Friday, 22 November 2013

FansProject CA-12 Causality: Last Chance

The penultimate component of FansProject's homage to the Stunticons is Last Chance... kind of a strange name, considering the original was 'Dead End'... Still, what's in a name, eh?

This is the one I was looking forward to the least, because photos of the robot mode looked rather awkward and, unlike the rest of the team, his vehicle mode is not only physically nothing like the G1 original - a Porsche 928 - it's not even a car by the same manufacturer.

FansProject CA-11 Causality: Down Force

The final two limb components from FansProjects' unofficial Stunticons were a long time coming. Not sure quite why that was, considering their initial announcement wasn't that far behind Car Crash and T-Bone. Both were entirely new designs - an absolute necessity for their Drag Strip analogue at the very least - and, unlike CA-09 and CA-10, not clever re-shells of essentially the same transformation scheme.

Of the group, Down Force was always going to be the most contentious because his official G1 counterpart disguised himself as a Tyrell P34 racing car, a unique and rather radical design. I seem to recall quite a few complaints when images of Down Force first turned up on the fan sites simply because he only had four wheels rather that Drag Strip's six.

Tuesday, 19 November 2013

TFCC Subscription Service Year 1 - A Retrospective & A Look Forward

When the Subscription Service was first announced and described, I had mixed feelings. On the one hand, this was a potentially awesome new product from the Club which initially promised two exclusives per year, but took more than a year to deliver the first, then only really managed one per year thereafter. In that sense, a product which promised to deliver six figures over a six month period was a massive improvement in service.

Saturday, 16 November 2013

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2013 (Timelines) Ultra Mammoth

OK, people, here's the main event of the TransFormers Collectors' Club Subscription Service year one, the model I've been most keenly awaiting. Despite being a straight repaint of a Beast Wars figure, it tickled my fancy in several ways. First and foremost, the name is awesome: not quite a pun, but clever-ish wordplay nonetheless, and that kind of thing always amuses me in the TransFormers line. Next, it's hardly the most common mold - its only official western release was as Nemesis Prime in the much maligned Universe line of random repaints almost ten years ago. The club did well in its selection for this reason alone. Finally, the colourscheme is inspired. OK, it's inspired by the G1 character this model is meant to represent, but the distribution of colours and the extent of the paint job, going by the publicity mock-ups alone, was excellent.

And I'm not the only one waxing lyrical about this model, David Willis - creator of Shortpacked! and other webcomics - created a 13-page fan-fic Comic in honour of the club's latest exclusive.

But after a full year of waiting since he was announced and all the hype, does Ultra Mammoth live up to all the expectations?

Thursday, 14 November 2013

Galaxy Force Live Convoy

If there's one thing the TransFormers line doesn't do well, it's helicopters. Those rotor blades and long, thin tails invariably end up just hanging off somewhere awkward, and the overall shape tends to be in the region of a brick with a long, thin tail and rotor blades.

There have been exceptions to this rule, such as TF: Prime Airachnid and movie Blazemaster/Evac/Tailwhip, and even movie Blackout (to an extent - his tail hangs from his back) but, by and large, they don't work very well and tend to follow the same, fairly simplistic transformation schemes.

Back in the days of Cybertron/Galaxy Force, risks were taken with the robot designs, and the Voyager class helicopter Evac/Live Convoy did things a little differently...

TransFormers: Prime Megatron

For no obvious reason, Megatron has become a very difficult character to do 'right' in the TransFormers toyline and, by extension, the fiction. The G1 character was iconic and recreating his original alternate mode, a handgun, has proven contentious for many years. In many ways, transforming into a gun is the ultimate expression of Megatron's power... though it does come with the built-in drawback of needing someone else to wield him. Since G1 he's been a tank (several times), a dragon (several times), a purple dinosaur, a spider-tank head thing, a spacecraft, a car (twice) and a helicopter. In the live action movies, he was a jet (of sorts), a tank, and finally a rusty, heavily modified truck. In the many incarnations of Classics/Generations, he's been a Nerf gun, a Cybertronian tank and, most recently, a stealth bomber.

TF Prime, in some ways a development of the live action movies, has him as some kind of Cybertronian jet/spacecraft. Personally, I've found just about every 'Cybertronian' alternate mode in the history of the toyline to be lacklustre and ill-conceived... Does TF Prime break that awful tradition?

Sunday, 10 November 2013

TransFormers: Prime Cliffjumper

Cliffjumper was an interesting if contentious addition to the first wave of TF Prime Robots In Disguise. The character was the first to appear in the TV series, joking with Arcee as they patrolled their sectors, but gets killed off before the end of the first episode, returning only briefly as a Dark Energon zombie and, thereafter, only in flashbacks. That he deserved a toy I don't argue - particularly since this is the first time since Generation 1 that a toyline has had both Bumblebee and Cliffjumper as unique molds - but putting him in the first wave - and in such great numbers - clearly left most fans cold, and he was sitting on shelves for months. In fact, even now, approximately twenty months after the toyline made its début in the UK, it's still possible to find Cliffjumper in some shops.

Making it all the more infuriating, there was a First Edition version of Cliffjumper as well. The character may have warranted one toy, but two?

But enough about Hasbro doing everything wrong... What's the Cliffjumper toy like?

Wednesday, 6 November 2013

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2013 (Timelines) Jackpot

And so we approach the end of the first year of Fun Publications' TransFormers Collectors' Club Subscription Service. Jackpot, the penultimate figure, is yet another Action Master turned into a 'true' TransFormer... And, just to make things as inconsistent as possible, rather than taking his form from Classics or TF Prime or any number of other sources that would fit with the rest of the Subscription Service, they went and adapted a mold from TF Animated, even going so far as to give it a (largely unnecessary) new head sculpt.

You might almost get the impression I don't like this one...

TransFormers: Prime Bumblebee

Well, I had to get around to this fella eventually, so why not sooner rather than later? Bumblebee has been a fixture of TransFormers fiction over the last five or so years, having been cruelly neglected for many years after Generation 1. There was an excellent Classics figure (which has yet to be surpassed, in my humble opinion) but it's only really since the live action movies and TF Animated that Bumblebee has been ubiquitous in the toyline, to the point where seeing only one version of him in a line is highly irregular.

TF Prime took a leaf out of the movie franchise's book, casting Bumblebee as effectively mute, communicating in buzzes and beeps, much like a latter-day R2-D2. The First Edition toy was generally praised for its accuracy to the TV show but, just like the other FE models, he was completely redone for the mainstream toyline, Robots in Disguise.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Masterpiece Optimus Prime v2

When I finally got round to writing up the original Takara Tomy Masterpiece Convoy, I noted that it would be interesting to see the Masterpiece line revisit Optimus Prime after the live action movies, to see what improvements would be worked in. Little did I know (a) that they'd actually do that and (b) that, for the most part, the improvements would be very subtle - after all, when it comes to remaking G1 Optimus Prime, it's on a par with trying to reinvent the wheel.

When I first saw MP10, I wasn't especially impressed, and I certainly didn't rush to buy the Japanese version on import. Even when I learned that Hasbro would be releasing it - and particularly that it would be sold in the UK by Toys'R'Us - I just wasn't interested. I was perfectly happy with MP01, and the new version was smaller, lacking the extensive die-cast metal, and just didn't look as impressive overall.

However, regular readers of this blog will know that I make a habit of buying things I didn't expect - or indeed want - to buy. Seeing it in person, in one of my 'local' branches of Toys'R'Us caused me to throw caution to the wind and part with £100...

How big a mistake did I make..?

Thursday, 3 October 2013

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2013 (Timelines) Breakdown

So far, the output from the TFCC Subscription Service has been variable. On the whole, I've basically got what I expected, though the last one, Circuit, was a pleasant surprise.

