Saturday, 20 December 2014

Probably In Remission

Having seen quite a bit of the upcoming Combiner Wars toy range and the toys accompanying the recently previewed 2015 TV series, TransFormers: Robots In Disguise (not to be confused with the 2001 version), I'm beginning to think I won't be collecting much new stuff for a while.

It's not that I object to the simplification of the toys - hell, I'd be happy to keep buying TransFormers toys that were only as complex as the old Diaclone-derived toys - but that combined with the clumsy designs is really putting me off. The new TV show's focus on Bumblebee is another sticking point - we've had far too much Bumblebee ever since the 2007 live action movie. The theory is that he's the 'kid appeal' character, but they haven't made him especially appealing or relateable thusfar because, until now, he's been unable to speak. When Will Friedle (previously Terry McGinnis in the excellent Batman Beyond) was cast as the voice of Bumblebee in the TransFormers: Prime finale movie, Predacons Rising, he made a brief - but all important - difference to my opinion of the character, so I'm pleased that he's been kept on in the new series, and further pleased that a new fem-bot - Strongarm, with a very familiar voice courtesy of Constance Zimmer - has become another prominent character.

The problem, for me, is that Hasbro is constantly approving character designs that cannot be adequately translated into plastic toys. While TransFormers Prime found a reasonable balance (with some standouts, both good and bad), the new RID toys look very little like their on-screen counterparts so far, partly due to simplistic transformations (bordering on shell-forming in the case of Strongarm) and partly due to the miserly paint applications which fail to bring out some of the important molded details.

I was considering buying Strongarm specifically because she looked like another cool femme-bot, and her aesthetic isn't too far off TransFormers: Prime... but now I've seen the (Hasbro version of the) toy, I don't think I'll bother. Like Prime Smokescreen, she's a white car with not much painted detail - the swathes of blue don't even cover what's required by the character model in the TV show - lots of faked transformation (their chest plate 'transformations' are basically identical), and massive chunks of vehicle mode hanging off her forearms. Her paintwork isn't just wrong, it's mostly missing - in the TV show, the head is largely white, while the toy's head is molded in blue plastic.

And, so far, we've seen... what... two Decepticon toys? Three if you count Grimlock, who certainly wears a Decepticon insignia in the show clips we've seen so far, despite the toy being clearly labelled as an Autobot. And those we've seen in the TV show clips mostly transform into weird monster things... or are those their robot modes? It all feels a bit Power Rangers, to be honest.

Then there's Combiner Wars. I get the impression many fans have been gagging for new gestalts, and the third party market is all very well if you have a large amount of disposable income, but they're not official TransFormers, and some people feel quite strongly about that, it seems. Strongly enough, apparently, that they're willing to overlook the terrible design of Hasbro's latest attempt at giving the fans their combiners.

Rather than try something new and original, as they did with Power Core Combiners, they've made the safe play of popping back to 1986 and bringing back updated versions of (so far) Menasor and Superion (along with a new gestalt form for the new Optimus Prime who's basically a repaint of the Motormaster mold with a pair of new heads). They have some of the improved articulation of the third party toys, but Hasbro/Takara Tomy's inability to create such elegant models remains... as does their habit of going cheap an re-using molds to reduce costs. Hence we have four of the original Aerialbots and a new character - with the unlikely name of 'Alpha Bravo' - who is clearly a Blades/Vortex repaint waiting to happen. They also seem a little confused about Drag Strip's allegiance, since he's listed as a component of Prime's gestalt mode.

On the upside, my niece is expressing an interest in TransFormers toys at the moment, so perhaps it's more that I won't be buying these new toys for myself...

Other than that, I guess this just means I have a better opportunity for putting a dent in my Want List.

Sunday, 9 November 2014

On Fiction, Part 4

One thing I haven't mentioned about my recent US holiday purchases is that, yes, I got versions of Rattrap, Waspinator and Skids with IDW comics packaged with them. Having remarked upon their omission from the UK releases, you'd think that would warrant some comment.

In my previous 'On Fiction' pieces, I've stated that my interest in the fiction associated with the TransFormers toy brand is rather limited, so it should come as no surprise that it took me more than a week to get round to properly reading even one of them (Skids). The most obvious thing about it is that Skids isn't very prominent in the story - essentially a documentary, shot by Rewind, about the crew of the Lost Light, on their quest to find the Knights of Cybertron*. He's not the main character in this segment of the story, nor is he especially well-explored. In fact, it would be generous to say he plays second fiddle to any of the other characters. Right at the end, however, it's revealed that Skids is showing the documentary as a presentation intended to gather new recruits for their quest.

It's an interesting story with some quite funny moments - Rodimus and his attitude toward Thunderclash, Whirl and his enthusiasm for violence, the pissing contest between the Cybertronians and the Ammonites (who seem to have been based upon or the inspiration for the Generations Mini-Con Assault Team, at least in terms of their colourscheme) - but it doesn't work as a standalone, or as in introduction to the character it came packaged with.

Rattrap's issue is notable for two reasons: first and foremost, Rattrap doesn't appear at all, at any point in the story - not even, as far as I can tell, in the background. Secondly, the pages are entirely out of order, with the opening pages of the story appearing near the end of the comic. It's not just that the pages have been bound in the wrong order, they've been printed that way... quite a significant production error, there. The artwork is strange and inconsistent, jumping between a battle on Cybertron - in which Autobots and Decepticons are fighting side-by-side against... other Autobots and Decepticons - and a group of Autobots (and Cyclonus) wandering about in the Dead Universe (whatever that may be... Like I said, I don't follow the fiction much these days). But it's not only inconsistent because it was worked on by two different artists and colourists, it's inconsistent because the work of at least one of the artists is very variable and has a weird, semi-organic style, in which all the robots have banded metal necks like the X-Men character Colossus.

Waspinator's comic is the odd one out for two reasons: Waspinator may not be the main character in the story, but he's certainly prominent and a key part of the plot, while the art is just... weird. On the one hand, I quite like the darker, subdued tone of it all... but on the other hand, I very much dislike the overall look of it. While Sarah Stone's artwork on the Windblade miniseries was scrappy but bright, emotive and full of character, Dheeraj Verma's linework seems ill-suited to giant robots, and they come out looking like humans in sculpted armour, and Joana Lafuente's dark, subdued colours give the story a fairytale/nightmarish quality that's not seen in any of her other TransFormers work. The combination of the two looks very strange, and I kept expecting some Lovecraftian monster to rear its head.

So, overall, while I'm all for purchase incentive additions to the packages, but these three seem particularly misjudged for one reason or another... and, unfortunately, they haven't rekindled by interest in the comics.

* Clearly I'm completely out of touch here, but it struck me as interesting that this IDW comic book story was dealing with 'Knights' when they were such a sudden and jarring addition to the movie canon in Age of Extinction.

