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Monday, January 30, 2012

Mail Call! Big bunch of Tech Specs!

Thanks to a recent sale by Wheeljackslab on eBay I was able to get almost all of the rest of the tech specs I needed for my collection. I daresay now I am only missing four. I've been working on my tech specs for a long time now and I had never seen any of these come up before, so it was really great to get all these knocked out in one fell swoop.

Tech Specs:

Sky High
Legend/Kmart Grimlock
Action Master Wheeljack
Hot Rod Patrol
Missile Launcher
Military Patrol
Action Master Shockwave

And I'm only down to one Instruction booklet: Fort Max. I just don't know if I want to drop $100 on it, that is a lot of coin!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Congratulations Flywheels!

My good buddy Flywheels over at Random Toy Reviews had his Transformers collection featured on local TV last night! They've uploaded a video online for those who don't live in the area to check it out. Here's the link:

Carolina Camera Transformers Collection

Congrats to Flywheels on making us Transformer fans look so good!

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

TFC Neckbreaker and Madblender, Hercules is complete!

It has been an exciting ride, and unexpectedly short! When we first learned of the release schedule for the six members of the Hercules combiner these final two figures weren't even due until March and April. So imagine my surprise when they showed up at my doorstep two months ahead of schedule. I really must commend TFC Toys for not only sticking to their schedule and releasing everything ahead of time, but for providing excellent customer service throughout this entire process. As many people know Heavy Labor's waist has a fatal flaw that eventually destroys the ratcheting mechanism inside. Neckbreaker comes with an entirely new waist for Heavy Labor since attempting to fix the existing one usually destroys part of the figure. In the same vein Heavy Labor came with a replacement shovel for Exgraver because there was also a fatal flaw in the original shovel which caused stress and eventual breakage. Throughout the entire process they have refined their methods and produced a very high quality product on par with any other official figures I own. I don't believe we'll ever see a better representation of Devestator in both the combined mode and individual robot modes. Hercules feels exactly what a modern Devestator should be, not that unholy monstrosity that came out of Revenge of the Fallen.

Neckbreaker and Madblender hold up amazingly well when compared to their original counterparts. Neckbreaker deviates from the design a little more, but appropriately. Madblender is almost a completely faithful homage to Mixmaster, except of course that his mixing barrel splits into eight pieces as mountable weapons.

I need to reprolabel my Bonecrusher, he's naked.


I am also really pleased with the final Hercules combined mode. The figure is very stable, all the individual members connect very well, and there are no extra parts to keep track of (except maybe the hands). Although the figure can't be picked up by its head (a usual indicator of combiner strength), he is still very sturdy and holds up well with handling. He also has a wide range of motion and a lot of articulation which is something the original was sorely lacking. Finally, this guy is huge. Like bigger than Primus huge. I always found it odd that he was supposed to be the strongest and biggest combiner figure in G1, but his toy was most certainly the weakest. It falls apart if you look at it wrong. But this figure takes care of all that. He towers over every other classics figure, but still feels like he fits in. He is appropriately larger than Fansproject Bruticus and Superion.

His face also calls back to the original figure while still giving us a nice classics style update.

I really like the built in symmetry of this figure. Combiner figures by nature usually don't have a lot of symmetry due to being made up of different types of robots, but TFC did a nice job of making the forearms match each other bringing as well as appropriately weighting the figure with a large right shoulder to balance the crane of Dr. Crank. Of final note is Hercules' weapon. Each figure came with one small purple and red gun, all of which combine into a purple superblaster and a translucent red superblaster. I like the purple one myself so I'm using that one with my figure, but the 12 individual weapons allow for I don't know how many different combinations.

Old and New
I never really thought anyone could top Fansproject in terms of quality and execution, but due to figures with solid construction and ease of transformation, TFC has proved they are in it for the long run and are the new top dogs in my book.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

1985 Japanese Transformers Catalog

I love some interesting paperwork, especially when I've never seen it before. So when I got Astrotrain the other day an unexpected bonus was the 1985 Japanese catalog packaged with him! Since almost all of the 1985 Japanese transformers are identical to their American counterparts I don't own any of them and thus have never had any opportunity to own this particular piece of paperwork.



