Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Well, Captain Power, aren't you a shiny fellow?


Inspired by Shawn Robare's post over at Branded in the 80's, I decided to go looking for some of the more obscure figures of my youth. Like Shawn, I was looking at some of the less popular lines because I like getting toys in their original packaging, and G.I. Joe and Transformers are crazy expensive these days. As I was scouring e-Bay, and Etsy (yes, Etsy) I came across some familiar figures that I couldn't pass up.





Captain Power made his way to store shelves in 1987. The toyline was produced by Mattel, and it was accompanied by a live action tv series that debuted in September of that same year. If you're not familiar with the show, the gist of it was mankind fought a war against the machines, and lost. Badly. Captain Power and his team are the only ones keeping mankind from becoming digitized and erased by the evil Lord Dread and his Bio-Dread Empire.

 Mattel released several vehicles and accessories in the Captain Power line, such as the Powerjet XT-7 and the Phantom Striker.




These jets had infrared sensors on them that would allow viewers to shoot at holographic targets during the battle scenes. Of course, the enemies could shoot back at you if you weren't fast enough. Take enough hits, and the jets' cockpits would eject, flinging the pilot out. It's kind of like Lazer Tag, except the TV was your opponent.  It was a neat concept that unfortunately didn't work. I had a couple Phantom Strikers, as well as the Interlocker Throne, and never had much luck getting them to function with any accuracy. I spent most of my time chasing down the ejection seat and canopy after they got blasted off. So, I didn't really use the vehicles with the tv show all that much. It was a rare occasion that it aired anyway. I can only remember seeing two episodes total, and that's including the VHS tape of the first episode that was packed in with one of the Phantom Strikers.


Looking at the card backs, I can definitely see some Masters of the Universe influence in there. They both use the same basic color scheme, with the bright blue header over the bright red background. Where the MOTU cards had rocks flying toward your face, Captain Power has showers of sparks raining down on the characters. It might not be a very dynamic design, but it's still eye catching.


The backs of the cards were no less incredible. I miss the days when other figures and accessories in a toy line would be showcased on the card backs. I often wonder how kids are supposed to know just how many figures are part of each toy line. I guess there are websites for that sort of thing right now. The pictures on the back all have that "it could be photographs, but it looks like an illustration" look to them. It's similar to the style of art that Mattel used on the back of their MOTU cards. I've come to appreciate the simpler art style, compared to the fully painted images found on G.I. Joe or Transformer toys. At least you knew exactly what the other toys looked like, rather than seeing some highly detailed image that looked nothing like the final product.



I love how the files have been composed by the opposite team's supercomputer. They're actually pretty detailed, and I like the little random tidbits about each character; like how Lord Dread's not programmable due to his being half human, or that Captain Power's insignia is symbolic of man rising from the ashes of the Metal Wars. This is the first time I was actually able to read the file cards, since I'm pretty sure I tossed them out when I was younger. I doubt I would have understood half of the words they used anyway. I was only 6, I seriously doubt I knew what egocentric or treacherous meant. I'm still trying to figure out what the hell a transportable zapblade is though.

So, the cards are awesome, how were the figures?



They weren't that bad. They don't quite have G.I. Joe levels of articulation, but they're still rather detailed. Plus, I'm a sucker for anything that's been vac-metallized. I always loved Dread's look, with his half cyborg parts and his royal purple cape. He was often the leader of all of my other bad guys, since I didn't have a Cobra Commander, and I didn't know enough about Darth Vader to put him in charge of everyone. Captain Power on the other hand, never excited me as much. He was a great looking figure, but he just didn't have the charisma of Lord Dread. He sometimes got to lead the troops into battle, but he was rarely the one in charge.


Captain Power was the only figure with a special feature, which was just basically a hole in his back for light to shine through. You see, you put attach the good Captain to his Power On Energizer, and then point him toward the TV. During the "Power On!" sequence, the Energizer would light up and make noise, shining light through the lens in his chest. It wasn't as much fun as the jets, but it made a great display stand for Captain Power.

Sadly, the show and the toys didn't last long. It tried to appeal to adults and children, and in turn it alienated both groups. It was seen as too dark and violent for kids, and adults were turned off by the goofy title. Couple that with the fact live action shows are expensive to produce compared to animated programs, as well as the lack of a consistent time slot, and Captain Power's show never stood a chance. Still, it was aninteresting concept, one that I'm surprised no one else has tried to update.

If you're interested in reading more about the Power On Energizer, feel free to check out this post I just stumbled across on Doomkick.

Then, if you want to see the Energizer in action, check out this video from Retro Toy Review.



Until next time, Power on!

10 comments:

  1. Awesome post and total zeitgeist.

    I just finished recording the latest episode of Geek Fallout with Miss M and Chris and Evan, and we talked about Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future quite a bit. Easily one of the most underrated programs and toy-lines from the '80s. I even picked up a loose Blastarr figure a few months back.

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    1. Oh man, that's crazy. I actually watched a couple episodes on Youtube, and I was surprised by how good the acting was. It was nowhere near as cheesy as I thought it would be. The special effects on the other hand....they were pretty bad. But, that's what you get for a low, low budget.

      I remember there was talk of a reboot, but it seems to have stalled out. I'll definitely have to check out the podcast, and hear the thoughts of some fellow Captain Power fans.

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  2. I had a chance to get a few toys from this line but i passed was just never my thing so the interest just wasn't there.

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    1. I got lucky with this line. I got a bunch of figures and vehicles for Christmas. One of those instances where I was interested and didn't even know it ;-).

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  3. I will be adding some of these figures to the old collection soon Chris. The figures, as well as the show, played a big part in my childhood toy adventures. I never got any of the vehicles but had a few of the major characters as a kid. Nowadays everything has been ninja-fied. Space just isn't as hip anymore.

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    1. If you're lucky, you can usually find a bunch of carded CP figures for not very much money. I seem to see the vehicles on eBay quite a bit too. The high end seems to be 25-30 for most, with the second wave going for a little more. I just don't think there is much interest in the line, so the demand isn't there, thankfully.

      I'm not sure why space lost its mystique. It's so much more interesting than ninjas. Space ninjas on the other hand...

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    2. Space Ninjas,thats genius!

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  4. I never collected Captain Power. I was 15 in 87 and was into wrestling then.

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  5. Just picked up a couple of the jets set for my son and I on e-bay. Everyone only talks about how the toys were interactive with the TV shows, but the jets are also interactive with each other. 5 hits from the opposing jet and your pilot is automatically ejected. Light, sounds the works. 30 years later and 8 year olds still find this fun.

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    1. I completely forgot to mention that you could use the jets against each other. If I remember right, the Energizer could also be used, but that was a bit of a cheat. It could give damage, but it couldn't take any.

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