Non-affiliated, Non-lengthy, Non-articles about Transformers

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Who is Blaze? (BadCube OTS-Special 01 Sentinel Blaze)

Third Party company BadCube (formerly Cubex) had previously mainly tackled Generation 1 minibots such as Huffer (Huff), Brawn (Brawny), Outback (Backland) and Warpath (Wardog). Evil Bug Corps (Insecticons) aside, they took an enormous step towards being a headline event with OTS-08 Sunsurge, their take on Autobot car Sunstreaker in the Masterpiece style and scale. The Autobot cars are massively popular still, and the Masterpiece Transformers have proven to be as desirable as anything else around. Being the first company to get a legitimately MP-style Sunstreaker on the market ensured Sunsurge's success. Now, BadCube have repainted the modified yellow Lamborghini Countach into its red predecessor, known widely as the Diaclone "Red Sunstreaker"- named BadCube Old Timer Series Special 01 - Sentinel Blaze. I'm going to have a brief look at this upcoming figure, explain its history and significance because it excites me hugely, and needs some defending. Much as I felt the need to address the question Who Is Tigertrack for the Masterpiece release in 2013, let us now ask Who is Blaze?

In March 1982, Takara released the very first in their line of transforming Car Robots, the No.1 Car Robot Lamborghini Countach LP500S Super Tuning, the toy we now call "Red Sunstreaker". This was available in Japan in red, and a year or so later it was released in the North American market as the Diakron DK-1 (different stickers and packaging). GiG in Italy also released this mould in red, but by that time the yellow Transformers version "Sunstreaker" was in production and mostly yellow ones made their way into GiG Diaclone boxes as well as into Ceji Joustra Diaclone and of course Transformers boxes sold across Europe and the world respectively. Considering that this "Red Sunstreaker" was the first ever mould of what we now consider the Autobot cars, and every single incarnation, toy, figure, story, cartoon, comic and piece of merchandise that has come since bearing an Autobot car on it, to say that it is significant or important is a criminal understatement. This figure is almost holy. Even though it's one of the mosty widely available Diaclone car variants, that ought not affect its deserved legendary status. The first will always be the first.

Original licensing document between Takara and Hasbro

Another very important thing to convey is just how close we came to actually having this "red Sunstreaker" as a Transformers character. The above image is a snippet from the original licence agreement between Hasbro and Takara for the use of their toys in The Transformers toy line. We can see that No.1 Countach (pre-Sunstreaker) was to remain as it was - red - whereas the No.15 New Countach (pre-Sideswipe) was to be used in its second colour of yellow. Yellow Sideswipe has since come into the TF universe as "Tigertrack", and this original licensing document may well have been responsible for the Milton Bradley Sunswipe (Sunstreaker-in-Sideswipe-box), the mixed up tech specs for Sunstreaker and Sideswipe as Transformers, various bits of merchandise like wall decorations and lenticular wallets that featured a red Sunstreaker car or a yellow Sideswipe car.

Vintage Yellow Sideswipe lenticular wallet

Vintage Red Sunstreaker wall decoration

And to quote my Tigertrack article regarding the background of these two variants...

"One situation that has been known about for years, though, is the suspected mix-up between Autobot Sunstreaker and Sideswipe’s tech specs. Sunstreaker’s tech spec mentions “Ground to air rockets” and Sideswipe’s tech spec talks about “powerful pile drivers” and a “rocket backpack”. These descriptions would appear to be referencing the other toy’s accessories, namely Sunstreaker’s spec mentioning Sideswipe’s shoulder-mounted rocket launcher and Sideswipe’s spec possibly describing Sunstreaker’s shoulder attachments that can be inserted into his arms and the big engine (or “rocket backpack”) that could easily correspond to Sunstreaker’s chrome engine/intakes. If we assume that “Sunstreaker” is a reference to a sun-coloured car (yellow), and that the yellow car originally mooted for Transformers was the New Countach Sideswipe mould, then the tech-spec mix-up theory holds some weight.

Interestingly, the August-badged 1984 Marvel Age comic issue 17 had a feature on the then-upcoming Transformers toy line with a fascinating passage that read “The warriors named Sideswipe, Blow-Out and Spin-Out can transform into exotic sports cars…Blow-Out can fire projectiles filled with a special compound called ‘glass gas’…Sideswipe possesses piledriver arms and a rocket backpack…Spin-Out is equipped with an ultra-accurate missile launcher and an electron pulse gun“, so the final naming of the toys was still unconfirmed even then, as “Blow-Out” seems to be Cliffjumper, “Sideswipe” seems to be Sunstreaker, and “Spin-Out” seems to be Sideswipe."

Mixed up tech specs for Sunstreaker and Sideswipe

This is one reason why Omnigonix's version of Sunstreaker irritates me so much, "Spin-Out" was Sideswipe's original name, not Sunstreaker's! Anyway, I digress. The fact is, "Blaze" or "Red Sunstreaker" has a serious history, and BadCube's repaint acknowledges the Diaclone past of the toy and as knowledgeable collectors we can add the significance of the rest of its history and almost-birth as a Transformer too. As far as I can tell, this is the first ever intentional homage to the red version of Sunstreaker in toy form - official or otherwise. It's about bloody time.

