Monday, April 28, 2014

Head On! The Brainstorm Addition!
Several months ago, after I had finally gotten a couple of Detolf shelves and was rearranging my collection, I noticed that the only Autobot Headmasters that I owned were Fortress Maximus, Encore Fort Max, and Siren.  By contrast, I owned Scorponok and Skullcruncher for the Decepticon side.  Thanks to flywheels at Random Toy Reviews and Heroic Decepticon at his eponymous blog, I was influenced into buying Apeface and Snapdragon, but it left my Autobot Headmasters woefully understaffed.  Well, as understaffed as having two 2-foot tall figures can be.  Throw in the fact that I was trying to force my way through just the first disc of the Japanese Headmasters series, and I felt the need to pull the trigger on an Autobot.  Enter Brainstorm.

Brainstorm is perhaps most famous now thanks to his being a member of the Lost Light in James Roberts' beyond excellent Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye series from IDW.  So much so that I'm not even going to talk about it.  Let's just say that I love his portrayal in the comic; it's so much better than the portrayal in Headmasters.  My only concern was that with an increase in popularity would come an increase in price.  I've actually been tracking Headmaster prices for a couple of years predating the release of More Than Meets The Eye and they've actually remained fairly stable, so I was glad for that.  After finding one in good condition, I placed an order and received him just before Christmas. 
This particular sample of Brainstorm that I bought came unstickered, which is my preference nowadays for older figures.  Most of the figures I've gotten in the past have had shoddy sticker placement or really rough ones, meaning that they had to be replaced.  Getting a "naked" figure just cuts down on all of the labor that goes into cleaning to prep for Reprolabels.  Which this guy already has as of this writing.  Since I had already taken these pictures before the new decals had arrived, I just decided to show Brainstorm as I received him.
Brainstorm's alt-mode is a jet fighter.  If the fins are positioned little differently, you can achieve an X-Wing look.  It's actually more pronounced in the 3rd party Smart Robin figure.  The light blue used for Brainstorm is appealing to the eye.  Mix in some grey and orange, and you have yourself a winner. 

Brainstorm is partnered with Arcana, at least in the American G1 series.  As everyone knows, in the Japanese series, Brainstorm is the head while the body is a transector.  I'm not a fan of that version for one reason: what does becoming a head do for the whole disguise theme that the Transformers name imply?  The Headmasters entire purpose in life is to become a head?  Makes no sense.  Sorry, rant over.
As with all Headmasters, Arcana gets to sit in the cockpit.  As you can see, Arcana looks pretty comfortable.  Almost as though he was looking to shoot womp rats...
Brainstorm combines with Arcana to form...Brainstorm.  I like robot mode more than I initially thought I would.  Just looking at pictures on the Internet, Brainstorm just seemed gangly and out of sorts.  Pictures don't really do him justice. 
Thanks to his transformation scheme, Brainstorm features a bit of leg articulation, allowing for semi-dynamic poses such as this.  At the very least, he won't be statically posed in my collection.  Another great feature that the Headmasters feature is the ability to swap heads.  The only part of the Japanese series that I truly enjoyed would be when they yelled "Head On!" and swapped heads.  Since the only other large Headmaster I own is Fort Max, I tried this feature out with Cerebros.
I must admit that Spike does not look good on Brainstorm's body.  The resulting figure looks a bit freaky.  Still, I think that once I get the rest of the large Autobot Headmasters, the resulting combinations will look pretty good. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Big Bang Theory Nearly Ruined My Collection!

Okay, not really.  However, I'm sure using The Big Bang Theory in the title for this post might drive a bit of extra traffic my way.  But The Big Bang Theory does factor into this post, actually.  I'm not a total jerk.  Let's start with some context, shall we?
Welcome new visitors!  Maybe?
My wife loves The Big Bang Theory, to the point that she even watches the repeats on TBS, and she convinced me to get the Trivial Pursuit styled game about the show.  We've played it once.  And I won.  I'll admit, that I watch the show because it can be funny at times.  Not Kids in The Hall, Simpsons, or Futurama funny, but I've been known to chuckle whilst watching.  At any rate, it's been my wife's introduction into the so-called "geek life".  I'm the first person that both she and her family have ever met that freely admitted to still watching animated shows and buying toys.  I'm a zoo attraction for them.  Where was I?

