Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Transformers Thunderous Thirty #26 - Ratchet

Ratchet is perhaps my favorite character from all of Generation One, and the "Hall of Fame" banner I put together a few years ago gives a glimpse as to why. Unfortunately, this version of the character is increasingly obscure, and will likely be all-but forgotten in just a few more years.

My Ratchet (the Ratchet from the Marvel Comics) was a guy who could fix anything, given the resources, but who often found himself perpetually short of the spare parts he needed to do everything that needed to be done. Even worse, he found himself the last Autobot standing after Shockwave had managed to deactivate all the others during a pivotal battle early in the series. Despite never being trained as a warrior (one can practically hear Star Trek's Doctor McCoy when Ratchet says, "I'm a doctor, not a warrior," in issue #7), Ratchet was able to retake the Ark (the Autobot's spaceship) and free his friends. Before the comic completed its original 80-issue run several years later, he found himself the only Autobot available on at least three more occasions, each time in supposedly-impossible situations, and each time managed to thwart the plans of his opponents. Not even Optimus Prime could make that claim at the time!

While I've made no secret of my preference for the comics over and against the original cartoon, I don't really blame the cartoon too much for the problem of "reluctant hero" Ratchet's diminishing notoriety. Although the cartoon version of Ratchet was visibly different from the comics version (note the white helmet here, vs. the red helmet of the comic version, as above), I never worried much about that. And although the cartoon version of Ratchet had little in the way of demonstrable personality, that was hardly unusual among cartoon Autobots. Indeed, what little we did see in the cartoon did little to invalidate the more-developed Marvel version. Lack of evidence is not the same as evidence of lack, and all that....

Rather, the problem is that current depictions of Ratchet, even those in nominally Generation One continuities, portray a markedly different character. Ask anyone who only knows Ratchet from one of these modern interpretations, and they'll describe a crotchety old guy who hides a deeply compassionate heart underneath a crusty, grouchy, exterior. While this version of Ratchet is undeniably entertaining, he's just not the guy I grew up with.

My other main disappointment in regard to Ratchet is that, to this day, he has never gotten a decent mainstream toy (given that he almost always shares a mold with Ironhide, about whom I've said this already, this should be no surprise). The headless original has been featured already, so the toy pictures here are of the more recent Universe toy, but even that's still a pretty awful toy that I really can't recommend to anyone, my affection for the character notwithstanding. Maybe someday a decent toy of Generation One Ratchet will come out for the masses, but having had my optimism back in 2008 dashed by how lousy the Universe toy turned out, I'm afraid it's unlikely to be anytime soon.

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