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.