Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Dairu and Zauru (2018 reissues)

As the year 2018 comes to a close, it seems appropriate to comment on a pair of the most unexpected Transformers to come out of the year. Indeed, I would be so bold as to call these the most unexpected Generation One reissues of all time. I'm calling these two "Dairu" and "Zauru," as they were called in their recent reissues, but they are more commonly thought of as "Dial" and "Zaur" (allowing for a few alternative spellings). For all of the pictures in this entry, Dairu will be on the left, and Zauru will be on the right.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

Masterpiece Bumblebee (2016)

In just another couple of weeks, the Bumblebee live-action movie will hit theaters. While I'm going to wait for reviews before committing to see it, myself, now seems an appropriate time to feature the definitive version of the original Bumblebee character, in the form of Masterpiece Bumble (as the character is called in Japan, and I do indeed have the Japanese version).

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

BotCon 2010 Slicer

It has been established that Fun Publications enjoyed creating homages to Action Master-original characters. It has also been established that the "Shattered Glass" concept they created was generally successful, if admittedly controversial. We've even seen an exclusive that managed to bridge these concepts. Slicer, the attendee-freebie from BotCon 2010, does so as well.

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Titans Return Six Shot (2016)

At first glance, the Titans Return line is a revisitation of the Headmasters concept, first introduced in 1987. Robots with detachable heads, with the heads themselves transforming into little robots. Also like the Headmasters of old, Titans Return's transforming head partners were compatible with every other toy with the same feature in the line. But while the Titans Return line did indeed feature new toys for each of the classic 1987 Headmasters characters (except for Scorponok, [grumble, grumble...]), they went way beyond those characters, making many classic characters "Headmasters" (although they called them "Titan Masters," now) for the first time.

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

United Stepper (2011)

It's Halloween, but the most I'm going to make of any connection to this toy and that holiday is this fairly dark and ominous bit of packaging art. Let's face it. I've been doing this for a long time now, and there's really only so many ways to connect a new Transformer with each given holiday every year. Most years, I don't even try.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

BotCon 2016 Reflector

It is well-known in the Transformers fandom that Hasbro likes to get as much use out of each new mold they create as possible. This not only means that molds are redecoed and retooled as different characters, but that Hasbro, in fact, plans some of the different characters into the molds even as they are being created. This is sometimes done on a "just in case" basis, without a firm commitment to releasing this pre-planned character as a toy, and absent the occasional clue (an "incorrect" head being used in line art for instructions, for example), those of us who do not work within the industry itself often never know what toys had been so considered, but which were never actually produced.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Combiner Wars Shockwave (2016)

It is well-understood by now that the current team at Hasbro really enjoys paying homage to characters from the early days of Transformers history. The recently-completed "Prime Wars" trilogy was chock-full of classic characters, many of whom were given the most faithful updates to their original "Generation One" selves ever seen to-date. While this was definitely a welcome development (at least to me), I have no doubt that it also posed some challenges.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Fun with Kreons

Doing something a bit different this time around. I took these pictures several years ago, thinking to do a feature on Kreons for the blog, but I found that I never really had much to say about them, and before too long, the "Kreon moment" had passed (I'm told you can still buy them some places, but I still think it's safe to say that the glory days of the Kreon are behind us). Instead, I offer these pictures here without additional comment. A look into Hasbro's attempt to do "LEGO" (in all but name) with Transformers.*

*Special appearances by Super Mario Bros. characters from the K'NEX line and Barriss Offee from the LEGO Star Wars line.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Timelines Depth Charge (2013)

When creating exclusives for the official Transformer Club or for BotCon, the perennial challenge to longtime clubrunner Fun Publications was to create characters that would be of interest to fans, while acknowledging the limitations imposed by using existing molds and having only a limited budget to do remolds (usually in the form of remolded heads). This meant coming up with as many figures that didn't need remolded heads as possible. Needless to say, some of these attempts worked out better than others. In my own opinion, Timelines Depth Charge is an idea that shouldn't have worked, yet amazingly, it does!

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Crosshairs (1987)

By the year 1987, Hasbro* found themselves faced with a problem. Transformers was now a hugely successful toyline, which Hasbro was very keen to continue, but they had exhausted the supply of pre-existing molds and designs they inherited from Takara (via pre-Transformers toylines) and other toy companies. If the Transformers were to continue, Hasbro needed to create all-new designs. To be fair to Hasbro, these concerns did not start in 1987. Hasbro had increasingly been transitioning from pre-existing concepts to new ones over the previous couple of years. Indeed, most (but not quite all) of the new characters from the 1986 animated Transformers: The Movie featured all-new designs. 1987 was simply the first year when all new Transformers featured designs created specifically for the Transformers line.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

X-Transbots Stax (2014)

