Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Fanholes Episode # 164: Moo Mesa Revival

In the first half of the show, Tony, Mike, Justin and Derek discuss the Netflix Original Animated Series, Voltron Legendary Defender, from DreamWorks Animation and World Events Productions.

Then, Mike and Derek take a lengthy break in a 'Fanholes Figure That!' segment to go over some of their most wanted Marvel Legends!

Finally, Mike and Derek wrap up the episode discussing the recently concluded revival of Samurai Jack! Check it out!

Fanholes Episode # 164: Moo Mesa Revival

Monday, May 29, 2017

Mike's Top 50 Favorite Transformers Characters Part 3: 30-21

30. Bombshell (G1)
First Appearance- The Transformers episode # 15- “A Plague of Insecticons” (1984)

Bombshell is my favorite Insecticon and I can remember really wanting his original toy back when I was much younger.  The closest I ever got for awhile was a trading card of him that featured his toy’s box art, which you can see above.  In the early nineties, I traded an X-Men action figure to a friend for his G1 Bombshell...but then near-immediately traded back the next day because the Bombshell was so rusty and loose that it was basically a marionette.  Still, I have always liked his character design and his distinct gimmick in fiction- the mind-controlling cerebro-shells.

A couple of my cherished childhood Transformers books both revolved around Bombshell using his cerebro-shells to wreak havoc on the Autobots; the painted storybook “Insecticon Attack” and the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novel “Dinobots Strike Back” to be specific.  “Insecticon Attack” in particular featured some creepy visuals and frightened me a bit as a child.  Just look at Grapple’s cold, dead eyes! THEY FOLLOW YOU EVERYWHERE!!!


Bombshell’s voice actor on the original Sunbow cartoon, Michael Bell, always nailed it when it came to that character.  For many of his other characters, Bell would often vary in pitch and performance depending on the episode.  Sideswipe and Scrapper immediately come to mind in terms of this, as sometimes his Sideswipe would sound like his Prowl and sometimes his Scrapper would sound like Prowl...or even Bombshell (seriously, listen to Scrapper in “The Core”, Bell is totally doing his Bombshell voice there!)  However, he always remained consistent with Bombshell himself and the odd effects added to all the Insecticons' voices were very memorable.

In retrospect, my appreciation for Bombshell seems almost like a precursor to my attachment to the Beast Wars character Tarantulas, who is in fact farther up this list.  Bombshell and Tarantulas are both mad scientist bug-guys with creepy voices who sometimes pursue their own agendas in defiance of their leaders and deal in mind-altering “shells”, whether they be the cerebro-shells or the “shell program” that converts Maximals into Predacons.  More than once I wondered if Bombshell could have possibly become Tarantulas in the future...but it’s probably best that they remain separate characters.  Besides, Bombshell already has enough identity problems with fans alternately thinking he was transformed by Unicron into Cyclonus, a Sweep, or “Cyclonus’ armada” in Transformers: The Movie.

Bombshell's most recent Legends Class figure is a pretty good updating of his original toy, and I wouldn't say no to any other new, more-complex versions of him.  Even a version of his “Fall of Cybertron” video game design, despite it being tailored as a bulky “bruiser”-type character, would be cool.

29. Bruticus (G1)
First Appearance- The Transformers episode # 62- “Starscream’s Brigade” (1986)

The Combaticons are altogether my favorite combiner team and Bruticus is my favorite gestalt, so it's nice how that works out!  They debuted in a memorable episode of the original cartoon as a sort of “third faction” led by Starscream as he attempted a coup against Megatron.  The Combaticons combine into Bruticus towards the end of the episode and quickly prove their “new character cred” by completely flattening last year’s model combiner- Devastator.  Only a sneak attack by Menasor defeats Bruticus in the end, and Starscream and the Combaticons are exiled to deep space.  In one of the few non-two-parter stories that still maintained continuity from the last episode, “The Revenge of Bruticus” immediately follows up on the group as they attempt to conquer Cybertron and destroy Earth.

