As I tend to do a review or brief blog on the figures I acquire as I go along it’s never occurred to me to contemplate doing a yearly review or overview. However after considering it, mainly due to my eye being caught by ST-01 Alpha Pack sitting there on the shelf almost daring me to take another few pictures of him, I decided what the hell. So in my usual fashion of not exactly doing things quite to plan I present to you my “half year in collecting”, a kind of what’s happened up to July kind of thing.
I’ll make one or two new comments here and there but for the most part it will be quotes or snippets from the reviews previously published on the Vaults of Iacon website and Facebook Page. There maybe some new photo’s too, accepting I drag my unmotivated arse off the chair and head over to the tripod where the camera and display are, it’s all of around 12 foot away from where I type (I know, I feel you sharing my pain).
January, you start the year off fine;
First dip into the wallet of 2016 was for these 6 sweet little guys, sure I have them all already MOSC but it’s kinda hard to play about with them while they are entombed under plastic mounted on card. I am of course talking about the 1984 Autobot Mini-Bots, these particular ones are all from 1985 hence the heat symbol stickers. Present are; Bumblebee, Gears, Windcharger, Brawn, Cliffjumper and Huffer. Of these six I only originally had three as a kid, Bumblebee (of course), Windcharger and Huffer, the latter being replaced after suffering his demise underfoot.
Sunsurge was next up, okay so he was not a purchase but a gift from a good friend, his inclusion here is simply down to the fact he’s a dam fine figure. I said in my review;
“Badcube have given us a really great figure, a solid car mode with a complex transformation to a fragile feeling robot mode and the inclusion of some great accessories. It may sound a mildly enthusiastic wrap up but I assure you it’s not meant to. Sunsurge has left me open to trying other 3rd Party figures, I have my eye on MMC Sphinx next and Make Toys Hellfire & Wrestle….”
It turned out that I was right on one of those but my choices for the latter ended up laying elsewhwere.
Takara finally got round to giving us another Thundercracker, this time in the MP-11 mold that was previously only available through Hasbro. The Hasbro one was okay, it filled the gap but we all know it’s Takara where it’s at for the MP line.
“….it’s difficult especially when its another issue of a mold we’ve seen so many times. Were I not a completist I believe I would have passed on this figure, it’s not that it’s a bad figure, despite the minor flaws, more just that it feels rushed. Bereft of any meaningful accessories, at the very least Skywarp came with yet another Megatron in gun mode, selling this under the Takara Tomy Mall Exclusive really is more like Takara sticking their hand in your pocket and squeezing your balls. They know collectors very well, too well in some cases and exploit this.”
Our first “Official” Autobot car for the year came in the form of a repaint, No ! I hear you cry, surely not Takara. Never to miss a trick, our first offering was Clamp Down, a sort of a repaint of a repaint if you will.
“Yes it’s another repaint and being such it can be a bone of contention for some collectors but not for me. However with a limited release of just 2000 pieces I’d say Clamp Down is very much for the completist, nothing new or amazing to turn the head of the pedestrian collector.”
Just to add to the above comment I made originally, Clamp Down would become the second in the “Diaclone” repaints, homage’s to the original pre TF toy line, a decision welcomed from Takara by many fans and collectors alike.
A girl ? But robots are machines, they don’t have a gender ! This is a now accepted fact which still on some level baffles me, so much so that even way back in 1986 when I first saw The Transformers The Movie I was puzzled by Arcee’s existence. Being here in the UK the second season, to my knowledge was not aired on terrestrial television and as such Arcee was my first exposure to lady bots. I was weaned on the UK Marvel Comics, they had this to say (via data from TFWiki) “No female Transformers are ever seen or referred to in the US stories. In “Recipe for Disaster!”, Cloudburst is pressured into a relationship with the beautiful First One of Femax, but he explains that Transformers, as a species, have no gender. The UK stories corroborate this, and, in “Prime’s Rib!” Arcee is intentionally created by the Autobots to be the sole female Transformer in an attempt to placate human feminists.” but I digress……and hope no one mentions Aunty.
