Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Transformers Collectors' Club Skyfall (2005)

As 2016 draws to a close, so does the tenure of Fun Publications' stewardship of the Official Transformers Collectors' Club. Although a few pre-ordered toys remain to be sent to club members in the next month or so, the club officially ends on December 31st. In recognition of this passing, let's go back to the year 2005 (one that has long had significance in Transformers lore) and have a look at the very first Fun Publications Transformer exclusive: Skyfall.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

BotCon 2014 Dread Pirate Crew

Dread Pirate Crew ArtBack before BotCon 2014 started, I reviewed the original Pounce and Wingspan, and shared my thoughts about the then-rumored remakes of the Decepticon clones as BotCon exclusives. Long story short, I wasn't thrilled with the idea. As it turned out, we did get exactly the toys that were rumored (full disclosure: while I try to be careful to continue to treat rumors as rumors until toys are officially revealed, Transformers fans have gotten pretty good at figuring out which rumors are reliable and which ones aren't over the years), but the characterization given to the toys turned out to be something of a surprise.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

BotCon Japan 1998 Barbearian/Grizzly-1

Grizzly-1 ArtWhile BotCon originated in America in 1994, there have always been Transformers fans in other countries, as well. Naturally, these fans like to attend conventions a bit closer to home. Thus, in 1998, the first "international" BotCon was held when BotCon Japan became a reality. Like its American cousin, BotCon Japan 1998 offered exclusive toys officially produced (in this case, by Takara). Unlike American BotCon exclusives (at least, at that point in time), the BotCon Japan exclusives utilized concepts previously intended for production, but which had been significantly changed by the time the molds actually made it to the shelves. Thus, the mold that saw wide release in 1996 as the polar bear named "Polar Claw" was finally released as the brown bear it was originally intended to be.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Revisiting the Lex Luthor Presidency

Before I begin, a disclaimer: It was always my intention to revisit the phenomenon of Lex Luthor's presidency, which I first wrote about eleven years ago* (before most Americans had even heard of departing President Barack Obama!), now that the real-world presidential election is over. The simple reason for this is that few readers are likely to remember those comments made more than a decade ago. Let me be clear, this is not a commentary on Donald Trump's victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton. I've made such comparisons in the past, during the campaign season, but this is no longer the time for such rhetoric. While I am certainly disappointed in the result, it was (by all accounts) a fair and decisive victory, and I accept the result. This is simply a commentary on the comic book phenomenon, tied to an appropriate moment in the American electoral cycle, and would have been posted regardless of the result.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

The 25th Anniversary of the 25th Anniversary of Star Trek

It was an all-day event. One of our local movie theaters was showing a Star Trek movie marathon. All five then-existing Star Trek movies, back-to-back, with a special preview of a few minutes' worth of the then-unreleased sixth Trek movie, The Undiscovered Country. As a not-quite-adult just about to enter my final year of high school, I enjoyed the celebratory event, recognizing the then-25th anniversary of the Star Trek franchise, immensely.

This week, I am forced to recognize that exactly that many years have passed again.

I feel so old.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Celebrating the 30th Anniversary of Transformers: The Movie - The Marvel Comics Adaptation

Five years ago, I wrote a post celebrating the 25th anniversary of The Transformers: The Movie. Since that was a retrospective post, everything I wrote there is just as valid for this, the 30th anniversary, so while I want to say something different today, I also want to refer you to that post.

It's no secret that I'm partial to the Marvel Comics interpretation of the original Transformers franchise of the 1980s, and I'm proud to say that I have every issue of Transformers-branded content they ever released. That said, the three issues of the mini-series adapting the movie were the last pieces I gathered for that collection. This is probably because, being an adaptation of a cartoon-continuity work, I originally never considered it a part of the comic book continuity I cared most about. However, due to the efforts of UK scribe Simon Furman (who, a couple of years later, was tapped to write for the US comic, as well), the events of the movie are considered part of the comic continuity, as well, and so it really wasn't fair to exclude these issues.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Racingcarbot (Trainbots/Raiden Knock-Off - 200?)

Probably for as long as there have been toys, there have been people seeking to make the same toy that someone else created, only a bit cheaper. Today, we tend to call such toys "knock offs." Knock offs are usually of inferior quality, and are, at best, of questionable legality. Yet they somehow manage to be rather ubiquitous. This poses a problem for the serious collector, to whom the legitimacy of an item is important, and to whom counterfeits pose a threat to the value of the originals.

