Saturday, 30 April 2016

TF Prime 'Ultimate Opponents' Bumblebee

When I wrote about the mass release of TF Prime Bumblebee, I noted that his anaemic colour and some of the dodgier aspects of his construction left him feeling like a knock-off. Even so, I didn't feel any particular need to pick up the First Edition version and, in fact, when I did acquire one version of FE Bumblebee in the NYCC2011 set with Arcee, Jack and Raf, I happily parted company with New York Cab Bumblebee, giving him to a friend who collects versions of Bumblebee across all continuities.

I did also note that the FE version exhibited several improvements over the mass release... so when another version of FE Bumblebee turned up in a set with another version of FE Starscream, I figured I may as well give him a more serious looking-over.

TF Prime 'Ultimate Opponents' Starscream

I'm going to have to confess to being a little obsessed with the First Edition Starscream mold at some point... Having picked up the original as a result of the awesome TFCC Subscription Service figure Slipstream, I went on to buy the Dark Energon version (which I considered calling 'Skywarp'), then Arms Micron Thundercracker then, as required by my OCD, the 'actual' Skywarp. More recently, while trawling through eBay, I found a TransFormers Prime 'value pack' featuring two First Edition repaints - Starscream and Bumblebee - along with 'companion' figures - Mech commander Silas and one of his nameless, faceless mooks, much like the Jack and Raf figures from the NYCC2011 Arcee and Bumblebee set.

Needless to say, the compulsion came over me...

Friday, 29 April 2016

TransFormers Collectors' Club BotCon 2016 Combiner Wars Airazor

(Femme-Bot Friday #36)
While the Club (and BotCon specifically) isn't averse to retreading old ground and presenting alternate continuity versions of the same character, it's rarer for them to present a BotCon version of a character they've previously done as a Club premium exclusive.

And yet, BotCon 2016 seems, to some degree, to have brought us full circle with the Club's/BotCon's output, harking back to the appearance of the Tripredacus Council in the very first BotCon comic, Descent into Evil, updated as a Combiner Wars gestalt. There were other references both to Beast Wars and BotCon 2006's awesome Beast Wars prequel Dawn of Future's Past, too, with attendee exclusives including a version of TransMetals 2 Megatron made from RiD/Car Robots Mega-/Galvatron, Terrorsaur from CW Air Raid, CW versions of  BW Tripredacus Agent Ravage, a second pre-Beast Wars Tigatron and even a CW version of a character who'd previously only been a Happy Meal toy.

The one that caught my eye, though, was BotCon's do-over of the reason I joined the Club back in 2007. Daring, perhaps... but was it foolish for them to take a mulligan on what is still one of my favourites?

Sunday, 24 April 2016

DotM Mechtech Que (aka Wheeljack)

When Hasbro decided to cancel the Dark of the Moon toyline early, it has to be said that there were probably sound business reasons for doing so - the line was, in a lot of cases, a step backward and the law of diminishing returns had applied itself quite harshly to the toyline. Still, this evidently left Hasbro with stocks of packaged figures that weren't going anywhere for a while.

It seems that Takara Tomy eventually released 'Autobot Que' in their own packaging, while the Asian market received Hasbro's release of 'Wheeljack'. The character was only ever referred to as 'Que' in the movie - a nod to James Bond's Quartermaster, apparently, and so possibly only a nickname - but the technical genius and the sack of gadgets are certainly Wheeljack through and through.

Considering the brevity of his role in the film - introduced with no explanation, stuck in the background with minimal dialogue, handing out weapons, then unceremoniously captured (off screen) and executed (graphically, on screen) by Soundwave and his team - it's no surprise that Hasbro didn't mind not making him (easily) available to the fans... But is he worth tracking down?

