Here’s an oddity I just found buried in my emails and decided to share with you all, a profile I wrote for Presser back when that was going to be a thing. Designed by Cassy Sark as his third or fourth piece for iGear and unreleased after the online fandom complained it was just a KO of Warpath (it wasn’t, it was a completely new CAD build about a head and shoulder taller than Fans Project Defender, only borrowing a transformation pattern from Warpath), Cassy later went on to design Spartan for MMC. As much as I enjoyed MMC Spartan, I still prefer the iGear Presser design and am gutted that it never happened – equally annoying, I never got to work on MMC Spartan in any shape or form either. Such is life.
For those not in the know, Impactor was a Marvel UK character who later received more widespread attention when he appeared in Robert’s and Roche’s amazing Last Stand of the Wreckers miniseries from IDW.
It’s a long profile as I had a bit more room to work with on the PP line compared to say, the Mini Warriors line. Enjoy.
PP06 – Wrecking Specialist
“Don’t just finish the fight. Finish all fights.”
As the war continued and despite his best efforts, PP06 Medical Specialist couldn’t save everyone. Some, ancient relics from a time long since lost in the mist of war, refused to upgrade. Others were deemed “P7” – unfit to serve, and therefore disposable in the war engine. Some bots were beyond hope, combat fatigued and lost,unable to remember what they were fighting for.
During the darkest days of the war, weakened, hapless bots were put into combat on the front lines, in lieu of real troops. The idea was these empties, whose chambers barely emitted any light, could serve as a distraction, drawing enemy fire so the Elite cadre of troops could execute more complex missions behind the scenes, safely away from the cyber-trenches.
A rag-tag suicide squad, the wrong stuff, consisting of former cargo haulers, decommissioned construction workers, manufacturers…agents of a peaceful time. The propaganda machine listed them as Felo-de-se, asking that these obsolete models make themselves useful in the war one final time. But amongst the Elite, another name was used, of a more disrespectful nature: Wrecks.
No formal record was kept of this time, or the crew in question. However, Medical Specialist remembers it well, for he was on hand as field medic for one of the most defining moments in the long war.
One ‘bot, against all the odds, survived several of these high casualty campaigns. Quiet and brooding, he stood by seemingly detached as events unfurled around him, laser shots flying within millimetres of his optics, the carbon flak of war scarring his body, and still he continued as if in an automated state. Slowly, the troops start to rally around him, feeling him invincible. Over time and quite organically, a group within the group emerged, and Wrecking Specialist started to thaw, gradually getting to know his fellow P7’s during the calm between the storms. The group often discussed the futility of the war, and their role in it, but this was quickly dismissed, pragmatists all, they realised “it is what it is”. And so it goes.
During a fateful mission where two of his unit – former warehouse stock controller Rack and his quality control inspector brother Ruin – were damaged seemingly beyond repair, Wrecking Specialist snapped and took charge of the unit.
Co-ordinating his troops using previously unseen combat savvy, Wrecking Specialist managed to not only defend his fallen comrades until they could be saved by an emergency bonding process by Medical Specialist, not only managed to hold the line during what was supposed to be a stalling tactic, he actually managed to turn the tide; forcing his opponents to flee after unleashed unheard of brutality upon them. The Wrecks had seemingly done the impossible, and taken back a valuable, strategic piece of the war-front.
From that day forth, the team within a team was affording more respect, more rank and more privilege, and their former disparaging taunt evolved and became their war-cry. After all, why be wrecks, when you can Wreck and Rule!
And for comparison, here is MMC’s Spartan, which wins the battle of the Impactors by virtue of existing and looking better than the Hasbro offering (also below).
Finally, we got an official Impactor which didn’t look like shit from the Collectors Club courtesy of TFCC 4.0, like the FOC offering above he was also combiner compatible but the base mold was a lot better than the FOC figure.
And that’s the total and complete toy history of Impactor. Sad isn’t it? But hooray for Third Party.
Originally released by Takara in 1982 as part of their new Microman line entitled Armoured Machine, this vehicle and pilot set was released as Cosmic Fighter.
Fully licensed for Western release, this was “reissued” in 1984 as Deltarian Fighter, as part of the Converters line (a real hodge-podge of robot toys, including many Diaclone vehicles which were never released as part of Transformers.
