Sunday, March 7, 2021

Defender of the Universe (Sticker Version)

Back when I was a kid in the '80s, space travel and keeping the universe safe from evil was a pretty big theme out there in the world of entertainment. One of the coolest animated shows to utilize that theme was Voltron: Defender of the Universe. It originally ran from 1984 to 1985.
To describe the show: 
Imagine five members of a special team, each piloting a fierce-looking robotic lion through outer space. And if that's not cool enough, when it was really time to fight the bad guys, the team would transform their lions, combining them into Voltron, the giant sword-swinging mechanical hero who would defend said universe.
Here's the opening to the show. It lays out the story quite nicely.

And man, if they ever wanted to add more members to the Voltron Force, all they'd have to do is play that theme song. Recruits would line up for miles. (Note: I'm pretty sure the narrator is the same guy who did the voice for Optimus Prime in the original Transformers cartoon.) 

But why all the nostalgia for Voltron? Well, recently I discovered that in 1984, Panini released a sticker set all about the show. There were 216 stickers in all, plus a 32-page album that had designated spots for each sticker.
I'm not about to set off on that collecting journey, but I did purchase three of the stickers, just for a dose of that nostalgia.

Here's the first one, showing the team of five (from left to right): Pidge, Hunk, Keith, Princess Allura, and Lance.
As for the fancy guy on the right, his name is Coran, and he's an advisor to the Voltron team. I don't have much recollection of him, but apparently he's integral enough to be featured on that sticker.

What I do remember is that my sister and I and three of our friends would sometimes get together and pretend that we were the team. My sister and the other girl in the group would trade off being the princess. As for me, the only one who wore eyeglasses, I almost always ended up taking one for the team and playing the nerdy little pipsqueak kid Pidge. (What the heck, man?)
But it was a small sacrifice. After all, I was a member of the force. And it was fun. Most of our play-acting involved sitting on our skateboards and riding down a hill (when it was clear of oncoming cars), imagining that our boards were the lions and that we were piloting them.

The next sticker features Voltron when he's assembled from the five lions. Majestic, yes? If I remember correctly, each lion had different abilities and strengths, and when they formed Voltron the pilots all worked together to defeat the bad guys. Good lesson for kids there, isn't it?

And here's the third sticker. Another shot of Voltron looking quite regal and legendary.

Next, a sticker back.
I like how the note appears in six different languages: English, German, French, Italian, Dutch, and Spanish. Here are the rough translations.
English: Collect these picture cards in the album available from your shop.
German: Ask your newsagents about the album for this series.
French: Ask of your retailer the album for the collection of these images.
Italian: Ask your dealer for the album to collect these stickers.
Dutch: Ask your seller for the album for your collection of these pictures.
Spanish: To collect these stickers, buy your album at any kiosk.

The Spanish one gets right to the point, doesn't it?

Now here's a look at the album (images courtesy of the internet).

First, the cover.

Next, a couple of interior pages.

You can see the layout is similar to Panini's baseball sticker albums of the era, even down to some of those combination stickers, where you need #118 and #119 to complete the image, for example. (This Voltron set also had a few special foil stickers, just like the baseball versions.)

The three stickers I purchased will provide a lot of fun memories, and for only a couple of bucks, including shipping. Glad I stumbled across them.
Have any of you recently discovered obscure sets like this one?
Did any of you choose characters from your favorite shows and play out action-packed scenarios when you were kids?

Share some experiences in the comment section, and thanks for reading, as always.


  1. I'm sure I acted out cartoon characters when I was a kid (feel like that's what kids do)... but can't think of any specifics. When I think of acting out... copying baseball players batting, pitching, and catching stances are the first things that come to mind.

    And I guess the coffee hasn't kicked in either, because I'm drawing a blank on recently discovered obscure sets. But this Voltron sticker album is pretty awesome!

    1. Yeah, I think my friends and I must have tried to emulate different pro baseball players back then, too. (Makes me think of those classic Baseball Bunch videos.)

  2. I only vaguely remember watching a few episodes of Voltron, I don't think I cared for it much at the time. It's probably one of those ones I should go back and watch again someday. I do love the early Panini stickers though, their non-sport stuff was top notch.

    1. Seems to be plenty of good content on YouTube. I say go for it!

  3. Nice! I was a fan of Voltron as a kid in the 80s too, I remember there was a toy series and I had a couple of the lions (yellow and green) and wanted to get all five so I could build the whole Voltron, but outgrew them before I could make that happen.

    One thing that was a bit disappointing to discover while living in Japan is that while Voltron was originally a Japanese show with a different name (Beast King Go Lion), it wasn't as popular here as it was in the US. They had a lot more competition from similar shows and it kind of got lost in the mix. There were some toys and cards released for it here, but they are hard to track down since they weren't huge sellers (compared to Gundam, etc).

    1. Beast King Go Lion? I like the name! And I can only imagine the competition in Japan was much more intense. So many robots, Sean. So many robots.

  4. I knew it looked familiar. Beast King Go Lion in Japan. Very cool stickers. Panini was cranking out a ton of stuff in the 1980s it looks like.

    1. Right? Interesting that Panini had the international reach, too.