Posts Tagged Autobot
Part the Second is going to be less like a sequel and more like bookends for Part the First.
Sitting at work and watching the UPS Tracking link like a hawk, I was actually surprised how fast I got him. Sitting at work, I received a message from my wife,
“I have your box.”
I contemplated coming down with a sudden bout of Sluggish Cognitive Tempo disorder (I’m pretty sure that’s the medical term for “Lazy”) and heading home, but stuck it out — that’s the selfless kind of person I am. Just to give a sense of the size of his box, I put it up next to my one and a half year old kid.
He then dutifully and excitedly started pointing out the Autobot symbol, repeatedly saying “Ah-bot! Ah-bot! Ah-bot!” (I am quite proud of the fact that “Autobot” and “Optimus” were some of his first words). The box is huge. I was originally concerned that I didn’t know where I would store it, but have since decided the box itself is display worthy. I really, really, reeeeeeeally like the Takara boxart.
Not that Hasbro’s isn’t nice, it just lacks the dynamism of Takara’s.
As was widely reported, this release has put a little bit of a crimp in the style of the MISB collectors. Due to an undisclosed “QC Issue”, TakaraTomy was forced to open each box and then tape it back up, this lead to dreaded “double-taping” that sets most MISB collectors’ teeth on edge.
Not such an issue with me, I believe Transformers are meant to be transformed so I sliced right through that tape. Out slid what came to be something of another surprise with this Encore release. Long determined to be environmentally detrimental, the styrofoam used to pack many of the larger G1 toys has been all but removed from modern packaging. Fortress Maximus, however, comes packaged in a styrofoam coffin, similar to his original release.
Finally, it was time to see my very own Fortress Maximus.
First, we must go back in time for just a moment. Before there was a Fortress Maximus in my collection, there was Fortress Minimus.
When I was under the clear understanding that my acquisition of an actual Fortress Maximus was about as likely as a lasting Cybertronian peace treaty, I settled for the next closest thing I could find. By “closest” I mean “oddly well detailed at about one eighteenth the size”.
This miniaturized knock-off version of Fortress Maximus actually fit in well with my shelf of Primus and Unicrons, but could now be retired because he had been rendered remarkably redundant.
Meanwhile, back at the unboxing,
I pulled everything out of the box and inspected it meticulously; transforming him between his three modes to make sure. From armless Spike/Cerebros to a defective hip ratchet on Fortress Maximus himself, there has been a smattering of serious quality problems being reported on the forums. I am quite pleased to say that I found none, serious or minor, on mine.
Having relieved that particular anxiety, I was ready to set up the camera and take some serious photos. Oh… wait. What’s that colossal sheet of shiny silver paper that’s almost the size of Fortress Maximus?
Stickers. 55 of them to be precise.
Determined to push through my least favourite part of reissues, I actually found far fewer instances of needing to trim down improperly cut stickers than normal, which helped the process along. There’s been a couple posts on the forums about buyer’s remorse, but – just short of needing the money for an unforeseen life-saving operation — I can’t fathom how that could be. He is magnificent.
Does he lack articulation? For a G1 toy, not particularly. There are those that can truly be called “bricks”, like Powermaster Optimus Prime or Star Convoy (two of my favourite Transformers toys), but Fortress Maximus’ limited articulation is on par with a good portion of the G1 ’bots a fourth his size.
For someone big enough to just step on most of his enemies, even without counting his handheld dual laser cannons and photon rifle he is fairly bristling with weaponry. Guns rotate out all over the place.
He also carries the massive Master Sword.
No, not that Master Sword, this one.
An accessory exclusive to the Takara release, the Master Sword played a very prominent part in the Headmasters series as the weapon that allowed Fortress Maximus to finally defeat his rival, Scorponok. In the cartoon, they are roughly the same size, but in toy form, Maximus towers over Scorponok.
Had this been the scale used in the show, Headmasters would have been a very short series indeed. Probably the worst offender of scale tomfoolery in all of Transformers history, writers just didn’t know what to do with an Autobot this big. His fictional appearances mostly bring him down in size; how far down varies between different fictions and something even varies within the same fiction. His most recent appearances in the IDW comics put him at just a little bit bigger than the average Transformer.
I really like the sculpt on Fortress’ head mode, I was surprised to find that Cerebros was not necessary when attaching Fortress to Fortress Maximus, with the instructions even showing that he can be placed in the shoulder compartment to the right of the head.
When in robot mode, Gasket and Grommet can be parked in his feet.
Now, Fortress Maximus may have been intended as a city ‘bot, but out of all his modes Headmasters uses his third mode most often. The somewhat indeterminate “battle station” in the Hasbro instructions or the space-faring Battleship Maximus of the Headmasters release (or “Spaceship Bruce” as the hilariously bad Omni Productions dub called it) is the least convincing of the modes, despite being the one with the most cartoon representation.
Though this is the mode that makes use of the little cockpit at the top of the tower.
I was quite surprised by how low the price was when the Encore release was announced, but even as reasonable as I found it, unfortunately it’s still prohibitively expensive for a number of fans. This makes me sad because I can finally understand why this has been a grail piece for so many. I know I have already written it once, but magnificent is really the only word I can use for him.
Playing with toys.
This is a concept that is natural while mostly inconceivable to your average toy collector. This is how these toys were meant to be used,
But for a good portion of them, this is how they will be displayed,
Almost seems a shame. Well. Almost, until something like this happens,
That is the tiniest of holes poked in the sticker on the main ramp — stickers that go over molded detail are one of the many areas that the original G1 stickers fail as a concept. It was done by my son because all he wants in the world is to drive “truck” (a.k.a. Gasket) up and down the main ramp.
Which I will allow him to do all he wants.
When he is eighteen…
Or maybe never. The jury is still out on that one.
