Posted December 15, 2020 at 2:17 pm

I may be a jaded ol' Transformers fan, but warms even my cold heart to see Hasbro look at their Studio Series stuff and think, okay, we're taking great care to faithfully bring these live-action movie designs to action figures, so what if we extended that to other Transformers?  I mean, it's the sort of thing I'd assume I'd roll my eyes at -- and I do, at first, from a distance, but once in-hand it's hard to argue with the results?  

Maybe the important part is who I got my hands on first.  Scourge is pretty different from your usual early-years Transformers design.  His development process was animation design first, then toy, then new upgraded animation design based on that toy.  Scourge stands apart being this... muscular bearded vampire guy who transforms into a bar of soap.  There's always been a lot of compromise between those two modes, since they're largely incompatible.  But in Studio Series, its mission statement seems to be to try VERY VERY HARD to make it work, moreso than usual.  

This means he's got a nigh-perfect screen-accurate robot mode.  It feels like they started from that, made sure it wasn't compromised, and then built a vehicle mode around it.  Literally.  Scourge essentially has to be a shellformer, if you're doing any kind of accurate Scourge.  And he has big cape wings, which really says "Hey, I fold inside myself."  So, yeah, lean into that.  

Most of his transformation is getting his vehicle mode folded into his cape wings.  Usually Hasbro paints the wing shapes on the inside of the spaceship hull and calls it a day, but they tried to get the actual shape approximated as best as possible, here.  And I appreciate it.

I also appreciate the pink fingernail claws.  I feel like those are an important Scourge visual element that's not always remembered.  And there's this trapezoid on the front of his chest that's painted a slightly different blue than the plastic underneath.  It doesn't show at all in photography, so it's something you can only appreciate in person.  It's a paint operation you'd expect to be left out in the budget because it's an obvious thing to cut if you gotta, but it really adds some great color depth in person.  

Finally, there's no point in doing a Scourge toy if you can't have his head pop out of the top of the spaceship soap so he can fly around staring daggers at things.  And this toy can!  So we're all up in this.  

Studio Series '86 Scourge is running on all Scourge cylinders.  Even if he's not your particular kink, you have to respect the dedication to the kink.  They set out to make mothereffin' Scourge and by God they friggin' did.  

He's a very attractive rich milky blue, too. 

Posted December 13, 2020 at 10:20 pm

I remember a time that everyone in the fandom said they were sick of Bumblebees.  In those early live-action movie years, half of all toys were seemingly Bumblebee.  And, honestly, for good reason.  Bumblebee was incredibly popular.  But fans claimed oversaturation, which was probably true at times.  Then the Prime Wars Trilogy and subsequently the War for Cybertron trilogy hit, and... there was not much Bumblebee.  Just one regular-ass Bumblebee across that six year span, to my recollection, in Titans Return.  Just a Bumblebee drought.  

Now, Hasbro is giving you the Bumblebee you probably wanted.  A to-scale licensed Volkswagen G1-style Bumblebee.  Huzzah!  The one actual Bumblebee you probably want and then afterwards give up Bumblebees forever.

And it's a Walmart exclusive.  The folks who sort-of put up preorders, but just cancel them on you for fun because they misjudged their stock, then three hours later put them up for preorder again, and then cancel them on you for fun because they misjudged their stock, then... you get it.  

Anyway, Walmart toy preorders suck.  They don't care, because they don't have to.  They're Walmart.

What I'm trying to say is: it's hilarious that this Bumblebee toy is panning out this way, given Bumblebee's toy distribution history.  

The toy itself is pretty familiar if you've picked up Earthrise Cliffjumper, or Hubcap, or Bugbite.  He's that toy reshelled, keeping the robot parts but getting a new altmode (and head).  He transforms exactly the same, but into a different model of car.  There are parts that fit a bit more tightly than on the other three uses of the engineering -- his fists grip onto the 5mm pegs inside his rear car kibble in vehicle mode much more tightly, and it's a shove to get the front of his roof plugged into his hood during transformation.  

He comes with the same giant bazooka as the other guys, too, so this'll be some folks' fourth bazooka.  Giant weaponry seems like an odd mismatch with G1 Bumblebee, though if you bought Centurion Drone and his massive accessory box, there's a tiny Bumblebee pistol in there you can give him.  Really, Bumblebee with any gun seems weird to me.  I remember when Bumblebee was reintroduced into the original Marvel comics as a Pretender, and he just whipped out this gun and blasted Megatron a bunch, and I was like DANG, what.  

