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First/Last Comic Appearance (US) - Issue 43, August 1988
First/Last Comic Appearance (UK) - Issue 79, September 20th 1986 / Issue 205, February 18th 1989
First/Last Cartoon Appearance - The Transformers: The Movie, August 8th 1986 / Episode 98 (Season 4 #3), November 11th 1987
First Toy Appearance - 1986
Click here to see Figure Details and review
Manufacturer - Hasbro/FansProject
Toyline - United
City Commander Armour by FansProject
- Added an Autobot symbol to the cab, covering the rubsign
- Added Autobot symbols to the front of the trailer
- Added Autobot symbols to the shoulders of the armour
Ultra Magnus was one of my favourite characters, largely due to his characterisation in the UK comics. He was a hugely powerful warrior, but forever destined to play second fiddle to Optimus Prime and also Galvatron, who would routinely beat him in battle. Despite his frailties, Magnus was never found wanting when it came to being courageous. Optimus Prime chose him as his successor for good reason - what did the matrix know, anyway? I was really excited when I got the original G1 toy, only to discover that sneaky ol' Hasbro had made a running change which meant that there was no silver paint on his face, and also no plastic windows in the truck cab! However, he was still a hugely impressive (yet brick-like) figure to own. Throughout his history, this character has pretty much always been a plain white version of Optimus Prime. And this tradition continued with the underwhelming classics release of his toy. Largely ignored in stores at the time, this was all to change when a fledgling 3rd-party manufacturer called FansProject decided to give him some much-needed armour and, you could argue that the 3rd party scene really exploded after that event, for better or worse. Takara did not have a domestic release for the much sought-after base figure, until 2012, when they finally decided they wanted some honkimus Prime love. Let's see if their version and the FansProject 'City Commander' upgrade is a match made in heaven.
Appearance (Robot Mode) 9/10
The base figure uses the Classics voyager Optimus Prime mould, which I happen to think is very decent. You can read me waxing lyrical about it in my Prime review. The Hasbro version of Ultra Magnus had a white torso, head, but blue legs. This always kind of bugged me, since the original was all white. And such it is with the Takara version, who has white legs as well as a white torso etc. The actual head is cast in white plastic now, but the lower leg detailing and the fists are both black painted white. The thighs are now silver, which is a much closer match to the original toy, and the faceplate and headcrest is light blue (something promised but never delivered by Hasbro back in 2006). The paint apps are pretty much the same, with any blue applications missing from the Takara figure. This all makes the figure look much more elegant and simple.
The FansProject element of this figure is all of the armour, which gives Magnus some much-needed height and bulk, as well as his classic appearance from the comics. FansProject have worked wonders to incorporate very effective and chunky armour, and make it fit the base figure like a glove. The colours are very vibrant, with the red providing a great contrast against the rich blue tones. Even back on this early effort, FansProject already had established their jagged 'house style' which typifies their later releases. Some people will not like the aesthetic but to me it is bold, dramatic and fun at the same time. In my opinion, FansProject's major weakness is always the headsculpt, and this figure is no exception. The face is kind of expressionless and quite poorly-defined, much like their Springer homage, Defender. This is the later release of the 'City Commander' set which includes the iconic shoulder missiles and blaster. Before this, the upgrade set would utilise the base figure weapons instead, which never looked that great. Additionally, the spare trailer bit that doesn't become armour forms a quite ridiculous and unwieldy gun, responsible for weakening elbow and shoulder joints on Magnii(?) across the world. But overall, this figure is amazingly impressive. A slightly better headsculpt could have grabbed this guy a 10.
Appearance (Alternate Mode) 9/10
The base figure truck is one of my favourites, and the trailer really makes it. I much prefer the simple white colour scheme of the Takara release. The paint apps common to both are exactly the same - Takara just didn't bother with the blue paint apps! You pay more for less, I suppose, but then you do get a lovely chrome bumper and grille! I was very surprised that this figure had a rubsign, being a Japanese release, but I soon covered it with an Autobot symbol anyway. Other paint differences between the Hasbro and Takara release is the quite greenish yellow Takara uses for the lights - I prefer the Hasbro version's colour choice. Also, the wheels are silver as opposed to gold. This is not a problem, but the wheels on the trailer are designed to match the Hasbro release so you may be annoyed by the different coloured wheels.
