Music by Max the Axe.
“Overload” from the CD Overload (2008)
Music by Max the Axe.
“Overload” from the CD Overload (2008)
TFCon in Toronto has become another tradition of Sausagefest-scale epic-ness for me. Coming the weekend just after ‘Fest, it help blunts the withdrawal. Jay and I left Kitchener promptly at 8 am. We planned to buy the “early bird” passes that got us onto the dealer floor two hours before general admission. That’s what we did last year, though it’s not really necessary.
I hoped to pick up a specific Toronto exclusive: Maketoys’ “Maestro” (a third party version of Generation 2 Jazz complete with deco), and that was first mission accomplished ($140 from The Chosen Prime). Its lovely clamshell packaging is an homage to its 1993 “G2” counterpart. There was no line for this particular exclusive, and they had lots left by the time we departed around noon.
Maketoys Maestro (aka G2 Jazz)
As usual we had a great time, but with a couple gripes. Last year the early admission came with a shaving kit and a bottle of water — this year nothing! (I’m only partially griping, but I heard two other guys having the exact same conversation as us. And just like us, “I still haven’t used that shaving kit.”)
Our other complaint were the people with the fucking backpacks. Everybody under the age of 30 seemed to be sporting backpacks of varying practicality, but weren’t seeming to be buying things to put in the backpacks. Just as bad: the people in stupid outfits that had nothing to do with Transformers. We saw some witches and some things that were probably anime references, and a few people sporting swords. There was only one Bumblebee, one Prime, and one Ratchet. Optimus Prime’s dad was dressed as Sparkplug Witwicky.
Beast Wars Megatron and Sparkplug Witwicky
To us a lot of people seemed to be there to be “seen” rather than be there for the awesome Transformers. 90% of the floor space is dedicated to collectable robots that turn into stuff. Know what kind of event you’re going to, people!
Bitching aside, we both did well.
Jay bought the cool hologram-looking lights seen in the video above, one each for his two boys. You can hear the creator discuss pricing in the video. Jay also got a great price on a black Encore reissue of G1 Ironhide, just $20.
Jay’s best score: he picked up Fanshobby “Megatooth” (third party G1 Repugnus), a figure I had been eyeing myself. It has chromed plastic mandibles and claws, which is considered a premium finish for figure collectors.
Fanshobby Megatooth (far right)
A look at my purchases below:
Check out some of the cool sights below. In this gallery: prototypes of figures yet to come, and some customs as well.
And finally, some of the best of the cool stuff for sale.
Jay knows how to do this stuff. I saw him negotiate $20 on a red B.A.P.E. Optimus Prime, and it was done with…art, really. There was an art to it and both guys were happy with the outcome.
With us, we do TFCon right. We won’t make you dodge our backpacks. We’re smart about it. When we buy a couple large items, we take them to the truck and go back in. It’s a Transformers convention, not a campout. And I sure as fuck wouldn’t dress up as a Jedi if I’m going to TFCon.
But whatever! It was fun as these photos show. Can’t wait for next summer.
Balancing a music collection with a toy collection is expensive, but they do have a lot in common. For example, both feature “holy grail” items that you simply must have. In 2017, the holy grail category was won by toys for the first time. Behold! Enjoy the video at bottom.
* Terminus Giganticus is FansToys’ version of a Masterpiece class Omega Supreme action figure, to fit seamlessly with your official Transformers Masterpiece collection.
* Fucking huge.
* Comes in two packs: Pack A (September 2017) and Pack B (November 2017).
* Thanks to Madhaus Toys (facebook.com/madhaus.collectibles) for the pre-order!
GETTING MORE TALE #578: TFCon 2017
Hold onto your scraplets, I have literally a shat-ton of photos from Toronto TFCon 2017!
I’ve never been to TFCon before. Buddy Jason has been trying to get me to go for years. This is the first time the planets aligned and I went with Jay with two goals:
Jay picked me up around 7:00 am and we hit the road. We discussed strategies and vendors and I quickly realized that this was going to be epic.
I’ll let the massive photo gallery here speak for itself. For official and third party figures, I have never seen anything like it before.
The goodie bag you get for paying your $35 entrance fee was kind of crap. It had some flavoured water and a Schick razor. The TFCon bag itself will get more use than the Schick.
