February 15, 2010

Toyfair 2010

Filed under: Toys, collecting, toy review — fairplaythings @ 10:01 pm

Still the big dream to attend. Still haven’t had my chance. Doesn’t mean that I can’t comment like last year.

Transformers: The Tail End of the Boogalo

2010 has a lot going for it Transformers-wise, the best of which is the simple fact that, as we move farther and farther away from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, those figures popping up under the movie banner are actually much more interesting than, say, a certain set of twins and a small humping robot. And given that Hasbro is not adverse to using one line to advance characters that could fit in other lines, it makes things all the more rewarding.

The best example of this is Seaspray. Now, here’s a toy that could fit into the Universe line with some minor modifications. And even as it is currently constructed, it offers the promise of an exclusive repaint, like Powerglide did for K-Mart.

In terms of other interesting repaints, Jetblade is a nice repaint of the Dirge rethink that I am trying to get my hands on. And a G2 yellow style repaint of Long Haul as Payload, well, I blame a good game tie-in for my interest there.

Other movie-ness? Well, strangely I find the new deluxe Ironhide quite a piece of good news. Now I really don’t need another one of these but it does allow for Ironhide and Ratchet to be in the same scale as Bumblebee and Jazz and the rest of the gang (with Voyager Optimus to lead them). And it gives me a reason to get deluxe Ratchet who intrigued me for his rivalry with movie-tized Lockdown, but just needed a little push to make it to my toy shelf.

Similarly, I am really curious about how sick the combined form of the Autobot girls is going to get. And I don’t mean that in a late 2000s context. I mean physically ill. Seriously, Elita One (in black, leaked through some websites) is the wrong colour and a repaint to boot, but somehow Hasbro is going to be able to have her merge with Chromia and Arcee. I’m curious to see how it looks.

And Hailstorm (also leaked), which I presume is more movie madness, nonetheless looks good as a Wolverine-style missile tank. And I have to admit to admiring the voyager redo of Ratchet in his RPM colours. I remember liking the RPM colours initially and I’m happy that they took the design to the transformable robot stage.

Up and Coming

But back in the rest of the hood, while I am meh on the Powerlinx 2.0, I’m jazzed about Straxus Darkmount (again, not visualized). While I would have preferred a voyager, he’ll fit right in with the new Bludgeon, complete with his pick axe and three forms. Admittedly, there is something just a little off with him, primarily his lack of girth I believe, but I’ll overlook it.

Then there are the previously seen War for Cybertron Bumblebee - looking like he stepped off the set of Tron - and Optimus Prime - looking a little bit Transtech there. But the Generations banner opens up the door to new and different repaints which could be very cool.

And Hubcap. Wrong name. Sweet ride.

I’m excited to see Masterpiece Grimlock (complete with crown) is coming soon to ToysRUs. Although I wonder if Wally-Mart is going to be able to round out its seekers with Masterpiece Thundercracker.  And of course another chance to own Blaster and the tapes at San Diego Comic Con. But I gotta ask. Why no Rewind?


Then there’s Thrust. I’m just waiting for the controversy this time around. First there was the Botcon version that had fans screaming bloody murder that if only Hasbro had gone the Target route their single purchase would have ensured a success, rather than leaving Target to mark them down to clear like they did with the Skywarp/Ultra Magnus set. Then, there was Takara-Tomy’s entry and more fans cried out with abandon that they had spent all kinds of money on the Botcon set and how dare Takara-Tomy release their own Lady Gagafied Thrust. And now Hasbro has taken that Thrust, GeeOned it, and put it on a rack near you. I know I’ll buy him even though I have the others, because he’s so spot on this time. But I don’t regret the slight variant that is the Botcon set nor the Fame Thrust from Japan.

But a Dirge would be nice.

“It’s as if Millions of Voices Cried Out “Squeeeeee” and Were Suddenly [Left Deaf for the Experience]“

Drift. Need more be said? The car mode is a little Armada Hotshot but this is one bad Transformer. Best of the bunch I say.

And Knowing is Half the Battle

I won’t spend a lot of time on dear old Joe. For a line that just had a major motion picture, I didn’t think there were as many additions as expected. There certainly is some good stuff coming (or just arriving) on shelves now. And for fans of Resolute, I’m happy that Hasbro is going with two new seven-packs for collectors.

For me, I’m interested in getting my hand on the Rage (because I don’t have the original) and the new HISS (which has a lot of neat features but will always pail before the 1983 edition save the edition of real freakin’ treads!) And an Alley Viper or three must be have for good measure.

