Thursday, 26 February 2009

I Love Transformers: Armada Toys

I'm starting with a controversial title, and I'll continue it here. Armada has been one of the most unfairly maligned Transformer lines in recent years. It came after the Robots In Disguise line, that was low on gimmicks but big on realism and posability. Armada meanwhile was the opposite and was low on realism and posability but high on the fun factor. And fans hated it.

Yet kids loved it. Huh, toys being made for kids, go figure.

Of course, I'm an adult (or I like to think so) and yet these guys line my shelves. I personally think Armada was one of the most solid Transformer lines to date, really exciting, vibrant and fun. And so I'm going to pick out some of my favourites and hopefully pressure you into thinking the same!

Hot Shot
I'll admit it. Hot Shot is probably the worst of the Armada line easily. He is very flat, his arms are truly atrocious and can only flap up and down weakly, and he is forever staring  upwards with a pained, agonizing look on his face. But he also has his Axelzooker, flip out chainsaw feet, his Minicon and the Japanese version has a light-up fist. It's not all bad. Its not great, but the poor guy gets bashed way too much. I would rather a failed experiment than something satisfactory but which no effort whatsoever has been put into.
Minicons were one of the big draws of Armada, and one of the earliest was Perceptor. Made up of three little guys, High Wire, Grindor and Sureshock who combined into Perceptor, he was a delight to behold.

The little robots each turn into their own vehicles. Grindor is the clear winner, mostly because the others look a bit natty but at least they tried to do something cool and unique. Sureshock even splits down the /middle/ when he transforms! And of course these three inch-high robots all combine into a bigger robot, Perceptor. Each mode looks good, there's no cutting corners, and it really hasn't been done better before or since. Simple and elegant!

Here's one character that I feel has been unfairly maligned - Sideswipe. Now, the original Sideswipe was a sleek, sexy sports car. It isn't Armada Sideswipe's fault that he is a clunky car with a gimpy robot mode. Sure he has no knees and huge arms and legs as fat as he is tall. He's amazing!
His car mode is cool, holds together really well and even has transparent windows! If you press his Autobot insignia, the bonnet explodes forwards to transform him into a dragster. If you press a button on his back, a panel flips round revealing his Minicon, probably one of the coolest gimmicks I've seen.

In robot mode, the bonnet halves on his fists can explode out like a super-punch. If you use the Minicon port on his back his right arm will punch up and down. He has a hidden gun and knife that fits together like a bayonet. His  Minicon also becomes a jetpack. What more do you want!?

He's not pretty, but he's not ugly. I think he's got his own charm and he's packed with playability. He can sit on your desk and you can fiddle with him forever. Ask not what Sideswipe can do, but what he can't do!
Demolishor is a fantastic figure and actually looks cool to boot. He's a tank with a pirate eye patch who is covered in guns. He can even hold his Minicon in his fingers.

In tank mode, his Minicon can fire his missiles, and can attach to the front to make an even bigger tank. He has a little chair on his back that folds out to let the Minicon sit on it to drive him about. Its brilliant!

Optimus Prime
Prime is a bit of a letdown to be honest. His mouth plate moves, but all the money was sunk into his gimmick. When you transform him to robot mode, his trailer automatically transforms to a (rather poor) base. When you transform him to giant robot mode, the trailer transforms and rises into a pair of legs for him. This would all be well and good if it actually worked, but usually it just made horrid clicking noises before collapsing. But he tried dammit, he really tried!

Prime, lovingly nicknamed Superpants Prime, can also combine with Jetfire to give him a more poseable set of pants, and also Overload to give him a huge pair of guns. And what was a bit clunky is now satisfyingly huge and clunky.

Yes, Armada introduced Unicron as a toy for the first time ever. They could have been lazy and just made him straight robot-to-planet, after all, he's Unicron, people would buy him regardless. But instead he also has light up eyes, a light up fist, individually articulated fingers, his bony wings, missiles, leg-compartments, a tummy prison, and a gigantic missile.

Actually the gigantic missile is the one downside to Unicron. The entire batch that the UK got were on a hair-trigger, so the moment you tapped him wrong, this missile would slowly unfold from his chest and shoot you square in the eye.

And that is why I wear glasses today. True story.

