Wednesday, 25 May 2016

I Have The Power

Transformers Autobot Powermasters




Over the past 10 or so years I have managed to sell most of my childhood Transformers toys. For various reason, mostly due to moving around too much or just not having space, I could only manage to keep a few of my most prized figures from that time. This article is about a sub-line of Transformers which most people either love or hate, but which I absolutely adore and have done my best to keep hold of - the Powermasters.

Much like the Headmasters and Targetmasters before them, the Powermasters were a set of mostly new characters, each partnered with a humanoid figure which augmented their abilities. Whereas the Headmasters had humanoids which could transform into the head of the robot and the Targetmasters had humanoids which could transform into the weapon of the robot, Powermasters had humanoids which could transform into the engine of the robots vehicle mode. In the toys, this unlocked the ability to Transform the figure between vehicle and robot modes.

The version of the associated fiction which I am most familiar with is from the UK comics. At the time these figures were released in the UK, I knew nothing about the Japanese continuity and therefore had no knowledge of Super-God Masterforce and the fiction that went along with it. Having watched that series as an adult I must admit to not being too interested in that version of events. I like to think of the characters as actual Transformers with humanoid helpers rather than humanoids with, what amounts to, robotic exo suits. There is something noble about one race working together with another toward a common goal which is probably why I prefer the western fiction.

The idea for this article came from the news that there is a new Powermaster Optimus Prime figure in the Titans Return line. The images so far show a figure that captures the look of the original Powermaster Optimus Prime figure without actually being a Powermaster at all. Instead we have a Headmaster Optimus Prime dressed up as a Powermaster Optimus Prime. With that in mind, let's have a look at the original Powermaster Optimus Prime along with the new Titans Return Powermaster Optimus Prime before taking a look at the other Autobot Powermaster figures. 

Optimus Prime and Hi-Q


For reasons hard to explain, I really loved this figure. That sounds odd so let me explain myself a little better. 

I loved the original (now known as G1) characters that I grew up with but even though I loved the characters, I had much less love for the toys themselves. They were a product of their time and had limited articulation in most cases. I remember dismantling several of my figures in order to find a way to make them more like the comic and cartoon versions. This usually ended in me being disappointed and trying to find a way to reassemble the parts.

This is why I find myself confused as to why I liked this version of Optimus Prime so much. I mean, it's a brick with little articulation, but when I was young this was one of my favourite versions of Optimus Prime. I think the fact that I could choose to have a regular sized Prime or fold him up and add him to the trailer to make a much larger Prime went a long way for me.
Looks like it's time to kick ass
Now let the image above soak in before looking at the stock image of the new Titans Return Powermaster Optimus Prime below.
Kicking ass as a Headmaster

Awesome huh?

It's like they took the old figure and made it way more articulated. It's a seriously nice update to the original figure. All the visual cues are there, the white shoulder cannons, the black guns, the overly deep legs, the bloated head, everything.  The only downside is that it isn't actually a Powermaster but a Headmaster.

Anyway, back to explaining why I liked the original figure.

The box that Powermaster Optimus Prime came in was pretty damn cool. The artwork of Powermaster Optimus Prime was so dynamic and alive. It's just a shame that the actual figure couldn't be posed in the same way as the artwork portrayed.

The front window showed both the Optimus Prime figure and the Hi-Q Powermaster figure. It also had the huge Prime head poking out like some souless decapitated trophy. Rather odd but at least you could see what you were getting for your money.
Awesome box art is awesome
The figure came with everything that you would expect of an Optimus Prime figure, a cab, a trailer and some weapons. What you don't get is a Roller which would have been nice.
Trailer and cab all present and accounted for
Like a lot of Optimus Prime figures, the trailer could be used for other purposes. The most common purpose being a kind of repair bay for Prime, but in the case of Powermaster Optimus Prime, the trailer becomes a base which can be host to other Powermaster figures. It's a decent little base mode even if it lacks enough space to create a really exciting scene.


The trailer becomes a base
This new Titans Return Optimus Prime also has a base mode which captures the look and feel of the original really well. It misses the ramps of the original figure in these stock images and I can't see an obvious way of getting the same look which is a shame.
Not a bad base mode
When not in the Powermaster mode, Optimus Prime could become a more traditional version of the character which looked like it had stepped out of an episode of the cartoon.

The face sculpt was really quite cartoony and the windows of the cab in robot mode were not actually the windows of the cab in vehicle mode but were created especially for the robot mode and were hidden on the back of the cab when in vehicle mode. This is a trick used a few times on Optimus Prime figures, the latest example of this is the Comber Wars version.

