Sunday, June 27, 2010

Botconocalypse 2010 Saturday: The Radio Free (and sleep free and sanity free) Botconocalypse

The Botconocalypse is upon me and I can't think or see straight but all I know is this has been the most concentrated dose of awesome old toy robot fun I have had in a long time. If you thought seeing some guy dressed as Snake-Eyes pretend fight some guy dressed as Deadpool in front of some guy dressed as a 500 foot tall Starscream was surreal, try doing it after being awake for 50 straight hours. I'm not even sure half the robot costumes I'm seeing are really there or not my brain is so fried.


What I am sure of is that Saturday I talked a lot at Rob and Brian's table while they were recording Radio Free Cybertron. We covered a wide range of subjects, including whether or not Cookie Monster t-shirts would look better if they had RFC logos ironed on top of them and that one time I met Bruce Dickinson. It is theorestically possible they may include my ramblings in their next podcast which may be up later on Sunday evening. It is also theoretically possible they were never there and I was talking to a bunch of Transformer bedsheets draped over a table.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Congratulations, Colin!

The competition was really tough this year in the Botcon art contest and I was holding my breath as I sat next to Colin during the panel when they announced the winners. The amount of time and effort he put into his entry was clearly evident and he deserves tremendous credit for such an enormous endeavor. We just weren't sure he was going to win because there were some really really nice pieces in diorama this year. But then they said his name and after the initial shock, Zack and I cheered on this guy who has been a big part of our Botcon weekend. Back when I used to enter the art contest I'd pick diorama because it was my favorite category. So from someone who has a little bit of an idea how many days and nights of your life you must have poured into your work, I say congratulations Colin. (And thanks for the Rapido!)

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Botconocalypse 2010 Friday: Let's get this Botconocalypse started!

The Botconocalypse is off to a fantastic start. The absolute highlight of Friday morning was Bob Budiansky's panel. He was entertaining and engaging and well prepared with a slideshow of Hasbrotastical informations that I will be analyzing in the days immediately after I get back home from Botcon. Most of the information and anecdotes he's already given in previous appearances and online interviews over the years but this was the first time I've seen him so enthusiastic about it all. Back at Iacon One in '06 his delivery was such that he seemed unsure that any of what he was saying was interesting to anyone and he seemed humbled by the whole experience. But the Bob of today is on fire-he's all, I'm Bob Friggin' Budiansky and I invented goddamn tech specs and I don't care what anyone says, "Car Wash of Doom" was awesome fuck yeah! Getting him to sign my special project was equally mind blowing but before we get to that here's the traditional "walking in to Botcon" video I do every time I go...

The dealer room is really nice and big with lots of room to walk through. It's a lot less crowded than Pasadena, although that may just be because this is Friday and the crowds still might swell when general admission shows up Saturday. I think a couple regular dealers are missing, most notably Big Bad Toy Store. Maybe they'll be there tomorrow. My favorites like Bancho Hige, Alex Bickmore, Brett and Curt from TF Source are there. There's lots of big displays from Hasbro and there's no movie Optimus Prime statue or truck this year but there's BOTH a movie Bumblebee statue and Camaro. The statue is better than the one they had in Pasadena last year. It's crazy awesome.


By now everyone who reads the Roboplastic Apocalypse knows I love me those old Hasbro Toy Catalogs from the 80s. Well what I did with all mine was tear out the Transformer pages and collect them in one massive scrapbook I call the Encyclopedia HasbRoboPlastica. It has all the Transformer related regular Toy Fair catalog pages from 1984 through 1990. Yeah I ripped up those books that cost me several hundred dollars to collect but what the hell. The way I look at it either I have done the greatest thing ever or I've committed a mortal sin against my truck king Peter Cullen. But it's totally worth it and the book is truly awesome to behold. I've spent hours looking at these pages when they were parts of the catalogs and I could spend even more looking at them as they are now. Then with the chance to meet legendary guests who made huge contributions to Transformers like Bob Budiansky and Hideaki Yoke, I figured it would be awesome if I could get them to do a cover page for me. And they did! Mr. Budiansky wrote "The Transformers" in English and Yoke san wrote the same thing in Japanese and they both then autographed it. If god is at all serious about preserving old toy catalogs then I am totally going to hell for this, but what really worries me is not eternal damnation, but that I am scrapbooking.

  • After the Takara Tomy and Budiansky panels I met up with Colin and Zack and had a fantastic $15 hamburger and even better conversation
  • Once the dealer room opened I briefly saw the one and only Ras Hardicker!
  • Ran into my personal Robot Heroes Anthonty Brucale from and Robo Rob and Brian Kilby from RFC!
  • Finally I am surrounded by people not just in robots costumes, but SEXY ROBOTS COSTUMES!
  • FlickrMacrocrania has been updated accordingly.

Botconocalypse 2010 Thursday: How I met your mother at Botcon (but you were already born)

And so Botcon 2010 began as usual with me showing up Thursday night to pick up my name tag and other special presents I get for "pre-registering", which is just a fancy way of saying I Respondezed-Si-Vous Plait. I waited so long to pre-reg that pretty much every living toy robots archaeologist did it before me, meaning the guys who paid attention when the call first went out for toy robots historians to come to Orlando got in line before me. My registration number was 2,101, which is so high it was literally off the charts-the email sent out telling people when to pick up their stuff ended with reg numbers up to 1,789. I thought I won some kind of Dio award for being last in line. So I just showed up at nine expecting huge lines and confusion because Pasadena was kind of like that last year. But it went really smooth! No Pasadenean four hour wait in line to pick up my registration packet or anything! The wait was reasonable like Botcons from a couple years ago but that didn't mean I was totally out of the woods. There was one very real and terrifying consequence to pre-registering as late as I did. I got lumped in with everybody else who registered late and 95% of those people are moms.


