Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Special Transformers Feature: Power Core Combiner Leadfoot with Pinpoint

It's not really my habit to feature Transformers toys that are still available on retail shelves.  Part of the reason for this is because there are so many other Transformers blogs and sites out there that do this already, and I would just as soon focus my attentions elsewhere, but some of it really is due to the fact that I've got such a backlog of older toys that have kept my interest over time, there's really very little need for me to go out looking for more just so that I can blog about them.  Even so, when I saw this toy at the store recently, it caught my eye immediately for a very personal reason.  Perhaps you can tell what that reason is already in the official art to the left.

But, before I get to that, let's talk about the Power Core Combiners line.  This is a new line for 2010, and seeks to release toys with a unique twist on the ever-popular combiners concept.  Power Core Combiners toys are sold in either two-packs or five-packs, although perhaps that numerical designation is a bit misleading.  In both cases, there is one "main" figure, called a "Commander"—in this case, Leadfoot.  All other items in the "pack" can legitimately be said to be accessories to the "Commander" figure.

In the case of two-packs like Leadfoot, the single accessory is a Mini-Con (Pinpoint, in this example.  I wonder if they were trying to get to the old Targetmaster name "Pinpointer," and couldn't for some reason... or if anyone at Hasbro even noticed the similarity).  Power Core Combiner Mini-Cons are all molded in translucent plastic, presumably to convey the idea of them glowing with energy.  These Mini-Cons can transform in a number of ways to connect to the larger figure as weapons or tools.

Pinpoint, in particular, seems to borrow heavily from the Generation One Targetmaster and Powermaster concepts.  A Targetmaster, you may recall, is a small robot that turns into a weapon for the larger robot, as seen here, whereas a Powermaster is a small robot that turns into an engine for the larger robot.  For an image of how Pinpoint does the Powermaster thing, click here.

The accessories that come with the Power Core Combiner five-packs aren't Mini-Cons.  Instead, you get four drone vehicles with the main figure.  These four drones can then attach to the main "Commander" figure as limbs of a larger "combiner" robot.  It is important to recognize that the drones do not turn into robots, themselves.  This is part of why I suggest that to call these sets five-packs is misleading.  You get one full-fledged Transformer, and four limb drones.  However, these limb drones are compatible with any Power Core Combiner Commander.  Thus, Leadfoot is shown here in combiner mode, using the drones from the Double Clutch/"Rallybots" set.

Although Power Core Combiners clearly have a lot of versatility and play value, it seems that Transformers fans haven't warmed up to them especially well.  Perhaps it's because of the drones.  Perhaps some of the features seem to work better on paper than in practice.  I'll leave that to the individual to decide.  I certainly don't feel as though I've wasted my money (admittedly, I got these on sale and with a $5 coupon, to boot!).  What really prompted me to get this toy and do this review, however, is the single word written on the vehicle-mode spoiler (click the thumbnail for a closer look).  "Blackrock" is a reference to G.B. Blackrock, human ally of the Autobots from the Marvel Transformers comic, who I have over the past decade adopted as one of my online avatars.  I believe that this spoiler represents the first time Hasbro has explicitly referenced the character on a Transformer toy (they got really close with "Blockrock"—note the "o" where an "a" would be—a few years ago).  As such, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to add this toy to my collection!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Special Transformers Feature: BotCon 2010 G2 Breakdown

The Generation Two franchise ran from 1993-1995 (depending on what you choose to include), and thus is old enough now that the children that are the intended target audience for Transformers figures all hadn't yet been born when the line gave way to the "Beast Wars" concept.  But for those of us old enough to remember, this was the line that brought Transformers back from the abyss (at least, here in America).  For that fact alone, many of us remember it fondly.  When the folks behind BotCon 2010 announced that the theme for the convention would be "G2: Redux," my interest was piqued, despite the fact that I knew that attending the convention would be impossible for me this year.  When one of the exclusive toys for that convention would be a new G2 Breakdown, I knew immediately that I would need to get the non-attendee set.

The original Breakdown, released in 1986, was part of a merge team called the Stunticons.  Like most merge teams that year, often referred to collectively as "Scramble City" teams, the Stunticons consisted of five members: four smaller figures and one larger "leader" figure.  A large robot could be formed by connecting the four smaller figures to the larger figure as limbs, usually via connector pegs that made up their squarish heads.  These limb figures were interchangeable, allowing one to not only connect the team members in any configuration you liked, but also to be able to swap out team members with figures from other teams should one so choose.  The Seacons were another example of this kind of merge team, which was very popular in the mid-to-late 1980's.

