Today, we continue our look at those obscure Euro-era Transformers from 1992. You should all remember the look at Turbomasters we had last week, and this week we look at their counterparts; the Euro exclusive Predator Jets (who were released in Japan as the Jet Corp, and leaked through to Canada in the Euro packaging).
Like the Turbomasters, the Predator Jets also featured a missile firing gimmick, although the missiles store on the body as bombs, they launcher itself wasn’t part of the transformation and they reused the same generic launcher for each jet.
Rear box artwork – beautiful.
However, that wasn’t the only gimmick for the Predator Jets, they also had the Mega-visor gimmick, which was such a prominent feature that in some parts of Europe the figures were marketed as Scope Masters, which at least fits with the Masters suffix so popular with the brand. The Scope Master gimmick is a curious one, whereby any of the four Predator Jets can
powerlink be clumsily forced into the missile attachment of Stalker or rear-end of Skyquake (that actually sounds worse than powerlink!), upon which a unique image is revealed of the Predators targeting one of the Turbomasters (including the never released and rarely seen potential leader; Hyperdrive). Stalker and Skyquake come with stock images as well, so you can squint awkwardly through their view-finders even without a Predator Jet attached and see an image. Stalker’s stock image is pretty cool, a blueprint of Rotorstorm’s helicopter mode with non-so-subtle “hidden” messages to Marvel, Takara, and Hideaki Yoke (Takara lead-designer and Transformers Godfather).
Unlike the Turbomasters and their cameo appearances here and there, the Predator Jets featured fairly prominently in the Last Stand of the Wreckers miniseries, and this has done a fair amount to add to their characters, and furthering interest in this sub-group. Some of them even managed to survive the carnage of the series!
I know I say this often with the early nineties toys, but these are some of my favourites of all time, so without further discussion, lets look at the toys!
Falcon is the first Predator Jet I ever got, and actually the only one I had as a kid, and he is a firm favourite Transformer for me from any time period, not just the early nineties. Great light-piping really sets this guy off, and gives him a lot of personality. Released in Japan unchanged as Shadow Jet, alongside Scorch as Fire Road. At some point in the past, I got excited with my G2 labels and slapped one on him, despite the fact that this is guy is firmly G1, predating the G2 logos introduced with Axelerators and Skyscorchers.
He transforms into a Stealth Bomber, a Lockheed F117A Nighthawk to be particular, which in 1992 was pretty much the most awesome plane of all time (especially if you owned Jungle Strike on the Megadrive / Genesis). His colours are simple throughout, with a fun and instinctive transformation. Exactly what I look for in a toy.
Talon is the advance fighter for the Predators, which probably means he flies a bit quicker than the rest, maybe? he sometimes goes by the names Griffe, Demon, Bomber, or Moon Jet in Japan. A very colourful chap with a fantastic headsculpt, like his team-mates his green cockpit and light piping very much fit the era.
He transforms into F-15 Eagle fighter jet, which to me would have been the obvious choice for the character name, freeing up Talon for another character, but alas, ’twas not to be. His megavisor viewscreen shows ThunderClash, and a few hidden tributes including one to Takio Ejima, who apparently created all of the European toys in that gulf between US G1 ending and Beast Wars. This makes him a personal God of mine.
You’d hope the really cool bird naming pattern would continue, right? Unfortunately not…
The third member of the team recycles a name from the Aerialbots, so in personal head-canon – which is pretty much Furman penned at this point – they are instant rivals, like Swoop and Divebomb. Skydive adds very little to the Decepticon ranks by being ANOTHER cold, calm and calculated scientist. Yawn. Also known as Hyena (could be a very cool name, if used to create a character personality too) or Pyton in Europe, and goes by Dark Jet in his Japanese Operation Combination two-pack, part of the Destron Jet Corps.
Skydive is very, very purple. He’s also very ambitious as his Megavisor shows him going for a full frontal attack against all four Turbomaster cars, and damn, he must be low to the ground too!! Thankfully, it’s nothing his Northrop YF-23 Fighter Jet can’t handle this (I can’t verify that, I just take it as fact, but it sounds Macross-y, so therefore he is cool).
Okay, it’s a trap for birds. Not quite the same thing.
Saving my least favourite of the four until last. he makes a cool looking robot, with a great colour scheme, but his transformation is TOO simple, you literally stand him up and crack the cockpit forward. Usually with these guys the transformation breaks up the plane a little more, but I guess he isn’t really any different to the rest, it just feels less involved. He’s still a great toy, and these guys work best as a set anyway! Goes by the unimaginative Trap in France, and keeps the naming system consistent in Japan with the name Flare Jet.
The landing gears on these guys are great, it’s a small detail, but they can be often over-looked on jet Transformers, but they always help, especially with ones carrying honking great missiles, or with Megavisors strapped underneath them. Snare works well with his reverse wing configuration offering something new to his alt. mode which separates him from his team members a bit, but I can’t help but feel his shoulders and arms are a lot more visible than his team-mates, which somewhat ruins the lines of his Grumman X29 fighter jet alt. mode.
As with the Turbomaster cars, the Predator Jets were the four Decepticon figures not recycled for Machine Wars, this is largely thought to be because the missiles included would not pass US safety tests. A real shame for the US who missed out on these molds altogether, but also a real shame for all of us Transformer fans as we’ve never, ever had these figures re-released in any other paint deco, whereas the larger Predators were released not only as Machine Wars, but also for the Universe toyline as King Atlas and Soundwave (with missiles and launcher removed – it wasn’t that hard to figure out, was it Hasbro?).
As well as zero reissues or recolourings, these guys have had zero re-imaginings, no TFCC, no sub service, no e-hobby, heck; not even a hint of a third party update. C’mon guys, sort it out! At this point I’d even take Combiner Wars Aerialbot repaints (with Skyquake as the central body, and Turbomasters with Thunderclash as the core, which is halfway doable thanks to Venksta’s custom parts).
So, in conclusion; yeah, I love these guys. While I love the name Predators, do I secretly want to adopt the name Scope Masters? I do. Predator Scope Masters, maybe? Lets try that for a bit.
Thanks for reading!
-Siddly Kibbly Hazard