Monday, 22 December 2014

#67: Slugfest (1987)

Perhaps this blog should be renamed "Casseticons who were mistreated during G1", because today, we have another poor soul who can lay claim to that moniker. Slugfest came at the tail end of the "normal" G1, just as the Headmasters came out and everything became too gimmicky. Obviously, both Slugfest and Overkill were late add-ons to Soundwave's army of minions, but because of their late arrival, it was basically too late for them to make any impact at all on the fiction. Neither the comics nor the cartoon had any notewortthy appearances for ol'Sluggy. Indeed, his only appearance in G1 fiction of the time was in "Call of the Primitives". In one scene. For a couple of frames of animation. Still more exposure than he had in the comics though, where he didn't appear at all.

Yeah, it's that underdog thing again. And also, a feeling that yet again, a character with interesting traits has been overlooked mainly because their toy wasn't a priority. Sure, the fiction only really exists to seel toys, I totally get that, but I think that now, G1 has almost transcended that, and it's fiction stands on it's own merit, to the point that I think that an interesting character like Slugfest needs to be made a lot more of. I can see him fitting in well with the crew of the Lost Light for instance. They could do with a data courier who gets paranoid while listening to his own messages, right? You know, someone who flies off in a beserker rage and wipes the data he's supposed to be sending in the first place? Sounds like a sitcom opportunity's being missed for him and Swerve, that's for damn sure.

Probably isn't going to happen. But I know one thing, Slugfest's toy rocks. Come on, who doesn't want a cassette that transforms into a pink and lime green stegosaur? I know I do. This guy needs a Masterpiece version so bad it actually hurts. Mind you, so do Overkill, Beastbox and Squawktalk. Those last two kinda sorta already do, via third party toy companies. So what are you waiting for? Get right on that.

If you haven't already got a Slugfest in your life, get one. Stat. Also, James Roberts? Slugfest miniseries. Stat. Don't make me tell him you've been talking about him behind your back.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

#66: Frenzy (1984)

Frenzy was part of the first wave of Transformers toys that hit the shelves in 1984, and as such, should get some respect from the Transformers fandom. Sadly, due to a colouring error in the Transformers cartoon way back when, he doesn't get that. Instead, what he gets is nothing but "he's the one that's coloured like Rumble in the cartoon", or even just gets referred to as Rumble himself. But I'm not going to dwell on that at all in this entry. Let's get it right out of the way; Frenzy didn't really appear in the cartoon too much, and when he did, he sounded and acted just like Rumble. End of story.

It was in the comics that Frenzy really came into his own. A distinct and very different character than Rumble, Frenzy wasn't just a common thug. No, this was a guy who loved war. In fact no, it was more than that. Frenzy is war. It's everything to him, his oxygen, his food, his drink. His entire being is given over to fighting the war. To the point of even making him hard to deal with for most Decepticons, who, let's face it, love war.

In the Marvel comics, this was played up to a great level, with Frenzy being a kill-crazy warmonger, unafraid to try and kill humans (including Buster in a very memorable encounter which will be shown at the end of this blog). Frenzy also had the steel balls to help attack Omega Supreme and travel to limbo to destroy the alien life forms who lived there, earning himself a punch to the face from Optimus Prime himself! Frenzy is basically one the baddest of badasses.

This continued into the IDW era (nothing of note happened in the Dreamwave era, with Frenzy doing what he did in the cartoon - standing at the back and keeping out of Rumble's way), with Frenzy starting out in the war as nothing more than industrial equipment, but ending it as a battle tank, refusing to renounce his Decepticon affiliation and accepting banishment, rather than stop fighting a war that he'd already lost. Talk about someone committed to the cause.

Frenzy's toy is a complete and utter classic; let's not mess about here. The original Micro Change design is pretty much synonymous now with those early Transformers toys, and his association with Soundwave is legendary. The man on the street still more than likely thinks of Soundwave and his cassettes as "Transformers" rather than Megatron, Starscream or even Optimus Prime. The amazing thing is, the toy still holds up to this day. Hell, Frenzy's Masterpiece version is practically the same toy as was 30 years ago. That, more than anything, tells you how good the design was, and is.

