All posts by John Sorensen

About John Sorensen

Bat-Fan Extraordinaire. Able to leap over plot-holes in a single bound, Likes: punching crime in the face. Dislikes: villainous fiends!

TANGENT COLLECTIONS: 1980’s Retro Robots by TOMY

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When I was a kid I had a toy robot called “Crackbot”.

Seriously.

This toy was released by TOMY in the 80’s as part of a line of toy robots that had electronics, and each had some type of gimmick.

crackbot sale tomy.jpg

Crackbot had an antennae tail with a sound sensor on the top. Any short sharp loud sound would make him stop rolling around, and nod his head up and down a few times, then continue on his merry way. He had a pudgy round body, oblong-ish head and his arms would swing back and forth as he moved.

It was a cool toy, and I liked it.

However it’s not much of a play pattern. You turn it on, watch it roll around the kitchen floor for five, ten minutes tops. Then you put it away and find something else to play with.

It was not a hands-on type of toy. Picking it up meant it was not rolling around on the floor. I guess I got bored of it after a few months, then it faded into the background of my other childhood toys.

Fast forward a few decades, and I find myself browsing various vintage 80’s robot toys on my tablet in bed at night. Thanks to some of the fan made websites such as the excellent The Old Robots  we have a nice reference for anyone looking for information and pictures of the toy lines.

TOMY robot family ad jg

Top stuff, I should really contact whoever runs that site for a Q&A. The Old Robots is a great reference on all types of vintage robots from around the world. The best site possible for any kind of collector to stumble over.

Hundreds of photographs, technical specifications, tips on mods and restorations, and loads of great images of box art, old advertorials – just a fantastic resource and clearly a passion project.

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Anyway, so I started feeling nostalgic particularly for the TOMY line of toy robots, and could not quite put my finger on it.

It’s not the electronics and gimmicks which appeal, though they are cool. It’s not that I want to play with them – as there is not a lot you can do with them. Well you can mod the fancy ones to do all sorts of things, making it closer to the Robo-Butler it was advertised as being for badly dressed lazy 80’s kids too busy playing video games to get their own damn snacks.

TOMY Robots Omnibot Butler.jpg
OMNIBOT – Pretends to be your Butler until the inevitable overthrow of humanity

It’s really the aesthetics of the toys that I love.

Those cute faces and pudgy proportions are just adorable.

Which are beautifully highlighted in some fine digital art by Rocky Bergen.

Tomy Robots rocky bergen art
Art and Fine Fashion Sense by Rocky Bergen http://rockybergen.com/work/

These smaller TOMY robots look like they want to help out, or could just be cool Robo-Pets for kids.

They are quite beautiful to my eye and then the nostalgia comes in as they have the look of a certain era. The TOMY robots are unmistakably 80’s Japanese toy robots, but they also look like they take their design cues from Futurism, with a little Star Wars and 2001 mixed in.

Their bone white non-color [HOUSE RULE: The Future – Bone White, Space Age] is a staple of science fiction design, the clean white look associated often with advanced technology and Star Ships. Both Star Wars and Star Trek used bold iconic bone white and off white star ships in their various fiction. The TOMY robots unique look also has some of its roots and influence in the architecture and interior decoration elements of Modernism.

So Modernism, Futurism, Japanese Robots and Science Fiction – all those influences are there for the appreciative eye to see in these cute toy robots from TOMY.

The build quality of TOMY toys is typically quite high – they have made a diverse range of quality toys for several decades. TOMY robots are quite fun, and most of them if you pick them up today are broken, but fixable.

I’m useless at fixing things.

So mainly I’m starting a small mini-collection of  a select few 80’s robots. It’s like “I’m putting a team together, we’re looking for a few good robots”

Some of the Bots I am looking for are by TOMY, and some by other companies such as the “Talkabot” by AXLON I picked up recently from an ebay auction.

The criteria for me to include such a robot is really it’s aesthetics, more than any features or gimmicks. And I dig robots that vow not to join the Robo-Revolution when it arises. Ever notice how a lot of Japanese robots are quite helpful, or even full on Heroic if you count Super-Robot Mecha like Voltron or Combattler V -while american Robots tend to want to kill us all.

talkabot 1 box theoldrobots

So… Talkabot is an exceptionally cute little fellow.

I’m using stock photos from the wonderful The Old Robots site again here, as I can’t find my photos of the one I own just now, and he’s wedged in between some various Transformers toys, with no dedicated space of his own just yet.

I do have the box, but it’s flat with no foam and a bit tattered.

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The Talkabot I bought on ebay still works partly. The motor spins, but the wheel is not moving. I think it’s fixable.

His walkie talkie speaks through his chest, and you control him with the same radio control to drive him around. Except the wheel is not catching properly – a common problem with these old robots. Talkabots little crab hands have  a pinch gimmick. A spring keeps them tight, you can open them and put a piece of paper or something small in there for him to carry around while you drive him with the remote.

My next robot I’m hunting will be a Crackbot to replace the one I had when I was a kid.

I don’t have that one anymore, no idea what happened to it.

Seen a few on ebay here and there, but after one that is in good condition and not with faded / yellowed plastic – that yellow fading really ruins the look of these cool robots. If you want good condition ones you have to pay a fair amount for them.

MISB and boxed ones are much higher again, and really out of my price range. I go for loose or unboxed Robo’s, in good clean condition with no major damage to the body shell – but I’m not worried about the interior electronics and such. Often it’s worth paying just a *little* more for a working or fixable robot than a total junker. I’ll take some proper photos of TalkaBot when he has a better area to be displayed in.

I look forward to picking up a number of TOMY 80’s retro robots over the the next year or two, starting with my childhood Crackbot, who took no part in the 80’s drugs wars.

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Can You Ever Have too Many toys? The Most Pointless of Questions is Asked

If there such a thing as having “too many toys”?

For some the answer is yes.

While for others the answer is no.

The question becomes too many FOR WHOM?

I don’t like to put artificial borders on my thinking not in any level of life, or activity.

There are enough real world unavoidable obstacles and barriers in daily life, that I don’t have to go inventing new ones.

So, my simple answer is no.

You can never have too many toys. However, the toys you have now, can take up too much physical space.

So let’s reframe the idea…

Say you had infinite space, and infinite money, could you have “too many toys” then?

To me the answer is no – what are toys but art solidified – but ideas expressed.

You might as well ask “Can you every have too many ideas?” No, never.

Now, if you have finite resources, such as limited money and limited physical space, can you have too many toys then? YES, for sure.

I like to think that if I was super wealthy, I would not turn into a pack rat hoarder with a house full of toys (no offense to pack rats intended, I’ve been there before, and I don’t like it).

What I would do with infinite money, toys, materials etc – is invest in some sort of toy museum, where people could come along and enjoy a gigantic collection of amazing toys. Yes, that sounds like fun to me.

Perhaps a gold coin donation to enter, to help with upkeep of the place, then stay as long as you like, fuck about with some toys, and have a good time maybe chat to folks who enjoy similar things to you. Sounds good to me. Yes.

If it grew big enough, maybe it could attract people from far and wide, maybe add in guest speakers or something to make it a bit more interesting.

“But the toys would break if people keep playing with them, especially the vintage stuff?” some might say.

DON’T CARE.

NOT INTERESTED.

Break them.

Joy.

Whatever – they are toys, that is half the fun. I use the word museum loosely, let someone else be all about preservation, I’m more interested in fun and destruction, that in hermetically sealing away toys as cultural artifacts.

Also it is  fun to break things. Part of the experience of being a kid and having toys is learning you CAN break them, and not just by accident. We learn the physical world and the application of force has consequences.

Better to break toys than people.

One of my fondest shared memories with one of my oldest mates is when we were really bored one day at his place (this is back when we were about 13 or so) we got his toy Battlecat –

…and set fire to the tooth,

just for a lark.

Turns out plastic is *very flammable* (who knew?)  – and pretty quickly the whole head was on fire and the garage was full of toxic black plastic fumes. Not joking, we could have potentially set the garage / house on fire really.

battlecat
Not Flame Proof, but probably a Flamer

We decided to move the Battlecat into the backyard, it was on a big piece of old wooden board so we picked it up and moved it, rather hastily.

