Sunday 30 June 2013

'Shackwave' (aka ToyCo 'Astro Magnum', aka Tandy/Radio Shack 'Galactic Man')

In celebration of passing the 1,000 pageviews milestone in the month of June, here's a real treat...
This model needs no further introduction, not least because I teased it almost two full years ago. It has a strange history, having been drafted into the ranks for Generation 1 TransFormers from ToyCo, where most of G1 was repurposed from Takara's Microchange/Microman and Diaclone toylines.

I may well be misunderstanding what little I know of its origins, but it seems that Shockwave was originally released only in the US and Korea, with Japan picking him up later... And he never arrived in the UK.

So when, browsing through my father's catalogue from Tandy (being the UK name for Radio Shack), I found this very familar-looking toy, and saw my chance to have one of the coolest characters from the Marvel comics at the time... And I really wasn't fussed about the colourscheme.

Alternate Modes:
Whereas Microchange and Diaclone went for realism in its robot disguises, ToyCo suffered no such constraints, and so their 'Astro Magnum' looks like a very futuristic, Sci-Fi weapon. Were it not for a couple of fairly obvious seams and joints, it wouldn't even look like a robot in disguise, it's such a fine example of a toy laser gun. The barrel has a protruding sight, and the rear has a flip-up crosshair panel which even seems to line up. What's more, it's molded in such a way that, had it been lit in some way, the linework would have stood out quite effectively.

Some might argue that the unpainted, vaguely metallic two-tone grey appearance is a bit dull but, frankly, I reckon it looks better than the official Shockwave's purple, especially since it's only the darker grey that was replaced with purple in Hasbro's version - the lighter, silverish plastic looks almost identical, and stands out quite badly on Shockwave. The transparent plastic (once entirely clear, but somewhat yellowed by time) does seem a little plain, but it's in keeping with the subdued look of this version of the model.

To call this a multi-changer is a bit of a stretch. One mode just has the legs extended, as if for robot mode, the other is basically what happens if you leave the barrel attachment off and let the arms pop apart. Neither are as convincing as the standard handgun mode.

I could be wrong, but this could well be the first TransFormer to ever have electronic lights and sounds... and it really shows. First off, it requires a whopping 9v brick battery to power a single filament lamp and an 8ohm speaker of approximately 40mm diameter operating, essentially, one sound effect at two different frequencies. To put that into perspective, the original G1 release of Galvatron was pretty much the same, but the rerelease in 2005 needed only two AA (1.5v) batteries. I'd imagine something similar would be true of this model, were it to be rereleased, and it's large enough that very little remolding of the internal architecture would be required.

Robot Mode:
Despite technically not being a TransFormer, this model fits with the line remarkably well. Perhaps it's the simple fact that it's an awesome-looking robot with a massive gun for an arm. Granted the monocular head wasn't exactly in keeping with the styles of the time (with the exception of Whirl, perhaps, though he was another non-Takara model), but it's since become quite common, and Shockwave specifically has become pretty iconic.

The plain colourscheme still works well, making me wonder why Hasbro in particular have managed to miss target so often with some of their rather plain models in recent years (I guess simple things like unpainted lights on cars really do matter!). There's not an overabundance of molded detail on a model as old as this, but there's certainly all one might want or need for this character, and it's all nicely defined. One thing that must be discussed regarding molded detail is the trigger. While Hasbro had Shockwave's remolded into a flat panel (which would probably have been uncomfortable for prolonged use!), the Tandy version has the original ToyCo trigger... which looks rather suggestive in the cold light of day. As it stands, the G1 Megatron toy caught enough flak for its 'trigger crotch', but this is substantially worse.

There's one tiny bit of paintwork on this model - his eye is red. Weirdly, this is more in keeping with the G1 cartoon's representation of Decepticons, while Shockwave was out of the ordinary, having a yellow eye which glowed as he spoke. Sadly, no lights on this head... More contemporary interpretations of the character feature light piping (which invariably looks awesome), but that kind of fanciness wasn't done back in the day.

Something worth mentioning is that the rubber pipe, containing the leads which power his left arm's weapon, was prone to perishing on the Hasbro release... but this one, almost 30 years after manufacture, is still completely intact, with only a slight pinch where it connects with his backpack.

Also, he has quite a substantial amount of die cast metal in his lower half - both upper legs, and the pin they're connected to, and both feet are all metal, lending him even more weight, and possibly going some way to improving his centre of gravity by working against the large speaker in his backpack.

One possibly downside to the use of colourless transparent plastic for this model is that a portion of his electronics is plainly visible through the window in his chest. Weirdly, despite the horrifically retro contents (three large transistors being most prominent) I think it makes him look even more cool and robotic.

Being such an old model (the date stamp is 1983, though it only surfaced in the UK in either '85 or '86), this is simplicity itself to transform. Barely any effort is needed to switch between his three alternate gun modes, and it might almost auto-transform into robot mode if the spring beneath his head were stronger. The removable gun barrel seems like a waste in this day and age, but more recent attempts at a G1-style Shockwave tend to be equally disappointing - the unreleased Titanium mold was awful, and Shockwave in both the movie and the TF: Prime continuities just have massive gun arms with spring-loaded features and exceedingly dubious alternate modes.

Considering the age of the figure, its level of articulation is pretty good. Technically, it's about the same as the Autobot cars like Prowl and Jazz - only the arms really do anything useful - but he does have a fair amount of forward swing in his upper legs, and the knees do bend on fairly solid ratchet joints... though one of mine was assembled backwards, so it moves one 'click' less. Not entirely sure what the springs in the thighs are for, though. Aside from the elbows, the arms have bicep swivel and, while the shoulder doesn't rotate forward, it does rotate out due to transformation. The hand on the right arm rotates at the wrist.

To this day, I am amazed and feel very fortunate to have found Tandy's Galactic Man. Had my father not been quite so 'into' electronics, I may never have even known of its existence... It's a brilliant model, better than some of the electronics-laden figures that came out later in Generation 1 (I'm looking at you, Galvatron), though far inferior to the kind of thing we get these days... If TakaraTomy ever re-release Shockwave, I'd expect voice samples... and perhaps some more imaginative sound effects for his weapons.

The coolest thing is that, since this was licensed by Tandy/Radio Shack from ToyCo, it's not even a knockoff - it's as official a product as the Hasbro version... just not an official TransFormer.


  1. We have an Astro Magnum by Toyco in its original box and in perfect working order. Would like to know how much it is worth?

    1. Hiya Karen,

      Gotta say, I'm no expert in these matters... And my brief 'research' (ie. looking it up on eBay) was inconclusive.

      Thing is, these days, it's a matter of how much an individual is willing to pay for something they want more than it is about assigning a selling price... and I'd guess that a genuine G1 Shockwave - or even the reissue - would command a higher price than ToyCo's version.