Friday, March 9, 2012

Figure Friday: Galvatron

Galvatron is such a bad ass.

Most people don't know this because the only time they saw him was in Transformers, The Movie, and the following season of the cartoon. Admittedly, he is very cool in that movie, for reasons I'll explain. But he was so much more ruthless and intense in the comic.
Of the movie characters, he was by far the most impressive toy. In fact, I have G1 Galvatron as one of the best Transformers in the original line.

Read on for the evilest of the evil Decepticons, Galvatron!

I'm in full robot mood these days. Some recent re-issues in the delicious Encore line from Takara re-ignited the ever lurking fascination for Transformers. Like I've said before, I'm a passionate fan of the transforming robots, even though I didn't have a big collection as a kid. I was heavily into the comics, the lore, the stories, and I always liked to play with the robots when at friends. But I always felt that the G1 toy representations of the characters I saw in the comics was lacking. They were incredibly cool in the comics (and to a certain extent in the cartoon), but as toys they were clunky, unarticulated and not nearly in scale with each other. Needless to say, I got my toy fix from G.I. Joe.

Of course, I've changed my opinion on this since I was a kid. Now, if I include robots in my collection, it's likely to be G1 Transformers. It's a nostalgia thing, but I also thing they are visually impressive.
That is... some of them are visually impressive.

I still have the original comic as the best medium for the Transformers universe. It's excellent.
But over the last years, I've also picked up a few G1 toys. One of them was the Japanese re-issue of Galvatron.

Who is Galvatron? 

Well, Hasbro felt they needed to re-imagine the main characters of the Transformers universe in the late 80s. They did this by letting Sunbow make Transformers The Movie. Sunbow, Marvel and Hasbro disagreed on a lot when it came to the robots, and there seems to have been many conflicts to how the franchise should be treated. Read more on that here.


Conflicts there may have been, but the 1986 long feature animated movie... I don't mind it at all. It's a good movie on its own right, with the story revolving around the battle for the Matrix of Creation. The story they completely messed up with the first live action movie.
The movie starts off with a battle between Autobots and Decepticons in New Autobot City, future earth, where many of the main characters are killed. Yes, we see several robots getting killed, among them Optimus Prime.
The fact that Hasbro actually killed off Optimus Prime was extremely controversial. Kids were shown the graphic death of their greatest hero. Within the first 10 minutes of the movie!

Kup and Rodimus fell to the might of shiny knee-pads.
Megatron also met his end, but unlike Optimus, he is given a second life, as he's remade into Galvatron, courtesy the world eater, Unicron. The rest of the movie focuses on the Autobots' for the rightful bearer of the Matrix of Leadership/Creation, and the means to defeat Unicron before he eats Cybertron. Galvatron - seeing opportunity for power to defeat his creater and be the ultimate power in the universe - also sets out to get the Matrix.

From this point on, Galvatron was featured in the following, third season of the cartoon. Along with him several new Transformers characters from the movie, like Rodimus Prime, Ultra Magnus, Kup, Blurr, Scourge and Cyclonus. The new characters are easily distinguishable from the old ones by the more sleek and curved, humanoid design. This obviously also makes them harder to translate into toys. Galvatron is where I feel they succeeded the most. Kup and Rodimus Prime for instance, are just not good toys at all.
Galvatron is very similar to Megatron, he transforms not into a hand gun, but to a mobile cannon. He has a helmet, like Megs, and wields a cannon on his right arm in robot mode.

Galvatron from the third season of the cartoon.
In the American cartoon, Galvatron is shown as very similar to Megatron. Ambitious, but slightly stupid. And he even shows signs of weakness, ceasing the war with the Autobots in the last episode.

In the comic, on the other hand, Galvatron is malicious. He's the absolute evil, and even down to his very last moment, he clings to the goal of claiming the universe for himself, as he taps the power of Cybertron to take on Unicron alone.