Well quickly, but in a lazy bored way really.

Within another sixty seconds, the whole thing was a miniature inferno of flames and smoke.

Then another minute or two later, it was just a puddle of melted green stinky fumey plastic.

Bye-bye Battlecat.

Now the collector in me today says “why the fuck would you do that?”

The kid in me says “BECAUSE”.

We were bored, and it was fun.

And fuck Battlecat. He was kinda dumb and boring and stuff.

What kid hasn’t melted plastic army men or cut off their heads or arms?

This just happened to be a nice toy that we really didn’t give a fuck about it, it may as well have been a plastic shopping bag, that was how we felt about it at the time.

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So, too many toys?

Is it a thing? It can be.

But I think it comes down to priorities.

I see folks online all the time with amazing *gigantic* collections.

And even if I had the money and space they do, I don’t want that.

I limit my toy habits to just what I can keep in one room, and a couple storage tubs in the garage.

I don’t EVER want a garage full of toys, like the way it used to be full of DVD movies before I purged them during another move.

I hate clutter, yet I am forever buying crap I don’t need and cluttering up my living spaces. It never ends.

Every year I get rid of loads of stuff, and seem to always acquire more than I have gotten rid of.

Too many toys? Yes/No/Maybe.

Also, fuck that Battlecat. I really can’t stand that character. Think I’m extra surly this month.

“What! Why did Battlecat have to get double fucked?”

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The Love of Chunky Plastic: A Brief Reminiscence on Transformers Armada

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I was watching Transformers: Armada the other day (*cringe*).

A show I have seen very little of.

It was a rainy sleepy day and I managed to watch ten episodes in a row.

Quite the achievement I’d say.

It’s not a good show, but then it’s not a bad show. Transformers Armada is a fine show for kids. The thing that really struck me about it is how old school the character designs are, and that to me is the thing that most appeals about the show and the toys.

The whole Unicron Trilogy era of shows and toys are not terribly popular these days and while the shows are a bit rubbish,  I think most of the toys are fantastic.

They are big and chunky and made of super strong plastic like the later phase Generation One and Generation Two toys of my youth. But they have some improved articulation, being post Beast era toys.

However, compared to the ball jointed Beast Wars era toys from ‘Wars to ‘Neo the Armada toys are kind of bricks by comparison. Bricks with articulation, but still bricks none the less. The characters have some cool redesigns and new looks, like the ever *fabulous* and stylish Starscream here below. But the toys are like taking a step back a decade or so, and then bolting on a couple of modern features post surgery as an afterthought.

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And I have to admit that is what I love about the Armada toys. Big strong clackety-clack ratchets that make you go a little bit deaf when you hear them. Satisfyingly chunky proportions and large alt modes for main cast / character toys. Toys that really felt like toys, that you could hurl at a wall in a hissy fit or bludgeon to death your enemies with – and they would still work just fine afterward, battle damage and all.

For me Tidalwave, Megatron and Starscream are the stand out toys in the line in their design, transformation and overall aesthetics. Overload, Demolishor and Jetfire are also great fun. And just look at the color clash and that practically nothing in the entire line has any kind of scale to it. It’s just mental sizes and proportions, but I love it’s technicolor madness and flipping the bird to any sort of coherency in the line.

They are such fun toys. But they are stark raving MAD, just look at them! It’s like Generation Two never ended.

Armada-Toys_tfw 2005
I like Big Bots and I Can Not Lie

Some of the modern Transformers toys are very pretty and poseable in comparison. But build wise they feel like delicate European Ballerinas, always just one chicken leg away from breaking something. They are not made of “Sterner Stuff”.

Another thing I love about Armada, it continues the very Japanese Super-Robot-Anime tradition of super modes for old Convoy Pants Prime himself.

The super mode for Armada Optimus Prime looks absolutely horrible to me, both in the show and the toy. But it’s still basically a cool toy in design and the play pattern. The toy is more centred around the base mode, and the super mode.

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With the “action figure” aspect basically dropped as his legs are not just giant bricks, but bricks that have been built into an impenetrable wall of immobility (for the sake of his trailer gimmick). The little cute Prime on his own (the truck cab) can still move about, and is still somewhat an action figure – but his robot super mode is just a joke. Fine for kids to play with though. And a very strong robust toy that stands up to being played with. But pretty damn ugly to my eyes.

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God do I hate the head on that thing. The grill pipe face bits nightmare. Sweet Primus! The super mode’s ugliness is somewhat hypnotizing, but it’s alt mode (which is also fugly) kind of entices you in with the option to have Jetfire on the trailer. It brings to Mind Star Convoy and his fun various combinations with others toys in the line. And Armada Prime’s Super-Pants Super-Modes are undeniably goofy with odd proportions, but it’s still a fun toy despite these issues.

sky garry star convoy grandus brr icy blog transformers
STAR CONVOY – Much better than Armada Prime by x 1 Million at least

I love that each of the Optimus Primes from the Armada / Energon / Cybertron  toy lines and shows have a fun super mode, as well as the Robots in Disguise(2001) Prime, making them the most Super-Robot-Anime flavored Transformers shows that have ever existed in Transformers media. Yes yes Dear Nerdbot 2.0’s… I’m not forgetting the JG1 Trilogy of shows. Ginrai and Star Saber got there first, as did Star Convoy – but they were not the Proud American Optimus toys most of are familiar with, they are more like exotic foreign delicacies you might see once in your lifetime, rather than something you could accidentally find down at the local chain store on a lazy weekend out and about and buy on a whim for the price of a cheap meal, and ramble on to your mates about it afterward.

No doubt I’ll be watching more Transformers Armada this week. (Sweet Zombie Jesus WHY?)

I don’t love it. But I don’t hate it.

It’s part of my mad quest to watch every Transformers TV show ever made in a row. Well it’s a marathon but a slow one over a year or so. I’m thinking of doing  diary style posts now and then of the various shows I’m watching. Now here’s a simply horrid Transformers Armada cartoon picture that’s been bizarrely stretched from 4:3 to widescreen on the Youtubes kids love these days to leave you with Phat Bot Nightmare Syndrome. UGH!

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Get on a low Energon diet already Fatimus Prime.

Wait, that was Energon Prime’s nick name. What can we call this mucle bound beefcake one then? Roid Rage Prime? Why not, that’ll do.

 

CREDITS

*Scavenger and Armada Starscream art by DareFi 

http://darefi.deviantart.com/gallery

*Star Convoy Triple combination image from Brr Icy Blog

http://brr-icy.blogspot.com.au/2014/01/return-of-convoy-triple-combination.html

*Armada mainline toys group shot from TFW2005

http://news.tfw2005.com/2014/04/27/30-years-of-transformers-in-30-days-2003-179744

*Animation screen capture of “Transformers Armada” from youtube

*Additional Armada toy photos courtesy of Seibertron Photo Galleries

https://www.seibertron.com/transformers-toys/galleries/

5 TRULY FORGETTABLE MOMENTS IN BOB BUDIANSKY’S MARVEL TRANSFORMERS COMICS RUN

5 TRULY FORGETTABLE MOMENTS IN BOB BUDIANSKY’S MARVEL TRANSFORMERS US COMICS RUN

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5. CARWASH OF DOOM (TFUS#31)

The story that saw Bob get some death threats, Car wash of Doom proves not to be  a masterpiece. Okay that didn’t really happen, but Bob did make that death threat comment himself as a joke in an interview. About rabid fans obsessing about comics he wrote a couple decades ago made for kids and expecting them to stand up to an adult’s taste and nasty-minded criticism today.

The Marvel Transformers comics were written for kids, and for that purpose they are fine. For adults the stories are ho-hum, with a few cool highlights for fans of all ages. Adults criticizing twenty plus year old comics written for kids is kind of a DUMB activity…

But here we are anyway…looks like I’m the dummy in this post.

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Poor young Buster just want to get his car clean and enjoy some quality time with his main girl, but what he doesn’t know is THIS  particular car wash (part of hid dads auto repair business) has been sabotaged with another hair brained Decepticon trap.

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The car wash is a sweet irresistible consumer deal that lures in all the customers so Ratbat can spring his trap. Sure Ratbat… nobody can resist a bargain priced car wash *cough*. Ratbat has some mad mind control mojo making the townspeople go crazy and they start chasing Buster.

