Every category of Transformers toys has its talisman. A shining beacon that stands out and represents the very essence of that category, its qualities, shortcomings and character. And just as vintage and modern official Transformers lines have their ambassadors, as do 3rd Party products inspired by Transformers. Now while we can’t take one product as representative of the entire scene (because there’s only one *cough* Quakewave *cough* answer), we can select four 3rd Party companies who have put out enough product to make our contributors’ lives difficult!
Our question, as before, was: ‘‘What toy would you choose to represent an entire toy line, if you had ONE choice, one toy you could pitch to a non-collector in order to sell the line?”. So, in no particular order…
FANSPROJECT – TFX-01 CITY COMMANDER
~ By Brandon Yap (aka Heroic Decepticon) ~
”An ambassador for FansProject (“FP”) products – this is a tough one I thought. Why? Although FP is one of the now legion of ‘Third Party Companies’ out there churning out unofficial interpretations of Transformers characters in toy form, it is also one of the best 3P companies in terms of consistency, design, engineering and quality of materials. Over the years, there have been so many FP products, all of which were of a very high standard and quality, that it should have been a difficult choice. I thought about it more, and well, it wasn’t a difficult choice at all. It’s fairly straight-forward actually. My selection for FP’s ambassador is none other then its first major release, the TFX-01: City Commander armour add-on kit.
”There is some authority, and I tend to agree, that this is the 3P piece that ‘started it all’. Before City Commander’s release, 3P companies were largely confined to releasing weapon or accessory packs. Basically simple items with no moving parts and little engineering other than the mould itself. FP first released a jerry can that could convert into a laser blaster for Binaltech Convoy, then in 2008 FP released the City Commander armour.
”It took the fandom by storm. Overnight, it increased the value of the heretofore throw-away Ultra Magnus piece in the Target 2-pack set shared with Skywarp (everyone wanted Skywarp and didn’t give a second thought to Ultra Magnus, which was a straight-repaint of Classics Optimus Prime). It made a toy that collectors would happily discard into something essential in a Classics collection. FP would follow this up with hit after hit over the years, with add on kits that turned shelf-warming official toys into highly sought after pieces – think the Explorer / Munitioner sets (add on to form Classics Bruticus), the Appendage kit (add on to form Superion), etc. Add-on kits that made undesirable official toys desirable and increase in value? It all started with City Commander!
”Of course it adds to the appeal, a lot, that the combined Ultra Magnus mould is such a finely sculpted piece of mechanical perfection and an elegant figure to behold. In fact, the City Commander armour is so popular that it had even been KO-ed. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery as they say…”
TFC TOYS – PHANTOM F4 (sort of…)
~ By Sid Beckett (aka CZ Hazard) ~
”Before I explain and justify my decision, a little background as always: I was an early adopter of the TFC combining robots, slavishly picking up each release of the Hercules combiner as and when they were released. I still prefer Hercules to Giant, even though I am lucky enough to own both and actually prefer the combined mode aesthetic of Giant at a glance. However, the sheer mass and enjoyment in transforming the individual robot modes from Hercules to robot, to vehicle, to combined mode and back again puts the TFC bots above and beyond any combining robot I’ve had since G1. All of the figures are great fun to play with and have great names, and character to spare. If I could pick a combined mode as my choice for ‘ambassador’, it would be Hercules, but – and it’s my fault for suggesting we outlaw combined modes as choices – I cannot, and I can’t bring myself to single out a favourite figure from such an awesome, uniform team.
”Given my love for Hercules, I was greatly anticipating the much lamented Uranos. Sadly, the sophomore jinx struck, and this combiner was not to prove as successful across the board as the Hercules set. Plagued with QC problems, accusations of rush-jobs to meet release dates, complaints of arguably blatant money-grabbing with the ‘Wings of Uranos’ set, and a major re-haul of the central characters alternate mode to the consternation of many left the set a disappointment to some.
”However, I do feel there was one really solid figure released, who has been overlooked in the negativity of the Uranos narrative; Phantom. This first release from the range ranks as one of my favourite jet-mode Transforming robots of all time, and I feel stands alone as a fantastic robot and vehicle and as a great toy, one that is lost in a lot of collections as ‘just a limb’ for a set of figures destined to stay in combined mode. Is that what they mean by Phantom limb syndrome?
”Phantom is – as the name would suggest – based on a F4 Phantom II fighter jet, and has a very accurate alternate mode and a stunning robot mode with only a few minor complaints (I would have preferred blue eyes, and I know several people would have preferred a more G1 cartoon looking face), he traditionally becomes an arm for Uranos / Superion but I think the toy excels as a stand-alone toy. With the release of this first figure, I had very high hopes for the rest of the range, but none of the rest of the figures seemed to live up to the fun of this first figure”.
