Guest directed by: Kathryn Ladano
GETTING MORE TALE #678: Robots
Long-time readers know that mikeladano.com started as a site about music, but has grown beyond that. Mike Ladano (that’s me) is passionate about music, but that’s not all. You may have noticed that in addition to collecting rare Japanese import CDs with bonus tracks, I also like to collect tape decks and cars and trucks and planes that transform into robots.
The music/Transformers connection is pretty solid. First there was a Bruce Springsteen-like character who debuted in the Marvel comic series. Then, Stan Bush and Weird Al Yankovic contributed tunes to 1986’s Transformers: The Movie. (Weird Al’s song was “Dare to Be Stupid”, and you should certainly know Stan Bush’s songs “The Touch” and “Dare”.) Two decades later, Linkin Park had the lead single from 2007’s Transformers. In fact, Linkin Park have songs in all five Transformers “Bayverse” films. Some members are so deep into the ‘bots that they even have their own Transformers action figure. In 2013, Hasbro released a limited edition golden Linkin Park Soundwave figure designed by Joseph Hahn!
I should state for the record, because this really cheeses off a lot of Transformers fans: I hated the old cartoon. It was too kiddie, with nonsensical plots and characterisations. The Marvel Transformers comic series, originally written by Bob Budiansky and later Simon Furman, was grittier and geared to older kids. It ran 80 issues, from 1986 to 1991. It was better than the Sunbow cartoon, and the Michael Bay movies too for that matter.
I “stopped playing with toys” around 1987, but still collected the comics for another year. The Transformers toyline and comic were officially cancelled in the early 90s, but even that was short-lived. Much like Optimus Prime himself, the toys wouldn’t stay dead for long.
1993 saw the debut of Transformers: Generation 2. This consisted of a rebooted toyline with old and new toys, and a new Marvel comic continuing the storyline of the original. While in Frankenmuth, Michigan I picked up issue #1 of the comic, in a special fold-out cover. Unfortunately, the new G2 comic was adapted to the 90s: Big guns, and grittier action. Meanwhile the toys were increasingly designed with kids in mind. They sported bright colours and gimmicky play features, like squirting water. Around the same time, while checking garage sales with buddy Peter, I ran across a massive stash of original mint condition Transformers comics that I was missing. 50 cents a piece! I was back collecting the comics once again.
I regret that I didn’t buy any Generation 2 toys. Some of them, including “Laser Rod” Optimus Prime, were really quite excellent. I thought I “shouldn’t” be buying toys at my age.
When did that all go out the window? In 2006 I quit the Record Store and started at Aecon Industrial. I was teamed up with a fantastic lady named Julie in their Quality Assurance department, and she showed me the ropes. She was also responsible for getting me back into transforming toys.
We had a little office to work out of, and on the shelf was a small black Beast Wars toy. Beast Wars was a 90s incarnation of Transformers, a complete reboot after the commercial failure of Generation 2. This time, a new cast of characters featured robots that turned into life-like animals, on a flashy new computer animated TV show. Julie brought in a small Beast Wars toy that belonged to a nephew. It was a bull of some kind, and when we needed a break we’d fiddle with it. That’s what started it up again. I remembered how fun those little toys were. Like 3D puzzles that you solved by twisting and turning parts around into new formations.
I made a trip over to Toys R Us to see what they had: Star Wars Transformers! These were famous vehicles from the Star Wars movies that transformed into robot likenesses of their drivers. There was a Vader/TIE, a Luke/X-Wing and many more to collect. Unfortunately they were not very good toys. The whole concept was dicey from the start. Darth Vader flies a TIE Fighter that transforms into a giant robotic Darth? That never made a lot of sense, but the toys were just not good. They were flimsy and the robot modes were not very good.
A couple years later, things changed again. Hasbro realized there was a massive market out there for old men buying nostalgia toys. They began issuing new versions of old classic characters from the 80s, and that was all I needed to jump back in with both feet. You could even buy “Encore” reissues for some of the original figures from 1984, ’85 and ’86! Therefore, for just a few bucks you could get a brand new replica of the original Optimus Prime, with only a few minor changes (smaller smokestacks so kids won’t poke an eye out).
I buy both Encore reissues, and brand new iterations of old characters. The new toys satisfy a lot of the wants of collectors today. Unlike the old ones from the 80s, they have better articulation. Elbows, knees and ankles all move so you can put your toys in the most action-packed poses. But they’re not perfect. They come with fewer accessories and sometimes lack the gimmicks of their 80s counterparts. Materials are cheaper today, and toys are sometimes misassembled or defective right out of the package. Design flaws and bad QA are a constant issue. Toys are made so hastily that some can’t even transform properly like they’re shown on the packaging.
Sounds like Hasbro needs a full-time play-tester. I’m available.
