While Takara quit their Transformers toy output for a few years in 1993 and Hasbro in Europe just kept on churning out toys, Hasbro US came back in 1992 with Transformers: Generation 2, marking the first time the franchise had a subtitle in the West. This labeling would carry over to Europe in 1994 and in Japan in 1995, which was also the year when the short-lived generation ended altogether due to poor sales. Durings its short run, the sub-franchise was accompanied by some media in the form of a new Marvel comic book and a TV series consisting of repackaged episodes of the original cartoon. Generation 2 was not a big commercial success, and is sometimes derided by fans for being mostly about reissues of G1 toys in gaudy, tasteless, “neon” colors, but while there is a fair share of this, the line also offered a fine selection of new toys, having impact on the franchise until this day, more than some would admit…
Above: G2 incarnations of classic leaders, Laser Optimus Prime (1995) and “Tank Megatron” (1993)
This year mostly saw the re-release of a bunch of Generation One toys, including Optimus Prime and Starscream, with some new detailing and sound boxes. Further, the toys being released as Axelerators and Skyscorchers in Europe at the time were released as Color Flashes with slightly modified decos and new character names. This year however saw one, in my eyes monumental, innovation; Megatron got a new toy, except for his Action Master the first since 1984, but this one did not transform into a gun, but a tank! Since I am not a big fan of “small object” alternative modes as they require size-shifting to make sense, this was a most welcome development, even though I was not so invested in Transformers at the time. For me, this is the ultimate alt mode of Megatron, much more in line with his personality and imposing stature than a feeble handgun. For the G1 purists who say that Megatron should be “gun not tank”, I answer “a tank is a big f—cking armored gun on threads”!
Above: Combat Heroes Optimus Prime and Megatron (Sureshot and Archforce in Europe)
This year saw a few more new molds, among them a new version of Optimus Prime (treated as another character, “Sureshot”, in Europe) with a bellows-powered missile launcher. This was the first Optimus mold who turned into a truck that was not of the classic cab over enginge-type, which would set something of a standard for the future. Megatron in turn got a new tank mold, also with a bellows-powered missile (this toy was dubbed “Archforce” in Europe).
Above: The Laser Rods Electro and Volt
Further, we saw the sub groups Laser Rods and Rotor Force, both with Autobot and Decepticon members. The Laser Rods were a bunch of hot rod style cars who turned into robots with fist holes with a small light inserted into them, allowing their swords to glow. The Rotor Force transformed into a variety of vehicles with propellers that could be dispatched as projectiles. Finally, we saw the big Decepticon jet Dreadwing, who was partnered with a smaller jet, Smokescreen. Overall, a nice assortment of toys with innovative gimmicks that did not intrude on the overall design of the toys.
Above: Two of the groundbreaking Cyberjets, Hooligan and Skyjack
1995 saw one of the greatest versions of Optimus Prime ever released; Laser Optimus Prime! This toy was large, fully articulated and jam packed with gimmicks; while the robot had the same light up fist feature as the Laser Rods the year before, complete with a gun and giant sword, his trailer turned into an impressive battle station firing big missiles (again, bellows-powered) and discs. Other notable releases were the Cyber Jets, the first Transformers toys making extensive use of ball joints, and the two laser cycles, again with light-up features. Two large toys, the Decepticon Auto Rollers, reminiscent of Constructicons, transformed through an automatic mechanism activated by flicking a switch and rolling them along the floor. Last but not least, a subsection of this year´s releases was the Gobots, Transformers turning into cars of the same size, shape and roll-ability as the Hot Wheels cars that were highly popular at the time.
Above: Overlooked gems? The laser cycles, Road Rocket and Road Pig
Generation 2 was short-lived indeed, but nevertheless brought its share of innovations for the franchise. First, by adopting the sub-title “Generation 2”, all Transformers released up until that point became retroactively known as “Generation One”. A not so small share of today´s adult Transformers fans are highly motivated by nostalgia, and are only interested in reissues and remakes of toys from the Generation One era, they are sometimes deridingly called “Gee-wunners” for their seeming inability to appreciate anything invented after 1990, or even 1985. Second, the incarnations of Optimus Prime and Megatron from this era have become iconic in their own right, setting a standard for many subsequent versions of the characters. Third, the ball joint design of the Cyberjets set a new standard for subsequent Transformers engineering, one that persists to this day, ensuring highly articulated toys.
Above: Optimus Prime and Megatron in their somewhat less impressive Gobot incarnations…
Generation 2 was discontinued in 1995 and followed by Beast Wars in 1996, the first real reinvention of the Transformers franchise, and a huge success. Since I was never personally invested in this sub-franchise I will not cover it in this blog, but I appreciate it for helping carrying the franchise out of a few bleak years. As for me, I did not return to Transformers until the mid 00´s when I stumbled over Binaltech… but that´s another story. 😉
Above: Battle Sentinel, indie developer Maketoy´s unofficial celebration of Laser Optimus Prime, and the upcoming latest incarnation of a tank-based Megatron