Breakdown, meanwhile, is a bit of a sore point. Most of the figures in the set are straight repaints, with a couple of remolded heads, but the molds delivered thusfar have all been fairly new and interesting (at least to me). Breakdown is not just the billionth re-use of the Sunstreaker/Sideswipe mold from 2008, it's been used for two Club Exclusives already, one of which was the G2 version of Breakdown, so his inclusion in the 2013 Subscription Service seems very cynical.

Still, it can't be all bad... can it?

Monday, 30 September 2013

FYI

When Toys'R'Us UK finally got round to stocking Masterpiece Soundwave (and Acid Storm) about a month ago, they did so online only and, for a while, it seemed as though they might remain online only exclusives. However, after a swift jaunt to Brent Cross this morning, I can confirm that the two new Masterpieces now have a physical presence on the shelves.

On a related note, I can completely 100% understand Hasbro UK releasing Masterpiece Soundwave. It surprises me no end that they bothered, but I understand why they might - Soundwave is almost as safe a bet as Optimus Prime. What I don't understand is Acid Storm.

I mean, he's not even a true, canonical character. Releasing him as a Deluxe in the Classics/Generations line was weird enough (especially since it took FunPub to release the other so-called 'Rainmakers', in a move not unlike the offence against Seeker OCD sufferers that was BotCon 2007's 'Games of Deception' set). The UK saw the original (G1 coloured) Masterpiece Starscream at Toys'R'Us only, then Hasbro's Masterpiece Skywarp turned up exclusively at Argos... What the UK needs is a Masterpiece Thundercracker, not some second-rate fan-fic nonentity with a violent colourscheme and a 'digital camoflage' pattern.

I can imagine plenty of people picking it up simply because the mold is an 'improvement' on the original MP F-15 mold (meaning it's been made more G1-like and far less sleek in jet mode, though I'd concede that the head does look better, and the ball-jointed arms on which his weapons are mounted are interesting) and because some people rather like fringe characters. I don't object to them, per se, but I do object to fringe characters taking precedence over official Masterpiece releases of actual G1 characters.

While I was in the store, I saw the new wave of Beast Hunters toys (picking up 'Batgirl' Arcee and 'Croc-Out') and the behemoth that is Generations Metroplex. Interestingly, it also appears that later assortments of the original TF:P toys upped the number of Vehicons per case, as I keep seeing them all over the place now... and I can't imagine that a troop-builder figure as good as that wasn't popular...

Shame there's no Jet Vehicon, though.

Monday, 23 September 2013

Closing Notes

And so concludes the 5th Anniversary Special for this humble toy blog.

It was an interesting exercise in making use of the 'scheduled post' option (struggling for the last couple of weeks to complete an ideal minimum number of posts to go live throughout the day on the 21st), and a nice trip down memory lane. From my latest TransFormer (Circuit) to my first (Cliffjumper), then meandering through other firsts before concluding with Galvatron simply because I thought it'd be fun, it has show me that, while many things in my life have changed, my reason for collecting TransFormers has not: they're pretty damned cool.

The structure of the toyline has changed dramatically over the years, the way it's marketed has changed... the quality of materials has changed, but the TransFormers toyline is still going strong, still full of that tantalising combination of action figure, model vehicle... and puzzle box.

In many ways, I'm quite glad that the Beast Hunters branch of TransFormers: Prime came along when it did. It may seem strange for a self-professed fan of Transformers toys to be glad of a toyline I don't actually like, but it means I can take a break from spending my limited funds on toys and concentrate on the necessities... like food, my flat's maintenance requirements, and going out with my girlfriend.

Hasbro/Takara Tomy have made missteps in the past, and they tend to spring back from them... eventually... But while Hasbro shuffles on with Beast Hunters, Takara Tomy are going all Power Rangers/Zoids with TransFormers Go! and I can't see the Autobot samurai teams coming out in the West anytime soon.

I'm not sure what the future of the TransFormers toyline will bring, but with Michael Bay working on the next movie in the franchise, it's bound to be controversial. Rumours of the Dinobots seem to have been confirmed by the title, new logo and screenshots from Bay's laptop that have turned up on the interwebs. What we've seen of the cars involved is quite exciting, and Optimus Prime's new, bulkier truck could bring a new, bulkier Optimus toy... I just hope they properly bring back Leader class for this toy range, and don't fumble with Megatron/Whoever Now Leads the Decepticons the way they did with the first three movies.

At the very least, an absence of Shia LaBeouf on screen will be an improvement...

My own preference for the toyline would be for a return to what made the line great in the first place. Not a continuation of Classics/Generations, but a true 'Generation 3' with unique characters in each of three or four different size classes, and a complete absence of gimmicks other than transformation. Continue the story that began in Generation 1 (or should that be War for Cybertron/Fall of Cybertron?) and ended not long after Rodimus Prime pronounced a new Golden Age of Cybertron, back in the distant future of 2006.

Here's to the 40th Anniversary of the toyline... and, with it, the 15th Anniversary of this blog?

Saturday, 21 September 2013

G1 Galvatron

Never in this history of the TransFormers line has a character been so confusing as Galvatron.  The 1986 animated movie introduced him as 'Megatron, Upgraded' and became a long-standing precedent in the associated fiction where, after a crushing defeat at the hands of Optimus Prime, Megatron somehow blags himself an upgrade - most usually only in the form of a palette change, but occasionally he gains a few new alternate modes.

Both the later series of the animated TV show (those following the movie) and the comics, portrayed Galvatron as stark raving bonkers... in the comics, he even travelled back in time in an attempt to destroy Unicron, taking out the present-day Megatron in the process. According to the bio information packaged with the toy, however, Galvatron was merely the 'City Commander' - equal in rank to his Autobot counterpart Ultra Magnus - with no mention of Megatron other than very obliquely, in a reference to Galvatron's determination to lead the Decepticons.

Undoubtedly an iconic character one way or another, how does Galvatron's G1 toy shape up?

G1 Stunticons/Menasor (My First Gestalt!)

The arrival of gestalt teams in the UK back in 1986 felt like something of a triumph. We'd missed out on the Constructicons/Devastator for no obvious reason and suddenly combining robots were 'the big thing' in both the TV series and the Marvel comics. This was back in the days when Hasbro's UK marketing and distribution made gaffes like releasing Metroplex without Trypticon, and then Scorponok without Fortress Maximus, so it was also rather surprising that all four of 1986's teams were released in good numbers.

One rather obvious point of interest was that this was the first time the Decepticons got a truly significant ground presence, and the first time the Autobots gained some air power, so much was made of this in the associated fiction of the time. With most humans thinking all giant robots were evil invaders from another world, and only a select few aware that Autobots tended to disguise themselves as cars and trucks, while Decepticons tended to go for jets and spacecraft, this turnaround threw everything into doubt...

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you... The Stunticons!

G1 Soundwave & Buzzsaw (My First Decepticons!)

Because, yes, even though Laserbeak was Soundwave's favourite in the TV show, he was packaged with Buzzsaw. And, curiously, while Laserbeak was the spy in the TV show, he was an interrogation specialist in the toyrange, and Buzzsaw was the spy. Honestly, that TV show was constantly screwing things up, wasn't it?

And, for the record, Rumble is red. The TV show got that wrong, too.

But anyway... With Masterpiece Soundwave now available in the UK (though Toys'R'Us seem reluctant to put him on their shelves), how about a look at the original, my first ever Decepticon toy?

G1 Cliffjumper (My First Autobot!)

I can remember, back in the day, being torn between Bandai's Robo-Machines (aka Go-Bots) and Hasbro/MB's TransFormers line. On balance, Robo-Machines tended to have better looking, more realistic vehicle modes for their size... but their quality control wasn't so great and their robot modes often looked terrible. One fateful day, when I had a small collection of both toylines, I made a decision to give up on Robo-Machines and focus entirely on TransFormers... And the beginnings of that decision can be traced back to my very first TransFormers purchase, Cliffjumper, bought with my own pocket money, around the age of about 10.