I was surrounded by moms and their pre-teen sons who wondered why I came to Botcon if I didn't know as much as they did about toy robots from the past ten years. For a second I felt totally outmatched by some kid I can only describe as Rainman of Cybertron. It's interesting to be told the unabridged galaxy spanning adventures of Optimus Prime and his transforming robot Volkswagen cohorts by some 13 year old filling me in on the past 4 million years in Transformer time starting after 1984 but I'm like dude I stopped paying attention in 1988 leave me alone. So far my most surreal Botcon experience has been when the kid's mom asked me for advice on scalping her box set and she got out the list of what the Botcon club store was selling and asked which of the attendee exclusive figures had the highest resale value potential on eBay. She was the embodiment of everything I think is wrong with the toy robots hobby today. If you have to sell the toys you buy at Botcon to recoup your expenses, then you cannot afford to go to Botcon. So just do the right thing and don't go and free up a slot for someone else who can afford it. I wish I would have told her to forget the con exclusives and invest heavily in Robot Heroes and Mister Potato head Bumble Spuds. I wish profiteering scalper moms would follow Dio's advice and don't talk to strangers. Most of all I wish I would have pre-regged earlier!

FlickrMacrocrania: The Botconocalypse 2010 Edition

I don't have much time to write photo descriptions but I'm dumping pictures at Flickr in a set called crazysteve at Botcon 2010. It's pretty much the same stuff you'll see at all the Thoroughly Informative Transformers Themed Internet Entertainment Sites, but with the added bonus of me obscuring said stuff by standing in front of it.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

VINTAGE SPACE TOAST TOUR ORLANDO-If you're gonna die, die with your mouse on

Vintage Space Toast Tour 2010 continues as my toy robot hobby powers have once again managed to transform something that should be exciting and fun (a vacation at Disney World) into something mind numbingly boring and painful (a six hour visit to the library looking at microfilm reels). Unfortunately my old newspaper looking ended up being a colossal waste of time from a toy robots ads perspective and I was subjected to all the chaos and misery that is the news of the past but at least this time I didn't come across any puppy executions. To be fair I did find a lot of robot ads but after doing this for so long I've already seen most of them already. I guess the same could be said of all the bad news and tragedies that make the papers. When you've seen one front page photo featuring the twisted mangled lumps of wreckage that used to be cars, planes trains or other automobiles you've seen them all. But the usual misery and mayhem is almost balanced out by some special uplifting uniqueness of this land of Mickey Mouse and happy oranges. I don't know why, but while reading about plane crashes in any other city is rather depressing, there's something magical about them when they happen in the parking lot of Epcot Center.

Bargain Bonanza 11/29/84
Alltron Scientific 12/16/84


I only got to sample a small portion of 1984 newspapers because it's all my time constraints and sanity would allow. While most of the ads I'd already seen, there were two particularly interesting ones that were not only new to me but kind of cool and/or mysterious unto themselves. I mean who doesn't love a Shockwave clone with original line art I've never seen before? And then there was this really crazy ad with a generic description of "Robots" from December of '84 that was notable for featuring line art of the Insecticon Kickback, who is generally regarded amongst toy robots historians as being a 1985 release. It's unusual line art that doesn't follow the usual pattern of being based off a photograph of the actual toy. Instead it's taken from the box art, which is intriguing because I wonder how they got that. If the store didn't have the product then how did they get this line art? It points to the Insecticons being late '84 releases that gradually attained wide release by early '85. The price point is correct for Insecticons and the art is consistent with official art so I'd totally believe anyone from Orlando who told me they remember the Insecticons being 1984 releases. I just wish the ad would be more straightforward and describe what exactly was for sale instead of being a generally worded solicitation for $4 robots.


There wasn't much else by way of highlights during Vintage Space Toast Tour Orlando. I only looked through late November/early December of '84 and by that point my brain was fried. There were a couple honorable mentions like an ad for Robo Force vehicles with a picture of them in their boxes and a few clearer versions of ads I've already gotten. But really not much else. I think I'm reaching the point where I'm not interested in doing this much anymore, especially since Google makes it so much easier to find old robots and 25 year old bad news with their online newspaper archive. I'm starting to see that I don't really need to ruin any more vacations (or be in plane crashes) because I've got Google, which is the next best thing. Right now I've got a backlog of ads waiting for me when I get home that I'm not looking forward to and that's how I know I might need to take a long break from the hobby. I'm sure there are plenty of other ways to ruin perfectly good vacations that don't involve toy robots. Unfortunately I'm stuck in Disney World for the next three days and the only thing really going on around here is Botcon.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010



Monday, June 21, 2010

The SuperConocalypse!

The eleventh seal of the Roboplastic Apocalypse snaps, crackles and pops like I stuck my microphone in a bowl of rice crispies at a firecracker convention in this special Florida Supercon 2010 edition of the Podcastalypse! Thrill to the adventures of the Nostrodomatron as I walk the floor talking to myself for ten minutes about must have items I saw at FSC that every toy robot collector needs in their collection like terrible cardboard box Gundam costumes, very expensive drawings of old robots, some bootleg Botcon shirts and 12 inch tall Lynn Minmay dolls. Plus José Delbo talks to me about being the penciler on the old Marvel G1 Transformer comic from 1988 to 1990!

