Monday, August 31, 2015

Resurrecting Scorponok

This is a restoration project two years in the making.  Seriously.  Why so long?  Laziness, to be quite honest.  So much laziness.  But before we get into all of that, let's get into the back story, shall we?
Here's me in 1988 on what I must assume is my 11th birthday when I was in the 6th grade.  I'm horrible on details like that.  I can tell you what grade I was in by what state I lived in at the time, but I can't tell you how old I was.  The important thing is that I got Scorponok that year, and he marked a new milestone in my life: for the first time ever, I got something that my dad didn't immediately muck up by engraving my name or using a permanent marker to emblazon my initials.  The catch was that I could not take Scorponok out of the house.  Easy enough.  Needless to say, because Scorponok is free of territorial markings, he holds a very special place in my memory and collection.  Sadly, when I dug him out of my parents' attic over a decade ago, I discovered a few things were missing.  Fasttrack was missing an arm and a gun, I was missing a radar dish, and out of the three I had, two were severely chewed up from a dog we had when I was a kid, and I was missing a ramp.  Suddenly, my childhood memories were a bit tarnished by Scorponok's sad state. 

Looking on eBay for parts sent a shock to my system.  $65 for Fasttrack's gun?!  Surely that was some sort of joke.  The rest of the parts that were missing were a bit more reasonable, but I was just stuck on the price of that stupid little orange gun.  With my unwillingness to fork out that kind of cash for an accessory, Scorponok sat incomplete in my display for a few years.  About two years ago, I finally convinced myself that maybe the price wasn't so bad and bit the bullet.  Last year, fortune smiled upon me when I located an ad on Craigslist for a box of Transformers for $200 that included Scorponok's body.  With that purchase, I got the ramp and sold everything in the box for a nice profit.  Plus I got a complete Hardhead and Horri-Bull for my collection.  Life was looking pretty good.  That only left the radar dishes.  A big part of me wanted to just get the one dish that I was missing and keep Scorponok authentic to what I always had, chewed dishes and all.  Then I got a bunch of eBay bucks and just bought a new set of dishes.  It was around this time that I realized that one of the arms seemed a bit loose, like it wasn't ratcheting properly.  Luckily, people love parting out figures on eBay, and a fix was quickly purchased.
With the arms repaired, I quickly ordered new decals for Scorponok from Reprolabels and then sat on them.  For a year.  Every month or so, I'd grab the decal sheet, look at them, and then out them back in the drawer.  Last week, I finally got off my duff and put them on.  It only took me an hour to use some Zippo fluid to remove the old decals, clean the figure, and put the new ones one.  He looks much better now.
By no means is Scorponok in perfect shape.  A figure that I've owned for 27 years, that spent a decade in my parents' attic in the hot and humid South, will suffer a bit of damage.  He is a bit discolored in places, and it's not due to the Zippo fluid.  The chrome is in decent shape, but not spectacular.  However, his joints are really tight, especially in the tail.  That freaking thing feels like it might break off every time I transform him.  I, personally, feel that Scorponok looks majestic.
Scorponok looks great in scorpion mode.  You can see some of the discoloration on the purple parts of the body. 
Lord Zarak, an accessory that I was really worried would have been lost in the attic, shows some signs of aging.  I don't believe that he's supposed to be that yellow.  Still, he's original to the figure.  The repro set that I got included decals for Zarak's chest, and I slapped those babies on to give Zarak a little pop.
Finally, base mode.  I was never really that fond of the base mode, even as a kid.  It just seemed a bit lackluster when compared to Fortress Maximus, Metroplex, or Trypticon.  Yeah, the launching ramp is cool, but I just never found the rest of the base very interesting.  The one piece that I still need to replace on Scorponok is the shield.  When moving from Virginia to Alabama way back in 1992, I used rubber bands to hold some of my Transformers' accessories together so they wouldn't get lost.  What I never realized was that a decade in a hot attic would melt the rubber bands and essentially fuse them to the plastic.  The shield has a lot of little flecks of old rubber band that will not come off.  However, I'm still not 100% convinced that I will replace the shield just out of the sheer nostalgia factor.

