And so begins 2014, a year that promises much in the way of new official and unofficial Transformers figures from Takara Tomy, Mastermind Creations, FansToys, Hasbro and many others. The Masterpiece line continues to churn out fan favourites, whether they be licensed Autobot cars or leaders like Ultra Magnus and Star Saber. Third party companies like MMC will complete their Not-Predaking while FansToys will tackle Masterpiece-sized Not-Dinobots. So what do I feel will be my 5 favourite purchases of the upcoming year based on what we know?
Last week I reviewed my 2013 purchases and ranked them in order of what moved me the most, not necessarily what the best-made or best-presented toy of the year was, simply a ranking of what I liked most that I bought. It was by all accounts a vintage year for new releases, official and 3rd party, because any top 5 list that could legitimately leave out MP-13 Soundwave says a lot about the quality of toys we received. So what does 2014 hold in store?
#5 ~ TRANSFORMERS G1 JETFIRE
I bet that took you by surprise! Somewhere inside me there’s a fire burning for vintage G1 Transformers that simply refuses to fizzle out, and if I think of what I believe to be the most stunning of all packaged G1 Transformers, my compass points to Jetfire. I’ve owned two beautiful specimens in my collecting lifetime, but they’re long gone. I don’t plan on buying just any G1 Jetfire, and not necessarily a MISB or even MIB one, just a non-discoloured, complete and worthy example of this beauty of early G1.
If I can help it, I’d love to score a Matsushiro version of Jetfire, the earliest variant possible. I’m a sucker for pre-Transformers, and for G1 bots that carried over obvious remnants of their Diaclone, Micro Change Series – or in this case – Macross past. To find a nice un-yellowed Matsushiro Jetfire with a Matsushiro stamping, notched antennae, painted wing symbol and striped canopy will be a tricky endeavour and for that reason, I don’t rate my chances very highly. That, and my recent tendency to lose focus and relegate vintage collecting to “when I’m rich” status, while buying Masterpiece, comics and possibly the best 3rd Party items.
#4 ~ MASTERMIND CREATIONS FORTIS / FERAL REX
I’m cheating a little bit here because number four on the list is technically four toys not just one, but since MMC’s Fortis is next up – and I know how marvellous the Bovis base mould is – I am expecting to be highly impressed by Fortis and the subsequent members of the team. Granted, it’s just a re-tool of R-03 Reformatted Mercenary Supply Specialist Bovis (Not-Tantrum), and so there’s every chance I’ll be more impressed and affected by the newer moulds in the Feralcon range.
If Feral Rex – Not-Predaking – is really going to be more than the sum of his parts, taking into account the quality of Bovis (and therefore Fortis), we really are in for a treat. In fact, I think I’d just as easily settle for Feral Rex being precisely no more than the sum of his parts. Speaking of his parts, getting the opportunity to mess with a Feral Rex combiner fist and foot, seeing how articulated they will be, heightens my anticipation even more. I just truly hope every single individual member will be as fine a figure as Bovis, allowing them to be appreciated as Masterpiece-level toys in their own right, even before they cast a shadow over the Transformers universe as the Predaking I’ve always wanted.
#3 ~ MASTERMIND CREATIONS GRANDUS HEXATRON
This is beginning to look like the 3rd Party wish list for 2014, and that’s not how I pictured my collecting evolving as I got older. I fully expected to be buying more pristine and expensive, well-preserved G1 Transformers and pre-Transformers. There is however some backstory to this entry on my list. In my earlier G1 collecting days I developed quite a Sixshot fetish, and tried to get as many variants of the mould as possible; G1, Greatshot from Victory, Shadow Maru from Brave and a host of Korean KOs including one with chrome gold wings.
I have repeatedly failed to fill the C-325 Takara Greatshot-sized hole in my collecting history in the last decade and a half since I fell completely in love with the figure and the character as portrayed in the Japanese Victory animation. Look at that head sculpt and golden crest, a picture of majestic brilliance.
