September 2, 2011

62% for the win

Filed under: Uncategorized — fairplaythings @ 10:51 pm

Well, I still can’t believe it.

MattyCollector, after threatening fans to comply with their timed subscription demands to proceed with DC Club Infinity, and then following up their failure to elicit more than 20% support with two additional extensions and small additional details, has calculated the results. 62% of the undefined total required.

And decided to go ahead.

I guess they really wanted the club or something.

Anyway, their post talks about all the fans who complained how they ran out of time or some such excuse (really, three extensions and a total of a month, and they still ran out of time?) and how non-subscribers who gain access will pay slightly elevated prices to secure their figures. But the club is a go. I for one am a little pissed off that I could have simply held back and waited, and paid the slightly elevated prices for the figures I wanted and left the rest behind (although to be fair, I am certainly buying the first three of Jay Garrick, Atrocius, and Thom Kallor). The only silver lining is that Metron is the exclusive.

Of a terrible selection of exclusives, he’s the best of a poor set of choices. Let’s hope the club does okay and expands like the Masters of the Universe club.

But seriously, Matty, why not do a JL club while you are at it, given what you have up your sleeve for September with Alan Scott, Jay Garrick and Carter Hall, AND Prince Gavyn, Adam Strange and Animal Man?

August 23, 2011

Optimism is better than despair

Filed under: Uncategorized — fairplaythings @ 12:59 am

Yeah, I know. I really haven’t been around much. What can I say other than it’s hard to think of positive things to say about toys when you are trying to sell the biggest collectible of all - your house.

But I digress. I wanted to write a little bit about a decision I came to tonight. Actually it was a decision I’d made a few weeks ago while on the road to what was suppose to be a week at the family cottage until fate - subtitled: The House - intervened. And it was my decision regarding Mattel’s Club Infinite Earth.

Prior to the trip, I was completely on the fence with regard to Club Infinite Earths, the Matty Collector exclusive monthly DC line. I liked the concept and the idea that I’d have regular figures coming to my door. But I hate to let companies get away with poorly executed campaigns, and this was a poorly executed campaign. Coming into Comic Con with no lead up, and telling fans we had just two weeks to decide, with limited information is no way to make a pitch to collectors and fans. Even worse, unlike the Masters of the Universe Club or Club Ecto-One or even the Club Voltron, the club going forward was made condition on an completely undefined number of buy-ins (measured by a microscopic membership meter on a front page ad on the website.) Bad enough that the club was contingent on support, but to refuse to even tell us the criteria seemed dubious and wrong-headed.  The final insult of course was to basically threaten fans that they had to buy the collection or the “kittens” (or in this case, Jay Garrick, Atrocious, and the Legion of Super Heroes Star Man) would get it.

Really. Rushing and threatening your fans is not a great publicity move. Or a way to build brand loyalty. So I was resistant, until I read this article on the blackberry, and agreed with the points made. Which can really be distilled to the main point of if we build it, they might come. Which is kind of what happened with Club Eternia, as the first year led into a second and third, and the rise of animals, accessories, vehicles and even Filmation characters! While I still believe that the three “collector” figures will be released on store shelves if the club goes away, and I can really live without any of the four large scale figures offered (Shaggy Man, Metron, Rocket Red and Black Lantern Swamp Thing - although my votes have always been to Metron in case you were curious), really, could I risk getting up on my high horse and fail to subscribe when some real treasures might come our way in a line that I really like (admission: I am four square behind any and all Super Powers and Superfriends related releases!)

Could I risk not helping a club that might even bring me an official Mr. Terrific Terry Sloan? Dare I dream?

So I was in and all ready to go, to sign up before the deadline to try and do my part to save the club (then lingering at the low 20% threshold required to go forward), so at least I could say I tried. And MattyCollector pulls a fast one, and changes the deadline, and rushed the name of a four figure (Poison Ivy, a coveted Bat villain) to sweeten the pot. And I lost my appetite again. Hope replaced by disgust over a cynical move that was, in fact, contradictory to the point of the experiment. The Club was suppose to be for fan favourite characters that wouldn’t sell in stores. But a bat villain would likely do well in stores, at least if packaged right (say with the right accompanying figure). More importantly, Poison Ivy is not a selling point for me. Right now, I have a club that is offering me a rainbow lantern I already have from DC Direct, a quirky Starman that is only complete with a variant head, a bat villain I can live without, an exclusive large scale character I can take or leave, and Jay Garrick who looks oddly bulky. And I’m suppose to pay $255 plus shipping for this?

Knowing my luck, the one character I want will be screwed up in the ordering by Digital River, a la the Mego Style John Stewart order? (I’ve been cherry picking Masters of the Universe figures, picking up DC figures, and buying toys for friends, almost every other month. But the Mego-style Lanterns were at the top of the want list, and the June order came with a Masters’ Faceless One in the place of Mr. Stewart. It’s taken the better part of two months to rectify the situation, and though I have emails indicating that anywhere from one to three replacement John Stewarts may be in the mail to get around my complaints, I still had to buy a scalper version at TFCon to avoid missing out on him altogether because of a bad communications experience with Digital River. But, again I digress.)

