More crappy (aka GREAT) 80s package art!

I just cannot get enough of illustrated and painted ninja art from 80s no-name ninja merch. Sometimes, well, lets be real… OFTEN… more time was spent on the package art than was on designing the crap under the blister card therein.

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Ja-Ru was (and still is) a company specializing in “rack toys” — the junk near the register in supermarkets or that sad little half office supply/half toy aisle in chain drug stores. To this day, they still make “Fun Erasers” of whatever’s hot in popular culture. In the 80s, it was pro wrestlers not-so-vaguely reminiscent of Hulk Hogan and ilk, break dancers, knock-offs of girly stuff like Strawberry Shortcake, any old science fiction molds re-purposed for Star Wars and Transformers love, GI Joe/Rambo-esque soldiers and yes… NINJA!

I got this less-than-pristine backer card from Ja-Ru’s ninja erasers for my birthday last month, and while I can’t put my hands on the actual erasers it would have once contained at the moment, I’m near certain I owned them back in the day. And like most any figural erasers, they were utter crap as action figures and even worse crap as functional erasers.

But man, this package art!

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Over-stylized hard-to-read logo anyone?

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These illos are like many others of this type — derived from martial arts manuals, movie posters or magazine covers that were circulating at the time. While the top most image in this post looks very manga-ish in source, the one directly above looks traced from an Inside Kung-Fu article or supply ad for ninja suits.

I’m not big on mint-condition collectibles or things being in pristine shape to rate my shelves, but man I’m absolutely TORMENTED at where a select area of this card was torn off!

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I would kill to know what sort of crazy smack Ja-Ru was talking here, both in terms of ninja history and lore, and the educational value of their poopie erasers! Dammit…

If anyone out there has these erasers or a more complete card with the above text intact, drop us a line!

 

REMCO “Secret of the Ninja” box art

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One of my favorite long-gone toy manufacturers was Remco, who in 1984 gave us one of the craze’s most well-rounded figure lines — Secret of the Ninja.

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Remco of the 60’s was an aggressive licensor with all sorts of A-list properties adapted for toy shelves — Star Trek, Beatles, Lost in Space, Batman and more. The Remco of the 80s, post bankruptcy and sale to competitor AHI/Azrak, was one of those companies producing the weird B-and-C-grade lines you’d find in weird indie toy stores and back corners of hardware shops and pharmacies. When G.I. Joe hit, they made Sgt. Rock, it was Hercules and Conan against Masters of the Universe, AWA and WCCW wrestling instead of WWF, Mighty Crusaders in the midst of Marvel Secret Wars and DC’s Super Powers.

These licenses cost less, but also sold less, so once in a while they’d try to create an original line that, lacking licensing fees, didn’t start them in the hole. Secret of the Ninja was the best of these, and done at just the perfect time.

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(This nice collection is currently on eBay)

While called “Secret of the Ninja” the line was hardly confined to the shadow soldiers. Myriad martial arts disciplines and historical warrior classifications were represented — kung-fu monks, samurai, modern karate and tae-kwon-do masters and more. This made the line almost fad-proof — if ninja toys started falling flat, there were enough vaguely barbarian-like and mystical fantasy-looking figures to appeal to multiple tastes.

The multi-martial-disciplines allowed more creative kids to have gladiatorial contests for supremacy of style — very much suggested by the back of this playset box:

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We’ve previously posted on the VHS tapes Remco included with multi-figure boxed sets (READ HERE). Between the half-hour adventures of Lion Maru, Kamui and Watari and the notion of Ninja vs. Thai Kick Boxer duels, a kid was in plastic combat heaven.

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Note, the pose for the ninja figure is drawn right off the press photo of Sho Kosugi in Revenge of the Ninja:

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The Remco ninja are easily found on eBay and many are dirt cheap. However, there is a dedicated fan base for these, and rare color variants, the even rarer second series and international editions command high prices and auction frenzies. I have a few of these figures, but with space around the ninja cave at a premium I tend to bow out of such contests. So happy hunting…

Carded wrongness of NONE CHUCK

One of our first toy posts back in 2009 was of an artifact from my own craze-era collection, and a reader just sent me pics of one still on its card, so here’s an update for those of you who missed this back in the day:

 

SEP 3, 2009

Here’s the all-time heavy-weight champeen of politically incorrect – hell outright racist and offensive – 80’s ninja toys: “None Chuck” from CrayArt / Mel Appel’s Weird Ball line. These 5″ vinyl statuettes were a throwback to Marx’s Nutty-Mads from the 60’s, but were actually cashing in on more contemporary merch lines like Garbage Pail Kids, Wacky Packs and Madballs.

