Combiner Wars Liokaiser is now available exclusively at Entertainment Earth. There's a coupon code, SINGLES, which gets you $20 off, free shipping, plus a free diorama.
When your stomach is in knots and you find yourself just dreading the very act of passively existing, I find it beneficial to find small things to force myself to do, just to keep momentum going. Momentum is king. You might not do those small things well, 'cuz your brain isn't quite working at capacity, but you kinda just have to make yourself do things anyway, pushing up and through your emotional numbness. "Fake it until you make it?" maybe? Not quite, I dunno. Too platitude-sounding for what shitshow's going on in your mind. But it's close enough.
With that in mind, let me talk for a bit about Transformers Masterpiece Beast Wars Optimus Primal.
It's Beast Wars' 20th anniversary, and while Hasbro's been all "beast wars, what is that, optimus isn't no dumb monkey, have g1 recycled forever," TakaraTomy has stepped up and given us this amazing thing. (I've been singing TakaraTomy's praises in contrast to Hasbro a lot more these days, I feel. Am I weeabooing up or something?)
Let's consider the Generation 1 Masterpiece toys. Generally, they try to replicate a look from the cartoon, and the cartoon they're sourcing from was cell-animated. And so the toy, despite all its attempts to look like the cartoon as much as possible, must always fall short, because.... hey. Three-dee object existing in front of you. Flat cell-animated image. And you get into these debates like with the upcoming new Masterpiece Generation 1 Megatron: should he have a silver/chrome finish like a gun or his original toy, or should he have a flat matte light gray like the cell animation? There's always this dissonance between the source and the product, no matter how hard one tries. Masterpiece Shockwave might be the closest to achieving a seamless transition.
But Beast Wars' source material is a whole other animal. (so to speak) It was CGI, albeit mid-Nineties television CGI, and so the characters from the cartoon are "real." They don't look different when you look at them from the side versus the front or back, they have texture, they have alternating gloss and matte... and, frankly, they're more visually interesting. Ironhide and Ratchet are just cardboard box towers. A CGI model like Optimus Primal has curves and contours and nuance. Relatively speaking. This was 1996, again.
And that's where Masterpiece Optimus Primal really succeeds. He's glossy where he needs to be, he's matte where he needs to be, and, god of gods, his terrible texture-map-in-lieu-of-actual-modeled-fur-because-this-is-1996 is honest to god printed all over him. It doesn't come out well in my photography, but it looks like someone lightly hand-painted fur pattern everywhere on him that needs to be so. These interplays of various glossies and faux texture map honestly make the toy come alive. It's like the CGI model is standing on your shelf.
The painted-on-texture also has me a little on edge. Does this stuff scratch off easily? I dunno! I don't wanna test its endurance so much! And so I'm extremely careful with this guy. There is a small bit on his forearm, right over a seam between two adjacent plastic pieces, where you can see the texture painting wasn't successfully applied. And so I'm always eyeing that. During transformation, you have to rotate his robot head out at the same time as rotating in his gorilla head, and you have to get the rotation just right through this very tight space so there's no scraping the top of the gorilla head. I worry that I'll untransform him some day and find a scrape. And I have no idea how baseless this fear is, as this is a new painting technology to me.
The transformation is similar to the original, mostly because it kind of has to still be "arms become arms, legs become legs," but the differences are interesting to me. In the original toy, the ape head folded down and flipped over to become the robot chest; on this new toy, the robot chest is formed from the gorilla's stomach, while the gorilla head hides inside the torso. The gorilla back rotates upside-down for robot mode. The gorilla legs are a huge mess of parts on its way to becoming robot legs, rather than the original "just unfold them at the knees, switch the feet, the end" deal. Lots of flipping and turning there. I do recommend having fingernails. There's parts that require a very thin edge with leverage to unsecure them from their location. Usually on Transformer toys, there's little helpful edges or nobs that give you leverage, but that would mess with the contours and accuracy of each mode.
He's electronic. Push down his robot head, and his robot eyes glow. He comes with a number of alternate faces. Four for robot mode (neutral, screaming, Dreamwave smirk, and mouthplate deployed) and three for gorilla mode (neutral, growling, smiling).
He comes with his swords, which he can hold or store on his back, and he has both his flip-out shoulder missile launchers, and his forearm-deployed cannons. You definitely need your fingernails for the latter. You can do some folding on his backside to reveal his flight jets.
Other than my apprehension regarding the texture painting, there's not a lot for me to complain about. It's about as perfect as a Season 1 Optimus Primal toy as can be possible. In robot mode, he might as well be a fancy maquette reproduction of the CGI model. In ape mode... there are seams, but they're all understandable. And the choice of different faces brings whatever character is otherwise missing.
