“Who is Stepper?”
“I thought his name was Ricochet?”
“Is that just Jazz with the colors changed?”
In 1987, Hasbro introduced a new play gimmick to the Transformers brand: The Target Masters. Target Masters were mostly regular Transformers, but their guns also turned into little robots (or people in robot suits, depending on which fiction you’re following). Target Masters are now called Battle Masters, because they’ve introduced some non-melee converting weapons, but that has nothing to do with today’s toy.
Anyways, the initial lineup of Target Masters released in the Hasbro markets included six new characters — three Autbots and three Decepticons; and five re-releases of toys from the previous year — Hot Rod, Kup, Blurr, Scourge and Cyclonus — with their molds altered slightly to incorporate the ability to hold their new weapon buddies.
When the Japanese Transformers company Takara released their Target Master toys in 1988 (Takara’s lines were usually a year behind), they opted to not re-release the five recylced characters.
Instead, they re-used the molds for Autobots Jazz and Inferno, and gave them entirely new paint jobs to create two brand-new characters: Stepper and Artfire.
I haven’t been able to find a reason why Hasbro changed the character’s name from Stepper to Ricochet when they started releasing toys of him in the 21st century to get more use out of all the Autbot Jazz molds they make every couple of years. I’d guess it either had something to do with trademarks, or that “Stepper” isn’t a particularly cool-sounding name by American standards.
Either way, when Super7 released this guy in 2020, they gave him his original Japanese name. And as a fan of deep-cut Transformers trivia, I appreciate that.
Jazz, Ricochet, Stepper, and all related characters are owned by either Hasbro or Takara, depending on what country you live in. International copyright laws are complicated!