a decade earlier, contributing work to a variety of publications, but he really made a name for himself in the early Sixties as a cover artist for Ace paperbacks. He also contributed regularly to magazines such as Galaxy, where he served for a time as art director. Even as his professional career flourished -- he won numerous awards, including multiple Hugos (science fiction's highest honor) -- Gaughan never forgot his roots and continued to produce fan art for 'zines.

Me, I love Jack Gaughan's work. It's punchy, it's exciting, it's slightly abstract, it's full of energy and personality. It's also in high demand and generally costs more than I can afford to spend. This piece, though, is a preliminary sketch Gaughan did for a possible cover for Galaxy science fiction. It's not quite as "finished" as his final paintings, but it's still more detailed than many preliminaries by other artists.

It's a great, whimsical piece; as a New Yorker, how can I not love the idea of a subway car flying past the moon? Man, I want an office on the moon...

Stay tuned for part three, coming real soon!


Much of the biographical information contained in this post comes from the be-all and end-all of books about science fiction and fantasy artists, Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists of the Twentieth Century: A Biographical Dictionary, by Jane Frank. It's an exhaustive study of the subject with hundreds of in-depth entries about pretty much everyone who's ever produced any sort of art within the genre. Highly recommended!

A nice review:

Copies are available at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

And check out Jane Frank's online store, Worlds of Wonder ( She's been collecting and dealing science fiction art for decades and is tops in the field!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Original Science Fiction Artwork, Pt. 1

While the bulk of my collection is made up of robots and ray guns, the truth is, I see myself as a science fiction collector. And one of the areas in which science fiction truly shines is its artwork. Over the years, I've managed to build a small collection of original sf paintings and illustrations. Most have been published, most are vintage, and all are by artists who've made a name for themselves within the field. Of course, none of that matters if I don't like the art itself. Because I don't buy much, I only go after the pieces that really move me. This generally means subjects that somehow capture science fiction's sense of wonder, its grandeur, its limitless potential. But a weird, bug-eyed monster doesn't hurt, either!

(Note: Parts 2 and 3 can be found here and here, respectively.)

1. "City on the Lake," by Eddie Jones. 11" x 6.5". 1972s. Gouache on artist's board.

Eddie Jones was a prolific and popular British painter who initially made a name for himself as a fan artist. Eventually he powered his way into the professional world by painting hundreds of covers for paperbacks and magazines during the 1960s -- including the wonderful line of Star Trek covers for books written by the legendary James Blish. Bold and colorful, his technique helped define science fiction artwork throughout the Sixties and Seventies.

Rumor has it that this piece was used as the cover for a German science fiction book, but no one's been able to prove it to me. Nor do I have any idea when it was painted. However, stylistically, it looks like something straight off the cover of a Fifties paperback -- but given the timeframe in which Jones did most of his work, I'm betting it's mid Sixties or thereabouts.

Eureka! Thanks to a wonderful email from Rog Peyton, Jones' agent in the 1980s, I now know that this was used for the cover of Die Zeit Der Katzenpfoten (Age of the Pussyfoot) by Frederik Pohl. It was published by Fischer Orbit in September, 1972.

Thanks for the info, Rog!

I bought this painting at the 2006 Worldcon Art Auction in Anaheim, California. It was my first Worldcon, and taking home this painting at the end capped off one of the most fun weeks I've ever had. Among the highlights (if you'll pardon a small tangent) were meeting Ray Bradbury and having him sign my first paperback edition of Fahrenheit 451; seeing the screen-used "hero" blaster from the movie Blade Runner (a prop thought lost until my friend Karl Tate discovered it at the convention); sitting in on lectures full of science fiction luminaries; and meeting and becoming good buddies with author and science fiction wag Jeff Berkwitz. (Hi, Jeff!) Fun stuff!

2. "Untitled," by Richard Powers. 15" x 11". Ca. 1970. Pencils and collage on board.