Well, that's a restoration complete.  I have a few others that I'm working on, and hopefully, I won't wait a full year to put on the new decals. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

Perfect Effect PC-05 Upgrade

As I've made abundantly clear, I am not a big fan of the Combiner Wars line.  The figures in an of themselves are fine.  Combined modes, also, are fine.  The fact that there are only something like 4 base "frames" is also something I'm kind of o.k. with.  After all, the same basic argument could be made for the original Scramble City fusilateral quintrocombiners.  What I still can't get over are the hands and feet for these new combiners.  Man, do I hate those things.  They look like that weird character Kristen Wiig used to do on SNL.
Is this where Hasbro gets their inspiration?
I admire the fact that Hasbro wanted to include playability with each piece of combiner kibble.  Have you tried having G1 Streetwise hold Defensor's footplate?  It isn't fun, or easy.  However, the execution that Hasbro put into the Combiner Wars kibble just left a lot to be desired.  Enter the third party companies!  Enter me dropping another $30 on a kit to make Superion look acceptable after spending around $100, once Slingshot is factored in, to even have a Superion!  There were a number of different options to choose from, but I opted to go with Perfect Effect's PC-05 kit because it looked the best, and, frankly, it came in white, the color that Superion should have for his extremities, not black.
I must say that with the addition of the new feet, Superion actually looks powerful and menacing!  The feet feature swivel tilts that allow for a range of motion that just wasn't afforded with the original feet.  Dynamic poses are much easier to achieve this way.
The fists are much improved as well.  For some reason, it's popular for these 3rd party guys to release new hands where each and every finger is articulated.  Really, that's something that I could care less about.  From what I've seen on Facebook and other social media sites, the main purpose of these newly articulated hands is to flip the bird, so to speak.  On the bright side, the new digits do allow Superion to get a better grip on his weapon.
Taking a cue from Hasbro, the Perfect Effect hands and feet are more than meets the eye!  See what I did there?  Anyway, the feet separate to become gatling guns, which if my math is correct, means that you would wind up with 4 gatling guns once the feet are separated.  In the above pic, you'll notice that I'm only showing of said weapons.  I wanted to show Silverbolt holding the weapons as well, but one of the feet would not separate.  Well, it started to, but I could tell that the tab that holds the two halves together was about to break, so I just left it intact.  That proved to be a bit of a letdown, to be honest.  As you can see, the gatling guns can be held in a variety of ways.  They look rather good.
Not to be left out, the hands also convert into guns.  While not as big as the gatlings, I think they look better.  They're certainly much better suited for the Deluxe sized figures.

Overall, I'm pretty impressed with what Perfect Effect has managed to create with this set.  I've normally eschewed upgrade sets because I just never saw the need for them.  The upgrade sets for the G1 combiners always seemed to make the figures look worse, to me.  Sadly, in my view, the upgrade sets are a necessity for Combiner Wars gestalts.  It's a crying shame that I had shell out another $30 to make Superion look like a normal gestalt. 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Masterpiece G2 Bumblebee

Repaints are almost always a tricky proposition.  For every Silver Bluestreak that's released, there's a Year of the Horse Optimus Prime, or Year of the Goat Soundwave.  I know that there are those who pretty much swear off repaints in the Masterpiece line, but I've decided to just get the ones that interest me.  When TakaraTomy announced that G2 'Bee would be produced, I met the news with a fair amount of blah.  Yeah, there is the included jet pack, and the G2 insignia, but I really didn't feel as though there was enough to set G2 Bee apart like G2 Sideswipe was from the regular Sideswipe.  Gold paint?  Wow.  I don't even like the color gold.  Then something got stuck in my head.  A series of sentences.  Sentences that didn't even apply to G2 'Bee.  Those sentences?  "I've gone beyond being just plain old Bumbleebee!  I'm a gold bug!"  Yeah, this doesn't even apply to G2 'Bee.  Still, each and every time I'd think about G2 'Bee or see a picture of him, that refrain would enter my brain and never cease.  Is that possibly the most ridiculous reason to make a purchase?  Maybe, I don't know.  I could've bought him because I thought the paint scheme matched my tan.
I'm just going to run through this review of this gold...bug since he's identical to the MP-21 release.  As with every other Masterpiece figure that's come with decals, I have not, and will not add them.  I just can't bring myself to do it for some reason.  But as you can see, this is gold. 
As with my OG 'Bee, I've keeping the faceplate feature on.  I prefer this look over the more animation model accurate faces.  One thing that did surprise me a bit is that the G2 symbol isn't on the chest plate that flips around.  That just seems like something that would already be there through a tampograph.
The main attraction of G2 Bumblebee for most would be the jet pack.  I will readily admit that it's a great idea and is executed fairly well.  It's nice to see Takara taking on things that the 3rd party guys are doing or planning on doing.
Sadly, I finally received a Masterpiece figure that had a QA issue.  As evidenced by the crude arrow in the above picture, my jet pack has a noticeable splotch on it.  It's really noticeable in person.  Splotches aside, the design that went into how the pack attaches is simple, but effective.  The pack is actually three separate pieces: two shoulder straps that attach to notches on the figure, and the pack itself.  It will be interesting if Takara does indeed do other minibots (I'm looking for you, Brawn), if they'll also include the notches.  I checked the original Bumblebee, and he already had them, so this isn't something that Takara had to go back and modify the molding for. 
If G2 is your thing, that I highly suggest getting MP-21G.  After all, the original G2 Bumblebee was nothing more than a shiny gold version of the Bumblebee.  Really, Takara is just following history with this release.  The far more interesting aspect of MP-21G is the jet pack, something that I think Takara should make available as a separate accessory. 

