What are third-party Transformers? The answer to that one is easy and complex at the same time. The easy explanation is that they’re transforming robot figures made by companies other than Hasbro or Takara. The complex part is that, while these figures often look like certain characters, they never share their names. Why? Because these companies don’t have the rights to create figures that use the names of the characters that inspired them.
Not to sugarcoat it, it’s IP theft. But Hasbro and Takara have mostly left companies alone (unless they hew too closely to an official product, as seen most recently with the takedown of the giant Unicron KO figure from Zeta Toys). Part of that reason is because these figures are often of obscure characters with no official representation in a current toyline.
There’s a lot to love about third-party Transformers. The designs are incredibly complex and the transformations challenging, but the price collectors pay is astronomical. They can complement a current toy line (like Masterpiece) or strike out on their own to create figures for concepts that were never brought to market.
If you’re looking for something unique to add to your collection, you’ll find a treasure trove of unique characters at resellers (such as BBTS). Here are five of my favorites.
Based on IDW character art (Image: BBTS)
Even in the IDW comics universe in which he was created, Roller has a complex history. He seemingly died yet was really rescued by the Transformers’ version of Death, brought to the far future, placed in a coma, and hidden as a human before he sacrificed himself again. He was also important enough to Optimus Prime that he named his drone after his lost partner.
This figure by Mastermind Creations captures the character perfectly. Looking like he stepped off the comic book page, the figure has incredible articulation and detailing. The alt mode, which we only got to glimpse in the comic, is well executed as well, taking cues from the character model without hewing to the “rectangle on wheels” design.
Now that creating toys from IDW models is out of fashion, the juice box-sipping former partner of Orion Pax likely won’t ever see an official release (no, the Takara Grand Galvatron combiner figure doesn’t count, not really). That’s why I’m excited that Mastermind Creations stepped up to fill in the gap.
Based on G2 design (Image: BBTS)
Lightning Eagle is a great example of a figure that Hasbro or Takara should make again but likely won’t (at least not for a while). While we’re currently getting late-80s figures in War for Cybertron: Earthrise (figures like Ironworks and the other Micromaster bases and characters), we still haven’t tipped over into the most 90s of all Transformers: G2.
Mostly consisting of so-ugly-they’re-nostalgically-charming repaints, there was one last wave of original characters over in Europe. Among them was the Turbomaster leader Thunder Clash. Master Builder M-16 Lightning Eagle by Fans Hobby recreates that classic figure in modern fashion. The figure is in-scale with your Masterpiece collection and looks like it stepped off the page of the IDW comic (where most people rediscovered the character).
The gold, white, teal, and pinkish-red color scheme has no right to work as well as it does, but it’s visually stunning and instantly stands out in a sea of drably colored figures. The trailer converts into a gunnery station, which is a nice touch. It’s even compatible with Fans Hobby’s God Armour figure (since it’s based on their Power Baser/Optimus Prime). For the color scheme alone, it’s worth adding to your collection.
Based on G1/Combiner Wars designs (Image: BBTS)
The Warbotron combiner set is a fantastic option for anyone who missed out on the official Computron set in Combiner Wars. Composed of five futuristic vehicles – three land-based and two air based – this Technobot pretender (but, y’know, not a Pretender) sports a unified color scheme and hews closely to the original designs.
To that end, their alt modes are drill tank, sports car, armored bike, gun jet, and… bigger gun jet? It doesn’t really matter what the alt modes are; suffice to say they’re instantly recognizable as modernized versions of the G1 toys we love. The combined mode is impressively large and will fit in perfectly with your other Combiner Wars teams.
Based on G1/Combiner Wars designs (Image: BBTS)
By some accounts, combining the figures can be a little tricky, with the tolerances in the leg pegs in particular requiring way too much force. Hopefully, that will be addressed with the box set when it’s released later this year (it was slated for Q1 but has been delayed for obvious reasons). At $149 on BBTS, a full 72% off the MSRP, you’re going to have to come up with a monumental reason not to preorder this set immediately.
Based on Monstructor (Image: BBTS)
I absolutely adore this set because it modernizes and reimagines the one G1 combiner that Hasbro has completely abandoned: Monstructor. Tragically underused in modern canon, Monstructor is the combined form of the Pretenders Monsters, six teeny-tiny Transformers that fit into squishy monster shells. Their combined G1 form is barely the size of a normal figure, which makes it all the more ironic that it’s supposed to essentially be the greatest, darkest terror the Transformers have ever known (aside from Unicron).
Saurus Ryu-Oh Beastructor Combiner fixes that by giving the six Pretender Monsters proper modern tooling and updated forms. The individual bot modes are well done and much more convincing than anything we got in G1. The alt modes are… well, they’re there, but they really don’t do much for me. To be fair, the G1 alt modes are the weakest part of this team as well, relying on the shells to convey a convincing monster mode. Fansproject did create dinosaur-themed shells for the original version of this combiner (just like in G1, this set was recolored to be Dinoking) but didn’t do so for the Beastructor version.
