Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Diminutive Superfortress

As I stated in the last post, I've recently acquired Voyager-class Decepticon Lugnut. Lugnut is an interesting toy for many reasons, one of which is all the different "source" transformers which he seems to draw from. I won't use the popular term "homage" here, as I don't think that there's any one past transformer that Lugnut is an update of. Indeed, Lugnut is one of the few characters in Transformers: Animated that is not directly based on a preexisting transformer, G1 or otherwise; Bulkhead and Oil Slick are the only other two characters I can think of at the moment that share Lugnut's "newness."

So, if Lugnut isn't an out-and-out update or homage, who does he draw from? Perhaps, at least in a toy sense, the most obvious is Movie Blackout. Like Lugnut, Blackout was intensely loyal to Megatron, to the point of having the nickname "the Hound of Megatron" (this, along with the capability to carry the smaller transformer Scorponok and soe other facts, lead to many linking Blackout with the G1 incarnation of Soundwave). As a toy, Lugnut is very similar to Blackout. Their transformations parallel each other:

1. the head automorphs up due to the tail section being pulled down.
2. the central torso is flanked by halves of the cockpit.
3. the arms and shoulders are derived from the wings and engines.
4. the tail section can be removed to become a large weapon
5. the legs form from the fuselage

Both, of course, are also patterned after large vehicles. Blackout transforms into a MH-53 (one of the largest helicopters in existance) and Lugnut becomes a bomber whose design echoes the B-29 of WWII, which was the largest bomber of that war. Blackout was also a Voyager-class Decepticon toy that was meant to represent the huge, heavy-hitter of the 2007 film's Decepticon team. Unfortunately, the Voyager size class can't exactly protray these characters' huge size because of their designs. Both Blackout and Lugnut are either matched or exceeded in height by a number of theoretically smaller Deluxe size transformers, much to the chagrin of collectors who enjoy correct scale. Many had called for a larger Leader-class Blackout and are calling for a similarly sized Lugnut, but thus far neither call has been answered by Hasbro.

Lugnut has ties to a few other transformers, though. As suggested earlier, his loyalty to Megatron echoes G1 Soundwave, even if he was never as zealous as Lugnut is. His largely purple color scheme and large primary eye bring G1 Shockwave to mind. Interestingly, both of these characters are also getting updates for the Animated line. Anothe influence seems to me to be Beast Machines Tankor, a vehicon commander who also had claw hands, a massive frame, and an elongated head/face. His blue and silver colors weren't far removed from Lugnut's (slightly different from the toy) show colors, either. His bomber mode and wing/arm transformation also reflect Cybertron Jetfire/Skyshadow in some ways. Lastly, both his color scheme and alt mode theme (i.e. WWII aircraft) are similar to G2 Ransack.

But what about the toy itself; how well does it stand on its own? First, I'll look at what I think is the strongest aspect of the toy, and that is the vehicle mode. As the title of this post suggests, Lugnut is a bomber with strong similarities to the Boeing B-29 Superfortess, a very effective bomber that was developed in the midst of World War II and helped end it by delivering nuclear payloads to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan. And simply put, this is one of the most gorgeous airplane modes ever devised in the 24-year-old Transformers history. Now, while it is based on the B-29, the Transformers: Animated show takes place in the future and thus the plane has a few design choices that place it in the aesthetic category of retro-futuristic, as opposed to a stricit WWII replica like G2 Ransack. Some stand-out features of the bomber mode (obviously) include the bombs. Slung under the (very modern-looking) engines, these huge bombs have two guiding fins and hazard striping, and bear no small resemblance to the "Fat Man" bomb that was detonated in Nagasaki, even though the real B-29 carried bombs inside its bomb bay. Panels that turn out to be the robot's claws can automorph open (by pushing the fins forward) to reveal turbolasers, as Hasbro calls them. However, this sort of clutters up the bomber mode, which already has three twin-barreled gun turrets (another throwback to WWII bomber design). Perhaps the most obvious B-29 feature is the cockpit area, which is totally unlike anything you'd see on more contemporary B-1B or B-2 aircraft. There is a central window at the nose, surrounded by smaller rectangular/trapezoidal windows that extend to the top of the fuselage. It's something never seen on a transformer before, and really solidifies the retro-futuristic look. At (literally) the other end of the spectrum, the tail looks very futuristic, something that you probably wouldn't find even on an experimental aircraft today. The four tail fins are arranged in a sort of X-shape, like the S-foils of an X-wing. Each pair of fins is attached to what appear to be supplemental engines, with red intakes and molded nozzles on the rear. This is similar to Cybertron Jetfire, but like most real aircraft. The only aircraft with a tail-mounted jet engine I can think of at the moment is the Lockheed L-1011 airliner. The central portion of the tail also appears to have molded vents in front and rear, but they;re unpainted and it's not clear if it also intended to house turbojets. Which brings me back to the wings, on which are mounted the main engines. The intakes for these engines look great, but they have neither painted nor molded details toe represent the exhaust nozzles! This is probably a minor thing to anyone who's not an airplane nut like me, but for myself this is the worst aspect of the bomber mode. Another minor complaint is that the staff of the mace weapon pretty obviously sits on top of the rear fuselage; I thin it could have been possible to have it blend in better. On the plus side, Lugnut has some of the best "robot kibble" incorporation seen on an aircraft TF: his legs rather seamlessly blend in with the rear fuselage, with the only thing to tip you off being the teal-colored toes. The only TF that comes to mind that incorporates robot parts better into its plane mode would be the Cybertron Thundercracker mold (and Cybertron Evac andMovie Blackout, I suppose, but they're not strictly airplanes). Again, this is a wonderful alt mode, such that I'd by the mold at least once more because of it. It' d be nice to see it repainted in the B-29's characteristic silver, maybe as Animated Strika.

