Decepticon Aerial Attack / Decepticon Air Defense
Darkwing and Dreadwind were the Decepticons’ two main Powermaster figures in 1988. They were the only dedicated Decepticon figures to feature the gimmick – since Doubledealer served both sides and Overlord didn’t get a domestic release. As they also share a combining gimmick, we’re covering both of them today.
Darkwing: Vehicle Mode
By 1988, realistic alternate modes were no longer the norm for the line, so it’s easy to assume Darkwing transforms into a fanciful fighter jet mode. But according to the TFWiki editors, this airplane is in fact a Panavia Tornado, though the color scheme is of course pretty fanciful.
The sculpting on the jet mode is very precise, with lots of panel line details. The cohesion gets broken up a bit by some visible hinges and a lot of chunky robot hanging off the bottom of the plane. The cockpit canopy is made of pretty translucent plastic, but it does not open or otherwise do anything.
Foil stickers provide the lightning bolt details on the wings and some panels on the top fin. I adore the yellow lightning – the yellow does a great job of adding some color contrast to all the cool blues and purples.
The wings can swing down for a swept-wing configuration, much like the real Tornado. Fitting for a Decepticon whose function is assault, since this wing mode means he’s gonna go extremely fast, likely to catch up with an arrogant Autobot flier like Powerglide.
The previous owner of my Darkwing repaired his nosecone emblem with Scotch tape. Eventually I’ll probably replace it with a nice new emblem, but it’s like this for now.
Like most Transformers with aerial alternate modes, the underside is mostly robot kibble. Darkwing’s arms are particularly visible. He also has no fold-out landing gear, instead opting for four small wheels on the parts that become his legs.
Darkwing’s “electro-kinetic blasters” can mount on the 5mm ports atop his wings. If his robot mode fists are swiveled a bit, the guns can also attach to them. The latter is actually his official “attack mode,” but I far prefer the above configuration.
Shown: Transformers Encore-11 Thundercracker; Aerialbot Air Raid
Darkwing is about six inches long in jet mode, or roughly the same size as the 1984-1985 Decepticon jets. This also makes him fairly large among the rest of the Transformers released in 1988.
Darkwing was packaged with Throttle, a small figurine. Throttle has a slick serpentine helmet and muscular body armor. His details appear robotic, but he is actually meant to represent a human-like Nebulan who underwent bio-mechanical surgery.
Throttle has articulation at the shoulders, but the small pegs that hold the arms on are susceptible to breakage when the shoulder pushes against the backpack, and these guys ain’t easy to replace, so I just don’t move the arms. The legs can also pivot outward thanks to the transformation.
Shown: Targetmaster Spoilsport; Micromaster Blackjack; Headmaster Brisko
The Powermasters are a little smaller than the Nebulan figures from 1987, but a little larger than the new Headmasters introduced in 1988.
Throttle converts into engine mode by simply folding his legs against his sides. Pegs on his feet connect them into the sides of the engine. All of the Powermaster figures transform like this.
Throttle then inserts into the top of Darkwing’s jet mode. The gimmick here is intended to “unlock” Darkwing’s robot mode.
If Throttle gets lost (as tended to happen), simply pushing the panel down will also unlock the transformation. In theory.
The panel is supposed to lower these three clips that hold Darkwing’s nosecone in place. However, mine has a tendency to get stuck, and this was clearly an issue for the previous owner, judging by the stress marks on the grey clips on the nosecone.
I usually have to rotate the robot torso block a bit and push the clips down manually. This part is frustrating, but all is forgiven thanks to the very cool automorph gimmick that happens next…
When the torso block is rotated, Darkwing’s head automatically pops up. It occasionally gets a little stuck, but not in a way that makes me feel I’m gonna break it. This is really neat and pretty rare for a Transformer of the time.
Darkwing: Robot Mode
Darkwing converts into a very striking blue, aqua, and gray robot with an airplane folded up on his back.
Foil stickers provide some mechanical detail here, but there are some cascading panels on his chest that feel a bit like robotic muscles. Mine is missing a sticker on the knee and possibly one or two elsewhere.
No one else in G1 looks like Darkwing. He has an almost Robocop-look going with the thin visor and visible mouth/chin, but the bat ears add zest that makes this fully its own thing. One of my favorite head sculpts in the whole series.
Darkwing can hold both of his rifles in his hands via 5mm ports.
He’s fairly articulated for a G1 figure, featuring joints at the shoulders, elbows, and wrists. The legs can also kick outward a bit thanks to the transformation, but this looks pretty unnatural.
The rifles can also peg together to create a single double-barreled gun. This is mostly meant for the combined mode, but it still looks pretty cool held in hand.
The rifles can also peg into the wings. Likely unintentional, but it does give him a cool way to store his rifles when he isn’t shooting Slingshot in the face.
In robot mode, Darkwing ends up taller and bulkier than the 1984-1985 Decepticon jets.
Remakes of the character have popped up here and there since the 80s, but I’m currently not in possession of any of them. The most recent was from 2018’s Power of the Primes, in which Darkwing was heavily retooled from an older Combiner Wars Aerialbot mold. I didn’t particularly like that figure.
Darkwing is a striking figure in both modes. He gives me the feel of a bounty hunter or interceptor – this is the guy Scorponok sends in when he really wants the job done.