Thanks to so much screen-time and their status as a threat to both the Autobots and Decepticons, the Combaticons made an impression on many, myself included.  Bruticus himself, while not a deep character by any means, was a menacing presence in those first two episodes featuring him and lived up to his status as a gestalt super-warrior.  Of course, after the “new toy smell” had worn off, Bruticus and the Combaticons fell in line with Megatron and became like any other standard Decepticon sub-group.  Bruticus really has some embarrassing follow-up appearances on the cartoon, particularly the dreadful episode “B.O.T.”- where he’s destroyed by a SINGLE SHOT from his Autobot opposite number Defensor.  Still, he had a memorably-rumbly voice- the late great Roger C. Carmel, known to Star Trek fans as space con-man Harry Mudd.

I've always dug Bruticus’ design, although the Floro Dery character model kind of fails at emphasizing its coolest design cues in animation or in the Marvel comics.  Bruticus always looks cooler when an artist hews closer to the original toy’s sharper and more defined angles.  Having many of the individual Combaticons’ alt-mode weapons and attributes prominently displayed on Bruticus’ body gave him a much more menacing silhouette than the other Decepticon gestalts of the day to me.  In fact, Onslaught’s backpack cannons and Vortex’s rotor blades were sometimes utilized by Bruticus as integrated weapons in the combined form.

Bruticus is also a highlight of the G1-inspired Fall of Cybertron video game.  After playing levels as Vortex and Swindle, the Combaticons combine into Bruticus and you’re given control of the most powerful character in the game.  You’re virtually unkillable as Bruticus, with multiple layers of health and shield, and all of his singular attacks are devastating to the smaller enemies in your path.  It’s one of, if not THE funnest level in the campaign, and it lasts for far too brief a time.  The Combaticons in general come off as pretty cool in that game, and they’ve even got some play-time in the somewhat-inferior follow-up game “Rise of the Dark Spark” as well.

The original Combaticons/Bruticus toy molds are known for their longevity, being repainted, retooled, and re-released many times over the years.  I’ve owned at least two versions of the original Bruticus mold, but I’m always tempted to pick him up again when he’s reissued, having a lot of fondness for those toys.  The most current Combiner Wars Combaticons are pretty excellent remakes of the originals...although I had to spring for the Japanese “Unite Warriors” version of them to get the as-of-yet unreleased in the USA shuttle-mode Blast Off.  There’s tons of other official and third-party options for this overall concept too.  Basically, you’re never going to want for options when it comes to Bruticus in toy form and I think that says a lot for his popularity.

28. Chromedome (G1)
First Appearance- Marvel Transformers: Headmasters # 1 (1987) 

One of the original Autobot Headmasters, Chromedome has had some really disparate portrayals across the various G1 continuities.  He was present, but not very prominent in either the Marvel comics or the Sunbow cartoon.  He was, however, virtually the main character of the Japanese Headmasters cartoon, and currently has a HUGE presence in the fandom's collective eyes thanks to IDW’s comics.  I’ve always liked Chromedome’s basic character design, but what initially caught my interest in regards to him was reading his Marvel Transformers Universe profile.  Chromedome’s given occupation as a computer programmer must have come at just the right time for me.  I think my family had only recently gotten our first home computer and I was pretty enthralled with it.  Reading that Universe profile in the back of Marvel issue # 48 seemed to confirm for me that maybe this “computer” thing was catching on!  Never mind that I read the issue probably about five years after it was actually published...

When I finally got to watch bootlegs of the Japanese Headmasters series years after that, I was kind of disappointed by the fact that Chromedome just seemed to be your standard young and brash dime-a-dozen anime protagonist dude who won the day with BURNING SPIRIT and whathaveyou.  It was the bizarre “Billy and Sparkle” English dub I watched too, so of course...I couldn't take it all that seriously at the time.  However, nowadays I can fully appreciate that dub for being a work of comic genius, and the voice actors’ harried and inept line readings put a smile on my face every time I watch any given clip of it.

