Friday, 28 September 2012

#38: Grapple (1985)

How could you not love Grapple? He's an artist, a master builder, an architect of the highest calibre. He's a 'bot who hates war, it impedes his integrity as an artist, after all. All he wants to do is build, and build well. Even if that means striking deals with distinctly dodgy types. But that says more about his naive nature than anything else.

Grapple was very lucky to receive a whole G1 episode pretty much all to himself in "The Master Builder". Sure, Hoist was there as well, but let's face it, Grapple was the main attraction here. What we get with this episode is a glimpse into Grapple's psyche, we really see what makes him tick. We also get to see that Optimus Prime is a complete douche sometimes, but I think we already knew that. I feel sorry for Grapple in many ways, it can't be easy for him, to be an architect in the middle of a war. I guess I always saw why he would suffer from depression, seeing the buildings he helps to create get obliterated. Poor guy.

Grapple's alt mode is the same as Inferno's, the Mitsubishi Fuso. As a kid, I always did wonder why those two didn't look like British or American trucks, and right there is your answer. They weren't, they were based off Japanese ones. Very exotic. Very cool, too. He's not so much a repaint as a retool, coming with different attachments and a different head. The crane arm is obviously different too. I have to report here that I always preferred Grapple to Inferno, cranes are cooler than Fire Trucks in my humble opinion. Plus, the orange was always a nicer colour to my mind. A bit more neony. That always gives me a happy.

Grapple then, is quite a serious character for the Transformers universe. A guy who suffers from depression due to the destruction that war causes. He even gets an episode to himself, where they follow to the letter what his Tech Spec bio tells us. Let's face it, the cartoon got it right here. The comic barely mentions him at all, it has to be noted. Although he is a current member of the Lost Light crew. Come on Rocherts, let's be having you...

Thursday, 27 September 2012

#37: Scavenger (1985)

Poor Scavenger. I always feel sorry for the guy. His Tech Spec bio is really sad in a way, painting as it does a picture of a guy that no one likes, or sees any worth in. Yet, as the right arm of Devastator, he could punch your head clean of your body and deposit it in, say, Brazil. But the sad truth is, even his own team mates can't bear the guy. You have to have pity for someone like that.

Scavenger and the Constructicons debuted in the Transformers cartoon in the first season, presumably having been built by Megatron. (Later on, they would supposedly have built Megatron whilst also having been brainwashed by himself, but they're other stories for other times) Their main enemies were the Dinobots, who don't combine and never will, ok? Ok. The Constructicons DID combine though, which was their main gimmick. This resulted in two things. 1. the toys suffered from the gimmick 2. the characters suffered from the gimmick. Basically, neither the toys were much cop, and the characters were never explored fully, because their combining was what made toy sales. Sad but true. So even though the Constructicons had disparate personalities, in the cartoon at least, not much was made of it. Which missed the point a little bit, certainly with the 'character' (if it can be said that he even had one) of Devastator.

As for poor Scavenger, he got lost in the mayhem of toys to be sold. I always did like his Tech Spec bio though, and imagined him to be almost a giant puppy, always bringing back worthless items and getting reprimanded for it by Megatron and Scrapper. Like I said, poor guy. One day I'll get round to writing his story. Although not for IDW. It might be a smidge late for that.

Scavenger's toy alt mode was a more than servicable excavator (not digger, apparently. I'm not sure what the difference is there, but there is one, I'm told), but the robot mode does suffer from combiner syndrome, i.e. it's exceedingly simple and almopst perfunctory. That said, for the Constructicons, it's a good robot mode, and probably the reason why Scavenger's my favourite of the bunch.