Or download it directly


I like to think every convention is what you make of it, and boy I tell you people were makin' stuff all over the place and most of it involved copyright infringement and lots of corrugated cardboard. While Supercon wasn't really a robot themed convention there was still tons of robot stuff to do. And by "tons of robot stuff to do" I mean I spent half my time at José Delbo's table having conversations with him about when he drew the Marvel Transformers comic from 1987-1990. The other half of my time was spent trying to drum up the courage to go to his table. Meeting Mr. Delbo was a huge deal to me and I tried to not be annoying but I may have come off a bit more starstruck with him than the average toy robots enthusiast. If I could have sat down with him all day I would have but I didn't want to be that annoying crazy fan that makes him want to go home and set all his Transformers art on fire. Ditto for Bill Sienkiewicz, who did the covers for the first issues of both Transformers and Starriors. Had those two been the only guests it would still have been a robotastic convention. I will choose to remember this convention as Botcon Miami, where Mr. Delbo and Mr. Sienkiewicz were the only guests and Tia Carrere, Yaya Han and Lion-O just happened to be there, too.

  • Meeting my robot heroes
  • Not robots that turn into pencils-the other way around!
  • Bad Gundam character design or homeless fan of Japanese robots?
  • If I had a cardboard car I would totally use these
  • What every bootleg robot cartoon DVD collector needs in their collection
  • Remembering the Sturyorz
  • A real Minmay Doll! (Not a Minmay real doll-that's something else)
  • The Perceptor DaVinci pose from All Hail Perceptor
  • Interview with José Delbo!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Supercon Day O (Where the "O" is for Lion-O)

  • Haven't seen any cosplayers in robot costumes yet.
  • My robot heroes Delbo and Sienkewicz weren't there but that was cool because I forgot to put an SD card in my camera!
  • One dealer had bootleg DVDs of Mighty Orbots, Japanese Transformers, Tranzor-Z and one that I think was called "The Best of GoBots"!
  • Very little by way of robot figures on the dealer floor. Saw a Japanese reissue Smokescreen and some Revoltech Patlabors but that was it.
  • One dealer has original art from Micronauts, ROM, Shogun Warriors and G1 Transformers comics. Pages from Transformers #43 and Transformers #55 were $95-$150 each, while he wanted $1,200 for the cover to Shogun Warriors #5!
  • I congratulated Larry Kenny on landing that new Thundercats role-he said I was the first to mention it so far this weekend!

Yesterday's Heroes!

Florida Supercon kicks off today with tons of guests from all different facets of pop culture. They really do have something for everybody at this show and the level of celebrity in attendance is rather impressive. But while everyone else is clamoring to get the autographs of Leslie Nielsen, Shaft, The Iron Sheik, Tia Carrere, and the guy who played the "These aren't the droids we're looking for" Stormtrooper from Star Wars, I will be seeking out the guests with more roboplastilogical accomplishments.


In a robotastic stroke of luck, Supercon has landed two comic book artists who made huge contributions to the Transformers comic I grew up reading in the 80s. They'll have Bill Sienkiewicz who did the covers to the very first Transformers comic and all four issues of Starriors and also José Delbo, the man who drew most of the issues of Transformers from #36 through #67 during a span of three years from late '87 to early 1990. There were many milestones in that run including issue 50 where Starscream killed everybody, Bob Budiansky's departure as writer, Simon Furman's debut as writer in the U.S. and of course, my letter getting printed in issue #42. Delbo's run saw Transformers transition from a light hearted action adventure book to a more serious science fiction epic. It would be really incredible if he'd be willing to talk about his Transformer experiences but sometimes artists hardly remember what they did 20 years ago. Mr. Delbo also has numerous other accomplishments in comics for which he's highly regarded, like his 70s run on Wonder Woman and other DC titles. For some comic artists, working on toy robot books was just a job they did and it may not be exactly what they'd like to be remembered for. I guess we'll find out when I attempt to create the world's only copy of Transformers #42 signed by Bob Budiansky, José Delbo and Evil King Macrocranios.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Fiction of Robo Force Part 3-THIS IS BOT COMEDY!

Last week I was getting out of my truck in the parking lot of the comic book store when one of those big scary 70s vans I always imagine being full of villains and scoundrels pulled up behind me and a guy pops his impressively mustachioed head out the door and says "Hey I know this might seem weird but do you wanna buy some nice home theater equipment?" I wondered how it was possible he was living in 2010 and hadn't heard of easier, more trusted ways of offloading his stolen merchandise like Craigslist and eBay. Recently I'd been reading true stories of time travelers and for a second I considered that maybe he really was from the 70s and he momentarily warped through time to the parking lot of the comic book store to sell me his stolen home theater equipment. I tell you, some criminals will do anything to avoid paypal fees. It kind of made sense because if he really was a time traveler he probably would need that big a van because I've seen the Brady Bunch and I know 70s home theater components are gigantic. But why home theater? Why can't time traveling 70s rape mobile drivers be trying to sell me things I really want like old Robo Force comic books I don't have? Sometimes I feel like I could use the services of a good interdimensional toy scalping van.


Then as if the ghost of Maxx Steele himself heard my cries, last week a long time reader of the Roboplastic Apocalypse known only as the Necronomitron drove a virtual hearse full of fantastic Robo Forceological finds through the Kingdom of Macrocrania! Thanks to the Necronomitron I got to read two more Robo Force comics I'd never seen before. I had speculated previously that there must have been other Robo Force pack-in comics I was missing based on the serial numbers printed on the backs of the ones I had. So far I'd found 2L-2947-0000, 2L-2947-1000 and 2L-2947-4000. I felt there was strong evidence of a sequential gap between 1000 and 4000 and I also found it strange that several Robo Forcers were missing from the issues I had. Sure enough, the two books supplied by the Necronomitron were numbered 2L-2947-2000 and 2L-2947-3000 and they featured the missing robots! So now if I were to assemble a listing of the Robo Force pack-in comics based on their serial numbers it would look like this:

2L-2947-0000 Assault on the Fortress of Steele!
2L-2947-1000 Showdown in Space!
2L-2947-2000 The Adamantium Heist!
2L-2947-3000 Ambush in Celestia!
2L-2947-4000 Menace of the Heat Ray!

