Throughout the second half of the '90s, Transformers toys were ruled by just one thing: half-assed animals that turned into crappy-looking robots. That's where the whole TRUKK NOT MUNKY thing came from. But even for this most die-hard G1 fan, a few Beast Wars figures couldn't be ignored. For instance, the trio of Prowl, Silverbolt and Ironhide.
Now, these three were sold in a box set, and didn't have individual tech specs. And since the Beast Wars cartoon had neither the time nor the budget to include all the toys on the show, these guys have no personality at all. IDW, the company currently publishing the Transformers comic, plans to create a bio for each of them, but for now they're blank slates, slaves to your will. Make them whatever you want.
Prowl is a lion. A lion with a giant metallic blue patch of circuitry on its back. In other words, a completely realistic lion. In beast mode, his articulation really isn't very impressive, leaving him pretty much stuck in just one pose. His head is huge, a fact concealed only thanks to being surrounded by that mighty mane of his. There's too much robot visible in the various lion parts, and there are some big gaps in his body. Poor disabled lion. Prowl is about 5" long and 3" tall.
The name Prowl was re-used from Generation 1, starting a real trend. After Optimus Prime and Megatron, "Prowl" is one of the most-duplicated names in Transformers history, with at least one version of him present in every new universe. And though almost every version has been some kind of police car, this Prowl is obviously not. The lion was the first non-G1 character to use the name, and also the first of two Beast Wars characters to use it - the second was an owl, and also somehow the reincarnation of the original. Confused yet?
Transformation is probably of intermediate difficulty. Once you get him transformed, the robot has some real problems. He's short and stumpy, and there's some noticeable kibble, such as the lion's feet hanging off his forearms or the two pieces of his mane that seem to form wings.
The lion's tail and kidneys form some kind of crazy pincer weapon. Interestingly, his face looks more like Optimus Prime's than Prowl's - maybe that's why he was known as "Lio Junior," the son of Lio Convoy, in Japan? Due to the construction of the toy, his mouth is concealed behind a clump of hair, and his head tends to tilt toward the right.
Articulation, here, is much better than it was on the lion. The head and waist turn, the shoulders and hips are balljointed, the elbows are hinged, and the knees have both a swivel and a hinge. You can pose his weapon a few different ways, and his "wings" move a bit, too. Prowl is a little guy, just 4¼" tall.
The next character in this obscene menagerie is Silverbolt, a bald eagle. Yes, that most patriotic of animals.
Other than being completely hollow where his throat and lungs should be, the beast mode is actually pretty good. His beak opens, his head moves, he can flap his wings and move his tail, and he has hips, knees and ankles just like a real bird. There are lots of detailed feathers sculpted on his body, and he has a 10" wingspan. Majestic!
Silverbolt is another character whose name has a long and convoluted history. In G1, Silverbolt was a Concorde jet and leader of the Aerialbots. He was also afraid of heights, which isn't a good trait for a plane to have. And just like Prowl was recycled into an owl, Silverbolt changed from an eagle (who was never on the cartoon) to a half-eagle half-wolf who featured prominently on the show, but was completely unrelated to this Silverbolt. Confused yet?
This transformation is exceedingly simple, which does lead to a problem: major kibble. This isn't a robot in disguise,
it's a robot with 9/10ths of an eagle growing out of its back. He wears the eagle's head like a hat, for cryin' out loud! His feet are just the eagle's feet, turned backwards. The robot itself is entirely plain, so at least all the leftover eagle parts give him a dash of visual character. Otherwise? It'd be nothing. The wings, which normally stick straight out to the side, can wrap forward to fire missiles, and two swords can be drawn from the back edge.
On the plus side, articulation is pretty good. It's comparable to Prowl's: the ankles are hinged, while the knees, hips, elbows, shoulders and neck are all balljointed. That means you can get some nifty ninja-style poses with the swords. The robot is 4¼" from feet to head, not counting the en-eagled cap.
Finally, we come to Ironhide, the elephant.
