Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Generations (30th Anniversary) Doubledealer

As far as I can recall (and without popping back to my parents' house to raid the cupboard in which most of my G1 toys remain to this day) I only ever bought two Powermasters: Optimus Prime and Doubledealer. The former was a no-brainer (albeit quite disappointing in-hand, as it turned out) simply because it was the latest incarnation of Optimus Prime (and was accompanied, in the Marvel comics of the day, by a very strange story). The latter was rather more unusual, in that it was a Dual-Powermaster Triple-Changer with an Autobot mode and a Decepticon mode.

Sure, it wasn't unprecedented - Punch/Counterpunch came out the year before - but this was the first time a faction-switching Triple-Changer made it over to this sceptred isle. The idea of an effectively neutral character, willing to work for either side, tickled me, as did the fact that the humanoid robot was an Autobot and the bird-like robot was a Decepticon, with the vehicle mode bearing no visible insignia. This 'Thrilling 30' update, based on the Blitzwing mold, plays things a little differently...

Autobot Vehicle Mode:
While G1 Doubledealer's only vehicle mode was a missile launcher truck, this version uses Blitzwing's tank mode as an Autobot vehicle. While it's exactly the same mold as Blitzwing, I personally feel that this colourscheme works better - it doesn't attempt to look genuinely military, only to have the messed up by the the pairing of tan with purple. Doubledealer's colourscheme better suits the idea of a Sci-Fi tank - the bottom half is broadly more consistent and the colours used are prettier. The contrast between the darker blue and the cyan works well, and the gold on the vent-like details brightens it up further. The turret is less consistent, but still works well. The back end is every bit the disaster area as Blitzwing's, but that can hardly be avoided with a better choice of colours.

For the most part, I feel that the molded detail stands out better on the blue plastic than it did on Blitzwing's tan, and the combination of a different colourscheme and colour layout - particularly the lack of visible paintwork on the turret - helps to make Doubledealer look significantly different from the original use of the mold.

He does come with exactly the same weapons as Blitzwing, but their colourschemes are better as well - plain black for the handgun may not be especially exciting, but the sword is molded in the cyan plastic, with the entire blade painted silver. This means that the gun works well on the tank, but the sword is even more conspicuous on Doubledealer than it was on Blitzwing.

It's a shame that he wasn't given a large missile accessory, like the G1 original, though an upgrade set is available from DMY Studios (not to mention some options on Shapeways). It could be argued that the colouration of the cannon makes it a reference to the original's missile, but that's a pretty tenuous connection.

Decepticon Vehicle Mode:
This mode tries really hard to evoke the original's bird mode, with all the wings and fins molded in a similar purple plastic. It's not entirely unsuccessful, but I'm puzzled by the 'Shark Teeth' design on the nose - I mean, OK, that's a fairly traditional bit of nose art for military aircraft, but surely they could have used a design that made it look like a bird's beak?

As with tank mode, jet mode looks far more interesting that the original usage of the mold and, while the colourscheme is certainly not befitting of a military aircraft, it somehow just works. Perhaps it's just the feelings of nostalgia overwhelming good sense but, let's face it, this is a toy, and TransFormers jets aren't exactly known for their realistic colouring. I'm not sure whether the odd colouring helps or hinders the 'booster pack' look of his robot arms in his mode. Overall, with the black and blue chunks on top and the blue chunks on each side, it almost looks like a smaller, mostly grey aircraft has been upgraded by tagging on parts from a larger, blue aircraft.

Just like Blitzwing, the nose in inexplicably molded in rubber and is, if anything, even more awkward on Doubledealer in terms of slotting it in under the tab on the cockpit. It's also a bit of a shame that, again, the two small molded gun ports (either side of the Decepticon insignia) aren't painted in any way. One might have expected them to be painted to resemble eyes to complement the 'Shark Teeth' design on the nose but, instead, two dedicated eyes are painted in on an area without any molded detail... they seem a bit too far forward to me, but I'm no expert.

The front landing 'wheel' on mine is rather looser than on my Blitzwing and seems to come to a natural stop a little further forward, the upshot being that he doesn't seem to rest at an angle. Nothing drags on the ground despite him laying flatter, so I suspect this is how it's meant to stand.

Robot Mode:
In a fun twist on the G1 original, it's Doubledealer's robot mode that carries no faction insignia (unless you count the Autobot 'tramp stamp' on his backside), making this, rather than either vehicle mode, his 'neutral' form. This actually makes a lot more sense, as a robot mercenary like Doubledealer could sell his services as ground support to the traditionally ground-based Autobots, and air support to the Decepticons for those occasions when the Seekers, Coneheads and myriad other flying robots just aren't offering enough firepower, while also affording him the opportunity of plausible deniability if confronted by either side about his work for the other.