The trailer itself is absolutely stunning, especially with the missiles in place which really finish off the impressive silhouette perfectly. The trailer is no longer a car transporter, but instead resembles a more traditional yet truncated container trailer. There is no articulation between the trailer and the truck because they sit flush together, FansProject cleverly utilising a strange tab on the base figure to great effect.
The base figure is one of my favourite figures to transform of all time, it is so damn intuitive and satisfying. The lower part of the cabin sides are folded back, then the legs fold out, and the cabin sides split to reveal arms underneath, which are then cleverly folded into position. Then the top part of the cab swivels like a Rubiks cube to reveal the fake grille which becomes the robot 'abs'. Finally the head is revealed by removing the wind vane and puttng it into position. The wind vane and the smoke stacks both transform into guns, with the smoke stack weapon being particularly impressive. However, I feel this particular weapion has suffered from mould degradation, because it does not fit together as well as it did, and seems slightly 'wonky' in vehicle mode.
The trailer splits up into multiple parts which are then transformed into various configurations. The rear wheel section splits in 2 to become the basis of the legs (once you have removed the 'codpiece' first). The remainder of the lower part transforms into the absurdly huge gun. The shoulder pieces, breastplate and lower arms are all made from the upper part of the trailer, which is lifted out of position and separated. The 'codpiece' and breastplate attach easily enough - in preparation the base figure must have the head transformed as per vehicle mode. The lower arms slide over the existing arms - just be careful that you have them aligned properly so no unnecessary gouging takes place. The legs, however, are hell to attach and remove. You have to apply a lot of force and the lower legs must engage with the armour just so. The tab which is used so cleverly by FansProject as a trailer hitch really gets in the way here and I advise extreme caution when faced with this tricky obstacle.
For Takara's part, poseability is decent without being particularly impressive. The head is on a swivel rather than a balljoint (although you can pitch it slightly up and down thanks to the transformation joint) In fact, there are no balljoints on the entire figure. The waist swivels. The shoulders have a swivel and lateral movement as well, and the biceps also have swivel. The elbows are curiously ratchet jointed while the shoulders are not. The fists cannot rotate and have no articulation save for a useless transformation joint. The hips have swivel both verticaly and horizontally. There is thigh swivel just above the knee, and then standard jointed knees. The feet can be moved back because of their transformation joint. So while all the essentials are in place, it's kind of a mixed bag. Thankfully this is a great loooking figure with 2 (3 if you count FansProject) weapons so he is pretty versatile.
Even with the armour in place, the figure remains surprisingly poseable. The legs gain some articulation because the armour has 'feet' which can tilt to keep the leg on solid footing. The forearms now have wrists which can rotate. The shoulders are cleverly designed to allow as much movement as possible. The head is now also on a Balljoint - this was very tight on the original 'City Commander' release but now offers a very nice range of movement. The sheer bulk of the forearms is probably the single biggest issue, because this guy collides with himself quite often, limiting the more dynamic poses. I would also advise that you do not pose this guy with the stupid big gun for long periods, because it will wear out poor Magnus's shoulder joint.
To be fair to Hasbro/Takara, nearly all my concerns with this figure relate to the effects of the FansProject armour. Nearly all. The arms form the sides of the cabin in truck mode. If you don't transform them in the right order, then the uper arms collide with the lower arms, resulting in damage to the plastic. This is a very common problem with the mould, as both my original Prime and Magnus were second hand and had damage to their upper arms. I know what to look for to avoid this issue. I actually took a scalpel to Prime to remove the excess plastic which had been warped out of shape over time. The main concerns I have with the figure with the armour in place is the shoulder joint, which has to carry a lot more weight, and the legs, which are subjected to the terrifying ordeal of being slotted into the armour and subsequently removed. Again, I advise extreme caution and patience. You have to bend the FansProject legs quite a lot to avoid damage to the base figure, and unsightly plastic gouges.
Overall - 40/50
FansProject have simply made this figure a must have. There are no other candidates for a decent Ultra Magnus homage other that than the much-derided Titanium figure, which I actualy quite liked, but still ultimately got rid of. He was so small, he could only really scale with Galvatron, who is likewise tiny. FansProject have made a figure which is actually very different when displayed next to his G1 counterpart, but shares enough design cues to be instantly recognisable as the earnest and somewhat undervalued Autobot commander. The mould has started to look slightly long in the tooth when compared with more recent 3rd party offerings, such as Maketoys Giant and FansProject's own Insecticons. However, it still remains an absolutely essential part of any collection, and now that both the base figure and armour have been re-released, there really is no excuse not to get him!