REVIEW: OFFICIAL TRANSFORMERS COLLECTORS' CONVENTION EXCLUSIVE "SHATTERED GLASS" THUNDERCRACKER
Sometimes, I have to write a review that may be based on a slightly dated toy, but this is generally because the toy has, for one reason or another, been rather difficult for me to obtain. And so, we end up with a slight case of "Better late than never", or, as I once heard, "Any book you've never read is still a new one."
This review will take a look at a particular Transformer from one of the Official Transformers Collectors' Convention sets, but before I get into this particular Transformer, we need to consider first the history of a particularly notable segment of Transformers history known as -- the Action Masters.
The Action Masters were introduced into the Transformers line in 1990. By this time, Transformers had been around for quite a few years, but the animated series had run it course, the animated movie was long out of the theaters, and the toy line had dwindled somewhat, and was largely dependent on Pretenders and Micromasters.
The Action Masters brought back many of the major players from the early days of the line, such as Bumblebee, Optimus Prime, Megatron, Shockwave, Soundwave, Jazz, Prowl, Starscream, Grimlock, Devastator, and others. But it did so in an entirely new form, that caused no small measure of controversy.
The Action Masters were Transformers, that technically did not transform. They were 3-3/4" action figures, of the characters in their best-known robot forms. Hence the name Action Masters. They did have accessories that transformed, and there was a line of Action Masters vehicles which transformed, that came with Action Master drivers, but the Action Masters characters themselves, did not.
The concept was even worked into the storyline, and, to a limited degree, even in the comic book. The Transformers had discovered a new source of energy, to replace the dwindling supply of Energon. This new energy source, called Nucleon, was far more powerful than Energon, but it also froze the Transformers in their robotic modes. To compensate, the Autobots and Decepticons created new weapons and vehicles that could transform.
It also turned out to be the last year of Transformers in the United States, and a lot of longtime fans, I believe unfairly, laid the blame for this squarely at the feet of the Action Masters.
Speaking for myself, I loved the Action Masters. One of my biggest gripes around the original Transformers was that while they could transform very nicely from vehicle or weapon or whatever to robot, once they were in their robot modes, they really couldn't do very much. They might have articulated arms, and maybe a head, but that was usually about it. This despite package illustrations that showed them running into battle, all manner of action poses, and certainly they were similarly active in their animated series.
While the Action Masters weren't exactly the most poseable toys on the planet, they did seem a bit moreso than their original counterparts. They could move at the head, arms, legs, and knees. The leg movement was something especially lacking in original Transformers. Granted, none of this is any sort of problem today whatsoever.
While the Action Masters introduced a number of all-new characters, such as Rad, Axer, Gutcruncher, Banzai-Tron, Mainframe, and others, it also brought back a wide range of familiar characters, and according to a Hasbro representative that I spoke to at one of the earliest Transformers Conventions, many of the Action Masters that were based on established characters were based on the actual animation design sheets. For any number of them, this was evident. Bumblebee is probably the best example.
The history of the Action Masters at this point gets rather complicated. Although Transformers ended in the United States, it continued in Europe, with an additional series of Action Masters, that included well-known characters such as Tracks, Sideswipe, Bombshell, and others, and introduced a number of new characters. There were also Action Master Elites, Action Masters which DID transform, but which otherwise largely fit the Action Masters motif.
According to that Hasbro representative that I mentioned earlier, an additional assortment of Action Masters was in the works, that would have been based on the characters from the movie. Imagine Action Masters based on Galvatron, Ultra Magnus -- or Arcee -- and then tell me that doesn't make you want to cry in your Energon Cube. Sadly, this assortment never happened.
These days, the Action Masters have some measure of respect, which beats the heck out of events at that early Transformers Convention, where during a Hasbro question-and-answer session, someone asked, in a rather exasperated tone of voice, "WHY the Action Masters?" as if the question itself somehow explained a great many things, and one excessive fan who actually tried to take a swing at me because I had an Action Master with me.
Even the new IDW comic book, "Transformers: Regeneration One", which picks up events from the original Marvel comic, has an oblique reference to the Action Masters, as Grimlock is still frozen in robot mode because of the Nucleon, and he looks very much like his Action Masters counterpart.