Frenzy then: not Rumble. Even if the cartoon done messed up and coloured them both wrong. Look to the comics, and you'll find out just how awesome Frenzy truly is.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

#65: Slapdash (1988)

Slapdash, being a Powermaster, already holds a special place in my heart. One, he comes from one of my favourite ever eras of Transformers, that special time and place where anything was given a go, and experimentation was the name of the game for the brand as a whole; and two, his Japanese counterpart kicked ass in Masterforce. Of course, he's a very different character to ol' Slapdash, so we won't be talking about him.

In an era of superbots, Slapdash was, let's face it, a bit of a rube. His Tech Specs say it all; he was unprepared for war. Often turning up without Lube (ho ho ho), his Nebulan partner, nine times out of ten he'd be unable to transform on the battlefield. And being an interceptor (presumably because of the speed of his alt mode), that's kind of important. 

Lucky then, that he wasn't all that important in the fiction. In the Marvel G1 comics (and Regeneration One) he accompanied the rest of the Powermasters-to-be and Goldbug as they went to rebuild Optimus Prime on Nebulos, whilst Blaster and Grimlock fought for the Autobot leadership, and Slapdash was part of the Autobot army nwho searched for the Matrix on the Matrix Quest. He also helped the Transformers defeat Unicron, only to be shot in the face by Highbrow, when the latter had been genetically altered by Scorponok to lose any inhibitions he might have about killing EVERYONE. Poor Slapdash. Help destroy a Dark God, only to be killed by one of your own mates. 

He seems to be having a better time of it in More Than Meets The Eye, where for the moment at least, he's a crew member of the Lost Light, searching for the Knights of Cybertron and listening to Rewind's stories at the bar. Sweet.

As for Slapdash's toy, well...look, I like old toys, and I like this type of Transformer. "Good" is a completely subjective term, ok? The important thing is, I think it's cool, and that's all that matters. Right/ Glad we got that sorted out. His toy's not very good, there, I said it.

As an example of a toy era when a company was willing to experiment though, Slapdash is amazing. Is he successful? Not on all fronts, no. But he is fun, and that's all that really counts, at the end of the day. 

I like Powermasters.

Monday, 15 December 2014

#64: Snarl (1985)

Poor Snarl is just not a happy bunny. Or Stegosaur, for that matter. The whole picture painted of him in his Tech Specs is that of someone whose lot in life has never been great, even before he crash-landed on Earth. A loner by nature, who would just as soon you left him alone, rather than be involved in one of the major wars of the galaxy.

Not that you'd really know it from any of the fiction he's been in, of course. Never one of the more popular Dinobots, like Slag he often is found on the sidelines. Heck, he's not even in Transformers: The Movie, to any great extent. Four shots. FOUR. Even that appears to be an afterthought, as well. Poor Snarl. I mean, it started off terribly well. He was first introduced with Swoop in "War of the Dinobots" as a force to fight the rogue Dinobots who seemed to have joined with Megatron, and he was relatively successful, keeping the rogues busy while the rest of the Autobots fought the rest of the Decepticons. After that, his next big moment came in the two parter "Dinobot Island", where, at the behest of Grimlock, he did "tail stuff". Sadly, it was all downhill from there, and he became very much a background dino, usurped by the seemingly more glamourous Swoop, and the ever present (and popular) Grimlock.

Of course, in the comics, Snarl did even less, the limited cast of said comic books only again allowing a couple of Dinobots to shine brightly, and again, those Dinos where Swoop, and most definitely Grimlock (an apparent favourite of Bob Budiansky, and pretty much Simon Furman's favourite character EVER.) Snarl did have the dubious honour of acquiring a very rare Transformer disease, this particular nasty being Corrodia Gravis, a wasting disease that caused poor Snarl to basically rust to death. Luckily for Snarl though, the rest of the Dinobots found a temporary cure, in that they moved his mind into an ACTUAL Stegosaurus while they made him a new body, which, with Snarl's hatred of that form already, must have been just like heaven for him.

In the IDWverse, it's business as usual. Snarl doesn't do much. Maybe someday he'll have his moment, but with everything being a bit Grimlock-centric right now (when isn't it?), then he may have to wait a little bit longer though. Still, I like Snarl. It's nice when Tech Specs try to inject a bit more character into proceedings, and giving Snarl the pretty fatal flaw of hating his alt-mode, well, that could make for a very interesting character indeed. It's a shame that Furman loved Tyrannosaurs with speech impediments, rather than grumpy Stegosaurs who are powered by the sun.