Thankfully in modern times, James Roberts has given Chromedome a starring role in the IDW comics, and spent a lot of time making him a rich, complex character.  Also, he's given him an occupation that's a lot more specific and unique than just “computer programmer”.  IDW Chromedome is a “mnemosurgeon”- a specialist in memory retrieval and alternation, with abilities that have proven to be both a blessing and a curse for him.  His relationship with Rewind, his “Conjunx Endura” (the Transformer equivalent of a spouse), provided many of the most touching moments in Roberts’ continuing run of stories.

I’ve never owned Chromedome’s original toy, but the recent “Titans Return” deluxe figure is a pretty good modern version of it.  His body is based on the G1 figure, but I'm happy that Hasbro went with artist Alex Milne's version of Chromedome's face, and not the original toy/Japanese animation model with two optics instead of a visor.  The Titans Return toy IS a bit stout for my liking- Chromedome’s usually portrayed as a bit lankier.  I wouldn’t say no to another new toy version of him that is based more on Milne’s more jazzed-up body design.  I’m sure Rewind prefers that look for “Domey” too.

27. Brawn (G1)
First Appearance- Marvel Transformers US issue # 1 (1984)

Plan “B” stands for “BRAWN”.

The above series of panels from the first issue of Dreamwave’s Transformers: Generation One ongoing series is the perfect encapsulation of Brawn as a character.  He’s a scrappy little tough guy who is much stronger than he looks and routinely takes on far superior foes while delivering some macho quips.  In fact, the Fanholes once crowned Brawn “King of the season 1 cartoon one-liners”.  Whether he’s asking if anyone is interested in a magazine subscription in a room full of Decepticons or warning them to “prepare for a very large headache”, Brawn always has some snappy wisecrack to drop just before clobbering his enemies.

Brawn was usually everyone's buddy (except maybe Perceptor, and even then Brawn warmed up to him eventually!) and a reliable teammate on the battlefield.  Unlike his fellow Mini-Bots Gears and Huffer, Brawn never came off as whiny or annoying, or even as abrasive as Cliffjumper.  I was always happy to see him tagging along with any random assortment of Autobots.  Brawn just livened up the scene whenever he showed up on the original cartoon, and that’s in no small part to the performance of his voice actor, the talented and versatile Corey Burton.

Brawn's also done a “Fastball Special” with Optimus Prime TWICE, and he played both the pitcher and ball roles!

My primary enjoyment of Brawn is primarily derived from his appearance on the cartoon, but he’s had some minor significance in the comics too, being the focus of Simon Furman’s very first written Transformers work.  “The Enemy Within” (Marvel UK # 13-17) is a somewhat-bizarre early tale, made more so by Brawn being drawn with his awkward toy-accurate design for the entire arc, rather than his more streamlined and humanoid Floro Dery character model.  Still, it has its charm and it certainly sells Brawn’s chief attribute- his overwhelming physical strength and toughness, quite well.

Speaking of toughness, Brawn is the subject of one of the earliest fandom-wide memes in Transformers.  In Transformers: The Movie, Brawn was seemingly killed by a shot from Megatron that struck him in the shoulder.  Any fan worth their salt would tell you that such a paltry wound wouldn’t be enough to kill the mighty Brawn, and thus “Brawn Lives!” became a popular rallying cry for that notion.  It would even be made manifest to a degree in official canon, as Brawn’s later death by apparent atomization in the Generation 2-era comics would be retconned-away years after in the Botcon Universe comics.  In those convention-exclusive stories, Brawn is shown to have been teleported away by Unicron the instant before he was destroyed to participate in the so-called “Universe War”.  This would have led to an exclusive Brawn figure retooled from Energon Strongarm at the following year’s convention...but sadly those plans were canceled.

