Wednesday, July 21, 2010

RETRO TOY FLASHBACK # 90: Rock Lords (Bandai/Tonka) (1985)

I write this post today in honor of my son, Joel, who will be four years old in a few short months.

Joel's latest toy obsession (after Transformers, after Kenner Superheroes, after Bakugan...) revolves around metamorphic creatures called "Rock Lords."

These action-figures are a spin-off from Bandai's and Tonka's successful GoBots line of the mid-1980s. In 1986, specifically, there was an animated feature film called GoBots: Battle of the Rock Lords (1986) and it involved the GoBot Guardians protecting "powerful living rocks" from the likes of Cy-Kill and the leader of the evil rocklords, named Magmar (and voiced by Telly Savalas). Margot Kidder voiced the Rock Lord queen, Solitaire, and Roddy McDowall played Nuggit, the sort of R2D2 of this particular franchise.

Now, unlike Transformers or GoBots, these Rocklords don't actually transform into vehicles...they transform At first blush, that sounds highly uninteresting and totally lacking in creativity, but Joel loves these critters with a passion. First, he loves transforming them; they're great puzzles to further develop his small motor skills.

And secondly, Joel has no problem landing his action figures in creative situations. For instance, the Rocklords transform into harmless rocks in our garden, in our flower bed, under trees, etc., and then spring into action against the bad guys. As normal-looking rocks, they're good stealth warriors, I suppose. In a four-year old world, it makes perfect, even cunning sense.

What seems indeterminate to me (though not Joel...) is what exactly these rock lords are when they aren't rocks. Are they robots? Biological organisms? What? Joel has settled firmly on the idea that they are robots...made of that "powerful living rock."

On the side of the good guys in the Rock Lord battle are the following individuals: Boulder, Crackpot, Granite, Nuggit, Marbles and Pulver-Eyes, to name a few (all-pictured).

On the side of evil is the aforementioned Magmar. His minions include Brimstone (who wields a mean battle-axe), Tombstone, and Styx-and-Stones (a two-headed monstrosity). These are all pictured as well (in the third and fourth photo).

Not pictured are the characters that Joel doesn't own yet (and are not in my crazy collection): Slimestone, Stoneheart and a few other villains. The neutral Swedes of this rock lord collection are the Rockasaurs, who refuse to take sides, I suppose. The one that looks like a Pterodactyl is called "Terra-Roc." (pictured with the villains.)

The fascinating thing about the Rock Lords line is that there are apparently class differences at work in the "rock" culture. There's a whole subset of these guys from the planet Quartex called Jewel Lords (with names like Solitaire, and Flamestone), and another subset of "Fossil Lords" as well. These variations are difficult to find...and really, really expensive. But Joel really wants them and encourages me to spend my free-time haunting E-Bay while he watches videos of Tom and Jerry and You Tube. So I'm either the best father or the worst, not sure which...

In addition to action figures and vehicles, the Rock Lords were merchandised in the 1980s with other neat collectibles. For instance, there was a lunch box, and a coloring book from Golden (which I snagged on E-bay too for Joel.)

For the curious: here's a sample of the Rock Lords movie:

And here's a Tonka Rock Lords toy commercial from the 1980s:


  1. My vote is for BEST! Great post. Thanks for this, John.

  2. Wow. Experiencing some green eyed monsterism.

  3. Man, did this bring back memories! I personally didn't own any Rock Lords, but my cousin, who was 5 at the time, was waaaaay into to them and my aunt and I spent a summer hunting these puppies down with him. I know we got him Nuggit, but what other ones he had, I can't remember...he had alot of them.
    Thanks for bringing back some fun memories!
    Dreaded Dreams
    Petunia Scareum

  4. Hi everybody,

    LeOpard13: Thank you for the vote of confidence, my friend. :) Joel and I have a great time with the Rock Lords. Our days together really are wonderful. There's nothing like a child's energy and innocence...

    Scary Sarah: Thanks for following! I'm glad you enjoyed the post. Check out E-Bay, and you can start your own Rock Lord collection relatively cheap! (Until you get to the Jewel Lords. Yikes!)

    Trick or Treat Pete: Thanks for sharing your memories of these Rock Lords. I don't know how popular they are/were, but like your five year old cousin, my boy is totally into them. I have to admit, they are pretty well put together (especially compared to some of the Gobots, which break when you put them together!)

    Thanks everyone!