Stamp Tramp

4

This may come as no surprise to those who know me, but I’m what most would call a “sensitive” guy. Make no mistake, I’m not emotionally fragile or anything. Quite the opposite; when the mood takes me, and I can call on the Power of Grayskull, I can be quite fierce.

But I am definitely sensitive or emotional or whatever. The kind who cries at movies. I totally lost it the other day watching Short Circuit 2. Yeah, the sequel.
I went to pieces…! That little goggle-eyed Johnny Five is such an endearing character, so optimistic and full of life, that when the baddies smash him up at the end of the film you can’t help but feel for him. It’s unbearable – like watching Hulk Hogan choke-slam baby ducks. YOU JUST CAN’T DO IT.

"I'M COMING BACK FOR THE EGGS!"

“I’M COMING BACK FOR THE EGGS!”

This is why I maintain that Michael Bay is full of shit. He turns Transformers into insectoid monsters that essentially cameo in their own car commercial film, and then adds in Even Stevens and Megan Fox’s belly button to make the film “relatable” to the audience. As if people watching are morons and won’t “identify” with the robot characters because they themselves are not robots. We did it in the eighties, Michael. I’m not a fucking Terminator either, but I was quite able to sit through T2: Judgement Day.

"Perfect, guys! Just give me a little more racism, and we're there!"

“Perfect, guys! Just give me a little more racism, and we’re there!”

Anyway, I should get back on track.

It’s no secret that I’m a fan of My Little Pony. I really enjoy it. It’s strange, because I hated it when I was a kid. This was probably because of the grotesque appearance of the characters more than anything else. The toys were ugly with a capital “F”. They gave me the creeps. So in space-year 2012, I even surprised myself by embracing MLP so wholeheartedly.

The pony love was not without precedent, however. When I was young, I was very fond of another eighties franchise with cute, insignia-branded animals: The Care Bears.

*Hnnnng!*

*Hnnnng!*

My first teddy bear was of the Caring variety. Well, that’s not strictly true. It was a knock-off, imitation Care Bear. Were my parents tricked into buying such a thing? Or did they get the cheaper of two options? The truth is lost in the mists of time.

I believe that the Care Bears started off in ’82 as greeting card characters, as did many things back then such as Strawberry Shortcake and The Get Along Gang. A couple years later, Kenner started making plushes, and then after some TV specials the animated series started in 1985. I don’t recall ever seeing any actual greetings cards, although that’s probably because I was a foetus and not prone to shopping at Clintons. I do remember seeing the Care Bears emblazoned on everything, though. My sister had Care Bear wallpaper in her bedroom. I had ‘space’. Woo.

Aren’t they adorable? It’s a cold, dead person who  looks at those little bears – with their heart-shaped noses, round bellies and little stubby paws clamouring for a hug – and doesn’t feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

I have a small collection of plushes, most acquired in recent times when I was (legally) an adult. They sit on my bed, silent sentinels, ever watchful, to ward away bad feelings. They also seem to ward away women. This is a side-effect I am willing to live with.

Love me, love the bears.

Pictured: My bedroom

Pictured: My bedroom

I spent a lot of time as a kid at my cousin’s house. We’d sit down on the sofa, pop Care Bears the Movie into the top-loader, and be enthralled by their antics. This film was a favourite of mine because it introduced the Care Bear Cousins – they were a veritable menagerie of different animals, although at first glance they are superficially similar to the standard Care Bears. At the end of the film, the Cousins are awarded their tummy emblems, and this brings me nicely to my next point.

Bunnies and penguins and cats, oh my!

Bunnies and penguins and cats, oh my!

Many franchises in the eighties relied on each character being unique and identifiable. Whether you chummed around with Strawberry Shortcake or were a valiant Visionary Knight, you weren’t a character unless you had a theme or were a walking metaphor.

"I keep telling you - they're not belly badges, they're Chest Symbols For Men!"

“I keep telling you – they’re not ‘belly badges’, they’re Chest Symbols For Men!”

The Care Bears each have their own insignia, and this represents their nature or ability. For example, Funshine Bear has a big smiling sun on his tummy, and his shtick is that he brings cheer and sunshine into people’s lives. Secret Bear had a padlock. She spoke only in people’s ears and was incapable of making audible sound, a bit like Sooty. Or me, when I try and talk to girls. There was occasionally magic involved, and each bear could summon a magic spell or item from their tummy to help them out of a sticky situation. This had a flavour of deus ex machina about it.

The Care Bear Cousins were, for the most part, themed around emotions or feelings. So you had Loyal Heart Dog, Proud Heart Cat and so on. It fell apart with Swift Heart Rabbit and Hefty Heart Elephant, though. I think there were more animals than there were available feelings.

Back in the My Little Ponyverse, they too have emblems, although this time the insignia are on their bums. They still represent the character’s personality or talents, though. Some are pretty oblique, others patronisingly obvious. One of my favourites is Twilight Sparkle; her bottom is branded with a cluster of stars. Count the points and you’ll see that they number 42 – the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything. This represents Twilight’s unending quest for knowledge.

Any excuse to look at her bottom *cough*

“Do you MIND!?”

For some reason, the idea of these insignia really appeals to me. I like the fact that each character is unique and special. Don’t we all strive for the same thing, to be recognised as a unique individual? Don’t we all wish that our talents and abilities were a little more obvious? You could be somebody, instead of a nobody lost in the crowd.

Or maybe I’d just like to imagine that if I got mugged off in the street, help was just a tummy-rub away, and I could magic up a laser beam or a dinosaur or something to vanquish my opponent.

That is all.

“Fox’s belly button”

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4 comments on “Stamp Tramp

  1. I too am an emotional guy, anytime I read or see the impactful moment that Bruce Wayne’s parents are killed…be it in movies or comics, my eyes mist up. Wonder Woman’s birthing from clay is another and don’t get me started on that amazing piece of cinema (and my 2nd favourite comic ever) V for Vendetta, an emotional rollercoaster for sure. I have also got a bit of a temper as well, tis the red head in me, keep writing good sir, your posts always highly entertaining.

    • aniblack says:

      Thanks, Bruce!

      If only everyone else in the world had such empathy!

      This is the first I’ve heard about Wonder Woman’s muddy origins. Reminds me of the old tales of golems.

      I was kind of all over the place writing this post. Just sat down and started typing away. ^_^ Maybe that’s best?

      • That is Wondy’s original origin story, it was changed recently, but the clay one will always be canon for me. She was sculpted out of clay by Amazon Queen Hippolyta and given life by the Gods of Olympus…so very cool, I recommend the recent-ish Wonder Woman animated movie for this amazing origin, it’s also a bloody good movie! I always find it easier to just sit and write than do too much planning, always seems to flow better for me good sir.

  2. tichalla says:

    As the aforementioned cousin, I can categorically state that our time spent on the sofa watching the Care Bears movie is an outright lie. We were Floor Kids, dammit! Who needs a sofa when we can sit closer to the T.V hoping the extra strain won’t detach our retinas? Maybe that’s why we all wear glasses now. Eh, Summa Cum Ladue, or whatever. Also, VISIONARIES: KNIGHTS OF THE MAGICAL LIGHT!

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