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November 23, 2009

Robot Heroes

Filed under: Toys, Transformers, collecting — fairplaythings @ 6:14 pm

While it is entirely possible that Hasbro will get around to releasing the unreleased wave of Transformers Universe Robot Heroes (BM Optimus Primal and Jetstorm, RiD Optimus and RiD Megatron, Prowl and Laserbeak, and Victory Sabre and Deathsaurus), I am getting itchy. Particularly when they appear on eBay.

On the one hand, how can I not have them in my collection? And yet, do I want to pay the sky high prices for the prototypes of what may actually be eventual releases? I mean I was willing to pay in the $25 range for the Tigatron / Inferno and Predaking / Stepper two packs that have so far only appeared in Europe. But $25 is not the $132.50 paid for Laserbeak / Prowl. But what if they don’t get bid up? Can I really afford not to be involved in the process in case the final price was one that I was totally willing to pay?

With these mixed feelings, I have been doing a bit of defensive bidding when the two packs come up. Early this morning (4:00 a.m. to be exact), the auction for all four sets loose came to a close. I didn’t stay up until 4:00 a.m. to see them through but I put in some defensive bids (although admittedly they were high defensive bids).

The results? Well Prowl and Laserbeak were gone gone gone well before I started my bidding, already at $65 four hours before the auctions closed. So I put in $45-$50 bids on the other three. For some reason, $46.79 was enough to secure the winning bid on Star Sabre and Deathsaurus (so they are coming home soon), but I was narrowly outbid on the Primal and Jetstorm set ($46.61) and Optimus and Megatron set ($47.78). The only thing I can think of is that since the other two sets went to the same person, and the Star Sabre and Deathsaurus set was the middle auction of a string of three auctions in a one minute period, my competitor just could get his computer to turn back to this set in time to outbid me. Lucky me!

Yes, it’s more than I had hoped to get them for, but I have them and there is satisfaction in victory. There will be disappointment if I find them as peg warmers in TRU in 2010. But then I hope they do make it too, because they are such a fantastic wave.

October 22, 2009

Revenge is best served sideways

Filed under: Transformers, collecting, comment — fairplaythings @ 1:20 am

Last night, I went out on what I thought was a vague mission to see what the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen blue-ray steel book looked like. Pretty box really, but not pretty enough to make me want to own a Blue Ray DVD when (a) I don’t yet own a Blue Ray player and (b) I clearly didn’t care for the movie in the first place. I standing by my “no more than one copy” rule, and only then because there is the cool transforming Bumbleshell edition out there at Target in the United States.

That said, if anyone wants me to try and grab them a steel book edition, I’m happy to do so at cost + shipping. The package is $28, plus tax, plus shipping. Just leave me a note if you are interested.

Nemesis Crashing

Anyway, a stop into Toys ‘ R Us revealed the three pack “Gathering at the Nemesis” set featuring the voyager Megatron from the first movie, the Fallen and a vaguely G1 paint application Soundwave. And despite my feelings on the new movie, I might have been swayed enough to pick up the set at $74.99, except that I’d previously grabbed  the Fallen, the one figure in the set I was really keen on. Up until last night, the Fallen (for all the problems he introduced into the “plot” of the second movie) was the only on-screen Movie 2 figure in my collection aside from the deluxe Sideswipe procured as first editions at Botcon 2009, and bought well before I knew just how awful the film would turn out.

With respect to the other voyager figure on offer, I have the U.S. Best Buy tru-colour Voyager Megatron from the first film. So even though this Megatron is pretty close to screen accurate (at least much more so than the first release), I can’t really generate interest to put him on my shelf, particularly given that I turned down the Battle in the Box style gold version of the same Megatron versus Jazz two pack during my last Target order.

And Soundwave still looks terrible and undersized. Maybe if there is a leader class Soundwave, I’ll reconsider him. But not at that size.

