Every year, one of the top events in pop culture fandom is the San Diego ComiCon. Far more than just a gathering of comics fans, this event promotes new movies and TV shows in the fantasy/sci-fi genre, and practically every major toymaker in the United States and then some shows up, many of which bring exclusive merchandise to offer attendees.
Topping my list of exclusive figures this year was this item -- TRANSFORMERS ALTERNATORS RODIMUS.
The Transformers Alternators have been an incredibly impressive line of Transformers since they started several years ago. The basic idea behind them was to take real-world automobiles, officially licensed from their manufacturers, and turn them into robots, most of them representing and bearing a decent resemblance to some of the most legendary characters from the original Generation One Transformers.
Sadly, for the time being, at least, it seems the line has run its course. The last retail releases, Ravage and Rumble, only turned up at Wal-Mart, and even then were extremely difficult to get.
One would hope that, eventually, the Alternators will return. There's still a lot of potential in this line, in my opinion. Meanwhile, I wasn't about to miss out on what is quite probably the last Alternator for the foreseeable future. Not if I could help it. And with a little help from a friend, I didn't. I now have Alternators Rodimus.
Now I'll grant that this guy has never been my favorite character in the Transformers universe. He was first introduced in the Transformers Movie (the animated one) as Hot Rod, basically a young upstart. He was one of the good guys, but he had no shortage of attitude. By the end of the movie, he was the new leader of the Autobots, altered into Rodimus Prime, holder of the Matrix.
The subsequent season of the animated television series focused on the new characters that had been introduced in the movie. Basically the show had taken a twenty-year jump, and between that and the new characters, it was quite a different show than it had been. And in some respects, I'm not sure it was an improvement. I missed Optimus Prime and Megatron. Galvatron, the Unicron-altered form of Megatron, seemed to be far more crazed and distinctly less focused than Megatron had been. And Rodimus Prime seemed to largely be trying to "wing it" as Autobot leader, and I wasn't terribly impressed with him.
Apparently I wasn't alone, since by the end of the season. Rodimus Prime was doubting his own leadership skills, especially in comparison with his predecessor, and ultimately, in a really excellent two-parter that pretty much rounded out the season, Optimus Prime was brought back.
These days, we seem to have a character named simply Rodimus. He turned up in the Classics line, and now here he is in the Alternators. How might this character be best defined, especially since, as Rodimus, he hasn't really seen any significant time in other forms of media? Well, let's consider Rodimus a surprisingly agreeable compromise. If we take the name as the best descriptor, then he's not the punk that Hot Rod was, but neither does he have the burden of leadership, to say nothing of following in Optimus' very big footsteps, coming down on his not-quite-sufficient shoulders, since his name lacks the "Prime" suffix.
Let's call Rodimus a midpoint. He's a more mature and likely more effective Autobot warrior than Hot Rod, but he's not the Autobot Leader. That's still Optimus Prime's job. I can live with that, and I think most Transformers fans can.
I will say this -- Rodimus always had an interesting color scheme. Certainly living up to his original name of "Hot Rod", this character had a red-orange-yellow color scheme that was somewhat unusual among the Autobots, who, especially in the then-future timepoint in which the post-movie season of Transformers took place, tended to go for more muted colors. There were a lot of blues and greens among the latter-day Autobots.
So let's consider the Alternators Rodimus. Certainly the character carries on with the bright color scheme of his previous namesakes. His automotive form is a very intense red. The car is a FORD GT. This model was also used for Alternators Mirage. It's been a common practice to get more than one and sometimes up to three uses out of a given set of Alternators molds, generally changing the head mold to reflect the individual character in question. One can hardly blame Hasbro and Tomy/Takara for this. I honestly can't think of any more complicated toys in the action figure world, or possibly the entire toy world. The basic premise is complicated enough -- create a 1:24 scale model of an existing real-world automobile with sufficient accuracy to satisfy the automaker, give that car a fair amount of detailing and features of its own, and then design it in such a way that it can transform into a humanoid robot that is well-articulated and bears at least some sufficient resemblance to its ancestor from 20 years or more in the past to keep the Trans-Fans happy.
That's all hard enough right there, but when you get to the actual manufacturing process, the average Alternator is going to have dozens if not hundreds of separate parts that must be molded, painted if necessary, and then properly assembled. Compare that to the average Star Wars or G.I. Joe figure that might have maybe up to thirty parts, and you can understand the complexity. Add in the fact that creating the molds for a toy is the single most expensive process of toymaking, and one can readily understand why Hasbro and Takara/Tomy want to get as much use out of these molds as possible. I don't really have a problem with them producing more than one character as such, as long as the characters fit the automotive format decently.
