Monday, October 26, 2009

Melancholy and the Infinite Bitness

My Playstation died just before I went yesterday to Miami's first video game convention, Infinite Bits. It really put a damper on what should have been a fun time. Can you imagine your grandma dying and then having to go to a grandma convention? That's what it was like, except imagine for $150 Sony can fix your grandma.


Infinite Bits had super special guests like video game heroes Billy Mitchell and Walter Day, plus the Nostalgia Critic and geek comedian Aaron Pabon. Or at least they did before I got there. Since I went the last day I missed seeing all those great guys except for the comedian. So that sucked but I later found out from reading one guy's blog that Billy Mitchell was charging $3 to take a picture with him! Holy crap I am not paying Billy Mitchell anything unless there is barbecue sauce involved.


There was still fun to be had because I got to check out the interactive videogame museum. It was a large area of tables with all of the major home video consoles dating back to the mid 70s from Pong all the way to the Playstation 3. It was amazing and I got pictures of most of them for my Infinite Bits photo set at Flickr Macrocrania. Now they didn't have everything-I didn't see a Famicom Disk System or TurboGrafx CD for example-but they did have a ton of quirky goofy systems like the Vectrex, Sega 32X, Apple PipPin and Epoch CassetteVision. What was funny to me was how they secured the games in the systems with plastic bands to prevent theft. That may be a concern for some of the newer games, but really, who's going to try to rip off Bonk's Adventure for the TurboGrafx-16?


A big highlight of the show for me was getting to see geek comedian Aaron Pabon. I'd never seen him before but he's built up quite a reputation. What's so unique about him is he's carved out a niche as the world's first geek comic by doing stand up at pop culture conventions. I'm not really his target audience because I'm not knowledgeable about the latest Pokemons and Final Fantasys and Guitar Band games. On the opposite end of the spectrum was this one guy sitting next to me who was howling at everything Aaron said. But when the Aaron Pabon comedy train pulled into toy robots land with one joke he told about the life sized Gundam they made in Japan I was laughing along with everyone else. Sadly that was his only robot joke and my final fantasy was that I could understand what the hell he was talking about.


All in all I had a fun time during my one day there. I got to watch some insane video game commercials from the 80s that I hadn't seen since they first aired. (I think my mind was trying to repress the horrifically incredible commercial for Atari Joust because I don't remember that one.) I saw one dealer there with a ton of unop0ened, pristine condition robot related video games for many different consoles like Mystery of Convoy, Super Robot Wars Taisen, and lots of Macross and Gundam games I'd never seen before. I should have got a picture of his table. There was one dealer with reissue Transformers and the 20th/30th anniversary Transformers/Microman set for $40. I almost blew my Playstation resurrection money with those guys, but I held on. Although Infinite Bits was a bit bittersweet because of my personal PS3 circumstances and bad timing caused me to miss the guests I would go if they did another one next year. I still find video games infinitely interesting.

If you want to see other people having fun at Infinite Bits I suggest this video done by Those Gaming Guys and GamertagRadios' Flickr set.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The 1984 Hasbro Catalog concluded: The secret recipe for success that combines peace, freedom, tyranny and lots of crying and screaming

There's a game called Jenga where players build towers with strangely shaped little wooden blocks. Once the Jenga tower is built the players take pieces out without making the whole thing fall down, giving one an appreciation for the very important blocks near the base of the tower upon which the entire structure depends. I think the Transformers brand in 1984 was like a Jenga tower and three of those important blocks upon which the whole franchise depended were Soundwave, Megatron and Optimus Prime. Any other robot that year could have been removed from the lineup and it wouldn't have made much of a difference to the success of the Transformers. Taking away any other robot would be like taking blocks from the top of a Jenga tower and their absence would hardly be felt. Remove the characters of Soundwave, Megatron or Optimus Prime and Transformers 1984 collapses into a pile of oddly shaped transforming jet planes and Lamborghinis with little to differentiate them from GoBots, Zybots or Convertors. That gun, truck and tape deck really carried the rest of the line, which really wasn't much better than the competition. (However, take those three guys away and I still think I could come up with a compelling space opera about a young robot growing up on a Tattooine moisture farm who must learn the ways of the Force to find his destiny amongst the stars (plus he turns into a yellow Volkswagen)).


Line art of Soundwave in newspaper ads is not easy to come by, but not because he wasn't advertised much. From what I've seen the lack of Soundwave line art is mostly because stores preferred using actual pictures instead of drawings in their ads for larger Transformers like him. He got a good amount of ad exposure in '84 but retailers were always getting his name wrong for some reason. Although the '84 toy catalog from which the ad text originates clearly states his name is "Soundwave", retailers rarely ever capitalized the 's' or put the 'sound' and 'wave' together in one compound word. Then in my experience during 1985 the volume of Soundwave ads dropped considerably. Although he and Starscream are the only Decepticons from the original 1984 lineup to appear in the first three consecutive years of pack-in toy catalogs, I've never found any ads featuring either of them from 1986.
Carrs 11/20/85

It really bothers me that I've never found line art for the initial four Decepticon cassettes in newspaper ads. Thanks to page 69 of the '84 Hasbro catalog (shown above) I have an idea of what they'd look like since newspaper ad line art is created from these catalog images. There was also a set of "Color-Me" Decepticon stickers made by Diamond Toymakers that used line art derived from the catalog pictures. It gives a glimpse into what an ad for Ravage and Laserbeak would look like and it's as close as I'll ever get unless I find an ad for them someday.