One of the coolest figures was the Con exclusive from OcularMax. Diaclone Paris Dakar Rally Terraegis is a mouthful, but it’s the yellow truck in the gallery below. Look at the detailed deco. Those aren’t stickers!
They also had prototypes of forthcoming third party figures. One of these was the giant FansToys Omega Supreme (mentioned earlier here). Another was a really sharp looking pair of jets for a new Masterpiece Aerialbots set.
The items I purchased were:
I just found a new annual pilgrimage. Thanks Jay — can’t wait for next year!
We have had a solid rain in Kitchener, Ontario. Not only are the banks of the Grand swollen to the limit, but there has also been a steady rainfall of new arrivals at LeBrain HQ! Summer has officially arrived, and what is summer without new rock?
First we have some gratuity for Mr. Geoff “1001” Stephen. Some surprise mail arrived from him this week: two 7″ singles and some Leafs memorabilia. As Mrs. LeBrain said, “Thank you Geoff Stephen for the wonderful surprise this morning. The calendar brought back so many memories of my favourite hockey year. Go Leafs Go!”
For myself, a Kiss “Christine Sixteen”/”Shock Me” single, which alas is too late to fit into my Love Gun re-review! Those two songs make it virtually a double A-side. The other single he sent has a similar standing: Thin Lizzy’s “The Boys Are Back In Town”/”Jailbreak”. Two singles, four amazing cuts of rock history.
On the same day, I received this from a Discogs seller in Japan: a CD that has been on my wishlist a long time. Despite the long wait, I managed to hold off from buying the domestic edition of Ghost’s debut Opus Eponymous all this time. A sealed copy finally came up on Discogs within my buying threshold, so I jumped at it. For my rewards, I got “Here Comes the Sun”, Ghost’s Beatles cover…and a very different one it is.
We will jump briefly to new arrivals in the toy department. Thanks to J. at Resurrection Songs we recently covered the ins and outs of Third Party products. Behold! Badcube has released their take on Masterpiece Transformer Insecticons. These are heavy, heavy toys with lots of diecast and G1 accurate insect modes, with robot modes an homage to the cartoon. Check them out with their leader Megatron (third party Apollyon) and their original 1985 toys below. These, by the way, are deluxe collector’s editions with clear plastic and chromed parts for added value. I’d love to compare them to an official Hasbro Masterpiece Insecticon, but such a thing does not exist. That’s why third party companies have a niche. Labels by Toyhax.
Apollyon by X-Transbots with Evil Bug Corps by Badcube
Badcube Claymore and Transformers G1 Shrapnel
Badcube Hypno and Transformers G1 Bombshell
Badcube Kickbutt and Transformers G1 Kickback
Last new entry in the toy Department: I found some new Star Wars Black Series 6″ releases kicking around at the local Toys R Us on Sunday. I should have grabbed more of the Imperial AT-ACT driver, that one being a Target/TRU exclusive, but sometimes you find those to still be warming the pegs a few weeks later. The Imperial Death Squad commander will look great with my Stormtroopers, but I feel to ask $30 for one little tiny Jawa figure is a bit much. They should have included two Jawas or a droid in there for that price.
The same day as the Toys R Us trip, I also dropped in at the newly re-opened Sunrise Records at Fairview Mall, which is really starting to come along with great customer service and an improving selection. I couldn’t browse long, so I leaped immediately to the metal section and grabbed two CDs that I was missing by The Sword: Low Country (2016) and the new live album Greetings From… (2017). I am slowly getting caught up on that band — loving everything I have heard so far.
A wonderful week to be sure, but it’s time to stop buying music and toys for a short while, and get ready for Sausagefest 2017. I finished recording my parts yesterday, and I have inside information that suggests that this Sausagefest countdown will be pretty awesome.
By request of J from Resurrection Songs. If you are familiar with the concept of bootleg CDs, then the idea of third party toys should be easy to assimilate. For the purpose of this story, I’m going to be speaking only about third party Transformers toys, as they are the only ones in my collection.
GETTING MORE TALE #570: Third Party
What is a third party toy? Simply put, it is an unauthorized toy designed to look like another toy, without infringing on any copyrights. Third party toys are big business today. These independently produced collectibles have limited runs and when they’re out, eBay prices can be prohibitive. One of the reasons the prices get so high is that third party toys often exceed the quality of the official ones. They cater to hard core fans looking for specific features and homages. Stuff that officially produced toys ignore in favour of mass production, safety features and mass appeal.
