1985 Omega Supreme

Christmas 1984 and Christmas 1985 were similar for me. Both started with a big GI Joe toy from Santa (Killer Whale and Transportable Tactical Battle Platform, respectively), and stockings with GI Joe figures and Transformer mini-cars. Both included Transformers from my Grandma (Mirage and Inferno/Red Alert). And in both cases, I got large Transformers from my parents: Shockwave in 1984 and Omega Supreme in 1985.

When Transformers first came out in 1984, it became my favourite toyline, surpassing even GI Joe. The ingenuity of hiding robots inside real world items was astounding. And the shine had not yet dulled any by 1985, despite some initial movement away from real world alternate modes. I had the VCR set to tape both GI Joe and Transformers on WGN while I was at school, and I raced home to watch both cartoons with comparable interest.

In the second year, Devastator and the Dinobots carried the torch lit by Optimus Prime, Megatron, Soundwave and the Seekers. But 1985 would be the peak year for me and the Transformers, and receiving Omega Supreme as a gift that Christmas would be the peak acquisition for me as a young Transformers collector.

The fact that I got both the GI Joe TTBP and Omega Supreme on the same morning is as close to being spoiled as you could possibly be, without crossing the line.

That Omega Supreme was motorized and on a track was something my mom would have considered in picking him out, as it would have been a throwback to an earlier gift, a wind-up trainset that rode around on a small circular track, my Santa gift when I was two.

My parents had often given me trains when I was young. Toys, obviously, but also Christmas ornaments, so frequently over the years that one of my earliest Christmases with my future wife, when I pulled out my box of ornaments to decorate the Christmas tree, she asked why so many trains. She had grown up with two sisters and no brothers, and didn’t understand how trainsets fit in the spectrum of traditional toys for boys, along with balls, bikes, sleds, toy soldiers and robots.

I think that my parents may have continued giving me trains as a nod to a funny misunderstanding from my preschool years, when I heard my dad was an engineer and thought that meant he drove a train.

It confused me, honestly, because we lived on Baffin Island at the time and the nearest train tracks were in Churchill, Manitoba, 900 miles away. And even when we moved to Fort Smith, NWT, when I was five, it was still three hours drive to the nearest town serviced by train.

Omega Supreme was essentially a trainset, with a space rocket set up in the middle of the track and the train replaced by a tank that rode the tracks.

It seems that Omega Supreme could have been the product of market research gone wrong – like “Funzo” – the designers amalgamating four key toy areas: trains, rocket ships, military and robots. However, I’m sure his design was more organic, the brainchild of an uber creative.

For me, motorized toys were overrated, considering they always came with limitations that didn’t exist for non-motorized toys. They only moved when turned on, and when that was the case, they did so at their own pace, sometimes too leisurely, sometimes too frenzied.

The Mobat and Mauler were simply off-pace with the other, non-motorized vehicles, and almost existed better as standalone toys that were just fun to drive around, versus putting on the battlefield. You’d race the Vamp into the battle zooming around, shooting at Cobra, taking jumps and running over obstacles; then you’d turn on the Mobat and all the action would come to a standstill, like someone poured molasses all over the Joe and Cobra vehicles. And, once turned on, you needed to monitor the Mobat at all times, meaning you weren’t moving the other guys around. Because if you ever took your eye off the Mobat, it would get stuck, ridiculously, between the couch and the stereo. Or it would go straight over the top step of a very steep stairway.

With the Mauler, I eventually resorted to removing its tracks and playing with it as if it wasn’t motorized.

With a toy like Omega Supreme, which operated within the boundary of the tracks, you never had to worry about where he was going while you had your back turned, moving your Decepticons into position for the battle.

Over the years, I’ve come to see tracks as a limitation, though, as following a predetermined path does not leave much room for creativity… But Omega Supreme was designed to break the limitations of motorized toys in a remarkable way. The flippin’ thing walks!

Judas Priest, that was impressive.

Convert the damn thing to a robot, install his leg braces and voila!

The thing that stands out to me most of all about Omega Supreme are the colours: a warm grey, beige, red, yellow and orange. So simple and yet so captivating.

I also appreciate his thick mitts and ankles. All the little multi-purpose pieces. His little mini arms at the elbows. The backpack with the tracks sticking out. And of course a face piece that reminded me of a cool, skateboarder with his cap backwards.

Some of his parts look great, either on the robot or transformed to the battle station: the head/cannon, tank/body and his rocket hands. Others look stronger on the robot (his backpack and feet) or the battle station (the tracks and his outer leg pieces). And one can imagine that a better balance could have been struck, such as a backpack and feet that looked more like a rocket base.

