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REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS "REVEAL THE SHIELD" WRECK-GAR
By Thomas Wheeler

Can a machine be crazy? Can a robot be a nutjob? We live in a very technological age, and I'm fairly certain that each of us has had, at some point in our lives, possibly (or even probably) including the present day, experiences with machines that seem to have a certain amount of inexplicable -- well, attitude.

But I don't think technology has quite reached the point where we could say that any of our machines are certifiably crazy -- despite a possible preponderance of evidence to the contrary. Machines don't really go nuts -- yet, anyway.

Robots are mostly used for industrial purposes. Auto factories, for one thing, use robots -- that is, programmed machines -- to help assemble cars. But they're not especially humanoid in appearance, as one might normally think of a robot, and I doubt very much that they're sanity-challenged.

But then, there's the world of the Transformers. Humanoid robots with a wide range of personalities and attitudes. Some saner than others. Megatron's megalomania could perhaps be classified as a form of insanity. Certainly Galvatron's behavior was less than sane. He was so nuts that his own fellow Decepticons tried to get him professional help, and brother, did that ever backfire. And then there's WRECK-GAR.

Wreck-Gar was first introduced in the animated Transformers movie, and went on to appear during season 3 of the animated television series. There have been other Wreck-Gar's, here and there, in other Transformers series, so the name and largely the nature of the character has endured, but I'm talking about the original, Generation 1 Wreck-Gar here.

Almost certainly, the best known and most beloved characters in the Transformers Universe are those from the Generation 1 concept. Here is the original Optimus Prime, Megatron, Starscream, Jazz, and many others. For me, however, there was always one distinct difficulty with the original toys. While they looked cool in both their vehicle and robot forms, and the animated series was a huge lot of fun, as was the Marvel comic book -- in their robot forms, the toys just didn't move all that much. It was something of a disappointment to see an illustration of the character on the package in an action pose, to see that character running, flying, and fighting in the animated series, and ultimately, about all the toy could do was stand there and move its arms.

Arguably, the original Transformers were not action figures per se. They were transformable robots. Their "action" was the transformation, not the articulation level in their humanoid robot forms. Still, it was something of a disappointment.

For years now, really ever since Beast Wars, that hasn't been a problem. Advanced (and no doubt computer assisted) design techniques have allowed for a vast population of robots that are fully transformable -- AND fully articulated. And yet, until the past couple of years, that still left the fine characters of Generation 1 a little high and dry.

Finally, this matter was resolved, with the advent of the Transformers Classics line. Here were all new toys of the Generation 1 characters, fully recognizable in both their robot and vehicular modes, and yet also fully articulated in their robotic modes as well. It was a long overdue dream come true for longtime Transformers fans.

The Classics line became part of Transformers Universe, ultimately, and then went on to become known as Transformers Generations. Presently, it has taken up the moniker of "Reveal the Shield", as it has resumed an interesting little feature from the 1980's -- thermal-active stickers that hide, or reveal, either an Autobot or Decepticon emblem, as appropriate to the character. But the line is still focused on the original characters from Generation 1.

And among the recent additions as of this writing, is none other than WRECK-GAR himself. Let's have a look at his backstory, with a little online research help.

Wreck-Gar is the leader of the Junkions, a group of Transformers usually allied with the Autobots and introduced in the Transformers movie. Wreck-Gar is especially distinguishable from his fellows by his long mustache and goatee. Precisely how a robot manages to grow a mustache and goatee I'd rather not speculate. In the movie, the voice for his character was provided by Eric Idle.

Wreck-Gar's people are addicted to television, and this is reflected in his manner of speech. He specifically says, "We talk TV", and his speech is peppered with remarks like "Don't look behind door number two, Monty", "I'm a pepper, wouldn't you like to be a pepper two", "This offer good for a limited time, Operators are standing by", and so forth. His speech also frequently included sound effects.

Wreck-Gar was initially suspicious of the intentions of Ultra Magnus and the other Autobots when they first arrived -- crash landed, for that matter -- on his homeworld, the planet known as Junk. He led an attack on the Autobots while they tried to stage a salvage operation to repair their ship, commenting "Stop thief".

