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.