The Great G1 Remake Marathon

Today I will write a few (?) lines about what might be the main concern for us adult Transformers fans, or more specifically, the ones of us who grew up with the very first wave of Transformers toys and media: Generation 1, or again, to be specific: G1 remakes!

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It should be obvious why…

While Hasbro and Takara continue to produce new Transformers sub-lines, introducing new cartoons, toys and characters, the majority of characters in these offers are taken from the classic Generation 1 roster. Further, while these new sub-franchises (Like Robots in Disguise, starting this year) tend to be the mainlines along the Movie sub-franchise, there are sub-lines mainly focused on celebrating the G1 toys and characters running alongside them. This subsection of the Transformers toy franchise was possibly sparked by the Alternators/Binaltech sub-line back in 2003, the year which the first Masterpiece toy was also released. It was however during 2006 the Classics sub-line was launched, mostly as a filler toy line, but in the form of its Japanese counterpart, Henkei! Henkei! and its spiritual successors Universe and Generations it is continuing to this day (commonly lumped together into the acronym CHUG). Together with Masterpiece, which arguably got a reboot in 2011 with the new Optimus Prime (MP-10) we now gave two official “remake lines”, further, third party companies like Fansproject and Mastermind Creations are mainly focused on reproducing G1 characters with modern engineering as well, contributing to what I like to call “The Great G1 Remake Marathon”, running for a little more or less than ten years, depending on how you count.

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If you count this guy, even 12 years…

So, having had around than a decade of G1 toy remakes, what is the current state of affairs? Are we close to “finishing the race”? In that case, where do we draw the finishing line? If we ever “finish”, what next? This is what I mean to discuss, later, but first…

To get a more comprehensive picture of what has been remade so far, I spent a fair amount of hours and put a list together for an overview. I put up the list on this page in the blog. My working method was as follows: List all Transformers toys during the US Generation 1 run, from 1984 to 1990, year-wise. Exclude Micromasters, due to the high unlikeliness all of them will get remade. Make separate sections for Pretenders and Action Masters, due to the same reason (more on this below). Add prominent toys only released in Japan, as well as characters appearing in G1 media but not getting toys back in the day. Also, add a few new characters from the IDW comics and elsewhere which have been retconned into the G1 continuity, for fun!

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Above: Drift and Straxus, most welcome additions to “G1”

In the list, bold letters stands for the character having gotten a CHUG remake, and CAPITAL letters signifies a Masterpiece release. Simple black letters signify that a third party company has released the equivalent of a CHUG toy for the character, underscore means that there is a 3P Masterpiece-styled release. Red letters means that a character does not have any update, as of yet. Further, an asterisk means that while there is an official release for a given character, it has had limited distribution, through mail-order service, a single chain store retailer or by being a convention exclusive. Further, some remakes are repaints of existing characters whose counterparts were not mold-mates during G1, meaning that their robot modes often look significantly different from those of their original character designs. This can also be the case with mainstream releases, two notable examples are Generations Sandstorm and Doubledealer. Such remakes are marked with a “#“.

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Above, left: So good we don´t care about resemblance. Right: Stretching it?

However, as long as their robot modes are not significantly different from their G1 counterparts, I accept toys with new alt-modes as legitimate updates, examples of this are Generations Sergeant Kup and United Frenzy and Rumble. The key question is has the character in question gotten a mold designed for it with the intention of being an update of the G1 character? While this is the case for Kup, Sandstorm is arguably but a clever re-purposing of the excellent Springer mold, with corresponding alt-modes but a robot mode vastly different from the G1 one. On a side note, there is a discussion in the fandom that CHUG releases have departed more and more from a pure G1 esthetic in favor of portraying the designs featured in IDW´s G1-based comics. However, as these comics is a take on the G1 continuity, rather than say, Aligned or Movieverse, I count them as G1 regardless of whether the designed debuted in the comic or toy shelf first.

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Above: G1, in my book

At last, I have not included toys based on (the awesome) War For Cybertron/Fall of Cybertron designs. While it is subject to intense discussion as to whether they count as G1 or not I say they don´t; they are part of the Aligned continuity family, and even as these design turn up in IDW´s G1-based comics, they themselves are not more G1 than say, Waspinator, Tankor and Starscream´s Armada body. Whether one think the WFC/FOC toys work as G1 updates is a different matter; these toys are obviously closer to the G1 esthetic than they are to the Prime one (for one, they have noses…), but as their first appearance was in the Aligned continuity they don´t count, IMO. I do however count toys from Music Label and Device Label when they are a good fit for “G1 update”. These sub-lines are not tied to media of a different continuity and are clearly representing the G1 incarnations of the respective characters.

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Above, left: counts. Right: doesn´t. My list, my rules 😉

Having gotten all of this out of the way, let´s try to get a quick overview. First, as for Masterpiece releases, it is not yet (if ever) feasible to discuss what have not been done, as the series have such few entries. Let us therefore focus on CHUG remakes, as there at least seem to be a theoretical possibility of reaching some kind of higher level of completion eventually. While I do not intend to reproduce the whole remake list here (again, it´s here), let´s take a look at the general trends and interesting cases.

1984:

Bumper

BUZZSAW*#
LASERBEAK*#
Reflector*#

Aragon
Cromar
Zetar

Most of the characters on this list were never featured in the cartoon means they are obscure and unlikely to ever get official updates. The three Powerdashers (bottom of the list) were only available through mail-order  Bumper was not even an official character, the toy instead randomly appearing packaged as Bumblebee or Cliffjumper (!), only becoming recognized as as his own character retroactively. The three robots making up the SLR camera Reflector were only available through mail order, but nevertheless featured in the cartoon, and the team leader (?) Viewfinder saw a release as “Reflector” but the other two team members are still missing. The really surprising omissions on this list are however Laserbeak and Buzzsaw. The only explanation I can come up with is that their releases of Masterpieces might have made them getting CHUG releases become seen as redundant, but I think many with me would disagree…

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Above: 1984 omissions. Left: Understandable Right: Strange

1985:

Top Spin
Twin Twist

Snarl
Sludge
Slag
Swoop

Omega Supreme
Sky Lynx

Shockwave

Venom# (“Venin”)

