The Transformers Cybertron line wrapped up through 2006, but with the Transformers live action movie not arriving until the summer of 2007 and the associated toyline not being released until May 2007, Hasbro needed a filler line to fill the void. Hasbro took a cue from Takara’s Robot Masters line and introduced a short line that reimagined the classic Transformers characters in updated designs, ushering in the first Transformers Classics line. In Japan the newly merged Takara-Tomy released a short and controversial series called Transformers Kiss Players, featuring giant robots smooching girls who were drawn to look like pre-teens in the artwork. Yeah…
Transformers theatrical trailer from 20 December 2006. Uploaded to Youtube by MoviesHistory[/size]
The coming of the Transformers live action movie was a major event throughout 2006. The first teaser trailer debuted on 29 June 2006, almost a year to the day before the movie would be released. Not a lot was shown – just a clip of the Mars Rover landing on Mars, only to be kicked over by a giant robot, giving us our first, shadowy glimpse of Dreamworks’ take on a Transformer. A full trailer would be released on 20 December 2006, attached to Rocky Balboa, giving a glimpse at the footage from the movie. There was a heavy focus on humans, but there were also glimpses of Optimus Prime, Blackout, Barricade, and Bumblebee, amongst others.
Throughout 2006, the designs of the Transformers also began to be leaked out through various outlets and fansites, giving people a look at the concept artwork for major characters such as Ratchet, Starscream and Megatron. The new designs of the robots were met with considerable fan outcry, especially Megatron, with the main criticism always running to the effect of “these do not look like the characters we grew up with” and the more hyperbolic “Michael Bay is ruining our childhood”. Ironic that a brand which is all about change should see such opposition to the characters getting new designs – moreso when you consider that Megatron had been getting updated designs every two years or so for the past ten years at least. That being said, Dreamworks’ new designs – which were created through the directive to “make something that looks realistic” were a radical change to the look of Transformers which until then had mostly been blocky robots.
Transformers: Infiltration issue #1 retailer incentive cover, showing many of the core cast members on both sides of the conflict
IDW Publishing kicked off their Transformers comics with a vengeance in 2006, starting with Transformers: Infiltration. Taking an approach like the Ultimate Marvel universe, the series started from scratch, telling the story of how the Autobots and Decepticons had arrived on Earth, which this time out was just the latest beachhead in a war spanning the galaxy and dozens of planets. The war was fought not by armies but by cells of covert fighters. Notably neither Optimus Prime nor Megatron were present from the outset – instead Prowl and Starscream were leading their respective teams. It was revealed later in the series that Starscream had discovered an unusual Energon ore, dubbed Ore-13, which he tried to use to overthrow Megatron when the latter was drawn to the conflict on Earth – but even with this power boost, Starscream failed in his attempted coup.
A second miniseries, Stormbringer, was released shortly after Infiltration concluded. Stormbringer was a four issue miniseries which fleshed out some of the background of the war, and explained that Cybertron was now an uninhabitable, dead world, thanks to the Great War. The central plot concerned the Decepticon Bludgeon who released the monstrous Thunderwing, who had both predicted and then ironically caused the world’s decline, thanks to an experiment that drove him mad. The unleashed Thunderwing was a terrifying thing – prompting Autobot and Decepticon alike to consider the possibility of destroying Cybertron completely to stop him, but in the end the Decepticons and Autobots set aside their differences and found another way.
Transformers Spotlight: Hot Rod cover
In addition to the miniseries, IDW published a series of self-contained Spotlight one-shots. The Spotlight issues explored characters like Hot Rod, Shockwave and Sixshot, delving into their personalities and backstories as well as setting up for future events in the comic miniseries.
IDW also did some other comics separate from their main continuity, including reprints of classic Marvel Generation 1 issues under the title of Transformers Generations, a new four issue adaptation of the 1986 animated movie written by Bob Budiansky, plus two more miniseries Hearts of Steel and Beast Wars: The Gathering.
