19 Apr 2014

Vintage G1 Transformers Retrospectives

It's the 30th anniversary of Transformers this year, so I thought I'd join in the celebration by doing some retrospective videos on the vintage G1 Transformers figures that I still have.

Back in 1984, my grandfather bought my brother and I our first Transformers toys for Christmas, which started my love of Transformers ever since. After I moved out of home, I had packed all the toys into several boxes and left them at my parents house. About 10 years later after I had built my new place with my family, I got a call from my parents saying it was probably time for me to move my crap out of their place! :)

And lo and behold, the boxes I had packed and forgotten about were still there! Thankfully my parents hadn't thrown anything out, and the Transformers I had packed away were all still there waiting to get some much needed fresh air!

I initially thought about selling them, but once I started looking over them more closely, I couldn't just throw away all that nostalgia and memories about my grandfather helping us put the stickers on, and opening them up on Christmas Day! And now that I'm going through them now, and playing with them with my son, I'm definitely glad I kept them.

So here's my first retrospective video on Optimus Prime, definitely one of the most iconic toys from the 80s era. This was actually my brother's first Transformers toy, but luckily it fell to me to look after it :)



And here's my second video, this time of my own first Transformer. Soundwave and his cassettes are a little worse for wear, but I love these guys so much! My affection for these grew even more when the Masterpiece versions were released, and I could see in hand the amazing transition from the iconic toys of the 80s to the engineering marvels of today!



I'll be doing videos for the rest of my G1 collection too, with some of the Autobot Season 1 cars next. So I hope you can tune in and check out my thoughts on these great toys. Subscribe, like, and comment with your own thoughts! I love responding to all the comments on my videos! :)

13 Apr 2014

Hot Toys MMS200 Man of Steel

When the reboot of Superman was announced, and pictures shown of the star Henry Cavill in the new suit, fans around the world were divided into those that craved for the past, and those that loved the vision of the future. For me before I saw the movie, I was certainly the former, where I disliked the suit and thought he didn't match the look of Superman at all.

But after seeing the movie, I was totally converted! I loved the movie, save for the last 15 minutes of the Superman/Zod climactic battle, which I thought was overblown and unnecessary. But pretty much everything up to that point had me hooked and sold - the history told in flashbacks, the new sharp and sassy Lois Lane, the relationship with his earth parents, Zod and his horde of Kryptonian rejects - I loved all of it! And I really felt that Henry Cavill made the role his, and was the perfect start to a new era of Superman.

My excitement was a little dimmed when Hot Toys first showed their prototype pictures of the Man of Steel figure. It was clear that something was wrong with the body, which looked very bloated and too "rotund" for Superman, especially compared to the buff form of Cavill in that suit. But as always, Hot Toys tweaked and fixed certains things from the prototype to the final released product, and for the most part, the new figure is pretty amazing! There are some quibbles though, which I'll go into below - so read on if you're interested in how this 200th MMS release from Hot Toys turned out.

BOX ART:
I was actually a little disappointed with the box art and packaging. The previous Christopher Reeve Superman figure came packaged in a gorgeous art box shaped like the S-symbol which remains one of their all time best box designs. Some other MMS releases feature a shoe box design with a large art/photo cardboard insert.

Unfortunately, the Man of Steel figure comes in a simple fold out design which you then have to open up to access the figure. It's simple enough, but just doesn't convey the class/style that I was hoping for in this major release.




The cover art is pretty lacklustre with only a view of the sky and the logo, which again is no where near as display worthy as the Reeve Superman box. But I guess the critical thing is how the contents turned out, so let's move on! :)




ACCESSORIES:
Accessories wise, the figure is pretty light on in this department too, but I guess it's hard to see what else they could've included with the figure from the movie.

The figure comes with the usual array of hands for appropriate poses such as the wide jazz hands to the flying hands to relaxed hands or fists. It also comes with a very large (too large!) stand emblazoned with the new Superman logo. This stand is special in that it is the new dynamic stand design that Hot Toys also released separately to allow for posing figures in flight. It's a shame the base is just too large for its own good, and really takes up a lot of critical space in the display shelf.

