Monday, 22 December 2014

#67: Slugfest (1987)

Perhaps this blog should be renamed "Casseticons who were mistreated during G1", because today, we have another poor soul who can lay claim to that moniker. Slugfest came at the tail end of the "normal" G1, just as the Headmasters came out and everything became too gimmicky. Obviously, both Slugfest and Overkill were late add-ons to Soundwave's army of minions, but because of their late arrival, it was basically too late for them to make any impact at all on the fiction. Neither the comics nor the cartoon had any notewortthy appearances for ol'Sluggy. Indeed, his only appearance in G1 fiction of the time was in "Call of the Primitives". In one scene. For a couple of frames of animation. Still more exposure than he had in the comics though, where he didn't appear at all.

Yeah, it's that underdog thing again. And also, a feeling that yet again, a character with interesting traits has been overlooked mainly because their toy wasn't a priority. Sure, the fiction only really exists to seel toys, I totally get that, but I think that now, G1 has almost transcended that, and it's fiction stands on it's own merit, to the point that I think that an interesting character like Slugfest needs to be made a lot more of. I can see him fitting in well with the crew of the Lost Light for instance. They could do with a data courier who gets paranoid while listening to his own messages, right? You know, someone who flies off in a beserker rage and wipes the data he's supposed to be sending in the first place? Sounds like a sitcom opportunity's being missed for him and Swerve, that's for damn sure.

Probably isn't going to happen. But I know one thing, Slugfest's toy rocks. Come on, who doesn't want a cassette that transforms into a pink and lime green stegosaur? I know I do. This guy needs a Masterpiece version so bad it actually hurts. Mind you, so do Overkill, Beastbox and Squawktalk. Those last two kinda sorta already do, via third party toy companies. So what are you waiting for? Get right on that.

If you haven't already got a Slugfest in your life, get one. Stat. Also, James Roberts? Slugfest miniseries. Stat. Don't make me tell him you've been talking about him behind your back.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

#66: Frenzy (1984)

Frenzy was part of the first wave of Transformers toys that hit the shelves in 1984, and as such, should get some respect from the Transformers fandom. Sadly, due to a colouring error in the Transformers cartoon way back when, he doesn't get that. Instead, what he gets is nothing but "he's the one that's coloured like Rumble in the cartoon", or even just gets referred to as Rumble himself. But I'm not going to dwell on that at all in this entry. Let's get it right out of the way; Frenzy didn't really appear in the cartoon too much, and when he did, he sounded and acted just like Rumble. End of story.

It was in the comics that Frenzy really came into his own. A distinct and very different character than Rumble, Frenzy wasn't just a common thug. No, this was a guy who loved war. In fact no, it was more than that. Frenzy is war. It's everything to him, his oxygen, his food, his drink. His entire being is given over to fighting the war. To the point of even making him hard to deal with for most Decepticons, who, let's face it, love war.

In the Marvel comics, this was played up to a great level, with Frenzy being a kill-crazy warmonger, unafraid to try and kill humans (including Buster in a very memorable encounter which will be shown at the end of this blog). Frenzy also had the steel balls to help attack Omega Supreme and travel to limbo to destroy the alien life forms who lived there, earning himself a punch to the face from Optimus Prime himself! Frenzy is basically one the baddest of badasses.

This continued into the IDW era (nothing of note happened in the Dreamwave era, with Frenzy doing what he did in the cartoon - standing at the back and keeping out of Rumble's way), with Frenzy starting out in the war as nothing more than industrial equipment, but ending it as a battle tank, refusing to renounce his Decepticon affiliation and accepting banishment, rather than stop fighting a war that he'd already lost. Talk about someone committed to the cause.

Frenzy's toy is a complete and utter classic; let's not mess about here. The original Micro Change design is pretty much synonymous now with those early Transformers toys, and his association with Soundwave is legendary. The man on the street still more than likely thinks of Soundwave and his cassettes as "Transformers" rather than Megatron, Starscream or even Optimus Prime. The amazing thing is, the toy still holds up to this day. Hell, Frenzy's Masterpiece version is practically the same toy as was 30 years ago. That, more than anything, tells you how good the design was, and is.

Frenzy then: not Rumble. Even if the cartoon done messed up and coloured them both wrong. Look to the comics, and you'll find out just how awesome Frenzy truly is.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

#65: Slapdash (1988)

Slapdash, being a Powermaster, already holds a special place in my heart. One, he comes from one of my favourite ever eras of Transformers, that special time and place where anything was given a go, and experimentation was the name of the game for the brand as a whole; and two, his Japanese counterpart kicked ass in Masterforce. Of course, he's a very different character to ol' Slapdash, so we won't be talking about him.

In an era of superbots, Slapdash was, let's face it, a bit of a rube. His Tech Specs say it all; he was unprepared for war. Often turning up without Lube (ho ho ho), his Nebulan partner, nine times out of ten he'd be unable to transform on the battlefield. And being an interceptor (presumably because of the speed of his alt mode), that's kind of important. 