Age of Extinction/Generations Hound

When Hound was first announced as a new character in the fourth live action TransFormers movie, lots of people - optimistically/foolishly - hoped that, finally, Michael Bay would be giving us a beloved G1 character the way he was meant to be. When photos of a military truck - an Oshkosh Medium Defense Tactical vehicle, no less - were leaked, those folks were naturally disappointed... until they twigged that 'Hound' was probably referencing another, more recent addition to the Autobot ranks, from the likes of TransFormers: Animated and TransFormers: Prime, rather than the Earth-loving scout of old.

John Goodman's performance as the voice of Hound was entirely predictable - merely a reworking of just about every other military character he's ever played - yet he became one of the few likeable characters in the movie (robot or human). But how well does this translate into a Voyager class figure?

Friday, 7 November 2014

Generations (30th Anniversary) Skids

To say Skids has gone through a transformation would be an understatement. The Autobot Theoretician of old transformed from an ugly, boxy mini car - the Honda City Turbo - to an ugly, boxy robot with very weird arms. Characterised as a daydreamer, he seemed very well armed for someone who often wasn't paying attention to the ongoing war.

It's worth noting that this new Skids is not - like other 'Classics' figures - just an update to the G1 character. More, he is the first ever toy of IDW's character Skids, who seems to be a very different sort of bot. Or possibly not, considering he starts out as a theoretician.

In theory, Hasbro were on to a winner whatever they decided to do with this toy... after all, it couldn't possibly be as terrible as the original... could it?

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Generations (30th Anniversary) Rattrap

Since I joined the ranks of true Beast Wars fans quite late in the game, I had to do quite a lot of searching to find some of the figures from the TV show. Characters like Optimus Primal and Megatron got reissued several times over (not least on a smaller scale in the Robot Masters line), and the likes of the original Cheetor, Tigatron and Rhinox received more show-accurate reissues only a few years ago. The smaller, simpler figures that weren't reissued, like Rattrap and Airazor, required constant vigilance and frequent searching of Ebay before I got my hands on them.

The original Rattrap uses one of the earliest 'Automorph' features, where springs and gears handled most of the (very basic) transformation, leaving an inner robot made almost entirely of ball joints. For several reasons, it didn't look much like the CGI in the TV show, so when a Deluxe class Generations remake was revealed, I made ready to pounce at the earliest opportunity...

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Generations (30th Anniversary) Waspinator

Second on the agenda for this week is the so-called '30th Anniversary' Generations take on Beast Wars Waspinator, not least because I've already written up the only other version of this character I have, the 2007 Reissue with its mostly show-accurate colourscheme.

Of course, that reminds me that I have yet to write up the TransFormers: Animated version... but there's so little of TFA that I have written up, that's sort of forgivable.

It's slightly puzzling of Hasbro to include Beast Wars in it's 'Thrilling 30' anniversary lineup because Beast Wars will celebrate its own 30th anniversary in 2026... but with Rhinox already out and looking awesome, Hasbro seems to be trying to make up for its early mistakes with the hideous Classics Cheetor and Dinobot.

...But which end of the reboot spectrum does Waspinator fall into?

Monday, 3 November 2014

Universal Studios Evac

To kick off what I'm hoping will be a week of examining my Holiday Haul, I shall start with the odd one out - the only new and entirely unique character, since he was created for TransFormers: The Ride at Universal Studios Hollywood (and Florida, I gather). All things considered, it's a very clever move to create a toy based on such a character, but it has to be something pretty special to justify a premium price point ($24.95), even in the gift shop attached to the ride.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Holiday Haul

Got back home yesterday after almost a full week in Los Angeles with my girlfriend, visiting her best friend. It was an awesome holiday, but the only parts relevant to this blog are that, yes, I tried the TransFormers ride at Universal Studios Hollywood, and that I bought a few TransFormers toys while out there.

I'll get to the toys themselves later, but I have to confess I was deeply disappointed in the Burbank branch of Toys'R'Us as it had very little that my nearest branch wouldn't already have (all I picked up there was a Generations Rattrap). Target did slightly better, offering Voyagers Galvatron and Hound (I only picked up the latter), so I had to allow myself to be stung to the tune of about 8 extra dollars, buying Skids, Waspinator along with the ride exclusive Evac at Universal. Going by the TransFormers news I'd seen before heading off, I felt sure I should have found the likes of Generations Windblade, if not the US Masterpiece releases. Sure, I saw the new Jetfire but even having seen it, I'm not sure I want to add it to my collection.

The ride is naturally based around the first three movies - though, who knows, perhaps an update will come along in the wake of Age of Extinction considering the format is ideally suited to involving the Dinobots - with all the robots exhibiting the original - and, in my eyes, preferable - mechanical aesthetic. What impressed me the most, particularly having spent most of a day at Disneyland only a couple of days before the visit to Universal, was that the queue is kept entertained with on-screen presentations, featuring the likes of Ironhide, the awesome Glenn Morshower and, of course, the ride's central character, Evac. We were never queuing for long, visiting on a Tuesday (I think 30 minutes was the absolute longest wait on a ride, and we used our special passes to jump those queues!), but Disney did virtually nothing to keep its queues occupied other than wind them round in increasingly elaborate patterns to prevent them from overflowing around the park.

As the TransFormers ride begins, you're strapped into Evac's passenger compartment (seating rather more than the toy would suggest) as the Decepticons mount an attack to retrieve an Allspark shard, reminiscent of the military base attack in Revenge of the Fallen, only without the mass of transforming ball-bearings coughed up by Ravage. Since Evac obviously has to remain in vehicle mode throughout, all you ever see of him is his arm popping out in front of the car, but Ravage, Bumblebee, Optimus, Megatron and Starscream bound about all over the place. The ride is fairly short - though longer and more effective than The Mummy ride, just next door - but well worth a visit. The gift shop afterward is well-stocked with Evac toys, but also had a selection of current Generations toys, but only the Deluxe class, carded figures as far as I can recall (it's possible I saw the new Leader class Jetfire, but I'm not certain). A display cabinet in the middle features some of the larger toys and statues, and there was also a selection of t-shirts, caps, children's costumes and sweets. The strangest thing I saw there would probably be the chocolate Allspark cube, which sounded interesting... but was basically just a silver-powdered cubic Easter egg.

Most annoyingly, the day we were due to come back home was the opening day of the Comikaze Expo, Stan Lee's own LA-based geek extravaganza, which would have been an excellent place to shop for even more TransFormers though, by that point, I already had enough to fill the remaining space in my suitcase.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Kinder TransFormers: Prime Toys - Optimus Prime & Arcee

This wouldn't be a proper TransFormers collection blog if I didn't occasionally write about some of the awful junk that Hasbro grants a license for. I have a friend who went through a phase of buying me gifts of anything featuring the TransFormers logo (several volumes of Armada, then at least one DVD of random episodes of Robots In Disguise, as well as a sticker set based around TF Animated, just for starters), some of which may eventually turn up here.

To start with, here's a new Kinder Egg promotion, tying into TransFormers: Prime, and featuring 'articulated' figures of various characters from the TV show...