Hole in the Sky

The toy line of course is causing me all kinds of mixed feelings, and I can’t really decide if I want to cut it out of my collection like a cancer or allow myself to pick and choose as much as I am inclined to do. Of course, given all the goodness that are the upcoming figures like Brakedown, Dirge and Bludgeon, among others, there is bound to be some TF2-labelled toys in the collection. And it’s true that I am resisting the likes of Deluxe Ravage and Devastator, to say nothing of Deluxe Mudflap and Skids, as well as those figures whom I already have in abundance in the same scale from the last film like Bumblebee and Prime.

But there is not a clear line, in which I can say I won’t buy anything, a situation made worse knowing that a portion of the profits go into Michael Bay’s pocket (although I don’t know if that agreement includes non-screen transformers.)

I am having big issues with the Legends scale figures, since I love this scale and have done as much as possible to gobble up the previous reiterations of this line. It feels like a big sucking black hole to leave out the TF2 figures and yet I cannot justify them at their regular price.

Unfortunately, I cannot resist the Fact Action Battlers. I expect to grab them all including the abominations that are Skids and Mudflap. That said, at $15.99, I’m going to try to pick them up on discount, although the Grindor repaint of Blackout almost came home last regardless of price.

The absence of TF2 Robot Heroes from my collection is a little easier to justify, not because I don’t love them because I absolutely do, but because the movie ones lack the fun that made their G1, BW, BM and even Movie 1 versions must haves in the collection. The hole bothers me, of course, but somehow not as much. The only set where I am waffling is the Battle of the Fallen set, and then only because the Fallen is so big and the Prime/Jetfire hybrid is well-done.

Gravity bots are definitely a no. I like the hot wheels-inspired RPMs but they are a lot of money. And they aren’t really transformers. Likewise the Robot Replicas, which despite my love of Action Masters, I avoided for the first film and will avoid for its sequel.

Compromise Bloody Compromise

As for the main line (so far), here is my list of yes, no and maybe (i.e., only if on sale), and what I have to date.

YES
Basic: Brakedown, Dune Runner
Deluxe: Autobot Gears, Brawn, Breakaway, Dirge, Lockdown, Sideways, Smokescreen, Swerve, Thrust
Human Alliance: Barricade, Sideswipe
Voyager: Bludgeon, Long Haul (but basically because he looks so good in classic Construction green), Mindwipe
Leader: Starscream
Exclusives: The Fury of Fearswoop

NO
Basic: Ejector, Scalpel
Deluxe: Skids, Wheelie, Blazemaster, Bumblebee, Cannon Bumblebee, Deep Desert Brawl, Interrogator Barricade, Mudflap, Ravage, Soundwave, Stalker Scorponok, Strike Mission Sideswipe, Tuner Mudflap
Voyager: Deep Desert Ratchet, Defender Optimus Prime, Demolisher, Ironhide, Megatron, Mixmaster, Optimus Prime, Stratosphere
Exclusives: “Burning” The Fallen, Gathering at the Nemesis
Leader: Devastator, Shadow Command Megatron

MAYBE
Basic: Dead End, Knock Out, Nightbeat, Ransack, Reverb, Rollbar, Scattershot, Sonar, Wideload<
Deluxe: Arcee, Armorhide, Ratchet, Skids+Mudflap, Chromia, Rampage
Human Alliance: Bumblebee, Skids
Voyager: Grindor, Starscream, Recon Ironhide
Exclusives: Superion, Super Tuner Throwdown (Blowpipe vs. Sideways)
Leader: Jetfire, Megatron, Optimus Prime

HAVE
Basic: Depthchage, Dirt Boss
Deluxe: Dead End, Jolt, Sideswipe
Voyager: The Fallen,
Exclusives: Ramjet, Skywarp, Whirl + Bludgeon two pack, Straightaway Shootout

You notice two things on this list - Starscream and the Mudflap and Skids two-pack. On Starscream, even though the figure is just a repaint, the repainted symbols are really nice. But I think my solution will be to get the upcoming Leader scale version of the character which gives me a different scale but all the bells and whistles that are appealing about this look. Although I am a sucker for seekers.”

As for Mudflaps and Skids, despite my loathing of these characters, the ice cream truck idea was pretty neat. So I’m torn there. Maybe it’s a sales package only.