Scavenger is my favourite Constructicon. Why? Well, because he's the underdog. He's the guy that gets picked on all the time, and I always hated that in any form. I guess being a guy that got picked on all the time at school made me always root for the little guy. Even if the little guy is a 20 foot tall robot who transforms into a construction vehicle.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

#36: Slapdash (1988)

The Powermaster gimmick, like all of the 'Master' conceits, is one of my favourites. This isn't news to anyone who reads this blog, to be perfectly honest. But the Powermaster flavour is a particular favourite of mine these days, due to Masterforce, the Japanese version of events, where the gimmick is repurposed somewhat. The basic story is this; Nebulons (or humans in Masterforce) power the Transformers, making them even more powerful than before. (In Japan, the human IS the Transformer. They turn into an engine and merge with the robot, so the huan becomes the robot, effectively.) I just love this idea, especially the wetsren version, because the Nebulons had to consume HUGE amounts of food for it to become fuel, effectively. The thought of Hi-Q scarfing down Elvis-like proportions of burgers and cake amuses me. I'm a bit odd.

Slapdash is another of those characters that wasn't used in fiction much. He was introduced in the comics, was in a few stories, and then disappeared due to the fact that no one could be bothered writing him at that point. The G1 cartoon had ended too, meaning that really there was only one choice; go to Japan.

Road King, as he was known in Japan, was a completely different character to Slapdash. There, he was a British racing driver, the 'British Wolf', with an eye for the ladies and a celebrity attitude. He certainly wasn't Slapdash, forgetting to take along his partner Lube (yes, yes, I know) which meant that he couldn't transform. If I'm being honest, Road King's a bit cooler than Slapdash. I'd rather he be Road King. I like Masterforce. A lot.

The toy is better than it looks. I mean, it's not perfect, but it certainly isn't as bad as it first appears. It does have a little bit of articulation, and the alt-mode is great. Sadly, it is a bit simplistic, and that's mainly down to gimmick issues. The fact that the toy is in Fisher-Pricey colours doesn't help, really. But like all the Powermasters, it's a solid enough toy with lots of replay value.

Slapdash suffers from what a lot of later-era Transformers suffer from - fiction drought. Because the cartoon had finished, and the comic was concentrating on a story arc rather than selling toys too much (toys were sold through the comic stories - but Furman was taking over by this point and the Matrix Quest was king, effectively), so some of the later era toys maybe didn't get the pushes that earlier toys did. Which is why I love the Japanese versions of these characters so much - they give these toys a purpose, a story. And it's a good story, too. If you haven't ever checked Masterforce out - do so, and do yourself a massive favour.

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

#35: Weirdwolf (1987)

Weirdwolf is one of those guys that's just "there". He doesn't really do anything, say anything interesting or noteworthy, or make any difference to any situation he's in. And by that I don't mean he didn't make a difference in the George Bailey "every man makes a difference" way. I mean, in terms of Generation One fiction (even the Japanese Headmasters series), Weirdwolf did absolutely nothing. Which to me at least, is incredibly frustrating. Because Weirdwolf, according to his Tech Spec bio, was immensely interesting and a great character. If used correctly, he could have been a positive boon to G1 fiction. Still could, if anyone wished to go down that direction. Weirdwolf, basically, is a psychopath. But not in the foaming at the mouth, utter mental, WWF wrestler circa 1986 way. No, he's insane in the Patrick Bateman "needs to return some video tapes" way. Even if the singsong voice and backwards way of talking thing's a bit of a giveaway. Maybe Drusilla from Buffy is a better fit for Weirdwolf, on second thought.

Regardless, here's an example of yet another completely wasted character from G1. This appears to be a running thread through this blog. I guess my point is that we as kids probably made more out of a lot of these characters than the writers did. Not that I'm having a go at the writers, they were under pressure to get things done quickly, they had to concentrate on a few characters perhaps, and other such concerns. Even so, it irks me occasionally, looking back through these Tech Specs, that an awful lot of good writing fodder went unnoticed.

Weirdwolf's toy is great. A teal, yellow and cream wolf. I mean, obviously, right? It's 1987, after all. And the Headmaster conceit has always been one of my favourites. It used to be that I really only liked the Japanese explanation, with the head being the robot, controlling the lifeless body, but I think I'm coming around to the Western explanation these days, that the little guy is organic, and transforms into the head of the robot, and the two personalities mesh and become one. It's such a crazy idea, it just might work. Kind of like making a wolf out of yellow and teal parts.

