Monday, 6 October 2014

The Team

Transformers Animated Dinobots Grimlock Snarl Slag Swoop Autobots Hasbro Takara Toys Action Figures

Transformers typically means G1 to me, but nowadays the brand is all but defined by how many different versions there are, whether that's Aligned Continuity, the Bayformers, IDW, or however else the story has been told. I still haven’t even watched all of Beast Wars, let alone journeyed into the world of Transformers: Animated. However, when the Emcat got me an Animated Voyager Grimlock for our first Christmas together I knew that I had a new sub line to collect… 

Ladies and Gentlemen: The Dinobots.


I am a fairly rubbish collector. I mean, I’m miles better at it than your average man on the street, but I have such a wide range of interests and, at least for the last few years, such a meagre disposable income that I’ve found completing pretty much any planned focus difficult – hence why TMNT Classics Michelangelo and Leonardo are still wondering where their brothers are...


The Dinobots however are a team that demand completing; especially when one of their members is Swoop, a toy that was unavailable in the UK during the days of G1. Animated presented the chance to collect a complete version of the powerhouse Autobot team, and after that Christmas Day I obtained Swoop and Snarl (not Slag) in fairly short order.

 
These Dinobots have stayed with me through every house move, every car boot sale, every action figure purge, because they represent the success of a focus, however small. It doesn't matter how clumpy and inarticulate Snarl is, or how frequently Swoop’s head pops off – these robots make a mean looking red, grey, blue and gold team; and one that deserves to be kept together.

Thanks for reading!

Friday, 3 October 2014

Spotlight: One Of A Kind

Cheetor Beast Machines Transformers Beast Wars Maximals Autobots Hasbro Mega Takara

More Wednesday market bargain grabbing, as this week I picked up Beast Machines Mega Cheetor, sans tail. For a great number of reasons, this is the first beast-era figure I have ever owned...

Cheetor Beast Machines Transformers Beast Wars Maximals Autobots Hasbro Mega Takara

It's not hard to see why. He's lanky, doesn't fit in with any other size class, has great difficulty standing and is just kind of garish, to the point that my girlfriend volunteered the word 'crass' to describe him. It's an accurate description as well. That chrome! That neon! That swiping action feature! This guy is such a 90s toy that it hurts.

And you know what? That's what makes him pretty unique amongst my Transformers collection. One of a kind, in fact. 

Welcome to the MEC, Cheetor.

Monday, 29 September 2014

Focus Points


Hot Rod Rodimus Prime Kup Springer Grimlock Galvatron Cyclonus Scourge Wheelie Transformers The Movie 1986 G1
Tier One
My passion for Transformers starts with the ’86 Movie, before anything else. I love a lot of other Transformers media, from the UK comic that was partly responsible for advancing my reading age, through to the humourless but occasionally brilliant Transformers Prime, but in terms of passion… Give me Transformers: The Movie any day.

That pretty much sums up why I want to use the Movie as my focus point – it’s where I care the most deeply about the Robots in Disguise, and it’s what I would most like to see represented on my toy shelf. Besides that, it features a vast but limited pool of characters, which means that I’m not going to break the bank trying to buy them all.

Well, not too much.

I put serious thought into going for a Masterpiece collection, but ultimately the price and the lack of available characters put me off – I know plenty of collectors are still waiting to get a complete Ark crew, so there are no guarantees about ever getting a complete Movie cast anyway. Little by little over the last few years, I have picked up a number of bargains from the Classics/Generations line, a run that continued with last week’s addition of Classics Starscream. This last purchase steeled my resolve to commit to a Classics/Generations TF: TM cast... and brings us to where we are now.

Even with the source media and line sorted, figures still needs to meet a certain criteria to merit inclusion in my collection, and that is where the issue starts to get subjective – I’m not that bothered about getting a load of dead Autobots like Ironhide and Wheeljack, for example; but then no Transformers collection is complete without Optimus Prime.

Because I need to have some clarity regarding what I collect, and because I like making lists, I have split what I consider an essential TF: TM cast into three tiers of priority, starting with a heavy focus on the cast from the third series. As you can see above, for the first ‘wave’ I’m going for a core Autobot cast with a strong focus on the Quintessa faction; firstly because those scenes are unquestionably some of the best in the film, and secondly because it helps to split the cost.

With all that in mind then, what figures make the grade?



Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime


Rodimus Prime

There is only one choice when it comes to the new leader of the Autobots, and that is Classics Rodimus with the Fansproject Protector Armour. I have the Classics base figure already, and the Protector Armour is the highest priority on this high priority list. After all, I still do not actually have a Deluxe scaled Matrix-bearer on the toy shelf.



Kup


Generations Sergeant Kup

For the cranky old timer there is again only one viable option, the Generations Sergeant Kup release from 2011. The secondary market price for this has stayed high, which I imagine is due to the lack of alternatives; there was a Kup released in the TF: Prime line, but the shade of green and comedy face make it a non-starter for the Movie collection.  



Springer


Generations Voyager Springer

Confession time: Springer was originally on the second tier, before I needed an equal number of ‘bots per wave to make that nice picture up top. He made the jump over Ultra Magnus because I already own him, in the form of the incredible Generations Voyager figure, and because he also serves as a reminder for not jumping on third party offerings before Hasbro have a chance to shine first… because with Springer, they shined very brightly indeed.



Grimlock


Generations Voyager Grimlock Fall of Cybertron


Winning the ‘not perfect but close enough’ award, I’ve chosen the Fall of Cybertron Voyager Grimlock from the Generations line, with the Iron Factory Dinoarmor (sic) & Rifle upgrade kit to fix the dinosaur mode’s rather gaping flaws. That the upgrade will also give old Grimmy G1 style wings is an additional bonus, and one that will make the figure even more suited to a TF: TM collection.



Galvatron


Galvatron


Remember what I said about Springer and third party releases? Whilst I would be prepared to wait for a new official release, I have a suspicion that we are not going to see any new Movie commanders until the film’s 30th anniversary in 2016, which is too long to wait for me. It’s a good job then that Unique Toys have already released Mania King, a near perfect take on the crazed Decepticon leader.



Cyclonus


Reveal the Shield Cyclonus



Another character where I have a head start, as I already own the excellent Classics Reveal the Shield version with Nightstick, his Targetmaster partner. From the sublime and intuitive transformation to the imposing stature, fine articulation and impressively effective light piping, this is a great Transformer.


Scourge


Generations Scourge


To round out Unicron’s army I will need to pick up a Scourge (or several), and there are no better options for that than the 2010 Generations release. I’m less enthused about getting this than I am any of the other seven listed here, but I have read good reviews about this toy, and I know that my Decepticon line up wouldn’t look complete without at least one. Or three.



Wheelie


Universe Wheelie


He’ll get no hating round these parts. I looked at the GDO release, but since I already have Jazz, I would prefer something a bit different to round out the wave. Universe Wheelie fits the bill perfectly, and is also close to being the correct scale, making him a lock for the collection.



There are still a lot more figures to come over the next two waves, with a lot more third party expenditure as well. I will say now that if Hasbro can release a decent, vaguely G1 Voyager Optimus Prime before I have to cough up for the excellent looking Orion by Toy World, I will be very grateful…

That's all from me for now. All credit to Seibertron.com for the majority of toy pictures, and as always, thank you for reading!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Spotlight: Old Friends

Last summer I spent quite a bit of time in Sheffield, and was fortunate enough to get to visit Weston Park Museum with my baby nephew. The museum covered a lot of 20th Century culture, and whilst there I ran into some real old timers keeping guard in a display case...

Inferno Optimus Prime G1 Generation One G1 Transformers Takara Hasbro Sheffield Weston Park Museum
Robots Half Disguised

This is Inferno pretty much as I remebered him; fistless and awesome. He was actually the best G1 Transformer I owned and accompanied me on many otherwise boring trips away - which is no surprise considering how all-around excellent he is. Optimus Prime (half-transformed on the right there) may be more iconic, but Inferno is the better toy. And after all, didn't ol' Convoy just end up copying the fire truck alt-mode?

He-Man Skeletor Vintage MOTU Masters of the Universe Sheffield Weston Park Museum Mattel Mos Espa Collection The MEC
Who Will Win?! WHO?!!
There's a teasing glimpse of a certain Horde leader on the left of the top picture, but the main event is right here: peerless good versus evil incarnate for the title of Master of the Universe... It has to be He-Man and Skeletor. 

