I'm sure I've said this every time I've reviewed one of these toys, but one of the things that I am most pleased with in the Transformers toy universe these days is the Universe Classics line. Introduced as the Classics a couple of years ago, then put on hiatus for the sake of the live-action movie, the Classics were brought back as part of the Transformers Universe line for 2008, and I for one was sincerely pleased with their return, and I also hope that they are here to stay.
What we have in the Classics, in my opinion, is the original Transformers as they were always meant to be, at least as far as their robot modes are concerned. However massively cool the original Transformers Generation 1 concept may have been, and most of the toys, there was always one thing about the toys that kept me from fully embracing the concept -- more often than not, in their robot mode, they weren't articulated, especially in the legs. Every media presence showed these very active robots... animated series, comic book, even the package art. But the toys, while they looked very cool in vehicle mode and did a nice and interesting transformation into robots -- just couldn't do that much in robot mode. That was just something of a deal-breaker for me as far as the toys were concerned.
One of the latest Classic releases as of this writing is IRONHIDE, certainly a name long associated with the Transformers universe. He is an Autobot, and was among those first introduced in the line. I did a bit of a character check on him online:
Ironhide is portrayed as a toughened old Autobot who has seen his share of battle. The character designers for the cartoon redesigned Ironhide's body, which is now the best-known of all his appearances.
Despite being known for being part of the Autobot security detail and Optimus Prime's bodyguard, Ironhide was most often seen in the capacity of a warrior, often fighting in battle without Optimus Prime, or a specific worksite/person/cargo to protect. He was also used as an officer, leading a team of Autobots just as would Optimus's advisors, Prowl and Jazz. Ironhide seemed to develop a bond with the Autobots' human allies, engaging with them on a friendly basis as much as protecting them.
In the "More Than Meets The Eye" three parter that launched the animated series, Ironhide was shown assisting Bumblebee in stopping a Rumble created flood. Later, tired of being constantly a step behind the Decepticons, Ironhide impetuously took off after them - only to be brought back down to Earth with a bump by a teleporting Skywarp.
Ironhide's most prominent appearance was in the second season episode "The Immobilizer". Distracted by Spike's friend Carly while on guard duty, Ironhide inadvertently allowed the Decepticons to steal Wheeljack's latest invention - a weapon that could freeze anything it fired at, including Transformers. Guilt-ridden and believing himself to be too old to be of any further use Ironhide resigned from active service, against the wishes of Optimus Prime. However, when Carly was captured by the Decepticons trying to make up for what had happened to Ironhide, the veteran Autobot went to her rescue and saved her from the Decepticon base. After being frozen and unfrozen by the Immobilizer (after Carly and Brawn sabotaged it) Ironhide personally destroyed the device and returned to active duty.
Ironhide fulfilled his role as Prime's bodyguard in the episode "Transport to Oblivion." While battling Megatron at a power plant, Prime accidentally knocked the Decepticon leader into a generator, giving him a temporary "power boost." Megatron took advantage of the boost, knocking Prime down and temporarily stunning him. He then transformed into his gun mode, ordering Soundwave to destroy the Autobot leader. Ironhide, leaping forward, took the shot himself, saving Prime's life. Rather than pursue the withdrawing Decepticons, Optimus ordered the team back to base because of how badly Ironhide had been hit. The grouchy Ironhide was not at all pleased with needing some "R&R" (what Ratchet said was needed for one of his components--"removed and rebuilt"). Ratchet humorously threatened to disconnect Ironhide's vocal circuits if he kept complaining. Ironhide made a full recovery and was available for duty soon thereafter.
In "A Prime Problem", Ironhide took temporary leadership of the Autobots when they couldn't decide on which Optimus Prime was which, as Megatron had made a perfect clone of Optimus Prime to fool the Autobots into venturing down into a dangerous chasm.
In "The Search for Alpha Trion", when Optimus Prime returned to Cybertron alone to save Elita One, Ironhide leads Inferno and Powerglide after him. On Cybertron the Autobots are briefly reunited with female Autobots Chromia, Moonracer and Firestar, to defeat the Decepticons and save Elita.
It is speculated by some that Ironhide may have formerly been Dion, the best friend of worker robot Orion Pax, who was himself rebuilt into Optimus Prime by the ancient Autobot, Alpha Trion. Their apparent longstanding relationship could be seen to support this idea, but it was never officially touched upon. Ironhide was, at least, an established character at the time of the episode "War Dawn" (unlike Ultra Magnus who is also seen as a likely Dion). Still, Magnus has many points in favor of his being Dion as well (including an official recognition/homage to the idea in the second Dreamwave G1 miniseries) and in the end, the issue remains unresolved.
In the Marvel comics, Ironhide's first appearance resembled his toy but was soon updated to his more anthropomorphic animated form. In issue #4, with the Autobots low on fuel and facing an imminent Decepticon assault, he was chosen by Optimus Prime alongside Huffer, Bluestreak and Mirage to be given all the remaining fuel and stand against the Decepticons. While Megatron's soldiers collapsed at the last moment due to poisoned fuel, the Autobots were abruptly offlined and the Ark captured by Shockwave.
Once reactivated, he was part of the team sent on a failed mission to prevent the Decepticons contacting Cybertron and battled the Constructicons for the first time. He later worked alongside Jetfire in the Dinobot Hunt and learned to trust him despite his Decepticon origins; and he fought the Constructicons again at a demolition derby.
Things took a darker turn when, in "Target: 2006", Galvatron arrived and Optimus Prime was sent to Limbo. Losing to the future Decepticon and having taken a humiliating beating, it was Ironhide who made the decision to dig up & reactivate Megatron and have him assume command against Galvatron.
