1987 saw the release of the 'Masters, Transformers with heads and weapons that turned into miniature robots of their own. First introduced in "Rebirth" after a number of random new characters interspersed with old ones crashed on planet Nebulos, the Targetmasters consisted of Autobots and Decepticons who bonded with native Nebulons that turned into their weapons. Triggerhappy (and Targetmaster Blowpipe) is one of those Decpticons. Triggerhappy was also available in Japan as D-88 Triggerhappy, packaged in styrofoam and missing his rubsign. There is a bilingual Canadian G1 package and I suspect bilingual European version too.
Triggerhappy was a new character and mould for 1987, along with his Decepticon Targetmaster stablemates Slugslinger and Misfire. Scourge and Cyclonus simply got retools and Nebulon partners as they were available in 1986. A fourth Decepticon Targetmaster was conceptualised and drawn, but I have never seen a name or robot mode attached to it, it would have been another futuristic jet like the released trio.
I remember my first encounter with this toy in the 1980s. Rebirth had not yet been shown on UK TV (to be seen years later on Sky for the first time) and my only knowledge of toys like Triggerhappy and co was through the 1987 product catalogue accompanying my TM Scourge, Headmasters and Horrorcons, as well as the TRU shelves. I recall distinctly receiving a phone call from my school friend at the time, saying "Guess what Transformer I just got! Here's a clue, pew pew hahaha, pew pew hahaha!". Triggerhappy. Seeing my friend's Triggerhappy in hand, a few things stood out as 'new' to me.
Having only ever owned Diaclone-derived Autobot cars and jets, Jumpstarters, Battlechargers, 1986's main movie characters and Headmasters up to that point, Triggerhappy's 3-part Targetmaster, spring-loaded head and unique looks truly threw me. To this day I couldn't put my initial impressions into words. Most Transformers I experienced in other children's collections I could tell you if I wanted them or not, Triggerhappy I just don't remember. Getting the toy as an adult, though, has been a delightful experience.
Knowing the multitude of issues a near-30 year old Triggerhappy can have (yellowing, broken tabs on the double-barreled cannons, cannons not staying upright in robot mode, broken Targetmaster and worn stickers) means that a nice one is a tough find. Getting the box and instructions in highly displayable condition was superb. The transformation is dripping with the charm of fast-converting Generation 1 Transformers, incorporating some satisfyingly loud knee ratchets, fold out hands and heel spurs. Transforming Blowpipe, however, is borderline traumatic. For some reason the main pivot hinge is not perfectly circular, but halfway to being square. As a result this stresses the socket enormously during the transformation fold-over and is the cause of many a broken Blowpipe. I do very much like the removable cannon making it a 3-piece Targetmaster.
Seeing Triggerhappy with Misfire (and indeed Slugslinger), it's very clear that the new generation of Transformers designs was well underway. The headsculpts seemed a lot more humanoid in their features and the colours bordered on garish in some instances for the 1987 offerings. The Movie toys were the first step in this direction, and the Headmasters and Targetmasters cemented the aesthetic of post-Movie futuristic Transformers with enjoyable gimmicks. I love Targetmasters, I remember how massively desirable they were in my early collecting days, whereas these days the Headmasters seem to draw the bigger crowds. Triggerhappy generally seems to be slightly less mental in terms of colours, mixing grey, dark blue and the gorgeous brass colour of his afterburners(?). Then you get to his orange face with bright red eyeband. Blowpipe himself has a bright green face to go with his blue and grey colours. It's fascinating how Triggerhappy's on-screen version from G1 season 4 (Rebirth) had normal eyes and a face mask, virtually the diametric opposite to what the toy featured.
Consider when the first designs for Triggerhappy were being drawn up, taking into account lead times for R&D, it must have represented such a gigantic departure from the Diaclone and Micro Change Series designs that made up most of season 1 & 2 of Transformers being sold at the time. The above concept images don;t even appear to have him accompanied by a 'Master of any kind, but as a straight up Decepticon with a standard weapon. The character and design was probably born before the Targetmaster concept itself.
You might think that a few years of Masterpiece, 3rd Party, Animated and Generations collecting has established in me an appreciation for different types of Transformers, toys that can be interacted with and enjoyed on levels unimaginable back in the 1980s, but a good toy is a good toy, and just like my experience with finally getting a G1 Greatshot, this has been an immeasurable pleasure. Along with Misfire, Triggerhappy has totally ignited my passion for this era of vintage Transformers and I'm actively hunting a Slugslinger as we speak to complete the trio. There's just something about that deep blue translucent canopy and the aesthetically-clashing Targetmaster attached in jet mode or held in robot mode - coupled with such a simple-yet-satisfying transformation - that binds the whole magic of this toy together.
Many kind thanks to GanguStars for use of the concept Triggerhappy images.
All the best