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Tag Archive: Transformers


Anyone who grew up with the original Star Wars trilogy also grew up with the Kenner line of action figures and other toys.  Eagerly awaiting kids learned about each new figure and each new ship and playset via commercials during Saturday morning cartoons.  They also learned about them in the Sears and JC Penney Christmas catalogs and mini-catalogs that accompanied certain ships, games and playsets–making checklists from the catalog for Santa was a key component of being a kid.  Over the next two days an auction house in Valencia, California is selling off a Star Wars fan’s ultimate dream collection.  At its Vintage Toys and Collectibles Live Auction, auction house Prop Store is auctioning off a spectacular collection of the Star Wars toys most kids from the era are familiar with, plus many of the rarer toys and prototypes that were known for decades to exist only through rumor and occasional obscure references.  Among the collection is a high-quality collection of nearly 100 pieces from Lucasfilm executive Howard Kazanjian.

Long before the latest Star Wars trilogy, Luke Skywalker actor Mark Hamill mentioned in interviews that certain Lucasfilm professionals received the line of new tie-in toy products as they were rolled out.  He mentioned that his kids enjoyed most of them, and he’s joked about wishing he’d saved some in the original boxes because of the sale prices some achieve today.  Kazanjian was also on that distribution list, and he maintained the toys he received in the mail for 40 years, some boxes were never opened and remain in near mint condition.  Prop Store’s auction catalog is incredible, a full color book of photographs and descriptive information almost as exciting as the auction itself–an extraordinary trip back through time even if you’re not able to drop $5,000–minimum–on a rare vinyl-caped Jawa or Yak Face variant action figure.

Bop bags, a Luke headset radio, Give-a-Show projectors, all the ships and action figures you remember, and trading cards are just the beginning,  The auction is featuring the rare Cloud City cardboard playset kids first saw in the Sears catalog–the only early playset that included four action figures (currently bidding at $400).  There’s the radio-controlled Sandcrawler (currently at $2,500), rare plush toys each starting at bids in the thousands of dollars, and all but the rare IG-88 figure in the large-sized version that was created for the key characters to match up with G.I. Joe and The Six Million Dollar Man.

But the 3.75-inch action figures make up the bulk of the toys hitting the auction block today.  The rare vinyl-caped Jawa even before the auction starts is already bid up to $6,000 (all bidders must pay the strike price plus more than 20% of the price for now-standard auction house fees).  An original R2-D2 is at $4,000, and if you want one of the rare “Power of the Force” Yak Face figures, it’s going to cost you more than $8,000.  At the end of the initial run of The Empire Strikes Back, I remember an entire wall of Yoda figures at my Target store being sold on clearance at fifty cents apiece.  That action figure type in this auction has already been bid up to $1,000.  In hindsight the figures on that clearance display were worth a small fortune.

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If you’re a fan of action figures, Super7 delivered again with a sneak peek at a whole host of action figure cards for its ReAction line, expected to be fleshed out even more this weekend at New York Toy Fair 2019.  How much fun is in this single photograph?  We’re expecting Super7 will be revealing details this weekend, but until then, here’s what we can tell is coming soon from the toy company’s line of licensed, retro 3.75-inch action figures with the classic Kenner five points of articulation.

In the top row we’re seeing that Super7 is preparing three figures from John Carpenter’s They Live, a sci-fi classic fans of the ReAction line have been asking for for years.  So there are cards for Roddy Piper’s John Nada (before the fight and after? without bubblegum?), and a male and female alien (nope, no Frank or Holly).

The eight Rocky IV figures include the previously announced Rocky Balboa and Ivan Drago (both in boxing ring attire), Rocky and Drago (in final round outfits), Rocky (winter training), and Sico the Robot.  Add to that a Carl Weathers Apollo Creed and a mystery figure (most likely blacked out because the likeness hasn’t been approved yet), maybe Brigitte Nielsen’s Ludmilla or Talia Shire’s Adrian?  Burt Young’s Paulie?  We’re hoping Super 7 may be looking back a movie to Rocky III and Mr. T’s Clubber Lang.

