Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Titans Return Rewind (2016) and Custom Dispensor

While I've never been a huge fan of the live-action Transformers films to come out in the past decade, they've provided both resources and inspiration for Transformers fans of all interests to get something that might appeal to them. For example, toys to come out in the various sub-brands of the Generations imprint (of which Titans Return is a recent example) have featured classic characters that might never have been seen again if the success of those movies hadn't provided Hasbro with funds that enabled them to take chances on some of the more obscure areas of the mythos. In return, certain creative corners of the fandom have come up with innovative ways to use some of those toys to make characters originally seen in the movies. The recent Titans Return version of Rewind provides an opportunity to have a look at both.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

BotCon 2006 Optimus Primal

For many fans, BotCon 2006 was the "high point" for convention exclusive popularity (others might argue for the next year, but while those toys were popular, they were also controversial just for being convention exclusives). Early exclusives had tended to be previously-unknown characters (with the very first BotCon exclusive, which wasn't originally planned to be an exclusive, being a clear exception). A few years before Fun Publications started running Transformers conventions in 2005, exclusives started to be slightly better-known characters as "updated" versions of the forms previously known. But even these stilled generally stayed away from the "top tier" of the Transformers roster. Also, there were usually, at best, only a small handful of toys made available at a given convention. But starting with BotCon 2005, all that was starting to change....

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

40 Years of Firestorm

"Shag" Matthews, who created a website called Firestorm Fan (now largely defunct) and subsequently launched a (mostly) Firestorm-specific podcast and a network of other related podcasts (which is very much alive these days), brought my attention to the fact that today, December 6th, 2017, is the 40th anniversary of the publication of the first issue of Firestorm: The Nuclear Man, which featured Firestorm's first-ever appearance! While long-time readers already know of my affection for the character, I confess that I hadn't been keeping up with this particular anniversary (if I had, I'd have planned ahead to feature one of the Firestorm action figures I have, something I'm not in a position to make happen before the day ends). But now that I do know about it, I can't just let it go by without notice!

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Wipe-Out (2012) and G1 Full-Tilt (1986)

The modern era of Transformers toys has provided numerous opportunities for toys of characters with increasingly obscure origins. Some are easily explained simply by providing the reference to their origin and being done with it (say, for example, Stripes and Nightstalker, cassettes that came with the 2012 Encore reissue of Twincast). Others require going into more detail. Such is the case with Wipe-Out, a Japanese exclusive redeco of Reveal the Shield Windcharger.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Powerdasher Sky Dasher/Cromar (1984)

Before Reflector. Before the Omnibots. There were the Powerdashers.

Well, maybe that stretches the point just a little bit. After all, the Omnibots were made available on the very same flyer as the Powerdashers, which introduced the concept of mail-away exclusives to young Transformers fans in 1984. But I still think there's a case to be made for the Powerdashers being the first.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

San Diego Comic-Con 2012 Terrorcon Cliffjumper

For Halloween, I thought it would be appropriate to feature an example of a Transformer zombie. To explain how "Terrorcon" Cliffjumper came to be, however, I need to set up some back story.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Game Show Board Games: Concentration (14th edition, 1970) and Classic Concentration (1988)

I've been enjoying watching (and re-watching) some of my favorite classic game shows on the 2-year old Buzzr network. If I have any complaints about the network at all, it is the simple fact that, although they theoretically have access to the entire FremantleMedia library of shows (reportedly over 40,000 episodes worth), the actual content shown rotates through a tiny fraction of that, which repeats more-or-less monthly (with occasional refreshes a couple of times a year). Naturally, this means that fans regularly ask Buzzr to air shows not currently available on the network. Concentration is one of these frequently-suggested shows.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Generations GDO Wheelie (2012)

Poor Wheelie just never gets any respect. From pretty much the moment he first appeared in the 1986 animated Transformers movie, he's been considered a joke to many fans. Admittedly, with his penchant for speaking in rhyme for absolutely every little thing, Wheelie made himself a target pretty much immediately, and attempts to use the character in (English-language) fiction over the years have had mixed success with the concept, at best.* It may thus come as a surprise to learn that Wheelie's 2012 toy (only the third distinct mold to be used for the character in over 25 years) was actually in high demand.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Cloudburst (1988)

This past weekend, the first HasCon took place. It seemed to me that there were surprisingly few Transformers items revealed (and that's not even accounting for a well-publicized leak a few months ago), but one of the items that was was a tiny version of the G1 Pretender Cloudburst, which will host a "Prime Master" version of Micronus, one of the "Primes" for which the upcoming Power of the Primes line is named. This seems a good time to feature the original Cloudburst. Although I've featured Pretenders a few times on this blog in the past, I have never yet featured any of the first wave of Pretenders to be released, and doing so with Cloudburst offers an opportunity to demonstrate how the concept evolved over time.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Action Master Elite Double Punch (1991)

As is well-understood by nearly all Transformers fans who've ever heard of them, Action Masters were Transformers that didn't transform.