Weirdwolf then, is a guy looking for a part. Or a part looking for a guy. Whatever he is, I like him. And if he does happen to ever appear in a film or new cartoon, I want Juliet Landau voicing him. Or Frank Oz. Whoever's cheaper.

Monday, 24 September 2012

#34: Groove (1986)

Groove was one of the many Generation One Autobots that was openly a pacifist, not wanting to fight, yet knowing they had to, to end the war they hated so very much. He joined such luminaries as First Aid, Beachcomber and Fixit, even the Pretender Monster Slog to a degree. Sadly, as with most of the component parts of any combiner in G1, Groove was almost faceless, and certainly characterless, even in the comics. Of course the commanders got a lot of face time, but the rest did not. Not unless you were Swindle, anyway. Or even the Aerialbots. Personally, I think that's a crying shame, I'd take a well done character study of Defensor and his components over anything to do with the Aerialbots, but there you go.

As usual with characters that get left behind sometimes, Groove would have been a good character to have a look at in depth, and see what makes him tick. A pacifist who fights to protect people? Who really just wants to explore the world he's in and not have to fight all the time? That, to me, would be a great thing to look into and examine. Sadly, I guess it doesn't make for an exciting kid's show or comic, and certainly wouldn't sell toys. Still, maybe one day IDW will give it a go. I live in hope.

Let's not mince words here; Groove's toy is terrible. It kinda has to be, it's a combiner limb. So by necessity it could haver have been an amazingly articulated and engineered toy, and especially not in 1986. But even given that, he's awful. The bike mode isn't too bad, although it's not exactly interesting; it's the robot mode that's the stinker here. The transformation is feet out, front of the bike down and rotate arms. Micromasters have more intricate conversions than that. Again, by necessity, but still. Not great.

The thing about combiner limbs is that you have to forgive them a lot, and therefore have to have a reason to forgive them. In Groove's case, it's the Tech Specs. Which is a case in point about why I love them so much. Without that, Groove would just be a poor toy with not a lot going for him apart from the fact that he's Defensor's leg. WITH the Tech Spec bio of course, he's a great and interesting character, which makes me like the toy a whole lot more. Tech Specs. Gawd bless 'em.

Sunday, 23 September 2012

#33: Octane (1986)

I seem to recall (and forgive me if my memory is a little hazy) that my friend Jeremy had Octane when we were at school together. Certainly someone owned him. Because I remember quite clearly thinking that he wasn't very good. Not because the toy was bad or anything, even in 1986 I was quite aware that toy engineering had it's limitations. No, I didn't think he was much cop because he didn't have an offensive alt-mode. He transformed into a 767 jet and a fuel tanker, see. Not the usual military vehicles or outwardly offensive modes for a Decepticon.

Nearly 30 years later, and I see that it was actually a stroke of genius; Octane's capabilities were much more insidious then firing a weapon, or ripping someone apart. He, in fact, is one of the most evil beings in the whole universe; a bean counter. Those people who can deny life by a stroke of a pen, because it's not economically viable to keep you alive. Effectively, he's the Decepticon equivalent of a civil servant.

This was actually played out a little bit in the cartoon; Octane would make business decisions rather than out and out fight the Autobots. Even at the cost of his membership of the Decepticons. This meant that he'd join the Autobots for a little while, andeven become marginally noble, even being called 'good buddy' by Sandstorm; this slightly loses it's lustre though, when you find that all of this should be happening to Blitzwing, who was legitimately kicked out of the Decepticons by Galvatron at the end of 'Five Faces of Darkness'.

Even then, it would seem that the writers never really looked at Octane's Tech Spec bio. He was never really a bully, never really loud. He was just a businessman, in the same vein as Swindle. The comics have attempted to correct this on a few occasions, but as always, Octane ends up being nothing more than a Decepticon goon, a thug who gets his rear linkage handed to him on most occasions. These days he's not even called Octane anymore...