The Super7 Major League Baseball “Supersports” line-up has some great picks:  In addition to Jackie Robinson, we see Roy Campanella, Orlando Cepeda, Willie Mays, Carl Yastrzemski, Ted Williams, Carlton Fisk, and two others under the Classic All-Stars logo, including Juan Marichal, Mickey Mantle, and Yogi Berra, plus Madison Bumgarner and at least one other under the Baseball All-Stars logo.  We’re guessing there are four Mascots in the initial wave, including the Giants’ Crazy Crab, Mr. Met, and the Phillie Phanatic.

The first Aliens line has all the right figures, a new Sigourney Weaver Ellen Ripley, plus Bill Paxton’s Private Hudson, Jenette Goldstein’s Private Vasquez, a seriously messed-up Lance Henriksen’s Bishop, and a new Xenomorph variant.  Is there a Michael Biehn Corporal Hicks hiding off-camera?  Maybe a Jonesy and Newt combo pack?

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Since the announcement of the retro-style Kenner action figures in 2013 from Funko and Super7 (now exclusively produced by Super7), we’ve been excited to see the next license to find its way into the 3.75-inch, five points of articulation format (we’ve discussed hundreds of the licensed figures in the ReAction line here at borg over the years).  At each New York Toy Fair, Super7 has amassed everything from Alien to CW’s Arrow, and this coming weekend’s New York Toy Fair 2019 will be no different.  The biggest moneymaker for Super7 will no doubt be a series of twelve Major League Baseball action figures, including the great #42 Jackie Robinson, plus three mascot figures, all expected to be released this year during the All-Star Game to commemorate the centennial of Robinson’s birth.

But there’s more in store for movie fans.  As previewed here last year and first seen at New York Toy Fair 2017 via prototype sculpts, final versions of Wave Two of the Planet of the Apes action figure line will be on display (and see below to pre-order now each from Entertainment Earth, which just opened pre-orders for the series).  You’ll need to decide for yourself which is the coolest of the bunch: Cornelius in the ancient American spacesuit as seen in the opening to Escape from the Planet of the Apes, or the 5.5-inch Lawgiver statue from Beneath the Planet of the ApesOther figures include General Aldo from Battle for the Planet of the Apes, the creepy Mendez XXVI from Beneath the Planet of the Apes, and two Gorilla Soldiers, a Patrolman and Hunter to build your armies from Planet of the Apes.  The carded figures feature original card art by Ed Repka, the Lawgiver comes in retro-style packaging and all of the figures come with accessories.

Attendees of New York Toy Fair at the Super7 booth will also find early looks at a new line of figures from Rocky IV.    The series includes Rocky and Ivan Drago (both in ring attire), Rocky and Ivan Drago (in final round outfits), Rocky (winter training), and the figure you didn’t know you wanted: Sico the Robot.

Here are images of other figures in the new wave of Planet of the Apes:

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You may not remember it, but if you were a kid in the 1980s you probably heard of GoBots before you ever heard the word Transformers.  The Tonka transforming machine toys hit the shelves in 1983, a year in advance of Transformers, although Tonka (the classic truck toy company) was unable to give its characters and toys the success Transformers would achieve.  GoBots only were available as toys for a few years in the States, plus some book and animated series offerings.  With the legal rights to the toy designs later reverting back to the Japanese toy company Bandai, the character names and stories were assumed by Hasbro, merging with the Transformers family after business consolidation in 1991.

The return of GoBots for the 35th anniversary of the release of the toys was announced by IDW Publishing executives at the retailer panel at this year’s San Diego Comic-Con.  IDW’s Transformers vs GI Joe writer-artist Tom Scioli has created a new five-issue series, and the first issue arrived Saturday for the annual Local Comic Shop Day.  It will get a wider distribution everywhere this Wednesday.  The new Go-Bots series (now with the hyphen) is both written and drawn in that “neo-Golden Age” style of comic books like those created by Matt Kindt and Ed Piskor.  The artwork has that blend of retro styling that rejects the latest comic book capabilities, a de-evolution from modern artistic mainstays and tropes built over the past 50 years.  It also reflects a bit of the style of the 1980s animated series.

 

As kids would see with Transformers, Go-Bots in the States were sentient robots, as opposed to the human-operated machines as seen in Japan.  Familiar characters Cy-Kill, Turbo, Scooter, and Leader-1–and more–make a return in the new series.  Go-Bots have some 1980s “cartoony” backstory bits to overcome, but in Issue #1 Scioli uses them to update the character origins and begin to forge a 21st century comeback for this 1980s franchise.  For many, the vibe of the series will reflect their favorite Transformers and GI Joe animated series from the 1980s.

