Saturday, September 23, 2017

Transformers G1: Grimlock (Classic Pretender)

Towards the end the the 80's, it seemed as if Hasbro was running out of ideas to keep the Transformers brand afloat. The Pretenders were created, humanoid (or monster) disguises/shells in order to aid themselves in battle...or just to disguise themselves.

In 1989, Hasbro introduced four new Pretenders - the Classic Pretenders, Transformers that had been around previously: Bumblebee, Grimlock, Jazz and Starscream.

While I love the Pretenders and those were some of the first G1 toys I sought out when I started to collect again, I have never cared for the Classic Pretenders. When I finally got around to upgrading my method of displaying my G1 collection, I decided there were a few G1 toys that I just no longer cared to own. Classic Pretender Grimlock was one of those.

I can't put my finger on exactly what it is about this Pretender shell that I don't like...perhaps all of it?! Perhaps its the large fin on top of the helmet? Or the armor of the shell? I just haven't ever cared for his look. 

He comes with two weapons. The large rifle is an Atom-Smashing submachine gun and the inner robot's little tail also doubles as a rocket launcher.

The designers did a good job at trying to keep the elements of the original Dinobot toy, from the head sculpt to the look of the robot chest. He can wield his tail as a weapon just as the Pretender shell can.

Grimlock still retains his original Dinobot Tyrannasaurus Rex form, but now the toy is much smaller and more simplified. The dinosaur arms can rotate a full 360 degrees, as can the back legs.

If you like the Pretender toys then you know what you are getting here, I just don't care for it. Perhaps it's because it's based off of an existing character that I don't like. I didn't care for the Action Master toys either that were based on earlier G1 characters. Needless to say that when I added this guy to my eBay store, he didn't sit there long before someone scooped him up. I'll just stick to the "original" Pretenders.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Cops 'n Crooks: Big Boss

Hasbro's short lived action figure line, Cops (or Cops 'n Crooks) seems to be overlooked by a lot of collectors these days. There are only a handful of toys and vehicles in the series and they aren't that expensive on the secondary market. Even certain sealed figures can be had for less than $20.00 if you are patient.

While my memories of this franchise are more of the animated series by DIC than the toys, I do remember when I was younger I won the Ironsides vehicle at an event hosted by the NBA's Charlotte Hornets team. My memory of why I was at this event is foggy at best, but I do remember playing w/ that toy and loving the aspect that it used real rolls of caps to create "gun fire".

Every hero needs their bad guy and his cronies and Cops was no exception. The Crooks in the series were led by Big Boss. I always thought of Big Boss as a mixture of Dr. Claw from Inspector Gadget and Boss Hog from the Dukes of Hazard.

Hasbro did a great job with his action figure. Released in 1988, this action figure seemed to have more detail and articulation than I remember other action figures released around it's time. Plus Big Boss had his trademark girth which also helped him stand out from others.

Big Boss was a mobster. I think it's easy to see this with the slicked back black hair and the suit. Even his face screams the mob. Look at the detail sculpted in the face. His brow and his smug smile...absolutely stunning.

Big Boss came packaged with two accessories: his cap firing cane and his pet weasel.

You read that right. A pet weasel. Three points Hasbro for creativity! This is a small, hard plastic figure with no paint applications or any kind of articulation. Think old green army man type of figure.

Big Boss' left hand has been replaced with a steel prosthesis hand. According to his bio card this is considered to be a dangerous weapon. Hasbro used a chromed hand to replecate this and had great results. I'm surprised that the hand is still so shiny after nearly 28 years.

As I mentioned before, this figure is loaded with detail. He has rings sculpted on his right hand, that sadly show wear to the paint. The wrinkles sculpted on his suit gives you the impression that his belly is just a bit much to be held in by his suit. 

Now I have no idea why anyone would want to pose their Big Boss action figure like this, but hopefully this gives you an idea of how well articulated these figures were. The head can rotate some, but the slightly raised collar does hinder this a bit. His arms can rotate a full 360 degrees at the shoulders. He has a bicep swivel and hinged elbow joint. Even the hands can rotate all the way around at the wrist. There is also waist articulation. His legs have a good range of motion, hinge joint for the knees.