The Year of the Really Big Autobots, Part Two… Part One. Gasket and Grommet (Cog), Spike/Cerebros, Cerebros/Fortress! Fortress Maximus!
2013, which I have declared the year of the “most surprising, most glee-inducing releases in recent Transformers history” rolls on with TakaraTomy’s Encore Release number 23. Unless you’ve been living under a Transforming rock for the last six months, you are probably well aware of the identity of the most recent release in the Encore line.
Measuring 22 inches tall, Fortress Maximus was, until very recently, the largest Transformer toy ever made and an unattainable holy grail to many, myself included. Add in the fact that I had just finished watching the Headmasters cartoon series not too long before he was announced and I pre-ordered him so fast I was dizzy. Though I did not shell out the extra money for the “early shipment” that some online retailers were offering, I was champing at the bit to get my hands on him.
Never having owned his toy (I was 13 when he was originally released and was told I was too old for Transformers), the closest I have come to him is pictures on the internet or the few I have seen from a distance on dealers tables at Botcon. Not having the commitment nor the fortitude to stomach the cost necessary to complete a vintage Fort Max, I had pretty much resigned myself to the fact that the closest I would come to having him grace my display was the KO of Spike that I owned. His Encore release was as welcome as it was completely unexpected.
Encore reissues are, of course, completely a TakaraTomy affair — especially with this one as there’s just no way he can pass the Draconian “Drop Test” laws of Hasbro territories. One thing this means is that the smaller robots that come with the gigantic ‘bot aren’t the human Spike, binary-bonded with the Headmaster Cerebros, who in turn transforms into the head of Fortress Maximus. No, here we have the small robot Cerebros who forms the head of Fortress, who then forms the head of Fortress Maximus. That’s why, when referring to the toys themselves, I will be using their Takara release names.
As I wrote about at length in my Hardhead post, I fully support Cerebros being a robot in place of the squishy human Spike. As much as I absolutely love Headmasters, Targetmasters, and Powermasters; I still consider the use of highly modified organics for partners to be both illogical and painfully awkward.
As first impressions go, I expected Fortress himself to be larger, though I’m not sure why. Fortress Maximus is as righteously huge as I was anticipating, so the size of the robot that makes up his head should have been pretty easy to extrapolate.
Despite his smaller size, he still has the full three tumblers in his chest for his Tech Spec readout. Putting the “Max” in “Maximus”, he has all tens across the board.
Despite having Spike, I never really thought about just how very wrong the Marvel comics and US cartoon got his head model — shown in the bottom of the last panel in the comic book image above. Headrobots did do a set called “Centurion” that included updated versions (along the same lines as their “Hothead” G1 Hardhead update) of both the original G1 toy as well as the way he looked in the US fiction.
As much as I love Headrobots, I didn’t really feel the need to pick this set up. I can imagine it was awesome for anyone that had assembled almost all of a vintage Fortress Maximus but maybe missing Spike. Though I wouldn’t mind owning just the US cartoon accurate one, I honestly like Takara’s Fortress better than Hasbro’s Cerebros, they managed to get much closer to the look of his toy.
Another difference between the Takara and Hasbro releases is the inclusion of two versions of the Master Sword, the sword “given to the just ruler”. One of which is a smaller version, meant to be wielded by Fortress.
On the subject of things I wasn’t aware until I acquired him for myself included his third mode: ”communications room”.
Errr, well, it works better when he combines with his section of Fortress Maximus in city mode.
A good reason for me not knowing his second alt mode was that he actually transformed into an alt mode in the US cartoon’s “Rebirth“. That alt mode just happened to be a miniaturized version of Fortress Maximus’ full city mode.
That’s not too surprising, as there really isn’t anything consistent across any of his fictional appearances.
I’ve looked far and wide, but can find no evidence for or against Takara’s release using the same name as Hasbro for the two components, Gasket and Grommet.
By extension, as far as I know, Takara released their combined robot mode under the same name as well, Cog.
The part that I don’t understand is — beyond the application of wheels and tank tread stickers — no real attempt was made to make these guys transform or even look much like two separate alt modes. Gasket, the upper half, does marginally better; if seen from the side, he looks like a vehicle of some sort. He can also function as a heavily armed
wheelchair vehicle for Cerebros.
I still think he was meant to go the other way ’round. He looks like a torso on wheels the way the instructions show him. Reversed, he looks like a well armed pickup truck type vehicle.
Grommet on the other hand makes no attempt to look like anything more than a pair of Transformers legs with tank treads driving around.
It would have made so much more sense to put holes on Grommet to allow him to carry Cog’s arms as guns in alt mode.
That’s Fortress Maximus’ supporting cast, the primary inhabitants of this particular Autobot city.
I have to admit, Gasket and Grommet are a bit of a let down, though Cog is a solid enough combined mode. They are definitely no Scamper, Six-Gun, and Slammer, so that’s one area that Fortress Maximus loses out to Metroplex. Well, the only area. I’m saying this while being very partial to Metroplex, but Fortress Maximus is just a wonder in city mode.
As my kid will attest, this mode has non-stop play value.
One of the added benefits to leaving the guns off Gasket is that he’s able to fit into my favourite gimmick of city mode. I knew that Fortress Maximus had a somewhat awkwardly placed rotating handle on his crotch but never knew what function it served. In city mode, it sits in the back, tucked away behind the main tower and nestled between the two rear cannons.
Turning the crank raises and lowers an elevator inside the main section of the fortress.
Once the vehicle elevator has been raised, pushing the red button next to the ramp opening tilts the back end of the elevator platform up, ejecting the vehicle at surprisingly high speeds.
City mode has a prison for dealing with those dastardly Decepticons.
Also, a helicopter pad.
