Friday, 26 June 2015

Mastermind Creations Reformatted: Azalea * (Asterisk Mode)

(Femme-Bot Friday #24)
While I love the standard Azalea figure, I can't help thinking it went through an explosion in the pink factory and came out rather too thoroughly empinkened. It could have used a few more non-pink painted details in some places, considering the character it was based upon - Arcee in IDW's Spotlight story - features touches of orange/gold to break things up a little.

When Mastermind Creations decided to make a couple of even more exclusive versions of their short run model, one was a sort of Nemesis version, featuring darker pinks, purples and greys, and the other took its cue from one of the other colour options in the early concept artwork options by Alex Milne...

And, knowing what a sucker I am for limited editions, it's predictable enough that I'd go after one or the other (or both, eventually)...

Thursday, 25 June 2015

That All-Too-Frequent Problem

I received this year's TFCC membership figure - Lio Convoy - today, and am well pleased with him. I may be alone in this, but I strongly feel that the Club has erred in giving away Lio Convoy for free, and making Nova Prime (basically the same figure, but with less variation in colour) the premium exclusive... but I'll get into that in more detail when I finally get round to writing up Lio Convoy in the next Membership Exclusive Monday.

And therein lies the problem. Since I've been back at work full time (a little over a year now), I only really have time and opportunities for photography at the weekends, even now there's semi-decent light for quite a while after I get home from work. Similarly, I find it very difficult to do much writing in the weekday evenings, so that normally gets left to the weekends as well... and my priority recently has been ensuring a seamless run of Femme-Bot Fridays.

This weekend, I'm off to Lincolnshire for the momentous occasion of introducing my parents to my girlfriend's parents. In a couple of weeks' time, I'm off on holiday with my girlfriend and her family and, later in the year, my girlfriend and I are taking our second 'proper' holiday together, across the Pond, so I really need to buckle down an get things done over the weekends in between, or I'm never going to keep up with my purchases, let alone clear my backlog (#firstworldproblems).

Femme-Bot Friday is all complete and up to date, with the total now standing at 29 posts (6 remain, all scheduled). I 'only' have a further 80 draft posts, but have yet to photograph 9 Combiner Wars figures (Megatron being the latest aquisition) so, on balance, I hadn't got that far through the backlog before starting to add to it all over again.

It's times like this that I wonder if I should start doing these things as videos after all...

...But, no...

Saturday, 20 June 2015

It's BotCon Weekend, and I'm Not In Chicago...

...But then, really, neither is BotCon.

I have a friend who's a Chicago native and, back when this year's BotCon was first announced, and I was intending to finally attend (because a BotCon at the end of my Birthday week seemed like the Universe was telling me "Gord, it's high time you went to BotCon"), I contacted her to discuss the location, amongst other things. She was quite disgusted that the publicity described the Pheasant Run Resort as being 'in Chicago' because it's about 30 miles outside what she, as a native, considers to be 'Chicago'.

In the end, the Birthday/BotCon Holiday plans had to be cancelled because it was also around this time that my girlfriend was to be doing exams toward her Open University degree, and I had no wish to cause problems for that.

So, anyway... Here I am, staying home, and it looks as though it's turning out to be quite an exciting show, with plenty of amazing reveals of future Combiner Wars toys. Coming right out of the blue was Sky Lynx, which looks more than a little bit interesting. Can't tell from the photos if the shuttle and transporter can separated, as per the G1 toy, or whether it's a strange remold of Silverbolt, but the fact that it is also the torso for another gestalt is curious and a fairly exciting. Not entirely sure about the name 'Sky Reign', but the robot itself is certainly quite striking, not least because its proportions seem more natural than any of the others so far. With its limbs being largely remolded Stunticons repainted as G1 Autobots the wow factor is somewhat diminished, but Sky Lynx on his own certainly has my attention.

