Monday, July 25, 2011

I'm Making a Documentary!

I'm currently in production on a documentary called Plastic Galaxy: The Story of Star Wars Toys. It is, as the title suggests, a movie about... Star Wars toys!

The film will explore the history and pop cultural impact of the action figures, play sets, space ships, and props that we all know and love -- all through conversations with fellow collectors, former Kenner and Hasbro employees, toy experts, and more. And, of course, there'll be a lot of cool toys!

The film will be released on DVD in August, 2012, at Celebration VI -- it'll also be available for purchase through many brick-and-mortar stores and through an online shop. Besides the film itself, I plan on including all sorts of extras... but for now, I'm keeping them secret!

Check out the teaser trailer!

For more information and updates, you can check out Plastic Galaxy's official web site, You can also follow us on Twitter (@Plastic_Galaxy) and friend us on Facebook. If we can get this telepathy thing to work, you can follow us with you mind, too.

And for those who like to keep things within the blogger community, we've got another blog set up that you can follow: We'll try to update it every time we update the main news feed on the official site, but just in case, you might want to check both every once in a while.

So that's it -- that's why both this site and Galactic Awesome have kind of dried up of late. I've been extremely busy with the film -- and I anticipate many more months of work ahead of me. But it'll be worth it... I hope!

Monday, April 25, 2011

Well Then, That's That!

So I'm married. Little Mary Switchblade said "I do," even after our officiant made her promise to love me if my robot and ray gun collection overruns the entire house.


Now that the wedding's over, I'm hoping I'll be better about updating the blog. No promises, but I'll do my best. I've got many, many new toys and I really should get off my butt and get them up on the ol' Attic. So I'll do my best!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Wedding Rings (2011, Little King, NYC)

So in less than a month, I'll be marrying Ms. Little Mary Switchblade. Doc Atomic and Little Mary Switchblade -- sounds good, right?

Here's a photo of the rings we had made. Guess which one's mine.

How many fiances would encourage their weirdo boy friends to get a lightning bolt in his wedding ring? Clearly, we're perfect for each other!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Hang out in the Attic and you'll quickly realize that most of my favorite toys were made in Japan. Robots, ray guns, some Star Wars figures... Lots of toys. It's a tenuous connection, I guess, but I can honestly say that Japan has, via a few twists and turns, brought me a lot of happiness over the years.

 The situation over there gets worse by the hour as the death toll climbs and meltdowns in numerous nuclear reactors becomes more and more likely. It's a horrible, terrifying tragedy. I encourage everyone reading this to help out however he or she can. Donating a few extra bucks is probably the easiest thing you can do -- organizations helping the relief effort can always use the money. But if you're tight right now (and believe me, I understand), then see if there's any other way you can help.

 Anyway... I guess that's all I've really got to say on the matter.

To my Japanese readers: My thoughts are with you guys... I hope you and your families are safe and sound.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Original Science Fiction Artwork, Pt. 4

New additions to the Attic's collection of original science fiction art! For those who're interested, here are Parts 1, 2, and 3.

1. "Tales of Time and Space," by Tom Nachreiner. 21" x 26". 1976. Gouache on board.

Truth is, I don't know a hell of a lot about Tom Nachreiner. He seems to have done a lot of work outside of the science fiction genre; in fact, there's no listing of him in Jane Frank's Science Fiction and Fantasy Artists of the Twentieth Century, the premier guide to genre artists. Strange. Oh well. I like a good mystery.

The painting was done as the cover for an anthology published in 1976 by Golden Press called Tales of Time and Space. It's a great piece of Seventies sf art; it's organic and fluid and strange, with bold colors and  a trippy series of images pulled directly from the stories themselves. A little later than I tend to collect, but there's just no denying the quality of the painting. Hey, older, newer -- cool is cool!

Two close up details of the painting.

What's particularly fascinating is that the painting came with the book cover's mechanical -- the package of sheets used to paste up cover elements like the title, publisher, book description, etc. I also received at copy of the book straight from the printer's files. Taken together, these pieces help illustrate the process by which a painting becomes a book cover. As a book collector, this is exactly the kind of thing that sends me over the moon.

The outer cover of the package containing the cover's mechanical. The letter taped to the front is the job order, and lists what elements will be delivered by the printer. 

The first layer of the mechanical. Tissue is laid down and on it is written various color guides.

The next layer down is an acetate overlay. The cover's text is laid down here, all carefully within the safety margins. 

The cover itself. This is a file copy, and the handwritten notes are from the printer.

Now, if I can just figure out how to display it all...

Monday, February 21, 2011

Posting Schedule. Because I'm Lame.

Okay. I realize that as time passes, my posts become more and more infrequent. I've got good excuses -- I'm a hard working freelancer who's just trying to raise enough money to buy more toys! -- but I admit, it's still pretty lame.

