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…)

Swindle (03-31-09)

Filed under: TF365 — Tags: — fairplaythings @ 12:31 am

Transformer of the Day for March 31, 2009


-Faction: Decepticon (Combaticon)
-Era: Generation One (1984-1992), Generation Two (1993-1995)
-Function: Munitions Expert
-Motto: “Make Deals, Not War

-Notable Toy: Alternators (Hasbro, 2004)

Notes: While Swindle might be a double-dealing cheat, the artist behind his portrait is certainly not. Sewingstars is not the first artist to go with a cutesy style of G1 goodness, but her style is totally her own. Her website is the home of all kinds of crafty goodness, including her latest feltformer creations. Run, don’t walk, to check out her work. Tell them Swindle sent you.

March 30, 2009

Bluestreak (03-30-09)

Filed under: TF365 — Tags: — fairplaythings @ 12:30 am

Transformer of the Day for March 30, 2009


-Faction: Autobot
-Era: Generation One (1984-1992)
-Function: Gunner
I Never Met a Decepticon I Didn’t Dislike
-Notable Toy: Diaclone (Takara, 1983)

Notes: Like rocket firing Boba Fett, Bluestreak is one of those mythical toys that everyone remembers having, yet was never officially produced. The mistake owes to his appearance in toy inserts as “blue”, even though he was released and portrayed on cartoon in silver. There are rare example of him in Milton Bradley packaging in Europe though, and the brilliant Diaclone original, but too rare to end up in so many kids’ bedrooms.

(Apologies and thanks to robot-japan.com for the toy image.)

March 29, 2009

The Toy Factory of fairplaythings.com

Filed under: Toys, custom — fairplaythings @ 7:49 pm

On Friday, I totally challenged Teresa of sewingstars fame to an informal craft-off. She’s had her mojo on for some pretty awesome feltformers and I’ve been chomping at the bit to get back to munnyland. With nothing planned for the weekend, I figured it would let me bring two or three of the little buggers together to join their friends.

Alas, it was not to be. I expect total ownage from Teresa as a result.

Instead, I’ve spent pretty much the entire weekend cleaning. Seriously. The progress undertaken on the basement to turn it into an organized place for crafting, already well underway, was nagging at me and demanding my attention. The result is that, while I may not have anything to show creatively, I should be able to proceed much more effectively in future.

The new Toy Factory, as you can see, has a variety of inspirations to draw upon, not the least of which is the Transformers: Animated line. I also have a reference book case, space for a variety of future projects and various bitty bits that I hope are organized a little better so that I can find them when I need them. I’ve also been able to migrate a bunch of the Munnies to the basement so they stop cluttering the front room. And, because I have a nasty organizational itch that needs to be scratched, all my paints, dyes, tools and sprays have been put in their own place and roughly sorted. A bulletin board lets me put up salient information like receipts and custom ideas.

Because the basement is unfinished, it’s a little tricky to put up shelves because I have to drill into concrete for support. As it is not insulated, it is a cold place this time of the year. As it has minimal wiring, it also means my options for tools (glue guns, heat gun, drills, dremels) will be tricky and require long extension cords.

But it does offer advantages, such as a number of hangers in the support beams that I’ve been able to use to hold cords and other hanging things. Which brings me to the new hanging shelf upon which I display the TF:A collection, the finding of which was a stroke of luck. It has a real kitchy feel to it, is a good size and hangs, so I can mount it without going through cement.

The “door desk” provides a number of excellent and surprising features, not the least of which is the ability to spread out. In case you are wondering, the desk is made from a 82″ long front door that use to be attached to the front of this house until I replaced it about four years ago. It sits on six legs purchased from Ikea and has a towel rack at the left end. The decorative grooves allows me to literally box in sections of paint. The hole where the door handle use to be is actually perfect for holding a munny head, should I wish to have one steadied. And the mail slot could be a garbage or recycling trap, although I have boxes for both under the desk for the time being.

I’ve even made space for guests who might want to come down and hang out, as unlikely as that might be.

