Cheap Robots & the Men Who Buy Them

Macro shot of a cheap transforming robot toy's head

I‘m very much an 80s kid. I grew up with Transformers and G.I. Joe, not Rugrats and Ed, Edd n Eddy. Though I did spend a good chunk of my childhood in the 90s, growing up in Muscat, away from the twin cultural juggernauts of India and the US, meant that some things arrived later, and stayed around more. And 80s cartoons, and a love of the toys that came with the subculture, is one of those things.

Now as an adult with a minor disposable income and questionable taste, I can indulge myself by getting some of the toys I just couldn’t as a kid. Alas, living in Dubai now means that toys are horrendously overpriced (seriously, one of those big Optimus Prime toys that cost $50 is over twice as much here), and I don’t really want to bother with shipping them in, because I have too much stuff anyway.

Still, once in a while I’ll pass through the supermarket’s toy section and come upon some cheap range of toys that are surprisingly good, if kitsch, and pick one up. The last time this happened I got the awesome Dark Warrior toy.

Today, I picked up this ‘Transbots’ action figure. It’s not particularly well painted, but the original mould (I’m guessing it was an official Transformer once***) is solid and for something that costs AED 24 it’s not bad at all. I literally haven’t played with it yet, but in robot mode it’s very poseable, with nicely jointed legs.

I have some Revell paints left over from when I bought a Star Wars jedi starfighter kit, and may repaint this guy at some point. And maybe I’ll even pick up another from this set to go with it.

So maybe I don’t have all the fancy toys I’d like to; honestly, I can’t say spending my money on a huge toy collection is a great idea. But I do have an increasing number of strange Chinese knock-offs, and they are for me what toys should be: fun.

Macro shot of a cheap transforming robot toy in its robot form


***(UPDATE: Identified the original as a Starscream toy from the Transformers: Cybertron ‘Galaxy Force’ line. This knockoff has basically stripped a few of the more complex clear plastic parts)

Dark Warrior Toy

Action Figure of Dark Armoured Warrior with axe and shield
Holiday shopping is one of the few times I actually end up browsing through a store for more than just the essentials like groceries. Other than bookstores, I have a very low threshold for shopping, so this is one of the few times spend more than ten minutes there.

And the strange thing about shopping for relatives in India, is that I always end up finding something or the other I want myself! Take this little action figure, for instance. It was only AED 15 (a little over $4), and for the price it was quite well made. It’s a cheap and cheerful toy, surprisingly detailed, and one in a whole glut of products that covered everything from zombie pirate playsets to dinosaurs and giant gun-wielding policemen. On the other shelf were Transformers toys that cost over $100, and they weren’t actually any good.

But while it’s a nice little figure on its own, I was sold on it when I noticed a hole in the pack for a finger, and a well-camouflaged purple button on the figure’s belt. I had to press it…
Action Figure of Dark Armoured Warrior with axe and shield, with eyes and helmet lit up
How cool is that?



Two mannequins in the store display of a Burberry shop