Classics Jetfire

Generation 1 Jetfire was among a group of toys which Hasbro appropriated from a company other than Takara to add to their early TransFormers range. Bizarrely, he was licensed from Bandai's Macross line (which Bandai picked up from another company which had gone bankrupt) which, in retrospect, seems completely insane given the longevity and popularity of Macross.

In any event, what the TransFormers toyline got out of the deal was a nice - and very large - model VF-1S Super Valkyrie along with armour and booster pack, all of which made it very difficult to bring Jetfire into the TV show (he was redesigned entirely and renamed 'Skyfire') due to someone else already holding the necessary licensing for showing the Valkyrie in animation. In recent years, the current license holders in the US have thrown legal action at Hasbro every time they tried to create a Jetfire toy, most notably - yet weirdly - the non-transforming GIJoe/SDCC2013 exclusive Skystriker repaint.

However, back in 2006, Hasbro decided to try their hand at a new Jetfire toy for the Classics range - something entirely new in both jet and robot modes...

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Generations (30th Anniversary) Tailgate & Groundbuster

I can't remember the last time I actually bought something in Forbidden Planet other than the occasional book or DVD. I fondly remember visiting that shop, back in its earlier days, and finding some amazing TransFormers stuff, from Robots in Disguise Megatron and Ultra Magnus, to my very first Binaltech model, Smokescreen. When they moved the Shaftesbury Avenue, the premises were slicker and more spacious (it was all too easy to trip over stock in the shockingly crowded old place!), but the quality and variety of stock interested me far less over time. For many years, they haven't stocked any TransFormers toys that weren't available - cheaper - at Toys'R'Us, and most of it wasn't even imported stock.

I do still visit occasionally and yesterday, being my wonderfully geeky girlfriend's birthday, was one of those occasions. Imagine my surprise, then, when I found something new and interesting... A Generations toy that isn't (yet?) available in the UK elsewhere... and which came in US packaging. The pricing was fair, too - approximately what I'd expect to pay for something in this size class these days - so I decided to part with £11.99 for an update to a G1 toy that I never owned and his 'TargetMaster' partner...

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Galaxy Force (Toy's Dream Project) Soundblaster

There's something about a black repaint that lends a model a new sense of style and refinement... not to mention the sense that the character just became ten times more sinister, powerful and dangerous just because of his paint job. At least, that's how it frequently goes with TransFormers, because the black repaint is almost invariably the Nemesis version of an Autobot, and evil clones are cool.

But what happens when the character is already a Decepticon, and just gets a darker repaint? Well, G1 Soundwave was rebuilt into Soundblaster and (in toy form) gained a 100% increase in minion capacity in his chest. But what of the Galaxy Force version..? Is it another upgraded Soundwave?

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Sixth Anniversary

Weirdly, it seems like only yesterday that I was struggling to sort out a Fifth Anniversary Special for this blog but it was, in fact, a full year ago that I set up four whole posts to go live on 21st September to mark the occasion. The first three each covered a first in my TransFormers collection, the last one was a bit random, but gave me an excuse to chuck in a video illustrating that, while I may like to complain about battery-operated features in contemporary TransFormers toys, they were even worse back in the 80s.

Naturally, being a twit (and, perhaps more pertinently, gainfully employed during the week, so lacking the time), I haven't arranged anything similar this year, though I do have a couple of really cool posts I could get to if I feel like it...

What I should have done was nab by G1 Rodimus Prime and Ultra Magnus from storage at my folks' place, so I could sort-of follow up on last year's special, or perhaps put the effort in to write a grand piece about Cybertron Primus...

What I've been thinking about this morning is writing about the 2006 Classics Voyager class Jetfire, in light of the upcoming 30th Anniversary Leader class figure... Or, perhaps I should leave that till I've got my old, yellowed G1 Jetfire to hand for comparison...

Monday, 8 September 2014

Cybertron Unicron

Following the animated TransFormers movie back in 1986, Hasbro made a couple of abortive attempts to create a Unicron toy, but it wasn't until Armada/Micron Legend - sixteen years later - that the first proper, transforming Unicron planetoid turned up. That got repainted for Energon/Superlink to represent Unicron his is dormant/deactivated state. However, for Cybertron/Galaxy Force, he got a whole new mold.

Don't get too excited, though... it's not a whole new planetoid...

Thursday, 4 September 2014

Age of Extinction/Generations Bumblebee Evolution 2-Pack

One of these days, I'm going to make the decision to never, ever buy another Bumblebee toy. In the meantime, I may just dial it down and try to be discerning in my purchases, perhaps limiting it to one per movie/toyline, and waiting to see which one is best. Today is clearly not that day, as I have picked up the Age of Extinction version of Bumblebee in its 'Evolution' 2-pack, which purports to give us a 'classic' Bumblebee along with this super-new 2014 Concept Camaro update.

As you might expect from the TransFormers brand, all is not as it seems... But is that always a good thing?

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

TransFormers: Prime Sergeant Kup

Having seen all three seasons of TransFormers: Prime/Beast Hunters and the feature-length finale, Predacons Rising, I'd  have to say my biggest complaint was the lack of characters in the show. Whereas Generation 1 had masses of characters but very little in the way of decent narrative, TF Prime essentially had the opposite problem. I guess there's a balance to be made between number of characters available for story and overall coherence of story, and TF Prime certainly didn't have any filler episodes (that I can recall). The problem with a small roster of characters is that Hasbro has to make its money on toys... and while it seems happy to repaint Bumblebee every five minutes, it's always done better when it creates new characters with unique molds - or even repaints.

Thus, we get a unique toy of a character who never appeared in the TV show and, arguably, isn't even quite the right style, modelled as it was on concept artwork by Ken Christiansen, created before TF Prime was even called "TF Prime". Oddly the Cyberverse model came before this, in its intended colourscheme, as Ironhide, but I don't recall seeing that on the shelves in the UK. Kup seems like a strange choice for the Deluxe class 'repaint' - not least because he's now lumbered with the 'Sergeant' prefix just so they can use the name - but it was left up to Takara Tomy to release a Deluxe class G1-referencing Ironhide. Of course, if it's a good enough model, I might be tempted to pick that up, if I can...

When the character of Kup was first introduced to TransFormers fans, he was a curmudgeonly old-timer, full of tall tales and scorn for anyone younger than himself (but particularly Hot Rod). He was also a futuristic/Cybertronian pickup truck which, so the story goes, is the source of his name: picKUP truck. Tenuous... but I guess they were running out of cool names by that point.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Micron Legend Scourge (TV Magazine Exclusive)

There are plenty of folks who like to own every available version of Optimus Prime, and both Hasbro and Takara Tomy are happy to keep up the supply. A friend of mine has had a similar 'thing' for Bumblebees since the first live-action movie, and Hasbro in particular are happy to release a multitude of that character, either refining and improving the model or just repainting the same thing until people realise they're buying literally the same model over and over again. By and large, I have no such compulsions... other than a mild case of Seeker OCD)... and I do like a good Nemesis Prime.

