REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS 30th ANNIVERSARY BLITZWING
Transformers is closing in on its 30th Anniversary, and that's an impressive milestone for any toy-based concept. Not many have achieved it. Masters of the Universe claimed it in 2012, but Masters has not consistently had product on the shelves. G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero also claimed it with a lot more legitimacy. Admittedly, it's likely to be overshadowed just a bit by the fact that 2014 is no less than the 50th Anniversary for G.I. Joe as a whole -- and nobody else is even close to that in the action figure world.
I've been a longtime fan of Transformers, and of course I remember the original product. And I enjoyed them, although my one criticism of the original Transformers has always been that, in their robotic modes, they weren't very well articulated. Now, in fairness, that wasn't their primary purpose. Their primary purpose was to transform from one mode to another and look cool in both. And in this, the Transformers succeeded abundantly well. Still, it would've been cool to have had Transformers that could move as well as they did in the animated series, the comic book, and even the package illustrations.
These days, we do. Thanks to advances in design (no doubt computer aided) and manufacture, today's Transformers can fully claim the title of "action figure" in their robotic modes.
Several years ago, a line of Transformers was brought out that finally dealt with the fact that the original, best-regarded Generation One Transformers just weren't holding up that well articulation-wise to their descendants. Initially called TRANSFORMERS CLASSICS, and these days known as TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS, this line of Transformers brought back many of the most popular characters from the most popular Transformers concept, in all-new but familiar modes, with a full range of articulation in their robot modes. Needless to say, I've been a fan.
The line has come, gone, and returned several times, often having to take a back seat or an intermission so that space could be allocated for the toys from the latest animated series or live action movie. Most recently, the line returned to promote the characters from the video game "Fall of Cybertron". This was impressive, as the events of the game took place ostensibly in the Generation One universe, but just prior to the Transformers' departure from Cybertron on their trip to Earth. While the character's non-robotic modes were not always entirely familiar, their robotic modes were generally very recognizable, and a number of characters that hadn't really gotten a chance to be part of the modern Transformers Generations line, such as Soundwave and Blaster, among others, finally turned up.
So now, the Transformers Generations line celebrates -- if a little early -- the 30th Anniversary of the Transformers. And one of the first ones out of the gate is someone that I think most longtime Transformers fans would feel is just a little overdue -- a Decepticon Triple-Changer by the name of BLITZWING!
The package design for these 30th Anniversary Transformers is interesting. The box clearly says "Transformers Generations". There's a cool 30th Anniversary logo on the box. But it's the color scheme that's especially interesting. It starts out on the front in the upper left with the red gridwork design that has become most associated with the Generations line, and was most recently used for the Fall of Cybertron Generations figures. But by the time you get to the lower right, the box has turned mostly white, with bold black type, more akin to the packaging colors used for the Transformers Prime figures based on the most recent animated series. The back of the box tends to look more "Generations", while most of the sides tend to look more "Prime". It's an interesting design, and it comes across as though the 30th Anniversary is acknowledging both of the most recent incarnations of Transformers toys.
Blitzwing is definitely based on his Generation One incarnation. This isn't intended as a pre-Earth Cybertronian version. This really is very much G1 across the board.
Blitzwing is one of a relatively rare breed of Transformers known as Triple-Changers, and along with another Decepticon by the name of Astrotrain, is one of the two best known Triple-Changers of them all. Blitzwing could convert into either a tank or a fighter jet. A dangerous and impressive combination, and even more impressive that they could get away with it in the mid-1980's.
Let's consider some of the history of the character, and then have a look at his Generations incarnation.
Blitzwing is a Decepticon with two alternate forms, that of a jet and that of a tank. He was voiced by Ed Gilbert in the 1980s Transformers animated series.
Blitzwing is a Decepticon triple changer, capable of transforming into a Type 74 main battle tank and a MiG-25 jet fighter in his original form. His fellow Decepticon triple changers are Astrotrain and Octane. He was named among the top selling toys in 1985 by Playthings magazine.
A battle-loving Decepticon warrior, Blitzwing frequently uses his jet mode to strafe land-bound Autobots, then quickly transforms to tank mode to finish them off with his powerful energy mortar. In robot mode, he prefers to use his electron scimitar to fight foes one on one.
Blitzwing would first appear in the Transformers comics in the Target 2006 arc of the U.K. comics. Along with the other Triple Changers, Macabre, the three Insecticons, and the seekers Dirge, Thrust and Ramjet, they are the Decepticons' most feared killers and have to be taken out before a major Autobot uprising can take place. Megatron inadvertently scuppered the plan by summoning the Insecticons to Earth.
