Friday, 31 August 2012
Octopunch might have scared me slightly, but even I knew how cool he was. Forget Bludgeon, it was Octopunch I liked best, and in 1990 I saved up my paper round money and bought him from Fenwick's of York. Can't for the life of me remember for how much, but I do remember that it was a Saturday, and I do remember that the godawful George and Mildred movie from the 70's was on ITV when I got back.
As he was cool in the comics, his Tech Spec bio was awesome as well, this was no ordinary Decepticon, this guy was a hunter of the deep, specialised to take on submarines and ships, and WHALES, damnit. He had tentacles, was some sort of mutant/hybrid sea creature, and his inner robot transformed into an armoured crab. Suffice to say, I really liked this guy.
It's a shame that Bludgeon took (and still takes) centre stage where these Pretenders are concerned. Octopunch deserves more of the spotlight in my opinion. It's nice that his Shattered Glass version has been getting some face time, though. More face time for OG Octopunch might mean a lot of traumatised people, after all. Damn Andrew Wildman, and his scary drawings of teeth.
Thursday, 30 August 2012
Don't believe me? Watch "More than Meets the Eye" parts 1-3. You'll notice, hardly any Bumblebee and Spike. It's all Hound and Spike. It's also Hound who longs to be human, who loves Earth the most. It even says that on his Tech Specs. It should be Hound sooaking up all of the adoration from kidlets all around the world, and Bumblebee should be nothing more than a footnote. Some unkind souls might say things might be better that way, but I'm not one of them.
Hound then, was one of the Autobots that typified what they were all about to me; they were doctors, cartographers, scientists, all forced into fighting the military might that was the Decepticon army. They didn't want to fight but they did, for the things they truly believed in. That's what made them heroes to kids, ultimately. Still does, in my book.
Hound then, is the guy that should be everywhere now. Unlike the yellow guy who eventually got the gig because he sold for less. Such is life. There's a lesson in there somewhere, I'm sure.
Tuesday, 28 August 2012
Targetmasters are the ginger headed stepchildren of the 'Masters' concept I feel, because it doesn't seem as openly cool as Headmasters or Powermasters. Without those, you have essentially either half a robot, or a robot that won't transform properly. With a Targetmaster, if the Nebulan component gets lost, all you have is a robot without a gun. Going against the grain as I always do though, I loved Targetmasters. I like the gimmick, the thought of your little partner becoming a gun is awesome to me. I loved the actual toys too, and to my mind, the Decepticons were always the better toys. Misfire is a perfect example of this.
His bio is great, too. I adore the fact that this guy's aim is rubbish, that he couldn't hit a barn door with a banjo, yet "says he's improving". Even better is that his partner Aimless is absolutely no help at all, his mind wanders so much that he doesn't bother aiming and just fires randomly in the hope of hitting something, anything.
Misfire is one of those great Transformers with both a great toy AND a great set of Tech Specs. And as usual, whenever that happens, the fiction completely lets them down. Misfire is just another Decepticon in the Rebirth (again, not David Wise's fault) in the Japanese continuity he's again just part of the Decepticon group (the writing in Headmasters is pretty atrocious though) and in the comics, well, he gets a good death, being stepped on by Unicron. That's as good as it gets, sadly.
Still, I love Misfire. He's one of my targets for purchase in the next year. I just hope that my aim's better than his.
Sunday, 26 August 2012
Like I said though, fiction for Outback hasn't been kind. He's been injured, blown up, and in the IDWverse, dead. Yep folks, right now, he's dead. I'm not having that. Along with Dreadwind himself, a lot of my favourite G1 characters are ending up in the big Oilhouse in the sky. The campaign to get Outback his very own series starts here. If Bumblebee can get one, then so can our favourite antipodean Transformer.
Outback! Outback! Outback!
Saturday, 25 August 2012
I bought Dirge with my Christmas money in late December/early January 1985, from a very small toyshop in Petergate, York. It was a decision I never, ever regretted. I had days of fun playing with that toy, from first opening him up when I got home (for some reason I remember the now forgotten Richard O'Sullivan sitcom "Me & My Girl" was on in the background as I applied the stickers) to making bases for my now bolstered Decepticon ranks, to having Dirge transform to jet mode to make bombing raids on Jazz and the Dinobots.
