Name: Backfiery (Kickback)
Line: 3rd Party Transformers
Size Class: Deluxe (-ish)
Year of release: 2011
Lately me and rehael had the opportunity to attend the MCM London Comic Con (that I will from now on refer to as LCC) which means that some of the upcoming reviews will concern figures generally hard to come by in retail, at least around here. And regardless of where you live I bet it’s not that easy to get hold of 3rd Party Transformers there. If you don’t know, 3rd Parties means companies other than Hasbro that design and produce Transformers products, of course calling them different than by their official toy line and character name due to copyright laws. Why do they do it? Well, as in most cases when business is involved, they do it to make money, but for us, collectors, it’s important how they do it. First of all 3rd Party companies often release various accessories and kit sets that can be used to upgrade official Hasbro’s toys, like armors, alternate heads, weapons, parts or stickers that you can use to make your Transformer more a collector item than a toy. An example of that can be a set including a coronation crown and a cape for the old MP-03 Masterpiece Starscream to wear (which probably inspired Takara to release their own upgraded version of Masterpiece Starscream: MP-11, which has similar items included as accessories). 3rd Parties also create complete Transformers figures that are either redesigned and retooled versions of toys already released by Hasbro or depict characters that hadn’t been given a plastic representation before. And the aim is to create figures that resemble the characters from the original Transformers animated show and/or comic books as close as possible while at the same time giving them maximum posability achievable for the particular mold. In short: those products usually mean expensive but satisfying versions of Transformers that we fans had been long hoping for.
This review covers a figure like that: a transforming robot released by the company FansProject called Backfiery, which is (as it’s often diplomatically stated) ‘an homage’ to the Insecticon Kickback.
You know this funny little cliche commonly used in modern comedies where somebody is hyping up the crowd by promising to show something of great interest or quality and when it is revealed then instead of the expected ovation the audience goes completely silent and the only sound that can be heard is a quiet cricket’s noise? I think this would be just the appropriate reaction here – both as a comment on how unimpressive this alt mode is after all this high talk about 3rd Parties’ stuff and referring to the fact that it is, well, a bug.
It is a grasshopper to be exact which is true to the original Kickback character alt mode. And that’s the problem here. If you are for some reason unfamiliar with that insect check out some pictures of it and tell me: can you imagine any exciting use of this ‘design’ adapted to mechanical form? I’m not saying a grasshopper is an ugly bug (which by the way probably could be at least somehow translated into ‘menacing’ as a cybertronian being), I am saying it is boring. It has a slick body with long thin wings that it spreads only when in mid-jump, a large head with antlers and its most defining feature: the long and powerful hind legs to make those long leaps. And that’s it!
To be fair Backfiery delivers what it was destined to – you can see his mighty legs here. It’s ironic and kinda sad that the original character’s name and main ‘combat ability’ were just that: he could kick back his opponent really hard. How exciting. Especially compared to his Insecticon pals: Shrapnel who could summon lightning and Bombshell with his mind-control abilities. Maybe that’s why FansProject in their own not-so-canon continuity made Backfiery the leader of not-Insecticons and upped the skills of them all few notches. But more on that later. For now we have an alt mode that does what it can with the idea of a mechanical grasshoper.
The head is… ok for an insect, I guess. Nothing much to it, really. The color scheme of yellow antlers on a black head remind me of the G1 Kickback but Backfiery features also these large red eyes that are empty, bug-like and indifferent; either bland or creepy – depending on your take on insects. The head sadly has no articulation, no opening mouth, no swivel or looking up or down, nothing. As you can see the front legs can move to some extent so Backfiery can point to a leaf onto which he’s going to jump next.
