COLLECTING THOUGHTS: TFNation 2023 haul (part 2)

We’re back for the second half of a tour through my recent TFNation 2023 experience, or more specifically, the bits that came home with me! Yep, it’s a toy haul.

Last time, we had a detailed look at some of the varied pieces I picked up over the weekend, including everything from Japanese-exclusive G1 Micromasters to random movieverse re-uses of long-forgotten Beast Wars moulds. As if all that wasn’t enough, next up on the roster is a mid-era figure I’ve had my eye on for quite some time, but finally saw fit to pick up at the con. It’s Galaxy Force First Gunner, aka Cybertron Defense Red Alert!

Like many pre-established characters, Red Alert underwent some fairly sizeable changes during the third year of the Unicron Trilogy and received not just one, but two toys to boot. This more sizeable effort sits nicely alongside equally bolstered fare such as Defense Hot Shot and Scattershot in that it fits a sort of souped-up armoured combat unit feel quite apart from anything we’d seen in the Autobots ranks thus far. In Red Alert’s case, the medic is strapped to a literal nuke, making for quite the silhouette here!

That carries through to the alternate mode, now a Russian R-400 Oka mobile ballistic missile launcher and a BTR-90 armoured personnel carrier (thank you, TFWiki), which is about as disparate an interpretation for this character as possible! Still, it’s great fun even just to look at, with its immediate chunky appeal surely speaking all for itself, if anything.

However, whilst the Armada take on the character was well-known for being crammed full of gimmicks, this follow-up equally does not disappoint one bit in that regard, as Red Alert is yet again rocking all the play value this era of toys is famed for. There are lights and sounds galore, particularly in relation to the mahoosive shoulder missile, which also pops open to reveal some simply stunning translucent plastic within. Add to that a separate flip-out armature accessory, which can be mounted on Red’s forearm and further equipped with various hidden attachments, and you have plenty of interactivity.

Beyond all that, though, there’s just a simple tactile buzz which comes from handling this thing, as it gives off all the right early ’90s vibes to feel like a worthy successor to top-tier fare such as G1 Stalker and that ilk. It also makes a highly striking addition to the Autobot Galaxy Force ranks, standing out in terms of both colour scheme and proportions.

Oh, and the crowning glory? I picked it up mint-in-box from the Toy-Fu table for a price that was much more palatable than what I’ve commonly seen online. Considering this release felt like a sure inevitability for my collection down the road, it’s great to finally experience it and not break the bank at the same time. Job done.

Shifting gears to another era of Transformers now, not to mention something altogether different in size and complexity, here’s another addition to the collection I’ve been looking to make for some time. The Generation 1 Mini-Spies are not hard toys to find – in fact, they’re positively ubiquitous – but tracking them down in decent condition can be another prospect altogether. Too often, they’re discoloured, worn beyond belief, or just plain broken. That’s likely why I haven’t quite made it around to assembling a full set, then!

Step forward this little lad, who is one of three variations on a Toyota FX-1 concept car released during the line’s early years. I already have the blue and white versions, so this puts me further towards the goal of having all four moulds represented in every colour. There are plenty more variants besides, with all versions available in both factions and with various changes made to the wheels, all making for a potential Mini-Spy rabbit hole, should you wish. Honestly, though, one of each in per hue is fine for me! Truth be told, I haven’t even checked if the FX-1 specimen seen here is an Autobot or Decepticon!

They were packed in alongside the 1985 Hasbro re-releases of the first-year Minibots as little bonus figures, originating from Takara’s pre-TF Mecha Warriors line. There, they came in their own little presentation case boxes and were available in more colours, even sporting natty decals and the like, whereas the Transformers releases look a little plain by comparison. Still, they’re super cute and deserve their place as one of the real oddities of the early years of robots in disguise!

Aside from FX-1, there’s a Porsche, a buggy and a Jeep, all looking quite distinct in their robot modes as well. They each have very different faces and a lot of unique moulding, all reflective of the attention to detail so prevalent even in the tiniest of toys from the time. What’s more, they feature a pull-back motor similar to 1987’s Throttlebots, allowing them to zip along a hard surface quite elegantly. In other words, they’re super fun toys that many collectors criminally overlook.

Anyway, I’ve been after an unblemished yellow FX-1 for a while, and picking this one up at TFN now means I have just two Mini-Spies left to find – blue versions of the buggy and Jeep moulds. Unfortunately, they’re also some of the most frequently damaged due to yellowing, but I look forward to finally catching them all before too long!

Moving back to the Unicron Trilogy for a spell, here’s another toy which is almost omnipresent in terms of availability, and one I’ve been threatening to pick up for quite some time now – it’s Armada Laserbeak! This thing is not hard to track down at all and was present in various states on many tables throughout the con. However, one particular copy drew my eye, again on the Toy-Fu table, and considering the price, I just knew it had to happen!

