Monday, July 22, 2013


Box scan from Botch the Crab

What's the first thing that comes into your head when you hear the name "Venom"?  Do you picture a certain symbiotic suit?

Maybe a certain group of masked individuals bent on taking over the world?

Or, how about a metal band from England that coined the term "Black Metal"?

Coulda picked a cooler photo, but why bother?

All of these things are associated with the name "Venom" and it's generally what pops into my head when I think of the name.  Most of the time, I don't even think Venom as a Transformer.  As a kid, I would always obsess over the catalogs that came packed into the boxed Transformers scheming on how to make them all mine.  I always passed over the Deluxe Insecticons.  They were never in any fiction that I could get my hands on as a kid, so they weren't really Transformers in my head.  I even had a chance to get all three of them at a liquidation store in Niagara Falls back in 1988, but I still passed on them.  Something about them just screamed "FAKE!"  Many years later, and I now know why.

It turns out that all of the Deluxe Insecticons, and the Deluxe Vehicles and Jetfire, were originally produced by a company known as Takatoku Toys.  The company was later bought out after bankruptcy by Bandai who in turn licensed these figures to Hasbro.  Because Bandai was in direct competition with Takara, the toys were not released in Japan under the Transformers brand.  The Transformers was a joint collaboration between Hasbro and Takara, so to appease Takara, the Bandai licensed figures were not featured in any fiction.  Well, until recently.  And in the U.K. issues of the Marvel run.

Armed with this information, I've rectified my stance on the Deluxe Instecticons.  Now, I just needed to get them.  I try to pretend to myself that I'm going in some sort of order or that there's a rhyme or reason to my purchases, but there really isn't.  I just get what's available when I feel like it and I run across a good deal.  After quite a few searches, I finally came across an auction that I won at a decent price for Venom.

On first blush, it's obvious that neither Takara nor Hasbro had a hand in this figure's design.  His color palette is definitely different from anything else released at the time.  The orange, cream, and charteuse really go well together.  It's a welcome relief from the mostly black and silver of the regular Insecticons.

Venom's alt-mode is a cicada, which aren't terrifying insects.  I know what you're thinking - they're not locusts.  Different species and all that.  While locusts are known to swarm and destroy crops and are portents of famine, the most a cicada will do is maybe try to poke your arm of you let one sit there for a prolonged period of time.  That's only because the cicada thinks your arm is a delicious branch.  Anyway, that's enough science, time to get back on track.

The cicada wings have a very nice range of movement.  They're great for posing in various stages of flight.  The translucent orange is very pretty.  I'm also a fan of the large eyes in this mode.  Venom's proboscis gave me call sorts of OCD fits, however.

Shown here, I have Venom's insect head transformed incorrectly.  Even after actually reading the instructions and looking at various photos online, I was somehow convinced that everyone was wrong and I was right.  My evidence?  Venom's very own tech spec!  According to the tech spec, Venom has a stinger which can penetrate 1/4" steel!  That means that I have transformed correctly, right?  Turns out I was wrong and everyone else was right.  Again, I have Wikipedia to thank for that.

 I don't see a stinger, do you?  Underneath the cicada's head is a proboscis and that's how the cicada eats.  Notice how the eyes on the toy are very close to looking like the real thing?  Ok, seriously, enough science class.

Venom in robot mode is packed full of pleasant surprises and a few things that aren't so pleasant.  The first thing that I really liked about the robot mode was the articulation in the legs.  They rotate and bend.  A G1 figure with legs that move and allow for poseability?  Impossible, but true!

That's kind of an awkward pose, but it demonstrates what I'm talking about rather nicely.  The real surprise was doing the next pose.

Legs that bend at the knee and hip!  That's G2 levels of articulation right there in 1985!  This is a tell-tale sign that Venom wasn't a Takara/Hasbro design.  As much as I love what Takara did back then, their figures just didn't have this kind of articulation.  His head even looks up, even if it's only because of his transformation scheme.

There are a few things that I'm not fond of with Venom.  I'll start with the arms.  Owing to the wings folding back behind the arms, they have a weird range of movement.  The wings actually prevent the arms from assuming any kind of natural resting position; Venom's arms are always up.  This is just an odd look to me.  Secondly, I'm not a fan of the axe.  The blade is a pretty nifty size, but the handle is ludicrously short.  Maybe it's meant to be a throwing axe?  I'm not sure, but I think that if Venom were to have an axe, it would be prudent to have a longer handle for hacking.  Not that I think about using axes that often.

I'm extremely glad that I got over my snobbish attitude towards the Deluxe Insecticons.  I still feel kind of silly for never regarding them as official Transformers and I'm not sure that my reasons were all that well informed.  Imagine that, a nine or ten year old making decisions that weren't well informed!  Now that I've broken the ice on the Deluxe Insecticons, I can't wait to get my hands on the rest of the crew.


  1. I only had Chop Shop as a kid growing up and I too would often overlook the DX Insecticons in favor of show characters. In the last few years I bought Venom myself and love him...although mine has a bum leg so he doesn't want to stand up on his own most of the time.

    1. Bum legs seem to be a hallmark of vintage TFs. Most of my original figures from when I was a kid have problems standing up because their legs keep wanting to collapse.