Fortunately, Hot Rod pacified Wreck-Gar and the other Junkions with a "universal greeting" (pronounced, as best as I can spell it out, "Ba-weep-grah-na-weep-nini-bahng"). Wreck-Gar pledged his support in destroying Unicron, offering the services of not only the Junkions but also supplying a spacecraft -- such as it was -- to get to Cybertron. Despute the spacecraft being crushed by Unicron -- which hardly seemed worth the effort -- all hands aboard survived. This may be thanks in some part to the Junkions' extraordinary repair capabilities, which they had already demonstrated, fixing the seemingly fatally damaged Ultra Magnus.

Arguably, Wreck-Gar and his crowd provided a certain amount of comic relief in an otherwise serious movie, which featured such events as the death of Optimus Prime, and the planetary-scale destructiveness of Unicron. Given that the Junkions led off one of the songs in the movie which was "Dare to be Stupid", by Weird Al Yankovich, they obviously weren't meant to be taken entirely seriously.

At the same time, they were certainly capable warriors. In one of the more remarkable transformation scenes, other than that of Unicron himself, certainly, a Junkion was seen riding a motorcycle towards the Autobots to attack them. When fired upon, the Junkion transformed into a second motorcycle, while the motorcycle transformed into a second Junkion, and climbed on board the newly transformed motorcycle and headed right back into battle without hardly missing a beat. THAT was impressive.

After his alliance with the Autobots in the movie, he filled in for the deceased Ratchet as the Autobots' main surgeon and repair technician, his people's unique affinity for repair making him quite advantageous in the Autobots' war against the Decepticons, despite his quirky personality.

While it seems that Wreck-Gar maintained his post as Junkion leader, he was a frequent guest-star on the animated series, and was often depicted as if he were a full resident of Cybertron. He first made his television debut in the mini-series "Five Faces of Darkness", which immediately followed the events of the movie and is a superb "movie" in its own right, when he saved Rodimus Prime, Ultra Magnus, Arcee, Grimlock, and others from the bizarre planet Goo. In addition, he was able to fully repair Springer, much as he had Ultra Magnus, in the same episode.

Wreck-Gar appeared in the episode "The Killing Jar", in which a number of Transformers were captured by Quintessons. The Quintessons were most alarmed by him as a captive, since he acted in a totally opposite fashion of his assumed programming. The Quintessons were convinced that a sterile environment would render him inert. Instead, Wreck-Gar proceeded to trash the room, making it into a facsimile of his homeworld Junk.

Wreck-Gar also appeared in the episode "Forever is a Long Time Coming", where he, Blurr, and Blaster aided a young Alpha Trion in the past. Of all the robots to send on a time-travel mission...

His signature episode, however, was titled "The Big Broadcast of 2006". The basic plotline involved a Quintesson signal beamed down into Junkion television sets. The signal was subliminal, and designed to make the Junkions distrust all foreign visitors, including the Autobots. Somehow, the signal became scrambled and was sent throughout the universe, causing an intergalactic war. The episode is also notable for Wreck-Gar yelling, "Yo, Joe!" while charging into battle -- the battle cry, of course, of the G.I. Joe team.

Wreck-Gar also turned up in the season finale, "The Return of Optimus Prime." Rodimus Prime brought the deceased body of Optimus Prime to Wreck-Gar, hoping that the Junkions could repair him. Wreck-Gar stated that he was unable to do so, paraphrasing Dr. McCoy and Mr. Scott from Star Trek, saying, "I'm a doctor, not a forklift. His engines, they cannot take the strain. He's dead, Jim."

Wreck-Gar was not as prevalent in the Marvel comic, although the "Big Broadcast" episode was adapted into comic form, even though it was out of continuity for the comic book. Wreck-Gar fared somewhat better in the Marvel UK comic series, where he turned up more often.

The character of Wreck-Gar, although arguably a different individual, has appeared in the Transformers Animated series, although certainly with somewhat similar characteristics, and interestingly enough, voiced by Weird Al Yankovich, whose "Dare to be Stupid" song was the theme of the Junkions in the original animated movie.

