Last week I turned 39. I’ve gotten old and some days it really feels that way. But that doesn’t mean I can’t still get excited about opening new toys on my birthday. My brother Doug got me a couple of Marvel Legends and Vanessa got me Sixshot (along with a bunch of other stuff…I’m spoiled).
The original Sixshot toy was released in 1987. I never had it because I was already losing interest in Transformers by that time. I grew very attached to the characters that starred in the first couple years of the comics and cartoons like Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. After many of those characters were unceremoniously killed off in the 1986 animated Transformers movie I had a hard time getting excited about their replacements. Doug and I quit collecting the Marvel comic and we stopped watching the cartoon. We got a few toys of the new characters introduced in the movie but we didn’t get any toys of characters introduced in the two subsequent seasons of the show that followed the movie. Sixshot appeared briefly in the cartoon after we stopped watching. Apparently he was heavily featured in the Japanese cartoon that carried on the Transformers’ story after the show was cancelled in America. I bought those Japanese cartoons on DVD a couple years ago but never got around to watching them (with the exception of the episode that featured the Battle Beasts) because they were subtitled. Maybe I’ll attempt to watch one after posting this…
Sixshot was unique because he was the first six-changer with six distinct modes: robot, tank, spaceship, laser gun, off-road vehicle, and wolf. Prior to him the most complex bots were triple-changers like Blitzwing and Astrotrain.
Sixshot made appearances in the Marvel and Dreawwave Transformers comics but he never did anything that left an impression on me. That isn’t surprising because characterization wasn’t Marvel’s strong suit (as far as Transformers were concerned) and Dreamwave didn’t hold the license very long. Since 2005 the Transformers comic license has been held by IDW and they have produced some amazing comic books. They’ve been able to infuse so much character into these robots that many have gone from obscure toys nobody remembered to beloved fan favourite characters.
Sixshot has appeared in a number of IDW comics, including his own spotlight issue published in 2006, but I don’t feel that he’s truly received the “IDW treatment”.
IDW’s comics have improved so much since those first few years so I’d like to see Sixshot return for a more character-driven story. He’s a badass that turns into six things but other than that he’s still basically a blank slate. Since I didn’t grow up playing with him, and because he hasn’t been properly IDW’ed, I don’t have any attachment to this character. That’s why I was willing to leave this toy behind when I saw it at Walmart a couple of weeks ago. I had been looking high and low for the new Titans Return branded Megatron when I stumbled across Sixshot. He looked really cool but I couldn’t justify spending $60 on him. Maybe if he was a character I loved (I’ve paid much more than $60 for certain Transformers) or if there was something amazing about him I could have justified it. The fact that he transformers into six things doesn’t qualify as amazing in my book because I never transform my toys out of their robot modes anyway. If anything, six modes is a detriment to the toy because it means the designers have to cram a bunch of stuff into it that will likely hurt the aesthetic or hinder the articulation. I hated to leave him behind though because I know all it would take is one excellent issue of the comic to make Sixshot a must-have toy. Thankfully Vanessa saved me from my conundrum by throwing him in the cart and declaring him a birthday present. She gave him to me on my actual birthday a few days later.
Sixshot is a “LeaderClass” toy so that means he stands about 10 inches tall; taller than most Transformers on my shelf. He’s bulky and has a good weight to him. He’s got wide feet and his weight is evenly distributed so he stands firm and solid. Design-wise he looks great. He’s got a blocky form that is very faithful to the original toy and animated appearance. He has a faceplate so it should be hard to convey emotion but Sixshot looks suitably pissed off with his angular red eyes (see pic below). I’ve never held the original toy but apparently the only articulation it had in robot mode was at its shoulders. In that regard this figure is a marked improvement as it has articulation at the neck, shoulders, elbows, hips, knees, and feet. However I do find that if I mess around with his legs too much he tends to get wobbly so mine will be displayed quite statically.
This Sixshot was released as a “Titans Return” figure which means he’s a Titan Master. When I was a kid they were called Headmasters. The concept is that their heads transform into even smaller robots. I thought it was a dumb idea then and I still do. Targetmasters were okay, their guns turned into robots and that felt like added value because you’re getting two characters for the price of one, but in the case of headmasters what am I supposed to do with this guy’s body once I take his head off? (I know, turn it into a car but I don’t care about vehicle modes). Sixshot’s head turns into a character named Revolver which has no articulation or paint apps and is completely pointless. Sixshot’s other accessories are two wimpy looking pipes that are supposed to be “hypersonic concussion blasters”. Meh.
Overall this is a good figure with a cool design and an attractive color scheme that separates him from the pack. But silly gimmicks, bad accessories, a high price tag, and poor quality control (the left wrist on mine doesn’t stay in place and hangs limply) drag it down a couple notches. 7 out of 10.
It’s time once again for my annual “best of” list; a tradition I began in 2012. I posted fewer toy reviews this year than I ever have before but that does not mean I purchased fewer action figures. My collection continued to grow by leaps and bounds in 2016 and as always it was very difficult for me to pick my favourites but pick them I did. The only criteria I had for toys to be named on this list was that they must have been released in 2016 and I must have acquired them personally. So without further ado let’s get started…
16. TIGER FORCE SNEAK PEEK-I only have two G.I. Joe figures on my list this year so Sneak Peek may seem like an odd choice in the eyes of many Joe fans. We got a lot of excellent G.I. Joes this year between the 50th anniversary series, the Figure Subscription Service, and the Collector’s Club box set and I’d bet that most people would place Sneak Peek near the bottom of their “best of” lists. Not only is he completely made up of rehashed pieces, including one of the most over used heads in the biz, but this figure doesn’t even recreate the classic 1987 Sneak Peek we all owned as kids. Instead the Club gave us an updated version of the lesser known European exclusive Tiger Force repaint. So why is this figure on my list? Well, I simply love Sneak Peek. The character was a favourite from my youth and one I’ve been clamouring to see updated since the beginning of the modern era 9 years ago. The reused parts work well together in my opinion and I quite like the face regardless of its familiarity. If the Collector’s Club had sculpted a new head for this figure I probably wouldn’t like it as much because they’d likely make it pudgy and round to match the vintage figure. I didn’t expect to like this Tiger Force paint job as much as I do but I think it’s a great mix of colours so I find myself really enjoying this more obscure deco.
15. VULTAK-The Masters of the Universe Classics line has been killing it since 2008 providing fans with awesome new versions of the property’s numerous iconic characters. But after so many years it was inevitable that the line would lose steam and fizzle out. In past years I bought Mattel’s latest MOTU offering on the 15th of every month as soon as it went up for sale exclusively on their website. I couldn’t afford to wait because new toys sold out almost immediately. Nowadays toys of obscure characters remain on sale for months so there’s no sense of urgency. I didn’t purchase a single MOTU figure this year until they were discounted during Mattel’s Black Friday sale. Even though my excitement for the toyline has waned a bit there’s nothing more exciting than opening up a new box of He-Man figures from Mattel. My Black Friday shipment contained 6 figures (none of them well known characters) and they were all awesome. Vultak is like a slap in the face reminding me why I loved MOTU in the first place. He’s like a mix of Marvel’s Vulture, Thundercats’ Panthro, and MOTU’s Hordak. He’s bright, he’s big, he’s fun, and he’s awesome.
14. ROD DRILL-Hasbro’s Transformers were my jam growing up but I also enjoyed Tonka’s line of transforming robots called Go-Bots. I had a handful of the toys and while they weren’t as complex as Transformers their simplicity and their silly names made them charming. The line has been officially dead since 1987 but in the past couple of years some third-party companies have produced unofficial homages of Go-Bot characters. You may recall that DX9’s remake of Cy-Kill (named Salmoore) nabbed the number two slot of my best of 2014 list. I love seeing old Go-Bots characters revived after so many years. My fingers are crossed for new versions of my childhood favourites Cop-tur, Loco, and Water Walk. If those characters are ever to be reproduced it will likely be by way of a company called Action Toys. They’ve been doing a great job of releasing spiffy new updates of classic Go-Bots. Vanessa got me Rod Drill for Christmas. He’s Action Toy’s version of Screwhead who transforms into a drill tank. This figure is immediately recognizable as Screwhead as they share of the same physical characteristics but Rod Drill is a far superior figure. He’s a bit larger and far more posable. He’s not as nice as update as Salmoore was but Rod Drill’s price point is a little easier to swallow.