There’s a turning radar arrary, presumably powered by Fortress in his “communications room” mode. Of course, there’s also a million other nooks and crannies for the other inhabitants, ’cause this is a
Next up is part two of “The Year of the Really Big Autobots Part 2″ — Part 2 of Part 2? Maybe I should have just called them Part 2: Hyper Fighting and Part 2: The New Challengers.
Anyway, up next: the Big Bot himself.
With the Kreons, I have gained both a new appreciation as well as jealousy of the folks at Takara and Hasbro that design Transformers. It started with my experience bulking up and somewhat G1-ifying my Kre-O Wheeljack and has happened again with the new Kre-O Microchanger Combiners.
Before we get to that part, first let me go off on a bit of a tangent. With all of the announced Kre-O Microchanger Combiners — wait, back up: let’s start with the fact that the Microchanger Combiner teams based on their G1 releases even exist to begin with. Now, back to what I was typing about before my tangent went off on a tangent: even though each of the Kre-O Combined robots is only made up of four ‘bots; they are including the fifth ‘bot from the team as a single packed release.
Now I want one more person to tell me that Hasbro & Co. doesn’t love the fans. Just one.
There is absolutely no other reason they would include a single-pack release that is mostly indistinguishable to the average kid from the guys in the Combiner set other than for the fans.
For example, that way we (the fans) don’t miss out on Slingshot — released as Kre-O Quickslinger — with the rest of the Aerialbots that make up Kre-O Superion.
Quickslinger gets a different head and helmet from the rest of the Aerialbots, but other than that, has the same basic colour scheme as Firestrike — the Kre-O incarnation of Fireflight.
The remaining three are the ones that didn’t suffer a name change; Air Raid, the team leader Silverbolt, and Skydive.
Air Raid’s is pretty much the only one of the five of them with a semi-decent alt mode.
Mind you, this isn’t a complaint or a strike against these guys in the least bit for me. None of the Microchanger series and especially none of the Microchanger Combiners have been bought because they can actually transform. Just like the pre-Microchanger Kreons, they were all bought based on their robot modes and the awesome G1-ness of it all. Pretty much the same reason I own all of the widely released G1 Robot Heroes.
As much as I like Superion and the Aerialbots, I’m not too overly attached to them, which may be why I didn’t really feel the need — as so many other apparently did — to find a combination that included him in Superion. It wouldn’t be too difficult to do and still include a majority, if not all, of his pieces.
For some reason, I didn’t feel the same about Predaking and the Predacons. Not only did I feel the need to include the single-packed member of the group, Rampage, but I also felt compelled to correct the non-G1-ness of his combined mode’s legs.
For it to properly be Predaking, you have to have a rhino head for the left kneecap and a bull head for the right. What the instructions have instead is a — admittedly clever — single horn to represent the rhino and the double horned piece from Divebomb’s tail to suggest the bull head.
What I and countless others have done is to use the actual head pieces in place of the suggested ones. This presents a slight problem, because the combined mode uses the orange head piece for its head. All except Divebomb have an interchangeable helmet piece with holes to insert horns and make it into a rhino or bull head or left as is for the two cats. To solve this, I swapped out Rampage’s red head piece achieving even more G1 accuracy in the process. However, this wasn’t the end of the problems. As a further cheat, the red head for Rampage on Predaking’s shoulder is faked by using the red headpiece from the bull. I say “faked” because, remember, Rampage isn’t even included in the Predaking set.
I considered buying a second single-packed Rampage just for the headpiece, but for now I faked it even more by borrowing a couple of my extra red pieces for his shoulder.
By adding Rampage into the mix, I also made Predaking a little taller, which is appropriate given his comparatively hulking size in G1.
While I was adding extra pieces, I also increased Divebomb’s wingspan which in turn increased Predaking’s. Remember that appreciation and jealousy of the toy designers I mentioned? Divebomb is where a majority of it came from in this case. I had a lot of dislikes with Divebomb. First, his robot mode placed his wings directly on his arms, which is needlessly inaccurate. I moved those to his already existing backpack. I also used red for the wings rather than black in robot mode. I would have preferred a little more G1 accurate orange, but was lacking the pieces.
I also left his tail piece on his backpack. Speaking of his tail, that I changed completely. The double-pronged tail piece from the instructions just didn’t work at all. His entire alt mode was pretty much just him bending in half, it clearly needed further help. I kept the black wing pieces along with the added red and gave him a bigger wingspan and used the two slanting orange pieces from his combined mode’s legs to try to recreate his G1 tail. I also replaced the two horns with actual clamps to give his bird legs some actual clawed feet.
Still not perfect, but much better in my opinion. The appreciation for toy designers came in the fact that I would make improvements to his alt mode, but then it was too bulky and I was removing way too many pieces to convert him to robot. What I had to do was find a balance between a definitive alt mode and a clean robot mode without a pile of pieces left over. Luckily Kre-O has a precedent of a couple pieces left over after you transform them. A toy designer doesn’t even that much leeway. These days they have to try to make a convincing alt mode and a convincing robot mode and use all the same pieces for both. A mind-twisting exercise, but a fun one (which is where the jealousy comes in). With the exception of not putting the vest piece on Razorclaw, I left the other guys pretty much alone in both modes. The vest pieces have been particularly annoying because they cover up all the wonder detailing included on the Kreon’s chest.
I’ve left them off of any Kreons where they aren’t strictly necessary.
Despite the identical headpieces, the menagerie of animals for the Predacons has just enough differences. Though they still come off rather… impressionistic.
Once again, not a problem. The combined mode is where it’s at.
I have purposely tried to stay away from their Kre-O names because two of them are a bit of a mess. Razorclaw, Rampage, and Divebomb all retain their original G1 names, but Tantrum and Headstrong are no longer available. Hasbro replaced them with Torox and Headlock. Now, Torox has history, it is actually Tantrum’s Italian G1 name. The problem is that someone got confused and swapped their names along the way, with Tantrum being renamed Headlock and my favourite Predacon, Headstrong, being renamed Torox.
