Friday, August 31, 2012

Mini Spies

I stopped by another used/collectible toy store on the way home today, a place called Ka-Pow on Belmont. Beyond thrift stores, few storefronts in the country specialize in just selling vintage (USED!) action figures. So there's TWO in my biking range, hooray hooray for me.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


Your mom crossed off "Skeez" on the back, in an effort to keep track
of purchased Trans-Mobots, which meant that she would be looking
for the other Trans-Mobots, which means you'd be expecting more
Go-Bot knockoffs for Christmas or a good report card. And that's when
you purposely decided to flunk that math test.
I went to Quake Collectibles in Chicago today and Dave (the owner) showed me some of the figures he had gotten recently. A lot of boxed Transformers, some with the styrfoam, others loose in the box, and many minibots with their backing card.

That's a pretty good haul. I dig the box art but the cost is prohibitive, especially for something that is just going to sit on a shelf and I have another that ALSO sits on the shelf until I choose to pull them out for filming (Gears) purposes. If I can find the tech specs, that would be enough. I wouldn't mind the box art for some figures, but it's just way too much.

Anyway, The Transformer's mortal enemy was the Go-Bots. Yup, I'm pretty sure that's who they were fighting against. The Go-Bots were released in America first. I remember my 8 year old self arguing with a friend over which was better, and they reminded me that the Go-Bots were more original since they were first. I had a few. I'm not sure where they ended up in the battle between good & evil, Autobot & Decepticon, but I bet their popularity with their fellow TRANSFORMING robots went down quickly and I'm sure there were adventures where Autobots & Decepticons put their differences aside and kicked some Go-Bot ass, for no reason.

I ended up including the Go-Bots with the GI Joe vehicles I traded to Quake for some G1 Transformers I never had, which was part of my initial all-in Transformer plan without spending actual money. I'm not sure which ones I had, but I'm looking at Transformerland's site for a list of names and I recognize the following as ones I probably owned: Buggy Man, Geeper Creeper, Rest-Q, Road Ranger, Spay-C, Spoiler, and maybe Turbo (unless I'm confusing him with Spoiler). Spay-C's head revealed by rotating the cone around always creeped me out. I have no idea why. However, I think there's a good reason that I couldn't remember these names off the top of my head beyond not thinking about this toyline for decades. These names SUCK. I mean, jeez louise, Spay-C? REST-Q? Really? BUGGY MAN?!?!

Anyway, like Transformers, Go-Bots were just a toyline lifted (well, licensed) from another company in another country. And like Transformers, they too would have imitators and knock offs. So, today at Quake, looking at the coffee can holding these newly acquired Go-Bot figures, I noticed that some were of a different color than what I remembered; and upon seeing the card, I realized that duh, a few of these were knock offs.

TRANS-MOBOTS! I did you all a disservice in taking a pic of only 4/5ths of the back card with my phone, as what I cut off stated that these toys were distributed by Zayre. The defunct department store? Was this their brand of knockoffs? I wonder how that works; does someone call them up, "Hey, I got thousands of off-color and slightly funny smelling plastic versions of that Go-Bot line by Tonka! They can be exclusive to YOU, Zayre, if you just print on the back of the blister pack that you're distributing them!"

And then they agreed? And they came up with TRANS-MOBOTS? And I'm guessing one of them was your grandfather, about to retire from the retail marketing biz, and that was the best name he could think of, because "Mobots" is the term that Red Skelton might have used for robots? I don't know, I'm just speculating, and unfairly so. And none of you know who Red Skelton is.

But the best is that Go-Bot "Slicks" is named "Lotus Eater." Go-Bot names never seemed that...clever. Transformers fired the great Dennis O'Neil because the best he could do was name Optimus Prime. Can someone find out who is responsible on the Go-Bot end? I mean, the motorcycle bad guy is "Cy-Kill," but the Lockheed Martin SR-71 from this same toyline is "Scoop." What, you couldn't name it "Blackbird?" "Darkhawk" wasn't taken by Marvel Comics yet. Was the SR-71's function 'Go-Bot reporter?'

Knock-off "Gas Can" here seems more clever than "Geeper Creeper." But I'm amused greatly by "Lotus Eater." Is there a literary reference here that couldn't be fully explored because Zayre wasn't able to foot the bill for the Trans-Mobot cartoon? Unlike Transformers, Go-Bots did not have bios mentioning their respective robot's personality. Instead, they had pictures of other robot from line, and Trans-Mobots were no different. (And yes, someone's mom crossed off the acquired figure for future shopping purposes.) So what makes this race car "Lotus Eater?" What match am I supposed to make between formula-1 racing and ancient mariners hoping to fall into a drugged out state to avoid their harsh reality? Your grandfather needs to call Denny O'Neil and get this ball rolling, because I might actually watch this show.

Discuss the possible pilot. See you next time!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Based on real, real cars. You get the idea.

Here's a link re: more cars, beyond their make/model, that inspired the designs on many of the G1 figures, courtesy of my friend SuperSquad on the TF2005 boards, who btw moderates all the custom submissions for Transformers fans who like to improve/ruin their toys. Thanks Allen! Click around there for more interesting stuff.

The Holy Grail(s) - and a random recent acquisition.

I'll start with the lightweight stuff: I picked up Classics Smokescreen this weekend.

