Sunday, August 26, 2012

Transformers - What Could've Been (Canceled G1 & G2 toys)

While digging around in my laptop's hard drive this evening I ran across a file folder that I thought I had previously deleted.  Back in '07 I attempted to build a Transformer toy database for every toy released.  Yeah.  Not sure why other than I like to take large amounts of information and organize it.

Anyhow I had since taken the site down and I thought I had deleted all of the associated content until tonight.  Buried within this folder are a few pictures I had lifted off the 'net some years ago of G1 and G2 test shots and canceled prototypes.  I can't give proper credit for the pics unfortunately, but I still wanted to share these just in case someone has seen them before.


Let's start with Generation 1.  I loved the Pretender toys.  The big ones or the smaller ones - it didn't matter to me as I loved the idea and gimmick of the TFs hiding inside organic shells.  Needless to say not everyone in the fandom embraced the Pretender concept such as I and the last few toys got the axe before they were released.  I believe this guy was part of the new Double Pretender idea where two robots hid inside the same shell.  There was also a large gorilla Double Pretender that had been planned.  Of note these shells didn't separate in half like the majority of Pretenders, but the robot(s) would be removed from the back via a removable panel (similar to the Monster Pretenders / Dinoforce).  These prototype figures were brought to Botcon 1996 for display purposes by Hasbro.


I also was a huge fan of the G1 Micromasters...then again I also loved Galoob's Micro Machines so it seems fitting.  I found this picture online in the early 90's and didn't know anything more about it.  According to TFWiki though I learned that Hasbro had planned on releasing this Micromaster Carrier Base to interact with the various Patrols and Squads, but I'm guessing that the popularity of the brand was continuing to decrease at a rate where it just didn't made sense to release a larger scaled playset...although the Micromaster base, Countdown was released in 1990.  This resin piece was brought by Hasbro to display at Botcon 1996.

Several toys never made it past the planning stages in the Generation 2 line as well. 





While most TF collectors are aware of the canceled G2 Protectobots and Stunticons how many have seen them in their G2 packaging (minus the Botcon exclusive Breakdown)?


Another toy that didn't quite make it was a Laser Cycle version of Soundwave.  This mold was eventually released as the Decepticon Road Pig.  The Autobot equivalent Laser Cycle was planned to be released as Jazz, but eventually saw release as Road Rocket.


Before these toys were known as Dreadwing & Smokescreen this duo was planned to Megatron & Starscream.  How Megatron would have gone from his previously released day glow green and purple camouflage tank to a ATB is beyond me.  This color scheme would eventually be released by Takara as part of their Beast Wars II line in Japan as Starscream and BB.



Now these pictures perhaps are my favorite of all the unreleased G2 stuff.  I don't know anything about this and I don't recall reading much about this toy anywhere else.  I've searched TFWiki and the boards at TFW2005 for information and my searches come up empty.  I really wish this had been released as it looks like a great designed toy.

If you happen to have any information about any of these toys mentioned please let me know.  Thank you!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Transformers Chojin Masterforce: Godmaster Zetoca

During the late 80's Takara decided to release a few Transformers that wouldn't be seen in the West...at least in these particular colors.  1988's Chojin Masterforce series introduced the Godmasters or Powermasters as they are known outside of Japan.  Similar to how Takara earlier released the single Headmaster figures, the 3 Autobot Godmaster (Lightfoot, Ranger & Road King) engines were recolored and sold individually.  Today these little suckers can be hard to find and very expensive.

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Lucky me though.  Awhile ago I was able to find this figure, Zetoca available for next to nothing.  I didn't realize until I had him in my hands that his package was still sealed!  I debated whether or not to open the figure, but it didn't last long as I quickly grabbed my razor blade and popped the tape!

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First off I love the small boxes these Godmaster engines come in.  You've got that classic G1 grid on the front of the awesome artwork on the back.  The figure is housed inside a small plastic tray that easily slides out of the box.  No accessories, catalog or tech spec cards are included, just a small instruction sheet.  The sides of the box showcase all 3 of the engines - Aquastar (blue/teal) & Bullet (red/blue).

