Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Breakaway and More: Finally Arrived

Well, my third-class shipping started to show this time around, as lots of folks have been talking about getting Breakaway for a few weeks now, and mine just arrived on Monday. But at last it's here, and the club combiner is now only two robots away from completion. Here's a shot of Breakaway with his buddies.

I've also been privileged in the past week to get my Alpha Trion figure. Blog readers already know that I've been wanting this one since it was first announced. I was pleased to be able to get it directly from the club store, a feat made possible only because there were actually a few left over at the end of this year's BotCon, something that hasn't happened since Fun Publications took over the production of BotCon a few years ago. Alpha Trion is pictured here on the right, alongside Vector Prime, on whose mold the figure is obviously based. (Note: that weapon in Alpha Trion's right hand is an "Energon Spear" from a previous BotCon. I thought the purple was a pretty good fit, and it seemed like the kind of thing Alpha Trion might hold)

Alpha Trion sports a newly molded head, completing the impression that the toy is the classic cartoon character. I had to sell off my BotCon 2006 Megatron (featured here) to afford this toy, but so far, I've no regrets whatsoever!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

The Seeker Set is Now Complete

My non-attendee set of BotCon exclusives arrived a couple of days ago. I'm not sure I have too much to say that hasn't been shared already, but here's the obligatory picture of all 6 G1 Seekers (no, I don't count Sunstorm as G1. The character wasn't even created until 2003!) together, with Dreadwind thrown in for good measure. (I got Bug Bite, too, but he's on the next shelf up.)

Actually, I do have a bit to say about the exclusive comic that came with this set. But I think that may be something of greater interest to the Transformers community as a whole than to the readers of this blog, so I've posted it on, where more Transformers fans are likely to see it.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Pepsi is the Right of All Sentient Beings: Pepsi Optimus Prime

Although I still haven't heard of anyone having won it from the Transform Your Summer promotion, I'm happy to say that I received Pepsi Prime in the mail yesterday, having ordered it via the Hasbro Toy Shop (and having taken advantage of a 15% reduction offered by my local AAA! Membership does have its privileges!).

Of course, this is basically just a redecorated version of the original Optimus Prime from the 1980's. But having (oddly enough) never picked up the original back in the day, nor having ever gotten either the G2 version nor the 2002 TRU reissue (Of course, from the G1 era alone, I do have the Powermaster, the Action Master, and a smaller Japanese-exclusive "junior" version, but those are all different molds), it seemed worth picking up.

The trailer, of course, is new (or at least, it was when this concept was created for the Japanese market a few years ago. It's really only "new" in the sense that it hasn't been available in the US until now). It didn't come with that Pepsi bottle I have on top, but as you can see, it was designed to be able to carry one. It's also designed to fit 3 12-ounce cans on it, should you wish to place them there. Should make for an interesting conversation piece at parties!

One of the "problems" that plagued nearly all of the original G1 Transformers was that you couldn't always find a place to put all the parts when the toy was transformed into one mode or the other. In the case of Optimus Prime, there was no place to properly store his weapon when in vehicle mode. Sure, you could stash his gun in the trailer, but it would still rattle around loose. Likewise, you were intended to place Prime's fists in the chest compartment while in vehicle mode, but again, they'd just rattle around in there. But, fear not, Pepsi Prime owner! This new trailer has places underneath where you can store your spare parts, as indicated in the picture below.

In robot mode, Prime is a walking Pepsi billboard. This guy's got Pepsi decorations in places I didn't expect. They even went to the trouble to put little Pepsi logos on the sides of Prime's head! But that's not to say that the deco doesn't work. It's really only a minor modification from the original Optimus Prime red and blue color scheme. In fact, now that technology has advanced to the point of being able to use tampographs for most details rather than stickers (they do still give you two stickers to put on Prime's forearms), the overall effect is much cleaner than the original.

I'd definitely recommend this toy to anyone who's a Transformers collector.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

More Custom Action Master Power Plans: Road Rage, Shadowjack, and Twincast

After writing about Gutcrucher last week, I realized that it's been a while since I shared some of my custom Power Plans. Here are a few more. Road Rage was a custom created through, and is based on an eHobby exclusive. Twincast was a custom done by a site that called itself "Scramble City" a number of years ago. Unfortunately, that site no longer exists, curtailing plans to create even more Action Masters based on characters used in the Japanese Headmaster cartoon, as Twincast was.