When I first spied this at Memorabilia, on The Space Bridge's stand, they were quick and keen to impress upon me that this was the infinitely superior Takara version, which featured none of the ugly beige plastic of the Hasbro version. Knowing nothing of the Hasbro version, but having an aversion to beige, I was instantly sold. Sure, it's yet another reuse of the Armada/Micron Legend Deluxe class 'Bendy' Optimus Prime, but it's one of a few well-regarded molds in a much maligned series and, let's face it, Nemesis Prime still has a long way to go before he becomes as ubiquitous within the TransFormers toyline as Optimus...

Sunday, 13 July 2014

The 'Stink' in Age of Extinction

So, obviously, I've seen the new movie... and the title should suggest I wasn't keen on it. I've read lots of reviews and opinions about the latest entry in the TransFormers franchise, and it seems strangely less divided and more resoundingly positive than the preceding three, despite being - in my humble opinion - one of the worst films I've ever paid to see... and not just because of the Dinobots.

I have to admit first of all that I tend to agree with most of the positive comments people have made about it (more screentime for the robots, more character development for the robots (if you can call it that), and a clearer sense of purpose to most of the characters, both human and robot... In fact, I'd say the human element is far better, generally, in Age of Extinction, than in any of the previous films... But is that enough?

(Some spoilerish bits ahead...)

Masterpiece Soundwave (& Buzzsaw)

This is another one I teased ages ago, and meant to write about more fully soon after but, for whatever reason, didn't get round to. Part of that, I guess, was that it was a rather daunting prospect to write not only about Soundwave and his accessories, but all five of the cassettes packaged with him and all their accessories too.

I'm going to make life (slightly) easier on myself and deal here with Soundwave and Buzzsaw only, since they were packaged together in Generation 1. The remaining cassettes will be dealt with according to their G1 pairings as well: Rumble (red) & Ravage, Frenzy (blue) & Laserbeak.

It Happened! (Sorta)

Well, someone on the interwebs clearly had the same idea as me.


Personally, I think he went a little overboard on the yellow on his torso, legs and arms... he looks distinctly waspish (as opposed to Wasp-ish)... and I'm not sure the Dark of the Moon Roadbuster head is entirely the right choice, but I honestly can't think of a better suggestion.

And, as a proof of concept, it's excellent.

Monday, 30 June 2014

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2014 Members Incentive (Timelines) Rampage

(Members Incentive Monday #10)
When it comes to the Collectors' Club's Members Incentive figures over the last few years, the only consistent element has been their inconsistency. When I first joined, they were in the second year of a 5-year 'plan' which ended up with a semi-custom Energon-style 5-part gestalt with an extremely dubious name. From then on, for a couple of years, there was little discernible reasoning behind them (meaning no connection to BotCon, at least) - there have been two G1-inspired figures and an RiD/Car Robots-inspired figure... But this year's figure seems to tie into last year's - sure, it's a repaint from a different toyline, but it's another Beast Wars character... and this time, it's taking pride of place as one of the main characters in the club comic...

Has the Club started kind of listening to some of my whinges?

Saturday, 21 June 2014

Age of Extinction/Generations Evasion Mode Optimus Prime

While I liked the Leader class Optimus Prime toys from the first movie and raved about the almost unbelievably good update for Revenge of the Fallen, both toys suffered in a small way from the inclusion of electronics. These added to the weight of the figures and caused the occasional balance issue. The Voyagers, meanwhile, often ended up with a truck nose backpack and lacked a lot of the detail of the larger format toys.

What I wanted, ideally, was a Leader class figure without the gimmicks, so the space thereby made available could improve both the detail of the model and the 'accuracy' (meaning complexity) of the transformation. While Hasbro will never have the common sense to design TransFormers according to my whims, are they at least going to compromise?

Content Update

New photos added to the Dark of the Moon Mechtech Megatron post... Why might that be?
"Here's a hint!"

Sunday, 15 June 2014

TransFormers: Prime Beast Hunters Smokescreen

All things considered, I feel that Smokescreen - both in name and character - was a strange late addition to the roster of TFPrime Autobots. The main issue was that he seemed to be intended to out-Bumblebee Bumblebee in the reckless brawling and risk-taking departments. Granted, the Yellow One's partnership with Raf Esquivel toned down a lot of his behaviour, turning him into more of a giant alien robot 'older brother', but contemporary Bumblebees have tended to be daredevils... so why on Earth would we need another?

Furthermore, other than G1 Autobot diversionary tactician (including repaints in the Cybertron and movie toylines), the the name 'Smokescreen' had only been applied to the G2 Decepticon partner to Dreadwing and the bizarre Armada crane-thing. This character in TFPrime may have been a visual homage but, in every other respect, he was more Hot Rod than Smokescreen, even down to Optimus Prime's suggestion that he had the potential to become a Prime.

But enough about the character and the TV show... I'm sure you all want to know what I think about the toy...

FansProject CA-13 Causality: Diesel & Military Multiplexer Kit

I teased this a good couple of months ago and really can't think why I didn't write it up closer to the time I received it... other than the 100-odd post backlog I have, many of which include photos still hosted on PhotoBucket... But, still, here we are - just over a year after I picked up the first component - with the final component of FansProjects' homage to the Stunticons, and the means by which they become Menasor Intimidator.

While FansProject are no strangers to gestalt components, this Causality set (comprising this model plus CA-09, -10, -11 and -12) was their first attempt at a full team comprised of four interchangeable 'limbs' and a central 'torso'. Considering that the Stunticons were the first G1 gestalt team I managed to complete until only a few years ago, I felt compelled to pick this guy up to complete my Stunticon homage set... and, thankfully, his availability to buy coincided with an improvement in my cashflow...

Sunday, 8 June 2014

On Fiction, Part 3

In my first post on the subject of the fiction associated with the TransFormers brand, I noted that I felt no particular affinity for the comics and, by and large, this has remained true. IDW continue to publish stories, seemingly spanning several continuities, including a 'proper' conclusion to Marvel's efforts from the 80s, and I continue to ignore them. In recent years, I have watched the entirety of TransFormers: Prime, including Beast Hunters and the feature-length finale, Predacons Rising but I didn't bother picking up the comics, the novelisations of any of the movies (even though I gather the novelisation of Revenge of the Fallen actually had the plot that was missing from the movie), or any of the movies' comic book follow-ups.

The fiction just isn't as important to me as it was... I'm well past the age where I might play out variations on the stories using the toys I have to hand, but it's occasionally useful for giving me a context for the toys and, just occasionally, more of a reason to buy them.

Then, this year, I happened to be in Harrow doing some shopping with my girlfriend on Free Comic Book Day, and we found ourselves accosted by a person handing out fliers offering free comics from a local shop, Calamity Comics.

Now, first of all, I've been going to Harrow semi-regularly for most of my life, I've lived in an area of Harrow (admittedly not the town centre) for more than five years... and I'd never even heard of Calamity Comics.

So, our interest suitably piqued, we ventured off our intended path to visit this miraculous place...

Harrow isn't the most conveniently organised place, but I'd have to say that Calamity aren't in one of the prime retail areas... they're actually in a short parade of shops at the end of a residential street, in the shadow of the St. George's Centre - basically and area I'd never bothered to wander before.

