REVIEW: TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS THUNDERCRACKER
Finally! That was the first word that popped into my head when I heard that Thundercracker would be joining the Generations line of Transformers. Finally -- I would be able to have all of the prominent Decepticon "Seeker" planes, that have been a part of the Transformers concept since their inception. It's been a longer road than one might have otherwise expected.
I have all the respect in the world for the classic Transformers, known as "Generation One". The characters are superb, I loved the cartoon, enjoyed the comic book -- but the original toys had one major fallacy as far as I was concerned. In their robot modes, they weren't especially well articulated. Most of them could do little more than just stand around. They could move their arms, maybe their heads, fire a spring-loaded missile -- that was about it. Honestly, to me, it was a grievous disappointment, after seeing these characters in their action-based stories in the comics and animated series.
Over the years, largely starting with Beast Wars, the Transformers started picking up greater levels of articulation. I was pleased, but I really wished that there was a way that the original, Generation One Transformers could benefit from this. Obviously I wasn't the only person who considered this matter, because several years ago, the Transformers world was introduced to TRANSFORMERS CLASSICS. These were Generation One characters, in new and modern modes, looking as much as possible like their classic incarnations, but now, their robot modes had a full range of motion!
It was precisely what I wanted, precisely what I thought was needed, and I very happily collected them and brought them into my home. Of course, the collection included such classic and well-known Decepticons as Starscream, and then Skywarp came out as a store exclusive packed alongside Ultra Magnus. But where was Thundercracker?
Eventually, we would get Ramjet, who was one of three Decepticon planes that came along a bit later in the original line, but there was no Thundercracker. For that matter, there was now no Dirge or Thrust, who were Ramjet's contemporaries. And then, the line came to an end, to make room for the live-action movie.
The Official Transformers Collectors' Club released a Convention Set that included these three planes -- Thundercracker, Dirge, and Thrust, as well as some other popular characters that fans felt deserved the "Classics" treatment. Unfortunately, unless you were one of the few able to get that scarce and valuable set, you still missed out. And as with most things related to Transformers, especially given their global popularity, that set has only increased in value over time.
Fortunately, the Classics would return. Now known as TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS, and with enough time having gone by since the release of that particular BotCon set, Hasbro opted to bring the remaining Seekers into the main line. Thrust and Dirge came out in fairly short order, and I readily brought them in. But I was really waiting for Thundercracker. I mean, we'd even had an all-new Seeker, a green camouflage plane named Acid Storm. He was cool, a great addition to the line, but where was Thundercracker? Finally, he was announced. After that, it became a waiting game for me. And with the third live-action movie, I knew that time was running short.
In the original animated series, Thundercracker was portrayed, much like Skywarp, as a thug, working for Megatron, but definitely under Starscream. Skywarp and Thundercracker just weren't given as much character development. Still, let's consider the backstory of Thundercracker, with a little online research assistance.
In the Marvel comics series, Thundercracker was depicted as one of Starscream's lieutenants, along with fellow Seeker Skywarp. Frequently in the early issues, Thundercracker is seen fighting alongside Skywarp, although Thundercracker was shown to be a smarter fighter.
One of the original ten Decepticons that fell to Earth in the Ark. Thundercracker was reactivated and given the Earth mode of an F-15 jet. He would participate in many of the early battles against the Autobots - until a disastrous raid by Megatron led to Thundercracker, along with Starscream, Skywarp, Buzzsaw, Rumble and Frenzy, getting deactivated by Omega Supreme.
In the US continuity Thundercracker was eventually rescued along with the other captive Decepticons, by Ratbat's forces, although he returned much earlier in the UK comics, where he was displaced to a limbo dimension by the arrival of future Autobots alongside Frenzy and Shockwave, where they had to work with Optimus Prime, Prowl and Ratchet to survive. He would then participate in the battles against Scorponok's Decepticons and then against the Autobots using their united force. None realized, however, that it was all a ruse by Starscream to gain the power of the Underbase for himself. The Autobots and Decepticons would then unite to stop him, but Starscream's power was too great, and Thundercracker was one of those deactivated by his former wingmate.
He was not seen again until the G2 comic, where he seemingly took command of the Decepticon aerial contingent against the forces of Jhiaxus.
According to his expanded Transformer's Universe biography, Thundercracker is unique among his fellow Decepticons in that he has a certain amount of pity for the humans they continually endanger or kill. He doesn't see the point of killing humans just to kill them as some of his fellows do, although he is very careful not to reveal this. No matter what small amount of sympathy Thundercracker feels for humans, his sense of self-preservation (and fear of what Megatron would do if he found out) outweighs it.
In the animated series, Thundercracker was one of the first Decepticons to awaken on Earth in 1984. After laying dormant for four million years, he shared the same Earthen appearance as Starscream and Skywarp and is usually allied with them during attacks.
Despite being one of the original Decepticons and appearing in many battles during 1984 and 1985, Thundercracker had few prominent roles.
Often chafing under Starscream's self-importance and glory-seeking, he seemed to dislike Starscream and exploited reasons to undermine his authority, such as letting the Autobot Skyfire destroy one of their secret weapons merely so Starscream would get the blame.