The toy, as I stated earlier, does have issues. The tanker mode doesn't really look like a tanker, more a big silver shiny cylinder with half a robot stuck on the front. Jet mode is a lot better, which leades me to believe that might have been the first of the modes that was designed. Robot mode is the best of the three modes, but his legs do suffer due to his three-mode configuration. By which I mean, they don't move. It's a G1 toy though. You get used to that. The detail, especially on his face, is great though. What G1 toys lack in articulation, they always make up for in character.

Octane then, is a toy and a character that grew on me over 30 years. I now think that he should be given a much more prominent role in the Transformers universe. In fact, I think that he, Swindle and Greasepit should all either be involved in the recent Dallas remake somehow, or team up and make a Cybertronian version of The Apprentice. You're fired!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

#32: Hot Rod Patrol (1990)

The Hot Rod Patrol are a great example of the creativity that the Micromaster line of Transformers produced; I could be wrong, but I think it was because of the fact that they cost a heck of a lot less to produce, which gave the designers more leaway to come up with things that maybe they wouldn't be able to if the toys had been of a bigger size. Hence, four 1950's style hot rod cars, in neon colourings. Neon had already started to creep into Transformers colour schemes by this point, but after 1990 or so, Hasbro just went crazy with the gimmick, splashing it on everything. Not that I'm complaining, of course. I happen to love everything neon.

Aside from a cartoon advertising them, the Hot Rods didn't get any fiction until the quite frankly risible Micromasters mini-series comic by Dreamwave, where, as stated in this blog previously, art wasn't great, and the writing was such that it rendered any attempt at characterisation of the Micros null and void, as they were pretty much interchangably bland and blank. A shame. Still, you never know. Some amazing soul may one day write the Micromaster epic to end all epics. One day, I may even try that myself.

Aside from Greaser (the orange guy) who is just weird, the Hot Rodders are pretty standard transforming Micromaster cars - the hook with them is the 1950's motif and theme. If you don't like that, then they're never going to grab you, but I've not met many who at least don't see the charm of them. The neon is obviously a great draw with me too; how can you not love something that's neon orang, even if his legs look back to front? You can't, obviously. I always liked the fact that they're portrayed as complete punks in the bio; I always imagine them being voiced by James Dean, Marlon Brando and Henry Winkler, with possibly Tom Wilson as Big Daddy. Biff Tannen rules, McFly.

Monday, 17 September 2012

#31: Thrust (1985)

Thrust will always be my second favourite version of the Seeker mould, after Dirge of course. Why, Ihear you ask? Well, he was actually the first version of the Seeker mould that I ever saw. My friend Rob had him, see, and would bring the toy to school to play with most days. This was about 1985-ish, possibly early 1986. I was always fascinated with Thrust, the fact that his wings were so odd-looking, the way it transformed, and the shade of burgundy-maroon he was coloured. There was just something so cool about that toy, I loved it. I didn't care that you had to fit different parts on him to make him look like a robot, or that he even looked silly with the cone head up (although I don't recall that was done often; we didn't really have season 2 of the G1 cartoon over here, so the conehead thing was never really a thing). Part of the reason I bought Dirge was the fact that I wanted a Thrust-like toy.

Another reason to like Thrust is his Tech Spec bio. A loudmouthed braggart who's also a bully? Who doesn't like roleplaying that in the playground? Sure, he's almost a 'Thundercracker-lite', but who cares? T-Cracker only REALLY became interesting when IDW started writing him. Thrust was where it was at.

Sadly, the cartoon creators didn't agree with me on that one, and poor old Thrust ended up in the 'dumb goon' role, beating up Autobots, getting trashed by other Autobots, and not doing much else. The same was true of the comics; he was always around as muscle, but never got to do anything interesting. In fact, the most interesting thing that's happened to him in fiction is getting a whole building dropped on him in the IDW comics. That's it.

The toy, as I said before, is great. Yes, seeker mould again, but the extras make up for the genericness of the mould. The wings in particular are great, the massive turbines that look like they really do some sonic damage, and the rear fins, the plane mode just screams out 'I'm from the 80's!' The stickers really finished the look off too, and it's great that Reprolabels did a new set of them for the Generations version of Thrust, seeing that toy on a shelf really is like taking a trip back through time.

