#2745: Ultra Magnus

ULTRA MAGNUS

TRANSFORMERS: CLASSICS (HASBRO)

As commander of Autobot City on Earth, Ultra Magnus commands the most powerful forces ever assembled, of which he is among the greatest. He was given the honor of City Commander by Optimus Prime because of his superior intelligence and incredible might as a warrior.”

Man, I really enjoyed reviewing that Ultra Magnus figure yesterday.  Perhaps I’ll review just one more.  Okay, I’ll be up front with you: that’s a bald-faced lie.  I’m not just reviewing one more Ultra Magnus.  This is low-key gonna be a Magnus week. Okay, that was another lie; it’s not gonna be low-key.  It’s just a Magnus week.  Deal.  I don’t have time for your complaining now.  What I do have time for, however, is another Ultra Magnus review.  Let’s get on that, huh?  For today’s focus, we jump ahead from 2001 to 2007, just before the release of the first live-action Transformers movie.  Ah, a simpler time.  The movie was pushed back from 2006 to the summer of 2007, so Hasbro opted to fill this gap in the schedule with some G1-inspired re-imaginings, dubbed Classics.  It’s not a huge line, and was driven at least in part by use of repaints.  Hey, Ultra Magnus can be a repaint!

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Ultra Magnus was originally packed alongside Skywarp in the Target-exclusive “Battle for Autobot City”, a 2007 addition to the Transformers: Classics line.  In an effort to keep with the whole “just doing repaints” thing they were going for to expand the line, Hasbro opted to neglect Magnus’s distinctive fully armored look, in favor of just recreating the inner bot what looked like an all white Optimus from the original release.  I suppose that’s fair.  In his robot mode, he stands about 6 inches tall and has 20 workable points of articulation.  Unsurprisingly, his sculpt is a complete re-use of the Classics Voyager Class Optimus Prime figure.  As far as Optimus sculpts go, this one certainly is one.  Okay, fine, I’ll actually go into more detail, I suppose.  This sculpt is a pretty good example of exactly what the Classics aim was, updating the classic G1 toy into something that felt more modern in the era of 2006, and definitely serves as the precursor to the likes of the War For Cybertron trilogy.  It doesn’t strive so much for animation accuracy as later versions would, opting for actually updating the character’s design somewhat, while still keeping all of those touch stone elements.  It’s an updated Optimus design that’s not just lifted from other media, and that’s honestly pretty cool.  For the most part, it’s a pretty decent sculpt, but it does suffer from some rather awkward kibble, especially when it comes to the forearms.  Effectively, the sides of the cab from the truck mode are just one flat piece, so they just have to hand there on the sides, and they never really look all that natural.  It’s definitely the figure’s main flaw in robot mode.  Magnus, of course, changes up the color scheme, going for his usual predominately while look.  It does stray a little further than usual from his vintage equivalent, swapping out the white lower legs for blue, and giving him black hands.  I think the lower legs thing was probably an attempt to give him more of Magnus’s usual color scheme, since they weren’t able to do a whole proper Magnus.  Like the Optimus figure, Magnus included two gun pieces, which are also part of his transformation.

Said transformation has him turning into a more modernized (at least, circa 2006, anyway) style of truck cab.  It definitely feels more like an Optimus alt-mode than a Magnus one, but I guess most Magnus alt-modes are an Optimus alt-mode first and a Magnus alt-mode second.  It’s not a half bad design on it’s own, and it’s aided by the guns turning into his smoke stacks and the top of the truck respectively.  The top of the cab does have a little trouble staying secured, but otherwise the transformation process works pretty well, and it’s not overly complicated.  Even more of the blue is evident in the truck mode, and I actually think it works pretty well for the design.  In general, the vehicle mode does seem more cohesive than the robot mode, so I’ll give it the win there.

THE UNOFFICIAL TOTALLY NON-SANCTIONED ADD-ON ITSELF

Transformers has a rather intensive and expansive third party market of all sorts of items to improve your official figures, or even outright new figures to accent your official figures.  Or outright new figures to accent your other non-official figures, depending on how you go.  In 2007, it was in a far more primitive, much less intense state, but Magnus played a rather sizable part in changing that.  Classically, both Magnus and Optimus are trucks with a trailer of some sort, but for the purposes of Classics, neither of them got the trailer.  For Optimus, he’s still the core bot, but for Magnus, that missing trailer means he lacks the robot mode that most people actually associate with the character.  Enter Fansproject’s TFX-01: the City Commander.  Right out of the box, it’s in trailer mode, measuring about 7 inches in length.  It’s not really patterned on Magnus’s car carrier mode quite so much, relying a bit more on Prime’s usual trailer, again keeping the vehicle more tied to Prime than Magnus.  That said, it does mesh pretty well with the cab of the truck, and they even managed to get the four extra wheels on the back end to match up pretty closely to the ones on the figure proper.  The color scheme again sticks with a lot more blue than G1 Magnus in this mode, but I like it, and it continues the visual theme that Hasbro started nicely.

