Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Fanholes Comic Books Mutha@#$%! Do You Read 'Em #9: Musical Comics!

A Brand New Fanholes Podcast Spin-Off Show! Comic Books Mutha@#$%! Do You Read 'Em?!? Tony, Derek and Justin discuss some Musical Comic Books! Up on deck are the NightCat Special, Shadowman #19 and Kiss Psycho Circus #1! Check it out!

Fanholes Comic Books Mutha@#$%! Do You Read 'Em #9: Musical Comics!

Monday, May 15, 2017

Fanholes Mobile Suit Mondays Episode # 47: Mobile Suit Gundam "The Core Fighter's Escape"

Join Mike, Justin, Tony and Derek as they discuss the seventh episode of the series that started it all, Mobile Suit Gundam, on what is now Fanholes tradition, Mobile Suit Mondays!
Fanholes Mobile Suit Mondays Episode # 47: Mobile Suit Gundam "The Core Fighter's Escape"

Mike's Top 50 Favorite Transformers Characters Part 2: 40-31

40. Rodimus Prime (Animated)
First Appearance- Transformers Animated episode # 30- "TransWarped, Part 1" (2009)

I like Rodimus Prime in general, but this is probably my favorite version of him.  Similarly to Atomizer, he uses a bow and arrows as his primary weapon and even better, his head design appears to be a slight homage to Marvel Comics’ Hawkeye.  So yeah, there’s gonna be some built-in affection right there from me.

This Rodimus actually didn’t get a lot to do in the cartoon.  He showed up in a speaking role (voiced by Judd Nelson!) once, got hit with some Cosmic Rust (as mentioned in Oil Slick’s entry on this list) and that was the end of his involvement with the events of the show.  He did get to star in a short Japanese manga story where his unit- Team Athenia, took on a Rock Lord and Rodimus delivered the coup de grâce in typical hot-blooded style.

There is some interesting background material on this version of Rodimus though, both in and out of universe.  Rodimus was originally intended by the creators of the show to be the “jerk” character who was always hassling Optimus Prime.  However, it was eventually (and rightfully) decided that some viewers would not appreciate Rodimus being cast in such a light.  The guy DOES have his devoted fans after all and I am one of them, although not as BIG a fan as my fellow Fanhole Derek!  So the “jerk” role went to Sentinel Prime, and Rodimus was put on a shelf until they finally decided to use him in Season 3.

Amusingly, his Team Athenia is mostly composed of other characters that were originally going to be used in Animated’s core cast (like Hot Shot instead of Bumblebee and a female Red Alert instead of Ratchet) but were swapped out later in the production process.  Team Athenia; it’s where the unused ideas go!

The essential guide to Transformers Animated- the Allspark Almanac, had a fairly intriguing in-universe write-up on Rodimus too.  It describes (as told by Kup) how Rodimus was a prodigy in the Autobot Academy and his meteoric rise in the ranks led to many labeling him “The Chosen One.”  Kup also expresses concern about the flames painted on Rodimus’ chest, likening them to “the Pit-damned Fallen!”  That stuff obviously made me think of Anakin Skywalker and wondering if, had Animated continued, would Rodimus have traveled down a dark path too?  Maybe not, but it was this kind of attention to creating a detailed, expansive universe for Animated outside of what was seen solely on-screen that gripped the imagination of many a fan.

Rodimus got a decent deluxe-class toy at the very tail-end of Animated's run, squeaking in as a Toys"R"Us exclusive alongside his teammate Ironhide as the last two new figures in the line.  Weirdly, in Animated continuity, Ironhide is YOUNGER than Rodimus.  I wonder if Rodimus calls him "lad"...?

39. Obsidian (Beast Machines)
First Appearance- Beast Machines episode # 20- “Sparkwar, Part 1: The Strike” (2000)

I wasn’t a big fan of Beast Machines, but there were two elements of the show that clicked with me.  One was Cheetor’s character arc, and the other was the introduction of Obsidian and Strika.  That first batch of Vehicon generals were kind of...let’s say...cartoon-y, with on-the-spot defining character traits.  Jetstorm was gabby, Thrust laconic (at least, at first), and Tankor stupid...and most of the first season was spent teasing the fact that they might be existing characters we already knew in new bodies.  Once that mystery was somewhat-unsatisfyingly wrapped up and the second season was well underway, Megatron decided he should get some actual professionals to be his new generals.  Thus, Obsidian and Strika were introduced and they quickly proved their cred, outfoxing the Maximals and luring them into a trap by pretending to be as one-note as their predecessors.

I was never totally comfortable with the claims in the show of Obsidian and Strika being on the winning side of “thousands of wars.”  I mean, if they were so great...how come I had never heard of ‘em???  However, as their characters grew on me over time, I accepted that notion and later fiction would retcon them as being one-time Autobots.  They had simply eschewed the spotlight for their various lofty accomplishments, and preferred to simply fade unnoticed into history.

Obsidian in particular appealed to me, as he was a cold, calculating military strategist and tactician, similar to other favorite characters of mine who are much higher on this list.  He also had a cool name, voice and a unique character design.  When he popped up on the show, it took me an episode or two to realize; hey!  Doesn’t this new guy ALREADY have a toy out on shelves?   How did I miss such a cool-looking design in toy form?

Oh right.

Don’t get me wrong; that basic Obsidian toy is a pretty good mold for that size-class.  It’s been repainted a number of times and you can definitely find it in a better color scheme than that original blinding green.  It just doesn’t reflect the show model as well as it could and I was also disappointed when I read that a larger, more show-accurate Obsidian figure had been planned, but canceled just before Beast Machines ended.

Aside from that original basic toy, Obsidian has had a Botcon exclusive figure retooled from Movie-verse Highbrow that turns into a World War II-era plane.  That alt-mode seems entirely-appropriate for an old military general like Obsidian, but it still wasn’t the definite version of the character that I wanted.  There’s also an upcoming third-party option that looks neat...but doesn’t quite capture the CG show model exactly either.  Maybe one day they’ll finally make the lean, coiled, spidery-fingered version of Obsidian that I demand in toy form, but until then...I guess I’ll have to make do with what’s available.

Obsidian can currently be found as a supporting cast member in Mairghread Scott’s IDW Transformers comic “Till All Are One”, where he serves his usual purpose alongside Strika as military generals of a stern ruler- in this case, Elita One.  He’s like...totally the coolest character in that book, but perhaps I’m just biased... 