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, I was falling out of love with the idea of wasting time and energy on Club Infinite Earths. When Matty Collector, looking at numbers still below the undefined 50% and panicking, offered a third extension, it was from frustrating to embarrassing. Really. This club is not going anywhere. We know it. They know it. And all the fake deadlines in the world isn’t going to change it. Why bother at this point.

And then an unexpected thing happened. We got more details about Hasbro/FunPub’s GIJoe figure club.

Now I was on the fence about this club too. Again, I love monthly toys coming in the mail automatically, and I like a lot of what FunPub does with its GIJoe club (of which I’ve been a member in 2007 and 2010) and the Transformersclub, where I’ve been a member pretty much since 2005. But I’m not as big on the new Joe figure molds as I am the traditional 3 3/4″ scale from the 1982-94 era (which the club has effectively discontinued with Big Lob, apparently to their success given the response to the offerings of the most recent JoeCon, so shows how much I know). And with FunPub, price is always going to be an issue. You can pretty much guarantee a doubling over the retail price for their toys, plus expensive shipping and sluggishly slow shipping for us Canadians (MattyCollector has its faults but shipping to Canada is both reasonable AND QUICK!) It was always going to come down to two factors: price and figures.

Well out of the gate, the Joes had a great figure offered in the former Action Force toy Quarrel. Gods, that is a figure I want to OWN. They have so far followed this up most recently with some creation called Nano-B.A.T.S., which, while not a toy I crave, is nice looking and would be fine on my shelf. But then came the pricing effect. $25 per figure plus shipping.

Let me repeat that. Twenty five dollars plus shipping. Oh, and one more thing. You have to be a MEMBER to join. So add another $40 to $80, depending on your residency, to your final price, or about $350 plus shipping for two less Joes than come in a nice box at annual convention time.

Now the club to their credit is not running around with barometers of interest for these toys, and have promised to show their cards ahead of time on all but the bonus 13th mystery figure that is an extra incentive to join. But they are charging an outrageous amount of money for what are even in Canada $10 4″ highly articulate action figures. By comparison, I can purchase an amazingly articulate Masters of the Universe character, articulated beautifully rendered by the Four Horseman and standing at 6″ tall for $20, about five dollars less than the Joe.

Or in the case of Club Infinite Earths, a figure at 6″ that could one day be a Mr. Terrific and, even if it’s not, is still $10 less than a tiny solder with a gun.


P.S. Non toy related, it’s been a very sad day in Ottawa with the word of the passing of federal Opposition Leader Jack Layton. Taken just months after taking the post, for the first time in the history of his party and the country, it seems too cruel a fate to contemplate, let alone belief. For comparison sake, imagine if President Obama had passed away shortly after winning the election, at a time when all that seemed ahead was optimism unhindered by the realities of day-to-day political life. It feels  like that.

I was, and remain, an admirer of Mr. Layton. I’d often contemplated an appropriate munny to bring to an event and present to him. That munny never came, the moment never arrive. But I may yet try my hand at it, in memory this time. For now, I’m left with a bobble head and the feeling of regret of what could have been, and what should have been.

July 1, 2011


Filed under: Uncategorized — fairplaythings @ 11:40 am

In 1984, Hasbro released a line of toys where cars and trucks, jets, cassette players and cassettes, and one hand gun converted into robots. These robots in disguise were an amazing success, and for seven years they evolved into merge teams, futuristic vehicles, multi-changers, head-, target- and power- masters, pretenders, and finally Action Masters, before leaving United States’ toy shelves forever.

Forever being the measurement used to describe about two and a half years.

Of course they never truly went away, with new figures and characters continuing in Canada, Australia, Japan and parts of Europe. So when Generation Two was born in 1993, Transformers had never really left the global play market, and they’ve never really left U.S. toy isles since. G2 begat Beast Wars and Machine Wars and Beast Machines, which were followed by Robots in Disguise / Car Robots, Armada, Energon, and Cybertron, Universe (1.0), Classics, Titanium, Universe (2.0), Animated, and Generations, to say nothing of the exclusive toys and three different reiterations of the fan club since 1994.

Throughout the various incarnations of the Transformers line, the battle of opinion has raged. “Truck not monkey.” CGI verses traditional animation. Style versus substance. Toy versus toy. It’s safe to say all fans have their favourite parts of the Transformers mythos, that they will defend strenuously.

