Transformers Report: Universe Micromaster Railbots


And here’s another one with a backstory. I’ll try to keep this one brief too.

In the latter days of the original toyline (known as G1) another line of toys were making a huge splash on the scene. Micro Machines started a new craze of really small cars that you could carry easier in your pocket, and may arguably be responsible for the micro-playsets that started up not soon after. I admittedly haven’t done the research so call that a theory. Wanting to get in on that craze like they did the other toy cars, the Transformers creators introduced the idea of Micromasters, smaller Transformers that also came with bases, could in some cases link together to form new vehicles, but mainly worked in teams based around a central theme. In many ways they’re the precursor to the Mini-Cons. They’re even about the same size.

After Hasbro stopped making Transformers in the US for a time their Japanese partners at Takara kept going. This included a group of Micromasters that adopted the longtime Transformer gimmick (the longest obviously being transforming) of combination. The result was Sixliner, introduced in the Battlestars series and the connected manga. This would be remade into Sixtrain, which would be recolored in 2003, which is the version used in the Universe line we discussed last week to create this week’s subject, the Railbots. The Railbots were the third in a group of Micromaster Combiners brought out for the Universe line according to the Transformers fanwiki, and I’ll be going back and forth in this set of reviews between the larger robots and the Micromaster Combiners.

This line came out so close to the first Robots In Disguise line of the early 2000s but were used to hold on to some of the names Hasbro thought they might want to use again. Since there was already a “Rail Racer” so close to the last one I gave him and his components all new names. I will be showing off my cleverness (or lack thereof, you be the judge) but otherwise I will use their official names for the review. With all that out of the way, let’s get on with it. Since it’s a Combiner team I have a lot of toys to show off before the review gets boring.



Transformers Report: Autobot Whirl & His Mini-Con Friends


(l to r) Gunbarrel, Whirl, & Makeshift

Okay, there are a few different backstories to go over here so I’ll summarize as much as I can. Transformers Universe 1.0 was a line of repaints and redecos of fan favorite molds from the past and molds that never made it to the US until this line, or did so in limited release. The “plot” was that a version of Unicron dragged Transformers from across the multiverse to fight for his amusement. The comics added in him feeding off of the battle…somehow. It didn’t make any more sense to me in Armada, frankly.

One of the lines tapped was from the UK. While the original line ended in the US, the UK continued making figures and comics along different lines from what Japan was still doing. (I don’t think a year has past since their debut that Transformers never had at least one official toyline and media in at least one country on Earth.) They created their own teams, each with their own gimmick. Some of them did make it to the US as the KB Toy Works exclusive Machine Wars figures. The ones we care about in this review are the Turbomasters, The gimmick for the toys was that the engine could transform into their weapon. Considering the fact that mounted and hidden weaponry are rather normal these days that might not stand out as much but back then the weapons were just set aside in vehicle mode more often than not, so I guess the idea of integrated weapons starts here.

Finally we get to the figures for this review. Whirl (I’m not even going to try to go into that history here and it might not be the same guy) is an Autobot from the 2004 period of the line, based on the Turbomaster Rotorstorm. His figure did get redecoed into Sandstorm for the 1997 Machine Wars line, making Whirl the third use of the mold. He comes with two Mini-Cons, Gunbuster and Makeshift. These two were part of the Armada line and are just recolors. Since I had the original and you don’t name both twins Steve I gave them new names–Skyport and Chopperhand respectively. The convention comics felt the same way I did apparently, but gave them the names Thunderstick and Skyscyle respectively. I will stick to their toy names for the sake of convenience. Now that we’re all up to speed let’s get the review started already.


Transformers Report: Alternators Wheeljack

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Wheeljack (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s time for the third and last of the Alternators. Wheeljack is the Autobots’ inventor. And he’s good at his job if the machine doesn’t blow up or something. Basically he’s a mad scientist for the forces of good. His original vehicle mode in the G1 days was based on the Lancia Stratos Turbo‘s “Group 5 Statos” race car. No, I don’t know what that means outside of knowing what a race car is.

