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The War Within Jetfire

Transformers Titanium
by yo go re

One of the oddest characters in Transformers G1 is Jetfire. Or Skyfire. The toy looked nothing at all like the cartoon version - even moreso than the usual discrepancy between animation and reality. See, Hasbro had repainted a Macross Valkyrie, thinking that a giant robot that turned into a plane would be perfect for the line. Of course, it was a big toy, so they wanted to include the character in the cartoon. But since the cartoon was going to air in Japan, where the Macross license was still with, well, the original owners, the character had to be redesigned. They completely redrew him, and dubbed him Skyfire.

Why the name change? Nobody knows. Best bet is that the animation model looked so different from the toy, they felt they needed a new name. In any case, due to its high retail pricepoint and the ease with which the toy broke or lost pieces, Jetfire/Skyfire is a much sought-after figure today, and the character is one of the more popular, even though they always have to find some clever workaround in order to release him. Like, for instance, giving us the War Within version.

Before the Great War between the Autobots and Decepticons broke out, Jetfire was a partner and friend to Starscream. The two were as close as brothers; the one as calm, rational and slow to anger as the other was jealous, erratic and arrogant. When Starscream joined the Decepticons in attacking the Autobot-held cities of Cybertron, Jetfire was slow to choose sides. He was hesitant to join in the slaughter of the largely defenseless Autobots, but did not want to take up arms against someone he'd considered a friend.

When the full extent of the treachery of the Decepticons became clear, however, Jetfire joined the Autobots without reservation. The anger he felt at his betrayal by Starscream never waned. He fought his former friend at every turn. The sky over many a battlefield filled with fire as the two master fliers engaged in dogfight after dogfight, neither ever completely destroying the other.

How cool is that? The original G1 continuity pretty much suggested that the battle lines between Autobot and Decepticon were clear-cut and easy, but this is a much more realistic depiction. It also set up a lot of really good character moments, since none of the Autobots trusted Jetfire very much. They're afraid that someday he'll re-do his calculations, and decide he should be a Decepticon, instead.

This figure is almost (but not quite) based on his appearance in The War Within: The Dark Ages, as designed by Don Figueroa - it's a bit strange that the figure doesn't match the original art, since Figueroa is also the guy who does the designs for all the 6" Titanium figures. Oh well, it's his character, more or less; he can do whatever he wants.

Jetfire is a weird-looking robot. Weird-looking jet, too. Very long and pointy, like a Concorde or other SST. The wings are on the back half of the plane, and the cockpit is on the end of a long "neck." There's a lot of bulk under the plane, too, which contributes to the scrawniness of the front bit.

The plane form is 6⅝" long, and has a 6½" wingspan. There's definitely some kibble here, but nothing really terrible. He even has five rolling wheels serving as landing gear.

The transformation is nicely complex, even if you do have to cheat a little. Any time you have to remove a piece and reattach it later, that seems like a cop-out. The main body of the plane, from front to back, becomes Jetfire's arms and chest, while the legs fold out from the undercarriage and the jet engines spread to form feet. His head actually turns twice to get out of position: it folds out of the chest, then the entire assembly rotates upwards. In the War Within comics, Jetfire had a helmet/mask that slid down to cover his face - the figure has it permanently sculpted in the "down" position, probably because making it functional would have been cost-prohibitive.

There's much more kibble in the robot mode than there was on the plane. Even discounting the giant wings on his back, the nose and tail of the plane are just hanging off his forearms. The detail is all very nice, though it's still weird that the missile battery and Autobot symbol on his chest are flipped from where they were in the comic. There are two guns that can be removed from under the wings and held separately in Jetfire's hands - or combined and held in one. The figure is just about 5¼" tall, but his backpack brings him up to 5⅞".

The first series of Titanium figures had some problems when it came to articulation - all that metal made posing hard - but Series 2 has fixed all that. Jetfire moves at the neck, shoulders, biceps, elbows, wrists, waist, hips and knees. Everything moves well and stays in place tightly, and really, that's all you can ask for. Seeing such a fast turnaround on fans' complaints is really impressive.

So, we said earlier that Jetfire is basically Don Figueroa's character - what's up with that? Well, before he became a pro, Don did a fan comic called Macromasters, all about massive TFs that he created. To go along with his comic, he also kit-bashed some toys. When it came time to design a pre-Earth form for Jetfire, Figueroa went back to his old designs and cribbed the look of one of his original characters, Strikefire. Must be cool to see something you made as a fan turned into a real (though much smaller) toy.

The Transformers Titanium figures are expensive, but certainly worth it, if you like the character or the design. There is, however, one chronic problem that can be infuriating: the things are nearly impossible to find. Jetfire, here, is part of Series 2, and Series 5 is supposedly out already. I sometimes despair of finding the ones I'm after. And considering how many awesome characters are scheduled for the future of the line, that's a problem.

-- 03/13/07

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