You know, it does seem as though the average Transformer, at least from the days of Generation 1, tends to be rather -- well -- monochromatic. Now, there's a fair range of colors across all the different characters, of course. But still -- Bumblebee is mostly... Yellow. Sideswipe is mostly...Red. Shockwave is mostly...Purple. One might have hoped for somewhat more extensive color schemes.
In fairness, since the Transformers were trying to model themselves after real-world vehicles, and there's not that many multi-colored vehicles out there tooling down the highway, this might have been a considerable factor in color selection, and perhaps was a deliberate limitation.
On the other hand, there are such things as multi-colored cars, and even the Transformers are going to get the occasional show-off. And one such can be found in the form of SMOKESCREEN.
I was pleased to see this character added to the TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE line-up recently. Originally a means, following the 2007 live-action movie, of bringing back the very popular and very well-received TRANSFORMERS CLASSICS series, which upgraded the original Generation One Transformers to modern toy-making standards, especially with regard to articulation, Transformers Universe is expanding its horizons into other well-regarded Transformers concepts, and I sincerely hope will continue through and beyond the sequel movie. Nevertheless, at its core is Generation 1, from which the colorful Smokescreen hails.
Since I was not a major collector of Generation One, I never had the original Smokescreen toy. But I knew what he was supposed to look like, courtesy of the animated series and the comic book. And prior to this, the only Smokescreen toy in my Transformers collection was from the Alternators line. A fine toy from a fine line whose return I would certainly not object to, but being a predominantly blue Subaru Imprenza, he didn't look quite enough like the original.
Smokescreen, as customarily portrayed, is a fairly sporty vehicle, with a red top and hood, wide white band across his middle, and a blue base. Patriotic, too, really. Interestingly enough, Smokescreen's color scheme had a real-life basis. Smokescreen's vehicle mode was based on an actual existing car -- a 1979 Nissan Fairlady Z (or Datsun 280ZX-R) race car in the Electramotive team livery. Team founder Don Devendorf's car was accurately recreated, except that his number 83 was changed to a 38.
As regards the character of Smokescreen: Smokescreen's bio originally indicated that while he appeared calm and easy-going, he was in reality the closest thing the Autobots had to someone who thought like a Decepticon. He would cheat to win without hesitation, and often covers his true goals from even his fellow Autobots. Autobot leaders even use him as a spy amongst the ranks at times.
Smokescreen originally appeared in the animated series in "Dinobot Island - Part 1". Smokescreen was used quite frequently in season 2, taking the starring role in the episode "The Gambler". This saw him strike a deal with a gambler named Bosh in order to save his fellow Autobots -- he would win energon for Bosh if Bosh used some of it to reactivate the others. Predictably cheating his way to victory, he was caught and lost all his winnings. With the help of an Autobot bounty hunter named Defcon, he and Bosh ended up battling and defeating Astrotrain, Dirge and Ramjet. After this Bosh freed the other Autobots. The cartoon actually made use of his abilities -- in "The Key to Vector Sigma", for example, his smoke saved the Autobots' super-fuel after Prowl's security detail was compromised, and in "Auto Berzerk" he downed the famed Seekers -- including Starscream -- with his disruptors.
I remember that "Gambler" episode, and it was a pretty good one. The character of Defcon was interesting for being strictly a creation of the animated series, and was never rendered as a toy, which was too bad. He had a cool design.
In the Marvel comic, Smokescreen first appeared in issue 14 of the Marvel Transformers comic. Here, he was brought to life alongside Grapple, Hoist,Skids and Tracks via the downloading of their personalities and Sparks from storage. Bumblebee took all but Grapple on a tour of the surrounding area -- but ended up in a trial by fire when the Decepticons tried to steal sonic energy from a rock concert. The group battled Starscream, Skywarp and Thundercracker, defeating them, but left when the humans accused them of sabotaging the concert.
After this, Smokescreen played more of a peripheral role, battling the Decepticons, but not having any major roles. He was one of the many casualties when trying to stop the Underbase-powered Starscream. He was not shown to be revived, but returned in the pages of the Transformers: Generation 2 comic, where he accompanied Grimlock on a disastrous raid on Jhiaxus' forces.