I think I'll like him if my emotions come back.
I have a lot of Combiner Wars Ratchets! Three and a half, to be imprecise. I told you about my first BotCon Customization Class Ratchet way back in the summer, but there were five more potential decoes for that customization class toy. I made four of them total: Marvel Ratchet (already linked), G2 Ratchet, SG Ratchet, and... Medix. (Medix is the .5 of my 3.5 Ratchets, as he's not really a Ratchet but shares a body.)
So I had these three Ratchets. One more Ratchet and a torso, and I could have an entire Ratchet combiner! But that would never happen, ha ha ha ha ha!
Ha ha ha ha.
TakaraTomy revealed that they were getting their own Ratchet release, swapping him in for the Smokescreen we got over here, for their version of Sky Reign, the Sky Lynx combiner. Obviously they were gonna cartoon-colors him up, and they did. Cartoon Ratchet was the only customization class option I didn't make. But this Ratchet would make four Ratchets. I'd have enough limbs for a Ratchet combiner.
IF ONLY THERE WERE A VOYAGER RATCHET TORSO
hey guess what i sent Cheetimus a Pyra Magna and told him to paint her into a lady Ratchet
Here's the thing about Lady Ratchet: the original preproduction intent for G1 Ratchet was that the character be a she instead of a he. Bob Budiansky got saddled with this "write up 30 bios for these robots over Thanksgiving weekend" deal and came back to Marvel the next week with a character named Ratchet, named after Nurse Ratched from One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest, who was a party girl and a snarky-ass snarkster who maybe got a little drunk from time to time. She was pretty awesome. But Hasbro was all "um no, this is a boy's toyline and so they all have to be boys we mean genderless but really boys, okay??" and Budiansky was like "well okay whatever" and changed the gender and that was that.
And so my intent is that this Voyager Class-sized Ratchet custom represent Lady Ratchet, as originally intended. No, not "Ratchette" or anything like that. She's Ratchet. If anybody's gotta signify their gender through their name, it's the Dude Ratchets. Lady Ratchet came first, okay?
Anyway, Cheetimus painted this thing for me, expertly as he always does, and I got her in the mail just as my TakaraTomy Ratchet, the fourth limb, also arrived in the mail. I had some small influence in Lady Ratchet's deco, such as demanding she keep the Marvel Red Helmet and such, but mostly I was like, "hey, Cheetimus, make this thing into Ratchet colors" and he delivered. Yay!
I put a Reprolabels Autobot logo sticker on her chest (an unused one from the Thrilling 30 Jetfire set), gave her BotCon 2009 Leozack's sword weapon, and that was that. Ratchet and her four smaller Ratchets combine to form Physicion. Get it? It's "physician" but with an O, because robots, I guess. Look, I dunno.
I'm not sure exactly why five different Ratchets are co-existing and forming a giant robot, but whatever the reason, it makes me happy.
The year was 2001! Transformers Beast Machines, the toyline, was not doing so great! And so a bunch of tail-end product was shuffled into the next toyline as store exclusives. A toy of Beast Wars/Machines Megatron as a robot that transformed into his Giant Head Spaceship Thing, But With Legs was eventually released at KB Toys as Robots in Disguise Megatron Megabolt. The back-of-the-packaging bio recast the toy as not Beast Megs but as RID Megatron, the redubbed Gigatron from the Car Robots anime.
I bought it, because, like, it was a BW/M Megatron toy I was worried we wouldn't otherwise get, and tried to personally ignore who the toy was "officially."
I'm not good at this. It bothered me. I am anal retentive.
Yeeaars later, Japan finally imported the series, sort of, but, like, on some weird nobody television station and released a bunch of Beast Machines toys in extremely limited numbers. And so the toy that would have been Beast Megs was finally released as himself. But he was, again, extremely limited, which made him both hard to find and expensive, and I was much poorer then. I sucked it up and shrugged. My Megatron Megabolt was close enough.
BUT I WAS STILL SECRETLY REALLY BOTHERED, YO.
Anyway. I decided recently that this hole in my otherwise pretty comprehensive Beast Megatron collection was something I now needed to plug. Easier said than done. Once again, extremely limited production run. Even if you have the money, you can't buy what isn't available to buy. My pal Robowang grabbed one off eBay earlier this year while I was lax in searching there, and for a pretty good price, if I recall. Like, it was listed under a typo or something. Anyway, he got one. He keeps it in his bathroom. I think he does this to taunt me.
Finally, after checking eBay for "Beast Wars Returns Megatron" every other day for several months, another one popped up, and I grabbed it. It's mine!
