Final Thoughts on Project Uranos by TFC

So, way back in January I first dipped my toes into the third-party Transformers pool. Actually, I dove right in by buying TFC’s Phantom and committing myself to their five figure set called Uranos. I went for these because I absolutely love the Aerialbots and I was tired of waiting for Hasbro to do them properly. Much like the Constructicons, for me the Aerialbots were always more about the team of individual robots rather than their gestalt form, and the individual figures TFC showed off looked mighty good. As we saw yesterday, the final figure arrived and I am extremely pleased with the way this team turned out. Just to give you an idea of how much the combined mode was an afterthought to me, I had the last figure for over a week before finally combining these guys for the purpose of today’s feature.

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So, each of the individual figures transform into their component parts quite easily. It’s so intuitive that I was able to do each one just by looking at the picture on the package. The only extra parts needed are the hands and feet. Once I got each figure in the combiner mode, it was just a matter of plugging in the arms and lower legs to the connector ports. Here’s where I was worried things might go awry and I was right on target. Plugging the connecting ports into the sockets requires a lot more force than I’m comfortable applying to these figures. Keep in mind, I was totally happy with the quality of plastic on the individual figures and very few things about them made me nervous when transforming them up until now. The arms go in just fine, but getting them apart again was nerve racking. Connecting the leg ports was the major problem. They fall out a lot, so I’m thinking that I was probably not clicking them in all the way. At the same time, I’m not willing to apply any more force to get them in further. I just had to be super careful handling him to watch for the legs coming out. Finally, using Ray as a chest piece was a cool idea, but since he only pegs in at one spot, he flops around a bit. You can even see in one picture, two of his diagonal panels are misaligned because of this.

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I do like the look of this guy a lot. His head sculpt is rather derpy, yes, but as a whole, he looks ridiculously cool and complex and it’s a design that I think could easily work for as a movie-style combiner done right. If you’re looking for a G1 Sunbow accurate Superion, this sure ain’t him, but if you’re looking for what a real life Superion might look like, this is your guy. However, all that complexity comes with a price. There are all sorts of wings and things pegged into him and trying to pose him causes a lot of these to drop out. There’s also nowhere that I really feel comfortable holding him because of this very point. Just handling him became an exercise in frustration. I suppose if I were interested in keeping him displayed as Uranos, I could get a 1:6 scale figure stand to rest his robo-crotch on and that would do the trick, but thankfully it’s not the Uranos mode I bought him for, so that’s not an issue for me.

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If I could apply a single phrase to sum up Uranos it would be “look but don’t touch.” I really dig the way he displays, but he’s so darn fragile in combined mode that I was anxious to get him separated back into his individual bots. So much so, that I snapped some quick pictures and was done with it. Granted, I’m rarely ever satisfied with the results of my poor photographic skills mixed with my ancient camera, but in this case the photo shoot was just a disaster. I really wanted to get some shots that made this guy look as great as he does on the shelf, but between him falling over and me not wanting to break him, I just decided to go with what quick snaps I had and be done with it. I think that tells more about the combined mode than any picture could.

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I should note that I did pre-order TFC’s accessory pack. I mainly bought it for the guns for the individual figures, but it does come with a G1 style chest plate. In all honesty, the next time I bother combining these figures will be when that pack arrives. I love these guys to death when displayed as a team, and if I had to do it all over, I’d still buy each and every one of them, but I’m in no hurry to mess with combining them again. I’m just too afraid that it’ll result in damaging one of the figures.

Uranos: F-16 Falcon by TFC

With so many figures sitting on my receivings pile waiting to be opened, I almost let this momentous release slip by. Yes, folks, here we are at the final figure in TFC’s Project Uranos. He’s the F-16 Falcon, possibly known to some as Not-Skydive. I’m really excited to open this guy up and check him out, so let’s jump right in. I’ve done most of these figures in two parters, but now that we’ve been through four figures in the series, I’m going to try to knock him all out in one day.

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Ah, this is the last time we will see the Uranos packaging. It’s worth taking a moment to once again point out that TFC did a wonderful job with the presentation. The boxes are high quality and the front window displays the figure in his robot mode very well. Falcon is positioned in his tray beside his weapons and his combiner part and everything is held in with strong twist ties. Behind the tray there’s a printed cardboard insert with a beautiful line drawing of the figure. Taped inside you get a pouch with a folded color poster of the character art and a folded instruction sheet. The character artwork on the front and side panels of the box is fantastic and the matte finish contrasts beautifully with the foil “URANOS” lettering.