No surprise whatsoever about Bruticus and the Combaticons... or is there? Rather than simply repainting Hot Spot and giving him a new head, the entire alternate mode has been repurposed quite cleverly. The Alpha Bravo mold becoming Vortex was utterly predictable, but Firefly's mold being reused (again!) as Blast Off? That seems pretty damned lazy. On the upside, we do have an entirely new - and very good-looking - mold for Brawl, while Swindle seems to be a complex repurposing of Protectobot Rook's basic scheme... and that model leads to a repaint as Hound. Bruticus is looking just right in every way that the War for Cybertron version, from a couple of years back, really didn't.

I almost hate to say it, but I'm actually getting quite excited about Combiner Wars... and I think Superion, Defensor and Bruticus will actually look good on a shelf with FansProjects' Intimidator.

The reveal of the new Fan-Built Bot, the gestalt known as Victorion, doesn't appear to have involved any product shots, but the torso apparently uses the Hot Spot mold as a base and it seems likely that she won't have a unique team her own, rather taking components from other teams... Much like Cyclonus/Galvatronus.

Ah, well... Maybe next year I'll get to BotCon. After all, next year, I'll be turning 42... and Forty-Two is the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe and Everything...

In other news, on the way home from work yesterday, I took a - surprisingly simple - detour to a toy shop that has always been rather tricky to get to from home, and came away with all four of the Protectobot limbs. No Hot Spot, sadly, but he should be easy enough to find, sooner or later... There's already one repaint in my Combiner Wars collection - Alpha Bravo got a new head and a new paint job to become Blades, but the rest of them look pretty good, and have nicely satisfying transformations. One or two are reworkings of Stunticons, apparently, but they were all Wave 2 which, as previously noted, ain't coming out in Europe. Rook is the weakest of the bunch, for me, because of his massive backpack shell, but even he looks good in vehicle mode and robot mode - only his limb mode suffers any negative impact (particularly if he's an arm).

Groove wasn't there, as far as I can recall, but I think I'll pick him up as well... The only Legends class figures I remember seeing with any certainty were Windcharger (repaint/remold of Tailgate) and possibly Powerglide.

There were plenty of Robots In Disguise 2015 figures, not to mention some of the large-format, simplified transformation figures from Age of Extinction. I wasn't quite prepared for the size of either - the latter being far larger than I'd expected, while the former seemed so small and cheap-looking. I guess they're more or less on a par with TFPrime, but the small size, simplistic transformations and terrible paint jobs have now put me off almost entirely. Takara Tomy's efforts look much better due to a higher paint budget, and I'd quite like to get their version of Strongarm... but the rest of the toyline is an easy pass for me.

My niece, however? That's a different story... As long as my sister has no complaints, I may get Hasbro's Strongarm and Sideswipe for her birthday... Let's see how she finds them, versus the one-step changers she currently has.

Addendum #1 21/6/15: I've only just twigged that Bruticus and Sky Reign are labelled as being released as the first two waves of Combiner Wars toys in 2016. That's more than six months away, and there hasn't been any word on what's coming out after Defensor and Devastator this year. So... what the hell are Hasbro doing with the Combiner Wars brand in the interim? If nothing else, they seriously need to get the contents of Wave 2 out in Europe sooner or later...

Addendum #2 21/6/15: The TransFormers Collectors' Club stuff seems quite interesting. The GI Joe crossover stuff is mostly an easy pass, but the Soundwave-repainted-as-Stealth-B.A.T. is certainly of interest, simply because the mold is cool and the colourscheme is similar to Soundblaster. Most importantly, though, after skipping two years of the Subscription Service, the 2016 Combiner Wars team has my fullest attention... Just need to figure out if I can afford it... and find room for it...

Friday, 19 June 2015

Perfect Effect Motobot PE-DX02 Aranea

(Femme-bot Friday #23)
Perfect Effect's Motobot RC was certainly an interesting addition to their lineup, considering some of their underwhelming early efforts. As their first foray into full-size transforming figures, it was highly ambitious and pretty well executed. I'd been keen to get my hands on one of them from the first moment I saw them, however, my interest in the original Motobot paled into insignificance when the first remolded variant was announced... because rather than just rehash the same basic design with a couple of new parts, the remold was every bit as ambitious as the original, and they had only the core structural parts in common.

Plus, the remold - hinted at in the comic packaged with RC - was an intriguing Beast Wars/TransFormers Animated mashup homage to Blackarachnia in Perfect Effect's own futuristic biker-bot style.