Blitzwing's first appearance in the U.S. comics would be in issue 29, sent to Earth along with Astrotrain and Octane to retrieve a crashed shuttle which was carrying fuel for one of Ratbat's operations.
However, the shuttle was infected with Scraplets, a plague of sentient micro-robots that ate metal and the dying pilot then accidentally infected them. After battling with Blaster and Goldbug, they became infected as well. Goldbug eventually found the cure — water, but Blaster refused to let Goldbug spray them, reluctant to save the Decepticons. The Scraplets took matters out of his hands, however, and formed into one huge creature. Options spent, Goldbug cured all four Transformers and let the heavily-armed Decepticons deal with it. The three Triple Changers then escaped with the cargo. It should be noted that Blitzwing is portrayed as being mindlessly cruel.
With the influx of new toys, like Headmasters, Targetmasters and Pretenders, older Decepticons like Blitzwing appeared less. He was part of Ratbat's forces, launching a major raid on the Autobots to recover various captured Decepticons before being cleaved in half by Grimlock.
Presumably repaired, he was next seen battling Scorponok's Decepticons and then the Autobots. He was then deactivated by the Underbase-powered Starscream and did not appear again in the U.S. comics.
He has appeared sporadically in the U.K. comics; at one point recovering the clone of Megatron from the Thames with Dirge, Thrust and Ramjet for Shockwave to battle Galvatron. He also appeared in the Earthforce stories as part of the Decepticons of Megatron and Shockwave's forces, in one notable instance leaving Octane to be blasted by the U.S. army after it was revealed he had simply been chasing a car out of sheer spite — unaware that the car was actually Jazz. In the alternate movie-themed future of the U.K. comics he is indicated to be the leader of the Triple Changers.
Blitzwing made an appearance in the Decepticon forces under the command of Megatron in issue #7 of the Marvel Generation 2 comic series, in a story called "New Dawn." Megatron lead his Decepticons against Jhiaxus's second generation Cybertronians near the moon of Tykos. The Decepticons were defeated and Megatron left injured, presumed dead, but swearing revenge.
Blitzwing was a minor character who appeared in the second and third seasons of the animated series; very rarely did he stand out other than as a fierce warrior known more for his strength and abilities than his intelligence. His debut came in the episode "Dinobot Island." On one occasion, he and Astrotrain managed to take command of the Decepticons by freezing Megatron and Starscream — but when they were defeated by the Autobots, Megatron forcibly resumed command at gunpoint.
After this Blitzwing was seemingly let back into the Decepticons, being sent alongside Astrotrain in "Prime Target" to forge an alliance with the big-game hunter Lord Cholmondeley, although Cholmondeley had no interest in the Decepticons, merely wishing to hunt the ultimate prey, Optimus Prime.
In The Transformers: The Movie, Blitzwing was present at the Battle of Autobot City, targeting Hot Rod and Daniel Witwicky. He was taken out by Kup, who engineered a collision between him and Shrapnel, with the two of Decepticons falling off a mountain. During the actual attack on the city, Blitzwing narrowly escaped from being hit by an oncoming Optimus, who was running down Decepticons in his trailer truck mode. Blitzwing was later seen fighting with the Decepticons on who would be Megatron's successor.
Blitzwing had a somewhat significant part to play in the 5-part episode "Five Faces of Darkness". When the defeated Decepticons were accosted by the Quintessons to launch an attack on Cybertron, Blitzwing stayed behind, awaiting the return of Galvatron. Later, when Galvatron and the Quintessons joined forces to defeat the Autobots, Galvatron sent Blitzwing to report back to the Quintessons. It was then that Blitzwing discovered the Quintessons' treachery and their plan to paralyze all the Transformers and take Cybertron for themselves.
When Blitzwing tried to warn Galvatron, the fearsome Decepticon leader did not believe him and knocked Blitzwing down, telling him to "tell it to the Autobots". Blitzwing told Rodimus Prime about the Quintessons' plan, and stopped a group of Sharkticons sent to trigger the shut down mechanism. Galvatron followed them, thinking Blitzwing a traitor, and triggered the shut down himself, causing all the Transformers to freeze.
The Quintessons came down to claim Cybertron for themselves, but Spike Witwicky destroyed the fail safe device, unfreezing the Transformers. Galvatron, now realizing their treachery, chases after the Quintessons, who barely escape. Galvatron was about to restart the fighting between the Decepticons and the Autobots, but Blitzwing stood in the way, threatening him.
