February 26, 2012

League Assignment #3: Where are they soon?

Filed under: League of Extraordinary Bloggers — fairplaythings @ 10:53 pm

This league assignment is subtitled “the one that doesn’t involve collecting humans.”

Allowed back for the third installment of the series, this week Cool & Collected asks: The 80s and 90s were filled with kids and teens in the movies. Which movie would you like to see a sequel made in 2012 with the original cast members, who have aged the same as you and me.

This might get me kicked out of the league, but I’m turning the premise around. Instead of looking back with nostalgia, let’s look ahead with hunger.

I want to see Kick-Ass 2034.

Yes, I know there is talk of a sequel, but here me out. Imagine, if you will, that it becomes a one-off movie. Twenty-two years down the road, Hit Girl is 34 years old. Perhaps she’s a cop like her dad (and adopted father), maybe she’s hung up the guns and the cape, or maybe she’s a mess, the realization of what’s she done catching up with her. Kick Ass is 40 years old. Perhaps the last adventure was the last adventure and he does settle down with his high school sweetheart, raising a couple of kids and finding himself behind a desk reliving past glories in his head. Or he’s been unmasked and forced undercover to protect himself and those around him. And Red Mist? Has the now 40 year old has consolidated his hold on the New York Crime families?  Or been dethroned and seeking vengeance against all comers?

And some catalyst to bring them together, as allies or adversaries, anew.

Now that’s a movie worth waiting for. Because the sequel of any movie that makes Nicolas Cage this cool is worth waiting for.

A sampling of what other members of the league had to say:

  • To come….

February 20, 2012

League Assignment #2: To the Batmobile!

Filed under: League of Extraordinary Bloggers — fairplaythings @ 12:31 am

Well, Brian certainly has a way of getting me back into the blogging game. Here I return again to the next contribution to the League of Extraordinary Bloggers!

You have an unlimited budget and space is not a problem. What piece of Hollywood memorabilia would you want hanging around in your batcave?

You would think this would be an easy question. I can already hear the cries of “just pick one of the Transformers from the Bay films and be done with it!” And in fact that can pretty easy be done. It was only recently that there was an auction to buy Arcee from her brief appearance in Revenge of the Fallen for a mere $17,000.

But y’all know what I think of the Bay films. And anyway, it’s Ratchet that I would want anyway.

But we’re talking about unlimited budget and space.  An original colonial viper? The bridge of the Enterprise? The original Batmobile? A hoverboard? (Actually, this just about became the item in question but it would have to work, dammit!, to bypass all contenders into the core of my heart…) The TARDIS? My god, the mind reels!

Anyway, I could not could not COULD NOT narrow it down to one. So here are my top three in no particular order:

The Dewback (Star Wars: A New Hope)

Here’s a dirty little secret: I was never really into Star Wars toys and figures. Oh I loved the movie (still jealous all these years later that my friend Philip got to see Star Wars in the theatre for the first time while I can only claim that honour for the Empire Strikes Back). But although there were some cool toys - the imperial troop transport, the Death Star (which I only came to appreciate more recently), and the AT-AT - I never went after memorability for the movie like I have for other areas of nostalgia.

But this isn’t a figure we’re talking about. This is the REAL DEAL. So what is worthy of such a place in my collection? While there would be full size mock-ups of the x-wing fighter and possibly for the Snow Speeder (two definite short listed candidates), I suspect (though don’t know for sure) that a lot of the bigger vehicles were scale models.

But I know for sure that one item was real: the Dewback that was lovingly created for Star Wars and ultimately didn’t work as intended. It’s always been one of the cooler toy, so the idea of having the real thing in my collection is just too cool for skool.

Rachel Nichols (G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra)

Is it wrong to add a person to the list, making her into a mere object to adorn a toy shrine? Probably. Dammit I’m going to do it anyway. I liked G.I. Joe (surprisingly) in the end. Oh I winced at the dialogue, and Snake-Eye’s mouth, the choice of characters, the weird triangle of Duke-Baroness-Cobra Commander, and most everything to do with the Commander, but given all this, it really could have been a lot worse. And it did have some good stuff going for it. Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. Christopher Eccleston. Joseph Gordon-Levitt. Storm Shadow. A silent Snake-Eyes. Zartan. The Villains Win!

And it gave us Scarlett.

I though Ms. Nichols did a decent job in the role. I also thought she looked like Scarlett. And I’m saddened to hear that she’s not a part of G.I. Joe: Retaliation (while Channing Tatum will be). Anyway, if the skies the limit, I think having the real Scarlett as part of the collection is a go.

V.I.N.Cent (The Black Hole)

So I started this post with the contention that I couldn’t decide on simply one artifact, and then added a giant thunder lizard and an actress to my list. Really, how can you possess a person, let alone a thunder lizard. But a droid? Very possessable.

And while I think R2 is a fine droid and all, I love the style and flair of V.I.N.Cent. He talks. He hovers. He has cool legs and gismos. And he’s under appreciated. And really, what more does one want in their collection than an under appreciated robot from and under appreciated film?

V.I.N.Cent for the win.

A sampling of what other members of the league had to say:

February 11, 2012

League Assignment #1: It takes an assignment to bring out the writing muse

Filed under: League of Extraordinary Bloggers — fairplaythings @ 8:27 pm

“Oh the year was 1776
How I wish I was in Sherbrooke now…

Wait a minute… The year is 2012, I’m not Stan Rogers, and this is not a folk blog. But you wouldn’t know it from my most recent absence. After a smattering of blogginess at the beginning of the year primarily concerning the event called Botcon, I disappeared again, the victim of work assignments, training and extracurricular activities of a non-toy variety. I extend (again) my apologies to you, regular and faithful readers.