Road Rage was another repaint and retool, based on Tracks it was the third Diaclone homage and the first female Masterpiece figure. I had this to say at the time;
“In closing, much the same as my review for MP-25 Tracks, great car mode with a fiddly transformation to a delicate robot mode. Some minor molding issues causing panel gaps coupled with loose joints, hopefully localised to the example I have here in hand. Will Takara go for a third dip with this mold into the Diaclone past and offer us a black repaint, I for one certainly hope so.”
If only my foresight extended to knowing the coming weeks Lottery numbers !
Last (but by no means least) to arrive in January was yet another repaint. Okay, a month in and we’ve had 4 repaints already, you could argue the definition of repaint when discussing Thundercracker but you’d be on shaky ground. So anyway, Red Bumblebee was a reference to yet again Diaclone but also maybe a tip of the hat to having red Bumblebee’s show up on Hasbro Transformers cards back in 1984 and 1985.
“….I really like this figure, more than the release of MP-21 and MP-21G. Yes, again they are all the same figure but the different paint jobs really do make a difference. Another reason for me liking this is nostalgia, recalling as a child seeing a Red Bumblebee on the shelves and wondering just how and why…..the magic of memories and childhood. If you already have MP-21 & MP-21G then should you get this, I’d say a definite yes, personally I’m a bit of a completist when it comes to certain things but even if I was not I think I would still have to have him. The colour difference and the lower price point makes it very hard to refuse this little fella.”
February, You’re my little Valentine;
The second month into the year gave me (and my wallet) a welcome break or easing at the very least.
What February lacked in quantity it more than made up for in quality, Masterpiece Ironhide good people of the Transformers collecting community.
“As a rule, most of my collection is displayed in their boxes, very few get to see the light of day and if they do it’s for brief periods at a time. Ironhide maybe the exception to that rule, he will for the near future be staying on my desk and what better company could I be in, one old timer to another given a new lease of life. Concluding, Takara have upped their own bar here, Ironhide is an immense figure. I cannot sing it’s praises high enough, if you don’t agree that’s fine and I’m sure you’ll find a representation that suits your needs better. For me he ticks all my Masterpiece boxes (no pun intended), detailed vehicle mode with an almost nailed on cartoon accurate robot mode. If you can pick him up, you won’t be disappointed, trust me.”
March, I’m gonna march you down the aisle;
March was another easy month with just two items on the shopping list. The first was Hot Rod 2.0, or as he’s designated upon the box “MP-28 Hot Rodimus”. This was a release many fans had been waiting for since the luke warm response to MP-09 some years prior. I never had issue with MP-09 but welcomed the news of this release as it fed into that “before and after” mental image I had for the character, robot mode scaling issue thing.
“Conclusions, well I’m convinced and converted. MP-28 is another fantastic figure from Takara for the Transformers Masterpiece line, also timed well for the 30th Anniversary of the animated movie. A tidy and well proportioned robot mode with a sleek and slick looking car mode straight from the animated movie, deserving of a place on your shelf or in your display right next to (if you have him) MP-09 Rodimus Prime.
Now back to that question; is Hot Rod really that bad ? Nah, I’m a fan of Hot Rod.”
Due to a technical error (brain fart and hesitation), I missed out on the initial release of Sphinx PS-01, so not allowing for another f*ck up I made sure that Sphinx PS-01A was on the list and that shelf space had been reserved here down in the Vault. Still new at the 3rd Party game I was not as hesitant as I was with Sunsurge, that was mainly down to however being stung by Toyworld with their Dinobots, not bad per se but they didn’t live up to my initial expectations. I digress, I tend to do that…….back on topic.
MMC had me hook, line and sinker with this figure and it’s quality would ensure me returning to them for future purchases.
