Photo Studio 2.0

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Remember that little lightbox photo studio thing I made a few years ago? It’s just cardboard and tissue paper with a posterboard insert, but it does the job nicely. On small items at least. When it came to my recent Transformers reviews this wasn’t all that sufficient. Masterpiece Optimus is too big for the box and he’s not even my tallest Transformer. There are other items that don’t work well there either to come I’m sure. I also don’t think I have enough lighting right now to pull it off and I usually have to lighten the photos in my photo editor. I need something else to help me out.

Needing projects for the winter my dad decided to build me a larger photo studio for the toys and whatever comes later, but I was worried I’d still have the same problem. Some of the video-based toy reviewers I follow on YouTube like TJ Omega, Pixel Dan, and Vangelus use more of a stage approach. While TJ and Vangelus use a “chain base” backdrop (which led to my testing the Block City “warehouse” in the recent Alternator reviews) Dan uses a simple stage. Since my toy reviews are in article form (for time mostly) I don’t need anything that elaborate. It just has to be visually interesting in the articles. So we went a very simple stage, and with the limited space I have to set such a thing up he made it portable.

The case you see below my cardboard lightbox is an old toolcase. I don’t know what he did with the tools–possibly putting them in a toolbox or something–and what he planned to use the case for fell through, so that was the base he decided to use. And that’s one thing you’ve seen before here at The Clutter Reports, re-purposing old items for new uses. And this may work out for me.

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Quick Project: Reorganizing My Drawers (Again)

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I’ve already done this as part of a previous project so this is more of a re-project. However, my underwear and sock drawer somehow became a mess. I finally realized it when I went looking for a handkerchief (I keep one to clean my glasses or if I need to blow my nose and have no place to dispose of a tissue) and I couldn’t find it. I’ve also had trouble getting my slipper socks out. So this week I pulled everything out and reorganized it so I could find everything.

No, I don’t have pictures. I’m not posting my underwear on the internet.

And it didn’t stop there as I fixed up two other drawers, the one with my shirts and the one with my shorts. Now I can find those clothes as well. The other dresser drawers are fine so I didn’t have to do anything with them. It’s not one of the remaining big projects but it needed to be done.

Transformers Report: Alternators Wheeljack

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Wheeljack

Wheeljack (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s time for the third and last of the Alternators. Wheeljack is the Autobots’ inventor. And he’s good at his job if the machine doesn’t blow up or something. Basically he’s a mad scientist for the forces of good. His original vehicle mode in the G1 days was based on the Lancia Stratos Turbo‘s “Group 5 Statos” race car. No, I don’t know what that means outside of knowing what a race car is.

It won’t be obvious why until the very end of the review but this was the last Alternator I ever picked up. This was the figure where I decided that this line just wasn’t making me happy, which is odd considering this is not the one I’ll be taking out of my collection. That part will be immediately obvious.

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Mini-Comic Report: Transformers Armada vol. 4

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I know I was going to review my last Alternator this week but I haven’t had a chance to go over it. Next week is going to be hectic but I’m going to try and get it done then. In the meantime I’m crossposting the next Armada minicomic from my other website that hasn’t been posted here yet.


Previously we’ve looked at the first three Transformers Armada minicomics Dreamwave produced for Hasbro, but there’s one more to go. So it’s time to finish this series. Dreamwave also produced minicomics for Energon so we aren’t done yet but we’ll put this series to bed.

At this point the toyline introduced the subline “The Unicron Battles”. This featured the first ever Unicron toy, long desired by those who grew up with the original toyline and Transformers: The Movie. While the toy had been planned twice in the past, once when the movie came out and once by Takara for the Japanese-exclusive line Beast Wars Neo, neither were ever produced. Finally for this line we got our Unicron and it was worth the wait seeing as the other two designs didn’t really capture the essence of the big villain Simon Furman re-imagined into a god of chaos nearly as well. (When it comes to Unicron I’m actually neutral as to which origin is better, cartoon or comic, but I still prefer the Quintesson origin over Primus.)

It was decided to make Unicron the big threat of the subline and tie the version of him in this continuity to the Mini-Cons, and so the “Unicron Battles” began. And this was the comic that introduced the idea to toy buyers who didn’t see the show or read the regular Dreamwave comics. So how does it do? The first two comics were not that great since they had to force three translations of the same dialog into the panel. The third issue was better for only needing one language but still not that great, so what does this series end on?

“Hey Galactus, the rest of us want to see, too. Wanna move to the back seats?”

