Friday, December 07, 2012

Hail Mighty Raydeen!

Here's another cherished childhood toy ... Raydeen.

Shogun Warrior.

And a damn big one at that.

I first met Raydeen sometime in the winter of 1978.  He was placed, just like the picture above, in the widow of a small import / emporium shop located in the strip mall at the corner of Lincoln Road and South 28th Avenue in Hattiesburg, MS.  This was back when that intersection used to be a four way stop instead of an intersection controlled by traffic lights.

The import shop is long gone though the strip mall is still there.  I think the import shop is now a pet supply shop but I can't be sure since it has been a while since I've gone that way let alone paid any attention to the shopping opportunities there.  It's an old part of Hattiesburg, a part that I grew up in but like me, everything there that was at one time familiar has now moved on.  Decades have rolled by and nothing remains the same.

Memories and dust.

I met Raydeen sometime in late October of 1978 and fell in love with him.  I used to ride with my father up to the Shell station on Saturday and Sunday morning to get a newspaper and (for him) a cup of coffee.  We'd sometimes walk up and down the strip mall sidewalk, especially so I could look in the window of Hobby Depot, a plastic model and paint type hobby supply shop that lasted maybe two, maybe three years in that location before folding.  Hobby Depot had some really well built models, real pro stuff, in the windows and I marveled at how models could be painted to be so lifelike.  Someone had even reproduced the crashed Monogram B-17 bomber diorama that Sheppard Paine had made.  

And right next to Hobby Depot was an import shop, the name of which will probably always be lost to me now, and in that import shop's window was Raydeen.

I think that Star Wars had just entered my life but Star Wars toys were still non-existent in my area nor did they have the proliferation that the Kenner line would later enjoy.  As such, in late 1978 I was still playing with G.I. Joes, Legos, building models and playing with my Marx army men and military playsets.

Enter Raydeen.

Shogun Warrior.

Super bad ass robot that was tall like Godzilla and three times as bad (at least back then he was to me).  Shogun Warriors were a new thing for me, something interesting from the land of Japan.  My experience with Japanese toys was limited, same for their comics and cartoons.  I just didn't know very much about toys from the Far East and that intrigued me all the more.  Having just started to watch live action Japanese shows like "Ultra-Man", "Spectraman" and "Space Giants", I had a prepubescent hard-on for giant robots.  

Mattel to the rescue with their Shogun Warriors line of toys.

Mattel marketed and produced the Shogun Warriors but I'm sure, now, that they were just packaged or marketed by Mattel.  Those familiar with the "red Mattel sawblade" logo can see it clearly in the bottom lower left of the package pictured above.

Raydeen was awesome and my imagination worked overtime to add him to my toy collection.  Oh, the things that I would do with Raydeen ... assault the guns of Navarrone.  Use him as an Allied / American super weapon against the Nazis ... my fervent imagination had already taken possession of Raydeen.  I told my dad that I wanted Raydeen and he made the usual parental dodging that all parents do when their kid asks for a fairly expensive toy, especially when they ask for a fairly expensive toy when Jimmy Carter is in office and the economy is tanking all around you.

But then those are the concerns of adults and not of children faced with the dilemma of how to own one of the coolest damn toys they've ever seen.

Raydeen was huge ... easily the biggest toy that would ever be in my collection and he did so much ... I mean, just look at his play features; hawk-missile that shoots from his chest, a shield with a nasty spike on it, and a flying fist with dual ax blades on it that you can launch across the room.  That was a lot more than most of my toys did back then and I was impressed ... I was also 7 years old at the time so ... being impressed with a toy back then probably wasn't as hard to be as I thought it was at the time.

The weeks in November and December stretched by slowly, filled with thoughts of Raydeen.  I took my Legos and built a hangar for Raydeen, and since Raydeen was giant, I used some 1:72 scale ground crew that had come with one of my plastic plane models to prepare things for Raydeen's arrival.  Everything was prepared for Raydeen ... now all I had to do was wait.


And in case you didn't know or can't remember, when you're seven years old, patience, especially when it involves waiting for a toy you really want, is next to impossible.

Christmas day arrived, December 25, 1978, and with it came ... Raydeen.  Jimmy Carter and his bungling of the economy had not prevented Santa from bringing Raydeen to my house.  Raydeen was everything that I had imagined that he would be and I walked around the rest of the day with that giant colorful plastic robot tucked under my arm like a teddy bear.  Oh, the battles we fought that early morning ... the Marx Nazis never knew what hit them and the Americans easily conquered Navarrone Mountain.

Sometime in the spring of 1978 Marvel Comics introduced a "Shogun Warriors" based comic book that I immediately started collecting.  And who was proudly displayed front and center on that comic?

My Raydeen.

The comic ran for 20 issues but to my 7 and 8 year old mind the stories were epic.  I still have a copy of the entire comic series today in my collection but it has aged badly and rereading it did not bring the joy and wonder that it once had.  In fact, it kind of brought about the feeling that I was reading utter crap.

The Shogun Warriors comic starred Raydeen, Combattra and Dangard Ace, all piloted by kidnapped and impressed into service individuals from around the world.  Raydeen was piloted by a stuntman named Richard Carson who had a girlfriend named Deena.  I particularly liked the story arc where Richard Carson has to let Deena in on his secret ... he's Raydeen's pilot / operator.

