Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Zob's Thoughts on Robot Heroes Autobot Blaster and Thrust

There is a developing tradition in my household in which we sometimes open a handful of Christmas gifts early. This is due to a combination of factors like my two oldest kids only visiting on the weekends (so they don't have much time to play with their new loot) and me typically having to work on both Christmas Eve and December 26th (leaving me with little free time to enjoy the festivities). The end result of this is that each of us opened a present last weekend, which means that I get to review a couple of new toys nearly a full month before the holiday.

Robot Heroes toys are sold in pairs, but the actual matching up of which characters come in which packaging has never made any sense to me. You'd think there'd be some kind of logical matching in effect, like putting together arch enemies like Optimus Prime and Megatron or at least foes who would be fairly evenly-matched in combat, like Bumblebee and Ravage. Autobot Blaster (the default Hasbro workaround to circumvent expired trademarks) has been paired with Thrust, two characters who never interacted together to the best of my knowledge. They both have the benefit of being characters originally introduced in 1985, so at least they both existed during the same era.

Like most of the previous Robot Heroes, Blaster is shaped approximately like his animation model, but also has some details tacked on based on the original Hasbro toy. Blaster has never really gotten a good-looking toy based on his TV likeness, since all the previous versions of him were also based on the toy (the Decoy and the Action Master, specifically; Blaster never got the PVC treatment). His helmet design is very much influenced by the original toy, which featured a fairly cool-looking triangular-shaped visor. (Blaster appeared this way throughout most of the U.S. Marvel Comics stories, one of the few long-running characters from the comic whose character model diverged significantly from his cartoon counterpart.) The Robot Heroes incarnation of Blaster has optic sensors that actually protrude from his visor, making him look terribly bug-eyed. (His packaging portrait mercifully tones down this look.) Some extra details were also added, presumably for the sake of symmetry. He's got a volume knob on each side of his cassette door now (originally he just had one on the right side of his body), and he has a handle grip embedded in the side of each of his legs (on the Hasbro toy, the handle grip folded up into his left leg). Curiously, this figure appears to have been sculpted using a Blaster toy for reference whose cassette door was opened. Maybe somebody was working from a toy whose ejection mechanism was broken?

Blaster has articulation at the head and both arms. The toy is molded entirely in red plastic, which works well enough for everything except the legs, which are painted a shiny metallic silver. The underside of the feet are unpainted, even the bottom of his right foot which remains visible from behind because he's in the middle of taking a step. The handle grips on his legs should be painted black, too, but I recognize that there's a paint application budget when it comes to these things. (Frankly, I'm surprised there aren't more paint applications designed to look like the factory-applied stickers, since that seems to be the trend with other toys in this line). Overall, I like the figure, but he's not as cartoony as some of the other ones on my display shelf, and the bug eyes really, well, bug me.

Thrust is an entirely new sculpt, not a retooled version of Starscream/Thudercracker/Skywarp, so there are points in his favor right there. He's certainly remeniscent of Starscream, the way he's kicking one leg back and hovering on a cloud of exhaust. The main difference is that while Starscream and friends are making good use of the thrusters in their boots to achieve this effect, Thrust's exhaust is, in fact, coming directly out of his butt. This is an artifact of the sculpt that is as unmistakable as it is disturbing.

Some effort was made to make his design different from Starscream; he's got the prerequisite conehead helmet, of course, and he's equipped with the Thrust-specific stabilizer fins on his ankles and VTOL wings on his back, but the rest of his design seems to deviate from the second-season Decepticon jet design rather drastically. The parts of the Diaclone jet toy that translate to Starscream's knees are actually supposed to be Thrust's upper legs, at least in the cartoon, but this version of Thrust overlooks this design element. I think this bothers me even more due to the fact that Takara made this same mistake once already with the SCF version of Thrust (they had just recycled the body mold of the Starscream PVC figure and swapped out the head and wings), so this is the second time the character has been maligned in this manner. His arms and head are poseable; his head is tricky to grasp and actually turn because of its cone shape.

There are some other really odd artifacts of this sculpt that seem to be the result of somebody taking creative liberties with his design. He's turned slightly at the waist, but in order to achieve this pose, the canopy window in his chest was artificially shortened so that it wouldn't interfere with his pelvis. Also, there's a lot of weirdness on his back and wings. He's loaded down with bizarre details that don't correspond to either the Hasbro toy or his animation model, like what seems to be a vestigal cockpit mounted behind his head and some extra components on his wings. (I don't have the BotCon version of Thrust so I guess it's possible they based the Robot Heroes design on that version of the character, but I wouldn't bet cash money on it.) His Decepticon symbol is also on his back, in case you were wondering (I examined him at length in the packaging and I simply could not find it). His back-mounted wings are actually a separate piece that's glued in place (there's quite a bit of white pasty residue on my toy, which is usually a telltale sign I've used too much super glue on a project), which means it should be fairly easy to redo this figure into the inevitable Ramjet and Dirge redeco versions, assuming they can also do something about the very Thrustesque fins on his lower legs.

Thrust's color scheme is asymmetrical and kind of sloppy. He's got one painted bicep and one unpainted one; only one of the components on the fronts of his shins are painted; one side of his pelvis is painted, but not the other; and the fans and tips on his wings are inexplicably painted from the back, but not from the front where they're more visible in the packaging and on a display shelf. It also seems like a lot of paint applications were wasted (the back of his conehead helmet is painted black; the square indentations inside his upper chest are gold for some weird reason) in favor of paint operations that would have made more sense (like the aforementioned missing paint applications).

I had thought that Thrust was a pretty decent figure, overall, until I moved some of the Decepticon Robot Heroes over to make room for him on the display shelf. It was then that I discovered how positively tiny he is compared to the others! He's nearly half the height of Starscream, whose kneecap comes up to Thrust's chest! Everyone's heard of Mini Autobots, of course, but apparently somebody thought that Thrust was part of the elite and heretofore unheard-of Mini Decepticons sub-group. I know that the Transformers toy line has been plagued with scale issues since its inception, but this is a line of non-transforming figurines who don't even have the prerequisite of needing to fit into vehicle cockpits. There's no reason for this kind of grossly misproportioned sculpting, aside from whoever's been working on the 2008 figures not bothering to check to see if they were size-compatible with previous figures in the line.

I am planning to buy a second set of these figures because I have plans in the works to repaint Blaster into one of the many unsung background characters in the Transformers cartoon. I have no idea what I'm going to do with a second Thrust figure, though. (He's got a generic background counterpart, too, but I've already addressed that character in PVC format and I don't want to do a second one.)


Jimtron said...

Welcome aboard, Zobovor! Great first post. I wonder how long until the inevitable Ramjet and Dirge repaints come out . . .

Anonymous said...

No pictures?