Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Fanholes Episode # 191: Rich White Ducks

Justin and Derek get together to discuss Duck Tales: Treasure of The Lost Lamp on its 30th Anniversary!

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Mike's Top Twenty Favorite Transformers Toys!

It's time for another list! These are my top twenty personal FAVORITE Transformers toys of all time! Whether they're here because of sentimental value or because they're marvels of engineering, these twenty have a special place in my toy-collecting heart!

A couple rules-

#1. Third-party stuff is disqualified. Only toys officially created/released by Hasbro/Takara.

#2. If multiple toys have been sold in the same package and can be grouped in some way, they can count as one entry, although I may bend this rule a little...

And of course, to kick it off... THREE honorable mentions!

Honorable Mention-
Leo Prime (Lio Convoy)
(Legends, 2017)

A lot of people are lukewarm on this mold, which was first released as Alpha Trion in the "Titans Return" line. I actually really dig it, and I had rationalized that it represented a younger Alpha Trion in his (forgive the expression) "Prime" days. I like Lio Convoy more as a character though, and this version of the mold is definitely its best incarnation.

The pictures of it don't do justice to how LEGENDARY Leo Prime looks in person. The glossy paint on his gold and blue bits make him "pop" so well in robot mode. His "Solipsistic Sword" is a great primary weapon and he can maintain a two-handed grip on it, which is rare for some figures. He transforms into a bio-mechanical lion, so you don't have to worry too much about it looking convincingly "organic", which is a stumbling block with both Lio Convoy's original and "Masterpiece" toys. I love the transformation, particularly how his robot mode fists become the lion's lower jaw.

What really solidifies this figure as a favorite is that it represents my favorite incarnation of Lio Convoy- his portrayal in the latter half of "Beast Wars: Uprising". His secondary starship mode is even given an explanation in that series as a result of Lio being infected and partially transformed into a Vehicon. While I bought the original Lio Convoy toy way back when without knowing much about the character, I bought THIS Lio Convoy toy BECAUSE of the character in Uprising. It truly lives up to its release in Takara's "Legends" toyline.

Honorable Mention-
(Generations, 2013)

We had gotten multiple modern remakes of Springer as a character up until this toy's release, but none were Triple-Changers. This was the first "successful" remake of Springer and it surpasses expectations in my book. The transformation is intricate, but not too complex once you've mastered it, and all three modes hold up pretty well (although depending on your copy, the tabs might not all line up sometimes.) It's got superb articulation and looks great in any display of similarly-themed characters.

What really appeals to me here is Springer's look in robot mode, which is based off of one of my favorite Transformers comic book artist's design. Nick Roche's Springer from "Last Stand of the Wreckers" comes to life here (albeit with some engineering changes to make the toy work.) The head sculpt in particular is pure rounded, expressive Roche and lends a ton of personality to the figure.

While the more recent "Siege" figure is also a well-engineered toy that successfully captures Springer in plastic form, "Generations" Springer came first. This figure pays homage to one of my favorite Transformers stories of all time and is still highly-regarded by fans today as one of the prime examples of a great modern remake of a classic character.

Honorable Mention-
Optimus Prime
(Generation 2, 1993)

A mold that's been re-decoed, re-tooled, and re-issued a number of times and is possibly one of, if not THE most famous Transformers toy of all time. This is my favorite version of it, and the first Optimus Prime I owned. Sure, having his name in HUGE letters splashed right on the side of his vehicle mode is kinda dumb, but I do love the recolor of the trailer/"Combat Deck".

I also dig the two extra missile launchers G2 Prime comes with and of course, the best addition of all; the sound pack that attaches to the front of the trailer. With it, you can assure anyone in earshot that "I AM OPTIMUS PRIME" and they will believe you. I love that sound pack so much that I still have it on my shelf, and periodically change its batteries so I can hear "I AM OPTIMUS PRIME" as long as it remains functional.

My fondness for Generation 2 will make itself evident a few more times as this list goes on, but this might be the most clear indicator of that.

And now, the top twenty!

20. Oil Slick
(Animated, 2008)

Oil Slick always stood out to me, as he was a toy from the "Animated" line, but not in the show (at first.) He's got a great, distinct villain design. So much going on with the robot mode there, but it all works- the "Mr. Freeze" dome, the goat skull, the barrel n'chain, and the long spindly fingers. Oh, and he turns into a badass-lookin' chopper too.

The figure itself is a great Deluxe-classer, with nice sculpting and articulation. Supposedly Hasbro wanted to have a tiny bit of water sloshing around in that clear dome of his, but it wouldn't clear safety standards. Ah well, that would have been cool, but Oil's pretty Slick anyhow. Thanks to his little spotlight story in the IDW tie-in comic "The Arrival", Oil Slick's got a great character to go along with his distinct look too. He's an evil genius, and thanks to his splayed, rubbery fingers, he can intertwine them and you can pretend he's cackling. SO EVIL.

