Sunday, 19 August 2012

#8: Rodimus Prime (1986)

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.

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