Thursday, 31 December 2015

2015 Retrospective

While I've already done a Seventh Anniversary post, I figured I should do something vaguely significant to close off 2015 - just about every other year, I've posted very little of any significance ('haitus warnings' on a couple of occasions, and skipped December and/or January altogether many other years) so, while this won't be an 'x 'Bots for x Years' sort of thing, I'll pick out a few highlights for the year and touch on a few of my hopes for 2016.

Just a quick note...

...To the effect that I may or may not end up taking new photographs for posts on this blog - both the existing, live posts and those still at draft stage - because one of my Christmas presents this year was a nice, large light tent (thanks to my awesome girlfriend, Courtney). I'm still getting the hang of it - as the still-variable photos in the Trypticon post will attest - but I'm hoping that I'll be able to start taking better quality, more true-colour images of my TransFormers toys.

For the time being, I think I shall press ahead with the existing photos in all the posts currently in draft form, and re-take photos gradually as I continue this blog. New purchases, of course, will immediately reap the benefits of my new, slightly more professional setup.

I don't expect my photos to rival those on the likes of or Black Plastic Life anytime soon, but at least we'll eventually be able to completely do away with my cabinets and coffee table or the kitchen wall and worktop as the slightly incongruous and camera-confusing background to the toys.

Here's to a New Year and improved blog photography!

(Time to get a move-on with my new, non-TF toy blog, too...)

Monday, 28 December 2015

Combiner Wars Hot Spot

The leader of the Protectobots is another of the G1 combiner torso bots I wasn't able to acquire back when I started collecting TransFormers. I believe my best friend had the full set as I distinctly remember seeing Defensor up close... but that didn't really help me, because I had three out of five in the team and, for whatever reason, wasn't able to get my hands on the remaining two.

After Hasbro released the Combiner Wars Aerialbots in two separate waves, one of which never made it to these shores, they have thankfully adopted more sensible tack with Wave 3, and made it all Protectobots. Even then, while I managed to buy all the limbs in regular toy shops (a couple in Smyths at Friern Barnet, the rest at either the Brent Cross Toys'R'Us or the Uxbridge branch of Smyths), I still found myself having to order Hot Spot online. Whether impatience got the better of me, or he just didn't turn up on the shelves of my usual toyshops (hell, I even went looking in Lincoln!) for an inordinately long time, I'm still not sure.

The important thing is that I got him, right?

Saturday, 26 December 2015

Generations Platinum Edition Trypticon

Back in the 80s, the idea of a giant alien robot that transformed into a city seemed quite cool, even moreso after the bit in the 1986 animated movie where Ultra Magnus orders Springer and Arcee to "transform Autobot city" (even though that didn't actually involve Omega Supreme, Metroplex or Fortress Maximus, all of whom had appeared in the Marvel comics by that point) because that was a pretty exciting sequence early on in the story, and showcased some of the most impressive, intricate animation in the entire movie, surpassed only by Unicron's transformation toward the end of the movie.

Sadly, the UK tended not to get the larger, more complicated TransFormers toys in those days so, while Metroplex got released on this sceptred isle (and made his way into my collection), we didn't get Trypticon (similarly, we later got Scorponok but not Fortress Maximus).

At least, we didn't get Trypticon back in 1986. For whatever reason, Hasbro have seen fit to grant him a re-release as part of their 2015 'Platinum Edition' line... I thought I'd given up on buying Generation 1 toys after completing my G1 Seacons by finding a Snaptrap in reasonable condition on eBay... But when I found Trypticon on Amazon at a vastly reduced price, I ended up taking the opportunity to grab one of my few remaining 'Holy Grail' G1 toys.

But how does a nearly 30-year-old model stand up against today's TransFormers toylines, and does it really have a place on the shelves of a 40-something collector?

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Rumour Has It...

It has been noted on fan sites that the TransFormers Collectors' Club has changed the wording on their membership purchase option to state that "All memberships will terminate with the December 2016 issue", causing much debate as to the meaning of that phrase.

To me, that (coupled with the almost vague comments offered by a certain Fun Publications staffer on his Facebook page) suggests that the Club - at least, as operated by Fun Publications - will no longer exist in 2017, despite the news that details of TFSS5 will be coming soon. One thing I've just noticed which may be considered 'further evidence' is that a certain large-size reissue I bought recently features none of the TFCC advertising that Hasbro have been including on their packaging for years. It's not just that it's covered over by stickers on the box - I've looked at photos and video reviews online, and can't see any mention of the Club on the packaging.

So... The end of an era..?

I can't be bothered to offer any conjecture on what will happen next - whether Hasbro will license another third party to operate a fan club, whether they'll do it in-house, or whether they've decided there's no place for a fan club of this kind in the internet age - but I will spend a bit of time describing my experience of the Club, for better or worse.

Combiner Wars Groove (Legends class)

Hasbro caught a lot of flak for this one. Not only were fans upset that Groove - officially one of the worst G1 toys, as his robot mode was basically a motorcycle stood up on its back end - had been relegated to a Legends class supplemental role but, rather than forming a weapon for Defensor, he - like Blackjack and CW Rodimus - serves no truly useful purpose pegged into Defensor's chest.

Still, it's Groove, right... and since he's been released, you might as well complete the team...


Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Combiner Wars Rook

OK, time to address the elephant in the room: While I'm sure we all wanted a Deluxe class Groove for the Protectobots (Takara Tomy certainly did - they created one as a new mold for their Unite Warriors boxed set), there is no way a motorcycle can adequately scale with a police car and an ambulance, let alone a helicopter, and transform into a limb of the same size as his team-mates. Whether or not that was Hasbro's reasoning, they've changed the character line-up one way or another for all of the gestalt teams so far, so it was no real surprise to find Groove relegated to Legends class as a supplemental part of the team - as Powerglide was to the Aerialbots and Blackjack to the Stunticons.

Of course, this left a space to be filled as one of Defensor's limbs... and the solution presented by Hasbro is another whole new character invented for Combiner Wars... Rook!

Monday, 21 December 2015

Combiner Wars Streetwise

Back in the days when Generation 1 toys were available in the shops, Streetwise was the only one of the Protectobot limbs that I was unable to acquire. Looking at that toy now, it's a complete mess - most of the gestalt limbs showed terrible signs of the compromise between vehicle, robot and limb modes, but the way Streetwise was built left him perpetually leaning forward, with his chest and shoulder line about level with his 'toes' and his back stepping gradually backwards as it dropped toward his legs due to the weird transformation jointing. He also had a weird collapsing-bonnet-belly-flap (seemingly quite fragile, given how many on the secondary market are without it) making the torso look very awkward, though it's not entirely clear whether it's meant to be collapsed for robot mode, or just when Streetwise is functioning as Defensor's leg.

Let's hope there's none of that with this new Combiner Wars version...