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Flip the box over and you get shots of the toy in all three modes. The package is totally collector friendly and the character art on the side means that if I keep the figures boxed, I can line them all up in a bookshelf and they still make a wonderful display. When you’re dropping $100+ on a figure, you want a little something nice in the presentation and TFC certainly delivered here. As always, let’s start with Falcon’s jet mode. As always, let’s start with his jet mode…

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Falcon’s roots in the G1 Skydive toy are immediately apparent, but TFC did a great job taking the sculpt to the next level. It should, however, be noted that because it uses the same base body as Eagle, there were some sacrifices made. A Falcon should have a rounder body on top, whereas this version is more flat on top, similar to Eagle. It’s easy to see which aircraft was designed first and it’s bound to irk aircraft enthusiasts. Another point worth mentioning is that the tailfin on Falcon splits down the middle as part of the transformation. In jet mode it never goes completely flush together, so there’s a seam or gap running down it and that’s a little unsightly. It’s easy to overlook it on a Transformer, but this is basically a $100 Voyager Class, so I’m compelled to point it out. These kinds of little things probably make Falcon the weakest of all this team’s jet modes, but that doesn’t mean he’s bad. Quite the contrary, he’s still a great looking jet and I’m pretty impressed at how TFC was able to share so much engineering between the two aircraft.

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Just like Phantom and Harrier shared a red and white deco in their alt modes, Falcon is aligned with Eagle with a darker color scheme. In this case, Eagle was entirely black and Falcon mixes it up a little more with a black and grey deco that does a fine job mimicking that old toy that inspired him. The biggest difference are the wing markings. Gone are Skydive’s garish lightning bolts and in their place are some more tasteful diagonal stripes.  A couple of repro Autobot symbols on the wings, and this guy looks the part nicely.

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Falcon includes an opening cockpit and he comes with a pair of missiles, which can be pegged into two different positions on his wings and he has three folding landing gear to help him display in jet mode. But if you really want to display this guy with style, Falcon can make use of his combiner parts (ie. Uranos’ foot) to create a stand for his alt mode. It’s the exact same thing included with Eagle and this gimmick works so well, it really makes me wish I had similar stands for the other three figures.

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Since Falcon uses the same basic engineering as Eagle, his transformation is quite similar. While the jet mode lost some points against the others, the robot mode is probably my favorite of the entire team. He’s also the most distinctive looking. For starters, he has a squared off transparent yellow piece dead center in his chest. It may be intended as a faked out cockpit or it may just be a coincidence. He also has two curved pieces of the aircraft running down the two sides of his chest. These contoured pieces give him a little less boxy of a chest than his teammates. The rest of the figure more or less falls in line with Eagle. The bulk of the pieces are re-sculpted to make him unique, but he still wears his nosecone and cockpit section on his back. As with Eagle, Falcon can wear his missiles on his arms, he can wield them in his fists like guns, or they can be stored on his wings.

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I absolutely love Falcon’s head sculpt. He has a mouth plate and a yellow translucent visor. His helmet is black with some silver accents and the light piping effect for the visor is excellent. It’s not Sunbow accurate, but apart from the color of the visor, it comes pretty close to the original Skydive toy.

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What really sets Falcon apart is his deco. He’s got a striking black, red and grey color scheme with a little yellow fringe thrown in for good measure. When you line up the team, he stands out as the black sheepicon of the gang, since even Eagle, who is all black in his jet mode, sports a largely white and red deco in robot mode. It may not be uniform, but he matches that character that appeared on a certain Sunbow cartoon quite nicely, so I approve.

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And there we go… I absolutely love this figure! I didn’t bother mentioning anything about the quality of the plastic because it’s been consistently high quality in all the previously releases. Suffice it to say Falcon is no different and there’s nothing about him that makes me nervous when transforming him or afraid to handle him. The engineering on this guy is great and I’ll say again how impressed I am that TFC was able to start with two core figures and make them so different in both robot and vehicle modes. It’s a great feeling to finally have all the figures in hand and know that they all panned out so well. Displayed as a team, either in jet modes or robot modes, they are everything I dreamed they would be and more. But wait… don’t these guys combine or something? That they do… and I’ll be back tomorrow to take a look at Uranos, the big guy himself.

Uranos: AV-88 Harrier by TFC, Part 2

Alrighty folks, yesterday we checked out Harrier’s jet mode and today we’re having a look at his robot mode. First off, this guy transforms almost exactly like his brother Phantom. The wings on his legs fold up a little differently, but that’s really the only difference. It’s a fairly simple and intuitive process although just like Phantom, clipping and unclipping the tail section still makes me a little nervous every time because it’s a tight fit and the thin arm that it’s attached to. I’ve changed Phantom back and forth dozens of times and haven’t even seen any stress marks appear so at this point I don’t think it’s anything to worry about.

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In robot mode, Harrier looks mighty damn good and shares a lot more similarities with Phantom than he does in his aircraft mode. But even here, the similarities are only superficial. If you look closely even the parts that appear to be identical have subtle little changes to the sculpt or paint to make him unique. Obviously, pieces like the shoulders are different because Harrier’s shoulders make up the intakes on his alt mode, but TFC made all sorts of changes to the parts that don’t even show up in his Harrier form. The chest is completely new and features that great boxy look that screams G1 Transformer. Check out the upper legs, pelvis, and forearms. These could all have been reused directly from Phantom, but TFC still took the time to make little changes to the sculpt to set them apart. Sure, we should expect that in a $100 toy, but it’s still not something that I’m going to take for granted.

