Friday, December 25, 2015

BotCon 2015 Lift-Ticket

This Christmas season has been an unusual one for Transformers fans. In just the past few days, evidence has come to light suggesting the possibility that Fun Publications will no longer be running BotCon nor the Official Transformers Collectors' Club after December 2016. So far, there has been no official statement. Just a scattering of circumstantial evidence that seems to be leading to that conclusion. For some, this is seen as a welcome Christmas present. For others, this means a time of uncertainty and confusion. For me, it is, at the very least, an opportunity to focus again on some of the toys that Fun Publications has caused to exist, that most certainly would never have come to exist without them. Thus, for this Christmas holiday, I am showcasing Lift-Ticket, one of the exclusives from BotCon 2015.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Get Smart

The original Smart Phone
Would you believe that Get Smart will be 50 years old on September 18th?

It's true. The show that introduced Maxwell Smart, Secret Agent 86, to the world is reaching its fiftieth anniversary this month. And since the only thing I know being done to celebrate this event is a release of the episodes on digital download (cool, but since I've already got everything on DVD, it means little to me), I figure I need to do something to ensure that this occasion is remembered.

Monday, August 24, 2015

All I Needed to Know, I Learned From the Autobots

A recent episode of the podcast, TFYLP (Transformers For Your Listening Pleasure) discussed the Tech Specs that used to come on packages of Transformers. For those who don't know, Tech Specs were biographies and statistics that were printed on the cards and boxes of Transformers figures. The formats have changed over the years, and there are some lines that haven't included such character data at all, but for those figures that have had them, Tech Specs have provided important information on the characters represented by the toys. Especially for toys under-represented in other media (cartoon and comics, for example), the Tech Specs are sometimes all that separate a Transformers toy from being "just another transforming robot" instead of a full-fledged character.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Are You Ready to Play the Feud?

I've been working on a few special projects recently. One that I'd like to share with Transformers fans is a proposal to set up a Transformers Family Feud game to play at either BotCon or some other Transformers-appropriate convention.

I should hasten to add that is not an official event (certainly not at this time), and that I have not communicated this to any convention-runners. I may end up getting everything to work, and they may still all say, "Sorry, but we just can't use this idea." Even so, I think that this is something that fans can have a lot of fun with, and I'm working to get everything ready so that I can make a "proof of concept" presentation.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Wheelie (1986)

There are some characters that it's fashionable to dislike. Maybe there's good reason for it. Maybe not. Maybe the character has a few fans here and there, but those intrepid few risk ridicule from others if they make their affection for such a character known. Wheelie is just a such a character that people seem to love to hate.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Robots in Disguise Ruination (2001)

As the twenty-first century was just beginning, Hasbro found themselves with a bit of a dilemma about where to take the Transformers franchise. Hasbro and Takara were both working more-or-less independently of each other at this point, sharing ideas as each found it worth their time. The firm back-and-forth partnership that was to become more the standard in the next few years (at least in regard to Transformers) was not yet in place. With the Beast Machines cartoon having recently been completed, Hasbro had been working on a concept they called Transtech, but they decided to scrap those plans for reasons not entirely known even today. Takara, on the other hand, had finished up a line they called Car Robots about a year previously, utilizing a combination of new molds and old ones borrowed from the past. Having spent all that time working on Transtech, Hasbro needed to buy some time before their next big idea (Armada) would be ready for toy shelves, and so they decided to dub the Car Robots line (and its associated cartoon) into what they called Robots in Disguise. When Car Robots became Robots in Disguise, a combiner known in Japan as "Baldigus" came to America as "Ruination."

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Masterpiece Ultra Magnus (2014)

Over the past few years, the Masterpiece line has been the place Transformers fans look to supply the most definitive versions of iconic characters, and last year's Ultra Magnus release is certainly no exception. It should perhaps be noted that this isn't the only Ultra Magnus toy to bear the "Masterpiece" label. A repaint of the original Masterpiece Optimus Prime, in white, was released roughly a decade earlier. However, this Masterpiece Ultra Magnus is the first such toy with a mold created expressly to be Ultra Magnus, and as such resembles the "iconic" version of the character far more than the first Masterpiece Magnus.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Attack of the G2 Decepticons (Extra!)