Friday, 20 September 2013

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2013 (Timelines) Circuit

So, here we are, halfway through the first year of the TransFormers Collectors' Club's all-new Subscription Service. One pretty dull entry, one pretty awesome... and now an update of an Action Master. Who'd have thought a range of barely-articulated, non-transforming action figures could inspire such a move?

Well, it's certainly not unprecedented - the Club updated Banzai-Tron for BotCon four years ago, then Double Punch and Slicer the following year, and they turned out pretty good. In 2011, there was even the gaudy repaint of Thundercracker in his Action Master colours. Then there's another former Action Master - Jackpot - still to come from the TFSS1.0 and yet another - Treadshot - scheduled for next year's Subscription Service.

Thing is, Action Masters are still pretty obscure, and the very fact that they were non-transforming figures means they can be tricky to match to an existing, transforming robot. Some were clearly based on simplified forms of proper G1 toys... but others clearly weren't. Lucky, then, that Hasbro had already got in on the action, repainting the 'movie' Lockdown mold, giving it a new head and weapon, and calling it Axor. Due to the reuse of Action Master molds, all the Club had to do was release the same model in a new colourscheme and, hey presto, you have Circuit.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Masterpiece Grimlock

OK, let's get one thing out of the way, straight off the bat: I think the Dinobots were rubbish.

I mean, seriously, robots that transform into robot dinosaurs? And how many different nonsensical 'explanations' for this bizarre phenomenon? The whole idea was ridiculous, and probably one of the worst aspects of TransFormers being a toyline created out of several crossover brands, in this case Takara's Diaclone Dinosaur Robo line. Grimlock was supposedly a robotic Tyrannosaurus Rex, but his proportions were all wrong and the dinosaur legs were poorly positioned and just didn't look anything like those of a T-Rex, the head was too wide and too flat, the arms stuck out from the torso, with a fixed 90degree bend at the elbow... The whole thing was a catalogue of poor design, quite apart from the fact that it was a frikkin' robotic dinosaur. The Dinobots are why I was initially quite sceptical of Beast Wars.

Weirdly, and as mentioned in my write-up of Classics Grimlock, I bought a full set of Justitoys' World's Smallest Dinobots - at no small cost - because the idea of them appealed to me. Other than being scaled to the authentic Takara Tomy World's Smallest line (based on their comparative sizes on the TV show), they were functionally identical to the full-sized version in every detail. They were a curiosity and a massive aberration in my collection, picked up largely because they were made available as a complete set, whereas G1 Swoop was never released in the UK. As it turned out, they're not great quality, and part of me rather regrets buying them.

Still, something must have convinced me to buy this behemoth... Let's see if we can figure out what it was...

Friday, 6 September 2013

Props

It's official: Cheets makes me like some terrible Beast Hunters molds.

He's also taken one of the few Autobot remolds that I'm intending to buy, and turned it into something completely awesome and unexpected.

Seriously, this guy has done some incredible things with toys Hasbro released as garish monstrosities and which Takara Tomy made only just bearable with more sensible colour schemes. Had I the disposable income, I'd love to get my hands on the likes of Diva Gigatron...


Thursday, 5 September 2013

Plans, News and A Fortuitous Find...

OK, so I noticed that Saturday the 21st of this month is marked on my calendar as the 5th (fifth!!!) birthday of this blog. I've also been getting lots more views this year - more than a thousand hits per month for the last few months and only 8 shy of two thousand for August.

This calls for something special.

I have a few options, some of which could be considered 'in progress', some would require me doing a bit more planning. There may be something along the lines of my Shackwave post, or it might be something completely different. Let it suffice to say that, unless something happens to prevent it, there should be a really cool post - or maybe even set of posts - going online on the fifth birthday of this humble TransForm-A-Blog.

Also, while I still have that - slowly shrinking - backlog of posts with pics on Photobucket, there may be a noticeable difference in quality between the 'old' posts and all new posts from here on, because my wonderful girlfriend has given me her old digital camera. My old camera was 3.3 megapixel... this 'new' one is 6 megapixel. Maybe not top quality by current standards, but certainly more than sufficient for a blog.

In other news, I was wandering around today and, wouldn't you know it, just happened to find a tape recorder just laying around, as if lost or forgotten. Naturally, I snatched it up and brought it back to the secret underground base from which I operate this weblog covering sightings of the alien robots fighting their civil war while living among us, disguised as our machines.

After all, what's the worst that could happen..?

(Not actually found lying around - ordered from the Toys'R'Us UK website
as it seems uncertain whether or not they'll actually filter through to the
retail shelves)


Thursday, 29 August 2013

TransFormers Animated Prowl

If ever there was a TV series that reinvented TransFormers, it was TransFormers Animated. Whereas every preceding series had taken the toys and adapted them into simplified, animation-friendly forms, or just reproduced them (almost) authentically in cel-shaded CGI, TF Animated took a completely different approach, designing robots which seemed impossible to translate into three-dimensional, transforming plastic.

Hasbro/Takara Tomy's designers rose to the challenge, though, and produced some quite phenomenal models which mostly retained the look of the cartoon's character models, and Prowl is a particularly good example of this.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

TransFormers Collectors' Club BotCon 2007 (Timelines) Boxed Set: Games of Deception

For one reason or another all the BotCon sets produced by Fun Publications end up being contentious, but 2007's is easily the most controversial. Hasbro, at the time, had released only three of the Decepticon jets - Starscream, Ramjet and Skywarp, with the latter only being available in a 2-pack with Ultra Magnus. All the indications were that none more would be produced (apart from the occasional rerelease/repaint of Starscream, for no obvious reason), and so FunPub took the opportunity to satisfy their members Seeker and Conehead OCD by creating their own versions of Thundercracker, Dirge and Thrust.

The outcry was stunning, possibly the stuff of fandom legend... But that was nothing to the outcry of some of those who bought the set, only for Takara Tomy, then Hasbro, to release their own version of the missing three Decepticon jets, with entirely new wings for the remaining two Coneheads... but was the Botcon set worth all the fuss?

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

FansProject Crossfire 02B - Munitioner

Following on from Explorer/Blast Off and completing the grand saga that is FansProjects' second Energon/Superlink gestalt upgrade, Colossus, here we have Munitioner (aka Swindle) and 'Combat Unit Appendage Add-on Kit B', taking the place of the Energon/Superlink component known as Blight (Swindle in Japan), the tank which was done up in an approximation of G1 Swindle's colourscheme.

Friday, 16 August 2013

In other news...

Dear Hasbro,

It is the year 2013, in the twenty-first century. This is how one designs an transforming militaristic robot gestalt. Compare and contrast to your abominable, ill-proportioned Fall of Cybertron Bruticus. And don't tell me it's all because you were using Cybertronian modes rather than Earth modes.

Thank you.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2013 (Timelines) Slipstream

The second arrival in 2013's TransFormers Collectors' Club Subscription Service was a bit of a surprise. I'd pretty much expected that the most interesting and imaginative items in this year's batch - for me, Slipstream and Ultra Mammoth - would be the last to be sent out, but the Club defied my low expectations. Thing is, now I have Slipstream, there isn't going to be another one that really lights my candle until Ultra Mammoth and, being the largest of the set, he's sure to be the last.

On the upside, if FunPub can keep to the (loosely) monthly schedule of despatches, there's a good chance they'll actually complete 2013's Subscription Service by the end of the year...