It is interesting to me that Soundwave and Buzzsaw are the only two robots shown touching each other throughout all of the Transformer pages in the '84 catalog. I think this is because Hasbro wanted to be able to separate all the individual robots so that art of any single toy could be used to represent their whole assortment in retailer ads. Oftentimes I will see a drawing of one car figure or plane figure used in ads for all the cars and planes. Since Soundwave and Buzzsaw were together in their own assortment I assume it was no big deal if there was a little bit of photographic overlap between the two. Usually the only overlap in these pictures is between the robot and its alternate mode which is placed in front of it. I have seen instances where retailers attempt to sever the robot graphic from the alt mode, leaving the robot without a leg or foot (or both feet) in some cases but I've never seen an ad where Buzzsaw is removed from Soundwave's arm.

Swallen's 11/07/84


Megatron has the unique distinction of being the only Transformer in the '84 toy catalog to not be pictured touching another robot or his own alternate form. Unfortunately he is also distinguished by having a pretty bad mistransformation that was duplicated in the line art newspaper ads. Not only is his arm hanging off at a badly disjointed 90 degrees, but his Particle Beam Cannon accessory is assembled wrong according to his instructions. Consequently all the ads where retailers chose to use the line art of the cannon have this mistake. One could argue that it's not a mistake since Hasbro was still early in the development of the line and was trying to figure out how they wanted the particle beam cannon to look, but I think the '84 Hasbro toy catalog was made well after the instructions and pack-in toy catalog so it's not like they didn't know what they intended the transforms to look like. This then becomes the first officially released picture of a Transformer transformed wrong in what would become a 25 year history of publications including newspaper ads, publicity photos, toy catalogs and other media where photographers (like Megatron) shot first and didn't ask questions later.


The 1984 Hasbro toy catalog is unlike the pack-in toy catalog in that Optimus Prime does not immediately follow the other Autobots, instead his spread is reserved for the last two Transformer pages before the catalog switches over to G.I. Joe. Although the catalog offers up all sorts of pictures of Prime connected to and dancing around his trailer in combat deck mode, the only line art ads I've found of him remove the combat deck graphic entirely. It's always just the robot drawn standing behind the tractor trailer. So just as in the cartoon, in the line ads when he's a robot his trailer disappears.

Karl's Toys 12/05/85
There may be a difference in order of appearance between the two catalogs but there is one big similarity as well. The Optimus Prime pictured on pages 72 and 73 of the '84 Hasbro toy catalog has the same colors and configuration as the one shown in the toy pack-in catalog. Heck, I can almost guarantee it's the same Optimus because not only does it have the silver missiles, blue roller and metal plates in the trailer like the other catalog, it also has that uniquely shaped combat deck Roller launcher that's unlike any production Prime unearthed so far. This trailer is only ever seen in the '84 catalogs and a more production accurate version with black missiles and a normal launcher replaced it in the 1985 catalogs. So once again we have an example of a disappearing Optimus Prime trailer, except I know a collector who ended up with what is probably that very same photoshoot trailer in his private collection. But that guy got out of Transformers collecting a little while ago so I don't know if he still has it or it's disappeared yet again.


And so concludes my coverage of the Transformer action figure pages from the 1984 Hasbro Toy Catalog, a truly historic tome in the annals of roboplasticology. Hasbro did a fantastic job of presenting their toy robots in settings much more attractive than the single colored backgrounds we got with the toy catalogs that came with the 1984 figures. There were some surprises and strangeness within its pages like the '84 battle scene devoid of faction sigils on the robots, the black hooded Bluestreak and the mirror imaged minicars. The '84 Hasbro toy catalog is also interesting for what Transformers it doesn't show. There were a few known '84 releases like the Autobot car Skids, Decepticon Military Operations Commander Shockwave and Autobot Air Guardian Jetfire that missed the cut for whatever reason. Those three would make it into the '85 Hasbro toy catalog but would not be labeled as new for that year, unlike the Dinobots, Insecticons and other 'new for 1985' figure assortments. Other toys like Bumblejumper, yellow Cliffjumper and red Bumblebee never appeared in the '84 or '85 toy catalogs at all. Even though some guys got omitted, as far as the 1984 Hasbro toy catalog was concerned the line was complete with Soundwave, Megatron and Optimus Prime. As far as the '84 cartoon was concerned these would be the three that had the best voices. And as far as the ten hundred billion kids that watched the show these were the robots that were the awesomest. Hasbro, Marvel and Sunbow are given much credit for creating the secret formula that infused these three lifeless toy robots with strong personalities, making them some of the most memorable characters in pop culture cartoon history. What was the secret marketing formula that endeared these three in the hearts of billions? Was it some complicated process involving a combination of character archetypes throughout storytelling history, Jenga, and distilling essential truths about human existence and common mythic elements of the ages into various everyday household appliances? Well actually the secret was more like "the larger your price point was, the more lines you got on the show". GOBOTS DID NOT UNDERSTAND THIS.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Mighty Morphy Toy Robot Orgy