In 2007, Michael Bay brought us the first Transformers live action movie. Its success was followed by two sequel, Revenge of the Fallen, in 2009, and Dark of the Moon, in 2011. While the first film was met with mixed reviews, it was mostly embraced by the fan community and opened up a toy line approaching its silver anniversary to brand new fans. The second film was widely seen as a dismal affair, and yet it was very nearly the single highest grossing film of 2009 and remains well regarded and strongly defended by many fans of the franchise. While the latest film has been fairing marginally better with critics and is the highest grossing Wednesday opener of 2011, it is estimated to have drawn less viewers than the first movie’s opener and less money than the second movie’s opener.

Already, the film has its defenders and critiques. Fairplaythings is firmly on the side of the critiques with regard to Dark of the Moon, as evidence by the review posted earlier this week. For the record, while fairplaythings was also a critique of Revenge of the Fallen, the first film was regarded here as a good film, one that I saw many times in the theatre and since.

In the age of social media, opinions fly around faster than ever. One long review here at fairplaythings was followed by a number of quips through facebook, and an ongoing bit of twitter fun called #DotMSpoilers. Honestly, the hash tag adapted from others has been a lot of fun and, from my perspective, meant as such.

Simply put, I have my opinions, I have certainly shared them in person and across the net. The hardest thing about having a strong negative opinion is when you have to share that opinion with a beloved nine year old nephew who is excited beyond belief for Dark of the Moon, in a way that doesn’t diminish his enthusiasm.

Because it’s just my opinion after all. Everyone is entitled to their own on this film. It’s not the film I wanted and it’s not the film I would have signed off on. A lot of you really like it. My comments are intended to show my opinion of the film, not of those of you who enjoyed it. Fairplaythings continue to respect you no less for whatever rationale you have for enjoying Dark of the Moon. As we sometimes say in eastern Canada, “fill your boots.” Enjoy.

June 28, 2011

Dark of the Soul - a fan laments Transformers 3

Filed under: Uncategorized — fairplaythings @ 1:30 am

Thanks to my friends at the Silver Snail in Ottawa, I was graciously given the opportunity to attend the debut of Transformers: Dark of the Moon at a special Monday night preview at Gloucester Coliseum, in Ottawa, Canada.

Against my better judgment and in vain hope against hope, I took it.

What Came Before

It’s an odd way to start a review of a movie based on a beloved touchstone of one’s childhood, but it should come as no surprise to anyone who talks to me about my feelings on the first two live action films. Readers of fairplaythings.com are well familiar with my initial reactions to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and multitude of issues with the film. My reaction was clearly blasphemous in the robot collecting community, which lead to a separate lament on how I could call myself a fan and still want a movie worth my time and attention.

Plot holes, offensive (and generally unfunny, low brow) humour, and mischaracterization of Optimus Prime and Megatron, Revenge of the Fallen was not a movie to be proud of. And yet to my surprise it went on to become the second highest grossing film of 2009 (surpassed only by Avatar).

But a curious thing happened along the way to the bank. Director Michael Bay, who came out so fanatically against his critics, eventually admitted that the second “was crap.” For a guy who has long maintained he never wanted to go near the project at all, and who talked the second movie that had made him so much money, it was a startling admission. And from it, the kernel of hope. If Bay actually thought the second movie was garbage, and pledging to do better with the third, maybe, just maybe, there was the possibility it might live up to or exceed the appeal of the first movie.

Certainly, this was a possibility when 15 minutes were screened at the recent Botcon Transformers Convention. The effects looked really cool. The new characters - Sentinel Prime, Shockwave - looked like they had promise. But a memorable movie tends to have memorable performances, and the only notable human was Rose Huntington Whitely as new love-interest, Carly, and she was only notable for being able to look daft and take me out of the film. But still I hoped.

At 7:03 p.m. the movie began. At 8:20, I left to go to the washroom. I had already given up.

Dark of the Fallen

Honestly, the desire to leave was pretty strong at the 45 minute mark. I sat out the entire two-and-a-half hours to see all the wrinkles, uncover the full story, and make my impressions known. Though I really did give it an honest chance, once I turned against the film, there was no going back.

I am loathed to give away plot points for those who want to measure this rotten fish for itself, so I will try my best to stay away from any significant twists and turns. The basic plot is that the Autobots, realizing they are going to lose the war, commission a ship to flee Cybertron with the means to win the war. The ship is shot down in Cybertron’s atmosphere and falls out of control through the stars, only to crash on the dark of the moon in 1961 starting the space race. In the ensuing 50 years, the Decepticons have infiltrated human society to acquire and use this wonder device. Again, not to give too much away, the film culminates with humanity itself threatened by the full force of an invading Decepticon army, in an epic battle for control staged in downtown Chicago.

There are twists and turns of course, specifically involving the role of Sentinel Prime and the mysterious mcguffin in question. And with them come tremendous plot holes which I unfortunately cannot reveal without giving away the surprises, but suffice to say they are not overlooked. If you read below the full post, I’ve listen at least seven that pop out at me. I will say that it makes no conceivable sense that a ship shot down within Cybertron’s atmosphere would tumble through millions of light years to crash land on the only moon of the third planel in our solar system.

