We mentioned the Skyscorchers a lot in the mid-week post, as the counterparts to the Autobot Axelerators. Exactly the same deal applies with these guys; they were released in Europe as part of the Euro 1.5 era / continued G1 (complete with what we now consider the G2 logo) after Transformers had stopped in the US AND Japan. Transformers stopped in the US after Action Masters effectively killed the line dead, and Japan continued until 1992 with Operation Combination. Leaving Europe carrying the torch, which meant little old England got a few exclusive figures for a change (we did miss out on Perceptor, Swoop, Blaster, Trypticon, Fort Max, Sky Lynx, Omega Supreme and a whole host of others though).
Of course, their exclusivity was short-lived, as they were re-released as part of the G2 range proper the same year alongside the Axelerators, and like their European wave-rivals they also suffered re-branding, now known as the “Small Jets” and featuring all new names. Pshh, I’ll take Skyscorchers over Small Jets any day of the week.
Like the Axelerators, they also feature a similar weapon storage gimmick, where the hand-held weapons double up as a plane part – rather than engines, they become under-carriage radar / sonar devices. These figures are also gang-molded, featuring alternating primary and secondary colour-schemes, and unlike the Autobots there are no differences between releases (I’m quite shocked they didn’t remove the green light-piping and canopies for a more boring smokey grey). We present them here under their European names first, and US names second.
Hawk / Eagle Eye
This was the only Skyscorcher I actually bought at the time of release, the rest were picked up on the after-market a few years later. Hence the missing toe / rear landing gear, lost somewhere to the mists of time. It’s the eccentricities of collecting like this that I love, where I’ll happily pay big money for big ticket items, yet completely forget to hunt out a minor piece for a £5 figure.
Hawk is listed as an Infiltrator, which makes him no different to most Decepticons really… He’s a fun toy, with a simple transformation – the simplest of the bunch – but even then it features a few surprises to make you feel its not just ANOTHER jet-to-robot transformation. In this respect, these guys do outshine the Axelerators, as the transformations are generally more involved.
In jet mode, he becomes a Dassault Rafale jet or a Eurofighter Typhoon jet, depending on who you believe, one with great stickers on his wings, and a nice sticker proudly presenting his year of production; 93. Bless him.
Snipe / Afterburner
I never really noticed until now quite how plain (should that be plane? ho-ho!) he looks in robot mode, it’s certainly a sharp contrast to his alt. mode. At least his weapon compliments his European name of Snipe, and it makes you wonder if Eagle Eye was originally intended for this guy, as it certainly would have made more sense, but then again his function is Technicians Master rather than long-range offense of other such. His transformation is much more than meets the eye (knocking them out of the park today), and I think anyone who has experienced the basic Beast Wars assortment variety of transforming present in Machine Wars would be very surprised by the involvement required for this sub-line.
In alt. mode, he really shines, with great decals and paintwork throughout destracting from an otherwise generic blue jet (which are admittedly way more common in Transformers than real-life), and a gnatty revised Con logo right in the centre of the fuselage. His tail-fin logo is also really great in a naff nineties sort of way, I can imagine it being tattooed on Will Ferrel in Blades of Glory. He transforms into a Lockheed F-104G Starfighter jet.
Hooray! A name that is consistent amoungst all territories! Although as a fun-fact, it’s worth mentioning that his working title was Terraswoop. This guy is easily my favourite of the bunch, even though his transformation is less involved than the others (but still would feel perfectly suited on a bigger toy), a transformation which gives him a very unique silhouette in the shoulders, which is needed, as the colour scheme on the robot mode needs something to help it pop. It’s worth noting the under-wing engines become the lower legs of the robot, another factor contributing to his somewhat unique look.
It’s his alt. mode that makes this guy stand out so much, it’s not like the Ling-Temco-Vought A-7E Corsair II jet is a favourite of mine, with it’s rounded features massively different from the typical style of fighter-jet we usually get in Transformers, making it look more like a transporter of some kind. Looks can be deceptive, as a bit of research shows it is a fighter jet in service from Vietnam through Desert Storm, with it’s heavy emphasis on radar and accuracy, and it’s under-cockpit air-intake giving it it’s distinct look. The plane mode on the real-world fighter jet isn’t quite as fat as the way the toy presents it, but I think that helps give this toy an identity.
Tornado / Windrazor
Saving the leader until last, a grey Decepticon jet with blue parts and red trimming… hmmm, where have we seen that before. He doesn’t look to offer much in the way different to a lot of other jet robots, but actually – once again – his transformation is remarkably involved, needing a few more twist and turns than expected. His profile describes him as an evil genius, but how sad we never get to see that in any of his comic-book appearances.
As a F-16 Fighting Falcon, he definitely wanders back into the more recognisable sort of fighter jet, although his single tailfin does differentiate him from the F15 Eagle of Starscream and company. Even if his bad tattoo flash on his tailfin might be more at home on an Eagle. Or on Eagle Eye. Honestly, their names seem very interchangeable for the most part, and this guys working title of Whirlwind could easily apply to all of them.
Overall, I’m a big fan of these toys, especially their transformations and Terradive in particular is a stand-out figure. I can’t help feeling that they look less visually appealing than the Axelerators, and for the time, the colour-schemes are very subdued – although paint-apps and stickers do attempt to give them more personality.
Mostly, my favourite thing about these guys are their uniform head-sculpts, which manage to have a lot of sinister personality considering they have no real faces so to speak. Nowhere are these heads better presented then on their US box artwork (Sadly, it’s really hard to find the Euro artwork, which wasn’t printed in the otherwise amazing Transformers Legacy artwork book), and I’m pleased to say over on my personal blog I’m sharing some exclusive paperwork from the Hasbro offices, showing the work in progress in developing that artwork. Most interesting are the notes on Snipe, where a new head and leg have been re-drawn and stuck over the original sheets. Check it out here on my blog.
They have never been re-released or reissued outside of their Euro 1.5 / G2 origins, nor have they been recoloured, although, they too came close with Takara’s planned Block Town line, where it’s presumed they would have adopted the names of Hawking, Snipe, Terradive and Sky Tornado, respectively, as their original colours would have been called had they been released in 1993. It’s of note, that these guys would have all jumped faction to Autobots for the Block Town release. Sadly, as they never got released, I will have to resort to customs one day, but without stickers and tampo, I can’t see them working as well.
Despite their awesomeness, these are not big collectors pieces and are excuse the pun, under the radar for a lot of collectors (ho-ho), despite recent fiction appearances in the Regeneration comic series – in fact the best part of that series was probably all the cameos by obscure latter-day G1 / G2 characters. There have been no homages or re-imaginings of these characters at all, in twenty years… no Fun Publishing toys, no e-hobby exclusives… nothing. A shocker.
They can still be picked up relatively cheap, and while I get most modern collectors have drifted toward Masterpiece and Combiner Wars, I implore you to at least pick up one of these toys and give them a look, and remind yourself what simple fun these toys used to be.