The late 80s was the best time to be a toy-obsessed child. Back then toy companies weren't afraid to release a toy that looked like a gun, contained toxic paint or weighed more than the kids it was being marketed to. It was a time when Hasbro, a couple years after releasing a toy aircraft carrier that measured more than 2m in length, gave Transformers fans the largest official Transformers toy on the market for more than 25 years — Fortress Maximus.
I missed his initial 1987 release. I missed his 2000 re-repaint as Car Robots Brave Maximus. I did not miss his 2013 Encore re-release. Being an adult kicks arse.
In my social circles as an early-teen in the late 80s, I had several friends who claimed to own Fortress Maximus, but oddly enough, none of them ever let me play with him. They'd come to my house to play with the original Metroplex toy, sure, but when it came time to return the favour, they were strangely hesitant. I'm sure he was just locked away in their closets, because children never lie about such things.
For decades I pined after this massive, 22-inch-tall beauty. I'd see him behind counters at science fiction and fantasy conventions. I'd catch glimpses of him in toy magazines. The internet came along, and suddenly I could stare at pictures of him when I wasn't surfing porn, and my hunger only grew. In 2000 I saw the Car Robots repaint boxed up in a hobby shop, but they wanted $US200 for the Japanese import — $US200 more than I could afford at the time.
The only time I got close enough to touch a Fortress Maximus was during a visit to Epic Games in North Carolina last year, where I was delighted to discover not one but two of the figures in Jazz Jackrabbit creator Cliff Bleszinski's uninhabited office. Upon discovering Fortress Maximus was too large to stuff down my pants, I went back to yearning.
This year the stars aligned. I found myself with a little extra cash around my (40th) birthday, just as Takara's re-release of the figure was going wide in Japan. After much hemming and hawing I pulled the trigger. I won't say how much I paid for the figure, but I will say it was easily more than three times the first generation version's $US89.99 retail price.
Just how big is Fortress Maximus? In robot mode he stands at around 55.8cm tall, not counting his Master Sword (an affectation from the Japanese G1 cartoon series). To put that in perspective, here's Fortress Maximus next to a Nintendo 3DS XL.
And here he is next to my nearly two-year-old son.
And here he is behind the tallest Transformers in my modestly extensive collection.
He's bigger than Car Robots Omega Prime (my favourite Optimus Prime variant). Burlier than Air Attack Optimus Primal. More massive than mildly broken Unicron (I need a new Unicron). More powerful than Energon Omega Supreme (that's a regular Omega with tomatoes and sour cream). He's the biggest Transformer there is, and he will remain so until Hasbro releases its 24-inch Transformers: Fall of Cybertron Metroplex later this year.
His time as the tallest is almost over, and so I celebrate him, just in time.
Fortress Maximus is part of G1 Transformers' Headmaster line of toys, which means he has a head that transformers into a robot. Here's his head.
And here's his robot, Cerebros. Cerebros is also a Headmaster, because back in the day Hasbro could keep this shit up all day.
Here's Cerebros' head, Spike, as in Spike Witwicky, who underwent an operation in order to be able to fold himself in half, because it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Armed with essentially three heads (plus a pair of vehicle drones that form a robot named Cog), Fortress Maximus had a lot to focus on. It's why he's bristling with cannons, lasers and other instruments of destruction in robot form — they defend him while his head's elsewhere.
A major factor in the joy of opening up the figure I've craved for 25 years is the application of the stickers. Back in the 80s it wasn't a toy worth having if you didn't have to sit at a table sloppily applying detail stickers to it. Paint? HAH! You get no paint. You get this.
That's a lot of time spent sticking right there. To my credit, I only screwed up two of them, neither of which are visible in Fortress Maximus' battle mode.
Keen-eyed fans, however, will notice a major stuff up in city mode. Anyone out there got a reproduction sheet of Fort Max stickers for sale?
For a mere $US89.99, Fortress Maximus provided 80s children with an enormous amount of play value. Doors opened, cannons unfolded, ramps lowered, heads became robots with smaller robots for heads. In all three of its modes the figure is amazingly firm and stable — that's not something that can be said for more recent releases in the franchise. He's a joy to play with, though I am 40 now, so I should probably call it tinkering.
Screw it, I'm playing with Fortress Maximus, making up for lost time. He's the largest Transformer I've ever owned, at least for the next few months, and his like will not be seen again.
Well, until the next Transformers video game comes along and Hasbro gives us a metre-tall remake. Fingers crossed!