We all know that when the original Transformers series ended here in the United States, Japan continued on with the Generation 1 continuity by releasing Victory, Zone, and Masterforce. These lines have spawned many of the most sought after figures in the collector community, including Raiden, Overlord, Dai Atlas, and Liokaiser. Along with a lot of original molds for these lines, they also included several repaints of existing figures, such as Twincast from Blaster, Soundblaster from Soundwave, and Grand Maximus from the Fort Max mold. Among the ranks of this figures also comes one of the hardest to find figures in Transformers collecting; Black Zarak.
Black Zarak is a repaint of the original Scorponok mold with a few re-molds and additional accessories. While he maintains the same mold for the Headmaster figure, the helmet that encompasses him in robot-mode is drastically different. He also included a large red spear called the "Tyrant Spear". The rest of the accessories are the same as the ones that came with Scorponok, but cast in gold & silver plastic.
Aside from only being released in Japan, one of the things that makes this figure extremely rare, and almost impossible to find complete, is that a lot of the parts were cast in gold plastic. It's not that the figure actually contains any gold in it, but the chemical compound used to make gold-colored plastic is incredibly susceptible to rapid decay, and has spawned the widely used term "Gold Plastic Syndrome" ("GPS" for short). Black Zarak is not the only figure to suffer from this, but given his limited release, it makes him one of the hardest figures to complete. There have been reported cases of collectors opening up a previously factory sealed figure, only to find that the gold plastic had completely decayed inside of the box; quickly taking an item worth thousands, and making worth only a couple of hundred dollars (depending on how much was salvageable). There is no rhyme or reason as to how GPS strikes, only that it does.
When I first started toying with the notion of trying to get one of these figures, my initial thought was that I must be nuts, but I couldn't keep myself from owning one of these highly sought after figures... even if it doesn't last forever. I've owned a couple of other figures that are known for suffering from Gold Plastic syndrome, and have had pretty good luck with them not decaying on me... so why not? Right?! Truthfully if it weren't for the price that he was being offered at, and my current collection purge going on, I wouldn't even have given a thought to owning him. I just happened to stumble across a sales thread on a forum where this guy was listed at (what I thought was) a reasonable price. The figure wasn't complete, it had a couple of issues, but no signs of decay on the gold plastic... and was within a price range that I was tempted to pay. Normally I wouldn't buy a figure this rare that was incomplete, because parts are hard to come by, and expensive when they do turn up, but I've been looking for a "project" figure to work on, and this guy fit the bill. I toyed with the idea for about a week before I finally decided to contact the seller to see if it was still available. The seller quickly responded that it was still available, but he had listed it on eBay literally the day before. Normally it's not an issue to end an auction early if you've arranged a sale through another method, but it already had bids on it. The seller didn't offer to end the listing, and I thought it would be bad form to ask him since there were already bids on it.
I decided to try my luck at the auction, and hope that it didn't exceed the price he had it listed for on the forums by too much. I literally stalked this auction on an hourly basis to see how the bidding was going. There was a little activity on it, but as we all know, there can be a lot of bidding that goes on in the last few minutes of an auction; I've quickly been priced out of an auction in the final minutes on more than one occasion. As it turned out the auction was timed to end on a Sunday, my day off, but I had already made plans to go out to dinner with my sister and brother-in-law. So I had to make sure that I was in an area with good cellular coverage when the auction ended... I was going to have to bid from my phone. I'm not a big fan of bidding from my phone for figures that I'm absolutely dead set on winning, because there have been several times where my phone would freeze, or my service would drop, right at that critical moment when I was trying to place my last-minute bid. Dinner went well (not that that's pertinent), and I'm a bit ashamed to admit it, but I had to abruptly end the after-dinner conversation to make sure I could get my bid in, and go through my pre-sniping rituals (yea right, like you guys don't have a "process" you go through when doing this, pfft).
With no time to get to a computer with a reliable internet connection, I started looking for a place to park so I could get down to business. With a bit of luck there was a Wal-Mart close by, so I handed Mrs. Th0r the credit card, told her to take my daughter in with her, and not to come out for at least 20 minutes. To be honest, that was probably a bigger gamble than losing the auction (just kidding, I love you honey). I had four bars, and enough time alone to make my play... game on! I wrestled with what my maximum bid should be, because I was only going to get one shot at this. I watched intently for more bids, expecting to get priced out in the last few minutes. I settled on an amount that was slightly over what he was initially asking, but I figured if I was in it this deep, I might as well be all the way in. I waited until the last possible minute that I thought I could reliably place my bid, hit confirm, frantically refreshed the listing, and BOOYAHH... I was the only other bidder! Kind of anti-climatic, but the auction ended at just $10 more than the last bid before mine; saving me quite a bit of money.
The figure arrived a couple of days later, during which time all I could imagine was a slew of FedEx workers playing kick-ball with my package, turning it into a pile of gold dust before I even got a chance to enjoy it. Fortunately that was just my imagination running wild; everything arrived safe, and as pictured. After inspecting everything, the first thing I did was take him to my office so I could get the token side-by-side picture with Scorponok. I have to admit that I still haven't worked up the nerve to transform him yet, but being more than familiar with Scorponok's transformations scheme, I'm content to admire him in his robot form... for now.
Overall this is a pretty awesome figure. The black, and gold, color scheme really does a lot for this mold, making it one of the most intimidating figures in my collection. I'd love to recommend that everybody go out and buy one of these guys, but given their rarity, and prohibitive cost, I know that's not exactly possible. However if you do happen to find one of these guys at a price you're comfortable with, I would highly recommend adding him to your collection; it's a statement piece to say the least.