When the first version of Masterpiece Optimus Prime came out waaaay back in 2003, despite the adulation heaped upon that figure by so many Transformers fans, I wasn't interested. It wasn't that I thought the figure was bad or that upsized, high-quality renditions of classic Transformers wasn't a great idea. It's just that one of the things I enjoy the very most about the Transformers is their diversity. Cars, jets, dinosaurs, tanks, cassettes, spaceships, microscopes, monsters... the sheer variety of forms is part of what originally drew me to them. A standalone Optimus didn't interest me without the promise of future accompaniment. After all, what good is a military leader without soldiers or an enemy to combat? Sure enough, it took 3 years before Starscream, the next Masterpiece figure, was released. Megatron was released the year following, then the next two years were occupied by the obligatory repaints of Starscream into Skywarp and Thundercracker. A Grimlock appeared in 2009, then a disappointing Rodimus Prime in 2011, but 8 years had passed since the initial release and I was not regretting my decision to pass on the thinly-numbered (and expensive!) Masterpiece line.
In the meantime, the Classics line was putting out figures rapidly. Though smaller and arguably less exquisite than their Masterpiece counterparts, they were far more numerous and I was steadily building a large collection of modernized versions of the vintage toys I so loved. I had my armies! What did I need with a few isolated specialty pieces?
But when I learned of an impending Masterpiece Soundwave figure, my love of the character and of his cassette minions made the figure difficult to ignore. Plus, an unofficial Masterpiece-scale Shockwave was being produced by a third party company, and he's pretty much my favorite Transformer ever. The pace and variety of new Masterpiece figures was improving as well: Sideswipe and his remold of Red Alert; Prowl and his remolds of Bluestreak and Smokescreen; impending releases of Wheeljack, Bumblebee and Ultra Magnus. Add to this the fact that revised and improved Masterpiece versions of Optimus Prime and the Decepticon jets had been recently released and it was starting to look like two diverse armies were being built. Two armies I could get behind.
Soundwave and his minions are an absolute delight. I do hope they make more cassettes for him, as is apparently a possibility. Most of all, I hope there is eventually a way to procure the Ratbat cassette that came with Soundblaster without having to pay $150 for the unwanted Soundwave recolor that he accompanies.
Shockwave is a perfect update to his original 1985 toy with increased weight and tremendous posablity. I installed the batteries that light up his eye and cannon hand, but I must have turned them on for a party and forgotten to turn them off because they burnt out. I'll replace them soon, though. The effect is too amazing to resist.
I really prefer the newer mold of the Decepticon jets to the old, so the domestic release of Thundercracker is ideal. The robot mode isn't as tight and sure-footed as I would like, but he still looks impressive, possibly more so in jet mode. Here he wields the gun-mode Megatron that came with Soundwave.
And then we have the Autobots, Japanese releases all. The plastics for Prowl and Sideswipe may feel a little precariously thin in places, but their articulation and design are top-notch. So long as I'm careful, I'm not worried about breaking them.
Optimus Prime is possibly the most impressive of all the Masterpiece figures I've handled. He's sturdy and dynamic. My one complaint is that I don't like Optimus designs where the grate of the truck mode is replaced with a more stylized one for the robot mode. It feels like cheating. If you're going to hide the truck-mode grate away, what reason is there to replace it with a fake one? (The answer is greater similarity to his original cartoon depiction.) That said, I acknowledge that this is a conceit of pretty much every Optimus Prime of the last decade, so I've accepted it.
While I may have joined the ranks of the Masterpiece collectors, there's still plenty of action in the Classics world. Expensively, much of it is related to third-party gestalts. Here's the current bookcase in my office. The towering Metroplex stands out, of course, but the three next-tallest figures are more precious to me: Superion, Menasor and Devastator, third-party gestalts all. I'll be adding a Predaking and Defensor soon. Yes, this is an increasingly pricey hobby.
Apart from what tops the bookcase, the rest of my classics collection is in three relatively inexpensive glass cases I picked up from IKEA. I'm happy that the figures aren't terribly crowded. They're spread out nicely, I think. The pace of new Classics figures has lessened in recent years as other competing lines based on the movies or the current cartoons take up a greater amount of the Transformers shelf and peg space in the stores. Also, the number of original 1980s characters of any importance that have not received an update in the Classics line is very few, especially with third-party producers filling in the gaps.
Lest we appear to forget entirely about Generation One toys, I've returned Fortress Maximus, in city mode, to his rightful place of honor on my desk. It just seemed wrong not to have him there, a milestone in my collection.