Thankfully, Brawn’s got several good options for toys at present.  He’s a popular choice for third-party companies to make their own versions of, but Brawn’s most current official “Titans Return” Legends-class figure is pretty damned perfect.  It captures his cartoon self beautifully, and his roof detaches to become an arm-mounted shield (you know, to protect that pesky Achilles shoulder!)  Brawn’s also been given a smaller “Titan Master” toy- a miniature version of himself that can even ride inside the larger Legends figure.  Yes; Brawn can drive Brawn, and don’t worry; HE’LL get the door!

26. Dead End (G1)
First Appearance- The Transformers episode # 56- “The Key To Vector Sigma, Part 1” (1985)

What’s the point in telling you about Dead End?  He’s my favorite Stunticon, but that isn’t saying much- they’re all a bunch of crazies and uncultured thugs.  Dead End at least likes to keep himself looking good, so he “leaves an attractive corpse”.  I guess that’s a positive attribute...to be the prettiest weed among the weeds.  Dead End’s voice actor on the original cartoon, Philip Clarke, did infuse him with a lot of personality with his subtle and nuanced performance.  And now he’s dead.

I always did prefer Dead End’s Floro Dery head design with the visor and mouthplate over the regular-faced toy design...because why would anyone want to look at those perpetually-down-turned features?  It’s a good thing the recent “Combiner Wars” Dead End figure went with that design.  It’s almost like the designers CARED about Dead End’s feelings or something, but that’s impossible.  That toy’s a passable update of the original Dead End, but once he had a toy in the “Alternators” line that was just a repainted Sunstreaker.  What a cruel joke...Sunstreaker can actually back up his vanities.  Dead End also received a couple of Movie line homage toys...that both looked more like his fellow Stunticon Wildrider.  Typical.

It’s notable that the only significant time in canon that Dead End was truly optimistic was BEFORE he actually became a Decepticon…

That’s from his brief cameo in IDW’s Megatron: Origin # 3 and look; that homage-stealing putz Wildrider is already trying to take the wind out of his sails.  From the very beginning, all of Dead End’s dreams were stomped on and now he is nothing more than the bleeding wreckage of their shattered remains.

Would it be insensitive to say that I find Dead End’s attitude kind of funny?  That I can sometimes relate to mopey people with obsessive-compulsive worries about their physical appearance and when I liken myself to such a person, I feel better by comparison?  It probably is a little mean, but when you get right down to it...the sun is going to burn out in a few billion years anyhow.

Just face it; we’re DOOMED.

25. Megatron (Animated)
First Appearance- Transformers Animated episode # 1- “Transform and Roll Out, Part 1” (2007)

When you ask most Transformers fans who their favorite incarnation of Megatron is, about 90% of them will likely say either “G1” or “Beast Wars”.  However, this is MY favorite version of Megatron, and it’s because I think he merges the best attributes of both the G1 and Beast Wars versions...and the whole is even greater than the sum of its parts.  Animated Megatron is dangerous, resourceful, articulate, cold yet charismatic..and he managed to be all that while remaining nothing more than a damaged, decapitated head for the first third of the series.

Animated Megatron is every bit the smooth talker that BW Megs was, expertly manipulating the human scientist Issac Sumdac into doing his bidding and eventually facilitating his restoration to full health.  Whereas most of BW Megatron’s handful of followers are only loyal to him because of stupidity, brainwashing, or enslavement, Animated Megatron inspires genuine fealty in an entire army of Decepticons who truly believe him to be the foremost freedom fighter of their cause.  And he can easily sway those on the fence, like the Constructicons, to his side by sheer force of personality and some canny charm.

Like his G1 self, Animated Megatron wields a powerful fusion cannon and can dominate lesser combatants with his overwhelming physical strength.  UN-like G1 Megatron, this Megatron disposed of his treacherous lieutenant Starscream after the FIRST instance of betrayal.  Even though Starscream managed to miraculously survive this, he remained at odds with Megatron for the remainder of the series, with the two only working together when forced by circumstance.  When Starscream first returned, resurrected by a life-giving AllSpark fragment, Megatron immediately killed him again...and again...and again...in a murderous montage that is one of the funniest scenes of the entire show.

