Third-Party-Palooza - Heroes Edition: Mastermind Creations' Thunder Prominon and Nitro
After my Masterpiece rant of about 2 years ago, well in 2020 I decided to walk the walk and dove big time into Third Party products. As I did so, I found that not all of what I wanted from them were of the Masterpiece aesthetic that I was putting together on my Masterpiece-themed shelves. Instead, some of them felt like they fit in really well with Has/Tak’s Generations styling and given the continually narrowing focus of Has/Tak’s character selection, also felt like these were toys that were the direction Has/Tak would go if they had any balls…like back in the 80s. So, while these guys (and gals, because I’ve gotta track down Mastermind Creations’ version of Elita-1) still go up on the shelves, they sit in my ‘Heroes’ section…thus the title of this particular branch of our Third-Party-Palooza.
Enough with the intro though. Today, we’re looking at two entries from Mastermind Creations’ Reformatted line: Thunder Prominon and Nitro. Now, the inspiration for the bulk of the Reformatted line is the IDW comics that ran from 2005 until its closure in 2018. And while neither of these selections show up in this continuity, they are based on molds that did: Thunder Prominon being a repaint of their Collisus (a re-imagined Thunderclash) and Nitro is a variation on their Calidus, a take on IDW’s Hot Rod. Let’s start off with the one that pushed me into taking the plunge with MMC…Thunder Prominon.
A little history before we get into the figure. As Transformers G1 was winding down in the early 90s, Hasbro’s offerings became increasingly regional. Sure, there had always been variance between what was available in the North American market versus Takara’s Japanese market, but now Hasbro was introducing even more variation, as some toys sold in Europe never came ‘across the pond’ either. One of those was Thunderclash, a garishly 90s decoed semi-truck (maroon, light blue, gold and don’t forget the hot pink windshields!) who would serve as the new Autobot leader, released in the European market back in 1992. This isn’t where he’d come to my attention though. Instead, he finally did end up making it to US shelves in 1997, when, in light of the current success of Beast Wars, Hasbro thought to dip their toes a little bit back into G1-flavored waters with their Kay-Bee Toys exclusive line Machine Wars. Thunderclash was redecoed in a red, white, blue, gray and olive green color scheme and was bestowed with the mantle of Machine Wars Optimus Prime. I saw this toy a lot while I was in college…and each time I passed him up. It wasn’t that he didn’t look cool, but he had the standard extremely limited G1 articulation [That’s the nicest I’ve ever seen ‘brick’ typed before. – Ed.] In light of the articulation revolution that Beast Wars had kick-started, to go so backwards just seemed wrong to me. Oh, how I’d love to go back and punch past-me in the balls. For this, and, well, for lots of other things too. But let’s focus on this.
Thunderclash became a fan-favorite character in the latter days of the initial IDW continuity and so Mastermind put forth Collisus, mimicking his appearance in said comics…but as a convention exclusive in 2018, they released the Machine Wars Optimus Prime recolor. Unlike most convention exclusives, apparently this must have lingered on the shelves of some online retailers, because I found him on sale. And, as I should probably rant about next, Has/Tak had finally pushed me to a place where I wasn’t terribly interested in my 20th version of friggin’ Bumblebee, it was time to take the plunge.
Boy am I glad I did.
Thunder Prominon here really is a great toy. He’s fun to pick up off the shelf, pose, transform, vroom around with and then, transform again and put him back. Part of the fun is definitely his articulation which does indeed compete with Masterpiece level toys. Articulated fingers, an ab crunch, double-joints, ankle rockers and all the ratchety goodness that you’d expect in the higher-end Transformers is certainly all here. In fact, one thing I’ll definitely praise Mastermind for is that unlike a lot of other third party products, Thunder Prominon here isn’t going to draw blood…there are no real sharp edges to the plastic on this guy. He’s a good and stable toy given the size of his big-ol’ clompers [That’s Midwest for ‘feet’. – Translator Ed.] and comes armed with two rocket launchers and a rifle.
Transformation is fun and easy once you get the hang of it and, again unlike a fair number of third party stuff out there…and some Has/Tak stuff as well…isn’t over-engineered at all. Sure, I’m not gonna hand this off to a 5-12 year old and tell ‘em to have fun, but I think fans 16 and over will get a kick out of this guy. Once he’s in his 8-wheeled armored vehicle mode, like I said, he’s very vroom-able. The mode is compact and fits together pretty well. Sure, it’s Cybertronian, but it avoids that ‘vehicle because we tell you it is and it has wheels…see?’ and actually does look like a futuristic armored vehicle…not a curled up robot with all four wheels on the ground.
