Last week we got halfway to proving that BadCube make good toys with a favourable review of Old Timer Series 02 “Brawny”. This week we examine Brawny’s co-release, OTS-03 “Backland”, the third in BadCube/Cubex’s take on the Generation 1 minibots. Backland is of course supposed to be the series 3 minibot Outback – who was a remould of the G1 Brawn. It’s no coincidence that these two were released together, and while it’s no surprise that Brawny has proved the more popular of the two, there’s an emerging school of thought that Backland may actually be the better figure.
We covered the ins and outs of how Cubex became BadCube, and the nature of the Brawny/Backland/Quint Journal offer in Part 1, so let’s get straight to the Backland toy. Packaged in vehicle mode, immediate differences between this and Brawny are the addition of a roof rack as standard (Brawny’s comes in the accessory pack) and the big cannon that slots onto Backland’s roof just like the G1 version. Backland also has the removable gas can that Brawny does, and just like Brawny’s it splits to reveal an extra accessory.
What you see here is a Decepticon detector that Outback was shown using in the season 3 Sunbow cartoon “Five Faces Of Darkness Part 1” while hunting Ramjet and Dirge on Earth. More images of this a bit later. If you happen to have ordered both Brawny and Backland, you will be receiving an extra face (silver eyes) and frisbee bomb thing (also from FFOD part 1) for use with Backland. Paperwork consists of two collectors cards, both have one side MP-style and one side BadCube art. The booklet has decent instructions with valuable advice, as well as concept art for a Backland that was bonded to a human pilot. Neat stuff.
As with Brawny, Backland has a retro Land Rover shape as his alternate mode, with a few small changes. The colour is as it should be, more tan and ‘safari’ than Brawny’s green. Due to the different arm and hand transformation, things looks different through Backland’s windows. The illusion of seats is slightly weaker than with Brawny. In addition, Backland has a winch moulded below the front grille. Backland still has all of the positives that Brawny does in vehicle mode, quality painted details like wheel hubs and lights, a strongly held together compact vehicle mode with zero looseness and enough style to hold the eye’s attention.
The Land Rover twins scale quite nicely with Masterpiece cars and hold their own aesthetically. Until Takara Tomy get around to filling these ranks, the fleet of 1980s vehicles grow on our shelves. I’m really not convinced that in vehicle mode there’s quite enough there to ensure most collectors will buy both Brawny and Backland off the bat (hehe….nevermind), but after experiencing them in hand it could be that most are won over by the charm of the ‘other’ figure in this set. That charm begins to take effect as one begins to unfold the tan Land Rover.
Visually, Backland is very different to Brawny, and to my eyes he has better robot proportions. At the same time, his head shape and lack of a barrel-chest mean that he feels more boxy. The transformation has a lot to answer for here as well. For a start, the front grille does not separate in the same place as Brawny’s does, and therefore does not fold down into the chest. The result is that Backland appears to have much more of the vehicle front end on his back. That cavernous top he has means that the robot head is a little fiddly to pose, and for some reason the folded panels on Backland’s outer legs seem to be that much more of an eyesore than with Brawny. The monochromatic legs offer less visual interest than Brawny who at least has different coloured knees.
There are so many positives, though. The transformation is every bit as enjoyable as Brawny’s, and that is by far the biggest plus with these figures. Maybe it’s because the quality is better than Huff and many 3rd Party figures of this size that allows one to concentrate on enjoying the transformation instead of fretting about stress marks, shattered plastic and paint rubbing. Weapon grip is solid for the big cannon, but the Decepticon Detector just kinda sits there without tabbing in anywhere. The hands are not stored in the wrists like Brawny, they stay exposed when the arms fold up in vehicle mode. The chest is also different because the sides of the chest connected to the arms don’t close around the central panel, instead they go in first and the central panel folds up to clip into them. As a result, it’s not quite as secure as Brawny, but the variety is definitely appreciated.
There’s no doubt about it, the whole package is enhanced by the fun extras that BadCube have included. Also, the accuracy of the Backland robot mode should not be under-valued. The chest pattern, faux shoulder-windows (which is BadCube referencing G1 cartoon referencing G1 toy) etc all demonstrate a popular commitment to mixing cartoon accuracy and a MP-style design ethos. Like Brawny, Backland has the ability to be plonked down on a surface in any reasonable pose and he will hold. This kind of stability is no guarantee with today’s figures and greatly adds to the enduring appeal and posability. On that topic, there was no issue with the die cast waist piece and thin metal strips that control the thigh ratchets on Backland as I had on Brawny.
I had more fun posing Backland than I did Brawny, because there were more positions and poses that looked ‘right’ due to his better proportions. Even then I still can’t shake the feeling that the thighs are too short. It’s either that, or the lower legs are too wide due to the folded panels. The robot head up close reveals some untidy moulding, this I believe is the only real let-down on Backland and the clearest reminder that it’s not an official product. BadCube have advised that it’s better to remove the head completely in order to swap to the silver-eyed face. The default face is so much more preferable to me though, so I kept it on. It won’t come off with simple tugging as it did with Brawny, so take care here.
For me personally, there’s no doubt that Backland is the more complete package, despite Brawny’s wider character and historic appeal and accessories. Due to the way that the inner leg panels retract against the main part of the leg and how the folded arms do not need to tab to anything inside the cab, Backland has a marginally more enjoyable robot to vehicle conversion than Brawny – and when a Transformer has a transformation that good in both directions, as well as being successfully posable and stable in robot mode, then it’s impossible to put down. The above picture of Backland with a makeshift Hasbro/3rd party season 3 cast is slightly unfair when taken in the context of aesthetics because most Masterpiece figures would look a shade boxy and angular compared to where Hasbro and Takara are going with main line Transformers these days. Being flanked by Animated Blurr and Rodimus will make 99% of Transformers appear misshapen.
As a set, Brawny and Backland bring a lot to the collector – and honestly for the price that they are offered at generally online, they really needed to. It would have been enough to bury BadCube had the quality not been up to much (but it is), and had the toys been dull and uninspiring. As it turns out, you get solid figures with enough accessories to keep posing and display varied for months if you are into changing stuff around. You get figures that are an absolute pleasure to transform, definitely my favourite 3rd party transformations thus far. Minibot fans and Masterpiece line-fillers alike will flock to these two, and please don’t take the latter as any sort of derogatory statement. At the rate TakaraTomy are progressing with Masterpiece, when do we realistically expect them to get around to Outback? We believe they will, though, and yet that is not stopping collectors from gravitating to these releases, especially with positive word of mouth spreading. Having enabled two discerning collectors this week in person with Brawny and Backland, I think calling these two a success is a fair shout.
All the best