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First/Last Comic Appearance (US) - Issue 24, January 1987 / Issue 35, December 1987
First/Last Comic Appearance (UK) - Issue 63, May 31st 1986 / Issue 65, June 14th 1986
First/Last Cartoon Appearance - Episode 58 (Season 2 #42), December 10th 1985 / Episode 94 (Season 3 #29), February 24th 1987
First Toy Appearance - 1986
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Figure Details and review
Manufacturer - Hasbro
Toyline - ROTF
- FansProject Munitioner/Explorer v2 upgrade set
- Added various Decepticon symbols
Bruticus was briefly the most imposing of all combiners, after Devastator was mysteriously sidelined for the scramble city-type combiners and before the animalistic fury of Predaking became a reality. He was definitely the most well armed of the four combiner teams who debuted at roughly the same time; the others being the Aerialbots, Protectobots and Stunticons. Even their team name, the 'Combaticons' sounded like they meant business and they certainly did, comprising 5 kick-ass military vehicles. Such was the enduring popularity of the mould, that some 15 years after they disappeared from toy shelves across the globe they were back, this time making up the majority of the Decepticon cast in the 'Robots in Disguise' continuity. The fact that the toys were still cool in 2001 was testament to their iconic design. It's safe to say that I have always had a soft spot for Bruticus and was excited to hear that we would be getting a modern makeover of this set, and then crushed to learn that the 'Bruticus Maximus' Energon set was being re-purposed to homage the G1 figures of old. The Energon combiner was pretty poor, with hardly any articulation and, most damning of all, only three distinct moulds. Thankfully though, a still-fledgeling company called FansProject, buoyed by the success of their Superion upgrade kit, announced their plans to supplement the Combaticons with 2 brand new moulds, and enough accessories to improve the rest of the figures too. Most crucially of all, they would replace the existing head and add some much-needed bulk to the combined robot. The rest is history.
Appearance (Robot Mode) 9/10
The cleverest thing FansProject did was to re-deploy the existing Hasbro figures in a way that would enhance the whole set, and seamlessly blend this in with their new vehicles. Thus, we now have two legs which are coherent with each other, with Brawl barely touched, save for his new foot, which now looks like a foot and not a mess of transparent sticks. He is matched by the great new Swindle figure complete with an updated more G1 colour scheme, and the result is a solid base for the behemoth towering above. Moving up to the torso, Onslaught has been augmented with a new waist panel which really beefs up the figure. The torso now also sports huge cannons - this was something sadly missing from the Hasbro combiner, and is perhaps the most identifiable feature of the original character. Bruticus without gigantic back cannons just isn't Bruticus. I mustn't forget the new headsculpt, which is great and easily one of FansProject's best. Moving onto the arms and Vortex is now an articulated arm as opposed to a stump with no hand. The robot legs have been cleverly re-purposed as elbows, and the forearm bulk is yet another piece of kit supplied by FansProject. The hands are all new, and look great. Each finger terminates in a gun barrel - another example of how tooled up this giant S.O.B. is. Also, the way that Vortex attaches to the torso has altered, with FansProject thinking outside the box again to come up with an attachment point. Moving onto the right arm we have the other new figure, Blast Off, who is deployed very similarly to the left arm, without the need for additional bulk on the forearm. The overall impression is superb. Bruticus is a vast, coherent death machine in muted colours. I did add Reprolablels to the figures as I think that they do provide some much-needed additional detail. All of the Fansproject accessories perfectly complement the good aspects of the original Hasbro combiner, and most people would never notice that these were 2 different manufacturers at play here - a testament to the seamless integration FansProject have achieved. Bruticus is remarkably tooled-up as well - he has a combat knife, sniper rifle and two shotguns. Mess with him at your peril.