Having things this organized is a weight off my shoulders. Too often I spend a lot of time looking for a particular colour paint or an item buried under its weight. Now I should be able to put together what I need quickly, or simply spread out and not have to worry about overtaking the front room of the house. The effort has also given a sense of just how usable the space could be when it finally gets renovated with new floors, walls and insulation. I might not be able to get the pool table I want, but maybe I should think about the classic Death Star game instead. Way cooler.

Now all I need is a better chair.

Octane (03-29-09)

Filed under: TF365 — Tags: — fairplaythings @ 3:51 pm

Transformer of the Day for March 30, 2009


-Faction: Decepticon (Triple Changer)
-Era: Generation One (1984-1993)
-Function: Fueler
-Motto: “He Who Has Fuel Has Power”

-Notable Toy: European Classics (Hasbro, 1990)

Notes: Unlike his Triple Changer partners, Octane was produced officially offered only in 1986, although he was reissued in Europe as part of their Classics line. In the cartoon, he seems to replace Blitzwing as the great Decepticon traitor (strangly leaving Astrotrain as the loyal one). In the comic, he was more adversarial and drawn with a completely different head. I’m almost surprised the Universe 2.0 version didn’t include the second head as an extra feature.

(Apologies and thanks to toyarchives.com for the toy image.)

March 28, 2009

Stampy (03-28-09)

Filed under: TF365 — Tags: — fairplaythings @ 12:28 am

Transformer of the Day for March 16, 2009


-Faction: Maximal
-Era: Beast Wars Neo (1998-99)
-Function: Reconnaissance
A Strategic Retreat is Better than a Tactical Defeat
-Notable Toy: Twin Pack (Takara 1999)

Notes: Stampy is the first rabbit transformer in the TF multiverse and, even then, was only available in the Japanese market as part of Beast Wars Neo. He transforms into a targetmaster mode that is quite odd looking. And his rabbit mode has sharp teeth for a vegetarian. But you can’t go wrong with bunnies!

March 27, 2009

Cyclonus (03-27-09)

Filed under: TF365 — Tags: — fairplaythings @ 12:27 am

Transformer of the Day for March 27, 2009


-Faction: Decepticon
-Era: Generation One (1984-1992)
-Function: Saboteur
-Motto: “Compassion is the Autobots’ Downfall”

-Notable Toy: Standard (Takara, 1989)

Notes: It’s hard to say which fallen Decepticon became Cyclonus. But one things for sure, he was a pretty cool cookie in the cartoon even if he was second fiddle to Scourge in the U.K. comic. His Henkei reissue even came with Nightstick (which begs the question of whether Takara will appropriate the targetmaster and Inferno to make an anniversary Artfire), which is really icing on the cake.

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!

Artfire (03-26-09)

Filed under: TF365 — Tags: — fairplaythings @ 12:26 am

Transformer of the Day for March 26, 2009


-Faction: Autobot (Targetmaster)
-Era: Generation One (1984-1992)
-Function: Sniper
Hold on to Something and Target On!
-Notable Toy: Standard (Takara, 1987)

Notes: I’m guessing that the logistics of re-releasing Hot Rod, Kup, Blurr, Scourge and Cyclonus with targetmasters didn’t fit with Takara’s view of the Japanese marketplace. Instead, Japan saw just two replacement Autobots, Artfire and Stepper. Artfire was paired with CyclonusNightstick for this offering. And while Stepper later saw life in North America as Ricochet, Artfire has yet to surface. Fan everywhere wait patiently.

March 25, 2009

Venom (03-25-09)

Filed under: Uncategorized — fairplaythings @ 12:25 am

Transformer of the Day for March 25, 2009


-Faction: Decepticon
-Era: Generation One (1984-1992)
-Function: Psychological Warfare
-Motto: “Friends are More Dangerous than Enemies

-Notable Toy: Standard (Hasbro, 1985)

Notes: While Hasbro might have used other company’s to help round out its line, most were excluded from the comics and particularly the cartoon. Such is the case of Venom, leader of the “deluxe” Insecticons. How the Deluxe Insecticons would have interacted with the likes of Kickback, Shrapnel and Bombshell has always intrigued me. In any case, Venom’s insecticons were garishly coloured with great accessories. And the clear wings were awesome!

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