We’re back for the second half of our look at the weird world of 1998’s Beast Wars Fuzor toys. We kicked off with the Maximals last time, and I think we’ve already conclusively proven that this is one of the quirkiest parts of Transformers history!
Now it’s time to turn our attention to the Predacons because, in the immortal words of Rattrap, the Beast Wars are about to get a whole lot weirder…
Let’s begin our bad guy breakdown with fan-favourite character, Quickstrike, who put in a memorable turn in the accompanying Mainframe cartoon. Introduced at the beginning of season 2, this dastardly desperado is a cross between a scorpion and a cobra, with the latter animal form being reserved entirely for his tail! Yep, he has two heads in beast mode, which is undoubtedly one of the most freakish concepts of the entire Fuzor line. The specimen seen here is actually the 1999 Takara makeover from their Metals line, although in this guise, the only slightly noticeable change is a marginally darker orange on his legs. Something about the look of this lad has always appealed to me, as I think the translucent burnt yellow plastic is very striking indeed, aided by some stunning aqua paint applications all over. Sadly, the ball joints in the tail have never been the strongest on either copy of this toy I’ve owned, but I love it all the same.
The weirdness spirals out of control into Quickstrike’s robot form. By this point, we were accustomed to seeing animal heads used as hands, but the cobra arm remains a distinctive example! Meanwhile, his scorpion legs forming a somewhat oversized claw is akin to genius, giving this guy an incredibly haunting silhouette overall. The changes on the Takara release are more evident here, as you’ll find some additional paint on the face to bring it closer in line with the animation, and a set of red eyes instead of the Kenner version’s unpainted look, so that’s a real bonus in my opinion. Either way, this is strikingly cartoon-accurate overall, which was a real strength of the toys accompanying the second season of animation, and a fun figure to boot.
If Quickstrike is the poster boy for Predacon Fuzors, Terrgator seems to be one that many fans have a hard time forgetting, too, despite not having a cartoon presence of any kind. A few of these animal hybrids seem almost bizarrely natural for how well they work together, and I would argue this lad fits that bill. He’s a reasonably straightforward-looking alligator, albeit one wearing the shell of a snapping turtle on his back, as you do. It also has the benefit of boasting one of the best paint jobs on any of these toys, with the shell drawing the eye for just how well done it is. There’s almost a hand-painted quality to it, given the extensive range of colours and hues being employed. Even the beast head and jaw look fabulous, presenting in a manner you don’t see on modern mainline toys anymore. Gorgeous!
If Terragator’s beast form is something of an instant classic, I will admit that it’s a rather peculiar and slightly jarring journey to robot mode. I like how unexpected it all is, with the various limbs twisting around in quite unusual ways and some great use of asymmetry, but still, the result doesn’t quite live up to it all, looking a little skinny and unfortunate in places. Still, he has his charm; I like how the alligator tail becomes a rifle (even if the rear legs hanging off the sides is odd), and the shell shield is nothing of perfection. The face sculpt is one that people will either love or hate, but it’s somehow giving me serious Killer Croc vibes. Like Bantor before him, this lad feels about as far removed from traditional Transformers as you can possibly get, and whilst it’s a slightly mixed result, I still think he brings the goods.
Next, we come to our final Basic class Fuzor of the lot with Buzzclaw. I remember this toy quite fondly from when it was first released, with no doubt a huge part of the appeal being the exceptionally vibrant colours on offer. Time has not dulled that appeal, as even today, it’s hard to think of many toys that so acutely match this lad’s uber-saturated finish. The wings are gorgeous, showcasing a striking sunburst fade that matches the multi-toned head and tail. It’s an incredible compliment to the vivid green and piercing blue eyes that all add up to make this a genuine showstopper of a beast mode, even if it’s not the most unusual example in the Fuzor line. In case you hadn’t guessed, he’s part mantis, part lizard, although it seems the latter is reserved mainly for the body and legs.
