Vintage Month > That’s Just Prime (by PrftktTear)

optimus_primeThroughout its history, Transformers has had many incarnations, but one character is always prominent in them all:  Optimus Prime. From the first time we heard him say “Transform and ROLL OUT!”, generations of kids have been inspired by the Big Bot.

Over the years Optimus has taken many forms, from his familiar trailer truck, a fire truck, or a pick-up truck, to some bizarre forms like Nike sneakers and out-of-this-world Cybertronian based vehicles. Regardless of his alternate mode, he always seems to have the same general look, and is arguably the most instantly recognizable Transformer of all.

Generation One Optimus Prime

img_0359Originally released as “Battle Convoy” in Takara’s Diaclone toyline, the Generation One Optimus Prime transforms into a late 1970s red Freightliner COE semi-trailer truck.

While there have been many interpretations since, all seem to share the general aesthetic of the original Optimus Prime: the red chest with windshield prominently out front, blue legs, and round head with face plate and antennae. Even as Transformers evolved into the Beast Wars era, Optimus Primal not only took on Prime’s namesake, but also a similar head with faceplate and color scheme.

G1 Optimus Prime consisted of the cab which transformed into Prime himself, his trailer opened up to become a combat deck, inside which was Roller, a tiny drone that Optimus could send on stealth missions. One of my favorite moments in the G1 cartoon series was when Prime sent Roller into the Diamond Mines of Burma to look for Bumblebee and Sparkplug, who were on a mission to plant a bomb to stop the Decepticons. After time passes, Prime investigates himself, just in time for the bomb to go off and send him tumbling down a cliff. It may have only been a few minutes of animation, but it was an epic moment for this young viewer’s eyes, one which I recreated many times over with my own toys.

While not completely cartoon accurate, this incarnation of Prime has received countless re-releases and repaints of the mold, including a Pepsi Co. truck and an I-Pod dock. The same cab was also re-released by Takara with a different trailer as the Diaclone “Powered Convoy,” but U.S. fans commonly know that guy as Ultra Magnus.

Powermaster Optimus Prime

img_0392Powermaster Optimus Prime was the second incarnation of Prime to be released since the original in 1984, with a whole new design using the “Powermaster” gimmick.

Each Powermaster toy featured a small mini-transformer which folds up into an “engine” which must be plugged into the main figure’s vehicle mode which allowing it to transform into robot mode. And dang it, I was always losing that key! Fortunately, I quickly realized all you had to do was hold the little white piece down.

Powermaster Prime’s Cab looks very similar in vehicle mode, but the transformation is a lot different than that of his G1 counterpart. After inserting the “key,” his legs fold down, and arms fold out from the back, and you pull his head up. His trailer is also very similar to the original Prime’s, but now can become a battle station armed with four giant guns.

Prime wouldn’t be a Powermaster if he couldn’t combine with his trailer. By standing the trailer upright, folding down a couple plastic flaps, and and folding Prime’s legs up while in vehicle mode, the cab fits nicely into the chest cavity of the trailer. Finally a separate head piece is mounted onto the top of the truck cab to complete the transformation.

While Powermaster Optimus Prime may not be my favorite incarnation of Big Bot, he holds a special place in my heart as being the very first Optimus Prime toy I ever owned.

Beast Wars Optimal Optimus

img_0396When Beast Wars made its debut, it certainly caused a lot of controversy and divided the fans amongst those who embraced the idea of Transformers that transformed into animals (hey, we already had Dinobots, Insecticons, and Predacons to name a few), and those who felt that their beloved childhood characters were being desecrated and screamed “TRUKK NOT MUNKY” ’till they lost their voices.

In its third season, Beast Wars features the Maximals and Predacons on a prehistoric Earth. With an evil plan to change history, Megatron plots to enter the Ark and kill Optimus Prime, currently in stasis lock. Fortunately the Maximals prevail, but not before Megatron has a go at Prime giving him a face lift. In order to preserve Optimus Prime’s spark, Optimus Primal fuses his spark with his own which leads to Primal’s entire body changing, transforming Primal into Optimal Optimus.

Optimal Optimus was a departure from the other Beast Wars figures because it featured a mostly robotic look, with vac metal legs, arms, and shoulders. Optimal Optimus has four transformations, robot, ape, jet, and armored transport. He also has missiles that launch, and by pulling back on a section of his cannons, it would light up his eyes and cannons.

When lined up with all the rest of the Primes been released over the years, he doesn’t fit in very well aesthetically, his bright orange, and magenta vac metal shoulders don’t fit in very well aesthetically. Still, he’s an interesting toy with an interesting character that is fun to look at and play with!

