Saturday, 21 September 2013

G1 Galvatron

Never in this history of the TransFormers line has a character been so confusing as Galvatron.  The 1986 animated movie introduced him as 'Megatron, Upgraded' and became a long-standing precedent in the associated fiction where, after a crushing defeat at the hands of Optimus Prime, Megatron somehow blags himself an upgrade - most usually only in the form of a palette change, but occasionally he gains a few new alternate modes.

Both the later series of the animated TV show (those following the movie) and the comics, portrayed Galvatron as stark raving bonkers... in the comics, he even travelled back in time in an attempt to destroy Unicron, taking out the present-day Megatron in the process. According to the bio information packaged with the toy, however, Galvatron was merely the 'City Commander' - equal in rank to his Autobot counterpart Ultra Magnus - with no mention of Megatron other than very obliquely, in a reference to Galvatron's determination to lead the Decepticons.

Undoubtedly an iconic character one way or another, how does Galvatron's G1 toy shape up?

Alternate Mode #1:
Well, it's sort of the tank/mobile artillery mode from the animated movie... only not. Whereas a fair proportion of even the later G1 toys tried to make their alternate modes into something cohesive, it seems that no effort at all went into Galvatron. I'm not sure which came first - the animated character art or the toy design - but this thing just doesn't look right. If nothing else, Galvatron was able to raise and lower his gun in the cartoon - this thing is stuck pointing resolutely forward. The back end is very obviously just the collapsed legs of the robot mode - no attempt was made to match up the parts, so there's a gaping chasm between the robot's crotch - site of one of the buttons for the electronic lights and sounds - and the kneecaps.

The mold is not without its details... but they seem rather misplaced. There's panel detailing on the purple blocks that lead to the treads at the front, and there's panel detailing on the massive grey rear end of this 'vehicle'... but the treads themselves are sticker detail on the outside, with only simple rings molded onto the insides. Naturally, the treads don't work - Galvatron rolls around on three chunky plastic wheels, one embedded in each tread, the other in the trailing thing toward the back.

The colourscheme is nothing like the animated version either... though, to be honest, I always preferred this version. The vast majority is molded in a pale grey, with purple bits on the sides and top becase, well, he's a Decepticon, I guess? There are also red parts sticking out just above his tread arms, though they're backed by grey, so the red looks rather out of place (and was meant to be covered over with a sticker - mine peeled). There is chrome rimming his gunbarrel and on two dome-like things on the rear section, with darker grey paint picking out some molded detail. His stickers are multi-colour and largely ill-suited... Odd details, like the dotted red lines on his tread arms, work well as general tech detailing... but far too many of the stickers are just black patches with coloured block 'lights' on them, and the purple, orange and silver stripes right at the back seem very out of place.

The electronic lights and sounds are explored in a bit more detail at the end of this post. For the moment, suffice it to say that there are three settings, accessed via a switch on the top of the 'vehicle', just behind the purple protrusion on top, and activated either by the black button just behind that, or via the trigger on the underside.

The most striking thing about Galvatron is his sheer size. In this mode, from tip to tail, he's almost thirteen inches long. Considering G1 Megatron's size, that's one heck of an upgrade... and he can't be substantially smaller than Trypticon.

Alternate Mode #2:
Yep, Galvatron's wonky 'disguise' can also become a handgun, laughing in the face of such trivial things as 'scale' and scoffing at the mere notion of 'realism'.

Despite being a more managable size than G1 Megatron (or, indeed, the Masterpiece version), the grip on Galvatron is completely uncomfortable to hold, and the fact that he has tank treads sticking out of the top of the gun tend to belie the idea than this was an intentional third mode. Sure, Megatron transformed into a handgun, so it's only logical that his upgraded form - if that's who you take Galvatron to be - should do the same... but then, if Galvatron was meant only to be the Deceptions' City Commander, watching over Trypticon while Ultra Magnus takes charge of Metroplex, this mode makes a lot less sense.

A bit more colour becomes visible in this mode, since the tread arms are folded back along the body of the gun. All this reveals is more block 'lights' on a black sticker background, just behind the gun barrel.

He does sort-of have a sight, in the form of the same purple protrusion as the 'tank' mode, but it's not the most functional addition in the world. Basically, what you have here is a space laser that's less convincing than a model that came out three years before.

Robot Mode:
Galvatron is still pretty massive in robot mode - only a little shy of ten inches to the top of his crown. This puts him about the same scale as current Masterpiece toys... so part of me is curious as to whether Galvatron will get the Masterpiece treatment, considering MP05 met with such a mixed response from the fans. The increased complexity would certainly improve the quality of the model... but I'd worry that he'd end up being a fragile jigsaw puzzle of shifting panels like Rodimus Prime.

