New Summer Project: Transformers Haiku!

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Last summer, I decided to watch the entire Original Series of Star Trek, one episode each day. On a whim, to keep my creative juices flowing, I decided to also take a screenshot for each ep, then write a haiku on it. I enjoyed the process so much, I continued on through the Animated Series as well.

This summer, I decided to continue the haiku project, but with a different franchise, one near and dear to my heart: The Transformers! I’m posting a new Transformers haiku each day here and @marcallie on Twitter. So far, I’m through my favorite portion, Season 1, and just beginning Season 2. Right now I’m planning to end after Season 2, and take it up from Season 3 next summer… but we’ll see.

I’ve done a bit of housekeeping here on the site to make it easier to find the haikus. There is a Geek Haiku tab at the top of the page, and from there you can select which you’d like to view. I’ve enjoyed watching these classic episodes from my childhood again, and hopefully you’ll enjoy experiencing them in haiku form, too!

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Transformers Prints by Tom Whalen

800px-dw_20th_anniversary_lithograph_imageWhile the majority of my Transformers collection is toys, I’ve also amassed many other types of items. I’ve got dozens of Transformers comics, several vintage coloring and activity books, even a Choose Your Own Adventure style story featuring my favorite Transformers characters.

Transformers illustrations are some of my favorite pieces in my collection. I loved the recent book Transformers Legacy: The Art of Transformers Packaging. There are some boxes that I’ve kept simply because I love the design and the pictures. I have several posters, as well, and two I especially enjoy are framed in my office. One is an Optimus Prime mosaic Botcon exclusive from 199. The other by from one of my favorite comic artists, Don Figueroa, and features every single Generation 1 character, in honor of the 20th anniversary of the toyline back in 2004.

imagesLast month, I read an article over at the Retroist about a new series of prints from artist Tom Whalen. I didn’t recognize Tom’s name, but I did recognize his style. A previous illustration of his served as my iPad wallpaper for well over a year. I had actually looked for the lithograph of this amazing image but it was unfortunately well outside my price range. The new prints, headshots of iconic Autobots, were more affordable, so I jumped at the chance.

I paid a little extra for the variant editions, which are printed on paper with a metallic finish. You couldn’t really tell much difference in pictures online, but I suspected the effect would be worthwhile in person. I couldn’t have been more right! The prints arrived last night and I was awestruck when I opened them. The clean lines and bold colors look incredible on the silvery sheen of the prints. My bad camera and terrible light setup don’t do them justice.

My original plan was to keep only Optimus and Prowl, and trade or Ebay the rest. However, after seeing them in person, there’s no way I am getting rid of Bumblebee, Ratchet, or Jazz. I can’t wait to get all five prints suitably framed and on display in my office. I’m sure it will take some willpower to not purchase the Decepticon versions immediately, or resist splurging on the larger lithograph which is available on Ebay right now…

SDCC 2016 G.I. Joe vs. Transformers Soundwave H.I.S.S Tank

IMG_4603G.I. Joe was a big part of my childhood. Not as much as Transformers, for a variety of reasons, but the Real American Heroes were the last toys I was into as a kid. I still have a good part of my childhood Joe collection, in my original collector’s case, in fact. But all that remains are figures, not any vehicles.

As an adult collector of vintage toys, I’ve tried to focus on Transformers, Power Rangers, and robot toys only, and for the most part I’ve succeeded. But I made an exception for G.I. Joe. In 2007, the 25th Anniversary G.I. Joe line caught my eye. I limited myself to buying only three figures: two versions of Cobra Commander, and a sweet gold-headed Destro. I had Destro when I was a kid, as he was still on store shelves in 1985, when I was suffering a severe case of Joe-mania. I never had a Cobra Commander, as by ’85 he was only available via mail order. I eagerly snatched up a light blue, helmeted version of the head Cobra baddie, as well as a darker blue hooded version. The three have been displayed proudly on my bookshelves ever since.

Several years back, Hasbro began making G.I. Joe/Transformers crossover sets. They released a Skystriker colored as Starscream, and a purple tank decoed as Shockwave. These caught my eye, but sold out quickly, and were quite expensive to pick up on the secondary market. I wasn’t too upset I missed out, honestly, as space has always been an issue for my collection and G.I. Joe vehicles are quite large.