Robots In Disguise

img_0337In 2001, after the end of Beast Machines, Transformers: Robots In Disguise–an English-dubbed version of the Japanese series Car Robots–aired and served as a “filler” line until Transformers Armada Began.

This universe was self-contained and had no other connections to previous shows. However this was huge for Transformers fans, since this was the first time since before Beast Wars that we actually had Autobots with vehicle alternate modes; instead of Decepticons, they battled the Predacons who still took beast modes. This incarnation of Optimus Prime took an alternate mode of a fire truck. The front “cab” portion of the fire truck transforms into Prime himself, and the rear end of the truck could serve as a battle station of sorts. Prime could combine with these pieces and enter into an all new Super Mode, adding height, new legs, arms, face, etc.

This Prime could also combine with Ultra Magnus (the first new Magnus released since the ’80s) and turn into Omega Prime, although I always found this transformation very confusing.

RID Prime in his basic mode is still one of my favorites to this day. The mold is very true to the show itself, and looks like the original Optimus Prime, only with a very heavy anime influence. With a vac-metal chest, and a more rounded head, this Prime definitely stands out amongst the rest of the Primes in my collection.

Masterpiece Optimus Prime

img_0384Weighing in at three pounds and a foot tall, this is the Optimus Prime we all wanted as kids. Taking elements from the G1 Cartoon series, as well as the original Convoy Optimus Prime, they hit the nail on the head when they called this big bot “Masterpiece.” With highly intricate details, featuring die-cast metal parts, realistic pistons, a light-up removable Matrix, individual fingers, and even working suspension with rubber tires, this is one must-have toy for any Transformers fan.

MP Prime is highly articulated, enough to keep even the most cranky toy critics happy, with movement in the big five, plus biceps, elbows, wrists, knees, ankles, and feet.

Masterpiece Prime was also released as “20th Anniversary Optimus Prime” by Hasbro with all plastic parts, and in my opinion, its worth the extra dough for the Takara version. Also MP Prime comes with long smoke stacks, while the Hasbro version comes with the kiddie safe shortened ones, plus “battle damage” which is kind of infuriating. Hasbro released 20th Anniversary Prime a second time to coincide with the release of the 1986 Transformers movie with G1 accurate colors and no battle damage. If you can’t afford a Takara, it is still a remarkable toy.

He comes with a ton of accessories, including a G1 accurate blaster, an energy axe (as seen in the Transformers pilot, “More than Meets the Eye”), and finally a miniature Megatron in Walther P-38 gun-mode so that Prime can be posed holding him. Oh, and this bad boy can transform too! His transformation isn’t quite as simple as his G1 counterpart, but it does try to retain a few elements from that toy. His vehicle mode is as gorgeous as his robot mode, but honestly, who buys Transformers to keep them in alt. mode?

Although initially released with no trailer, it did contain a cardboard mock up, but since Takara has released an official Prime trailer with Rollar, both separately and combined with the Prime figure. MP Prime has also been repainted in white as Ultra Magnus

I may be beating a dead horse into the ground here, but I can’t say enough good things about MP Prime. He’s the crown jewel of my Transformers collection, and while we’ve gotten some pretty nice Primes since, I don’t think anything could come close to the sheer awesomeness of this toy. Even holding him in my hands, I feel a sense of awe and reverence towards it. MP Prime set the bar pretty high, and as great as following releases (Starscream, Megatron) have been, they have failed to live up to the high standards set by MP Prime. With Masterpiece Grimlock set to arrive in March 2009, and many fans such as Poe and myself left salivating, hopefully this will finally come close to the perfection of Masterpiece Optimus Prime.

Robot Heroes Optimus Prime

img_0415With the explosion in popularity of highly stylized, artsy PVC and Vinyl designer toy lines (Munnys, Dunnys, Mighty Muggs, etc), Hasbro jumped on the bandwagon with Star Wars Galactic Heroes and Marvel Superhero Squad.

Following suit was Transformers Robot Heroes. Call them super-deformed, or call them kiddie-friendly, but they’re just plain cute. Initially only concentrating on G1 characters, the line then expanded to include Transformers the movie (2007) characters, and under the Universe moniker, the line also opened up the door to characters from Beast Wars, Beast Machines and other series as well.

