No-one can deny that the early days of Transformers G1 provided us with some real innovation, especially in this early Takara Diaclone and Micro-change toys.
Unfortunately, the good ol’ days only last so long, and pretty soon the reality of business takes over. For Hasbro, this meant designing new toys in house which were cheaper to manufacture and – thanks to the nature of plastic over die-cast – with molds that would last much longer.
As kids, a lot of us might not have noticed the cheap-creep, but I remember my parent’s certainly voiced it as they loved the early years, but were not fans of the later era. As metal disappeared, detailing became simpler, basic gimmicks took over, and sometimes hands disappeared to be replaced with stubs (I’m looking at you Powermaster Prime!), it was easy to see the difference from 1985 to 1987.
This wasn’t always a bad thing, as limitations can often spur creativity – case in point Budiansky and Furman’s writing, and some of the Hasbro designs have a charm and simplicity all of their own. Many toys I disliked as a child I have come to love, including the much maligned Action Masters, and many collectors love their Pretender collections.
But sometimes we get The Firecons.
Despite a fairly cool first appearance in the comic-book, where they went toe-to-toe with Galvatron (spoiler – they lost), nothing could have prepared me for the toys.
Yeah. Any Gee-wunners who go with the fleeting statement that all G1 are better than the toys we get now, need look at these guys. From left to right, we have Flamefeather (blue), Cindersaur(purple) and Sparkstalker (pinky purple), released in 1988 as one of the lower priced figures in the TF range.
They transform from three decent enough looking mythological bird monster creatures (a lot of Decepticons went a bit feral cyber-beasty by this era), with some really nice sculpted detailing – albeit with rubber tyres sticking out of their chests – to…
…this. Three decent enough looking mythological bird monster creatures with robots carved onto their backs. Their alt. mode legs retain the same function in robot mode, their robot arms unfold to reveal the very basic (and similar looking) robot heads underneath. The alt mode head, tail and arms just fold behind the robot as mega-kibble, so don’t look behind or turn them around.
I guess much of the sacrifice was due to their gimmick (other than transforming), as the Firecons could fire sparks out of their beast mouths if you ran their alt. mode bellies along the ground, then it was a rush to point the sparks into your friends eyes before they stopped working (the sparks and the eyes!). This was great fun as a kid, for the first week or so until you wore the flint out, and got a rollockin’ from the parents for scratching up the living room table / kitchen counter / doorframe. Usually, this would result in a bit of paint work damage too, which is why the beaks and horns on these guys often have some paint rubbing.
These guys are cheap enough to collect, and an interesting curiouso, though I would suggest the main collecting reasons for these guys are a) nostalgia and b) a sense of completion. But honestly? How is that any different to the rest of collecting? They are also something of a rarity – as they will never be displayed in robot mode in my collection.
Two of the three were later released in Generation 2 exclusively in European markets (please note, European markets often also include Canada, presumably due to the dual language packaging and licensing deals in place), using one of my most hated giummicks; clear plastic. Thankfully, the colours are suitably offensive and G2, so I do dig them. A lot. As much as I might joke about the Firecons, these G2 variations are legitimately hard to find, especially in the United States.
Cindersaur didn’t make the cut, I’ve often wondered if his absence could be explained through gang-molding, as Flamefeather and Sparkstalker appear to share a few colour-schemes in the G1 and G2. However, 16 years later as part of Botcon 2010, they did release a Cindersaur, albeit using the 10th Anniversary of Beast Wars Megatron mold, so it doesn’t really fit. Despite an incredibly cool colour palette that makes me want to immediately do a custom to complete my G2 set proper, I just can’t get behind this toy. It’s just too far from the source for me, and instead of “completing a set” with a mold 16 years remove, it instead starts yet another sub-set it Fun-Pub have no intention of finishing. Points for effort though guys.
Cindersaur? Or just a blue Beast Megatron? You decide.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Japanese releases of these, also in 1988.
As the Decepticon Sparkdash sub-group, we saw Cindersaur re-coloured into a mean looking green and grey as Guzzle, Flamefeather released as Sizzle unchanged, and Sparkstalker in red as Javil. These names are especially confusing if you’re familiar with the names of the Western Sparkabots; Fizzle, Sizzle and Guzzle. We will do an article on these guys in the near future, but if you’d like to see more of the Destron Sparkdash’s, check out Brr-icy’s wonderful blog here. These guys have fantastic packaging, that almost make you want to pay $200 for an unchanged $5 toy in the case of Flamefeather.
