Posts Tagged Cybertron (faction)
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.
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.
If there is one thing that is sorely missing from my collection, a large gaping hole, it is my lack of the Cybertron’s Supreme Commander, Star Saber. Why write a post about someone I don’t have you might ask? Because I do have this,
And he is pretty freaking awesome. The original G1 Star Saber toy is a rather large toy, here’s a picture of him towering over Leader class Movie (2007) Optimus Prime. Robot Masters Star Saber is nowhere near that, clocking in just under Deluxe size.
I hadn’t actually looked into the Takara Robot Masters release of Star Saber, receiving him as a gift one holiday (granted, he had been picked from a list that I made). At that small size, I definitely wasn’t expecting much. I certainly wasn’t expecting him to retain his separate V-Star and Saber units.
Obviously, given that Saber is now the size of a Micromaster, they did have to sacrifice the even smaller Brainmaster gimmick that slots into G1 Saber’s chest.
Ever since they reissued Star Convoy, I still hold out hope for a reissue Star Saber, but the Robot Masters line did him proud in the meantime.
If there is a weak point for this guy it is absolutely no fault of his own, his transformation is very faithful to the original resulting in a so-so alt mode, a Cybertronic spaceship.
What I was expecting from his Robot Masters release actually showed up in his even smaller Kabaya Candy Kit release. Picking up the Kabaya Transformer kits have become a bit of a Botcon tradition for me.
Removing both the Brainmaster and Saber figures, even this guy can’t be blamed for his alt mode, as it’s still pretty darned close to original.
In the Robot Masters line, they also gave us a great Victory Leo to go with Star Saber. They paid attention to the smallest details, like his ability to plug his large “V-Lock Cannon” into his hip
His alt mode, a winged lion covered in weaponry, makes no sense but is just pure awesome.
Just like their G1 toys, they can combine into Victory Saber, giving him some much needed height.
They also combine in alt mode, though it doesn’t do anything to help Star Saber’s already odd spacecraft.
So these guys will have to do until Takara decides to reissue the original. Small as they might be, they’re doing an admirable job.
Though sadly no reissue, Star Saber has received an homage in Energon Wing Saber, another figure I quite enjoy despite having absolutely no useful articulation.
Along with homaging G1 Star Saber’s colour scheme and brick-like articulation, he also has his own Cybertronic ship alt mode, though I like the “flying wing” design he has.
Of course, Wing Saber exists mostly to be an upgrade to Energon Prime, but he’s still a nice headnod to the original Star Saber. Did I mention the fact that there has yet to be a reissue? *sigh*
Second only to my love of the Masters of the Head, Target, Power, and Micro variety is my love of the Mini-Cassette sub-group. Enough so that the tipping point that made me pre-order the upcoming Soundblaster and Twincast Encore releases was the fact that Soundblaster would be coming with Mini-Cassette versions of Wingthing and Enemy; Twincast with such remarkably obscure pieces of Transformers history as Stripes and Nightstalker.
Spoiler warning! If you intend to, but haven’t yet seen the Japanese series Transformers: Headmasters and somehow made it 24 years without learning of the shocking events of the second episode “The Mystery of Planet Master”, skip ahead.
Those other folks gone yet?
Good, we’ll catch up to them in a moment (time travel!)
After the death of Soundwave and Blaster — a condition that is only temporary, something only Steeljaw appears to understand at the time — they are rebuilt into Soundblaster and Twincast. In the cartoon they continue to soldier on with their respective army of mini-cassettes, but in toy form Twincast got a little boost in his numbers thanks to the Japanese exclusive W-Cassettebots.
I had heard a little bit about these “astonishingly rare” Japanese exclusive Dino-cassettes but was unaware of the fact that they were also Combiners. I actually only caught up to that fact when they appeared on the alternate cover to Spotlight: Blaster in 2008.
In May of this year an Ebay auction for just two of them, Dial and Saur, ended at $370. That was minus their weapons and about half of Saur’s stickers. Another auction, for a mixed lot of Transformers in which Dial and Saur can be found amongst the images, ended at $622.85. Needless to say, much like their artificially overpriced boss, Twincast, these were never going to make it into my collection.
