I like Beast Wars a lot, in case you haven't noticed. So when the six Transformers Collectors' Club Subscription Service guys were announced at last year's BotCon and one of them was a redeco of Big Convoy in Ultra Magnus colored named "Ultra Mammoth," I was abnormally excited. You know, given the circumstances. It's a redeco of Big Convoy, after all, who's kind of a pile of mammoth parts loosely attached to a robot. But it was a new Beast Wars toy, with a new name! Exciting!
It was the new name that gave me hope. He was "Ultra Mammoth" and not just plain ol' "Ultra Magnus." Obviously, he was a new guy like Optimus Primal's a new guy and not Optimus Prime. Obviously! But, ha ha, no, eventually we'd discover that he was indeed just Ultra Magnus. Silly David and your stupid hopes and dreams. But what really took me for a trip was the eventual reveal that he wasn't even in the friggin' Beast Wars. Instead, he's native to the Shattered Glass Universe, or is at least "our" Ultra Magnus after crashlanding in the Shattered Glass Earth's past with a bunch of other Generation One guys who fight in a completely different war. For reals, it was just a bunch of G1 guys fighting, like always happens whenever somebody gets their hands on the Beast Wars franchise. I mean, it's nice that it's not mucking around with the "real" Beast Wars and doing its own separate thing, but it's still not really something I want to see.
Long story short, I wanted to rescue this toy's potential -- in my own mind, even if nobody else cared. I just wanted a new Beast Wars guy. And so I decided I'd draw a story about Ultra Mammoth being a new guy. Nothing about how he has to rescue the universe or anything, and nothing with all of the weird claptraps that modern Beast Wars fiction has fallen into. My Ultra Mammoth was going to be a newborn protoform, as was originally intended with stasis pods, before the stasis pods became the means for writers to inject more G1 dudes into the Axalon crew. (When your random Maximal exploration ship somehow includes Grimlock, Soundwave, and one of two distinct-but-simultaneously-existing versions of G1 Prowl while the other G1 Prowl and G1s Silverbolt, Ironhide, Ravage, and Starscream are already involved, there might be a problem here.) I also wanted a story where a stasis pod landed and its inhabitant actually does what a Maximal protoform is supposed to do -- scan an indigenous life form and do science.
(Also I threw in Waspinator, because I like stories that involve/advertise toys currently on shelves, plus both had fates of ending up alone on a planet, so that felt like some theme cohesiveness was built into the pairing.)
I hope everyone liked the story! I'm sorry it took over Shortpacked! for two and a half weeks -- I knew that if it didn't publish in public where there was a very visible deadline each night, it would be something I'd never finish. Ultimately, I just wanted something different hammered into my brain when I saw this Ultra Mammoth toy, something that reminded me more of Beast Wars. You guys kind of got corralled into this like so much colateral damage.
The toy itself is, as mentioned briefly above, the Big Convoy mold, for better or worse. It's a sizeable thing with many, many parts, and a Beast Wars Neo toy, so you know those many parts are going to annoy you at times. The new color scheme is very attractive, even if it's just the original Ultra Magnus toy colors mapped onto this thing. A blue mammoth rides that sweet groove between dorky and beautiful.
The harpoon missiles which holster in his legs have sadly been remolded. They're now thicker all around, which means they don't fit inside him any more while in beast mode. They click into the launchers fine, but there's not enough room inside him in mammoth mode for them to fit. Other than that, this mold doesn't show much age, even though it's fifteen years old. My Ultra Mammoth's elbow joints are even strong enough to support his massive trunk gun, which is unheard of. Usually you gotta rest it over his shoulder. He still has that wacky third mode where his mammoth mode grotesquely opens up into a cannon, and his tusks still wiggle when you pull back on his ears. The rubber in his trunk is a little stiffer than in earlier iterations of the mold, so pulling on the lever at the top of his head doesn't cause the trunk to curl as much as it used to.
Finally Kre-O gave me what I've been wanting all along, a Destro Kreon. Everything else in the GIJoe Kre-O line exists merely to support this Destro figure. It's nice that they saw fit to put him with Baroness and a HISS tank, two other things I wouldn't mind having.
It's not nice that these three things came packaged with some giant-ass sprawling ninja dojo or whatever, including Snake-Eyes and some other ninja dudes. I have assembled my Destro and Baroness and HISS tank. Those other things remain in the box, perhaps for all eternity. They are surplus to my requirements.
Kreon Destro has a chrome head, as one would expect, and he comes with a rifle and a M.A.R.S. briefcase. The briefcase contains one single $100 bill. Destro's a high roller.
(Slice and Major Bludd are sold separately.)
I've bought two Batman-affiliated action figures within the past few weeks, and it wasn't until I opened up the second one and set it down on the coffee table where the first happened to also reside that I realized, oh, okay, yikes, these two guys. These two guys.
I'd bought Surf's Up Batman earlier from The Laughing Ogre. I have a growing collection of various six inch scale Batmen that increasingly reflect Batman's history through the years and in various important cornerstone styles, and you really can't not have a 1966 Adam West Batman in a mix like that. And when there are two possibilities and one of them is Batman in friggin' swim trunks and with a surf board, there isn't really any doubt which of the two is the one you should be going home with.
A week or so later, again at the Ogre, I picked up Death of the Family Joker, partly because we're getting a handful of Greg Capullo-styled Batman figures early next year which I will probably buy all of, and this Joker seems like he'd complete the set.
So what I'm saying is, my coffee table was a battle between Surfing Batman and I-Cut-Off-My-Own-Face-And-Wear-It-As-A-Mask Joker. There may be no better incidental illustration of the ... spectrum of tones in Batman stories.