“After a not overly complicated transformation sequence Sphinx is in his robot mode. The simple transformation is deceiving as it makes use of all parts with no unsightly kibble left over to spoil the lines. This figure is a good likeness and scale and fits right in with other official product, it is more than a match with regards quality, proportions and articulation. The die-cast gives the figure some heft and a feel of stability and sturdiness, with most of it being in the feet area this helps with balance when posing the figure.”
April, You’re the Easter bunny when you smile;
April was expensive, not through quantity but down to their hand finding it’s way into the collectors pocket again and squeezing their balls with another “exclusive”. I am of course talking about MP-11NR Ramjet, don’t misunderstand me about this though, I’m stocked that we have finally headed out on the road that leads us to the Coneheads. It’s been a long time coming but with the bare bones of the figure it tends to leaves a nasty taste in the mouth, considering the QC issues that bighted the early releases.
“My final thoughts on this release are positive, sure initially when I first opened him up I was subdued. This could, as I said in the opening of this review, be just me feeling indifferent about it but after playing about with him for a couple of hours I’m well and truly sold. It’s not perfect, it feels rushed (light on the accessories) in both some aspects of the design and the plastic, it feels “Hasbro” – you may know what I mean by this (see Hasbro Sunstorm). Takara know their customer base well, they give plentifully with the likes of Ironhide in the right hand then slap you with these exclusives firmly with the left, we are suckers and they know it but we forgive them. We now await Thrust and Dirge with much eagerness, please don’t make us wait too long Takara, we could do with some more Decepticons.”
Shockwave ! Well, wasn’t expecting that I’ll be honest. I figured Takara would give us Megatron 2.0 before that but hey, who am I to argue with their logic after all the Decepticons need a leader. Shockwave was the third new mold this year (accepting you class the aforementioned Ramjet as a major retool). I was all Vikki Vale over this “…and purple, oh I love purple”.
“I’m immediately struck at how much like MP Shockwave is to his G1 namesake, even down to being roughly the same size. I suppose Shockwave benefits from being one of those Transformers where their animation model and toy model are not that dissimilar, which must have been an immense help to the designers when considering him for the masterpiece line, no headaches of having to find the compromise between the two.”
“….for me is another great figure in the Masterpiece line, it has the quality, feel and scale to hold it’s own with others in the line. It’s drawn criticism but this has been mainly from owners of 3rd Party (Shockwave) product, I do not own a 3rd Party Shockwave so I am unable to draw any comparisons.”
Takara last hit for the month was a repaint / retool, 100% expected and in no way unwelcome here was the Autobot’s chief medic Ratchet. Ironhide looked good, Ratchet looked better, strange I know but that’s how I saw it when doing the review. The colour scheme just suited the figure better for some inexplicable reason.
“Takara continue to maintain their high standards here, Ratchet is a great figure and is much more than just a repaint / retool. Takara have been getting quite a lot of criticism recently for their Masterpiece output, some is justified don’t get me wrong but I feel most is unwarranted. For me MP-30 is another figure that defines the Masterpiece line, detailed vehicle mode with an almost nailed on cartoon accurate robot mode.”
May, Maybe if I ask your Mom and Dad;
Another month going easy on the pocket coupled with a brief break from official product, I double dipped and bagged myself a repaint of Badcube Sunsurge. Marketed as Sentinel Blaze this was a 3rd Party tip of the hat to the Diaclone line and why not, in the depths of my inner psych I’m hoping they go for the treble and offer the Police car variant from the said Diaclone days.
“Badcube have delivered another great figure, Sentinel Blaze isn’t just a repaint it’s a reminder, a marker to show where we are and where we came from. It’s one of those figures that we don’t really need but one that we want. I say this from the point of view of a Transformers collector and a Diaclone enthusiast, for as much as an appeal the figures may be, for me their history is just as interesting. Sure it shares all the niggling points that were present in Sunsurge but it also basks in all of it’s glory too. It’s a little light and the plastic can at times feel flimsy, some die-cast would have really made this figure feel so much more substantial. Not wishing to negatively compare but when placed at the side of MMC Sphinx with all his die-cast the difference is obvious.”
