Monday, August 21, 2017

Take A Walk On The Broadside

Almost every successful toy line owes their continued success to the various “gimmicks” they introduce through the years. For the Transformers, it was easier than most to expand from the central concept of robots transforming into an alternate mode. And one of the first “gimmicks” they introduced has remained one of the most popular ones to many fans and collectors. Simply put, what would be better that a robot that could transform into one mode? Why not a robot that could transform into TWO! And with that, the “triple changer” concept was born.

The first two triple changers were introduced in 1985 with Blitzwing and Astrotrain added to the Decepticon ranks. And the following year, Hasbro added three triple changers to the Autobot side, Springer, Sandstorm and Broadside and evened things off by adding a third Decepticon triple changer Octane.

Now of the six, Blitzwing and Astrotrain are arguably the most popular because well, they were first and were featured most in the cartoons. The Autobot Springer follows close behind thanks to being one of the main characters featured in the 1986 animated movie. Bringing up the rear would be the other three, Sandstorm, Broadside & Octane. And of those three, Sandstorm and Octane still managed to be featured in a few episodes of the third season of the cartoon leaving poor Broadside to bring up the rear and be destined for obscurity.

From the very start, I would say, Broadside never really had a chance of getting many fans. His toy was arguably the worst of the bunch. In the past, I’ve often described most vintage Transformers toys as “bricks” and well Broadside was a prime example of that. His robot mode literally looked like brick with a head and arms, his “jet mode” looked like a brick with a nose cone and wings and his third mode, which was an unfortunately undersized aircraft carrier (yes I know mass shifting blah blah) looked like guessed it a brick with a flat surface for tiny tiny tiny planes to land on. And just to make sure they got the message across that this guy was a boring toy, while Hasbro decided to make his fellow Autobot triple changers pop with bright green and orange color palettes, they gave Broadside….gray.

And if that didn’t make matters worse, his tech spec didn’t even paint the picture of an exciting character. Sure he is is initially, described as a “valiant” warrior, but that’s followed up with a robot who gripes too much and is afraid of heights and gets seasick. Oh and his armored skin is also prone severe corrosion when exposed to saltwater for extended periods. Truly sucks to be him.

OK so if you had to dig up at least *one* semi interesting thing about Broadside it would be that he actually had two animated character models. One was based on an earlier toy prototype which gave him a face and a *little* bit more color, and the other based on the final toy release that sported a face mask. To confuse the fandom even more, Broadside’s look based on his prototype was that one that used most in his earlier comic appearances while his “official” look was used in later incarnations.

So like I said, in the cartoon, Broadside was the least featured of the triple changers. In the comics, he fared just a little bit better, specifically in the UK Transformers series. While to my knowledge (I never really read the UK series) he still didn’t really have much of a personality, he played a useful role as one of the more recognized members of the elite Autobot strike team, the Wreckers. The Wreckers were a team composed of the roughest and toughest (or possibly stupidest) Autobots that took on missions that your regular bots would avoid (usually because they were mostly suicide missions). Because of this, the Wreckers membership was often changing, with new members coming in to replace old members who died. Fortunately for Broadside, he was oftentimes featured as a member in most incarnations of the group, which meant he must have been a VERY good warrior (or really good at just blending in with the background).

Anyway, on the toy front, for the longest time, Broadside never got any modern updates. Even when all the other triple changers got new toys, unsurprisingly, Broadside was left out. In my effort to complete my own Wreckers lineup on my shelf, I had to resort to 3rd party company Fansproject to give me the modern Broadside I needed. Their version, dubbed “Assaulter” was released in 2012. Assaulter was big, beefy and didn’t transform into just 2 pretty good looking alt modes, his robot mode actually had the ability to pay a loose homage to Broadside’s two distinctive masked and unmasked looks.

For his two alt-modes, Fansproject applied more liberties to their designs with what I would imagine was their attempt to really finally make a Broadside toy that Both modes look nothing like the original vintage toy, especially the supposed aircraft carrier mode which now looked more like a futuristic spaceship carrier reminding me of the SDF-1 from Robotech. Even if he is over 5 years old, Assaulter remains one of my favorite 3rd party Transformers today.

Eventually though, Hasbro did get around to giving us a modern official update for Broadside as part of the 2017 Titans Return line with a twist. Not only was he still a triple changer, but he was also now a headmaster which was the all encompassing gimmick of the line. So now aside from being able to transform into 2 modes, his head now detached and transformed into an even smaller robot named “Blunderbuss” to supposedly pilot his 2 alt modes. Unfortunately, this modern update was a mixed bag at best. His robot mode was OK (well at least it wasn’t a brick), his aircraft carrier mode was definitely better with a lot more details (including tiny tiny airplanes that you could plug into the carrier’s runway) but his jet mode….oh his jet mode was a travesty, arguably the worst thing Hasbro has come up with in years.

To be fair, front mode of the jet looks ok…..then we get to the back where it seems as though the designers couldn’t figure out what to do with the legs and said “ah f*ck it” and just tucked them into some weird position in the back and called it a day. It’s quite unfortunate that such a poorly obscure character finally had an opportunity to impress and well...failed again. And to make matters worse, remember his new partner Blunderbuss who was meant to pilot both modes? Well for the jet mode, he fit nicely in the cockpit but for the aircraft carrier mode, well the designers had him sit on top of the control tower which not only looks dumb...but unfortunately makes him look like he’s taking a big dump on poor Broadside. (ok to be fair, you could also seat him inside Broadside’s weapon and plug that to the side of the carrier).

Oh well, it looks like Assaulter’s place on my Wrecker’s display is still secure for now.