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Skullsmasher & Grax

Transformers Generations
by yo go re

Don't cry, Transformers Tuesday is back!

The Decepticons unite with Titan Master partners to power up for battle! Grax masks the energy signature of the bot he's bonded to, making Skullsmasher invisible to the Autobots.

No matter how successful the toyline, if it runs long enough, it starts to run out of steam. People get used to it, the novelty wears off, all the characters get made, whatever. So to keep the cash coming in, companies have to either A) come up with a new property and hope it's a hit, or B) graft a new gimmick onto the one they already have. In 1987, Hasbro introduced the Headmasters, Transformers whose heads could be removed to turn into tiny figures capable of piloting their altmodes. Since the current Generations line is all about honoring the past, the Headmasters have finally returned.

Skullsmasher is a renamed version of the '80s character Skullcruncher, changed for the only reason big companies ever change anything: someone else must currently own the name. The design of the robot is nice - he's pleasantly bulky in the upper body, suggesting the kind of power a name like "Skullsmasher" demands. Big, kind of rounded chest, big angular shoulders, thick arms, etc. The legs are a bit thinner, and he has almost no feet to speak of (just tiny toes that barely come past his shins), but he definely looks like he could punch a hole in a wall. The technological detailing in the sculpt is nice as well. It's always fun when they bother sculpting things on the inside of pieces, not just the outside. The white panel on the chest, in particular, is a reference to the old toy: it used to be that you could open that and see Tech Specs revealed by the Headmaster (though that gimmick has not be carried forward).

The articulation is pretty average, with joints at the neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, forearms, waist, hips, thighs, and knees. Unfortunately, the figure has some pretty massive QA problems: namely, the hip and thigh joints are notoriously loose. It's not a rare problem, but rather seems to be one endemic to the mold. I lucked out, in that my Skully's hips can hold a pose, but the thighs still swivel freely and of their own volition - some people got ones that, like the Seventh Kingdom mutants, couldn't stand at all. You may have to throw some glue in there. His weapons include a white gun and a pink... club(?), just like in the '80s. He can hold them in either hand, or store one on his back when you're not using it. Just one though. Of course, if you got one of the bad ones, doing that will just make him fall over even more.

Part of the gimmick of Headmasters is that any Headmaster head can be attached to any other Headmaster bot's body. Skullsmasher's intended head is black and blocky, with a V-shaped crest on the forehead and a golden face. The US version has two large black eyes, while the Takara release is a different mold with a red visor.

Pull the head out of its socket, and it unfolds to become a tiny robot, just over 1⅜" tall. This is Grax, who in the old fiction was a ruthless businessman and industrialist. He willingly underwent the binary bonding process to become a head, because he figured it would give him more power to destroy his corporate rivals. His body is green, while his limbs and head are black. Like the face he turns into, Grax's "skin" is gold. He has joints at the knees and hips (though both legs are molded as one piece), has a balljointed head, and although I thought the shoulders were just swivels, they have tiny balljoints, too.

Skullsmasher's gun and... club(?) can combine into a gun emplacement that has a seat for Grax (or any other Titan Master) to sit in. The combo can attach to any Leader Class figure's base mode, serving as a manned turret, or be held in the robot's hand.

The name "Skullsmasher" works for both of this character's modes, while his '80s name, "Skullcruncher," really only made sense for the altmode: see, he turns into a crocodile; while either a robot or a crocodile can "smash" something, but "crunch" implies an action done with the mouth; since it's hard to imagine the robot biting things, the name suited the croc better.

The croc does get a lot more detail today than he did 29 years ago. For one thing, he's actually kind of shaped like a crocodile, rather than something that could best be described as "the '80s idea of a futuristic crocodile-shaped car." While still clearly robotic, this one is still more organic than the original. The lines of the body are less square, there's more space between the front and back legs, and it even has teeth poking out when the mouth is closed. The pink-and-green colorscheme is a little "Miami Vice," but hey, it was the late '80s: what are ya gonna do?

The mouth opens, revealing a robotic tongue, and the head is mounted on a balljoint (you have to assemble it after opening the toy). The positioning of the limbs is more like a real croc, all bent down and spread out wide, meaning his belly drags on the ground. There are balljoints in the hips, swivels in the shoulders and forearms, and hinged elbows. The tail also attaches via a big peg, so it can thrash side-to-side. You wouldn't expect this much articulation in this mode!

Since you have to remove the head to convert Skullsmasher, Grax has to go somewhere. A panel on the croc's back opens, revealing a little cockpit where the robot can sit. It's hard to get the door open, since it's molded from soft PVC and wants to grip the other plastic around it very tightly, but they were probably worried that it would snap otherwise.

One of our readers asked, recently, why we haven't had a Transformers Tuesday in a while. It's not that the Titan Masters aren't interesting, but a lot of them (Blurr, Scourge) are characters who already had perfectly serviceable modern toys, and even the ones that are new (like Skullsmaher, here) are wildly overpriced. There's no way that a Deluxe Class figure is worth $17 retail, and I refuse to pay it. Walmart recently put theirs on sale, so I finally got to pick this guy up. And yes, he's good (if you can get one with legs that work), but unless the prices come down a bit, we'll be back to posting old Gundam reviews on Tuesdays in no time.

-- 11/08/16


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