måndag 17 september 2012

My Fortress Maximus

My Fortress Maximus.

 Let me make one thing clear. I was a MOTU-boy growing up. I never really liked Transformers. If it didn’t have MOTU written on the box I wasn’t really interested. So I know it’s kind of absurd that I got a Fortress Maximus in the late 80s.
And I got it for free.
And to make it even more complicated, Max wasn’t even released in the northern Europe. Especially not I Sweden where I live.

Brace yourself and get ready for this is the strange, morbid and bloody tale of how it all came to happen. Well, it’s not that much of a morbid and bloodthirsty tale I must admit. Then again, I am Swedish so you never know. And I hope you don’t mind the spelling errors and grammar fault in the text below. Mind you, I am Swedish.
A morbid and Bloodthirsty Swede indeed. I’m just kidding! My story starts with me as an innocent young boy, at such tender age the only women I had the pleasure of fondling around with would had been Teela or possible Evil Lynn.

-It was the year 1989 and a new shopping mall got built in my town. Okay, it was only 5-6 stores but it was something new and fresh that attracted families and all sorts of curious citizens from around the community. (No drunks since no liquor was sold there, they mainly stayed close by the liqueur store down town)

It was a “Hey let’s spend the Saturday walking around in the shopping center” Kind of feeling. Let’s make a whole day of those 5-6 stores. One store had already closed for good short after the grand opening. I think it was a Pet shop. Those poor, poor animals. I remember being over all impressed by the architecture of it all. It was all brickwork. The buildings. The pavement. The bricks. It was a big deal. Well maybe not. But it was a solid build nonetheless. “Sturdy”, people might had whispered in awe. But that rarely happened. In fact it never happened.

One of the newly opened stores who wasn’t a soon to perish Pet shop or overstocked denim clothes stores was a brand new toy store. I was about 12 years old and had slowly begun the converting from action figure nerd to full blown video game nerd. The MOTU craze had perished for good it seemed. And also my life it felt like. No more MOTU? The concept were hard to grasp and I remembered the tragic news had hit me like a ton of bricks (much like the ones mentioned earlier) a year or so before in another rivaling toy store then the one mentioned earlier. “But there’s a “New adventures of He-man” coming soon, the lady in the toy store told me. “But its smaller figure” she continued, literally crushing the sad little boy (me) in front of her even further. “Smaller? No more anabolic versions of strange monsters and heroic lads in blonde fruity hair dues? “The New adventures of He-man?” I ask you!

But the choice between visiting a clothes store full of stoned-washed jeans and a toy store was a much easier pick. (Oh I got my share of stone-washed jeans in the 80s alright) But not today! (1989) Today (still 1989) I went into the toy store and lo and behold an entire section with Transformers stood in front of me. Or the other way around I guess. I stood in front of a literal wall of Autobots and whatnots. It seemed like a wall but my memory betrays me a bit and as a 12 year old boy most things strikes you as being a gigantic wall of some sort. Plus I wore glasses and that could have changed my perspective of thing slightly. Nonetheless, my far from 20/20 vision caught something on that wall.

It was a paper. And on that paper it proclaimed a contest of some sort. It was a drawing contest to be precise.

Bloody hell! I said out loud in my head. I didn’t usually curse in fear of my parents lurking around the cursing area because that could seriously put a dent in my plan to gain more toys and comics which I loved so very very much. No, the only real toy related cursing had occurred some years earlier when I found a Kobra Khan at a great discount. “Holy shit, that’s cheap!” I had said out loud this time. But in my defense, A: my parents wasn’t around and B: I didn’t think it would mentally affect my younger brother who was with me at the time. In fact it didn’t.  I am proud to inform you that I now swear frequently and without much hesitation. I’ve come a long way. But I digress.

The instructions wrote “Draw your own Transformers” Wow, It could not have been simpler. Well I guess it would have been much simpler if they just gave it away right there on the spot. But no such luck, those cheap bastards! I cursed in my head. Not to worry, I then thought instead. I could actually draw and paint really well even in that early stage of my life, since I had made sure no physical activities stood in my way to perfect my nerdy skills, being drawing superheroes, nude women or mastering Duck Tales on the Nintendo. This is going to be easy, I thought.

One fact that I was strangely unaware of at that time, or even more so, completely uninterested in was the fact that this contest in selected toy stores (I think it was a Danish store brand that had opened in Sweden) was the only way to get hold of F.Max at the time. You could buy your everyday Transformers but not the Fortress. No sir! It was like a forbidden robot fruit. Are there any Transformers who can transform into a fruit or vegetables? I ask myself mainly because I’m starting to get hungry as of writing this. I’m not sure why they didn’t sell Fortress in Europe but maybe it was that simple that the market for Transformers wasn’t really big around here and Max was deemed too expensive for the ordinary family. The contest might have been a publicity stunt to gain attention to the Transformers brand. But I’m guessing here.