Either way, whatever they’re named, I seriously doubt anyone’s going to mess with them about it.
So, it looks like the last of my blog post publishing problems has been wrapped up and things should start appearing every Thursday like they’re meant to. For anyone that missed it because of the two Gizmodo posts, I did finally get my Insecticons post to show up. Enjoy!
In the Beast Hunters line there were three toys I was looking forward to the most and one I was looking forward to the least. The first of the three was Smokescreen, the last of the three will be Beast Fire Predaking, the Ultimate Class dragon expected later this year. In the middle are the remaining two: one I was eagerly anticipating and one not-so-much.
What I found was that the one I wasn’t looking forward to at all is actually quite good and the one I was looking forward to is indeed fantastic.
I actually feel a little bad for Bumblebee at this point. He’s been done so many times that you would think that he could get a good long break from that same yellow and black look, but no. Sure, he’s gotten a couple “stealth” releases here and there, but the vast, overwhelming majority have stuck steadfast to the very strict homage. This wouldn’t be too bad by itself, but once you mix it with the sheer number of toys he received on the shelves since his front-and-center role in the 2007 movie; a tinge of animosity can begin to grow.
His Beast Hunters release had it even worse, being a retool of a previous toy. Granted he is heavily, heavily retooled. In Beast Hunters style, he is festooned with the requisite stabby spikes, but he also has new hood detailing, missile carrying racks added to both car doors, and a 5mm hole added to the car roof for mounting weapons.
More specifically — though he comes with the Robots in Disguise release’s arm guns — it’s for mounting his new “Eagleshot Bow” (not to be confused with the weapon of Beast Hunters Optimus, the “Eaglefire Missile Launchers”) for which he comes with six missiles.
He has a new “armored up” headsculpt which basically adds a cool crested helmet to his previous head and giving him a birdlike visage.
One more major retool he received is that the hinge that lets his roof fold up and tuck away better is removed. The end result is that part of the roof sticks up further in the back on the Beast Hunters release. However, this takes away from the awkwardness of the one part of his Arms Micron and Robots in Disguise releases I didn’t like; the thin panel that juts up behind his head.
So, I am glad to report that even with his yawn-inspiring yellow and black paintjob, the rest of him is surprisingly good.
Not surprisingly good: Shockwave. He is decidedly not surprising in the fact that he is beyond good, he is amazing. What is surprising, is that somehow he accomplishes this while overcoming a very serious handicap. No, not his lack of depth perception or the huge cannon where his left hand should be; those particular “handicaps” are an intrinsic part of Shockwave.
No, his problem is his alt mode. While it’s very reminiscent of Animated Shockwave, it’s a strange half-tracked, spindly suggestion of a tank rather than an actual tank.
For a voyager, I definitely don’t expect to see his arm and hand mostly dangling from the bottom of his alt mode — a problem he shares with fellow Prime Voyager-class release, Dreadwing. At least Dreadwing’s hands stick out in the back, Shockwave’s is right there in front. He definitely isn’t doing the “H-Tank” category any favours.
The other thing he shares with Dreadwing: his robot mode more than makes up for any alt mode deficiencies.
Furthering the Shockwave homage in a very clever way, one of his tank treads unwraps and attaches to this gun arm to mimic his G1 release’s cannon tube.
Also, this mode is impressively large, fitting for his character in the show, but as he towers over Megatron, not fitting for the actual scale of the show.
Though some didn’t like the Deluxe size release for War for Cybertron/Fall of Cybertron Shockwave, I always thought it was appropriate for his smaller “Scientist Class” size in the game itself. The difference between these two is almost like before and after shots of some sort of augmentation or upgrade.
Shockwave’s gimmick is a gun feature that expands while it spins. There is no built-in way to lock it open.
Shockwave shared Smokescreen‘s Beast Hunter feature, having his extra armor pieces as flexible, removal add-ons.
Though, like Beast Hunters Soundwave, I’m not sure why one of the Decepticons needs the Beast-y armoring, but his will go somewhere in a bin like Smokescreens as it doesn’t really add much to either mode.
Really, though, what could they have possibly done to improve on this monstrous presence?
Smokescreen gets the support he deserves (*snort* HeeHee). Transformers Prime Beast Hunters Smokescreen vs. Ripclaw!
When the possibility began to rear its ugly head that we would not receive a Hasbro release of Prime Smokescreen, the temptation to purchase the TakaraTomy repaint of the Knock Out mold was tremendous.
I sympathize completely with those that went ahead and bought him. There was no guarantee — especially after the Breakdown ordeal — that we would ever see him in Hasbro markets; despite the facts that he remains a major character on the show and really deserved his own mold. Hasbro then unintentionally added fuel to that fire by announcing that a new mold Smokescreen would indeed get a release, but as part of Beast Hunters.
Many were afraid that this meant we would only get a spiky, bulked-up, and weathered-looking Smokescreen out of Hasbro without ever seeing a representation of his standard, second season robot and alt modes. However, Hasbro was on top of it. His newly acquired “Shadow Quill Armor” (a cool, if somewhat non sequitur name) is a heavily-molded piece of flexible plastic and can be removed altogether.
The Shadow Quill Armor piece can also be added to his robot mode. Now, this is the part where my inner-twelve-year-old boy starts to giggle. See, for anyone that doesn’t know; a stretchy, usually vinyl, usually aftermarket piece added to the front of a car is called a car bra. So, to take that piece and then stretch it across Smokescreen’s chest. Heehee.