Third party toys are not to be confused with “KO” or knock-offs. KO toys originating from China or Korea are complete reproductions of official toys. Therefore, you can buy a KO of the original Optimus Prime from 1984. It will come in a KO of the original box with a KO sticker sheet and instructions too. It’ll be made of die cast and plastic just like the original, and these toys are getting better all the time. It used to be they would be made with cheap plastic and fall apart immediately. That happened to me, when I ordered a KO of 1985’s Devastator figure. First time out of the box, and one of the figures broke. One part was too tight, the other part was too fragile, and snap. They are of much higher quality now, and the bonus is that you can get a “brand new” toy of something you always wanted but never had.
To make matters a little more confusing, there are now even KOs of third party figures, and a current popular trend is oversized KOs. The theory is that bigger is better! The waters are murky indeed!
There is a certain amount of caution and “buyer beware” to be exercised with third party toys. Especially with new startup companies, the quality and design can leave a lot to be desired. One company, Keith’s Fantasy Club (KFC) had early products that were beyond shite. They initially focused on cassette-bots: robots that transformed into microcassettes. I bought one that fell apart out of the box. Now KFC have worked out the bugs and produce some of the heaviest, highest quality third party toys on the market. I recently received their “Opticlones”, an original toy based on Transformers Generation 1 Reflector. This is a set of three robots that combine into a camera. He has a lot of metal, intricate transformation and dead-on accurate looks to the original cartoon character. The figure is in “MP” or Masterpiece scale. He is designed to fit right in with the official Masterpiece Megatron, Optimus Prime, Soundwave and the rest of the line. Often, third party toys will be designed to interact with the official ones. Reflector comes with a little miniature version of his camera self that can be held by the official Soundwave.
The early days of third party toys was like the wild wild west, you really had to do your research. Fortunately, Youtube reviewers like Peaugh made some decisions easy. A company called Fansproject put out a two-figure add-on kit to go with the official Revenge of the Fallen Bruticus figure, a combiner made of five robots. Fansproject’s kit flat-out replaced two of the robots with much better ones. It improved the overall figure greatly by supplying new hands, feet and guns. Ingeniously, all the numerous accessories had a part in play in all three modes: robots, vehicles, and combined robot. Each part was perfectly integrated, and significantly boosted the firepower of the toy.
Bruticus before and after
This was wish fulfillment for fans! The intricate parts were above and beyond the official Hasbro versions. There was a new head too, with neck articulation. Guns could combine into larger guns, parts unfolded into missile launchers…it was great stuff and Fansproject have consistently been on the top of the heap.
One of the reasons companies like Fansproject have lasted so long is that they continually cater to the demands of fans who feel the official products are missing something. For just about every major Hasbro and Takara release, there is an add-on kit available from a third party company. New heads are common, because fans are picky enough to want their figure to look like a specific iteration. Transformers have a 33 year history and characters have undergone many versions.
Often there are multiple third party add-on kits to choose from. Dr. Wu is one that I have bought from frequently. Dr. Wu tends to focus on small add-ons, like guns and additional weapons that are missing from the official toy. If Hasbro and Takara could only release toys that fulfill wishes from the fans from the start, third party companies like Dr. Wu wouldn’t be necessary. Either due to cost or a desire to have toys less “weaponized”, Hasbro and Takara often omit weapons and accessories that the characters have traditionally wielded. Enter Dr. Wu and a slew of others.
Even the sticker company Reprolabels/Toyhax have entered the weapons black market. Reprolabels/Toyhax used to focus strictly on stickers, either to restore or enhance your Transformers. Now they are including plastic weapons that, once again, Hasbro and Takara have omitted from classic characters. Toyhax were the only major third party sticker company on the market, and now they’ve gone even further by adding solid add-ons too. Any serious Transformers fan should visit and make at least one purchase from Toyhax.
Maketoys’ Battle Tanker is a kit to provide weapons and a trailer for Hasbro’s G2 Prime figure, as well as new waist and head.