It won’t be obvious why until the very end of the review but this was the last Alternator I ever picked up. This was the figure where I decided that this line just wasn’t making me happy, which is odd considering this is not the one I’ll be taking out of my collection. That part will be immediately obvious.


Transformers Report: Alternators Smokescreen

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Mikko Hirvonen driving his Subaru Impreza WRC ...

Mikko Hirvonen driving his Subaru Impreza WRC during the shakedown of the 2004 Cyprus Rally. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Back during my review of Alternity Bumblebee I mentioned the Binaltech/Alternators line. This toyline was intended for collectors to the point that they resemble model toy cars from their size to real working doors and molded interiors. However, the line wasn’t as popular as Takara and Hasbro wanted, plus there were licensing issues, including two different branches of Honda disagreeing about whether or not they wanted their representative carrying weapons (Honda US didn’t like it, Honda Japan didn’t mind). Ultimately the line failed. Japan’s Binaltech had a storyline that continued into Alternity but Alternators had no such story. Alternity probably wasn’t launched in the US and elsewhere after the hassles of Alternators.

One interesting choice is the character chosen for the first toy, Smokescreen. While he had his fans, appearing in later early G1 as the third repaint of Prowl and Bluestreak, he doesn’t carry the impact of those other two. That doesn’t make him a good or bad toy so let’s look at this thing.


Transformers Report: Power Core Combiners Searchlight & Backwind

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I’ve noted in the past that I like Combiners. I blame that on growing up with Voltron and Mighty Orbots (anyone remember that show?) as well as seeing the Combiners in the original Transformers cartoon. So you’d think a line of Combiners would get me excited. It really depends on how good the Combiners are. The most recent line, Combiner Wars, was hit or miss with me depending on the figure. Some “cores” ended up with odd proportions in torso mode and the combination is usually clean but not always. There are still some groups I really want though.

But this is not the first time there has been a combination gimmick line. Energon had a two-robot combination feature among the Autobots, but I’m referring to Power Core Combiners, a line in which the “core” led not a group of other Transformers to combine with but non-robot mode drones that would “automorph” into the arms or legs (depending on the drone) to form a larger version of the core. That’s not really what I’m looking for in a Combiner team. I like having five or more robots that combine into one and have their own alternate modes. If you want to know more about them, this episode of Plastic Addict explains the many flaws this line had.

One of the gimmicks was having a core released not with the drones but a Mini-Con partner. And we all know my love of Mini-Cons by now. The team I picked up was the Autobot Searchlight and Mini-Con Backwind. While the duo have been released as part of store promotional sets these toys come from their stand-alone two-pack since I never owned any of the drones or other “Commanders” from the series. This is my lone appearance from Power Core Combiners. So how does this team-up work out?


Transformer Report: Robots In Disguise (2001) Optimus Fire Prime Convoy


You could say he’s forward-compatible with Mini-Cons.

As part of last week’s Mini-Con article I broke out Fire Prime, the Optimus Prime version of Car Robot’s Fire Convoy. While “Robots In Disguise” probably fits the new toyline better, it’s confusing to have two toylines and a comic called Robots In Disguise that are so disconnected to each other. To avoid confusion, I’ll refer to the original RID line as RID1, and this take on Optimus Prime as Fire Prime, since this is the US toy and thus not Fire Convoy. It’s why I call this guy Fire Prime in my collection to begin with.

Car Robots was not intended to be a toyline and cartoon outside of Japan. It was a filler line as they waited for Beast Machines to gain enough episodes to properly promote the line. For a time you could only get Fire Convoy at Japanese import stores, and I really wanted to get him, at the height of my Transformer collecting, but the price was way too high, and I had bought Japanese Transformers in the past. I think he went for $80, but you have to factor in not only import prices from Japan but bringing them across the country to Connecticut and that the store needed to make a profit.