Take a look at some interior pages and variant covers from Scioli, Dash Shaw, Ben Marra, and Diego Jordan Pereira (and a blank sketch variant) for the first three issues:

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You wouldn’t think it would be that much of a challenge.  Transformers movies are about Transformers, right?  And yet, how often have the movies tended to gloss their way over each transformation to or from a car or jet or other vehicle?  The latest trailer for Bumblebee looks like Hasbro and Paramount are scrapping the Michael Bay style and about to deliver the goods.  And not just once or twice.  Great transformations happen all over the new trailer released this morning for the film heading to theaters this December.  Jet and helicopter to cars and then Transformers and you can actually see the components change instead of a magic CGI flash?

At last.

Everybody who has ever loved a car can see something of themselves in the trailer for the latest film in the Transformers movie series.  If you’ve ever seen an old car on its last wheel and thought there was something more to be brought back, then the young Oscar-nominated actor Hailee Steinfeld is you as we meet more of the film’s human star in the second trailerIn the same way that R2-D2 and BB-8, or Number Five, or WALL-E, or CHAPPiE, or Marvin, or Iron Giant were made lovable in their iconic sci-fi films, Paramount and Hasbro are turning back the clock, and at first glance they may finally get it right.  More heart.  More Transformers!

It’s a car, but it might as well be alive.  And better yet, BumbleBee–that classic toy yellow Volkswagen Beetle turned Optimus Prime-protector–is returning to its VW roots as this film shows him back in 1987, instead of the Camaro incarnation we saw in the movies.  And if your favorite Transformer is Optimus Prime, this trailer won’t disappoint.

Check it out:
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Review by C.J. Bunce

As we wait for December’s release of the prequel Transformers story Bumblebee coming to life in theaters, the largest and most comprehensive reference guide to the classic toys, comic strips, and comic books of the Transformers franchise is on its way.  Transform and Roll Out: The Unofficial and Unauthorized Guide to the Transformers Franchise (1984-1992) takes the deepest dive yet offered into the early days of the favorite toys and comics of a generation.  Meticulously compiled by Ryan Frost, the book will take you back like never before as he dissects each story with summaries and cross-references.  The result is a massive 820-page historical document that Transformers fans will return to again and again.

Divided into large sections on the toys, the comics, and the cartoon series, the book breaks down the toys by their release and characters, and the comics chronologically based on release.  The greatest effort is in the third section, where the author provides production information and describes plot points of the animated series, identifying characters, creators, writers, and voice actors, and he even pulls key quotes from the episodes.  Did you know the popular tie-in novelist and comic book writer Donald F. Glut wrote for the animated series?  The original actor for Emperor Palpatine in The Empire Strikes BackClive Revill–provided voices on the series.  Frost even attempts to locate the early story’s likely location for Mount St. Hillary, Oregon.

Frost recounts how Hasbro tapped then-Marvel Comics staff editor Denny O’Neil to be the next Larry Hama–the renowned writer he took the G.I. Joe toy line from toy to comic book form.  Marvel editor-in-chief Jim Shooter didn’t like O’Neil’s story treatment so staff writer Bud Budiansky stepped in, ultimately naming most of the characters and assigning them their memorable personalities, powers, and abilities.  Budiansky would edit the series, with well-known writers taking on the stories, including Ben Mentlo, Ralph Macchio, and Jim Salicrup.  Other creators would add to the series, including Bill Sienkiewicz, Michael Golden, Herb Trimpe, Mark Texeira, Charles Vess, Alan Kupperberg, Tom Morgan, and Mike Zeck.

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It should be pretty difficult for someone not to get this right.  Right?  It’s a mash-up of sword and sorcery Transformers-esque robots and Frozen-inspired fairy tale princesses.  How can it not be the next best thing to a Pixar movie for animated movie fans?  It’s so simple, and yet the first issue of a new series arriving in comic book stores tomorrow shows that it works.  Writer Todd Matthy and artist Nicolas Chapuis have come together to create the next series from Dynamite Comics, Robots Versus Princesses.  Like Cowboys vs. Aliens?  Okay, maybe all these mash-ups all don’t quite work out, but this series has the heart of that new Bumblebee movie trailer and a similar design–a lovable fish-out-of-water robot and a girl looking for something different from the status quo.

