Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween on Cybertron

It's that time of year again. Soon, goblins, ghouls and ghosts of all shapes and sizes will be haunting the streets and demanding treats. Over the years, the world of the Transformers has seen it's share of monsters unleashed and creatures on the loose. Here's a look at some of my favorites...


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

For the love of Legends

A long time ago, I had a lot of Transformers. About 1100 to be exact, almost every toy from Generation 1 through Energon, Universe, Alternators and a good chunk of Cybertron. Then some "real life" stuff happened and I came to the conclusion that I was running out of room, disposable income, and a love of all things Transformers. So I sold them all. Made a pretty penny on the older stuff, but after a while....I missed them. Not so much the toys that I had sold, but just the presence of Transformers on my shelves.

A cross section of the Legends Class

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.

Movie Legend Scorponok vs. Universe Legend Jazz

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.

Legends Classics Jetfire, Cybertron Thundercracker and Universe Starscream

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.

Upcoming Universe Legends figures

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.

Target exclusive Team Leaders set

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.

Universe, Cybertron and Movie Megatrons

Saturday, October 18, 2008


Just something for you Transfans wrapped up in the current US political process.

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

Spotlight On... TFU Wave 3

Names: Ironhide, Silverstreak, and Sideswipe
Series: Transformers Universe / Classics 2.0
Released: Now!
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 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

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.