January 5, 2012

Give me something to obsess about and I will freely blog

Filed under: Transformers, botcon — fairplaythings @ 10:15 pm

So Botcon 2012 is coming up in April and we’re counting down the SIX figures that constitute this year’s box set (with the theme of Shattered Glass comes to the Classicverse). I’m having a lot of mixed feeling though because of the toys, and because I’m not going.

Yes, ending a six year string, I’m not attending this year’s Con. It was not an easy decision actually:

  • It is being held in Dallas, Texas, a city (and a state) I’ve not yet visited, so it would have been fun to see someplace new (and I could probably get there on points).
  • The add-on set is Shattered Glass, which I have really really come to love, and showing up is still the best way to get the toys (and get excited about them).
  • There is a better chance this year to get into the customizing course because of a doubling of places. Given the molds from 2010 (G2 Sideswipe) and 2011 (TF:A Minerva), you just know it is going to be something interesting (probably, with my luck, Sunstorm or Shattered Glass Dirge already molded in yellow…)
  • And, selfishly, I really wanted to take a shot at a five-peat in the diarama competition. Since 2007, I have alternately placed first and second every year for the past four, and I have some great ideas to enter to continue the streak.

But these factors are outweighed by the Cons, so to speak.

To do the city right would require more vacation time than I am prepared to commit, particularly with a long-talked about vacation on the horizon. Having just bought the new house and just after Christmas, I’m feeling the bottom line much more than usual, so not attending will also save me several hundred dollars in food and accommodations and transportation, to say nothing of the sums I have been known to drop in the dealers’ room.

And while I want to try for a five-peat, the amount of time and effort that has gone into each presentation over the past four years has been exhaustive. Even last year’s nesting dolls took a long time, and in the case of the last three years, I was still working on the entry on site. But KidRobot has what appears to be annual munny contest (or at least one it has run for the past two years) in May and I really want to have the time to do a proper entry - getting street cred with them would be mind blowing and really good for my munny aspirations! (Also, I have the perfect idea, brewing for three years and needing to escape my head…)

Related to this is my planned attendance at TFCon in Toronto in July as a dealer. It certainly means I have access to a toy buying opportunity (with no customs or suitcase hassles). But it also allows me time to overcome the big challenge from 2009, namely having time to put forward Transformer munnies for sale. While I had about 20 for sale, most were non-TF, and I’m curious to know how I will do with an army of cute robots.

But lastly, my long-term Botcon friends aren’t going. Teresa, Toddmichael and Matt, “Crazy” Steve, Josh Miller, they are not going. And while I’m constantly making new friends at the event, I want to hang with at least some of my posse. So I’ll stay put and lure at least Teresa, and hopefully Toddmichael and Matt, up for TFCon in the land of gravy and cheese curds on french fries.

But having friends does have its advantages. Chip and Elizabeth are going and they’re getting the toys for me (and getting in the door with my pass!). So deep into my savings I go to line up payment for tomorrow’s registration. Even if it is not me doing the registering!

(Coming up: My thoughts on the toys! (Hopefully) with pictures!)

July 5, 2009

Banzai-Tron (07-05-09)

Filed under: 01 generation one, TF365, botcon — Tags: — fairplaythings @ 12:05 am

Transformer of the Day for July 5, 2009


-Faction: Decepticon (Action Master)
-Era: Generation One (1984-1992)
-Function: Mercenary / Martial Arts Warrior

-Motto: To the Victor Go The Profits”
-Notable Toy: Botcon Exclusive (Hasbro, 2009)

Notes: Banzai-Tron is possibly the most interesting original character produced for the Action Masters line. At Botcon 2009, he finally found issue as an actual transformer. Packaged with Skyquake, he’s a repaint of the battle boat known as Energon Mirage. He’s arguably the best exclusive made available at Botcon 2009, and the mold seems to fit him like a glove.

