Thursday, February 25, 2016

Building up the Wreckers

In the Transformers universe, the Wreckers are a special task force supposedly composed of the deadliest, toughest and often times craziest warriors in the Autobot ranks. They’re basically the team that handles the missions that no other bots would want. A last resort solution designed to come in and blow everything up.

The concept of the Wreckers team was originally introduced in the Transformers comic published by Marvel UK, which reprinted the US Transformers comics. But Marvel UK did more than just reprint, existing stories. Because they published on a bi-monthly schedule (versus monthly in the US) they came up with a lot of original Transformers stories not found in the US. In order to not confuse readers of the main comic, they wrote stories meant to take place In between the US issues, and so by design had to feature characters not heavily featured in the main title. So the UK Transformers comic is famous for introducing and featuring a lot of original characters that didn’t have toy counterparts or ones who weren’t named Prime, Bumblebee or Starscream.

And so it was in the pages of the UK comics that the Wreckers were born. A team comprised of some original characters, but mostly odds and ends from the Autobot ranks that the writers from the US comic did not care for much or had no idea what to do with.

With their distinct battle cry of ‘Wreck n’Rule!”, the Wreckers turned out to be so popular that even after the UK comic ended, the concept of the Wreckers has been used in one form or another in almost all succeeding Transformers media. And I for one have become a big fan of the team, so much so that I set off to create my own version of the Wreckers in toy form.

Anyway, because of the violent nature of their job, the group’s membership is constantly changing as new bots come in to replace those who are killed in action. But despite this ever-changing line-up, there is one iteration of the group that is widely recognized by many Transformer fans as the definitive classic line-up. And no I am not referring to that hodge-podge trio of rally cars featured in the 3rd Transformers movie.

First you’ve got two of the original Autobot triple changers (I’ll get to the 3rd one later). Unlike their Decepticon counterparts Astrotrain & Blitzwing that achieved some degree of popularity, Sandstorm and Broadside didn’t quite catch on with the fandom and were basically destined for obscurity. Despite this, Hasbro did manage to release a pretty good modernized version of Sandstorm. Broadside however was not so lucky. To this date, there has not been a single modern version of this poor triple changer. Luckily, 3rd party company Fansproject set out to fix this oversight by Hasbro by giving us their Warbot Assaulter. He’s big, beefy, die-casty and a perfect modern representation of Broadside. You’ll see a similar trend with other Wreckers members and 3rd party companies.

As part of the 2nd wave of Transformers in 1985, Roadbuster and Whirl stood out like two sore thumbs. Labeled as “deluxe” Autobots, they didn’t look like any of the other Autobot warriors, especially Whirl, whose odd cyclopean face looked more like Decepticon Shockwave. The fact that they didn’t appear in any of the cartoons added even more to their obscurity…perfect Wrecker material. Maybe it was because Whirl found new life as one of the main characters in the More than Meets the Eye series by IDW or that Hasbro has finally caught on to the Wreckers popularity, but these two were also recent recipients of updated but modern toy versions. Score two more for my Wrecker ranks. Unfortunately, for the rest of the members it gets a little harder from here.

The Autobot Jumpstarters, Topspin and Twin Twist were another gimmicky duo also released in 1985. I say gimmicky because their toys basically revolved around the their identical action feature, which was to spring up and “transform” on their own. It was a cool gimmick at the time I guess, but from what I heard, they warmed the pegs like nobody’s business. Fortunately, just like the forgotten Deluxe Autobots, the Jumpstarters fit the Wrecker profile as well. Unlike the Roadbuster and Whirl however, Topspin and Twin Twist are still waiting for a proper modern toy update. (I do not count Hasbro’s poor attempt at Wreckers combiner based of the awful Fall of Cybertron Bruticus set) Enter another 3rd party company Mech Ideas with Apex & Geminus, collectively known as the Demolition Crüe. While I had never heard of this company before, I was intrigued and took a chance on these 2 guys. Luckily while they may not be perfect (I could’ve used bigger drills and pontoons), I think they pack a ton of personality, give me a modern version of Topspin and Twin Twist that fit in perfectly in my Wrecker ranks.

