The Universal Dominator

My first Unicron

I’ve wanted a Unicron toy ever since the mighty Orson Welles first voiced the character in the original “Transformers” movie way back in 1986. Back then, during the height of my Transformers mania, there was no Unicron toy, so I had to use a basketball as a stand in when I played with my Transformers back then and oddly, it was enough. Most other key cast members from the movie received the Hasbro toy treatment – Ultra Magnus, Galvatron, Kup, etc. – but along with Arcee, Unicron would receive no plastic representation until much later. In late 2010, I would finally realize the dream of my 11-year-old self by adding a Unicron figure to my display shelves.

When I got back into collecting in 2006 and my interest in Transformers was kick-started

Armada Unicron. Better than a basketball.

by the Classics line, I was as stoked as could be to learn a Unicron figure had been released as part of the “Armada” line a year or two prior, so directly to ebay I went. As I browsed the auctions, the sheer size of the figure had my eyes popping out of my skull and the figure looked to be everything I had hoped it would be. Truth be told, all it really had to do was be just a little bit better than that basketball in terms of character representation and I’d be impressed, so it really didn’t have too steep of a hill to climb. It even transformed into the giant killer planet eater from the movie (not to scale, of course, and smaller than that basketball, but still. I was stoked). I had to have it. Unfortunately, at the time, Unicron was selling for more than I was willing to pay for any single figure, so I kept my interest on the back burner. During this time Transformers was not even close to being the primary focus of my collecting, so when I say “back burner,” I mean a purchase was probably never going to happen. In 1996 my collection was focused on the Toy Biz Marvel Legends line, but Transformers Classics was definitely something that was on my radar, and I definitely still found myself pining for a Unicron figure.

Universe reissue. Never clearanced!

A couple years later Unicron was reissued as a Toys R Us exclusive in new packaging as part of the “Universe” line. The idea of getting Unicron at retail prices was all I needed to begin stalking stores in search of one. But as I read threads on message boards about the Unicron figure, many members would brag about how they got their Armada Unicron on clearance for a fraction of the retail price. Naturally, cheapness won out over desire and I decided to wait to see if THIS Unicron release would see ridiculous clearance prices at Toys R Us as well. Most stores seemed to have gotten quite a few of them, too, so I figured a clearance bargain was only a matter of time.

A year later, Unicron was STILL sitting around the shelves of my local Toys R Us stores at full price. Every time I walked down the aisle and saw this, I would express some manner of indignant outrage as though they were deliberately doing this to piss me off. It drove me crazy, but my resolve remained firm and I was not going to be the one to give in. Toys R Us had to drop the price if they expected me to buy this figure that I supposedly wanted so badly. So I waited. And continued to audibly curse every time I passed one in the aisle.

Well, the joke ended up being on me because suddenly, seemingly overnight, all the Unicrons vanished from my local stores. I don’t even know if the price had dropped or not. One day there were a bunch of them just sitting there, a few days later they were all gone. I like to believe I didn’t miss out on a killer clearance deal and that they were just shipped back to Hasbro or something, but I guess I’ll never know. Either way, I remained Unicron-less and disgruntled, which made the ebay listings even less appealing.

So worth the wait.

Then, in 2010, Takara released what was simply called the “2010 Unicron,” which was the same basic figure as the Hasbro Armada and Universe releases, but this one was sporting a new, more movie-accurate paint job, and a NEW HEAD. Somehow, Takara had managed to produce what many, including myself, feel is the definitive version of this character by just taking the same tired old figure and slapping some new paint and a new head on it. It doesn’t sound as though they really did much at all, but I tell you – I am SO GLAD I never gave in and picked up either of the previous releases because this new version is an absolute thing of beauty, and I say that with no fear of hyperbole. I can NOT imagine a better representation of this character than what Takara put together. As soon as I saw pictures last summer, I knew this was the Unicron to get, and I was right.

The only problem was the price tag – $140.00. Eep.

I had refused to shell out $60 or $70 for the Armada/Universe Unicron, but suddenly I

One handsome devil.

was OK with paying double for this, albeit superior, version? Well, I wouldn’t say I was OK with it, but I figured out a way to make it sting less. I did what I always do – I sold stuff on ebay to raise the funds! My Marvel Universe collection was sacrificed to the ebay gods and I raised enough to buy not only Unicron, but a whole crapload of other Transformers.

And it was totally worth it.

