Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Galaxy Force First Aid

Once upon a time, the TransFormers ambulance was always going to be Ratchet... Sadly, that seems to be a difficult name for Hasbro to hang on to these days without some form of prefix. First Aid, meanwhile, is somehow far easier to use and reuse and, since it was first applied to the Protectobot who also transformed into an ambulance, it's just as appropriate.

Monday, 21 May 2012

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2005 Members Incentive (Timelines) Skyfall

(Members Incentive Monday #3)
While the TransFormers Collectors' Club now seems to be going from strength to strength, with BotCon getting bigger every year, it seems quite strange to look back at Fun Publications first faltering steps as the official fan club license-holders. Plagued by production delays in the beginning (their much-publicised '2 Exclusives per year' not really happening reliably until only a couple of years ago, and their first exclusive, Astrotrain, was a whole year late), I'm sure it wasn't just me that wondered if their license would see them through to the end of their much-vaunted 5-year plan of creating a whole new Prime for their Timelines continuity by giving Club members one piece of an Energon/Superlink-derived gestalt free every year. Skyfall was the first...

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Robots in Disguise Galvatron

Ah, me... Another repaint. I picked this up in Forbidden Planet on the same shopping trip that I bought RiD Ultra Magnus and Megatron. The friend I was with took one look at the packaging and suggested I should only buy one or the other (clearly more concerned about FP's rip-off prices than I was), but I wouldn't listen.

So, exactly how much of a fool was I?

Beast Machines Blackarachnia

Spiders are not my favourite creatures on this world of ours, so it's rather strange that I tend to be so fond of TransFormers spiders. The original Beast Wars Blackarachnia was just a repaint of Tarantulas, not one of Beast Wars' finest models, but her Beast Machines upgrade was rather more interesting, both for its eerily-almost-realistic beast mode, and its slender, slinky robot mode... at least, in the TV series...

TransFormers (Movie) Longarm

Say what you will about Michael Bay's TransFormers movies, they did do some interesting things for the toyline. While the cast of alien robots was pretty meagre, and they often didn't get half as much screen time as the irritating humans, Hasbro cleverly latched on to some of the non-transforming vehicles from the films and turned them into robots in disguise for its extended toyline. While the motorbike that Lennox uses to help topple Blackout was turned into Human Alliance Jazz's gun, the tow truck Mikaela used to drag Bumblebee into the battle against Brawl had better luck, and got turned into Longarm.

Saturday, 19 May 2012

Cybertron Menasor

Towards the end of the Cybertron/Galaxy Force toyline, something rather strange happened. As a collector, I'm quite accustomed to some models never making it out of Japan, since Takara Tomy seems more inclined to taking a risk with the TransFormers brand these days. However, Galaxy Force came to an end before all the toys had been released, and so it fell to Hasbro to bring out the last couple of models for the US market, just for a change.

Quite how this mobile drilling rig got saddled with the name 'Menasor' is anyone's guess - the character in the Galaxy Force TV series was called 'Moledive' (which tends now to be the name I use for this model) - though it could easily be another example of Hasbro registering and using a name just so they could hang on to it for a later purpose.

TransFormers Animated Lockdown

Technically, the TransFormers line is no stranger to bounty hunters... After all, back in the days of the Marvel comics, a certain... ahem... 'Freelance Peacekeeping Agent' turned up almost regularly, hunting a key character from either faction. Animated had its detractors, but at least it's bounty hunter was a robot in disguise, rather than a large, horned metal monster with questionable taste in accessories. OK, Death's Head was a pretty cool character... but he didn't augment himself with 'trophies' taken from his quarries... and he wasn't voiced by Lance Henriksen. Lockdown is just plain chilling.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Revenge of the Fallen Back Road Brawl (Toys'R'Us Exclusive) Mixmaster

OK, this'll be a quickie, considering I've already written up the original iteration of this mold... Basically, G1 repaints of movie models are one of my favourite things. Sometimes they work, sometimes they don't. While Revenge of the Fallen may not have given us the Devastator we wanted, and it might have been excessively coy about whether the Constructicons truly existed as a team, Hasbro knows what the long-term fans want: if they use a G1 name, they have to release a version of the model with the G1 colourscheme. Mixmaster was just gagging for this treatment.

TransFormers (Movie) Signal Flare (Target Exclusive)

I shall preface this by mentioning that this is the one and only version of this mold that I have ever purchased, and that was under duress - found at a show, along with the two other Target Exclusive repaints of Energon/Superlink figures for the live action movie, I asked to buy the other two and was told they had to be purchased as a set, no doubt because no-one in their right mind would actually pay good money for this thing...