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Combiner Wars First Aid

It always puzzled me, back in Generation 1, that there was technically only one Autobot medic - Ratchet - despite the ever-increasing character roster of the toyline and TV show. When a new medic eventually joined the team, he was one of the Protectobots, and transformed into a smaller, less detailed version of much the same so-called ambulance as Ratchet. He also got lumbered with the most boring and obvious name in the history of the brand.

With Defensor being the second Autobot gestalt in the Combiner Wars series, Hasbro granted First Aid his official return as one of the limbs of the Protectobot behemoth, but how does this update shape up?

Monday, 14 December 2015

Combiner Wars Blades

Pretty much the moment images of the Slingshot-substitute Alpha Bravo appeared online, everyone knew he was Hasbro's way of delivering Blades and, most likely, Vortex by reusing parts from an existing mold. Considering both Hasbro and Takara later released Slingshot as a repaint of Firefly, one has to wonder why they bothered... but I guess it gave them a non-critical character on whom to test the Combiner Wars Helicopter mold.

So, let's kick off the Protectobots with the first major mold re-usage in the Combiner Wars series...

Monday, 7 December 2015

The Other Half

I'll put my cards on the table straight away and admit that this post was inspired by a couple of articles on the TFSource blog (specifically this one and this one) as much as it was that today is the third anniversary of the start of my relationship with my girlfriend, Courtney. Furthermore, it's a whole bunch of questions that I hadn't really considered before (though an ex- once told me quite pointedly that I'd "never find someone else who'd put up with" my collection) and reading the responses in the TFSource blog post got me wondering how Courtney feels about it all, since she has lived with me now for about a year and a half.

It is worth noting that both of us are Sci-Fi geeks, though Courtney has read less Speculative/Science Fiction than me (possibly because she's been into actual science for many years, and so reads more of that). Despite a not inconsiderable age difference, we like quite a lot of the same stuff (Film Noir, The X-Files, Firefly and Doctor Who, just for starters), and at least one person in both our families has a habit of collecting/hoarding, so we were both exposed to that mentality from quite a young age. Where I collect transforming robot toys (and other things), she collects stationery and books... and, lets face it, there are WAGs out there who may be frustrated by their partner's obsession while neglecting to consider their own.

I took questions from both posts, since they are quite different, reorganised them into a more logical sequence (because I couldn't help myself), and asked her to jot down a few thoughts. Her first comment, interestingly enough, was on the tone of the questions - she felt it was pitched quite negatively, with all its questions of "should" but, having now read both of the TFSource posts, she has said that they "weren't as negative as I'd expected them to be."

So... here's the Q&A, with a few of my own thoughts tagged on, because it's all about me...

Friday, 4 December 2015

TransFormers Legends (Takara Tomy 30th Anniversary) LG15 Nightbird Shadow

(Femme-Bot Friday #33)
Since the G1 TV show was aired so patchily on terrible Saturday morning television in the UK, there are quite a number of episodes that I didn't get to see (until they started appearing online). Then again, given the quality of most of the original TV series, it was hardly a sad loss. One rather random episode featured the Autobots failing to protect a human-built Femme-bot ninja from the Decepticons, leading to all kinds of silly hijinks and the sort of cringeworthy dialogue for which the show was notorious.

That Femme-bot was Nightbird and, considering that she didn't actually transform or utter a single line of dialogue, it might seem strange for her to be honoured in Takara Tomy's 30th Anniversary Legends series, but there's always been some level of fan demand for a Nightbird figure... and now, finally, there's an official one.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

TransFormers Animated Jazz

TransFormers Animated was a curious event in the history of the toyline. Taking its style from the exaggerated proportions of youth-oriented American cartoons of the time, it created designs that shouldn't have worked as toys, and yet the designers managed to pull off quite a few miracles. It also took its character cues - largely - from Generation 1, albeit re-imagining the core team to quite a degree. When it finally started introducing secondary characters, such as the Elite Guard lead by Ultra Magnus, a few more G1 favourites came along for the ride and, unlike Prowl, they weren't that different in appearance from their original selves...

Friday, 27 November 2015

DotM Mechtech Shockwave

When the movie series introduced characters with familiar names, it was a fair bet that the character would either look or behave nothing like the traditional bearer of that name, which accounts for a lot of the fan anger directed toward the franchise. However, when a character as iconic as Shockwave appears, surely he'd have to be the logic-fixated cyclopic scientist we all so fondly remember... Right?

Sunday, 22 November 2015

TransFormers Legends (Takara Tomy 30th Anniversary) LG14 Ultra Magnus

Back in Generation 1, Ultra Magnus was a white repaint of Optimus Prime with a red and blue car carrier trailer into which the cab robot could be plugged (so, originating as Diaclone's Powered Convoy, he was basically a piloted mech piloting a larger mech suit). That seems, for many years, to have given both Hasbro and, to a slightly lesser extent, Takara Tomy a license to repaint any and all Optimus Prime figures white and call them 'Ultra Magnus'. Until recently, the only variations to this rule have been in the original Robots in Disguise/Car Robots line, TF Animated and TF Prime (although the earlier, unique toy was quickly replaced with a remold/repaint of Optimus Prime). The only way one could obtain a true G1 homage Ultra Magnus was to buy FansProjects' City Commander trailer set.

Then came KFC Toys' Masterpiece-scaled Citizen Stack and, soon after, Takara Tomy's offical Masterpiece model, which proved that, not only could Takara Tomy create a unique Ultra Magnus mold, but they could give him a cab that looked almost exactly like MP Optimus Prime v2, yet which transformed entirely differently, along with its car carrier trailer, to create a figure that was reasonably accurate to the TV series.

Then Hasbro announced Combiner Wars Ultra Magus - a trimmed down, IDW-inspired mainstream toy based on approximately the same principles, but with a distinctly underwhelming paint job lifted from the comics.

Leave it to Takara Tomy to repurpose the mold into its 30th Anniversary Legends toyline, with a more G1 toy-accurate colourscheme... But it is really that much better..?

Saturday, 21 November 2015

I've found a new use for Smallest Transforming TransFormers...

I just wish I had a better background for this kind of thing...
(Edit: Now with colour version of the image!)

Given that the gestalts in Combiner Wars appear to be depicted as far larger than the scale of their toys would suggest, it seems that Takara's 2003 blind-packed novelties are the perfect size to be posed with them.

Though, obviously, that ain't STT Convoy poking out from behind Superion's right foot - it's actually Hybrid Style G1 Convoy, who's a better scale to all the Autobots in vehicle mode.

Friday, 20 November 2015

San Diego Comic Con 2015 Combiner Hunters boxed set

(Femme-Bot Friday #32)
One of these days, I hope to get myself to either the San Diego Comic Con or the New York Comic Con (or both), but I fully expect that the TransFormers exclusives available at whichever event I manage to attend will not be my cup of tea. They tend to be rather 'hit-and-miss' (moreso than BotCon, even) with only a few - since I've been aware of the phenomenon - really catching my attention.

With Combiner Wars in full swing, though, the SDCC exclusives were something special: a premium Devastator (with a positively obnoxious amount of purple chrome) and the all femme-bot team of Combiner Hunters - Windblade, Chromia and Arcee all in one box, with new oversized weapons! I considered spreading this out over three Femme-Bot Fridays but, since they come as a set, I may as well cover them as a set...

