Saturday, November 1, 2008
With the election just around the corner, the Cybertronian people are turning out for what may be the biggest election in eons. To let you know the fair and balanced truth of our Prime candidates, here’s Slamdance and Rook:
SLAMDANCE: Hello, Cybertron and with the election nearing, many Cybertronians are wondering just who should be the lucky candidate for Prime? For the Generation Ones, we have Grimlock. For the Generation Twos, we have Rodimus. Grimlock supports a strong military to protect the citizens of Cybertron from Decepticon insurgents as well as mining for more Energon as well as looking into alternative fuel sources, such as Nucleon. Rodimus supports socialism.
ROOK: That’s a hardly fair. Rodimus supports many issues that resonates with the population. He’s not only for alternative fuel sources but his main concern is to bolster our economy, as we teeter on a recession. We were so close to entering a new Golden Age but the current Optimus administration totally bungled our fuel sources along with our economy with his meaningless war.
SLAMDANCE: The war was not the fault of the Optimus Administration, but that of the Sentinel Administration.
ROOK: Oh, you First Gens like to believe that.
SLAMDANCE: It’s true, had Sentinel Prime been strong to actually stand up to these Decepticons when they were a lesser threat, we could have avoided a long drawn out war. Optimus didn’t start the war. They did. He just finished it.
ROOK: But he didn’t finish it. The Decepticons are still around, and now there’s a multitude of smaller factions rising up in the vacuum of the Decepticons. Sweep uprising, Quintesson terrorism, and let’s not forget that there’s the Predacons right over there, that while we’re running around chasing fictional boogey bots who might want to drop a Hate Plague on us, their economy is booming an we’re heading toward the largest transfer of power in Cybertronian history. That’s why Rodimus is the right choice for change. Grimlock is just another Optimus Prime. We just cannot afford another four million more years.
SLAMDANCE: Grimlock is nothing like Optimus Prime. They’ve opposed each other on several key accords.
ROOK: But he still sided with Optimus, 90% of the time.
SLAMDANCE: Because he was working toward a same goal, a safer and more secure Cybertron. While he disagreed with many of Optimus’ policies, that is one goal that they both shared. A desire for a safe ad peaceful planet. Something I’m not too sure Rodimus feels the same about. Rodimus may one day be a great leader, but right now, he’s too young and inexperienced. He doesn’t have the credentials that Grimlock has.
ROOK: Grimlock is a dinosaur. He’s too old and out of touch with today’s Cybertronian. Right now, the average blue chassied Cybertronian worker is feeling the Energon crunch. Grimlock, like Optimus, wants to give Energon breaks to the larger Gestalts and Citybots, leaving your average Joe Six-Cylinder out in the cold, struggling just to get new tires on their wheels. Rodimus wants to distribute the Energon evenly, allowing everyone to have an opportunity for greatness, as opposed to the select few. And as far as his lack of experience goes, you certainly can’t say that about Rodimus’ running mate, Ultra Magnus. He was even appointed by Prime for a while to be his replacement. That’s a lot more of a credential than Grimlock has, much less his running mate Moonracer. I mean, I speak for the rest of Cybertron when I say “Who?”
SLAMDANCE: Moonracer has been around a lot longer than Rodimus, and has much more experience. She was part of the resistance movement against Shockwave during the Great War and served under Elita-1. She’s served as a strong leader and role model and said no to the Space Bridge to nowhere. And at the very lease, she sees eye to eye with Grimlock on the issues. Ultra Magnus is the exact opposite of Rodimus’ claims. He’s been preaching “change” since he started his campaign, but Magnus, who’s been around since before we both came online is the exact OPPOSITE of change! He’s the living contradiction for his entire campaign. He’s had the opportunity to step up to plate and swing for leadership multiple times, and he’s always bunted the ball. How is this supposed to be any different?
ROOK: Well with Magnus, Rodimus has a spokesman that can speak to the people. Together they czn make true change for Cybertron and make it quickly.
SLAMDANCE: Just because Rodimus is faster, doesn’t make him better.
ROOK: Why is it whenever you First Gens always bring up the race issue? Yes, Rodimus turns into a race car and he’s not a slow lumbering lizard or semi truck. That doesn’t mean he’s incapable of the job.
SLAMDANCE: I never said-
ROOK: You First Gens always want to remain stuck in the past and never move forward, but you have to. We’re not immovable die cast bricks anymore. Embrace the change.
