"Generations" Skullgrin Toy Review


General Information:
Release Date: December 2010
Price Point: $12.99 (depending on retailer)
Retailer: General (Toys R Us, Target, Wal-Mart etc.)
Accessories: Missile pod, Blaster, Triple barreled cannon, Cannon/pickaxe weapon

As the "Classics/Universe 2.0" line of Transformers continued its march forward as "Generations", it continued to revive old characters in new forms. Most of these are notable figures such as Cliffjumper, but in recent time some less famous characters (outside of hardcore fandom) have begun to appear in toy form with updated bodies. One of these is Skullgrin. Skullgrin was a character who came out in the late 80's as part of a sub-line known as "Pretenders". What a Pretender is varies depending on what country you're talking about and which kind. In the US, the most basic Pretender was a Transformer who had a biomechanical outer "shell" they could be housed inside. This shell provided a couple of advantages including having a "partner" that they could control and fight alongside.

Skullgrin was among the first of the Decepticon Pretenders. During the Marvel Comic book Generation One era, Skullgrin became notable during a scheme to become a Hollywood star as part of a Decepticon scheme. No, I'm not making that up. He appeared briefly in other continuities such as Dreamwave and IDw but each time he pretty much met with unhappy fates. Getting a new action figure is probably the best thing that's happened to the character in years.

Skullgrin is a redeco and retool of Darkmount, so check that figure review out for details on the sculpt. This review will focus on the robot and vehicle modes and the changes made to the figure for this release.

Vehicle Mode:
Many of the first wave G1 Pretenders were very basic and lanky looking robots, due in part for the need for them to fit within an outer shell. As such, their robot modes looked kind of alien and cool, but their vehicle forms were sometimes rather unsatisfying. In the case of Skullgrin, he transformed into a vehicle that is referred to as a tank, but looked more like a very heavily armed car. Now with his Generations release, Skullgrin is now a tank in fact and not just in name!

G1 Skullgrin was a combination of white, grey and purple. The colors on this new Skullgrin use those colors as a springboard, but adjusts them resulting in a unique figure that feels like it was colored in the spirit of the original. The plastic color swaps are not strictly one to one. For instance, several of the blue panels from Darkmount are now grey on this figure. However, the blue turret barrel from Darkmount is now white, not grey as you would expect from a one to one swap. The alternate plastic parts such as the middle section in the front and the clip on weapons have been cast in metallic dark grey. The color looks almost black at a distance, but a closer look shows some nice metallic flaking inside the plastic. You'll find some bits of plastic here and there that is a dark violet type color. Sure it's not a match for the purple on G1 Skullgrin, but the inspiration is obvious. There is a bit of black plastic here, which you'll find on the front wheels.

Color decos are painted in grey, gold, silver, white and black. The colors are laid out differently than Darkmount's. For instance, Skullgrin lacks any replacement of Darkmount's "M-17" alphanumeric code. The grey and gold are used on various panels on the turret and the main body of the vehicle. This includes a gold Decepticon symbol on the front of the tank in the center. A slightly different shade of gold is used on the treads at the rear of the vehicle. The color looks like a very dull shade of gold and not as strong as the gold on the rest of the vehicle. Silver is represented inside the missile pod, coloring the ends of each missile. Matching the white color on the turret is a bit of white paint on the front of the vehicle, painting the headlights. Black is most prominently seen on the windows of the right side towards the front of the figure. I was surprised at how many different colors were spread out throughout this redeco and I was very pleased to see that the pattern used was quite different from Darkmount's.

Like Darkmount, Skullgrin includes three clip-on weapons that you can arrange in various ways in this form. Each weapon is mounted on a ball joint, allowing you to turn them around so you can place them on the top or either side of the vehicle. The turret can turn and he rolls on his front wheels and two smaller ones in the back.

Transformation to Battle Station Mode:

  1. Raise the turret section straight up, then turn it around.
  2. Swing the two grey panels on the front of the vehicle out at angles.
  3. Split the section of the vehicle with the treads on them and swing them out at angles.
  4. Move the robot arms out and rotate them around so you can bend them at the elbow joints and prop up the front of the battle station.
  5. On the back of the turret, swing out the bars and rotate them around so they form handles.

