the Gherkimporium

From the first moment I saw Age of Extinction Rollbar, I knew I had to have him.  Thing is, despite leaked product listings promising us a “TRA MV4 GEN DLX RALLY CAR A8114”, Rollbar currently looks to only be available in a Toys R Us exclusive Platinum Edition ‘Farmageddon’ pack. If that ever even hits UK stores, it’s going to be hilariously expensive.  What I’m saying is thanks, eBay!

Rollbar is a lavish repaint of Skids.  And how!  Take a look at those vehicle mode photos and realise that the car body is entirely cast in white plastic.  The purple gradient towards the rear is all paint apps.  Then you’ve a different, slightly flecked purple paint for the bonnet and a stripe up the middle of the car, AND painted wheeltrims to match the car’s layout!  It is a very very pretty car mode.

Rollbar also posits a perfect world in which there was an awesome Chevy Sonic Transformer in Age of Extinction, rather than it being the non-sentient rally car of Whatsisface Dontcareanymore.  Rollbar’s robot mode reveals a regular plethora of additional shades.  His black torso contrasts the his white car parts; his legs and weaponry are in a deep blackcurrant, and his biceps and inner hinges are grape flavour.  His robot mode displays four different shades of purple - but they’re all complementary and they all work together.  His shoulder missiles are all a solid red, but they tie in to the breaklights still visible on his shins.

Folk wisdom has revealed that Rollbar was due to have Crosscut’s head. I worried at first that without the new head, he wouldn’t be distinct enough from Skids; however, the purple skull cap really adds a depth to this head mold, emphasising the elevation of the helmet’s two side panels and comparatively stark white mohawk.  On top of that, the face, while appearing silver, is damn near a pearl colour.  It’s a fantastic looking toy.

If elaborately decorated (five plastic colours and a staggering eight different application colours) toys of literal nobodies are your cup of tea, I can happily confirm that one third of “Breakout Battle” is well worth the admission price.


The child on the bed in the barn is not called Theta Sigma.

Theta Sigma was the Doctor’s nickname at the academy.

The child had clearly not started going to the academy yet.  That was unambiguously confirmed in dialogue.

The child is not called Theta Sigma.

Created using this by Frankell Baramdyka, this by Josh Nizzi, and this by Jamie Christopherson.  Based on this.


Created using this by Frankell Baramdyka, this by Josh Nizzi, and this by Jamie Christopherson.  Based on this.

what's the weirdest thing you were ever hired for?


I’ll copy/paste from an old blog post.

A few months ago (2010) I received an e-mail asking me if I could draw hentai for school children. I almost didn’t reply because that sounded too much like a hoax. But the e-mail came from an ad agency and it seemed legit. I had nothing to lose by seeing where this would go so I said I was interested. If anything, I would’ve liked to be embroiled in a scandal with demagogue pundits screaming will someone think of the children!

Next the ad agency wanted me to quote a price but couldn’t tell me exactly what the illustration was. It wasn’t their fault, the client wouldn’t tell the agency what it was, except they wanted two androgynous hentai characters. And the price needed to be final. So I overcharged a bit what I thought it could be worth, just to make sure I wouldn’t end up actually undercharging if the work happened to be more than I expected. I didn’t like doing that, but it’s not my fault the client isn’t giving me a full description of what he wants. But in the end, it turns out I charged just the right price considering the work demanded.

Two weeks pass and I don’t hear from the ad agency. I figure they found someone cheaper. I forgot about it but then the ad agency asks for my port folio. Now I got a problem. They want hentai for school children? Really?? Do they know what hentai is? Do they think hentai is a synonim for anime or manga? I don’t want to e-mail a picture of a facial cumshot and freak out the designer. So I e-mail her and ask her if she knows the difference between hentai and anime. You know hentai is porn, right? She asks me to phone her… Getting through the agency’s phone system, now I know this is legit. I talk to the designer. She explains she knows exactly what hentai is and she asked the same question to the client. She told the client that hentai is porn. The client answers, “you’re generalizing”. Uh, no she’s not. Ok, hentai means perverted and it can be something as trivial as a panty shot. But still, hentai is exploitation, it’s a type of porn.