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Obviously, Harrier gets a brand new head, and honestly I’m not terribly keen on it. It’s the two silver pieces on his cheeks that I’m not in love with. The rest of it is Ok. He has yellow light piping in the eyes and a regular mouth instead of a plate. None of these figures heads have been close homages to the G1 characters, but Slingshot had a pretty distinctive looking head and this one is quite far from the original. Anyway, it’s not terrible and it’ll probably grow on me.

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Harrier wears the nose and tail of his aircraft mode on his back just like Phantom does. The two sides peg in together and stays together quite well. Sure it’s a lot of aircraft kibble, but it’s wonderfully faithful to the old G1 animated designs where they basically had deformed jets on their backs. I love it!

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Also like Phantom, Harrier’s fuel pods can be used as weapons. You can put them into his hands or you can plug them into his arms, which is the way I prefer them. These pieces are sculpted in red plastic and the tips are painted with a little metallic silver.

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Of course, Harrier also transforms into one of Uranos’ arms, but I’m still not combining these guys until I get the last one. The first three Uranos figures were one hundred percent originals, so Harrier was the first of the last two, which are reworked versions of the first two. I wasn’t sure how different he’d be, but I’m totally pleased with the outcome. TFC went out of their way to set him apart with a lot of tiny little superficial changes that they could have just as easily not bothered with. I’ve been totally satisfied with these guys each step of the way and Harrier is no exception.  So that’s four down with only Falcon left. I’m still hoping he’s going to show up in August so I can finally put this long journey to bed.

Uranos: AV-88 Harrier by TFC, Part 1

Wow, it’s been a long wait, but the folks at TFC have finally shipped out the next figure in their Project Uranos (aka Not-Aerialbots) line and it is Harrier (aka Not-Slingshot). The delay of the releases since Blackbird had me a little concerned, but I’m glad to see things pushing along once more and I’m still counting on getting the last figure, Eagle sometime later this month. Anyway, today we’ll check out the packaging and the jet mode, as well as do some comparisons with Phantom, and tomorrow we’ll transform him and check out his robot mode.

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TFC has kept the packaging on these figures uniform so if you’re like me and have tendencies toward OCD, you’ll be happy to know that they all look great lined up on the shelf. The presentation here is as great as ever. You get a big collector-friendly window box that shows off the figure in his robot mode beside his two fuel pods and his combiner hand piece. The line art is fantastic and the back of the box shows the toy in its different modes. Inside the box, you get a collector card, a poster, and the folded instruction sheet. Harrier is built off the same body as Phantom, so if you’ve become familiar with transforming him, you probably won’t need the instruction sheet. Let’s open him up and as usual, we’re going to start out with his jet mode.

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When I was a kid, I used to love Harriers. I can remember first reading about them and the idea of a jet that could take off and land like a helicopter blew my little mind, because I happen to have a big helicopter fetish. Not in the sense that I get sexually aroused by helicopters, but I just think they’re really cool. Wait, what? Oh yeah, Harriers! I loved them as a kid and I can still remember building a bitchin’ Revell model of one. I put an insane amount of work into that thing and I had it kicking around for a long time after until one day my brother got mad at me and threw it at my head. So, yes, I was pretty excited to get Harrier.

First things first… Like Phantom, Harrier comes with a sprue of little plastic plugs you can insert into the screw holes to cover them up. I thought it was an awesome idea originally and I think it still is. Oddly, you still get four plugs and I can only see two holes to plug up on this new mold. Moving on…

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I am extremely happy with the look of this jet. It’s impressive how much remolding has been done on the Phantom figure to make it work. You can see all the similarities in overall structure, but the toy still comes away as a very convincing Harrier. The cockpit, nosecone, and tail fins have been completely redesigned to great success. I would have preferred some sculpted vents or something in the intakes near the front, but the grey paint works well enough, I suppose. The wings are ever so slightly down swept, and each has a fuel pod that plugs in underneath. Unlike Phantom, Harrier has enough clearance so that he can rest comfortably on his landing gear with the pods in place.

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Speaking of landing gear, one thing worth noting is that one of the tiny landing gear wheels is missing from my Harrier’s left kneecap. Apart from a minor stray paint mark on Blackbird, this is the first QC issue I’ve seen with any of my TFC figures. I’m not going to lose my shit over it because in reality, I don’t even get why these landing gear are there in the first place. Harrier has a set that folds out from his wings that work in conjunction with the one under the cockpit for the jet to rest on when it’s grounded. The set on his kneecaps aren’t even necessary. Yes, a real Harrier has a fourth landing gear, but it’s a big set of two wheels that comes out under the middle of the aircraft, not two little sets like these. For a moment, I thought they were vestigial remnants from the Phantom toy mold, but nope, he doesn’t have them at all. Weird! Anyway, I just popped the wheel out of the other kneecap to keep him symmetrical and I’m fine with that.