Tuesday, 10 November 2015

A Second Not An Unboxing Post

A package arrived for me at work while I was away from the office sorting out personal matters. A package from Japan...

I can't deal with that now, but I figured I should at least give you another taste of things to come...
Yep, I can be a G1 Snob sometimes... but, seriously, Hasbro's version looked terrible
even if it is more IDW accurate.

Monday, 9 November 2015

Revenge of the Fallen Sideways

One of the most objectively interesting things about the TransFormers movie franchise - for me, that is - is the way it has introduced lots of new characters without ever giving them any characterisation. One fine example of this is Sideways, who appeared in Revenge of the Fallen for less than a minute, largely to introduce a bunch of new Autobots by having them chase him down and murder him horrifically. He's parked near Demolishor for reasons never explored, flees the scene when discovered, and spends his few remaining seconds of screen time trying to escape, never uttering a single line of dialogue. We never learn anything about him, least of all why a Decepticon who never actually tries to defend himself short of running away, actually deserves to be literally cleaved it two by Sideswipe (another newly introduced character who transforms into a silver car, just to make things easy to follow).

And yet Hasbro made a toy of him, meaning some poor bugger had to develop some sort of character for him in the associated comics and the novelisation because, let's face it, who'd actually buy a toy for a character who gets offed in the first few minutes of a story and is only seen in robot mode for a few seconds..?

Sunday, 8 November 2015

TransFormers Collectors' Club BotCon 2008 (Timelines) Shattered Glass Jazz

There have been times when the Collectors' Club have produced a figure of a character as yet unavailable in Hasbro's mass-produced output. They generally come in for some flak whenever they do, normally because no-one can understand why a particular figure hadn't been produced by Hasbro (such as Classics Thundercracker, who remained exclusive to 2007's BotCon set, Games of Deception, until 2008, when he appeared in Takara Tomy's Henkei! Henkei! line, and then 2011, when he finally appeared in the Generations line). The only times they tend to get away with it is when the character is in some way not an interpretation of the hallowed G1 original, such as their take on Jazz for 2008's Botcon set, Shattered Glass...

Friday, 6 November 2015

Not An Unboxing Post

Nor a Femme-Bot Friday post, simply a post on a Friday that just happens to be about Femme-Bots.
'Nuff Said
Preordered pretty much the day they were announced, another trio of Takara Tomy-flavour Femme-Bots, in the form of Generations/Legends Arcee repurposed as Nightbird, Generations/Legends Windblade repurposed as Slipstream (featuring a cool Legends/TF Animated fusion vibe) and TF Animated Blackarachnia repurposed as... Beast Wars Blackarachnia.

I'll try not to keep you all waiting too long for these fine ladies...
(Links added retrospectively... at long last...)

Saturday, 31 October 2015

Music Label Soundwave (Spark Blue Version)

Even at the time, Music Label seemed something of a potentially dangerous folly for Takara Tomy. The sorts of consumer electronics involved still tended to be quite expensive, and including them in transforming robot toys, while pretty cool in theory, was perhaps venturing too far into a niche market. Sure enough, over its two year lifetime, Music Label produced only three unique molds, but two were released in several colourschemes.

Like Convoy, Soundwave - or, to give him his full, tautological mouthful of a title 'TransFormers Music Label Soundwave Playing Audio Player' - was originally released in white, back when Apple's attitude toward the colour of their proprietary media player was "you can have any colour you want, as long as it's white". It didn't take long, however, for a G1 homage to turn up...

Friday, 30 October 2015

TransFormers: Prime Wheeljack

Introduced in Generation 1, Wheeljack, in one form or another, has been popping up in various continuities of TransFormers since the Unicron Trilogy but, aside from the familiar head, it's never been quite the same character that G1 gave us. In fact, on several occasions, he's not even had the right name, let alone the right character. In the Unicron Trilogy, 'Wheeljack' looked suspiciously like Sideswipe, and had sided with the Decepticons. The character that looked like Wheeljack was named 'Downshift' and started out as a blatant homage to the G1 character in both paintjob and overall styling, later becoming a 1970s-style green and black muscle car whose head and feet were the only features that closely resembled the G1 character. None of them were the 'clumsy professor' of Generation 1, though.

Then along came TransFormers Prime, with a character who looked very much like the character of old in robot mode, and with vehicle mode which was a clear homage to original... But is it the Wheeljack we actually wanted?

Saturday, 24 October 2015

On a random note...

I don't know who's writing the bios for the TransFormers Collectors' Club's Subscription Service figures, but I've just seen the bio cards for this year's FSS Krok and Nightracer... and they're not half bad. They deal less with the character's backstory and more with the character's personality and abilities, just like the old G1 toy bios.

This led me to look back at the previous ones, and they seem to have been gradually improving from the nonsense of Carzap to the latest couple which feature a much shorter piece of backstory followed by halfway decent information.

Let's hope this is the beginning of a new trend...

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Perfect Effect Perfect Combiner PC-05 Combiner Upgrade Set G1 White Version

I honestly think Hasbro/Takara Tomy had the right idea in turning the Combiner Wars hands and feet into secondary weapons for the Deluxe class components of each team. After all, the G1 characters all had their secondary weapons, most of which had to be simply removed and set aside for gestalt mode, making them a bit of a waste of space.

By combining these secondary weapons with the hand and foot requirements of each gestalt, the became more efficient in design, and the potential was there for something very good.

Unfortunately the execution left a lot to be desired. The hands all had massive, protruding knuckledusters - theoretically quite cool and useful, but ugly and unwieldy in plastic form - while the feet ended up being far too small and, with no real ankle joint, they rarely presented a stable footprint. Together with frequently loose hip joints, they conspired to make the completed gestalt wobbly on his feet, and the poseable thumb/heel had no discernible benefit.

This is normally where the Third Parties step in, and so I was very pleased when Perfect Effect announced their 'Perfect Combiner' upgrade sets, which take the idea to a whole new level of brilliance.

Monday, 19 October 2015

Combiner Wars Superion

This being the toyline called 'Combiner Wars', of course there's more to it than just groups of individual Deluxes with a Voyager class team leader. These things do actually combine to form gestalt robots and, unlike Generation 1's diminutive combiners, the size class of the components involved means that the combined mode is pretty colossal by the standards of contemporary TransFormers toys - easily exceeding what now passes for Leader class.

But we all know these gestalts are big... are they actually any good?

Sunday, 18 October 2015

TransFormers Animated Ratchet

The character of Ratchet, having been all but ignored since Generation 1, went through a series of rather massive changes (not to say transformations) when he turned up again in the live action movie series and in TransFormers Animated. While one seemed to be attempting a take on the 'party bot' persona hinted at in the G1 toy's bio, the other went completely the other way, turning him into a grizzled, curmudgeonly war veteran medic for an inexperienced team of Autobots whose primary function was maintenance.