So, yes, I own a knock off version of Raiden. Whatever that says about how serious a collector I am is up for debate. For the most part, I'll talk about the original toys, but there should be no confusion here: I do not own the originals, only this counterfeit version, for which I paid far too much in the early 2000s, only to find the same items available just a few months later for five-to-ten dollars for the whole set. If you consider that poetic justice, so be it.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

BotCon 1996 Onyx Primal

With the recent revelation that now-former BotCon organizer Fun Publications will retain the license to run the official G.I. Joe convention (but not BotCon) for at least two more years, discussion has reignited as to whether Fun Publications' tenure with BotCon has been a net positive or a net negative. While I have tended to come down on the "net positive" side, I have always acknowledged that their tenure with the convention has long been marked by controversy. It is perhaps important to note that, whatever Fun Publications' faults, the end of their time with BotCon marks the end of an unprecedented tenure of stability for the convention, lasting 12 years. The early years of BotCon had their share of controversy, as well, without any guarantees of stability. Indeed, the first three BotCons were each organized by different people, and the difficulties surrounding BotCon 1996 were arguably the worst of them all....

Perhaps the most positive aspect of BotCon 1996 was the exclusive toy that year, a repaint of the first Beast Wars Optimus Primal toy named Onyx Primal. But even Onyx's story is far from serene.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of the Television Game Show - The Early Years

Beat the Clock 1958As I've pointed out in the past, I'm a huge fan of game shows. Easily my favorite genre of television. I was extremely pleased to learn last year, while I was between jobs, that BUZZR, a new free over-the-air broadcast station (i.e., not cable or satellite, which I would have to pay for) dedicated to classic game shows, was beginning to air in my area. BUZZR just celebrated its first anniversary earlier this month, but I'm more interested in another anniversary, which I also learned about through BUZZR: Friday, July 1st, marks the 75th anniversary of the television game show!

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Masterpiece Exhaust (2015)

Repaints have been an economic fact of life for most Transformers lines, and the Masterpiece line is no exception. For some molds, such as the one shared by Prowl and Bluestreak, the repaint options are immediately obvious.* But, for molds created to depict a character that had no mold reuse within the original Transformers line, the Masterpiece creators have had to look elsewhere for inspiration if they want to recoup the costs of creating the mold. Arguably the most frequent source of such inspiration has been the Diaclone line which created the molds for the original Transformers toys in the first place. Thus, it was fairly intuitive that the Masterpiece Wheeljack mold (released in 2014) could be used to represent the "Marlboor" variant, widely known in collector circles as an obscure pre-Transformers use of the Lancia Stratos mold.

If only things could be so easy....

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

BotCon 2007 Springer

BotCon 2007 was a turning point in the early history of Fun Publications' tenure with the convention. It not only featured the first box set to completely sell out even before the convention started, but BotCon 2007 was arguably the first time that the convention-exclusive toys were an intentional extension of the line of toys then-currently (or, at least, very recently) sold at retail. Especially because of the controversial inclusion of the Seeker jets, BotCon 2007 exclusives were touted as a way to "complete" one's Classics collection (as the revisited Generation One characters that came out in 2006 were more-or-less officially called, if not on the actual packaging of the time).

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Masterpiece Bluestreak (2015)

One of the most persistent myths of the Transformers franchise was the existence of a "blue Bluestreak" among the original Transformers toys in 1984. Between a combination of Bluestreak's color-suggestive name, his box art, and the promotional images of the toy in Bluestreak's original instruction book and the catalog that came with that first run of toys (both of which used a Diaclone toy instead of the version eventually used for Transformers production), many fans were convinced that the original Bluestreak toy was indeed blue rather than the silver and red color scheme that was actually used (which, it should be noted, had no precise Diaclone equivalent, the closest Diaclone example having a black hood and top that the original Transformers version lacks). I myself remember seeing the silver-and-red toy in the '80s and thinking that the blue version used with all those packaging materials must have reflected some earlier variation that I had simply missed in the earliest days of the franchise. But, to this day, no legitimate sample of the toy in blue has ever surfaced in Transformers packaging.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

BotCon 2016 Megatron

Once upon a time, the then-standard bearer for official Transformers conventions lost the convention license. In the aftermath of that final convention in 2004, the former convention-runners revealed plans for what they would have released at the 2005 convention. Chief among these revelations was a new form for Beast Wars Megatron, using the then-recent Robots in Disguise Megatron mold. Although this concept was extremely popular, it soon became clear that the new convention-runners had their own ideas for BotCon exclusives. Thus, Transformers fans had eventually come to accept that this idea would never become a reality....

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

BotCon 2016 Airazor

2016 marks the 20th anniversary of the Beast Wars franchise. While that era has certainly been popular (partly because it is often credited with saving the Transformers franchise from oblivion after a less-than-stellar revival attempt with Generation Two), attempts to tell new stories in and around the Beast Wars setting have tended to meet with controversy. Fun Publications' two attempts at pre-Beast Wars stories have proven no exception. In both cases, at least part of the controversy centers around the character of Airazor.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Transformers Collectors' Club Krok (2015)

It has been observed that the Transformers Collectors' Club has made something of a mini-franchise out of taking old Action Master characters and giving them new life as transforming toys. Krok is certainly an example of this trend. As one of the "new" characters created for the Action Masters line back in 1990, this toy from the club is Krok's first transforming toy ever.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Thoughts on BotCon 2016

BotCon 2016, possibly the last BotCon ever, has now come and gone. I've had plenty of time to think about the event in the couple of weeks since my return home (partly due to the flu I and so many other convention attendees came home with!), but I'm sure I'll still only be able to skim the surface here.