Anyway. Slipstream has appeared very briefly in the Club comic - in the final frame on the final page of the epilogue to 'A Flash Forward', sitting around a table in a bar somewhere in Axiom Nexus, playing cards with most of the other Subscription Service figures and Depth Charge. She had no dialogue in that frame and, based on the direction the story has taken for 2013 (Beast Wars: Shattered Glass) it seems unlikely that she'll feature again this year, making her inclusion in the Subscription Service in the first place all the more confusing. I'm sure that, eventually, the Club will tie up all its figures in the Timelines fiction, but I really do wish they'd focus a little more sensibly.

Slipstream appears to be a simple homage to the TF: Animated character originally known only as 'Female Starscream', who represents an undisclosed aspect of Starscream's personality.

Saturday, 10 August 2013

FansProject Crossfire 02A - Explorer

The Energon/Superlink gestalts were an excellent idea, executed in a rather lazy (or maybe just plain cheap) way. The individual components were fairly decent for the time and their size class, there just weren't enough of them... None of the finished gestalts ever had anything truly resembling hands or feet, and their poseability - excellent in theory - was always hampered by loose hip joints on the torso components - strong enough to hold up the individual robot, but not enough for the extra weight of the additional gestalt parts.

Even so, they are leagues better than anything Generation 1 gave us, and better than the Power Core Combiners simply because the limbs actually transformed into robots. FansProject clearly weren't satisfied, though. Their first task was completing Energon/Superlink's Superion Maximus, giving him proper hands and feet (which were also accessories for the individual planes in the team) and a G1-style handgun. Since that was so well received, their next major project took things a step further... two whole new gestalt components, homages to Swindle and Blast Off, which would 'complete' the Energon/Superlink Bruticus Maximus set.

I've already dealt with the completed gestalt, so it's about time the two components had their time in the spotlight... and I'll start with Explorer, aka Blast Off.

TransFormers: Prime Airachnid

The TransFormers brand doesn't have many proper femme-bot characters, and even fewer femme-bot toys. Aside from Arcee, the next most prominant must surely be Blackarachnia or Airazor from Beast Wars. They have tended to pretty strong characters and, where they've been turned into toys, they're generally pretty good...

...And then comes Airachnid, the chilling yet alluring predator from TF: Prime...

Friday, 9 August 2013

Universe Nemesis Prime

While the western world saw its fair share of Beast Wars, the line was far more extensive in Japan, featuring many new molds that never saw western release. Some of them were utterly bizarre, and unlikely to have successfully penetrated the western market anyway (rabbits, pengiuns... tanuki...). Others, in retrospect, seem like glaring and foolish omissions, especially where they were Optimus Prime analogues in the Japanese fiction.

One such character was Big Convoy who, to this day, has had only one western release, under the catch-all 'Universe' branding as the tortured and broken Herald of Unicron... However, since the model is soon to get another usage, as one of the Collectors' Club's Subscription Service figures for 2013, I figured it was about time I took a proper look at Universe Nemesis Prime.

Galaxy Force Autolander

With all the obvious homages going on in the Galaxy Force/Cybertron line, some of the smaller, more subtle references slipped past. Autolander was particularly interesting because his homage to Kup - not obvious at first glance - was made more apparent by Brakedown GTS, a repaint in the later waves of Cybertron toys.

Thursday, 8 August 2013

TransFormers: Prime - An Overview

Thanks to the wonders of the interwebs, I've been able to watch all three seasons of TransFormers: Prime before the UK DVD releases complete even season one. For a glorified toy commercial, it's one of the best TV series I've seen in a long while, and I'm not limiting that sweeping statement to kids television. It's a finely crafted piece of fiction... and, all things considered, if it's a failure as an advertisement, that's all down to Hasbro and the toyline, not the creative team working on the show.

--SPOILER WARNING!--
Events of the TV series are discussed herein

Sunday, 4 August 2013

Generations (30th Anniversary) Trailcutter

I'm having a bit of trouble understanding this whole '30th Anniversary' plan... Or, more to the point, I'm having trouble believing there is one. The selection of characters and alternate modes so far are undoubtedly nods to the excellent work of the artists involved in the more recent comic book stories, harking back to Generation 1, yet creating something new and contemporary, informed by the intricate designs of the live action movie.

Trailcutter (henceforth referred to by his correct name, Trailbreaker) is an exceptionally strange choice for the 30th Anniversary line, suggesting that the whole 'celebratory' angle is being shoehorned into what is basically just the ongoing Classics line. Much of what's coming certainly covers a range of continuities, including a couple of Beast Wars updates - Rhinox and Waspinator - which finally look awesome, and are a huge improvement on the earlier Classics beasts, Cheetor and Dinobot. In that context, it's perfectly valid to just lump everything together and call it "the 30th Anniversary toyline"... but, where Rhinox and Waspinator are significant characters, Trailbreaker is less so.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013

Generations (30th Anniversary) Megatron

And so begins the 30th Anniversary of the TransFormers toyline, kicking off with a set of Deluxe Class toys based on new character designs from the IDW comics. Considering the line has been going for thirty (not quite continuous) years, one would tend to expect Hasbro to pull out all the stops and create something incredible to mark the occasion. Certainly, things like the new Metroplex fit that bill, if you're into massive hunks of plastic that pretty much require their own display space, but with the 20th Anniversary having been celebrated by the commencement of the original Japanese Masterpiece and Binaltech lines, what does the third decade of Transformers mean to Hasbro?

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Cybertron Downshift

During the Unicron Trilogy, Hasbro seemed to play fast and loose with its character names and representations. The character named Wheeljack (Rampage in Japan) was a clear homage to G1 Sideswipe and, on the two occasions where a character turned up looking like G1 Wheeljack, he was named Downshift (Takara got his name right, though!).

Wheeljack as a character still gets a poor deal - while the G1 character was a scientist and weaponsmith, in the Unicron Trilogy he was just a rookie soldier. Even now, in TransFormers: Prime, where he actually looks like the original Wheeljack, he's just a roaming hunter/warrior with a penchant for explosives. The only recent version of Wheeljack that's really been Wheeljack was the Classics/Generations version.

While the Energon/Superlink version was a sports car decorated to look like the G1 Lancia Stratos, the Cybertron version took a whole new approach... So, when is a homage not a homage?

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

TransFormers Collectors' Club BotCon 2009 (Timelines) Banzai-Tron

I have to confess that the whole Action Master phenomenon passed me by completely. I'm not even sure they made it over to the UK, though I wasn't really looking for TransFormers by that point. The idea was that certain Cybertronians lost the ability to transform through use an a new kind of fuel - probably the weirdest, not to mention (oxy)moronic decision in the entire history of the TransFormers toyline - and thus equipped themselves with transforming partners of one kind or another - in the case of Banzai-Tron, a kind of TargetMaster who was a robotic crab.

This Timelines homage to the Action Master was an attendee extra figure for BotCon 2009's 'Wings of Honor' storyline, packaged with Skyquake, and uses the Superlink Shockfleet/Energon Mirage mold, even though the original toy showed no boat-like elements.

TransFormers United 2-pack: UN-27 Windcharger & Wipe-Out

When it was announced that the extended Classics line would get an updated Windcharger to go along with the upgraded Mini Autobots Bumblebee, Warpath and Powerglide, I was pretty thrilled. Windcharger was the second Autobot I ever bought (the first being Cliffjumper), and he was a pretty awesome version of the third generation Pontiac Firebird, the very same car that was used as KITT in the original Knight Rider TV series in the 80s. He also had an awesome story in the UK Marvel TransFormers comic (back when they drew everyone properly, rather than according to the terrible Marvel style guide), when he and Ravage teamed up against the Ark's nutty computer. It seems bizarre to me that so few of the G1 Mini Autobots have been updated, or even been recreated for other series but, at last, Hasbro seems to be showing an interest.