Bumblebee's your little friendly buddy, and he should have a little bit of a tummy.  He's a chub.  He should be a chub!  They gotta stop making him this badass muscle car, I tell ya.  

I am happy to inform you that this toy is a chub.

Posted December 6, 2020 at 10:48 pm

Some of Stege was a little too stegey, y'know?  Just so much molded surface detail that they looked like a popcorn ceiling all over.  Many toys escaped that look, but some did not.  For example.... Stege Soundwave.  Sure, he transformed into a sci-fi drop ship which kinda looked like Soundwave's robot mode taking a nap, but honestly his worst quality was that he looked like a gravel road.  Just, like, entirely too much detail.  He looked like somebody loaded up an image of cartoon Soundwave into Photoshop and just hit the "Add Noise" filter like 30 times.

Which is a huge reason why I'm more into the new Walmart exclusive Netflix Soundwave, which really exists as an excuse for Hasbro to retool Stege Soundwave into a version of himself that can become a microcassette recorder again.  But they removed a lot of the steginess and replaced them with new parts that aren't so greebly, and now he's not nearly so much of an eyesore.  I mean, the parts that are left unretooled, like his forearms, kind of stand out a bit amongst the new parts, but that's honestly fine because what was so bad about the greebly was that it was uniformly greebly EVERYWHERE.  So if it's just on his arms or whatever, that's an improvement, even if it sticks out.

Anyway, yeah, Soundwave's a tape deck (microcassette recorder) again.  He comes with Laserbeak and Ravage, who also have a small bit of retooling and some updated deco.  Both get new heads -- Laserbeak gets an Earth condor head instead of his Cybertronian head, while Ravage gets the same head design but snarling.  Laserbeak gets more paint on his wings, while Ravage has his microcassette tape detail painted on him.  I collect Ravages, so I was kinda stuck getting this set regardless, even though I'm happy to have the less Stegey Soundwave.  

He does have the cartoon red eyes now instead of my preferred yellow toy/Marvel eyes, but I might be able to swap those.  We'll see.

Now I'm asking again, Hasbro, where's my gaddang Buzzsaw?

Posted November 19, 2020 at 1:33 pm

Those of you trying to remember who's Runamuck and who's Runabout, RunaBout is the Black one.  It's simple!  Keep that in your brain.

Anyway, it feels like six decades ago Hasbro had their last "vote on some stuff to see who we'll make," and we chose Runamuck, and so Hasbro made Runamuck (at regular retail), and they also released Runabout (as a Target exclusive).  They were the two Battlechargers back in 1986, which meant you pulled them back and they raced forward and autotransformed into robot mode.  Y'know, like 1987's Throttlebots but with autotransforming. 

Because of this, their robot modes were pretty simple!  The roof of the car flung forward, and there were sort of arms and sort of a face, and both wheels stayed behind on the ground.  They didn't really have arms (just door panels folded out) and so the guns attached on the toys by clipping over their shoulder.

Well, now you can replicate most of this again, just minus the pull-back motor autotransforming!  Runamuck and Runabout's weapons can be held in their hands, sure, but there's also 5mm ports on the tops of their shoulders so you can have them don their weapons like the original toys.  And even the character models drew both sets of wheels behind their feet, and so, yes, these new toys have two sets of wheels behind their feet -- though one set's fake, while the real rear wheels fold behind their torso!  Ridiculous cartoon accuracy isn't just for 1984 characters, my friends!  The Battlechargers are getting in on it, too!

Their transformation(s) are... a little more involved than the other carformers in Stege/Earthrise so far?  Like, they've been finding a nice happy place where transformation isn't super simple but also isn't annoying complex.  Things just go where they're supposed to, easily!  But the Battlechargers kind of throw a small-sized wrench in this trend.  Even forgetting that they have fake roof-chests in robot mode that they... honestly don't seem like they need to have, there's a lot of fiddly manuevering in the robot shoulder area during conversion.  It's not a fun time!  I mean, it's not the worst or anything.  It's just not fun.  The bar has been pretty high for a while, and this kind of whiffs it right below.  

Runamuck comes with Runabout's gun.  Runabout comes with... both of their guns, which combine end-to-end.  

Posted November 13, 2020 at 3:18 pm

y'know that "generations" tag was a lot more useful for searches before Transformers Generations became, like, 99% of what I collect, huh

Here's Vertebreak, Kingdom's first-wave Core Class Fossilizer!  Fossilizers are going to be skeletal animal creatures (likely all prehistoric animals) that transform into robots.  The larger Deluxe Fossilizers will break apart into bone armor for other toys, same way the Weaponizers and Modulators did in previous lines.  However, Vertebreak is just Core Class, so there's no taking apart action.  They just transform and that's that.  You can give the skeletal tail sword to other toys, though, as it's still 5mm compatible.  Maybe even stick a head at the end of it, pretend it's a spine, and have somebody go all Mortal Kombat fatality on somebody else.  