So…why don’t I consider this guy a Masterpiece? I gotta admit, I wrestle with that one, but for me, it comes down to aesthetic. The guy has all the fixin’s of a high-end collectible, but at the end of the day, the look of him doesn’t really blend in with my MPs. Man does he fit with my Generations stuff though…and looks damn good there. At 8 inches tall, he fits in with the old school Voyager class, but as toys are shrinking these days, he could likely rub shoulders with your War For Cybertron Trilogy Leader class figures. And while he’s shorter than the PotP Optimus Prime, Rodimus Prime and Optimal Optimus, Takara God Ginrai and Combiner Wars Ultra Magnus that inhabit my Heroes shelf, damn…he sure looks the part of the Cybertronian hero that the IDW comics painted him to be. And that’s all it takes to get your foot in the door of this little Transformers Valhalla.
As I alluded to, something happened…right about the time the movies were taking off…and, to quote Mr. Horse off of Ren and Stimpy, well sir, I don’t like it. Let’s take Bumblebee as a case study. The original came about in 1984 with the first wave of Transformers. Yes, he was popular on the show and, between himself and his upgraded form Goldbug, he was pretty much a staple of the cast. [Actually, I’m not sure he was around all that much in the third season, his role mainly being filled by Wheelie. For better or for worse. – Ed.] Actually, that helps to prove my point. You see, there wasn’t another major iteration of Bumblebee until the movie came out in 2007. And then EVERY piece of media had to have a version of the yellow idiot. But think about that for a second. Beast Wars? Nope, that role was filled by Cheetor. 2000’s Robots In Disguise (Car Robots in Japan)? Side-Burn. Armada? Nope, that’s Hot Shot. And that goes for the rest of the Unicron Trilogy, Energon and Cybertron. But thanks to the character’s popularity in the movies, now there apparently can’t be a series without him: Animated, Prime, RiD 2016, Cyberverse and likely whatever they come up with next. Anyway, my point here is that used to be a time when the franchise branched out with new characters, new names and, in a day and age where diversity is lauded, well…maybe not so much on Cybertron (the planet, not the show) apparently.
Nitro here finds herself based on a character from the last chapter of the Unicron Trilogy, Cybertron. Okay, to be fair, her initial incarnation, Nitro Convoy, where she gets her name, was a guy in the original Japanese recording of Galaxy Force, but when that series was imported here to become Cybertron, he became a she and she was named Override. Override was the leader of the Speed Planet, Velocitron who would eventually the Autobots on their quest for the four Cyber Planet Keys needed to awaken Primus and save the universe from being consumed by a giant black hole. And I gotta admit, it’s refreshing to see an old character and an old design revisited.
Just like with Thunder Prominon, Mastermind knocks it out of the park with Nitro.
And it’s really for all the same reasons. Detailed sculpt that isn’t out to taste your blood, high-end articulation (I’m not sure we get the ab crunch here though) and an easy, fun and successful transformation (again, it looks like a futuristic/alien race car). Yes, Nitro’s alt-mode is indeed vroom-able…and vroom it you should. Her vehicle mode has a little more of an off-road feel, given her tires, but the lines of the chasis scream speed…so she’s ready to leave you in the dust both on and off the track. She comes with a nice-sized double-barreled pistol and while said alt-mode is pretty compact, she does unfold into a bot that’s maybe just a few centimeters shorter than Thunder Prominon. And just like Prominon, even though she stands a bit shorter than the legends that surround her, she certainly looks like she fits in with them. And as the leader of Velocitron, I’d say she definitely belongs there.
There is one minor thing to point out with her though, the black fins on her back (or in the rear of her vehicle mode) can pop out at the slightest nudging. This’ll be something to look out for if you try to buy the figure on the aftermarket, such as Ebay. Nothing that a little super glue can’t fix…but if you opt not to do that, be warned, these little suckers have the ability to get lost.
All in all though, she’s definitely worth the pick up.
With my first two MMC figures under my belt, I gotta say, I love what they’re doing. Now, not all their Reformatted offerings are to my tastes…for example, I could give two shits about the Decepticon Justice Division…and of course some of them now have become a bit hard to find. But that’s just it, they’re hard to find for a reason, this is a company that turns out a pretty good product…at least with my experience with them so far…and that’s all I need to get my hunter gears going.