Function X-4: Sigma-L by Fansproject

Oh, man. I’m so behind on this one that I’m even going to allow a Third Party Change-a-bot on today’s Transformers Thursday. Normally in February when I say something like, “I’ve had this figure sitting around since last year!” it doesn’t really mean that much. In this case, however, poor Sigma-L really has been hanging out for a long time and waiting for his day in the spotlight. It’s pretty crazy because I was anticipating this figure so much right up until it shipped and then it just kind of got lost in the craziness of my life that is The 4th Quarter. I was dusting my shelves the other day and saw him and it suddenly dawned on me that I hadn’t featured him here yet. So, by no means assume that the fact that I’m only now getting to talk about him reflects in any way poorly on my love of the Function series in general or this figure in particular, because he is indeed spectacular! Oh yeah, while some may say there’s a slight passing resemblance… Sigma-L is most definitely not Mindwipe, so don’t even think that.

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Mindwipe Sigma-L comes in a package that eschews the normal window boxes meant to approximate something you’d see on the toy shelves, Fansproject has been using this rather unique presentation for their Function Series since X-01 Code was first rolled out. It’s a colored, and otherwise blank, shoebox affair with an illustrated clear plastic sleeve around it. I wouldn’t like to see this package design used for everything but I rather like it in the limited confines of this series. It feels rather classy and special. My only complaint here is that the clear sleeve on mine got scuffed up in transit, but that’s not such a big deal to me.

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Inside the box, Sigma-L comes sandwiched between two clear plastic sleeves. You also get his weapons and a folded instruction sheet. Did I mention how much I love the smell of Fansproject’s figures when they come out of the box? I’m not sure if it’s the paint or the plastic or a combination of both, but that’s good stuff! I’m going to break with convention and actually start with his robot mode because I’m feeling just that crazy today.

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Holy hell, this is one hot and sexy looking robot! Yeah, I said it and I’m not ashamed. There’s something about the aesthetics of Fansproject’s Function line that really just gets it. The figures manage to look modern and interesting and yet somehow still capture a bit of the boxy G1 designs. In this case, Sigma-L looks like he belongs to the whole Post-1986 movie aesthetic where the robots were getting a little more contoured and organic in their style. What I’m saying is that Sigma-L hits the sweet spot between those two style books that totally scratches my itch. This figure is also oozing personality from his sharp silver claws to his bat wings, which are fully accessible in robot mode, but can also be folded in for a more streamlined look. I honestly can’t decide which I prefer more, so I’d just like to think he deploys them when he’s ready to attack.

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Will ya just look at that head sculpt. It’s so damn gorgeous! I want to take that head sculpt out for a lobster dinner, bring it home and make sweet passionate love to it all night long. The detail in the face makes it quite possibly some of FP’s best work and yeah that’s saying a lot. It’s not a big noggin and yet they managed to pack plenty into it. The crown-like aspect of the helmet is pure love, the paint is crisp, and I’ll be damned if Sigma-L’s clear visor doesn’t raise and lower to give you the look you want. I am not being impulsive when I say this is undoubtedly among my Top Ten Transformer heads since I can remember. It really is that damn good! The fact that it also happens to be a Headmaster, which transforms into a tiny little robot makes this pudding all the more sweeter.

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Hell, even the Headmaster (don’t call him Vorath!) is a tiny little work of art that makes me wonder if Fansproject doesn’t have some kind of shrink ray to make these teeny bots. Not-Vorath sports a stylish silver bat symbol on his chest and he has points of articulation at his shoulders, hips, and knees.

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Sigma-L’s coloring takes what is an amazing sculpt and elevates it even further. You get those great traditional Decepticon colors of black and purple complimented by some beautiful silver paint, some redder purple plastic and a surprising bit of minty green trim, all capped off with translucent plastic on his legs. A lot of the coloring comes from the plastic itself, which is always a plus in my book, but what paint is here is precise and crisp making the colors look unbelievably good.

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That which shall not be called Mindwipe comes with two weapons and they are indeed the Cybertronian equivalent of pump-action shotguns. I have only two things to say to that. Hell and Yeah! They’re simple enough guns, which fit comfortably into his hands and he looks mighty wicked when wielding them akimbo! And that brings us to…

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Beast Mode! I love them mechanical beasties and Sigma-L pulls off his Cyber-Bat mode quite nicely. Unlike all the other Function figures I own, there’s nothing specific in Sigma’s transformation that wowed me as being super clever, but it is nonetheless a pretty fun and worry-free change. I suppose the coolest thing about the engineering is that it actually allows room for a cockpit that will fit Not-Vorath with the canopy splitting in the center to open up.