When I acquired a lot of these figures I was surprised at the level of detail and articulation. Considering these toys are as old as they are I found these attention to detail pretty impressive. The television show portrayed the Crook characters to be pretty dumb and some of the voice actors that portrayed these characters laid it on a little thick at times (Berzerko). Hasbro thankfully made some very interesting figures based on these characters. I will say one of things that I remember about these toys (and was reminded with Big Boss) is it seems the plastic used hasn't aged well. The plastic seems light and brittle to me. Perhaps I'm just imaging this, but it's not on GI Joe or Transformers level. Dispite this, the Cops 'n Crooks toys are still fun toys and takes the cops and robbers theme to a whole new level.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

M.U.S.C.L.E.: #207 Satan Prince

I'm kinda surprised I don't have more M.U.S.C.L.E. figures in my toy collection.  After all they are highly collectible, I'm a fan of wrestling and I fondly remember buying these figures when I was a kid.

Wait a minute.  You don't know what M.U.S.C.L.E. is?  Of course it's an acronym for Millions of Unusual Small Creatures Lurking Everywhere.  Like my first love, Transformers, M.U.S.C.L.E. is the American version of a popular Japanese creation - Kinnikuman.  I'm not the most well versed in the history of these toys so I'll just let you read the history courtesy of Wikipedia for yourself.

#207 Satan Prince
I honestly don't know where he got his name from, I purchased him because I love the spikes on his arms and the large spike on his head. The three fingers also give him a unique look. Apparently this guy was only available in the 28 pack, Mighty Maulers.

Must....fight...the urge to buy....more!!

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Pondering Irma

Last month Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of the Texas and the Gulf coast, dropping record amounts of rain and causing massive flooding. Now Hurricane Irma is bearing down on Florida and is expected to make landfall very soon. A good portion of the state has been ordered to evacuate and it's been about the only thing people seem to be talking about.

Thankfully my family is safe and I doubt we'll feel much of the effects of Irma here in the upstate of South Carolina, however I know (via Facebook) a few fellow collectors that have left their homes in Florida and it got me thinking...what what you do if you lost your collection?

For a lot of us, we have spent countless hours and money on our collections. From searching for items, money spent on acquiring said items and for some of us, money spent on upgrading the way we display our collections. Many of us know that there are far more important things in our lives than our hobbies and the collections we've built up, but put yourself for just a moment in the shoes of some of the people in the path of Irma.

Now if you lost everything you owned, your home, your car(s), every possession you had, then obviously losing a collection of toys or video games is small potatoes. However let's just say for arguments sake that you lost your toy collection to a natural disaster. What do you do? Do you try to rebuild it in some capacity? Or do you just walk away?

I've been giving this a lot of thought over the last few days as I've watched the weather forecasts and watched Hurricane Irma grow in size and intensity. If you follow this blog, then you've probably noticed the other blogs on the sidebar. I have many hobbies and thus have many collections. Toys, video games, comic books, trading cards...if it's collectible I probably have collected it at some point. While these earthly possessions are prized and important, they aren't my life. That said if something took them all away, like a natural disaster, I think I'd be done.

I love my hobbies and I find a lot of enjoyment and peace in what I do. However if faced with what some will be faced with, I don't think I could see myself taking the time and money to rebuild my collections. Most likely I'd have other more important things to focus on for one, but two I just think the massive loss would just kill the desire to collect again. I could see myself re-buying perhaps one of my modern video game consoles, but rebuilding my G1 Transformers collection...sadly no.

What would you do if you were faced with a potential devastating storm rolling through your home? Rebuild the collection or walk away? I'd love to hear your comments.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Reprolabels: Transformers Prime Beast Hunters Prowl

While cleaning up my hard drive and deleting a bunch of older pictures I had taken of toys, I ran across several images of Transformers Prime Beast Hunters deluxe figure, Prowl. This was one of those releases that Hasbro did to get a little more mileage out of a mold (previously used for Beast Hunters Smokescreen) and while it looked pretty good as-is, I was impressed w/ the work Reprolabels and how it changed to whole look of the toy.

The mold was too bland looking in it's original form. This set of stickers gave the toy some much needed color. From the blue used for the head lights to the blue and red on the light bar. Even the metallic silver on the windshield and windows makes a huge difference.

They even gave the back of the car some detail with a few stickers, including a license plate.

