REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS 30th ANNIVERSARY AUTOBOT SPRINGER
I only ever had one problem with the original, Generation One Transformers, which in 2014 will celebrate their 30th Anniversary -- specially marked product of which is already arriving at retailers.
I certainly didn't have a problem with the animated series. The animated series, even more than the comic book, defined these characters for their generation and really for all time. No one would ever think of Optimus Prime as anything other than nobly heroic, Megatron as an unforgiving, ruthless villain, Bumblebee as upbeat and enthusiastic, or Starscream as a scheming, power-hungry backstabber. The animation was top-notch for the time, holds up well enough today, and the adventures were well-written and ranged from the serious to the occasionally comedic and bizarre. The animated series was superb.
I didn't have a problem with the comic book. The adventures tended to be a little more disjointed here than in the animated series, I think due to a number of writers over the years. But Simon Furman ultimately really brought it all together, and continues to do so to this day with the "Regeneration One" title produced by IDW. But overall, the comic book was most enjoyable, with as wide-ranging adventures as the animated series offered.
No, my only real problem was with one specific issue regarding the toys, which I will readily admit were well-crafted and most impressive in their own right. But in their robot modes, they just couldn't do that much. They didn't have all that much articulation. In fairness, this wasn't their primary selling point. Their primary purpose was to be able to transform from a reasonably humanoid robot into -- something else, be it a car, truck, plane, weapon, or other device of some sort. And this they achieved very well, but it was still a little disappointing to read or watch the adventures of these remarkable characters, and have the toy just sort of stand there.
It was with the BEAST WARS line that this situation was finally overcome. The Beast Wars toys were abundantly well articulated in their robotic forms. Beast Wars was a great concept with a superb animated series behind it, that ultimately presented a very close connection to Generation One. But even so, some longtime fans thought that it would be nice if -- someday, somehow -- the original Transformers could receive upgraded forms, that were recognizably the characters they had been, but more able to move around in their robot modes.
Some years back, it finally happened, with the TRANSFORMERS CLASSICS line, later known as TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS. Here were Optimus Prime, Megatron, Bumblebee, Starscream, and many others, very recognizable (well, Megatron was a stretch...) and with a full range of articulation in their robot forms. This particular branch of Transformers has come and gone and returned on several occasions, generally to make room for product from the live-action movies or most recent animated series, but it seems as though it's back for Transformers' 30th Anniversary. There's still plenty of classic characters that can be produced, really.
One of the cool new entries in the Generations line is a popular Autobot who first debuted in the animated movie, by the name of SPRINGER. Now, there has been a Springer in the Generations line already -- sort of. Some months back, Toys "R" Us imported a number of Transformers Generations that had been made initially only for the Asian market. The packaging was very similar, just with a bit of the native language on it. These Transformers Generations figures were all recolors, with new heads, but really, what of it? They were still characters that had previously not been a part of the line, and for the most part, they worked quite well. I was happy to add the likes of Wheelie, Swerve, Springer, and so forth to my collection.
That Springer was, admittedly, a bit of a stretch. He was cool enough, but in my opinion he didn't have nearly enough of his iconic green coloration on him, and as everything except his head was based on a Transformers figure that had initially been part of one of the live-action movie lines, he just didn't quite look right. Especially those spindly feet.
This isn't that Springer. This is an all-new, and distinctly larger Autobot Springer, with an appropriate amount of green coloration to him, and full Triple-Changer capability, something the previous imported Springer obviously lacked.
Let's have a look at the character and history of Springer, and then consider this excellent new Generations figure.
Springer is a green Autobot Triple Changer who can transform into both a Cybertronian car and a helicopter. So named for the massive leaping power in his legs, Springer is one of Rodimus Prime's inner circle. More laid back than many of his allies, he is nonetheless brave, loyal and always ready with a sharp quip in battle. He is optimistic and good humored.
In the Marvel U.K. comics, Springer was a member of Autobot Impactor's Wreckers team — added (with Broadside and Sandstorm) to the team to lend reinforcements for Operation: Volcano in the event that Ultra Magnus did not return in time from Earth. Operation: Volcano was aborted when the targeted Decepticons were recalled by Megatron, but a lone Decepticon named Macabre pressed on, attempting to assassinate Emirate Xaaron but killing Wrecker leader Impactor instead. With his dying words, Impactor appointed Springer leader of the Wreckers.