Apparently the Germans, Swedes, Danes and Dutch all use the acronym “BH” for women’s bras which means, respectively, büstenhalter, bysthållare, brysteholdere and bustehouder. Gives a whole new meaning to BH Smokescreen…
Ok, I’m done, I promise.
As for Smokescreen’s unencumbered robot mode, it suffers only slightly from pieces — or kibble, or whatever you want to call it — hanging from the backs of his lower arms.
Obviously not as visually smooth as his cartoon model, but it definitely doesn’t get in the way of dynamic poses.
The other thing that is not screen accurate is the particularly irksome decision to paint his head details in blue rather than red.
Why go to all the trouble to give us such a screen accurate head and then apply paint mostly in the wrong places and in the wrong colour? He also comes with an Electronet launcher for all that beastly hunting of beasts.
Speaking of beasts (how’s that for a subtle seque?): Ripclaw.
No… really. Just… Ripclaw.
Easily up there with the best Transformer releases in recent history, the new Prime Predacon Ripclaw is an amazing toy. She — yes, SHE – puts her fellow Predacon Lazerback to shame. While both have good detailing and design in alt mode, Ripclaw adds in a goodly amount of articulation. Combined with her segmented tail ending in a clawed stinger and you can get some great shots.
You can remove the claw from the end of her tail and the handle is recessed enough that placing it in her hand make it look like a natural extension of her harm rather than a handheld weapon.
Pivoting the tail down removes the tension on the rubber piece inside by producing enough slack for the segments to move. The end result is that the tail can then lay loose behind her.
From the moment I saw the solicitation images of her, the first thing I thought of was one of my favourite Marvel supervillians, Annihilus.
Errrr, surely we’ve got a better image of him around here somewhere…
Ok, I think this comparison is getting away from me. Let’s try something a little further back in the archives.
Ah! Yes, that Annihilus. Although, with his colouration, he looks a little bit more like Ser-Ket than Ripclaw.
Introduced in the recent Rage of the Dinobots comic book series, Ser-Ket — also female — looks exactly like the toy of Ripclaw. Naturally this has lead to many fans anticipating a repaint of the mold in a later wave. If it happens, I will buy her too, if only to have an excuse to display this mold in both modes.
Not exactly the greatest mystery of Transformers history, but definitely an interesting identity crisis. G1 and Dark of the Moon Spike Witwicky and Backfire
Most humans are not allowed in my display, let alone subjects of blog posts, but with the obvious exception of Minerva and Shūta showing up last week, I feel now is as good a time as any to take a quick look at Spike Witwicky; mostly spurred on by a Human Alliance release from early in the Dark of the Moon line (so there is an actual Transformer involved in this post too).
We start at the most recent release that actually represents the beginning of the cycle; last year’s Toys R Us exclusive Masterpiece Optimus Prime. Hasbro’s release of TakaraTomy’s MP-10 mold included the tiny Spike figure.
He represents the beginning because first there was Spike from the original G1 cartoon.
Followed by Spike from later in the G1 cartoon by way of the 1986 movie (or “Sparkle” in the hilariously bad Omni Productions dub of Headmasters.)
Which leads to the amusing little sidetrack homage of Spike from Animated.
Separately from the cartoons, we have Spike from the original G1 comics.
Who was caused by Spike from the G1 toys. By “caused” I mean he was inserted in the comic at the time pretty much to sell the new Fortress Maximus toy.
Previous to Spike’s appearance in the comic, there was just his younger brother, Buster.
Another amusing sidetrack, either Spike or Buster may or may not also be Butch from the Forest Rescue Mission coloring book.
None of them is – or perhaps all of them are – necessarily analogous to Sam from the recent movies.
Sam is given the nickname of “Spike” in the credits of the Latin American Spanish dub of the movie (presumably from an earlier draft of the script) but Sam Witwitcky can’t be Spike Witwicky. Mostly because this guy already is.
Packaged in with Human Alliance Backfire, Spike Witwicky is definitely not Sam. Just to add a little confusion, Sam Witwicky was later packaged in the Autobot Daredevil Squad, which also includes a repaint of Backfire. How do I know Sam is not Spike? Sam can be described as a number of things (“twitchy” comes to mind) but Spike Witwicky is described as a “specialist in urban warfare”.
Sorry, Sam, I’m not buying it, I don’t think you have a place in the Spike Witwicky group.
So, how did I end up on this ultimately fruitless path of trying to figure out where “Spike Witwicky” fits within the movie-verse’s Witwicky family? To make a long story short (too late!),
Initially there were a couple things that really caught my attention with this guy. First, he has great light piping in his head. Second, the two guns that he comes with are really freakin’ cool.
Third, his Can-Am Spyder Roadster alt mode is great. Just like Human Alliance Icepick‘s snowmobile, I don’t have any particular attachment to the vehicle itself, just that the sculpt is really well done.
The best part about him, though, is his third mode.
Speaking of Human Alliance Icepick, before I get to Backfire’s third mode, I need to clear up a moment of extreme stupidity on my part in my Icepick post. I derided him for his third mode, something I declared to be a “Hoverbike with a chainsaw”; which, as awesome as it sounds like it should be, doesn’t really make any sense.
Now I’m not saying I’m the smartest person on the planet, but normally I’m not this obtuse. Somehow, despite showing the shield mode of Drag Strip in the very same post, I managed to miss the post at the back of Icepick’s third mode. As in: the handle. The handle meant to be held by larger Transformers.
And not just a Targetmaster weapon, a freaking chainsaw with guns. That is awesome. Seriously.
It finally dawned on me what the best point of the Human Alliance basics line really was when I saw Backfire’s third mode.
I knew I had seen this before and a quick search of the Dark of the Moon concept art proved me right.
I think I’m actually going to go back, revisit this line a little more closely, and see what other awesomeness I might have accidentally glazed over.
