I recently procured a MISB Action Master Devastator online. Why, you ask? Well because one of my goals is to eventually have one sample of each G1 Transformer AFA'd. This is just one more step towards that goal; a goal that I know will take a very, very long time.
First of all, I hate the idea of Transformers that don't transform. Almost as much as I hate the idea of an organic Cybertron. But I feel like Action Masters got cut short before they could really flourish. Think back to 1989; the Hasbro designers were most likely fed up with the scale and articulation problems that had plagued the Transformers line from the beginning. They hadn't had any such problems with G.I.Joe. And thus Hasbro decided for a semi-reboot, recreate some of the most popular characters in a new scale that could move and pose just like G.I Joe figures.
The drawback of course was that the designers couldn't figure out how to make these toys transform in unique ways and keep their 'action' features. So they partnered them with smaller figures or vehicles that could transform and Action Masters were born. Obviously it was a dismal failure that led to the end of Generation One in the United States. But if you lived in Europe during the early '90's you got to see the natural progression of Action Masters: Deluxe Action Masters that could actually transform and retain all their 'action' features. Obviously they were very simple at first, but I feel like if the Action Master line had been allowed to continue for a few more years, we would have seen some great designs when ball joints started to become the norm.
So why do I like these Transformer failures? Well, they are part of G1 which I always told myself I would complete one day, but that isn't enough. I like the idea behind Action Masters, it was just the execution was bad. It is great to finally have some scale in the Transformers world (even if it is screwy scale, see Devastator above). But they can be a lot of fun if you forget they are supposed to transform. They are also pretty sturdy and can withstand more than many of their G1 counterparts. Finally, these weren't the end-all of Transformers; transforming figures returned to the U.S. two years later. So I look at them as just another quirky offshoot, something interesting about Transformers in the past, but certainly not genre defining.
If you've ever never given these guys a chance you may want to take a look before you pass final judgment, you might be surprised at what you find.