Everyone loves Minibots, right?
After all, the little lads are a staple part of the first few years of Generation 1 and set the template for smaller-scale Transformers toys throughout subsequent years of the franchise.
Yet not all Minibots are created equal, of course. So today, let’s look at every Minibot toy released from 1984 to 1986 and rank them from worst to best. Opinions incoming!
Admit it, you knew this was coming, no? I’ve never made much of a secret of my general disdain for this toy design, so it can’t be a major surprise to see it ranked at the bottom of our list. It’s not even to do with the character’s irritating presence in the cartoon, as the toy itself is legitimately a bit of a stinker all on its own. Even putting aside the lack of cartoon accuracy (as that’s not really a factor that bothers me), it’s just awkward beyond belief, with bizarre proportions and a weird solution for the face flap that can never not look silly. If there’s one redeeming feature here, the colour scheme works well, even if it’s not quite a match to the screen. Overall, this is undoubtedly one of, if not the weakest G1 toys, in my opinion. Someone had to go first, and that someone was always going to be Wheelie.
Now that we have that out of the way, the chasm between our last entry and everything else is quite wide. That said, Gears certainly falls to the bottom of the ranks for me, even though I’m sure many people will disagree. This toy has always maintained minimal appeal, whether it’s the simplistic design (even compared to fellow Minibots) or overly predictable colours. In a recent Triple Takeover recording, I said that he reminded me of a Poundland toy, and although that’s a little harsh, I stand by the general sentiment. Something about him gives off Massive Gobot Energy (MGE), although I admit I like the weird, alienesque face. However, there are just too many other factors that don’t quite click, leaving Gears as a toy I’d be all too happy to shift.
This little lad has found new fame thanks to a star turn in the IDW comics in recent years, which is funny considering what a Z-list no-mark he was during the 1980s. Swerve did put in a cartoon appearance (which can’t be said for everyone on this list), but his brief moment on-screen amounted to being stepped on by Trypticon. The ignominy! The toy itself is a reasonably extensive retool of Gears, but ranks marginally higher because of how much effort has gone into making it seem different to the Diaclone hand-me-down version of the mould. There’s also a lot of personality shoved into that face sculpt, which helps him stand out, even if the toy sadly struggles to stand up.
OK, I’m going to admit that I feel bad putting Powerglide so far down on this list, but fair’s fair. This is one of those times when my head and heart disagree with one another, but objectively, there’s enough to quibble about this design that no matter how much I might love it, I can’t in all good conscience place it higher. After all, he has intensely skinny thighs and mahoosively oversized boots (that don’t even make an effort to masquerade as feet, let’s be honest). Plus, the visible screw in the middle of his forehead is a bit of a killer. Still, despite his quirks, I can’t help but love him, and his adorable pipsqueak plane mode just can’t be beat!
The first couple of entries here were very easy to reel off (almost cathartically so), but now we’re into the mid-tier weeds a bit, and it’s getting harder and harder to distinguish the toys in terms of merit. In theory, Hubcap should rank a lot higher, given that his primary mould-mate is further up (but more on that later). In practice, he’s still great in many ways but somehow is too easy to overlook. With zero cartoon or comic presence to his name, Hubcap is remembered mainly by people who had him instead of either Cliffjumper or Bumblebee as a kid. However, his biggest crime is that he can’t match up to how exciting either of those offerings is, leaving him to be a sort-of eternal second stringer. I think, ultimately, he would have performed better if the powers that be had stuck to his original white colouring to help him stand out just a smidge.
I’ll admit that even I felt like Huffer should be placed a little higher on this list, but having double-checked everything, he landed in the same spot again. There’s a lot to love about the little blighter, including his gorgeous orange and purple colour scheme (instantly more striking than the cartoon’s muted hues), his ever-so-goofy proportions, and his weird face-plated head design. That his shiny chrome arms look like bizarre salad forks is but the cherry on top. Yet as much as I admire him, we’re at a point in the list where it really is a close call in distinguishing one toy as better than the others, and something like weird reverse shoulders can hold you back a peg or two.
Outback is an excellent example of a toy that is often overshadowed by the personality of the corresponding character depiction, as people are more likely to remember the Australian accent in the cartoon than they are any merits seen in the original plastic portrayal. Yet as one of the classic 1984 designs brought back for a significant overhaul two years later, there’s a lot to like here. Yes, his body design and stickers make him look a little bit like a drinks dispenser or novelty condom machine. True, the two-tone brown and tan colour scheme isn’t exactly the most exciting palette on offer. Yet still, there’s a surprising amount of charm to be had in that characterful face with its striking blue visor, and the remoulded hands are a neat touch, too. Props to this lad for being the only Minibot to feature an accessory, too, with a mountable cannon on top of his vehicle mode. However, it’s a shame this cannot be incorporated into the robot form in any way – strewth!
By all rights, Cosmos should be much further down this list. Objectively speaking, there are numerous things about this design that don’t make for a great robot form, and that’s even aside from the obvious. Turning him to the side will instantly reveal the kind of ridiculously bootylicious kibble that is sure to get people talking, looking less like junk in the trunk and more like an entire parcel shelf. He’s not exactly blessed in other ways either, with strange panpipe fingers, hip pouches that Rob Liefeld would weep at, and a nondescript face beneath what seems to be a Tommy Cooper-style fez. And yet, despite all that, it is virtually impossible to pick Cosmos up and not be instantly won over by his charms! He’s an adorable little thing with the cutest spaceship mode you ever did see and deserves your appreciation.
Brawn is a real sleeper hit. The character design was never a favourite of mine in the cartoon, and the toy isn’t one I experienced as a child, so the nostalgia factor doesn’t even enter the conversation. Yet when I finally picked a copy up in later years, I realised how much there is to like about it, which ultimately leads to it deserving a sufficiently mid-tier slot on this list. Firstly, I appreciate how unusual it is, having hailed from Takara’s Micro Change, although with a design supposedly inherited from a defunct line of toys known as Mysterians. It’s entirely alien to so much of the rest of early Transformers. It looks distinctive as a result, with a Cylon-style head and strange clamped hands, leaving me almost wishing the animation model somehow embraced some of its idiosyncracies. Secondly, the colour scheme is striking, with a rich deep green and attractive burnt orange working nicely together. Thirdly, it’s great fun to transform with a simple but satisfying sense of click-clack precision. Perhaps the only real negative is that the shoulders are a definite fragile spot in my experience.
Be sure to join us for part 2 soon!