Monday, 27 April 2015

On 'Action Figures'

By and large, when I got into TransFormers, I lost interest in 'normal' action figures. Nothing at the time compared to the fun of a robot that was also a vehicle. I do find it interesting, though, that the TransFormers Collectors' Club is operated by the same company as the GI Joe Collectors' Club. Sure, the two properties have crossed paths in the associated fiction (GI Joe became the B-Strip in the UK TransFormers comics for a while, long before the first GI Joe Vs TransFormers story surfaced). In fact, the way the two properties have interacted seems to have been a kind of barometer for the fortunes of Hasbro's military action figure line: each time its popularity wanes, there's a crossover... and in recent years, that's even happened with the convention exclusives.

Back in 2013, the San Diego Comic Con exclusives included two GI Joe vehicles repainted to resemble TransFormers characters (VAMP/Hound and Skystriker/Jetfire), a humanoid Bludgeon figure, and a (non-articulated) figurine of Ravage to accompany the Baroness. The year before, Cobra's HISS tank got repainted into Shockwave, and the year before that, the Skystriker was repainted as Starscream (packaged along with a Cobra Commander action figure with a Megatron gun accessory). This year, the TransFormers Collectors' Club itself - rather than the GI Joe club, strangely - is getting in on the act, repainting TF Prime Soundwave as a Cobra BAT and the Wheel Blaster Bike from the GI Joe: Retaliation movie toyline as Technobot Lightspeed. I'm not convinced of the wisdom of the TFCC in releasing a non-transforming TransFormers character as a GI Joe crossover exclusive, but it has been suggested that interest in the GI Joe club has been waning, and this is Fun Publications' attempt at bringing in new members... from their other pool of collectors.

But I digress.

About ten years ago, one of Takara's 'other' toylines, Microman, was celebrating it's 30th Anniversary, and did so with a whole bunch of licensed figures. I ended up buying a selection of Aliens Vs Predator figures (horribly fragile - several broke within days), Street Fighter and Batman figures, on a whim and based on how cool I thought they looked. Microman are approximately the same size as the main GI Joe range of 3.75" figures, but rather better articulated, so I thought it'd be interesting to try posing some of my Microman figures along with some of the motorbike TransFormers (and Third Party figures) just to see how they work.

To begin with, here's the obvious choice: Perfect Effect's Motobot RC with Microman (or, more accurately, Microlady) MA-10, Catwoman...

There's no arguing that RC is a large bike and, from this angle, Microlady Catwoman seems a bit too small in comparison. Her leg is sticking out quite a way, though, and her foot is more-or-less in a comfortable 'riding' position. As it turns out, the main problem is that the plastic of her leg, being unyielding, doesn't fit around the body of the bike as well as a real person's leg would, and the ball-jointed hips don't offer quite enough freedom of movement to let her 'hug' the bike the way a human would.

The figure's waist, chest, and dual shoulder joints allow for an excellent riding position in the upper body, and the neck has just enough range to allow her to look forward while riding, where a lot of human action figures still only have swivelling necks.

From this angle, the figure seems to be the right size for the bike - in fact, a quick glance at the kickstand reveals that it is Catwoman's leg propping up the bike, rather than the miniscule, flip-out foot. This speaks volumes for how well-scaled they are, given that her backside is more-or-less in the tiny block of 'seat', her arms look natural enough and the hands connect very securely to the handlebars. It's almost as if Perfect Effect designed their Motobots to scale with Microman figures. In a way, the only thing that lets this Microlady figure down is the large, solid buttplate, which never moves naturally and, on mine, at least, seems to rattle around loosely.

This Catwoman figure has been in storage since not long after I bought her and, annoyingly, when I got her out of the packaging again to take these photos, I found one of her shoulder joints broken. If I remember correctly, the mid-2000s were a bad time for Takara's quality control, and the 2004 anniversary was just the year before the merger with Tomy. Still, Microman figures were always well-designed, even when they weren't well-executed, and I actually had a few toys from the early 'Micronauts' toyline (the Mobile Exporation Lab, Warp Racer, Ultronic Scooter and another three-wheeled thing with a double-barrelled missile launcher) distributed in the UK by Airfix so I had some fond memories of that style of figure.

Other than Catwoman, I have Batgirl, a comics version of Batman, the Christopher Nolan/Christian Bale version of Batman and a weird futuristic Batman with chromed flight gear, Sakura and Chun Li from their Street Fighter series, a couple of Predators, two Alien Queens (one was going to be a birthday present for a friend, but we had a falling out not long before the day) and a set of Alien warriors, at least one of which broke within seconds of opening the packaging, and all of which were slightly floppy in one joint or another.