Except for the ones that did.

While 1990, the year the Action Masters were released, was the last year of the original Transformers toyline in the United States (they would return by 1993 as Generation Two), the Transformers line never stopped in other parts of the world. Notably, in Europe and parts of Australasia, Action Masters were released for a second straight year, including both repaints of molds released the previous year and totally new molds. Four of these new molds formed an Action Master sub-line: "Elites."

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Transformers Collectors' Club Double Pretender Optimus Prime (2017)

Transformers Collectors Club exclusives can be described as coming in one of three different flavors: 1) a new character, never before seen, 2) a new form for a well-known character, or 3) a reference to an obscure character or concept. I suppose one could say the same about all Transformers figures, but it remains a convenient way to discuss exclusives. Oddly enough, the Transformers Figure Subscription Service (TFSS) 5.0 Optimus Prime set actually straddles flavors 2 and 3.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Game Show Board Games: Password Plus (2nd edition, 1979)

Five years ago, when I did a feature on the board game version of the original Password, I promised to do a future post on Password Plus. I didn't expect to take five years getting to it, much less to have moved to a new blog in the meantime, but the future is finally here!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

That Time I Found The Quadrovelocipede from Legend

When most people hear that I'm a fan of Legend, they think I'm talking about something else. I can't really blame them. My version of Legend only lasted for 12 episodes, which first aired more than 20 years ago, on a network that no longer exists. The show is all-but forgotten. Indeed, although it was (amazingly) released on DVD last year, they had to change the theme music and some other musical cues for legal reasons, and I doubt it's sold especially well (Indeed, the DVD link in this sentence was found on the ninth page of search results for the name "Legend" on Barnes and Noble, after already filtering for "Movies and TV," under the "Top Results" sorting!). So I don't really expect people to quite understand how it is that the impossible happened last week. But first, some context.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Fans Toys FT-10 Phoenix (not-Skyfire, 2017)

One of the great oddities of the original Transformers cartoon of the 1980s was the inclusion of a character named "Skyfire." Skyfire was a fairly central character to a couple of early episodes, yet wasn't (directly) based on a toy. Even Reflector was based on a toy — albeit one that wasn't available in the US for a few years (and, as those who've read that old entry already know, even that only by mail order). To understand how this came to pass, some explanations are in order.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

Combiner Wars Shattered Glass Starscream (2017)

And so it ends. A few weeks ago, subscribers to the fifth (and final) Transformers Figure Subscription Service put together by the recently-defunct Transformers Collectors' Club started receiving the final shipment from Fun Publications. This shipment included the already-announced Toxitron and Counterpunch toys, as well as the "mystery figure" for this subscription service, which turned out to be a Combiner Wars version of Shattered Glass Starscream.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

"Me, Grimlock" Revisited

Almost a decade ago, the folks at the then-Official Transformers Collectors' Club decided to have a bit of fun. Taking a Classics Grimlock figure, they sent it around to club members inviting them to take pictures of it in their local settings. Once they had done so, the pictures were posted on the then-current club forums, and Grimlock would be sent on to the next club member in the queue. On occasion, members would even toss some little trinket in the box with Grimlock when they sent it on to someone else, so Grimlock gained some traveling companions along the way.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Universe Inferno (2009)

For the 25th Anniversary of the Transformers franchise, Hasbro released toys in their Universe line designed to pay homage to nearly every major iteration of the Transformers franchise released to date. Some iterations got more attention than others. Generation One received the most figures (often, but not exclusively, under the label "Classic Series"), which presumably surprised no one, while other iterations got only a figure or two. To the best of my knowledge, the sole representative of Generation Two was Inferno.