The result was surprisingly effective, given TFA's heavily stylised look, and Ratchet was one of the best developed characters, gradually learning to soften his approach, as we learnt about the events - and the failures on his part - that shaped him.

Friday, 16 October 2015

Mastermind Creations Reformatted: R-08D Azalea (Stealth Assassin)

(Femme-Bot Friday #31)
You might think that, with three other iterations of this mold already in my possession, I wouldn't think it worth paying over the odds for a(nother) limited edition, event exclusive repaint of the Azalea mold... But then, dearest reader, you would reckon without the dangerous allure of the dark/evil repaint of a Fembot, not to mention my OCDs.

You'd also reckon without the amazing good fortune I had on eBay with this one...

Monday, 12 October 2015

Combiner Wars Alpha Bravo

The wild-card in the set, Alpha Bravo is a whole new Aerialbot, replacing - temporarily, at least - Slingshot from the old Generation 1 character roster. Being a helicopter, he was also quite a blatant hint that the Protectobot Blades was on his way and, knowing Hasbro, set to be reused - likely with minimal, if any alteration - as the Combaticon Vortex (a move confirmed at this year's BotCon, when testshots of the Combaticons were first revealed).

Naturally there was a massive fan outcry when Alpha Bravo was revealed - not least over his nondescript name - which may have led to the repurposing of Firefly as 'Quickslinger'... but was it at all necessary, or is this a decent replacement for the loud-mouthed Aerialbot?

Sunday, 11 October 2015

G.I.Joe/TransFormers Collectors' Club 2015 Old Snake with Advanced Stealth B.A.T. duo

While the TransFormers Collectors' Club has been run by the same company as the G.I.Joe Collectors' Club for about ten years now (wow, that makes me feel old!), and despite the fact that TransFormers and G.I.Joe have crossed paths in the associated fiction several times, the two Clubs have only relatively recently started crossing over their exclusives. It started a few years ago, with the likes of Hound, Starscream and Jetfire being turned into G.I.Joe vehicles but, this year, the TransFormers Collectors' Club released a pair of crossover exclusives: Afterbreaker (formerly Technobot Afterburner) with Marissa Faireborn and Old Snake with Advanced Stealth B.A.T. Duo.

Since the former is a non-transforming toy - just an underachieving repaint of a GI Joe movie vehicle featuring a spring-loaded gimmick that either fails to work at all, or operates on a hair trigger - with a fairly nondescript G.I.Joe figure, that was an easy pass for me: one thing I may never understand is TransFormers toys that don't transform.

The latter is a different story...

My Take on the New York Comic Con Reveals

You will no doubt have seen by now the many images of Hasbro's upcoming output, as revealed at the New York Comic Con this year. Obviously, I wasn't there, so everything I say here is based on those photos on the editorial accompanying them.

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Combiner Wars Firefly

With a team made up of four Deluxe aircraft and one Voyager, I wonder if Hasbro were tempted to pull the same trick as they did with Energon/Superlink and use only two unique Deluxe models with the colourschemes creating the characters. Thankfully, the designers of Combiner Wars have been clever with their parts counts... and probably had slightly higher budgets, and so the Aerialbots have four mostly unique models with only a few shared parts between two of them.

Firefly - formerly Fireflight - is one of the entirely unique molds... but is that necessarily a good thing?

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Combiner Wars Air Raid

When Hasbro declined to release the second wave of Combiner Wars toys across Europe, citing a lack of interest from vendors, that left collectors with an oh-so-nearly complete Superion and/or only the first component of Menasor, potentially leaving many fans unable to complete their contemporary sets of Generation 1's biggest rivals, the airborne Autobot team and the Decepticon road warriors.

This, obviously, is where the online retailers prove very useful... though the final component of Superion, Air Raid, sold out pretty quickly almost everywhere (mine is actually the US-style package, meaning I got a comic rather than a collectors' card, but pretty much everything else is standard) so I consider myself quite lucky.

But, of course, it's still a Hasbro product, so was it really worth the effort of tracking it down?

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Chicago Holiday Haul

We got back from our holiday to Chicago first thing yesterday morning and, after a long (albeit interrupted at about 1am) night's sleep, I'm already feeling a lot better than I did after getting back from last year's holiday to LA. I'm actually pretty glad that we passed on BotCon this year as, aside from the amenities of the venue, we wouldn't have been able to see or do much from the Pheasant Run Resort, whereas staying in town (an apartment at DeWitt Place) gave us great access to the entire city via Chicago's fine public transport system of trains and buses (much like London's only far cheaper (fares of $2 or $2.50 using a Ventra card - which is like our Oyster - versus, for example, £4.70 ($7+) each way for my journey to/from work using an Oyster, or £5.80 cash (almost $9) each way for the same journey!), cleaner and only slightly less frequent).

Courtney and I got up to quite a bit in our short visit, and while we came back with quite a few souvenirs and gifts, I didn't actually buy any TransFormers as neither of us felt like wasting too much time on shopping (except in museum gift shops, for example).

So... This is a bit of a silly, pointless post...

Other than the PSA about comparative public transport in Chicago and London.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Seventh Anniversary

It really doesn't seem like seven years ago today that I started this humble blog, largely as a substitute for the crummy HTML tables, tiny photos and startlingly brief write-ups which had once appeared as a subsection of my personal website (which, these days, is nothing more than a portal to my other online activities). Back then, the 'plan' was simple: more complete write-ups of each toy, along with multiple, full-sized photographs, tagged for easy filing. While I was already back into buying TransFormers, I honestly could not have guessed how far the blog would go, and how much of an uphill struggle it would be to keep it updated.

Then again, setting up over 100 drafts, just to use the photos uploaded to one particular Photobucket account was probably not the wisest move on my part... but, you live and learn.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Combiner Wars Skydive

I can still remember being distinctly unimpressed by the G1 Aerialbots. They were small and awkward-looking, terribly basic, even by G1 standards, and not even as well-designed as the G1 Stunticons... With Combiner Wars remaking all the limb-bots as contemporary Deluxe class figures, it was tempting to hope that the new Aerialbots would take on board the lessons of the many Third Party gestalts doing the rounds...

But this is a creation of Hasbro, and they've been in full-on cost-cutting mode for ages... so it's bound to be a disaster, right?

Saturday, 12 September 2015

DotM Hatchet

Hasbro can make some pretty bizarre choices when it comes to turning 'characters' (and I use the term loosely) from the live action TransFormers movies into toys. Or not turning them into toys. Dark of the Moon featured a plethora of Decepticon troops being brought down from the moon which, you'd have thought, would give them the perfect opportunity to extend the toyline exactly the way they did with the first live action movie... Only by this point, they were already cutting costs, so even some of the 'named' movie bots only came out in one size class and others didn't come out at all.

So, in the movie, the three 'Dreads' - Crankcase, Crowbar and Hatchet - transformed into identical police SUVs. For the toyline, we got a Deluxe class Crankcase, Cyberverse Legion class versions of both Crankcase and Crowbar... and then a Cyberverse Commander class Hatchet, and it was nothing like the character's appearance in the movie...