July 1, 2009

Nightracer (07-01-09)

Filed under: 01 generation one, TF365, botcon — Tags: — fairplaythings @ 12:01 am

Transformer of the Day for July 1, 2009


-Faction: Decepticon
-Era: Generation One (1984-1992)
-Function: Gunner
“A Good Shot is Worth More than a Big Mouth
-Only Toy: Botcon Exclusive (Hasbro, 1995)

Notes: Nightracer is a lot of first. The first North American female transformer. The first female Decepticon transformer. The first original exclusive convention character. And likely the first Transformer characterization not entirely owned by Hasbro. Never replicated, a true Nightracer features the personal touch of creater Raksha, the organizer of Botcon 1995, to bring to plastic life the stuff of her imagination. She’s a beaut and a treasure in any collection, and the perfect way to start the second half of 2009.

(Thanks to Raksha for permission to use Nightracer, and appreciation to Markatron for the artwork.)

June 4, 2009

A Bridge Too Far

Filed under: botcon, munny, tricks of the custom trade — Tags: , — fairplaythings @ 1:39 am

I am planning a big update to the site this weekend, when I can put words down about Botcon 2009, as well as catch up on my first break in the Transformers-of-the-Day. Actually quite embarrassed there - usually I have them all set up to go. But a combination of overtime on the diorama entry this year and the absence of computer access in Pasadena meant that I wasn’t able to fix things at the Con. But I refuse to give up, and I’ll get everything back on track this coming weekend.

That said, I wanted to separately plug the diorama and the work behind it, as well as provide a few pictures so you can finally see what I’ve been up to for the last few months. Yes, it’s a scene taken from “A Bridge Too Far”, in which Omega Supreme battles the remaining Decepticon forces, including a number of Starscream clones. I actually tear up during this scene (Omega is certainly one of my favourite transformers!), so it means a lot to me to work on this particular action scene.

The Rise of the Mega Munny

Let’s start with the big guy then. Omega Supreme is a 2 foot tall Mega Munny, purchased from Lost Marbles in Ottawa. I should preface my comments on Omega by saying that I have an aversion to modifying munnies beyond recognition. While I think it’s fair play to add parts to them, or even cut them open, I prefer they retain a semblance of their character that allows them to be recognized for what they are. For Omega, this posed a challenge because I had so many plans for him and he probably represents the most heavily modified munny I’ve undertaken.

To start, both his hands have been replaced. His right arm is now a set of fingers actually created from the modified stems of three mini mushrooms that came with the regular size munnies. His left arm features a laser cannon. This laser cannon, and the additional removable turret in his head, are both equipped with laser pointers so they actually simulate an explosion when lit up (leaving me to wonder how many children were blinded at Botcon because of this.) In addition, voice boxes have been added to each arm, with one side playing the cartoon theme song and the other saying “I… am… Omega Supreme!” I wish I could say they were clear but it’s a low-techmodification. Nevertheless they seem to work relatively well, if a bit muted.

Additional work includes the tubing around his chin and removable wings on each arm.

Honestly, though, Omega was a struggle. Unlike his smaller brethren, the mega munny head does not separate from his body, which makes painting his neck a challenge. I also ran into trouble with the yellow spray paint I wanted to use because of stupid rushed mistakes at my end. His price point of $200 meant I really couldn’t start over again, which I would have with a smaller version, but nevertheless left me with a bad taste in my mouth until I could get over my own bad self and work around the paint application issues.

It didn’t help that I left him until the end and was doing a lot of the work on him literally hours before I boarded the plane. I finalized him in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, a little more than a day before he was to be rolled out. So you can understand how I felt when I realized on Saturday that, having hand-painted the logos on every other munny, I FORGOT TO DO THE SAME ON OMEGA. I promised him that I would rectify this when he ships home from Pasadena.

Still on the side of heroes, Ratchet is my second favourite munny of the group. He just came out so crisp. He also has added horns and doors. He’s teamed with Sari, who is actually a dunny, striped of original paint and then redyed. She turned out super, much better than expected. The ears were a major win. Yes she is so much bigger than she should be against the trees but we’ll just pretend they have really small trees in the future.

A Changing Landscape

Before I get to the villains, I want to say that I had no idea how I was going to turn seven munnies and one dunny into a diorama before I arrived. I had nothing to work with in terms of grass and the like. But I really wanted the diorama to look like I’d put some effort into it because of the coolness of the scene and because a diorama contest, in my view, needs to consider the landscape used. Otherwise, it’s a figure show. So you can imagine that my back-up plan of buying bristle board to paint green with some paper trees added really didn’t feel right.