My wavering on toys seems to have taken me away from the conclusion of the trip last night, which, again, was to simply see the steel box of the Fallen in its native environment, the sale’s shelf at FutureShop. We then went next door to BestBuy where I remembered the real reason for the trip, which was to see the new Shout! Production of the original cartoon in all its 16 disc glory.

And lo, there it was, on sale at $99 and giving me hope that the GIJoe companion set would be similarly featured for the release of the Rise of Cobra.

The plan was to simply buy one for my nephew for Christmas and tuck it away until the holidays. Because I own all the Rhino Generation One DVDs (which I can’t really part with because they are signed by the likes of Michael Bell), a problem I don’t have with the Rhino incomplete GIJoe collection. And yet, the draw of special features and the oh-so-matrixy box and the price was too much and I surrendered.

Upon getting to the cash, I was surprised when the cashier paused me to run and get a special add-on. Yes, the Revenge of the Fallen promotional t-shirt came with each package, so I got a free shirt I’ll likely never wear. But still, it’s something, right?

So then we went home and I popped in the special features during my Halloween costume work, and it was all worth it. I can’t wait to see the scripts when I have time to load the DVDs into a computer.

August 18, 2009

Killing in the name of Optimus Prime

Filed under: Transformers, comment — fairplaythings @ 5:21 pm

I’ve already spoken extensive on Transformers: Revenge of the Bay here, here, here and here. I’m so done with that movie. The only redeeming thing about it is that the urge to buy toys based on the movie is very limited. Even the usually adorable Robot Heroes are of little interest to me. Aside from some G1 repaints, this represents the first line that will not be extensively represented on the shelf (and what will be represented will definitely be non-screen formers).

However, I was checking out seibertron.com today, and drooling over Jim ’s always-awesome repaints, when I stumbled upon his rant against the critics. Now this is not to pick on Mr. Saotome, who is simply echoing a lot of the backlash in the fan community to the near-universal derision to the film by critics, but it seems every time that damn film comes up among fans of said film and my opinions are made known, I hit variations of the following points:

(1) “Oh you’re just a G1 purist”;
(2) “You are suppose to suspend disbelief / put your brain on the shelf and enjoy the ride;” or
(3) “You are old and you just don’t get it.”

On this last point, allow me to elaborate the sentiment. To quote Mr. Saotome: “With each thumbs down and one-star rating they vengefully toss forth, these popular movie critics threaten the market and future of the genre we know and love. They have no business reviewing movies they do not understand and lack the intelligence and open mindedness to accept such films into the fray. This frame of mind is dangerous and impedes any sort of progress for the future of such films. True enough the critics of yesterday live to enjoy the classics, movies they claim have beautiful insight in to humanity and where a Patsy Cline score can be heard playing in the background. And that’s all well and good for that is their schoolyard playground where they can rule as king of the sandbox. But they fail terribly when they try to grasp the spectacular, or try and understand the love someone holds in their heart just to see their favourite giant robots walk across the screen for the first time. The movie critics will scream and yell, casting down upon the directors and producers of this abomination to Hollywood’s credit.”

Allow me then to rebut all three of these arguments.

G1 Purist

While it is true that my entry into the fandom comes by way of Generation One, no one can argue I am a purist. Allow me to demonstrate my credentials:

1. I am an enthusiastic collector of non-transforming Action Masters.
2. Not only do I like Generation Two, but, against my better judgment, I actually wanted to see General Optimus and Sergeant Hound released.
3. I embraced Beast Wars long before it was known to have G1 reference points and consider it one of the greatest story accomplishments aimed at a “kid’s” market.
4. I enjoyed and enjoy Beast Machines and, contrary to many fans, consider it to be sadly underrated.
5. While I find the cartoons for Robots in Disguise / Car Robots (2000) and the Armada-Energon-Cybertron trilogy (2002-2006) hard to deal with, I do enjoy the latter’s comic book run through Dreamwave.
6. I think Transformers: Animated is the best possible reimagination of a series I could imagine, and was greatly saddened by its conclusion.