Princess Zara doesn’t understand the significance of the upcoming recital.  The other princesses in the walled kingdom have their accompanist animals selected and ready to perform.  Zara wants something different, to be different.  What about the dragons warring outside the gates that no one has ever seen but all have heard?  Maybe is she sneaks out at night she could capture a baby dragon and show the others she isn’t the least of the princesses.

Matthy’s story is very modern Disney, complete with a mix of cheery characters and a snarky heroine.  A bit Beauty and the Beast, Snow White, and Cinderella, and even more Sleeping Beauty, Issue #1 of Robots vs. Princesses is a solid introduction to a story that should be a keeper for readers looking for their next fairy tale fix.  Chapuis’s artwork is perfect for the fairy tale realm, and his realm of robot warriors has a unique design that fuses well with the best modern animated movies.

Here is a preview of Robots Versus Princesses, Issue #1, courtesy of Dynamite:

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Everybody who has ever loved a car can see something of themselves in the trailer for the latest film in the Hasbro Transformers movie series.  If you’ve ever seen an old car on its last wheel and thought there was something more to be brought back, then the young Oscar-nominated actor Hailee Steinfeld is you in the first trailer for this year’s Christmas release of BumbleBee.  In the same way that R2-D2 and BB-8, or Number Five, or WALL-E, or CHAPPiE, or Marvin, or Iron Giant, were made lovable in their iconic sci-fi films, Paramount and Hasbro are turning back the clock, scrapping the Michael Bay model that audiences have been tiring of, based on box office trending in the franchise.  Less action, more heart.

It’s a car, but it might as well be alive.  And better yet, BumbleBee–that classic toy yellow Volkswagen Beetle turned Optimus Prime-protector–is returning to its VW roots as this film shows him back in 1987, instead of the Camaro incarnation we saw in the movies.  Whether he is your favorite Transformer or whether that honor falls to Optimus Prime, this new film may be just the thing to jumpstart the franchise.

Steven Spielberg is again executive producer.  This entry looks more like a Spielberg picture than more recent sequels.  In case you missed it, here’s the trailer for BumbleBee:

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Back for another four episodes, the documentary-style series about toy lines and toy companies of the past The Toys That Made Us is now streaming on Netflix with its Season 2.  As with the first four episodes reviewed here at borg.com in January, the series really isn’t a show for kids, but a behind-the-scenes account of the good and the bad of the history of the toy business.  Because of the toy lines covered in this short Season 2–LEGO, Transformers, Hello Kitty, and Star Trek–expect a more international flavor to the show’s coverage than of Star Wars, G.I. Joe, Barbie, and Masters of the Universe.  You can’t get around the fact that this is about business and business politics, with the added opportunity for those who just want to spot their very favorite toy of their youth to shout out during at least one of the episodes, “I had one of those!”

Back is the sugar-coated dialogue of the enthusiastic narrator Donald Ian Black.  The series continues to be of value mostly for the gold nuggets nestled within its lighthearted framework.  Excerpts of an interview with former Mego President Marty Abrams tops the list.  Despite the high highs and the low lows of his days leading Mego, Abrams seems to have been in the middle of a great time for the toy biz, seen in the first of the new episodes, where he admits passing up the deal to secure the valuable Star Wars account, supposedly for being out-of-town at the time.  The episode of Transformers is surprisingly emotional, including interviews with Optimus Prime himself, lo-o-o-ong-time animated film voice actor Peter Cullen (who was also the voice of Winnie the Pooh’s Eeyore), and the much revered Hideaki Yoke, the Japanese company Takara’s lead designer responsible for the brilliant puzzle-piece designs of the vast Transformers line of characters.  As with Masters of the Universe, comic books were important to the development and success of Transformers, and viewers will learn Hello Kitty originated with comic book artists.  The most unexpected storytelling may come from the Hello Kitty episode.  Hello Kitty, a Japan-originated phenomenon turned international craze not tied to any book, TV series, or film, benefited from the coup of celebrities using the products publicly (without paying endorsement fees).  The discussion of the Japan cultural concept of kawaii and its relationship to the development of the Hello Kitty brand, character, and mythos will come as a surprise to most.

