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Below are the 3 most recent journal entries recorded in Favorite Transformers of the Moment (& other toys)'s LiveJournal:

Sunday, July 29th, 2007
12:12 pm
Chicken Legs Starscream

I'm going to reveal something right now that will anger a lot of Transformers fans - I think many of the creative choices made in Michael Bay's Transformers movie were downnright horrid. 

It's like making a movie about Christopher Columbus but deciding it would be cooler if he maneuvered the seas in submarines instead of sailing ships and that these vessels were called the Ninya, the Pinto and the Santa Burrito. Yes, it would be entertaining in it's own way, but it just wouldn't be right. It's not a perfect analogy. I just wanted to inlcude that joke about the names of the ships somewhere. But I do think a lot of things were wrong about the movie, most strikingly the bug monsters that looked to be made of tin foil run through a meat grinder. Oh wait, those were the Transformers? I wasn't expecting to see the original 1984 animation cells of Optimus Prime transposed onto the screen but, geez, they could have tried a little harder.

Despite my negative feelings about the film, I was sucked right into the hype of movie toy release day. Promptly at 8 a.m. on Saturday, June 2, I and my recently-dragged-out-of-bed girlfriend began our tours of local Wal-Marts and Targets. Most of the stores didn't put out all the new product or took their time doing it, of course. But in the end it was a Transformers fan's glory day to have all these new toys flood the shelves at once and to see such a big deal made of it. And to make things even better, Hasbro simplified the terrifying movie designs and created a fantastic set of toys. I splurged on about a half dozen of them.

Fast Action Battlers are a subset of the movie toys that were created for a slightly younger age group. The transformations are a tad simpler and the characters are just a smidgen cuter than the regular toys. The FABs also offered cheaper and smaller versions of some of the characters only released at the time in larger and more expensive sizes. I was hard-pressed to not like these affordable little munchkins and snagged a few from the pegs. One of the FABs I grabbed was Starscream, one of the coolest Generation 1 Transformers characters who remained a jet in the live action movie but somehow turned into what looked like a monkey on chicken legs. The FAB amped up the silliness inherent in these traits to create a toy that was both adorable and completely ridiculous.

Isn't he priceless? By the look on his face, I think he just hid a mile-wide whoopie cushion under Omega Supreme's tank treads. 

I think the designers of this toy just shrugged their shoulders and gave up half way through creating the vehicle mode. What fighter jet do you know of that has giant, clampy robot feet sticking out the back? You're not fooling anyone, Starscream.

But let me tell you why FAB Starscream is my Favorite Transformer of the moment - his Chicken Leg Gerwalk Mode! Yes, Starscream can adopt that mode the Robotech Valkyrie fighter jets had in which they could half-transform to robot mode, becoming a bipedal jet! Starscream just loves to skitter about on his robot chicken legs.

See, I think Starscream really is a chicken. How could the toy designers not have done this on purpose? New Movie Starscream doesn't really want to overthrow Megatron and take over the Decepticons like his namesake. He's much happier laying eggs and nibbling on feed offered from the nearest human hand. Go on Starscream, have some nums nums, it's okay.

Awww, good boy. 

P.S. It's probably not really a good idea to feed a chicken M&M's.

Current Mood: amused
Saturday, July 28th, 2007
2:45 pm
Meet the Mysterians!

You see, there's a phenomenon with any successful toyline, and that is imitators. If Johnny Hasbro is making a killing with something, Stevie Tonka and Larry Fly-By-Night Toy Company are going to try and grab their own little piece of the action. It's the trickle down theory, or a thousand points of light, or somethin'. Today's featured toys definitely seem to come from the sub-basement of Larry's house, because I had found so little information on them over the years that I began to think they were a product of my fevered dreams. (Not unlike the giant Transformers G1 Bumblebee toy I was certain existed.) It was thanks to a few helpful, fellow Transformers enthusiasts on The AllSpark forums that this MYSTERY was finally solved.

