Saturday, 31 December 2016

2016 Retrospective

If I can make anniversary posts a proper thing, then hopefully I can continue the tradition of an annual roundup as well. This time, like the anniversary post, I added to each section during the course of the year rather than leaving it all to the last minute, and then scheduled its launch so I could sleep through New Year like the middle-aged grump I am!

So, here we have my roundup of the highs and lows of what turned out to be quite a tumultuous year...

Saturday, 5 November 2016

The Compulsion (+ addendum 28/11/16)

Apologies for another rambling, text-only and only barely toy related posting, but I'm still struggling to focus on the toys while in the midst of some big, important real-life stuff. There's nothing quite like expensive property matters to suck all the enjoyment out of life.

But I digress.

Back in my write-up of TFNation (day 2, specifically) I mentioned the Death's Head remix of Mastermind Creations' Reformatted Jaegertron figure, which they have named Anubis. While I didn't add it to my Want List, it certainly stuck in my mind because I rather liked Death's Head, the 'Freelance Peacekeeping Agent' created by Simon Furman and Geoff Senior back in the late 80s (I actually own most of the short-lived solo comics series from Marvel, though currently know the whereabouts of only one issue) and, while the Death's Head I know was never actually a TransFormer (though he did hunt them a couple of times), the idea of a transforming Death's Head tickled me greatly. That, coupled with the fact that Anubis was another TFCon exclusive, like the Feral Queen and Nero Queen set, meant I became quite keen on tracking one down.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

#tfytchomework RE: 3P, KO... When did it all become the same thing?

OK, I honestly didn't expect over a month to pass in between updates here, especially since that last post was completed quite some time before it went live, and I've had another draft in progress since before then... I'm having trouble with blogging generally, but today I found the opportunity to try something a bit different.

One of the things I quite like about YouTube is that, while it prioritises the channels I've subscribed to, the parameters for its recommendations are accurate enough to pick up on other material that I might actually be interested in, and one such video was this one from smsno1. It's a valid question, and there's at least one part in there that's worthy of deep consideration.

I know the point of these things is to provide a YouTube response video, but I'm still very much of the mind that I don't want to be a YouTuber, so this 'ere blog post will have to suffice...

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Eighth Anniversary

I've played things a little differently this year - rather than trying to cram my picks into this post over the course of a few hours before this blog's birthday rolls around, I've added items to it gradually, over the course of the year (and pretty much finished in June, bar an honourable mention or two), so that it can go live in the morning. It's been quite a year for special releases of one kind or another, with Takara Tomy's Unite Warriors and Legends interpretations of Hasbro's Combiner Wars and Titans Return figures and some phenomenal third party products. I can't decide whether I'm glad I got back into TransFormers back in 2003, or if I'm spending too much money and letting these damned things take up too much space in my flat... I've certainly had to rotate a small chunk of my collection back into its boxes... and may decide to flog some stuff off on eBay...

But let's forget all that for the moment, and celebrate my top eight purchases since last year (with apologies for listing some figures I haven't yet properly written up!)...

Friday, 9 September 2016

Robots in Disguise (2015) Windblade

(Femme-Bot Friday #40)
It comes to something when a toyline includes a homage to a toy/character that only came out one year ago... But then, Windblade isn't just another toy, she's quite a significant entry into TransFormers mythology for several reasons. First and foremost, she was the inaugural Fan-Built Bot, created from a series of online polls (an exercise which seems to have clued Hasbro in to the idea that TransFormers fans have been clamouring for more Femme-Bots, where the myriad Third Party releases did not). Secondly, she was introduced with a 4-part miniseries of comics from IDW, - written by Mairghread Scott and illustrated by Sarah Stone - in which her pivotal role in the upcoming stories (and, by extension, the toyline) was introduced.

I'm still not intending to collect the new Robots in Disguise range - I'm not a great fan of the angular aesthetic, most of the toys seem terribly simplistic and I've read reports of light and flimsy construction on some toys - but there are a few which are just no-brainers... or, at least, which should be...

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

TFNation - Day 2 & Toy Haul

Sunday got off to a better start despite not sleeping especially well again, but at least I didn't have another anxiety dream to ruin my day. I didn't bother with breakfast that day as I wasn't feeling at all hungry, but equally didn't make a beeline for the day's only purchase - the two-pack of DX9's War In Pocket G1/TransFormers: The Movie homages Leah and Toufold (aka mini-Arcee and mini-Kup). In fact, I ended up taking a walk around the hotel grounds and the nearby lake before even heading in to the main hall. After that, and having checked the day's scheduled panels, I decided to deal with checking out of teh hotel straight away, rather than risk missing the noon deadline sitting in one of the halls or wandering around the retail area.

Monday, 29 August 2016

TFNation - Day 1 & Toy Haul

The first indication I had that there was such a thing as TFNation was a somewhat cryptic business card-sized card on a table at Roll Out Roll Call. At first, I didn't even look into it and, had I known it was a convention rather than, say, a webstore selling TransFormers toys (which had been my initial assumption) I probably wouldn't have bothered with it. If I'd been told it was happening in Birmingham, specifically at one of the hotels in the NEC complex, I wouldn't have been keen because getting there would involved a train journey (I have terrible luck on trains - the first time I go anywhere is invariably a disaster) and paying for accommodation (albeit simplified as TFNation had made a deal for much-reduced rates with the hotel that was hosting the event).

In the end, I only properly found out about TFNation because of a posting on DaimChoc Reports' Facebook timeline, about Mastermind Creations' event-exclusive boxed set release of what had previously been an April Fool in their Reformatted line, Feral Queen, and its partner figure/repaint Nero Queen. It was created for a Canadian TransFormers convention but was also being brought to the UK - and TFNation - by Kapow Toys.

Monday, 22 August 2016

TFNation Waffle

This is not the full and proper summing up post (which will likely be split into two days again, as with Roll Out Roll Call) for a whole collection of reasons. I got back from TFNation yesterday evening after my train was cancelled and I had to take a later one. I'd slept very poorly over the weekend due - somewhat embarrassingly - to some very bad dreams, so I was basically exhausted the whole time anyway (Saturday in particular was a Very Bad Day for me) and, even now, feel in need of a weekend to recover (and not in the good way). Basically, I'm not yet in a frame of mind where I can look at my notes objectively and come up with a decent post.

Briefly, though, I bought some stuff, I enjoyed some stuff, and I'll write about it soon. Maybe even this coming Bank Holiday weekend...

In the meantime:
The Day 1 Haul in its meagre entirety.
Day 2 added only the DX9 War In Pocket Leah/Toufold set

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

DotM Mechtech Crankcase

The giant alien robots in the TransFormers movie series have, so far, been pretty light on character, and there haven't been any of the traditional teams so far (Starscream but no Seekers, Devastator but no properly individual Constructicons) and, when a proper team was introduced - the ground-based 'Dreads' in Dark of the Moon - they were all unceremoniously offed by the Autobots before we learned anything interesting about them.

While all three appeared on screen as large black SUVs, in a strangely uneconomical move, they were reimagined for the toyline, with two becoming Legends class cars, another being a Cyberverse Commander class jet, and only one becoming a Deluxe class toy that vaguely resembled the character's on-screen appearance. That lucky fellow was Crankcase...

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Generations (30th Anniversary) Doubledealer

As far as I can recall (and without popping back to my parents' house to raid the cupboard in which most of my G1 toys remain to this day) I only ever bought two Powermasters: Optimus Prime and Doubledealer. The former was a no-brainer (albeit quite disappointing in-hand, as it turned out) simply because it was the latest incarnation of Optimus Prime (and was accompanied, in the Marvel comics of the day, by a very strange story). The latter was rather more unusual, in that it was a Dual-Powermaster Triple-Changer with an Autobot mode and a Decepticon mode.

Sure, it wasn't unprecedented - Punch/Counterpunch came out the year before - but this was the first time a faction-switching Triple-Changer made it over to this sceptred isle. The idea of an effectively neutral character, willing to work for either side, tickled me, as did the fact that the humanoid robot was an Autobot and the bird-like robot was a Decepticon, with the vehicle mode bearing no visible insignia. This 'Thrilling 30' update, based on the Blitzwing mold, plays things a little differently...