However, Pasadena has a wonderful hobby store called The Original Whistle Stop Inc. (2490 E. Colorado Blvd). I discovered them Saturday afternoon and once they realized that I wasn’t shoplifting. they were really quite helpful. $40 of supplies from their store really made the scene, because I had actual trees that I made on the Thursday night before the show, as well as a sheet of grass paper, painted with sand to simulate the path. Honestly, I couldn’t have done this project without them.

But What About the Villains?

With respect to the Decepticons, I started with the clones. Sunstorm, Slipstream (”Susan”) and Ramjet were all based on the same premise, so once I had one outlined, I could use it to help quicken the pencilling of the other two. Obviously their expressions and paint applications were very different, but it’s surprising how much it takes to figure out where to draw lines on a fat little Munny body.

Their lasers are actually reconstructed knitting needles and their wings and shoulder pads are scratch-built. The wings are actually removable to allow for easier transportation, and I’ve finally perfected their assembly. Sunstorm is dyed (which caused trouble with the accessories in terms of colour blending), while the others are painted. Of the three, Slipstream is my favourite. And although he denies it, Ramjet now resides permanently in the care of Derrick Wyatt, whose magnificent designs are the basis for this entry.

In truth, Lugnut was the last munny started. While all the small munnies were done and Omega Supreme was only awaiting arm modifications and paint, Lugnut was still a white protoform munny, untouched by even pencil. I literally pencilled his face, arms and front on the plane ride to LAX, and then happened upon a TF:A digest at a Pasadena comic store to finalize his back. I painted him between Teresa’s Dad’s place and my motel room on Sunday. His only modifications are two small wings on his arms, although I did reverse his arms to better simulate his pincher claws (a trick I used on the Scorponok entered as part of my Botcon 2008 entry.)

Bavarian Twirls

The final figure, Blitzwing, is the one of which I am the most proud. Dyed a crisp tan, Blitzwing’s head has been opened up to allow for a small plastic cover to be inserted, before the top of the head was reattached. In this way, all three faces of Blitzwing can be shown. Between getting the dye and the cuts just so, it took three takes to get his head right, but I am ecstatic about how it turned out, so much so that I made sure he travelled in my hand luggage in case Omega didn’t make it (so he could be entered solo if needed).

Blitzwing also has small shoulder boxes that constrain his poseability but nevertheless seemed important to the character. He also features a backpack with removable rockets. The trick here is that the rockets had to be extra long so, true to the character, they would be visible over his head.

The Results

There were some great dioramas this year, so I was very proud to be awarded second place in my category against some stiff competition. I just hope the judges were able to test all the buttons on Omega when they were reviewing things. All in all, I can’t really complain that the presentation of the hardware was interrupted, when the interruption was to see five minutes from the new movie presented by Michael Bay himself. How often is that going to happen in my life?

April 25, 2009

TFCon 2009 Presents TFA: Wasp!

Filed under: Transformers, botcon, custom — fairplaythings @ 12:31 pm

While I make my way through what is certainly the most impressive TFCon in terms of guests, exclusives and fans, since its inception back in 2001, I thought I would leave you with a preview of the entry in this year’s art contest.

Earth Mode Wasp came to me when I should have been working on a certain helicopter I’d dreamed up for TFCon. He went quicker than expected and turned out particularly well due to the accidential use of an enamel-based Model Master paint. For some reason, I had one bottle of acrylic and enamel in this single colour and I accidently pulled the enamel. Although I destroyed brushes in the task, nonetheless, I have to say it was worth it.

Wasp won’t be presented Mint on Card, but rest assured the card back is fully formed. It was almost as much fun doing the artwork as it was the figure itself. Even better seeing the results that can be achieved when your efforts are rewarded by a professional print job.

A full history of Wasp will be added in the coming weeks to the main site. In the meantime, fingers crossed that I rate a mention at this year’s festivities. I look forward to my grand plans for Botcon.

March 31, 2009

Reviewing Figures and Wings of Honour (Botcon 2009)

Filed under: botcon, toy review — fairplaythings @ 2:40 am

With the release of the final preview of the first five Botcon 2009 figures, I cannot resist undertaken a review, if for no other reason than to put my thoughts down (and allow me to eat my words later I suppose).

