Monday, July 29, 2013

Pretender Stranglehold

Box scan from Botch the Crab
Stranglehold is awesome.  Look at the picture above, just...look at it.  First off the gladiator vibe that he's giving off is just great.  Secondly, there's that mustache.  Look at it.  Stare at it.  Let it's power draw you in.
LOOK AT IT!  It's as though Burt Reynolds donned a helmet and said "Let's do this."
Scan from

Every instance of Stranglehold that can be found on the Internet depicts him with his awesome 'stache.  Apparently it's a holdover from his days as a wrestler on Cybertron?  I'm not sure, but nothing, and I mean nothing, says "macho" like a kickin' mustache.  Or glorious pecs.

Stranglehold's function is enforcer, and that's pretty much what he did in the comics - he enforced the will of Bludgeon.  Need some Autobots beaten?  Call Stranglehold.  Need puny fleshlings squashed with a ball and chain that only existed in the comics?  Stranglehold's your guy.

Scan from
Obviously, these are not the reasons I bought Stranglehold as a kid.  I bought him because he was a Transformer and I needed more Transformers.  Stranglehold does hold the distinction of being the last Pretender I purchased as a kid.  As should be familiar to those of you who have read my previous posts, I lost a bunch of Stranglehold over the years.  This is what I had left: inner robot, brawn buster rifle, helmet, and the rhino back.  Missing: concussion blaster and shell.  The shell isn't that hard to find, but it's a little harder to find one without the all of the scratches on the head from the helmet.  While the concussion blaster isn't exceedingly rare, the freaking price had always scared me away.  I've seen that little thing go for anywhere from $25-$45 dollars.  Ridiculous, but I had so much fun completing Bomb-Burst, my Protectobots and a few others that I decided to bite the bullet on this one.

I really don't have much to say, other than enjoy the pictures of my newly re-completed Stranglehold.

East bound and down, loaded up and truckin'
Talk about poseability!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Takara United Ratbat


So I finally broke down and bought a Takara United figure.  What figure did I decide to get?  Why Senator Ratbat, of course!  Since he wasn't going to be available from Hasbro, I really didn't have any other options.  For my first ever United figure, I think I made a great choice.

Ratbat as anything other than a bat whose alt-mode is a cassette is a relatively new development in Transformers lore.  When those of us that grew up during the 1980's, Ratbat has always looked like this:

Picture from TFWiki
Even in his past, before Ratbat came to earth, that's what he always was: a bat that worked in service to Soundwave.  Sure, he usurped command of the Decepticons at one point and actually commanded Soundwave, but he was always a bat.  Always.

Then Dreamwave came around.  Specifically, Dreamwave's title The War Within happened.  In 2003, Dreamwave released The War Within: The Dark Ages.  Simon Furman was having lots of fun filling in the back story of the war on Cybertron and adding to the mythos.  One of the more lasting things that Furman added was Ratbat in a bipedal body. 

Picture from TFWiki
Seeing Ratbat like that was jarring to me.  Sure, he's purple, but can anyone honestly look at that and say "Hey!  Ratbat!"?  The face is vaguely bat-like, I suppose.  Then he was taken out of that body for some reason and put into his more familiar cassette body.  Since bankruptcy pretty much put an end to Dreamwave, the hows and whys of Ratbat's fall from command of the Ultracons to being Soundwave's pet. 

Once IDW got their hands on the Transformers license, they put out a miniseries titled Megatron: Origin, that was originally pitched to Dreamwave.  After some retooling, the series was put to print. Ratbat made his first IDW-verse appearance in issue 2 of that series. 

Alex Milne thought he was still at Dreamwave when he drew this
As a senator.  Yes, Senator Ratbat.  Ratbat didn't do what a senator does when we think of a senator.  He didn't introduce new legislation or attempt to fillibuster.  No, what Ratbat did was stoke the fires of unrest to suit his needs and fill his accounts, usually by directing Soundwave to do his bidding.  It was Ratbat's direct involvement that led to the rise of the Decepticons.  Ratbat's reward for helping Megatron?  He had his spark ripped out his body and placed into a cassette.  Hey, an explanation!

