Saturday, 30 January 2016

Maketoys MTRM-04 Iron Will Pre Release Sample Review

Bit of a mouthful that title, eh?

Thanks to some very kind souls, I have been granted an opportunity to take a sneak peak at the latest Maketoys releases. And with Cupola riding high in a lot of people's end of 2015 lists, there is a definite air of expectation surrounding their next Headmaster analogue; Iron Will.

Maketoys Iron Will

Based heavily on the 1987 Japanese Headmasters character as well as the original G1 toy, Maketoys newest effort takes Hardhead's no nonsense, karaoke loving (yes, really), Sunbow swerving animation model (Rebirth lovers, you have been jilted) and applies some platinum 2016 design flair and finish to proceedings. Straight out of the box, this is a beautifully retro looking yet modern feeling hulk of a toy.

Iron Will has a strong silhouette made from simple blocky shapes, partnered with a well considered level of surface detail allowing the clean lines of the figure plenty of room to breathe.

Maketoys Iron Will
The way that backpack forms is an absolute treat

Although you'll still find vents, pistons and tech details dotted about all over the place, these are here to spice up, not overpower the visual proceedings. Similarly the paint applications are sparse but effective and serve to enhance the clean look of the toy rather than distract from it.

Maketoys Iron Will

Like Cupola before him, Iron Will takes that unashamedly retro futuristic aesthetic the post '86 Movie universe developed, runs it through a Masterpiece inspired filter and never looks back.

Now before we move on, there is an elephant in the room. You've possibly heard of it, might be waiting for me to get to it and it needs addressing so that it may take its leave. There are two visual flaws in robot mode that come about from the figure's transformation scheme. The first is in the elbows.

Maketoys Iron Will

After you get past a certain degree of bend, a gap becomes apparent. I'll level with you; it doesn't keep me up at night as it's the sort of thing I've seen a fair few times over in Transformers. Yes, it could've been handled better. No, it doesn't end the enjoyment of the figure at all to me.

The second is at the knees and it's here where the dynamic posing available at your fingertips kind of undoes some of Iron Will's imposing cyberbeef.

Maketoys Iron Will


This is to accommodate the rolling tank treads and an inventive leg transformation but has become a sticking point for a fair few people and I can see why. The knee joint ends up looking tiny and the gap between knee and shin looks painful from certain angles. In hand, it's better than in pics. But it's there. This is not something I want to gloss over. Nor dwell on for that matter. You're going to get on with it or you're not. Relationship therapists charge £100 an hour for that kind of advice, here you get it for free.

Maketoys Iron Will
According to Hardhead's tech specs, these shoot diamond hard shards of.. diamonds?

Onto more of the good stuff. The poseability is fantastic. Pictures speak louder than words and I hope these shout, as he can rock all manner of hard ass moves and the diecast metal in his legs and heels help ground things very well indeed.

Maketoys Iron Will
The guns slot into the hands in that same secure manner that Cupola nailed first time

On that metal content, there is plenty. In addition to the heels and lower legs, you'll find cold slag in his thigh pieces and the robot torso as well. Now as much as some love it, in reality the weight of diecast can often hinder rather than help a figure, but here its judicious placement means we're definitely talking about the latter. It also lends a significant heft to Iron Will that certainly adds to his premium feel. Very well done.

Maketoys Iron Will
He was totally hoping for boobs

The chest contains a panel that flips open to reveal the (non functional) SPD STR INT readouts as expected. The whole chest area doesn't seem to want to tab in tightly on this sample copy, but I imagine this is a tolerance issue that will be remedied in the final retail release.

As the pics show, you get two choices of face with Iron Will. One homages the original toy and its artwork, the other his appearance in Headmasters.

Maketoys Iron Will

Maketoys Iron Will

Maketoys Iron Will

Maketoys Iron Will

Maketoys Iron Will
'Because I have this lovely treat for you!'

I'd like to thank Optimus Prime for demonstrating how easy a switch out it is between the two and this does feel a thoughtful inclusion *hears the grinding of teeth from Rebirth fans*. In all seriousness this is actually something that might put people off but it was clear with MTRM-01 that Maketoys were aiming to marry the G1 toy with the Toei anime and have done so again here with considerable aplomb.