On top of a backlog of things I want to blog about I've also got a billion other projects I'm working on all designed to establish a larger physical and political presence for the Kingdom of Macrocrania on the internet. I noticed from my blog statisticals that using the Blogger search box at the top of the page isn't as useful as I thought it was. I always thought it was at least good enough that people looking for important things like Voltron and Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch could find all the incredibly useful insights, analysis and conspiracy theories I've written on such subjects. But it turns out that search box is total crap so I'm working on tagging every post I've ever written with useful topic titles like "Life is like a furricane" and "We are all Peter Cullen's unwanted children". I'm also working on writing a Transformers podcast about toy robots that are not Transformers because somehow for some reason podcasters are ignoring the incredibly tiny and practically non-existent non-vocal minority audience of people wanting to hear somebody talk about Mighty Orbots and Tranzor-Z. And of course in addition to these things I'm also working on a gigantic backlog of toy robots ads from Rapid City, Pasadena and Miami for the Vintage Space Toaster Palace. But when I say I'm working on all these things I really mean I'm thinking about doing them but instead when I sit down at the computer I end up looking at pictures of Japanese toy robots auctions all day.

If I won the lottery I would buy a 2010 Bumblebee Camaro and paint it like this

There is a public auction about to be held in Pennsylvania where they are going to sell off one of the single most concentrated masses of Japanese toy robots in all creation. The tale of cataloging, identifying and processing the hundreds of individual roboplasticos and robometallicos is being told by the men called to do it at their blog. I do not envy their job but it must be really cool to know so much about robots that people would come to you in situations like that. Once an old lady in Tucson asked me to identify some robots so she could sell them at garage sales and I ended up misidentifying some and I think I told her some of her GoDaiKins were from She-Ra. Being the low class bourgeois Transformer trash fan I am most all of that Philadelphia collection is stuff way beyond my level of knowledge and appreciation. But hot damn there's some crap there that's so incredible I recognize I'm not worthy to even be looking at the jpegs. First you've got the things that joe average neurotypical toy robots fans people like me know about. There's your lots with GoBots, the SDF-1 Macross, some Shogun Warriors, a couple Joons Valkyries, every Soul of Chogokin Mazinger in one shot, and throw in some Masterpiece Transformers and any one of those is like a good day searching on ebay. But then you know you're not in Kansas anymore when you start seeing things like an original GA-01 gold thigh Mazinger or an authentic all gold GA-01 or holy hell a non-GoDaiKin Combattra! Then after you've seen every rare incredible Japanese robot thing ever made you get to what looks like a convertible '72 Ford Fairlane painted in the colors of the Mexican flag and customized in the most awesome Great Mazinger deco ever. Then you realize no matter how many women you lay, no matter how many toy robots you own, no matter how many powerballs you win, you will never truly be a man until you drive something that looks like that in real life.


Then it all just starts going Twilight Zone and after a while you stop asking why is Great Mazinger flying a boat or driving a race car and the existence of such toys not only stops being weird it all makes perfect sense. Then you realize that no matter how cool it was to have a Transformer power cycle when you were a kid, your childhood pales in comparison to some four year old Japanese guy who grew up riding the Dol Giran robot dragon wagon. Then finally everything you thought you knew about life, love, god and toy robots crumbles with your sanity when you see a toy of Mazinger-Z driving a rocket launcher equipped convertible red Volkswagen that looks like Wheelie and the Chopper Bunch. Suddenly blog tags, podcasts and websites of old toy robots ads lose all significance in light of this new goal that becomes the overriding focus in your life-leaving your family and everything else behind to illegally break in to Mexico to learn how to paint giant robots on cars.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Finally I can see those PG-13,000 movies

Today is my 13,000th day of being alive. I call it my birthousandth day because I've lived a thousand times the number of the day I was born on, the 13th. I have not been this excited about a living related milestone since my 13th birthday fell on Friday the 13th back in '87. 13,000 days is a momentous occasion and as if to celebrate, the people at Animation Supercon Flickr'd four great pictures of me at their convention I attended a week and a half ago when I was only 12,988 days old. I kind of feel bad for people born on the 31st because they won't get to celebrate their birthousandth day until they're 84.

Me getting there
Me sitting there

Me buying there

Me standing there


If anyone is interested in more pictures from Supercon or just interested in pictures of Snowtroopers, Sailor Moons and wrestling Batmans in general, check out the thousands of Supercon 09 shots they put up over at the Supercon Flickr. I would like to especially thank the Supercon people for posting these pictures of me because that last one was taken during the sewing panel I forgot to take pictures at. When I saw a guy with a camera set up in the corner of the room and take a couple shots I figured he was either the official con photographer or a huge fan of the Vintage Space Toaster Palace. What a great 13 birthousandth day present. I wonder what the internet will do for me in 13 days when I turn 13,013. HOPEFULLY NOT A CASE OF THE TINJA NURTLES.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The 1984 Hasbro Toy Catalog part 4-Page 68: The Decepticon Planes! OR: Excuse Me While I Warp this Sky