I've already done reviews of the other three, so now let's check out the two I've never read before:


Character Appearances
: Sentinel, Sentinel's Air Bot (non-speaking role), Vulgar, Vulgar's Air Bot (also non-speaking)
Other Toys Featured: Robocruiser, Dred Crawler
Synopsis: While patrolling the desolate area of Zeton known as the Endlands, Sentinel encounters Vulgar running a one-robot adamantium mining operation.

My Thoughts: This one's got it all! From the desert speeder chase scene in the beginning to the hilarious robot-on-robot smackdown at the end, it's like they took Looney Tunes Roadrunner cartoons and combined them with Tom & Jerry style violence and did it with robots. In typical Robo Force storytelling style no explanation is given for why anything happens-we aren't told why Vulgar is mining the adamantium or why Sentinel just beats him up and then leaves! It's notable for being the only Robo Force story ever where one of the robots actually uses their crusher arms and also for great lines like "This'll violate your warranty!" delivered as Sentinel blasts Vulgar repeatedly. This is comic 2L-2947-2000 and it shows us that the good guys in Robo Force aren't cops but if you're bad they'll beat you up just the same and also that Wolverine really should have trademarked that stuff on his bones.


Character Appearances: Blazer, Coptor, Maxx Steele, Wrecker, Enemy..and Opticon?
Other Toys Featured: Dred Crawler
Synopsis: Coptor is on stage delivering jokes at a packed comedy club in the city of Celestia when Enemy strikes!

My Thoughts: Okay now there was that one time a Transformer got drunk and did karaoke but I have never seen anything as crazy as a robot on stage during open mic comedy night. Almost as silly is how the "ambush" consists of a single bad robot firing one laser into the comedy club (hurting no one in the process) and then flying away. The resulting Coptor vs Enemy fight is a bit of a let down as all Coptor does is fly around a lot until one of Enemy's own shots ricochets and blows him through a wall Looney Tunes style. But one incredible thing about the comic is that it may contain an appearance by one of the previously thought unreleased Robo Forcers! If you look at the panel I've scanned at the very top of this post there's a robot to the left of Wrecker in the club crowd. He bears a striking resemblance to Opticon the Interceptor from the '85 line! This is comic 2L-2947-3000 and it teaches us that when it comes to robot parties, it only takes one death ray to bring the house down. Also, that bad comedy is the ultimate weapon.


Finally getting to read these last two Robo Force comics was a huge deal to me and I'd like to thank the Necronomitron once again. The five comics I've reviewed so far might possibly be the only ones ever made but who knows? Whether or not more pack-in comics were produced beyond these depends on if the proposed 1985 wave of toys made it to stores. I happen to believe at least some of those '85 robots did see limited release based on evidence I've found so I have hope that there are more books out there. I believe it's just a matter of time before I connect with that one person out there who has the missing pieces, but I won't hold my breath waiting for him to show up in the parking lot of the comic book store. Heck, who needs time traveling toy scalper vans when you've got an undertaker of dead toy robots on your side?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

VIRTUAL SPACE TOAST TOUR TOLEDO-A visit to Children's Palace on November 30, 1985 (Grandma not included)

The other night as I was perusing the Google newspaper archive I came across a true gem in the microfilm rough. It was a complete 16 page Children's Palace circular from November 30th, 1985. I've seen this ad a lot on microfilm in person at various libraries across the country and I tell you, the quality of Google's transfer here is easily the best I've ever seen. It's beautiful. This is an extremely rare treat because complete Sunday circulars are usually missing from Google's archive and also not every city had a Children's Palace. It was a regional chain that wasn't as widespread as Lionel Playworld or Toys R Us but still very well known for the unique castle style front facades of its stores. Dr. Geektarded wrote some great posts about the chain at his blog. Since my hobby focuses only on the toy robots portions of these ads I never document the rest of the pages with other wonderful toys and those remain buried in library microfilms. Yet I'm sure there are fans of toylines like M.A.S.K. and G.I. Joe who would love to see stuff like this but they don't have the time to go to their local libraries and dig it up themselves. Well now thanks to Google nobody has to solve the perplexing mysteries of figuring out where their local library is and learning how to use a microfilm scanner. To make it even easier I've linked each thumbnail below to its corresponding page in the Google archive. Just click on whatever page you'd like and it'll take you to the super high quality zoomable Google version. The first and last pages weren't linkable but once you get to any other page you can scroll over to them. Then get ready to enjoy the toy robots ads right on your screen without the hassle of kicking some grandma at the library off the microfilm machine. (Although for me that's actually part of the fun.)

Page 2
Page 3
Page 4

The cover and page 2 are of interest to me as they are the most robotty pages. I don't think I've ever seen another toy store who thought Ironhide was cool enough to put on their circular's cover but that's how Chil Pal rolled back in '85. If you zoom really close up into the jumble of toys in the stocking on the cover you'll see Transformers roller skates! Page 2 features some of the most horrendous mistransformations I've ever seen anyone put a Transformer through but it redeems itself with a super rare solicitation for the Transformers Pinball Machine by Durham. Also of note on page 2 are Robotix and Capsela sets. Highlights from page 3 include the Voltron Castle of Lions and the Voltron Camera. Sectaurs and Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars also make appearances. Page 4 features Boulder Hill, Rhino and Switchblade from M.A.S.K.. For some reason the M.A.S.K. stuff isn't displayed outside of the boxes like every other action figure. After seeing how badly they did at assembling the Transformers I can't say I blame the photographers for giving up as soon as they saw the contents of the M.A.S.K. boxes, which contained more guns and car parts than an NRA meeting on GoBotron.