38. Dinobot II
First Appearance- Beast Wars episode # 44- “Feral Scream, Part 1” (1999)

Obviously, fans love the original Dinobot and he had the most complete and compelling character arc on Beast Wars.  Megatron loved Dinobot so much that he cloned him; twice!  The first clone was the subject of a somewhat-silly episode in season one, appropriately titled “Double Dinobot.”  That episode ended with the real Dinobot eating his clone and hanging its hide on the wall in his quarters...so...yeah.  However, Dinobot "II" (Hmm, I guess it should be "III", shouldn't it?) had a starring role for half of the third season.

Undoubtedly cottoning to how popular Dinobot had become, the powers-that-be decided to bring him back. I am really not sure how much of that was Hasbro wanting to sell a new Dinobot toy and how much of it was the writers actually wanting to bring him back, but it happened and we got Dinobot II.  I remember Dinobot II was perhaps the last time ever that a toy spoiled me on what was going to happen in a Transformers TV show.  I had read rumors that Dinobot would return in the third season on the Internet but the Transmetal 2 Dinobot figure, gifted to me by a friend for Christmas, was the first time I had tangible confirmation of it.  I got him before I saw the episodes that introduced him, and it lent a certain amount of anticipation for them.

While he had an impressive debut, I did feel like the gravity of Dinobot returning- even as a clone, was somewhat muted in the show.  The cast mostly acknowledged that he was back in some form, quickly got over it, and thereafter Dinobot II just became another dastardly Predacon to them.  Come to find out, we were denied an episode that would have focused exclusively on Dinobot II, a script called “Dark Glass” that dealt with Rattrap trying to restore the original Dinobot in the clone’s body.  Unfortunately, the subject matter was somehow deemed “too mature and dark” by higher-ups, and the show creators were forced to scrap Dark Glass and replace it with the worst Beast Wars episode of all; “Go With The Flow.”

The scrapping of Dark Glass also diluted the finale of Beast Wars, where Dinobot II would betray Megatron and side with Optimus Primal once again.  We all more or less accepted how things went down in “Nemesis, Part 2”, but clearly there was a missing part in the mechanism used to facilitate Dinobot II’s conversion to the “light side.”

However, I think what appeals to me about Dinobot II is that very sense of untapped potential and unexplored ground.  There was so much that could have been done with his fractured psyche; one part the original Dinobot, one part his “half-brother” Rampage, and possibly the genesis of someone entirely new.  Sadly, we were never really given the chance to fully explore that in the series and presently, most people would rather just talk about the original Dinobot anyhow.  Dinobot II simply...missed the boat to becoming a more fully-realized character.  I did like that metallic grate they added to performer Scott McNeil’s voice in post; really helped sell the “artificial” nature of the character without being too obvious.

That Transmetal 2 deluxe toy is alright...although I feel like it doesn’t do as much justice as it could to the CG character model.  Dinobot II had some real menacing heft and presence to him on the show, and the toy doesn’t quite sell that...but I guess that’s really just the fault of the animators beefing the basic design up on-screen.  I really like the whole “skeletal raptor” thing Dinobot II’s got going on, which works both visually and thematically.  The laser-eye monocle, hand-claws, and rapid healing factor kind of evoke some kind of badass Terminator/Predator hybrid-thing.  In fact, the episode “Proving Grounds” where Dinobot II hunts Blackarachnia in a forest setting is affectionately referred to by one of my close friends as “the Predator episode of Beast Wars.”

With a Masterpiece toy of the original Dinobot on the way, I seriously doubt we’ll get a new version of Transmetal 2 Dinobot in the near future.  He did receive a bizarre homage in the Prime: Beast Hunters line with the Ratchet figure...although I couldn’t tell you what Ratchet has to do with Dinobot.

37. Sideswipe (Movie)
First Appearance- Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009)

Hey, it’s Stabby McWheelfeet!  That’s what the Transformers Wiki affectionately calls Movie Sideswipe at least, and it’s a pretty fair assessment of him.  His key design attributes are his arm-mounted swords and having wheels for feet...so, there ya go.  Sideswipe’s on-the-roll fighting style in the films is pretty eye-catching...at least for the few scenes he has.  As a warborn Autobot, he’s mercilessly efficient in combat and has no issues with taking out fleeing enemies...just ask Sideways.  His arm-swords are his primary weapons, but he’s not hesitant to switch to firearms either, as evidenced by the “Mexican stand-off” scene in Dark of the Moon.

As far as personality goes, well...just like most other Movie characters, you pretty much have to rely on tie-in fiction for this guy.  He’s kind of a merge of G1 Sideswipe and Sunstreaker into one individual, being an impulsive street fighter as well as kind of a vain jerk.  The IDW comics also added in a rivalry with the Decepticon Demolishor for him- Demolishor having once destroyed an Autobot colony that Sideswipe was charged with defending.  It was all shades of Beast Wars Depth Charge and Rampage, except Sideswipe never gets a chance to settle the rivalry himself.  As you may know, Optimus Prime himself was the one to put Demolishor down at the beginning of Revenge of the Fallen while Sideswipe was busy bisecting Sideways.  This bothered me enough that I once wrote a Transformers: Mosaic fan-comic that attempted to address this disconnect.

The IDW comics also gave Ironhide and Sideswipe a long-standing mentor/pupil relationship similar to G1 Hot Rod and Kup, although in present day Sideswipe had since become resentful of his former teacher and dismissive of his counsel.  The two work together quite well though, both in the comics and in Dark of the Moon (the aforementioned Mexican stand-off) and it would have been nice to see some kind of reaction from Sideswipe over Ironhide’s death at Sentinel Prime’s hands.  However, that would be asking for Michael Bay to actually care about the Transformers’ character development in the films, which would JUST BE CRAZY.

There is a subtle, although likely unintentional, notion that Sideswipe has since taken up Ironhide’s role as Optimus Prime’s battlefield second later in Dark of the Moon.  Sideswipe is suddenly the one giving orders to the other Autobots in Prime’s absence during the final battle of that movie, which is just what you’d expect Ironhide to be doing were he still there.  Gotta take what you can get, I guess.  And as long as we’re headcanon-ing...there’s no WAY Sideswipe died off-screen between Dark of the Moon and Age of Extinction- I don't care WHAT your stupid trading cards say, Frasier!!

As far as toys go, Sideswipe, like most on-screen Movie guys, has had quite a few.  I liked his original Revenge of the Fallen deluxe figure and the later “Sidearm” version that emphasized his firearms over his blades.  They’re both solid figures but they somehow didn’t quite precisely capture the sleekness of his CGI character model and seemed a little too chunky to me.  None of the other available Sideswipe toys looked like they fit my admittedly-picky tastes either and I even bought the non-transforming “Robot Replica” figure of him in an attempt to correct that nagging dissatisfaction.  I certainly wouldn’t say no to another new Movie Sideswipe figure somewhere down the pipe, and with the Movie line not going anywhere for awhile, I’m sure I’ll get another chance one day.