So, how's the toy? Pretty cool. A number of the characters from the "future" (relative to the original time point of 1986), had vehicular modes that were rather futuristic in nature. Among these are certainly Kup and Blurr, and to some degree, Wreck-Gar. Although he looked like a motorcycle, it was with a certain futuristic edge. However, for inclusion in the Classics/Generations/Shield line, those futuristic modes have been toned down considerably. Blurr certainly was, Kup is expected to be, and Wreck-Gar looks much more conventional in his motorcycle mode.

In point of fact, Wreck-Gar looks entirely plausible. However, if he actually represents any known motorcycle, I wouldn't know what it is. In motorcycle mode, he's about 6 inches long and 4 inches high to the top of his handlebars. This puts him considerably out of scale with most of the cars in this particular line of Transformers, but if they'd tried to do him in scale, he'd've been one itty-bitty bike. No one ever said that the Transformers necessarily maintained any particular scale, anyway.

In keeping with the colors of the original, Wreck-Gar is mostly a reddish brown in color, with some yellow-orange details, and some light gray trim, mostly on his more mechanical parts. The handlebars are black, the wheels are black, as is the seat. There are also some black flames detailed on the sides of the bike. There is a small, transparent piece on the top of the front of his bike mode, which has the thermal shield that reveals an Autobot emblem.

Both of the wheels turn very nicely, and thankfully, Wreck-Gar does include a movable kick-stand in his motorcycle mode, so he can "stand up" in his vehicular mode. One interesting note -- if you look at the bottom of the bike, you can see Wreck-Gar's head. I wonder how much flying asphalt can explain his personality...

Now, let's consider his transformation. One of the things about modern Transformers is that while they come with illustrated instructions, there are no printed words with them. This can sometimes present difficulties, as it's not always clear from a two-dimensional illustration what one is supposed to do with a three-dimensional robot. I have found that it truly helps to keep the package available, as the back includes a photo of the toy in both vehicle and robot form. Comparing the "finished version" with one's progress is sometimes helpful, and I also hope the same is true of the written explanation of the transformation that I try to provide whenever I review a Transformer.

Additionally, I had heard it reported i that some parts of Wreck-Gar are rather fragile. These include the "antennae" on his head, and his handlebars. Some said that I could expect to see "stress cracks" on the reddish brown sections. I got the impression that these reports came from people that are inclined to transform their toys multiple times. I tend to transform a Transformer from his vehicle mode, which is how these usually come packaged, into their robot mode, and then leave them that way. But we'll see, and a general note of caution never hurts.

Wreck-Gar's transformation difficulty is rated "3" on a scale of 0 to 5, which is listed as "Intermediate". I've found that to be a reasonably accurate if occasionally relative scale, so let's see how it plays out this time around. In fairness, I'm more used to dealing with automotive types than motorcycles.

The first thing you do is detach the right side tailpipe, which also takes the right side rear wheelcover with it. This actually converts into Wreck-Gar's weapon, a four-bladed axe, in a very clever fashion, as you straighten the popes, and then rotate the wheel cover along a central gear to expose the axe blades. It does not rotate, however, It's not a pinwheel.

Next, rotate the rear wheel upwards to the left. Then turn the bike over, grasp the gas tank, and stretch it out along a gray post that will appear, to its full length. As crazy as this sounds right now (but we're talking about Wreck-Gar, right?), you're actually making one of the robot's legs here.

Now, take the rear wheel, and extend it outwards and down, and rotate it somewhat. This is effectively making the other leg.

Next, go back to the "gas tank" leg, and extend the foot. This should cause the handlebars to fold up against the side of the leg automatically. Do not attempt to move them of their own accord. They're made of rather rubbery plastic, and it's impossible to get a decent grip on them. They'll take care of themselves. I DO recommend that you carry out all of these transformations rather gently. Make sure the feet are symmetrical (you'll have to rotate the right one around), and you've pretty much got the legs.

Now, rotate the upper torso around, so that the flame detailing (which is different than the black on the gas tank, and is yellow) is facing the front. Then, rotate the arms around and snap them into place in the shoulders. There's a little point along the way that's a bit stiff, and it feels like you can't move the arm any further, but really, you can. As the instructions say, excessive force is not necessary. Also, at this time, bring the head up.