What I can say is to the good, there are some incredible robot visuals, particularly the new Transformers mentioned above. Peter Cullen continues to bring a gravitas to his performance of Optimus Prime, and Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson are the best of the human actors, for the most part getting the seriousness of the situation. The plot twists and a few notable surprise guest actors are welcome.

But they cannot overcome the bad. Plot holes you can drive Optimus Prime through. Bay playing to juevenile stereotypes with respect to the new Autobots, notably the Wreckers, Wheelie and newcomer Brains. Though he can certainly make a beautiful fight scene, Bay really is next to useless when it comes to giving a real role to his (few) women actors.

For me, the biggest problem was getting into the film because, somehow, Bay looked at Revenge of the Fallen and somehow decided what was needed was more (of his brand) of funny. So the first hour and a half is filled with the misadventure of Sam looking for a job, visits from the parents, jealous of Carly’s boss, all the while featuring terrible, over-the-top, unconvincing performances by Shia LaBoeuf. Similar situations ensue for John Turturro and John Malkovich. Even during the big fight scenes of the last hour, this form of “hilerity” keeps pulling you out of the film, and preventing me from being carried away for the ride. And kept bringing me back to the same thought.

“Is this really suppose to be funny?”

And I would be remiss without saying that, once again, Optimus Prime and Megatron are badly mischaracterized. Optimus Prime, the great hero, would never say in anger of Decepticons, “We’ll kill them all,” and proceed to do just that, to the point of executing his surrendering foe, or for that matter leave any sentinent life in danger’s way to make a point. Megatron would never be a toady. At least outside of the movie-verse.

A Final Lament

Maybe it is just me. Maybe if I could step away from my love of the Transformers I could be impartial about this film. Maybe the uneven story telling, butt and gay jokes, absence of strong female characters, bad performances, plot holes, and poor characterizations would otherwise be overlooked in favour of a popcorn-heavy evening with friends.

Maybe. Or maybe there are better uses for your $12.

Addendum - Spoiler-heavy Plot Holes as Promised

  • Given the Decepticon cannot know that Optimus will ultimately end up with the Matrix (if they even know of its existence prior to the events of Revenge of the Fallen), how do they leave the collaborating Sentinel Prime, the key to the wondrous spacebridge, on the moon for fifty years without attempting a repair?
  • Wasn’t the Matrix destroyed at least twice in Revenge of the Fallen (by Spike and later by Optimus when he destroyed the harvestor)?
  • Why does Sentinel Prime not take the matrix when he is offered it by Optimus?
  • Wouldn’t drawing Cybertron into Earth’s orbit have shattered our planet, which even the old 1984 cartoon recognized as a possibility?
  • Why is Megatron left physically deformed but given a new alternate form?
  • Why is Sam looking for a job when he has a Presidential Medal of Honour?
  • If all hands are on deck to fight the Decepticons, including Wheelie, where are Mudflap and Skids? Or Jolt?
  • Why are Wheelie and Brains left to hang with Sam?
  • How does Carly know about the Autobots and the Decepticons?

April 22, 2011

New and old Transformers make the world go around

Filed under: Uncategorized — fairplaythings @ 4:10 pm

Unleash the Beast!

Even when there are decent finds at a flea market or toy show or whatever you have attended, it is often hard to get past that one amazing piece that totally made the show for you. My first Botcon was like that. Even though the pre-Beast Wars set (plus add-ons!) were absolutely amazing, even though I got two full sets (with two figures each!) from the customizing class of insect drones to turn into a Rumble or Inferno, even though there were so many other amazing finds like South American transformers and other characters, what I remember about the show are the MIB Clench and Pyro that I bought from the Hartmans for $15 a pop.

A thirty dollar purchase stands out when hundreds do not.

Micromasters have the power to surprise.

Micromasters have the power to surprise.

And so it’s the same with last weekends show. Even though it was a really good day for inexpensive Transformers, it’s really hard to focus on anything other than Great Mazinga. Which is a shame because there were some other really good finds that day, and related to my primary collection (Transformers) that really need to be addressed.

There was a miscellaneous box of Transformers that I found during the day for $40 for everything there. It actually caught my eye because Julie is a Dinobot fiend and I thought she’d like the blue G2 Grimlock (that I’ve previously picked up). To facilitate her pick-up, I haggled the box cost down to $30, a price I was willing to spend, figuring that I would recoup half of that back with a fair $15 sale to Julie. Which I did.

But what I got for the other $15 surprised even me. Because I really didn’t look that closely at what was there until I got home, beyond the Grimlock and the G2 Brawl. TM Tarantulas, TM Rattrap, TM Optimus Primal, one of those bird transformers from Energon, a Rocklord, and a few other characters. For $15, they were worth a pick-up on their own. Add in a nice G2 Brawl, and it was a good find. Otherwise a find for the day, but one that pales besides Great Mazinga.