Friday, 4 September 2015

TransFormers Collectors' Club OTFCC 2003 Shadow Striker & Roulette

(Femme-Bot Friday #30)
Something a bit special for this one - call it a 'Thrilling 30th' of my own, to celebrate passing the 3,000 pageviews in month milestone in August 2015.

Proving that Femme-Bot toys aren't such a new thing after all, the Official TransFormers Collectors' Convention (not BotCon) 2003 accompanied its RiD/Car Robots reimaginings of Sunstreaker and Sideswipe with another pair of siblings. Not only were they Femme-Bots, but they were original characters, created for 3H Productions' expanded Universe line.

Like much of RiD/Car Robots, I wasn't especially keen on these to begin with. Since starting this Femme-Bot Friday feature, I've been picking up a few figures that I may otherwise have skipped. I've been repeatedly put off by some rather high secondary market prices (often pushing £100 - normally, but not always, including shipping), so when I found this boxed pair in the display cabinets of Orbital Comics, priced at a much more bearable £60, I decided to treat myself.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

TransFormers: Prime Rumble

If the first live action movie was notable for its plethora of toys created from either otherwise unused concept art and designs from the associated videogame, it certainly wasn't unique in doing so. Granted, a lot of new 'characters' have been simple repaints of existing toys (with remolded parts in some cases, like TF Prime Hot Shot) but there have been occasions where an entirely new character has been created with no obvious explanation.

Considering how small the character roster in TF Prime actually was (fewer than ten individuals on each side!), it's both surprising and disappointing that Hasbro didn't add more toys into the mix, but one of the few wholly unique characters they did bring in was a complete re-imagining of one of G1 Soundwave's minions, Rumble

Monday, 31 August 2015

TransFormers: Prime First Edition Starscream

When I decide I like a mold - particularly if it's made to create some contemporary variation on one of the G1 Seekers, and especially if it makes all three - I tend to make it a mission in life to get as many iterations of the mold as possible. Since the Voyager class version of TF Prime Starscream hasn't - as yet - been reused for anything, I've only got the one instance of that mold. However, the Collectors' Club created a TF Prime-style Timelines Slipstream based on the First Edition mold, and that was pretty spiffy.

Thus hooked, I'm now fairly well on my way to getting all variants of this mold, but the first one I had to get was the original, rather hard to find, Deluxe-sized Starscream... 

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

A Second Gestalt Completed

And so, the very day after Leonidas and Zinnia arrived on my desk, the final component of Combiner Wars Superion turned up in the post. Weirdly, despite not ordering it specifically, I got the US/comic book version of Air Raid which is really cool, as he comes with what appears to be an issue of IDW's Combiner Wars series. On the other hand, that means I don't get the collectors' card that came with all the UK releases... (#firstworldproblems)

This now means that I'm basically done with Combiner Wars until I make a firm decision on whether I want the UK release of Ultra Magnus or the Takara Tomy version on import, and then basically done till next year's figures - Sky Lynx and the Combaticons - start to turn up. After that, it's anyone's guess... Hasbro are playing Combiner Wars as a weird and rather slow game.

Monday, 24 August 2015

Recent Acquisitions

The downside to having lots of new stuff to write about is that I haven't had time to photograph or write about any of it. I've recently had some incredible luck on eBay and with online retailers such as Gerrutcamaro, TFs-Express (formerly Transbridge Omegalock), Masterforce and Order Sixty-Six, not to mention a bit of a splurge in the TransFormers Collectors' Club's shop after signing up to their fourth year of the Subscription Service (I don't know much about the Mayhem Attack Squad, but turning them into a gestalt seems like a cool nod to Fun Publications first foray into Membership Incentive figures, Nexus Prime). It's entirely possible I've still spent less this month than I might have, had I attended AutoAssembly this last weekend but, by this point, probably not by much.

But, hey, I have just had a holiday during which I didn't visit a single toyshop...

I'm very much behind in my photography now, quite apart from still having a massive backlog of existing posts, so here's a stopgap photo of my most recent purchases:
Back row: SDCC2015 Combiner Hunters set, Perfect Effect PE-DX05 Leonidas
Middle row: Mastermind Creations Reformatted R-08Z Zinnia, GIJoe/TFCC Old Snake/Advanced Stealth BATs
Front row: BotCon 2013 Thundercracker, TFCC Subscription Service 2.0 Rewind, Chromedome & Micron Stylor
Not included, because the box has been stashed away already, is the Mastermind Creations Azalea Stealth Assassin, which I was fortunate enough to win on eBay for less than £30 (just over, including domestic shipping).

The Combiner Hunters set, Leonidas and the Advanced Stealth BATs were all no-brainers. Zinnia I ended up ordering because it turned up dirt cheap (less than £40 including shipping from the States) and I needed something to do with the Zinnia fenders I got with Salvia Prominon... little did I know there would be another pair included in the box! The rest... where kind of a whim. Since I was ordering the GIJoe/TFCC pack, I decided to order Chromedome as well, since he was the only SS2.0 figure I was really interested in. Then I figured I may as well also get Rewind, since he was still available, and I'm curious about the mold. Then I decided I may as well add Thundercracker since I'm quite keen on Skywarp from the BotCon 2013 Machine Wars: Termination boxed set (it's a slightly altered Harrier, and I'm very fond of that aircraft for some reason), and it was only another $19/£12 on the order. Weirdly, he now seems to be sold out!

  • the Combiner Hunters set is awesome, albeit quite weird.
  • Leonidas I haven't yet taken out of the packaging, but he's huge and looks gorgeous.
  • Zinnia looks pretty cool - more interesting than I'd expected, based on the photos I've seen online, so I suspect the photos I'll eventually take won't do her justice either.
  • Azalea Stealth Assassin arrived with a factory defect - the metal pin in her lower knee joint had been pushed through the plastic of the knee hinge, rather than through the hole - but that was easily fixed and now she's basically perfect.
  • I'm rather annoyed at the choice of carded bubble packaging for Old Snake/ASBATs, since I have to irreparably damage the packaging to get them out - whatever complaints one might have about the TFCC's usual packaging, that ain't one of 'em.
  • Thundercracker is cool, albeit with a bizarre colourscheme and a 'camouflage' pattern that looks like a rubbish, pixellated world map.
  • Rewind is distinctly underwhelming for a $49/£31 exclusive, and the spring-loaded piledrivers are on hair-triggers
  • Chromedome is awesome, and it's a real shame Hasbro didn't release any variations on the Wheeljack mold that I wanted to buy.

Full write-ups will be forthcoming... But possibly not for a while. You know me and my teasers - sometimes it's bloody years before the write-up finally happens (see the Shackwave debacle)

Friday, 31 July 2015

...And, with that...

Femme-Bot Friday has been a regular feature, every Friday, for twenty nine weeks... which is pretty good going for me, and just goes to show what a bit of occasional effort - and a lot of post-scheduling - can achieve. Since I now need to catch up on my Femme-Bot photography, I'm going to give the feature a short rest...