A very big part of why Animated Megatron is so cool is his prolific voice actor- Corey Burton, whom I’ve mentioned before in this list and will mention again.  A returning performer from the original cartoon, as well as numerous other animated projects, Burton gets to show off his unbelievable range once again in voicing Megatron, Ratchet, and Shockwave in this series.  He lends Megatron a palpable sense of icy menace, as well as a weathered-but-lasting pride in his Decepticon heritage and cause.  The Decepticons of Animated even have their own rallying cry to mirror the Autobots' "Transform and roll out!", a variation that is entirely fitting on multiple levels and which Corey Burton's Megatron always delivers with due gravitas- "Transform and RISE UP!!!"

This older, almost wearier-sounding Megatron has inspired many fans to “hear” Corey Burton’s voice in their heads when reading the current version of G1 Megatron in IDW’s comics.  Just listen to this interpretation of a scene from IDW’s More Than Meets The Eye comic by talented fan Chris McFeely and hear how perfectly it fits-

Megatron’s had several toys in the Animated toyline, including two of his original Cybertronian design.  They’re okay, but if you can instantly tell which end of his spaceship mode is supposed to be the front, you’re a far better judge of alien vehicle modes than I.  Megatron’s also got a beautiful Leader-Class figure that captures his Earthen form to a tee.  It has Corey Burton-voiced sound clips that activate when you press down on its head and various other cool sound effects.  Megatron’s mouth even moves when you press down on the head, so you can do impressions of him talking while doing that...not that I've ever done it...ahem ahurm ahah

24. Darkwing and Dreadwind
First Appearance- Marvel Transformers US # 42 (1988)

There are numerous duo-acts in the Transformers universe...two characters connected either by toy gimmick, family bond, or some other reason.  Sometimes it’s hard to imagine one character without the other, and that’s the case here with Darkwing and Dreadwind.  They get to share this spot on my list because these two guys ought to never be separated.

Both of them have miserable attitudes, but Dreadwind usually turns that unhappiness on himself, whereas Darkwing wants to share their misery with others.  It seems like the only kicks they get are spreading sorrow...or wallowing in their own.  In the Marvel UK comics, there is even a short strip of them getting utterly sloshed together at Maccadam’s Old Oil House as they lament being hunted by the metal-eating Mecannibals.  I happen to like the more cynical and depressing characters in the Transformers universe (as mentioned in Dead End’s entry) and this pair of buddies united in their total dedication to the bleak side of existence have always provided some laughs for me.

I found it kind of offensive to my sensibilities when writer Mike Costa cavalierly killed Dreadwind off during his run in IDW comics, and even further- implied that Darkwing had abandoned his partner to die.  Never mind being unfaithful to their portrayals in previous continuities, this didn’t even seem to jibe with Simon Furman’s earlier work in the IDW universe.  In the mini-series “Transformers: Stormbringer”, Darkwing is in charge of a Decepticon unit on planet Nebulos that finds itself facing down the monstrously-powerful Thunderwing.  Before deciding to take Thunderwing on, we get this little character moment for the duo that nicely showcases their “bromance”.

No matter how it shakes out, Darkwing and Dreadwind are leaving together.  It would be almost touching if they weren’t leaving the rest of their team to hang.  Mike Costa also referred to Darkwing and Dreadwind as “brothers” in his story, which I think is kind of a misread of their relationship.  I prefer to think of this duo as two dudes who are only friends because of their shared “glass half-empty” philosophy and that no one else would tolerate their company.

Darkwing and Dreadwind have fairly solid G1 Powermaster toys, and they have received more modern figures in recent years...although the last Darkwing was just a repaint and the last Dreadwind was a Botcon exclusive that is ridiculously expensive on the aftermarket now.  These last toys were fairly out-of-scale with one another and couldn’t really “interact” as their old figures did.  Darkwing and Dreadwind are way overdue for some new toys- ones that replicate the combined “superjet” gimmick of their originals.  The Generation 2 Dreadwing stealth bomber figure was repurposed in the Marvel G2 comics as a new body for Darkwing, and he even comes with a new partner jet- Smokescreen, to combine with.  Those figures are some of my personal favorite Transformers toys ever, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want new versions of the originals.