The figure is so big that I have trouble photographing it because it doesn’t fit in my (dinky) light box. Seriously, it’s the biggest figure I own. When I took him out of the box, it was like I was unwrapping another roommate. He’s huge. And he should be. Because he’s frikkin’ UNICRON – THE UNIVERSAL DOMINATOR.

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Best Figure of 2010

You can read my pick for best figure of 2010, along with the picks of the rest of the Fwoosh staff, here – Fwoosh Staff Best of 2010.

JAZZ!!!

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Pile of Loot!

In theory, it’s fun getting a bunch of new stuff all at once.

The pace with which new stuff makes it to the shelves or to the online retailers is usually too slow for me to be able to exercise any semblance of patience, so I usually build the collection slowly one piece at a time. With each new figure I acquire, there’s typically that “honeymoon” period where I’m really excited about adding that new figure to the shelf and will spend time simply admiring the figure as it blends in with its comrades in the display. This honeymoon period varies in both length and intensity depending on how much effort I had to put in tracking the figure down or how much of an investment it was in terms of both time and money. My complete Fansproject Bruticus is a figure I’ve had for about three months now and I still marvel at it every time I pass that particular shelf, but then there are figures that I pick up on a whim, toss up on the shelf, and quickly forget about. Sometimes I’ll buy whole waves of figures all at once through online shops like Enchanted Toy Chest, but this practice is reserved for lines like DC Universe where the chances of actually finding them at retail are slim to none. It’s done out of convenience and out of a sense of futility, which is sad, really.

Bruticus is AMAZING.

Recently I used Big Bad Toy Store’s “Pile of Loot” feature. Normally when I order from BBTS I like to have my item(s) shipped right away because like I mentioned earlier – I have no patience, but there was a number of Transformers items I wanted that weren’t all available at the same time, so I decided to try this feature out and see if I could stand the wait.

A big box filled with AWESOME.

Maybe it was due to it being a particularly busy time of year, but I was astonished to learn that waiting for my “Pile of Loot” to build wasn’t so bad after all. And I saved a bunch on shipping. My loot consisted of Unicron (the 2010 Takara version), Henkei Astrotrain, Fansproject Protector armor, and Fansproject Sidearm. Just four items, which really isn’t THAT big a deal I suppose, but it should be noted that Unicron is the size of a small child, so the box all this stuff arrived in was rather big.

Glory

To add to my Pile of Loot, two other packages I had been waiting on ALSO arrived on the same day as my pile of loot – Igear’s Delicate Warrior, which was a Christmas present from Canongirl, and a pair of Cobra Shock Troopers from the Hasbro Toy Shop website. So this ended up being one of the larger, single-day hauls I’ve had in a long time. It felt like Christmas even though Christmas had actually happened four days earlier.

Arc... er... "Delicate Warrior."

Opening this much stuff at once had an intoxicating affect on me. Since many of these are pretty serious collectible items that deserve a substantial amount of time to take in and appreciate, particularly Unicron, Delicate Warrior, and Protector, it was kinda crazy opening these three together. I had to keep shifting my attention from one to the other like a crazy person. As lame as this may sound, it really was a case of sensory overload. Each one was packed with too much awesome to be absorbed all at once.

Now I find myself sitting in front of my Transformers shelves just staring at my new additions. Just sitting there with a big, dopey look on my face. I can’t get enough of them and each feels like such a satisfying new part of the collection. I’m not sure I want to hold out and get so many at once again, but the amount I saved in shipping (Unicron would have cost $12 to ship alone, but the whole lot only cost $14) really makes this feature more and more appealing. I guess the real test will be to see if I can stand the wait when I’m not so busy.

Either way, the Pile of Loot feature is pretty awesome and I’m honestly kinda surprised it took me this long to try out.

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Green Lantern Classics Wave 1

Whew! It’s been a crazy month, so I haven’t been able to update the blog as often as I like, but here’s a recent piece that ran on ActionFigurePics.com about a week ago – my write up of Green Lantern Classics wave 1. Enjoy!

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When Toy Hunting is Annoying

Toy hunting is something I usually enjoy. The weekly ritual of hitting Target, Walmart, and Toys R Us (wash, rinse, repeat) looking for the newest Transformers, Marvel, or DC figures is just a part of my weekly routine. There’s always something to look for, and whatever success I have varies from week to week. Now, these three stores are the usual spots for the average colletor, but those of us in the Pacific North West are also fortunate enough to be surrounded by Fred Meyer stores which are also very fertile hunting grounds. Nine out of ten toys I buy, of those available at retail, come from one of these four stores. But every now and then toys show up in random places that throw my hunting routine all out of whack and push my sanity to the limits.

