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By Thomas Wheeler

Poor Waspinator. Some guys -- or robots -- just can't catch a break. Waspinator spent the entirety of the Beast Wars getting hassled by his leader Megatron, and sliced, diced, slashed, chopped, pummeled, smashed, crushed, and otherwise recycled into spare parts. He spent so much time in regeneration chambers that he probably thought about moving his personal quarters into one just to save time. Only in the final episode did Waspinator finally have his day. The lone member of the Beast Wars crew to remain behind on Earth, he'd become king of a tribe of primitive humans.

(And if you want to include the Beast Machines continuity, even that didn't work out so well...)

And now, ten years later, celebrating the 10th Anniversary of Transformers Beast Wars, Waspinator comes back and has to relive it all over again. Is that buzzing or crying I hear coming from the action figure aisle?

For those unfamiliar with the Transformers Beast Wars, allow me to relate the following (also available in my review of Cheetor): Transformers, now known as "Transformers Generation One", had enjoyed a very healthy run in the toy aisles and had become one of the pop-culture, toy-based legends of the 1980's, right alongside G.I. Joe, Masters of the Universe, and a handful of fondly-remembered others. But by the early 90's, sales had started to slip, and the line was given a year or two off, returning as the short-lived "Transformers Generation 2", which basically brought back the same characters with which we were familiar, in slightly altered forms.

During all this time, the Transformers had never really taken on fully animalistic forms. There were exceptions -- to a degree. But characters such as the Dinobots or the original Predacons were still ROBOTIC animals. No one was terribly likely to mistake them for the real thing. That was about to change.

After a couple of years of absence, it was announced that Transformers would be returning to the toy stores. Only this time, it would be called TRANSFORMERS: BEAST WARS, and the robots would turn into -- well, as realistic versions of animals as toy engineering and the need to have the toy transform into a reasonably plausible robot could allow. Gone were the designations "Autobot" and "Decepticon". In their place we had "Maximals" and "Predacons", the latter name taken from what was originally a sub-team within the Decepticons, the former name sounding suspiciously like a variant of "Manimals", a group of transforming aliens that had never quite come out within the G.I. Joe line.

The only marginally recognizable character names were MEGATRON, although it was thought that this was not the original Megatron, and OPTIMUS PRIMAL, clearly a variation of Optimus Prime, but again, not believed to be the original. In fact, the origin and background of these new Transformers was shrouded in mystery.

While it would eventually turn out that these Transformers were the descendants of the original Autobots and Decepticons, and had, in fact landed on a primitive Earth, it was really the animated series by Mainframe Entertainment that sold the concept. And even that show was only able to showcase a handful of the characters that came out.

However, there's no question that the Beast Wars have earned a good measure of respectability in the Transformers Universe, and so are well entitled to their 10th Anniversary Celebration, as Hasbro and Takara re- release some of the most popular characters from the concept, slightly redone to better resemble their animated counterparts. And one of these, of course, is Waspinator.

As I already outlined, this poor guy, although certainly one of the bad guys, just couldn't catch a break. He was the show's comedy relief, for all intents and purposes, the slapstick member of the cast who was always ending up getting trashed worse than Wile E. Coyote ever even imagined. In one very classic episode, he even ended up possessed by the spark of long-dead Decepticon Starscream. Now THAT'S bad luck!

He wasn't quite as stupid as he seemed, though. He was the first of the Transformers to realize that they were in fact on Earth, when the mysterious second moon in the sky was destroyed. Really, though, if you get wrecked as often as Waspinator did, you're bound to end up a little scatterbrained. He tended to refer to the other robots, for the most part, by descriptive terms. Dinobot was "Lizard-Bot", Tarantulas was "Spider-Bot", and so forth. He also tended to refer to himself in the third person, saying, "Waspinator this" or "Waspinator that". Probably had trouble remembering his own name sometimes, and this was a way to remind himself. He did tend to get the name "Megatron" right -- luckily for him.

Hysterically, the character's file card on the new package is actually written from the first-person, or as first-person as Waspinator gets, rather than the third-person and sometimes rather bland descriptive terms that most of the file cards feature. Waspinator's reads:

"Waspinator not know why he even here! Megatron boss Waspinator around, and all Waspinator ever get for it is blown to pieces. Waspinator sick of being stockpile of parts for Maximal rat-bot's collection! Waspinator has big plans! Big plans that don't concern stupid Beast Wars! From now on, Waspinator on his own!"

Nothing like having a dream, I suppose.

Toywise, Waspinator is excellent. Originally from a somewhat more advanced level than either Cheetor or Rhinox, with whom he shares the initial assortment, Waspinator is, indeed, a huge wasp that transforms into an insectoid yet humanoid robot.

And here's something I didn't know. In robot form, there's the option of two different heads! One is fairly bug-like in appearance, and is the one with which Beast Wars fans are the most familiar. The other is distinctly robot-like. Honestly, it's so robot-like that one has trouble imagining Waspinator's buzzy voice coming out of it.

The overall transformation is not particularly difficult, and transforming Waspinator into robot form does result in a very nicely-articulated robot. It was with Beast Wars that Hasbro and Takara finally started to get serious about robotic articulation in their Transformers. Additionally, a portion of Waspinator's -- well -- rear -- turned into a hand-held missile-firing weapon.

The figure has been slightly altered to more closely resemble his animated counterpart, although I suspect that didn't require a lot of modification color-wise. And he has a Predacon logo stamped on his back. This IS a new feature, something the original Beast Wars didn't have. It's a nice touch, though, in my opinion.

The package included a DVD featuring one episode of the Beast Wars series. Probably one where Waspinator gets trashed, I'm sure. And there's a part of the "Trans-Mutate" figure, which you can assemble from all six parts -- once the next assortment is out, of course.

Hasbro is taking the 10th Anniversary of Beast Wars fairly seriously. There were even full-page advertisements, which shows a picture of a kittle kid wearing a truly disturbing set of phony fangs in his mouth, followed by the caption "Guaranteed to bring out the animal in you", along with images of the Beast Wars 10th Anniversary Logo and pictures of Waspinator, Cheetor, and Rhinox.

Do I recommend Waspinator? Absolutely! Now, some of you might have been fortunate enough to retain your Beast Wars collections over the past decade. I made the stupid mistake -- one of several -- of selling mine. Now, I have the chance to at least rebuild a portion of it, with these commemoratives.

And of course there's the comic book from IDW as well.

Transformers, as a whole, whether you're talking about Cybertron, Alternators, Beast Wars, or upcoming Generation One lines leading into the live-action movie next year, seem to be one of the few action figure toy lines being treated with a decent measure of respect by its creators, and maintaining a decent level of popularity in the toy stores. Some other lines, however ingrained in the world of pop-culture they may be, have not fared as well on either front.

Transformers, for the most part, has. And certainly these revisited BEAST WARS toys are cool. And WASPINATOR is a worthy addition to that collection. He has my highest recommendation!