In 1993 the Transformers brand had sat silent in the United States for two years. The last episodes of the cartoon having aired in 1987, Transformers kept going as a comic book series and toyline until 1991. To prepare for their comeback, Hasbro had Transformers appear first in the on-going G.I.Joe series and then, kicking of in their new, re-branded series, Generation 2.
Within a year, both the Transformers and G.I. Joe comics were cancelled.
(Hey, Joe-fans, don’t even think of blaming us. We didn’t ask for Generation 2′s Manny Galan artwork any more than you asked for G.I. Joe’s Star Brigade and Ninja Force.)
However much of a blip in the world of toy sales the Generation 2 toyline may have been, it did provide some lasting — and notably great — additions to the Transformers collection as a whole. Of course you can’t have a Transformers series without an Optimus. The comic book series opened with the toughest looking shot of Optimus imaginable.
“This Is Not Your Father’s Autobot.”
Alrighty then. Right out the gate and Hasbro is making some big promises. Off to the toy store to find out what new, improved, and/or tailpipe kicking Autobots they had in store for me.
Huh. Funny. That looks pretty much exactly like my “Father’s Autobot.” Granted, they did make him darker colours and gave him an electronic box that squawks out “I am Optimus Prime”… whoa, and gave him some big honkin’ guns.
Ok, pretty cool. I do have to admit, his new weaponry and the loud proclamation of “OPTIMUS PRIME” along the side of his now jet back trailer adds an extra layer of “Come Get Some”, to our erstwhile Autobot patriarch.
However, somewhere along the way, Hasbro had made plans to deliver on those earlier promises. These plans took a bit of a detour back into less intimidating before coming out the other end with an Optimus Prime that would become a fan favourite toy for a decade. G2 Laser Optimus Prime was released in 1995 and had a new Western Star long-nose truck alt-mode, pulling a tanker trailer.
However, his light-up sword and gun gimmick wasn’t what made him the great toy everyone loved. It was his articulation.
For a toy that came out in 1995, he had very advanced articulation. Rather than his G1 incarnation’s repair bay, this trailer transformed into a base just bristling with weaponry. Though, an Optimus Prime swinging a big sword didn’t hurt his popularity much.
Famous for his articulation, he is also notorious for one thing. His trailer, following in the apparent “Disguise? Who the heck needs disguise?” marching orders has a sticker for each side that reads “Optimus Prime Octane” and appears to depict our once compassionate Autobot leader… burning down a forest?
Well, maybe it was a decidedly Decepticon-friendly forest. Setting aside Optimus’ newly found pyromania, it’s easy to see why this toy quickly became and remained a favourite. I like to think that this on-going love for the mold is what then caused Hasbro to make the surprising choice to release an update in the form of the Reveal the Shield Deluxe Class Optimus Prime.
Interestingly, RtS Optimus appears to take a cue from the 2006 re-issue, with an image of the matrix molded into the inside of the side window pieces that fold together to form his chest.
He also does the original one better, his tire covers fold up and together to form a sheath for his sword in robot mode.
In alt-mode, RtS Optimus replaces G2 Laser Optimus’ slow fade of red with an almost 2007 Movie Optimus-like flame pattern.
RtS Optimus takes another hint from the original and provides storage for his sword in alt-mode, but one-ups the sword storage again by adding a transformation to the sword itself, allowing it to become his alt-mode’s trailer hitch.
An amazing toy that has stood the test of time and now an update that re-interprets the original rather than just trying to duplicate it.
An interesting side note of Transformers toy history: G2 Laser Optimus Prime was repainted in 2002 in all black as the Robots in Disguise villain, Scourge. That same year saw a release of Scourge as a Legends class toy, two years later that toy was then repainted back into Optimus Prime.
Now if we can just get the full-size G2 Laser Optimus Prime toy done in these colours, this homage would lap itself.