Here on the edge of dystopia, I find that it’s becoming more and more difficult to decompress at the end of my day. Working out sometimes helps, but the testosterone released by a good run usually means I’m angrily arguing with imagined elected officials by the time I’m a couple of miles in. Not relaxing. Mental stress tends to make me lock up creatively as well – so writing or painting becomes more of a “stare into the abyss” session than something actually productive.
To help bump me along through the rougher parts of what’s already been a rough presidential transition, I’ve turned my eye back to something that has helped in the past – collecting and redecoing toys. Hasbro’s Transformers have been favorites of mine since I got my first one (Sunstreaker, that’s important – you’ll see why) back in 1984.
As good as last year’s Combiner Wars line and this year’s Titans Return toys are, and believe me, these are some of the most detailed, intricately designed mass-produced Transformers toys that Hasbro has ever created, they can only do so much with factory paint jobs. This means that all that detail gets unnoticed at a glance. And little things that you might remember from your favorite characters in the ’80s – custom logos and the like – aren’t recreated in their modern counterparts.
Enter Reprolabels. I’ve been using them for years, ever since I had a G1 collection and needed replacement stickers for my eBay finds. They still have those, but they’ve branched out in recent years to develop some of the most amazing custom stickers for all of your Transformers and Transformers-inspired toys. There are detailed pictograms for each sticker sheet on the Reprolabels site, so all you have to do is grab a sticker sheet and a good pair of tweezers (Toyhax happens to sell a pair which is sharp enough to draw blood), and pull up the corresponding web page. It’s exactly the kind of low-intensity creative task that I need right now.
I’ve written about other Combiner Wars sets – they’re essentially what happens when old G1 nerds like me grow up and go work for Hasbro. The entire line is full of expertly created toys, with a great gimmick, that are better than just “G1 nostalgia-bait.” Because, here’s the thing, as much as I love ’80s Transformers toys, they were full of compromises and strange proportions – Combiner Wars toys deliver on the nostalgia-tinged memories of my brother and I staging wars between Autobots and Decepticons some 30-odd years ago.
So it was an easy purchase when Hasbro released the “Optimus Maximus” combiner wave, comprised of Optimus Prime and four of the original ’84 bots: Prowl, Ironhide, Mirage, and, yes, Sunstreaker. Optimus, I covered previously – it’s impressive how you can completely customize the core toy of the combiner set with some well placed stickers (go check it out!).
For the other bots, Reprolabels stuck with creating sets that brought out the sculpted details, and also added some nostalgic bling.
Ironhide is probably the least -*ahem*- transformed of the four (sorry, it’s the only time I’ll use that joke). To be fair, the factory deco is practically non-existent. Reprolables does an excellent job. Enhancing the stripe on the body and chroming out the windows makes the alt-mode pop. Prowl is a much more extensive re-deco, completely covering up the factory paint details with a much bolder police car deco that’s closer to his original G1 toy, all the way down to the police star on his chest in bot mode. The intricate headlights are highlighted as well, along with several other sculpted details. Between the two, I much prefer Prowl’s new stickers.
Mirage also gets an enhanced deco that mirrors his 1984 toy. His “26” is restored, along with the large logo on the side (though it says “Cybertron” instead of “Citanes” – it would have been nice to have the option to choose). Additional striping and racing decals take the deco farther than anything factory paint could do. The blue panels on his chest in bot mode help break up the sea of white and also harken back to the ’84 design. Sunstreaker is, of course, my favorite from the bunch. His stickers in alt-mode are a love letter to the original toy – there’s the “CR” (for “Car Robots,” the original Japanese toy line ‘Streaker came from) on the sides and the chromed spoiler, rims, and combiner part (to make his old “afterburner”). There’s even an obscure reference to “Jet Judo” (which is Judo done either to or with jets…Sunstreaker’s explanation is never all that clear). The bot mode redeco is almost as good as Prowl’s, with more chrome, more details, and some nice stickers to break up the yellow.
Reprolables never fails to impress me. With their expertly researched and crafted sets, you can turn the ordinary toys in your collection into something you’ll want to showcase. Sets start around just $7, but can be a hard habit to break once you start! They’ve recently branched out into custom 3-D printed parts, so I’m hoping to clear out my backlog and get to those soon. If you need to grab some Combiner Wars bots that you missed, they can all still be found on Amazon for around their retail price.
Follow me on Instagram for more in-progress shots of various Reprolabels projects. I’ll be back next week with Titans Returns Reprolabels!
Thanks to Toyhax.com for providing Reprolabels for this project and Polaroid for the awesome Foldable LED Light Box for the final shots. Toys and obsessive nostalgia-driven behavior are my own.