Sunday, 13 May 2012

Reveal the Shield Wreck-Gar

The 1986 Animated movie came under a lot of fire for a lot of reasons (killing Optimus Prime, replacing him with the slightly rubbish Rodimus Prime, etc., etc.), but it's rarely acknowledged for the fun, new characters it brought to the table... largely because the toys were so poor. Wreck-Gar, leader of the Junkions (sentient transforming robots who seem to have had some kind of parallel evolution to Cybertronians, and were built out of junk) was a prime example. Cursed with a crummy toy that looked nothing like the animation model, he was, nevertheless, an amusing character, not least thanks to Eric Idle's voice work. Ignored until TransFormers Animated, Wreck-Gar - along with some other Junkions - has enjoyed something of a renaissance since, and the Reveal the Shield branch of Classics/Universe took him back to his roots.

Vehicle Mode:
Back in the dark days of movie-era Generation 1, motorbikes weren't a common alternate mode for TransFormers toys, and those that appeared tended to be pretty awful (Groove may not be a great example, because he was only a Protectobot limb, but he was shockingly bad). The Junkions were built from spare parts and junk, though, so they had an excuse for looking terrible. At least, that's the only excuse I can think of for the 1986 Wreck-Gar toy.

Cut to 25 years later, and the extended Classics line suddenly throws in a whole bunch of TF animated movie figures. Sure, we had Rodimus in pretty much the first wave, which Cyclonus and Galvatron shortly after... but Reveal the Shield brought in the rest of the crew - Kup, Scourge, and the King of the Heap, here. Furthermore, while Animated turned him into a refuse truck, the RtS Deluxe is quite an excellent motorbike.

The colour scheme is a mixture of grey, rust brown (metallic where painted), black, yellow and various shades of creamy-orangey-beige, with touches of silver on parts of the engine. This fits both the character and the dirt-bike alternate mode, with the flame pattern on the fuel tank giving it a custom-job look, like a restored junker.

I'm not sure if this is common, but the front wheel on mine is loose and wobbly so, coupled with the awkward connection of the supports to the body, it's difficult to make him look as if he's standing up straight in the photos - there always seems to be some level of curve to his construction, so it looks as though the bike has been in a bit of an accident.

Many other recent TransFormers motorbikes have kept the handlebars well within the body of the bike but, with this model, there's no way to do that - it's so thin, they had to protrude or it'd look wrong. Wisely, Hasbro cast these parts (including wing mirrors!) in rubber rather than plastic so, while thin, there's no real chance of them breaking off easily. The mountings are another matter entirely - after only a few transformations, the small ring of plastic that the handlebars are pinned into broke on both sides. The pins currently remain in place, just about held by what remains of the ring, but I daren't risk transforming him again.

One cool feature of this bike is that it was designed to be ridden by other Junkion figures, whose groin and bum plates feature protrusions that plug into sockets on the bike seat. I'm not sure I'd start doing any Junkion troop-building, but it's nice that the option is there, referencing the Junkions' habit of riding each other into battle. Another cool feature is that his weapon - much improved on the G1 version - folds up and becomes the bike's exhaust pipe. The axe blades close up and plug into the rear wheel, and one of the C-Clips acts as another connector inside the framework of the bike.

Robot Mode:
Amazingly, this asymmetrical mess of a robot is the perfect homage to Wreck-Gar as seen in the animated movie. It's not really anything like that model, but it's a far better interpretation of it than the G1 toy ever was. Where the G1 toy was a weird, skinny brick of a figure with a massive head and skinny-yet-stubby arms, the proportions of this are pretty excellent, although he does have a slightly hunchbacked appearance due to the head sitting very low in his collar. Then again, where the G1 toy used the actual front of the bike as the head - since that's what's implied by the animation model - this has a head that just coincidentally looks like the front of a bike - handlebars, windscreen, headlight and all. This version also scores over the original by having a proper handlebar 'tache and goatee, which are at least partially rubbery.

He seems rather left-heavy, with both wheels ending up on that side - one on the outside of his left leg, the other sticking out awkwardly from his left shoulder. Unlike a lot of other motorbike TransFormers, though, these large protrusions don't mess up his articulation - the wheel on his shoulder is on its own ball joint so, even if there was a clash, it would be easy enough to move it out of the way. The ball joint also means that the wheel can be rotated down to the elbow, almost acting like a shield.

The colour scheme doesn't stray much from alternate mode, though there's a bit more silver on the torso. The only real oddity is that the flame pattern on his chest is yellow rather than black, which would have matched the fuel tank decoration

The axe weapon can be stowed in two ways in robot mode - it can either stay plugged into the wheel, or it can be attached to Wreck-Gar's back via the C-Clip. When extended, it looks suspiciously like one of those kids' windmill toys, albeit rather more deadly and, thanks to the extensive arm jointing and hands which are molded open, it can be held two-handed, just like Darkmount/Straxus and his pick. Shame he can't swing it that way... only hold it menacingly.

He lacks the handgun of his G1 ancestor... but it's not as if Wreck-Gar ever used anything but his axe.

Considering his transformation is vaguely reminiscent of Animated Prowl, where one leg makes the front of the bike and the other makes the back, it should come as no surprise that getting Wreck-Gar into his alternate mode can be infuriating. Most of the problems are centred in the groin, where the hips snap together and are very difficult to separate again - it feels as though the leg will pop off before the hips separate but, thankfully, that hasn't happened yet. Getting everything aligned in the inner workings of the bike is also tricky but, once the legs are sorted, everything else eventually falls into place.

The only things limiting Wreck-Gar's poseability are the ankle joints which, despite being ball joints, have their movement limited by the shins on both sides... The head is also not as mobile as it could be, partly because it's sunk so low in his chest. Believe it or not, the photos show it pulled out as far as it comes, and it collapses back further for vehicle mode!

All things considered, Wreck-Gar was a real surprise addition to the extended family of Classics. Rather a fringe character who never really featured very prominently in any of the fiction, and yet was somehow deemed deserving of a brilliant contemporary reimagining, which revels in its awkward appearance. I'd like to have at least one other Junkion, just so I can give Wreck-Gar a partner to ride on once in a while, and because it's such a unique mold but, now that I have this one, I'm in no great hurry to get another... particularly not the more exclusive releases, and especially if all of them are as susceptible as Wreck Gar to breakage on the handlebar mountings.

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