Each of the four legs is on a separate ball joint, severely limited due to the design of the figure in the insect’s torso area, but they do allow for some diversity of the direction the legs point at. It would have been really great to have additional swivel joints in the ‘elbows’ here to somewhat make this alt mode more able to ’emote’ and I admit that’s one of my gripes with FansProject’s design. I get it, a grasshopper is really hard to turn into such an interesting cybertronian beast mode as, say, a dinosaur or a puma, but I believe a figure of that size, designed as an expensive collectible item, could have been given additional four swivel joints. It would have at least given Backfiery more of this insect-like disturbing feel, with lil scratching legs moving all over the place. I’m sorry, I have a bit of a problem with insects (they disgust me to a phobia-near level), but paradoxically I would gladly welcome some of that bug aesthetics here because that would breathe more life into this rather boring alt mode.
Apart from that Backfiery’s articulation includes some hind legs movement and also a limited posability of the wings set on visible ball joints. But that doesn’t achieve much to be honest. I know that the big elephant on the couch is the knife-like thingies on the side but we’ll get to them later on. For now, let me just say that yes, they are accessories meant for the robot mode and yes, you can remove them, but then the insect is even more bland so I decided to leave them on to provide some eye-catching elements.
Here’s a size comparison with other beast modes that I had handy: G2 Grimlock and Snarl. Of course scale can’t be taken under consideration with Transformers animals modes – just try to imagine a correct-sized dinosaur figure next to an insect one! But Backfiery seems on par with the old Dinobots as far as toy reality goes, they look like they could get involved in a fair beast fight. Oh and speaking of beast fights…
Does this look as awkward as I think it does? I tried to make our bug a bit more interesting and menacing and put him against Beast Machines Optimus but even such a duel doesn’t seem too exciting.
I came up with this attack mode that involves standing on hind legs and fighting using four front ones. This doesn’t look that bad in my opinion, but again it makes me think how much additional leg joints could benefit here giving Backfiery ability to gesticulate more dynamically in this pose.
All right, that’s it for the alt mode. FansProject had to go with a grasshopper because that was the original idea for this character and they did their best. The body shape and color scheme are both reminiscent of the old G1 design and upgraded enough to make it look more realistic in terms of cybertronian universe. I can think of few tweaks possible to improve it a bit, mostly involving additional joints here and there, but it would still be a friggin mechanical grasshopper so there aren’t many places you can go from there.
Let’s proceed to the robot mode, shall we?
Ahh, so much better! Now that looks like a collector’s-grade figure that is worth dragging from London in a creatively overstuffed suitcase. The color scheme again resembles the G1 toy but the slick look and this feel of a thin and agile person wearing a kind of oriental-looking armor makes me think more of the recent Fall of Cybertron Kickback version.
I love this kind of… a Gundam design, yes, that’s what I think of when looking at Backfiery. He’s got arms with… a number of joints – I read opinions that there are even too many of those to pose him correctly, but since for me ‘correct’ robot posing doesn’t necessarily mean copying human poses, I am fine with that and just enjoy the incredible range of motion there. I also like how the insect legs form what can be viewed as sword hilts over his shoulders.
And on his shoulder pads there are those small white symbols that from up close can be identified as fire flames. That is due to the edge that FansProject took while recreating their version of Insecticons story. Each of these 3 guys now controls one element and Backfiery obviously is the fire guy. So no more kicking his opponents back, now he can spit fire onto them in his grasshopper mode! What a relief! But wait, there’s more!
If you wonder why Backfiery has a faceplate even though original Kickback had an exposed face, let me inform you that all new not-Insecticons have head designs like that. And the reason for that is the best reason there is – ninjas! Oh yeah, Backfiery is a mecha-ninja now, just like his team-mates.
And this is where the knife-like things come in that turn out to be… knives. They are also his only weapon so no laser guns and no ranged fire ability but… come on, ninja! A Transformer wielding knives that is a ninja. That’s awesome and you know it, it’s just the universal ninja rule.
Backfiery, with his slick design and highly posable arms, is just the Transformer you want to be using bladed weapons.
He can pull off almost all kind of poses that involve mostly his arms articulation. The only setback here is lack of waist joint that could add more flexibility to some poses. A minor issue (with such quality of the rest of the figure) but still a noticeable one. I think it results from the transformation process and it’s hard to assess how hard it would be to avoid it so I won’t judge the designers for this one, but it has to be mentioned.