Apologies in advance for some inconsistency in the photos - what's here comes from two different sets of photos, taken at different times on different days, and in very different conditions...

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Another Marketing Snafu

And so, it came to pass that the whole of Europe will have to do without Wave 2 of Combiner Wars. This is, according to an email posted on several fan sites, because Hasbro "couldn't meet quantity targets for Europe". This apparently means that orders for Wave 2 didn't indicate a level of demand that made it worthwhile bringing the final Aerialbot and 3/4 of the Stunticon Deluxes out. That's not just in the UK, but orders across the whole of Europe.

Naturally, lots of fans are blaming Hasbro, even though it's really mostly down to the retailers: for whatever reason, they didn't put through enough orders. It's hard to believe that, across the whole of Europe, there was insufficient interest for an entire wave... but then, it's not like that kind of thing hasn't happened before. The last waves of several TransFormers toylines have been cancelled, but this could be one of first times that an early wave has been skipped to make way for the next. And it's not as if Hasbro doesn't have the option of releasing some of the molds in a later wave, so that everyone can complete their Superion and Menasor gestalts.

In a lot of ways it's not such a terrible loss, but then I think CW Menasor looks like crap - just in and of itself, rather than even in comparison to FansProjects' Intimidator, but it certainly suffers further in the comparison - and losing out on one of the Aerialbots (Air Raid) isn't so bad when Slingshot (Quickslinger) may be coming out in later wave. This would leave Superion using only three unique limb molds, even with the new team-member, Alpha Bravo, but that's still better than the Energon/Superlink gestalts managed.

However, all this does tend to suggest a rather serious flaw in Hasbro's marketing, and I suspect a good part of the problem is lack of advertising. I'm sure there are TV ads on Saturday and Sunday mornings, if not weekday mornings as well, but there's no Combiner Wars TV series, only the IDW comics... and they seem to be aimed at a slightly older demographic. Combiner Wars itself has been described by some as a Collector-oriented line, since it reinvents a fondly-remembered and iconic section of Generation 1... but that's basically what Classics/Universe/Generations has been doing for the last eight or nine years.

What we have, then, is another situation where two TransFormers lines are taking up shelf space at the same time, where only one is getting promoted in a form commonly digested by the masses. Inevitably, that will skew the sales figures in favour of the new TransFormer: Robots In Disguise figures, despite their largely crummy design, positively negligent paintwork and KO-level plastic quality.

If Hasbro is aiming Combiner Wars at collectors, it really needed to work a little harder and make both the individual components and the gestalts that little bit more impressive, not least in terms of the paint jobs on most of them. Older kids, maybe (and I believe that's the Hasbro's stated target demographic for CW), but it's certainly not a Collector-grade line as it stands, it's simply appealing to Collectors because - for the most part - it's an improvement on the G1 gestalt bricks.

Just this weekend, I've got my hands on Firefly and Alpha Bravo, so I'm halfway to completing Superion... and I have to say it's looking pretty good. Obviously, I'll deal with each individual model in-depth at some point soon, but they both feature some innovative elements. Neither are brilliant individually, but they work nicely as legs and as arms, so I'm looking forward to getting my hands on Skydive and either Air Raid or Slingshot... possibly even both.

After that... probably the components of Defensor, then maybe Bruticus, depending on how he turns out. After that... I wonder whether Hasbro will introduce any new gestalts to complement Galvatronus...

Friday, 12 June 2015

TransFormers (Movie) AllSpark Power Black Arcee

(Femme-Bot Friday #22)
If there's one thing that's certain about TransFormers, it's the black repaint. These have been appearing quite regularly in the toyline, at least since the first Nemesis Prime, if not longer. Arcee seems like a peculiar choice for a black repaint, all things considered, and especially since she'd also been given a G1-homaging pink-and-white paintjob, but that sort of thinking had never been known to stop Takara.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

CW Silverbolt Addendum

Or

A Quick and Easy Modification to Silverbolt/Superion's Antennae,
being a Cheaper Alternative to a Third Party Head


I opened up Superion's head to look at how the antennae are attached, and found that they're both part of a single piece of painted rubber. This, no doubt, contributes to the difficulty in flipping them into place because there's not just the resistance from each individual antenna, but the drag caused by the piece linking them twisting rather than actually moving as well as rubbing against things inside the head. Having cut a chunk out of the rubber in the middle, I can report that the antennae - while still not perfectly willing to move into the proper place due to friction between the painted rubber and the plastic they're mounted in - are far more cooperative.