The legs were detailed enough via sticker sheets but suffered from being connected to each other at the foot. This meant that the legs couldn't be move independently of each other.
Without armour, Prime is fine
Finally, let's take a quick look at Hi-Q, otherwise known as Ginrai in Masterforce. It's a great little figure with black legs, a white torso, red arms and on my copy a slightly lopsided blue visor. 

Hi-Q folds up into an engine which, when inserted into the grill of the cab, allows Optimus Prime to change between Robot and Vehicle modes.

Hi-Q or Ginrai?
Compare the original Hi-Q with the Headmaster figure from the new toy. This one is called Ginrai which feels like a sideways homage to the Japanese character.
Very nearly bang on
What a fantastic little figure. Even though it's a Headmaster, it looks to have been molded to appear very similar to the original Powermaster figure. The legs aren't black but they do have the same curve to them that Hi-Q had. It also has circles on the knees where the original figure had pins. The face sculpt has roughly the same features as Hi-Q did. If they added a splash of blue paint to the visor, it would be brilliant.

So overall, I am really looking forward to Titans Return Powermaster Optimus Prime. It's going to be fun comparing it against the original Powermaster Optimus Prime.

Well, that's enough of Prime... let's have a look at the other Powermaster figures from back then. 

Slapdash and Lube

 
Besides the inevitable Optimus Prime figure, the Powermasters sub-line provided us with 3 new Autobots. Slapdash is the first of those figures that I want to talk about in this article.

A rather simplified Formula One style car, Slapdash was chunky and fun to play with. Like all Powermasters the transformation was locked until the Powermaster engine was inserted, releasing the clip in the toy and allowing the figure to be changed to robot mode.

Once again we got a cracking box with suitable cool artwork showing the figure in a pose it could never actually achieve. The front window showed the Slapdash figure in in a plastic bubble and the Lube figure next to it in a smaller window.
More awesome box art
The tech spec explains that the character disorganised, neglectful and sloppy which isn't the most flattering character profile ever. It also explains that he gets locked in vehicle mode frequently due to leaving his humanoid partner behind.
Ah tech specs
Let's have a closer look at the tech spec.


You may need a red plastic decoder to determine what Slapdash's vital statistics are ;)
Everything as it should be
The figure suffered from the usual lack of articulation sadly. What you did get was a shoulder joint, an elbow joint and that's about it. You didn't really need more than that back then as you were happy just to have them on your shelf, but these days fans demand more from their figures.

In robot mode Slapdash could either have the engine piece attached to the chest to cover the area where the Powermaster would be or the actual Powermaster could sit in there. Either option looks fine.
With Powermaster in the chest


King of the road
In Japan the Lube figure was the character Road King. The Slapdash figure was simply a Transtector shell that Road King could wear when needed.
Zoom Zoom
I fondly remember having Slapdash on my shelf with the other Powermasters. The vehicle mode was pretty cool back then and the robot mode was equally decent. These new figures stood out from earlier G1 toys in looking less realistic and more stylised, but that didn't stop me enjoying them.


Joyride and Hotwire


The second of the new Autobots that I want to discuss is Joyride.

A simplified dune buggy, Joyride was another great addition to the ranks of the Autobots.
Look at that pose
The artwork for Joyride is awesome. The clenched left fist really helps you understand the type of character you are dealing with. The artwork on the G1 boxes was something special as it helped bring otherwise static figures to life.

The back of the box had the same box art as most figures from the time, showcasing the new Optimus Prime as well as Pretenders.

More tech specs

Let's have a closer look at that tech spec.


Tech specs were such a huge part of the whole figure buying experience for me back then. The UK comic fiction was always way behind the toy releases and therefore the tech spec was the only way of knowing what the figures character was like.
Somehow I managed to damage the window :(
The vehicle mode was a mostly serviceable dune buggy but those wheels could have done with some paint applied or even rubber tires. That being said, the reflective headlights were pretty cool and the spoiler and front molded winch thing helped add much needed detail.
Power(master) Ranger
In Japan the Hotwire figure was known as Ranger. The Joyride figure was a Transtector exo suit that Ranger wore when necessary.
Buggy Boy
Despite the lack of articulation and the rather chunky plastic feel to the toy, it was very cool and fit right in next to Slapdash and Getaway. Speaking of which...


Getaway and Rev


The third and final of the new Autobots is Getaway, an escape artist without equal. That description comes straight from the tech spec and makes me chuckle every time I read it. His Powermaster partner is Rev who transforms into a 600 horsepower engine.