It goes without saying that I have a collection of Transformers that easily enters into four digits and spans all generations prior to the movie. Interestingly, of all those lines, it is probably Generation One itself where there are the biggest gaps. So much for a purist.

But can I add more to this resume? Of course I can. Because I ACTUALLY ENJOYED THE FIRST MOVIE.

Yes, one can say that out loud and not be struck down.

Was Transformers a cinemagraphic epic? No, but it had a great first act and an enjoyable third act, both of which allow me to sit through the fart jokes and attempts at humour in the second act. It had enough touchpoints of my childhood, done in a way that I felt respected that memory, that I felt like watching the movie eight times in the theatre.

All this to say I can deal with variations and new thinking on childhood memories.

When I am asked to elaborate on my problems with the movie, however, I don’t focus on all my issues. The nonsensical plot. The plot chasms. The inherent sexism. The idiot robot twins. The inability to feel for the robots. The inability to distinguish one robot from another. I focus on the big ones for me. They used the sequel to turn Optimus Prime into a remorseless killer and Megatron into a toadie.

Optimus Prime is a hero. He is not an executioner. Like Superman, he would find a way to prevail without taking the easy way out through murder. Watching this Optimus Prime was worse than watching him die. He was already dead to me.

And Megatron? A second banana? Not Megatron. Never Megatron.

Brain on Shelf

I can tolerate plot holes and I can enjoy popcorn, but movie enjoyment does not mean I have to accept a film that insults my intelligence. If you look at films like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, Batman and Ironman, Superman and Star Trek, you can see how popular stories can be told on the big screen without offending their fans. Some films may be better than other but there is an effort to remain true to the essence of the characters. Take Watchman. Regardless of one’s thoughts on the movie, here is a film that respects where it came from and tries to ensure it can live up to its inspiration. I might have issues with this scene or that plot point, but I respect that. Because in a way, it is showing respect to me, as someone who went to see the film.

A good film means that I can immerse myself in the experience as oppose to checking my watch, and contemplate whether I should try and get my money back.

We Are the Future

It’s interesting to me to see how many people have embraced this film. I cannot honestly begin to tell if it is because there is safety in numbers or that they just don’t see many movies. Because the critics that are so invisorated by the fans of this film are willing to take unpopulist positions and have seen and studied enough films to have valid opinions. There is nothing wrong with Roger Ebert’s writings on the film, but to say he’s missing the context of the movie is misreading what makes a good or a great film. A popular film is different than a great film. And a great film does not rely solely on the lowest common denominators of big tits, fast cars and mondo explosions to be great.

Michael Bay didn’t destroy my childhood. It’s still safely in a box, in my house and in my heart. He just embarassed me and ruined what could have been.

June 27, 2009

Revenge of the Fallen (or the Trouble with Sequels and Saving the Third Movie)

Filed under: Transformers — fairplaythings @ 2:51 pm

Three is just a bad idea

The typical pattern for franchise based films drawn from science fiction and the world of comics is as follows. The first one is generally good but, because the backstory needs to be established and the actors are getting use to the material, it always feels like it could be more. Lose of the origin story, the second one hits the ground running, knocking over all expectations and really tearing up the screen. The third film tends to suffer under the weight of expectations and time, as a director may leave or the studio puts on pressure or the freshness of ideas just aren’t there anymore. At best it fails to live up to expectations; at worse, it collapses under its own weight and kills the series.

And if the franchise survives to the fourth film, then all bets are off.

Examples are out there. The Star Wars trilogy, the four Star Trek: Next Generation films, Superman, Batman, Blade, X-Men, Spider-Man… The list goes on and on. Yes, in some cases (Jedi, Insurrection, X3), the film remains watchable, even enjoyable, but it never hits the peak established by their predecessor (in these cases, Empire, First Contact, X2). Add in the other cases (Superman III, Batman Forever, Blade Trinity, Spider-Man III, to say nothing of Superman IV: Quest for Peace or Batman and Robin) and it’s clear that they are nowhere near where their predecessors had been.