In the year 2005, Thundercracker was present during the battle for Autobot City, and was gunned down by Optimus Prime and earlier Kup. With the subsequent defeat of their leader, Megatron, the Decepticons were forced to retreat. However, there were too many Decepticons aboard Astrotrain (who served as an impromptu escape vehicle), and Thundercracker was among those few Decepticons too weakened to put up a fight to stay on board. Being cast out into space, the damaged Decepticons drifted into the path of Unicron, and Thundercracker's body was used to create Scourge, one of Galvatron's new warriors.
In the season 3 episode, Starscream's Ghost, Thundercracker appears to have a grave—or at least a commemorative marker—in the Decepticon crypt.
In the more recent comics, during the Dreamwave run, he was recruited as a Decepticon under the leadership of Megatron in his war against the Autobots on the planet Cybertron. Thundercracker became a member of the elite Seekers under Aerospace Commander Starscream. He often worked with fellow Seeker Skywarp.
Skywarp and Thundercracker launched an attack against the city of Altihex, where they killed the Autobot named Overhaul and routed Grimlock and his group of Autobots. Later, Starscream, Skywarp and Thundercracker attacked the city of Protihex under the orders of Megatron, but this time Grimlock launched a successful counterattack. If not for Skywarp's ability to teleport to safety, the Decepticons may have not escaped alive. After Megatron's disappearance, Thundercracker remained loyal to the Decepticons.
Because he was part of Megatron's loyal inner circle, Thundercracker was chosen as a member of the crew of the Nemesis when Megatron launched it to attack the Ark, an Autobot ship. Both ships fought, and after the Decepticons boarded the Ark, it crashed on the planet Earth. All on board were placed in emergency stasis lock for millions of years.
In the Earth year 1984, a volcanic explosion awakened the Ark. The Ark's computer, Teletran One, reformatted all on board to be able to assume the forms of Earth machines. Thundercracker, like Starscream and Skywarp, was given the form of an F-15 fighter jet. Eventually the combined forces of the Autobots on Earth, and their human allies were able to capture the Decepticons. A ship called the Ark II was built to take the Cybertonians back to Cybertron, along with some human companions, but the ship exploded shortly after takeoff. The human allies were killed, but the Cybertonians were lost in the ocean, again in stasis lock.
After being awoken again Thundercracker and the other Decepticons on Earth returned to Cybertron with Shockwave, but he later returned to Earth under the command of Starscream. He was captured along with Soundwave and Skywarp by the Autobots and locked in cells on board the Ark. They escaped when the Ark was attacked by Bruticus.
Most recently, in the IDW series, Thundercracker has been surprisingly prominent -- which doubtless served to spur me on to want to make sure he was added to my collection. The rebooted Generation One continuity borrowed from many previous sources, included the animated series, as well as the Marvel and Dreamwave comic books, but also featured many new and unexplored ideas and origins. Chronologically, Thundercracker made his first appearance in The Transformers: Megatron Origin, joining Megatron. He, along with his fellow Seekers, played a role in Megatron's plan to cause terror throughout Cybertron. Thundercracker soon became a member of the Decepticons.
At the end of the "All Hail Megatron" series, Thundercracker gains a new prominence. In the last edition of this series Thundercracker is seen betraying the Decepticons. He saves the North American Eastern Seaboard from a nuclear attack by flying the bomb into space and destroying it.
The Autobots are seen rejoicing at Thundercracker's act. Thundercracker did not believe that there was any honor in allowing the humans to die for the sake of it. He believed that a Decepticon was forged by combat, not slaughter. Upon discovery of what he had done, Skywarp shot Thundercracker in the face at point blank range.
Eventually Thundercracker was found by other Decepticons left behind and was rebuilt. None of those left behind were aware of Thundercracker's apparent betrayal, and looked to him to lead them. However, Thundercracker sought solitude instead. For a time he sat alone and watched television, learning about humanity and life on Earth. In time, he came to respect the beauty of life and human culture.
While the Autobots went on to seek out other Cybertronians on Earth together with the United States Government, Thundercracker was recruited by Autobot leader Bumblebee to assist in bringing in the Combaticons. He has since been contacted by Starscream, but refused his offer of rejoining the Decepticons. At the moment, he seems to want to be left alone as much as anything.
An impressive amount of character development for a character that has, for the most part, been a second-stringer in Starscream's shadow. I've honestly been very impressed with Thundercracker's recent appearances in the comic books.
So, how's the toy? Also very impressive. One of the things that has impressed me about the Seekers, especially the classic three of Starscream, Skywarp, and now Thundercracker, is that although they are entirely different toys from their original Generation One versions, they still look very much as they did in those original versions. No significant changes have been made. Even in their aircraft modes, they still look like F-15's.
For those wondering, the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle is a twin-engine, all-weather tactical fighter designed by McDonnell Douglas to gain and maintain air superiority in aerial combat. It is considered among the most successful modern fighters with over 100 aerial combat victories with no losses in dogfights. Following reviews of proposals, the United States Air Force selected McDonnell Douglas' design in 1967 to meet the service's need for a dedicated air superiority fighter. The Eagle first flew in July 1972, and entered service in 1976. The F-15 is expected to be in service with the U.S. Air Force until 2025.
