In my mind, Action Masters retain an almost indescribable appeal.
While the latter-day Generation 1 Transformers subline has softened in some collectors’ minds in recent years, it’s only fair to say the non-transformable toys remain a source of ire for many. Yet some of us continue to cherish Action Masters for the sheer oddity that they are, even going as far as to commission new versions of them to secure another fix.
In that regard, it’s hugely advantageous that toy manufacturer Super7 seem to be reading my mind as they step forward with their Ultimates take on the classic Autobots and Decepticons. Beyond just cartoony stuff like their recent Optimus Prime, they have also unveiled some unmistakable homages to vintage Action Master toys from the early ’90s, which I simply never expected to see in 2022!
Of the various releases teased, the two that really caught my eye were Banzai-Tron (a character that has cropped up in the years since but remains a firm favourite from the original line) and Bombshell, for good reason. Whilst the Insecticon is more famous for his original 1985 toy or his corresponding cartoon appearance, what you see here is a reference to neither of those things. This is most definitely a representation of the character’s 1991 Euro-exclusive Action Master figure!
As it happens, this particular specimen is a particular favourite of mine, especially for how it entirely reimagines the more traditional look of the character yet still feels instantly recognisable, a trait shared with other characters brought back for the Action Master treatment. It was also one of the first examples of texturised plastic found in the Transformers line and, thanks to a bold colour scheme, remains a highlight of the second year of the subline.
The Super7 figure tremendously captures the look and feel of the 1991 toy, to the point where you could almost be forgiven for mistaking them in photos were it not for the obvious size difference. It has all the right chunky yet curvy proportions and faithfully recreates enough of the right panels and line detailing to feel like a true upscale of the original. It’s the kind of homage I never really knew I needed but couldn’t be happier for!
More than just a straightforward recreation, the Super7 effort ‘feels’ like the Action Master toy on a grander scale in so many ways, even down to how it handles. It exudes all the right vibes and makes me tremendously excited for more of this kind of thing moving forward, assuming they continue in this vein.
Of course, articulation is one big advantage of the updated effort over the original. Action Masters were often billed as poseable action figures, but they were largely static apart from some distinctive hip joints, with not even an elbow bend to their name. Super7 Bombshell easily outclasses that and brings his Action Master persona to life in a more fluid form.
It’s also a step up from the range found on their recently-reviewed Optimus Prime figure, which is a plus. I found Bombshell capable of pulling off any number of poses that the Autobot leader simply couldn’t manage, including a reasonably convincing run!
That’s not to say that he scratches every itch in the articulation stakes, sadly, and some may find the range available to be somewhat too limited versus the standard we’ve become accustomed to on mainline toys these days. For example, you can achieve a relatively decent ninety-degree bend on both his arms and legs, and there is a waist swivel and a fair amount of neck articulation to speak of, but not every joint is as forgiving.
The shoulders are bizarrely impeded, to the point where any more extreme poses are somewhat off the table. I also found the feet odd, given that the ankles seem like they should be able to move more than they do, yet they’re blocked by the sides of the lower legs. A similar story regarding the ab crunch, as there is movement there, but the chest design prevents it.
Finally, the hands can be swapped out for several sets of alternatives, giving you some decent options. As well as a pair of fists, there are some open-palmed solutions and various methods of gripping accessories.
Speaking of which, Bombshell comes packaged with two handheld blasters for a bit of a treat. One is modelled after his more classic 1985 weapon, whereas the other is clearly a nod towards his Action Master gun. It’s excellent that Super7 saw fit to include both, as it really ups the play value a fair chunk.
Then there’s an almost Day-Glo green scarab accessory representing Bombshell’s Action Master partner, Needler. Despite being a colourful (and surprisingly large) inclusion in the box, this little chap is also a fairly faithful recreation of his original equivalent from 1991.
I cannot help but see these two toys together and think that whoever has an element of creative say at Super7 has either more than done their homework, or they’re just a massive Transformers fan, to begin with, because this is some kind of next-level deep-cut. Anyway, Needler looks great and, again, is surprisingly hard to distinguish from his original counterpart.
Needler doesn’t possess much in the way of articulation, as his legs are moulded in place, but the head can move a bit, at least. Besides, he can be utilised in other ways…
First, he can plug into a port on Bombshell’s back, allowing him to be worn as an insectoid backpack of some kind. It looks much better than you might first imagine, but it’s what comes next that blew my mind…
Yes, you can do… this! And that’s exactly what you were after, isn’t it? Isn’t it? No? OK, hang on…
You see, unlike the first-year Action Masters, which often had partners that became more traditional weapons and the like, some second-year examples turned into weird helmets and such. So, in Needler’s case, he clips onto Bombshell’s back, and the head flips forward over his master’s noggin with a spring-loaded gimmick. It’s weird, but it’s a thing.
To recreate the look with Super7’s update, you’ll need to detach Needler’s head and swap it out for Bombshell’s on his body, so it’s not a 1:1 recreation of the original gimmick, yet the effect is much the same. The result is undoubtedly not for everyone, but again, for those in the know, this is some real pandering.
So, whilst he may not be 100% perfect, I can’t help but feel a huge dose of affection for this new Bombshell attempt. It really is as if someone dug into my brain, pulled out one of my biggest wishes and sculpted it into toy form. It leaves me hugely looking forward to Banzai-Tron (already on the way!) and hopefully more Action Master Ultimates very soon.
That’s especially true once I realised just how big these things are! Way larger than I might have ever expected had I not already investigated it once they were announced. Yet still, I was taken aback when the package arrived and I unboxed Bombshell to see him up close. He’s huge!
In fact, dare I say he works exceptionally well at being almost Masterpiece-scale? True, it’s hard to know precisely how big Action Masters would be in such terms (or if it really matters?), but this looks like a decent approximation to me. If they were to bring to life more original characters such as Treadshot, Krok, Gutcruncher and the rest, I’d be elated!
If anything, whilst I enjoyed my time checking out their Optimus, it leaves me hoping Super7 will focus any future efforts on more Action Masters over and above anything else (although perhaps with the occasional Pretender thrown in, having seen their Bludgeon!). How terrific would a whole line-up of these things be?
Throw in some Autobots too, whilst you’re at it, please! I’d love to see Rad, Kick-Off, Mainframe, Jackpot, Rollout and the rest all given some love. It feels like a huge tease to leave it at just one or two and then call it a day.
Still, even if it never comes to pass, at least I can marvel at what we’ve already received, as Bombshell firmly lives up to his name in all the best ways. The action really is alive again, after all.
WHAT’S HOT? Just generally a really fantastic realisation of a classic Action Master toy. It’s exactly how you’d want the original to be brought back to life in many ways.