But let’s put my absence aside. This is a a toy blog after all - open, dammit, open! - so let’s get back to it.

Recently, I had the opportunity to make another appearance on my friend Steve’s Roboplastic Podcastalypse  to discuss Robotix, a construction toy of the mid-1980s that tried (and failed) to contort itself into the action figure toy premise so common at the time. For a bit of a nostalgia walk down Skaloor lane, and to hear Steve’s latest revelations of the fate of the proposed second year run on Roboforce, go get the postcast here.

In other news, as you may know from a more active twitter feed, I’ve recently joined The League of Extraordinary Bloggers. I mean, how could I refuse the call to arms of Brian at Cool and Collected to assemble a group of dedicated bloggers who would discuss, muse and debate a variety of topics on a regular basis. Like livejournal’s writers’ block, except way less lame.

Forced inspiration - just what an infrequent toy blogger needs! So here I am for the first installment.

What movie is, or was, your “go to” Saturday matinee — the comfort movie you always popped into the VCR on a rainy Saturday afternoon, the movie you watched over and over again, driving your parents crazy while you recited the lines along with the characters on the screen?

Of course, we’d have to start with a subject on which I do not have a ready response.

Strange as it may sound, I really don’t have a “comfort” movie. Sure, I have a list of favourite films, and films for multiple viewings, but there isn’t (or wasn’t) a film that I completely destroyed with multiple viewings. Honestly, there are so many new (or old) programs that I want to see (hello Doctor!), it almost feels reckless to spent time on multiple repeats. Currently, we going through Star Trek: The Next Generation, episode by episode, and hope to get to the second series of the new V and the (finally!) officially released Captain Power and the Soldiers of the Future soon. I’d also like to go back and watch through the recent Battlestar: Galactica (at least until the middle of season four) and Buffy.

What I do throw in when I am at a loss are old episodes of Beast Wars and Beast Machines. Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge G1 fan and the dialogue and stories hit me in the old nostalgic part of my brain (in a way that most of GIJoe cannot). But Beast Wars and Beast Machines are both visually beautiful and tremendously well written that it’s hard not to be drawn back to them. Strangely the collected serialized Robotics that I have for my Region 2 player can also get thrown into the mix. But even if it is marketed as a movie, it really isn’t quite as advertised.

I doubt that on my list of favourite movies, I’ve sat through any of them more than a dozen times. Strangely, the single film I went to see on more than two occasions was Michael Bay’s 2007 Transformers. I say strangely because, as regular readers of this blog know, I was (putting it mildly) not enamored with its sequels, Revenge of the Suck or Suck of the Moon. And despite these viewing, Transformers does not have a place on my 10 ten list.

But back in 2007, when I first saw the film in Providence, Rhode Island with 500+ Transformers fan, I completely fell in love with it. It was to me what Transformers fans claim its two sequels were - a beloved popcorn film. It really was a classic example of a film that divided its three acts into very distinct styles:

  1. Suspense / horror - the weird artifacts, the building mystery of strange vehicles and machines and the initial confrontations with the Decepticons, there was a sense that Bay was actually capturing how the world would interpret giant changing robots from another world - with fear and apprehension.
  2. Comedy - almost from the moment that Optimus Prime begins introducing his teammates, right up until the unfreezing of MBE 1, the whole film plays almost like a juvenile comedy. Sex jokes, fire hydrants, oblivious parents, urine - it’s like these thousands of year old machines arrived to turn the planet into animal house. And the film would have been damaged had things not changed gears again.
  3. Action / adventure - once Megatron is loose, we get back to a semblance of a movie. These autonomous robotic organisms from the planet Cybertron were not wisecracking friends, they were galactic gladiators whose arrival heralded a terrible threat to all existence and our chance for survival.

Five years ago, how could anyone know that this film would be followed by two sequels, each of which would be the second highest grossing films for their year of release? Or that Bay would take the “comedy” style from the second act of the first film, already sprinkled lightly throughout the other parts of the film, and decide that gay jokes and dog humping should trump subtlety every time? Or that the subsequent films would muddle the identities of both Prime and Megatron to the point that they were no longer recognizable - the hero a cold blooded killer, the villain a pathetic second banana. Or that he would take the somewhat problematic but completely understandable premise of the first film - Optimus Prime and Megatron were shared guardians of their home world until a quest for power led Megatron and his followers to try and seize the soul of their world - and then add contradiction after contradiction into Revenge of the Fallen (the arrival on earth of the Prime and their betrayal by the Fallen millions of years after the war for Cybertron had begun and the Prime were already extinct) and Dark of the Moon (the crash on the moon in the early 1960s of Sentinel Prime in league with a Megatron who had disappeared from Cybertron millions of years before in a vain attempt to retrieve the All-Spark from space). Or that despair and disgust at the last two films would lead me to question what I liked so much about the first one (to say nothing of leading to very very long sentences like the previous one?) At the time, given modest expectations and hopes, Transformers was a somewhat imperfect film that hit enough touchpoints to be worth eight separate viewings in the theatre. Eight.

I saw the second and third film a total of once each. Just enough to know how wrong things went.

So that’s my entry on the topic of “comfort” movies. Not exactly on topic. But an interesting chance to talk a bit about the first film for a change. And of course bash the sequels.

