US G2 card-art

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.

g2 logo con

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.



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.


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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.

00012E 00013E

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.

Bravo Laser Rods, we salute you!