The Wreckers were soon in action alongside Magnus again, when Optimus Prime arrived on Cybertron and the Decepticons spread misinformation that he was one of their spies. The Wreckers hunted him down, only to realize he was the real Optimus when he insisted on getting medical attention for another wounded Autobot first. Springer accompanied Prime and Magnus to the Decepticon base to confront Megatron, and was left counting the cost when Prime, Megatron and Magnus were all transported back to Earth.
Springer had serious doubts about his role as leader and these were only worsened when the undead Impactor attacked during the zombie uprising in Kalis, but he came out of the experience a much more dedicated and stronger leader.
Afterwards, the team was sent to take down and retrieve Galvatron; the first clash was disastrous as the Wreckers found themselves battling him and Cyclonus and Scourge in a human city. The second clash occurred during the Time Wars, when the Wreckers and the Decepticon Mayhem Attack Squad teamed up and were jointly decimated in battle with Galvatron and Megatron. The few survivors, along with Skids, formed the renegade group known as the Survivors, of which Springer was the unofficial commander, and he found himself in an uneasy partnership with Carnivac. In order to save Carnivac from the second Mayhem incarnation led by Bludgeon, the Survivors joined the Autobot Earthforce.
Issue #279 of the Marvel U.K. Transformers comic featured a story called "Divide and Conquer!" where Soundwave lead the bulk of the Decepticon forces on Earth against the Autobot Earthforce headquarters while Starscream attacked an oil tanker. Sent into battle by Prowl, the Dinobots routed the main Decepticon forces while Springer lead the Autobot Survivors, Broadside, Inferno, Skids, and Carnivac to defeat Starscream.
Springer made several appearances in the post-2006 comics, due to his being part of the movie cast, and he had a brief appearance in Generation 2.
In the animated series, Springer is characterized as an affable tough guy, possibly making him a replacement for Ironhide, who was killed in The Transformers: The Movie. Later, Springer develops an attachment to female Autobot Arcee.
Springer was the first Autobot Triple Changer to be featured in the show, soon followed by Sandstorm and Broadside. However, in contrast to the series up to that point, the three Autobot Triple Changers were not featured together as a team. Rather Springer appeared usually with Ultra Magnus, Kup, Rodimus Prime, Blurr and or Arcee as he did in the film. Springer was also identified as Rodimus's first choice as heir to the Matrix in "Five Faces of Darkness". Following the season's five part introduction, Springer would appear multiple times.
In "Dark Awakenings", he is among the crew that accompanies zombie Optimus Prime to avenge the "deaths" of Arcee, Rodimus, Ultra Magnus and Kup. Springer would appear briefly in "Forever is a Long Time Coming", after which, taking a hiatus from the series for several episodes, he returned in "Fight or Flee".
In "Dweller in the Depths", we see Springer turned into an energy vampire by transorganic creatures made by the Quintessons. Following this episode Springer would get a starring role in "Nightmare Planet". In this episode, both Springer and Predacon leader Razorclaw are caught up in a manifestation of Daniel Witwicky's nightmares. Springer finds himself rescuing a young damsel in a castle from a fire breathing dragon.
In the episode "Only Human", Ultra Magnus, Springer, Rodimus Prime and Arcee were captured and found their minds transferred into human-mimicking "synthoid" bodies by the human crime lord Victor Drath and the ex-terrorist Old Snake, better known to us as Cobra Commander.
Following his brief appearance in "Call of the Primitives", Springer would make his final appearance in "Burden Hardest to Bear", in which he attempts to encourage Hot Rod to reclaim the Matrix from Scourge. Springer was neither killed nor injured in this episode or "The Return of Optimus Prime". As such, his fate and whereabouts at the end of the series remain unknown.
Springer would appear in the Japanese series Headmasters alongside the Autobot Triple Changers in the first episode entitled "Four Warriors Come out of the Sky".
In the Dreamwave comics, Springer first appeared chronologically in the second volume of Transformers: The War Within. Following the disappearance of Optimus Prime, Springer split off from the Autobots, establishing the Wreckers as an independent faction. They often clashed with Ratbat's Ultracons. In one such battle they ran up against Ratbat's newest weapon — Devastator. They were saved by Defensor, but in order to prevent an arms race between the various factions, Springer convinced Defensor to separate and defeat Devastator via sabotage.
Springer had a role in the revolution against Shockwave on Cybertron in the second volume of the Generation 1 comic War and Peace. He then battled Shockwave's troops alongside many other Autobots at Cybertron. He appeared again in the Generation One series, as part of a complex love triangle with Arcee and Hot Rod — unaware they were being manipulated by the Quintessons. Dreamwave's closure prevented this story from being completed.
