If you’ve been following The Vintage View series so far, you’ll know two things. Firstly, we began exploring the much-maligned (or severely underappreciated…) Pretender subline from 1988 some time ago and secondly, we’re well overdue another entry! So, with that acknowledged, let’s get right into it with Waverider.
Just as with Cloudburst and Landmine before him, this guy is certainly no slouch, although of course how that statement registers with you will heavily depend on your thoughts on this line in general. Before we get to that though, another acknowledgement, as technically this isn’t Waverider at all, but rather his Japanese counterpart, Diver. Why is that important, you ask? Well, for one very simple reason – his hair colour.
You see, whereas his fellow Autobot Pretenders bore no differences in terms of their Hasbro and Takara releases, Waverider differs to Diver in this one area: the Western version sports a much lighter, almost blonde set of locks (with eyebrows to match), whereas the Japanese release seen here goes for an arguably more expected dark brown vibe. That’s the sum total of the difference between them.
No doubt it’s at this juncture that some purists will be arriving at my door with pitchforks after I deigned to advertise him under the Hasbro moniker in the title, but really, they’re still the same toy, just with one minor variance, and besides, I tend to refer to him by the name, ‘Waverider’ in my own collection and it’s my article, so there it is.
And hey, it’s not like I haven’t considered picking up a separate Hasbro shell to make my collection somehow extra complete by having both on the shelf but honestly, every time the opportunity to do that arises I think of all the things I’d rather be spending money on than the same toy I already own but just with slightly lighter hair. You get it, right?
In any case, ‘Waverider’ here (just pretend I’m saying Diver if helps – this article is all about pretending, after all!) is a handsome specimen no matter the colour of his locks. As with Cloudburst and Landmine, the outer shell is that of an armoured human, trussed up in some kind of futuristic hi-tech space gear that looks just about the right amount of silly to somehow loop back around to being awesome.
And of course, just as with his comrades, the shell is also ridiculously susceptible to wear and tear, particularly in regards to the paint, making tracking down a nice, minty copy of either version of this toy a bit of a challenge on today’s second-hand market. After all, it’s been thirty-four years since these guys were new, which, aside from causing me actual physical pain to type out here, is a long lifespan for any kind of children’s toy.
The fact is that the paint isn’t really designed to be all that long-lasting either, easily scratching or rubbing off if you’re not too careful, making the Pretenders one of the more interesting sublines to collect and complete, in my experience. In some ways, I enjoyed the challenge of it all, but that’s not to say there isn’t a palpable sense of relief now that it’s all done, mixed in with a fair dose of pride at what I managed to find.
It’s also entirely right to say that a mint copy is worth the hassle though. My perception of these toys was often clouded by how they looked when having spent most of their time living at the bottom of a tub full of other toys inside a child’s bedroom closest or whatever, but seeing them firsthand with the same ‘out of the box freshness’ that they would have displayed almost three-and-a-half decades ago? Well, it’s a wonderful thing.
Waverider comes complete with several key accessories. First up, he has two weapons, which in common with the other Autobots in this set, includes a very chunky rifle that can also be used by his inner robot mode and a softer-plastic handheld armament. Where Cloudburst had a whip and Landmine a sword, Waverider has an axe, which perhaps sort of fits the aquatic theme for this toy somehow? Or perhaps not. I honestly can’t decide!
The axe is rather malleable, feeling similarly rubbery in texture to areas such as the arms of the shell itself, and can suffer from the same kind of speckling deterioration as well. Still, it fits securely in Waverider’s palm and makes him appear very imposing.
The gun features two pegs, with the larger one being the right fit for the shell’s hand here, completing the battle-ready space marine look.
Another accessory to note is the belt, which is something I often forget about but is an integral piece. It needs to be removed to open the shell at the sides, although otherwise, I leave it in place the whole time, especially as the paint underneath tends to be ever-so-slightly rubbed, even when the toy is new out of the box, on account of the belt also being made from that same rubbery material.
Finally, as with the other Autobot Pretenders, Waverider does feature a small hat accessory that can be clipped over the top of his head. With the hat in place, the character’s appearance is much more in-line with how he’s typically portrayed in media, including both the Marvel comics and the Japanese Masterforce TV show, although I cannot help but see it as looking extremely goofy!
I much prefer the simple ‘hair running free in the wind’ vibe that you get from not having the hat in place and besides, there’s a severe risk that continually putting the hat on and taking it off again will wear off the paint on top of the head, and this guy’s ‘do’ is far too majestic for me to allow that to happen. Having gone to great lengths to find a copy with no paint rubbing, I’d much rather keep his as pristine as possible, so his headgear is instead stored away inside my infamous bag of Pretender hats forevermore.
Anyway, who needs a hat when you look as sharp as this, eh?
Completing the look here are a couple of stickers that must be placed on either side of his mouthguard. They’re really shiny and catch the light beautifully, adding just the right amount of pop to an otherwise fairly monochrome colour scheme.
Overall, it’s a strong showing for Waverider’s shell, making him an exciting addition to the Autobot line-up.
Naturally, the real thrill comes from seeing all three of these chaps standing next to one another, with their complementary colour schemes all looking rather fab. As I’ve mentioned, there’s a very loose theme of air, sea and land going on here, and although it’s not nearly as explicit as the second wave of Autobots (we’ll get to them another day!), the hints are all there if you pay close attention.
It’s so funny to me how much I enjoy seeing these three together now as honestly, they were just so far from anything I appreciated about Transformers as a child. The whole concept of Pretenders was one I never quite grasped, and more than that, it was releases such as these, with their overtly humanoid appearance, that always made the least sense to me.
