Just last week we started a bit of a journey with having a look at one of the more contentious parts of the original Transformers toyline – Pretenders! Yes, even today, the idea of robots in fleshy shells doesn’t sit right with absolutely every fan of the franchise, and it’s perhaps for this reason that the concept is rarely, if ever given any kind of attention today.
However, as we ascertained last time (well, I ascertained – you may still disagree for all I know!), there’s actually quite a bit to appreciate about the vintage toys. It’s true that they never quite hit the mark even for me when I was a child, but since reaching the heady heights of adulthood, I’ve looked back to see the error of my ways. Chalk it up to the naivety of youth, eh?
Joking aside, they’re definitely a line of toys that I have had to learn to appreciate somewhat, which might sound a bit counterintuitive (aren’t toys supposed to be fun in an immediately-obvious-kind-of way?) but hey, the end result is that they’re actually now some of my most prized examples on my G1 shelves. I never thought that would be the case, but here we are!
As I also mentioned last time, I’ve little doubt that a big part of that was down to the experience of actually hunting for these things, and especially because they’re not all that easy to come across in nice, minty condition, given how prone to wear they can be. It’s totally worth it though, as when you get a pristine line-up of Pretenders, they display like nothing else from the era – it’s glorious!
Having already covered off head boy, Cloudburst last time, today’s example is his Autobot teammate, Landmine! This lovely lemon lad makes for quite the memorable showing with his yellow shell and all, and he’s actually one toy I never had as a kid but always coveted.
That’s for good reason too, as he was very prominent in a lot of the advertising for the Pretender subline that featured inside the Marvel UK comics from the time. They really made the most of that simply incredible box art, which shows off Landmine as he pops out of his shell and quickly converts into vehicle mode and, well, let’s just say it left quite an impression!
So, lifelong ambition fulfilled and now Landmine is in my grasp, but how does he measure up at long last? Fortunately I have nothing but nice things to say, as that shell is definitely one of my favourites from the line. Like Cloudburst, it has the same chunky man-in-puffy-spacesuit appeal, but those colours just really sing to me somehow. I also really love his sword and gun combo which, when wielded together, make him seem like he’s ready for action!
One thing though, my copy is missing his hat! I mentioned last time that I never use the space helmet accessories on my guys, for fear of permanently damaging their pristine painted hairdos, but in this case it had entirely escaped my memory that I actually picked up Landmine minus this piece and just never worried about it at the time. Now I have a bit of a dilemma, as I do kind of want the accessory for completeness-sake, but I also know I’ll never use it… ah well, he looks great without, in my opinion!
As with Cloudburst, I’ve opted for Toyhax decals on my copy (and indeed on the inner robot), as I drastically prefer them to the stock see-through options included with the original package. I just find the colours pop so much more and give some welcome highlights to the vibrant palette on display in both cases.
Overall, these two make quite the handsome pair, and even without the addition of Waverider (more on him later!) I’d be very happy with them as a duo, much like in their Marvel comics adventure together.
Naturally that’s just half the story though, for it’s once you split open the shell that Landmine reveals his true self! In this case, it’s a very skinny but remarkably handsome grey and red robot.
Now again, the robot modes themselves are definitely an area that people criticise the Pretender line for, but try telling me that isn’t a good-looking guy, right? He even has obvious alt’ mode kibble in the form of those racy red wheels and waist-windshield. Overall, I dig the look very much.
I also think the colour scheme is wonderful, with the warm grey nicely offset by some black thighs and lots of eye-catching highlights. Again, the Toyhax decals definitely add to that, but either way he’s a treat from tip to toe, in my opinion.
Additionally, I’m a huge fan of that headsculpt, which is one of the more classic efforts on an inner Pretender ‘bot. I love his well-defined visor and little antenna, and overall I think it’s a distinctly stronger showing than Cloudburst, even.
Where he’s not quite as polished is posability, particularly as he lacks the backwards knee-bend of his teammate. The legs can bend forwards for transformation, but that’s no good here! It leaves Landmine looking a little static by comparison, which also isn’t helped by how he holds his gun.