13. SNOWTROOPER-Everybody loves the generic Stormtroopers from Star Wars but as a kid I held the Snowtroopers from the Empire Strikes Back in much higher regard. My brother Doug and I both owned a Stromtrooper but he also owned the AT-AT Driver and the Biker Scout. I suppose that’s why the Snowtrooper was the only Stormtrooper variation that felt like mine because it was the only one he didn’t have. My original 1980s Snowtrooper was one of three vintage Star Wars figures I held onto when I got rid of my collection in my teens. There’s something about that long featureless mask that always appealed to me; I thought it looked more like a ghost than a soldier. I already have a very cool 12″ version of the Snowtrooper plus multiple 3 3/4″ figures but it was still at the top of my want list when I started collecting the 6″ Black Series figures. I just got this figure a week ago and he did not disappoint. It’s not exactly what I was expecting because it’s far more “dirty” than previous versions. The base uniform is more beige than white and his boots and skirt are speckled with grime. It looks really cool though so I don’t have any complaints.
12. MARAUDER VALKYRIES– Last year I named the Marauder Task Force in my number six spot. I didn’t name a specific figure as I used the slot as more of a catch all for the whole wave of interchangable soldier figures produced by Marauder Gun Runners via a Kickstarter campaign. MGR put out variations of those same figures with new parts added this year so they could have easily made my list again. I’m a big fan of the yellow “Shock-Ops” and orange “Hazard Ops” they released this year. However they overshadowed those releases with the launch of their all-female Valkyries line this year via another Kickstarter. Thus far I have four complete figures in hand with another shipment on the way. These figures look excellent. MTF has given us a multitude of hair styles and colours, gear, and accessories so you can make unlimited figure variations. I wish Hasbro put this much care into their G.I. Joes. Hasbro has given us some pretty fugly ladies over the years but MTF has given us a squad of attractive ladies with realistic proportions. I can’t recommend these figures enough. The only reason they’re not higher is that their tiny accessories don’t stay in place unless glued which is a pain in the ass and I have no childhood connection or elaborate backstory to latch onto.
11. NAMOR-What a year for Marvel Legends. Hasbro pumped out 7 waves of figures this year. It was just a couple of years ago that I was writing on this blog that I had no interest in collecting 6″ Legends because I was committed to collecting the 3 3/4″ Marvel Universe figures. I found Legends to be gangly and awkward looking. Well Hasbro has upped their game big time and now I’m buying Legends figures every other week. I bought over 50 Marvel Legends figures this year and I’m continually impressed. I could have made a top 16 list of Marvel Legends figures alone and I still would have had to exclude a bunch of stellar toys. To pick only a choice few for this multi-line list truly was difficult. After a great deal of thought the first Legend I’ve chosen to spotlight is Marvel’s King of Atlantis, Namor the Sub-Mariner. When I first started collecting comics as a kid I didn’t like Namor. He struck me as an arrogant Mr. Spock flying around in his underwear. I’m not sure when that changed but somewhere along the way I really fell in love with Namor. His arrogance actually makes him a lot of fun to read. The fact that he started wearing pants probably helped too. Truthfully, I don’t even mind the green speedo in the comics but it just doesn’t make for a very interesting action figure. My 3 3/4″ Namor is a testament to how boring that design can be. This Walgreens exclusive Namor is sporting a much cooler black and blue costume with a nice metallic sheen. The elbows are a little weird and the trident looks dumb but those issues are out weighed by the phenomenal head sculpt. Depending on the angle you look at him he can appear regal, smarmy, pissed, or playful. This is the finest Namor ever produced.
10. K-2SO– When I reviewed this figure a couple of weeks ago I hadn’t yet seen Star Wars Rogue One. Now that I have I like this figure even more. K-2S0 was a real scene stealer in the movie. He was tough, sarcastic and funny and i was really bummed when things weren’t going his way. I’m glad I picked this figure up when I did as I imagine it will be in high demand now that everyone has seen the movie. This figure just looks and feels cool. As soon as I opened him up I wanted to pose him and fiddle around with him. He’s built nice and sturdy for such a lean figure. This sculpt, paint apps, and articulation are all great. No complaints.
9. BATMAN-Putting Batman on a “best of” list seems like such a no-brainer that it’s almost a waste of a slot. He has such a cool and iconic design that you’d think it would be a snap to design an amazing Batman figure, right? So why are there so many terrible Batman figures? Have you walked down the action figure aisle lately? It’s full of Batmen and most of them look like crap. I feel bad for kids that think those are the only Batman figures available. If only they’d venture into a comic book shop like Strange Adventures they’d discover a whole new world of awesome action figures geared towards adult collectors. For example, DC Collectibles line of designer action figures based on the artwork of Darwyn Cooke. I bought the Supergirl, Catwoman, and Harley Quinn from this line and any one of them could be on this list but I think Batman edges the others out. This figure depicts Darwyn’s contemporary version of the dark knight as seen in stories like EGO. I think this figure is a wonderful tribute to a brilliant artist who we sadly lost this year. It makes me emotional every time I look at it.
8. PYTHONA- I wanted a Pythona figure SO BAD in 1987. She was one of the new characters introduced, and heavily featured, in the animated G.I. Joe movie released that year yet she got completely snubbed by Hasbro. Her absence from the ’87 line-up seemed like a huge oversight to me. Big Lob was similarly snubbed but I didn’t like him as much. He’s finally getting a figure courtesy of the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club in 2017 but 2016 was Pythona’s year…finally. She was the free membership figure you got this year when you signed up as a member of the Club. It’s been a 30 year wait so thankfully the Club delivered a stellar figure to make the wait all seem worth it. Pythona’s got a very nice newly sculpted head with a removable ponytail which allows her to don the hood of her cloak. The intricate facial paint is well done too. The Club has been doing a great job making figures of characters long desired by fans, like Dr. Venom and Billy, but Pythona is the one I’ve wanted the most so I’m very glad the Club didn’t cut any corners. Awesome figure.
7. RINGNECK GORGON-I backed a Kickstarter campaign by Boss Fight Studios back in 2014 to help them launch their own line of figures called Vitruvian HACKS. Those figures finally arrived in 2016. I received over 30 figures and honestly I could have put each and every one of them on this list. BFS has constructed some of the nicest action figures I’ve ever seen in their Mythology themed HACKS line. Series one primarily consists of ancient warriors and gorgons. The construction of the gorgons alone is a thing of beauty to say nothing of the sculpting, painting, and accessories. The way their multi-jointed tails allow for them to be posed in an upright position without the aid of a display base is amazing. I have seven gorgons including Medusa. She seemed like the obvious choice for this list if I were to showcase just one gorgon but I just so happen to prefer the purple and orange colour scheme of the ringneck. I also prefer her closed mouth. This figure is perfect and I can’t wait to see what BFS does next.
6. CAPTAIN BRITAIN-Picking Marvel Legends for this list was really tough. I thought that Nico would make my list for sure. Silk, Black Panther, and Deadpool all seemed like shoe-ins as well. I wasn’t even sure I would buy this Captain Britain and I certainly didn’t expect I’d like him more than those other figures but here he is. CB was included in the most recent Captain America wave. The only figure I planned to buy from the wave was Eel. I really like Captain Britain as a character but this figure doesn’t feature my preferred costume so I planned to skip it. While in Chicago the other week I found the Cap wave in a comic shop (I haven’t found them here at home yet) and there was Eel. I picked him up and looked over his scrawny physique. Then I saw Captain Britain out of the corner of my eye practically bulging out of his packaging. I picked him up and was immediately won over. See ya later, Eel. This Cap looks tough as nails. The standard “bulky” body is perfectly sized for him and the unique Captain Britain parts really look great. The buckled boots, the wrapped forearms, the sunken eyes in the helmet, I love it all. Throw in an excellent and eye-grabbing paint job and you have yourself a winning action figure.
5. VENOM– Next up is another Marvel Legends figure, Venom. I’m not even a big Venom fan yet this is the second time he’s made my “best of” list in just three years. 2014 saw the release of an awesome Agent Venom. This year we got two other versions of the character. There was the large build-a-figure Space Knight Venom which looks neat but whom I have no affinity for because I didn’t read any of the short-lived Space Knight comics. The second 2016 release was this classic Venom. This toy looks like it leapt from the page of the character’s first appearance as drawn by Todd McFarlane. It makes me very nostalgic for that late 80s era of Spider-Man. The body is the exact same one that was used for Captain Britain and it works wonderfully for Venom too. He has standard “sock” feet and open clawed hands. I’m not sure if those parts are reused or not. The one piece that is definitely unique is the head and thats the piece that really elevates this figure. The head sculpt looks so good that I can’t imagine anyone ever making a better Venom figure than this.