Ok, robot mode. This is where most fans have their complaints, and again it's mostly directed as Lugnut's short height. And he truly is small; like Blackout before him, Lugnut fits in better amongst deluxes rather than Voyagers. Also like Blackout, part of the reason for this is because a pretty big chunk of the alt mode does not become part of the robot mode proper, but rather becomes "backpack", part of which is removed to become a proportionally large weapon. So, because a decent chunk of the bomber's mass doesn't turn into the robot proper, the robot is pretty short. Another Voyager-class Decepticon, Starscream, is a good three head taller.

Even so, Lugnut is a pretty cool robot. Since his alt mode is so retro-futuristic, it's appropriate that his robot mode is too. From the exaggerated proportions of the limbs to the cyclopean (sort of) eye, this guy would not look out of place in an old Sci-fi film or cartoon from the '40s. It's overall a great look and really helps set him apart from the other Animated Decepticons, not to mention most of you transformers from other toylines.

Articulation is pretty good, especially with the arms. There's a lot more movement there than I expected. However, there is no waist or head/neck movement, which is a bit disappointing. The waist joint I could live without (although it looks like there was room for one), but the head is a separate piece from the rotating panel it sits on, and I'm not sure why it couldn't be made to rotate. After all, the turret that is on the opposite side of the panel rotates; why couldn't they share the same joint? It seems that Lugnut can get by just fine without moving his head, however; he's got a pair of small eyes on either side of his head, so he could conceivably be looking at three things at once. Also unfortunate to note is that Lugnut's jaw does not move, nor does his lightpiping work (would have looked great if it did).

So, if Lugnut had his height sacrificed for a weapon, it better be a good weapon, right? As the box states, the plane's tail becomes a "power mace" and actually does a pretty good job at it. In fact, the mace has quickly become my favorite weapon in the line so far, beating out some pretty great armaments like Grimlock's sword, Megatron's cannon, and Lockdown's hook/EMP. When converted to mace mode (accomplished by plugging the mace's handle into one of Lugnut's turbolasers and then pressing a small trigger at the handle's base), the angle of the tail fins becomes more severe, making it much more menacing and more convincing as a mace and not just a Airplane Tail in My Hand. There is no way to activate the weapon in plane mode, by the way. Also, more hazard stripes are revealed, thematically tying the weapon closer to the main figure. Overall, it's an imposing weapon, and if not for its relatively small size could rival Cybertron Metroplex's Sparkdrinker weapon for quantified "epicness."

A few more observations about the mace accessory: If you leave it unactivated (fins in regular configuration), the "mace" looks quite a bit like a '50s style sci-fi rocket, with the "nose" somewhat resembling a gun barrel. Because of this, I've decided that the mace can also be a small remote control/drone interceptor for Lugnut. And with the fins either in "plane" mode or "mace" mode, Lugnut can hold it so that the gun barrel of the drone is facing forward, as if he's fining it or about to throw it into flight. Conversely, you can mount the weapon in his hand upside down and position it the same way, so that the jet nozzles look like gun barrels (this looks better with the fins in mace mode). Lastly, with the fins again in mace mode, you can position the weapon (by itself) horizontally and rotate the base of the handle up at an angle, and it makes a pretty decent scorpion impression, with the fins as claws and the handle as a stinger (no legs, though). More shades of Blackout and Scorponok, if you will.

One more note about the toy as a whole: if you are transforming him from bot mode to plane mode, leave the cockpit halves deployed and you get a not-too-bad impression of Depth Charge's manta ray mode.

In conclusion, this is a great toy from a great line. Not the best of what's available so far (largely for scale issues), but a very good toy on its own merits. I'd especially recommend it, however, for those who have bought Voyager class Bulkhead; they seem to be made in the same scale and should display well together.

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