The flight pole itself is quite long and is essentially a long steel rod that is flexible enough to be bent into position. The only issue is that Hot Toys did not provide their usual "crotch grabber" stand for the situation where you just want the figure standing on the ground! Luckily the figure seems very sturdy, with strong ankle joints, so toppling off the display shelf should be rare.

I would not recommend having the figure held up on the flight stand for long periods of time though. The securing device is padded with foam, but the figure is quite heavy and long term posing in flight will leave marks on the very delicate suit (more on that later!) So I would use the flight stand only for the odd photo opportunity, and have him stand for most of the time. One nice display option with the flight pole is to bend it down so that the cape can be draped over it to give the natural wind blown effect to the cape.

The last two accessories are identical save for the fact they are in different scales. Hot Toys provided the command key in 1:1 scale in a nice metallic finish, and also created the 1/6th scale version for the figure to hold. Overall the paint app and design are nice, but there aren't that many display options for these.




FIGURE:
The figure itself has some amazing standout features, but also has some flaws. Starting with the positives, the head sculpt on this figure is amazing, and is a pretty spot on likeness to Henry Cavill. The paint app is very realistic, and gives the figure a great stoic and heroic presence on display.

The other stand out feature (which is also its curse), is the suit. The material, texture, and overall aesthetic of the suit is superb, and looks like it just stepped out of the movie into your lap. The incredible patterning applied to the suit is extremely detailed. It seems like a very similar technique to that used for their previous Black Suit Spiderman figure, this time without the sticky feel.

Despite the awesomeness of the suit material, there are a couple of issues with it. The suit is sewn on, and has a very skin tight fit over the figure. Articulation is pretty great with the base body, but a lot of care is needed to get the figure into decent poses so as not to damage the suit. Raising the arms into flight poses definitely needs some patience to gradually move the suit into position as you move the arm to prevent tearing. There have already been numerous photos posted online of tears to the suit, especially under the arms, where the suit was just stressed too much when moving into those poses.




The other issue with the suit relates to some of the patterning over the top of the suit. Areas such as the belt buckle and black/yellow line markings on the sides of the hips and torso, are all glued on top of the suit, and the symmetry and quality of the glueing down will vary from figure to figure. On mine, the tip of one of the hip line marking was coming away from the suit. A little tiny bit of craft glue fixed that problem, but it was still an annoying fault on such an expensive item.

But all of these areas may be affected by dynamic poses that you would want to place the figure, so be very careful in how you twist and turn the torso and suit. Otherwise you may find these areas of the suit becoming unglued very quickly.

The cape is pretty good though, this time with no wire to assist in holding those flying poses. However, due to no wire, the cape does flow and sit much more naturally over the back, which is good. The cape is made from a nice soft felt-like material and drapes well over the flight pole.




Perhaps the biggest issue with this figure can probably be seen in the photo above of the two Superman figures together. The size of the Man of Steel figure seems to too large, as though the scale is slightly larger than 1/6th scale. Either that or many of the previous figures were all too small!

The Man of Steel stands significantly taller than the Reeve Superman figure, despite the fact that Reeve was taller than Cavill in real life! You can see from the photos that the legs of the figures are almost identical in length, but it's the key torso area where the new Man of Steel figure totally outsizes its predecessors.

The height difference is even more marked when posing the Man of Steel next to the DX12 Dark Knight figure! Here in my display, it's fortunate that the Batman figure has a rather tall stand which gives the impression that the figures are roughly the same height. But if both figures were standing toe to toe, the Man of Steel literally towers over the Batman figure, and it just doesn't look right.




Another minor issue with the suit has had many brave customisers making modifications to the suit. You may have noticed that the collar of the neckline is raised above the chest s-symbol such that there is a fairly wide gap. In the movie, there are very little gap, with the neck line pretty much at the top of the s-symbol. So many collectors have taken to removing the collar and cutting away some of the suit and essentially lowering the collar to that s-symbol line. The mod certainly makes the figure more movie-accurate, but I for one have zero skill in that sort of customising, so I won't risk ruining the figure to make that change.




