The Ultimate Tribute To The Ultimate Boom Box
He was big, he was orange, and he liked to boogey oogie woogie. Blaster probably isn't anyone's favorite Autobot, but he certainly made an impact. Of course, this impact is sorta limited to him being the only Autobot who could play old Poison tapes, but at least he wasn't just 'another one of those cars'. Blaster broke the mold through his unique blend of comic stylings and hip hop, and today, he gets his just dues. Sit back, relax, and take a trip with me back through my childhood with Blaster: what he meant to me, what he meant for us, and how his rockin' robot wit helped shape the overall acceptance of Cybertronian fan geekiness to a whole new level. Today we pay tribute to Blaster: the Autobot Ghetto Master.
You might be asking yourself why I chose Blaster for a tribute. Why not, say, Optimus Prime? Or Starscream, who had twice the panache and a devoted fan following that'd make Jesus Christ himself jealous. Or why not pick one of the lesser-known cool guys, like Dirge? You know, Deception seeker jet? The one who's head was shaped like a big red dick? No? Well, truth is, I had a ton of great Blaster pics saved on my hard drive and I didn't want to A) let them go to waste, or B) spend two hours looking for pictures of Cyclonus, because it'd add an extra 100KB or so to my HD and I wouldn't have enough space left to download an MP3 of Shoprite's Can-Can jingle later tonight. Blaster takes the honor on a technicality, but it's not like he doesn't deserve it. He adds a splash of color to the Transformers scene. I hear that he was something of a rebel character in the comics. Well, of course he's a rebel - 95% of the Autobots may as well be walking around carrying little pennants with Prime's head on them, screaming their undying drone-like obedience and overall tell-me-what-to-do-or-I-won't-be-in-this-episode outlook on life. I mean, even if Blaster did just follow orders like every other good little Autobot, at least he'd throw in a one-liner comparing Prime's fabled mouthpiece to the ultimate guard against bad breath first. Plus, how could he not be rebellious when he's virtually the only guy on the team who can't compete in the annual Autobot picnic race, instead delegated to sitting at the finish line, waiting to play triumphant music for whomever crosses it first.
Most every Transfan's first exposure to Blaster came by way of TF: The Movie, where Blaster had the unenviable task of running the satellite tower on the only day in history where Decepticon lazer bullets caused any damage. From the getgo, we knew this was a different breed of Autobot - one that made the kind of jokes we could laugh at. He wasn't the first Bot to make a funny, but usually the only people who laughed at those other jokes were Spike and that kid in the wheelchair, and they were just being polite out of graciousness that nobody had, to that point, stepped on and crushed their faces. I don't know if this was Blaster's true first toon appearance or not, but it's where I saw him first, so that's all that counts for me. I remember sitting in the theater, watching Blaster somehow maintain a smile when all his friends are having holes blown through their chestplates, turning to my best friend, and asking the question that was on every kid's mind in 1986: "does that silver thing on his head mean he's 'sposed to be bald?"
Now even though Blaster was in a tower that was attached to a satellite dish the size of Utah, he couldn't help himself from trying to contact Prime by way of his own radio powers. So he transforms into this boom box that defies the laws of space and time by being ten times smaller than Blaster is as a robot, but makes up for it by being pretty cute - then he starts trying to contact Prime. The Decepticons have enough new Autobots they've never seen before to kill, so they don't want any of the 'old guard' tromping on in. Logically, the best match to handle Blaster would be his Decepticon match, another cassette player and my second favorite Transformers of all time, Soundwave.
Megatron's right hand doesn't tackle the deed himself, though. Instead, he shoots four copies of Paula Abdul's Spellbound out of his chest, and they magically transform into tiny Decepticons, ready to take apart naughty Autobot snitches. Immediately, the cassette bots attack Perceptor, making them heroes in the eyes of many. Perceptor was the Autobot scientist, the guy who sounded like your 7th grade chemistry textbook, if your textbook had the ability to morph into a telescope. Either way he was pretty annoying and watching Rumble smack him around is worth buying the DVD alone. It's also pretty amazing how the size of Soundwave's cassette bots change depending on their mood. In some scenes, Rumble is half as tall as Megatron, but here he's roughly the same height as Perceptor's head. So either Perceptor was the size of a building, or Rumble utilizes rare pixie dust that lets him change shape to suit whatever situation he's in.
Of course, later in the movie, every Decepticon out there piles into the hull of Astrotrain, a robot who was previously seen not much taller than a Constructicon. Oh well. 'Subspace,' I know the deal. It all makes perfect sense when you read the various Transformers physics FAQs available when you're in your twenties, but when I was eight, I was mighty confused by it. Anyway, Blaster isn't about to let another Autobot get ripped to shreds, even if it is an Autobot without soul. So he does what you've all been waiting for - unleashes his own cassette bots, this time of the forces-of-good variety!