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The deco of the Harrier mode relies mostly on molded white plastic with some black accents from where the hinges and connecting pieces are. There are red and blue painted stripes on the wings to drive home the homage to the original Slingshot toy, although the striping here is more subtle, which I find to be an overall improvement. The only thing missing is a couple of repro Autobot insignias and you’re good to go! The cockpit is tinted yellow to match the other Uranos jets and he has some registry numbers painted on, which includes the “S5HOT” on the tailfins. What could that mean?

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As with the previous Uranos releases, the plastic on this release is very good quality and heft for what is essentially a Voyager sized toy. At this point, four releases in, I expected nothing less, but since it’s a third-party release, it’s still worth commenting on nonetheless. That having been said, the thin connecting rods for the wing landing gear probably demand a careful touch, as I could see them stressing pretty easily. Other than that, I don’t have any concerns over breakage.

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The coolest thing about Harrier’s jet mode is how distinctive it turned out. You can park him right next to Phantom and if you haven’t transformed either one, you might not catch on to just how much engineering is shared by the two toys. In fact, it isn’t until you transform them and stand them next to each other in robot mode that you really start to see all the similarities. I’ll be back to do just that tomorrow!

Uranos: SR-71 Blackbird and X-47 Phantom Ray by TFC, Part 2

As promised, I’m back to finish up my look at the TFC’s latest release in their Project Uranos, “Not-Aerialbots” line of figures. We already checked out their alt modes, so let’s jump right into transformation and their bot modes.

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You might think that since Blackbird is basically just an aircraft with a robot under him that his transformation would be pretty easy. Well, you’d be more or less right. The most difficult thing is digging the tabs out from either side of his head and figuring out the right way to fold up his legs, and that’s going from robot to jet. Going from jet to robot is easy-peasy and totally intuitive. It’s just a matter of folding up the plates on his backpack and positioning his arms and legs. Although it does bring us to the one thing that I really do not like about this figure… ARR MATEYS, THERE BE PARTSFORMING AHEAD!

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I really don’t know why I went all pirate there… but yes, there is indeed some partsforming here. The very first step of transforming Blackbird involves pulling the entire front nose and cockpit section out and changing it into his gun. I knew about this going in, so it wasn’t a surprise or anything that gave me buyer’s remorse, but I consider this sort of thing a cheat, because it really is a fairly good sized piece of the jet. The resulting gun mode isn’t all that great either, because… well, it looks a lot like the cockpit section of a jet. It’s also way too big for Blackbird. If you don’t extend the barrel all the way, I guess it works ok, but turning a third of the aircraft into a gun is definitely not a selling point for me. The gun is also used for Uranos’ gestalt mode, but we’re not getting into any of that until I have a complete set.

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As for Blackbird’s robot mode, I really dig it, although it definitely has some opportunities. Yes, he’s a robot wearing half of a jet as a backpack, but so were most of the original Aerialbot designs. It never bothered me then, and it doesn’t now. Besides, a lot of Blackbird’s backpack can fold up or be tweaked so that it really doesn’t get in the way. This is by no means the worst kibble I’ve seen. I do wish it pegged together better, and that’s one of those big opportunities I was talking about. The two engines don’t peg into anything and that leaves them to just flop around. It seems like a frighteningly obvious design flaw that could have been easily fixed with a couple of tabs and sockets. It’s not a critical flaw, but certainly one that should have been addressed on a $130 toy.

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Another issue, I have are the stubby little wings that protrude off his chest and in front of his shoulders. I like them, as they are one of the more identifiable characteristics of Silverbolt’s design. Unfortunately they get in the way of his shoulder articulation. Yes, they’re hinged, they rotate, and that allows for full arm articulation, but having to fiddle with those when posing him is annoying. The last issue I have is his lack of heel spurs. A robot with a huge backpack needs heel spurs. It’s another one of those little design oversights, which could have been easily fixed by adding a couple of hinged plates.

With all that having been said, I still find a lot to love in this guy. The sculpt is wonderfully detailed and packed with panel lines. The configuration of the chest really evokes the G1 character design, and while I don’t think the head sculpt is a slam dunk, I am still pretty happy with it. Even the backpack looks like a serviceable design as a jetpack. The quality of the plastic is very satisfying and makes for a sturdy figure with tight joints.

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The deco carries over from the jet mode with a lot of white, but the addition of the red and yellow help tie the homage together. I really dig the red plastic that TFC uses, it’s a great vibrant shade and the yellow is pretty good too. Unfortunately, the paint on this figure isn’t quite on par with the past two releases. There’s some sloppy silver brushwork on his left shoulder and some brush strokes on the yellow bar on his chest. It’s nothing terrible, but hey… $130 toy… it’s worth mentioning.

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Moving on to Phantom Ray… Um… Yeah. I want to say people are either going to love this guy or hate him, but then I’m kind of ambivalent. I can’t hate on him, but he’s just nothing special. Imagine what kind of Minicon you might get with a $130 Transformer and this would be it. That’s really it, he feels like a Minicon on steroids to me. Is that a bad thing? I love Minicons, and yet strangely I don’t love Phantom Ray. But I don’t hate him, and I guess that’s a start.