Boo hoo hoo, Megatron has no knees. Fine. But what he does have is a ton of playability. In tank mode he has a firing cannon and flip-up missiles. He's got lights and sounds. He has /capture claws/. He has ramps galore, flip-out spring-loaded panels, and leg prisons! One even has a strange spring-loaded claw-like thing.

In robot mode he has a hidden slide-out knife, and he can swivel his tank turret around to his front, and then crank a handle to make it spin round and round. He can even combine with another Decepticon, Tidal Wave, to create armour for him!

It may sound like I'm just listing gimmicks, but look at them all! There's thousands of things that he can do, and the fact he can't bend his knees more than makes up for the sheer awesomeness that is Megatron. I think time has been kind to this guy - at the time people wanted more ultra-poseable figures, what they got was something that was just a lot of /fun/.

I think that's why Armada came under a lot of fire to begin with. At the end of the day, Transformers is first and foremost a line for kids, and Armada was just jam-packed with fun and inventiveness. After a while, the novelty of a robot who turns into a vehicle wears off and just becomes a bit boring. Armada injected a lot of the excitement and fun into the figures and packed them solidly with value.

So yes, I'll nail my colours to the flagpole and say that I honestly think Armada was one of the best Transformers line. It did what it wanted to do - not be ultra-realistic but instead solid and filled with fun, and at the end of the day these are first and foremost toys for children. We're just here for the ride.

And the Minicons.

Transformer UK Comics - The Legacy Of Unicron

Now I shall gear up into exploring another of the Titan Transformer trades, in this case The Legacy Of Unicron which collects two storylines set in the future, and two smaller stories set in the present that continue the tale of Galvatron

The Legacy Of Unicron
We kick off with Headhunt, a very cool two-parter set in the future and featuring everyone's favourite homicidal killing machine, Death's Head! Last we saw him, Rodimus Prime forcibly transported him back to the future to prevent him killing Galvatron, but more importantly in Death's Head's eyes, cheating him out of his bounty. Death's Head is a robot, so I'm not really sure what he spends all this money on, but I would like to think that it is on cheap whores. Or hoovers, whatever the robot equivilant is.

So Shockwave, the future Decepticon leader pays Death's Head to kill Rodimus Prime, a mission the mech is only too happy to comply with. Unfortunately this doesn't sit too well with Galvatron's lieutenants, Cyclonus and Scourge who since Galvatron's departure have been reduced to lacky status in Shockwave's court. Throwing a hissy fit, they storm out on Shockwave, and the following laughter scene is one of the most eerily effective I have seen. Shockwave really is badass.

Inspecting his troops, Rodimus Prime manages to lose his guards, and then rather hysterically (or horribly, since this bit gave me nightmares as a kid), Death's Head starts throwing the severed heads of the guards at Prime. These little touches are what makes Death's Head such a cool player.

Death's Head fights Prime in the sewers of Cybertron, only to be shot in the back by Scourge seconds before dealing the killing blow (Scourge having had a score to settle with Death's Head, who blew a very large hole in him last time they met). Whilst the first part is seem as unrelentingly grim, the second is played for laughs, and more importantly this works, as an enraged (and singed) Death's Head gives chase to Cyclonus and Scourge.

And no-one cares about poor old Prime. Aaaaw.

This tale leads directly into The Legacy Of Unicron, the cornerstone of this collection as Prime, having turned the tables and offered Death's Head a very very generous bounty on Cyclonus and Scourge tracks the two to the planet of Junk, last seen in Transformers: The Movie.

Death's Head very soon cripples the two, but is waylaid by a Junkion who needs (and more importantly will pay for, yes) Death's Head's help in defeating an evil presence which has invaded his planet. Unfortunately this turns out to be...

...Yes, in case you had not guessed (and that would make you astonishingly slow readers) it is Unicron's head. He is using his mind control powers to force the Junkions to slowly rebuild his body. As a special bonus plan he is also building a time travel doorway so he can go and grab Galvatron whose sneaky plotting against him is really upsetting him. Unicron uses his powers to force Death's Head and the two Decepticons on a suicide mission - kill Shockwave!

No matter what you think of Shockwave, in the comics he was a tough cookie, and this story is perhaps one of his best. Within minutes he has worked out Death's Head's trick and instantly turned the tables, seperating our bountiful buddy from Cyclonus and Scourge.