Recently, my wife was watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory where Sheldon and Leonard received MISB Mego Star Trek transporters.  It just so happened that on the same day, I had just gotten in a figure that I'd been pining for - eHobby's Deep Cover.  Every instance of this figure that Id run across was MISB, as I guess people just don't want to open him for some reason.  I was pretty pleased with myself and couldn't help but show him off to my wife.
See, honey, I can set goals and achieve them!  Also, don't expect to see a review of him until like June.  Backlog.
As I was showing off my new prize, I gathered together my tools - tweezers for decals, and a knife to cut the tape on the right flap.  My wife then inquired about my actions.  She then asked me if opening Deep Cover would hurt his value.  Perplexed, I asked my wife what she was talking about.  I told her that I opened up everything.  The point of a toy is to play with it, after all.  Then she started telling me about how she had just watched the previously mentioned episode of The Big Bang Theory.  Crap.
Curse you fictional character!
 I think I spent about a week working to convince my wife that Deep Cover just had to be opened.  I don't remember working that hard to talk my wife into a second date when we started dating!  Eventually, I just opened him and decaled him one night while watching basketball (Go MAVS!)  My wife thinks I'm making a mistake, but it's my collection, so there really wasn't that much room for discussion.  Which brings me to another point in this story/rant.
Thanks to the Toy Hunter, I'm constantly asked what my collection is worth, and not just from my wife.  Friends will ask when they come over, as will my family members.  It's something that I've never thought about, and frankly, I really don't care about.  What I really care about is that I have a collection that I both love and enjoy.  I think that the only time I ever think about price is when I'm buying a figure; actual value just never crosses my mind.  I've mentioned before that I've given away plenty of toys that are valuable now just to have them enjoyed by a younger generation.  Sure I have an account on Shmax, but that's so I can track what I'm spending and to halfheartedly see where my rank is among other collectors.  Trying to actually move up in rank substantially would bankrupt me, but it's kind of fun just to see where I'm at.

I can't even imagine looking at collecting anything other than precious metals as some sort of investment where you should track the value of it.  My collection is insured for about twice what I feel it's worth, but I'm just thinking about what it would take to replace everything should something catastrophic happen.  The last time I worried about something I collected being worth something was 1993 or something, right before I stopped collecting comics until Dreamwave brought me back with their Transformer comics.
Seriously, this comic ruined comics for me for a decade.
I don't know, but I just bristle whenever someone starts throwing questions my way about value.  Value is in the eye of the beholder.  Do you think my kids think about how much their toys are worth when they get them?  For all they care, I spent $1,000,000 on them.  Try to take one of those away from them, and you'd think I was trying to take away their life.  I'm pretty much the same about my collection, I suppose.  Thinking about value when talking about my collection, in eyes, feels like I'm being expected to part with something that I've worked very hard to build. 

Maybe I'm just being cranky.  I do have a birthday a week from today, and I'm notoriously very cantankerous about getting older.  Who knows, maybe a week after posting this, my feelings will change.  Doubtful, but that possibility always exists.

Monday, April 21, 2014

MP-13B Soundblaster!

It's hard to believe that the incredible MP-13 was released over a year ago.  What's even more incredible is that while it took 8 years to get from MP-01 to MP-10, in the span of 2 years we've gotten up to MP-19.  Spectacular.  Anywho, here we are, with a repaint of MP-13 as Soundblaster.  I'm not going to go into all of the details about how Soundwave became Soundblaster, suffice it to say, it was...Japanese.  I'll go all '80's and say that if you'd like to learn more about Soundwave's transformation into Soundblaster, you can go to your local TFWiki and read about it here.  Onto the pictures!
Soundwave is black is pretty.  Very pretty.  Notice the lack of the Decepticon sigil on his chest?  I'm not really sure about the reasoning for it, but you can add another piece to the chest that mimics the deeper chest of the Soundblaster G1 figure.
Which I will show off with this awkward pose
Want to know how clueless I am?  Someone posted their pictures of their recently acquired Masterpiece Soundwave a few months ago and in one of the pictures, there was one of Soundwave holding Megatron.  I asked where he got the Megatron from.  Because I completely forgot that Soundwave came with him.  I saw it my box and just left it there, because I already had a couple thanks to all of the Masterpiece Primes I had.  But Soundblaster comes with a translucent red Megatron!
The name's Blaster.  Soundblaster.
The Energon cube that Soundblaster is given is red.  There's a theme here that I'm missing.
It's not a too-mah!
Finally, here's a shot of Soundblaster as a tape deck.  It should look familiar.
Oh, that tape in the deck?  That's just Ratbat; pay him no heed.  Well, okay, I'll talk about him.  But only because you asked so nicely.
This seemingly innocuous micro cassette actually transforms into this:
No, this isn't a screen capture from the animated series.  Here's one, in case you think I may be lying.
The details on Ratbat are amazing.  The transformation is pretty ingenious as well.  Everything is integrated into the figure.  Nothing is wasted.
Just look at that.  Ratbat, like Laserbeak and Buzzsaw before him, can mount onto Soundwave/blaster's arm.  So cool.  I can't get over how beautiful Ratbat is.
Here's a shot of Soundwave and Soundblaster together, at last.  I'll end with a nice shot of Soundwave and Soundblaster with the kids.
Up next: I take a break from all of the new releases (of which I still have a few to cover) and I'll delve into the vintage figures that I've had accumulating since December! 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

It's So Hard To Say Goodbye?