4. TALOS-This is another figure from Boss Fight Studio’s Vitruvian HACKS line. It was exclusive to Kickstarter supporters so I don’t think you’ll ever be able to buy it from their online store. That’s a real shame because this is one of the nicer looking figures from the assortment. Most of the warrior figures share the same parts, they’re just painted differently. I don’t think there are any parts on this figure that can’t be found elsewhere. For example, Talos has the same bearded head as Leonidas and the same armor as the Myrmidon Warrior but what makes them unique to Talos is the bronze paint job. The figure is painted entirely in bronze with a green patina to add realism. It looks amazing; like a little metal statue. Whether you want to display this guy as a statue or some sort of living bronze warrior he really should be a part of your collection.
3. MALLEUS– 2016 saw the release of the Four Horsemen’s newest toy line called Mythic Legions. It’s a fantasy-based line full or Orcs, Trolls, and Knights. I couldn’t afford to go all-in on their 2015 kickstarter but I did pitch in by pre-ordering 4 of the 34 available figures. My quartet arrived in June 2016 and all of them are awesome but Malleus is my favourite. This figure is amazing in every category. The sculpting, the painting, and the accessories are all incredible (the dual axes are sick!). He’s very well articulated right down to a movable jaw. The 6″ scale really allows the Horsemen to show off. Originally I thought I might display Malleus as a minion of Skeletor but the level of detail on the Legions figures far surpasses that of MOTU figures so there isn’t much consistency there. If I had the space and the money I’d love to own all the Mythic Legions figures but if my collection never grows beyond the four I have I’m confident that I have the best one right here.
2. TAILGATE/REAREND-Many times on this blog I’ve told you how great James Roberts’ “Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye” comics are. I think its the best comic on the stands. He has a way of making you fall in love with characters you never thought you’d care about. One of the stars of the book is a little Transformer named Tailgate. I never owned the Tailgate toy as a kid because he was just a crappy repaint of Wheelcharger, a Transformer who I really liked. Well Roberts has made Tailgate a far more interesting character than Wheelcharger ever was and so I desperately wanted an action figure that reflected his comic book appearance. Hasbro obliged me with this turd in 2014. Thankfully, a third party company called Make Toys answered my prayers this year. Because this is an unofficial release they can’t call him Tailgate so Make Toys has dubbed him Rearend. It’s a silly name but who cares, everyone knows this is Tailgate. This figure is quite small so it may be hard to justify the large price tag but thankfully Vanessa got him for me for X-mas so I didn’t have to. I’m actually glad he’s the size that he is because its true to the character. The likeness to the comic book art is perhaps the best I’ve seen yet. This toy truly look like an Alex Milne drawing some to life. I love it.
1. UNDERWORLD WARRIOR-You shouldn’t be surprised that one of Boss Fight Studio’s Vitruvian HACKS figures tops my list. Almost every figure in this line is a showstopper. The paint work, sculpting, accessories, articulation, and customization possibilities launched HACKS straight to the top of the heap of quality action figure lines. Every toyline should strive to be this good. As soon as my box of HACKS arrived it was almost a certainty that one of them would top my list this year. The trouble was in deciding which one. I thought it would be harder to choose but I actually arrived at my answer quite easily. The Underworld Warrior was the figure that appealed to me the most when the concept art was first revealed at the launch of the kickstarter and once I had the figure in my hands I felt it lived up to and surpassed my expectations. It’s not the most detailed or innovative figure of the bunch but it sure does look damn cool.
If you’re not up to date on your Transformers comics be warned: Spoilers ahead.
I know I’ve mentioned this multiple times before but allow me to say it again, Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye (MTMTE) is one of the best comic books around. I’ve been reading comics consistently since I was 8 years old, over 20 books a month at some points, and MTMTE is one of the best series I’ve ever read. I’ve always enjoyed Transformers comics; the original Marvel run in the 80s, the Dreamwave books of the early 2000s, the Fun Publications convention exclusives, and the various titles published by IDW beginning in 2005. Since 2012 IDW has been publishing two on-going Transformers comics simultaneously, MTMTE and Robots in Disguise (RID). RID has had its ups and downs but for the most part it’s been quite good. Quality-wise it’s what I’ve come to expect from a Transformers book which is to say that it’s an entertaining read with solid art. MTMTE, on the other hand, is in a league of its own transcending Transformers as a property. If you hate the Transformers you probably wouldn’t pick up RID no matter how good I told you it was but as long as you like good storytelling you should be reading MTMTE. Writer James Roberts has crafted an epic, hilarious, and heartbreaking tale that I cannot recommend enough. It would help you enjoy the story if you’re a Transformers fan well-versed in the lore but I really don’t think it’s necessary. Many of the characters featured in the book are not those who starred in the IDW books previously so MTMTE serves to introduce them whether you’re brand new to the franchise or an old-school fan like myself.
For example, in the 80s Swerve and Tailgate were repaints of two of my favorite toys, Gears and Windcharger. They weren’t developed at all in the comics or cartoon so I always saw them as unmemorable second stringers. In MTMTE Roberts has infused Swerve and Tailgate with such personality that they’ve become two of my absolute favorite Transformers eclipsing Gears and Windcharger. Any character Roberts spends even a page on immediately becomes 10X more interesting. Despite this ability, I was skeptical about his decision to add Megatron to the cast in issue 28. As I’m sure you know, Megatron is the leader of the Decepticons. He’s always been the big-bad of the Transformers mythology responsible for the deaths of countless beings across the universe. I’ve always found him to be a fine villain. He was sufficiently menacing in the 80s cartoon (largely due to the memorable voice work of Frank Welker) but he never struck me as a very deep character. He was simply a bad guy because the property needed a bad guy. His origins and motivations have been explored in comics before, and those stories have helped to add some depth, but overall he’s an archetype. The same is true of Optimus Prime at the opposite end of the spectrum.
A few years ago the Cybertronian war finally came to an end in the IDW universe. The Autobots and Decepticons set their differences aside (for the most part) and everybody settled into relative peace back on Cybertron. The new status quo is explored politically in RID. In MTMTE Hot Rod decides to devote his time to searching for the legendary Knights of Cybertron on his ship, the Lost Light. He leads a ragtag crew of lovable ex-Autobots (and one or two ex-Decepticons) into deep space where they stumble into a number of entertaining adventures. Issues 1 to 25 are regarded as season one.
When season two begins in issue 26 the Lost Light crew return to Cyberton for the trial of Megatron. However, due some slick legal maneuvering and some wonky loopholes in Cybertronian law Megatron was able to talk himself off of death-row and into the position of co-captain of the Lost Light. I was leery of this plot development because I’d grown attached to the Autobots on the Lost Light and they’d now be bunking with their murderous sworn enemy and I didn’t want to lose anyone. Also I was worried that a bot as popular as Megatron would steal the spotlight from the lesser known characters like Swerve and Tailgate. In that regard I was absolutely correct because that’s exactly what happened…but I was wrong to worry because in Roberts’s hands Megatron is truly compelling. On the surface it seemed as though Megatron was really changing his ways and looking for redemption but I simply couldn’t believe it to be true. I just knew it was all a ruse and that he would eventually take over the ship and kill a bunch of characters I care about…but he didn’t. Every time Megatron showed remorse or compassion I was shocked and fascinated to watch this previously one-dimensional character actually grow. I never would have guessed it but now Megatron is one of my favorite Transformers.
I never owned the original 1984 Megatron figure when I was a kid. You’d think that might have bothered me but I always found the toy to be really wonky looking and not very representative of the character as he appeared on TV. I had the Shockwave figure though and he served me well as the leader of my Decepticon toys. Dozens of versions of Megatron followed the original and I never had any of them. When I got into collecting Transformers again as an adult with the launch of the “Classics” line in 2006 (starting with Bumblebee) Megatron was a character I was looking forward to owning for the first time. The Classics line was all about well-made toys based on the characters iconic 80s looks. Unfortunately, when a Classics Megatron came out later that year it totally sucked and was not faithful to the original. I decided to wait for the next release but sadly it was based on his Generation 2 green tank look so I passed on that too. Years went by and my modern Transformers collection grew rapidly but Hasbro never released a Megatron that lived up to my expectations.