One thing I will say about the Beast Wars Basics of this era, they certainly packed an unparalleled amount of complexity into such small toys! That’s exemplified by Buzzclaw, who genuinely had me scratching my head at one point despite being familiar with him from years prior. Much of that is down to how the wing section moves, as it can be twisted to form a fairly neat backpack or removed entirely to create a strange handheld weapon involving the mantis arms as would-be blades. I really appreciate the added flourishes, such as the attractive yellow paint on the shins. Again, these sorts of touches elevate toys like this, in my opinion, especially as it feels like something that probably wouldn’t happen anymore. If I had one small critique of Buzzclaw, the exceptional detail on his tiny face sculpt is quite hard to discern due to the colour combination. However, that’s something that is arguably improved on several of the recolours this mould has received in the years since.
Going up a size class, we have the first of two Deluxe efforts for the Predacons, with Sky Shadow here being no doubt the best option to lure you in gently. A bit like Buzzclaw, I’d say this beast form doesn’t look quite as inherently freakish on account of being ‘a bit lizardy’, but still, the combo of a dragonfly and an iguana is well done. A lot of that is sold by the gorgeous paint on offer, with the scales and head section having particular attention given to them. It can’t quite match the finish on some of the other toys, and there are a few compromises to be had elsewhere in the design (you will never unsee the robot head hanging off the tail, for example), but still, this lad puts in a good show overall.
If the beast form was slightly tame compared to other examples in the line, the same could not be said of the robot mode, as it’s up there with Quickstrike in terms of outright body horror! Sky Shadow boasts an entirely idiosyncratic transformation with various bits twisting asymmetrically to give him the kind of hands that always have me pondering the practicalities of such an arrangement. The large wing pincers on his right arm contained a nifty spring-loaded mechanism, whilst the beast head on the left can be folded out of the way to reveal a slightly more workable two-fingered claw. Meanwhile, his face sculpt is about as non-traditional as they come, both in terms of aesthetics and because this lad quite literally has a missile for a mouth. You wouldn’t want to give him a kiss, let’s put it that way.
Oh, and yes, I’ve saved the very best till last. Whilst the likes of Silverbolt or Quickstrike may be the stars of the show thanks to their cartoon presence, I don’t think anything could match the outright notoriety of Injector. Frequently dubbed as the ugliest Transformers toy ever, I think such standing is both entirely deserved and yet, rather perversely, quite unfair. Yes, this mishmash of a lionfish and a hornet is horrific, but that’s the point – it’s meant to be. It’s as if the designers were granted the ultimate excuse to cut loose and get nasty with these toys, and Injector is undoubtedly the absolute distillation of that. Still, in that regard he absolutely does everything he sets out to and then some. Plus, the finish is beyond spectacular, with the most gorgeous translucent plastic ably accompanied by some incredible paint applications all over. He may be an eyesore, but he’s also a visual treat and no mistake.
Arguably that’s no less true in his frankly ridiculous yet still-somehow-kind-of-awesome robot form. He’s all awkward proportions and a redonkulous oversized noggin, yet he still finds a way to be rather unexpectedly charming, in my opinion. For starters, whoever conceived this toy knew what they were doing with the palette on offer, as Injector is nothing shy of a masterclass in colour theory. The reds, yellows, purples and blacks were already enough to make him stand out, but that zinging neon green? It’s so striking that you can’t help but be drawn to him despite his monstrous looks. In many ways, it makes the toy the ultimate proof of concept as far as the Fuzors are concerned; so many ingredients that shouldn’t work together in any way, and yet somehow, against all odds, they come together to make something freakish yet magnificent.
Perhaps my only real regrets with this line-up is that we never received any larger toys in either the Mega or Ultra assortments and that Hasbro has thus far never been tempted into revisiting this eccentric line-up in modern form. In a way, at least, that helps them remain all the more remarkable, not to mention so wonderfully weird.