To be honest, comic shops all tend to be fairly similar: racks of comics along as many walls as they can cover while still leaving room for the place you actually pay for stuff, with extra shelving units and tables wherever they can be usefully squeezed in. On a Free Comic Book Day, one can expect such places to be rather busy... any other day of the year, proportionally less so. Customers will tend to pop in only as often as needs be to ensure they always acquire the latest issue of their chosen comic book, though some will always tend to treat such places as social networking.

What I'm saying here is that Calamity will feel very familiar to anyone who's spent time in other comic book shops.

While I wasn't particularly interested in anything (that I could see) in the FCBD section (collections of three random comics, bagged together), my girlfriend picked up one bag. I cast a casual eye over the racks, perhaps looking more closely when I got to the bits with TransFormers and Batman. The former because, hey, you might have noticed I'm a TransFormers fan, the latter because I like Batman, and have a small collection of graphic novels, from the seminal Year One to the disturbing Arkham Asylum (the Morrison/McKean version) via the decidedly odd Child of Dreams. I honestly didn't expect to buy anything... and yet I saw the first issue of IDW's new Windblade story - created to bring an upcoming 'fan-designed' toy into their ongoing, heavily toy-based continuity. Furthermore, the creative team (that is, the writer and artist) is all female... which is apparently a bit of a big deal in the world of comic book production. Writer Mairghread Scott - formerly a writers' assistant and writer on the TransFormers: Prime TV series - recruited Sarah Stone, a freelance illustrator, to work on the project.

Now, I'm not going to lie... My interest in this project was hovering somewhere close to nil... I haven't even bothered reading the reviews or opinions floating around on the interwebs... But something compelled me to pick up the first issue and give it a try, even though it wasn't among the 'FCBD' selection.

...And, as a result, I picked up issue two yesterday.

The story is intriguing... considering my main reading material at the moment is Stephen Donaldson's Gap series, I'm surprised that the plot of this 'mere toy comic' is as deep as it appears, not least because it's only a 4-part mini-series. The first two parts have been too short by far - when I reached the last page of each, I found myself asking how they can possibly end so abruptly... I want more. The art is very stylish, not the usual overly-polished stuff you find in comics, and wholly without the stark black linework. I'm not entirely sure I like all of it - especially when I start looking too closely - but it keeps my attention, and it suits the story.

So, for the first time in ages, I'm reading - and enjoying - a TransFormers comic...

...Perhaps I should look into some of the others...

Revenge of the Fallen Skids

The twins caught a lot of hate in the second live-action TransFormers movie. It began when concept art of their faces started turning up on fan websites and, while any complaints at that point were rather premature, they were understandable. Bumblebee's movie look had had a predominately negative reception, but even he looked pretty in comparison to Skids and Mudflap. To begin with, I thought the concept art was part of a practical joke. Surely such monstrosities could never be placed side by side with the movie designs for Optimus, Ironhide, Ratchet and, yes, even Bumblebee?

Then the movie actually happened and, quite honestly, I feel that they turned out to be among the least crappy things about the film. The allegations of racist stereotyping overshadowed pretty much everything else about the characters, but Hasbro still brought them out as toys... in several size classes... and in several colourschemes. Clearly the concept of striking deceased equidae has never entered their collective consciousness

TransFormers Animated Megatron

Over the years, Megatron has been a fairly unimaginative parade of tanks, dinosaurs and dragons, with a few oddities that tended to be a bit crap. The first - Voyager class - iteration of TF Animated Megatron took the road less travelled (at that point) and turned him into an awkward Cybertronian flying machine, taking his look from the TV series and crafting a vehicle mode which, as far as I can recall, never appeared in the show. When it came to the Leader class figure, Hasbro had something a bit more concrete to work with, since Megatron actually adopts a terrestrial disguise when he finally arrives on Earth...

...Not that it's really much of a disguise...

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Cheetimus Does It Again (Goddamnit!)

I don't know how he does it... I wish I did, but I don't... Somehow, though, the inestimable talent of Cheetimus has transformed Hasbro's garish Age of Extinction Dinobot toys into something I'd seriously consider buying...

...and I absolutely loathe Dinobots.

For our enjoyment and edification, he has created a 'scuffed' set and a 'clean' set... and his work shows that the molds themselves are actually pretty darned good... If only Hasbro had given them sensible colour schemes. OK, fine, I get that they don't want to use the bland movie colour schemes¹ (though the subtleties of Grimlock's silver/rust/greenish bits - obvious even in the trailers - are clearly lost on them), but why the wacky colour schemes we got? Why not go with something similar to G1? Is this year not the 30th Anniversary of the TransFormers brand, after all? Hell, I'd seriously consider picking up that Voyager Grimlock molded in darkish grey and black plastic, with a few G1-referencing splashes of gold and red paint, not even as elaborate as the Cheetimus repaint. The model is interesting... fairly clever, even... the factory colour scheme seriously lets it down².

Cheetimus, once again, I salute you!

Except where Megatron in the first and second Live-Action movies were concerned, clearly)

(² And toy companies are wondering why their sales are dropping off, and blaming the mythical phenomenon of 'Action Figure Fatigue'? Give us something new and impressive, you fools, and we'll gladly give you more of our money!)

(Hang on... Footnotes? I'm starting to blog like my girlfriend...)

Thursday, 5 June 2014

TransFormers: Prime First Edition Arcee

I have already confessed to a certain bias when it comes to Biker Femme-Bots. Ever since the excellent Superlink/Energon Ariel/Arcee mold and its myriad repaints, I feel that Hasbro/Takara Tomy haven't made a single significant misstep. Motorcycles are ideal for the (admittedly rather sexist) idea of smaller, lighter, more elegant robots in disguise and, even when they go all weird, like the Revenge of the Fallen 'wheelsnakes', I have a certain affection for them simply because they are Biker Femme-Bots.

So when TransFormers: Prime came along, with its smart, capable, battle-hardened, cynical and downright sexy Arcee, I knew I was in for another collection within my collection. I mean, let's face it, when Hasbro finally gives us an Arcee mold, we're inevitably gonna be in for some repaints. Making matters all the more fun, Arcee was one of the precious few TransFormers: Prime figures that got a unique First Edition mold ahead of the regular Robots in Disguise version.

But what's so special about First Editions anyway?

Sunday, 1 June 2014

Generations (30th Anniversary) Springer

I'm pretty sure I remember Hasbro announcing, some years ago, probably at a BotCon, that they weren't planning on making any more Triple Changers after Classics Astrotrain and Octane/Tankor, largely because they were prohibitively expensive to engineer...Of course, based on Classics Astrotrain and Octane/Tankor, that was a good decision, because the passage of time hadn't radically improved their ability to design such things.

Naturally, a certain section of the fanbase was up in arms... How could Hasbro neglect such characters as Springer? Sure, they've released toys called Springer... and so has the TransFormers Collectors' Club... but they've always had a single alternate mode, making them nothing but contentious 'fakes'.