Mostly (and a little off topic) I worry about the price point for Joes, and it’s impact on the long term viability of the line. While all toys have gone up in price in the last two years, GIJoe seems to have suffered disproportionately because the jump seems so excessive given the size of the figures involved (somehow a four dollar jump for DCUC already in the double digits doesn’t seem nearly as excessive as a two-to-three dollar jump for a 4″ figure that was not) and overall popularity. Because, admit it, there are enough stores around still carrying the 25th Anniversary vehicles at their original price point to leave a parent scratching their heads about the very visual jump for the new stuff. Why would anyone spend $27.99 on the SNAKE Armour and Viper, when Wild Bill and his Tiger Rat are right beside it at any Zellers for $29.99 (no word of a lie). More common is the sight of the Armadillo + Steeler Vs Serpentor + Air Chariot hanging around at $18.99, right beside the Armadillo (with firing missile) + Thunderblast combo at the same price.

In the age of Wallymart, parents know bigger bang for buck. This is going to continue to hurt the Joes in a way Cobra never could.

Masters of the Wallstreet

I so want to love Masters of the Universe. But that love would be unrequited and lead to more boxes in the basement. But She-Ra’s coming on the heels of Adora. Keldar is making a non-SDCC appearance. And I am so psyched about Mo-Larr, he of Robot Chicken fame. Definitely one to join Hordak and He-Ro there.

It’s also cool that Mattel is bringing He-Man and kin to real store shelves, packed with DCUC. It’s a cool idea. I just wonder who will be next. Batman and Mat-at-Arms? The Joker and Beastman?? Wonder Woman and She-Ra??? The mind spins!

And in the “what the hell were they thinking - you have to be a fan” category is Gy-Gor, the (formerly Gorilla Grodd) build figure gone wrong. For a complete history of this really obscure creation, see poeghostal.com and he-man.org.

Something Something Dark Side

It’s been a long time since I’ve been excited for anything Lucas, but the AT-AT is the toy of the year for the line and I have to have it!

Oh. You thought I meant the big one. For the 3 3/4″ line. Sorry. I don’t play that way.

I do get all jumpy for “I never had him the first time around because he didn’t exist but everyone I know who collects Star Wars had two” Rocket Firing Boba Fett. That’s a keeper.


I have just one questions on the Marvelformers. Why doesn’t Hasbro replace the heads and integrate them into the main Transformer line. Because a lot of them are really quite wonderful. Case in point, the new Ironman car.  They always look like they could break the Star Wars formers in two.

Still better than most of the first wave of the bayformers and looking pretty solid to boot.
Also, Archangel. Badass. ‘Nuff said.

The Distinguished Competition

I’m not a Mego guy but I do like the BifBangPow retro Hal Jordan enough to want to bring him home.
And what is up with the Brave and Bold hero heroes. How are they this cute? Baby Sinestro and Nurse Fate? Cute. Blueberry Beetles 2 and 3? Super cute.

And DCU continues to hum along. I have some. I need to unload them. But I want a Firestorm. And Manhunter looks like the old pawn from the DC Comics chess set, and probably made of the same calibre of plastic. But want. And of course any chance to get Kyle as Parallax also needs a mention. As do a few particular DCUC figures, namely Gold, Alan Scott, and Tyr!

Did I miss anything?

April 21, 2009

I Was Born for Dyeing

Filed under: Toys, Transformers, custom, toy review, tricks of the custom trade — fairplaythings @ 8:01 am

The following events take place between the hours of 1:00 a.m. and 5:00 a.m. on the day of April 19, 2009, and should not be repeated carelessly for fear of orange fingers and tired eyes.

Having (for the most part) succeeded in dyeing soft resin munnies for the last six months, I decided to move to the next step: dyeing hard plastic transformers. Although the end results are somewhat less than perfect, I’ve learned a lot from the experience and hope to be able to correct the errors for the next test. But I figure it’s worth talking through and noting the problems, so that the next time is perfect.

Begin with the End in Mind

The test subject in question (Victim #1) was a Beast Wars Tigatron. The goal was to convert him to resemble the 1996 catalogue prototype, an orange tiger with green joints. Dyeing, if it worked, offered a quick, brush-stroke free, and scratch resistant approach to the outcome, turning his already light yellow plastic coat to orange. Although the neon green of the original Tigatron did not quite match the more forest green of the prototype, keeping the moulded green plast “natural” follows my traditional rule of leaving close colours alone (unless they really bug you).

Really it was an ideal project for a first-time dye job. Nevertheless, like many projects, the big details are easy. The trouble is the smaller details, or the ramifications that comes from the big decisions.

Sharpen the Saw

For Tigatron, there were three such decisions that would have significant ramifications on the outcome:

1. Stripes: The question of stripes is important. Would Tigatron’s distinctive stripe pattern show through the orange or should I really get out the elbow grease and remove the patterns? Faced with hours of scrubbing, only to have to hand paint the details back on after the fact, I took the easy route and left the stripes intact.