After Thomas the Tank Engine these are the very first characters I had any conscious engagement with, and both He-Man and She-Ra became huge parts of my childhood experience. Oddly for someone as backwards looking as myself I've not really gotten into any of the modern Eternian revivals, but that's not to say that I haven't enjoyed looking at some of the fantastic 2002 and MOTUC figures in recent years.

It was a real treat to see these fine vintage on display, and if you're in the area I recommend checking the museum out. There's a lot more great stuff to it than just toys as well, but hey - a blog's gotta eat, right?

Thanks for reading!

Monday, 8 September 2014

On Topic: Hello Again!


It's been a little bit too long since I've been able to break out the plastic crack, but then I never consider being busy a problem. Regardless, I have been neglecting the world of robots (at least as far as this blog goes, anyway), and that's something I've needed to rectify!

Generations Springer and Fansproject Quadruple U are the latest additions to the collection, but despite having had them for a few months I've not yet had the time to review either; a situation I'm hoping to change in the next few weeks. Short form is that they're both great, but we'd all like to see more pictures of them in action, right? Watch this space, true believers...

Current Eye Feasts.

Other than Transformers I've been enjoying Gundam Wing, and also getting quite heavily into the Halo mythos (been playing X-Box a bit more recently, which has been a bit of long overdue irresponsible fun). I'm hoping that both of these franchises will make an appearance up here in plastic form at some point in the near future.

Finally there's the small matter of the Film Northants contest... A massive thank you to everyone who supported us; click here to find out how we did.

I'll be back with some proper action figure goodness soon. Until then, thanks for reading!

JB

Friday, 8 August 2014

Seriously Off-Topic: Please Help!


Hey everybody! As you may or may not know, outside of collecting figures I'm an aspiring filmmaker, with delusions a single minded goal of working on a Star Wars film in the near future. In respect of that a short film I recently wrote and directed, Beneath the Wormwood Trees, has been shortlisted for the 2014 Film Northants contest, of which the result is partly determined by audience vote.

I imagine you can see where this is going...

Please, I implore you, take a minute out of your day to vote for Beneath the Wormwood Trees right here. It'd mean so much to me to be able to repay the cast and crew with a little bit of success for their endeavours, and it'd go a long way to getting everyone involved the next step along in their careers.

For those of you with five minutes to kill, here's the film in all its glory...


Help me, readers of the MEC. You're my only hope!

Friday, 18 July 2014

Spotlight: Head Off!

Transformers Voyager Springer Hasbro Autobot Fansproject Weirdwolf Quadruple U Monzo Decepticon Headmaster
Not-Monzo makes a break...
Let's face it, it doesn't matter how gnarly your colour scheme, how awesome your alt-mode, how 'second-in-command' you are of the Decepticon Headmasters... When Voyager Springer comes swinging at you with his massive sword, you're not going to stand much of a chance. Monzo knows this. That's why he's getting out of there...

Catch you later, Quadruple U. Best of luck!

Monday, 14 July 2014

Doing The Rounds

Comic Shop Leicester
Enter, ye pilgrim, and browse silently...
This week the Emcat and I took a trip out of town, and as always when we end up anywhere other than here I was spoiled by the selection of geek wares available to purchase. This amount of capitalist envy may necessitate yet another move in the near future…

To begin with we stopped in at one of my favourite stores, Leicester’s Forbidden Planet International. I’m a big fan of both FP chains, and I always try and drop into them when I can (FP Coventry served as my LCS from Civil War through to NYX, and it was somewhere I always enjoyed going). The Leicester store is no different and over the last three months they’ve sold me plenty of Transformers, TMNT and Spider-Man comics and TPBs. This was the first time I’d been out this way since May, and there were a few standout items that really caught my eye this time around:

Last Stand of the Wreckers, Gypsy Danger, Play Arts Kai Robin
Yes please!
Here we have IDW's Last Stand of the Wreckers, Play Arts Kai's Arkham City Robin, and NECA's Gypsy Danger from Pacific Rim (something I had little interest in until actually seeing it on the shelf). Unfortunately at the minute these are all consigned to the ‘one day’ list – but given that I started my new job today, that’ll hopefully be one day soon!

A brief sojourn into the Disney Store scored me a look at the rest of the first wave of Star Wars 12” talking figures, and whilst I’m not sure about Luke, Han Solo and the Stormtroopers look as good as the Darth Vader. Given the size, great sculpting, poseability and action features on these guys, it’s actually criminal that Hasbro is selling the 6” Black Series at the same price point. Something is going to give there, and soon.

