Friday, 10 August 2018

TransFormers Animated Oil Slick

Oil Slick was one of those characters I didn't feel a compelling need to acquire at the time TransFormers Animated was one of the primary toylines, largely because he appeared only a couple of times in the TV show - and only in the final season, at that. His design was interesting, but since I couldn't see it in action at the time (TF Animated only aired on satellite channels over here, and the series' UK DVD release came to a premature end with Season 2 - I had to order the US boxed set of Season 3, released by Shout Factory in 2014!), the toy wasn't interesting enough to warrant spending money on... Always assuming he was even available on UK shelves because I didn't tend to order TF Animated toys online back then since they were easily available in Toys'R'Us and The Entertainer.

Nevertheless, as the years have gone by, I've developed a need to more fully round off my TF Animated collection, obtaining Arcee online and Hot Rod as a Christmas present, both only a couple of years ago. Oil Slick eventually found his way onto my radar, and I grabbed him second hand, from the treasure troves of eBay.

Vehicle Mode:
While motorcycles aren't so much underrepresented in TransFormers these days, they tend to be the leaner, curvier, more modern bikes... it's very rare that a Cybertronian would disguise itself as, for example, the kind of monster low-rider usually seen carting baddie-of-the-week Hell's Angels around on an episode of The A-Team. It's got everything you'd expect - spikes all over the place, leather-look panniers (though these open out to carry wooden barrels, which pretty much double the width of the vehicle yet, somehow, don't look that out of place), and a black ram's skull mounted in front of the handlebars. Curiously, though, this 'motor-bicycle' is actually a four-wheeler. This sort of made sense for the pre-Earth character model created for the TV show, and I don't recall seeing Oil Slick in his terrestrial vehicle mode in either of his (blink and you miss him) appearances, but remaining a four-wheeler on Earth would be a little unusual. Three wheels he might get away with, but having two separate wheels at the front is something of an oddity.

Even so, his bike mode looks awesome. The fact that he's so long makes him look a lot more believable in his proportions, but it also helps that he's actually not that wide to start with. The fuel tank looks enormous, but fitting for the cartoonish proportions of the figure and, for once, the seat looks as though it could comfortably accommodate a human (possibly coincidence, but a Microman figure works pretty well, though the hands can't be oriented to hold the handlebars, and the lack of footrests means they won't stay in the seat). The ram's head on the front looks a little cartoonish, painted black and with dots of a pale, sickly green in the eyesockets as 'glow' but this is, after all, a three-dimensional toy of a two-dimensional cartoon character, so it's not inappropriate. The horns and handlebars are made of the same pale green rubbery material, which works well enough for the horns, but leaves the handlebars a little wobbly. The bike is molded in a khaki/greenish plastic for the extremities and a mustard yellow plastic for the central part, with gold paint on the forks, the rear flanks and the exhaust pipes. The seat and instrument panel are painted matte black, with the headlight and dials - as well as a couple of small details just behind the seat - painted the same green as the dots in the ram's eyesockets. The barrels are molded in black plastic, with the bindings painted a similar pale, teal-ish colour to the horns and handlebars. The sides of the fuel tanks feature a stylised 'wing' design that extends to the underside, which will be the robot mode's chest. The panniers and spikes are unpainted, sadly, but this is very much in keeping with TF Animated's simplistic colour schemes and the further-simplified toys.

The two barrels are Oil Slick's only accessories, and don't really make for good weapons in vehicle mode. I guess the one with the hinged lid could be used to dump noxious fluids onto the road behind him, while the other could split apart to allow the chain to drag along behind, but either one seems defensive rather than offensive.

Oil Slick's vehicle mode is an excellent interpretation of the TFA style in three-dimensional plastic, and a very unusual bike. In a similar way to TFA Lockdown, the look of his vehicle mode clearly telegraphs that he's a Decepticon. On the strength of vehicle mode alone, I'm puzzled as to why I didn't want him when he originally came out... It could have used a touch more paint here and there - particularly the spikes and panniers - but it's full of character.

Robot Mode:
There's a definite sinister, somewhat supervillain-ish vibe to Oil Slick. Like a lot of the more slender 'bot modes from TF Animated, he has a cartoonishly humanoid appearance - a few modifications to the sculpt and colourscheme, and this could easily be turned into a transforming Mr Freeze from Batman. His proportions are pretty much the usual TFA thing, though - small head, barrel chest, slim waist and thighs, massive shins and feet... but where many other characters have massive shoulders and smaller forearms, Oil Slick is almost reminiscent of Prowl in that his upper arms are tiny compared to his forearms. Since his arms are made out of his vehicle mode's front wheel assembly, his forearms are strangely flat, ending in massive, clawed hands. The ram's head ends up on his left shoulder, adding a welcome bit of assymmetry to the mold. I'm never quite sure what to do with the handlebars, but I tend to fold the left one down behind the ram's head, and leave the right one sticking up to one degree or another.

The torso really just maintains the look of the bike's fuel tank - bulbous and largely featureless in terms of sculpted detail. It was made with a curious forced 'pelvic thrust', as the groin/hip section juts forward from the bottom of the waist. Coupled with the dome over his head and the slight hunch he has due to the way the head is mounted, he looks like a monster out of urban legend - clawed, sinuous, and quite eerie... and yet still fitting within the stylised robotic aesthetic of TransFormers Animated. One feature I really like about this toy is the design of the feet - they're very much in the style of cowboy boots, with pointed toes and spurs at the back.

