Today we’re going to take a look at what I think are four of the most under-rated figures in the history of the Transformers brand; the Laser Rods.

These figures came out in the second year of Generation 2 in 1994, and known as the Illuminators in the UK, these figures featured a number of features which were a first in the Transformers market, and as such these figures act as vital stepping stones in the legacy of the Transformers brand, where nearly all figure ranges add something to the rich tapestry and have bought us to the present, where we take many such features as light-piping and poseability for granted.

Before we get to the toys, I’ going to share some rare imagery from a Transformers Generation 2 style guide.  Style Guides are issued so licensees can ensure they keep to the company style, providing license holders with approved images and pantone codes to ensure everything matches up.  Not always easy when the packaging art and character names change from the US to Europe.  This covers a wealth of G2 characters, and I will crack this out from time to time if it is relevant to a subline we’re looking at.  This is a brief and incredibly nerdy look at a niche aspect of the fandom, some people will love seeing this, others will skip ahead to the toys.  Both are fine.



Style Guide Cover, you don’t see these often, though I’m sure a lot were issued.


Black and white line art of Electro and Hotrod (Jolt), full colour at top of page

Let’s start by taking a look at the Decepticons.


Sizzle is a Decepticon (no relation to the G1 Sparkabot), although you wouldn’t know it because none of these figures are actually branded with any logos, which is very odd because the majority of G2 figures usually feature a mixture of G1 and G2 logos, and at the very least a branded tampograph with the logo and faction name.  Known under the name Fireball in Europe, but I tend to go by the US names on these guys for some reason.
Like all of these figures, the engine and the hands can light up when you press a button, hence the Illuminator / Laser Rod branding.  All of my figures have long since had the batteries removed to preserve the innards of the bot, but at last check, they worked just fine.

His alt. mode is a Ford inspired hot-rod, and for the record is one of my favourite vehicle alt. modes of all time, although I feel he needs MUCH bigger tyres on his rear-end.




Second up, is his fellow partner in crime Jolt, the first Transformer to use this name in the history of the brand, before Minicons and Bayformers came along.  He’s also known by the really unimaginative Hotrod in Europe (no relation to the future Bot who would be Prime).  If he looks minty fresh, it’s because I only tore him free from his cardboard prison a year or two back and he’s been behind glass ever since.


Jolt transforms into another Ford inspired custom hot-rod car, although others think he bears a resemblance to a Chrysler Prowler.



Moving onto the Autobots, we have Volt, who sports a slightly different look in his toy form to his packaging pictures as his roof suddenly became his chest, possibly just to vary the line so there weren’t three ‘bots with hood chest designs in a four ‘bot line, but it does mean that the Autobot Laser Rods have roofs for chests and both the ‘Cons have hoods for chests, so there is an easy “how-to-differentiate” guide for these un-faction-logo’d ‘bots.  It’s maybe of note that the European versions of the Autobots both kept their American names.

Volt transforms into a 1934 Ford Coupe inspired custom hot-rod racer.




Fresh out of the packet and that knee joint looks fragile…


Finally, we come to Volt’s brother, Electro .  Interestingly, the Unofficial Transformers Recognition Guide states that Electro doesn’t suffer from GPS like a lot of other old figures, but I guess the figures were only 8 years old when that book was released, because as you can see…

This can happen.  Here’s one I broke earlier.  Electro often transforms into a broken pick-up truck.

Luckily, I carry a spare in case of this eventuality.  Here’s a look at the Japanese packaging (complete with paperwork for nerds like Maz), this figure has never and will never be transformed by my hands, but I did take him out of the packaging and risked EVERYTHING for this photo-shoot.  You’re welcome.




One of two figures I display in packaging.

00012E 00013E

Electro also has the dubious honour of being the only member of the team to be “re-imagined” for the modern age, thanks to the Botcon 2013 souvenir pack.  It’s a nice figure, and probably a better use of the mold than Kup to be honest.  At one point I had the Hasbro Asia Swerve repaint, and the Botcon 2013 Hoist, and a spare Kup, which I was going to customise into the Laser Rods, but it felt like them sharing a single mold would cheapen them.