And then we come to the strange case of Thundercracker. Thundercracker is one of the best-known of the Decepticons. When the Transformers line first got started, there was a series of three largely identical fighter jet planes, based on the real-life F-15, that were known as the "Seekers", and comprised Megatron's air force, for all intents and purposes. They were differentiated by their color schemes, and included the mostly red-and-white Starscream, easily the most prominent of the three, and certainly living up to his name in the animated series, voiced by the screeching tones of Chris Latta, who also handled similar voice duties for Cobra Commander on G.I. Joe; Thundercracker, who was mostly a blue and black plane, and Skywarp, who was mostly purple and black. Thundercracker and Skywarp were never anywhere near as prominent as Starscream, who was seen as a schemer looking to supplant Megatron, whereas the other two were mostly dumb thugs.
When it came to the Action Masters, generally speaking, the figures used the same color schemes as the originals, if they were based on an established character. Bumblebee was mostly yellow with black trim; Optimus Prime was red and blue with some silver; Starscream was mostly red and white; Shockwave was mostly purple, and so forth.
But then there was Thundercracker. He was part of the European segment, sold with a "Solo Mission Jet Plane". No great surprise, the figure used the exact same molds as the Starscream Action Master.
But then there was the color scheme. Blue and black!? Hardly. Seriously, what in the name of Cybertron was up with these colors? This wasn't a Thundercracker anyone had ever seen before. He looked like he'd been mugged and spray-painted outside of a disco... This Thundercracker had a turquoise face and upper legs, a dark purple body with magenta trim, magenta upper arms and lower legs, seriously bright green lower arms and feet, and trim on the sides of his legs, and a copper "helmet" for the rest of his head.
Whatever had happened, you sort of think that Thundercracker probably made the rest of the Action Masters believe that they got off lucky just losing their transformation capabilities. It's a wonder Megatron didn't banish him just for being an eyesore.
I mean, really, he could have almost been a Thundercracker from an alternate universe -- one in rather desperate need of some color sense, I think it would be safe to say. Regardless of that, it would seem that in the Transformers universe created for the Transformers Convention sets -- that's exactly what he is. And now we come around to the Transformer I want to review. Because one of the Transformers Convention sets has produced a Classics version of Thundercracker -- in his Action Master colors.
The Classics were, for those of us who were not entirely pleased with the limited articulation of the original Generation One toys, a long-awaited dream come true. Modern toy engineering had long since solved the limited articulation problem, really beginning with Transformers Beast Wars, and modern Transformers were just as poseable in their robot forms as they needed to be. However, although the various iterations of Transformers concepts in the ensuing years had brought in new versions of characters such as Optimus Prime, Megatron, and others, they just weren't quite the originals.
Transformers Classics solved that problem rather handily, by creating all new versions of the classic, Generation One Transformers, with modern design and articulation incorporated into them. Most longtime fans, myself included, were absolutely delighted, and I rounded them up as often as I could.
Naturally, the collection included the Seekers, although for various reasons, it took a while for all of them to come out at the retail level. But eventually, they all appeared -- Starscream, Skywarp, the original Thundercracker, as well as the second generation of Seekers -- Thrust, Dirge, and Ramjet, as well as an all-new character named Acid Storm. Appropriately, all were based to one degree or another on the same set of molds, and all were colored entirely appropriately relative to their original counterparts.
Apparently, the Transformers Collectors' Club decided to have a little fun with an available mold, and created a Thundercracker in the Action Masters color scheme. But, as it turns out, he's not technically the same Thundercracker as the one we know.
Let's consider, briefly, the personality of the original Thundercracker. In the Marvel comics series, Thundercracker was depicted as one of Starscream's lieutenants, along with fellow Seeker Skywarp. Frequently in the early issues, Thundercracker is seen fighting alongside Skywarp, although Thundercracker was shown to be a smarter fighter.
According to his expanded Transformer's Universe biography, Thundercracker is unique among his fellow Decepticons in that he has a certain amount of pity for the humans they continually endanger or kill. He doesn't see the point of killing humans just to kill them as some of his fellows do, although he is very careful not to reveal this. No matter what small amount of sympathy Thundercracker feels for humans, his sense of self-preservation (and fear of what Megatron would do if he found out) outweighs it.
In the animated series, Thundercracker was one of the first Decepticons to awaken on Earth in 1984. After laying dormant for four million years, he shared the same Earthen appearance as Starscream and Skywarp and is usually allied with them during attacks.
