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.

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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…

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…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.


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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.


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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.

Destron Sparkdash A


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.


Destron Sparkdash B



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.

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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.

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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!