Hearts of Steel, or to give it its full name, Transformers Evolutions: Hearts of Steel, was an Elseworlds style story, a What-If interpretation of the Transformers concept. This series had the Transformers awaken in 19th century America and adopted steam locomotives and other technologies of the age as their alternate modes – the Decepticon seekers, for example, were Leonardo Da Vinci inspired conceptual biplanes, and Shockwave was an ironclad steamship. Historic figures including Mark Twain and John Henry the steel drivin’ man appeared in the story, and notably, Optimus Prime and Megatron were absent. The series and the Transformers in it had a very steampunk feel, which captured the imaginations of more than a few fans.
Beast Wars: The Gathering issue #1 retailer incentive cover showing many of the characters appearing in the series
Beast Wars: The Gathering was an unusual case. A Beast Wars miniseries with Simon Furman writing was originally planned by Dreamwave, but the company folded before they were able to release a single issue. Solicits revealed some of the story details though – such as how the trial of Megatron would figure into the plot somehow. Those details did not appear in The Gathering, although broadly the same creative team worked on IDW’s miniseries. The plot dealt with a Predacon agent – Magmatron – journeying back to the age of the Beast Wars to awaken the remaining stasis pods as Predacons. However one of Magmatron’s soldiers, Razorbeast, was a Maximal agent who kept some of the stasis pods as Maximals. Magmatron found himself embroiled in a new Beast War – one where he had an opponent in the form of the original Grimlock, who just happened to be in one of the Axalon stasis pods. Magmatron’s true objective was to extract Megatron from the Beast Wars and return him to Cybertron to win favor with the Tripredacus Council – but the Maximals instead returned Megatron to his rightful time and place and shunted Magmatron out of temporal phase.
The series had a lukewarm reception – while fans relished the new Beast Wars material, some found it lacked the charm of the Beast Wars series, and others found it to be unnecessary, taking the Beast Wars cartoon as being fine as was, without the need for embellishment. The series was an enjoyable read all the same, however.
On a related note, Beast Wars saw some new toys released in 2006, as 2006 was the year of Beast Wars’ 10th anniversary. The occasion was marked with six of the Deluxe toys representing the series cast re-released, complete with parts to assemble a “build-a-figure” Transmutate. Two more all-new versions of Optimus Primal and Megatron were also released. These figures came with little PVC versions of the starships Axalon and Darksyde, and featured Cyber Key gimmicks so they could be included in the Cybertron line, if their original release as Beast Wars anniversary toys had not panned out.
Transformers Cybertron toyline releases from 2006 included a new version of Wing Saber, who could combine with Optimus Prime, a Deluxe Unicron, inhabitants of the Giant planet like Menasor and a new version of Soundwave. Japanese Transformers Galaxy Force versions are shown here for those toys that were released in Japan
Further releases rounded out the Transformers Cybertron line. On-screen characters that did not get a Japanese release like Quickmix, Dark Crumplezone and Menasor were released along with the likes of the gigantic Leader class Metroplex. More non-show characters were released, including redecos of existing toys as new characters (such as Cannonball, a pirate redeco of the Deluxe Red Alert ). All new molds not featured in the cartoon or the Japanese toyline were also released, including a rather handsome 70’s muscle car named Downshift and a Deluxe class version of Unicron, who transformed into an alien tank. The Unicron was particularly cool, as his reason for inclusion in the line was born out of the idea that Unicron and Primus exist in a balance – so the events at the ending of the series would bring Unicron back to balance things out, but he’d have to grow back to planet size again.
Hasbro and Takara both released a large, Supreme class rendition of Primus in their respective markets. The Hasbro Primus came with a special bonus not included with the Japanese one – a severed Unicron head, complete with a tentacled base. Takara’s release came in a Generation 1 inspired box, and featured a piece of artwork featuring Primus and all the Cybertron leaders from the 22 years of the Transformers up to this date. It was a final send off for the Transformers brand from Takara and their last Transformer released before they merged with Tomy to form Takara-Tomy.