SLAMDANCE: Is that your answer for every time you Second Gens start to lose an argument? To play the racing card? Fine, we’ll go that route. Rodimus has had a few too many questionable acquaintances over the years. Pacifistic Anti-Cybertronians, like the Paradrons. Friendships with unrepentant Decepticons like Blitzwing. And let us not forget how a keen-eyed future leader like Rodimus can be mentored by Kup for so long and supposedly miss all that he said? His “record breaking funding’ for his campaign seems to have questionable sources, like Nebulon and the Matrix Templars. And I won’t even bring up his religious beliefs, where he claims to be the chosen one.
ROOK: Shall we go into Grimlock’s associations with the Dynobot 5? The simple fact is that we need change for Cybertron and Grimlock wants to put us back in the past as opposed to moving us toward the future where we need to be, which is what Rodimus wants to do.
SLAMDANCE: That’s most certainly debatable, but we are out of time. Thank you for joining us tonight. Join us again next time as we talk with Former Optimus Aide, Prowl and his thoughts on Grimlock.
ROOK: Good night folks. Vote early and vote often!
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Yes, the dead of Cybertron have risen many times. The reanimated form of Optimus Prime returned in the creepiest G1 episode, "Dark Awakening". Starscream and Wreckers leader Impactor shambled about in the UK comics. While not technically a zombie, the fused form of Ratchet and Megatron from Marvel's Transformers #70 was certainly one of the most disturbing images from that series.
Starscream. Who ever thought that the most back-stabbing and weasely Transformer of all time would have an immortal spark? After his death in "Transformers the Movie", Starscream returned to haunt the world of the living in the G1 episode "Starscream's Ghost" and his immortality would be carried on through to Beast Wars, Energon and Transformers Animated.
Everyone hates spiders, especially giant, maniacal, mechanical spiders. Tarantulas was especially creepy as a force to be reckoned with during the Beast Wars.
Blackarachnia started out as a female copy of Tarantulas, but quickly emerged from his shadow to become one of the most popular Transformers of the modern era. Blackarachnia has always walked the line between good and evil and continues to do so in Transformers Animated.
The Frankenstein-like Autobot X was created from spare parts by Sparkplug Witwicky. When Sparkplug's son, Spike, is critically injured, mad scientist Wheeljack tranfers Spike's mind into the hulking monstrosity, and the fun begins! Autobot X's first and only appearance was in the "classic" G1 episode "Autobot Spike". Autobot X even watched the movie "Frankenstein" during the episode. I guess the writers wanted to make sure the kiddies who were watching understood the analogy.
In the G1 episode "The Dweller in the Depths" we got to meet the Quintessons' early experiments, the Trans-Organics. The most powerful of these creatures was the Dweller, an energy leech who created "energy vampires" out of his victims. There certainly were quite a few horror movie type episodes in that crazy third season.
The character(s) Savage/Noble was a pretty unique addition to Beast Machines series. The werewolf-like Noble, who would transform into the dragon called Savage, was actually Megatron. Megatron's attempt to rid himself of his organic side (from Beast Wars) resulted in this strange creature. After Megatron's spark was freed from this form, the Noble creature still somehow lived, but was later killed while fighting Megatron.
Some of my favorite G1 toys were the Terrorcons...Hun-Gurrr, Rippersnapper, Cutthroat, Sinnertwin and Blot...who could combine into the monstrous Abominus. I think the Terrorcons can be considered dragons, although Blot's creature form defies explanation.
Of course the most famous Transformer dragon would have to be Transmetal 2 Megatron. After merging with the spark of his G1 namesake, and then taking a bath in hot lava, this new and improved Beast Wars Megatron eventually went on to conquer Cybertron.
Who can forget the Pretenders? (Yes, I know some of you want to.) The Decepticon Pretenders did have some pretty good monster shells, though. The first three were Skullgrin, a bone-faced minotaur; Bomb-Burst, a giant vampire bat creature; and Submarauder, an undersea gillman. Although they never appeared in the US cartoons, all three played a major role in the Japanese Masterforce series as Dauros, Blood and Gilmer respectively.
Another Decepticon Pretender of note is Bludgeon, master of Metallikato, a Cybertronian martial art. After a fine showing in the Marvel G1 comic, the skeleton-faced Bludgeon became a fan favorite.
Although my colleague Deinonychus recently covered the best Transformers dinosaurs, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the big daddy of them all, Trypticon. Able to give Godzilla himself a run for his money, Trypticon can not only crush a city, but transform into one as well.
That's the end! Remember, always trick-or-treat with a buddy, wear reflective clothing at night, and only eat wrapped candy. Oh, and if you're being chased by monsters, never, ever run into that old, abandoned house at the end of the street. That never works.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Hasbro created a new size class during the Cybertron run. The Legends class were down-sized versions of larger toys, about the same size as the old G1 Minibots. I had a few and thought they were cool, but I never expected Hasbro to invest in the Legends size class in the long run. I was wrong.