The client’s previous ad campaign didn’t reach kids as much as they wanted. They used childish kids cartoon and nobody cared. So they want something that’s anime, but not childish. They don’t want something like Pokémon. So something more like those Bishounen and shojo or whatever it’s called (too lazy to check Wikipedia). But that’s not hentai. But why do they need to be androgynous? Like yaoi?? And did I hear something about oral sex hygiene??? I’m very confused but at least I know this is serious.

I send a non-porn port folio or my most “anime looking” illustrations. Turns out the client like the one that looks the least like anime… *sigh* But I’m approved and I can start working on the project. I’ve made an animation Gif of the whole (slow and long; you know, bureaucrats) process.

Turns out the client is the Health Ministry. It’s not about oral sex, it’s about preventing bad breath by brushing your tongue. But why are they androgynous?? I guess a boy and a girl can’t be in the same bathroom. And that was the hard part. It’s easy to draw a tomboy or an effeminate man. Or a butch or an obvious trap. But drawing someone you really can’t tell, that’s hard. I’m not sure I’ve succeeded either.

Anyway, I’ve received my paycheck today and the mirror the illustration was printed on was in the envelope. There’s a magnet behind so kids can stick it on their locker’s door. Sorry kids, maybe you’ll get some real government hentai someday.

When you have a lot of toys, sometimes it takes you a while to find some really good combinations.

I was writing a piece about these two so I put them together on my desk, and the contrast between them - and the height and physique differences in particular - is really striking and very characteristic too.  Gruff, imposing Megatron versus shorter, nerdier Orion Pax.  I like it.

They’re going to be squaring off on my shelves for a while.

The Winsome Wasp!

Actual development process:

Fun Pub: [in the BotCon 2012 brochure] This amazing six figure Transformers: Invasion box set features: Heroic Treadshot…

Fans: Oh, like a Warpath repaint, made to resemble G1 Treadshot?  That sounds amazing!

Fun Pub: Crap

What we get is slavishly accurate to the original colour layouts of Treadshot while also working to flip Warpath’s colour scheme (predominantly red, with some grey and very little black) on its head.  He’s pretty slick.

He also comes with his little pal, Catgut, who is an orange and black Arms Micron that can turn into whatever your imagination limits it to.

Have we run of of Decepticon Action Masters to remake yet?


I took my little brother (who falls on the autism spectrum) to see Guardians of the Galaxy and after this scene he lit up like a Christmas tree and screamed “He’s like me! He can’t do metaphors!” And for the rest of the film my brother stared at Drax in a state of rapture. 

So for the last 6 days I have heard my brother repeatedly quote all of the Drax lines from the movie verbatim (one of his talents), begin studying vocabulary test words, and tell everyone he knows that people with autism can also be superheroes.

Now I am not saying that Drax the Destroyer is, or was ever, intended to be autistic. All I am saying is that it warmed my heart to see my brother have an opportunity to identify himself with a character known for his strength, badassness, and honor. And that is pretty damn awesome. 

So while I adored Guardians of the Galaxy as a great fun loving film with cool characters I can do nothing but thank Marvel Studios and Dave Bautista for finally bringing a superhero to the screen that my little brother can relate to.

And Crosscut rounds out our quartet!  He’s cast in a nice pearlescent silver, and the front of his car mode looks like a baby koala.  It’s endlessly amusing.

Like Skids, Crosscut turns into a stocky, well-armed robot with slight restrictions in shoulder articulation.  Unlike Skids, his hips are actually assembled correctly.  His only new retooled part is a new head that is very Optimus-esque, from the faceplate to the ears to the forehead crest.  His red paint apps are shiny, evocative of chromed parts.  He’s very decadent-looking.

I might be wrong, but I think Crosscut is the first ehobby original character outside of Sunstorm to reach non-exclusive mass retail. (EDIT: Sunder came first.) So on the one hand, while he is basically a nobody as a character, you can pay like $15 for a better-engineered version of a toy that usually goes for about six times that much.

Shattered Glass Tracks sold separately.