These are the good times, people.
I always liked Dirge's personality from his Tech Specs, too. He was a proto-Sinestro of sorts, a master of handling fear and causing people to panic for seemingly no reason. Of course, the reason was simple; he could 'create' fear from his turbines, turning people into gibbering wrecks for his own amusement and the furtherment of the Decepticon cause.
Not that you'd ever know from any fiction he was in. In both the cartoon and the comics, Dirge has mainly been a generobot, one of the 'coneheads' (a fan-coined term for the second wave of Decepticon jetformers, released in 1985), and therefore, not seemingly interesting enough to get any screen time other than being a thug. A shame. Because his Tech Spec bio was always, and still is, one of the cooler ones.
The toy was always one of my favourites, all of the coneheads were (the others being Thrust and Ramjet). I was never amazingly keen on the original Decepticon jet toys, mainly because they were all the same. The great thing about the coneheads was, that they all had different parts to them, the wings, their guns. Which gave them more personality. Plus, Dirge's wings are GOLDEN. That's amazing.
One day very soon, I shall have all the coneheads, both in their G1 and 'Classic' forms. What a day that shall be, my fine friends. What a day indeed.
Thursday, 23 August 2012
The Throttlebots were basically 1987's answer to the Minibots. Cheap, pocket money toys, with a nice gimmick and simple transformation. Not spectacular toys, but then, they didn't need to be. That was for Christmases and birthdays (unless you were unlucky and had a birthday so near Christmas that you go the dreaded combined present. Poor kids.).
I got Rollbar on a shopping trip to Doncaster in South Yorkshire in July 1987. It had been raining all day, and was still raining on the coach back home to York. I actually had quite a good haul that day, not only did I come away with what I thought was a sweet looking toy, but I also had a set of those velvet art sets which you only ever see at car boot sales and markets of dubious nature (take a bow, Clydach market. I saw a glittered Doctor Who one there recently), which had velveteen-rendered pictures of Divebomb and Galvatron. Add to this the 100+ felt tip pen set, and you can imagine I was one happy 10 year old. In fact, give me that now and I'd be happy.
Let's face it though, the toy wasn't, and isn't sweet. It's bloody terrible. But then, it was cheap. Like I said, pocket money toys. Like the Minibots before, and the Sparkabots and Firecons to come, these are toys with a simple gimmick that are meant to be bought by the kids themselves. And for that alone, I salute them.
Another reason to salute Rollbar in particular is that he looks like Hulk Hogan. Even his Tech Specs suggest that he's overly macho, to the point of being made fun of by his team mates. Overly macho and cheesy cliches aside, he's agile and strong. You wouldn't think so from his fictional appearances though, having been battered in "The Rebirth" and being destroyed in the Underbase Saga.
It's good that Rollbar seems to be getting another toy, even if it is by a third party company. He desreves it, as do all the Throttlebots. I just hope one day that they all get a fictional appearance that doesn't involve having the energon beaten out of them.
Wednesday, 22 August 2012
Krok is basically Cybertron's answer to David Beckham. An evil David Beckham who likes kicking things to death. He's also one of the few (if only) 'original' Action Master to get any fiction to himself in the original run of G1 Marvel comics. Not only that, but he was a semi-important character too, being second in command of the new Decepticon army led by Bludgeon, no less. Well, for a little while anyway. He kinda disappeared when the Autobots and Decepticons started fighting again. Bloody comics and their shoehorning in of toy characters, muttermuttermutter.
I actually had the toy of Krok when I was younger, and I have to say, I liked it. Mind you, I had quite a few Action Masters as I recall. Yes, they were Transformers that didn't transform. But the single figures had Targetmaster buddies (Krok's was Gatoraider, which is a joke that works on quite a few levels. Cheesy levels, yes. This is a toy, after all), and the figures like Axer and Over-Run had vehicles that DID transform, so it was all good. Personally, I LOVED and still love Action Masters.