But that’s all forgiven when you see the combined form. Standing nearly as tall as a modern combiner (I appreciate that Beastructor is still just a tad shorter), it’s clear that Monstructor was the inspiration for this set. This modernized version of a forgotten combiner is impressively detailed and articulated, with a color scheme that only a G1-purist could love. The set doesn’t come cheap, however. At $359, this is the most expensive figure on this list.
Vehicle mode (there’s a version without the back, but why even bother?) (Image: Anthony Karcz)
One of the things I simultaneously love and hate about third-party manufacturers is that they can do things that traditional toy companies can’t. When Don Figueroa’s amazing G.I. Joe/Transformers crossover concepts were rejected by Hasbro (not once, but, incomprehensibly, multiple times), I assumed there was no way we’d ever see Rolling Thunder Prime in plastic.
Enter TFC Toys. They took Figueroa’s concept and made it reality (sadly, without crediting Don at all). The result is an amazing “lost” figure that is the greatest mashup any 80s nostalgia nut could wish for.
Alt mode, missiles deployed (Image: Anthony Karcz)
The alt mode of S.T.Commander bristles with weaponry. In addition to the two ballistic nukes (remind me again why the Joes were driving around with ICBMs?), there are a myriad of diecast guns and missile pods. Hidden in the center of the vehicle is a bay for an autonomous drone that can carry the figure’s bot-mode rifle. This mode also features real rubber tires.
Transformation, as with most third-party figures, is slow going. The “standard” transformation tricks that you get used to from Hasbro and Takara just aren’t there. It takes time to learn a new system of panels and joints, and there will be moments when you hold your breath, sure that you’re going to bend something wrong and end up with a (very expensive) pile of parts. But once you work through transforming S.T.Commander a few times, it starts to make sense.
Standard bot mode and gunnery station (Image: Anthony Karcz)
S.T.Commander’s normal bot mode is evocative of Optimus Prime but in camo. You can take the extra alt-mode parts and turn them into a gunnery station. However, the real attraction here is using all those parts to power up the main bot, turning him into a massive armored menace.
Powered up! (Image: Anthony Karcz)
Standing taller than every Prime in my collection, the fully combined bot mode of S.T.Commander is “jump up and down” awesome. With a giant missile over each shoulder, his rifle held perfectly by individually articulated fingers, and with more guns than you can count attached to his armor, you’ll wish TFC Toys would create the Megatron/Destro Dominator concept that Don also envisioned for this line – just so S.T.Commander would have someone to face off against.
S.T. Commander in
“My Three Primes” (Image: Anthony Karcz)
My only wish with S.T.Commander is that it were officially licensed so Don could get credit for the amazing design. This figure is everything I could have hoped for. It’s imposing, heavy (literally, check the weight limit of your shelf), and so perfect, you’ll pine for a universe where this was part of a line of G.I. Joe/Transformers crossover figures.
Based on G1 character art (Image: Blue Lobster)
Non-transforming, because, frankly, how could it? But still awesome because it re-creates one of the more bizarre moments from the original G1 cartoon: “Autobot Spike.” In that episode, Sparkplug Witwicky, Spike’s dad, creates a mindless Transformer from spare parts he finds around Wheeljack’s lab. He activates it with predictably disastrous results. Things get even worse when they transfer an injured Spike’s teenage mind into the amalgam. (Why? Because G1.)
This figure captures that Frankenstein’s monster of a bot in all of its “glory.” Clocking in at nearly 8 inches, its hunched form fits in perfectly with your Masterpiece collection and is composed of Prowl’s forehead crest and right chest/front bumper; Bluestreak’s left door; Sunstreaker’s left shoulder; Hound’s shoulder-mounted missile launcher and right fender/shoulder; Trailbreaker’s arm cannon, left chest, and left thigh; Optimus Prime’s left wrist and parts of the right leg; Jazz’s photon rifle, mounted on his right arm; and the back of Jazz’s left leg and his crotch.
It’s a bizarre figure and the perfect example of what third-party companies are perfect for – delivering obscure characters that Hasbro will never create. BL-01 X-Frank is the first figure from third-party manufacturer Blue Lobster. It’s just $45 at BBTS.
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From Transformers Wiki
A third party is a non-Hasbro or TakaraTomy company that produces Transformers-branded product under a license from either Hasbro or TakaraTomy.
1. G1 Jetfire. Incredibly, the most expensive Transformers toy isn't an Optimus Prime or Megatron. It's for Jetfire, an Autobot scientist who defected from the Decepticons that turns into a jet.
Of the three, Sideburn was by far the most difficult. The fact that the design is asymmetric makes it hard to visualize how he should fold onto himself and transform. It is also a very tight fit getting everything into the car. Magnificent car mode though.
TFSource is located in Las Vegas, Nevada, United States .
Overview. TFsource has a consumer rating of 1.96 stars from 24 reviews indicating that most customers are generally dissatisfied with their purchases. Consumers complaining about TFsource most frequently mention customer service problems. TFsource ranks 5th among Transformers sites.