Despite the issues I've mentioned above, the figure is still an amazing piece of art. If you're displaying it alone in your display, it will command significant presence, and looks amazing in all lighting conditions. With the combination of an incredibly accurate head sculpt, to the beautiful material of the suit, and the natural drape of the cape, the figure will most definitely make an awesome addition to your collection!

If you want to see the full video review of the figure, head on over to the Kool Kollectibles YouTube channel via the link below! Hope you can check it out, subscribe, and comment with your own thoughts! :)



10 Apr 2014

2014 Quarter 1 Collection Update

What a great start to 2014 it has been! I always make the mistake of thinking that the next few months will always be quieter, and I pretty much always end up getting some awesome stuff in cos my itchy addicted fingers can't help but click that buy button!!

So here's my 2014 Quarter 1 collection update video. I have picked up some great pieces these past three months, including the Darth Vader deluxe figure from Sideshow, Man of Steel from Hot Toys, and more Transformer Mastepieces from Takara.

Quarter 2 is looking great too, with a big Pile of Loot coming from BBTS, so stay tuned for that soon! :)

Here's the collection update video - hope you can check it out, subscribe, like, and comment with your own thoughts! :)

7 Apr 2014

Hot Toys MMS179 The Amazing Spiderman

The Amazing Spiderman figure perhaps takes the record as the longest delayed Hot Toys figure of all time. From initial preorder announcement to final release was around 18 months I believe, with delay after delay with no apparent reason provided by Hot Toys.

Fans' patience was wearing thin, and the hype was pretty much over by the time it was released overseas in October 2013. And you'd think with such a long delay, the release would be smooth, but it was anything but! Initial batches were plagued with the now infamous "broken shoulders" issue, which caused further delays due to a rumoured recall by Hot Toys.

It was not until around February 2014 that the figure finally found its way to Australian stores, and is now in stock at local retailers such as Gametraders. Was it worth the wait? Read ahead and you'll find out my thoughts on the matter :)

BOX ART:
As with most Hot Toys releases, the box art is very nice, with this one following its Spiderman predecessors with a shoe box style package. The front has some very nice artwork, unfortunately showcasing a pose that is nearly impossible to achieve with the figure itself.




The rear has a great photo of the figure itself in a nice web-slinging pose, and the cardboard insert within the box also has a great pose of the figure. How they achieved that pose is beyond me because I certainly wouldn't recommend stretching the suit to achieve it (see further down on my thoughts on the suit and articulation).




ACCESSORIES:
The set of extras with this figure is very similar to the previous Tobey Maguire Spiderman figures. You get the usual array of hands in all sorts of pose options, from relaxed palms, to clenched fists, to jazz hands, to web slinging hands. The sculpting on the hands is really detailed, showing off the different textures.

It also comes with some strands of webbing that can be used to mimic him shooting out the webs or hanging on them. They attached to the wrist by removing the hand and place the loop over the peg and then putting the hand back in. The effect is decent, but probably not too good for long term posing as the end of the web tends to dig into the suit, and the web also starts to sag due to its weight.

The main accessory of course is the unmasked head sculpt of Andrew Garfield. I think the likeness is pretty good actually, and the swapping mechanism of the head sculpts is much better than the previous Black Suit Spiderman. I'm not sure why Hot Toys decided to give him a few scratches on his cheek for the battle damaged look, since nothing else about the figure is battle damaged. But either way, it's a nice display option if you want.




FIGURE:
The first impressions upon taking the figure out is the apparent lack of size! The figure is definitely thin and shorter than the previous Spiderman figures, but actually quite accurately reflects the look in the movie. In fact, I think the previous Tobey Maguire Spiderman figures are probably a little oversized.

The suit is definitely the highlight for me, with a gorgeous texture that's very much like a thin version of a basketball. The suit has different texture across the different coloured sections, and is very flexible. It doesn't really hinder articulation at all, but despite its flexibility, can be quite fragile. There have been instances where the figure has been placed in very dynamic flying poses (as you would for a Spiderman figure), but leaving it in such poses over time leaves stretch marks and other damage on the suit. So I would not recommend leaving it in those poses for long.