Since I made the decision to both enjoy my collection more, and bring it into focus a bit more, I've been left with some nagging decisions.  All of those decisions were based around a subset of my collection: Alternators/Binaltechs.  When first announced and released, Binaltech was the cream of the crop of the Transformers line.  The detail and articulation combined for a pleasant experience.  Sure, some figures were frustrating and the diecast of the Binaltech tended to weigh down some poseability of certain figures, but the updated versions of some G1 favorites made them great.  That is, until Takara decided to expand and ratchet up the releases of their Masterpiece line.  Suddenly, Binaltech lost it's charm.  I still have the figures, but I haven't touched them in a long, long time.  As such, I came to the conclusion to just sell the Binaltechs and what few Alternators I owned.I've decided to catalog a few of these guys with better pictures and go over what I like and don't like about them. 

The most obvious thing about Binaltechs would be the hyper-detailed vehicle modes.  Looking at the first Binaltech to be released, Smokescreen, the attention to real world detail is amazing.
For those not familiar with this version of Smokescreen, he is Subaru Impreza rally car.  Everything from the rims to the sponsors are as accurate as possible.  The car is just beautiful.
Tracks, even though he's yellow, is still a thing of beauty.  I know that more than a few people were up in arms over this color scheme, but I really like it.  Even the way the hood flips open is a great detail.
Perhaps my favorite vehicle would be Alternators Mirage.
Mirage is a Ford GT and he is awesome.  The deep blue of the paint and the white stripes just combine for a gorgeous, classic look.

The car modes, again, are incredible.  The designers at Takara did an amazing job with each and every car in the line.  The great car modes actually bring out what I feel to be the weak link of the Binaltech line - the robot modes.  A few had eye-catching, such as Tracks and Mirage, but the rest seemed kind of plodding.  Car accuracy was definitely more of a concern on these figures.
Beauty in motion
These two specimens notwithstanding, the rest of the Binaltech figures leave a lot to be desired.  Kibble is pretty much standard with any Transformer, but more so with Binaltech.
Just look at the Smokescreen's feet.  Notice the doors?  I was never fond of this look when he was first released and, over time, it's gotten worse.
Jazz (and Zoom Zoom) suffer from the same malady.  Is the kibble as egregious as what's present on Masterpiece Starscream?  Not really, not if we're talking about the first iteration of Starscream.  For whatever reason, I just really don't like it now.  Could it be that I'm just trying to justify my desire to get rid of them and I'm grasping at straws?

While the engine-as-a-gun gimmick was pretty ingenious upon first release, it has grated on me over time.  I don't have fat, stubby hands, and yet I still have trouble both placing and removing the engine blocks on most Binaltech figures.  I'm not going to go on about the stability issues with some of these guys - I'm looking at you, Grimlock, or the doors that love to constantly pop off. 

So I've made up my mind.  All Binaltech and what few Alternator figures I own are getting sold off to highest bidder.  The pictures I've used for this post are intended for eBay.  However, a funny thing happened while I was cleaning up the first batch of figures.  For the first time since I first opened him, I was finally able to get Alternator Prime into his vehicle mode!  Sad, I know, but since I had buried the instruction booklet in the box and put all of that in a storage tote a few years ago, I couldn't remember that the legs actually retracted!
A dream realized
It's odd how something as simple as playing with a figure for a bit can revitalize the love for an entire line.  I spent the rest of the evening transforming and posing my Binaltechs and found the love for the line again.  The bottom line is that I'm not selling them now.  Life's funny.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Armada Starscream