This year, the convention was in Louisville, KY. While I have not typically travelled to non-California BotCons, I had already committed to doing so for this year even before the location and the probability of this being the last BotCon had been announced. But those bits of news made this convention an even more important one to attend. Louisville, as long-time readers (and friends and family) already know, is where I grew up, and where my parents and siblings still live. This did mean I wouldn't be staying at the official BotCon hotel, but besides saving a ton of money, I would have wanted to spend some time with my family, anyway. As to possibly being the last BotCon ever... well, I was also at the previous "last BotCon" in 2004, so who knows if this time will actually be the one. But I still wanted to be there.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Stampy (1999)

It's Easter time! What Transformer could be more appropriate to feature than the one that turns into a bunny rabbit? To the best of my knowledge, only one Transformer has been created in the 30+ years of the franchise with this distinction.* Therefore, I bring you "Stampy."

Monday, March 14, 2016

Micromaster Battle Patrol (1989)

Although there is a substantial portion of the Transformers fandom that fondly remembers the original (retroactively called "Generation One") era of the franchise, the latter half of the line—the portion from about 1988-1991—is often all-but forgotten. While concepts like the Micromasters do indeed show up in the form of Mini-Cons today, the term "Micromaster" is seldom, if ever, invoked, and Micromaster characters themselves are seldom homaged at all.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Transformers Hall of Fame 2016 Choices

So it's that time of year again. In preparation for BotCon 2016, Hasbro has asked the various fan sites, message boards, and other online media to nominate choices for the "Transformers Hall of Fame."

This year, fans are asked to select winners in each of three categories (parentheticals and quotation marks are mine, based on clarifications from Hasbro. Also, note that any characters or persons already inducted into the Hall of Fame in previous years are ineligible for nomination this year):
  • Favorite Transformers (robot) character
  • Favorite "Underrated" Transformers (robot) character
  • Favorite Transformers-associated musical act
There are several points of confusion or concern about the ways that these polls are conducted. "Underrated" has not been well-defined (and, honestly, I don't see any way to define it well, especially not such that a character so characterized would be able to win what is, inevitably, a popularity contest), and there so few musical acts associated with Transformers (especially after removing people already inducted into the Hall of Fame in previous years, whether or not voted on for this specific category) that I don't think that particular category has any business being a part of the Hall of Fame to start with.

But, that said, here are my choices for the two character-related categories:

Favorite (not already inducted) character: Sky-Byte

Favorite "underrated" character: Scrounge

Monday, February 29, 2016

BotCon 2005 Chromia (Moonracer)

Going through my oldest Fun Publications exclusives in recent months has given me an opportunity to discover long-standing errors on The Unofficial Transformers Club and Convention Exclusive Data Pages that had thus far escaped my attention. Chromia represents one of these. For some reason, I had previously only acknowledged the new heads given to Deathsaurus and Ironhide. But the fact is that Chromia also has a head that was also created especially for the BotCon 2005 convention.

Monday, February 15, 2016

BotCon 2005 Fallback

At the time that Fun Publications first obtained the license to do official Transformers conventions in 2005, their predecessor had revealed a number of concepts left undone, and despite outspoken requests for FunPub to go ahead with those concepts, FunPub made it clear that they had ideas of their own that they wanted to do instead. Oddly enough, at least two of the toys that were actually included in the seven-figure box set for BotCon 2005 used the same molds as those unproduced concepts. One of these was Deathsaurus (which used the same mold as a Beast Wars Megatron concept... which might yet come out at BotCon 2016). The other was Fallback.

Friday, January 29, 2016

BotCon 2005 Deathsaurus

I have recently come to realize that this blog (or, more properly, its predecessor, Transforming Seminarian) has existed for the entirety of the time that Fun Publications has been running BotCon. Despite several behind-the-scenes attempts, I've never gotten around to featuring what is arguably their first major exclusive toy: Deathsaurus from the 2005 BotCon box set (although, as the mention of the box set implies, Deathsaurus did not come out all on its own, it was certainly the centerpiece of that set). Some of the reasons for this delay will become clear as I proceed to showcase the figure.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Generations Arcee

Way back in 2009, when doing a feature on Energon Arcee, I commented that "to this day" (that is, from the start of the Transformers franchise in 1984 to the then-present of 2009) no mainstream toy of Generation One Arcee had ever been created. I wasn't counting a Binaltech figure that had come out the previous year in Japan, although I probably should have done, as it was technically the correct character, even if it wasn't available here in the US and bore little resemblance to the character's iconic form. That said, it took another five years before Hasbro finally got around to doing Generation One Arcee as she was always meant to be, with the 2014 Generations figure.

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