Tuesday, January 29, 2013

BotCon 2013 Speculation Via Machine Wars Mirage

A few weeks ago, the theme for the 2013 BotCon was announced to be "Machine Wars." We still don't have any more specific information in regard to characters or molds that will be used, but that obviously hasn't kept fans from speculating about what a set based on the 1997 Machine Wars line might look like. Let's look at Machine Wars Mirage as we consider the possibilities...

As I've mentioned before (for example, when featuring Machine Wars Hoist back in 2009), the Machine Wars line was exclusive to KB Toys, and consisted entirely of molds that had been created for previous lines (although many had not actually been released previously). Of course, all BotCon toys are exclusives made using previously-existing molds, so this distinction of Machine Wars isn't especially helpful. Perhaps more relevant to Machine Wars is the fact that most Machine Wars toys used the names of Generation One characters. Still, what would make a BotCon "Machine Wars" toy any different than any other Generation One homage that they've done over the years? (And even there, there are two noteworthy exceptions: Machine Wars Hubcap is almost certainly not the same character as the Generation One character of that name, and Megaplex is an entirely new character, even if he is a clone of Megatron...)

Machine Wars molds came in two basic types. Four "basic" molds that all featured a "flipchanger" one-step, spring-loaded transformation (I'm not counting the step of pulling the figure's weapon out of storage, which obviously must be done manually), and four larger molds that originated in the European markets in the later years of Generation One. The four "basic" molds were all used twice, while the four larger molds were used one time apiece, for a grand total of twelve Machine Wars toys. While I can't see BotCon going with "flipchanger" designs (which exist, but aren't especially common among more modern molds), I do wonder if a possible pattern exists here that BotCon might emulate for their "Machine Wars" set. I could easily see about half of their dozen-ish toys (recent BotCons have given just over that number) being repaints of each other....

But what about the homages themselves? Now that I'm getting around to Mirage, I can say I've covered all four of the "basic" molds in the Machine Wars line, although in the case of Beast Wars 2 Dirge, I covered a later redeco of the Machine Wars mold, since I don't have either of Machine Wars Thundercracker or Skywarp. Looking strictly at those toys, it becomes fairly clear that two of these molds — this Mirage mold and the one for Megatron/Megaplex — have heads that were clearly molded to resemble the Generation One character the toy is named for. The same cannot be said of the Hoist/Hubcap mold or the Thundercracker/Skywarp mold (FYI, Mirage's Machine Wars redeco was named Prowl, but although Prowl is apparently intended to be the Generation One character, there's little in the mold that suggests it's any kind of an homage beyond the name use). This doesn't give us much help in determining a pattern, except perhaps to note that the same hit-and-miss pattern of homages might be said of BotCon exclusives of the past, as well.

I have less experience with the larger, Europe-originated, molds that were brought over and redecoed for Machine Wars. In fact, the only specimen I currently own that uses any of these molds is Universe Soundwave. Even so, there's not much of a pattern that I can glean out of those four toys, except to say that they pretty much all make for fairly weak homages for one reason or another. That said, since we're only talking about eight molds, total, for the entire original Machine Wars line, the lack of cohesion among the homages has been suggested, itself, as a way that BotCon 2013 might create its set of "Machine Wars" toys. However, I'm not at all confident that a set of toys that bear little-to-no resemblance to the characters whose names they're given will go over very well with fans once the choices are announced.

I do have one additional note that I'm holding out a small hope that the folks at BotCon might notice. The Tech Specs for the Machine Wars toys all used the Generation Two faction symbols! These are symbols that have been largely forgotten today, although they have resurfaced on the occasional Generation Two homage. BotCon 2013's "Machine Wars" toys represent a rare opportunity to give these symbols some love. However, I don't think these symbols appear on any of the original Machine Wars toys themselves (which mostly ignore symbols entirely for some reason, and the few symbols that do appear are of the Generation One variety, since in those cases the molds were created back in that era*), so I can't say that I hold that hope with any real confidence that BotCon will follow through. Time will tell....

*It was later brought to my attention that there was a G2 faction symbol on the original Machine Wars Skywarp toy. Sadly, the reveal of BotCon 2013 Skywarp on February 12th displays a G1 symbol.

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