All that talk, now here he is, BadCube Blaze. A straight red repaint of Sunsurge, the colour matching between Blaze and the original Diaclone toy is pretty good. My test shot here came with chrome rims, intakes and spoiler parts attached, and I am assuming BadCube will include the flat grey versions of those parts too (and a screwdriver). However, since Blaze has no cartoon presence, maybe BadCube will dispense with those parts altogether. This is strictly a toy homage, and the only previous version of this toy had chrome parts.

We are on a wave of Diaclone appreciation at the moment, thanks to figures like Blaze and Sphinx Alternative, as well as the official Masterpiece Diaclone repaints and Diaclone Reboot. It seemed fitting, therefore, to feature Blaze alongside the TF Expo version of TakaraTomy Transformers Masterpiece MP-12 Lambor (Sideswipe), seeing as both are devoid of Autobot logos. Just like Sunsurge, Blaze looks magnificent alongside MP-12, and it mimics the real life Countach features of MP-12 beautifully. Some have said in person that Blaze actually does a better job of being a red Lamborghini Countach than Sideswipe does, although it is based on a non-existent modified Lambo (verified by Lamborghini to me in an email) with a cartoon Sunstreaker rear end.

For the full run-down on how I feel about the Sunsurge/Blaze mould, you can read my BadCube Sunsurge review on TFSource Blog, but needless to say, Blaze has all the same qualities/drawbacks as Sunsurge. The transformation is longer than I'd like but after all these months with Sunsurge, it's now second nature, although still fiddly and lengthy. Occasionally I still have issues tabbing in the collarbone pieces and having the faux chest windows stay flush with the faux chest roof. Already on my test shot (which all things considered really shouldn't be that different from production ready, if at all) the black on the shin where his ankle clip locks in is wearing. I don't recall having that issue on Sunsurge. The silver on the handgun seems to be less prone to wear at the attachment points too, which is a good thing. 

Goodness me, how amazing does Blaze look next to the vintage figures and MP-12?

Robot mode is gorgeous and incredibly posable, but you already knew that from Sunsurge. Being the Diaclone homage that it is, Blaze really suits the missile arm configuration but obviously there's no launching mechanism and no rocket-punch attack.

I'm not noticing any particular extra tightness in any joints across Blaze compared to Sunsurge, so any of my favourite poses that Sunsurge could hold, Blaze replicates perfectly with the same obstacles. Balance and expression are high on the agenda here, I love playing with this figure in robot mode, it's an endless barrage of inspiration and ideas for posing. It's the first time poor Red Sunstreaker has had much posability in his locker!

Comments have of course surfaced about why his eyes and ears aren't red to better match the figure's main paint scheme, but this is an homage, and homages must be accurate. The Diaclone red Countach Super Tuning had yellow ears and eyes (see pics above), therefore Blaze has the same yellow detailing. For those who don't care about maintaining the historical look and want all red, the eventual police deco will rock red eyes and ears as the vintage Countach Super Tuning Police version did. All the test shots seemed to have been sent out with the smiling face (and mis-assembled shoulder rockets!), so I swapped it with my Sunsurge's stoic face as I greatly prefer it. 

I am interested to see what BadCube cook up in terms of a backstory for Blaze. Will it be something similar to all the Sunstreaker clones seen in IDW's Maximum Dinobots? Truth be told, I don't need this to be a new character, or for "Blaze" to be a thing. I like the name and eventually TakaraTomy may give us a Masterpiece Sunstreaker with appropriate repaints, but this is purely about Diaclone and history to me. Putting Blaze and Tigertrack alongside each other creates a wonderful vision of what could have been for Transformers. Also there's just a beautiful symmetry involved in placing Blaze, Sunsurge, Tigertrack and Sideswipe together as a Lamborghini Countach lover. Expanding the Masterpiece-scale exotic Diaclone Car Robot convoy is an ongoing thrill as well.

So, credit to BadCube for being the first to pay tribute to what was the very first of the Car Robots, that turning point in the history of transforming toys in Japan. Well, it may not actually have been that historic at the time or even that groundbreaking, but with hindsight and the benefit of three decades worth of Transformers and Autobot history, they don't come bigger than the birth of the Car Robots. Blaze does a fine job of being a modern Masterpiece-styled Diaclone Red Sunstreaker and may just nudge those on the fence for other reasons to give the mould a try. For those who are distraught at the fact that BadCube have released a repaint at the cost of a new mould, calm down. Repaints help pay for new moulds and can bring in a wider audience to a company's product, which only benefits them and their fans in the long run. If it means one has to wait longer for a new mould, well BadCube have done their best to allay those fears by assuring people that no delay has been experienced in bringing their next sculpt to the fore.

Anyway, no dignifying that with any more of a response. I am just beyond thrilled at being able to do this with two of my favourite "repaints" or "variants" ever, so here are the Masterpiece-style Autobot brothers as they were originally intended to be, Blaze and Tigertrack. Or should I say Sideswipe and Spin-Out? I think everyone's already confused enough. Let's go with Red Sunstreaker and Yellow Sideswipe.

Many kind thanks to BadCube for the Blaze sample, to Paul Hitchens for the use of his Diaclone red Countach LP500S Super Tuning toys and to Botch The Crab for the tech specs.

All the best

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