Sunday, 28 November 2010

War for Cybertron Bumblebee

Considering he's basically the focal point of the live action movie franchise, it's inevitable that Bumblebee has now appeared as an early release in just about every TransFormers line from 2007 onward... And War for Cybertron's little slice of the Generations market is no exception. It makes sense, also, because he was one of the first characters to speak in the old G1 series pilot, when he and Wheeljack were ripping off a bunch of conductor rods for their limited supply of Energon (not enough to last a quartex, apparently). Back then, Bumblebee turned into a cross between a manta ray and a flying saucer... a fact that was set to be referenced in Animated before the toy line was halted in the US/UK... but things are very different for War for Cybertron...

Saturday, 27 November 2010

War for Cybertron Megatron

Ever since the halcyon days of Generation 1, when it was perfectly acceptable for Megatron to transform into a slightly off-scale replica of a Walther P-38 handgun, he's had to make to with some bizarre alternate modes. From tanks to Tyranosaurus Rex to weird jets to sports cars... and so the revelation that, back on Cybertron, Megatron transformed into a tank is about as surprising as finding that Optimus Prime was a truck.

Which is to say not at all.

War for Cybertron Optimus Prime

When the game TransFormers: War for Cybertron was announced, it came as no surprise when a related toyline was revealed shortly thereafter. Coming in as part of Hasbro's general-purpose umbrella line, Generations, WfC figures are all - somewhat disappointingly - Deluxe class, though no less complex for that.

War for Cybertron is a supposedly canonical telling of the beginnings of the war that brought the TransFormers' homeworld to the brink of destruction. It charts the rise of a tyrannical Decepticon leader called Megatron, and the attempts by the Autobots to band together under a new, untried leader to save their planet. When first introduced, this new Autobot leader is known simply as 'Optimus', and seems to take on leadership by much the same means as John Connor in the Terminator story - he's the only one able to do it when the time comes.

At first, I wasn't inspired by this line. Cybertronian forms seem pointless - the point of this toyline is that the TransFormers are Robots In Disguise... and their homeworld forms are either too alien or too recognisable and similar to their Earth disguises to warrant much interest. However, the complexity of the engineering and the overall aesthetic slowly won me over... and while I suspect I won't be buying all the WfC figures, the first wave and some of the later entries might end up on my shelves.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

TransFormers Animated Ultra Magnus

One of the most amusing aspects of TransFormers Animated was its references to other TransFormers series and its stacks of in-jokes. One such sight gag came along with the arrival on Earth of the Elite Guard, led by Ultra Magnus. The inimitable Sentinel Prime was assigned the task of collecting inconspicuous alternate modes for the incoming robots... and Ultra Magnus was assigned a mobile artillery platform.

Strangely, Hasbro UK decided not to release this model in this, the original colourscheme, for some reason preferring the green and orange 'Roadbuster' repaint. I picked this up in Forbidden Planet, mainly because their markup wasn't too massive this time.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Generations Darkmount

I've always wondered, as a reader of Marvel Comics' G1 TransFormers comics, with all the characters available in the toyline, why did they feel the need to create new, key characters that weren't available as toys: Impactor, Emirate Xaaron, Scrounge, Spanner... and, of course, Straxus.

Or should that be Darkmount? Yes, yet again, trademark issues prevented Hasbro using the right name, but Darkmount is a suitable alternative for the first ever toy of one of Marvel's original TF Villains, since it's the name given to his base of operations in the comics. Considering that Straxus was only seen to transform once, and turned into some kind of wierd flying cannon - vaguely similar to Galvatron in some ways - what sort of alternate mode does he get for his first toy?

Saturday, 9 October 2010

Superlink Shockfleet (Energon Mirage)

Boats have been quite an unusual alternate mode throughout the many TransFormers franchises, and it's not hard to see why. The shape of the average hull tends to mean a large number of panels hanging off the robot mode, or an incomplete vehicle mode...

...Or, in cases like Shockfleet, both.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Alternity A-04 Skywarp (Witch Purple Pearl)

There are times when I actually hate Takara Tomy. Only, not really. They have produced another excellent collectors' line of TransFormers... and then triggered my OCD regarding the G1 Seekers. Not content with releasing the Mitsuoka Orochi as Starscream, they have repainted it twice now... and Skywarp, release alongside Starscream, is the first of these.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Alternity A-04 Starscream (White Pearl)

If the Binaltech/Alternators line had a significant flaw, it was that all of the cars were fairly normal, everyday cars (OK, the Ford GT isn't something you'd typically see on the streets, but even the Dodge Viper was actually quite pedestrian, and certainly not in the same league as the Lamborghini Countach that appeared way back in Generation 1). At first, it seemed that Alternity might be heading down the same motorway, with the Nissan GT-R and Fairlady Z followed by the Suzuki Swift... but then A-04 was announced... Starscream and Skywarp (soon to be followed by Thundercracker, to complete the original G1 Seeker trinity) disguised as the incredible Mitsuoka Orochi

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Alternity A-03 Cliffjumper (Supreme Red Pearl)

A common thread in TransFormers toys in recent years is that any model used as Bumblebee would soon be repainted as Cliffjumper. While the two were G1 Mini Autobots with identical methods of transformation, their vehicle modes couldn't have been more different. Bumblebee was a VW Beetle, Cliffjumper was a Porsche. The use of common molds, therefore, is due more to changes in the perception of Bumblebee than in Cliffjumper.