Thursday, 28 July 2016

Device Label Broad Blast (aka Blaster)

Music Label and Device Label were two very short-lived offshoots from the TransFormers brand, created by Takara Tomy, which featured functional memory sticks (2Gb - paltry by today's standards) and optical mice which transformed into robots. They were so short-lived, in fact, that they seem in retrospect to have been created to facilitate one particular model in each case (Soundwave, under the Music Label banner, for example).

The last two releases in the Device Label line were a third repaint of the memory stick (as Cheetor, supposedly, Takara Tomy having used the same mold first as Ravage, then as Tigatron) and a the only model never to be repurposed: a functioning 4-port USB hub made to look like a Toshiba laptop. How does Blaster fare with such a strange alternate mode? Let's find out...

Monday, 25 July 2016

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2016 Members Incentive (Timelines) Ramjet

(Members Incentive Monday #12)
This is very likely to be the last ever Members Incentive Monday on this blog, unless Hasbro license a new Collectors' Club or, y'know, set up one of their own. These 'free' figures, given away since the very first year of Fun Publications' tenure at the helm of the Club, have been a welcome benefit of international membership to a club which is, awkwardly, based in the States and primarily geared toward the domestic market there. They haven't always been awesome figures, but they frequently exceeded my expectations.

Ramjet arrived a few days before Roll Out Roll Call, and was one of those Membership Incentive figures I had very low expectations of - I quite like the Armada Seeker mold, despite the massive protrusion from the back of its shoulders, but the Generations remake seemed pretty pointless. Based on a 2003 Toys'R'Us exclusive Universe repaint of Armada Skywarp, this is probably one of the more obscure homages the Club have released. Is it as dull as I was expecting?

Saturday, 23 July 2016

Someone Up There Likes Me...

And, by "up there", I mean at WeiJiang/BlackApple, because now there's going to be an upsized and vastly improved version of Dark of the Moon Megatron, just like I've always* wanted!

Going by the images, it scales very well in vehicle mode with other (early) movie figures and MP10 (at least, I think that's MP10 and not their own MPP10) and, going by the comparison with Hasbro's version, it may well be even taller than M01. It strikes me that the head is disproportionately small to the rest of the robot, but proportionally similar enough to the original toy to make me think it's due to the amount of space available to it in vehicle mode... but, even with a shrunken head, he looks pretty cool. Can't wait to see what accessories he comes with (damaged head? fabric cloak?) and whether or not he'll have any weapons beyond the shotgun... It looks very much as though his entire tanker transforms into his legs now, meaning no upsized Mechtech fusion cannon...

(* 'always' being since I first learned about their upgraded/upsized Age of Extinction Evasion Mode Optimus Prime)

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Unite Warriors UW-06 Combiner Haunt Leader Grand Galvatron

Combiner Wars and Unite Warriors have both had a very strange approach to some of their characters. One of the earliest releases was a very G1-styled standalone Leader class Megatron, followed by a Voyager class Optimus Prime who could combine with four other Autobots to become 'Ultra Prime'. We later got a standalone Leader class Ultra Magnus and 'Galvatronus', a gestalt whose limbs could be whichever mind-controlled Autobots or Decepticons he cared to subjugate... neatly removing any need for Hasbro to provide Cyclonus with his armada, or even a ramshackle team of his own. Hurrah for Hasbro and their amazing talent for never releasing enough Decepticons!

As a result, while I had high hopes for Takara Tomy's take on Bruticus, I had been all set to get through Combiner Wars with no other Decepticon gestalts aside from this year's Collectors' Club Subscription Service combiner, Thunder Mayhem. Then Takara Tomy announced their Unite Warriors Grand Galvatron set, with a positively opulent repaint of CW Cyclonus as its centrepiece, and a rag-tag team of cross-continuity limb-bots of his very own, which combined to form a version of Galvatron based heavily on the G1 toy and, as is my wont, I put through a preorder almost immediately because my hypocrisy knows no bounds.

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

One Clearly Wasn't Enough...

...Because, with Roll Out Roll Call out of the way, I've now registered myself for TFNation, at AutoAssembly's old digs in the Birmingham Hilton Metropole, at the NEC.

I know I've previously stated that the schlep up to Birmingham or down to Southampton by train wasn't especially appealing to me, and that honestly hasn't changed. The only times I managed to attend AutoAssembly, I was driven up and back by car.

RORC was a lot of fun, though... and, having made the effort to attend, I decided I'd aim to attend again next year. TFNation had some advertising cards at RORC, but they weren't exactly going out of their way to advertise, and I only really started looking into it this week. There are two reasons I'm making the effort to attend a second TransFormers convention this year (and only a few weeks after the first!):
  1. My girlfriend is taking a short holiday, visiting a friend in Munich, so I'd be on my own that weekend anyway
  2. I've been thoroughly seduced by a couple of ladies who will be there
They are, in fact, event exclusives. They made their debut at TFCon in Canada, and are making their way over to TFNation. Kapow Toys are/were taking reservations (that is, the "last chance" was announced on 17th... not clear when that last chance actually expires) for collection at the show at the very reasonable price of £80 and, while they reckon that any left over after the show will be put up on their website, I'm less inclined to take the chance that any will be left over considering the scarcity of the previous show exclusives.

The only potential problem is that it's occurring at the end of a particularly busy week at work, and one of my colleagues is leaving on the Thursday. It shouldn't affect my ability to get there (I've booked a train a couple of hours after I should have left the office), but equally I don't have the best track record when it comes to travelling by train: the first time I go anywhere tends to be problematic due to a variety of public transport reasons.

Still, that's another couple of gorgeous Femme-Bots to look forward to...

Sunday, 10 July 2016

Roll Out Roll Call - Day 2 & Toy Haul

Yes, you read that correctly - there's a toy haul for today, after I'd essentially decided I'd bought everything I wanted to yesterday.

Except with caveats:

Saturday, 9 July 2016

Roll Out Roll Call - Day 1 & Toy Haul

I was completely thrilled when Roll Out Roll Call announced they bringing their show to a hotel near Heathrow in 2016. Just about every other TransFormers convention in the UK has been either way up north (Birmingham, for AutoAssembley) or way down south (Southampton for previous RORCs), involving lengthy journeys in either direction and, frequently, the necessity to stay overnight.

But Heathrow is basically in my neck of woods - way out West London. Heathrow Airport is best accessed by taking a train toward the City, changing part-way, then heading back out again in a slightly different direction, which tends to take about an hour or so. The Radisson Blu Edwardian, meanwhile, is a mere 45 minutes away by bus. Of course, this being a new route for me, I decided to leave a little over an hour before the show was due to open, to give myself some leeway in case of traffic problems. Getting there turned out to be simplicity itself - easier, in fact, than TfL's Journey Planner made it look. Pretty much bang on 45 minutes, and I was bumming around the hotel's atrium, waiting for registration to start.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2016/Combiner Wars Spinister

As with the first two components of Thunder Mayhem, I know very little about Spinister... which is amusing, considering he's apparently characterised as a bit of a 'mech of mystery'. The G1 Double TargetMaster is here reimagined as yet another reuse of the Alpha Bravo helicopter mold, with the same stock weapons and the same Generations TargetMaster guns as Needlenose, just with different paint jobs.

So far, so blah... are we already seeing a downward trend in the 2016 Subscription Service figures?

Sunday, 19 June 2016

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2016/Combiner Wars Grabuge (aka Ruckus)

Because, in between publicising their Subscription Service 4.0 and actually shipping the toys, the Club lost not only its Timelines banner, but access to the name Ruckus as well... so he's called Grabuge now... which was the French Canadian name for Ruckus back in G1 days. Amusingly, 'grabuge' can also mean 'mayhem', which is pretty appropriate for a member of the Mayhem Attack Squad, who will combine to form Thunder Mayhem.

But we're still quite a way from that particular level of mayhem, with Grabuge Ruckus here being only the second of the five members to arrive... So how does he shape up?

Saturday, 18 June 2016

UFO Toys UP-2 Mega Arm & TF Dream Factory PJ-01 Evil-Blood Blade

I originally wrote about the Leader class Megatron figure from the Revenge of the Fallen toyline over six years ago, when I found it to be a rather poor attempt at realising the movie's CGI as a plastic toy. Given it's simplicity and lack of screen accuracy, one could be forgiven for thinking it wasn't even from the same toyline as its counterpart Optimus Prime, which is still one of the best TransFormers toys to come out of the movie line.