Springer made his first IDW Publishing appearance in The Transformers: Stormbringer. As in other continuities, Springer leads the Wreckers: a commando team sent in to the most hopeless situations in order to cause maximum casualties for the enemy before the Autobots pull out. Like the cartoon, he is an affable tough guy, albeit a more vicious and hard-bitten one, and is on friendly terms with Optimus Prime. Dispatched from the doomed world of Varas Centralus by Prime to counter the threat of Thunderwing, Springer led the Wreckers in annihilating Bludgeon's group of cultists, destroying the beacon guiding Thunderwing in the process. When the monster returned to Cybertron, Springer led the Wreckers in fighting against him. Although, he was badly wounded when Thunderwing smashed his helicopter mode into the ground, he survived the battle, examining Thunderwing's inert corpse.
He also appeared in the The Transformers: Spotlight issue on Kup, supervising the rescue of the veteran Autobot from a deadly radiation filled crystalline planet. Unwilling to give up, even though both Prowl and Perceptor told him it was a waste of time and lives, he brought in Trailbreaker, who used his forcefield to save Kup. Later, Springer wondered if he had allowed his feelings to get in the way as they examined Kup being rebuilt.
Springer also appeared in Spotlight: Doubledealer where he was among the Autobots fighting Thunderwing on the planet Corata-Vaz.
So, how's the toy? Absolutely outstanding, and yes, it does pretty well overshadow the import one from a few months back. That's a cool enough toy, but in comparison -- well, there really isn't any comparison. This is a spectacular Springer!
He comes packaged in robot mode -- which almost makes me wish I didn't have to transform him, since that's how I prefer to display my Transformers. He stands 7 inches tall to the top of his head, a considerable height in the Classics/Generations line, and his full height is more like 7-1/2", counting the raised shoulders.
He is mostly green, which is a good thing in my opinion. The original toy, from the 1980's, had a large amount of dark gray on it, as did the recent import Springer. However, in the animated series, which I've always tended to take as "canon" as far as character designs are concerned, the animation designers gave Springer a good bit more green, I think because the rather bright green that was featured on the toy wasn't a color that had turned up all that often among the Autobots.
This Springer has a green head, a mostly green body with a yellow chest, gray upper arms, and gray lower legs.
The headsculpt is excellent, and really looks like Springer. His head is mostly green, and he has a thick, V-shaped brow over a white face that has, let's call it robotically humanoid features -- two eyes, a nose, and a mouth. He has a green fin on the top of his head, and upswept areas on the sides. His eyes are blue, and the back of his head is transparent blue, so that when a light source hits it from behind, his eyes appear to glow. This is a nice little feature that has been employed in quite a few Transformers in recent years, including the Classics/Generations line. It works very well here.
Springer has a small Autobot emblem on the lower part of his chest, and of course he is superbly articulated. Springer is poseable at the head, arms, elbows, including a swivel, wrists, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. About the only odd point to his design is that his feet are rather angled, requiring a sort of "action stance" from him. But this is relatively minimal, and doesn't look bad.
Springer comes with two weapons: a double-barreled blaster that launches two missiles with a spring-action feature, and a long, high-tech looking sword. Both of these can be used in Springer's robot mode, as well as having uses in his vehicle modes.
Both of Springer's vehicle modes emanate from his robot mode. Let's transform Springer into his helicopter mode first.
Slide the raised shoulder panels down so they connect with the yellow panels on his elbows. Then, fold out the flaps on his lower arms, fold his hands up into his lower arms, and then fold the green sections of his lower arms back against the arms where the hands have been folded in. Then bend the arms outward and up until they connect to the slots on the upper arms. This is going to look rather peculiar.
Next, raise Springer's chest over his head, and rotate it over to snap it into his back. Then lower his head into his chest. At least that's what the instructions say. I discovered that this caused Springer's head to detach. It snapped right back, but personally, I'd recommend lowering the head into the chest before fully snapping the rotated chest into the back.
Now, bring the arms down against the sides, and extend the fins on the knees. Then lower the toes and extend the fins on the lower legs. Snap the legs together near the knees, and finally, flip the flap on what is now the top of the helicopter back, and split the sword down the middle, and insert it as the helicopter blades!
So, how is Springer as a helicopter? Very impressive, and not too implausible, although I can't say as I've ever seen a helicopter that looked all that close to this design.
