Blast-Off, Aloof Astronaut
Every family has its black sheep, that’s even true of over-aggressive-giant-combining-robot families. The black sheep of the Combaticons is undoubtedly Blast Off. Despite being part of a combining team, here’s one Decepticon who very much goes his own way. This is evident from his very first appearance in the G1 Cartoon. In Episode 61, Starscream steals the “personality components”of 5 renegade Decepticons from the filing-cabinet in which they’ve been incarcerated and fits them into abandoned WW2 vehicles to make his own personal army. As the freed personalities vivify each of the rusted hulks in turn, so those vehicles change. In most cases this involves updating from vintage 1940s machines to their more modern (by 80s standards at least) equivalents. Except Blast Off, who – without explanation – promptly turns from a B-17 bomber plane into… wait for it, a space shuttle. Oooo-kay.
Despite his predominantly camo-brown paint job (because they totally have mud in space, right?) Blast Off has never really fitted with the military aesthetic of the other Combaticons, in appearance or behaviour. Sure the Eagle will land every now and then for limb duty but his favourite company is his own and he’d rather fight at extreme long distance – ideally a laser strike from orbit – rather than getting up close and face-punchy à la Brawl. Even in space you can hear the roar of this Con’s superiority complex. But does his Combiner Wars incarnation still leave Blast Off feeling so superior? Let’s survey the situation….
In a pattern that’s become increasingly familiar over the course of our posts this week, Blast Off comes in the standard Combiner Wars Deluxe carded packaging with a gun (an ”ionic blaster” apparently) foot/fist/gun (“x-ray cannon”) a PTC (Pointless Trading Card) and issue 11 of IDW’s Robots in Disguise comic, rebranded here as Combiner Wars #3. It’s not uncommon for these pack-in comics to contain no trace of their alleged cover stars but at least buying the whole wave of Combaticons has gives a consecutive sequence of issues to read.
As you can see he’s packed in robot mode but the box also features an illustration of his alt-mode and holy crap that’s no space shuttle! Yes, Blast Off manages to be simultaneously the most and least surprising of the Combiner Wars Combaticons. Before any pictures of this toy were released speculation was rife that he’d be a brand new mold – as there weren’t any previous space shuttles in the line to retool. Instead, in what is really quite an unexpected move, Hasbro gave this wave’s brand new mold to Brawl, altering Blast Off’s alt-mode to make him a fighter jet and – here’s where the “least surprising” bit comes in – a straight-up recolour of previous Combiner Wars figure, Aerialbot Quickslinger. Can we say “ooh controversial”? We can, of course, but in a fandom that has feuded for years over stuff like FIRRIB I’m not sure quite how much impact that really has.
It is kind of disappointing that Blast Off is just a new paint job on an existing toy, and an Autobot to boot. B and I didn’t buy the Aerialbots but if you have done you’ll have this exact mold already. What were you thinking Hasbro? It’s not like the fandom has displayed any kind of appetite for a technicolour dreamcoat of re-coloured plane robots, have we?
Oh OK, point taken. Joking aside though, I have mixed feelings about Hasbro’s decision with this one. The blurb on the back of the pack in comic informs us that “Onslaught required him to change his vehicle mode… in order to stay closer to the team.” Onslaught is the tactician of the group, and let’s be honest, he kind of has a point. A jet is much much more sensible alt-mode for a Combaticon than a shuttle ever was. Not only is it a better fit thematically, there’s also question of size, which DOES matter…
Check out this great image by DeviantArtist MarOmega which shows what Bruticus would look like if his components were appropriately sized relative to their vehicle modes…. See that oversize left arm? That’s Blast Off. Because honestly because how big must a space shuttle be compared to a jeep or a helicopter? All the other vehicles could fit inside a shuttle and still have room to swing Ravage, so how come Blast Off’s robot and arm modes are so much smaller? #CombinerProblems. G1 Blast Off was far from the only “don’t think about size” offender out there but he’s arguably one of the most dramatic. So I’m quite willing to accept him as a jet, it’s just a shame they made him quite such a familiar one.
And the stars look very different todaaay
Here’s a Blast(-Off) from the past: Blast Off’s G1 counterpart and G1 Vortex (who was released simultaneously) were the first Transformers to feature ball-jointed articulation: it was in their shoulders. So it’s rather fitting that the shoulders on this toy are also ball-jointed with an additional upper joint where they attach to the torso, allowing a really wide degree of motion. He’s also nicely weighted, with the rear mass of the cockpit balanced by some chunky feet and the more frontwards weight of the combiner joint that makes up his chest. So Blast Off can hold a number of dynamic poses, included one-legged ones, without toppling.