The distribution of colour references the G1 toy fairly well, with some of the paintwork standing in for the original toy's stickers, albeit keeping to the sculpted detail of this mold rather than forcing in blocks of colour just for the sake of G1 accuracy. The grey torso with a cyan chest reflects the original very closely, with the dark blue paint on the triangular vent details referencing a pair of stickers. Likewise, the gold and silver paint on his shoulder details represents tech detailing which, on the G1 toy, was added with stickers. It could be argued that the torso needed some red, to emulate parts of the original's inner workings (or the Autobot Powermaster, Knok), but perhaps that's why the cockpit is translucent red/orange. With tank treads occupying the shins, his legs were never going to be able to look like those of the original, but they're far more poseable.

Again, the weapons are a massive disappointment. The cannon just kind of sticks up out of his back, and can't really be directed over his head or shoulders. The handgun is especially weedy, given that G1 Doubledealer had a huge handgun, formed from the tail end of an ICBM, as well as a large missile mounted on his shoulder. The sword actually seems completely inappropriate, but I guess it does emphasise his readiness for combat of any kind...

Doubledealer's whole new head sculpt, based as much on the IDW artwork as the G1 toy, looks fantastic. Without the daft face-changing gimmick given to Blitzwing, its proportions are better, though it looks rather small stuck between the hunched shoulders... and particularly tiny in comparison to the G1 robot's enormous bonce. The head also sits far lower, as it was the need to accommodate the face rotation that lifted Blitzwing's head up above the shoulders. I'm sure something could have been done to bring Doubledealer's head up a little further, but it doesn't look awful as it is. And what his head loses in impact due to its lower position, it gains back from light piping, which would have been impossible on Blitzwing. The eyes are small, beady and curiously triangular, but they catch the light fairly well. The detailing of the helmet is quite close to the G1 version, but doesn't extend quite so far out from the face and seems a bit more angular. The face itself almost has a 'masked' look, with a square-ridged nose and a deep groove separating the mouth and chin from the rest of the face.

Weird G1-Referential Bird-Like Fan-Mode:
I found photos online of an attempt to replicate G1 Doubledealer's bird form - because, evidently, some folks feel cheated if a remake of a G1 character doesn't do everything the original did - and, while I don't think I've replicated it exactly I don't see any way of preventing it from being a bit of a floppy mess. The legs are easily able to keep it upright, but neither the arms nor the turret actually peg in anywhere.

I'm also not certain if the arms are intended to substitute for wings, but they're stubby and oddly placed if that's what they're for, while the jet's tailfins - which could also, conceivably, be standing in for the bird's wings - are basically on the wrong sides of his shoulders. Having the cannon on his back sort-of references the G1 toy's handgun - the back half of the missile - which could mount on the bird's back. While it can be underslung - to reference the front of the missile/bomb - it just ends up looking rather too suggestive.

G1 Doubledealer's bird mode didn't have a tail, but the rear end of this one looks even more clumsy. With something covering up the square gap, it might almost look like a fanned tail from the back, but for the large amount of robot torso hanging off the bottom, looking perhaps like some kind of robo-egg-pod depositing section. While I left the weapons off, it is possible to attach Doubledealer's sword to the socket on the turret base, to give him more of a tail, but the effect isn't much more convincing... And using the jet mode's nose as a head just looks plain silly.

The big downer is that nothing has been done to correct the issue with his torso that means his shoulders don't peg firmly into place. I found Doubledealer marginally more cooperative than Blitzwing in this respect, at least on one side or the other, not so much on both sides at the same time. I also found that one arm is slightly out of alignment in either of his vehicle modes. Not to the extent of not pegging into place, but certainly sitting a touch higher than the other arm. Other than that, his transformation is just as fluid and fun as the original.

As is so often the case with TransFormers toys these days, Doubledealer feels like a significant improvement on the comparatively underachieving Blitzwing, despite - or perhaps due to - the loss of the daft face-changing gimmick. He's more visually interesting in any mode and seems generally more coherent. That said, it's entirely possible that this is simply a case of my nostalgic bias toward Doubledealer, because I didn't own G1 Blitzwing back in the day.

The new head sculpt and colourscheme do wonders to differentiate Doubledealer from Blitzwing, and I'm almost tempted to pick up Cloud Starscream, a straight repaint of Doubledealer packaged with more appropriate weapons... which just serves to highlight what a shame it is that this figure didn't come with more G1-style weapons. I understand that it's a good choice of mold for the character - two decent weaponised vehicle modes and a highly poseable roboto mode - but, good as this version is, it's not quite Doubledealer without his iconic ordnance.

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