I know where Sakura, Chun Li are... and they're with another figure (but I can't remember which one!)... so, assuming I can find them, there may be further photos along these lines. Perhaps the Nolan/Bale Batman riding Aranea..?

So... Action figures have their uses, after all...

Friday, 24 April 2015

TransFormers Animated Arcee

(Femme-Bot Friday #15)
Dearest reader, I am a bad person.

I have mentioned on my extended 'About Me' page that I once bought and then deliberately wrecked another collector's G1 Doubledealer to facilitate a custom of my own but, more recently, I have bought from another collector a fairly rare, MOSC, early, glossy version of TF Animated Arcee - a rare enough figure, regardless of which version - and opened it up with malice aforethought. I have never and probably will never understand the bizarre motivations of the MISB/MOSC brigade, so I am unrepentant... but it feels rather awkward to have received a message from the seller hoping that I 'enjoy the figure' as much as he did, when I'd always intended to open it up. To my way of thinking, he'd never really enjoyed the figure, only the idea of it, sealed away in its plastic bubble.

So, confessions of my depravity out of the way, what's it like to finally own one of the first official TransFormers Arcee toys?

Friday, 17 April 2015

Revenge of the Fallen Chromia

(Femme-Bot Friday #14)
And here we have the second of the three 'wheelsnakes' from Revenge of the Fallen. These odd creatures were divisive among the fans, due (not even ironically) to their rather inhuman appearance (particularly versus the proposed original live action Arcee), but were all pretty cool in their own way.

While it wasn't clear in the movie whether Chromia and Elita-1 were separate characters or merely extensions of the reimagined Arcee, Hasbro saw fit to grant them individuality as toys, and even coloured the Deluxes as vague G1 homages... Though, curiously, this one almost works as a homage to TF Prime Arcee.

Things get confusing with the three RotF femme-bots...

Friday, 10 April 2015

New York Comic Con 2011 Arcee

Femme-Bot Friday #13
As you may have gathered from other posts, I'm a sucker for limited editions of any mold I like, but particularly G1-inspired repaints of new models/characters. When I first saw the New York Comic Con 2011 boxed set of Arcee and Bumblebee (with Jack and Raf), only one part of it really appealed to me. Thankfully, I have a friend with a collection of Bumblebees (and who, coincidentally, is quite fond of New York), so I hatched a devious play to acquire the boxed set and palm off NY Cab Bumblebee on her as a birthday present, keeping Arcee for myself.

Jack and Raf ended up staying with me, too...

Monday, 6 April 2015

Revenge of the Fallen Breakaway

In the very beginning, one thing you could count on in the TransFormers toyline was that jets would be Decepticons. In the cartoon, it was even stated that Autobots couldn't fly unaided (though that didn't stop 'em, when the plot required it). That lasted until the Aerialbots turned up and, from that point on, it was a free-for-all in just about every continuity.

Jump forward to Revenge of the Fallen and, while there were still no flying Autobots in the movie (except right at the end, via a throwaway deus ex machina), the toyline was still filling out the character roster with a few additional Cybertronians picked out of the licensed videogame.

Friday, 3 April 2015

TransFormers (Movie) Arcee (Target Exclusive)

(Femme-Bot Friday #12)
The first live action movie must have seemed like a license to print money for Hasbro. With such a limited cast of robots, they were able to make some additional toys of characters from the videogame but, beyond that, the toyline featured a lot of repaints. About a billion Bumblebees, and at least a couple of just about every mold, where a G1-inspired repaint was possible.

But beyond that, Hasbro looked into its back catalogue of Energon/Superlink toys and repainted anything that looked vaguely worthwhile... And so the Energon/Superlink biker femme-bot/Omnicon got two repaints... Having now written about this model four times already, there's not a great deal more to say, so this, like the Target Exclusive Elita-1 write-up, will probably focus more on the character.

On the upside, this will be the last time I write about this mold... until I get my hands on BotCon 2005 Flamewar...

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Classics Mirage

Classics was the right toyline at the right time for me - I'd got back into collecting TransFormers with the Binaltech and Masterpiece lines, but those models were few and far between... not to mention expensive. Classics arrived at an excellent price and at a decent size - a fairly consistent Deluxe class for most, with a few Voyagers here and there - and started out with several characters I'd missed out on back in the days of Generation 1. A whole two years before a G1 Mirage knockoff became widely available, Hasbro released an updated version of their untrustworthy, aristocratic spy...