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Human Alliance Leadfoot and Steeljaw

Transformers DOTM
by yo go re

Lookit, maw: it's one'a them cars what like we saw at the racin' track! Guh-hyuck!

Steeljaw loves the feel of the wind whipping across his sensors as Leadfoot screams around a track. The cyber-dog is ill-tempered, rickety, and occassionally emits noxious fumes or sparks bad enough to set his surroundings on fire, but Leadfoot doesn't seem to mind. Even the humans Leadfoot works with have learned to appreciate having a mean robot dog with a powerful bite around.

The second Transformers movie had some problems with its characters being portrayed as tasteless racial stereotypes, so naturally when it was leaked that the third movie would have a team of NASCAR bots, and that they all looked like hicks, we all assumed they'd be broad stereotypes. And yes, they were, but not the one anybody was expecting: rather than being hicks, they were all... Scottish?

Leadfoot's altmode is a Chevy Impala, but it's not just any Chevy Impala: it's a NASCAR Chevy Impala, aka the Car of Tomorrow. All the Wreckers (Leadfoot's group) are NASCAR cars, in fact. He's the #42 car, which is sponsored primarily by Target. Surprising precisely no one, Walmart wasn't too keen on carrying a toy that had a huge competitor's logo on the hood, so this is a Target exclusive.

It's not just the Target logo that's painted on the car, though: like all the toys of the Wreckers in any size class, there's the logo for the Sprint Cup series; on the front end you've got the Chevy "bowtie" logo and the Impala name; over the rear wheels you've got Tums, Cottonelle and another, smaller Target bullseye. The back has Lysol, Energizer, and another Chevy logo. Now here's our question: did Hasbro have to pay for the use of the logos, or did the companies have to pay for product placement?

The details on the toy are true to the real car - we don't know what all those details are, since none of us care about NASCAR, but they're there. There's the bump on the roof, the inexplicable bar on the driver's side of the rear window, the rivets around the windshield, and even the netting in the windows. Technically there shouldn't be any headlights, because the ones on race cars are fake. The interior has a steering wheel and two seats, but not much else in the way of detail.

The instructions show the conversion from robot to car first, even though he's not sold in that mode. Interestingly, the photography for the instructions is of an unpainted test shot: there are no logos of any sort, and even the roof of the car - molded from the same clear plastic as the windows - hasn't been painted over yet. Leadfoot rates a 3 on the new difficulty scale, so he's about the same as any other Alternator or Human Alliance figure.

There is one part that's particularly annoying, though: his stomach. See, we said Leadfoot looked like a NASCAR fan, and in his case that means the car kibble doesn't come together fully and tires poke out of his gut, giving the impression of someone whose shirt can't cover their beer belly. Anyway, when you're converting the toy, there's a step that involves a peg from the hips doing something to connect with the torso, but the instructions don't make it clear what that something is. Leadfoot ends up with a big blatant gap in his torso, so he looks mistransformed if you view him from the wrong angle.

Keeping with the theme, Leadfoot's head is designed to make him look like he's balding and has a scraggly beard. Like Jazz, he has a pair of "sunglasses" that retract into his head when you move a switch on the back. He has most of the articulation you'd want, but the wrists are only hinges, not swivels, so they're a bit limited.

As the bio mentioned, Leadfoot comes with Steeljaw, his pet dog. It's an adorable little pit bull type, clearly intended to be formed from the car's engine, though that's sadly not the case with this toy. He's about 2" tall or so, and moves at the neck, jaw and tongue (yeah, really) and has three joints in each leg. He even has a plastic chain that plugs into the neck and acts as a leash - Leadfoot has a peg on his palm so he can "hold" it.

Steeljaw may not change into an engine as was intended, but he does change. Specifically, he changes into a missile launcher that looks vaguely like a crossbow and can plug into Leadfoot's shoulder. It's not a great altmode, but the dog is cool even without it. The notches on the sides of the missle can plug onto the ridge under Leadfoot's crotch, which makes him look super-excited in robot mode, but also tucks the missile up between the car seats in vehicle mode.

The "human" part of this Human Alliance is Sgt. Detour. The real #42 car is driven by, I don't know, Cooter-Ray Poskins or something. Doesn't matter. Whoever it is, it's not Sgt. Detour. He's wearing a padded suit with the Target logo on the chest and back, a Sprint Cup logo over his heart, and a few other small white lines meant to stand in for sponsor logos. He's about 2¼" tall, and moves at the neck, shoulders, hips and knees like all other Human Alliance figures, but he also has wrists. How about that! There's no face, since he's wearing a full helmet.

The gap in Leadfoot's torso is apparently not just bad design: rather, that's where Sgt. Detour does his Human Alliancing. Two guns fold out out of Leadfoot's belly, and Sgt. Detour stands in the gap to man them. Remember when Bumblebee came out, and there were all sorts of hidden weapons Sam could use? Well, now we're to the point where Sgt. Detour stands in one spot and has no posing options. But hey, I'm buying Human Alliance toys because I like Alternators, not because I care about the little people they come with.

Leadfoot is easier to find than his fellow Wrecker Roadbuster, because that figure has to share case space with a re-re-re-released Bumblebee, while Leadfoot comes in cases by himself. It would be better if he didn't have that gap in his torso, but you can pose him to conceal it. Steeljaw would be cool even if he didn't turn into anything, which is good, since he doesn't really turn into anything of consequence. This figure just wouldn't work if they'd made him without the Target logo, so this is one case where making an exclusive worked.

-- 09/20/11

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