REMCO “Secret of the Ninja” box art


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.


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.


(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:


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.

Remco_Ninjabox_13 Remco_Ninjabox_12


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


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…

Dragon Force Ninja


One small… small… step above the generic 80’s rack figure would be this line of Remco and Norris Kommando compatible figures from the Lanard company. Dragon Force Ninja Dragonmaster figures came in at least three colors — black, white and red — and there was even a female version of at least the red scheme. Besides the ninja, Dragon Force also included Karate and Kung-Fu heroes.

I would give my left nut for that female figure…

In the realm of bargain and generic figures, the Lanard’s were actually pretty well put together, although lean on accessories.  A single sword is all they had, no oversized shuriken or outre chain weapons here.




The ninja had two headsculpts with varying hair paint. The Norris-knock-offs just looked like bear-porn stars. Note the bare feet hastily painted over in place of properly sculpted tabi.


Things I did not buy on eBay this Summer

For the past few months, I’ve been saving the pennies for a new book project coming in late October over in From Parts Unknown land, so of course a ton of ultra rare and cool shit shows up on eBay.

I want to say congratulations — and BITE ME! — to the lucky S.O.B.’s who scored this stuff in my absence:

Complete Ninja Assassins werewolf? DAMMIT!!!

I guess this awesome 3-4″ pewter figurine was a premium with a rare variant of the already rare Jason Ng “Tao” sixth-scale ninja figures from the mid-2000s. Who knew this even existed. DOUBLE DAMMIT!!!

But this… THIS is just not fair. Perfect and complete Karate Kid II Attack and Training Center! Never liked this movie, but this Remco masterpiece was the perfect dojo for myriad He-Man-scale ninja figures. Would have looked soooooo good on my shelf.

Oh, AND some rare-ass figures thrown into the lot? Nice… thanks.

Look at those black and white ninja kicking dummies. Man are those sweet. This hurts my toy hoarding soul.


Remco VHS art – 1986

The much-missed masters of cheap toy lines Remco released a He-Man-sized line of martial arts action figures from 1984-86 called Secret of the Ninja. Three sets were done in ’86 that included VHS tapes to ‘play along to’ – and man are these tapes some historical oddities!

Yeah… Kaiketsu Lion Maru… the pilot episode… on domestic VHS… DUBBED IN ENGLISH! What the hell? Did the soon-to-be-defunct toy company bring in a cast of voice-over actors to do this up? Was there a dubbed pilot floating around public domain after a long-forgotten failed pitch to film or TV markets? Is this the only surviving remnant of a whole season of the tokusatsu classic  re-purposed for the American market that never saw the light of day?

Now the dubbed version of Kamui I can understand a bit more – the series ran for years in Latin American markets, was dubbed for Italian TV, and more. An English version was probably done in hopes of similar syndication, but the nature of the knife-wielding youngster killing ninja in the trees may have been a bit much for American corporate sensibilities.

Regardless of the origins of the programs on these tapes, the box art was certainly new and a product of Remco. They’re signed “S. Paracio” or “Sparacio.”

Someday I’ll get around to photographing my modest collection of these figures. It’s a weird line with all-over-the-place designs, and head sculpts that look a lot like 70’s high-school math teachers.