The Fallen digs in

A common problem (but by no means the only problem) in this last set of four films is the introduction of too many characters, which take screen time away from the central protagonist(s), while requiring new backstories of their own. I often wonder what would have been if the stories had attempted to jettison some of these characters, if the film would have turned out better. Take Spider-Man for instance. I’m not a fan of the series but there was something good about Spider-Man II, which featured a well-acted villain while not relying on as much of the sentimental garbage that took up too much time in the first film. But we went from Peter, MJ, Harry, Aunt May and Doctor Octopus, to Peter, MJ, Gwen Stacey, Aunt May, Harry/New Goblin, Sandman and Venom - too many villains and not enough focus on the key parts of the story.

Which brings us to the Fallen.

Revenge of the Fallen breaks the mold established above by simply jumping the excellent second movie and crashing ahead into the abyss of the third. And directoral queue, story editing and other glitches aside, one of the most substantive issues is simply the realization that it had too many characters whose individual narratives and stories were too small to have any impact and yet too numerous to allow the story to continue.

The forgotten

The forgotten

The first movie already had characters in droves. The introduction of Sam, Mikaela, Lennox, Epps, Madsen, Whitmann, Keller, and Simmons, as well as Sam’s parents, meant competing storylines that, at times, drew attention away from the focus of the story. Add in the Transformers, spotlighting on Bumblebee and Optimus and Megatron, with the others as supporting role, and you have a big cast to wield. But at least the storylines intermingled well, so that, at the end, our heroes were all together.

Barely keeping up

Who's the star here anyway?

Revenge of the Fallen loses Madsen, Whitmann and Keller, and gains Spitz, Alice and Morshadow, while picking up Mudflap, Skids, Wheelie, Jetfire, Starscream, Soundwave, Devastator, Ravage and the Fallen to add to the cast (to say nothing of the expanded armies on each side). So what happened? The Fallen relegated Megatron to second banana, while the twins ate into the time alloted to Bumblebee (already played for comic effect). I was actually left wondering why either Megatron or Bumblebee needed to be in the film in the first place, with Megatron’s fight scene aided by other Decepticons (thereby diminishing the character) and Bumblebee getting limited face time. And then Jetfire basically became a cranky Optimus Prime, in the hour and a half when he was out of the fight.

It’s no wonder that the movie never felt like it got going. The movie had to keep intersecting from one location to another to ensure a bit of time for this character and a little effort for that plot point. Sometimes there is something to be said for streamlined scripts.

So where do we go from here? Well, my prediction at this point is a massive opening week for Revenge of the Fallen, followed by a fall off of ticket sales rivalling Watchman and X-Men Origins: Wolverine. My gut feeling tells me this film doesn’t have the drawing power for repeating viewings by fans, and the combination of new movies and bad reviews will kill off all but the most curious. All this doesn’t limit the possibility of a third installment but it may well handcuff the length and the budget.

Ditching the hangers on

To come out with a third film, without rebooting altogether, we need to streamline this cast. Jettison all but a few key robots (Optimus, Bumblebee, Megatron, Starscream, one or two others) and rely on the numbers for big epic battles. Focus on Mikaela and Sam’s story and use Lennox, Epps and Simmons with care and respect. And find one main storyline with maybe one or two sublines. Nothing elaborate. Perhaps a beacon from space calls the Autobots home to find their world further devastated by Decepticons, leaving our human friends and Bumblebee on Earth to find the key to final victory. Perhaps a sub-plot could be Sam deciding between duty and family with a pregnant Mikaela, with Bumblebee torn between his human alliances and the needs of his brothers-at-arms.

Anyway, something without so many stories. And perhaps with some more care given to backstory terminology like Energon, space bridges, matrixes and the like. That would be nice too.

June 12, 2009

Prime Target (or How I Came to Fear “Revenge of the Fallen”)

Filed under: Toys, Transformers, nostalgia — fairplaythings @ 1:11 pm

ROTF Megatron Versus ROTF Optimus: Only Transformers could make me want to buy a Slurpee from 7-11.

ROTF Megatron Versus ROTF Optimus: Only Transformers could make me want to buy a Slurpee from 7-11.

