Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The 1984 Ideal Toy Fair catalog starring Robo Force PART 3: STEELE'S WHEELS

Every action figure has that one big iconic vehicle-the one that sticks in the minds of fans as the ultimate preferred mode of transportation for their little plastic people. For Micronauts it was the Battle Cruiser, Star Wars had the Millennium Falcon and for G.I. Joe it was the Skystriker. But move outside of the 3 3/4 inch scale and giant mega vehicles become rare. Although Robo Force robots were 5 inch tall giants compared to Star Wars and GI Joes, Ideal didn't let that stop them from making appropriately scaled playsets and accessories. Since Robo Force was more of a traditional action figure line it too had its big iconic vehicle, which was unusual for a robot themed line at the time because other toy robots back then usually turned into vehicles instead of drove them. So while everybody else was transforming into Volkswagens and Lamborghinis, the Robo Force was arriving in style in their giant four wheeled space tank-the Command Patroller.

Robo Force Command Patroller Vehicle No. 48077

Master Robot Transport Vehicle and Base Station

NEW This master vehicle/action playset is the ultimate in Robo Force excitement! Freewheeling, with the special "Omni-Directional Steering" for super battle maneuvers, this giant vehicle features a working hatch with telescoping robot lift arm, revolving airlock bay doors, a 360 swivel laser tank turret, front mounted battering ram and laser cannon mounts. Transports 3 Robo Force Action Robot Figures. Of course, it accepts all Robo Force Action Robot Figures. For ages 4 years and up.

Pack: 6 pcs. Wgt: 18 lbs. Cube: 7.2

A quick comparison of the photos in the Ideal Toy Fair catalog and the actual production model (a couple good pictorial reviews can be found at X-Entertainment and The Red Wood Connection) shows that the one used in the Ideal catalog is a prototype with major differences that did not make it to the final version. The most significant are the steel colored tank turret and laser cannons. They almost look like they're unfinished die cast metal! Also the black paint on the section immediately behind the capture claw didn't end up on the final toy.. The loss of the black paint on the production version is especially disappointing because it brings out the accordion like detail of that front section, which mirrors the accordion like arms of the Robo Force robots. It's a small consolation but these prototype colors did make it onto the box art and were how the Command Patroller was depicted in the Robo Force storybooks.


Children's Palace 11/11/84
If the Robocruiser and Dred Crawler were the sleek sports cars of the Robo Force vehicle line, the Command Patroller was the Cadillac. Whereas the other two were little more than souped up sleds one robot stood on top of, the Command Patroller was a full blown tank that had enough room to transport at least five Robo Force warriors. For about the same price as Megatron or Optimus Prime in 1984 you could buy this giant, 23 1/2 inch long behemoth of a robo transport. It was the Millennium Falcon of the Robo Force line-the biggest vehicle ever made for Maxx Steele and the good robots and it absolutely dwarfed the other vehicles and figures in the line. Heck, it dwarfed vehicles and figures from other lines. It is not unusual to read stories online of people who would use the Command Patroller as a vehicle for their Transformers or He-Mans or other larger than 3-inch scale figures. It even made the top-of-the-line Fortress of Steele seem not as grand when placed next to it. The world wouldn't see a hunk of rolling robot related plastic this big until Fortress Maximus was released in the Transformers line three years later.


One crazy thing about the Command Patroller's portrayal in the various Robo Force media was that it was just as likely to be seen flying through the air or in space as it was rolling along the ground, despite not having any discernible wings or rockets to propel it. Most of the time the artists just drew giant plumes of fire emanating from the back of the Patroller as if there was rocket propulsion back there. They could get away with this more believably in the case of the smaller Robocruiser and Dred Crawler but when the Command Patroller flies through the air it just looks silly, especially with those four huge tires hanging there. And just like the Robocruiser was always getting demolished, the Robo Force guys managed to crash the Command Patroller in the book "Robo Force and the Mountain of Burning Ice". Unlike the Robocruisers and Dred Crawlers that had multiples flying around at any given moment, it's not clear if there was only one Command Patroller in the Robo Force fiction. I'm also not sure if the Command Patroller itself was a sentient being. In all the books I've read there's only one shown at a time and it never talks. But what is clear is that in the world of Robo Force, unless he turns in to a car you shouldn't trust a robot with your keys.

Playworld 12/16/84
LaBelle's 12/19/85

Unfortunately Robo Force got canceled before Hun-Dred and the evil robot empire could get their turbo robot megaship the Conquest Destroyer made into a toy. Although that sucks, Robo Force did at least get its Millennium Falcon in the Command Patroller. The best vehicles in an action figure line will evoke the theme of the line with their design. They will capture the spirit of the franchise with their style and appearance and the Command Patroller did exactly this. It screamed 'Robo Force' with its Max Steele color palette and boated, balloony shapes. Yet it would not be entirely out of place in any sci-fi action figure line that could use a good giant futuristic looking flying tank. It's a little sad to see ads from stores where the last command this robo rocket rod had was to patrol the clearance bin. It is perhaps the greatest overlooked, unremembered iconic vehicle of the Toy Robots Wars of the 1980s. Even robot loving kids who did have one at the time probably were disappointed it wasn't a Transformer and they didn't appreciate it. But their Skeletors probably did.

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