And, in case you are interested, this is my list of favourite films:

  • Fight Club
  • Shawn of the Dead
  • John Carpenter’s The Thing
  • Superman Returns
  • 28 Days Later
  • Usual Suspects
  • Shawshank Redemption
  • High Fidelity
  • The Empire Strikes Back
  • Run Lola Run

A sampling of what other members of the league had to say:

January 7, 2012

Distracted by three year old postings (Botcon 2009, Part 1)

Filed under: Uncategorized — fairplaythings @ 1:15 pm

So I promised in my last post that I would talk about my impressions of the 2012 Botcon set. Which was the plan until I remembered that I’d done this very thing before for a previous set. Having done some work, I thought I’d see if I could keep the flow of the new review consistent with the old.

I am pleased to (re)discover I’d created a value guide to impart my views on the toys. It’s a pretty good one (far simpler than the one I was running earlier last year with my toy of the day efforts) three years on, so I’m going to keep it for the purposes of the Botcon set.

For reference:

  • 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).

So there you go. But I also discovered something else funny. I can’t comment on the post in question. And I really want to comment because, three years on, there are things we know now that we couldn’t know then. So our review of new toys is delayed while I wax on about older ones…

So let’s go back in time, to Botcon 2009, and relive the memories…

But It’s Not Animated!

Certainly the box set was hurt right out of the gate when it was discovered not to be new Transformers: Animated toys. My disappointment was palpable at the time (I even went so far as to develop a mold upon which to create the character) and little did I know that almost a full conventions worth of toys for Animated would arrive in 2011.

But I would have to say my assessments were pretty accurate. The 2009 set is possibly the least popular of the seven FunPub Botcon sets to date, as evidenced by how easy it was to get remainders from the “exclusives firesale” underway at Botcon 2011 (although it was a good way to get exclusives for my nephew without breaking the bank…)

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.)

Time has both helped and hurt Kup. That mold is still amazing, and any toy that gets to use it as a base (be it Cybertron Red Alert, Cybertron Cannonball, or Classics Crankcase) gets a big thumbs up from me.

But Hasbro actually made a Kup for Classics 3.0. A good one too. And there is something wrong about Kup looking so young. Makes me feel a bit dirty. Only because of my love affair with this mold, I’d upgrade my estimate to a Direct (4.0) grade.

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?)

Of course, Scourge was worked into the story by telling the story of young Kup as flashback during the tumultuous escape from the Decepticons in Transformers: The Movie. And the attendee-only special was not, in the end, a Huntsman Sweep, but rather obscure Japanese character, Leozak. But we did get our Sweeps in the end, courtesy of a build-an-army set…

But more on that later. Scourge was and remains a strange one. While I confess to continued indifference to this mode, I might actually like the vehicle mode BETTER than the official Classics 3.0 release. (I’m probably in the minority and coloured by my love of the deluxe Titanium line, but Titanium Scourge is still my favourite rendering of the character.) The situation was not helped by Hasbro’s decision not to include a targetmaster for him, like they had for Cyclonus.

In any case, I’d leave Scourge with a Direct (4) grade.

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…)

Not sure where I was going there with the Animated Buzzsaw comment. I must have grander schemes than I alluded to here.

Anyway, I still like the mold, I’m less concerned about the “Landshark” moniker, and the colours are okay. But I can’t get worked up about him, so he goes down a half notch, to Retail (3.0).

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 too simple to work…) and used Cybertron Evac to create an Animated-style version of Whirl with a new head sculpt.)

Of course, we would get Pyro in 2010, but that’s neither here nor there. Anyway, I was little surprised to find so many of the Flak, even with the new pretty head sculpt, littering the Botcon extra tables in 2011. There are those that love him, for sure, but he’s not flak. He’d have done better in his Japanese colours (as Powerbomb!) at least. As albino Flak, he stays at Advertised (2.0).

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.)

I finally understand the Buzzsaw comment now. Weird.

Thunderclash would also end up as Shattered Glass Thunderclash in the custom class, so some of us ended up with two versions of him. I even scooped up a sale version of him for a future Custom project. But he really is a Advertised (2.0) grade. Sorry.

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…)

Oh man. When I retire, will I do anything but kitbashes? I love my ideas for the Wings of Honours Animated set. But on this set, the total score fell to Retail 3.0. Which is really where it belongs.

January 5, 2012

Give me something to obsess about and I will freely blog

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 1, 2012

Here’s a novel idea - a monthly Transformers figure club

Filed under: Uncategorized — fairplaythings @ 3:55 pm

Happy 2012 everyone.

(For regular readers of my irregular musings, I’m still putting together a few posts on Green Lantern. I have no real excuse for not having undertaken my assignment - with the figures staring me in the face as I type. Rest assured, we’ll get back to this 2011 toy line soon.)

Instead, I want to talk about the 2012 Transformers action figure club. “But,” you correctly ask, “there is no such thing.” True enough. And yet, aren’t we agreed there should be one.

The New Golden Age of Toys

It really is a golden age for toy fans and the time to get our favourites has never been better. From the sheer volume of DC figures coming out of DCUC (wave 22 planned and counting) to Mattel’s recent foray into the Mego style figures (online and at retail) to the return of Marvel Legends and their impressive ongoing line of 4″ highly articulate Marvels, to new entries from classic Thundercats, the inclusion of classic Joes in the ongoing GIJoe line, and G1-inspired Reveal the Shield characters, there are just so many cool toys on the market and on our toy shelves.

This plastic proliferation has, over at MattyCollector.com, resulted in specialty toy lines aimed at collectors. There is a monthly Voltron and DCUC club starting in 2012, the ending of Club Ecto-1 devoted to all things Ghostbusters, and the long-running and particularly awesome and inspirational Club Eternity, with new and more wonderful figures (and now vehicles) every month!

