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Continuing our look at the Action Masters sub-line, we come to the European Exclusive Exo-Suit range in 1991, the year after the line had halted Stateside.
Featuring repaints of previous releases (Wheeljack and Sprocket from earlier in the week), and a new vehicle that transformed into a power suit with a motorised gimmick, the action was very much limited, but none the less, these are fun toys from a more innocent time.
Rumbler is a straight repaint of Sprocket, but lacking individual hand weapons, or an animal sidekick like previous releases to set him apart. He has an excellent head sculpt and an amazing colour palette which is very much of the time, but on his own, the figure isn’t much to write home about.
To help balance the odds in battle, Rumbler comes with a 4WD All-Terrain vehicle. It comes with two grabby claw things and two (only one pictured) cool looking duel-mace looking accessory that plugs into his wheels, in a very Mad Max style (okay, maybe more Grease than Mad Max). Unfortunately, while the rest of the 4WD vehicle is very solid, the mace weapons are molded from a rubber like substance and – after 25 years – they are starting to melt and wither. One of my mace weapons is doing well, and it only droops embarrassingly and weeps, leaving a sticky residue in it’s wake (I am not trying to be crude I promise), the other one has fallen apart.
The big selling point for this vehicle is it is motorised, pop enough batteries in to power a modern device for a year and you can just about get this amazing piece of 90s kitch moving forwards OR backwards. A hell of a selling point for a toyline that used to be about innovative transformations. But wait, it does transform!
If by transform you mean it stands up. Yeah, the seat folds forward to become a shin-guard, and the control-bars tilt upward to enable the now upright Rumbler to hold them. Meanwhile, the grabby claw things unfold outward to give them a greater reach.
Well I guess the colour palette is kind of cool, all bright and vibrant. In this mode, his Exo-Suit is supposed to be impervious to all firepower, which sounds great on paper, but unfortunately it offers very little cover for Rumbler, and while the Exo-suit might be impervious to firepower, I’m sure his head, arms and torso are not.
Rumbler has had zero love in the 25 years since his debut, other than a Transformers Collectors Club appearance (everyone has appeared in the club magazine at this point) and a blink and miss it IDW cameo. Not a single homage, repaint or 3P offering have even been discussed I’d wager. Can’t think of why.
Slicer is a bit more well known in the fandom, thanks to him borrowing his base mold from the (more popular than Sprocket) Wheeljack toy, as such, there have been a plethora of Wheeljack molds released in the years since, making a Slicer repaint inevitable.
While the figure on it’s own is again lacking even a hand-gun, seeing the familiar visage of Wheeljack is a different colour-scheme is always going to be interesting to the fandom, especially when he’s re-imagined as an Evil Decepticon. In fact, the colour scheme has duel purpose, working as European exclusive and tertiary character Slicer and as Shattered Glass Wheeljack. Surely there has to be an official Slicer repaint of a Wheeljack mold somewhere down the line?
Yup. Released as Decepticon Slice as an attendee giveaway figure for Botcon 2010, Slice is a repaint of Energon Downshift (who was an obvious Wheeljack homage). Although many fans may have preferred later Wheeljack figures, I quite like the fact Slice gives me a chance to own an interesting Energon mold, one that I’d long since sold the original version of. Fun publishing maintains that the Autobot logo on the chest in purple is for those who want to use him in Shattered Glass, but really it’s because it’s a molded logo and there was no way of removing that from the mold without incurring big costs. Given how savvy Hasbro have become with prepaints and repaints, I can’t see them ever molding a faction logo onto a mold again.
Slicer comes with a 4WD Assualt Vehicle (obviously completely different from Rumbler’s 4WD Off-Road All Terrain Vehicle). It’s a straight repaint in moodier Decepticon colours that complement Slicer very well, as long as slight retooling on the weapon front. The grabby claw things become straight up guns, and the maces on the wheels are replaced with wheel Slicers (I get it!) pretty much the exact weapon used in Grease actually, with the added benefit is they don’t melt like the weapons with Rumbler.
In standing up mode, it’s the same affair as with Rumbler, guns fold forward, but with a slight variation the wheel slicers open up to become slicey weapons if only someone would just come within inches of his exo-suit. I’m not sure how effective they would be, as they look like four goth Christmas trees stuck on car wheels.
Ah well, there are worse playsets for toys. Although I’m struggling to think of any right now.
In car mode, TFCC Decepticon Slice looks pretty much like you’d expect him to; a blue repaint of a Wheeljack inspired mold. It’s worth mentioning this deco was the inspiration for Transformers Prime Dark Energon Prime Wheeljack. It’s cool that TFCC did this homage, but I really think we need an official release of Masterpiece Slicer to boost the MP Decepticon ranks.
If you’re wondering why mine includes G2 logos on the doors, well partly because I’d just spent money with Repro Labels and needed to boost my CHUG2 collection, but to me it makes as much sense as using him as SG Wheeljack, and there’s a part of me that feels the sensibilities behind G2 really started in the 1991 Euro AM line. I mean, look at the colours of Rumbler and Slicer! Given that the G2 logos were used before G2 in the Euro line, and after G2 on early Beast Wars toys, I think G2 is almost as much a state-of-mind as a period of time or branding.
Despite my sarcasm, I do really like these toys. Although, I concede, I may have a sickness which makes me like anything G1 / G2. In 1991 the line was failing, and the European wing of Hasbro was just throwing ideas at the wall to see what would stick. It’s crazy and silly, and the sort of thing a committee of toy executives would probably thing kids would want; a motorised vehicle that sits a non-transforming Transformer.
Next week we’re taking a break from the Action Master fun to showcase some other weird and wonderful toys from the annals of toy history, but the Action will return and we’ll finish up this iconic series very soon.
Don’t forget to check out the Kapow Toys store as they are having a super sale right now. The Rumble is, prices have been Sliced (ho-ho!)