Sunday, May 24, 2015

Cars Good, Jets Bad

When the Transformers story unfolded in 1984, there was an obvious line drawn in the sand on who the good and bad guys were. The good guy “Auto”-bots were all cars, and the bad guy Decepticons where everything else, but mostly jets, in the form of the seekers. While this clear differentiation was convenient to new fans, it didn’t take very long for Hasbro to realize that sticking to this basic classification system would soon seriously hamper their toyline’s marketability.

And so the story goes, after another loss to the Autobots, Decepticon leader Megatron comes to the conclusion that he needs more land based warriors to battle the Prime and co. When Prime finds out about the Decepticons plans, he counters it by building his own group of sky warriors (intricate 80’s story telling at its finest). And just like that, we got the evil Stunticons and heroic Aerialbots.

Now aside from transforming to their individual vehicle modes, both new factions had a collective special power, and that was the ability to combine and form one bigger robot. The Stunticons formed Menasor and the Aerialbots formed Superion.

Because of this set up, more often than not, more focus was often put on their combined forms. Sure they had their own individual bios that described unique characteristics and quirks of each member. Aerialbot leader Silverbolt was ironically afraid of heights. Skydive had a massive brain that could record every flight maneuver and pattern in existence making him probably the most skilled Transformer flyer ever. Stunticon Dead End believed that life was pointless since everyone was destined to die. And Stunticon Leader Motormaster who transformed to a truck was massively obsessed with defeating Prime to prove that he was the king of the road.

But when it came to the cartoon (and to some extent the comic), most of these individual characteristics were overlooked since the writers treated each team as, well a team.

So when Hasbro launched their Combiner Wars line in 2014 with updated versions of the Aerialbots and Stunticons, they were probably banking on the fact that us fans would be more excited about getting modern versions of Superion and Menasor. My guess is that they hoped that we would be SO excited that we wouldn’t mind the fact that Hasbro pulled a fast one on us by switching out some specific team members with new guys. Both Stunticons and Aerialbots lost a classic member each to be replaced by a new guy (I don’t count the legends add on members). Aerialbot Slingshot was replaced by a helicopter Alpha Bravo. And Stunticon Wildrider was replaced by an offroad vehicle named….Offroad (duh).

It was pretty obvious why Hasbro did this, to cut production costs. Both Alpha Bravo and Offroad would later be reused and remolded into future Protectobot members Blades and First Aid respectively. Since these “shortcuts” would ultimately enable Hasbro to make more toys, many collectors didn’t mind…ok, at least I didn’t.

To be honest, both Slingshot and Wildrider weren’t particular favorites of mine. Arguably, Slingshot received the most character development compared to his teammates in the cartoon, but he was basically portrayed as an ass#ole who would initially go up against Silverbolt’s orders and convince his team mates to do the same. Wildrider on the otherhand was just batsh*t crazy. So I was OK with the new replacement members. In the accompanying Combiner Wars comics by IDW, Slingshot actually “died” after Superion was literally ripped in half by Devastator. Wildrider just quit his team after he got frustrated by another defeat.

Luckily for us completists though, those crazy people at Takara-Tomy, manufacturers of the Transformers in Japan are a bunch of G1 purists themselves and didn’t buy this whole “new members” to cut costs scheme of Hasbro. They went another rout to cut costs, which was repainting existing molds into official Slingshot and Wildrider toys. So while their solution wasn’t perfect, for most it was just fine since they at least sported newly sculpted heads.

Now I don’t know if this was their original plan from the start, to dupe us into buying 2 extra figures in Alpha Bravo and Offroad, or that the Combiner Wars line did better than they expected on retail or Takara Tomy already made (and spent for) the new unique head sculpts, but pretty soon after, Hasbro announced they would be releasing their own versions of Slingshot and Wildrider, now renamed Quickslinger and Brake-Neck due to copyright reasons, as online exclusives.

I finally got my Quickslinger and Brake-neck a few days ago and like I said, aside from the new head sculpts, they are straight up repaints of Firefly and Dead End respectively, everything else structurally is the same down to their weapons. If you have either of the 2 previous characters then you basically know what to expect. But that’s all cool with me. I did a little switch-a-roo with everyone’s weapons giving Dead End Quickslinger’s gun, Quickslinger got Alpha Bravo’s gun and Wildrider got to keep both exhaust pipes which would further differentiate him from Dead End in vehicle mode.

So there you go, whether through Takara-Tomy or Hasbro, everyone’s got a chance to get a G1 accurate Aerialbot and Stunticon team. And what about poor Alpha Bravo and Offroad? Well, now I have a reason get Combiner Wars Cyclonus and other upcoming Combiner Wars deluxes like Sunstreaker and Prowl, two of my all time favorites in order to form Galvatronus. Everybody wins ☺