In conclusion, the Firecons haven’t seen much love. No CHUG re-imaginings, no Third Party Representation, and only the most token of name re-usage in Bot-Shots, you would have thought they’d have fit well in Beast Hunters. At least Sparkstalker has had a decent showing in the IDW comics (with a name like that, you’d think he’d be a lot more bad-ass) but as yet, it hasn’t let to any new toys. Despite my lack of fondness for the G1, it would be nice to see these guys done well as it could redeem them a little bit. I was hoping to get these from a company like iGear or Mech iDeas as they seemed to fit with their concept of small and cost effective, but alas, thus far we have nothing. Titan Masters anyone?
We mentioned the Skyscorchers a lot in the mid-week post, as the counterparts to the Autobot Axelerators. Exactly the same deal applies with these guys; they were released in Europe as part of the Euro 1.5 era / continued G1 (complete with what we now consider the G2 logo) after Transformers had stopped in the US AND Japan. Transformers stopped in the US after Action Masters effectively killed the line dead, and Japan continued until 1992 with Operation Combination. Leaving Europe carrying the torch, which meant little old England got a few exclusive figures for a change (we did miss out on Perceptor, Swoop, Blaster, Trypticon, Fort Max, Sky Lynx, Omega Supreme and a whole host of others though).
Euro version, notice the different artwork.
Of course, their exclusivity was short-lived, as they were re-released as part of the G2 range proper the same year alongside the Axelerators, and like their European wave-rivals they also suffered re-branding, now known as the “Small Jets” and featuring all new names. Pshh, I’ll take Skyscorchers over Small Jets any day of the week.
Like the Axelerators, they also feature a similar weapon storage gimmick, where the hand-held weapons double up as a plane part – rather than engines, they become under-carriage radar / sonar devices. These figures are also gang-molded, featuring alternating primary and secondary colour-schemes, and unlike the Autobots there are no differences between releases (I’m quite shocked they didn’t remove the green light-piping and canopies for a more boring smokey grey). We present them here under their European names first, and US names second.
Hawk / Eagle Eye
This was the only Skyscorcher I actually bought at the time of release, the rest were picked up on the after-market a few years later. Hence the missing toe / rear landing gear, lost somewhere to the mists of time. It’s the eccentricities of collecting like this that I love, where I’ll happily pay big money for big ticket items, yet completely forget to hunt out a minor piece for a £5 figure.
Hawk is listed as an Infiltrator, which makes him no different to most Decepticons really… He’s a fun toy, with a simple transformation – the simplest of the bunch – but even then it features a few surprises to make you feel its not just ANOTHER jet-to-robot transformation. In this respect, these guys do outshine the Axelerators, as the transformations are generally more involved.
In jet mode, he becomes a Dassault Rafale jet or a Eurofighter Typhoon jet, depending on who you believe, one with great stickers on his wings, and a nice sticker proudly presenting his year of production; 93. Bless him.
Snipe / Afterburner
I never really noticed until now quite how plain (should that be plane? ho-ho!) he looks in robot mode, it’s certainly a sharp contrast to his alt. mode. At least his weapon compliments his European name of Snipe, and it makes you wonder if Eagle Eye was originally intended for this guy, as it certainly would have made more sense, but then again his function is Technicians Master rather than long-range offense of other such. His transformation is much more than meets the eye (knocking them out of the park today), and I think anyone who has experienced the basic Beast Wars assortment variety of transforming present in Machine Wars would be very surprised by the involvement required for this sub-line.
In alt. mode, he really shines, with great decals and paintwork throughout destracting from an otherwise generic blue jet (which are admittedly way more common in Transformers than real-life), and a gnatty revised Con logo right in the centre of the fuselage. His tail-fin logo is also really great in a naff nineties sort of way, I can imagine it being tattooed on Will Ferrel in Blades of Glory. He transforms into a Lockheed F-104G Starfighter jet. Terradive
Hooray! A name that is consistent amoungst all territories! Although as a fun-fact, it’s worth mentioning that his working title was Terraswoop. This guy is easily my favourite of the bunch, even though his transformation is less involved than the others (but still would feel perfectly suited on a bigger toy), a transformation which gives him a very unique silhouette in the shoulders, which is needed, as the colour scheme on the robot mode needs something to help it pop. It’s worth noting the under-wing engines become the lower legs of the robot, another factor contributing to his somewhat unique look.