Robot Heroes G1 Prime appeared three times, once in the normal 2-pack with Ravage, once in the 2-pack with Unicron posed holding the Matrix of Leadership, and a third time in a special Wal-Mart exclusive 5-pack featuring a super metal finish. The Robot Heroes don’t come with very much articulation, most only being able to move the head and arms, but all come with pretty good detail, considering they’re only about 2″ tall, and pre-posed. The normal G1 Prime is featured holding his black ion blaster in his right hand with his index finger firmly pressed on the trigger, and his left hand is pointing.

These ‘lil Big Bots really serve no function to adult collectors other than to have to display since they don’t transform or anything. I just like the fact that they’re based on G1 characters, and are cute. To paraphrase what Rob Bricken of Topless Robot once said, “If you don’t love these, I am sorry about your lack of a capacity for joy in life”.

Optimash Prime

img_0324With the release of the summer blockbuster Transformers the movie, there was also a boat load of movie product tie-ins. One such tie-in was Optimash Prime. Following in a line of “mash ups” combining the iconic kids toy, Mr. Potato Head with several brand name properties such as Star Wars and Spiderman which resulted in such creations as Darth Tater, Spud Trooper, and Spiderspud.

Optimash Prime includes the famous Mr. Potato Head body, classic eyes, ears, nose, and mouth, along with an Optimus Prime helmet, mouth plate, and legs. Wheras previous incarnations such as Darth Tater merely featured the classic Mr. Potato Head shoes repainted, Optimash Prime has a whole new set of feet. He also comes with a miniature trailer cab, it doesn’t attach or anything, but its a nice inclusion. Optimash Prime took more of a resemblance to G1 Prime than the movie Prime, which in my opinion is a good thing. As revealed at the 2009 Toy Fair, there will be a follow-up to Optimash Prime called Bumble Spud, based on the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Bumblebee. While it still is pretty neat looking, I’m not as thrilled with it as I was with Optimash Prime.

Many Transformers fans balked at the absurdity of the notion of a cross between Mr. Potato Head and Optimash Prime, while again, those with an open mind and a love for all things cute embraced it. I for one was overjoyed as I have an unusual obsession with Mr. Potato Head. If I was to reveal the true number of Spuds I own, I may get myself laughed right off this site. Needless to say I love Optimash Prime, he combines two of my favorite things and he’s been on display ever since.

Movie Star Optimus Prime

img_0397So Optimus Prime went Hollywood. I think he let the good living go to his head, cuz boy, have you seen him lately? He’s really let himself go! He looks great in the film, thats what they must have spent $300 million for new CGI technology on.

With the $150 million dollar Transformers live-action film that fans had been waiting decades for, Hasbro pulled out all the stops with toys in every class from Legends to Leaders, and every demographic from kidlets to old schoolers with Fast-Action-Battlers, Robot Heroes, and super-poseable Revoltech-like Robot Replicas. Accordingly and rightfully so, there was an Optimus Prime at every single Price Point. Shying away from the $40 price tag of Leader Optimus Prime, I initially went for the $20 Voyager Target exlusive, but when the Premium line was released, I finally gave in and bought ‘ol Big Bot.

With the release of the designs of the movie, the complaints started to roll out about how Michael Bay was raping their childhood, and one over zealous fan even threatened his life. C’mon, its a movie! Prime, now taking the form of a Peterbilt truck, has much more presence than he did in prior incarnations, i.e. he is big and heavy! Using the new “automorph” technology, you can Transform Optimus by pushing a button to pop his head out and his eyes & chest light up as he makes the ever famous transforming sound. He’s got a fair amount of kibble, but considering the size of the truck in alt. mode, its forgivable, plus he hides it well.

Whether or not you love or hate the movie-verse Transformers, you can’t deny that this is one heck of a toy. We’ll be getting another movie Leader Prime with the new batch of Revenge of the Fallen figures, and he looks to be more movie accurate.

Transformers Classics Optimus Prime

img_0335In late 2006, Hasbro released a new line meant to bridge the gap between the end of Transformers: Cybertron and the new figures based on the live-action movie, thus the Classics were born. Using modern toy-making technology to update some of our favorite characters like Bumblebee, Starscream, Jetfire, and Grimlock, Transformers Classics proved to be wildly popular amongst old an new fans alike.

Classics wouldn’t have been a proper line if we didn’t get the leaders of the Autobot and Decepticon factions, and so once again G1-based Optimus Prime and Megatron returned to shelves. Megatron took the alternate form of a handgun for the first time since 1984, although it looked more like a Nerf blaster.

