With the end of the IDW Transformers: Prime - Beast Hunters comic series upon us, Seibertron.com has decided to sit down and talk to one of its creative team members, and in some ways, the face of it all: read on below for a full exclusive interview with cover, storyboard, videogame and concept artist Ken Christiansen!
Va'al - Ken, thanks for agreeing to do this. We've featured some of your work before on Seibertron.com, it's about time we got to meet the mind and man behind the artwork! Before we get into the nitty-gritty of your work with Transformers though, I need to ask: where did it all begin for you? How did you first encounter our favourite transforming robots?
KC - Well, thanks for having me! I really appreciate it when you guys post anything about my work, I've been a follower of the site for years.
The show was everything. It was the first episode which sucked me right in - I don't even remember the first figure I had, but I know it was the show that put me all in. I was 10 years old at the time of the launch, and I had slowed down on Star Wars, and was really into GI Joe toys and comics, with He-Man in the mix as well. But Transformers really took over, and knocked even the mighty Joes back a step.
Va'al - Ah, you're one of those! I admit, I like knowing that the current creators all started as fans, brings a lot more to the experience. I was going to ask which figure was your first, but you pre-empted me - so how about this: which was your favourite character or episode from the animated series?
KC - G1 Soundwave, is...and always will be...my favorite character. And he is an early toy I do remember getting, on a Christmas morning. Of course I loved his voice, and how he was Megatron's dependable commander, but the fact he had Transformers INSIDE of him really captured my imagination. And I really liked that, unlike a lot of the figures, he matched up pretty well to the box art, and animation model. I was a stickler for that kind of thing, even back then. Also, I always thought it was cool how he used Laserbeak and Ravage on the show, so they've become synonymous with any vision of Soundwave I have, I always want to try to figure out a way to include them in a figure pose, or a drawing/design I'm working on. (I figure Rumble and Frenzy can take care of themselves!)
Va'al - I think a lot of fans have a soft spot for Soundwave; he is terribly charismatic after all. You've mentioned your gateway, the toys and what it was that drew you in - but what about the artistic side? Did you read the comics as a kid, or did you start drawing based on box art and cartoons?
KC - I'll admit that I didn't really enjoy the comics, even though I still have the first 60 or so issues to this day - but yes, I did really enjoy the artwork. I loved the show and the toys, but I was always just lukewarm on the comics. That being said, I did probably draw most artistic inspiration from the comics, I remember drawing that cover corner Marvel Optimus Prime a lot. A lot. Another favorite image from those books was the reveal of Predaking, standing in a jungle. I drew that one a lot as well.
The box art images were another inspiration; I didn't have a massive collection by any means, but I did collect the trading cards, so even if I didn't have the toy and/or filecard, I did have nearly every character image from the cards. We had a project in the 4th or 5th Grade, where we wrote a story, and bound it into a book. Mine, of course, was about Autobots fighting Decepticons, carried into battle by the rocket of Omega Supreme. I designed characters back then too, usually military type vehicles, or cars that friends and family drove. I still have that little book, but I'm sure all those other drawings are long gone.
Va'al - That's some great, early KC art there. Must be worth a fortune by now! So if the comics didn't get to you as much back then, what brought you to their world later on? But I suppose, before we get to that, my question is: How did you start working for the franchise in general?
KC - I had been working freelance for about a year after leaving Disney Interactive, and I had just wrapped a series of projects for Activision in late 2005. One of the producers I had been working with asked "Hey, are you into Transformers at all?" I had heard, as did many other fans, that it was being shopped around as a movie, but I didn't know was finally happening, and Activision wanted to go after the franchise. The projects I had just finished were to lock down the Dreamworks games license for the next five or so movies, showing game play, etc. and this was going to be the same thing. Lots of storyboards and game play examples. But it just kept going and going, and it turned into character designs, and in-game production art - I was around for a lot of it, from the very beginning to helping out with marketing images.
The Transformers were a huge part of my childhood, and though I hadn't really followed the franchise overall since then, I did already have the 20th Anniversary MP Optimus Prime, and the Alternator Grimlock Mustang proudly displayed in my studio. Getting the chance to work on the franchise as a professional, really kind of blew my mind. And midway through the production, Hasbro said they were going to make some figures out of my designs... I kind of freaked out.
Va'al - That must be quite the phonecall/email! I've spotted some of the designs that made it into figures on your website - do you have any particular favourites? Which part of working with the new, movieverse, Transformers aesthetics did you enjoy the most?
KC - I was pretty honored that Hasbro/Paramount used the red car drone (AKA Swindle) in the press kits for the film. Of the drones, I think Payload (Armored Truck) and Long Arm (Tow Truck) are my favorites. Long Arm was originally to be an homage to Hoist, colored green and yellow, but was later changed to be the tow truck paint job from the film. I was glad to see the mold reused as a Hoist figure. All of those designs were done based on rough concepts I had seen at the production offices in early 2006. Not until late summer, a bit after I had wrapped on the drone characters, did I start to see marketing images and final movie models start showing up, and that's when I was tasked to do the Shockwave designs. So, that's why he's a little more in line with the film aesthetic - he's not a generic, energon created drone, he was meant to be a Cybertronian, and look more like the movie bots.
While I agreed with the design philosophy from the first movie, I thought that the bots should have shown a little more alt mode elements, so you can really see the connection between forms. With Shockwave I tried to bring it back a little bit to that, with clear iconic character details, and visible alt mode elements. And that's the design philosophy I took into my next Transformers project, the Revenge of the Fallen game.
Va'al - Those are good designs! And that Shockwave looks intriguing, but it looks like DotM Skyhammer took his mode later down the line. How did you find working with videogames, compared to the work you're currently doing on comic covers? And how did that transition happen?
KC - Maybe. To me, the transformation logic is totally different., around the canopy and fuselage. But I did work a bit on the alt mode of the Skyhammer toy, and was given direction to use a Russian Hind for inspiration, but I didn't work on the robot mode. I did three copter drawings, and when the toy came out, it looked like the designers used elements of all three.
I'm not a gamer, but when I'm into a game I like, I kind of get obsessed with it. I thought Luxoflux did a fantastic job with the gameplay of the Revenge game - especially given the short production time, notorious with movie tie-in games - and was really excited to see how they would build on the engine. Sadly, none of that was meant to be. It was the first time I felt that someone captured the essence of a Transformer, being both things at once. I know some people had issues with holding down the trigger, but I much preferred that, to the 'sit and wait to transform' style of other games. My entire career to that point was in the game industry. But after doing the games for so long, I was looking to expand out a little, I wanted to see if I could work directly with IDW and Hasbro.
I took the designs of Megatron, Optimus, and Starscream, from the DLC content of the Revenge game, and did full illustrations of them in comic cover format. I included Bumblebee, Jazz, and Soundwave designs, and pitched myself to Andy Schmidt at IDW, and for a meet up with Aaron Archer at BotCon 2009.
For IDW, Andy had me do the cover to the much-loved, revered, and indisputably go-to source of information, the Transformers: Continuum. Yikes, that one was a bit of a mess, I guess. I never kept up on the IDW relationship, maybe both sides needed that sting to heal a little. And I just got too busy following that meeting with Aaron to come back to the books. Years later, I met John Barber at BotCon 2012, and that's how I got involved with the Rage of the Dinobots and Beast Hunters covers.
Va'al - Ah, the IDW Aligned comics! As an artist who had worked on the movieverse and videogame aesthetics - though WfC and FoC are also part of the new continuity - how did you find adjusting to the sleeker, more rounded style of the two series? And how much were you involved in the series themselves?
KC - Well, doing a wide range of shape styles for what was then called 'tv show' was that first assignment I had from Archer at Hasbro, in 2009, as they were putting the studio together, and hiring the actual production team. I would call myself a concept artist before anything else, so something like coming up with new character designs/versions is what I like to do best. And then about a year later, I worked on some product ideas for the Prime line. At that point, I was working with final character design models from the production's art department. And, every once and awhile I would do some product development, or I was asked to do some character ideas for HasLabs to use as conversation starters for meetings with the show runners. So before the comics, I had a lot of experience working with the shows' aesthetic. I never was a part of the production of the actual show, with Hasbro Studios, but through Hasbro, Inc., I got to play in that universe a bit.
The Cybertron games, on the other hand, I had no experience with the art style. So that was the learning curve for me. I was asked to 'update' the FoC dinobots into a Prime style, with a heavy lean on the FoC style...visually meaning they didn't 'evolve' as much as Team Prime, for example. So I just eliminated some minor details from the FoC versions, and did a 'wrap metal' pass, in the Prime style, at the main form elements of the bots. John Barber OK'd the sketch of Grimlock I did as an example, and I was off and running.
I had nothing to do with what was inside the books; in most cases, I don't think any of the scripts were even completely written at the time I needed to have the cover done, about three months in advance. I'm sure an overview and series arc were long completed though. Barber, then Carlos Guzman, would give me their idea on what was going on in the book, and what they'd like to see on the cover. I'd do some sketches and we'd go from there. I met Mairghread Scott for the first time at BotCon 2013, and we chatted about what was coming up in #7, we pulled Carlos into the conversation, and I did a sketch of it right there at my table. For number 8, Carlos and I chatted at SDCC, and he told me what he was looking for, and Mike Johnson, through email, pretty much said what he'd like to see on the cover. I did those last sketches for Carlos to approve, and that wrapped the series when I turned in the final.