So, earlier I talked about some of the unique points of the Laser Rods.  So what are these?  Well, for one, three of them had unique names at the time they were made but this wasn’t that unusual for the first decade of the brand, they all had unique molds which have NEVER been reissued to this day (very rare, considering how many cut and paste repaints were released in the Universe toyline), they had a unique electronics feature which involved unplugging the LED and plugging it in elsewhere (primative maybe, but functional), light-up weapons, light-piping, but more than that, these figures were the first Transformer figures to feature ball-joints.  Okay, sure, the waist section lets this down a bit as it’s held on by a rubber band similar to GI Joe or Action Masters, but the ball jointed legs and highly poseable arms meant these guys could strike poses that were unseen before them, and with awesome (and uniquely molded) melee weapons, without this step, would we have ever have gotten to Beast Wars levels of poseability.

What else?  Did I mention weapons storage?

Okay, they’re not the first Transformer to do this by any means, the Axelerators did it very well the year before as did their line nemesis’ (nemesi?) / evil equivalents The Skyscorchers.  But these were figures where the weapons were integrated into the transformation.  On the Laser-Rods, these swords are additional parts and quite sizeable too, having them store under the figures is a nice touch, and again, a stepping stone towards the weapon storage as standard Kenner bought us with Beast / Machine Wars.


I often hear Transformers fans complaining about Generation 2, because they didn’t like the colours (which are often no more garish than G1 a lot of the time), when mostly I think they don’t dislike it, they just prefer the G1 they grew up with to the G2 they have no affection for.  I often say that every Transformers property, whether you love it or loathe it, offers something new to the franchise; The Bay movies bought us Blackout and Barricade, the Animated series Lugnut and Lockdown, even Cheetor and Hot-Shot contributed to the idea that Bumblebee’s character could evolve over time.  No re-imagining contributed more to the evolution of the toys than Generation 2, and the Laser Rods stand to me as some of the finest examples of G2 figures.  Bold, brash, creative, and unafraid to take risks, even if they mean that rubber bands snap, plastic breaks, and light features fail.  They say there is no waste in science, because even a failed experiment rules out one option, and along with that theory, every risk that G2 took was an extra step towards the toys we have and love now.

Bravo Laser Rods, we salute you!


One card-backer to rule them all…


Following on from my post at the weekend about the glorious Japanese exclusive Liokaiser, today, we take a look at the incredibly phoned-in European Rescue Force set.

Reducing the range count from six to just four figures, and doing away with their Breast Warrior companions and weapons, the Rescue Force makes for an odd release in 1992, at a time when – more than any other – it really felt like Hasbro really were not making an effort.  I suppose we should be glad we got these at all, because even with all the compromises involved with their release, it’s still more than America got, as these molds have NEVER been released in the good ol’ US of A.  But at the same time, here in the UK we never got Blaster, Trypticon, Omega Supreme, Perceptor, Sky Lynx, the Deluxe Insecticons, half of the first range of Pretenders (this might be a positive) so… I could go on.

Despite the cut-backs, Hasbro did pay out for new weapons to be molded, which gives these guys a bit more character and a look more unique to them.  They were released with weapons in red, and later in silver, with subtle face-paint differences between the two releases (gold to silver).  There are also packaging variants as well.  These variations don’t tend to go for vastly different sums, as a lot of collectors still don’t focus on latter-day Euro stuff, but then, of course, there are some that do…




Let’s have a look at the Rescue Force together.




The robots look great as a team, loads of positive, bright Autobot colours.  And no, my OCD doesn’t sit well with not having a matching set of weapons, thanks for noticing.



Despite my Hasbro-didn’t-make-an-effort sentiment, I do actually really like these guys, I think they look great as a team of four robots.  But mostly I like them for the oddity of the time and place in Transformers history, and because of their connection to Liokaiser.