I remember clearly the first time I ever saw a newspaper ad with line art of a 1984 Decepticon plane other than Thundercracker. Up until that point I wasn't really paying attention and I assumed all the Decepticon plane line arts I found were of Starscream. But this ad had drawings of Skywarp and Thundercracker and labeled them as such. Skywarp was pretty obvious because he was black, but at first I was confused with how they knew it was Thundercracker. Reducing full color images to black and white line drawings eliminated all the color references I needed to do a quick and easy differentiation between the blue jet and the grey one. So when I first started collecting Transformers newspaper ads I'd find what looked to me like a white jet and my mind would assume it was a representation of Starscream. I had to look a little harder at things like decals on the wings and vertical stabilizers in the drawings to figure out that it was really Thundercracker all along in the ads I'd found so far. Skywarp popped up more frequently later on but Starscream remained elusive until I found one ad in Pasadena. I thought it strange that the popular leader of the planes was so rarely found advertised in line art when Skywarp and Thundercracker ads were relatively more common. Was it a toy robots newspaper ad conspiracy between Hasbro and stores from 1984 to keep Starscream from selling while promoting Skywarp sales or was it just random chance? The answer becomes clear when you consider that not much thought was put into toy robots newspaper ads beyond cutting and pasting text and pictures from manufacturer toy catalogs. Obviously Skywarp had a better publicity agent.

Sears 12/10/85
Thrifty 11/07/84
You gotta trust me that these are three different drawings

Several errors were made due the rushed nature of the 1984 debut of the Transformers. Some toys in the 1984 catalog appeared in certain colors that were not released that way and some toys were released in certain colors that never appeared in the catalog. Another type of mistake was the switching of Tech Spec chart numbers between the three Decepticon jets Skywarp, Starscream and Thundercracker. Reading the character bios clarifies that Skywarp is "not too smart" while Starcream as Air Commander is the highest ranking of the group. Yet on the charts the stat numbers got mixed up and Skywarp ended up with a rank of 9 while Thundercracker got the lowest intelligence at 4 and Starscream who was supposed to be the fastest flyer had a speed of 9 instead of 10 like Thundercracker. What exactly was going on here? Were the numbers mixed up and the bios were right or were the bios mixed up and the numbers were right? If it was just a problem with the numbers being on the wrong charts then the names and bios were what was intended, but if those chart numbers were correct then it was the names and bios that were switched. This is a big deal because if you believe the numbers were right but the bios were wrong then that meant the black jet was the one that was supposed to be the highest ranking and thus leader of the team. Was the black jet somehow robbed of its place in toy robots cartoon history because of a printing error? Was Starscream supposed to be the name of the black jet? Or was Skywarp the correct name for the black jet who also was supposed to be the leader? These are the questions that separate the people who are normal toy robots fans from the people who are the confused toy robots fans living a lie inadvertently perpetrated by miscommunications between Marvel and Hasbro (although I'm not sure which one I am right now).

Unfortunately for my "the black jet got screwed" conspiracy, in 2006 during a Transformer convention the writer of the original Transformers tech specs (Bob Budiansky) revealed the original handwritten document where he came up with all the character ratings. That paper proved that the original intention was to have the numbers correlate with the character bios. Starscream was really the leader with a rank of 9, Skywarp really was dumb with an intelligence of 4 and Thundercracker didn't really have a speed of 10. His document pretty much squashed any speculation that the black jet was intended to be anything other than a subservient flyer in the Decepticon Air Force. It's obvious from the paper that the intention was to have the black jet be named Skywarp and play the role of follower. Or was it? The colors of the toys are not mentioned in the Budiansky code. I still see a scenario where Hasbro wanted that black jet to be the leader and the real mixup was the names! Although Budiansky laid it all out clear as day I think the confusion that led to the tech spec anomalies came from someone at Hasbro who intended for the black jet to be the leader trying to match up what Budiansky gave them to the jet colors and character roles they wanted. These are the hallucinations that separate the people who are normal toy robots fans from the people who are the confused toy robots fans living in an elaborate fantasy inadvertently perpetrated by miscommunications between Marvel and Hasbro (and I'm starting to see which one I am right now).

So why would Hasbro want the black jet to be the leader and is there any evidence of this intention anywhere at all? As far as motive all I have is speculation based on how the black color scheme was a Hasbro original creation. The color schemes for the jets that would become known as Starscream and Thundercracker previously existed when these toys were originally released in the Diaclone Jet Robo line. Hasbro came up with an original color scheme with more sinister character than the other jets just to make that guy a moron? It doesn't seem right. Then again they didn't change the colors on the toys that would become Optimus Prime and Megatron so it's a weak argument. The only evidence I have is also pretty weak speculation based on the positioning of the toys relative to each other in early promotional materials. In both the 1984 Transformers pack-in toy catalog and on page 68 of the '84 Hasbro toy catalog Skywarp is positioned forward with the other two behind him, as if to suggest that he is the one that is most important-the leader. Can there be any doubt as to which ones are following when the physical placement of the toys puts Skywarp at the forefront? These are the delusional misinterpretations that separate the people who are normal toy robots fans from the people who are the conspiracy minded nutcases unable to let go of obvious mistakes made because of simple miscommunications between Marvel and Hasbro (which I pretty much am).