Four years ago, I entered a contest sponsored by the official Transformers Collectors Club. While I didn't win, I did share that entry on the old blog at the time. Here is that entry.

For today's entry, I had started writing about something completely different, only to find that I didn't really have anything to say about it. As a filler entry, then, I'm sharing some of the other images I took as preparation for that contest.

As the Fourth Doctor said in The Sontaran Experiment: "You never know when these bits and pieces will come in handy. Never throw anything away."

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Generation Two Jetfire (1995)

The practice of releasing a toy mold more than once, just using different colors to create a different character, has been a part of the Transformers franchise since the very beginning. However, for the first decade or so of the franchise's existence, such "repaints" or "redecos" always resulted in completely new characters not previously seen in the franchise. With the last year of the Generation Two line, this began to change....

Saturday, June 20, 2015

BotCon 2002 CatSCAN

One of the oddities of BotCon 2015, currently in progress, is that so many of the exclusive toys this year are original characters. Back in the early days of BotCon, this was the rule, rather than the exception. Some fans argue that this meant a period of creativity that modern BotCons fail to match. While this is certainly debatable (and, indeed, will no doubt be discussed in relation to BotCon 2015 in the days to come), CatSCAN, from BotCon 2002, is almost undeniably an unusual concept within the Transformers mythos.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

BotCon 2014 Primal Prime

BotCon's coming up this week, and although I can't attend this year, it's a good time to catch up on featuring some BotCon toys that haven't yet been featured here. Primal Prime was the customization class toy from BotCon 2014. Unlike Shattered Glass Thunderclash, I did not get this figure from attending the customization class itself. Since BotCon 2013, Fun Publications has allowed attendees to purchase an unpainted-but-assembled version of the custom class toy. This was an especially welcome change because, since BotCon 2010 (the year after SG Thunderclash!), the custom toy itself used unique plastic colors for the figure, making it all but impossible to create the same toy using a base figure otherwise available (not that most folks would want to buy a BotCon 2009 Thunderclash, only to strip the paint off of it and repaint it into the SG version).

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Updates to the Unofficial Transformers Club and Convention Exclusive Data Pages

Since relaunching the blog as "Blackrock's Toybox," I've been working to update my web presence elsewhere, as well. Perhaps the most important items I maintain on the web are The Unofficial Transformers Club and Convention Exclusive Data Pages. Transformers: Animated art director Derrick J. Wyatt has likened the data pages to being a "BotCon Advent Calendar" and calls seeing them updated one of his "favorite things about BotCon season."* With BotCon 2015 just around the corner, I could use some help gathering information for these pages, as I will not be able to attend the convention myself this year.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Power Flight Superman (1995)

Disclaimer: This image is not
my own figure, but given to
represent the figure in its
original package.
There have been so many figures of Superman made over the years, I wonder if anyone has compiled a complete list of all of them. I am definitely not that person. In fact, this is the only Superman figure I own. This is perhaps especially odd, given that this particular figure represents a fairly distinctive time in the character's history: the mullet period.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Clocker (2005)

There is a sense in which the period between the end of the Beast Era and the opening of the first Transformers live-action movie in 2007 has become a "forgotten era" of the franchise. This is a bit of a pity, because it obscures the fact that this era introduced new worlds and concepts to the mythos. Before Cybertron, for example, the only worlds that played a significant part in the Transformers franchise (that is, outside of one-off episodes and stories) were Earth, Nebulos, and Cybertron. The Cybertron storyline started off by introducing three more, one of which was Velocitron, the "Speed Planet," from which we get Clocker.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Carzap with G.B. Blackrock and Gas Pump (2015)

Whenever I write about a toy connected to Fun Publications, the folks behind BotCon and the Transformers Collectors' Club, I feel compelled to acknowledge that they have been the target of more than a little criticism from Transformers fans. Whatever merits those criticisms have, it's hard to deny that they manage to release some pretty special exclusive toys, and it's the toys I prefer to focus on here. This one is particularly special. There is a sense in which I've been waiting for this particular release since the club started, and I'm extremely happy to say that the day has finally arrived that I can say, "an official G.B. Blackrock figure exists!"