In the meantime, companies like FansProject announced and then produced the likes of Warbots Defender (AKA Springer) and Assaulter (AKA Broadside), proving that, hey, making triple-changin' robot models wasn't so tough after all. Also during this time, the artists behind the comics published by IDW created some wonderful new designs for our old favourite characters... and so, for their 'Thrilling 30' lineup, Hasbro surprised us all with Voyager class updates for Blitzwing and a very Nick Roche-inspired Springer.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Generations (30th Anniversary) Rhinox

While comparatively few of the original Beast Wars figures were especially realistic in terms of molding or colouration, Rhinox was easily one of the worst. The body wasn't awful, but the head looked as though it had been designed by someone working from a written description rather than any visual reference.

Since he's such an important and well-regarded character, Hasbro saw fit (eventually) to completely remake Rhinox, from the ground up, in an attempt to give him both a true-to-life beast mode and a more CGI-accurate robot mode... And then released it in the 'Thrilling 30' toyline which didn't get very far in the UK before being cancelled in favour of the rebranded Generations toyline which will, for a while, at least, focus on the Age of Extinction toys.

Another masterstroke for Hasbro UK's TransFormers brand team, masters of forging disaster from the materials of awesome success.

Age of Extinction/Generations Crosshairs

Considering the rich history of TransFormers and the vast back catalogue of characters, the live action movie franchise has been quite a strange experience. Well-known names are used, but the characters they're applied to all too frequently bear little or no relation to their historical counterparts. The choices of names, too, have been rather haphazard. The lineup for the first movie sounded good, the additions for Revenge of the Fallen sounded good, Dark of the Moon got a little bit more random (Brains? Dino?) and Age of Extinction... Well, it's messed up the names of the Dinobots for starters... 'Slug'? Really? And supposedly because Hasbro realised, relatively recently, that 'Slag' is used as a pejorative in the UK? I mean, come on, it still means "the more or less completely fused and vitrified matter separated during the reduction of a metal from its ore", which is very appropriate for the Dinobot flamethrower.

But I digress. The original Crosshairs was a brick of an Autobot TargetMaster who was very keen on conserving ammunition. Movie Crosshairs is described as a 'paratrooper' and is seen in the trailer dual-wielding handguns, destroying things on either side of him as he very dramatically swoops backward on his dual parachutes. In slo-mo.

How will this ever translate into a small, plastic toy? Well... let's find out!

Friday, 23 May 2014

I don't know what happened to my poll...

...But it was showing three votes in favour of a Nightbeat using the AoE Crosshairs mold, one vote against and, thankfully, none asking "Who's Nightbeat?". Maybe it's just me... but it's showing three zeros when I look at it now...

This has been a Public Service Announcement.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Age of Extinction/Generations High Octane Bumblebee

For a good long while, and new TransFormers line would feature only two certainties: a new Optimus Prime and a new Megatron/Galvatron. Then the movies happened, and suddenly Bumblebee - a character virtually forgotten since the mid-eighties - seemed to become Hasbro's primary focus. Each toyline, they seemed to feel, required at least two variations on the theme of Bumblebee, in every size class, to the point where you could troop-build with Bumblebees...

Whether there was truly ever a market for this suffusion of yellow (Douglas Adams references FTW!) remains open to debate. Certainly, I have a friend who, in the wake of the original TransFormers live action movie, decided to start collecting nothing but Bumblebees, but I'd guess people like that are a happy minority. I ended up buying a total of five Deluxe class Bumblebees over the course of the movie toylines, but only one - Battle Blade Bumblebee - has stood the test of time.

Now, of course, a new movie means a new Bumblebee (or twelve). I'm sure you're all just aching to know how this one stands up against his forebears...

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Cybertron Smokescreen

If there's one thing Hasbro does well (by and large, with some glaring exceptions), it's repaints. All too frequently, the first run of a mold ends up quite plain, lacking paintwork, particularly as the engineering became ever more complicated. Repaints, when they happen, have a tendency to be G1 references or out-and-out homages. Since Galaxy Force seemed from the start to be a great big G1 fan-gasm, it's no surprise that some of its repaints take the idea to the next level.

I noted in my write-up of Autovolt that his mold was the closest thing to the G1/Diaclone standard the toyline had seen in many years - the hood becomes his chest, the legs fold down at the back (yet from the front)... He even has shoulder launchers as his key-activated gimmick. All things considered, it should have been a no-brainer to make a couple of new heads and turn him into Bluestreak/Silverstreak/Streak, Prowl, maybe even Jazz...

But, no. For the Cybertron line, Hasbro never remolded and only repainted the Autovolt once... As Smokescreen.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Armada Megatron

One of my biggest problems, as a collector, is that I often end up buying things I had originally intended to ignore. So it goes with all my TransFormers: Armada (and Micron Legend) purchases, which basically happened because the first one (Laserbeak, if I remember correctly) was kinda fun. That was the only one I really intended to buy, in part because it was broadly 'to scale', making it the distant ancestor of things like the Real Gear subline of the 2007 live action movie toyline.

Some years ago, when Woolworths still existed as a real world shop and before it became impossible to see a movie in Harrow without it being interrupted by people talking all the way through, I often ended up buying old TransFormers toys that were on clearance in Woolies, and much of my small Armada collection - in particular, Optimus Prime (for about a tenner) and Unicron (for not much more) - is from there.

Some, though, I chose to buy because I ended up wanting them... After all, when one has Optimus Prime, one must surely have Megatron as well...

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Age of Extinction Blurb

After three fairly forgettable live action movies and their associated toylines - the best of which somehow conspired to be the toyline for the worst of the three movies - I honestly wasn't expecting much from any continuation of the TransFormers movie franchise. Hell, I wasn't necessarily expecting further continuation at all.

I had some vague hope that another director might be enticed to take Michael Bay's place but, honestly, Bay isn't such a bad director. The problem always seems to be the material (and screenwriters) he's working with and I, for one, am glad to see the back of Kurtzman and Orci in the TransFormers franchise. They are capable of writing good stuff (I recently saw and loved The Amazing Spider-Man 2, for example), but just didn't seem to bother with TransFormers. They were utterly dismissive of the giant alien robots - theoretically the main characters in the concept - in favour of a gobby teenager, his girl troubles and his embarrassing parents.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Revenge of the Fallen Jolt

I have a lot of complaints about the first two TransFormers movies. I mean, the third is far from perfect, but at least it has something approaching a plot. The first movie is a poorly conceived introduction to the transforming robotic lifeforms from Cybertron tacked onto a 'heartwarming' story about a boy's first car, and the second is a ridiculous jumble that jumps around the world without ever really going anywhere. Worse still, it's far too obvious that some of the characters are there only to advertise Chevrolet's latest products.

Jolt is probably the most glaring example of this. Whereas the Twins had plenty of screen time and far too much questionable dialogue (must confess, I don't see them as racist stereotypes because I saw them as hillbillies talking 'street'... nothing about them made me think they were supposed to sound 'black'... but maybe that's just me), Jolt had maybe fifteen seconds of screen time, there was maybe one line of dialogue attributed to him that's equally likely to have come from Sideswipe, and his most significant role in the film was using his electro-whips/sparky arm phalli to magically graft bits of the deceased Jetfire onto the recently resurrected Optimus Prime.

