Monday, 3 December 2012

#57: Seaspray (1985)

As everyone knows, minibots are cool. So it's really no surprise at all to find that Seaspray, one the 1985 wave of minibots, is cool. There are a number of reasons for this.

1. He's a minibot
2. He transforms into a hovercraft. Hovercrafts are cool.
3. His voice in the cartoon. Provided by the amazing  Alan Oppenheimer (who voiced Skeletor, which is cool), Seapray actually gargled when he spoke, making his voice sound bubbly and sea-like. This is very cool (although a bit tough on the vocal chords when trying to imitate).
4. His job is 'Naval  Defence'. He's a naval tactician. This is cool.

That's all the convincing you need, right? No?

Ok then. How about the fact that his Tech Specs don't have the usual guff like 'has to stay at sea, and is therefore morose and lonely'? Seaspray LOVES his job, keeping the waterways clean and well-defended. Unlike plenty, if not all, other bots in a similar position, Seaspray doesn't get down about not being part of the 'main' team, as it were. What he does is just as important as what they do, and that's enough for him. That's pretty cool.

Seaspray also got one of the strangest episodes of the cartoon to himself too. Sea Change involves aquatic aliens, a rogue Cybertronian robot, and Rumble being transmogrified into a tree. No, seriously. Watch the episode at the end of the blog and find out for yourself.

Yep, Seaspray's toy is cool. As if you could ever doubt that. He transforms, as mentioned earlier, into a hovercraft, with a nice, simple, and striking colour scheme. He also differs from the main bunch of minibots in a few ways, being a completely different design, and not being a generic car like many of the others. He's very cool, obviously.

Seaspray's a bit different to the other minibots. He's aquatic and not a car, he's a little bit funkier. He's also a lot happier than many Autobots, having been given a job to do that he actually enjoys, even though it keeps him away from the others for long periods of time. Seaspray is a breath of fresh air, both as a toy, and as a character, and for that alone, I think he is very, very, cool.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

#56: Rippersnapper (1987)

Rippersnapper, like the Terrorcons, suffered from "Too Late in the Franchise" syndrome. Because both they and the Technobots arrived on the scene in 1987, then they weren't privy to the vast amounts of fiction as say, the Combaticons or the Aerialbots were. And they weren't quite so lucky as the Predacons, who didn't really have much competition in their era (and probably weren't as cool, let's be honest). So Rippersnapper had to make do with only two episodes of any worth (if you don't count the Japanese episodes he was in during the Headmasters series. All they really did was smash seven bells out of each other anyway.)

Firstly came Grimlock's New Brain, which introduced both the Terrorcons and Technobots, by way of Grimlock creating the Technobots. I always had a problem with this, because Vector Sigma wasn't involved. Or the Creation Matrix. And it seemed to screw Grimlock royally out of being his comic book self in the cartoon. Regardless, the Terrorcons did quite well out of the episode, but sadly not individually. They kind of came as a package, or not at all.

In the next episode they were in, they were being mind controlled by the Quintessons. Yep, the bloody Quints. It really doesn't say much for Decepticon superiority when a bunch of badly rendered faces on a squid body can subdue you, right? Good episode though, if only for the fact that the Transformers' universe equivalent of Han Solo was in it.

In the comics, Rippersnapper aided his compadres during the Headmasters conflict, and then relocated to Earth just in time for the Decepticon Civil War. Then, like all of his team (and lots of other toys being made way for 1988's cavalcade of characters), he was brutally finished off by the Underbase-Powered Starscream. Shame.

In IDW, the Terrorcons haven't really made their mark yet, having only been in one story featuring Sixshot and the Reapers. Hopefully, Rippersnapper will get some face time at some point, because I really do think that a self-hating, bullying character like his is worth a look. The fact that he's a bully and a nasty piece of work is basically the culmination of years of self-loathing is a fascinating concept, and worthy of a good character study. I live in hope.

Rippersnapper transforms into a bipedal shark...thing. Which is awesome. No, really, it is. All the Terrorcon alt-modes are cool, but his is the coolest, because it's so odd. Like the shark from Jaws growing arms and legs, then coming out of the sea to menace Chief Brody. Admittedly, the robot mode is a bit rubbish, but all of the Scramble City robot modes are suspect, if we're being honest. The limb, and the alt-mode are always key, here. And in Rippersnapper's case, they both work wonderfully.

Rippersnapper joins the legions of late-era Transformers who didn't get any fiction due to lack of time and effort, and the fact that newer toys were being brought out all the time, so some toys got left by the wayside. Now that's not a consideration anymore, can someone give the Terrorcons and Technobots some decent fiction please? They're kinda awesome, and the definitely deserve it.

