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by yo go re

The initial set of Cassetticons - Laserbeak, Buzzsaw, Frenzy and Rumble - came out at the same time as their boss, Soundwave. It wasn't until Blaster, Soundwave's Autobot counterpart, came out that the number increased. And apparently someone liked designing these little rectangular guys, because soon their ranks were swelling.

As you know, Laserbeak and his buddies were originally meant to be minicasettes, not the full-sized deal; basically, the kind of tapes that would fit in one of those small voice recorders like reporters use to capture city council meetings. The cartoon portrayed them as normal tapes, though, so by the time these toys were released, all pretense of being "mini" had been dropped. The patterns on these two tapes (done as paint apps, not stickers) represent average, everyday cassettes. And if you think teal and purple aren't exactly inconspicuous colors for a tape, remember, it was the '80s: this might be the Miami Vice soundtrack or something.

Squawktalk revels in hearing the sound of his own voice, whether he has something relevant to say or not. His mastery of thousands of languages, codes, and dialects is made all the more ironic by the fact that he has nothing remotely important to say in any of them. Decepticons wait impatiently for Squawktalk to actually have some translating to do because at least then he'll be forced to say something of substance. Although he doesn't explain it well, Squawktalk isn't just rambling to be annoying. He is genuinely enamored with the sound of foreign speech and its artistic qualities, and he finds it pleasant and relaxing to listen to. Unfortunately, his allies don't get the same benefit out of it - they just wish Squawktalk would close his beak.

Squawktalk follows in Laserbeak's dainty little footsteps, changing into some vast, predatory bird. It's almost like he was designed as an upgraded version of Soundwave's favorite little buddy. The wings fold out of the sides, his feet come from underneath... it's more complex here, but familiar. He's even armed with two cannons mounted on his back, a feature instantly recognizable to anyone familiar with Laserbeak.

The march of technology does mean that Squawktalk is more detailed than his forerunner. I don't know why a robot bird would need feathers, but he has them. Are they individual pieces, or are they just molded onto the surface for some reason? Many of the technological details get covered up when you put on his guns, which is a shame - a lot of work obviously went into it, but now we don't get to see it very often. His tail and wingtips are gray, providing a break from the otherwise teal body. His Decepticon insignia is a sticker applied directly to the forehead.

Squawktalk's partner in crime is Beastbox, a robotic gorilla. Suck it, Optimus Primal! Beatbox was here first.

Beastbox is violent, impatient, and not particulaly bright. These traits greatly impede his performance as an interrogator despite his innate curiosity. The verbal questioning session between Beastbox and a subject is usually tragically short. He immediately gets frustrated with reticent captives and turns to his fists to get answers when words fail. This usually means that the helpless Autobot is pounded into scrap before he can reveal anything at all.

Y'ever notice all the old filecards tech specs talk about how destructive the characters are? Lasers that can burn through enemies, guys dropped in volcanoes, Beastbox bludgeoning Autobots to death... it's all very violent, and yet no one ever disappears from the fight. You get the feeling there's an entire invisible second-class of Transformers, being horibly mutilated behind the scenes while the "important" guys do their thing?

Beastbox gets a nice bit of techno/organic detailing, and his isn't hidden by his weapons; it is, however, hidden by his posture. Remember, he's a gorilla, so he walks on his knuckles. There's an approximation of a chest and abdominal muscles on his torso, but since he's all hunched over, you can't see 'em. Like the bird, he's got massive guns on his back: according to the back of the card, they're compression cannons that crush their targets with air pressure. Sure, why not?

Squawktalk and Beastbox are fine figures, but would probably be forgotten today if not for one thing: the 1988 releases introduced something new to the Cassetticons - combiner technology.

Combining the talkative Squawktalk with the demanding curiosity of Beastbox led, very unintentionally, to the creation of an impassioned Decepticon musician. Squawkbox loves sound; he loves to hear it, create it, and manipulate it. Most Decepticons are unnerved by his cacophonous musical creations, but his commanders saw their potential usefulness. They assigned Squawkbox the task of distracting and disorienting Autobots on the battlefield through the use of his compositions. This has made Squawkbox incredibly happy; not only does he have a captive audience for his work, he can also record sounds of battlefield woe for his future endeavors.

Squawkbox never got any kind of bio in G1 - that info comes from Dreamwave's More Than Meets The Eye profile book, published 15 years after the toy came out. The combination isn't terribly impressive, just plugging the two toys together in the most obvious way, but at least it's something. Combined, he stands 4¼" tall.

He's not very articulated, with joints only at the shoulders. That does allow him to lift his weapons, however, which are unwieldy combos of the characters' separate guns. Those just clip onto the forearms, since he can't actually hold anything. The placement of the bird's head is just unfortunate - it points up just between the robot's legs, no doubt providing endless amusement for prurient minds.

[Tee hee hee! It's a weiner! --ed.]

Squawktalk/Beastbox/Squawkbox isn't the greatest G1 Transformer ever made, but is made at least slightly cooler by the combining gimmick. They're not a must-have, but if you already have an interest in them, they shouldn't let you down.

-- 02/16/10

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