As for poses involving leg articulation – it’s not bad but not ideal. This is as close as you can get him to perform a high-kick. Hips have ball joints that are slightly limited due to the legs’ upper parts design and I can’t help feeling that this perhaps could have been handled a tad better, since this guy is supposed to be a ninja. It looks all right but leaves me wanting just a bit more. I guess it’s this ironic situation where good quality provokes craving for even a better one. His agile-looking design is so appealing that I tend to ‘forget’ it’s a Transformer and want him to be a ninja-level guy, at some point expecting poses that one usually gets from G.I.Joe figures or even ones from lines like Play Arts Kai or S.H. Figuarts.
The same thing concerns his ability to reach the spare knives. They are neatly placed on the sides of his lower legs and even though usually I would never expect such a reaching-down pose from a Transformers toy, now I tried to achieve it. I guess the result is a kind of compromise: it works story-wise – for the purpose of a diorama or an action shot but it’s not the real thing. On the other hand: can you really expect double knee-joints in a Transformers figure the size of a small Deluxe one? Yes, sometimes you can, but it’s not a rule, so it’s up to you to decide whether this is the buy/pass point of this figure for you.
This whole idea of carrying six small knives immediately makes me think of Danny Trejo’s character in the movie Desperado. You know what I mean, right? The bad-ass knife-throwing guy, oh yeah… I think this is the main appeal of Backfiery for me – he is fun in terms of pulling off a believable look for a ninja-Transformer, no matter how ridiculous that sounds.
Let’s go back to those wings of his for a moment. Throughout the review I made him wear them down like this and this is also how the instruction and pictures on the box depict him. I like this look due to the wings adding to the aforementioned feel of him wearing two swords on his back – when viewed from the robot’s front they seem to be the swords’ blades. You can also spread them to some extent and achieve this split-coat or bladed-cape look which is also both aesthetically pleasing and fits the character. But you might remember the G1 version’s raised wings posture and if you miss it…
…there you go! The wings can be positioned just like the original Kickback wore his: raised and extended towards the back. But there is one more option…
And this is another look that I dig a lot. While before Backfiery had this elegant feel to him, like a warrior wearing a cape along with an armor, now he seems more bad-ass, like in an attack mode, encouraging enemies to come get some good ol’ back-kicking and fire-breathing.
Since we’re already focusing on his back area, let’s take a full look to check if the kibble problem is present.
I say it’s fine. Yes, the grasshopper head is there but the four insect legs effectively cover it up forming a small and unobtrusive backpack. Also, regardless of how you pose the wings they will always be present as well to help in retaining the visual cleanness.
Time for more size comparisons. Again with G2 Grimlock. Oh my, did Transformers robot designs change over the years! The improvement is extremely obvious and astounding.
And now next to his Decepticon companions, Generations Megatron and Classics Starscream. They are both of Deluxe Size Class and he seems to fit this scale as well, that’s why I put ‘Deluxe-ish’ in the description at the beginning of the review, even though this of course is a classification system concerning only official Transformers figures. Let me also mention here that Backfiery feels like he’s made from a more flimsy, softer plastic than older figures. In terms of material he is much more like Generations Megatron here than Classics Starscream. Now, that’s not especially a bad thing, as this plastic seems to offer more flexibility in terms of details and design, but at the same time it’s bound to be less durable and more prone to breakage. I’d say that this is an ideal opportunity for a blatant blog’s name drop again: this is not a toy. This definitely feels more like a collectible item. I’m not saying the figure’s gonna break while you transform it, pose it or even play with it, no way. Its quality is just fine, I experienced no issues whatsoever. I am just clearly stating: if anybody got this strange idea of buying a 3rd Party Transformer (a hard to find and expensive purchase, mind you!) as a kid’s toy – don’t! It’s designed to be handled… maybe not even with care but with respect.