This is included primarily for reference, but most of the color changes revealed in this mode carry over to the robot mode.

Transformation to Robot Mode:

  1. Start with the figure in vehicle mode. Detach the clip on weapons for now.
  2. Lift the turret and swing out each half of it.
  3. Remove the barrel and rotate the end with the picks on it, then slide the grey piece with the four tubes on it down.
  4. Swing the tread sections of the vehicle out.
  5. In the middle area, swing out the grey section with the Decepticon symbol on it.
  6. Swing the central gold panel down and flip the robot head up, then push the grey panel back into place.
  7. Swing out the bottom panel on each half of the turret, then swing those parts out to begin forming the robot legs.
  8. Swing the middle section forward and clip it to the red clip on the back of the panel with the Decepticon symbol.
  9. Straighten out each leg, swing the ends out to form the feet, and then swing out the heel piece on each foot.
  10. Separate the robot arms from the panels that form the treads. The tread panels should move to the back and connect together.
  11. Swing the robot arms forward.
  12. Swing the front, panels from the vehicle mode out to the sides.
  13. The pickaxe weapon goes into either hand.
  14. You can now clip the weapons onto several points on the legs as well as the panels on his back to make the weapons over his shoulders.

Robot Mode:
This is the mode where Skullgrin really reveals a strong set of colors. All the colors from the vehicle mode carry over, but the violet color is featured heavily as well, giving him a striking appearance. The violet appears on his chest, forearms, knee armor, waist and the back of his lower legs. The violet looks almost red, but definitely has a purple tinge to it. The dark metallic grey plastic is used on parts like his upper arms, upper legs, the middle of his torso and some joint pieces such as the hinges for his shoulder armor. The light grey plastic is mostly carried over from panels of the vehicle mode such as his shoulder armor. White plastic is found here too, appearing on his head and hands. Overall it is a very strong showing visually and looks very different from Darkmount.

The paint colors shown off in this mode include gold, silver, red, violet and white. Gold is seen on his legs, a carry over detail from the vehicle mode. The lighter shade of gold seen on his treads in vehicle mode now appears on the triangles on his chest. Silver balances out the gold, painting the vent lines on his chest, parts of his feet and the pointed sections of his upper legs. The violet color is seen as a paint application on the top of the robot head and on his feet. It's also used for his "teeth" on the sides of the head. I like the way it is used on the feet. Take a look and you'll see a triangle sculpted into each foot which overlaps a rectangle. The triangle is painted violet while the rectangle is silver. A very nice touch. Red and white are found on the robot head. While it is already cast in white, the middle portion is painted white to give it a bit more emphasis. The robot eyes are painted red, the traditional Decepticon eye color.

The key to this figure truly becoming "Skullgrin" is the head. Featuring a brand new head sculpt, Skullgrin leaves no doubt as to who his G1 inspiration was. Not your typical "helmet with a face" design, this head takes its influence from the G1 Skullgrin's Pretender shell head, which resembled a demonic ram. With a triangular shaped face, horns on the sides and the top of the head, this is one evil looking guy. However, instead of being "organic" looking with rounded edges and details, this head is purely mechanical looking in design, with sharp angles and smooth lines. It's a fantastic looking head sculpt and I really like the addition of smaller horns on the top of the head and "teeth" showing on the sides.

Skullgrin retains all of Darkmount's robot mode features including the clip-on weapons and the ability to hold his weapon in both hands. My only complaint involves the ankle joints. These are ball joints, so if they are loose in any way, the stability of the figure itself suffers. All the other joints are fine on my Skullgrin, but these ankle joints are nowhere near as tight on Skullgrin as they are on Darkmount. He's not flopping all over the place, but nor is he as easy to stand up as Darkmount was. That said, I know this type of thing can vary from copy to copy of the figure, but make a note to check it out if you pick this guy up.

Final Thoughts:
Skullgrin is a fantastic way to reuse a sculpt but make it into a character all its own. The base sculpt is strong and I love the new head sculpt, but keep the ankle joint issue in mind. Recommended!

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