The current “Titans Return” line is heavily poaching from Darkwing and Dreadwind’s original era of figures, so you’d think they would be on a short-list for new versions.  However, as of this writing- nothing yet.  I guess that’s just Darkwing and Dreadwind’s luck.

23. Ironhide (Movie)
First Appearance- Transformers: Ghosts of Yesterday novel (2007)

Much like I wrote in my entry for Movie Starscream, this is a case where the original G1 character never really struck a chord with me.  I actually always kind of found G1 Ironhide to be pretty obnoxious in the Sunbow cartoon.  Too overly-folksy, I guess...and I was always questioning why Optimus Prime would sometimes listen to Ironhide’s advice when more-qualified people like Prowl and Jazz were in the room.  However, Movie Ironhide is kind of a blend of several different G1 characters, and that mixture actually makes him more appealing to me.

Movie Ironhide obviously has G1 Ironhide’s name and usual role as Optimus Prime’s close friend and battlefield second.  His mentor/student relationship with Sideswipe and his general “been there, done that” attitude has echoes of G1 Kup, and he does turn into a pickup truck.  Finally, his love of guns and heavy artillery makes him a lot like G1 Roadbuster, who is farther up on this very list.  I also dig Movie Ironhide’s character design and black color scheme- he just looks badass, and he has some of the best action beats in the live action films.

Like with most Movie-verse characters, the tie-in fiction fleshes Ironhide out much more than the actual films, as we see in the IDW mini-series "Defiance".  In the pre-war days, when Cybertron was split among multiple tribes and factions, Ironhide was a “Thetacon”- a mortal enemy of Sentinel Prime and his followers.  Once Sentinel Prime proved able to recharge the AllSpark and revitalize Cybertron, the Thetacons formed an alliance with his faction, and Ironhide became their chief representative.  Ironhide became acquainted with Sentinel’s chief science officer Optimus and was employed by the Cybertronian Defense Force under Megatron.  When Megatron forged the Defense Force into the Decepticons and began the Great War, Ironhide decided that he had no interest in conquest and joined the Autobots, now under Optimus’ leadership.  It was Ironhide’s experience with soldiering and combat that helped shaped Optimus’ group of scientists and civilians into a force that could fight back against the Decepticons.

Ironhide’s Thetacon heritage added an extra layer to his eventual betrayal and murder at the hands of the revived Sentinel Prime in the third film.  Sentinel had expressed a disdain for the Thetacon tribe despite them allying with him in the past, and in the IDW comic adaptation of Dark of the Moon, even coldly adds “I never did like your kind” as he is dispensing with Ironhide.  It was a sad end for the character, but it was an effective moment in the film at least, and evocative of G1 Ironhide’s death in Transformers: The Movie.

Like most of the Movie-verse main cast, Ironhide’s had tons of toys across multiple size-classes.  His original Voyager-Class figure is a bit fidgety, but fairly decent and has been reused and retooled many times.  My favorite version of Movie Ironhide in toy form is the “Recon” Voyager variant, which comes with an absolute arsenal of spare weapons, including hunting knives and a massive crossbow.  It was actually the first figure to utilize the “C-joint” connectors that have since become widespread across several Transformers toylines and allows for multiple weapons to be attached or swapped among different figures.  Ironhide’s also got solid toys at smaller and larger price-points; although I’ve never owned the Leader-Class figure, I hear good things.  You certainly have your options with Mr. TopKick here, up to and including the actual gas-guzzling beast of a pickup truck he transforms into on-screen.