Featuring the trademark nonsensical Converters storyline and biography, the Converters line failed to really make an impact at the time, and are another great example of how important the Marvel involvement for characters and storyline were to the overall success of the Transformers product.
For those who might not know, the Microman line is considered a fore-father to the GI Joe product line, which shows it’s importance in the great tapestry of toy history, leading as it did to Hasbro’s involvement with Marvel and Larry Hama on the 3 and 3/4 scale Joe line, which opened the door for the Marvel / Budiansky deal on Transformers. Curiously, despite the Diaclone drivers being removed from all of the Converters product line despite their continued inclusion on packaging pictures, the Microman pilot was included with this release. Basically giving the line a figure that was inconistently sized with the rest of the product line. But hey, that’s converters in a nut-shell.
If you want Converters in a HALF-shell, that is also possible, as this playset (as well as a few other Takara vehicles) was licensed out to Playmates for the Turtles toyline in 1995, as the Mini-mutants Cyberjet playset, including two small figures which could sit in the cockpit instead of one massive and claustraphibic Microman pilot. Toylines are mental, you never know where something will end up being reused.
The vehicle itself is great fun, and you can tweak away and come up with a multitude of unofficial modes, as well as the 16 advertised official configurations.
It’s not the best toyset ever, but it is a lot of fun, in that way that makes me wish I had it as a kid. If you ever see it cheap, I advise you pick it up, I got mine complete and boxed for £30, which, adjusting for inflation, is probably cheaper than it was originally sold for back in the day.
Thanks for reading, and enjoy the weird and wonderful configurations below.
This is a toy resource for those interested in the Takara Brave series (also known as Yuusha Brave), a year by year break down of the toy releases and links to blogs featuring them. Purely because more people deserve to know the wonder of the Takara Brave toys.
I’m not a big fan of the cartoon, this is primarily for the toys so I’m ignoring human characters and non-toy characters (unless there is a TF equivalent). I’m going fairly anglicized with this too, sorry if that offends anyone.
Each line is presented below in order of release, and over time each figure will have a blog discussing them.
The Brave Fighter of Sun Fighbird, 1991 (Firebird)
Fighbird and Granbird form Great Fighbird
Ace Baron, Drill Baron, Sky Baron, Aqua Baron and Road Baron all form Thunder Baron
Guard Fire, Guard Police, Guard Rescue form Guardian. Combine with Guard Wing to form Super Guardian
Death Eagle, Death Tiger, Death Dragon and Draias Jert form Draias
Might Wing, Gaine and Locomoriser form Might Gaine. Along with Might Kiser and Might Gunner they form Great Might Gaine Perfect Mode (reissued in 2005)
Lio Bomber, Hawk Bomber, Dino Bomber form Tri Bomber. Combine with Horn Bomber to form Battle Bomber
Police Diver, Drill Diver, Jet Diver, and Fire Diver form Guard Diver Goryu (with Transformer Dai Atlas comparison) Hiryu (with Transformer Sonic Bomber comparison)
Brave Police J-Decker, 1994
J Roader and Deckard form J Decker. Duke and Fire Roader form Duke Fire. Both combine with Gun Max to form Fire J Decker Dumpson, Power Joe and McCrane form Build Tiger. Combiner with Drillboy to form Super Build Tiger Shadow Maru (with Transformers Sixshot and Greatshot comparisons)
The Brave of Gold Goldran, 1995
Dran and Golgon form Goldran, combine with Sora-kage to form Sky Goldran. Kaiser and Leon form Leon Kaiser, combine with Sora-kage to make Sky Leon Kaiser. ALL form together to make Great Goldran (reissued in 2005 as Brave Revival, comparison included)
Jet Silver, Star Silver, Drill Silver form Silverion. Combine with Fire Silver to make Great Silverion Captain Shark (with KFC Sencho Barbossa comparison) Death Garry Gun (with Transformers Sky Garry comparison) Advenger (weird gun attachment for Captain Shark) Zazorigun (unreleased Scorponok repaint)
Over the last few years, I’ve enjoyed branching out evermore into the Takara design back-catalogue, rather than just collecting Transformers branded items. This has opened the door to my love of big, bulky Brave toys from the nineties, and to the Diaclone and Micro-Change figures that were not utilized in the Transformers line, and beyond!
As a subline to the New Microman line, Micro-Change figures avoided all mass-shifting complications by existing in a 1:1 scale. Hence they were real world objects such as cassettes, guns, microscope, and Penny Racer deform toy cars.