Springer's helicopter mode seems to incorporate a number of attributes from other helicopters that I have seen. His robot arms transform into extended near-wings that protrude from the sides of the copter, and which would often be used for the transport of weapons for the copter to use. The fins on his knees are actually extended wheels that, along with the smaller front wheel, allow Springer to remain upright in his helicopter mode.
His color scheme, and the ratios of it, appear largely unchanged. He is mostly green, with a certain amount of yellow, dark gray, and near-white. His small Autobot emblem is now on the front of his helicopter mode, just in front of the canopy. The propeller blades turn very effectively in their socket.
In helicopter mode, Springer is slightly over eight inches in length, almost six inches wide at his widest point, and his propeller blades have a span of 8-1/4 inches.
You can transform Springer into his armored car mode by first transforming him back to a robot, by reversing the instructions that transformed him into a helicopter, although actually, you might not want to take him back all the way, since some of the initial transformation instructions are largely the same.
But, let's assume you want to change him to an armored car from his robot mode. As before, slide the raised shoulder panels down so they connect with the yellow panels on his elbows. Then, fold out the flaps on his lower arms, fold his hands up into his lower arms, but leave the green sections with the window panels on them open. And now, fold down the dark gray panels on his upper arms, revealing the wheels at his shoulders!
Once again, lower the arms, fold down the flap on the back, but also slide back the entire green canopy. Make sure the dark green flaps on the lower legs don't get in the way. Raise the yellow section on his back over his head, and tuck his head in as before. Now bring the arms up and snap them against the body. You can now readily see about two-thirds of Springer's armored car mode.
To finish the transformation, fold down the feet, swing the legs around at the knees (being careful to rotate the flaps in the process), and snap them up against the side of the body. According to the instructions, you can insert Springer's sword to his underside, and his blaster missile launcher to the top.
So, how's Springer in his car mode? Well, he's definitely more fanciful than his helicopter mode, but really, he looks like he's cut from largely the same cloth as any number of high-tech combat-designed cars that one might see in various science-fiction action movies. Paint him black and park him next to one of those recent Batmobiles and Bruce Wayne might think it's just a new model.
Interestingly, the color distribution is quite different in Springer's car mode. Here, he's mostly dark gray, with a yellow front, and a limited amount of green on the top. The car has a very angular, yet sleek appearance, appearing both armored, and yet potentially very fast.
When the first Springer was released, he was one of a number of new Transformers at the time that more or less maintained their Cybertronian vehicle modes, unlike their predecessors, which had taken on more Earth-based modes. I think that's at least somewhat the case with Springer's armored car mode. He doesn't really look like anything you'd expect to see either on the freeway or in combat, but he looks like something that, advances in design and technology permitting, might be possible.
In car mode, Springer is just shy of seven inches in length, and 2-3/4" wide. Of the two transformations, I think robot-to-car is slightly trickier than robot-to-helicopter, but they both have their easy points and their challenges. I tend to think the car looks a little cooler, but there's nothing at all wrong with the helicopter. And of course Springer in his robot mode is most impressive.
Springer's character profile on his package describes him thusly: Autobot Springer was built to be a tough guy. Everything about him, from his nickel-plated blaster cannon to his bad-boy attitude, is calculated to communicate exactly what he wants it to be - that he's a no-holds-barred, take-no-prisoners kind of guy. He prefers to fight alone, trusting his skills and luck to get him out of right spots, rather than relying on his fellow warriors. After all, other Autobots fail. Autobot Springer never does.
Doesn't lack for confidence, does he? His various power rankings give him a "10" in Strength, "9" in Endurance and Courage -- so I guess he can back it up -- "8" in Intelligence and Speed, and "7" in Rank, Fireblast, and Skill. Nothing lower than a 7. That's impressive.
So, what's my final word? I'm truly delighted to see some new additions to the Generations collection. Reportedly Springer will be recolored, with a different head, into a somewhat lesser-known Triple-Changer from the original line, who went by the name of Sandstorm. Although the two toys were not identical when they were first released, they did have similar alt modes -- copter and car. And they had different enough color schemes so that they're not going to be confused with each other.
I have to say I am extremely impressed with this toy. I can't imagine the design work that has to take place to create a highly intricate toy that can transform from a highly poseable, humanoid robot into -- well, anything else, really, and be properly functional in both modes. To then add a second alt mode creates a challenge that must give even the design computers a headache. I'm pleased that Hasbro, and Tomy, have seen fit to put forth the effort, and as a Generation One fan, I'm of course very pleased to bring another classic Autobot into my collection.
The TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS 30th ANNIVERSARY edition of AUTOBOT SPRINGER definitely has my highest recommendation!