I'd wander the Toys "R" Us (also known as Toys "R" Kevin, after me) aisles as a kid and look up in wonder at the shelves filled with the big shots like Transformers and G.I. Joe. More often than not, I left with a Transformer. When your Dad caved into your pleading for a toy purchase, it was an opportunity not to be squandered. These choices had to be made carefully and it often took hours. I weighed my choices like Picasso choosing what color to paint his next cube. Poor Dad. As I walked down those hollowed aisles, I couldn't help but straggle into the no-man's land where lived those toylines that weren't quite...in the spotlight. These were the toys that you would encounter once or twice, then they would be gone for good and would live on in the memories of few. I'm talking about such gems as Rock & Bugs & Things, circa 1985, a sadistic little toyline of rocks that turned into creatures and gobbled up these hapless, little, armless goblins called Mordles. And there were bugs, too. These predated the amazing concept of the Go-bots Rock Lords, which converted from robots into pebbles and boulders. I can sense you containing your excitement.

Anyway, these third-world toy aisles also were home to the various sucker fish trying to make a buck off the guys who got there first and did it better. There were all kinds of off-brand transforming robots but the ones that grabbed a place in my heart were these cute, little buggers that changed from robots into...boring geometric shapes. Hell of a concept, huh? Yet, there was something endearing about these robots. They didn't try to be flashy or complicated. They didn't transform into race cars or hypersonic jets. They were the background characters on Cybertron who the mighty Autobots and Evil Decepticons left at home to clean dishes and pave roads while the more famous characters fought for glory in space and on Earth. And the geometric shapes didn't complain, because they knew their place and were fine with it. The problem was, I had no idea who they actually were.

I had started a topic in the Allspark forums with the same vague description I had given before in other fruitless message board topics in which I tried to resolve the matter. I once had this black ball who turned into a little death drone on wheels. And a yellow crate which turned into a robot with little tools stored in his chest. I seemed to recall them having the letter M on their chests. Some suggestions were made - they were off the mark. As I was about to give up hope again, a poster who goes by the name Doofy knocked me off my chair by casually posting pictures of this long lost toyline.

It turns out that they were called Mysterians, and were produced in 1984 by a company called Marchon, Inc. I was giddy, knowing that there actually wasn't LSD in my Hi-C when I was a kid. And to make matters even better, Doofy graciously offered to send me the Mysterians for free, saying they obviously meant more to me than him. Gracias, Sir Doofy! Meanwhile, I located the yellow box Mysterian deep in my closet, although the black ball was at some point lost in action. That was okay, though, because Doofy's donation included his replacement. So, without further adieu and rambling, meet the Mysterians:

Mirage proudly presents The AMAZING, MYSTERIOUS MYSTERIANS! They are able to alter their appearances into the exciting forms of...uh...

Another poster called Counteresperanto took a shot at guessing which Mysterian was which based on a product listing for the "Bot-like Boxes," found here. I'm going to use his guesses for the purposes of this review, since they seem educated and I just can't be bothered to ponder it too hard, myself.

EXPLORER SCOUT is a blue, oblong crate who turns into probably the neatest of the mysterious Mysterians robots. His side panels open to reveal arms that have a radar dish and a communicator-thingy as hands. His birdlike head is hot, translucent pink, as is the extremely weak magnifying glass hidden in his chest. His legs are swiveling tank treads. In my mind, his name is Buddy 5. He was created to be a robot companion to the children of the future but a confused outer space postman and a scientific moonbase without any kids present led to Buddy 5 being refurbished and repurposed as an exploration robot. He wanders the lunar dunes, quiet, alone, and taking rock samples. But his mind, meanwhile, is in overdrive creating fairy tales for kids who will never hear them. He's a tragic, ironic character.

TANK COMMANDER is an ominous, ribbed, black ball that looks like something out of TRON. A button on his chest flips his lid to reveal menacing, yellow eyes on a squat head. He has flip-out wheels, a drill hidden in his chest and a single arm that looks like an antenna. This guy, who I'm dubbing Dark Deathbringer, definitely looks like he would roll ahead on the battlefield, smashing enemy bunkers and guiding a battalion of tanks toward an enemy fortress. Dark Deathbringer, you see, imagines he's doing all this. But in actuality he lives on the plantation of an interstellar aristocrat on a teraformed planetoid, assigned to stop moon rabbits from chewing up the gardens. The gung-ho antics of D.D. are quite amusing to curious onlookers.

