Hasbro brought back the Transformers Classics line as Transformers Universe Classics once the 2007 live-action movie had completed its shelf life. These toys were just what a longtime Transformers fan always wanted -- updated versions of the classic Generation One Transformers, with better detail and, most significantly, better articulation, in their robot modes.
The line, as of 2009, is now known as simply Transformers Universe, and the packaging bears a silver emblem on it commemorating the 25th Anniversary of Transformers. The line is being broadened to include characters from other Transformers concepts -- Beast Wars, Robots in Disguise, Armada, and others. Hopefully it will carry on through and beyond the toys that will be emerging with the sequel movie. And at the moment, Generation 1 remains its primary focus, and I have no problem with that. These are the best known of the characters, and the ones most in need of a modern overhaul from a toy standpoint.
One of the recent additions is a well-known character, a Decepticon called CYCLONUS. He was among the new characters introduced in the 1986 animated movie, which took place (at the time) twenty years in the Transformers' future. The movie introduced quite a few new characters, who appeared among the toy products for that year, and from a style standpoint, were more futuristic in their vehicle modes than the previous Transformers, which had been relatively realistic.
Cyclonus, most basically, is a futuristic-looking attack plane, and Galvatron's right hand -- er -- robot. Here is an extensive background to the character:
The tech spec from the box art of the Cyclonus toy describes him as a compassionless Decepticon air warrior and saboteur. He has nuclear-powered turbine engines that can propel him at speeds of Mach 2 and carries an oxidating laser that fuses an enemy robot's internal mechanisms. It makes no reference to the concept that he was built from another Decepticon by Unicron, as was the case in the movie.
Generally speaking, most Transformers fans give the animated series a greater level of credibility than the original Marvel comics (which were quite good, but occasionally somewhat inconsistent). This is in some ways the opposite of Hasbro's other main claim to fame, G.I. Joe, in which the comic, written almost exclusively by Larry Hama, is given greater credibility over its animated series, which was nevertheless enjoyable. Anyway, with this in mind, I decided to stick with the animated background to Cyclonus, but even here we encounter a few peculiarities.
In the year 2005, after an abortive attack on Autobot City, the evil Decepticons found it necessary to jettison excess mass from their craft to make it back to their homeworld of Cybertron. The injured and dying Decepticons, including the Decepticons' leader, Megatron, were chosen to be ejected into the void of space. When their bodies were recovered by the world-eater, Unicron, they were reborn as deadly new warriors in the service of the recreated Megatron, now known as Galvatron.
Although The Transformers: Movie does not make it entirely clear who Cyclonus was in his previous incarnation, he is one of the new Decepticons created by Unicron using the body of either Skywarp or Bombshell. He is a being whose loyalty to Galvatron is so intense as to exclude most other emotions and interests from his mind. Dedicated to destruction in his leader's name, Cyclonus transforms into a nuclear-powered multi-turbine-engine jet fighter, capable of space flight and able to expand in size to convey Galvatron. In robot mode, he wields an oxidating laser that fuses the internal mechanisms of its targets, and in vehicle mode is additionally armed with an incendiary bomb rack. Immediately following his creation, Cyclonus served as little more than Galvatron's personal ship, carrying his leader to Starscream's coronation, into the battle in Autobot City, and pursuing Autobots on the Planet of Junk, as well as attacking and crippling the shuttle carrying Hot Rod and Kup in the midst of it all. After the destruction of Unicron, however, when Galvatron was lost, Cyclonus came into his own, his loyalty to the Decepticons' absent leader shaping his character in different ways.
Disgusted with how far the leaderless Decepticons had fallen as they eked out a miserable existence on the barren world of Chaar, Cyclonus resolved to locate Galvatron, daring even to enter Unicron's deactivated, disembodied head and replaying its memory banks, tracing Galvatron to the world of Thrull. Unfortunately, once extricated from a pool of the planet's plasma-lava, Galvatron proved to have been driven insane from exposure to it and brutalized Cyclonus and Sweeps before being talked down and returned to his position as leader.
As 2006 settled in, Cyclonus was captured by a Quintesson scientist for study, along with Ultra Magnus, Wreck-Gar and Marissa Faireborn, but when the entire group was sucked through a black hole into a negative universe, they were forced to work together to escape; Cyclonus and Magnus developed a grudging respect for each other as warriors, but vowed that when they met again on the battlefield, it would be as enemies.
