REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS SERGEANT KUP
I believe that the vast majority of longtime Transformers fans would cite the Transformers of "Generation One" as among their favorites, and certainly that would include myself. However, I also have to say that many of the original toys tended to fall somewhat short of what one might have hoped for, given the fact that in their robotic modes, they didn't tend to be all that well articulated.
Admittedly, the purpose of the original Transformers was to develop a line of robot toys that could change between a humanoid robot, and some secondary form, generally a vehicle of some sort. Articulation in the robotic form was not that great a priority. Still, it was somewhat disappointing to see these amazing characters acting out their adventures in both the comic books and animated series, and all the toy could do was just sort of stand there.
Fortunately, ever since the time of Beast Wars, the articulation level of Transformers has been enhanced considerably, so that modern Transformers are now fully poseable. Even more fortunately, the original characters of Generation One have been brought back in new-yet-familiar forms, initially as part of a line called Transformers Classics, and more recently as a line called Transformers Generations.
One of the most recent additions to the line is SERGEANT KUP. At least that's his official name. Most fans will know him simply as KUP, which is how I will refer to him over the course of this review. "Kup" is short for "Pickup", which fits, since that's more or less what he is.
Kup is one of those Transformers that was first introduced in the animated movie. Despite being then a new character, he was presented as a grizzled veteran of the Transformers wars, with the gravelly voice of Lionel Stander performing Kup. Interestingly enough, his "alt mode", his vehicle mode, was not an Earth-based truck, but a Cybertronian vehicle that rather superficially resembled a pickup truck in some respects.
Let's have a look at the history of Kup, with a little online research assistance.
In the comics, Kup's first US appearance was in the Transformers: headmasters limited series as one of the Autobot crew led by Fortress Maximus. He became a Targetmaster in the fourth and final issue of the series.
Kup then went on to appear in the regular Transformers comic series. Kup acted as Security Chief, providing a voice of experience to the other Autobots, as well. He would continue to appear throughout the remainder of the series, and into Generation 2.
The Transformers comic published by Marvel UK, which was much more extensive and generally maintained better continuity than its American counterpart, also featured Kup. The character first appeared in "Kup's Story", where Kup believes himself to be too old and a liability to his fellow Autobots. He had, as such, willingly set himself adrift in a spaceship. His solitude was interrupted when he chanced upon a ship being attacked by alien pirates. Deciding to help out, he encountered Hot Rod, who begged him to help rescue Blurr. Kup refused, as he thought he would just get the young Autobot killed. However, when Hot Rod brashly attempted to rescue Blurr on his own, Kup intervened and saved the two rookies. His confidence restored, he joined them in returning to Cybertron.
As to the animated series, which is generally regarded by most fans as more canonical than the comic books, Kup was introduced and featured prominently in the Transformers animated movie, and the third season of the animated series, which picked up from where the movie left off, including the twenty-year time jump between the second season of the animated series, the the animated movie.
Here once again, Kup is seen as a grizzled veteran, and a respected elder. He serves as something of a mentor to the more rebellious and youthful Autobot Hot Rod, and is said to be among the oldest of the Autobots. Kup first appears in the movie putting up a roadblock which Hot Rod ignores and demolishes. He later rescues Hot Rod and young Daniel Witwicky from the Decepticon Blitzwing.
Later, Hot Rod and Kup crash into an ocean on the planet Quintessa. He is captured by a giant mechanical squid which is then attacked and defeated by Hot Rod. Kup is damaged by the attack, but Hot Rod is able to repair him, even, as Kup states, getting rid of a nasty burr in his rotator gear in his shoulder.
The pair are captured and taken prisoner, where they meet Kranix, the sole survivor of the robotic planet devoured by Unicron at the start of the movie, who tells them of the planet devouring being. Kranix is soon taken away and dropped into a pool of ferocious Sharkticons, a fate which later befalls Kup and Hot Rod, who manage to escape by creating a whirlpool.
Throughout the movie, Kup has an anecdote or an story for every situation, claiming them to be the result of "experience - you should learn to appreciate it." However, when they encounter Unicron, who has commenced his attack on Cybertron, and Kup is asked if this reminds him of anything in his experience, he said, "Nope. Never seen anything like this before."
Alongside Springer and Arcee, he combats Unicron's internal defenses until Hot Rod releases the power of the Autobot Matrix, destroying Unicron. Upon seeing that Hot Rod had become Rodimus Prime, Kup states, "I knew you had potential, lad," as the new leader of the Autobots led him and the others in escaping Unicron just as he explodes.