All that is missing is some of that hillbilly chase music Grandpa Simpson is so fond of. Buster turns and runs – right back into the carwash – natures natural protection against evil flying predatorial micro-cassettes.

Wasn’t the whole carwash a trap to start with Buster? Did you learn nothing from the yokels chasing you while playing that damned hillbilly music?

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This Witwicky survival plan turns out not to be such a genius scheme after all as Ratbat follows Buster Witwicky into the carwash.

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The one part of the comic that is actually pretty scary, and very METAL – Ratbat starts eating and tearing at parts of Buster’s vehicle. Good thing he’s in the car wash then so he can’t just get out and run away. $%#^&5^# idiot!

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Ratbast smashes his way in, and it is the most exciting scene in an otherwise dull issue of Transformers. If Buster had died here, and Ratbat took over as one of the main characters, I don’t think there would have been any complaints from fans.

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Buster puts up a valiant but very *sudsy* fight, but then Ratbat gets him anyway and flies off with him. It’s a pretty cool sequence, but the rest of the story about the luxury car wash luring people in so Ratbat can use his mind control to accomplish…. *something?*… is pretty silly and pointless. The grand scheme never really plays out. So, let’s move on to the next bit of nonsensical 80s Marvel Transformers comic book then shall we.

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4. SATURDAY NIGHT MICROMASTER SMACKDOWN! (TFUS#55)

An issue that starts off with an epic cover and promises an exciting story. The cover artist did their job well. Too bad the story inside doesn’t live up to that promise.

Minicons come to town fresh from Cybertron (aka Hasbro Toy Catalog Land) and what to do with their free time? Why they try their metal fists and torsos at Pro-Wrestling of course.

Roadhandler checks out the backstage training area, and is greeted with a warm welcome from the other pro wrestlers.

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Roadhandler is being managed by the most trustworthy fellow in the biz “Swindler”

 

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Robots that weigh more than a ton and made out of who knows what kind of metal are perfectly safe for how wrestlers to wrestle for the fans. It doesn’t matter, it’s not like they are hooked on pain killers for their chronic back and knee pain or anything. Why not attempt to fling a ton or more of Autobot metal over your head? Remember this was the 80’s pal, and folks were tougher in those days!

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Roadhandler gets into the wrasslin’ game pretty fast, and learns how to help his opponent put on a good show. It’s all good fun for the kids and families.

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Just when Roadhandler gets the upper hand, his opponent ducks beneath the ring and emerges with… a jackhammer. The dirty cheat!

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Roadhandler crushes the Jackhammer, and no that’s not a euphemism. His opponent is none too happy, but that’s nothing compared to what happens next.

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His buff opponent hurls him from the ring with a Herculean throw, but what’s this… Roadhandler transformers in mid air and lands safely in his alt mode.

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Roadhandler transforms once again and re-enters the rings, where he makes quick merciless work of his slick haired green speedo wearing opponent.

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The fans love their new champ, he goes on to win more matches and it seems this Bot has got it made living large, stylin’ and profilin’.

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Just when Roadhandler was living on Easy Street, a match goes sour with the surprise  opponent turns out to be be a no good villain, Stormcloud.

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Stormcloud makes for a vicious opponent, slamming Roadhandler to the the ground with so much force that it made the whole ring and the crowd momentarily disappear!

The lousy cheating Con transforms to alt mode and tries for a high stakes aerial attack, but Roadhandler is having none of it, and brings him smashing back down to the ground using one of the ropes ripped from the ring itself. I’ve never seen anything like this folks, in all my years as a commentator – what a match!

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The Saturday Night Micromaster Smackdown is a very silly story, but really perfect nonsense for eight year olds who love wresting and Transformers. It’s the kind of thing you would only ever see in a comic book (or maybe an episode of TF:animated) so in a way it’s quite good. You can tell I’m really cheating on my own list, as I love all the Transformers comics, even the bad ones.

Now let’s see what other  TV inspired horrors await the poor fools in our next story.

 

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3. STARSCREAMS FANTASY ISLAND (TFUS#47-49)

In a story that makes as much sense as the time Soundwave and Starscream ran a nightclub in the Sunbow cartoon, Starscream decides to run his own private fantasy island getaway.

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A luxury resort for humans to enjoy and show how nice the old Decepti-creeps can be.

A “magical island… with “friendly staff”. It seems the CONS have changed their creed, and are embracing their new LOVE of humanity!

It’s also the World’s Smallest Island apparently.

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Also the CONS have a giant underwater *murder-base* underneath the island.

*Whoops* – they forgot to mention that feature in the advertising campaign. Those fiends!

But don’t let a secret base stand in the way of good public relations. Frontman Starscream barks the immortal lines of dialog never to be heard again in any Transformers fiction, not even in a million million years:

“HI, I’M STARSCREAM. FLY ME!”

I guess Starscream doesn’t like to waste people’s time with small talk. But things get fishy pretty quickly.

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A red headed bikini lady is enjoying some sand, waves and fresh tunes on the beach courtesy of our main man Blaster. She’s actually there undercover to investigate the island for whatever forgettable reason. Something to do with that secret underwater Murder-Torture-Base perhaps.

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When Seacons Attack! No it’s not coming up next on the Discovery Channel, it’s what happens to the bikini lady who just wanted to enjoy some scuba snorkeling and the latest B-Boy mixes.

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She follows them to see what is up, only to discover the CLUB CON underwater murder-mayhem base, and also that Blaster is waterproof.

It’s great to sea the Seacons (however briefly) as they don’t turn up too often in any Transformers media other than those weird Japanese cartoons where they combine into King Poseidon.

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The red headed lady follows the Seacons underwater into a secret entrance to the CONS hidden base with Blaster snugly tucked under her arm – narrowly avoiding detection by any of the lurking local roughnecks.

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Jesse’s recon (hey I finally found her name) is complete, she confirms that Buster Witwicky is being held prisoner but is unable to free him. Instead Jesse has to make a hasty escapes. But the Seacons attack back on the beach. Blaster fights them off pretty much singlehanded – well enough for the two to make their getaway and blend in with the beach crowd.

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Some stupid kid distracts blaster, resulting in him taking some serious damage.

But the important thing is, everybody else on the beach pretty much ignored or forgot about everything that just happened. Starscream still loves humans, and invites them to return to his luxurious island resort (but downplays the murdery world domination aspects of the island-base) That’s good PR!

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The Underbase Saga starts out a very vanilla story, but the later chapters have one of the coolest moments in TFUS history- “Underbase Starscream”. But that one we will save for my upcoming list of “Epic Memorable Moments in Budiansky TFUS“, rather than the dodgy issues such as this one.

 

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3. THE BOSS / BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN COMES TO TOWN (TFUS#14)

Too cheap to pay for tickets the Autobots can’t stay away from the Bruce Springsteen concert in town and decide to gate crash. Did they have a mission too? Possibly, they stay in their vehicle alt modes as they are undercover, but really it’s just an excuse to listen to The Boss live without paying, having spent all their pocket money on Energon Lollipops at the gate – those cheap auto-bastards!

The Autobots narrowly avoid detection by some greedy-lazy Security guards, who can’t be bothered looking for the drivers they just saw in the vehicles. The Autobots used their holo-avatars rather haphazardly at times, and didn’t know they were supposed to pay to park in the concert stadium.

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With The Boss belting out some classics, the Autobots lie in wait, apparently with a tip off that Decepticons may be in the neighbourhood.

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SURPRISE FOOLS! The Cons turn up all right. Three familiar Seekers burst out of the ground, as flying jets typically do.

Carnage ensues with the Seeker’s attacking the stadium, and a weird cable thing that is part of the stage is going to topple over when…

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Hoist appears on stage to save the day. He grabs the broken scafolding and welds it back together that was about to crush Bruce Springsteen. He’s a swell guy that Hoist.

But watch out, the danger is not over yet!

Shockwave appears on the scene, looking a bit grey and determined to turn into his gun flight mode and shoot the stadium. Quick thinking yellow faced Bumblebee hurls an Energon cube at the purple one eyed monster.