See? What's wrong with that toy? It's extremely well detailed, there's tons of personality oozing from it, and it's rendered in bright, neonish colours. There's also a hint of what his alt-mode was when he could transform. Hasbro didn't have to sculpt that it. Which is awesome.
As for his Tech Specs, the bio is extremely well written, the reader is left in no doubt that Krok is a mean sumbitch, who gets what he wants by taking it and kicking the ever-lovin' crap out of it. Not only that, but his endurance is 10. This guy can take what he dishes out, it would seem. It's a shame we didn't see more of him in the comics.
All of this is making me want to collect Action Masters. Between this blog, and Roberts/Roche making them all cool again? Not fair, universe. Not fair. I now want to be stronger, faster. And most definitely more alive.
Tuesday, 21 August 2012
It's no secret. I admit it freely. My name is Glenn, and I'm a Micromasteraholic.
It started all the way back in 1989. I'd seen all the adverts, and read all the comics about them. Then I saw them in the shops. The big Co-op department store in Ousegate, and then Fenwick's of York, in Coppergate. I saw the shiny package they came in, saw how dinky the toys were, and then read the Tech Specs, where I learned all about these tiny teams and how they didn't give a monkey's toss what the bigger robots thought about them. The fact that the comics related that they had all the strength and power of 'normal' sized Transformers made me fall in love with them even more.
I think it's because they were rebellious and bolshie is why I liked the characters so much. They toys were great too, Hasbro's transforming answer to Galoob's Micro Machines ( I think Hasbro may have won that round, you know).
The Race Car Patrol featured heavily in the comics, they were the poster child for the Micromasters, basically. In a story that even now I have to think about whether it was actually real or not, Roadhandler (the leader; the others being Swindler, Free Wheeler and Tailspin) actually became a wrestling champion. No, really. He fought for the title, and as it was predetermined, he won the belt. Ah, the eighties. Of course, once the Decepticons showed up, the fight became oh so real, and involved fans, the Air Strike Patrol, and Lord Zarak as a Vince McMahon style manager (remember the Corporation? I miss those days).
Sadly, the Micromasters only ever appeared in the Japanese cartoons, where their Marvel bios were never used, and ALL Micromasters were portrayed as annoying children.
As I said earlier, the toys were an answer to Micro Machines, and I think they fared a lot better. After all, they transform. But the detail on these toys is amazing, and they're bright and colourful. The fact that most of the transformations are ones you can do in your sleep is immaterial; they're fun toys, and that's more than good enough for me.
Seriously, these guys are addictive.I have loads, and still need to collect more and more sets.
The Tech Specs definitely informed the fiction in this case; in the comics they're brash, to the point, and cocky as all get out. The thing is though, these guys always back it up, and that's why I love them. As a guy on the short side myself, it's always nice to see that sometimes explosive things come in small packages.
Monday, 20 August 2012
Pre-1984, Takatoku Toys had a toyline that they called "Armored Insect Battalion Beetras", which was basically a line of transforming insects, pretty similar to the Insecticons' first release in Japan as Diaclone toys. The toyline can't have done too well, as Takatoku went out of business in 1984, and Hasbro bought a whole load of their toy moulds to use in the Transformers line. One of these was Beet-Zeguna, a black and brown coloured cicada toy, which Hasbro gave a much less muted colour scheme to, and released with two other toys as the Deluxe Insecticons.
Venom was released in 1985, and seems to have been an instant hit. So much so, that it would appear that people plyed with it to death, or just don't want to part with it, because it's impossible to find on the secondary market, at least for as decent price. They toy does look really cool though.
I always found it interesting that although they had little to no fiction, and that they were really only a footnote in the Transformers history, that Hasbro saw fit to include them in the back of the box art for 1985. So they're always there, they're always watching, but you never really notice them. They're like the monsters that you can only ever see out of the corner of your eye.
Sleep well, kiddies. Don't have nightmares.