Hopefully Thrust isn't gone from the IDWverse. I'd like to see a different take on the character, a bit of insecurity and inner turmoil. Because let's face it, for all his bravado and loudness, Thrust is just a little bit unsure of himself. That's always interesting to see. And let's face it, any excuse for the coneheads to appear in anything, eh?

Saturday, 15 September 2012

#30: Sandstorm (1986)

Sandstorm was always one of the Triple Changers I wanted. Mainly because 1. Helicopters are cool, 2. dune buggies are cool, and 3. I like the colour orange. Yeah, I was a bit special as a kid. Sadly, I never owned Sandstorm. Which made it worse all those years later when I finally saw his 'hero' episode of the G1 cartoon, 'Fight or Flee'. For those who haven't seen it, it all revolves around the discovery of an alternate universe Cybertron, Paradron. This planet is bizarro Cybertron, a paradise, basically, where a group of Autobots left the planet of their origin to seek out somewhere else they could live (sound familiar much?). Sadly for them, the Decepticons found their world, and conquered it, leading to the Autobots blowing it up. Yes, it really is that swift a decision to destroy a world by the 'heroic' Autobots.

Poor Sandstorm. As leader of the world he feels awful about this, and bids his world farewell. Only for Rodimus to mock him and remark that 'Cybertron's a better world anyway'. Douche. Still, never mind, because the next episode Sandstorm's in, he seems to have forgotten all about his erstwhile world. All's well that ends well, eh?

Other than that, Sandstorm has been very much a background player in Transformers fiction, always being around, but never doing much. Unless you count buying the farm in the Dreamwave continuity as doing something. At this current point, it would seem that he's aboard the Lost Light, looking for the Knights of Cybertron. So hopefully, he'll pop up at some point. Which is possibly bad news for those of us wanting to get his G1 self, as Rocherts will no doubt make him amazing. Gah.

As a Triple Changer, he transformed into a dune buggy and a helicopter, which as I stated earlier, is cool. He's exceedingly orange, too. I mean, almost TOO orangey. Sadly, I've never owned or even played with the toy, so I can't comment on the quality of it. Those who I've known who DO own him seem to think that he makes a very good toy indeed. So he looks to be one of the better Triple Changers.

Sandstorm's Tech Spec bio was followed almost to the letter by the G1 cartoon, he shows off his manueverability AND his ability to make dust clouds for camouflage in Starscream's Ghost. His devil maycare attitude also gets a look in, but not too much, sadly. Because he wasn't used much, we never saw it. Although in the comics, he doesn always seem to be on Wrecker's duty, so maybe that would be a factor there. Who knows, maybe one day we'll get a whole series just about Sandstorm. Until then, here's Paradron's last moments, and Rodimus being a complete douchecanoe:

Friday, 14 September 2012

#29: Wildfly (1989)

Wildfly is one of those few Transformers that up until about 10 years or so ago (whenever the Dreamwave More Than Meets the Eye guides came out) I didn't even know existed. I don't think the Pretender Monsters ever got as far as York, if I'm being honest. If they did, I don't ever remember seeing them in any of the shops I bought Transformers from. Which is a real shame, because I would have loved them. Micromasters that are also Pretenders that also combine? Sign me up!

For those that don't know what Pretenders were, they were Transformers who also had an organic shell that looked like humans (Autobots) or monsters, demons, etc (Decepticons). The gimmick never really took off; mainly because Western fiction never really knew how to deal with them. Hence, Transformer sized humans. Japan got it perfectly, but that sadly wasn't available in the west until about 2006.

Pretender Monsters were scaled down Pretenders with a rubbery shell (all the others had been plastic). They could also combine into the 'mighty' Monstructor (about the size of a deluxe toy now), who was multicoloured and awesome. According to the Dreamwave bio, he exuded a force field that sapped lifeforce. This makes him even more awesome to me. Of course, I didn't find out about this until 2002 or so. If I'd have known circa 1989 about this, well, I would have a Monstructor.