Kickback
Barrage
Ransack

Overdrive
Camshaft
Downshift

The Omnibots (the last three on the list) were only available as mail orders in the US back in the day, and they were never presented in the media, hence their lack of updates is not surprising. Venom is member of the Deluxe Insecticons, a group that similarly never were featured in the media. While Chop Shop was mini-partner for Legends Megatron, and him and the others of this group at least got Fansproject releases as repaints of the Fansproject´s Insecticon team (due to them sharing alt modes with these), this is not the case for Venom, and it seems unlikely anyone will pay attention to him anytime soon. Worthy of note is that the mini-partner “Venin” (trademark issue?), a repaint of Waspinator, was released together with Legends Acid Storm. Given that there is only a fleeting similarity in name and alt-mode between him and Venom, I am not inclined to consider it is a proper update, but I included him for the sake of overview. Omega Supreme and Sky Lynx would both demand massive toys, which make them unlikely getting G1 updates out of share budget reasons. Having gotten Generations Metroplex, we should however never say never… The big and obvious omission on this list is however Shockwave. While he has gotten an excellent third party Masterpiece-styled toy (Fanstoy´s Quakewave), any official update is missing. Strange! As for CHUG releases of him, we only have a FOC toy. Kickback should soon follow his fellow Insecticons and get a G1 update released. However, apart from Grimlock, the Dinobots only have third party updates. Actually, so many 3P renditions of them are coming up that HasTak might wait for a while longer to release their own…

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Above: 1985 omissions, again understandable (left) and inexplicable (right) 

1986:

ULTRA MAGNUS#

Gnaw

Sandstorm#
Broadside
Runabout*#
Runamuck*#
Hubcap
Pipes
Outback*#
RATBAT#
Overkill
Slugfest
Rewind*
Eject*
Ramhorn
Steeljaw
Predaking
Razorclaw*#
Rampage
Headstrong
Tantrum
Divebomb

Sixgun
Slammer

Trypticon#
Wipe Out#
Brunt
Full-tilt

First: Ultra Magnus has recently gotten an excellent Masterpiece toy, but his CHUG release is only a “white Prime”, without his outer armor (conversely, his Masterpiece toy lacks an inner white Prime), hence, the completeness of his CHUG representation can be discussed, although Fansproject somehow rectified this with releasing their City Commander Armor for the CHUG toy. Sandstorm has gotten an awesome update, I am really only listing him here to acknowledge that he did not get his own mold. Gnaw is the only movie character missing, but he is rumored to turn up this year. Until recently, none of the Scramble City Special teams (making up a respectable share of the 1986 lineup) had gotten real updates, but as of now all seem to get covered during 2015´s “Year of the Combiner”. The question however is, will Predaking get released as well? Also, there´s a whole slew of cassette characters not getting remade, as well as mini vehicles, but third party companies has these all covered for “remake completists”. Trypticon was released as a Deluxe-sized repaint of an Energon toy, clearly making him miss a unique updated mold, and of his minions only Wipe-Out got released as a Windcharger repaint. The fact that Trypsie is a city bot requiring a hefty investment to produce could speak against him being remade. But again, Metroplex got an update and he needs a rival…

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Above: An armor-less Ultra Magnus and Senator Ratbat in “bat-mode”, close enough?

1987:

Fortress Maximus
Scorponok*

Computron
Scattershot*#
Strafe#
Lightspeed
Nosecone
Afterburner
Abominus
Hun-Grr*#
Sinnertwin#
Blot
Cutthroat
Rippersnapper
Chromedome*#
Hardhead
Highbrow
Weirdwolf*#
Skullcruncher
Mindwipe
Apeface
Snapdragon
Sixshot
Fastlane
Cloudraker
Pounce
Wingspan
Chase
Searchlight
Wideload#
Freeway
Rollbar
Goldbug(#)

Sixshot

Sureshot
Pointblank
Crosshairs
Triggerhappy
Slugslinger
Misfire
Repugnus
Grotesque
Battletrap
Flywheels
Punch/Counterpunch.

This is the first year when the omissions are more numerous than the releases, on the official side. While third parties have Fort Max, Scorponok and the Technobots, Terrorcons and Throttlebots covered, none of these have gotten official remakes yet. In fact, the ONLY character from this year who has gotten its own mold as of yet (If we don´t count Goldfire as IDW Goldbug) is Brainstorm. And while third parties have covered most of the Headmasters from this year,  the Targetmasters do not have updates at all. As is the case with the Monsterbots, Duocons and Punch/Counterpunch, as for these, official updates somehow seem unlikely due to their obscureness. Sixshot is anything but obscure, but given how costly he would be to remake for HasTak due to his complexity, he seems unlikely as well, however, MMC has got him covered. Overall, although Fort Max, Scorponok and Sixshot are icons, the 1987 lineup as a whole is the first to not be iconic across the board. This mostly has to do with the end of the Transformers cartoon, but more on that in next post.

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Above: Brainstorm(s) (left) and Goldbug/Goldfire (right), the only 1987 characters who has gotten unique molds.

1988:

From here onwards, I will only consider which characters have actually been made, as these are in the minority on both the official and unofficial side. Also, I will not bring up Micromasters here as I consider these getting updates to any higher degree unlikely. As for 1988:

Nightbeat#
Scoop
Spinister*#
PM Optimus Prime
Doubledealer#
Dreadwind*#
Darkwing#
Quickswitch
Cindersaur*#
Slamdance
Squawkbox

Skullgrin#

The only toy who has gotten it own official mold this year is Scoop, which is quite bewildering, given that Nightbeat (who only got a repurposed mold) is the only character from this year who is something of a Transformers celebrity (alongside PM Prime and the Seacons). We also see a Pretender getting an update here, Skullgrin (a remold of Darkmount/Straxus), which is a hybrid between the shell and the inner robot.

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Above, left: Scoop, the only 1988 character with a unique mold for his remake. Right: Nightbeat, the only 1987 character with true star power?

As for 1989, we have these Pretenders characters having gotten updates:

Bludgeon#

Thunderwing

Bludgeon´s toy is not a proper CHUG release, but a part of the 2010 movie line, it nevertheless is faithful to the G1 design in many respects. Thunderwing is a proper CHUG toy and very close to its G1 toy design-wise.