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FP designed this bat mode to work either standing up or in flight with a simple adjustment to the head and both modes have their good points. Sigma-L’s little bat mouth is also hinged so that it can open. When standing on his little bat feetsies you can clearly make out the speakers that Sigma uses to beam hypnotic waves at his foes. So good! On the other hand, when in flight Sigma shows off his two shotguns quite nicely. Yes, we have here a robot bat with dual shotguns mounted to his wings. God, I love this toy!

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At $70 Sigma-L is certainly pricey for what is essentially a large Deluxe, but that’s all part of being a Third Party Convertobot collector. Besides, when I have him in hand it’s easy to see where the money went, not to mention he’s notable larger than previous Function figures. I make it no secret that I think Fansproject is one of the best 3P makers of robo-changers out there right now and Sigma-L is another prime example of why. He’s an absolute exquisite looking figure and everything about him reflects quality, care, and love. His transformation may not be as insanely clever as Code, Quadruple-U or Smart Robin, but there’s no shame in hat because it still works beautifully. It’s been a little while since we’ve seen anything new from this line of Not-Headmasters, but I’m looking forward to whatever FP has in store for us next.

Function X-3: Smart Robin by Fansproject

Hell, yes! It’s time for more Third-Party Transformers goodness! Folks, I’ve got to say that of all the things I’m collecting now, I don’t think anything gets me more excited than getting a new Not-Transformer from Fansproject , MMC, TFC, or any of the other heavy hitters turning these things out. Smart Robin is the third release (if you don’t count the Code repaint) in Fansproject’s Function line of what are basically their own take on the old G1 Headmasters. And some might say that Smart Robin bears a resemblance to a certain G1 figure called Brainstorm. I’m sure it was totally unintentional as is the fact that if you scramble the letters in his name you can spell out “brainstorm.”  As a character, Brainstorm has gotten some love lately in IDW’s More Than Meets The Eye comic, and as we’ll soon see that works for and against this figure. I’m going to buck tradition and just start with Smart Robin’s robot mode… but first, the packaging!

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While most third-party companies are content with window boxes, FP is releasing their Function figures in these rather cool shoebox-style packages with an illustrated clear plastic sleeve. We’ve seen this before with Code and Quadruple-U so I won’t dwell on it too much here. Smart  Robin’s box is grey and looks great with the illustrated sleeve in place.  I like it, as it feels a little more special than something you would find on the shelf at Walmart or Target. It’s also pretty durable and totally collector friendly and the packages for all three Function figures look great lined up on a bookshelf. The figure comes packaged in robot form between two clear trays. Behind the trays there’s a baggie with his wing-weapons and another baggie with the folded instruction sheet and profile card.

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The moment I got Smart Robin out of the box I was impressed. Two of the things I’ve come to expect from FP’s Function series are clean and beautiful robot modes and Smart Robin certainly delivers on these points yet again. To put it plainly, he’s gorgeous! The only jet kibble on display is there because it looks stylish, not necessarily because engineering required it. Fansproject really understands the ideal G1 aesthetic and how to make it work with a functional transforming figure. What we get, is just a very streamlined, beautifully proportioned, humanoid robot. The coloring has also been a strong point with the FP figures and that’s still the case here. Brainstorm’s coloring consists of mostly grey, dark grey and teal plastic with some scattered red, white, and orange paint apps. I still think Q-U has the more striking color scheme, it’s hard to beat that yellow and blue, but Smart Robin is still beautifully colored.

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The wings on Smart Robin’s back are really the only overt clue that he turns into some kind of jet. Even the cockpit on his chest isn’t terribly obvious. Of course, the wings on his back can be unpegged and be wielded as guns. Any time a figure like this can store his weapons I think it’s a major asset, but when it’s folded this well into the design it’s just amazingly cool.

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Now, let’s deal with what will be obvious to some. Smart Robin does not have the face plate that readers of the MTMTE comic would expect on an homage to Brainstorm. It’s going to be a sticking point for a lot of collectors. I’ll be honest, if I had my druthers, I would have wanted the faceplate, but the fact that it’s missing doesn’t diminish this figure for me at all. Indeed, the head sculpt is awesome and beautifully painted. Naturally, the head pops off and transforms into his little buddy, oh let’s call him Not-Arcana just to pick a random name out of the air. The transformation is basically the same as we saw with Q-U and he is a pretty impressive figure for such a tiny robot.

