SPECIAL TEAMS PART #2: Combiner Wars Combaticons / Bruticus

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My favourite combiner character by far is Bruticus.

I don’t know why, he has almost no personality, is usually portrayed as equally incompetent and stupid in battle. Maybe it’s that he is made out of kick ass military vehicles and is pretty much a giant walking weapon.

Whatever the reason, I don’t mind owning multiple versions of Bruticus from just about any toy line. I don’t own any of the high end third party ones, but a hodge podge mix of official Hasbro stuff and a couple of naughty knock off’s.

false less is more false opposite dwight

When the Transformers Combiner Wars  toyline was announced, I hoped they would do a decent Bruticus. Stupid crappy torso’s and floppy limbs aside (that affect the entire line) I was pleasantly surprised by how damn cool he is. Even with all the various official and third party Bruticus toys around, the look of this CW version is easily my favourite.

Which is why I bought a second set, to be able to have the Combaticons in bot mode alongside the gestalt. Then when a cheap KO turned up, I bought a third version to display them in all three modes at the same time, and fourth version with the cheap knock off of the G2 redeco.

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While simple toys, the CW Hasbro toys have some really nice molded in details in the vehicle modes, and the paint is decent if nothing too special.

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I really like all the vehicles for the Combaticons except for Onslaught – it looks rather derpy as this long plank thing with kibble all over the top. Hidey hand fists at the front much?

onslaught kibble vehicle mode

Brawl and Swindle however are beautiful, even if the tanks turret sadly does not rotate. You won’t have time to notice when he runs you over mercilessly like a Boss Bot.

brawl tank mode1

TURNS OUT STARSCREAM IS A BIT OF A WANKER

The Combaticons first appeared in the episode Starscream’s Brigade and were given life by Starscream who traveled to Cybertron first and grabbed some circuit brain module energon kinda thing out of a drawer, and used them to give life to some old war era rusty junkers. I guess he likes his customs. I took my toys outside today despite being over 30 damn degrees / 90 Fahrenheit.

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Of all the Special Teams, I’m most pleased with the Combaticons in all three modes. I love the robot modes and combined form, the only let down in vehicle mode is Onslaught, who looks more like a slug or caterpillar than his old flatbed military truck look.

The others I am very happy with, and while many dislike Blast-Off being a jet instead of a space shuttle, a damn space shuttle never made any kind of sense in the team. A jet can provide support to a tank or helicopter, but a shuttle it just ridiculous and stupid, it’s not going to be flying at low altitude into combat.

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If you were designing a team of military vehicles from scratch, you would not include a space shuttle. But the Diaclone designs came first, so they had to shoehorn a damn space shuttle into the Transformers show, giving rise to many jokes and memes about Blast Off’s inconsistent scale.

blast off hasbro shuttle version.jpg

I’m glad we still got a shuttle Blast-Off in the Takara Unite Warriors line, but I’ll be damned if I’m buying an overpriced set or the Hasbro online exclusive single release just to get him. No thanks. He does look lovely though.

I’M PUTTING A TEAM TOGETHER

Lined up, the Combaticons make a great looking military team with some nice contrasting colors, great looking head sculpts, decent weapons, fun transformations and a cool combined mode is the cream on the top.

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Onslaught is probably my favourite of the bunch, that head with classic red visor, the chest and shoulders just look excellent and the little circuitry panel on his chest with added detail really pops. His muted navy blue and dark olive color scheme is to die for.

onslaught bot mode2

Here you can see I’ve cropped the animation images / model sheets  so we can get a look at the team heads and upper bodies.

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…and the rather sombre looking motley crew we get in the Combiner Wars versions, with head sculpts and overall looks surprisingly faithful to the animation.

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Brawl and Swindle I’ve probably messed about with the most, I don’t know why I just find their vehicle and robot modes so much fun. Plus Swindle has extra ports on him allowing for some crazy fun weapon combinations.

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Blast Off and Vortex both look really great in their colors and overall aesthetics. Both are quite fun to transform too. It’s a shame we didn’t get more of the Blast Off jet version recolored into various Seekers.

So many fans wanted those Seekers decos but we just kept getting weird foreign releases like Ghost Starscream instead, and of course we had the Aerialbots, which I totally missed out on at retail. I would have loved to get the jet toy redone as Seekers, Coneheads and Rainmakers, with the Cyclonus/Silverbolt torso redone in Starscream colors to combine with. Seems obvious doesn’t it?

