Posted October 21, 2005 at 2:48 am
I think I've settled on a new coloring style for Shortpacked! Ever since I left the painted look and tried some It's Walky!ish coloring, I've been sorta experiementing a little. I've decided that I want to emphasize the line-art more (which I want to spend more time on) and so de-emphasize the colors. I sort of miss the black-and-white days. Those could sometimes look pretty sharp. So I've softened the colors, using a less bold palette, and the shadows won't be so overwhelming anymore. Besides, these guys are under retail store lighting all day, not harsh sunlight. I'm pretty happy.

The other day, I sold another page of original strip art. Hurrah! And this one wasn't of Batman or somebody half-dressed. I feel legitimate. The awesome person who bought it also wanted to have a printed copy of the final strip, which I obliged. Which makes me wonder -- is this something other people would want? You know, the printing out of favorite strips for a price? Ugly Hill and a few others do it, so I figger there's a market out there. Just wondering what youse guys thoughts were on the idea.

Also, my super friends Graham and Jenni got engaged. I don't think it's quite sunk in yet. I've known the two for 8 years, which is about 2 months longer than they've been dating. Eight years ago we were all wacky IRC buddies. I remember calling up Jenni (who I had never spoken to before) at the behest of Graham to ask her if she was mad at him. Apparently he wasn't sure. Man, and I had the biggest phobia of phone conversations back then, so that was a big deal. But I believed in these guys, so you gotta do what you gotta do. They're my best pals in the world; they're why I moved to Columbus, after all. So I guess "Congratulations" is kind of a subpar word to use. "Wiigii"? I dunno.

Man, everyone around here's growing up.
Posted October 20, 2005 at 3:18 am
If you read the front page, you'll find Blank Label Comics has adopted a new sticker. Yeah, revered Schlock Mercenary has joined forces in our battle against evil, so this time we promise it's not scratch-and-sniff. (Though Ugly Hill's sticker would counteract with potpourri.)

I am super excited. And honored! Howard Taylor is like the super awesomest guy on the planet. (Though I hear he's not bald anymore. That's a bummer. Give me my oldskool Taylor, I say.) True story: At Comic-Con 2002, Josh Phillips and I were stranded hotel-less on that last meandering Sunday night. And he calls up and is all like, "Dude, you should totally come over. Balls." Okay, he didn't say balls, but he did say "Free of charge." Holy crap, this man is unimaginably generous. Now that's a man. If he had invoked balls, I'm certain they would have been manly.

And, sure, he's not just nice. He's one of the smartest, most level-headed nyucks there is. His business acumen is Level 10. His balls, when invoked, are not only manly, but filled with a gooey know-how center. And huge. You could play basketball with them.

Seriously, I totally look up to the guy. If I'm ever half the man he is, I'll be pretty satisfied. And I've never seen his family, but I'll assume for the sake of this post that his wife is hot and his kids are outstanding. Outstanding and filled with genes from, you guessed it, Howard's legendary balls. Ha ha, and we snatched him! Nuts to you, losers!

Just remember, when you talk to him, his face is up there.
Posted October 17, 2005 at 2:10 am
So I found Mudflap today. Why didn't anyone tell me he was awesome? He rocks. His colors are beautiful. His transformation is interesting, and everything pegs together nicely in both modes. He's got a weapon that's taller than most Transformers -- I'm talking Unicron-sized.

Mudflap's dubbed with a French-Canadian* accent in the cartoon. You know. Because he's a traitor. Mudflap is all "Sacre bleu, dees Autobots make no sense to me, I weel leave zhem to form my own eendependent state. Weeth Starscream." (And, no, I didn't mean for that to sound as homoerotic as it sounded.) So, yeah. Way to go, Vancouver ADR. You continue making that subversive political commentary, or something. Ah-heh.

*To my unworldly ear, he just sounds French. Maybe Cajun, because they also sound French. However, I'm told it's specifically French-Canadian. Transformers have been voice-cast in Canada for the past ten years, so it's kind of surprising it's taken this long.
Posted October 14, 2005 at 1:14 am

Clockwise, starting at top: The original Beast Wars Buzzclaw, Dirge, two Virulent Clones, and Buzzclaw.

Buzzclaw, Dirge, and the clone two-pack are all redecos of Buzzclaw. The first two were part of the 7-figure box set, and the last two could be purchased separately. Now, these guys are neat. Again, we see Yet More Black, but since Buzzclaw and Dirge are meant to evoke the classic Insecticon color scheme (black, purple, and gold, with red trim), I don't see how they'd get around that. And, frankly, the colors are vibrant enough that it doesn't bother me that much.