Of course, this has probably already been covered in one of the big fan sites' forums, but I so rarely visit them, I figured this out on my own... probably several months late...
BEFORE: Superion's antennae tend to angle backward
when they should slip neatly into an upright position.
THE MODIFICATION: Cut a chunk out of the middle of the
piece so that each antenna moves independently and,
probably more crucially, they no longer rub against the
screw fitting. I've only cut a short (2mm) section out,
but the small connecting bar can be removed entirely
AFTER: Superion's antennae are more inclined to stand
straight up. Not perfect, but much improved.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Things of Value

At work recently, I got into a brief conversation about my collection, in which I was asked what the most valuable item in my collection was. The truth of the matter is that I have no idea.

As collectors, we all assign 'value' in different ways - and that's before you get into the prices assigned to things on eBay and the like - because we all have our own preferences. Then, when looking at cost as an analogue of 'value', things get very complicated because secondary market prices are just plain bizarre. with the same item available at wildly different prices for no readily apparent reason.

I wasn't able to give my colleague anything like an answer to his question at the time, but it's been rattling around in my head ever since... So, here, I attempt to pick out a few of the items in my collection that I value the most... Not necessarily due to their cost or the difficulty I had getting hold of them, just a few things that stick out for one reason or another. Details of my favourite/least favourite things can be found on the 'More About Me' page, so I should probably attempt to steer clear of things mentioned there. There are some TransFormers in my collection with a story attached, though whether that adds value or just some sort of nostalgic feeling, I know not...

So, in no particular order, here are some of the TransFormers toys I (possibly) consider 'valuable'.

Beast Wars Neo Heinlad: I was very pleased to get my hands on this for a lot of reasons. It's a truly bizarre toy from Takara's Beast Wars range from 1999. The character is a time-traveller (hence the clock) who transforms into a creature which features prominently in Japanese folklore. It's also, officially, the first (and, so far, only) TransFormers toy with testicles. It has decent articulation in both modes, its accessories are amusing, and the fact that it's a working alarm clock is exceptionally cool... Not that I've ever even put batteries in it to test this function...

G1 Megatron: There's still a small sense of frustration about this toy, since I got the last one in a small, independent toy shop in Ealing, at a decent (but slightly over-the-odds for the time) price, only to find him cheaper - and more abundant - in a larger, more prominent toy shop a little way down the road. Adding to the frustration, the model itself was a little faulty. Not sure how common a problem it was (or whether it was rectified in the reissues) but the little plastic nubs that were supposed to clip the legs in their extended position were very worn down to begin with, and only got worse over time, through transformation. Nevertheless, I still remember the excitement of getting my hands on the leader of the Decepticons in toy form, and I still think it's a pretty cool - not to mention utterly iconic - toy... Though I hope to replace it, eventually, with one that can actually stand.

G1 Hound: One of the toys I missed out on back in the 80s, and only got my hands on as an adult collector. I picked him up in Orbital Comics while they were in Seven Dials, and the shop assistant mentioned that Hound had been quite a popular purchase around that time. It's a pretty bad toy, with his enormous, clomping feet and tiny, stubby arms, but oddly charming, and Hound was one of my favourite characters in the TV series because, while the most of the other Autobots were keen to get back to Cybertron, Hound fell in love with Earth's natural beauty.

G1 Mirage KO: Yes, I know it's a knockoff and therefore without value to a 'true collector' but, let's face it, most original G1 Mirage toys are broken these days, due to a terrible waist joint. Not sure if this one is going to last better, but it's a nigh-perfect reproduction, even down to the box (though it's easy enough to identify it as a fake due to the dodgy font used on his tech specs). I appreciate Mirage as a character largely because his bio makes him out to be a complete snob, who probably should have been on the side of the Decepticons. G1 bios were invaribly more gritty than those we get these days, and Mirage's was one of the best due to the implied ambiguity of his alliance with the Autobots.