The Decepticon Planes page of the '84 toy catalog also contains some actual useful Skywarp revelations beyond what I use to support my complicated toy robots conspiracy theories. It is interesting to note that the Skywarp pictured is a hybrid of the prototype used in the '84 TF toy pack-in catalog and the later production release that had a black nosecone. It has the purple tailfins, the black shinguards, the purple cannons and missiles, purple landing gear and the super long sharp pointy forward wingtips from the early prototype. Hell it may actually be the early prototype with a black nosecone painted or stuck onto it. This Skywarp along with the black hooded Bluestreak in the Autobots pages leads me to believe the '84 Hasbro toy catalog was made shortly after the '84 Transformers catalog that came with the toys, since the versions here are more in line with what eventually was released. I imagine these changes reflect Hasbro's process of working out how they were going to translate the Skywarp palette into an actual production color scheme taking into account available paint applications and gang molding of parts and stuff like that. For more info on the evolution of the early Decepticon planes including their variations and prototypes I strongly recommend Maz's Early Decepticon Jets article over at

I think that's going to wrap it up for my coverage of the 1984 Hasbro toy catalog. All that's left are the pages for Optimus Prime and Megatron and although those two are iconic figures it's hard to write anything new or interesting about them. Plus there's probably some Transfan illuminati guy out there pulling his hair out with every page I reveal from this sacred tome. Maybe I'll leave the last few pages for someone else to write about in the future. I could never figure out why people haven't scanned this stuff in by now, although I do have my theories...

I was unpacking my stuff and noticed that the interior of the octagonal 1984 Transformers Jumbo collectors case uses the toy catalog pages for the Autobot minicars and Decepticon jets. There are no name labels here, unlike the toy catalog.

Thursday, October 08, 2009


Okay honestly I ripped this box myself in 1985

It's been four months since the movers packed up my robots in South Dakota and now as I unpack everything in Florida I'm finding out if all that worrying I did about them mutilating, breaking, stealing and raping my toy robot Volkswagens and their associated transforming dinosaur cohorts was justified. Over the last 14 years I've moved to a new place every 36 months and you'd think I'd figure out by now that rolling this massive Katamari ball of roboplasticos around the world and expecting them to survive unscathed is unrealistic, but General Grievous had a mean lightsaber collection and he went everywhere with it so why can't I. Grievous is my patron saint of traveling gypsy toy robots collecting because that guy really knew how to transport his acquisitions as he wandered the galaxy looking for more lightsabers to add to his collection. That whole "killing the previous owner" bit is a little over the top for me, though. If I was selling lightsabers a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away on the Star Wars eBay I'd be very suspicious of a bidder with lots of lightsaber transactions but zero feedbacks. If General Grievous won one of my lightsaber auctions I'd send him an email saying dude, what's up with the killing? If you're not happy with the condition of the item or my shipping charges just leave me a negative.


Grevious' organization and showmanship I admired-he'd bust out his buttloads of lightsabers collection for anyone to see. The problem was Grievous showed it to the wrong guy and in a fit of jealousy Ben Kenobi broke a lot of Grievous' light saber collection and probably stole some of it, too. Such was the wrath of Ben Kenobi-a man who hated big robots, bigger lightsaber collections than his and most of all, big robots with bigger lightsaber collections than his. There was so much collateral property damage from their fight I'm sure that if the Jedi gig didn't work out Kenobi could have been a furniture mover. I had to hope my movers were less like destructive rampaging Ben Kenobis and more like Jawas, the little brown people who talked funny but were good at transporting robots.


Ultimately any damage to my robots collection is my fault because there are things I could have done to make sure the packing went well, like monitoring the guy doing the packing and letting him know not to bend the flaps on the old Transformer boxes. But when the guy was packing up my robots I was busy in other parts of the house and also in a little bit of denial so I never straightened that out with him. Getting bent flaps was my biggest concern because I had a couple of 20 year old Transformers with boxes in pretty decent shape. The average neurotypical furniture mover without roboplasti-bergers isn't going to understand the beauty of an unbent box flap. When you're packing old Transformers it may seem like the easiest thing to do would be to bend those flaps down to make them all the fit in the shipping box. Just like how the easiest way to fit more cats in a box is with a meat grinder and getting more exotic cars in my garage would be easier if I had a car crusher. Furniture movers probably get hard-ons from contemplating how the entire galaxy will eventually collapse in upon itself so they'll be able to fit all of existence into a little cardboard moving box, which I admit is convenient and does save a lot of space but my only problem is that side effect where everybody is dead.


I kept imagining all the different scenarios that mover guy could have gone through as he molested my Transformer boxes. Did he bend the flaps or treat them caringly? Why would he bend my flaps in the first place? Didn't I give him Kool-Aid when he was thirsty? How could he do that to me! What I really wanted to know was how did my hobby turn from having a great time breaking my own robots when I was 10 to having a terrible time worrying about someone else breaking my robots now that I'm 35. What's worse is the movers are essentially getting paid to destroy my stuff. How retarded is it that after 25 years my robots are still getting broken except as an adult I pay other people to break them for me. I can't wait for my son to get a little older because the advantage of having kids is they break your stuff for free.