Putting to one side the immense craziness of all of this, Getaway is a pretty cool character who suffers from a sever lack of articulation. Still, it's yet another character from G1 which I enjoyed at the time and still remember to this day.


In Japan the Powermaster figure is known as Lightfoot with the Getaway figure being the Transtector.
Dynamic pose FTW
Once again we have some rather excellent artwork on the front of the box. The Getaway character looks so dynamic and fun and really helps sell the character. The back of the box has the usual scene and Getaways interesting tech spec.
3 robot points - nice

Let's have a closer look at the tech spec.



The line in the tech spec about built in onboard computers always confused me... Surely the Transformer is just a huge computer and therefore they all have built in onboard computers.

When you think about the display aspect of the boxed figure below, you start to realise why they packaged it in vehicle mode and left the robot mode to the artist. That way you don't see the rather limited robot mode when you look at the toy shelf and contemplate the purchase. You only see the cool looking sports car and the nifty looking robot mode artwork.
Not as white as it once was
Here's a nice shot of Rev with Getaway in the background. I never used to display the two figures individually like this but these days prefer to focus on the Powermaster.
Light of foot?
The vehicle mode is not too bad. It's chunky and not too complicated but still fun. Without the Powermaster plugged into the bonnet, Getaway can only be transformed by manually depressing the latch with a finger or similar.
That's a huge engine block


Like a lot of Transformers that were molded in white plastic, Getaway generally suffered from yellowing. Either due to exposure to daylight or, as in my case, exposure to cigarette smoke. A little care and attention can help reduce the yellowing and restore the brilliant white of the original figure.


Doubledealer and Knok


Doubledealer is an odd character and one of the few to be aligned with both Autobots and Decepticons. I never could understand how one character could be both Autobot and Decepticon depending on the Powermaster figure used to transform it but I remember settling on the idea that Doubledealer was the type of character that would work both sides to his own gain. Neither Autobot nor Decepticon but able to work with both sides to better his own position in life.


Knok is Doubledealers companion who, when in engine mode, allows him to transform into an Autobot robot mode. There is another Powermaster figure, named Skar, that is a bat type character which is capable of unlocking the Decepticon bird mode when plugged into the Doubledealer figure.


In Japan the figure is known as Clouder when using the humanoid armour and Doubleclouder when using the bat armour. This makes a little more sense to me... but only just.

The humanoid Powermaster figure is built in a similar way to Optimus Prime's Powermaster Hi-Q in that it is slimmer than the chunkier Powermasters that come with Slapdash, Joyride and Getaway. 
Vehicle mode


Robot mode
I enjoyed the idea of a triple changer Powermaster figure and applaud the engineering that made it possible. All three modes look good but once again suffer from severly limited articulation. That doesn't really stop my liking this figure so much as each mode is still awesome.

Individual Powermasters



The three new Autobots individual Powermasters are great little figures, each full of character and recognisable by their colour and the shape of their backpacks. I doubt very much that we would get same build quality and attention to detail if these figures were released today. All five of them together make for a very cool line up.

The other two Powermasters feel different from the first three in that they don't have the same chrome effect and feel a little lighter. It's tricky to describe but there is a subtle but noticeable difference.

That being said, they are all really neat little figures and sit well with others from the same time period. Put these next to Targetmasters and Headmasters and they fit right in.
The gangs back together
As a group, they look great together. Each one is distinct from the others by virtue of having a different design to the backpack. The chromed figures are quite nice looking but I think I prefer the unchromed look of Knok and Hi-Q.
Go team!
In humanoid mode they are very similar in construction and yet each has a unique personality which shines through the colour and detail of each figure.
Attention
From this angle you can see how similar the molds were for the arms and legs of the Powermaster figures for Joyride, Slapdash and Getaway. The chests and backpacks were very different however.

That's all folks


I hope this little journey through the past has been enjoyable for you. It's been fun for me to revisit the Powermasters that I had as a child. The figures were some of my favourite back then and I have rekindled my love for them whilst writing this article. Even though they were stunted by a lack of articulation my childhood imagination more than made up for the deficiencies in the figures.

I am hoping that the new Titans Return line will pay due respect to these fantastic characters as well as others from the same era. I am particularly looking forward to the new Powermaster Optimus Prime figure and will be reviewing it as soon as I can get it.

Thank you for reading and see you again next time.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

MakeToys Wrestle

The Beginning

MakeToys are on a roll recently. The seem to have captured the hearts and minds of Transformers fans with their RE:Master line of unofficial Transformers figures. Fans who are collecting Masterpiece figures are certainly being well served by this new line as it targets that scale of figure and provides characters that Takara Tomy and Hasbro will probably never get around to doing as they are seen as too niche or unpopular.