As a group in alt. modes, they look really cool too, and the new weapons make for at least one fairly unique looking alt. mode with that one character.  You know, him.  The blue tank looking one.  Sorry if I can’t name him, but Hasbro NEVER BOTHERED TO!  Instead, they packaged them marked merely as Rescue Force and Autobot.  They were not alone with this, the 1992 European non-combining yellow Constructicons (subtly different from their G2 cousins that soon followed as they featured no weapons and a bit more grey detailing, and of course no combining parts).  The reason why?  Cost-cutting.  All the Rescue Force shared the same backing cards, same with the Constructicons. They’ve since acquired Western names of a sort, but I won’t spoil them for you yet…


I seem to remember Toy Fu (toy retailer who donate to charity) had a few sets of these MOSC back at Auto Assembly 2009 for just £45 and at the time, I skipped on them because they just didn’t look appealing, as they are quite blocky and I had zero affinity to the characters.  I since regretted not buying them, but thanks to various lovely people in the fandom who’ve given me toys from their own childhood, I have since acquired a loose set for even less then that, and I’m very happy to have them in my collection (with slight “battle damage” and all).

So, lets take a look at the individual figures and compare them to their Japanese counterparts.




First up, we have the dramatically named Rescue Force himself alongside Leozack.  It’s largely presumed that Rescue Force is the leader of his respective group, probably because he has the prime naming of the group and, I imagine, because Leozack was the leader of his group.  Nothing exists in a vacuum.

Leo-1LKPln2-2-RK Leo-1LKResPln2-RK


Some great jet modes, even if their canopies are more susceptible to damage than Goose’s head in Top Gun.  While the plastic quality and joints feel of much better build quality on the Japanese figures, there is no denying that the colour schemes on the Heroic Autobots absolutely pops, even if the colours are maybe more generic and overused in the franchise than Liokaiser’s varied palette.



Next up, we have Tank Guy alongside his counterpart Killbison.  Haha, just kidding, he’s not called Tank Guy, his name is much worse.  It’s Rescue Force 1.  FAB.



As mentioned earlier, at least the new weapons give the alt. modes on these guys a real distinct look, softening the look of the good guys whilst going uber-aggressive with the villains.  Even if their heads are visible.  There was much discussion when photographing about which way was supposed to be the front and which way the back of these tank alt. modes, I’ve always felt like the solid feet end looks more like the back of a tank, but in retrospect, there is a very good chance these are facing the wrong way.  Tank turrets rotate, so I’m over it.




The third member of the Rescue Force is the imaginatively named Rescue Force 2, from the Dave Allen school of numbering things.  Pictured here with Jaruga.  I do have a stickered version of Rescue Force 2, but he was not available for this photoshoot due to other commitments (I don’t know which box I put him in).


It’s worth noting that while Jaruga should have small missile launchers (repro parts en route), the good guy character features much more aggressive weapons in a complete inversion of Rescue Force 1.  As cool as Jaruga looks in black, the crisp white and blue contrast of Rescue Force 2 works equally well.




Last but not least we have Thunderbird 3, I mean International Rescue Force 3, I mean Rescue Force 3.  Yes, the names are awful, and even the really unimaginative naming-pattern puppet show could figure out a decent name for the drill tank (The Mole).  Although calling a TF character The Mole could lead to a really unimaginative IDW spy story-arc.




The drill-tank is my favourite alt. mode of the Rescue Force set, and is one that really looks better than it’s Breastforce counterpart Drillhorn in my humble opinion, and the weapons do add an extra degree of threat to an already dangerous looking alt. mode.

And just for the sake of completion, and because I feel bad these molds haven’t been show-cased in this blog, lets have a direct comparison between the alt. modes of Guyhawk and Hellbat from Breastforce.


So that’s Rescue Force, the new weaponed, non-combining, four part, un-named set that don’t come with chest plate animal partners despite showing them in chestplate mode on their packaging artwork.

Wait, did I say non-combining?  Because it would have cost even more to remold them, Hasbro just left in their combining parts.  Why they didn’t release the other two parts is anyone’s guess…

Believe it or not, an obscure European sticker album mentioned the combination and christened it Big Rescue Force.


Lame.  Less Rescue Me and more Kill Me.