As Shockwave stalks Death's Head alone through the Decepticon stronghold, there is a very real sense of threat. The guy's lack of any face and gigantic gun arm just ooze power and coolness, and it is a real shame that Death's Head manages to outwit his foe.

Shockwave gets a good death scene though, as Death's Head blasts him several times and then crushes his mind with his bare hands, just to make sure. I actually really felt sorry for Shockwave at this point, and given that he is a mercilless tyrant with a lust for power, this is good writing on Furman's part. Setting Cyclonus and Scourge in charge of the Decepticons, Unicron gives them his order - lead the Decepticons in a full-scale assault on Cybertron in a bid to wipe out both sides and get his revenge.

Back to Junk, and three Autobots: Smokescreen, Inferno and Wreck-Gar discover Unicron's head alive and barking orders. Unfortunately Wreck-Gar is left behind, and a damaged Inferno throws Smokescreen out the crashing ship in order to die a hardcore death and land on as many Decepticons as possible. Poor Smokescreen really had a lot to angst about that day.
Warned about this menace, Prime takes a small force including the Dinobots to Junk to investigate. Sensing the danger, Unicron summons Cyclonus and Scourge back to Junk, and with them out of the way, Soundwave (next in the chain of command, I hope you're taking notes!) promptly calls off the attack. Well, he's not stupid!

Anyway, here is the really interesting part, as Unicron tells Death's Head the story of his creation and of the Transformers. This is *the* point around which just about every other Transformers story has hinged, it is the Excalibur to the King Arthur myth, so listen up.

Billions of years ago when the universe was young, the Chaos God Unicron was primal force given form, a whirlwind of destruction that threatened to end the creation before it was begun. Only Prime, Lord of the Light Gods could stand in his way. They fought, and in their battle they risked annihilating the cosmos Primus sought to protect. Taking the battle to the astral plane, Unicron continues to best Primus until Primus lures Unicron into a trap in a last ditch attempt at victory.

Both are trapped in lifeless asteroids, floating helpless through space. But over time, Unicron manages to form his into the planet eating robot we see today. And Primus? He transformed his into a world which became known as Cybertron populated by sentient robots whose greater purpose was to destroy Unicron. And the Matrix contained the essence of Primus himself.

A very very cool story, suddenly injecting myths and a greater gravis to the Transformers tale. The art is not the best here, and it does look better when Furman later retells it in the US comics (since it is illustrated there by Geoff Senior, one of my favourites of all time). But thats just a minor quibble, here is where it all begins. Oh, and as another note of interest, thats the only picture we have of Sentinel Prime, who came before Optimus. (His severed arm, which we see at the beginning of the Dreamwave The War Within series even looks the same, now there's continuity!)

Prime and Death's Head team up to face Unicron and... well I'm including this because its a picture of Death's Head holding the Matrix. Heh.

Prime, who is a spitting image of Primus (he is the Transformer's chosen one after all) takes the battle to the astral plane and fares as well as Primus did, which is to say not very well at all. And beneath them all is a gigantic cavern full of explosives... 'Nuff said!

Better be careful, looks like that thing could put someones eye out...

The volume also contains two very nice short stories set in the present day which continue the tale of Galvatron. Ladies Night sees the discovery in a volcano of the trapped bodies of Magnus and Galvatron. The Decepticons set out to blow the thing up, since they can't risk Galvatron getting out. And the Autobots? The Autobots are content to let this happen, even sacrificing Magnus to stop the deranged Decepticon.

Of course, things don't go according to plan and the Autobots find themselves between a group of humans with a small rifle and a group of Decepticons with a very large bomb. And oh... it looks like someone is freeing himself (told you he was indestructible!)

Enemy Action follows the newly freed Galvatron as he starts to plot and stir things up a bit. First port of call is Shockwave's underwater base. Shockwave, unwilling to have Galvatron overthrow him, sets the Seacons on him, who are promptly thrashed. And Galvatron? Oh, he bursts in, apologises then leaves.

The sneaky bastard wasn't planning to attack, just to undermine Shockwave. Upon emerging from the water, he is met by a group of Decepticon who have been sent by the High Command to offer their services (he laughs them off) and a group of Autobots, sent to stop Galvatron.