Like the Takara Transformers releases, most of the Micro Change releases came numbered, whether the Japanese distribution or packaging in their Gig Trasformer (not a typo, and yes it pre-dates Transformers) packaging (although other releases, notably the Diaclone Joustra figures did not come numbered). A quick look at the releases reveals some familiar faces, the shot below is of the 1984 Gig releases.
Over the next few months I will do various blogs about these toys over at the Kapow blog.
As I do each blog, I will add a link to the list below, the idea being that eventually this will be a great resource for Micro-Change fans, and a great excuse for me to concentrate on this subline and spend some money. Once this is complete, I will attempt to do the same with Brave toys and Diaclones that didn’t quite make it as Transformers. This might take a while.
Ident #, Japanese name in bold, Italian Name italics, Transformer name if applicable
MC01 MicrossMicroman = Rumble / Frenzy mold
MC02 JaguarMicropanther = Ravage
MC03 CondorMicrocondor = Lazerbeak / Buzzsaw mold
MC04 Mini Car RobotMicro Autorobot = Autobot Minicars (these have so many variants they will be separate articles)
MC05 Camera Robot MicroxMicro Macchina Fotografica = Reflector
MC06 Watch RoboRobot Clock (early Watch Q release finally released as a Transformer in 1993, later versions of the mold would be released as branded Transformers as Autoceptor, Deceptor, Kaltor, and G2 Scorpia later in the franchise. We’ll focus on these another time.)
As a special crossover between this blog and the Kapow blog, exclusive to this site are some rare paperwork shots showing the Skyscorchers artwork as they were being developed for the G2 US packaging. Including original notes from Hasbro, and in the case of Snipe, some reworking of his artwork which redrawn sections being stuck over the original art.
HAWK / EAGLE EYE
TORNADO / WINDRAZOR
SNIPE / AFTERBURNER
Did you notice the Decepticon logo drawn on Snipe’s chest? Barely perceptible on the packaging artwork (seen in the amazing Transformers Legacy book).
I hope you enjoyed this look at some rare artwork, and please check out my in depth look at various Transformers releases on the Kapow Blog.
The story of New Coke is more well known and famous than even the Death of Superman and the Breaking of the Bat, and easily as controversial. No-one can deny that the white Coca-Cola logo on a red background is as iconic as the Superman logo, the Batman logo, and the Mickey Mouse silhouette. These four brand logos are world famous and are arguably the cornerstones of modern Capitalist Americana.
Depending on who you talk to, New Coke is either the biggest marketing disaster of all time, or the greatest advertising triumph ever engineered.
30 years ago on April 23rd, 1985, Coca-Cola announced that it would discontinue Coca-Cola in favour of its new alternative: New Coke. The reasons behind the decision vary from source to source, but this was either done as a knee-jerk reaction to Pepsi-Co. gaining a strong foothold in the market as the “taste of a new generation” (through excessive and expensive advertising contracts with the most famous people of the day, such as Michael Jackson), or as an exercise in saving money, with the new formula rumoured to save up to $50 million a year. There is a third alternative reason that’s been put forth which we’ll come to in a moment.
Just four months later, “Classic” Coke – as it was now branded – returned to the market, with New Coke staying around in one form or another (remember Coke II?) before finally being discontinued in 2002.
It has been cited by many as the greatest marketing disaster of all time, and is apparently still taught in business schools as a lesson in “how not to…”.
The Coca-Cola propaganda machine tells it a slightly different way, reframing the story as how they took the biggest risk in marketing history: “The return of original formula Coca-Cola on
July 11, 1985, put the cap on 79 days that revolutionized the soft-drink industry, transformed The Coca-Cola Company and stands today as testimony to the power of taking intelligent risks, even when they don’t quite work as intended.”*
Now we come to the third school of thought, a school of thought that shows that whether it was the intended consequence or not, it was marketing GOLD. “Nevertheless, the company’s stock went up on the announcement, and market research showed 80% of the American public was aware of the change within days”, and by year’s end, with the return of the original formula “Coca-Cola Classic was substantially outselling both New Coke and Pepsi. Six months after the rollout, Coke’s sales had increased at more than twice the rate of Pepsi’s.”