The problems with Megatron were mostly due to the CGI design being shit. Megatron in the movies was never recognisably Megatron, and not just because he didn't turn into a gun. After all, Megatron has been a jet/spacecraft thing before (Energon, Animated) and since (Prime, Generations), he's been a tank about a billion times (G2, Armada, Classics, off the top of my head) and since (Generations/War for Cybertron, twice so far in Combiner Wars). The problem was that, while all the other Decepticons and Autobots looked like robots that turned into vehicles, Megatron had been conceived as a character who felt that disguise was beneath him. The inevitable result was that he didn't look like much of anything in either robot or vehicle mode until Dark of the Moon and by that point he was, for the most part, a rusty shell of his former self.

As a result, the toys were terrible until the Dark of the Moon toyline, with the first being a misshapen jet/spacecraft made out of spikes, and the second being a misshapen tank made out of spikes. Both turned into misshapen robots made out of spikes, both had limited or poorly-designed articulation and neither one truly felt like they lived up to the potential of any of the available size classes. One would think, though, that Hasbro would have been able to do a better job of representing the rebuilt Megatron and his 'Murder Arm' considering the fact that his primary claw/blade pretty much disembowels Optimus Prime before his arm cannon finishes him off is quite a major 'plot' point in the movie, such as it was... and yet what we got was this:
"So... disappointing."
A downright shabby, poorly articulated, spring-loaded missile-launching mess, with a limply spring-loaded blade attached to a large, clawed plate... and then there's the other arm, known less than affectionately as 'the gimp arm', which is essentially the animatronic skeleton of a Skeksis spliced to a short, shrivelled arm on which the elbow is evidently also the wrist.
A tank... though almost by default.
Its vehicle mode looks like a robot doing weird alien yoga thanks to not even attempting to disguise the head (accurate to the movie CGI though that may be). Whereas RotF's Leader class Optimus Prime managed to include lights and sounds without sacrificing intricacy, this one - much like its predecessor - faked or bodged its detail to accommodate utterly lacklustre effects, and could have been made just as well in a smaller size class... My RotF Megatron has been stuffed into a box in the bottom of my wardrobe - along with the original movie's Optimus Prime toy, several others which were superseded by better toys, and a whole host of other junk - since I bought the Dark of the Moon Voyager toy.

But RotF Leader class Megatron need no longer suffer these ignominies. Two third party companies have independently developed replacements for both arms of this toy and, while it seemed pretty pointless to upgrade to UFO Toys' left arm and leave the right with its ugly, spring-loaded toy arm, the appearance of TF Dream Factory's take on the 'Murder Arm' suddenly seemed to turn both into must-have upgrades.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

Generations Laserbeak

Every so often, Hasbro seems to have read my mind in a particularly bizarre and sadly incomplete way. I noted when I wrote about Tokyo Toy Show 2010 Dreadwing & Smokescreen that the Mindwipe/Strafe/Dreadwing mold was basically suitable for a custom movie Soundwave, had he not been turned into a car. Since Smokescreen could then have doubled for a Cobalt Sentry Garboil analogue, when images of Hasbro's own Laserbeak repaint (released only in the Asian markets initially) surfaced, the only surprise was how good it actually looked.

Friday, 10 June 2016

TransFormers Collectors' Club Botcon 2005 (Timelines) Flamewar

(Femme-Bot Friday #39)
In a lot of ways, this somewhat hard-to-find BotCon exclusive is the origin of my femme-bot fixation, moreso than the original Energon/Superlink Arcee/Ariel or the Paradron repaint. This is partially because I just really like the mold, and a lot more because it was so hard to find at a reasonable price. She turns up once in a while on eBay, with her price ranging between £120/$175 and £185/$270 but, though exclusive she may be, she's still only a Scout class figure, and even the low end of the secondary market price scale is a little more than I'm comfortable paying.

Cut to April of this year, when one turned up on eBay at less than £60/$80, with the only caveat being that while the figure and weapon parts were in their sealed bag, she was without her bio card and instructions. Call me crazy if you will, but a 50% saving at the expense of a mediocre bio featuring hideous artwork and a sheet of instructions I already have for other iterations of the mold represents, to me, a saving well worth taking advantage of.

Sunday, 5 June 2016

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2014 (Timelines) Chromedome & Stylor

While I was very keen on the TF Prime Wheeljack mold, I wasn't sufficiently keen on any of the remolds released by Hasbro to pick any of them up - the Dark Energon version seemed pretty pointless (except as a homage to Slicer) and their repurposing as Dead End was garish and ugly. Takara Tomy's use of the mold as Arms Micron Wildrider is slightly more tempting, but what really took my fancy was the Collectors' Club's use of the mold as a very IDW-inspired Chromedome, released as part of their second Subscription Service group, from which I also picked up Barricade and Rewind.

But how does this former HeadMaster fare, now that his partner is a TargetMaster/Arms Micron?

Saturday, 4 June 2016

Armada Laserbeak

Obviously this is going back a few years in my collection but, unless I'm very much mistaken, Laserbeak was one of the first TransFormers: Armada figures I ever picked up... and so is quite possibly responsible for getting me back into collecting the mainstream toy releases.

While Laserbeak is traditionally a Decepticon, the Armada version was an Autobot. In the TV show, he was little more than a drone - somewhat similar to TF Prime Soundwave's minion - so, on the surface, he seems like a strange choice for a standalone toy, particularly since he could easily have been made as a Mini-Con.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

KuBianBao Deformation Detective

Knockoff merchants have long been know to upsize existing toys in an attempt to make their luridly coloured, poor quality plastic and simplified mechanics less of an issue - bigger toy meaning greater value for money, and all that. In more recent years, though, many knockoff merchants have developed the audacity to knock off official products - and, occasionally, Third Party products - without simplifying the engineering at all... and one or two have even had the bare-faced cheek to improve upon the original.

One such manufacturer is KuBianBao, whose Deformation brand has knocked off and enlarged both Age of Extinction and Combiner Wars figures (though not, as yet, any of the gestalts). There seems to be a competition going on between KuBianBao and WeiJiang over the size of their oversize figures and the extras they come with. While WJ have produced the ultimate movie Optimus Prime figure, KBB's take on Hound seemed to be a more appropriate size versus some of the genuine figures and comes with a knock off of Doctor Wu's Mercenary kit.

Sunday, 22 May 2016

TransFormers Collectors' Club BotCon 2015 (Timelines): 'The Boss' Megatron

BotCon 2015's boxed set - Cybertron's Most Wanted - was an interesting concept, but only really had a couple of actual figures I was interested in. One in particular was the inspired - in my opinion - repurposing of the TF Prime/Arms Micron Breakdown mold (specifically the zombie/'Silas/CyLAS' version Takara Tomy put out) as a cross-continuity Dark of the Moon Megatron.

Friday, 20 May 2016

Beast Wars Metals Airrazor

(Femme-Bot Friday #38)
Yes, you read that correctly - I had to double-check the box, instructions and bio card to be certain but, for no obvious reason, Beast Wars Metals Airrazor has a double-R in her name. For the sake of simplicity (and because I'm more used to typing a single R in her name) I'm going to call her Airazor throughout. That's not the strangest thing about the BWM version of one of my all-time favourite femme-bots, though. The strangest part is that, since she and Tigatron were imprisoned by the Vok at the point when the quantum surge hit, she never had a TransMetals form in the TV show, though she did in an incomplete 3H Productions comic.

I've seen plenty of photos of this figure over the years and it never really lit my candle in any way, shape or form, despite my fondness for the character, because the vast majority of TransMetals toys seemed to be a bit on the rubbish side, and the fact that she was repurposed into Armada - largely a junkpile of poorly-designed toys - kept her off my radar.

...Buuuut... Times change, I started this Femme-Bot Friday feature, and I figured it'd be worth picking up the first ever TransFormers mold that was designed to be a canonical femme-bot (the original BW Airazor wasn't designed to be any specific gender, and the original Blackarachnia doesn't count as she's just a repaint of Tarantulas). I picked up the Japanese version largely because it was available fairly cheaply on eBay, but I've since realised there are some significant differences to the US/European version, so I'm very glad I chose this one over the Hasbro version.

Sunday, 15 May 2016

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2016/Combiner Wars Needlenose

And so the penultimate year of the TransFormers Collectors' Club's distinctly variable Subscription Service begins. Being an international member, I tend to get my Club figures about three to four weeks after US members, and this year's Subscription Service looks as though it won't be an exception.