Reissue G2 Battle Convoy (Prime of Justice)

Generation 2 came at rather an awkward time for me. After Generation 1 tailed off in the UK, I was at the age where decisions had to be made about University (nope) or seeking a job (or should that be 'falling into a career that has lasted me almost 20 years'). Once I started work, I found I didn't really have time for TransFormers, so I lost touch with them entirely until Binaltech and the 20th Anniversary stuff turned up. I've since bought a few Generation 2 models, but they tend to be quite hard to find, even in the secondary market. Some molds were reused in later lines (RiD, Robot Masters) but some, such as this one, had to wait for their official reissue.

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Galaxy Force Jackshot

I think I've mentioned before that one of my favourite aspects of the Cybertron/Galaxy Force line is its tendency to reference older toylines - predominantly G1, but also RiD and Beast Wars - in its model designs and, to a lesser extent, some of the characters. Jackshot, here, is where it got really weird, though... Because Jackshot seems to me referencing both G1... and The X-Men...

Monday, 14 May 2012

TransFormers (Movie) Thundercracker

In many ways, Generation 1 has a lot to answer for. In reusing one mold - the F-15 - so frequently, it has enabled obsessive-compulsive collectors, and forced them to repeatedly buy duplicates of other molds in later lines, just to complete their 'Seekers' sets.

In recent years, however, Hasbro and Takara Tomy have taken a different tack... a rather more sinister tack... Starscream is almost guaranteed to be in any new TransFormers line (the only one he's skipped is Beast Wars, and that's only if you don't include his spark-possession of Waspinator). After Starscream, however, you tend only to get either Skywarp or Thundercracker in the main line, with the other being some freakish exclusive. Sadly, the movie line was one such example of this villainy.

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2011 Members Incentive (Timelines) Side Burn

(Members Incentive Monday #2)
If there's a TransFormers mold that's destined to be considered overused, it's going to be G1 Optimus Prime. If there's more than one mold that's destined to be considered overused, though, the Classics Rodimus mold must surely be high on the list. Not only has it been repainted about a billion times as Hot Rod/Rodimus/Rodimus Prime, released both singly and in multi-packs, and cast in just about every imaginable shade of red, including transparent, but it's been used by the TFCC as an exclusive.

Twice.

So far.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Reveal the Shield Wreck-Gar

The 1986 Animated movie came under a lot of fire for a lot of reasons (killing Optimus Prime, replacing him with the slightly rubbish Rodimus Prime, etc., etc.), but it's rarely acknowledged for the fun, new characters it brought to the table... largely because the toys were so poor. Wreck-Gar, leader of the Junkions (sentient transforming robots who seem to have had some kind of parallel evolution to Cybertronians, and were built out of junk) was a prime example. Cursed with a crummy toy that looked nothing like the animation model, he was, nevertheless, an amusing character, not least thanks to Eric Idle's voice work. Ignored until TransFormers Animated, Wreck-Gar - along with some other Junkions - has enjoyed something of a renaissance since, and the Reveal the Shield branch of Classics/Universe took him back to his roots.

On Fiction

For a fan of TransFormers, I'm rather indifferent to the attached fiction. To put that in perspective, I watched the G1 cartoon when I was younger, I read the Marvel UK comics, I've always preferred the Beast Wars/Machines TV series to the toys, I've got the first two IDW collections - Infiltration and Escalation - I liked Animated and, what I've seen of Prime has been nothing short of stunning. In fact, without having seen any episodes of TF Prime, I probably would have skipped on the toyline entirely. Oh, and there's those Michael Bay movies... I watched those.

I'm also, let's face it, a member of the Collectors' Club, which publishes a few pages of its own continuity-spanning saga - Timelines - in every issue, filling in great chunks with its BotCon stories. So, when I say I'm 'indifferent', there are a few caveats.

For the most part, these days, I see the fiction as a value-added bonus rather than an necessary part of the toyline. It's part of a marketing strategy, not a grand attempt at high drama. I've always felt there's something bizarre about saddling sentient alien machines with religion (Primus vs Unicron), and a lot of the organic alien races that turned up in the Marvel comics just looked daft. And the Collectors' Club stories in particular were just a means of shoehorning the Club's exclusive toys into a story, frequently using far too many unrelated toys as secondary characters (see Cheap Shots).

While the Club magazine's six-or-so bi-monthly pages are worth reading, they don't tend to be anything particularly special, and not really worth a second look.

That is, until issue 44.

OK, confession time, I suspect the previous post (2007 Movie Cliffjumper) was spurred into being because of 'A Flash Forward, Part 2'. Cliffjumper features on three of the six pages, training/monitoring a bunch of non-Club toy characters who have come into contact with the McGuffin from this branch of Timelines, Forestonite. Cliffjumper is portrayed as angry, paranoid and on a hair trigger (fitting more with the G1 cartoon than his original Tech Specs, which painted him as reckless and not very smart). While chewing out some of his superpowered comrades, he gets a call from Ultra Magnus, just to remind him they're Autobots. That's probably the first time the Club comic has had me laughing out loud with such a brief exchange... or possibly at all.