Although much of the evidence available suggests Coca-Cola made a bad choice, no-one can argue that it had a very, very positive outcome. Nothing reinforces an addict’s love for a product like not being able to have the product for a while.
Now we come to DC Comics.
Since September, 2011, the only way to experience DC Comics’ iconic superhero universe in comic-book form has been with the New 52. Taking classic, quintessential brands like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, and filtering them through their “new formula” with a brand new #1, after cancelling all of their titles (ending an unbroken seventy-one-year run of numbering on the Action Comics and Detective Comics titles). Although sales initially spiked, some retailers feared that every jumping-on point for a casual reader acted as a double-edged sword, offering a jumping-off point for long-term readers (whether this is a good or a bad thing is subjective, and covered at length in Warren Ellis’ brilliant-yet-cantankerous Come In Alone). The idea was reinforced with Marvel’s various reboots arguably confusing the marketplace. Many DC titles had returned to their pre-52 levels or lower within two years of the reboot, was this normal comic-book attrition, or something more?
To me, the most interesting thing has been watching the licensing wing of DC Entertainment largely ignoring these redesigned characters, and continuing to use the Classic DC look for the majority of its products. Be it mugs, T-shirts, mass-market toys (not including those aimed at the Direct Market), Ties, video-games, all of the Lego products, and even thongs, they all tend to use the iconic look versions of the characters – the ones that are burned into our collective consciousness. Even with a movie that took $291 million, which shares the non-underpanted look of Superman with the New 52, the majority of licensed Superman products still feature the classic underpanted look.
Whether this has been because license-holders choose the classic characters over the new interpretations, or because the style guides that DC issue to licensees contain only the classic looks (in my opinion, this is much more likely) is almost irrelevant. Either way, it shows that the licensing wing understands the power of their branding better than the comics wing.
But DC Comics (and when we say that, in this case, we mean primarily Dan Didio, Bob Harras, and Geoff Johns) are not stupid. They know what we want, and as Geoff Johns has very passionately stated this week by quoting the first issue of DC: Rebirth; “I love this world, but there is something missing”; he talks about wanting to “get back to the essence of the characters”.
I’ve often said in conversation with my friends that the biggest problem with DC isn’t the New 52; it actually all started with Identity Crisis in 2004. Before that, DC were carrying on just fine as they were. Kingdom Come had set them a loose target of “legacy” to work towards, and the company often flirted with ideas like Zero Hour and Hypertime, to tweak with continuity problems in the wake of the original 1986 Crisis on Infinite Earths. Mostly, however, they were ticking over nicely as a monthly publishing house. When Identity Crisis happened and was a massive success, suddenly all eyes were upon them. For the first time in a long time, we had a DC title in our store that was as easy to sell to the Marvel customers as to the DC hardcore (at Comic Connections, our numbers for Identity Crisis were equal to our orders for Civil War, just for some context). As with all big crossover event books, the inevitable question is: What’s next?
Rather than carrying on as normal, DC got caught in the crossover event trap: always working towards the next big crossover with a weekly book titled 52, an Omac Project, Infinite Crisis, One Year Later, then a Countdown, and a Final Crisis, along the way latching on to the arbitrary “52” as if it were the lone life-jacket aboard the Titanic.
For me, I knew something was wrong with DC about the time of One Year Later. Maybe it was simply that I’d also got caught up in the hype machine, expecting a big event coming just around the corner. Maybe it was event fatigue, or crossover burnout, but somewhere on the journey, I lost interest in those heroes whose stories I’d spent the majority of my life reading and the majority of my adulthood selling. It seemed it was no longer enough just to have Superman, Wally West, Kyle Rayner, Bart Allen, and Tim Drake at the heart of some awesome stories, and after a few more years of tired events and arguably confused crossovers (your mileage may vary), DC did the unthinkable and started over.