Jazz - the fruits of 7,000 trips to Walgreens.

This past week two very much sought-after Transformers figures – “Reveal the Shield” Jazz and Tracks – have been showing up early at Walgreens stores. WALGREENS, for crying out loud. This is not a store that should be getting hot new toys first ahead of the big boys. See, there are plenty of Walgreens locations everywhere. Getting to the stores to do the hunting isn’t the problem. The problem is the way Walgreens stocks their figures/toys. Each store doesn’t receive a case of figures like every other store does – the Walgreens distribution centers get the cases, and then break the cases up and send each store what it needs. Walgreens has a one out, one in policy when it comes to stocking and restocking. Meaning if they sell one Transformer, then they get one Transformer to put back on the pegs with their store shipments. Say a new Transformers wave comes in a case of four (four different figures), and a Walgreens has just sold one Transformer and is getting a restock. It could be any of the four figures from that case that will be sent to that store, and there’s no way to know which it will be. Realistically, ONE case could be split among four stores throughout the city, which makes hunting down one or two figures decidedly inconvenient. It’s a royal pain-in-the-ass, is what it is. I managed to find Jazz, but Tracks still eludes me. And I am so sick of going to Walgreens after Walgreens when the odds are definitely not in my favor of finding it. Ugh. It’s taken toy hunting into new realms of depressing hell. Seriously, if you want to feel like you hate yourself in a jiffy, spend an afternoon going from Walgreens to Walgreens. MAKE. IT. STOP.

Ross. Yup.

Ross stores have also been added to the “route” this past week as well. Some Ross stores have been receiving Transformers Ultra Class figures – Hardhead, Powerglide, and Skyfall – that were Walmart exclusives a year ago. These figures sat around most Walmarts virtually untouched for months, even on clearance. Then a new upgrade set was made for Hardhead by a third party company and suddenly a shelf-warming repaint became a very in-demand figure almost overnight, fetching anywhere from $65 to $100 on ebay. It’s nuts. Then, out of nowhere, someone in California finds a Hardhead at a Ross for $15, and suddenly every Transformers fan is going bananas running from Ross to Ross in search of this very elusive figure as well as the other two. The typical Ross has a toy department no bigger than the average port-a-potty, so they’re not exactly getting a lot of these, if any at all. Most sightings have been for only two of these Ultras at a time, one of which MIGHT be a Hardhead if that store happened to have the luck of the draw. AND, on top of this, Ross isn’t exactly known to restock. They just sell what other stores couldn’t, so if a store received one Hardhead, that could very well be the only Hardhead that store receives, thus making the competition for these fierce between not only collectors, but scalpers who are aware of the sure-fire “cash in” opportunities that accompany such a figure. This is something that will drive even the most dedicated and resilient toy hunter stark freakin’ INSANE. And I was almost to that point.

Hardhead (center) and his Ross-dwelling companions.

On “Grey Saturday” (the day after Black Friday) I rolled the dice and drove to a Ross that is really nowhere near where I live, but still within driving distance. I walked in not expecting to find jack-diddly-squat on this fool’s errand, but what’s the first thing I saw on the shelves? Hardhead. HARDHEAD! It was the only of these Ultra figures in the store and it was just sitting there. On the top shelf. At the front of the store. Where ANYONE could have seen it and snatched it. Needless to say, I practically dove for the thing and bolted to the register and then to my car like Smeagol clutching the precious. MY precious!

It doesn’t happen often, but sometimes toy hunting can take my beloved hobby and turn it into something I wouldn’t inflict on my worst enemy. The lengths we go through to build our collections as collectors is worthy of serious sociological study, in my opinion, and it’s something I can’t decide is hilarious or depressing. It all depends on the context, I guess, but all I know right now is I’m still hunting down a Tracks, so I’ll be hitting more Walgreens this week. Son of a bitch.

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Art Adams

This is an article I wrote for The Short Box about my favorite comic artist everrrrrrr – Art Adams.

Art Adams: An Appreciation – Note the sweet alliteration in the title.