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We’ve seen some pretty impressive transformation engineering from the Function line and Smart Robin does nothing to buck that trend. The quality of plastic here is superb and nothing about the transformation feels fragile or dubious. In a feat similar to the mind-bending change of Quadruple-U’s hind quarters, Smart Robin’s jet mode unfolds from his collapsed torso and forms the compartment for the cockpit. It’s very, very cool and creates a jet body that seems far too thin and sleek to have come from this robot. The other thing that I really enjoy is the way everything pegs together so securely. The way the wings fold out from inside the legs and the feet become the wing guns is amazing. The legs and arms, which form the back of the jet, all peg together snugly in about three different places. Everything  about this guy is so wonderfully thought out and delivers a really great looking Cybertronian jet that doesn’t seem like it should be possible from the robot.

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Brainstorm’s cockpit opens up and, as is the case with Code and Quadruple-U, Not-Arcana can sit inside the cockpit. This has always been one of my favorite things about the Headmaster gimmick and it’s nice to see that Fransproject has translated it so well for their versions. You also get three sets of folding landing gear.

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Smart Robin is priced at around $60-70 at most e-tailers, which is right in line with FP’s past Function figures. If you aren’t already on board with third-party Transformers, spending that kind of money on what is basically a Deluxe Class figure is likely to produce sticker shock. All I can say is FP’s design and craftsmanship make it worth my money. This figure is a Masterpiece grade Brainstorm in everything but name only. It’s also worth pointing out that Fansproject isn’t the only one with a Not-Brainstorm figure on the market right now. Toyworld has also been dipping their toes in the Not-Headmaster pool and turned out their own version. I went with FP’s because Smart Robin is better scaled to their excellent versions of Chromedome and Weirdwolf. Toyworld’s figures are considerably larger, which doesn’t work for Brainstorm. Although, as we’ll see next week, it’s perfectly acceptable to me for a character like Hardhead. Anyway, this one has been another homerun for Fansproject’s Function series and I’ll be eagerly awaiting their next figure, which coincidently looks a lot like Mindwipe!

Function X-2: Quadruple-U by Fansproject

Fansproject continues to be one of the forerunners of the whole third-party transforming robots scene. They impressed me with their “Cars That Turn Into Evil Robots But Are Most Definitely Not The Stunticons” team and more recently, I was able to finally pick up Code, the first release in their “Transforming Robots Whose Heads Also Turn Into Robots But Are Most Definitely Not Headmasters” line called Function. The next Function figure in the line is Quadruple-U, a figure that some may say bears a striking resemblance to the Hasbro G1 toy, Weirdwolf. Let’s check him out…

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The packaging is similar in format to Code’s. You get a blue folding shoebox type deal with a clear illustrated sleeve that fits over it. I do dig the artsy nature of this packaging, but I’m sure there are plenty of collectors who would have preferred a more traditional window box. I can see the merits of both, but when you’re paying $60 for a Deluxe sized Transformer, it’s nice to have it presented in a package style that you wouldn’t see sitting on the shelf at Walmart. It does look really nice standing on the shelf beside Code’s box, and I imagine will look even better with FP’s third Function figure, Smart Robin, on the other side of it.

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Slide off the sleeve, open the box, and you reveal Q-U in robot mode between two clear plastic trays. His sword is bagged and there is an instruction booklet behind the figure at the back of the box. I know that I usually start with alt modes, but since this guy’s alt mode is a robotic beast, I decided we’ll just kick it off with his robot mode.

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And what a spectacular robot mode it is! Q-U takes all the essence of the G1 figure, throws some spices into the pan and… BAM! It kicks it up a notch. You still get that great classic G1 boxy look to an extent, but there’s so much going on with this guy’s sculpt that you get the best of both worlds with a superb modern update. The balanced proportions, the stylish raised shoulders, the way the wolf head tucks neatly on the back, it all works so beautifully. Yes, this is one dead sexy looking robot! I’m reluctant to ever throw around the word perfect, but Q-U’s robot mode comes damn close in my book.

 

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If there’s one thing about Q-U’s design that keeps him from that perfection, it’s the rather unusual hand designs. He doesn’t have conventional fists, rather he sort of has paws with a long hinged thumb that closes up the hole, allowing him to hold his weapon. Unless you count the stylish wolf head on his back, the hand designs are one of the few areas where this figure makes a sacrifice for his alt mode. Is it bad? Not at all, just unconventional and somewhat surprising at first. Truth be told, they still work great and this is an alien robot, so why should he have to have human looking hands?