Smokescreen did not appear in either the DreamWave or IDW incarnations of the Transformers comics. Characters named Smokescreen turned up in the Armada and Cybertron concepts, but these were not the original. A Smokescreen toy has also been produced from the movie line, even though the character was not technically in the movie. He has some resemblance to the original Smokescreen, especially with regard to his color scheme, but again is a different individual.
I suspect one of the reasons that Smokescreen has been brought into the Transformers Universe line is because he makes use of the same set of molds that gave us Prowl and Silverstreak. But, while this may seem cheap to some, it makes perfect sense. The original Smokescreen, Prowl, and Bluestreak (before he got his name changed) all used the same basic body mold as well -- so why not do it again, especially if the result is such a colorful robot?
And car, for that matter? In automotive form, Smokescreen is almost precisely 5" in length -- a good standard size for this line. A very sporty-looking vehicle, his markings would likely make him more than slightly noticeable zipping down the average freeway. A racetrack would be another matter, and one can easily imagine that Smokescreen would be right at home there.
As before, the car has a red top and hood, a wide white band along the sides, and a blue base. The car is mostly molded from either red or transparent plastic (to allow for the windows to be clear), with the white and blue painted on. I have to say that Hasbro has done an excellent and precise job with the paint details on this more-colorful- than-usual Transformer. There is a white rectangle on each door, with the number "38" in the center in black. This white triangle and "38" is also on the hood of the car, with the Autobot logo on the hood at the very front. The Autobot logo looks rather interesting in this instance, since it's on a red part of Smokescreen, and is itself red, so in this instance, it looks like a white outline of the logo. Nicely done, though, and pretty cool, as well.
I find myself wondering if there was any temptation on the part of the toy designers to make Smokescreen even more complicated in appearance than he already is. Consider the average NASCAR race car these days. It's generally multi-colored, with colorful images of the main corporate sponsor plastered all over it, a colorful graphic of the car's number, and loaded with little stickers of other assorted sponsors, parts suppliers, the driver's favorite beverage, and for all I know his preferred brand of guitar.
Smokescreen looks more colorful than most of his fellow Transformers, but compared to a modern-day race car, he's fairly ordinary. Let us keep in mind that the original Smokescreen was perhaps restricted by the toy technology of the time, and to the best of my knowledge, race cars themselves weren't quite as ornate in appearance as they are now. And Smokescreen wasn't trying to be a precise replica of a real world car. He was a robot toy. And IS a robot toy.
The modern Smokescreen is a superb replica of the original from a colors and markings standpoint. But as I said, one still wonders if the temptation was there to -- and it's a horrible pun but I'll use it anyway -- bring him up to speed. If it was, I'm glad that it was resisted. Smokescreen doesn't need to be a modern day NASCAR or any other over-labeled modern day race car. He just has to be Smokescreen, and in that, this car succeeds abundantly well.
Red, white, and blue aren't his only colors. He has a blue "spoiler" in the back, that is topped in yellow. His headlights are transparent clear pieces, separately glued in, which is a pretty impressive design element, and so are his tail-lights, which are molded in transparent yellow, interestingly enough.
Let's consider Smokescreen's transformation. If I remember correctly from Prowl and Silverstreak, this vehicle isn't exactly the easiest in the line to manage.
The first thing the instructions tell you to do is remove the weapon. This isn't necessary since it was packaged separately. The first real major step in the transformation is to move the doors and side fenders out and forward. This is not as easy as it sounds, since they're snapped in place pretty well. I've found that the best way to free them is to put a little bit of pressure on the hinge point between the door and the fender from the underside of the car and GENTLY press outward. then side the part forward as directed along the small post it's mounted to.
Next, you flip up the back of the car, and then rotate the entire rear section of the car around about 180 degrees. This in essence forms the legs of the robot. You can then bring his feet down and out.
The next step, according to the diagrams, is the trickiest, and in THREE of these robots I've never figured out how to do it. Somehow, you're supposed to point the doors outwards and rotate them about 90 degrees. As far as I've been able to determine, this is virtually impossible without running them into the front tires, whereupon they snap off the post they're mounted to. Do not be alarmed -- Transformers are designed these days so that if you accidentally put too much pressure on a part, it will intentionally drop off rather than break. My advice? Take 'em off and leave 'em off until you've got the rest of the toy in robot mode, or at least have the arms, which include the front wheels, rotated out, which is the next step.