I don’t want to be that guy who hates change and is scared of anything new. I came to comics during the Death of Superman, Knightfall, and then the Spider-Man Clone Saga. I recognise Hal as much for Paralax as Green Lantern. I’m every bit as big a fan of Connor Hawke and Connor Kent as I am Ollie Queen and the adventures of Superman when he was a boy. In a comic-book world where change is a constant, we almost see a generational pattern emerge, where every third generation wants to go back to what they grew up with, after a second generation has tried something new (see every Jeph Loeb comic ever). I guess it was my turn to be the old guy lamenting the passing of “his” universe. I hate the entitled sentiment of character ownership you get from some fans so excuse me for this, but I really felt like my DC universe ended in 2006, and although I did try several titles from the New 52 line-up, I never quite found the book for me (even the big success story of the New 52; Snyder’s Batman, did nothing for me). I flick in and out from time to time, and I have American Alien and Superman: Lois and Clark in my “to read” pile so I’m still trying, dammit, but I have to admit that I found Ennis’ cynical and irreverent All-starSection Eight miniseries closer to the characters I recognise than anything portrayed in a current “mainline” title – and this came from a writer who has openly professed his hatred of most superheroes (especially Green Lantern).
Maybe we had just started to take these characters for granted, and if so, then the New 52 definitely made me realise what I liked, – nay, loved – about them in absentia.
The question is; was this always DC’s intent? Did they deprive us of their classic formula for five years to make us appreciate “the real thing”?
Geoff Johns states that “Rebirth is an ongoing mission for us” to “build a better universe”. That might be the case. I hope so. For me, I just want DC Rebirth to give me that taste of Classic Coke that I’ve so sorely missed these last five years.
One toy I fell in love with the day I saw it was the very limited edition “Lucky Draw” Black Tracks, limited to just 300 pieces through a special promotion with Million publishing, who were reprinting the Japanese comics as a collection.
The Corvette C3 is one of my favourite cars ever, and I have always loved it in black (I’ve almost bought the real thing – a full size, real-life, honest to god, working car – on two separate occasions, and I will own one, one day), so even though at the time of its release it cost more than an entire weeks wages at a time when I really could not afford it, I immediately pre-ordered the Lucky Draw on eBay for $300 (£200 at the time).
It took months to come in, way after the eBay / Paypal security window, but it did finally arrive exactly as described (although without the sticker on the outside of the white packaging box, which people tells me makes it a factory leak rather than an official prize).
The smell of a new Transformer’s rubber tyres out of the box takes me straight back to my childhood, this has always been my favourite thing about buying G1 reissues. Black Tracks did not disappoint and has been in my collection now for over a decade, it’s one of my favourites but I still remember the day I first opened it and got a whiff of that G1 tyre smell. I’ve since been assured I’m not alone in this smellstalgia habit, and I don’t need counseling. Which is nice.
It would only be years later that I would discover the existence of a genuine Finnish Diaclone Black Tracks, which has a lot more grey in the mold than the Lucky Draw and an aqua faceplate rather than the LD gold. Less than twenty of these have ever been accounted for in the fandom.
Even more years after that would I become aware of the horrible scam involving an attempt to fake a genuine Diaclone, a scam that almost cost an unwitting buyer THOUSANDS of dollars. I saw the fake in person at Botcon 2012, but was not aware of the proceedings or the attempted con.
They never did a black Classics version, and they haven’t announced the MP to date, however, experimenting with dyes and acetone (which I almost poisoned myself with due to poor ventilation and high temperatures) I did make 2 decent customs of CHUG Black Tracks (it took me four molds and much experimenting).
What follows is a gallery of the Black Tracks with it’s G1 colour counterparts, as well as it’s custom CHUG buddy.
Last article, we took a look at Tracks, now lets go back to the beginning with Road Rage, or should I say Red Tracks? No, really, I should say Diaclone Corvette Stingray, as this was how the toy was first available.
Released by Takara as part of the Diaclone line, this toy was distributed around the world by various companies before finding a long-term home and personal identity at the hands of Hasbro, as part of the shared Transformers brand.
Predating Tracks in his blue deco (believed to have been exclusively in Transformers branded packaging) with the Diaclone release of the toy in red, and was featured on the rear box art for the 1985 assortment in red (pictured), as well as super-rare but confirmed genuine Milton bradley European releases of Red Tracks in Transformers packaging
(repackages basically, removed from the Diaclone boxes in the factory, Diaclone driver discarded, and put into the new, larger Transformers boxes in their original styro with spacers. Later in the life of the Transformers brand, as they were reissuing Tracks as part of the Takara “book” reissues, TF licensee e-Hobby decided to release the Red version of Tracks as a limited release, giving the toy the name Road Rage, making that innocuous and much discussed red car an official part of the Transformers universe, finally silencing the arguments among the fandom the Red version of Tracks was known to have caused in the early collecting days.