And it’s a good think I passed. The next intended Transformers toyline from Hasbro was dropped for whatever reason and Car Robot, redubbed Robots In Disguise, was given a US release to take its place before the next intended US line, which turned out to be Transformers Armada, where the Mini-Cons came from. So let’s take a look at Fire Prime to see if he is worth to be a Prime. Click on the images for a larger view of each mode, because he has quite a few.


Mini-Comic Report: Transformers Armada Vol. 2

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My Crohn’s (I’m willing to give it up if anyone wants it) was playing with me this week, not a full flare-up but a lot of gas and not as much sleep. Saturday was spent mostly in bed trying to get my strength back, so I still didn’t get any work done. So to keep things active (hopefully everything is fine by next week…I have a big corner mess to clean up and some more new reviews) I’m going back to my other site to mine a mini-comic review. I just finished reviewing a Transformers Armada comic series when I realized I never went back to the mini-comics that came with the toys and there were still three more AND the Energon comics left to go. So I made a dent. Enjoy.


With the Transformers Armada comic coming to an end I thought it was well past time to return to the mini-comics Dreamwave produced for the toys. In our last installment we found a very lackluster story. Whether it was the space needed to include the catalog or the insistence to have all three package languages (English, French, and Spanish as I recall) in the comic taking up much needed dialog space I can’t say. I can say it was lame. Although the same restrictions exist here, maybe this one will be better?

Not really, no.

Transformers Armada V2

“Oh, let the kids play.”

Transformers Armada Vol. 2

Dreamwave/Hasbro (2002)

WRITER: Chris Sarracini
ARTIST: Guido Guidi
COLORISTS: Chris Walker & Matt Kuphaldt
LETTERING: Dreamer Design


Comic Report: Transformers – Matrix Quest

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Transformers Matrix Quest

The second collection in UK company Titan’s reprints of Simon Furman’s US run, Matrix Quest is the completion of the same named story arc began in the first collection I reviewed. There was a time when I thought this was an okay collection of comics from Furman’s run, a run that I am not a fan of. Having re-read it however, my opinion changed. I still like the concept, but something was lost in the execution.


Comic Report: Transformers: Primal Scream

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Transformers Primal Scream

Primal Scream is the first collection by Titan of Simon Furman’s run on the US The Transformers comic. It contains issues #56-62 of the Marvel Comics run, the first batch of stories Furman produced for the US version, having been a writer of the UK back-up stories. At the end of the article I will post links to my other site with reviews of these issues. Here we will discuss the trade itself as presented. I have the original four issues and Bob Budiansky’s run in the regular comic book form but the trade paperbacks were easier to find than the individual issues.


Comic Report: Transformers & The Man Of Iron

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First I should apologize for no posting last week. I was sick, and when I recovered my efforts went to trying to get caught up on videos. The sell page will hopefully be done by the next report, but in the meantime, here are some Transformers comics that was a bit different from Marvel’s other issues.

At the time of the issues being reviewed today, Budiansky was writing the US comic, the Headmasters miniseries, and whatever else he might have been doing at the time. I don’t rightly know. So to ease his workload a bit, the first UK-exclusive storyline, “Man Of Iron”, was reprinted in the US. Since the UK creators didn’t have enough US stories to get a sense of the characters’ personalities (only the first four were produced, and the Transformers didn’t have a lot of personality in those stories) or Cybertronian history they made a few differences from what we’ve come to know. I usually put these two aside as a separate universe altogether from Marvel’s Transformers Universe. So how good is the story?

Transformers #33 & 34

The covers almost make it look like a time travel story. It isn’t.

The Transformers #s 33 & 34

Marvel Comics (October & November, 1987)

originally published in The Transformers (UK) #s 9-12

“Man Of Iron” parts 1-4
WRITER: Steve Parkhouse
ARTISTS: John Ridgeway (1&2) and Mike Collins (3&4)
COLORIST: Nel Yomtov (recolored from Josie Firmin (1&2) and Gina Hart (3&4), I can only judge Yomtov’s work)
LETTERER: Richard Starkings
EDITOR: Sheila Cranna


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