Backing down, Galvatron left with the other Decepticons, telling Blitzwing that he was no longer welcome in their ranks, and would suffer for his betrayal. The Triple Changer, however, refused an offer to become an Autobot, but stated that he respected the Autobots, and most likely went into exile.
Blitzwing would appear twice more as a part of the Decepticon forces in later episodes, but it is unclear if these were animation errors or not. The episode "Starscreams Ghost" was originally written for Blitzwing, but was hastily rewritten to star Octane (who was a new toy at the time).
The Triple Changers would appear again in Dreamwave's reinterpretation of the Generation One Universe — this time with a greatly expanded origin. First appearing during Shockwave's attack on Iacon city along with Astrotrain, Bludgeon, Brawl, Chopshop, Dirge, Frenzy, Octane, Onslaught, Ramjet, Tantrum, Venom and Vortex. Blitzwing would appear again as one of the four Transformers needed by the Fallen for the unbinding.
During the civil war on Cybertron, Shockwave envisioned a Transformer with multiple alternate modes, studying Astrotrain and Blitzwing. However, the Great Shutdown meant his plans could go no further — until Unicron's servant Scourge located Cybertron and reactivated him for study. When Shockwave was attacked by Sharkticons Scourge saved him, only to be shot in the back by Shockwave. Shockwave then proceeded to examine and study him, using the secrets gleaned to create first the Duocons and then the Triple Changers — Astrotrain, Blitzwing, Octane and the Autobots Sandstorm and Broadside. Interestingly, in the Micromasters mini-series by Dreamwave, Blitzwing and Astrotrain are suffering from severe physical changes. As this is before the Great Shutdown, this might imply that the change was a natural one rather than a result of experiments.
The Triple Changers then served as Shockwave's bodyguards, accompanying him to Earth to capture Optimus Prime and Megatron's troops, with Blitzwing taking down Megatron, leaving him vulnerable for a follow-up attack by Shockwave. Blitzwing was himself taken down by Grimlock. They were unable to prevent him from being stopped by Optimus Prime and Ultra Magnus back on Cybertron, but Astrotrain and Blitzwing accompanied Shockwave on his exile in the wastes of Cybertron, where his experiments resulted in the multi-changer Sixshot.
However, the arrival of Megatron and the Predacons resulted in Shockwave having his arm severed by Megatron. The rest of Shockwave's troops surrendered, but Blitzwing was seemingly killed by Razorclaw. In a later issue a shadowy figure (presumably Sixshot) discovers his severed head.
Blitzwing is the subject of two continuity errors in the Dreamwave universe. In a flashback to the building of the Ark 2 in the Generation One comics, Blitzwing is seen among the captured and deactivated Decepticons, despite being seen to arrive with Shockwave's troops in the second series. Also, in the War Within series, during Shockwave's attack on Iacon City Blitzwing is seen to transform between two alternate modes, despite the rest of the series establishing he did not become a Triple Changer until much later.
After Dreamwave's closure, the rights to the Transformers comics were taken up by IDW Publishing. They have begun to publish their own new material, including a miniseries called Infiltration featuring some of the Generation One Transformers. In Infiltration, Starscream is in command of a small group of Decepticons on Earth consisting of Skywarp, Thundercracker, Astrotrain, Blitzwing, and the Battlechargers Runabout and Runamuck.
Starscream had discovered an energon ore on Earth that was the Transformer equivalent of steroids, making him bold enough to advance their infiltration phase ahead of schedule. However, it seems that humans have somehow obtained evidence of the Transformers' existence, which would derail Starscream's plans. Blitzwing appeared as part of Starscream's elimination squad along with Skywarp, disposing of any evidence of their operation on Earth. While bombing an abandoned base, Blitzwing battled Ratchet, who shot him down. However, Ratchet's inexperience in battling Triple Changers allowed Blitzwing to change to his tank mode and blast Ratchet.
Completing their bombing runs, Blitzwing and Skywarp were confronted by a far more dangerous threat — the Decepticon leader Megatron, who had come to Earth to find out why Starscream's unit had broken cover. Megatron, reacting to the treacherous Decepticons, shot Skywarp out of the sky while the surprised and afraid Blitzwing futilely engaged his leader in tank mode, only to be grabbed by the barrel and repeatedly slammed into the ground, seriously damaging him. However, Blitzwing did survive, as Megatron put his crippled subordinates in CR tanks after dealing with Starscream.
In The Transformers: Escalation #1, he is seen to have been repaired since his battle with Megatron, and he quickly accepted the Decepticon leader's ultimatum of no second chances. Accompanying Megatron to the disputed Soviet border state of Brasnya, Blitzwing used his Soviet tank mode to make it appear as if the Russians were attacking. However, Blitzwing then got an unexpected bonus — Optimus Prime himself, utterly unaware of his presence — or so it seemed. As Blitzwing prepared to fire he was taken out by Prime's Roller drone.