19. Starscream (Leader Class)
(Hunt for the Decepticons, 2010)

Let's face it, it's super-hard to associate any character named Starscream with his Bay-verse design. It's wide and bestial and inelegant and even his jet mode is usually chunky. However, this toy manages to make all that work where it had failed in previous attempts to make this design in plastic form. This thing is so well-engineered you can't help but like it when you have it in your hands. The way Starscream's chest and shoulders connect in order to increase arm articulation while simultaneously reducing his "wide" silhouette and allow for more dynamic posing is some kinda witchcraft. The arm-mounted weapons spring-up via tiny manual levers through panels that automatically part and it's super-fun to do that.

This toy is so well-engineered that Takara even released it under the "Masterpiece" name back in the day. I dunno if it's QUITE there, but with an ACTUAL Masterpiece Movie Starscream being released soon as of this writing, I can't say I believe the new version can do a whole lot better than this toy. Its transformation is intricate, but not complicated, and while it still has a bit of "chunk" under its jet mode, it's not as bad once you compare it with other jet-mode Transformers. This figure also has a sound chip with weapon noises and a line from Movie Starscream's actual voice actor, Charlie Adler. It makes Starscream sound... kind of adorable? "NO ONE CAN DEFEAT STAH-SCWEAM!"

The Takara Masterpiece version is clean, but this Leader Class one has the "tribal" tats that Starscream sports in "Revenge of the Fallen". I kinda like them... they add something to the character... at least to his superior portrayal in IDW's tie-in comics rather than the actual movies. All in all, even if you dislike the character design, I think you'd be hard-pressed to complain about this actual toy of it. It represents what the ideal Leader Class figure SHOULD be; an expensive, complex, large toy with whistles and bells... but a bit short of Masterpiece quality. But he comes DAMN close!

18. Mini-Con Air Defense Team/Star Saber
(Armada, 2002)

Mini-Cons get some flak sometimes, and some of it may be deserved, but I do think they're a fun "gimmick" and I lump them in with Micromasters, Headmasters, Targetmasters, and whatever various tiny-sized Transformers you want to also throw in there. I think they actually beat out a lot of Micromaster teams thanks to more gimmickry and play-potential in areas. The Air Defense Team was the first of the "Armada" toyline's Mini-Con teams that I purchased and thus I have a lot of fondness for them.

This team was made a big deal of in early Armada fiction, mostly because of their ability to combine into the Star Saber. I know the Star Saber only resembles a sword in the vaguest sense... I mean, even the cartoon rendered it as more of a lightsaber than three jets smooshed together. Still, I can't help but think it looks cool when wielded by a larger toy, and like I said above- the Mini-Con play-potential was always evident. They're just fun to transform, combine, or even plug into a larger figure.

I must have liked this team a lot, because I bought them FOUR TIMES. The original release, the "Dark Star Saber" colors release, the Japanese "Kabaya" candy release that replaced their translucent plastic with opaque that better matched the animation models, and finally as the Energon Saber in the "Energon" toy line. There are probably better Mini-Con toys, Mini-Con characters that I like better, but these guys were the first complete team I bought and thus they make it on this list. Spoiler alert; no Micromasters made on it on here... (well, sort of... you'll see...)

17. Tankor (Mega Class)
(Beast Machines, 1999)

A Beast Machines toy? What is this?? And it's not even show-accurate! Honestly, I consider that a plus; Tankor's toy design here is far superior to the simplistic look on the show. While Tankor's CG model looks clumsy and almost cartoonish (ironically), his Mega Class toy looks like a dude you do not want to meet in a dark Cybertronian alley. From the hulking forearms to the inhuman, mono-eyed head, to the much more threatening-looking main cannon, I always thought toy Tankor had it all over cartoon Tankor.

The mono-eye in particular was always a cool play feature for me, being able to "rove" back and forth in either mode via a knob atop the cannon assembly. It always reminded me of a Zaku from the Gundam franchise, as well as one of my favorite Transformers characters, Shockwave. In fact, the very tip of Tankor's cannon barrel is shaped like Shockwave's gun mode barrel! I can't have been the only one to wish this toy was repainted as Shockwave once upon a time!

The toy design of Tankor was used as a Vehicon body for G1 Quake in the Botcon comics. Fast-forward to the "Titans Return" toyline and Quake received a new toy repainted from G1 Hardhead's design. Since G1 Hardhead had the same kind of tank set-up (four separate treads, side-mounted cannon) as Tankor, Titans Return Quake's alt-mode is almost coincidentally a homage to his usage of the Beast Machines mold! I also used to head-canon that the "Universe" recolor of this toy in greens and yellows was Evil Rhinox-as-Tankor in an upgraded body and in an alliance of equals with his pack-in partner Obsidian. Too bad the actual fiction used that version of Tankor as the dumb Tankor instead. Ah well.