To use Inferno as the anniversary representative of Generation Two is a little odd. While there certainly was an Inferno figure released during Generation Two, it not only was just a reuse of the same mold as the one Inferno had during Generation One, but was all-but identical to it. The only discernible differences between the G1 and G2 Inferno toys were 1) an "Autobot" tampograph placed on the G2 figure, and 2) an extra water-shooting weapon added to the G2 set. Of these differences, Inferno's Universe toy doesn't even attempt to homage the G2 "Autobot" tampograph, and the water-shooting weapon seems to be homaged by an utterly dissimilar-looking missile launcher where the missile has been molded and cast in transparent blue plastic to resemble a bolt of water. There's really no reason not to assume that this toy is a G1 homage like so many other Universe toys, except that Hasbro wrote "Generation 2 Series" on the side of the box.

As odd as all that is, Universe Inferno is a rather nice toy, and in fact has been used several times in the years since to represent other fire truck-mode characters. I like this mold so much that I think I've actually collected every new-character version of the mold ever created (at least five characters), including the previously-featured BotCon 2010 Spark (Pyro) figure, which was much more appropriately a Generation Two homage, complete with the distinctive G2 Autobot symbol, which this Universe figure utterly lacks.

Generation Two purists are quick to point out that a lot of actual G2 toys lacked G2 faction symbols, which is true enough. Even so, I'd think that the powers-that-be would have done better to homage a character that at least had a distinctive G2 color scheme. It wouldn't have taken any difficulty at all, for example, to have repainted the Universe Sideswipe figure in a color-swapped G2 version. Of course, if they did, then it wouldn't have been an option for the BotCon 2010 customizing class exclusive, but I imagine that a lot of Sideswipe fans would have preferred that particular toy to have been available at retail, anyway....

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Q-Transformers Snoopy (2015)

While Transformers fans in the United States have seen the franchise crossover with the occasional outside franchise, including some Marvel superheroes, as well as the Star Wars figures of a few years ago, such crossovers are a bit more common in Japan. We've already seen examples of this with Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck, but Japan's crossovers have been by no means limited to Disney characters, as the Q-Transformers line demonstrates.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Glacialord/The Glacialbots (2013)

As more and more collectors of Transformers and other transforming robot toys enter into adulthood, a vibrant third-party market has arisen to provide a wider variety of product than Hasbro and/or TakaraTomy have been able to provide on their own. While it is true that some of these products play fast and loose with international intellectual property laws, there are nonetheless quite a few third-party products out there that, while clearly intended to appeal to fans of Transformers toys, are nonetheless very much their own thing: homages without actually violating anyone's trademarks and/or copyrights. Glacialord, a combiner released by a company called FansProject, was especially ambitious in this regard.

Friday, March 3, 2017

BotCon 2012 Shattered Glass Turbo Tracks

One of the struggles that the minds behind BotCon had to face every year was coming up with new and interesting concepts for their exclusive toys that would encourage fans to come to the convention and buy the toys. Some years were clear winners in this regard, while others didn't do so well. When the "Shattered Glass" concept was introduced at BotCon 2008, pre-convention orders of the box set of exclusive toys were so high that the set sold out. Indeed, that set was the second-fastest set to sell out in BotCon's more than 20-year history, with the record for the fastest set to sell out going to the Animated Stunticon set of BotCon 2011, which sold out in a mere 7 days! Riding the hype of both Shattered Glass and the previous year's record, Fun Publications thus hoped to recapture some of that interest with the "Invasion!" set of BotCon 2012.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Grapple (1985/2004 Reissue)

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, or if you're otherwise simply well-versed in Transformers history, then you already know that pretty much all of the toys that were a part of the Transformers line when it began back in the 1980's reused molds from other toylines, most notably Diaclone in Japan. This was true for the first couple of years of the franchise's history. Moreover, many of these molds were used multiple times to create different Transformers characters. Thus far, Grapple is no exception, having seen a previous life (with a few changes) as Diaclone toy #20, the "Truck Crane."

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Robots in Disguise Ratbat and Sandsting (2016)

Ratbat and Sandsting ArtMini-Cons are (perhaps paradoxically) big again.

The concept, first introduced in 2002 with the beginning of the Armada franchise, became a major addition to the Transformers mythos for a few years, but fell into only intermittent use in the years after the so-called "Unicron Trilogy" (of which Armada was the first part) ended. They have returned in the past couple of years as a significant feature of the 2015 Robots in Disguise line (Henceforth abbreviated as RiD. This line is still current, but I mention the year it started to set it apart from the original Robots in Disguise line of 2001).

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