It was a lot of fun to do those covers. I loved the Fall of Cybertron game, so it was a real treat to get to draw those characters, and get reconnected with IDW.
Va'al - I always enjoy hearing stories of how creators come to join the IDW team, they never seem to be the same! So you were working on the comics covers, but still had quite a bit of involvement in other aspects of the Transformers universe. I've seen some designs for characters that never made it on the show, too. What were you doing between the comics? How were you being kept busy?
KC - Relatively, I'm a newbie to comics, with only 13 IDW covers to date. Concept art is my main source of income, since graduating from art school in 1997. Happily, now at least half my workload comes from Hasbro, covering many different brands. Mainly in that first year, it started off with early re-imaginings of core Transformers characters, mixed with some work on Dark of the Moon ideas, and then going back to work on designs for the 13 Primes, and filling out the brand bible, which had used a lot of that earlier character design work, done by myself and other great artists.
After that, HasLabs expanded into a lot of other brands and concepts, that kept me really busy, MASK, Inhumanoids, Micronauts, to name a few. Some of those ideas were teased in that NYCC giveaway comic, Unit:E, if you remember it. And as other designers move to other brands within Hasbro, I've been able to 'travel' with them, and do lot of work on stuff like Star Wars, etc. Always though, I try to stay connected to the big bots, with doing some Hasbro Inc. commissioned work, movie/tv show stuff or product design for example, or licensed work with IDW, and other publishers.
Va'al - So what you're telling us is.. you're everywhere! And we know that some of your art features in the upcoming Covenant of Primus - the result of all the concept work for the Aligned continuity - due early December. Anything you can tell us about that?
KC - Now everyone finally can see it! After years of working with Hasbro off and on, I've only been able to release a grand total of 8 Transformers images. Including Prima, of the 13, which was published previously in the Transformers: Vault. I'm so excited to see the rest of the designs coming out, along with some new art I was asked to contribute, alongside some other great Transformers artists.
Binder of Revelation - Art by Emiliano Santalucia
After working six or so months with Hasbro, they booked me to do four of the 13 Primes. By then I had a pretty good feel of what Aaron Archer was looking for from me, and I had gotten pretty tight with Eric Siebenaler who acted as my art director on previous projects. I was also then introduced to Rik Alvarez, who had sent me a giant document to work from, that he was putting together. A compiled history from the comics and games, and new stuff he had written - basically the bones of the Aligned Continuity. So, under those guys, I went to work. 4 became 6, then 8, then Eric asked if I wanted to do all 13. Of course! But then Takara chimed in, and they wanted to do some images, and they took over the designs of Micronus and Alpha Trion. So I ended up doing 11...and a second version of one of them.
I had never really heard much about it since then, other than Aaron and Rik teased some images at a couple of BotCons, but I really thought they would remain in the vault, the Brand Bible. Last November, I got an email from Tyler Freidenrich from Becker&Mayer, asking if I could do some illustrations for what would be the Covenant. I jumped at the chance, and got to contribute 7 illustrations, a new character design for Unicron, and the cover. And that's about all I can tell you about it. I know what I did, but I've only seen the same trailer for it as everyone else. I was asked to upload every Hasbro image I did related to the Aligned Continuity, beyond just the Primes, but I don't what, if anything more, was included in the book.
So, I'm just as excited as any other fan to see what's in there!
Va'al - I can assure you, a lot of us are really, really excited for this book. I'm not sure what else could hype it up more.. do you have any ideas?
KC - That's great to hear! Hmm...how about a contest for a free copy of the book? On my Facebook page, the Art of Ken Christiansen, I'll be running a 'Like Drive' contest. Participants enter their names into a drawing by making a comment in the page's Cover Photo comments section, saying they shared the page to at least five people. That Cover Photo, (containing all the contest info) signaling the beginning of the contest, will be posted on Monday, November 25th, at 9 AM PST, and ending Sunday, December 8th at midnight PST.
Monday, December 9th, (the day before the book is released) I'll draw the winning name, and announce it by 9 AM PST. That winner will receive a free copy of the Covenant of Primus... AND, I'll insert a custom black and white rendered portrait, of any character of their choosing.
Va'al - Hear that, readers? Head over to Ken's page for a chance to win what looks to be an amazing piece of Transformers lore. Ken, thanks again for agreeing to do this interview with us, we're looking forward to more of your amazing work soon! Any last words?
KC - Thank you - I can't tell you how much I appreciate it!
I do have a couple more things to add. I also put together a new website, kenchristiansen.com, which replaces to old site, badflip.com. Finally I have galleries collecting all the Transformers (and more!) work that I've done, in one easy to find place, rather than have to search through months and years of blog posts on the old Bad Flip Blog. I will keep that blog online, but it will go inactive. The new site has a blog built in, so that's how I'll continue, along with the Facebook page, to make announcements, and post new artwork. And once it's ready, there will also be a online store, to purchase original art, make commission inquiries, and get leftover convention prints and sketchbooks. It's coming very soon, but right now the only way to get that stuff is through the Art of Ken Christiansen on Facebook, or contact me at email@example.com.
There you have it, readers - we hope you enjoyed our voyage into the Christiansen world! Join the competition today, follow Ken's work and keep your eyes tuned for more exclusive content, coming soon, to Seibertron.com.
Courtesy of TV Shows on DVD we have the official press release for the upcoming home format release of Transformers Prime: Predacons Risisng. The press release contradicts what we've previously heard regarding release dates, and states both will be released on October 8th. See the full press release below:
GET READY TO RUMBLE WITH THE
HIGHLY ANTICIPATED FEATURE-LENGTH
EPILOGUE TO THE SERIES PHENOMENON,
TRANSFORMERS PRIME, UNVEILING THIS FALL!
A Special Original CG Animated Action
Adventure Produced by Hasbro Studios
DELUXE Blu-ray+DVD COMBO PACK and
SPECIAL DVD ARRIVE IN STORES EVERYWHERE
OWN IT ON OCTOBER 8
FROM SHOUT! FACTORY
This Fall, the eagerly anticipated conclusion of Hasbro Studios' Emmy Award-winning series will finally unleash in a special TRANSFORMERS PRIME original feature presentation for home entertainment. On October 8, 2013, Shout! Factory, in collaboration with Hasbro Studios, invite kids, families and loyal fans to further venture into the awe-inspiring world of TRANSFORMERS PRIME when TRANSFORMERS PRIME BEAST HUNTERS - PREDACONS RISING debuts as a special original feature on Blu-ray+DVD combo pack and on DVD.
Brimming with spectacular CG animation, a captivating storyline and unforgettable characters from the TRANSFORMERS PRIME lore, this 90-min epilogue to the final season delivers entertaining cinematic adventure the whole family will enjoy. Wrapping up the series that chronicled the epic battle between the DECEPTICONS and the AUTOBOTS, the Blu-ray+DVD combo pack and DVD edition contain insightful bonus content, taking viewers behind-the-scenes. Available in stores everywhere, TRANSFORMERS PRIME BEAST HUNTERS - PREDACONS RISING is an essential home entertainment collection for TRANSFORMERS fans of all ages. The deluxe Blu-ray+DVD combo pack is priced to own with a suggested retail price of $24.97; and $16.97 for the DVD.
TRANSFORMERS PRIME BEAST HUNTERS - PREDACONS RISING Synopsis:
A resurrected UNICRON has taken over the now-lifeless body of MEGATRON to seek vengeance on the AUTOBOTS and ultimately, the destruction of Cybertron. This formidable enemy forces an unlikely alliance between the AUTOBOTS, DECEPTICONS, PREDAKING and two new PREDACONS, who come together in an epic battle to help protect their newly restored planet.
Special note: Bonus content for TRANSFORMERS PRIME BEAST HUNTERS - PREDACONS RISING is in development. As excitement builds for this release, Shout! Factory and Hasbro Studios will announce additional news and activities for fans in the upcoming months.
Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Josh Keaton, Jeffrey Combs, Kevin Michael Richardson, Steve Blum, Will Friedle and Sumalee Montano lend their voices to this hit series produced by Hasbro Studios. Spearheading the creative efforts on TRANSFORMERS PRIME are executive producers Jeff Kline, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Duane Capizzi and Stephen Davis. The TRANSFORMERS PRIME series is currently airing on the Hub TV Network in the U.S. and on Teletoon in Canada.
About Hasbro Studios
Hasbro Studios is the Los Angeles-based entertainment division of Hasbro, Inc. (NASDAQ: HAS). The studio is responsible for entertainment brand-driven storytelling for the company across television, film, commercial productions and short-form. It develops, produces and distributes TV shows based on Hasbro's world class brands, including TRANSFORMERS, MY LITTLE PONY, LITTLEST PET SHOP and FAMILY GAME NIGHT. Many of these shows air on Hub Network, a U.S. television network for kids and their families, that is a joint venture between Hasbro and Discovery Communications (NASDAQ: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK). Hasbro Studios shows can also be seen on networks in more than 170 countries globally. Since its formation in 2009, the studio has received seven Daytime Emmy wins and 16 nominations. On the film side, the studio is developing and producing a number of features based on Hasbro's brands, including TRANSFORMERS 4 (Paramount), STRETCH ARMSTRONG (Relativity Media) and CANDY LAND (Sony). The studio team also oversees the production of commercials that feature Hasbro's brands as well production of short-form content that can be seen on all of the major digital and social media platforms globally.