Transformers Armada volume 4

CREATED BY: Dreamwave for Hasbro

PUBLISH DATE:  2003

WRITER: Chris Sarracini

PENCILER: James Riaz

COLORISTS: Felipe Smith & David Cheung

Only TWO colorists, Dreamwave? Are you finally realizing you don’t need five colorists on one book, especially a minicomic? Since none of the Energon minicomics have credits we’ll never know.

LETTERING: Dreamer Design

ASSISTANT EDITOR: Matt Moylan

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Book Report: Fantastic Voyage novelization

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Previous book reports have looked at novelization, novel adaptations of movies. This practice doesn’t get much love nowadays because of home video, television, and streaming services but before all of those they were the only way to relive a favorite movie unless it showed up in theaters again. Novelizations still interest me though because they’re often based on the latest possible draft of a script. There are often changes between the final script and what the author had available and it’s neat to spot those changes and wonder what came from the early draft and what the author put in to pad the book out or just personal choice.

When I saw the Fantastic Voyage novel on a bookshelf at my grandparents I was curious to read it. While at that point I never saw the movie I grew with the cartoon, the intro of which I’ve posted above. Granted the cartoon bares little resemblance to the movie but I didn’t know that at the time. Additionally the concepts of the movie have been homage and parody fodder in so many sci-fi and kids shows that I was kind of required to see the original story. However, it wasn’t my book and these grandparents lived two towns away. After they passed away and we were going through their stuff and I managed to procure the novel and saw the name on it: Isaac Asimov, one of the masters of science fiction. Not thinking he would “stoop” to a novelization I planned to read the book, but never got the chance until sometime into my adulthood…where I noticed it was in fact a novelization. So I decided to wait until I saw the movie.

Recently I was finally able to see the movie (if you want my thoughts on it that review was the first installment of my Finally Watched article series over on my other site), which meant I could finally read the book and do my usual “Chapter By Chapter” review. Now that this is complete I can finally do a review of the book as a whole rather than focus on each individual chapter.

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Transformers Report: Alternators Side Swipe

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Sideswipe (Transformers)

Sideswipe (Transformers) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the original toyline Sideswipe was a Lamborghini Countach. Originally Hasbro & Takara couldn’t get that license for Tracks’ actual vehicle mode so they opted for something close, the Dodge Viper, model SRT-10 according to the instructions for his Japanese counterpart, Lambor (which kind of messes up his name in Japan). Then they were able to get a license and just shoved Sideswipe into this car, which would later be retooled for his brother Sunstreaker and the Decepticon Dead End. Also for some reason the name is written as two words, “Side Swipe”. I’m guessing that’s a license issue too. Sideswipe is one of the first group of Autobots so it makes sense that he would get a toy, although how one from the second group got one first I couldn’t tell you. Oddly this is the second Alternators figure released, and you’d think that considering how long they had to take in order to get such intricate figures out there they would start with the more popular characters first. Instead Alternators went backwards.

I also did something different with the photos. Instead of the photo box I opted to use those Block City toys to build a sort of warehouse inspired backdrop. I was inspired by some toy review videos who use “chain base” backgrounds but I can’t afford that and I can build things of my own. This is sort of a prototype design, not the final version, so advice is welcome. I think I need a more stable base so I don’t get the huge cracks when putting it together, so that one I noticed. I also want a second set of windows in the next design. With that, let’s get on with the review.

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Comic Report: Superman/Doomsday: Hunter/Prey

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I just finished reviewing another trade collection on my other site but only the individual issues. Here I’ll be looking at the final collection, so we’ll take a week off from Transformers. I’ll resume the Alternators reviews next week with Side Swipe.

 

The Death and Return of Superman

The Death and Return of Superman video game (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Doomsday is name that…well, should be familiar to everyone who speaks English because “doomsday” is a rather well-known word. But for Superman fans Doomsday also refers to the giant monster that killed him in one of the most famous story arc in comics. “The Death And Return Of Superman” is a multi-arc storyline dealing with Superman sacrificing himself to stop the only threat besides Darkseid who is Superman’s physical equal. All of his other enemies have to outwit Superman only to learn he’s more cunning than they thought. The storyline deals with his death, how the world is changed by his disappearance, and his ultimate return because no way is DC giving up what was their flagship character at the time, although it seems Batman has recently usurped that role. Which as much as I like Batman says more about the world at large than Superman himself. He’s still my favorite superhero.