On a final note, Ironhide is infamous for having blown up the planet Kaiba-5, as mentioned by Optimus Prime in the ‘07 Transformers film tie-in video game.  “That hunk of rock was going to blow up anyway,” Ironhide assures us.  What a rascal.

22. Ratbat (G1)
First Appearance- Scramble City: Mobilization (1986) 

Ratbat is usually one of Soundwave’s “Mini-Cassettes” or “Recordicons” or whatever you want to call them.  You know; the tape guys that launch out of Soundwave when he hits the button on his shoulder.  He was significant for being the first new cassette character after the initial batch in the first year of Transformers.  While US audiences were first introduced to him in Transformers: The Movie, Ratbat actually first appeared on-screen in the Japanese exclusive animated special “Scramble City.”  In most animated stuff, Ratbat was pretty much the same as Soundwave’s other flying minions, Laserbeak and Buzzsaw...except they’re birds and he’s a bat.  Those guys were treated as robot animals for the most part, with zero opportunity for characterization or development.  They went “squawk squawk” or “squeak squeak” and that was the end of it.

However, in the Marvel comics, all those “animals” were fully-realized characters with actual dialogue and the like.  And as any knowledgeable Transformers fan will tell you...one of the most bizarre things about the original Marvel comic was that Ratbat was the main Decepticon leader for a not-inconsiderable stint of time.  He even did a pretty good job, coming close to completely wiping out the Autobots when they were gathered on the moon to watch Grimlock and Blaster battle for leadership in Marvel US # 41, one of my personal favorite issues of all time.  And one time he toppled the towering Autobot commander Fortress Maximus over.  Ratbat really likes punching above his weight class!

Ratbat also once uhhh...opened a car wash...but it was OF DOOM!  The carwash scheme was to brainwash humans into stealing fuel for the Decepticons, and it was kind of foretelling of Ratbat’s future leadership style.  After taking command, Ratbat had his Decepticons open and staff “Club Con”- an island vacation resort for humans which was just a front to distract the Autobots from a search in the nearby waters to locate some ancient- ehhhhhh, y’know...it doesn’t matter.  CLUB FREAKIN’ CON.

Ratbat was basically an accountant or high-level business executive trying to run an army, and despite his successes, he was pretty bad with people.  You just know that under Ratbat, the Decepticons probably had to deal with relentless memos, efficiency evaluations, and meetings that involved spreadsheets, pie charts and line graphs.  Ratbat promoted the treacherous Starscream to second-in-command, and Starscream promptly betrayed him and stole the Underbase, a storehouse of vast cosmic power, out from under him.  An alliance with rival Decepticon leader Scorponok ended with Scorponok shooting Ratbat in the back and killing him, after Ratbat was dumb enough to screech his own power-hungry ambitions aloud.

Still, I and many fans retain a sort of fascination with Ratbat’s time being the leader of the Decepticons.  Writer Bob Budiansky has said that he went in that direction to confound expectations and shake things up, and the idea must have been effective to some extent, considering people still talk about it to this day.  Indeed, later G1 fiction usually makes a point of giving Ratbat a humanoid robot mode and a position of authority at some point in the past before becoming his more familiar cassette-self.  In the Dreamwave comics, he was leader of his own faction- the “Ultracons” in the past, complete with their very own Ratbat-like faction symbol.  And in the IDW comics, Ratbat was one of the corrupt members of the Cybertronian Senate that inspired Megatron to rebel and begin the Great War.  The concept of “the honorable Senator Ratbat” always amused the hell out of me.

“VOTE RATBAT! A name you can...clearly not trust.”

Ratbat's got a surprising history of having good toys. Well, his original G1 toy is a little fragile, but quite unique among its Mini-Cassette brethren.  He's got two great toy versions of his pre-cassette humanoid bodies, repainted and retooled from existing molds but still managing to be excellent representations of his past Dreamwave and IDW-selves.  His Masterpiece toy faithfully captures and updates his original design with much-improved engineering.  And of course, all of these toys are extremely fuel-efficient...just the way Ratbat likes it.