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Beast Wars Tripredacus

If I'd had any foresight whatsoever, I would have written up and scheduled this set months ago rather than trying (and, naturally, failing) to squeeze it in before the end of the last ever BotCon organised by Fun Publications. I mean, the whole theme of their last ever boxed set is the Tripredacus Council, and these guys are it, only substantially less red than the Club's interpretation. Annoyingly, though, it only occurred to me that I had this set on my shelves on the 9th and, of course, I hadn't already taken photos...

In retrospect, I couldn't even say why I picked up this set - when I saw them (at AutoAssembly, I think... second hand an in plastic bags, most likely) there must have been a moment of madness, or I simply wanted to know what the combined form looked like. Certainly, back when I bought them, I wasn't aware of the Tripredacus Council from Beast Wars, nor was I especially keen on expanding my collection of Beast Wars toys.

But, hey, I've got it, so let's take a look at the toys that (sort of) inspired BotCon's swan song, the 2016 boxed set, Dawn of the Predacus...

Sunday, 10 April 2016

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

Ah, yes, the traditional 'Not In Attendance' BotCon roundup from the TransForm-A-Blog.

You know, considering this would appear to be the last ever BotCon put on by Fun Publications, I'm more than a little disappointed by a somewhat disjointed set of exclusives. I loved the idea of the Tripredacus Council (plus their agents, Ravage and Tarantulas) as a new-style gestalt, but the three main players are just too red, and their agents aren't that impressive in and of themselves (in fact, having now seen the Ravage/Tigatron - because who didn't see that one coming? - head sculpt in more detail, it seems far too flat and nowhere near as good as the concept art). And the fact that so many of the attendee exclusives seem to be retreads of older BotCon/Collectors' Club figures (Tigatron and Airazor - the former having previously been a repainted extra from 2006's Dawn of Future's Past, the latter being the Club's 2007 exclusive - with Megatron being a reuse of a mold they used back in 2005 with a different new head and an approximation of TransMetals 2 Megatron's colourscheme) seems pretty unimaginative.

That said, you will have guessed that I've ordered Airazor... Despite them only making 750 of them (that's 450 fewer than they made of Tigatron, by the way!), several attendees seem to have bought three or more and were flogging their 'spares' on eBay when I checked on Saturday morning.

And perhaps, this being Fun Pub's last year at the helm of BotCon, one can forgive them their nostalgia. Many of the sets and stories have been about the obscure machinations of seldom-seen characters and Beast Wars seems to be one of their favourite continuities to raid for characters, so rounding off their tenure with yet another extension to the Beast Wars story could almost be bringing them full circle and closing off their Timelines continuity.

Hasbro don't seem to have much new stuff on show but, with such momentous reveals at the toy show earlier in the year, that's more or less to be expected, though it's still strange that they don't seem to keep some things back for exclusive reveals at the official TransFormers Collectors' convention. I guess this is the problem when you have a 3-Year Plan and the convention happens so early in the year that not only is Year 2 still several months away, but Year 3 is probably still only in the planning/testshot stages.

What little new stuff has been revealed is interesting, but not groundbreaking. Hasbro's own update of Weirdwolf (oddly now named 'Wolfwire') seems to have learned a few tricks from FansProjects' Quadruple-U and is undoubtedly a massive improvement on the G1 brick, but is still nothing I really need or even want on my shelves. The new Alpha Trion - described as the partnered with the awkwardly-named 'Autobot Sovereign' - is a Triple-Changer with a spacecraft mode and a beast mode for no obvious reason (other than to make him repaintable... and I'd figured they'd turn that mold into Weirdwolf!). The Prime Wars trilogy is shaping up into a very diverse toyline that will be desperately in need of some coherent narrative to tie all the weirdness together.

