Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Grandmother, memories, Transformers & more

For those who don't know me (or aren't my Facebook friend), I lost my grandmother last week. 97 years old! I'm very grateful she had come to terms with her health and what lied ahead for her, and that I know she isn't suffering. She's finally been reunited with her son, my dad, who we lost to cancer in 1997.

Memories of my grandmother have kept a smile on my face over these last few days since she passed. My grandparents lived on the lake in Lake Wylie, SC. For many many years I had my birthday party at her house. Sitting on the picnic table on their side deck, my friends and I would eat hamburgers and hot dogs that my dad or grandfather would cool on the grill. We'd dig into birthday cake and then open presents. Apparently I had a very southern accent as a child. It was captured on video one birthday as I was really excited about my Dukes of Hazard themed birthday cake. To this day my wife still likes to imitate my accent.


I can still remember many of the birthday gifts I received from my friends. One of the earlier gifts I remember getting was the old styrofoam GI Joe Falcon glider. Because it had to be assembled, I didn't play with it at my grandmother's house. However once home and put together it didn't take long for it to become stuck on the roof of our home.


Another birthday gift that ended up on the room was a Nerf Boomerang. This was the exact same model and color I had too. I pretty sure that aforementioned home video again captured my southern drawl as I excitedly told my mom and dad what was inside the wrapping paper.

It seems back then that a lot of parents had the same idea of attaching an unwrapped Hot Wheels car or even a new GI Joe figure to the wrapped present, I remember getting many new toys such as these, but nothing specific. May have been one of those Burning' Key Cars too.

My grandmother never wanted to buy me something for my birthday, instead she would take me out for lunch and we'd go to the store so I could pick out my own gift. Being in Lake Wylie, we could be in Belmont, NC or Gastonia, NC with little ease. That's where she went to shop and what not back then anyways. I remember many lunches at the nearby Pizza Hut or at the Wendy's. Many of my gifts I chose came from a store called Rose's. Long before we had Target or even Walmart, there was Rose's. I would always make a bee line to the back of the store where the toy department was.

Trying to remember years can be tough, but I can remember specifically buying certain G1 Transformers so I'd place this particular time period around the mid 80's. I didn't have a camera, but I can still picture those toy aisles full of times in my mind as if it were yesterday.


Some of the Transformers I got to pick out included many of the Constructicons. She may have let me pick out the 5 that I didn't have as I had previously bought Bonecrusher at Universal Studios Hollywood of all places on a family vacation.

     

Now whether I got the die-cast or plastic version of the G1 Predacon, Razorclaw, I have no idea, but he was one of the few Predacons I had as a kid...all thanks to my grandmother. It seem to recall also looking at the Terrorcons, trying to make up my mind what to buy. I remember thinking that Razorclaw was much bigger than two Terrorcons my grandmother offered.

     


One of the last Transformers I remember picking out for my birthday before I kind of lost interest all together was the Throttlebot, Wideload. I remember the little rubber decoy toys being packaged with the Throttlebots and I remember losing a few of these said decoys in the lake!

Of course I have many more memories of my grandmother that aren't centered around toys, however Transformers just seem to be in a lot of my early memories! Once I was finally "done" with Transformer toys, the ones that escaped being sold at a yard sale ended up in a big box underneath my grandmother' bed. I remember having the big drawn out battles between the Constructicons and Grimlock and Swoop (never had the other Dinobots) on the floor of her living room. My grandfather had a few grandsons of his own that were about my age too. Turns out when they would come for a visit they would play with my Transformers. Imagine my distraught when I went back to get my old childhood toys from my grandmother's house, only to realize many of them were missing! I never found out what happened to them, but my money is on my grandfather's grandsons taking them.



Like a lot of us kids that grew up in the 80's, eventually my interest in action figures and transforming robots was taken over by the mighty Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). After doing a lot of convincing to my dad, I was able to take my NES with me to my grandmothers while my parents went on a kid free weekend away. It was during one of these weekends that I discovered the trick in the game Blaster Master, using the NES Adventage joytick's turbo allowing you to easily dispatch the bosses using your grenades.

I know some of these memories may seem a little superficial in the grand scheme of things, but these are just some of my memories that kept popping into my head over the last week. I'm going to miss her of course, but it's memories like this that keeps her "alive".

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Breaking News: TFCon comes to Charlotte, NC


A year or so ago I had the pleasure in helping a fan organized Transformers themed convention become a reality in my hometown of Charlotte, NC -- Charticon. While the show was a success, it was financially exhausting to our main backer and organizer, Arkvander. While we hoped to have another show, it was starting to look like that wasn't going to happen.

I knew a few of the guys I was involved with did't want to take no for an answer. I knew they had the drive to keep on pressing and to try and find a way to make another show reality. Then yesterday afternoon in our group's private Facebook chat, a few of them said they had a big announcement coming later in the day.