Despite being one of the original Decepticons and appearing in many battles during 1984 and 1985, Thundercracker had few prominent roles.
Often chafing under Starscream's self-importance and glory-seeking, he seemed to dislike Starscream and exploited reasons to undermine his authority, such as letting the Autobot Skyfire destroy one of their secret weapons merely so Starscream would get the blame.
In the year 2005, Thundercracker was present during the battle for Autobot City, and was gunned down by Optimus Prime and earlier Kup. With the subsequent defeat of their leader, Megatron, the Decepticons were forced to retreat. However, there were too many Decepticons aboard Astrotrain (who served as an impromptu escape vehicle), and Thundercracker was among those few Decepticons too weakened to put up a fight to stay on board. Being cast out into space, the damaged Decepticons drifted into the path of Unicron, and Thundercracker's body was used to create Scourge, one of Galvatron's new warriors.
In the more recent comics, during the Dreamwave run, he was recruited as a Decepticon under the leadership of Megatron in his war against the Autobots on the planet Cybertron. Thundercracker became a member of the elite Seekers under Aerospace Commander Starscream. He often worked with fellow Seeker Skywarp.
More recently, in the initial IDW series, Thundercracker has been surprisingly prominent The rebooted continuity borrowed from many previous sources, included the animated series, as well as the Marvel and Dreamwave comic books, but also featured many new and unexplored ideas and origins
At the end of the "All Hail Megatron" series, Thundercracker gains a new prominence. In the last edition of this series Thundercracker is seen betraying the Decepticons. He saves the North American Eastern Seaboard from a nuclear attack by flying the bomb into space and destroying it.
The Autobots are seen rejoicing at Thundercracker's act. Thundercracker did not believe that there was any honor in allowing the humans to die for the sake of it. He believed that a Decepticon was forged by combat, not slaughter. Upon discovery of what he had done, Skywarp shot Thundercracker in the face at point blank range.
Eventually Thundercracker was found by other Decepticons left behind and was rebuilt. None of those left behind were aware of Thundercracker's apparent betrayal, and looked to him to lead them. However, Thundercracker sought solitude instead. For a time he sat alone and watched television, learning about humanity and life on Earth. In time, he came to respect human culture.
Thundercracker was later recruited by Autobot leader Bumblebee to assist in bringing in the Combaticons. He was subsequently contacted by Starscream, but refused his offer of rejoining the Decepticons.
He has not yet turned up in the "Regeneration One" title.
So, definitely one of the bad guys, but maybe having learned a few lessons over time. I can appreciate that, and it made him more interesting as a character.
But the Thundercracker with the more alarming color scheme has never been a villain. For a few years now, the Transformers Collectors' Convention Sets have been based on a premise called "Shattered Glass". Think of the "Mirror, Mirror" episode of Star Trek, if you will, where the good guys are the bad guys, and the bad guys are the good guys. In the "Shattered Glass" universe, the heroic Decepticons wage war against the evil and tyrannical Autobots. And Thundercracker apparently decided to go with a much wilder color scheme.
So, how's the figure? Really outstanding, although one does sort of have to wonder if the factory might have been asking, "Wait, you want it in WHAT colors?" somewhere along the way. At the very least, though, this Thundercracker does finally give an explanation, and even a justification, to his Action Masters counterpart -- and it only took twenty years to manage it.
In robot mode, the "Shattered Glass" Thundercracker is a dead ringer for his Action Masters counterpart. The colors are an exact match. Thundercracker has a turquoise face and upper legs, a moistly purple upper body with some magenta trim, a bright green canopy window, magenta lower legs and upper arms, bright green lower arms, hands, feet, and some trim on the lower legs, and sort of a gold-copper helmet completing his head.
But -- here's where it really gets interesting -- since this is a Classics Transformer, and not an Action Master, this Thundercracker DOES transform, and so the color scheme has to be carried over to aspects of his plane mode that are apparent even in his robot mode, that were pretty much left off the Action Masters version. This especially includes the wings on his back, which are purple with magenta trim, and his spring-loaded missile launchers, which can be used as either handheld weapons or attached to his upper arms, and which are bright green with magenta barrels and turquoise activation buttons. Thundercracker also comes with two purple missiles.