Lucky then, that he wasn't all that important in the fiction. In the Marvel G1 comics (and Regeneration One) he accompanied the rest of the Powermasters-to-be and Goldbug as they went to rebuild Optimus Prime on Nebulos, whilst Blaster and Grimlock fought for the Autobot leadership, and Slapdash was part of the Autobot army nwho searched for the Matrix on the Matrix Quest. He also helped the Transformers defeat Unicron, only to be shot in the face by Highbrow, when the latter had been genetically altered by Scorponok to lose any inhibitions he might have about killing EVERYONE. Poor Slapdash. Help destroy a Dark God, only to be killed by one of your own mates. 

He seems to be having a better time of it in More Than Meets The Eye, where for the moment at least, he's a crew member of the Lost Light, searching for the Knights of Cybertron and listening to Rewind's stories at the bar. Sweet.

As for Slapdash's toy, well...look, I like old toys, and I like this type of Transformer. "Good" is a completely subjective term, ok? The important thing is, I think it's cool, and that's all that matters. Right/ Glad we got that sorted out. His toy's not very good, there, I said it.

As an example of a toy era when a company was willing to experiment though, Slapdash is amazing. Is he successful? Not on all fronts, no. But he is fun, and that's all that really counts, at the end of the day. 

I like Powermasters.

Monday, 15 December 2014

#64: Snarl (1985)

Poor Snarl is just not a happy bunny. Or Stegosaur, for that matter. The whole picture painted of him in his Tech Specs is that of someone whose lot in life has never been great, even before he crash-landed on Earth. A loner by nature, who would just as soon you left him alone, rather than be involved in one of the major wars of the galaxy.

Not that you'd really know it from any of the fiction he's been in, of course. Never one of the more popular Dinobots, like Slag he often is found on the sidelines. Heck, he's not even in Transformers: The Movie, to any great extent. Four shots. FOUR. Even that appears to be an afterthought, as well. Poor Snarl. I mean, it started off terribly well. He was first introduced with Swoop in "War of the Dinobots" as a force to fight the rogue Dinobots who seemed to have joined with Megatron, and he was relatively successful, keeping the rogues busy while the rest of the Autobots fought the rest of the Decepticons. After that, his next big moment came in the two parter "Dinobot Island", where, at the behest of Grimlock, he did "tail stuff". Sadly, it was all downhill from there, and he became very much a background dino, usurped by the seemingly more glamourous Swoop, and the ever present (and popular) Grimlock.

Of course, in the comics, Snarl did even less, the limited cast of said comic books only again allowing a couple of Dinobots to shine brightly, and again, those Dinos where Swoop, and most definitely Grimlock (an apparent favourite of Bob Budiansky, and pretty much Simon Furman's favourite character EVER.) Snarl did have the dubious honour of acquiring a very rare Transformer disease, this particular nasty being Corrodia Gravis, a wasting disease that caused poor Snarl to basically rust to death. Luckily for Snarl though, the rest of the Dinobots found a temporary cure, in that they moved his mind into an ACTUAL Stegosaurus while they made him a new body, which, with Snarl's hatred of that form already, must have been just like heaven for him.

In the IDWverse, it's business as usual. Snarl doesn't do much. Maybe someday he'll have his moment, but with everything being a bit Grimlock-centric right now (when isn't it?), then he may have to wait a little bit longer though. Still, I like Snarl. It's nice when Tech Specs try to inject a bit more character into proceedings, and giving Snarl the pretty fatal flaw of hating his alt-mode, well, that could make for a very interesting character indeed. It's a shame that Furman loved Tyrannosaurs with speech impediments, rather than grumpy Stegosaurs who are powered by the sun.

Monday, 4 March 2013

#63: Red Alert (1985)

Red Alert was a toy and character I was only peripherally aware of when I was a youngster, mainly because he wasn't really promoted that well over in the UK. He was only ever a bit part character in the Transformers comics that Marvel put out, having appeared in only UK stories, and even then only being a bit part player at best.

It was the cartoons where Red came into his own, being the paranoid, borderline psychotic (that sometimes crossed the border) security guard that we all know and love. And boy, did things get weird; Red rebelled against everybody at one point, thinking that they were all out to get him, Autobots and Decepticons. Funny then, that the only person he trusted at this point was Starscream. That's more than messed up right there, if you ask my opinon.

Of course Red was snapped out of it by his best buddy in all the world - Inferno! Because Red's alternate mode is a Lamborghini Countach Fire Chief's car (and I want to live in the town that considers a high performance supercar to be a good vehicle for the job) then he was a natural fit for Inferno, who obviously transformed into a fire truck (albeit a Japanese one). But more than that, Inferno's carefree attitude counters Red's paranoid intensity, and they always worked well together in the show.

In the IDWverse, Red hasn't had that balance, and is currently on ice, waiting the end of Rodmius' quest. Will we see him again? Probably. Might be a little while, though.