This Laserbeak is a far cry from his Generation 1 counterpart, firstly presenting as a bright orange and blue Autobot video camera for one thing. Hilariously, this purchase has involved trying to explain to my young son what that is because, evidently, such technology is now so out of date, children today have absolutely no frame of reference for it! I’m still not sure he quite gets it, but it’s seemingly a fun toy all the same. I mean, look, it’s bright and colour and has buttons which do stuff, so that’ll get you most of the way already. Oh, and there’s even a little pop-out screen with a picture of Optimus Prime!

But wait, the triple-changing Laserbeak can also pop out a small handle to turn into a gun! Gasp! In truth, this inclusion is the fairly obvious real-world reasoning behind the eye-popping colour scheme on offer. It’s a shame as the prototype colours looked amazing (and were a decent nod towards the character’s classic namesake, too), but still, I don’t mind how garish this toy turned out all the same.

Press a few buttons and grind some gears and Laserbeak automorphs into his surprisingly impressive bird form, which is a joy to behold in the collection at last considering how many times I’ve looked at this thing over the years. I so distinctly remember it first being unveiled back in the early 2000s, especially as it felt like a world away from what I wanted out of the brand at that time, truthfully speaking. Well, here I am over two decades on and absolutely loving it, so more fool me, eh?

Elements such as the little wrist strap are so simple on the face of it but elevate this design significantly. As it turns out, tons of similar touches make Laserbeak shine, all of which further cement this era as one of the franchise’s highlights overall. Now, who do I see about a prototype-colours reissue?

Fast forward to 2008 now as we’re feeling Animated! I know I sound like a broken record, but this is another set of toys that have been on my radar for some time, just waiting for the right moment (and the right price) for me to pick them up finally. That came when I clocked them in a pile of stuff behind the Kapow table, and a small deal was struck for both them and Shadow Blade Megatron. Yep, it’s the twins, Jetfire and Jetstorm!

I’ve long been curious about these two, not least because I’ve heard very middling reports on them before. I know some fans who swear they’re super creative and enjoyable toys, whereas others have firmly written them off as fiddly disasters not worth your time. As it turns out, I’m much more in the former camp on the whole, though I caveat that by saying I enjoy their individual modes more than the final combined alternative. They’re pretty neat jet-formers and make for a fairly creative pair of toys on the whole.

Of the two, Jetfire is narrowly my favourite as although they share the same base design, I like the popping orange colour scheme and the flame motif on the arms and legs. His head sculpt is a treat, too, as the goggles and ‘hair’ all work well atop a handsome face with a superbly cheeky grin. What’s not to like?

None of this is meant to imply that Jetstorm is a slouch, by the way – he’s equally great and a sublime homage-of-sorts to Beast Machines, which is never a bad thing, by my estimation. Plus, the pair of them are nicely poseable, chock full of character and just generally all round enjoyable in their individual configurations.

And hey, the combined forms are neat, too, and certainly a worthwhile inclusion for this set, even if the humanoid ‘Safeguard’ mode is a little oddly proportioned. Besides, this style of ‘symmetrical’ combiner is a very underutilised gimmick in Transformers, despite being highly prevalent in Takara’s earlier Brave toy line, so overall, there’s a lot to appreciate here.

For the final part of my TFNation haul, we have another custom effort courtesy of Blueshift from Toy-Fu, again made using cast moulds of the vintage G1 toys. In this case, it’s a pair of ridiculously colourful Cosmos ‘bots, which look absolutely superb! They were part of a larger rainbow available at the con, and whilst it was exceptionally hard to choose just a couple of specific colours, I’m very happy with the result!

As with the SG-styled Warpath in part one, the presentation on these is incredible, to the point where you could honestly mistake them for legitimate Transformers re-releases. The additional paint on the heads and the preciseness of the decals may even push them slightly further in a couple of ways. Whatever the case, they’re delightful to behold.

I’ve yet to settle on names (or genders) for either of them, but they certainly make for colourful additions to the G1 Minibot collection. Each has Autobot rubsigns present, so at least I know how they’re affiliated!

Of the two, the hot pink is my favourite because it’s so over the top, and the colour scheme contrasts nicely against the purple helmet and yellow visor. I suppose my only regret is that I wasn’t able to walk away with the entire set, but still, I’m tremendously happy about the pair I have, and of course, it’s all for a good cause, too.

Thus, my TFNation 2023 haul is complete! It’s been another incredible year at the con, and some amazing toys were picked up. Oh wait, there is one more thing… but perhaps that’s a housecat-sized story for another time.

Otherwise, I’m already counting down the days until next year!

TTFN

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About Sixo

Transformers collector from the UK, collecting vintage G1/G2, CR/RID, UT & Masterpiece/3P. Find me at twitter.com/SixoTF or on YouTube at youtube.com/SixoTF

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