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The results are spectacular, the explosion looking like it’s all part of the show. The other Cons have had enough, they turn their tailjets around and follow then leader Shockwave back home, presumably enjoying the Springsteen concert on their in flight radio.

Once again, the day is saved, thanks to the Autobots. The rest of the issue has various humans and military leaders planning what to do about the robot alien menace.

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Overall it’s not a bad issue at all. But the whole execution is just really vanilla. A lot of the Marvel Transformers comics had stories that were more serious in tone. But this issue feels more like one of the Sunbow cartoon episodes, with the Cons attacking a public concert. The only thing that makes different than other vanilla issues, is the appearance of Bruce Springsteen (they use a pseudonym in the issue) which really should make for a more memorable story, but it ends up being a couple of pages and a cool gimmick cover.

Let’s move on to one of the creepiest issues of TFUS up next.

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2. SKIDS IN LOVE…with a human?  (TFUS#20)

Rating high on the “EW! CREEP” factor, Skids falls in love with  a human, only for the human woman to shamelessly reciprocate in the second example of manbot and female human love in Transformers fiction. Inter-species romances are mainly the domain of science fiction, but it does come across as a bit creepy in a kids comic. Clearly Skids learned nothing from that doomed romance of Seaspray and his alien humanoid fish lady. But at least Skids didn’t change into a human for sake of inter-species love or anything.

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Charlene finds Skids overturned and abandoned in a ditch, and takes him to a mechanic. Skids is stuck in stasis lock with no way to communicate with her, other than through his radio – not unlike Bumblebee in the first live action Transformers film.

Being a cheapskate (and a thief) Charlene is not one to turn down a free ride and keeps Skids, because hey the “Finders Keepers” rule clearly applies when you find passenger-less cars in ditches.

But to Charlene’s surprise, Skids is eventually is able to transform again, and explains his situation, but can’t see to explain why his vehicle mode has a big butt, when his toy is a compact car.

 

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Charlene likes her free ride so much, that she continues to drive around a Transformer. But things get odd when strong country boy Wendell asks her a date, and instead Charlene replies that  she has already made plans. But we (the reader) know she don’t have no kinda plans, so is she just giving Wendell the brush off perhaps?

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Turns out those plans are rubbing herself up and down Skids while “washing” him doing her best attempt yet at being trailer trash. Not creepy at all. Get your freak on Charlene!

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Giving new meaning to the term Auto-Erotica, Charlene turns out to be a bit of a hussy. This is only their first date after all. I guess that’s how she rolls.

The story goes on (dear Primus why… just end it here…) and Charlene falls for Skids, making for one super-creepy KIDS story. Take another look at the panels just above before moving on, and tell me its’t not creepy-weird, someone was having a laugh drawing those panels. And for whatever reason Skids is not drawn as a small compact Japanese car – he seems to have Transmorphed himself into some kind of mini-van with a big phat caboose that brings all the country girls to the yard.

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1. AMERICAN GRAFFITI  – DECEPTICON  STYLE (TFUS#23)

In a throw away story that is a bit of fun CONS Runabout and Runamuck run around defacing major American landmarks and monuments. It’s two fun loving decepticons as serial pests. No world ending threat, no doomsday devices or plot MacGuffins, just some good old fashioned mayhem courtesy of two lovable rascals. It’s a bit of forgettable nonsense, but fun while it lasts.

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Yes, American landmarks are mysteriously being vandalised by some mysterious serial pests. But who who could be responsible for such tomfoolery?

Why Runabout and Runamuck of course, two loveable rascals that aim to misbehave!

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Little Jimmy the Idiot Boy Olsen wearing a Spider-Man T-shirt seems to think the antics of these troublesome CONS are awesome, and well – he’s not wrong.

Our two dapper carbot gents go to town painting various monuments and landmarks with giant cans of spray paint.

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Travelling around America, our troublesome twosome elude capture by the authorities, drawing crowd of onlookers

“They’re back, yippee” remarks the ginger kid. Guess he’s a CON fan.

 

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Some Commandos with amazing taste in fashion (orange pyjamas and motorbike helmets) turn up early to the party at Liberty Island, and hide out in Lady Liberties head in anticipation of our gruesome twosome.

 

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They also failed to bring any quality snacks or top shelf booze to the shindig. Runabout and Runamuck were stuck in traffic, but luckily they came prepared to party.

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But watch out, Omega Supreme has come to spoil the fun. And he’s sporting  a new ultra sheik bland head for… reasons… that I”m just not going to get into here.

*sigh*… Okay, he’s a FrankenBeiner.

It’s all stuff from another story and really just not very interesting, trust me on this one -just look at poor garishly colored Omega-Franken-Former and have a laugh, okay?

Circuit Breaker is controlling the Franken-Former and means to end this taggers party once and for all, busting out the heavily artillery.

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“Shoot first, ask questions later” remarks Runamuck, showing off his sweet Con style and attitude, not to mention that shiny car finish.

 

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As if being shot at while having a good time is not enough, poor Runabout and Runamuck are toasted to a nice crispy finish with either lasers or a flamethrower, it’s hard to say.

Their paint jobs ruined, they fall rather comically into the ocean accompanied by some no expenses spared neat sound effects. It seems Omega FrankenFormer was jealous of Runabout and Runamucks sweet color schemes and cool devil may care attitude. He revokes their License to Party and calls it a day.

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I’ve always found the bad guys more fun than the good guys, and toasting two tagger rascals seems a bit harsh when less violent methods could have been used. Oh well.

Runabout and Runamuck had a good run that lived up to their names and gave us a bit of fun while it lasted. I have to admit I quite like this issue, so why is it on this list? Well, it’s another gimmick cover and a few panels with a barely there story that was not fleshed out, so despite the cover it’s still kind of a forgettable story. But it’s great fun, and that’s what comics for kids are about right?

And giant Franken-Formers burning robots alive with flame throwers, that’s what the kids really want to see! Thanks 80’s Marvel. You really knew how to bring the pain.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go punch that annoying ginger headed Jimmy Olsen looking kid in the Spidey shirt from earlier…

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The Evening Squeaks Report: First Impressions of the Last Knight

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I just literally got back from watching Transformers: The Last Knight at the cinema, and wanted to capture my first impressions of the film before they fade into sweet oblivion.

Transformers: The Last Knight for me was tremendous fun, so many of the things that irritated me in the previous films were absent or toned down, and so many of the things that I liked were improved upon or added to.

This is the first film that feels like its having a proper go at making its own lore (hodge-podged and cherry picked from the various TF media) rather than just hinting at stuff and leaving you guessing as the previous films did.

Sometimes you go to a restaurant and enjoy a good smorgasbord, everything on the menu is fantastic and your mouth is alive with excitement. Last Knight hits more than it misses with its Lore, and its vast volumes of humor and gags. It’s a big buffet and best enjoyed by jumping in and just going with the madness.

The thing I loved the most is that the new female characters are not only interesting but have something to do. They are no longer there just there as eye candy and both new characters are integral to the plot and themes of the film.

The decision to pile in so many things into one film, cramming it with exposition etc could (and should) have backfired, but it works. It’s messy and sloppy in places, but overall it works and creates a larger cohesive fiction for the live action version of the Transformers, and jumping off point for any future films or spin offs. The movie-verse feels like it’s really come into it’s own for the first time.

The Transformers BAYHEM Movieverse is now one of the longest running forms of Transformers fiction, along with Rescue Bots and the IDW Transformers Comics, these three forms of fiction are the longest running in Transformers media.

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I was very fortunate that my Mrs shouted the two of us to the movie and that she had any interest in going at all, as she had not seen the previous films. We often go and see Marvel films together, or just about any film Bat-ffleck is involved with – but most Marvel films have some human element to them that makes them appealing to a wider audience.

In contrast past Transformers movies have had:

*explosions, robo-balls, lingering shots of ladies bits that go on just a bit *too long* to be entirely comfortable about,

*More biggerERerERer explosions, Robots yelling at each other while things explode, Human military dudes yelling at each and the robots about all the explosions, then getting jealous and making some explosions of their own,

…and at some point usually after about five hours, the credits roll and you stumble about trying to remember where your butt is as it has gone totally numb. Like not just ordinary numb, but Lord of the Rings Extended Editions NUMB.

