When I look at photos of other people's Masterpiece Ratchets, theirs appears to be different colors in places than mine. It's weird. Maybe mine used to look like that, too? He arrived in the mail on Tuesday, I opened him up, I blacked out, and when I woke up he looked like this. The oddest thing.
If you haven't been paying attention here long, then I should tell you that Ratchet is my jam. He was the star of the first comic books I ever read, and I guess that sort of thing tends to leave an impression on you. There's an argument to be made that the Marvel Transformers comics are ultimately the story of Ratchet. When the stories get their most heated, it's Ratchet who's there, delivering the emotional punches. Hell, he goes up against Megatron (badly) more often than Optimus Prime does. And, well, it makes dramatic sense, right? Optimus Prime versus Megatron is a battle between a pair of equals. But put the pitiful but resourceful doctor up against Megatron? That's an underdog. That's an uphill battle against an unstoppable evil. That's drama gold.
I think Ratchet was also on the cartoon. He sounded like Papa Smurf.
My love for Ratchet is so great that I purchased this okay-ish looking Masterpiece toy. As you can see, its proportions are kind of wonky. It's hard to turn a van cosplaying as an ambulance into a faithful recreation of the original character model of his robot form, which was a pile of boxes wearing a windshield glued to his tummy. Ratchet had no wheels on him, no other identifying vehicular parts. That tummy windshield was it. And so speaking of uphill battles: this toy's engineering!
I mean, it does a valiant job. It does its level best to hide all the windows and all the wheels and all of the EVERYTHING so you could get a pile of unremarkable white boxes. The entire roof and back window fold in on themselves and get stuffed inside the torso. The lower third of the vehicle does its level best to tuck inside his legs. The only remaining visible vehicle parts other than the desired windshield on his chest, are the windows on the back of his forearms and the two fairly visible hip-thingers. A commendable effort all around, really. It doesn't result in a perfect Ratchet robot mode (as according to the model sheets) but I'm not sure that's actually possible in a world with real physics.
He comes with a billion little extra accessories. They're from the cartoon. Who cares.
Back in 2004, the official Transformers convention was run by different people. One of their last gasps was releasing mockups of toys that would-have-been if they'd kept the license and Fun Publications hadn't taken over. One of these toy concepts was RID Megatron/Car Robots Gigatron in red and gold with a new Beast Wars Megatron head. Dubbed "Transmetal 3 Megatron," he would have come with a rubber ducky accessory with a 5mm peg and starred in the then-current Transformers: Universe comic books as the reincarnation of a post-Beast Machines Megatron.
It was an okay idea. At the time, I was lukewarm on it. I have never liked RID Megatron's toy very much, and I liked Beast Wars Megatron as a dragon (instead of a T. rex) even less. And so I was pretty okay with the toy not happening because of the change of licenses. Back then Beast Wars Megatron was not a distant memory of a beloved favorite character, forgotten and buried under decades of subsequent franchises. I didn't need another right then.
In the meantime, other people kept up demand. They kept asking Fun Pub when they were gonna make this guy. And their answer was always "eehhh we dunno" because, well, frankly, it wasn't their idea, and it makes sense to me that they'd rather do their own ideas. You don't take over a license from somebody else and crib their notebooks, you make your own notebooks. And so it kind of makes sense, in Fun Pub's final BotCon, to finally put this guy out there, as a bookend. So as the previous licensee ended, so too will these guys.
If only they had made more than, like, five of him! Jeez!
Anyway, yeah, this toy is pretty nice-looking. He's still a toy that has ... nine? ten? modes, and all but one or two of them are garbage. But the robot mode is pretty fucking great, and the dragon mode is pretty okay. The jet mode and the gargoyle-mode-you-can't-do-anymore-because-the-snout-was-removed-to-fit-megatron's-head and especially the car mode... they are not very good. And you can make him into sort-of-a-hand, which is neat, but, like, there's still giant wings on it and that kind of ruins the illusion. But, again, robot mode is beautiful.
Some problems I should mention: He's started to immediately shed his chrome for some people. Me, I put some clear nailpolish on him before I even transformed him, to stave this off. So think about that. Maybe in a few months when everybody's TM3 Megatrons are completely chrome-shedded, he'll come down from the like $800 he's going for on eBay. Also, the forward-movement ratchets on hips can be... frightening. Like, squeaky-this-is-gonna-break frightening. So I had to open him up and sand off some nubs. He also was erroneously given a Dinobot spark crystal instead of a Predacon one, probably because the Dinobot spark crystal tooling is the only spark crystal tooling that still exists. There's a Predacon logo sticker that's sold separately that can cover this up. So, like, keep that all in mind before plunking down major cash for him.