Damn, he’s good...

36. Guzzle (G1)
First Appearance- Marvel Transformers UK # 152 (1988)

Guzzle’s spot on this list is owed entirely to his portrayal in IDW’s “Last Stand of the Wreckers” mini-series.  Before that, Guzzle was just some short tank dude with a character design vaguely more interesting than his two Sparkabot teammates and who somehow managed to become one of the last seven surviving Autobots in an alternate future in Marvel US # 67.  However, Nick Roche and James Roberts took this cute little guy and made him a bit more memorable.

By the second issue of Last Stand, we pretty much knew what the deal was with the other three rookie Wreckers, but all we knew about Guzzle was that he was short and trigger-happy.  His motivation for joining the team and the sinister connection between him and Kup was revealed in issue three, and suddenly all his scenes and dialogue in the previous couple issues had to be reexamined from a different angle.

See, Kup once murdered a bunch of Guzzle’s friends when he was temporarily-insane, and Guzzle just can’t let that go.  This reveal was a great storytelling moment, even if the writers still had to use an editor's note to refer back to those events in Spotlight: Kup just in case it wasn't obvious.  While there wasn’t space to wrap up this subplot in Last Stand, it eventually came to its stark conclusion in the sequel series “Sins of the Wreckers” and...well...these things never end happy when it comes to the Wreckers.

That aside, I like Guzzle.  He's a simple guy with simple tastes, violent as they may be, and he made a good foil for Impactor, Kup, Ironfist or anyone he was paired up with.  Nick Roche and Guido Guidi gave him a lot of personality with their visuals, and I still want a new toy inspired by that first, stout Roche design.  Guzzle did receive a homage toy in the Movie-verse line, but it was not quite what I had in mind.  And his original G1 toy is...uh...a thing.

Make a new Legends class G1 Guzzle, Hasbro!  And make sure to include his signature handgun- "The Judge" this time!

35. Rampage (G1)
First Appearance- The Transformers episode # 70- "Five Faces of Darkness, Part 5" (1986)

Most people would probably name the Beast Wars guy their favorite Transformer named “Rampage”, but not me!  I do like BW Rampage, but I liked THIS guy ever since I first read his Marvel Transformers Universe profile.  G1 Rampage is excitable and aggressive...until he is put in front of a TV, and then he's completely transfixed by Earth television shows.  This seemed so awesomely ridiculous to me that I once had to write a Transformers Mosaic fan-comic about it, which was realized in art by several talented collaborators, including my fellow Fanhole and Bottalker Tony Jackson.

That aspect of Rampage is kind of emblematic of the G1 Predacons in general; badass on the surface, but when you honestly look at their given personalities and “accomplishments” in fiction...you'll see that they’re actually kind of a bunch of failure-prone goofballs.  I mean, sure- they’ve taken on Megatron himself on a number of occasions...but they’ve never really actually beaten him or anything.  They were Sky Lynx's chew-toys in the original cartoon and the only fights their combined form Predaking has ever actually WON in-canon were against fellow Decepticon combiners Bruticus and Piranacon.

The Predacons simply just LOOK awesome and cool and that’s pretty much contributed to their inflated fan aura and reputation.  Of course, you could say that about a LOT of Transformers characters, so maybe I’m just being harsh...but then, I do like taking the piss out of severely-overrated guys. 


I do think Rampage is the second-coolest-looking Predacon after Razorclaw and he is the only individual G1 Predacon toy I've ever had my hands on for any extended amount of time.  An old childhood friend owned him and I can remember enjoying playing with the figure and marveling at how much bigger Rampage was than your average gestalt team member toy.  Maybe one day Hasbro will make some new G1 Predacons...but there certainly are enough super-expensive third party options out there now!

One last thing; when Don Figueroa redesigned the Predacons in IDW to give them Cybertronian vehicle modes, he made Rampage a treaded catapult.  Get it?  CAT-a-pult!!  Haw!

34. Scavenger (Armada)
First Appearance- Dreamwave Transformers: Armada # 1 (2002)

Scavenger debuted on the Armada cartoon wearing a giant cool-ass cloak/poncho, and as I mentioned in my entry for Lockdown- robots wearing cloaks are almost always awesome to me.  Like Lockdown, he was also an unaligned mercenary and he talked some serious smack to Megatron and Megatron just sat there and took it like a little bi- ...errrrr, like a perfect gentleman.

He was employed by the Decepticons for a span of episodes and frequently pointed out how incompetent they were.  Of course, we already knew by that point thanks to the toy and the Armada comic that Scavenger was actually an Autobot, so there was no real surprise when he revealed that on the show.  Still, for a while there he was an intriguing wildcard who had even been Optimus Prime’s mentor once upon a time.  It would have been cool if they let that set-up run for a little longer than it did, and Scavenger and Optimus were forced to clash in a more serious manner.

Once he permanently joined the Autobots, Scavenger became a mentor to kid-appeal character Hot Shot.  Even though Scavenger was voiced by Ward Perry and not Scott McNeil in the English dub, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Piccolo from Dragon Ball Z.  I mean, he wore a cloak, was green, and was a mentor for the “kid” character.  Being that Piccolo is my favorite Dragon Ball character, that archetype obviously appealed to me.

I also enjoyed how Scavenger used the bulldozer treads that made up his arms in robot mode as part of his hand-to-hand fighting style.  He was certainly more distinct in general on the cartoon than he was in the Dreamwave comic.  In the comics, Scavenger’s just some rando Autobot whose most notable scene was losing a game of “chicken” against the tank-mode Decepticon Demolishor.  C’mon dude, you’re a literal bulldozer!

In whatever case, Scavenger’s got a great character design and a color scheme (and name) that homages the Generation 1 Constructicons.  It’s kind of funny that his English name is Scavenger and his Japanese name is “Devastor”, or Devastator.  So in the West he has the name of the wimpiest Constructicon and in the East he has the name of the ULTIMATE BADASS Constructicon!  His toy has some of the more involved sound gimmicks of the Armada line, although they come at the cost of any kind of leg articulation.  Still, “walking” Scavenger around and making that stomp-y noise is super-fun.  I wouldn't mind an updated version of him with more articulation in the future, but he’s probably quite far down the list of potential “Unicron Trilogy” figure remakes.


