Friday 8 February 2019

REVIEW: Generation 1 Autobot Targetmasters (1987)

Alright look, I admit it - I collect G1. In-jokes asides, it's true that I've spent the last year and a bit dipping my toes back into vintage collecting. OK fine, I'm probably neck deep by this point, but who's complaining when there's so much G1 goodness to be explored, eh? If you've not seen it yet, I recently put together a bit of a top ten list of my favourite vintage purchases from last year, which gave me another great opportunity to revisit and photograph a lot of toys that I had picked up over the previous twelve months. Well, it kinda gave me the idea to also do a few follow-up articles like this one, focusing in on some of the different sublines that we experienced through the '80s. It's not really intended as a review of the toys themselves, but more as a way of exploring my own collecting experiences a little further, and showcasing the choices I've made when it comes to assembling a vintage line-up.

So, let's kick off with a little something from 1987! When I dove back into the vintage scene I definitely knew that my focus would be heavily weighted towards several sublines that remained favourites of mine from childhood - namely Headmasters, Powermasters and, of course, Targetmasters. There's something about these three groups, and in particular the first wave of each, that just shine both in terms of the toys themselves and how they execute and introduce a brand new concept into the world of Transformers. The idea of big robots partnering up with smaller companions has of course been done many times over since, but back in 1987 it definitely shook things up in a big way.

Of the three concepts there's no doubt that Headmasters were and still are my absolute favourite, mostly because of how the heads themselves are able to interact with the larger robots and ride in their cockpits - something the Targetmasters could not do. Whereas Headmasters have a logical reason to transform alongside their companion robot, the Targetmasters were at their most useful in gun mode regardless of whichever form their buddy was in at the time. Still, that doesn't mean the whole thing wasn't a cool idea, and particularly well-executed in the Autobot ranks. Let's take a look at the line-up.

First up is Pointblank, a toy I did own as a child and have very fond memories of. There's something hard to forget about those ludicrous-but-somehow-still-awesome shoulder pads and that wicked face sculpt. This specimen was actually purchased MISB; the bubble was still sealed to the card although the box itself had been opened at some point. The best thing was finding this untouched toy for a price that I couldn't believe was true - so much so that I had to (subtly) double check with the seller that everything was definitely as it seemed to be! It was just one of those unbelievable finds that is unlikely to ever be repeated - a total fluke on my part, but a very welcome one. The only downside is that the box did not contain the bag with the instructions and the stickersheet, so my Pointblank is still currently looking a little... naked. I'll either try to pick up some vintage labels or, more likely, a Repro sheet at some point. Still, even without them he's an absolute hunk.

Next up is Sureshot, another toy that I remember well from childhood. Unsurprising really, as I do actually still own that same copy! However, it does not look anywhere near as nice as the newly-acquired one you're seeing in these pics, so a replacement was very much in order. Sureshot is perhaps the most yellow Transformers toy I think I've ever encountered, and really needs to be seen in hand to fully appreciate just how piercing that colour scheme really is. He also boasts a very slick transformation scheme - arguably the best from the three new moulds on offer in this line. This guy is top drawer G1 and no mistake.

Now Crosshairs I had no previous experience of, so it was a blast to finally get to fiddle with him, not to mention add him to the collection! Whilst I do objectively think he's possibly the weakest of the three new moulds overall, that doesn't mean he's not still awesome in his own right - far from it! That vehicle mode is a chunky beast, and there's something adorably awkward about his robot mode that ends up making him feel chock full of character. I picked up my copy in the same purchase as Sureshot; both from a private sale with a very helpful acquaintance I made along the way. I honestly couldn't be happier with them.

Now we make it onto the three repurposed moulds from the previous year, namely Kup, Blurr and perhaps more notoriously Hot Rod. The addition of Targetmaster companions to these three certainly gave the toys a new lease of life, and not to mention a whole new challenge for vintage collectors thirty-something years down the line. Like Cyclonus and especially Scourge, they are often harder to find than the regular versions in nice condition for a decent price. The good news as far as Hot Rod goes though is that the mould has been reissued many times over, and specifically as a Targetmaster as part of Takara's The Transformers Collection line in 2004. It's that version that I have opted to add to my own ranks, as the obvious cost-saving for being able to pick up a MISB Targetmaster Hot Rod was just a non-debate! This version also has some notable advantages over the original release, notably that it does also come packaged with his original guns from the 1986 toy, reworked to fit the Targetmaster's larger fist holes. Unfortunately it also features the original sticker sheet, and not a later set of modified decals that enabled the thigh stickers to be undamaged during transformation... major oversight! But hey, I'm not too worried as I have plenty of versions of G1 Hot Rod - one of the others can always be in car mode, I suppose!

Like Hot Rod, Kup was granted a reissue as part of The Transformers Collection, and again it's this version which I opted for when compiling my Targetmaster line-up. I have always loved the G1 Kup toy, so the chance to experience a minty reissue was a delight indeed! I just absolutely love the colour of this guy, and I kinda feel like no subsequent Kup toys over the years have captured it quite as well. He also has a distinct sense of character that few other figures can match, oozing the essence of the grizzled, grumpy veteran we all know and love. A definite highlight from G1, in my opinion.

Finally then we come to Blurr, who represented the biggest challenge for me in this entire crew! Ironically I did still have a childhood copy of the 1986 toy but made a decision to opt for a Targetmaster version instead, not least because I wanted to see all my chaps lined up with their little gun friends, but also because I wanted a better condition specimen than the one I already had. The problem with finding a nice vintage Blurr is several fold. Firstly, it's a toy prone to quite a bit of discolouration, with the pale blues often becoming more of a sunburnt yellow over time. Even worse, it's surprisingly difficult to spot this when browsing online, and it took for me to find a non-discoloured Targetmaster copy for me to realise than my childhood original had actually suffered a tiny amount by comparison! Secondly, the mould is quite prone to damage, with the most notable example being the clip on the shield that attaches to the front of his car mode. Other problem areas include common paint rub around the front of the shield and on the lighter blue sections at the end of the arms. Anyway, let's just say that it's been a bit of a challenge, but in the end I am very happy with the copy I managed to source! I might yet be tempted to replace a couple of the stickers though, especially the one that's upside down...

Spoilsport, Peacemaker, Pinpointer

Haywire, Firebolt, Recoil

So, that's a lot of attention for the big guys, but what about the Targetmasters themselves? Of course they're a big part of the fun with this range, and I personally think that the six examples seen here are the very best out of all the various gun-buddies we've received. The 1987 Decepticon lot sadly are prone to damage, and the 1988 crew are just not as cool, unfortunately. These chaps manage to feel completely cohesive in their two halves of an overall team, but still distinctive enough as individual toys that you get a sense of personality from each. It's perhaps a bit of a shame that they don't feature more articulation, like the Headmasters, but they still pack buckets of charm and remain one of my most treasured parts of vintage Transformers.

So, there you have it - a full set of 1987 Autobot Targetmasters amassed. I honestly didn't expect to find them all so quickly, but I have to admit I was pretty lucky along the way too. Of them all, I definitely think that Pointblank and Blurr have been the highlights for me as far as collecting experiences go, but really I can pick up any of these six and still get a veritable wallop of nostalgia. In my eyes these chaps and many of their 1987/88 contemporaries are peak Transformers - the kind of stuff that remains infinitely desirable even to this day, and it's for this reason that I'm proud to say I own all six of them for the first time.

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  1. I can't tell you how much I love sureshot. I think the camera spinning around and the transformation in the commercial coupled with actually owning one as a kid permanently locked him into one of my all time favorites.

    1. Yeah he's an amazing toy! One I always think of from my childhood.