Blast Off! Rockets, Robots, Ray Guns and Rarities from the Golden Age of Space Toys
S. Mark Young, Steve Duin, and Mike Richardson
Over the years there have been many books, and parts of books, written about space toys. From Leland and Crystal Payton's Space Toys: A Collectors' Guide to Science Fiction and Astronautical Toys , published in 1982 , to the sections on space toys in Stuart Schneider's now classic 1993 book Collecting the Space Race, to the recent UFO & Alien Collectibles Price Guide published last year by Dana Cain, numerous publications have presented space toys of one kind or another. Yet despite the substantial interest in the topic and the numerous writings seeking to satisfy that interest, the definitive study remained to be written. For some of the best writings on space toys, like the Payton's book, are now painfully outdated; others , like Cain's, suffer from slipshod research and shoddy organization; and many, like the recent Space Toys of the 60s:An Illustrated Collector's Guide by James Gilliam and Ray Gun by Gene Metcalf and Frank Maresca, are too tightly focused on a particular chronological period or toy type to offer a survey of the field as a whole.
All of this will soon change. Next fall the first truly complete, and undoubtedly the best, book on space toys will be published. Called Blast Off! Rockets, Robots, Ray Guns and Rarities from the Golden Age of Space Toys, the book has been written by Mark Young, a professor of accounting at the University of Southern California, Steve Duin, a newspaper writer for the Portland Oregonian, and Mike Richarson founder and president of Dark Horse Comics. While this may seem like an unlikely trio to produce the definitive book on space toys, a few facts need to be admitted into evidence. Young has been collecting 1950s and 60s space toys for years, has one of the best collections in the country, and is an unrelenting professional researcher who knows how to do what it takes to get the facts right. Duin, an accomplished writer, is the co- author of the definitive study of comic books, Comics: Between the Panels. And Richardson not only coauthored with DuinComics:Between the Panels, but has a history of publishing groundbreaking and award-winning pop culture products. Together the three of them have produced a books that sets a new standard for the study of toys.
Many things make this book a pacesetter. To begin with, it is fastidiously accurate. Years in the making, it is the result of painstaking original research about the toys and toymakers who created the most popular space toys. From Archer to Johillco to the origins of Japanese tin robots, each manufacturer and their toys are presented in detail. In addition, the book covers virtually all the categories of space toys including: rayguns, tin robots, playsets, comic books, pulp magazines, original advetising, space figures, space helmets and clothes, games, card sets, and many more. Yet it is not only toys that are exhaustively studied in this volume, the book also presents extensive informatin on all of the major Golden Age space heloes like Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Dan Dare, Tom Corbett, Captain Video, and the Space Patrol television show. And that's only the beginning. Blast Off contains extensive interviews with many prominent collectors and authorities in the field as well as hundreds of incredible color photographs, patent drawing and advertisements, many of which have never been illustrated in any other volume. Wrap all this up into a books that is beautifully designed and visually stunning, and there you have it - the definitive study.
If, perhish the thought, you could only have one book on space toys, Blast Off should be it. Everyone will discover their favorite parts. I was fascinated with the newly unearthed information about the ties between English and American space toys, the story of the recent Griffith RobotCollection Auction at Sotheby's in December of 2000, and the interviews withcollectors and authorities like Robert Lesser and Bob Burns. And then there is the chatty, and very funny, blow-by-blow description of the quest of several 50s kids to get a ride on the Ralston Rocket. Whether you are interested in new facts about space toys and the companies that made them, or hilarious anecdotes and stories by and about some of the best known figures in the field, there is something here for you. After this book, collecting space toys will never be the same again. To order a copy of the book go here.
The publication of Blast Off accompanies the opening of an extensive exhibition of space toys at the Museum of the California Center for the Arts in Escondido, California in early October 2001. This exhibition, the first of its kind in an American art museum, presents over 100 toys made during the Golden Age of space toys.
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