We love to wax nostalgic at PoP!, but sometimes it’s what’s yet to come that most quickens our nerd pulses. For better or for worse, let’s start the speculation over what’s making us Future Tense.
Now that Christmas is over, let’s look at even more toys coming up!
Last year, I wrote to implore Hasbro to get the collective sh*t together and give fans an option for Transformers combiners that won’t cost more than a car payment. It looks like they finally got the message and are answering the nerdy prayers of their fans with the upcoming Combiner Wars series, and that is awesome news.
Recent years have seen the rise of the “3rd Party” Transformers, groups founded by fans looking to create new and improved versions of characters either forgotten, obscure or impractical enough that they’ve not received an official Hasbro release in years. Thanks in no small part to the massive 30th anniversary celebration of 2014, a lot of these characters have seen new official releases. Springer got an excellent Voyager class figure six years after Fansproject released their Defender figure, for example. Some of the biggest sellers for 3rd Party Companies (both figuratively and literally) are the various combiner teams released in recent years. It’s such a widespread phenomenon that there were three different Predaking sets from three different companies throughout 2013-2014.
Due to the limited production runs involved, it’s not uncommon for a limb figure to cost around $100 with the larger torso running closer to $120. That’s somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 for one of these monstrosities. The designs are by and large truly amazing to look at, but most fans have to be very selective. Some, however, go wild and get them all. Regardless, it became clear that Hasbro was leaving money on the table. They’ve gotten tired of it, apparently, and they’re giving us what we’ve wanted all along.
I wasn’t exactly kind to the upcoming Optimus Prime figure when it was revealed at Botcon at last year. While I still maintain that it’s an awful Optimus Prime figure, it’s going to make an excellent Motormaster. Optimus is part of the first wave of Combiner Wars figures, the comic book tie-in series that sees a return to the classic combiner teams from the heyday of G1. The Stunticons and the Aerialbots are up first and weird Prime aside, there is a lot to like here. Sure, the Aerialbots’ alt modes look like planes with robots on the bottom, but that’s typical of plane Transformers and has been forever. The overall
designs are really nice and Hasbro was able to integrate the joints in a way that many of the 3rd party companies haven’t. By putting the joints in the chest across the board, they’ve not only unified the design of the series, but they’ve avoided having an odd eyesore on the back of the robots. They certainly didn’t do that on the Fall of Cybertron Bruticus figures, so it’s nice to see growth in design. Another big leap forward from Bruticus is a larger Voyager class figure as the torso. A gestalt robot will always look better with a larger central figure. Five deluxes was a mistake and they’ve made note. Things are looking up.
We’ve not seen finished samples of most of the Stunticons yet, but the Aerialbots look really nice. When the line was first announced, some fans cast dispersion right away, claiming Hasbro couldn’t hope to compete with the 3rd Party companies. There’s certainly something to that statement with regards to design and engineering. Hasbro’s figures are designed with the intention to keep costs down and minimize the pieces needed for production. 3rd party figures certainly are not. So yes, TFC’s Aerialbots analogues are more involved and more intricate than Hasbro’s and the combined Uranos is bigger than Superion. It’s also over six times the cost. What’s more, Uranos doesn’t even look that much like Superion now that all is said and done. There’s no doubt what you’re looking at when you see Combiner Wars Superion, even with Dragstrip as one of his limbs in the preview photos. They’ve absolutely nailed it.
There’s going to be a lot of “sucks to be you” going around as buyer’s remorse butthurt sets in among the Transformers fandom, but them’s the breaks, kids. That said, the coming of the Combiner Wars is certainly going to change some fans’ buying habits. It used to be a bit easier to justify dropping big bucks on toys that were unlikely to be officially produced. Hasbro has redefined what is and isn’t likely, so it will be interesting to see how these companies react and adapt to this shift in the marketplace. No matter what happens next, it’s clear that the fans are winning.