Speaking of respect… Here’s our 3rd Party bug next to one of the most beloved and admired Transformers from the times when Hasbro started this trend of new designs and tooling for well known characters: Classics Mirage. He was praised for his then superb posability and slick design and that’s why I show him here. I think he aged ok, but one can notice where the today’s figure-making technology comes in and what can now be achieved: Backfiery is even less blocky and even more human-like and his ‘spare parts’ left from transformation are hidden better. Mirage is yet another Deluxe and is noticeably taller than not-Kickback, but if you’re wondering whether our flaming grasshopper shouldn’t be considered a smaller Class instead…
Here you go, a comparison with (rather tall for his Class) Generations Optimus Prime of Legends Class. Backfiery is too tall and also too advanced, complex to be thought of as a Scout. He’s a Deluxe, no doubt about it, just a short one.
Ok, some final remarks. First of all, let me state it clearly: I get how 3rd Parties’ products work and why they are scarce and pricey. And this is something that you have to be aware of and prepared for if you are considering buying one. This guy set me back £45 (around $72) and that’s approximately the price I see on him in online stores. Providing he is not tagged with Sold Out status. And that’s the thing – I know he is expensive, probably too expensive for a figure of that size, articulation and design, but 3rd Party Transformers are like that. You either agree to it or not. And if not, then you have official Hasbro’s merchandise to get for more reasonable prices. Generally what I’m trying to say here is: I will evaluate and rate him not as a regular Transformer but as a rare collectible Transformer-like item, which means I do mention the high price here but I won’t list it in the Summary section and won’t use it as a factor lowering his Final Grade. Because then each 3rd Party product would get minus 1 point off the bat, which doesn’t make sense.
With that clarified, what do I think of Backfiery, as the figure itself? I like him a lot. He has his flaws and I will list them below, but for me they don’t manage to counterbalance his merits. On his plus side I would first of all bring up the fun factor. Yes, I know I mentioned it in Generations Optimus review as well, but to be honest I had the same feeling of fun while handling and posing Backfiery. But while before it derived from the idea of a little yet posable figure, this time it’s simpler: not-Kickback just works. Yes, his alt mode is meh, but it’s due to it being a boring grasshopper – and no way around it. But in robot mode he truly shines, in my opinion gracefully pulling off this concept of a ninja-Transformer, delivering cool design and this unique slick charm whenever his articulation falls short. I am really glad I got him, even for that price, and I look forward to not only having him displayed on my shelf (where he looks just bad-ass wielding those darn knives), but also to future occasions to take him out and pose and perhaps photograph again.
On the other hand I realize he may disappoint some – being a bit more delicate than older sturdier Transformers toys (but on par with recent Generations line depicting IDW designs) and at the same time lacking some of the joints that you’d like him to have to achieve all the ideal poses you can expect from a high-class collectible figure. I’d say I can recommend him if you really like either the character or the design of his robot mode. I do and I deem him a valuable addition to my collection. I think that if you like what you see on the pictures here and don’t mind the financial aspect of acquiring a 3rd Party Transformer, then you’re going to enjoy Backfiery. But he is not a universal omg_everybody_instantly_loves_him figure.
Strong and weak points:
+ neat design of a slick and agile character in robot mode
+ fantastic arms articulation
+ decent legs articulation
+ compact and consistent robot form
+ intriguing idea of six knives as weapons, all of hem mountable on the robot body
+ easily recognizable representation of the original G1 character
– boring alt mode
– lacking few articulation points that would come in handy in both modes (especially waist joint in robot mode and ‘elbow’ joints in insect mode, double-jointed knees would also be welcome for a ninja)
– softer plastic means more delicate figure than older Hasbro ones (not recommended as a toy)
– presence of a small ‘backpack’ in robot mode
– no laser gun/firearm of any kind mind trouble some
Who will like it:
collectors wanting a modern posable representation of Kickback; those who are into this manga-ish robot aesthetics; those digging the concept of a ninja-Transformer and keen on having a figure that pulls off this look
Who won’t like it:
those seeking a sturdy and solid Transformer that can be safely handed to a kid; those expecting a more dynamic and interesting alt mode; those wanting utmost human-like posability