It’s his alt. mode that makes this guy stand out so much, it’s not like the Ling-Temco-Vought A-7E Corsair II jet is a favourite of mine, with it’s rounded features massively different from the typical style of fighter-jet we usually get in Transformers, making it look more like a transporter of some kind. Looks can be deceptive, as a bit of research shows it is a fighter jet in service from Vietnam through Desert Storm, with it’s heavy emphasis on radar and accuracy, and it’s under-cockpit air-intake giving it it’s distinct look. The plane mode on the real-world fighter jet isn’t quite as fat as the way the toy presents it, but I think that helps give this toy an identity.
Tornado / Windrazor
Saving the leader until last, a grey Decepticon jet with blue parts and red trimming… hmmm, where have we seen that before. He doesn’t look to offer much in the way different to a lot of other jet robots, but actually – once again – his transformation is remarkably involved, needing a few more twist and turns than expected. His profile describes him as an evil genius, but how sad we never get to see that in any of his comic-book appearances.
As a F-16 Fighting Falcon, he definitely wanders back into the more recognisable sort of fighter jet, although his single tailfin does differentiate him from the F15 Eagle of Starscream and company. Even if his bad tattoo flash on his tailfin might be more at home on an Eagle. Or on Eagle Eye. Honestly, their names seem very interchangeable for the most part, and this guys working title of Whirlwind could easily apply to all of them.
Overall, I’m a big fan of these toys, especially their transformations and Terradive in particular is a stand-out figure. I can’t help feeling that they look less visually appealing than the Axelerators, and for the time, the colour-schemes are very subdued – although paint-apps and stickers do attempt to give them more personality.
Mostly, my favourite thing about these guys are their uniform head-sculpts, which manage to have a lot of sinister personality considering they have no real faces so to speak. Nowhere are these heads better presented then on their US box artwork (Sadly, it’s really hard to find the Euro artwork, which wasn’t printed in the otherwise amazing Transformers Legacy artwork book), and I’m pleased to say over on my personal blog I’m sharing some exclusive paperwork from the Hasbro offices, showing the work in progress in developing that artwork. Most interesting are the notes on Snipe, where a new head and leg have been re-drawn and stuck over the original sheets. Check it out here on my blog.
Just a sample.
They have never been re-released or reissued outside of their Euro 1.5 / G2 origins, nor have they been recoloured, although, they too came close with Takara’s planned Block Town line, where it’s presumed they would have adopted the names of Hawking, Snipe, Terradive and Sky Tornado, respectively, as their original colours would have been called had they been released in 1993. It’s of note, that these guys would have all jumped faction to Autobots for the Block Town release. Sadly, as they never got released, I will have to resort to customs one day, but without stickers and tampo, I can’t see them working as well.
He’s not fat, he’s big-boned.
Despite their awesomeness, these are not big collectors pieces and are excuse the pun, under the radar for a lot of collectors (ho-ho), despite recent fiction appearances in the Regeneration comic series – in fact the best part of that series was probably all the cameos by obscure latter-day G1 / G2 characters. There have been no homages or re-imaginings of these characters at all, in twenty years… no Fun Publishing toys, no e-hobby exclusives… nothing. A shocker.
They can still be picked up relatively cheap, and while I get most modern collectors have drifted toward Masterpiece and Combiner Wars, I implore you to at least pick up one of these toys and give them a look, and remind yourself what simple fun these toys used to be.
Collecting can be a curious thing. To outsiders, they may think that Optimus Prime must be the rarest, most expensive and sought after Transformer s there is, similarly with the general public and Star Wars thinking that Vader or Boba Fett are the hottest of the hot. The truth is that yes, while the majority of fans WILL want these figures, so did the majority of kids back in the day, and as such they are easy to find and the majority of collectors will have long had these key “foundation” items in their collections. Sure, a C-10 MOSC Darth Vader 12-back will run more than a loose example, as will a sealed Goodbye Convoy or VSX set, but mostly you have to venture into the obscure to find the true rarities.
The truth is, there are four distinct categories; easy to find items, hard as nails to find items, expensive items, and then ungoldy expensive “grail” items. In my experience, POTF Yakface is one of those expensive items – much like a complete Scorponok or Typticon – that are REALLY easy to find, everyone and their kid brother has had one for sale at some point. Sometimes, much less expensive items are much harder to find at shows, stuff like the Turbomasters or Predator Jets, which don’t sell for much in UK / Europe, can be a real chore to track down. The comic-book world is very similar, but with much more choice available you’ll always see hundreds of different dealers all selling the same “hot” books for hundreds of times the original cover price, while trying to find “unpopular” books with a low guide price value is much, much harder to do. Rarity does not always dictate value.