Vortex Blast Off bot mode 2.JPG

Here is the animated version of Onslaught’s original vehicle mode. Both the cartoon and G1 toy had the flat part at the back where you could have another of the Combaticons in vehicle mode. Too bad you can’t do that with the Combiner Wars version, as it was one of my favourite features of the original. Instead of a cool gun turret, we get stupid combiner kibble as Onslaught is a retool of Hot Spot who is a firetruck – but it’s a small price to pay for a kick-ass looking Bruticus.

 

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I WILL KILL YOU AND TAKE YOUR POWER

Getting these rough and tumble lads combined, there are a few fun options for how you can display him. All the limbs can be swapped around of course, and you can even buy doubles if you want two tank legs or two helicopter arms or anything like that.

Here I’ve got my Hasbro Bruticus (left) with third party chunky feet and my naughty knock off version (right) showing off the standard feet. I’ve also posed the shoulder bits differently, giving him a subtle but different elongated look. Plus clipped on weapons from other toys as well as his proper ones.

cw bruticus official vs ko

I’ve tried out a few different ways of displaying my Hasbro Bruticus, this one is one of favourites with a bunch of weapons clipped together to make a sort of gun-arm  like how arms transform in the movies or Transformers Prime. I chucked in some back cannons from another toy, and gave him a kind of short sword / dagger on his other arm, and weapons out the wazoo clipped all over him.

bruticus with gun arm cw

Another thing I added later was the small scale Shockwave that was designed to fit in his hand, just like in the episode where he used Shockwave as a gun.

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Then I thought hey, why not add some more until you have Tri-Wielding. And I notice more than a few people in my part of the world copied my idea after I posted this picture online (not that it wasn’t an obvious idea to start with).

bruticus cw shockwave combiner transformers
“What If…..? Bruticus was an IMAGE COMICS character in the 90’s……….”

With the official toys you got some dodgy pack in comics, which I later gave away to another collector for their kid to read (along with about twenty more other ones). I thought it would be a fun display option, and had them up for a while on the shelf like this.

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When I see these free crappy pack in comics for sale on ebay, I swear like really really loud every time in  genuine shock. Don’t buy them! Jesus fuck. They’re worthless.

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Locked and Loaded

That’s about it for PART#2 of my Combiner Wars / Special Teams series. Coming up we’ll take a look at some stunning fan custom CW toys, and later on I’ll touch on some of my other versions of the Combaticons and Bruticus for shits ‘n giggles.

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Transformers Special Teams and Combiners PART #1

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When I think of Special Teams, it makes me think of a cohesive unit, a team assembled for a particular task or maybe just because they are cool and like to kick some ass.

The original Special Teams for the Autobots were the Aerialbots (Superion) and Protectobots (Defensor). The Decepticons  had Stunticons (Menasor) and Combaticons (Bruticus).

Stunticons Combaticons G1 Transformers model sheet Transformers.jpg

In Japan, the special teams / new toy line were known along with Metroplex and Trypticon as Scramble City. The Scramble City Combiners were known for interchangeable limbs. Any of the four limbs could be used as an arm or leg, on either side of the core robot’s torso. Additionally, each of the four Gestalts could swap limbs with each other.

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Takara had designed these four combiners as part of a wave of Diaclone toys loosely called Free Combination but put on hiatus. Takara later released these toys as part of the rebranded Transformers line – which were designed to interact in their 5th mode with the base modes of Trypticon and Metroplex.

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Hasbro would downplay the inter-connectivity of the combiner torso-bots and ramps with the Citybot Base Modes due to the fiction of the two opposing factions, sometimes leaving entire features out of the manuals. Why would Autobot Hot Spot for example want to connect up to enemy Decepticon Trypticon.

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WHY PLAYING TOGETHER IS WHAT GOOD BOTS DO

This inter-connectivity / play pattern for the Citybots would continue into the Micro Masters toyline, along with new small mini-bases allowing for a whole host of combination ramps and parts allowing kids to create small mini towns or cities.

The Japanese Transformers had this play pattern right through the toyline, while the US Hasbro version kept each line to its own thing, preferring distinct brand line specific marketing and downplaying backwards compatibility of the Citybots or toys from different lines.

