Friday, February 29, 2008

Weekly Transformers Feature: Grand Slam and Raindance

It may seem odd to newer fans, now that we live in an age where cassettes are pretty much obsolete, but Transformers that turned into cassettes were pretty much always popular back in the days of G1. For less than the price of an Autobot Car (those tended to cost around $10), you could get two cassettes (which I remember as costing about $7)! The pack containing Grand Slam and Raindance was no exception.

Although there were a few cassettes that turned into robots, as most Transformers do, cassette Transformers tended to have a higher proportion of characters that turned into other things. During the first year of the line, there were cassettes that turned into condors (well, birds, anyway) and a jaguar. Later years gave us a lion, a rhino, a bat, dinosaurs, another kind of bird, an ape, and these two. For the most part, these cassettes didn't have an anthropomorphic "robot" mode at all. They were cassettes, their non-cassette alternate-mode, and that was it (The "other bird" and ape were an exception, as will be seen in a moment).

Out of all these non-conventional modes, Grand Slam and Raindance were the only cassette transformers to have vehicular alternate modes. Grand Slam is the tank, and Raindance is the jet. Although it was considered normal to have extra weapons or parts that needed to be added on to a Transformer's form to complete one mode or the other back in the days of G1, Grand Slam was fairly unique in that, if you didn't have the weapon parts, the vehicle mode pretty much didn't work at all. You'd be stuck with just a flat box with treads on the side (You probably can't see them in this not-quite-focused shot, but they're there.). [Incidentally, I know that I have Raindance's weapons on wrong, at least in regard to how the instructions tell you to place them. I just think they look better on top rather than below the wings.]

Because combiners had always proven popular in the Transformers line thus far (indeed, the concept's come up a lot in the years since), Hasbro gave the cassettes of this year (1988: Year 5 of the line) an additional feature: the two cassettes in the pack could combine into a robotic form. (The other cassettes released this year were Squawktalk and Beastbox, the aforementioned bird and ape duo.) As has been the case before, the folks who come up with the names didn't spend too much time worrying about what to call the combined form: they just smashed the individual components' names together to come up with (in this case) Slamdance. [Again, the way I have the weapons situated is at variance with the official art for Slamdance seen at the top, but I think it looks better centered than off to the side. In this case, the instructions don't say one way or the other.]

There really isn't too much to say about these guys in terms of the official fiction. The cartoon had ceased production about a year earlier, and the comic only ever showed the pair as a couple of deactivated cassettes sent to Earth from Cybertron to warn the Autobots of an impending threat. (But get this, the comic had previously established that no one on Cybertron even knew Optimus Prime and his crew was on Earth, let alone functional, until the very recent past at that time. Yet when it came to using these two cassettes as couriers, the comic suggests that they were sent to Earth about a century earlier, deactivated in an accident, recovered by pirates, and only discovered by the Transformers just in time to be relevant. So many continuity issues with that one, it's best not to think too hard about it. Of course, I've kind of made it my job to know this kind of insanity-wreaking stuff!) Once the cassettes were recovered and the information gathered, they were promptly forgotten about and never heard from again. In all probability, they were probably still in deactivated cassette mode when, only two issues later, Starscream destroyed the spacecraft they'd last been seen on. Although I imagine that the tiny cassettes probably weren't damaged any further than they already were, they're probably still floating along out there, infinitesimal specks amidst the vast infinitude of space. Good luck finding them....

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