Wednesday, 4 January 2017

Ogling Oddbots

- mantis nine nines

This is truly the best of times for Transformer fans. Billion dollar movies, multiple TV shows, a  constant flow of new toys at retail and even a thriving unofficial collectors market. 
All of this is made possible by the strength and consistency of the brand itself. A focused and unified brand, carefully curated into an almost singular look. Transformers are universally humanoid in shape, with two arms, two legs and all the personality quirks of our neighbors, coworkers and selves. Iconic. Relatable. BORING.

Cash and Bandit (Select Convertors)

In the beginning the Transformers pantheon was much more chaotic and varied. Micro change, Diaclone, Macross, Dorvack, all of these existed as their own properties. Megatron and Optimus Prime may be iconic rivals today but Convoy and Gun Robo were never destined to meet, they lived in entirely different universes.

Chosen to be a Transformer but still odd: The Mechabot from Toybox

My fandom dates back to this time, and thus I have always retained a taste for what I like to call the oddbot. 
Transforming cash registers, roulette wheel, pinball machines, binoculars, motorized boats, some oddbots are defined by their alt mode. Others are defined by having a strange and unique robot mode completely at odds with the cookie-cutter human shape we are now accustomed to.

F-16 Fighting Falcon (Unknown) Transforming Moth (LH Toys) and Sabrest (Rock Lords)

The variety of those early days was not confined to only the Hasbro transformers brand. One of my favorite lines, Select Converters, also brought together toys from a wide range of companies. Convertors shared many of the same properties that Hasbro did, but without the same fixation on human form. This led to a much more diverse collection of robot and vehicle designs. For example; both Select and Hasbro used the Mugen Caliber and Gazette from Dorvack but the completely non humanoid design of the Tulcas did not fit the Transformers aesthetic so it was dropped. This design only hit our shores as the Select Converter “Tanker”.

The Mugen Calibur (L) Gazzette (M) and Tulcas (R) from Special Armored Battalion Dorvack

What Could Have Been; Tanker (Select Convertors) 

While Tanker provides an excellent example of toy pruning by Hasbro, there were still some misfit molds that made it through. Ironhide/Ratchet in particular has all the characteristics of the oddbot. No head, strange industrial limbs, this design is quirky even for a mech suit. Why Hasbro included it we'll never know, but they made sure to get as far away as possible from the toy when it came time to cast the Sunbow cartoon.

Hard to believe the G1 box art (L) and the Sunbow animation model (R) depict the same character.

The redesigned Ironhide was always one of my favorite characters in the show and yet I still loved the toy. Whatever it looked like, it was fun and different as a plaything, and I never let show accuracy get in the way of a good time.
This is why I love these stupid-looking oddbots so much, the fun factor. Its hard to look at their squat, non-proportional designs and not smile. The alternate modes provide their own unique enjoyment. Some of them are fully functional roulette wheels, pinball machines, radios, capguns, anything a kid would enjoy playing with has an oddbot version out there somewhere.

It doesn't get more odd than the Marchon Mysterians!

My YouTube channel was founded with a mission of “rarely seen, never reviewed” and while I sometimes stray into the mainstream, my purpose remains the same. I want to provide the same smorgasbord of robot flavor that I enjoyed as a young fan to the current day. I never saw any reason why these varied designs shouldn't live together, and neither should you.
Many of you will not find the same fascination with these oddities that I do. Taste is subjective and I know mine tends to be in the minority among modern fans. I firmly believe that if you take the time to investigate some of these oddbots you will discover something new and wonderful.
Many are from anime or toylines that failed spectacularly but nonetheless feature brilliant designs. Who knows, perhaps one of you will discover inspiration that will lead to an entirely new Fandom 30 years from now. Break free from the narrow confines of humanoid robot design, there are so many possibilities to explore!

The Unique and Very Cool Sasuraiger Train Bot.

Follow Dan on Twitter @mantisninenines

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