In a partnership with TFCon, the newly developed USA version of the highly successful Transformers fan convention would be coming to Charlotte, NC in October of 2015! Yes, even this guy was surprised at the announcement!

It's still very early obviously so I don't have many details. While I'd like to be involved in this show, I haven't been approached. I'll be throwing my name out there to help in any way possible of course. With Charticon I helped organize the charity auction benefiting A Child's Place and I hosted one of the many fan panels.

Whatever my involvement may be (or may not be), I'm still on sitting on cloud 9 today over the announcement. For many reasons I've decided my days attending Botcon were done, but to have a show with the record of TFCon land in my backyard is great news. Especially the timing as I've had a lot of not so great news lately on the personal side of things.

From what Google tells me I have readers of this blog all over the map. If you are in the South East however then I urge you  to go ahead and start making your arrangements to be in Charlotte (well technically Concord, NC) this fall as I'm sure this show will be amazing.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Machine Robo DX: Volkswagon 1303S Beetle

Growing up in the 80's I was familiar with the Tonka's Gobots line. While I had a few of the toys as a kid, I never owned many of the larger, Deluxe sized Gobots. One of the early releases was a yellow Volkwagon Beetle, Bugbite. I always found this odd since Transformers had their own yellow Volkswagon Beetle too, Bumblebee. I'm not sure which one came first as both toys have a history that traces back to Japan.

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Recently I had the opportunity to purchase a very reasonably priced boxed specimen of the Super GoBot that would go on to be known as Bugbite. I couldn't pass it up and I'm glad I didn't. I'm told that this is the German release of the Machine Robo release. Bandai had partners all over Asia to help distribute their products so it makes sense that Germany would want to help get one of their products into as many hands as possible.

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While the condition of the box shows some wear, it doesn't detract too much from the overall beauty of the packaging layout. I love the back of the box. The glossy wire grid type pictures of the car and robot against a flat black background looks nice. I'm not sure what the significance of the number in the lower right hand corner is.

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For a toy nearly 30 years old, this thing is beautiful! Now I've always been partial to the old VW Beetle body style, but this is a very cool looking toy in vehicle mode. Made of die-cast metal with real rubber tires, this isn't a cheaply made toy.

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Turns out there is a little bit of chrome wear to the front and rear bumpers, but other than that this specimen is near mint. The side decals, the VW logo decal on the roof and the license plate all look brand new.

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The only included accessory is chromed double barrel gun that clips over the front windshield. This mostly fits via a friction connection. This can also be used in robot mode as you'll see later.

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I tried to capture the marking stamp underneath the toy the best I could. 1984 Bandai, Popy. This also reassured me that this is an official release and not some knock off.

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For such a compact vehicle as the VW Beetle, the robot mode is fairly tall. It measures near 8 inches tall. I wish I had thought to do a few comparison pictures. I was never too keen with these "Super GoBots" using the cab of the vehicle as the head of the robot, but the look is starting to grow on me a bit. I didn't point it out earlier, but here you can see a little chromed man sitting in the driver's seat.

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Transformation is pretty straight forward. Pull the legs down from the body and rotate the back wheel wells 180 degrees. The arms are folded up just under the front of the vehicle. These fold outward, and then unfold the whole arm assembly. The cab of the vehicle separates from the body of the vehicle, allowing the front and rear sections to fold down respectively. The cab sits on a hinge that allows it to move forward into place as the robot's head.

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The weapon attaches in the same manner in robot mode as it does in vehicle mode. I wish he could wield the weapon in his hand, but his little fork like hands just can hold the weapon. Overall I love this piece. I find this figure to be far more interesting than any version of Transformers' Bumblebee. I'm not sure I'll get another chance to add another pre-Super GoBots release into my collection, but I'm so glad this one "fell into my lap". Highly recommended, in any way you can pick it up.

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Footnote. There is also a red version of this toy, but it was released in very small numbers and can command a big sum of money on the secondary market.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Marvel Vinylmation: Black Widow & Spider-Woman

Back in 2013 I was able to take my family down to Orlando, FL to do the whole Disney thing. I can't remember how long it had been since I last visited the Disney parks, but my how things have changed. One evening my wife and I went out by ourselves and we checked out Downtown Disney. This was totally new to me. After a good dinner, we set out to see what kind of shops they had.

I eventually found a store that had a good bit of Marvel merchandise. Being the Marvel fan that I am, I stopped in to see what they had. Most of it was overpriced stuff that I could buy back at home, but I saw several trays of tiny black boxes on several shelves. Turns out they were the newly released Vinylmation figures. Blind packaged and retailing for $12.95, I grabbed two to see what they were all about. I was hoping to find the Captain America figure in one of the boxes. Nope, I ended up with...

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I'm still not sure what to think of these figures, but they seem to be pretty popular. Small, slightly "plump" with translucent Mickey Mouse ears. I'm guessing the design on the ears hearkens to her hand to hand prowess. That about sums it up. The paint apps are nicely done and capture the essence of the character.