It is actually quite stunning, and I'm surprised to see that they started the 'vs.' concept so early (the whole booklet is based around it). Other things of interest: Red Alert and Trailbreaker are 'switched' with Red Alert being with the '84 Autobots and Trailbreaker appearing with the '85 ones on the back. Gears and the entire cast of '85 minibots are missing from the catalog (I presume this is because they weren't available in Japan at the time). Soundwave appears to be using the Soundblaster mold (the cassette compartment looks like it has room for two tapes) although this is mind-boggling as Soundblaster wouldn't even be released until 1987. Thrust, Dirge and Ramjet are missing for some reason that I can't explain. And of course Omega Supreme, Jetfire, the Deluxe Autobots, Deluxe Insecticons, Shockwave and Jumpstarters are completely absent as these figures couldn't be sold in Japan under the Transformers brand since they belonged to competing companies with a large presence in Japan. Fortunately that wasn't the case for America.

Also of interest is the fact that the catalog shows both Cybertrons and Destrons on each side, not just one like the American versions. As far as I know this was changed in all subsequent years so that it was just Cybertrons on one side and Destrons on the other.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

D-48 White Astrotrain, another Space Shuttle!

As I have often mentioned, one of the best things about reissues is they make prices of the figures they are reissues of much more reasonable. I can't imagine what the the G1 toy landscape would look like if Optimus Prime or Starscream had never been reissued since the 1980's. Prices on those figures would be through the roof! In fact, I remember even in the late 1990's before a lot of the reissues had come out prices were already high. Fortunately today it is relatively easy to obtain a copy of the original G1 cast at a reasonable price (and in many cases the figures have been improved such as proper visor colors on Trailbreaker). At any rate, in 2004 the once rare and difficult to find 'White' Astrotrain was reissued by Takara as part of their TFC line. It was subsequently released in the United States in the Hasbro Toy Shop online store.

Which one is which?
Japan released the white version of Astrotrain as part of their original 1985 lineup in an attempt to make all the figures have real life vehicle modes. In 1986 Takara released the regular color Astrotrain that we are all more familiar with. When I discovered the Japanese exclusive Transformers in the late 1990's this was one figure that caught my attention immediately. I've always been a sucker for good repaints, and a real-world accurate Astrotrain fits the bill nicely. Personally I haven't seen too many purple locomotives, but I have seen plenty of black ones. And the all white space shuttle with NASA stickers really seals the deal. Of course Takara and Hasbro couldn't use the NASA stickers with the reissue to due copyright so they used ASTR in the NASA lettering instead.

I think I'll call you Endeavor and Discovery.
As you can see the older Astrotrain is a little yellowed from time, but the pictures make it look a lot worse than it actually is. In person it is barely noticeable and while photographing the figures for this post more than once I had to look at the copyright stamp to see which figure I was handling. 1985 Astrotrain shows a Japan copyright while the 2004 version shows China.

I know this figure isn't high on many peoples' lists (hence the excellent deal I got on it!) but in my ever-continuing goal of ridding myself of all reissues and only using original figures for my collection it was a big one for me.

Reissue, Original and Hasbro versions.

C'mon guys, giant Decepticon symbols make us less conspicuous!

Still don't see too many purple shuttles these days either.

Monday, January 16, 2012

After watching the new reality show Toy Hunters...

...I am intrigued to say the least. This show debuted on the Travel Channel last night. It is basically like American Pickers but with toys instead of antiques. The show follows toy dealer Jordan Hembrough around as he tries to haggle local toy collectors for figures he can resell at NY Comicon. Since only a pilot was filmed I have no idea if the show will be picked up for a full season; I imagine that is up to the network based on how many viewers were watching last night.

The show isn't bad per se, however there were definitely moments that were pre-arranged or staged for the cameras. I find it a little too convenient that on the very first episode Jordan just happens to come across the rarest Star Wars figure in existence. Not only that but he also comes across the rarest Thundercats figure in existence! I can't blame them for needing to hype it up a little bit, but that type of discovery just isn't sustainable for a multi-episode show. There just isn't that much out there of that high value. On the plus side we got to see inside the Tomart Warehouse and Jordan got to talk to a lot of previous Kenner employees, some who actually designed the toys themselves.

