Dungeon Reviews: Pretender Iguanus (1988)

Decepticon Terror Trooper

“Sow the seeds of fear and victory is yours.”

Iguanus was released as part of the second round of humanoid Pretender figures in 1988. As an obscure member of one of the least-liked Transformers sub-groups, Iguanus is barely known in modern Transformers lore. But in 2022 he was lucky enough to have a new toy released in Transformers Legacy, so let’s take a look at the original scaly horror.

Outer Shell

Front/Back

The gimmick of the Pretenders subline involved a hard plastic outer shell that concealed a traditional transforming robot inside. Iguanus’ shell is a purple reptilian form featuring fins, scales, and armor. Pretenders seemed to be one way Hasbro was attempting to compete with Playmates’ TMNT line, and you can see some of that DNA present here in the muscular form, bright colors, and outlandish body armor.

Mine has suffered some sun damage over the years, most evident on the top of the head.

Front View

The body shell is cast in purple with many paint applications for the gold/red armor and yellow eyes. The gray belt is made of pliable plastic and can be removed, but serves no particular function other than style. The gold paint, especially on the little chest spikes and kneepads, tends to wear over time.

The arms and tail are made of a softer plastic. On many Pretenders, this plastic has a tendency to “sweat” plasticizer, becoming sticky, or discoloring. Thankfully mine seems to be okay for the moment.

Rear View

The back of most Pretender shells usually has fewer paint applications than the front. On Iguanus, the only paint apps are the backs of his kneepads. I like the mechanical detail around his dorsal fins – it feels separate from his armor, like it’s part of a life support system for his inner body or something like that.

His tail, cast in the same gray plastic as his belt, is on a swivel joint and can be rotated, though doing this disrupts the sculpt somewhat.

Head closeup

The eyes are painted bright yellow. Iguanus has pointy teeth but they aren’t painted. Because of how the reptilian head is molded so close to the body, Iguanus ends up looking a bit more like a shark or fish to me. The Marvel comics design helps express the reptilian qualities of this design better than the toy does.

Accessories

Iguanus comes with two accessories: his cycle mode wheels and a “hurricane air blaster.”

Armed up

The outer shell can hold both of these accessories.

With hurricane air blaster

One of the reasons the Pretenders aren’t super well-liked is the limitations on the shells’ articulation. Like all the other humanoid Pretenders, Iguanus can only move at the arms. This is good enough for him to point his weapons. Which honestly isn’t much better or worse than most other G1 Transformers!

With wheels

Most humanoid Pretenders included a melee weapon of some sort, but in Iguanus’ case, the wheels have to pull double duty. His bio card describes the wheels has having “spinning blades.” Use your imagination. The weapons are on 5mm posts, and the undersides of the fists are open, so you can have the wheels slung under Iguanus’ arm if you like that look better.

Comparison

Shown: 1988 Double Targetmaster Quake; 1989 Micromaster Whisper

The humanoid Pretenders are all about 6 inches tall, fairly large compared to most other Transformers figures of the era.

Comparison

The modern version of Iguanus released in Transformers Legacy is very faithful to the Pretender shell, matching nearly all the details excellently, but adding a bit more of a robotic quality.

“I have a ssschedule to maintain, Skullgrin…you deal with them!”

Opening Shell

Shell split

The shell is held closed by a series of small pegs. It just takes a little bit of force to pop it open. Unlike some other Pretenders, you don’t have to remove the belt to unlock the shell.

Iguanus in shell

Iguanus fits into the shell by rotating his arms back and pointing his toes. There’s no special mechanism for holding him in place; he just rests inside the shell.

Vehicle Mode

Vehicle mode front
Vehicle mode rear

Like most Pretender inner figures, Iguanus’ vehicle mode is rather vague, looking more like a bent-over robot than the motorcycle it’s supposed to be. Still, details like the white windshield, padded seat, and front vents help sell it as a vehicle of some sort. The robot-mode arms are quite obtrusive, but I do like the round shapes at the front, which could be small cannons or headlights.

Side view

The figure is supposed to have a number of stickers to add mechanical detail. Mine is missing them, and unfortunately Iguanus is so obscure that he’s one of the only G1 figures not to have a readily available set of reproduction labels for sale on ToyHax.

Gun turret

The gun mounts on the back of the cycle mode via 5mm port. It can be rotated, and facing forward it covers up the seat, which does reduce the realism (such as it is) of the mode a bit.

Without parts

To make matters worse, the vehicle mode is more or less nonfunctional without the wheels. As a kid, I had the toy like this. I pretended he was a little jetski or air speeder, and that was enough, but I can’t deny the effect was a little bit disappointing.

Comparison

Shown: 1988 Double Targetmaster Quake; 1989 Micromaster Whisper

In vehicle mode, Iguanus is fairly small.

Comparison

The cycle mode for both the G1 figure and the Legacy update are about the same size. The Legacy version improves on this one by having actual wheels! But they definitely both require a bit of imagination.

VROOOOM

Robot Mode

Front/Back

The robot modes of the Pretenders were typically very thin and light on alternate mode kibble, and Iguanus is no exception. His paint applications are limited to the silver on his face and the white on his bum/windshield. I love the shade of purple and maroon they used for him. I’m also quite fond of the sculpted details on the chest and torso, which evokes what might be an engine slung under his cycle mode.

Armed up

Iguanus can hold the hurricane air blaster via a small peg on the other side of the rifle. Unlike most Pretenders, he can actually equip the figure’s other accessory by pegging it into his back. This creates the look of a pair of jet thrusters or something similar, which I like a lot. I love how this look was carried over to the robot mode of the Legacy figure.

Head closeup

Iguanus’ head sculpt is gorgeous. I love the grooved side panels, the big ports on top, and the multi-piece mohawk. It looks angled and mean, somehow communicating the appearance of his reptilian shell through rigid mechanical detail.

Action pose

One of the strengths of the Pretender line is they tend to be quite articulated – thanks to transformation, Iguanus can move at the shoulders and hips, and he even has some fairly deep knee joints which aren’t related to the transformation.

Conclusion

Iguanus & Sun-Ripened Iguanus

Up to this point, I’ve only focused on Transformers figures from the first couple of years of the G1 toyline. So why jump this far ahead now?

For one thing, it’s timely, since the first new toy of G1 Iguanus just came out after over 30 years. For another, I love all the weird gimmicks and colors and creativity of latter-era G1, and I intend to cover it all.

But partly it’s because Iguanus was one of the first G1 toys I was ever able to find. The one pictured above – on the right – I found on a table at the Montsweag Fleamarket in Woolwich, Maine, sometime in the early 1990s. He had none of his parts, and I didn’t know who he was, but I could tell he was a Transformer, which was the important thing. I didn’t care how weird a toy was if I could tell it had Transformers DNA.

I thought his head looks a little bit like Hot Rod’s, so I used him as that guy for a while. Eventually I learned who he was, and at one of the earliest Botcons I attended, I purchased his shell and accessories.

He’s not the best Transformer. Heck, he’s not even the best Pretender. But he’s been an important part of my G1 collection for a very, very long time. This year, I bought a nicer, not sun-worn version of the inner robot so I could have one that actually can stand up without leaning on something. And of course, with the new Legacy version, it’s practically the year of Iguanus. And I’m glad of it.

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