Dungeon Reviews: Jetfire (1985)

Jetfire is the original Transformers holy grail. Even to this day his name is spoken with an aura of reverence, of Christmases and birthdays and Toys “R” Us top shelves remembered. Let’s take a look at why the Autobot air guardian was so beloved.

“Among the mysteries of science lies the key to victory.”

Jetfire was released in 1985, the second year of the Transformers toyline. The toyline was experiencing such unprecedented success that Hasbro began buying up licensing rights for other transforming toy robots beyond the foundational Diaclone and Microchange lines. While most of these robots’ source material remains obscure, Jetfire hails from The Superdimension Fortress Macross, a famous mecha anime and film series that was later repurposed into Robotech.

The toy itself came from Takatoku’s Macross line. Takatoku was bankrupt in 1984, and its designs eventually went to Bandai, one of Takara’s main competitors. This created one of many conflicts of interest in using Jetfire’s distinct Macross Valkyrie design, which we’ll talk more about later.

For now, let’s just see what’s so great about this here jet.

Vehicle Mode

Vehicle mode

Jetfire’s vehicle mode is a sleek fighter jet somewhat resembling a real-world aircraft with a swing-wing design, but with obvious science fictional elements.

Now is a good time to mention the obvious flaw with my Jetfire: his plastic has started to go yellow. I actually disassembled this toy in 2020 and used a hydrogen peroxide de-yellowing process, which took off the worst of his yellowing, but it has gradually started to degrade again, and the bright lights of my photography setup tends to emphasize it.

Hopefully you can stand to look at a less-than-perfect sample of this monumental toy.

Front view

Jetfire’s cockpit canopy is molded in smoky clear plastic and the pilot’s seat is visible inside. Unlike many early Transformers figures, the canopy doesn’t open, so you can’t place any pilot figures inside.

Rear view

Jetfire’s rear thrusters double as his feet in robot mode, but the molded vents inside help sell the illusion. You can see a difference in coloration between the outsides of his legs and the insides – this is because the inside parts are actually painted die-cast.

Underside

From underneath you can see how Jetfire’s robot mode folds into his jet mode. Because the jet mode is already so fanciful, the obvious robot bits don’t stand out as much as they do on some other aircraft Transformers.

Cockpit close-up

The quad-barrel turret slung under the cockpit can rotate, and the guns can pivot, making it easy to imagine Jetfire raining particle beams down on a Decepticon regiment.

Landing Gear Gimmick

Rear landing gear
Front landing gear

Jetfire’s landing gear flips out on spring-loaded arms. The rear wheels are concealed behind a small panel that automatically opens when you press the release button.

The wheel assemblies are made of metal, so if your finger is too close when you click the button, those wheels will hit your fingernail pretty hard. The wheels rotate easily.

Battle Armor / Scramjet Modules

Armor set

Jetfire comes with nine pieces of clip-on armor accessories. In Macross terminology, I believe this is known as a “FAST pack.” These pieces are commonly missing or broken on loose Jetfires.

With armor added

In order to add the boosters, Jetfire’s rear fin assembly has to be folded up and over. Once assembled, Jetfire takes on a far more sci-fi appearance.

Front view
Rear view

The armor pieces add a total of nine new thrusters to the jet mode. His Marvel comics profile says “adding twin supersonic combustion ramjet (i.e. scramjet) engine modules along with twin liquid hydrogen fuel tanks allows Jetfire to achieve orbital velocities, or to even escape Earth’s gravity altogether. With this capability, he can launch like a missile, shoot up above the atmosphere, and, at a speed of Mach 29, dive down like a blazing meteor (hence his name) half a world away only 30 minutes later.”

In essence, the powerful engine assembly is what makes Jetfire, Jetfire.

Size

Comparison with 1984 mini-vehicles Brawn and Bumblebee

In jet mode, Jetfire is about 12 inches long. In the cartoon series, he was depicted as being much larger than all of the other Autobots, to the extent that he could ferry several of them around the world or even to Cybertron.

The toy doesn’t quite communicate a size like that, but he still looks sufficiently hulking next to mini-vehicles and other smaller Transformers.

Guardian Mode

Guardian mode

Famously, the Macross Valkyries have an intermediate mode between jet and humanoid, known as “Gerwalk” in Macross or “Guardian” in Robotech.

This mode is only barely mentioned in Jetfire’s instructions, described in a single panel as “alternate transformation” and not integrated into his character bio or anything else. Since he’s called the “air guardian,” I think “guardian mode” is an appropriate swipe. The function of it, in the context of Jetfire, is up to your interpretation.

Front view

I like to think of it as a mode Jetfire uses when he needs to travel over ground at extremely high speed. Since his bio mentions that his systems are both extremely advanced but prone to breakdown, I imagine it’s a risk for him to use his guardian mode.

Robot Mode

Front view

Jetfire’s transformation is both complex and simple. In effect, his legs swing down alongside his canopy and his arms clip into the sides of his nosecone, and that’s about it. But there are several small steps, such as collapsing his chestplate, maneuvering his head through a small trap door in the top of the jet, and sliding his fists out of his rear fuselage, that feel suitably “deluxe” in a way you don’t usually get on smaller Transformers from this era.