I think a lot of people at IDW think this too, as they've made him their official 'first combiner', as opposed to, say, Devastator. Wildfly obviously is a part of this, although he's never had much characterisation in their comics. This is very much the same for any other comic he's appeared in (two others; Marvel G1 for ONE story, and the last GI vs Transformers for Devil's Due), Monstructor has been the main guy, the rest of them have just sort of been there. As is often the case, this is a bad thing, as Wildfly's Tech Spec bio, whilst not being the most maddeningly interesting or even original, still has merit, and in the context of the other Monster Pretenders, could have been used to great effect.

They toy is a Micromaster in a rubber shell; that's pretty much it. He transforms into what is a bird because HASBRO SAYS SO, and his shell is some form of vampiric ghoul (it was never really ever made that clear).Obviously he's made more to combine with the others or live in his shell, so I'd wager not much effort was ever really spent on his robot or alt-modes.

I think I like Wildfly and his brethren so much because I've never seen them in person. They're almost like forbidden fruit, or a living dinosaur. I want them, because I will probably never have them. Monstructor is so ridiculously expensive if you can find him, the chances are it's something I'll never own. Which makes me wish sometimes that I HAD never known about him.

Thursday, 13 September 2012

#28: Crosshairs (1987)

Apparently Crosshairs is a toy that almost everyone has owned at some point. It's a memo I wish I'd gotten, as I've never owned him. I don't think I ever knew anyone who had him as a kid even. It's a shame, because, like all Targetmasters, Crosshairs is cool. Yes, even though his toy isn't the most interesting, he gets a pass, because the gimmick is awesome. Yes, even though his fiction appearances are few and far between, and not even that great, he's allowed into the cool club because Targetmasters are amazing. I'm that shallow and impressed by little robots that turn into what Hasbro tells me is a gun. I'm a man with a problem, I know.

Crosshairs, like I said earlier, didn't get much fiction. He was in The Rebirth, but as those of us who have seen it know, it's a toy parade and nothing more.Neil Ross got to do a neat Ronnie Reagan impersonation for a few seconds, and that's it. In that story, we should be thankful even for that. In the comics he fared better, but not much. He was, of course, in the Headmasters miniseries, but like the cartoon, that suffers from robot saturation. He popped up in the Matrix Quest, but was more than likely killed by Thunderwing, as he wasn't seen after the confrontation on the Autobot flagship. In IDW he's popped up here and there, but hasn't really done much yet. Yeah, Crosshairs is one of those rank-and-filers, it seems. There to make up the numbers. Which, as with a lot of these kind of bots, is a shame. His Tech Spec bio is pretty cool, the guy who won't take a shot, won't waste ammo unless it's absolutely necessary...I can see a story about a sniper in there somewhere, a good character piece. I may write it someday. Unless Rocherts gets there first, of course.

I said his toy wasn't great, and it's not. It's not bad, but it's not one of the better toys from the era. He's very bulky, almost Tonka toy bulky, and his head seems small and flat compared to the rest of his body. Pinpointer (his Targetmaster partner) isn't brilliant either, but he is functional, and I guess that's all that truly matters. Crosshairs' alt mode is the star here, he's a great big Cybertronian monster truck. Let's face it, what kid doesn't love that?

Crosshairs, and indeed all the Target, Head and Power Masters are all in severe need of the Classics/Generations treatment. Come on Hasbro, you know it makes sense.

Wednesday, 12 September 2012

#27: Astrotrain (1985)

If there is one fact of the 1980s that cannot be denied, it is this: kids in the 80s LOVED the Space Shuttle. Pre-1986, anyway. But before that, the Shuttle was everywhere, marketed like you wouldn't believe. Even in Japan, where they made a toy to look both like the Shuttle, and an old steam locotmotive, for some reason. Hey, Japan. There's your reason right there. Regardless, Hasbro execs thought this too good an opportunity to let slip, so they shifted the colours from white to grey, made him look a bit more Decepticon-ey (it's a word) and hey-ho, you have Astrotrain!