Some time later, outnumbered and fleeing from the Aerialbots, Cyclonus and Scourge took refuge inside a vortex, which transported them to the pacifistic, energy-rich planet of Paradron, which had been settled by Cybertronian refugees. Naturally, the duo immediately overthrew the planet and summoned Galvatron and the other Decepticons there; the plan was ultimately foiled by the Autobots, but at the cost of Paradron itself, which was destroyed.
Cyclonus later had his body possessed by the ghost of the deceased Decepticon air commander, Starscream, and went on to clash with Ultra Magnus again aboard the Autobot records asteroid with the fate of Daniel Witwicky in the balance.
When a group of Decepticons, tired of being beaten and abused by the deranged Galvatron, confronted Cyclonus and demanded that he do something about the situation, Cyclonus was so short on options that he accepted the advice of a Quintesson, and tricked Galvatron into accompanying him to the therapeutic mental institution on planet Torkulon. It pained Cyclonus to see his leader so demented as each attempted therapy met with failure, but when the Torkuli attempted to cure Galvatron by removing the damaged part of his mind, thereby leaving him a vegetable, Cyclonus sprang into action, only to be restrained. Patched into the sentient network of the planet, rather than be cured, Galvatron infected the world itself with his madness and freed himself, destroying the planet and decided to turn his attention back to fighting the Autobots, rather than dwell on Cyclonus's deception.
I recall this episode especially, for the primary reason that it showcased why I never liked the character of Galvatron as much as Megatron. Galvatron was plainly insane, a maniac and a lunatic. That's hardly a fit leader for the sort of galactic conquest that was the Decepticons' overall purpose for being. Megatron, while evil, and certainly capable of lashing out with a nasty temper, was at least reasonably SANE, whatever his motives. Galvatron was completely out of control, and it's a wonder that anybody followed him.
The episode was also amusing from the standpoint of seeing Cyclonus more or less having to behave himself, at least temporarily, at the mental institution in order to get Galvatron treated.
Generally speaking, Cyclonus was the sane side of Decepticon leadership. He was able to interpret and in some cases modify Galvatron's rantings into actions that were actually productive for the Decepticon cause.
In the movie and for the majority of the third season, Cyclonus was voiced by actor Roger C. Carmel, who frequently displayed an inability to maintain consistency with the character's voice, noticeably rising and dropping in pitch and tone from episode to episode. When Carmel died towards the end of the series, Jack Angel took over the role of Cyclonus for the final five episodes of the series.
Roger C. Carmel is probably best known to science-fiction fans as the troublemaking pirate Harcourt Fenton "Harry" Mudd, who plagued Captain Kirk a couple of times in the original Star Trek series. His death was doubly tragic for its timing, not just for Transformers, but because I've heard persistent reports that there were plans to bring him in for an episode of Star Trek The Next Generation, where he would've been discovered in cryogenic stasis by Picard and company, thawed out, gotten everyone into trouble, and ultimately done the right thing at the end in memory of his "friends" Kirk and Spock. It would've been nice...
But I digress. The controversy surrounding Cyclonus is derived from the fact that initially, in the movie, there was more than one of him. When the injured Decepticons are transformed by Unicron in Transformers: The Movie, two identical Cyclonus robots are simultaneously created-- in the foreground, the Insecticon Bombshell, becomes one, while in the background, Decepticon warrior Skywarp becomes another. The dialogue which accompanies this scene claims that we are seeing "Cyclonus, the warrior... and his armada," but one warrior does not make an armada -- the line is, in fact, a carry over from the original script, in which Cyclonus was intended to have multiple identical duplicates under his command, in the same way that Scourge had the Sweeps. However, immediately after this scene, the second Cyclonus disappears, to be replaced with an additional Sweep, and (barring infrequent animation errors), does not return.