Long-time readers may remember my review of the 2004 G2 Breakdown Action Master from the unofficial BotCon of that year.  In that entry, I referenced the very first BotCon exclusive, from 1994, which was a repaint of the original Breakdown intended for the Generation Two line.  Like the 2004 Action Master, BotCon 2010 Breakdown is a repaint of a Sideswipe figure (in this case, Universe Sideswipe from 2008) with a new head.  Naturally, this means that Breakdown is no longer part of a merge team, but it seems that most of the old '80s "Scramble City" characters have been reissued as non-combining toys in recent years, so this is just par for the course.

One of the features often associated with Generation Two is a preponderance of garish color schemes, and BotCon 2010 Breakdown more or less faithfully reproduces the outlandish scheme of the original Generation Two Breakdown here.  However, it should be noted that there was never any intentionality that Generation Two, as a line, would use bright colors of this kind.  This was simply the trend of the early 1990's, and many Transformers of the late Generation One era were colored this way, as well (and not all Generation Two figures were so outlandish).

In the entry for Action Master G2 Breakdown, I suggested that I would need to put that figure and this one together side by side, given that they actually bear a greater resemblance to each other than they do to the original G2 Breakdown (being repaints of Sideswipe figures, and thus having a car hood for a chest and all).  Such an opportunity could not be ignored.  Here is that picture of the two figures!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Transformers Comic Recreation - Marvel #41 - The Battle on the Moon

I entered this image into a contest for the official Transformers Club.  We were asked to "Shoot the Ultimate Battle" using actual toys. As I thought through scenes I could do with the toys I had on hand, I remembered the classic battle in issue #41 of the Marvel Transformers comic: "Totaled!" In this issue, Grimlock (then-current leader of the Earthbound Autobots since the death of Optimus Prime) and Fortress Maximus (leader of a faction that came to Earth more recently) meet for the first time, and it doesn't go well. Grimlock challenges Maximus to a duel for leadership. Maximus knows that he is unlikely to win such a duel, having been injured in a previous issue, but Blaster (having his own reasons to want Grimlock defeated) steps up to accept the challenge in Maximus' place. While they fight, the Decepticons take the opportunity to launch a sneak attack on the rest of the Autobots, which brings us to the scene depicted here.

As is probably obvious, this is a Photoshopped image. I used actual NASA photography (NASA images are in the Public Domain) for the moon background, and each toy was individually photographed and layered on to the image to create this composite battle scene. I went into this project with a couple of "ground rules":
  • All characters depicted had to have been "available" at the time of this battle. They need not have actually appeared in the issue, but they had to have been introduced into comic continuity by issue #41, and could not be known to be either deactivated or elsewhere when the battle was taking place.
  • All toys depicted had to either be released or re-released within the last five years. That is to say, all toys shown here could have been purchased since 2005. Naturally, this means that many characters do not show up in the forms they originally had back when the comic was released in the 1980's, but rather in updated forms.
I also wanted to include some clear "call-outs" to events in that story:
  • Grimlock and Blaster are off battling each other in the far right corner, totally apart from the other Autobots, and unaware at this point of the Decepticon presence.
  • Long Haul is in the background carrying a box with the name "Rumble" on it, referencing a scene in which the Constructicons retrieve a number of such boxes containing deactivated Decepticons from the Ark.
Sadly, my image was not selected as the winner of that contest. Not even close. The winner was an image that was similar in "space battle" concept, but was not an explicit reference to any specific story I'm aware of. That image was, however, very nicely executed with a combination of Photoshopped effects and "real-world" placement of images on a physical background. I suppose my own entry might have done better if I explained beforehand what the homage was about, as I expect that many people wouldn't "get it" just by looking at it (indeed, many are probably too young to remember when the scene played out in the comic way back when), but since it was important to me to keep my entries anonymous until voting was completed (as I've said on the board, these entries should stand or fall or on their own merits), it is what it is. Congratulations to the winning entry!