Transformation is certainly less involved than with Cupola and definitely more intuitive. It's not a simple state of affairs though and I really dig the manner in which the legs transform by opening his thighs (wut?) and using sliders to condense them down into the tank treads. As this is a pre release sample I did not receive an instruction manual and got by fine without one, a first for me and big ticket 3rd Party items. A refreshingly accessible conversion and undoubtedly a repeatable one.

Maketoys Iron Will

Maketoys Iron Will

Iron Will makes for one intimidating piece of treaded artillery. This is a big bastard of a tank, layered with armour plating and decked out with three turrets because he's a professional taker of names and consummate kicker of ass. There are six functional rubber treads which roll very well on most surfaces. I like this a lot. It adds play value and a touch of class to the vehicle mode. The two handheld guns attach well but their pinned hinges are very loose on this sample copy so they flop down when aiming them upwards. Hopefully that gets tidied up for the final release.

Maketoys Iron Will

And with this being a Headmaster, of course you get a transforming head component too. Officially named Duros or Ros, unofficially this is.. oh, they don't actually name them in the Re:Master line.

Maketoys Iron Will

John Doe is a neat little guy in his own right. Sharply detailed for his size, he features light piped eyes and some fairly decent articulation. He's also less cumbersome to pose than Cupola's bonceman, feeling like a revised and refined 2.0 version of the basic design.

Maketoys Iron Will

Maketoys Iron Will

The Headmaster can be placed inside the cockpit to pilot this ground hugging, no prisoners taking, shatter blasting beast of a machine. The cockpit can rotate but its range of motion is fairly limited so it helps that the primary cannon has almost free reign of movement.

Maketoys Iron Will

I love this tank mode. Like the robot form it does a great job of rolling back the years while bringing the Headmasters hurtling forward into the Masterpiece dominated present.

Maketoys Iron Will

Iron Will is a very, very good toy. There remain the issues brought up earlier surrounding the elbows and knees but personally speaking there's too much going the right way with this one for these to be a deal breaker. This figure is visually sublime, well articulated and has a transformation that quickly becomes second nature.

Maketoys Iron Will

Now, the $1,000,000 question: Is he as good as Cupola? As great as that guy is and as much as I rate him, I will also be the first to admit that the transformation could put people off enjoying the toy. That's just not a problem here.

Maketoys Iron Will

When you have them side by side, Iron Will feels very much a companion piece to his predecessor, one that does some things better while fumbling others and it's hard to deny how good they look together.

Maketoys Iron Will

Is he as good? Probably not. That's hardly a criticism though. Catching lightning in a bottle once is hard enough and just because it didn't quite happen again does not stop Iron Will from being a damn fine addition to the Re:Master line and your current best (and it's gonna be hard to beat) option for a Hardhead by a country mile.

Friday, 22 January 2016

Toy Photography - A Massive Pain in the...

When the internet first came about most images were low quality and small to accommodate people's slow dial up connections; teens loaded with hormones would have to patiently wait while pictures of naked women slowly loaded from the top down bit by bit. 

20 years later and connection speeds have vastly evolved meaning that images on the internet have also evolved from their 10KB sizes to high definition pictures with a size measured in Megabytes rather than Kilobytes.

Long gone are the days where you could list on Ebay and AuctionUniverse without pictures and a buyer would send a cheque in the post as Ebay now has minimum requirements for pictures. Toy photography has also evolved massively from what it once was, even when you look at the pictures of the most respected Transformers collectors, their efforts from 15 or so years ago are pretty awful by modern standards.

Someone once said "A picture is worth a thousand words" and if that's true then most of my pictures are about as wordy as a Spot Book.

Spot's Dreadful Transformers Photos book coming soon

The first toy photos I took waaaaay back in 1999ish were of a weird Prowl figure that I'd bought in a massive collection of Spanish language figures. The pictures below were taken on a digital camera which had to be plugged into the mains or the batteries would go flat after 2 pictures; a camera that would now be probably classed as a lethal weapon if you were to carry it in public as it could probably crush a grown man's skull if used as a club.