Page 5
Page 6
Page 7

Page five features a bunch of cool riding stuff including the Knight Rider Power Cycle. Pages six and seven have quintessential 80s board games like Trivial Pursuit, Broadsides & Boarding Parties, My Little Pony Merry-Go-Round and Beatlemania!

Pages 8 and 9
Page 10

Barbie, Wuzzles, My Little Pony, Care Bears and Rainbow Brite dominate the centerfold on pages 8 and 9. Check out the three foot tall stuffed animals including Garfield and some Care Bear guy on page 10.

Page 11
Page 12
Page 13

Buncha baby toys on page 11 including some Hello Kitty and Glo Worm action. 12 and 13 have classic building toys like Tyco Super Blocks, Whittle Chips, Construx and of course Lego.

Page 14
Page 15
Page 16

Page 14 is the electronics page with Casey the other robot tape player. Also down there in the left hand corner are three G.I. Joe videocassettes by F.H.E.-Red Rockets Glare, Cobra's Creatures and Countdown for Zartan. Anyone who has ever owned an F.H.E. cartoon has the promos for those stuck in their head. To the right there are VHS tapes by Prism with old timey cartoons of various Marvel Super Heroes like Captain America, Spider Man, Iron Man, The Red Skull and Doctor Doom. It's weird but twenty five years later these are still in stores, just in different formats. 15 is musical instruments and baby restraint devices for the feral babies in your life. The last page sort of got cut off a little but the good parts are still there if you strain your eyes a bit. I can see ads for the Transformers Electric Racing Set (and the individual cars, too), the "Sun Raid" Listen & Play book and the Transformers slumber bag.


Unfortunately I couldn't find any other Children's Palace circulars from the 1985 Toledo papers in the Google archive. I guess it was just a fluke that they included this one but boy am I ever glad they did. The quality is outstanding and it beats what you'd find at most libraries. And even if you could go down to the Toledo library and find this on the reels it would be nearly impossible to get copies this clear off the copy machines. Even taking a picture of the microfilm scanner screen wouldn't come close to the quality here. Google is inadvertently making some great contributions to the field of roboplastic archaeology in their quest to digitize media and I thank them for it. I would also like to thank whoever made the Toledo microfilms for not skipping over the ads as many microfilm manufacturers did. Of course my deepest gratitude goes to the now extinct Children's Palace, whose ad makers knew Transformers were the toy to pimp even if they didn't know how to transform them. Also, that Ironhide was ugly.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Dion's Torment

I got a robot in the mail today
of extremely limited edition
only a few thousand made
all packaged in mint condition

On the way back from the mail
I opened up the box
I detached-ed all the plastic bags
And finally held prized bot

With club exclusive pedigree
and some aftermarket collectibility
so prized by the Transfan fraternity
this robot worth forty bucks someplace
My son who's three looked up at me
and yelled, "PAPA IT'S GONNA RACE!"

So up and down the slide it went
Getting tires, doors and bumpers bent
And we were really enjoying Dion's torment
I wonder if one day he'll say thank you

Or will he begrudge the value lost?
Ask why couldn't we play with lesser bots.
But I'll say why play with a cheap robot
when a super rare forty dollar one will do?

Monday, June 14, 2010

APPETITE FOR CONSTRUCTICON: The Transformers Generation 2 handheld game by Tiger

When I was a kid in the early 80s playing with action figures was a lot more interesting than playing video games. The limited graphics of the Atari 2600 or Intellivision just didn't deliver the same punch as He-Man could (literally). Then the Transformers arrived at a time when console gaming was totally dead, a year after the big video game crash of '83. Consoles would eventually make a comeback but not before Hasbro offed Optimus Prime in 1986. Consequently the original lineup of '84-'85 Autobots led by Optimus Prime only ever got one video game during Generation One-the 1985 Commodore 64 title "Transformers". I never got to play it when I was 11 years old because a) I never had a Commodore 64 and b) even if I did have a C64 and you gave me 30 bucks to buy the game I was so robotarded I would probably spend all the money on more Dinobots.


And so I would have to wait almost ten years after 1985 for Tiger to release their Transformers: Generation 2 electronic handheld game, which was pretty much the Generation One game I always wanted. I bought it at Botcon 2006 instead of getting more actual Transformers. This did not mean I grew out of my robotardation. All it meant was that a) I didn't know about the game until 2006 and b) in the twenty years since 1985 I still could not figure out a good use for 30 dollars that did not involve toy robots. So I thought it would be cool to do a video of myself playing this game like the guys on YouTube have done for other Tiger handhelds like Metal Gear and Street Fighter. At first I wanted my video to be in the same sterile documentary style like those other videos were and just play the game and let it speak for itself. Then I turned on the camera and just started blabbing away-not because this game play is so complex that the overwhelming action needed narration, but because I talk too much all the time.


Unfortunately in all my excitement I didn't get around to making a couple of important observations crucial to understanding why this is indeed the greatest Generation 1 game that never came out in Generation 1. This is because the levels are rather short and I didn't have enough time to say everything I wanted to say, but luckily for the universe there is the Roboplastic Apocalypse. One notable difference between this Transformers game and other Tiger handhelds is the lack of music or digitized voices in the game. There is no Transformer theme song playing or Optimus Prime talking but it doesn't really detract from the fun. What is a little annoying is how short the boss battles are. I had barely said Long Haul's name after he showed up at the end of level 1 to start the boss fight and then I beat him. I'm just glad he showed up-the biggest problem I had with level 1 is the game timer would kick in and end everything before I got a chance to kill everything. A lot of times what would happen is I'd run out of time before I got to Long Haul or I'd barely get to him and I'd run out of time. I can't figure out what triggers Long Haul showing up. I don't think it's dependent on going a certain distance down the road. I think it depends on the number of enemies I destroy. Either way level 1 is the shortest of the game and thankfully the only one where the game timer adds an element of tension and excitement to a battle against Long Haul. This is no small accomplishment considering it makes you tense and excited to be in a battle with Long Haul.