In The Transformers: Devastation he is seen to have recovered & fully functional from his injuries that he received from Optimus Prime's Roller Drone in the battle at Brasnya, while in there Siege Bunker at Oregon, he & the rest of the Decepticons monitor Sixshot, while he is on his mission to destroy the Autobots, believing Megatron to have "lost it" he and Astrotrain proceed to a sealed chamber in the Bunker to release Starscream, as he was locked away after recovering from his Near-Fatal Confrontation with Megatron. The Reapers then arrive on Earth & attack the Decepticon Bunker, Megatron orders all Decepticons to engage, Blitzwing survives the battle against the Reapers & avoids his "Dismemberment" from Megatron, as Starscream steps in and convinces Megatron, that he needs all his Decepticons as they have been discovered by the Humans
In All Hail Megatron #1 he is seen only in his Fighter Mode with Starscream, Thundercraker, Skywarp, & Laserbeak engaging against the U.S. Airforce over the skies of Manhatthan New York, in All Hail Megatron #2 he is again, only seen in his Fighter Mode, this time with Starscream, & Thundercracker Bombing the bridges leading in and out of Manhatthan, he has yet to make another appearance as the story is ongoing.
Blitzwing also appeared as one of the troops under Starscream's command in the Evolutions tale "Hearts of Steel". He was seen guarding the Decepticon manufacturing facility.
So, how's the figure? Extremely impressive. As Blitzwing has three distinct modes, I'm going to review them semi-separately, providing transformation instructions in between.
Blitzwing comes packaged in his robot mode. As with his original incarnation, Blitzwing is mostly tan and purple -- interesting combination. He stands about 7-1/2" in height to the top of his head -- a rather considerable height for a Generations Transformer. His jet nosecone, which almost looks like a sort of hood behind his head, brings his height up to eight inches. His tank gun, which can be adjusted, brings his height up even further, but I don't really think it's fair to count it as part of his total height.
Blitzwing has a mostly yellow head, with a dark gray face and red eyes that look like goggles. The yellow head resembles a high-tech helmet as much as anything. Interestingly, along with being a Triple-Changer, Blitzwing has three different faces that he can have. Reportedly Man-E-Faces from Masters of the Universe is sincerely flattered.
Blitzwing's central body is mostly purple, with some red and silver trim, and a Decepticon emblem nicely imprinted beneath what is obviously the jet mode's cockpit. His arms are mostly tan, with purple hands, and gray areas around the elbows. His legs are mostly tan, with significant amounts of purple on the lower legs, as well as visual evidence of his tank treads, which are black.
In robot mode, Blitzwing is superbly articulated. He is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, including a swivel wrists, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. Among his accessories, he has a large, ornate purple sword.
Blitzwing's transformation complexity is listed as "Intermediate", and I've learned to take that with a few grains of salt, and I am especially inclined to do so with a Triple-Changer. Blitzwing's first transformation is from robot into jet. Let's see how that goes.
First, fold down the tank turret, if it's facing upward. Next, push the head down into the jet cockpit, and rotate the nosecone around. I found this to be a rather nightmarish step. Didn't help that it was right off the bat like that. For starters, the head didn't want to push down. For another, the nosecone is made from a rubbery plastic, and yet there's a slot on it that's supposed to fit under a tab on the cockpit canopy -- which is really doesn't want to do very well. I decided to leave it until later when maybe I had better leverage.
Next, rotate the lower arms around so that the backs of the hands are facing forward, shift the arms upwards at the shoulder joints (I know that sounds weird, but it works), and then bring the arms outward to the side at the shoulders, and raise them 180 degrees so that they're pointing upwards.
Next, rotate the arms so that the fists are pointed inwards, and then bring the arms back so that the arms are pointed backwards. Then bring the arms downward, and fold them inward. I know I'm not explaining this all that well. Be sure you use the illustrated instructions as well.
Then, bring the cockpit section down 180 degrees so that it is facing downward relative to the legs, and swing the turret gun back up, and push the turret into the space left by the cockpit.
Next, fold in the feet, extend the little wings near the feet, rotate the lower legs around, find the lower torso with the legs back into the main body, and extend the wings.
Finally, Blitzwing is in his jet mode!
As a jet, Blitzwing looks fairly effective, but is clearly not all that closely based on any real-world jet. Those huge engines on his back, formerly his arms, pretty well take care of any too-close real-world comparisons.
