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January 8, 2014

TTTB Week One: The New Recruits

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — fairplaythings @ 11:31 pm

So with limited adieu, here we begin our new segment, Transformers of the Basement, Week One: The New Recruits.

Day 1 - Construct-Bots Hound, 2013

Day 1’s Construct-Bot Hound arrival on my door step on January 1, 2014, signaled the arrival of a new toy year. When Construct-Bots were unveiled at Botcon 2014, they dominated a Hasbro new product presentation that otherwise looked like the end of Kre-Os and a return to simpler but less articulate Deluxe priced Transformers for the 30th Anniversary. In my mind, they are a fun fusion of our popular robot characters onto Bionicle-style bodies. Given the previous year’s initial push by Hasbro to encroach on Lego’s turf, Construct-Bots seemed to be an effort to keep the momentum going.

Originally I was going to skip this line altogether. Too many toy robots in the basement already to cede precious real estate to, once again, Bionicles by another name. Too lanky in both forms to be of interest. But curiosity killed the cat and I picked up Starscream in the summer, which weakened my resolve. “Oh I’ll only grab the key Decepticons and be done with it” has morphed into catching them all and really it’s all because of two factors - fun construction play and one adorable mug shot.

On the play side of things, I must attest that it is pretty satisfying to open a box of Construct-Bot and put it together in front of the television. All the Construct-Bots acquired so far have had similar assembly so, other than the occasional reference, the nevertheless well constructed instruction manual is just so much paper (that said, Hasbro really could have made a nod to the anal collector in us and run a title of each book down the spine). The robots do transform and, unlike their Kreon brethren, do not require complete dis-assembly to do so. That said, they really don’t turn into anything other than an oddly coloured skeleton car with rolling wheels or jet with crazy weapons. But as robots, they have a certain esthetic charm, and the bright colours really pop - bright, clearly defined character colours are in fact one of the reasons I am a Transformers fan after all (and one of the exceptions I take with the Michael Bay films).

There are a couple of other factors in their favour. First, the price point has come down significantly at some locations following their launch - from $12 to around the $6-$8 range for the basic cardboarded versions and and $18 to $10-$13 for the ones with the fancier reusable plastic casing. The ability to grab a hero and a villain for around $15 for my cousins’ children was a huge incentive to grab a handful for Christmas presents, which in turn encouraged me to grab some for myself as well. But like I said, the terrible tipping point for me was seeing Hound, a not-overly toyified Transformer to begin with, with that loveable smile on his face. One look and I was mush. Apres Hound, as they say, le deluge.

Day 5 - Construct-Bot Wheeljack, 2013

So, in a long winded way, review of the toy line kind of way, that’s the story of how Hound (and Day 5’s Construct-Bot Wheeljack ended up on my doorstep on a day when all the stores were otherwise closed in Ottawa. I don’t want to leave the line with the impression that it is a perfect toy line. The higher-still Triple Changing price point (including one of two Bumblebees for the line) were disappointing in that they could not handle all their various parts for their duel modes all at once. And there really isn’t anything other than differing character that seems to deviate significantly between the basic and deluxe price points other than the generic plastic case, hardly a $4-$6 value. But there is a lot that is right about this line, and I’m interested to see what 2014 holds in store for it.

Day 2 - Botshot Bumblebee with Launcher, 2013

It was sales that led me to Day 2’s Botshot Bumblebee with Launcher. New Year’s Eve saw a number of Botcon purchases afforded by significant sales at Target, including three-piece box sets (possibly mispriced) for $3.49. Launchers price dropped to $6.49 from $12.99 led to my acquiring of Optimus Prime, Cryo-Scourge and the absolute winner of the group, Warpath. It was only on January 2, on an mission to find a new iron, that the final launcher made its way home.

Botshots was an instant favourite for me. Cute little auto-transforming characters based around an updated version of rock-paper-scissors, I love grabbing the little guys the first year they came out. The second year, the folks in Transformersland, Providence decided to retool a number of the characters so they had more action-oriented poses and more complicated transformations. For me, both features seemed to take the lustre off the line to some extend, but they were still cute enough for the most part to come home on a regular basis. Bumblebee with his launcher is quite possibly the sixth or seventh Bumblebee of the line and, while the transformation looks good, I hate that egotistical face. Still, a completist is a completist, and home he came to join his fellow botshotters.

Day 3 - Reissue Razorclaw, 2013

I am over the moon for Day 3’s Razorclaw. With his brothers, he arrived on Christmas Eve from Amazon.com, purchased at the amazing price point of $62.99 plus shipping. The total package came to $82, more than $20 cheaper than Toys ‘R Us Canada’s offering before shipping. This is an impressive figure. Whereas the old 1986 Predacons came in both plastic and die-cast versions, all five figures come with die-cast parts. But rather than the old yellow plastic, the colouring has been updated to a very shiny gold, with additional stickers provided for you to apply. The set also comes with an additional sword, seemingly taken from the Voyager class Beast Hunter Optimus Prime’s Star Sabre, likely in recognition that (a) Razorclaw’s sword alone doesn’t cut it for a gestalt (combined form of a Transformer special team) of the stature of Predaking, (b) they had it lying around so why not throw it into the mix, and (c) folks were willing to hand over $16.99 for a proper sized sword on the third party market. It’s still not really big enough but it’s the thought that counts, right?