Richard Powers is the king of abstract science fiction art. He exploded onto the scene in the early Fifties when Ian Ballantine hired him to paint book covers for his then-new company, Ballantine Books. In Powers' hands, science fiction leapt beyond the rockets and aliens and space heroes that dominated covers during the days of pulp magazines. Instead, he created cerebral, abstracted, otherworldly illustrations that hinted at some vast, unexplored world -- kind of like science fiction itself. I absolutely love his work.

This piece originally appeared in 1976 as the frontispiece illustration for the Gregg Press edition of the anthology Modern Science Fiction, edited by the great Norman Spinrad. Powers drew all the elements of the art and then, working with the book's art director, pasted them down in an arrangement that worked best. (Powers did a lot of collage work over the decades, so this was nothing new for him.) Unfortunately, the glue used to paste down the different elements wasn't archival quality and ended up bleeding through in a couple places (the small brown spots). Nonetheless, it's a great example of Powers' black and white work, with creepy, biomechanical robots floating near strange outposts and alien structures. Wild!

Note the signature, which includes the word "Laz/Org." The Lazarus Organization was a fictitious group started by Powers, and he would often include this as part of his signature.

3. "Water For Mars," by H.W. MCauley. 9.5" x 6". Ca. 1951. Ink and pencil on board.

Harold William McCauley started as an illustrator for the Ziff-Davis chain, working on pulp mags like Amazing and Fantastic Adventures. He was known for painting great pin-up girls for science fiction magazine covers, including Imagination and Imaginative Tales in the 1950s. (Va-va-va-voom!) This piece proves that he could also do moody black and white illustrations as well as the next guy.

"Water For Mars" was published in the January, 1951 issue of Other Worlds, and illustrated a story of the same name by the author Stanley Mullen. The spots of bright white are correction fluid (or paint). McCauley used it to fix up the art knowing that when it was reproduced in the magazine, it wouldn't show up. I love these little bits that show it was actually used as a production piece.

4. "Unknown," by William E. Terry. 7" x 7". Ca. 1950s. Ink on board.

William Terry was another illustrator over at Ziff-Davis, and by the 1950s he had become the art editor for Imagination and Imaginative Tales magazines.

This piece was probably published in Imagination, though I haven't had the opportunity to really hunt for it. I love the idea of a kid in a small town approaching the gleaming rocket -- you just know that something great is about to happen! This optimism towards the future is such a hallmark of the 1950s, and 1950s science fiction in particular. It makes me smile, even if I'm cynical enough to know that we're much farther from that ideal than a mere 50 years... Still, illustrations like this remind me to keep hoping.

5. "Plague of Pythons," by Ralph Brillhart. 13" x 9". Ca. 1965. Gouache on artist's board.

Ralph Brillhart painted a number of abstract and surrealist science fiction covers throughout the Sixties, mostly for Monarch, but also Ballantine, Belmont, and Pyramid. Personally, I really like how his work contains so many elements of what we now think of as mid-century futuristic design. It makes for a fun vision of the far future -- except when it's offering up a disturbing look at alien worlds.

This painting was the first original paperback cover I ever bought. It was done for the first paperback edition of the book Plague of Pythons, by the great Fred Pohl (Ballantine, 1965). Not Pohl's best work, I'll admit, but a fun read and a great cover!

Something neat worth mentioning: When I removed the painting from its frame to take this photo, I also took a peak under the matte and this is what I found.

I love how this provides a peek into the way Brillhart worked. Note the sketch of the alien along the top edge, and the way in which the artist uses it to test out his compositional ideas. Really neat stuff.

That's all for now. Stay tuned for parts two and three!


Much of the biographical information contained in this post comes from the be-all and end-all of books about science fiction and fantasy artists, Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists of the Twentieth Century: A Biographical Dictionary, by Jane Frank. It's an exhaustive study of the subject with hundreds of in-depth entries about pretty much everyone who's ever produced any sort of art within the genre. Highly recommended!