In the Land that Hasbro Built, The Toys are Alright

But that’s Mattel. Over in Hasbro land, two of its biggest licenses (GIJoe & Transformers) have, for the purposes of fan clubs, been in the hands of FunPublications. Beginning life in 1997 aimed almost exclusively at the 12″ collector’s market, the GIJoe club modernized itself in 2002 by beginning to offer a second range of exclusives aimed at fans of the three-and-three-quarter scale figures. Having built up good credit with Hasbro and following the implosion of the Official Transformers Collectors’ Club in 2004, FunPublications resurrected the Botcon name and created the Transformers Club in 2005.

The Transformers club of FunPublications has proven itself to be much more successful and lucrative than its sister GIJoe club. While exclusive convention toy lines for both factions of the GIJoe club number in the hundred (500 for the smaller Joes, 400 for the larger Joes), 2011 is the first year where the main offering of figures sold out for the three-and-three-quarter inch Joes (with 2010, 2009 and 2008 sets still available for sale).

Compare this to the appetite of Transformers fan:

  • The only convention boxset that lingered for more than 12 months was the very first offering in 2005; currently there are no Botcon toys across seven conventions that are available for sale at the club store.
  • At FunPublications’ second Botcon in 2006 (and the last time numbers were readily available for the number of boxed toy sets), there were 750 sets of the main exclusives available. That is only 20% less than the numbers generated for GIJoeCon 2011, their most successful year.
  • In 2007, the year of Thundercracker, Dirge and Thrust, FunPublications had to go back and get additional sets made because of demand, and stopped publishing the number of boxsets available (widely estimated to be in the range of 2000 box sets). Of the three convention add-on sets, numbering 1400 for each set, they were all snapped up easily at the Convention itself.
  • At Botcon 2009, there were estimated to be 10,000 fans in attendence!
  • In 2011, there were 1500 sets of add-ons available for each of the two animated-themed sets. For the Shattered Glass add-ons, there were 1800 available.
  • In 2012, the number of loose sets that can be added to an attendees order is 500, the same amount as the packaged exclusives available for fans of the smaller Joes.

That is not to say everything is a big hit with the Transformers club. Animated Cheetor remains available in small numbers, as have the exclusive figure that comes with annual renewals. And it is only recently that the Club was able to get rid of, at great discount, Airrazor and Astrotrain from 2006. But given the exclusives that continue to linger (and in dramatically smaller numbers) from the GIJoe club, economics alone provides a rationale for more support for Transformers collectors.

With between two and four times the number of toys sold to Transformers fans compared to GIJoe collectors, more toys simply equals more revenue. And in challenged economic times, that’s a win for the bottom line.

Me Thinks Thou Doth Protest Too Much

So why go into details about economics and a comparison of the number of exclusives sold? Because Transformers fans still feel like we are the poor cousins to our GIJoe brethren, despite our overwhelming numbers and sales. Despite promises of yearly club only toys, it wasn’t until 2010 that this became a reality. To look at what is offered for GIJoe fans on a regular basis is to be overcome by toy envy, particularly as these exclusives linger.

In spite of the picture painted for GIJoe fans, it was recently announced FunPublications would start a figure-of-the-month club in 2012. 12 figures (two per month for six months) would be available as a group package to members of the Club, with a 13th figure thrown in as an incentive. Prices are not yet available although they are rumoured to be about 10-20% more than the cost of a 6″ He-Man figure.

I’ve railed about the proposed club previously, particularly the need to join the main club first (a blatant cash grab if there ever was one) and the cost. And I’m not sold on all the characters. But the ones that have caught my eye just won’t let me go. Covergirl, TNT, Tan Grunt, Nano B.A.T.s, and particularly Quarrel and Iron KLAW make it really hard to resist despite my significant reservations to the contrary.

Which brings us, almost 1000 words later, to the crux of the argument. Transformers fans deserve a monthly club too.

What a Transformers Monthly Subscription Could Look Like

Transformers would certainly be more expensive to put together, but the numbers that could be generated from such a project would certainly make it worth it to the bottom line and for fan interest. A good indication of the success potential is Punch/Counterpunch. Offered in March 2010, the figure (with a run of 1800 and at a cost of $59 before shipping and handling) SOLD OUT in three days. A second limited run of an additional 300 likewise sold out in hours. That’s 2100 X $59 = $123,900 in gross revenue.

A significant amount of retooling wouldn’t even be required - in most cases a simple repaint would all that would be required.

So imagine a club offering between 1000 and 2000 sets of figures, at between a $50 to $60 per figure price, for 12 figures (with a thirteen thrown in for an incentive). To make calculations easier, let’s presume $55 per figure and 1500 sets, and you have gross revenue of just under one million dollars.

And who would you offer? Well, sticking primarily to repaints and not wanting to run afoul of Hasbro’s store, and keeping things to deluxe scale offerings, there is a lot on offer. South American exclusives. Proposed but never actualized Transformers: Animated. Shattered Glass. Diaclone. New characters.