To be fair, the Triple Changer gimmick is still good, even today. To have what is essentially three toys in one is no mean feat, and a triumph of toy engineering that they even resemble what they're supposed to. The problem with them came with the fiction. How? Why? When? These questions didn't really get answered until the Dreamwave comics came around and told us that they were mostly Shockwave's experiments. In the cartoon, they just appeared from nowhere. Even then, the writers didn't seem to know what to do with them, especially Astrotrain. So they fixated on two particualr words; carries cargo. That's pretty much what he did. The only two episode where Astrotrain seemed to have something other to do than carry cargo were 'The God Gambit' where he seems quite imposing, and 'Triple Takeover' where he seems to think that normal run-of-the-mill trains can actually hear him. Not good.

The toy itself, like all of the early Triple Changers, is tiny. Really small. To be fair, his Classics version isn't exactly massive, but I always recall Astrotrain to be exceedingly tiny. In the words of Vic and Bob, almost too wee. Good, though. As I said, for it to even resemble both a shuttle and a train, nevermind a robot, is nothing short of superb. I salute the Takara toy engineering department.

As for Astrotrain himself, I demand more fiction. And a bigger toy. I demand both of these things. Don't get me to set Astrotrain and his massive gang of Intercity 125s on you.

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

#26: Huffer (1984)

I need a Huffer toy in my life. Not just because like me he's "cynical, hard-boiled and pessimistic", but because I'm still suffering from envy from about 28 years ago. See, my friend Rob had him, and I always wanted that little orange truck robot to myself. I mean, look at him. He's so darn cute. Mainly because he's built that way, the original Japanese Microchange toy being superdeformed in the first place, but he's still cute. Huffer would probably hate that.

Another reason I wanted the toy was the fiction. No, not the G1 Marvel comic (although he was an ever present in that, at least for the first few years of publication), and definitely not the cartoon (where he was, let's face it, a whiny little gimp), but the Ladybird fiction. He was in a few stories, billed as the Autobot's go-to guy for engineering (rather than Wheeljack, as in the cartoon), but the story where he got the chace to shine was 'Autobots Lighting Strike' - and he didn't disappoint. He was awesomely miserable, crotchety and grouchy. He was also an engineering whizz, who was terribly good at his job (so much so that in Decepticon Hideout his work was of such a high standard that the Autobots had to mess it all up again - read the story to find out why). So Huffer, even though he was a tiny orange truck, was always awesome to me.

They toy, it has to be said, has problems. To be fair, it is from the mid to late 1970s. But still, the arms were never that great (on Huffer or Pipes, the retool/repaint of the mould), looking very much like smokestacks slapped on the side of a robot. Which, let's face it, is exactly what they are. Because he's VERY early G1 though, he gets a pass. That, and the fact that the rest of him more than makes up for it, the cab becoming the top half of the robot is a master stroke, and his legs actually look like legs and not a joined together lump of plastic.

All in all then, Huffer's as great a toy as he is a character, just like 99% of all the Minibots are. Great little toys that could be carried anywhere, and in the fiction, usually with bags of characterisation, just for that reason. Huffer, I salute you. Not that it matters of course. Life. Don't talk to me about life.

Monday, 10 September 2012

#25: Spinister (1988)

I'm pretty sure I owned Spinister. He's one of the ones I have to put my hands up and say that I'm not too sure about. I've played with the toy since, so I know how cool it is, but I can't honestly remember if I had him as a kid or not.

I do know one thing. That Spinister is cool. I adore the fact that he's a bit of a mystery, that no one seems to know anything about him, Autobot OR Decepticon. I loves the mysterious characters, and Spinister is certainly one of those.

In the Marvel G1 comics, Spinister was part of Thunderwing's Mayhe Attack Squad (the Decepticon version of the Wreckers). But Spinister was never subservient to Thunderwing. He was more of a thinker than the others, more willing to go against Thunderwing if he acted too crazy. To Spinister's mind, Thunderwing leaving Needlenose to the tender mercies of the Matrix infused horror on planet VsQs was too far.