(Toy gimmick clip courtesy of - JTMitchell87's toy reviews)

33. Snarl (BW)
First Appearance- Beast Wars: The Gathering # 1 (2006)

I remember first becoming aware of Beast Wars Snarl when my cousins bought him back in 1997.  I hadn’t ever seen the toy before in stores and it was a time when you couldn’t always find everything on the Internet.  I was struck by two things; one- he had the name of my favorite G1 Dinobot...and two- he was (supposedly) a Tasmanian devil.  I thought it was a neat idea for a beast mode, even though nowadays...most have realized that Snarl doesn’t really even look like a Tasmanian devil.  His beast mode more actually resembles a similar Tassie marsupial predator- the quoll.  But hey...when I was twelve it didn’t really matter- all I wanted was the toy.

I never found it in a store during the run of Beast Wars and just settled for playing with Snarl whenever I was at my cousins’ house.  It was a decent little basic figure, even though the “air launch” gimmick never really worked that well.  You could supposedly propel Snarl’s beast mode forward thanks to a spring-loaded mechanism in his...uhm, butt.  However, it never really sent him sliding forward more than an inch or two.

Flash-forward to 2006, and Snarl received his first real fictional appearance in IDW’s “The Gathering” mini-series.  Simon Furman portrayed him as a youthful and restless little guy, but also one who was totally competent, independent, and a real asset to Razorbeast’s team.  Snarl could turn invisible like G1 Mirage and he ended up being instrumental to most Maximal victories in both The Gathering and its sequel series “The Ascending."  In short, he was a pretty cool and capable dude and I decided I finally had to go track one down and buy him...which I did off eBay.  People like to call that “The Furman Effect”, where he makes a seemingly run-of-the-mill toy into a striking fictional character, prompting people to suddenly develop an interest in buying it.  I had always wanted a Snarl of my own, but The Gathering certainly lit the fire under my ass to track one down years later.

Snarl’s character model and toy were used in Japan for their Beast Wars II series, as a new character named “Tasmania Kid."  Tasmania Kid was kind of the “Hot Rod/Cheetor” archetype of Beast Wars II, and he does share Snarl’s youth and exuberance.  He didn’t quite always pull his weight on the battlefield though, and ironically...Snarl was probably what Tasmania Kid would eventually mature into after some experience and tempering.  There’s enough similarity between the characters that I personally would have just merged them into the same guy when IDW decided to introduce elements from the Japanese series into their Beast Wars stories.  Unfortunately, they didn’t go in that direction, and so Snarl and Tasmania Kid remain two different, if quite similar characters.

Like I mentioned, Snarl does have the name of my favorite G1 Dinobot, which I was mostly okay with as there were a lot of name reuses in Beast Wars.  However, to cut down on the name recycling that had since become rampant in the Transformers franchise in general, the writers of the “Beast Wars: Uprising” series of prose stories would instead use Snarl’s Italian name “Diablo” for him when he was briefly mentioned.  I kinda like that name for him; it seems fitting and it does make the character more unique.  A lot cooler than “Tasmania Kid” in whatever case!  And what was Diablo’s claim to fame in Uprising?  Killing the Micromaster Erector while in his cloaked mode.

I guess nothing kills an Erector like an invisible Tasmanian devil in the room.

32. Hardhead (G1)
First Appearance- Marvel Transformers: Headmasters # 1 (1987)

Much like his fellow Autobot tank Guzzle, this spot on my list is owed to Hardhead’s portrayal in the IDW comics, most specifically under Simon Furman.  Hardhead was introduced into IDW continuity as part of the reinforcements for Optimus Prime’s team of Earthbound Autobots alongside Hot Rod and Nightbeat.  Those two already had solo stories in the Spotlight series by that point and were fairly popular characters on their own, but Hardhead was a relatively-surprising addition to the main cast.

Up until IDW, Hardhead had just been your standard generic gung-ho Autobot who happened to be a Headmaster.  The most lasting memory I had of him before IDW was pretty much Hardhead getting stepped on by Unicron in the landmark issue # 75 of the original Marvel US comic run.  In the Japanese Headmasters cartoon, he once got drunk and sung karaoke, but other than those moments...he wasn’t the most unique guy.

In IDW's "Spotlight: Hardhead", Simon Furman developed the character into a sort of Winston Wolf-type guy- someone who “solves problems” for the Autobots.  Hardhead makes troubles go away and gives the higher-ups some measure of plausible deniability.  In that issue, Hardhead is forced to put down his mind-controlled comrade Nightbeat.  Normally I’d be down on that kind of thing (especially since Nightbeat is another favorite character of mine and farther up this list!) but it was a truly-effective dramatic moment in the story and Nightbeat had even previously ASKED Hardhead to do it if he started displaying signs of being controlled.  Too often in fiction, I had seen characters in that situation back down from killing their friend and ending up making things even worse for everyone, so seeing Hardhead make the hard choice earned him some cred with me.

Writers that followed Furman on IDW mostly downplayed this aspect of Hardhead and just focused on portraying him as a career soldier, but I have still maintained my fascination with that initial conceit.  Nowadays, Autobots that skirt that line of morality and live in the gray area are a dime-a-dozen, but back then it was actually kind of refreshing and made Hardhead stand out more as a character in general.

In fact, I can’t help but hear actor Patrick Warburton's voice when I read IDW Hardhead’s lines.  He reminds me of Brock Samson from Venture Bros. and even has that same kind of perpetual frown-y thing going on.  If Hardhead is ever included in some new animated project, they should totally get Warburton to voice him!

As far as toys go, Hardhead’s had several by now and they’re all pretty decent.  Never owned his original G1 Headmaster figure, but his ‘08 Universe Ultra-class toy was a nice attempt to capture his then-current IDW design that had an APC vehicle mode.  That toy was originally made as Combaticon Onslaught and was just straight-up repainted, so I had to buy a third-party upgrade kit to give Hardhead his proper head design.  Likewise, his most current “Titans Return” deluxe figure closely homages his original toy...right down to the usually-unused-in-fiction head design.  I preferred the visored head design that originated with character model artist Floro Dery and which was used in the Sunbow cartoon, and Marvel and IDW comics.  So of course, I had to purchase a Shapeways reproduction of the preferred face to replace the official one.

I guess my caveat to “Hardhead’s had several decent toys” is “-except for the heads, which I have to replace at my own expense!”

31. Injector
First Appearance- Beast Wars: The Gathering # 1 (2006)

The picture above is probably what most people are familiar with when it comes to ol’ Fishbughead.  Injector is well-known across the fandom for being a hideous shelf-clogger.  I say “being”, present-tense, because it’s quite likely one can still find boxed Injectors hanging on a retail peg SOMEWHERE in the United States to this day.  Kids just didn't go crazy for the whole bee-with-a-lionfish-head thing...go figure.  For my part, I could walk into a Kaybee Toys when that was still a thing and find Injector on a peg well after Robots in Disguise had ended its run on shelves, some four or five years after his initial release.