About Shout! Factory
Shout! Factory, LLC is a diversified multi-platform entertainment company devoted to producing, uncovering, preserving and revitalizing the very best of pop culture. Founders Richard Foos, Bob Emmer and Garson Foos have spent their entire careers sharing their music, television and film favorites with discerning consumers the world over. Shout! Factory's DVD and Blu-Ray offerings serve up feature films, classic and contemporary TV series, animation, live music and comedy specials in lavish packages crammed with extras. Shout's audio division boasts GRAMMY-nominated box sets, new releases from storied artists, lovingly assembled album reissues and indispensable "best of" compilations. In addition, Shout! Factory maintains a vast digital distribution network which delivers video and audio content to all the leading digital service providers in North America. Shout! Factory also owns and operates Timeless Media Group, Biograph Records, Majordomo Records, HighTone Records and Video Time Machine. These riches are the result of a creative acquisition mandate that has established the company as a hotbed of cultural preservation and commercial reinvention. Shout! Factory is based in Santa Monica, California. For more on Shout! Factory, visit shoutfactory.com
Nick and More has posted an official press release from the Hub details their 2013/14 programming line-up. Of note to Transformers fans will be the details regarding the "Predacons Rising" TV movie, which is described as a 90 minute epilogue to Transformers Prime Beast Hunters. We also get a small Transformers: Rescue Bots Season 2 update, it's debut is scheduled for sometime this winter. See the full press release below.
THE HUB NETWORK UNVEILS 2013-‘14 PROGRAM SLATE
WITH SIX NEW ADDITIONS TO JOIN NINE RETURNING ORIGINAL SERIES
Ashley Tisdale, Russell T Davies, Stan Lee and Christopher Pike
Make Their Debut on The Hub
Upcoming Hub Original Family Movies Include
An Epilogue for “Transformers Prime Beast Hunters”
And Stan Lee’s New Band of Superheroes Voiced by An All-Star Cast
LOS ANGELES – The Hub Network today announced a slate of new programming for the 2013-‘14 television season that includes four new series, two Hub Original Family Movies, and nine returning series. Set to debut starting this summer, the lineup continues the network’s strategy of building a schedule with programs based on well-known brands featuring popular and respected names in the entertainment space. The announcement was made today by Margaret Loesch, President and CEO of The Hub, the fastest growing children’s cable network.
“The Hub is in a tremendous growth stage with triple-digit ratings increases, a major bump in distribution, and quality programming that appeals to both children and their parents,” said Ms. Loesch. “This slate of new and returning programs will capitalize on and sustain that momentum as we head into next season and continue to exponentially grow our presence in the kids space.”
Two new live-action series are set to debut on the network including the new Hub Original Series “Spooksville” which is based on the popular tween book series from Christopher Pike. Additionally, the popular U.K. adventure-fantasy series “Wizards vs Aliens” from Executive Producer Russell T Davies (“Doctor. Who,” “Torchwood”) will make its U.S. debut this summer on The Hub.
The new programming lineup will also include two animated series: the new Hub Original Series, “Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch,” starring Ashley Tisdale (“High School Musical”) as the iconic teen character re-imagined for a new generation; and an acquired series called “SheZow,” which features 12-year-old Guy, a thrill-seeking dude trying to cultivate a macho image who inherits the superhero persona of his deceased aunt — the kick-butt, FEMALE superhero SheZow!
In addition, The Hub will have two animated Hub Original Family Movies, including “Stan Lee’s Mighty 7,” starring the legendary superhero creator himself, as well as an all-star lineup of voice actors; and “Transformers Prime Beast Hunters: Predacons Rising,” which wraps up the series’ final chapter revealing the fate of Cybertron.
A comprehensive list of The Hub’s 2013-’14 programming slate is as follows:
“Wizards vs Aliens” (Hub Acquired Series – Live Action)
Created by Russell T Davies and Phil Ford — the creative forces behind “Doctor Who” and “Torchwood” — the series follows the adventures of two 16-year-old school boys, Tom and Benny, who battle to save Earth from the Nekross, an alien race. While Tom lives a seemingly ordinary life with his dad and grandmother, he hides a deep secret: his family members are wizards. Following the tremendous success of season one in the UK, “Wizards vs Aliens” will make its American debut on The Hub. The series is produced by BBC Cymru Wales and FremantleMedia Kids & Family Entertainment.
“SheZow” (Hub Acquired Series – Animated)
Twelve-year-old Guy Hamdon is a natural cut-up who fancies himself an extreme dude with his own catch phrase, “It’s a GUY thing.” Guy lives the dream of every rough-and-tumble boy when he discovers an awesome power ring belonging to his deceased aunt, which transforms him into a mighty superhero SheZow! There’s just one tiny catch — the ring that gives Guy his amazing super powers was only meant to be worn by a girl and the result is absolutely she-larious! Guy must use his super powers to battle mega-villains while sporting an outrageous female superhero costume, which actually ends up helping him tremendously on his own personal journey toward becoming one heck of a super man. The series is produced by Moody Street Kids & Kickstart Productions Inc.
“Spooksville” (Hub Original Series – Live Action)
Based on the acclaimed book series by author Christopher Pike, the new kid in town discovers that he holds the key to a battle between good and evil that has been taking place for centuries in a bizarre small town that plays host to a wide array of supernatural and unexplained occurrences. The half-hour series is produced by Front Street Pictures and Springville Productions in association with Jane Startz Productions.
“Sabrina: Secrets of a Teenage Witch” (Hub Original Series – Animated)
The pop culture phenomenon SABRINA THE TEENAGE WITCH will return to television in the all-new original animated series with “High School Musical” star Ashley Tisdale, who lends her voice to the lead character of Sabrina. The series features the iconic teen character re-imagined for a new generation. The series is produced by Moonscoop; Archie Comic Publications, Inc.; DSK Group, India; Laughing Lion; and Telegael Teoranta.
“Transformers Prime Beast Hunters: Predacons Rising” (Hub Original Family Movie – Animated)
The eagerly anticipated conclusion of the CG animated Daytime Emmy® Award winning series will make its network television premiere as a Hub Original Family Movie. A 90-minute epilogue to the final season wraps up the series that chronicles the epic battle between the Decepticons and the Autobots in their mission to defend Earth and one day restore their home planet of Cybertron. The Hub Original Family Movie is produced by Hasbro Studios. The final season of “Transformers Prime Beast Hunters” begins on Friday, March 22, 7:30 p.m. ET.
“Stan Lee’s Mighty 7” (Hub Original Family Movie – Animated)
Stan Lee executive produces and stars in this Hub Original Family Movie as an animated version of himself, a legendary superhero creator teaching a crew of alien prisoners and their jailers, who have crash-landed on Earth, how to work together and use their powers to be superheroes. The series features brand new characters voiced by an all-star cast. The Hub Original Family Movie, which is produced by A2 Entertainment, Archie Comic Publications, Inc., and Stan Lee’s POW Entertainment, will serve as a springboard for a potential future television series.
Returning Hub Original Series/Specials with new episodes (in chronological order)
“The Aquabats! Super Show!” (Season two premiering this summer produced by BatMagic)
“Pound Puppies” (Season three premiering this summer produced by Hasbro Studios)
“Kaijudo: Rise of the Duel Masters” (Season two “Clash of the Duel Masters” premiering this summer produced by Hasbro Studios)
“Family Game Night” (Season four premiering this summer produced by Hasbro Studios and Zoo Productions)
“R.L. Stine’s The Haunting Hour: The Series” (Season four premiering this fall produced by Front Street Pictures in association with The Hatchery, LLC)
“My Little Pony Friendship is Magic” (Season four premiering this winter produced by Hasbro Studios)
“Littlest Pet Shop” (Season two premiering this winter produced by Hasbro Studios) “Transformers Rescue Bots” (Season two premiering this winter produced by Hasbro Studios)
“Secret Millionaires Club” (22 all-new specials produced by A Squared Entertainment to run monthly on The Hub)
About The Hub Network
THE HUB is a multi-platform joint venture between Discovery Communications (NASDAQ: DISCA, DISCB, DISCK) and Hasbro, Inc., (NASDAQ: HAS) with a goal of entertaining, enlightening, empowering and educating children and their families. The cable and satellite television network features original programming as well as content from Discovery’s library of award-winning children’s educational programming; from Hasbro’s rich portfolio of entertainment and educational properties built during the past 90 years; and from leading third-party producers worldwide. The Hub lineup includes animated and live-action series, as well as specials, game shows, and family-favorite movies. The network extends its content through a robust and engaging online presence at http://www.hubworld.com. The Hub rebranded from Discovery Kids on October 10, 2010, and is available in nearly 72 million U.S. households. The Hub logo and name are trademarks of Hub Television Networks, LLC. All rights reserved.
It was roughly 10 years ago that a series called Transformers Armada was released. Join Seibertron.com staff members Blurrz, Counterpunch and Razorclaw0000, as they journey back a decade. They celebrate Armada in all of its fashion, as the trio critique the successful toy line, domestically as well as internationally, and show their passion (or disdain) for each figure.
