Friday, December 30, 2011

Transformers Feature: Vector Prime

New Year's is upon us, so why not do a feature on the Transformers version of "Father Time" himself? Of course, I'm referring to Vector Prime. Vector Prime is a member of "the Thirteen." In theory, these are the 13 original Transformers as created by Primus, and each of these Transformers was given a special power to help defend the universe. In Vector Prime's case, that power is mastery over the space-time continuum.

When Vector Prime was introduced, the idea was that these 13 Transformers were unique in the Transformers multiverse. That is, although the Optimus Prime of the Animated cartoon is a different Optimus Prime than any of the Generation One Optimus Primes (and there are several of those), any "Vector Prime" you see is supposed to be the same entity as this one (who appeared in the Cybertron cartoon). However, recent revelations in preparation for the current cartoon (Transformers: Prime), coupled with important plot points in the Michael Bay live-action movies, suggest that this concept has already been revised, so take that with a grain of salt.

Vector Prime's alternate mode strikes me as a cross between the Star Wars X-Wing Fighter and the TIE Figher, although here you see how Hasbro's best intentions in regard to safety unfortunately result in toys that don't hold up over time very well. The wings of the vehicle mold are made with a very soft plastic, and most specimens come out of their original packages with visible warping. Mine has suffered even more from being put in storage for the past few years. Takara's version uses a harder plastic, which doesn't have this problem.

Vector Prime comes with a few accessories. You've probably already noticed the big sword in the picture above, but none of the shots I've used yet have shown Vector Prime's Mini-Con: Safeguard. There's really not to much I can say about him, as like most Mini-Cons, he's not given a whole lot of personality.

Safeguard also turns into a spaceship of some kind, with a front end that clearly doubles as a weapon. This is at least in part so you could plant Safeguard on Vector Prime's arm to use as an arm cannon...

... or on Vector Prime's spacecraft mode. There is one other accessory that isn't shown in any of these pictures: Vector Prime's special Cyber Planet Key. Cyber keys served a similar function in the Cybertron line as Mini-Cons did in the Armada line, in that they tend to unlock special features of the larger robot. In Vector Prime's case, this is limited to some sound effects, which don't photograph especially well, and I'm not really into Transformers with electronics, anyway, so I tend to ignore that feature.

Obviously, this is the last entry I'll be doing for 2011. As I'm writing this, I'm preparing to report to a courthouse in Los Angeles for potential jury duty. I may get through the experience without actually being selected to serve on a trial and thus be free for another year, or I may end up serving on a jury that takes up my time and attention for a while. Between that and my already uncertain schedule, I don't know when the next post will be, but I'll try not to take too long. See you in 2012!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Transformers Feature: Shattered Glass Goldbug

At BotCon 2008, the "Shattered Glass" universe was introduced. Although there is still a bit of a divide within the fandom as to the merits of the alternate universe concept, I think it's fair to say by now that the franchise has given Fun Publications a venue for creating stories and toys that are unique to their properties (that is, the official Transformers club and the BotCon convention), and that sell quite well. In fact, the toys from the 2008 convention set go for such high prices these days (and I've needed the money badly enough) that I have to confess that I have already sold all of my 2008 official Shattered Glass toys except for Goldbug.

Goldbug, as you may recall, was the name given to the upgraded form of the Autobot Bumblebee back in 1987. After Hasbro decided to go back to the name Bumblebee just a couple of years later, the character has consistently been "Bumblebee" ever since, and the name "Goldbug" was never used by Hasbro again (even an honest effort to homage Goldbug this past year was simply called "Gold Bumblebee"). This left the name available to Fun Publications to do an homage that would likely never have been attempted otherwise.

BotCon Goldbug uses the mold of the Cybertron Hot Shot figure, with a new head that captures the essence of original Throttlebot Goldbug head quite well (if admittedly adding red to the eyes to capture the sense that this Goldbug is evil). Since the Hot Shot toy doesn't even remotely resemble a Volkswagen Beetle (commonly called a "bug"), the folks who worked on the deco played with the colors a bit to give the figure's chest design a somewhat insectoid feel. I'm not sure how that works in the fiction (the writers handwave the Earthen modes on a Cybertron where no one had, at that point, ever been to the Earth as preparation for an upcoming Earth invasion, but how familiar can they be with insects?), but the head really captures the idea that this is a new Goldbug just fine. I'm not sure I would argue that "the head is enough" on all—or even most—figures, but it seems to do the job here. Thus, this is the one Shattered Glass figure from the 2008 convention that I've held on to.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Shopping for Baby Clothes

Lest I give anyone the wrong impression, I should hasten to say that my wife is NOT expecting.

Oddly enough, I'm not talking about shopping for any of my young nieces and nephews, either (although my youngest nephew, at a few months old, might nonetheless have been benefited from this adventure when I get to meet him in a few days, had it not worked out as I hoped). Rather, I was shopping for a Muppet.