I avoided him the first time around because...because why? Like the G1 Prowl, Bluestreak, and Smokescreen, Classics Prowl, Silverstreak, and Smokescreen share the same mold. When I was a kid, I wanted something different. Or maybe my parents decided against getting me three of the same figure, which is why I had Thundercracker but never Starscream or Skywarp. So I never got the G1 versions of this common Autobot. This might be the only regular figure mold that was used for three characters back then (Minicars Bumblebee, Cliffjumper, and Hubcap [and Bumper] all shared similar molds...but their differences are far more drastic than those between Prowl, Bluestreak, and Smokescreen).

I wanted to really get into slot car racing.
The track I had, which was not of the
Tyco brand, sparked and actually shot
out a flame. My dad was a fireman, so I
had to get rid of the track. I kept this guy.
I always dug Smokescreen's paint job. I even still have a slot car with a somewhat similar color scheme. His was one of the first Alternators I got (which is a little more subdued) and my wife found me this tiny Legends size Smokescreen from some TF movie related two pack I can't recall (I think a tiny movie Starscream came with it). All of these have a better look than Classics Smokescreen. By this time I was committed to getting all the Classics/Universe figures related to G1 as they came out. I had a friend track down Universe Sideswipe, which I avoided initially because the idea was to just get the Classics figures to fill out the G1 figures I never had, thus not jumping deep into an unending abyss of needless Transformers collecting.

I want to add that I have NO IDEA how I got G1 Smokescreen. (His hood and hatchback leg pieces are broken off and missing). No idea. Did I trade some GI Joes for him? That might be it. No idea. But I like him.

Jeez Louise I'm boring, but you're sticking out like a forget it.
Anyway, I thought Classics Smokescreen didn't look that good, and I still think that. However, I'm getting more requests for Gears episodes, mainly from the Gears voice actors, so I figure I better round out the collection with more posable figures. I found this at Quake. I would best describe this paint job as "garish" unless I'm feeling nice and will only use the term "hard to look at." The red, white, and blue seem out of proportion from each other at every level. It's tough to describe, but look at the original: a thin white line separates the red and blue. Very casual, classy. Here, somehow, my eyes burn. Maybe it's the Ariel Black "38" font (you can correct me) swimming in its boxed off section from the door. That just looks plain terrible, and if ReproLabels still has their Smokescreen mod I might have to make my first purchase with them so I don't go blind.

Smokescreen's original paintjob is based on a real car. (As is his Alternator.)

That's the most recent purchase. Some of the previous ones barely covered on the old Livejournal (or not covered at all) are pretty special, and two were gifts from the Mrs.


So, my interest in G1 figures stops at Season 2, or really up through 1985, before the Aerialbots and Protectobots are introduced. Shockwave was introduced right away in the cartoon, but how soon before his toy was available? Well, I never got him, and figured I wouldn't due to high prices and the scarcity of figures in decent, and even in working, shape. He's battery powered, makes noises, lights up, and has a frail rubber hose that breaks off just by you looking at it and a battery cover that was last seen on Unsolved Mysteries. I haven't even seen it since I started this hobby! Well, I found one on eBay and they claimed it had working parts. It was a buy it now. It was pretty cheap. I bought it NOW. A few days later and it came as described: perfect working order, broken battery case that still stays on, hose that is a little brittle but still there, and legs that don't always hold up his giant hefty battery powered body.

Who is the little guy to his left? That's BUMPER. Aka BUMBLEJUMPER. He's a little yellow figure that was released in parts of South America under a different name than Transformers (and he was painted white). North Americans however would get this little guy in Cliffjumper packages. But he kinda looked like Bumblebee. He's easily confused with Bumbleebee (not helping is that also packaged in their respective blister packs were red Bumblebees and yellow Cliffjumpers) and he might also get confused with the orange face of Hubcap, But, in the end he's just a figure that wasn't part of any Transformers story, nor was his figure ever promoted by Hasbro, not even packaged later on with an official name in subsequent waves of the toyline. There are theories, such as the lowly Hasbro employees, upon getting the final list of toys to release in and seeing that the BUMPER (named by the fans) figure was not pictured with the rest of them and had no bio or artwork, just threw him into Cliffjumper cards and that was that. I guess that's plausible but I wasn't there and Hasbro doesn't send me free samples or ask to hang out with me on weekends. I'll move on: the wife and I were at C2E2 walking the floor, and we found a toy dealer and as I started complaining re: no one having anything special in the vintage TF department, I saw a loose Bumblejumper and my jaw dropped. How much? A lot. Enough for when people ask me about it and I tell them, they start quizzing me like I'm an insane person to spend that much. I should be ashamed, I guess. The wife got it for me and I will never ask for anything again.

The year before for our anniversary she bought me Reflector. All three robots, with the lens and the flash, but no projectiles or guns.
Literally 50% larger in this photo.
There's a few 3rd party figures that are more posable but price wise they are comparable if not more expensive, and I was happy to find one that had all three robots and with two of the hardest parts to find along with it. The whole thing is hard to find: he was available via mail order only in 1986 or 87 (well after the movie), and by then I think the toyline was in decline, not as popular, and many probably didn't mail away for him. Had I still been getting the figures, I totally would have (the last ones i got were Wheelie and Pipes, minicars from the movie era). Reflector was basically the anonymous generic henchrobot/footsoldier of the Decepticon army, probably because he didn't have a figure. He was just these three similar looking robots that formed a camera and had no stories (or even explored/expressed personality) of their own. The viewing lens works. Maybe someone clever will install some working digital camera hardware to make this the coolest, blurriest picture taking camera ever.

The toyline went on for a few more years. I'm sure there are figures rarer and more valuable (mainly the larger ones that started off with a higher price point). These are pretty cool but they're not going to replace my favorites (some of which are the most common). What is/are your Holy Grail(s) in the Transformers world?