A couple years ago, on a trip to Giant Robot Comics, I came across this version of Megatron for sale in their loose figure case. It’s based on his look from the stylized 2007 Transformers: Animated cartoon. The exaggerated proportions of “Animated” didn’t look too bad on this figure, I needed a Megatron, and the price was right so I went for it. I didn’t love the toy but I didn’t love the character at that time either so it was good enough; I just wanted a half-decent Megatron for my display. Now that Megatron has earned my love I will be seeking out a better version.
Things I don’t like about this toy include his cartoony appearance, the pink “battle damage” paint apps, his weird alt mode, and the struggle required to keep him standing. His joints are loose and he’s top heavy so he wants to constantly topple over. None of those issues are deal breakers for me though. His cartoony appearance is pretty close to his Generation 1 look with maybe a slight bit of live-action influence. The pink paint is dumb but at last it adds some color. I wish he transformed into a gun like he’s supposed to instead of a spaceship but I never transform my toys anyway. The thing I like least about this figure is its size. I’ve always felt that Megatron and Optimus Prime need to be bigger than their soldiers because thats how the original toys were and thats how they were portrayed on the show. Having a 5″ Megatron that stands shoulder to shoulder with an Insecticon just doesn’t seem right. When I do upgrade my Megatron I will be sure to get a taller one.
Despite its flaws this is a decent Megatron which is why I got it in the first place. He’s got a pissed off look on his face that suits him well. I actually dig the exaggerated proportions that result in really large feet and Popeye forearms. The greys and reds look good together and the light-piping effects on the eyes and arms are cool too. My favorite feature is the massive arm cannon. This is Megatron’s defining feature and never has it looked so badass. I know they can do better but I still think this is one of the best Megatron toys Hasbro has produced. 7 out of 10.
For the past year or so Hasbro has focused their Transformers toyline around the Combiners Wars concept. Over a relatively short period of time they have given us modern updates of classic Cominers like Bruticus, Defensor, Devastator, Menasor, and Superion and they’ve even created a couple new ones, like Optimus Maximus and Sky Reign, using classic characters who weren’t traditionally combiner bots. It’s been a fun but expensive year to be a Transformers collector which is why I have to draw the line somewhere. When Hasbro revealed their latest combiner a few months back, a brand new gestalt named Victorion, I decided to pass.
Victorion was the result of the 2015 “Fan Built Bot” poll. Hasbro let fans vote to determine their latest combiners’ gender, name, vehicle build, color scheme, special power, origin, nemesis, and attitude. The result was a cyan/red/white female combiner made up of a firetruck, a motorcycle, and a couple of helicopters and race cars, that has gravity control powers, hails from the Sea of Rust, has a beef with Galvitronus and acts independently. I didn’t participate in the poll but I’m pretty happy with what those who did came up with. A female combiner was a neat idea but I determined that I didn’t have the shelf space or the funds to devote to a large expensive character I had no attachment to. Fortunately she was only available as an online boxset, rather than being sold as individual components in retail stores like the other combiners were, so that made it easier to pass on her. Out of sight, out of mind.
But then a couple of weeks ago I picked up the latest Transformers comic book from IDW. I collect the comics in collected trade paperback format so I’m a few months behind the standard releases. The latest TPB was called Distant Stars and it collected The Transformers: Windblade issues #4-#7, as well as the Combiner Hunters one-shot. The collection features the first appearances of Victorion and the Rust Renegades that combine to form her. After reading the story arc I knew I had to buy the damn toy. IDW’s comics are so good that I cannot help but want a toy of any character that appears in them. I was taking a few days to mull over ordering the set from BigBadToyStore when my buddy Darryl who owns Giant Robot Comics posted on facebook that he had a few in stock. I went over the next day and picked one up.
I admit that there’s a part of me cursing my lack of self-control for paying $175 for 6 repaints of figures I already have but for the most part I’m pleased with my purchase. Repaints and retools is the name of the game when it come to all toy lines these days so I can’t knock Victorion for a lack of new tooling. One thing I really like about the set is the unified colour scheme. Devastator is really the only other combiner to be so cohesive. The colours used are unique and don’t bring to mind any other Transformer.
It’s tough to pick a favourite Rust Renegade but I think mine might be Jumpstream. Her alt mode is that of a Lamborghini Diablo so she shares the same build as last year’s Stunticon, Breakdown. Their car modes are identical but there was some retooling done to differentiate the two in robot mode. Jumpstream has a new chest piece, new lower arms, and most notably a new head. I feel she has the most feminine head of all the Renegades which is why she’s probably my favourite. The face sculpt is reminiscent of Arcee with a paint deco akin to Windblade.
Jumpstream is a sturdy figure with good articulation and sculpting. Her only weapon is a shield which leaves her lacking in the offensive department but it’s a nice-looking piece that joins with the other Renegades’ weapons to form a larger sword for Victorion. I’m really pleased to add so many new females to my Transformers shelf. Fans went decades with none and now we have about ten. Girl Power. 8 out of 10.
For the past year or so Hasbro has focused their G1 Transformers toyline on the ”Combiner Wars” theme. Combiners, for those of you who may not know, are the big Transformers that are created when you combine a bunch of smaller ones. There were many combiners in the vintage toyline but for some reason Hasbro had shied away from including them in their modern Transformers toylines until now. Since launching the Combiner Wars concept last year they’re released updated versions of the Aerialbots who form Superion, the Stunticons who form Menasor, the Constructicons who form Devestator, and the Protectobots who form Defensor. In addition to all of those remakes of vintage combiner teams Hasbro has also created brand new combiners made up of fan favorite characters who hadn’t previously been combiner components like Optimus Prime and Hound. It’s a good time but an expensive time to be a Transformers collector.
I haven’t bothered collecting any of the newly created teams, because I already have modern-era, but pre-Combiner Wars versions of Optimus, Hound and the others, but I have purchased the new CW versions of Superion, Menasor, Devestator, and Defensor.
The latest vintage combiner team to get a Combiner Wars makeover is the Combaticons who form Bruticus. Bruticus is one of the coolest combiners (with a name like that how could he not be?) but I honestly didn’t know if I would bother buying the CW versions of those characters. The reason being that Bruticus was the rare exception to the no combiners rule seemingly instituted by Hasbro for the past 10 years. A modern Bruticus figure was released as part of 2012’s “Fall of Cybertron” toyline which was based on the Ps3/XBox 360 game of the same name. Vanessa got me all 5 Combaticons for Christmas that year and Bruticus has been looming over the rest of my puny Transformers ever since. I really didn’t need two Bruticuses (Brutici?) on my shelf where space is already an issue.
However, the thing about Combiners is that while the fully combined giants are really cool the smaller robots that make them up are sometimes really cool too. For example, First Aid is one of my favorite Transformers characters. I couldn’t bear to display him as simply Defensor’s leg so I swapped him out for one of the Stunticons so I could display him on his own. Swindle is another awesome character who is so much more than just a limb. I actually considered buying two of the 2012 Swindle so I could display one as an individual while still having a complete Bruticus on display. I didn’t end up doing that so my collection has essentially been Swindle-less since I opted to display my lone 2012 Swindle in leg mode.
The release of the Combiner Wars Combaticons presented me with the opportunity to buy a new Swindle figure that could finally be displayed as an individual character. He likely would’ve been the only CW Combaticon I bought had I found them at regular price but Toys R Us had them on for half price over Christmas so I bought all four of the limb characters; Swindle, Brawn, Blast Off, and Vortex.
This Swindle figure is a re-tooled and re-painted version of the Protectobot, Rook that was released a few months earlier. Obviously I’d prefer it if all Transformers had their own unique sculpts but this body works quite well for Swindle and it’s different enough from Rook, especially in vehicle mode, that it doesn’t look like a complete clone. In fact I think this is probably the best Swindle figure to date despite the fact that it’s modified version of another character. The 1986 original was a boxy turd of a figure and the 2012 version was too flimsy and too science fiction in design. This figure is sturdy, it’s relatively cartoon accurate, and it’s got plenty of articulation.
My favourite thing about this figure is the newly designed head. It looks exactly as it should. The shape is right and it has those big purple sunglass lense-like eyes that are his trademark. This is a cool figure and I’m glad to finally see this conniving, double-crossing, greedy con man get his due. 9 out of 10.