Alternity A-03 Bumblebee (Champion Yellow)

And so, Alternity continues... Initial impressions suggest this line is going for popular characters rather than just going through the roster of G1 characters and applying them to the most likely licensed vehicle (Alternators Honda Civic Rumble? Really, Hasbro?). Takara had tried to get a license to make a Bumblebee out of the new Volkswagen Beetle, but this was denied - VW, without any intentional irony, did not wish to associate themselves with 'war toys'.

Plans were sadly abandoned and, outside the Movie continuity, Bumblebee was updated in the Classics line as a sporty 2-door hatchback, and then in Animated as... a sporty 2-door hatchback. Somehow, this form suited Bumblebee more than adequately, so this update is only surprising because it happened in the first place - one wonders if Takara Tomy were motivated by the popularity of Movie Bumblebee, or by their own desire to finally produce a modern, part die-cast incarnation of the character.

Alternity A-02 Megatron (Silver)

If the Nissan GT-R was an unlikely vehicle mode for Optimus Prime, then the same must be even more true of the Nissan Fairlady Z and Megatron, particularly considering that this, the updated Fairlady, is the rightful form of an Alternity Prowl or Bluestreak... and the two colourschemes initially available - Silver and Monterey Blue - further echo Bluestreak in particular. His G1 form was originally due to be blue, like the Diaclone model from which it was derived, but the only models released under the TransFormers banner were silver, occasionally with a black bonnet.

Adding to the wierdness of Megatron taking the form of an Autobot car is the fact that the updated Fairlady is significantly smaller than the GT-R, so Takara Tomy had to use some quite impressive engineering to make its robot mode of comparible height to the Autobot leader.

Alternity A-01 Convoy (Vibrant Red)

Alternity is, in many ways, the model line Takara had in mind when they first dreamt up Binaltech. It was, after all, Hasbro's insistance that turned that line into 1:24 scale cars. Now safely back in the realms of 1:32 scale, the Alternity line isn't just more of the same, only smaller, it's equally detailed and far more intricate... and, just for a change, the line begins with Optimus Prime.

Monday, 30 August 2010

Superlink Roadbuster Wild

Roadbuster is a prime example of why I was all set to completely ignore Energon/Superlink as a toyline. He empitomises the clumsy, clunky design sensibilities not only held over from Armada, but developed to a whole new level of blockiness - as if Fisher Price were suddenly working on TransFormers. The original Roadbuster had all the complexity of a Mini-Con, and a bright red, white and blue paintjob to match. And, as it turns out, Roadbuster W was about the last Energon/Superlink toy I picked up... purely because of it's G1 Hound-inspired paint job.

Galaxy Force Noisemaze

Of all the bizarre names that have cropped up in TransFormers, both the Western and Japanese releases, I'd personally say the most bizarre was Noisemaze (or Noise Maze). Most names make a crazy kind of sense, even if they're sometimes seemingly applied just so Hasbro can keep hold of a trademark rather than because they suit the particular model/character. This one is just bonkers.

But then, so was the character... And so is the model.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Galaxy Force Autovolt

While Autovolt is obviously not a homage in terms of his name, character or paintjob, he most certainly is in terms of his construction and visual style. Back in the days of Generation 1, one mold got almost as much reuse as the F-15 body - the Nissan/Datsun Fairlady Z. It was pretty much the iconic body form for the boxed Autobots - the front of the car became the chest, the back of the car became the legs, and the doors spread out like wings behind them.

Fast forward to 2005, and we have Autovolt transforming into a modified Bugatti Veyron, a far prettier car than even the contemporary version of the Fairlady Z. Bugatti seem to have taken some design cues from Anton Furst's Batmobile, creating a curvy car whose front sweeps inward to what could easily be a jet engine intake. There are key differences between the way Autovolt transforms and the way the G1 icon transforms, partly due to overall improvements in toymaking allowing greater articulation, and partly because they only really needed to hint at, rather than duplicate the aesthetic. Classics/Universe later duplicated and updated the look with the new Prowl, (Silver)Streak and, later, Smokescreen.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Energon Bruticus Maximus

AKA... erm... Bruticus... just Bruticus.

It is perhaps fitting that this, the final Energon Gestalt, gets a bit more detailed treatment than the other two... though I've already seen that some photos are technically missing... the two choppers don't get their square-on views, and there aren't that many of the fully-formed Bruticus. Oh well...

I picked up the whole set in one hit - highly unusual for me, considering it wasn't the boxed set - at Auto Assembly 2010, largely because I really wanted one version of this or another to go with my on-order Crossfire upgrade set, and the repainted, RotF-packaged version wasn't available. This is a far more garish set, and possibly won't suit Crossfire's muted tones... but I'm willing to take the risk. And if it turns out that I can pick up the repaint later, I've got the original Energon set as a backup. I call that a win-win situation, personally.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Energon Constructicon Maximus

AKA: Devastator, in just about every other continuity...

I'm going to have to do this one a bit differently because I don't actually have the full complement of limbs for Constructicon Maximus. All the Energon Gestalts used only two unique limb molds, but in different colours, and I only have one pair - Bonecrusher and Wideload - twice. Eventually, if I'm lucky and can be bothered, I might pick up the remaining two, Duststorm and Sledge. I didn't see them at Auto Assembly this year, but did see at least one of the two I've already got.

Auto Assembly 2010 Haul - Photos Edition

The entire haul - just over £300 worth of plastic (and die-cast metal) crack...
Some very cool stuff, all told.