Rather awesomely, Galvatron punches one of them, leaving the rest to stand there like lemons. Yes, they're not stupid either!

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

[Turtlewind] The Erotic Turtle

A few weeks ago, I was intrigued to find pages on the internet that chronicled the chief ways in which individual scribes found themselves titillated. I was quite shocked at the brazen way in which many of these depraved writers talked so openly about their naughty-bumpy habits.

Thankfully a wandering guardian of public morals was good enough to spend a weekend moaning about all this shocking filth which he'd spent several hours seeking out and reading, and so the powers that be on this blessed epistlular forum removed all the smut so they could take it home and bash out a quick one over them in private.

But the mind of the mysterious Mr Turtlewind often moves like glacial flow - imperceptibly slowly yet with unstoppable momentum. And just a few short hours ago I woke up with wobbly knees:

'I have to write about what turns me on!' I squealed, prompting a derisive snort from the slumbering Barry. I turned from my stingy companion with a disdainful sniff and slid down the Turtlepole to compose this missive, so that any moderately attractive females reading will know how they can arrange matters so they can slide down my OWN Turtlepole...

10) Hobos (beaten or burnt)
Everyone is attracted to things that make them laugh, and the Mysterious Mr Turtlewind is no exception. In this case, at least. Hobos are very funny, because they smell of chimnies and lighter fluid. And when you add more lighter fluid and set their coats on fire - they carry on begging for several seconds in that highly amusing nasal whinge before rolling around screaming.

9) Mud wrestling
A way to a man's heart is through his stomach - and it works for women as well as for intestinal parasites! If a girl were to cook an ever-controversial mud pie for me, I'd be putty in her hands - or at least highly malleable clay! Just a little mud connoisseur's joke there, hee hee. Hee.

8) Lesbians
I am of course mysterious and knowledgeable in all sorts of arcane and esoteric fields, yet sometimes my current affairs lets me down. I had to ask my dentist what a lesbian was. He was obviously unsure himself as he went bright red, seemed to have a nasty cough for a moment and then explained that they were girls who 'liked' other girls. Which sounds great, because I like girls too, so we have something in common and therefore all lesbians will want to have naughty-bumpy with me.

7) Talking about crap
This is where I once again prove my superior esteemedness over you scum with cunning. You see, I don't really like talking about crap at all, but all girls do so they find me very attractive and become really easy, so HURRAH.

6) Stones with holes in
They might look like boring pieces of rock to most people, but a stone with a hole in it will never fail to float MY Kevin. I can't resist them, whether I'm in the garden or a restaurant, I'll snatch them up and stick my tongue through the hole. Oh yeah baby, stones with holes in are HOT...

5) Pussy!
Pussy turns me on, I love pussy. I just have to catch a glimpse of pussy to get up. Yes, I know some people not privy to my Mysterious ways would say that it's unbecoming for one such as me to keep a cuddly toy cat as a soulmate, but I can't help getting up out of bed to retrieve my cloth chum if I see it has fallen on to the floor.

4) Ruth_Cole
Ruth_Cole is a GIRL I know on the internet who turns a lot of people on, because she is female and writes on the internet, so she is probably a bit of a slut. Also, she is nice to nerds, so imagine how she will melt at the sight of the Turtle's HUGE WANG.

3) The Mysterious Mr Turtlewind
The main reason anyone writes on these sites is because they love themselves, so I have decided to come clean about the fact. So to speak. Many is the occasion when I shun Barry's prickly charms to practise my backhand volley to a montage of my esteemed articles.

2) Massage
Nothing quite like the sensual thrill you get from the prickle of dainty, well-manicured hands trailing up and down your naked oiled back. Some time I'd like to try it with the hands still attached.

1) Music
Of course, the most arousing thing in the world is coming home to a darkened house, lit only by candles, with some romantic music wafting through the room.

Helps if someone's chugging on your Patrick Stewart at the same time, mind...

So, in conclusion, now you know how to awaken the Turtle's torrent of passion. Any less esteemed writers than me with boobies and EVERYTHING now have all the facts they need to make their dreams come true...

