Monday, May 14, 2007

Action Master Thundercracker: The Ultimate Weapon

Over on the club message boards, a topic about the upcoming Timelines Summer Special mentioned the garish coloring of Action Master Thundercracker. Look, and be horrified!

I asked if any fiction (official or fan-made) has ever been made using AM Thundercracker as a character, to which board member Victorysabre quipped, "I hear several people have tried, but during the attempt, all artists went blind for some reason." This immediately made me think of the classic Monty Python sketch about the funniest joke in the world.

It's parody time! And possibly the first piece of fiction anywhere to feature Action Master Thundercracker (although, given that the toy has existed for over 15 years, I fully acknowledge that this is unlikely).


Decepticon scientists, frustrated by persistent losses against their enemies, the Autobots, labored long and hard to come up with a new weapon that would turn the tide of their never-ending battle. At last, they believed that they had come up with the ultimate weapon. But they would need a volunteer.

There were risks, they admitted. If the experiment failed, the unfortunate test subject could end up a twisted heap of scrap, but the potential payoff would be undying glory in the annals of Decepticon history.

Frustrated at his recent forced conversion into a non-transforming "Action Master" by an infusion of Nucleon, and tired of being pushed around by his superior officer, Air Commander Starscream, Thundercracker volunteered for the experiment. Anything was better than this life! After a short briefing with the Decepticon scientists about the nature of the procedure, Thundercracker stepped into the modified CR chamber.

The idea was to coat Thundercracker's armor with a light-refracting substance that would result in him being invisible to all optic sensors. This substance was sprayed onto every part of Thundercracker's body. The scientists were concerned that the substance might interfere with the electrical circuitry running through all of Thundercracker's joints, causing him to suffer massive systems failure, and possibly extinguishing his spark.

If only they were so lucky.

Thundercracker emerged from the chamber alive and well, but not at all invisible. Upon seeing the garishly colored form, the scientists' optical circuits instantly shut down. Unable to see, the scientists ran into each other and, in their efforts to escape the laboratory, trampled over one hapless assistant, crushing him to the floor and causing severe injury. Thundercracker, unware of what was happening, walked out of the room, looking for someone who might explain what was going on. Several more Decepticons were blinded when they inadvertently saw Thundercracker approach. Slowly, Thundercracker began to understand that he might be the problem. He went back to the laboratories to seek help, but everyone he met found themselves stricken blind.

It wasn't long before the team of blinded scientists found some of the other Decepticons, and were able to explain what had happened. The possibilities for using Thundercracker's condition to fight against the Autobots were immediately apparent, but the Decepticons needed to be able to ensure the preservation of their own ability to see in order to take proper advantage of the situation.

This led to another team of scientists to devise a set of imaging goggles that the Decepticons could wear, in hopes that this would help them to approach Thundercracker safely. The first scientist to try out the goggles approached the room in which Thundercracker had agreed to remain (pending a resolution to his condition). Upon seeing Thundercracker, the scientist's optic circuits exploded, and the scientist screamed out in agony.

"The goggles! They do nothing!"

The next solution involved covering Thundercracker in a large fabric sheet, stolen from the humans of Earth. Two Decepticons would then escort Thundercracker to the battle site, and upon reaching the appropriate position, they would take the sheet off of Thundercracker and cover their eyes.

The results were instantaneous. Autobot warriors fell left and right. Unfortunately, the sheet blew away, and neither Thundercracker nor the available Decepticons were able to recover it. Although Thundercracker was instructed to return to the laboratory, seventy-four more Decepticons were blinded during the journey, negating any benefits gained by the losses on the Autobot side. More Transformers might have been able to escape this destruction in an earlier age, but since so many Transformers had become Action Masters, few could transform into alternate modes that would have facilitated escape.

Various other experiments were tried, but none were successful. Both the Autobots and the Decepticons found themselves stricken whenever Thundercracker would approach. Ultimately, Thundercracker grew tired of being a de facto prisoner of his own people, and left the Decepticons to strike out on his own. This only made matters worse, as every being that Thundercracker came into contact with was blinded upon seeing even the slightest reflection of his color scheme. Attempts were made to destroy Thundercracker, but any soldier who saw the renegade Action Master lost his sight before he could fire his weapons, and any computerized weapons system that attempted to lock onto Thundercracker's form shut down while attempting to calculate the Pantone color codes that Thundercracker's paint scheme used. Slowly, the Transformers began to die out.

Several thousand years later, an alien race came upon a record left by a Transformers historian, one of the last of the race. No one could tell if the historian was Autobot or Decepticon. By that time it didn't matter. Thundercracker had annihilated friend and foe alike, before finally succumbing to systems failure himself, a process accelerated by the lack of any surviving medical technicians that might previously have been able to provide maintenance. The record stated a simple opinion, the truth of which would go on to be debated for years:

"In the end, it was the introduction of the Action Masters that proved to be the death of the Transformers."

Friday, May 11, 2007

Better Picture of Breakaway on Club Site

I was up ridiculously late last night catching up with some old friends, and am not terribly awake right now. I got up this morning to discover that the Transformers club has revealed a more accurate picture of Breakaway on the club site. So, head over there and enjoy that. I'll (hopefully) have something more intelligent to say after I've had the weekend to catch up on my rest.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

The Alpha Trion Rampage Continues

A couple of times over the past week, I've commented briefly in the context of other issues that a figure that appears to be a repaint of Vector Prime as Alpha Trion has been showing up on eBay. Alpha Trion is a character from the old '80s Transformers cartoon, and is notable for being one of the oldest Transformers, and for "creating" Optimus Prime (the cartoon actually says that he rebuilt a Transformer named "Orion Pax" as Prime, but that seems to be enough to call him "creator" for most folks).