According to the Dreamwave comics, Ironhide spent his peacetime years before the war as a construction engineer fashioning the vast bridges that connect Cybertron's many city-states. When civil war broke out on the planet Cybertron between the Autobots and Decepticon factions, Ironhide joined the Autobot cause.
Something does need a word of explanation here. In the original Generation One toy line, both Ironhide and Ratchet, who were based on the same mold, were -- rather odd additions to the line. While they looked fine in their vehicle modes, their robot modes weren't even especially humanoid. They got about on treads, and the rest of them -- it was honestly hard to tell what was supposed to be what on them.
This was clearly a bit more than the animated series, which is generally regarded as "canon" to most longtime Transformers fans, was inclined to accommodate, and so more humanoid forms were created for both characters, a fairly basic but not inappropriate look, and both Ratchet and Ironhide were pretty much identical in both vehicle and robot forms, although obviously had different colors.
The "humanoid" robot became how the robots were best known, and although the toys of these characters since then have been rather sparse, a couple of Convention Exclusives from a few years ago probably being among the best known examples, they have tended to utilize the more humanoid robot appearance as much as possible.
Which brings us to the Classics Ironhide.While the original Ironhide may have looked bizarre in his robot mode, the new Classics Ironhide looks pretty strange in his vehicular mode. And that's how he comes packaged.
In vehicular mode, Ironhide is designed to look like an SUV, and a pretty rigged and ready one at that. He's mostly red in color, which is appropriate to the character, and is about 5-1/4" in length.
However... The dividing lines which are needed to enable the toy to transform into a humanoid robot are many, and they are not very well in keeping with the lines of the vehicle itself. They are mostly diagonal, slash across the doors and windows, and the end result, unfortunately, is that in vehicle mode, Ironhide looks a bit like an SUV that's been in an accident and was reassembled by someone whose main expertise was in jigsaw puzzles. It's pretty strange.
In fairness, Ironhide does have some cool features in vehicle mode. His headlight and taillights are separately molded and installed pieces, made in transparent plastic. He has a nicely detailed front grill and an extra protective grill in front of that. Even so, if I saw an SUV like this driving down the street, I'd wonder what was holding it together.
Let's get Ironhide into robot form, shall we? As usual, the first thing it says to do is remove the weapon, which has already been done since it's packaged separately. But at least you know where to stash it on the toy in vehicle form.
Next, slide up the front of the roof and windshield. This will also bring part of the hood and the front grill with it. Then tuck the grill underneath, and raise the other two hood segments until they're straight up.
The next thing you need to do is to rotate the entire front of the car around. This is also the point at which you will likely snap the vehicle clean in half. Don't worry, it's attached by three pegs. Honestly, your best bet here is to simply leave it detached, rotate the parts around, and then plug it back into the rest of the body along the grey center post.
What you're concentrating now on is the legs. Fold out the feet and fold in the lower legs. At this point, I'm finding it helpful to keep the package card with me, since the back of the card has a photograph of Ironhide in his robot form. From this you can determine if you're reasonably close to what he's supposed to look like.
Now, open the sides of the vehicle. This starts the creation of the arms. The remaining procedures, which involve folding up the wheels, bringing the torso down a bit, packing a fair assortment of "vehicular parts" into a folded section on Ironhide's back, and getting the Autobot emblem to show in what is now the chest window, is -- well -- beyond verbal description. And frankly, the illustrated instructions weren't that much help either, except as basic reference points. I finally got Ironhide into his proper robot mode.
In robot mode, Ironhide stands just shy of 6 inches in height. He looks a little short next to characters like Sideswipe or Sunstreaker, in part because his head is just a little recessed. His head does have the cool feature that turns up every so often, where the back of his head is molded from transparent plastic and reflects light through his eyes. Unfortunately, since he has this plastic shield over the back of his head, it's not all that effective here.
In robot mode, Ironhide is a capable, updated, but recognizable likeness of the classic Ironhide as he appeared in the animated series and, eventually, the comic book. No complaints about that whatsoever.
He comes with a separate weapon, a short but stocky-looking thing that's described on the back of the package as a "cannon" that converts to a "sword" and indeed, a transparent blue blade emerges from it. I'm trying to remember, though. One of the early Transformers was able to fire some sort of freeze gas. Was that Ironhide?
Ironhide's character profile on his package card describes him thusly: Ironhide was built at a time when armor was thick, and circuitry was simple. He is the oldest of the Autobots, tested in thousands of battles, over countless centuries. He has been injured many times, but never deactivated. For every scratch and scar that he bears he has a tale to tell, and most of the younger Autobots are all too eager to hear them. Gruff, and sometimes grumpy, he is also naturally protective of the other Autobots. He is tough, rough, and nearly impossible to damage.
Hmmm -- most of that sounds like Ironhide, but some of that sounds more like Kup, although who knows if we'll ever get him in this line, and it's not especially ill-fitting for Ironhide.
His various power rankings give him a 10 in Courage, a 9 in Endurance, 7 in Strength, Intelligence, Rank, Fireblast, and Skill, and a 3 in Speed. So, he's not fast. If you're this tough, you don't need to be fast.
So what's my final word here? Okay, this is one strange Transformer. And he looks a lot better in robot mode than he does in vehicle mode, although getting him from vehicle mode to robot mode is no easy process.
However, on the whole, this is still a cool Transformers, certainly a legendary character in the line, and definitely worthy of being part of the Universe Classics line. I can't deny Ironhide any of that, anymore than I can deny him my support, despite the structural peculiarities. Any longtime Transformers fan will want to add him to their Classics collection.
The TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE CLASSICS IRONHIDE definitely has my enthusiastic recommendation!