There’s “chain mail” on the Paladin helmet! All the sets and more, including Warduke gear, appear in the 1984 Placo catalog.
The Strongheart illustration is similar to that used on Coleco’s D&D Power Cycle (1984).
Surveying the Gen X landscape and the origins of geek
Moonraker, though considerably less hyped than The Black Hole and Star Trek: The Motion Picture, actually did better at the box office. I saw all three in ’79, and also remember seeing The Black Stallion (a gorgeous, unforgettable movie I didn’t fully appreciate as a kid: watch it again). I was dying to see Alien, especially after repeated exposure to one of the greatest trailers ever made, but that wouldn’t happen for a few more years.
Lone Star, a strange name for a UK company, specialized in die cast toys, like Corgi, another UK company that released some memorable Moonraker toys. Lone Star also made the neat “Golden Gun” seen below in 1975. The man who played the man with the golden gun was, of course, Christopher Lee, whose movies meant so much to me then and now that I haven’t been able to put anything into words yet.
(Second two images via 007 Collector)
It’s no The Last Starfighter Super Electronic Gun, although it does come with an “interplanetary code”—for some reason.
There were four major reasons original laser tag was a short-lived fad, with both Photon and Lazer Tag ending production in less than 5 years. First, Lazer Tag, the more popular brand by far, came out in November 1986, and the units were drastically underproduced when demand was highest. Second, the technology may have been cleaner than paintball, but it was much less effective. Nothing pisses off a kid more than a hit that doesn’t register. Third, the units were expensive (about $50 in 1986) and playing alone was boring, so you and a friend (or, better yet, friends) had to convince the respective parental units to shell out. Four, there were very few official arenas to support team play and provide the futuristic atmosphere the game required (as played up in the commercials). By Christmas 1987, we had moved on to something much bigger and better: the NES.
One last thing. Laser tag wasn’t immune to the biggest toy gun problem of all. In 1987, a group of teenage boys was playing Lazer Tag at night in a California elementary school. A neighbor called the police, and when a sheriff’s deputy arrived, one of the kids, thinking the deputy was a player, jumped out and “tagged” him. The cop shot twice, and the kid died.
(Ad image via X-Entertainment)
The commercials are slightly different and highlight different weapons (pump-action shotgun, water grenade set), but the catchy tagline is the same: “The look… the feel… the sound… so real. En-ter-tech.” The cadence and music are unmistakably military, and the letters of Entertech appear on the screen in time to the rattle of a machine gun.
Zap-It was another Entertech gun line, the gimmick being that the “ammo” was disappearing ink. The first commercial is from 1987, before enactment of the orange tip law. Watch the kid pop out from behind the door and shoot the pleasantly bemused postman! (There were 18 postal killing incidents in the U.S. between 1983 and 1997. The first use of the phrase “going postal” in the media seems to date to 1993.)
The second commercial, from the early ’90s, features guns decked out in all the colors of the rainbow. The Death Wish fantasies of the Reagan era gave way to Clintonian sax appeal and Vanilla Ice brand hip-hop.
Only in America, and only during the 1980s. LJN’s Entertech line (1986 – 1990) was hugely popular, and might’ve saved its parent company if not for all the cops shooting kids holding realistic-looking weapons. All toy guns were required to be fit with an orange tip starting in 1989.
Photon was the first laser tag unit to be sold commercially (1986), followed almost immediately by the Lazer Tag brand (released by Worlds of Wonder). Both were out of business by 1990.
LJN also produced a Gotcha! The Sport! NES game and paintball gun in 1987, based on the 1985 movie.
There were several memorable commercials for Entertech products. I’ll dig some up.
From a 1985 The Day story on ‘aggressive fantasies’:
Sales of action figures and accessories brought more than $620 million last year… Toy gun sales accounted for $64 million…
`When I was young, it was army men and cowboys and Indians. I think the format for fantasies has changed,’ said John Pedesco, chief psychologist at the Child Guidance Center in Des Moines, Iowa. `It’s become more space and surrealistic, but the nature of the play has not changed…’
‘I think we have one of the more violent societies existing today,’ said Pedesco. ‘If we’re going to look at where it (aggressive play) comes from, it doesn’t happen in a vacuum.’