The masked head is done nicely, and is fully enclosed in the rubber suit. Moving the head from side to side creates a nice realistic fold to the neck area, but I would be careful with the seam on the suit and also the glued part underneath where it attaches to the body.





On the point of articulation, the main sticking point with this figure are the fragile shoulders. As I mentioned before, the first batch of the figures had a number of instances where moving or rotating the shoulders caused breakages at the joint. Apparently this caused a recall from Hot Toys (which I don't really believe as it would've been far too late to re-engineer the shoulders for future releases in my opinion), and it was said that later batches did not exhibit the fragile shoulders.

Well, when I first got my figure, there was indeed a broken shoulder! At first I didn't realise, but was annoyed that the left shoulder would not sit correctly with the arms at the sides. As this was because the shoulder had broken and there was no strength in the joint to hold the arm down! I did get an exchange, and the 2nd figure was perfect, so I think it's all down to luck really.




To move the arms, you just need to be really careful and gentle, and make sure you hold that shoulder joint in place with one hand while moving the arm with the other. This should help minimise any potential breakage at that joint. If you're careful, you can actually get quite a bit of movement out of the arms and get lots of great poses.




Swapping out the heads is very easy with their newly designed neck joint. It does create a seam at the neck area that is visible, but I prefer this to the normal head swap technique on the Black Suit Spiderman figure that resulted in many neck joints being pulled out altogether!




Together with the previous Spiderman figures, you get a real appreciation for the unique style and design of the suit from The Amazing Spiderman. That's the main selling point for me on this figure, as it's different enough to generate some interest in the display, as opposed to having the same old comic styled suit all the time!

Overall, I would still recommend this figure, especially if you like the movie or are a Spiderman fan. The only main issue is the fragile shoulders, but if there's no issue with the figure you receive, the joint should be good as long as you're fairly careful when moving the arms. The suit, head sculpt, and overall playability of the figure is still great, and it certainly complements the other figures nicely.

If you want to see the full video review of the figure, head on over to the Kool Kollectibles youtube channel via the link below! Hope you can check it out, subscribe, and comment with your own thoughts! :)



Also, here is the initial video I posted that showed the broken shoulder on mine, and how you can check if yours is broken.

2 Apr 2014

Takara Transformers Masterpiece MP-13B Soundblaster and Ratbat

Back in early 2013 when Takara released MP-13 Soundwave and Laserbeak, the collective nerdgasm from G1 Transformers fans was felt worldwide! With the Masterpiece line already rebooted with the newly scaled MP-10 Optimus Prime, enhanced mold of MP-11 Starscream, and Lamborghini-licensed MP-12 Sideswipe, Takara then rocketed the popularity of the line from its lofty heights way into the stratosphere with Soundwave and Laserbeak.

The engineering alone in Laserbeak was enough to deserve the Masterpiece moniker in my book, and Soundwave is still my favourite of the MPs to date. With subsequent announcements and releases of the core cassette minions in MP-15 and MP-16, there was one obvious omission - Ratbat. Immediately rumours were started around if, how, and when Ratbat would be released, with the most valid being that with a Soundblaster repaint. And of course it didn't take Takara long to confirm the rumour.

Now when I started collecting the MP line, I had decided against getting the repaints, which by that time consisted of MP-9B Black Rodimus, MP-10B Nemesis Prime, MP-11S Sunstorm, and MP-12T Tigertrack. Do you see the pattern with just that list? Takara will repaint figures no matter what to ensure that the MP line remains profitable!

But again, I refused to fall for that trap.......until I saw the first colour teaser photos for Soundblaster and Ratbat. Effectively in one fell swoop, Takara hooked me on repaints from which I have no return!! As soon as I saw the photos, I knew I had to have it, and knew that meant I had to have the other black repaints as well to complement it in the display! So I ordered MP-9B and MP-10B that day, which turned out great because they look awesome! :)


I ordered Soundblaster with another black repaint, MP-12G G2 Sideswipe, and they both arrived together beautifully packaged from Robot Kingdom as usual. The box art for MP-13B is very similar to that of MP-13 as expected, with effectively the same accessories in their variant colours.


