Sunday, April 9, 2023

The Prerub Shockwave

Part of a loose series of articles on Shockwave:

The Prerub Exists

The initial releases of Hasbro's Shockwave in late 1984 were prerubs, meaning they hadn't yet been fitted with the rubsign that was an ubiquitous hallmark of 1985's The Transformers catalog. 

Versions of Hasbro Shockwave
Left to right: Early Prerub, Prerub, Rubsign

It is difficult to find a 'good' specimen of the early prerub Shockwaves, as they always suffer from a manufacturing error, which can be essentially referred to as 'split shoulder' or 'separated shoulder'.

As seen below, here is a early sealed specimen, in an 'error' box. The 'error box' denotes that the grey border between the character art and the window does not extend all the way to Shockwave's firing laser. This is corrected on subsequent boxes. The photo is taken from Iamratchet's article on the same. 

Sealed Prerub Shockwave

The split at the shoulder joint of the torso is visible. The split forms a wedge and doesn't extend past the midpoint of the torso. When boxed, this is the most visible failure point, however there are two additional failure points which are hidden when in laser mode.

Prerub Shockwave

In robot mode, it is common to observe the shoulder split on the torso seam, as well as a split on the upper arm seam at the deltoid, and a split at the at the elbow of the forearm.

There are two causes of this splitting:

1. Shockwave is manufactured with larger springs on the main shoulder joint, and at the elbow compared to his predecessors. The deltoid joint has the same spring as the pre-Shockwave versions. The springs allow the ratcheting mechanism at these joints.
2. The ABS plastic mix used to manufacture the first waves appears to have less tensile strength than in pre-Shockwaves. This is possibly explained by the change to purple colorant in the ABS mix, which may have resulted in inferior resistance to pulling stress, imparted by the ratchet springs. The forces exerted by the springs cause the joining post inside the part to fragment. The joining post houses the thread-forming screw. Since the screw cuts into the plastic, the post is weakened and this is always the failure point.

Springs used on Shockwave and Galactic Man
Left to right: Upper arm, Elbow, Shoulder

Springs use on pre-Shockwave figures
Left to right: Upper arm, Elbow, Shoulder

A typical breakage of the joining post between parts. This example is the upper arm.

In subsequent Shockwave's, such as later prerubs and standard rubsign versions (prerub Shockwave was also found in the corrected box - before the accessories wording was blanked out - and in Canadian releases), the separations are no longer common. This is despite the continued use of the larger springs, which suggests that the stronger springs are fine, provided the plastic is strong enough to resist the pulling stress. Because Shockwave would split even at the elbow where a normal small spring was always used, it suggests that inadequate tensile strength was the major contributing factor. Note that these springs would continue to be used in for Shockwave through to Galactic Man. Galactic Man is much easier to inspect - Shockwave has a factory glued torso - where as Galactic Man with a lower price point, is not.

How Early is Early?

Within Shockwave's run, apart from the rubsign, he is almost entirely uniform - there aren't significant variants. We can observe that at some point, his Decepticon insignia changes from purple to pink.

Shockwave's faction logo changes to pink in 1985.

In fact, the thing that tells us the most is not the figure, but the accessory - his barrel.

Over the lifetime of the mold, we can see that the barrel underwent some changes. First was the introduction of a ridge that matches the ridge on the wrist. This allows for a tighter fit of the barrel over the right wrist. This occurred while the Graywaves - gray releases - were being produced for various small companies E.g., Royal Condor. At the same time, for an unknown reason, the adjacent section would be fitted with a small section of hookup wire that has been superglued in place. I think that this was used to assist in the fitting of the two halves, but only because this was replaced during the Shockwave era by an extra tab that lets the pieces interlock (this is the way to distinguish Galactic Man barrels from Graywave barrels).

The barrel that comes with the earliest Shockwave is the same as the Graywave version, with the wire section instead of the fitting tab. Because only Shockwave came with purple translucent plastic, it can be identified as his earlier variant. That means that the earliest Shockwave is almost the same as the latest Electronic Magnum, the only visible mold difference being the Shockwave-specific trigger.

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