Vertebreak transforms into a skeletal dracorex (possibly a juvenile pachycephalosaurus).  Legs become legs, arms fold into the torso, head becomes chest... the toy's basically a simplified Universe '08 Dinobot.  An interesting thing to me is that even though Vertebreak's jaw slides with the rest of the skull into the lower torso during transformation, the jaw is also sculpted on the back of the robot head.  Faux kibble!  When there doesn't even need to be, since this is an entirely new character!  I guess the control art was just insistent on the placement of the dinosaur jaw in robot mode.  

So far, Vertebreak has no available profile information, so we don't have a gender for them.   Sub-Deluxe size class toys who weren't Laserbeak or Ravage didn't make it into the Netflix cartoon, so it's possible we won't ever know!  

Posted November 10, 2020 at 9:44 pm

The third part of the War for Cybertron Trilogy, Kingdom, wasn't forecast to hit stores until March, and yet here we are, in November, with the initial trickle of them into one or two stores.  Amazon's even scoot up their estimate for delivery of these guys from February to next week.  Iiiiiit's happening!  Anyway, I threw my preorders in the garbage and grabbed a set of the first wave of Core Class figures from eBay.  

'Cuz if I can get a Rattrap now I'll get a Rattrap now.

Part one of WFC, Stege, was about the Autobots and Decepticons on Cybertron, pre-Earth.  Part two, Earthrise, is about them eventually getting to Earth and grabbing up some Earth alternate modes.  And Kingdom?  Apparently it's about Beast Wars!  I mean, there'll still be some Autobots and Decepticons, but we're here for the animals.  And taking the place of the $10 Micromaster two-pack pricepoint is the new Core Class pricepoint, which is some scaled-down G1 guys and some smaller Beast Wars folks.  (Presumably, the scaled-down G1 guys are for interacting with this year's Titan Class playset, which we don't officially know much about, but it'll be the Ark.)  

Rattrap is the lone returning Beast Wars character in the first wave.  (The other two are Vertebreak, a new Predacon; and a mini Optimus Prime.)  

The War for Cybertron Trilogy has been doing their best to deliver cartoon-accurate robot modes of Generation 1 Autobots and Decepticons, and it was interesting to learn how that design ethic would handle the Beast Wars characters.  It turns out that the way we're going is robot modes that do their best to ape (aheh) the Mainframe CGI models, while the beast modes are taking a more naturalistic approach.  This is versus the Masterpiece Beast Wars toys which aim to copy the CGI models in both robot and beast modes.  So Rattrap's rat mode, you see, tries to look more like your typical actual rat than it does the cute CGI rat he transformed into in the cartoon.

And, honestly, I'm big into that aesthetic.  I mean, I've got the Beast Wars Masterpiece toys if I need my Dinobot to transform into an awkward featherless duck or whatever.  I'm very happy for Kingdom to embrace better animal modes.  Rattrap's in particular is very pleasing!  It does indeed look like a little rat.  Enough so that I guess you should worry a little if you've got a-rat-nophobia or whatever.  In rat mode the toy is essentially immobile.  There is no articulation.  It's just a rat.

Which, at this scale, is fine enough.  This is a smalllllllll toy.  Maybe two inches long.  And I gotta tell you, this is the most complex toy I've ever seen at this tiny size.  He's got a lot going on in transformation.  Lots of little steps, and thankfully it all plugs in together well, mostly using various tabs that fit into the cooling vents in his balljoints.  Very economical.  It has to be, at this size.  

The perfect rat transforms into an unreasonably-well-proportioned robot mode.  Other than the more-realistic rat head on the chest, it achieves the look of the lanky CGI model.   The only real compromise is the robot feet, which become the rat's rear feet.  The was a choice to make them fully robotic or fully rat feet, and the choice was to go with a creepy midpoint.  Rattrap's feet are an organic redesign of his three-toed metal robot feet.  It's a compromise, again, but this is the scale we're working at.  Two inches.  

A friggin' incredible Rattrap at two inches.  

Posted November 9, 2020 at 12:42 pm

It's Sunstreaker!  You know, Sideswipe's brother (because they both transform into Lamborghinis and so I guess that's how being a brother in Robotworld works)!  Also known as the first Transformer to be designed, back in the day?  He was #1.  These days, they wait to do him whenever because Sideswipe is more popular (he's red!!!), and since they both transform into the same thing, Sideswipe gets priority. 