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If the sculpt and design is amazing, the deco is just as good. Like Code, Q-U primarily makes use of colored plastic with paint apps used sparingly. It’s a great way to go if you’re using good plastic and the quality of the plastic here is fantastic and the yellow and blue-green colors make for a vibrant figure. The grey and black balances out the deco nicely and the little bits of red paint pop beautifully.

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Q-U comes with his jagged sword, which he holds quite well. It’s also worth noting that the figure has four different fold out points where it can be attached for carrying. By folding down the handle you can attach it to either hip point, or either shoulder. It’s a wonderful idea, which really shows how FP is willing to go the extra mile to add value and features to their figures. In practice, it works only Ok. It looks a little strange hanging off the shoulder. I prefer it on the hip, but even there, it’s held completely horizontally, instead of at a more stylish and functional angle.

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Obviously, the whole point of the Function line is to pay homage to the Headmasters, so Q-U’s head pops off to transform into a tiny robot. Let’s call him Not-Monzo. The head sculpt itself is amazing. The helmet is wonderfully complex and there’s even a translucent red visor over the painted yellow eyes. Popping the head off allows you to unfold it into the nifty little guy. It’s pretty straightforward, except for the visor piece, which requires a tad of finesse to slide it into place.

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Transforming Q-U is a delightful surprise. In theory, he’s very similar to the old G1 toy. The arms become the front legs, the legs become the back legs, and the wolf head flips up from the back. How can FP possibly update that? Well, there is some enormously clever engineering at work here. The sides of the torso, for example are on hinged arms, so that it actually becomes longer and leaner for the wolf mode, while still allowing a cabin for the Headmaster to ride in. The upper legs join together around the sword-tail to form the back half of the wolf with the bottom of the robot legs folding out and doing this crazy thing to become the back legs.

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With transformation complete, you get a really sleek looking robo-wolf. Comparing this guy to the stubby original Hasbro toy is as fun as it is unfair. How dare you, $10 toy from the 1980’s not look as good as this $60 toy from 2013!!! You suck!!! Seriously, though, the alt mode is every bit as good as the fantastic robot mode. He does tend to favor standing with his ass up in the air, much the way my cat stands when he wants the base of his tail scratched, but it’s a good look. It makes him appear as if he’s ready to pounce. The legs retain good articulation and even the mouth will open and close.

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As already mentioned, Q-U’s wolf mode can open up to form a driving cabin for Not-Monzo. I absolutely love this feature as it reminds me of being able to put the little figures into the old Diaclone toys and makes the whole Headmaster gimmick function in both modes.

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I could probably go on and on fapping figuratively to how great Quadruple-U turned out, but I’d rather just wrap things up now and actually go play with the toy. While there is no shortage of third-party developers out there now putting together impressive Transformers homages, I think Fansproject remains the one truly consistent front runner in the group. Q-U and Code are both exactly what I want out of third-party transforming robots and while $60-70 is still a lot to pay for a large Deluxe Class figure, you can clearly see where every penny went into the quality and engineering of this toy. Bring on Smart Robin and Diesel, Fansproject. Bring them on and take my goddamn monies!!!

Function X-1: Code by Fansproject

Every now and then every collector suffers one of those missed opportunities. You hesitate, you lose out, and you brood over it. It doesn’t happen that often to me, but Fansproject’s Code (aka Not-Chromedome) was one of those times. I didn’t pre-order him because I honestly didn’t expect him to be that hot an item. When he was released and I was ready to buy, he was gone. I got into a few bidding wars on Ebay later only to find that this one had gone beyond what I was willing to pay for him. It was time to let him go. Well, Primus smiled upon me last week as e-tailer TF Source got some extra Codes in stock and I was able to toss him in with my order of Quadruple-U. I realize that it would have been more topical to look at Quadruple-U first, since he’s a brand new release, but the truth is, I couldn’t wait to bust open Code and check him out.

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Until now, the only Fansproject figures in my collection have been the Causality figures. I was a little surprised that the Function line (which seems to be focused on “Not-Headmaster” releases) comes in a very different type of package. There’s no window box with colorful artwork this time. Nope, Code comes in what is sort of like a plain brown shoebox with a folding cover. The artwork and lettering are all printed in white on a clear sleeve, which fits snugly around the box. Like I said, it’s a very different style of presentation, and while I don’t like it as much as the more traditional window box, it does have its charms, and it does make the item feel more special and limited, as opposed to something that would look at home on a big box retailer’s toy shelf.

