Tuesday, September 10, 2013

All Fired Up Over A Jet

When I was a kid, my dad went off on numerous business trips out of the country. And when he came home, he would more often than not spoil us silly with all the pasalubongs (gifts) that he would bring back for us. And when he went off on one of his trips in 1985, I had only one thing on my mind for him to get for me…Transformers. I don’t really remember asking him for anything specific…at that point didn’t really have any real Transformer toys, just a solitary Diaclone jet that was meant to be Thundercracker. So really, I would be happy with ANY Transformer he would bring home.

During one of his phone calls home while he was away, he excitedly told me of the Transformers that he had already gotten for me. He told me he had gotten me Megatron, Bluestreak and a “jet”. Now although I didn’t really have any toys yet, I was familiar with the cartoon and I knew that Megatron was the leader of the Decepticons (awesome!) and that Bluestreak was one of the cooler looking Autobot cars so I was really happy with what my dad had gotten for me. Now the jet…I just assumed was one of the 3 Decepticon jets in the cartoon, either Starscream, Skywarp or even a “real” version of Thundercracker….either of which I would have been totally happy to get. But to my surprise, I was so totally off on my assumptions…and needless to say I was blown away with what my dad ended up getting for me instead….

When he finally arrived home, he eagerly unpacked his stuff and started handing me my new Transformers. Of course he handed me Bluestreak first since he was the smallest box….cool. Then came Megatron which came in a rather larger box….this got me wondering…I knew that the Decepticon jets weren’t that much bigger than Megatron so why was I getting Megatron first? In my mind, he should have been the grand finale….and then it happened. My dad pulled out the biggest box I had ever laid my eyes on and I was totally speechless. Here before me was a Transformer that I had NEVER seen before…and he looked AMAZING.

It took me awhile get a hold of myself and actually process what my dad had brought home for me. See aside from being a Transformer I had never seen before, JETFIRE was also rather confusing. Up to that point, it was pretty much “understood” that the good guys, “AUTO”-bots were all cars, and the bad guys, the Decepticons were everything else, including jets. But here was Jetfire, who was most definitely a jet, but based on his profile on the back of the box, he was identified as an Autobot….absolutely mind blowing.

Once I got him out of his box, it only got better. See, aside from being the largest Transformer I had ever held in my hands, Jetfire was beautiful! Unlike most of the first wave of Transformer toys, this guy was super articulated; he could move his arms & legs AND bend at the knees and elbows. Oh and did I mention how beautiful he looked? And he transformed into the sleek looking jet with wings that could be swept forward and back just like an F-14 Tomcat. And if that wasn’t enough…he came with snap on/off armor for his arms & legs as well as a massive jet pack for the back! He was simply….beautiful ha ha.

When I finally got a hold of myself, the next thought that came to my head was that my friends are going to DIE when they see this. Especially my neighbour, who kept rubbing it in that he had a good guy Autobot who kicked my Decepticon jet’s butt…now I had the ultimate Transformer who would defeat EVERYBODY!

Anyway, as cool and amazing as Jetfire the toy was, when it came to the cartoon, he ended up being a bit of a disappointment. See as I covered in a previous post, the first wave of Transformers toys were from the Japanese toy company Takara’s Diaclone line. But as the demand for more Transformers grew, Hasbro started obtaining licenses from other smaller Japanese toy companies as well. One of them was this company called Takatoku who had made toys for an anime series called Macross. The Jetfire mold was actually the mold for the main vehicle/robot in that series called a Valkyrie.

instead of this...
Eventually though, Takatoku would get absorbed by Takara’s rival Bandai and the Macross series itself got rather popular (and was eventually exported to the US and rebranded as Robotech). This presented a problem as Takara really couldn’t produce and sell a toy owned by its rival. So in the end, Jetfire wasn’t really sold in the Japanese market and as for the animated series, he had to be radically redesigned and the end result ended up rather far from the actual toy.

...we got THIS :(
First of all, his name was changed from Jetfire to Skyfire. And both of his modes looked dulled down. Instead of a cool looking battle mask head with “horn guns” we got a generic looking unmasked mug. His jet formed fared even worse as it now looked literally like a box with wings. Even his character was dulled down, from his original role (from the toy’s profile) as the Autobot’s “Air Guardian”…he became….a scientist….and somewhat of a pacifist as well…..boooooring.

As for future versions of Jetfire, it gets even worse. He was featured heavily in the 2nd live action movie “The Revenge of the Fallen” and even here, like all the other Transformers in these movies, he was reinvented into this OLD decrepit robot (complete with a beard!) with a WALKING STICK!!!! Needless to say, I skipped off on buying the toy of that piece of trash.

To be fair though, Hasbro did release a fairly decent update of the original Jetfire as well. And it was OK. I did get that one, but even years later, the original toy still kicks this “newer” version to the curb.

So while over the years, he has been portrayed pretty badly in the cartoons and movies, no one can take away the fact that even compared to Transformers today, the original Generation 1 Jetfire toy remains one of the BEST Transformers toys ever made. And I am really happy that I got to own him at one point in my life, enjoy him and of course…flaunt him over all my friends.

my version of Jetfire