21. Sunstreaker (G1)
First Appearance- Marvel Transformers US # 1 (1984)

The above image, from the children’s storybook “The Decepticons’ Secret Weapon”, is the main picture on Sunstreaker’s TFWiki page, and rightfully so.  It perfectly sums up Sunstreaker’s main character conceit, which is...conceit.  Sunstreaker is better-looking, faster, and can fight better than you and he wants you to know it.  Ironically, about the first time I was ever properly introduced to Sunstreaker was in Marvel US # 10, as seen below.

Yeah, Sunstreaker was killed...or at least grievously maimed by Shockwave in Marvel US # 5, and he remained completely off the table in the Marvel comics all the way until Marvel US # 41...in which he was damaged AGAIN and put back into stasis.  Then he was restored by the miracle power source Nucleon in Marvel US # 74, survived the massive battle with Unicron in # 75, and was killed AGAIN in issue # 80.  At least the ancient “Last Autobot” resurrected him almost immediately after that last one, but man...Sunstreaker had NO luck in the Marvel comics.  He featured a little more across the pond in the UK comics, but he’s mostly known for having sat a HUGE chunk of Marvel in general out.

Sunstreaker had some better luck in the original cartoon, starring in several episodes and being voiced by the previously-lauded-on-this-list Corey Burton, who really played up his vanity.  You’d often hear Sunstreaker complain about something scratching his bodywork or scorching his “selenium shin-guards.”  He and his brother Sideswipe even invented an aerial martial art called “jet judo” with which to take on Decepticon fliers.

Appropriately, my eye was usually drawn to Sunstreaker due to his appearance.  He was always “that yellow Autobot who wasn’t Bumblebee” on the cartoon to me and he had a fairly-unique head design that stood out among the other Autobots.  I also did own that aforementioned children’s storybook, where Sunstreaker is captured by Devastator, forcing the Autobots to mount a rescue that involved wheeling a giant “Trojan Devastator” statue to the Decepticons’ door in order to infiltrate their base.  His scarce appearances in the Marvel comic probably also somehow added to Sunstreaker’s “mystique” to me.

Sunstreaker’s since had a good career in subsequent Transformers comics, although writers still do seem to like putting him through the wringer.  Simon Furman even made him a Headmaster in the earlier IDW comics, physically and mentally bonded to Hunter O’Nion- one of the main human characters at the time.  While this situation didn’t last for very long and was truncated by forces beyond Furman’s control, it was still an intriguing concept and could have had legs far beyond the time it did last.  The egotistical, disdainful, borderline-sociopath Sunstreaker forced to share literal head-space with a human teenager?  The story possibilities and opportunities for character development were limitless!  However, follow-up writer Shane McCarthy decided it wasn’t “GEEWUN” enough, and instead had Sunstreaker betray the Autobots and he and Hunter both be horribly tortured and killed.  Cuz yeah…that sure was a step-up from Furman’s ideas…

I think the prematurely-aborted Dreamwave comics written by James McDonough and Adam Patyk had the best take on Sunstreaker.  They really focused in on the “sociopath” part of Sunstreaker’s original character bio, and portrayed him as cold and guarded.  There was a serious sense of tension in the room with their Sunstreaker present that I enjoyed, even as fleeting as his appearance was.  Dreamwave insiders also claimed that McDonough and Patyk were writing Sunstreaker from the position that he was gay.  I’m...fairly certain that “narcissistic sociopath” isn’t the most positive portrayal of a gay character one could manage...

Sunstreaker’s had a lot of toys, and his striking visual design ensured that most all of them looked pretty neat.  I bought his “Alternators” release and thought it had a really good head sculpt.  And his 2008 Universe Deluxe-Class toy is one of my favorite figures in that size class ever.  That mold has some fantastic engineering and was made with Sideswipe in mind too, featuring a different transformation for each brother’s respective figure.  Just be gentle transforming Sunstreaker, because if you scratch his paint...there will be hell to pay.


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.