Some Cybertron Legends were cleverly repainted into G1 characters as the Classics series was released. When the Transformers movie toys hit, almost every movie character was released in a Legends size class. I started buying more and more, and now I'm a Legends completist. Though most of the toys lack the articulation of their bigger cousins, they're actually pretty neat little toys. Plus, the price is right in this ever increasing poor economy with Legends costing anywhere between $3 and $5. As with any other size class, Hasbro is utilizing repaints to fill out the line, but so far they've been well done.
Now into Universe/Classics 2.0 we're getting a plethora of both repaints and brand new molds in the Legends class. Hasbro seems to be on track to release all the major G1 Minibots as Legends with Brawn, Bumblebee, Beachcomber, Cosmos, Wheelie and Warpath all scheduled for new mold releases. Transformers Animated fans can look forward to Optimus Prime, Starscream, Bumblebee and Prowl. Articulation is also being stepped up as the new molds for G1 Jazz and Hound and G2 Megatron have a lot of poseability for such small toys.
Repaints aren't done yet, either. Two boxed sets are going to hit soon as Target stores exclusives. Both the "Aerial Rivals" set and the "Team Leaders" set repaint Cybertron Legends molds into even more G1 characters.
If you're a Transformer fan who lacks a lot of display room and is on a budget, take a look at Legends. A variety of characters and styles across several generations and an easy to handle price point make this size class very attractive. I currently have 47 Legends toys, a far cry from the thousands I used to own, but a collection that's very satisfying in its' own right.
Saturday, October 18, 2008
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Just about every aspect of Generation 1 has been dissected, reused, and scrutinized to the point that there seem to be very few obscure corners left in the venerable old toyline. But some aspects seem to slip through the cracks, falling victim to the flashier and more nostalgic parts. One of these shadowed corners of G1 has to be the Mini-Spies.
As a kid, the only thing better than getting a brand-new Transformers toy was getting two at the same time. A stroke of brilliance on Hasbro's part, these little pull-back motored suckers were packed in as a free bonus with the Autobot Minicars in 1985. They were the first Transformers to feature the heat-sensitive rubsigns, and these were the only way to determine whether the toy was an Autobot or a Decepticon. They came in four different styles (A Mazda, Porsche, Jeep, and Dune Buggy) and three colors. When you add the differences in style, color, and faction all together, you come up with twenty-four possible figures, making them extremely collectible.
Originally sold in Japan as Mecha-Warriors, the toys that became the Mini-spies were either blue or red and were molded in the same four styles, resulting in eight different toys. This is just another great illustration of how Hasbro took Takara toylines and built them into a cohesive universe over here in the States.
Outside of the original commercial, the Mini-spies never appeared in the cartoon or the comics. They had absolutely no background or acknowledgment until 2003 when they were included in a two-page spread in issue number four of the Dreamwave More Than Meets The Eye profile books. Here the Mini-spies were described as almost Cybertronian civilians, filing non-combat and support roles due to their decreased durability, but from time to time serving as spies and infiltrators.
In recent years, "free" packs-ins have returned to Transformers with Classics Minicons and Activators on larger boxed figures, but cheap, small toys added to the smaller carded toys at the lower price-points seem to be a thing of the past. I know I personally would love to see something along the lines of the Mini-spies return. You'd think the collectability aspect would have been seized upon several yeas ago when Pokemon and other things of its ilk were at their popularity heights, but the Armada Minicons seemed to be what Hasbro picked to take advantage of that stage in the toy market.
And who knows, with the success IDW has had with the Transformers comic license, there could be a good possibility of seeing the Mini-spies in a cameo or supporting role sometime in the future. Or, dare I wish it...a Spotlight issue?
Saturday, October 4, 2008
Series: Transformers Universe / Classics 2.0
Notes: Silverstreak is a repaint/remold of TFU Prowl, Sideswipe is a repaint/remold of Sunstreaker using an alternate conversion method, Ironhide is a brand-new mold to be repainted later as Ratchet.
LZ's Notes: Yes, I actually opened a second SIlverstreak. Blue Streak was one of my earliest Transformers back in the G1 days, and I decided he was worthy of opening. The alt mode is really nice, but in transforming him the first time, I found that his doors and sholders tend to seperate a lot in the process. I'm not all that particularlly fond of his "turtleneck" look either. But those are minor complaints when seeing this classic toy updated for the modern era. One of these days, though, I want someone to step up and finally give me my damn "blue" Blue Streak. I'm looking at you Takara!