I actually did buy Injector when he was new though, and frankly...I think he’s a pretty neat figure!  He's got an opening mouth in his robot mode thanks to the transformation, which allowed for all sorts of “screaming” poses.  That, combined with the splaying head-fin gimmick, always made me imagine he had some kind of sonic attack and his bee stinger could become a well-integrated arm weapon for him.  I always had a lot of fondness for Injector, and thought he and Sky Shadow (his fellow deluxe Predacon Fuzor) complimented each other well visually.  Both of those figures had a lot of somewhat-gaudy personality in their designs, but Sky Shadow is usually spared from the scorn Injector receives.  I guess it’s because Sky Shadow just looks cooler in general...but Injector still seems more unique to me.

Injector's toy bio paints him as incredibly vain, which I thought was pretty funny and ironic.  He's largely considered one of the most ugly Beast Era designs by everyone, but he personally thinks he's beautiful.  The IDW Beast Wars Sourcebook write-up on him tries to rework that as “Injector secretly knows he's ugly, but acts vain to cover it up”, which is not really as fun.  Most people ignore a lot of stuff from the Beast Wars Sourcebook anyhow, and as far as Injector goes, so do I.

Injector’s character model and toy were reused across the pond in Japan’s Beast Wars Neo series as “Rartorata”- don’t ask me what the hell that name means.  Rartorata was an agent of Unicron alongside recolors of two of his fellow Fuzors, including Sky Shadow.  Their grotesque chimeric forms certainly seem suited to serving a god of chaos, so good eye, Takara.  In the IDW Beast Wars series "The Ascending", Injector even gets to fight Rartorata and refuses to acknowledge their clear resemblance when pressed on it. Injector's one of a kind, foo!

In any case, I’ll always have some positive regard for Mr. Fishbug, and I’m not alone; IDW writer Mairghread Scott has professed love for Injector as well, so perhaps he’ll get a starring role in Transformers comics one day.  Until then, just know that there are probably still enough Injectors out there on retail shelves to wipe out humanity...so be nice to that toy.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Big In Japan Episode #2: Lupin III (Blue Jacket)

An All-New All-Anime Podcast on the Fanholes Podcast Network! Fanholes Presents, Big In Japan! This week Justin, Mike, Tony and Derek discuss the first episode of the Lupin III (Blue Jacket) series!

Big In Japan Episode #2: Lupin III (Blue Jacket)

Friday, May 5, 2017

Mike's Top 50 Favorite Transformers Characters Part 1: 50-41

I love Transformers.  It's my favorite fictional thing...ever.  It was officially born the same year I was and in those thirty-something years, there have been hundreds, perhaps thousands of characters in the Transformers Universe.  And these are my top 50 favorite ones, which I'll be doling out in five installments of this list.

First, a disclaimer; this isn't a "BEST" list of the greatest or most iconic Transformers in the franchise- these are the ones near and dear to my geeky heart for one reason or another.  It might be because of what they did in a piece of fiction, it might be because I love the toy, or it might even be they remind me of myself!

With that said, come on this journey with me!

50. Atomizer
First Appearance- "Bullets", text story in Last Stand of the Wreckers trade (2010)

This asshole.

Atomizer's an original character created by James Roberts for the IDW comics.  He was first mentioned in a text story in the back of the "Last Stand of the Wreckers" trade paperback, and later became a crew member of the Autobot spaceship, the Lost Light.

As a huge fan of Marvel Comics character Hawkeye, how can I not like another dude who wields a bow and arrow?  He's got a cool design and I'm also usually drawn to those morally ambiguous wetworks-type characters.  Atomizer is said to have been a former assassin, is buds with Getaway (who is higher on this list), and he's clearly been in my favorite guy Prowl's employ at some point. (Did I just spoil my number one pick already?? OH NO.)

Also, Atomizer's something of a writing critic (obviously a personal quirk of mine), and while some may loathe his guts for helping to try and get "beloved" Lost Light mascot Tailgate murdered, I'm not one of those people.  In actuality, I'd consider trying to get Tailgate killed a service, considering I've never really cared for that little white and blue ball of obnoxiousness.

I'd love an actual figure of him in the future- a new mold, retool or whatever...as long as he comes with some kind of arrow-shooting weapon.

49. Starscream (Movie)
First Appearance- IDW Transformers Movie Prequel # 1 (2007)

I'll say something that I'm sure will be shocking; I've never been a huge fan of ANY version of Starscream.  I mean, I'm fine with him...but he's just never been a favorite character of mine.  However, this version of Starscream was one I actually became invested in, and that's completely down to the 2008 IDW mini-series "Reign of Starscream" by Chris Mowry and Alex Milne.  We had Starscream-centric stories before in the past, but this was a five-issue series told almost completely from Starscream's point of view that really fleshed out this incarnation in a way that none of the other movie fiction did at that point.  Certainly not the actual Michael Bay movie itself, which allotted THREE lines to the guy, and one was in Cybertronian.

In Reign of Starscream, the titular character was written as an intelligent, competent warrior with his own plan for the Decepticons.  The first issue basically tells his perspective of the events of the '07 movie and we get a real sense that the Decepticons in this universe might be better off with Megatron staying dead.  Later in the series, Starscream comes very close to succeeding where Megatron failed and then has to deal with his own "Starscream" as his subordinate Dreadwing betrays him.  The whole way through, the reader is practically made to root for Starscream and hope he overcomes the difficulties put in his path.  He was quite surprisingly a charismatic, compelling protagonist throughout the story.

And his entrance to take on the Decepticon deserter Wreckage in the follow-up comic series "Alliance" is pretty badass.

Sadly, this version of Movie Starscream is pretty much limited to the writing of Chris Mowry.  Virtually every other appearance of him, particularly the subsequent films, paints him as either a mewling, cowardly sycophant or a generally hopeless wannabe leader.  Ah well.

His Leader Class toy (which was released under the "Masterpiece" line in Japan) is pretty awesome, and one of my favorite Transformers toys ever.  Sure, you've got to get past the fact of...well...Movie Starscream's very odd character design, but if you can accept that, you'll find that the Leader Class figure is one of the most accurate representations of an on-screen character in toy form ever.  I dig the "tribal tats" he gave himself after the first movie (as seen in the aforementioned Alliance mini-series.)  He's even got sound clips and they're weirdly adorable.

“No one can defeat Stah-scweam!” 