Revenge of the Fallen Leader Class Optimus Prime: This could well be the pinnacle of the TransFormers brand, a true masterpiece of engineering, and I rather regret buying the first version to appear, because it's since been remolded and repackaged several times and with ever more elaborate paint jobs. The versions that came out for the Dark of the Moon toyline, particularly the Takara Tomy version(s) would be great to own, but having any version of this incredible 'toy' is a pretty cool feeling. Yes, it's fiddly, but both vehicle and robot modes are excellent.

TF Prime First Edition Bulkhead: Another example of excellent engineering as, at first glance, it's difficult to see how such a compact, boxy vehicle mode could become such a round and bulky robot. It's a real shame Hasbro decided to reinvent the wheel when it created the mass release TransFormers Prime toys, as the First Edition of this model is one of my favourites from that continuity... Particularly with the Dream Factory upgrade kit.

TransFormers Go! Hunter Shockwave: Sticking with the TF Prime stuff, this is a pretty terrible toy, but a fairly good representation of the character from the TV show (ignoring some dodgy articulation). The reason it's special to me is that it was a Christmas present from my girlfriend's family.

Galactic Man: Also known as 'Shackwave', this thing turned up, serendipitously, in the catalogue of Tandy (AKA Radio Shack) sometime after Shockwave had appeared in the Marvel UK TransFormers comics back in the mid-80s. By that point, I knew that Shockwave wasn't getting an official UK release and, while this thing's colours are well and truly wrong, it's the very same mold (albeit with the original trigger, rather than Hasbro's 'less suggestive' remold). I still remember the excitement I felt at discovering this in one of my father's catalogues and, having picked one up at the earliest opportunity, telling everyone at school where they could score one for themselves. Pretty much the first thing I did was find a spare Decepticon insignia sticker to slap on his chest... and I also used a circular glow-in-the-dark sticker to give him his 'correct' eye colour. Both are long gone, but the toy itself is in excellent condition - fully functional electronics, and only a little yellowing of the transparent plastic is evident. This is, I gather, more than can be said for genuine G1 Shockwaves, who are notorious for suffering from perishing rubber on the power cable to his arm.

Timelines Ultra Mammoth: Basically the main reason I signed up to the first year of the TransFormers Collectors' Club's Subscription Service. The moment I saw the Big Convoy repaint and its given name, my sense of humour would not let me pass it by. I already owned the Nemesis Prime repaint of the Big Convoy mold, and rather liked it, but this was very much a case of the right mold with the right colourscheme, and an amusing pun.

Timelines Airazor: Basically the only reason I wanted to join the Club in the first place, so I'm very grateful to a friend of mine for giving me my first year's membership at exactly the right time. An excellent homage using an unusual mold, it's still one of very few Club exclusives that I considered a 'must have'.

Friday, 5 June 2015

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2014 (Timelines) Trans-Mutate

(Femme-Bot Friday #21)
Since it's only fairly recently that I've seen the entire run of Beast Wars, the whole 'Trans-Mutate' phenomenon passed me by at the time. Out of curiousity, I did once consider trying to buy the US Beast Wars reissues which came with parts of a Trans-Mutate figure but, frankly, the Japanese reissues that were around at roughly the same time looked better, and more accurate to the TV show.

'Trans-Mutate', the episode of the TV show, was an interesting one... a damaged stasis pod releases a misshapen, cognitively impaired wreck of a robot that can't even transform. Megatron loses all interest but, strangely, Rampage and Silverbolt instantly take a shine to the new arrival and each tries to convince her to join them. Needless to say, it doesn't have a happy ending.

Now, almost 20 years later, the Collectors' Club has decided, almost on a whim, to add an alternate continuity, properly functional version of the character to its collection of exclusives...