It's taken me a bit to feel comfortable with these, well, let's just call them retcons.  I didn't vomit pure hate of foam at the mouth, but I generally didn't understand the point of it all.  Ratbat's primary function is fuel scout so I'm not sure of the need to make him a faction leader or a corrupt senator.  At any rate, at least the senator design is pretty nifty.

The design led Takara, six years later, to release a Senator Ratbat figure in the United line.  The figure is a redeco of Generations Scourge with a new head.  I have to say, the wings on the back really do give it a bat-like appearance. 

The new head is really spot on to his appearance in Megatron: Origins.  It evokes the bat motif that the comic version had going for it.  It's just spot on and really great to look at.

While the cape isn't present, the wings still look great.  Have I mention the colors?  They are magnificent.  And the metallic paint for the gold highlights are pretty and shiny.  I'm just loving this figure.  More so than Scourge.

Like Scourge, Ratbat transforms into a jet that is reminiscent of a B-2 Stealth Bomber.  Whereas Scourge was predominantly blue and white, Ratbat is given a completely purple alt-mode.  Again, very shiny and very pretty.  I can't help but be thankful that the metallic finish was accomplished without the use of the metal flaked plastics that lead to GPS.  I'd hate for a figure this gorgeous to disintegrate.

Front view
Rear view
Senator Ratbat with his earless future self

 It's amazing how adding a new head and some shiny paint can really change a figure.  While I had never completely understood why someone would pay essentially 4 times the cost of a domestic release for a new figure, I can honestly see why now.  If you've been sitting on the fence about Senator Ratbat, get off of it now.  Seriously, you will not regret it.

Monday, July 22, 2013


Box scan from Botch the Crab

What's the first thing that comes into your head when you hear the name "Venom"?  Do you picture a certain symbiotic suit?

Maybe a certain group of masked individuals bent on taking over the world?

Or, how about a metal band from England that coined the term "Black Metal"?

Coulda picked a cooler photo, but why bother?

All of these things are associated with the name "Venom" and it's generally what pops into my head when I think of the name.  Most of the time, I don't even think Venom as a Transformer.  As a kid, I would always obsess over the catalogs that came packed into the boxed Transformers scheming on how to make them all mine.  I always passed over the Deluxe Insecticons.  They were never in any fiction that I could get my hands on as a kid, so they weren't really Transformers in my head.  I even had a chance to get all three of them at a liquidation store in Niagara Falls back in 1988, but I still passed on them.  Something about them just screamed "FAKE!"  Many years later, and I now know why.

It turns out that all of the Deluxe Insecticons, and the Deluxe Vehicles and Jetfire, were originally produced by a company known as Takatoku Toys.  The company was later bought out after bankruptcy by Bandai who in turn licensed these figures to Hasbro.  Because Bandai was in direct competition with Takara, the toys were not released in Japan under the Transformers brand.  The Transformers was a joint collaboration between Hasbro and Takara, so to appease Takara, the Bandai licensed figures were not featured in any fiction.  Well, until recently.  And in the U.K. issues of the Marvel run.

Armed with this information, I've rectified my stance on the Deluxe Instecticons.  Now, I just needed to get them.  I try to pretend to myself that I'm going in some sort of order or that there's a rhyme or reason to my purchases, but there really isn't.  I just get what's available when I feel like it and I run across a good deal.  After quite a few searches, I finally came across an auction that I won at a decent price for Venom.

On first blush, it's obvious that neither Takara nor Hasbro had a hand in this figure's design.  His color palette is definitely different from anything else released at the time.  The orange, cream, and charteuse really go well together.  It's a welcome relief from the mostly black and silver of the regular Insecticons.