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Toys I Can’t Believe We Got: Transformers Generations Straxus (Darkmount)

Straxus, or “Lord Straxus,” was a character who briefly appeared in the original Marvel Transformers comic in the early 80s, but not really anywhere else for a very long time. He was a despotic Decepticon ruler, similar in temperament and demeanor to Megatron, who would even go on to share Megatron’s body in a sort of “man with two brains,” schizophrenic mess after a fight with Blaster left him without a body. What’s interesting about Straxus is he was a Marvel creation entirely, rather than a Hasbro creation that Marvel would adapt for the comic. He wasn’t based on a toy like the others and few kids at the time were even aware of him unless they were reading the comic.

Straxus


Though Straxus was a fairly well-established character in the Marvel comic, he never appeared in the cartoon and there has never been a toy based on the character until Hasbro’s release of “Darkmount” in the 2010 Generations line. Because of copyright issues, however, the figure could not be called “Straxus,” so Hasbro went with “Darkmount,” which was actually the name of the tower Straxus ruled from on Cybertron. Makes sense, I guess, but still lame. In most cases where Hasbro can’t use the original name, like in the case of Jazz, they adapt it to something like “Autobot Jazz.” That way they don’t have to totally rename the character and then try to sell fans, who would be screaming bloody murder, on that new name. So that makes me wonder why they didn’t just go with “Lord Straxus” or “Decepticon Straxus” in this case. Maybe it was the easier path to take, legally, coupled with the fact that the name “Straxus” isn’t as established a name as, say, Jazz or Megatron? Who knows? What I do know is they can name this figure anything they want – at the end of the day, it’s still Straxus.

Straxus being all despotic.


This figure has been a long time coming, nearly 25 years, and I can’t help but think the release of this figure is Hasbro’s way of giving one heck of a tip of the hat to fans who’ve been waiting for this since 1985. I can remember how absolutely surprised and stoked I was when the first promo images appeared. Even though I was never one of the more vocal fans who’ve been asking Hasbro to produce a Straxus for years, I can certainly appreciate the significance of this release. It really is very cool and I love being able to look at my Decepticon shelf and see Straxus among them.

Strax...er... Darkmount!


The figure’s bot mode is awesome. It bears a fantastic likeness to his comic appearances and even has his trademark axe that integrates into his alt mode.

Straxmount? Darkus?


For his alt mode, Hasbro went with a tank-type thing that has an Earth-y look to it rather than a Cybertronian look. Since Straxus ruled from a fortress on Cybertron, he never had an Earth-mode in the comic, just a weird Cybertronian space cannon thing, sort of similar to Galvatron’s alt mode. So, like Hasbro’s recently released Blurr, Straxus’ alt mode is a bit of a re-imagining, basically. It’s decent enough, I guess, but I really have no use for it. In bot mode he stays.

Straxus' alt mode in the Marvel comic


Straxus as a blue tank!


It’s so cool to finally have this figure, and it’s inspired me to hunt down the old Marvel series to read again after all these years. Can’t wait to reacquaint myself with Lord Straxus!

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Transformers Third Party Awesomeness

This is an article I contributed to recently for the Fwoosh. Disthunder and I are big Transformers fans and these third party companies have been knocking our socks off lately.

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Toys I Can’t Believe We Got: Marvel Legends Longshot

It’s the mullet. Nobody can get past the mullet.

When Longshot made his debut in the Marvel Universe way back in 1985 in the pages of Longshot #1, Art Adams equipped him with throwing knives, a glowing eye (that let us know when his “mutant” power was kicking in), three fingers and a thumb on each hand, and… a blond mullet. It’s the mullet that everyone remembers, however. Mullets are hilarious now, but what people seem to either forget or not realize is mullets were hot stuff in the early ’80s, particularly among the euro-pop bands on MTV whose look Longshot was based. Even Bono had a pretty epic mullet back then.

Limahl = Longshot


Longshot’s appearance was based on Limahl, the front man of the ’80s one-hit-wonder Kajagoogoo. That’s either a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your fondness of that era and how much nostalgia you carry for ’80s new wave music. For me, it’s a good thing, and it’s definitely one of the character’s qualities that make him so endearing to me.

Longshot #1


Longshot was also the first comic book I read as a “comic collector” that wasn’t GI Joe or Transformers, so it served as a key transition book for me that broadened the scope of my comic collection. I loved it and I still love it; it’s one of those books I return to and flip through often. CG even got me the Marvel Premiere hardcover edition for my birthday a couple years ago.
Despite my personal fondness for the character, I’m fully aware that he is not counted among Marvel’s more popular characters to the point of being rather reviled. Many people see the mullet and write him off to the point of being downright hostile, so that’s why I was so surprised to see the character see a release in Toy Biz’s beloved Marvel Legends line in 2006.