I was surprised at some of the values of the figures. Maybe it is just because all I have ever dealt with are Transformers, but many of the items he was haggling over didn't even crest the $100 mark. Even the production sample Batman from the Kenner employee himself only sold for $45. This just reaffirms my opinion that collecting Transformers is one of the most expensive toy hobbies out there.

I do hope this show gets picked up for a full season, while I find Jordan a little brash I do enjoy seeing all the figures and learning more about their history. However I must point out that the host doesn't really have a deep familiarity of certain lines (he called MASK a precursor to Transformers) for which I can absolutely forgive him because of his wide breadth of knowledge. I understand not everyone knows the back story on Transformers, maybe they should call me in as an expert :-) It became clear that Jordan is a child of the 70's and not the 80's when he was drooling over Six Million Dollar Man and Battlestar Galactica figures.

While no Transformers were featured last night (except for one lone RID spychanger Optimus Prime in a half second shot) I do predict that if this show is picked up Transformers will spotlight heavily on it. I'm not sure if it will re-run any more but I'd be willing to bet anyone who missed it can check it out on the Travel Channel's website.

Hmmm, look at that, two posts in one day. Usually I don't have enough to talk about.

United Stepper and his Armada (I mean Nebulon)

Stepper is one of those obscurish characters that most fans don't even care to know about, especially before his recent reissues in the Takara TFC line and the Commemorative series by Hasbro. Prior to these releases Stepper was an ultra rare Jazz redeco released at the tail end of Headmasters in Japan and thus wasn't on shelves long. Along with his case-mate Artfire this figure would routinely sell for over $1000 in the early 2000's. When the reissues hit everyone who wanted one got one and the rest sat on the shelves forever until they were eventually discounted. This is what happens when companies try to reissue obscure characters: there just isn't enough interest to sustain the market. The Stepper reissues can still be found relatively cheap and even the original doesn't command the prices it once did. Artfire is another story though.

So I think Takara-Tomy learned their lesson. For the United line (basically the most current adaptation of the Classics figures in Japan) they decided to release Stepper as a mail-away through their Transformers Generations book. In direct homage to the original, this Stepper uses the Jazz mold and Nebulon is a redeco of the Cyclonus targetmaster Nightstick.

Overall this figure is beautiful, mimicking the original Stepper nicely while keeping a modern aesthetic to it. The gold is very nicely done and not too garish. I was also surprised at the size of the box he came in, it was very minimal and doesn't waste space with any frills.

And of course because the Jazz mold has speakers built in to the mold, Stepper gets them as well, only in Sonic White.

Nebulon is nicely re-decoed from previous versions:

From L to R: RTS Nightstick, Nebulon, Rocketbot and Universe Nightstick

Unfortunately I don't have the original Stepper in order to compare this figure, perhaps I can rectify that situation in the near future :-)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Japanese Robot Lion! (Hint: It's not Voltron)

Ok, so I've spoken before about trying and failing to get through the multiple Japanese G1 Transformer TV series. Headmasters was a disaster, however I actually made it through Masterforce (and enjoyed it immensely) and I got about 75% of the way through Victory. In Masterforce I was introduced to a character named Ginrai which was technically a human using a robot body that looked exactly like Optimus Prime (the toy was used for Powermaster Optimus Prime in the US). Ginrai could power up to become Super Ginrai and then even further to God Ginrai. When Masterforce was over God Ginrai became a normal transformer again and even started making appearances in the new cartoon: Victory. Unfortunately Ginrai was badly injured in the show thus leading to one of the greatest callbacks in TF TV show history. Wheeljack, Perceptor and Minerva (from Masterforce as well) all of a sudden made an apperance to try and rebuild Ginrai. It makes me wonder, how many other '84 and '85 Transformers were just hanging around Earth when Victory was going on? Of course they succeeded resulting in a brand new toy for the kiddies to buy: Victory Leo.

