Retro 1951 and Brad Dowdy (of The Pen Addict) have come together twice before to produce really nice designs for the Tornado, which is one of my favorite rollerball pens. But this latest collaboration, The Pink Robots Tornado, may be evidence in favor of the old saying, “the third time’s the charm.”
I’ll leave it to Dowdy to tell the story behind the pen — he wrote a great post in which he explains it all. But, in short, the design that wraps around the barrel is an illustration created by Matthew Morse, which is an homage to Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, the song and album by The Flaming Lips. If you haven’t heard it, I encourage you to check it out. It’s good!
Morse’s design for the pen wrap is similar to the original Flaming Lips album cover, albeit in a totally different style. It depicts a young Japanese Girl, Yoshimi, wielding a long, pink sword, ready to do battle with a couple of giant pink robots. The twist, clip, and tip of the pen are a all black, and, on the disk inset at the top of the twist, the “pen addict” logo is centered inside a hot pink background.
In my opinion, the best Tornado designs are the ones that adapt the work of artists, like the Bioworkz Edition and the Joey Feldman Edition, or the ones that tell a story, like the Tiger Shark or the Albert. This Pink Robots Edition manages to do both, which is probably why I like it so much. The bad news is that there were only 500 of these pens produced (I’ve got #156), and they sold out quickly. But with the success of this pen, there’s sure to be plenty of creative stuff coming next time Dowdy and Retro 1951 team up.
I’ll admit, I wasn’t quite sure what I’d gotten when I purchased the Zebra Surari Sharbo 1000. I’d stopped into the Kinokuniya Book Store during a recent visit to New York City, and stumbled on the store’s Japanese stationery section tucked away in its basement. The Surari Sharbo’s bright yellow barrel caught my eye, but since I couldn’t read the Japanese packaging, I had no idea that it was a multi-pen when I bought it.
The Sarari Sharbo 1000 contains two ink cartridges, 0.7mm black and red ballpoints, and a 0.5mm mechanical pencil. In order to switch between red ink, black ink, and the mechanical pencil, you twist the pen in either direction around its midpoint. There are no markings on the barrel to denote which you are getting, so I frequently found myself having to examine the pen’s tip to see if I’d selected the proper one.
The red ink is smooth and doesn’t smear, and the black feels somewhat sluggish. After switching to the pencil, the top becomes clickable to eject the lead, and the the finial twists off to reveal a small eraser. The mechanical pencil lead seems fairly resilient but generally not noteworthy. Just be careful switching back to a pen tip, as the lead will snap if you forget to push it back in.
I’m not a frequent user of multi-pens – obviously, I bought this one by accident – but I can confidently say that better ones exist than the Zebra Surari Sharbo 1000. Though I love the bright yellow plastic barrel, I just never got used to the twisting mechanism, specifically the lack of lead/tip indicator. Perhaps this is something I’d have gotten used to over time, but it is enough of an annoyance that I can’t be bothered to stick with it that long. And for the $20 cost, this multi-pen just doesn’t seem worth the trouble.
P.S. My fiancée insisted that I create this GIF of the multi-pen in action.
In April of this year, Mike Dudek of The Clicky Post announced that he had collaborated with Retro 51 to create an exclusive Tornado. Called The System, the barrel of the pen features a stylized, overhead a map of the sun and planets in our solar system (plus Pluto) on a black background. The design looked awesome, so I had to get it.
You may not be able to see it in the pictures, but The System also has glossy black (“dark matter”) strips curving across the barrel that add a little texture, making it a little nicer to hold. The clip, twist, and tip are painted black, and the disk inset at the top of the pen is colored a sun-bright orange. It doesn’t have any acid-etching or glow-in-the-dark elements like other recent Tornados, which may have worked well here too, but I still think it manages to be one of the best Tornado designs out there.
It didn’t come without a small bit of drama, however. Initially 300 of these pens were produced, but this was described as an “open numbered edition,” which apparently confused a lot of people into thinking it was a “limited edition.” Like limited edition Tornados, each of these pens has a number stamped near the twist, but Dudek planned to keep making them as long as there was a demand.
While I don’t fully understand the point, the “open numbered” concept really doesn’t upset me. After all, Retro 51 did the same thing with The Flying Tiger. Ultimately, a total of 1,300 pens were produced, and I think the only real angry people were the re-sellers. For my part, I’m just happy to have a cool pen.
If you missed out on this one, it unfortunately doesn’t seem like Dudek plans to produce any more – though you can get still get the pencil version, if that’s your thing. But definitely keep an eye out for whatever he does in the future. I know I will.
Last year Sheaffer jumped on the merchandising train and made a handful of Star Wars themed pens. Not that it’s a bad thing. While I have mixed feelings about the most recent spate of Star Wars movies, it turns out that I like these pens a lot, even though they are just a re-skinned version of the Sheaffer Pop. Luckly, the Pop is a pretty good pen by itself.
The Pop comes in ballpoint and fountain pen models and are typically found in bright, solid colors. But I’m keen on the gel pen* versions of R2-D2 and BB-8 (though they also have Darth Vader, Death Star, Kylo Ren, and Yoda designs). These barrel designs are detailed, fun, and it’d be safe to assume that any Star Wars fan will get a kick out of them. I also really love the 0.7mm gel refill for its smoothness and deep black color, though the ink will smear some.
As for the Pop’s rubberized grip, I could do without it. Not only do they wear out over time, but they tend to feel pretty cheap. However, the pen’s thickness makes up for it by making it comfortable to write with, and it also has a sturdy, metal clip and cap that posts pretty well.
My only real gripe with these Star Wars Pops are their cost. With a plastic body and aforementioned rubber grip, it just doesn’t seem like it should be $20+. The non-Star Wars versions can be found for around $15, which seems more reasonable – I guess Sheaffer has to recoup the expensive Star Wars licensing fees somehow. Although, if you’re willing to spend that extra money, these pens are pretty cool.
*Sheaffer labels it as a “rollerball” pen, but according to the markings on the refill, it’s actually a gel pen similar to this one (except the model number is 0917).
New York, New York. I’ve only visited a few times (and I’ll be going back later this year), but I know that it’s an amazing city – one that I love. So when Goldspot Pens announced this NYC Skyline Retro 51 Tornado late last year, I immediately jumped on the pre-order train.
The NYC Skyline Edition is a standard Retro 51 Tornado in almost every way, except the barrel is wrapped with the iconic structures of New York City. The art includes the obvious and mandatory Statue of Liberty, Chrysler Building, Flatiron Building, and Empire State Building. But the barrel also shows off The Brooklyn Bridge, One World Trade Center (along with the 200 Vesey Street and 225 Liberty Street buildings nestled below), the Bank of America Tower, and the CitiGrooup Center. There’s even one building I can’t ID, but it looks like it could just be generic Manhattan offices.
Another neat feature is the disc at the top of the pen, which features a logo reminiscent of the old NYC Transit tokens. Additionally, like a few other Tornadoes of late, the wrap glows in the dark. With this Skyline edition, however, the gimmick makes sense because it represents the city at night, which, frankly, looks cool.
This is an amazing edition for anyone that loves New York City, but it was unfortunately limited to an odd 333 pieces. So, as you might have guessed, it’s already sold out. If you’re looking for something similar, the Statue of Liberty Tornado is still widely available, or Anderson Pens sells a Chicago Skyline Tornado. It also seems likely that Retro 51 will continue with this line. I can think of plenty that might come next… San Francisco? London? Paris? It will be interesting to see whatever it is.