(Editor’s Note: Just in case you are reading the blog today, totally don’t forget to check out today’s Transformers of the Day, Swindle. You’ll understand when you click through.)

To really articulate things I need a guide. Oh I could do something clever like substitute Energon cubes for stars, or use comic names like kabow! and thud!, to indicate the desirability of a toy. But given that some fans take collecting as seriously as the stock market, let’s go with an easily translated retail scale that anyone who has ever barter, bought or traded a figure should understand. I call it the measure of price goodness:

  • Scalper Price (5) - “This toy is so insanely good - be it in terms of innovation, nostalgia or just plain coolness - that I will not think twice before being overcharged on a piece of plastic by someone who existence is satisfied by gouging.”
  • Direct Market Price (4) - “This toy is too good to risk not finding on the store shelves of my local Zellers or Target, that I must pay more than traditional retail to a smaller comic/toy shop that carries the item.”"
  • Standard Retail Price (3) - “This toy is pretty good and I can’t wait to see it on the toy shelves so I make sure to get the best one going at the most affordable retail outlet.”
  • Advertised Price (2) - “This toy is good enough that owning it will leave a bit of a hole in the collection but missing it won’t overburden me with guilt, so I can really take my chances.”
  • Discount Price (1) - “I see that the toy is on sale but I still wonder whether it is good for my collection.”

Occasionally an item will be beyond imagination and will register with an At Any Price (6). Conversely, sometimes an item will be so terrible that it will warrant an (At Any Price) (0). Like finance, the brackets means a negative number. Like the value of AIG stock right about now. But like happy shareholders for Lehmen Brothers right now, these additional ratings should be merciful rare.

(I should add that my ranking does not preclude me from waiting for a sale (or taking different actions in the case of a limit run), just that I’m more cautious to balance the likelihood of such a sale (or availability) against the possibility of losing the chance to own. Or being forced into the hands of waiting scalpers. Heaven knows I’ve bought some deeply discounted items that I swore I would never own because a figure offered at a tenth of its retail cost can sometimes overpower logic. Alpha Quintesson, I’m looking at you…)

With these guidelines in place, we move onto the first review.

A preface of sorts to this assortment. I was really hoping that this was going to be an all Transformers: Animated Set. Having seen some of the amazing customs out there, I was chomping at the bit for official versions. Alas that was not to be and I am trying hard not to let this reality underwhelm my excitement for the set (although I will put in brackets after each character the TF:A template that could have been perfect if the powers-that-be had gone this route. Because I can’t resist.)

It would be hard at the best of times for me to be as overwhelmingly as excited for a set as I was with the pre-Beast Wars set of 2006, a set that quite literally compelled me to attend Botcon for the first time. While no set has been perfect (and conversely no set has been, yet, absolutely horrible), for me personally, the 2006 perfectly demonstrates the beauty of the possibilities now available. The controversial 2007 neo-Classics set was a close runner up and only then just barely a runner-up. Last years Shattered Glass woed me in the end, but there were enough misses in the set to drag down the set.

All this brings us to 2009 and Wings of Honour:

Elite Guard Kup - Kup suffers from being the first character out of the gate, and proof positive that the entire set would not serve as a tribute to Animated. As such, he took a fair number of hits that may not have been entirely justified. To the good, he makes use of a terrific Cybertron Mode (Red Alert), a terrific head sculpt and an accurate blue shading for the body. Regardless of what I think of the toy mould, however, it doesn’t seem to suit Kup particularly well, particularly the cab. Failure to substitute a real left hand for the pre-existing laser seems to be a shortcoming.  And the orange striping is distracting. The result is that I’m conflicted and Kup ends up skating between Direct and Retail (3.5).

  • (He would have been so good as a retooled Cybertron Mode Deluxe Optimus Prime.)

Elite Nemesis Scourge - Besides the fact that I have no idea how they are going to keep a story where Scourge is in the past in current continuity without trickery, Scourge fares better, and worse, than Kup. The negatives first - I pretty much universally hate this mold. It really doesn’t do a lot for me. The only time it worked for me was for Ratbat, and then because it looked so much like the War Within depiction of the character. That said, a decent paint application (including an excellent use of contrasting red) and a terrific head retool makes Scourge the winner in the set. Particularly if the “attendee-only” special is a slightly modified Huntsmen Sweep. A Direct (4) grade for Scourge in the final analysis.