In robot mode Prowl received several accent stickers for his legs. They were a bit of a pain to put on since they were cut so thin, but once applied he looked much better. I did have some issues with the silver foil stickers staying in place on the top of his feet, but the others applied just fine.

Hasbro often does a good job at repurposing a mold into another character. This is one of those cases however where a little more detail helped this figure tremendously.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Happy Force Friday II!

September 1st, 2017, Force Friday II...or Christmas Day for many Star Wars collectors. Since I don't follow Star Wars toys as much as some, I only became familiar with this day a few days ago. Out of curiousity I did go to Target's website to see which stores around me would be participating in the Midnight launch. I wasn't planning on going, but I was curious. 1 store out of maybe 10 or so in my area was participating.

I strolled into my local Target near the house Friday morning (I really went there to buy a gift card for one of my employees) and when I walked down the toy aisle w/ Star Wars I was met by several adult men shopping the section. There was even a woman that had her husband on Facetime and she was holding the phone up to the different figures on the pegs. What a good wife!

Since images of these toys had made it's way to the internet prior to Force Friday, I had an idea of what to expect on store shelves today, but I do have to say it was nice getting to see these in person. I ended up grabbing a First Order Stormtrooper.

I love the new packaging. The red Star Wars logo really pops on the white blister card backing. Very prominent with the packging is the new gimmick, Force Link. I saw this bracelet type thing ($30?!) today, but it didn't seem like anyone was buying it as the pegs were still full. 

The back of the packaging really doesn't tell you much anything about the character, just an advertisement of how the Force Link gimmick works. Boring. I don't know who some of some of these new characters are so I was hoping to read something about them on the packaging.

After I got home and I was looking at the figure more carefully it dawned on me that this is the exact same figure from The Force Awakens...sans one gun.

I grabbed the one loose Stormtrooper I have from the previous movie and sure enough my hunch was right. Minus the oversized blaster that The Force Awakens version came with, this is the same figure. Even his blaster is the same. At least the extra gun included is regular sized and not that large gun the figure couldn't hold all that well.

I'm not a MOC collector, but dang I'm tempted to not even bother opening this figure now. I already have a loose specimen and besides, the packaging is oh so nice.

Speaking of the packaging, look how much smaller the new cards are as compared to even then the Rogue One releases. The packaging is shorter and not quite as wide as the previous Star Wars toys. I'm sure the Star Wars hoarders will be happy to know that Hasbro has reduced the packaging size so they can fit more toys in their storage unit.

Since the figure is basically the same, I'm not going to bother to open this least for now. However I did review the First Order Stormtrooper from The Force Awakens so take a look at that post if you're curious about the figure itself.

Thanks for dropping by. Stay tuned as there might be more Star Wars posts coming in the near future.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Revell Robotech Robolinks: Force 21

The 1980's were filled with all sorts of fun stuff, some stuff I'm only recently realized existed. Such is a case of Revell's line of 5mm robot building sets. Marketed under the Robotech banner which Revell had the license for at the time, Robolinks are the US equivlent of Takara's Blockman series. Not quite LEGO and not quite Transformers, these toys shared shelf space in Japan with Takara's Diaclone & Microman toys. The line was short lived and only lasted about 2 years, however many great sets were released.

Like with other toylines,  the 1984 Japanese series was Union Fighter Blockman was exported to other parts of the world. In 1985 parts of Europe received the toyline under than name Combination Blockman, while in the US there was no mention of the Blockman name. In both of these markets Takara still manufactured the actual toys, but the marketing was handled by other companies such as Revell.

My first exposure to these toys actually came in my own neighborhood. While taking my girls to the different houses that were participating in a neighborhood yardsale I spotted a large box of Robolinks toys. I didn't know what they were, but the little die-cast robot with blue limbs did look vaguely familar. I asked if I could open the box to inspect the contents and when I did, I saw the Takara copyright on the little robot figure. I ended up buying the set for $1. I couldn't even believe she sold it to me for $1. This kicked off my curiosity of the toys and ended up buying the near complete Force 21 set on eBay for a few bucks. I've been sitting on this for some time and I'm glad to have finally gotten around to this one.