Here's hoping Cliffjumper turns out to be a main player in A Flash Forward, even if he's not going to be a Club toy.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

TransFormers (Movie) Cliffjumper

One of the strangest things to happen in recent years is the transformation of Cliffjumper from a character in his own right, with his own alternate mode, to a mere repaint of Bumblebee - even weirder when you consider that, aside from his Classics release in 2006, Bumblebee was entirely ignored in favour of some variation on Hot Rod/Hot Shot/Side Burn between the later days of G1 and TF Animated back in 2007. Sometimes, Cliffjumper is lucky enough to get his own head mold...

...This is not one of those times.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Galaxy Force Vector Prime

Once I get more Cybertron/Galaxy Force toys up on this blog, it will become abundantly clear that I'm a real fan of the line - the mixture of G1 homages, bold designs, a comparatively understated gimmick (as far as the Unicron Trilogy goes), and the sheer scale of some of the toys all work to make it one of the more interesting toy ranges, even though the story continuity has its detractors. Lessons were clearly learned from the reaction to Armada/Micron Legend's ugly chunkiness, and the sacrifices made to accommodate the combination gimmick in Energon/Superlink. But who would have thought that this would lead to the revelation that one of the Primes was effectively made of clockwork?

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Hunt for the Decepticons Highbrow

I'm not sure whether it's obvious from this blog yet, but I'm a huge fan of anything oddball in the TransFormers line. Be it the outlandish live-action movie designs (Demolishor, Rampage, and the RotF 'Wheelsnakes' are huge favourites of mine) or the bizarre animal choices from the Beast Wars lines, I always appreciate the effort that goes in to fitting a robot into an unusual disguise, particularly if the results are asymmetrical. Aeroplanes tend to draw the short straw when it comes to TransFormers, with many ending up as planes with boxy robot undercarriages that turn into robots with planes hanging off their back (Silverbolt - G1, Classics/Universe and Combiner Wars - Universe Darkwind and RotF Jetfire, I'm looking at you)... but every once in a while, TransFormers brings the world something truly special - an unusual plane that becomes an excellent robot with minimal wastage...

Cybertron Snarl

Every once in a while, even in a TransFormers toyline I really like, there's one particular model that's an easy pass... Either the character is dull, or the model is a bit rubbish, or even just that the standard colourscheme is inferior to the repaints that inevitably emerge later. Cybertron Snarl - aka Galaxy Force Fang Wolf - was just one such model. Inevitably, I received one as a gift just after I'd bought one with the intention of repainting it...

Masterpiece Rodimus Prime (with Offshoot)

There was a lot of enthusiasm surrounding the announcement of a Masterpiece Rodimus Prime, and when the first photos turned up, the buzz remained positive. A decently Animated-Movie-accurate robot mode that could switch between Hot Rod and Rodimus Prime by some simple-but-clever cheating, and which had the ability to transform into Hot Rod's futuristic sports car and - with the addition of a trailer - also into Rodimus Prime's Space Winnebago? How could it go wrong?

Monday, 7 May 2012

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2012 Members Incentive (Timelines) Runamuck

(Members Incentive Monday #1)
Back in the days of the Marvel TransFormers comics, the Battlechargers were given a pretty awesome introduction - as a pair of giant extraterrestrial vandals in the story 'Decepticon Graffiti'. Runabout and Runamuck were (in toy form, at least) the Decepticon equivalents to the Autobot Jumpstarters, Topspin and Twin-Twist. Similarly basic, with a gimmick that made them interesting to play with while simultaneously limiting what they could actually do. Automatic transformation via a pull-back motor didn't do either set of toys any favours... but at least the Jumpstarters could move their arms. The Battlechargers weren't so lucky.

Cut to about 15 years later and, on a whim, the Collectors' Club makes the blindingly brilliant move of releasing the Battlechargers using the Classics/Universe Wheeljack mold...

Members Incentive Monday?

It has occurred to me today that I have 8 years worth of Members Incentive figures from the TransFormers Collectors' Club, five of which combine to form an Energon/Superlink-style gestalt.

I've not been a member of the Club quite that long (I think I bought the first two MI figures shortly after my first subscription, just so I could be sure of completing the gestalt) but, still, that's 8 figures that the club has given away free, just as a 'Thank You' for joining...

...And, if I can't be bothered to quickly clear the enormous backlog I've already created for myself, the least I can do is set myself a small target, such as dealing with one MI figure every Monday, in the hope that this will encourage me to (a) actually post something semi-regularly, (b) clear out some of the backlog and (c) deal with more of the other figures intermittently.

The rationale is that if I basically force myself to post something about one of the figures I got free, it might just rekindle my interest enough to post something about one of the figures I've actually paid good money for.

Logically, I should start with the oldest... work through to the gestalt, then deal with some of the cooler, new stuff... but, having received this year's - Runamuck - just this weekend, I'm feeling more inclined to start with him...
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