That is until Takara decided to re-reissue Twincast (he was reissued once as an e-Hobby exclusive in 2006) and someone decided to do
high-end replicas knock-offs of the W-Cassettebots.
Even the packaging is a very good recreation. For the purists out there, there are still tons of telltale signs that easily distinguish these from the originals. Different groups have taken upon themselves to put out guides to spotting these differences to make sure nobody smart enough to read gets snookered into spending hundreds of dollars on a counterfeit.
These guys are given the sub-sub-grouping of W-Cassettebots with the “W” representing their ability to combine. “W” being pronounced “Double-U”, for those that don’t quite grasp the very tenuous association. There were actually four sets of combining Mini-Cassettes released, but the two of them exclusive to U.S. retail and only offered as mail-aways in Japan never officially received the “W-Cassettebots” association.
All four of the W-Cassettebots transform from Mini-Cassettes into dinosaur robot modes and then combine into a humanoid robot mode. Dial and Saur combine to form Legout. Until someone can tell me what the heck “Legout” is supposed to mean, I’m going to put it down to the fact that he comes from the same country that gave us Kirk, Loafer, and Rodney.
However, robot dinosaurs are still what’s cool, so these guys will take their place on the shelves in their individual robot forms.
Saur, on the left, is adorable and Dial, on the right, looks rather effective in his role of “Cybertron Natural Resource Scout”. “Dial” is actually a bit of a naming controversy. “Dairu” really doesn’t translate into anything that makes sense. Perhaps it’s meant to be “Dile” as in “Crocodile”, but even that’s a stretch. If only they had added a “y”, he would have been “Dai-ryu” (something to effect of King Dragon?)Oh well, until someone from Takara clears it up, I’ll stick with Dial. It makes as much sense as Legout.
Of course, as cool as robot dinosaurs are, it’s pretty damned funny that these guys transform from extinct animals to an extinct sound recording format.
As proven by “The many deaths of Optimus Prime” (the Wiki article devoted solely to the topic) you can’t keep a good Optimus down. He may get killed, but he invariably returns and this holds true regardless of the country.
However, Japan went a different direction with the resurrection of G1 Optimus Prime, or “Convoy”, as he is called there. Rather than simply bring him back to life as the American version did, The Battlestars story pages — the fiction that goes along with the Return of Convoy toyline — returned him to life while simultaneously upgrading him into a more powerful form, as Star Convoy.
The original Star Convoy toy can go for anywhere between $300 to $1,000 on ebay. Along with the fact that he’s just a splendid display piece, this ridiculous disparity of cost is one of the reasons why this guy is one of my favourites of my entire collection. I was able to get an actual, official Star Convoy into my collection and pay less than $100, because in 2005 Takara reissued him.
The reissue actually improves upon the original by replacing his white pieces with silver and changing the yellow star on his chest to a shiny gold. His entire articulation consists of shoulder and elbow joints and, thanks to his transformation, a waist swivel (not exactly the articulated robot of his box art). You may remember from part 1 of my 2 part Rodimus post, included is the Micromaster version of Hot Rod
Star Convoy retains Convoy’s “truck” alt mode, but no longer of any real-world model.
The reissue also retains the original’s gimmick. The rear treaded section is battery-powered and can drive either alt or robot mode forward or backwards. The treaded section, called the Microcarrier, can be removed.
Following on from the Zone toyline, the Return of Convoy toyline focused mainly on Micromasters. In both lines, the larger Transformers all had a third mode that functions as a base for the smaller Transformers and Star Convoy is no exception.
The treads on the Microcarrier are faced up and, when activated, function as a conveyor belt to launch the Micromasters down the ramp. This toyline also saw the inclusion of Micro Trailers, a small tractor trailer with a spring-loaded launching mechanism. Star Convoy’s alt mode can carry two Micro Trailers and comes with the only Micro Trailer that doesn’t have a number on the side.
Star Convoy catches a lot of fan-hate due to the fact that his toy is a “brick“, but for me, frankly, he’s for display, not for playing. Besides, I’m the one whose favourite G1 toy is Powermaster Optimus Prime, it doesn’t get more brick-tastic than that.