The original storyline was huge, but it lacked any kind of actual origin for Doomsday. He just shows up one day and kills Superman. 1994’s Superman/Doomsday: Hunter/Prey is a three-issue miniseries that brings us that origin. Where did Doomsday come from? Why did he want to kill Superman? Those answers were finally revealed, and then collected in a trade collection the next year. I’ve already reviewed the three issues, and will link to those reviews if you want a deeper analysis, as well as the actual issue where Superman and Doomsday fought to the death, which isn’t in this collection but I thought you might be curious. While I will go over my thoughts on the miniseries this is The Clutter Reports, so my focus will be on the collection more than the story itself.

You might want to look behind you, Doomy!

Superman/Doomsday: Hunter/Prey

collecting issues one-three of the 1994 miniseries

DC Comics (1995)

WRITER/LAYOUTS: Dan Jurgens

FINISHED ART: Brett Breeding

COLOR GUIDES: Greg Wright

COLOR SEPARATIONS: Android Images

LETTERER: Bill Oakley

“SUPERMAN” CREATORS: Jerry Siegel & Joe Shuster

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Transformers Report: Alternators Smokescreen

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Mikko Hirvonen driving his Subaru Impreza WRC ...

Mikko Hirvonen driving his Subaru Impreza WRC during the shakedown of the 2004 Cyprus Rally. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back during my review of Alternity Bumblebee I mentioned the Binaltech/Alternators line. This toyline was intended for collectors to the point that they resemble model toy cars from their size to real working doors and molded interiors. However, the line wasn’t as popular as Takara and Hasbro wanted, plus there were licensing issues, including two different branches of Honda disagreeing about whether or not they wanted their representative carrying weapons (Honda US didn’t like it, Honda Japan didn’t mind). Ultimately the line failed. Japan’s Binaltech had a storyline that continued into Alternity but Alternators had no such story. Alternity probably wasn’t launched in the US and elsewhere after the hassles of Alternators.

One interesting choice is the character chosen for the first toy, Smokescreen. While he had his fans, appearing in later early G1 as the third repaint of Prowl and Bluestreak, he doesn’t carry the impact of those other two. That doesn’t make him a good or bad toy so let’s look at this thing.

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Transformers Report: Masterpiece Optimus Prime

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Optimus Prime

Optimus Prime (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Optimus Prime is a name any toy fan should know by now. He has versions and namesakes all throughout the Transformers multiverse. Every generation has their own Optimus Prime. But for 80s kids the original is still the one they think of, to the point that Peter Cullen, the voice from the cartoon, still gets called upon to give the character a voice.

For the 20th anniversary of the Transformers toyline Takara produced a special edition of Optimus, redesigned to more closely match the cartoon. Floro Dery, who did the design work for the original cartoon, didn’t stick too closely to the look of the toys. Some are really different (like Ratchet and Ironhide) while others (Reflector comes to mind) bears little if any resemblance to the toy they were selling. (Lucky Reflector was a mail-in offer.)  It was this version that the Masterpiece figure was meant to represent, and kicked off the Masterpiece line. Since there’s so much to talk about with this figure let’s get on with it.

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Toy Report: Block City

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I know I said Transformers were up next but since this was uncovered during the recent organizing project and I have plans for using them (I won’t say what in case it doesn’t work) I thought I would take a quick look at this set. Block City was a building block set that was introduced in the 1950s. In my admittedly short research I kept getting told the toyline ended in the 1960s and yet I remember getting these in the 1980s, late 1970s at best. So either my parents gave me one of their old toys for Christmas or they happened to find a store with leftovers.

With the success of LEGO and Lincoln Logs among other building toys a number of toymakers try to come up with their own building block sets. Some of them use licenses, like LEGO and Mega Blocks while other just hope parents won’t know any better or enthusiasts will want to try something new. Block City went through a few different owners in its time. My set was produced by Block City Incorporated out of Hopkinsville, Kentucky. (One of the previous creators also was out of Kentucky.) The original creators appears to be the Tri-State Plastic Molding Company, later distributed by the Chicago-based Plastic Block City Incorporated. The early sets came in tubes and boxes with names like “The New Yorker” and “The Chicagoan” (whether they were named after cities or magazines I wouldn’t know) and later less famous names like “Rolling Hills” and “Suburban”.  Here’s a good site to look into the history. By my time we just get numbers based on how many pieces came with the set, so mine is in a reusable pail simply dubbed “B-680”.

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