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?