As 2015 comes to an end it’s time for my annual “best of” list. It’s hard to believe that this is my fourth year-end list and even harder to believe that since I started this blog I’ve reviewed over 800 action figures (and I’ve still barely scratched the surface of my collection!). Thanks to all of you who have been loyal readers and thanks to those of you checking it out for the first time, I hope you come back. Now, Before I begin the list let me clearly state that this list features the 15 BEST ACTION FIGURES I COLLECTED IN 2015. I am not saying these are the best 15 action figures released this year, just the best ones I managed to get my hands on. In order to qualify for my list the figure must have been released in 2015. I’ve gotten some great action figures this year that don’t qualify because they were originally released prior to 2015. Now that the criteria has been clearly stated hopefully any nerd rage will be quelled. I don’t need anyone calling me an idiot because I didn’t name the Hot Toys Hulkbuster Iron Man the best toy of the year (I know it’s awesome but its also $800 and I don’t have one). So let’s get started…
15. Cardinus– This is a figure from the Gothitropolis line by Four Horsemen Toy Design Studios. It’s a completely original toyline by the sculptors extraordinaire made famous for their work on Spawn, DC, and Masters of the Universe. At present I don’t have a link to a review of Cardinus but you can check out my review of another figure from the line, Eagalus. All the Gothitropolis figures share the exact same body and they come with the same staff as an accessory. The only differences between them are a uniquely sculpted head and a paint job specific to each bird species. I raved on about the intricacies of the sculpting in my Eagalus review so I won’t dwell on it again here but the armour is spectacular. Both Eagalus and Cardinus have amazing head sculpts that look very life-like. Either could have made the list but Cardinus edges Eagalus out due to the beautifully regal paint job. Cardinus features a black and gold paint scheme which looks fantastic against his crimson red feathers. I could totally display Cardinus with my Masters of the Universe collection or any other fantasy figures. Eagalus’s obnoxious American paint job makes him seem more like a novelty item than a fantasy figure. This is an amazing figure and I wish I could afford to collect the entire line .
14. First Aid– This figure makes the list primarily because I happen to love the character but it’s also a great toy. The original First Aid figure from 1986 was one of my favourite vintage Transformers and I’ve always regretted getting rid of it. First Aid’s portrayal in IDW’s Transformers comics in recent years have only made me like him even more. For years I’ve been hoping that Hasbro would release a new version of him and this year they finally did. There’s nothing particularly spectacular about the actual figure. The sculpting, paint, accessories, and articulation are on par with just about every other Transformer that came out this year under the “Combiner Wars” banner but that’s not a bad thing because those things were done well on all the figures. Almost any one of the combiner-bots could have made this list (i.e. Breakdown, Alpha Bravo) but due to my personal affection for First Aid he gets the shout out.
13. Jaws– I love the movie Jaws. Love it. When I was a kid that shark scared the crap out of me and fascinated me at the same time, it still does. I have yet to see a movie shark even come close to being as terrifying as the original Jaws. I was so stoked to get a Jaws action figure this year courtesy of Funko’s ReAction line. The retro style of the line was perfectly suited for the task of giving fans the first ever Jaws action figure line. The 3 human characters are awesome but its the shark that steals the show. I could’ve easily named this my number one action figure of the year but due to its lack of articulation it didn’t seem fair. This toy belongs in every bathtub around the world.
12. Snake-Armor He-Man-This is another figure that I haven’t yet reviewed so there’s no link available yet. I had every intention of reviewing all my list candidates by years end but I got busy/lazy. When I was a kid I had a bunch of Masters of the Universe figures including the main hero, He-Man. He was always my least favourite of the bunch. He was so uninteresting when compared to guys like Buzz-Off and Mer-Man. It wasn’t until the 2002 MOTU reboot that I actually liked He-Man. The ’02 cartoon and toy line featured anime inspired designs which I thought did wonders to up He-Man’s cool factor. When the Classics line kicked off in 2008/2009 He-Man reverted back to his boring old bowl-cut self. Multiple re-releases (Thunder Punch, Battle Armour) didn’t help. Finally, in 2015 Mattel has given us this Classics He-Man in the 2002 style, and that didn’t simply mean a new head sculpt, they decked him out in his snake armour which was heavily featured in season 2 of the animated series. The armour features great sculpting and paint work but it’s the shaggy hair that really wins me over.
11. Wonder Woman-No link here either folks but thats because I just got this figure the other day. I didn’t buy many DC figures this year. The only one I requested for Christmas was Superman from the designer series based on Jae Lee’s artwork. I’m a big fan of Jae Lee’s work but of the 4 figures in his designer series Superman was the only one that appealed to me based on the images I saw online. The Batman kinda sucked and the Catwoman was too similar to the Greg Capullo Catwoman that made my list last year. The Wonder Woman looked good but I already have what I feel is the best Wonder Woman figure ever made (DC Direct-2007) so why buy a lesser one? Well I was checking out Giant Robot Comics’ boxing day sale the other day and saw the Jae Lee Wonder Woman figure “in-person” for the first time. The sculpting and paint work were so good that I couldn’t resist buying it. I don’t think it’s better than the 2007 figure but this toy is a work of art and had I passed it up I know I’d be kicking myself for years to come.
10. Otachi– I just reviewed this figure the other day so I don’t have much to add at the moment. This figure is big, has great sculpting, great paint apps, and good articulation. Most important of all it’s a big monster. I love big monsters. I have a lot of big monster toys in my collection but few of them are designed as well as this figure. I’m still pissed about the price and the lack of wings but I didn’t buy anything else even remotely like Otachi this year. He’s a unique looking piece in my collection and he’s a joy to look at.
9. Kylo Ren– I just reviewed this figure the other day as well. This was a tough call because I got quite a few excellent 6″ Star Wars Black Series figures this year and I wasn’t sure who was going to make the cut. Captain Phasma is pretty rad looking and the First Order Storm Trooper is awesome too. For Christmas Vanessa got me a 4-pack of figures which included a red classic Storm Trooper that I absolutely love and he very nearly dethroned Kylo from this list (as I write this I realize he probably should have. Sorry, Honey). Kylo held his spot though because he was such a compelling character in the movie and because this figure is made up of all new parts including plastic and cloth blended together wonderfully. The standard white Storm Trooper ranked number six on my list last year and it would have seemed a bit lazy to award essentially the same figure again this year.
8. Calix-This is a great figure that I’ve been meaning to review for months. It’s one of the six figures included in Mattel’s MOTU Classics mini-subscription based on the 2002 cartoon I mentioned above in my He-Man write up. Over the past 7 years a handful of 2002-inspired characters have found their way into the main Classics line but they’re few and far between. A whole subscription devoted to them is something fans of that era (like myself) have been clamouring for. I have three of the mini-sub figures in hand at present and they’re all great. I expect to have the last three this week or next and they all look great too; there isn’t a dud in the bunch. Any or all of them could have made this list but I narrowed it down to one and I went with Calix. This guy is a member of the Evil Horde and he appeared ever so briefly in one episode before getting destroyed. It’s a shame this guy was created as a throwaway character because he is awesome. I hope he gets a second chance at greatness in the comics or maybe even a future animated series. He’s a dude made of rock, which is nothing new for MOTU, but this guy is WAY cooler than those geeks Stondar and Rokkon. The newly sculpted pieces are fantastic and they do a great job of hiding the fact that this figure is primarily made up of the standard Classics body. The paint work is subtle but really brings out the details of the sculpt. I love the stone beard. I love the axe/crossbow. I love this figure.
7. Frostbite– A lot of people online like to hate on the G.I. Joe Collector’s Club. I get that they’ve screwed up a few things (like losing members’ credit card information) but how anyone can stay mad at them when they produce figures like this is beyond me. They gave us so much gold this year from the Figure Subscription Service (Spearhead was a contender) and the Convention set (Wreckage was a contender) to the Free Membership figure (Dr. Mindbender was a contender) and the online store exclusives (Old Snake was a contender). Frostbite was the mystery 13th figure that shipped with the final FSS 3.0 shipment this year. It wasn’t much of a surprise but it was a figure everyone was happy to receive. Frostbite is a classic character that desperately needed a modern-era makeover and the Club did not disappoint here. The Frankensteined body looks good but what really elevates this figure to another level is the new head and collar by Boss Fight Studios. Frostbite has never looked so good.
