Monday, August 19, 2013

The Transformers Thunderous Thirty #4 - Sunstreaker

I've written before about the Autobots being "good guys" and the Decepticons being "bad guys" in fairly sweeping terms. While this is helpful for describing things to people who don't know much about the Transformers franchise, the reality is that the truth is often more subtle (much like real life!). Sunstreaker is an Autobot, but to call him a "good guy" glosses over some fairly significant personality flaws.

The character's original Tech Specs bio from 1984 says that Sunstreaker is "the complete egotist" and describes his intense vanity, as well as the fact that he is "not a team player," but that's the version that had to be edited down for space to fit on the back of the toy's box. The longer version, published a few years later in issue #3 of Marvel's Transformers Universe comic, describes Sunstreaker's "sociopathic tendencies," and these have only become more prominent in fictional portrayals of more recent years. Sunstreaker may fight on the Autobots' side in a battle, but he really isn't someone you'd want to get to know too closely (as IDW's Hunter O'Nion character found out. Click on that Wiki link for more details).

The original Sunstreaker toy is one of a very few 1984 molds that has never been officially reissued in the post-Generation One era (it was most recently reissued in the European "Classics" line of 1990), and the original molds are believed to be lost (or, perhaps, currently in the hands of Zhong Jin, a company which has been making knock-offs that are nigh indistinguishable from the originals. Buyer beware!). This 2008 Universe toy, however, is relatively easy to find. Besides not being as accurate to the Lamborghini stylings of the original toy for legal reasons, this toy represents an early effort by Hasbro to not only get more than one toy out of a mold (usually done simply by reissuing the mold in new colors, maybe with a new head), but to incorporate a distinctive transformation for each character. Thus, with Sunstreaker, the car's roof becomes the robot's chest (much as in the original) while with Sunstreaker's brother Sideswipe, the car's hood becomes the robot's chest. This dual-transformation design has already been demonstrated when I featured the Transformers Collectors' Club's Punch/Counterpunch figure, which also uses this mold.

One further note about that original bio, which was written (as were most, if not all, of the Generation One bios) by Bob Budiansky as part of Hasbro's efforts to give their transforming robot line an edge over its competitors (an effort that, by all accounts, was singularly successful). There are are clues, especially in the longer version, that suggest that Sunstreaker's bio was originally intended for the toy that became Sideswipe, who also turned into a Lamborghini, although a somewhat different-looking one. The idea is that the color schemes (and thus the names) intended for each toy were swapped sometime after the bios had been attached to them. So when the same bio that calls Sunstreaker a sociopath also says that he thinks Sideswipe's design "is spoiled by the rear-mounted engine in his automobile mode" (a feature distinctive to Sunstreaker, but not Sideswipe) it seems clear that the G1 mold we now associate with Sideswipe was really supposed to be the jerk! As it is, Sunstreaker's irritating personality stuck, while his particular reasons for feeling superior to his brother have been glossed over as a mistake. Go figure.

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