For the benefit of argument, allow me to put forward 13 figures that offer some real punch:

  1. Diaclone Bluestreak (Generations Silverstreak in Diaclone Bluestreak colours)
  2. G1 Bumber (Reveal the Shield Bumblebee with new head) *
  3. South American Camaro (Reveal the Shield Tracks with new head) *
  4. Transformers: Animated Cliffjumper (recoloured Bumblebee with new head) *
  5. Shattered Glass Hound (with Howlback) (from Generations Hound and Ravage)
  6. Shattered Glass Ironhide (Black Diaclone colours of Generations Ironhide)
  7. Shattered Glass Punch/Counterpunch (recoloured club tooling of Punch/Counterpunch)
  8. Robots in Disguise Scourge (recoloured Reveal the Shield Optimus Prime)
  9. UK Predator Snare (recoloured Terradive)
  10. G1 Sunstorm (recoloured Starscream)
  11. G1 Toxitron (recoloured Reveal the Shield G2 Optimus Prime)
  12. Transformers: Animated Wasp (proposed TF:A unreleased figure with new head) *

Bonus Figure: Shattered Glass Frenzy and Rumble (repainted Generations Frenzy and Rumble)

So there you go. 13 figures, with only four retools that spans different lines. If the cost of retooling were a factor, substituting in an unreleased TF:A Mercenary Swindle or a Robots in Disguise Scourge would work well. And this doesn’t even touch on possible new toy molds that may lend themselves to other characters.

Really the skies the limit, so it most definitely can be done. And it should be done, given the potential appetite. If it can work for the GIJoe collector (and other toy fans) it can definitely work for one of the biggest toy fandoms in the world. The question is can we make this happen in 2012?

November 27, 2011

In blackest night, will it still shine, the Green Lantern’s light?

Filed under: Uncategorized — fairplaythings @ 2:43 pm

If you had told me even a half dozen years ago that there would be a live action Green Lantern film, I would not have believed you. Although rumours of another DC franchise had been swirling for some time, most notably in the form of a comedy starring Jack Black of all people as Hal Jordan, the whole thing seemed destined never to get off the ground.

Until it did.

Five plus months later of living in a world where Ryan Reynolds is the Green Lantern of Sector 2814, I can still scarcely believe that 2011 has been the year not only only of the Emerald Knight, but also a son of Odin, and a 1940s patriot, to say nothing of a prequel to a mutant movie and the third installment of the super car lifeform robot franchise. The inner 10 year old in me, who knew only the promise of the Empire Strikes Back and Superman II, is still in shock and awe.

He’s also in shock and awe at what these films bring to the toy shelves. Although somewhat heady times for comic book companies and the sale of individual issues (compared to today’s era of digital downloads and closing comic specialty stores), the early 1980s were not kind to those of us who longed for our favourite heroes to be translated to plastic. Speaking for myself, I was too young for the golden age of Mego’s Super Heroes, and would be too old for the silver age of Kenner’s Super Powers (DC) collection and Mattel’s Secret Wars (Marvel) line. The long march of the modern age of super hero figures, that began with ToyBiz’s Batman movie figures and early Marvel figures and now permeates the toy isles with the likes of Captain America and Thor, the DC Universe Collection and Retro-Action characters, and Marvel Universe, was a long, long way away.

It’s into this arena that Green Lantern and its license merchandise falls. And it’s not an insignificant question given the importance of licensed products to a film’s bottom line. But it’s surely not 1991 anymore. 20 years of steady progress in toy development has had an impact on the toys on the pegs, just as the tastes of toy collectors and aficionados have become refined. No longer is it enough to see simply a familiar costumed hero - that hero must be articulate and durable, peering out from the window of full colour, innovative packaging and at a friendly price point.

So how does Green Lantern stack up? That’s the subject of upcoming posts, as we look at both the Movie Masters and 4″ toy line in the week ahead.

September 17, 2011

Sometimes it takes a while for the show to turn itself around

Filed under: Toys, nostalgia — Tags: — fairplaythings @ 11:52 pm

So today was the latest (and rumoured final) of the Landsdown Flea Markets (owing to the unfair takeover of public land by a private consortium that managed to bully and sweet talk the city of Ottawa just right). And I’ll be sad to see the end of what has been a consistently good source of finds over the past number of years.

Today’s adventure started slow though. Following my standard pattern of attack (walk in, turn right, loop left for second row, loop right for third row and circle around to get the other half of the first row missed in the initial assault), I first stopped at the table that brought me a Great Mazinga only last spring. There were a few junior talking Animated Transformers that I passed on at $5, although I was tempted by the Mego-style K-9 unit at $15. Then onto the Lego table which is sometimes good for Transformers or other items, but, other than a $10 Optimal Optimus on which I passed, nothing of note at this point. Second row was a strike-out, as was the third, aside from an Energon Scorponok on whom I passed at $10.

Maybe I’m getting too picky in my old age.

Anyway, I was already writing off the show in my head when I return to where my standard trajectory forced me right, intent on finishing the first row. In this area, there’s always a toy table staffed by a couple who know their toys and whom I speak to at every show. Their prices are reasonable and sometime I find something to repaint or round out a line, but at the same time, it’s not a great table for “oh my god” kind of finds because they know what they are doing. So I’m poking through the Transformers box and opted to buy a Leader class Animated Megatron (for kitbashing purposes, perhaps) at $6 and a white 3″ titanium movie Ratchet repaint TRU exclusive I’d been eying for awhile (but reluctant to buy at full cost) at a buck.

And then lady luck shined on me for the first time.

Some time ago, back in the days of the Alternators, there was an odd little Transformer who hit the market called Swerve (and known in the community as Chevrolet Swerve). He was the oddest of Transformers: an official product produced by Hasbro, never distributed at retail and never repainted or retooled, and only available a giveaway through GM / Chevrolet dealers in Europe around 2008. He could be categorized as a price point below the standard alternator, owing to his size (so a deluxe compared to a voyager), but a real treat owing to his original form and difficult to obtain. At the time, there was a way to order Swerve from one of GM’s european websites, but the cost of shipping made him prohibitively expensive and out of price range at the time. Eventually, the European sighting fell off, the website link went dormant, and Swerve became an eBay only-Buy It Now at the $100 range.