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!
Action figures are like CDs. You can go and buy the “standard edition” at Walmart, or what have you. But if you want all the extra goodies, sometimes you have to hunt a little more and buy a few extra versions.
Toys such as my beloved Star Wars Black Series 6″ series have plenty of exclusives, some that I have and some that I want. The most elusive are the San Diego Comic-Con toys. Some exclusives: Jabba the Hut came with a cardboard throne and accessories. Their Boba Fett came with Han Solo in carbonite. But they are mucho pricey. Elsewhere down the money scale are toys that are exclusive to certain stores and online outlets.
Walgreens is a store that doesn’t exist in Canada and often gets exclusive Star Wars figures. Their most well known is the “prototype” all-white Boba Fett based on an original 1978 Ralph McQuarrie concept sketch. Their current Star Wars treasure is a C-3P0 variation with two gold arms and one silver leg.
The “standard” version of Threepio has the red arm seen in The Force Awakens. This “Resistance Base” Threepio is the common one. Since C-3P0 doesn’t come with any accessories (not even a restraining bolt or com-link), fans hoped he would come with alternate limbs, so you could recreate his look in Episode IV. Hasbro had a different plan. Instead they made the different limbed robots exclusives to Walgreens. I have been looking for one. (There is also a version with a darker red arm, but it doesn’t look as good as these.)
Our neighbors went to Toronto Comic-Con yesterday and found the Walgreens silver leg Threepio for me. It was only $40 — a lot cheaper than ordering one online. Thanks guys!!
Did you watch cartoons in the 1980s? If you, you probably remember the Transformers. Think back, and picture the cassettebots. Remember them? Soundwave (Decepticon) and Blaster (Autobot) were the cassette recorders, each with an arsenal of cassette mini-robots to back him up. Using an advanced alien technology called “mass shifting”, these giant robots could shrink down to the size of an actual cassette, thereby enabling them to spy unnoticed on human and robot alike. As affordable toys, you may have had some yourselves. The neat thing was these cassettes designed by Japanese company Takara were designed to perfectly mimic the size and shape of actual micro cassettes. On the TV show and in the pages of the Marvel comic book, they were depicted as standard sized cassette tapes.
Third party company Toyhax (also known as Reprolabels) has come up with some fun ways to enhance your cassette-bot toy collection. Recently they released a set of plastic engines and stickers for the current Buzzsaw and Laserbeak toys in the 2016/2017 Hasbro Titans Return line. This time they transform into little media players. Fans always complain that Hasbro toys “don’t look enough” like the original 80s toy they are an homage to. Toyhax has created the labels and engines to enhance the current toys, and enhance them they do. The new accessories even enable new modes, like the “Star Trek communicator” see below.
Toyhax have also released a sticker set that enables you to use ordinary Lego bricks to create you own shrunken-down cassette versions of characters both popular and obscure. All you need are those small 1×2 flats. You know the ones I mean?
Don’t have any of those just lying around anymore? Get this. You can buy them, picked to order, for just pennies a piece. You can pick as many of any colour you like. Mix and match the stickers to get the best looking mini cassettes around, and perfect for your Masterpiece scale figures to hold.
They look great, and it’s a fun little project you can do with very little cost. They enhance any solid Transformers Masterpiece collection as scale accessories. See below with Fans Toys’ “Tesla” (aka Perceptor), they look just perfect!
What is summer without a few trips to the cottage? This past weekend was beautiful and loaned itself to some photography and loads of music.
Below, you will find a video using a new track by Stealth, the duo made up of bass clarinetist Kathryn Ladano, and percussionist Richard Burrows. The music is “point i” from their debut album, called …listen. Thanks to Youtube, you no longer have to just “listen”!
“Point i” suited the jungle planet in the photos. I was just playing around with my Star Wars Black Series 6″ figures and I wanted to show off my new IG-88 and Chewbacca. I got carried away and what you see below is the result. It was a lot of fun, which I hope you can see in the adventure!
Thanks to Kathryn and Stealth for permission to use the music. Pick up ...listen by contacting the artists at kathrynladano.com, coming soon to iTunes and Amazon.
Sorry for the lack of rock!
A series of vignettes featuring my open collection of 6″ Star Wars Black Series! I wanted to show each figure’s features in detail. These are really fun to play with, and display incredibly well. Were you born in the 70’s? Then enjoy these and play along.
For gallery #1, click here.
For gallery #2, click here.
A series of vignettes featuring my open (and one sealed) collection of 6″ Star Wars Black Series! I wanted to show each figure’s features in detail. These are really fun to play with, and display incredibly well. Were you born in the 70’s? Then enjoy these and play along.
This series is dedicated to the memory of George Balasz 1969(?)-2014.