6. Marauder Task Force– Speaking of Boss Fight Studios, I was really hoping to have their first ever original toyline, Vitruvian Hacks, in hand by the end of the year. I bought into their kickstarter campaign in June 2014 and the figures were expected to be delivered in February 2015. No such luck. The figures are going to be more than a year late but they look spectacular and I’m sure you’ll see some on next year’s list. One of the reasons for the delay is because the production factory in China got held up making these figures, the Marauder Task Force (MTF). This is another original toyline funded by a kickstarter campaign courtesy of Marauder Gun Runners who actually hired Boss Fight Studios to do the sculpting. The concept behind the line is completely customizable military action figures. The base figures are all the same but you can buy a variety of guns and accessories from Marauder’s website. I ordered the base figure in all 8 color varieties: red, blue, green, black, arctic, desert, urban and jungle camo. You can mix and match all the parts right down to the pouches on their sleeves and the logos on their helemts. There are literally hundreds (probably thousands) of parts combinations. No one figure is better than another so this slot belongs to the whole line in general. Do yourself a favour and order some of these guys. Four new color variations were just stocked (mine are in the mail).
5. Hobgoblin– Here we go, top five. The fifth spot on my list belongs to the Hobgoblin. This is a Marvel Legends build-a-figure meaning you had to buy six different Marvel Legends figures to get all the parts to build this guy. I didn’t mind the concept back when the build-a-figures were giant figures but it kind of pisses me off now that build-a-figures are no bigger than the standard releases. Despite the hoops I had to jump through to get this guy I am very happy to have him completed. This is my favourite Marvel Legends figure to date. Not only is Hobby one of Spidey’s all-time great villains, this is a version of him we’ve never seen in action figure form before (Phil Urich) and it’s faithful to Humberto Ramos’s artwork which I love. The sculpt is perfect, he’s got great accessories, he’s well articulated, and he’s just fun to look at. He’s bright and bold and I would think any kid would love to have him.
4. Gung Ho– This guy was never one of my favourite Joes. Partly because Doug owned both the 1983 and ’87 versions when we were kids. Despite my lack of personal attachment to Gung Ho he is one of the most recognizable faces on the team. His importance was evidenced by his inclusion in the Joe 5-pack that launched the modern-era in 2007 along with key characters Duke, Snake Eyes, Scarlet, and Roadblock. In the 8 years since that pack came out 27 more Dukes have been released, 40 more Snake Eyes’, 6 more Scarlets, and 8 more Roadblocks. This is only Gung Ho’s third and he didn’t get any new parts in last two. The 2007 Gung Ho and it’s two subsequent repaints are extremely dated and they did not do justice to the Joe team’s original Marine. In 2015 we finally got a Gung Ho we can be proud off. This figure was released as part of Hasbro’s 50th anniversary line and it is both a beauty and a beast. It’s beastly in its size and manliness and it’s beautifully rendered. This figure looks more like Gung Ho than any figure ever before released including the original Gung Ho. The stache is epic, the chest tat is massive, the arms are thick, and the uniform is seafoam. To top it off he has a gigantic SAW heavy machine gun with matching seafoam bullets.
3. Machine Man-If Hobgoblin is my favourite Marvel Legends figure how is this guy higher than him on the list? I don’t know. It must be the power of Jack Kirby. This figure isn’t necessarily based on his creator’s artwork but it sure looks as though the sculptor was referencing some Kirby drawings when creating this head sculpt. I love everything about this figure from the sculpting to the shimmery purple paint job to the telescoping Inspector Gadget arms. It’s perfect in its simplicity.
2. Devestator– In a year where every Transformer released is a member of a combiner team I had to put a combiner on the list. Defensor and Superion would have been contenders had Hasbro not released this behemoth this past fall. Devestator towers over the other combiners. They seemed so impressive at first but they look like children in Devestator’s shadow. I have some issues with the individual Constructicons that make up Devestator but for the most part I’m even impressed with them. As a whole Devestator is near perfect. He’s still a bit wobbly but he’s much better than the original. This toy has everything you’d want in a Devestator; he ‘s big, he’s green and purple, and he’s cartoon/comic book accurate. I’ve been wishing for this figure for decades but never did I expect to receive something as impressive as this. This toy is boss.
1.Bombstrike– I tried to curb any nerd rage in my opening paragraph but I’m aware this may illicit some. In a year filled with stellar Transformers and Star Wars figures, a year where Marvel Legends are at the top of their game and a year where Funko further established itself with a wealth of Pop!, ReAction and Legacy figures, you might be wondering how could some chick you’ve never heard of top this list? To be honest I didn’t know Bombstrike was going to top the list until I started ranking the figures I had selected earlier today. I always knew Bomstrike would make my year-end list but even I didn’t know I liked her this much. I laid the figures out in front of me and, after painfully eliminating great toys like POP Godzilla and Shanna the She-Devil, I began ranking the final 15. As I went, Bombstrike kept getting shoved up the ranks and this is where she ended up. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised because I’ve been a big fan of this character ever since version 1 was released in 2005. The sibling rivalry storyline hinted at in the file cards of her and her brothers (Barrel Roll and Black Out) made for some interesting play scenarios that I would’ve loved as a kid. As much as I cherish the classic Joe characters I think the brand needs some fresh blood every once and a while to stay interesting and relevant. The Stall siblings were exactly what the brand needed and I was really disappointed to see them swept under the rug when the new-sculpt era came to a close in 2006. When The brothers were resurrected in the Collector Club’s first Figure Subscription Service I knew Bombstrike was likely to follow in FSS 2.0. It took a year longer than expected but in 2015 she arrived and she totally lived up to my expectations even after 10 years of anticipation. This figure is feminine, petite and cute but she’s ready for combat. She’s camouflaged, she’s armoured, and she’s packing multiple firearms, a computer, and a drone. I love the character, I love the toy. What’s not to like?
(This is my 800th post! Thanks for reading guys.)
I’ve reviewed a few combiner components from Hasbro’s new “Combiner Wars” toyline in recent months but this is my first full combiner review. If you don’t know what a combiner is they’re the big robots you get when you combine a bunch of smaller robots. The very first combiner, released in 1985, was Devestator who was made up of a group of robots who individually transformed into construction vehicles so naturally they were called the Constructicons. Soon after Devestator’s release Hasbro released several more combiners and within two years there were nearly a dozen of them. Despite the crowded field Devestator was always considered the biggest and baddest of all the combiners.
I owned the original Devestator when I was a kid. I loved the idea of the toy and it looked pretty cool but it was nearly impossible to play with. That first combiner toy didn’t stay combined as well as advertised. All it took was a single punch from Optimus Prime and the guy would crumble to pieces. Another thing that bothered me about Devestator, and Transformers toys in general, was the scale. In the cartoons and comics Devestaor was huge and rightfully so because he was made up of 6 massive pieces of heavy equipment but the Devestator toy wasn’t much taller than Soundwave who transformed into a tape deck.
Regrettably I got rid of nearly all of my childhood Transformers when I thought I outgrew them; Devestator included. When I started collecting Transformers again in the mid 2000s I found myself buying up new versions of all the toys I once owned as a kid. I still wish I had the originals but the new ones were superior in several ways such as better sculpting, increased articulation, and the likenesses were much truer to the comics and cartoons. I eventually purchased new versions of almost every vintage Transformer I once owned but for some reason Hasbro held back on releasing new versions of any of the combiners. I had to make do with my Lego version of Devestator. It took a decade or so but Hasbro finally launched a combiner focused toyline in 2015. Now I’m getting more combiner toys than I know what to do with. In the past few months not only have I collected new versions of the Aerialbots, Stunticons, and Protectobots, but now even Transformers who were never part of a Combiner team before, like Iron Hide and Arcee, are getting in on the action.
Once “Combiner Wars” was announced I knew it wouldn’t be long before they got around to releasing a new version of Devestator and, sure enough, a Constructicons box-set recently hit stores. Unlike the other combiner figures that you have to buy individually, the Constructicons came packaged together in a huge box. At retail I think it might be exclusive to Toys R Us stores but I ordered mine online from BigBadToyStore. All combiners are made up of one big robot that forms the head and torso and 4 smaller robots that form the limbs; except for Devestator. He’s made up of 6 robots and they’re all big. This means that Devestator is huge even when compared to other combiners. He’s closer in size to Metroplex now instead of Soundwave. The scale is still completely out of whack but at least Devestator is finally BIG. I can get past a plane being the same size as a car but one thing that was never acceptable was a dinky little Devestator.
I won’t bother getting into reviewing the separate pieces today because I’ll talk about each Constructicon individually another time. Today I just want to review Devestator as a whole. I will say that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The individual figures are decent (some are better than others) but I feel they all got a little shortchanged. Some are lacking basic articulation like elbow joints, paint apps and stickers are minimal, and some of the sculpting benefits the combined form but not the individual. For example, Long Haul is the dump truck who makes up the lower torso. I know he needed to be thick since he’s the key piece holding Devestator together but the thickness doesn’t serve him well as an individual character, he looks like a little fatty with stubby limbs. Regardless of the individual issues the combined Devestator is a thing of beauty.