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But the big fancy ADD trailer at the cinema recently for Transformers: Last Knight  (and the Spider-Man one *glee*) really grabbed our attention.

I thought to myself, Maybe THIS one won’t be complete shit?

Then I reasoned well fuck it, I’ll watch it at least for some of those amazing animations and robot on robot carnage.

I was pleasantly surprised at how laugh out loud funny Last Knight was, and that the story was interesting all the way from beginning to end. The new characters were my favourite of any of the Transformers films. And they kept Simmons in there, even if only for a little bit. Go Simmons! Rock those beach shorts.

Now, the reason this is called The Squeeks Report is that my Mrs’ nick name for over a year or so has been “Squeeks” (not related to Transformers) and as we both loved the movie (and TF Squeaks!) I’m handing this bit over to her to give her impressions:

 

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SQUEAKS ON SQUEAKS

I really liked the new Squeaks character, he was very cute and appealing to both kids and adults. The young girl was a good character, I cared about her right away, she seems to love the Transformers and wanted to help them every step of the way.

The British lady was a bit boring in contrast, I didn’t care about her one or another. The movie was so funny, Anythony Hopkins character had so many funny lines, and his robot butler Cogman was also hilarious.

One of my favourite scenes was when Marky Mark was in the elevator, Cogman accidentally pushes him out of it and then on his communicator [to Anthony Hopkins] he says that Wahlburgers jumped out for some reason, and now he appears to be flying. The scene was just hilarious, the whole cinema was laughing really loud, like really loud belly laughter.

Another scene I *enjoyed* was in the submarine, the little Knight medallion thing is crawling all over Mark, and he takes  his shirt off showing off amazingly hot abs, arms and chest. Oh my god, he was so ripped! The English lady gets a good perv, and the scene was sexy, but also pretty funny and silly at the same time, a real crowd pleaser.

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Speaking of sexy, the scene where the English lady and Wahlburg are hunting around upstairs for an artifact while making a lot of loud banging, crashing and yelling noises that the ladies (Mums) downstairs mistake for rough sex was gut bustingly hilarious. Most of the people in the cinema really lost it during that scene. It was so funny.

“It’s like Tarzan is upstairs” said one the British mums in reference to Wahlberg crashing around. The mums / middle aged ladies were really drooling over Mark in that scene, and it was brilliant. It’s safe to say we don’t miss Shia or his crazy antics.

 

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Back to Botfan John:

Yeah, so the Mrs wants more Marky Mark if there are more of those mainline ridiculous live action movies, in contrast I am glad there was no Megan Foxy or Rosie Legginton as those characters were so generic and boring and had nothing to do, the actresses were utterly wasted in the previous films.

And Anthony Hopkins out crazies (real life) Shia in ANY FIVE MINUTES of time he appears on screen in Last Knight. His character is just so pleasingly unexpected, unpredictable and gets some of the funniest lines in the film. He’s pretty much Grampa Simpson, except the twist is all his impossible super crazy rambling run on stories are actually true.

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There is a lot to like in Last Knight and fuck it………I just have to say it.

They’ve DONE IT. They’ve rocked the Kasbah, they’ve Fast Fived  this mother fucking franchise, Wahlberg is their Rock, they turned everything up to eleven, they made the film a more global James Bondy international thing, they have recognised the vast Chinese and global audience, they have young and old cast members that make it a truly all ages film (bit violent for really little ones, but some were there in the cinema), it was funny as fuck and it could have been a big mess but it fucking worked!

[dramatic pause for masochists who hate the films but read to this point for some reason to click away to other sites….]

So.

Those stupid Bayhem movies…

They’ve turned me from doubter to believer.

Rather than dying a terrible terrible death, I want them to succeed and break more new territory.

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I also watched all the previous Transformers films in the week beforehand for the first time since they were released.

I enjoyed them more back to back, Last Knight even makes the other films make more sense in their Lore. I used to find them hard to follow, but now my criticisms are more things like excessive running time and minor nit picks like dumb dialogue and overly generic bland ethnic stereotypes.

I’ve gone from hardcore literally born in 1980 – “the decade of AWESOME” -Geewunner “Fuck those robo-bullshit Bayhem movies with a crooked broom” to genuinely enjoying them. I’ve also bought some of the new movie toys, which are all brilliant, well most of them are brilliant. Some of them are shit.

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So, Last Knight – it’s a films haters are gonna hate while sipping in their Hatorade and use as an excuse to foam at the mouth and spit vitriol in the direction of anyone silly enough to listen like they have been doing for the last ten years.

I don’t mind an intelligent film review – but nobody needs a critic to tell them how to enjoy or not to enjoy something. And the ones (fans or professionals) that disguise their caustic venom as a “review” are cowardly people I have no interest in engaging with on any level. They do a dis-service to the Transformers fandom and make us toy collectors and Transformers fans look like a pack of fifth generation inbred assholes. Thanks for that internet jerks!

I really loved the Last Knight. I expected it to be utter rubbish, but I’ve really turned a corner and can see even the older films with fresh new eyes. It’s a film that takes risks, and does interesting new things with the Transformers.

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SMUGGY McSMUGFACE

There is a certain *smugness* in the Transformers fandom about “hating” the live action films. Some of the comments I read online from fans are the exact same ones they were spouting ten years ago. Am I saying they are wrong, or their opinions don’t count?

No, I’d say they are lazy and maybe braindead and living in the past. Not for hating a film, but for saying the same nonsense ten years later, not allowing any new thoughts or ideas into that old calcified corpus callosum.

Of course everyone is entitled to their point of view – I often talk a load of wank myself -but I get the sense some fans are truly living in the past, they have latched on to one single version of a multimedia brand, and cry foul of every interpretation that dares to differ in any way, as if we should have one singular boring crusty stuck in time vision of what Transformers media can or should be. I love the 80’s show more than anyone I’ve ever met, but I also love the other shows (well most of them). I’m not stuck in the past.

And the thing is, those kinds of fans are more interested in being RIGHT, than in having fun, or enjoying new experiences in life. That kind of rotten attitude can really infect your thinking, and it creeps over into other areas of your life. The irony of people being inflexible and unchanging while obsessed with media about alien robots who transform and constantly adapt to new circumstance is not lost on me.

“If you can prove you’re right, you’re set in concrete. you cannot move with the times or with other people. Being right is also being boring. Your mind is closed.” – Paul Arden

Personally, I didn’t at first care for the aesthetic of the live action movies, the art style of Transformers Prime or the look of characters in Robots in Disguise (2015), or Transformers: Animated. But I’ve since come to appreciate the talent, the artistry and hard work that went into those products, and they’ve added more joy to my life learning to enjoy something I thought I would never like. I’ve also started collecting all three main toylines from those shows and find them to be so much fun.

IT’S… THE VIBE

When we are young we crave new experiences constantly.

As we age, our views and tastes tend to set like plastic in a mold. But if you want to remain young, at least in your own mind, which the science of neuroplasticity tells is really the key thing – you’ve got to be open to new experiences. So that is the attitude I had going in to Last Knight, and I was pleasantly surprised.

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Last Knight is a fun over the top balls to the wall action movie, it’s dopey and silly and has some odd dialog and cringe worthy moments like pretty much every other big dumb blockbuster movie.

But it’s also gut bustingly funny. it’s got some of the best technical and beautifully fluid animation in any medium, in any context, PERIOD.

The voice actors are wonderfully hammy and yeah it bugs me at times, but that is the style they have gone with – so I get it and play along.

Last Knight is melodramatic and over the top, but it’s a film where that Cullen Prime voice over chimes in and he might as well be reading a cereal box while he does the laundry at this point – it really doesn’t matter WHAT he is saying – because whatever he says in that overly rehearsed iconic voice – Peter Cullen’s voice as Prime is so authentically deep and moving – that it touches your heart when he announces once and for all that earth is their new home, even in the most crassly commercial of films.

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I loved the new R2-D2 rip off Sqeeks and I think he should be in his own solo kids film, or tag along with Bumblebee in his solo movie, those two characters are loved by younger kids and it would be a shame to waste their potential.

Cogman was a wonderfully absurd character, he and Anthony Hopkins character are a great comic double team  in the old Hollywood style.