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Above: Thunderwing and Bludgeon, the only Pretenders from back in the day that become popular characters (in the comic)

As for 1990, there are only Action Masters and Micromasters, and as for the former, no unique molds have been made, and only Axer got a broadly released remake in the form of Axor (a remold of Movie Lockdown)

Honorable mention, 1989:

Monstructor

Monstructor (and his Japanese mold-mate Dinoking) is made up of Pretenders, but is not a Pretender in his combined form. Although he is a quite prominent character in the IDW comic, as of yet, no remakes at all.

As this post has become quite long, I will discuss the questions posed above in the next post. See you there!

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If these guys will ever get official remakes, it has to be this year, right?

So, to summarize:

  • 1984 is near completion, with the only notable omissions are Buzzsaw and Laserbeak (and maybe Reflector)
  • 1985: 1985´s only notable omissions on the official side is Shockwave and the Dinobots sans Grimlock, and Omega Supreme for HasTak as well as third parties
  • 1986 will come close to completion during this year with the release of the Scramble City Special Teams
  • 1987 characters has seen very few original molds released by HasTak, 3rd parties have covered Headmasters, the last Scramble City teams and the Throttlebots, but nobody have touched the Targetmasters, as of yet.
  • 1988 is to a large degree untouched both by HasTak and Third parties
  • 1990 is the year of the Action Masters and Micromasters, the latter who I chose not to cover in my list, no remakes with  unique molds  regardless

In the next post I will share some thoughts on the findings in this one and make some suggestions about the future of G1 remakes in the Transformers franchise. Wait for it!

Thanks to Seibertron and Brr-Icy for the pictures used in this remake exploration!

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My Beef With Scramble City (And How I Got Over It)

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Above: Sideswipe and Dead End – which is the sexier bot?

I introduced newcomers to the Scramble City concept in and earlier post, where I recollect myself describing them pretty favorably. But honestly speaking, even as a child, I found the smaller toys of the sub-line (the ones forming the limbs) rather dull and unconvincing in many ways. When having toys like Optimus Prime, Blue Streak and Inferno, a toy like, say, Dead End, just seemed so simple and cheapened down in comparison.

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Still not convinced?

While the former toys had transparent car windows, rubber tires and a fair amount of die cast (metal) in them, not to mention being nicely proportioned with exquisite face sculpts, Dead End was smaller and, save for some screws and pins, made entirely out of plastic and the car windows were only painted onto the car body. Perhaps foremost, with the peculiar exception of the Protectobot Streetwise, the heads of all smaller “limb-bots” doubled as the connector peg for the combined mode, which resulted in many of them having, small, square, quite generic heads looking very much alike, with tiny faces etched unto them.

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Inferno and Hot Spot – which is the sexier fire truck bot?

Even the bigger team leaders left things to be desired. While none of Optimus Prime, Blue Streak and Inferno had much leg articulation, they had very articulated arms with elbow joints which somewhat made up for this. The Protectobot team leader Hot Spot on the other hand, had arms that had shoulder articulation, but basically were two blocks hanging on the sides of his body. Further, he had hip joints, but they only provided for moving his legs sideways, for accommodating a (much needed) split leg position when combining him with his minions into Defensor.

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Above, left: The Constructicons, carrying their combiner kibble. Right: The Combaticons – tons of loose pieces

And then there was the combiner kibble. Each Gestalt (combined robot) required an extra head, at least one chest plate, fists and feet, all of which were loose pieces not really having anywhere to go until they were needed for combination. In contrast, while the Constructions needed additional pieces for combining into Devastator, they were at least able to become integrated into their team member´s vehicle modes. Personally, as a child, I eventually traded all of my Scramble City limb bots with friends having Constructicons they had inherited from their older brothers. Even when not being able to collect all members, and none of the connecting kibble parts, I felt the Constructicons were the superior toys as individual pieces. Still do, however…

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Dead End: Still not that sexy, but a bot of many functions

Since re-entering Transformers collecting, I have come to realize that what the Scramble City bots lack in esthetics, they have got in versatility. Every scramble city bot is virtually a quadruple-changer; every smaller member of a team has a robot mode, an alt-mode (vehicle or beast mode) arm mode AND leg mode. In a similar manner, all team leaders have a robot mode, alt mode, torso mode, and in most cases, a base mode, acting as a play set for the smaller members of the team. I used to think that the distinction between the arm and leg mode for the smaller bots was simply a matter of flipping their head/connector peg, but after having made attempts to create my own scramble city transformer prototypes, I have realized that accounting for the enabling of that flip action alone affects the whole design of the toy, for better or worse, making it quite sophisticated in its own right.

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80´s icons

Further, I have come to find the comparatively crude, “cheap” design of Scramble City toys utterly charming, in the same sense that I find 8-bit Nintendo graphics charming and evocative of my 80´s childhood. In fact, it was a third party/independent toy company, Fansproject, who fully made me have this realization and thus reevaluate the Scramble City sub-line with their eminent offer the Glacialbots. This combining team, transforming into mechanical ice age animals (and yes, I am a huge paleontology fan), were engineered and designed in such a fashion that they might as well could have been released in 1986. This included having the same measures for the figures themselves, for the connectors and their ports, as the original Special Teams, so that they can actually swap limbs with each other! What was more, they remedied the ever so frustrating concept of loose combiner parts by making sure all pieces, such as fists, feet, etc, were fully integrate-able with the individual robots of the team. Seeing the glacialbots, I for the first time viewed the scramble city concept with new eyes. In retrospect, I thus find the Scramble City teams are fun, ingenious and utterly charming in their un-articulated, generic boxiness.