The calm before…
Blurrz: It’s hard for me to imagine that it was a decade ago when a cartoon captivated me like none other. While some find that this series was a grotesque shame on the Transformers brand, it shares a special place in my toy collecting heart for eternity. Transformers Armada entered into my life at the exact time - any younger and I’d really have no funds to tackle a competent collection, any older and I’d be trapped in the stigma of adolescent youth. I ask myself time and time again, if Armada had switched places with Energon or Robots In Disguise, wouldn’t I be as attached to it as with Armada? The answer is simply no, there’s this feel to Armada that I personally can’t fixate with in contrast to any other series.
Counterpunch: Oddly enough, I didn't much like Armada at first glance. I was buying RiD toys at the time. I jumped back into the hobby after several years of absence. RiD was where I expected the toys to be. Armada was...not exactly what I expected. I bought the toys way before I even watched the show. There were enough interesting molds going into wave two that my curiosity was piqued.
Razorclaw0000: I was working in a deli in the basement of my local Boscov's Department Store during my Junior year of college. I was just starting back into collecting, and had maybe a half-dozen figures, when I stumbled across Armada Starscream. There was something about the look, maybe the Anime-esque look, maybe the distinctive plane mode, and maybe the little Minicon that pushed all the right buttons.
Blurrz: When Armada hit, it was a bit of a frenzy and a rumble. I had to get the figures when they came out. When a new character came up open the screen, I just had to pick him up. That’s really no longer possible, as evidenced by Transformers Animated, whose character cast was too large to be put into a toyline, and Transformers Prime, in which their toys had a comparable delay time to any Blizzard product. There were relatively no store exclusives, and if there were, they wouldn’t be a show character. Despite how many antagonize the toys, one cannot question Armada’s unwavering availability and unlimited playability.
Counterpunch: Jetfire, Starscream, and Megatron were awesome enough that I began to wonder what the other figures were like. I ended up liking the line/concept/show before I even realized it. I began finding reasons to buy new and different figures. Even toys that were problems at the time, like Hot Shot and Sideswipe I found ways to justify purchasing, even if it was out of curiosity. I'm glad I did though, the figures were large and detailed. Though I couldn't put my finger on the issue at the time, in retrospect, what I really liked about these toys was how they reminded me of the late G1 figures that I grew up with.
Razorclaw0000: Blurrz brought up a great point. I vividly remember the releases of figures coinciding very closely with their on-screen appearances. It was so close, that I remember driving 20+ miles to pick up Side Swipe just to have him in time for that episode, that night. What a surprise that was...
Blurrz: The small guys were the stars of the cartoon show, and equally, the stars of the Armada toyline. Each bulk (bigger figure) came with a mini-con, and more importantly as we discuss, there was the release of the individual mini-con teams. 10 different teams, composed of 3, were released domestically alongside their variants.
For the Autobots and Decepticons in the Armadaverse, it was paramount that they control the three most powerful weapons, the Star Saber, the Skyboom Shield, and the Requiem Blaster. In toy form, that was the Air Defense Team, the Race Team and the Space Team, respectively, all capable of being wielded by any bulk with 5 mm peg hands. The Star Saber is combined from the parts of Jetstorm, Runway, and Sonar, all planes in some form or the other. While in fiction the Star Saber would be comparable to the Thor’s hammer, Mjolnir, the planes don’t flush well together in toy form. Still they are aesthetically pleasing with their whites, bold blues and translucent plastic. They were repainted into their evil variants, the Air Assault team. However grey plastic replaced clear plastic, leaving much to be desired.
The impenetrable Skyboom Shield was composed of Mirage, Downshift and Dirt Boss. Speedsters and a SUV, the cars were colored with whites, yellows and greys, and featured pleasant articulation. Structurally the team makes a rather large shield, and is imposing on the likes of Jetfire, Megatron and Hoist, while laughable in the hands of Hot Shot or Side Swipe. They were repainted in imposing red and black colors, however their predecessor has much better character.
Lastly we have the Requiem Blaster, or in team names, the Space Team. Payload, Sky Blast and Astroscope all have individual colors, and aren’t exactly a trio of mini-con’s you’d normally expect to combine. The colors are not exactly the problem either, as the combined gun form is oddly flimsy, especially if your Astroscope is loose. All in all, out of the power weapon mini-con teams in Armada, the original Star Saber – the Air Defense team is my favorite and the superior!
Counterpunch: The Land Military Team was the first set of Mini-cons I purchased. Bonecrusher, Knock-out, and Wreckage were all various forms of military style missile trucks. In many ways, they were the easiest for collectors to come to terms with as legitimate transformers. They look like the Micromasters of yesteryear and somehow avoid the goofiness other Mini-cons gained when attached to larger figures. You could almost view them as Targetmasters but they were actually decent figures in their own right both in robot mode and vehicle mode. I'd even recommend them today for someone looking at a place to start with Mini-cons. Honorable mentions go out to their uniform color scheme cousins in the Night Attack team, who in addition to having cool colors, have an awesome sinister name.
Then there's the unfortunate but somewhat necessary Street Action team. Ever wanted a bicycle Transformer, a skateboard Transformer? how about a moped Transformer? Me neither, but Highwire, Grindor, and Sureshock were core characters to the show. Now, Grindor is great. The others? Not so much... That being said, their ability to combine into Perceptor (in name only) was AWESOME. Perceptor, despite his limited articulation is legit. He's a cool concept and character I would not mind seeing a return of.
The Sea team is almost a continuation of the Street Speed team's advances in engineering. Waterlog, Oceanglide, and Stormcloud are all great little Transformers with solid transformations, great amounts of detail for Mini-cons, and useful joints. Their variety of colors across all releases will inevitably make it so that there is some version out there you like. Additionally, because of their missile launchers, they make for decent Targetmaster style figures just like the Land Military team did.
I keep talking about these pseudo Targetmasters but the Emergency team was the real deal. These were the guys everyone was waiting for, legitimate three-mode Mini-cons. Prowl, Firebot, and Makeshift were also interesting in that they were some of the few Mini-cons to make purposeful use of clear plastic. Even among those who hated Armada and Mini-cons, this team was almost universally loved for its versatility and ability to mix in with almost any line.
Razorclaw0000: The Air Military team is another Targetmaster homage, with each member transforming into some type of weapon, all the emphasis here is decidedly more melee. Thunderwing transforms from robot to SR-71 style stealth jet, to a three pronged claw weapon. Terradive is the second member of the team, transforming from robot, to "flying wing" stealth bomber, to a "ninja star" or shield. Interestingly Terradive's port is actually on a swivel, allowing him to spin freely when powerlinked to a bulk. Finally, Gunbarrel rounds out the team, transforming from robot to cargo plane to six barreled gattling gun.
The Street Speed team has the dubious distinction of being the most articulated Mini-con teams produced, as well as toying with several copyright and trademark violations. Backtrack is almost completely a Cadillac XLR in a rather unrealistic shade of green. Oval continues the trend of mimicking real vehicles by transforming into a Saleen S7 in a muddy orange color. Finally, Spiral takes a stab at ripping off the Germans, with a deep blue Mercedes C-Class alternate mode. While the articulation was impressive for the time, all three figures can suffer from loose, floppy joints, and may have difficulty not falling apart completely. This is a team that is either loved or hated.
Next, the Destruction Team makes up for limited articulation by packing in some interesting play features, particularly with Cyclonus. Each figure featured a center roller which would activate some action feature when rolling along, and there was a small gear and clip mechanism which allowed them to dock to the underside of Cyclonus. Spinning the rotors would trigger the gear and cause the action to occur. Dualor is the most straightforward, transforming into a dual-barrelled reciprocating tank. His gimmick works well and he's impressively bulky for a Mini-con. Next, Drill Bit transforms into a giant, well, drill. There are some small issues to his design, however, as the body of the drill is blocked by his legs, which transform into the wheels and bed of the vehicle. The drill does spin quite well. Lastly, Buzzsaw does not actually transform into a saw. Instead, the vehicle is technically a "Bucket Wheel Excavator", and his rotating bucket/blade works extremely well.
Finally, the Adventure Team uses the same gimmicks as the Destruction Team, but unfortunately suffers from having gimmicks that don't make as much sense docked to Cyclonus. Dune Runner starts off the set as a dune buggy with roof mounted machine gun. This feature works well both in rolling and attached to Cyclonus, in theory, but minor tolerance issues prevent the gun from turning smoothly. Iceberg is the next figure in the team, transforming into a snow plow tank with opening and closing plow jaws. Again, minor tolerance issues prevent this gimmick from triggering on Cyclonus, but the vehicle mode is a lot of fun. Finally, Ransack is a green jeep with a real working winch. Unfortunately, the winch aspect doesn't work very well at all with Cyclonus, as a few short turns will have the length of string fully retracted.
Out of all the Mini-con three packs, the Sea Team is probably still my favorite, particularly with Waterlog's elegant transformation and real knees.
Blurrz: With hindsight, the Armada super-con figures, or in modern terms - Deluxe class figures - aren’t exactly a breakthrough in Transformers toy technology. They aren’t going to hold much against the modern figures, such as the Classics or the Generations, but they have their own uniqueness to them. What they lacked in articulation due to their gimmick-based interactions with their mini-con partners, they made up in playability and overall ‘fun’.