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I was on board for TFC using a separate robot drone for Uranos’ chest plate. I still think it’s a cool idea. Remember, I like when these guys bring some originality to the table. But I think if they were going to sell this idea, they needed to really deliver a great robot design for the drone, and Phantom Ray isn’t it.

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Blackbird was $140 with shipping. The higher retail comes through in the impressive size of the figure and the fact that he comes with a little bot-buddy. What’s not reflected in the higher retail are the nagging little QC flubs. It’s ironic that the most expensive of the Project Uranos figures that I have so far is the one to have some paint issues, albeit minor ones, and required me to do a little plastic shaving to make him work right. I’m hoping that I just got a little unlucky with him, because the alternative is that TFC is allowing their QC to slip as the team progresses. I’m willing to give them the benefit of the doubt and I’m still overall pretty happy with the way this guy turned out.

Uranos: SR-71 Blackbird and X-47 Phantom Ray by TFC, Part 1

It took me longer than expected to get my Blackbird, the third release in TFC’s Project Uranos series, but it’s finally here and I’ve had some time to play around with him. He’s a bit of a controversial figure because he’s a deviation from the original concept. Despite being a Silverbolt homage, TFC decided to base him off of the famous SR-71 Blackbird spyplane rather than a Concorde. The decision further begged the question, would he be black like the SR-71 should be, or would he remain true to the G1 character’s color scheme? And what’s with that smaller Transformer he comes with? He forms the gestalt’s chest piece? That’s not very GeeWun! It seemed like whatever TFC did they were going to alienate some people, but I tried to keep an open mind.

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I’ll gladly concede that I would have preferred TFC stuck with the Concorde design, as it fit the character better. Besides being a jet that was afraid of heights, Silverbolt was a lot more reserved than the other Aerialbots. Quite frankly, most of the Aerialbots were dicks and Silverbolt wasn’t, nor was he as quick to jump into battle. I always thought it was cool that his personality was reflected in him being the only one of the team that wasn’t a military jet. On the other hand, homages or not, I really dig when these third-party releases bring something original to the table. I also enjoy the idea of having a more cohesive team of military jets as my re-imagined Aerialbots. As for the color scheme, I think they made the right decision. But I’ll come back to a lot of that later… for now, let’s check out the packaging and the alt modes.

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With two releases under my belt, I’ve come to know what to expect from the Uranos packaging. However, Blackbird is the largest of the figures and he also comes with a companion figure, so I was interested to see if TFC mixed things up at all. Nope. What we have here is the same basic deco and design as the other window boxes. It’s just bigger. That’s a very good thing, because I really love everything about the presentation on these guys and Blackbird’s box raises it to an epic and impressive scale. The package features the same cool artwork and line-drawings on the front and sides, and the photos of Blackbird’s three forms on the back. There’s also an amazing color line-drawing inside the cardboard tray. Blackbird comes packaged in his robot mode and Phantom Ray comes in his little alt mode. Inside the box, you get a collectible card with his character art and stats, a fold out poster, and a color instruction sheet.

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Straightaway, I love Blackbird’s alt mode, and a lot of that has to do with my love for the stylings of the real aircraft. It’s certainly an attractive design and TFC did a nice job reproducing it in toy form right down to the little panel lines. There’s a fair amount of seams and hinges, but you’ve got to expect that in Transformers and I don’t think they detract much from the aesthetics. Aircraft purists will scoff at the unconventional white body and yellow trim, but I’m glad they went with the G1 color scheme, because it was clearly needed to drive this homage home. A couple of repro Autobot insignia on the wings and he definitely looks the part.

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Blackbird rests nicely on three sets of folding landing gear and he has two cool chainguns situated under his cockpit. From the top down, this is a great looking toy, although mine had one annoying quirk. The two plates that lock together behind the cockpit simply would not stay together, and left a huge and f’ugly gap. This was seriously pissing me off. I must have played around with it for a half-hour trying to see what I was doing wrong, but that gap would not go away. Finally, I shaved a little off one of the pegs inside the plates and now they mesh perfectly. I’m not a fan of having to tinker with a $130 toy to make it right, but you gotta do what you gotta do.

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Some may be vexed by the fact that you can see the bulk of Blackbird’s robot form simply by looking under the jet. Honestly, this doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Just as whores will have their trinkets, so Transformer jets will have their kibble. There are two different configurations that his legs can peg into under the wings. One places them more toward the center, the other more toward the back. I prefer to keep them toward the back, since the wings and engines hide them a little more when viewing the jet from the side. But whatever you do there’s going to be a lot of baggage down there. Case in point, after I shot the pictures, I realized I forgot to fold in his feet, but given what all is down there, little tweaks like that don’t even matter all that much. It’s like trying to hide an elephant under a washcloth.

