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Masterpiece Exhaust

Transformers
by yo go re

When I finally broke down and bought my Masterpiece Bumblebee, Hasbro announced their release very shortly thereafter. Something tells me that won't happen this time.

His mission is industrial espionage, spying on alien commercial enterprises across the galaxy and secretly stealing their economic information and advanced technologies. He works for the interplanetary giant "Marlboor Dynamic" and it is from here that he carries out various espionage activities. Malboor has studied the special abilities of mechanical lifeforms and have changed the particles of Exhaust's entire body, which has given him a "quantize" ability, allowing him to turn into living smoke which is impossible to capture.

To understand that, you first need some backstory. The toy that would eventually come to be known as Wheeljack started in Takara's Diaclone line. Its coloration was based on a real race car, run by a real racing company; they also ran another racer, with different colors, and it was also made into a Diaclone toy. The second race team was sponsored by Marlboro cigarettes, but when the toy was made, the logo was changed something totally legally distinct, wink-wink, by switching the R and the O. Known among the fandom as "Marlboor Wheeljack," that ancient toy is the inspiration for this one.

Masterpiece Transformers tend to go with fully licensed altmodes, so this isn't just similar to a Lancia Stratos, it is a Lancia Stratos. The car is low and angular, perfect for speed. The toy is 5⅝" long, 1⅝" tall, and almost 2⅞" wide - remember, the goal is for every Masterpiece vehicle to be able to fit inside Optimus Prime's trailer, which this one definitely does. It's painted in colors similar to the original race car, which caused a small problem.

As mentioned, the original car was sponsored by Marlboro. You can't advertise cigarettes on a children's toy. Clearly, a Masterpiece Transformer is not a children's toy, but it's still a toy, so that was still a problem. Even without the Marlboro name on the toy, the patterns of color were quite distinctly based on the brand. Well, either that or Morleys. Starting in late 2014, any retailers who had a listing for Exhaust received trademark warnings from Philip Morris, Marlboro's parent company. Takara opted to change the deco slightly, switching the red on the hood from straight lines to a "stair step" design, and taking the notches out of the green panels, turning them into plain rectangles. There are no Marlboro logos anywhere, and even the Goodyear tire logos have been changed to "Good Flavor," but the intention is unmistakable. Surprisingly, there is no Reprolabels set to fix it: maybe they were worried about legal issues.

The G1 Wheeljack mold (and thus, its Diaclone predecessor) had a very simple conversion: hood to legs, roof to chest, that sort of thing. The Masterpiece version keeps the broad strokes, but is necessarily going to be much more complex. It's a bit hard to get started - you have to undo some thick square pegs that don't want to move, but once you do, everything is pretty intuitive. On the legs, particularly, there's a lot of swinging panels around to make them look solid and complete, rather than just hollow pieces.

The erstwhile Marlboor appeared in a few comics, but mostly as a design Easter egg for crowd shots, rather than a true character, so he didn't have any personality. He was present in the gladiatorial arena when Megatron announced the beginning of the Decepticon uprising, but so were a lot of bots. This toy is the first thing to ever give him any characteristics: namely, he pretends he's as cool as James Bond, but the stress of his job has led him to take up smoking. What does a robot smoke? Cy-garettes.

Exhaust is a sizeable robot, nearly 6¾" tall. Current Masterpiece toys take their size cues from the official G1 scale guide, with the intention that the robot modes will be appropriately sized next to Optimus; since Exhaust shares a body-type with Wheeljack, he comes up about to Big Daddy Prime's waist. The old toy was notoriously blocky, with many more straight lines than curves, and while this modern take is softer, it still shows its cubist origins quite clearly. His feet and the smooth windshield on his torso are the only parts that don't look like they could have been built out of Lego. The legs on this one are much longer, like the cartoon - the old toy was stumpy!

Wheeljack was one of the more distinct Generation 1 Transformers, because of his unique head. He had a faceplate comprising several horizontal bands, and big ear-flaps that blinked when he spoke. That is not what Exhaust has. The Wheeljack repaint had an entirely different head, so that's what Exhaust homages. It features a slatted visor, like Snake-Eyes wears, but leaves the mouth exposed. His ears are still oversized and sticking out to the sides, but they're now angular blades.

He moves at the head, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists, fingers, waist, hips, thighs, knees and ankles. Like Wheeljack, he has an inexplicable pair of wings on his back, which have swivels and hinges intended for converting him, but you could pose them different ways if you wanted. He's armed with a small pistol and has two non-functional missile launchers on his shoulders. Wheeljack (the original Wheeljack) came with two, but the fiction only ever depicted him with one. Exhaust gets set apart by using them both. They can also store on the car's roof, in that mode, and the gun will store underneath.

He also comes with an accessory MP Wheeljack didn't: Wheeljack's Instant Immobilizer. Taken from the Season 2 episode "The Immobilozer" (naturally), this is a device 'Jackie invented to freeze stuff in place. Because he's an idiot, he attempted to demonstrate its abilities on a hologram. Fortunately for him, Ironhide is an even bigger idiot, because he thought the hologram was real and starting shooting everything in sight. The Immobilizer looks like an orange metal nut with a satellite dish sticking out the top, and can be displayed either in compact carrying mode, or extended "active" mode. In the cartoon, it just sort of stood up on its own, but the toy includes a base to keep it upright.

I Parliament what I said earlier - I Kent believe there isn't a Reprolabels set to make this toy complete - but even with the changes made to keep the cigarette people happy, Exhaust is still pretty Kool. It's a real Lucky Strike that Takara finally gave some recognition to this obscure bit of Transformers history; Virginia Slim chance that Hasbro will ever do the same. Eh, you know what they say: you Winston, you lose some. You may not be able to just buy this toy at the Pall Mall, but neither will you have to ride a Camel somewhere exotic to find him. Just get one shipped from Japan, but instead of waiting for it by the old docks, have it delivered to the Newport.

-- 03/28/17


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