Megahead Megatron is a robot that transforms into a head with spider-legs -- y'know, like Mr. Freeze in New Batman Adventures. If you roll the spider-legs-head thing along the ground, the wheel-gears on the underside open and close the mouth (and launch the missile out of the mouth) while the spider legs articulate up and down. It's pretty awesome. It's hard to not like a head with spider legs.
In robot mode, Megahead Megatron is.... very back heavy. The whole spider-leg-geared contraption is an indivisible unit unto itself, and it's gotta go somewhere. It goes on the back. The robot mode's legs are a series of multiple ball joints, and you can imagine how well that goes. If the ball joints aren't tight, he's gonna collapse like a marionette. The balljoints on mine are thankfully stiff, but he's still a balancing act.
The head mode's missile launcher is springloaded to flip over the shoulders of the robot and land on the robot's head, giving Beast Wars Megatron's head a Beast Machines Megatron helmet and facemask. This is also pretty neat. There's magnets involved. I don't think toys can afford magnets anymore these days. Or springloaded missile launchers. And certainly not both at the same time as the geared spider leg contraption, anyway.
The huge difference between this Megahead Megatron and the US release Megatron Megabolt is the red was swapped out for purple. The silver plastic is also a little more purple. And although the Japanese-release Beast Machines product mostly didn't alter the American paint operations at all, this guy has a new set of paint operations -- the teeth on the giant spiderleg head are now painted white. It's a good addition.
Undocumented feature: Head mode fits on top of Fortress Maximus really nicely. Fits even better if you pull the balljointed spiderlegs out.
Yay, 3D printing! It's getting to be not-crappy! Now that Shapeways (the online 3D printing folks) has introduced a new material, black high-def acrylate, and my pal Trent Troop had a Dinobot head to purchase, I was like, yes, I will try this thing.
Shapeways' high-def acrylate, which currently only comes in black, is pretty close to looking like normal-ass molded plastic. You don't see any layers in the plastic, like you're looking at a toy made out of lasagna, and the sculpted detail is very fine. The only downside, at least for this project, was the piece comes in black, and I needed to make it gold and blue. This meant.... base coat layer! I was painting like some kind of adult, with preparedness and forethought and everything. Whaaaaaat. Luckily I had some medium gray acrylic paint sitting around from when I was painting up my BotCon Ratchets.
After that, it was only a matter of getting the gold and metallic blue paint on there. After using plain-ol' Gold Leaf, I decided the gold needed to be a little more orangey-er, and so I mixed some orange into my gold and painted it again. At this point, I think I've started to lose a little of the sculpted detail, but, eh, I don't feel like scraping it all off and starting over. It looks nice, though! I like it.
Trent/TheRobotMonster's got over 100 heads to choose from in his Shapeways store. There's some Optimuses, some Pretender Monsters, Skeletor, the goddang Sogmaster, Krang, Rung and Tarn... there's a bunch there. And all you gotta do is screwdriver away the head on the Titan Master toy itself, replace the head with the new one, and screwdriver the screw back in. Easy cheezy. You can make any Titans Return headmaster guy into Dinobot. Or the Sogmaster.
I gambled and it worked out. Remember my blogpost about Titans Return Wheelie? About how he's a great little robot and the transformation is interesting but he's kind of absolutely ruined by his car mode not holding together? At all?
Well, I got a second one (the one on the right in the photographs), the Japanese TakaraTomy one, and that one holds together fine.
Some American ones reportedly hold together in vehicle mode all right. Maybe some Japanese ones don't. But this one is good. It's probably just plastic tolerances. The design is maybe just not engineered in a way that it will hold together under all manufacturing conditions, I dunno. But this one is fine.
Ironically, I like the robot mode colors better on the new one, but the old one's car colors look better to me. The one with the car mode I can't get to stay together is the one with the better colors. Great. But the robot mode on the new one is still alot better, as I said, so it's not all bad. I like the gunmetal legs and the replacing of silver plastic with orange. Plus it's nice that all of Wheelie's head is painted appopriately, not just his face.
The one thing I don't like about the new one's robot mode is the much clearer translucent plastic canopy. The smokey translucent plastic of the old one looked better on the robot chest, I feel. Thankfully, you can just easily swap that, easy as one pleases. Snaps off, snaps on. The only downside is that it gives him THREE Autobot symbols in vehicle mode instead of the still-ridiculous two. Ah well.
I've got a photo of what that looks like on the left, with the slingshot accessory I stole from a previous Wheelie.