In fighter jet mode, Thundercracker is about 6-1/2" in length, with a wingspan of not quite five inches. He is predominantly blue, with silver fronts to his engines, and red and white detail striping on his wings. One of the things that impresses me is the entirely different detailing given to Thundercracker, Starscream, and Skywarp. It's different for all three planes, and not just different colors -- but entirely different patterns.
Thundercracker also has Decepticon emblems on his wings, and comes with two spring-loaded missile launchers, which can attach to the undersides of his wings.
Thundercracker's transformation process is ranked on a scale of 0 to 5 as a "2", officially designated "Easy", and really, it's not too bad -- especially if you've already done six of these guys over the previous few years. However, I do like to provide written instructions to accompany the pictorial ones that come with the actual toy.
First, rotate Thundercracker's wings around 180 degrees. Then remove the missile launchers, if they happen to still be in place. Next, raise the front half of the plane upwards at an angle, and then rotate the arms outward, tuck in the landing gear, and rotate the very front of the plane around 180 degrees.
Next, and this is really the only tricky part of the transformation, fold and tuck the front of the plane into what is now the upper torso assembly of the robot, and slide the lower legs down. These are separate operations. Then pop the front of the plane over and back behind the robot. This will reveal Thundercracker's head. Then snap the torso back into place.
Finally, separate the legs, fold up the tail wings against the sides of the legs, and lower the hands from the arms. And Thundercracker is fully in robot mode! You can attach the missile launchers to his shoulders if you so desire.
In robot mode, Thundercracker stands about 5" high to the top of his head, or 5-1/2" if you include the engine fronts which jut atop his shoulders somewhat. The Seekers are a little short as Classics go, but they're still an impressive group.
Thundercracker is nicely detailed and extremely reminiscent of his original version. His torso is mostly silver with some red and blue highlights on it. His upper arms are blue, with some red striping, while his lower arms and hands are black. His legs are almost entirely blue, with black feet, and some silver details on the front of his lower legs. His head is black, with a silver face and red eyes.
Unlike a number of the Generations-style Transformers, neither Thundercracker nor any of the Seekers have the effect of having the backs of their heads molded in transparent colored plastic to make it look like their eyes are glowing when it by light from behind. Not a big loss. Thundercracker's eyes are painted red.
Most of the painted detail on Thundercracker is reserved for the detail striping on his wings. This has been carried out very neatly. He also has the two aforementioned Decepticon emblems on his wings, as well as a smaller one on his chest. Interestingly, since both Starscream and Skywarp came out during a time when Hasbro had reinstated the thermal-activated "Reveal" stickers -- which made a comeback recently but did not include Thundercracker -- Thundercracker is the only one of the three original Seekers to have readily visible Decepticon emblems on him.
Of course, if you're any sort of Transformers fan, you know whose side these guys are on...
Most of Thundercracker has been molded in a blue plastic, and I believe it has a very, very slight metallic finish to it. It's barely perceptible, but I think it's there. In any case, it's a good and appropriate color choice. This figure really looks like Thundercracker.
And, of course, there's the articulation! This is what I especially like about these Transformers. Call them Classics, call them Generations, I call them poseable like Transformers should have been from the outset, although perhaps it wasn't possible at the time. Well, it is possible now, and it's certainly been carried out well.
Thundercracker is poseable at the head (although it needs a little help by using the front of the airplane on Thundercracker's back), arms, elbows, wrists, legs, knees, and feet -- although the articulation of the feet is really more a part of his transformation than anything else. There's also a swivel in the knee joints.
The back of Thundercracker's package card describes him thusly: Back on Cybertron, Thundercracker was a master of using sound to his advantage. His fear-inducing sonic booms were tuned perfectly to the composition of the atmosphere. Sonic vibrations from his attacks could be felt thousands of miles away, generating panic in those nearby, and deep unease even on the other side of the planet.
Just in case you wondered where he got the name "Thundercracker".
His various power levels give him a "9" in Strength, Speed, and Fireblast, "7" in Courage, "6" in Skill, "5" in Endurance and Rank, and "4" in Intelligence, which I think is a little insulting in light of his recent semi-reformed behavior in the comics. I'd have to say that someone took that from his thuggish attitude in the original animated series.
So, what's my final word here? Besides, "Finally"? Seriously, I'm very glad to have Thundercracker. I've already got him standing on display with Starscream and Skywarp, with Dirge, Thrust, Ramjet, and Acid Storm nearby. I'm sincerely pleased that Hasbro saw fit to bring these fine, classic Decepticons out to the general public. And any Transformers fan is certainly going to want to bring Thundercracker into their collection.
But there is -- one more -- Seeker. One more that could be done. One that I would certainly welcome, that has never been made in the Classics/Generations mode before. So let me just take a moment towards the end of this review of Thundercracker to put in a good word for -- SUNSTORM!
Meanwhile, the TRANSFORMERS GENERATIONS edition of THUNDERCRACKER most definitely has my highest recommendation!