Monday, November 3, 2014

Droids! Droids! Droids!

I recently started collecting Astromech droids. I've never been a giant Star Wars fan. Sure, I loved it growing up, but I never really got into the fandom aspect if that made sense. Most of the EU stuff didn't grab me, and, while I didn't hate the prequels like some, they failed to recapture the magic of the original trilogy for me.

Clone Wars droids
So what changed? I started watching The Clone Wars. Excellent, excellent show. It does a great job of conveying that the Clone Wars was really a protracted series of nuanced conflicts. And me, being a toy guy, started looking at Star Wars toys for the first time in a long time. But what to get? There are just too many Star Wars toys out there to have any hope of getting them all. Do I do just main characters? Do I get vehicles? Maybe just one scene, like a giant Hoth diorama?

Droid accessories
And then I remembered my favorite character, R2-D2, and saw all of the neat versions of his brothers and sisters out there. And there were a lot of them. I did my homework, found groups like The Astromech Collection, and neat checklists like Astromech Arithmetic. This made me realize that even here I needed some rules. Rule 1: one of each character. Since some droids don't have any official designation, to me a character is a unique dome and a unique body. The unique body could just be a simple shading variation, but I tried to avoid having two identical guys. This has resulted in a very small number of named droids I've skipped, like R5-D8 (functionally identical to R5-D4) and CB-3D (very similar to several other red on white R2 type droids.)

Disney Droid Factory domes
I seeded the collection with the complete Disney Droid Factory set. There are multiple ways one could do this, but I got a complete set of all 25 unique domes and appropriate bodies to go with them. Given that I wanted all unique bodies, this necessitated some limb swapping. But some of the colors just weren't working. There were 3 purple domes but only one purple body and one pair of purple legs. Red and green had two bodies and two legs each, so I could swap around to keep things looking different. Blue had three bodies and two pairs of legs, so even more flexibility there. So, where could I turn? Build-A-Droid, that's where.

Build-A-Droid swaps
I quickly decided to make an exception to my Only-One-Of-Each-Character rule. I fell in love with the concept of the modular droids that are the Build-A-Droid (BAD) toys. So, if there was a BAD and a non-BAD version of a character, I got each. The non-BAD became my canon version. The BAD got mixed and matched with my other BAD guys. Fortunately every dome was at least a little different, sometimes very different. This helped me solve my problem of awkward colors (orange legs on purple bodies... ugh!) to my aesthetic standards. I also cobbled together a body for Yoda's droid this way. (Yoda's starfighter came with a dome but no body. I used white with black highlight legs from the Disney Droid Factory and the torso from the BAD version of R3-A2.)

And it all snowballed from there. Here are some shots of my various droids, for your viewing pleasure and mine.

R2 Units!

Lots o' R2 Units in there. There are a few where there are two droids of the same name, but in each case the color scheme is different enough to make them completely separate in my mind (and, of course, require a new designation.) There are a green and a black R2-X2 (green one becomes R2-X3 for me) and the completely silver R2-D2 (now R2-S5).

R3 transparent domes.
R3 are probably my least favorite of the canon droids. I like the idea of the clear dome, but the toy execution generally leaves a bit to be desired. I generally like the BAD versions better than the non-BAD versions. Much of that is the sculpt, but some comes down to the color schemes. 

R4 units - the coneheads!
R4 Units are pretty nifty. Gotta love the coneheads. I really like the execution on these guys. R4-J1, R4-A22, and the green (as opposed to teal) R4-M9 are probably my favoities. (R4-M9 is another droid where there are two with the same name but completely different color schemes.) I think my Disney Factory blue R4 unit (R4-K2 in my personal canon) came out rather nicely. If I were to ever attempt to build a full-sized Astromech, I suspect I'd wind up going with a droid of this type.

R5 units! Many of them have bad motivators. That actually gets to a stylistic choice I've noticed about the Star Wars Expanded Universe that kind of bugs me. There will be one aspect of a character or planet that we see in the films, and then in the EU we find out that this is basically all they're known for. While I was researching my astromechs, I found that R5 units are known for being shoddy and unreliable. Because the only one we saw really do anything was R5-D4, which blew a motivator after Uncle Owen tried to buy him. But that doesn't quite work for me, because we see them all over the place. Imperials use them, rebels use them... if they were so bad, why wouldn't folks use something else?