June, They’d let me take you to the junior prom
As the summer started so it cemented my interest in 3rd Party product, thankfully though I still have the wherewithal to not indulge in just any old product, I’m still quite particular.
This said I cast my eye towards a newcomer to the table, Spark Toys and their version of War Within Optimus Prime. Being a long time fan of the Dreamwave comics I’d hoped that one day someone would see the potential to market MP style and scale representations of these characters. Loved it as soon as I got it in hand.
“I’m not going to lie, I love this figure, I knew when I first saw it and when he arrived there was a big smile on my face as I took it out of the box. I mentioned Sunsurge earlier, he’s another 3rd Party favourite of mine but the only other to make me smile like this was Sphinx. Alpha Pack is a big heft of solid figure, no die-cast (debateable if needed or not) but has the weight and feel of a figure laden with it. Many points of articulation, lots of detail and a lush colour scheme make this a must have figure for you’re collection, especially if like me you’re a fan of the Dreamwave series War Within. It’s not flawless or perfect, but name me a figure that is. Some minor issues as I’ve mentioned and one or two paint overruns here and there do not detract anything from this toy at all. What makes me even more giddy going forward is the fact we have not just Megatron coming but my all time favourite character Grimlock. If Spark Toys do as good a job with them as what they have here then their status in the ring with the other 3rd Party boys is well earned and secure.”
The only official Masterpiece release this month was, yeah you guessed it, another repaint / retool !
Third times a charm though for this mold as MP-25L Loud Pedal was far better than both MP-25 Tracks and MP-26 Road Rage. It’s essentially a repaint of Tracks with a retooled head to match (yet again) a prior release from the Diaclone line. The gloss black and teal work on this figure (much like they do on Nemesis Convoy et al), giving it a mean look in both vehicle and robot mode.
“As great as he looks in car mode I’m not the biggest fan of this mold, in robot mode that is. I find it too fiddly and the vast chasm on the back section bothers me, along with it sitting too high. It’s got great articulation but can be plagued by loose friction joints on the shoulders so it can limit some poses, especially when holding a weapon. Fortunately my Loud Pedal here is all kinds of stiff, which in itself can be just as much as an issue, causing the chest section to pop out when moving the arms (that one part moving moves others thing I mentioned). Car mode is as always impeccable, Takara seem to have sorted out the panel gap issues I had with my Road Rage for this release. I had feared that another issue of the mold would increase this issue but I’m happy to say it has not. The paint application is amazing, no marks or blemishes….well, I’ve a couple of real tiny scuffs on mine but I cannot say for certain if they were there fresh from the box or after playing about with him for a while, I’ll keep an eye on that one for sure. Gloss black and translucent purple have won the day for me, overall I’m happy with my purchase and with the figure in general….”
Finally in June the thing I learnt was if you have patience enough to wait and a keen eye to watch then you’ll happen upon the things you seek. This was never more true than my last purchase for June, MMC PS-01 Sphinx. The original release of Sphinx sported a toy accurate colour scheme as opposed to the animation style that adorned PS-01A. I’d kicked myself for missing out so was all the more chuffed when I finally landed him. I was soon to learn….it would not be my last visit to this mold.
“Like I said no review, there are more than enough out there for this figure including my own for PS-01A. All I will say is they are both the same, aside form the differing shade of blue. PS-01 is toy accurate, PS-01A is animation accurate, but really neither shade is accurate, more the colours are inspired by I would say. So why post if not a review or blog ? Well I’ll tell you, because I love this figure so much I just felt like having a little fun with “him”, after all is that not the whole point of this crazy addiction we call collecting !”
July, Like a firecracker I’m all aglow;
So we’ve reached the halfway point of the year, well just over the halfway mark for the pedantic out there.
The halfway point for my year in collecting to be more precise, it’s been a wild ride but like all things I have been saving the best for last.