The middle character, Shadowjack, was my own creation. Basically, I had an extra Jackpot figure lying around, and decided to do something with it. Even before characters like RiD Scourge and Nemesis Prime came upon the Transformers scene, the idea of an "evil clone" has long been a staple of science-fiction. Perhaps the most obvious example is "Bizarro" among Superman's enemies. When creating "Shadowjack," I most specifically had in mind an obscure character created near the end of the 80/90's run of Firestorm called "Shadowstorm" (this guy's so obscure that he doesn't even have his own Wikipedia entry, although he is mentioned here.) Here's the Tech Spec I put together for Shadowjack:

Monday, July 9, 2007

Kill The Wabbit!

If I had realized this on Friday, I'd have posted about this then, but since I only found out about it myself this past weekend, today will have to do....

The greatest cartoon of all time (as determined by the 1994 book The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1,000 Animation Professionals), "What's Opera, Doc?", celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first screening on July 6, 2007.

But like so many of the greatest achievements in culture, it was an achievement that could never have been accomplished under today's corporate-driven reality. Here is an excerpt from the opening words to an article celebrating "What's Opera, Doc?" that appeared on Sunday:
Imagine the pitch: "Let's steal time and funding from our other projects so we can go way over budget making a cartoon with no jokes, and no real gags. The score will be a German opera. Kids won't get it. Most adults won't get it, but I don't care because I think it's funny."
And it is funny, if totally atypical. In a sense, this isn't such an oddity: Warner Brothers cartoons have utilized classical music throughout most of their long history. Imagine the following scene: It's morning. You look out upon a grassy countryside, and the sun is slowly rising. You hear this music. Without realizing it, kids (and adults) the world over have been hearing a fragment of "William Tell" (yes, the same piece which also gives us this popular fragment). But "What's Opera, Doc?" took this element so much further than anyone had ever done it before. It created a whole cartoon comprised entirely of elements of these classic works (actually taken from several of Wagner's operas). And whereas Disney's Fantasia took classical and operatic pieces and set them to animation, "What's Opera, Doc?" actually created something new out of such works, using only the most immediately recognizable bits edited together to create a whole story within the 7-minute time frame a Bugs Bunny cartoon required.

Does it work? Answer whether or not the following quote (which comes at the end of the article I linked to earlier) applies to you:
No one who knows and loves "What's Opera, Doc?" will ever hear Wagner's "Der Ring des Nibelungen" without hearing, in their own minds, "Kill da wabbit ... kill da wabbit."
"The Wabbit" is dead. Long live the wabbit! Happy 50th Anniversary, "What's Opera, Doc?"!

Friday, July 6, 2007

Completing the Set: My US Action Masters Collection is Now Complete!

Despite collecting Transformers for pretty much as long as Transformers have existed, there are very few parts of my collection that I consider "complete." However, with the recent acquisition of the Action Master Gutcruncher (pictured to the left), I can now say that I have all of the American-released Action Masters in my collection!

Of course, the main reason I was able to even aspire to completing the section of my Transformers collection is the fact that Action Masters were so unpopular back when they were first released. I've already spelled out why I like them ages ago, but it's worth noting here that they were so unpopular when they first came out that I was able to find them on clearance at Kay-Bee toys (as KB toys was then spelled) for less than a dollar each! Of course, this only covered the carded toys. Not the boxed ones. And even then, I only bothered to get all the Action Masters that were representations of existing characters from early in the original line.

Naturally, this left several holes in my collection that I started trying to fill once I was out of college. I started with the boxed toys representing popular characters, although I turned to getting the carded new characters before I was able to finally achieve my goal of getting all of the Action Master versions of established characters when I won Action Master Optimus Prime in an eBay auction. Optimus Prime cost me a fair bit back then, and I figured that would be as far as I went.

But when I eventually started cataloging (and later creating) the Power Plans that came with the Action Masters, I soon realized that there weren't too many gaps left to fill. So I slowly worked towards getting the remaining boxed toys representing new Action Master characters, until I eventually had them all... except Gutcruncher.

Gutcruncher remained the sole gap in my American Action Master collection for a rather long time. I can't really explain why. Part of the reason was no doubt that, as the largest "new" Action Master character in the line (same price point as Megatron, but less than Optimus Prime), Gutcruncher was fairly rare, and quite expensive. But I could have probably picked Gutcrucher up a long time ago if I'd really bothered. Long story short, I finally found an auction for the toy at a reasonable price on eBay recently, and the toy arrived this past week. Now my collection is complete! (Well, I could always work toward getting all of the European Action Masters, but that will take quite a while yet, not to mention more money than I care to think about at the moment.)

I do have a request, though. Although my Gutcruncher is in wonderful condition, and came complete with all of the parts for the vehicle it was originally packaged with, it did not come with any stickers whatsoever. I have already contacted the folks at Reprolabels about getting replacement stickers, and they've indicated that they would be very happy to create a Gutcruncher set, but they lack scans of the original stickers (or access to a clean Gutcruncher with factory stickers applied) from which to create the set. If anyone has access to such, please send them a line via the Reprolabels site. I'm sure the Transformers fan community would be most grateful. I know I would!