Windcharger was only going to be a Scout/Legends class figure, smaller than any of the other Mini updates, but I wasn't fussed about that. Early shots of the model looked excellent, and I was keen to get him as soon as he turned up in the UK.

But he didn't. And still hasn't. So the only way I was able to get him was to shell out over the odds for an import of the Japanese TransFormers: United twin pack of Windcharger and Wipe-Out...

Monday, 22 July 2013

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2013 Members Incentive (Timelines) Depth Charge

(Members Incentive Monday #9)
I have developed a nasty habit with this blog of writing up repaints/remolds before the original iteration of any mold... I'd aimed to break that trend over the weekend with Terradive, but just couldn't seem to keep myself interested, knowing full well that he was just the preamble to this Beast Wars homage.

Little has been seen of Depth Charge so far in the 'Beast Wars: Shattered Glass' storyline currently running in the club magazine, but I was intrigued from the moment he was announced. Naturally, all the Beast Wars characters had pre-Beast Wars forms (as investigated by Botcon's 'Dawn of Futures Past' set and Club exclusive Airazor), but the story suggests this is set after Beast Wars, and possibly on a different planet... so what form could Depth Charge take after spending time as a large robotic ray?

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

Generations Scourge

Back in my write-up of Classics Cyclonus, I mused that the toyline has done an excellent job wherever it remakes a terrible G1 toy. Most of Generation 1 had a kind of charm even if the toys were basic and lacking articulation, but the models based on characters from the animated movie were invariably awful.

Scourge was a hovercraft, let's face it, however much Hasbro might say otherwise. A hovercraft which somehow flew through space, but a hovercraft nonetheless. He was also one of the earliest examples of a 'shell-former' in that the vast majority of his vehicle mode simply folded away to reveal the robot inside, in a similar way to Galaxy Force Chromia and Timelines Elita-1.

While the sequential art fiction and even the Titanium line kept him looking like a Sci-Fi hovercraft in almost every continuity, Generations has given him a whole new look... at least to his vehicle mode...

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

Energon Arcee

I have a confession to make: I have something of an obsession with biker femme-bots, and Energon Arcee/Superlink Ariel was the beginning of it all. While I can't ride motorbikes myself, I do find myself admiring them in passing but, historically, they didn't work well as alternate modes for TransFormers. G1 Protectobot Groove, G2 Laser Cycles, Beast Machines Thrust, etc. all tended to have a bias toward making a decent bike at the expense of being a believable robot in disguise.

That all changed with Energon/Superlink, where the only unique Omnicon, Arcee/Ariel, proved that one could have aesthetically pleasing and well-proportioned motorcycle which transformed into an aesthetically pleasing and well-proportioned robot... providing it was a femme-bot.

Monday, 15 July 2013

TransFormers: Prime Beast Hunters Jet Vehicon

I don't normally buy the smaller scale TransFormers. Most of them are even more simplistic than Mini-Cons, in terms of articulation if not transformation. However, when it seems unlikely that a particular model will become available in the UK, such as the Deluxe Class Jet Vehicon, and I'm not in a position to pay the exorbitant import prices, I'll sometimes cave in and pick up those that catch my interest.

The Deluxe Class Jet Vehicon looks completely awesome and, despite the fact that Japan (at least) is getting not one but two versions: the standard, 'nameless, faceless mook' variety, and a silver/grey 'General' version, they don't appear to have made it Stateside. I guess there's a slim chance that these (and possibly a Legion Class 'General') might become available at UK retail eventually, since they are part of the Beast Hunters line, but I quickly snapped up this pint-sized purple peon at the LFCC, to see if it's a worthy substitute for the Deluxe.

Superlink Galvatron General

Once upon a time, when a TransFormers character got an upgrade, it meant a whole new mold. Think Powermaster Optimus Prime or, indeed, G1 Galvatron. In the Unicron Trilogy, however, upgrades came either in the form of one character combining with another, or a simple repaint. While this trilogy didn't start this trend (Robots In Disguise is to blame!), it certainly raised it to an artform, taking each of three different Megatron molds, and giving them a new paint job to create that line's Galvatron.

Strangely, though, Superlink started out with Galvatron rather than Megatron, and his repaint/upgrade gained a suffix to his name along with a very G1-inspired colourscheme.

Note that this is the smaller Japanese version of the model, rather that the upscaled US/European version.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

DotM Mechtech Sentinel Prime

TransFormers: Dark of the Moon proved several things - that alien invasion movies were de regueur during the period of 2010-2011; that, even with a coherent story, Michael Bay could deliver only a vaguely coherent movie (and one which countered some of his good ideas from the earlier ones - I mean, seriously, why did these transforming alien robots require aircraft?); that the Generation 1 cartoon had some excellent ideas which were ripe for stealing; and that Hasbro was very capable of fumbling an entire toyline.

Sentinel Prime was a controversial character - an ancient Autobot hero who made a deal with Megatron for the sake of Cybertron, with none of Optimus Prime's regard for life. As a prominent character from the film, he had a figure in almost every size class (no Deluxe, even though Optimus got one!)... but, knowing my propensity for Leader Class figures, it will not surprise anyone to learn that's the only one I picked up.

Is this another winner, like RotF Optimus Prime, or a weird pile of junk, like Megatron from either of the previous movie ranges?

Monday, 8 July 2013

iGear MW-08 Bushwhacker

I've heard mixed things about iGear generally, from the accusations of ripping off the work of others to the praise for their Masterpiece Seekers and Coneheads, and now they're producing their own line of G1 Mini Autobot homages, beginning with (Sea)Spray and Rager (aka Huffer), under the banner of 'Mini Warriors'. For the most part, the line wasn't of much interest to me - the models were OK, but not really as complex or as good-looking as the more recent mainstream releases, so they wouldn't be a particularly good fit for my Classics shelf.

However, strange things happen to me when I go to conventions and, faced with a small selection of iGear's newest additions to the line, I somehow felt compelled to pick up their homage to one of my favourite G1 models, Outback.

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Show Haul

Nope, not BotCon - still haven't managed to get myself over to the States for one of them - but the London Film & Comic Con, which I attended today with a friend. The last one I went to was a huge disappointment to me, largely because the of dearth of TransFormers merchandise, so I wasn't holding out much hope for this one. Yes, I took a fair chunk of money with me, but my rationale was "if I don't spend it, I've got cash for groceries, etc for the next few weeks."

The show looked like an utter shambles... from the long queue outside (on a hot, sunny day), through the three slow-moving ticket queues, to the two staffed entry doors, and into a vast hall which was mostly empty space and barging people, with a few densely-packed zones for general retail, specific memorabilia, arty things and, of course, celebrity guests. The organisers need to take a long hard look at their show's presentation. No doubt it makes lots of money - the few stallholders I spoke to for any length of time had been making excellent money for all three days of the show - but the guests are unlikely to look fondly upon the show when it looks like it's occurring in a shanty town inside Earls Court Two.

As it turned out, though, my friend and I made out like bandits. She was looking for a present for a young relative, and I recommended one of the new TF Generations Legends Megatron and Chopshop. Actually, 'recommended' is too strong a word. I asked which would be the preferred vehicle, tank or plane, and the tank won.

There was also a good selection of Bumblebees to add to her collection, and she came away with the spiky Beast Hunters remold, the Dark Energon version (essentially a semi-transparent, glittery homage to Goldbug) and a First Edition. On the way out, I remarked that there's another FE pack that she might like to go halves on, if it turns up: the New York Comic Con version, where she - a former New Yorker - could have FE Bumblebee as a New York cab, and I'd take FE Arcee in the G1 colourscheme.

My own luck was similarly good - I walked away with a FE Starscream, a Beast Hunters Legends Jet Vehicon (since it's unlikely I'll see the full size version), the Japanese TF United Windcharger/Wipe-Out 2-pack and an iGear Bushwacker.