Kup would revists Quintessa months later when he, Ultra Magnus, and Spike Witwicky are kidnapped by the Quintessons. Kup and the others would escape with the help of Rodimus Prime's strike force, shortly before the planet was destroyed by the Quintessons.
Kup continued to play a key role throughout season 3, serving as security director. He watched over Rodimus Prime as a sort of father figure, noting that the new Autobot leader had a lot of the same growing pains as his predecessor, Optimus Prime. When Rodimus was feeling overpressured by the demands of leadership, Kup described it as "the burden hardest to bear", and something Optimus had to learn to cope with and respect.
In the two-part "The Return of Optimus Prime", Kup was among the team of Autobots that joined the expedition to recover the metal developed that was impervious to a plague that was driving both Transformers and humans alike insane with hatred.
In the more recent IDW comics, Kup first appeared in his own "Spotlight" issue, as the only survivor of a crash on a deadly crystalline planet. The radiation emitted by the crystals caused hallucinations, and Kup perceived an Autobot rescue team as a group of demons. Ultimately, Springer and Trailbreaker are able to get through to Kup, and he is eventually restored to full function, appearing in the later "All Hail Megatron" story, although he has taken up chewing on a metallic cigar-like object, which according to some online details helps keep the remaining effects of the crystal radiation at bay. His personality in the recent comics is much as it has been previously.
So, how's the toy? Impressive. As noted earlier, the original Kup was a Cybertronian vehicle that bore a slight resemblance to a pickup truck, hence the character's name, as well. The current crop of Transformers, even those based on established characters, tends to be a little more realistic with their vehicle modes, and so Kup has finally been given a more Earth-based mode for his vehicular side.
This time around, Kup is clearly a pickup truck. If he represents any specific known model of pickup truck, I don't know what it might be. The toy package and even the online information merely call it a pickup truck, and it is certainly that. Cab up front, hauling bed in the back.
The design is interesting. Granted, I am no automotive expert by any means whatsoever, but as far as the style of the truck is concerned, it seems to have some attributes that look quite modern, if not edging just a little into futuristic, while other attributes have a more classic design. This is not at all inappropriate for the character, certainly, but it can't have been the easiest thing in the world to pull off, assuming it was deliberate. "Yeah, we want a robot that turns into a pickup truck, so it can look a little sci-fi, but he's also an older robot, so the truck should look kinda older, too." That's the sort of pronouncement that will give most designers a migraine in short order.
The front of Kup, about to the windshield, has a rather curved look to it akin to pickup trucks that one might expect to have seen quite a few decades ago. The rest of the truck has a more contemporary, if not slightly more futuristic look to it, including a fairly high bed. Just for the record, although it almost looks like the back gate should fold down, it doesn't.
Details are impressive, however. Kup is colored a sort of gray-turquoise, pretty much the same color as he was portrayed in the animated series as being. The truck bed has a textured liner in it. The headlight and tail-lights are separate pieces, molded from transparent plastic -- although it might have been a good idea if the tail-lights had been molded in transparent red, rather than clear. The front of the truck also has little orange lights painted on it. The windshield and side windows are transparent panes, and Kup has an Autobot emblem on the front of his hood.
The wheels turn, and Kup rolls well on any smooth surface, and the front wheels, intentionally or otherwise, have a certain amount of steering capability to them. Kup's weapon, amusingly called a "Laser Musket" -- there's that future-meets-the-past scenario again -- can be mounted on the roof of the truck, or concealed underneath as part of the exhaust system.
In truck mode, Kup is about 5-1/4" in length -- which is about average for a Transformer in this series -- not quite 2-1/2" wide, and about 2" high at the top of the truck cab.
Now, let's consider his transformation. I do my best, within these reviews, to provide written transformation instructions, since sometimes, I just feel that the diagrams don't always provide quite enough information.
The first thing you do is stretch out the front wheels, which sort of makes me think that that limited turning ability is at least somewhat unintentional.
Next, you free the arms, essentially by opening the doors of the truck. Then, lift the roof and hood up and away from the rest of the vehicle.
Continue to rotate the roof and hood around, over the front of the vehicle, tuck the hood under the roof, rotate pretty much the entire upper body around, and ultimately tuck the roof and hood into what is now the back of the robot. At this point the former front of the truck should now be all robot, complete with Kup's head readily apparent. It's a sort of tricky move, but once you realize what it accomplishes, you can complete it readily enough.
At this point, make sure the arms are fully extended at the shoulders, and bring them upwards a bit. Otherwise, Kup is going to look like his arms are coming out of his waist.