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Above, right: Three members of the Glacialbots. Right: Glacialord, swapping limbs with Computron

One complain could still be made about Scramble City – why the need to swap limbs? While it could be argued that this gimmick of Scramble City combiners is unnecessary and requires sacrifices in design and appeal of individual robots, it nevertheless made it easier for us as children to collect a complete combiner, given that it could be hard to gather all members of one team, if not bought as a gift set, it also made it possible to assemble your own Gestalt with the bots you happened to like best from the respective teams. Last year was the 30th anniversary of Transformers as a franchise, and this year, 2015, actually marks the anniversary of the appearance of the first Gestalt, Devastator! Befittingly enough, Hasbro has dubbed this year “The year of the combiner”, with, as of January, Superion and Menasor under release and with well-founded rumors of Devastator and Defensor being in the pipeline. At least for the first two, the toys have a standardized connection mechanism for combining, and the smaller bots can form the arm or the leg in any of the teams. In other words, not only the Scramble City characters themselves, but the very gimmick defining the sub-line has been reintroduced, which is, if anything, a testament to the legacy of this essential chapter of Transformers history.

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Above: Superion and Menasor – updated

Thanks to Seibertron for the pictures!

My Beef With Rodimus (And How I Got Over It)

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When Hot Rod entered the stage, the fandom was kind of divided in their response. It was 1986, and the animated spectacle Transformers: The Movie went up in theaters. One of the shocking revelations here was that our beloved Optimus Prime actually died in the movie, causing 10-year olds across the world a collective trauma. While Prime passed the torch of leadership to Ultra Magnus (see below), the one who would eventually end up with Autobot leadership was Hot Rod, transforming him into the larger, more powerful Rodimus Prime in the process. Sounds pretty cool, right?

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Optimus Prime plus Hot Rod equals…

Well, here´s my first problem. Even as a child, I sensed that the name “RodIMUS PRIME” somehow tried to invite us children to accept this new guy as our new favorite in Optimus´s place. My dad had told me the meaning of Optimus Prime´s name, so the new guy´s name just seemed silly. I knew what a hot rod car was so it seemed to me that “Rodimus” was simply a pun on “Optimus”, using a car name, and Optimus wasn´t called “Truckimus Prime”, was he? So how could this guy, with such a lousy imitation, not to say parody, for a name be the new leader of the Autobots? I didn´t buy it…

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Above: Hot Rod´s original G1 toy, an if “car feature-less”, still admittedly pretty handsome bot

My second gripe was with the character design and the toy itself. One of the aspects I loved the most about Transformers was that they disguised themselves as human-built vehicles, and that elements of these vehicles were visible in their robot modes; Optimus´s iconic windshield chest, Prowl´s Datsun grill chest and car door wings, the F-15 jet intakes on Starscream´s shoulders, his cockpit chest… This was sorely missing with Hot Rod. First, I didn´t know what his car mode was supposed to look like, but it didn´t seem like an actual, real-life car. Second, very little of the car´s “anatomy” seemed to be visible in his robot mode. Sure, he had some exhaust pipes on his arms, and his spoiler seemed to resemble some kind of Dracula-esque collar, but these were details on an overall featureless body, which in my eyes just might be a regular person in some kind of suit or armor.

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Above left: The Original Rodimus Prime toy. Right: The high-forheaded, baggy-eyed old man Rodimus was never up my alley

Further, Rodimus got two toys, one for his original incarnation, “Hot Rod”, and one for his transformed, new self, “Rodimus Prime”. While the first one somehow looked good on its premises (which I wasn´t too fond of), the second one was a real disappointment. First, its car mode looked like the original fake-car rebuilt into a motorhome. The “trailer” part of the car was detached during transformation and turned into some kind of battle station for Rodimus Prime himself, another shameless reference to his superior predecessor. Second, I hated the face sculpt of the toy, it looked like Rodimus was constantly peering, with big bags under his eyes, and his body was as human-like as ever.

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Above: Floro Dery´s concept art for Hot Rod and Rodimus Prime for the 1986 movie

As for the anthropomorphism, it was apparently a conscious move. Hot Rod, like the rest of the new characters in Transformers the Movie, was designed by Floro Dery, the Filipino artist who earlier refined and provided character models for the Transformers cartoon TV-series. Possibly in a move to make Transformers even more identifiable, he chose (/got instructed?) to make the new characters more anthropogenic than before, to the degree that they might (in my opinion) fit better into the Masters of the Universe franchise. Dery himself has prided himself on making the Transformers franchise more accessible and lasting through these designs, but to this day I have a hard time getting past the “guy in sci-fi suit” feeling I get from looking at the original Hot Rod.

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Above: The admittedly badass Classics Hot Rod and Dome Zero, the concept car his new alt mode is based on

However, my disinterest/dislike of as well as Hot Rod as a toy and character, has somehow been alleviated by two developments in later years. First, in 20XX, as part of the “Classics” sub-line, “Rodimus”, a toy that was a neat re-imagination of the original Hot Rod toy, was released. While the car mode was very similar to the original one, it turned out that this time it was actually based on a real life car, the unproduced Dome Zero concept car. Suddenly, Rodimus´s car mode seemed much more legitimate, as well as his anthropomorphic design as a robot, since the relative lack of “car parts” on it was a natural consequence of the car´s own design. Suddenly, Rodimus design was pretty cool…

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Above, left: Rodimus as captain of the ship The Lost Light, as seen in IDW Comics. Right: Spikiness taken a tad bit too far?

Second, in later years the publishing company IDW Comics has been a major producer of new Transformers lore. While I will likely spend a whole post on their contributions in the future I can say that it is comic series like “Autocracy” and “More Than Meets the Eye” that finally made Rodimus a complete, fleshed-out character to me. In this incarnation, he both has elements of the original impulsive Hot Rod who often go out of his depth, and the older, wiser Rodimus Prime. He was even given a quite tragic backstory that makes his narcissistic and seemingly reckless features a bit more forgivable, and even likable. Today, I think he is a nice complement to, rather than lacking replacement for, Optimus Prime, and their interaction with each other is especially interesting. Once being a cheap substitute for the great Optimus in my eyes, I today consider Rodimus a natural, enjoyable and even indispensable part of the vast, rich Transformers universe. Sometimes, first impressions don´t last!

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Upon closer examination, he is indeed pretty cool…

Thanks to TFWiki for the pictures!