To get to the fourth category of ungodly expensive items, we’re usually talking about test-shots, unique items, or lucky draw figures. These are things that not every collector can afford, and some collectors just don’t like. For me, test shots mostly hold no real appeal, same with the majority of Lucky Draw toys (although I can always be tempted by black repaints damnit!). I collect mainline toys with a factory finish, and as such I tend to avoid all Gold / Silver chrome toys, resin casts, test-shots, clear toys, or “battle damage” customs, as much because I don’t like them (although I like seeing them in other people’s collections and at shows) as I don’t have the money or space, and every collection needs a cut off. I’ve often felt that a great collection is as much defined by what ISN’T in it, as what is in it.
But if you collect mainline toys and have a sense of completionism about you, the “towards the end of a line and no-one wanted it” syndrome can be a real pain.
Which brings us to Grandus.
Released in 1991 exclusively in Japan as part of the later day Micro-masters “Return of Convoy” subline, this limited toyline featured three major releases with Grandus, Star Convoy, and Sky Garry, as well as the introduction of the combining Micro Masters with Sixliner (all of which were released in the West 10 years later as part of the Universe line and will be featured in a future blog, including the rare chase figures!), and repackaged versions of the Micro Master teams all of which came with numbered Micro Trailers.
The only fiction the line had was in the form of the Battlestars Manga, as the TV show hadn’t been renewed after the single episode of Transformers Zone had failed to gain support for an ongoing series the year before.
You can’t really see from the front, but check out the funky claw hands below.
Despite little to no fiction appearances, Grandus has become one of those extremely hard to find and thus expensive end of mainline toys. A good example, complete in a box can run up to $1,000, but for those willing to hunt around, he can be found a little cheaper sometimes. I got a great deal on mine, who is largely in great condition as seen above, but even then one of the accessories is missing (the missile pod, I’ve had two sent to me but they’ve both disappeared en route strangely, at a cost of $40 each), and the helicopter pad has badly yellowed and will need replacing.
Grandus is a fairly big toy, and certainly chunky. Whilst not up there with Fort Maximus, or even Metroplex, his blocky nature makes his proportions tricky to define and he casts a mirage of being bigger than he really is. Transformed into his rather nifty aircraft carrier (not a patch on the USS Flagg), he might look a little basic, but it serves a purpose I’ll address after the next picture.
There is no denying that Grandus is a brick. I’m okay with that. It’s a comment that often gets thrown around as a pejorative term to describe the lack of poseability in those early G1 toys. People who’ve come to collecting Transformers later in life, through Beast Wars or even Bayformers don’t have the bittersweet tinge of nostalgia colouring their perceptions, and it can be hard for some people to see the early figures as the charming quantum leaps of toy technology they really were, compared to the modern-day Masterpieces we’re darn lucky to be getting now that many people take for granted. Grandus takes brick syndrome a step further than most, and some people use it as a way of mocking the figure, quoting the normally excellent TFwiki; “He transforms from a short fat box on its stomach, to a fat box with a base sticking out of its stomach, to a fat box standing up. The inventor of the Triple Changer is rolling over in his grave. A terminal point G1-era city-former, he is painfully simplistic and bricktastic in robot and vehicle modes, compensating with … an arsenal of weapons, as well as Micromaster ramp and base modular compatibility”. I think they missed the point completely. Sure, he may be a brick, but he wears it on his sleeve so much it pretty much becomes a play feature, and I believe the Micromaster ramp and base modular compatibility came first. Form follows function, and on this, Grandus wins. Take a look at all the detail inside him.
I sometimes think people forget that Grandus is as much a playset as he is a robot in his own right. If Grandus is a brick, then The Ewok Village is a block of plastic that just sits there, the Kenner Death Star is just a tower with no points of articulation, and the TMNT Technodrome is just a round brick. We do collect toys after all. True, he does only have two points of articulation with his arms, but this still goes one step beyond his Countdown and Sky Hammer contemporaries by being a robot in his own right, not just a playset / vehicle named after the central figure. If that was the case, the Grandus set would have been called Spinner, after his Micromaster companion we’ll get to in a minute.
Take that best Megatron figure we never got!