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Spider-Woman is slightly more interesting in my opinion. One of Jessica Drew's many abilities include a venom like electrical charge. You can see this represented on her Mickey Mouse ears. Again the painted design is pretty awesome. I love the inclusion of her little spider webs underneath her arms.

I wrote these off more or less of a novelty type item. While I love most things Marvel, I just couldn't see myself collecting these. Going by sold data on eBay though shows you there are plenty of people that dig these little vinyl figures.

Friday, March 6, 2015

GI Joe Pursuit of Cobra: Crazylegs

I don't know what it was about the original 1987 A Real American Hero figure of Crazylegs that I liked so much, but he was always one of my favorite characters as a kid. I was never big into the Marvel comic series so I can't put my finger on why I gravitated to the character, but when I learned he was receiving a modern update in the Pursuit of Cobra series, I was excited.

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Thankfully the designers took that goofy look off his face from the original figure, but other than that it's a pretty faithful recreation of the ARAH toy. Same outfit, same colors, same design.

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His parachute comes on the figure, but can be removed if you so choose to take it off. Thankfully the parachute isn't huge and bulky. It doesn't really detract from posing the figure or does it make him too top or back heavy.

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The only other change, and it's a welcomed one, is that his helmet is now removable. Underneath you'll find Crazylegs wearing a black beanie. I should note that the figure came with a few more accessories than what I've shown. Years ago my display rack that housed many of my Joes fell off my wall and with that I lose many of the smaller guns and accessories.

Overall this is a beautiful figure and I can see how collector's flocked to it. A quick search on eBay shows that this figure, loose and complete, still commands $25-45! Part of me still wishes I owned this figure so I could display it side by side with my vintage Crazylegs, but I guess that will have to wait.



Thursday, March 5, 2015

Transformers 2010: Predaking (reissue)

Several years ago a close friend of mine asked me to help him sell some unwanted Transformers on eBay. One of the items he had was the Transformers 2010 reissue of Predaking. This was the box set that was released by Takara Tomy in Japan as part of the 25th celebration of Transformers. This set would later be released by Hasbro as part of their Platinum series.

Before I put Predaking on eBay, I had snapped several pictures as I planned to do a side by side comparison with the vintage G1 piece. This never happened as time go away from me. This was also before I had a decent set up for photography so these pictures are of a lesser quality than what I prefer to feature on the blog.

Most collectors and fans of Transformers should already be familiar with these molds anyhow, so I'll just point out the changes made for this release instead.

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In typical Takara fashion, the packaging for the Predacons looks gorgeous. Had this been mine, I would've found a way to display the box. A few things to notice. First off the lack of a designation number. The vintage giftset was given the number D-78. New artwork. To me this is what makes this box look so darn good. I like the original box art, but there is just something about this comic style art. The handle on the top of the box is actually a carry over from the original.

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What is your preference? Vintage packaging or the 2010 reissue packaging? In my book you really can't go wrong either way.

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Another change can be found on the inside of the box. Long gone is the beautiful styrofoam tray that securely held everything in place, replaced with a more eco friendly plastic insert shell. You may have noticed the box opens from the front versus from the side. I particularly don't care for this as it makes the box less sturdy. My friend actually used transparent tape to keep the front box flap closed because the box was so unstable.

The other change as you may be able to tell are the colors of the actual Predacon figures. All of the yellow plastic bits have now been replaced with gold. The reds and oranges appear to be the same shade as the vintage G1. This makes the 2nd reissue for the Predacons at this time so a change was needed in order to make it stand out from the previous release and from the vintage piece. I like the change, but I'm sure the G1 purist easily passed up this release.

Razorclaw

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Headstrong

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Tantrum

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Rampage

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Divebomb

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I know the Predacons have always been a highly sought after group of toys and very popular with the collectors, but I just don't care for them. Never had really. I had several of them growing up, both the metal and die-cast versions. When I finally was able to combine them to form Predaking...well I was impressed by his size, but give me one of the Scramble City combiners any day over the Predacons. The only individual Predacon that I think is a great figure in both forms is Rampage.

While this team may not be one of my favorites, I do like the addition of the gold plastic. Dare I say I like it better than the vintage version with yellow plastic?

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I was glad I was able to hold this version of Predaking in my hands as it really is a thing of beauty, but with the high original price tag I skipped this release. I was surprised when it was announced that a similar version was being released by Hasbro and that Amazon.com would be carrying it. Hasbro took the Beast Hunters Optimus Prime sword and cast it in a matching gold plastic for Predaking to wield, but other than that it's basically the same as this 2010 reissue by Takara Tomy.

If you are one of the few Transformers collectors that don't already own a version of this toy, check out Amazon for the Platinum version, or BigBadToyStore or TFSource for this 2010 reissue by Takara Tomy.