I also loved all the the trailer bits of Knights and World War Two and middle ages and swords and dragons and all kinds of crazy shit that managed to come together into a cohesive whole. They sandwiched in a heap of new characters, the old characters we love have their part to play and it was just a tremendously fun day out at the cinema for me and the Mrs.

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THE FINAL WORD

There are some cool new characters, a giant dragon, more of those cranky Cybertronian Knights, some redecos of older characters in new forms, super cute baby dinobots who inexplicably have no toys??? Don’t kids like toys? Primary market? COME ON!

There is a sweet new look for Megatron and just so much creative cool stuff crammed into the film – and I never felt bored the whole time. The overly bloated running time was worth it for me.

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Transformers: The Last Knight.

It’s a film you’ll love. Or you’ll hate it. Or you’ll ignore it and never watch it.

Makes no difference to me at all.

Also, fuck those internet jerks.

Am I one of them?

Maybe.

But I’m trying to reform.

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ELITA 1 – REMEMBERS WHEN THE WAR WAS YOUNG

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One of my favourite episodes of the old Marvel/Sunbow Transformers cartoon is The Search for Alpha Trion. 

In the episode some of the Autobots (mostly red colored ones for no good reason) travel from earth to Cybertron sneakily via the Decepticons dodgy space bridge to search for their mentor.

I don’t know how much “searching” the Autobots actually do in that episode – they find Old Man Freeformer pretty quick if you ask me.

To nobodies surprise the Autobots meet up with the then unknown Autobot sage Alpha Trion and some Autobot fembot resistance fighters lead by the gloriously pink hued Elita-1.

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Before I talk more about the fembots, (female Transformers are the main topic of this post) I just wanted to note that yes Alpha Trion does have a beard and only Vector Sigma knows why. For no reason I guess other than to give him a wise old oriental look, like every kung-fu master from every 70s era Kung-Fu movie ever.

Because why does a Cybertronian automaton have facial hair? It’s loveably daft, but has become part of the iconic look of the elder Autobot.

The REAL reason Alpha Trion has a beard? Only Alpha Trion knows, and if you asked him he’d likely tell you it’s because he’s “lived so long I can’t remember”

 

DESIGNING THE IMAGINED FUTURE

So, back to Elita-1 and her Hellcats… Alpha’s Angels…. ..resistance fighters in the Cybertronian Civil War.

The designs of the female autobots are fairly basic.

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High ears, pointy ears or round ears, the options really are limitless

In super-robot terms they are not going to win any design awards – but there is an undeniable Retro-Futuristic feel and charm to them. Their bold colors make them even more memorable, and well I just love them for what they are. I hope some day toon-accurate toys get made based on these kick-ass fem-bots, in addition to the various modernized versions and redecos available.

Nothing much happens in the episode, Shockwave is in there, doing dastardly things as usual, and the story is nothing remarkable. It’s really notable for introducing the first in-fiction female Transformers.

I’ll admit the fembot designs are kind of goofy, like someone was making their first ever attempt at Retro-Futurism in robot form – but I still like them.

Did Floro Dery design them? I have no idea who did, totally in the dark. Can’t even find the light switch. Dery did a lot of  character design work for the original Transformers show and movie (he also lied and exaggerated a fair about what he actually did) – and the female Autobots do come across as similar to his more organic looking Floro-Formers – such as his ’86 animated  movie designs; Cyclonus, Galvatron, Blur etc.

The wise Sage Alpa Trion also has a more humanoid curvy look to him than the big ‘n boxy 1984 O.G. Transformers crowd.

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PINKIE PINKERTON AND THE PINK SQUAD

Female Transformers in Transformers fiction were never mentioned before the Alpha Trion / Elita-1 episode (because they didn’t exist). All the toys up until then were basically male looking mecha, and the voices of the characters were male voice actors. It was sort of *assumed* that Transformers were either ALL male, or sexless despite having the physical characteristics and voices of males. Many people either forgot, or never saw the Search for Alpha Trion episode, and later erroneously assumed Arcee to be the first female Transformer in Transfromers: The Movie (1986).

Beast Wars (1996) was notable for being the the first Transformers TV show to have ongoing female characters, such as Black Arachnia.

One sidenote is that Ratchet was originally written to be a female character. The name was inspired by Nurse Ratched in the film version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – but was changed to a male character to fall in line with the rest of the toy line and characters.

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Also in the non-canon mini-comics that accompanied the European release of Joustra Diaclone toys, the Pre-Transformers Ratchet toy / Joustra Ambulance was also female. MAZ over at the excellent blog TF-1 covers pretty much everything you could ever want to know about Diaclone toys. I recommend checking out the full article on the Joustra Diaclone Ambulance 

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Image credit: MAZ / TF-1.com Blog http://www.tf-1.com/articles/pretf/joustraamb_template.html

 

Until The Search for Alpha Trion episode, female Transformers had never been mentioned, or part of the lore (as far as I know, feel free to prove me wrong).

Diaclone toys – the pre-Transformers robot toys from Japan – were piloted mecha, “gender” had no context here (other than the pilots obviously).

Only when the very manly voices of Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime and Frank Welker as Megatron were added to the new HASBRO/Sunbow/Marvel Productions cartoon do we get to know our imported Japanese super-robots as re-branded iconic American heroes and villains, with strong hyper-masculine male archetypes in the typical over the top nineteen-eighties action hero fashion.

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The lack of female characters (or female voice artists) in Transformers was more marketing decision than anything else.

BOYS WILL BE BOYS (OUR MARKETING EXPERTS TOLD US SO)

Boys – and their parents- tended to buy “boys toys”.

Gender roles and buying habits in decades gone by were assumed to be fixed and unchanging. Something we know not to be true today where girls, women and even some 90 year old women play video games or watch Marvel movies like the Avengers.

even my local Kmart now has about 50/50 split for boys and girls Tshirts with superhero emblems. DC are even getting into the Barbie market with their line of DC Superhero Girls dolls. Times are different from the dawn of Transformers in the eighties when these types of products and characters were previously only marketed to boys.

To be fair, a large number of specialist market action figures and geeky stuff is still primarily marketed to boys today, and most girls and women would likely care more about being treated decently as a human beings in society, over being concerned about the latest mass market toy in a chain-store.

Transformers, like G.I. Joe are about war, combat and power fantasies, and the expression of endless non-stop action and role playing. The fairer sex has been marginalized in most if not all arenas of life for as long as anybody can remember – and of course by male toy/marketing executives with no interest in engaging females in the warrior narrative of fighting super-robots who followed the market and trends of the time.

You’d think that if we temporarily fast forward time a little from them backwards eighties, things would be a little different – and they mostly are –

But in 2007 we got this…

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And then in 2011 we got this….

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I have no issue with beautiful women in movies hovering around cars, heck they’ve gotta sell those cars somehow, right?

Whether it’s great cinema or junk cinema women being shown primarily as fetishized objects, as eye candy accessories rather than as integral to the plot, than as actual human beings is nothing new.

And nothing really bothers me in the Transformers Bayhem movies in the portrayal of any of the male or female characters, other than the characters all being dumber than bricks. The Transformers Bayhem movies are mainstream movies with simple character archetypes used as shorthand so your brain can go on holiday while explosions happen every five seconds. There is nothing terribly offensive about them. And they did manage to get a female autobot in a film for about five minutes there, I forget which one (Arcee, I forget which film she was in).

I mostly hate the script, the dialogue and how dumb the movies are despite how impressive their (horribly edited) visual spectacle is to watch. No, I just use these examples to show that while some forms of Transformers fiction such as the IDW comics or Transformers: Prime or Transformers RID 2015 are more progressive with female characters (human and robot) being essential elements of the show in vital roles, other aspects of Transformers fiction such as the live action movies reduce females to eye candy. Well, not even progressive, but ordinary in the sense of having a balance of legitimate female characters, rather than as an afterthought in the fiction.

 

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Nothing wrong with eye-candy, I like it, but I’ll take an Ellen Ripley in Alien over a Megan Fox in Transformers any day of the week. Not because of looks, talent or any of that. But because the CHARACTER is interesting. A good story starts with a good character, it’s why Strongarm in RID 2015 is a great character – it all comes from the quality writing, rather than any gimmicks. Megan Fox was alright in Transformers, but her character did not have a whole lot to do, nor did most of the various female characters in the films so far, including blink-and-you’ll-miss-her Arcee.