That pretty well crams the entire color scheme into just the missile launchers.
Thundercracker, in robot form, stands about 5" tall to the top of his head. His full height is more like 5-1/2". Mine arrived in robot form, but of course, instructions are included for transformation. So let's see what it takes to get him into airplane form.
First, fold the hands into the upper arms. Next, fold out the smaller tail wings, and rotate the tail wing assemblies 90 degrees back. Then, bring up the head and center part of the body with the back, including the arms, and fold the feet up against the legs. Also, connect the lower legs to each other.
Now, swing the canopy around so that it conceals the head. And, in what I've always regarded the toughest part of the transformation for these Seeker planes, bring the entire cockpit out of the chest region, and rotate it around 180 degrees. At this time you should also tuck the legs up into the lower body.
Snap the upper body down, rotate the wings back, attach the missile launchers to the undersides of the wings if you desire, and your "Shattered Glass" Thundercracker is now in his airplane form!
So, how's he look? Well -- let's say I don't think you'd want to use him for any stealth missions. Here was another case where the Action Masters Thundercracker was something of an oddity. With those Action Masters that were based on previously established characters, it wasn't hard to imagine what their "alt modes" looked like, because we'd seen them time and again in the toy aisles, the animated series, and so forth.
For the Action Masters that were entirely new characters, it was sort of fun to imagine what their alt modes might have looked like had they been able to transform. There were hints. A radiator grill here, a tank-like tread there, jets here, tires there, but one sort of just had to guess.
In Thundercracker's case, we knew what he was supposed to transform into, but in THIS color scheme? What must that have looked like? Well, now we know. Thundercracker, in his fighter jet mode, has a mostly magenta body, with purple towards the front, purple wings with magenta trim, and bright green near the jet intakes near the front, and some on the sides. The turquoise color, interestingly enough, is largely eliminated.
In plane mode, Thundercracker is about 7-1/4" in length, with a 5" wingspan.
Thundercracker doesn't have a lot of painted detail on him. Mostly it's the gold/copper elements, which are nicely done, and the eyes. He does have a Decepticon emblem on his upper left arm, but interestingly enough, and in keeping with the "Shattered Glass" concept, the emblem is red, outlined in white. The Autobots and the Decepticons in the "Shattered Glass" universe maintained their emblems, but switched colors.
Thundercracker does come with a Tech Spec card, printed in full color. Really, anything less wouldn't have been terribly fair, y'know? It reads as follows:
A founding member of Colonel Deathsaurus' Mayhem Suppression Squad, Thundercracker abandoned his civilian post to oppose the Autobots as a resistance fighter. Jovial and friendly, he is the squad's "morale mechanism". He pities anything that cannot fly, though he uses his magno-clamps to take friends flying whether they want to or not. He can create 50-mile-wide zones of pure silence, but prefers to fight using his cryonic blaster and drone rockets.
Recently, during a routine surveillance mission, Thundercracker picked up a signal coming from the prison at Paradron. He couldn't be sure, but could it be that some type of jailbreak was in progress?
That, no doubt, leads into the story for the complete set. The character profile, obviously, is a distinct opposite to the Thundercracker that we're more familiar with. Thundercracker's technical data, his various power rankings, give him a full "10" in Speed, Courage, and Skill, "8" in Intelligence, and "7" in Strength, Endurance, Rank, and Fireblast.
So, what's my final word? This wasn't that easy a toy to come by, but I'm glad I did. I really do enjoy the Seekers, and I certainly have all of the other Classics versions, and definitely wanted this one. He also provides a nice complement to his Action Masters original, who finally has a better explanation for his rather alarming color scheme.
One last note -- although the current line of Transformers toys bearing the name "Classics" is based on a forthcoming video game, there is one more Seeker that we really need to see. Can we please, somehow, some way, someday get SUNSTORM!? The group won't really feel quite complete without him.
Meanwhile, if you're a fan of Transformers, have an appreciation for the Classics, and perhaps enjoyed the Action Masters but could never quite get your head around their Thundercracker, you definitely need to consider the "Shattered Glass" Thundercracker from the Official Transformers Collectors' Club Convention Set. You'll be glad you did.
The "SHATTERED GLASS" THUNDERCRACKER from the TRANSFORMERS COLLECTORS' CLUB definitely has my highest recommendation!