Above: Sideswipe – sufficiently remade yet?
From the initial discussion of the list it in the last post, we can see a number of trends materializing for the Great G1 Remake Marathon. Among these are:
1.Within 2015-2016, the 1984-1986, i.e., most iconic, character lineups will have been mostly completed as CHUG, thanks to Combiner Wars.
As we can see from the list, basically all essential characters from 1984-1985 have already gotten CHUG updates, and as for 1986, the biggest gap was constituted by the Scramble City Special Teams. We now know that Devastator, is getting released during 2015, and most likely, all of the Special Teams as well. As we have been told Combiner Wars will last for more than a year, it is reasonable to think that during 2016, the remaining Scramble City teams, as well as Predaking will be released (the latter possibly in the same Titan Class scale as Devastator). That leaves only a few, albeit large holes in the “remade lineups” of 1985-86, namely, Omega Supreme, Sky Lynx and Trypticon. Given that we got Generations Metroplex, it might not be unreasonable to believe that the others will in time become realized as well… Regardless, Combiner Wars is in a way the last piece of the puzzle when it comes to recreating classic G1 characters, with the large hole previously constituted by the combiner teams seemingly becoming filled in the foreseeable future…
Above: Soon, not too many left to cover…
2. Both HasTak and 3P´s are treading into 1987 and beyond…
It´s already been a while since third party companies started recreating the 1987 Headmaster characters to much fan acclaim, what is new is that HasTak has now followed suit with the release of Brainstorm, the first remade Headmaster with its unique mold – that also functions as an actual Headmaster! And from 1988 we got a unique mold with Scoop. 1989 has seen two Pretenders getting their own molds, but on a whole, 1987-1989 has only seen some of their most popular characters realized. To which degree will these years become covered? More on this below…
Above: Do you see these guys getting their own new molds anytime soon?
3. Third Parties seem to be shifting from CHUG to Masterpiece-styled toys
This is not so much derived from my overview as from the Transformers news flow the past few weeks. Nevertheless, it is possibly a sign of something of a saturation point for 3P CHUG releases. Right now, the members of Unique Toy´s Abominus tribute Ordin are being revealed and released. Looking back, it seems that combiners have indeed been a staple of 3P companies, since this category of Transformers was the most sorely missing category until recently. Indeed, after Ordin, the only truly classic combiner not remade by 3P´s will be Piranacon, and if we count all G1 combiners, also Monstructor. Given that we have now begun the Combiner Wars on the official side of things, should we expect 3P´s to homage them any time soon? Judging from the past few months, the trend is instead shifting towards Masterpiece-styled toys, and multiple companies making the same We are already in the midst of a “Dinobot War” where some of the companies are clearly following Fanstoys in going for this size and aesthetic, and apparently an Insecticon War is underway. Also, with the release of a 3P MP Mirage, and multiple versions of Hound coming up, even from companies not having dealt with Masterpiece-styled toys before, we might be seeing something of a paradigm shift…
Sever or Guttur… design-wise, a pair of front paws apart?
These trends open up for a few questions…
1. So, when will the race end, and where does it end?
Judging from what we have been seeing so far, it seems that the word “media representation” is key. The market for remakes of G1 toys is based on nostalgia. Nostalgia for the toys themselves, but perhaps even more so, for the characters they have come to represent. From its very inception, the Transformers franchise has built its strength on a clever synergistic effect between in themselves fantastic toys and exciting media creating characters and a mythos around them. The fact that the very toys eventually becoming Transformers were originally unsuccessfully marketed in the US by Takara proves this; only after the creation of fleshed-out characters, a captivating back story, and a well-made cartoon to showcase these, the toys met unprecedented success, well up to the somewhat anticlimactic animated movie. Few would disagree that the most iconic Transformers characters are still the original 1984 lineup, followed by 1985 and then the 1986 characters, all of which were well represented in both the cartoon and comic. From thereon, the 1987 toys were only shown in the cartoon miniseries “The Rebirth”, and from there, only in the comic, which had admittedly far less impact. Increasingly, the franchise struggled with diminishing sales until its eventual demise in the early 90s.
For some, the buzz died with Optimus…
So, while it could be argued that HasTak are still in the midst of recreating 1986 characters and eventually will remake the whole 1987 cast and beyond, there are reasons to be skeptic. If we think about which comic-only characters were most popular, thanks to the effort of Simon Furman, we get Nightbeat, Bludgeon and Thunderwing. All of these have indeed been remade. As for Brainstorm and Scoop, they were arguably made popular as characters, by IDW. While it is possible that IDW have made more 1987-1990 characters commercially viable as toys, question is, will they ever cover these years as a whole? Even for 1987, 3rd parties have been remaking Headmasters, but not yet Targetmasters, and they indeed seem to be shifting focus towards MP-styled toys. Character-wise, 1986 is still the last lineup to be iconic across the board, and it remains to be seen how thoroughly the years beyond will be remade…
In all honesty, how many of the above characters, or even toys, are absolutely essential?
Also, from 1988 onwards we have whole categories of toys which divides the fandom; Pretenders, Micromasters, Action Masters… How will Pretenders be remade? With small, articulated robots in fetal positions in cavities in large, articulated shells? Or as action figures with “tech drones” on their backs as 3P company Play With This Too are going for? Or as robots bearing traits of the shells, transforming into the core robots alt-mode like with Generations Skullgrin? As for Action Masters, will they follow the examples of Treadshot and Axor? Again, it can be done, but is there enough fan support? I think that Micromasters could really work as a modernized concept, but I don´t think each and every character from there will be remade, as they had little coverage even in the comics. As for nostalgia-based remakes of individual characters, my personal guess (although I´d love to be proven wrong) is that CHUG will stop expansive coverage after at least 1987, and MP might not stretch beyond 1986, with a few added highlights of later years.
