Monday, 7 March 2011

Toys are me. Of ball-bearings, Green Hornets and full-length costumes.

There are of course three main joys of childhood. They are: comics, toys and sweets - and happy are the times when such things overlap. How I remember well the adverts for Dracula ice lollies that featured repeatedly in the British Dracula Lives comics of the 1970s.

Well, ice lollies were one thing but toys were a whole other matter. I have to admit I didn't have many comic book related toys. I never caught sight of a super-hero action figure in all my childhood and when I saw the pictures of them in the comics I devoured like sweets, I never felt any urge to own them. Compared to my Action Man, those adjustable heroes seemed a poorly articulated bunch.

I did however have a Green  Hornet car. Given its solidly-built metallic nature, I assume it was a Dinky toy  although I couldn't swear to that.

Exactly how I came to have a Green Hornet car, I have no idea. I certainly never asked for one - as a kid, I didn't even know who the Green Hornet was. Even now my knowledge of him extends barely beyond knowing what he looked like and that Bruce Lee was involved.

On more solid ground, I had a Batmobile just like the one in the Adam West TV show.

When I say, "Just like," it was of course much smaller, being no bigger than my palm but it had a chain cutter at the front and plastic flames at the back and that was good enough for me. I may also have had a toy Bat Boat but don't quote me on that.

Also on the Batman front, I had a toy Robin the Boy Wonder.

Unlike the Green Hornet car, I know exactly where I got it. I bought it from a couple of kids holding a jumble sale on Constable Close in my very early youth. It was a legless version of Robin, a small plastic thing with a ball-bearing where his legs should've been, What the idea was of giving Robin a ball-bearing in place of legs was anyone's guess but I had hours of fun for more years than I'd care to admit, rolling him along the hearth - pretty much the only thing in our house that was smooth enough for ball-bearing related fun.

But pride of place in the Batman toy department was my Batman costume. I got it one Christmas, probably when I was four, and it consisted of a Batman mask, a plastic Bat Cape and a bright yellow utility belt. Sadly the utility belt was just a belt, not containing any of the wonders the real thing did but I didn't care, suddenly I was Batman and no one could stop me.

As it turned out, someone could stop me. I don't know his name but the moment I clapped eyes on him I knew he was a wrong 'un. Within days of getting that Bat costume, I discovered my nemesis as, on a trip to the local shops, I saw a kid with an entire top-to-bottom Batman outfit that put my mere mask, cape and belt to shame.

Still, I stuck with my Batman kit until, years later, it helped the nation fight the energy crisis by adding fuel to our fire during one of the country's regular 1970s' electricity outages.

I'm sure you'll agree, it's all heart-warming stuff, in a traumatising way and I'm sure you had equally powerful experiences, so, if you had any comic book related toys as a youngster, you are of course free to let us all know.

If you sold me that ball-bearing bearing Robin, you're even more free to let me know.

And if you were that kid on at Herdings shops in that winter of 1968, flaunting his full-body Batman suit, you are of course even more welcome to let me know - especially if you can tell me that owning such a thing still didn't guarantee you the flawless and ideal life that was denied the rest of us.


Kid said...

The GREEN HORNET car was by CORGI TOYS, not DINKY - so go and stand in the corner. The ROBIN ROLYKIN was by MARX TOYS, and if you still had it to sell, you'd be able to have a good night out on the proceeds.

Steve said...

Typical. I always throw away the stuff that's worth money and keep the stuff that isn't.

Blaze Morgan said...

I had many a "priceless" item in the modern collector catalogues. However, being a shortsighted and reckless child, I played with my toys. I played with well, I played with them a LOT. As a result, they're not so priceless...

I can't even imagine my parents' reactions, if on Christmas Morning, I chose to leave my gifts untouched in their boxes as potential future investments.

In adult times, I have a fond memory of my buddy ever-so-solemnly swearing to the owner of the store that he would not remove the USS Enterprise from its original packaging. My friend is a collector, without the capital "C", without any intention of speculating or investing. He loves the vintage toys. The Enterprise was out of the box as soon as we reached his car.

Costume-wise, a safety pin and bath towel did a magnificent job for any number of caped heroes, primarily Superman. Later, an Aunt bought me a Batman kit. A half-mask simulating the cowl and a cape emblazoned with the Batman TV show logo. When, if ever, will toy makers realize that kids want to look as much like their hero as possible, not ADVERTISE for their hero. I rarely wore the Batman gear, since Batman didn't have his name (or anything) on his cape.

Anonymous said...

The Hot Wheels die cast Batmobile came with the chain cutter blade in front (which I don't remember ever seeing in the comics or the TV series). The set also included the bat boat and a trailer for towing it. I got those for Christmas in the late 1960's. By then, the Batman fad was already starting to pass.

Dean Willetts said...

Wrapping a towel around my neck and wearing the Batman mask my mom got me from Blackpool was enough for me as I propelled myself off the sideboard towards my poor unsuspecting dad. You made your own fun in those days...

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