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Grand Slam/Raindance

by yo go re

Prepare yourself for some weirdness.

Grand Slam and Raindance are mini-cassettes, and they're very colorful. Unlike Squawktalk and Beastbox, though, the colors aren't outlandish: one is red and gold, the other is blue and silver. Sure, that's unusual, but it's not outside the realm of possibility. These two actually appeared in the comics, but only in one issue, and only in tape mode: they never transformed. Weird! Also weird? The space between the spools on Grand Slam is fully sculpted.

Long ago, Grand Slam supported neither side in the war that divided Cybertron between Autobots and Decepticons. He was a news correspondent from the old school, devoted to maintaining his journalistic integrity and impartiality. Grand Slam had covered conflicts on over a hundred worlds, always sending his message back to Cybertron in a fair and unbiased fashion. When the Autobot/Decepticon conflict began heating up, he returned to Cybertron to cover the story. He was offered unprecedented access by the Decepticon army, who hoped to use Grand Slam's respected media status to bolster their image through propaganda. When the stoic and honest Grand Slam insisted on telling the whole story, including tales of Decepticon atrocities and war crimes, the Decepticons resorted to torturing and imprisoning him. Grand Slam was rescued by an Autobot commando squad, and was eventually won over to the cause because of their genuine concern for the innocent and helpless. He has since dedicated himself to recording the grim reality of war, from the eerie stillness before a battle to the horrifying screams of the wounded afterward, hoping that it will serve as a warning to future generations across the galaxy about the true cost of war.

Wow, that's an incredibly long bio, isn't it? Intensely interesting, sure, but also about a thousand more words than you'd expect. It's a nice change from all the "he's a good leader and a brave warrior" stuff everybody else seems to have. Which is actually kind of ironic, since he's a tank and thus you'd expect him to be good at war.

There's a lot of cassette tape still visible in this mode, but you also notice tank-y details you didn't before, such as the wheels sculpted on the sides (there are even treads underneath, but you won't be seeing them often). Two guns fold out of the tape, and there are three more chromed weapons to add to the top. Amusingly, none of the weapons have offensive capabilities: the big one is a smoke gun, while the two smaller ones are repulsors, to push threats away.

Raindance is a flashy and talkative Autobot who wants to use his position as a video reporter to make himself an intergalactic star of the Autobot/Decepticon war. He's constantly irritated that he can't be in the shots he takes of whatever story he's covering. His partner Grand Slam is greatly agitated by Raindance's lack of objectivity and by his willingness to interfere in battle when covering stories, while Raindance is frustrated by the elder reporter's strict code of journalistic ethics. Despite his thrill-seeking and self-glorifying tendencies, Raindance is a dedicated documenter who will take any risk to record the best images of an event. He's glib, funny, and popular, with thousands of stories to tell about all the exciting battles he has covered. Grand Slam just wishes Raindance would stop looking at war as a vehicle for stardom and start treating it with more dignity.

Another really long bio. Grand Slam and Raindance are unique among Transformers, in that neither of them have humanoid (or even remotely biological) robot modes, yet they're treated like autonomous characters with distinct personalities. A Transformer's "altmode" refers to whatever they disguise themselves as, so Raindance's altmode is a cassette tape - his primary mode is this jet. He's a neat little piece, armed with two chrome missiles (supposedly for self-defense, but come on).

Despite their unusual position as the line's only robot-mode-less characters, Grand Slam and Raindance are special for an entirely different reason: they're one of only two teams of Cassetticon combiners.

The unified form of Grand Slam and Raindance was designed to make up for the awkwardness of the duo's individual robot forms. Slamdance's personality is a combination of the two's traits; he is both stuffy and vainglorious, but he's an expert at gathering and coordinating news and data. Slamdance takes great pride in his work, but his self-importance makes him want to announce everything personally; he'll stand up in the middle of his commander's briefings in order to make sure his message is relayed "correctly," meaning by him. Despite his quirks, Slamdance is absolutely dedicated to the Autobot cause and works hard to make sure their information is correct and unbiased.

Just for the record? People in positions of power hate that. You ever correct one of your teachers? It doesn't go over very well. Doesn't mean you shouldn't do it, because what's more important: being nice or being right?

Combined, Slamdance has had more appearances in modern comics than his components ever did in the classic books. He just reaches the 4" mark, and has no articulation - this is a robot atht will just stand still. They could have declared this a fembot judging by the ratio of hips-to-waist, but it's a cool design no matter what. The cannons plug into his arms, and you can plug the tank's guns into the back of his head, but it's not like he can aim them.

Grand Slam/Raindance/Slamdance is rather disappointing as a toy, but the fact that he's a combiner adds to his coolness factor. Both Cassetticons are unique offerings, and there's nothing really bad about any of them, just "not as good as it could have been." Let's see Hasbro do a modern update of this pair and turn them into something cool.

-- 02/15/11

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