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)


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