Transformers Alternators releases from 2006, including the Ford GT Mirage and the Dodge Ram Optimus Prime and his redeco, Nemesis Prime, who was a San Diego Comic Con exclusive
2006 was the end of Alternators as a mass-retail line in the US. The line’s final releases included some decos of earlier releases, Ricochet and Rollbar. There were two new molds in the final year, one of whom was Mirage, a slick Ford GT. The line’s final release was a redeco of Prowl as Camshaft, who is another release from the line which is hard to find and commands a high price on the aftermarket.
The 2006 Alternators line also included a Dodge Ram Optimus Prime release. Hasbro’s original intent was that this release not be Optimus Prime but another character, such as Ironhide. Takara however insisted that the mold be designed as Optimus Prime, because trucks sold poorly and they would not be able to market it unless it was a Convoy. Hasbro complied and made the Dodge Ram Optimus Prime. Takara proceeded to solicit the Dodge Ram as a Binaltech Ginrai, rather than Optimus Prime, with an Asterisk version planned as Black Convoy, but neither were released due to the end of Binaltech as a mass retail line. The Binaltech line did continue, however, with some convention exclusive releases, including an eventual release of the planned Black Convoy, and a clear version of Mirage, representing Mirage’s “electro disruptor” cloaking ability. Alternators itself also continued on through exclusive releases for a time, with a pair of San Diego Comic Con exclusives – Nemesis Prime and Rodimus, a Ford GT Mirage remold – who were released in 2006 and 2007 respectively. 2007 also saw the last brick and mortar releases of the line, the Walmart exclusive Rumble and Ravage.
Three more molds from the Binaltech / Alternators line were also retooled and released as a part of the controversial Transformers Kiss Players series. The three – Optimus Prime, Hot Rodimus, and Autorooper (a remolded Meister as a police car, with a new head) – each came packaged with a human girl partner figure who was their “Kiss Play” partner. They also included some unusual accessories – Optimus Prime had a surfboard that transformed into a sword, Rodimus had a fishing pole that became one of his signature arm blasters, and the Autorooper came with traffic cones that linked up to make a blaster. A larger PVC figure of Atari, Autorooper’s partner, was also released, with a small, transforming Autorooper.
The line had a story which was told in manga chapters and drama CDs. The basic plot involved the Transformers partnering with the girls who could invoke additional powers in the robots with a kiss. As if this alone was not controversial enough, the villains of the series were Legions – non-toy versions of the Honda S2000 mold used for Windcharger, with Megatron’s head. The Legions had very… suggestive… tongues, and enjoyed eating girls served up to them naked in tubes.
Really. We’re not making this up.
Needless to say, the series was not a hit with fans, and most choose to ignore its existence – along with its position in continuity between the animated movie and the Japanese Season 3, Transformers 2010. A sequel series, Kiss Players Position, was also made, which involved the girls forming a girl band and getting sent on a series of adventures across space and time by three Sparkroids – who turned out to be servants of Unicron, trying to resurrect their master. This led to Unicron being sealed on Earth in prehistoric times by Primus, who left Fortress Maximus to act as a guardian – tying together the plots of Car Robots / Robots in Disguise, Beast Wars Second, and Generation 1 in one single, confusing, mess.
Hybrid Style Generation 1 Convoy. Photo by REDLINE[/size]
Takara-Tomy also released a second new toy in the Transformers Hybrid Style Series, a new version of the Generation 1 Optimus Prime. This Hybrid Style G1 Convoy was incredibly poseable and included the full trailer, unlike the Masterpiece Convoy. It also featured the rocket pack used by Optimus Prime in some of the Generation 1 cartoons – a feature often excluded from later releases. It came with a whole selection of accessories including ion blaster, energy axe, and even a display base. Takara-Tomy also offered a black version of the mold, with a Generation 2 inspired trailer, through Japanese retailer E-Hobby.
The release of Hybrid Style G1 Convoy came with a leaflet advertising the release of a Masterpiece Starscream. Masterpiece Starscream was the third release in the Masterpiece series, designated MP-3 after Convoy and Ultra Magnus (who was a white version of Convoy and did not sport the armor). The original designer of Starscream, Shoji Kawamori, came on board to work on the Masterpiece Starscream. Kawamori was no stranger to transforming jets – he is best known for being the designer of many of the transforming fighters from the Macross series.