And then we get Scoop and Leadfoot. Ok so these guys I just threw in. To my knowledge they both aren’t really a part of the classic Wreckers lineup…they were both added in later versions of the team. But Hasbro made decent versions of both of these guys so I figured why not? While I’m pretty sure that I’ve got the correct Wrecker Scoop, the Power Core Combiner Leadfoot is a little more suspect….but he’s a cool toy and fits pretty well with my Wreckers so there.

Finally we get the leaders of the Wreckers. First we have Springer. Unlike his 2 triple changer brothers, Springer did manage to get popular, thanks to being one of the main characters in the 1986 animated movie. Despite his popularity though, it took quite a while for Hasbro to come up with an updated modern version of Springer. In the meantime, Fansproject took the opportunity to produce their own version of Springer…Warbot Defender. Prior to this, Fansproject only produced add on sets to compliment existing Hasbro figures. Defender would be their first attempt at making a complete and original transforming robot from scratch, and it was quite an effort. On it’s release a lot of collectors jumped at the chance of finally adding a modern version of Springer to their ranks including myself. Eventually though, Hasbro did release their own official version of Springer and it was really good…often recognized as one of the best modern Transformers out there…but for some reason, I still preferred my Defender.

The modern version of triple changer Sandstorm was actually a very smart retool of this new Springer (although it is widely believed that the Sandstorm toy was actually planned and designed first). So despite the fact that the new Springer looked really good, when I came to my Wreckers, I preferred the blockier and more unique Defender. It also made Sandstorm look more special as well and not just another retool.

In the UK comics, the original leader of the Wreckers was this rugged old warrior named Impactor. Now this is just speculation, but I’m assuming that since he was not based on any existing toy, he was basically created to be killed off. True enough, he eventually died in the line of duty making way for Springer to take over as leader. That should’ve been the end of the guy. But due to the popularity of the Wreckers in general, the Impactor character refused to die with the fans. To my knowledge he is currently alive and well in the current IDW comic doing what he does best…wrecking and ruling.

Surprisingly, Hasbro actually did produce an “official” Impactor toy…but it was pretty pretty pretty bad. I choose to believe it doesn’t exist. Now while a proper modern version of Impactor was something I felt I really didn’t need (I was quite happy with my present Wrecker lineup), another 3rd party company made me think otherwise.

Mastermind Creation’s Spartan was definitely not on my list of “must haves”, but rave review after rave review slowly changed my mind and I eventually caved. Fortunately, everything I heard about this toy was definitely not exaggerated. Spartan is an amazing toy, and he definitely IS Impactor. His alt mode is solid and his robot mode is the perfect plastic rendition of the grizzled Wrecker leader.

One more member (or members) of the classic Wreckers lineup that I feel deserves a special mention is Rack n’Ruin. These guys were two identical small nondescript Autobots that were co joined at the arms. The only difference they had was that their respective free arms ended in a different weapon. One had a hammer and the other an anvil (cliché I know…). They didn’t transform into anything and from what I know, didn’t really do anything special until they were eventually killed off. Still, despite their rather dull history, Rack n’Ruin were original Wreckers. Unfortunately neither Hasbro nor any other 3rd party company has come up with a toy version of Rack n’Ruin. If any of them do, I’ll definitely add them to my Wreckers ranks. In the meantime, if I find the right parts I think I’ll probably end up making a custom of these guys.

Anyway, like I said earlier, the Wrecker ranks are one that is in constant flux. Through the years, modern iterations of the team have featured more mainstream characters like Kup, Wheeljack, Bulkhead and even a stone cold sniper…Perceptor???

While I don’t mind having these more recognizable characters in the Wrecker ranks, they will never be a part of the classic Wreckers lineup in my book. For me, the beauty and charm of the original Wreckers was that they were a group composed of obscure outcasts that Hasbro and most comic book writers didn’t know what to do with. On their own, most of the members were pretty unspectacular and it was only as a collected unit that they found their true calling….as a crack take no prisoners elite unit with a death wish…Wreck n’ Rule!