What’s truly incredible about this figure is the price point. According to Steve’s incredibly extensive research over at the Vintage Space Toaster Palace, the original Razorclaw retailed at between $13.97 and $17.97 in the United States. That’s compatible to my own more limited research of the time of Canadian retailers as Canadian Tire and Consumers Distributing. That means a lucky so-and-so could have picked up (likely) a plastic version of Predaking for between $70 and $90 in 1986, or between $29.25 and $37.66 in 2012 adjusted dollars. Twenty-eight years later, the same set, albeit die-cast metal construction, with superior colouring, box art and extra sword, would be $149.99 through Toys R’ Us Canada, and $119.99 through Amazon.com in the U.S., or a mere $24 to $30 per figure. On sale, it works out to be about $12.50 per figure, or a third of the adjusted for inflation price.

For fear of using Razorclaw to begin an academic piece about broader economic and societal changes that have afforded so much consumption in North America and elsewhere without corresponding increases in salaries, I’ll just say heck of a deal and leave it at that.

Day 4 - Masterpiece Streak, 2013

Day 4’s Masterpiece Streak was a purchase made back at the Ottawa PopExpo in early December. Unlike his brother Prowl, Streak (formerly Bluestreak and more recently Silverstreak) has somehow managed to not only linger upstairs longer than so many of his fellow bots but acquired a Buzzsaw to keep him company. I don’t know why Streak of the three Datsun brothers (rounded out by the yet-acquired Smokescreen) makes me so happy but he does. He looks fantastic.

Day 6 - Mighty Mugg Prowl, 2010

For Day 6’s Mighty Mugg Prowl, I decided to move away from new acquisitions (pretty much the theme for the week) and feature a figure that has not only been a welcomed addition to my collection but, egad!, actually on proper display.

Mighty Muggs in general was initially a mixed emotional bag for me. I love the cutesy super deformed look for my beloved Transformers, but Hasbro was clearly taking a run against KidRobot’s Munnies in doing so. With Munnies having outlasted the Muggs (so much so that they are now producing Marvelized versions), my conscience is a little clearer for liking them, and I can regret a bit not having more of the Transformers Mighty Muggs for the collection. Despite my initial reservations, I really believe it was an underdeveloped line, and I’m envious of the numbers and variety of figures produced for Star Wars (36 regular and 8 exclusive) and Marvel (25 regular and 9 exclusive). Heck, even Indiana Jones got nine figures, including the three exclusives, which is 50 percent more than G.I.Joe received (a situation made worse knowing that four more figures died on the development vine).

For Transformers, in some regards we were lucky to get ten regular releases. Wave One consisted of Optimus Prime and Bumblebee for the Autobots and Megatron and Soundwave for the Decepticons. Wave Two featured two new characters shipped with existing characters, and featured Grimlock and Starscream. Wave Three was an all new wave consisting of Jazz and Shockwave, as well as Movie Optimus Prime and Movie Bumblebee. And then in 2009, SDCC received as an odd exclusive choice a metallic repaint of the standard Optimus Prime.

But like G.I.Joe, there are two known Muggs that failed to get out the door before the line came to an end. That didn’t stop some industrious person at Hasbro from using SDCC 2010 as a venue to release Prowl. His Wave companion, Ironhide, unfortunately has yet to see the light of day, which may be an indication that Prowl was not a barn burner for SDCC or that Hasbro just didn’t want to waste more time on Muggs (although it would later produce a line of 4″ Muggs for the Avengers for SDCC). Given that the Mugg Joes were so easily forgotten, I should be grateful we ever got Prowl, and I am. Frankly, he’s one of my favourite Muggs, and I’m happy to show him off.

Day 7 - Botshot Inferno, 2013

Which brings us to Day 7 and Botshot Inferno, a curiously coloured version of the character. I say this because Inferno is typically red across the Transformers multiverse, which makes me wonder why yellow? Grappler is orange so it’s not a name screw up. Possibly, someone was thinking of the time Optimus Prime was a fire truck that was repainted as an exclusive. Or maybe they were thinking Movie Mudflap. Or maybe they just decided that making him red would make him too much like the Sentinel Prime Botshot that first used the mold (probably the case but speculation is fun!) Whatever the case, his significance is really that he was a Botshot that had managed to elude me at previous sales, while made me covet him more so than normal. He was one of the NYE finds which makes him ideal to close out week on.

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