A lumbering, myopic brute. Symbol of the GOP. The sculpt of his skin is really nice, with prominent wrinkles all over. He's not very mobile, with useful articulation limited to his ears and tail, basically. The tusks move, but a real elephant's tusks don't, so we're not counting those. He's got a bit of technological detailing behind his ears, but he is a robot, after all. The beastie is 4" tall and about 6" from trunk to tail.
Ironhide's name is yet another G1 swipe, this time from the old, ornery red minivan. That was a tough character, so turning him into an elephant makes sense. Unlike his two partners, Ironhide's name was only used once in Beast Wars, so his story won't be a convoluted mess once they give him a personality.
In Japan, he was "Santon," a medic - perhaps a reference to the fact that in G1, Ironhide shared his mold with Ratchet, the Autobot ambulance?
Changing forms is kind of complex, but it and the robot mode sum up everything that was wrong with BW. You want to know why old fans hated the animals at first? Just look at this guy. He's a "shellformer," which means his transformation just involves opening a hollow layer to reveal the robot inside. The robot is badly proportioned and remarkably ugly. The design is quite lazy, as well. The robot's feet? Elephant feet. The robot's hands? Upside down elephant feet. Each shoulder has half an elephant head hanging off it. It's like they didn't even try.
The one saving grace is decent articulation. Ironhide has a hinged neck, balljoints in his shoulders, bicep swivels, hinged elbows, balljointed hips, swivel thighs and hinged knees. At his highest point (the elephant kibble behind his head), he's 5½" tall. Because he has no real hands, his two club-like weapons just plug into the end of his stumps. Ironhide is a perfect example of why people hated the munky and missed the trukk.
So why, if these three robots are all so unspectacular, were they worth getting? Because they cheat. They have more to offer than two so-so animals (and one good one - love that eagle) and three crummy robots. In that finest Transformers tradition, they are the parts of a combiner. Plugged together, they form the mighty Magnaboss.
A new breed of super robot blasts its way to the head of the Maximal battle lines with three times the fighting force! Prowl's ferocity, Silverbolt's swiftness, and Ironhide's strength team up to form Magnaboss - a triple-power threat capable of annihilating any Predacon enemy, even the ultra combative Tripredacus. Magnaboss owns the battlefield, arming itself with a massive megaton battle sword composed of Silverbolt's razor-tipped wing swords and Ironhide's blunt-force battle clubs mounted on Prowl's cyber tail claw. If two heads are better than one, Magnaboss is way ahead of that game... times three!
On the show, the Predacons (the Beast Wars equivalent of Decepticons) were led in battle by Megatron, but were ultimately overseen by the Tripredicus Council, a group of three shadowy leaders. Though their appearance was brief, they were obviously meant to be the same three characters
who formed the other BW combiner, Tripredicus. Similarly, the Maximals (the equivalent of Autobots) were commanded by Optimus Primal but lead by the Maximal Elders. The elders also rank above the Tripredicus Council, which I suppose makes them the Executive Branch, the Predicons Congress and Megatron would be... Nancy Pelosi? Does anyone know if she can turn into a Tyrannosaurus?
To combine, Prowl forms the head, Silverbolt forms the back, and Ironhide forms just about everything else. Poor, beleaguered Ironhide. Getting him properly transformed is the hardest part of the whole affair, since he's the arms, the legs and the chest. Magnaboss is actually a pretty good-looking robot, with a nice design and plenty of articulation. The fact that Ironhide makes up so much of the final product means that the color scheme is fairly consistent. Even his weapon is a combiner, a 5½" sword built from the three smaller bots' individual weapons. He stands about 9" tall, and is ready to kick anyone's ass.
The use of three existing names might imply that these are old Autobots in new bodies,
using their experience to guide a younger generation. But really, when you combine a noble elephant with a majestic eagle (as well as an impressive mane of hair), what do you have? The Stephen Colbert of robots, that's what. You can totally see the likeness. Magnaboss isn't the famous leader, but he guides the Nation with heart and truthiness. He's literally red, white and blue... ish gray. You can be sure he honors Primus, Transformers' god. The biggest factor? None of his components are a bear - and that's the Wørd.
Magnaboss: great robot or the greatest robot? Tell us on our message board, The Loafing Lounge.