16. Megatron (Leader Class)
(Animated, 2008)

My favorite toy of my favorite Megatron. As per usual "Animated" toyline standard, Leader Class Megs here is sculpted with loads of personality and fidelity to the animation model. It's a hefty, imposing figure in either mode, with threatening twin swords and a fusion cannon. The helicopter alt-mode is unique for a Megatron and the sound chip within the toy plays the classic transformation sound whenever you pull his cockpit into its proper place. It's also got several light-up effects in the chest and cockpit.

The sound chip is really what elevates this toy and provides another layer of "personality" to it. Not only does it have several sound effects (including the aforementioned transformation noise), but in robot mode Megatron can deliver a few lines (or an evil laugh) delivered by his actual voice actor Corey Burton. The best bit though is that you activate the voice clips by pushing down on Megatron's head, the face of which is set in the character's signature scowl. Doing so also opens Megatron's mouth, so you can kinda make him "talk" by repeatedly pushing down on his head. C'mon, if you've owned this toy, you know you've done that.

15. Optimus Primal (Mega Class Transmetal)
(Beast Wars, 1998)

My favorite look for Optimus Primal- I think I like it more when he isn't trying to bite off Optimus Prime's look. Surfing monkey-face Primal is definitely a look that makes him more unique, but doesn't stray TOO far from his previous design (unlike say, his Beast Machines look.) I feel the hoverboard has become an iconic part of Optimus Primal's iconography too, with a few later toys also incorporating it into different designs.

As with most toys in the "Transmetal" range, this one maintains a high fidelity with the animation model (or maybe that's the other way around.) The only difference being is that his little "bullhorn gun" attaches to different spots in hoverboard mode depending on the toy or the CG model. I like the "bullhorn" gun... it's unique and it almost reminds me of an old-tyme mini-blunderbuss or something. There are also his two maces for weapons, which store on the backpack and the show animators made part of a whole neat-o gun assembly thing that Primal can deploy over his shoulders.

I also like the detailing in the ape mode, especially on the chest. That little red upraised "circuit board" on his left pec basically begs to be imagined as a Star Trek-esque communicator of some sort (I'm pretty sure it WAS used as that on the show at least once.) I maybe would have liked his ape mode expression to be more placid and calm, as befitting Optimus Primal the character, but the "gritted teeth, snarling" look works too. Surf monkey is one funky monkey indeed.

14. Sixshot
(Titans Return, 2016)

Full disclosure, this spot almost went to Generation 1 Sixshot. However, after I mulled it over, I decided "Titans Return" Sixshot's toy does everything G1 Sixshot's toy does and better in most cases. I do love the original Sixshot toy; I'm not someone who cares if an alternate mode is "realistic" or not and I actually prefer Cybertronic alt-modes most of the time. They just charge the child part of my imagination and considering that well, these are TOYS, that's the part I want charged, right?

I bought an original Sixshot off eBay in the early 'oughts and consider him to be one of my favorite G1 toys, but ultimately, I can't say it doesn't offer anything different than its modern remake. Titans Return Sixshot actually improves on most of his six modes and the "Titan Master" gimmick can even be totally ignored if you don't care about that. Add in modern articulation and sculpting, and you've got a pretty definitive plastic representation of the ol' "Ninja Consultant."

It's pretty amusing that they had to market its gun mode as a "submarine", but everyone knows what it really is. About the only thing it can't do as well as its G1 version is the secret seventh "Wingwolf" mode from the Headmasters anime, but I mean... that was some made-up nonsense anyhow.

13. Countdown
(Universe '08, 2009)

Ha! I said there were no Micromasters on this list, but I lied! Sort of! Countdown here does represent the Micromaster, but he's HUGE now! Countdown was a favorite Micromaster character of mine, and this new interpretation of him is a nice homage to the "Rocket Base" his original toy was packaged with. I really love this mold, originally released as "Cybertron Defense" Red Alert in the "Cybertron" toy line. Not wild about Cybertron Red Alert as a character though, so having this mold represent someone I DO like is pretty nice.

The giant rocket on the shoulder gives this figure some serious presence in robot mode and his hefty build manages to keep the toy standing under its weight. It was always my head-canon that the tiny Micromaster Countdown "piloted" this body like a mech-suit from within, and there is a hollow in the toy's chest where a tiny figure could conceivably fit. Sadly, neither the original Countdown nor the more recent update from the "Siege" toyline can fit in there, but a fan can dream, right?

(Super Link/Energon, 2004)

"Transformers Energon" was a toyline heavily focused on homaging Generation 1 stuff, and while it wasn't exactly new to do so, Laserwave/Shockblast here was the first time something was homaged to appeal most directly to ME. G1 Shockwave's always been a personal favorite character of mine, and seeing a "remake" of him back in '04 was pretty exciting. I mean, in retrospect, there are probably better Shockwave homage toys now (many, many of them) and even better versions of G1 Shockwave specifically. However, Laserwave/Shockblast came first, and that's why he gets on this list.