A Classification System for Transformers Part 5: Alt mode shell redistribution

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Above: Sunstreaker (C0), Optimus Prime (B0) and Sideswipe (A0); Roof-chest, windshield chest and hood-chest, respectively

Although I have worked on a means of describing transformation schemes as a compact code of letters and figures (see my original system) I now plan to take a break with this work because of time constrains, as well as for some doubts as for what the use would be for such a coding system) and instead focus on lighter pieces for a while. Further, I find it hard to rank which would be the next trait to use as basis for further classification. After some discussions with fellow forum member Geokaiser, who added a layer of symmetry studies to my system, I came up with the following idea for “ranking order of traits”:

1. How do the robot as a whole reorientate itself visa vi its environment during transformation? (The types, se part 1)

2. How do the segments of the robot change their orientation towards each other along the superior-inferior axis? (I.e. do the robot rotate its waist and/or head during transformation?)

3. How do the appendages on the respective segments relocate themselves? (Arms, legs, chest plates, etc)

As for step 2 it is however hard to determine which should come first in ranking order; head or waist rotation? While waist rotation certainly rearranges the bilateral symmetry of a given robot more in a quantitative sense, it is, in a qualitative sense, the exact thing as head rotation, so which one should take precedence in a classification scheme?

While I will leave this issue for now, I however wish to share some thoughts and vocabulary regarding alt mode shell redistribution I have come up with during my study of Transformers anatomy, some of which I find useful for distinguishing between different body types and transformation patterns. If any of these resonate with you, please adopt them!

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Above: Trailbreaker and Air Raid, everything black on these (except for wheels) are their alt mode shells

First, what do I mean by “alt-mode shell”? If we look at car-formers, possibly the quintessential, archetypical type of Transformer, it is basically the body of the car, windows included. I you think about it, the underside of for example Prowl in alt-mode might not look like an ordinary car, but this is also not necessary for his disguise as a police car, either. As is, the alt-mode forms a disguising (and protective) shell around the transformer, much like on a beetle or turtle. And often what makes Transformers look different from each other is how this shell breaks up and redistribute itself on the robot mode of the Transformer, in particular what part of the shell ends up on the robot´s chest.

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Above: Sunstreaker and Wheeljack, “roof chests”.

As for C0-type car-formers, it is basically always the same thing. The rear end of the vehicle folds back, forming a sort of backpack, to reveal the head, typical examples are Sunstreaker and Tracks. Two prominent exceptions are Bumblebee and Wheeljack. In the case of Bumblebee, the head is revealed through the simple opening of a hatch. This however seems more likely to be a result of his toy´s alt-modes inherently deformed proportions, effectively rendering it without a back section. Looking at Bumblebee in the cartoon and his masterpiece toy, there is however indeed a backpack. As for Wheeljack, the head is revealed through the splitting of the rear of the car into his arms. Looking at a character like the targetmaster Sureshot we have a bit of both; arms split off from the car rear, but his head is revealed by the part holding the spoiler, folding back. What we DON`T have for C0-type transformers is kibble folding forward, i.e. their chests are typically constituted of the car roof. Hence, I refer to these as “roof chests”.

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Above: Optimus Prime and Trailbreaker, “windshield chests”

For B-type transformers, with many of them being cab-over engine trucks, the head is often revealed through a hatch in the car roof. Since their chest is generally constituted by the windshields of their cars, I like to refer to these bots as “windshield chests”. Optimus Prime and Inferno are typical examples of this subtype. Further, regardless of how we might like to type them, Hoist and Trailbreaker also belong here, as do the A0 types Ironhide and Ratchet.

It´s however for the A-types it gets really interesting, as we here have three common types of head reveal, all involving the car hood moving in some direction.

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Above: Prowl and Jazz, “grill chests”

The first type have their car hood folding forwards 90 degrees, examples are Prowl, Jazz and Skids. I like to refer to these as “grill chests” as their chests sport the whole front of their alt mode, including the grill. This is an iconic look, for sure, for me it is almost the quintessential car-former look.

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Above: Sideswipe and Mirage, “hood chests”

The next type have their hood folding down 180 degrees resulting in a chest plate which is effectively constituted by the hood of the car, thus I refer to them as “hood-chests”. Examples of this type are Sideswipe and Mirage.

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Above: Dead End and Breakdown; alt-backs with naked chests

The third type of head reveal for A-type bots is those having the car hood folding backwards over the back of the robot. Since the car, or anything else from the alt mode casing ends up on the chest of these bots I refer to them as “nakeds”. Typical examples of “naked” bots are the Stunticons Dead End, Breakdown and Wildrider. As for C2 bots, we have examples such as the Headmaster Siren. Bots falling into “naked chests” can also be referred to as “alt-backs”, robots whose alt mode shell components never move from back to front across the frontal plane of the robot during transformation,  i.e., they carry basically all of their alt mode shell on their backs in robot mode. Think about it, if you make an intersection in the frontal plane of Dead End, then there is really nothing about his front half that suggests what he turns into, other than it having some sort of wheels.

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Above: Gears and Siren, both alt-boots, both naked chests

Alt-backs have a close relative, “alt-boots”, where the boot part of the robot (lower legs, generally heftier than the thighs rather than the other way around as on a naked human) by unfolding at the knees is the only part of the alt mode shell crossing over the frontal plane and thus “expressing” itself on the robot. Examples of alt-boots are Gears and the aforementioned Siren.

starscream-2 r_airraid026

Above: Starscream and Air Raid, both have F-15 jets as alt-modes, but vastly different alt mode shell redistribution.

There is an equivalent to the above among for jet-formers, where “cockpit-chests” such as Starscream and Dreadwind, have the jet cockpit on their chest as opposed to alt-backs like Silverbolt, Air Raid and Skydive, who have “naked” chests.

So, why would the above denominations be significant? Simply put, they condense a long description of a given bot’s transformation pattern giving a condense expression of its general design, which allows for easier comparisons and distinctions against other bots. Let us look at Sideswipe, Sunstreaker and Breakdown as an example

r_sideswipe089 r_breakdown024

Above: Three iconic Lambo bots, but which of them are truly more closely related?

