The recent fan poll conducted by Hasbro to promote their upcoming toyline paired Spinister (featured two weeks ago) with Wheeljack, Needlenose with Tracks, and Impactor with Mirage. I'll deal with Impactor next time, but for now, it's enough to say that Hasbro's reasons for these pairings are still a bit murky for the Spinister/Wheeljack and Impactor/Mirage options. For Needlenose and Tracks, on the other hand, a discussion of the IDW comics should make Hasbro's reasoning pretty obvious.
Needlenose, like Spinister, was originally a "Double Targetmaster," whose original toy I have never owned. That said, a quick look at the original Needlenose's page at tfu.info shows that the original toy had a distinctive head design. Someone at IDW determined that the pattern of Needlenose's helmet bore a resemblance to a pattern found on the head of the original Tracks toy, and decided to write them as being brothers who ended up on opposite sides of the war between the Autobots and the Decepticons. Given the prominence of this characterization in modern fiction, it is a pity that the head used for this figure, reused from Firefly (that is, the Combiner Wars version of the Aerialbot Fireflight, renamed for apparent trademark reasons) doesn't really match this pattern, but one works with what one is given....
Needlenose comes with another recolor of the same Targetmaster weapons that Spinister borrowed from Generations Scoop. As before, one character (in this case, Sunbeam, the purple robot) gets to keep his name while the other (the black-and-yellow robot, formerly called "Zigzag," but now called "Zputty"... I don't make this stuff up, honest...) apparently had to come up with a new identity for trademark reasons (these trademark conflicts keep coming up, I know...).
I confess to not having much to say about either Spinister's or Needlenose's personalities because, despite the fact that they did make a handful of appearances in the Marvel Comics (still my favored form of Transformers fiction), neither character ever really made much of an impact on me. They were both just "henchmen," so far as I noticed, and none of the four Targetmaster partners between them even appeared, making the Targetmasters more or less interchangeable ciphers. I do enjoy the gimmick of tiny transformable weapons for the larger robots, but I'm not sure I have much more to say about them than that.
What I do have a bit to say about concerns Needlenose's and Spinister's appearance as part of the "4.0" version of the Transformers Figure Subscription Service (TFSS). By this point in time, Hasbro was beginning to be a bit more vocal about what kinds of figures Fun Publications should be offering as part of their official club offerings, and specifically that such offerings should tie in with the toys that Hasbro was offering at retail at the time. Thus, Combiner Wars toys were heavily featured in 2016, and of the seven toys (six regular releases and one "bonus" figure that came out at the end) that comprised TFSS 4.0, five were designated to combine to form a giant robot, in this case called "Thunder Mayhem" (again, I accept no responsibility for these official names). Broadly speaking, the five members (including new versions of Bludgeon, Ruckus, and Windsweeper) were an homage to the "Mayhem Attack Squad" which appeared in various formations in the Marvel Comics and since, and the combined form was an homage to Thunderwing, who was never a member of any of the previous versions of the Squad, but who had been known to command all of these component Decepticons at various points in time. While the general consensus is that the Thunderwing head (based on the character's organic-styled Pretender shell) is a bit of a mismatch for the otherwise entirely-mechanical combiner, no discussion of these figures would be complete without acknowledging the combined form.
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