This continued in Japan right up until the Return of Convoy (1991) line, where further compatibility had Grandus connecting to Metroplex as well as the various new and old Micromasters. For someone with the time and the will, one could theoretically connect many base modes into a small city such as in this amazing picture from Brr Icy’s fantastic blog. you can Combaticon Onslaught in his base mode on the right of the picture below (click to see full size).

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Click to see full size image

HOW MANY LIMBS DO YOU REALLY NEED ANYWAY?

The torso / four limb combination was used for all four Special Team combiners, and was a new design different from Takara’s six robot combination Devastator (Construction Vehicle Robo). It’s a very cool and appealing play pattern, I remember as a kid always wanting to have a complete combiner, but never owning anything more than Protectobot car Streetwise, and years later had a handful of random beat up bots that could not form even half of a robot. Combiners with more than five robots later made a return with Micromaster Combiners as well as Liokaiser.

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The Generation One Combiners idea continued with later additions in America such as Abominus, Computron and Predaking who appeared in the post movie Season 3 of the Sunbow cartoon. The Japanese Generation One cartoon trilogy additionally gave us characters such as Raiden, King Neptune, Dinoking and Liokaiser among others.

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Combiner appearances in the original cartoon were infrequent. The Constructicons
appeared often and were the first combiner to be featured in the show. Menasor
and Superion turn up for the first time in the two part “The Key to Vector Sigma”
where the Autobots and Decepticons both travel to Cybertron, and give life to new
robots they cobbled together from old earth vehicles, who became the Stunticons
and Aerialbots, each teams of five that also combined into a giant Gestalt robot.

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Later in the episode “Starscreams Brigade” Starscream created Bruticus to be his pawn against Megatron from some old derelict World War Two era vehicles that became updated with Cybertronian technology (and inexplicably change the type of vehicles from one frame to the next). His plan to lead the Decepticons ended once more in failure, but Bruticus and the Combaticons would go on to become one of the most popular Combiners.

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Actual battles with combiners in the show are often short and see the giant robots being beaten often all too easily, or show the combiners as relatively stupid or
ineffective in battle – their combined intelligence often less than that of the
individual robots. This goes in contrast to the long running tradition of Japanese Super Robots where often smaller robots or piloted vehicles such as in Golion or  Combattler V combine into a larger robot that is MUCH MORE effective in combat than the as single robots or drone vehicles.

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In Japan, the TV special Scramble City aired that thematically tied together the Combiners, Metroplex and Trypticon into a single episode that was edited together from various episodes. It also includes Ultra Magnus along with Optimus Prime in the special, being a sort of bridge from early Generation One, to the post 86 Movie stories – however Japan had it’s own Transformers continuity and Optimus Prime went on to cameo in a number of other later cartoons along with other Sunbow/Marvel Season 1 and 2 characters who were mostly absent from Sunbow Season 3.

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STYRENEASAURUS PLASTIMUS REJECTUS

Over the years, Hasbro has given us some half hearted modern combiners such as in the Energon (2004) and Power Core Combiners (2010) toy lines. These toys were okay, but not until Combiner Wars (2014) did Hasbro finally give the fans updates to the infamous Generation One Combiners / Special Teams that so many craved. Those toys along with CW Leader Class Megatron where what got me collecting Transformers Generations toys in the modern era.

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In the Combiner Wars toyline Hasbro and Takara went beyond just giving us updates to most of those classic G1 Combiners. They also gave us some all new combiners like Optimus Maximus, Victorion and Sky Lynx, convention exclusive sets such as Predacus and redeco variants like  Generation Two themed Stunticons and Combaticons.

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In addition to those official sets, fans have come up with their own unique combos – which was encouraged by having several Voyager CW Torso figures with no dedicated limbs such as Cyclonus, as well as some fans doing some amazing customs such as Raiden and Starscream that I’ll talk about in an upcoming article. In the above picture you can see my versions of Galvatronus, Ultra Prime, Guardian and Defensor (with 3P C+ kit), Sky Racer and Sky Breaker (with KO PE feet).

The modern combiners have kept the Scramble City / Free Combination play gimmick  meaning fans can mix ‘n match any limb with any torso, coming up with whole new combinations or mixing up official versions like fans who mixed parts of Hasbro release Computron with the Takara set. You can come up with many fun great combinations or some completely stupid ones – the choice is yours.