It brings with it, just like this year's BotCon Set, a sense of the Club coming full circle: its first Membership Incentive figures were the five components of a Superlink/Energon-style gestalt, Nexus Prime, and so its penultimate Subscription Service is creating a new, Combiner Wars-style gestalt. More than that, just like all the figures from BotCon, this is not a Timelines set, it's labelled in every way as part of Combiner Wars.

When this year's set was announced, I was intrigued, but pretty ambivalent - and hadn't expected the massive glut of awesome Combiner Wars/Unite Warriors stuff that subsequently appeared - so I signed up eagerly. I don't know anything about the Mayhem Attack Squad, or the variation on Thunderwing - Thunder Mayhem - which they combine to form, but the idea seemed cool, and I liked the idea of building another Club gestalt.

Let's see how the first component looks...

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Slowing Down, By Necessity

There comes a time in a Collector's life when their collection begins to exceed the available space to display/store it and a tough decision has to be made. Anyone who's checked out my Want List will notice that I am allowing it to slowly decline as I obtain things, and I haven't added many new 'wants' in recent months. Granted, this is partly because the upcoming Titans Return toyline doesn't look that interesting to me, beyond a couple of figures. I'm baffled that, with a perfectly good Combiner Wars Megatron and a reasonable CW Optimus Prime (Takara Tomy's Grand Convoy set looks good, Hasbro's 'Each Sold Separately' version not so much), Hasbro feel the need to bring out a new, smaller model for each under the Titans Return brand, when there's already a larger, Powermaster Optimus Prime and TR Galvatron's partner, Nucleon, looks suspiciously like Megatron.

I also have - for the time being, at least - all the Third Party figures I have a particular interest in. Most of what I've seen that's due out in the next year or so doesn't light my candle in any particular way, or is simply too large/expensive for consideration in the foreseeable future. Some of it looks excellent, but there's simply no place in my collection for most of it.

I've never been able to put things like the BotCon boxed sets on display, all my Binaltech models and Alternity models are back in their boxes (and under consideration for selling off, though the former are 20th Anniversary items and the latter are simply very cool), Several of the larger/older TF Movie figures have been stashed in my wardrobe (the first movie Leader class Optimus Prime toy having been thoroughly superceded by the RotF version, and two movie Leader class Megatrons having been superceded by the Voyager class DotM version). Some of the Beast Wars figures I picked up a few years ago have been put back in their boxes also, having been superceded by their Generations remakes.

Boxes for the myriad Japanese and Third Party figures on display are hidden inside the sofa-bed in my lounge and stacked atop my four Ikea 'Billy' cabinets, which are rearranged periodically to accommodate new items. Sadly, these are only becoming more and more crowded. Due to the pattern of holes drilled for 'Billy' shelving, it's possible to add additional shelves in where the maximum height of the contents of existing shelves permits, leaving occasional 'short' shelves purely for storage or for holding smaller items (one cabinet has had a Mini-Con shelf for ages, a whopping 3" high, for example), but the positions of the three hinges on each door - and the central, structural shelf - can be a limiting factor.

So, despite both my Amazon Wish List and my eBay Watch List featuring a number of items I'd love to pick up as soon as the funds are available (and I've been attempting to keep to a monthly budget so far this year, with some success), I feel I must wait until more space is available, or I'll have to start buying stackable plastic crates to dump an entire shelf's-worth into just to accommodate new purchases. Such crates are easily obtainable, but present 'storage challenges' of their own. The items I have on preorder, therefore, will likely be my only new purchases for some time (unless something 'must have' springs up), while I figure out how best to organise my existing items.

Fear not, though, for I have plenty of draft posts remaining, and many items besides which I have yet to photograph. With the preordered items, this year's Club Membership Incentive and Subscription Service figures still to come, I could probably comfortably post for the remainder of the year without any further purchases.

So, that's the idea... let's see how it goes...

Friday, 13 May 2016

Mastermind Creations Reformatted: R-08Z Zinnia (Parapax Medic)

(Femme-Bot Friday #37)
You'd think, by now, I'd be well and truly bored of Masterminds Creations' femme-bot mold or, at least, being rather more choosy about which ones I pick up now that I have both exclusive versions and the adaptation into the female Prime. In truth, I probably should be, but there's something compelling about this mold, and I really did want the Paradron Medic version, not least because the 'missing' backpack components/fenders were included with Salvia Prominon.

Of course, buying things second hand on eBay always comes with risks, so I'm sure you're all itching to know what went wrong with this one.

Tuesday, 10 May 2016

TransFormers: Prime Beast Hunters Prowl

Here's what I don't get about Hasbro's strategy: the TF Prime toyline got about a billion versions of Bumblebee, in all different size classes and with several different paint jobs, but Smokescreen - who changed his paint job after only a few episodes from white to blue, and remained blue till the end of the series - never got repainted to match his on-screen counterpart...

...Instead, the mold received a new head, a lightbar, and a new paint job and became Prowl - at once a G1 homage and a reference to the online TransFormers game that was getting a lot of press at the time.

It's baffling to me that Hasbro will miss obvious opportunities, only to bodge together something 'new'... but, hey, Prowl's a cool addition to the TF Prime toyline, even if he never appeared in the show, right?

Sunday, 8 May 2016

Revenge of the Fallen Legends Constructicons set

Much as I despise the way Devastator was wasted in Revenge of the Fallen, turned into a mindless brute apparently made up using duplicates of Demolishor (offed by Optimus Prime in the opening minutes of the movie), Rampage (offed by Bumblebee in a separate fight) and Scrapper (ripped apart for spares at the behest of Scalpel, to resurrect Megatron), amongst others, and unceremoniously wrecked by a terrestrial battleship's high tech weapon, I have to admit I quite like the concept and the look of the result. It was nothing like G1 Devastator, but it looked like a robot that should be called Devastator. It had potential and, perhaps, if production of Revenge of the Fallen hadn't clashed with the writers' strike, it might have been more impressive.

The giant-sized, light-and-sound infused version of Devastator was tempting, but the fact that it was so huge, yet his components had no individual robot modes, made the whole thing pointless. I still kind of wanted a RotF Devastator toy, though, and thankfully Hasbro decided to release a cut down, Legends class set... with a bonus extra character not used in the larger figure, but who did feature in the movie... though not necessarily as a component of Devastator.

Saturday, 7 May 2016

Tokyo Toy Show 2010 Dreadwing & Smokescreen

I noted in my write-up for Reveal the Shield Strafe that I would much rather have purchased Mindwipe, but I don't think he was ever available in the UK - lost, perhaps, thanks to another of Hasbro's remarkably short-sighted marketing decisions. The mold itself was great, but Strafe's colourscheme was terrible, and meant I had a Skystalker with no vehicle mode partner.

Enter 2010's Tokyo Toy Show, at which a repainted set of the two molds was available as a boxed set of Generation 2 Dreadwing & Smokescreen (aka RiD Dreadwind & Smokejumper in blue)

Friday, 6 May 2016

Generations (30th Anniversary) Sky-Byte

I have to confess that, never having seen more than a couple of episodes of the early 2000s 'Robots In Disguise' TV show (a friend bought a random DVD - titled "Sideburn's Obsession", after one of the episodes included on the disc - in a charity shop) Sky-Byte is a bit of a random whim purchase, even by my standards. Not only that, but the original mold was used as a Maximal in Beast Wars Transmetals 2, then transferred into Robots In Disguise/Car Robots along with a whole host of pan-generational repaints on the Decepticon/Predacon side. As far as I can tell, while the Autobots were mostly new molds, the Decepticons/Predacons had only one - Megatron/Galvatron.

The original Sky-Byte was one of the weirder-looking molds, with a very awkward and asymmetrical robot mode and an oddly posed cybernetic beast mode. Coming 15 years after the original Transmetals 2 figure, what improvements can the Generations version bring?

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Galaxy Force Exigeyser

The Galaxy Force TV series pulled some strange moves once in a while. While 'Super Modes' were not uncommon, they had tended to be an upgrade thing among the Decepticons (RID/Car Robots Megatron becoming Galvatron, Armada/Micron Legend Megatron getting upgraded to Galvatron, Energon/Superlink Megatron getting upgraded to Galvatron, Cybertron/Galaxy Force Megatron getting upgrade to - you guessed it - Galvatron). But when a group of three Autobots were thoroughly trounced by Megatron, in the Cybertron/Galaxy Force TV series, they didn't just dust themselves off the way they might have in any other series... They received some pretty heavy-duty upgrades.