Split that back of the truck open. This will form Kup's legs. Rotate the back gate and "liner" section around. These become the feet. Tuck the rotatable portions of the side of the truck underneath what become the fronts of the lower legs, and slide it all into place.
And -- Kup is now in his robot mode! This particular transformer had a transformation rating of "3", or "Intermediate", but to be honest, except for that torso swivel, which wasn't that difficult, Kup was actually one of the more straightforward Transformers I've dealt with lately. That's not a complaint, certainly.
So, how's the robot? Very impressive. He bears a reasonable resemblance to his animated counterpart, at least as far as the design allows, and certainly he's not going to be mistaken for anyone else.
The head, as always, is a distinct character giveaway. It's designed to very closely resemble the character, but it also has a few more lines and angles sculpted into it, to make Kup look older than the average Autobot. I've had a few people say that he looks like a robotic version of F. Lee Ermey, certainly a well known actor known for portraying veteran military types with a distinct edge. While I tend to be of the opinion that any such comparison is tricky at best, seeing a human face in a distinctly robotic visage, maybe there is something to that. I can't quite see Ermey voicing Kup, but that's just because I'm so used to the original animated version. This, too, might be possible, and not especially out of character. There's also something in all of this to be said for his new official designation as "Sergeant" Kup. That and the fact that they sculpted him with his mouth open, which is pretty unusual.
The back of the head has been molded in transparent plastic, to create the frequently-used effect within the world of Transformers of allowing light to shine on the back of the head, making it appear as if the eyes are glowing. Sometimes this works well, sometimes not so much. In Kup's case, it works -- okay, but not spectacularly well.
In robot mode, Kup stands about 5-3/4" in height -- a good height for this particular range of Transformers. Oddly, Kup doesn't look all that spectacular from the side, because the truck doors are attached to the outsides of his arms, and his lower legs still have parts of the rear of the truck attached to them and very visible. From the side, Kup honestly looks more truck than robot. It's a weird effect, and not one that I've encountered all that often. I suppose one could make a joke that, given how old Kup is reported to be, maybe he comes from a time before they really got the hang of transformation. Not that I'd say that to his face.
What's also interesting is that, as you can see by the pictures, he looks better standing in an "action" position than straight on standing straight up. The truck sides tend to make him look unusually "angular" in a straight stance, but get him in an "action" stance and the effect is minimized.
His legs are fairly large relative to the rest of his body, and his feet certainly do. On the other hand, he stands well, and he's certainly not likely to fall over.
Kup is, of course, superbly articulated in robot mode, and is fully poseable at the head, arms, elbows, wrists, legs, upper leg swivel, knees, and ankles. There's a curious construction about his arms, which might have been necessary from a transformation standpoint, where he has a forward-moving elbow joint, but right after that, there's a second elbow joint which allows the lower arm to move inward. Couple this with an upper arm rotation, and Kup has surprisingly poseable arms, especially given that they've got the truck doors attached to them, which admittedly are a slight hindrance to some movement.
Paint work is fairly minimal on Kup, but where it does appear it is very impressively done. Mostly this is a couple of Autobot emblems -- one on the front of his truck mode, another on his chest in robot mode. A few other areas have some silver paint, and his robot mode has a few small details painted in a light orange. All of this has been very nearly carried out.
Kup's character profile on his package reads as follows: Sergeant Kup is the oldest soldier any of the Autobots know. Even before the war he was a career military 'bot, dedicated to defending Cybertron against all threats. His long service has supplied him with an endless array of war stories, which he never hesitates to share with his comrades no matter what else is going on.
His various power levels give him a 10 in Endurance -- and at his age he's earned it -- 9 in Courage, 8 in Rank, 7 in Strength and Intelligence, 5 in Speed and Fireblast, and 4 in Skill. Well, you get to be several million years old, and some things just don't work quite as well as they used to. Doesn't mean he's ready for the scrap-heap, not by a longshot.
So what's my final word? I'm immensely pleased to see another entry from the "later" days of Generation 1. I'd like to see more. Springer would certainly be welcome, although as he was originally a Triple-Changer, that might be tricky. And I'd love to see a Generation 1 Arcee after all this time, although admittedly I'm not holding my breath.
But Kup is well-made, certainly looks abundantly enough like the character in robot mode (the distinctive color helps), and has an interesting and entirely appropriate new vehicle mode to go with it. Any longtime Transformers fan will welcome this new edition of this popular and favorite Autobot into their collection.
The TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS figure of SERGEANT KUP definitely has my highest recommendation!