Not only can Grandus join up with ANY of the Micromaster bases for a myriad of different combination, not only can his motorised features can be powered by Star Convoys tracks as part of his rarely seen base mode, but that’s just his base mode! He can also hook up to Metroplex in aircraft carrier mode, or be dragged along by Dia Atlas, 0r – most impressively – he can also link up with his line mates Sky Garry and Star Convoy to make the Triple Combination Battlestar Attack Base (unpictured as it doesn’t fit in my light box, but once we’ve had a look at Sky Garry and Star Convoy I will show this super mode. This blog is here for the long haul, so comfort yourself with the above artwork for now). So, yeah, eat that Overlord and your awesome but limited use base-mode.
Spinner is the most Brave looking Micromaster I think I’ve ever seen in both modes, moreso than the Micromasters that actually came out in Brave (oh God, he’s on about Brave again – Editor). He’s hardly the first Transformer to use a police theme, but the colouration and the way the shield is framed is straight out of Brave Police J-Decker – don’t believe me? Well watch this space, we’ll be covering Brave more in the coming months.
So that is G1 Grandus, a big hunk of plastic love. Unfortunately, we’ve never had any other toy versions of the Grandus character, and he’s yet to turn up in any Botcon fiction, or even James Robert’s obscurathon feelie comic More Than Meets The Eye. Thankfully, those are not the last bastions for the unloved, Transformers Animated makes up the holy trifector and adopted Grandus with a lovely version of him which, sadly, never saw a toy release. Pictured below was the very first tease of Animated Grandus re-imagined as a sumo-wrestler, released by the awesome Derrick Wyatt on his blog.
Hasbro gave us two of these at least, and I helped see the release of two more, so that’s not bad.
As well as appearing in the Botcon 2012 Animated Sunticon-job comic fiction, Grandus did make it into the actual cartoon itself, along with his official mold-mate retool Dug-Base, officially part of Transformers for the first time.
Wait a minute, who?
From the Brave of Command Dagwon series, Dugbase was a retooled version of Grandus. Like other latter-day Transformers that never got recoloured or reissued, Grandus was repurposed for the Brave line.
Dagbase is an awesome toy, and tends to retail MISB for about 1.5th of the price of Grandus, so for some he is an excellent stand-in if you just really want to own the mold without skipping a mortgage payment, but he’s an excellent toy in his own right and thanks to DJW and the Animated cartoon, you have an excuse to annoy the Brave purists, slap an Autobot faction logo on him and port him right over to your TF collection.
Look at that face! Not only does he look stoic and serious compared to Grandus, but he’s already well equipped to see most 3D movies.
His base mode feels even more city-like than even Grandus with the inclusion of two very Fortress Maximus reminiscent ramps that enable the various trains (so many trains) that make up the Brave line to interact with him, and the accompanying Decoy-esque solid Dagwon figures show the difference in the idea of scale between Transformers and Brave – most of the Brave figures are huge, especially when combined into their final forms where they often can reach Fort Max scale, and each one of the included figures represents a full-size character. Much bigger than a Micromaster base.
Like Grandus before him, Dagbase can also link up to a lot of his fellow Brave toys to make a sprawling city mass, including the obvious TF repaints like Death Garrygun, but also new robots like the HUGE plane Fire Dagwon, who also has a little seen base-mode (again, I will show all of these in future blogs, I can’t show every picture of every robot, in every configuration at once, and we’re building to some of the more obscure stuff).
At a glance, Grandus and Dag-Base look very similar as they have such unique body-types, but actually the differences are quite noticeable; with the feet, hands, faces, back of the head, and accessories (including shoulder mounted traffic lights???) all changed to give them both a unique identity. You don’t see these two side by side that often.
None more so than the aircraft carrier mode, which for Dagbase becomes more of a, uh, well I’m not sure what you’d call it exactly? As I mentioned earlier he tends to interact with trains moreso than anything else, but I can’t see how this could work with trains. So let’s just call it a battle platform and move on.
Overall, I prefer Grandus out of the two. I think Dagbase has some great features and I like a lot of his remolded bits, and his ramps, but there is something about the colouring on Grandus that I love. His little claw hands give him some much needed personality where the headsculpt fails him a little, and the huge 371, a reference to his Japanese release number (C-371) really adds an extra layer of nerd appeal for me. And what can I say, I love huge, sprawling base mode cities.
Grandus’ mold wasn’t the only thing recycled for the Brave line, his working title of Iron Baron was also repurposed for Thunder Baron and Road Baron. Those crafty peeps at Takara never let anything go to waste. Including their designs for Super Rodimus Prime, which we will get to one of these days, but not just yet…
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.
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.