Blaster's cassettes consist of two robots who look identical, a rhino, and a lion. They manage to fend off Soundwave's lackeys without much trouble, but before Blaster has a chance to brag about his little buddies, half of Autobot City explodes. It's very possible that they have really defined and profound personalities in some TF cannon, but I've yet to see it. So, we'll just make up some traits for them in this, their first formal introduction to X-E readers:
Steeljaw: (Lion Cassette) It's not that he's very intelligent for a lion, it's that he's really just a smart robot who happens to look like a lion. Steeljaw likes the taste of sheep carrion, which brings him into conflict with his Autobot superiors, who argue that robots cannot, nay should not eat meat. Steeljaw generally replies to such refutes with ill-timed growls and electronic flatulence until someone with enough authority orders Blaster to 'put him away.'
Eject: (Robot Cassette) Blaster's 'first son,' Eject has something of a paternal instinct over the other Autobot tapes, mostly because if he didn't, he'd have no identifying characteristics whatsoever. For a time, Eject told confidants that his full name was actually 'Edward Ject,' but most believe this to be more spin doctoring on the little guy's part to make himself feel like he's not totally worthless. His favorite color is light blue, which ironically is the color he was born into. He uses much of his free time to learn how to say 'light blue' in foreign languages, leaving us with his famed battle cry: 'beware my awesome azzura robotnicahhh!' Because no self-respecting Autobot would choose this guy for a battle squad, Eject's had enough time to learn how to say 'light blue' in forty-thousand languages.
Ramhorn: (Rhino Cassette) Ramhorn's claim to fame? Transformers Yahtzee. This guy's an animal when it comes to rolling letter dice. He's actually not modeled after a Rhino -- Blaster has no control over what pops out of his chest, it's sort of like how people have ugly babies and are forced to love them all the same. So, this little mutant pops out of the guy's chest with this big red projectile coming out of his face, and Wheeljack proclaims that 'it must be a rhino!' so Blaster wouldn't feel embarrassed. It's for this very reason that nowadays, whenever he's about to give birth to a new tape, Blaster take a private vacation to a private island and does the private deed in a private cave. If he doesn't like what pops out, he shoots it and returns to Cybertron with the latest of his infamous 'Damn! Another stillborn!' tales.
Rewind: Because he looks so much like Eject but doesn't have the added umpf that comes with being Blaster's first tape, Eject makes good use of 'wacky outfits' to stand out amongst his much bigger, much more successful Autobot comrades. Fashioning himself after the gay cook who appeared on the pilot episode of The Golden Girls, Rewind usually marches into battle wearing comical Hawaiian shirts, waving a spaghetti strainer. It's a pretty effective method - most of the Decepticons are too busy trying to shoot the little guy out of frustration that they don't notice the other Autobots who actually pose a threat. Rewind's also the official Autobot stenographer during in-house trials to settle differences without the use of guns or the silent treatment.
Blaster's toy was something else. I never managed to pick it up as a kid - I only got it a few years ago during my collector days. Still, I remember it quite well. My childhood best friend, the same one who came with me to see the movie, was my usual partner-in-crime during Transformers playtime. His older brother, on the other hand, was our mortal enemy who'd ruin our adventures at every twist and turn. This was the reason we usually played at my house...my older brothers were much older, and weren't interested in our toys. At his house, we'd have to deal with this kid who was twice the size of us running in the room, trashing our toys, beating us up, and sticking his fingers in the lemonade their mom was famous for. His name was Ronald, and our only defense to his vast evils was calling him 'Ronald Duck,' a then-cute play on the Disney character. Such behavior generally got us beat up twice as hard.
And this was the kid who got Blaster. He rubbed it in our faces until we cried, and when we finally did cry, he'd break one of his toys and tell his mother that we did it. It was this constant cycle of Ronald being intuitively evil and us just wanted to play with our toys in peace, and it's probably the reason both me and my old best friend both dropped out of college twice. We couldn't go on in the world with all this past pain still fresh on our minds. Anyway, Ronald, the devil, proud of his new Blaster toy, insisted that we let him play with us. After much talk and some punching, we let him. So it was me and my friend versus him in an all-out Transformers battle that makes the Cybertronian Wars seem like a wedding rehearsal. Our pride was on the line here.
So, we started battling - a process that simply involved crashing our figures into each other until one of us got bored or worried enough about the safety of our toys to call the other one the victor. I wasn't going to be denied on this day, though. I didn't care if I had to break every single action figure I owned, I was going to win. Ronald only used Blaster, confident that this hot new giant Autobot would be enough to overcome our onslaught of worn-out toys. For awhile, it was. Blaster made short work of most of my figures, mostly because the only ones I felt safe bringing there were half-broken anyway. I seem to recall an armless Trap-Jaw being the surrogate leader of my toy team whenever I was there. So we're battling, he's gloating, I'm not giving up, brows are becoming sweaty, air is becoming thin, the crowd is becoming silenced, and then...it happened.