Tackling the Autobot super-cons, we have the first wave release, Hot Shot. Hindered by the axle-bazooka system, Hot Shot still offers movement in the important areas, however he won’t be moving his head anytime soon. Being in the year 2012, we expect our Transformers to offer both great alternate modes, as well as robot modes. Hot Shot isn’t exactly endearing to that philosophy, but his mini-con partner Jolt interacts well with Hot Shot’s vehicle mode. Not the best figure on the Armada market and not one you’ll have a struggle with when trying to obtain it on the secondary market. Much like a handful of figures at the end of the Armada toyline, Hot Shot was repainted as Powerlink Hot Shot, homaging Generation Hot Rod. While this repaint doesn’t exactly increase the mold’s stock, it’s certainly a nice change for those who were tired of seeing yellow (get out of here Cheetor)
Armada Blurr also fits in to the same category as Hot Shot, as in he has a great vehicle mode, but his robot mode is still a few years behind. The Lamborghini-Ferrari-something can grow wings thanks to Red Bull and Blurr’s mini-con partner, Incinerator. In robot mode, the majority of his car bits are a massive backpack, and Blurr has limited arm movement and no knee joints. The colors are aesthetically pleasing, but alas, hindered by the mold’s interaction with Incinerator.
Next up to bat is what some claim to be the worst Transformer of all time. It’s funny that this figure also fits into the same category as Blurr and Hot Shot. Despite the lack of suitors for Armada Side Swipe (Not Sideswipe, please don't mix the two!), the young Autobot warrior features a rather sleek vehicle mode, and up to its release date in 2002, offered one of the most realistic alternate modes the Transformers fanbase had ever seen. Side Swipe even featured a fun and interactive powerlinking gimmick with his mini-con partner, Nightstick. However folding the car’s pieces and parts into robot mode yields a nightmare. Side Swipe has the chunkiest limbs, kibble, and clumsy articulation. The figure has a tendency to just not stay still. It surprises me that this figure has as many repaints as it does, and its character was even homaged in this year’s BotCon set. Well….. there are cults for worse things I suppose.
Smokescreen isn't a very popular toy, and I can’t wonder why. Yes, he does not exactly have the best articulation, and he’s a bit chunky, but isn't that what should be expected for the tough guy of the group? His gimmick is a large crane on his shoulder; it’s the saving grace and also the downfall of Smokescreen. Its size will likely topple the figure in robot mode unless you position it properly, but its interaction with the mini-con Liftor turns the crane into a massive sniper rifle! Smokescreen even has a working winch, which fits with the rescue vehicle theme. While Smokescreen is full of fun, his min-con Liftor is also worth a shot, the little guy is sturdy and is solid in both modes.
Next up is another underrated figure, Armada Hoist. Smokescreen’s character in Armada kicked the can, but he was then resurrected as Hoist. Hoist is a construction vehicle with a giant crane-claw, and his mini-con Refute is one of the tallest in the scale. Despite Hoist’s massive crane-claw, he has the best articulation of all of the deluxe figures, as he can actually bend his legs 90 degrees!
Rounding up the batch is Armada Optimus Prime. He’s got quite the hype as being a great figure, and yet I think it’s more because the bigger Optimus Prime had a lot of follies to it. To me, he’s not that great, but I get my panties in a bunch when it comes to scale and Armada figures. Optimus Prime, also known as Bendy Prime features good, all around articulation, and a fighter/gun mini-con partner in Over-Run. (No, not this Over-Run!) I’d recommend this figure, but you probably already have it, and if you don’t, there’s the Nemesis version which Razor will allude to. Out of the figures we have here, the best Armada Autobot Super-con would have to be Hoist. He’s all around dynamic and you’ll always love that sound when you hear his gear-joints bend! The mold is also worth it in his Cybertron Longrack remold or the rather lucrative BotCon Dinobot version.
Counterpunch: It seems that the Decepticon Supercons (deluxe figures) are up to me. These toys all feature an interesting if largely unnoticed design point: They are all asymetrical. It's not that obvious and it's not that big a deal but it's there. The idea was to show the Cons as being edgier in this manner. It kind of worked and if you examine the toys you'll pick up on the little cues that show it off.
The first wave of figures gave us Demolisher and Cyclonus. Now neither of these guys are going to go down in the annals of TF history as being marvels of engineering but they are interesting never the less.
Demolisher is perhaps the best Decepticon Supercon. His transformation is clean, he locks together, and while he doesn't have modern articulation, he still has a great number of useful joints. His...head doesn't rotate, so there's that. -_- To make up for it, Demolisher has perhaps the best integration of Mini-con to Bulk out of the entire line. His Mini-con Blackout is useful no matter what mode Demolisher is in and there is even a third mode to compliment all this. Demolisher even has a nifty and fully functioning gimmick to shoot Blackout across a table in vehicle mode.
To make this $10 marvel (yes, deluxes used to be huge and 30% less expensive) even better, he has several Macross-style bot configurations where his arms can fold up into artillery formations. It's a nice touch that really makes use of his missile firing gimmick.
Cyclonus is less awesome but perhaps equally interesting. He has the same articulation range as Demolisher and even as good a Mini-con integration but that's where the similarities end. Cyclonus seems to have been the starting point for an abandoned Mini-con gimmick that would pair geared Minicons up with Bulks who could implement those mechanics. (You can see on Hoist where this might have been implemented had it continued) So there are a whole host of Mini-cons who work only with Cyclonus. (Spoiler: They don't work well with him)
In vehicle mode, Cyclonus is kind of awesome. The helicopter is well done, the blades spin properly, and kids can hold it in a gun-style way for pretending he flies. All and all, a nice figure. His robot mode...not so much. His missile firing gimmick is hampered by the need for a Mini-con and he has what are in all honesty, stupid guns in his knees. Despite his joints, he is virtually impossible to pose in any meaningful way and his head looks like he's hiding in a turtle shell. So...yea. When people point at Armada with an accusatory finger, it's because of figures like this. You should still track one down though. He has a little gun that goes back and forth when his blades rotate and that...is very cool.
Thrust typifies all that was wrong with Armada. He has another, though this time criminally bad, abandoned mechanic. He has no real hands. He has a fake transformation. But...his vehicle mode is rather nice and his Mini-con is quite good actually. Thrust is even somewhat posable in robot mode if you can maneuver around his giant hanging cockpit.
I went there.
What happened with this figure is that he was essentially ruined by his gimmick. Though it is unobtrusive, all the engineering went towards its integration so several important things like...hands were factored out. Thrust is a loss and I would never recommend him to someone. But he's not a complete loss despite what I just said. The figure is very well detailed and the transformation is good if not a bit cheat-y. If you are completing an Armada cast, you could do worse than paying the $8 it would take to get this guy and have him standing majestically behind Galvatron with betrayal in his squid-eyes.
On the other hand, we have Wheeljack, who still holds up to today's standards in many ways. Wheeljack has simple and straightforward articulation and a simple but mechanically interesting transformation. He's large, detailed, and honestly quite well done. His Mini-con Wind Sheer is even pretty decent as Mini-cons go in design and shape.
Wheeljack turns into a slick black (or gray depending on your hemisphere) car. He has a M.A.S.K. style gimmick when you apply his Mini-con and God knows why we never got a red redeco of him. Some people might be turned away by his insignia, which shows off his faction change but I suspect more will be endeared by it. I only wish he had a larger and more pronounced Decepticon symbol.
For those who really like this figure, I suggest you track down the Japanese or Korean versions. The black and blue deco is easily nicer and more show accurate than the gray and yellow North American version.
Out of all these guys, I would recommend Demolisher. He's everything an Armada figure should be and I feel that he holds up very well after all these years, even if he has to turn his entire torso to look to the left. (but he can! He has a waist joint...)
Razorclaw0000: Lastly, we have Unicron's Agents from both the cartoon and comics. Sideways is one of the two Mini-Con Headmasters in the line, but actually features two different heads. A futuristic, if chunky, motorcycle, Sideways transformed into an oddly articulated "ninja", but lacks traditional fist holes, knees, a waist, and features some odd arm articulation. Despite that, Sideways has a special place in my heart. His Minicons, Rook and Crosswise also exhibit the ability to merge into a single, surprisingly articulated, robot rider for Sideways' bike mode. This, combined with the campy Headmaster gimmick, grant Sideways a pass, from being a forgettable mess, to maintaining a place, to this day, on my shelves. An odd variant exists, with the factions swapped between both Mini-cons.
Next, Nemesis Prime is a sinister redeco of the Super-con Optimus Prime mold, which Blurrz has so elegantly described. Hot off their successes with RID Scourge, Hasbro and Takara wished to cement the idea of a "Black Prime" as more than just hyper-exclusive repaints in Japan. A monstrous beast in the show, Nemesis Prime sported a strange dark gray, teal, and dusty brown color scheme, punctuated by intense red highlights. In a twist of a pun, his Minicon is slyly named "Run Over", a corruption of Super-con Prime's Over Run. Because of Nemesis Prime's show nature, and a rare case ratio, this figure still commands a comparatively high price on secondary market, easily outpacing other Super-cons by two to three times. Micron Legend Scourge at first glance appears to be similar to Nemesis Prime, but virtually every color has been replaced. The main body is different. The reds are different. The details are different. Scourge is virtually impossible to track down at this point, and frankly the domestic version is heading there as well.
