The mid eighties- the era
that launched a thousand franchises. The thinly-veiled brainwashing
waves imbedded within nostalgic favorite TV shows have inspired a sort
of second coming for many of the more popular kiddie shows of the decade
now that the kiddies have grown up. Trendsetters like the TransFormers,
G.I. Joe, and so on are getting a new wave of fandom with their latest
But not everyone was as fortunate
to get a second start. Memory serves that there was a second group of
robots doing battle against their evil counterparts for the sake of
Earth. Those unsung, bargain-bin heroes... the Go-Bots. The Go-Bots
barely even have any slobbering fanboy sites, usually just relegated
to sub-sections of obsessive TF collecting sites, without bios or anything.
In a nutshell, to explain
what the Go-Bots were, they were a transparent Tonka knockoff of the
Transformers. They came without much in the way of flourish or accessories,
because the cartoon led us to believe that they could shoot lasers out
of their fists, sort of like Space Ghost, only coming off lamer. They
were popular for having lower price points than similar Transformers,
which for some kids and parents was enough to outweigh horrifyingly
bad names, and the tendency to lose arms and legs more regularly than
third world land mine farmers. Plus they had a cool base that wasn't
just an unfolded semi truck.
The cartoon followed the
Guardians, self-proclaimed 'friendly' robots, fighting the Renegades.
This outgoing nature tended to compromise their vehicular disguises,
but not so much as the fact most of their faces showed when they 'converted'
(because 'transforming' might have incurred the wrath of the Lawyercons)
to their vehicular forms. That and the fact some of them didn't particularly
look like anything. The diabolical, Homer Simpson stubbled
Cy-Kill, for example turned into a motorcycle. One that looked a lot
like a guy on all fours, trying to hold tired between his hands and
knees. And showed his face on the front. Excusing the fact of course,
that he was a motorcycle with no rider, ever. One might argue he still
had an edge in mobility over Megatron, whose reign of terror could theoretically
have been ended by being slipped in a leather holster.
Renegades were an interesting bunch. Cy-Kill seemed to believe he was
clever, and his she-male companion Crasher had an accent and maniacal
laugh. Other than that, their ranks were filled mainly by idiotic flunkies
and metal-eating tricycles. And they didn't come to Earth to rob us
of natural resources, they just kind of wanted to screw around with
guys smaller than them. You might even argue the presence of the Guardians
caused more trouble than it should have, since Cy-Kill probably would
have got bored and moved on to another world had he not had the squeaky
clean Leader-1 been around for him to focus evil plots on.
But what about said Guardians?
Well, the Go-Bots answer to Optimus Prime and his authority was Leader-1,
a prime (no pun intended) example of how great they were at naming themselves.
In some sort of unconscious counterpoint to Starscream, Loser-1 was
a squeaky clean Boy Scout of a guy who turned into a boringly accurate
F-15 Strike Eagle. Well, there is one major deviation- even in the animation
model, the plane mode has four wheels on the bottom instead of normal
landing gear. He was kind of cool looking, in spite of having a head
that looked like Mr. Clean in an old-man sun visor. One of my most profound
memories of this show had him getting de-magnetized or something and
simply falling apart. The Go-Bots' Bumblebee was a little red
imp named Scooter who turned into a dorky little scooter. I'm pretty
sure he had no elbows.
There were a couple of Go-Bots
movies, as per some sort of deregulation law that allowed for not only
'program length commercials' but 'feature length commercials.' One of
them was a few repackaged TV episodes wherein Cy-Kill came up with a
whole army of Zods, which was probably as close as he would come to
world domination. Zod was a vaguely Godzilla-like robot who puttered
around on a trio of thick rubber tires. His tail had a few segments
shaped like D batteries. Coincidentally, D Batteries went there in the
toy. Zod was pretty much a dumb animal, but the fact he could eat cars
like Doritos made everyone at least act afraid whenever he was on the
loose. Later on he had a rival of the lame sort, a sort of Formula One
racer that sprouted a robotic snakes' head. The other, and more infamous
picture was a crossover with the even worse toy concept, the Rock Lords.
Mighty warriors, who turned into ROCKS. The only thing even remotely
good about that was the amount of circulation a Rock Lord toy might
have after being left in the park or woods in Rock mode. I wonder how
many of those guys were actually bought and not just found.
In terms of quality and inventiveness,
individual Go-Bots were all over the place. A huge chunk of their catalog
were pretty much cars that had you pull or unfold the legs, then pull
out the arms and stand them up. Every few of them though, they would
really knock themselves out and come up with an inventive series of
joints to make for some that were more fun to mess with than similarly
priced (cheap) Transformers. The combiner Puzzler is one of the more
sought-after sets, a series of six cars that unite into one big robot
with more articulation than any of its parts. Some of the deluxe-sized
ones in particular were impressive feats. The most noteworthy thing
of all about the Go-Bots was just the sheer variety of stupid vehicles
to choose from. We had a principle character who turned into a fucking
Vespa, for crying out loud. An old British roadster named "Good
Knight." Fire truck and dump truck brothers unfortunately dubbed
Dumper and Pumper. Did I mention their names sucked ass? The Puzzler
bots were noteworthy for having some of the Eightiest names ever- including
Rube. As in Rubick's cube. The other combiners, the Monsters were noteworthy
for having names lame even by GO-BOT standards. Like Creepy. Other notably
awful names while I'm at it: "Jeeper Creeper." "Crain(sic)
Brain." And of course "SPAY-C," the pet-neutering friendly
robot space shuttle.
The package art reflected
the toy's poseability or lack theirof by having the majority of them
with their arms raised in a "HEIL HITLER" manner.
If one thing was worth pointing
out, they seemed more willing to include female characters. Small Foot
was a spunky pickup truck with an oddly tantalizing roll-bar bra. She
was voiced by a former Playboy Playmate, but then again who isn't?
Pathfinder was an unassuming flying saucer (Again; they weren't the
best at disguises.) The aformentioned Crasher was supposed to be sort
of like a twenty foot tall Baroness, but well, lipstick doesn't flatter
chrome complexions. Even when spraypainted pink. Sorry, Sugar-Crash.
OK, so they ripped off the
Transformers' home world too. Gobotron. This is where the Gobots romp
and play and get conquered by a motorbike with no handles. They apparently
begin their non-life cycle unable to transform, and are granted the
power after completing course at a robo-academy. Guardian Academy sounds
fine and all, but for some reason the idea of a self proclaimed 'academy'
for Renegades sounds suspect. Maybe that explains why Cy-Kill just sort
of hunches over instead of transforms, per se...
I could end this gracefully,
but frankly it just dawned on me I spent nearly an hour hunting down
images and writing about frickin' GO-BOTS, and I suddenly want to cry.