A whopping 9.8KB file

Obligatory 1999 figure-in-scanner picture

Believe it or not, the pictures above were pretty important because it was the first time anyone had documented a Mexican Prowl. Some London dealers like Paul Hitchens (The Spacebridge), Jason Joiner (now the organiser of Showmaster Events) and Dealer Maz (not to be confused with Maz who writes for TFSource) had seen them but no one had ever taken pictures and shown them to the fandom. 

Documenting the Mexican collection I had bought was the beginnings of the Skywarp website I set up ( back in the day, archived at Between myself, Daniel Vink/Devvi and Maz (the TFSource one this time) we started documenting Mexican figures and tried to establish what was out there. Meanwhile I started putting together an accurate list of Japanese Transformers and oddities I found along the way but my photography skills were definitely lacking even though I had a slightly better camera now. By 2005 the pictures were passable.

Up to a massive 29KBs!

After taking a break from collecting I came back to find everyone taking hugely impressive photos that were better than I could imagine. One of the first pictures I saw was a custom by FrenzyRumble which made me realise that both toy customising and toy photography had changed in my absence and changed massively.

Something told me the bar had been raised

Initially it didn't matter that everyone's figure photography was miles ahead of mine because I was just selling on Ebay so my photos didn't need to be professional, just functional. I delete auction pictures but here's one I found from 2012 and it's easy to see that I was still stuck in 2005.

This carried on when Masterforce launched in 2013 with pretty dreadful photos of stock but again, I was going for functionality rather than impressive. Meanwhile, Maz started writing for TFSource in December and was regularly posting pictures like this one:

My lack of abilities when it came to photography was starting to frustrate me, because I wanted to take nice pictures of rare figures as I came across them and it was hard to post reviews on this blog when the photos are awful. 

So recently I've been trying to improve and so here's some lesson's I've learned along the way.

Light is vital 

I took the picture above to mock the Age of Extinction trailer and it's taken with a flash. Never use a flash or you get pictures like this one. If toy photography is something you're serious about then get some lamps and natural lighting bulbs. They are expensive but will give you a more evenly lighted picture and you can move the lamps around to minimise shadows.

Camera settings 

If you have a point and shoot camera it's worth playing with the settings as it can make a big difference. Learn about ISO, Macros and the very basics of photography as they sound boring but are really important. 

Above is a screenshot of a folder where I took the same picture over and over with different settings, in all I took 18 pictures to find the settings I preferred. Below is a good example of the difference settings can make.

Bear in mind that some cameras are better than others and you won't get great pictures out of a cheap camera no matter how much you try.


Photoshop or a free equivalent makes a huge difference to photos. Ignoring the fact that this picture is out of focus, I had the ISO settings all wrong so the picture is light and has an orange hue.

Cropping the picture to remove the folds in the background and using the automatic colour balance definitely improves it. Don't get me wrong, it's not perfect but it's a step in the right direction and shows how 60 seconds of Photoshop can improve a photo.

Even More Photoshop!

How do Hasbro and the best photographers get those completely white backgrounds? Why is it when I take a picture the background is visible but the best photos around don't have that? Well, you either need to be a really good photographer or you can just delete the background.

It takes an awfully long time but you can lasso your figure in Photoshop and then delete the background to get that perfect look. Below are two pictures I took where I've removed most of the background using this method. 

Be Creative

The best photographers bring the figures to life by using perspective, props or poses which make them seem bigger and larger than life.

Such Heroic Nonsense

So while my photos aren't in the same league as Robotochan, Maz, Sixo, TJ Dukkett, Brr-Icy, Liam or Boastful Manfish I'm improving. Hell, I wouldn't even say my photos are good, but the moral of the story is that if I have no creative ability and no natural talent for photography but can learn to take better photos then anyone can do it. 

With that in mind I leave you with some pictures to laugh at :)



2004. A rare shot which didn't look like it had been taken with a potato.

2013. Masterforce stock photo

 Various pictures from 2015 taken on the day when the light tent and lamps arrived.

Bad attempt at an action shot

Unedited, featuring the edge of the backdrop and my finger.

Getting a little better but I should have dusted Sabretooth before taking the pic.

Current photos. Nowhere near perfect but compared to that Ratchet picture...

A few dust specks were removed with Photoshop but otherwise this picture is natural.