I accepted a long time ago that my toy robots packaging would not survive multiple moves. Hell it's pretty pointless to get upset over damage to these boxes that are already 25 years of faded with discolored styrofoams and in some cases have the robot points cut out. But there was some stuff that got scuffed, scratched, creased and thrashed during this move that made my heart sink a little. Like the original art to my favorite Shortpacked comic or the now partially shredded up cover of my Macross Perfect Memory book or the now badly warped old issues of Japanese toy robots magazines I loved so much. Seeing how that stuff got scrunched up hurts a lot and reminds me why it is probably not a good idea that I buy nice things while I'm going through this galactic gypsy wandering Jedi phase of my life that won't be stopping anytime soon. As I open each moving box up to reveal more mutilated belongings I feel like Ben Kenobi is shooting me through the heart with my own laser beams and making my internal organs explode. I thought I could get through this unpacking mess with my sanity intact as long as I took a lot of breaks to play Turbografx-16, except right now I haven't found the box with the Turbografx-16's power cord yet. WHEN ARE THEY RELEASING STAR WARS ON TURBOGRAFX-16 SO I CAN BEAT BEN KENOBI'S ASS?

Tuesday, October 06, 2009


After seeing the mock up of the black hooded Bluestreak in the Autobot car section of the 1984 Hasbro catalog I was wondering what surprises may lie ahead with the minicars. Would I find official Hasbro names for the red Bumblebee and yellow Cliffjumper? Could there possibly be either a white or yellow Hasbro mockup of the Microchange MC-04 Mazda Familia 1500XG "Bumblejumper"? It was fun to dream but I realized if those things existed in this catalog someone would've already exposed them by now. After 25 years of Transformers I'm sure that if there really were an official name for any of those guys it would be well known among the fandom, or at least the part of the fandom that pays attention to this stuff. Sure enough, there was really nothing new or special in the minibot section of the catalog that the rest of the Transformer fandom would care about. Thankfully I am a special kind of robotarded and thanks to my background in toy robots newspaper ads collecting I found something really interesting anyways. Well maybe it's not really that interesting and it's actually kind of dumb, but in a field like Transformers archaeology where everybody's figured everything out already the key to sounding smart is tricking other people into thinking the dumb stuff you know is interesting.

Lionel Playworld 11/01/85

Don's Toys 11/22/84

Longs Drug 12/06/85


I noticed that something interesting almost instantly after looking at the way the mincars were arranged on the page. It has to do with the line art in the newspaper ads for the 1984 minicars, which I found was unique among line art used in ads for the other 1984 Transformers. Although it's derived from photographs used in the 1984 Hasbro toy fair catalog like other Transformers ads, minicar line art differs from the catalog in that the poses in the ads are mirror images of the poses in the catalog. So while the bottom of page 67 of the '84 Hasbro Toy catalog shows all the minibots except Brawn facing right, the ads always have all the minibots except Brawn facing left. I thought it may have been possible that the ad line art comes from a different photoshoot where the photographers posed the toys facing the other direction, but Windcharger proves their ad drawings are mirrored from the catalog (or the catalog image is mirrored itself). Not only are the drawings in the exact same poses just flipped horizontally, but the biggest clue lies in how Windcharger is the only minicar with an asymmetrical vehicle mode. In the catalog his hood has a scoop on the passenger side. In every ad with Windcharger line art the hood scoop appears on the driver side. In real life Windcharger's scoop is also on the driver side and the scoop is usually the place where his Autobot sticker is placed. Why the picture in the catalog is a mirror image of the '84 Autobot minicar newspaper ads I have no idea, but hey I'll bet just knowing that is a great icebreaker at Transformer parties. It would make you sound interesting.

I was unpacking my stuff and noticed that the interior of the octagonal 1984 Transformers Jumbo collectors case uses the toy catalog pages for the Autobot minicars and Decepticon jets. This version has what I believe to be the unedited version with the minicars unmirrored and no name labels by each figure.

Monday, October 05, 2009


I HAVE NEVER BEEN TO A CONVENTION that was not Botcon or some sort of anime apocalypse. No webcomic-cons, normalcomic-cons, gamecons, Joecons, Cobracons, Nintendocons, StarWars-ebrations or anything to do with furries. So it is with much excitement that I updated the Roboplastic Flickrpocalypse with pictures I took Saturday at Animation Supercon 2009. There was much adventuring during last Saturday's quest to secure yet another picture with someone dressed up in a cardboard robot costume, as is customary no matter what type of convention I'm at. Things were not looking good for our hero but thankfully I did find this one guy dressed in cardboard boxes wrapped in aluminum foil who bore a striking resemblance to the Cockmaster2005. The guy had "GlompBot" or some such silliness written on the back but I should have gone up to him and said, "Hey, it's the Cockmaster2005! I see you're a big fan of my work! Honestly that head should be more triangular. Here let me sign it for you."