Monday, 12 November 2012

#55: Hosehead (1988)

Hosehead, like all of the small Headmasters of 1988, hardly got any fiction. This was mainly because by the time he came around, the cartoon had been finished for a number of months, and the comics were focusing on the bigger Powermaster toys of the period. If you want to see cartoons of the toy, you have to go to Japan and Masterforce, but that's a completely different character. A really whiny character.

Hosehead himself didn't fare too badly in the comics though, it would seem, gaining an origin story of sorts, and even joining with Siren and Nightbeat to defeat the Creation Matrix powered Deathbringer, setting off soon after on the Matrix Quest to find the said Maguffin to destroy the planet-eater, Unicron. Hosehead helped defeat the Matrix infused Thunderwing, before being transported to Cyberton to fight Unicron. Sadly, although Unicron was eventually defeated, Hosehead wasn't one of the survivors, his wreckage being shown as part of the 'this planet is screwed' montage.

In the IDWverse he is still alive (as far as I know); he just hasn't really done anything yet.

I like the Headmaster Jr (as they were known in Japan) toys. They're not as good as their larger counterparts from a year earlier, but they certainly have their charm, and they're cleverly put together. I like the way that their helmets (arf) become the chairs for their Nebulan partners, and I like the fact that they transform into rescue vehicles instead of the Cybertronian forms that had previously been the norm. These are toys that I definitely want to own sometime, because they're kind of awesome.

Hosehead, like Kickback, suffers from third wheel syndrome; in this case Siren suffered from it too. Nightbeat was the star of this set, mainly because Simon Furman loved the fact that he was a bit of a gumshoe. Hosehead couldn't compete, being a fireman. I suppose he could have written him as a character from London's Burning, but...well, that would just be silly.

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

#54: Gutcruncher (1990)

Gutcruncher is the ultimate capitalist, really. I adore the fact that as he's blasting away at the Autobots he's totting up how much they're going to be worth to him in scrap. It's almost as if he's the unholy union betwixt businessman and environmentalist recycler. Sort of if you crossed Mitt Romney with Swampy. (little bit of politics creeping in there, missus.)

As an Action Master of course, Gutcruncher didn't transform, but it's pretty obvious that he'd have been some kind of tank previously (and he did get an homage in the movieverse 'Sparkcrusher', who did turn into a tank), which is sort of cool. One of the good things about Action Masters is that they did give you some clue about what characters previously had as their alt-modes.

Sadly though, Gutcruncher joins the ranks of all the Transformers that have had little to no fiction devoted to them. He got absolutely nothing in G1 apart from a very brief ad appearance, in the IDWverse he's shown up a few times, bt nothing that you'd write home about, and he's always been very easily beaten as a generic goon, and he's been in a few unoffical gigs. In fact, he's had more time in the Shattered Glass universe than anywhere else, and that's not even this version of Gutcruncher.

There's no getting around it; Gutcruncher's toy is awesome. True, he was only available with the 'Stratotronic Jet'as they called it, but the jet's a pretty cool piece of kit. as well as a plane, it became a base/tank/battlestation affair, and also had a speedboat/jetski thing going on. Another great thing about Action Masters is that the bigger vehicles were basically playsets, and let's face it, who doesn't love a good playset? Especially when their colours don't really match up to the figure that's go to sit inside them, so the whole thing looks like a bit of a mess. That's Hasbro for you, and especially during this period.

Gutcruncher then, is a perfect example of a late era Transformer. Good toy, good tech spec bio, NO FICTION. Here's hoping that he finds his place in the IDWverse, because the characterisation is sound, and well worth a story or two. Whcih, as any good capitalist knows, is always worth a few bob.

Thursday, 1 November 2012

#53: Wide Load (1987)

I'll say this now; I like the Throttlebots. I know, I know, I said it all the way back when I looked at Rollbar, but I think it bears repeating. Mainly because although Wide Load was a good toy (for a cheap price point poicket money toy, that is), he didn't fare well in Transformers lore. Not at all, in fact. Truth be told, this guy did absolutely NOTHING of any worth in the Transformers universe. I know this, because I've looked. I've scoured. I've plumbed the depths of Transformers fiction. And nothing. At all. Nada. Zilch.

Ok, well that's sort of a lie. I mean, he did stuff. But nothing to distinguish himself from all the other Throttlebots. He just rolled with them, said little, did little. He got turned into a toy car. He evaded capture by the Decepticons. He was placed in his reconstructed Throttlebot body, only to be totalled by Starscream soon after. In the cartoons, he appeared briefly in the Rebirth. Then in the IDWverse, he was shot whilst trying to shoot Sixshot. That's it.

