STRAXUS / DARKMOUNT
There was lots to love about the G.I. Joe and Transformers comic books published by Marvel in the 80s. What I loved at the time, and appreciate even more now, is the serious tone of the books. The cartoons were fun and all but they were also pretty silly. I own all of the 80s Joe and Transformer cartoons on DVD but I’ll be honest, they’re hard to watch. I get a kick out of seeing the characters I love moving on the screen and getting to hear their voices (so many great voice actors worked on those series’) but sitting through an entire 22 minute episode can feel like a chore sometimes. The comics on the other hand are much more enjoyable to go back and re-read as an adult. One thing I hated about the comics as a kid was the inclusion of characters that did not have a toy.
It’s not that I didn’t like the characters, quite the opposite, I found myself really liking them and wanting to play out their adventures but had no corresponding toy to do so. back in the day Hasbro was producing Joe and Transformer toys so quickly that the writers of the books were constantly forced to shoehorn new characters into their story lines. This constant influx of new characters didn’t leave the writers with too many opportunities to come up with totally original ideas but every now and again they did. In the early issue of G.I. Joe for example, writer Larry Hama introduced Kwinn the eskimo in issue 2 (published in 1982) and Dr. Venom in issue 10 (published in 1983) of the Joe comic and they played very important roles over several issues. Fans wanted figures of these characters for years and Hasbro finally succumbed to the fan requests and gave us a Kwinn figure in 2004, 22 years after his first appearance. The Joe collector’s club produced the first Dr. Venom figure in 2010. The Transformers also introduced characters who never materialized as toys, namely the many human characters and I would’ve loved some Scraplets. One truly awesome character that the comics gave us that never had a toy was Lord High Governor Straxus.
As I mentioned above, the writers of the comics were obligated by Hasbro to introduce all of their new toys into the comics to help convince kids to buy them. These comic series’ were after all really just intended to be 22 page toy commercials. Though I’m sure it was annoying it wasn’t that hard for Larry Hama to do with the Joe comic. “Hey Joes, these are our new recruits.” Done. Transformers writers on the other hand were presented with a large obstacle to tackle. The original premise of Transformers was that a crew of 18 Autobots (and a handful of Decepticon stowaways) left their home planet of Cybertron in a ship called the Ark and crash landed on Earth where they laid dormant for millions of years. They woke up in the 80s, took on the appearance of Earth vehicles and continued on fighting. That was all well and good for the original bunch of toys but how do you add new ones into the mix. Well in issue 17 (1986) writer Bob Budiansky brought comic readers to Cybertron for the first time to see what had been happening on the Transformers native planet since the departure of the Ark. We were introduced to the tyrant Straxus who ruled the Cybertronian city of Polyhex from his fortress known as Darkmount. Anyone who crossed him was thrown in the smelting pool to die a horrible death. This issue also introduced as to new Transformers like Blaster, Perceptor, Cosmos and others who would soon become fan favorites. In this issue Blaster’s friend Scrounge is killed by Straxus who threw him into the smelting pool. Straxus was super cool and totally bad ass. He had elements of Darth Vader, Maxamillion from “The Black Hole” and a medieval executioner. He wielded a large battle axe which added to his cool factor and it seemed an absolute crime that there was no toy of this guy. Mind you, Straxus met his end in the very next issue at the hands of Blaster who avenged his friend. Though his appearance was brief, he left an impression on me. Apparently the character reemerged in the UK comics but I never read any of those.
Well imagine my surprise when I was at Giant Robot Comics the other day picking up my Crimson HISS tank when I noticed this guy on the shelf. He was in tank mode and the name on the package said Darkmount so I never would have recognized him had I not picked up the package and looked at the back. Once I saw the face design and the axe I was like “Holy crap. is this a Straxus toy?” The shop owner Darryl informed me that it was. Hasbro had lost the rights to the name Straxus or something so named him after his fortress. To think I nearly left this guy on the shelf that day. At a glance I thought it was the same tank figure (Skullgrin) who had been warming the pegs for months now and whom I had no interest in. What a close call. Thank goodness for that Magic card nerd that was rambling on to Darryl at the counter, forcing me to browse around patiently until he let up.
This figure is gnarly dude. He’s loaded with weapons and the gun turret that doubles as his axe in robot mode is one of the coolest Transformer innovations that I’ve seen in a long time. His colors are great and he’s very well articulated. His design doesn’t match the comic exactly but Straxus’s looked seemed to change from one panel to the next anyway. This figure captures the “feel” of the character which is all I ask. My only real complaint is that his ankle joints are ball jointed and way to wobbly. He stands up alright but it wouldn’t take much to topple him over. Other than that, Love it. 9 out of 10.