As you can see, the original Buzzclaw was bright little sucker. (The one shown is my pal Graham's. I sold mine a few years ago when I was short on cash.) He's also a Fuzor, which in this case means he's half lizard and half mantis. Oddly enough, the lizard half didn't keep him from being made into four Insecticons. Thankfully, the black replacing the green obscures his scales and lizard wrinkles nicely. (Another reason I don't mind so much.)

It's hard for me to decide whether I like Buzzclaw or Dirge more; it doesn't help that the only difference between the two is that their purple and gold are reversed. Dirge's translucent yellow is very pretty, but Buzzclaw's colors are a little more striking. But hey, if having to choose between which exclusive is the best is the worst thing about these guys... Hell, it's like old times again.

On the problem side of things, all four guys have an assembly error. Their mandibles are put in upside-down. Since this aligns the piece downward at a different angle, this gives the mandibles the appearance of a bandito mustache. Some people have managed to disassemble the head to flip it over, but other than removing the screw, there's also a rivet inside and the head halves are glued together. So, uh, I don't think I'm going to try. Hasbro is using the Buzzclaw toy later in the year (redecoed to be Repugnus), and the one on display in the cases at BotCon also had the mandibles upside-down. Well, I guess we can look forward to that.
Posted October 12, 2005 at 2:30 am
So we were checking out one of the local Tuesday Morning stores for cheap-ass clearance toys, like $8 Transformers reissues. (Man, and to think Stepper/Ricochet used to go for hundreds of dollars on eBay back when he was an obscure Japanese exclusive. Eight bucks! Take that, secondary market!) And Steve-o wanted to drop by the Asian supermarket that was in the same strip mall.

I was already prepared to pick up some KOALA NO MARCH chocolate-filled cookie marsupials when I stumbled upon MEN'S POCKY. Dude. Pocky. For MEN. Now, that's the kind of stuff my hairy man-chest demands. This market need was FILLED.

None of that sissy Pocky from now on. Just the man stuff for me.
Posted October 9, 2005 at 1:48 am

I picked up one of the new JLU three-packs at Target yesterday. I picked up the one with Black Canary in it, 'cuz, hey, chances are she'll be a leeeeetle harder to find than the others. You know. GURL.

I like the sculpt and paint job more than I thought I would. She actually looks very nice, and the paint is very cleanly applied. She comes with Green Arrow and Superman, which makes Superman #30 and Green Arrow #2 that I own, but three-packing is how Mattel can justify putting toys of girls in the toy aisle, so I can't complain too much.

Black Canary's ability to stand has eluded me so far. Though Mattel was so kind as to fill in plastic between the toes of her shoes and the very high heels so there's more surface area to balance on, I have yet to find a middle ground between falling forwards and falling backwards. So until then, she gets to lean against stuff. She's sculpted to be holding her hand on her hip, but when you swivel her arm up at the shoulder, she also looks like she's cupping her hand around the side of her mouth for one of her trademark Super Screams (or whatever she calls them). That's cool.

The three-packs also now come with copies of the Justice League Adventures comic books. That's also a bonus I like, though they all come with the same one. Bummer.

Also, I got the next issue of the Transformers Fan Club magazine in the mail. Keep on giving us those Universe-style bios, fellas. Those are the good stuffs.
Posted October 5, 2005 at 9:54 pm

Left to right: Arcee, Flamewar, Chromia, Flareup.

We got three iterations of the Energon Arcee mold this year. The first one, Chromia, came as part of the 7-figure boxed set. The obvious thing to point out right off the bat is her case of mistaken identity. She's got Moonracer's head (a new sculpt) and Moonracer's colors. The organizers said they set out to do Moonracer originally (which is odd, since Ironhide, another figure in the set, is Chromia's boyfriend), but thanks to King Moonracer of the Island of Misfit toys, the "Moonracer" trademark was unavailable. It was too late to change the colors and the new head sculpt, so they decided to name her after her friend. No, they decided to pretend she is her friend. So I guess for some reason, Chromia just looks like Moonracer now. Oh well! (I probably would have tried for "Lunaracer.")

So anyway. She's teal. The odd thing about her headsculpt is that while her helmet is an entirely new shape, her face is the original's. Well, sorta. Since some of the details are slightly warped, it looks kinda like the sculpter made a cast of Arcee's face and then created a new helmet around that. (But more on this when I talk about Deathsaurus.)