Similar to add-on kits are upgrade kits. These require partial disassembly of your figure to outright replace major components. This is often done to add articulation, especially in the hands. Beelzeboss is a third party that sells a very complex kit for the official Combiner Wars Optimus Prime figure. It’s a hairy process, involving tiny screws, pulling out small metal pins, and replacing entire waist and leg pieces in exchange for new ones. The upgrade adds height and completely changes the appearance of Prime. If you’re up to the task, it looks incredible. Other upgrades are simpler. A lot of modern Transformers have ball joints and it’s easy to pop off a head and replace it with a third party one that has light-up eyes.
At this point, there are now so many quality third party companies out there fighting for our dollars, that choosing one version to go with can be daunting. KFC doesn’t have the only version of an MP-scale Reflector out there. Another fine company called Fans Toys also have one. Ultimately I preferred KFC’s version of the camera mode, which tipped the scales. For other characters, especially combiners made of multiple robots, there are many versions, most great. Choosing one might depend on which one is biggest, or fits in better with your collection. Youtube reviews are essential. Benscollectibles is one of the best. Emgo316 “The freakin’ geek himself”, Peaugh, Balmatrix, Optibotimus, and many more can be counted on for their prompt and thorough reviews. Another benefit to these reviews is to master the transformation process. These companies are based out of Asia, and the instructions have no English. You have to rely on sometimes vague pictures. Some third party toys are so complex that, like a Rubik’s cube, it’s easy to just give up in frustration. Maketoys’ Wardog (aka G1 Warpath) is the most difficult toy I own. These guys will guide you through transforming it.
You might ask yourself, “What if there is a quality issue? What do I do?” Most of these companies are very good about providing replacement pieces. X-Transbots Apollyon is their version of a Masterpiece Megatron. The heavy battery-powered fusion cannon on his right arm is quite heavy, and the right arm droops. It won’t hold up. So X-Transbots provided a tighter replacement piece for the shoulder ball joint. It’s easy to install, and they began including these replacement shoulders right in the box. This is one example.
Apollyon on dispaly with official, third party and knock-offs. Can you tell?
Where can you get third party toys? Online of course, but I am lucky enough to have a store in town that sells them. B&K Collectibles in Cambridge is my go-to guy dealer. If Big Dan doesn’t have it, Big Bad Toy Store and TF Source will. Now, there are even crowdfunded third party toys! My buddy Jason just received his Ocular Max Kojin project, one such crowdfunded toy. There were incentives offered including discounts and free bonus figures, and I regret not jumping on board myself. (I didn’t because I was waiting for the official Takara version, and now…well, that might have been a mistake.)
Ocular Max Kojin
My biggest third party purchase is happening this summer. A favourite company, Fans Toys, is releasing their massive version of as Masterpiece scale G1 Omega Supreme. It is called Aegis Sentinel and is so huge that it is being sold in two separate parts. Sentinel A is the tank and track component, and it will be available in June. Sentinel B is out in August, and will have the rocket and base components. Together, Aegis Sentinel will combine into a 21 1/2″ robot behemoth. This is a beast that will look amazing in proper scale with Optimus Prime and cohorts. The official Prime is already a large figure at 9″. It’s going to be quite cool to have the giant Autobot in proper scale with Optimus!
Then all I have to do is slap some Autobot logo stickers on him, courtesy of Toyhax. Hasbro/Takara will never release a full sized Masterpiece Omega Supreme figure. Fortunately the fearless Fans Toys will. Based on their Iron Dibots line, I know that my Omega will be heavy, strong and very impressive looking.
If you’d like to know more, check out the Youtube reviews of some of the fine folks above, and browse the third party section of Big Bad Toy Store or TF Source. Even if you never buy a third party transforming robot, you have to admit they’re pretty damn nifty.
Aegis Sentinel and the Iron Dibots by Fans Toys
This photo gallery (entirely music related I assure you) is by request of Jason, who is interested in getting these toys. Below you can see the the following pieces:
How are they music related? One of them transforms into a cassette, while the other one plays a wicked guitar solo on the electric axe, as you can see below! Also note Hound’s cool light-piped eyes. Nifty eh?
Music, movies, and books! I’ve been very occupied these last couple days.
I get the Guiness’ Book of World Records, and the Ripley’s Believe It Or Not books every year. I imagine my surprise when I discovered a friend of ours in both books! Apparently, Sweet Pepper Klopek holds the world record for “Most Baking Sheets Buckled Over the Head for One Minute.” This is a guy who has been on my living room couch! Lemon Kurri says:
“He’s in there a couple times. Most mouse traps sprung on a tongue in 1 min too.”