2. Other Paint Applications: Tigatron has a fair bit of silver detailing, on his pelvis and lower knees and the eyes of his mutant head. Should this paint application be removed? I thought about this one too and decide that, instead, I would simply paint over the final results.

3. Green Joints and Parts: While Tigatron can be broken down fairly easily with the turn of a Philips screwdriver. But there are always parts that are not so easily removed. In Tigatron’s case, this includes the three straight metal pins at the shoulders and the tiger head joint. There is also instances where the original, making use of the predominant light yellow original plastic, has coloured sections to simulate the colour of the plastic, notably the arms and mutant head (both of which are glued into place) and the feet.

Be Proactive

Let’s talk paint applications first, specifically the arms. I did attempt to pry the arms away from Tigatron’s “skin”, but abandoned my efforts after stress began to appear. Given the less-than-likely prospect of success on the arms and head, I opted to simply dye the parts and colour correct later.

Now while there is a great technique I’ve absorbed to remove these that consists of literally punching the pin out of the socket using a drill, I have never tried it. However, faced with the prospect of some of the green moulded plastic subjected to orange dye, I figured it was worth my time and effort.

I’m pleased to report that I’m confident the operation would have been a complete success had I not been rushing. As it was the neck and one of the arm pins fell out perfectly. However, I managed to crack the plastic joint on the second arm. I’ve sense learned that the break cannot be easily fix with crazy glue, as the stress of turning is too much for a repair.

Put First Things First

Break aside, I have successfully dismantled Tigatron. The water is boiled and the dye is stirred. And now I’ve dropped all the light coloured pieces into the pot, holding back on the green moulded plastic and the green painted feet (since the light plastic is minimal). The boiling water does its job and I am surprised at how quick and fulsome the job turns out. Removing the pieces and letting them dry, I allow myself to get exceedingly excited for the perfect custom.

It is not to be the perfect custom but unassembled at least, it is looking the part.

Think Win-Win

The first thing I check are the previous paint applications. The decision to leave the stripes and silver intact turned out to be an excellent approach. The strength of the orange dye was enough to turn the silver to a very pretty natural gold that suited the character. There was no need then to recolour these sections. And the original stripes showed right through the new orange coat. I then turn to the arms. The green paint has turned a lovely forest green… exactly the colour depicted in the catalogue.

I then make an understandable but stupid mistake. I change my plans without proper preparation or anticipation of error.

Seeing that the painted plastic turned the perfect colour of green, I got carried away and presumed that dyeing the moulded plastic would have the same result, and spur-of-the-moment decided to dye the rest of the pieces as well.

They turned brown.

Now this is not necessarily a bad thing. The brown actually looks better than green and again, the arms and head can be colour corrected with paint. And the rash act even allowed me to do the feet. The problem was not the decision to dye the moulded plastic, but that the approach negated any advantage gained from removing the three pins. It made the sacrifice of the break irrelevant and would have another unforeseen consequence for reassembling, the inevitable next step.

Suffice to say, while it is good to be flexible to change plans, one should always be aware of the full consequences of the changes. A change is suppose to make things better and not worse.


So now the (very late at this point) moment of truth. Some assembly required. Screwdriver at the ready, I begin to reassemble the parts, a tricky job because there is always an order to things that can be problematic to remember. With the usual false starts I quickly find the resulting problems.

We already discussed the issue of the arm joint crack and the different coloured green base paints. What I’ve not mentioned yet is that the plastic has warped from the heat. In some places it is just enough to cause some trouble with reassembly or resulting in a few gaps here and there. But in three key areas it is a disaster.

The first two are the legs. The lower legs just do not recombine anymore. Instead it is a painful and forced exercise, one that requires scraping to ensure the foot can be
reinstalled and leaving a vertical gap straight down each lower leg.

The third disaster is with respect to the tiger head, where the side pieces have warped inward, making it difficult to reinstall the pin and joint.

A pin and joint that, in hindsight, I should not have removed given the decision to eventually throw everything into the dye.

In the end, the figure stands. But it is a forced effort, one that does not bold well for transformation. But there are lessons to be learned.

Seek First to Understand Then Be Understood

So where do I stand? Well, here is where I can claim victory on the exercise:

  • Successful attempt at popping a number of pins;
  • Successful colour dye of hard plastic.

Lessons learned? Areas for further research? Well, I’d have to say here:

  • My next attempt, I will not dismantle the arm and tiger head brackets, unless I intend to leave them green. Which I might.
  • Try reducing the temperature of the water to prevent warping, or try keeping the complicated pieces like the legs and the head (easy enough if the joint is left intact) together.

With TFCon coming up, I’m in good shape to pick up another guinea pig or three (perhaps with weapons this time!), or even a broken one that will allow me the chance to salvage Victim #1. That would be swell too. Anyway, an interest exercise all told. Thanks for reading.

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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