You might notice I keep saying "Laserwave/Shockblast" and there is a reason. This toy represents the first time I imported the Japanese version of a toy over the American one. "Super Link" Laserwave has slightly-more detailed paint applications and tighter joints, and I absolutely wanted the best version of this toy so I put down the extra money. It's funny; I don't even care for Blastshock/Wavelaser as a character as portrayed in the cartoon, but I do love this design. I mean, sure the gun-arm is ugly and cumbersome, but it still looks cool with all its various widgets and doo-bobs deployed.

Much like with Sixshot, I enjoy flexing the imagination for Lasershock/Blastwave's two alternate modes. It's sort of a tank and sort of a satellite and the robot head can pop up a la a G1 Sweep in either mode. I particularly like the reflective golden paint used on the satellite mode's solar panels and I'd often imagine Shockwave/Laserblast positioning himself in orbit and firing powerful blasts down at his foes. So maybe this toy hasn't aged too well, but I still have a great deal of fondness for it and it stands out as a signpost for me becoming a more discerning buyer of Transformers. Yes, I want the BEST version of the clumsy, garish-looking thing and I'm willing to pay twenty more dollars for it, thank you very much!

11. Night Viper
(Beast Machines, 2000)

What, ANOTHER Beast Machines toy?? What am I, insane? Actually, despite Beast Machines having a reputation for underwhelming product, the toyline does have a few gems and Night Viper is certainly one of them. Personally, I'd consider it one of the best "Basic/Scout" Class toys ever. An alt-mode of "snake" was never gonna be easy to pull off, but Night Viper is a tiny marvel of engineering and manages it. Granted, its only real competition is Colada from the "Beast Wars Neo" toyline, but for his size and complexity, I think Night Viper wins out.

This little toy has a ton of personality, and it needs it, considering Night Viper has only had very limited fictional appearances over the years. The leg articulation is far above-average, allowing you to do all sorts of crazy contortionist yoga poses. Night Viper's snake head is spring-loaded and snaps forward with the touch of a button. There's a hidden sickle blade in the right forearm, and it's a shame that the second one in the left apparently had to be budgeted out (Viper's concept art features him with TWO sickles.) Night Viper is just plain fun to transform, pose, play with, and serves as a reminder that Beast Machines DID have some great toys.

10. Sideswipe/Lambor (G2 Version)
(Masterpiece, 2014)

I said my love for Generation 2 would manifest again and here's probably the foremost avatar of the brand name! I don't know that anyone truly expected Takara to do up "Masterpiece" Sideswipe as his G2 self, and surely not to this extent. After all, the character's appearance in the G2 comic was purely a Western portrayal and there were other Japanese-exclusive Sideswipe mold colors that Takara could have chosen to do first. But no; not only did we get Masterpiece G2 Sideswipe, but he's got super-SPECIFIC call-outs to the Marvel comic, not least of which is his new Derek Yaniger-inspired face sculpt, set in the artist's signature gritted-teeth grimace.

All Sideswipe's accessories are also inspired by the Marvel comic, with two chunky Yaniger-style handguns, a short sword, and even add-on spiky shoulder pads. The only thing Masterpiece Sideswipe G2 Version lacks is a bandolier to strap across the chest, but what it does come with is still more than anyone could have hoped for. As a huge fan of the Marvel Generation 2 comic, I absolutely had to scoop this figure out as soon as it came out, and it doesn't disappoint, matching the high standard of the Masterpiece line.

G2 Sideswipe's color scheme truly does stand-out among all the recolors in the G2 line, as it succeeds in being different, yet still iconic for the character. Just about all the other significant recolors just end up being either different-for-the-sake-of-being-different, or infamously garish. However, most will associate G2 Sideswipe's scheme with badassery and this figure captures that perfectly.

9. Megatron (Ultra Class Transmetal 2)
(Beast Wars, 1999)

Yesssss. While "Animated" Megatron might be my favorite Megatron as a character, "Beast Wars" Megatron has probably always had the best toys overall. I always really liked the "Transmetal 2" aesthetic- the asymmetry in the designs and the Todd McFarlane-esque levels of sculpted detail. Transmetal 2 Megatron is one of, if not THE crown jewel of the Transmetal 2 sub-line, and it was gifted to me by a friend for Christmas 1999. Beyond the sentimental value, this toy has always been treasured by me for just being great all-around.

While the robot mode is pretty good, what everyone thinks of when they think of this toy is that stunning dragon mode. The sculpting and paint application is just spot-on and with the wings splayed out and locked in their fully-extended mode, Transmetal 2 Megatron immediately grabs anyone's attention when displayed on a shelf. Like I said, the robot mode is pretty good, even if it doesn't completely mesh with the show's CG model, which was undoubtedly embellished a bit after they adapted the toy design. Show TM2 Megatron has a more defined chest and slimmer proportions, but the toy is damn-near close enough.