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A seriously 40’s war-era buck-toothed “nip” sculpture in the 80’s… amazing.

I actually bought this piece as a gag gift to VN’s ninjutsu soul brother Tim March back in the day. He lent it back to me a few years ago to shoot for an eventual article, and has hopefully forgotten about it, cuz I like where it sits on my shelf. –winge–

Read all about the line and the figure at the absolutely awesome “Weirdo Toys” blog!

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More than six years later, NC is even more offensive, as my copy has yellow paint for the skin tones that’s been getting more and more yellow with age.

The one below, still on its heavily illustrated card (sadly not in too good a shape here) has more natural (read: caucasian) flesh color.

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Weird thing I had long forgotten about with this line was how they phased in and out of parody, producing some genuine confusion. “Made of 99.4% Bendable Plastic” — so is that a real stat, are they bragging about it, or is it an attempt at humor or what? WHY IS THAT LINE THERE?!?!?

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This is really making me want to hunt down a “Karate Sid” and “Humangasaki” to complete the triumvirate of martial arts cultural wrongness.

Or maybe not…

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I understand where this company was coming from with this line, but man… keep the character design at the comical gore and booger gag level, don’t go after the cheap ethnicity/culture dig. I’m no stalwart of ‘political correctness’ but man, did they really need to go “Paco Taco?”

Another thing — and anyone old enough to remember the early to mid-80s will concur — it was a time of pretty strong cultural exchange with Japan, with some of that nation’s best films, cartoons and comics becoming available in English for the first time, graphical art motifs and kanji showing up in fashions, music videos, even school supplies… just all over the place. We WANTED anything Japanese, we weren’t into laughing at them like sailors on shore leave during WWII. Just from a business perspective, NC and ilk were a bad idea.

 

Ninja-ize the head!

Here’s some prime examples of 80s ninja craze merch lingering into the 1990s.

Extreme sports were on the rise, the X-Games were on the horizon, but 80s-style ninja crap still sold in discount stores and blanket vendors outside subway terminals, so why not cash grab with some crossover exploitation?

What it came down to for manufacturers of cheap skateboard, BMX bike and motorcycle toys was if you could take an existing product, paint it black with some red highlights, and disguise or change the HEAD enough to “ninja-ize” the piece, you had a whole new revenue stream.

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A LION MARU clue

Stumbled across this image on another site and recognized it right away!

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Devotees of the Toys & Statues category of VN might remember the below post from a few years ago.

I’ve had this piece for decades now but this is the first time I’ve found packaging reference.

 

From October 11, 2010 _______________________________________________________________

About fifteen years ago now, I purchased a small collection of Bullmark Tiger Mask vinyl figures (like these) at a toy show in Ohio. Erroneously in that batch was this 13″ Kaiketsu Lion Maru figure, vintage early 70’s. It has no manufacturer’s markings or date, and I’ve been told it is likely a Chinese knock-off or unlicensed piece, which makes it even cooler.

I’m assuming this piece is indeed contemporary with the show’s original run, as it was in a collection of early 70’s vinyl that has never been reissued. It’s in amazing shape for its age, too. The rooted hair is still silky, no splits on the vinyl cape or cuffs, rubber boots still soft. I’m lucky I guess. Over the years I’ve entertained some offers from other collectors on this, but you’d have to be swinging some heavy yen…

The Dokuro ninja jobber is a modern piece in the same vein, released late 2009.

 

More KOSUGI KICKS…

Last year we put out an open call for images knocked-off from the iconic “Kosugi Kick” dual sword jump kick pose.

Read the original post here.

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We got some nice entries, from comics to cheap merch to costume catalog photos. Much of it is contemporary to the original pose’s proliferation during the 80s ninja craze, but some of these are newer — the pose is that eternal…

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Now, a true KK is one where the jump-kick pose, originally made famous by Bruce Lee, adds both the ninja suit and two short swords of some type to become the icon of the 80s ninja boom. The Shadowmasters cover left is a pure example of that (much of that figure looks root-scoped off the original photo!), whereas the items on right are more shinobi-fied kung-fu fare.