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While I prefer the Headmaster or Targetmaster figures more, the Godmaster/Powermaster figures are still relatively good.  Zetoca has a nice shade of blue for his torso while his limbs are black.  The only paint apps on the small figure is the red on his face.  His engine block has been chromed in gold.  I was surprised to see a very small amount of rust on this screw in the engine seeing how he's been sealed since 1988.  Oh well.

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Zetoca is simply a repaint of Lightfoot/Getaway's partner, Rev.  I can't decide at this point which color pallet is my favorite as both look really nice.  I think I prefer the chrome color better on Rev however.

I've always thought that Takara released the individual Headmasters and these Godmaster engines as replacements as most kids are prone to loosing small parts.  Since these small figures are so integral to their larger partners it makes sense that these would have been viewed as replacements.  Whatever the reason behind their release these guys are only for the passionate collectors.  I'm VERY happy to have finally been able to add at least one of these to my collection, but I don't see myself acquiring the other two unless lightning strikes twice for me.

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Friday, August 10, 2012

Transformers Universe: King Atlas

During the early 2000's Hasbro introduced a new series of Transformers simply called Universe.  The entire line started with redecos existing molds from several previous series'.  I always looked at the line and thought it was a filler line.  Basically something new for retailers to order and fill up their shelves.

Like with most Transformers during this time I bought up just about every release I could find.  Even if I thought it was ugly I bought it because, well, it was a Transformer.  Thankfully I've come to my senses since then, but not before I ended up with a lot of Transformers that don't fit into my collecting scope now.

I wasn't crazy about a lot of the early Universe releases, but King Atlas was one of the exceptions.  If you aren't familiar with the mold it was first used in Europe as Predator Skyquake.  Kenner/Hasbro later used the mold in the KB Toys exclusive Machine Wars series as Starscream.  In a sense this was the first time this mold had a wide release.  I think eHobby even offered this toy to eastern audiences as one of their USA Exclusives.

Hasbro was using a lot of Beast Wars molds at the beginning of the line so who thought in 2004 when King Atlas was released that they (Hasbro) would go back and use a mold from 7 years earlier?  I sure didn't.  I can remember hitting several different local Target and Walmart stores hunting for this toy.  I had to have it.  At the time my only exposure to this mold was Machine Wars Starscream.  Even though the toy had been altered from it's initial European release it was a fun toy...plus the new Autobot deco was too good to pass up.

There is no doubt that this mold is a G1/G2 mold.  It's a big 'ol brick.  No real articulation.  Loud ratcheting joints.  I love it.  I guess one of the reasons that really fueled my desire to buy this toy was the fact that it was an older mold.  When I did my first big collection purge last year I decided to keep King Atlas based solely on the fact that his mold was from the "original" era.  I'm still trying to find the best place to display this monsterous toy.  I should've taken a side view picture as the large scope just hangs off his back.  This makes it hard to display on a crowded shelf.

I didn't break out the measuring tape, but in robot mode this figure is quite large.  The new Autobot color scheme is very good, although some of the added detail can't be seen as well in robot mode.  Former Hasbro designer, Aaron Archer, said the deco was purposefully done to resemble the G1 Japanese exclusive character Dai Atlas.  Nice.  A nod to us collectors!

King Atlas' only accessories are 6 yellow bombs / missiles.  The spring loaded hand held gun that Skyquake originally came with was not included in this release - just like Machine Wars Starscream.  From what I know it was omitted for safety reasons due to the incredibly strong spring inside the gun.  The missiles can be attached to the underside of the jet or placed inside the wings in the bomb compartments.

Where this toy really shines in in jet mode.  I've read the mold was based loosely on the SR-71 Blackbird, but I can't really see the influence.  I've already mentioned the awesome deco, but what you couldn't see in robot mode you can see while in jet form.  I typically don't like white toys.  They look bland and I worry about the white plastic yellowing with age.  You have to protect white Transformes from sunlight like they are a Mogwai.  Thankfully Hasbro decided to give the toy brushes of gray paint all over the jet to give it a weathered and worn look.  I'm also glad they omitted the goofy shark face sticker on the nose of the jet.