That Sphinx mold turned up again from MMC but this time he was seeing red and his name was Liger !
This thing is pure Diaclone and with that new face sculpt, pure evil…..
“I do however have some minor quibbles with it but not so much they detract from the figure as a whole. For example; the forearm panels, I would like to have seen them tab in correctly as opposed to just sitting there relying on friction to maintain them in place, which it does not as when you move the hands the panel slides out. I think I’d also like to have seen the grey plastic be a shade or two darker to separate it even more from Sphinx, I get why it’s the same, it’s a manufacturing thing. These points (few they are) are overshadowed by that head sculpt, it’s gloriously evil looking, the menace exuded from it is palpable with those soulless yellow eyes. I continue to be impressed, not just with this figure but also Mastermind Creations Perfection Series as a whole, the overall quality and design of their output is amazing. If you missed out on the two previous releases of Sphinx and are in the market for an MP Mirage then I wholeheartedly recommend picking one up, it’s fully deserving of a place on your shelf next to your other MP figures, trust me you’ll not be disappointed.”
“It’s been almost 3 weeks since I received this figure, a long time to get round to doing a review. Two reasons, I’ve been busy of late but more than that I’ve just not been able to put him down long enough to put pen to paper.”
That’s how I opened up the review for the final figure on this recap of 2016 so far, MMC PS-03 Backdraft. This thing is why I collect, it embodies all those memories from childhood of playing with my Transformers. We’ve got the cartoon, the comic, the films but for me it’s always been about the toys, the plastic and die-cast. I never had Inferno as a kid but I sure did want him, he’s a Firetruck and what kid in the 80’s didn’t love a Firetruck.
“As well as quality there is detail, lots of detail on this truck. Chromed accents here and there with the engine detail, cab horns, front and rear bumpers, front grill, ladder hose, pivot hose and whilst not chromed I’ll make mention of the die-cast retractable stabiliser legs. Other points of interest are the hoses on the truck side, silver painted grab handles, ‘bot mode wings doubling up as exhaust pipes, chequer plating and rubber tyres. Play worthy parts in this mode include opening doors, moveable door mirrors, rotating and extending ladder (with working piston), the retractable stabilising legs and swivel rear mount hose. Going back to the doors, when opened they reveal a fully detailed interior complete with seats and steering wheel, all this and the scale to allow the Spike figure from MP-10 to fit and sit in the cab more than comfortably.”
So what’s to come, August to December; there is lots of stuff but for me my list is as follows.
Takara: Delta Magnus, Alert (Anime Scheme), Thrust, Inferno and Dirge. I’m passing on the Beast Wars MP’s, they look fine but not my bag but I will say it will play hell with my numbering OCD for the shelf space.
3rd Party: Have to say here on it’s all MMC Ocular Max Perfection Series. Have you seen the roster; Sphinx Stealth, Terraegis (Trailbreaker), Artifex (Hoist), Girder (Grapple) and Kojin & Nightbeam (Artfire & Nightstick).
MMC are doing a sterling job to date, only been at this line for a year and for my money every bit as good as Takara, at times maybe better.
Well, that’s it for now until the end of December, it’s been 7 months of Transformers heaven. Sure it’s not been without issue or incident but generally on the whole its been a good year for collecting. I’ve got to say though for me the best figure of the year so far is MMC’s Backdraft. You may disagree and that’s fine, I’d love to read your favourites of the year, maybe comment below your musings.
Thanks to Andy and the chaps at Kapow Toys Ltd, most of the figures covered in this article are available online via their website.
*Update* We are now on Instagram, all the pictures and minimal text for you image hungry people.
Or keep us locked into your browser favourites at Vaults of Iacon
*Special thanks to Neil Sedaka for the lyrics to Calendar Girl, a song which was humming in my mind throughout typing this review. And also my Mum for introducing me to the great music of the 50’s and 60’s, music which made such a big impact on me in childhood. Listening to these tunes whilst playing with my Transformers on the staircase, happy days.