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By Thomas Wheeler

It is the opinion of a number of longtime Transformers collectors that Hasbro isn't really sure what to do with the "Generation One" concept, the original Transformers as they appeared in the United States. Even as DreamWave Productions launches an ongoing comics series and the animated episodes wrap up their DVD collections, Hasbro seems a little -- uncertain.

Certainly there is the forthcoming 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime, but beyond that, Hasbro seems to be devoting its efforts to the Energon line and the Alternators, which one could argue are Generation One -- sideways. Then of course there are the Heroes of Cybertron PVC's, a line which will be ending soon.

Apart from that, however, the only real currently available product from Generation One are the reissues of the original Transformers, a Toys "R" Us exclusive which hasn't fared all that well due to truly astronomical pricing that would make a Ferengi flinch.

So Hasbro has the concept, and the characters -- they just don't seem to know what to do with it. Perhaps they're concerned that it just wouldn't be all that popular anymore.

Those concerns should be put to rest with the release of the Generation One SpyChangers.

A little explanation is due here. For some time now, ever since the "Robots in Disguise" series, Hasbro has produced a series of transforming mini-cars, called "SpyChangers". Technically, these things arguably date back to the days of Generation 2, when a bunch of them were released under the sub-name "Go-Bots", a former competitor's robot product until Hasbro bought the parent company. But in more recent years, the cars have been released as mini-cars connected to whichever main Transformers concept was in the stores. And lately, they've pretty much been a K*B exclusive, except for some that've turned up at Toys "R" Us and Suncoast in "collectible tins" of all things.

All of this comes around to the newest release. The package just says Transformers. Not Robots in Disguise. Not Armada. Not Energon. Just Transformers. And the cars chosen, the colors and markings they're given, and the names they're given are as close to Generation One characters as possible.

And they're proving to be hotter and scarcer than Energon cubes during an Insecticon invasion.

There are six in the series. To date, I have found four of them -- OPTIMUS PRIME, AUTOBOT JAZZ, SILVERSTREAK, and PROWL. I am still lacking AUTOBOT WHEELJACK and HOIST. Only one K*B in Tucson that I know of has had them, and I got the last four in the place.

How popular are they? They retail for $3.99 apiece. You could get all six for about $25.00, depending on your local sales tax. A set of six, one of very few that have turned up on eBay, recently went for $86.00 -- before shipping.

If Hasbro has any doubts about the popularity of Generation One Transformers, this should erase them entirely. Let us hope that these superb little cars, which I most highly recommend, do not prove to be as scarce in the long run as sensible decision-making on the part of any number of toy companies seems to be these days.