The biggest conclusion I have come to, though, is that I would have cared so much more (or at all, I guess) for the “Human” part of Human Alliance if they had used humans I cared about at all. By this, of course, I mean: why is there no G.I. Joe Human Alliance Transformers?
Some oddities and downright mistakes from the earlier years of Transformers have understandably perpetuated. The easiest example of this would be the accidental swap of Rumble and Frenzy’s colours. Those of us that knew them first as toys are used to Rumble being red and Frenzy being blue. Those that saw them first through the cartoon tend to expect the reverse. It makes sense that such a big discrepancy would still live on with the G1 cartoon being such a formative piece of fiction for a lot of fans.
The perpetuation of other mistakes makes far less sense. ”Minelba” is one. Minerva, an actual name that makes actual sense, has been consistently incorrectly transliterated or “romanized“ from Japanese into English on her packaging and bio card. The reasons for this are blatantly obvious to anyone with even a passing familiarity with Japanese, but the original intent of the name is clearly Minerva, named after the Roman goddess of (among many other things) medicine.
And so the error lives on. You’ll even find fans that insist the name is truly Minelba, despite all evidence to the contrary. Of course, this is the same fandom that can sometimes exhibit… inappropriate reactions to the fifteen-year-old girl.
Minerva only appeared as a Takara release in the Masterforce line and her lack of a Hasbro release leads to her commanding excessive sums of money on the secondary market. The most recent Ebay auction as of this writing closed at $570 for a toy with heavy sticker wear and missing her seat/helmet and two smaller blasters. The end result being that just short of a reissue, a Minerva would not be gracing my display any time soon. This made me sad as I had just recently watched Masterforce and liked it a lot.
Then at the end of 2011, Reprolabels announced it would be doing a free giveaway project of stickers for both Minerva and another Headmaster Junior, Goshooter. To remove the inevitable flood of these sets showing up on Ebay, they stipulated that you must own either of the toys to qualify for the free project. Due to the somewhat rare nature of the two, they also allowed those that owned the Korean knock-off versions to be eligible. To prove ownership, you just needed to take a photo of you holding one or both and e-mail it in. As the closest I would reasonably come to owning these two, I ordered the knock-offs and had my wife snap a quick phone picture and I was in.
The KO versions are certainly not without their flaws. Minerva has a black torso rather than white, a gold face with black eyes rather than yellow with blue eyes, and the guns on the side of the head have the handle at the wrong angle.
The difference in the face didn’t really bother me at all, in fact I especially like the gold, but the black chest had to go. So I tried my hand at a little painting and I don’t think it came out too bad.
One place that was difficult to lay an even coat was on the robot’s chest, due to the smaller details. It doesn’t really make too much difference, as the other thing the KO lacks is the tech spec mechanism in the chest altogether so there’s not really a reason to open it. Not that it stopped me from putting the SPD/STR/INT sticker in place.
Another difference with the KO is the lack of the tiny paint application on the face of the Headmaster figure itself.
A cool detail about the Headmaster Juniors, as well as their Hasbro counterparts, is that even though the smaller size of their robots didn’t allow for three separate tumblers for the tech spec reader, the heads still had the proper tooling. This means plugging Minerva into Brainstorm’s body will give you Minerva’s tech specs of SPD: 7, STR: 5, and INT: 8.
The Reprolabels sticker set really gets a chance to shine in alt mode.
Minerva’s alt mode would be considered an emergency rapid response vehicle — the smaller, faster vehicles used either along with an ambulance or in place of an ambulance in cases were transporting patients isn’t necessary. The KO has black windows in place of the original’s blue painted windows, but retains the hole placements necessary to weaponize this otherwise unsuspecting emergency vehicle.
Also still there is the opening roof to allow Minerva to ride along in alt mode.
Minerva’s fellow Headmaster Junior Shūta Gō has a little bit of naming confusions but only to those not familiar with the convention of using the surname before the given name. In Japan, his last name of Gō would come first; thus Gō Shūta gives way to his Transformer’s name of Goshooter. The KO of Goshooter has a much darker blue and he has a silver rather than light blue face.
In alt mode, Goshooter now sports a red and blue light bar, the original only had light blue on both ends.
Shūta rides along in alt mode.
He also has holes for weaponizing his alt mode.
Just like Minerva, Shūta is missing the paint application from his face.
If the KOs are any indication, Minerva and Goshooter are quite solid pieces. They are both very well proportioned and reasonably well articulated for Generation 1 era toys.
I just need to find Cab to complete the trio. Luckily there was no difference between the Hasbro and Takara releases of the Cab/Hosehead mold. Unlike Minerva and Goshooter, tracking him down actually seems reasonably possible.
The Year of the Really Big Autobots: Part One. G1 and Platinum Edition Year of the Snake Omega Supreme!
2013 brings three of the most surprising, most glee-inducing releases in recent Transformers history. Releasing in ascending height we have:
- Omega Supreme -”Year of the Snake” and second of the Platinum Edition exclusives (the first being last year’s “Year of the Dragon” Dark of the Moon Ultimate Optimus Prime), a retool of Energon Omega Supreme done in the style of Omega’s War for Cybertron incarnation with just enough G1 about him to make him at home in a Generations display.
- Fortress Maximus – the holy grail for many Transformers and now Encore Release #23 coming in March/April.
- Metroplex – An unexpected Toyfair 2013 reveal, the giant city-bot gets an update via the Generations line, with a somewhat Fall of Cybertron feel to him. At 24 inches tall, he will ever-so-slightly surpass Fortress Maximus as the tallest Transformer toy ever made. His release has been declared as “Fall 2013″.
Just one of these would make for a pretty awesome lead-in to the Transformers “Thrilling Thirty” 30th Anniversary celebration, but to get all three is as awesome as it is literally huge.
