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.
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