Thursday, October 2, 2008
When Hasbro used Takara’s Dinosaur Robo molds to give life to the Dinobots back in Generation 1, they set the precedent for dinosaur Transformers for years to come. Since then, several saurian Cybertronians have stomped across our carpets and stalked our display shelves. I’m personally a huge dinosaur fan (Duh), and by extension, a huge dinosaur Transformer fan. So here’s my picks for the ten best Transformer dinosaur molds.
GENERATION 1 GRIMLOCK
Generation 1 Grimlock on display at the Natural History Museum in London
The most popular Dinobot and the most popular dinosaur combine to make G1 Grimlock an enduring mold that holds up as a great toy even to this day. He’s robust and has a great, well rendered design in both modes. The robot mode is a handsome figure, even if he suffers from the lack of articulation that was the norm back in G1. One of the advantages of the toy is its ability to lean forward into a more scientifically accurate horizontal posture, giving the toy display longevity that most fixed-stance dinosaur toys from the 80’s lack. Complete with the always fun articulated jaws that can chomp down on any Decepticon, this classic Autobot is a must-have for any dino-former collector.
Overkill with Slugfest
Overkill with Slugfest
Packaged with his Ceratosaur partner-in-crime Overkill, Stegosaur Slugfest is the stand-out mold of this duo due to his clean and simple design. As a Mini-Cassette, he’s rather thin, but gains quite a bit of imposing bulk from his solar-powered side guns. The pop-up back plates are a neat little transforming gimmick, and he collapses easily into cassette mode, suffering very little physical wear because of this.
DINOBOT / GRIMLOCK / THRUSTOR / HARDHEAD / DINOTRON
The various Beast Wars brought on a slew of new dinosaur molds. The most prolific has to be Dinobot. This Deinonychus antirrhopus toy seems a bit squat and wide at first, but the quality of the overall toy soon overshadows the concessions made to the beast mode to accommodate the robot mode, which is a well articulated, well proportioned, and well balanced figure with a great pair of completely stowable weapons. This mold was repainted five times (three more Dinobots and two Grimlocks) and remolded three times, with Beast Wars II’s Thrustor and his cybernetic parts being the stand-out. The Pachycephalosaur remolds of Hardhead and Dinotron weren’t all that great from a dinosaur standpoint, but still retained more than decent robot modes.
TRANSMETALS MEGATRON / PREDACON
If this was a top ten list, Transmetals Megatron would be vying for the number one slot. He seems to have it all, a great robot mode with plenty of articulation, a kitschy “flight mode” with in-line skates and VTOL fans, and a superb dinosaur mode that captures the essence and the lines of a Tyrannosaurus rex almost perfectly. Sculpting on the T-rex head alone is praiseworthy. The only disappointing thing about this mold is that the torso arm mountings have a tendency to snap off over time, leaving many of us with armless Megatrons and the rest of us scared to death to transform him anymore. Thankfully, his Armada repaint as Predacon had a few remoldings that help in the overall stability of the figure’s construction, not to mention the pair of Powerlinx points added to the VTOL fans to accommodate Minicons. So now the only real tragedy is that Hasbro hasn’t yet used this mold again for a snazzy repaint, or for a reissue.
TRANSMETALS 2 DINOBOT / RAPTICON
Rapticon repaint of Transmetals 2 Dinobot
The second Dinobot toy for Beast Wars could possibly be better than the first. A skeletal, mechanical monstrosity, the Dinobot 2 mold is all sharp edges and primal fury. It has a great bone-white molding job splashed with shiny vac-metal detailing. The Beast Machines Rapticon repaint, with its sinister dark hues may be even better yet. The robot mode is pretty average however, with its large shoulders and weirdly articulated arms and hands. Still, this is an all-around cool figure.
GUILEDART / KILLERPUNCH / TRICERADON
Part of the Beast Wars Neo line, Guiledart is not only a great Triceratops toy, but he has a fun gimmick as well. As a “trap” he can look like a dead and ripped apart carcass by flipping down panels on his sides that expose bony ribs, pulling his tail out, and tilting his nasal horn back, making his tongue loll out and his eyes roll back into his head. It’s weird, but in a good way. The robot mode does suffer from “animal head as my hand” syndrome, but overall he’s a satisfying toy, even if he can be a little difficult to snap cleanly into beast mode. Hasbro/Takara must like him too, because he’s been issued as a repaint three other times. The remold into the Styracosaurus albertensis Killerpunch is, in my opinion, an even better toy. The launching head weapon takes the place of the head-hand somewhat, and the purple color scheme works surprisingly well for the creature.