The set comes with the usual instruction booklet, collector cards, red Megatron, red energon cube, additional chest piece, alternate hand tool, and the clear case for Ratbat (not sure why they went with clear instead of the pink translucent plastic of the other minions).


As usual with the MP releases now, the collector coin is also provided, which is a really nice touch. It's very similar to the MP-13 coin, but with a darker gun metal shade and name.



But onto the figure, and what two amazing figures these are! The incredible Soundwave mold looks simply beautiful in black, although this time it's not a painted glossy black like MP-10B. Most of the colouring is just in black pastic, although the diecast feet are painted in the nice glossy black. But overall, it looks awesome.

One thing I really do like is that Takara fixed the slight mold issue with the mouth plate on the headsculpt. On all the Soundwave releases, the left side of the mouth plate had a weird indentation on the side, which is not present on this repaint. Another positive is that the eyes are a much brighter reflective red that the MP-13 Soundwave that I have. And up close, it just makes Soundblaster look frickin amazing! And yes, Soundblaster does have the silver crest on his forehead, unlike the early batch of MP-13 Soundwave that missed that little silver detail.



The chest plate however is something that I don't think too highly of to be honest. Here Takara tried to do the right thing in that the base chest cover is the red plastic, which is an homage to the original G1 repaint toy. However, it does not have the gold paint around the edge, and does not have the Decepticon insignia, which makes it look awkward.

The additional chest piece however does have the gold trim and insignia, and is a purple plastic as an homage to the way the character looked in the cartoon. So it's great that Takara catered for both looks, but since this purple chest cover is the add-on piece, it sticks out too far from the chest and so makes his chest look bulkier than it needs to. In the grand scheme of things, it's probably a minor quibble, but I would've preferred if they had the standard chest cover as purple with the insignia, and had the red cover as the add-on!

Articulation wise and all other aspects, the figure is pretty much identical to Soundwave. The hip joints are still their ridiculous tight configuration, so be careful not to overly stress those joints. The transformation between modes is fairly intuitive, not overly difficult, but with the right amount of engineering to make it enjoyable (unlike the MP-9 mold).



For Ratbat, he is a little engineering marvel just like Laserbeak was! In fact, I prefer Ratbat in that none of the joints felt fragile or loose or overly tight, unlike some parts of Laserbeak/Buzzsaw. I never felt I was close to breaking anything. The only joint that may be of some concern is the main joint to fold down the gold thrusters on his back - that felt the most vulnerable, but nowhere near some of the joints in Laserbeak.

The transformation again is fairly intuitive, and the way they designed how the thrusters integrate into the cassette mode is pure genius in a tiny little package. I love the headsculpt on Ratbat too, and the nice glossy black paint on his chest. In fact, the paint app overall is probably better than that on the MP-15/16 minions. I love Ratbat every bit as much as the others!


Soundblaster looks beautiful in alt mode, as you can see above. Mine did come with some paint blemishes, especially on the silver parts of the legs that become more prominent in alt mode since they form the front face of the cassette player. But overall, the paint app on Soundblaster is pretty decent.

Where the figure does shine of course is when it's displayed with the other black repaints. As you can see below, they complement each other beautifully, and I could not see my collection without any of them now that I've seen them up close.


So if you're on the fence still about getting MP-13B Soundblaster and Ratbat, my recommendation would be to get it for sure!! Ratbat alone is already asking for crazy prices on ebay, so soon it's going to be cheaper just to get the set here than trying to get Ratbat alone to complete your core cassette minions!

If you need further convincing, perhaps you can check out my two-part review on the Kool Kollectibles youtube channel! Head on over, have a look, subscribe, like, and comment with your own thoughts! :)

Video review - Part One:



Video review - Part Two:



So I hope you like my quick look at this repaint. I love it, and certainly highly recommend it to any Transformer fan :)