As previously stated, Red's alternate mode is a bit flashy for the purpose he's meant for; it's one of those occasions where it might have been a good idea for them to have repainted another vehicle. Still, it does make Red stand out, so really, it might be a stroke of genius. Regardless, it's a great example of a G1 Autobot car, with all the right notes being struck in exactly the right order. Red's a winner on that front.

Red Alert's one of my favourite characters in G1, because he's completely different to anything that came before or since. He has a serious problem, and although it took 30 years to get round to it, it's being addressed in a very sensitive and dramatic way, even in the G1 cartoon his problem wasn't ridiculed or made light of, it was dealt with in a caring way by Prime and the other Autobots. For that at least, it makes Red a very sympathetic and worthy character.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

#62: Motormaster (1986)

Of all the combiners I can remember people liking both as a kid and an adult, I think it's Menasor that people seem to like most. I'm not altogether sure why (it might be the fact that they're Decepticon sports cars, and that as a concept alone is pretty cool), but people really seem to have a thing for Menasor. And Motormaster in particular. I remember when Botcon did their Transformers Animated-inspired Stunticons, a lot of folks were VERY excited to see the reveal of Motormaster from that set.

But I digress. In 1986, Motormaster was the coolest of the combiner commanders, I think it's fair to say. He transformed into what is feasibly an evil version of Optimus Prime (Nemesis Prime, anyone?), and had really cool colours of grey, purple and black. And he HAD A SWORD. This was a novelty at the time, and was really a great gimmick, to me at least/ It made him look at least 40% cooler, and was chromed as well, so he looked like a Decepticon pimp.

He was a bit of a badass in the cartoon too, always going after Prime and wanting to wreck him. In the comics, he fared a bit worse, blending into the back ground after the initial rush of excitement of the combiner teams. It always seemed to me that Bruticus was the Decepticon poster child for the Special Teams, after Devastator (who wasn't included in that group). Menasor, being portrayed as critically insane, never got much of a look in. One thing was always consistent though; Motormaster wanted Optimus gone, and as someone who even to this day doesn't care for Optimus too much, this was always a good thing.

I never owned the Motormaster toy, but I went to school with someone who did, so I can tell you that it's one of the good ones. The Scramble City combiners were always solid, but Motormaster had a lot of play value as well, being a badass truck, and really well put together robot. The colours were good, the weapons even more so, and even his articulation wasn't too bad, mainly due to the fact that as a combiner he needed it. Base mode wasn't something I can ever remember being used much, but when was it ever?

Now that Fansproject are releasing the Stunticons set they've produced, I foresee a lot of interest in the G1 versions, so basically, get them while they're hot. As far as I can tell the Stunticons have always commanded a pretty penny on the secondary market, and thats not going to change anytime soon. I will say that I think it's worth trying to pick up a Motormaster at sone point, as it always was a solid toy and a good example of Scramble City tech at it's best.

Monday, 4 February 2013

#61: Dogfight (1988)

The Triggerbots, being cheap price point toys, didn't have too much love heaped on them by Hasbro. By 1988 standards, anyway. By today's standards, they got War and Peace devoted to the backs of their boxes, even when compared to 'Leader' class toys (or whatever passes for that nowadays). As such, Dogfight gets only the most spartan of bios, basically stating that he's the 'wild, wicked street fighter of the skies', and that he doesn't like Decepticons. A little bit banal, if I'm being honest. Maybe this was foreshadowing of later years. Don't get me wrong, there are gems in there, the 'dance of doom' being a particular favourite of mine. But later Tech Spec bios just ended up riffing off more technobabble, and less about the robot itself. Which is what we wanted, damnit.

Still, the Triggerbots got a story all to themselves in the Matrix Quest, so it's not all bad news. And what a story it was, let's face it. A pseudo-western, complete with vampiric aliens and hypnotism, and Transformers actually killing organics (albeit in self-defence, of course). If you've never read it, 'Kings of the Wild Frontier' is a great story, in a collection of great stories. Simon Furman wrote it, you'll not be surprised at all to hear. I always feel that Furman likes the characters whose toys were forgotten by Hasbro, because that means he can pretty much do what he likes with them, and Hasbro won't really mind. This always works out well for the reader, and this story is no exception. Seriously, check it out.

Like I said, the Triggercons were cheap price point toys. Boy, does it show. Mainly because the toy is built around the gimmick, in this case a VERY gearjack spring sweeps Dogfight's wings back to reveal his guns. Both literally and figuratively. I have to admit to liking Dogfight though, because he is cheap and cheerful, and his colours are kinda nice. The combination of powder and dark blue works well, and just screams middle period G1 Transformers, before everything got bright and psychedelic.

If you can get hold of Dogfight, do so, because he's a good addition to anyone's Transformers collection, and his gimmick's kinda fun. Also, check out 'Kings of the Wild Frontier'. Just be careful though, because those Vrobians are kinda scary.