One of the most famous Gobots, Leader-1 began life in 1983 as MR-25, the Eagle Robo, released in Japan by Bandai as part of the Machine Robo line. The original version was planned to be white, but in the end a light grey scheme was settled on. Later that year, Tonka purchased the rights to release the line in America, and decided to follow Hasbro's projected Transformers line by adding a fiction to the figures with a TV series to promote the line. The Eagle Robo figure was chosen to be the leader of the heroic faction, the Guardians, with the imaginative name of Leader-1. The American release removed nearly all the stickers apart from three on the robot's chest.

The figure was then chosen to be remade to a larger scale in the Big Machine Robo sub-series in 1985, possibly as a result of Tonka's influence. This larger version was issued in the Super Gobot range in 1985, while the smaller version was given a brand new blue/white colour scheme for the final series of Gobots (the first of a proposed series of recolours to prolong the line's life; in the event, it was one of only three issued) and re-released.

In Brazil, two different recolours of the figure were issued by Glasslite (a blue/white version - different to the Tonka recolour - and a red/blue version) as Sonik in the Mutante series, while Bandai themselves would do a slightly different version for the Best of Machine Robo sets. In 1993, the original version was released for the Robo Machines line, named as simply 'F-15'. By then, Hasbro had acquired Tonka, a deal which included all the trademarks from the Gobots line. This meant that in 2002, Megatron from the Transformers Armada line had a Mini-Con partner named Leader-1 as Hasbro strove to prevent the trademark from lapsing.


ALTERNATE MODE

The jet mode isn't brilliant. The F-15 Eagle is a nice enough plane, though this perhaps isn't the best rendering. There is some nice detail work on the jet, but while the colour scheme is fairly realistic, it's certainly bloody dull (not that the 1986 car crash is the way to go or anything). There are also some very large lines where parts move for the robot mode, which breaks up the look of the plane.

The scale of the F-15 is at about 1/144, which means the decals, while realistically small, don't serve to break up all the grey. A Japanese SDF version might have been a little more interesting (not sure if they had F-15s in 1983, but...), though a bit of artistic license wouldn't have hurt either. The whole mode is actually quite clumsy - the little engine outlets and the clear plastic (as opposed to painted) cockpit are nice touches, but when there are massive runner lines and such a horrid undercarriage layout, what's the point? There's also a lot of hollow, thin plastic on Leader-1 - both pairs of wings are prone to stress fractures because of this, while bent undercarriage is another common problem. And to top it all off, the wings and nose work loose very easily, meaning a jet with drooping parts.


ROBOT MODE

The transformation, while fairly inventive, is sadly what causes all these problems. The basic sequence was repeated on other Gobots like Mach-3 and Gunnyr, though those benefited from sturdier construction (albeit at the cost of their looks). The nose is a fairly loose piece of apparatus, rather than the stiffer mechanism on Mach-3. The arms are also basically C-shaped tubes, and get stress fractures or even outright bent fairly easily. On the plus side, Leader-1 doesn't look bad, really. The black things and waist break up the grey nicely, as do the well-rationed robot mode stickers.

The most striking thing is the head design - while several figures (Sky Jack, Ace etc.) ended up looking like Leader-1's cartoon visage, Leader-1's toy has rather a different design, a rather striking gold visor and gasmask-like faceplate arrangement (modelled on a fighter pilot's atmospheric gear, a strange anthropomorphic touch that isn't on many other figures). It's a shame it's a tiny little thing and doesn't help the toy's bizarre boxy proportions. The arms do have a fair degree of articulation, but the robot mode really isn't anything special either.


SUMMARY

Leader-1 is a weak figure. For my money, Cy-Kill, Royal-T, the Rothmans Crasher, Turbo and Defendor would have all made better heroic leaders. Overall, Leader-1 is a disappointment at the best of times, but to add to the mould's aesthetic failings there are is structural drawbacks - a mint Leader-1 is pretty difficult to find; they tend to be loose, discoloured, or broken, or stressed, or a combination of all four. On the plus side, he's cheap to find in just about any condition, largely due to the character not being remembered with much affection (unlike the popular - for a Gobot - Cy-Kill) or being as neat or unusual as other famous Gobots (such as Scooter). One for fans of the cartoon only.


THE FACTS
[Corrections? Let me know!]

RELEASES:
1983, Machine Robo Series - MR-25: Eagle Robo
1983, Machine Robo Best 5 - MR-25: Eagle Robo (white recolour)
1983, Robo Machine - RM-25: F-15 Eagle
1983, Gobots Series 1 - 25: Leader-1
1984, Gobots Series 2 - 25: Leader-1 (reissue with sticker)
1985, Gobots Guardian Gift Pack #1 - Leader-1 (packed with Flip-Top and Turbo)
1985, Gobots Series 3 - 44: Leader-1 (blue recolour)
1985, Robo Machine - RM-25: F-15 Eagle (reissue using blue recolour)

1986, Machine Robo Revenge of Cronos - MRJ-7: Eagle Robo
1993, Robo Machines - F-15

PARTS:
None

WEAK POINTS:
Arms, wings, nose