To date, over 20 of these toys have shown up on eBay. That's an unusually huge number of toys for something that hasn't been released to the general market yet. Since these "Alpha Trions" have almost certainly been stolen, I'll not be posting links here. But the sheer quantity of "Alpha Trions" out there is very odd. Most folks think that this will be a BotCon exclusive. But no BotCon exclusive has ever been leaked before the convention in these numbers. The previous record holder seems to be pre-Beast-Wars Megatron, for which a little over a dozen toys leaked onto eBay over the course of a couple of months. We've already seen nearly twice that many in only a week or so!

Some folks are theorizing that this might be a sign that "Alpha Trion" is intended for mass release instead for a convention. Although nothing would make me happier, it's hard to imagine this being true. It's also a possibility that "Alpha Trion" will be available through the Transformers club in greater quantity than the convention exclusive would allow. But even this seems a bit of a long shot.

Fact is, we'll have to wait to find out for sure. In the meantime, I know it's tempting. I was tempted myself when those first "Alpha Trions" were going on eBay for fairly low prices. But please don't encourage these thieves by buying these items on eBay. It only encourages more of this kind of behavior in the future.

Monday, May 7, 2007

All Sold Out

The Transformers boards were virtually lit aflame this weekend after it was announced that the box sets for the 2007 BotCon exclusives were all sold out. On the good side, this enabled me to make an early update to my BotCon Exclusives Data Sheet, with numbers for the 2007 exclusives that we know so far. On the down side, it has given those who want to find something to complain about something new to accuse Fun Publications of having done wrong.

It doesn't matter that the number of exclusives made for this year's convention represents a 33% increase over previous years. It doesn't matter that this increase was made despite the fact that neither of the exclusive box sets from either of the previous years FP held the convention were able to sell out by the end of the convention (In fact, there were still over 200 box sets from 2005 available at the club store at the time of this writing! They only had 4 box sets from 2006 left as of Friday night, so those may be gone by now. I haven't checked.). It doesn't matter that FP was taking a huge financial risk by making a near-record number of these sets (there were years in which more of certain individual exclusives were made, although I'm not at all sure that even in those years did they sell as many as FP made this year, once you account for the loose sets added in. In any event, because FP sells these in sets of five toys, the only possible rivals for this distinction were far less expensive, so that's worth noting, too.). It doesn't matter that FP actively increased the number of these toys produced beyond their original plans after seeing the incredible response the first day or two after registration forms were first made available. No, all that matters to some people is that they don't have the option of getting the sets direct from the providers now.

I'm truly amazed at how little some fans understand the process. It's stunning how many people are asking FP to do another run of these figures to meet the (obviously still present) demand. It doesn't matter that it would be impossible to get such a second run done in time for the convention. It doesn't matter that it would be a slap in the face to the fans who diligently sent in their forms early rather than take their chances by waiting. It doesn't matter that there should be some difference in the definition of a convention exclusive versus a club (or any other kind of) exclusive. Or even that the word "exclusive" should have any meaning at all. No, there are just some people (many of whom complained about the set to start with) who are upset that they can't quickly and cheaply get some (admittedly pretty cool) toys.

Of course, very little of this is new. The one thing that I'd say is new about this whole thing is the fact that no exclusive toys have ever sold out before the convention before. But even there, most of the complaints are pretty predictable, and besides being strong cases of "sour grapes," usually represent absolutely no understanding of just how things work. I'm going to actually take a step out into "flame" territory and say that there are a lot of really stupid comments out there. I can understand that people are disappointed, but I really wish that people would at least try to understand what FP has managed to achieve here, and how these processes work.

Friday, May 4, 2007

BotCon Dreadwind... Should Have Been Darkwing?

All five figures to be included in the BotCon 2007 box set have now been revealed. The latest, Dreadwind, is (as expected) a repaint of Classics Jetfire with a new head. What has surprised me most about this one is how many people seem to think that they should have used Dreadwind's former G1 Powermaster partner Darkwing, instead of this character, who admittedly looks a bit like a "Green Jetfire," rather than a totally new character (especially if you keep the Jetfire helmet on, as in the main picture at botcon.com).

But I still think FP made the right choice. Here are some comparisons.

First, the robot modes. The original Dreadwind is on the left, and the new BotCon version is on the right:

Now, here's the robot mode of Darkwing to the right.

Of course, one does have to do some imagination to get past the colors, which were purposefully chosen for Dreadwind, but I would argue that the robot modes are still a clear match for the two Dreadwind's, and a "non-match" for Darkwing. The cockpits on the chest are especially important here.




But perhaps the vehicle modes tell a different story. Again, we'll put G1 Dreadwind on the left, BotCon Dreadwind on the right, and we'll add Darkwing below.

The point at which a lot of folks say "Aha! See?" is the fact that Darkwing has the "swing wings" that the BotCon mold has, which G1 Dreadwind does not. This is true. But other than that, I simply don't see enough significant differences in plane design between G1 Darkwing and G1 Dreadwind to consider one over the other. And given that the robot mode is a fairly clear match (and assuming that we're only talking about turning Classics Jetfire into one of these two characters. There are, of course, hundreds of other things they could have done), it seems to me that Dreadwind wins. I'd much rather have a close robot mode match than a vehicle mode match, especially when it's pretty close to begin with.

Of course, opinions are still bound to differ. I'm just happy that I'll be getting this toy. (Now if I can just figure out how to get that Alpha Trion that's been rumored! I've been wanting them to repaint Vector Prime into Alpha Trion for forever!)
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