His Tech Spec bio doesn't help. It's a bit vague, if I'm being honest. If all it gives you is 'is a bit vain and can pull heavy stuff', then you're going to have to work hard to get any fiction of worth out there. Especially in a period when all Hasbro wanted to do is get the toys out there and be seen.

As I said earlier, Wide Load is a cheap, pocket money toy with a gimmick. The gimmick is basically pull back and go, and the toy is built around that. Which means no articulation, no intricate transformation, and serious scale issues, if you believe that a dump truck is the same size as a jeep. I mean, it could happen, but only in insano universe. Still it's a good toy, it does what it needs to very well, and is bright and cheerful. Which when you're 10 (or in my case 36), is all you want, really.

Wide Load suffers from cheap Transformer disease; because the Throttlebots weren't the most expensive toys, there was little impetus to try and build any kind of fiction around them, because they weren't the toys that Hasbro really wanted your mum and dad to buy. That was the Powermaster Prime, or Galvatron, or Ultra Magnus. So they got all the cool stories, and the Throttlebots were turned into r/c cars. Boo.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

#52: Kickback (1985)

The problem with 1. being part of a team and 2. not really having a cool power, means that sometimes, characters are left behind and overshadowed by the 'cooler' members of the team. This is certainly the case with Kickback. Whilst it's true that all the Insecticons are cool, some are just cooler than others, and Shrapnel with his electrical powers and Bombshell with his mind control abilities were just that little bit cooler than Kickback, whose main power was kicking things really, really hard. Yes, he had the gift of the gab and could blackmail people into doing what he wanted them to, but at the end of the day this wouldn't have played well in the G1 cartoon, it just wasn't as exciting. So poor Kickback stayed in the background, consigned forever to gruntdom, bulking up the ranks until he got his head caved in by Kup in Transformers: The Movie. Then he got turned into a Sweep by Unicron, and then inexplicably turned up again in Five Faces of Darkness, seemingly none the worse for wear. That, sadly, is about as exciting as it got for Kickback.

It doesn't get much better in the comics. In Marvel Comics he was summoned to Earth by Megatron. That's it. In Dreamwave, he joined in with an assination attempt and got interred by Jazz after trying to take over the Earth with his clones with the other Insecticons; and in IDW, he's been around. But again, always in the background, and always being overshadowed by Bombshell and Shrapnel.

Poor Kickback.

I'm gonna go out on a limb here. Kickback's toy is the coolest out of all the Insecticons. Don't get me wrong, they're all great, but there's something about Kickback that's just that little bit more awesome. I think it might be that he has a little bit more articulation than the others, and his grasshopper mode is just so, so well done. Like I say though, all of the Insecticons are cool, so you're onto a winner with any of them, if I'm being honest.

Kickback then, is always the bridesmaid and never the bride. Just because he can kick things really hard, he's deemed to be not as cool as the others, and is therefore always just outside your field of view. He's the plain jane of the Decepticons, just crying out for someone to come and do a makeover on him. You know, like Sandy from Grease.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

#51: Hoist (1985)

I actually own Hoist. It's not an original 1985 Hoist, but it IS a Hoist. And I love it. I always did love Hoist, even as a kid. I think it's because in 1985 I wanted to be a doctor (and THE Doctor, most probably), and that's exactly what Hoist is. Ratchet is the surgeon, the guy who does the major repair jobs. But if all you have is a bit of leaking lubricant, then Hoist's your man.

Oddly enough, that's pretty much how he was portrayed in both the G1 comic AND cartoon, as well. They guy who patched people up, carried out the robotic version of first aid. And also conspired with Grapple, his partner in crime, to build things. In the cartoon then, he was there to replace Ratchet, be the Autobot's medic. Due to that, he was always around. He even got his own episode, Hoist Goes Hollywood (written by the late Earl Kress) where he gets talent spotted by a Hollywood director and gets to star in a movie along with a few other Autobots. It's a fun episode, and goes to show just how much Earl liked to bash up the Transformers !

In the comics, the story just repeats, really. He was always around, always there, patching up the Autobots. His big moment came pretty early on, when he helped save a bunch of concertgoers by shoring up the stage that Brick Springstern and his band were performing on, and telling the guys to keep playing, lest the crowd start to panic. Sadly, Hoist came to a rather sticky end in the comics, when he was killed by the Underbase-infused Starscream. In IDW, he's mainly been a bit part player, but he's currently on the Lost Light, so who knows? Big days could always be ahead for ol' Hoist.

Hoist is a retool and repaint of 1984's Trailbreaker, and it's a worthy repaint at that. The toy was always good, I think it suits the pickup truck better though. That's just my own personal, though. One complaint I do have is that the pickup assembly never quite fits into place and stays there; you can always just shrug and say to yourself "1985" though. It's a G1 problem, and also what makes G1 charming in the first place, at least to me.

