Toy Photography Advent Calendar Day 23: Transformers: Cloud Starscream

Unfortunately, I found myself inspired by RFC episode 758 and Kilby talking about his newly-received Cloud Brawn, one of the most absurd official Transformers toys to ever be. I realized that I wanted to give some attention to Cloud over here. Unfortunately, I already burned off a lot of what I would have talked about in regards to Cloud Rodimus, as a tangent in the Strika blog post. But I have another Cloud toy, and it’s one that I think is very well suited to represent the series as well.

Transformers Cloud was a short TakaraTomy venture, whose purpose was …well, I don’t really know what the point was. But what it did was take existing toy molds and deco them in generally unexpected ways as characters you probably would never have thought to link together previously. Obvious exceptions for the case of Optimus Prime and Megatron, but it got better from there. Springer as Rodimus was an inspired choice, thanks to IDW’s comics at the time having a Rodimus of a very different aesthetic which the Generations Springer mold from 2013 represented surprisingly well without any mold changes.

That was kind of a key element of Cloud: none of the toys got new parts. They accomplished what they accomplished just as they were. Now, some had more benefit to draw from than others. The previously mentioned Brawn didn’t get any new parts for release in Cloud, but it used new parts that had previously been made when Brawn was going to be released in the Generations “GDO” assortment. But that release was cancelled, and the parts sat unused until someone remembered them during planning for Cloud. And thus, hilarity ensued. GDO Brawn was always a cursed concept, and Cloud did nothing to change that.

Starscream draws more from the well of “I would never have thought of that, but it makes surprising sense now that you mention it”. It’s a redeco of the Doubledealer retool of 2013 Generations Blitzwing. This had a couple things immediately going for it in regards to the character choice. 2013 Blitzwing drew part of its inspiration from Animated Blitzwing, including visual cues like the cockpit canopy in the middle of the chest. The robot mode had elements that looked enough like a bigger, beefier Seeker right from the start, so the trip from Blitzwing or Doubledealer to Starscream was a comparatively short one. The Doubledealer head isn’t the most conventionally-Starscream thing out there, I’ll admit, but it’s not offensively incorrect by any means.

As a conceptual exercise, I was taken with Starscream that added a tank mode and became a triplechanger. It seems in keeping, in a way. In a situation where Megatron is a tank, and Starscream has ambitions to usurp Megatron, maybe Starscream would adapt himself as a tank, at least part of the time, to try to match strength. If you don’t want to pay attention to Cloud’s own fiction (which I have basically no understanding of) this is plausible as a G1-adjacent Starscream that’s started upgrading himself. I can dig it.

Harder to dig the mold, though. This Blitzwing mold family is infamous for its design flaws. Primary being the very large nylon element that forms the base of the tank turret, and thus is also what the robot’s arms attach to the body by way of. The thing about nylon parts is… they bend. For small-span elements, or pieces that have some thickness to them, this rarely matters. But the nylon in use here covers a large area, and is relatively thin. Bending and warping is unavoidable. This results in the arms generally being unable to lock in place at the shoulders, because the catch tabs expect a certain close fit, and that doesn’t happen thanks to the flexibility of the unpaintable plastic. It’s like the engineering originally called for ABS on that part, but then someone either on Takara’s engineering team, or at the factory itself said “yeah, no.” I guess this is better than a vital plastic plate that’s bound to break with regular use.

Even setting that aside, this isn’t the greatest mold out there. The robot mode is awkward, both in appearance and functionality. Mostly I’d say it’s the cost of trying to be a triplechanger. If the shoulders locked, it would be better, but some of the quirks go beyond fixing. That said, I do think I like this mold more than most people ever did. I think the Titans Return toy is better at being Blitzwing than this ever was, and it was never a good Doubledealer, but I still kind of like it as its own thing. The alt modes are interesting looking, and with a little practice do hold together solidly enough. Some people even believe that the jet mode is a loose nod to the Legioss fighter from Mospaeda, which is pretty cool. I can kind of see it, but I can also see how it easily would just be a big coincidence.

Cloud Starscream doesn’t come with the mold’s main accessories. It was still sold with the missile Blitzwing and Doubledealer had, but my copy came second hand, and I don’t think I ever had the missile. Not a big loss overall, but it’s a little disappointing since the cannon had a fun pump-action firing mechanism. But, the rifle and sword were left out of this release, and replaced with null rays. I understand via TFwiki that these are copies of the null ray accessories from Masterpiece Starscream. Nice thing to add, but alas the mold was never engineered with weapons like these in mind. There is but a single place to attach them across all three modes, and while that works alright for the vehicle forms, use in robot mode is tenuous, at best. The shape of the forearms even makes using them as hand-carried weapons difficult to accomplish.

Oh, and note that I depict Starscream two ways in my photos.The first is more or less how the robot is supposed to look, with the cannon pointing up and the nosecone folded down. But after that I stick with my preferred configuration, with cannon down and the nose pointing backward off the head. Much more convenient for photography, for one thing. The nosecone pointing backward is not unlike how the G1 Starscream toy would work, too, which seems appropriate. The changes are minor, but make the toy a little nicer to handle, and distinguishes the look that little bit more as Starscream.

Cloud was a weird little subline, and it goes beyond what I really have the space to dive in to here. Most of what it produced was pretty interesting in character and mold combinations, but fortunately there’s not much more I really have an itch to own. I think the more subtle implications of the toys have most of the meat here anyway. A portion of the fandom acknowledges a logic usually called something like “the repaint transitive property” which basically says that when a toy of one character is redecoed or retooled to be a second character, then any toy of either character can become the other character, and in some more extreme interpretations, any other character any of those toys has ever been. To put that in context: Starscream was made from Doubledealer, which was made from Blitzwing. Another Blitzwing was retooled to be Megatron, which means that all four characters are linked together. Which means, taken to its utmost extreme, it would be valid to have the G1 Megatron toy (or an analogue like the Masterpiece) redecoed and sold as Starscream. Starscream is now a gun. Be afraid.