Full writeups to come (eventually - you know by now how long these things can take!), but my initial impressions are as follows:

FE Starscream: Better than the Voyager in some ways - far tidier, for example. Probably rather more complicated, too... but the arm extension joint feels like it could break quite quickly.
TFPBH Jet Vehicon: Pretty darned neat, for the size, though the weapon's pegs don't fit very well in some of the vehicle mode's holes, and not having the head fold away at all seems a bit rubbish.
TFU Windcharger/Wipe-Out: Nice G1 referencing, and rather amusing that, just like 80s Knight Rider vs. 2008 Knight Rider, what was once a Trans Am is now a Ford Mustang. Sorta. Hey, they both transform, too!
iGear Bushwacker: Far larger than I'd expected, but an OK update of one of my favourite G1 Mini Autobots, though it feels unfinished and some parts don't fit especially well.

Shout-outs to All The Cool Stuff, Toyz and Gamez and Moving Pictures for being especially cool, and making my visit to the LFCC today worthwhile.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

DotM Mechtech Thundercracker

I have to confess that, when I first heard that Starscream in the the Dark of the Moon toyline would be Deluxe Class, I was pretty disappointed. While the Voyager Class models from both the original movie and Revenge of the Fallen were flawed in their own ways, both were reasonable interpretations of some fairly impossible CGI. The closest version up to this point had been the largest, so how on Earth would they make a halfway decent version of the movie Seekers using a smaller scale?

Since I was perfectly happy with my Leader and Voyager Class models for Starscream, Hasbro attempted to trigger my Seeker OCD as they did with the first movie, by repainting this model as Thundercracker (while only Japan got a Skywarp out of this mold!). When I found him on the cheap in one of my local toyshops, I figured he was worth a try, if only to show some willing with the otherwise quite disappointing Dark of the Moon toyline.

War for Cybertron Soundwave

I should stress, first of all, that this is the first release - the Deluxe, not the all-singing, all-dancing Voyager which can make use of the 'data disc' minions.

Transformers have always seemed to be an ideal property for videogames, making it baffling that Hasbro haven't pursued the idea more thoroughly. That said, what few games there have been were largely terrible - I believe the game based on Armada was better-received than the TV series (not hard!), but it took until High Moon Studios' War for Cybertron, a game which recounted the beginnings of the war which eventually let Optimus Prime, Megatron, et al to leave their home planet and wind up on Earth. It was only natural that Soundwave would play a part, but how did he turn out?

Universe Red Alert

Every so often, a TransFormers toy enters my collection as a gift. When it's a birthday present, chances are I bought it myself and then handed it over to a family member in exchange for a refund (sometimes that's easier for them than trying to pick out a present themselves). This one, however, was a gift from a friend and correspondent in the States, and came as quite a surprise when I opened the package.

Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Galaxy Force Demolishor

Construction vehicles are nothing new to the TransFormers toyline - there's a grand tradition, particularly with the Decepticons, of these giant alien robots disguising themselves as machines involved in building. I guess it's a good cover for building all those weapons of mass destruction, but it does seem strange that the faction who are intent on destroying are the most likely ones to turn into machines used to create.

The Galaxy Force/Cybertron line featured a whole planet populated by giant robots, neither Autobot nor Decepticon, who lived to build... but there was one construction vehicle which was a Decepticon from the start...

Monday, 1 July 2013

TransFormers: Prime Vehicon (Car)

One thing the TransFormers line has missed out on, by and large, as a character-driven property, is the 'nameless, faceless mook' or 'troop builder'. Granted, even the G1 TV series pilot featured random, unlikely-looking characters who existed only to get blown up (or cause excessive OCD in some fans), but they never came out as toys. Energon featured Omnicons and the Terrorcons, which could function as troop-builders... but most of them were such dull toys and from such a poorly-received series, I can't imagine most fans buying more than one, if any.

Then came TransFormers: Prime, which has almost made a virtue of having literally nameless, faceless Vehicons making up the bulk of Megatron's forces. But are they nothing more than a throwback to the bad old days of the Terrorcons, or are they something a bit special..?

Sunday, 30 June 2013

'Shackwave' (aka ToyCo 'Astro Magnum', aka Tandy/Radio Shack 'Galactic Man')

In celebration of passing the 1,000 pageviews milestone in the month of June, here's a real treat...
This model needs no further introduction, not least because I teased it almost two full years ago. It has a strange history, having been drafted into the ranks for Generation 1 TransFormers from ToyCo, where most of G1 was repurposed from Takara's Microchange/Microman and Diaclone toylines.

I may well be misunderstanding what little I know of its origins, but it seems that Shockwave was originally released only in the US and Korea, with Japan picking him up later... And he never arrived in the UK.

So when, browsing through my father's catalogue from Tandy (being the UK name for Radio Shack), I found this very familar-looking toy, and saw my chance to have one of the coolest characters from the Marvel comics at the time... And I really wasn't fussed about the colourscheme.

Further Image Issues

Following my change of policy regarding the images used within these blog posts, I've been finding that some of the draft posts that are queued up waiting for text have started to go a little bit wrong. Not sure what's causing it (other than, perhaps, the billions of system changes at Photobucket), but some of my thumbnails are broken - not just here, but on Photobucket too.

That wouldn't be so bad if there was a way to manually re-make thumbnails within The Bucket.

It also wouldn't be so bad if the full-size images were undamaged, but some of them are broken, too. I figured I could force it to remake thumbnails by choosing the 'Edit' option, doing something minor, then saving... but some of the images won't even load into the editing system.

The upshot of this is that some of the (approximately 120) drafts that are stacked as of this moment will have to be scrapped. Not entirely, of course, I just have to retake photos where I can't access them on Photobucket and reupload them as embedded Blogspot images. I could retake all of them, and just forget about Photobucket, but that seems like a waste... So I may start harvesting those images that work...

Bit of a bugger to have uploaded thousands of images to an image host, only to find it's a bit rubbish...

TransFormers (Movie) Stockade

I'm not quite sure what it says about either the TransFormers live action movie or the toyline that ran along with it, but one of my favourite toys didn't even appear in the movies. Stockade is from the extended original movie toyline, and transforms - perhaps weirdly, considering he's a Decepticon - into a Sector 7 SUV. All the more fun, when the film-makers had the opportunity to include the character in one of the later movies (Dark of the Moon, specifically) they came up with three entirely new characters instead...

TransFormers: Prime Optimus Prime

TransFormers: Prime caught a lot of flak initially for robot designs that seemed to be the illegitimate offspring of the much-loved, prematurely cancelled TransFormers: Animated series and the much loathed live-action movie designs. Personally, I'm more cheesed off that, as a co-production with a satellite TV company, the only way I could watch the series initially would have been by forking out for a subscription and the necessary hardware.

Or YouTube, of course.

Like any TransFormers series since G1, it has its share of detractors... but few can deny that the stories are more coherent and substantially darker in tone than anything that has come before (surprising, given the involvement of Kurtzman and Orci). Hasbro followed up their confounding decision on the creation of the show by releasing the Prime 'First Edition' line, only to cancel it before most people had a chance to find the toys. What came next was subtitled 'Robots In Disguise'... but was it an improvement?

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Galaxy Force Dark Nitro Convoy

The original form of Nitro Convoy (aka Override) didn't interest me much. Vehicle mode looked cool and all, but the colourscheme was completely over the top, tending toward clownish. The gold face of the Japanese version didn't help, but the orange face of the western release just sealed the deal. Plus, there's that much-vaunted 'auto-transform' gimmick, the spring-loaded likes of which frequently ruins an otherwise decent toy...

