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.
I got a Fortress Maximus when I was a kid, for Christmas from my grandparents. He was super huge. He's still super huge, at just under 2 feet tall. Until Metroplex came out this year, he was the tallest Transformer toy of all time.
And during the past 25 years, I may have left him in a window.
It's not super apparent when he's been in dark, yellow basement for a long while, but get him out in the light and oh my lord, this poor thing. And the plastic worries me. If you try to turn certain parts, he creaks and you feel stuff want to buckle a bit. And lord knows how many spiders are inside him. I've cleaned him many times, but... only as well as a human is able to.
He's also had a diaper on him since 1997. I got a diaper as a gag gift at my eighteenth birthday party, and so I put it on Fort Max. Why not? And it kind of stayed on there, and I started taking him with me to my first BotCons so my friends could sign the diaper. And eventually it became a Thing and the diaper never came off, because diapers aren't really re-applyable. This means he hasn't been transformed in sixteen years.
I'd passed on the Fort Max reissue when it was first announced and released, because I had a Fort Max. I was pretty proud to have a childhood Fort Max. He was my little pal. Because of the diaper, he's one of the few toys I have from my childhood which I have attached sentimental value to. But I think he's going to die soon. And even if it isn't soon, he looks like a yellow-green mess. He's heartbreaking to behold.
And so when Big Bad Toy Store knocked $120 off his price for a week a short while back, I decided to get an eventual replacement. Surprisingly, Maggie thought it was a good idea, but I suppose she has less sentimental value invested in my original Fort Max and the "replace the old toy before it breaks while the reissue is cheap" probably sounded logical.
I'm going to keep my old Fort Max, with diaper applied, until he crumbles. When that happens, he has someone 25 years younger to take his place. In the meantime, hey, it's a Fort Max toy I can transform. I haven't seen his city mode in sixteen years.
Tagged: fortress maximus
Magnificus is a new character based on the pre-Transformers version of Perceptor, who was, well, a black version of Perceptor. He was established as his own guy by e-Hobby in 2005, when they released a black version of the original Perceptor (with a Micronauts partner named Ga'mede).
I don't have that guy.
But e-Hobby (and Fun Publications?) just did a black version of the most recent Perceptor toy as Magnificus, and now I have that! Built into the original tooling was a toy-accurate alternate head for the toy, which basically works as a Magnificus head and few other things, so that's pretty fortunate. He's, well, a black Perceptor. Not terribly exciting on the face of it, but I do like being able to see/own the tooling's alternate head. Also, it's a character I didn't already have around, so he's not doubling up on any guy I already have.
What's super-great is the comic this dude comes with. It's only six pages, but it's got art by the great Hidetsugu Yoshioka and it features Magnificus (and his still-tiny pal Ga'mede) fighting one of the unreleased Double Pretender guys -- specifically the gorilla. He's got a name now and he's drawn pretty radly. I like him a lot. All toys should come with fiction!
The toy itself is still Perceptor, which is not exactly a beloved pile of engineering, but I never disliked it as much as some other people did. However, I do have more trouble getting Magnificus's shoulder/backpack arrangement to consolidate into the torso than I did Perceptor's, so he requires a bit extra fiddling.