In 1986, with the release of The Transformers: The Movie, Hasbro had decided it was time for a new cast and new leaders for both the Autobots and Decepticons. They would set up this new leader of the heroic Autobots as someone you could relate to, a “turbo-revving, young punk” who would grow to maturity right before our eyes.
Then, all of the employees of Hasbro’s “Good Ideas Department” went for a smoke-break. That’s my contention, at least.
Within 30 minutes, this brash new hero we are supposed to love becomes partially responsible for the death of Optimus Prime. And he’s pink.
Fine… “magenta”, whatever, all I know is that there’s a reason the people who made his toy did not go with cartoon accurate colouring. I like to think that was when Hasbro’s “Good Ideas Department” came back from their smoke-break, just in time to keep this from going out the door.
My wife is not a Transformers collector, she couldn’t tell Metroplex from Big Daddy. However, any time my wife sees any incarnation of Hot Rod or Rodimus Prime she says, “That’s Rodimus, he is inadvertently responsible for the death of Optimus Prime.” That one, catastrophically horrifying (well, for a kid, at least) incident is a lot of people’s first introduction to him and therefore he is intensely disliked by a large portion of the fandom.
That isn’t how I met Hot Rod, though. I met him in a store on R.A.F. Upper Heyford. Living in England in 1986, I had no idea there even was a Transformers movie killing off my beloved Optimus. All I knew was that one day, after having saved enough to buy a new Transformer, I walked into the Base Exchange and was greeted by a bunch of Transformers I had never seen before. Futuristic cars, jet planes, spaceships, all original molds staring back at me (not that I could have known that part at the time, of course.) I remember walking straight to Hot Rod, forsaking every other toy on the shelves.
This fiery red sportscar with the personality to match quickly became one of my favourite Transformers. It would be years before I would finally see The Transformers: The Movie and by then it was too late to dent my love for this toy in the slightest.
After losing my entire original collection to the dreaded, contagious, and highly imaginary disease “Growing Up”, my current Hot Rod is the 2002 Commemorative Series reissue, now named “Rodimus Major” due to trademark issues. I was then very, very happy in 2006 when Hot Rod — now named “Rodimus”, ohhhh, trademarks — was announced as part of the Classics line. The ‘bot so nice, I bought him twice. You may have recently seen a “Recent Acquisitions” picture here on ‘Til All Are Mine of the new Battle In Space 2-pack, with Classics Hot Rod sporting a new “Cartoon Accurate” paint job! (And by “Cartoon Accurate” we mean Hasbro still refuses to accept that they originally made Hot Rod pink.)
Hasbro even included a little flip-out saw blade to reenact the mechanical Squid attack portion of the movie.
I very much like this mold, though some say it doesn’t look enough like Hot Rod. I suspect they mean it doesn’t look enough like the cartoon version they are used to. At least in alt-mode, there’s absolutely no denying who this is.
So that wraps up Hot Rod…
Oh wait, I almost forgot one. One of the best things about collecting Transformers is I am constantly being surprised. In 2005 Takara announced a magical reissue: Star Convoy! I didn’t know much about Star Convoy at the time and I certainly didn’t know that he came with a Micromaster version of Hot Rod.
And, until Hasbro gives us a date for the release of Masterpiece Hot Rod(imus), that wraps up Hot Rod for now.
When I finally got to see The Transformers: The Movie (man, am I tired of typing that name out), I was less shocked by Hot Rod’s involvement in Optimus’s death than I was in the end of the movie. Remember how Hasbro’s “Good Ideas Department” had gone on smoke-break? Well, to further engender this magenta (pink!) possible co-conspirator in the death of Optimus to us, Hasbro decided to make him old. And a Winnebago.
The sleek, hot rod was now a nice, responsible piece of camping equipment. Upon encountering the Autobot Matrix of Leadership at the Autobot’s “Darkest Hour”, Hot Rod was transformed into Rodimus Prime.
Though I guess the picture above is technically Rodimus Convoy, being the 2001 Takara reissue. Like Optimus before him, Rodimus Prime’s robot forms the cab and the rear portion transforms into a battle station. Unlike Optimus, the cartoon didn’t like dealing with Rodimus’ trailer at all, awkwardly folding it into his legs as part of his transformation.
In 2007, the Titanium Series did something pretty cool and actually made a Rodimus Prime (one of the few Titanium pieces I actually let into my collection) whose trailer actually does become part of the robot mode.
Also, this incarnation of Rodimus Prime had an alt-mode that was more futuristic truck and a little less space-Winnebago.
At last! Some redemption for the poor, beleaguered Rodimus.
Up next: Thursday, homages galore! We-
*Gulp!* Up next: Make that Wednesday… Surprise eeeeeeeeeeeevil.