Of course, the main appeal of this set wasn’t so much giving Magnus a trailer, as much as it was giving Magnus that fully formed, armored appearance that we all know and love.  The transformation process from trailer to armor is a rather involved set-up (I definitely made good use of the comic book-style instructions included), with a lot of partsforming and moving pieces.  Ultimately, it’s not terribly far removed from the likes of the War For Cybertron Magnuses and how their respective armor up features work.  You disassemble the trailer, reconfigure the smaller pieces, and clip them onto the Classics figure.  The resulting armored up Magnus now stands about 8 1/2 inches tall, and is a big ol’ chunk of plastic, just like he should be.  The armor’s definitely boxier and blocker than other Magnuses, taking things a slightly more divergent direction from the G1 toy than later official Hasbro pieces.  You can very definitely feel the era of this item’s release creeping into the design, but I can really dig what they were going for, at it fits pretty seamlessly with the other Classics style figures.  The head goes a bit more robotic for Magnus, which is different, but still not a bad look, definitely in keeping with that diverging from the G1 figure the other direction.  He also at least slightly addresses the issue with the cab doors on the forearms, mostly by just making the forearms much larger in general, and thereby giving the doors somewhere to more properly sit.  Rather amusingly, that portion’s really the only bit of the underlying robot you can still really see.  The colors do a good job recalling the original Magnus, while also being a really good match for the colors used on the Classics figure, which is certainly a plus.  While the original piece didn’t actually have any sort of official logos or anything, mine did get at least the one repro label Autobot insignia, making him feel a little more official.  After you’ve got the whole armor set-up placed on the figure, you’re left with a chunk of the core trailer parts, which, again in keeping with the era of this release, can be folded up into an absurdly large gun/cannon thing.  It’s so goofy, but I love it.  There also were a few add-ons to this add-on, which is where mine got the shoulder mounted rockets, as well as the more G1-inspired rifle piece, both of which are pretty fantastic in their own right.  There also exists a slightly more G1-based alternate head, but I don’t actually have that one.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

My love for Magnus is predominately linked to his full armored appearances, since that’s what I actually think of when I think of the character.  With that in mind, I’ve been largely steering away from the “just a white Optimus” Magnuses as I’ve been tracking down older ones, and that meant Classics wasn’t high on my list.  I knew of the City Commander add-on kit’s existence, of course, but it’s not the most easily found thing, and even the Classics Magnus isn’t exactly growing on trees, so getting them both seemed like a bit of a long shot.  Boy, am I one for long shots, apparently.  Last summer, Max gave me a heads up on a sizable Transformers collection that was coming into All Time, and said Classics Magnus was in there.  I was about to pass, but then he followed it up with “and they also have the add-on set with the armor.”  And that’s when he got me.  Kinda hard to say no to getting the whole package all at once, isn’t it?  As my first real venture into the whole third party thing, I will say this was certainly a fun piece, and is a nice sort of precursor to the sorts of things that Hasbro would begin doing in-house.  I do really like him, quite a bit.

#2725: Hydron

HYDRON

MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS (MATTEL)

“Hydron is a space sea commander from the domed undersea city of Orca, situated not far from Titus, a small island in the Guardian Sea on Primus. He was ordered by Darius to locate the legendary twin warriors prophesized to defeat the Horde Empire. Arriving on Eternia shortly after Skeletor’s victory at the Second Ultimate Battleground, Hydron and his Lieutenant Icarius recruited not only He-Man and She-Ra, but several of the members of the Masters of the Universe who were eager to pursue Skeletor. Preferring the Triton Spear Gun, his weapon of choice is suitable for intergalactic as well as undersea fighting.”

After a bio that in depth, is there really much more I can do with an intro?  I guess so.  It’s been a little bit since I’ve looked at any Masters of the Universe figures, and there’s a whole new iteration of the franchise running.  So, am I looking at one of those?  No, don’t be silly.  Why would I do that?  Instead, I’m digging into a portion of the franchise I’m so overly familiar with: New Adventures of He-Man…Yeah, familiar…that’s the word I’m going with…that mean’s “barely a passing connection,” right?  Though I’ve never had much in the way of direct interaction with this version of the franchise, I do know the tiniest bit about it, and one of the things I do kind of know is Hydron, the guy what the the bio above talked about.  I hear he’s pretty cool.  He looks pretty cool at least.  Is he pretty cool, though?  Let’s find out.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Hydron was added to Mattel’s Masters of the Universe Classics line during their 2014 sub year, as the March figure for that year.  As with all of the New Adventures-inspired figures from the line, he takes the original design for the character and sort of homogenizes it with Classics‘ heavier vintage stylings.  The figure stands 7 inches tall and he has 23 points of articulation.  Like most of the line, Hydron was built on the standard core male body, with all its pluses and minuses.  It didn’t on its face suit the New Adventures guys quite as well, but they were pretty far into the line when they started doing them, so it’s hard to say there wasn’t some precedent.  It certainly made Hydron far bulkier than he had previously been, especially in conjunction with the new parts.  Said new parts are a brand-new head, forearms, right thigh, lower legs, and waist, as well as a new add-on for the chest armor.  The majority of the bulking up is being done by the chest armor piece, which comprises the whole torso cover/helmet/rebreather set-up.  By making the cover a separate overlay, they add a lot of bulk to the mid section of the figure, and ultimately robs him of his mid-torso articulation.  It was an attempt by Mattel to unilaterally handled the torso designs for the line, but it ultimately hurts this guy, who would have more benefited from a more specifically sculpted torso piece.  It’s still got some cool detailing, of course, so it’s not a total loss, but I feel it could be a touch better on the implementation front.  On the plus side, the figure’s other new parts are all pretty fun, with the star piece being the head beneath the domed helmet.  It depicts Hyrdron with his scuba cap and rebreather device, giving him a really nifty retro sci-fi appearance which I really dig.  Hydron’s colors are a bit different from the norm for Masters, with a lot of light blue and green.  It’s an eye-catching look to say the least, and certainly a rather nice change of pace.  The paint work on this guy was fairly basic but generally fairly good.  The only slightly off part about it is the slight shift in color between the main body and the torso overlay piece.  It’s not major, but it’s there.  Hydron was packed the Triton Spear Gun mentioned in his bio, which is an awkward weapon to say the least.  I think mine’s probably holding it wrong, but I like it better this way, so I’m sticking with it.  MOTUC were never heavy on extras, so Hydron’s fairly average, but after getting the extra un-helmeted head with Flipshot back with his release, it was a shame that Hydron didn’t get more of an unmasked appearance as well.