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ALL YOUR POWERS COMBINED

The downside of the Combiner Wars combiners is that the torsos and many limbs are floppy as hell, giving them terrible stability issues and the standard hands and feet included are utter rubbish. So various third parties stepped in and made better feet/hands for the combiners, which were also knocked off and have become quite popular. In addition, several third parties have created kits for the Combiner Wars combiners that change their looks a little, while others rebuild nearly whole toys into heavily modified beastly bots.

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Hasbro Defensor (top left) with TDW Kit (top right) or C+ Kit (bottom)

Despite quality issues, the CW line proved very popular with many collectors adding five, ten or more complete combiners to their Generations Collections. Retools were a big feature of the line perhaps more than any other, and one that annoyed some fans. But I feel the retools were mostly justified and gave us some awesome affordable combiners. Sadly the same basic stability and hip ratchet issue plagued the entire line.

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THIRD PARTY FEET ON LEFT, HASBRO FEET ON RIGHT

With this intro done, in this article series I’ll be taking a look at some of the combiner toys I’ve collected from the Combiner Wars line and also the various fan customs and third party kits that have become quite popular and I’ll also touch on some of the classic battles of various G1 Combiners in the cartoon.

 

IMAGE CREDITS

*Metroplex and Trypticon base mode pictures from Brr Icy Blog, read the full article at http://brr-icy.blogspot.com/2014/01/by-request-metroplex-and-trypticon.html

*Micromasters Base Mode and Citybots Generation One City image from Brr Icy Blog, read full article at http://brr-icy.blogspot.com/2014/03/g1-city-aka-afternoon-with-my-toys.html

*Official G1 product box art from Botch the Crab blog archive  http://botchthecrab.com/archive/

*Official stock photos of G1 Combiners from UK Product Catalog 1986 – Botch the Crab http://botchthecrab.com/

*Transformers Cartoon images from the Sunbow/Hasbro/Marvel The Transformers (1984)

*Energon toys picture and Hasbro Defensor from Seibertron.com Transformers Toy Gallery

*TDW Defensor Kit from Transform Dream Wave stock photography

MEAN GREEN AND ON YOUR SCREEN! Nick/Playmates 11″ Mikey and Leonardo TMNT Figures

tmnt mixed lot

This week I picked up two highly desired TMNT toys being the 11″ or so big NICK Leonardo and Mikey. There are several versions of these floating about, – the goofy head versions, the samurai versions, the head gimmick versions and these Battle Shell versions – and I only found out about them long after the stores stopped selling them. DOH!

Donnie I picked up one day in a Target on clearance – hiding on the end of a shelf in the “T” / end section where old stuff goes and nobody tends to look while new stock gets crammed mercilessly in front. Several months later I found Raph through a Facebook Marketplace sale local ad. Then I had wanted ads up on various toy collector forums and groups for Big Leo and Mike.

That nobody ever responded to.

For twelve months.

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Every week I kept checking the online ads and such in groups, and finally after seeing several for sale this year that were too far to pick up (like a 3 hour drive away) I found a seller who had both and was not more than a 45 min drive away. It’s fun to pick up bargains, but when you factor in fuel for a return trip – some second hand bargains end up costing you more than just paying the higher aftermarket online prices.

Fortunately I picked up a whole mixed lot for a fair price, giving me not only the two figures I wanted, but everything you see in this picture here below, in addition to the big Donnie and Raph I already had.

tmnt mixed lot

Not sure what I will do with the doubles. Most people either already have them or will pay next to nothing for them, so will hang on to them for now. Would be cool (but pricey) to do a commissioned custom into another character or something like that.

Big Mike and Leo are the same Battle Shell gimmick version as the other two, sadly they came loose with no weapons at all, but I don’t care about that too much. I’m sure I can find some useful substitutes eventually.

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I really dig the sculpts and faces on these guys, and that their height is a little different, giving them another unique distinguishing feature. These ones have a little more paint on them compared to the exact same body/sculpt that came out the previous year but with derpier looking heads on them that I don’t really care for.

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There is nothing wrong with the earlier head sculpt, I mean kids don’t give a shit – but I do. It just looks too simplified and goofy, almost like a bootleg toy to my eyes. Being cross-eyed isn’t doing him any favors either. Leo and Mike look great together, and there is nothing like completing a little sub section of a collection for that “YAY” feeling.

mike and leo

Mean green and on your screen! Four brothers finally together again. Pretty damn happy with these guys, they are some of my all time favourite sculpts for ninja turtle toys blown up to an impressive size and whether second hand or retail were picked up for fair prices.

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