Saturday, May 30, 2015

A Counter-Point to Inflation - Comparing Transformers from 1988 and 2003

It's pretty common these days to see discussion about how inflation is affecting our lives, and the Transformers fan community is no exception. We've seen a recent trend whereby certain toys seem to cost quite a bit more than they would have just a year or two ago. That said, the reality of inflation, generally, has not always meant that Transformers fans have had to pay more for similar product. This can be demonstrated using a couple of toys featured recently here on the blog. I'm going to compare the 1988 Joyride toy with the Cybertron Optimus Prime toy, which itself was recolored from a 2003 Armada mold (which I don't have, or I'd be using it, instead). 15 years difference, roughly half the lifespan of the Transformers franchise, allows us to make some interesting observations.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Joyride (1988)

Assuming you've ever heard of him at all, if you know nothing else about Joyride (and even among Transformers fans, the odds are you don't), you know he's a Powermaster, but since it's been about six and a half years since I last featured a Powermaster toy (Powermaster Optimus Prime), a repeat of the details of the concept is in order.

Spinning off of the successful (and, these days, better-remembered) concepts of the Headmasters and Targetmasters introduced the previous year, Powermasters were also Transformers that came with smaller figures, intended to represent humanoid partners called Nebulans. While the Nebulans turned into the heads of the Headmasters and the weapons of the Targetmasters, the Nebulans turned into engines of the Powermasters. Just over half a dozen Powermasters toys were released, all in 1988.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Autolauncher (1998)

At the end of the Generation Two line, Hasbro released a couple of toys that incorporated an auto-transform feature (one of which, Roadblock, has been featured already), yet left several toys designed with the same feature unreleased. A couple of these planned toys would simply have been recolors of the toys we actually got, but a couple of unused molds, utilizing an apparently somewhat advanced version of the same auto-transform technology, were later released in Japan as part of the Beast Wars II line. Autolauncher was one of these toys that never made it to the US market.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Cybertron Deluxe Optimus Prime (Armada repaint, 2006)

The Cybertron series is sometimes referred to as the final part of the "Unicron Trilogy," due to a set of loose continuity connections with the preceding Armada and Energon shows. In 2006, as the line was drawing to a close, Hasbro released a number of repaints to meet demand. Since it seems like Optimus Prime figures are pretty much always popular, Hasbro dusted off one of Prime's figures from the Armada line, and released it with some minor paint tweaks to join the Cybertron line.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

75th Anniversary of Green Lantern

On (or about) May 21, 1940, a new superhero was introduced to the world: the Green Lantern! Now, this isn't the same Green Lantern seen in the recent (and much derided) movie starring Ryan Reynolds. In fact, that version wasn't created for almost another two decades. This isn't Hal Jordan, but rather Alan Scott, the original Green Lantern. He enjoyed popularity for roughly a decade in what is now called "The Golden Age of Comic Books" before the superhero genre began to tire out after the end of World War II, and he and many other once-popular heroes faded into obscurity. When DC looked to revitalize the genre in the 1950s, they did so by creating different characters entirely, simply retaining some of these older heroes' names and powers.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Armored Convoy with Action Master Optimus Prime (1990)

Transformers that don't transform. Action Masters are remembered (if they're remembered at all) for this basic fact. Whether one considers this the basis for disdain for Action Masters or not, or accuses Action Masters of being the reason for the end of the original American Transformers line (as some do), it is pretty much undeniable that the robots in the Action Masters line do not transform.