The Super-con line was filled out by four Beast Wars redecos, featuring dead Minicon ports molded in key places. All four sport decos significantly different from their Beast Wars personas, with darker tones. Cheetor is paired with Cliffjumper, a redeco of Ransack. Rhinox is also paired with another Adventure Team redeco, Armorhide, from the Iceberg mold. Terrorsaur completes the Adventure Team pairings, joining Ironhide, a redeco of Dune Runner. Lastly, Airazor gets her partner Nightscream from the Street Speed Team, a redeco of Oval. While absent from the cartoon, these characters feature prominently in the defunct Dreamwave Armada and Energon comics, making them a must for any fan of those series.
Out of all the Super-cons, my favorite is probably Nemesis Prime, because he was from a time when the idea was still relatively fresh, and I have a soft spot for figures that have puns in their name. Run Over is a great little guy.
Blurrz: Max-cons, or in today’s terms – Voyager Class – were bold, big, and sometimes were just annoying all together. If you were max-con or bigger, it was likely that you’d have light and sounds.p RED ALERT RED ALERT RED ALERT WEEWOOWEEWOO
Armada Scavenger, a character who homages the Decepticon G1 Scavenger, was first acknowledged as a Decepticon in the cartoon, but then switched sides to the Autobots. Everyone wants to be Counterpunch, eh? Just because Scavenger is bigger, doesn’t mean he deviates from the Armada super-con formula. At the heart of the figure, there is just a giant brick. It makes for a great truck, as Scavenger has a solid alternate mode – his mini-con Rollbar, if in robot mode, fits right into the canopy of Scavenger acting as the truck driver. You also have rolling treads and a moving scooper. This doesn’t exactly yield the brightest robot mode, as Scavenger doesn’t exactly have what we’d call ‘legs’. Still, as an Armada figure, it went big on the gimmick factor and is still a fun figure to toy around with.
Next up we have Red Alert, taking the form of a rescue vehicle. The mode is rather bland until you perch the mini-con Longarm on to the back of Red Alert, and thus begins the electronics: RED ALERT RED ALERT WEE WOO WEE WOO. Transformed, Red Alert offers a bunch of fancy gadgets and moderate articulation. He has interchangeable hand weapons, a chest disc-launcher, a giant shoulder gun/handheld gun, and RED ALERT RED ALERT WEE WOO WEE WOO. The mold’s repaint is Powerlinx Red Alert, exchanging the medic red and white with vibrant blue and orange. Still, the same old RED ALERT WEE WOO WEE WOO. Out of these two, I’d have to give it to Mr. Wee Woo for actually having legs and the best……. or annoying electronics in the line.
Counterpunch: I can't believe I didn't get to write on Red Alert...
More Decepticons for me. Seekers. Starscream, other Starscream, and Skywarp. Yes, yes...the package for Thundercracker says Thundercracker but by the show it was Super Mode Starscream.
These guys are the same so I'm not going to split the discussion up too much. This mold is very G1-esq to me. It's big, bulky, and has limited or fake articulation. The legs have a full range of front to back movement but no side to side movement. All versions of this guy will be standing at attention. Likewise, his arms have several points of articulation, none of which help to show that Starscream is a master swordsman in Armada.
This mold is a brick, but that's ok.
Jet mode is interesting. It's large and well detailed. It's perhaps one of the best Cybertronian jet designs we've seen. Mini-con integration on this figure is well done with two distinct ways to actively engage it's workings.
The primary gimmick on this figure is the flip out Null Ray cannons. As far as gimmicks go, this one is quite screen accurate but also one of the drawbacks the mold suffers from. Where as on-screen, Starscream has a flat back, the toy is forced to have a large backpack to accommodate the cannons. Were there a simple hinge back there to fold the whole thing down further, the toy would have been near perfect.
Now, this Starscream is a swordsman. His blade is quite interestingly stored in his left wing. Removing the wing arms him and gives that asymmetrical look once again that was discussed before. Now, the show plays off the whole sword thing much better than the toy but the gimmick is quite clever and truly unique. I wish his articulation gave him a bit more use of the blade or that the handle was placed differently but this is a very fun alteration to Starscream's usual character portrayal.
Let's talk interesting toy history here. The US and Japanese versions have two distinct differences. The US versions have a slanted nosecone. It's pointed down in the way that some supersonic jets have an angled nosecone. This was ultimately a safety thing. The angle allows the nosecone to collapse if your kid brother charges at you with Starscream pointed straight out as to avoid impaling you. The Japanese (and Korean) versions are straight and more accurate to the show.
The other significant difference is in the paint details and masking. The US versions of Starscream and Thundercracker do a really ugly version of masking on the symbols to just plop purple on there. The Japanese versions are painted, detailed, and lined. The difference is staggering. Further, the US version of Starscream is gray and the Japanese version is white(ish). YMMV depending on what you're willing to pay. Oddly enough, Skywarp, who got a US release and a very limited Japanese release in US packaging has the properly done and painted symbols.
Out of the the three US versions of this, go for Skywarp. He has the best paint decos, a unique, different, and quality Mini-con, and an interesting head sculpt that makes him anyone you might want him to be. If we're talking the best version overall in my opinion, I would say that the Japanese Super Mode (Thundercracker) Starscream is the best. The colors and deco just shine and the toy looks brilliant.
Razorclaw0000: Did someone order a brick? Featuring almost G1 levels of articulation, Overload was the last original mold Voyager for the toyline. With only shoulder, hip, and head swivels, Overload still managed to be thoroughly impressive with his shoulder mounted missile batteries and giant fists ready to pummel any Decepticon into scrap. The toy’s articulation was scrapped to allow him to become a pair of giant shoulder mounted cannons for Superbase Prime. His third mode is a large launchpad/trailer, which can carry Jetfire and be towed behind Prime’s trailer, creating a massive convoy of Autobot might. Overload was also one of the first modern toys to include the iconic transformation noise we’ve all come to know, love, and subsequently despise as it’s included in dozens of figures over the years. Finally, Overload featured a unique interaction with his Mini-con, Rollout. Instead of having a typical transformation, with Rollout activating some feature, Rollout became the head and chest of Overload, unveiling a proportionate head and slotting into a giant cavity in the main body.
As with the Super-Cons, the Gigacon range also feature a Beast Wars remold and redeco, in the form of “Predacon”, a repaint and slight retool of the Transmetal Megatron mold, with added Powerlinx hard points. The figure features arguably the best deco of that mold, in rich greens, browns, and grays, with a dash of orange for visual pop. Predacon is also notable for coming with two Mini-cons, Side Burn and Skid-Z, which round out a full team of Street Speed redecos with Air Razor’s Nightscream partner.
Out of all the Max-Cons, the Starscream mold still has a soft spot for me, as it’s the figure I originally discovered in that dark Boscov’s basement and set me on the path to the raving lunatic completionist I am today.
Blurrz: Space shuttle Transformers are few and far between and yet for their lack of numbers, Armada Jetfire certainly makes up for it. Jetfire epitomizes the ‘White Knight’ character, as he gallants in with his wings, engines and massive blaster. His mini-con Comettor is specific as it acts as Jetfire’s landing gear in alternate mode. Combined with his shield and Comettor, Jetfire can roll out on the ground, as well as fly without it. Jetfire also has droppable missiles, but they are rather bland. Amidst transformation, you’ll find that Jetfire’s blaster/rifle has been blessed or cursed with electronics, a countdown sound, the G1-Autobot blaster sound, and if a mini-con is attached, a blaster sound. Now fully transformed, Jetfire has a bunch of nice hawk-like aesthetics, and is full of character. My personal favorite with Jetfire is his ability to yield all of the power weapons (Blaster, Saber, & Shield) at the same time, with two of the weapons in his hands and the last of the trio perched on his wings. Jetfire also has the ability to bolster the power of Optimus Prime by combining with him, but we’ll leave the question of ‘who wears the pants in the relationship’ for later on. Jetfire was repainted under the Powerlinx Banner into a combination of blue and grey, homaging Jetfire’s pre-Transformers origin (Macross/Robotech). Overall you can’t really go wrong with a Jetfire figure, whether it’s in Armada, Energon or Cybertron.
Counterpunch: I'm lucky in that I get to talk about my favorite Armada figure, Megatron.
Imagine Megatron taken to a samurai extreme. He'd be a ruthless killer, willing to do anything or step on anyone to get to his ends, and all of this would be bent around a form of honor that somehow, only he and his rival understand. That's Armada Megatron. Now, the cartoon version is a bit hammy but the comic version...now there is a villain.
I dream of a TF comic where Armada Megatron goes around to different multiverses killing off the Megatron in that world Highlander style. I digress.
Megatron actually has a good range of movement in his top half. He even has bicep swivels that most people don't know about due to how tight the joint is. His lower half is another thing entirely. He is essentially immobile below the waist. Now he can combine with Tidal Wave but...honestly, that's a mess.
His tank mode is perhaps the best H-tank this side of Generations Warpath. The transformation is clean and there's not really any kibble in either mode. He can hold, store, or capture Mini-cons in virtually any part of his alt mode. Additionally, there are two different ways to fire missiles out of this mode, both of which work well.
Robot mode has several gimmicks but coolest of all his his hidden shiv in his hand. Even if this Megatron is close to losing a fight, there's always a chance you'll get shanked. Megatron has perhaps the most useful Mini-con ports for attaching extra Mini-cons and not looking ridiculous. Spots on his arms and legs as well as his back allow him to hold 4-5 of the little guys and look perfectly balanced.