Fast forward to 2009. Somehow, for some unexplained reason, Swerve showed up in Canada, in the Greater Toronto Area at least, at Chevrolet dealers for a limited time. Again, he was a giveaway. And despite my efforts to track him down short of driving to Toronto myself to get him, he eluded my grasp. Now the folks at TFCon were not as unlucky and managed to get a number of the toys, which they used as giveaways and door prizes at their Botcon booths. This is how I ended up getting my very own Swerve, for $40, at Botcon 2011, one of the last of this collection.

So a pretty hard toy to find, and not one you expect to find sitting in a miscellaneous Transformer box with a sticker that say $6…

Yes. Six dollars.

Swerve suffers a bit because, despite his full formed head and unique robot mold, he resembles a certain shelfwarmer Transformers Swindle in vehicle mold. I presume what happens is that these folks, finding him in car mold and having somewhat less than a complete encyclopedic knowledge of the Transformers, presumed he was Swindle and priced him at a fair price for such a toy. And so I scooped him up, none the wiser, a little disappointed that I’d dropped major quid on the one at Botcon, but nonetheless pleased that my toy eye remains as sharp as ever.

So clearly the show was worth attending to this point, and I round the corner to find a new table populated by cheap DVDs and video games (aside: I always wonder, when I’m looking at bargain basement priced DVDs if I am looking at stolen merchandise…) What drew me to this table, the kind of which I usually avoid, were some Real Ghostbuster toys in their sealed boxes. Not a line I collect (and in fact one that I am trying to unload for a friend), but a sign. If there are boxed vintage toys, there might be toys to my interest.

And lo, lady luck shines for the second time.

Under the table are a number of boxes. In the boxes are a lot of Star Wars (both vintage and new) and other toys. Including, I am pleased to report. Transformers. A lot of them. Bagged in assortments at $10 a piece, I found the following bags (all G1 unless noted):

  • Point Blank and Ultra Magnus white cab (with rubber wheels, good chrome and one white fist)
  • Punch/Counterpunch, RiD Mega-Octane, Top Spin, and (blue) Energon Strong-Arm (missing one arm)
  • Micromasters Tailspin, Stormcloud, and the Hot Rod Patrol (Greaser, Hubs, Trip-Up and Big Daddy)
  • Micromasters Tailspin, Powertrain, Barrage, Slide, Blazemaster (no propellor) and Tread Bolt
  • Costco Bendy Prime (cab only at $5)

Total price. $45. Even better? Another collector found a bag of Transformers in the box (likely one of the few bags that I left behind because it either didn’t have Transformers I wanted or ones I thought I could sell) and asked the vendor if he had any more. The vendor, from whom I’d yet to buy the toys, said he did but had seen someone going through the box ahead of him. Which means I outwitted a fellow collector. Sweet!

Satisfied the day had been worthwhile I set about getting ready to go and made one more pass through the show, and returned to the Lego table to find a small box of G1s (Scourge @ $75, Sandstorm @ $25, and Wreck-Gar @ $40). Not bad prices but not steals for sure for toys I had. Anyway, what caught my eye was a decent looking Slag for $10. Chewed at the tail and at least one arm, with broken horns, Slag would have been unremarkable except he was the red faced, white legged variant. I’d never seen him before, and didn’t actually know he existed. In fact I was so certain he was a fake I had to consult TFU.info and search out the Takara-Tomy imprint.

But sure enough, I had a variant in my hand. And still I balked. The teeth marks and broken tips really made me question the purchase. And I still don’t actually know if he is all that valuable (particularly in that condition). But then lady luck appeared for a third and final time, and I got talking to the woman who runs the table, and gave her some advice on the G1s (basically confirming her prices were fine and she should put them on eBay if they didn’t sell, but that she should also be willing to be $10-$20 flexible on price for Scourge, but not $50 flexible). Anyway, she ended up giving Slag to me, which is awesome. I’m still unsure if he is valuable in this condition, and whether or not I should simply get another G1 Slag and do some part swapping. But I know he’s a fun variant for the collection, so valuable or not, he’s going on the shelf.

And that was how I spent the possibly last Landsdown Flea Market. On a high.

September 15, 2011

Foul Work: The Ill-Conceived Relaunch of Mr. Terrific

Filed under: Uncategorized — fairplaythings @ 10:39 pm

The DC Relaunch is everywhere these day, and seemingly working out very well for the company, even if a cohesive universe has yet to emerge from the chaos.

Part of the chaos is a title called Mister Terrific, a first for our favourite hero here at fairplaythings.com. I was already concerned about the title given what I’ve read about the relaunch in general and what little I’ve gleaned about the title in general.

  • The world’s third-smartest man - and one of its most eligible bachelors - uses his brains and fist against science gone mad in this new series from Eric Wallace (TITANS) and Roger Robinson. Michael Holt is the head of a successful high-tech corporation and an institute that recruits and encourages the finest minds of the next generation to excel. As Mister Terrific he inhabits a world of amazement few others know exists, let alone can comprehend.

Not a lot there to really go on. But the emphasis on “bachelor” was not doing the title any favours. Nor was the change in costume, to one that looks like the worst of superhero and wrestling stereotypes put into one bad package. Jacket and boots replaced by wife beater and Nikes, with the motto of fairplay now a tattoo on both biceps and his t-mask a red crimson. Based on the Previews description, I’ve already put it on my own internal comic deathwatch, and expected the title to expire within the next two years.