Venom's alt-mode is a cicada, which aren't terrifying insects.  I know what you're thinking - they're not locusts.  Different species and all that.  While locusts are known to swarm and destroy crops and are portents of famine, the most a cicada will do is maybe try to poke your arm of you let one sit there for a prolonged period of time.  That's only because the cicada thinks your arm is a delicious branch.  Anyway, that's enough science, time to get back on track.

The cicada wings have a very nice range of movement.  They're great for posing in various stages of flight.  The translucent orange is very pretty.  I'm also a fan of the large eyes in this mode.  Venom's proboscis gave me call sorts of OCD fits, however.

Shown here, I have Venom's insect head transformed incorrectly.  Even after actually reading the instructions and looking at various photos online, I was somehow convinced that everyone was wrong and I was right.  My evidence?  Venom's very own tech spec!  According to the tech spec, Venom has a stinger which can penetrate 1/4" steel!  That means that I have transformed correctly, right?  Turns out I was wrong and everyone else was right.  Again, I have Wikipedia to thank for that.

 I don't see a stinger, do you?  Underneath the cicada's head is a proboscis and that's how the cicada eats.  Notice how the eyes on the toy are very close to looking like the real thing?  Ok, seriously, enough science class.

Venom in robot mode is packed full of pleasant surprises and a few things that aren't so pleasant.  The first thing that I really liked about the robot mode was the articulation in the legs.  They rotate and bend.  A G1 figure with legs that move and allow for poseability?  Impossible, but true!

That's kind of an awkward pose, but it demonstrates what I'm talking about rather nicely.  The real surprise was doing the next pose.

Legs that bend at the knee and hip!  That's G2 levels of articulation right there in 1985!  This is a tell-tale sign that Venom wasn't a Takara/Hasbro design.  As much as I love what Takara did back then, their figures just didn't have this kind of articulation.  His head even looks up, even if it's only because of his transformation scheme.

There are a few things that I'm not fond of with Venom.  I'll start with the arms.  Owing to the wings folding back behind the arms, they have a weird range of movement.  The wings actually prevent the arms from assuming any kind of natural resting position; Venom's arms are always up.  This is just an odd look to me.  Secondly, I'm not a fan of the axe.  The blade is a pretty nifty size, but the handle is ludicrously short.  Maybe it's meant to be a throwing axe?  I'm not sure, but I think that if Venom were to have an axe, it would be prudent to have a longer handle for hacking.  Not that I think about using axes that often.

I'm extremely glad that I got over my snobbish attitude towards the Deluxe Insecticons.  I still feel kind of silly for never regarding them as official Transformers and I'm not sure that my reasons were all that well informed.  Imagine that, a nine or ten year old making decisions that weren't well informed!  Now that I've broken the ice on the Deluxe Insecticons, I can't wait to get my hands on the rest of the crew.

Monday, July 15, 2013

30th Anniversary Blitzwing

I was very concerned recently about being able to find a Generations 30th Anniversary Blitzwing.  Every store that I went to had plenty of Springers, but not one single Blitzwing.  From what I had read online about this particular Blitzwing, that surprised me.  There have been many, let's say, less than enthusiastic reviews of Blitzwing and nothing but glowing positivity about Springer.  Then again, I'm fairly certain that I may the only person in town that reads online blogs and reviews about Transformers.  Thank goodness that my TV died the other day.  During my search for a new TV, I finally ran across Blitzwing.  Is it a match made in heaven?  Read on to find out!

Being a Johnny-come-lately, I'm not going to go into a lot of detail about the other Blitzwing iterations.  The last time a Blitzwing was on the shelves, it was for the Animated line.  Unlike Springer, each iteration of Blitzwing after the G1 version has been a triple changer, so it's not like this is something that I've been itching to see.  Still, seeing Blitzwing, all boxed up and nice amped me up a little.  Then I pulled him out of the box.