As with Phantom and Eagle, the quality of the plastic here feels really nice. This is a hefty and very solid toy. There’s no noticeable mold flashing and the paint apps are all precise and clean. Let’s move on to Blackbird’s little robot sidekick…

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Phantom Ray’s alt mode is an X-47 Drone and he’s a pretty simple little guy. TFC played a little fast and loose with the accuracy on him. He’s a lot more angular than the actual aircraft and while he holds his alt mode fairly well, he doesn’t peg together quite as solid as his larger bot-buddy. He does have some wheels, although they are set so close to the undercarriage that he might as well just be sitting on the ground. There’s a socket underneath him that can peg into the top of Blackbird via the folding peg, and the two look pretty good when joined up. Ever since I was a kid and saw the Space Shuttle being ferried on the back of a 747, I’ve always thought the idea of aircraft riding piggy back on another was pretty damn cool, although you’re mileage may vary.

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I’ll be honest, that gap in the back scared the shit out of me, but thankfully it was an easy fix and so far, I’m very pleased with this guy. Blackbird’s jet mode is big, well-constructed, and a great looking toy. I really like how he scales with the other jets. He’s definitely bigger, but he’s not so much bigger as to feel too out of their league. Phantom Ray is… well, he’s not much to write home about, but he is a cool little accessory and I do like the way he looks pegged onto Blackbird’s back.

Tomorrow I’ll be back to transform these guys and check out their robot modes.

Uranos: F-15 Eagle by TFC, Part 2

TFC’s Eagle impressed with his jet mode, but there’s still a lot more to love about this guy. Let’s start with his transformation…


Ok, so Eagle’s transformation does feature a few minor hiccups and converting him is a lot more nerve wracking for me than converting Phantom. It’s not that he’s particularly difficult to convert, but rather Eagle has a lot more moving and folding parts and some of them feel a tad fragile. Not cheap, just delicate by the nature of their design. A good example is the way his nose cone splits open on his back. This is a very cool element to improve the figure’s aesthetics, but the hinged arms are very thin, far more so than the arms holding Phantom’s back section together. I eventually got very comfortable changing Phantom back and forth, but I’m not sure that will ever be the case with Eagle. I should be fine so long as I’m careful, but there are certainly parts of this figure that command caution. Another little issue I have with the conversion is the arms. I’ve already mentioned the way his hands remain visible in the jet mode, but getting his arms flush on the sides of the aircraft is hit and miss. Sometimes they snap in and lock, sometimes they keep wanting to pop out. It seems like a little better engineering could have gone into this aspect of the conversion.

Fortunately, whatever little hiccups arise in the conversion are all well worth it, because just like Eagle’s jet mode, the robot mode kicks all kinds of ass. Air Raid was one of my favorite Aerialbots and it’s so damn cool to see this character get this kind of complex homage. Starting with the head, this time TFC went a little closer to the Sunbow design over the G1 toy by omitting the mouth plate, but truth be told Eagle’s head isn’t all that close to either toy or animated design. He has a little smiling mouth and a yellow visor with excellent light piping. I like the head sculpt a lot, but collectors hoping for a direct match to the G1 character’s portrait will be disappointed.

Eagle’s body has that great boxy G1 look that does the character proud and I really dig the way so much of his jet mode just packs away so neatly. His tail fins fold up onto his legs, similar to the Classic Seekers, and his primary wings fold up behind his arms and remain out of the way. Sure, he’s still got the canopy and nose on his back, but it’s a lot less bulky than Phantom, and as mentioned, even the nose cone splits to improve his profile from the front. The landing gear on the front of his lower legs can be positioned in two ways, either up to form knees, or down to be more flush with his legs. I haven’t decided which I like better yet, but each configuration has its merits. Eagle even has a cool surprise. The intakes on each side of his chest fold down to reveal banks of missiles. I was totally not expecting that!


Eagle’s coloring is more varied than Phantom’s. He appropriately retains the same red and off-white base colors to his body as is the common deco for all the G1 Aerialbots, but adds black to the mix. The black all lands on his back and his legs, making him fit in very nicely with Phantom. There are a few particularly nice paint apps here, like the red on his arms and legs and the yellow on his chest. My favorite, however, are the silver panels on the insides of his legs. They aren’t even a majorly visible area of the toy and yet TFC still painted them. Cool! Eagle can hold his missiles in his hands as guns, but I prefer mounting them to his arms.

So, TFC is two for two in Project Uranos. I may have had a few more nits to pick with Eagle, but he’s still an amazing and high quality figure that does not disappoint. As with Phantom, I’m holding off looking at his combiner mode until I have the entire set to work with. Next month TFC should be launching the big daddy of the bunch: “Not-Silverbolt” and frankly, I can’t wait!

Right now my hopper is mostly full of Star Trek stuff, so in an effort to get some of it cleaned out, I’m going to be doing Star Trek features for the rest of the week, which will culminate in a look at one of Diamond Select’s brand new Starship on Saturday!

