My first recollection of Brawn quickly escalated him to the pantheon of Transformers capable of kicking some serious tailpipe. I was watching the G1 episode “Fire on the Mountain” in which Brawn took a direct hit from Megatron’s arm cannon and pretty much shrugged it off.¹ “Impressive”, I thought. Then, later in that same episode Brawn returned the favour. He stole Megatron’s cannon from him and proceeded to shoot Megatron in the chest with it. “Holy crap!”, I thought (or may have even said aloud.)
He shot the baddest Decepticon of all time (at least up to Episode 9) in the chest with his own gun! Now that takes some serious ball-bearings. So, with the bar set pretty high for Brawn, and no actual introduction to Outback (though the Marvel “Transformer Universe” guide has since assured me that he was “confident in his own abilities as a warrior”), Brawn got the distinction of being my first Transformer to… well, let’s just say, that day I learned why Transformers were exclusively packaged in alt-mode back then.
As an adult collector, I have a definite appreciation for the toy now. At the time, however, I felt somehow that I had been swindled by false advertising. I didn’t own Outback because seeing him in the packaging at the time I thought, “Big whoop. They added a gun to the gimpy handed, stick legged not-the-cartoon-Brawn.” I didn’t realize that they had given him better hands, a different chest and an actual face as well. It would have been nice if they would have remolded his hands in such a way that he could hold his gun in robot mode, but unfortunately he can’t. Then in 2008, the Takara Encore release added some extra detailing through paint applications — such as his now blue-painted visor. One oddity is that, in contrast to his actual box art, Outback’s original instructions seem to show the doors from his alt-mode being down with his arms rather than back like wings. If you look closely, you’ll also notice that other than adding Outback’s guns the instructions simply reuse Brawn’s and show the wrong head, chest, and arms. The “Start” image is actually just copied directly from the “Step 1” image.
Outback’s modified toy arms are wider than Brawn’s and actually fit into the grooves on the doors; Brawn’s thinner arms have a gap, allowing his arms to swing out of the doors more freely, so this may explain the difference in transformations between the two.
In 2008, as part of the Universe line, Hasbro released a Legends class update to Brawn that was largely based on his cartoon model. Sadly due to a combination of scalpers and poor distribution, I never even saw him in stores. I only ever found Beachcomber from Wave 4 and never saw any of the Wave 5 Legends.
Near the beginning of 2010, as part of the Revenge of the Fallen line, Hasbro did Brawn fans proud with an update that gave the little guy a serious boost in stature, firepower, and about ten times the amount of articulation. He was now a dual pistol-wielding, machine gun-toting super-poseable powerhouse with a Hummer HX alt-mode. All of the car parts hanging off his robot mode have enough joints and hinges to ensure that none of them interferes with his ability to be put in a number of poses. Hasbro then followed Brawn up at the end of the year with an Outback (now called Fallback) repaint. Sadly he is a straight repaint without so much as a new headsculpt, but the amount of love I have for this mold and the fact that it is Outback all grown up are enough to get around my “no straight repaints without a damned good reason” rule. Though nothing in the fiction actually draws a connection between these two, I have always lumped mold-mates in together (my version of the RotF Twins long before I realized that Transformer twins were actually a thing).
As a kid, I liked Brawn’s alt-mode quite a bit and Outback’s does add much-needed firepower to this mode. The new molds take a queue from the original Outback; their shoulder mounted machine-guns becoming roof mounted in their Hummer alt-modes. Up until this point, Brawn has the clear advantage with this new mold. The dark green and gold go so well together and the silver head doesn’t get lost in the rest of him, whereas Outback’s head is primarily the same colour as the rest of him. However, in alt-mode, Brawn is meant to be a Sector 7 vehicle and therefore is the apparently standard issue S7 Dark Brown. All of the wonderful “homaging” goes right out the window as Brawn is no longer… well, Brawn-coloured in this mode.
Being part of the RotF line, Brawn has Global Alliance Autobot symbols in alt-mode and regular Autobot symbols on his shoulders in robot mode. Outback, however, is part of the new Reveal the Shield line and only has a single heat-activated rub sign on his alt-mode’s hood to keep his allegiance a secret, a trick I’m assuming can only work once?
These guys proudly go up on the mini-bots shelf next to the other combinations of diminutive G1 ‘bots standing next to their super-powered upgrades. It will never cease to put a smile on my face when the little guy gets a boost in power.
As much as I love the movie aesthetic and what it brings to both of these guys, I recently got the Botcon 2005 “Descent into Evil” set, part of which provides an update to Outback’s G1 toy while staying a little more within the bounds of the original design. To make it even better, despite having nothing against it, I never picked up any of the previous versions of this mold or the original version of his set-mate Ironhide (who has now been added to my previous post on Ironhide) so both of these are my first encounter with these toys.
Though he has the trademark friendly name “Fallback” again, he clearly shows who he is in his Tech Spec and the comic book that accompanied this set. The huge difference? An actual explanation for the new name!
To go with this new sense of optimism, he has an upgraded jeep-based alt-mode.
Which, being a remold of an Energon toy, comes with all kinds of translucent accessories and a mounted gun to match his G1 toy.
The one thing that this update does much better than the RtS version is that he has an actual full face rather than the faceless helmet look.
Just in case you were worried that his small stature might diminish this little guy’s boost in power; all of those accessories can also be combined to give him a pretty impressive battle-axe.
Just like Botcon Ironhide, Botcon Fallback has actually managed to knock RtS Fallback out of his place next to G1 Outback on the shelves.
¹ Brawn took a direct hit and walked it off. Go ahead and try to convince me that he was then killed by a single shot to the shoulder in the 1986 movie. Of course, he still fared better than poor Outback did at the hands of Nick Roche.
Please, stick to drawing, Mr. Roche, no more writing for you. Sometimes I feel like the only one that read “The Last Stand of the Wreckers” and said, “Meh. Well, at least it was pretty.” Man, that was tangential. Good thing this is a footnote, so no one’s going to read it anyway…