However, what is not so well acknowledged, and really ought to be, is that all Action Masters were nonetheless sold with vehicles or weapons that do transform.* In the case of Optimus Prime, this meant the largest accessory in the Action Masters line, the Armored Convoy.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

BotCon 2002 Glyph

People sometimes talk about the year Fun Publications took over BotCon (2005) as the year when the number of BotCon exclusives began to jump to huge proportions. While it is certainly true that Fun Publications' business model does involve putting out a large number of exclusive toys every convention, and that many of them must be purchased bundled together rather than separately, the trend toward more exclusive toys per convention had actually started a few years before Fun Publications entered the picture.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Encore Twincast with Nightstalker and Stripes (2012)

There have been several distinct lines of Transformer reissues over the years. The Encore line is a Japan-specific line that started in 2007. The molds used in the Encore line, themselves, are from the early part of the Generation One era (I don't think any mold released in the Encore line has origins more recent than 1987), but the toys themselves have varied between straight-out reissues of old toys and all-new characters, depending on how color schemes have been applied to the molds.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

It's Free Comic Book Day!

I have to admit, I'm really a very bad Louisvillian.

You see, for people in Louisville, KY (where I grew up), the first Saturday of May means one thing, above all else. It's Derby Day. People in Louisville have been celebrating all things related to the Kentucky Derby for a good couple of weeks already, in anticipation for the running of the race this evening.

If the past few years are any indication, I probably won't even watch the race on television, myself (I'm really not a fan of horses...).

For me, the first Saturday of May has a different, but no less consistent, meaning altogether. It's Free Comic Book Day! Today is the day that comic shops across the nation have teamed up with comic book publishers to offer a selection of books for free to anyone who walks through their doors.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Generation Two Hubcap (1993)

When Hasbro launched the Generation Two line in 1993, the Transformers franchise had been lying dormant in the US for a couple of years. With steep competition from other toylines and the resurging video game industry, Hasbro had doubts as to whether a new Transformers line could possibly be successful, and they apparently hedged their bets by starting out almost entirely on reused molds and a recycled 1980s cartoon for publicity. Hubcap is one of four "Mini-Vehicles" whose molds had originally been used between 1984 and 1986. Of these four, Hubcap was the most recent, being a 1986 remold of 1984's Cliffjumper.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Micromaster Constructicon Devastator (2003)

In the early part of the 21st century, a lot of old molds from the Generation One era were beginning to be reused, often for the first time, to create new toys for a new generation of collectors. The usual pattern for such mold reuse was almost always the same; Takara, the makers of Transformers in Japan, would find and refurbish a mold for their market, and Hasbro would then use that mold again for the American market (and possibly elsewhere). Many of these molds had never been used for American toys originally, such as with the Japanese Micromaster six-teams.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

BotCon 2014 Scorponok

Not all exclusives are created equal. Some are good. Others are... well... not so good. Still others transcend these simple labels, having risen to a level all their own.

At first glance, BotCon 2014 Scorponok is a fairly obvious choice using a decade-old mold that had already been used for a previous convention. Double Punch, from BotCon 2010, used this mold, also from a toy called "Scorponok," from the Energon line (itself from 2004) to positive effect by giving fans an opportunity to own a character most would otherwise never own (I myself do own an original Action Master Elite Double Punch, but it's incomplete, and given that the claws cost more on eBay than I'm willing to pay, it will likely remain so for the foreseeable future). Compared to Double Punch, to attempt such an obvious G1 homage might seem to some as lacking in creativity. But look closer....

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Retirement and Rebranding

Today is the 10th anniversary of the start of "Transforming Seminarian," and I am celebrating this occasion by officially retiring it. If you've read my most recent post back in February, this probably comes as no surprise (indeed, that's really what that post was all about. The only difference between then and now is that "a rest" now has become "retirement").

The surprise is that, after a period of reflection, and some behind-the-scenes work, I'll definitely not be giving up blogging. Instead, I'm rebranding and moving to a new URL. Welcome to "Blackrock's Toybox."

Transformers Wiki