Friday, November 28, 2008

Weekly Transformers Feature: Cybertron Primus (Black Friday edition)

In the United States, the day after Thanksgiving is often referred to as "Black Friday." The idea is that the day after Thanksgiving is supposed to be the busiest shopping day of the year (this usually isn't technically correct--that honor going to one of the weekends just before Christmas--but it's certainly near the top of the list every year). Merchants often try to take advantage of the high volume of potential customers by doing special promotions. In 2006, Wal-Mart did one such "Black Friday" promotion by releasing the then-current Cybertron Primus toy with four previously unreleased Mini-Cons as a bonus. Since I didn't yet have the Primus figure, I took advantage of the offer.

Like Unicron, this is a figure that homages Transformers history going back all the way to Generation One. As the story went back then (in the Marvel comics), Unicron is a "god" of chaos from whose existence predates our own universe, and whose only function is destruction. When our current universe was created, it sought to defend itself by creating a corresponding "god" of light, called Primus. They battled for ages, never able to destroy the other. Eventually, Primus tricked Unicron by fleeing into an asteroid. Unicron did likewise, believeing that Primus had found some advantage in this celestial body. But what really happened was that both were now trapped in their respective asteroid prisons. Over time, both found themselves able to shape the worlds in which they had become embedded. Unicron became a giant planet capable of consuming other worlds and of transforming into a gargantuan robot form. Primus, on the other hand, became the planet Cybertron, homeworld of the Transformers.

This origin was modified a few times over by the time the Unicron toy was created for the Armada line, and again by the time Primus was actually created as a toy for the Cybertron line a few years later. For one thing, the Marvel comics never gave any indication that Cyberton/Primus (or "Cybertron Primus," as the toy was called, although that gives the impression that the two-word phrase is the character's name) was able, itself, to transform into a robot. Rather, the origin at the time suggested that Primus' creations (the Autobots and Decepticons) were given abilities that mimicked Unicron's ability to transform, implying that Primus himself was unable to do so. But this toy transforms, and in order to do that, you need this device, called the Omega Lock. You don't really need to have the Cyber Planet Keys shown here in order to make it work, and in fact, I don't have the specific keys you're "supposed" to have if one goes by the storyline (I never got any "Giant Planet" toys, and therefore don't have the key for the Giant Planet).

Basically, the Omega Lock serves as a key to unlock certain parts of Primus' transformation to robot mode. It does a few other things, too. For example, here you can see how the Omega Lock lights up when you stick in the hole at the top of Primus' planet form (although, technically, this is still supposed to be the planet Cybertron, it's still hard for me to reconcile this ball with the planet I always knew in Generation One, and it's easier for me just to refer to this as the "planet mode" instead of calling it "Cybertron." Just bear with me...).

If you move the key forward, parts of the planet slide away and two massive cannons flip out. With a couple of slight modifications, this may be considered an "attack planet" mode (The instructions don't actually give it a name). I shudder to think of what all these transformations must do to any Transformers unfortunate enough to still be on the planet's surface!

But I'm nowhere close to done yet! When preparing this entry, the instructions reminded me of yet another mode that I'd completely forgotten about, and will likely never, ever use again. This is Primus' "battle station mode." I'm not at all sure what viable function a planetary body needs with a "station" mode, nor can figure out how this mode is supposed to be demonstrably more "battle ready" than the "attack planet" mode earlier. Indeed, it seems to me that the Death Star did just fine without constantly reconfiguring. Or, at least, it used to....

All this finally gets us to Primus' robot mode. As planetary Transformers go, I actually like this transformation better than either Unicron or the Darth Vader/Death Star. It's an actually spherical planet that turns into a robot with a minimum of shell-forming. Not that a robot mode at such a scale makes much sense, of course. I mean, with Unicron, whose purpose was destruction, you could at least get iconic images like this one of Unicron about to rip into the surface of Cybertron (Note: at the time of the 1986 Transformers: The Movie, Primus as a character wasn't even established, much less the idea that the planet Cybertron was Primus!). But what's a "good guy" planet-sized robot supposed to do?

As is typical of Transformers toys of this size, Primus has gimmicks besides the actual transformations. Here, for example, we that Primus has robotic arms embedded within the giant robot's feet, perhaps intended to interact with Transformers at something somewhat more closely resembling their actual scale (although still way too large to be useful, realistically speaking).

If you plug a Cyber Planet Key into Primus' arms, they each can release a double-barreled weapon that, presumably, can be used to attack planetary-scale threats.

So, that's Primus. So far, we've covered the basic toy, which any non-Black Friday-shopping fan would have been able to pick up. The "Black Friday extra" was this set of four Mini-Cons. From left to right, these are Strongarm, Offshoot, Knockdown, and Nightscream.

These four Mini-Cons were released with the "Black Friday" Primus set for the first time, but were made more widely available when the "Classics" line came out more properly a few months later. However, when the Classics versions of these Mini-Cons came out, some of the names were changed. Offshoot became Dirt Rocket, and Nightscream became Thunderwing. Nightscream can be especially confusing, because an entirely different toy, sold with the now-named-Thunderwing toy, was called Nightscream.

No one ever said that keeping Transformers toys straight was easy!


  1. I couldn't help but notice the quotation marks around "god" in the post when referring to this religious (albeit fictionally religious) nature of Primus. I was wondering if they were given the quotation marks solely because they were fictional, or are there other contexts where you would type "god" instead of god? Just curious!

  2. I'm certainly not unbiased, but it just seems to me that the definition of "god" set up by the fiction of the Transformers myth doesn't really match well with what a "god" is supposed to be. For all of the fiction's "universal god of light" language, he seems pretty Cybertron-specific, having pretty much nothing to do with any other world, ever.



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