Optimus Prime returned with his traditional red, gray, and blue color motif as a modernized and more aerodynamic COE trailer truck cab (no trailer included). In robot mode, there is very little similarity to the G1 Optimus Prime, except for the color scheme, his head, and some basic design features. What I like least about this mold is the kibble on both forearms, but its forgivable. Prime comes with two guns, his smoke stacks fold together to become a machine gun, and the wind vane folds to become a blaster.

This same mold was used for the predictable white Ultra Magnus repaint, and also a black Nemesis Prime SDCC exclusive, which, thankfully, was also available for purchase at Hasbro’s online store. Finally it was also used in the Transformers Mirror Universe BotCon ’08 exclusive where the evil Autobots are led by the tyrannical Optimus Prime, this time painted with a magenta color scheme and the phrase “Till All Are Gone” on on his side.

For years I had only cherry picked from the various Transformers lines, virtually ignoring everything from Armada/Energyon/Cybertron trilogy. However it was Classics Optimus Prime that got me back into the swing of things. While not my favorite Prime figure, he still looks great, and is instantly recognizable as the Big Bot.

Animated Optimus Prime

img_0332When preview images of characters from Transformers Animated, the newest animated incarnation of Transformers were shown, Transfans acted fairly predictably, in that of fear and loathing. They hated the new designs, the “Teen Titans” anime look, and for the most part trashed the show. Over a year later the series has won over many fans (but still has many haters). Optimus Prime of this world took on a new role, not of the valiant leader, but of an up and coming Bot who still had a lot to learn about what it meant to be in a position of authority.

Transformers Animated has seen the release of several Prime, including the standard deluxe and voyager, but skipping the leader class and going right for the supreme. Two deluxe class figures have been released, one featuring Prime in his pre-Earth Cybertronian mode, and the other available only in a two-pack with Megatron featuring his Earth mode, but with some pretty ugly “battle damage”. Out of the lot of them my favorite is the original Cybertronian mode Prime. He’s little, but size doesn’t always matter. He’s the most fun to Transform and play around with and is definitely one of the more unique Primes that has been released.


Pic of the Day


Odds ‘n Ends


  1. Frowny McBeard

    I think my biggest problem with Cybertron Prime (who does look fantastic with Wing Saber) is the fact that his head sticks out like a sore thumb in alt mode.

  2. Mark

    Cybertron Prime has a great robot mode with lots of tributes and features, in fact the robot is excellent, but his alt mode could be better.

  3. Monte

    I'd like to see a similar piece on the various Megatron figures over the years, not least because there has only been one that I have enjoyed.

  4. wilyjeff

    It's a shame that the author never got into Armada/Energon/Cybertron. Cybertron Optimus Prime is one of the best Hasbro/Takara has ever done. With the G1-resemblance in robot mode, removable matrix, ability to combine with trailer, and ability to combine with other Wingsaber, that one hits all the sweet spots. Armada Prime is also quite impressive when combined with Jetfire and Overload. Energon Prime gets a bad rap, but is also quite cool when combined with Wingsaber. A notable omissions are the Action Master Optimus Prime and the Heroes of Cybertron PVC Prime, which were good early attempts at non-transformable, cartoon-accurate representations.

    Also, one correction: both versions of the Hasbro 20th Anniversary Prime had short smokestacks, but had the same diecast parts as the Takara Masterpiece.

  5. Mark

    A lot of those Primes are all great toys. One of the most fun has to be the Classics version, tons of articulation. Also the blaster, it can snap into two and be connected to the holes in his forearms.

  6. Frowny McBeard

    Man, I have owned soooo many Primes over the years. These are definitely most of the best, but I think my favorite that was left out is Big Convoy from Beast Wars Neo. His mammoth mode was unconvincing (and unarticulated) but his bot mode was amazing, and as I recall he was the first one with a removable Matrix in his chest. Problem is, he was only available over here as the Target exclusive Nemesis Prime, and as good as that was he just looks better in the original color scheme. Lio Convoy (the basis for the Leo Prime repaints of Leobreaker) would be up there but his chest doesn't really attach itself to the rest of him in bot mode and it makes it kind of wonky. Also, one thing that always impressed me about Powermaster Prime was how his "super mode" hearkened back to the design of the original Prime, while the basic bot mode was sort of a new design. All in all, a good article, and thanks.

  7. Mark

    Yeah sorry about that just noticed my mistake. Great article PrfktTear.

  8. Poe

    Just to clarify–it's not my article, it's PrfktTear's!

    As for Micronaut reviews, I never collected them myself, I'm afraid.

  9. Mark

    Great article Poe. My first Prime was Power Master then G2 reissue etc. Any chance of some micronaut reviews in the vintage section?

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