Mel Appel Extraterrestrials Collectible Figure
Item No.: n/a Manufacturer:Remco Includes:Easily lost paper slip (not shown), presumably purple caplug (this one is red) Action Feature:n/a Retail:$1.99 Availability: ca. 1982 Other: From the planet LEAR
The signal-to-noise level of Google and eBay make life daunting, particularly when obscure toy lines use sound-alike names that make things difficult to find. I assume it's difficult to pirate a show called "Episodes" much as it is difficult to find largely unknown toys from Remco called Extraterrestrial. It's pretty close to E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, of which there are tens of thousands of products cluttering up eBay. I was on the lookout for Egroeg and his buddies to go along with the Captain Evets I've had since I was about three or four, in part because it was a warm childhood memory and also because I made a fairly active decision to stop buying vintage toys in the late 1990s and early 2000s as reproductions - bootlegs and knock-offs, really - came into being for Star Wars guns and entire boxed Transformers. What good was the hunt if the prize was bogus? A few years ago I realized there were some lines I liked enough that were rare, scarce on information, and largely unloved - so I started looking those up, so I could write about them and hopefully help others (maybe like yourself) identify what weird figure they got at a garage sale or at a thrift store. While I had a lot of strange names for Evets in my head - many of which were wrong, like Wishnik or Genie or Martian - I had virtually no memory of his three siblings. Egroeg looked at me with big eyes I haven't seen since I was a wee lad, but it still packed an odd emotional punch.
This 4 1/4-inch alien is generally free of the things adult collectors prize - there's no articulation, and the only accessories are a small plastic caplug (reading CAPLUGS EC-20 NAS-813-20) holding in what I originally thought was a fortune cookie paper with numbers on it. This one has the wrong plug - it has a red one from another character - and the paper appears to be long gone. The secret code was numbers representing the alphabet, with messages like "I'm not alone anymore" or "You're my best friend." They may come off as saccharine, or almost tear-inducing depending on if you had a childhood where that may not be far from the truth - as many children of the 1980s seem to have felt. The theme ran rampant through the 1980s toy world, with Care Bears, Hugga-Bunch, and similar playthings trading off commodifying a lack of human contact. Many of the boy's toy lines were similar in that they had stand-ins for "My Buddy" or "Kid Sister," as well as robots, soldiers, and barbarians that would defend you when nobody else was around. Today the overarching motif in boy's toys is "saving the day." That's the toy - there's a conflict, and you're the hero. If you get into the toy business - and to the next generation, who I hope is reading this at 15 and planning to wind up in the toy business, you will - that's what they show you at toy demonstrations today - girl toys have less focus and generally lack any sort of real goal beyond being pretty, cooking, or mommy-related stuff. We're definitely letting our children down in this department, but I digress.
It's sort of amazing to track how life from outer space evolved in plastic - bug-eyed monsters and alien invaders were originally a 1950s and 1960s cold war stand-in for the Communists. The late 1960s and early 1970s focused a little more on exploration, science, and The New Frontier. This would eventually be cast aside in favor of the space western, with Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica until the early 1980s where we had a brief stint by E.T. and his knock-offs as surrogate parents or other family members. Space toys started to go out of vogue, but not before a few other lines would come - and fail - with creative but ultimately unmotivated alien menaces. (LEGO's classic Space segment being a notable long-running, open-ended, and optimistic exception.) Space creatures continued to play a big role in the toy world, but since the 1990s it seems it was more about nostalgia and holding on to our past than as a possible metaphor for the world around us or our future. Our modern space toys tell us that we lack hope.
The turtle-like Egroeg is a purple character with clear eyes - there's a hint of blue, a cute smile, tiny nostrils, and tons of bumps. His "shell" looks like a robe in front, while the back looks almost insect-like in appearance. His small, seemingly useless limbs look like a terrapin of some sort, with the shape of his head probably being the closest approximation of E.T. in the entire line-up. (If you get a look at the, er, "borrowed" packaging below you get a good idea of what they were pushing for.) I hope figure designers take note of just how amazing light and shadow dance on the sculpt - it's simple, with few deep cuts on the body and utterly simple to make out all the parts and pieces - this is not a figure you would look at and go "where's the paint?" It looks like they made it exactly as intended, thanks in part to the expressive face and shining eyes.
Of the many great space toy lines - Outer Space Men and Major Matt Mason, Marx' unique astronauts and aliens, Star Wars, Power Lords, and so many more - these unarticulated figures don't look like much. They say TMAC 1982 on their butts and don't do anything - most toys aimed at kids are limited in articulation and features, and you can't get any more limited than no features and zero articulation. There's really not a lot of amazing wonder in this figure in the sense that Alpha 7 was a tiny man from Mars, or that a Jawa was a little guy from Tatooine. All we know is that he comes from the planet Lear, is friendly, and fell into a void from which no toy can escape - obscurity. There's nothing you can do once people stop caring, and they couldn't stop caring fast enough. THe big toy lines have fans fighting to see who can make the biggest and best archives, while lines like these vinyl figures simply fade from existence.
At press time I have three of the four figures from this line and one of which I can't even find his name online - packaged samples are far and few between, but it seems there's an abundance of Egroeg out there. I would love to see a photo of the back of the packaging (or indeed a packaged figure to buy) and would love to know more about their creation. If you worked for the Mel Appel Company, please do me a favor and contact me somehow. I want to know more about these before it's too late. I find this figure to be incredibly charming and as you can see they really strike a strong emotional chord with me - I can't guarantee this three-toed, wrinkly little guy will do the same for you but it is truly amazing how I can be excited for a new toy, go out to hunt for a new toy, and buy a new toy and it's all well and good while a real oddity like this - which rarely even comes up for sale - can just slide under the radar, show up in my house, go a while before being opened, and then just lay down a devastating attack on my increasingly fragile psyche.
16bit.com is best not viewed in Apple's Safari browser, we don't know why. All material on this site copyright their respective copyright holders. All materials appear hear for informative and entertainment purposes. 16bit.com is not to be held responsible for anything, ever. Photos taken by the 16bit.com staff. Site design, graphics, writing, and whatnot credited on the credits page. Be cool-- don't steal. We know where you live and we'll break your friggin' legs.