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.
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?
– CZH / Ceno Kibble / Sid.