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Transformers Classics
by yo go re

The first Classic line was all about the big, famous characters, which meant that by the time Classics 2.0 rolled out around, the available characters were somewhat pared down, and that led to some weird choices. Seriously, Octane? Was anybody clamoring for that? No. But even when popular characters were included in 2.0, they weren't immune to the weirdness.

Not as fast or powerful as the Decepticon fliers, Powerglide relies instead on his raw skill as a combat pilot. Where his enemies rely on afterburners and advanced weapon systems, he executes loops, flat spins, and other aerial maneuvers that make even the craziest and most foolhardy Decepticons backfire out of fear. In a sky full of bad guys, you can always easily spot Powerglide twisting and diving through enemy fire, dodging missiles, and generally outclassing even the best among the Decepticon air warriors.

The 1985 version of Powerglide was one of the Minibots, which means he could fit in the palm of your hand. The 2009 version is an Ultra Class figure, which means he's just about the largest you're likely to see regularly on store shelves. Quite a shift. But hey, he's still an A-10 Thunderbolt, so that has to count for something, right? Well, no. The normal release of Classics Powerglide was off-white, with just a bit of red trim; this was apparently done to maintain a real-world aesthetic, but come on, who the eff cares about that? We don't want realism, we want a little red plane, just like we used to have!

For that, you had two choices: you could either import the Henkei version, or wait a good 14 months for this Wal*Mart-exclusive redeco, which hadn't even been hinted at when Powerglide first came out. While the Japanese toy goes overboard on the red, the WM one hits the right balance of red and white to capture the feeling of the old toy.

Powerglide's altmode is nice. This is a sizeable Warthog, measuring 10" long by 3½" tall, and has a 9¼" wingspan. There are a few deviations from the real-world design in order to keep Hasbro from having to pay licensing fees, such as the air-intake vents on the sides of the fuselage, or what appear to be bomb pods and recon cameras mounted under the wings. The cockpit is translucent blue plastic, and you can see two seats inside. The landing gear folds down, and there's a removable gun mounted under the nose.

Press the yellow button on the plane's back, and the toy's electronic features activate. A red light flashes, and one of three sounds plays: the engines warming up, the plane zipping by, and machine gunfire. There are silver Autobot logos tampoed on the wings, and the serial number on the tailfins is NA W4Y W3 60 - a clever nod to Powerglide's catchphrase, "And awaa-aa-aay we go!" For those keeping track, the markings on the normal release refer to the birthdays and wedding of the designer's grandparents.

Converting the figure is tough but enjoyable, and in the middle of the process, you get to hear that familiar "transforming sound." The sound even changes depending on whether you're going bot-to-alt or alt-to-bot. Fun! The original Minibot Powerglide stood 3¼" tall, but this version is a hefty 8¾", and moves at the neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, waist, hips, thighs, knees and ankles - much more than the little guy.

G1 Powerglide had a very distinctive look: the defining element of his design was the way the plane's wings folded up alongside his head, and this new toy does its best to duplicate that; of course, since the plane's engines are now in the torso, rather than on the legs, the wings are farther apart. Additionally, Powerglide ends up with an extremely bulky torso, then a very thin lower body.

Powerglide's head is no longer concealed beneath the plane's nosecone, but the design here apes that origin. Before, he looked like he had a gray face and was wearing a red helmet; this one seems to have an angular red head, with just a gray mouthplate. There's a black antenna on the left side of his head, a reference to the nose-mounted gun in a similar location on the '85 version. His eyes (and nipples) light up when you press the yellow button in this mode.

A lot of sculpted details become visible in this form, giving the robot mode some personality. There's a sculptural easter egg for G1 fans located in Powerglide's chest. In the Season 2 episode "The Girl Who Loved Powerglide" [note: that's Powerglide - after all, every girl loves Astroglide! --ed.], PG opened his chest panel to show off an LED heart, signifying his feelings for the aforementioned 'glide-loving girl. On this toy, there's a chunky panel that hinges up as part of the conversion process - and underneath it, sure enough, a sculpted heart. Isn't that cute! If only he came with a stuck-up rich bitch he could physically abuse, just like in the cartoon!

Minibot Powerglide barely had any hands, so of course he didn't have any weapons. This version has functioning hands, so the gun that mounts beneath the plane's nose can be held in either fist. Technically, it's a missile launcher, as well, but since the missile itself is dreadfully dull (just a smooth black projectile), you may just want to keep the Gatling gun end pointed forward.

The original release of Classics Powerglide was really brought down by the color scheme. Yes, a gray plane is "realistic," but you know what isn't realistic? A gray plane that turns into a robot. In the movie line, yes, realism should count for something, but in Classics, it's all about updating, well, the classics. Powerglide used to be a red plane? Then make him a red plane again. Luckily, the Wal*Mart exclusive deals with that problem handily, finally making this mold one to get. And hey, since this is Hasbro, and not Mattel, you'll have a pretty easy time finding him.

-- 11/10/09

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