All of these three bots have Lamborghini Countachs as alt modes, but their robot modes look strikingly different in how their alt mode armor is distributed on them. For example, Sideswipe and Sunstreaker are commonly referred to as “brothers”, but seeing that the former is an A0 type bot and the latter a C0 bot I would say that they are not even remotely related. Sideswipe and Breakdown are more closely related, both being A0 types, they however relocate the car hood differently in robot mode, Sideswipe being a “hood chest” bot and Breakdown a “naked chest” type of bot.

autobots

Above: Digibash of the upcoming Combiner Wars Stunticons as classic Autobots 

As Combiner Wars is upon us, we have gotten yet another faux-chested Optimus Prime, as he is a remold of Motormaster with an inherently different transformation scheme. There have been suggestions that the limb members of Stunticon should follow in this and become remolded/repainted as classic Autobot Car characters. I however would not look forward to such an arrangement, repainting Breakdown, even giving him a new face, won’t turn him into Sideswipe; the latter´s hood chest is too much of an integrated part of his design for this to be a viable option. I however have no problems with back-loaders getting more “integrated” robot modes, as in, the alt mode is integrated in all parts/sides of the robot design. I will discuss this further in the next post… Peace out!

Thanks to Seibertron for the pictures

A Classification System for Transformers Part 4: Triple Changers

When designing my classification system, I knew one question would come up eventually… “What about Triple-changers?”

As it turns out, I have answers, but my way of reaching there is slightly more subjective than the logic building the foundation of the types-system as a whole. For demonstrating the new concepts, I will take a look at the three most iconic Triple-changers; Springer, Astrotrain and Blitzwing.

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First, let´s start off with something simple; G1 Springer. His two alternate modes are very similar, and achieved by the same reorientation pattern: fall-forward. Hence, there is no discussion, Springer is a type A0 Transformer.

astrotrain Blitzwingg1toy

What about G1 Astrotrain and Blitzing? Here, it admittedly gets tricky; as for Astrotrain, if we look at the transformation to his Space Shuttle mode we get “simple fallback” (C0) and for his train mode “fall-back-rotate-2-quarters” (C2). As for Blitzwing, while the tank mode is achieved through “fall-back-rotate-2-quarters” (C2), the jet mode is achieved through “fall-forward-rotate-2-quarters” reorientation (A2). It thus seems that we need to find a way to prioritize one alt-mode over the other, as the one determining multi-changing bots´type designation, but how?

I initially thought of determining a primary alt-mode for triple changers to decide their type. This primary alt-mode would be determined through identifying which alt-mode takes the fewest steps to achieve from robot mode, i.e. some sort of “rule of the shortest path” would decide. I then however questioned on which ground the simplest mode to achieve would be considered “primary” and designating for types. As it is, I have not yet figured out a good reason based on the toy´s design only.

568px-G1Sixshot_toy

I also realized that this approach would require me to count transformation steps for all of Sixshot´s six alt-modes…

Hende, I have chosen a slightly different, admittedly more subjective approach where we grade all possible reorientation patterns according to their level of complexity and then let the most complex alt-mode decide the type. So what is “complex”?

It is perhaps obvious that a A2 reorientation is more complex than A0, as reorientation in two planes is required for the former, but how do we grade A, B and C against each other? For rising complexity, exactly in that order. A is the most basic type, and C the most “evolved”. This for the following reasons:

– Although I have not counted it yet, my general feeling is that the A0 reorientation pattern is the most common one among Cybertronians, and could thus be interpreted as the basic rep from which the others have evolved.

-A0 is also the most “natural” reorientation scheme. If you think about it, it is the equivalent of Transformers getting down and walking on all fours, which some, like Ravage, Steeljaw and Ramhorn actually are doing from the outset! Although there are several origin stories for Transformers as a race/species, there also seems to be some kind of Cybertronian “fauna” including the likes of turbofoxes, which look like… mechanical foxes. Further, in the IDW G1 continuity Soundwave´s beast cassettes are looked down on as being inferior, seemingly because animals are considered more lowly, primitive creatures. This could be interpreted as if humanoid Cybertronians stem from a more primitive form of mechanical life, which supposedly was quadrupedal, and when assuming alt-modes, A0-type robots simply revert to Cybertronians´ original body posture, in a way.

-Even if we ignore theories of Cybertronian evolution, walking on all fours is still a more natural, less strained form of locomotion than squat-walking (B0) and crab walking (C0). Crawling on all fours is the first mode of locomotion for human babies as it requires less strength and balance, it could therefore be considered more basic.

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Above: Crab-walking, a sadly under-utilized mode of locomotion

Thus, we will get the following order of rising complexity: A0, B0, C0, A1, B1, C1, A2, B2, C2… and so forth.

So which reorientation pattern should be considered the determining one for a multi-changing Transformer´s type? I would say that simply by possessing a “higher grade” reorientation pattern, it has been “evolutionary achieved” and is thus the signifying one, and what sets triple changers apart from other Transformers is that they retain earlier alt-modes as they achieve new ones.

As for Astrotrain, the space shuttle mode is achieved by reorientation pattern C0, which is more basic than the one needed for the train mode, rep C2. Thus, the space shuttle (or Cybertronian equivalent) can be considered his original alt mode whereas his train mode (Earth mode?) is the more “evolved”, and hence designating one. Alas, Astrotrain´s type is C2.

As for Blitzwing, his jetmode (A2) requires a reorientation pattern more basic than his tank mode (C2), thus the jet is his original, primary alt mode, however, as the tank rop is the higher graded, it is the designating one, making him C2 as well.

I am well aware that my motivation for level of complexity for reorientation patterns is more subjective than the self-evident concept of the reorientation-based classification itself. If we don´t consider Cybertronian evolution and human anatomy, why should the most advanced (C3 or higher) alt mode be designating the type of a given triple changer? Instead, aren´t they all simply all types whose reorientation pattern they employ? I am also aware that implying “personal evolution” among Transformers includes that they may learn to achieve new alt modes through new reorientation schemes over time. How do you think about all this? I am eager to hear your opinion, as well as other ideas, if you have any!

In the next, and for now, concluding part, I will look at way of describing transformation schemes as a compact code of numbers and letters, wait for it!

My usual thanks to Seibertron and TFWiki for the reference pics!