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

Even with no attachment to the NA version of the franchise, Hydron’s always been a design that I enjoyed.  Back when these figures were still coming out, Hydron was honestly on my list of figures I wanted, but Mattel’s mismanagement of the line left me rather burned out on the whole thing, and I just gave up.  As such, I didn’t Hydron when he was new, and I probably wouldn’t have gotten him at all, but then he came in with the same collection that got me the BAT and Blake, and I was kind of a weak mark.  Plus, I had Tuskador, and he just looked so lonely.  Ultimately, this guy’s got his flaws, but he’s still pretty fun, and I’m glad to have finally added him to my collection.

#2157: Faker

FAKER

MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE CLASSICS (MATTEL)

Originally built by Man-At-Arms to cover for He-Man when Prince Adam is needed, Faker was abandoned in the royal junkyard after his first mission and salvaged by the evil warrior Tri-Klops. At the request of Skeletor, Faker was reprogrammed to replace He-Man and convince the people of Eternia that He-Man had betrayed King Randor and turned evil.”

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so I guess someone should be flattered by the existence of Faker.  Maybe it could be He-Man, whom Faker is based upon, or maybe it could be Bizarro, whose schtick Faker totally stole.  Of course, it’s not like “evil-clone of the main hero” is a wholly unique concept, having made its way into all sorts of super hero fiction over the years.  It’s even more sensible in the world of toys where it’s quite the suitable excuse to do a recolor of a prexisting mold, which is exactly where Faker really hits his stride.   Additionally, Faker continually falls into that odd niche of characters who are nothing more than cheap repaints, who still for some reason have a ton of fan demand.  I guess we’re an easily amused lot.

THE FIGURE ITSELF

Faker was an early offering from the Master of the Universe Classics line, available as an NYCC-exclusive in 2009, and then briefly on Matty Collector a month later.  As with the vast majority of the line, he’s designed to closely emulate Faker’s vintage toy.  The figure stands 7 inches tall and he has 23 points of articulation.  This Faker figure follows the tried and true construction of all Faker figures.  He’s the line’s standard He-Man body with Skeletor’s armor atop it.  It’s not anything revolutionary, but it’s not like you can say it’s not true to the character.  The base body for MotUC wasn’t a bad one, but I have to admit I was never a huge fan of the standard He-Man head.  By extension, I’m not a huge fan of this figure’s head.  It’s not awful, but something about it just never seemed quite as imposing as prior takes on the character.  He just looks a bit slack-jawed.  Faker’s main selling point is, of course, his paint.  He’s got that distinctive orange and blue combo, which is…well, it’s certainly something.  The paintwork on the figure is actually pretty solid.  At this point in the line, Mattel was still splurging for things like accenting, which shows most nicely on his boots, loincloth, and armor piece.  The nature of the details on the bracers and belt are actually quite striking, especially when compared to the same details on the He-Man figure.  He also keeps the robotic detailing on the torso, which is not quite hiding under his armor, just like on his vintage figure.  Faker was packed with his version of the Power Sword, as well as his half of the split sword, which is the same as the standard, but with the back half missing.  It’s a slightly light pack-out, given that He-Man got a shield and axe as well, but hey, it’s Mattel, right?

THE ME HALF OF THE EQUATION

I’ve always liked Faker as a concept, but the price points on his figures have always been too high for me.  For whatever reason, the price on this particular figure dropped to a reasonable range for a hot minute back in 2012, and my parents managed to get me one as a birthday present in that time.  My relationship with MotUC was always something of a love-hate one, and Faker fits right into that.  There are nice aspects of this figure, and there are annoying aspects of this figure, which is kind of the classic Mattel bit, isn’t it?