Level 2 is a lot of fun because your Autobot partner is Jazz, who is actually useful and doesn't die immediately because he's in a bad spot on the screen like Inferno. Jazz doesn't just pop up when you call him, either. There's actually a quick appearance made by his vehicle mode and then his robot shows up and starts lobbing missiles at the Decepticons. I don't remember any Jazz appearance in comics or cartoons when he's used that missile launcher but I'm glad he does it here. It's fun to see his missiles travel across the screen and pop Devastator on the head. Watching Optimus move his arm up and down to fire his gun in different directions is also pretty cool. There's actually a decent amount of character animation in this game, like when Optimus transforms he doesn't go straight to robot-there's an intermediate stage where his head pops out of the truck first. And when Devastator appears for the boss fight at the end of level 2 it's preceded by Long Haul transforming into his torso and then the other Constructicons appear all around him. The game is limited by what an LCD can do but I think Tiger did some pretty cool things here. Again the boss battle is a little too short but at least I've never run out of time getting to it.


They could have made Devastator the final boss of the entire game but that would mean we wouldn't get to see him much. By making him an end boss in level 2 it was assured his liquid crystal sprite (or whatever they call it) appeared a lot throughout the game. This is probably why I love level three. It's chock full of Devastator battles! Unfortunately the cool animation of Long Haul transforming into his torso and the other Constructicons piling on doesn't happen here. When Devastator shows up after level 2 it's always sudden and instantaneous. His death is also pretty sudden and instantaneous because unlike his first appearance he only takes one shot to kill. The end boss of level 3 is Ramjet, who is an enemy that appears throughout the game in every level but this time he's got more hit points and a little bit of a flashier entrance. Like all the other bosses he goes down after way too short of a fight. Ramjet being used as a boss was probably just Tiger padding out the game a bit. Level three does seem a bit unnecessary but it's worth it just to have a little more Optimus vs. Devastator time.


Man I just noticed there's a gigantic piece of lint on the screen in all these videos. It's right on top of where Optimus in robot mode goes when he jumps in the air. Man, that's annoying. Well level 4 is pretty much level 3 all over again except the call partner is Grimlock. Usually Grimlock sticks around and is highly effective but of course when I need him to stick around for my YouTube video he goes out almost immediately after Ramjet throws him a missile. The little animation of Grimlock swinging his sword is really neat especially when you see him use it against a nearby Constructicon but you're just going to have to take my word for it. The final battle against Starscream is not unlike battling Ramjet at the end of level 3, but this time through some clever LCD wing patterning you do at least get a different looking robot to fight. As usual the boss battle is way too short, especially since the instructions tout Starscream as being the most powerful of all the Decepticons in the game. But it's cool. I am kind of glad they didn't use G2 tank Megatron to finish the game off because this way I can sort of squint and pretend it's the G1 game I always wanted. With all the shortcomings of LCD technology it may not deliver the same Transformers experience as a game like Mystery of Convoy but on the plus side it doesn't deliver the same Transformers experience as Mystery of Convoy.


Unfortunately the game allows no continues so if you die in any level you always start again at the beginning of level 1, making it a hassle if I wanted to reshoot these videos because of a linty screen or to get a longer cameo by any of the other Autobots. But I think what I've got here is good enough to give most people a representative idea of what goes on in the game. It's pretty much Optimus Prime vs. a whole bunch of Constructicons for ten minutes and while that might be boring to some people, I can't get enough of it. I hear there's another really great Optimus vs. Devastator battle in the Revenge of the Fallen game I just got for PS3. Hopefully it won't take 17 years for me to play that one but I'm sure I'll be all over it soon because in the twenty years since 1985 I still can't figure out a good use for 30 minutes that doesn't involve toy robots.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

This is NOT your father's Autobot LCD game(unless I'm your daddy)OR:G2 is the new G1, the new me is the old me...and other ways I know it's still 1985

I got really lucky back in April when I was at the mall and found the Transformers Revenge of the Fallen game for PS3 on clearance for 15 bucks. I was really excited because on the package (and in the trailer and on just about every video game review for it) there's these awesome depictions of an Optimus Prime vs. Devastator fight. They could put that image on tampons and I would buy them. All I wanted to do was be Optimus Prime and get up in Devastator's business and try to rip off his head, denying him and other sentient beings of their rights to freedom and a face. But then when I got home and popped the game in I was stuck in some lame training mission where I was Bumblebee learning to drive and then suddenly I became some jet guy learning to fly and when all that was over I was in some sort of complicated mission control room trying to learn what I should do next. I tried to play a mission and there were all these objectives and complicated multi-button controls that changed depending on which mode you're in and whose side you're on. So I said screw this! I'm 36 and based on average life expectancy that's a little over half dead and I just don't have the time or the patience anymore to play a game where the first hour feels like I'm testing for my Cybertronian driver's license.


So I figured maybe I'm missing something and I looked for the instruction manual trying to figure out which was the button I needed to press to immediately start the epic Optimus Prime vs. Devastator face off. And then I find out the instruction manual is eight pages long! This might not seem like a lot to the kids nowadays but when I grew up my first video game console was an Atari 2600 and the only revenge we had was Yar's Revenge. If my instruction book back then was eight pages that's because seven pages of it was a comic book featuring fantastic stories of Yars revenging each other. It turned out shooting Devastator in the balls like I wanted was going to be a lot more complicated than I thought.