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.
Eleven body parts, two defenders of humanity. The compassionate guardian, Defensor! The heroic protector, Sixturbo!
The great part about combiners as a kid is the worst part about combiners as a collector. As a kid you have five or six robots to play with and then, when you need their combined power, you make one hulking robot to decimate the enemy forces. As a collector, by displaying Defensor and Sixturbo, I lose out on displaying this awesome array of robot-y goodness.
Of course, therein lies the problem across all Transformers. You have to choose which mode to display them in. Just short of buying two – sometimes three or four, or in Sixshot’s case, six — of the same Transformer (this hobby can get expensive enough without that kind of nonsense) you also miss out on displaying a stunning array of amazing alt-modes.
One unexpected thing has come out of this week of really examining the Protectobots. I think I’m actually going to hunt down a Hot Spot to display in my collection by himself. I have really grown to love the baby blue fire truck commander, and he has jumped into the top five of my favourite ‘bots of G1 list.
But enough gooshing about these guys. We all know what the true joy is of combiners, gestalts, Amalgam models, Fusilateral Quintrocombiners, or whatever you personally choose to call these guys. The best part of a combiner team is the combined form.
Defensor breaks with the other Scramble City Combiners in two ways. First, his head is not a separate piece that is applied like a helmet afterwards, it is actually molded onto the base of Hot Spot’s fire truck ladder. This gives Defensor a uniquely extended range of head poseability. Second, Defensor’s component pieces have a much more unified colour scheme.
Where Defensor is a seriously solid chunk of combined robots, Sixturbo is a little more… svelte. Sixturbo also follows more closely the edict of the more colours, the better. This works slightly more in Sixturbo’s favour as a display piece.
Speaking of “as a display piece”, Sixturbo would have driven me crazy as a kid. Due to the design of the wings protruding out from his chest piece, he can’t actually raise either of his arms to fire his gun straight on. To raise it up to fire, you have to turn the arm out. Of course, thanks to the fact that you can turn his head, this flaw in playability makes for a more dynamic pose.
The leader of one pack and the right leg of the other pack… Hot Spot! Discharge (Universe Red Alert)!
Now, maybe in Japanese this is a perfectly harmless word. I personally just giggle a little anytime I see the name. This is probably why Hasbro was more than happy to rename the little fire engine “Red Alert” when they released it. Of course, why they couldn’t simply use the name Hot Spot, like the G1 fire engine Protectobot, we’ll never know. Likewise, why they choose instead to apply the name Hot Spot to the yellow sportscar of the group (the one that is just begging to be named Sunstreaker.)
Whereas Discharge is a fire engine of indiscriminate origin, Hot Spot is apparently a Mitsubishi Fuso Super Great fire engine (the name alone already sounds like a Japanese Transformer).
Now Discharge, in the new 2002 bios is described as disliking “aggressively participating in battle,” while being ”rather scary when angered”, but pointing out that Discharge is a she. “Contrary to her robust outward appearance, Discharge is a female Cybertron warrior.” Let’s try not to think about the various uses for the word “discharge”, especially now that we know she is female.
Hot Spot on the other hand “likes to be where the action is.” Of course, Hot Spot’s quote is,
“Rust never sleeps, and neither do I.”
Which really doesn’t make too much sense, all things considered. As if Transformers were just naturally inclined to rust due to inaction. One thing I did learn while writing this post is that there is actually a difference between the Japan release of Discharge and the American release of Universe Red Alert. Discharge shares the original 1992 release’s white upper legs, whereas Universe Red Alert actually has shiny silver upper legs.
Like most of the Combiner commanders that form the torsos in the Scramble City style combiners, Hot Spot’s robot mode has a pretty decent level of articulation for a G1 toy.
Also, like those other commanders, Hot Spot has a third “Base” mode, in which he plays the part of a repair bay, complete with extra articulated arms.
However, unlike his commander bretheren, Hot Spot has a fourth mode, described as “Emergency Car Carrier” in his instructions.
Just an all ’round good guy, ready for just about any emergency situation.