Need I remind you that Surf's Up Batman is based on the episode "Surf's Up, Joker's Down" in which Joker tries to steal the surfing skills of surfers in order to "rule the waves." And Batman has to stop him because, you know, I guess it's a crime to rule the waves or something, hey, it's the Joker, you should probably stop him if he's doing stuff.
And, again, Death of the Family Joker is wearing his own cut-off face as a mask and killing more people before noon than cancer does in a year. Because, you know, that's how you measure the awesomeness of a DC villain these days, how many dudes they kill in 22 pages. I just can't see any reason to be into, say, the Riddler unless he's snapping necks left and right.
I'd largely ignored the various Alternity toys and their cousins. Man, I've got buttloads of Optimus and Megatron and Bumblebee, and they're all bound to be way less frustrating than these overcomplicated die-casty high-pricey things. It is not a toyline meant for me.
But when an Alternity spin-off, Transformers GT was announced, my ears perked up at the mention of a possible Fortress Maximus retool of the base Optimus Prime mold. A Fort Max who transforms into a sweet rally car? That's an awesome enough idea to take the plunge on one of these things. Plus it'd give me a Fort Max toy that's small enough to interact with other toys as a regular guy, as he's usually depicted in the comic books.
And so here he is. I hadn't realized way back when I preordered him that I'd decide I was also going to get the reissue as well and they'd arrive within a few days of each other. My Maximus cup spilleth over.
I didn't expect him to be simple, and he sure isn't. He's also not quite as frustrating as I was anticipating. There's been some second-hand horror stories about some of these Alternity-ish molds, but Fort Max's greatest sin really is just being way super complicated for very little gain. He doesn't transform into the most attractive of robots, and his car mode's back half literally shreds up into pieces to form something that is probably legs because they're on the end of his knees. He is not elegant. But nothing about the transformation makes you want to run some designer's face over a cheese grater.
On the plus side, his car mode is spectacular. I am a sucker for a logo-covered car, and GT Maximus doesn't disappoint. He also has opening doors and an opening hood with something that's close enough to looking like an engine under there. (It's the back of his head, mostly.) Included is a car jack that is really a sword.
Like the rest of the Transformers GT line, he comes with a "GT-Sister," a Microman-bodied race queen. His partner is Hiiro, and according to her only fiction, her gimmick is crying to get what she wants. She comes with a bunch of alternate hands you can swap out, and I look forward to immediately losing them.
Because it's just not a Fortress Maximus toy if he doesn't come with a human who has weird ideas about crying.
I was pretty fine skipping MP Sideswipe, because, really, who the hell is Sideswipe? He's only a popular guy because 1) he's from 1984 and 2) he's red. He's kind of the Default Autobot. (Now, put him in G2 colors and we'll talk.) But I don't think I can pass up on Prowl.
Like Ravage and Buzzsaw, Prowl is one of those dudes I just like a whole bunch, and feel I should own a "Masterpiece" version of. Much like Sideswipe, he didn't do much of note for years, but he finally distinguished himself in the very late Generation 1 years in the Marvel comic, where he started appearing again because he had an Action Master toy to sell. Here, he was strict, by-the-book, and was an amazingly self-righteous prick. And I gobbled this the hell up, because this was pretty outstanding characterization for an Autobot back in the day. Other than Grimlock, Autobots tended to be pretty nice. But Prowl was not. He was selfish and had an inflated view of his own importance. He was kind of like Dwight from The Office -- very good at his own actual job, but his inability to connect with others and lack of charisma kept him from rising as far in the ranks as he'd like. And this really infuriated him.
I'm very happy the current IDW comics have taken this version of Prowl and ran with it. If Prowl isn't just a little bit of a jerk, he doesn't feel like Prowl to me. And while Prowl is indeed a super jerk, it's also nice when he's also right. He is indeed a by-the-book strategist, a mechanoid run by logic -- kind of a heroic counterpart to Shockwave -- and Prowl's correct when he sees his fellow Autobots championing the more bloodthirsty and reckless amongst their ranks and is disgusted. But Prowl's just as interested in justifying his means as they are, just from a different angle.
(The cartoon Prowl was basically a non-entity, meanwhile. It's part of why this Masterpiece toy doesn't COME with anything wacky like much of the other Masterpieces have. He was not terribly noteable.)
So I'm happy to report that this Masterpiece toy is pretty great! There are two kinds of Masterpiece toys -- the ones that I want to smash a little with a hammer and the ones that are complicated but not infuriating. Prowl is thankfully one of the latter! In fact, I'd say he's less infuriating to transform than both the recentish Universe toy and his more-recent Beast Hunters toy. He's certainly more involved than either of them, but he doesn't require the harrowing fiddliness they require. There's no going back and trying to get panels to line up better because you didn't fit something inside the right way.
And unlike many similar toys which have trouble getting the arm assembly down and out and around the hood during transformation, his arm assembly is pretty no-nonsense. The whole damn thing just swings down and out of the way first-thing. Nothing pops off during transformation and nothing ever tries to occupy the same space as the rest of him. His feet are a much-more complex version of the Universe toy's, but, again, not in a way that will cause frustration. There's just more steps.
So, like, major thumbs up.
Prowl's Masterpiece toy is sized based on his robot height relative to Optimus Prime's in the television show. It's sort of a nonsensical scale beyond that (he'd be much smaller if their vehicle modes were in scale) but I like that it is a purposeful scale of some stripe. Him being much smaller in general makes me happy. I don't have Sideswipe, and so most of the Masterpiece toys I have currently are all basically about the same size. It's nice to have some height variance. I like height variance. It makes the Masterpiece line come alive to me.
Just wish Grimlock were taller.