Rob Paulsen-a real special teams player


Speaking of signatures, in my last post I wrote about how many of the guests at Supercon had roles in the original Transformers cartoon but because they were charging $20 for autographs and $30 for pictures I didn't approach them. The guests all sat at tables in a long row along the east wall of the 100,000 square foot convention room and each had in front of them various autograph prints and a sign that said "AUTOGRAPHS $20". There was no way I could have any sort of conversation with these guys about how huge a dick Wally Burr was to work for on Transformers without feeling guilty about taking up the time they could be using to sign stuff and get that extra 20 bucks off some kid dressed as Harry Potter who really likes Futurama. There was one point late Saturday when the crowds had subsided and I might have gotten to talk to Rob "2/5ths of Superion" Paulsen but just the thought of that $20 fee was a big turnoff. It's the principle. I understand these guys should be compensated but damnit, Gregg Berger was only charging $5 for his autograph at Botcon and he was friggin' Grimlock king of the Dinobots. There should be some kind of scale, especially if you were only two of the little Aerialbots and not the big middle one that Superion's head goes on. I'm thinking if the most famous Transformer you voiced had a toy that only cost $5 then maybe you aren't a $20 autograph. I'M LOOKING AT YOU, CASEY "CLIFFJUMPER" KASEM.

Mecha engineering requires advanced knowledge of robots and geometry, also mad hot melt glue gun skills.


Although guilt and cheapness robbed me of a chance to hobnob with my childhood robot heroes I was able to make the most of my $25 admission by hitting up some great panels. Some panels I was aware of and others were total surprises. Like not only was that guy who made South Florida's favorite cardboard Gundam there, he was doing a panel on how to make cardboard costumes! I was so inspired that suddenly all those empty moving boxes in my house that are a pain to get rid of were transformed in my mind's eye into a potential army of cardboard Optimus Primes and Darth Vaders. Unfortunately fan costume technology and cheap overseas labor has advanced to the point where my cardboard costume ideas have been rendered unnecessarily complicated and stupid by those guys that dress like Stormtroopers everywhere and the Halloween aisle at Wal-Mart.

You gotta have some serious Imperial connections to be a snowtrooper stationed in Miami


Conventions in general have grown so generic that guest lists and panel programming are almost interchangeable between anime, comics and normal cartoon conventions. The real difference-what tells you where you are-is what the people are dressed up as. And aside from Stromtroopers that show up whenever more than 50 people are gathered in one place regardless of occasion, Animation Supercon did have a rather unique brand of cosplayer. Anime themed cosplay wasn't as prevalent here as at other conventions. There were still a lot of people dressed up but instead they were in costumes from comic books like Watchmen, Batman, X-Men, GI Joe and whatever comic has ninja hookers. I got pictures with a black costume Spider-Man, a Doctor Doom and even a Storm in the classic pre-mohawk look with the big hair and cape. I could almost have staged my own Secret Wars and locked those three in a room to fight it out for 20 bucks while I took bets on who would win. Except that wagering on gladiatorial cosplay deathmatch fighting is probably illegal. Also, it's kidnapping.

What was fantastic about these four was how drunk three of them were


The absolute highlight of the day was the "Batman in Animation with Lee the Batfan" panel. I don't know anything about Batman or even care but I had an hour to kill before the "Transformers Panel of Awesome". By the time I walked in the Batman panel had already "started", if you consider three drunk guys who didn't know much about Batman talking out loud to themselves "started". It was actually really funny. They would ask the audience to ask them anything about Batman or just anything in general and when someone would ask a question the guys would get distracted by cosplayers in the hallway and start heckling. It was chaos as they stalled for time until the real panelist "Lee the Batfan" showed up. In the meantime they related about a million times the story of how Lee is the second biggest Batman collector in the world, and that's because the old number two just died recently. They repeated this constantly so when they asked for more questions I asked them if they were to rank all Batman collectors in the world, where would their friend Lee stand? And as if they never related the story before, they repeated how Lee is the second biggest Batman collector in the world, and that's because the old number two just died recently. I also asked them who their favorite Shogun Warrior was, but what I really wanted to know was how did you guys get so wasted by 4 p.m.?

They shouldn't turn into animals-they should turn into Dinobots


Two panels I went to were hosted by a guy named Tom Croom, who is a rather outspoken figure in Florida anime fandom and he's got the haters to prove it. The first panel was about the history of anime fandom in Florida and boy was he the subject matter expert there. I had a rough idea of the convention scene before this panel but now I have a lot better idea of how it all fits together-what cons came from which organizations and where those organizations originated. It was extremely informative because Tom was not afraid to be very candid with hard facts about convention organization like how much it costs to do them and how exactly they "die". The second panel was his legendary "Transformers Panel of Awesome" which he's been doing in some form for a couple of years. Now I've been to various Botcons and seen a lot of panels done by experts in the world of Transformers so I wondered how awesome it could be with just a guy in front of a table and no guests or displays or visual aids. I soon realized Croom is a bit of a showman who's good at engaging the crowd with his somewhat controversial and even slightly offensive opinions. He started off by establishing his credibility immediately. He ran down the list of co-presenters he'd done the panel with before including Greg Berger and Stan Bush and he was not shy to mention he knew things about Transformers that they didn't. Then he kicked off explaining why Beast Wars sucks because it fails to meet his definition of Transformers, which had something to do with them being mechanical, non-organic alt modes turning into humanoid robot forms. Now I'm not all that crazy about every incarnation of the franchise but I try to be tolerant of others' likes, so that was a bit off-putting and uncomfortable. I wondered if anyone else felt the same since the majority of the crowd was in their late teens/early twenties who were probably raised on Beast Wars. I was willing to tolerate the hating but after ten minutes of him ranting about Beast Wars I got up and left to go to the mascot sewing panel because that's what I do if I don't like something-I stop watching it. I'm not crazy about BW either but I don't understand why Tom's seen all the Beast Wars shows including the Japanese spinoffs if he thinks it sucks so much. Then again there is a certain level of showmanship here and he was really getting the rest of the crowd engaged which is a sign of a good panel. I guess I'm just not the target audience for his aggressively entertaining style. I can understand after going to these two Tom Croom panels why he's so reviled by some yet so loved and respected by others, which is an ironic description of him because it also applies to Beast Wars.


