Archive for October 14th, 2010
Generation One wasn’t always Generation One. Naturally there was a time when Transformers was simply called: Transformers. With flagging sales and a flagging brand, Hasbro cancelled Transformers in the U.S. in 1991 — though production continued in both Japan and Europe during this period. For almost two years the brand sat shelved when, in 1993, Hasbro launched a somewhat noble but mostly misguided attempt to recover the momentum the brand had in those G1 days.
Three years of G2 product saw toys with some truly odd colour choices accompanied by a repackaging of the original G1 Cartoon episodes (now with added CGI ”Cybernet Space Cube“), and an all-new comic book continuation of the original 80-issue G1 series. The comic book started with a 5 issue storyline in the previously established G.I.Joe comic book, then had a free “Halloween Special Edition”, and then 12 issues under the title: “Transformers: Generation 2″. The comic took a dark, gritty, sometimes gratuitously violent turn. The cover of issue one displayed a battle scared Optimus and the headline, “This is not your father’s Autobot”.
However the toyline amounted to re-releases of Generation 1 toys in some truly garish colours and several molds that had been released in Europe during the two-year U.S. Transformers hiatus. I was in college in 1993, having foolishly gotten rid of my entire collection of Transformers. Goodwill? Salvation Army? Thrown in the trash? I don’t remember but it’s best not to dwell… *sob* However, I was full-tilt into reading and collecting comic books and still paid regular trips to Toys R Us. In the comic shop I came across the books and in Toys R Us, I came across a sight for sore eyes. My beloved Transformers were back… if a little oddly coloured. I ended up buying quite a few, though I no longer remember what spurred my choices. Obviously I bought Optimus Prime, but the rest of my G2 collection is a mishmash. There is one consistency: of the roughly twenty-four toys I bought of the G2 series, all come from 1993 or 1994 and only three are new (to the U.S., at least) molds.
This year, Botcon announced its exclusive toy theme and it was “Generation 2: Redux” (pronounced re-ducks, not re-do), imagine my surprise and utter delight when my favourite G2 toy was chosen to be one of those redux’ed, as one of the “Souvenir Sets” and packed in with Cindersaur. You see, back in 1993, mixed in with all of these oddly coloured Autobots and Decepticons was a bright red little car with teal accents, an engine block for a gun, and an oddly spanish name, Rapido. Even more odd was that this tiny little car somehow outranked Optimus Prime. In 1993, while Optimus Prime’s tech spec had a Rank of 9, Rapido (and Grimlock) had an inexplicable Rank of 10. That coupled with his tech spec chock full of phrases that spoke right to my geeky little self such as, “Masterminds and executes battle plans of mind-boggling complexity” and he worked his way into my heart. Also, whereas his name being the Spanish word for “fast” did correlate to his Speed of 10, there was no attempt to explain why it was in Spanish and I loved that. Having ditched the concept of disguise with flagrantly mis-coloured alt-modes, this new generation wore their faction symbols as blatantly as possible, and just in case you can’t tell one symbol from the other, they put the faction name right next to it:
So, along come the Transformers Collectors Club folk and the first thing they do is give him an all-new headsculpt that is not just spot on, but an improvement, adding the teal highlighting — well, actually closer to an aqua on the Botcon version — from the rest of his body to the head:
To further the concept of a redux, the accompanying Botcon comic book attempted to explain some things. This new generation of Transformers are literally a “Next Generation”. The Autobots and Decepticons have left Earth, retaining only a small crew on either side. New Transformers were created on Earth in Cyberfactories. Though not initially connecting with the age-old Cybertronian Civil War, more and more they have started taking sides, choosing the role of Protector or Conqueror. Luckily for the Brand the factions just happen to line up perfectly with those two concepts and the 2nd Generation of Autobots and Decepticons are born. The comic further explains things like Rapido’s name by stating that the Cyberfactories are in different countries and therefore shape the cultural identity of bots given life there. The TCC even went so far as to print Rapido’s entire Tech Spec in Spanish(brilliant!), later publishing the English version on their website. To further thicken the plot, the introduction of the newly discovered chemical Forestonite in a pitched battle leads to the Transformers on both sides being imbued with superpowers. After being coated in the gaseous form of Forestonite, Rapido becomes the Transformer equivalent of The Flash (much more politically correct, I guess, than calling him the Transformer equivalent of Speedy Gonzalez). It is this same battle that they explain that his higher-than-Optimus Rank is due to his being specially deputized by the Big Bot himself. He has been authorized by Optimus Prime to take unilateral command of any unit functioning on Earth “as required”. As an added delight, a character in the story actually makes an off-handed comment about Rapido’s shot missing because he “can’t see over his own hood”. Those who own the original G2 toy immediately recognize this as the one oddity of Rapido’s robot mode. He really can only barely see over his hood, as it obscures over half of his face.
Generation 2 catches a lot of flack, being remembered mostly for the insanely coloured releases, but a number of these releases are among the most amazing toys in the history of Transformers and I personally count Rapido as one of those.