And now the expanded universe.  Here are the R6s in front, R8s in the middle, and R9s in the back. All came from the Disney Droid Factory, though I did swap in a few legs for variety here and there. The R6 units are my favorite. I can easily see them roaming around an Imperial ship (especially the black one), or aiding a rebel pilot in his duties. 

The R7 droids are probably my least favorite. I don't care for the triangle lenses, and the redesigned body is not my favorite. The two with rockets were BAD versions packaged with other toys. (This body style was used for the R8 bodies as well, though by R9s they've returned to the more traditional body.) 

And, a few more, sorted by color for your chromatic pleasure. Observe how, though some guys are fairly similar, no two are identical.

It ain't easy being green
Seeing red

I see a new droid and I want to paint him black!

Hope you enjoy my 87 Astromech droids!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

LEGACY!

Well, we ran into a few delays on the backend and didn't make out initial target of late May / early June. But, Legacy is out, and it's beautiful! It wound up clocking in at just under 300 pages. Also, at the last minute we had to pull out much of the material we'd gathered on the artists. Still, overall the production value on this is just amazing.

But don't take my word for it! TFormers did an excellent review, thorough and hit all the important beats:
http://tformers.com/reviews.php?op=showcontent&id=1543
Highlight: " I spent an hour on my first browsing of Legacy, and was surprised again and again by the amazing things I found contained within. Whatever expectations I had for this were completely surpassed by the final product."

Here's what Ruel of the Philipeans had to say: http://officialtransformersph.blogspot.com/2014/10/the-total-package-transformers-legacy.html
Highlight:  "I waited all year for this book—and it did not disappoint. Go get it."

Here's a video review that goes through each and every page!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e06hAVthwR4


Some folks are already using this book to pick up autographs. I think that's a great idea!



Needless Essentials did a great review too: http://needlessessentialsonline.com/transformers-legacy-art-book-review/
Highlight: "Transformers Legacy claims to be an art book that collects hundreds of airbrushed paintings from the first decade of the Transformers line. If it wasn’t coming from IDW, Jim Sorenson & Bill Forster, I believe I’d be a little skeptical as I’ve heard similar claims from other authors/companies and got burned before. But this book comes from the same guys who made the GI Joe Field Manuals so I preordered this behemoth way back in February……I’ll cut to the chase right now, it was totally worth it!"

Yet another video review, much more concise. I love the enthusiasm here:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8BioNyOArx8

Paul Hitchens of The Spacebridge uploaded a shot of the book next to some of the original art from the book! Nifty. 

Battlegrip.com wrote up a cool review: http://www.battlegrip.com/?p=63536
Highlight: "This is likely to be the best Transformers artbook I ever find."

A third video review: 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfOX8ULBHK0

Auto Assembly's Billy Edwards posted this on their official site: http://autoassembly.tumblr.com/post/100768008850/longtime-auto-assembly-friends-jim-sorenson-and 
Highlight: "Easily one of my favourite purchases of the last 5 years."

Geekcastradio did a (text) review as well:
http://www.geekcastradio.com/misc/books/review-transformers-legacy-art-transformers-packaging
Highlight: "I have as of this moment become a kid again. "

I'm sure there are more that I've missed, but basically I'm over the moon at the reception this book is getting. Sorry to be away so long, but I've got a one-year-old at home and I'm the primary caregiver so that's going to be the reality for the foreseeable future. 

If you don't have Legacy yet, pick yourself up a copy.

Next up from me: The Complete AllSpark Almanac! When I know what's in it, you'll know what's in it!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

The 2014 Con season!

News has just broken that I'll be attending Auto Assembly 2014! I figured now is as good a time as any to clue in readers as to my 2014 dance card.

I just got back from Trans 4 Market, a Japanese convention dedicated to IDW comics and Dōjinshi, Japanese fan-made comics. We had a terrific crowd, and it was very gratifying and humbling to me to encounter the kindness and enthusiasm of so many Japanese fans for the first time. Livio Ramondelli and Andrew Griffith were there as well, and we all had an amazing time. I posted literally hundreds of photos from this trip on my facebook account, so if you're not already following me there, I recommend that you do. (Plus you'll get inundated with pictures of James Magnus, currently a 6.5 month old cutie.)