Next, you flip the head up and over, fold down the roof of the car to the back, bring up the shoulder-mounted "Electro-Disruptors", and (in my playbook, anyway), fold the doors in and reattach them. And you have your Smokescreen, now in full robot form!
One of the cool things about Smokescreen in robot mode is that the colors of the car are pretty well dispersed all over his robot form, and are accompanied by the light silvery grey of his upper arms and upper legs. His head is blue with yellow trim and a silver face. He has translucent blue eyes and a transparent spot on the back of his head so that, if backlit sufficiently, his eyes seem to glow a bit.
His upper body is mostly red, with the Autobot insignia plainly evident. The "38" of his hood is mostly hidden by his head mount. His grill is black with little yellow light details. Smokescreen's lower arms are red with blue elbow joints and hands. His lower torso is black with yellow trim, matching his chest grill rather nicely. His lower legs have blue "knees", and his large lower legs are a combination of all three of his main colors -- red, white, and blue -- and have the yellow "spoiler" from the car on them. His folded doors, which flare out from behind his shoulders, are white and blue and have his "38" on them.
In other words, he's as colorful a robot as he is a car. And what's interesting is how much that makes him look Unlike his two counterparts, Prowl and Silverstreak. Prowl is mostly white with a fair amount of black on him -- about what you'd expect for someone who's designed to look like a police car. Silverstreak is more colorful than Prowl, but these are largely darker or muted colors, including silver, a lot of black, and a dark red. The layout of the trim on Silverstreak is different than on Smokescreen, as well, adding to the different look between the two.
There may have been a slight tradeoff on Smokescreen between getting the body colors right and painting some of the finer trim as was done to one degree or another on the other two, but it's a fair tradeoff, and the result is still one very colorful and distinctive-looking robot.
In robot mode, Smokescreen stands about 5-1/2" in height, which is about right for these particular Transformers. Of course, he is superbly articulated in robot form, which for me is one of the major draws of these updated toys compared to their original Generation One counterparts. Smokescreen is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows (including a swivel), wrists, waist, legs, knees (including a swivel), and technically his feet, although that's more so they can be lowered into place as much as anything.
Smokescreen's character profile on his package reads as follows: This cunning robot's job is to distract, disrupt, and confuse the enemy. He is a master of misdirection, skilled at making Decepticons look in exactly the wrong direction at just the perfect time. More than one Autobot sneak attack owes its success to the skill of Smokescreen. He enjoys playing games with the enemy, taking a huge amount of pleasure in the frustration they display.
His various power rankings are as follows: He gets a "9" in Intelligence and Skill -- no big surprise there -- "8" in Courage, "7" in Speed and Fireblast, "6" in Endurance and Rank, and "4" in Strength, but that's not really the character's strong point. As a car, he is described on the package only as a "Sports Coupe", no specific model.
The Transformers Universe line is celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the Transformers in two ways. One is with a shiny silver imprint on the front that declares 25 years of Transformers, and on the back with a timeline chart denoting which Transformers concept a given character comes from, since this former "Generation 1 Classics" line is expanding to other Transformers concepts. However, since Smokescreen is from Generation 1, he is denoted as being from that era, with an "'84-'91" graphic on the 1984-2009 chart, which is also marked "Generation 1: The Epic Origins!"
So what's my final word here? You know, unfortunately, some collectors might say, "Why buy this toy" We've already had this model as Prowl and Silverstreak already. Why would I want Smokescreen? Well, I have two comments for that. One: That's precisely how it was done with Prowl, Bluestreak, and Smokescreen the first time around. Two: Tell me you wouldn't buy more Decepticon Seeker planes from the same mold if they came out. The re-use of molds within the Transformers concept is well- established, it's not that uncommon a practice anywhere in the toy world, and I, for one, have no problem with it as long as the end result is an impressive toy.
And Smokescreen is certainly that. He's cool, more colorful than most Transformers, looks sufficiently different from his two counterparts, and is a long-established character in the Transformers Universe. That's enough reasons to get him, certainly, and the TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE SMOKESCREEN most definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!