Two action masters, Boba Fett and a mountie walk into a bar...

Two action masters, Boba Fett and a mountie walk into a bar...

But what makes the story EVEN BETTER is that the seller, after accepting my price, then draws my attention ON HER OWN to six little Micromasters sitting on her table. Including Countdown. Who I love. Who I don’t have. And then she says, she’ll let them go for $15.


Later on I also grabbed a small bag of McFormers, that happened to come with the Movie Optimus Prime cake topper that comes with a store-bought cake that I’ve been trying to convince anyone who will listen they should buy me so I can get. And now I have it. For cheap. And without bad cake. Woot!

There was more that day. The Octane I picked up for a few bucks from the Microdealer. The vintage $20 Boba Fett, circa 1980. The odd Mountie that is going off to hopefully join a toy museum in Japan I discovered (and which I’ll get around to discussing one of these days). The $2 Action Masters and the $2 (!) Overdrive from the Pony dealer who lost Julie’s Ponies. The Essoformer (part of a series of mid-1980s toys to be featured in the future). A good day

And then we went to Toys ‘r Us.

Pretty pretty boxes.

Pretty pretty boxes.

TRU was having a 25% off sale. These days, as much as possible, I try and hold out for 25% sales, because I only get upset when I buy for full price and what a sale would have saved me. Yes, it can be risky because it means some figures may disappear. But overall it is working. And so it was that I brought home Highbrow, the Overlord-repaint of the Fallen, Payload, and Banzai-Tron. It also allowed me to return two previously purchase full cost figures - Strafe and Lugnut - so I could get a 25% discount on them as well. Overall, I saved $45 on the six, and would have spent saved more if they had had Grappel or Deep Dive, both of whom I still want.

The rest of the picture is filled with purchases from Sunday. A Constructicon green garbage can for the new toy room in the new house, two water bottles, a new lock, and the first two mini-MLP:FiM figures for Kirilaw. She now has five in total. We continue to search for Fluttershy who seems to be shortpacked.

The day ended with a great threeway lunch at Lone Star (texmex) and a return to TRU to delicately go through all the Lego wave 4 figure assortments so Kellie could catch them all (she got 15 of 16 in the end), and from which collection the geisha figure came into my possession.

April 21, 2011

If I’m so great, why can’t I rocket punch my friends?

Filed under: Collectible of the Day, Shogun Warriors — fairplaythings @ 12:53 am

Blame Steveover at the Roboplastic Apocalypso for ruining the surprise “the best was yet to come.” Or blame me for being overly explicit with respect to the subject of today’s post. But blame someone! Because today truly was a find…

For Ponyville.

Jack and the Ponies

Yes, one of the big reasons for attending the flea market was to pick up a couple of rare G1 My Little Ponies for Julie (aside, I wonder what the hardcore, nothing-beats-GeeOne-ers in the Trans community think of the fact that MLPs are renowned for their G1, G2, and G3 lines…) Unfortunately, the Ponies were mysteriously gone from the table, even though they had been explicitly put aside for her. The story was that the table’s owner had sold a massive lot of G1s to another collector during the Friday set-up (the dark story of all toy and antique shows is that the people who are there first, the other sellers, often get the choice bits), and they must have been a part of the sale.

Interestingly, Julie knew the buyers in question - stationed in another part of the building. When we spoke to them (I’d like to say interrogated because I was bound and determined to discover what kept my friend from her ponies), they denied getting the two specific ponies in question, that the sales woman had in fact held onto them explicitly for Julie. Had in fact told these two they were for Julie. So where did they go? Two more separate inspections of her sales table on both Saturday and Sunday turned up nothing. It’s possible they walked away at some point (as I’ve heard from at least three tables I have spoken to of thefts), or were sold by one of her helpers by mistake (also a possibility).

Spenser runs with the Ponies

Spenser runs with the Ponies

In any event, the missed opportunity did take a bit of the zip out of Julie’s step, although I believe the M.A.S.K. collection may have helped perk her back up. In the meantime, Julie found a G1 Apple Jack, which I opted to pick up for my girl Kirilaw, because it matches the G1-style Neca bobblehead (circa 2003) that I picked her up many years ago. Which led to picking up a baby MLP because it was a unicorn and cute, as well as a G3-style MLP, mainly for fun. While Kirilaw assures me she does not collect Ponies, and doesn’t want to, I try and break her resolve every chance I get.

I also grabbed her the first three Jack of Fables trades for $5 each. Unfortunately she had them all, so they are fresh paper for the local library to do as they will.

And that was that… except for one other possibly important bit…

Tranzor Z!

If Great Mazinga is so great, why is his red chest plate not big enough to balance his new friend, 4" Munny Rodimus?