This year, another crossover set was released. This time, the iconic Cobra Rattler was repainted as Autobot Powerglide, with Scarlett as pilot. Cool, but not mind-blowing. The other half of the set, though, awakened my collector’s instinct in a big way. It was a H.I.S.S. tank decorated to look like Soundwave. (The driver is Zartan, but I don’t really care about him too much.) One look at the pictures online, and I knew that I had to have this toy! There are so many cool things about it that I love:

  • Soundwave is one of my favorite Transformers, one of the ’84 originals. With the cool voice and the cassette minions, Soundwave is awesome.
  • I had a H.I.S.S. tank as a kid, and loved posing my Cobra guys all over it. The tanks were shown in the cartoon all the time, too.
  • The tank has so many callbacks to Soundwave’s design! The clear and gold cockpit is similar to Soundwave’s cassette door. The cannons and missiles up top are shaped exactly like his weapons. With the stickers on, the deco is even more representative of everyone’s favorite evil stereo, with all sorts of red and black lines and silver trim.
  • The color scheme was a perfect backdrop for my trio of modern figures. Hooded Cobra Commander is the same shade of blue, and Destro’s black/red/gold color scheme fits right in with the stripe accents. Helmeted Cobra Commander is the wrong shade of blue, but hey, someone has to drive.

There was just problem: it was a waste to drop $99 plus shipping for the whole set when I only wanted the tank. However, a friend online (Rob of Tformers and Radio Free Cybertron fame) did a review of the set, and was willing to part it out. I was able to obtain Soundwave for a very reasonable price, and just a couple days later, I was applying stickers to a H.I.S.S. tank for the first time since December 25, 1985.

I love this toy. Love, love, love it! It’s a huge solid hunk of plastic, the design is classic yet modern, and there are all sorts of slick molded details.  Having the Soundwave H.I.S.S. tank on my desk is totally awesome. (It’s too sweet to keep on a shelf, out of arm’s reach.) My only complaints are that some of the stickers don’t quite fit into the molded sections, and the peg on the back is too large for the hole in Destro’s foot. Presumably the peg is sized for vintage toys? Not sure why, but maybe I can mod it somehow.

Overall, I am thrilled with this new addition to my collection. I will admit, though, that owning it is a dangerous thing. Having just one entry from a toyline really bothers the completist in me…

But First… Let Me Take a Shelfie

PopCultureLeague-Logo-BigI am a very goal oriented person. I struggle to get things accomplished in all my hobbies and interests without a sense of direction. Participating in an online contest or challenge is a good way for me to get motivated. I’ve painted several tabletop miniature armies in this way, and honestly, my first book would never have been written if I hadn’t participated in NaNoWriMo. It’s easier for me to work when I set a goal with a deadline to work towards. Also, the support of others online is a great way to keep at things.

When I learned about Cool & Collected’s Pop Culture League, I knew it was just the thing to give me inspiration for blogging. The theme for this, the first week, is “Shelfie”. Participants were tasked with posting pictures of the shelf in their collection they consider their favorite. I knew instantly which one I would use.

This is the most meaningful, nostalgic shelf in my Transformers collection. Only Autobot characters from the first season of the original Generation 1 cartoon are allowed on this shelf. Two versions of each character are represented. G1 toy versions are displayed in vehicle mode. (I’m missing only Slag, the Triceratops Dinobot, of all the G1 versions.) Robot modes are reserved for newer toys based on the original characters. Most of these latter toys are from five to ten years ago. Toy technology has changed, and these characters look great in their new forms. Still, I will always have a soft spot for the 80s versions.

Perusing the rest of the Pop Culture League, I picked out a few other cool shelves to share.

Last Hometown has Godzilla and related figures, plus an adorable Galactus from Super Hero Squad.

Scotch and Spacemen caught my eye due to a nice Gremlins collection. The more mogwai, the better!

Copyright 1984 is very lucky, with a G1 Slag that I totally covet. Also, you can’t go wrong with the Iron Giant and transforming chicken nuggets.

You can find all the “Shelfie” contributions here.

Red & Blue Robots

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Family Portrait

During my six weeks off school this summer, I got new shelves for my office/painting/computer room. Two large and two small golden oak bookshelves, which I’d had for over a decade, easily, were replaced. Now I have three large and one small black bookshelves. This is something I’ve wanted to do for some time. We moved one of the old shelves into our bedroom, and took some of my books with it. This left me with considerably more space for displaying my stuff. Namely, my painted tabletop miniatures and my toys.

My Transformers and other robot toys look 1000% cooler on the black shelves. All of the colors and shiny bits really pop in a way that they didn’t before. I was perusing the shelves and noticed an abundance of one color scheme in particular: red and blue.

My shelves are loaded with red and blue robots. This is only natural, as I have a psychological issue that compels me to buy Optimus Prime toys. (Details on that here, and here.) But even if you took all the Optimi (plural of Optimus, naturally) out of my collection, there are still a high proportion of azure and crimson color schemes among my beloved robots. I thought it would be fun to highlight some of my favorites, ranging from my earliest toy memories to the newest stuff.