Even now, I see all kinds of confusion about them. Are they regular human size or significantly larger? If the latter is true then how are they disguised? If the former is true they how do they fight giant Decepticon robots? They’re all sort of good questions in some ways but equally, none of it matters in terms of appreciating these toys for what they are – a good bit of crazy fun from a time when the Transformers toyline was willing to throw the rulebook out of the window.
Perhaps that’s why it’s taken me those three-and-a-half decades to fully come round to them then, but now that they’re all here and in my collection, I couldn’t be more chuffed with them!
Of course, there’s more to the story though, as Waverider’s shell splits open at the sides to reveal the folded up robot inside. As expected, he’s very much in line with both Cloudburst and Landmine in that he’s a skinny thing with arguably little to tie him into the toyline’s roots in terms of appearance, so naturally, he takes a bit of getting used to. It’s another way that I’ve had to learn to love Pretenders over time, even though now I really admire them!
The first thing to say about Waverider’s true form is that it’s jet black, which is a surprisingly underused main colour choice for Autobots. Yes, there are some, but not as many as you’d think, so it automatically makes him stand out just a smidge.
Those dark tones are well-complemented by the stickers on show here, all of which add welcome highlights, with some very vibrant blurs and reds on offer. Coupled with the handsome gold visor on his head, I think it’s a strong look overall.
And yes, as I say he is a bit skinny and unusual, just like his peers, but honestly, I really like it now, after all these years. It’s a very clear departure from the classic Transformers robot mode appearance, but in some ways, Waverider is perhaps the most traditional of the set too, given how he looks like his chest turns into the front of his vehicle mode somehow (even though it doesn’t, in a bit of a surprise twist!).
Naturally, the actual transformation is incredibly simple, as should be expected from any Pretender figure, with the legs folding backwards in very stock fashion for this subgroup and the arms just flipping onto his back. In this case, there isn’t really much to help aid the pretence, although at least there are some welcome flip-out fins on the side of the legs, so that’s something.
It leaves you with a neat little aquatic vehicle, sort of like a miniature submarine type-of thing, which of course is entirely in line with the theme of this release. I guess if no one told you what it was (and the name ‘Waverider’ wasn’t too much of a clue) then you could be fooled into thinking it was a spaceship of sorts, but to my eye, he looks more at home under the sea.
And sure, just as with the other Pretenders, this will never not be a robotic bloke folded up into one of the more questionable alt’ forms from the entirety of the Generation 1 toyline but still, I don’t care – it has its charms and does essentially what I need it to for me to be happy with it. Yes, it’s goofy, but also surprisingly loveable.
Besides, with that sizeable blaster weapon now pegged firmly into the roof of the vehicle form, it all just about works well enough (at least from certain angles). You’ll always have to try your best not to notice the arms hanging off the back of it but at the least the head folds away more convincingly than on either Cloudburst or Landmine, even featuring a little propeller section moulded on the back of it in a neat touch!
All in all, it’s never going to win any awards for being one of the best vehicle modes in Transformers, but in terms of Pretenders, I actually think this one is kinda neat.
With that acknowledged, it’s time to once again drink in the glorious sight of Waverider lined up next to the rest of the team, now in their inner robot forms. Something about seeing the set together makes their appearance work even more for me, as whilst individually they may appear a bit odd in comparison to so many other Transformers toys from the time, at least as a unit they start to make more sense.
Again, I also think their respective colour schemes work well here, with Waverider’s predominant black bringing something different to the table.
In many ways, Landmine remains my favourite of the three, particularly as there’s something quite irresistible about the mix of warm grey with yellow, red and black, but still I don’t think any of these chaps are letting the side down particularly either.
They may not be what I necessarily wanted from Transformers toys when they were first released, but appreciating them with fresh eyes all of these years later, I can’t help but look at them as real curios of the time. I often find that there’s a kind of charm that comes from seeing certain toys through the lens of hindsight that somehow wasn’t obvious when they were first released, and so it is with this lot.
I’m sure that musing won’t win every over, mind, and no doubt plenty of collectors are still turned off by Pretenders to this day, but like other latter-day G1 gimmicks such as Action Masters, it remains a bit of a thrill to see Pretenders almost coming back into vogue amongst certain circles of the fandom these days.
True, there will always be the diehard ‘geewunners’ who see the first couple of years of the franchise as its ultimate peak, with any toy not handed down from Diaclone or Micro Change as somehow inferior to what preceded it, and whilst Pretenders may not be the most obvious evidence against that thinking, I personally no longer find the juxtaposition between them and those early releases to be as jarring as once I did.
Besides, the further along the G1 timeline you go, the more naturally Pretenders start to take their place. They will perhaps always be on the fringe of it all somehow, sort of natural outsiders amongst the more ‘pure’ forms seen in the majority of the toyline, but at least you can honestly say they pushed the boundaries.
If anything, I now view them as a welcome complement amongst a varied G1 display, adding a welcome dose of intrigue amongst all of the more traditional blocky shapes and traditional stylings. The Marvel comics fan in me still loves sights like this, after all.
Besides all that, there haven’t been updated releases of these characters that have been able to do better than the original toys, despite plenty of opportunity for it by now. That’s true of Generations, Masterpiece and third party. No one has even attempted to top the classic Pretender toys from 1988, and that’s an outright fact.
And yes, whilst it may be a little dubious to claim victory by merit of being the only ones competing, that still makes them winners in my book, standing the test of time as one of Transformers most divisive and objectively baffling ideas even to today.
So, all of that is to say that I’m now legitimately proud to have found such nice copies of these three for my collection after so much time. To suggest otherwise would just be pretending.