Sunday, 3 July 2016

TransFormers Collectors' Club 2016/Combiner Wars Spinister

As with the first two components of Thunder Mayhem, I know very little about Spinister... which is amusing, considering he's apparently characterised as a bit of a 'mech of mystery'. The G1 Double TargetMaster is here reimagined as yet another reuse of the Alpha Bravo helicopter mold, with the same stock weapons and the same Generations TargetMaster guns as Needlenose, just with different paint jobs.

So far, so blah... are we already seeing a downward trend in the 2016 Subscription Service figures?

Vehicle Mode:
Like Ruckus/Grabuge (and, to a lesser extent, Needlenose), Spinister is molded largely in one colour of plastic and then very extensively coated in paint. The bulk of him is molded in a dark, sea blue, and the entire rear section seems to have been bathed in pink paint considering how heavy it is on the tail section. The further forward you look, the less comprehensive the coating is, to the point where it's quite patchy and feathered where it stops and reveals the blue plastic, frequently stopping short of a seam. On the upside, this is - I think - the only time this mold has been released with all its windows painted - the four skewed boxes on the sides and all the panels around the cockpit have been picked out with cyan paint. There's also a curious arrow tampographed just below the lower cockpit windows. I know it's a reference to stickers on the original, but they seem rather out-of-context here, simply indicating the helicopter's nose or it usual direction of travel.

Other oddities of paintwork include the black panels just above the rows of four small windows on each side and the irregular hexagonal panel in white-outlined red just behind the rotor section (the latter possibly referencing the vent stickers that end up on the robot's chest?). The tail rotor is picked out in grey on both sides and the missiles sculpted onto the arms are painted purple, to help them blend into the purple plastic 'wing' sections just behind. Probably the biggest mistake is the black paint on the exhaust ports. While it may be a reference to the original toy's single black exhaust port (on the exposed part of the back of the head), painting them here just means the 5mm ports are that much tighter for mounting weapons, and mine has already got some flaking paint there, having been out of the box for only a few days. Additionally, the pink paint on the tip of the tail had already rubbed off in a couple of places while in transit, despite the foam packaging, and the rotation joint for the tail isn't especially secure because of all the excess paint caked in there. It's in the process of rubbing off, so that issue may solve itself. For all this paint, though, a closer G1 accuracy could have been achieved by painting the stubby wings black, rather than leaving the part extending from the body painted pink and the part attached to the robot's shoulders bare purple plastic.

The main problem with this mold comes from the inclusion of the TargetMaster weapons, for which there are no useful mounting points. The original toy had them mounting on flip-out wings, but the closest this mold has is the 5mm fist sockets. The problem is that neither gun has a peg long enough to comfortably plug into these sockets in vehicle mode, nor can the peg into the exhaust ports... and in both cases it's because the TargetMaster's lower legs are too bulky, and end up butting against the body of the helicopter and/or the missile pods. The other weapons - both the belt-fed machine gun and the hand/foot dual Gatling - mount perfectly well, as one would expect, though I did find that the machine gun was less inclined to mount in the exhaust ports due to the heavy paintwork, which has started flaking off around the rims of the ports.

On the subject of the machine gun weapon, this is the first time I've had one that isn't molded in black plastic, so it's nice to finally see some of the details more clearly. It's actually quite an interesting-looking thing and, mounted in the lefthand exhaust port, it reminds me a lot of G1 Blades' twin rocket launchers in their overall shape, though the finer details are clearly those of a large, belt-fed heavy machine gun.

Robot Mode:
The extensive paint coverage continues, and it now becomes apparent that the torso section - the midsection of the helicopter mode - got the lion's share of the paint budget. To match the original G1 toy as closely as possible, the chest has been coated with pink and purple paint, with a dash of silver at the groin. For the most part, I really like the way it looks - while the pink paint is rather matte-finish, the purple brings back a nice gloss to the torso, helping it stand out - but, looking at photos of the G1 toy online, there area few points I'd have done differently to better reference the style of the original. It's interesting to note, also, that Takara Tomy have occasionally used different plastic colours for the plug and the articulation joint parts of the combiner pegs, which could have helped CW Spinister's chest look more like that of his G1 ancestor (pink for the upper part, grey for the lower?).

I'm guessing that the layout of the sprues plays a large part in the colour usage in robot mode - purple for the upper arms, blue for the lower, for example - but I'm puzzled by the use of hot pink plastic for his upper legs nevertheless. It does make him more visually interesting, admittedly, as blue thighs wouldn't stand out so well. I'm a little surprised that the forearms - or the fists, at least - weren't painted black to match the G1 toy, especially considering the only other instances of black are the head and the pointless-seeming blocks now on his shins.

The fact that the squared-off background to the torso - where it blends into the central portion of the helicopter - is also painted pink looks odd in this mode but, had they not done this, it would have looked even more odd in vehicle mode. The plastic colour used for the combiner joint (and the upper leg parts) isn't a perfect match to the pink paint, but the end result sort-of resembles the weird design of the G1 toy's torso - a bold, hot pink cross on a purple block - but improving immeasurably on the overall look of the robot.

