Archive for November, 2010

Breaking news in the world of knock-off Transformers:  I’ve recently sighted a KO of Henkei Starscream on Taobao, the Chinese equivalent of eBay.

This appears to have been released by the same folks who recently produced the high quality KO Thundercracker, Skywarp and Ghost Starscream figures.  I have not as yet received this figure, so at the moment I have no in-hand pics, but I should be able to review it within a few days for those of you who are curious.

I will share with you how can you order it as soon as I’m made aware which retailers are carrying it.

Meanwhile, you can view the Taobao auction by clicking here.

(thanks to Seibertron.com for front-paging this news!)

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I posted earlier on this blog about Henkei Thundercracker, and I mentioned that a knock-off had been made of Botcon ’07 Clear Mirage. While this was not as sought after as Botcon Thundercracker, Mirage was still a figure that many fans wanted, and scoring one was likely to empty your wallet faster than a drunk trip to Vegas.

See, most Transformers fans have a need that has been inculcated within them since birth (or 1984, whichever came last) that they absolutely NEED every single variant of every single toy that has been or will be produced.  Thus, if Hasbro or Takara produce thirty of the exact same jets, shaped the exact same way, that transform in the exact same manner, fans will still have to have EVERY. LAST. ONE of them.

The character Mirage, in the Transformers fiction, had the special ability to disappear and be invisible while spying on the enemy.  We as Transformers fans saw this, and in our collective minds said “this has to be made into some kind of toy.”

Lo, and behold, the powers that be at Botcon granted those wishes in return for a price that most people, alas, could not pay.

Once again, the makers of KO toys have come to your rescue.

I happened across this first on Taobao. When I saw it, I knew it was a knock-off because of the extremely low price tag. Still, I had to have it in hand ASAP, so you, my lucky readers, could get a glimpse of it.

I don’t have an actual Botcon Mirage to compare him to, but I do have Classics Mirage, Fracture and Drag Strip.  All of these molds appear to be alike, so I will be pointing out where KO BC Mirage differs from these molds.  This will again be one half review, and one half tutorial.

Here he is next to Classics Mirage.  As you can see, the reproduction is 1:1.  There is no size difference. He’s reproduced part-for-part.  There don’t appear to be any shortcuts taken in this KO.  All parts are clear blue plastic with the following exceptions:  the ball joint that the head is on, the biceps, the two inner parts of the torso, and the part that connects the thigh and the calf.

I should apologize right off the bat for these pictures not being clearer.  My camera is a simple digital camera and isn’t made for high quality photos.  This is the first difference I noticed between the KO and all the other Mirage molds I own.  In the solid piece between the thigh and calf, there are markings.  On the KO, there are 2 straight horizontal lines.  On the other Mirage molds, there are 3 slanted lines.

Also on the legs, on the upper part of the thigh, there are air intake vents right where the exhaust pipes fold up in bot mode.  The KO has 3 vents.  The original mold has 4.


I’m not certain if this next difference is also present on the real Botcon Mirage, so maybe somebody who has it can let us know.  If you look on the KO BC Mirage’s shin, there is a lot of detailing that is not present on Classics Mirage, Drag Strip or Fracture.  Also, the dead giveaway is the rubsign.  KO BC Mirage has no rubsign.

There is a seam on the outside of the forearm of each Mirage-mold figure.  On Mirage, Fracture and Drag Strip, this seem perfectly bisects a detail, making it essentially look like teeth.  The legit molds have the seam running straight down the middle.  The KO does not.  It’s rather widely off center.

Here’s one that’s really easy to spot.  The screws on KO BC Mirage are smaller than the screws in any of its mold-mates.  The holes are obviously meant for larger screws, but smaller ones are used.

Oopsie!  Don’t worry too much, though.  This is not actually broken.  It’s just a place in the torso that can be detached.  All the other versions of this mold have this too.  The reason I point it out is that the one on the KO slides out really easily.  It showed up in my mailbox split in two, and it also fell out while I was fiddling with it.  The legit figures have never done this for me.

The gun actually does fit, but you have to press it into the fist really hard. Be careful, because this could cause stress marks on the hand, if not outright breakage. If you’re handy enough with a blade, you might trim down the peg on the weapon for a better fit.

And here they all are together.  As you can see, KO BC Mirage does fit in to the classics collection, as long as you don’t look closely.