    Wednesday, December 15, 2010

    Transformers Comic Recreation - Marvel #17 - Straxus Holds Court

    Issue #17 of the original Marvel Transformers comic was something of a milestone. It marked the first story set on Cybertron since the beginning of the series more than a year-and-a-half previously. This gave writer Bob Budiansky the opportunity to feature quite a few new characters (as he was always being pressured to do by Hasbro, who had this annoying habit of continuing to make more toys that they wanted to see featured in the comic) and do so all at once.

    Perhaps surprisingly, Budiansky also went ahead and created a couple of new characters for which no toy existed at the time. Notable among these were Autobot spy Scrounge and Decepticon stronghold governor Straxus. The reason for creating new non-toy characters was so that Budiansky could kill the characters off without fear of toy-buyers (and perhaps the toy-makers as well!) who might complain that they just wasted money on a toy for a character that had already been eliminated from the story. Scrounge was killed off in that very issue, and Straxus was knocked off in the next (That didn't stop UK writer Simon Furman from using Straxus — shown to have somehow survived...or his head did, anyway — in subsequent UK-only issues).

    Modern Transformers fans were thus overjoyed to discover that Hasbro was finally making a Straxus figure (although it is being sold under the name "Darkmount" for trademark reasons) in 2010. This gave me an opportunity to try something a little creative. The comic image above mostly features characters that been given new or reissued toys all within the past few years.  I decided to try to recreate this group shot with actual toys. I had to fudge a bit on the couple of exceptions to this "new toy" rule. No Scrounge toy has ever been created, but I still have the figure I got from "Crazy Steve" a few years ago, and I used a single generic MiniMate to represent the generic Transformers about to be killed by Straxus. I'm pretty pleased with how it finally turned out. I hope you agree. As with most images on this blog, you can click the image to get a larger version.

    Friday, December 10, 2010

    Transformers: The Movie - The Version You've Never Seen

    About a month ago, Ron Friedman, one of the writers behind the original 1980's Transformers cartoon, put a bunch of items up for auction.  Animation sheets, scripts, notes, etc., were all available to fans, much of it for the first time ever.  Needless to say, Transformers fans with money to spare (that doesn't include me, I'm afraid) happily bid on these previously unknown relics.  The Allspark, following a pattern set earlier in the year, organized a donation drive, any excess from which would go to charity.  As a result of these efforts, many of these items were obtained for the express purpose of making them available online so that fans everywhere could have access to the new bits of historical data that could be obtained.

    Perhaps one of the most exciting finds from this group of auctions was an early draft of the script to the 1986 Transformers: The Movie.  Jim Sorenson, author of some pretty cool books and blogger at Disciples of Boltax, was the recipient of the physical copy of this script and has now scanned it and placed the link on his blog.  Rather than steal his thunder, I'd rather send you to his blog so you can see what he's been up to.  This version of the movie really is significantly different than what we ended up seeing on screen, and is worth taking some time to look through (full disclaimer: I've only had a chance to skim parts of it all, myself, but hope to spend more time with it this weekend, when I'm not trying to juggle job concerns, as well).

    Friday, December 3, 2010

    Special Transformers Feature: Chromedome

    Chromedome is one of those toys that I actually got a little bit at a time (and, as evidenced by the images below missing the two laser cannons, I never did actually complete it!).  Oddly enough, I got the Nebulan, called Stylor, first, having found the tiny figure at a yard sale roughly twenty years ago.  I paid 10 cents for it, feeling like I'd gotten a rather good deal even at the time.  Seeing that Nebulans--the head components to the Headmaster figures--vary pretty wildly in price today (but 10 dollars seems to be a low-end price on eBay, and that's before shipping), I feel that my assessment back then has been vindicated several times over.

    Some time later, I don't recall how long for certain, I picked up a "headless" body for about $5, and my Chromdome was more or less complete (if you don't count the fact that it's still weaponless).

    In America, Chromedome was no more or less important than any of the other Headmasters, which means that he showed up a few times in the comic books, and in the "Rebirth" three-parter that closed out the original animated series, and otherwise wasn't seen all that much.  In Japan, Chromedome was the nominal Headmasters leader (under Fortress Maximus, true, but Maximus was HUGE, and therefore didn't really go out on missions much), and thus got a LOT more screen time.

    Chromedome's transformation to vehicle mode is fairly standard for the time.  Flip the arms back, fold the robot in half (but take the head off first!), rotate the feet a bit, and you're pretty much done.  Like other 1987 Headmasters' Nebulan figures, Stylor can fit into a compartment in vehicle mode to "drive" the vehicle.

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