So coming on the beginning of week three and hindered by technical (loss of internet connectivity) and other issues (laziness, photoshop requirements), we launch the second part of week two with Day 9’s Machine Wars Soundwave. The theme for the week is re-imagination and what a better way to show re-imagination than Machine Wars.
For those who don’t know, Machine Wars was a KBToys-exclusive line launched in 1996 on the heels of the success of Beast Wars and featuring many familiar old friends. The catch? Well, for the most part, they looked nothing like familiar old friends. Hasbro simply took 12 pre-existing transformer molds and turned them into a nod to the glories of G1.
The bulk of the line consisted of four leftover G2 molds, re-purposed twice each to create eight vehicle transformers. The only thing that could really be said here is that there was, in most cases, one or two similarities related to the characters’ name sake. Hupcap and Prowl were the right colour, although the former was never a tow truck and the latter never a race car. Although Mirage had the right form and came closest to resembling his earlier self, albeit in teal, Hoist became the Snake Eyes of tow trucks far removed from his glorious green and orange origins. For the Decepticons, Skywarp and Thundercracker were jet twins of each other, but crazy coloured jets with no mouths and a single eye guard. At the time, no one could believe Megatron could be anything less than a pistol or a tank (or possibly a hot wheels-style racing car), but in hindsight, Hasbro showed accidental clairvoyance by bringing forward his first depiction as a silver jet fighter. Megaplex was a clone of Megatron and the only new character in the line, but was still a new character so he really didn’t have anything to get wrong.
The line was rounded out by four reused molds that formed the first year of the European continuation of the Transformer line between the G1 and G2 years when there were no Transformers on U.S. shelves. Interesting all four molds did make their way to Canada as new characters, somewhat ironic since, without KBToys in Canada, we never had an official release for Machine Wars. The remaining molds included something of an attempt to colour correct a transport truck into Optimus Prime with a mouth, a large black jet in the form of Starscream that towered over everyone in the line particularly his leader, a camouflage helicopter in the form of Sandstorm and a dark coloured missile carrier. The missile carrier is of the focus here, of course, as he became only the fourth version of Soundwave released to that point in time.
Despite the controversy surrounding the line at the time and colouring aside, Soundwave actually holds up with Optimus and Mirage as the closest representation. With a tape player out of fashion, the design actually gave Soundwave something approaching his regular face (with a visor and face plate), and the rocket nicely folds onto his shoulder reminiscent of his shoulder launcher. His chest even looks vaguely tapish. Interestingly enough, this is not even the strangest reiteration of Soundwave we’ve ever seen in the 1990s, given that he previously appeared as another Hot Wheels-styled race car in his third appearance, and later became a weird bat-alligator hybrid without a distinct robot mold at the end of Beast Wars. Nor is this the only time this mold would be used for Soundwave, as the pre-cursor line to Classics and Generations created a deep blue version in 2004. Yet he remains the only Decepticon of the Machine Wars aside from Megatron not reintroduced by the Transformers Collectors Club at Botcon 2013. Given the less-than-spectacular reception to the overall theme of Botcon 2013, this may serve as the only version of the Machine Wars Soundwave we see for a long while.
Day 10’s Remote Control Knockout is an odd addition to the list, given that the character is so new to the fandom. But like any new character in the last 10 years, Knockout has already secured a number of appearances. In this case, he was the foil to a remote control Optimus Prime and Bumblebee from the same line, and curiously challenging for me to find (and frustrating too since he was the only one of the three that appealed to me). Although I would have loved a more sophisticated remote that did more than straight ahead and a turning reverse, the auto transformation is very smooth. Even better, the paint styling is better than all but the Legion scale of the toy. And he still looks saucy when he’s terrorizing the cats around the house.
Day 11 features an odd departure from transforming robots in the Loyal Subject’s 8″ Blank Optimus Prime. An upscaled version of their 4″ designer line of vinyl toys, Optimus is meant to be open to one’s creative interpretations and I have a half dozen sitting around the house for myself or various commissions. He’s really the ultimate realization of the re-imagination concept and there are some fun ideas brewing in my head for him(s).
Back in the dying days of Generation 2, Hasbro promoted a number of repaints to vendors at Toyfair 1995 that never saw their way to retail shelves. One of them was a garish repaint of “Hero” Optimus Prime released a year earlier. A vision of dark blues and red, he really could pass as an evil version of Optimus Prime. In an example of how some concepts will never fully die, Day 12’s Generation 2-style Generations Optimus Prime was released with a Generation 2-style Generations Jazz, as well as Legion scale Thundercracker and Motorbreathmaster. As you can see, he’s still looking sinister but is a hit at this house, and leaves hope that someone will produce a similar scale version of Megatron in his grey camouflage colouring of the same era.
Day 13’s Kre-O Windrazor is actually the Kre-O version of Generation One Cuttthroat by another name. He’s really here more because of the magnificent wings he sports than his reminiscent to the classic toy. He also illustrates Hasbro non-consistent naming practice when it loses (or can no longer use) a classic name from their archives.
Often Hasbro simply puts a designation in front of the character and is done with it, as it did most notably with Autobot Jazz starting with the movie. Sometimes though it decides to create a name reminiscent of the original but one that does not raise any issues - the recent Goldfire stand-in for Goldbug is an example of this. But Windrazor is an example of an entirely different practice where a completely different name is used. My feeling is that Hasbro is using it as a means of maintaining control over names they may lose control over, but the practice is jarring and frustrating. Really, would it be so wrong to just call him Terracon Cuttthroat and be done with it? Particularly issuing the character with an entirely different name rather than sticking a designation in front of the original. It would be one thing if Hasbro never did that kind of thing, but they do so all the time and often in the same toy package as those with seemingly randomized name changes.
Rounding out the second week is an example of early re-imagination with Day 14’s Classic Bumblebee. Interestingly that I should note Goldfire in my earlier aside, as this Classics Pretender marks Bumblebee’s return from his brief time as the Throttlebot Goldbug. It’s also the first time he has a face that resembles his cartoon self. Bumblebee is the only Classics Pretender to actually grow rather than shrink as part of the process. Important to me, in those dark days when I tried to limit and repress my collecting tastes, he represents the only Transformer I actively sought out from toy shelves in 1989. As my original toy, he’s kind of special and a favourite, so we’ll leave with a few extra pictures of him for the archives.