Today happens to be my birthday. I can be a hard person to buy presents for (not that I expect many at my age). People know that I love Transformers, for example, but fear buying me any Transformers toys out of a (very reasonable!) fear that I will already have gotten that toy for myself. On at least a couple of occasions (including birthdays and Christmas), my brother has managed to circumvent this problem by getting me a third-party toy. He knows that, while I really don't object to third-party toys as some fans do, I tend not to follow them all that closely, increasing the odds that a purchase will not be one that I've already made for myself. Stax was one such gift.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Race Mini-Con Team (2002)

The Armada line's focus on Mini-Cons was, by some measures, a step backward for the Transformers franchise. Larger figures that had been getting increasingly complicated had to be made simpler to accommodate the special features and gimmicks the Mini-Cons would unlock. This was by no means a bad thing, as it returned a "fun factor" to the toys, making them more accessible to children (the target audience, after all!), and as a result, Armada was considered very successful.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Air Defense Mini-Con Team (2002)

While the addition of various gimmicks to the central theme of "Robots in Disguise" was by no means new to the Transformers franchise by the time the Armada line came into being, Armada could be argued to be one of the first times that a play gimmick (that is, a gimmick featured around something the toys could do, as opposed to something the toys resembled, as with the Beast era) became a central theme than an entire line would be built around. In the case of Armada, this central theme was the introduction of the Mini-Con.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Ultra Magnus vs Skywarp: Battle for Autobot City (2007)

When the "Classics" line came out at the end 2006, it was pretty immediately popular with long-time fans, who had been largely starved for new toys of "Generation One" characters at that point. Although the line was fairly short-lived, intentionally making way for the line of toys created for the first live-action Transformers film in the summer of 2007, "Classics" gave fans about a half-year to focus on the characters they remembered and loved from their childhoods. It also gave Hasbro a chance to do a few repaint homages to offer to stores as exclusive sets. The "Battle for Autobot City" set, featuring Ultra Magnus and Skywarp, was exclusive to Target in the US. Both of the toys in this set are repaints, and in fact both molds have already been featured multiple times on this blog, so I'll just direct folks to the original uses of the molds, Optimus Prime for Ultra Magnus and Starscream for Skywarp, and simply direct readers to the search engine at the top of the page if interested in tracking down the others.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Legends Blurr (2016)

In recent years, the teams at both Hasbro and Takara have made a concerted effort to release new Transformers toys that homage toys and characters from the early days of the franchise (especially what we now call "Generation One"). This has led to a revisitation of gimmicks not seen in widespread use since the 1980s. The recent Titans Return line (and its counterpart Legends toys in Japan) revisits the classic "Headmasters" gimmick in a major way.

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Reflections on Superman's 80th Birthday

Odds are, you know these words by heart:

Faster than a speeding bullet!
More powerful than a locomotive!
Able to leap tall buildings in a single bound!

In case you haven't heard, Superman's celebrating a birthday this year. The character first appeared in Action Comics #1, which had a cover date of June 1938, and which was probably actually released early in May (thanks to Mike's Amazing World of Comics for this information, which also gives evidence that the April 18th date cited by some is not correct). Whatever one considers the "actual" birthday, I figure that now's a pretty good time to celebrate.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

HasCon 2017 Exclusive Optimus Prime Converting Power Bank

Longtime readers of this blog will be well-familiar with the fact that Fun Publications, the company that ran BotCon for the last decade-plus of its existence, lost the license to run official Transformers conventions after BotCon 2016, when Hasbro decided that they wanted to consolidate their licenses and run fan conventions on their own. The result was the first HasCon in September 2017, more of a trade show or exposition than a convention in the traditional sense, but at any rate devoted to all of Hasbro's properties, not just Transformers. That said, the fact that Transformers is one of Hasbro's most lucrative brands ensured that, when exclusives for HasCon were being planned, there'd be at least one Transformers exclusive in the mix.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Slugfest (1987)

Nearly eight years ago, I did a feature on Overkill, a former dinosaur cassette that had at the time been recently homaged via a Classics Grimlock repaint. I mentioned at the time that the original version of Overkill was packaged alongside another dinosaur cassette named Slugfest (all G1 cassettes were packaged in pairs, at least in the US), but since my intention at that time was to feature the two Overkill toys, Slugfest got very little attention. It's time to fix that.

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Machine Wars Optimus Prime (1997)

With Toys R Us still in the process of closing its doors forever (at least in the US. Stores in other countries have found buyers, some of whom even look to be retaining the "Toys R Us" name), I had occasion to recall the closure of KB Toys yet again recently when I discovered Machine Wars Optimus Prime for sale at a local store and decided to add it to my collection. As long-time fans already know, Machine Wars was a short-lived line that was exclusive to KB. I discuss the line in a post I wrote in preparation for BotCon 2013, which featured a Machine Wars theme, so I won't repeat all that here. Instead, I'll focus on what made this version of Optimus Prime distinctive.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

