Friday, August 10, 2007

Skidsmarks the spot OR: A farewell to Alts

It was the year 2003 and my life was looking awesome. I had just gotten out of Air FOrce after seven years of being paid to look at the sky and figure out if it was raining. I was having fantastic unprotected interracial sex with a girl I had tricked into marrying me. At 29 I was working my dream job as a Target stockboy again and starting Community College in Tucson, Arizona in the hopes of earning a degree in automotive upholstery refinishing. I was on the fast track to success. Then it all came to an end when I forgot that my woman was still in the Air Force and they could screw with my life by doing weird stuff like sending us both to Turkey. And that's exactly what they did.

So, accepting the certainly sucky future I disenrolled in Community College, gave Target my two weeks notice and with Turkey on my mind I went to one last Transformers convention in Chicago. Roboplasticos were the last thing on my mind when there at the Official TF Collectors Convention, Hasbro announced they were starting a new line of robots called Alternators. They debuted the line there with the first two figures to the amazement of all the gathered toy robot nerds. Many were impressed that this new line would feature 1:24 scale officially licensed likenesses of automobiles from real life vehicle manufacturers. The level of engineering that went into making these toys with opening doors, trunks, hoods and detailed engines and interiors was astounding to many people. I remember seeing the first Alternator, Smokescreen, and thinking it was total ass.

So off I went to live in Turkey for the next two years as a dependent spouse. We lived on a tiny Turkish air base where they didn't allow US flags to fly and even worse, the base exchange store did not carry toy robots. I wasn't really into them anyway so I didn't care. After seeing Smokescreen I decided to boycott the Alternators line, which is really easy when you're living in Turkey and they're not in any stores anyways. But after a few months those Alternators started popping up at the base exchange and my resolve weakened. I was a lonely boy far from home. I was desperate for the touch of toy robot plastic. And in a moment of weakness when the exchange was having a ten dollars off sale I strayed and bought the Dodge Viper Side Swipe. I felt so dirty. I was a dirty, dirty boy.

I feel like my boycott still existed because in the very beginning I was boycotting them a little by not getting Smokescreen but temptation was so tough to resist because Alternators made me feel like a man as long as I kept them in their car modes. They looked like highly detailed model cars when we had guests over but at night after the nookie I would sneak out of bed and turn them into robots when my wife wasn't looking. Back in the states, the Alternators line was plagued by crappy distribution and poor sales so it was common for some of the figures to become insanely rare while others went unsold for months. In Turkey I was always a few waves behind and I really wasn't in a position to complain about missing one or two. I was lucky to have any. It was a dark time where I charted the progress in my life not by what I had accomplished in terms of education and career, but in toy robots. And by 'dark time' I mean 'totally awesome'.

Antarctimus Prime
In 2005 I began working in Antarctica and on the plane ride down there from Turkey I had a layover in Singapore. The Singapore airport had an insanely cool toystore and it was there that I found Alternators Meister. I think that made me the first toy robot nerd to bring an Alternator to Antarctica. Meister would be joined by another Alternator a few months later (thanks to my sister back home who sent me Tracks) and the next year I would take Alternators Optimus Prime to the ice. I was making history! It was a sort of retarded history, but it was history nonetheless.

In 2006 I went to Botcon and bought an Alternators Windcharger, which I then modified with a little plastic head I made in the likeness of the human named Chris Ryall. Chris is the editor in chief of IDW publishing, the current Transformers comic license holders. Chris really liked the "Chrischarger" toy and I traded it to him for a comic book. It was all very gay but it was good times. The Botcon people thought my Alternators Chrischarger was so great they prominently showcased it in their gallery of art contest entries (it's the middle picture in the 14th row down).

I'm dissapointed now as Hasbro has announced that after 4 years and 27 releases, Alternators is coming to an end. I have a lot of wonderful memories thanks to those toys. It was with much sadness that I bought the Scion xB named Skids, which will probably be my final Alternator. Skids was my Moby Dick because I wasn't willing to pay more than $15 for it but ShopKo wouldn't cut their clearance price down below $16.75 for the longest time. Finally they clearanced their remaining stock down to $12.50 last week. I'm sure the ShopKo cashiers will be glad that I'm no longer repeatedly asking them to tell me what the price is every time I go to their store every week. Farewell, Alternators. Unprotected interracial sex won't be the same without you.


Artoo Convoy said...

I'm glad someone has fond memories of the Alternators. Some were impossible to find. I never did see Mirage in a store. I am glad they're done and gone with their poor distribution and fall-apartedness. Now if only the Titaniums would die once and for all. Viva la plastic robos!

Evil King Macrocranios said...

One of my fond memories I was going to mention was how you saw Swerve warming the shelves at the TRU by where you worked. But that's more your story than mine so I dropped it. At the time you were writing about it I was so tempted to ask you to buy them all for me but a) I didn't know how many there were, b) I think requests like that strain friendships and c) I didn't have any real income anyways.

It's only by dumb luck that I found Mirage last year while on a business trip in Charleston, South Carolina. I was initially disappointed and I left Mirage there because I wanted Optimus Prime the Dodge Ram, which was in the same case assortment but that someone had beat me to. I went back the next day and got Mirage and Alternators Shockblast, who was on clearance for $16. It is strange to me how I saw so many of these toys go clearance just a few years ago and yet nowadays they command ridiculous money on eBay.

Heavyarms said...

I remember the first time I saw an Alternator in the store. I wasn't a big internet person (still ain't, I guess) so I had no clue that there was going to be an Alternators line. Then there was Smokescreen. "Lame," I said to my self. "There's no way this is going to work. $20 bucks for a Transformer that's only gimmick is that it looks like a real car? Screw that."

Then for the next two weeks the thought of a 1:24 car in the guise of one of my favorite Autobots ate at my brain. I wanted, nay, I NEEDED that Autobot. So I broke down and paid $20 bucks for a Transformer for the first time since I bought BW Megatron many years earlier. And the rest, as they say, is history. Bitter, NSF charge, jealous, painful history.

Heavyarms said...

And I never thought Alternators Skids would ever look right, but next to the Hulkster he looks perfect. Good work.

Artoo Convoy said...

I remember seeing all those Swerves at that particular TRU. In hindsight, I should have bought them all, waited until now and sold them on eBay. But, I'm not a frickin' douchebag.

By the way, you can always ask me to pick something up for you. Nowadays, Zobovor and I just send stuff to each other without even telling each other we're sending something. It's always cool to get a little surprise in the mail.

Hooper_X said...

Heh. I said goodbye to my Alternators too. Fuckers brought in about $700 on ebay.

Weasel said...

Gods, the horrors of finding those damned Alts. I would scour my store daily looking for those damn things and would find nothing. Although I was damned happy to lay hands on Skids when he finally hit store shelves. :)

I have to admit though, I'm actually kinda glad the line's done. I'll never get an Alt. Bumblebee, so it's best to kill it now. (Oh, Takara! How you broke my heart with that beautiful artwork! I would have sold body parts to own that toy! And damn you VW for saying no!)


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Evil King Macrocranios was voted king by the evil peoples of the Kingdom of Macrocrania. They listen to Iron Maiden all day and try to take pictures of ghosts with their webcams.