That's when I remembered that a couple Botcons ago I bought the Tiger handheld Transformers Generation 2 game! If I remembered correctly it had an Optimus vs. Devastator fight in it, with the added advantage of being simple to play due to having about twenty thousand less buttons on the controller. Plus it was from the G2 era which meant it had the same old Transformers I grew up with, just they were pretending it wasn't 1985. So I opened it up and to my delight I found the manual was a fold out pamphlet and best of all, the instructions were written in comic book!

You always play as Optimus Prime! Thank you, thank you! This is why this game is infinitely better than the PS3 version. I don't waste time being anyone else. And the objective is clearly defined-beat up the Decepticons. Unlike the PS3 version that took eight pages and still didn't tell me what the heck was going on, I know right from the start who I am and what I'm supposed to do. All you can do in this game is drive down the road as Optimus Prime and kill every robot in your way. Some people might call this restrictive and redundant gameplay. I call it the greatest scene in Transformers:The Movie.

I love this game! It's Optimus Prime versus the Constructicons the whole way through! In another part of the manual their names are given as Scavenger, Mixmaster, Bulldozer, Longhaul, Scrapper and Hook. I guess Bonecrusher was sick that day or something. (In a crazy twist, Devastator's legs also attacked me during the game. Scrapper and Mixmaster in their leg modes would pop up randomly.) Devastator is described as the leader of the Constructicons, who is the most powerful Constructicon but not the most powerful Decepticon in the game. What's fantastic is that once you beat Devastator in level 2, he keeps popping up later on in the game. It's constant Optimus vs. Devastator action!

Another great feature is the ability to call up another Autobot to fight alongside you. The assisting character changes depending on the level but it means Inferno, Jazz, Sideswipe and Grimlock get to make cameos. They only have one hit point so depending on their position in the screen (they're each stuck in one place and can't move) they either die really quick or not at all. I love how Jazz, Sideswipe and Inferno are their G2 box arts rendered in LCD drawings. It's Transformers:Battle of the Promotional Line Art. It's really cool if you like seeing old newspaper ads fighting each other (and you know I'm all about that).

I haven't beaten the game yet but I have seen level four, the final level of the game where the last boss is Starscream. I'm glad they didn't make Devastator the final boss because getting to kill him repeatedly is a lot of fun. This is really what the PS3 game should have been. I may be getting old but I'll take a game where I immediately start as Optimus Prime and three minutes later I'm fighting Devastator. Heck, in an ideal world three minutes is about how long anyone should have to wait for anything. Once I get good enough to beat the game I want to do a YouTube of it so everyone can see its greatness. But that's gonna take a little while. Heck, I may never progress and just be totally content with fighting G2 Devastator over and over. PS3 DEVASTATOR YOUR BALLS ARE SAFE FOR NOW.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Name That Tronian!

My fellow GoBotronians, I need help identifying this particular piece of GoBot merchandise. Does anyone recognize what it is? I've never seen a Leader-1 with the GoBots logo on its chest. I'm guessing this is some sort of promotional tie-in, maybe a toy that's not a toy but also something else like a toothbrush or radio or walkie talkie. I found the picture in an old 1985 newspaper article about the evils of toy based cartoons so the source article was of no use at all in identifying the robot. I'm gonna hit up some GoBots experts I know and see if they can help but I figured I'd throw it out here, too. K THX BYE

Monday, June 07, 2010

The 1985 Hasbro Toy Catalog part 3, featuring assortments 5720 and 5745 OR: APPETITE FOR INSECTICON

It was 1985 and toy robots were everywhere, infesting every retail, drug and toy store all across America. I guess it was inevitable that the robots would start looking like locusts since they were already acting like them. And look like them they did once Hasbro blew the fifth trumpet of the seventh seal of the roboplastic apocalypse and unleashed upon the world the Insecticons! Kickback, Shrapnel and Bombshell were the color coordinated trio of bad guy bugs that menaced cartoon robot land (and real life grocery stores) with their voracious hunger and bizarre speech impediments. And so I celebrate 25 years later the marketing brilliance of Hasbro who knew that the only way you're gonna get anyone to take a robot grasshopper seriously is if you give him a sub-machine gun.


The was quite a long gap between the airing of the very last episode of the first season of Transformers on December 29th, 1984, and the first new episode of the second season which aired September 23, 1985. Within that nine months much of the 1985 line would begin hitting the shelves, including assortments like the Insecticons and Constructicons. But just because these early '85 product assortments wouldn't be out until after the first season finished didn't mean they wouldn't be getting a little pre-release cartoon screen time. The Constructicons along with Kickback, Shrapnel and Bombshell were not ignored in the 1984 season and the very last episodes of season 1 introduced them before they'd achieved wide release in stores across the country. So they had the kids covered but how did Hasbro convince the store buyers at the wholesale level to focus their funds on some robot locust fun? Well check out the first page of the two page Insecticon spread from the 1985 toy catalog!:

The Transformers
Insecticon Assortment

These creepy creatures from the insect world transform into terrifying robots to attack the Autobots. Insecticons fight by using forms of mind control or "electricity" on their subjects. Swing back the wings, open the chests and fold down the heads to transform from insects to robots.
Each is packaged as an insect with attachable weapons, character bio, Tech Specs chart and decoder. The special liquid crystal logo provides proof of authenticity. Assortment includes eight of each Insecticon.
2 5/8x6 1/4x7 1/2" CU.:1.2
WT.:6.5lbs PK:24


The two page Insecticon spread begins here on page 62 of the catalog with the three smaller and more famous Insecticons. Instead of splitting up the 2 page spread evenly with the deluxe Insecticons and giving the two groups one page each, slightly more space is devoted to the three smaller robots. Because of this Bombshell's robot mode is actually found on page 63. The Insecticons pictured here are prototype versions with some features that either didn't make it to the production versions or were eventually phased out after the initial early releases. Kickback's pointy wings, Schrapnel's winged gun and Bombshell's scooped stinger were all features shared with the initial Japanese releases of these toys when they were known as Insecter Robos in the Diaclone line. Those and many other features would be altered for or during the Hasbro Transformers releases. What tripped me out was how Hasbro changed Kickback so his wings didn't end in points but in rounded circles, then when they reissued the Insecticons in 2009 the pointy winged Kickback returned! I grabbed me a set because it was like getting a reissue prototype straight out of the '85 catalog that I could never get when I was a kid.