Limited Edition/BotCon stuff: TF Universe Special Edition Drag Strip, BotCon 2010 Sky Byte and Air Sharkticon

Alternity Bumblebee, Starscream and Skywarp

Energon Bruticus Maximus, standing in front of RotF Bludgeon, and JustiToys MP5 Upgrade Package

Believe it, kiddies - this is not a real weapon. The stock, however, does include a spring-loaded launcher, so the free-standing Particle Beam Cannon and shoulder-mounted Telescopic Laser Cannon can actually fire the hard plastic pellets included. I dare not try, though, for fear of breaking something...

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Auto Assembly 2010 Haul

Full details and photos to follow (honest!), but here's the list:

Starscream, Skywarp (hello OCD necessity to get Thundercracker) & Bumblebee

Revenge of the Fallen/NEST Global Alliance:
Bludgeon (!)

Special Edition Dragstrip

Bruticus Maximus, aka Barricade, Blackout, Blight, Kickback & Stormcloud. Now all I need is the FansProject Munitioner & Explorer packs...

2010 Skybite & (Air) Sharkticon

MP-5 Upgrade Package (stock & silencer for Masterpiece Megatron)

Overall, Auto Assembly today was a much better experience than the times I've been on a Saturday. Organisation still isn't perfect - for example, the Simon Furman/Nick Roche 'Creating a TransFormer' workshop was scheduled to start at 2pm, but they hadn't even started setting up at that time, and Scott McNeil was allowed to get so hammered on Saturday night that he didn't return to the show till Sunday afternoon - but it was a much more civilised experience this time round. Not so much yesterday, from what I heard...

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Hunt for the Decepticons Battle Ops Bumblebee

One thing that cannot fail to strike one about the TransFormers live action movie franchise is how focused it is on Bumblebee, and how he has become the 'Kid Appeal' character. Whereas it used to be that there were several iterations of Optimus Prime in just about every toyline (consider the many reuses of Armada's so-called 'Bendy Prime'), Bumblebee has used the lion's share of the plastic in the movie toy ranges.

The obvious question is "Do we really need another Bumblebee?" The first movie had about half a dozen Deluxe Class Bumblebees alone... Revenge of the Fallen has added several more into the mix. Then there's the two iterations of the so-called Ultimate Bumblebee, and the Human Alliance version (with another of those to come in the repackaged line). There's also the miscellaneous Fast Action Battler versions, the Legends versions, the Limited Edition repaints, the Gravity Bot, RPM, Beatmix Bumblebee... In 2007 alone, including Japan-only releases and fast-food tie-in 'toys', there were 24 interpretations of movie Bumblebee, so you could be forgiven for thinking all the Bumblebee bases have been covered by now...

But, according to Hasbro, you'd be wrong... Because, in the Hunt for the Decepticons part of the yellow-packaged, post RotF, 'TransFormers'-branded toyline, they have given us Battle Ops Bumblebee: a slightly shorter, yet more proportionally accurate, lighter-on-the-electronics, more ultimate than Ultimate figure.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Revenge of the Fallen Wheelie

Wheelie is a name long associated with fan loathing. In the animated movie, Wheelie was a kind of 'kid appeal' character in a cast made up almost exclusively of kid appeal characters. He spoke in irritating rhymes, and wielded a slingshot capable of pacifying the mighty Grimlock. The toy was a hunchbacked disaster which looked nothing like the character in the movie, and was probably one of the ugliest TransFormers ever to see the light of day. Surprisingly, a fan-made version actually makes G1 Wheelie look pretty decent and manages to be very poseable, while retaining the look of the vehicle mode perfectly. The only question would be why a fan-made G1 Wheelie model exists in the first place.

Fast forward to Revenge of the Fallen, and the name Wheelie is applied to a cowardly yet lascivious little spybot - not quite the equivalent of Frenzy, but certainly the same kind of character. Whereas Frenzy referenced G1 by turning into a portable stereo (which, yes, got picked up and left somewhere convenient by a stupid human), Wheelie does something unexpected: he transforms into a toy.

Revenge of the Fallen Rampage

There's something about Decepticons and construction equipment... Back when the G1 Autobots had Grapple, the Decepticons had the Constructicons - a group of six vehicles (pretty much the equivalent of today's Scout Class) that not only transformed into individual robots, but combined to form Generation 1's first gestalt, Devastator. Perhaps it's the contradiction of a robot that spends most of its time destroying things disguising itself as a vehicle used in building that appeals to them... Whatever the reason, they always seem to have suitably dramatic names. Back in the first TransFormers live action movie, the name Bonecrusher was applied to a military mine-clearing vehicle... kind of a shame, because RotF Rampage uses an update of G1 Bonecrusher's vehicle mode - a bulldozer... And steals the name of one of the Predacons into the bargain...

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Energon Slugslinger

And just when you think you have a toy line sussed, it throws you a complete curveball - Slugslinger is a Decepticon who doesn't really have a Hypermode... Unless you count his spring-loaded weapon... Which I don't.

Slugslinger is a very obvious G1 reference - back then, he was a TargetMaster, partnered with a Nebulan named Caliburst. Back then, he had a very simple transformation, and turned into a fairly blocky robot with his vehicle mode's twin nosecones sticking up out of his back. Energon, naturally, does not include his TargetMaster partner, even as a Mini-Con, though he does have a couple of Mini-Con ports. He also features a more complex transformation, and a far more poseable robot mode that - gasp - actually uses the twin nosecones.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Energon Sharkticon

Energon/Superlink is, in many ways, the odd man out in the Unicron Trilogy: each part had its gimmick but, in Armada/Micron Legend and Cybertron/Galaxy Force, it was common to both Autobots and Decepticons. Energon/Superlink, meanwhile, shook things up by giving the two factions their own, unique gimmicks.