In many ways, it was surprising that Hasbro even bothered to make a toy out of him (licensing deals notwithstanding), so how does he shape up?

Saturday, 5 April 2014

OMG - New Aquisitions!

It just so happens that I'm working again - that is to say, "I've accepted a permanent placement" rather than just "I have a new temporary job". This leaves me with some proper disposable income, the likes of which I haven't really known for a while.

To celebrate this turn of events, I figured I'd treat myself... and what better way than this:

These two items were ordered from TFSource, in the States, because the UK-based web store I usually order from these days (a) didn't have Diesel in stock or on pre-order and (b) didn't respond to an emailed enquiry about it. Dunno what it is about UK specialist toy shops, but they always seem to end up annoying me somehow.

But hey, at least they weren't rude to me... unlike another one.

Interestingly, while I've had recently some issues with my bank blocking perfectly normal low-value transactions in the name of 'Fraud Prevention' (another nail in their coffin, as far as I'm concerned, so I'm looking into a new bank as soon as I can get organised), they allowed me to spend almost £150 with a US-based internet toyshop. TFSource, however, being wary of fraudulent transactions themselves, notified me almost immediately that they had cancelled my transaction and required me to pay by PayPal instead. Good for them. And good for me, that I already had an account that is actually up-to-date. The order was sorted out and despatched within about 24 hours and arrived during last week... without being held to ransom by ParcelFarce.

So... I now have the final component of FansProjects' Causality update of Generation 1 Menasor and, since I complained about the lack of decent wrist blasters on FE Bulkhead, the Dream Works 'Blaster Cannon Weapon Upgrading Kit'.

Not pictured here is a neat little (well, A3-ish) poster that seems to accompany the Dream Works set, though it was packaged separately. The card pictured in front of the box was actually inside it...

I was aiming to do some serious blogging this weekend but, in spite of an excellent start to the day, I'm not really feeling in the mood right now (partly because of a slight headache, I guess). We'll see how tomorrow goes...

The new background probably won't turn up in many new postings, mainly because 'new' is relative and most of my draft posts have ancient photos hosted on Photobucket, but also because it's my girlfriend's desk, and I was only using it because she's visiting family during her Easter break.

Sunday, 2 March 2014

DotM Mechtech Armour Topspin

This is another one of those models in my collection that sorta slipped through the net when I photographed a bunch of models a while ago, so naturally I'm dealing with it now rather than adding it to the enormous list of drafts on toys for the preceding two movies.

It's also one that I hadn't intended to buy, having heard almost nothing but bad things about the inconsistently-styled Deluxe class Dark of the Moon Wreckers. Frankly, I was hoping to get the Human Alliance versions of both Roadbuster and Leadfoot and, since no HA version of Topspin was planned, expected to just do without a complete set of movie Wreckers (thankfully my OCD never really picked up on the movie toys beyond the Starscream repaints... and I'm still missing some of them). Sadly, none of the HA Wreckers made it over to the UK's retail shelves, and I couldn't afford the import prices.

Also, being completely honest, I cannot recall why I decided to buy this repaint when the original was (a) more accurate to the character's appearance in the movie and (b) not dull grey. Still, this is the one I picked up... The question is, do I regret it?

On Fiction, Part 2

In a previous post, I mentioned briefly that I prefer the Beast Wars/Beast Machines TV series to the likes of the Generation 1 cartoon and more recent entries like the Unicron Trilogy. The truth of it is that I didn't watch all of Beast Wars when it was on UK television because I missed some episodes either due to homework or other commitments... or just the extremely patchy showing it got, courtesy of Children's ITV back in the day. It was only a few years ago that I scored a free copy of the first volume of Beast Machines on DVD, but I enjoyed it so much, I tracked down and purchased the full series.

I watched it very nearly in one sitting - ending up forcibly rationing myself so that I could actually do other, more important things and then 'reward' myself with an episode or two of the series.

To say I enjoyed it would be an understatement. It pretty much changed my perception of TransFormers as a franchise and, while the toys were largely awful (to this day, I own only two Beast Machines toys, and both of them are for novelty value rather than due to any inherent merit), the story was so very different to anything TransFormers had offered before (or, let's face it, since) I couldn't help but be entranced. There was also the nostalgia factor - I'd really enjoyed Beast Wars, but the DVD release of that in the UK was terrible (random, semi-related episodes jammed together like a 'Best of' compilation that wasn't) so I had a yearning to reconnect with Optimus Primal and his crew.

In fact, while it may not be the popular choice, I'd have to say that Garry Chalk is 'my' Optimus Prime. Peter Cullen may be regarded as 'the original and best' by some, but his was a stereotypically heroic Optimus - there was never really any doubt that he'd win in the end. Chalk, meanwhile, had the misfortune of lending his voice to the Optimus Primes of the Unicron Trilogy, widely derided for good reason. However, in his favour, his portrayal of Optimus Primal in both Beast Wars and Beast Machines was excellent. From the beleaguered leader of an insubordinate exploratory team, thrust into a battle against a whole new devious, power-hungry - and mostly competent - Megatron, to the techno-organic zealot attempting to understand the cryptic prophecies of the voices in his head, Garry Chalk was a powerhouse. He has a very commanding voice (netting him plenty of police and military roles in TV shows), but can be very soft-spoken when the need arises. Optimus Primal earned the respect of his crew (eventually) in the Beast Wars, and, as a viewer, I felt drawn in by his possibly insane, quasi-religious fervour in Beast Machines.

However you slice it, though, I was missing a great chunk of the background story due to all the episodes of Beast Wars I'd missed.

Cut to 2011, when Shout Factory released the complete series on DVD for the 15th Anniversary of Beast Wars.

But only in the United States.

Cut, next, to 2013, when I found the 15th Anniversary collection on Amazon, at a reasonable import price. I couldn't afford it at the time, because my finances were a bit rubbish, so I added it to my wish list, and hoped that someone in my family would decided to pick it as a birthday or Christmas present.

Well, thanks to my sister, I've now seen the entire series. Yes, it took me two months... I paced myself. And I've been working intermittently, and spending the weekends with my girlfriend. And I'm kinda glad I spread it out rather than splurging on a great big Beast Wars all-nighter.

While most folks these days reckon that TF Prime is the darkest TransFormers TV series ever, Beast Wars could be pretty dark at times. The only difference is that Beast Wars was pitched more obviously as a kids' TV show, padding out and softening its darker themes with plenty of comedy relief, from Rattrap's sarcasm and wisecracks to Waspinator's frequent demolition (and, therein, my favourite line in the whole series, "Waspinator has a headache in his whooooole body..."). Even when Megatron was about to succeed in altering the entire timeline of the Autobot/Decepticon-Maximal/Predacon war, they had time to poke fun at Hasbro's decision to ditch the die cast metal from their toy range. Beast Machines was even darker, with Megatron commanding troops bereft of free will and struggling to rid Cybertron and (spoiler alert!) himself of 'organic contamination', while Optimus Primal's troops feared that their leader was losing his mind along with their loyalty.