In looking at this mold, I would recommend Megatron over Galvatron. Megatron's color scheme is classic and well balanced. You can always pay a little bit extra and get the Japanese version for the improved faction symbols too. Galvatron in his US colors is a nice figure but it is still a white and lavender color palette and many people will not have a place for that outside of an Armada shelf. Of note, the Japanese version of Galvatron has a more accurate color scheme but that one is actually white and pink-ish purple. He's considerably more difficult to come by when compared to the US version of Galvatron.
Razorclaw0000:Tidal Wave rounds out the Giga-Cons, and has the dubious distinction of having even less meaningful articulation than Overload! However, don’t let this brickish brute fool you; Tidal Wave is an imposing addition to anyone’s collection. Comprised of three naval vessels – an aircraft carrier, a hovercraft, and a submarine-ish thing, Tidal Wave combines in a similar fashion to Beast Wars Neo Magamatron. Each vessel lacks an individual robot mode, but instead combines to create either a giant warship, or the robot mode of Tidal Wave. One of the tallest figures in the line, with the exception of Unicron, Tidal Wave can raise his arms, and that’s it. The legs are articulated, but only laterally, so if you’d like to have Tidal Wave doing the splits, you are set.
Tidal Wave also features the ability to combine with the Megatron mold, creating a set of overpowered arm gauntlets and a booster pack to compliment Megatron’s already absurd cannon mode. Paired with the smallest Mini-con, Ramjet, Tidal Wave is large enough to accommodate a fully functional elevator on the deck of the aircraft carrier to deploy Ramjet.
Tidal Wave also features a second, also dubious, distinction. He is the most different in deco from the Armada and Micron Legend releases. While the Armada version looks like a crayon factory accident, with olive green, gray, neon red, purple, gold, and dark gray, the Micron Legend deco simplifies to a lush purple, softer orange, and grays, unifying the decos between the three vessels, and building a beautiful palette of destruction.
If you like big, chunky, feature filled figures, Tidal Wave has should be on your purchase list. A word of caution, however… all the Armada and Micron Legend versions of this figure feature a design defect in the “armpits” that will fire the missiles accidentally and constantly. This flaw is fixed in the sublime Energon deco.
Garry Chalk Optimus Prime
Blurrz: By itself, the Optimus Prime figure is about the size of an Ultra figure, and I’m sort of lethargic and depraved to say anything good about it. The only thing that this version of Prime has on the deluxe version is his size and how it fits in with the rest of the scale for Armada. Out of all of the Armada figures, Optimus was hit the hardest when it comes to gimmicks, as they force him to not do anything else. Prime is one of the most static modern-day large Transformers. However when he takes the 1+ Mushroom, which Counterpunch is about to talk about, he gets a little better.
Counterpunch: Optimus has several versions of powered modes and in a way they became the symbol for any kind of Prime combiner mode. First off, Prime has the ability to combine with his trailer. What's really cool about this is the way in which you can have the trailer auto-transform for the merge. There is an infra-red light signal that cues the trailer to mechanically reconfigure for this mode. Prime then forms the upper half. Once combined, there's only limited arm movement and a head turn. It's more about stature and the fact that you can have the trailer reconfigure itself rather than making a bigger more posable prime. There's also a light gimmick that extends into his gun if positioned properly.
On top of this, you can attach Overload as a massive gun battery atop his shoulders. The instructions basically have you cram in on there but there is a series of latches that make it surprisingly secure. I have a hard time imagining who Prime needs this kind of firepower to go up against. Overload as a gun system looks like some kind of mass-murder machine...
Additionally or apart from Overload, Prime can combine with Jetfire who replaces the trailer and becomes a set of winged legs, presumably for flight mode. Don't be fooled, there is no added posability here but he does look damn cool with all of these units combined into one Supreme Optimus.
Razorclaw0000:Sparkplug is Prime’s Minicon, homaging both the G1 human by name, and very clearly Bumblebee by appearance, complete with the iconic horns on his tiny head. Transforming into a highly generalized Lamborghini, this mold remains one of my favorites today, with its clean lines and surprisingly complex transformation.
Blurrz: To this day, I still think of Unicron as a Transformers piece that is unrivaled. He’s menacing, loading with articulation, gimmicks and is a Transformers figure that everyone needs to own in one form or the other (Energon/2010/Amazon Exclusive). I remember getting Unicron for Christmas back in ’03, and it was a thrill to receive. I still remember the agony of having to hack him open from the jumble of twist-ties he was trapped in. He’s also got a really well engineered mini-con named Dead End, in which his mass appearance in the cartoon resulted in an increase in popularity and a penchant for Dead End to be army built.
Counterpunch: Actually during the time of writing this article, we're in the middle of packing for yet another move. I have my four Unicrons out, ready for packing and my wife comments on them, "I remember when you got that and how impressive it was. I never thought we'd see a Transformer that big again...and you have four of him now." She was right though, Unicron was a big deal when he came out. It's almost a "you had to be there" thing at this point. Funny thing for me is, I'm not sure we'll ever see a Transformer this big again considering how things are going.
Razorclaw0000: This guy was it for me. He cemented my love for the character and the awful chaos he represents. With the creation of this figure and the accompanying fiction across both the Unicron trilogy and the Universe 2003 line, my quest to collect all things Unicronian began. Years later that awful quest morphed into the disease of completionism, but Unicron was the dark seed that set me off.
The Legend of Micron
Blurrz: While Takara had their own toy line in with Beast Wars II and Neo, it was never until Armada, or in Japan – Micron Legend - that every Takara figure started to have their own differences in contrast to Hasbro figures. With two piles to pick from, Transformers collectors started to change their collecting habits. Takara’s Micron Legend focused more on show accuracy, and with that I have to say my favorite variant would have to be Blurr, or in Takara terms, Silverbolt. Silverbolt’s deco gives a new feel to the figure, as his yellow-stained windows are now red. Even his micron Incinerator, now called, Turbot, features a new deco. It’s just these little things that made Micron Legend deserve a second glance from me, and now I’m proud to own a majority of the Micron Legend figures.
Counterpunch: I've spoke a bit about this in my post but for me the most interesting difference between the Hasbro and Takara releases is Tidal Wave. It's a complete change in colors and really manages to give the big guy a color scheme that screams "death bringer". As a dark horse candidate, I'd mention Jetfire who's ML color swaps are simple but brilliant.
Razorclaw0000: As CP alluded to, Jetfire destroys his domestic counterpart by replacing the “heat scorched” white with the most crisp and pure white ever seen on a toy. The figure gleams in gorgeous brilliance. I’m also a fan of the “crystal” standard/deluxe Optimus Prime mold.
The I In Team
Blurrz: Blind packs, new decos, exclusives and the sort. Micron Legend went full force with their mini-con friends, and to this day I’m still trying to track down every mini-con that has been released by Takara. My counterparts are jerks. way ahead of me in that race, but I still have a fair share of little guys. Out of all of the Micron Legend variants, I have to say that my favorite would have to be X-Dimension Glide, whos blend of black, white, orange and chrome come together in a beautiful combination. Glide is a part of the X-Dimension Air Military team, and his teammates are gems as well! No don’t mind me as I start to cry myself to sleep as Counterpunch and Razorclaw0000 brag about their favorite micron.
Counterpunch: I will be forever grateful as a fan of Microns to JRFitzpatrick for setting me up with my Linkage Microns. I remember them when they came out but did not understand their relevance until later. The fiction tied into these guys and their simple but balanced color choices really work for me.
Honorable mentions go to Atlas and Rod who are wonderful vibrant redecos of Sparkplug.
Razorclaw0000: The AquaRaiderteam, a DVD repaint of the Sea Team, is stunning in rich dark bluish grays that compliment Nemesis Prime exceedingly well. Also, the X-DimensionDestructionteam gets a nod for the luxurious metallic orange and teal paints that would fit in with any modern United figure. Finally, the MicronBoosterEmergency Team repaint, in all of its “Minty Fresh” glory delight me, with emerald transparent plastics.
Blurrz: When Armada was done, I was taken aback by the fact that it was finished. I went on a Transformers hiatus and skipped Energon -> Cybertron -> Classics, and didn’t get back to the hobby until the 2007 Movie. The fact that there weren’t any mini-cons anymore was a big disappoint on my end. As long as I continue collecting Transformers, Armada/Micron Legend will be my favorite line, and I’ll cherish every little bit. The fact that lines like Power Core Combiners and Takara’s Arm Microns continue to carry the Armada banner thrills me beyond words. Armada begets a lot of distaste, but as I hope we’ve alluded to – there’s diamonds in the rough.
Counterpunch: I didn't like Armada at first but it was the line that got me to try and have everything in hand before making a solid judgement on a figure. I would come to love the large and simple designs as they were a straight call back to the G1 figures I grew up with. It's really the mark of my collection in a way because while I started back with RiD, it was Armada that got me to complete my first line. I still have one piece to grab though. Eventually I will find a Micron Legends Black Convoy to replace my US version. I may be holding out on finding him though so that I still have something fun to hunt for at Botcon. lol, I'm stupid. I know.
Razorclaw0000: I am a Mini-con and Micron collector, through and through, dedicated enough to even collect the minor variants between Armada and Micron Legend. With a count somewhere in the 500 area, I’m swimming in Microns, Scrooge McDuck style.