The only down side to this toy is the fact that the main play feature Skyquake had (Megavisor) was left off.  Not surprising since MW Starscream didn't have it either.  The translucent plastic in the mid section of the jet and the viewfinder piece are now an opaque black plastic.  He does still retain is "carpet bombing" gimmick allowing you to drop bombs on unaware Decepticons below.


In terms of fiction, King Atlas was used by 3H Productions as part of their OTFCC Transformers Universe comic fiction.

In my opinion a lot of the Universe toy releases were really uninspired and boring and didn't warrant a purchase...then or now.  King Atlas however breaks that mold and delivers a pretty satisfying, albeit brick of a toy.  I recently pulled this toy off the shelf to sell, but after fiddling around with him and writing this post I've decided that I'm still too attached to say bye.  So off he goes back up on the shelves with a few of my other Transformers misfits.






Monday, August 6, 2012

Transformers Superlink: Grand Convoy SC-01

I was excited about Transformers Energon coming out.  I know a lot of collector's would never utter those words, but I had high hopes for the series for a couple of reasons.

1) I instantly fell in love with Mini-Cons that were first introduced during the Armada period.  I had just about everyone one of them and I wanted more so I was thrilled when I heard early on there would be a more released under the Energon banner.

2) I heard a lot about robots combining and the return of 5 team member combiners.  Well we know how that went so my enthusiasm was short lived!

3) Most importantly Hasbro owed us collector's a new and better Optimus Prime toy after releasing that horrendous "super pants" Prime in Armada.  Did Hasbro deliver?  Not really.

My beef with Optimus Prime during the Energon series was that he didn't "feel" like Optimus Prime.  First off he lived up to his new nickname of "Fatimus Prime".  Need I say more?  Optimus combined w/ his trailer during Armada so they decided to mix things up a bit and give this Optimus a different gimmick.  Instead of combining with his trailer he now controlled 4 scout vehicles / drones.  In addition to having them hit a ride in his trailer he could also merge with them.  This toy screamed Voltron and or Power Rangers...not a good thing in my book.

Before we get too much into the toy itself let's look at the beautiful CGI packaging of the Superlink version of Optimus, called Grand Convoy in Japan.  One side of the box depicts Grand Convoy in CGI and I admit looks halfway decent.  Remember those this is a Transformer and there is more than meets the eye here.

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The other side of the box is displayed in the normal horizontal orientation and features images of the toy.  They did add a transformation sequence of sorts of Convoy combining w/ his scouts.  I like the double sided box and the bright colors as the box makes for a good display piece...better than the actual toy if you ask me!

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Fatimus...er, um Grand Convoy comes packaged inside the box in vehicle form.  Other than the odd shape trailer (which we'll look at in more detail in a bit) he doesn't look to bad in vehicle form.  The truck cab is large and has some heft and it pulls the trailer just fine.  It's not my favorite look for Optimus/Convoy, but I can appreciate what the folks at Hasbro and Takara were trying to do here.

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Grand Convoy sports a few differences when compared to his Energon brother.  As you can see here Convoy has a chromed grill which actually looks quite good...much better than the gun metal silver Hasbro used.  The blue is also a much deeper shade which I think matches his show CGI model better.

There are two things about this Cybertronian truck mode that I don't care for...and I'm sure I'm not the only one.  First are the robot arms that are just there.  Sure there are notches on the back for the arms to fit into, but it doesn't hide the fact that the arms are still pretty noticeable.  The other aspect that bugs me is the helmet thing.  I don't care for the way it looks on top of Convoy's head and I don't care for how it just is there while in vehicle mode.

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If you didn't know how this Convoy/Optimus got his nickname all one must do is look at the picture above.  Horrible.  Convoy/Optimus always had a fairly easy and simple transformation and this version is no exception.  Fold down the legs, flip out the feet, pull out the arms and fold forward and flip up the head.  Done.