SABERBACK / STRIKER / SNARL
Also coming out of Beast Wars Neo is Saberback, a Stegosaur mold that really represents the genus well. Not only is he a great looking dinosaur, but he transforms into a Cybertronian Indian chief! Something is utterly goofy, and yet extremely endearing about that. He’s come in four different colors over his toy-life, but for my money you can’t beat the gray with purple and teal stripes of his original incarnation.
DINOSHOUT / UNDERMINE / REPUGNUS
The best thing to come out of the movie Jurassic Park III was that it brought the modern visualizations of Spinosaurus aegyptiacus into the consciousness of the general public, and it didn’t take long for the crocodile-snouted update to appear in Transformer form. Galaxy Force’s Dinoshout, and his slightly differently hued Cybertron counterpart Undermine are a nice little pair of dinosaurs with better than average articulation, attractive lines, and plenty of fun play value. Its sort of a shame that this mold’s robot mode is so bizarre and abstract, but it works in some weird way. Depending on your tastes, the Autobot repaint into Repugnas might even look better with his menacing black coupled with bold red, yellow and gold. But no matter how you paint him up, this mold is a definite winner and worth having in one form or another.
BEAST WARS 10th ANNIVERSERY MEGATRON / JUNGLE PLANET MEGATRON
Another outstanding Tyrannosaurus rex mold, the Beast Wars 10th Anniversery Megatron toy is interesting in that he slightly edges out the original Beast Wars Megatron figure in coolness. Although possessed of more mechanical detailing than its inspiration, it’s a well articulated and fun mold for the size. This Megatron also possesses the most disturbing Cyber Key placement imaginable, with the key being slammed right into his cloaca to activate a tail weapon. I think if I had a plastic key shoved into my rear, my tail would split in half and fire a missile as well. Repainted and released almost immediately as Cybertron’s Jungle Planet Megatron, you can be excused for thinking that particular toy is supposed to be a new version of Armada’s Predacon because of the suspiciously similar color schemes.
TRANSFORMERS ANIMATED SNARL
Man, don’t you just hate it when Hasbro loses name trademarks. We all KNOW that this is really Slag, and for this list he narrowly edged out the Generation 1 version of Slag. G1 Slag is a great toy, but his robot mode suffers form some bad proportions and his dinosaur mode can look a little clunky and patched-together at times. Animated Snarl, on the other claw, has a dinosaur mode that is compact and cleanly designed. The robot mode is quite the little fireplug and is a bit thick in the chest due to the configuration of the dino head, but overall he’s a good looking figure…even if his weapon seems to be a giant Cheeto.
So you might be asking yourself why Swoop or Terrorsaur or Brimstone isn’t on the list. Well, technically Pterosaurs aren’t dinosaurs, so my nitpicky tail left them off. But rest-assured they aren’t forgotten, and may turn up in another feature down the road.
These are just my personal favorites, so I’m interested in hearing about which dinosaur molds that didn’t make the list should have in your estimation. There are still a lot of good ones out there, and all of them deserve some measure of spotlight.
Friday, September 26, 2008
Technology is ever marching forward. Everyone always wants the latest and most up-to-date gadgets and machines. So it’s only natural that when Generation 1 is re-imagined or rebooted, Starscream, Skywarp, and Thundercracker receive alternate modes of the hottest jets in the sky. In the Movie and the IDW comics, this has meant that the Seekers have appeared with the airframes of the United States Air Force’s freshest fighter, the Lockheed Martin/Boeing F-22 Raptor. But longtime G1 Transfans will always have a soft spot for the classic look of the Seekers, the familiar forms that come from air modes derived from the venerable McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle. While the Seekers look great and fit well into their F-22 bodies, there is a case to be made for keeping them, for now at least, as F-15s.
European Generation 2 Fearswoop
One of the main reasons given for updating the Seekers’ look is the most basic…an update. Transformers is all about technology, and therefore, it only follows that the elite of the Decepticon air corps should have the newest and best 21st century airframes available. However, Transformers based on the F-22 are nothing new or revolutionary. The first F-22 prototype (then designated the YF-22) took flight on September 29, 1990, and it wasn’t long before the first Transformer based on that airframe appeared. Fearswoop was a European Generation 2 toy that was bright yellow and boasted an impressively large cannon attachment. Released in 1993, this toy was actually preceded in 1992 by the Decepticon Predator Skydive, who was based on the YF-23. The YF-23 was Northrop’s competing plane that was placed up against the YF-22 in the USAF’s Advanced Tactical Fighter competition for their next generation of fighter. The YF-22 lost out to the eventual Raptor, and has never appeared as a Transformer again since. Later in 1994, the massive Decepticon B-2 Spirit bomber Dreadwing was released, with a little detachable jet named Smokescreen tucked into his aft end. Smokescreen wasn’t an F-22 per se, but some of his lines and design features are borrowed heavily from the jet, if stretched a little out of proportion.