Hoist is one of my favourite toys from this era of Transformers. Nice to play with, good, bright colours, and fun. The character is sound, and has been represented pretty well in fiction; that's not to say I wouldn't want to see more of him in IDW, and a Generations toy of him out asap though.

Monday, 22 October 2012

#50: Wildrider (1986)

In 1986, the Stunticons were my favourite combiner team. (This would change with later releases, but for 1986, this is the way it was) They were Decepticon cars, which didn't happen very often. It also automatically made them very, very cool. These days Decepticons transforming into cars is no big thing; back then it was almost unheard of. So to have an actual combining team be all cars, well, that was pretty special.

Wildrider was always one of my favourites of the team, along with Breakdown, because their alt-modes were pretty sweet, and I liked that they were almost diametric opposites, with Breakdown being scared and paranoid, and Wildrider being brash, loud, and let's face it, completely insane. I love that his Tech Spec bio alludes to this, stating that some of his colleagues think it's all an act, but nope, he really is as crazy as he appears to be.

Sadly, as often happens, this has never really translated well into fiction. Now, in the G1 cartoon, Wildrider was always crazy and insane, driving about and crashing things, including Rodimus Prime at one point, inadvertantly changing him back into Hot Rod (The Burden Hardest to Bear), that's about as complex as his personality got. Which isn't too bad, not every character can have studies every single episode, but he wasn't given too much to do, sadly. He was just one of the guys, which is so often the case. Mind you, it could have been worse. In the comics after all, he hardly figured at all, being a background figure at best. This has carried on even into IDW where hasn't done anything of note yet. Hopefully he and the rest of the Stunticons will get something to do soon. Because after all, Menasor is awesome.

Wildrider, like pretty much all of the Scramble City-style Transformers, is a tremendously simple toy. This is obviously borne from necessity, as it doesn't pay to have a combiner that's too complex, and frankly in 1986 couldn't be done anyway. The robot has extremely limited articulation in the arms only, but it does look great in the deep grey and red livery. The car is spectacular; it's a Decepticon sports car after all. I even like the twin cannons on the back, they always looked cool to me.

For a left leg, Wildrider is a great toy, and a marvelous, underused character. Sadly, because he really is not much more than a crazy person, the chances that he'll ever get a story or an arc to himself are minimal. The fact that he's pert of a team doesn't help. But I'd love to see a sitcom starring himself and Breakdown. They'd be a true Odd Couple.

Saturday, 20 October 2012

#49: Grotusque (1987)

I can't remember anyone at school owning the Monsterbots. Now, that could be that they were never realeased in the UK, I have to be honest and say that I'm not sure if that was the case or not. I DO remember seeing pictures of them and thinking that they looked very cool indeed. I still think that, actually, and I've love to own any or all of them. Grotusque was always my favourite of the three, for two main reasons. 1. the name. It's very spiky, and I love Transformer names that are a play on words. 2. the toy, which looks horrid and a mish-mash, another thing I love. I guess that's why I never cared about Devastator that much; far, far too uniform for me.

Sadly, they were the only two things I ever had to go on, because the Monsterbots never appeared in the G1 cartoon, even the Rebirth (which mainly concentrated on the 'Masters'). They DID appear in the Japanese Headmasters cartoon, but I didn't actually see that until 2005.They did appear in the Marvel comics Headmasters stories, but again, the 'Masters' took centre stage there, with Grotusque et al being nothing more than background characters. In the IDWverse, Grotusque was part of the Monsterbot team again, being a mercenary that killed for both money and fun - after helping out the Dynobots and disappearing for a couple of years, Grotusque wound up being killed during the Chaos story arc. But who knows, we may yet see him again, in more of a starring role.

His Tech Spec bio is an interesting one, it depicts a soldier that is scared by his own appearance, and chooses to hide that fact by constantly joking about it. A good character piece, that's possibly held back by the toy's gimmicky nature a little.

Grotusque's toy is a fairly typical one of the time; sturdy, blocky, little articulation. He also resembles some of his Headmaster cousins somewhat. The alt-mode is fantastic, being described as a 'winged sabre toothed tiger'. There's so many things wrong with that it's not even funny. He's also got a common 80's gimmick; the cold spark. If you press a button on his neck, his mouth opens and sparks fly out. I like cold sparks. There so incredibly pathetic to look at, I can't hate any toy that employs them. Hence my love of the Firecons.
Grotusque is a victim of being the wrong toy in the wrong time; Hasbro cared more about the 'Masters' gimmick than they did three Autobot monsters, it would seem. I guess they felt they'd already done the Dinobots, why bother with more monsters? Ironic, considering where the Transformers franchise would be ten years hence. See Alanis, that's what irony actually means.