Never fear, though, Femme-Bot Friday will be an ongoing, just less regular feature from here on.

Hope you've all enjoyed it so far... and if there are any particular Femme-Bots you'd like to see covered in future, please do post a comment!

Also, just to note, I'm off on a brief holiday with my girlfriend and her family tomorrow, and haven't had time to queue up any posts. I'm back from my holiday now, but am in the midst of the busy period at work, so still not getting any toy blogging done. I'm sure you'll survive for a short while longer.

Mastermind Creations Reformatted: R-10 Salvia Prominon (Ancress)

(Femme-Bot Friday #29)
Since this is quite likely to be the last proper Femme-Bot Friday post for a while, I figured I should keep back something special. Not kept back long, mind you, as this is one of my most recent purchases... And, sure, it's yet another iteration of MMC's Azalea mold, but this one actually gets a new head... and, rather than being a homage to a mere femme-bot, Salvia Prominon is their take on Solus Prime, the first female Cybertronian and one of the Thirteen, the original Primes.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

FansProject Causality CA-01 Warcry

The first entry into the Crossfire offshoot, Causality, was a simple repurposing of the other half of FansProjects' Energon Bruticus upgrade set, Munitioner (aka Swindle) based on Micromaster Growl and not, as I'd assumed, a G2 Swindle-inspired repaint - thanks to Colbey Hopper for pointing that out! I'd stopped collecting by the time Micromasters rolled around, and only even saw any back when some were rereleased in the Universe line, around the time Cybertron/Galaxy Force was doing the rounds.

But, if the homage is lost on me, is a standalone remake of a third party combiner limb replacement still worth having?

Monday, 27 July 2015

Robots in Disguise (2015) Sideswipe

I genuinely intended to skip RID2015 completely. The look of the TV series - not to mention its focus on Bumblebee as team leader - just doesn't appeal to me. Then again, I said that about TransFormers Animated before sitting down to watch some episodes, and that won me over just enough to get me collecting the toys. RID2015 might be just as entertaining but, for the moment, at least, I don't feel inclined to give it a try.

The toys, meanwhile, look pretty terrible - cheaper-looking construction than TFAnimated, more simplistic than many of the TFPrime toys and the design generally has been a real let-down... but, on the upside, that's one toyrange I can save money on, allowing me to focus more on the likes of Combiner Wars.

Then Sideswipe came along... and, while I've heard and read lots of bad things about the toy, it looked interesting enough to be worthy of a closer look...

Friday, 24 July 2015

TransFormers Collectors' Club BotCon 2011 (Timelines) Shattered Glass Turbo Tracks

(Femme-Bot Friday #28)
Because we all know this is actually Timelines Road Rage, right?

Road Rage is also a far more interesting character than Shattered Glass Tracks because, in robot mode, she's a mild-mannered diplomat while, in vehicle mode, she's a foul-mouthed speed freak, contemptuous of anything else on the road. Which must be awkward.

As is often the case, I've now written up a couple of variants of this mold without first dealing with either the original Classics Tracks or the slightly remolded Wheeljack version... so just to compound my heinous error, here's yet another Exclusive version of this Classics car...

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Collecting, Then and Now

I may be a little bit evil, but I'm trying to get my niece into TransFormers*. I started her out on easy ones, giving her Optimus Prime (aka "Truck Man", when she forgets his proper name) and Grimlock from the Age of Extinction range of one-step changers for Christmas. Since she turned six this year, I got her Strongarm (yay, Femme-Bots!) and Jazz from the new Robots in Disguise line (for ages six and up, says the packaging). Not unexpectedly, she needed a little help, and will be hanging on to the instructions for a while... but I'm hoping that transforming them will become second nature after a while, and that her dexterity improves generally.

A lot of it - whether she chooses to become actively interested in the toyline, how quickly she learns to transform the toys, etc. - will depend on how her attention span develops. I was always very focussed... but then I grew up in a household where the TV came on only for certain shows, and when the only computers around were our 48K ZX Spectrums (nothing builds patience like spending 10 minutes loading a game that takes only five to complete). Their TV tends to be on just for background noise, and almost every flat surface carries a gadget of some kind, capable of distracting a wayward six-year-old.

Some of it, also, will depend on the pocket money situation. Granted, I was about ten years old when TransFormers arrived in the UK, and so I had a decent weekly allowance for things like toys. Enough to pick up some cool stuff, but not necessarily enough to - for example - get all the members of the G1 combiner teams I wanted before they disappeared from shelves (I struggle to remember how it all worked, but I remember TransFormers being a far more impressive presence, even in the likes of Tesco, than they are today... stacks of the larger, part die-cast Autobot cars seemed to be easily available, but not always what I wanted when I had the spare cash... I have recurring dreams about toyshops full of 'holy grail' TransFormers for a reason!). I have no idea how my sister and brother-in-law play the money angle, but I know they'll take their daughter round Toys'R'Us in the run-up to her birthdays and Christmas, making a list of anything her wandering eye alights upon (usually a bizarre and eclectic mix of styles and genres). I went through a lot of toylines as a nipper, but not all at the same time. While collecting TransFormers, I might occasionally pick up Robo Machines/Go Bots... but everything that wasn't a shape-shifting robot had been utterly eclipsed by that point.

Unless my niece does any collecting on her own, it's likely to become quite difficult to get her properly engaged in TransFormers as a brand (though, as I said at the start, I may be a little bit evil for trying in the first place!) as Hasbro seem intent on changing things around fairly quickly. Robots In Disguise is barely off the ground, and they're already repainting everything for something called 'Clash of the TransFormers' (surely the most ridiculous subtitle of any TransFormers line because, duh, obviously).

Back when I was a child, there was a better range of products in a single, focussed toyline. Now - quite sensibly, in some respects - Hasbro have broken things down into age ranges. Reduced complexity (1-Step, etc) for the very young kids, RID2015 for slightly older kids, Generations (currently Combiner Wars) for older kids and collectors. But this greater range rather waters down the brand, and means effort (and money) that could be spent on one cohesive toyline suitable to all ages (smaller, simpler toys, like the G1 Mini Autobots, for the younger kids, with toys becoming larger and more complex for older kids or child prodigies) is actually frittered away, shoehorning TransFormers into, for example, Hero Mashers - a contemporary equivalent of the non-transforming Action Masters - which covers several other brands, including Marvel's superheroes.

But most of the time, Hasbro seem to struggle to get the products onto the shelves in any significant way. We're always several months behind the US (sometimes an advantage, if there are running changes in certain toys) and each 'wave' can take months to materialise where, in the States, it seems like a matter of weeks. Granted, there are distribution problems even over there... but Europe lost out on an entire wave of toys due to lack of interest from the shops.

On the upside, that does mean (hopefully) more time to collect the very few toys that are released in each wave... On the downside, it means seeing the same things over and over again, and never knowing when the new stuff might appear, so running the risk of missing those toys that turn out to be unexpectedly popular.

