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Monthly Archives: October 2016
For some reason, Action Masters did better in Europe than in other territories, and while the US saw the TF mainline end in 1990 it continued in both Japan and Europe, with each company seeing a mixture of different releases.
Japan had already started moving in it’s own direction, focusing on the Micro Machines element but with all new giant toys with base modes and increased Micro-master interactivity, and they continued this in 1991 with the Return of Convoy line featuring Star Convoy and Grandus. In Europe, we got a second year of Action Masters.
Although it was only a mere 14 figures, they are memorable now for being some of the hardest to find mainline releases of all time, especially with the confusing Action Master Elites, who were of course Transformers who couldn’t transform who could transform. We’ll look at those at some point, but for today, we’re looking at the Exo-Suits and their modern counterparts.
As mentioned last week, the base figure for Circuit is a straight re-use of Axer but in the more positive and primary colours of yellow, befitting his Autobot allegiance. Seen above with his TFCC Subscription Service repaint, which also shares a mold with Axer, a repurpose of 2010 ROTF Lockdown. Circuit may be destined to be a straight repaint of Axer (even with the modern mold head-sculpt not really suiting a good guy), but his exo-suit is all new at least.
Unlike Axer who came with a motorbike, Circuit’s Formula One-esque race-car makes a lot more sense for the base mold which seems to show leftover alt. mode car detailing. Unlike Axer’s motorbike, Circuit looks very silly sat on his vehicle. There is some odd internal logic happening both at Hasbro and in-universe at this point, giving characters who used to be cars or planes a car or plane accessory; by this logic Action Master Grimlock should have been given a giant T-Rex accessory he could ride into battle. Actually, now I verbalise it, that sounds pretty damn cool!
His exo-suit is kind of lame, when you figure that this came out just one year before the Kenner Aliens Power Loader exo-suit (a vehicle which looking back could fit seamlessly into Action Masters), so it very easily could have been better than this. Unlike other Action Master accessories / playsets, this has very little involvement in the transformation, and no detachable external weapons (although, scratch that – the front wheel blaster on the exo-suit does have a peg hold on it, so it looks like it was intended for use as a hand weapon too, and I’ve just literally discovered it detaches easier than I thought). To make up for any deficiencies in the design, the factory applied stickers do say Action Masters on three occasions, so Circuit seems to be very comfortable and proud of his mono-former status.
As always with Action Masters the paint is very easy to rub off the character through minimal use, and like a lot of stickers of this era they are very prone to peeling, wear and dis-colouration, so handle with care.
Ultimately with this guy, I feel Circuit is a figure that most US or Asian collectors would have been okay with missing, but you have to give credit for the TFCC going with such an obscure choice of character! Sure, half the work was done for them with the mainline release of Axor, and I still feel the choice of alt. mode and head-sculpt are not the best choices for the character, but I guess they were tied to the mold because of Axor (even if a part of me thinks they should have released Animated Circuit using the Animated Lockdown mold, a toy I infinitely prefer over the ROTF / HFTD release).
Ah, this is more my speed. Rather than just repainting Action Master Starscream in blue and calling it a day, the team at Hasbro Europe decided that Action Master Thundercracker should be every colour they could find. In many ways, he is the ultimate early-nineties colour-scheme. When people think of G2 colouring, they picture this release – it’s fair to say, he’s more G2 than G2.
And heck, what a great job TFCC did with him!!! If I was being picky, I think some remolded weapons would have really helped the homage, but I can’t complain.
With three weapons, he’s already out-classed Circuit’s accessories, and with a much more cooler looking alt. mode and power-suit design, he’s definitely the winner of this subline. Sure, the power-suit has the same limitations as Circuit in a lot of ways; no poseability for one, but this actually seems to make the character look cooler and a more effective fighter. In comparison, Circuit’s suit looks like someone made a straight-jacket out of a car.