Leicester City Centre Shopping
The standard attractions...
We saw a few other cool sights as well, including a market place which was trying its hardest to entice me back to vintage video games, which reminded me that I’m interested in Titanfall and led directly to a look around Game. Verdict: I have no time for video games. This makes me feel sad on one level, but productive and ever-so-slightly ‘adult’ on another…

Of course, all these boasts of adulthood were undone with a follow up trip to Northampton’s Toys ‘R’ Us, the finest purveyor of Transformers toys that I’m aware on in the Northants area. This is in large part because other than the supermarkets there’s nowhere else to actually buy the things, of course…

Transformers 4 Age of Extinction at Toys R Us Northampton
The state of brick and mortar today...
I’ve not really been too smitten with the AOE line, but I think that Scorn looks quite nice. This trip also gave me my first glimpse of Evasion Mode Optimus Prime ‘in the plastic’, so to speak, and I have to say that it looks even better in real life than it does online. I’m still not convinced that it’s the Prime for me though, although I’ll reserve my full judgement until I see the Evolutions two-pack version up close. It’s a definite case of facemask FTW.

Transformers 4 AOE Age of Extinction Optimus Prime Evolutions 2 Pack Evasion Mode Faceplate
Double Optimus!

So there you go; in the world of ‘If I Had Money’, these are the kind of products I’d be coming home with after a Saturday afternoon out. The thing is that even with all this brick and mortar love, I know that online shops provide a much wider selection at highly competitive prices – sites like the excellent Kapow! and Star Action Figures bear me out here – but I maintain that there’s nothing like seeing an item in hand and weighing it up before committing to buy it, and that’s where TRU, with its FOC Generations Deluxes and Voyagers gathering dust, holds the slightest of advantages.

This is an area where I struggle with buying 3rd Party products (as opposed to any moral/copyright concerns). I’ll caveat that by saying that I own Fansproject’s Quadruple U and I’m really impressed with the build quality; but that was a purchase I had weighed up for a long time before going for it. Maybe it’s the case that it is worth waiting on those pre-orders until the figure is in (someone’s) hand, with the trade-off being that you just pay a slightly higher price later down the road for a figure that you know is worth the cost?

So anyway, there’s that idea… And then FP comes along and teases Classics style not-Dinobots.

FP Columpio Derpan Dinobots Sludge Snarl Swoop Slag Slug Grimlock G1 3P
Targetmaster Dinobots!

Well, there goes that resolve.

Friday, 11 July 2014

Spotlight: Generations Orion Pax

Orion Pax Optimus Prime IDW Transformers Autobots
"What happened to my lucky face plate?"
I've been getting to grips with the local landscape since moving earlier this year and I recently found a most excellent location for Transformers shots, as demonstrated by Orion Pax here. Next time I go, I'm taking a few more robots with me...

Amid all my G1 Classics/Generations loving the other month, I neglected this guy due to his IDW origins and anachronistic standing. Yeah, he is a little out of place in my collection, but he's definitely still there on merit.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Episode Guide: More Than Meets the Eye

G1 Optimus Prime, Megatron, Starscream, More Than Meets The Eye
Here We Go!
Perhaps it’s a sure sign that I have too much time on my hands, but this is it – the start of my watch and review of the original Transformers animated TV show. Whilst I’m not going to go through every series in strict chronological order, there’s probably still no better place to start than with the original arrival from Cybertron…

Before the comic book, More Than Meets the Eye was the three-part cartoon pilot that introduced the first generation of Transformers to Earth, and it sure opens with a bang: that theme song, combined with a colourful, fast-paced montage of action shots that lets the viewer know that they’re in for a sugar rush of fun. It’s eye-opening and exciting, and even if it is a bit crude by today’s standards it’s still highly effective at setting up the sides of the conflict and the concept. It definitely reels you in.

Cybertronian Thundercracker and Skywarp hunt Bumblebee and Wheeljack
Enter the Tetrajets
We come straight into the action on Cybertron, with the Autobots desperately hunting for more energon resources as the Decepticons tighten the net around them. These intro scenes do a good job of setting out the basic premise whilst the Cybertronian alt-modes are visually fantastic, with Bumblebee and the Seekers in particular looking like the sleek, futuristic alien vehicle robots they’re meant to be. Size and mass issues are apparent almost immediately as an injured Bumblebee hitches a ride inside Wheeljack, before transforming into a vehicle of almost equal size. As this actually happens so much during the entire series (this isn’t even the worst instance in this episode) I’m not going to draw any more attention to it unless it’s really glaring; but still – improved physics were a welcome addition to later versions of the franchise!