Exillion, aesthetically the closest thing the toyline had had to a proper Hot Rod in years (all the Hot Shots being pale imitations), went through one of the more dramatic reformattings... and, while Hasbro's version simply gained the prefix 'Cybertron Defense' on his name, his Galaxy Force counterpart got a whole new name.

Monday, 2 May 2016

Cybertron Cryo Scourge

Hasbro has a habit, when crafting some of its characters, of re-releasing them as their opposite to some degree. Hence we have a Nemesis Prime in as many continuities as possible, and Transmetals 2 Megatron got remade in shades of blue and re-released as RiD (2001) Cryotek.

A similar, yet different path was taken with Cybertron Scourge (aka Galaxy Force Flame Convoy) where he has somehow become "irreversibly mutated" by "long exposure to the freezing waste of deep space" which somehow transforms all his fire-breathing, etc. into ice powers. Because SCIENCE! (with apologies to my Physics student girlfriend who would no doubt facepalm at the mere suggestion).

So, is it time for me to break out the ice puns?

Sunday, 1 May 2016

TransFormers (Movie) Jazz (Target Exclusive G1 Repaint)

When Jazz was first revealed as a character in the first live action TransFormers movie, few people would have foreseen that, by the time the credits rolled, the issues with his alternate mode would be the least of our complaints. Sure, the Pontiac Solstice isn't a patch on the Porsche 935 of the original G1 character, and silver was a boring - yet predictable - choice of body colour (later misapplied to Sideswipe as well) but, seriously, movie Jazz was under-characterised and wasted in every sense of the word.

So here's a deep, philosophical question for you: Does a G1 repaint of an underwhelming toy of a wasted character make up for any of that? As the 'bot himself would surely say, "Do it with style, or don't bother doing it".

Saturday, 30 April 2016

TF Prime 'Ultimate Opponents' Bumblebee

When I wrote about the mass release of TF Prime Bumblebee, I noted that his anaemic colour and some of the dodgier aspects of his construction left him feeling like a knock-off. Even so, I didn't feel any particular need to pick up the First Edition version and, in fact, when I did acquire one version of FE Bumblebee in the NYCC2011 set with Arcee, Jack and Raf, I happily parted company with New York Cab Bumblebee, giving him to a friend who collects versions of Bumblebee across all continuities.

I did also note that the FE version exhibited several improvements over the mass release... so when another version of FE Bumblebee turned up in a set with another version of FE Starscream, I figured I may as well give him a more serious looking-over.

TF Prime 'Ultimate Opponents' Starscream

I'm going to have to confess to being a little obsessed with the First Edition Starscream mold at some point... Having picked up the original as a result of the awesome TFCC Subscription Service figure Slipstream, I went on to buy the Dark Energon version (which I considered calling 'Skywarp'), then Arms Micron Thundercracker then, as required by my OCD, the 'actual' Skywarp. More recently, while trawling through eBay, I found a TransFormers Prime 'value pack' featuring two First Edition repaints - Starscream and Bumblebee - along with 'companion' figures - Mech commander Silas and one of his nameless, faceless mooks, much like the Jack and Raf figures from the NYCC2011 Arcee and Bumblebee set.

Needless to say, the compulsion came over me...

Friday, 29 April 2016

TransFormers Collectors' Club BotCon 2016 Combiner Wars Airazor

(Femme-Bot Friday #36)
While the Club (and BotCon specifically) isn't averse to retreading old ground and presenting alternate continuity versions of the same character, it's rarer for them to present a BotCon version of a character they've previously done as a Club premium exclusive.

And yet, BotCon 2016 seems, to some degree, to have brought us full circle with the Club's/BotCon's output, harking back to the appearance of the Tripredacus Council in the very first BotCon comic, Descent into Evil, updated as a Combiner Wars gestalt. There were other references both to Beast Wars and BotCon 2006's awesome Beast Wars prequel Dawn of Future's Past, too, with attendee exclusives including a version of TransMetals 2 Megatron made from RiD/Car Robots Mega-/Galvatron, Terrorsaur from CW Air Raid, CW versions of  BW Tripredacus Agent Ravage, a second pre-Beast Wars Tigatron and even a CW version of a character who'd previously only been a Happy Meal toy.

The one that caught my eye, though, was BotCon's do-over of the reason I joined the Club back in 2007. Daring, perhaps... but was it foolish for them to take a mulligan on what is still one of my favourites?

Sunday, 24 April 2016

DotM Mechtech Que (aka Wheeljack)

When Hasbro decided to cancel the Dark of the Moon toyline early, it has to be said that there were probably sound business reasons for doing so - the line was, in a lot of cases, a step backward and the law of diminishing returns had applied itself quite harshly to the toyline. Still, this evidently left Hasbro with stocks of packaged figures that weren't going anywhere for a while.

It seems that Takara Tomy eventually released 'Autobot Que' in their own packaging, while the Asian market received Hasbro's release of 'Wheeljack'. The character was only ever referred to as 'Que' in the movie - a nod to James Bond's Quartermaster, apparently, and so possibly only a nickname - but the technical genius and the sack of gadgets are certainly Wheeljack through and through.

Considering the brevity of his role in the film - introduced with no explanation, stuck in the background with minimal dialogue, handing out weapons, then unceremoniously captured (off screen) and executed (graphically, on screen) by Soundwave and his team - it's no surprise that Hasbro didn't mind not making him (easily) available to the fans... But is he worth tracking down?

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Beast Wars Tripredacus

If I'd had any foresight whatsoever, I would have written up and scheduled this set months ago rather than trying (and, naturally, failing) to squeeze it in before the end of the last ever BotCon organised by Fun Publications. I mean, the whole theme of their last ever boxed set is the Tripredacus Council, and these guys are it, only substantially less red than the Club's interpretation. Annoyingly, though, it only occurred to me that I had this set on my shelves on the 9th and, of course, I hadn't already taken photos...

In retrospect, I couldn't even say why I picked up this set - when I saw them (at AutoAssembly, I think... second hand an in plastic bags, most likely) there must have been a moment of madness, or I simply wanted to know what the combined form looked like. Certainly, back when I bought them, I wasn't aware of the Tripredacus Council from Beast Wars, nor was I especially keen on expanding my collection of Beast Wars toys.

But, hey, I've got it, so let's take a look at the toys that (sort of) inspired BotCon's swan song, the 2016 boxed set, Dawn of the Predacus...

Sunday, 10 April 2016

It's BotCon Weekend, and I'm Not In Kentucky...

Ah, yes, the traditional 'Not In Attendance' BotCon roundup from the TransForm-A-Blog.

You know, considering this would appear to be the last ever BotCon put on by Fun Publications, I'm more than a little disappointed by a somewhat disjointed set of exclusives. I loved the idea of the Tripredacus Council (plus their agents, Ravage and Tarantulas) as a new-style gestalt, but the three main players are just too red, and their agents aren't that impressive in and of themselves (in fact, having now seen the Ravage/Tigatron - because who didn't see that one coming? - head sculpt in more detail, it seems far too flat and nowhere near as good as the concept art). And the fact that so many of the attendee exclusives seem to be retreads of older BotCon/Collectors' Club figures (Tigatron and Airazor - the former having previously been a repainted extra from 2006's Dawn of Future's Past, the latter being the Club's 2007 exclusive - with Megatron being a reuse of a mold they used back in 2005 with a different new head and an approximation of TransMetals 2 Megatron's colourscheme) seems pretty unimaginative.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

TransFormers Collectors' Club Botcon 2013 (Timelines) Boxed Set: Machine Wars: Termination

Machine Wars falls into one of the many gaping holes in my knowledge of/interest in TransFormers. I got into Beast Wars long after the event, having bought only Optimus Primal and Megatron while they were in the shops (and then only because I chanced to see them). Beast Machines was - and is - eminently avoidable as a toyline though I'm a massive fan of the TV series, and Machine Wars - if TF Wiki is to be believed - was simply an aborted attempt to bring the TransFormers brand, revitalised by Beast Wars, back to its mechanical origins. Most of the line appears to have been large, overly simplistic crap, though some of its toys were repurposed from G2 molds and into later Universe lines.

So... the question has to be asked: what possessed the TransFormers Collectors' Club to choose Machine Wars as the theme of it's 2013 BotCon set? And how would such a tiny selection of characters be represented? Well, amusingly, it seems that they ignored what little story Hasbro might have crafted (though they probably didn't) and created their own take on the mini-line...