He doesn't come with the originally-planned rubber ducky 5mm accessory. There was a normal-sized rubber ducky sold at the convention, but, like, it's just a normal rubber ducky with the BotCon logo stamped on it.
Ever since "The Agenda" aired, the legacy of G1 has been used as a cudgel to beat any possible new life out of the Beast Wars cartoon. For a good two seasons, Beast Wars gave us new characters in a new setting that divorced us so far from what we knew about Transformers we had really no choice but to submerse ourselves in these new possibilities. And it was pretty glorious! But then we got "The Agenda" and a hook back into G1, and it's like a switch flipped. Beast Wars-the-cartoon was now chainganged to this fucking monster and was going to be devoured. Everyone had their "this is how the old war ended, this is how the era of the Maximals began" story, and you want to know the secret?
They are all bullshit.
Knowing that stuff is antithetical to what makes Beast Wars great. To the Beast Warriors, G1 was the stuff of legend, a distant terrifying-yet-glorious past that is best left to the imagination. ...sort of. Some people's imaginations leave much to be desired, and those're the kind of imaginations that keep getting fucking put in charge of writing Beast Wars stories. They decide, one by one, that each character/toy in the Beast Wars needs to be some guy from G1. Sure, Beast Wars Grimlock was explicitly the G1 guy on his packaging bio. We'll let that slide. (but does he have to be on the Axalon????) Okay, there's a Soundwave, so maybe that Soundwave is the other Soundwave, even though that Soundwave is a goddamned bat/gator Animorph toy! Hey, did you know that Magnaboss shared its components names with some G1 guys? Well, you're in luck, because now Prowl, Silverbolt, and Ironhide from G1 are in Beast Wars. Oh, there's ANOTHER Beast Wars Prowl? Hey, guess what, now they're BOTH G1 Prowl, simultaneously, with one being a clone of the other!
Was that already kind of annoying? Well, this comic and the accompanying profile cards gives you more. Two of the members of the Tripredacus council are probably old Decepticons you know! Under-3 might be a famous Autobot! Autobot Inferno might be Beast Wars Inferno! There is so very little Beast Wars left when you get done with all this shit. It's not even clever. No one's going to be handed an award for noticing two completely different guys have the same name.
Did you like the enigma surrounding the Great War and the reverence the Beast Warriors had for the Autobots and Decepticons of the past? Well, too bad, because everyone in Beast Wars was around for those years and were important and sharing the same space. Remember when Beast Megatron was entering the Ark and everyone comatose onboard was large and special and magical, and the whole event felt like an intrusion upon sacred ground? Well, fuck that, now Megatron knew those guys and was once as large as them and they hung out all the time and he bossed them around because he was in charge. Beast Wars Megatron himself was a Decepticon. Everyone in the Beast Wars was either an Autobot or a Decepticon. All the show's talk of "our Decepticon/Autobot ancestors" is taken out behind the shed and shot.
It just makes the universe so... amazingly, pathetically SMALL. This comic book's universe is so small, you guys. Did you like the mystery of the 300-year-span of time between G1 and BW? Well, good news, turns out there wasn't anything new to know. You already know the cast. They were the guys you already knew, and some of those guys are also the same guys as the other guys, secretly! You weren't missing anything.
I think how little regard the comic has for its alleged source material is made clear in the following: 300 years ago, Optimus Primal was already on board the Axalon (which is G1-robot-scaled), serving as its captain, and already going on exploration missions. With Rattrap. WITH RATTRAP. After the comic was released and objections about Rattrap knowing Primal for that long were raised, the response was, "Well, they never say EXPLICITLY how long they knew each other!" The fuck they didn't. It was abundantly clear in their every interaction in the cartoon. Rattrap's entire first season arc is buried in the idea that he starts out with zero regard for Optimus Primal and then over the course of the Beast Wars slowly warms up to him and respects him. At no point does Rattrap literally say "I've only known you for like two days," sure, but he is constantly degrading and belittling Optimus Primal. He places no value on his commander's life or on the lives of his fellow crewmembers. He only cares for saving his own skin. This is a guy who has served with Optimus Primal on this same ship for THREE HUNDRED YEARS? How the hell was he not fired 299 years, 11 months, and 29 days ago? "This your first day on the job or somethin'?" he asks. "You sure you're cut out for this commander gig?" he asks. The apologists say he's being sarcastic. Is the entire first goddamn season's character arc also sarcastic?