To a fair degree, he reminds me a bit of an F-14, but with a lot more of a payload. Still, the wing structure and appearance of the cockpit are similar. Granted, I am hardly an expert.
In plane mode, Blitzwing is about 8 inches from nose to tail, and has a wingspan of 7 inches. He tends to look more purple than tan in his jet mode, I believe largely because his wings are purple. The front of the nosecone is gray, and he has some nice red striping on his wings.
Now, let's see if we can get Blitzwing into his tank mode! Technically, you have to put him back in robot mode first. Just reverse the instructions.
Now, start by pointing the gun turret downwards, and bringing the nosecone up again (and if I'd had the brains to look ahead a bit, I wouldn't've undone it from the last time).
Actually, the instructions are nearly identical for the jet transformation up to the point where you swivel the arms backward. Rather than the jets of the plane, they form the two halves of the gun turret.
At this point, you fold the flaps down, extend the legs outward at the hips, swing the legs around, fold the feet down, extend the treads outward, fold out the tread extensions, snap them into place against the upper legs, fold the wings in entirely, and then bring the legs up against the body.
Now, Blitzwing is pretty much in tank mode! It helps his overall look if you add the little black gun to the top of the turret.
As with the jet, Blitzwing's tank mode can't really be identified with any real-world tank this time around, although he does have a very distinct basic tank-like appearance. This isn't a "War of Cybertron" toy where liberties have been taken to create a "Cybertronian" vehicle that only bears a superficial resemblance to anything Earth-based. Blitzwing definitely looks like a tank -- just not any specific tank.
In tank mode, Blitzwing is 6 inches in length, about 3-1/2 inches wide, and not quite 2-1/2" in height. So he's a rather stocky tank. In tank mode, he appears to be mostly tan, with a limited amount of purple trim, more or less the opposite of his jet mode. If memory serves, that's not unlike how the original one went.
Although his tank treads are not actual treads, they look cool enough, and he has four small wheels underneath the treads, so he can roll along a smooth surface rather nicely. The gun barrel can fire a spring-loaded missile that comes with Blitzwing.
Any complaints? Apart from that rubbery, uncooperative nosecone, not really. And I suspect the nosecone might've worked better if Blitzwing's head hadn't kept trying to spring back up.
I do have one comment, not really a criticism, just an observation. Blitzwing's fellow Triple-Changers, Astrotrain and Octane, were released as part of the Classics/Generations line quite some time ago. No doubt this resulted in a fair demand for Blitzwing. However, Blitzwing is of a different size than his companions, who were sold as carded figures. Blitzwing comes in a box, and in robot mode, is distinctly taller than the other two Triple-Changers.
Admittedly, "scale" has always been a rather debatable topic in the world of Transformers, and I'm not saying that I'm really bothered by this, but it is worth mentioning.
There is another Triple-Changer available in this assortment, the Autobot known as Springer. Interestingly enough, Springer was among those Transformers Generations that were imported from overseas by Toys "R" Us a while back. However, that Springer was largely a recoloration of a previous Transformer with a new head and color scheme, and was not a Triple-Changer. This is an all-new toy, and I look forward to getting and reviewing him in the near future.
Blitzwing's personality on the package reads as follows: Within his heavily armored and highly destructive body, Blitzwing has the ice-cold mind of a master strategist - sometimes. At other times, he is a boiling cauldron of rage, waiting for any excuse to unleash his firepower on the nearest target. And now and again he is a chaotic whirlwind of bizarre behavior and intermittent bursts of plasma fire. His unpredictability makes him a poor soldier, but his raw firepower and instable mind make him a useful tool for a commander as capable as Megatron.
If that doesn't sound much like the G1 Blitzwing -- it isn't. A friend of mine pointed out that this sounds a lot more like the Blitzwing from Transformers Prime. I can't comment on that myself, as I haven't seen the show. However, the toy is clearly G1-based.
Blitzwing's various power rankings are as follows: He gets a "9" in Speed and Strength; "8" in Fireblast and Endurance; "6" in Courage and Intelligence; "4" in Skill, and "3" in Rank.
So, what's my final word? I'm delighted to see the Generations line carry on for the 30th Anniversary. There's still a lot of classic Transformers that I believe can be produced, and brought into this line. Hopefully, this will happen. But at the very least, we now have Blitzwing, one of the most prominent Decepticon Triple-Changers, and this really is a very impressive modern rendition of him. I believe that any longtime Transformers fan will be pleased with him. I certainly am.
The TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS 30th ANNIVERSARY edition of BLITZWING definitely has my highest recommendation!