Uranos: F-4 Phantom by TFC, Part 2

Alrighty, folks, I’m back with the second half of the F-4 Phantom (“Not-Fireflight”) feature. Actually, this is more like the last third of the feature as I shouldn’t need to get as long winded as yesterday. Let’s get right to it by starting off with transformation…

I’ll be honest… transforming Phantom was the thing that made me the most apprehensive about investing in the toy. All it takes is a little questionable engineering and a few QC dips for even a Hasbro Transformer to snap apart in your hands. I was particularly afraid of parts getting stress marks and being afraid to play around with him anymore. Well, I’m happy to say that my fears were unfounded. Phantom transforms very well. He’s not overly complex and not overly simple. For a one hundred dollar Voyager-sized toy that I’m paranoid about breaking… he’s just right. Yes, there are a few tabs that lock a little too well for my comfort, but after changing him back and forth a couple of times, I realized that this is not a fragile toy that I need worry about breaking, so long as a modicum of care is applied. The hinged arm that connects the jet parts to his back are quite thin, but mine haven’t shown any signs of stress marks, and I’m very careful to support them when manipulating them. I will admit that locking the tail portion into place when going into jet mode is a little worrisome, as it is a very tight fit, but so far, everything has worked out fine. I’m not about to let my 6-year old Nephew anywhere near it, but I can honestly say that I can transform Phantom without worrying about breaking him.

In robot mode, the homage to the G1 Fireflight figure holds up really well. You’ll notice, I said the figure rather than his animated counterpart. Phantom’s head is based more on the original toy and not the Sunbow design. Some may take issue with that, especially since the original toy’s head was so tiny that most will probably associate the character more with the Sunbow design. Me? I’m happy with what we got. The head is an excellent sculpt, I’m always a big fan of the mouth plate, and the light piping effect in the eyes is one of the best I’ve seen on any toy. Besides, it gives TFC or some other third-party company the option to rake in more profits by selling an alternate animated-style head somewhere down the road. At $100 maybe TFC should have included an extra head, but I’m not going to quibble over it because what’s here is just fine. Ok, I will make one quibble. The hinged plate that the head attaches to doesn’t peg into anything. I wouldn’t say it has a propensity to fly up, but it would have been nice if it pegged in somewhere.

While I’ve seen a few people complain about the fact that Phantom is basically wearing a truncated jet on his back, it was a strong characteristic of the original toy and animated character design, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Besides, the whole assembly locks together very well.


Phantom’s body is wonderfully proportioned and features that great boxy “I’m a friggin giant robot, and I’m not afraid to show it” G1 style that I so woefully miss in today’s designs. It also gives you a few different, albeit mostly minor, display options. His shoulder pieces are designed to point up at stylish angles, but if you’re looking for something more akin to the squared off G1 shoulder design, you can fold them down. His wings fold up onto his legs, however they can be removed entirely for a more streamlined look and even converted into a fairly cool looking shield-weapon. Likewise, the fuel pods can be held in each of his hands as guns, mounted on his arms, or each held in one hand for a kind of dual barrel weapon.

As for the quality of the toy, I have no complaints. A few years ago I might have commented that the plastic feels a little lighter than Hasbro Transformers, but compared to what Hasbro is turning out these days, it’s pretty close to being on par. It’s also worth mentioning that the parts of him that are hollow are hollow to accommodate his transformation and not to cut costs on plastic. When I pick him up, I get the same heft I would expect from an official Hasbro product in this size. I was a little worried about mold flashing, but there’s absolutely zero flashing to be found on mine. The joints are all nice and tight, and while I’ve seen some complaints about the hip joints being too tight and squeaky, my Phantom seems to have dodged that bullet.

I’m happy to say that my first foray into the world of third-party Transformers was an encouraging one. If there’s one thing that has discouraged me from buying third-party figures in the past it’s the little tweaks and fixes that people have said they had to do on them to make them right. It’s that kind of thing that waved me off of Fansproject’s Warbot tribute to Springer. If I’m paying a premium for a toy, I expect it to be done right from the get go. Phantom doesn’t need any fine tuning, as he is an impressive figure right out of the box. Both robot and jet mode are excellent, the transformation is well designed, and the figure feels like a quality product.

So, is he worth the $100? Well, that’s something only you can decide. It’s certainly a tidy sum to be paid for what would sell for around $25 to $30 tops if it were a Hasbro product, maybe a little more as an exclusive. But if you can come into the deal knowing that you’re paying extra for a limited production run of a specialty piece produced by a small company than it’s easy to rationalize the price. I’m certainly happy with what I got and I’m looking forward to TFC’s second installment of Project Uranos, F-15 Eagle, which has already begun shipping and should be arriving at my door any day now!

Uranos: F-4 Phantom by TFC, Part 1

I managed to hold out for a long time against the tempting in-rush of third-party Transformers. I actually first caved back when Fansproject revealed their “Not-Insecticon” Causality figures. The problem was, I waited to buy all three once they were all out. That turned out to be a stupid move because the first two sold out everywhere and now all I can find are the “Not-Deluxe” “Not-Insecticon” repaints. Re-issue those bitches, Fansproject! Re-issue them and I will buy them!! I pledge you my monies! Nonetheless, my favorite Transformers combiners have always been the Aerialbots and the Stunticons. When TFC showed off the first images of their own versions of the Aerialbots, I simply couldn’t hold out any longer. And so, with some Christmas money in hand, I ordered the first figure in Project Uranos: F-4 Phantom aka“Not-Fireflight.” And since the whole “Not” business is getting on my nerves, for the purposes of the feature, we’ll just call him Phantom.

