1. SHOCKWAVE’S SHOCKER
Shockwave is kind of like the Mr. Spock of the Transformer world, but whereas ol’ elf-ears relies on the Vulcan nerve-pinch to dish out the smack, Shockers can simply change into an enormous laser gun and blow his enemies away. Read on to find out why his toy is “packing” more than just heat!
The original toy of Shockwave was not actually produced by Hasbro. Instead it was made and released independently by a Korean company called ToyCo. This toy – nicknamed “Shackwave” due to being primarily available at Radio Shack in the US (very clever) – hit the market just slightly before the more famous Transformers version. Apart from lacking the Decepticon badges or any other branding, it has another rather obvious… point of difference:
Yeah. Despite being a completely faceless robot, Shockwave still seems really pleased to see you. Luckily Hasbro got rid of the offending member when this mold was eventually snaffled for the Transformers line in 1985, making this the first time in history a robot was cockblocked by a Rhode Island-based toy company – but not the last.
2. GOLD (C)RUSH
Nothing good lasts forever. And while that’s a good thing to remember about toy collecting in general, it rings especially true in the world of Transformers. Near the end of the toyline’s original run, and well into the follow-up series Generation 2, some figures were made with bronze- or gold-coloured plastic parts. This effect was achieved by swirling tiny glittery particles into the plastic, and at the time it sure did look nice.
The Generation 2 re-release of the Aerialbots even had Slingshot cast entirely in gold plastic – which would turn out to be the worst casting decision since Mickey Rooney’s infamous role in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. ..
As it turns out, glitter is to plastic what Yoko Ono was to the Beatles [see above]. It’s an affliction called GPS (Gold Plastic Syndrome – thanks again, fans!) and nothing can prevent it. Mint, sealed toys from this era are literally rotting away in their boxes. At best, this might mean an accessory or non-crucial part of the toy is broken. At worst – as in Slingshot’s case – the whole toy will crumble like Donovan at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade if you so much as fucking think about playing with it. Spare a thought for poor Beast Wars Randy, whose spring-loaded transformation and gold construction turn him from warthog to flying plastic shrapnel in one second flat!
3. THE FIZZLE SHIZZLE
You can’t have a decade-spanning series of similar-looking toys without the occasional identity goof in the accompanying fiction. The specific “conundrum” we’re focusing on shouldn’t even have happened, though. These guys are two wholly different individuals, but they ended up being confused due to a series of editorial gaffes. Kind of like how nobody can tell Ant and Dec apart even though it’s flipping obvious (if you’re curious, Dec has light hair, and Ant has a gnawing sense of dissatisfaction with his career and internalised anxiety about his fading youth).
Those two are Fizzle (pictured left) and Sizzle, who make up two-thirds of a team called the Sparkabots. They’re called Sparkabots ’cause the toys have a flint wheel mechanism that shoots streams of sparks into your child’s face [Really! – Ed]. Fizzle transforms into a baja buggy, and Sizzle turns into a dragster. Except in the comics when…
Who is this guy on the left? At first glance he looks like Sizzle (Ultra Magnus even calls him so, and he knows what he’s talking about), but he’s got Fizzle’s colours. How did that happen? And that seems to be Fizzle in the right, rocking the knight helmet look so popular on Cybertron in 1986, as on Earth. We suppose the two Sparkabots got their colours got swapped around for the UK comics. Simple as that, huh? Well…
Here Fizzle (left) is coloured as Sizzle, but his vehicle mode is now blue. Similarly, Sizzle regains his correct colours when he transforms. At least, that’s what we think is happening here. It looks like they might be dissolving, or on fire. But we’re not here to be art critics, so it’s besides the point. Anyways, it can’t get more messed up than that, right? Right?
Wrong! Later, both Sparkabots were re-released as part of Generation 2 – and this time, Fizzle’s backing card depicts him as Sizzle and vice-versa, leaving the uninitiated unsure as to which name belongs to which bot. To complicate it further, Fizzle has also been renamed Blaze. But at least the comics got it right this time, yes? Well… No.
Look, this is as far down this particular rabbit hole we dare to go right now. Just to settle the matter once and for all, Fizzle was always Fizzle, except when he was called Blaze, and occasionally drawn with Sizzle’s car mode. Sizzle was sometimes coloured as Fizzle but retained his proper vehicle mode – except in Generation 2, when he didn’t.
Hope we’ve cleared that one up.
4. KISS AND MAKE UP
Although Japan is responsible for making the actual Transformer toys, it was American company Hasbro who – with help from Marvel Comics – created the characters, factions and story elements we know so well. After Transformers really took off, the franchise was exported back to Japan, retaining all the western branding and fiction. Ever wonder what would happen if the Japanese held the reins for the franchise instead? As experienced denizens of the ‘net we could make a cheap joke and say it would involve tentacles and used schoolgirl panties, but that would be in shockingly bad tas-
Holy. Shit. What you’re looking at is Transformers: Kiss Players, and it is an actual thing that happened. It was the main iteration of Transformers in Japan between 2006 and 2007, and the toyline featured highly-detailed, scale robots that came packaged with figurines of young women. In this series, the Transformers can “fuse” with their human partner and power up whenever they receive a kiss; afterwards, the girl is ejected in a gush of viscous white fluid. Fun for all the family!
We’ve thumbed through the accompanying manga series (purchased from a rusty van parked outside a playground) and it’s loaded with all the staples of pervy hentai books: tentacles, nudity, and doe-eyed girls. Even trying to keep an open mind about obvious cultural differences between here and Japan the whole thing is just downright skeevy. The biggest issue we have is with the girls themselves – while they’re ostensibly old enough to drive and hold down jobs (that’s our defense, officer), they’re also drawn with questionably child-like proportions throughout. Whether an English translation will clear a few things up, we can’t say as – shockingly – a western distributor has yet to be found. Now we’re off to chuck our office computer into a river like it’s goddamned Jumanji lest the evil of Kiss Players comes back to haunt us again.
5. NO GIRLS ALLOWED
1997 saw the release of Beast Wars, which was basically the Transformers creators taking a mulligan after the dismal performance of Generation 2. The robots in disguise now turned into lions, tigers and bears (Oh my- *BANG*) instead of cars and planes.
The series enjoyed phenomenal success, due in no small part to the fantastic cartoon series that was animated WITH THE POWER OF COMPUTERS. Like the Transformer cartoons before it, Beast Wars introduced female characters. We’re interested in Airazor, a feisty lady who could turn into a falcon, and pretty much spent her days frolicking about in the countryside with fellow warrior Tigatron. Over the course of the series, they fell in love and probably did all sorts of unnatural acts when the other Maximals weren’t looking.
When the cartoon was exported to Japan, they didn’t think that it was appropriate for a boys’ action series to have so many females, so they glossed over the fact that Airazor was a girl and dubbed her as if she were male – Tigatron was characterised as a lone samurai-type, and Airazor his subservient follower.
So naturally, when at the end of the series the two characters kissed, the TV studio got a LOT of letters the next morning. Many kids were confused and wanted to know why two of their favourite characters were suddenly, well, gay. Their reply?
“Some people are just like that.”
It’s almost sweet. Almost. Join us next time for more silliness folks.