48. Oil Slick (Animated)
First Appearance- Transformers Animated: The Arrival # 3, second story "Bots of Science" (2008)

Here's an odd guy.  Oil Slick was created by the Animated toy design team, and the staff of the cartoon didn't even know he existed until production had already begun on the first season.  I've listed his first fictional appearance above, but Oil Slick first appeared in the public eye on a toy shelf.  I scooped up his toy because...well, check him out!  What a cool-looking, distinct Decepticon; the domed head, the elongated arms, the chain-n'-barrel weapon...this guy has got some serious personality in his design.  Without even knowing a thing about him, you can probably guess his schtick just by looking at him.

Oil Slick's a "chemical warrior", who enjoys employing various deadly liquids against his foes.  His first fictional appearance, the above-mentioned comic story, featured Ratchet encountering him lying sick and dying on a Cybertronian battlefield littered with the corpses of those who died in a biological attack.  Ratchet, being the good medic that he is, helps cure Oil Slick only to be immediately betrayed and infected with Cosmic Rust by the Decepticon.  Turns out, Oil Slick was the one who unleashed the Cosmic Rust on enemies and allies alike, just to see what would happen!  He accidentally was hit with some of his own weapon in the process, and if not for Ratchet being a good Samaritan, would have perished along with the rest.

This comic story was later adapted into a kid's read-along book.  Let me repeat that so you hear it properly; THIS STORY ABOUT AN EVIL DECEPTICON WHO UNLEASHED A LETHAL CHEMICAL ATTACK ON HIS OWN COMRADES WAS ADAPTED INTO A CHILDREN'S BOOK.  Makes you wonder if that sort of thing would even fly today, just under ten years later...but Hasbro's never been shy about putting their stamp of approval on lots of horrific, violent things in Transformers.  They're just robots, after all!

In whatever case, Oil Slick eventually made it onto the cartoon in Season 3, although it was mostly just a brief cameo.  Phil LaMarr did his best George Takei impression in voicing his one line, and Oil Slick even got to infect Rodimus Prime with Cosmic Rust.  He might have had a bigger role in the aborted fourth season of Animated, as a new character model was made for him with bigger and more menacing-looking chemical weapon dispensers, but sadly we'll never know.  However, for having a great design, a cool toy, and making the most of his limited fictional appearances, Oil Slick certainly left an impression on me.

 47. Crosscut (G1 Autobot)
First Appearance- Transformers Botcon 2002 special comic "Enter the Wreckers, Part 2: Betrayal"

Crosscut was an exclusive Japanese redeco of Skids that utilized one of the other Diaclone heads originally made for the pre-Transformers toy mold.  He and his fellow exclusive Road Rage actually have the distinction of being the first two brand-new characters added to the Generation 1 era since the original line ended.  His Japanese bio paints him as an Autobot diplomat who serves as "first contact" for the Autobots with many alien races.

However, I didn't really care about him until James Roberts added him to the crew of the Lost Light and invented a new occupation and personality for him.  IDW's Crosscut is known for being the Cybertronian Senator who "liberated the city of Petrex with wise words and a shovel", so I guess he was one of the very few non-douchebag Senators back when there was a Senate.  He's often drawn in scenes holding his trademark shovel, and once I got the 2014 Generations toy version of him, I had to also find a miniature shovel that he could carry around.

However, the attribute of IDW Crosscut that made me like him is that he's also a playwright and regularly performs his work aboard the Lost Light.  I dabbled in theater in high school and the bits that Roberts writes for Crosscut in regards to that usually earn a bemused smirk from me and have led to me making things like this-

His Generations toy is quite a good mold too, brimming with weapons.  But all Crosscut really needs is a sturdy shovel!

46. Ultra Magnus (Prime)
First Appearance- Transformers: Exodus novel (2010) 

Ultra Magnus is my favorite character on Transformers: Prime and I'd go so far to say that he is probably my favorite incarnation of the character across all continuities period.  He's pretty much an amalgamation of every other major version of Ultra Magnus and voiced on the cartoon by a man with one of the most badass voices of all-time, Michael Ironside.

Prime's Ultra Magnus is subcommander of the Autobots like he is in G1 most of the time, a spearhead for the Wreckers like he is in Marvel and Dreamwave continuities, a roving law-enforcer and stickler for rules and regulations like his IDW-self, and usually wields a big hammer like his Animated-self.  I was not really an avid watcher of Transformers: Prime for its first two seasons, but once this guy showed up, I watched the show every week just to get a dose of Ultra Ironside.  Sadly, he got taken out early in Predacons Rising, the "movie" finale of Prime and had to spend the rest of it on a hospital bed.  LAME.

He gets his hand destroyed by Predaking midway through Prime's third season and winds up with a replacement claw...which was kind of cool actually and gave him a sort of trademark of his own.  I bought a Shapeways replication of that claw for the Voyager class "Beast Hunters" figure, which is probably the most accurate toy version of this Ultra Magnus- particularly the Japanese "Adventure" repaint of it.  The only thing that sucks about that Voyager toy is that the hammer he comes with is small and non-threatening- it looks like Magnus is going to play croquet or something instead of smashing fools into paste.  There are some third-party options for a larger, more-accurate hammer, but they're mostly out-of-production and way expensive nowadays.  Gargh, why must cool accessories cost more than the actual figure itself???

There are a lot of other toys though; thanks to Prime's relatively-small cast, everyone got multiple figures at multiple size classes and this Ultra Magnus has no less than five different figures across four size-classes, if not more.

As Magnus himself would put it- "Your options are looking...robust."

45. Scourge (Robots in Disguise)
First Appearance- Transformers: Car Robots episode 14 ""Foe? Friend!? Black Convoy"/Transformers: Robots In Disguise episode 14 "The Decepticons" (2000/2001)

Scourge isn't the first evil Optimus Prime duplicate, but he is certainly the one who defined the role.  In all honesty, I don't have any particularly strong feelings about his portrayal in the cartoon...basically his whole characterization was "he's angry most of the time."  He even named his blade "Sword of Fury" and was often wont to swing it around in a rage.  He wanted to take leadership from Megatron, he tried, he failed, and then got reprogrammed to be completely loyal.  The end.  Not much scope for character growth there.  He had a cool English dub voice though- R.I.P. Mr. Barry Stigler.

Still, there's a lot to be said for style, and Scourge looks absolutely awesome.  I always liked his English name and thought it was quite fitting for a corrupted duplicate of Optimus Prime.  He could have been hated by his allies for looking like their greatest enemy and hated by his enemies for looking like their greatest hero- he's a "Scourge" of Autobot and Decepticon alike!  Unfortunately that's not really how he played out in the actual show but it would have been a cool way to go with him.  Activate headcanon!