The Autobots could combine (hence 'Superlink', though the system was called 'Powerlinx' in the Westernised TV series) in pairs (ideally of the same size class, but the joints were actually the same regardless of size) to form larger, more powerful robots. The Decepticons all had something called 'Hypermode', which generally popped out all kinds of extra weapons.

The implication, I guess, was that the Autobots won the day by co-operating, while the Decepticons relied entirely on heavier artillery...

Sunday, 1 August 2010

Energon Highwire (& Kicker)

Love them or loathe them, each part of the Unicron Trilogy brought something new-ish to the TransFormers mix. Armada introduced Mini-Cons, and used them to activate features on the larger robots, Galaxy Force adapted this functionality for use with 'keys'... and, wedged in between, Energon did virtually nothing with the Mini-Cons other than, in cases like Armada's High Wire, upgrade them.

Thus, High Wire became Highwire, a Scout Class (or equivalent) figure that came with an action figure of Kicker, one of the human characters from the show. But while the Japanese version of Kicker was based on the Microman figures, the US/UK release was closer to a GI Joe figure. They make for a strange set, not least because they're not quite in scale, but they do work well enough together.

FansProject WB001 - Warbot Defender

Or Springer, by any other name...

Considering he was one of the key players in the animated TransFormers: The Movie back in the 80s, it's surprising that the character hasn't appeared more often in the toylines. Then again, he was a Triple-Changer - transforming between Helicopter, Armoured Car and Robot modes, none of which were particularly effective back in The Age of the Brick. Since then, the character has been applied to more 'normal' two-mode TransFormers - a Legends Class Osprey from the original (live action) movie line, a TransFormers Collectors' Club/Botcon figure (repainted from Galaxy Force Exigeyser/Cybertron Defense Hot Shot), and in a 2-pack including a reprinted Marvel Comic (repainted from Galaxy Force Live Convoy/Cybertron Evac, along with Ratbat repainted from Galaxy Force Noisemaze/Cybertron Sideways). This means he's been a helicopter, and he's been an armoured car... but not in the same toy... and it seemed unlikely that it would ever be thus again.

Until the awesome FansProject announced their Warbot Defender: even from the blurry shots of the grey pre-production prototype, it was obvious that this was Springer... and that he would once again be a Triple-Changer. Not only that but, with contemporary toymaking nous at their desposal, they've improved upon the original in many impressive ways.

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Teaser 2...

No update today, as such... just this little preview of what I may (or may not) put up tomorrow... These arrived during the week...

Yes, indeed, that is FansProject 'Warbot Defender' (aka Springer), and Perfect Effect's 'Warrior Type-R' and 'Warrior Type-F' (aka Rumble and Frenzy, respectively). Springer is about the size I was expecting but, despite having seen photos of Rumble and Frenzy (or their all-black predecessor, at least), I was surprised by their size - they're actually smaller than G1 Rumble and Frenzy!

I need to make my mind up on Auto Assembly 2010... With the FansProject Bruticus upgrade parts on order, I kind of need to find either the original Energon version or the RotF re-release of the main body and other limbs...

Monday, 26 July 2010

Leader Class Starscream Stop Press #2 - Masterpiece Comparison

It's only natural that RotF Leader Class Starscream should be compared to Masterpiece Starscream, in light of the fact that it will be released as part of the Masterpiece line in Japan, with a far superior paint job...

So how do they compare?

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Revenge of the Fallen Brakedown

Or Breakdown, to give him his true name. Not quite sure why the name change - for some strange reason, I thought it was due to the particular car alternate mode 'Brakedown' had been applied to in one toy line or another but, after G1 Breakdown, the next character to use the name was Brakedown from Cybertron (named Autolander in Galaxy Force)... I thought there had been some kind of deliberate avoidance of the suggestion that whatever type of car would 'break down'... but it seems I made that up!

Out of all the Generation 1 references thrown into the Revenge of the Fallen toyline, Breakdown - yes, I'm going to settle on using his real name - is the most blatant. He's approximately the same type of car (just a little squashed), with an almost identical colour scheme to the original. Thankfully, his transformation has moved on in the last 25-odd years, the better to keep to the movie series aesthetic.

Revenge of the Fallen Skystalker

Scout Class is generally the poor cousin of any TransFormers line. The smaller size normally means less detail, less articulation... generally less. For the first movie, the vast majority of Scout Class was made up of repaints from Energon and Galaxy Force that really didn't suit the movie. Revenge of the Fallen, however, went to a bit more effort - not just new molds, but a good selection of G1 reference characters that probably wouldn't have been worth doing at a larger size.

Leader Class Starscream Stop Press #1 - GERWALK mode

Saw a couple of photos of this fan mode for Leader Class Starscream turn up in the forums, and thought I'd give it a go...

The term 'GERWALK' comes from the Macross, and is possibly the most awkward acronym in the history of anime: Ground Effective Reinforcement of Winged Armament with Locomotive Knee-joint. I mean, come on... there's acronyms and there's trying to shoehorn an explanation onto a cool-sounding name.

Galaxy Force Megalo Convoy

Perhaps the strangest thing about Galaxy Force was the it introduced the concept that the character known as Convoy (named Optimus Prime in the West) might not be the only Convoy in the universe. In fact, Galaxy Force's Optimus Prime analogue was known more specifically as 'Galaxy Convoy', and pretty much every planet featured in the story had it's own Convoy, from Flame Convoy (Animatros), through Nitro Convoy (Speedia), Live Convoy (Earth!) and finally Megalo Convoy (Gigalonia). Each one (bar Live Convoy) was very clearly the leader of their world, each with their own methods and rules.