In a weird twist, you can only peg it into his hand on the side of the rifle and not using the main handle itself (which is meant for the shell). I have no idea why they didn’t allow a peg hole in the top of the hand (as they did on Cloudburst) but the result is very unconvincing, sadly.
Still, it’s a quibble on what is otherwise a fun little toy, and there’s still no doubt that the two of them together work really well. They may not be your most ‘traditional’ G1 robot modes, but I can’t help but admire them for what they’re worth.
One thing that always impresses me is how different they are, for starters. I can’t help but think if they were invented now, for the first time, then we’d see a lot of repainting and retooling going on, with essentially the same base mould being used in a variety of colour schemes, yet here we were treated to all-new individual moulds for each one, and all very unique in design, too.
Those idiosyncrasies carry through to the transformation and alternate form, of course, as instead of another spaceship/jet thing as on Cloudburst, Landmine turns into a land-based vehicle. I was going to say it’s a car, but then you mount his rather impressively-large blaster and I think maybe he’s more of a tank. Perhaps it doesn’t matter!
Now look, I’m well aware of how much this resembles a folded-up man with a gun stuck on top but still, there’s something about it that works well-enough for my estimation. Again, it’s the kind of thing I was honestly a little disappointed by as a kid, but taking everything into account, I now think it’s absolutely fine as part of the overall package here.
Again, I think the colour scheme on offer helps in many ways, with the orange canopy standing out (despite the unfortunate obtrusion of the screw hole right in the middle) and the red wheels really striking the right notes. You’ll also note the decals doing their share of the lifting on the sides of the legs here.
It’s definitely the kind of thing that benefits from being seen at the right angle, though, as the way the arms just fold back and the head turns round to the floor isn’t the most convincing, to say the least!
Still, for what it is, I like it well enough, and as a whole package, I really appreciate what Landmine has going on here. He goes a good long way to fulfilling the childhood promise of that box art advert, even if my imagination still needs to fill in some of the blanks, maybe!
Again though, whatever shortcomings he may have are more than made up for by the delightful sight of both Landmine and Cloudburst together in all their glory. I don’t really have the space for it sadly, but there’s definitely a handsome display to be had with having each robot stood alongside their respective Pretender shell.
Mine tend to spend most of their time hiding away inside their human disguises, so it’s definitely a lot of fun to let them out occasionally for a spot of photographic appreciation and a bit of a play!
It’s also great to see just what a fine job Landmine does at filling out a more general Autobot display, especially as he’s such a unique addition to a land-based vehicle mode selection. I’m sure some folks will have something to say about it, but I at least think he passes more convincingly than Twin Twist!
He also cuts a dash in the robot mode ranks, in my opinion, and like Cloudburst, stands a lot taller than I always give the Pretenders credit for! I don’t know why I always think of them as being so small, when actually he stands at comparable head height to the likes of Punch, Hot Rod and Slapdash, none of which I consider to be that little.
Of course, there are considerably bigger G1 toys out there (hello, Blaster!) but still, I really like how these inner Pretender forms stand out in a display all the same. For robots that have the reputation they do, I actually think they hold their own very nicely.
And yes, they’re still very different in style to the likes of the Diaclone re-releases that dominated the early years of the Transformers line, but still I’m finding that the variances between these toys becomes a lot less important to me as the years roll on. If anything, I’ve come to love just how varied the original line of toys really is, and celebrate that head on, rather than shying away from it somehow.
I mean, if you’re going to love Transformers, like *really* love it, then I think that means embracing every last drop of the absurdity it often adopts at the core of it all. Micromasters, Action Masters, Pretenders… all of these things are weird and wonderful in their way, but all have their place, in my opinion.
Anyway, in the case of Landmine today, I’ll conclude by saying that he’s easily earned his spot amongst such a collection. Both outer shell and inner robot are a visual treat, and hopefully serve as just another piece of evidence in the ongoing case that Pretenders are actually something to admire, after all.
Next time we’ll have the third member of the initial Autobot line-up for your perusal, but at least for today I think it’s fair to say this guy has landed pretty well.