THE VINTAGE VIEW #14: Generation 1 Pretender Bomb Burst

Despite hints in that direction, it remains incredible to me that Pretenders have never made a full-scale authentic resurgence in the Transformers franchise.

Sure, there have been attempts, not least of which can be found in the recent Legacy line. One of those has been Core class Bomb Burst, a toy with the strong likeness of its 1988 namesake, even if much of the original’s functionality has been sacrificed.

I don’t intend to write that with the strong vibe of ‘old man yells at cloud’, as I’m well aware that the updated toys have proven pretty popular amongst new and old fans alike. Yet for my money, in representing only the look of the outer shell and the vehicle mode of the vintage designs, the Legacy figures are missing at least a few key components that made the ’80s takes so appealing.

Equally, I’m not looking to pretend (eh?) that the originals were some universally popular part of the Transformers line-up back in the day. Far from it, they were more divisive at the time, and it’s only been in more recent years that attitudes towards them have mellowed somewhat. As I’ve indicated in previous chapters of this series, that was true for me, too, as I remember a reasonably palpable distaste for these toys when they first burst onto the scene.

Yet with time comes wisdom, or, failing that, nostalgia. Whatever the case, and no matter how rose-tinted the filter might be, all I can offer is that the vintage Pretenders have been one of my favourite parts of Generation 1 to go back and re-assess in terms of my more recent collecting efforts. Yes, they’re undeniably goofy, but I can’t help but love ’em.

All of this brings us back to looking at the original Bomb Burst then, although I can only acknowledge how overdue such a prospect is, given the length of time since the previous instalment! Still, getting this guy in front of the lens was worth waiting for, as he’s incredibly photogenic and, dare I say, tons of fun to boot!

Truth be told, the specimen you see here is technically not Bomb Burst but Blood, the Takara equivalent release from their Masterforce line, although the two toys are identical in this case. Either way, this was the first Pretender I picked up on coming back to G1, perhaps at a point when I still wasn’t 100% sold on the idea of going all the way and completing the subline. To say it was like a gateway drug is an understatement.

After all, there’s so much to appreciate about this package, not least of which is the simply gorgeous outer shell on offer. The Legacy design has captured the basic look, but it’s purposefully smaller and simpler design struggles to match the stunning presentation on offer here, with a hugely detailed sculpt and top-tier finish never failing to draw your eye.

Firstly, yes, Bomb Burst’s shell is a humanoid vampire bat creature. If that sounds bizarre now, I can only tell you what a shock to the system it was when stuff like this first debuted in 1988, given that we were only just getting used to the likes of Headmasters and Targetmasters from the year prior. There had been ‘monsterish’ Transformers toys before, but nothing quite like this.

What makes the idea work, though, is the commitment to the cause. Nothing about Bomb Burst feels compromised or held back in any fashion. The designers conceived of an organic nightmarish bat-themed outer shell and ran with that idea to the nth degree, arriving at this very signature result without any hesitation. The level to which the Pretender toys of this era swing unapologetically into the weirdness of the core concept is one of the reasons they work so well.

The ghoulish face is so chock full of character that it’s hard not to admire it, even if you’re not quite a convert on the idea at play here. Hideous in nature and yet delightful in terms of physical presentation, it’s a testament to this era of toys that it’s so intricately realised, with gorgeous gold paint for the eyes and mouth and a dash of electric blue to make the ears stand out (more than they already do, I suppose).

There’s more of that top-tier paint elsewhere, with the chest looking incredibly striking, not least because of the vibrant ruby red. I know I was so immediately taken with this toy when I first acquired it because of how well-preserved this particular copy is, with the finish entirely unblemished in this case. It’s true of so many G1 toys, but this figure deserves to be seen in such a pristine state, as I’m unsure how a worn copy could compare to the same degree.

Tiny touches such as the purple armbands and the two tones of grey that make up the main body round up the pleasing palette. Overall, it all works so well that Bomb Burst is an undeniable treat for the eyes. This may not be ‘traditional’ Transformers to some, but my word, it’s breathtaking.

Like the rest of the Pretender line-up, Bomb Burst’s outer shell is mainly static. Their organic forms may look pretty, but poseable action figures they are not, with articulation only available at the shoulders here. It’s understandable given the central gimmick, mind, and besides, it’s not exactly uncommon for the era of toys, anyway. It would be fascinating to see how this aspect could be tackled in a proper modern update of these designs with the shell concept intact, but that’s left for me to speculate on for now.

You can arm the shell with a distinctive axe weapon and a blaster made from the twin robot mode guns combined. The latter doesn’t fit perfectly inside the moulded hands, but it still looks good enough and adds a bit of play value to the proceedings. These toys may be more noteworthy in terms of their looks and presence, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t fun to be had here.