I can always tell when I love a Transformers toy mold more than usual, because I'm usually willing to shell out more cash to buy it again, and I did so with this mold by purchasing its repaint as Cryotek in the "Robots in Disguise" toyline a few years later. Cryotek looks no less badass than Megatron in his shades of blue, and the two versions make for a great contrast being displayed next to each other as well. The third "dragster" mode that this mold can assume is something of an unnecessary afterthought, but it's a little extra "something" for a toy that really needs nothing else.

8. God Ginrai
(Super-God Masterforce, 1988)

I first acquired a complete God Ginrai around 2003, albeit as a reissue. Takara produced a boxset reissue of Super Ginrai and his combining partner Godbomber around that time and Hasbro followed suit shortly thereafter in the West with a Toys'R'Us exclusive release of "Powermaster Optimus Prime with Apex Bomber". Takara's release was made available in such wide quantities that it was nearly the same price as the TRU version, so I went with that one for the chromed, non-shortened rockets it came with. "Apex" Optimus' rocket launcher fired a much bigger, less "choking hazard" projectile and had shortened smokestacks on the shoulders, so I wanted the non-slightly-neutered one.

While I said that was the first COMPLETE version of the toy I owned, I had actually owned part of the original Powermaster Optimus Prime for years beforehand. Specifically, I had the trailer, which could convert into a battle station, sans its accessories and any other components. I think I acquired that in a trade with a friend, and despite not having the actual Optimus Prime cab robot to go with it, I still found play value in having a "mini-base" for my other figures to hang out around. When I finally saw a complete Powermaster Prime, I was a bit underwhelmed at its weird proportions and gigantic head in robot "super mode". Thankfully, God/Apex Bomber's bulky addition to the mix makes the proportions seem a little less jarring.

In whatever case, this is a great, fun Generation 1 toy and an impressive display piece. While I usually display Transformers in their robot modes, God Ginrai would often alternate between his complete super robot mode and his truck mode with both his trailer and Godbomber in trailer mode hitched-up on my shelf. I'm kind of ambivalent as to what character this toy represents... but I'd probably lean towards considering him an Optimus Prime on my shelf, instead of Ginrai. Nothing against Super-God Masterforce, but its human characters never really struck a major chord with me, and Ginrai was no exception.

The modern remakes of this toy in the "Titans Return" toyline look nice, but honestly aren't as much of an improvement as they COULD have been. Unlike Sixshot, I'm probably happy with my original (albeit reissued) version of God Ginrai/Powermaster Prime, and never bothered to acquire the modern updates of it.

7. Prowl
(Robots in Disguise, 2001)

While not my favorite version of Prowl as far as character goes, this is still one of my favorite toys that represents "a" Prowl, and it single-handledly reignited interest in Transformers as a whole for me. See, back in 2001, I had felt I was "done" with Transformers after the disappointment of Beast Machines was over, and figured the brand was on its way out (AGAIN.) I was vaguely aware of "Car Robots", the current cartoon in Japan, but didn't really look into that deeply aside from a passing admiration for toys like Fire Convoy.

When Car Robots was adapted in the West as "Robots in Disguise", I watched the premiere episode on Fox Kids and was not entirely convinced either. This show seemed like a far step from the maturity and depth of the Beast Era and I didn't watch it regularly at first. Then one day, I happened to be in the mall and in the store "Babbage's" (which has long since been folded into Gamestop) and saw the first wave of "RID" Deluxe Class toys hanging near the register. Prowl had the name and color scheme of my favorite G1 character, and despite not latching onto him from what I saw in the cartoon, I decided to give the toy a chance as it at least looked cool.

I'm glad I did, because it started a snowball effect that reignited my interest in Transformers that has lasted to this day. After I had gotten Prowl and was fairly impressed with it as a figure, a friend had me over his house and showed me RID Optimus Prime/Fire Convoy and I knew I had to buy him too. Months later, I was trying to buy up the rest of the cast of RID and watching the show regularly- I was hooked again and I had Prowl to thank/blame.

As for the figure itself, it's a pretty well-engineered, intricate, and all-around fun toy to have in your hands. While some may take issue with the three "Car Brothers" Prowl, Sideburn, and X-Brawn's asymmetrical designs and "kibble-tastic" robot modes, they do kind of represent the first true stab at G1-evoking designs that utilize modern engineering. While Generation 2 and the Beast era stuff may have introduced ball joints and a focus on more articulation, RID took that ball and ran with it as far as they could in their limited bubble.

Prowl's mold has been redecoed and remolded a number of times over the years, as various different G1-styled characters, which probably speaks to the influence this mold has had over the fandom. I'll always prefer it in its original, black-and-white, G1 Prowl-homage colors, but it's a pretty good-looking toy no matter what character it is supposed to represent. It's funny, the Japanese name for this character is "Mach Alert". That's still pretty cool, but I probably wouldn't care as much as I do if he wasn't a Prowl.