Happy times and places
Your friend
The Mysterious Mr Turtlewind
(who chooses to remain seated for just a FEW more minutes)

Turtlewind Index

Saturday, 21 February 2009

Transformers Animated Fruit Snacks

 So that I could concentrate on important matters such as completing Lego Batman, I asked a good friend Andrew Osmond, who plays my fake internet robot brother to help me out. "Okay Matt!" he said. "When my wife is out the house, I will whip out my camera and take photos of jelly sweets." Luckily he was not caught taking photographs of inanimate objects as feared, and his relationship remains intact!

So behold reader, as Andrew shows you all about Transformer sweets! Now I'm going back to chasing Two-Face in the lego Batmobile!

Ever wanted to eat your Transformer toy, but always choked on the delicious but unchewable plastic? Now, your dreams have come true with 'limited edition' Transformers Animated Fruit Snacks by Betty Crocker!

Today you're in for a real treat! Oh you lucky people, I've stuffed Matt in a box and have taken over his site to bring you news of delicious likenesses of your favourite Transformers Animated characters. Don't worry, I put an air hole in the box, he'll probably chew his way out by the time you're done reading this article.

So, here we have the insidiously brightly-coloured box you may have seen in your local supermarket next to the boring, non-transformers themed fruit snacks. See how it taunts us with it's amazing picture of Optimus Prime reaching out, as is to grab your mother and strangle her until she buys you a cart FULL of these amazing fruit snacks?

And they might even be healthy (or at least non-toxic) since they contain natural as well as artificial flavours. Of course, it also has a giant golden banner reading SPECIAL EDITION/EDITION SPECIALE just in case you need ANOTHER amazing reason to buy them! Myself, I got them from my amazing wife for Valentine's Day.

So, here is the package containing the incredible fruit snacks... More SPECIAL EDITION banners and crazy French text, some flashy gold stars... but... What's wrong with this picture? That's right! No Transformers! They went through all the trouble to make the dang things and print the giant picture of Optimus on the front, but were too lazy to bother making a pouch with a Transformers theme. Betty Crocker is a lazy c***(can I say c***?) (No - Matt :( )At least we can see it says it contains a whopping 22.5 g of delicious snacks!

Aha! now we have unveiled the fruity goodness inside! That nondescript foil packet was more than meets the eye, hahaha. Ha. Ok! We can see them in all their blobby glory! Looks like... Several blue blobs, some green blobs, yellow blobs, a red blob, and even a WHITE blob! Wow! The red one at least has the vague outline of the classic Autobot symbol. The blue ones are apparently Optimus Prime's head, the green is Bulkhead's head, yellow is a Bumblebee head or car, and white is Ratchet's ambulance mode. Unseen is the mysterious purple Megatron head, and after eating four packs, I have not yet seem any Decepticon symbols! What a rip-off!

Here is a picture of the Bulkhead-flavoured fruit snack, in all its glory. He's turned sideways for some reason. Also, my camera kinda sucks, especially for trying to take close-ups! Some of these snacks are molded in exquisite detail, showing every line and shape perfectly clear! And the rest are blob-like monstrosities that don't look like anything at all. Even the good ones you have to kinda squint, and check the picture on the box to figure out what it's supposed to be. And there's like, one or maybe two good ones per pack, the rest are indescribable Lovecraftian horrors.

Here's a close-up of what the stupid things are supposed to look like, when they're not busy looking like ugly warts or wayward melanomas. They do, however, taste really good! Since each 22 gram package contains 19 grams of sugar and 3 grams of heroine, they dang well better be delicious! They even contain some apple and/or pear juice (from concentrate), but this just proves again that Betty Crocker is one dumb b**** because she can't remember if she put APPLES or PEARS into the fruit snack machine! They're yummy, and fun (for about 45 seconds), so indulge your inner child with some Betty Crocker Limited Edition Transformers Animated FRUIT SNACKS!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Transformers UK Comics - Fallen Angel

So we continue this whistlestop tour of some of the best Transformers collections with one of my favourites - Fallen Angel, which collects the return of Galvatron and the Fire On High storyline. And of course, the introduction of Death's Head!
Fallen Angel
On a similar note, I absolutely love the cover art for this trade paperback. Remember, these things are larger than usual graphic novels because in the UK comics were A4 sized, so it looks really really nice.