This alt. mode is a Solo Mission Jet plane, and differs a bit from other AM releases; Thundercracker doesn’t look so much like he’s riding his stealth bomber inspired fighter as much as he looks like he’s just trying to hang onto the damn thing! A clever use of the longer weapon also helps hold Thundercracker’s legs into position. Again, the transformation of the power suit / alt. mode isn’t that inspired, but I personally like the results in both modes.
The interesting legacy of this figure is the deco’s repurposing, years later it has come to be known as Shattered Glass Thundercracker and it was under this name that the CHUG repaint was released at Botcon 2011, part of the TFCC written (and seemingly owned) concept of a Mirrorverse Transformers universe where Autobots are bad and Decepticons are good. This re-purposing of repaints and obscure figures helped the TFCC SG concept gain great ground in the fandom (despite not releasing easily available licensed SG faction logos), and it’s one I take to heart when I repurpose figures for my own collection, such as using this figure as an extension to my CHUG2 collection, as although I don’t collect Shattered Glass due to space issues, I’m all about finding space for Action Master homages in my collection.
This colour scheme has also launched a repaint campaign, with one Radicon customiser attempting to customise every seeker mold in this colour scheme, sometimes to great effect, especially the one pictured above which uses the official Botcon release with a customised MP seeker body! I implore you to do a little google search of your own.
These figures tend to be divisive, but whatever you might personally feel about non-transforming Transformers, garish colour-schemes, odd power suits, or the availability of European exclusives, at the end of the day it’s just cool that we got something unique in Europe (and Australia) for a change, and it’s very cool that there’s been homages to BOTH of these toys.
We’ve been very lucky over the last few years, and I hope whatever Hasbro decides to do with the license post-Fun Publishing is half as fruitful for collectors.
Ben’s Collectables shows us just how much of a beast Grassor really is!! Those are Mp seekers he is throwing around!
Head over to benscollectables.com to check out the full review
Still available to pre order:
This Bad boy is still available to pre order!! What are you waiting for?
Continuing our look at the Action Master line, today we look at a small subset of two vehicle playsets, the Decepticon Action Master Action Blasters. Check out the advert below to see what you’re in store for.
Axer / Axor
Axer was an all new character for Action Masters, mixed in with more recognisable “legacy” characters as we discussed in last weeks article. He came packaged with his Off-Road Cycle. As with all good Action Masters, this accessory could transform in leui of Axer transforming, having given up the power of transformation to become stronger, faster, and cheaper to manufacture.
Although don’t expect the toy to fire missiles from the sidepod like in the picture.
This is Axer in the plastic. A nicely detailed figure who gives a few things away about his previous transformation, his blue leg wheels denote that he was a ground based vehicle, and his chest looks like a car faring in the manner of some of the great TF cars of all time, complete with bumper. Like Prowl, his Autobot equivalent, he is a car partnered with a motorbike, and he uses the seat back of the bike as a very small shield, and his hand-gun can be used as a weapon in conunction with his partnered motorbike.
The motorbike is all kinds of funky, and with flames on the faring you know it’s fast too(!) Pegging the hands onto the handlebars involves bending the arms in which can put pressure on the already prone to detaching AM shoulder joints (being seemingly held together with pixie dust and good faith), and the split leg positioning to get him seated looks very uncomfortable, the vehicle could perhaps be a little bit thinner to allow the figure to stay in position a little easier.
The fiction for AM characters was always very little, focusing mostly on Grimlock’s battle to save the other Dinobots, and as such it’s never really been explained if the partnered accessories are sentient or not. It’s often assumed that the creature partners such as Wing-Thing, Catgut and so on are sentient, but nothing has been written on whether the vehicles are anything other than mere equipment. For the sake of these articles I’ll continue to use the phrase “partenered with”, because regardless of the sentience of the equipment, it comes partnered with the figure from a sales POV.