Jetfire is tall – one of the tallest figures from the 1985 range, standing just a shade shorter than Omega Supreme and shoulder-to-shoulder with the likes of Shockwave, Blaster, and Devastator.

He’s also heavy. Many of his internal components are die-cast metal.

Rear view

I like the asymmetrical details on the top/rear of his scramjet module.

Head close-up

Jetfire’s head feels far more “mecha” than “sentient being,” with its simple red visor. But it’s iconic to many, and some versions of Jetfire have homaged this version of his head sculpt. I like the simple circular panel on his forehead, adding just a tiny bit of mechanical detail to an otherwise simplified area.

The top of his head features a rubsign, which were implemented into the Transformers toyline in 1985.

Gun articulation

The quad cannons are on a single joint, so both of them pivot together. His Marvel bio specifically mentions these cannons, which is amusing in the context of his Marvel comics character model, which doesn’t feature them.

Accessories

Shooty bits

Beyond his armor, Jetfire also comes with a gray “proton missile launcher” rifle and its infamous mounting pod.

Armed up in Guardian mode

As you might have noticed, only one of Jetfire’s hands is molded such that it can carry his weapon. The other is molded as a closed fist, good for punching a hole in some arctic ice.

The rifle’s scope functioned as a trigger for a missile launching gimmick that was present on the Takatoku version of the toy, but was removed in the Hasbro edition. The missiles were omitted.

Mounting pod in use

The “mounting pod,” or gun clip, as it’s usually known, is maybe the most infamous accessory in all of the G1 toyline. This piece is almost always missing from loose Jetfires and tends to be expensive on the secondary market.

Why? Well, it’s pretty small, for one thing. For another, the instruction manual does not explain how this thing is supposed to be used. As shown above, it mounts on a small groove in Jetfire’s arm and lets him carry his rifle on his forearm instead of in-hand.

Like his guardian mode, it’s up to you how this equipment functions for Jetfire. You could imagine it’s simply a way for him to stow his rifle when he’s not holding it, or perhaps the pod is equipped with an auto-targeting array that lets Jetfire focus on flying while his battle computer operates his gun arm.

With rifle in robot mode

At any rate, both the gun and the clip are fun accessories.

Articulation

Elbow/knee articulation

Now here’s another area where Jetfire stands out. Most G1 figures were lucky if they could move their arms and their legs. Jetfire, meanwhile, has nearly as much articulation as a modern action figure, making him feel far more dynamic than his fellow Autobots.

Hip articulation

He has joints at the shoulders (lateral and forward/backward), elbows (swivel and bend), hips (forward/backward), knees, and neck. Thanks to his transformation, his head can even look up and down a little bit.

Action posing? In my G1??

Many of his joints are also on heavy metal ratchets, making him very satisfying and click-y to pose.

Final Thoughts

With 1984 Optimus Prime and 1985 Skids

I was too young to experience Transformers in its heyday. The first time I saw Jetfire in person, he was standing on a high shelf behind a counter at a comic shop. And this is now well known, but Jetfire’s name and likeness became controversial almost immediately, as Harmony Gold began importing the Macross show into the U.S. and Matchbox began producing toys of the Macross designs. So Hasbro quickly pivoted in their marketing of Jetfire.

I knew the character as Skyfire, the renamed and redesigned version of the character who featured heavily into the first season of the animated series.

“Then give him a million volts!”

Skyfire was always one of my favorite Autobots. I enjoyed his brief appearance in the first issue of Marvel I read (#19), and I frequently rewatched “Fire in the Sky” and “The Ultimate Doom.”

So even though the G1 figure looks markedly different from Skyfire, I still longed to own a copy to represent that sometimes morose, sometimes quippy airbus.

With 2019 Siege Jetfire, 2006 Classics Jetfire, and Super7 ReAction Figures Jetfire

“My” Jetfire will always be the cartoon iteration, with its distinct squared-off engine and cockpit, shoulder wings, double-barreled rifle, and humanoid face. That’s why I was so excited for the 2019 “Siege” commander-class version, which is still my favorite figure from the whole War For Cybertron range.

But G1 Jetfire holds a strong place in my heart. I’ll never know what it was like to longingly gaze at one in a toy store, but I will always remember the first time I picked one up and felt the weight of the die-cast metal in my hands and marveled at the articulation.

That’s Jetfire – a figure deserving of its reputation. There’s a reason why it was a grail then, and why it’s still a grail now for many collectors.

One thought on “Dungeon Reviews: Jetfire (1985)”

  1. I feel like this is the one I needed, back in the day. Out of all G1 Transformers! Red, white, no face (technically). Not to mention the articulation and easy transformation! I really should have had this.

    Sadly, I only ever held one at my babysitter’s house (he had all the stuff I longed for throughout childhood: the Whale hovercraft, Jedi Luke, countless G.I. Joes, etc). Jetfire didn’t have a cool opening cockpit like the confusing Insecticons, but that didn’t matter. He made an immediate impression in the very short amount of time I was able to handle him (and I’m impressed my babysitter let me).

    I’ve been interested in the vintage one ever since, but I probably won’t bother with the expense and the hassle of finding a nice one. Man though…it is STILL impressive. Worthy of a re-release, if they were able.

    Liked by 1 person

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