However, do you remember those various KOs we discussed in the Liokaiser blog?  Those are not completely without merit…


rescue tiger

Take two part crappy KOs…




…Add one-part decent customiser who removes crappy stickers and adds new ones and improves the detailing / facepaint…




…And voila!!!  RESCUE TIGER!!!  (caps lock and bold totally necessary)

Yup, this custom has been done by a few people online, and is a massive improvement on the “official” Big Rescue Force mode.  This particular custom is the work of and named by Spurt Reynolds, a wonderful UK customiser and repro part caster who did a great job with this custom, chosing the name due to the combined mode head-sculpt and giving the black and yellow “caution” stripes a secondary meaning.  A custom which will no doubt inspire a hundred others.

So there we have it, the Rescue Force team, who have had even less fiction and updated figures than Liokaiser, who at least got a fiction cameo as a Kreo figure.  Will we get a TFC re-release in these distinct colours?  Will they include the full team of six or just four?  Will we get a proper combining team akin to Rescue Tiger?  Who knows, but two things are certain;  1)  If TFC make them, Kapow Toys are sure to stock them, and 2) The idea of a combining Rescue Force is in the fandom’s collective consciousness and not going anywhere.


Amazing fan art by Joshua Burcham, check out his art at Deviant Art.

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20 Feb 2016

Liokaiser Chiefs!


One of the most interesting and intriguing sets from Transformers Generation 1 is the Japanese exclusive Liokaiser set.  Released in 1989, and having never been reissued (bad KOs are available, in a variety of sources, including one with Doubledealer for an arm?!?), the team featured in the Transformers Victory cartoon, but still to this day have never had any western media appearances, and as such they remain largely unknown in the West.


Liokaiser KO

Nasty undersize KO with Doubledealer arm.


Liokaiser is the combined version of the Breastforce (which was coincidentally the name of my stag-do group), featuring six all new molds, this Breast Master / Target Master combiner is the closest we ever got to the Go-Bot Puzzler style of combination, wherein all of the parts needed for combination are included within the individual member’s robot forms, with the exception of his head.



Not the best condition box, but certainly acceptable.


Stunning rear box artwork as always.


That’s £17.15 for those keeping track!


They also released these guys separately, but I managed to pick this box-set up last year, unstickered, almost cherry, mint in box, with paperwork, and only missing the two small missile launchers from Jaruga / Jallguar.

Amusingly, in it’s day this figure failed to sell well in Japan, like a lot of later-day Transformers, especially villains such as Dezarus, and while very difficult to find in the collector’s market for less than four figures (not including decimals), they often have multiple store price reduction stickers on them.

Let’s take a look at the guys.



Leozack is the leader of the pack, transforming into a F14 Tomcat fighter plane.  But wait, what is that cool looking beast thing next to him?  Only a bloomin’ Breastforce Warrior (Beastforce, surely?)!  Little pint-sized triple changers that transform from animal sidekicks to weapons to chest-plates!  Leozack’s partner is  Lionbreast, who becomes the Lio-Cannon when used as a weapon.



Next up is Drillhorn, along with his partner Hornbreast, who becomes a lovely Drilltank.  Hornbreast becomes a generic blaster, and is having a doglike wee in this photo.



Above we see Guyhawk, alongside Hawkbreast.  Guyhawk transforms into a Mig-29, and his partner is a hawk (duh!) who can also become a Hawk Cannon blaster… obviously.



Above we see Hellbat and his mate Batbat, okay he’s called Kōmoribreast and he can become the Kōmori-cannon, but I think he needed a more anglicised name.  Hellbat becomes a rather nifty Dassualt Rafale jet fighter, apparently.



Next up is the GPS scare-mongerer Killbison, who actually isn’t half as bad as a lot of the gold toys from the 90’s, which is a relief.  Still, caution is urged as he’s more expensive than G2 Electro or BW Randy.  Killbison becomes an anti-aircraft tank, and his little mate Bisonbreast becomes the Bison-Blaster!  Because, you know, why not?