I like the head sculpt of this mold. The ball-jointed head has a great degree of motion, the classic visor is always a good look and the colours strongly recall Blast Off’s look in the original cartoon. The colours do, but not so much the shape. Blast Off usually has a faceplate so it’s a bit of a shame that tradition hasn’t been observed here. Of course, Quickslinger, of whom Blast Off is a recolour, doesn’t have a faceplate either, but one of his Aerialbot team mates, Firefly, does. So it’s a bit puzzling why Hasbro didn’t go with his mold – at the very least his head – for the Combaticon plane instead.
His big square combiner joint is really well integrated here. It doesn’t look out of place at all, and the shape nicely recalls the boxiness of the character’s original chest design. The sculpted wire and circuitry details beneath his Decepticon badge are also an aesthetically pleasing touch.
Blast Off has tubular fists and though some of his joints are a bit on the loose side he holds his weapons well. He has what I presume is a gun sculpted in above each of his fists but I can’t help seeing this as an extra finger which makes it look like he’s constantly pointing, or flipping the digit, depending on angle. That makes for some quite amusing poses.
As with most plane robots, the back view is almost entirely dominated by that cockpit backpack. I’m sure there could have been a way for this to split or tuck away just a little more than it does but I’ve certainly seen worse.
Ground Control To Major ‘con
When B and I were dividing up the Combaticons to write about, the main reason I got Blast Off was because, as a Starscream fangirl and Slipstream cosplayer, I know my way around a Decepticon jet. So, now that Blast Off has become one, how does he shape up?
Getting from robot to jet mode is fairly quick and painless. I like the way his chunky lower leg pieces open up and the rest of Blast Off’s legs fold away inside them. The only parts of the sequence that left me decidedly unimpressed were his arms. These basically just peg to the side of his body underneath the plane’s wings; except the joints remain clearly visible, with his shoulders even protruding slightly beyond the front of the wings. The detailing on Blast Off’s lower arms camouflages quite effectively as engine parts when viewed from above but side on, I’m sorry, those are just arms, you can even still see his tubular fists.
You may notice in the above picture there’s some daylight visible through the join on Blast Off’s back. This figure is fairly loose all round – possibly a side-effect of so much mold reuse? His robot mode is so nicely weighted that this isn’t really a problem there, but smoother alt-mode choices like planes always throw into particularly sharp relief anything that doesn’t quite click snugly, as is the case around the rear and tail fin here.
More positively, I am very fond of that brown. It’s so much more appropriate for a jet than a shuttle! The paint job is pretty sleek here and I like the complementary tone of the purple wing stripes. Although he’s mostly one colour, there’s a fair bit of detail sculpted into the plastic, including suggestions of panels, which adds interest. Blast Off has a little flip-out stand beneath his nose so he can be displayed in this mode without toppling forward.
Both his guns can technically be mounted in this mode, there are ports just under the wings but doing so – especially with the fist-foot-gun looks pretty ridiculous.
In summary, Blast Off isn’t the sexiest plane I’ve even seen but I could still imagine him flying high and feeling superior in this fighter jet form. I also think this mold looks classier and sleeker in Blast Off’s colours than it does in Quickslinger’s white and red.
As you’ve probably figured by now, any Combiner Wars Transformer in the Deluxe size-class can become an arm or a leg. Blast Off may not resemble his G1 self all that much, but we’re definitely having him honour the classic arrangement of pairing with Vortex to be Bruticus’ arms while Brawl and Swindle make up the legs. With that in mind, let’s talk about his arm-mode.
While Brawl and Swindle convert to legs from their chunky vehicle modes, Blast Off’s limb transformations begin in robot mode. This short, simple sequence illuminates why he really has that gun/extra pointing finger on each hand. The protruding points are used here to anchor each of his arms over the back of his head so they slot in between his wings and cockpit. It’s kind of neat actually.
In hand mode the fist-foot-gun can have its fingers flipped out and slots in tightly to port on the bottom of what used to be Blast Off’s feet. It looks so much more convincing in this guise than it ever did as a cannon.
Blast Off’s waist now forms the elbow joint for Bruticus’ arm, ensuring a good degree of articulation. But a solitary arm still just isn’t that inspiring is it? Patience my destruction-loving friends, we’re slowly building up to the main event but there’s one more Deluxe figure to look at first…
Do you want to build a robot?
Combiner progress so far: head, shoulder, knees and toes. Looks a bit lopsided though:
* I should probably note that I wrote this article about a week ago and so had already chosen to pepper it with David Bowie quotes before the sad news of his death. It feels bittersweet now but I wanted to leave them in.
Tomorrow: nobody expects the Cybertronian inquistion! It’s time for Vortex!