QUALITY: Sadly, Mirage does not quite live up to the high quality of the Henkei seekers.  He’s floppy for one thing.  His joints are not tight at all.  The plastic quality also feels a little light.  I realize this is clear plastic, but the Henkei Ghost Starscream KO felt a LOT sturdier than this guy.  The looseness of the figure hinders his ability to achieve all the great poses the original Mirage could achieve.  Additionally, as I mentioned, he tends to come apart at the waist, and he cannot hold his weapon.

PROS: About 99.9% of the world will not know this is a fake. Only true rabid collectors will notice.

PACKAGING: There is none.  No Botcon bag.  Er go, one of the simplest ways to ensure you are getting a REAL Botcon Mirage is to purchase one bagged.  So far, anyway. Mike at KOToys is now selling bio cards to go with this figure, so it’s one step closer to the real thing.

One more thing:  I don’t know if this is true for all of them, but there was a flaw on my KO BC Mirage’s face that stemmed from it being improperly removed from the sprue.

In summary, there are two reasons to get this figure:
— if you are planning to get a real one in the future and want it as a placeholder
— if you don’t want to pay the money for the real thing and can settle for the next best thing.

This will be really easy to spot as a fake in person.  If you buy it on eBay or another online source, be sure to get close-up pictures of it.

I don’t regret buying it, because it fills a spot in my collection that was previously unable to be filled. And it’s not too shabby a toy, as long as you leave it on display (as Botcon toys should stay anyway) and don’t look too closely.

One of the biggest problems for a NFL fan who lives abroad is finding a cost effective way of seeing the games each week.  Maybe you’re going overseas for a business trip during the mid-season.  Maybe you’re going to be traveling and miss that key game that you’ve waited all year to see.  Or maybe you’ll be like me and live in a country where the NFL is a non-entity and the only possible broadcast you’ll be able to see is the Super Bowl.  (And that comes on at 7 in the morning!)

I missed the whole season last year while living in China.  This year, I haven’t missed a game, thanks to Ten Yard Tracker, a torrent finder that specializes in football games. In order to use the site, you’ll need bittorrent software installed on your computer. I use it primarily to follow my beloved Packers, but just about any game can be found there, including NCAA games and occasionally other sports. Most games posted are commercial and half-time free, so don’t expect a lot of pre- and post-game analysis, but you get all four quarters, and that is all you really need.

Registration is free, but do be a good sharer and let your file seed a bit after. And be mindful of your country’s intellectual property laws. (Living in China does have its benefits!)

A long time ago, 2007, in a convention center far, far away–well, at least if you don’t live near Providence, RI–events were transpiring that would forever split and destroy the unwashed rabble that is the Transformers fandom.  Of course, if you are a fan of the aforementioned robots in disguise, you’re not all that shaken, because you know that an event like this happens just about every week.  The tears of Trans-fans have washed away many worlds over the years.  This particular instance of “RUINED FOREVER” saw the characters Thundercracker, Dirge, and Thrust released as a convention exclusive for Botcon ’07.

Traditionally, Botcon toys were simply repaints or retools of previous retail-release toys.  The characters might or might not have been easily recognizable names.  Botcon ’07 changed all of this by releasing these three seekers, three core characters, who had not been released previously, and who now, because of exclusivity agreements, would never be released at mass retail.  Or so we thought.

It should be noted that Botcon exclusives are not like exclusives to other conventions, such as the San Diego Comic Con.  SDCC “exclusives” can almost always be ordered for a reasonably sane price via the internet the day after the convention closes.  No, Botcon exclusives are almost always a very limited production and the prices are without fail sky-high, which placed these characters well out of the reach of the pocketbook of the average fan.

Naturally, a lot of this happened:

The more stoic Transformers fans trudged on, grim in their acceptance that their cast of Decepticon jets would always fall three short, the inclusion of Acid Storm in the line-up be darned.

And then, as if a gift from Mt. Toylympus, an announcement was made that these three characters were going to be released. There was much rejoicing in the land. Until we found out where the toys would be exclusive to:

Oh Japan, how you tease us.

Still, the price was far too much to pay for many collectors.  So they went on again, consigned to the fact that though they could have any number of Starscream decoes, they would never have the blue sidekick and coneheads that they desperately desired.

Until…

2010 saw the release of Thrust and Dirge under the banner of Transformers Generations.  Finally, the seekers we desired at retail price!

Well, except of course for Thundercracker, the most desired of the three.