Thursday, 22 July 2010

Galaxy Force Dreadrock

Let's face it, Dreadrock is pretty weird. He's clearly some kind of military transport plane - hardly the most impressive choice of flying vehicle, though one which was revisited in the Revenge of the Fallen toyline - and his key-activated gimmick is a tail gun turret which isn't even hidden before it's activated. Tucked away, maybe, but certainly not hidden. The US/UK version of this, from the rewritten/dubbed TV series, was named Jetfire, possibly the most inappropriate application of that name in the history of TransFormers, and gave him an Australian accent...

Beast Wars Reissue Waspinator

In all the years of TransFormers, across all the Generations and continuities, there has never been a character that attracted gunfire like Waspinator. He came across as the little guy with big dreams... and yet was blown up by his comrades as often as by his enemies.

Maybe it was the irritating voice (think Peter Lorre, but with a tendency to buzz any 's' sound)... or the delusion that he was far more powerful and competent than he really was... maybe it was just the annoying buzzing around in (giant green) wasp mode. Waspinator escaped very few episodes of Beast Wars unscathed, and frequently ended up strewn across the prehistoric landscape.

I actually skipped on most of Beast Wars the first time round, because I just didn't see the point of TransFormers - alien robots, let's not forget - that turned into animals. Leave it to Mainframe, the company behind the awesome ReBoot, to create one of the most finely judged stories for one of the most outlandish toylines in TransFormers history. When I finally got round to seeing Beast Wars - sporadically on UK kids TV, then via a website that carried decent resolution video files - I was utterly hooked. Each character in the initially small cast was well developed, and carried their own part of the story - a far cry from the random selection of two-dimensional characters that filled out the G1 cartoon. It was the TV series that got me interested in owning more than just Optimus Primal and Megatron, but original Beast Wars toys are hard to find, frequently expensive beyond all reason, and generally poorly decorated.

So when Takara decided to reissue a group of Beast Wars toys, with hugely improved paint jobs, Waspinator was quite high on my 'want' list.

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Revenge of the Fallen Ravage (Deluxe)

It was quite daring of the live action movie franchise to include a character like Ravage. As one of a few G1 characters who appeared very regularly in the TV series, Ravage has a fanbase with certain... expectations. His character has remained fairly consistent throughout his long history (and between continuities - he's appeared in Beast Wars, after all), and he's never had to suffer the ignominy of becoming comic relief... His reputation as being the sneakiest Decepticon, their most perfect spy, has never been called into question (except perhaps in the pilot for the G1 cartoon)...

...Until now. And I'm not talking about Shattered Glass Ravage, either.

Monday, 19 July 2010

N.E.S.T. Global Alliance Evac

Helicopters have had a raw deal in the TransFormers line for many years, and it's really only been in the most recent lines that this has improved in any significant way. Galaxy Force produced the excellent Live Convoy (coincidentally named Evac in the US/UK version of the story) and the original live action movie gave us the awesome - though undersized - Blackout.

Perhaps there's something about helicopters and scale, because this latest one - originally used as Blazemaster in the RotF line - is easily the smallest Deluxe in the entire line. Rotor blades may well fill most of the packaging and make them awkward to keep in scale, but this thing is pretty ridiculous...

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Hunt for the Decepticons Starscream

At long last, movie Starscream gets the figure he deserves... and what an amazing piece of engineering it is. It's not without flaws, but the level of detail in this model is excellent. The design for Starscream in the movies has always been contentious, considering the iconic nature of the Generation 1 Seekers and, while even the most recent comics series' have strived to keep some elements common to the 80's toys and cartoons, the live action movies have taken the view that these are alien robots, so they shouldn't have to look too human.

Personally, I enjoy this and really like all the outlandish appearances of the robots (mainly the Decepticons - the Autobots, by and large, are all humanoid), and was only disappointed by Megatron. Seeing Starscream in action, particularly in the dogfight towards the end of the first movie, I thought they'd created the ideal form for the Decepticons' air commander.

Hunt for the Decepticons Payload

AKA Revenge of the Fallen Generation 2 Long Haul.

There are a couple of reasons I wasn't interested in picking up RotF Long Haul, not least the difficulty I would have had in trying, since he's not now getting a UK release. The main reason, I guess, is the very bland colour scheme. Sure, it's traditional Constructicon Green... but that's pretty much all it is. The few painted details - a touch of metallic paint here, a reference to vehicle mode detail there - don't break up the sea of green at all. Payload, on the other hand, is molded in black and yellow in almost equal proportions and so makes a functional G2-referencing RotF Long Haul.

This toy isn't even part of the RotF line - it's part of the new, yellow-packaged, general purpose, TransFormers-branded line which will cover pretty much all the new releases... at least until the third movie comes along.

Revenge of the Fallen Mixmaster

After the first live-action TransFormers movie, the fan community was all a-flutter about the possibilities for the future. Would there be Dinobots? Would there be gestalts? Would there be... Devastator?

And while the toys made of RotF Devastator have, by and large, been rather disappointing (the Supreme Class one doesn't give its components individual robot modes, not that the movie suggested Devastator's components even had them; the Legends Class one is not terrible, but is less poseable than its Supreme Class big brother), the toys of the characters who inevitably got labelled 'Constructicons' have been pretty good. Since it's not completely certain that these Constructicons are the ones that form Devastator - in fact, the presentation of the movie suggests that they are definitely not, but this could just be more bad editing as the movie is quite famously a complete jumble - it seems odd that they were given the names of G1 Constructicons... but, then, we all know how much the fans like their G1 characters and names...

