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Blackout

Transformers
by yo go re

Every continuity family needs one: a Decepticon who's fanatically loyal to Megatron. Most of the 'cons are either self-serving or power hungry, but there's always one who thinks Megatron is the best thing since sliced robo-bread. In G1, it's Soundwave; in Animated, it's Lugnut; and in the 2007 live-action movie, it's Blackout.

The only goals Blackout ever had were to serve Megatron, fight for Decepticon dominance, and be the most perfect soldier he could. He follows orders without question, even to the point of self-termination, and maintains himself and his weapons in pristine condition. The other Decepticons may choose the easy road, letting their bodies gather scratches and dents, but Blackout knows discipline is the prerequisite to power.

Blackout holds the distinction of being the first live-action Transformer ever shown. Oh, sure, there was probably all sorts of test animation, and other characters were probably finalized and animated first, but Blackout is the first TF we meet in when movie starts rolling, and thus he counts as the one who broke the seal. How special for him!

In the film, Blackout was a Sikorski MH-53 Pave Low helicopter, the biggest, beefiest bird the Air Force had. The last ones were retired on September 27, 2008, but it was a perfectly good disguise when he adopted it. The Pave Low was designed for troop transport under less-than-perfect conditions, such as darkness, bad weather or combat situations.

Blackout is 10½" from tip to tail, and his rotors have an 8½" diameter. The tail rotor can be spun around, and pressing a button on the tail causes the main prop to turn. If you have the full-sized Scorponok, it can plug onto the bottom of the helicopter, and pressing the button will make his claws twirl, as well.

If you want a more in-scale Scorponok, you're in luck: Blackout comes with one. The little beastie is stored in a cage beneath the tail, which drops open at the push of a button. Surprisingly, the way the mechanism works, Scorpy will almost always land on his "feet" - that's a good bit of design! Scorponok, who the writers describe as more of a mindless drone than an autonomous character, is approximately 2" long, and has a hinge in his tail to help spit him out of the vehicle.

This is the Premium Series version of the character, which means the mechanics are all the same, but the paint is different. The figure is a darker blue, with more detailed decorations: tail number, painted windows, that sort of thing. It's funny that the bio talks about how he keeps his chassis mint, since part of the new paint apps is large silver "scrapes" all along the body. Smooth. The original Scorponok was originally plain white, with a black wash on his back, while the Premium one features much-improved black, tan and gold apps.

Despite being the biggest Decepticon in the film (yes, it looked like Megatron was biggest, but that was just an Andre Shot), Blackout is one of the smallest Voyager-class figures ever released. Measured to the top of his head, he isn't even 6" tall. Now, his backpack and shoulder armaments top out at 7½", but the robot itself is surprisingly tiny. Probably doesn't help that the movie design has his head nestled snugly in between his shoulders.

The toy does a good job of duplicating the movie design - always a tough proposition, since the TFs in the film weren't quite governed by the same limitations as a physical object is. The limbs on the Premium Series release have been switched from black to tan, for some reason. Neither color is completely accurate - they should be somewhere in between the two. Still, the robot is very playable, lacking only and ankles among his articulation. Be wary of the shoulder joints: the first Blackout I got was terribly loose, and apparently that's common; I exchanged him, however, and the new one is much better. And on top of that, there are Minicon ports on his shoulders, to accommodate his weapon.

Yes, you can put Scorponok up there, just like you'd put Laserbeak on Soundwave's shoulder (at one point during the planning process, the helicopter character was going to be called Soundwave, and Scorponok's role would have gone to Ravage), but that's not what it's for. The entire rotor/tail section can be removed and plopped on his shoulder in a (poor) approximation of the way he could use his prop as a melee weapon. Hey, it's better than nothing, right?

Soundwave was only one of the names Blackout went through during production. He was, at various times, also potentially going to be known as "Grimlock," "Devastator," "Vortex," or "Incinerator" - and if that wasn't enough, this mold got retooled to be a movie version of Evac! But names don't matter, only the toy does. Blackout may be tiny, but he's still a decent movie villain. Just pretend he's way in the distance.


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