Next up, we've got a store signing at Emerald Knights. Wednesday, June 18th, at 7:00 PM in Burbank. We'll be signing whatever you bring us, naturally, but the focus for me is going to be Legacy (assuming it's out) and The Art of Prime.  My intrepid partner (see what I did there? Because he used to... nevermind.) Bill Forster will be there, as will the senior artists on the Prime show.


Christophe Vacher - VFX Director
David Hartman - Supervising Director/Art Director
Vince Toyama - Production Design
Jose Lopez - Art Director/Characters&Props

Also joining us will be artists Livio Ramondeli and Ken Christiansen, and voice actors Josh Keaton & Kevin Michael Richardson. Our last few signings there were great, lots of folks showed up but we still had time for lots of one-on-one time with the fans.



And just a couple of days later I'll be at BotCon. Bill and I may be sharing a table, or I may just be walking around. Either way, not TOO many folks will be sporting a cowboy hat, so if you're in town and want to say hi or get some books signed just keep an eye out. I'll be in most panel rooms for at least part of the time grabbing some photos for my annual BotCon Retrospective for the Collectors' Club. It'll be in Pasadena, June 19-22, and it's shaping up to be a fantastic year. DevCon alone is proabably worth the price of admission. The guests will be far too numerous to list, so instead I'll say that if you're on the fence about going, just take the plunge. You won't regret it.



Which brings us, at long last, back to Auto Assembly! I've attended, what, three of these cons in the past and I always have a blast. The show is good, but the after-hours scene just can't be beat. It's so relaxed, casual, fun, good energy, good beverages, just an overall great time. Everyone is welcome, everyone is friendly, and you WILL walk away from this show with new friends. I'm thrilled that I'm able to attend again this year and hope to see all my friends and fans in the United Kingdom.

That's it for the foreseeable future. It's hard to get away with wee baby James, but I hope to see many of you in the next few months.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Cortex Battlestar Galactica Stats--Pegasus edition!

Here I am, 5 months and change into parenthood and it certainly is exhausting. My blogging has certainly taken a hit, though I'm going to try to keep a full convention season dance card this year. I'm also attempting to keep up with my tabletop RPGs as a way to hold onto my sanity.

In our BSG RPG, we're playing in an alternate universe take on the events in the series. We've got a PC ship commander and CAG unique to the game, along with some PC pilots, marines, police, and politicians. We're towards the end of season one in the show and have just been found by Pegasus. To facilitate things, I whipped up stats for the Pegasus command crew. I figured that, if anyone else out there is running a BSG campaign, they might find the work useful as well. I'm also sharing our GM's stats for the ship itself.



Admiral Helena Cain, Pegasus CO
Concept: tough-as-nails Admiral forced by circumstances to make incredibly hard choices. 


Attributes:
Agility: d6                 Strength: d6              Vitality: d8
Alertness: d12          Intelligence: d10     Willpower: d12

Life Points: 20      Initiative: d12+d6          Endurance: d8+d12          Resistance: 2d8

Height: 5'9            Weight: 142 lbs          Hair: Black          Eyes: Brown          Age: 46 

Assets:
Cool Under Fire: d6
Formidable Presence: d4
So Say We Alld6
Political Pulld6
Talented (Tactics, Bureaucracy): d4

Complications:
Toes the Line: d4
Sadistic: d4
Out for Blood: d4
Duty (Military Oath): d10

Skills:
Athletics: d6
Covert: d4
Discipline: d6
    Leadership: d10
    Intimidation: d8
Guns: d4
Influence: d6
    Administration: d8
    Bureaucracy: d10
    Politics: d8
Knowledge: d6
    Culture: d8
Perception: d6
    Tactics: d10
Pilot: d6
     Viper: d8
Survival: d4
Unarmed Combat: d4





Colonel Jack Fisk, Pegasus XO

Concept: an officer in an untenable position, trying to find the strength to carry on.


Attributes:
Agility: d6               Strength: d8                Vitality: d10
Alertness: d8          Intelligence: d8          Willpower: d8

Life Points: 18          Initiative: d6+d8          Endurance: d8+d10          Resistance: 2d10

Height: 6'1            Weight: 210          Hair: Blonde          Eyes: Blue          Age: 49 

Assets:
Good Natured: d4
Pack Rat: d4

Complications:
Lustful: d4

Skills:
Athletics: d4
Covert: d4
Discipline: d6
    Morale: d8
    Intimidation: d8
Guns: d4
Influence: d6
    Leadership: d8
    Administration: d8
Knowledge: d6
Mechanical Engineering: d2
Perception: d6
Pilot: d6
Planetary Vehicles: d2
Survival: d2
Technical Engineering: d4
Unarmed Combatd2




Major Barry Garner, Pegasus Chief Engineer

Concept: a man more comfortable with machines than with people.