Finally, rotate the arms around and down. I found that the left shoulder on my Wreck-Gar was very stiff, and did not move easily. Also, the wrists of both hands were very tight. I'm all in favor of tight articulation on action figures, but after the warnings I had read online, this made me a little nervous. Everything worked out well, but I have to say that I do recommend caution and patience. You can get Wreck-Gar into his robot mode (if I can, anybody can), but I would say that he should be held rather carefully, with a little more caution than usual.

So, how's the robot? Very cool. He really looks like Wreck-Gar, or maybe a slightly more extreme version of Wreck-Gar. The design is surprisingly asymmetrical. The lower legs are entirely different, the right one being comprised largely of the gas tank and front of the bike, and the left leg being comprised of the seat and rear wheel!

The arms are fairly symmetrical, although the former front wheel now hangs off the back of the left shoulder. Wreck-Gar's overall color scheme remains the same as before. He has a reddish-brown head with a yellow-orange face, light brown arms with yellow-orange lower arms, brown hands, light grey upper legs, and the color schemes for his lower legs is pretty much "all of the above". He has some black trim on him, such as the handlebars, seat, and wheels, as well as his -- facial hair.

The head is superb. It has Wreck-Gar's mustache and goatee, and a slightly maniacal grin on its face. This could not be anyone other than Wreck-Gar. The back of the head has been molded in clear plastic, in order to make use of the frequent gimmick of allowing light to shine through and make the eyes appear illuminated. However, in Wreck-Gar's case, his eyes have been painted red! The end result here is a very strange effect where it appears that the outlines of his eyes glow white, while his eyes remain red. Very weird.

In robot mode, Wreck-Gar stands about 5-1/2" in height, about average to maybe just a little short for this line, but still very workable. Because of the strange design of his legs, not to mention his feet, and the huge wheel hanging off one side of his back, he stands best in a slightly hunched over position. Somehow, that figures. For Wreck-Gar, it fits.

Of course, Wreck-Gar is superbly well-articulated in his robot mode. He is fully poseable at the head, arms, upper arm swivel, elbows, wrists, waist, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles.

His hands are very nicely sculpted, with the fingers in various positions, rather than just a row of four fingers all pretty much the same. The paintwork is superb. I would have to say that Wreck-Gar has an above average level of paintwork for a Transformer. This not only includes the face, but the lower arms, detailing on the torso, and on the lower legs. All of it has been very neatly carried out.

Here's one thing that I didn't see explained anywhere in the instructions, and that I would've missed if someone online hadn't pointed it out. Wreck-Gar has two slots in his motorcycle seat. There are also two tabs on his lower torso in robot form. These do align. So, technically speaking, if you were to get two Wreck-Gars -- and maybe give the other one a different name -- it should be possible to have Wreck-Gar ride "another" Junkion bike. He may not be to vehicular scale with many of the other Transformers, but he does seem to be to scale -- with himself -- as strange as that may sound...

Wreck-Gar has a character profile on the back of his package, which reads as follows: Wreck-Gar is obsessed with Earth television, and maybe just a little bit flaky. He communicates almost exclusively in quites from commercials and late-night movies, and the grin on his face never fades, even in the heat of battle. Most Autobots have no idea what he's talking about most of the time, but they appreciate having his axe on their side.

Wreck-Gar also has various power levels listed on his package. They include a "10" for Endurance -- which makes sense for the Junkions -- "9" in Strength, "8" in courage, "7' in Speed, "6" in Fireblast, "5" in Intelligence and Skill, and "4" in Rank.

So, what's my final word? There can be no question that Wreck-Gar is certainly one of the most -- distinctive Transformers of all time. He may not be as well known as Optimus Prime or Megatron, but he certainly made an impact in the movie, and following adventures. He's a bit of comic relief that can still stand up and kick Decepticon butt when the occasion calls for it. I've always liked him, and I'm pleased to see him brought into the modern collection. I believe any longtime Transformers fan will be very pleased with him!

The TRANSFORMERS "REVEAL THE SHIELD" figure of WRECK-GAR definitely has my highest recommendation!