Friday, 4 September 2015

TransFormers Collectors' Club OTFCC 2003 Shadow Striker & Roulette

(Femme-Bot Friday #30)
Something a bit special for this one - call it a 'Thrilling 30th' of my own, to celebrate passing the 3,000 pageviews in month milestone in August 2015.

Proving that Femme-Bot toys aren't such a new thing after all, the Official TransFormers Collectors' Convention (not BotCon) 2003 accompanied its RiD/Car Robots reimaginings of Sunstreaker and Sideswipe with another pair of siblings. Not only were they Femme-Bots, but they were original characters, created for 3H Productions' expanded Universe line.

Like much of RiD/Car Robots, I wasn't especially keen on these to begin with. Since starting this Femme-Bot Friday feature, I've been picking up a few figures that I may otherwise have skipped. I've been repeatedly put off by some rather high secondary market prices (often pushing £100 - normally, but not always, including shipping), so when I found this boxed pair in the display cabinets of Orbital Comics, priced at a much more bearable £60, I decided to treat myself.

Packaging
There is one major problem with the way 3H packaged their exclusives, and that is that 'window' on the box is little better than Cling Film, glued rather poorly to the inside of the box. This means that, over time, the plastic tends to peel away from the box and, even if it doesn't do so naturally, the fact that it's so weak means it adds nothing to the structure of the box, and anything left resting on it for long is liable to tear the plastic away from the card it's stuck to.

That aside, I'm having trouble deciding whether or not I actually prefer their method of packaging over the sturdy-but-windowless collectors' boxes Fun Publications use. The box style was heavily based on normal Hasbro packaging of the time - even using the standard TransFormers Universe logo - with linework patterns behind some excellent artwork of the characters. I gather that Marcello Matere designed the head sculpt for these sisters, but the box art, including the awesome, G1-style battle scene on the underside, was the work of Dan Khanna.

One massive and very pleasant difference between this style of packaging and Fun Pubs' is that there are two old-style 'Clip and Save!' (yeah, right!) Tech Specs, with background stories for both characters (which don't explicitly state that they're sisters, but certainly give the impression of the different paths taken by siblings as a result of the same personal trauma), along with - gasp! - descriptions of their abilities and weapons. That is what Fun Pubs' bio cards are consistently missing, so it's nice to see that sort of this had, originally, been carried on.

The two Dodge Vipers - officially licensed vehicles, despite some exaggerated detailing - are held together with those small, transparent elastic bands, and held to the card stand with thin metal twist-ties wrapped around a couple of their wheels. After twelve years, it should come as no surprise that these twist-ties had cut through a fair amount of their surrounding cardboard so I was glad to see the models themselves were undamaged. I certainly prefer Fun Pubs' foam to this method of storing premium exclusives!


Vehicle Modes:
Since both cars are Dodge Vipers, Shadow Striker and Roulette are more like true twins than the original G1 Sunstreaker and Sideswipe, though about the same as their OTFCC 2003 remakes (despite the impression you're likely to get from the battle scene box art!). The colour matching of the paint and the density of coverage are such that I had started to think much of the transparent plastic of the original Side Burn/Speedbreaker usages had been replaced with opaque dark grey on Shadow Striker, so that gives you an idea of how good the bodywork paint is. The stripes aren't perfectly aligned, but it almost appears as though the central seam in the bonnet isn't actually 'central' after all. It's not a complex paint job at all, but it is extensive and, while the headlights have been left unpainted - no doubt to differentiate them better on Roulette - the rear lights have been painted gold on both cars. The hubcaps on both are silver so, on balance, Shadow Striker looks more interesting - Roulette is quite plain-looking, decked out in silver, with only her (Decepticon?) purple stripes, gold and silver chrome engine block and rooftop Autobot insignia breaking it all up.

Shadow Striker, meanwhile, looks as though she should probably have been the Autobot, because her stripes are very nearly Allspark Blue. Since there's a molded Autobot insignia visible through the rear windscreen, the Decepticon insignia on her roof looks like a mistake.

Then again, given only a couple of slight changes to the colourscheme, these could have been Femme-Bot Battlechargers...

While their missiles can plug into the underside of vehicle mode, the handgun apparently has no official storage point. I've managed to wedge it into a space, held up mainly by the nose of the missile, but it's not perfect. There is a peg on the robot's backside which seems as though it should accommodate the hole through the handguns, but there's no way to actually fit it in and then transform the robot around it.

Just like the RiD/CR originals, Shadow Striker and Roulette have proper rubber tyres, bearing the imprint 'TF CYBERTRON'. The rubber shows no signs of perishing but, let's face it, they're only about twelve years old at this point... and I'm not about to try to remove them to find out what state they're really in.

Shadow Striker

Roulette


Robot Modes:
Amusingly, these two are actually molded in the same colours of plastic - black, goldish-orange and clear - and, except for the heads, the same colour of plastic is used for the same pieces between the two. This seems like remarkably clever planning, and means that the majority of the differences between the two are in paintwork alone.