Appearance (Alternate Mode) 8/10
These vehicles work together very well as a coherent unit. There are also various FansProject enhancements to each vehicle which work to varying degrees of success. We'll start with Brawl again, who has gained an additional 2 guns to sit atop his existing turret. These guns look pretty good and also serve to obscure the fist holes, usually visible to the rear of the turret. Swindle just has the roof-mounted gun, and looks relatively underpowered when compared with the others. But then, Swindle's most effective weapons have always been his brain, and mouth! Vortex has perhaps gained the most - there are now large missile pods underneath each wing, along with 'skis' which nominally act as landing gear in this configuration. It is actually a challenge to align the pods up so they look symmetrical, and the overall added bulk of the 'copter seems like you would need a meatier rotor to achieve lift-off! Blast-Off has zero additional accessories, but then he sits on perhaps the most impressive alteration of all... The Onslaught figure alternate mode was a very stunted truck, with missile pods protuding from the rear, and projecting over the cabin. It was a very unconvincing mode, and FansProject have used come clever engineering to add a lot of length to the truck, enough so that Blast Off can be housed on the back of it. This is another example of great engineering by FansProject. The 'piece de resistance' is those twin cannons, crucially lacking from the original figure. The convoy of these vehicles is one of the most imposing you are likely to see and would likely fill the Autobots with dread!
Onslaught's central component is slightly altered to allow the inclusion of the waist piece - his hips are reversed and his bum ends up as his crotch, in a procedure that sounds more painful than it is. The sides of the vehicle cockpit are opened, to obscure the arms which are spread more widely. It is this change that gives Bruticus his broader physique. The huge guns are then slotted into re-purposed tabs on Onslaught's back, and of course the head is flipped up from the cabin section. The legs are left in vehicle mode, with the fronts being attached to the feet (transformed from Onslaught's trailer) and the rear plugging into the existing Energon connector 'stumps'. The arms are mainly left as vehicles, with the rear sections elongated to give the required length and articulation. The hands are then added, along with the Vortex forearm 'armour', and the arms are then attached to the torso via the transformed missile pods, which now become the shoulder joints. All in all, it is a pretty painless transformation that is a lot of fun.
This is another area in which Bruticus does well in. He has a ball-jointed neck and waist swivel. His hip joints are ratcheted, ans allow for lateral and side-to side movement. His knees bend courtesy of the Energon connectors and it is not uncommon for lower legs to detach at this point, which can be annoying. His feet always point straight ahead but he does have ankle tilt, which is useful given that the figure always has splayed legs. The original Hasbro configuration also suffers form splayed legs, but slightly less because the original Swindle (being a helicopter) is nowhere near as wide as brawl. There is no thigh swivel, but the fact the lower legs can move freely in the Energon ports negates this issue somewhat. His shoulder articulation has some problems, you do get some lateral and side-to-side movement but it could be better. Instead of bicep swivel, the waist swivel of the individual figures is used. also, the fact there are 2 legs acting as a knee joint mean that you can do quite a lot of acute elbow poses. The hands have great articulation, the fingers have 3 joints, there is also a tab on each palm to assist with carrying the provided weapons. There is also wrist swivel. Couple this with large feet which help enormously with balance, and you have a surprisingly poseable figure.
Apparently there is a flaw in the missile pod which holds the combined form of Vortex to the torso - the holes which are used to slot to existing circular tabs on the figure are reportedly a bit small, and in some cases the thin plastic has split, rendering the connector unable to support the weight of Vortex. This is not a problem I have observed, but I know that it's out there. This just wouldn't be a FansProject figure if there wasn't at least one design flaw though! Elsewhere the plastics used in both the FansProject and Hasbro components feel nice and solid.
Overall - 40/50
This is probably the greatest example of why third parties have a place in any serious collection. Hasbro produced a set of figures that were flawed to say the least, and then implemented a combiner which was a shadow of even its G1 self. Thanks to FansProject, Hasbro sold out of these much-maligned figures quickly which shows how a symbiotic relationship can be beneficial to both parties. I still feel that someone (preferably FansProject) could re-visit this set and replace all Hasbro components, but until then, this is a remarkable improvement on the original. It makes you whet your appetite for FansProject's forthcoming Menasor really...