It's something of a shame that I only got to see the complete Beast Wars several years after watching Beast Machines, particularly considering how late I was to that series. There are many parallels between the two series that I'd have appreciated more had I seen them in the proper sequence.

Beast Wars primarily deals with a disparate team of Maximals thrust into a situation they weren't prepared for, and almost constantly several steps behind Megatron in his schemes. With a stock of protoforms - incomplete Maximals - in pods orbitting the planet and regularly falling to earth, each faction was desperate to claim them: the Maximals, to protect their own and ensure their freedom; the Predacons, to corrupt the protoforms, sway the balance of the conflict in their favour, and to further Megatron's secret agenda... The full extent of which only became apparent in the second season.

The series also introduced a race of aliens, the Vok, for whom the planet was little more than an experiment (for unknown purpose), but whose interactions with the Cybertronians had a vast and far-reaching impact over the course of the series.

In retrospect, some episodes felt like padding, while others seemed to miss their mark... and the end of the story, in the final episodes of season three, seemed rather abrupt. However, with a selection of renowned writers from other Sci Fi franchises, including Star Trek's DC Fontana, Beast Wars was a very impressive series overall, taking in many quite mature themes which, while common to Science Fiction in general, had never been attempted in the TransFormers franchise. Very few of the toys actually made it into the series... but then, it's easy to lose track of which toys made it to retail in the US/UK because of the extended Japanese lines, and Hasbro did go a little over the top with its Fuzors, Mutants and Transmetals. Some of the late-series additions to the cast seemed a little forced, yet it's unfortunate that other toys were overlooked, particularly the Transmetal forms of some of the series regulars... I mean, was it ever adequately explained why Rhinox and Waspinator retained their standard beast modes? Not that I saw... nor did any of the characters query the apparent discrepancy.

Mind you, I guess they were too caught up in the frequency with which Optimus Primal needed a new body...

Thursday, 27 February 2014

The YouTube Question

A bit of a random post today, on the subject of YouTube video reviews of TransFormers toys.

By and large, I find them irritating beyond my ability to adequately express. There's something utterly redundant about watching someone repeatedly fail to keep a toy in frame while discussing its merits and weaknesses, and narrating their unedited, often clumsy attempts to transform it with such helpful phrases as "and then you wanna get in here and do this" while their hands are actually in the frickin' way. On the rare occasion I've forced myself to watch a video review - generally because I'm not clear on a feature after looking over all the photos I can find - it feels as though I've wasted about twenty minutes of my life voluntarily participating in a faltering experiment in psychological torture.

Another personal bugbear is that certain reviewers - who shall remain nameless - are so unremittingly positive (or, at worst, indifferent) in their reviews, I can only assume their sponsorship deals with certain online retailers nets them a small commission on the sales of each figure they review.

I have thusfar resisted any impulse I may have had to start making video reviews because I couldn't imagine a way of doing them well.

Enter a British YouTuber and TransFormers fan, Thew Adams. His video reviews are short (averaging around five minutes, many not much more than three minutes), very much to the point and frequently very funny. His enthusiasm shines even when the review is negative. Every transformation he features is played back at high speed, and he actually manages to keep things visible the whole way through. Occasionally, his comments are peppered with phrases which may not be entirely politically correct in this enlightened day and age but, frankly, the overall entertaining quality of his videos makes up for any offence which may be caused to sensitive viewers.

What also struck me about Thew is that his praise for each toy is unique, rather than lumping each and every one with the same vague compliments, or excessive use of phrases like "it's just really, really cool" without any proper explanation of what is "cool" and why. Also, he's not above correcting mistakes and oversights in later videos, often making fun of them as he does.

He's grasped what's necessary in a review and left out all the unnecessary, aggravating padding that plagues TransFormers video reviews. So check him out... before you realise I've just been reviewing a reviewer...

Thursday, 13 February 2014

TransFormers: Prime First Edition Bulkhead

When character designs for TransFormers: Prime first started appearing, I thought it was a little odd that they chose to include Bulkhead - technically a creation of the TransFormers Animated team - along with G1 references like Bumblebee (OK, more of a live action movie reference), Cliffjumper, Ratchet and Wheeljack. Additionally, the decision to keep him as 'token fat robot', yet change his character so dramatically seemed a little odd - from a genius-yet-clumsy Space Bridge technician who longs to be an artist to a former labourer, former Wrecker, no-nonsense Autobot brawler. Sure, it suited the darker tone of Prime... but why not create (or recreate) a new character?

Even more odd, Bulkhead was one of the few characters to get a First Edition model, which looked pretty awesome when photos first appeared on the internet, let alone when photos of the terrible, misshapen main line 'Robots in Disguise' release came along. Considering the extra expense and complication of getting my hands on the First Edition, I'd hoped the mainline version would be worth picking up... but it ended up looking nothing like Bulkhead in the TV show. The very next time I saw the First Edition available at a reasonable price, I ordered it. But what it worth all the fuss?

Sunday, 2 February 2014

TransFormers Go! Hunter Shockwave

It's been absolutely ages since I last bought an official TransFormer on import... The last time I did it regularly was the Galaxy Force line or Binaltech, though I have picked up a few Alternity models. For the most part, though, Hasbro has done a reasonably good job of bringing figures into UK toy shops, and in some cases their products have been preferable to those from Takara Tomy, if only because they're cheaper.

For example, in the main, Takara Tomy's take on the TransFormers: Prime figures has been a bit weird. The initial run of toys were partnered with 'Arms Microns' - a fairly cool extension of the Unicron Trilogy's Mini-Cons - but with virtually non-existent paintjobs supplemented only by stickers. When Hasbro introduced Beast Hunters, Takara Tomy repurposed the remolded Prime figures and Predacons, adding them - somewhat incongruously - to their TransFormers Go! line. Had I the slightest interest in the Prime Predacons, I'd certainly prefer to buy the Japanese versions simply because they look classier. Only one new figure held any interest for me, however, and that was Shockwave. But while Hasbro decked him out in a rather dull, flat purple, Takara Tomy adjusted the saturation to maximum, giving a much more satisfying colour to the Decepticons' imposing cyclops. Thus, TransFormers Go! Hunter Shockwave went onto my Christmas list... and I shall be forever grateful to my girlfriend's parents for picking him up on my behalf.

Yes, I know I've been a crap blogger lately...

So it's been more than two months since my last post. Mostly this has been because I spent Christmas with my girlfriend's family and then, a week after getting home, started a new work assignment which comes to an end next week. Even when I've had time - at the weekends, or in that week before starting work - I just haven't had the inclination to blog. In short, I've been busy and tired, so all my blogging has taken a short break.

I'm not saying I'll be getting back on track straight away... Chances are, I won't... But what I will do is aim to deliver something a bit special (in more ways than one) later today.
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