I remain terrified about the upcoming theatrical release for Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Not because I’m a purist who can’t get behind a different interpretation but because of what I fear passes for humour these days.

The first movie can be broken down into a three act play. The first act - an invasion of very scary robots - I can, and did, get behind. Very scary robots equals very freakin’ cool. The third act - good versus evil with big giant robots that smash building and ping humans - is more than satisfying. Even the goofy lines I can overlook for effects and the dialogue that works.

It’s the second act I continue to have issues with. A series of “humourous” set-ups and lines involving urinating (sorry - “lubricating”), masturbation and “my bad!” (the worst line in the world in my view!) - well, in the words of Bill Shatner and Henry Rollins, I can’t get behind that!

PVC Optimus and ROTF Prime: Prime is clearly calling Wheeljack for a special stand for his descendent.

PVC Optimus and ROTF Prime: Prime is clearly calling Wheeljack for a special stand for his descendant.

As plasticcrack.com illustrated earlier today, with a preview of a sequence featuring ROTF Wheelie, there are parts of the sequel that are aiming for the same vein. My worst fear is that they will overwhelm anything remotely satisfying about the film. And while I may be tired of hearing, in response to any expressed interest in Transformers, “so you must be excited about the new movie” (mainly because I cannot parse the sentiment expressed here into the 15 second response they are expecting), I am excited about the movie. Or I should say I WANT to be excited for this film. I want it to be great! or at least watchable. I want to WANT to see it a second time, and a fifth for good measure. I don’t want “so you must be excited about the new movie” to be replaced with “man, that movie sucked!” followed by pointed laughter. (This concern by the way ultimately makes me really happy right now that I am not a G.I.Joe fanatic given recent rumours there.)

ROTF Megatron versus G1 Megatron: Autobot Leaders have the Matrix; Decepticon Leaders get the Laserbeak.

ROTF Megatron versus PVC Megatron: Autobot Leaders have the Matrix; Decepticon Leaders get the Laserbeak.

It’s not that I want or need the acceptance of others on this. Or that I even want or need Transformers to be Citizen Kane. I just want to enjoy a movie about transforming robots that will not make me feel like an idiot for continuing to invest time and energy into this hobby.

And, being a mark for the marketers, I also don’t want to have to turn down cool marketing (dammit!) because I know I’ll regret having multiple copies of the inevitable DVD release on my shelf. (Disclaimer: I have five copies of the first movie in my collection: the FutureShop Autobot Steelbook, the two-pack edition from the evil store featuring the animated prequel with Peter Cullen (thanks Shannon!), the transforming Optimus Prime edition (copies of which were shared with other robot fans), the more recently released transforming Megatron edition, and the long-sought after, eBay-acquired U.S. Best Buy Robot Heroes edition with Optimus and Cliffjumper movie heroes, so I know my natural susceptibility to corporate manipulation).

ROTF The Fallen versus PVC Overlord: No more bright colours for you.

ROTF The Fallen versus PVC Overlord: No more bright colours for you.

Fundamentally, I like tie-ins, and, while they overwhelm my home, I like the excitement of bring home new plastic (even if the off-gassing is surely going to kill me…) Which brings me, in a round-about way, to what was suppose to be the topic of this post. On the way home from work tonight, I stopped in at the 7-11 to discover their latest promotional tie-in to “Revenge of the Fallen.” In this case, it is the availability of small 3″ plastic renditions of Optimus Prime, Megatron, the Fallen and Bumblebee that are attached to plastic Slurpee straws and can be purchased for CDN$1.99 each, as well as reusable Transformers cups of Optimus, Megatron, Ravage and Bumblebee that, with Slurpee beverage, can be brought home for $2.29.

Sharing a drink with my new Botcon friend: Dignity? What dignity?

Sharing a drink with my new Botcon friend: Dignity? What dignity?

I gotta say that I’m quite impressed with the figures. Although they lack the limited articulation and posture of the more expensive Transformers SCF / Heroes of Cybertron that were available in the early part of the decade, they look like they should be a natural extension of the line. And I was especially pleased to pick up Optimus, Megatron and the Fallen without the purchase of separate Slurpees. The only character they didn’t have - Bumblebee - will clearly require a stop at another 7-11 later tonight.