The F-22 Transformer would return three years later in the Machine Wars series with Megatron and Megaplex, a pair of toys originally planned for G2, but ultimately cancelled. This mold would be used again the next year in
Unfortunately, over that extended span of time, the actual F-22 had not fared so well. The usual budgeting and development hold-ups seemed to just build and build, resulting in the first production F-22 Raptor finally being delivered in 2003, with the first operational squadron coming online in December of 2005 after the delivery of the twelfth fighter. At this point, the design was nearly two decades old, and it wouldn’t be long before it would be applied once again to Starscream in the upcoming Transformers live-action film. Released in 2007, the movie also boasted the first on-screen appearance of actual operational Raptors, finally showing their stuff after years in development.
So, while considerably newer than the F-15 Eagle, which first flew in 1972, the Raptor is hardly right off of the drawing board. But, as far as Transformers are concerned, what advantages does an F-22 form hold over the F-15 exterior?
Not many that I can see. Firstly, if one of the goals is to remain low-key and hidden, the F-15 is a much better choice for a sneaking Decepticon. While no fighter jet is really that inconspicuous, F-15s are considerably more common, with over 1,600 planes having been produced and being operated by four countries worldwide. By contrast, as of July of this year, only 122 Raptors had been built. With plans to keep the F-15s (most notably the 224 F-15E Strike Eagles) flying well past the year 2025, the Eagle will be prowling the skies in force long after the initially planned full production run of 183 Raptors wraps up.
Fighter performance is barely an issue. While the Raptor has many advantages in the arenas of maneuverability and stealth capability, just about every airframe advantage is negated by Cybertronian technology, and even that varies from individual to individual. The same goes for avionics and weapons. Arguably, a Decepticon with the body of a German World War II era Me-262 fighter jet can be just as capable as a Decepticon with the alternate form of an X-Wing fighter. In the IDW Movie sequel comics, Starscream seems to gain some sort of ambiguous advantage from his Earth F-22 mode, but exactly what that is, and why remains unclear. There could be some direct correlation between alternate mode and ability in the Movie Universe, but it has yet to be explored or expanded upon.
Personally, I’m a huge fan of the F-22 Raptor. It was nearly heartbreaking to watch it languish in budgetary development hell for all those years, and when the United States finally began using them as operational fighters it was great to see these high-tech wonders finally in the skies. But I also have deep and lasting respect for the F-15. A lot of that is due to the Seekers. The original G1 toys were fantastic airplane toys, even if the robots were a little stiff and abstract looking. The F-15 just screams DECEPTICON when seen through a Transfan’s eyes. The jets themselves are pretty awesome on their own. If you’ve ever been on the ramp when one of these warbirds takes to the skies, and you’ve felt the rumble of the engines shaking every cell in your body with over 17,000 pounds of take-off thrust, then you know it’s an almost religious experience. At full military power, they flash through the sky, cutting it with a roar that leaves no doubt as to their might. They truly are great vehicles for Decepticon alternate modes.
By the end of IDW’s Devestation story arc, the Seekers were still F-22 Raptors, but by the beginning of All Hail Megatron, which takes place a year after the end of the previous tale, the trio are back in their 1980’s Generation 1 F-15 forms. How and why this has happened has yet to be explained. But hopefully I’ve illustrated several acceptable reasons for why this would have transpired, and it should be interesting to see exactly how the comic writers explain the change. But then again, Transformers are no strangers to change. The F-15 versions were also chosen to represent the Seekers for the Classics toyline, and fans took to them warmly, even if a full line-up of the trio is difficult to obtain at best.
So, be they F-22 Raptors or F-15 Eagles, or any other of a myriad of aircraft, the Seekers will most probably be with us in the Transformers mythos for a long time to come, and here’s to hoping that the classic F-15 modes continue to endure.
Monday, September 22, 2008
They’re tagged as “Robots in Disguise”. And, in most of the different continuities, one of the very first thing the Cybertronians do is take on the form of the local vehicles or life forms to blend into the surroundings and prevent being pegged as the giant alien robots that they are. It seems like a reasonable practice, except for the fact that a lot of the time, most notably in Generation 1 and the Movie Universe, the Autobots and Decepticons tend to take on the exterior forms of the flashiest and most attention grabbing vehicles possible.