So while the biggest problem you youngsters in America faced in the late 80s, namely convincing your parents to cough up with a ridiculous amount of money for a huge shape shifting plastic toy instead of spending it on that much needed eye surgery for your grandmother. We on the other hand, here in the dark and cold part of Europe; we couldn’t even get it if we wanted to. And we did want it mind you. If we had walked up to one of our parents and said with teary blurry eyes “Father, could you perhaps reach in to thy hart and thus your big wallet and giveth me and my 7 brothers and 8 sisters’ one measly Fortress Maximus to play with come Christmas? Please?”

Father would then had put down his pipe and newspaper and screeched towards my person “ It isn’t even released in this particular part of the world you little runt!” And the backside of his hand would have been my only x-mas gift from this fictional father figure. Not to speak of the whooping I would have received from my brothers and sisters for screwing up their plans of getting Christmas gift for their own part. If they too hadn’t been fictional. No, the contest was the way to go indeed!

So I draw a transformer. To tell the truth I was so uninspired at the time so I simply redrew a picture from the infamous Garbage Pail Kids Transformers robot “Hot Headed Harvey” But to please the elderly employees (again I was only 12 in comparison) I made it into a peace loving robot that shot flowers from his weapons and had kids dancing around him in pure joy. It made me sick. It still does. But the sickness in that drawing granted me a giant robot who could also transform somehow. It was indeed a Fortress Maximus. All was well.

I remember very clearly the phone call I received that particular day and the ladylike voice (in fact she was very much a lady) who told me I had won the contest and I simply had to come over and pick it up. I also got a phone call earlier that day from the local library who informed me that the book about dinosaurs I had reserved was now available. What a day!

But the downside of the actual win was pretty harsh. You see, they put my sickening (but with excellent pencil techniques mind you) peace loving robot drawing on a big cardboard sign and kept it in the store for several years! In fact I got it back when the store closed for good along with all the other stores in the area.

I could be sitting on the school bus minding my own business and some random kid would genuinely be interested and ask me questions about the contest since he and all the other random kids had gazed at my drawing in the toy stores window. Well, the cool kids had no clue because they had all stopped going to toy stores years earlier and now only attended sport shops or other stores with big bold letters with exclamation marks in their windows that had “cool” written all over it. Not sickening flowery heartwarming pictures of kissing Robots. Because that’s not cool. And it always haunted me in a way that I was being marked as an uncool kid at such young age. I regained a lot of coolness since then and even to a degree where I’m not slightly bothered by others people’s view of me. Also I have converted from drawing hugging and loving Transformers into a genuine Star Wars fan boy and that is okay in everybody’s book so no problem there.

And with all the teenage pubing jedi mind tricks messing around and scrambling your brain I wasn’t really certain I liked the damned thing. (The Robot) And while transforming it to its battle station form once or twice every year, the Max mainly remained in the attic. Thus preserving it in mint condition. Except for the box, since it was always in the way the constant shifting would create some scuffs and scratches over the years. But then I moved from my parents and consequently the box moving came to a halt. The Fortress and its paper coffin just laid there. And the years pasted until suddenly it was the year 2008.

 In 2008 the economies in Sweden were at an all-time low. The company I had worked for during 8 years went bankrupted and I lost my job. By a chance I found out from a coworker, who happened to be a huge Transformer fan, the extraordinary value of the F.Max. My stars what luck! My stars!

 I still had Max in my parent’s attic where I left it many years earlier. It really was a no-brainer; I sold it for a good amount of money to another Swedish Transformers fan. I took joy in knowing that my Max would finally come to its right. No I’m not talking about coming to its right á Toy Story 3, I’m talking Toy story 2. It went to another collector!

 I must admit I missed the big guy from time to time. I’m a sucker for nostalgia and my childhood in particularly. I never thrown away any of my toys, in fact I saved all the MOTU boxes and card backs from the 80s. I felt something was missing, a piece of my toy collecting puzzle. Or maybe I was missing a part of my brain, I’m not sure.

 Once in a while I dropped the buyer an email to check if he still had Max in his collection. And sure enough it remained there. I thought about asking him to sell it back but I didn’t really need it and I felt genuine comfort in knowing where Max was. Plus it was a lot of money involved. No, he had to keep it! I thought it would be very much like an adoption, I guessed without really knowing the pros and cons with the whole procedure of adopting a giant toy robot.

 But one evening, in fact a couple of weeks ago, regarding when you read this of course, I looked at the Transformers auctions on the Swedish version of Ebay , pronounced EEBaiiue ( Not really) and behold! Amongst the 40 items of vintage Motu and Transformers for sale (yes, its huge here in Sweden) there it was. My old Fortress Maximus. My toy! There it was! My ol Maxie boy! This was a toy related cussing moment if there ever was one!

 I quickly emailed the guy who once bought it from me and he explained that it was time for him to sell parts of his collection and get some money since he was soon to become a father. Very logical thinking on his behalf but I on the other hand was actually already a father so I saw nothing that prevented me to buying Max back! And I bought Fortress for the same amount of money that I got from the collector years earlier.  Again, very much like an adoption. I’m still guessing here.

 There you have it! The Fortress Maximus and his master.  My big, bold, beautiful and lovely Max that I have grown to love with all my heart! I will never leave you behind again or stuff you alone in the attic! You are here to stay! I also have a daughter who evokes the similar feelings.

 Ironically yours,

Proud F Max owner Henrik