The other problem is that so few Decepticons are being released these days, I'm starting to wonder if Hasbro shouldn't just ditch the idea of an Autobot/Decepticon civil war being waged on Cybertron and/or Earth, and just take one of the ideas posited by Galaxy Force a little further: a scouting party of Cybertronians visiting different planets of technically factionless 'bots built for different purposes, and all their adventures on those planets... Perhaps a quest to reunite the lost tribes of Cybertron, where the only conflict arises where some 'bots don't want to rejoin the family?

Supposedly, the lack of Decepticons is due to lack of interest in 'collecting the bad guys'... which, in my opinion, is more down to lack of characterisation. They tend to be cut-and-paste baddies who pose no real threat. If they were more interesting, complex characters with more believable goals, characters the kids could actually identify with, perhaps they'd be more popular toys. But then, the Autobots essentially tend to fit the Power Rangers stereotypes... and when we get better stories and better characterisations, we get ridiculously small numbers of characters (see TransFormers Prime). Maybe I'm missing something important, but why is a return to the G1 toyline model such a difficult thing to achieve, and why would it be a bad thing?

I'd love to get my niece some Decepticon toys, but the RID2015 Decepticons all look daft so far, seeming almost like cast-offs from Power Rangers rather than something suited to the TransFormers concept of 'Robots In Disguise'. Why has it become so difficult to create halfway decent Decepticons, even in the tired old 'war story' framework? And why do they so often end up with substandard toys? Sadly, I find myself perpetuating Hasbro's myth simply because Hasbro hasn't created many Decepticons I'd actually want to own... and I'm damned if I'll buy my niece a toy I'm not even vaguely interested in for myself.

* Yes, you read that right: I am attempting to entice a mere girl-child into enjoying TransFormers toys. I am very annoyed by the ridiculous division between "Boys' Toys" and "Girls' Toys", and outright offended by some specific examples - such as Nerf's Rebelle line of smaller, pink Nerf guns (I wholeheartedly endorse the supply of the biggest frickin' Nerf guns available to any girl who feels like shooting it). I have been equally offended when other TransFormers collectors say thing like "if I ever have a son, I'd like to pass my collection on to him" because, let's face it, what's to stop a daughter deriving equal enjoyment from them other than gender stereotypes and stone-age parenting?

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Combiner Wars Megatron

Considering that Combiner Wars Optimus Prime - based on the Motormaster mold - is a combiner torso, one would surely expect his Decepticon counterpart to perform the same function but, for the moment, at least, Megatron is his own standalone robot without any gestalt potential. Even stranger, Combiner Wars Cyclonus becomes the torso of Galvatronus, at once keeping in the tradition of Cyclonus being partnered with Galvatron (no hints yet of a CW Scourge, but they'd probably just churn it out as another repaint of either Alpha Bravo or Firefly, going by what we've seen of things to come in 2016), while irreversibly separating Galvatron from Megatron.

So... here we have the G1 version of a new tank-based Megatron (Hasbro losing points for originality straight off the bat, not even taking into account the almost immediate Armada repaint)... How does he stack up against the myriad others out there..?

Friday, 17 July 2015

TransFormers (Movie) Fracture Knockoff

(Femme-Bot Friday #27)
The trouble with buying stuff on eBay is that, all too often, a deal that looks too good to be true actually is too good to be true. I honestly wasn't aware that the Classics Mirage mold had been knocked off, let alone that it had been put to such an esoteric purpose...

...But, apparently, knockoffs happen when a toy is popular enough that demand outstrips supply, and it would seem that Hasbro's 2008 Go-Bots reference, in the extended live action movie toyline, was a perfect candidate for ripping off unsuspecting fans of these cheeky references to Bandai's old rival toyline.

Ladies and Gentlemen, let's meet this piece of rubbish I like to call K.O.rasher...

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

Generations (30th Anniversary) Blitzwing

Triple-Changers - specifically Astrotrain and Octane - were reintroduced fairly early on in the Classics line. Sadly for them, the Deluxe class size was basically inadequate to the task. For a while, it seemed that Triple-Changers were put on the backburner as a result, before their sudden and triumphant return in the form of 'Thrilling 30' Springer.

One Triple-Changing reboot deserves another, and so came Blitzwing - more G1-oriented in most respects, but with a curious TF Animated-inspired twist...

Monday, 13 July 2015

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2015 Members Incentive (Timelines) Lio Convoy

(Members Incentive Monday #11)
Over the last few years, I've been quite ambivalent about much of the Club's output. Membership figures have been fun, but the exclusives - and particularly the Subscription Service after year one - have been eminently avoidable... Just as well, considering the import charges I normally end up paying. In fact, overall, during the time I've been a member (wow... almost ten years now?), they've hit very few home runs.

But this year, something pretty miraculous happened. The club announced that one of its premium exclusives would be Nova Prime, based on the 'Thrilling 30' Orion Pax mold, but with a new head... and that this would also be used to create the 2015 Members Incentive figure... a reimagining of one of my favourite Beast Wars characters, none other than Lio Convoy!

Friday, 10 July 2015

3H BotCon 2001 Universe Arcee

(Femme-Bot Friday #26)
Once in a while I get a bee in my bonnet about a particular mold, or just a particular iteration of a particular mold... Especially if that iteration is an exclusive. For example, having spent many years thinking Beast Wars II Lio Convoy was the most ridiculous TransFormers creation in all history, I suddenly decided it was awesome and set about collecting as many instances of the mold as I could (currently the original and black versions of both the Robot Masters mold and the Beast Wars II version... Flash Lio Convoy I haven't bothered with thusfar because he looks rather like he's made of sparkly wee).

The latest example of this strange mania is the Beast Wars TransMetals version of Blackarachia which, thankfully, has only two iterations. One was the mass release in the TransMetals toyline... The other was this limited edition (1200 pieces, according to from BotCon 2001, back in the days when it was run by 3H Enterprises...

Sunday, 5 July 2015

A Big Day Out

A while back, my girlfriend Courtney managed to bag tickets for a live version of one of her favourite TV shows, Who's Line Is It Anyway?, ending its run at the Adelphi Theatre today. Our plan from the start was to pop into town earlier than necessary, so we could pay a visit to Forbidden Planet ('pay' being the operative word as both of us have trouble leaving without first opening our wallets). But, when we found that a new movie we were both very interested to see (Mr Holmes) was already being phased out in favour of some new summer blockbuster, our trip into town got shifted earlier into the day so we could fit that in too, at Picturehouse Central in Piccadilly.

Now, obviously, this being a TransFormers toy blog, I'm not going to suddenly launch into a review of Mr Holmes or write about Whose Line..? but Forbidden Planet is fair game. I didn't mention at the time but, on my birthday this year, my colleagues clubbed together to get me - amongst other things - £20 of Forbidden Planet vouchers, which went towards sci-fi books and, obviously, a bit of plastic crack. This time, I picked up the Hasbro version of Generations 'Thrilling 30' Sky Byte, a Sherlock Holmes-based card game and a talking plushie K-9 for Courtney (having said I'd get her one when I first saw it announced ages ago, then completely failed to find one).