Wheelie comes with Go Shooter, who is the little boy who transforms into the head of who we call Siren over here. It's nice that this Wheelie stays together when you try to fit Go Shooter inside. I got so mad trying to get the old one transformed into car mode for the second photo above that I just gave up in a fit of rage. Well, stole your canopy, sorry, and into the bin with you!
Weirdwolf is yellow and teal, and this is like 99.99% of why I like him so much. That plus the offwhite and red trim to me is the Italian finger kiss of color schemes. It's the same reason I love RID Destructicon Bludgeon. It's why BotCon 2007's Weirdwolf redeco of Cybertron Snarl is one of my all-time favorite convention toys. I love those colors. They're great. A++ Would buy again.
I decided to get the TakaraTomy version of Weirdwolf for a handful of reasons. One, he comes with a yellow and teal monkey, which is hard to say no to. Rarigo (which is "gorilla" spelled backwards in Japanese) is a redeco of Apeface's Titan Master vehicle, which triplechanges from gorilla to jet to gun and back. If I can get a Weirdwolf that also comes with a monkey, why wouldn't I get the one that comes with a monkey?
Secondly, judging from online photography, TakaraTomy's Weirdwolf had a teal I liked better than Hasbro's. Mind, this is going off of promo renders and colors-not-always-true-to-in-person photography, but I did my best to judge the two teals, and I decided on the Japanese one instead of the domestic. I am very particular about my teals! The BotCon Weirdwolf's teal is a smudge too green, and it's not SO green that it ruins the yellow-and-teal deal for me, but it's on the edge. TakaraTomy Weirdwolf looked just right.
Plus their Monzo got his face painted, which is a plus.
Things I'm missing by not having the Hasbro one, are the nice translucent red highlights inside the wolf head. Takara paints over a lot of that with light gray. On the other hand, I really like the two-toned red of the eyes and face. The face is a tad pinker than the eyes, and it's a nice, subtle effect.
The toy is pretty adept for your run-of-the-mill quadruped-to-biped transformation. The arms transform into forelimbs and the legs transform into hindlimbs, as often the case with beastformers. But it's a much better four-legged mammal than Alpha Trion's unikitty mode, with hind legs that look a lot more natural, and so I'm pleased. The torso expands for beast mode and collapses to a shorter length for robot mode. The wolf head rotates at the neck, and also there's a small amount of left-to-right movement as well. The jaw opens, which is usually a feature on beastformers, but is still always welcome.
Weirdwolf's tail becomes a sword, and there's a cannon weapon that plugs into his beast mode's hindquarters which can also be a seat for a Titan Master head dude. And, of course, Weirdwolf can point his gorilla gun around if he wants.
I hope the next Transformers line-wide gimmick is Monkey Weapons.
I went on and on about Cerebros a while back, and here's his Japanese counterpart, Fortress. Unlike Cerebros, who had a completely-made-up-head-for-animation-for-no-known-reason, Fortress was a much more toy-accurate design. He has box-shaped shades instead of eyes, and that's essentially the only difference between his animation model and the toy. Cerebros was decked out in blacks and whites and grays, while Fortress stuck to the gray-and-also-gray of the toy. And so in a roundabout way, it'd be easy for me to have nostalgia for Fortress just because he looks just like the toy I had when I was 8.
Additionally, because I am old, I can have nostalgia for stuff I experienced when I was twenty, and so I can also have affection for Fortress because of his depiction in the Headmasters anime, particularly with the so-bad-it's-amazing Omni Productions English dub. And because Cerebros and Fortress have different heads, color schemes, and personalities, it's really easy to mentally segregate them into two very distinct characters rather than different interpretations of the same guy.
But, honesly, the reason I got Fortress was because I wanted the Fortress Maximus body that he came with. As previously noted, I spent a good chunk of third grade obsessively crafting cardboard Fortress Maximuses, and so I have some very deeply rooted Fortress Maximus Opinions. For example, Fortress Maximus has red hip-nipples, dammit. Does the new American Fort Max have red hip-nipples? No! They're silver! Unacceptable. And so I purchased the new Japanese Fort Max, which is much more slavishly adherent to the original toy. Ultimately, I have the American Fort Max for the Cerebros and the Japanese Fort Max for the Fort Max. Plus, bonus Fortress!
Like Cerebros, Fortress has electronic lights and sounds. Unlike Cerebros, whose sounds are mostly sound effects interspersed with a few trademarked phrases like "CEREBROS" and "FORTRESS MAXIMUS" so that his toy still makes sense to non-English-speaking folks in various markets, Fortress's sounds are of his original Japanese voice actor saying full Japanese sentences, and also a clip of the Headmasters anime theme music. I don't understand Japanese, and so these phrases are mostly lost on me, but I do recognize them as sentences, so at least Fortress sounds way more articulate than Cerebros, who is only good at saying his own name.