The cycle transforms into a Battle Platform of some kind, with the wheel opening into a far from optimal protective rubber and spoked shield, the seat detaches and becomes a stand t help with balance, the twin exhausts flip forward to become missile launchers, and a little flap opens on the sidecar so another AM can peg onto it, utilising the 3 3/4 action figure standard of a peg hole in the foot, offering no real benefit that standing a figure next to the platform wouldn’t offer. As an adult looking at a 25 year old collectible, it’s not the best of transformations; as a kid I’m sure it would have been great fun.
Axor was reborn and slightly renamed as a ROTF-era Lockdown repaint with a new head. Unlike some of the newer AM homages like Krok and AM Thundercracker, I’ve never been a huge fan of this new figure as Axer. I’ve always felt that the figure aesthetic is far too movie-esque to have a place in a modern CHUG collection, however it’s the only game in town for an Axer update, and probably the only one we’re likely to get. The oddest thing about this release isn’t the choice of figure, as much as the fact it was released as a mainline retail figure, not an exclusive or club figure. Very odd indeed for a character as obscure as Axer.
It’s not the only time Axer’s name was re-used though, it was dusted off in 2001 for a RID two-pack, using a repaint of G2 Laser Cycle Road-Pig (Axer in name only, as it borrows zero styling from this characters look). So the first time Axer got a transforming figure it was a motorcycle, like his partner, and it’s only recently in 2010 that he transformed into a car.
It’s an odd-pairing, and while it might not be terrible accurate to the original Axer, no-one can say the Lockdown vehicle mode isn’t awesome looking.
Axer shares a mold with the European exclusive Circuit figure, and as such the Axor / Lockdown mold was used to make a modern update to Circuit in the first TFCC Subscription Service range. We’ll take a look at that in an article next week, but that’s a quick sneak peak above.
The third release of Starscream, an enduringly popular character. After his death in the movie in 1986 and death in the comic during the Underbase Saga, Hasbro seemed keen to return him to the fold, first as a Pretender and then as an Action Master, before his G2 release.
Losing much of what made his silhouette identifiable, his non-transformable figure loses his wings, keeping only his cockpit chest as a reminder of what the Air Commander of the Decepticon fleet had once been. His colour scheme is an odd-one, following more closely his Pretenders colouration rather than his more popular cartoon or G1 appearances, hence the blue arms and legs. Losing his null-rays, Starscream is down to one weapon, but he does have that awesome looking shield which looks like it would protect against… well, very little.
Luckily, befitting his rank, he was partnered with his Turbo Jet. I’m sure this awkward looking vehicle more than makes up for his lack of a flight capable alt-mode, seemingly based on a human sized jet rather than a Transformers sized vehicle like the rest of the AM accessories.
Turbo seems to be one of those early-nineties power terms, as the Turbo Cycle and Turbo Racer were also used as other AM vehicles.
With a more involving transformation than it seems at first glance, the Turbo Jet can become the Starscream Uncomfortabler. Oh, sorry, it transforms into a battle chariot attack platform. My bad. Looking like a piece of gym equipment designed purely to frustrate newcomers, the attack platform has a pair of (non-firing) missile launchers and a place for Starscream’s gun to store. Like Axer’s vehicle, it features a spring-loaded mechanism, but rather than springing missile launchers forward (which at least looks cool) it’s just a part of the transformation. There isn’t that much you can do with this in this mode, and it’s functionality seems less than the Turbo Jet mode. Yet, it has to transform, because that’s the point of the line.
AM Stascream has no direct modern-day update because, lets face it, there are hundreds of other Starscream figures in his more popular traditional colour-scheme, however, this has just left the door open for talented customisers to work their magic.
Other than the funky-coloured Thundercracker released in Europe (who shared a subline with Circuit, coincedentally), this figure was not repainted to make any of the other traditional Seeker Jets. A missed opportunity that surely would not go unutilised these days?
We’ll be taking a look at AM Thundercracker alongside Circuit in just a few days, so come back to the site.
Overall, they are fun figures from a less cynical more playful time, and while I like a lot of other TF fans may have intitially written off Action Masters, it has become one of my favourite sublines in the long and varied history of the Transformers brand.