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ACCEPTABLE IN THE 80’S?

Girls have been expected for the longest time to enjoy Barbie, and frilly “girl” things, and that was that.  And boys have always been expected to enjoy “manly” things, despite some dudes being really into Barbie or My Little Pony or JEM.

I used to know  a guy who had a prominent living room display of vintage original Barbie and tall G.I. Joe dolls, and they they did look quite spectacular the way he had them displayed in glass cabinets.

The closest Pre-Transformers toys have gotten to a female character was the cancelled Waruder mecha “Beet Papil” – who transformed into a Ladybug.

Some of the other Waruder Japanese toys were re-purposed later on as Insecticons and Deluxe Insecticons under the Transformers brand. If this full toy line line had been incorporated into Transformers, we might have seen the first female transformer.

But the toy was never made (as part of the BEETRAS line, or at all) and of course was never directly related to the American Transformers brand. It’s more an oddity/curio thanks to curious internet detectives who took the time to scan the images for other fans to enjoy.

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Armored Insect Battalion Beetras by Takatoku

Sadly, this is the best imagine around online of the Waruders I could find. I blew up Ms Bug below for a closer look at those shapely curves and cool colors, but it’s a bit blurry. Still, at lest we can see the deco and basic highlights which are more smooth, detailed and organic looking than your average american Transformer toys of the 80’s era, and even a pixelated image like this is infinitely more impressive than Megan Fox in Transformers ‘Splosionfest 2007.

Beet Papil is More Robocop/Metropolis smooth sexy Mecha streamlined legs and joints than your typical boxy square super-robot. Very cool.

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I really like the fembot Ladybug design overall. No joke, I would love for someone to make this toy today, it would be an instant buy for me.

Two changes I would make however – some hinges on the bug shell that allowed it to move up higher in robot mode, so it looked like a cape or cool royal robe, rather than a jacket she’s about to throw on the ground. Or add double hinges on the vertical axis in the middle of each wing, and let it collapse away neatly behind Ms Bug’s back.

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While looking up reference images, I found this cool fan-made profile, that re-imagines (or imagineers if you prefer) the cancelled BEET PAPIL toy design into a Transformers style character profile. The profile of Firebomb was created by Hellbat on DeviantARt

An unexpected find, and very cool!

firebomb_by_hellbat
FIREBOMB Character Profile by HELLBAT http://hellbat.deviantart.com/art/Firebomb-438061295

So mecha buglady aside, back to Cybertron… where our heroes and fembots are looking a bit frisky….

red bots get the fembots.jpg

What I liked about The Search for Alpha Trion is that in one single episode, we got a lot of lore and world building. Most of it is implied, but it’s there if you want it to be.

The details are sparse, but *some* of the greater space saga and lore of the Transformers (expanded on in later fiction such as the 1986 theatrical film and shows such as Beast Wars) is laid down here.

The later ramifications of this episode include Alpha Trion becoming a major significant  figure in Transformers fiction (larger mythology) who ties into both Prime, The Matrix and one of the many origins of the Transformers as a race of sentient alien robots.

We find out that not only do female Transformers exist, but apparently a bunch of them, who all seem to have romantic ties to our heroes made obvious by their affection in the show, and the way then run into each others arms. Sorry skeptics – you greet friends with handshakes and hugs, and maybe a kiss on the cheek. Running into someones arms dramatically is usually reserved for your beloved. So don’t play that “they were just really really really good friends” card with me.

 

ROLL CALL RUMBLE

So just who are these dashing fighting fembots?

We don’t get a good look in the episode at the characters at the same time in full view, so fortunately thanks to some lovely fan art from Dan-the-Art-Guy we see a full view of the basic character models.

From left to right in the image below image we have Moonracer, Firestorm, Elita-1 and Chromia.

Elita-1 is their squad leader in pink, slightly in the foreground.

 

Alpha Trions Angels
Fan art of Moonracer, Firestar, Elita-1 and Chromia

 

Thanks to an anonymous fan online who sent me some further images upon request, below is a photo of the model sheets / guides for Chromia and Moonracer which he bought in a private online auction. Model sheets are just guidleines, and so are typically more colorful and detailed, while in show models will be simplified so that they can be animated smoothly (and cheaply!)

 

Chromia g1 model sheet sample
CHROMIA model sheet (photo, not a scan)

moonracer g1 model sheet sample
MOONRACER model sheet (photo, not a scan)

 

Firestar model g1 transformers fembot
FIRESTAR model sheet (photo, not a scan)

 

Oh, before I forget – there are some other female characters in the background in various scenes too. We don’t get a whole lot of info about them, but they are there. The green character in the image below is called Greenlight.

The search for alpha trion transformers g1 firestar chromia
The World’s Smallest Energon Cubes
GReenlight female Autobot transformers
GREENLIGHT (image from TFWIKI http://tfwiki.net/wiki/Greenlight)

 

PRO-BOTS AND ROBOPHOBES

The fighting fembots are mostly forgotten relics from Generation One lore. Chromia would go on star in IDW comics many years later, along with other new female characters such as Windblade. Elita-1 has had some nods from third party and official figures, but mainly as redecos. A few fans have made their own custom versions from various molds, but often they lack a certain something. So far no figure has really gotten close to the original version.

chromia_and_windblade_by_raikoh_illust transformers idw
Chromia and Windblade by Raikoh

Windblade, Nauticaa and Chromia are the main female characters in the IDW comic book continiuty, which is like a sort Ultimate Marvel reboots of old school character, with new ones mixed in from other shows. The three main IDW fembots follow on from the general flow of the old school G1 fembots.

The sleek more humanoid forms recall Floro Dery’s “Floro-Former”movie designed original characters such as Galvatron, Hot Rod and Blur. Chromia (in blue) in IDW quite similar to her old school appearance, with a few tweaks to modernize her look, but is for all intents and purposes is a new character that is more of an homage to the old character.

The curves of Dery designed Floro-Formers give a real contrast to the square jawed and square shouldered Abe Lincoln / John Wayne body type used for Optimus Prime, and would set the basic look or jumping off point for later designs in various Transformers media. The art for these new wave fembots tends to vary in the comics and animation according to whoever the artist is, and the style of the particular book or show.

Nauticaa Brainstorm idw
Nauticaa and Brainstorm as featured in IDW comics

SIEGE ON IACON

Free of the robots in disguise earth vehicle design motif, the fembots of Cybertron and 1986 movie-bots were able to be designed with more freedom and experimentation.

curvy legged floro formers 1.jpg

Note the curvy legs (on both male and female characters) that stand in stark contrast to the old school square legged super robots style (see Megaton on the left of same image). These new wave bots had smooth lines rather than hard edges, part of the look no doubt influenced by 1950’s concept cars and Retro-Futurism (a topic for another upcoming post).

 

optimus prime galvatron elita 1 getter robo voltes v
Big ‘n Boxy and Robo-Sexy

The square shouldered look of Prime is a staple of super-robot anime, not to mention overly male machismo characters – while the more humanoid look of rounded shoulders are sometimes seen in super-robots, but those curves are more commonly in real-mecha designs where the robot is basically a suit of armor fitting around human anatomy, that has to make both aesthetic and practical movement considerations for human joints etc.

In the above image, we can the contrast of Square and Boxy vs Organic and Round (humanoid) styles in contrast.

The curves tell us two things – that these robots have a more humanoid appearance, mimicking human anatomy and rounded joints, and of course emphasizing feminine curves whether for a male or female character, much in the way 1950’s concept cars used the same motif of sleek curves instead of hard angles. This sort of thing may bother some fans who want to see Galvatron as the ultimate mentally unstable bad-ass villain, and ignore his thigh high sexy ladies street walker boots that once seen, can not be un-seen.

 

THE SEARCH FOR ELITA-1

The Search for Alpha Trion  episode unexpectedly gives us a whole new context to view the Transformers media and Cybertronian civil war through.

In the context of Transformers (the Sunbow/Marvel cartoon), the Autobots and Decepticons were at war. The Autobot group we know as our familiar heroes left – they evacuated the resource depleted Cybertron and became stranded on earth when their ship crash landed after being attacked by Decepticons.

