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Mastermind Creations
by yo go re

Remember Mastermind Creations, the third-party TF creators group? They're still out there, lightly infringing on intellectual properties and honing their craft. I just don't have the money to get the ones I'd want. But hey, I'm a sucker for evil-looking repaints, so here we finally are.

IDW's Transformers comics were some of the best licensed fiction since the original 1980s GI Joe comics... or so I hear, because I don't know where to start reading them, and thus only know the handful of issues that came with various toys a couple years back. Somebody make an IDW TF reading order list!

Anyway, while appearing in the comics was a good path to getting an action figure, there were still dozens of characters who didn't get the toy treatment - or, if they did, it wasn't in a comic-based form, leaving plenty of fertile ground for third-party creators to take advantage of. Enter Mastermind Creations and their "not"-Rodimus, Calidus! Or, in this case, Calidus Asterisk.

Calidus gets his name from Latin. If you recognize that as the root of the Spanish word "caliente" or even the English "scald," you may be able to guess it means "hot" - yes, temperature, but also in a metaphorical sense, with the connotation of being highly spirited or prone to rash decisions. So basically, the typical Rodimus we've known since 1985.

The plain Calidus had Hot Rod's red-and-yellow colorscheme, but this is Calidus Asterisk, a TFCon Toronto exclusive done all in blues and purples. Not, it's not a bad attempt at making him Black Rodimus; they have one of those, and it's called Calidus Shadow Ghost. This, rather, is something taken directly from the comics: after some traumatic events, Rodimus converted to Spectralism, a religion that places great importance on the meaning of colors. Like how Victorians were obsessed with floriography. Anyway, to show he was having Feelings™, Rodiums had Drift (another Specralist) paint him these colors. Because they had Meaning™.

Calidus is based on the art of AA Milne, creator of Winnie the Pooh. No, wait, that can't possibly be right. *sound of rustling papers* Okay, here we go; Calidus is based on the art of Alex Milne, who has never created any trash-talking bears (at least none that have gone on to world-renown yet). Milne was pretty much the TF artist for IDW, with a detailed, expressive style and robots that had logical ways of changing into other things. Matching Milne's design of Hot Rod, the toy is very tall and thin and angular. There have been some changes made from the art, but there have to be with any three-dimensional representation of a line drawing. Still, it's close.

The figure stands about 7" tall, which seems a bit excessive, but maybe that's the size he's drawn in the comics? The articulation is plentiful, with hinged/rocker ankles, hinged knees, swivel thighs, swivel/hinge hips, swivel waist, hinged fingers, balljointed wrists, swivel forearms, double-hinged elbows, swivel biceps, swivel/hinged shoulders, and a balljointed head. The hips are ratcheted, meaning they "snap" to pre-set points on their arc, rather than moving smoothly, so they end up being slightly too wide for a plain pose. The shoulders are actually on two hinges, so you can pull them away from the torso if you want a more exaggerated range of motion. The plates on the arms extend over the hands and the elbows, which doesn't look great, but Transformers fans are used to kibble.

His accessories include a gun reminiscent of the G1 "Photon Eliminator" gun and a bow that homages the Animated character. How unexpected! You can tell it's from Animated and not just a random item thanks to the twin silver spikes sticking out the front. The weapons can be held in either hand, or can be stored in Calidus' back one at a time. There's also an alternate head which, at first glance, appears to be identical to the normal one; it's actually sculpted with a slightly different expression: a tiny half-smirk, rather than a stern straight line. Not really something amazing, by any means.

As we said, Alex Milne's art is very clear about how his Transformers convert, so Mastermind Creations didn't really have to dream up very much for their toy. The process isn't terribly complex: open the chest and fold the pipes out, unhinge the shoulders, turn the head 180°, fold the elbows up, spin the chest/waist piece around to the back, pull a little "cap" out of the torso, slide the lower torso up toward the shoulders, open the panels on the shins, flatten the feet, bend the legs to the outside, then swing the arms down to complete the sides of the car. Getting the head folded away is a bit of a pain, because it's on a balljoint and that's on a hinged panel, and everything needs to be in the perfect position or else the head won't fit; but there's nothing to say what the perfect position is, or anything to guide the head into place. Also, one wing of his spoiler really likes to fall out on my toy.

Rodimus' altmode in the comics is a Cybertronian car of some sort, and Calidus copies that as closely as the robot mode does. There's some visible robot kibble in this mode - elbows and hands, mainly - but none of it is entirely distracting. Certainly not as much as all the various Megatrons who have just had their heads poking out through the surface of their vehicle modes. The shape is certainly unearthly, with a pointed front end, a tiny cockpit windshield right by the rear spoiler, and front tires that are bigger than the rear tires (and have a wider wheelbase). To make it further alien, the gun can plug into the roof, and the bow can fit under the front end to become a spiked bumper.

I was interested in this Not-Rodimus because he seemed to fit with my Nemesis Prime collection. Turns out that's not his story, and he looks more like he should be dating Slipstream, but I don't care - the toy's fun, with a great design in both modes, and a decent conversion (with a few fiddly bits). The only real drawback is that third-party toys are more expensive than mass market ones, and exclusives are more expensive than that. If you like the purple and want to save a little money, there's also Calidus Luminus, whose more desaturated colors are based on the interior artwork rather than the covers.

-- 03/24/20

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