Sunday, 19 August 2012
1986 was a weird time to be a young Transformers fan. These days it's almost old hat to have multiple timelines, parallel universes and constant change, but at that time, Transformers fans had gotten used to the way things were, and they this is how they were; Optimus Prime was the leader of the Autobots, Megatron led the Decepticons. They would fight, Megatron would come off worst, skulk away to his base, and come back the next week for more of the same. Transformers the Movie changed all of that.
See, in the movie, Prime died, and Megatron was reformatted into Galvatron. Which would have been bad enough in itself. I mean, there were kids having to be taken home crying and screaming because Prime bought the farm. It was that bad that it even brought Duke back to life in the GI Joe movie. Even worse was to come though. Optimus was replaced by Hot Rod, who, with the power of the Matrix flowing through him, became the mighty Rodimus Prime. Which is, let's face it, a silly name. Many kids, whether it was a reaction to Optimus dying, or just because of the name, hated Rodimus. I mean, really couldn't bear him. They replaced the 'proper' leader with this guy? Unacceptable. Things got so bad that Hasbro eventually ordered that Optimus be brought back in the cartoon series, with Rodimus being reverted back to Hot Rod (spoiler) and melting into the scenery, important no more.
Me being an awkward child though, always liked Rodimus. I'm not sure if it was my natural inclination towards the underdog (I AM British, after all), or just whether I thought his alt-mode was cool (a camper van with flames down the sides? SOLD), but I always thought he was a good character. I liked the way that he never thought he was good enough to replace the almost godlike Optimus. I liked that he retained some of the hotheadedness of Hot Rod (spoiler), which meant that he did things very differently from the way Optimus did them. He was a good character, layered and interesting, and it's good to see that in the comics these days, he's being played in much the same way. I certainly think that they threw away the character needlessly in 1987 for the much less interesting Optimus (in my opinion, anyway).
Rodimus' toy was...not great, if I'm being honest. I like it just fine, but I'm not going to say it's brilliant when it's not. It's a brick. Even by G1 standards. Like Chromedome and many other examples we'll come to in later blogs, his arms swivel, and that's about it. If it wasn't for the super-sweet alt-mode and tank/base mode, the toy would be severely lacking.
The Tech Specs for Rodimus are interesting, because it's now obvious in hindsight that Hasbro really didn't want anyone to know the plot of the movie, that Hot Rod was destined to become the next Autobot leader. However, it's painfully obvious that Rodimus is an upgraded and older version of Hot Rod, which put them in a quandry. So, instead of "leader", he's referred to as a "protector" (which Fansproject thanked them for later, no doubt), and given a pretty vague bio, which can be taken a number of ways, as a leader or just as a member of the Autobot top brass. That is, until you realise that his "Rank" is 10. Making him a leader. Nice try, Hasbro. Mind you, the ads didn't help, either.
Saturday, 18 August 2012
I'll say it now: I LOVE combiners. Especially the 'Scramble City' style ones, which didn't have to be ported in a particular way. A lot of people like the earlier ones, such as Bruticus and Menasor et al, but me, I always had (and still have) a massive soft spot for the later combiners. And of all of those, by far my favourite was, and is, Abominus, merged form of the Terrorcons, the leader of which, was Hun-Grr.
Now, of course I'm going to get to all of the Terrorcons individually at some point. But for the uninitiated, they were a team of monsters, some of which were very alien (Blot, Rippersnapper), and some which looked like mythological horrors (Cutthroat, Sinnertwin). Hun-Grr fits somewhere between the two I feel, a two headed dragon, which is still technological and advanced in nature.
Let's face it, he looks great. And applause for the colour scheme, whoever thought of hot pink accents with grey, give yourself many pats on the back. For a combiner 'commander' toy, he's also tall and interesting. I mean, most of them were ok, but the late-end toys were much, much better than the earlier models, with articulation and everything. The most you got with some of the earlier attempts were arm swivels, if that. Hun-Grr could actually be *posed*. I know.