The Autobots in the Movie Universe are the best and clearest example here. Optimus Prime is not just a tractor trailer cab, but one with a brilliant fiery paint job that’s sure to turn heads on the highway. Bumblebee is a concept Camaro with racing stripes while Ratchet is a visually stunning Hummer ambulance. Ironhide and Jazz are probably the most low-key Autobots, but still, they are a fully tricked out GMC Topkick and a sleek Pontiac Solstice respectively. Any one of these vehicles surely stands out on any roadway. It seems to me, if the goal is to hide in plain sight, it would probably be better if humans weren’t ogling you for any reason.
Generation 1 is just as bad. The examples there are way too numerous to get into, but really all that needs to be seen are the dual Lamborghinis that are Sideswipe and Sunstreaker’s alternative modes. The Alternators line is pretty bad in this respect as well, but with ubiquitous vehicles like the Subaru Impreza, Jeep Wrangler, and Dodge Ram SRT-10, there is some potential for the Cybertronians to be able to drive around unnoticed.
In other continuities, it’s less flagrant. Robots in Disguise, the Unicron Trilogy, and the Animated universe all create a sort of near-future world where vehicles that we would consider bold and exciting are the norm. And all things considered, Beast Wars is pretty decent, if you discount the gigantic insects and rodents. Then again, after season one of the TV show, the whole thing pretty much goes out of the window with Fuzors and Transmetals.
So, you sort of have to look at the Cybertronians as having alternative combat or transportation modes as part of their racial attributes as opposed to a defense mechanism to camouflage themselves into a situation. Now don’t get me wrong, I completely understand why things are the way they are from a real-world and toy aspect…no kid wants a robot that turns into a Nissan Stanza with a missing hubcap and a fading blue paint job with a beige driver-side door. But in-story, the whole incognito thing doesn’t really work all that well. The Transformers might as well just take any alternative mode they take a liking too, and to hell with being inconspicuous.
Case in point.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Name: Jazz (Meister)
Series: Takara Generation 1 Reissues
Notes: e-hobby exclusive color scheme, entire toy excluding rubber tires is gold, sold as set with anime accurate Blue Streak, generic packaging
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
After 15 years of collecting, and building a collection of literally thousands of toys, I still receive many comments in regards to the fact that all of my toys remain in their packaging. A common criticism is that toys are meant to be played with, much like comic books are meant to be read. So why do I leave everything sealed, forever keeping the toys from fulfilling their purpose of being played with?
I guess part of the answer goes back to when I was a kid. I'd get a new Transformer, open it up and play with it like anyone else. However, probably unlike most other children, I kept the boxes they came in. I'd use them to build fortresses and such, but I felt that the boxes were part of the toy. Especially when the packaging contained the toy's biography and technical stats.
When I purchased my first action figure as a collectible (Batman Returns Catwoman, 1992), I wanted to keep it in the packaging it was sold in. I wanted to preserve this item over time, and to truly do that, it needed to stay in its cardboard prison, that way it can be forever preserved and seen exactly as it was originally sold, box and all.
One of the popular misconceptions of keeping the toys in their box is that it will make them easier for me to sell for profit. I'll debunk that immediately by stating in over 15 years, I have only sold a handful of toys, and that was mostly when I was buying my first home and needed some extra funds for moving. Also, while it is true that sealed toys are more valuable than their loose counterparts, the majority of toys that I have in my collection probably wouldn't even get their original retail value on eBay. Don't believe me? Search online and see what Star Wars Power of the Force figures are selling for. Fact is, a lot of people collected toys as I did, resulting in very little long term demand for toys. That's part of why I've severely cut back on toy collecting (a story for a later blog).
Now, over the years, there have been plenty of toys that I have bought and opened. Usually, those toys are duplicates allowing me to keep one sealed away. But there are some toys that are too awesome to not play with. Hasbro's 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime immediately comes to mind. Lego sets are a common exception to my MISB collecting. Those just have to be opened to be appreciated.
Currently, I display what toys I can mostly in a spare bedroom in my home. It was constructed to resemble a toy store, complete with fixtures purchased from actual retail stores that went out of business. This allows me to showcase hundreds of toys as they were back when they were first available for sale. And to me, there is something very satisfying about seeing a toy, unavailable to the public anymore, hanging off of a peg in my very own toy store.
At this point in time, just about every 80’s toy line has had some sort of modern reemergence. Even properties that haven’t returned in toy form, like Thundercats for example, have DVDs, T-shirts, and other merchandise. But the GoBots are all but forgotten. There are no DVDs or T-shirts. No comics or reissues or collectors busts. The GoBots have seemingly become nothing more than a faded memory, one most Transfans are more than willing to let dissolve into nothingness.
