Monday, October 8, 2012

Et Tu…Bruticus?

In 1986, Hasbro released 5 new Transformer toys; Onslaught, Blast-off, Brawl, Swindle & Vortex, collectively known as the Combaticons. Together, the formed into a larger robot, Bruticus (think Voltes V or Voltron).  (geek mode on) In the world of Transformers they were known as a combiner, or gestalt (geek mode off). Anyway, aside from the fact that you had 5 smaller robots that could form into one bigger robot, there really wasn’t anything that special about them.  Like most Transformers back then, they sorely lacked in the articulation department, and so it was like 5 bricks getting together to form one big….brick.

As a group, the Combaticons shared a unifying theme with the vehicles they transformed into.  Based on their name I’ll let you guess what that theme was….ok so they transformed into combat or military vehicles (duh).  Onslaught, their leader was a truck with very big guns. Brawl was a tank. Vortex was a helicopter.  Swindle was a jeep.  And Blast-off was a….space shuttle.  Well they almost got the theme right!

In 2005, Hasbro released another group of robots that also turned to military vehicles and also formed into robot, dubbed the Destruction team, I can only guess they were made as a sort of homage to the Combaticons.  I mention this because later on, in 2008, The Destruction team was re-released with new names and new colors and renamed the Combaticons, and together, they formed Bruticus Maximus.

Now at first this seemed like a no-brainer thing for Hasbro to do.  By repainting these guys to the original Combaticon colors, they could get people who bought the original versions but who were fans of the original Combaticons to buy them again, and it probably would have worked, except for one major flaw in their plan. 

Doesn't look QUITE right....
Unlike the original Combaticons, the Destruction team was composed of only 3 unique vehicles.  You had the big truck guy who formed the torso, but the limbs were composed to 2 tanks and 2 copters.  Gone were the jeep & the shuttle.  And simply recoloring and renaming the 2nd set of tank & copter to match the original Combaticons did not fly with the fans.  So in the end, these sets basically ended up clogging the toyshelves even after they went on clearance.

Cliffy...NOT Cliffy
Enter Fansproject toys.  I’m not really an expert on their story but this was a group comprised of Transformers fans/collectors who took it upon themselves to make high quality accessories that make your Transformers look cooler.  Case in point, when Hasbro tried to take the cheap route and release a new toy Cliffjumper by basically repainting an existing Bumblebee mold red, many Transformers fans complained (yes we tend to do that a lot…we’re a passionate lot, sue us) since the original Cliffy although for the most part WAS similar to Bumblebee, he at the very least had his own distinct and unique head.  So Fansproject came in and sculpted their own Cliffjumper head and sold it to the public (in limited quantities) to appease the angry masses.

Explorer & Munitioner
So after a bunch of well-made accessory sets that sold pretty well, the boys at Fansproject decided to up the ante with later…projects.  Why stop at making JUST accessories. Why not make entire robots?  Enter Munitioner & Explorer, who were essentially Blast-off (the space shuttle) and Swindle (the jeep), modernized into a flying drone & a hummer jeep.  These guys were made for the sole purpose of making the rather bland Bruticus Maximus set….relevant and just plain cool.  Once news and pictures of these 2 new bots came out online, all the Bruticus Maximus sets basically flew off the shelves (Luckily I managed to snag one at clearance prices) and now sell for a high price on eBay.

Now THAT's a lot better!
Now because these two robots aren't officially licensed products by Hasbro, to avoid getting sued & shut down, Fansproject (like any 3rd party manufacturer) had to avoid using any of the official names or symbols…no these aren’t Decepticons :P Also because they lacked the manufacturing resources of a big company like Hasbro, they couldn't be produced in the same quantities, which meant a higher price.   The good thing though is that unlike Hasbro, their designs didn't have to pass any safety standards or budgeting constraints, which meant more detailing and accessories, and BOY did these guys come with a whole lot of accessories….

They come bearing gifts....
...for Everyone to enjoy!
The really cool thing about Fansproject is that the put a LOT of thought into their design.  So even though they came with a lot of stuff, each piece served a purpose and could be used not just by the two bots they designed but by the ones Hasbro made as well.  So in both robot and vehicle modes, all 5 robots benefit from all these add ons.  And of course the ultimate beneficiary of this is the combined mode…Bruticus Maximus.  Rather than write more about it, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves J

So there you have it.  Yes, because of their nature, these guys ended up costing a LOT more than a normal official Hasbro Transformer, but the detail and options you get with them is unmatched.  And the fact that these guys are selling for a whole LOT more now on eBay now makes me feel my initial investment was well worth it J