Two and a half years ago I was introduced to the world of Future Cyborg and my activity on youtube has never been the same since. For those who aren’t familiar, Future Cyborg is a vintage toy review series that’s the brainchild of artist and toy sculptor Paul Harding. The show stands apart from the crowded toy review landscape by setting the series in a hyper reality variation of the 1980s, as well as blending in a hilarious deadpan comic sensibility to the writing and production of the show. I’m pretty sure I can safely say that you’ve never seen anything quite like Future Cyborg.
The series stars Harding and his pal Joe O’Neil as Todd and Russel, two “kids” seeking out the latest and greatest that toys that they find while hunting through the aisles of stores like Toys R Us, Playworld and Children’s Palace. In each episode Paul and Joe showcase a vintage min in box or mint on card figure, vehicle or playset, that they then ruthlessly tear into to free the toys inside. As a collector of vintage toys I’m as torn as the packaging in the episodes while watching this because I can hear the screams and crying of a thousand fanboys with each new toy review, but I do have to say that 90% of the time I am firmly in the camp of opening one’s toys. As an adult collector one of the draws of vintage toy collecting is the packaging that these treasures were originally housed in. I mean, I can recall hundreds of times that I stalked the aisles of my local toy stores as a kid staring at these boxes and cards, and that fuels so much of my own nostalgia. Hell, I can usually identify most G.I. Joe figures by the silhouette of their card art alone. So let this be a warning if you’re tuning in for the first time, that you might unexpectedly tear up as Todd and Russel literally dig into a box to review a toy.
I absolutely adore the aesthetic Harding and company have brought to the series. From the 80s synthwave soundtrack to the wood-paneled basement set that is green-screened in behind the hosts to the wardrobes, the irony and dry comic timing, I always find myself laughing out loud while watching the show. The show is so much fun and I feel like it’s shockingly underviewed and waiting for a boom in appreciation. So far the series has run through two seasons with a total of 11 main episodes. The team is hard at work on a third season and I just received a rad care package for helping to back the production of the new episodes.
As a huge fan of the show I immediately opted for a backing level that contained a blu-ray of the first two seasons, and I have to say that the episodes are even better in high def where I get to scope them on my wife’s ginormous gaming television in our basement.
I also couldn’t pass up the opportunity to snag a set of Future Cyborg trading cards. They even have a sweet puzzle poster on the backs of the cards!
The care package also came with some great vintage swag including some artifacts from the show…
…as well as a couple package of trading cards that I tore into with the same gusto the guys do while reviewing toys on the show. I don’t know, you think that Tron wax wrapper is salvageable?
If you haven’t seen the series I highly recommend checking it out. You can find the show at their website or their youtube page. They’re also on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter and trust me, it’s well worth following them on every platform.
Lastly, in honor of their show hitting blu-ray, I thought it would be fun to do a vintage action figure review of my own in their style, complete with an opening of a vintage carded action figure. This is going to be cathartic right?
(Quick note, I won’t be doing this as a video because nobody needs that, but I will be presenting this in script format to try and ape their style.)
“Welcome to another episode of Branded in the 80s. I’m Shawn, and perhaps you may have heard of me from my fanzine, Branded in the 80s…”
“I just got back from a trip to Lionel Playworld where my mom let me pick out an action figure because I’ve been sick all week and a toy seems to be the only thing that’ll stop me from coughing up a lung. There were a lot of action figures I wanted, like the great new Return of the Jedi Luke Skywalker or Speeder Bike Scout figures, but I decided the only thing that could cure me of my sickness was the brand new Warduke figure from the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons line by LJN Toys.”
“There was just something about the evil character that spoke to me. It’s almost as if I could hear him through the bubble saying: ‘I will cure you young warrior, I will cure you, then devour your soul’. I just couldn’t resist that.”
“As I mentioned, the figure was released by LJN and licensed from TSR Hobbies for their Dungeons and Dragons line of roleplaying books. My mom says I can’t have those because I might end up fighting imaginary trolls and goblins in the sewers of New York like Tom Hanks in that one movie. But I guess this figure is safe enough.”
“The packaging of the figure is pretty cool with the nice AD&D logo in yellow really popping off of the dark blue and purple cavernous background painting. I really enjoy the highlighted bit letting me know that this toy is poseable, because I would have been really upset if I couldn’t have the character raise his sword in a threatening manner at my collection of Ewoks. I also really appreciate the fine character artwork on the card even though my action figure lacks the glowing white eyes. Variation is the spice of life my mom always says.”
“The cardback features a very well-rendered painting of a battle set in the world of Dungeons and Dragons. You’ll also notice that this figure come complete with 2 Proof of Purchase Points. I wonder if I could substitute these for the Star Wars points in order to send away for the special Mail-In Anakin Skywalker figure from the new Return of the Jedi toys? Also, I think I may have found a new mascot for Branded in the 80s, the sweet mytical Octopus creature on the cardback. I think his name will be Ocktorpulus Rex the Defilier of Minds.”
“Also note that the company handily lets us know that it is okay and encourage to collect all of the toys in the line. I’ll have to let my mother know this and that I will expect a Fortress of Fangs playset under the Christmas tree this year…”
“So let’s open this figure and see what we have…”
“So let’s take a closer look at the sculpt of this LJN Warduke figure. As you can clearly see, fine detail on his helmet, in particular the bat-wing adornments, shows his no nonsense attitude and fierce battle-ready mentality.”
“Close attention to detail in the mold showcases his unease with full armor, choosing instead to focus on a halfhazard, but freeing moderately naked wardrobe. I believe that each scale on his left arm and thigh indicates a slain enemy in battle. Take note of the baldric over his shoulder that matches his shoulder armor plate, as well as his armored belt with skull adornment. These accessories convey an attitude of total mastery of the warrior arts.”
“The figure has five points of articulation that allow for Warduke to swing his sword in a very threatening manor, though the range of movement on his left armored arm is hindered by his shoulder armor. A small price to pay for one very protected shoulder.”
“Wardude is packaged with two battle ready accessories, his Shield of Ultimate Doom and his Sword of Ice. The battle grip on the figure we bought was so tight that his grasp couldn’t be loosened enough to hold the sword by the handle, but considering he is also equipped with an armored gauntlet, holding the Sword of Ice by the blade is sufficient.”
“Closer inspection of the back of the figure reveals that he also has a hidden purse for keeping any stray rupees, or the teeth of his victims safe while he traverses the fantasy world in search of destruction and oblivion. You can also clearly see the manufacturing stamp of TSR and LJN toys. Take note that this figure was also manufactured in Macao, a special administrative region of China known for it’s luxurious casinos, malls, and blood-thirsty fantasy warriors.”
“So in review, here are some pros and cons for the figure. PROS: fine detail on his helmet, fierce battle-ready mentality, semi nude form, two accessories, fanny pack. CONS: limited mobility on the left side, might steal your soul if you look at his eyes too long, semi nude form, inability to hold sword in a conventional manner.”
“So until next time, thanks for reading Branded in the 80s, and remember, Always Fight For Freedom, Live Tomorrow Like it’s Today, and check out Future Cyborg as soon as humanly possible.”