The thing that REALLY puts him on this list is his original toy, a redeco of the Generation 2 Laser Optimus Prime mold.  It is easily one of my favorite Transformers toys of all time.  That mold looks so much more appropriate as a bad guy, and is jam-packed with weapons.  The transformation is simple, yet elegant- the way the head swings around into or out of his stomach has always been a cool bit of engineering to me.  He's in perfect scale with RID Optimus Prime and now with the more recent Unite Warriors release of his buddies, the "Commandos", he's got an appropriately-big Ruination/Baldigus to hang with too!

His original toy is also infamous for having some of the WORST stock photography ever on the box.

If you've owned Scourge, you can see above that it must have been a truly amazing and heroic effort to fail so hard at transforming him.  The guy who did it must have also given his transformation difficulty ranking too.  "3 out of 4?"  C'mon, he's a 1.5 at BEST if you've ever actually held a Transformer in your life.

44. Crosshairs (Age of Extinction)
First Appearance- Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014)

The live-action films have traditionally, with few exceptions, just tagged old names on Transformers and expected our nostalgia to do the rest.  Except...no, we didn't give a crap about Jazz dying in the first movie because he wasn't so much a character as a stereotype and we barely spent any time with him.  The writers didn't get much better with subsequent movies, but I can say that Age of Extinction easily had the most well-defined Autobot cast, at least personality-wise.  And Crosshairs was my favorite new character of the bunch.

Crosshairs was the acerbic wisecracker and cynic of the group, a sharpshooter and a saboteur, and not entirely convinced of either the Autobot cause or any kind of worth in humanity.  He was basically Rattrap, if Rattrap were green and had a faux-trench coat made of car kibble.  That's probably more than I could tell you about any other Autobot save Optimus Prime in any of the three other movies.  Voiced by the lovably-gruff John DiMaggio (bite his shiny metal ass), Crosshairs had virtually all my favorite lines in the movie, describing loyalty to Optimus Prime as "some kinda brainwashing or something!" and casually reminding the humans that on top of all the other lethal dangers in Lockdown's ship...they should also beware of radiation.

Crosshairs was also quite cool to watch in action, and I actually like the weird "trench coat and goggles" look he's got going on.  He's simply quite distinct on every level and it's nice to have a guy named "Crosshairs" who has demonstrated his skills with firearms in actual fiction.  I mean, G1 Crosshairs is fine and all, but he's never really done anything impressive with his given occupation and skill set in anything yet.  The other Movie-verse Crosshairs- the repaint of Energon Strongarm, just somewhat-inharmoniously carried around a giant axe as his primary weapon.  However, AOE Crosshairs has got some mad skillz.

His deluxe AOE toy is alright...I liked it enough to spring for the better-painted Takara one when it decreased in price eventually.  Supposedly we're getting a retooled and improved version of Crosshairs in The Last Knight toy line, but I guess we'll see just HOW improved.  Gotta give the toy designers credit for getting the "trench coat" to work without inhibiting articulation and you can even store the little sticky-bombs (they're sticky-bombs, NOT tiny pistols) he comes with inside it.  I wouldn't mind a larger, "Human Alliance"-style version of Crosshairs, but the deluxe is a pretty decent mold if you're into that kind of thing.

43. Lockdown
First Appearance- Transformers Animated episode 7- "The Thrill of the Hunt" (2008)

"Badass bounty hunter" is a pretty popular archetype in science fiction, and over its long life, the Transformers franchise has had a few of them.  The first was probably Death's Head, Simon Furman's original character that he introduced back in Marvel UK stories to fill the bounty hunter role because...well, there were no real strictly-bounty hunter-type characters in Transformers at that point.  Death's Head is one of my personal favorite comic book characters...but despite him originating in Transformers, I've disqualified him from this list.  Hey, he can go play in the Marvel universe and wait for those writers who think he's awesome to elevate him in stature any time!  Besides, Animated Lockdown's ship is named "the Death's Head", which is a fitting tribute.  Aside from Death's Head, there's also Devcon and Axer in terms of other Transformers bounty hunters, but neither of them really ever gained enough traction with fans.

Enter Lockdown; created as a recurring bad guy for Transformers Animated and quickly striking a chord with viewers.  Thanks to a transplant into Movie continuity and a starring role in Age of Extinction, he's since become the premiere bounty hunter in the Transformers multiverse.  Aside from that, he's also been dropped into G1 continuity as of the IDW comics and is even in the current "Earth Wars" mobile game.  The overall concept is just too popular to let go of.

This entry is mostly for Animated Lockdown, the first and best version of him...but he's so dang similar in other continuities that I felt it was silly to leave the other versions out.  I was actually disappointed they didn't get Lance Henriksen back to voice the character in Age of Extinction...he certainly gave Lockdown a distinct personality.  Speaking of personality, I really like it when robots wear capes or cloaks...just something cool and absurd about it, and I custom'd up a "space poncho" for my Lockdown toys (it fits both the Animated and Revenge of the Fallen figures) so he can look all Clint Eastwood-y.

His original Animated toy is a great (and huge) deluxe, although you might have to do the "wrist-fix" thing to get him perfect.  His Revenge of the Fallen toy is a cool experiment in converting a character between two completely-opposite series design styles, and also probably has the most articulated robot mode neck of any Transformer ever.  It is also abnormally-tall for a deluxe, keeping in tradition with the Animated version.  The Age of Extinction design/toy...well, it's a departure but it has some weird charm of its own, like the B.F.G. head cowling.  Too short though, which is probably why I didn't buy it...Lockdown's gotta be tall!

There's also a few expensive third-party options for the guy, and let's face it; Lockdown as an overall concept is probably not going anywhere soon.  Any sci-fi fan worth their salt loves badass bounty hunters and those fans will keep Lockdown popular for years to come.

"Not bad for a...human."

42. Shockwave (Movie)
First Appearance- Transformers the Game (2007)

My fellow Fanhole and Bottalker Rung once said something to me that I have found to be pretty true over the years; no matter what the design or the series, it's usually a safe bet that any homage to G1 Shockwave will look cool and sometimes be the only toy you actually will pick up from a line that mostly doesn't appeal to you.  That completely applies to me and Shockwave from the Dark of the Moon toyline- he IS the only figure I bought from that iteration of the Movie franchise!

Of course, he's got the usual Movie aesthetic of being much too busy and his alt-mode looks like a pile of scrap metal masquerading as a tank...but honestly, when has any Shockwave had a truly "realistic" alt-mode?  And as far as the robot mode goes, all you really have to do is nail the singular optic and the gun arm and you're 90% the way there to having a good Shockwave design.  So Movie Shockwave does indeed meet the minimum requirements for being a good interpretation of Shockwave...as least in terms of physicality.