Do you know what almost drove me from Transformers for good?  No, not Dreamwave.  The Unicron Trilogy.  Thank goodness for the book-style reissues and the things that Brad Mick was trying in the Dreamwave stuff.  If not for those tidbits of goodness, the Unicron Trilogy would've driven me off for good.  So, why did I get Armada Starscream from the Generations line?  Simply put: I actually liked this design, but the original was poorly executed in my eyes.
The original
I'm still not sure why IDW went with the Armada body for the comics.  I'm certain that Hasbro had more than a small hand in that, but I still can't put my finger on why they felt the need to use it for the G1 continuity.  It's just shoe-horned in.  Whatever.
Here we have Starscream in a resting position.  See how relaxed he is?  This would be his everyday appearance, I suppose.  If you compare the original version to this version, the Generations one is so much better.  The arms are better proportioned, and the articulation is, naturally, better. 
Here's a shot from behind.  It's not for fan service or anything.  I wanted to point out the sword storage on the back of the wings.  Again, much better than the original version.
See?  Starscream doesn't look like a clipped bird when he's holding his swords.  I really like the articulation on this figure.  Oh, notice the ports on the forearms?  Those are for minicons.  As far as I know, there aren't any planned for release in the Generations line. Even if they were planned, they wouldn't activate anything; the gimmicks from the Unicron Trilogy are gone. 
As I look at Starscream, I think back to the Fall of Cybertron figures and I can't believe that they're in the same line.  The FOC figures featured so little articulation that it was sad.  They seemed like scaled up Legends-class figures.
Starscream has missile launchers that can be stored away when not in use.  Most depictions show the launchers up at all times, but I'm not too keen on this look, myself.
Jet mode is nice.  It's much better than the Fall of Cybertron jet-type.  Man, do I hate that thing.
I really don't have much to add about the jet mode.  It's a jet, and it looks pretty.  That's a review, right?

I can't believe that Armada is over ten years old now.  I'm old.  There are people out there who were introduced to Transformers with this series.  Thinking about how someone saw this series and fell in love with it blows my mind. Then again, I am a curmudgeon.  Thus ends this wave of Generations Deluxe figures.  I have one more new release figure before I go into some vintage guys.  Up next - Masterpiece Soundblaster with Ratbat! 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Ammonites Unite!

Yeah, I'm going to call these guys Ammonites instead of Mini-cons.  Mini-con is just such a bad name.  Unless Brainstorm decides it's a good term.  Even if he does, it's still a horrible name.  The Ammonite Assault Team arrived in the same delivery as Scoop, from the nice people at BBTS.  We'll cover each individual Ammonite before we cover their combined form. 
This is what happens when you take photos at 4 in the morning
First, we have Heavytread.  He's short and squat, befitting someone that forms the legs.  I'm sure he has a bio, but it isn't anything to really care about.  Overall, I'm not too impressed with him.  Since he's a small figure, he only features articulation at the shoulders.  Notice how large his weapon is?  Too large, if you ask me. 
With a name like Heavytread, I thought he'd transform into a tank, and I wasn't disappointed.  This mode is very nice.  The turret does not move, but I'm okay with that.  The black and green evoke a military feel to me.  Much nicer than the squat robot mode.
Next up, we have Runway.  He forms the torso and arms for Centuritron.  Again, his arms move at the shoulders, but he also features leg articulation.  This is mainly because his legs become Centuritron's arms, but some decent poses can be had if you're inclined.  I was not.  Runway's weapon should have yellow paint apps on the ends of the barrels, but they got cut for budgetary reasons.  The gun is rather ho-hum in appearance.
As a result of the missing paint apps on the gun, the jet mode looks a little boring.  It's funny how a little yellow can make something look dynamic.
Looks that kill?
Finally, we have Windshear!  It's a female Ammonite!  How do we know this?  Because she's wearing heels!  Apparently, female robots can't wage war in practical shoes.  Sad, really.  Windshear features the same articulation as Runway.
Windshear transforms into a helicopter...with heels.  Just look at that - the heels are just sticking out!  Sad.  I really don't care for this mode at all.

Once you get bored playing with the individual components, the three Ammonites can combine to form a super warrior of sorts, Centruritron.  I'm not crazy about the name, as it doesn't exactly roll off the tongue.  Centurion would've been a better name and wouldn't evoked some Marvel G1 memories.
The combined mode is pretty neat, although I don't like the placement of the helicopter rotors.  They just look odd where they're at.  All of the Ammonites' weapons combine as well to form a big gun. 
As The Gassy Autobot pointed out in his review of this guy, you can clearly see Heavytread's face if you turn the figure around, which is funny.  The only real disappointment that I can say I have with Centuritron is that I thought there would be more configurations for combination.  After all, the Ammonites are omnicombiners, and I was hoping to have that functionality with these guys.  Crazy thought, I know. 

I originally hadn't planned on keeping this set.  My goal was to take some pics, test the figures out and then give them to my son, but I wound up liking them more than I thought.  So, my son only got Skywarp out of this wave.  He'll be fine.  Meanwhile, I have another figure!  Yay!  That only leaves one more figure in the wave to cover.