I was/am a big fan of Bandai's Machine Robo Mugenbine series. That is pretty much the closet toy series that has mimicked the basic idea of Blockman/Robolinks. You have a core figure/robot with detachable accessories. By attaching these accessories you can "transform" the robot figure into different forms. In the case of Force 21, you can form a very nice looking drill tank as well as give the robot figure some armor.

The Force 20 set's alternate form was a space ship while Force 22's alternate form was a race car. If I'm not mistaken, you could take all 3 of these sets to form an even larger vehicle of some sort.

Revell had the Robotech license at this time and tried to pigeon hole the Robolink toys into the Robotech mythos. You can see above the Robolink "story" that is printed on the bottom of the box.

The presentation of the toys inside the box is really nice, with each piece having it's own place in a white styrofoam tray. I grabbed this set for a few dollars, which surprised me seeing what most Robolinks can sell for these days. I'm guessing because it was missing one piece of the blue armor the seller knew he was limited on how much he could get for the set.

The set contained two wing pieces for the robot figure, a backpack piece, two pieces of blue armor that clip on to the feet and a hand gun. Also included is another larger black gun, a silver drill piece, a translucent blue canopy, two black tank treads and a set of silver engine boosters.

The base robot figure is 3 inches tall. The chest is partially made with die-cast metal, but as you can see from the rear of the figure this isn't a solid piece. The figure has limited articulation at the shoulders that allow the arms to rotate 360 degrees. Articulation in the hips allows about a 90 degree range of motion.

The figure isn't much to look at, but I still find these things very fascinating. The color of the arms does tend to vary between your primary colors from set to set. I believe the white plastic on this figure has started to yellow a bit.

Once the armor bits are snapped onto the robot you basically get a whole new looking robot. I really hated that I was missing that one blue piece the robot looked fantastic. I might have kept the set for myself had it not been missing the piece. Thankfully though the missing piece did not hinder the look of the awesome drill tank.

I'm not 100% sure, but I believe a small Diaclone driver figure could be placed underneath the canopy in this mode. Even if I'm wrong, isn't this pretty cool looking? I love the rocket boosters on the back as I can envision this piece of machinery needing some extra "oomph" when drilling through the Earth.

I found this set to be really fascinating. I started to search out the Force 20 and Force 22 sets, but I found them hard to find boxed and complete. When my searches did turn up some results, the sets weren't cheap. I guess I got lucky on both occassions as I didn't pay much for the ones I briefly owned. As with many toys, if space was a luxury I would have kept this toy and probably looked to expand the line. If you enjoy building sets and are looking for something different, then the Robolinks (or Blockman) sets may be the thing you've been looking for.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Shinkalion: Unity Combiner

Back in the spring we took a look at Takara Tomy's first combiner in their Shinkalion series of transforming trains. I did a review for each of the three members, as well as a rare video review of the combiner, Unity. (links to those individual reviews are at the bottom of this post)

Since then I took additional pictures of the combined mode along with some comparisons with some G1 Transformers combiners by request. If you are curious about the toys themselves and how well the actual combiner is, please check out the individual reviews or the video review that are linked at the bottom.

From what I can gather from the instructions, this is Unity's default look with Mizuho forming the center/head with Noizu and Hikari Railstar forming the arms.

Two of the individual weapons can be merged together to form a large sword, while Unity can also wield a rifle.

Switching it up w/ Hikari Railstar as the torso/head. I don't mind this look at Unity still has a balanced look in that the center is gray while the arms and legs are white.

Of course Noizu can form the torso/head portion of Unity. The colors are off balanced in this formation, plus I don't care for the pinkish red used on the headsculpt.

Unity stands about the same height as some of the previous released Shinkalion robots.

Bruticus, from Transformers is one of my favorite combiners so I grabbed him from one my glass display cases to see how well he would stack up against Unity. Not bad. He stands a little taller than Bruticus, but is about the same width.

Unity is a fantastic toy no matter which formation you display him in. Of all the Shinkalion toys I've opened thus far he's by far the best in the series. He can be a little difficult to track down now as most online retailers have sold through their stock. Expect to pay anywhere between $60 on the low side and $120 on the high side for the set. Unity was also packaged as a giftset with different colored weapons.

700 Noizu
700 Hikari Railstar
- N700 Mizuho
Unity (combiner, video review)