It’s a condition that exists in every fandom; Brand Snobbery. The chosen license is the pinnacle of human achievement, which makes any similar license a pretender to the throne and deserving of contempt. Just bring up GoBots on any Transformers message board and watch the replies pile up.
“I had a bunch of Go-bots, but they weren’t as good as Transformers.”
“The Gobots cartoon was cheesy and goofy, G1 was much better.”
“OMFG! gehy-butts R teh suXX0rz!!111!!!!1111!!!!!!”
But there is a small group among Transfans that really appreciate the GoBots and wouldn’t mind seeing some sort of revival. This, however, is a tricky prospect.
When Hasbro acquired Tonka in 1991, all the rights to the GoBots reverted to the makers of the Transformers. Hasbro has built incredibly strong branding around the Transformers name, and for any real relaunch of GoBots to move forward, it would have to fit firmly within the Transformers brand. Toys like the Marvel Crossovers and the Star Wars Transformers proudly carry the Transformers branding, but are wildly different from the core lines and don’t really cause any sort of confusion to kids or fans. It’s very clear that they are set off to the side from the continuing adventures of the Cybertronians through appearance alone. While the Go-Bot name was used for a subline of Generation 2 minicars and later the Playskool Transformers, to utilize it as a subline of the existing Transformers brand with classic GoBots designs and characters could cause some on-shelf confusion, especially among older buyers who actually remember GoBots. Reissues of the old toys are practically impossible, as the originals were produced by Tonka through a licensing agreement with Bandai, still a direct competitor to Hasbro/Takara. This also begs the question as to how far Bandai’s rights to the toy designs go. Could Hasbro even attempt to update the old figures with the same recognizable forms using updated articulation and detailing techniques?
Leader-1 by Dave Reynolds
In the realm of Comics, Hasbro would have to, essentially, either cede licensing rights as part of the pre established Transformers package, or create a whole separate license. The Transformers comics license itself is very expensive, so would IDW see any financial gain in acquiring a second license from Hasbro to gamble on a Gobots title? And if not them, what other publisher would take that risk? It just seems easier for whoever is making Transformers comics to have GoBots characters show up as Easter Eggs in the backgrounds of crowd scenes or be have their parts strewn around as casualties of some off-panel action. Or, as was the case in the Megatron: Origin story, quickly dispatched by Megatron in gladiatorial combat.
Apparel and other little knick-knacks seem unlikely as well, in that these items would be in direct competition with Transformers merchandise. As for video games, well, we can barely get a decent Transformers game as it is. A DVD release of the old series is probably a whole other barrel of scorpions. Old cartoons like that always seem to be twisted up in a confusing jumble of rights and ownership. It’s probably best that I don’t even try and speculate on that one.
So where does that leave the GoBots?
Well, thankfully Hasbro has not forgotten them entirely. In fact, in the past several years small nods have been given to the mechs from Gobotron that let us know that they’re still a living part of the 1980s transforming robot nostalgia. First was the naming of Megatron’s Minicon in the Armada series as Leader-1. This showed us that the name of the Guardian commander was far from forgotten. And thanks to the horrible dubbing of the series, we never got a chance to forget it since it seemed every Minicon was erroneously called Leader-1 at one point or another.
Next was Takara’s E-Hobby exclusive Minibot repaint set. Originally intended to be named after the GoBot vehicles they most resembled, Bad Boy, Bugbite, Path Finder, Road Ranger, Small Foot, and Treds never had their names on the official packaging, an attempt by Takara to not raise the ire of Bandai. Minibots are always popular with fans and collectors, and these were no exceptions. A quick look on eBay shows that the last listed set sold for almost $300.
Growing from this, the Official Fan Club repainted Classics Bumblebee as Bugbite for its Games of Deception set of exclusive figures for Botcon 2007. The character was also included in the accompanying comic and has made a few other appearances with his repainted comrades in other Timelines stories since. But perhaps the best homage to the Gobots to date is the Fracture figure currently available as a Transformers: the Movie exclusive repaint for Wal-Mart. Actually intended to be the femme Renegade Crasher, trademark issues prevented Hasbro from being so direct. Nevertheless, Fracture shares a color scheme with her 80’s counterpart and the tech specs reveal that she has also retained her trademarked seismic energy stomp.
So, while the GoBots may not be headed for a big comeback anytime soon, there is still some hope for Transfans who enjoyed more than one transforming toyline in their youths. And who knows, a repaint of Classics Starscream in all gray and bearing the same name as a certain Minicon may not be farfetched.