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The back of a Panosh “NINJA Mites” toy package featured a nice variation with… well, what are those? Cudgels? Light saber handles?

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Thanks for the up-close-and-personal shot of your likely stinky foot mister costume catalog model…

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This vintage VHS has a nice twist — a rare KK with an impact on a victim. Points off for only having one weapon though.

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And I had totally blanked out these late entires into the GI Joe line. The “Ninja Force” figures came late in the craze, and too late to save the Hasbro toy line, as well. Day-glow ninja with idiotic vehicles that were clearly molded for some other purpose just didn’t cut it.

Good stuff peeps, keep ’em coming!

 

Swordgirl promo cards from THREE TIDES

Birthday gift to myself at the beginning of the month — this astounding 8″ sofubi statue done in the style of wooden Netsuke charms, called “Sushi Dokuro.”

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I know… right!?!?!?

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“Sushi Dokuro” was designed/sculpted by Osaka tattoo artist Mitomo Horihiro.

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I’m assuming this little dinner plate is natto (codfish roe). I don’t know the story behind this piece, but I do know that natto is smelly and gross…

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I saw this on a vinyl toy blog and had to have it, but the bonuses in the package were almost cooler than the loot itself. Check out Horihiro’s promo cards!

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These fantastic ninja gals are based on traditional imagery with a modern infusion of tattoos, urban footwear and safe sex messages. The measure about 5-6″, and three of them were included with in my package.

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Shuriken and fishnets? This is my future wife! Check out the rubber on the sheath. Classic…

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And you have to love the artist’s self portrait, with chain & sickle.

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 See more at the Three Tides Tattoo site.

Some crazy rare vinyl on eBay right now!

You people are lucky as hell that I’m kinda broke right now, cuz for once I’m actually sharing some gems I stumbled across on Evil-Bay…

Check out this sofubi of what the seller describes as a “monster ninja” (I read this as “villain”) from Gekko Kamen:

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He’s like a giant version of Savitar!!!

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I have only a passing familiarity with ‘Moonlight Mask’ — who goes back to live action in the late 1950s, the cusp of the 60’s ninja boom in Japan. This 10″ vinyl ninja dude, however, is from the early 1970s anime reboot. But man is the sofubi ever on-model to classic TV ninja from the decade previous. A lot more so than the trippy anime that inspired it.

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Here’s a shot of the line-up via Skullbrain.org. Derivative designs harkening to Devilman, Kikaida, etc., but hey, monster in fedora for the WIN!

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Bid on him here.

Then, there’s this guy:

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I know, right?!?!?!?  That sword…

This manga version of Sarutobi Sasuke currently resides somewhere in Saudi Arabia.

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Bid on him here.

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This is another series I’m not especially familiar with, however I do have a beater VHS of the dubbed version Ninja: The Wonder Boy in the to-be-watched stack.

Happy hunting kids, enjoy my period of eBay inactivity while you can…

 

Can anyone ID these figures?

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Scored these tiny (they’re less than an inch tall) figures some time ago, still unable to ID them so we’re putting this out there, asking for help.

No markings whatsoever, so they might be out of a capsule machine? Or they’re part of a playset, being so tiny. I suspect these are knock-offs of a better-molded original, too.

They have articulation at the heads, shoulders and hips. Some have open hands for accessories but man, they’d be tiny…

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This l’il ninja is why we picked up the lot. The head sculpt is reminiscent of the second version of Storm Shadow from GI Joe.

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This sort of skull-headed robo-skelleton dude is my fave of the bunch. Who cares about a scuba diver or pilot when you’ve got a Deathlok-esque cyborg on your team…

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Any help would be appreciated y’all. Many thanks!

Enter the Tricycle

Maker unknown. Sellers, long forgotten. Year — probably sometime in the 1980s.

Logic… a mystery.

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Another fantastic, crap-tastic, relic from the days of blanket vendors outside subway stops, swapmeet junk toy booth and Chinatown gift shops.

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This head is actually somewhat familiar, I’ve seen it at various sizes for key rings, clip-on figurines, puppets, etc.

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There’s an excellent tradition of putting rather inappropriate properties on silly wind-up tricycles, from vintage superheroes to modern day collectible companies doing it for the sheer irony. So why not a black clad martial assassinon a bright orange bell-laden kid’s bike?

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