BotCon Europe MMII (2002) Rook

The year 2002 was a significant one in the history of BotCon. It marked the first year that BotCon was truly the official Transformers convention, with full backing by Hasbro beyond the mere inclusion of exclusive toys. It also saw a marked increase in the sheer number of exclusives available that year. I've already featured three of the four exclusives available at BotCon 2002 on this blog (Tap-Out, Glyph, and CatSCAN, I do not... yet?... own the fourth: Cyclonus). Yet BotCon 2002 was only part of the story. There was also a BotCon in Europe that year: BotCon Europe MMII (The TFWiki refers to the convention in more traditional terms: "BotCon Europe 2002." I consider the version with the Roman numerals, found on contemporary advertising and its website, to be correct, because it's less easily explained). BotCon Europe MMII was by no means the first BotCon held outside the US, but it proved to be the last.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Impossible Toys TS-03 Prankstor (not-Skywarp, 2013)

Having won Hasbro's recent fan poll, Impactor (and Mirage) will be given new toys in the upcoming Transformers line, which Hasbro has confusingly decided to call "War for Cybertron." This isn't the first time that Hasbro has re-used an old name for a current toyline (the most famous, if debatably not the first, was the 2015 Robots in Disguise line), but it gets more difficult for those of us who try to keep all this straight with each successive re-use. At the time of this writing, the new line hasn't yet come out, and indeed no molds for it have even been revealed, so all we can do is speculate on the basis of the few fragments of information we currently have. So we'll start with those....

Monday, March 19, 2018

Requiem for Toys R Us

If you've been following the news, you already know that Toys R Us, already in bankruptcy since this past September, finally announced liquidation this past week. While liquidation sales are not yet starting (at least, for those remaining stores not already having clearance sales since February, which were at one time hoped to be the only stores to have to close), they will very shortly, and the company, as we've known it, has effectively ceased to exist.*

Friday, March 16, 2018

Combiner Wars Impactor (2016)

When the results of Hasbro's recent fan poll were revealed a few weeks ago, few fans were surprised that the "Impactor vs. Mirage" pairing won. That's not to say that everyone was happy with the results.

In each of the three pairings we were offered ("Spinister vs Wheeljack" and "Needlenose vs. Tracks" being the other two), the '84/'85-era Autobot in the pair was relegated to secondary status. The comments made in support of votes in all three cases seemed to be much more about the other characters. Indeed, that's part of why I've featured only those three characters these past few weeks, the other reason being the coincidence that those three characters all happened to be featured as toys in the 4.0 version of the Transformers Figure Subscription Service (TFSS) offered by the now-defunct Transformers Collectors' Club.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Combiner Wars Needlenose (2016)

The recent fan poll conducted by Hasbro to promote their upcoming toyline paired Spinister (featured two weeks ago) with Wheeljack, Needlenose with Tracks, and Impactor with Mirage. I'll deal with Impactor next time, but for now, it's enough to say that Hasbro's reasons for these pairings are still a bit murky for the Spinister/Wheeljack and Impactor/Mirage options. For Needlenose and Tracks, on the other hand, a discussion of the IDW comics should make Hasbro's reasoning pretty obvious.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Combiner Wars Spinister (2016)

This week, Hasbro is starting a promotion whereby fans can select pairs of characters to be featured in an upcoming toyline. As it happens, each pair features one G1 cartoon-era Autobot alongside some lesser-known character who (coincidentally, I'm sure) happened to be featured in the fourth "Transformers Figure Subscription Service" by the now-defunct Transformers Collectors' Club a couple of years ago. I doubt I'll ever have a better reason to feature these lesser-known characters, so I'm taking advantage of the opportunity.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Reflections for the 50th Anniversary of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood - A Foundation of Faith

On February 19th, 1968, a mild-mannered man in a cardigan sweater introduced himself to the nation.

He wasn't completely unknown at that point, of course, having worked in Canadian television for a few years, and for a local Pittsburgh public station for a few years both before and after that. And he'd had other experience, mostly behind-the-camera, before that. In fact, by the time Misterogers' Neighborhood (as it was originally known) first aired nationally, Fred Rogers was already nearly 40 years old, and had been working in the television industry for the better part of two decades. More or less ever since his graduation from college with a BA in Music Composition.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Insecticons Shrapnel, Bombshell, and Kickback (1985/2015 reissue)

For the most part, Transformers have always been divided into two factions: Autobots under the command of Optimus Prime, and Decepticons under the command of Megatron. While there have been several exceptions to this broad assertion over the more than 30 years of Transformers history, I would hazard a guess that the three characters featured today might be the first.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Vector Oracle (2012)

As more and more toys are added to the Transformers franchise all the time over the period of the past 30+ years, it is inevitable that some have been given more fictional attention than others. For many toys created purely as promotional items, it is perhaps no surprise that little-to-no fiction is ever created for them at all. Vector Oracle is one such toy. Indeed, I'm not even entirely clear whether I should call this toy "Vector Oracle" as a proper name, or "The Vector Oracle," given the fact "Vector Oracle" sounds more like a title than an actual name.

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