For preference, I would have got the Takara Tomy version of Sky Byte because the plastic and paint job look far superior, not least due to the chrome and the authentic asymmetry of the paint on the shark's head. In the end, I had to admit that the darker blue plastic and chrome just weren't worth the premium on an import toy and, since FP are currently selling Voyager class toys slightly cheaper than the average UK toy shop (£22.99 rather than £24/25) and having passed him by on several previous visits to FP, there was only one left on the shelf, I just caved in and picked him up. Being a 2014 'anniversary' figure that I've never seen in any normal UK toy shops, I was keen on the idea of owning him, but mostly couldn't be bothered searching for it because I know it's not that great.

After Forbidden Planet, we went in search of dinner before the show, but we clearly hadn't spent as much time in Geek Heaven as we'd thought, as we still had plenty of time to get to Strand for the show. We'd gone to a nearby Pizza Express for dinner because Courtney had a voucher and just round the corner from the branch we chose was Orbital Comics' current digs in Great Newport Street. On my few recent visits to this location, they've always had an interesting selection of TransFormers merchandise, albeit not as great as the selection they had when they split into two shops (one for comics only, the other specifically for merchandise). I'm very glad we popped in there yesterday, though, because I managed to grab the final component of Combiner Wars Defensor, Legends class Groove, and another old exclusive - OTFCC 2003's Shadow Striker and Roulette... about £40 cheaper than I've seen them on eBay.

We also popped in on a couple of stationery shops, and I've now got decent cards for my niece's upcoming birthday and her next one, as well as some gift tags... So I can finally post her present off this coming week.

Friday, 3 July 2015

TransFormers Collectors' Club BotCon 2014 (Timelines) Flamewar

(Femme-Bot Friday #25)
Fun Publications, the folks behind BotCon, seem to have a thing for sexy, femme-fatale-bots. Flamewar was first introduced to the Timelines universe at BotCon 2005, in 'Decent into Evil', where she attempted to sabotage the Autobots investigation into Deathsaurus' insecticon revival. Seemingly destroyed by the Tripredacus Council, she has lain low until now, returning with a new look for BotCon 2014. Both were attendee exclusives, but this newer one is the first I've been able to buy because the first is already commanding silly money on eBay.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Combiner Wars In-Hand

Now that I've got almost two complete Combiner Wars gestalts, but don't currently have time to photograph them all and write them up fully, I figured I may as well note down a few thoughts I've had on my experience of the line thusfar...

Looking back at G1 combiners, and even the Energon/Superlink combiners, I feel that the size of the limb components is Just Right for a contemporary reimagining of the Generation 1 'Special Teams'... The G1 and Energon/Superlink toys are roughly equivalent to four Scout/Legends class toys and one large Deluxe/small Voyager, while Combiner Wars features decent-sized Deluxe limbs and reasonable Voyager torsos (Hot Spot feels better than Silverbolt for the most part, but largely because Silverbolt is just a chunk of robot stuck to a plane and not a proper 'TransFormer'), and the gestalt forms are an excellent size, in and of themselves: Superion stands at virtually 12", with Defensor coming in around 11", so they scale well enough with FansProjects' Intimidator, even if they're not half as intricate or polished. My FansProject-enhanced Energon Bruticus may end up getting moved around on my shelves, as I'm pretty much convinced I'll be getting Combiner Wars Bruticus when he arrives... next year.

The scaling goes a bit bonkers when Leader class Megatron gets involved, because he's not much smaller than the gestalts (about 8.5" tall) in robot mode, but scales OK with Protectobots Streetwise and First Aid in vehicle mode. Naturally all the Aerialbots and Protectobot Blades are poorly scaled in comparison, and Rook is technically a bit too small... but the scaling is far, far better than it was in G1. That said, Ultra Magnus will muddy the waters even further due to the molding of strange, miniscule door and ladder details which are supposed to be 'human size' so, rather than being a human-sized truck and car-carrier, he's a Cybetronian-sized vehicle... so surely he dwarfs Optimus Prime? Unless everything is that scale, in which case the whole element of 'disguise' goes out the window because everyone is massive.

For the most part, the quality of the figures has been great. A couple have loose hips which are good enough for their individual robot modes, but utterly detrimental to their usefulness as arms on the gestalts. The most common problem I've had is with the 5mm pegs and ports for the weapons - lots of them are pretty loose. All of the gestalt hands/feet are OK, but their use in each limb's vehicle modes can be distinctly variable. Streetwise's cannons, for example, are incredibly loose on his roof, and the socket isn't very deep anyway. Several of the limb bots have trouble grasping their weapons, and Hot Spot's guns don't peg together very securely as Defensor's rifle. Making matters worse on that one in particular, due to the way they're molded, they can only connect one way.

Paintwork is, as usual with Hasbro, rather contentious. Some are excellent, and really don't need any more paintwork than they have... others are quite obviously lacking paint. Streetwise, for example, has the beginnings of a blue bar running down the sides of his vehicle mode... but it stops, suddenly and jarringly, about halfway down his length.

Particularly impressive are the head sculpts and, for the most part, their range of movement. Each one is completely individual (so far!) and they look fantastic. Plenty of repaint potential in some but, for once, that comes across more like clever planning than cheapness on Hasbro's part. None so far have light piping, but it's not a terrible loss given that they're all very well detailed and nicely painted.

I confess I'm somewhat at a loss to imagine where they'll go after those two new gestalts announced at BotCon - Bruticus and Sky Reign - and this year's Fan Built Bot, Victorion. Will they remake the Seacons (they're already doing Legends partners as TargetMasters, and one of Piranacon's six components had to be a gun, so it's a good fit), or perhaps take another stab at Abominus, most recently seen as a weird Legends class combiner in the Beast Hunters toy range? Will there be a new Computron? Aside from Sky Reign and the TFCC's 2016 Subscription Service gestalt, will there be any wholly new and original gestalts created for Combiner Wars?

My guess is 'probably not'... but we can hope.

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

TransFormers: Prime Soundwave

Considering the TransFormers brand is, in several very meaningful ways, all about change, it's surprising how many in the Fandom are quite rigid in their view of some characters. Just look back at the outcry over the look of the robots in the original live action movie, and the extreme reactions elicited by just about every new TransFormers continuity as product shots appear on the web.

So when TransFormers Prime completely reimagined Soundwave as a virtually silent 'Big Brother' to the Decepticon ranks, not even fully trusted by Megatron, and transforming into - of all things - a military drone aircraft, not dissimilar to General Atomics' MQ-9 Reaper, the reaction was generally quite positive, or accepting at the very least, because his portrayal in the series was very well thought out, and suited the darker tone of the show perfectly.

But how does one go about turning a spindly drone into a transforming robot toy, even if that robot is just as spindly as his alternate mode?

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


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.