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Age of Extinction/Generations Drift

Drift has a curious history. The original character was created by IDW writer Shane McCarthy, who apparently felt that a certain element of character was lacking from the existing lineup. Like Beast Wars Dinobot, he was a Decepticon-turned-Autobot with a strong sense of honour and a large sword. Riding on Dinobot's coat tails, McCarthy's Drift apparently proved so popular that Hasbro created a toy based on the character and then, all of a sudden, Drift was announced as a character in Age of Extinction. The design looked daft - someone clearly took the samurai motif a little too far and a little too seriously - but he was to be voiced by Ken Watanabe, so surely movie Drift would turn out to be awesome?

As it turned out, Drift was another toe-curling stereotype, along the lines of the twins from Revenge of the Fallen, speaking in haiku and, without explanation, suddenly transforming into a Cybertronian helicopter as well as using a terrestrial disguise, introducing the audience to the concept of Triple Changers in a slightly more overt way than the likes of RotF Mixmaster... But, hey, whoever said the live action movies were internally consistent or coherent?

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Combiner Wars Silverbolt

Now that Combiner Wars is in full swing (kinda), I've even more glad I didn't bother buying the Universe/Classics Silverbolt back in 2008, instead choosing the Darkwind repaint. It was utterly daft of Hasbro to release a Silverbolt remake that wasn't going to be part of a gestalt because the whole point of Silverbolt is that he's the leader of a gestalt team of flight-capable Autobots... and he's afraid of heights. Leading the team and becoming the main part of Superion is all intended to keep his mind off his phobia long enough to do something useful. Take the team away from him, and there's really no point to a Silverbolt toy (unless it's an update to the Fuzor - go on, Hasbro, you know you wanna).

But back in 2008, Hasbro had no apparent plans to do any more combiners, repeatedly telling BotCon attendees that they weren't financially or technically viable these days. More than five years later, and in the wake of a veritable plethora of third party combiners, Hasbro announced its latest phase in the continuation of the Classics line: Combiner Wars... and one of the first teams to be released is the Aerialbots... meaning, at long last, we have a true Silverbolt

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

FansProject Function-X2 Quadruple-U

Function-X is a very different line to FansProject's Causality range. While the latter reimagines and updates Generation 1 figures into something that resembles the original, but has a very modern feel, the former seems (based on the few I've seen so far) to hark back more strongly to G1 in terms its presentation, striving only to improve articulation. The first Function-X model in the line was an update of the G1 HeadMaster Chromedome, a figure which I still own from those days, and something about the way it looked didn't impress me the way their Causality figures did (and continue to).

This second figure, however, intrigued me. Not only was it a stylistic improvement over the first, but FansProject decided to recreate one of the HeadMasters I didn't get back in my youth, for whom I have developed a small fondness due to the BotCon 2007 repaint of Cybertron Snarl/Galaxy Force Fang Wolf.

Monday, 1 June 2015

AD17 Movie Advanced Darkside Soundwave

After a rather disappointing 'appearance' in Revenge of the Fallen, I was thrilled to see Soundwave taking a more active - and ground-based - role in Dark of the Moon... At least, I was until I realised that it wasn't really Soundwave. His satellite-violating tentacles were pared down into spiky things used to threaten Carly and he may have had weird speaker things all over his arms, but he was just another of Megatron's thugs - capturing, then executing some of the Autobots.

Even so, the design of the character impressed me, and I was really looking forward to picking up a small plastic version to transform and pose for my shelves. Hasbro even announced a Human Alliance version, which was awesome until I actually saw it (75% of the vehicle mass becomes his arms, and the rest is unevenly distributed between his torso and his legs? Is that really the best you can do, Hasbro/Takara Tomy?) so I was hoping to 'make do' with the Deluxe.

But, because Hasbro sometimes clearly hate TransFormers fans, neither version got a full release and the molds - licensed vehicle mode and all - were consigned to limbo.

Then Takara Tomy did something a bit special for their extended Age of Extinction toyline, and 'Darkside Soundwave' turned up with a new and unique paint job, along with a set of other toys which celebrated some of the lesser characters from the series. Of course, they weren't easy to find outside of Japan, and import costs were pretty heinous... But then I found this fella at the MCM London Comic Con in May, for a mere £30.

That, dearest reader, is what one calls "a no-brainer"

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