But here he is, in Earthrise, a year later after Sideswipe got released in Stege.  You avoid the alt-mode overlap that way, but in Earthrise, there's another kind of overlap.  Both Wheeljack and Runamuck transform essentially the same way!  They all get hood feet and roof chests.  You could easily just make one toy and swap out heads and deco to get reasonably faithful versions of all of them.

HOWEVER, Sunstreaker is entirely new!  .....he's.... extremely similar to Wheeljack, to the point that they essentially share engineering, but the two share zero parts.  Both have an empty torso box that you flip the head into, both put their car roofs on a lever that you rotate around the torso during transformation, both wrap their arms around the back of the car mode (though in different directions), both telescope out their legs the same way...  They feel like the same toy, even though they are not.  

(Runamuck, meanwhile, is absolutely different engineering up and down)

A fun thing about Sunstreaker is that instead of rotating his feet around for robot mode, his feet are sculpted and painted to look like car hood on both sides.  Saves you a step and some engineering, I guess!  

A less fun thing about Sunstreaker is that, unlike Sideswipe, his car mode isn't entirely painted.  This means only his translucent plastic parts get painted yellow to match his yellow plastic, and so he isn't as coherent as Sideswipe is.  Photography of Sunstreaker drastically exaggerates the difference between paint and plastic in person, to the point where you honestly don't notice that there is a difference most of the time.  But put Sunstreaker in front of a camera, and his yellow plastic and paint contrast flares up like this is They Live or something.  Keep Sunstreaker away from cameras!

Which would seriously bum Sunstreaker out.  Dude's vain.  

Posted November 4, 2020 at 8:52 pm

Quintesson Judge is a Transformer, sort of!  I mean, okay, the character isn't a Transformer.  And also the toy... barely transforms.  Into not a thing.  So a certain sub-100 percentage a Transformer!  

But you don't care!  In fact, if Quintesson Judge transformed better, into a real thing, he'd probably accomplish Looking Like A Quintesson Judge less well than you'd want.  And you just want a Quintesson Judge toy!  The sort-of transforming is just there to justify his placement in the toy line to the marketing execs.

Yeah, you just venitian blind up his five faces, pull down some ramps, unfold his chair, and balance his hat on his faces.  It's a.... tower!  With a flattened chair!  And a cage?  Yeah, a cage.  The cage is neat!  You can put Rung in it and have him do sexy cage dances.  

Two of the five Quintesson faces don't come assembled.  You attach them yourself!  In theory!  Some folks, many folks, nearly all folks... have expressed difficulty.  I know of at least one friend who ended up returning his because he couldn't get the red one attached.  It's the red one that gives the most difficulty.  And a reported few just gave up, shaved off the connectors, and just fuckin' glued the face onto where it goes.  

I spent... 30 minutes getting the red face on mine to connect properly?  My fingers were very sore!  I have a second Judge as of today, and I expected to battle it out with this one, and then it just popped on in 15 seconds and I actually was a little disappointed.  I was all geared up for a fight.  But it means... some won't give trouble, I guess?  Or maybe I'm just getting better at it.

(The Judge who comes with the Hasbro Pulse exclusive Pit Of Judgement set, back up for preorder currently, comes completely pre-assembled, if you're looking to avoid this situation.)

Anyway!  Judge!  He judges.  Press a lever on his back and his heads rotate a click around.  That's all anybody wanted, and the toy delivers.  

Plus he comes with a chair.

I love toys that come with chairs.

Posted October 19, 2020 at 10:39 pm

Remember how I told you I broke my Earthrise Bluestreak?  Well, his fellow Datsun bro Smokescreen came and his rifle popped in half right out of the plastic tray!  WHY CAN I NOT HAVE AN UNBROKEN EARTHRISE DATSUN BRO. 

Anyway, it's a few weeks later, and I have a replacement.  I used scissors to remove the plastic tray from around the rifle this time instead of just squeezing it out -- I mean, I'm 99% sure it was just a problem with my individual rifle specimen that first time and not an actual persistent problem, but I WAS BEIN' FRIGGIN' SURE THIS TIME.  It is NOT fun to have something break before you even have the guy out of the goddamned box!