Now this guy is a monster of a figure. If you like big transformers, this is one to add to the shelf. Victory Leo transforms from robot to lion to spaceship (kinda). In the show he had issues with his feral lion self, a problem that would be echoed years later in Beast Wars with Transmetal II Cheetor. Anyway, he is a very solid figure with plenty of firepower. Unfortunately he was never released domestically so I wasn't able to obtain him until Botcon 2007. And then six months later I had to sell him again due to financial issues. Then about a year later I bought another one (in much better shape than my first) for less money so I guess I came out ok!

I really love the lion mode, wonderful G1-ness.

The space ship mode leaves a little to be desired.

I don't think I'm spoiling anything when I say Victory Leo can combine with Star Saber to form a super huge figure, but I'll get to that later.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Trakkons Calcar and Fearswoop prove Europe Rules!

I had the good fortune to obtain these two guys waaaay before Christmas, however I just now found the time to showcase them. I am really enjoying these European G1.5/G2 figures as they provide a nice transition from the end of G1 in the US to what would become Generation 2 (and what subsequently lead me back into Transformers...again).

I imagine the main selling point on these guys was the play factor of their weapons. Children could look through the viewfinders to 'target' their enemies and Fearswoop's weapon even has firing action that uses light-piping to simulate lasers firing in the viewfinder when you turn the knob. If I were a kid, I would absolutely love this. Hell, as an adult I absolutely love this. I was hoping for something similar on Calcar's weapon, but alas only the turret turns when you turn the knob on his weapon.

The 'lasers' in action

Oh no, firing on a fellow officer!

The size and bulk of these weapons really inhibits the flexibility of these figures, but since they are technically G1 figures and therefore bricks by design that isn't really saying much. In fact I think it may actually help in Calcar's case as it gives his arms flexibility they may not have had otherwise. In either case, displaying these guys with their weapons deployed really blocks most of the figure and I love how each one has a kickstand in order to support the weight of the weapons.

It's like they're both photographers from 1885.

Fortunately there were only two Trakkons, so now I have them both, however I am still missing one of their Autobot counterparts (known as Lightformers): Ironfist; arguably the hardest one of the four to find.

I love Calcar's face sculpt.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Sale of the AFA Items

Boy, this took a lot of soul searching, but in the end I think it is best.

I started collecting AFA (Action Figure Authority) graded figures over two years ago. My plans started out innocently enough, I just wanted to have a couple for novelty sake, nothing more. What I didn't realize is that I am often a victim of my inner completionist. Little by little as time went by I wanted more AFA figures. They looked so pretty in their perfect packaging, like a little time capsule of a Transformer. Eventually I decided that I would try and get all of the 1984 original release of figures. That transformed (if you'll excuse the pun) into obtaining all of the figures I had as a child in AFA form. That ballooned into having EVERY SINGLE G1 FIGURE GRADED. I got about 36 figures into that goal (approximately 10%) and started to think long and hard about if this is what I really wanted. As with everything there is an opportunity cost when you purchase one thing over another. What I began to realize was that I didn't want to sacrifice all the numerous opportunities open to me in order to obtain a complete AFA collection. Based on my estimates it would take somewhere around $100K to $150K to meet such a goal and I finally realized that isn't what I wanted.

So about a month ago I decided to sell off the bulk of my AFA collection. However since they are such high value items I thought it would be a good idea to wait until after the new year for tax purposes. People also have a lot of money to spend right after Christmas (ironically enough) so it seemed like good timing, and strangely enough the AFA market is actually up for the first time since 2007. Almost all of the auctions are over now and I am feeling quite a bit of relief that I won't have to worry about them anymore. AFA items can be such fragile things and if they are damaged in any way they completely lose their value. I did keep a few select items that mean a lot to me; Starscream, Bumblebee and Hot Rod. I may decide to purchase a few others that would really mean something to me (Smokescreen being one as he was my very first transformer) but for the most part I am done with AFA. All of that money will be re-invested into other things like Japanese and European exclusive G1 figures, Third Party items and maybe a few other special figures (Big Blue Convoy I'm looking at you). I am a loose collector at heart and while I can appreciate AFA figures I don't want them to take up the bulk of my collection. Plus, they were all duplicates anyway :)

So now that I have a little expendable cash I wonder where it should go first....

Oh, and Botch, thanks for the nudge :)