Sears 02/20/85
What I find interesting about the small Insecticons was that despite their modest size they still got packaged in boxes. They're only ever so slightly larger than the Decepticon Battlechargers and those guys came out individually carded. My best guess is that the Insecticons were probably too unwieldy to be carded because of their shapes and the weight of their die cast construction so they got boxed. And boy were those boxes everywhere. If there were ever toys I remember clogging up the shelves at every Walgreens and Winns in the mid 80s they'd be the Insecticons. They and the Autobot Jumpstarters would have to be the earliest examples of Transformer shelfwarmers I can remember.

The Insecticons have also proven to be amongst the earliest released 1985 Transformers I've found ads for. The above "Small Insecticons Assortment" ad from Sears ran February 20th, which was also the same week Toy Fair 1985 was wrapping up in New York. So although these assortment were being hyped as new in the '85 Toy Fair catalogs they were already in some stores. (Unless you lived in Montreal.) Again this early ad uses different text from the toy catalog, leading me to believe there was probably a pre-Toy Fair catalog Hasbro used to solicit orders for product scheduled to ship in the spring of '85. The description of the Insecticons' alternate modes as a grasshopper, beetle and lamellicorn are exactly the same alt mode descriptions used on the Takara Diaclone Insecter Robo packages.

Walgreens 11/06/85
Eckerd 11/03/85

Also inconsistent with the toy catalog is the line art of Kickback used in the Walgreens ad above. Usually line art came from the toy fair catalogs. So I am sure there is some Hasbro 1st quarter '85 toy catalog out there that preceded the catalog I have. It probably came out in late '84 and had the photos this line art was based on, plus it would call Shrapnel a lamellicorn.

The Transformers
Deluxe Insecticon Assortment

These evil Insecticons descend upon unsuspecting humans to confront the Autobot defenders and wreak havok on earth. Swing out the wings, pull back the legs, fold down the head...each provides a challenging transformation from insect to robot and back. The Deluxe Insecticons are packaged with attachable weapons, character bio, Tech Specs chart and decoder. The special liquid crystal logo assures their proof of authenticity. Assortment includes three each of the four Deluxe Insecticons.

7 5/8x3 1/2x 8 1/2" CU.:1.17
WT.:7 lbs. PK:12


I wasn't that surprised when I saw the layout of the two page Insecticon spread in the '85 catalog proportionally favors the smaller assortment, devoting less room to the deluxe Insecticons. I kind of feel at times that the Deluxe Insecticons got the shaft while the three little guys hogged the spotlight. The little guys were in the cartoon and comic and a million other places while the deluxe Insecticons hardly appeared anywhere. The most attention I heard any of them got back in the day was when Venom came out in that one awful book and tape set and even then he didn't get to talk! These guys were almost totally overlooked in Transformers lore and it's sad because they had awesome names that sounded like death metal bands. Heck, Venom was the name of a death metal band in '86. I remember because I thought it was cool when I was 12 that there was a robot and a band with a scary video on Headbangers Ball and they shared the same name. I was really close to getting a Venom when I was a kid because he was supposed to be the leader of the Insecticons and his robot mode was awesome looking and he had death metal cred but when my mom saw it packaged in insect mode she thought it was pretty. I feel dumb about this now but when I was a kid the last thing I wanted was a robot my mom thought was pretty. So I passed on that and ended up with Bombshell, who was smaller but sufficiently ugly.


Although both assortments were tagged with "NEW" on the borders of their photos, only the smaller Insecticons had "TV" added to their product description. Hasbro used the "TV" blurb to indicate there would be commercials advertising certain product assortments (but not necessarily that these toys would be featured in the cartoon-even after the cartoon was discontinued Hasbro attached "TV" to many assortments' Toy Fair catalog appearances). Not having that TV support is probably why newspaper ads for the deluxe Insecticons are so rare in my experience. I'm no professional wholesale toy buyer but I can tell from my time looking at old newspaper ads that retailers loved toys they knew already had television commercial support. I've noticed a pattern where Transformers from the first two years who were not originally made by Takara didn't get extensive commercial or media support unless they cost more than 20 bucks. I guess in the world of the Transformers there was quite literally a high cost of fame and it hovered around the $19.95 price point.


I had no intentions of writing about the Transformer pages of the '85 Hasbro catalog but it seemed like lately every time I went to a Toys R Us those reissue Insecticons were bugging me to buy them. And once I had them there was that tie-in to Kickback's wings in the toy catalog and I got all inspired and I figured what the hell. So it is partly due to the Insecticons that I'm waxing nostalgic in the first place (and also partly because this year is the 25th anniversary of 1985). Tonight I think I'll break out the DVDs and watch that Insecticon episode from season 1, which is one of my favorite Transformer cartoons ever. But first I need to clean out my refrigerator before my wife finds out I've been blogging again.

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Evil King Macrocranios was voted king by the evil peoples of the Kingdom of Macrocrania. They listen to Iron Maiden all day and try to take pictures of ghosts with their webcams.