Saturday, October 10, 2009

The 1984 Hasbro Toy Catalog part 4-Page 68: The Decepticon Planes! OR: Excuse Me While I Warp this Sky

I remember clearly the first time I ever saw a newspaper ad with line art of a 1984 Decepticon plane other than Thundercracker. Up until that point I wasn't really paying attention and I assumed all the Decepticon plane line arts I found were of Starscream. But this ad had drawings of Skywarp and Thundercracker and labeled them as such. Skywarp was pretty obvious because he was black, but at first I was confused with how they knew it was Thundercracker. Reducing full color images to black and white line drawings eliminated all the color references I needed to do a quick and easy differentiation between the blue jet and the grey one. So when I first started collecting Transformers newspaper ads I'd find what looked to me like a white jet and my mind would assume it was a representation of Starscream. I had to look a little harder at things like decals on the wings and vertical stabilizers in the drawings to figure out that it was really Thundercracker all along in the ads I'd found so far. Skywarp popped up more frequently later on but Starscream remained elusive until I found one ad in Pasadena. I thought it strange that the popular leader of the planes was so rarely found advertised in line art when Skywarp and Thundercracker ads were relatively more common. Was it a toy robots newspaper ad conspiracy between Hasbro and stores from 1984 to keep Starscream from selling while promoting Skywarp sales or was it just random chance? The answer becomes clear when you consider that not much thought was put into toy robots newspaper ads beyond cutting and pasting text and pictures from manufacturer toy catalogs. Obviously Skywarp had a better publicity agent.

Sears 12/10/85
Thrifty 11/07/84
You gotta trust me that these are three different drawings

Several errors were made due the rushed nature of the 1984 debut of the Transformers. Some toys in the 1984 catalog appeared in certain colors that were not released that way and some toys were released in certain colors that never appeared in the catalog. Another type of mistake was the switching of Tech Spec chart numbers between the three Decepticon jets Skywarp, Starscream and Thundercracker. Reading the character bios clarifies that Skywarp is "not too smart" while Starcream as Air Commander is the highest ranking of the group. Yet on the charts the stat numbers got mixed up and Skywarp ended up with a rank of 9 while Thundercracker got the lowest intelligence at 4 and Starscream who was supposed to be the fastest flyer had a speed of 9 instead of 10 like Thundercracker. What exactly was going on here? Were the numbers mixed up and the bios were right or were the bios mixed up and the numbers were right? If it was just a problem with the numbers being on the wrong charts then the names and bios were what was intended, but if those chart numbers were correct then it was the names and bios that were switched. This is a big deal because if you believe the numbers were right but the bios were wrong then that meant the black jet was the one that was supposed to be the highest ranking and thus leader of the team. Was the black jet somehow robbed of its place in toy robots cartoon history because of a printing error? Was Starscream supposed to be the name of the black jet? Or was Skywarp the correct name for the black jet who also was supposed to be the leader? These are the questions that separate the people who are normal toy robots fans from the people who are the confused toy robots fans living a lie inadvertently perpetrated by miscommunications between Marvel and Hasbro (although I'm not sure which one I am right now).

Unfortunately for my "the black jet got screwed" conspiracy, in 2006 during a Transformer convention the writer of the original Transformers tech specs (Bob Budiansky) revealed the original handwritten document where he came up with all the character ratings. That paper proved that the original intention was to have the numbers correlate with the character bios. Starscream was really the leader with a rank of 9, Skywarp really was dumb with an intelligence of 4 and Thundercracker didn't really have a speed of 10. His document pretty much squashed any speculation that the black jet was intended to be anything other than a subservient flyer in the Decepticon Air Force. It's obvious from the paper that the intention was to have the black jet be named Skywarp and play the role of follower. Or was it? The colors of the toys are not mentioned in the Budiansky code. I still see a scenario where Hasbro wanted that black jet to be the leader and the real mixup was the names! Although Budiansky laid it all out clear as day I think the confusion that led to the tech spec anomalies came from someone at Hasbro who intended for the black jet to be the leader trying to match up what Budiansky gave them to the jet colors and character roles they wanted. These are the hallucinations that separate the people who are normal toy robots fans from the people who are the confused toy robots fans living in an elaborate fantasy inadvertently perpetrated by miscommunications between Marvel and Hasbro (and I'm starting to see which one I am right now).

So why would Hasbro want the black jet to be the leader and is there any evidence of this intention anywhere at all? As far as motive all I have is speculation based on how the black color scheme was a Hasbro original creation. The color schemes for the jets that would become known as Starscream and Thundercracker previously existed when these toys were originally released in the Diaclone Jet Robo line. Hasbro came up with an original color scheme with more sinister character than the other jets just to make that guy a moron? It doesn't seem right. Then again they didn't change the colors on the toys that would become Optimus Prime and Megatron so it's a weak argument. The only evidence I have is also pretty weak speculation based on the positioning of the toys relative to each other in early promotional materials. In both the 1984 Transformers pack-in toy catalog and on page 68 of the '84 Hasbro toy catalog Skywarp is positioned forward with the other two behind him, as if to suggest that he is the one that is most important-the leader. Can there be any doubt as to which ones are following when the physical placement of the toys puts Skywarp at the forefront? These are the delusional misinterpretations that separate the people who are normal toy robots fans from the people who are the conspiracy minded nutcases unable to let go of obvious mistakes made because of simple miscommunications between Marvel and Hasbro (which I pretty much am).

The Decepticon Planes page of the '84 toy catalog also contains some actual useful Skywarp revelations beyond what I use to support my complicated toy robots conspiracy theories. It is interesting to note that the Skywarp pictured is a hybrid of the prototype used in the '84 TF toy pack-in catalog and the later production release that had a black nosecone. It has the purple tailfins, the black shinguards, the purple cannons and missiles, purple landing gear and the super long sharp pointy forward wingtips from the early prototype. Hell it may actually be the early prototype with a black nosecone painted or stuck onto it. This Skywarp along with the black hooded Bluestreak in the Autobots pages leads me to believe the '84 Hasbro toy catalog was made shortly after the '84 Transformers catalog that came with the toys, since the versions here are more in line with what eventually was released. I imagine these changes reflect Hasbro's process of working out how they were going to translate the Skywarp palette into an actual production color scheme taking into account available paint applications and gang molding of parts and stuff like that. For more info on the evolution of the early Decepticon planes including their variations and prototypes I strongly recommend Maz's Early Decepticon Jets article over at

I think that's going to wrap it up for my coverage of the 1984 Hasbro toy catalog. All that's left are the pages for Optimus Prime and Megatron and although those two are iconic figures it's hard to write anything new or interesting about them. Plus there's probably some Transfan illuminati guy out there pulling his hair out with every page I reveal from this sacred tome. Maybe I'll leave the last few pages for someone else to write about in the future. I could never figure out why people haven't scanned this stuff in by now, although I do have my theories...

I was unpacking my stuff and noticed that the interior of the octagonal 1984 Transformers Jumbo collectors case uses the toy catalog pages for the Autobot minicars and Decepticon jets. There are no name labels here, unlike the toy catalog.


deeadbeat ssena said...

um, i think you forgot some pages pages so here's a clue. It startst with "SOUNDWAVE" and ends with AND ALL HIS SCASSETTES. Unless the toy book from 1984 forgot the most awesome transformer ever made.

Evil King Macrocranios said...

Oh duh, yeah maybe I should do one post with him and the other two guys. It'll be so full of pictures nobody will notice I have nothing new or interesting to say about any of them.


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