Their recently released Cupola and Gundog figures are being received especially well in the community so it is with high expectation that I order their online store exclusive version of the G1 character Grapple.


The Box

Not much to say other than it looks nice and in perfectly functional. The front shows the figure in both robot mode and vehicle mode.
MakeToys Wrestle
The back of the box shows more detail pictures of the figure as well as some of the additional faces that come with it.
MakeToys Wrestle
So without further ado, let's see what this figure looks like.


Robot Mode

Wrestle comes packaged in robot mode and is ready to pose out of the box. It feels a little light at first but you soon get used to the weight. Some figures do not lend themselves to play or posing but Wrestle seems like it wants to pose at every opportunity and the solid and wide feet make doing so rather easy.
MakeToys Wrestle
The figure comes with two hands which fold into the arms as part of the transformation. It also comes with Grapples' trademark missle which isn't spring loaded but instead attaches to a small protrusion on the rear of the hand once it is folded back.

Grapples' orange colour scheme is recreated faithfully here although you may notice a difference between the orange plastic and the painted orange die cast parts. They are not crazy different but there is a difference.

You may also notice the subtle nods to the G1 figure that they have included on Wrestle even though they have no function. For example, the black bar on the lower arm is the same as found on the G1 figure which was used to fire the spring loaded middle or fist from the arm.


Articulation

Wrestle features some amazing articulation for such a chunky figure.

The hands are on swivels and rotate at the wrist. Fingers are on a hinge and do not move individually whilst the thumb is separate and not articulated. Elbow's are double jointed and the shoulders rotate both forwards and outwards on ratcheted joints. The outwards ratchets on my copy are really quite tight, to the point where I thought I would break it trying to move it, so be careful when transforming it. There is a bicep swivel allowing the lower portion of the arm to rotate.
MakeToys Wrestle
The waist can swivel and the head is on a ball joint, which makes taking the head off to change the face straightforward. The legs are on ratchet joints at the hip providing forward and outward movement. Again, these ratchets are super tight so be careful. The legs can also rotate about the connection to the hip.

The knees are double jointed meaning you can get a good 90 degrees of movement. The feet and on ball joints and have ankle tilts for extreme A stance posing.
Assume the position
So all in all the figure is pretty posable. It doesn't look or feel like it is but once you get your head around the figure and how it moves, you will have it pulling great pose in no time. 
Run, fatboy, run

The Faces

Wrestle comes with a number of additional faces which can be swapped out by removing the head from the ball joint and sliding out the face to replace it with another one. The faces come on a sprue and require a little craftwork to remove. Alternatively you could just wiggle them until they come free, like I did. The eyes likewise come on a sprue and need some wiggle to remove.
Face off, then on, then off again?
So let's have a look at the faces individually.
Mr Worried
Mr Constipated
Mr Meh
Mr Shouty
Mr Weirdo
Mr Denture
They may not be the best face sculpts in the world but I like them and I like the fact that MakeToys went to the effort of providing them with the figure.


Vehicle Mode

When transforming the figure into vehicle mode you may find, like I did, that the included instructions are of absolutely no value whatsoever. They may as well be drawn in crayon for all the help they give you. If you are a seasoned Transformers fan and have some idea how these things work then you should be fine, if not then watch a video review or something because there are several place where things could go very wrong if you are not careful.

Things to watch out for are folding the crotch and legs up to form the underside of the crane. The crotch piece and waist section kind of collapse into themselves which is hard to explain and even harder to understand when reading the instructions but pay attention when you get to that part as it is tricky.

Also, the two flaps on the back of the torso are flappy and liable to be bent the wrong way accidentally if you are not careful.
Loose flaps
Finally when moving the shins into place at the back of the vehicle mode, keep an eye on them as they swing around a fair bit and are liable to get caught as you are moving parts around.

Once you have successfully completed the transformation, you can enjoy a rather sweet looking crane.

The End 

That's all folks.

In summary, Wrestle is a cracking figure that I can not only recommend but also demand that you get a copy and quickly. Being a MakeToys store exclusive may mean it has a much shorter shelf life than usual for third party figures, if that is possible, so don't delay if you want one.

The figure is not without problems, mainly tight joints and poor instructions, but these are not issues that should put you off of getting such a great figure. Go on, you know you want one. It'll look great with your Masterpiece Transformers.

I will certainly be picking up the Hellfire figure from MakeToys and would welcome other repaints if they decided to produce them.

Thanks for reading.