Having read the book, I doubt it will last to the summer. It’s just that terrible!

Wallace has taken full advantage of the reboot to sutbly transform Michael’s origin. It starts with the most tired death scene for one who is suppose to be his motivation (wife Paula, who gushing blood from multiple wounds) still managing the strength to tell Michael of their unborn son. Visions of Natalie Portman crying out “Luke… Leia…” still ring in my head. This quickly leads to a scene where Michael, instead of contemplating suicide from a bridge, retreats to a lab to lament the failure of his latest project, ” a quantum experiment to open a dimensional rift.”

Yes, that’s right. Even the main character didn’t buy the death of his beloved, and is contemplating his own death because SCIENCE FAILED HIM.

In the original (and, for me, beloved) telling, the Spectre arrives to counsel Michael on the folly of his ways, using the moment to inspire the would-be superhero with the exploits of the original Mr. Terrific. The issue serves to introduce a new character, while finally bringing closure to a 25 year old mystery as to why his fellow JSAers never sought out Terry’s killer following his death high above the Earth. If John Ostrander gave him a decent origin though, it was James Robinson and David S. Goyer who introduced him as a legacy hero to the Justice Society and lay the groundwork for an exciting character who later led Checkmate as the White King.

In the new 52, however, there is no Spectre, and there is no Terry. There is, however, a ghost from the future who reveals himself to be Michael’s unborn or yet-to-be-born child. Apparently this is enough to change Michael’s mind away from suicide and introduce the hero he always knew he could be to a brave new world with lines like “You did the right thing. This is exactly the kind of situation I envisioned when I provided the L.A.P.D. with a way to contact me securely.”

All that’s missing is the Terrific-mobile.

The overall presentation is that Michael is something like a Silver Age Batman without the cowl. The comic even feels like a bad silver age book with its predictability and banal banter. Even the appearance of Karen Starr, lounging on Michael’s couch covered only in a Capitals basketball jersey, and presented as a potential love interest, only serves to undermine whatever characterization could be derived from her throwaway appearance without raising his.

Even more troubling is the absence of any reference to the original Mr. Terrific. In the Ostrander take, Michael places a crude fairplay logo on his jacket as a tribute to the hero from whom he drew inspiration. If Terry has no part to play in Michael’s origin, why bother with the name and the tattoos in the first place? He might as well be Batwing or Black Lightning.

I never thought I’d like Michael in the beginning. While I love the Spectre introduction, it meant more for me to see justice done for poor Terry. I even daydreamed ways to kill off Michael to make way for a new Ms. Terrific who could bring back the familiar red and green. But those early steps were just too good, and I thrilled to every adventure. Michael’s team-ups with Terry, his trials facing the results of the anti-life formula in Final Crisis, and his struggle in an alternate future dominated by Nazis are among my favourites.

So this revamp hurts because it takes away what was good about the old character, and then tries to let a pale imitation carry a title all on his own. DC clearly hoped the title would bring some measure of diversity in its main titles. But this hackney story and origin has only succeeded in ensuring Mr. Terrific won’t have his own title again for a very long time.

And that’s not fair.

September 12, 2011

Five Joe years in the making….

Filed under: GIJoe — Tags: — fairplaythings @ 1:13 am

For the last week, I’ve been thinking about original three-and-three-quarter G.I. Joes. The catalyst came last Sunday when, kicked out of the house this morning to allow for yet another home showing, we went out to hit a flea market in Atrim, Ontario, and later onto  antique store just outside of town that I don’t get to as much as I like, and was able to come out of the trip with at least something for my efforts, including a Real American Hero Wild Weasel.

Wild Weasel got me thinking to the old Hasbro three-packs. At a time when Hasbro has switched to the Valor vs. Venom style of figures that reigned during the early and mid-2000s, these three packs (running from 2004 to 2006) were a rare chance to get original body Joes. But it was more than just a mere retread of old figures. The way Hasbro moved forward was to package three figures with an old Marvel Comic, using the comic story to determine the figures to be released. So original Joes were released in comic-accurate (and frankly more interesting) colours than their original offerings. Frequently, the updates included new outfits, with remolded heads and parts to better make the transition to plastic. Even better, the series offered characters never before released, like Kwinn, General Flagg (the senior), and the October Guard.

A fan wank if there ever was one.

Now the series wasn’t perfect. To keep the line interesting, popular characters like Snake Eyes were reused to the exclusion of other variations. Certain variations that would have made sense (Helmeted Cobra Commander) were not included. And not everyone came out with the best accessories (the case of Zap and his missing bazooka). But the biggest trouble was that the line wasn’t simply not meant to last.

Hasbro initially released three packs of the first nine issues. They then switched to an approach whereby they cherry picked certain notable comics from the ongoing series, like the silent issue #21, rather than find themselves constrained by story lines where key characters dominated the several issues (the whole Kwinn/Venom sub plot that ran through most of the mid teen issues). And then the 25th anniversary line appeared, with new body architecture, and the three packs evolved to match. Three packs became two packs, and the line continued with the new bodied Joes for a few more years.

But this was a line I wanted to see continued, as unlikely as it was ever to be and probably only because of my OCD, right through the entire G.I. Joe run. And in particular I wanted justice done for the two red armour plated soldiers known as Flash and Grand Slam. Flash was part of the issue 8 pack, but packaged in a space suit. I wanted him in his classic garb. And Grand Slam was the sole missing figure from the first 15 figures released in 1982. I wanted him represented too!