So here's the deal. From now on, this blog will be updated once a week. Most likely on Tuesdays or Thursdays, though that's not in stone. On the other hand, I reserve the right to post more often if something cool comes up. 

Would I prefer to update The Attic daily? Sure. But I'll be honest -- I've gone through a lot of my vintage toy collection over the last year or so, and I don't get new toys too often. (It's the nature of this particular beast.) So I'm spreading things out a bit... Though like I said, if something good pops up, I'll be sure to let y'all know!

Anyway, that's that! New post -- a substantive post -- on either Tuesday or Thursday!

Friday, February 4, 2011

A Question For Fellow Bloggers

A question!

Would people use a virtual chat room if I were to set one up? I envision it as being a place for like-minded collectors to meet up and discuss... whatever they feel like discussing. It'd be available to both my blogs, which means there could be some interesting cross-over. (Most people reading my blogs are collectors, but the discussions would go wherever they're inclined to go...)

The chat room would always be open, so in theory, anyone could pop in whenever they felt like it. No need to schedule anything in advance (though there's also no guarantee anyone else will be there...)

Note: This isn't a forum, like Alphadrome or Rebel Scum or any of the million other forums out there. This would be a chat room -- similar to AOL Instant Message or Gmail Chat, except for multiple people at once. If you're of a certain age, think of those old telephone "party rooms," only without the implied sleaze.

I'd have to implement some level of security to avoid spammers, trolls, and all the other annoying denizens of the 'net that swarm to open, free, online chat sessions. The means, probably, either a list of pre-approved email addresses, or perhaps some sort of invitation system. Of course, everyone's privacy would be a priority, and if I do end up soliciting your email address, I'll never use it for anything other than making sure you can join the chat.

So... What do you think? Should I set it up? If enough people comment positively, I'll go ahead and set it up in the next day or so.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Pre-Production Space Trooper (Yoshiya/1959/Japan/6 inches)

Most collectors have "holy grails." You know, the pieces we dream about even though the odds say we'll never, ever, ever get our hands on them. The ones that keep us away long into the night, dreaming impossible dreams of glory through astonishing acquisition.

Well... This robot's one of mine. And right now, it's sitting on my desk in front of me.

You're looking at a Pre-Production Sample of a Robby the Robot knock off called the Space Trooper. It was made by Yoshiya way back in 1959.

As toys go, your basic Space Trooper isn't terribly complicated. Turning the crank engages a flywheel system, which causes the robot to roll forward while the multiple antennas in its head rotate in different directions. The wheels in its feet are off-center, which makes the robot wobble side-to-side as it rolls. It's simple, it's primitive, and frankly, I think it's completely awesome!

As I said, this is a Pre-Production Sample. I know, I know: "Doc, what the heck is a Pre-Production Sample?" Gather 'round, kids, and I'll tell ya!

Pre-Production Samples were one of the last stages in toy production before achieving a finished product. They were used by the toy companies for catalogue photos, as salesman's samples, and as display pieces at industry events like Toy Fair in New York City. They share most of the traits of a final production toy -- the one that ends up on toy store shelves -- but they also differ in many significant ways.

In the case of the Space Trooper, there are four major differences.

The production models of the Space Trooper only came in red or black. A similar toy by Yoshiya that replaces the robot dome with an astronaut's head was also sold in dark blue. The Pre-Production Sample is a classy silver with black and red accents.

The few sightings we've uncovered in toy catalogues from 1959 all show this silver version. In fact, Pre-Production Samples of other toys have shown up over the years and they're also silver, as are the catalogue photos for these other toys. It makes me think it might be some sort of industry standard thing; perhaps this color scheme works better when rendered as a high-contrast, black and white catalogue image. There's no conclusive evidence that the colors were chosen for this reason, though -- I'm only thinking out loud.

As I mentioned earlier, Space Troopers feature off-center, reciprocating wheels. The silver Pre-Production Sample, however, has wheels with a centered axle. They roll normally. The wheels are also larger than those found on a production toy. This is really one of the most important differences between the two versions as it illustrates a major development of the toy from one stage to the next. It shows Yoshiya attempting to inject more play value into the toy -- but in the cheapest way possible. I'll tell you what, though. Those wobbly wheels on the final version are definitely pretty neat! Good job, Yoshiya!

Given how rare all Pre-Production Samples are, they were most likely done in small batches. Remember, these weren't meant to reach the public so the toy companies didn't need nearly as many pieces. It's likely that they were also not held to the same level of quality control. See, while all tin toys have wrinkles in the metal around the more complex folds, they're much more prominent on this early version of the toy. Also, the smooth, rounded parts have a little bit of unevenness to them that you don't see on the final, production robots.

Basically, Yoshiya spit out these samples so they could have something to show off the toy. Production lead-times being what they were, there was ample opportunity to clean up and refine the manufacturing process before shipping out the robots.