Attributes:
Agility: d6               Strength: d8                  Vitality: d8
Alertness: d8          Intelligence: d10          Willpower: d8

Life Points: 16          Initiative: d6+d8          Endurance: 2d8          Resistance: 2d8

Height: 5'9            Weight: 180          Hair: Sandy            Eyes: Brown          Age: 56 
  
Assets:
Mechanically Inclined: d10


Complications:
People are Complicated!: d4
Slow Mover: d2
               
Skills:
Artistry: d4
Athletics: d2
Craft: d4
Discipline: d6
    Leadership: d8
Guns: d2
Influence:  d4
Knowledge: d6
Mechanical Engineering: d6
    mechanical repairs: d10
    plumbing: d8 
Perception: d4
Planetary Vehicles: d4
Scientific Expertise: d4
Technical Engineering: d6
    Electronics: d8
    Repair Electrical: d10
Unarmed Combat: d2





Captain Cole "Stinger" Taylor, Pegasus CAG

Concept: a newly promoted CAG from the ranks of the survivors of the attack on the relay station, more brains than brawn, overcompensating for being a little out of his depth.


Attributes:
Agility: d8               Strength: d6                    Vitality: d6
Alertness: d10          Intelligence: d10          Willpower: d8

Life Points: 14          Initiative: d10+d8          Endurance: d8 + d6          Resistance: 2d6

Height: 5'11          Weight: 175          Hair: Brown           Eyes: Brown          Age: 31 
  
Assets:
Talented ECO: d4
Photographic Memory: d2

Complications:
Humorless: d2
  
Skills:
Athleticsd4
Disciplined6
    Leadershipd8
Gunsd4
Influenced4
Knowledged6
Mechanical Engineeringd4
Perceptiond6
Pilotd6
    Raptorsd8
Survivald4
Technical Engineeringd6
    DRADISd10
    Astrogation: d8
    ECMd10
Unarmed Combatd4




Captain Kendra Shaw, Pegasus Tactical Officer and Cain's Strong Right Arm

Concept: well connected young officer who rises to the occasion to become a Razor.

Attributes:
Agilityd6               Strengthd6               Vitalityd6
Alertnessd8          Intelligenced8          Willpowerd8

Life Points: 14          Initiative: d6+d8          Endurance: d6+d8          Resistance: 2d8

Height: 5'5            Weight: 128          Hair: Black             Eyes: Black          Age: 26

Assets:
Political Pulld6
Cool Under Fired4

Complications:
Addiction (stims)d4
Duty (Colonial Fleet)d6

Skills:
Athletics d4
Covertd4
Disciplined6
Gunsd4
Influenced6
Knowledged6
    Classicsd8
Mechanical Engineeringd4
Perceptiond6
Scientific Expertised4
Survivald4
Technical Engineeringd6
    Computer Programmingd8
    Communicationsd8
Unarmed Combatd2





Lieutenant Alistair Thorne, Commander of Pegasus Marines

Concept: enlistedman turned officer, tough as nails and willing to do whatever it takes to keep his crewmates safe.

Attributes:
Agility: d6                   Strengthd8                Vitalityd8
Alertnessd10          Intelligenced8          Willpowerd8

Life Points: 16          Initiative: d6+d10          Endurance: 2d8          Resistance: 2d8

Height: 5'9            Weight: 195          Hair: balding         Eyes: Blue          Age: 41

Assets:
Brawlerd4  
Cool Under Fired6
Renowned (Pegasus Crew): d2

Complications:
Toes the Lined4
Sadistd4

Skills:
Athleticsd6
Covertd4
Disciplined6
    Interrogationd10
    Intimidation: d8
    Leadershipd8
Gunsd6
    Riflesd8
Heavy Weaponsd4
Influenced4
Knowledged4
Melee Weapons: d4
Perceptiond6
Planetary Vehiclesd4
Survivald4
Unarmed Combatd6




Lieutenant Noel "Narcho" Allison, Pegasus Top Gun

Concept: talented and good natured glory hound.