Because this is my first experience with a third-party Transformer, and because this thing wasn’t cheap, I’m going to milk it for two features. Today, we’ll check out the packaging and the jet mode, and tomorrow we’ll look at the transformation and the robot mode. I’m not even going to bother with the arm mode until I’ve got enough of these figures to put something together.

But, before we get into the presentation, let’s talk size. In both robot and jet forms, Phantom is on par with Hasbro’s recent Voyager Class figures. Now, my own preference for G1-style Aerialbots would be to have the limbs be Deluxes and Silverbolt be a Voyager. I just can’t get my head around a figure like Fireflight towering over my Classic Autobots like Jazz or Prowl. But when you’re paying $100 a pop, you want something more substantial and so I’m fine with displaying these guys as a stand-alone team. And assuming TFC does make good on their promise to get around to doing a certain team of evil cars, I’ll be happy to have these two teams in scale with each other.

Phantom comes in a window box, which is roughly the same height as the Prime Voyager Class packages and a little bit wider. The figure is packaged in robot mode with his single combiner part (Uranos’ hand) and two fuel pods in the tray to his left. Phantom is secured in his tray with twisty-ties, but once they’re undone the box is very collector friendly. Phantom just requires a little mis-transformation to lay back in his tray for storage.

The matte deco on the box is quite professional looking and very attractive. The front features the Uranos logo in silver foil lettering down the right side and a very Pat Lee-inspired piece of character art. The side panel has a full drawing of the character, which is awesome because when I get a complete set, I can store them boxed in a bookcase and see which is which. I’m not a big fan of Pat Lee’s art in my comic books, but the homage works well enough here as box art. The back panel shows photos of the toy in its three different forms. There are also faint line renderings of the toy in the background of the various panels of the box.

Inside the box, there’s a cardboard insert with a very cool line drawing on the back. You also get a baggie that contains a nice profile card with character art and tech specs. And there’s a fold out poster and a single folded sheet of color instructions, printed on both sides. Alas, the instructions only show transformation from jet to robot and from jet to combiner arm. Considering the figure comes in robot mode, you’d think that would be the conversion they show. Either way, Phantom is a pretty easy Transformer to figure out. All in all, TFC certainly went the extra mile on the presentation. It still feels like a retail-grade package, but the artwork is particularly nice and little extras like the poster and the card are welcome. Even the instruction sheet is far nicer than what you get with a Hasbro Transformer. But enough about the presentation, let’s get to the goods. As is tradition around here, I’m going to start with Phantom’s jet mode. Keep in mind, folks, that I’ve already applied my repro Autobot insignias, which are obviously not included in the package.


I’m something of a military hardware buff, and while tanks and helicopters are my first loves, I dig me some warplanes as well. As a result, I’ve got a plethora of images from books in my library to compare Phantom’s jet mode to the real thing. Despite the outlandish (but very G1 accurate) color scheme, the toy is a pretty solid likeness. The configuration of the nose and cockpit are spot on, as are the intakes on each side of the canopy. The wing tips can correctly be angled at an upward incline, and the engines are positioned properly. About the only thing I can nitpick here is that the dorsal tail fin should be a tad bigger. The toy is replete with sculpted panel lines and you can even see the seats in the cockpit through the yellow tinted canopy. I should also note here that TFC included some tiny plastic plugs to cover up the screws on the dorsal side of the jet mode, which were installed prior to shooting the pictures. They’re completely optional, and chances are if you’re a Transformers collector then you’re used to exposed screws, but they’re a nice bonus nonetheless.


If you flip the jet over, you can certainly see some robot shenanigans going on, but everything is nicely recessed into the undercarriage. I’d have to say that Phantom has a lot less robot kibble hanging off of him than most of Hasbro’s Jet Transformers (I’m looking at you Prime Dreadwing!!!). Additionally, Phantom’s jet mode is tight and dead solid.

So, there is one little flub in the design. Phantom has folding landing gear for when you want to display him in jet mode. Unfortunately, they don’t offer enough clearance for the fuel pods that clip under each wing. You can choose to display him without the pods, but if you want the pods on, he’s going to be sitting on them rather than the landing gear. I’ll grant you, for a toy as expensive as Phantom, this seems like a silly design oversight, but I’m not crying over it.


Phantom’s color scheme is a nice homage to Hasbro’s original G1 toy. This toy shows off a little more of the off-white than red. Also, the blue and yellow striping on the wings is a bit more tastefully subdued here, but it all works fine for me. I’m particularly pleased with the shade of red plastic used and the tampo markings look great. Some diehards may bitch that the tail fins aren’t red, but a little divergence in the deco like that doesn’t bother me at all.

And with a sigh of relief, I can say that I’m very pleased with Phantom’s presentation and his jet mode. The quality is excellent and everything looks great. Tomorrow, I’ll check back in and we’ll look at his transformation as well as his robot mode.