This informs my final point: This comic book feels like it was written from the Wikipedia article about Beast Wars. It's like somebody's bad book report. There's some attention to surface detail ("Rattrap doesn't outright say how long he's known Primal!") but there's no proven familiarity with the actual material as it is viewed in-the-moment. But that's okay, because all what made Beast Wars great is obviously secondary to making it connect to G1.
That is sarcasm, by the way.
Recently, a few of BotCon/Fun Publications' toy offerings have reportedly been suggestions by Hasbro. Like, "hey, this alternate head exists, and we have no plans, so we'd really like you to do this at your con." Like customization class Ratchet, allegedly. BotCon Reflector is one of those guys!
So apparently Combiner Wars Shockwave -- the tiny Shockwave toy that was designed so Combiner Wars Bruticus could hold him as a gun -- had an alternate Reflector head. Hasbro puts these alternate heads in most of their toy's engineering for a rainy day. Some we'll probably never know about because why would we? If it's not eventually used or doesn't accidentally show up on an instruction sheet, there'd be no discovery. It seems like the alternate Reflector head would have been one of those things, were it not for BotCon.
Besides, Shockwave's already purple and gray. Would Hasbro put that toy out in purple and gray again? Probably not. It was a weird idea to start with. But it's a perfect idea for a convention exclusive, because nerds like me will totally pay money to buy another purple and gray version (three times) of a toy we already have in purple and gray.
Honestly, this is the toy I was least excited about this year. It fills an otherwise vacant spot in my collection. I don't really have a set of three Reflector guys, and otherwise they're absent from my 1984/85 Decepticon shelf. And so they're NECESSARY to me, but only for checking off names on a list that's essentially completed already except for them. This is not to say these aren't swell guys, it's just that my interest in them pales in comparison to the bounty of combining Beast Wars dudes presented me.
There are many unofficial modes that attempt to combine the three into a camera, like the original Reflector. They can be pretty or they can stay together well, and no one's found a way to accomplish both yet. I've included a photo of my buddy Robowang's attempt. (Robowang is the guy I sent to BotCon in my place to pick up stuff for me.) His falls somewhere in the middle of that spectrum, and "falling in the middle" is a pretty apt way to describe most attempts to make a camera. Generally holding this guy in an unofficial camera mode is like trying to pick up and eat a slab of lasanga. It's gonna buckle and fall apart in layers in your hand.
Next and finally: TM3 Megatron!
BotCon really likes Tigatron, I guess. The first year the convention was allowed to do pre-existing characters, back in 2001, they chose him and Arcee. They did another Tigatron in 2006, in which they decided Tigatron wasn't actually a newborn protoform like all the others, but was actually a police officer who pratfalled himself into one of Axalon's stasis pods and some amnesia. And here he is again in 2016, where we learn he's actually a really important Autobot from the end of the Great War, known and revered by both sides! Weird nobody remembered this integral historical icon when he woke up later on prehistoric Earth, still being named Tigatron and wearing his old face on his chest.
But, again, let's not get me started.
2016 Tigatron takes a lot from 2001 Tigatron, in that the former is directly based on the latter. This makes sense, as 2001 Tigatron was a Beast Wars Ravage redeco, so this one is a redeco of this year's Ravage, who himself is a remake of that old Beast Wars Ravage. This time around, Tigatron's secondary color is teal instead of the icy blue he had before. It's a slight color shift, similar to how this year's Ravage has that pretty steel blue instead of the original beige. Otherwise, this is a color-for-color recreation of that original BotCon toy design, down to the primary blue tummy deco. He really feels like he belongs later in the timeframe, after that original toy, since this is such a direct upgrade of it. There's even a bonus Wreckers symbol sticker you can put on his right arm, included in the convention's Magnaboss sticker set.
Of course, this time he transforms into a car. And a leg. And an arm.
Same as with Ravage, since they're just redecoes of each other, Tigatron has the whole "missing back half of the skull" deal. Just... try to keep forgetting to look at him from the sides.
Try to forget a lot of things.
Newsflash: I am, like, super into Combiner Wars. I want every Transformer already in my collection to be redone as a Combiner Wars limb or torso or accessory, I don't care if it means I would then own six hundred Dead End retools, I am up for it.