Cleverly, these are not merely inverted paint jobs: the vehicle's colour has very little bearing on the appearance of the robots. Indeed, apart from a couple of details and the rear fenders on her thighs, there's no silver on Roulette's robot mode. Both have black arms and thighs with goldish-orange shoulders, knees and feet. All the variances come from the paint colours used as the patterns are basically identical.

Curiously, the paint job identity crisis I noticed in vehicle mode continues in robot mode, with Roulette coming out looking very much like she's stolen Blackarachnia's paint job, even down to having a purple chrome Autobot insignia on her left wrist (foreshadowing Shattered Glass?), while Shadow Striker is afflicted with more Allspark-ish Blue on her shins and chest, and a blue chrome Autobot insignia (seemingly belying her affiliation) on her left wrist.

Naturally, their weapons are identical - the handguns are the same sculpt painted the same colour, the missiles are the same mold in the same colour. On the one hand, this means that their accessories are completely interchangeable... on the other hand, I rather wish they weren't. Even a slight variation in handgun colour, or silver paint on one missile or the other, would have been good, but I guess there weren't too many options...

As mentioned earlier, the head sculpt - among the first ever remolded parts for TransFormers convention exclusive and common to both characters - is said to have been designed by Marcello Matere... I'd like to see those designs, because I'd like to think they're nothing like the travesty of the sculpt itself. To be fair, most of the head isn't too bad, albeit perhaps a little too tall for its width. The 'helmet' is reminiscent of G1 Blaster with its fixed 'visor' section and 'wings' protruding from the back. By and large, the face is a little bland, it's only the difference in plastic and paintwork that makes them look so different. The issue with the sculpt - which recurred many times on Fun Pubs' exclusives and continues to this day - is that the lips are huge and prominent... I mean, seriously, talk about yer trout pout. While both Shadow Striker and Roulette - contrary to the box art - both have pastel pink lipstick, the shape of them puts Jessica Rabbit to shame. As an attempt to make these Femme-Bots look sexy, this is an abject failure, leaving them looking like sad caricatures of femininity.

Shadow Striker

Roulette


Unlike Sunstreaker and Sideswipe, based on the Prowl/Mach Alert mold, this thing isn't much more than a shellformer. Chunks of the car body break off or apart and then just lurk around. The entire bonnet and door sections hang on their backs, the windscreens and roof are supposed to be a kind of riot shield, attached to their left arms by a ball joint on a strut which spins around the bicep, while the front bumper and headlights are a massively protruding shoulder pad on the right. The top half of the robot has quite a convoluted - and frustrating - transformation where everything has to fold or twist through everything else and, while following the instructions closely is helpful, it doesn't make the process easy, exactly. By contrast, the bottom half is simplicity itself, with the shins simply folding down from behind the thighs once the rear bumper/crossbow weapon is removed.

The RiD/CR line featured quite a lot of ball joint on its robots, and this mold certainly has its fair share... but many of them are either a little too weak for purpose (the hips and shoulders in particular) or horrendously obstructed by large chunks of vehicle shell (both shoulders, for different reasons). Also, on both, the ball joint connecting the front bumper to the right shoulder is rather tight, to the point where I suspect I'm starting to see stress marks on their stalks. Shadow Striker also shows signs of the socket warping the ball due to being far too tight. In theory, it's a very dynamic and poseable mold... but it just doesn't work that way in practice.

In spite of its flaws, the Side Burn/Speedbreaker mold is quite amusing, though the tabs - mostly molded in transparent plastic - have a tendency to be brittle (that said, these feel sturdier than those on my Side Burn, several of which have broken over the years I've owned him). I really wouldn't tend to think of it as an especially feminine mold, but surely that should be the point: these are, first and foremost, robots... the concept of gender shouldn't really apply, so there's no real need for them to look traditionally (or should that be 'stereotypically'?) feminine like most of the other Femme-Bots I've covered thusfar. Still, they might have been improved with a better face sculpt... And this is one occasion where the apparent addition of lipstick was a terrible mistake...

2 comments:

  1. I was so excited to get these toys back in 2003...then they put them in my hands and I was less than excited. I loved the art work and design of the packaging, but like you mentioned the window was crap. The figures themselves I never bothered to open, keeping them sealed for eternity. While I loved the alt mode, the never cared for the actual robot. Despite a new head sculpt these just never did much for me.

    Thanks for sharing though as that was a nice blast from the past!

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    Replies
    1. Hiya Colbey! Glad you enjoyed the post, even if you aren't so keen on the subject. The original Robots In Disguise/Car Robots line was a truly weird jumble of styles, and the Dodge Viper mold was one of the weirdest - all versions of Side Burn/Speedbreaker look pretty bad in robot mode. I was reluctant to pick that up originally, let alone these exclusives, and several of its tabs broke so quickly and easily that I've been treating these two very gently!

      Shadow Striker and Roulette don't improve on the original mold in any way, but they're certainly an interesting piece of history.

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