Bigger than the children to whom he was marketed (and able to crush in-progress TFA Rodimus with little effort)

Yes, the microtable also had one box 23.5″ Shogun Warrior named Great Mazinga (or Tranzor Z as he was known in his cartoon). I was very excited about Great Maz! I’ve long wanted a great Shogun for my collection and have longed for one since I was a little boy forced to put all my Shogunian hopes and dreams into the form of a 3″ tall Dragon whom I inexplicably smashed with a rock in retaliation for accidentally breaking another kid’s 5″ Shogun Warrior. (What can I say? Kids have strange logic!) But there was a problem. Even though he was in terrific shape, in his unfaded bilingual box (minus his knives and rockets of course), he was priced according to his position in the toy pantheon: $120.

Now that’s a fair and honest price for the toy in the condition he was in, particularly since similar toys on ebay go for more than that and require shipping and handling charges that, combined, can as much as double the cost of the figure. But it was more that I expected to spend on a single item at the show. In fact, I had expected I’d overestimated the amount required when I took out that $200 the day before, but just being proactive in case it was a good day. And, now that it was a good day, I was without enough money for the Shogun without returning to the cash machine.

So with all the toys (Transformers train set, the various Micronauts figures, accessories, and playsets, and GIJoe figures), we returned to Kellie’s car to empty our arms and continue our sweep of the building. And to contemplate the mystery of Tranzor Z, and whether he would in fact come home. By the time I got to the car, very thankful indeed that Kellie had opted to drive Julie and I to the event and shop with us so that we were not laden down with toys and prevented from easily continuing our hunt or getting homeworld bound, I was certain I needed to own Great Mazinga. But at what cost? I decided to try and bring the price down to $100, and, armed with renewed cash, I returned to my prize (dreading a bit he may have sold in the meantime.)

He hadn’t. And with some haggling he was mine for $110.

He was the find of the day. Great Mazingaand I finished the show together. He was admired by others who love their toy plastic, and he is a toy to be proudly displayed. Ironically, I would learn on my return to the sale on Sunday, mainly on the promise that there would be a 23.5″ Dragonfor sale too (which turned out not to be the case because the legendary red robot could not be found in time), that Great Mazinga had a brother there. But there is really only space in one house for one Great Mazinga at a time (particularly when I later learned that Great Mazinga’s red chest plate was smaller, his fist non-firing, and his rocket head non-removable, compared to the might of the earlier Shogunian reiteration, Mazinga - because if you are going to have two Mazingas, they should at least be variants…)

But alas, now I am hooked again on this greatest of the giant robots line, left to see what kind of hassle and expense it will be to track down Dragon, as well as Raydeen and the never-released-in-North-America-but-similar-scale Combatra. And a decent-size sword for Great Mazinga (because the original swords are really little more than red knifes for him). But let me assure you this is the greatest toy a kid in the 1970s could ever have. So good that I am tempted to try and find one for my eldest nephew to enjoy (cringing a bit at the thought of a 35 year old toy being played with, but still). Really, you just need to watch this video to appreciate these figures.

April 20, 2011

Surely two hundred dollars should afford me a micro house in the sand…

Filed under: Collectible of the Day, micronauts — fairplaythings @ 2:53 am

Before I begin, I feel I need to confess something. Unless like many of my peers, I was not really into Star Wars toys. Oh I had some favourites that I would have loved to have had in my collection - the AT-AT, a Slave-One, a Snowspeeder, and an Imperial Tie-Fighter come to mind. But I didn’t have the collect-them-all mentality with Star Wars. I suspect it was a combination of what my friends were playing with (GIJoe) and a love of detailing (those early Joe vehicles had awesome plastic work!), but more than a little bit of it was the lack of articulation of Han, Luke, Leia, and crew. Simply put, I wanted my figures to have a waist and elbows and knees. GIJoe had this in spades, and Hasbro was smart enough to include a figure with most vehicles over the $10 price range (something, interestingly enough, it now does more and more with Star Wars vehicles now that it has the license).

But before GIJoe was, there had to be something else that held my attention, something that sealed the deal for a love of the Joes. And that thing was the Micronauts (not exactly as shown)! I loved the detail of this line, just as I loved that I could pick up a vehicle and it would come with its pilot (a big deal when you had only an allowance) and the figures had articulation. The only thing missing was friends to play Micronauts with, but I made due with the pieces I had - Repto, the Battle Cruiser (broken the first Christmas morning it was opened), and the Warp Racer and Photon Sled I purchased for myself. These Micros were loved hard and, though I still have many of their parts, they have seen better days.