  • (Still, how cool would a modified Cybertron Mode Deluxe Megatron from the Optimus-Megatron two pack be?)

Elite Guard Landshark - I have terribly conflicted feelings on Landshark. I want to like him but I just can’t bring myself to fall in love with him. While it is nice to see a new character, and a name that gives props to one of the molds predecessors, I’m still not sold on the character name. Why that matters in a world of Lugnut and Sixknight is beyond me, but it distracts me nonetheless. While the mould is first rate, I really hoped they would hold out the big bucks for Thunderclash, rather than spend it on the new guy. The paint application would have been really appealing if (a) he had been Roadbuster, (b) a perfectly acceptable Roadbuster hadn’t already been issued at retail, and (c) they had gone for some visor subtlety and used an orange or grey instead of that distracting blue. But I really like that mould, so he joins Kup in limbo between Direct and Retail (3.5).

  • (I think I’ve have gone with an albino Deluxe Sentinel Prime in this case, or called him what he is (Roadbuster) and, resisting the urge to call for a repainted Voyager Bulkhead, kept the price point consistent for the set, saved cost for Thunderclash and deployed a repainted Deluxe Soundwave accordingly. At least he offers the possibility of treating Laserbeak as a repainted Buzzsaw to join with Scourge…)

Elite Guard Flak - They should call him Elite Guard Fail. Oh don’t mistake me, the fancy new face is pretty. But I’m not crazy about adding an upsized micromaster to this group, particularly when there are so many other Gen 1.5 Euroformers that could be up to the task (Scorch? Pyro? Where are you, Rotorstorm?). Moreover, like Roadbuster Landshark, we already have a slightly-flawed-but-perfectly-correctable Classics version pegwarming at a store near you in Decepticon Dropshop. Unlike Landshark, we now have a lot of the value of the set invested into an arctic rendering of Autobot Overload, also pegwarming in the next aisle over. Frankly, Flak loses a full retail grade based on the simple fact that two version of the two are currently accessible at retail, pretty face or no, bringing him to an Advertised (2) price point.

  • (Again, not that anybody asked, I’d skip Animated Flak and either (a) bring out Big Shot as a remolded Shockwave (now that’s a tank!), or (b) brake plastic continuity (for Megatron is simply to work…) and used Cybertron Evac to create an Animated-style version of Whirl with a new head sculpt.)

Elite Guard Thunderclash - I really want to love Thunderclash. I really do! I have a soft spot for a toy that landed on Canadian and not American toy shelves. I genuinely like the Energon Rodimus mould, even if I had hoped that the set would save some of its pricing bang earlier on and seriously upsized him to Cybertron Optimus Prime scale (as unrealistic as that might be to bring a Leader class into the mix) or even used the Energon Landmine mould here instead of with Landshark. I even respect the quality of the paint applications which make the best of what they can of transferring the original’s fluorescent colours onto a completely different body (even if I disagree with moving the Autobot symbol outside the eagle). All this going for him - desire, (compromise) mould, paint application - and in the end he looks like a weird prototype. Because he’s Thunderclash, he skirts the no man’s land between Retail and Advertised (2.5).

  • (Who is Animated Thunderclash? I’m taking my coin I saved with Soundwave-repainted Roadbuster and bringing forward none other than Voyager Class Optimus Prime. Given now the axe looks nothing like the cartoon version but actually looks a bit like a trailer, the mould actually might look better as ‘Clash than as Prime.)

Wings of Honour (Set) - Despite wanting to refer to the set as “Wings of Steel” (does that mean Scourge is “Screaming for Vengeance”), Wings of Honour comes out with an average of 3.1, and approaching retail land. Based on anticipated quality of the box (I know I know, but I like how they look…), I’m willing to put the whole set between Direct and Retail (3.5), and call it a night.

(And dream of perfecting digibashing so I can bring Animated Kup, Scourge, Thunderclash, Whirl and Roadbuster to a website near you…)

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