Monday, July 2, 2007

BotCon 2007: A Non-Attendee Perspective

It might seem a bit odd to be talking about BotCon given that I wasn't able to go to the convention this year, but I expect that I'm like most Transformers fans, keeping in touch with the latest data online as much as possible. My abilities to do this were somewhat limited by my vacation in KY over the past week, but I was still able to participate in a number of online discussions about what was going on. Here are my thoughts.
  • Exclusives: Perhaps it's a bit mercenary of me, but the toys have always been the major reason for me to go to BotCon, and so it's always the first thing I want to find out about when I look up what was going on. I've already talked about the five toys from the boxed set revealed several months ago, and will focus here only on the toys revealed at the convention itself. I've also updated my exclusives data sheet with such information as I currently have available, although there seems to have been some confusion about the Alpha Trion/Weirdwolf 2-pack. I'll post more reliable information once we get the expected e-mail from Brian Savage detailing post-convention news.
    1. Clear Mirage: This was the attendee-only freebie. A clear blue version of the Classics Mirage mold, intended to represent Mirage as he turns invisible. Apparently a lot of fans didn't like this one. Oddly enough, it's one of few that I really liked, and I've already got a couple of requests in for people looking to get rid of the one they got at the convention. If no one ends up contacting me, I'll look for it on eBay.
    2. Alpha Trion/Weirdwolf 2-pack. The first of these has been known for a couple of months already, and is a remold (new head) of Vector Prime from the Cybertron line. This is the definite "must buy" for me, and I'll be looking on eBay if it turns out that FP doesn't have any leftover to sell to club members via the online club store (they never have before, but like I said, there seems to be some confusion on this one). Weirdwolf was one of a number of characters revealed in an online teaser of the convention comic, but we didn't know for sure which of the teased characters would actually be at the convention. It's a recolor of Snarl from the Cybertron line. If I end up getting this as part of a 2-pack deal to get Alpha Trion, I'm turning right back around and selling Weirdwolf. A lot of folks really like this one, but it's just not for me.
    3. Springer/Huffer 2-pack. Springer is a repaint of Cybertron Defense Hot Shot, and Huffer is a repaint of Armorhide, both toys from the Cybertron line (and, no, in the case of CD Hot Shot, that's not redundant). Again, it seems that my tastes run counter to those of the rest of the fandom here, as I've heard lots of good things about them, and there seems to be little question that they've sold out (although, again, I hope to get more positive confirmation of this when Brian Savage sends the expected e-mail), but they just don't interest me.

  • News:
    1. It was disappointing (but not wholly unexpected) to learn that both the Alternators and Titanium lines are being canceled. The latter was even more disturbing because of the revelation of several molds which will, apparently, never see the light of day. The Cosmos figure is especially interesting, and I can only hope that something happens to give that design another chance elsewhere.
    2. We also learned that the "Classics" line will see more molds (although not under that name. Apparently these will be released under a new "Universe" line), which is great news, but unfortunately fuels the anger of those who were angry at FP for doing exclusive repaints of several of the Seeker jets, thereby making it unlikely that these characters (and certainly not replicas of the same designs) will ever be made available at retail. I have to repeat what I've said elsewhere many times over: FP wanted to make cool exclusives, and the Seeker jets were obviously popular choices that Hasbro hadn't yet done. They STILL had to get permission from Hasbro to use them, and Hasbro had, at the time, no plans on using those concepts. The fact that Hasbro made a decision later to do something whereby they probably would have used (at least some of) these ideas does not negate this. FP ensured that (all of) these designs would get made. If FP didn't make the exclusives, there was a strong chance that the toys would never exist at all. And even with this latest turn of events, we probably would never have seen all of those Seeker designs used (Thurst, with it's peculiar wing-design, would have been especially unlikely). In any event, it happened. Deal with it.
    3. It has already been known that a new cartoon will be showing up on Cartoon Network (dubbed "Transformers Animated") next year. Attendees got to see the first actual animated clips (as opposed to just still pictures) to be seen, and apparently these, coupled with the news of classically-inspired characters scheduled to appear, have converted many fans from being fearful about what this new cartoon will bring to being excited about the possibilities.
We don't yet know where next year's convention will be, or even what the dates are, although it's been more or less confirmed that it will be in the Fall again, with hopes for getting a convention in the Summer again in two years, and basically flip-flopping Fall and Summer with the Joe convention also run by FP thereafter. Once those announcements are made, I'll have to go through the whole process of deciding whether or not I can go all over again!

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