For some reason, in the Combiner Wars toyline Hasbro has swapped out an original member of each combiner group for a new character seemingly for no reason other than to piss off old-school fans. Hasbro could have spited Devestator fans in the same way by reducing him down to a 5 piece robot instead of 6 or they could have swapped out an original group member for a new one but thankfully they didn’t do either of those things.
Devestator is made up of all six original Constructicons and while their individual looks may have changed a bit the combined design is very true to the original. The entire build, and most importantly the face, looks just how it should. I have zero complaints about the look of the figure. However his greatest weakness remains his sturdiness. The individual figures lock together quite well so I have no fear of him falling apart on his own. Mine has been assembled for several weeks now with no problems. He’s definitely better constructed than the original but I’m still not sure he could withstand any rugged play. His Scrapper leg is his most frustrating component as his weight is supposed to rest on the shovel as if it was his toes but it slides out of place very easily when you move him around. His articulation isn’t too bad but the more you move him around the less sturdy he feels.
The color scheme is purple and green throughout just like the classic version which makes for a nice cohesive look that isn’t found on other combiners. For accessories he has a massive purple cannon (don’t snicker) which is the same size or bigger than most other Transformers in my collection.
This toy isn’t perfect but it’s pretty damn cool. Almost all of my issues with this set have to do with the individual Constructicons and not the combined form and since I’m likely going to keep him combined those issues don’t matter so much. This set is pretty expensive at $140 but I’d still say that Devestator is a must-have figure for any Transformers fan so if you see one grab it. If you’re lucky maybe you’ll find one for 25% off like my brother did today. 9 out of 10.
G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero (RAH) and Transformers have always been closely intertwined. Both properties launched in the early 80s with cartoons produced by Sunbow, comics produced by Marvel, and toys produced by Hasbro. The first time the two properties officially converged was in the “G.I. Joe and the Transformers” 4-issue mini-series published by Marvel in 1986. In the mid 2000s several more Joe vs Transformers comic book mini-series were produced by the companies who held the licenses at that time, Dreamwave and Devil’s Due. Currently there is an ongoing Joe/Transformers crossover book published by IDW.
In recent years the G.I. Joe and Transformers Collector’s Clubs have collaborated to produce the first official crossover toys. They released exclusive mash-up box sets for the San Diego Comic Con in 2011, 2012, and 2013. 2011 gave us a Joe Sky Striker painted to look like Starscream, in 2012 it was a HISS tank version of Shockwave, and in 2013 it was a Jetfire Sky Striker and a Hound Vamp (plus this Bludgeon and a few others figures). An unofficial crossover toy was released a few years earlier in the form of the Decepticon, Snowcat.
So while official comic book and toy crossovers have become commonplace, the two properties have never officially met in the world of animation. However, there have been a few unofficial interactions.
In season 3 of the Transformers, which was set in the far flung future of 2005, links between the two cartoons were hinted at but never overtly acknowledged. For example, in the episode “Only Human” a mysterious masked man in a long trench coat named “Old Snake” hatched a plot against the Transformers. If the solid chrome face plate and the serpentine name were too subtle for you to realize that Old Snake was an older version of Cobra Commander the fact that he was voiced by Chris Latta should have eliminated all doubt.
Season 3 also introduced a new human female character to the cast of Transformers. Her name was Marissa Faireborn. In the Joe cartoon it was well established that Flint a.k.a. Dashiel Faireborn and Lady Jaye were a couple. It was widely accepted by fans that Marissa was intended to be their daughter all grown up (since the Joe cartoon was set in 1985).
Well the Joe and Transformers Collector’s Clubs have teamed up yet again to create two new sets of mash-up figures based on those unofficial crossover characters from season 3 of the Transformers cartoon. Both sets recently went up for sale (along with Sub-Viper and his Wave Crusher) exclusively in the Clubs’ online stores. I ordered all of them of course.
The Old Snake figure comes with a couple of “Prime” Soundwave figures repainted to look like Battle Android Troopers (BATS). I wouldn’t have bought the Soundwave-BATS on their own but I suppose they’re kind of neat and I don’t mind that they were included with Old Snake even though they bumped up the price considerably. It’s a nice set which I’ll review sometime soon. Today I’m gonna be reviewing the Marissa Faireborn set.
Marissa came packaged with a motorcycle named Afterbreaker who is intended to be the Autobot Afterburner (Hasbro must have lost the rights to the original name). I must confess that I find this set pretty underwhelming. It’s a real shame when the Club fumbles the ball because it sucks to pay big money for mediocre figures. This figure and bike sets sells for $42US plus about $10 in shipping which costs me about $70 Canadian. Ouch.
While Old Snake was a one-episode novelty character who is neat to have, Marissa Faireborn was an important recurring cast member who is integral to any Transformers collection. I was quite excited at the prospect of getting a G.I. Joe-style figure of her when the Club first announced they’d be producing this toy. I wasn’t blown away when images of the figure were first shown online but it had potential. She was made up entirely of reused parts (Scarlett, Baroness , and Cover Girl) which is standard practice for Club exclusives but I really would’ve liked to see them splurge for a new and unique head sculpt for this character. There are only a handful of female characters in the Joe toyline so when one of their heads get re-used its very noticeable. I can’t not see Cover Girl when I look at this figure. This head, with its windblown hair, first appeared on the new-sculpt Cover Girl in 2006. It was based on specific Cover Girl artwork from the Devil’s Due Joe comic. The head was re-used by the Club for a modern-era Cover Girl as part of their 2013 figure subscription service. It’s too closely associated with Cover Girl to be re-used for another character in my opinion. Having said that, if the club HAD to re-use a female head then this was the best choice. It features a great feminine sculpt and it looks more like the Marrissa from the cartoon than any Scarlett or Baroness head would have. As for the body, I have no real problems with it. It’s a surprisingly good representation of the jumpsuit she wore on the show. The paint job is simple but it’s nice and clean. The biggest problem I have with this figure is how the head and body fit together. Marrissa has a giraffe neck and it looks ridiculous.
For accessories Marissa has a pistol, a jet pack, what appears to be a flamethrower that connects to the pack via a hose, and a display base. She has a G.I. Joe base which is fine but it would have been pretty cool if they gave her a display base with an Autobot logo.
As for Afterburner, its a pretty crappy toy but its not the total piece of garbage it used to be. This bike originally came out as part of the G.I. Joe Retaliation toy line. Three sets of characters with motorcycles were released in that line. I passed on Snake Eyes and Flint and their clunker cycles. The only one I bought was Firefly because I halfheartedly wanted the figure and he just so happened to come with the “Wheel Blaster Bike”; aptly named because it could blast you with a projectile wheel. Both the figure and the bike were cheap and ugly. I disliked the bike so much that I think I threw it out or gave it to my nephew which says a lot because I don’t like to part with anything. It’s almost funny, in a sad sort of way, that I ended up buying it again, and this time at a premium price. Thanks a lot Collector’s Club.
A couple of things I disliked about the original Blaster Bike was that it didn’t look like a real-world motorcycle and the orange color scheme didn’t fit with Firefly’s character. I actually referred to it in my first review as an “orange space bike”. That lack of realism actually kind of works here because the original Afterburner didn’t look like a real motorcycle either; he was a 2-wheeled Cybertronian sci-fi bike and this hunk of junk is actually a decent representation. The orange color scheme even works this time because the original Afterburner toy released in 1987 was fugly orange too. He was one of the 5 Technobots that combined to form Computron. My brother Doug owned him when we were kids so I actually do have some fondness for the character.
This set has its share of problems it’s still kind of a fun concept and an appreciated nod to hardcore fans of both properties. Marrissa Fairborn: 6 out of 10. Afterburner: 3 out of 10.
When I was a kid the only complete Combiners I owned were Devastator and Defensor. I loved Devastator but because he was the first Combiner ever released he wasn’t exactly structurally sound. He was made up of six equally-sized smaller robots; 4 for the limbs and 2 for the torso. The split torso was the real problem. Devastator crumbled every time he threw a punch. Hasbro improved on the Combiner design the following year when they opted to make a single larger robot form the torso with 4 smaller robots as the limbs. That’s how Defensor, made up of the five Protectobots, was built. I loved all five of the Protectobots but my favourite was far and away First Aid.