Part 1: The Last Line of Defense.
Omega Supreme has, hands down, one of the best retorts of the entirety of the Generation 1 cartoon. In The God Gambit, after crash landing onto a cliff edge on an alien world and finding himself stuck in place due to low energy, Jazz tells him that they will be back to help him, adding cheerfully,
“Just don’t move!”
The ever-pragmatic Omega Supreme responds with,
“Sarcasm: not appreciated.”
Along with being just a genuinely funny moment, this whole scene highlights the biggest (no pun intended) problem inherent with using Omega Supreme — or any of the Titans for that matter.
He’s simply too big and too powerful to be used regularly. He is relegated to the “last line of defense” because he could smash the Decepticon army almost single-handedly; which would make for a very short cartoon series. Granted, in a war for energy, keeping an energon-guzzler like Omega Supreme fully functional isn’t realistic, which helps mitigate the first part but that doesn’t really factor in when you are talking about the toys. It’s no fun taking your Skywarp into battle when the other kid has an Autobot that can solidly trounce you in one hit.
Due to their cost, most of the people I know only ever had one of the titans growing up. I am no exception; mine was Metroplex. I never even got him in-hand until he was reissued in the Encore line in 2008. Originally sold as “Super Change Robot Mechabot-1″ by Toybox — the same people that sold Sky Lynx — his reissue became possible when Takara merged with then-rival Tomy in 2006. It turned out that Toybox had licensed both of them from designs created by Tomy. Because Hasbro had licensed them from another company, Takara never released either of them in Japan until their somewhat-inaccurately-named Encore releases. The Encore attempts to give Omega Supreme a face in the previously vacant area under his visor.
Though the sculpt doesn’t really make it look any more like the cartoon head, I like it. He can also turn his head around to bring his cannon to bear.
Though, it wasn’t entirely necessary, as shown in many of his fiction appearances, he could still blast enemies without turning his head.
Also, as shown in many of his fiction appearances, he has really, really, reeeeeeeally cheesy dialogue. I guess you have a lot of time on your hands when you spend a good portion of the time as a base. Omega Supreme apparently chooses to use that spare time to come up with imposing one liners?
Due the nature of his “Tank with track around rocket base” alt mode, he is the very definition of a partsformer.
I’m sure this lead to a lot of Omega Supreme toys with missing pieces, especially the little yellow clips that keep his legs together. I like his alt mode mainly for the motorized tank that patrols the base’s perimeter.
In robot mode, the motor gives him an awkward, slow, shuffling walk which is pretty much the full extent of any leg articulation. His arms have very good articulation, though.
There’s a little bit of disagreement about his robot mode, namely his “wings”. In his instructions, he has the center pieces attached to his back.
However, most of his fictional appearances show him with the side pieces instead, a look that can be duplicated on the toy.
This attention to how the wings are placed becomes more apparent when you put the G1 Omega Supreme up against the new Platinum Edition release. If any true deficiency can be pointed out on this wonderful new update/homage, it’s that he has no wings at all.
Setting this aside is very easy to do when so much else about the new Omega Supreme is so very right. Whomever decided to take Energon Omega Supreme, give him a G1 paintjob, replace the Headmaster feature with a new headsculpt, and replace the crane arm with a proper claw arm is a genius.
I originally had Energon Omega Supreme but got rid of him when I became so very disappointed in a good portion of the Energon toyline. It was just too hard to look past his bad paintjob, gimmicky crane hand, and strange train engine with crane arm part of his alt mode. Unfortunately, the only part of it that makes me regret giving him up is the Headmaster part, which was removed in the Platinum Edition release. Happily the new War for Cybertron headsculpt is amazing.
Seeing pre-release pictures of him, I was concerned that the new headsculpt seemed too small, but once I saw him in person, I find I like it. It actually helps to give his body more of a sense of size. Of course, his actual sheer size also helps. The visor part of his headsculpt can be raised and a cannon flips out from the back of his head.
My major complaint with Energon Omega Supreme in both robot and alt mode, the crane arm, has been replaced by the articulated spinning claw hand/cannon from the game. This also fixes that half of his alt mode, as it is now a train engine pulling a massive cannon.
The battleship half of his alt mode is the same, but I never had any problems with it, it’s actually pretty cool.
The combined version of his alt mode, the “Cybertronian Armored Supertrain” is still complete nonsense.
For the most part, so is the “crane” transformation.
Ditto on the “artillery cannon” transformation.
None of it matter, though, when there’s already a decent alt mode made of the two vehicles and an absolutely wonderful, massive robot mode.
Hunter. Hunted. I’m the guy with the guns and sword. Transformers Prime Beast Hunters Optimus Prime!
SPOILER ALERT for the very last moment of the last episode of Season 2 of Transformers Prime.
At the end of the final episode of Season 2 — appropriately named “Darkest Hour” — we are left with a stark image.
The damaged, lifeless hand of Optimus Prime jutting from the ruins of the Autobot base would have much more impact if it weren’t for the fact that:
- Optimus Prime “deaths” are somewhat commonplace in Transformers series. At this point, I’m starting to believe that when Hasbro hires a studio to produce a new series, the contract ends with “Oh, yes, one more thing: make sure to kill Optimus Prime at least once.”
- We’ve seen toys of Season 3 Transformers Prime Beast Hunters Optimus Prime. Not only does he survive his impromptu burying, but it actually seems to have done him some good.
Beast Hunters Optimus Prime is the bulked up, menacing looking version of Optimus that presumably somehow claws his way out of the literal mountain of rubble dropped on his head by the Decepticons. I was initially concerned that the armored versions of the Autobots might not make it into the cartoon itself, but going by the promotional material, it looks like at least Optimus will get his upgrade in cartoon form.