Last but not least is Jaruga, or Jallguar (depending on your preference – I use Jaruga more often than not, probably because of the Metronome DVD translations), his little buddy is Jaguarbreast and becomes the unimaginatively named Jaguar-cannon weapon, you know, when he’s not spending his time attached to Jaruga’s chest.



Interestingly, in the Victory animated series, there was a seventh member of the Breastforce; Deathcobra, but he died at the hands of Hellbat and he never even got so much as a toy.  In my opinion, this is EXACTLY the sort of thing that third party guys should be focusing on; obscure on-screen characters that never got made.  Unfortunately, I think he’s so obscure, few would know who he is.


Pretty cool huh?  Let’s have a better look at those Breastforce Warriors, and see how they interact with their partners.



Amazingly detailed little fellas, all with so much character.



This is the team together, with their Breastforce Warriors as Target-Master style weapons.  It’s a great play feature which I like a lot, but I have to admit, I prefer them as chest armour, as seen below…



And this is the team together, with the Breastforce Warriors as chest-plates, where they become armour according to the bios!  The real-world equivalent of this is strapping small animals onto your chest before having a firefight against The Expendables.  I don’t think they’d stop many bullets, but maybe the distraction would buy you a few extra seconds.


Let’s move onto Vehicle modes.

Leo-1LK6RK Leo-1LK4RK

The alt modes rock!  Almost as much as the fun, instinctive transformations, a hallmark of G1.  These figures have superb engineering overall, and there are no corners cut.  Even the two jets who comprise the shoulders / arm who look similar at a glance are actually very dissimilar, it’s not just their jet modes that differentiate them, the entire robot modes are mirrored to enable this unique combination.



Boom! Money shot!


In hand, he is truly one of the most stunning of the G1 Combiners.  Unlike the Scramble City / Special Teams toys which have an amazing play-pattern, Liokaiser is a fixed-limb gestalt, easily up there with the likes of the original Diaclone Devastator and Raiden molds in terms of design ingenuity, with way more playability than those or the mighty Predaking.  The interesting and varied alt. modes, coupled with the amazingly fun Breastforce Warriors make this one of the most unique combining Transformers to ever come from Takara.


LiothanatosOne of the things that is especially intriguing about the Breastforce, is how little has been done with the characters in the 27 years since they were created.  Fun Pubishing included a Leozack figure as part of their attendee souvenir packs for Botcon 2009, and a few names were re-appropriated for Kreo, but that’s about it.  Even third party companies have been slow on the uptake, but at least TFC are finally releasing their versions, with Thanatos in stock and others available for pre-order at in the Kapow web-store.


Moving forward, we will look at comparisons between the TFC and the G1.


If you’ve ever read any of my blogs, you might be familiar with my annoyance at the contempt and cost-cutting I feel Hasbro have sometimes shown towards the US / European market.  Whether it was the unpainted, plastic part, non-windsheilded version of Ultra Magnus the majority of us got in the UK, or the general massive step-down in quality Powermaster Prime received compared to it’s Japanese Takara Ginrai counterpart, then keep an eye here: I mentioned earlier that Liokaiser wasn’t released in any markets outside of Asia, and while that is strictly true, four of the molds were recoloured and re-released in Europe as part of the obscure G1.5 era between the end of G1 in America and the launch of G2, but with many of the bits that made these guys so cool removed.  We’ll take a look at Rescue Force next week, and I’ll show you direct comparisons between them and the Breastforce.

Written by C Z Hazard / Ceno Kibble (pick one, he can’t).

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Just in case you missed the awesome reveals over the weekend, here is round up of some of the better pictures from Hasbro’s display for the upcoming, Titans Return.

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I Personally think, this is a great line to take over from the Combiner Wars. Even though not all of these figures look amazing, a lot of them really do look quite awesome! I can also see some potential where companies like Perfect Effect  could make some easy improvements!


Let us know what you think!

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12 Feb 2016

Masterpiece Hot Rod

With Hot rod so close, we are getting quite excited here at Kapow! How about you guys and gals?


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Don’t forget to get your pre-orders in HERE!

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