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...

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