Here is Blitzwing in robot mode.  I actually like this mode, even with the shoulders that don't peg or connect together properly.  In term of sheer eye appeal, Blitzwing has it.  He's tall, but he's not as lanky as Springer; definitely bulkier.  The wings protruding from the back of his legs are a great nod to his G1 counterpart.  For The fact that he has feet is a wondrous achievement.  Never in my wildest dream did I imagine that Blitzwing would have feet!  On the downside, I'm not a fan of the gun that he comes with; it's too small.  Then there's the whole face changing deal, which I couldn't even get to work.  I nearly ripped off Blitzwing's nose trying to get it to move, so that's a failed experiment, Hasbro.


Here, we have my G1 reissue Blitzwing with Generations Blitzwing.  My original Blitzwing is having loose feet (tail wing?) issues.  Toy engineering has come a long way.

The problems that exist in robot mode carry over into Blitzwing's other modes.  The jet mode, while it looks far and above previous jet modes, suffers from parts that don't connect well and like to pop out.

It seems as though the lower half of the jet should peg into the top half, where the arms are.  Not so.  At least, I wasn't able to get them to go in and stay in.

I don't hate the jet mode, but I don't love it.  Still, it does look better than the G1 version.  The jet mode also features an attack mode.  All you have to do is flip the cannon out and he can fire a missile.  It's not the worst thing in the world.  The gun can peg in at the top, or you can peg it into the bottom of the wings.  Same goes for the sword.  I refuse to do it because I'm a fan of symmetry. 

I know that the flap over the fist isn't up all of the way.  I was too lazy to take another picture.

Then there's the tank mode.  This thing is really nerve wracking.  I just don't like it.

Gh-gh-ghost tank!

 It looks decent, but looks can be deceiving.  I don't have any pictures of the turret moving because when it's moved, the turret essentially falls apart, again, due to parts that don't properly peg together.

I really don't have much to say about this mode.  I'm happy that it actually looks like a tank.  Here he is with the G1 version.

After reading so much online about Blitzwing, I was prepared for the worst.  While not quite as bad as I had initially read, he's not as good as Springer.  I appreciate what the designers tried to do with this figure.  Creating a triple changer that has three distinct modes is hard work, I'm sure.  Blitzwing does accomplish this.  The actual execution of each mode is far from perfect.  Maybe if everything pegged together, then I'd be a little more in love with this figure.  As it is, he's just there.  I'm glad to have him in the collection, but I don't think I'll ever play with him.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Operation: Skyhammer Operation!

You know where the scan is from
Recently, euphoric over my recent completion of Bomb-Burst and acquisitions of Submaurauder and Octopunch, I decided to complete my other Pretenders who were missing parts.  First on the list: Skullgrin.  Wait, isn't this supposed to be about Skyhammer?  I'm getting to that.

What I needed for Skullgrin was the male laser and the sword, which would be about $30.  In my search, I ran across a complete Skullgrin on eBay for $32.  And the seller was local!  Bonus.  During a Q&A back and forth with the guy, it sold. Bummer.  But I checked out his other auctions and he had a Skyhammer for $39!  Fortune smiled upon me.  Skyhammer!

This particular Skyhammer had massive damage to the undercarriage of the flying fortress due to Gold Plastic Syndrome, but the inner robot and humanoid shell were perfectly intact.  He also had the one missile that I needed.  What luck!  He wanted $39 or a best offer, so I offered $25.  The seller quickly agreed and I met him the next day to claim my prize.

Why spend $25 on a massively destroyed figure that was incomplete, you ask?  Well, let me show you my Skyhammer:

Hmm...let's get a closer look...
Dear Primus!
My left foot...
As you can see, the flying fortress is intact, but a foot has broken off the humanoid shell and the back has disintegrated off of the inner robot.  See the lone missile there?  Thanks to GPS, it's stuck there.  The other missile broke off last year and the peg is still stuck in the wing.  Nice.

Buying the parts I needed to repair my Skyhammer for $25 is a steal to me.  I've seen just the inner robot going for $60 or more on eBay.  There's no way I would ever feel comfortable spending that kind of money in something that is just going to crumble to dust no matter what I do.  But $25 for everything?  Sold.