”But an even more interesting thing has happened during the writing of this piece; the more I’ve played with and transformed the figure, as much as I enjoy it, I can’t help feeling that in an attempt to showcase a fun little figure and to pick a less obvious choice than people would have expected, I have picked the wrong figure to showcase. In all honesty, had I chosen any of the Hercules figures as my choice for TFC ambassador I would not have needed to pick them up and transform them / look them over and study them, because I have constantly picked up and fiddled with those figures individually and as a set since their respective release and completion. I cannot say the same about the Uranos bots, even Phantom who has been my favourite since release.
”Only now at the eleventh hour, I realise my mistake and that it is too late to re-write the whole article…My choice for TFC ambassador? Any of the Hercules parts are amazing, Dr. Crank and Madblender stood out the most to me but I love them all, but Phantom is definitely the most-overlooked piece and I believe is more than deserving of the title 7th best figure TFC have released……and that ain’t bad”.
MASTERMIND CREATIONS – R-03 BOVIS
~ By Jon Strong (aka Jonny Napalm) ~
”When asked to choose which figure best represents Mastermind Creations, I will admit I struggled. Personal preference has to be put aside so that meant the Knight Morpher Airborne Squad were out, despite their unique aesthetics and engineering savvy. Despite how much I could wax lyrical about all of the figures in that series, a steampunk inspired Transformers overall appeal is niche. Hexatron, from MMC’s Reformatted series, is a brilliant example of how far the company have come from the days of the original Knight Morpher Commander. A few aesthetic choices and ..eh? modes aside, it’s a Masterpiece Sixshot and is arguably a 3rd Party benchmark alongside Quakewave. It was a hard decision not to pick him.
”But it’s their take on G1 Tantrum, the Feralcon we know as Bovis that gets my vote (and there was a lot of yo-yoing between him and mold mate Fortis, believe me). So how does one of Feral Rex’s limbs get to become an Ambassador?
”Each mode is a dedicated form without a compromise. Bull looks solid, tough and full of snorting fury. Robot is wonderfully posable and has a snarling visage packed with personality. Leg? Some folk display him in this mode.
This is a great feeling, hefty chunk of robotic beef that gets almost everything right from presentation to price to overall quality and aftercare. It’s not perfect. There is an assembly issue with the right arm that can aesthetically damage the soft ratchets, fixable with either lube or a bit of modding. That qualm aside, this is a true triumph of design and what MMC pack into the figures’ transformations without over complicating things is a joy. And that is what works best about him.
”Bovis is going to end up being Feral Rex’s right leg for most people come Summer, but this leg stands so tall and so proud on its own individual merits that it’s worth buying without any intention of picking up the rest of the set”.
iGEAR – DESTROYER
~ By Morgan Evans (aka Genetic) ~
”While iGear have fallen somewhat out of favour with the fans recently, it’s still worth remembering that they are one of the top dogs in the Third Party business and there’s no better reminder of that then Destroyer. This take on Skywarp may seem outdated now due to the MP-11 mould as it was released when only the MP-3 mould was available, but at the time it was a massive improvement on both Hasbro and Takara’s Skywarp to the moving of the hip kibble to the legs. However, that’s not where it ends. The wing stripes are painted instead of being stickers which immediately makes this a classier piece and it’s simpler paint apps and lack of stickers make it look like the collectable piece it is rather than just a big toy. Also it has a very nice nod to the original prototype that was shown on the G1 box in that the nose cone and Destroyer’s feet are purple; in the case of the feet it breaks up the monotony of Hasbro and Takara’s nearly all black lower legs.
”’But it’s an old mould’ I hear you say. Sure it is, but Destroyer has ankle tilts which gives it a far better look when posed. More importantly, it comes back to aesthetic: MP-11 is firmly based on Starscream’s cartoon appearance while Hasbro’s Thundercracker is based on the G1 toy colouring. They are both great but look very toy like, whereas Destroyer looks like an expensive collectable that commands respect. When a Third Party company can release a toy that is better than the official version and even stands up to the revised new and improved official release, that’s incredibly impressive. iGear did exactly that with Destroyer which makes it the perfect ambassador for the company. While everyone is drinking the MMC Kool-Aid right now, it’s very easy to forget that iGear are incredibly good at what they do and are arguably the very best of the Third Party companies. Destroyer, however, is a perfect reminder of what iGear are all about when they bring their A game”.
Still to come we’ll have Cybertron, 2007 Movie and reissue exclusives. You can see my choices for Ambassadors Part 4 on my Square One blog.
Very special and heartfelt thanks to Morgan Evans, Jon Strong, Sid Beckett and Brandon Yap for the excellent and insightful contributions, and also to Tekering and Brandon Yap for beautiful images.
All the best