I’m really trying to commit to featuring at least one Toy Closet Find each week, but I don’t want to confine it to one specific day. So today’s bit of random rummaging will take us into the realm of Transformers. It’s actually not so random, as I was thinking about how badly I want the rest of my TFC Uranos figures and that got me hankering to do a feature an Autobot jet. Before Transformers Universe became part of the Classics/Generations continuity, it existed as a weird composite line of toys that promised to draw from all corners of the Transformers mythos and introduce us to new versions of characters. In theory, it sounded promising, as Hasbro suggested that it would reintroduce old and uncommon molds to the toy shelves. In practice, it was more about awful repaints of toys we were already tired of seeing on the pegs and shelves. There were, however, some bright spots to the line. Is the subject of today’s feature is one of them? Well, that’s debatable.
Once upon a time I had a huge collection of G1 Transformers. It all eventually went out the door to help bankroll the startup costs of my business. It was a pretty standard collection, although it did occasionally stray into some uncommon corners of the Transformers world. One of those more uncommon pieces I had was a boxed Dai Atlas from Transformers: The Zone. I only bring it up now, because of how amazed and impressed I was that Hasbro actually released an homage to a toy that few mainstream TF collectors would even know about. And that brings us to today’s look at King Atlas, a repaint of the Starscream toy featured in Machine Wars, which in turn was a repaint of Skyquake. I can’t decide whether I hate this toy or love it. Maybe by the end of the feature, I’ll have worked it out.
Atlas’ alt mode is a gloriously huge bomber jet. It’s a friggin epic toy of an aircraft that looks like it’s designed solely to fly over your country and seriously f’ck your shit up. I don’t imagine it’s based on any real world aircraft, as it looks like a patchwork monstrosity of flying military hardware… but in a good way! Seriously, this thing looks like hate with wings… and bombs. One of the things I dig most about the aircraft mode is that it blurs the line of realism just enough that I could probably believe this is some kind of old Cybertronian mode. King Atlas comes with six yellow bombs that peg in around the aircraft. This mold was always a cool looking toy, even back in the Machine Wars era, but to see it released as an Autobot gives me a strange sense or ironic satisfaction. No part of this warplane looks like it should be a traditional Autobot, so I’ve always counted him among my Wreckers.
While it’s hard to argue with the black Decepticon coloring of the original Starscream toy, I really like what Hasbro did to this when rebranding it as an Autobot. The bulk of the aircraft is white, but there’s a very cool paint wash that gives it a grungy grey finish. When Hasbro attempts paint washes, they usually fail horribly, but this is a case where it really worked out amazingly well. He’s got yellow stripes on the sides that give him a bit of a Y-Wing vibe, red striping on the wings, and blue rear wings. Toss in some black and you’ve got a distinctive looking deco. The Autobot emblems on the wings are painted on and they look nice and sharp.
Besides just looking cool while parked on my shelf, King Atlas’ jet mode has a couple of interesting play features. One is the range finder in the back. You can flip a switch and put the rear thruster up to your eyeball and the mirror gives you an image of what’s below the toy, so you can target your bombing runs! You can also load the bombs into the cylinders in his wings and rotate the lever so Atlas can carpet bomb Decepticon fools below him. Finally, there’s a lever on his back that can open all the black hatches on his dorsal side to reveal translucent red panels. I never knew what the purpose of this feature was, but it’s still kind of cool. Ok, enough gushing about Atlas’ jet mode… let’s transform him and see what his bot mode is all about.
Wow! If you haven’t been around vintage Transformers in a while, this guy will come as a bit of a shock. Sure, as a 90’s toy he’s not exactly vintage, but he has a lot more in common with that era than the modern toys. It’s a perfect example of just how much the subsequent Beast Wars era revolutionized Transformers toys with their introduction of ball joints and actual articulation. King Atlas features a pretty simple transformation and the end result is a brick of a toy (his only articulation is in his shoulders) with a ton of kibble, not least of which is the huge range finder hanging off his back!
He’s also an unbelievably Japanese looking robot. I know, all Transformers are Japanese, but this guy seriously looks like he’s got more in common with a Chogokin or Gundam… particularly in the head sculpt, which is straight off the original Skyquake release. I think it’s a combination of the large horns, the crest, and the weird mouth plate. The asymmetrical split of the nosecone on the legs bugs me (did I mention I’m borderline OCD?), and look at those tiny feet! Why even bother? Also noteworthy is that he has two heel spurs that fold out the back to keep that huge range finder on his back from dragging him backwards. Is this the first example of a Transformer with heel spurs? Probably not, but it’s the earliest one I can think of. Oh yeah, you can also open up his chest and store his bombs in there. That’s pretty cool.
Every now and again, I cull some Transformers out of my collection. The ones I sell or trade off are usually recolors of duplicate molds, or just figures that I bought back when I was a completest and don’t want anymore. It’s always surprising to me that King Atlas here survives the cut every time. A lot of it probably has to do with his bitchin’ jet mode, but there’s also something about his robot mode that makes me keep him around. He’s just such a weird and unique looking piece that I can’t help but hang on to him.