Raydeen was my favorite but Combattra was a close second mainly because Combattra could break up into several different types of robot vehicles including a fighter made out of the head.  Dangard Ace was boring ... all he could do was launch his rocket fists, fire some missiles from his fingers (IIRC) and his chest panels opened to reveal two big cannons / launchers that shot out some kind of energy bolt / torpedo.  It reminded me a lot of those battery operated robots from years earlier, the ones with the swing open chest doors and the sparkling chest cannons ... Dangard Ace sucked.

Raydeen also changed in the comic ... my Raydeen had a fist with a pair of ax blades on them.  In the comic, Raydeen didn't have a fist like that ... he had the shield with the spike and ... he had a bow!  A giant bow that fired explosive tipped arrows that were loaded from a hatch in his arm / fist.  Of course, that kind of Bo & Luke Duke technology applied to a giant robot seems kind of silly in hindsight but back then it was nothing short of awesome.
Each month I would go with my parents to Cloverleaf Mall and I would visit the big metal turn-rack at K&B Drugstore to see if the latest issue of Marvel Comics' "Shogun Warriors" had come in or not.  Each month that issue would get dog eared from heavy reading as I savored the next chapter in the adventures of Raydeen, Combattra and ... that other stupid big robot.

One of the neatest things about Raydeen, that I learned about him in the comic, was the fact that Raydeen could not only fly with rockets in his feet but for real speed he could transform into a hybrid mode, a streamlined robot bird form that was capable of supersonic flight and this form was called the "Firehawk" making Raydeen easily the fastest of the Shogun Warriors able to respond to a crisis.  In fact, in several instances in the comic, Raydeen takes off, converts to the supersonic Firehawk and is the first to show up at a problem with the other two Shogun Warriors eventually showing up long after Raydeen had landed and started handing the bad guys their ass.

How the conversion from Shogun Warrior to supersonic Firehawk took place can only be referred to as "magic" ... or maybe it uses the same technology that the Michael Keaton Batmobile uses for its armor plating when he says "Shields" and all of that plating comes out of nowhere and just covers the Batmobile in armor.

The full size Raydeen was a stiff toy, limited in movement ... in fact, it had no real movement short of its arms swinging up and down or rotating back and forth in a complete circle.  No manipulation, no ability to be posed.  Wheels on the bottom of the feet allowed Raydeen to roll along on smooth surfaces but pretty much this was a toy of pure imagination.  

That summer, for my birthday, I got another Raydeen ... this one was smaller, much smaller and it was made out of metal but it was poseable.  Not only did the face shields open and close but the legs bent and it could transform into the supersonic Firehawk mode.  

This version of Raydeen came with the bow and the spiked shield but it didn't come with any chest missiles.  Both fists, however, were spring loaded and launched.  The only problem was ... that version of Raydeen really had no good play value since I owned no other Shogun Warrior toys.  How I used that smaller Raydeen was much like Jet Jaguar from Godzilla, he was the real size able to interact with my green army men but when the need arose, he could change into the giant sized Raydeen to kick giant sized ass.

Worked for me.

The Shogun Warrior craze never really caught fire with me or my friends.  Together we had a handful of the toys ... I remember a giant Dragun, another had a giant Godzilla and Gaiking and another had a Mazinga (the early version with the removable spaceship in the head).  Together we had three or five of the small Shogun Warriors, there was my mid-size Raydeen and I had the Sky Arrow jet.

One interesting thing to note is that in the diecast toy offering there was the Liabe ... a spaceship which was featured in the Toho sci-fi epic "Message from Space" and a spaceship which has come to be known as the "Millennium Falcon of the Far East".  How it became part of the Shogun Warrior collection is probably an interesting story.

The Shogun Warriors were hot stuff for a while before finally fading away to nothing in 1980.  The toy line didn't have the staying power required to survive in the post-Star Wars era that 1977 to 1980 quickly became.  Toys were quickly changing in the late years of the 1970's.   Electronics were coming and computers were here.  Interactive toys like Milton Bradley's Starbird and Big Trak did amazing things, had flashing lights and sounds that simple toys like the Shogun Warriors simply didn't.   Also, like many other toys of the time, the Shogun Warriors line of toys were plagued with outrageous concerns for child safety based on children acting like total effing retards and shooting the shooty parts into their eyes, into the eyes of other children or shooting the shooty parts down their own throats and subsequently choking to death on the shooty parts (probably while the parents were in the other room playing Bridge or some other socially popular game at the time).  Normally, we would just chalk that up to a good case of Darwin and a bad case of parenting but the outcry was enough from lazy parents that manufacturers had to remove the fun parts of the toys because a few total retards had ruined it for the rest of us kids.  It was just more of the whole retarded liberal mindset that would continue to plague America in the years and decades to come ... the mindset where the needs of the few always outweigh the needs of the many.

If you want to know more about these toys, follow this link.

I no longer have Raydeen but I have some really good memories of that toy.  Even though I don't remember it, I'm sure that Raydeen was eventually decommissioned and sold to a private firm after which I have no idea what happened to him.  And by being decommissioned I mean that he had a dollar fifty price tag stuck to him one Saturday morning at my parents' annual garage sale and Raydeen went home with another child ... hopefully he had a few more adventures in him.  I hope to God he still had some adventures left in him and that he didn't wind up as a frequent, dress wearing guest at some little girl's tea party before he ultimately met the sad fate that most toys of childhood eventually face but for a while Raydeen was mine and while he was mine he was nothing short of awesome!