Supercon ended for me at the mini-mascot sewing workshop, which held the biggest surprise of the day. As I was sewing my little plush squid together I was telling the girl running the workshop how I wanted to learn to sew because I bought a plush Ravage at Botcon a couple years ago and I wanted to learn how to make plushy mini cassette Decepticon animals myself. Well guess who I was talking to? The girl running the panel here in Miami was actually the same person who created the plushy Ravage I bought in Cincinnati! The guy selling them at Botcon initially bought them from her! I'd found the very creator of the things that inspired me to get sewing in the first place. Faced with this knowledge I did what any aspiring sewing apprentice would do-I decided to quit sewing and just pay her to make more for me. If things work out I'll eventually have a little zoo of evil plush dinocassettes. In addition to the little squid I made I also came away from Supercon with a bootleg DVD set of Tranzor-Z, issue #3 of Fanfare Magazine from Spring 1980 (with Fred Patten's legendary "Animation in Japan" article) and issue 15 of Super7. Both the magazines only cost $2 each so that was a big score. I almost almost wished I would have pre-regged and gotten the whole 3 day pass but there really wasn't much left for 35 year old Geewunners to do outside of Saturday so I'm comfortable with my decision. Next up on my convention radar is Infinite Bits, Miami's first videogame convention. It'll be in the same venue as Supercon and in a little over two weeks. Their costume contest rules specify the characters people dress as must have originated in video games. I don't know if I'll see any cardboard robots there unless someone really really loves Virtual On and is crazy enough to try making one of those Virtuaroids. My only hope is if the Cockmaster2005 convinces the con organizers that he was a boss in Yar's Revenge, but honestly that head really needs to be more triangular.

Friday, October 02, 2009


Animation Supercon is a convention going on here over the weekend I'm thinking about going to. I'm somewhat interested because it'll be the first big pop culture con in the Miami area since I came to south Florida a couple months ago. Of the two I've been to so far I've liked the free one (Yasumicon) the best and I felt a little burned by the one I paid $35 for (Mizucon). But its hard to complain about anything since I've been able to get pictures with guys dressed up in cardboard Gundam costumes each time. Any con I can meet my fellow robotards at is a good one. Hell, I'd go to My Little Pony conventions if I was sure I could get pictures with somebody in a Voltron costume made of cereal boxes.


The Supercon is not without guests I'd like to see. Although the voice actors are pretty much the cast of Futurama and Pinky and the Brain, there is some old school Autobotic overlap. The characters they played weren't exactly a-list robots in the Transfromer wars but they had some memorable lines. Rob Paulsen alone was a couple Aerialbots, a Throttlebot, one Autobot Clone and Blurr's gun. Maurice LaMarche was Six-Gun, the guy made up of the leftover accessories you had when you turned Metroplex into a robot. Okay so it's not Botcon level celebrity but Slingshot got the best Aerialbot characterization and Air Raid and Six-Gun were in one of my favorite Transformers episodes ever-the third season's Thief in the Night. Plus there's the guy who played Jazz in the latest cartoon. I'd love to get pictures or maybe even autographs but the problem is this is one of those cons where you have to pay $20 an autograph and $30 a picture because these actors have big followings from their roles in shows more popular than their Transformers work. Apparently there is a world of animation outside of robots cartoons I was unaware of. But screw that, I won't pay an arm and a leg to hang with with an arm and a leg of Superion.


At first I was scared when I saw the schedule but thankfully it looks to be more, much more than speed dating, raves, cosplay and Pokemon hookers. There will be the TRANSFORMERS PANEL OF AWESOME, which sounds like a) something Michael Bay would name a panel or b) something I should name a really good shelf on my wall. Either way I admire the ballsines of whoever named that-it's good promotion. It also makes it easier to decide what to do if there's anything named "TRANSFORMERS PANEL OF FAIL" running at the same time.
I do feel a little torn because during the Transformer panel there's another one going on about how to sew little felt animal dolls. I am not kidding about being interested in this. Ever since I bought a plush Ravage at Botcon '08 I've wanted to learn how to sew my own stuffed animal Decepticon cassette mascot army. Alternatively I could just buy a book about sewing and go to the Transformer panel, but I could also just buy a book about Transformers and go to the sewing panel. I wonder if there's really anything new left to say about Transformers that I haven't heard a million times already over the past 25 years. The sewing panel could be my introduction to a whole new world of robot fun, though. Trading Transformers talk for a sewing sermon? How Tyler Durden in a Martha Stewart way. The things I transformed ended up transforming me-into my grandma.

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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.