The strip of chrome running up the side of the toy is supposed to fit tightly, conforming to the robot's curves. The strip of chrome on the pre-production sample looks like it was assembled by a blind monkey. It's kind of a mess. But as I've argued in the past, that's a big part of the charm of pre-production toys and prototypes. These aren't perfect, and they should look a little rough around the edges. Pre-Production should look like Pre-Production!

There are only two or three known examples of the Pre-Production Space Trooper. Or so I've been told -- I'm sure some others are floating around... maybe.

But this particular Space Trooper is very important to me. See, I helped uncover it many years ago. A woman from Kansas had listed it on eBay back in 2004, and found herself inundated with questions from potential buyers demanding to know why it was silver. She quickly realized she was out of her depth, so she did some checking online and ended up finding my old web site. She sent me an email asking for help.

Of course, I had no idea what it was, either. But I did some digging and discovered that there was -- at the time -- only one or two other silver Space Troopers, and that they all might be a Pre-Production pieces. Whatever it was, it was valuable. Valuable enough that I couldn't come close to affording it.

However, I was able to hook the woman up with a friend of mine named Pat Karris. Pat had, at the time, the world's most complete Forbidden Planet/Robby the Robot collection. However, he didn't have this piece. Happily, Pat and the seller were able to work out a deal and the robot ended up on his shelf.

I was there the day he got it in the mail, and when I finally saw the toy up close, I fell desperately in love. I wanted one -- badly. But I knew it wouldn't happen. However, I consoled myself by remembering that Pat lived in NYC, which meant I could have visitation rights.

Fast forward a number of years. Pat decided to sell off a bunch of his robots (for a variety of reasons) and they ended up going to a man named Al Rosen. Rosen made a name for himself buying and selling baseball cards, and he's a legend in that hobby. When he caught the robot and space toy bug, he pursued the toys with the same passion -- and deep pockets. Soon, he had nearly everything. Every. Thing.

And then he decided to get out. His toys were auctioned off about a year-and-a-half ago by Smith House Toys in a two-part auction that I can't even talk about without my head exploding.

And yes, this little Space Trooper was on the block with everything else.

And no, I couldn't afford to buy it at the time.

But another friend of mine, Steve Jaspen, was able to snag it. He lives in New York, too, and it was nice having the robot "come home." Besides, my visitation rights were restored.

And then, about a week or two ago, I got a call from Steve. It turned out he had decided to sell this robot. He knew my history with the toy and wanted to offer it to me first. We discussed the price a bit, did a little back and forth, and then let the dust settle. "So," he asked. "Do you want it?"

Dumbest. Question. Ever. Just tell me where to send the check.

So here we are, one more Holy Grail crossed off the list. I've waited a loooooong time for this one. I never thought it'd shake lose, and now that it has, I feel like it's come full circle. I'm a very, very happy camper.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Surpise! Stuff You Never Expected To Like

There are a number of items in my collection that, until I actually saw them in person, left me feeling lukewarm, at best. Their photos never did them justice, I guess, or maybe I just never saw anything about them that made them compelling. Whatever the reason, they were on my "meh" list, and I figured they'd never leave.

But then I'd see them in person, and it was like having a fire lit under me. I had to have 'em! And now that I do, I can't imagine ever letting them go.

So I'm wondering: What are some of the pieces in your own collections that surprised you with how much they've come to mean? Maybe it was something that went from zero to hero in a moment, or maybe it was something that grew on your over time. Regardless, tell me about the pieces that once were ignore, but now you'd never do without. Feel free to link to pictures if you're able.

I'll write about my own examples in a future post.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Wonderful Batman Fan Film: "The Rat"

Okay, okay... Why am I writing about a Batman fan film in the Attic of Astounding Artifacts? I'll tell ya. Because it was directed by a friend of mine named Dale Fabriger. He's immensely talented and watching his film, "The Rat," is a great way to spend five minutes.

Plus, Dale is a robot and ray gun collector, with one of the most kick-butt collections I've ever seen. So there's yer connection to the Attic. A short film about Batman made by an amazing filmmaker who just so happens to have the kind of toy collection that makes me drool. Any other questions? Didn't think so. Now watch the flick.

Oh, if you want to watch a higher resolution version of the film, click through to YouTube. Just sayin'.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Videos of Toys!

Donald Conner -- a.k.a. Captain Conner -- has one of the most amazing flying saucer collections in the world. He's also got some amazing robots and ray guns -- including a bunch that I'd love to own. I once visited Don's house way out on the West Coast, but at the time, his collection was a fraction of what it's become. So I was thrilled to hear that he'd made a few home movies showcasing his shelves.

I asked for permission to repost them here, and he graciously agreed. So grab some popcorn and sit back to gawk at some toys that can truly be called "top flight." (Ha! Get it?!)

(Click through to You Tube to see the videos in higher resolution.)