As far as personality goes...well, don't look to the actual movie.  Shockwave was basically used as a big fat red herring in Dark of the Moon.  See, they needed to hide the fact that Sentinel Prime was going to end up being the big bad, so virtually all the promotional material sold Shockwave as the next big threat.  However, he uh...didn't really do anything in the film.  Sure, he was fearsome-looking, but he got only one line ("Optimusss...") and his monstrous "Driller" pet did most of the destructive work.  Then Optimus Prime got his murderface on and tore Shockwave's lone eye out through his throat while snarling "YOU DIE!"  I'm still uncertain if Optimus was threatening him or just describing his entire role in DOTM, but that was that for Shockwave on the big screen.

BUT!  There is another reason Shockwave is here, and like with Movie Starscream, it has to do with those lovely folks at IDW.  God-of-all-continuity John Barber wrote a pair of prequel mini-series to Dark of the Moon that heavily featured Shockwave and nailed down his character.  Instead of a cold logician like G1 Shockwave, a temperamental berserker like Energon Shockblast, or a cool and collected double agent like Animated Shockwave, THIS Shockwave is a bloodthirsty assassin who lives to kill.  He's a true sociopath with no empathy for others and only sides with Megatron because Megatron gives him the most opportunity to slaughter other sentient beings.  In fact, the only slight emotional attachment that he appears to possess is to his giant pet Driller, which is completely devoted to him.

Shockwave is a literal murder machine in Barber and Carlos Magno's mini-series "Rising Storm", where he cleans house among the cluttered Movie-verse cast and kills virtually every Movie Autobot character not appearing in Dark of the Moon.  He even kills that one asshole human bureaucrat guy from Revenge of the Fallen whose name I can't be bothered to look up!  It was all somewhat akin to General Grevious' appearance in the Genndy Tartatovsky Clone Wars series in that he was super-badass in tie-in fiction, but his actual appearance in the film itself left a lot to be desired.  Seeing a version of Shockwave (whose G1 version is much, much higher on this list) coldly tear his way through these (let's be honest) no longer on shelf products was some great fun to me.

The way Shockwave kills Elita-1 is possibly one of my most favorite "kills" ever in Transformers fiction.  Elita is on her way from upstate New York to warn Optimus Prime of Shockwave’s surprise attack on their base.  With Soundwave jamming Autobot communications, she drives all the way to Philadelphia where Optimus is engaged on another front, to deliver the news in person.  Meanwhile, having finished slaughtering dozens of Autobots and humans at the Autobot/NEST base, Shockwave takes to Earth orbit and then begins descending again.  After weathering more Decepticon pursuers on her way, Elita finally arrives to the battlefield in Philly and…

S**t, that is some cold slag, son.  Maybe you kind of understand why Mister Optimus pulled the bad man's eye out his throat now, huh?

41. Lio Convoy
First Appearance- Beast Wars II episode # 1- "The New Forces Arrive!" (1998)

Beast Wars II was a series created in Japan to fill a gap in material produced by the West after the first season of Beast Wars.  Season 2 of Beast Wars simply wasn’t long enough to justify a timeslot on Japanese television, so they opted to wait and combine seasons 2 and 3 into “Beast Wars Metals” years later.  In that time gap, two cel-animated series were produced that took place in a different time period and somewhat-different setting than the CG Beast Wars, but still maintained the overall concept of “Transformers that turn into animals.”  While most of the character models for Beast Wars II came from already-existing Beast Wars toys in the West, the leaders of the two factions were given all-new models and thus all-new toys.

Lio Convoy was the leader of the Maximals (or “Cybertrons” in Japan) and in the earlier days of the Transformers Internet fandom, there seemed to be a lot of speculation and/or fan aura surrounding this guy.  I can remember reading several fanfics where writers would re-purpose Lio Convoy as a Beast Era version of Optimus Prime himself, even though he was intended to be a new character.  I know I had similar thoughts upon first seeing pictures of him and figured he had to be more important than Optimus Primal since he looked a lot more like Optimus Prime!  I guess I must have also thought Lion > Gorilla on the beast hierarchy too.  Ironically, Lio Convoy and Optimus Primal WOULD eventually meet up in the Beast Wars II movie, and Primal would be the one who was considered “legendary” in fiction at that point.

People would speculate in those early days over whether Lio's toy would officially be brought over to this side of the ocean.  I mean, you could import him, but buying stuff over the Internet wasn’t as widespread or appealing a prospect back then.  Hasbro eventually opened an official Collectors website that offered him among some other Japanese Beast Wars toys, and eventually with the explosion of eBay’s popularity, Lio Convoy became extremely available for anyone who wanted one.  Like...I remember seeing whole pyramids of him in some hobby shops I’d visit in the early ‘oughts.  Once I finally obtained one, I was...underwhelmed, I guess.  Don’t get me wrong; he’s a fairly-solid toy...but I had spent so many years building Lio Convoy up in my head, that the toy could never meet those expectations.

The character of Lio Convoy himself is also okay, but he’s just your standard Autobot/Maximal/Cybertron commander...pure and good and stern and extra-full of burning justice and the like.  Simon Furman brought him into the US comics with the IDW Beast Wars mini-series and made him the leader of “the Pack”- more or less a Beast Era version of the Autobot commando group, the Wreckers.  That was cool and all, but the character still didn’t really leap out at me again like he originally had when there was more of that mysterious and mostly fan-created aura around him.

What finally DID earn Lio this spot on my list is his usage by Jim Sorenson and David Bishop in their series of prose stories from the (now-defunct) Transformers Collector’s Club.  “Beast Wars: Uprising” is set in an alternate dystopian future (are there any other kinds of alternate futures worth reading about?) where the Maximals and Predacons are forced to battle in gladiatorial games by their now-corrupt and complacent progenitors- the Builders (former Autobots and Decepticons).  It was basically the Hunger Games with Transformers, and Lio Convoy was cast as Katniss (or “Cat-niss”, heh-heh), albeit without the teenybopper love triangle.

Through this compelling series of stories, Lio Convoy leads the Resistance against the Builders’ army of Micromasters and eventually helps fend off a Vehicon apocalypse that they unwittingly unleash.  It was great stuff and while Lio Convoy is the chief focus of only a couple of stories, his presence is always felt as Supreme Commander of the Resistance.  The tough wartime choices Lio makes over the course of the series are sometimes shocking and sometimes heartbreaking, and the reader is always left wondering if he’s gone too far...or not far enough.

It was because of Uprising that I sprung for the Japanese repaint of the Titans Return Alpha Trion toy as Lio Convoy, who eventually wears that body in the latter half of the series.  It basically comes full circle, only this time, I COULD get my hands on that cool-looking Japanese toy over the Internet and this time I was getting it for who Lio Convoy actually was...not for who I thought he could be.


And that's that for the first batch.  Stay tuned for 40-31!