I have heard no end of good things about MMC’s Hexatron (Not-Sixshot) and been suitably impressed by the brief encounter I had with it in person last year, so to finally experience that highly acclaimed mould but in Greatshot colours will be a highlight of 2014, assuming it gets released this year. However, it is not an insta-buy, not by any stretch. MMC will have to absolutely nail the head-sculpt, it needs to look just like it does in the above screen capture for I will be looking for any excuse to bail out of this purchase. The animation model for Greatshot has such a classic and timeless Autobot face and I desperately hope MMC do it justice. If it really is done as I want it, MMC Grandus Hexatron could easily be my toy of the year.
#2 ~ TRANSFORMERS MASTERPIECE MP-20 WHEELJACK
Finally, a real “Transformers” figure! The mass speculation about the next Autobot car to receive the fully-licensed Masterpiece treatment finally received its long-overdue confirmation in December 2013 when Shogo Hasui, Takara Tomy designer, revealed this silhouette on his Twitter feed. The character, as predicted by online retailers, was unmistakably Wheeljack, Autobot Engineer, the first ever Transformer to be seen in an animated feature back in 1984.
If all goes to plan, MP-20 Wheeljack should look as the above image of the real Lancia Stratos in vehicle mode. The toy will undoubtedly have the correct livery, but whether it will have sponsors’ decals and logos is another matter. If they have a direct licence from Lancia, then the “Lancia” and “HF” decals are guaranteed, but it remains to be seen whether or not we’ll see “Alitalia” on the toy. The silhouette does have some interesting details, as basic an image as it is, you can see the wing mirrors are the correct shape on Wheeljack’s shins. This all bodes well for the vehicle mode, and robot mode proportions look good too, albeit with quite spindly thighs.
So far, all the Masterpiece Autobot cars have been exceptional in vehicle mode and, on the whole, very very good in robot mode too. For Wheeljack to join them as an animation-accurate Masterpiece-quality robot featuring a faithful vehicle representation of the Lancia Stratos, motorsport royalty no less, excites me no end. The potential for a Diaclone-themed repaint I shall not name for fear of tempting fate induces tingles in my spine. Bring it on. I just hope we are spared the whole extra-launcher-from-Amazon bollocks this time around if we want a toy accurate option. That one twinge of negativity aside, prepare your lungs for the sharp intake of breath when we finally see that official photo against the now-famous grey backdrop from Takara. It’s coming.
#1 ~ FANS TOYS SKYFIRE
What’s a top 5 list without some controversy at the summit? The fact that this upcoming figure even makes the top 5 list at all is an enormous credit to the quality and execution of 2013’s sublime Quakewave from FT. The above silhouette of the FT Not-Skyfire will have been a stirring sight for anyone who owns Quakewave. Knowing the positives of that figure, one can only dream of what FT could do with a Skyfire of this size, undoubtedly boasting the same level of articulation and solidity of Quakewave.
Already one can see how close the silhouette of FT’s Not-Skyfire looks to the animation model that was originally a heavily modified Jetfire. Can we expect die-cast metal? Articulated fingers? Electronics? Who knows, but riding on the success and hype of Quakewave, FT have chosen some very popular characters to release next and the expectations will be immense. They’ve set the bar incredibly high, so let’s see if they come through with Skyfire as they did with Shockwave. The Classics Jetfire was a wonderful toy with a beautiful head-sculpt, the fandom is crying out for a signature Skyfire toy to rival that and G1 Jetfire as the definitive representation. Well, I am at least.
So that’s it? I expect an unofficial 3rd Party product to trump the steamroller that is Takara Tomy’s Masterpiece Transformers line in a year where Wheeljack, Bumblebee, Star Saber, Ultra Magnus and all their possible associated repaints get the treatment? Get the salt pinches ready because at the start of 2013 I would never have imagined MP-11, Quakewave and Bovis would fill out those spots, I wasn’t even collecting Masterpiece or 3rd Party toys, not even close. I could just as easily continue to feel growing appreciation for MP-19 Smokescreen, be blown away by MP-22 Ultra Magnus, or finally find that Joustra Diaclone Sunstreaker and Powered Convoy – and those would rock my world to the core. Or, you know, it could be something else entirely…
Many thanks to Bryce Rutledge, Jon Krause, MMC, FT and the host of the original racing car photo for images used.
All the best