Anyway, suffice to say that I’m already being drawn in by promotions for the movie in some cases. I just hope that Revenge of the Fallen, just two short weeks away, lets me maintain my dignity. Or at least what passes for dignity in my house these days.

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.

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.

Synergize

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.

April 13, 2009

Shattering my Verse

Filed under: Transformers, custom — fairplaythings @ 1:44 am

I don’t know how it is for you but I always find I get distracted with other ideas when I should be concentrating on the list ahead of me. In my case, it’s a pretty big list, what with all the work and plans I have in advance of (a) the Ottawa Munny Show scheduled for April 18, (b) TransformersCon scheduled for April 25-26, and (c) Botcon scheduled for May 29-31, to say nothing of two custom commissions in progress. And yet there was a loose double Shockwave, hanging around so innocently that I figured would make a nice companion to Powered Convoy.

So behold Shattered Glass Shockwave. I hope you like.

April 10, 2009

Calling all Talent

Filed under: Transformers, custom — fairplaythings @ 10:41 pm

As I noted earlier this week, there is so much talent out there in the fan community in terms of filling in gaps in the Hasbro and TakaraTomy releases. Classics Ultra Magnus armour. Classics Powered Convoy armour. Neo-Classics Optimus Trailer (two types!).  Quintessons. Vector Sigma. The Golden Disks. Universe Roadbuster weapons and head. Proper G1 Ironhide and Ratchet Heads. TF:A Optimus Axe. Even Autoroller! But there is still much more to do until we sleep. Here are my top six shout-outs for what is still needed:

G1 Rumble / Frenzy Pile Drivers - I think every Generation One episode that features Rumble or Frenzy had them making use of their mighty pile drivers to do terrible damage to the local environment. And yet while Hasbro added pile drivers to the Alterators Rumble and they are prominent in the KT toys, they are terribly overdue as add-ons to the G1 figures.

G1 / Universe Sideswipe Jetpack - Sideswipe’s jetpack showed up in his MyClone bad self, but nowhere else. There is a perfect opportunity here to make two versions - one for the G1 toy and another for the Universe mould. The G1 version could have a black variant for his G2 toy version. And if you really wanted to do some goodness, you could make sure both the G1 and Universe versions were compatible with their lines’ respective Optimus.

Action Master Megatron Cannon - Yes, there was a company in the 1990s that was given permission to make an add-on for Action Master Megatron. Yes, there are a lot of fans who hate hate hate Action Masters. And yet the line has its defenders (see custommaster.com for an example, see right here for another). It’s time to let us make Megatron whole.

TF:A Ultra Magnus Head - I love that in a twelve-month period we will see three different tributes to G1 Roadbuster in the form of a Universe-affiliated repaint of Cybertron Hotshot, the TF:Animated Ultra Magnus, and the upcoming Botcon Landshark. And while there are efforts underway to create the shortcomings to Universe Roadbuster, something MUST BE DONE with the Animated version. Frankly, I’d be happy with a repainted head, but what I really want to see is a complete resculpt in an animated style. A full set could include similar-styled cannons and replacement hip guards.

Beast Wars Rhinox Cannon - Okay, so the toy does kind of have one version of his cannon. But we all know it’s just not the same for him to (1) not have two to hunker down behind rocks to provide cover fire, and (2) have the cannon part of the attachment facing the wrong direction (up and not outward). Should be a relatively easy fix. Let’s go!

Beast Machines Botanica - Like Action Masters, Beast Machines never gets its proper due. Botanica never got a toy release because she popped up too near the end of the series. But she benefits from a very simplistic alternate form that can be established with a few twists and turns. Surely if we can get a Quintesson Scientist right, we can get a Botanica.

March 26, 2009

Guardian Robot

Filed under: Transformers — fairplaythings @ 11:14 pm

Fan favourite sewingstar recently posted her rendition of Omega Supreme, first in black and white and then in colour. I thought I’d take her outline and try my hand at colouring with the help of Photoshop. It’s Omega’s brother!

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