Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Star Trek Phaser Ray Gun (Azrak Hamway International / 1970s)

You get something equally horrifying and magnificent when package designers draw their inspiration from black light posters. Like this card for the Star Trek Phaser Ray Gun.

You can't look away, right? And yet you feel yourself slipping into madness...

I love Azrak Hamway International. Better known to the world as AHI, the company gleefully licensed properties left and right, and then released toys that were often low on quality but always high on fun.

Well... high on something.

Take this Star Trek gun, for instance. It's hard to tell from the photo, but the thing's about five inches long, tops. It's made from thin plastic and has the simplest electronics possible. Short on features, the cardback reaches for any selling point, proudly proclaiming, "With Click Action Noise!" That's pretty much the same technology you'd see on toy ray guns from 20 years earlier. (A subject near and dear to my heart, as those of you who read my other blog, Doc Atomic's Attic of Astounding Artifacts know.)

But who cares, right? This thing's awesome. It's a great -- if inaccurate -- sculpt of a classic science fiction weapon. The logo emblazoned on the phaser's side, with its chrome finish and retro lightning bolts, is nice and old school. And yes, a real Star Trek phaser wouldn't actually say "Star Trek" on it, but that's partly why I love this toy so much.

It's a toy, not a prop replica. It's not supposed to be 100% accurate. Or, based on this little bad boy, even 60% accurate... Ahem. It's supposed to look just enough like the real deal to inspire the imagination -- and that's it. Heck, kids buying this thing back in the Seventies were lucky it wasn't painted neon pink to match the card.

And yeah, about that card. It's art as a weapon, design as a war crime, an unholy attack on good taste. It's also compellingly aggressive, whimsically alien, and well outside the imagination of marketing gurus, focus groups, and executive naysayers. I can't possibly imagine how it passed muster -- except that all AHI artwork is delightfully tweaked, so for whatever reason, the company clearly endorses the look.

I'm not usually a mint-on-card kind of guy -- and really, this is a discussion we're going to have -- but this gun, on this card, just looks so freakin' awesome. (And frankly, I don't want to be the guy who takes a toy that's survived 30 years like this and just rips it open. Again, a discussion for some other time.) It even has a weird, yellow beam of energy printed on the card, right at the barrel of the phaser. Perfect!

I definitely want to chase down some of the other carded weapons produced by AHI. They've got a few other interesting Star Trek phasers, a Lost In Space gun, and numerous Space: 1999 weapons. All of which, one day, I'd like to add to my shelf.

For now, though, I'm content with having just this one. Besides, any more than that in one room and I'm pretty sure I'll go blind.

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