It's interesting to see how different the leaders of the Decepticons are in the comic.
Megatron is ambitious and loyal to a case. He's almost proud of being a Decepticon, and next to Starscream and Blaster, he's the Transformer that shows most emotions. He obsesses on his rivalry with Optimus Prime, and it ends up causing him to go mad.
Shockwave is the exact opposite of Megatron. He's cold, emotionless and very calculative. Easily the most machine-like of the Decepticon leaders.
Scorponok obviously has a human (Nebulonian, if you want) side, and shows signs of compassion. He's also very opportunistic, and has no problem siding with the Autobots (or anyone else) if it helps his cause.
Galvatron wants to destroy his enemies and rule the universe.

This may sound like he's the least developed of them, as a character. But I find it amusing. He's evil to the point where it's funny. He thinks of no one but himself. He doesn't really have a cause, other than absolute power. He has no friends, and in his mind probably no equal enemies either.
Make no mistake about this: I may be easily amused, but I'm also able to recognize quality, even within a simple media like the Transformers comic.
And some issues of the G1 comic are extremely good. Sadly, it seems I'm forever destined to be alone with this view. Those that are into Transformers doesn't seem to be bothered with the comic. It's cartoon, live action movie and toys exclusively. The comic is for kids, right?
On the other side, those that are into comics on a more general level will claim that Transformers, that's a kid's thing.
Well, I can tell you this: If you like Transformers, or if you like comics, the G1 comic made by Marvel is worth reading. All 80 issues, plus various mini-series.

There are of course many similarities to Megatron. The most obvious one being the design. But like Megatron, Galvatron also obsesses with his arch nemesis, Rodimus Prime.


Megatron toy needed an update, Optimus Prime didn't. What we ultimately got was an updated Prime (Powermaster) and a replacement for Megatron (Galvatron).

This baffles me. G1 Megatron is such a bad toy, it's borderline ridiculous. Yet it's the only Megatron we saw before G2 (where we actually got a stunning Megatron, in a green, camouflaged tank).
But G1 Optimus Prime is a monumental toy, even by the toy standards of today, and didn't really need his Powermaster update. Consider this the second teaser for T&B100.

Back on topic, I guess you can consider Galvatron both an update and a replacement of Megatron, but I just think it would have made more impact to just call him Megatron, or made him slightly more similar to the former leader of the 'Cons. 

Blaster, Galvatron and a contemporary Mirage. 
Still, Galvatron is a really fun toy that hits all the right buttons for me as a collector of robots. Did it hit a home run with the kids in the late 80s? Probably not. It was very expensive, even for a Transformer. Yes, you got a couple of cool functions, but for the same price, you could get a complete Combiner (5-6 smaller robots who could transform into one giant robot). The tiny, brown robot below was part of a group of 5 robots called Combaticons who could turn into the impressive Bruticus.
Galvatron is a massive toy, but when you compare it in height with other robots, you'll find he's as tall as Blaster, Powermaster Optimus, Jetfire. All were cheaper than Galvatron by initial release.

This specific Galvatron is a Japanese, Takara re-issue from 2009 or something. There is another re-issue in the cartoon colors, all purple. This one has the comic colors, which you by now should know is far superior. He came in a cool box, with a few more stickers and the lovely accessory, a green Matrix of Creation/Leadership.
Edit: After doing some research, I've found out that this is a recolor Takara made for e-hobby (their online store), made to look like Galvatron like he was in the Marvel comics. It has the new tooling from the first re-issue, the all purple one from 2006, but yeah... made to look like the total bad ass Galvatron from the comic.    

Unlike many other Transformers, I feel the toy brings out at least some of the character traits of Galvatron. I like the fact that he seems to be wearing a crown, it suits his ambitions. I think I prefer the horns of the comic/cartoon version, but I also think I prefer the face of the toy, with the thin face and high cheek bones.
Notice that the toy has a slight smirk. Awesome detail.
You can see he's up to no good, his face is more humanoid than most Transformers, and the light-up function makes his eyes glow red.