She was released alongside Crosscut, and is described as a bodyguard / advisor, and her profile identifies her as an aggressive driver, no doubt a positive skill set for a male to have, but a source of embarrassment for the female. So close, yet so far.
Despite no comic or cartoon appearances, any very little other fiction other than glimpses here and there, this Little Red Corvette has now had three releases, and her colour scheme also doubles up as Shattered Glass Tracks over in the Fun Publishing sub-continuity Shattered Glass as part of Botcon 2012, a boxset of figures that gave the character her first Western release!
Lets look at the toys! Most of my opinions about the individuals molds hold over from the last article about Tracks, but I expand upon them a little here.
G1 Road Rage
Released in 2002, we finally got an official Red Tracks which wasn’t old stock re-packaged and an identity. Yay!!! More female TF characters don’t hurt either.
The mold looks great in red, even if I’ve not had the heart to apply the stickers to mine.
At this point, I should for the sake of clarity state that the Binaltech version of Tracks did not come in red, however, the cheaper, plastic, Americanised range known as Alternators did a version in red in 2004, however, they called this release Swerve and made no allusions to Road Rage at all. It came with a new head to make it less Tracks and more Swerve (despite the mold looking NOTHING like Swerve), but it also came with flame decals so at a glance it can serve as Red Tracks at a glance, should you want it to.
Shattered Glass Turbo Tracks / Classics Road Rage
The first thing I did with this figure when i got back from Dallas and Botcon 2012 was slap a repro label over that horrible purple Evil Autobot logo with a proper G1 faction sticker. The mold works really well in red, although the joints always felt looser than the RTS / United version and she is prone to doing the splits. I’m sure there is an innuendo there, but I won’t play to it.
The detailing on this figure is much more reminiscent of the Diaclone Corvette figure than the E-hobby Road Rage release, with the triangle on the hood flame and the tampo-ed squares on the wings which were missing on Turbo Tracks. It’s still not enough to cover the short-comings of the the “flying car” mode though.
MP-26 Road Rage
As with MP Tracks, the alt. mode looks amazing, and the robot mode displays good but doesn’t hold up to scrutiny. It includes a miniature alt. mode Twincast instead of Blaster and comes with a more toy accurate handgun which I instantly gave to my MP Tracks instead, but many collectors criticised the lack of accessories compared to MP-25. The mold definitely fits the female aesthetic better than the G1 and Botcon release with it’s modified rounded hips / crotch-plate and sculpted lips, although some collectors felt that without an animation model to pander to, this figure should have gone for toy accuracy (her only real identity, lets be fair) and at least included the option for a plug-in faceplate.
I just wish they’d done a little more with tooling differences to help differentiate the two, maybe even hidden the wheels from her shoulders for a slimmer upper body (as we’ve seen done with the Sideswipe / Red Alert mold and was easy to do with the Botcon release by mis-transforming them if you so desired – heck, you could even not full transform the chest making her shorter and less wide, a happy coincidence due to the nature of the transformation on the Turbo Tracks mold), but it’s just not enough to differentiate.
Even with the short-comings of the mold as discussed in the last blog, I almost want to say this is the best version of the character, but in many ways it is just Red Tracks, which I’m sure is exactly what a lot of people wanted, I would just like a few more options is all. However, I can’t argue that the chance to have another stunning red Corvette in my collection is damn cool, and as much as I like the character of Road Rage, this currently resides in my MP Diaclone shelving display.
As one of the 1985 toy releases, and a Season Two character (or non-Ark crew if you’re more of a comic-book guy), Tracks isn’t necessarily the first Transformers character that comes to mind for a lot of Transformers fans, and he tends to get overlooked by much of the casual TF audience. This is perhaps strange when you consider he was the first Diaclone toy produced with the Western audience in mind, hence the choice of the incredibly iconic and personal favourite Corvette Stingray C3.
A brief history of Corvettes in Transformers.