At the end of the day, Fortress is good to have in order so that my Fort Max has a head in robot mode, while Cerebros is off being Cerebros with his pals.
anyway fort max doesn't fit in my lighting studio, so i hope you like me talking exclusively about his detachable head
Rounding out the last of the original five Autobot Headmasters recreated in Titans Return is Chromedome. A few years ago, Fun Publications made us a Chromedome out of Transformers Prime Wheeljack, with a More Than Meets The Eye-styled head. Well, the MTMTE-styled head is back for this new toy, same as with Brainstorm. The stars of the (ending yesterday but relaunching as Lost Light #1) MTMTE comic book series get to have MTMTE-inspired heads, while the other Autobot Headmasters get a mix of toy- and cartoon-inspired heads.
Chromedome's body is also designed after MTMTE, but not on the modern-day body he has for most of the series, with the giant wheels on his shoulders and the skinny, streamlined appearance. This is sadness to me. I love that design. Instead, his sculpt is based on the design he has in pre-war flashbacks, which was inspired more strongly by his original toy. Which is okay, but, sure. Whatevs.
Beyond taking its cues second-hand from the original 1986 Chromedome toy, Chromedome is a very familiar figure. He's not a retool of the Combiner Wars Dead End/Streetwise/Prowl/Dustup toy, but he has similar engineering, down to the chunk of bicep that's molded in nonpaintable nylon plastic. Chromedome transforms essentially the same as Dead End, with the shins opening up so they can swallow the thighs, the chest flipping up under the hood (which stores on the robot's back), and the arms compressing into the sides of the car mode. The lone real difference is the addition of a drivers compartment inside the car, which results in the roof folding up on the back of Chromedome's legs instead of flipping down behind the back like on Dead End.
Again, he's not a retool. He's entirely new parts, just with a borrowed transformation style.
Like the other Titans Return Deluxes, he has a smaller weapon and a larger detachable weapon/thing that his head can sit in when his head is a little dude. Also like many of the other Titans Return Deluxes, his smaller weapon is a Starscream-style null ray. Lotsa guys have this damn null ray -- Blurr, Brainstorm, Chromedome... I've got a pile of null rays now. I wonder if this is a hint at a future Starscream/Seeker toy, or if someone just likes null rays.
I got the American version of Chromedome because, duh, MTMTE head. The Japanese version, which is not released yet, has a different, Headmasters anime-styled noggin, which itself is different from the American cartoon-style head. I'm tempted by the Headmasters-headed one, if only because of the goofy English dub, but that would always have to be a secondary purchase. Like Rewind, my heart will always belong to the MTMTE-style Chromedome first and foremost.
Hey, everyone! It's Highbrow! You may remember him as the stuffy one. True to his name, he's smart in a kind of condescending way, with just enough Thurston Howell III in him to give you that quick first impression but not so much that he's basically Tracks.
In the American cartoon, anyway. Highbrow didn't leave much impression on me in any of the comics. Naw, in the (original) comics, who I remember is the guy that eventually became his head, Gort. Gort left his mark by being one of two humans the Autobots (well, just Highbrow) made first contact with on Nebulos. When Highbrow showed up, Gort was making out with a girl and fell off a cliff and hit his head real hard. Later, he'd get up out of the Nebulan Hospital For Brainpounded Dudes to volunteer to be surgically cyborged to become Highbrow's head. He hit his head real hard.
Anyway. Highbrow is partially Scourge, who I talked about the other day. Highbrow's not, like, as much Scourge as Brainstorm is Blurr, but he does share some integral, mostly internal parts. Just like Scourge, you yank Highbrow's robo legs down by the spine-strut and you fold his legs in on themselves. The two toys share that spine strut, the thighs, the inner shoulder joints, and the fists, and Scourge's feet are reused for Highbrow's heels.
The top of the toy transforms slightly differently -- both Highbrow and Scourge's arms sort of straighten along the sides of the torso and peg in, but unlike Scourge, Highbrow's aren't covered up by giant hull shell pieces. Instead, they hang there in plain sight, since the helicopter wings are molded on there. The cockpit of the helicopter is behind the torso of the robot and folds back up for vehicle mode.
Highbrow comes with a pair of chainguns that can combine into a seat for Gort to ride, or you can stick Gort inside the helicopter cockpit.
I decided to get the American version of Highbrow instead of splurging on the Japanese version. The decoes are negligibly different, and the American head is based on the Rebirth/Marvel design rather than the toy/anime. I love me some Rebirth heads.
And, between you me, I'm excited to finally have a toy of Gort.