Way back in the mists of time (1988), when Marvel Comics produced a merch comic for Transformers, they needed to create a story line for the Pretenders – transforming robots hidden in “organic” shells, disguising their robotic nature within a meat-suit. Mostly, the Autobots wore human-looking shells, and the Decepticons wore “strange and terrifying”
furry covention-goer alien forms. (I suspect Longtooth (a bizarre walrus/furry) and Stranglehold (a shirtless”wrestler” dude) might have swapped factions somewhere in the design process.)
shilling the Pretender toys advancing the plot, they devised a plotline starring one Decepticon Pretender who pretended to be an organic, non-transforming alien – and ended up a Hollywood career in monster movies – Skullgrin. Skullgrin, the comic tells us, is employed as a siege engineer, and gets sent on ahead of the other Decepticons to build a fuel depot on Earth to power the planet’s eventual conquest. However, he is spotted by humans and offered a movie role by an eccentric Hollywood director. He plays a giant, city-destroying monster in a (probably very cheesy) kaiju movie, taking payment for his services in fuel.
Of course, Skullgrin is eventually revealed to be a Decepticon infiltrator, and booted unceremoniously off Earth. Returning to his fellow Decepticons, he is mercilessly mocked for his enjoyment of human culture.
Now, the Pretender gimmick put hard limitations on what the toys of these characters could look like, so what Takara had managed was this:
I assume the Pretender shell is supposedly to be some sort of demon or undead Minotaur-thing, and the alt-mode is a futuristic plane of some sort, but the robot mode is kind of dull, and the transformation involves nothing more than folding the robot mode in half. I sure that modern technology could do better, right?
Skullgrin is back! First off, this is not a recent release. It’s from 2010, but I just saw it going very cheaply on eBay, so it’s new to me. Secondly, new Skullgrin doesn’t have a shell, but his robot mode is more reminiscent of his original toy’s shell, with a bulky torso and a skull-like face. Some parts of his tank mode tracks end up folded on his back, but not excessively; he’s less like some of the movie Transformers who often have a large rucksack of folded-up vehicle parts worn by an insectile robot, and more like the more traditional Transformers aesthetic wherein the robot body and limbs are made from folded vehicle parts. (The problem of too much backpack and too much shell-forming isn’t universal to Bayformers, nor is it exclusive to it, but it’s much more prevalent there, and it’s one the aesthetic reasons I dislike the movies.) The dark pink and the bony off-white colour are nicely reminiscent of Pretender Skullgrin, and nicely break up the pale grey that is his vehicle modes’ main colour.
He’s nicely articulated, with ball joints in all the right places (neck, hips, shoulders, ankles, wrists), hinged armor plates on the shoulder and shins that move independently of the limbs underneath, and articulated hands, something of a rarity in Deluxe-sized Transformers – this is usually reserved for larger size-classes.
These jointed hands are fairly simple – he doesn’t have individually-articulated fingers or anything mad like that – but they give you a choice of poses from clutching his pickaxe to making a serious point. The practical reason for this articulation’s existence is to put the pickaxe into or out of his hand, without having to make the pickaxe’s hilt detachable. Why is Generations Skullgrin armed with a pickaxe, rather than the sword Pretender Skullgrin came with? Well, he’s a new-head retool of the pickaxe-wielding
Straxus Darkmount, and the pickaxe-handle transforms into the main gun of his alternate mode (the spiky bit is tucked away in his turret).
Skullgrin’s new alt-mode, a self-propelled artillery platform, seems altogether more fitting for a siege engineer than the futuristic plane that Pretender Skullgrin transformed into. It seems easier to me to get from robot to tank than the other way around. I quite like that the dark pink parts mostly disappear from this mode, without the grey parts disappearing entirely from his robot mode.
The three smaller weapons on his turret are attached by 3mm C-clips, and can attach to his hull in a number of places and arrangements. They can also clip onto his backpack (or knees… via some left-over clips from tank mode) in robot mode, giving him a pleasing Mechwarrior look. Interestingly, the “backpack” parts of Skullgrin have some articulation, which allows the attached guns to be “aimed” over a much wider range of angles.
The C-Clip accessories all have a ball-joint above the clip, so they can rotate freely in 2 axes, and have a little motion in a third, which is a nice. Of the three, I vastly prefer the missile rack and machine-gun to the mortar-thing.
All-in-all, Skullgrin’s an aesthetically-pleasing sculpt with a few nice features that bring his Pretender counterpart to mind. He’s definitely going to be stood at the front of the robot-shelf to show him off. As soon as AddAltModeR gets bored of posing him with other “kaiju”…