MAJOR REPAIR is the yellow crate who hides a cool array of tools in his chest. There's a screwdriver, a hand on a stick (!) and something that looks like a gun or welding torch. There is another tool which managed to amazingly not get lost during my whole childhood and most of my younger brother's childhood. When I reclaimed Major Repair from the abandoned toybox after my brother had just exited his toy-playing days, I was frustrated to find that one of the tools had disappeared after managing to stay in place for more than a decade. He's got a flip-up head, long arms that end in claws, and wheels he scoots along on, also spring-loaded. Major Repair is too cool of a name, so I'll just give him the embarrassing childhood name of Boxy McBoxalot. I picture him being a skilled mechanic and doctor for other robots but a bored one, since Mysterians were constructed to stand the test of time. He passes his time running illicit card games in the back room of the repair bay and trying to construct an Ultimate Mysterian Emperor, who could potentially, one day, conquer the universe. Hey, Major Repair is up for a challenge. He's also cute as a dickens, so he gets away with stuff.

AIR COMMANDER - Okay, I was all set to tell you about how this robot, who I would call Sky Buster, gets on people's nerves as a really hyper and overachieving space traffic cop. But all that is torn asunder by Doofy's claim that this guy is known in Transformers fadom as Robowang. Okay, in robot mode, this guy is tall, sleek and mean, with what passes as wings on his shoulders. He's got twisty guns for arms, wheels, red eyes, a red mouth and a no-nonsense set of antennae. But when he transforms, oh boy, he looks like a short, fat, gray... you get the idea. If you wanted to make your Fort Max anatomically accurate, Robowang is your man.

ENFORCER - This guy is cute in the way a giant, dumb robot with a hippo mouth who steps on your house and goes on to terrorize the city is cute. He's an innocuous, black shape that looks like a cigarette case. You flip out his cutesy red feet, his death laser arms and a head complete with munch munch jaw action. There's no doubt that this robot, who I'll call Clarence, was made to eat whole cars and chase fleeing Japanese. And, unlike my other repurposed Mysterians, he gets to do just that. See, he's really peeved because someone stole his teddy bear.

BOMBER - Sadly, Bomber is the missing man in my new Mysterians collection. Counteresperanto remembers him as looking like a red barn. Which is fine by me, since I thought there was a purple pyramid Mysterian and that was probably way off. So, with little to go on, I'm imagining Bomber as a never seen presence, a voice in the background who calls out to the subconscious minds of the other five Mysterian "generals," trying to remind them of their true, mysterious purpose. He goes only by the name No. 16.

So, who were the Mysterians, really? Counteresperanto recalls a hazy memory of "package art and/or story indicating they were enormous alien invaders." But to my imagination, they're just the average bums of the transforming robot toys. They're you and me. (Unless you're famous and important, of course.)

P.S. It was pointed out that the Mysterians, especially Explorer Scout, resemble Chogokin Mechanic Lightan by Bandai, a robot that turns into what resembles an outdoor grill (and is a lighter!). It's true but I don't know what the connection is.

Current Mood: relieved
2:32 pm
When Good Manterrors Go Bad

The idea of this journal is, obviously, to pay tribute to whatever piece of playable plastic is tickling my fancy at any given moment. I'm not a gambler, I've never done drugs, I can get through the day without eating a whole chocolate cake, and I don't prefer to shove multiple dung beetles up my nose. But I do have an addiction, and it's one that's caused me to have little room in my closet for actual clothes. I collect Transformers. Lots of 'em. Always have, always will, and the reasons for it are buried deeply in the cavernous realms of my flawed psyche. But I love the little buggers (not bugs) and finally gave up on caring enough to question it. Actually, some of the buggers are bugs, and that brings us to today's employee of the moment.

Some Transformers are favorites because they were well-developed characters on television and in comic books. Others just have badass action figures. Some, though, gain a place in my heart through some other quirk. Beast Wars Mantis is a prime example of the latter group.