Both the Autobots and Decepticons crash on earth and have a kip for a while (stasis lock), then our lazy snoozers get up a few million years later and resume their quarrelsome shenanigans.

The search for alpha trion ironhide chromia transformers g1

Prime, Ironhide, Inferno and Powerglide being reunited with their female compatriots (or more likely partners / girlfriends) on Cybertron was like soldiers coming back from the war. Women during our real world WW2 were at home, and running the factories, and doing just about everything else useful in society while the majority of men were sent away overseas.

The Search for Alpha Trion had that sort of feel about it for me, and made sense in the context that their war had moved to earth, and they had no clue what has happening back on Cybertron. The Autobots did not see their compatriots for “million of years” due to being stranded on earth during the civil war era.

One thing to note here is this episode isthat Cybertron itself was not as empty and barren as we were lead to believe. We know Shockwave was there, fighting against Elita-1 and her underground resistance but there is something more hinted at, and it only raises more questions.

inferno_and_firestar_by_jp_v-
inferno_and_firestar_by_jp_v

Was the sector Shockwave resides in mostly empty due to his having taken strategic control of assets like the spacebridge? Was Elita-1’s fighting force the ONLY underground resistance, what other power struggles may have been taking place off screen, on other parts of Cybertron? Did other Autobots and Decepticreeps evacuate Cybertron like our Heroes did in the first episode of the show, and where might they be now?

What is implied is that perhaps what we are seeing is just a small window into the world of Transformers and Cybertron, that there may have been other evacuations, and more battles still going on both overt and covert. It seems obvious when you think about it, the planet was at war and obviously the population was bigger than just our humble heroes and their foes.

 

ORIGINAL-FORMER

The Transformers Origins as outlined by Jim Shooter was intended to encapsulate the beginning of the shared Transformers lore for the comics, cartoon and toy line. Expansive world building was still a long way off. Nobody could have predicted the success of the Transformers brand in the short or long term. What we take for granted today with multiple shows, movies and mass media projects was mostly not even considered in the early days, there was no reason to, other than the general plot of the shows which often contradicted every other episode.

Enough lore was created week to week to get a show together and something for the characters to do, episodes were made intentionally to be screened in any order (as happens on syndicated network TV, particularly with repeats), the exception being several multi part episodes that suffered cruel confusing fates when played out of order.

alpha trions angels.jpg

FEMBOTS ARE GO!

The legacy of female characters continued in the Transformers franchise with notable characters such a Black Arachnia in Beast Wars (year), Arcee in Transformers: The Movie (1986), Airachnid and a new version of Arcee in Transformers: Prime (year), Strongarm and Windblade in Robots in Disguise (2015), and of course fun characters such as Nauticaa and Chromia in the IDW comics, with each of these various characters receiving *mostly* decent toys.

That about does it for this rambling article, below is some images of toys and art of various female Transformers.

The legacy of The Search for Alpha Trion is introducing the first ever female Transformers to the fiction, and it way too long for HASBRO to catch up and realize how appealing female characters and toys were to both male and female audiences members of all ages.

windblade arcee chromic chug2

Windblade, G1 Arcee and Chromia toys (above). Arcee was notable for not receiving  a 1986 move tie in toy (her toy was cancelled) and did not receive a proper toy until well after a decade after her appearance in the cinema.

RID 1 Strongarm Sideswipe toys deluxe

Strongarm and Sideswipe from Transformers Robots in Disguise toy line. Strongarm and Grimlock are easily my favourite character from Robots in Disguise.

strongarm_ready_for_duty_by_raikoh_illust- transformers RID.jpg

Strongarm as featured in the Robots in Disguise cartoon. This is some lovely fan art by Raikoh. The RID show has some fantastic visual design, including the bright energon glow highlights on characters giving it a really unique look.

Femme_Cons1.jpg

Nightbird, Black Arachnia and Slipstream from various Transformers toy lines

arcee_by_goddessmechanic
arcee_by_goddessmechanic

Some fan art of Arcee by Goddess Mechanic. On the left is Arcee from Transformers: Animated, in the middle Transformers:Prime and on the right classic movie or comic book Arcee.

CREDITS

*Diaclone images and art from MAZ / TF-1 Blog

http://www.tf-1.com/articles/pretf/joustraamb_template.html

*Elita 1 / Optimus Prime “You’ve got the ipod touch” by Catussnake 

http://catussnake.deviantart.com/

*Arcee’s by Goddess Mechanic

http://goddessmechanic.deviantart.com/gallery/

*Alpha Trion model sheet image sourced from TFWIKI.com

*Ratchet fan art by Thuddleston / Terry Huddleston 

http://thuddleston.deviantart.com/

*Team Elita fembot image by Dan-The-Art-Guy

http://dan-the-artguy.deviantart.com/art/femme-bots-203076618

*BEETRAS toy images from The Pre-Transformers Page

http://1501bc.com/pretf/beetras.html

*Firebomb character profile by Hellbat

http://hellbat.deviantart.com/art/Firebomb-438061295

*GREENLIGHT  image from TFWIKI http://tfwiki.net/wiki/Greenlight

*Chromia and Windblade by Raikoh

*Strongarm fan art by Raikoh

http://raikoh-illust.deviantart.com/

*Optimus Prime and Elita-1 image by Yhykurama

http://yhykurama.deviantart.com/

*Black and White manga art from TFWIKI

http://tfwiki.net/wiki/Female_Transformer#Generation_1

Inferno and Firestar by JP_V

http://jp-v.deviantart.com/

 

BULKHEAD PROFILE – If we can build it, he can SMASH it

sari_and_bulkhead_by_j_666-resized
Sari and Bulkhead by J_666

 

NAME: Bulkhead

FACTION: Autobots

QUOTE: “I’m still picking shrapnel out of my backside!”

Loyal, goofy, charming and constantly aware of his clumsiness, Bulkhead has a child like innocent personality. He’s a fierce fighter, but sometimes his own size and strength works against him as he is still learning how to move around in more confined spaces on earth after his days in wide open spaces as a laborer-bot

A wrecking ball unleashed, Bulkhead rushes headlong into battle, with little thought of plan or strategy, if he gets his hand on any of the Cons, look out as he will smash them to smithereens. As a former laborer, Building stuff and Smashing Stuff is all Bulkhead knows how to do. His arm contains a tethered projectile wrecking ball, that comes in hands for smashing buildings of smashing cons, or can also be used as a mace like weapon up close and personal.

Bulkhead is a loyal friend, and often under estimates his own abilities. While seemingly of below average intelligence, he has an almost idiot savant ability when it comes to building space bridges, that even he can’t explain nor understand.

“I’m just good at Space Bridges”

Bulkhead is best friends with Bumblebee and Sari, and they bring out his most playful side, while his mentorship under Prowl brings out his attempts to focus him combat abilities, and use some strategy and smarts in his battles. Bulkhead may be  a bit simple, but his brute strength and giant robo-heart make him an asset to the Autobots, his courage and determination know no bounds.

Bulkhead always supports his Autobot brothers, he has their back on and off the battlefield. Just don’t ask him to do chores around the base if you want the walls to still be standing afterward.

Bulkhead is a fierce fighter who loves smashing stuff, but would probably prefer not to fight at all, and spend more time playing video games with his friends Bumblebee and Sari.

A gentle giant who loves building stuff and smashing Cons, Bulkhead would rather stay at home and laze around, but once he’s on the move, there is no stopping him. Bulkhead has an interest in various creative earth leisure activities such as music and art. While Bulkhead is big, tough and very strong, he has a soft emotional center at his core and a reverence for all forms of life.

“Look Miko, before I became a warrior I was a laborer-construction. I can build stuff, I can break stuff, and that’s it.”

bulkhead_and_grimlock_transformers_animated_by_ailgara- RESIZED
Bulkhead and Grimlock by Ailgara http://ailgara.deviantart.com/gallery/

 

CREDITS

Sari and Bulkhead (top image) by J-666

http://j-666.deviantart.com/art/Sari-and-Bulkhead-164214459

Bulkhead and Grimlock (lower image) by Ailgara

http://ailgara.deviantart.com/gallery/