Earthrise Smokescreen is unsurprisingly like Bluestreak!  Who knew?  He's got two important retoolings -- one, he's got his Face In A Box, as seen in the cartoon/comic.  Secondly, and more unusually, he's got his front fender retooled to be taller.  Because the original Smokescreen toy was a rally deco race car, and so it doesn't have to worry about being street legal.  Usually when Smokescreen gets toys they leave the car itself alone, and just let him be a regular ol' Datsun build like Bluestreak and Prowl.  No, this time Smokescreen also gets his dadbod.  

More niche but important to me is Earthrise Smokescreen gets white thighs!  It's been............. forever since he's gotten white thighs.  Like, since the original toy (and the Masterpiece).  Siege gave him black thighs, Combiner Wars gave him blue thighs, Universe '08 gave him silver...  And, like, I dunno, for some reason those white thighs are important to me.  Back when Universe '08 Smokescreen and Prowl came out, PROWL had the white thighs, and so I swapped them.  Back then stuff was easier to swap.  More screws, fewer pins.  (Doublechecking photos, their hips were balljointed, and the knees were pinned, but there was a second joint just below the knee that was screwed, so I musta swapped both the thigh and that sub-knee section.)  

Meanwhile, Prowl should have silver thighs.  But they were white on the cartoon and Hasbro's never gonna waist paint or a separate plastic sprue on silver thighs anyway, so fuck me forever, I guess.  I'll probably be taking a Sharpie to the Earthrise one when it comes out in a few weeks.

Dunno why I'm so hung up on the thighs.  Maybe it just helps achieve a certain important color balance.  Smokescreen with darker-colored thighs just makes him too dark all-over.  There's a value contrast equilibrium that must be maintained.  

Despite Smokescreen coming with his cartoon head and his cartoon chest, he comes with Bluestreak's cartoon shoulder launchers!  This is no super big deal if you have Stege Smokescreen, 'cuz Stege Smokescreen came with Smokescreen's cartoon shoulder launchers, and they're compatible.  Just toss those Earthrise launchers in the garbage and plug in last year's Stege launchers.  The pegs are a little too tall for the hole, but that was an existing problem with the Stege mold.  They're just very long pegs.  I chopped off the edges a little with some toenail clippers, taking a full 6 seconds to do this, and now they're flush with the hood.

Now all I need is some reprolabels from Toyhax to finish his look.  You know they're coming.  I'm a-gonna need his bumper to read SUN and MOON and his crotch to have a splash of green.  

still need to find a bluestreak replacement, but they're starting to hit walgreens now, so hopefully it won't be too long

Posted October 11, 2020 at 8:02 pm

The Allicons (portmanteau of "alligator" and "decepticon") were known as the Quintesson Guards in the The Transformers: The Movie script, and didn't officially receive that name until Dreamwave adopted it in 2004!  So we have one more thing to thank Dreamwave for beyond Optimus Prime always having backwards friggin' toes.  

But, yeah, you know!  Allicons!  The first transforming beings Kup and Hot Rod meet in the animated film.  Kup and Hot Rod use the Universal Greeting on them, feed them some Energon, and then the Allicons try to hump them or something.  I forget.  But it's a pretty big scene for a buncha transforming robots that never got a toy.  Until now!  

i mean, the allicons got to speak and the sharkticons didn't, and the sharkticons got a toy

the sharkticons have gotten several toys

Anyway, it's Allicon!  Transforms from stumpy robot to stumpy bipedal alligator robot.  Has a shark fin on its robot head, even though he's the alligator robot, while the sharkticons don't have fins on their robot heads.  I don't get it!  Comes with a spear, and also a portion of the tail can split out to become a... tail... thing.  Tail whip?  I dunno.  

The big thing is Allicon transforms VERY SIMPLY!  Like, you yank up the tail, flip it around, and place it on backwards from where it was.  That's basically it!  Sure, okay, the robot arms plug into place for alligator mode.  And you straighten the legs a bit sometimes.  It is not complex!

And goddammit, I am frickin' GLAD.  Allicon is a troop builder.  You'd want to have like a half-dozen of these.  And troop-builders that take a year and a half to transform are NOT FUN.  You want all your Reveal-The-Shield Junkions to go from robots to motorcycles?  Well, better carve out a goddamn afternoon.  And take your blood pressure medication.  And prepare for one of them to break.

So thank god these guys are simple.  I got three and I can swap them all from one mode to the other in under five minutes.  

And you're gonna want plural.  There is zero point to One Allicon.  It's not like with Sharkticon, where technically he was sold as Gnaw, and so this Single Sharkticon could just be Individual "Gnaw" Sharkticon.  No, Allicons are always in groups.  Unless it's "The Killing Jar."  Otherwise, it's like owning one friggin' Stormtrooper.  

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