Speaking of Season 2, many fans have eagerly awaited the Star Saber in toy form ever since it made an appearance in Transformers Prime.
“Eagerly awaited” became “OMGGimmeThatSwordNow” when Optimus did this,
Some of us even got weak in the knees when he followed that up with,
This lead to many fans simply taking it on themselves to equip their Optimus with his blade including the talented 3rd party accessory maker, Dr. Wu.
Some fans were… less interested in the subtle details.
We did get a smaller, less impressive version of the Star Saber with the Robots in Disguise Optimus release.
However, the smaller size puts it more on par with the Star Saber that comes with the Cyberverse release of Beast Hunters Optimus Prime.
It didn’t quite meet expectations for the mighty Star Saber, and happily Hasbro didn’t leave us hanging for long, though they have traded the blue glow of the cartoon version for translucent green.
The green tint is reflected in the promotional material, but we will see if that detail makes it into the cartoon.
Despite the upcoming Ultimate class “Dragon Disc” Optimus Prime, you know some will buy the Voyager release as well just to get the sword. For me, the sword was appealing, but the bigger draw was the built-in “Jet Wing” mode.
His backpack has places to put his weapons, both of his guns — which form jet engines for his flight mode — as well as the Star Saber.
Optimus’ “Eaglefire Missile Launchers” are detailed in his instructions as:
- Compact size masks devastating power.
- Missile impact powerful enough to cause earthquakes.
- Double as rocket engines for limited flight.
Augmenting this powerful new Optimus is a powerful looking new alt mode.
This is your Robot in Disguise.
This is your Robot in no mood to deal with anyone’s crap any more, disguise be damned, thank you very much.
Disguise is officially gone from Optimus’ alt mode. Apparently now it’s all about brute force.
Though not from a completely official source, news has appeared that Season 3 or Beast Hunters will be the end of Transformers Prime with a new series coming (along with the fourth entry in the live action movie franchise) in 2014. If the toys and promos we’ve seen so far are any indication, it looks like Prime is looking to go out with a growling, angry bang, not a whimper.
I have to admit a great deal of disappointment in Fall of Cybertron, and it’s almost all this guy’s fault:
I’d like to be able to simply jump on the bandwagon and say that the toy is the problem; that he’s just too small and his transformation is to simplistic. In reality, he is much less bulky than his previous incarnation.
It’s not that, though, I really don’t have a problem with the recent down-sizing of the toys. No, I have an issue with the overall aesthetic. I have since before setting eyes on the toy itself; since seeing this shot from the Fall of Cybertron trailer.
The design just doesn’t come close to his War for Cybertron body (a change that is never actually explained anywhere.) The toy actually improves on the odd, rounded look his head has, making it less rounded and more angled. However, it pales when put next to the awesome War for Cybertron head. The problem that the toy doesn’t fix is the chunky, blocked torso, though it does a decent job of downplaying it.
Still, that boxy, squared-off, top-heavy chest piece is something I would expect from an Ultra Magnus toy, not Optimus.
Oh. Well there you go. Yes, the mold definitely looks better as Ultra Magnus. In fact, I’m pretty sure he can deal with that (and just about anything else) right now.
I consider this a sort of vindication for poor Ultra Magnus. After suffering as an on again, off again repaint of his much more famous “brother”, it’s good to see him actually doing a mold better. The strange part is just how well the exact same mold still manages to pull off a really good Optimus and Ultra Magnus alt mode at the same time.
Since Ultra Magnus’ appearance in Animated, he’s become somewhat synonymous with hammers, but it looks like earlier on, he chose a… stabbier-slicier weapon. The best part is that the sword splits into pieces and can be combined with his gun — the same as the gun that comes with the Optimus version of the mold — to form an even bigger sword.
Funnily enough, the sword itself is modeled after the sword Optimus uses in the final showdown with Megatron in the game.
A scaled-down version of Megatron’s sword actually comes with Fall of Cybertron Air Raid.
When it comes to a sudden boost in weapon accessories, Ultra Magnus and Air Raid are both indicative of the second and future waves of the Fall of Cybertron toys.
The weapon Optimus’ toy comes with appears in promotional material for the game.
This is a nice inclusion, and speaks to this new move to actually make toy versions of the weapons from the game.
Optimus’ primary weapon of choice in the game is the Path Blaster.
Sideswipe, a fellow wave 2 toy with Ultra Magnus, includes this massive weapon.
After playing through the game and getting all the upgrades for the Path Blaster, there’s a good chance Sideswipe is not getting this weapon back from Optimus. All of this new weapon love isn’t entirely new. Back in War for Cybertron, Megatron came with his fusion cannon, the front half of which resembles a combination of the War for Cybertron Fusion Cannon and Fall of Cybertron‘s Riot Cannon
Unfortunately, it was molded as his alt mode’s primary weapon and includes a huge piece at the end. Also, it attaches in a specific way to Megatron’s arm and really can’t be used by other toys.
Another weapon, which makes an appearance in the game but is really character-specific, it the Sling Shock. Unlike Megatron’s, Shockwave’s weapon has a standard post and can be held by others.
Starscream comes with the game’s Neutron Assault Rifle, a very mean-looking geared six-barreled cannon.
Last but definitely not the least of wave 2 is one of my favourite weapons to use in multiplayer, the Gear Shredder. Used properly — never charge it all the way, it kills the accuracy — it’s a lethal and, more importantly, fun weapon (watching enemies flee with bladed discs sticking out of them from different angles never gets old).
Included with Kickback, the firing mechanism leaves a lot to be desired for a disc weapon, but it still looks very cool.
There are at least two of the next wave that come with game weapons; Whirl with the Subsonic Repeater and Roadbuster with the Energon Harvester. I can’t wait to grow the Fall of Cybertron in-game arsenal a little more.