Thundercracker and Skywarp, along with Starscream, comprise the Decepticon air force from the first year of The Transformers toyline. Today we’ll look at the Encore No. 11 Thundercracker & Skywarp reissue set.
These figures were originally available in individual boxes both domestically and in Japan (where they were Destrons number 23 and 24). For the Encore toyline, Takara Tomy released them together in a gift set. The figures had both been reissued twice already in the Takara “Collector’s Edition” series and the Hasbro “Commemorative Series.”
The Encore packaging reuses the original 1980s box art and the callouts from the Japanese release. Skywarp’s says “Attacks the Cybertrons with warp ability!” and Thundercracker’s says “Attacks the Cybertrons soundlessly!” (I don’t get this one, since Thundercracker is supposed to create sonic booms by flying really fast – maybe it’s supposed to mean he deafens the Autobots?)
I love the box art for both of these characters, and it’s probably a reason why I tend to pose them with their launchers pointing up and the missile types mixed between long/short.
The box back is almost entirely dedicated to the David Schleinkofer’s 1984 mural, showing a lot more of it than we’d normally see on a package. Japanese G1 figures did not use the “clip and save” method for showing characters’ tech specs – instead, they came with a trading card packed inside the box.
Thundercracker: Vehicle Mode
Thundercracker is based on the Diaclone “Real & Robo” Series F-15 Eagle Jet Acrobat Type. All three of the 1984 F-15s are exactly the same mold, only differing in coloration and decals.
The plane’s main body is molded in a deep pearlescent blue. The black, white, and red accents give a striking contrast. “Acrobat type” implies to me that this coloration is intended to represent a show plane like the Blue Angels, although a quick GIS doesn’t show me any real F-15s that use this coloration. Of course, the only thing Thundercracker wants to show the Autobots is the business end of his missile launchers.
The landing gear allows Thundercracker to roll freely on die-cast metal wheels. The forward gear can be removed (and quickly lost, judging by most vintage samples of the toy), but the rear gear is permanently deployed.
Most of Thundercracker’s robot body is visible underneath the jet mode (including his head, comically). The whole silver portion of the fuselage is die-cast metal, making the toy pretty heavy.
For this release, the stripe details on the wings and tail fins are tampographs, but they are stickers on the original.
Compared with Transformers Earthrise WFC-E29 Thundercracker. The animation model for Thundercracker used a lighter blue and removed the black nosecone, which is reflected in the Earthrise version.
I still wish these Earthrise figures had landing gear…
Compared with Transformers Masterpiece MP-52+TC Thundercracker. The newer MP version also takes its design cues from the animation, down to the two black squares which represent the nylon joints on the top of the original toy.
I love both of these shades of blue and I refuse to pick a favorite.
Skywarp: Vehicle Mode
While both Starscream and Thundercracker’s deco comes from Diaclone toys, Skywarp’s deco is completely original to Transformers. Purple is generally considered to be the main color of the Decepticon army, and Skywarp here is the only Decepticon toy from 1984 to have purple in his color scheme.
The black and purple combo is absolutely gorgeous and probably a big reason – along with his teleportation ability – why many kids from the time period picked Skywarp as their favorite.
Compared with Transformers Earthrise WFC-E29 Skywarp. The shade of purple used for Skywarp varies with versions and artists, but he’s generally depicted as more similar to his toy than the other air warriors.
Compared with Transformers Masterpiece MP-52+SW Skywarp. The MP release uses a very muted gray rather than a pure black, and I really like the effect.
Like Starscream, the F-15 cockpits can open up to admit one Dianaut. I think a real F-15 can accommodate two passengers, so these are a bit out of scale, but honestly all of the Diaclone toys based on real-life vehicles are out of scale either with their pilots or with each other.
Compared with Transformers “Vintage G1” Starscream.
By the way, the F-15 Decepticons are colloquially known in the West as “seekers.” This term goes all the way back to the nascent Usenet fandom era, where its origin was mysterious even then, and was eventually cemented in the lexicon when Simon Furman used it in a Dreamwave comic book. Nearly everyone uses this term to describe these Decepticons, but almost nobody knows why! (TFwiki can explain.)
In Japan, these same characters are known as “Jetrons,” and this terminology was used heavily in marketing material, so there’s no mystery behind it.
All of the F-15 Decepticons transform by pivoting the nosecone around to become the chest and head, turning over the wings, flipping down the feet, flipping up the side tailfins, popping out the middle body to become arms, and attaching a set of fists. The launchers move from the wings to the arms, and the jet-mode rockets swap out for a pair of cannons.
Thundercracker: Robot Mode
The robot mode body is mostly blue, broken up by the translucent gold canopy and the die-cast metal silver chest/intakes.
As with Starscream, nearly every part of Thundercracker is removable. The figure with no parts is simply the main body, legs, nosecone, and arms (without fists). There’s no place to store the fists or the alternate missiles in jet mode, so they’re frequently missing from loose samples.
The head seems far too small for the body unless we consider the bottom of the nosecone to be part of the helmet. The gold eye details are stickers, and whoever owned this Thundercracker before me carefully cut them out and applied them in the eye sockets, which makes them look way better than most others I’ve seen.
Thundercracker’s weapons are the two spring-loaded launchers which fit on his arms. You can load them with either a rocket or a cannon. The black button on the sides launch the missiles; the Encore version of these toys have functioning springs, unlike the original domestic release.
Compared with Transformers Earthrise WFC-E29 Thundercracker. The Earthrise version of the figure adds quite a lot of mechanical detail.
Compared with Transformers Masterpiece MP-52+TC Thundercracker. The MP version, on the other hand, significantly reduces mechanical detail to better match the animation model. Also, the MP versions have a cool gimmick where the launchers move on armatures such that they stay attached to the figure during transformation, and they even convert from missile launcher to arm cannon with no part swapping.
Skywarp: Robot Mode
Skywarp’s robot mode is mostly black with lavender accents. Oddly, the wing stripe details are stickers, unlike the tampographs on Thundercracker. I’m not sure why TakaraTomy made that change for one figure but not the other.
Compared with Transformers Earthrise WFC-E29 Skywarp.
Still not sure why they decided to give this guy a screaming facial expression.
Compared with Transformers Masterpiece MP-52+SW Skywarp.
I owned neither Skywarp nor Thundercracker in childhood. My frequent rewatches of season 1 episodes of the cartoon and the animated movie put them high on my want list. It’s always been hard to find complete versions of these toys on the secondary market, so I wasn’t able to find decent ones until I was a teen.
Seekers/Jetrons/air warriors are the TF fandom’s kryptonite. If one gets released, you can bet everyone is going to be foaming at the mouth to collect the rest of them. Even lines where the seekers weren’t established as a group, such as Armada or the Bayverse, eventually had versions of these characters released. The 80s was one of the only times when all three original F-15s were available at retail at the same time.
It’s easy to be jaded and see these toys as a cheap “collect ’em all” strategy. Most fans, though, have their own favorite seeker. It might be Skywarp for his sadistic personality. It might be Thundercracker for his deep-seated misgivings about the Decepticon cause (which later comic stories took to fun places). It might be just because of colors. Regardless, I think there’s more to these toys than a need to complete a set. True, a G1 Decepticon display never feels quite right without them, but I don’t feel burdened when I decide I’m going to complete yet another set of F-15 guys.