Galvatron, at the end of Transformers the Movie, is hurled into space by Rodimus Prime. And thats where the comic and the cartoon diverge (the UK never really got the third season, you see). In the comic, he has kept his time travel device from Target: 2006 and uses it to travel back in time to present day Earth (and crash landing at high speed).

There are some vague religious parallels you can draw here as well, signpointed by the title of the story. Galvatron is created by a God (in this case Unicron), rebells against him, and is cast down (by Rodimus Prime, the Transformer's messiah). Or perhaps thats just me. Whatever, Galvatron extrudes a satanic quality, from his sly cunning to his raw power to the fact some artists draw his crown as having definite horns!

The first thing Galvatron does in his reentry-induced rage and confusion is to destroy the mechanoid Centurion. Perhaps not the best thing to do since that was one of Grimlock's best friends (and I love the art of Grimlock picking up Centurion's head). And at the end of the issue as Grimlock takes his Dinobots to kill Galvatron in revenge, the first thing he does is to throw Centurion's head AT Galvatron!
Soon Shockwave and his Decepticons arrive at the scene, and not wanting Galvatron to wrest control of his forced from him, Shockwave joins the attack. What is great in the entire run of the UK comic is how consistantly Galvatron is written. He doesn't follow the usual formula of being invincible on his first appearance, easily taken down on his next. Thoughout the hundreds of issues he appears, he is an unbeatable killing machine, and you know when he appears something special is going on.

But what is happening in the future? The story picks up in a bar with the introduction of one of Furman's most loved characters, Death's Head. Death's Head (who isn't a Transformer, just a mechanoid) who is both evil yet utterly lovable at the same time finds out about the bounty Rodimus Prime has put on Galvatron's head.

We find out that Prime was unable to rest with Galvatron missing after being hurled into space, and so expended all his effort into finding him. Which left the Decepticon leader Shockwave free to regroup his forces and invade Cybertron again.

Death's Head proves himself to be utterly psychopathic, and after tracking down and almost killing Cyclonus and Scourge, discovers Galvatron had travelled back in time, so follows him. Oh dear.
Now, a word on Rodimus Prime. Prime in the cartoon was whiny, but here he is very powerful and in command, with a ruthless edge. This is the guy we should have got after the movie - you don't doubt that he is one of the most powerful Autobots of them all - but also fallible, and having realised his mistake in letting the most deranged bounty hunter in existance go tearing up 20th century Earth in search of Galvatron, decides to follow him.

And the very first thing Death's Head does when he arrives on Earth? He fulfils everyones dream and kills Bumblebee.

And here is where the fun begins. See, Ultra Magnus is busy enjoying a well deserved rest on Earth. Enjoying the forests, the peace and quiet, the... insane future Decepticon leader Galvatron? Well, bummer, poor guy never gets a break, doesn't he.

Galvatron drags Magnus to the summit of a nearby volcano, where he has constructed a gigantic siphon to drain power from the Earth and turn himself into a god. Luckily the future Autobots arrive to stop Galvatron from flinging Magnus into the volcano. And then unluckily Death's Head arrives to claim the bounty.

Magnus's attempts to take down Galvatron end in defeat.

So does Prime's.

Again, I say this. Galvatron's portrayal is very, very consistent. He can't be defeated, he is a very real, very dangerous threat. Even Death's Head, the badass character created especially for this story doesn't fare well.

And then, as a fantastic twist, the future Autobots manage to achieve their goal and reverse Galvatron's time travel apparatus, sending everyone, Death's Head and Galvatron included back to the future. Only Galvatron has forseen this and tampered with it leaving him behind with only Goldbug and Magnus to stop him.

But Magnus is shattered from defeat after defeat and gives up. (of course, he comes back to fight Galvatron, he's a hero after all. Even though he knows he can't win).

Goddamn, I read the end of this tale, 'Vicious Circle', again and again when I was little, and it still makes me teary-eyed.

Anyway, if you've never read any Tranformers, Fallen Angel would be a great place to start, the art is more consistant than the earlier trades, and it has some fantastic moments. But hell, they're all great really.

Death's Head won the Amazing Fantasy vote, and Simon Furman wrote the new story, but sadly it wasn't the original Death's Head, who really does deserve a return (and a Marvel Legends figure, hint hint hint...)