Monday, 4 April 2016

MorphBots Final Battle Megabolt vs Hell Cat (aka Flamefeather vs Carroll)

Like most collectors, it's a rare occasion (and/or a special case) that I will intentionally buy a knockoff, but some seem too good to pass up. It was a few years ago that I first saw Meng Badi's 'AlteraTion Man' Carroll, knockoff of the first live action movie Arcee mold, released both in the original colours and in blue, possibly in reference to the newer TransFormers Prime incarnation. I was never able to find the individual versions, but recently discovered that the blue version was repackaged in a two-pack with a knockoff of live action movie Swindle, a mold I never bothered picking up because it looked a bit crappy.

Then, more recently, I found the 2-pack (which turned up in Thew Adams' Knockoff Beatdown IV) was available on Amazon and on eBay. Finding a suitably low price (£16 including shipping!), I ordered the set hoping that at least one of the figures would be of reasonably decent quality... but that's the thing with knockoffs: however low your expectations, there's always room for disappointment.

Friday, 1 April 2016

Go-Bots/Robo-Machines Night Ranger/Harley Robo

I mentioned ages ago that there was a time I collected both TransFormers and their main rival, a toyline by Bandai called variously Go-Bots, Robo-Machines and Machine Robo. Their vehicle modes tended to be better, particularly at the smaller end of the scale, but the robot modes tended to be floppy, jumbled messes. Even when the line went a bit weird and introduced monstrous robots that transformed into monstrous vehicles, I carried on collecting... though it wasn't long after that I decided to focus on TransFormers.

Interesting as they were, the toys just didn't have the longevity of Hasbro's adopted toyline. Aside from a brief and apparently unsuccessful reappearance in the 90s - which I wasn't even aware of until I started looking into Go-Bots for this post - the toyline died completely, and now only occasionally exists as a subset of the TransFormers brand.

Sunday, 27 March 2016

Hunt for the Decepticons Terradive

Possibly one of the strangest things about Michael Bay's TransFormers movies is that there are so few flying Decepticons. We've had Starscream, we've had Blackout, we've had Laserbeak... and that's pretty much it. The toylines expanded on this with repaints of the original and multiple versions of Starscream for RotF, plus the odd few additional characters from the associated fiction. Weirdly, though, even in the extended toyline, there still seem to be more airborne Autobots than Decepticons

One of the most enduring kinds of TransFormers toy designs is the Generation 2 Cyberjet. They have been reused and remixed time and time again, with straight repaints and mold upgrades. As one of the few airborne Decepticons in the extended toyline for Revenge of the Fallen, it was surprising to find Terradive so familiar, though he's still very much his own mold.

AM06 Arms Micron (TF Prime) Skywarp

Hasbro have really been dropping the ball of late. Ever since the first live action TransFormers movie, they've had an alarming habit of releasing a Starscream, and then either Skywarp or Thundercracker, with the missing Seeker becoming some hard-to-find exclusive, frequently from Takara Tomy only. While they have begun to correct this baffling omission (releasing all three as Leader class figures in Combiner Wars based on Generations Jetfire), they declined to create any repaints of the Voyager class Starscream from TF Prime, and only released alternative versions of Starscream using the First Edition mold, rather than repainting into other characters.

Thankfully, then, Takara Tomy were not afflicted with the same unreason, and happily produced the appropriate repaints of the FE figure as part of their Arms Micron take on the TF Prime line (albeit with one as a retail chain exclusive). Since buying these invariably means importing - with the additional expense that implies - I ended up getting Skywarp on the cheap, second hand, via eBay... Which may not have been the best plan...

Friday, 25 March 2016

Superlink Nightscream Reverse/Rebirth

When Nightscream/Starscream first turned up in the Superlink/Energon TV series, he was a ghost, Starscream having been apparently killed off at the end of Armada. While the original take on the toy - from both Hasbro and Takara - didn't interest me much due to both having uniquely drab colourschemes, the repaint, in more G1-like colours, was just as different between the two toymakers but, while Hasbro went straight G1, to the extent of ignoring much of the molded damage detail, Takara Tomy kept the basic idea of the original, but brightened the palette considerably.

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Robots in Disguise Dreadwind & Smokejumper

While overlapping continuities are positively de rigueur now that Hasbro has separated the TransFormers brand into age groups and whole new branches of the toyline open up whenever a movie is released, it was fairly unusual about ten years ago. Nevertheless, around the time Robots in Disguise/Car Robots was phased out in favour of Armada, Hasbro decided to re-release a 1994 Generation 2 set as a swan song for RiD.

This is one of those odd situations where I don't remember exactly how/where I came to buy this... but I'm going to have to assume I picked it up loose because, according to my research, there's something not quite right about the set.

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Armada Thundercracker

Hasbro and Takara/Takara Tomy are an interesting pair of companies: they are ostensibly working on the same toyline in TransFormers, but frequently handle them in a very different way (and often with a very different story coming out the redubbing of the same TV series). One case in point - rather ancient now, being from a toyline that appeared 14 years ago - was the Decepticon jets in TransFormers Armada, where Takara Tomy introduced Starscream and had him later develop a 'Supermode', while Hasbro evidently took one look at Supermode Starscream and decided he looked sufficiently similar to G1 Thundercracker to turn him into a unique character for their version of the continuity...

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

TransFormers: Prime Skyquake

TransFormers Prime started its run killing off one of the Autobots, which pretty much set the tone for the series. None of the other key characters actually died, but the show certainly didn't shy away from killing off a less central character in the service of the story.

...And so, the first Decepticon to properly die was Skyquake... and while his brother, Dreadwing, may have had frequent appearances in the remainder of the series, he was only really interested in getting revenge for Skyquake's death and almost ended up in the G1 Thundercracker role of not being entirely behind Megatron's plans for tyranny. Skyquake only appeared briefly, but was utterly in Megatron's thrall, to the extent that he wouldn't consider Starscream his leader, even with Megatron out of action. Yet, since the series' first casualty, Cliffjumper, presented only a single opportunity for a repaint - as a zombie version - Skyquake and Dreadwing were more sensible chance to reuse a mold from TF Prime's limited character roster.

Thursday, 17 March 2016

WeiJiang 'Deformation Era' M01 OP Commander

It's very rare, when looking at photos of TransFormers toys, that I start to wonder if I'm looking at something that actually transforms, or a detailed action figure made to resemble a TransFormers toy. I remember being completely blown away by the first images of RotF Leader class Prime, and wondering how such an amazing robot could possibly condense down into a believable truck mode but, in retrospect, there were plenty of obvious visual cues.

For all its detail, and as amazing as it is for the size, AoE Evasion Mode Prime also leaves one in no doubt that it's a transforming toy simply because Hasbro's budget didn't allow for the toy's strengths to properly shine through. It's potential didn't go unnoticed, however, and dodgy knockoff company WeiJiang have taken my favourite interpretation of movie Optimus Prime, increased its size, improved its build quality, improved its paint job... and added some die-cast metal for good measure.

Can it possibly be as good as it appears to be? Is it truly...

Sunday, 13 March 2016

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2014 (Timelines) Barricade & Frenzy

The problem with TF Prime not having the world's most extensive and diverse cast of characters is that it limited Hasbro's options for repaints... and what limits Hasbro's options tends to cause similar problems for the TransFormers Collectors' Club. Nevertheless, they do have a habit of creating pretty adequate adaptations of characters and designs that Hasbro neglect to exploit.

The second year of the Club's Subscription Service didn't offer much of interest to me, but I ended up buying three figures in one of their clear-out sales. Barricade was one of them, largely because it was loosely based on the character artwork from the cancelled MMORPG TransFormers Universe and I was pretty sure that there would never be a proper toy made to that design. As a combination of the TF Prime aesthetic and the movie franchise's 'bad cop' character under the Club's Timelines banner, it's an odd concept, but that's basically the Club's speciality.

Saturday, 12 March 2016

When Is a Knockoff Not a Knockoff?

