Continuing on with the best toys series, it's time to tackle the Transformers. I've been dreading this. Picking the best was no easy task. As a small number of you know, I spent three years in the urban trenches known as toy dealing for a living, and in that time, virtually every Transformers toy has come and gone out of this house at least three times over. Despite the sentimental attachment one gets to cool little transforming robots, eventually it became clear that I needed to have room to walk in here, so most of 'em are gone.
Course, it was a stupid profession for me to choose to begin with. Coke addicts shouldn't try to deal drugs, and people who have a harder time giving up Transformers toys than kicking smoking shouldn't try selling them for a living.
Anyway, to be true to tradition, I'm going to disregard the ones that've come in and out of here in recent years, and pick the best ones from the figures I had as a kid. My fellow geeks' choices will probably differ, but hey, we didn't all have the same toys.
Here we go...
Soundwave: I couldn't possibly do this without listing this guy first and foremost. Soundwave was always my fave on the cartoon. I'm not sure why, but it probably had something to do with the faceplate. While all the other Decepticons put on faces of mass disgust and shock over Megatron's often-silly plans, Soundwave just did the job. Either that, or you couldn't see him making pissy faces under the plate. Plus, he's always be breaking out this weird gear nobody had previously seen. Megatron would be laboring over how to annoy the Autobots' sound circuits, and next thing you knew, all these red sonic waves were flying out of Soundwave's chest.
If that's not enough for you, he transforms into a boom box. A boom box! And he never once complains about it. Imagine - all your friends are turning into killer guns, seeker jets, and merging into giant robots, while you get the shaft and turn into a cassette player. Not awe-inspiring, but Soundwave made it cool. Plus, he has all these cassettes that turned into some of the best little Decepticons out there, and when you throw in the fact that he talked like a guy with a really bad case of the flu, Soundwave is #1!
Cyclonus: I must have a thing for the erotically loyal bad guys, because Cyclonus is a very close second to Soundwave. Essentially, he led the Decepticons in the post-movie episodes while Galvatron threw rocks into a lava pit. Yep, that's what Galvatron did. Apparently we weren't the only ones who realized fucking with Megatron's perfection was an awful idea.
Anyway, I'm not exactly sure why I like Cyclonus so much. Actually, I am, but I'm trying to think of something less derivative than saying 'he looks really cool'. Aside from the fact that the toy was gorgeous in both robot and jet form, if you held it from the canopy, it served as a surrogate tomahawk. Seriously, what other toy gave you the dual option of playing Transformers or Cowboys & Indians? The toy actually wasn't easy to come by, though I really don't know why. After all, it was in direct competition with Kup. Kup! This only serves as one more testament to how cool Cyclonus truly was. Thumbs up, energon cubes filled or some shit.
Rodimus Prime: I remember taking Rodimus Prime on vacations with my family as a kid. I also remember being a few years too old to get away with that successfully, acting as a catalyst for an endless future of self-inflicted social suicide. Still, a cool toy. Rodimus might be blasted by Transfans for his somewhat less-than-magnificent leadership of the Autobots, but he did have a few things going for him:
* At one point, he was voiced by Judd Nelson. All you have to do is picture all of Judd's lines in The Breakfast Club spoken to Kup instead of XXXXXX, and you'll have countless hours of fun.
* Rodimus used to stand at the late Prime's gravesite/monument and complain about how he was such a shitty leader. He used to do this all the time. Rodimus suffered from the very human epidemic of thinking dead people want to hear about our problems. The only reason Prime became alive again is because he couldn't stand listening to Rodimus' shit anymore.
* Rodimus Prime has a knack for running away. Literally. Yes, occassionally, the Autobot leader would abandon the Matrix and take off, citing dreams of irresponsibility and vaudeville acts.
The toy, however, was pretty neat. And that's all I have to say about that.
Bruticus: For those who either are unfamilar or who have forgotten, some groups of Transformers could merge to become bigger, more powerful robots. In this case, the Decepticon Combaticons transformed into legs and arms and became Bruticus. You know how a snowflake's really pretty till you touch it? Same deal with Bruticus. He looks extremely cool, but if you tried playing with him, he'd fall into pieces faster than a five-year-old at an N'Sync concert.
It wouldn't be so bad if Bruticus wasn't supposed to be the supreme military commando of the Decepticon ranks. If all your Huffer figure had to do was move an arm in Brut's general vicinity to make him fall apart, it kinda defeats the purpose. But we'll overlook all that, since he's prettier than Devastator or Predaking anyday.
Metroplex: If you've read my Greatest Toy Acquisitions article a long while back, you'd know that I rank ol' Metroplex in my top 5 toys of all time. Reason? He's a robot...he's a city...he's everything you want him to be! I still remember getting him for my birthday, crystal clear...think it was 1986. Remember how when you were a kid and got a really great toy, you'd just sit there staring at the box in awe for five minutes before opening it? I was ridiculously anal with Metroplex. I didn't want to touch the fucking thing. It was like a guy who just bought a brand new Ferrari. I sat there and stared at it for weeks, dusting it, polishing it, carving statues out of soap in it's honor...till that fateful day where I decide to bring it over a friend's to play...and it breaks in half. Glorious. Still, if there ever was a single action figure that could keep little hands or giant monkey paws occupied for hours on end, Metroplex was it.
Gnaw: Gnaw the Sharkticon probably doesn't seem like a natural choice, but I always really dug the toy for some reason. I really like sharks, and I really like Decepticons. If they only could've somehow incorporated soda into this figure, I'd carry one around with me at all times.
Plus, it's face reminds me of that frog ice cream with the gumball eyes that all the ice cream trucks used to sell. So as you can see, in Gnaw's case, there's truly more than meets the eye. And Gnaw's also the only fat Transformer in history. Unless you count Wheeljack. But he was really just kinda blocky. What Gnaw lacks in posability, he makes up in originality!
Grimlock: Under the Christmas tree one year was a gift addressed to me and signed by Optimus Prime. Ha, my brother was pretty cool. Grimlock was every kid's favorite...everything he said seemed funny, he was a dinosaur, and he used the word 'butt' a lot. This was a child's dream Transformer.
Here's a tidbit for ya: in certain comic continuities, Grimlock actually led the Autobots! So when Grim asked Kup to tell him a war story in the midst of a heated battle, Kup actually had to do it. Dinobots rule.
Ravage: Ravage was one of Soundwave's cassettes. I'm pretty sure I stole this one from a friend, since I really can't remember ever getting it as a gift or on one of those trips where my patented sad face worked on my parents. The great thing about Ravage is that he was small enough to take anywhere. You could easily smuggle him pass the 'no toys' sign at the local movie theatre.
I really hope I was too young to understand the concept of toys, but I distinctly recall living under the false notion that the cassette version of Ravage could play music when you put him into Soundwave. Toys really fuck with your head. I spent weeks trying to figure out what I was doing wrong. Not since the month I spent trying to get Boba Fett's rocket to fire was I left with such frustrated dissapointment.
So those are my top eight. It's funny when I reflect on my childhood...little did I know that I'd end up with about 2000 times the toys by the time I hit 19. If I could meet the kid version of myself, he'd kick my ass for selling them. If I wasn't so afraid of getting punched, I'd kick my ass myself.
Bonus: Here's another Transformers game for ya. It's a variation on the old Pinball Quest game for the Nintendo - has everything from a Generation 2 to a Beast Wars stage...even a Transformers RPG adventure where you have to save Rodimus' brain from Megatron!
Emulation enthusiasts can download the game by clicking here.