(Thanks to tfu.info and the lens of Counterpunch for additional images)
So, we leave the floor to you, the members of Seibertron.com. How does Transformers Armada resonate with you?
AGENT FOWLER is the government's reluctant liaison to the "talking scrap piles," as the surly Agent refers to them. Cantankerous, slightly slovenly, and borderline over-the-hill for a field agent, Fowler does not relish his assignment and constantly questions the AUTOBOTS' ability to handle the DECEPTICON threat to Earth (not to mention their judgment in allowing the Teens to be a part of it). He would prefer to handle the DECEPTICONS on his own terms and with the might of the military, but ultimately he knows the AUTOBOTS are humanity's best defense against the evil DECEPTICONS -- even if he'll never say so out loud.
Conditioned to battle and hardship by her years spent hunting rare creatures across the depths of space, AIRACHNID is a primed and powerful warrior. She has returned to the service of MEGATRON after her long absence determined to prove herself as a leader - no matter who she has to destroy to do it.
ARCEE is an accomplished, street smart and powerful fighter with little patience for those who don't know their way around a battlefield. Luckily, BUMBLEBEE is as skilled as any other warrior in the AUTOBOT army. Set loose on the streets of the big city with their human partners RAF and JACK, they're an unstoppable team in the defense of the planet.
BREAKDOWN is more than happy to take any mission MEGATRON assigns him - especially if it means a chance to take on BULKHEAD. The two big bruisers have had beef for a long time, but BREAKDOWN means for it to end on Earth, once and for all.
In spite of his massive strength, and the skill with which he uses it, BULKHEAD is not a born fighter. He prefers the simple things in life to the fury and confusion of battle. But he also knows that until the DECEPTICONS are defeated once and for all, simple peace will remain out of reach.
BUMBLEBEE is the AUTOBOT who's been on planet Earth the longest. So he knows humans best, which helps explains why he's so serious about looking after RAFAEL ESQUIVEL. 'Bee's' voicebox was damaged on CYBERTRON, so he 'talks' in bleeps and blurts. He may make mistakes, but he's always eager to please OPTIMUS PRIME.
Few AUTOBOTS are as fierce as CLIFFJUMPER. The DECEPTICONS long ago learned to fear the loudmouthed warrior for the incredible skill with which he wields his battle hammer.
"JACK" is 16, lives with his single mother and is still trying to find himself and fit in. He spends most afternoons working the drive-thru window at the local burger joint in order to save up money to buy his first motorcycle...that is, until ARCEE becomes his guardian AUTOBOT Suddenly, JACK gets a killer bike AND big sister all rolled into one. Though he might be a little reluctant about it, JACK often ends up assuming the leadership role amongst the Teens and ends up being the voice of reason, practicality and safety...just as long as he doesn't need to impress a girl, in which case all of that stuff goes right out the window.
Once his weapons are thoroughly tested and proven safe, KNOCK OUT keeps the best ones for himself. He boosts their power output, adds a few personal touches, and then takes them out into the field to see what sort of damage he can do.
With the power of DARK ENERGON coursing through his circuitry, MEGATRON gains a diabolical control over the reanimated wrecks of fallen robots. He exercises this new ability with complete ruthlessness, returning AUTOBOTS and DECEPTICONS alike to terrifying half life as relentless TERRORCONS.
A 15-year old female exchange student from Japan, though you wouldn't know it from talking with her since she's so fully absorbed American pop culture. MIKO is a free spirit who dresses in exuberant punk clothes, and doesn't care what people think or say about her eccentric appearance. It's only natural that the one with the interest in 'speed metal' would instantly bond with the AUTOBOT who's the most 'heavy metal': BULKHEAD. Miko is a thrill seeker and pretty fearless, though not always in a good way; she often gets the Teens into dangerous situations and improvises crazy solutions that only complicate matters. She's always well-meaning, though; and no matter what, she always has JACK'S and RAF'S backs.
OPTIMUS PRIME has seen MEGATRON use DARK ENERGON before, but never like this, and never with such total command of its abilities. He knows that he must put a stop to this evil before its corruption forever taints the Earth, and before its power overwhelms his small team of AUTOBOTS.
Hispanic high school freshman RAF is quiet, shy and often the most frightened by the dangerous situations presented by the Teens' involvement with the AUTOBOTS. All of that disappears the moment RAF spies any form of software-driven technology, when he becomes instantly engaged and enters "the zone." This comes in handy around AUTOBOT Central Command since RATCHET's knowledge of human technology is lacking. RAF'S savant-like prowess with computers might also be why he's the only human who unerringly understands his AUTOBOT partner, BUMBLEBEE - and often serves as his translator. RAF'S skills in front of a computer screen often end up saving both the humans AND the AUTOBOTS' hides.
ust because RATCHET chooses to avoid fighting doesn't mean he never learned how. His intimate knowledge of anatomy allows him to strike with surgical precision, making a fight against him a very painful losing proposition.
Buried for ages, sealed in a state of low function that was not quite stasis lock, SKYQUAKE waited for the day his lord MEGATRON might need him. He has the power to shake the very world to its foundation. The AUTOBOTS will learn to feel terror once again at the hands of SKYQUAKE.
SOUNDWAVE is absolutely devoted to MEGATRON. He uses his ability to intercept any electronic transmission to ensure the supremacy of his leader, and the eventual victory of the DECEPTICONS over the AUTOBOTS.
STARSCREAM hasn't survived this long simply by running away every time he might lose a fight. Every retreat is a calculated risk, designed to fulfill a greater purpose. It is often when his enemies believe they are winning that STARSCREAM turns and finishes them off.
Every VEHICON knows how likely he is to be dismantled - either by the AUTOBOTS, or by a DECEPTICON commander in need of spare parts. Danger is just part of life for them, and they welcome it. To a VEHICON, happiness is loyalty to MEGATRON and a warm blaster cannon.
Few DECEPTICONS have ever heard of WHEELJACK, but that's mostly because those that do learn about him don't survive long. He strikes from the shadows, with speed and overwhelming force, and then fades away into space.
Craze Base has posted some new stills from tomorrow's new episode of Transformers Prime, "Hard Knocks". Be sure to tune into the Hub tomorrow evening at 7:00 PM ET. Check out the images mirrored below.
This Friday, October 6th at 7:00PM EST, an episode of Transformers Prime will air called “Hard Knocks.” Transformers Prime, in case you don’t know, is the all-CGI animated series that airs on Hub (and is set in continuity with the Transformers: War for Cybertron and Transformers: Fall of Cybertron video games). Prime chronicles what happens when the Autobots and Decepticons travel through the Space Bridge to Earth, and continue their eons-long war here. The heroic Autobots of course seek to protect mankind, while the evil Decepticons do everything they can to take over the planet.
It’s a beautiful week full of TF art goodness so let’s get started!
First up is xaviercal with his interpretation of Fall of Cybertron Bruticus and I must say this is absolutely amazing! Definitely worth taking a look at this beautiful interpretation of Bruticus and I can only wish that Hasbro would have given us something similar. Xaviercal has put great effort into adding articulation and beefing up the overall look of this classic character. fall-of-cybertron-bruticus-pic-heavy-t88372.php
CBR just posted an article covering Activision's SDCC 2012 Transformers: Fall of Cybertron panel, which featured voice actors Peter Cullen, Nolan North, and Gregg Berger. During the panel North mentions working with Cullen and Berger on both Transformers: Fall of Cybertron and Transformers Prime. As usual this should be taken with the normal grain of salt until officially confirmed, but IDW did announce a Dinobot tie-in comic for Transformers Prime season three and Grimlock, who Berger is famous for voicing, is a very high profile character at the moment thanks to Transformers: Fall of Cybertron. Will Berger be joining Transformers Prime? If so, will he voice Grimlock or an all new character?
Berger spoke about voicing Grimlock, stating in the Dinobot's voice that he was "driven by aggression!" Without any filters to get in the way, Grimlock's strength has a great capacity, even if it's slightly out of his control. Berger thought it was incredible role for an actor to play. He also did a little bit of "Me king!" in Grimlock voice, much to the delight of the crowd, while explaining what a great ally he was to the Autobots team.
North, the iconic voice of Nathan Drake from the "Uncharted" games, explained how much fun it was voicing both Autobot (Cliffjumper) and Decepticon (Bruticus), changing tones for each character. He jokingly poked at Berger in his Bruticus voice, similar to his Grimlock role. He also felt honored to watch Berger and Cullen work, both on this project and the animated "Transformers Prime" series.
The SDCC 2012 exclusives are now available on HasbroToyShop.com. Unfortunately the only Transformers related item that is currently listed as "in-stock" is Transformers Prime "Rust in Peace" Cliffjumper, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron Bruticus and the G.I. Joe/Transformers Shockwave deco H.I.S.S. tank are already sold out.
A lot of news has come out of this year's SDCC, and most of it has been good. The Generations GDO figures are going to see a domestic release, the return of the Transformers Prime First Edition figures, Fall of Cybertron Voyager Grimlock just to name a few, but now we have a couple of disappointments to report. Our man on the scene Seibertron has been able to confirm that Hasbro has no current plans to release Voyager Breakdown or Gaia Unicron in the domestic Transformers Prime line. Does that mean they will never happen? Only time will tell, but for now we suggest importing the Takara versions of these characters.
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