I've always liked the mold. In America, Mantis was released with more flat purple/less frosty blue paint applications and the endearing name of MANTERROR. He was a bad guy, a Predacon, and that fact was clear through his icky bugliness. Manterror/Mantis is a praying mantis who is about the size of a very large specimen of the real deal and he transforms into a robot that, quite awesomely, retains his big, lanky arms and claws in his robot mode. But the dead giveaway that Manterror is up to no good is that giant, toothy, insane grin on his face. This guy causes mischief and mayhem and, damn, does he enjoy it.

This is why I was perplexed when the Japanese tried to pass him off as a good guy. I've long desired and finally obtained this Japanese-exclusive figure called Autolauncher. He's a squat robot that basically turns into a disc-firing armored vehicle by sitting down. No complex transformation for him. I was surprised to learn that, depite his red and white color scheme that traditionally belongs to the good guys, he did all his transformation crouching in the name of the evil Decepticons (which, for those not in the know, are similar to the Predacons). But this was a VS. pack, so that meant Mantis, the toy that came with Autolauncher, was...a Maximal (good guy)? It just wasn't possible and I balked at the idea. But no, there it was proudly displayed on him...the cheery Maximal symbol. I raised an eyebrow as I observed Mantis looking back at me with that toothy grin and beady, red eyes and knew he was up to no good. He proved me right.

My girlfriend is amazing when it comes to accepting my toy obsession. She has no problem mingling among them and some of them have even followed her back to live in her apartment. It was a recent Saturday morning when Donna and I were lounging about in my room, a-wasting the day. As any good boyfriend would do, I sneakily grabbed Mantis, who was decked out in full praying mantis mode, and began walking him up her arm. As was expected in my lingering fourth grade playground instincts, she freaked. Insects, real or plastic - their ability to drive a woman into hysterics is beyond compare. I conceded that I would change Mantis into his robot mode to show that, "See, he's not so scary this way." This was my folly, for Mantis, ever the opportunist, began formulating a plan in that twisted little brain of his. As Donna read something I'm sure was more interesting than watching me twist around plastic, neither she nor I knew of the shocking violence that was about to occur.

Mantis sneaking up on my girl to unleash his mischief. The grin says it all.

I got Donna's attention to show her that Mantis wasn't such a bad guy when you got to know his little robot self. He sat in my hand, his big mantis claws propped up in a pose that suggested he wanted nothing more than a great, big hug. I lightly tapped one of his claws to show that the discs hidden in them didn't even have springs behind them, so pushing the buttons behind them couldn't do much more than drop said discs weakly and shamefully at Mantis' feet. And then it happened. Just when you thought he was a cutesy bug-guy, Mantis struck like he was ripping off the head of a mate. Did I say he has discs in his hands? Actually, they're more like ninja stars. Pointy, blue ninja stars. And one of them came soaring out of his right claw like a heat-seeking missile and found the kind of target that grandmothers and favorite Christmas movies always warned about - Mantis shot my girlfriend in the eye. I saw my life and all my lives before and after this one flash before my eyes, because surely I would come back as a slug and my girlfriend would invent a time machine to go forward and step on me and then go back in time to run over my great-greatfather with a train for good measure. I was a dead man playing with toys. She gasped, both in shock and betrayal, and then came the tears. I began my frantic apologies. All the while, Mantis grinned on as his nefarious plan came to life.

A few minutes later, things had settled down but it was time for my sentencing. Donna proclaimed that the only suitable punishment was for me to experience the same pain my plastic beast had inflicted on her - It was indeed an eye for an eye. I nodded, knowing the punishment was just. Hardly flinching, I aimed Mantis at myself and he gleefully repeated his amazing aim. And damn, did it hurt. But my tears were not of pain, but of joy. For my creepy, little friend had stayed true to his nature as I had both predicted and secretly hoped, in spite of the happy-happy tattoo painted on him by some Japanese assembly line worker. You can't take the nature out of the beast, or the boy away from his toys.

Current Mood: mischievous
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