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Art by the amazing Chris Tupa

Dragun was the first Shogun Warriors toy I ever owned. Obtaining him was a traumatic event, which I wrote about in my first book. There were other robotic world defenders on the shelves that day, but Dragun was the one for me. My beloved red and blue Shogun Warrior was lost sometime in the 80s, but someday I will find another at a reasonable price.

Voltron (no, not the one with the lions) – I loved the Lion Force Voltron show as much as the next guy. Actually, I obsessed over it way more than the average kid, but whatever. It was the other Voltron, the one composed of fifteen different vehicles, that was most appealing to me. Vehicle Voltron is not as iconic as his animal based counterpart, but there’s no denying the sweetness of the more unified color scheme, which is, of course, heavy on the red and blue.

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Xabungle with ridiculous firepower attachments

Xabungle – several years ago, a friend informed me that a local gaming store was going out of business and having a huge sale on board games and Magic cards. Among the many things I purchased that day was my first fancy Japanese imported toy (that wasn’t a Transformer, naturally). Xabungle is a premium Soul of Chogokin figure from a rather obscure early 80s mecha anime. With a color scheme like that, and a price of $40, how could I resist?

The appeal of red and blue robots has even made its way into recent toy purchases.

G2 Superion – I purchased this set to customize into a Seeker-based Decepticon combiner. When it arrived, seeing it in all its blue and red glory, I had serious reservations about painting it. I’ve resisted as far as the limb robots go, but I think I’ll keep Silverbolt around, he just looks amazing.

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Even Dia Battles’ shadow looks sweet

Dia Battles v2 – Roughly half the first series of Transformers came from a toyline called Diaclone. I’ve always enjoyed learning about them, but the prices for vintage toys were insane. Recently, the line was rebooted in Japan. My interest in Diaclone was mainly based on the toys that eventually became Transformers. That all changed when I saw the new Dia Battles. As soon as I saw the delectable cherry red and glossy blue color scheme, I knew I’d be ponying up for it. No regrets, the toy is amazing! I can’t wait for more toys in the line.

Fortress Maximus – I couldn’t quite afford Metroplex when he came out a few years back, but there was no way I was letting Fortress Maximus go out of stock before I got one. He’s the biggest Transformer ever, right? Obtaining one is a necessity. I ordered him early, and he looks totally amazing. His size is his greatest asset, for sure, but the fact that he happens to feature reds and blues in his color scheme makes Fortress Maximus even better.

 

I Can’t Get Into Groove

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Scale? What’s that?

There is a lull in Transformers fandom at the moment. We are in the dark days between two toylines. Last year was the excellent Combiner Wars, featuring modern takes on the iconic five-in-one combiner teams of the past. This years line, Titans Return, looks to continue the great stuff, with characters from the latter years of G1 getting their first new toys in decades. That’s all well and good, but as of this writing there are no Transformers on the shelves to be excited about.

During this quiet time, a highly desired Combiner Wars toy was released: Deluxe class Groove. A bit of background before we proceed: the first Combiner teams available last year had one new member that wasn’t a G1 original. Superion came with Alpha Bravo, a helicopter. Menasor came with Offroad (I had to google his name!), a truck. Both toys shared the same color scheme as the missing G1 members. Defensor came with Rook, an armored SWAT team vehicle. Rook was a bit different in deco from his G1 counterpart, but more about that later.
I had mixed feelings about these lineup changes. It looked weird seeing a helicopter on Superion and a truck on Menasor. I delayed purchasing the CW toys for budget reasons, and when funds finally became available, new releases had been announced. There would be special, online only toys of the original G1 characters for the “missing” Aerialbots and Stunticons. Slingshot was an airplane, and Wildrider was a sports car, and all was right with the world. I purchased them as soon as they were available and thought how awesome it was to not have been “forced” to buy Alpha Bravo and Offroad.

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Hulk Hands mode not pictured (but awesome)

Let’s go back to Rook for a moment. He was mainly white with some blue trim, big and blocky, and his head reminded me of a football helmet. He was super posable, and looked great as an arm, or a leg, or a robot, or a SWAT vehicle. Rook was almost nothing like the G1 Protectobot he replaced, motorcycle Groove. I grew quite fond of Rook over time. Rook might be the best CW toy. I never look at my Defensor and think Rook doesn’t belong there, like I did for Alpha Bravo and Offroad. Somehow it seemed acceptable for CW Defensor to be a bit different than G1 Defensor. My feelings were beginning to change.