The Corvette, manufactured by Chevrolet, originally started life as a concept car in 1953. Building cars and metal manufacturing is quite literally something in the water in Flint, Michigan, and that’s where the ‘Vette started life. The C1 was produced through to 1962 before being replaced by the sportier C2, the first ‘Vette to sport the moniker “Stingray”. Like the Firebird and the Trans Am, the Stingray was the souped up version of the car, capable of 360bhp with a big block V8 version hitting the market in 1965. Arguably the most famous and the most iconic of the Corvette’s, the C3 began production in 1968 and stayed in production for 14 years. This version shot to fame when Chevrolet cannily gave their top-end Stingrays to all of the NASA Astronauts, who were as famous as movie stars and musicians in their day, during the infamous space race. The C4 and C5 were also popular, and very mass-produced and are the easiest to find on the secondary market, but hold little allure to Transformers fans outside of a partial tribute in the almost cutesy racer of Throttlebot Freeway, who somewhat resembled a c4, and Euro 1.5 / G2 Skram, who transforms into an unspecified, modified Corvette from this era.
However, the Corvette C6, specifically the z06, released in 2005 was immortalised as Binaltech / Alternators Tracks, Swerve and Ravage. Getting in on the act, the Movie franchise depicted Sideswipe as an unreleased Corvette Stingray concept car in Michael Bay’s 2009’s Revenge of the Fallen and also went topless for Dark of the Moon. This car bridged the gap between the c6 and the now-current c7 model, who made his movie debut as Crosshairs in 2014’s Transformers Age of Extinction billion dollar mess movie.
Got all that? Phew! Back to Tracks.
Despite having an entire episode of the cartoon all to himself, and a few over co-starring roles, Tracks has had remarkably little impact on the franchise, other than reinforcing the notion that “Flames are cool” before Hot-Rod stole his gimmick, and then Sideburn stole his colour-scheme. In fact, some people identify more with Red Tracks, or Road Rage, who predated Tracks in his blue deco (believed to have been exclusively in Transformers branded packaging) with the Diaclone release of the toy in red, and was featured on the rear box art for the 1985 assortment in red (pictured), as well as super-rare but confirmed genuine Milton Bradley European releases of Red Tracks in Transformers packaging (repackages basically, removed from the Diaclone boxes in the factory, Diaclone driver discarded, heatrub sticker applied, and put into the new, larger Transformers boxes in their original styro with spacers. For more information, click here for an excellent article explaining packaging mix-ups.
Tracks did very little of consequence in the comics (UK or US), was too late to the party to feature in the 1986 movie (which probably spared him from being killed), and has missed out on a G2 redeco (featuring in the comic looking much the same as in G1), a Beast Wars name homage (how difficult would it be to call a pawed animal Tracks for Christ’s sake), was overlooked as a name choice for RID Sideburn, missed out with Corvette re-appropriation going to other characters for the Bayverse, and has had very little recreations of consequence in any of the other Transformers re-
imaginings except for the Binaltech continuity (no fiction other than pack-in prose) and a lousy, lazy SG (which is basically borrowing Knock Out’s personality and dual-purposing the mold for use as both SG Tracks / Road Rage). However, he does at least have an appearance in the awesome Animated cartoon, featuring an awesome design by Derrick Wyatt. What’s that? Did he get an awesome new toy designed by Eric Seibenaler like the other awesome Animated characters? No. He did at least get some dialogue courtesy of the awesome Townsend Coleman at least. And he has an Action Master version AND a Kreo, so it’s not all bad, right?
Yet we still have a soft-spot for the character. It helps that the LGBTQIA community have somewhat adopted him, assuming his soft Lloyd Grossman-esque lilt to be a sign of homosexuality. And why not? His name in Hungary (Vagany) translates to “Tough Guy”, which has a touch of The Blue Oyster machismo to it. His voice-actor Michael McConnohie insists the character isn’t gay, but honestly, I don’t think it matters either way. If young LGBTQIA kids in some way identified with this character in the barren world of cis-depicting eighties cartoons, all the better in my opinion.
Focusing on his G1 character, lets have a look at his toys throughout the years.
In 1985, Hasbro gave us G1 Tracks. An awesome toy, with a great colour scheme, and flame decal with the Autobot logo replacing the “CS” of the Diaclone. We’re all familiar with this toy, right? He was reissued in gold packaging in Europe in 1991 as part of the Classics line, and in Takara “book” packaging in 2002 and in the US in much lamer Toys R Us commemorative packaging in 2003. His very fun additional flying car mode offered extra play value which I loved as a kid.
In 1991, he also saw release as another Euro exclusive as Action Master Tracks hit the shelves (Europe seems to be the only place he was loved, but then again maybe giving a possibly gay-leaning character an Action Master partner called Basher was TOO homophobic for certain countries). This is one of the harder G1 toys to come by, and commands a decent price on the secondary market. His partner becomes a M.A.S.K. … I mean mask and backpack, so sort of retains his power of flight. Sort of. Maybe.