6. Devastator
(Generation 2, 1993)

Okay, here where I bend the rules a little bit... this version of Devastator was never packaged together as a gift set, but ultimately I couldn't not include these six figures on this list. This was the first true "gestalt"/combiner figure that I ever completed and it was a really big deal for me at the time. Someone had purchased Scrapper and Mixmaster for me a month or two before Christmas of that year, and I was eagerly anticipating getting the other four eventually as well.

I did indeed receive Bonecrusher, Scavenger, Long Haul, and Hook for Christmas and I remember them being the stand-out gift for me that holiday. The original appearance of the Constructicons in animation, the episode "Heavy Metal War", was a regular rental for me from the local video store, and I had longed to acquire a complete set of the Constructicons for years beforehand. When I saw the commercial for the "Generation 2" versions of them, I knew my time had finally come!

I remember transforming Scrapper and Mixmaster into leg modes and imagining the rest of Devastator atop them before getting the other four. I also remember thinking for a long time that the Constructicons were in fact colored yellow and not green. I mean, the G2 toys are clearly yellow, but I always thought the cartoon was a little "in-between" green and yellow, y'know? They also released them again in ORANGE later on in G2's run on toy shelves, but I don't know anyone who prefers them in that color.

I don't own the "Combiner Wars" or "Unite Warriors" versions of the Constructicons/Devastator, so while I'm sure they're technically superior to this release, nostalgia and access win out here. My G2 Constructicons are still in fact in pretty good condition (albeit in storage), and I think I've only ever had to replace Long Haul's gun, which snapped in two at some point. I still enjoy taking them out every so often, transforming and combining them... there's something really pure about this original Transformers combining team and I do prefer them to the later "Scramble"-type combiners. Even if Devastator isn't as stable, poseable, or even big as the later G1 mold combiners, it remains a personal favorite toy (or set of toys) for being the first. Ironically, my favorite version is second generation though, hyuk, hyuk...

5. Optimus Prime (Leader Class)
(Cybertron, 2005)

This is my favorite Optimus Prime toy (sort of, you'll see) and the first toy I bought from the "Cybertron" line. It's got more of a "anime super-robot" aesthetic than most Optimus Prime designs usually have, leaning more towards Star Convoy than Generation 1 Optimus Prime. He totally pulls it off though, and he was the first "Leader Class" Optimus from the "Unicron Trilogy" of toys that I really unabashedly liked as a figure. "Armada" Optimus Prime lacked in articulation and was a bit hobbled by his electronic trailer gimmick while "Energon" Optimus was... well, let's just say "an interesting experiment", but neither really scratched my "Supreme Autobot Commander" itch.

Leader Class Cybertron Optimus Prime is solid almost all-around though, with the only point of possible criticism that I would bring up is his sort of "slapped-together" truck mode. It's supposed to be a futuristic fire engine, and it KINDA looks like that just enough to pass inspection. It's also got a "flight mode", which looks as awkward as you'd expect a winged futuristic fire engine to look. However, Prime's regular robot mode and "Super Mode" are where the toy truly shines and they do not disappoint in the slightest. The base robot form is imposing enough on its own, and Super Mode only enhances that vibe. The winged backback and huge underslung cannons make for an awesome silhouette and it even comes with an opening chest and removable Matrix accessory within.

Prime's faceplate can even slide up or down thanks to a little lever on the back of his head, so you can give him the traditional Prime look or go the "Optimus Primal" way. It's just a nice little touch which, along with the aforementioned Matrix accessory, adds a little extra something to a toy that is already pretty great. This toy is just plain fun to play with, looks great on a shelf, and is probably my favorite "alternate" Optimus Prime toy incarnation outside of Generation 1, edging out Fire Convoy/RID Optimus Prime (who very nearly made this list too.) In terms of Unicron Trilogy Optimus Primes, I guess the third time was the charm. The only way it could be better is if it came with a sound clip of Garry Chalk resolutely informing you that OUR WORLDS ARE IN DANGER!!!

4. Dreadwing/Smokescreen
(Generation 2, 1994)

Someone phone a doctor, because as anyone who has owned them knows, this pair of toys are demonstrably illin'.

Yes, my love of "Generation 2" rears its head again, with this two-pack of newly-molded Decepticons. I've always wondered what prompted this set's creation, as they've got no real Autobot "counterpart" in the G2 toyline. Rather than being introduced as a major new villain in the G2 comic, Dreadwing instead only appears for a single page and is described as a rebuilt version of G1 character Darkwing. Smokescreen is barely even named on the packaging and also only received a single panel appearance in the Marvel comic. I guess someone at Hasbro/Takara just really wanted to make a cool-looking brand-new mold Triple-changing stealth bomber/tank Decepticon toy? I dunno, this set has always seemed like a weird anomaly to me.

That doesn't mean it isn't cool though; far, far from it! When I received this set for my birthday that year, I didn't even know it was something that existed! I think I had perhaps seen Dreadwing's brief-but-impressive appearance in the G2 comic at that point, but I just assumed it was a character I wasn't aware of at the time. I hadn't seen the BRILLIANT commercial for this toy either (and if you haven't, you should go to Youtube right now and do so.) However, within a few minutes of opening and playing with these two, they quickly became favorites and I made sure they were always part of any major "Decepticon assault" I perpetrated on my Autobot toys.