However, if it wasn't already apparent from this blog that I tend to think a black repaint covers the gravest of sins, it soon will be... possibly. TakaraTomy, in collaboration with Telemaga (TV Magazine), released Dark Nitro Convoy... somehow making an eminently avoidable toy become part of my collection...

Friday, 28 June 2013

FansProject CA-10 Causality: T-Bone

Having bought CA-09, the first component of FansProject's mammoth interpretation of G1 gestalt Menasor, pretty much the first thing I did was look up the other components. While I now have CA-11 and -12 on pre-order, this one was a pleasant surprise, arriving rather earlier than expected.

How does FansProject's take on Wildrider measure up?

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2013 (Timelines) Scourge

As with their first, stumbling steps into being the official TransFormers Collectors' Club, Fun Publications' new 'Subscription Service' hasn't got off to a good start. Announced around the middle of last year, the service was supposed to deliver one of six figures every month, starting January 2013. Pretty much every update from the Club thereafter was about delays, with the starting month getting gradually pushed back due to the almost inevitable 'circumstances beyond their control' (not least the likelihood that Hasbro is gearing up for the fourth live action movie toys)... All this, despite the fact that a similar service for FunPub's GI Joe Collectors' Club has been in operation for years...

And so, six months later than initially advertised, the Subscription Service figures are starting to appear... and we kick off with yet another Nemesis Prime/Scourge...

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Cybertron Armorhide

Perhaps the strangest aspect of the Cybertron line was the inclusion of characters unique to the toyline. Not just repaints of existing molds as new characters, but whole new molds which did not appear in the original Galaxy Force line or the TV series.

As one such model, and in keeping with Galaxy Force's tendency towards G1 homage, Armourhide offers something new mixed in with something surprisingly familiar...

Friday, 21 June 2013

Masterpiece Skywarp

When it comes to TransFormers, there are a few things I cannot resist: I'm one of those collectors with the Seekers OCD, I like the 'black repaint' phenomemon... and I'll always pick up a bargain.

So when, by chance, I learned that Argos somehow wangled the official UK release of Masterpiece Skywarp (a feat similar to their coup of being the sole official UK distributor of Alternators Jaguar XK Ravage, and that they were selling him for a mere £20, I made plans to visit every single branch of Argos in London until he was in my grasp.

Thankfully, I got him at the first branch on the list.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2007 Exclusive (Timelines) Airazor

I'll be perfectly frank here - there was one reason that I joined the TransFormers Collectors' Club, and that reason is this model. The moment I saw it, I thought it was awesome. It takes one of the quirkier molds from the Energon line and turns it, quite successfully, into one of the coolest characters from Beast Wars.

Slugslinger may not have been the obvious choice for this accompaniment to the Dawn of Futures Past BotCon set (made, as it was, largely from Galaxy Force/Cybertron models), but it was one of my favourites... surely this is ideal stuff for an exclusive?

Generations Dirge

It must be slightly embarrassing, if not outright upsetting for the Official TransFormers Collectors' Club that, only a short time after their Games of Deception BotCon set completed the full roster of G1 Seekers and Coneheads (albeit with mixed success), TakaraTomy's Henkei line suddenly decided to add Dirge and Thrust to the mainstream lineup... but for Hasbro to then follow suit in the Generations continuation of the Classics line must have been like rubbing salt in the wound.

Still, proper G1 authenticity always wins, right?

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Galaxy Force Thundercracker

Considering how much G1 referencing went on in Galaxy Force/Cybertron, it's worth noting that it wasn't so completely slavish that it gave us another set of Seekers all repainted from the same mold. In a somewhat surprising move, while Starscream got a Voyager-scale (or Supreme-scale in the US/UK) model of a futuristic/Cybertronian jet/spacecraft, Thundercracker - the only other Seeker to appear in the TV series - took a completely different form, was released in the Deluxe size class only... and wasn't even in his traditional colourscheme...

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Galaxy Force Exillion

As much as Galaxy Force paid homage to Generation 1, it also threw in a few curveballs. At some point, Hasbro stopped using the name Hot Rod and switched to Hot Shot in the Unicron Trilogy, saddling that name with a couple of terrible toys of stereotypically hot-headed characters 'with great potential'. TakaraTomy, meanwhile, used Hot Rod in its Micron Legend range, switched to Hot Shot for Superlink... then changed tack completely for Galaxy Force and came up with the name Exillion for their Hot Rod analogue.

In just about every way, it looks like it should be Hot Rod - it positively oozes G1 Hot Rod references and, in fact, for a limited edition packaged with a DVD, they even gave him G1 Hot Rod's colour scheme... and imaginatively named him 'Exillion Red Version'. Then Hasbro, in their wisdom, released their own red version of the mold they called 'Hot Shot'... and called it Excellion. Confused yet?

So, how does this miscoloured homage stack up?

Revenge of the Fallen... The Fallen

When the title of the second live-action TransFormers movie was announced, a ripple of interest travelled through the fandom... What did 'Revenge of the Fallen' mean? Was is the fallen Decepticons, such as Megatron, returning to wreak their revenge..? or was the Bayverse about to introduce a character invented by the comics? When it was finally revealed that the 'Fallen' of the title was, indeed, 'The Fallen' there was the usual round of cautious enthusiasm dampened by the fans' expectation that Michael Bay's franchise would continue to ruin everything they hold dear... and sadly, they weren't wrong.

One of these days, I'll learn... One of these days, when there comes a TransFormers character so bizarre, that no genuine alternate mode can possibly exist, I'll decide not to buy it. Unfortunately, I didn't learn this lesson for the original TransFormers movie, so I bought Megatron. Nor did I learn in time for Revenge of the Fallen so, not only did I buy Megatron again, but I also bought this, the Voyager class interpretation of the Bayverse monstrosity that is the titular Fallen...

Sunday, 2 June 2013

FansProject CA-09 - Causality: Car Crash

Regular readers may have picked up on the fact that I'm a bit of a fan of FansProject. Their City Commander set, the Warbots and the Crossfire set were awesome and, when the latter pair were re-released with new heads and new paint jobs as the first two entries in their Causality series, I snapped them up at the first opportunity - they are far too good to just be components of an old Superlink/Energon combiner. I'll get to them individually eventually, but my latest acquisition, from the MCM London Comic Con recently, kinda takes precedence for reasons of nostalgia... See, the Stunticons were the first G1 gestalt set that I completed... and Causality-09 (aka Breakdown) could well be the first step toward completing my first wholly third-party transforming robot gestalt.

Saturday, 25 May 2013

Micron Legend Starscream

The TransFormers toyline has always taken artistic license with its depictions of aeroplanes. From those models with the whole robot folded up into a block on the underside of an otherwise immobile plane, to the strange, bulky craft that could never become airborne. In more recent years, the designers and engineers have taken a few more risks with the way a plane could turn into a robot, such as Reveal the Shield Lugnut, but Micron Legend/Armada was known for its bulky and simplistic models... How could such clunky engineering tackle the requirement for svelte, elegant lines required for aircraft?

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Superlink Laserwave

Shockwave is one of many characters who had been overlooked in the TransFormers toy ranges following G1 and, technically, he wasn't really a TransFormer anyway - he was one of many third party transforming robots who was repurposed by Hasbro.

Strangely, Hasbro/Takara Tomy seemed to lose access to the name 'Shockwave' for several years, not to mention applying it, seemingly at random, to the character known as Tidal Wave in the west, leading to miscellaneous variations on the theme of Shock/Laser/Blast/Wave for any character fans might recognise as Ol' One Eye.

As another robot who originally turned into a gun - an enormous, purple laser gun, no less - but such alternate modes are very much out of fashion these days. Since Megatron moved on to being a tank, it's surely logical that someone like Shockwave, generally to be found with a honking great cannon on one arm, would follow suit... And so, we have Laserwave...