And so, we come to RotF Mixmaster - true to the G1 roots, he's a cement mixer in his alternate mode... but this version is a triple-changer (kinda), and seems noteable more for his BFG than his chemical-mixin' ways.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Transformers Collectors' Club 2010 Members Incentive (Timelines) Dion

Dion is a bit of an oddity. The character featured in just one episode of the G1 cartoon - part of War Dawn - and got killed off seconds after being introduced (serves him right for thinking Decepticons are cool just because they can fly). There was never a true G1 toy of Dion because he was just this background character who existed to die, giving Optimus Prime (rebuilt from Dion's friend Orion Pax) a reason to want to rise up and challenge the Decepticons. Even so, when Takara Tomy reissued Kup with Wheelie (one of the most maligned characters and toys from the days of G1), E-Hobby took it upon themselves to repaint the pair as Orion Pax and Dion, respectively. Then, the TransFormers Collectors' Club took it upon themselves to have Dion rebuilt in a new form...

...A new form strangely reminiscent of Armada Hot Shot.

Thankfully, this is the Classics/Universe 2.0 version of Hot Shot, with improved everything... and, furthermore, it's the Japanese version of the mold, which was slightly redesigned to accommodate a pair of spring-loaded missile launchers.

So, how does it stand up, this repaint of a remake?

Sunday, 6 June 2010

N.E.S.T. Global Alliance Brawn

One of the more interesting effects of the TransFormers movies is that lesser-known characters from Generation 1 are being reborn in its wake. No appearance in the movies themselves, yet the character is re-imagined and recreated in the Movie style. Some of them are familiar designs with new names attached, thanks to trademark issues, then others are familiar designs with 100% authentic G1 names attached. Brawn is an example of the latter.

It is almost ironic that the movies have spent very little time on characterising the robots involved, yet the toyline develops small nuggets of backstory not only for them, but for these extra characters as well. It's almost a toyline advertising a film franchise, rather than the other way round.

Back in the days of G1, Brawn initially got a fair bit of page space in the comics - including a story of his very own, where he went completely nuts - while appearing very little in the cartoon. His few appearances did very little to show anything of his character, other than being ever ready to punch some Decepticons in the face. They didn't even touch on the one weakness listed on his Tech Specs, meaning he became little more than Generic Cannon Fodder. I wonder if Generation 1 would be done better today... perhaps written by the folks behind Beast Wars? With 12+ episodes per series, surely more could be done to develop each character? That just wasn't a priority back in the 80s. Still, New Brawn has even less character - on the UK packaging, all it tells you about him is that he's after Rampage, one of the Deluxe Decepticons from the same wave.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Yes, I know I'm slow

And, unfortunately, this ain't much of a post. Just wanted to make brief mention that I picked up 3 new RotF-branded toys today - Skystalker, Breakdown (let's give him his proper name, after all, none of this 'Brakedown' rubbish) and N.E.S.T. Brawn.

Brawn stands out as being the most impressive, but he is a Deluxe, while the other two are Scouts. Sure, he has a lot of vehicle mode panels attached to his robot mode, but what really blew me away was the way the roof of the vehicle folds back to form the underside of the forearm/elbow. Talk about excellent engineering, and so true to the style of the Movie models.

Less impressive are the legs... which don't quite suit the upper half of the model... but he's pretty darned good.

Mode details and photos this weekend, weather/other engagements permitting.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Things to come, and not to come...

Well, photography-wise, I'm all but done (G1 excepted, but I've nowhere to display that little lot). I thought I'd photographed my latest Collectors' Club acquisitions (Banzai-Tron and a slightly flawed Skyquake (the replacement Energon/Spark jewel thing is missing)), but apparently not... Can't find the picture files, and haven't already uploaded to Photobucket. That'll be a task for some convenient, sunny day.

In terms of progress on this blog... Yes, I'm still very much behind... But I'm going to have to get a bit more organised as my Photobucket account is all but full. Yes, I could pay for more... but I ain't gonna.

With any luck, I might be able to make a bit of headway on Monday - I'll be out for a good chunk of the day both on Saturday and Sunday - so it's a question of motivation, really.

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Progress update...

As of this morning, I've photographed my entire Galaxy Force/Cybertron collection.

As far as I can tell, this leaves Armada (bar Scourge), the smaller RiD models, then miscellaneous bits and bobs such as Mini-Cons (still need to decide whether I'm doing them individually or by team), E-Hobby Exclusives (most of which I can probably do today) and a few more of my customs.

Wow. That's several hundred TransFormer toys photographed, versus 31 blogged.

I really need to get a move on...

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Generation 1 Mirage Knockoff

Knockoffs, by and large, have a bad reputation - poor plastic quality, reduced articulation, psychedelic paint jobs, stickers that don't - but, once in a while, a knockoff comes along that's virtually indistinguishable from the original. Such occurrences are made all the sweeter when the original in question is almost impossible to find intact.

G1 Mirage had a weak plastic waist joint that frequently broke, leaving two halves of an otherwise excellent TransFormers toy. This may or may not have had any bearing on Takara's decision not to reissue Mirage in the 20th Anniversary TF Collection line. These days, finding two halves of Mirage probably isn't too difficult... nor is the fix to get him back together... but the fact remains that a whole Mirage is better than two halves fixed with nuts, bolts and washers.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Kingdam 05 Robogun Browning M1920

I normally do my best to avoid knockoffs, not least because, when I've gone ahead and bought one, it's been hugely overpriced and terrible quality. Even so, once in a while, one does come along that I take an instant fancy to, and the idea of avoiding knockoffs because they've overpriced and terrible quality suddenly drops out of my mind.