G1 Autobot Ark base background
Home Sweet Home
With the type of compressed storytelling that’d give Brian Michael Bendis an aneurysm we’re on Earth in little over eight minutes of runtime, before succinctly skipping ahead four million years. The Decepticons are repaired first, and there’s nice dramatic irony in the way that Starscream’s petty anger causes the Autobots’ own reactivation. Of all the Decepticons Starscream has the most apparent character in this episode, as his scheming and cowardice is painted in pretty broad strokes. On the Autobot side Hound and Cliffjumper get the most character time as Cliffjumper’s impetuousness causes their spying mission to go awry. I was surprised by how much I liked Hound, an Autobot I’d never cared for before, but his easy going character and love for nature is clearly stated and immediately makes him one of the more likable robots we meet. On that note, it seems apparent that the writers attempted to stagger the character introductions throughout the episode, but by the time Jazz is lining up the Autobot strike force it really becomes no more than a bunch of names and different coloured cars. Never mind though, that’s what the tech specs were for, right? Just don’t tell the FCC…

Autobots More Than Meets The Eye Part One
Heroic Autobots
There are nice references throughout to how the Transformers are robotic beings, which I don’t remember occurring as clearly in later episodes. Bumblebee sustains damage to his rear axle, for example, whilst Hound has a problem with his drivetrain after being attacked by Laserbeak. This is just reaffirming the concept, and the fun of the idea for young minds – these warriors could literally be our cars, with us none the wiser. Robots in Disguise indeed.

Decepticons More Than Meets The Eye Part One
...And Evil Decepticons
The sound design is well worth commenting on. The music tracks are pure 80’s cartoon gold, and the sound effects have become so iconic that they’re instantly recognisable – the transforming noise and Megatron’s cannon are just a few of the audio treats that became staples for the series. The seeds of the great voice work to come are there, but the characters here are the least developed they’ve been in any iteration of the franchise ever. It’s going to be interesting watching how these sketches became the now-familiar heroes and villains of Cybertron as the series develops.

G1 Transformers Optimus Prime More Than Meets The Eye Part One
To Be Continued!
At the episode’s climax the Decepticons raid an oil rig, and the story starts to deliver on the promise of the premise as the two factions battle fiercely. The Autobots and a couple of human workers are trapped underneath the burning wreckage of the rig as the Decepticons flee, before BAM! Along come the end credits and we’re left waiting for Part Two.

More Than Meets the Eye Parts Two and Three are less successful when viewed in one hit, and from the Burma plot line onwards events feel superfluous, and more like extended standalone episodes than necessary additions to the introductory story arc. In fact the first three episodes cover such a wild amount of ground by today's standards that the structure seems all over the place, and certainly doesn't come together as cohesively as multipart stories in later series.

Transformers G1 Autobots Decepticons More Than Meets The Eye
Now this is how you conclude a story arc... Oh wait - it's not?
But ultimately the 1980’s was a different time for kids’ TV programming, and whilst the fast plotting and inconsistent (inconsistently brilliant) animation might not stand up by today’s standards, the opening episodes really do a great job of highlighting the fantastic concept behind the Transformers, and the play possibilities inherent in the toys. That core concept still works, and that’s probably the reason why the Transformers are still around now, a whole three decades later.

Thanks to the excellent TFW2005 for the screengrabs; it's a truly great Transformers resource.

Friday, 4 July 2014

Spotlight: TFA Grimlock

Transformers Animated Voyager Grimlock Dinobots Autobots
Me Grimlock go alone!
Transformers Animated Voyager Class Grimlock: one of the finest Grimlock toys made this side of G1, in my humble opinion, and a fitting leader for the three TFA Dinobots

I have some trouble getting the spring loaded flame sword to work properly but that's a minor concern next to how awesome this figure is - bulk in all the right places, decent articulation and a pretty fun chomping feature. I'm generally not a fan of the Animated aesthetic but this is a solid update to the Dinobot King, and well worth tracking down if you haven't already got one.

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