Enough With G1 Already!
This column is a reprint from Unwinnable Monthly #123. If you like what you see, grab the magazine for less than ten dollars, or subscribe and get all future magazines for half price.
Here’s the Thing is where Rob dumps his random thoughts and strong opinions on all manner of nerdy subjects – from videogames and movies to board games and toys.
Just about every long-running series of just about anything has a tendency to cater to early fans by revisiting favorite characters or settings or whatever you want to call it, and Transformers as a franchise is definitely no exception. In fact, the series has developed a kind of notoriety for going back to square one quite often with a whole lot of toy releases meant to homage the original G1 cartoon and movie. Here’s the thing: collectors, new fans and everybody in between absolutely do not need a dozen options for physical G1 representation. Give it a goddamn rest.
I’m far from an expert or even a reliable theorist but I imagine part of the reason Hasbro and Takara keep defaulting to designs that homage G1 and mostly the same staple of G1 characters is because they’re the most bankable. The average person walking into a store that sells toys isn’t going to know Snapdragon from Overkill, but there’s a good chance they’ll recognize Megatron, Optimus Prime or Bumblebee. And thanks to the live-action films there are two fairly different aesthetics that Transformers fans may be familiar with or prefer, so they’ve effectively got two different groups to try and cater to in order to make money. With this in mind, I can understand the desire to stick to what’s . . . “guaranteed” is too strong a word but I guess “more likely” to turn a profit.
With that said though, things have been getting stale for a long-ass time. Hell, the first live-action movie is over a decade old already, so it makes sense that people might be getting burned out on seeing the same characters getting the same types of figures over and over again. There are so many G1-inspired Optimus Primes on the market already and Hasbro is planning on releasing yet another one next year in the new Earth Rise line. Granted it’s sort of a brick-and-mortar retail simplification of the stellar MP-10 Masterpiece Prime, sold at a much more affordable price point, but we just got a G1-styled Prime this year in Siege. It’s ridiculous.
With that said though, things have been getting stale for a long-ass time
As I said, I understand the desire to stick to what sells, but this is over-saturation on an absurd scale. Every now and then a character that hasn’t gotten a figure in over a decade will unexpectedly have one and it usually sells extremely well – until they repurpose the mold 7+ times in under 12 months, anyway. Do more of that! Releasing plastic representations of figures that haven’t received figures since the 80s, 90s or early 00s won’t just make longtime fans and collectors happy, it’ll help with all that self-inflicted burnout. No, piddly little “in name only” throwaway accessory figures that only share a name with a lesser-known (or at least lesser manufactured) character don’t count.
There are so many sources to pull from, too. Beast Wars; Generation 2; Cybertron; Armada; Beast Machines; Prime; Japan-only shows like Victory or Zone or Beast Wars Neo. IDW freaking comics. A lot of classic and fan-favorite characters appear in these series, usually with a much different look that would be a huge breath of fresh air after the barrage of the same stuff over and over again that’s been happening for decades. I mean they have been producing figures like this but it’s been a trickle at best. Generations Springer is a great IDW-inspired figure. Siege Apeface is the first time he’s gotten a proper official toy since the 80s. The knowledge and technology is definitely there, so use it!
I know something like a Masterpiece Transformers Prime Arcee would be a huge financial gamble, but it couldn’t be that difficult to sprinkle a few more under-appreciated and underrepresented characters into the mix of a regular retail line. Hoist and Grapple, for example, are promising additions to Earth Rise. Freaking Skylinx was in Combiner Wars for fuck’s sake. We don’t need a fourth Masterpiece G1 Optimus Prime (there are seriously three options that exist now). It can be done and has been done. It just needs to be done more. A lot more.
Rob Rich is a guy who’s loved video games since the ’80s, and has had the good fortune of being able to write about them. The same goes for other nerdy stuff from Anime to Godzilla, and from Power Rangers toys to Transformers. He gave up on Twitter, because Twitter is garbage, but you can still find him on Instagram and Mastodon.