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By Thomas Wheeler

So I'm reading the two issues of TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE, the comic produced for the last two Official Transformers Collectors' Conventions. These comics utilize the characters from the Transformers Universe toy line, which utilizes recolored versions of characters from just about any Transformers concept that's ever existed, as well as the characters that have been turned into toys specifically for the Conventions.

By means of some background information, the Transformers Universe storyline starts not long after the Beast Wars/Beast Machines storyline. A number of long-lost Autobots are returning home to the transformed (!) Cybertron. But even as this celebration ensues, they, and a number of Beast Wars characters, are suddenly teleported away.

They find themselves in a decidedly hostile environment, where Transformers from many realities are forced to battle one another to the death, with their "sparks" going to re-energize none other than Unicron.

One of the characters caught my eye. He looked like a turquoise version of Bumblebee. I didn't recall ever seeing this character in the stores, and admittedly, I have not attended any of the recent Transformers conventions.

A few questions asked of the right people (thank you, Terry Dizard), and I learned that this character was named Tap-Out, and indeed he was an exclusive at the 2002 BotCon. Now it just became a matter of seeing if I could find one, and hoping he wouldn't set me back too much.

This, of course, resulted in a trip to eBay, where indeed I did find a Tap-Out at a very reasonable price.

As it turns out, the toy is not a recolored Bumblebee. He's a recolored Cliffjumper. Still part of the original "mini-cars" collection, though.

Interestingly, a number of these cars, or their molds, anyway, were turned over to the "Fun-4-All" company a few years ago to be produced as transforming keychains. Cliffjumper was one of these, and sure enough, Tap-Out has a plastic loop molded onto his shoulder, and even comes with a metal keychain attachment. His copyright statement molded onto his leg mentions both Fun-4-All and Hasbro.

I would suspect, however, that even collectors who might have released their Tap-Out from his protective baggie, have not been especially inclined to use the toy as a keychain. I'm certainly not.

Tap-Out, because of his distinctive color scheme -- Cliffjumper was red and none of the mini-cars that I can recall were turquoise -- stands out as a surprisingly unique little Autobot. The actual color is more of a metallic turquoise. Not chrome-color, but there are clearly metal flecks molded into the plastic that give the Transformer a metallic sheen.

His transformation from car to robot is relatively simple. Pull the front of the car forward, and then move the hood upwards to form the legs and feet. The arms move out to either side and include the wheels. The head flips out of the rear of the car.

This little Convention Exclusive did come with an illustration character card, which reads as follows:

TAP-OUT Function: Bodyguard "Never quit." A former prisoner of the Decepticons in the infamous grease pits of Polyhex, TAP-OUT is one of the most durable and effective hand-to-hand combatants in the Autobot ranks. Extremely agile and physically resilient. Tortured by his tragic past and his harsh treatment at the hands of the Decepticons, Tap-Out has devoted himself to the protection of all innocent life. Though he covers his internal anguish with a cheery and optimistic demeanor, Tap-Out maintains an almost religious devotion to the individuals he protects. Extremely brave, Tap-Out's tendency to act first and ask questions later borders on recklessness, and often lands him in needlessly dangerous situations.

Not a bad profile for such a little guy, and a limited Convention exclusive, at that.

I honestly don't know what Tap-Out's overall availability is these days. He was, after all, produced in 2002. However, if you're into Generation 1-based Transformers, and would like to own a cool little convention exclusive that honestly shouldn't set you back too many dollars, then I definitely recommend TAP-OUT. He's cool, and you'll like him. I do.