The chest is entirely too big and so are the shoulders.  The legs look super tiny and his arms are too short.  The only thing they got right is the head sculpt...it's a dead ringer for that classic Convoy/Prime look.

He has a spring loaded missile launcher he can wield in robot mode.  When not using it can be stored via a 5mm peg on his back.

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From L to R:  Fire-1, Copter-2, Digger-3 & Submarine-4
I'm not sure what possessed Hasbro and Takara to go this route.  The main purpose of these small drones is to form the limbs of Grand Convoy, but they do retain some play value on their own.  Some.  Not much.

Fire-1 has a gray ladder extends every so slightly, but that's about it.  Copter-2 has a free spinning rotor blades and some sort of extension on the back...not sure what purpose it serves.  Digger-3 has a darker color yellow plastic than Hasbro's and from the pictures I've seen looks better.  When rolled the drill does turn a full 360 degrees.  Submarine-4, well, just rolls.  All 4 actually have small free rolling wheels on the bottom.

Each limb has an official arm or foot mode, but they all are interchangeable and can be either an arm or a leg.  Depending on how you "transform" the drone you can see the molded fist or foot.

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Convoy's trailer can bit tilted forward to form a base for the drones.  The top of the trailer has 3 sections that open up to reveal and "launch" 3 of the 4 drones.  On the side are small tabs that ever so slightly extend a ramp inside each compartment.  For Copter-2 the side flap folds down to form a helicopter pad.  Each of these doors are marked for each corresponding drone.  There is also a radar dish that folds up from the rear of the trailer.

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Grand Convoy doesn't look like any other Convoy or Prime that I've ever seen.  It's a good sized figure and has a decent weight to him despite his limbs being mostly hollow plastic.  For several reasons though he just doesn't have that classic Autobot leader feel to him.

The truck's windshield opens up in the combining sequence in the cartoon to reveal a Matrix like item.  Hasbro's version added LED lights and sound, but like with other releases Takara gutted those features for release in Japan.  I guess little Japanese kids didn't need those fancy electronics to have fun playing w/ their toys.

Remember that helmet I mentioned I didn't like while in truck mode?  Well it simply folds up from behind and over Convoy's head to form a larger head for this combined mode.  From a distance this helmet looks like a larger head, but once up close you can tell that it just sits over the smaller head.

For a series of toys all about combining this toy is a big brick.  There really isn't much articulation to talk about on Grand Convoy.  Fire-1 and Copter-2 do feature a ratcheting elbow joint to allow the arms a little range of motion, but overall there ain't much posing you'll be doing with this toy.

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I've been pretty hard on this toy and you may be wondering why did I even buy this?  Well for starters I was buying just about every TF released during 2003/2004, but I held off from buying Optimus.  Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe this was the first Convoy/Optimus to feature a mouth instead of his classic mouth plate.  I hated that.  I had heard that Hasbro corrected this with a later production run and replaced the mouth place with the more familiar solid mouth plate, but I never could find the toy at local retail with the correct production stamp on the box.  I later learned that Takara went with the solid mouth plate from the get go so I tracked down the Japanese version.

During the Energon series I was so wrapped up in the Unicron Trilogy story that I could look past some shoddy toys (like Energon Ironhide, Cliffjumper/Beachcomber, Grimlock & Swoop...heck, just about the whole line!).  While writing this post and thinking back I can't believe I wasted so much money buying these toys.  After my recent purge I'm left with one non Mini-Con Energon/Superlink toy - the deluxe version of this toy.  I only kept him as a small representation of the character.