Virtually nothing changes about the colourscheme, and it's still no closer to that of the animation model. There's a bit more red visible in the form of a sticker on top of his chest, and the central part of his 'belt', but the rest is the same bizarre tech/light detailing stickers. Possibly the weirdest part of his colourscheme in robot mode is the set of four chromed 'abs' panels. The only other paintwork is the darker grey, which is now revealed as detailing on his 'boots'.

Naturally, the 9-volt battery compartment required a door to be placed somewhere on the model, but it seems to me that having it inside his torso caused unnecessary seams and, frankly, I have some difficulty getting batteries out of the chest compartment. The cable on the connector seems too long, and ends up getting tangled around the battery, wedging it in place.

There is the sense with this toy that it wouldn't look quite so bad if it weren't for all the alternate mode parts tagged on the back - the tank treads hang quite loosely from the arms, the gun sight and grip stick up behind Galvatron's head, almost like a large tail. Megatron may have suffered from 'trigger crotch', but Galvatron has all kinds of junk in his trunk. The arms are completely bizarre, though... I still haven't been able to decide whether his 'elbow' is actually an elbow or a very weird wrist, since his hands look like they're inside long gauntlets rather than at the ends of full forearms.

Even though the head is essentially the root of the gun barrel, it looks overly simplistic - just like someone took a tube and carved a face into one side of it... which is pretty much all they did. The face is angular, yet very humanoid, with large, triangular chasms for eyes (showing through to the light inside). It's fairly detailed and has plenty of contouring, yet still ends up looking very flat. The moldings around the mouth make it look almost as though he was supposed to be painted with a moustache and a goatee (the rerelease did have a goatee), but the whole face is painted in the same dark, flat grey as the arrow-like details on his shins. And because the face is carved out of a tube, he appears to have a very thick neck and a large, crowned helmet. The crown is referenced in the animation model, but it's more sweeping than this, with the crests angled backward. For some reason, it was thought necessary to break up the pale grey with four silver trapezoid stickers... but, with or without them, G1 Galvatron has a very plain crown.

The Sparkling Orange Cannon of Fabulous!
Thigh-length boots-within-boots, anyone?
...And this is about as close as you can get
to his pose on the G1 box art...
The most obvious point about this toy is that it bears almost no similarities to its animated counterpart. Galvatron the toy is largely angular, has ridiculously proportioned arms and neither of his two alternate modes could ever be described as 'disguise'. Galvatron from the animated movie and TV series is all curves, with a single, unlikely but serviceable alternate mode: unlike Megatron, he never transformed into a handgun, just a kind of mobile gun emplacement (though I don't think he ever moved around in his alternate mode!).

He's about as simplistic as the average later-G1 model, but has slightly better articulation. That is to say, he has more joints than most other TransFormers of his age, but they're not very well utilised. The arms have the best range with good shoulder articulation and decent elbow range - a typical feature since the former-Diaclone cars - while the legs have both hip and knee articulation, they only swing forward or back, with no outward movement or mid-thigh rotation like the more recent models.

My overall impression of this toy, even back in '86 when it first came out, was that it was a huge disappointment. I could get that it looked nothing like the character in the movie - the animated character art had always been oversimplified rubbish, and I was quite used to that - but the whole thing just looks like an ill-considered piece of junk, rushed out of the factories to claim the money of as many expectant children as possible.

The sound and light effects were underachieving and, while full-on digital sound clips were a long way off back in 1986, I'm sure they could have done more than basically recycling Shockwave's effects. Also, the size of him is a huge problem - he dwarfs not only his two minions, Cyclonus and Scourge, but both Hot Rod and Rodimus Prime too. On the upside, he's approximately the same size as Ultra Magnus...

While I'm not sure I can wholeheartedly recommend this model, I'm tempted to suggest that the 2005 rerelease offers better value if you can find it at a reasonable price. That said, if you're into customising, the original G1 version is available on eBay at a vast range of prices (which don't seem to relate to the state of the model or how complete it is), and some are an absolute pittance. Robot mode is decent enough for Generation 1, but neither of his alternate modes look good.

Bonus Video Content!
Ever wondered what wonders a 9-volt battery and a three-position switch could accomplish back in the dark ages of 1986? Well, wonder no more... Here's a demonstration of all three sound and light effects offered by this toy. Much like Shockwave/Shackwave, it's the same effect operating at three different speeds, so we have "annoying" mode, "shrill and annoying" mode and "almost like a warning siren" mode...

Amusingly, when this model was rereleased in in 2005, both in semi-authentic animation colours (Takara) and authentic G1 toy colours (e-Hobby) the battery powered features were changed somewhat... and so were the batteries. Gone was the need for a 9-volt brick and, instead, the new versions ran on the more usual pair of AA's. One third of the voltage now powered five whole voice clips, the transformation sound and a new - substantially less annoying - weapon fire sound effect, all of which were accompanied by sound-synchronised light effects from the lamp in Galvatron's noggin.

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