Yes, this toy has a light-up function. And sounds. The original had a transformation sound and blast sound. This re-issue also has several lines from the Japanese cartoon, and even though I barely understand a single Japanese word, I know this guy is evil! The Japanese cartoon has some great voice actors.
There's a lever on his back with three positions. One for speech, one for transformation and one for blast sound. By pushing the button on his crotch, he will make the sound you want, and his eyes/head will light up in pulses. It's truly amazing that this toy is 25 years (well, not this exact toy, but the original design).

Galvatron doesn't have a great amount of details, but what there is, is incredible.

First of all, composition: In robot mode, he doesn't have any articulation worth mentioning. He can move his arms up and down. He's very static. But for some reason, I don't think it matters. He doesn't need to move, he only needs to scare his minions, and fire his cannon on occasion. He has knee joints, but it doesn't give any options for posing him. I guess it adds play value.

When it comes to the sculpt, I've already mentioned the face. There is the usual "robot" styling, particularly on the legs. Other than that, he's rather smooth, and I think it suits the character. His chest is sculpted almost with a window. But you can't see the batteries that's inside his chest.
His cannon is translucent plastic with glitter. It looks a bit more flashy than necessary, but it resembles the source material. I could also see him with a metallic, shiny gold barrel for the cannon. That would have been cool. But that would have hindered the cannon lighting up in tank mode.

He came with tons of stickers. I have barely used half the sticker sheet. Most of them were optional stickers for the same areas, so I kinda had to make a choice how I wanted my Galvatron to look like. I went with the most classic one. Notice the vents near his hip, the blinking lights vertically on his chest, and the smooth red panel with the Decepticon logo on the top of his chest.

To transform Galvatron, I just compress the legs and push them together. Pull his chest up over his face. Fold the arms in and give him his tank threads. It's a smooth transformation, only disrupted by the fact that you have to remove and disassemble his arm cannon. The cannon barrel goes onto the top of his head to form the cannon tube in tank mode.

In tank mode, he still has the light-up/sound function, and this time, the light makes the entire barrel of the cannon light up.


It doesn't really look like a tank, and I think the "disguise" mode is indeed called "space cannon". And I can't argue with that, it's probably what a space cannon looks like. Is this the curse of Transformers with great looking robot modes? That their alternate mode suffers? Most Transformers have better looking disguise than robot mode, but Galvatron is the opposite.
Few Transformers are great looking in both/all modes. There are a few, like G1 Jazz, Jetfire and the always underlooked Snapdragon. Galvatron's space cannon mode is a bit weird.

Good thing he comes with a third mode, the gun.
It just isn't a Decepticon leader without a gun mode, Galvatron is no exception.
I fold the treads up, and extend the handle, and that's pretty much it. The trigger has the same function as the button for the sound and light up. This suddenly goes from a good toy to a great toy.

Is there any reason to be worried with giving kids a toy that transforms into a gun? Well, I had tons of plastic guns as a kid, and I'd like to believe I turned out ok.

Pew Pew! Take that, stupid humans that I just imagined blasting with my space gun!
I'm glad I have Galvatron in my collection of robots. He's a great toy, and I like having him on the shelf. It has happened more than once that I've picked him up, transformed him a couple of times, pushed his sound button, pretended that he destroyed all the Autobots and gave a ridiculously cheesy monologue about how he needs more enemies.
I think it's great that they retooled the original toy, gave it some new details and a better sound chip. And to make it even better, we got one on the correct colors.

I also find myself appreciating the character, and the way Hasbro/Marvel/Sunbow felt the need to re-imagine the franchise. Where robots like Ultra Magnus and Hot Rod feels like mediocre attempts at making something new, Galvatron was definitely breaking out of the mold, and I believe he can still hold his own today. Yes, he doesn't have a lot of articulation, but neither did his contemporaries. What no one can deny is that Galvatron - at least when we're talking toys - truly is the leader that Decepticons needed.

Enjoy your weekend, people!

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