Of course, that’s primarily true thanks to the core gimmick on offer: the way the shell splits open to reveal Bomb Burst’s genuine form – the skinny inner robot within. It’s funny to say now, but again, I don’t believe the execution here has been bettered ever since, and perhaps for that reason, it’s still a major thrill to see it in action. In the absence of modern Pretenders proper, the vintage crew remain the gold standard by my estimation, quirks and all.

What sets Bomb Burst slightly apart from some of the previous Pretenders we’ve examined is that the shell can be split without the need to remove the belt. Where even Skullgrin required this additional step to access the robot form, the extra piece here is essentially a pair of pants that clips on only from the front, meaning it can remain in place even when opening his outer guise.

With the robot mode revealed, we can finally appreciate everything it offers. Whilst Pretenders are frequently critiqued for their skinny proportions and fairly non-descript aesthetic, I find Bomb Burst to be a real looker on the whole. Sure, the toy features many of the same elements that prove divisive for this entire subline, but still, there’s a lot that works about him, too.

For starters, the colour scheme is an instant classic. The vibrant blue of the main body is entirely evocative of the era and mixes wonderfully with the warm grey found on the arms and legs. Mix in some highlights, such as the purple on the chest, and it’s a very attractive look, all told.

Equally, the bold red face and visor look fantastic and add another welcome dash of colour to this toy, helping to elevate it beyond the norm. The face sculpt is super well-defined and quite distinctive, all of which helps to add a sense of personality. I can’t help but believe if this noggin had been presented on any toy that wasn’t a Pretender, it would be a lot more celebrated nowadays!

The final element that completes the look here is the decals, which bring a welcome pop of extra detail. Full disclosure, what you’re seeing here is a fresh set of opaque-styled Toyhax reprolabels, which I opted for over the semi-transparent stock stickers because, personally, I think they look way better. Some may say that’s sacrilege, but frankly, I don’t believe you can argue with the results.

In terms of silhouette, what makes all the difference are the guns attached to Bomb Burst’s arms, primarily because they help to add quite a distinctive element and bring a little sense of the alternate mode through. It immediately clarifies what our lad is designed to transform into, and I think that’s a real plus in this case.

Again, it’s not like Bomb Burst is exactly stacked with articulation, although there’s at least a bit more going on than on the outer shell, with movement available at the shoulders and hips, for starters. None of the toys from this era are poseable by modern standards, but there’s some enjoyment to be had here.

Some of that articulation exists purely to contort Bomb Burst into his alternate mode, which in this case is a VTOL jet of sorts. As is typical with many toys from the late 1980s, it’s either futuristic or Cybertronian in nature, depending on your interpretation. However, at least features such as the moulded turbines add a sense of realism.

Ultimately, it’s not the finest alternate form ever seen on a G1 Transformers toy, especially as, like several other Pretenders, elements such as the hands and head sit right there for all to see. There’s little doubt that you’ll look at it and see a folded-up robot, but even considering that, it works well enough, by my estimation.

Is it silly? Yes, absolutely, but still, the colours and decent sense of presentation help to pitch it above being a bit of a novelty. For a fairly simple design that is just one part of an overall package, I still enjoy what this figure offers.

Perhaps your estimation of this alternate mode might come down to how bought into the entire Pretender concept you are to begin with. None of them is all that intricate when it comes to transformations, and there’s certainly an argument to say that the Legacy update of Bomb Burst tackles this particular element better. Still, for what they are, this is fun to see.

Besides, as much as the rose-tinted nostalgia glasses might be helping, I maintain that seeing a line-up of these toys in top-quality condition is a very particular thrill. I said it already, but as great as the Legacy efforts look (and as much as I do appreciate the logic behind the compromise of removing their traditional robot modes), until I see these characters recreated more faithfully, these original examples continue to set the bar, to my eye.

As simple as they are, they’re too beautifully presented and nail the central gimmick in a way that we’ve yet to see improved upon. They may be all kinds of weird, too, but I love that about them and respect the effort to bring something new to the Transformers ranks, even after all these years.

After all, once you see Bomb Burst taking his rightful place in an assorted G1 Decepticon line-up, the sense of diversity and originality they bring can only be better appreciated. Despite whatever detractors they may continue to have in the fandom, I maintain that Pretenders were a real highlight of latter-day ’80s Transformers.

So, that’s it for Bomb Burst, but be sure to join us next time when we’ll continue examining the remainder of the wave 1 Decepticon line-up and beyond!


About Sixo

Transformers collector from the UK, collecting vintage G1/G2, CR/RID, UT & Masterpiece/3P. Find me at or on YouTube at


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