A Classification System for Transformers, Part 3: When the toys, media and reality don´t match

Hi y´all! It´s time to take a look at some other tricky cases of Cybertronian taxonomy… Readers have pointed out to me that there are cases where the toy and cartoon model don´t match, and asked how to handle those cases. I would say that it simply differs, depending on whether we are talking about the toy or the character in question. Having said that, however, the cases where the toy and character transform differently are quite few, and when they occur they are often the result of faux parts being used. The very presence of faux parts is, in my book, an indication that whoever created the toy wants to give an illusion of a transformation scheme that a given toy in reality don´t process. Hence, for the character the toy represents there should be no doubt as to what type they are portrayed at. As for the toy, we can designate according to its actual reorientation pattern, or, we can designate it from the reorientation pattern in its implied transformation scheme. This is what I did for Powermaster Optimus Prime´s core robot in part 1. Now, having gotten faux parts out of the way, let´s look at some cases where other kinds of mismatches causes confusion.

Trailbreaker (and Hoist) revisited – The toy´s CoG is located in a different part than in the character model

In part 2, I classified Trailbreaker´s toy as C-type, by locating his centre of gravity and concluding that this piece of the toy reorientates by falling backward. The actual spot to which I have located the CoG is visible below in Trailbreaker´s mold-mate Hoist in the screen capture of G1Hexatron´s video review on him below(indicated with a yellow circle):

Trailbreaker study Hoist CoG

For the toy, this is perhaps all good. I however doubt that the character Trailbreaker lacks a proper C-segment, and that his CoG is located in a connecting structure connected to, and rotating with, the car hood. Let´s take a look at these…

Trailbreaker_box_art 260px-MTMTE3_Trailbreaker_jogging

To the left we have Trailbreaker´s original box art, and to the right how he is portrayed in the original cartoon. There are obviously glaring differences, but also some common deviation from the toy. The cartoon model has a clear, visible pelvis (C-segment) sticking out under the car hood, while the hood itself seem to constitute Trailbreaker´s whole abdomen (I wonder how it actually attaches to his pelvis). In this case, his CoG should be inside the actual hood, which will end up leaning backwards, hence, his C0-designation stands. Take a look at his box art, however. Here he retains the toy´s beer-bellied look where the hood sits in front of what seems to be his main torso, and the frog perspective in the picture allows us to see that some sort of pelvis, allowing the demonstrated forward leg movement, is indicated. If so, his theoretical CoG should be a bit above it, in a piece of abdomen the toy lacks, but which could in theory be connected to the chest area and unmoving during transformation. This would give Trailbreaker a B0-designation, in line with the one of Optimus, who also has a windshield chest. While some would say that it is either the toy or the cartoon that is the correct depiction of Trailbreaker, I would say that the box art is the most realistic realization of the design concept for Trailbreaker, and thus the one I find most correct. On a side, note, looking at the two pictures above, which one will the eventual Masterpiece toy for Trailbreaker look most like? 😉

Ratchet and Ironhide – The toy and character model are vastly different

As I explained in a previous post (and presumably known to most G1 fans) the reason the Ratchet/Ironhide mold does not have a head like in the cartoon is because many of the first Transformers were originally piloted robots in the Diaclone toy franchise in Japan. Hence the great difference between what is depicted in the following pictures:

reduced-galery_image_4795_8113 Ratchetg1cartoon

Yup, he had a “trailer” section in the cartoon, too…

First we have to get around the fact that the toy don´t have a head, if you don´t consider the sticker on the driver´s seat behind the wind screen. While that face seems to have inspired the look of movie Ratchet´s face, it is certainly not the one we see in the cartoon. As I mention in part 1, we can imagine a presumed A-segment for the toy, and as it turns out, whether Ratchet has a head or not does not really affect what type he is as it is the reorientation of the B-segment that counts. Looking at that, my first hunch, seeing that Ratchet is a “windshield chest” type of robot, was that he like Optimus would be B-type. Now, I don´t own the G1 toy, but consider these pictures:

Ratchet schematicsRatchetwarriorschool

To the left is a schematic of the underside of G1 Ratchet´s toy´s underside in vehicle mode, where the blue lines mark where the (folded) B-segment starts and stops, the yellow circle (1) marks the point where the B-segment folds, the red/yellow dot (2) marks where the center of gravity would be in robot mode and the green circle (3) marks the pelvis. As you can see, the CoG is situated under the folding area of the B-segment, and as it is oriented facing towards the ground in vehicle mode Ratchet is in other words lying belly-down in vehicle mode, although with his chest folded backwards so that it faces forwards. The right picture, displaying Ratchet´s transformation in the Marvel Comic (although strange), seems to confirm this, as well as the transformation sequence in the cartoon. In other words, head or no head, Ratchet, and then presumably Ironhide, are A0.

Grimlock – When the media and reality don´t match

Consider G1 Grimlock. He should be a clear case of an A0 bot, weren´t it for the fact that his dino mode, based on a Tyrannosaurus rex, only has fallen, say half a quarter, forwards as compared to the robot. This is also how he is depicted in the cartoon and the comic. So what is he? A0,5?

G1Grimlock_toy CallofthePrimitives_Grimlock_Primacron

Above: Grimmy and the beast that inspired him, as depicted by famed Charles R Knight

While we could certainly settle for that, Grimlock´s dino mode is based on an antiquitated understanding of T-Rex anatomy. Consider the following two pictures:

trex 384522399_orig

On the picture to the left, T-rex (or actually, its close cousin Tarbosaurus bataar) is depicted as standing nearly upright, as Grimlock in dino mode is usually depicted. Since that picture was produced, however, further studies of T-rex´s bone structure has revealed that rather than walking upright, dragging its tail along the ground, it was leaning forward, using its long, stiff tail to counterbalance its heavy head and chest as it walked (right picture). In other words, G1 Grimlock´s toy in dino-mode should not be posed like this…

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…but like this:

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In other words, Grimlock is a clear A0. Because yes, I prioritize scientific accuracy over cartoon accuracy. Also, Movie Grimlock agrees:

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But then again, even he is a bit outdated, given that our understanding of how T-rex might actually have looked like has developed further:

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Why doesn´t at least Grimlock in the new RiD cartoon look like this? 😉

That´s all for this time, next time I will examine the Triple Changers!