This production error has been a topic of fan debate and analysis -- if the armada does not exist, then which of the two robots shown being transformed became the one, true Cyclonus? The question is essentially the result of fans' dissatisfaction over the asymmetry of the fates of Skywarp and Thundercracker (who became Scourge), and as a result, several fan-written profiles seen on DVD releases of the movie have stated that Skywarp became Cyclonus. Conversely, official adaptations and retellings of the movie, such as the comic book version published by IDW Publishing or descriptions of its events in the Transformers Fan Club prose story The Wreckers: Finale, have all adhered to the visuals of the original movie and identified Bombshell as Cyclonus and Skywarp as "the armada," offering different explanations for why the transformed Skywarp did not appear again. This take on events is also backed up by the Japanese "Masterpiece Skywarp" figure, which comes with a sticker declaring him to be an "Armada Decepticon".
For myself, it's never been something I've given that much thought to. However, if I have to give an opinion, I suppose I find it more agreeable to consider that Thundercracker and Skywarp, two notable "Seeker" planes from the very start, became Scourge and Cyclonus, rather than the Insecticon Bombshell taking on the latter role, and seeing the Insecticons as duplicates of Scourge, acting as his "Sweeps", seems more in keeping with their characteristics, anyway.
So -- how's the toy? Pretty cool, but it is not without a bit of controversy itself, incredibly enough. Cyclonus was always portrayed as being a largely purple Decepticon. Even the excellent illustration of the character on the package shows him to be purple. But the toy is such a dark purple that it's almost black. The explanation for this can be found in an interview in a recent issue of ToyFare, where a Hasbro rep explains, "We've been asked to make our alt (vehicle or whatever) modes as realistic as possible. Not this presents a problem when you're designing a spaceship, however I think we did a good job delivering the essence of who Cyclonus was to this line. The team was very wary about a purple spaceship, but Cyclonus IS purple. So we tweaked the purple coloring and made a very dark purple."
This in the same batch of Universe figures that features a recolored Starscream in colors closer to the animated series. And frankly, as long as they still have that set of airplane molds, I can think of characters I'd sooner see done with it.
I can see wanting the alt modes to be decently realistic. But frankly, that's not always possible. I feel the objective should be to deliver a toy that, as was stated almost secondarily here, looks like the character as one would expect him to. You're not going to deliver THAT realistic a Decepticon space attack plane. So why the heck not make him purple?
Interestingly, apparently Tomy/Takara, the Japanese company that handles Transformers in their home country, agrees, since they're planning, "a redeco of Universe Cyclonus in a color scheme more reminiscent of the G1 Animation character model" -- complete with chromed wings.
Cyclonus comes complete with a smaller robot, named Nightstick. This turns into his weapons, and is reflective of Cyclonus' status as a Targetmaster. Targetmasters and Headmasters were a concept that came along about this time, but was not dealt with in the original movie. They turned up in the three-part "Headmasters" animated episodes. A group of Autobots and Decepticons found themselves on the planet Nebulon and, long story short, some of each of them found themselves partnered with the human-like beings of that world, who took on cybernetic characteristics to either become the Transformers' weapons, or their heads. It was not a favorite concept of mine, and one of the few times when I agreed with Galvatron, who basically figured his troops had lost their minds for agreeing to the alliance. Pot calling the kettle black, maybe, but I think he had a point.
There's no reference whatsoever to Nebulon or the Targetmasters on the character profile for this toy. Nightstick is simply present and accounted for, with no explanation. I can live with that. Kids'll probably think he's a Mini-Con or something. In robot mode, he stands a little over 2" in height, and has articulated arms and legs, which isn't too bad for such a little guy. His face is neatly painted in gold with red eyes, and he does transform very effectively into a nasty-looking blaster.
Now let's consider Cyclonus. In vehicle mode, he's about 6-1/2" long with a wingspan just under 6". While this is relatively small if one assumes that the cars in this line are the "default" for measurement, he still looks impressive and very dangerous. Cyclonus is sleek and dangerous-looking, at once futuristic but not entirely implausible from a design standpoint.
As to his transformation. The first things you need to do are to raise the landing gear -- unnecessary if you're transforming Cyclonus right out of the package -- and push the long nose of the jet in. Then you raise the top part of the nose and the cockpit. This reveals Cyclonus' head, which is probably the earliest such "reveal" I've yet encountered on one of these Transformers. The front part of the nose section folds in to the cockpit, and then folds back into the torso.
Next, you extend the wings out to the sides, rotate them 180 degrees at the point of the jet, and then bring them up along the black posts and snap them into the sides of the torso.
Now, you fold the legs down. It almost seems as if there's four legs, but really it's only two, each with a front half and back half. They fold down very nicely and snap into each other below the now-revealed upper legs of the robot.
