Monday, April 23, 2012

Transformers Feature: Reveal the Shield Turbo Tracks

This will be the third Reveal the Shield toy I've featured in a row. That's not especially intentional, but with BotCon 2012 is just around the corner, I wanted to highlight the convention by talking about one of the molds that will be used for an exclusive to be released in this year's box set.

The BotCon 2012 set is a bit of a mish-mash, with six toys (up from the usual normal of five): 2 "Classics" characters, 2 "Shattered Glass" Decepticons, and 2 "Shattered Glass" Autobots. One of these from that last category will be a Shattered Glass Tracks, using this mold.

I'll talk about the Shattered Glass character in a bit, but first, let's focus on the toy I actually have. This version of Tracks (called "Turbo Tracks" for trademark reasons) is actually the fourth distinct toy* to feature this character, but somehow it's managed to be the first I've gotten my hands on. The original toy is hard to find these days, and although it's been reissued, I've never been happy with the prices asked for it when I've seen it. The Action Master was never released in the United States, and thus also commands very high prices, although I do have a custom AM Road Rage that is patterned off of this mold. Then there was an Alternator Tracks, which I didn't get, although I did get the Ravage remold. It's not really that I've avoided any of these other versions of Tracks. It's more that the Reveal the Shield version is just the first time that a Tracks toy has been readily available at a price I was willing to pay, at the time I was willing to pay it.

The toy is a reasonably faithful re-imagining of the original toy, with obviously greater articulation than was common in the 1980s. The flame pattern on the vehicle mode is, however, something of a departure from the much simpler triangular pattern on the original, a fact which annoyed some fans (who probably held out for the more slavishly G1-inspired Japanese version). This is typical of modern Hasbro versions of G1 characters, which attempt to appeal not only to adult fans who remember the originals from the '80s, but also kids of today, who have different tastes and for whom the nostalgia factor would be lost entirely. There is no significant children's Transformers market in Japan. If the toys don't appeal to adult fans there, it will hardly sell at all.

At this point, little is known about what the Shattered Glass Tracks character will be like. The toy has been revealed to be a red recolor, inspired by the UK version of G1 Tracks (which itself was reinterpreted as the "Road Rage" character via a reissue several years ago), but that's pretty much all we know. We can guess a bit, however, based on the pattern established in Shattered Glass stories of the past several years. Generally, these characters take some well-known trait of the G1 character, and flip it on its head. G1 Tracks is well known for having a particular type of personality. Voice actor Michael McConnohie, who portrayed Tracks in the original G1 cartoon (and who I met briefly while attending to Gregg Berger's autograph line last year), has gone on record as having patterned Tracks after Thurston J. Howell the Third (the millionaire from Gilligan's Island), complete with the vanity and pretentiousness such would imply. However, many fans have taken this personality as "effeminate," giving rise to a popular theory that "Tracks is gay" (there are other Transformers accused of being gay, but none as famously as Tracks). While I'm firmly on record as believing that Transformers, being robots, should not have male and female sexes, and thus no sexual orientation, it nonetheless is simply a fact that most Transformers continuities have established some Transformers as "male" and others as "female." The Shattered Glass continuity is one of these. As such, my guess is that Shattered Glass Tracks will be established to be a real "manly man" (perhaps a Mark Driscoll type without the religious overtones and profanity?). We'll see in less than a week whether or not I'm right....

In the meantime, I'd like to repeat my request for help in gathering information for the data sheet, which will be revamped once BotCon 2012 begins. Thanks in advance!


*For the record, I'm not counting reissues nor regional color variations as distinct toys at the moment.

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