The other good thing about Hun-Grr is that his fiction accurately represented his Tech Specs, as a monster who eats pretty much everything, and uses it as ammunition against his foes. He wasn't in too many episodes of season 3 of the G1 cartoon, but a memorable episode is "Money is "Everything", where he and the Terrorcons are being controlled by the mysterious Quintessons.
More good examples could be found in the Transformers comics, specifically the Headmasters arc of the Marvel US comics. He and the rest of his team showed up, and didn't fare too badly in the final analysis. Which is more than can be said for most combiner teams in the comics.
I'm very happy to report that I actually own Hun-Grr, and indeed all of the Terrorcons, and if it weren't for the fact that I'm missing a few pieces, Abominus himself would be sitting atop a shelf in the man cave. The important thing is that Hun-Grr is awesome, and has thus far been represented awesomely. I'd still love to see a Generations version of him, though.
Friday, 17 August 2012
These days of course, Swerve is a relatively major player in Nick Roche and James Roberts' brilliant "More Than Meets the Eye" comic, published by IDW. But in 1986, he was nought but a red repaint of Gears with a different faceplate. In 1986, Hasbro repainted and retooled a few of their 1984 Minibots, and Gears was one of those selected for a bit of a spruce up. The only new Minibot to be released in '86 was Wheelie. And quite frankly, he judges you. No, really.
Swerve made only two appearances in the Transformers cartoon; in one, he was trod on by Trypticon. In the other, he was portrayed as being in an infinite loop due to some timey-wimey shenanigans. So really, not a brilliant fictional CV. This could be down to his Tech Specs, which, apart from saying that he's easily distracted, don't really give much information out. The fact that he was one of the few Transformers not to receive a Transformers Universe entry would also suggest that he was pretty much forgotten about by Hasbro, left in the cold without much love.
Whic, let's face it, makes him the perfect candidate for Roberts and Roche to work their magic, really. Even if he still doesn't have a toy mould to himself.
Thursday, 16 August 2012
See? SEE? Rumble IS red! I've been saying it all of these years, and next to no one believed me! Yet it turns out that now, I am teh vindicated!
It's an old interwebz argument now, played out a million times or more on various Transformers message boards, that because of a (more than likely and I-wish-it-had-been avoidable) colouring error on the G1 cartoon show, that Rumble, far from being a robot that's coloured red and black, is in fact blue and purple, and his twin Frenzy is in fact the red and blue robot. It's an argument that can be neatly summarised as follows:
FIRRIB (Frenzy Is Red Rumble Is Blue) - or conversely - RIRFIB (Rumble Is Red Frenzy Is Blue)
Personally, I'm in the latter camp. Mainly because of Rumble's Tech Specs and box art, which clearly show him as being RED. Not that it matters at all, of course. (TOTALLY does.)
As for the content of Rumble's Tech Specs, well, the cartoon pretty much nailed that. Rumble was a petty street punk, bullying lower life forms and being a pain the linkage coupling. He always followed orders and was deferential to Megatron, and if he was in an episode, chances are that his piledrivers would be put to good use, pummelling the living daylights out of something.
In the comics, Rumble has never made much of an impact. If anything, Frenzy seemed to be in the comics more, for some reason.
He should have his "correct" livery in any future appearances, though. After all, with Rumble at least, red IS the colour.
Wednesday, 15 August 2012
Obviously I can't speak for everyone. But for myself, the concept of the Headmaster toys was cool. Very cool. So cool in fact, that I was the coolest guy at school inasmuch as I didn't have any Headmasters Transformers (until I got Fangry later on, but that's another story for another time).
In the west, the mythos was that small groups of Transformers (Autobots and Decepticons naturallement) landed on a planet called Nebulos (or Nebulan in some of the fictions), and started warring all over again. Some of the natives got involved, and, through some convoluted storytelling, became either the weapons (Targetmasters) or the heads of some of the bigger robots. In Japan, this got simplified even further (little robot becomes big robot), but let's stick to the west for the moment.
Sadly, as cool as the concept is, the toys weren't ever that good. I liked them a lot, but even I'll admit, some of them were a bit naff. Chromedome, it has to be said, is pretty high up the naff list.