Monday, 6 May 2013

TransFormers (Movie) Final Battle Jazz

If there's one thing I absolutely hate in toylines, it's the gratuitous 'battle damage' schtick. I'm not even sure it's popular with 'the kids' because, let's face it, both the battles and the damage will be imagined in play anyway... there's no need to mold it or paint it on to the toy... Hell, some kids (and customisers) will inflict physical battle damage themselves, if they so desire...

...So what on Earth possessed me to buy this?

Reveal the Shield Strafe

One of Hasbro's stranger habits is releasing the same mold in two different colourschemes, but with exactly the same head sculpt, where one version is an Autobot and the other is a Decepticon. In many instances, this works well enough, as the colourschemes and paint layouts are sufficiently different that a very different character clearly emerges.

Reveal the Shield Strafe is a strange homage to one of the G1 Technobots, so the mold originally given to Revenge of the Fallen Mindwipe seems a rather odd choice, not least in the choice of size class. In fact, this mold was also used as a Japanese exclusive update of G2 Dreadwind/g (which, in my humble opinion, probably should have been Soundwave). Also, considering the 'partner' Scout mold, Skystalker (repainted as Laserbeak and G2 homage Smokescreen - aka Smokejumper) has never been released as an Autobot, it seems extremely strange for this mold to be used for one of the good guys... But does it work?

Saturday, 4 May 2013

FansProject Crossfire 02 - Upgraded Combaticons/Bruticus

When Takara/Hasbro released sets of combiners in the Superlink/Energon line, many were underwhelmed. Generation 1 gave us teams of five unique robots and, even with their somewhat limited articulation and the dodgy 'head as connector' limb mechanic, they were something very special. Superlink/Energon cut corners by using two different paint jobs for only two different 'limb' molds to give us the the required four limbs so, even with vastly improved articulation in the component robots and somewhat improved articulation in the gestalt, it lacked the 'jumbled', jury-rigged aesthetic of the 80s toyline.

Also... none of them had real hands, which was a bit of a downer.

So when FansProject announced they were making two alternate limb robots for the Superlink/Energon Bruticus set, to replace Blackout/Blast Off and Blight/Swindle with unofficial robots in disguise, whose alternate modes more closely resembled their eponymous G1 counterparts, things got a bit exciting.

Friday, 3 May 2013

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2007 Exclusive (Timelines) Astrotrain

One of Fun Publications' stated aims when they took on the license as Official TransFormers Collectors' Club was to release two Club exclusives per year, and to pick up some unreleased store-exclusive repaints from the much-maligned Universe subline. Their first choice was 'Spacewarp', originally a straight repaint of Armada Jetfire packaged with three space-themed Mini-Cons. For several reasons, changes were made along the lines toward getting it made, including a whole new head sculpt to go some way toward explaining the name change. Astrotrain was eventually released about a year late... and met with a rather tepid reaction.

Sunday, 28 April 2013

TransFormers (Movie) Payload

While the live action TransFormers movie had a limited cast of robot characters (and far too many humans, but that's another post altogether), the videogame based on the movie allowed for an extended line of new toys based on characters developed specifically for the game. Problem was, all the new robot designs were basically drones... Hasbro had to turn them into something else.

Payload is one just one such example but, while some of the other characters created from videogame artwork had their monocular drone heads replaced, Payload was one of those who did not. So, how does a videogame TransFormer translate into plastic?

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Dark of the Moon Mechtech Megatron

There were few characters in Michael Bay's TransFormers movies more contentious than Megatron. The fans had a very strong idea of what he should be, and Bay's production team singularly failed to deliver on all counts. In the first movie, he was a spindly Cybertronian attack jet that transformed into a ridiculously large, bulky and Shrike-like robot. In the second, rebuilt using parts from his minions, he became a spiny tank which transformed into a robot no less Shrike-like, but for the addition of what's known widely as the Murder Arm. Both had toys in Leader, Voyager and Legends classes and all were pretty terrible. Considering that, in many ways, Megatron played second fiddle in all three movies, would it be reasonable to expect his third incarnation would be any better?

Sunday, 14 April 2013

A Public Service Announcement

A few weeks back, I happened to be in a branch of Toys'R'Us (you'd be surprised how easily I find myself in toyshops... it's quite uncanny) and picked up TransFormers: Prime Robots In Disguise Voyager Skyquake. I'll do a review eventually, so I won't go into too much detail about the model here... Suffice it to say there was something a little odd about the feet - they didn't sit flush with the 'ankles', and so he looked a little less stable than he should. Believing initially that the feet had been transposed when the model was first put together, I opened up his lower legs and switched them around... yet they still looked wrong.

Looking more closely, I realised that only one foot was wrong... regardless of which way round they were.

Skyquake had been assembled with two right feet.

It doesn't actually affect his stability (not as much as having a completely fixed footprint, pretty dramatically limiting the posing options outside of 'standing up straight'), but it's one of those things that preys on my mind (no, really, I'm that anal about toy assembly faults sometimes).

This weekend, while out browsing the shops before a movie, I happened to be in a branch of The Entertainer (see, it really is easy!) which was stocking TF:Prime Voyagers at the knockdown (or should that be Knock Out?) price of £15 and saw that the selection included the second colouring of that mold, Dreadwing. I hadn't really intended to buy Dreadwing, despite the fact that he's the version who appears in the show in a non-Zombie state - and voiced by Tony Todd, no less - but an eight pound saving swung the balance... and surely I wouldn't pick up another misassembled version of this mold?

Well... Yes and no. Pretty much the first thing I did, having liberating Dreadwing from his packaging, was check the feet.

He had two left feet.

I couldn't believe how lucky I was, as this meant I could disassemble one leg of each, swap the feet, and have two perfect models.

The it hit me - maybe it wasn't luck, maybe it was a larger factory error: had Skyquake got all the right feet, and Dreadwing all the left? Stranger things have happened (remember e-Hobby's Cobalt Sentry Howlback, with two of the same missile launcher?).

So, here's the Public Service Announcement:
"Skyquake and Dreadwing... On their own, they'll never be dancers... but together, they're unstoppable!"

No, hang on, that's not it...
"If you pick up either Skyquake or Dreadwing, and one of their feet doesn't sit flush with the bottom of the lower leg, it would be worth checking out the other to see if it has two of the opposite foot, allowing you to make a trade."

Friday, 29 March 2013

Doing Things Differently...

...Maybe.

So here's the thing: when I started this blog, I was using Photobucket to host my images, and grabbing sets of thumbnail links from its built-in option to do so. Things became even easier when I started using Flock as a browser because, for a while, it featured its own blog editor and Photobucket uploader which, to a certain extent, bypassed The Bucket's automatic downsizing of images. Then Photobucket (and Blogspot) made changes that meant I couldn't log in, upload or post from Flock anymore. Flock fixed things, then they got changed all over again. Flock upgraded, losing most of its cool features and becoming just another browser. Flock got cancelled, but Photobucket still did what I wanted/needed by way of keeping track of my images and linking them - thumbnail-style - into this blog.

TransFormers Prime Ultra Magnus

Hasbro and Takara have been bucking quite a few trends with the TF Prime toyline, which makes it a real shame that the excellent TV series doesn't have a great deal of exposure, and that the distribution has been diabolical for the few toys they release with each wave. For the most part, the toys are well-designed and interestingly complex, utilising some very new techniques to fold fairly large, detailed robots out of vehicles that are roughly equivalent to G1 toys in size.

Then you get Ultra Magnus... One of those rare cases where he's not a repaint of Optimus Prime - which can only be a good thing - yet one of the least complicated toys for his size. Indeed, there's very little difference in transformation between this Voyager and the Cyberverse version... But let's not get ahead of ourselves.
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