The fact that Spinister rebelled always made me like him. I like the fact that Furman writes Decepticons who ARE for their cause, and who will stick together and not split apart when things go wrong. They're an army, after all, and armies don't usually cut and run or leave comrades. Not most of the time, anyways.

Spinister's toy wasn't amazing, but neither was it bad, some of the detail (especially on his face) and the double Targetmaster gimmick are cool,and his loud, bright colours just about typify the later era of Transformers to me. His Tech Spec was great too, a marvellous example of the writers really having hit their stride with the Transformers bios.

It does look like the James Roberts has struck again with Spinister - MTMTE #7 features himself, so I would imagine he is now nigh impossible to find on the eBay. On the other hand though, if he's more popular we might get a modern version of him that isn't just for Botcon attendees. Hmm...

Saturday, 8 September 2012

#24: Backstreet (1988)

As Backstreet's bio suggests, he's twitchy, nervous and jumps to the wrong conclusion. So, perfect for a robot whose main function is being one giant hair-trigger weapon, then. Seriously, the Autobot's psyche analysis sucks. That said though, the only time this was really relevant in any ficiton was a text story from the 1990 UK Transformers annual, "Trigger Happy". Backstreet messes up an ambush, and coming to the wrong conclusion about the circumstances, he goes on the run. Other than that, his G1 fiction was limited to 3 other stories from the US comic. Par for the course for the mid-run of Transformers characters. If you were toys from the cheaper end of the market, chances were that you'd not get too much of the limelight, that being reserved for your Powermasters and Optimus Primes.

That said, he still has a very strong bio, and if ever Roche and Roberts want to expand on his appearance in IDW's More Than Meets the Eye comics, then I would certainly welcome it. I think that there's a lot that could be done with ol' Backstreet here. (If only I were any good at writing...)

As I said previously, Backstreet's toy was of a cheaper pricepoint, the 'pocket money' end of things. Still, he had a great gimmick, of spring-loaded chromed weapons. My mate Andy had the toy, and I always really liked it. It's a good design, and the gimmick's pretty fun. The only real niggle I have is that it doesn't have back wheels; by virtue of necessity (the gimmick gets in the way), Backstreet's car mode doesn't have back wheels, rather one wheel underneath, and the illusion of wheels with stickers where they actually should be.

That said, it's a fun toy, with a nifty gimmick, and a good bio. There's not much to dislike with Backstreet. Now bring me more fiction, Rocherts! Or maybe not. I want to buy this guy without having to sell a kidney first.

Thursday, 6 September 2012

#23: Buzzsaw (1984)

Buzzsaw is the poor relation to Laserbeak in many ways. Because he came packaged with Soundwave unlike the other cassetticons, there was no real need to advertise and 'sell' him in the various fictions, so as a result, he was underused in the cartoon. True, he did take out Omega Supreme in the comics (I'm not making this up; Buzzsaw the cassette condor took down the baseformer Omega Supreme - look it up), but he was destroyed by Underbase Starscream not long after, and did hardly anything of note before either of those things. He also appeared in one of the Ladybird audios, Megatron's Master Plan. He didn't do much, though. Just flew about a bit. It was still more than Laserbeak did though.

Hence, Buzzsaw is better than Laserbeak in my eyes. He's the underdog, the guy who nearly became the star but due to economics, was pushed into the background. Plus, his bio is way more interesting than Laserbeak's. Buzzsaw is an artist, a creative type. He creates art from the twitching corpses of his victims, turning them into so much more than they were before. He's like Warhol, or something. Except he never got his 15 minutes of fame. Not yet, anyway.

I always enjoyed the cassetticon toys, I love the transformations and all their varied permutations. I just think it's very clever to be able to get such a range of different toys out of what is essentially the same shape. Wonderful stuff. Sadly I've never owned Buzzsaw, but one day my friends. One day. I was hoping that he would be reissued with Soundwave, but alas, that, of course, was Laserbeak. Damn limelight hogging condor.