Thanks to Seibertron, TFWiki and so forth…

A Classification System for Transformers Part 2: Typing tricky Transformers

Welcome to part 2 of my series of posts presenting my classification system for Transformers! In this part I will apply the system on some toys being tricky to classify, some of them seemingly falling outside the scope of my system… I first intended this system to encompass only these, but there have been requests that I apply it on Transformers from other continuities as well. I seems that especially some of these present poses some serious challenge to being classified. As it turns out, however, we need not look further than to the G1 cars to find tricky cases…

Folding torsos – which part counts?

Consider these familiar bots:

r_jazz042 r_skids041

Jazz´s and Skids´s B-segments (un)fold in order for them to achieve transformation. After having studied these characters and their toys (and others), I realized I needed to add some detail to the concept of body re-orientations. Hence, consider these pictures:

Rollpitchyawplain directional_planes1358214467994

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_dynamics

If we consult the intriguing world of flight dynamics, we see that the reorientation patterns I established in the last post have formal names; falling forward or backward, i.e. movement along the sagittal plane (see right picture) is called pitch and rotating, i.e. movement along the transverse plane is called yaw. Movement along the frontal plane is called roll, but as we shall see this plane needs not be considered for my system. Observe however, that all of  the above movements take place around a center of gravity (CoG)Since the pull of gravity marks the only point of reference in the room on Earth (or anywhere gravity exerts a noticeable effect) this is the only reasonable option. Hence, it makes sense to make this the ultimate reference point for any reorientation patterns. The human CoG is placed in the lower end of the abdomen, or more specifically,  “at the level of your 2nd sacral vertebra, and just in front of it.” (Or “about three finger widths below your navel”).

cg4 gsacrum

Sources: http://www.upwithgravity.net/up-with-gravitysm-lesson-1-locating-your-center-of-gravity/, http://www.gla.ac.uk/t4/~fbls/files/fab/glossary/pelvicgirdle.html

Note however, that if we are not looking at a CoG within a rigid body (where the distance between two given reference points never changers), a CoG is, as Tekering worded it, ” not an absolute point of physical reference”. The location just described is for a human standing upright. If we assume other positions, the CoG might change location in our body, and during movement it might even be outside it! It is nevertheless the absolute point of reference for a non-rigid body in a given position.

723px-CofM

Above: CoG in moving gymnast, marked as blue sphere. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Center_of_mass

Considering that Transformers in their robot modes are anthropomorphic and upright, it is reasonable to assume that their CoG is located in the same place when they are standing upright. Translated to the anatomy I established in the last post, that place would be close to the lower end of their B segment:

Segments overview chart cog

Now, consider Jazz and Skids again.

Jazz cog Skids cog

Above: Jazz and Skids, segments shown, centres of gravity marked in red

I Jazz´s case, his chest part could in theory be perceived as an empty car hood, a piece of metal, folded over his “real”, inner torso once he has removed his arms from under it. In that case, we could think of his chest hood as an appendage to his B segment. It´s harder to dismiss Skid´s chest as a piece of armor as it is seemingly constitutes the very upper half of his B-segment all the way through (but then again, it is a matter of interpretation). For both of these bots, however, these folding pieces of the B-segment does not hold their CoGs, and if we consider those parts, both Jazz and Skids are clear A0 types.

Even trickier torsos…

Trailbreaker (and Hoist) presents us with an even trickier case… In fact, this mold was the one that prompted me to finally scrap my original classification scheme. As it turns out, he is however still quite tricky, given his unorthodox transformation scheme…

G1Trailbreaker_toy

Gotta love that beer-belly…

On first glance, Trailbreaker seems to be a clear case of B-orientation, given that his windshield-chest points forward in both robot mode and vehicle mode, just like with Optimus Prime. Consider, however, that we have to look at how the part of his torso containing the CoG reorientates itself during transformation. It should be located roughly behind the Autobot insignia on his belly. Doing this, we realize that his (theoretical) transformation scheme actually goes something like this (the location of his CoG is indicated by a yellow-and-red dot):

Trailbreaker study

In other words, he is not B0, but C0! Note that his CoG is located elsewhere in his vehicle mode, however, it is the movement of the part where his CoG is situated when he is in robot mode, in an standing, upright position, which is designating the type.

Expanded scope, expanded vocabulary 1: Turning upside down 

Now, If we expand the scope to include characters in the Unicron Trilogy, we there find an interesting example in Armorhide, presented to me by Tekering. Armorhide seemingly does not fit into any of the previously mentioned categories as he has to be turned upside down to assume vehicle mode. On first glance, on might think we indeed need the roll type of movement along the frontal plane (see picture above), prompting us to include a third dimension in the type designation system. We could however also think of him as falling forward once, then falling “forward” once more, before (or while) rotating two quarters counter-clockwise. We then get this designation: AA2. Simple enough, right? 😀

Cybertron_Armorhide_toy

Above: Armorhide, not that tricky after all…

Expanded scope, expanded vocabulary 2: Splitting centers of gravity

Another character whose type designation has been brought into question is Armada Bonecrusher. He has a quite unique transformation pattern where he splits his whole torso along the anterior-posterior axis, where one lobe falls forward, its upper half rotating one quarter counter-clockwise (A1) and the other one falls backward, its upper half rotating one quarter counter-clockwise (C1). So which one is it?

800px-Bonecrusher_armada_toy

To think a mere Minicon would cause such trouble…

As it turns out, both. Segments are organized along the sagittal plane, and in this case segment B, even the part containing the center of gravity, behaves differently depending on which side of this plane we are looking. We however need a way to describe this dual type designation, and writing both designations out with a simple slash in-between seems like the most straightforward way. But in which order? As segment A (the head) is attached to only one of the torso halves (the C1 one), we can designate this half the “main torso”, as ndrusi on the Allspark forums suggested. Thus, Armada Bonecrusher´s type designation will be: C1/A1.

Classi tree expanded

That´s all for this time, in the next part I will be looking at cases where the toy and media depiction of the character don´t match!

My usual thanks to Seibertron and TFWiki for the much needed reference photography, and to Tekering and a bunch of Allspark members for useful input along the way!

EDIT: Took a closer look at Trailbreaker. Also, expanded the classification chart with Armorhide and Bonecrusher