A nice review:

Copies are available at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

And check out Jane Frank's online store, Worlds of Wonder ( She's been collecting and dealing science fiction art for decades and is tops in the field!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Space Toys on eBay: A (Third) Round Up of Ended Auctions

As always, this is by no means an exhaustive survey of the space toys and robots available on eBay over the last few months. However, they are toys that caught my eye -- and made me catch my breath -- and I share them this evening for your amusement and edification. And also because I'm too lazy for a proper post...

So without further ado...

1. Space Rockets (Unknown, 1950s)

These nifty little toys, only six centimeters tall, are made in Germany. The astronaut is removable. I've not idea what they are, who made them, or any other details. But they're cool as all heck, and I wish I'd placed a bid on the little buggers!

2. Mighty Robot (Yoshiya, 1960s)

A rare cousin to the Chief Robot Man. This great toy features a transparent plastic, illuminated head with internal gears that rotate. A fantastic toy!

3. Silver Mechanized Robot (Nomura, 1957)

One of the rarest robots. This version preceded the more common black version, which can be read about here. Legend has it that when Nomura produced this toy, they only had black and white photos from the film Forbidden Planet and thought this character would be silver. When they realized their mistake, they switched to the more accurate black paint scheme. A funny little story, but I'm not so sure it's true. After all, salesman's prototypes -- which were the first versions of the toy produced -- are available in both silver and black. Whatever the reason, the silver Mechanized Robot is tough to get...

4. X-70 Robot (Nomura, 1960s)

More commonly known as the Tulip Robot because of its great action. First it walks forward with flashing lights in its neck. It then stops and its head opens like a flower to reveal a plastic TV camera. The whole thing -- camera, head pieces -- then rotates before closing up and repeating the cycle. A classic, and one of the best robots out there.

5. Moon Robot (Yonezawa, 1960s)

A nicer, more elegant version of Robby the Robot, this toy is commonly known as "Ribbon Robby" on account of the ribbons in his dome that rotate when he walks. One of my favorite toys.

6. Radar Robot (Nomura, 1960s)

A ridiculously rare toy, the Radar Robot is also known as Topolino, the Italian name for Mickey Mouse. He walks forward while the red squares in his chest light up to reveal a space scene. I'll be honest -- I don't really love this toy. I don't mind goofy looking robots -- and we all know I own a bunch of 'em! -- but this one is just a little too aesthetically disjointed. A lot of collectors will sell body parts to own it, but not me... They're welcome to him.

7. Lilliput Robot (Unknown, 1938)

The first robot ever produced, and one of my all-time favorites. Very rare, very beautiful, a classic toy and everything I love about these old robots. One day...

8. Mr. Atomic (Cragstan, 1964)

Another one that's near the top of my wish list. This was one of the first toys I fell in love with when I got into this hobby... but it's rare enough and pricey enough that it could end up being one of the last I add to my shelves. That's okay -- the hunt makes it worthwhile. In action, Mr. Atomic rolls around with bump and go action while a light flashed behind his domed head.

9. NY World's Fair Candy Pail (Up To Date Candy Manufacturing Company, 1939)

An unusual piece, rare in this condition. Only three and a half inches tall -- it's designed to hold candy, which you'd buy as a souvenir of the fair. A piece I'd love to add to my growing World's Fair collection.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Mr. Atom (The Advance Doll & Toy Co. / 1956 / U.S. / 18 inches)

If the last post featured the smallest robot I own, this is by far the largest. Hulking in at 18 inches tall, Mr. Atom is a robot to be feared, a robot designed to stomp Barbie's dream house into tinder while little Suzie runs crying to mom. Awesome.

Not only is he one of the largest toy robots, Mr. Atom is by for the rarest of the three major plastic robots made by American companies in the 1950s. (The others are Marx's Electric Robot and Ideal's Robert the Robot.) Big and rare -- but fairly simple. Powered by three C batteries, Mr. Atom walks using a ratchet-wheel mechanism in his feet, and at the same time, his head turns side to side while his arms swing. Pushing the red button on his chest turns on a morse code buzzer while a bulb in his heads lights up. If you push the slider on Mr. Atom's chest to "Full Power," the buzzer and light activate while he's moving.

