Action Masters Reborn: Introduction
Action Masters were introduced in 1990 as non-transformable figures representing Transformers characters. The conceit was that the Transformers found a new power source called Nucleon that would never run out and make them more powerful than before. The sacrifice they made for this power was their ability to transform. Instead, the transformation gimmick fell to vehicles and accessories that the Transformers could pilot or use.
To many fans, Action Masters represented the death of the Generation One line and served as a sad coda to what was once a thriving line of transforming robots of all shapes and sizes. Over the years however, Action Masters have been looked upon by fans as a fun footnote in "Transformers" history that provided some interesting designs and added some new characters into the history of "Transformers" as a whole.
Personally I have always loved Action Masters. I appreciated the introduction of "G.I. Joe style" play patterns into the Transformers toy line and I was always a fan of transforming bases/partners/vehicles paired with Transformers. Between this and the recent phenomenon of "updating" Action Master characters in a new form, I thought it would be a fun exercise to take a look at which Action Master characters have been "revived" and which still need to be "redone" with modern day toys. The first part of this series will take a look at which Action Masters have already received an "updated" treatment or at the very least, have toys that could serve as an updated version of the character.
For this particular exercise I had to be very liberal with the rules I used around determining how characters and sculpts were picked. In some cases new toys were made that didn't have the character's original name, but clearly they represented a former Action Master. In other cases the toy(s) may have been part of a multi-pack or a convention exclusive. This list is also "continuity agnostic", so we are not tied down to any particular segment of the "Transformers" toy universe. The key here is that the toy clearly represents design elements of the Action Master figure from G1 to make it to this list.
The Autobots were the first Transformers to become Action Masters and they completely outnumbered the Decepticons in the Action Master toy line. This is a quick list of Action Master Autobots who have (or will be) receiving updated forms. Where available I have linked to my reviews of these figures:
- Blaster (Generations - Titans Return)
- Bumblebee (Classics)
- Circuit (Timelines)
- Grimlock (Generations)
- Inferno (Universe)
- Jackpot (Timelines)
- Jazz (Reveal the Shield)
- Kick-Off aka "Kick-Over" (Timelines)
- Omega Spreem (Platinum Edition)
- Optimus Prime (Masterpiece MP-10)
- Prowl (Universe)
- Sideswipe (Universe)
- Snarl (Platinum Edition)
- Tracks (Reveal the Shield)
- Wheeljack (Generations)
Some of these pieces may have you questioning my logic. Here is some of the rationale behind my choices:
- Blaster: The upcoming "Titans Return" figure is the first time Blaster has been redone in ages to resemble his G1 counterpart. Boxy and forming a radio, it truly is a G1 Blaster reborn. Since the Action Master represented his G1 form i thought this as appropriate.
- Grimlock: Part of what grabbed me about this Grimlock choice was that the design lacks his distinctive G1 "wings" in robot mode, something that is true of the Action Master figure as well.
- Omega Spreem: Yes, the name should be "Supreme" but this famous misspelling and a crazy color scheme made for one interesting figure. It's not hard to imagine after getting his name spelled correctly and getting a new form that Omega decided to return to his former glory as a giant Autobot.
- Optimus Prime: Why not "Combiner Wars" Optimus or one of the others? Frankly this is the most simple and streamlined of the current Optimus Prime toys out there, and in many respects Action Master Optimus was basically just a streamlined G1 Optimus, so this works out well.
- Snarl: Specifically, this refers to the Platinum Edition set using the "Age of Extinction" Snarl body with a G1 based head.
- Axer aka "Axor" (Revel the Shield)
- Banzai-Tron (Reveal the Shield)
- Bombshell (Generations)
- Devastator (Generations: Combiner Wars)
- Double Punch (Timelines)
- Gutcruncher aka "Sparkcruncher" (Revenge of the Fallen)
- Krok (Timelines)
- Megatron (Generations)
- Shockwave (Generations: Combiner Wars)
- Slicer aka "Decepticon Slice" (Timelines)
- Soundwave (Masterpiece)
- Starscream (Classics)
- Thundercracker (Timelines)
- Treadshot (Timelines)
I think the Decepticons require a bit less explanation than my Autobot choices, but here goes:
- Bombshell: This iteration of Bombshell is largely based on his G1 appearance, as was Action Master Bombshell, making the "Generations" figure ideal to serve as a "post-Action Master" look for the character.
- Megatron: Before "Generation 2" hit toy store shelves, it was Megatron with his "Neutro Fusion Tank" that cemented the connection between Megatron and a tank mode for me. Since this 2015's Leader Class figure becomes a tank, but retains much of his G1 aesthetic, this choice seemed very appropriate.
- Shockwave: Specifically this refers to the upcoming Shockwave included with "Generation 2"-colors Bruticus which has a color scheme directly based on Action Master Shockwave (including neon orange!).
- Starscream: I chose "Classics" Starscream (despite there being tons of other incarnations) since his is the most blocky G1-esque figure in recent years. I think any Starscream would be equally acceptable.
- Thundercracker: I know technically this figure is "Shattered Glass" Thundercracker, but his colors are clearly based on Action Master Thundercracker and he would make a perfect stand-in for that character.
As you can see above, there has been quite the renaissance for Action Masters characters over the years. Even if we exclude the "classic" G1 characters like Megatron and Bumblebee, it's been great seeing guys like Banzai-Tron and Kick-Off get updated treatments as well. Among my favorites on this list are Kick-Off aka "Kick-Over", Double Punch, Thundercracker and Banzai-Tron for fully embracing the designs and colors of those Action Masters and bringing them into the modern age of "Transformers" toys.
This concludes the first part of my "Action Masters Reborn" series. In the next segment we begin to look at the remaining Action Masters and potential retools and redecos that could be done to bring them back to life!
*Images are scanned from the amazing Transformers Legacy: The Art of Transformers Packaging book.