The figure’s sculpt is excellent and bears a great likeness to the character – mullet and all. But like several figures that were released during the final months of the Toy Biz run, he does suffer from some rubbery joints that hinder his playability a bit. Nothing major though, at least not to me, and finding him on the pegs was one of the best toy-nerd moments of my life. I bought two of them the first day I found them so I could open one and have one to keep carded.

Marvel Legends Longshot, 2006


He ended up being one of the easiest figures in the entire Marvel Legends line to find, primarily due to his overall lack of popularity (he’s no Wolverine), and I can remember seeing a half dozen of them sitting around my local KayBee store (remember those?) untouched, even when clearanced down to $3.00. I kinda wish I had bought a few more at that price – I could have customized them and had a complete set of all of Kajagoogoo!

Longshot, carded and loose


Longshot is still one of my favorite figures and I’m still incredibly thankful we got him in the Marvel Legends line.

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There’s ALWAYS a Next.

Not too long ago, a friend came by our place for the first time and saw the collection for the first time. Because we live in a rather smallish apartment in downtown Portland, there are shelves with figures and carded figures on the walls EVERYWHERE. We’re used to it since we’re around it all the time, but whenever someone comes over for the first time, it’s definitely a “deer in headlights” moment. This friend, his name is Steve, also grew up reading Marvel Comics, so he does have a natural affinity for everything covering our walls and shelves, but it’s still something someone new to it has to spend some time to take in. This goes for everyone – A police officer once visited in order to get some information from me regarding an identity theft case I was involved in (as the victim), and couldn’t help but wander around in awe and even took pictures to show her brother. “He’s going to FREAK,” she said repeatedly as she moved around the apartment. It’s a common reaction.

So. Much. Stuff.


We had dinner, and as Steve continued to examine the shelves and as he gazed around the room, he asked me a question – “So… what’s your goal with all this stuff?”

The question kind of blindsided me.

I never thought about it in those terms before. A goal? I need to have a goal? I really didn’t have an answer for him and it took me a moment or two before I was actually able to blurt out anything at all just so it wouldn’t seem as though I was rudely ignoring his question. If I have a goal, and this would apply to most facets of my life, not just collecting, it would be to enjoy whatever it is I’m doing at any given moment. That’s it. So my motivation, the reason for amassing this collection, for spending time hunting down pieces of the collection, is simply that I enjoy doing it. That’s really all there is to it. There is no final endpoint off in the distance that when I meet it, I know I’ll have accomplished what I set out to do. I participate in this hobby because it makes me happy each day I’m involved in it. It’s the process that is satisfying, not necessarily the outcome. It can be argued that instead of having one larger, over-reaching goal, the acquisition of each piece is the meeting of a goal in itself, so while there may not be a single goal that drives me, there are instead many smaller goals that compel me to haunt the local stores in hopes of finding that specific piece to add to the collection.

Marvel Universe


This can be a curse as well as a blessing, however. The double edge to this sword is that while I do enjoy the act of collecting, there really is no real end to it. With each figure I acquire, no matter how badly I want it, or for how much time I spend seeking it out, as soon as I have it in my hands and add it to the shelf, those feelings of desire do not go away – they are simply transferred to whatever figure I happen to set my sights on next. And that’s the thing – there’s always a “next.” I suppose this can be linked to a basic human survival instinct, but it really feels like a hamster wheel sometimes. Each time I think I’m “done” (I’m convinced that word has no meaning in this hobby), my eye catches something new and like reliable clockwork, my brain tells me, “Hey, guess what? You’re not done! Ha!” Even worse, I’m aware of the absurdity of it all, but that doesn’t sway me from engaging in this singularly bizarre behavior. But on the other hand, those on the industry side of the equation happen to be quite prolific, with new figures coming out each month from many different directions. In this regard, there’s always something to look forward to; there’s always something to be excited about, always something that will make me think, “Oh, cool!” as I sit glued to images of new toys on the internet and instill that drive in me all over again. And it’s those feelings that largely drive this.

Transformers


In my experience there is no ultimate satisfaction, there is no ultimate goal. If I complete one collection, there’s always another collection that starts hollering in my direction, issuing directives I can’t resist. it’s enjoyable, it’s maddening, and it’s very time-consuming. But at the end of the day, it’s pure fun for me. And really, what better goal is there than that?

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