So it's my own fault, really isn't it?

This little item turned up at Memorabilia some years ago, looking like it would probably be a huge waste of money (I shan't mention how much, but I certainly paid over the odds)... but it's a knockoff of the pre-TransFormers Browning. Alongside what later became G1 Megatron, there was the Browning and - believe it or not - a Colt 45 revolver. Both were eventually release as TransFormers in Japan, but only the Walther P38 got a release in the US and UK.

I briefly considered the likelihood of ever finding a genuine Browning, then how much such a thing would inevitably cost... And then forked out for the knockoff.

And, in fact, it's about as good quality as I would have expected the genuine article to be, just missing some chrome on the weapons.

TransFormers Collection #21 - Broadcast & Steeljaw

Another of Generation 1's MIAs, Blaster got a US release, but never came to the UK. While it was understandable with the likes of Perceptor, it was strange, disappointing and downright annoying that Blaster didn't get an official UK release - he was basically Soundwave's counterpart, and played quite a major role in many of the Marvel UK comics.

That said, while Soundwave had a fairly subdued and complementary colourscheme, Blaster's seems to have been decided upon by a five year old, and was designed to fit his robot mode at the expense of his alternate mode.

TransFormers Collection #19 - Perceptor

The sad fact about Generation 1 is that, while it was mostly based on existing molds from Takara's Diaclone and Microchange lines, some of the toys never made it over to the UK, even if they were released in the US. Perceptor is one such model. In many ways, you have to wonder about the thinking behind bringing Perceptor into the TransFormers brand - sure, he transforms... but into a microscope (and, loosely speaking, into a kind of tank thing). Great disguise, certainly, and one that was re-used for Scalpel (aka The Doctor) in Revenge of the Fallen... but in a line of toys that transform from robots into cars, planes, etc, Perceptor stands out as something quite irregular.

Naturally, Soundwave also originated from the Microchange line, as did Blaster... but they worked somehow... A Microscope just seems incongruous.

As a character, Perceptor was fond of big words. His big moment in the animated movie came when, having seen the Decepticon forces approaching Autobot City, he announced "A cursory evaluation of Decepticon capabilities indicates a distinct tactical deficiency," quickly translated by Springer to "We're outnumbered." You could almost see him getting on very well with Shockwave, in other circumstances.

TransFormers Collection #14 - Hound

Of all the Autobots in the Generation 1 cartoon, Hound was the one I found most charismatic, right from the pilot episode, Arrival from Cybertron/More Than Meets The Eye. While the rest of the Autobots worked toward finding a way home, Hound fell in love with the landscapes of Earth, and nurtured a desire to be human. He also had no qualms about going head to head with the Decepticons, facing off against Rumble underwater and - embarrassingly - needing Spike's help against the diminutive troublemaker.

Much as I like this model, I was pleased when Hound got the Classics/Universe 2.0 refit. The new model takes everything that was cool about Hound, everything that defined his appearance (such as his massive feet), and brought it bang up to date, improving it in almost every way.

Saturday, 6 March 2010

TransFormers Collection #11 - Astrotrain

While every other reissue I've picked up is to supplement a lack in my original G1 collection, I felt compelled to buy this reissue, even though I own an original, for two reasons:
  • My original has exceptionally weak legs, and can't stand
  • This one has a far superior colourscheme in both modes

There's also the fact that it comes in the usual (excellent) TFC presentation box with Filofax pages...

While actually quite basic, these packages were always very effective - it must be be amazing to have the full set lined up on a bookshelf. I only have four of these and a further six in the US/UK packaging, which was styled after the original G1 packaging, but in a box similar to these. Of course, in many instances, the US/UK versions were cut-down or in some way different (read: inferior) to the Japanese reissues. Most of the time it was just lost chrome (one of my favourite things about the original G1 toys - chromed weapons looked brilliant!), but sometimes the overall paint job seemed somehow lacking.

Sunday, 28 February 2010

TransFormers Collectors' Club BotCon 2009 (Timelines) Elita-1

As mentioned in the Razorclaw entry, Elita-1 turned up at BotCon 2009 as an Attendees Only souvenir piece. Also like Razorclaw, this is her second appearance at BotCon, the first being in 2007's Games of Deception comic. All told, she was a rather pointless character without a toy, so it was surprising that we've had to wait two years for this to emerge, as a seemingly random addition... I haven't seen the Wings of Honour comic, but I'd like to think there were a few more interesting 'bots to use as 2009 souvenir figures...

The name comes from the fleeting appearance of a female Autobot in the G1 cartoon episode where the Aerialbots go back in time and see the start of the war on Cybertron, meeting an Autobot named Orion Pax - who later becomes Optimus Prime - in the process. Elita-1 was rebuilt from the wreckage of Orion Pax's companion. More recently, of course, Elita-1 has been attributed to one of the biker-bots in Revenge of the Fallen. The biography supplied with this model is a complete waste of time, saying as it does that Elita-1's origins are unknown to all but Grimlock, the leader of her team, and he's not telling. I'm not sure who decided that even constituted a biography but, frankly, I'd rather a poorly-written bio than the waste of card and ink she was given.

TransFormers Collectors' Club BotCon 2009 (Timelines) Razorclaw

Some of the extras offered at BotCon 2009 seemed a little... out of keeping with the Wings of Honour theme. Indeed, one pair - Razorclaw and Elita-1 - was essentially a rounding-off of missing figures from previous years: 2006's Dawn of Futures Past and 2008's Games of Deception respectively.