And certainly Rodimus fits a Ford GT very nicely. This is a very sporty-looking car. Sleek and from all appearances riding rather low, this is a fancy set of wheels that is well in keeping with Rodimus' personality. There are gold metallic flames on the hood, something else that Hot Rod and Rodimus have been known for, and gold stripes on the sides with the "Ford GT" logo in them.
The interior of the car is superbly well detailed. The doors do open, and the instrument panel on the dashboard has been painted. It is black with silver details. Similarly, the black seats have silver "studs" painted on them, and the stickshift has been painted black against a silver console between the seats. This is a level of painted detailing that I sincerely appreciate, and it's been very well done.
Most of the more recent Alternators have been given actual state license plates, as opposed to the earlier ones which had either an Autobot or Decepticon logo and a contraction of the character's name. Rodimus' license plate, not inappropriately since he was a ComiCon exclusive, and it seems to also fit the personality of the character, is from California. However, rather than being a contraction of either the names "Rodimus" or "Hot Rod", the license plate reads TOO HOT. Guess he hasn't lost all of his cockiness.
Seriously, though, in automobile form, Rodimus is a very cool car with a hot color scheme. If one were just collecting the Alternators for their car modes, he'd certainly be a standout in the group.
But really, what fun is that? This is, after all, a robot. So he should be transformed.
Now, there's no denying that of all the Transformers, unless you start getting into the really gargantuan ones like Unicron or Primus, the Alternators are certainly the most difficult of all. Part if this complexity is due to their form. They have to be both a realistic car AND a good robot. That's going to take some doing. I was a little concerned that I would've been pretty badly out of practice, since the last Alternators I worked on, Rumble and Ravage, went back several months. Well, I might've been a little out of practice, but Rodimus still transformed very effectively. One curious note: the instructions list the character as "Rodimus Prime".
In robot form, Rodimus stands about 7-1/2 inches in height -- about standard for an Alternator. His hood, with the gold flames on it, becomes his chest plate, so he keeps his flashy appearance. More of his orange and yellow detailing comes through in his robot form. His hands are yellow, as are the articulation points for his elbows and feet. His lower arms have orange and yellow flames on them, and there is orange and yellow on his chest underneath the transplanted hood. Additionally, quite abit of dark red appears, which was also a prominent color for the character. It's amazing that virtually all of these component colors were hidden when Rodimus is in car form. They're either on the underside of the car, or don't appear until he is transformed.
Of course, the figure has a completely new head, which is a good likeness of the character. It's red and dark red, with a silver face and blue eyes. There's a cool little clear visor over the eyes, giving the character some additional protection. A small piece detached from the car during transformation becomes TWO distinct blaster pistols for Rodimus to use for weapons.
What's interesting to note is how unlike Mirage Rodimus looks when he's transformed. The characters use the same car mode, but it's not just the entirely different headsculpts that set them apart. Mirage is mostly dark blue with white, and even the striping on his car form, which carries over somewhat to his robot form, is very different than Rodimus'. You're likely to see that they have the same car form, but you're certainly not going to mistake one for the other, or think that they look too similar. They don't.
The Alternators have never come with complete Tech Specs or character outlines, but they do include a one-line quote from the character on the package. For Rodimus, this quote reads, "Wisdom will always defeat firepower". Maybe he has learned a few things along the way.
The package for Rodimus, and the instructions, carry a 2007 copyright date. However, there's nothing to specifically delineate this toy as a San Diego ComiCon exclusive, and the package does designate Rodimus as #27 in the Alternators series. Now, granted, there was nothing unusual about the packaging for Nemesis Prime when he was offered as a ComiCon exclusive, either. But I can't help but wonder a bit if Rodimus was originally intended for retail before the line was suspended. That's strictly speculation, however.
As I said earlier in the review, it is my sincere hope that we have not seen the last of the Transformers Alternators. There's a lot more that can be done with this line, preferably starting with redoing Rumble as Frenzy. But until such a decision is made, at least we can enjoy the Alternators that have been made, and certainly RODIMUS is a cool addition to that collection. If you have any means to obtain this ComiCon exclusive, he definitely has my highest and most enthusiastic recommendation!