I’m not sure why I liked First Aid so much. Maybe an episode of the old cartoon focused on him and infused him with a winning personality. I don’t recall him ever having a shining moment in Marvel’s Transformers comic. Maybe it was because of the brief character description on his packaging:
“Hates seeing any machine in pain — even those who don’t know it, like a broken street lamp or an overheated car. Compassionate, cautious — will restrict an Autobot to repair bay for faulty directional signal.”
Sounds like a nice guy worthy of my affection. Honestly it was probably the design of the character that appealed to me the most. I liked his head design…I always preferred bots with Optimus Prime-like faces. I also liked his boxy design and his red and white colour scheme. After I got First Aid in 86/87 he quickly became one of the stars of my Transformers universe. He didn’t need the other Protectobots to save the day, he was quite capable all on his own. I regret getting rid of all my childhood Transformers but First Aid is one of the ones I miss the most. Not because it was a great toy, it wasn’t, but because I loved the character so much that my imagination allowed the toy to seem better than it was.
Like most of the toys who formed Combiner limbs, the 1986 First Aid was a clunky crappy toy. His legs were stuck together because he had a hunk of plastic as a uni-foot, his stubby arms didn’t bend and he had a pea-sized head. I always had fun playing with him, and his simplicity made him durable, but the toy left a lot to be desired. I have waited years for Hasbro to release a new and improved First Aid. It’s been 30 years since the original figure was released and about 10 years since I started buying Transformers as an adult collector. Hasbro has released a ton of great updates of classic Transformer toys this past decade but for some strange reason they seemed intent on denying fans of new and improved Combiners.
Then in 2012 Hasbro released updated versions of the five Combaticons who merge to form Bruticus. That was cool and all but Bruticus was a toy that my brother Doug owned when we were kids so I don’t have as strong a connection to that character. Bruticus was a hit with Collectors so I hoped that more Combiners would follow. It took three long years but Hasbro is finally releasing the other Combiner teams. They’ve even rebranded the line as “Combiner Wars”. They started with Superion in wave 1 and Menasor in wave 2. They were cool but, again, they were both toys Doug owned.
But now wave 3 has finally arrived. Giggity Giggity. Wave 3 consists of the five Protectobots AND all six Constructicons. At present I’ve managed to track down 3 of the Protectobots in the wild and all 6 Constructicons are on their way to me now by way of Canada Post. The first Protectobot I found (not including Groove) was Hot Spot, the leader of the team who forms the torso, then came Blades the helicopter, and just last night I finally found First Aid.
Combiner Wars First Aid is a retool of the Stunticon Offroad figure from wave 2 but at a glance you can barely tell they’re the same base figure. The retool was very extensive so don’t think that this is just a repainted Offroad. Both their robot and vehicle modes are substantially different due to all of changes. First Aid has new legs, a new chest, new forearms, new door panels, and most importantly a new head. Also their paint schemes are so radically different that it further sets them apart.
Offroad didn’t impress me when I picked him up a while back but I actually think this is a fantastic First Aid figure. That’s largely because I have zero nostalgic ties to Offroad but also because the construction of this figure seems perfectly suited to First Aid. It retains all of the design elements I liked about the original while improving on pretty much everything. It’s bigger, has a normal sized head with a painted visor, has elbows, and finally he has two legs with knees. Essentially this toy is everything the vintage toy was in my mind’s eye. The only thing I like less about this new figure is that he came with an axe instead of a pistol. The axe seems too brutal for First Aid and better suited to the Decepticon Offroad. I suppose I could pretend that the axe is a medical instrument but thats a bit of a stretch.
First Aid’s ambulance mode is fine though I do miss the boxy Mystery Machine style van of the original.
I’m extremely happy to add First Aid to my modern Transformers collection and I already know that he’s a serious contender for my year-end “best of” list. 10 out of 10.
This was a nice little week for me toy-wise. On Tuesday my latest Masters of the Universe Classics figures, Two-Bad and Blast Attack, showed up in the mail. Wednesday afternoon the final G.I. Joe Figure Subscription Service (FSS) package arrived which included Big Ben, Crimson Guard Immortal plus the bonus mystery figure. Then later that night I went to Walmart and found three new Combiner Wars Transformers: Motor Master, Viper, and Groove.
Groove is a member of the Autobot sub-team the Protectobots.
The Protectobots were originally released in 1986. They were five individual robots, each of whom transformed into a rescue vehicle, that could combine to form the heroic gestalt Defensor. Equally sized Groove, First Aid, Streetwise and Blades formed the limbs while the larger leader of the team, Hot Spot, formed Defensor’s head and torso. I had all five of them when I was a kid and I loved them. The Protectobots were the only other full Combiner team I owned other than the Constructicons who formed Devastator. The Constructicons were the original combiners and they looked great but Devastator wasn’t much fun to play with because he was so fragile. Hasbro vastly improved their combiner design and construction by the time the Protectobots came out so Defensor was a much more stable toy that was a lot of fun to play with.
First Aid, who transformed into an ambulance, was my favorite Protectobot but Groove and Blades were close seconds. Blades was a helicopter and Groove turned into a police motorcycle; both of which were quite unique among my collection of Autobots that mostly turned into cars. I often curse myself for selling off my vintage Transformers collection when I was an adolescent. I have to continually remind myself that the toys were not as good as I remember them to be. The combiners of old were a prime example. Defensor was a pretty rad toy as a whole but the individual Protectobots were not so impressive. Hot Spot was decent but the figures that formed the limbs were small and stubby, lacked articulation, and had pea-sized heads. The ’86 Groove was especially stumpy because of his alt mode. His legs and torso were basically a solid hunk of plastic and he had these horrible narrow feet made out of his motorcycle seat that looked like witch shoes. The arms were wide and nubby and they didn’t extend more than a centimetre or so past his thick chest. My childhood imagination allowed me to believe that Groove was cool but objectively the toy was a clunker.
I love that 30 years later those short and stubby combiner limbs are finally getting their due as legitimate action figures. If you’ve read my reviews of Fireflight of the Aerialbots or Breakdown of the Stunticons then you know how vastly superior these modern figures are when compared to their vintage counterparts. I now have the complete waves 1 and 2 of Hasbro’s Combiner Wars collection which means I can fully construct Superion and Menasor. They’re both great but to me they’re like appetizers to wave 3’s Protectobots main course. I’ve been eagerly anticipating updated Protectobots for years and soon I will finally have fully-posable, adequately-sized, well-sculpted figures of First Aid, Blades, and Streetwise…..but not Groove.
Hasbro has decided to replace Groove with a newly conceived member of the Protectobots named Rook who will now fill the role of Defensor’s right leg. It’s a bit disappointing that Groove lost his spot but it makes some sense. Groove is a motorcycle…Blades is a helicopter….they should not be the same size. Not that scale has ever made sense in the world of Transformers but I appreciate the attempt by Hasbro to make things a little more believable at least within the confines of a single sub-team. Besides, founding members of the Aerialbots and Stunticons also got the boot and scale wasn’t even an issue with them. Thankfully Groove didn’t get omitted from the team completely. While his peers will soon be released as 6” DELUXE class figures Groove gets this 3” LEGENDS scale figure.
This figure looks pretty small to me, especially when compared to the other combiner figures, but in fact this figure is about as tall as the original 1986 Groove. I think it seems extra small because this modern Groove is much leaner than the tubby ’86 model and also I’m much bigger than I was when I owned that original toy.
This Groove figure is nothing to get too excited about but it’s not bad at all. The build of the figure is significantly different from the original but there are enough similarities that you can tell they’re the same character. I always found Groove’s most distinguishing feature to be his gold face and this figure retains that. This figure is way more posable than the vintage Groove. He’s articulated at the ankles, the knees, the hips, the shoulders, and the elbows and many of those are ball-joints. This allows for all kinds of poses.
The areas where the original figure has an edge over this one is that this Groove has no weapons whereas the original had a hand gun and leg cannons. Also the old figure had lots of stickers which added some color to the figure and lastly it had chromed pieces which I always like to see. This Groove would look much better if his flat grey-colored arms and legs had that classic metallic sheen.
Groove’s alt-mode is still a police motorcycle though it looks a bit more modern than the old one. This guy could be driven by Robocop whereas the old Groove was more suited to Ponch and Jon. And even though he lost his spot as a limb Groove still has a place as part of Defensor; he now has a third mode where he form’s Defensor’s chest plate.
I would’ve preferred a 6″ Groove (which I think may be released eventually anyway) but this is a decent upgrade to the character and it’s hard to complain about a figure that only costs around ten bucks. 7 out of 10.