Dawn of Futures Past told of the events immediately prior to the beginning of the Beast Wars TV series, with a terrorist calling himself Megatron, and his crew, running off with an artifact known as 'The Golden Disk' (possibly the same gold LP that was sent out into space with Voyager), and Optimus Prime sent in pursuit with his ragtag crew. Bizarrely Fun Publications later released a 2-part movie on the internet, called Theft of the Golden Disk, which explained the events leading up to DoFP. Talk about doing things backwards. The comic featured all the characters who were part of the boxed set that year, and the Attendee Only extras, such as Megatron (based on the Galaxy Force First Gunner mold). At the very end of the comic, the story shifted back to 'the present day', and the final frame showed Razorclaw, leader of G1 gestalt group the Predacons, looking pretty darned fearsome, and based quite obviously on the Galaxy Force Ligerjack mold.

It was quite an obvious fit - both had lion heads on their chests, after all - and the popularity of the Predacons led to a reissue of the entire G1 team in a Predaking boxed set from Takara Tomy. Strangely, though Fun Publications did not release this form of Razorclaw as a Club Exclusive and, if I remember correctly, stated at the time that they had no intention of doing so.

Cut to 2009... we've already seen Hasbro repaint and remold the Ligerjack mold into Leo Prime (one version of which was coloured to reference Beast Wars Lio Convoy), and the Legends version of the mold had been repainted as Razorclaw... Was there room for another full-size repaint of this much-maligned mold?

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Revenge of the Fallen Megatron

The first TransFormers movie raised two important questions:
  1. With Megatron killed by the power of the Allspark, who would lead the Decepticons in the inevitable sequel?
  2. Would its toy suck as much as the original movie's Leader Class Megatron (which will be reviewed eventually... Honest)?
Well, golly gosh, if they didn't bring Megatron back with the power of the Allspark, then turn him into a sort of tank thing that's somehow capable of interplanetary flight...

...Which basically answers both questions.

Seriously, though, this is the second attempt at a toy of a movie Megatron, with an equally outlandish design. Somehow, the designers at work on the TransFormers movie seem to think that making Megatron into something resembling The Shrike constitutes a valid attempt at depicting the Decepticons' leader. Little regard is had for the poor souls who have to turn these bizarre arrangements of spikes and guns and more spikes into a transforming toy to be purchased by children (and collectors), and the first movie Megatron served as a fine example of why one should not design an enormous, bulky robot that turns into a sleek, slender jet. It just didn't work.

This time, though, we have an enormous, bulky robot that turns into an enormous, bulky tank... Surely that's a better fit?

Superlink Superion

Just like the Generation 1 combiners of the mid-80s, the Energon/Superlink line brought us 5-strong teams of Autobots and Decepticons who could combine into even larger, mightier robots (frequently with personality disorders, courtesy of its components). Since the whole selling point of the Energon/Superlink Autobots was that they could combine, they only got one team - referencing the G1 Aerialbots - who combined to form Superion (known in the US/UK as Superion Maximus... because, obviously, it's a name that requires some kind of qualification)

To be honest, I wasn't that interested in the Energon/Superlink combiner teams, not least because I'd heard they were rather floppy... but, for my birthday one year, my workmates clubbed together money for a large bottle of rum (my drink of choice at the time) and £50 worth of tokens for Forbidden Planet.

The boxed set of Superlink Superion cost £51 at Forbidden Planet. You do the maths.

Revenge of the Fallen Jetfire

What better way to follow up GF Sonic Bomber than with this?

When it was announced that Revenge of the Fallen would feature a cantankerous 'old man' robot, many fans naturally assumed this would be Kup. Many fans were wrong... so very wrong... What we were treated to instead was a foul mouthed, senile, babbling junkpile named Jetfire, supposedly one of the original Seekers.

So far, so G1 fanservice... After all, Jetfire and Starscream are widely reported to have been friends before the Great War. But the title Seeker is used in an entirely difference context in RotF... here, they were sent out into the universe, seeking the Allspark.

Bizarrely, it seems a whole bunch of them ended up on Earth (so near, yet so far), with Jetfire ending up as an exhibit in the Smithsonian, awakened from his rusting slumber by one of the last remaining shards of the Allspark.

As a character in the movie, Jetfire was a lot of fun, if underdeveloped. Some of what he said didn't make sense in any context, but Mark Ryan's voice and delivery gave him a lot of character... And a Mancunian accent. Strange, then, that the toy seems to think he's Scottish, but more on that later.

Galaxy Force Sonic Bomber

Over the many years of the TransFormers franchise, one aeroplane has been used and reused as the basis for vehicle modes for the airborne 'bots. From Generation 1 mini-bot Powerglide to... er... Universe Ultra Powerglide just last year, the A-10 Tankbuster has been an unlikely, but generally successful, form of disguise for these transforming alien robots. With each new toy, the complexity of transformation improved. Unlike most others, though, Sonic Bomber's alternate mode doesn't try to match the A-10 as closely as possible - it's derived from that plane, without actually being that plane... Think of it as a Sci-Fi Tankbuster

Monday, 8 February 2010

Not Quite Back Yet

I've got a new computer up and running, all nice and smooth and fast, but still haven't quite got back into the swing of things.

Part of it, I guess, is that I've built up such a huge backlog, getting through it all is quite a daunting prospect.

On the one hand, I think I should arrange some time off work to give me some time to focus on this... but I suspect I'd spend most of my time idle instead.

I'll get there in the end, though...
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