Others might complain that a Transformer should have very few removable pieces, that it should be one central robot to transform, versus a bunch of pieces you removed, put aside, and added back after transformation. (I know that is a friend’s complaint about the Seeker jets.) But I was always wowed that all the pieces have a purpose in either mode, and the wonder of having both an amazing robot mode and an amazing alternate mode meant everything to me.

I loved him when he arrived in 1985, and I continue to love him now.

I collected toys on and off since I was a teenager, including Joes in the mid-90s, Star Wars figures from a certain underwhelming, overhyped movie released in 1999, finding Simpsons and Transformers Heroes of Cybertron figures at my local comic store in the early 2000s, and again back into toys in the late 2000s, when I used action figures as stand-ins for illustrations while writing my own comics.

Toy collecting didn’t stick as a serious hobby for me until the end of 2013, when I started seeking my favourite Star Wars and GI Joe figures and vehicles through Cherry Bomb Toys and eBay. Still, it was a few more years before I started collecting Transformers again.

I guess I was still angry that they killed Optimus in Transformers: The Movie.

I bought Sideswipe at a toy show in October 2015, and my appetite for Transformers only grew from there.

In September 2016, I paid $300 for box with 30 G1 Transformers in it. One of the key pieces in that lot – along with Optimus Prime, Soundwave and Blaster – was Omega Supreme. He wasn’t complete and had been played with, but he rekindled feelings I had long forgotten, about what it was like to receive him for Christmas in 1985.

I immediately opened up my sensors on all channels, to watch for an Omega Supreme in better condition with all his little bits. It only took a few months to find one at a price I could stomach, to put all the parts together and create a very good, complete version to keep, and a second, less complete version to sell.

I bought my first for $10, my second for $35, and sold the spare for $40, so I guess the one I’m holding only cost me $5. Definitely one of the better deals in my collecting life…!

I’m still not done, though, and Omega Supreme whispers in my ear when I least expect it, telling me I need to find an original box for him. Or that I should buy the War for Cybertron edition. There are two Omega Supremes at Cherry Bomb Toys, with their original boxes, that have been sitting there for as long as I can remember, at prices that I don’t feel comfortable paying. And I can never justify squeezing the War for Cybertron version in, knowing that space is the biggest limitation on collecting now, that I don’t really have anywhere to put him or display him. But if I found him on sale I would just bite the bullet, regardless, and figure it out after he arrived (where to put him, what to tell my wife, how to keep my kids away from him, etc.).

Maybe one day, though, since every issue I can think of – other than the small, circular track that he follows – has been addressed in that version. I always thought there should have been track extensions available, and even in an amazing, super-detailed, giant-sized, modern version, the issue of a simple, circle track still persists.

For now and forevermore, I’m just going to be happy with a complete, G1 version that still rides around on the tracks. I’m well into my 40s, and I’ve reached the point where the walking mechanism might just creep me the hell out, and anything that moves faster than the G1 version of Omega Supreme might trigger a heart attack.

When I look at him, now, with that cool guy, hat backwards aloofness, I can’t help but see him smiling at me. He remembers what it was like to make a surprise appearance at this kid’s Christmas, to be one of the last gifts I opened, when my excitement was dwindling, when he arrived and kicked up my Christmas another flippin’ notch.

In my childhood, Omega Supreme was easily the biggest Transformer I owned. He was taller and thicker than Blaster, had a larger footprint than most any of my Transformers, Lego, GI Joe or Star Wars toys.

I had a funny time playing with my Transformers, since Shockwave towered over Mirage and the mini-cars, and was my only Decepticon for a year, and when Omega Supreme came along, he put Shockwave in his pocket. This turned Omega Supreme into a bully at times, the villain, and teamed Shockwave and Mirage and Blaster together as reluctant allies.

The only time Omega Supreme ever met his match was when I borrowed my friend’s Constructicons.

As robots, Devastator and Omega Supreme were both lumbering and limited, and their fights on the floor in my bedroom were cumbersome. It was like Hulk Hogan in the 1980s, wrestling against the biggest guy the WWF could find. Devastator and Omega Supreme would start fighting and Bonecrusher would fall off, or Scrapper, and I’d have to put Devastator back together for round two. (Imagine if Big John Stud dropped a limb in the middle of Wrestlemania, and we all had to wait while it got reattached!) Slapstick comedy values only got you so far, when you were talking about something as serious as a war over energon cubes. But Omega Supreme would just stand back, like the cool guy he was, winking at us, the kid with his hat backwards who is about to blow us away with a cool skateboard trick.

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