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Open the box and you get the figure in his robot mode nestled between two plastic trays. His weapons are bagged and the folded instruction sheet is on the bottom of the box. Everything is totally collector friendly, which is cool because for now I tend to keep my third-party transforming robots in their original packaging. Let’s stick to tradition and start out with his vehicle mode.

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Code is a somewhat Cybertronian car, very similar to the original G1 Chromedome toy. He’s about the size of a large Deluxe Transformer, which makes him bigger than FP’s Causality figures, but as a vehicle he scales rather well with Hasbro’s recent Generations Deluxes. His auto mode isn’t terribly sexy, the brown and cream colored deco is far from flashy, but the homage is as solid as it could be. There are very few paint apps here, as most of the coloring is in the plastic, which is always a good thing in my book. I think the front bumper and headlights could have been better defined, and it doesn’t roll all that well, but otherwise I’m really happy with this alt mode.

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There are a couple of noteworthy features to Code’s auto mode. First off, the cockpit does lift open to reveal a space for his Headmaster buddy (oh, let’s call him… Not-Stylor) to sit inside. He pegs in between his legs and there’s a fold up steering yoke for him to grab. Very cool! You can also attach Code’s two guns to the back of the car to give him some nice alt-mode firepower, just like with the G1 Chromedome toy. His guns are hinged at the handles so the barrels can be leveled straight forward. It’s this kind of little bits of engineering that really impress me. Adding a couple of hinges to the guns may sound like nothing, but there’s a reason why toy companies are cutting articulation to the bone… it’s expensive.

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As for Not-Stylor, he’s about what I expected from a Headmaster figure. He looks quite good for what he is and he just folds up into a ball to form Code’s familiar looking noggin. I was worried he might feel flimsy, but he’s got the same high quality plastic feel as the rest of the toy.

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Code’s transformation is both clever and amazing. I’ll confess, I thought it a bit overly complex the first time I attempted it, but then it’s so cool the way the hood travels along the little track, passes off to the pelvis so that it can rotate around and do what seems impossible and become his chest. I can’t help but appreciate what the designers did here and it provided me with a real gee-whiz moment the first time I did it. The plastic is high quality and nothing about the transformation feels dubious or risky. On the contrary, considering what’s involved it feels quite comfy and after a few times, I was able to do it rather quickly. Everything fits together nicely.

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And yes, the payoff is certainly worth it. Code has a beautiful robot mode that makes him look like the latest in Takara’s masterpiece line. He’s a wonderful amalgam of the G1 toy and the IDW art. It’s the clean, boxy G1 feel of this guy that really grabs me and makes him look like he just stepped out of the Sunbow cartoon or a panel of a comic. Thanks to his clever transformation, his hood is actually his chest and not faked out, and his cockpit lands neatly on his back. The wheels pack into his legs and into his torso quite well leaving virtually no kibble or blights on his bot body. The end result is he appears more like a non-transforming articulated figure rather than a working transformer. The headmaster’s excellent head mode really ties the whole figure together wonderfully. His robot mode stands a little larger than the current crop of Hasbro Deluxes, but not so much that it wouldn’t work in a display.

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The headmaster plugs right into a notch in the middle of a rotating plate so that you can still turn his head. The downside is that it isn’t ball jointed, so he can’t look up. The rest of the articulation includes ball joints in the shoulders and hips. The arms have swivels in the biceps and wrists, and double hinged elbows. The legs swivel at the thighs and have double-hinged knees. I would have really liked some rockers in the ankles, but he’s an exceptionally well-balanced figure so can still stand quite well in various poses without them. And this is definitely a fun figure to fiddle about with and pose.

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Code comes with his two red rifles, which are nice sculpts and include some white paint on the scopes and barrel tips. He can hold them in both of his hands making him ready to dish out the hurt on Decepticon fools.

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I seem to recall Code originally sold for around sixty bucks. I paid $90 for the re-stock and that’s a lot less than I would have paid had I kept bidding on him on Ebay. As far as third-party robots go, it’s not that bad a price. I paid $60 a pop for FP’s Not-Stunticons, and they are notably smaller than Code. The truth is, I would have probably still been totally happy with him if I paid a lot more. It’s worth mentioning here that I never owned Chromedome as a kid. I did have him in the vintage G1 collection that I had about 15 years ago, but that collection is long gone. I liked him well enough, but it wasn’t until I started reading the More Than Meets The Eye comic that I had a desire to own him again. Fansproject brought Code along at just the right time and this figure does that character justice in every conceivable way. I absolutely adore this figure and I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to pick him up without getting killed on the price!