Or "How to Make a Masterpiece"

The word 'knockoff' has traditionally had obvious and very negative connotations: this product is cheap, yet of such shockingly poor quality that it's still a waste of money. That started to change a good few years ago, with uncanny the arrival of 'knockoff' G1 toys that were functionally identical to the originals (Mirage being the only example I own thusfar). Since then, knockoffs of the shockingly poor variety have continued to arrive but, in more recent years, the knockoff merchants have upped their game in terms of product quality and a trend of upsizing toys has emerged. A quick look over at gives one an overview of the gamut of knockoffs, but there's one company that quickly seems to be climbing to the top of the food chain when it comes to upsized TransFormers toy knockoffs simply because they don't just upsize a mold, they're willing to improve it. That company is WeiJiang.

I've only recently become aware of them, largely thanks to a sudden glut of videos about their upsized MP10 (cunningly named MPP10), which then led me to discover M01 Commander, an upsized, part die-cast, premium painted version of Age of Extinction Evasion Mode Optimus Prime. If you look back at that write-up, you will see certain key phrases - not least "something approaching a Masterpiece at the Voyager price point" - that would lead to believe that I'm very fond of the mold... and you'd be right, but it's certainly not without its flaws. As with Dark of the Moon's Voyager class Megatron, I felt that Hasbro could have got away with enlarging the mold to Leader class size simply because they're both awesome figures which prove that all the lights-and-sounds gimmickery of previous movie Leaders are a hindrance to the quality of the toy. Pared down, yet just as complex in terms of molded detail and transformation, these two movie Voyagers have easily outclassed those that preceded them, and many that followed. Aside from their size, their only flaws were the miserly paint jobs they received.

WeiJiang, having already upsized and partially remolded AoE Bumbleblee (and Stinger), then decided to tackle a larger project and, while Bumblebee ended up slightly simplified (his battlemask no longer deploys), their take on Evasion Mode Optimus Prime ramps up the detail, adds a number of small yet significant improvements to both modes and has a paint job of a quality beyond even Takara Tomy's idea of 'premium'. I'll deal with it in detail in a separate post soon (camera battery is charging as I write and, while I'm dubious about the amount of good light I'll get this weekend, I do have some time off work later this month, so hopefully I really do mean 'soon') but, suffice it to say that, so far, this thing looks awesome.

Friday, 4 March 2016

DotM Mechtech Skyhammer

If you ask me, one of the best things - if not the best thing - about the original movie's toyline was the part made up of characters who didn't appear in the movie. It seems like a strange thing to say, but the robot cast was pretty small and, with a history and a catalogue of characters as awesome as TransFormers, it would have been remiss of Hasbro not to take advantage of it, even if most were straight repaints. There were fewer for Revenge of the Fallen, and there were characters who appeared in Dark of the Moon who, nevertheless, were not released as toys by Hasbro... But it did manage to continue the tradition of releasing a few wholly new characters who didn't appear in the movie.

Nice to know Hasbro gets its priorities right...

Sunday, 21 February 2016

iGear Con Air Raptor Squadron IG-C01 Star-Burst

IGear don't have the best reputation among the third parties (and, at the moment, seem to be entirely out of action) with some truly awful products in their back-catalogue, as well as some blatant rip-offs (specifically the customised Masterpiece Seekers which were 'acquired' by iGear for not-quite-mass production, and their 'Faith Leader', a downscaled MP01). As well as their (as far as I know) wholly original mini-bot remakes, they released a set of larger-scaled Seekers and Coneheads (designed by Cassy Sark, after Guido Guidi's updated Seeker design for the IDW comics) which were just as divisive as their other products.

Now I have a set of the Seekers, I honestly can't understand why...

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Generations Skullgrin

Generation 1's Pretenders were an interesting idea, executed poorly because (a) it hadn't been especially well thought out in terms of how it would fit in with the rest of the line (particularly in terms of scale) and (b) both the robots and shells had to be very simplistic to make the Pretender gimmick work. I ended up getting only two - the Autobot asteroid miner Landmine and the vampiric Decepticon predator Bomb-Burst. It was a system that worked great in the comics, but I was never sure if they were supposed to be giants, like the other Cybertronians, or human-sized, as some of the Pretender shells seemed to imply (possibly making them the immediate ancestors of the smaller, more energon-efficient Maximals and Predacons?). The concept died out mercifully fast, but suddenly popped back into the collective fan consciousness when an apparently human character in Revenge of the Fallen turned out to be - somewhat incongruously - a human-sized Pretender.

Even so, when the Revenge of the Fallen offshoot toyline, N.E.S.T. Global Alliance, released its interpretation of Bludgeon, I doubt that many suspected any other G1 Pretenders would be reimagined within the contemporary toyline. Another was soon revealed, bizarrely, on the instruction sheet for Generations Darkmount/Straxus, which somehow showed Skullgrin's head instead.

Sunday, 14 February 2016

New York Toy Fair 2016 Thoughts

Well, Titans Return looks suitably amazing, doesn't it?

Not necessarily a toyline I'll be delving into a great deal (though I may end up adding a couple of new entries to my Want List over the next few weeks, as more images and details come to light), but it all seems very impressive.

Also - and this is where it gets a bit dubious, for me - very familiar.

TransFormers Collectors' Club Botcon 2011 (Timelines) Boxed Set: The Stunti-Con Job

While I was - obviously - going to get around to this sooner or later, I've re-prioritised this for a couple of reasons. First and foremost, it's a sort-of celebratory post. I don't tend to harp on about the number of views this blog gets, as it's not usually foremost on my mind, but I did note the first time I got more than 1,000 views in a month (June 2013), and January 2016 saw the count pass 5,000 for the first time, so thanks to all you visitors for that!

Secondly, this is probably an appropriate time to tackle this old BotCon set, considering I've done two complete Combiner Wars gestalts now, and currently have no intention of trying to get any of the CW Stunticons (though the Perfect Effect upgrade kit including the new head may eventually change my mind as it does make a decent-looking Menasor out of the CW Stunticons). This boxed set from BotCon 2011 was designed entirely around the Stunticons, who were the first and the coolest of the G1 combiner teams that I picked up. For a contemporary version of Menasor, I'm happy with FansProjects' Intimidator... which is just as well, I suppose, as this team of Stunticons don't even combine!

So... what's the point of a combiner team that doesn't combine?

Monday, 8 February 2016

"Well, that's just Prime..."

Which is to say that, unless I'm gripped by another one of my whims, I've picked up the last of the TF Prime figures I'm interested in, Arms Micron Skywarp. I found him on eBay, second hand (Arms Micron off the sprue and built, all stickers applied) at an excellent price last week, and he arrived at my office today. Probably won't get a chance to take photos till the weekend, but it's in my possession and looks rather spiffy.

I'm not expecting to make much headway in my other searches this year due to other, more serious financial commitments, but it's a good start nonetheless.

On a related note, I found a BotCon 2006 Megatron on eBay over the weekend... for $1,300 plus shipping and Customs charges.

Ain't goin' near that one.

I really want that figure... but not enough to pay over £1,000 for it.

[Addendum 22/2/16: Looks like I'm not alone - the auction ended and the seller relisted at a discounted price... $1,100, only to later sell it for a "Best Offer" of $1,000. Sheesh.]

Saturday, 6 February 2016

AD16 Movie Advanced Autobot Dino

The more I think of the more recent TransFormers movies, the more I think they were basically designed to make it next to impossible for Hasbro/Takara Tomy to successfully make toys out of the robot characters. Hasbro - these days styling itself as "an intellectual properties company" - didn't even seem to mind that one of its biggest toy brands was being misused so grievously, even seeming to quickly lose interest in trying to make plastic versions of anyone who wasn't Bumblebee. Then again, it's not as if other characters got much screen time or character development anyway... Hell, a good number of them didn't even get proper names, or got lumbered with a different name in the movie versus the toyline (Brawl/Devastator in the first movie, just for example).

So while my happiness at Hasbro's announcement that they were making a toy of Dino/Mirage, quickly turned to disappointment when they backtracked and cancelled the entire tail end of the line, I didn't exactly feel that I was missing much. While he seemed pretty cool in the (approximately) one minute of screen time he got in Dark of the Moon - particularly in the motorway battle with the Dreads - the cancellation of the figure might even have been a good thing given how poor some of the DotM toys turned out to be.

Then came Takara Tomy with their Movie Advanced line, loosely associated with the fourth movie, Age of Extinction, and releasing several figures that never made it to shelves in the US/Europe (or did so in very limited quantities) along with some fairly cool repaints of older figures... But even these were not quite what we might have expected.