Attributes:
Agility     d10             Strength     d6               Vitality     d6
Alertness     d8          Intelligence     d6          Willpower     d6

Life Points: 12          Initiative: d10+d8          Endurance: 2d6          Resistance: 2d6

Height: 5'10          Weight: 167          Hair: Brown           Eyes: Blue          Age: 26
  
Assets:
Sixth Sensed6
Dogfighterd4

Complications:
Glory Houndd4
Phobia (spiders)d4
Anger Issuesd2          
  
Skills:
Athleticsd4
Disciplined4
Gunsd4
Influenced6
    Leadershipd8
    Seductiond8
Knowledged4
Mechanical Engineeringd2
Perceptiond6
Pilotd6
    Viperd10
    Raptord8
Planetary Vehiclesd2
Survivald2
Technical Engineeringd6
    DRADISd8
Unarmed Combatd4





Lieutenant Louis Hoshi, Pegasus Communications Officer

Concept: idealistic young officer doing his best under tough circumstances


Attributes:
Agilityd6               Strengthd6                  Vitalityd6
Alertnessd8          Intelligenced10          Willpowerd6

Life Points: 12          Initiative: d6+d8          Endurance: 2d6          Resistance: 2d6

Height: 5'10          Weight: 155          Hair: Brown           Eyes: Brown          Age: 26

Assets:
Sharp Senses (Hearing)d2
Advanced Educationd2

Complications:
Idealistd2
Trustingd2
               
Skills:
Athleticsd4
Disciplined6
Gunsd4
Influenced4
Knowledged6
    Sportsd8
Mechanical Engineeringd2
Medical Expertised4
Perceptiond6
    Gamblingd8
    Tacticsd8
Planetary Vehiclesd2
Scientific Expertised4
Survivald2
Technical Engineeringd6
      Communicationsd10
Unarmed Combatd2





Chief Petty Officer Peter Laird, Pegasus Deck Chief

Concept: civilian aeronautical engineer impressed into military service

Attributes:
Agilityd8               Strengthd6                  Vitalityd6
Alertnessd8          Intelligenced10          Willpowerd10

Life Points: 16          Initiative: 2d8          Endurance: d10+d6          Resistance: 2d6

Height: 5'8            Weight: 145          Hair: Blonde          Eyes: Blue          Age: 48

Assets:
Mathematiciand4
Advanced Educationd4
Mechanically Inclined:  d4

Complications:
Out of Luckd4
Fish out of Waterd2
Contrariand2
   
Skills:
Artistryd6
     Draftingd8
Craft: d6
Disciplined2
Influenced6
     Leadershipd8
Knowledge: d6
Mechanical Engineeringd6
     Ship Designd12
     Mechanical Repairsd8 
Perceptiond4
Planetary Vehiclesd4
Scientific Expertised6
Technical Engineeringd6
      Create Devices: d8
      Repair Electricald8



      
BSG-62 Pegasus
Concept: top-of-the-line Mercury-class Battlestar


HULL DATA: 
Ship Type: Battlestar Scale: Spacecraft 
Length: 5872’ Beam: 2187’ Draught: 1131’ Decks: 35 
Crew: 2500 Passengers: 10,000 max 

ATTRIBUTES: 
Agility: d4 Strength: d12+d4 Vitality: d8 
Alertness: d10 Intelligence: d10 Willpower: d10 

Initiative: d4+d10 Speed: 0 [SL] 
Life Points: 28 Armor: 6W, 4S !

TRAITS: 
Construction Facilities d4, Formidable Presence d6, Tough d4 

SKILLS: 
Heavy Weapons d6, Mechanical Engineering d4, Perception d6, Pilot d6 

ARMAMENT: 
Heavy Point Defense System [d12W, Planetary-scale, skirmish-range] 
34 Heavy Railgun Batteries [d12+d2W, Spacecraft-scale, capital range] 
24 Heavy Missile Launchers  [d12+d4W, Spacecraft-Scale, short DRADIS range] 
12 Nuclear Missiles  [d12+d8W Spacecraft-scale, short DRADIS range] !

AUXILIARY VEHICLES: 
124 Mk VII Vipers, 26 Raptors, 12 Marine Landing Shuttles, 6 standard shuttles, assorted work vehicles