In 2004, Binaltech Tracks graced our shores. It’s not strictly a G1 interpretation of the character, although the lines on the bio fiction did blur sometimes, so we’re only showing him here out of a sense of completion, and because this was the first time Tracks was released in Corvette standard yellow. There are not many cars I demand to see in yellow, and perhaps even fewer Transformers, but hot-damn do Corvette’s look stunning in yellow, especially from the C5 onwards (C3 should nearly always be black, but that’s my personal bias, and more on that later). No alternative flight mode, but the head sculpt was great and the built in shoulder cannons worked great, but that chest / roof cheat never quite worked for me.
Moving onto the Classics release of Tracks, or for the pedants, Turbo Tracks in the Reveal the Shield line. I should state, the figure pictured is the Japanese “United” version with the much nicer chrome paint-job. Less G1 accurate sometimes works! It’s a great mold with oddles of personality and a clever bit of re-tooling means he stands taller than his mold mate Wheeljack, as well as brilliant weapon storage. However, over the years I’ve come to prefer this mold for TFCC Runabout and Runamuck, as there are better options for Tracks and WJ. Also, the phoned in “flight mod” absolutely stinks.
Finally we come to the MP release from Takara Tomy. Arguably the best release of Tracks to date, right? With a fully licensed Corvette branding and ultra-realistic styling and show accuracy details throughout, including accessories such as a mini-Blaster, his little gun from flight mode and even Raoul from Track’s seminal episode of the cartoon. And a freaking flight-stand, for the most convincing flight-mode for a Tracks figure to date.
There was much debate about this guy before release – as there always seems to be these days – as to whether he was any good or not. I tried to ignore the noise and debate, but I still opened the figure with a sense of trepidation not sure what to expect. The first impression upon opening the box is great, awesome presentation and packaged in alt. mode as is my preference, it’s an awesome licensed Corvette C3 Stingray, so what is not to like?
It’s easy enough to transform without instructions, but there are several steps that feel a bit floaty. You can leave the backpack more of less wherever you want it once it flimsily “tabs” into the car doors which gatefold open to attempt to give the illusion of a torso for Tracks. But that’s all it is; an illusion. Tracks doesn’t really have a torso. Just a chest, a floaty head on a neck-joint that just flops around, some car doors that loosely hold the backpack in place, and wings that never seem quite in the right place to me.
As a figure to display on the shelf, it is very pleasing, but as soon as you pick it up you can see the weaknesses, and while it’s not as hollow and cheap feeling as, say, a FOC or Beast Hunters toy, it does feel there is something missing to tie the head / chest, side and backpack together. Something like a body. To be fair, it feels like this is because the mold is trying really hard to make a sleek, sexy, elegantly tall robot mode without making any sacrifices to the awesome car mode, and there are some nice surprises in their. It feels like the figure maybe over-reaches and doesn’t quite hit its end-goal, but that’s much better than feeling like the figure under-achieves due to laziness or cost-cutting, so in that regard it CANNOT be compared to any of the short-comings in the Hasbro mainline.
Overall, it’s the best, most show-accurate version of G1 Tracks we’re ever likely to get and the head-sculpt is beautiful and very animation accurate, and at some points it’s cartoon accurate to the point of ugliness (but thankfully, you can turn around and hide the horrible yellow background logo in every mode). But is it the best Tracks toy?
In my opinion, no, but it does come DAMN close. The G1 is still THE best Tracks figure ever released in my opinion, with a stunning alt. mode that holds up to this day and a very competent robot mode (it was thirty years ago and they weren’t working to an animation model, they were just making a cool robot) which is FUN to transform. As a piece of engineering, I still place the Binaltech version above this, especially as a Corvette representation, I won’t even mention the diecast and rubber tyres / working steering except in this very awkward manor which mentions them whilst seeming like I’m somehow above that. I’m not over it. Binaltech were stunning pieces in their day, as was the G1. Maybe this was too ambitious, but I feel like it’s not quite all it could be for 2015 toy engineering and that’s a shame.
I guess I’ve realised one thing though, I have talked myself into displaying this in flight mode, which is absolutely where this figure beats out all other versions of this character.