Friday, 5 February 2016

The Question of Video

I think I've made enough disparaging comments about the phenomenon of 'Video Reviews' on YouTube to be fairly sure that I'm not going to go that route myself, but this little blog has occasionally featured video snippets, normally to illustrate the irritating sound effects given to some G1 TransFormers or, more recently, to demonstrate some of Trypticon's features.

While Blogger allows video to be embedded, I've found several times that my browser of choice will display them for a while, then suddenly - and with neither warning nor explanation - replace them with empty white boxes. I believe this may be the browser arbitrarily deciding that the extensions required to play the video are somehow 'insecure' and in need of update. Which is very tedious.

So, to counter this, I've decided to replace the embedded videos with YouTube videos, which seem to work nicely (and display larger by default). I've only done Trypticon so far, but will get to the Shackwave and G1 Galvatron posts as soon as I can.

This may then encourage me to include video clips in other posts, if they seem appropriate...

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Beast Wars Metals Silverbolt

While late to the game by over a decade thanks to patchy UK TV showings, I've considered myself a fan of Beast Wars for quite a while - certainly longer than I've owned the DVD boxed set of the complete series. Even so, I think the turns it took later on - mainly as a toyline rather than the TV series - were a little bizarre, and consequently I own very few toys from the extended lines (Fuzors, Metals/TransMetals, Beast Machines). Then again, the toys weren't very well represented in the TV series - only two Fuzors turned up, and the introduction of the TransMetals was completely inconsistent.

Of those Fuzors toys available, one exemplifies the better aspects of the concept, and was an awesome character in the TV series... That character is ol' Bird-Dog himself, Silverbolt...

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Hunt for the Decepticons Battle Blade Bumblebee

One would think that, eventually, Hasbro would stop making Bumblebee toys. Sure, he's the 'Kid Appeal' character, but he ended up with dozens of toys in all the size classes for each movie, totalling several billion variations of the yellow Camaro on the shelves and pegs.

OK, maybe a slight exaggeration, but surely they'd eventually be satisfied enough with one particular model in each size class (especially the Deluxe class) be be able to say "that's it, we've done all we can"..? At least until the next movie and the next model of Camaro, right?

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Mastermind Creations Cyber Engine Knight Morpher KM-05 Screecher

IDW's Hearts of Steel is on the list of comics series that I'm vaguely interested in investigating. Its central conceit is that the Cybertronians who crash landed on Earth were awoken not in the 1980s or 2000s, but instead at the time of the American Industrial Revolution. Designed by the implausibly talented Guido Guidi, the giant alien robots took on a unique and original appearance. The Autobots appear to have been largely locomotives, but the Decepticons were, as usual, rather more varied - Shockwave became an ironclad paddle-steamer battleship, for example.

When I first saw images of a model based on Hearts of Steel Optimus Prime, it was an independent fan project... but after a while, it seems Mastermind Creations picked it up and turned it into the first of their 'Cyber Engine Knight Morpher' series, following up with an interpretation of Shockwave and, eventually, the anachronistic HoS Seekers.

Friday, 22 January 2016

TransFormers Legends (Takara Tomy 30th Anniversary) LG17 Blackarachnia

(Femme-Bot Friday #35)
Completing Takara Tomy's second triumvirate of Legends femme-bots, Blackarachnia may seem like a strange late addition to a 30th Anniversary line, considering Beast Wars turns 20 years old in 2016, but I'm certainly not going to hold it against them.

Blackarachnia has always had rather weird-looking toys simply because getting a robot to transform into a spider is a tricky thing to achieve. To date, the best is (arguably) the TransFormers Animated mold, not least because the animation model drew so much influence from the Beast Wars TV show rather than the toys. No surprises, then, that Takara Tomy chose that mold from which to create a new Beast Wars Blackarachnia figure.

Monday, 18 January 2016

TransFormers Animated Optimus Prime (Earth Mode)

While TransFormers Animated looked to both Generation 1 and the more stylised American cartoons of the period for its general appearance, it took one significant story cue from Beast Wars: Its Optimus Prime wasn't the venerated leader of the Autobots. For TF Animated, he was merely the assigned Prime (team leader, effectively) for a group of maintenance 'bots. Of course, any 'bot named Optimus Prime eventually finds himself tackling all the nearby Decepticons, generally led by one calling himself Megatron, but it was a refreshing take on the character and the development of his story.

But - by and large - this is a blog about the toys, not the fiction... so let's see how the plastic version turned out, shall we?

Saturday, 16 January 2016

TransFormers: Prime Beast Hunters Soundwave

Very few of the Beast Hunters toys were of any interest to me - it was good that Smokescreen got released (even if it was only a poor representation of his original colourscheme), but the remolds - in all their gaudy, marble-plastic glory - seemed superfluous because the characters in the TV show didn't change to match. In total, I picked up three: Arcee (because, duh), Knock Out (aka Croc Out, because he did look awesome) and Soundwave.

The original version was eerie enough, being very well executed in plastic despite being so slender and oddly-proportioned. How does a Predator-style drone TransFormer fare once it's had the Beast Hunters wackiness treatment?

Sunday, 10 January 2016

TransFormers Animated (Takara Tomy) TA-33 Rodimus

I've not seen any of the episodes that Rodimus appeared in since season three of TransFormers Animated never made it over to the UK... But, then, neither did this toy. As a Toys'R'Us exclusive in the US, 'Rodimus Minor' wasn't even easy to come by over there. Weirdly, Takara Tomy's version became available via Amazon in the UK, though, and thereby made it onto my wish list...

...And, for the second Christmas in a row, my girlfriend's family have enabled by addiction to the plastic crack that is TransFormers very generously added to my TransFormers collection. Last year it was TransFormers Go! Hunter Shockwave, this year they bought me one TransFormers Go! figure and this, the last missing figure in my TransFormers Animated collection.

Friday, 8 January 2016

TransFormers Legends (Takara Tomy 30th Anniversary) LG16 Slipstream

(Femme-Bot Friday #34)
Whenever a new mold is introduced, it's pretty much guaranteed to be reused in new colours at some point down the road. The 'Fan-Made Bot' Windblade had already been repainted as part of a San Diego Comic Con exclusive set not long after its initial release, but it fell to Takara Tomy to provide it with a new head and weapons to create a whole new character.

Except that Slipstream isn't a new character, having been sort-of introduced by TransFormers Animated as some kind of unexplained feminine aspect of Starscream and, while the Collectors' Club created a Slipstream for the TransFormers Prime subsection of their Timelines continuity, Takara Tomy apparently consider this to be TF Animated Slipstream appearing in their Legends continuity.

Weird enough for you?

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Perfect Effect Perfect Combiner PC-01 Combiner Upgrade Set Black Version

When Perfect Effect first introduced their Combiner Wars upgrade sets, they came in only two colours - black and purple, the latter being tailored toward Hasbro's Menasor. Black would seem to be aimed at Defensor but, at the time, the only CW gestalts available were Superion and Menasor (the latter never completed in Europe), and it was only later that Perfect Effect released the white version, specifically coloured for Superion. I ordered both versions of the set at the same time, so now I can reveal how awesome it looks on Defensor...

Monday, 4 January 2016

Combiner Wars Defensor

Well, it's taken me long enough! I think Defensor was actually the first Combiner Wars gestalt I managed to complete, thanks to that whole issue of Wave 2 not getting a European release but, since I'd already started writing up Superion and his constituent parts, it felt as though Defensor sort of had to wait until I got my hands on Air Raid.

I'd originally thought that Superion was a little lacking and that Defensor seemed, on balance, to be the better prospect... But, with both complete and Superion being so good, has my opinion changed at all?

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Christmas Haul/Experiments in Photography

Since my girlfriend's family got me a couple of new TransFormers for Christmas, I figured I should take the opportunity to snap a couple of shots using another Christmas present: the large and spiffy light tent. I'm thinking that part of the problem I had with my photos of Trypticon were due to the choice of background colour - the blue fabric - even pre-adjusting the camera for the new environment, the colours came out a bit odd and needed some Photoshop work. As an experiment, I've switched to the white background (the other options are black (much the same as the tent's casing, only with a velvety finish) and red, which probably won't be much use for anything.

Bear in mind also that I've used my old, fairly low-res (3.3 megapixel!) camera as I couldn't quickly find my girlfriend's newer, better one. This camera has real trouble in low-light conditions, introducing multi-colour graininess to everything... So if these are the results that camera can manage, I'm feeling very positive about any photos I take with the newer camera. The only downside to that one is that its Macro function isn't anywhere near as good...