Meanwhile, Takara Tomy's take on Titans Return Blurr looks far more impressive than Hasbro's simply because its colourscheme is more than just shades of blue, and their take on Computron looks about a billion times better than Hasbro's half-hearted attempt at improving upon their 'Betatron' half-measure. That said, TT have kept to the Hand/Foot/Gun attachments, while Hasbro's Computron boxed set uses new-style, dedicated hands and feet, the latter with pivoting ankles for a more stable footprint

One of the upcoming Platinum sets - repaints of some of the main players from TransFormers: The (Animated) Movie - looks pretty shameless considering how minimal the repaints are in some cases (in particular, its Arcee is basically the Takara Tomy Legends version minus the lipstick guns), and the only notable feature of the exhibited SDCC boxed set is a repainted RiD2015/6 Windblade (because, obviously, the SDCC couldn't repaint the same Windblade two years running) who looks very grey.

I'm hoping that Hasbro will make some kind of announcement about their plans for a new TransFormers Collectors' Club - and, of course, future collectors' conventions - but, so far, it's looking as though that will be the only big news from this year's show.

Addendum 12/4/16: It would appear that the show came to a close with no real announcement from Hasbro about a new Collectors' Club, just an assertion that they are "not prepared to share" what their plans are for future conventions or clubs, but that they are committed to ensuring the fans are "participants" in the brand. If that participation is limited to the occasional 'Fan-Made Bot', and the results are anything like Victorion, I would honestly prefer them to outsource.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

TransFormers Collectors' Club Botcon 2013 (Timelines) Boxed Set: Machine Wars: Termination

Machine Wars falls into one of the many gaping holes in my knowledge of/interest in TransFormers. I got into Beast Wars long after the event, having bought only Optimus Primal and Megatron while they were in the shops (and then only because I chanced to see them). Beast Machines was - and is - eminently avoidable as a toyline though I'm a massive fan of the TV series, and Machine Wars - if TF Wiki is to be believed - was simply an aborted attempt to bring the TransFormers brand, revitalised by Beast Wars, back to its mechanical origins. Most of the line appears to have been large, overly simplistic crap, though some of its toys were repurposed from G2 molds and into later Universe lines.

So... the question has to be asked: what possessed the TransFormers Collectors' Club to choose Machine Wars as the theme of it's 2013 BotCon set? And how would such a tiny selection of characters be represented? Well, amusingly, it seems that they ignored what little story Hasbro might have crafted (though they probably didn't) and created their own take on the mini-line...

Monday, 4 April 2016

MorphBots Final Battle Megabolt vs Hell Cat (aka Flamefeather vs Carroll)

Like most collectors, it's a rare occasion (and/or a special case) that I will intentionally buy a knockoff, but some seem too good to pass up. It was a few years ago that I first saw Meng Badi's 'AlteraTion Man' Carroll, knockoff of the first live action movie Arcee mold, released both in the original colours and in blue, possibly in reference to the newer TransFormers Prime incarnation. I was never able to find the individual versions, but recently discovered that the blue version was repackaged in a two-pack with a knockoff of live action movie Swindle, a mold I never bothered picking up because it looked a bit crappy.

Then, more recently, I found the 2-pack (which turned up in Thew Adams' Knockoff Beatdown IV) was available on Amazon and on eBay. Finding a suitably low price (£16 including shipping!), I ordered the set hoping that at least one of the figures would be of reasonably decent quality... but that's the thing with knockoffs: however low your expectations, there's always room for disappointment.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Go-Bots/Robo-Machines Night Ranger/Harley Robo

I mentioned ages ago that there was a time I collected both TransFormers and their main rival, a toyline by Bandai called variously Go-Bots, Robo-Machines and Machine Robo. Their vehicle modes tended to be better, particularly at the smaller end of the scale, but the robot modes tended to be floppy, jumbled messes. Even when the line went a bit weird and introduced monstrous robots that transformed into monstrous vehicles, I carried on collecting... though it wasn't long after that I decided to focus on TransFormers.

Interesting as they were, the toys just didn't have the longevity of Hasbro's adopted toyline. Aside from a brief and apparently unsuccessful reappearance in the 90s - which I wasn't even aware of until I started looking into Go-Bots for this post - the toyline died completely, and now only occasionally exists as a subset of the TransFormers brand.

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