Sliding the switch adjusts how the toy operates. The button on the right activates the morse code.

Lots of detail molded into the plastic. The nut in the center holds the body halves together.

Early silver plastic tended to separate during mixing, leading to really cool, swirly patterns in old toys. The battery box is located under the flap in back.

Speaking of walking, I'm always amazed that this toy functions without falling over. He's got tiny, tiny feet! But Advance Doll & Toy knew what they were doing and designed this guy right. He trundles along just fine.

Tiny feet!

I've wanted this toy for many years, but every time it became available through dealers or eBay, it would either have broken parts or it wouldn't work properly. I thought I'd finally found one when I returned from Botstock recently. A collector was selling one, but by the time I found out, it was already spoken for. Then something happened and the toy came back on the market -- but again, I learned about it too late! I'd pretty much given up on getting my hands on a satisfactory example when all of a sudden I stumbled over one while searching eBay. Amazingly, I won it for about 40% less than I'd expected, proving once again that it patience always pays off when collecting.

You know, maybe it's me, but Mr. Atom looks like he stepped right out of a B grade science fiction flick. I keep expecting to look in the dome and see the stunt man hired to wear the robot costume. Anyhoo...

Things to look out for when shopping for a Mr. Atom: The eyes and dome are made out of thin plastic, similar to the "blister packaging" you'd find on an action figure. The pieces are often torn or missing entirely. Also, check the body for cracks -- the thin styrene snaps easily. Finally, check the toy to make sure it operates properly, and that the switch and morse code button do their respective things.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Wind Up Venus Robot (Yoshiya / 1969 / Japan / 5.5 inches)

The Venus Robot isn't the most complicated robot ever made, but this diminutive little guy is still a favorite of mine.

The bright, solid color; the simple lines; the small bursts of graphics -- Venus Robot really is as much a design object as it is a toy. It's made of plastic with lithographed tin accents, and features a simple, key-wind walking mechanism.

One nice touch: Venus Robot uses a foot construction that creates an illusion of a heal-toe walking motion. The ratchet wheel system actually shuffles forward and back -- like that of many other robots -- but as it does so, it see-saws on a central axis inside the leg/foot housing. It's a great effect, one that's seen on other plastic Yoshiya robots (like the Battery Operated Jupiter Robot, which I wrote about here), as well as Nomura's Piston Action Robot (which can be found here).

Venus Robot was also available in the more common battery operated version, which featured a blue body with red arms and face. (I'll write about it somewhere down the road.) A company called Telsalda also produced wind up versions in silver, gold, and red. These are all significantly rarer than the original. (I'll write about these if I can ever manage to snag them. Grumble, grumble, grumble...)

The box for the wind up Venus Robot is much less common than that of the battery operated version. I've got no idea why.

I bought my Venus Robot from a dealer named Jay Brotter. No real story behind it, but I want to give a shout out to Jay because he's a great dealer and a heck of a nice guy. He runs a web site called Robot Island, and I've never had any complaints when dealing with him.

I'll admit, Venus Robot took a while to grow on me -- as did all of the Yoshiya plastics. I didn't like the plastic construction, I didn't like the red and black color scheme, I didn't like the tiny size. Now of course, those are all reasons I love the toy.

I'm always fascinated by the way my tastes in toy robots have developed over the years. I'd say at least 25% of my collection is made up of toys I actively disliked when I first started collecting. I'm not exactly sure what caused my tastes to broaden; I know that exposure to other people's collections certainly helped. I think that time played a big role, too -- if you see a toy enough times, you start to gain an appreciation for it, quirks and all.

The upshot, anyway, is that the amount of toys I wanted to own eventually doubled -- tripled? -- guaranteeing that I'll be collecting robots for a long, long time.