That’s where our friendly neighborhood makers of Chinese knockoffs FINALLY stepped to the plate, and this time they did so with a retail quality Thundercracker.

What follows is a review of the toy, and a way to tell whether or not you’ve purchased a KO Henkei Thundercracker. NOTE: I am told that there are two molds that are being used to produce this toy. The mold reviewed here is for the Thundercracker being sold MOSC (mint on sealed card). The version of Thundercracker that is being sold loose differs somewhat from this mold.

This is the knock-off–or KO, if you will–on the left standing next to the legit original Henkei Thundercracker (right). As you can see, there aren’t a lot of differences between the two. The differences are mostly very very subtle. As you can see, though, the actual Henkei figure has its launchers held onto its arms by rubber bands, whereas the KO is actually able to support its own launchers. Your mileage may vary, though, as the launcher port on the KO’s right arm (your left) is a little loose, but nowhere near as loose as the actual product.

To be perfectly frank, this KO is perhaps the best KO I have ever seen. It is sturdy, the transformation process is fluid, and the plastic quality feels like the real deal. I had no issues in transforming it, and it’s actually a bit less floppy than the Henkei version. The only joints I thought were too stiff were on the bottom right tailfin, which took a little more pressure to fold up than I was comfortable with. Otherwise, the figure fits together in both modes quite comfortably. All in all, the KO has BETTER paint apps than the original, and holds its launchers better.

The only real problem was that one of the launchers was broken and the missile won’t fit in correctly. A simple fix, really.

Simply put, if you want Thundercracker and can’t afford the Botcon or Henkei versions, this guy is the one for you, and the price is unbeatable.

Now…I imagine a lot of you are wondering how you can avoid being taken in and buying the KO thinking you are getting the real deal. Well, I’m glad you asked, because I’m about to tell you how you can tell the difference between the two:

The real Henkei version has a notch in the “knee pad” of TC’s leg. The KO is perfectly squared.

As you can see from the back of the two TCs’ wings, the red on the Henkei version is a much lighter color. This is most noticeable on the wing backs, but is true for the whole figure. The KO figure’s red is a much deeper red. Also, I feel like the blue on the KO is a tad deeper blue, and I’m quite sure that the cockpit is a MUCH deeper amber color.

As you can see, the alignment of the Decepticon sigil on the front of the wing is a bit off. That’s only true on one wing of my KO, so I’m not certain that this is common to each figure. However, it is one of the few differences that can be detected BEFORE opening the packaging.

This one is a dead giveaway. It’s so small, it’s almost unnoticeable, but there is a notch on each seeker’s shoulder. On the real deal, the notch compromises the silver swatch. It’s this way on every seeker that I have, including other KOs. But on this KO, the notch is significantly lower on the shoulder and doesn’t cross into the silver swatch at all.

All things considered, I recommend this KO to people who don’t have Thundercracker and can’t afford him. And I hope this review helps those of you who want to know the difference.

Since this blog is about guys and their hobbies, I think it’s entirely appropriate for this blog’s first post to pay tribute to the passing of one of the icons of “Guy Movies,” Leslie Nielsen.

According to imdb.com, Nielsen passed away as a result of pneumonia, which he contracted while being treated for a staph infection.  Though Nielsen’s career was long and varied before, he would become known for his various appearances in screwball comedies like Airplane! and The Naked Gun: From the Files of Police Squad. His ability to deliver insane and outrageous lines while maintaining a completely deadpan demeanor provided him with a “second life” in his acting career from the 1980’s on.  His turn as Dr. Rumack on Airplane! led to his most notorious character, Lt. Frank Drebin of Police Squad!

Just about any guy you know will know at least one quote from The Naked Gun, but few people have seen the show that the movie is based on.  Police Squad! (In Color) ran for six episodes in 1982.  Though the show was expected to be a huge success at its premiere, ratings quickly plummeted.  In an interview on the DVD set, Nielsen claimed the reason for Police Squad!‘s failure was the fact that viewers actually had to watch the show carefully to absorb all the sight gags and catch the occasionally subtle double entendres and innuendoes, whereas the average TV viewer usually just turns on the TV and pays little attention to it.  This would certainly explain the success of the Naked Gun films, as cinema audiences are generally more of a captive audience with little else to distract them from the screen.

In honor of the man who made us all laugh, the first recommendation I will make on this blog is to go over to Amazon.com and get your copy of Police Squad! The Complete Series. For those who like to laugh, this is an easy choice for a very affordable price.