For Star Trek fans the episode featuring the franchise’s toy pursuits might have a few surprises.  Yes, that crazy Spock and Kirk helmet from the 1960s rears its ugly head again.  It’s too bad the show feels the need to explain what each franchise is first (we probably wouldn’t be watching if we didn’t), because fans would probably instead rather hear more about subjects the show creators didn’t leave time for.  We were looking for a discussion of the advance release of a line of Star Trek Generations action figures with costume styles that were changed before the film was released (a rare mishap), coverage of the very extensive (and once popular) line of attractive 12-inch scale action figures, the scope of the segment of Playmates company toys featuring characters from not only the series (discussed) but the movies through Star Trek: First Contact, and a little about the “why” of decisions behind toy releases, like why every NextGen line seemed to have two different Worf figures.  From the LEGO segment viewers learn a comprehensive overview of the company, plus some interesting bits like the fact that the early color scheme was directly inspired by the artist Mondrian, and that the outer space series caused the modern line of toys to really take off.  LEGO goes back some 80 years, and the history of the town that made it famous and impact of the brand is a great piece of history.  As with the rest of the episodes business and marketing trends are a great focus, and the 1958 LEGO patent for the interlocking brick–and loss of the patent–is part of that.

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Director Guillermo del Toro’s ode to Godzilla and the mecha genre in 2013’s Pacific Rim continues with del Toro producing the sequel Pacific Rim: Uprising, directed by Steven S. DeKnight.  As you’d expect, that means bigger and better Jaegers–those enormous fighting, armored machines initially only manned and newly created as flying drones to defend Earth–and some bigger and more terrifying Kaiju–humanity’s nemeses in the form of terrifying, alien, Godzilla-inspired monsters.  Fans of the franchise can see the development of the next generation of both creations, and how their development relied upon getting the right look and sound effects together, in the new book The Art and Making of Pacific Rim: Uprising.

Director DeKnight, showrunner of Marvel’s Daredevil, and producer of genre favorites Smallville, Angel, and Dollhouse, provides a foreword to the book and takes readers through each step of the development of the film from idea to fleshing out the look of the film’s giant-sized spectacles and its several new human characters.  Screenwriters T.S. Nowlin and Travis Beacham provide insight into the direction of the story, and DeKnight and visual effects supervisor Peter Chiang (Star Trek Beyond, Godzilla, Total Recall, John Carter, The Chronicles of Riddick, Labyrinth, Highlander, Krull) explain the look and rationale for each element of the film.  Author Daniel Wallace incorporates interviews with cast members John Boyega, Scott Eastwood, Jing Tian, Cailee Spaeny, Rinko Kikuchi, Burn Gorman, Adria Arjona, Charlie Day, and others, plus costume designer Lizz Wolf describes her concepts behind the signature look of each character.  We also meet the next generation of cadets, with a young slate of international performers: Wesley Wong, Rahart Adams, Karan Brar, Lily Ji, Shyrley Rodriquez, Ivanna Sakhno, and Levi Meaden–a group of up-and-coming actors that will be fun to watch emerge in films in the next few years.

But for most fans it will be the concept art for the Jaegers that are of key importance for a book like this, and they should be happy as most of the content is devoted to these designs, including discarded concepts and rejected variants.  Production designer Stefan Dechant (Kong: Skull Island, Alice in Wonderland, Minority Report) talks about his influences for design elements of each Jaeger (like F-16 Fighters for Guardian Bravo, the Millennium Falcon for Bracer Phoenix) and how the massive weaponry was developed.  Color was a key design factor for the Jaegers and the Kaiju, and the large icons were also defined by their sounds.  More so than most behind-the-scenes looks into films, The Art and Making of Pacific Rim: Uprising may provide the most attention to the incorporation of sound effects.  Supervising sound designer and editor Erik Aadahl (Transformers, Godzilla, Terminator Genisys, G.I. Joe: Retaliation) shares many of his secrets to help create the foreboding presence of the monsters and machines.

Key for fans of the franchise will be the book’s incorporation of tipped-in scrapbook materials, reproductions of original artwork like unused Jaeger concept art, storyboards, a monster/machine size comparison chart, a glossy, full-color pull-out blueprint of Romeo Blue, and several other reproductions of the designers’ concept art.

Check out these images from The Art and Making of Pacific Rim: Uprising:

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