Bruticus, the Combaticon combiner, was released late last year. True to form, Hasbro changed one of the limbs/members. Blast Off (same character this time, not a new one sharing the same color scheme) was an airplane, not a space shuttle. I was a bit surprised when I saw the pictures and the plane limb didn’t bother me in the slightest. A space shuttle is a strange choice among the other war vehicles on the team, so changing it to a fighter jet made sense. Also, airplanes and space shuttles are the same basic shape, so Bruticus still looked plenty G1 for me. This tolerance for a change from the original toy is unusual for me; I consider myself a G1 fan first and foremost. Would I purchase a space shuttle Blast Off if it was on American shelves? Probably, but only to see the new mold, not because I consider the airplane version Blast Off to be inferior in any way.

It just feels right to me

Last month, a deluxe-sized version of Protectobot Groove was released (said release was a mess, but that’s not the point of this story). I snagged one off Amazon and he arrived two business days later. I opened Groove, transformed him to a motorcycle, and waited for the sense of completion and G1 accuracy to wash over me. It never came, so I set him aside. Groove is merely “all right”. I don’t usually care for motorcycle Transformers much, but Groove is a good one. He’s a bit plain looking in color scheme, but so was the G1 version. I find myself preferring Rook to Groove in nearly every way. The only area in which Groove could be considered superior is strict adherence to G1. Given the plainness of the toy as well as the goofiness of a motorcycle being as large as a helicopter or ambulance, I don’t see myself using Groove as a Defensor limb over good ol’ Rook.

I’m shocked to say it, but I prefer a new character over a slavish recreation of a G1 toy. Granted, it was a pretty bad G1 toy in the first place, and I have no particular affinity for it since I never had one as a kid. I feel like my priorities as a collector are shifting a bit. I’m not sure exactly what I’ll do with Groove now. Maybe I’ll make that all-white Optimus Maximus I’ve been thinking about. Or maybe I’ll trade it for something else that gets me more excited. Perhaps it deserves to belong in the collection of someone who really, REALLY wants a G1 accurate Defensor. For once, I’m surprised to NOT be that guy. And I am totally fine with that.

 

Trimming the Fat: A Toy Story

84aAs most people reading this blog know, I am a huge Transformers fan. I’ve loved the Robots in Disguise since I first laid my eyes on them way back in 1984. Due to the Great Optimus Prime Incident (see my first book for details), I have taken my love for Transformers on into adulthood. One of the most enjoyable aspects of my fandom is reading Transformers toy reviews and viewing galleries. One of my favorite reviewers/photographers/writers is Maz over at the TF Source Blog. He recently wrote about the need for focus as a collector, that there are now simply too many toys to keep up with in a reasonable sized budget.

The article really spoke to me. My collecting urges have changed often through the years. I still have many Transformers toys from when I was a kid, and added many more from the Transformers series that were on the air when my kids were growing up (RiD and the Unicron Trilogy, mainly). There was a phase when I felt compelled to purchase every single Optimus Prime toy that came out. Sporadically, I filled in gaps in my G1 collection as best I could. When I could afford them, I grabbed the more expensive, adult oriented Masterpiece toys. There are always cool new Transformers on the local shelves, and I generally pick up those that interest me, even slightly. I ended up with a very scattered collection, with some great individual pieces, but no coherence or harmony in sum total.

84dI decided to look at my collection with a critical eye, and get rid of what I didn’t need in order to truly focus on what I wanted. First of all, my priority was Generation One toys. My collection would include the toys that I had as a kid, and also those I didn’t have but really wanted. As a fan from the very start, Transformers characters from the first two years of the toyline and cartoon are the most important to me. Optimus Prime, Prowl, and the rest are, in my view, the most desirable Transformers ever made. Due to budget constraints, I have reached a compromise, mixing cheaper reissue toys in with originals as needed. There’s no reason to pay a premium for a minty original when a reissues can be obtained at a more reasonable price.

One of my original goals as a collector was getting all the Transformers released in 1984, but I never quite finished it. About five years ago, I obtained a Huffer, and that completed my ’84 Autobots. For the Decepticons, I lacked only Frenzy and Rumble, the two humanoid cassettes. These two aren’t particularly expensive, but it seemed there was always something else taking up my toy money each month. And so, though I was very close, I never did pick them up. With my newfound emphasis on focus, I made it my #1 mission to obtain these two toys. The complete ’84 toyline would be the foundation upon which my new, streamlined collection would be built.

Photo May 15, 9 38 39 PMWhat next, then? For years, I’d considered completing the 1985 toyline to be out of my budget. Many more toys were released in 1985, for one thing. Additionally, several of them never got reissued, including the Dinobots and Shockwave. On the other hand, I had lucked into a few decent pieces, notably a lot containing two Dinobots and Jetfire as well as dozens of other lesser finds for $100. It turned out that of the forty toys on the list, I needed less than ten. Completing the ’85 toyline would be my secondary priority.