So imagine my interest in Combiner Wars combined (get it?) with my love for Beast Wars, and you've got this Predacus guy. And then imagine my interest in Ravage combined with both of those two things already, and, yeah, this BotCon 2016 set is in my wheelhouse. Because Ravage is in it. Hell, the first thing we saw was Ravage, and I was sold. Everything else could have been soggy dead puppies and it still would have been a great set, because at least one part of it was a Ravage who could become an arm or a leg.
Ravage himself is a Combiner Wars-style recreation of his appearance in the Beast Wars cartoon, crossed with his Alternators toy where he was a robot with a jaguar head who transformed into a black sports car. You have no idea how much my jam that is. All of my jam. Ravage is Breakdown with a new kitty head. A very flat, as seen from the side, kitty head. What I'm saying is he has no back of his skull. It's like the Invisible Man is wearing a Halloween mask of Ravage's face.
I may be somewhat biased.
Ravage's partner leg is Tarantulas, who's Combiner Wars Rook with a new head. We just got a vehicle-mode-style Tarantulas last year who's essentially perfect, which would in most cases make this new vehicle-mode-style Tarantulas surplus to requirements, but you forget that I want all characters ever to be able to be a limb or a torso, so he's still desired. He's a Tarantulas who can become an arm or a leg. He's a want.
The other three, now, these guys are interesting! They're the Tripredacus Council from "The Agenda (Part 1)," also known as "that time that it was really cool that Beast Wars started connecting itself to G1 a little but then fandom started thinking that connecting BW to G1 was what BW was all about and then we never got anything else out of new Beast Wars fiction ever." Ahem. But I digress. The Tripredacus Council! We've never got toys of them as they've appeared on the cartoon, as they were essentially three random robot dudes who got randomly assigned names from the components of Tripredacus, the Predacon Beast Wars combiner. But here they are, and they turn into vehicles, because they aren't beasts right now/yet.
Ram Horn is the guy on the show who had little wings on his head and whose face was made mostly of Rattrap's, but with a nose. He's got a new head and that head sits atop Brawl/Nosecone. Combiner Wars Brawl/Nosecone is not that great of a toy, but I guess it's an appropriate use, nonetheless. Ram Horn was a rhinoceros beetle, and so using a tank with a drill is kind of evocative of that kinda beasty shape.
Cicadacon is the guy on the show who had Megatron's face incased inside a DEVO hat with little horns. Sadly, his Combiner Wars toy does not have his own new head, and he's the only toy in the combiner that doesn't have a new head! It makes me a little sad. He's just Skydive with no sculpting alterations, and while he has the same general shape for his helmet, he lacks the little horns and most importantly he lacks the Megatron face. I need that triangle nose, man!
Sea Clamp is the guy on the show who had a head that looked like somebody had five minutes to extrude a CGI block into something resembling a face and then somebody else's mouth was pasted onto the chin. Sea Clamp's original toy was a lobster, hence the name, but Combiner Wars doesn't have much in the way of sea vehicles. Or any sea vehicles. But he's Scattershot, who's a spaceship thing, and maybe you can pretend spaceship things are sea vehicles, right? He has a new head.
He also has another new head in his tummy for the combined mode, Predacus. Ravage and Tarantulas become the legs and the Tripredacus Council becomes everything above the knees. You'd think, seeing three red guys and one black guy and one dark blue guy, that he'd look a little mismatched, but honestly he looks pretty great. There's Tarantulas and Ravage's colors duplicated on the combiner chest, and they want you to swap the red and black fist/foot/weapons with each other so that there's a better scattering of colors, and it basically works. He's a very attractive combiner. His new head is based on Tripredacus's, of course.
My complaints: Some plastic tolerance issues! Sometimes their fist/foot/guns don't fit securely into the wrist or ankle pegholes. You can have hands drop off the arms and it's annoying. Also, man, Brawl/Nosecone is not a great toy. He's the weak link in this chain of robots. And, yeah, Ravage is missing his brain. Whatevs, I don't look at him from the side anyway, and really the limp wrists and Brawl are more of an annoyance than that. There's also unfortunately the comic book he comes with but let's keep this a happy place in the wake of a very important day.
Yesterday was the 20th anniversary of the first airing of the Beast Wars cartoon pilot on syndication! I watched it on television that day, like after school or something. Because of course I did.