Dreadwing himself is a solid, imposing brute of a figure and both his alternate modes are fun and functional. Smokescreen is one of the most uniquely-engineered jet transformations in Transformers history and looks dang cool in robot mode to boot. Smokescreen's transformation scheme was even almost completely reused for the later "Energon" Starscream mold (the engineering was reused, not the mold itself- a common misconception.)

I loved these guys so much I bought their recolored versions again twice over in both the "Robots in Disguise" toyline and later importing the "Beast Wars II" versions as BB and Starscream. I think I actually sold off one or more of the pairs too at some point, and writing this is making me want to go and buy ANOTHER version of them at this very moment! This is a pair of toys that probably don't need a remake in the future, because the remakes would probably not vastly improve on the originals, despite any modern toy-making advances being implemented. Case-in-point; this version of Dreadwing was given a new toy in the "Generations" line in 2013, and while it was arguably a solid Deluxe Class figure, it wasn't based on the original design and thus I didn't really care about it that much. I guess that new toy was simply... insufficiently illin'.

3. Prowl (Action Master)
(The Transformers, 1990)

The first version of my favorite Transformers character that I ever owned, and it doesn't even transform! Well, the "Turbo-Cycle" he comes with transforms, but that's really besides the point. I guess it didn't matter to me as a kid, as my imagination was still fresh and determined to make do with the materials I had before me. I would literally lie Action Master Prowl down flat on its face and "pretend" he was in police car mode. The vehicle modes didn't appeal to me as much as the robot modes did anyway, so that was more than good enough for me at the time. In a similar vein, I don't have a lot of nostalgia for the Turbo-Cycle itself, even though the proper name of this toy as packaged is in fact "Turbo-Cycle WITH Prowl". Sorry, Turbo-Cycle, but I doubt that if it was brutally blasted to death on-screen in a cartoon, that I'd care anywhere as much as I did when it happened to Prowl.

I do recall being a bit disappointed that Prowl didn't have his signature car door "wings" in robot mode. They were a part of his look that I found appealing, and while I was happy to have any Prowl at all, part of me rejected the "Action Master" aesthetic. Still, I treasured this toy and when one of Prowl's legs broke, I quickly dismembered my Action Master Jazz and gave Prowl THAT toy's legs, as they were the closest in similarity I had at the time. Eventually, my Prowl broke beyond repair and I have no recollection of what happened to its remains. Perhaps they were sold at a yard sale, or perhaps they were simply thrown out, but I've never managed to reacquire a new Action Master Prowl to replace him.

Of course, nowadays I have "Masterpiece" Prowl on top of probably DOZENS of other Prowl toys that all do the job that Action Master Prowl was required to do for me way back when. However, I'll always have a soft spot and fond memories of the first toy I got of my favorite character, and maybe some day I'll even go back and plunk down the money for a replacement on eBay.

2. Tarantulas (Transmetal)
(Beast Wars, 1998)

Here we have the toy version of my favorite design for Tarantulas, my favorite Beast Wars character. I do like the season one design too, and the toy of that is pretty decent as well, but Transmetal Tarantulas is stand-out to me for a specific reason. As the first of the Transmetal line that I bought (or was bought for me, I think, by my dad), this Tarantulas was maybe the first time I felt a toy had achieved nearly 1-to-1 accuracy with the character's portrayal on-screen. I mean, sure... some earlier Beast Wars toys had come pretty close, but there was always some kind of difference or abnormality with them (coughmutantheadscough) that made them seem a bit off for me. When I first opened Tarantulas, I marveled at the toy, because it felt like I was literally holding his CG model in my hand.

Now, this toy isn't actually 100% faithful to his show model; for some reason the robot mode head has two separate optics instead of Tarantulas' signature visor. However, the Japanese version of the toy adds a tiny dab of paint between those optics, thus "faking" a more accurate look. I ultimately went ahead and did that to my U.S. Tarantulas release as well with a yellow marker. And then I went and bought Japanese "Metals" Tarantulas ANYWAY, because goddamn do I love this toy. I even bought it a THIRD time as the recolored "Fox Kids" release, which represented a post-death, alien Vok-infused "zombie" Tarantulas in the Botcon comics, and that's a pretty sweet color scheme as well.

At first, I was disappointed that Tarantulas' shoulder pads in robot mode apparently didn't lock into anything and flopped down lifelessly onto his upper arms. However, I think the instructions included didn't mention that his arms are actually on a hinge that pulls out and allows the shoulder pads to securely peg into something. I only found that out after having the toy for a few weeks, and was elated that it was even better than I initially thought! His spider and "cycle" modes both look pretty neat (even if the cycle can't really stand upright unaided) and the transformation is pretty well-engineered.