So, at the end of the line,  I started dreaming up what I would do with an Issue #10 and #11. And the idea has peculated ever since, until I am forced to write it down. So, aided by a re-reading of the original Marvel trades, I’m creating my list:

  • Issue 1:  Baroness, (Hooded) Cobra Commander, Cobra Soldier
  • Issue 2:  Scarlett (judo uniform), Snake Eyes (arctic), Tracker Kwinn
  • Issue 3:  Stalker (tan and green fatigues), (Double) Clutch, General Abernathy (Hawk)
  • Issue 4:  Zap, Grunt (as mercenary), Snake Eyes
  • Issue 5:  Steeler, General Flagg, Cobra Officer
  • Issue 6:  Daira, Brekhov, Shrage (October Guard)
  • Issue 7:  Horrorshow, Stalker (green and black fatigues), Stormavik
  • Issue 8:  Short Fuze, Flash (in space suit), Rock ‘n Roll
  • Issue 9:  Breaker, Scarlett, Hologram Cobra Commander
  • Issue 10:  Dr. Venom, Zap (as Cobra Soldier), Scarlett (as Cobra Soldier)
  • Vehicle Set:  Issue 6:  October Guard six-wheeler with Flash (with tan armour, unreleased 1997 style)
  • Issue 11:  Snow Job, Rock n’ Roll (in parka), Wild Bill
  • Issue 12:  Gung-Ho, Breaker (undercover - in civies), Stalker (undercover - white suit)
  • Issue 13:  Hawk, Torpedo, Richter (mercenary)
  • Issue 14:  Destro, 2 X Cobra airtroopers
  • Issue 15:  Quinn (in shorts), burned Snake-Eyes (maskless), Dr. Venom
  • Issue 16:  Cover Girl, Tripwire, Baroness
  • Issue 17:  Grand Slam, Ace, Cobra Pilot
  • Issue 18:  Grunt (desert), Airborne, Scarlett (with orange helmet)
  • Issue 19:  Doc, Scarface (with removal helmet), Major Bludd
  • Issue 20:  Clutch (in civies), Cobra Trooper (with Jet Pack), Arbco Security Guard
  • Issue 21:  Storm Shadow, Snake Eyes, Red Ninja Viper
  • Issue 22: Grunt, Zap (in dress uniform), Flash
  • Issue 23: Baroness (black suit), Major Bludd (Undercover), Storm Shadow (Undercover)
  • Issue 24:  Duke, Destro, Roadblock
  • Vehicle Set:  Issue 16:  Double Pilot HISS Tank (with HISS Driver)
On its own, the list was always going to be a challenge given the story arcs that presented themselves (for reasons listed above). But I managed to conspire against myself to make it even more difficult in a number of ways:
  1. I treated the first nine three-packs as untouchable, as well as #21 and #24, even when some flexibility would have made for a better rounded selection. Moving General Flagg from #5 to #19, and making #5 a Clutch, Steeler and Breaker combo would make for a better set of figures for both issues, just as Duke and Roadblock would have been preferred for Issue #22. But second-guessing Hasbro would have opened a bigger can of worms (mainly whatever happens if I decide to actually make these figures and stick them on cards…)
  2. I have prevented myself from reusing any character, unless I gave them a significant overhaul. Multiple reiterations of the same character is boring to me, and I’m actually disappointed that Stalker ended up in the first batch of nine three packs in very similar uniforms. Thus, the undercover versions of Stalker and Breaker, civilian Clutch, the parka-ed Rock n’ Roll, and the “battle damaged” Snake Eyes. In all five cases, each character lend itself explicitly to the issue in question (although by #15 Snake Eyes had mysteriously gotten a new glove and mask) Admittedly, I cheated a bit here with Hawk and Scarlett, but only just. Hawk is wearing a very cool variation of his original uniform, with a black top, in Issue #13, and Scarlett never seemed to get her orange helmet so it was a good fit for the battle royal in Libya portrayed in Issue #18 (even if the orange helmet was really shown in Issue #13).  Desert Grunt was a nod to his Falcon attire in 1983 as much as an effort to round out a difficult issue for unique figures, and I hope to be able to do similar justice to Grand Slam’s silver variant in the future.

Working in my favour was a willingness to use new Cobra trooper uniforms (see Issue 14) and creating the vehicle packs (and a willingness to bend the figure rules therein.) While it would have been better to put an October Guardsman with their six-wheeled vehicle, there weren’t any that hadn’t already been used. But Flash got decent service in the storyline, and his tan miscolouration in Issue #6 was too good to pass up, as a homage to the unreleased 15th anniversary version originally planned for 1997 (even if I did squeeze a regular Flash into Issue #22). For the HISS tank, while there wasn’t actually an incident in the first 20 issues where he appeared, my desire to ensure that all new molds were represented and the absence of a logical choice for pilot duties allowed me to bring him forward. I would imagine he would be very much in the unreleased Wal-Mart Rip-It vain anyway, to match the colour scheme of Cobra troops at the time (a scheme that goes nicely with the remote control tank drivers in Issue #28.)

Still it was hard. What does one do when character-driven issue like #20, without relying on something like the Arbco Security Guard? My efforts to make sure that Issue #19 had significant weight without repeating characters like General Flagg meant that Scarface (originally scheduled for #13) was replaced by Richter the Mercenary, and Major Bludd (originally scheduled for #17) was replaced with a Cobra Pilot. Anyway, a list of the first 24 issues is complete.

Having skimmed ahead, combined with Hasbro’s later issue releases, makes me think continuing this exercise is going to be even more difficult. So this may be it, we’ll see. But it’s a start for now.

(Thanks to yojoe.com for the use of the Flash picture.)

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