Since the only thing wrong with the new humanoid shell was the missing decals, I decided to just forego surgery and keep it as it was.  For the record, it's never getting transformed.  Ever.

The flying fortress is a different matter.  I was going to be brave and replace the busted bottom with my intact bottom, but I'm afraid of instant disintegration.  Instead, I opted to just replace the wing on my old one so I could place the missile.  Easy enough.  

Here's a look at my completed Skyhammer!  Whole at last!

I'm also keeping the busted inner robot in vehicle mode so I don't have to worry about aggravating anything.  Not like I'm ever gonna touch him again.  Or blink hard in his direction.  I still need to get four more missile - two for each humanoid shell since I'm keeping one in each mode.  If only I could find that good a deal for a Roadblock inner robot...

Sad news, everyone.  After I finished this post, I just happened to look at the flying fortress and noticed numerous cracks on the bottom.  It's still intact, but only time will tell as to how quickly it falls apart.  GPS is a horrible, horrible phenomenon.  NASA should get on a cure for this.  It's imperative. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

Botcon News I'm Excited About

Another year and another Botcon has passed.  It has always been a dream of mine to actually attend a Botcon.  Maybe someday that will happen.  Until then, I will always be glued to sites such as Allspark and TFW2005 for up to the minute Botcon updates and Twitter for up to the second details.  Several things caught my attention whilst perusing the news and I'd like to share what has me excited the most.

First, in a huge surprise, Hasbro is reissuing Predaking!  No, not the current Beast Hunters dragon, but the once and current king of the gestalts/combiners.  This is great news for those who never got the original or any of the Takara reissues as I'm sure it'll be a lot cheaper than trying to get any of those three.  I'd be all over this of it was the plastic version, but judging by the pictures, it looks to be the diecast version, which I have thanks to the last Takara reissue.  The plastic version doesn't have the sagging arms because it's not as heavy.  Still, this is great news and shows Hasvto thinking outside the box a bit.  I haven't been able to track down a price, release date or even which retailer will carry this. Most likely it'll be a Toys R Us exclusive.
Up next, we have the Legends class figures.  Just like Bumblebee and Optimus, these new figures will be two packs.  I haven't bothered to get either Bumblebee or Optimus because I'm generally not a fan of the figures in this size range.  Thanks to Swerve and Cosmos, that has changed.  I love that Swerve looks like he was ripped from IDW's MTME.  And Cosmos has never looked better!

Welcome to Swerve's!

Speaking of MTME, check out Skids!  He finally gets some love!  And he's a Deluxe!  I love the fact that he still has all of weapons that his G1 version did.  The most heavily armed theoretician ever indeed.  Joining Skids in the Deluxe assortment is someone I wasn't expecting - Waspinator!  While I've never been particularly fond of Beast Wars, it's nice to see him included for the 30th Anniversary.

Nineteen eighty-four!

The Voyagers are interesting as well.  I really love the new Rhinox figure.  Making him a Voyager just makes sense for some reason.  Hasbro is also giving us a redeco of Blitzwing as Doubledealer.  I like the deco, especially the shark stuff on the jet mode.  The head sculpt is great too as it really captures the look of the G1 figure.  Hopefully the q/c issues that plagued Blitzwing will be corrected by then.

There's a joke here somewhere...I'll think of it eventually.

Lastly, we get our first look at Masterpiece Acid Storm!  The new packaging for the Hasbro's Masterpieces is...interesting.  It certainly sets it apart on the shelf.  As for the figure, I'm a known lover of the mold, both original and the retooled version.  I'm still not sure why Acid Storm and not Sunstorm, however. Maybe Hasbro is trying to brand their own Seeker to distinguish themselves from TakaraTomy?  Who knows.  The green is a little brighter than I'd imagine, but still a very good looking figure.
Not exactly neon, but close.
So that's it for this post.  There are some great figures on the way in the coming months and year.  After what I felt was a down year from Hasbro in terms of figures and quality, they've more than made up for it.  It seems that Hasbro has found a way to pry money from my wallet.  I can't wait!