Masterpiece MP-3 Starscream. Photo by Chaos Muffin[/size]
Masterpiece Starscream proved to be a divisive design on his release. The final design opted for a “real world” interpretation of Starscream rather than a Generation 1 cartoon update, leading to the figure being released in a low-vis green color scheme rather than Starscream’s classic white and blue. The tailfins, rather than fitting on the ankles, were attached to the hips, to evoke the feel of samurai wearing sheathed swords at their waists. The design was also incredibly complex and the toy was quite fragile to go with the complexity. A reworked version would be released in 2012 as Masterpiece MP-11.
Masterpiece Convoy / 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime got a second release on both sides of the Pacific in this year. In the US, he was released with a slight tweak to the deco as a “20th anniversary movie” edition, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Transformers the Movie. In Japan, Masterpiece Convoy got an updated release as Masterpiece Convoy Perfect Edition – this version included the trailer, but no Roller.
A selection of the 6 inch Transformers Titanium figures from 2006-7
The Transformers Titanium series was launched in 2006 and featured a different team from the regular Hasbro Transformers design team. The line was handled by Hasbro’s once-rival and now subsidiary Galoob. The Titanium series featured two distinct size classes – 3 inch non-transformable “Robot Masters”, and 6-inch transformable “Cybertron Heroes”. The Robot Masters were released in waves of two or three figures throughout 2006 – with three further waves of Movie Titanium Robot Heroes released in 2007. The smaller figures used a mixture of styles, including Alternators and Generation 1 designs side by side with Beast Wars, Energon and Cybertron designs. They were largely forgettable releases – average sculpts although good display pieces. Notably, a model of the Autobot spaceship the Ark was included in the third wave, although it was based on the Milton Bradley Star Bird toy rather than the classic animation model – though the front of the ship could be removed for a more accurate, albeit tiny, Ark.
The 6-inch Cybertron Heroes series is generally the more well known of the Titanium line. The line ran until 2007 and lasted eight waves, each with two releases per wave, a total of 16 releases. The line included a series of Don Figueroa’s War Within character designs realized as toys, including his War Within Optimus Prime, Megatron, Starscream, Jetfire and Grimlock. The line also incorporated some Generation 1 characters including new takes on Generation 1 Ultra Magnus and Rodimus Prime – both of whom featured fully integrated transformations with their trailers – plus versions of Soundwave, Scourge and a G.I. Joe VS Transformers version of Megatron. The line also delved into other series including a Robots in Disguise Optimus Prime, Optimal Optimus from Beast Wars and Cheetor from Beast Machines. The line also notable featured the first-ever toy of one of The Fallen, and the only official one to date to depict his appearance in the Dreamwave Comics War Within: The Dark Ages.
Fan reaction to the larger Titanium releases was mixed at best. While many appreciated the opportunity to add War Within toys to their collections, many more complained that said toys were floppy, with poor joint tolerances. Part of this can be attributed to the toys being made by a different team, but part can also be explained by the fact that these were very heavy toys – had they been made in plastic, there would likely have not been a problem. Some of the design decisions were also questionable, but on the whole the series was good for designs.
In 2006 Hasbro also released the Star Wars Transformers series. Star Wars Transformers were a series of classic Star Wars vehicles from all six movies in the franchise, which could change into robot versions of the characters associated with the vehicles – in other words, the series included TIE Fighters which could change into Darth Vadar and an X-Wing that could change into Luke Skywalker. The line got a mixed reception, mostly because of the fact that it could have been a true Transformers / Star Wars crossover, and also because the designs were a little lacking in some areas. The Jedi Starfighter molds also got heavily reused to make every major and minor Jedi from Mace Windu to Ahsoka Tanoh. The Star Wars Transformers, later renamed Star Wars Transformers Crossovers, lasted through to 2012 as a series, with a handful of new releases most years. In 2008, a second series applying the same concept to Marvel Comics’ superheroes was also released, to a similar reception.
