Thursday, July 14, 2011

There Can Be Only One!

Who's up for a round of "King of the Hill", the Transformers version? I was planning on just taking a relaxing stroll down memory lane with a Top 10 list. Then, I realized, not all G1 Transformers measure up to the wonder and ingenuity of the first series. A similar thing happened to the GI Joe lines of the late 80's and early 90's where the Joes got gaudy florescent paint jobs and bigger, unweildly weapons. As Transformer lines progressed, they suffered from the complacency of repeated transforming mechanics. How many Autobot legs were just the back trunk and back windshield folded over? That said, my biggest beef with any type of Transformer, old or new, is concerning the proportions. Ironhide anyone? Not that anyone clamors for a red van, but a front windshield for a face? You kidding me? I guess someone thought it was a good idea. Good enough to paint him white, slap on some red lights, and call him Rachet. So instead of a list, these guys have to battle for the top slot and earn the right to scream victorious on the backs of lesser toys.

With that said, of course, cocksure Starscream is our first contender. The plane looks awesome. A big fan of accessories, I like the interchangeable missiles and love how the launchers can be removed and reattached as the I'll-shoot-you-in-the-back-to-climb-above-my-station forearm lasers. The arms themselves had a decent range of movement and their size and length were a nice balance with the robot as a whole, but the oversized boxing gauntlets threw everything off. I don't blame the gloves, they actually balance Starscream's large feet, I blame his head. Having trouble finding it? Not surprising. Starscream's head is tiny. To make identification worse, no stickers or paint applications were used to call attention to it. (At least, I didn't get any eye stickers.) Instead, you're wondering who stuck a burnt mini-marshmallow into the undercarriage of your Transformer. (It was probably your older brother.) Even so, if somehow you could look past his shrunken head, a glance from the side reveals another eyesore in the form of his gray nosecone protruding out the back of his head. Nice try Starscream, but down you go. As long as this next Transformer still functions, you will never hold the title.

Megatron. How awesome that you not only get a gun with chrome plating, but it's got some die cast metal in there to give it some weight. These were the days before the orange tips on every toy gun. Back in the day, the more realistic, the better. I never had a Megatron, and kind of wrote him off until I had a chance to transform him into a robot. It was some very crafty engineering behind this toy's construction. Combine the barrel, stock extension, and scope to form a laser cannon. These accessories were a nice touch, but we can't ignore the elephant in the room. In robot form, Megatron just didn't look that good. Even the coolness factor of an arm cannon couldn't distract you from the stubby arms and twiggy thighs. The future would bring some sweet versions of Megatron, but as far as G1 versions go, Megatron is taken down by 6 green transformers with hardhats.

Devastator. Not only do you get 6 separate construction vehicles, but you can assemble them to form a super robot! This green Goliath came with shooting fists and missiles, which were neat on their own, but when deconstructed, each robot had tiny weapons and accessories of their own. Yet, as they say, the bigger they are the more tears that fall when your toy takes a digger. Thanks to the wheel loader aptly named Scrapper, he most likely would. If Devastator wasn't falling off a table, he was falling apart. Maybe the gun was too heavy, or flawed construction plagued this Constructicon. Whatever it was, Devastator had the hardest time staying together. As a display piece for a collector, this is a nice item, but for any type of play, its a massive headache. So, Devastator topples from the top with a push from our heroic red diesel. The Japanese call him Convoy.

Optimus Prime is a fan favorite and I can see why. He was a great character and had a great toy incarnation. Ironhide was a pretty cool character as well, but fell to pieces as a toy. Optimus had no such failings. This was one of the smoothest Transformers ever made. As a kid, I remember driving him off my couch and trying to transform him as fast as I could before he hit the ground. Of course, the transformation sound effect was provided by my own throat clearing. (Anyone not familiar with the Transformers must have thought I was constantly hacking up my lungs. I pretty much had strep throat when I was finished transforming Devastator.) Optimus must have had the biggest accessory in the Transformer lineup in the form of his trailer which doubled as a repair shop and battle platform. I always wondered if little figures were originally designed to come with the Transformers, especially with Optimus, due to the little control panel seats. But, as great as Optimus Prime is, he has his flaws. I guess Optimus was hinting at his future Beast Wars self with those gorilla arms. It was the added length caused by his blue fists that gave Optimus his Reed Richard's look. I also wanted to be able to move his legs past the straight position. They could go backwards, but never step forward. It's time for Optimus to transform and roll on out of here. A great toy, but not even his simian strength can prevent Optimus from losing his grip on the throne. His vanquisher was once a Decepticon, but now flies the banner of Autobot.

Wonderful plane. Wonderful robot. Wonderful balance. Wonderful Jetfire. I was a big fan of this jet. If you somehow avoided the yellowing plastic that progressively darkened with every passing year, count yourself lucky. If you also have all your armor without any clips broken, go buy some lottery tickets! This one took some finesse to transform. I was always worried I would break it. The wings seemed so slim to me. Once transformed though, wow. Arms and knees could bend, shoulders and thighs also had a great range of motion. This didn't have to just stand there, he could be posed! You could even half transform him into some robot/plane hybrid. This toy was incredible! Something that always bothered me, though, was the face. For some reason the toy's face looked nothing like the cartoon face. Then, I ran into the cartoon Robotech and noticed the Veritech fighters. Jetfire was no Transformer! They just put an Autobot sticker on Rick Hunter's VF-1! You are disqualified Jetfire!

Does this mean Optimus wins by default? The prize for the best transformer goes to Opti--did you hear that? Sounded kind of like a Cylon from the old Battlestar Galactica.

"Buzzsaw. Eject. Operation: Conquest."

I can't say anything bad about Soundwave. It stinks that tape decks are no longer in "play", but that doesn't take away from this marvel of manufacturing. Proportions are even and Soundwave transforms without a hitch. While Optimus had Roller, a solid blue, 6 wheeled rover, Soundwave came with a cassette tape that could be ejected from his tape deck chest and transformed into a bird. How do you compete with that? I was always partial to designs of Ravage or Rumble over Laserbeak, but the condor tape holds its own. Though I like the color scheme of Laserbeak better, there is no denying as far as accessories go, Buzzsaw takes the cake. The best poses are with Buzzsaw on Soundwave's shoulder or perched on the extended arm of his master. If that isn't enough, batteries doubled as a gun and shoulder cannon and could be stored in the compartment under the belt clip. The Japanese took it a step further and included headphones to make the Walkman form even more convincing. For these reasons, Soundwave stands alone at the top of the heap as the best Transformer of the vintage G1 series.

R. Ticulation

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