What about 1986, and beyond? At this point in my childhood, I had moved on from Transformers. I had moved on to G.I. Joe heavily in ’85 and ’86. After that, I was in junior high and more interested in computers and Dungeons & Dragons than toys. Still, due to the original movie, 1986 was a high point for the Transformers, and some great toys were released that year. I decided to obtain G1 originals of only the characters from the movie. I also added in Metroplex and Trypticon, since I already owned the former and always loved the Mechagodzilla look of the latter. These would be the only G1 original toys that I would actively seek out to add to my complete ’84 and ’85 collection.

For the remainder of the ’86 line, and all the toys that were released thereafter, I would be content with newer releases of the characters. Nearly all the major characters from G1 have shown up, often repeatedly, in the Transformers releases of the past decade. A good example would be the ’86 combiners, which have now been wonderfully remade in the Combiner Wars series. With the beautiful new versions of Defensor and Bruticus on my shelves, I feel no need for hunting down all the pieces for the G1 originals. Honestly, those original toys weren’t great in the first place. Generally speaking, I find the Diaclone and Microman based toys from the early years superior to the Transformers-specific releases of later years. It doesn’t make much sense for me to spend time and money tracking down old toys I have no affinity for, simply to check a box off on a spreadsheet. (Yes, I track my toys on a spreadsheet, and yes, I know that is nerdy.) I am totally fine with new toys that are improved versions of these classic characters.

Photo May 15, 9 38 58 PMOnly one decision was left to be made: what about the Masterpiece line? I already owned nearly all the ’84 Decepticons, lacking only Megatron, as MP Megs wasn’t really a Masterpiece in my estimation. Optimus and Prowl were my favorite two G1 toys, so I had them as MPs, as well as the beautiful blue Bluestreak. After mulling it over, I decided to limit myself to Masterpiece versions of only the ’84 toys. I might possibly expand this to the Season 1 cast, depending on what the official releases turn out to be. Shockwave looks really nice, for instance, and I already own Grimlock, but there’s no telling whether they’ll finish the Dinobots or Insecticons as Masterpieces. Only time will tell.

A brief note about third party toys: I don’t own any right now, and don’t see that changing anytime soon. The only exception might be addon kits and that sort of thing. I would love to pick up alternate feet for all my CW Combiners, for instance. For a budget oriented collector like myself, third party toys are too expensive relative to the official releases. I’d rather put my funds toward the legitimate toys instead.

Here’s the TL;DR of what I decided to focus on from this point forward, in handy bullet point form.

  • G1: All ’84, All ’85, Movie only ’86
  • “Classics”: pretty much anything I like
  • Masterpiece: All ’84

thumb (1)Once my focus had been decided, I took a long, hard look at my collection for toys that didn’t fit. It didn’t take long to find some candidates for removal. Several years ago, a coworker gave me a box of G1 Transformers, including several Headmasters. These were in really nice shape, good toys, but I have little appreciation for them. I didn’t consider their worth, but when I looked them up on sold Ebay listings, I was amazed. Taking some pictures, I offered these toys on a trading group on Facebook. Within a few days, I had arranged a large trade that would fill in many holes in my collection. Frenzy, Rumble, Shockwave, Ramjet, and Micro-X (a good enough Reflector for me) arrived in a huge box of die cast and plastic goodness. In one fell swoop, my ’84 and ’85 G1 Decepticon collections were complete. I literally ran around the house with Shockwave in gun form, zapping everything with his gloriously loud sound effects. It was one of the greatest feelings I’ve had as a collector since I finally got a G1 Optimus Prime toy as an adult (a story I wrote about in my first book).

Did I miss seeing those Headmasters on my shelf? Not really. It’s more than enough to have the pride of having owned them at one point in my life. t turns out this was an excellent decision. All but one of the toys I traded away will be released in the Titans Return toyline later this year. This will allow me to pick versions of these characters up with better engineering and a much more reasonable price tag. I will be more than content with the modern versions of Mindwipe, Chromedome, and the rest sitting on my display shelves.

My new focus on exactly what I’d like my collection to be like has renewed my vigor for Transformers. I feel like my collection is in a very good state, and with a few more strategic additions in the next year or two, will be “complete”, or at least, as complete as it will ever be. I’m sure there will be new toys that come along that I will want to pick up, but the bulk of my collection will remain focused on exactly what really matters to me: the toys that bring back the strongest, fondest memories of playtimes in my past.