Above: The Pretender Skullgrin, G1, Generations and Play With This Too´s “Desolataur”. Which one is for you?
2. How will the Third Party scene look a few years from now?
Again, as much as I like to be optimistic, I am skeptic that the ongoing proliferation of 3P companies can last in the long run, it just don´t seem economically viable to have a scene crowded enough to have five (?) different 3P companies making the same five Dinobots, sometimes with minor differences in between them. As much as we love choice, many fans might also agree that the current Dinobot race is something of an overload, supply-wise. We simply don´t need THAT many multiple homages to the same characters, especially not when they are Masterpiece/3P-priced. It might be that the current Dinobot boom represents something of a climax, after which there will be some form of contraction as too many companies find themselves doing the same thing, and only the best will survive the competition. When Dinobots have been covered both in CHUG and MP-style, what are we missing? Possibly MP-styled combiners. Warbotron are already making them however. I just don´t see enough characters with enough nostalgia factor being viable for “3P MP”-release. MP Punch/Counterpunch? It´s hard to believe, but again, I like to be proven wrong in this instance… I regardless think that eventually, 3P´s must more and more become what has been dubbed as an “Indie Transformers scene” first with more characters never haven gotten toys, and then with original characters like Steel Core and the Glacialbots… It´s what I hope for, anyway 😉
Above: The way to go, IMO
3. So, if the CHUG and MP remake races reaches their ends, then what?
Here´s where it gets interesting, speculation! I have thought of a few alternatives…
- When the 1986/87 marks are reached, the remake race will just go on…
This would go against my theory about nostalgia factor. Indeed, to true old-time fans ANY G1 toys have some degree of nostalgia to them. So, remakes would continue consequently through 1990, and when G1 is finished, the race would continue into G2, Beast Wars (which we already have seen being remade) and into the Unicron Trilogy. But this raises two questions. First, do the Beast Wars and Unicron Trilogy have strong enough fanbases for “their” generations of Transformers? They have clearly gotten the money by now, but have they got enough nostalgia? Second, even for Beast Wars toys, with high articulation being standard, it is unclear whether today´s toy engineering have much improvements to offer for said toys. Again, although we have seen some Beast Wars and Armada characters being remade, does it mean that complete lineups of characters will be remade?
Above, left: Admittedly, improvement. Right: Perfect as is?
- The G1 remake cycle will start anew, before completing 1990.
This option suggests that the remake of classic G1 characters will never really end, but keep on repeating a remaking of 1984-1987 characters in a continuous fashion, making use of the following facts;
-For every character, there are several possible size classes. For example, I passed on Generations Springer and Blitzwing because I think these characters should be “normal-sized” ie Deluxe-sized, not to tower over most other of the toys. Conversely, many people feel that Classics Grimlock should have been a Voyager, etc.
-New molds for characters remade as “unconventional remolds”: The newly released Combiner Wars Huffer is making use of a Legends Class Optimus Prime mold, making many fans feel that save the head sculpt, Huffer has actually not been adequately remade. Also, there are a few things we have come to expect of Transformers toys since the advent of Classics, like ankle tilt, which makes some cases of remakes desirable.
-We just can´t get enough of certain characters – Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, anyone? Jetfire/Skyfire just got a second update as well. And this might go on…
In fact, as the examples above shows, we are in fact already in a at least a second cycle of remakes running alongside the completion of the first, and we have toys from later generations already being remade as well ( it´s in the sub-line imprint, duh!). But, perpetually?
Above: Jetfires – Original (1985), second remake (2014) and the first, in my opinion superior, remake (2006)
- The whole remake marathon will actually subside in a few years, until the next big revolution comes along
Here we assume that, indeed, you can only make so many remakes of so many characters, and eventually we reach a point where further remakes becomes redundant, simply because they won´t be significantly improved over their predecessors. Arguably, there have not been enough technological revolution in toy engineering since the Generation 2 Cyberjets (and even G1 Astrotrain has some kind of ball joints for his arms, right?) for it to be possible to improve significantly on at least mainline toys for motivating further remakes after the current run “finishes”. What would then happen is a few (or more) years of less feverish remaking, until something comes along that completely revolutionizes the way toys are being made, making possible yet new heights of realism to our beloved characters, warranting their purchase. But when? And, in all honesty, will I care as much about Transformers when I am, say, 50 years old? It is hard to say, but a generation ago it was not socially acceptable having toys as a hobby for grown-ups (if you don´t count model trains), in ways we are the first generation bringing our childhood culture into our adult lives, full-on. Will we always be active collectors? Hard to say. And if we are not, will our kids carry the torch into the future, even for G1?
For today´s kids, is Bumblebee even a beetle? Does he even have a nose?
Having said all this, I certainly don´t think that Transformers as a whole will disappear any time soon. If these 30 years has taught us anything, it is that this particular toy franchise is lasting and adaptable as few, outliving most other contemporary toy brands by far. While G1 will always be first and always revered as such, the “second coming” of the G1 toys we are seeing now could indeed be the last one, at least in terms of magnitude. But again, that does not have to be a bad thing. Whatever shape the franchise takes in the future, I am sure excited to see where it goes, be it to my personal preferences of liking or not. Long live Transformers!!!
Note: This post was about my thoughts on the future of G1, specifically. For my thoughts on Transformers toys as a whole, see next post…
As usual, big thanks to Seibertron for their excellent archives of TF pics, and to Botchthecrab for his great catalog scans!