Decades later, having rescued the remains of my Micronauts from my parents’ basement, I’ve set out acquiring pieces here and there. In the 1990s, a large find at the Great Glebe Garage Sale led to my possession of most of the Mobile Exploration Lab. A few years ago, at one of the many toy shows organized around Toronto, I was able to return to my nostalgia for all things innerspace, and pick up a fresh Battle Cruiser (in original package), a Giant Acroyear set, and a Hornetroid for $20 each. Along with a number of Palisades reissues acquired in the middle of the last decade, including the likes of Baron Karza and Red Falcon. So I’m always looking for a chance to add to the collection, chances that don’t come up as much as I would like owing to the vintage of this particular 35 year old toy line from a defunct toy company.

So you can imagine my reaction when, looking up from the now-manhandled Tyco Transformers train set, I looked to my left and saw boxed Micronauts…

Caution: This box rockets!

Caution: This box rockets!

And not just any Micronauts either…

Rocket Tubes!

What a beautiful find. And it is impossible for me not to get swept up by the sheer size and condition of the box. Expecting a huge price point, I inquired on the cost, and was shocked to be told the Rocket Tubes could be mine for $20. $20. That’s apparently $30 less than they retailed for almost 35 years ago (or $250 less than their after-inflation cost.)

The modern day leaning tower.

The modern day leaning tower.

Now the set has its drawbacks. It does not include instructions, making it hard for me to reassemble the piece (though I did quite well I think based solely on box art). The plastic does not hold together as well as it could (but this could be simply my unwillingness to force 35 year old plastic). And obviously the stickers are fraying badly. And although the engine works, and can actually send its empty cars forward through the inner tubes, the engine is weak and the cars do not go very far when piloted by a GIJoe stand-in.

But it’s white, it’s complete and it’s mine!

Preconstruction Microhomes

So Rocket Tubes. And right under the Rocket Tubes? Oh yes, it’s the Interplanetary Headquarters. I’m just chomping at the bits to try my hand at putting this one together, to see how the honeycomb-style panels actually work, but I’m waiting for a chance to do so as part of a more permanent arrangement of my Microverse. And the price once again? $20.

Now I should mention before I get too far ahead of myself, that you will notice these boxes are bilingual. As such, it means they are examples of Micronauts, as marketed in Canada by Grand Toy, a toy distributor of some renown. And somehow quite appropriate to add to my collection.

...and the rest!

And there was still more! The gentleman also had a Betatron for $15, the oddly-shaped, Fisher-Price looking Star Searcher for $12, and a vintage Biotron in box (missing cover flap) for $25. Now Biotron I have, having picked up the 2000 Takara reissue, but I was too far gone at this point, and so Biotron also came home.

And I was over the moon. But the best was yet to come…

April 19, 2011

The battle of the O-rings and lunch boxes from long ago

Filed under: Uncategorized — fairplaythings @ 12:12 am

So yesterday, before I was able to pounce on the Transformers train set, I told you I already had a bag of figures in my hand. Time to tell you a bit about them. You see, the same table happened to have a ziplock bag full of both complete and broken GIJoe figures, along with some loose limbs and torsos, and a few accessories. How could I pass up a bag of figures for $15, the perfect donor figures for Frankenjoes?

What was nice about the set was that there were a few figures in the set that were quite welcome. A Barbecue in great condition and with his gun to boot!, as well as most of a Crimson Guard (only missing his crotch piece), and a Star Viper. Always nice to bring home Joes, for sale or for customizing, but particularly when there are interesting ones to add to the collection.

You’ll notice that the picture of the Joes also includes a jet model. The jet is a replica of the infamous Avro Arrow, the legendary pinnacle of Canadian aviation of the late 1950s that was scrapped under mysterious conditions. I’ve been thinking about a kitbashed Avro Arrow transformer - even have a backstory - and saw this model in Ottawa for $50. Finding it for $10 was too good to pass up. We’ll see if the kitbash can get done in time for TFCon…

That was really it for the table. A train set, some Joes, and a model set. But it was while I was reaching for the train that I saw a hint of what would be the downfall for my wallet. But more on those micro issues tomorrow.

In the meantime, let me share with you a few other finds that followed what will be chronicled tomorrow. Julie, Kellie, and I would come upon a toy dealer with old MASK toys, three of them in fact, for $20 a piece and in their original packaging. One of those finds you don’t want to let go of, even if you don’t collect the line. In the end, Julie took them all home for $50.

And then there was Captain Power. The lunchbox that is. The lunchbox that has been at previous sales. The lunchbox that, the last time I inquired on the price, the seller told me it would be $10, and I balked at the price. The lunchbox that, when I asked this time, and got “one dollar”, I immediately pulled out exact change. My lunchbox.