See what I mean? Even by G1 standards, he's a bit of an unarticulated brick, with only arm swivels at the shoulders. Plus, he's beige. Nothing exciting is ever beige.
Oddly enough though, there was a glimmer of hope for Chromedome. Because his Tech Specs are very interesting. They tell of a geeky computer programmer, only actually fighting in the war because his place of work was wrecked by the Decepticons, who is, by fate itself, paired up with someone who only really cares how they look in the mirror. Intriguing stuff, almost a buddy cop movie plot, in actual fact. Can these two get along? How will the cool popular guy be able to cope with the computer nerd, and vice versa?
We never found out. Sadly, because the cartoon demanded speed of character introduction over plot and character development, we never saw how any of that could have played out. As for Japanese Chromedome, well. let's just say that boring beige was the right colour after all. It's a good job that the 1988 Transformers Annual in the UK had a text story from Stylor's perspective, or we might not have any fiction at all that fits into Chromedome's Tech Specs. So Marvel UK, you came up trumps again.
Tuesday, 14 August 2012
I don't remember Trypticon being released as a toy. I'm 99.9% sure he never was in the UK, hence why I don't remember anyone I knew having him, or even other people knowing someone who had him via a cousin, or friend of a brother's, or somesuch tenuous relationship. In fact, the first I even really knew of Trypticon was via season 3 of the Transformers cartoon, and even then it wasn't the whole season, because unless you were lucky to have Sky TV in the early 90's you couldn't see it. The only other way to catch a glimpse was through the VHS tapes they would sometimes release (the one I saw had Nightmare Planet and Call of the Primitives on it, I believe.)
Trypticon remains one of my all time Holy Grails of Transformerdom. Not only because of the toy itself, which is awesome:
Fort Max, eat your heart out! I mean, umm...erm...ahem. No, the toy's great, of course. The main reaon I need Trypticon is because he was voiced in the cartoon by Brad Garrett. A man who, not only also voiced Hulk Hogan and Lobo, but also played Robert in Everybody Loves Raymond. That's just the coolest fact in the universe. No, really. I NEED to see the episode where Robert steps on Raymond because he's a MASSIVE TRANSFORMING DINOSAUR.
All of that said though, Tryp's Tech Specs aren't the most impressive, choosing to list the many things he can do, rather than affix any personality to him. Which is a real shame, because his Transformers Universe entry is really good, painting the picture of a killing machine who is immensely good at what he does, and for that fact alone, is filled with self-loathing.Yet again, really interesting, really tragic and well-written, and not the sort of thing any Transformers bio writer would think of today.
Monday, 13 August 2012
These days, he's called Trailblazer, Trailcutter, or any other name that Hasbro chooses that week because they can't use his real name any more. But those of us who know the truth call him by his real name: Trailbreaker.
Trailbreaker's one of the characters in Transformers who gets no love whatsoever it seems. Not because he's hated, or that he's annoying. Just because, well, the G1 cartoon didn't have him around much (a few appearances here and there, mainly in the first three-parter "More than Meets the Eye" where he informs Spike and Sparkplug that he "may not be fast...but I'm tough!") and he never made much of an impact in the comics. But I always found his Tech Spec entry to be really interesting, a really good description of a character who, although they appear to be laughing and joking, hide an inner fear; that they may not be good enough. A character like many of us, who use humour as a defence mechanism. This is a biography for a kid's toy, lest we forget. Bold stuff for 1984.
The toy wasn't bad either, and would later be retooled and repainted as Hoist, who we'll talk about another time. Trailbreaker has always been a toy I wanted, mainly because I thought I'd won him once in a school competition in 1985; I didn't win him, but the desire remains the same. One of these days I'll snag the elusive bugger.
A quick word about box art for G1 Transformers. It's amazing. I know, I know, it's not to everyone's taste. But for me, it evokes such nostalgia, a calling card to a time when times were a bit simpler, a time when getting a new Transformer was a rarity indeed, and going to Toymaster or Woolworths in York meant that you'd get to see Transformers on the shelves, in all their varied and colourful forms. Ah, memories.