In terms of paintwork, there's not much new to be seen in robot mode. The 'wing' designs on the sides of his petrol tank/chest meet in the middle of his torso in a stylised 'bird of prey' design that looks pretty good, but fits more with the vehicle mode than the robot - almost as if it should have been applied to his back rather than his chest. It seems there was a repaint planned - Toxic Oil Slick - with a paint job based on his (brief) appearance in robot mode in the TV show, but it looks as though it never made it to the shops (most likely because TF Animated was brought to a premature end to shift focus to the live action movies). It's a shame Oil Slick appeared only briefly in the show, as it would have been interesting to see to what degree his personality was reflected in his appearance.

Oil Slick doesn't have weapons, as such... His two barrels are a weird addition. One simply opens via a flap at one end, while the other - described on the packaging as a 'jagged cannister "chain" weapon!' - splits unevenly at the middle and opens to reveal a chain connecting the two halves, perhaps forming a flail-type weapon, but the fact that the half with the peg attaches almost to his wrist rather than the palm of his hand means it looks rather odd when it's 'held' in his hand. The hinged barrel ends up looking like a novelty bier stein, though I gather Oil Slick's 'thing' was chemical weapons - including Cosmic Rust - so perhaps it's reasonably appropriate that he should carry a flask of sorts. Again, this one pegs in near the wrist, so it's quite difficult to make it look as if he's actually holding it - if you line it up with his thumb, the fingers aren't in the right orientation for a convincing grip. Line the barrel up with the fingers, and you have to fold the thumb in behind the barrel as the ball joint doesn't have the right range to complete a grip.

It's not often you find a figure whose head remains fully enclosed in robot mode, but Oil Slick's is permanently encased in an eerie translucent green dome. Due to a combination of very basic paintwork on the actual head and the slightly foggy quality of the plastic, it's difficult to make out much detail on his face, but a bland visage with a flat, squarish nose and a wide, neutral mouth is just about discernible. The light piping of his beady eyes works quite well within the casing, and the dome itself is molded in such a way as to suggest that it's partly filled with fluid.

Oil Slick's transformation is as simple as it is symmetrical - which is to say, almost entirely. The arms form the forks and front wheels of the bike, the torso and legs form the body of the bike, with the rear wheels protruding from the shins. The heel spurs/seat and toes/exhaust pipes are on rotating section surrounding each of the rear wheels, and the former lock the legs into the back of the torso, while the latter then simply bend up or down for either mode. The head stows inside the fuel tank, and the ram's head swings from the left shoulder to peg into the centre from the bike's nose, with his single headlight poking out to one side. Pegging the lower legs together isn't always easy - there's a bit more resistance between the tab and slot than one might expect - and the only thing really keeping the back section together is that small tab underneath the seat plugging into a slot in the robot's backside. In robot mode, I find the concertina joints on each shoulder don't peg together very securely, but nor do they fall apart or have a negative impact on his freedom of movement.

While Oil Slick's legs offer all the joints one might expect - knees bend fully due to transformation, ball-jointed hips without any nearby torso parts to clash with and separate thigh rotation, plus the transformation joint for the feet acts and forward/backward ankle tilt - the upper body is surprisingly awkward. The shoulders are ball-jointed, but their movement is restricted by the construction of the shoulder mass itself - he can't raise his arms forward or back without first raising them outward. The elbows offer a great range of bend, however, and can even bendinward, across his torso, due to a second joint, below the elbow, which isn't even needed for transformation. The head, naturally, can only rotate left and right, but the cutout in the chest and back parts permit a very small amount of tilt due to transformation.

As with most of the TF Animated line, Oil Slick is a stylish and fun toy. He feels a bit more sturdy than some of my others, and there are no obvious QC issues, and no clunky geared parts. TF Animated had its detractors due to its weird animation style - I wasn't particularly keen on the cheated transformation animations in the earlier seasons - but one thing it did really well was bring character into a toyline that, even back in 2006-2008, still tended to be quite squared-off and boxy. In a toy line defined by its eschewing of the traditional robotic aesthetics and presentation of characters with a diverse range of builds within the Deluxe size class, Oil Slick still manages to stand out from the crowd. While he may only be fairly average in terms of size - much the same height as Prowl, Jazz and Blackarachnia - and very simple in terms of transformation, the only real reservation I'd have about him is regarding the rubber handlebars, which may perish or tear over time. On the upside, at least they're not fixed in place they way they were on Generations/Reveal the Shield Wreck-Gar, which wasn't remotely durable and quickly led to a breakage on mine.

1 comment:

  1. Oilslick gives me a very Cy-Kill feel in transformation and look. I remember reading that Oilslick's head was supposed to have liquid in the bubble, but this was dropped due to leakage and water quality fears.

    As for personality, there was a comic series of (I think) 4 issues which featured Oilslick developing Cosmic Rust (or weaponising). In this comic, he managed to dupe Ratchet into helping him do it as well.
    This made him a very interesting character to me and makes me wish ANimated lasted a bit longer.
    I really like the Ghost Rider look to his vehicle. very nice!