According to my Shmax.com entry I only paid $35.  I didn't realize until a week or so ago when I decided to purge a few more TFs from my collection that this guy ain't the easiest to find on the secondary market.  That has made finding a reasonable asking price for this toy kind of hard.  If I had bought the Energon version I may have decided to keep it and just tuck him behind some other Primes on my shelves, but right now I'd rather have the $$ I hope I can sell him for.

picture courtesy of TFWiki
If you aren't familiar with this toy and wonder why he is so fat it's because of some later combination options introduced later in the series.  On the left you can see Convoy/Prime combined with the character Wing Saber giving him a flight mode.  I used to own Wing Saber and one day I may track him down again...especially if I'm unable to move Grand Convoy.  Wing Saber had a nice homage to G1 Star Saber and really deserves his own post, but for now I'll just mention that the toy could be disassembled and be added onto Convoy/Prime in one of two ways.  The flight mode (pictured in the bottom left corner) looked pretty great.

Convoy/Prime could also be combined with Omega Supreme or Omega Sentinel.  The transformation for this combination reminded me a lot of how Godmaster Ginrai / Powermaster Optimus Prime combined with his trailer.  The figure is basically folded up into a cube and placed inside the larger figure - in this case Omega Supreme/Sentinel.  I didn't realize at the time that the drones could also be attached to Omega via Powerlinx ports.

The whole Superlink / Energon series was all about the Spark of Combination and the toys really suffered because of it.  Had Takara just focused on Convoy and left out all of the silly gimmicks (minus his combination w/ Wing Saber) I feel that the toy could have been much better.  Unless you are a die hard Convoy or Optimus Prime collector it's really hard to recommend this toy.  If you aren't turned off by his girth or my little review I believe the Energon version can be had for a decent price on the secondary market.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Iron Man 2: Whiplash (Comic Series)

It's been 2 years since the fantastic Iron Man 2 movie graced theater screens across the world...and it's taken all of those 2 years to find this figure.

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Ivan "Whiplash" Vanko from the Comic Series.  He's number 37 in the series and was released towards the end of the line.  I'm guessing he was so hard to find in the wild (i.e. retail) because the first couple of waves were still warming the pegs.  At least in my area they were.

I'm very grateful to Hasbro for doing a comic segment to the movie based toys as those are the only figures I'll buy, however it is taxing looking through peg after peg and not find what you are looking for.

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"Whips Included!" - like Hasbro is doing us a favor!
I've never read the Iron Man comics for very long, although I really enjoyed the series when Matt Fraction was writing the book.  The Stark Disassembled story for a few years ago was a great read.  Whiplash was never a key villain of Tony's when I was reading, but I'm familiar w/ the character.  Although I enjoyed Micky Rourke's version of the character in the movie I was happy to hear the comic version was getting a proper Marvel Universe scaled figure.

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Right out of the package I could tell this was going to be a fun figure to mess around with.  He has the typical 3 3/4" articulation - shoulders, elbows, wrist, upper torso, waist and knees.  The armor does hinder some arm poses, but that isn't a killer for me as it may be for others.  I'm not all that creative when it comes to posing my figures anyhow.  You can probably tell that from my boring pictures!

There is some great sculpting on the armor and you can tell Ivan is fairly ripped.  My only complaint are his whips.  I like the texture of the whips, but I wish they were poseable.  Several people had the same complaint about the whips on the Marvel Universe Constrictor figure.  The whips are removable so he doesn't always have to be battle ready.

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I love his green hair and the sculpted pony tail.

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Like with the rest of the figure's sculpting the head sculpt is fantastic.  Hasbro did a good job capturing his comic likeness here.  The only other disappointing factor is the lack of paint apps.  He seems kind of bland when compared to some of other comic figures.  The armor has a nice gun metal silver look and the arc reactor in the chest has a hint of blue.  Other than the red for his eyes and green hair the rest of the figure lacks any painted detail.

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His chest piece of armor is removable as is the large leg guard on his left leg.  His gauntlets, belt and boots are molded and non-removable.  One he is "shirtless" you can see how the bottom half of the figure was molded in black plastic.

I don't find this figure as being an essential addition to one's collection unless you are a die hard Iron Man or Whiplash fan.  It's a great figure and representation of the character so if you can find him for retail I'd say go ahead and pick him up.  I can't justify paying the inflated prices he typically goes for on the secondary market however.