What was Air Raiders?
In 1987, Hasbro attempted to replicate their successful toylines with several new action centered toylines aimed at new types of play via new incorporated technologies as with the Air Raiders and Sky Commandos toylines of 1987. Air Raiders was a vehicle-centered toyline with two inch figures, similar to Coleco’s STARCOM, built-in air pumps to active various functions and a strong military SF story of a war over air on a distant world. That world is Airlandia (clever writing) and two factions are battling for control over the air since the impact of a comet devastated the ecology of the planet and its people. During the post-impact chaos, an evil dictator seized power and the ability to manufacture clean breathable air. Also, there was violent new current of air that possessed magical properties and abilities, similar to the 1989 film Slipstream. The draconian “Tyrants of the Wind” rule over the bulk of the planet, its government (lords of Winds), cities, and its air…and they meant to keep it. Entire economy of Airlandia is constructed around air and the control of it. In the comic, air rations are the medium of exchange and by which, the Tyrants of the Wind control the flow of the air...and after all, he controls the air, controls the planet. There is a resistance faction: the Air Raiders, the heroes of our story. This was conflict in the entire series that the toys were based in: the war between the Air Raiders rebels and the evil empire of the Tyrants of the Winds. The story of Air Raiders was explained by comic inserts in the toys, the limited information presented in the commercials, and the four part comic book series by Star Comics/Marvel Comics. Just for the record, the toyline by Hasbro is not related to the 1982 Mattel/ATARI 2600 game Air Raiders.
The Historical Context of Air Raiders
The Air Raiders Toyline
website has scanned an actually 1987 toy catalog for us to verify prices (the site opens spam websites...so be warned).
Normally one of the most expensive items in a toyline is the playsets due to their size, packaging, and complexity. These are often the base-of-operations for one of the faction in the toyline’s lore, such as Castle Greyskull from He-Man, the SDF-1 from Matchbox’s ROBOTECH line and Headquarters command center from G.I. Joe. Air Raiders was to receive two playsets, one for each faction, but only one was released. The Air Raider faction “command outpost” was an orange and red hued base constructed into a rocky base with a fighting position and air powered turrets. This has been considered one of the cooler toys in the entire line next to the “Man-o-War” and the unreleased “Air Refinery”. This was priced at $31 in 1987. The other playset was the unreleased Tyrant faction playset called the “Air Refinery”. Please read in the Lost Toys section for more information on this playset.Vehicles
The 1980’s toy industry is known for developing cartoon shows to promote and advertise the line. Some of these were just as iconic as the toy that were designed to boost, such as Transformers and He-Man. However, one of the oldest methods of promoting to children was the comic book. Since the dawn of comics, there have been specifically designed series based around a product. Some were merely shells; others were able to translate to being a more “real” and respected comic book series. In 1984-1991, Marvel Comics had a spin-off brand called Star Comics that was all about being an vehicle of promotion. This brand was targeted at children and the majority of the titles were based off cartoons of the time like Droids, Ewoks, Heathcliff,Chuck Norris and the Karate Kommandos (yes…this actually existed) and the Muppet Babies. In 1987, Star Comics began printing an Air Raiders comic that would last four total issues, with the last two published under the Marvel logo for some unknown reason. Added to the four comics, were two coloring books that were also pretty standard marketing fair. Both of these do not command a heavy price on the resale market. Classic Game Room did a review of the comics here.
What Happened to the Air Raiders?
Air Raiders was experiment in boys' toys that did not garner enough sales for Hasbro to create and release a second line and by the end of 1987, Air Raiders was discontinued with remaining toys sold at deep discounts as in-the-box toys with several price changes will attest. What happened to the toyline? The most American thing: marketplace competition! Air Raiders was against a furry of other new toylines attempting to take their place along side the other established toylines, and there will always be casualties. Some of these casualties of the 1980's toy wars were toylines with more presence than Air Raiders, namely a cartoon on television.
The Lost Toys: The Mail-Away "Survival Pack" and the Mythical Air-Refinery
My Own Experiences with Air Raiders
Why Didn't Air Raiders Get an 1980's Cartoon?
The Air Raiders Toyline Impact, Current Status, and Its Legacy
Lasting only a single release in 1987 and being in bargain bins by 1988 with deep discounts, Air Raiders had little impact on the common culture or toy industry of the 1980's. As for its current status, it can best be summed as: for every toyline, there is a fan, and Air Raiders has a few that populate the internet with information, pictures, comments, and scans. There is an entire website devoted to Air Raiders and it is one of the only collected sources of information on the interwebs. The true legacy of Air Raiders is its inclusion on those popular internet lists. Often popping up on "80's Toys that we miss" or "Forgotten Toys of the 1980's", Air Raiders is always there, being mentioned, and keeping the fires alive with its mere existence. In some ways, Air Raiders got lucky when it came out to allow for long term survival given the popularity and nostalgia value of 1980's culture. Children of the 1980's, like me, are attempt to collect/amass the toys they had or did not have via the online marketplaces and then posting about said toys...such is true of Air Raiders. Will there be future for the series? I doubt it. Simply put, Air Raiders is not He-Man, GI Joe, or even the super creepy Inhumaniods, nor does it have a super nostalgic 1980's cartoon that could be reissued on DVD to spur interest and relight the fires of Air Raiders. However, the toys of Air Raiders will outlast as all being made from plastic...
Next Time on FWS...