The Transformers Classics line re-imagined many original Generation 1 Transformers with modern standards of articulation and engineering. It ran from 2006 into early 2007[/size]
Last, but by no means the least, we come to the filler line that Hasbro created to fill the gap between the end of Transformers Cybertron and the launch of the toyline for the 2007 live action movie. The toyline, which brought back the classic “stacked” logo, took the original classic Generation 1 Transformers and reimagined them while still staying faithful to the original alternate modes and designs. The line was known among fans as “Classics”.
The Classics series ran for three waves of Deluxes, two waves of Voyagers and Legends, and featured a pair of two-packs. New Mini-Con three-packs were also released as a part of the line, including beast Mini-Cons. The toys were designed in a similar style to the Transformers Cybertron line, but not featuring any gimmicks meant they were not bogged down by incorporating mechanisms into the toys and could shine as simple, classic style Transformers where the gimmick was the transformation itself. Rubsigns, in the style of those featured on the Generation 1 toys, made a comeback for this series.
The initial deluxe assortment of the toyline featured Rodimus and Starscream, along with Bumblebee, making his return to the Transformers line after over ten years of absence, and Astrotrain, who was a true triple changer the likes of which had not been seen for many years. The second wave of deluxes added a new version of Grimlock and the first new Mirage since Robots in Disguise (if we ignore the boat in Energon with the name). Mirage was insanely poseable, and stood out as a fantastic release. The third Deluxe assortment arrived in 2007 and added Cliffjumper, a red redeco of Bumblebee, and Ramjet who was a remolded Starscream.
The Voyager assortment featured an excellent Generation 1 style cab over engine Optimus Prime, along with a new Megatron who transformed into a gun – the first time since the original that Megatron got his gun mode back, and also the last in the US at any rate. A later assortment added a new Jetfire, complete with removable booster rockets.
The Legends and Mini-Con releases for the Classics line in 2006 and 2007 brought lots of fun toys to the table, including some Mini-Cons with beast modes[/size]
The Mini-Con three packs were cool additions, and featured some very unusual design choices. The sets included a set of dinosaurs and a set of predatory beasts – at this point, toys with Mini-Con hardpoints were in the extreme minority, so these new Mini-Cons were more a case of making some cool, small Transformers. The Legends of Cybertron, now known simply as Legends class, continued under the Classics banner with some repacks of the Cybertron toys and some redecos of the Cybertron molds.
A pair of two-packs rounded out the Classics assortment. The first was an Optimus Prime VS Megatron set, “The Ultimate Battle”, which included Deluxe sized variants of Optimus Prime and Megatron – Optimus in a more slavishly Generation 1 design and Megatron as a tank, modeled on his Generation 2 look. The set was generally regarded as inferior to the main Classics toys, but was still fun. The other set was dubbed “The Battle for Autobot City” and included Ultra Magnus and Skywarp, redecos of the Voyager Optimus Prime and Deluxe Starscream, respectively. Many people initially got the set just for Skywarp, not wanting another white Optimus Prime named Ultra Magnus. This would change a couple of years up the line when a third party group, FansProject, made a set of armor for the Ultra Magnus to give him his Generation 1 look – and suddenly the demand for the white Prime shot through the roof. A highly sought after giftset of the Energon Constructicons released as Devastator and an equally sought after Generation 1 Soundwave reissue – using the deeper tapedeck of the Soundblaster mold – rounded out the line.
The Classics line was originally intended as a one-off, fond look back at the original Generation 1 style Transformers before Hasbro departed into the uncharted territory of new, Dreamworks designed movie ‘bots. As it was a one off, Hasbro had no issue with letting their licensees Fun Publications use the remaining three Decepticon jets – Thundercracker, Thrust and Dirge – for their 2007 exclusive convention gift set, to the outrage and chagrin of some fans. Hasbro had simply never planned to do a followup series of Classics which might include these toys. The Classics series proved to be hugely popular with fans though, more popular than Hasbro could have ever anticipated, and this led to the Classics line coming back, in various incarnations, in between movie lines ever since right up to this day.