The colors are nice. They're somewhat similar to an exclusive Japanese redeco, but not enough to bother me. Her biggest problem is that she looks just like Arcee with the pink/magenta swapped out for teal, since she's still all the same plastic colors.

The second version of this mold is Flamewar, who was free if you picked up your boxed set in person at the convention, and she came separately in a little baggie. Instead of the new head sculpt, she still features Arcee's head. This was a touch I really liked, because it distinguishes the two. She also has the dubious honor of being the second black redeco in this year's offerings. Hurray! Her purple looks nice, I admit. And it photographs much bluer than it is for some reason. The little flame tampos all over her are also a nice touch.

(I really wish, though, that for some of the black in these toys, they'd use some dark gray or dark blue instead, or something. All uses of black are blackity-black. I would like to see some variety in the future. I can be a challenge or something, y'know, for the designers -- to see if they can do a whole year without using blackity-black. Use whatever shade of blue or gray you want.)

Flareup, sold separately in a baggie with Ratchet, is the third and last use of the mold this year, and may be my favorite of all the exclusives. Visually, she's a dead ringer for Firestar, a name they obviously couldn't use. The tech spec says Flareup is a student of Firestar, but since she's got a good portion of red and black on her, I personally choose to believe she's also the daughter of Firestar and her boyfriend Inferno. (This is because I am obviously a fanfic writer.) The reason I like her so much is the use of orange. I love orange, which is a color that is seriously lacking from the past years of BotCon exclusives. I admit, there was 1999's Sandstorm, but that wasn't nearly orange enough. Another thing I like about the exclusives of years past are the interesting use of colors, and the gray helmet and yellow face are very unique. (Of course, this owes to Firestar's cartoon model.) I do wish the gray used was elsewhere on her body. For instance, the silver doesn't really work with the rest of her color scheme, and would have looked really nice if it were painted that matte light gray her helmet is. Or maybe if the black were gray. I don't really care if the tires aren't black. Tires don't have to be black on Cybertron. Hell, on Velocitron, all Transformers' tires are translucent.

But she's pretty. Especially her bright orange translucent energon crossbow. Mmmmmmmm.

Man, I want some Kool-Aid, suddenly.
Posted October 3, 2005 at 12:06 am
As y'all can see, I'm trying out some different coloring. Though I'm having some growing pains. The original version of this didn't have the shadows -- for Shortpacked!s, I try to keep the color count down, so I can GIF it as a custom pallette to keep filesize down. But I'm having some anti-aliasing problems, so I tried it as JPeG after adding shadows. But to keep artifacting down, it's now 150k. Yeargh!

Can someone who's smarter than I (that covers a lot of ground) give me some tips on keeping filesize down while preserving quality? I know about PNGs, but haven't been able to find a way to process them that doesn't end up with the filesize even huger than JPeGs. If anybody thinks they can help, I can send them the original 6-inch 600dpi TIF.

Help prease!
Posted October 1, 2005 at 12:26 am

Fallback is another of the seven figures included in the BotCon '05 Descent into Evil set. He's probably the most interesting of the set, color-wise, so I thought it'd make a nice contrast with Ricochet by doing him second.

Fallback is a new name and body for the G1 Minibot Outback. Outback Steakhouse has a death grip on the trademark, so "Fallback" is, well, a fallback name for him. I think that's sincerely awesome, and I approve. Outback is, of course, Australian, so much like Cybertron Jetfire, a good portion of his play value is being able to hop him around affecting a horrible accent. The other portion of Fallback's play value is merely being an awesome toy. He's a redeco of Strongarm, which was redecoed into Energon Strongarm, both of which you can see in the photo above. I happily bought both the original versions, 'cuz, hey, he rocks.

Being a muted and attractive mix of brown and khaki with blue highlights, Fallback stands out among the set by not being 1) all one color, or 2) red and black. Fallback is REALLY nice-looking. It's not just the brown and khaki, but the particular shade of blue and the shade of gray they chose for his forearms and pelvis. He's what I think exclusive toys should look like -- they should have interesting colors.

(It should also be mentioned that his eyes are yellow, which is very nice. It's been sort of an annoying trend recently to see Autobots and Decepticons' eyes color coded blue/red by faction. The yellow eyes on Fallback make him look very striking.)

I have to admit, though, that I probably still find Energon Strongarm has the best set of colors on the mold. I really do love his blue and mustard. Fallback is still charming in his own way, though. And he's Australian. That's always a bonus.