What's interesting about this mold is that, despite transforming into a helicopter nothing like G1 Spinister, the silhouette is quite similar, thanks to the nose/cockpit chunks that flip round and connect to the outsides of his lower legs, the slim thighs and the boxy upper body. Obviously, the overall proportions of this are better - more human, that is - than the bizarre, lanky box that was the G1 toy, albeit still quite boxy in the way Combiner Wars toys often are.

The stock Alpha Bravo head sculpt isn't a perfect match for Spinister, but it's probably about the closest of the stock heads currently available, and the use of a couple of blocks of red paint on the visor (otherwise painted cyan to match the mouthplate) works surprisingly well given there's no specific molded detail to support them.

There's not much to add regarding the stock weapons - the machine gun works nicely as a hand-held weapon and the hand/foot dual Gatling works as well as it ever did. The two TargetMasters still look more like folded-up little armoured figures rather than guns, and their combined mode is still weird-looking.

TargetMaster Partners:
While it seems Singe - originally a 'dual flamethrower', but now featuring only a single barrel - got to keep his original G1 name, the other TargetMaster, Hairsplitter, has been renamed 'Shrute' though he is, presumably, still a twin lock-target laser rifle... whatever that's supposed to be. That the original came with two double-barrelled weapons might offer part of an explanation as to the reference in Spinister's bio to a "four-pronged taser" but, however you arrange them, Shrute and Singe only ever form a three- or five-barrelled weapon (depending on whether or not you count the protrusions from Singe's shoulders).

While it's disappointing that these two are exactly the same molds as those that came with Needlenose - not even with a couple of component switches between them - their colourschemes are a vast improvement on Sunbeam and Zputty. What's really weird is that both of these use much the same base plastic colours - purple and black - as Needlenose's TargetMasters and, while the paint colours themselves are quite different - cooler in tone and more traditionally 'Decepticon' - the distribution of colour is actually quite similar.

My biggest concern about this figure is that stress marks appeared on the rotor blades almost immediately, and, despite being made of fairly soft plastic and only tabbed in place, the blades themselves look as though they may be inclined to break if mishandled - odd, considering there are no signs of any such trouble on either Alpha Bravo or Blades. The excess of paint is also worrying - it's only in a couple of joints, and none that are especially significant, it's just that seeing such heavy paint break up and flake off isn't a good thing with a premium figure.

Spinister's bio could almost be considered clever, in that it reveals next to nothing about this secretive character... but, as can be expected, it's essentially poorly-written retread of his G1 bio with a few tweaks, grammatical errors (what is "he has yielded enough trust from Bludgeon to earn the choice of being an arm when in combined mode and wielding any weapon needed for battle" actually supposed to mean?) and even an outright cock-up: it refers to him as wielding "a laser rifle... and a four-pronged taser", when he's clearly been packaged with the same belt-fed machine gun and dual Gatling as Alpha Bravo, Blades and Vortex... it's almost as if his hand/foot weapon and Ruckus'/Grabuge's were supposed to be switched... unless, as suggested above, it's referring to the TargetMasters' weapon modes, despite having already referred to both by name.

I'm actually surprised by how much I like this, despite it being just another Alpha Bravo repaint even though the original Spinister was a whole different kind of chopper. Certainly, it's a shame we couldn't have had a couple of variants on the helicopter mold (3 different jets in the Aerialbots, but the same helicopter used across the Aerialbots, the Protectobots and the Combaticons seems like poor odds), but Alpha Bravo was pretty good for what he was. The other repaints aren't quite so good, and it's quite possibly that this one only works well enough because I have no nostalgic connection to the original. The bright, vibrant colourscheme is so incongruous on a Decepticon it slips through 'bizarrely wrong' and straight onto 'Fabulous'. I've never been a fan of the lurid colourschemes of Generation 2, but this post-Diaclone character came with an endearingly ill-fitting palette that still works well, and brings a welcome colour-boost to the Thunder Mayhem limbs released thusfar.
According to the default configuration, Spinister
becomes Thunder Mayhem's right arm
Excitement Factor for Thunder Mayhem: 7/10


  1. I'm rather enjoying your coverage of these guys and look forward to the views of Thunder Mayhem when they're all together!

    This one doesn't quite do it for me and I think a lot of it comes from his slightly derpy eyes. TFCC had a vote on twitter about 2 possible eye selections and apparently the black background won. But they just went for the blue anyway. The colours and the shape of the chopper just look bizarre. Robot mode is nice though!

    1. Glad you're enjoying these posts! I'm definitely looking forward to the completed gestalt, though my expectations are still pretty low, particularly for Thunder Mayhem's head sculpt.

      Funny thing about that Twitter picture: the finished figure looks nothing like either option because the red parts are much larger, almost-but-not-quite filling the height of the visor. Seems odd that someone from the Club would post that picture and then not only ignore the feedback, but make the head deco (arguably) worse... but I guess that's how FunPub operated sometimes.