Seriously, it’s the kind of stuff where a simple lump of plastic is somehow imbued with a feeling of discernible personality. It perfectly captures the character in question and looks great to boot.
So, with that in mind, let’s look at what I consider some of the best third party Masterpiece-styled head sculpts out there. You may disagree with my choices, but these are just the ones that have worked best for me! Time to get a head…
#21: Robot Paradise Acoustic Wave
Acoustic Wave underwent a considerable amount of development in the nine years since it was first unveiled, so much so that the final product bears minimal resemblance to what we saw teased back in 2012. During that time, TakaraTomy dramatically shifted their official Masterpiece line towards a more heavily animation-accurate aesthetic and perhaps unsurprisingly, numerous third party producers have swiftly followed suit, including FansToys. That all means that Acoustic Wave ended up with a distinctly more cartoony vibe than was initially expected and that it actually looks closer to the screen than the official MP-13 Soundwave in a lot of regards. That decision may not suit everyone (particularly fans who would have preferred something akin to what we were originally teased with), but I couldn’t be happier! It’s a simple yet elegant design that brilliantly captures the lines and angles required to evoke a now iconic villain.
#20: Ocular Max Saltus
This won’t be the last time that Ocular Max features on this list, and for good reason – they have a way of portraying characters with a scary degree of likeness, to my eye. That was exemplified in Saltus, which took the nearest thing Transformers has to Han Solo and brought him to life looking like a dead ringer versus his on-screen appearance. Again, this one chases the softer angles of a more anime-accurate style, but I think it works, and I also love the way the eyes catch the light at certain angles.
#19: Fans Hobby Naval Commander
Fans Hobby is known for producing more stylised ‘bots, on the whole, often eschewing accuracy to any particular source in favour of their own distinct aesthetic. For that reason, not everyone is won over by some of the choices they make, and so it was with Naval Commander, which took the core idea of Armada Optimus Prime and ran with it some distance. True, you can swap out the ‘ears’ for a slightly more authentic look, but in my opinion, the version seen above just works brilliantly. It’s at once familiar and representative of the character whilst still being its own thing, and I like that.
#18: Newage Mista
Oh boy, Bayformers. That’s sure to keep everyone happy, right? Yes, as we’re all aware, the very style of head sculpt on offer in this realm is enough to make some fans baulk. Yet there are also those of us who still appreciate what the movie designs have to offer, even if they’re not exactly in line with traditional Transformers. Soundwave’s more prominent appearance in the third (I had to check) film may have been long overdue, but I, for one, really liked the look of him once he was actually on screen. To everyone’s surprise, it then turned to 3P company Newage, more commonly known for their Legends-scale figure, to do this one justice, and boy, have they! The sculpt is highly intricate but expertly recreates the monsterish stylings seen in the film itself. It won’t be for everyone, but I can’t help but admire it.
#17: Ocular Max Probus
Back to Ocular Max now (I did say!), and there was no way I couldn’t include this one. Yep, it’s another example from their recent Combaticon line-up, but Probus is just about hands down one of my favourite 3PMP head sculpts… ever! True, how far wrong can you go with a mouth plate and visor design, you might wonder, but still, I think this one knocks it out of the park. It looks suitably animation accurate whilst still recalling the essence of the 1986 G1 toy somehow, and I adore the colours on offer too. Perfection.
#16: Unique Toys Challenger (Battle Damage version)
The Age of Extinction redesign for Optimus Prime was not unanimously loved, but something about it always landed in my mind. The character being portrayed as a knight works surprisingly well, and it managed to evolve from Optimus’ previous look, which against all odds, he’d be rocking for three movies! I always liked what Unique Toys did with their representation of it in toy form, but it wasn’t until the recent battle damage repaint of the design that I firmly appreciated just how magnificent the head sculpt really is! Something about the weathered finish and bright blue eyes sets off the sculpt remarkably well and brings the big screen Autobot leader to life with aplomb.
#15: FansToys Chomp
Boy, were we waiting for this toy for a while! Yes, it may have taken nearly six years for FansToys to finally finish their set of Decepticon Headmasters (I’m not even counting the Horrorcons at this point…), but it was most definitely worth it in the end, as Chomp is every bit the gorgeous pink and green croc we could have wished for. He firmly earns the title of Headmaster, too, as that noggin is sheer brilliance, ably capturing the look of the character from the cartoon but also strongly evoking the stoic nature of the original toy. Classic stuff.
Be sure to check out part 2!