I broke Ronald's Blaster.
His response was, shall we say, apocalyptic. Tears swelling up in his monstrous face, he runs through the toy room, breaking everything in sight. My friend's Voltron? Gone. My inexplicable collection of three Peter Venkman figures? Legless. He was like a tornado - a very selective tornado - running ransack over everything we held sacred. Then, when there was nothing left for this diabolical dynamo to kill, he looked toward us, grabbed a wiffle ball bat, and attacked with the perversion and insanity of a guy who just found out that his father kept a huge collection of Mrs. Roper pics stashed in an old oil can in the garage.
After this, he finally broke down and started weeping like a little girl. He didn't really look like a little girl, but my friend and I commented that he did whenever this particular incident came up. Their mother blamed us for the entire ordeal, took him to the toy store, and bought him a new Blaster and some of the cassette bots for it. We were completely disgusted. Here this monster was, ruining our toy fun and our general health, and he gets rewarded? I learned an important lesson that day. When you're a kid, it doesn't make a difference if you're good or bad...it doesn't make a difference if you get an 'A' in school or murder the Pope. If you can manage to pull tears, you're going to get a toy out of it.
Not like the toy wasn't cool, though. I was always impressed that the Blaster figure dwarfed Optimus Prime. It made me associate Blaster with being the most powerful Autobot out there that didn't transform into a city. Most kids lived under the false notion that if you tried really hard to push the button on Blaster, the toy tapes would play something. We didn't realize that the lack of batteries meant that this wouldn't happen, but I think we were just flying blind with hope at this point. From my estimation, 85% of all Blaster figures broke as a direct result of kids pushing the buttons, which didn't move, down way too hard. It's not like when you get older and know that when something won't do something, you should probably stop trying to make it do it. When you're a kid, you live under the universal belief that anything you have will do anything you want as long as you put your entire body weight into your hand movements. That's why kid toys aren't made from glass, or why we weren't allowed to play with maces.
The ad spot features Rumble carrying Blaster in his radio-form right into the Decepticon HQ, much to Soundwave's chagrin. Amazing that with all those high-tech fiberoptics, Rumble didn't notice the blazing Autobot symbol. This was one of the only bot-to-bot battles between the two boom box Transformers - it's a pity that they held it off for the commercials, where the animation sucked and the only real climax was some kid's eyes turning green as the Hasbro logo got hammered onto the screen.
Despite that, Blaster was an important Autobot. He was good for the team. If they didn't have a boom box, how else could Prime listen in to the weather reports to see if Megatron was trying to kidnap the weathermen? Plus, he was orange, and hence one of the few Autobot who camouflaged well during those frequent battles in abandoned pumpkin patches. Tonight we pay tribute to a great robot - one who brought me a lot of joy and a really bad beating in my lifetime. Perhaps all of you out there have your own Blaster memories? No? Think harder. We've all got 'em. They're like mortal sins.
To cap things off, I'd like to present to you a trip way, way back into the past - Blaster's audition for the part of, well, Blaster:
Exec Nadine: Okay Blaster, here's the scoop. Hasbro wants us to add a new Autobot - but they want him to have a lot of pizzazz. Can you do pizzazz?
Blaster: Pfft - can I do pizzazz? Check this out. Yo yo those Decepticon creeps betta freak before I sleep cuz when I when I when I wake up - their future be pretty bleak...SON!
Exec Nadine: That's fantastic! There's just one more thing....
Exec Nadine: You're gonna have to work out. Add a little muscle. You have to be able to fit robots approximately this size into your chest.
Blaster: Say what?! Hey man, no 'fense or nuttin, but this bot works alone.
Exec Nadine: Look, if you want the part, this is what you gotta do. Don't worry about these little robots showing you up - we made sure that the Autobot tapes had no discernible personalities whatsoever. You've got two weeks to get big enough for them.
Blaster: Okay, okay fine. Just don't rush me. After all, this is a work of love. It's just like Diana Ross says. 'You can't hurry love...no you'll just have to wait!'
Exec Nadine: Wait a second - I always thought the line went like this: 'You can't regard love, no you'll just be my mate!'
Blaster: No sucka, it went the way I said it. You can trust me, I'm a radio.
Exec Nadine: Can't trees feel love...Can't harm me love....shit. How did that song go?
E.T.: I think it went: 'You Kiekergard love, now you just have two days!'
Exec Nadine: That's not how it went, you idiot. Who are you to be guessing lyrics, anyway? You don't even know how to ask to use the phone without spending three minutes of screen time.
E.T.: Please. I know who you really are. You're General Nadine - World's Most Boring Star Wars Character Ever. Sorry to rain on your parade, but you're not fooling anyone here.
Exec Nadine: That's just my cousin, I swear!
E.T.: It's Kiekergard love, Nadine.
Nadine: Can't regard love, fool! Can't regard!
Blaster: Aw shit man. This job better come with a dental plan.