Monday, August 10, 2015

Combiner Wars Ultra Mangus

Ultra Magnus is pretty popular these days, isn't he?  Thanks to the fine work of James Roberts on More Than Meets The Eye, Ultra Magnus' popularity is pretty much at an all time high.  Gone are the days of "I can't deal with that right now!"  In it's stead, we have the Ultra Magnus that will cite his fellow Autobots for having a crooked insignia, the former Enforcer of the Tyrest Accord.  More importantly, we have an Ultra Magnus that is this:
Minimus freaking Ambus, baby!  The introduction of Minimus has made Ultra Magnus a much more enjoyable and intriguing character.  Coupled with Alex  Milne's design, this is by far the best version of Ultra Magnus ever.  Hasbro has certainly taken notice of what Roberts andMilne have been up to and graced us with a new mold! 

I spent some time deciding between the Hasbro of Takara versions.  The Takara version certainly had a nice deco, much better than Hasbro's, but Takara made the cardinal sin of making Ambus Alpha Trion.  Uh, no thank you.  Hasbro it is.  I actually located my Magnus at my LCS when I went to pick up my comics a month or so ago.  The owner mentioned that he finally had some Transformers, and I took that as vintage figures, but it was Magnus.  When I asked how much he wanted for Magnus, I was told $74.99!  Once I explained that I could get him from BBTS or Hasbro Toy Shop for far, far less, the price came down to an acceptable rate.  It's good to help out a local business.
Right out of the box, Ultra Magnus is pretty impressive.  The Alex Milne design is just breathtaking to behold.  I've read online where people have opened their Magni (Magnuses?) to find one of the shoulder rocket launchers missing.  Luckily, both were present in mine.  Man, we have been blessed with some nice G1 Magnus action this year, what with this and the Masterpiece version.
Combiner Wars Magnus features a bit more maneuverability than the Masterpiece version, and he's certainly a fair bit lighter.  This Magnus comes with two rifles that can combine with the shoulder rockets to form an axe, like the Animated Magnus carried.  I'll be honest - I haven't even tried that configuration.  I'm not a fan of the axe.  Axes are good for warrior dwarves and vikings, but bot for the Duly Appointed Enforcer of the Tyrest Accord.  He needs rifles to do some enforcing.
Speaking of the current Enforcer, open up his chest, and you'll find the bot currently wearing the Ultra Magnus armor!  Sadly, the way that he sits in the chest, it makes it a bit hard to show Minimus' head.  It looks more like Minimus is piloting a mecha, rather than wearing armor. 
This new iteration of Ultra Magnus features a transformation scheme that is similar to the Masterpiece version's.  It's nice to know that there was some cross-pollination in respects to engineering.  The cab does not separate from the trailer, but I'm fine with that.  The only weakness that I can find with Magnus is the cab itself.  Just looking at it, it looks, I don't know, scrunched up?  I'm not sure I'm describing it correctly.  I dare say that it looks as though the cab was in a head on collision; it just looks odd.
Did you know that Ultra Magnus can store cars in this mode?  It's true!  However, Magnus can only hold two Deluxe class figures.  To be honest, I don't know if Ultra Magnus is designed to carry Legends class figures.  Looking at him, it appears as though the Legends figures would not be very stable there.  More than likely, I could look this information up, but I'm lazy.

Before we go, let's take a look at Minimus Ambus.  He's pretty freaking great, if you ask me.  Look at that pencil mustache!  He seriously looks like he has Errol Flynn's facial hair!  Articulation in this mode is extremely limited, due to his size, but his knees do bend.  It's more for transformation, but it does help with seating him the armor. 
Transformation to vehicle mode is a bit more involved than I imagined.  What would seem like a one-step transformation is instead a two-step process.  Please forgive the horrible photo, but I was having trouble getting a clear shot for some reason. 

At the rate that we're getting Ultra Magni lately, I wouldn't be surprised if a third mold was introduced at the end of the year.  Takara and Hasbro will have to do a lot to top the two that we've already gotten in the span of six months.  Next week - more Combiner Wars!  Or maybe a Masterpiece figure.  We'll see.