Some complain that Tarantulas' robot mode hands are permanently stuck in the "underhanded Fist of Indignation" position, but I think it's kind of fitting for the character. It certainly makes for good "laughing manically with arms over head" poses! Transmetal Tarantulas set a high standard of show-accuracy in toys for me that hasn't ever let up and thankfully Hasbro/Takara (after a few stumbling blocks) continues to attempt and maintain it to this day.

1. Scourge (Super Class)
(Robots in Disguise, 2002)

Ha, I said that "Cybertron" Optimus Prime was my favorite Optimus Prime toy and I didn't lie, did I? After all, Scourge here ISN'T Optimus Prime! Sure, this toy may have originated in the "Generation 2" toyline as "Laser" Optimus Prime, but I feel the mold only found its TRUE identity as Scourge/Black Convoy. I did see Laser Optimus Prime languishing in clearance for months in Kaybee Toys at the tail end of Generation 2, but I was on a downturn in my interest for Transformers at the time and never bothered getting him. That original color scheme never really grabbed me, and I really didn't feel I needed ANOTHER Optimus Prime toy at the time.

Fast-forward nearly a decade later and HOLY CRAP, where did this badass mothertrucker come from?? I didn't even recognize this mold as Laser Prime until I read that information on a website that catalogued the various Japanese "Car Robots" toys. It really is amazing what that black and teal color scheme does for this mold, and with its bevy of weapons and fuel-tanker alt-mode, it almost seemed originally INTENDED to be a villain design. Clearly Takara/Hasbro noticed how well this scheme worked too, because from that point on, an evil-color Optimus Prime in black was a staple and expected re-release of virtually all major Optimus toys and probably will be forever.

Scourge as a character is, well... a bit shallow, but when you look this badass, you don't need a whole lot else. The big red translucent sword looks so cool that one barely notices that Laser Optimus Prime's electronics have been gutted from Scourge. The trailer chock-FULL of plastic tools of destruction is one of the best an Optimus mold has ever had.

Scourge has great articulation and presence in robot mode, and even as simple as the transformation is, the way his head swings in and out of a cavity on his torso is a satisfyingly-clever bit of engineering. This toy's robot mode is also the same height as its rival Fire Convoy/RID Optimus Prime's base robot mode and both toys look great opposing one another. Scourge is so good that no remake of him in the last nearly-twenty years has ever come close to improving in ANY way on this original toy.

I have fond memories of going into Toys R'Us one day and finding the only remaining Scourge on the shelf. It was shortly after I had first gotten my driver's license and perhaps one of the first times I had ventured out on my own on the highway. Finding that lone Scourge and buying him was like some fateful reward for exercising my new independence and nascent driving ability. Scourge may not be my favorite Transformers character, but he is in fact my favorite Transformers toy.

And now that we've covered my favorites... it's time for my LEAST favorite Transformers toy of all time!

0. Broadside
(Generation 1, 1986)

There may be worse Transformers toys than Broadside here. There may be, but there are none that I dislike more, because Broadside... can't do ANYTHING right. Broadside FAILS at everything it attempts to do as a toy and I will happily break this down for you. As a third-year G1 toy, articulation was never gonna be high on the list for "pluses" when it comes to Transformers, so I can't really blame Broadside for only having a whopping TWO points of it in his elbows. I will though, because what the hell- he's a friggin' brick.

Broadside is a Triple-Changer, and you'd think that would mean that at least ONE of his modes would be good... but no. He turns into an ugly, awkward-looking jet and a comically-undersized aircraft carrier that would be lucky to serve as a hoverboard for Optimus Primal at best. Broadside's robot mode design is actually a revision of an earlier, uglier design that somehow made it into some cartoon episodes and ALL his Marvel comics appearances. So if you were familiar with Broadside from the comics... sorry, he looks totally different as a toy. If you're familiar with Broadside from the cartoon where, by the way, he's portrayed as HUGE and nearly combiner-sized in robot mode, sorry... he's a regular-sized toy.

I actually acquired a loose G1 Broadside from a friend in the early nineties and was immediately struck by how lifeless and inanimate he was, even for a toy. Like, I wouldn't even use him with my other Transformers toys... I was frankly embarrassed to. He was hid away in shame in my toy box for years until I finally unloaded him during a transaction at a collectibles store in the early 'oughts. I think Broadside ultimately fetched me two additional dollars of store credit.

Broadside's modern "Titans Return" remake is marginally better... in that at least its robot mode has some functional articulation now... but he still couldn't shake the terrible jet or the tiny carrier modes. I never bought the Titans Return version because his robot mode was still too small for my liking as well, and I even liked that mold when it was Alpha Trion and Leo Prime, as mentioned before in this list. Maybe Hasbro/Takara will finally gift Broadside with a properly-huge "Commander" or "Titan" class figure in the future, but until then, Broadside will always stand out to me as the most disappointing Transformers toy(s) ever.

Thank you for reading!


Tuesday, July 28, 2020