Wednesday, March 26, 2014

They Can't Beat The Best!

My first “Transformer*” was a blue F-15 jet named Thundercracker. My friend who lived across the street had a red Lamborghini named Sideswipe. And every chance he got, he would remind me that according to this new Transformers cartoon his car was a good guy and my jet was a bad guy. And more than that, he kept rubbing it in that in the show our 2 robots actually had a run in where his guy “supposedly” shot my guy out of the sky.

Of course, the first thing I did when I got a betamax copy of the new show was to see if what he was saying was true. Turned out, he was only partially correct. My guy was indeed a bad guy. Our robots did have a run in and my guy was shot down…but NOT by his guy. Turned out Sideswipe had a brother, Sunstreaker, and it was Sunstreaker that shot down Thundercracker….so THERE!

From that point on, because it was him and not Sideswipe who shot down Thundercracker, just to spite my friend, I decided that Sunstreaker would be my favorite Autobot and would insist to my friend that he was ultimately cooler than his brother Sideswipe. To be fair, in my eyes he DID look cooler. He didn’t transform into your typical Lamborghini, but a modified version with huge exhausts sticking out from the back. Now I understand that to car experts such a contraption would ultimately ruin the stream lined shape of a Lamborghini, but to a kid, they looked like cool back mounted jet exhausts or additional weapons which made him look even more formidable.

Now Sunstreaker was rarely featured in the cartoon, but when he was (along with his brother), it was usually during some cool action sequence, like when they came to the rescue of a fellow Autobot (the afformentioned scene where Sunstreaker shoots down Thundercracker) or riding the backs of some Decepticon jets attempting to perform their specialized “jet judo” attacks on them. These short but sweet appearances made me like him a lot more.

Unfortunately, I never got myself a Sunstreaker toy, which was really probably all for the better because as far as G1 Transformer toys go, he was one of the uglier ones with ape like arms and an oversized head. But despite a rare and wonky toy, I still loved the guy.

A few years later, I would get “to know” Sunstreaker a little better by reading his bio that came with the toy (I got his “tech spec” from one of my more generous friends). Now I’ve said this over and over that one of the main reasons that The Transformers as a cartoon and a toyline was such a runaway success while other similar toys failed was the strength of their characterizations. They weren’t just cookie cutter good and bad guys. Whoever wrote the toy bios and the shows made a genuine effort to give each and every robot their own unique personalities, complete with their own quirks and imperfections. Take Sunstreaker’s bio for example….

Sunstreaker knows to the core of his spark that he is better than any other Autobot, and he makes sure everyone else knows it, too. His sociopathic tendencies, combined with his incredible vanity and arrogance, usually result in tension between himself and the other Autobots. He is generally unwilling to help those who are having trouble keeping up, and is quite audible when it comes to complaining about the shortcomings of everyone else. The only Autobot he truly gets along with is his twin brother, Sideswipe, and even that can seem strained at times.

The main reason Optimus Prime keeps him around is most likely Sunstreaker's effectiveness in the battlefield. Ruthless and skilled in all forms of combat, there is not much Sunstreaker cannot handle. As a front-line warrior, Sunstreaker is a great asset for the Autobot army. If a rather scary one.

Now I don’t know about you but words like “sociopathic tendencies, incredible vanity, arrogance and unwillingness to help others” aren’t the first characteristics I would think of when describing a “good guy”. But there you have it, Sunstreaker IS an Autobot, and not just any Autobot but one who’s ruthless effectiveness on the battlefield is such a great asset, that his team mates and leader are willing to overlook the fact that he truly is a bonifide A-hole. And not that I like jerks in general, but it all adds up to a more interestingly realistic character that I can get behind.

to be continued...