Now we come to what is in some respects the trickiest part of the transformation -- extending the arms. You have to free the outer wings in order to properly lower the arms. Then you can also extend the hands. The outer wings then fold back against what is now the shoulders of the robot.
The last step is turning Cyclonus' head around 180 degrees so he doesn't look like he's trying to do a Linda Blair impression, and Cyclonus is complete!
Transforming Nightstick into a cannon is a very simple procedure, and he can be used as either a handheld weapon in Cyclonus' robot mode, or mounted to Cyclonus in vehicle mode.
Cyclonus in robot mode is extremely impressive. I do sort of wish he weren't quite as dark a purple as he is, but that's absolutely my only complaint about this figure. He looks great, and more than reflects the look of the original Cyclonus. This is a really great figure.
And if you're like me and believe that one of the best things about these new incarnations of Classic Transformers characters is their articulation, then you'll love Cyclonus! This figure could almost give a Gundam a run for his money. Cyclonus is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, lower arm swivel, legs, upper leg swivel, and knees. He is extremely well-articulated, and capable of assuming a wide range of poses.
In robot mode, Cyclonus stands a little over 6" in height. This is well in keeping with these Transformers. In fact, he has a slight height advantage over some of them, but there's nothing wrong with that, because he's a little more slender than some, especially those based on cars.
One thing I REALLY appreciate here is how effectively he turns into a robot. Apart from being a surprisingly straightforward transformation, Cyclonus doesn't really have any "excess" hanging off his back or anything like some of the others do, with windshield's and doors that just nothing else could be done with. Cyclonus looks impressive from any angle. And that's not to malign the other toys in this line. Engineering has its limits in the real world.
Cyclonus has a very nicely imprinted silver Decepticon insignia on his chest, and he also has the very nice additional feature of a transparent red plate on the back of his head which, when backlit properly, makes his eyes appear to be glowing a very menacing red. Something about the design here, I'm sure, but this is one of the most effective uses of this little feature I've yet seen. Really, his eyes seem to glow fairly well even if all he has to work with is some indirect light. It has to be something to do with the shape of his head, I suppose. I should also mention that his headsculpt is truly excellent. Good facial expression, and an excellent likeness of the character. Very well done!
Probably worth mentioning that the cockpit windows of his space-plane form are also molded in transparent red, not just painted on the canopy, but I don't believe they have the same reflective capability. Still, a nice extra bit of attention to detail. Have some fun, just aim a laser pointer at the back of his head and really light up his eyes.
Cyclonus' background data on his package reads as follows: Constructed from the cast-off chassis of deactivated Decepticon warriors, Cyclonus was programmed by Unicron to be loyal only to Galvatron. Powered by nuclear engines, and a small fragment of his creator's supernatural power, Cyclonus wields enough might to sterilize the surface of an inhabited world by himself. He never unleashes this power without his commander's leave, however, and he focuses all of his energy on ensuring that Galvatron is obeyed without question by those under his command.
Cyclonus' various power ratings are some of the highest across the board I've yet seen. He gets a "9" in Speed, Rank, and Courage, an "8" in Strength, Intelligence, and Endurance, and a "7" in Fireblast and Skill. In other words, not someone you want to mess with.
A nice acknowledgment of the Transformers' 25th anniversary on the new packages of Universe toys is a graphic timeline spanning 1984 to 2009, and specifically denoting the time period from which the given toy comes from. Cyclonus is from Generation 1, of course, and so is marked '84-'91 on the graph.
Just one other little offbeat note that I want to throw in. A couple of years ago, the Official Transformers Collectors' Club produced a concept in which the Autobots were the bad guys and the Decepticons were the good guys. Various Transformers Classics figures were recolored and presented as that year's set of toys. There was also a comic book which included the appearance of a heroic Cyclonus, who was colored in red with yellow trim. If the Club would ever care to take this Cyclonus toy and turn out this alternate Cyclonus, I can't say as I'd mind.
So, what's my final word here? This is an extremely impressive Transformer. Built well, looks good, very effectively reflects the character he is designed after, superbly articulated, and overall extremely well-made. Any Transformers fan will be happy with this item.
The TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE CYCLONUS figure most definitely receives my highest enthusiastic recommendation!