For a few years now, the FAO Schwarz website has had a "Muppet Whatnot Workshop" whereby one could design their own Muppet on the website, order it, and have your custom-made Muppet delivered to your home. I've been intrigued by this offering for quite some time, but I've been reluctant to spend the cash that FAO was asking (the price has gone down a bit since these were first offered, but it's still nearly a hundred bucks). Then I found out that Toys R Us (who bought out FAO Schwarz in 2009, mere months after the Workshop website first started up) was selling kits at the store for a somewhat lower price. With Christmas around the corner, this promptly went on my "Want List," and my brother was kind enough to send me one. I thus had my own Muppet!

The kits differ from the online product in a few notable details (besides the price). One advantage that the kits have over their online counterpart is that you are given an assortment of eyes, hair, and noses that you can mix-and-match to your heart's content, rather than having to choose just one of each to be permanently affixed to your creation. However, one element the kits lack is clothing for the new Muppet. Instead, you can buy from an assortment of Whatnot clothing for about $20. Actually, if one added the value of clothing to the base price, you've almost caught up with what you pay for the online version, which includes clothes.

Of course, I didn't want my Muppet to go around naked! I'd already had a couple of shirts too small for me to wear from Hasbro's recent Transformers giveaway, but neither the "Adult Small" nor the "Child's Large" were anything near small enough to fit the Muppet properly.  Even so, I felt confident that I could get some baby clothes from Goodwill that would work, and at a fraction of the "official" price. There was still an element of risk: despite doing some research online, I could not find any firm suggestion of what the right size would be. I suppose it makes sense that the Whatnot folks aren't just going to come out and tell you how to avoid purchasing their product. So, there was a chance that, even after having made an educated guess based on my previous attempts, I might still end up with something that wouldn't work.

After checking out a few stores in the area, I finally got the shirt you see here for $1.99 (Goodwill doesn't even charge tax!). For those who are wondering, it is a size "3T." I might have been able to get away with a size smaller, but basically I think it fits pretty well. And I was able to get a Transformers-related shirt, to boot! All for a tenth of the price!

Thus, I have a new mascot for the blog. I haven't yet come up with a name for the character, but welcome suggestions. Feel free to recommend names in the comments.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Photo Contest Entry: Attack of the G2 Decepticons

The latest contest run by the folks at the Hasbro Transformers Collectors' Club asked members to depict "ANY of the Fun Publications produced Transformers toy(s) and showcase them in some sort of battle or adventure. ACTION is the key word!" As with another recent contest, I chose to use Action Master Thundercracker. After working so hard to get this toy made, I figure I should make the most of it!

Sadly, this photo wasn't any more successful at winning the contest than any of my other recent efforts (although I did feel that one of the entries that did win used a similar concept, albeit not including Thundercracker). What follows is the text I submitted along with my entry when I sent it in.
As is often the case with contests like these, I took quite a few shots trying to get one that I thought was good enough to send. The element that put this one over the top was that this angle and setting seemed the most "in action" to me (in keeping with the fact that "ACTION" was said to be the "key word" on the front page announcing the contest). All figures in this shot, with the exception of the KRE-O human running away from the Decepticons as Rapido races to get him to safety, are not only Fun Pub figures, but are all characters from the existing "Wings" universe (assuming that we have AMTC and not his SG counterpart, and allowing for the possibility that Side Burn is still alive by the time G2 enters into things).

Monday, December 12, 2011

Offbeat Transformers Collectibles: Fruit Flavored Snacks

This little oddity is something I found during a recent trip to the so-called 99 Cents Only Store.  Of course, I may have to rethink my title, since this is obviously no more collectible than the Valentine's Candy was, but ah, well....

Not too much to tell, really. It's pretty standard character-shaped gummy-snack fare. It's just the first time I can recall Transformers getting into the act (I'd welcome images of anything older, of course). The snacks are apparently made by Betty Crocker, and feature a cartoonish version of Live-Action Movie Bumblebee on both the front and back of the box, while the pouches inside depict a similarly cartoony Movie Optimus Prime.

The gummies inside, oddly enough, are not apparently based on the movie designs (even the faction logos seem to be the standard Autobot and Decepticon logos, rather than the slightly-tweaked versions used in the movies), although it's admittedly hard to tell from the gummies as pictured here, as they were already fused into a single mass as I pulled them out of the pouch, and had to physically separate them. The box is a bit clearer, and one can tell that the characters are drawn from Transformers: Animated, featuring not only Prime and Bumblebee and the faction logos, but also Bulkhead, Megatron, and several vehicle forms. If you happen to find these, go ahead and pick them up. They're worth a buck, and I'm guessing they won't be around for much longer.

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