April 18, 2011

Bigger than the soul train, more timely than the O-train…

Filed under: Collectible of the Day, Collectible of the Day - Transformers — fairplaythings @ 12:31 pm

Seen better days

Seen better days

The day began with planning days in the making. Toy amigos Julie and Kellie arrived at 8:30 to pick me up and take us first for Bridgehead coffee and then to the show. The plan was to grab My Little Ponies and other toys for Julie (she has a fondness for Starriors and TMNT!), mini donuts for Kellie, and general interesting plastic for me. Having arrived right on time at 9:00 a.m. (for the first time ever), we turned right from the entrance and headed to a regular at the end of the second row who usually has a few transformers. Alas there was nothing to be found, always a possibility, but I noticed that Julie was nowhere to be found. Turning to Kellie to inquire what happened to her, she pointed to the table directly behind me where Julie was digging with joy through a pile of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Which happened to be right beside the original 1985 Transformers train set.

I almost leapt the table to get over there.

The trainset, one of Tyco’s many licensed train sets from back in the day, had seen better days box wise. It was tattered and damaged, but it was intact. And inside appeared to be all the parts included originally in the set. The price was $30. With a bag of figures in my hand that I will talk about tomorrow, I figured why not grab the set. I mean, after all, what is the likelihood that I’m going to find other items of significant note. Oh how little did I know…

Now, the tfwiki does a better job talking about this find than I do. All I can really say is that the set was certainly loved. The cardboard cut outs that form the electrical station and towers are all intact, albeit clearly showing signs of being folded in the same manner for a quarter century. The mat itself though is in near perfect condition which is really the important thing. And all the paperwork is intact.

The train...

The train...



In terms of the train itself, the train tracks are showing the results of wear and tear, with some of the “wooden” sections snapped off over the years. The train itself is almost completely intact, save a radar dish for the command centre car, and, most distressing of all, the side panels (wings) and one set of wheels for the caboose. Here’s hoping another caboose can be found one day to substitute into the set.

Finally, we come to the robots, which you would think would be the highlight of the piece, given that most of the train itself has been recycled across Tyco’s licensed train sets. In fact, the “transformers” are completely non-descript, generic robots that someone thought would do the job. They could pass for many a cannon fodder robot introduced throughout the comic or the cartoon over the year, but there is no sign of Optimus, Megatron, or the others.

Frankly, given Hasbro’s penchance to reuse molds in the early years, the entire force could be rounded out by seekers, mini-spy volkswagons, lamborghinis and datsons. That said, it does appear the robots are all present and accounted for.

And that’s not bad for $30.

April 17, 2011

In Ottawa, no one can here you Mego-scream

Filed under: Uncategorized — fairplaythings @ 11:01 pm
Local wildlife seems friendly enough…

In Ottawa, we have a sizeable portion of public land about two miles from Parliament Hill that we refer to as Landsdown Park, the former home to the Ottawa Senators and various Canadian Football League franchises. In significant need of renewable, it consists of a number of buildings, including the historic Aberdeen Pavillian, and is currently the home of a number of cool events like concerts (Alice Cooper and Anvil, May 16), Ontario Hockey League games, the Ottawa Exhibition, and various craft, wedding, sex, and home shows throughout the year.

It is also the home two or three times a year of a decent flea market-style event, the likes of which I’ve previously discussed. It is usually a decent place to find collectibles of the plastic variety - sometimes overpriced, sometimes really cheap, but always really interesting - and it has come to have a prominent place on my social calendar. Because while there are other flea markets around the city, this one is a non-permanent fixture (and therefore lacks the grimness and picked-overness that often accompany long-term flea market venues).

But never has it been the personal financial sinkhole and toy success that it was this weekend (a situation that is somewhat bittersweet knowing that the venue’s days for this kind of event are numbered now that it is in the thralls of of an Ottawa-based consortium determined to rule the world gleeful at shadily winning an unfair competition to develop the land for profit in a mostly-one sided contract.)

Mighty hunter can play too.

Mighty hunter can play too.

Back to the toys, the sale was something amazing. Not only was there a number of worthwhile buys from a number of the returning vendors (and some great prices in some cases), there was also one dealer in particular who came bearing a microverse of shogunian (apologies Steve) proportions. And the weekend didn’t just end there, but also spilled over into more general shopping for toys and clothes the likes of which I have never seen. It was a four figure weekend, and, man oh man, was it awesome!

It was too awesome to wrap up in a single day post.

Given that we here at fairplaythings have been neglectful of late of the Collectible of the Day, I’ve decided to turn the entire week into a discussion of just what I brought home in the preceding 36 hour period, roughly in order of the acquisitions:

  • Monday - the train that set a thousand toy dreams afire
  • Tuesday - yoJoe!
  • Wednesday - they came from inner space
  • Thursday - Tranzor Z!
  • Friday - return to Cyberville
  • Saturday - returning to the microverse

Where does that leave us for today? Well, one cannot spent the kind of coin I spent on clothing and not put it somewhere. So today is the day of furry animals and fabrics that in no way rhyme with Lester. Enjoy!

Channelling Tom Wolf

Channelling Tom Wolf

Available in a variety of wild.

Available in a variety of wild.Same shirt, different day.

Same shirt, different day.

Same shirt, different day.

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