As described on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Page_layout), in the days before page layout software such as Adobe InDesign and QuarkXPress, newspaper page layouts were created… by hand. In the 1980s, a page layout was created by physically pasting images and blocks of text onto a rigid sheet of paper. This “camera-ready” page was then shot on film, and through a process called offset lithography, the film would control ink placement on the printing press.
Newspaper ads often incorporated hand-drawn, black-on-white line art renditions of product photographs. Line art was often preferred over photographs because the images were often small on the black-and-white printed page, so high-contrast line art often represented products more effectively than grayscale photographs did.
Line art for newspaper ads was often created by specialized companies. One such company was Kwikee, then a division of Multi-Ad Services, Inc. Kwikee still exists today, and it still provides product images — although now mostly digital in nature.
What’s the Voltron connection? In the 1980s, there were Voltron toys — lots of Voltron toys. These toys were often advertised in newspapers, so line art was made of these toys, by companies such as Kwikee.
A few years ago, I purchased from a vintage toy seller a small collection of 1980s product image pages made by Kwikee. The pages in the collection included images of toys from several 1980s toy lines: MASK (by Kenner), Photon (by LJN), Thundercats (by LJN), Wrinkles (by LJN), Robotech (by Matchbox) — and Voltron, by Matchbox.
Below are the four Voltron Kwikee product image pages from my collection. No copyright infringement is intended in their display on this website. The pages are shared here to show to fellow Voltron fans these amazing newspaper advertising artifacts from days of long ago. Enjoy!
The first page, apparently page 118 of a 1985 Kwikee catalog of product images, depicts Matchbox’s Voltron I toys. As I mentioned in “It’s as “Easy” as I, II, III: Being a Voltron Fan in the 1980s,” Voltron I was the inital name of the super robot that would eventually become known as Vehicle Team Voltron. Note that each image is represented in three sizes, which offered newspaper layout artists more leeway in how they composed the ad, physically pasting an image of the desired size on what would become a camera-ready page layout sheet.
The second page, page 119 of the same catalog, depicts Matchbox’s Voltron II toys. This super robot was ultimately never featured in the Voltron: Defender of the Universe television program.
The third page, page 120, depicts Matchbox’s Voltron III toys. Voltron III would become known as Lion Force Voltron, the overwhelmingly most popular of the 1980s Voltron super robots.
The fourth and final Voltron page in my collection, page 100 of a 1986 Kwikee catalog of product images, depicts Matchbox’s Vehicle Team Voltron and Lion Force Voltron toys. The company’s Voltron I and Voltron III toys from 1985 were, for 1986, repackaged and renamed to Vehicle Team Voltron and Lion Force Voltron, respectively. Interestingly, each image on this page is rendered in a single size, rather than three sizes as in the 1985 catalog. Perhaps subsequent pages in the catalog, not in my collection, provide alternately sized images.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this blast from the newspaper advertising past!