"Sunstorm: New Character, or Old Trick."
Saturday, January 6th, 2007 7:33pm CSTCategory: Site Articles
Posted by: Hotrod Views: 39,372
Sunstorm: New Character or Old Trick?
One of the things mentioned in the advertisement of the first issue of the Generation One ongoing series was that it would see the debut of a “brand one Generation One character.” When said character was revealed to be Sunstorm, a great deal of discussion arose on the subject. All this discussion stemmed from one simple question: Is Sunstorm really a new character, or is he little more than the latest tool by Dreamwave to make sure that sales of the series prove to be profitable?
For those who have no idea, Sunstorm started out life as an E-Hobby exclusive toy available from http://www.e-hobby.co.jp/. The character is meant to represent an orange seeker who appears very briefly in “More Than Meets the Eye: Part 1”. Many people consider this appearance an animation error, however, largely due to the fact that Starscream, Thundercracker and Skywarp were standing where he was only moments earlier. A seeker bearing the same orange color scheme would appear again in “Divide And Conquer”, in what was obviously an attempt to have three generic seekers on standby.
Despite these two appearances in the cartoon, no toy was ever made of the character during the original Transformers run. It’s not hard to see why. With characters such as Optimus Prime, Megatron and Starscream central figures in the cartoon, its stands that characters that played very little roles in the cartoon would not get a toy based in their likeness. The main reason for this is that the cartoon, and to a lesser extent the comic, was little more than a launching platform on which Hasbro could sell the toys. With characters like Ironhide, Jazz, Soundwave and Devastator taking up the majority of the time in both mediums, it stands to reason that Hasbro wouldn’t release a toy of a character that made very little impact in either. So, having said this, can Sunstorm be considered a true “character”? Not in any particular sense, since his appearances in the cartoon was either considered an animation errors or a filler character, in addition to not having a toy that kids would buy. Even though that is not the only way to see it, it's the way the majority of the fandom chooses to see it.
On the other hand, however, Sunstorm can truly be considered a character, just not in a way that most fans would recognize. As stated before, in 2003, Sunstorm finally had a toy made in his likeness. In this fashion, he can truly be considered a character, since he did have an appearance in the cartoon (questionable though it may be) and now has a toy to represent that appearance. However, the setback to this is that, with most fans not considering his appearances in the cartoon to be completely valid, the fact remains that the majority of the fandom continues to consider him a toy only character. And in this light, he is still not considered a “true” character. What I mean by this is that, unlike Optimus Prime and Megatron, both of who had toys as well, both of these characters had the opportunity, via both the comic and cartoon, to develop and mature into the characters that most fans nowadays are familiar with. Sunstorm had no such opportunity, and as such, can be considered to be one of those characters who never had their opportunity to shine.
Having said this, one must come to look upon the toyline from the perspective of a business executive, and not a fan. It should come as no surpised to anyone that both the cartoon and comic were merely vessels by which Hasbro could plug the toys, since it’s clearly apparent in both mediums that they were not above doing whatever it took to make sure that the toys of that year got the spotlight. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Movie and in #50 of the original comic. In both issues, characters of years past were killed off (or just disappeared without explanation) to make room for the current lineup of toys crowding shelves in every major store. And due to the limitations of their respective mediums (more apparent in the comic), few of them were able to develop in an interesting or memorable way. One is not too likely to find characters past 1987 high on their lists of all time favorites.
Two of the well known exceptions are Bludgeon and Thunderwing. Both of these characters made their appearance near the end of the comic once Simon Furman took up the reigns as writer. Both of these characters were toys in the 1989 line that few people would remember were it not for Furman’s writing. He portrayed Thunderwing as a respectful leader whose obsession with finding the Creation Matrix made for one of the most compelling stories of Marvel run. With Bludgeon, Furman created quite possibly the closest thing the Decepticons could call an “honorable” warrior, who eventually became Decepticon leader after Scorponok’s death in issue 75. It’s not surprising to see that these two characters are well known and liked throughout the fandom. Their recent appearance in the Armada “World’s Collide” storyline (also written by Furman) shows how well known these characters are. For Furman to utilize characters that Armada’s target audience has no idea about opens up the possibility for him to portray them in a new and interesting way. What does this have to do with Sunstorm? Well, as a toy only character who does not have a history behind him that fans, both old and new, would recognize, Brad Mick, writer of the G1 ongoing series, can feel free to utilize and write the character in almost any way he wants to, since there is no anchor holding him back. To a majority of the audience then, he will no doubt be portrayed as if he was truly a brand new character.
However, while we have established that Sunstorm is a new character, the question of whether or not he can be considered a brand new character in the Generation One universe is still in doubt. We have established that Sunstorm, as a toy, is more or less a Transformer character. However, we have also established his lack of name recognition outside of Japan. Even if that weren’t true, there would still be a number of fans who don’t consider him a true Generation 1 character. Why? Because, to a great deal of American fans, the Generation 1 universe ended, for all intents and purposes, with the three part “Rebirth” miniseries. At this time, the toyline was more or less sliding into unpopularity, no doubt in part to the fact that its major advertising campaign had gone off the air. However, in Japan, six more Transformer series were produced: Headmasters, Masterforce, Victory, Zone, Battlestars and Operation: Combination. And while Headmasters, and Masterforce to a degree, utilized the characters seen in that years wave of American toys, by the time that Victory came along, the cast of characters was made up of toys exclusive to the Japanese market (much like Sunstorm), and are not very likely to be well known by most American fans.
Even if it were true that Japanese characters aren’t well known to American fans, that does not necessarily mean that they cannot become a part of the Generation One universe. Take Overlord for example. The character, whose first appearance was in the Japan “Masterforce” series in 1988, was made the Decepticon leader in the 1991 European assortment. The European tech spec (seen here) makes very little mention of his role in Masterforce, with the exception of his twin human partners (referred to as “Energon mini-figures”). He is not the only one to get the “import” to the Generation 1 universe. The Motorvators (Flame, Gripper and Lightspeed), were also part of the 1991 European assortment after spending most of 1989 being known as the Brainmasters Laster, Blacker and Braver in “Victory”, while the Breastmasters Drillhorn, Jaguar, Killbison and Leozak got an allegiance change and were brought over to Europe in 1992 as the “Autobot Rescue Patrol.” Since these characters were released at the same time as Sideswipe, Tracks, Bombshell and Thundercracker (as Action Masters, yes, but well known characters nonetheless), one can make the assumption that these characters have, for lack of a better term, become brand new Generation One characters.
With Sunstorm, who will be making his first "official" North American appearance in the pages of issue #1 of the ongoing Generation One Transformers series, this is perhaps the best way to explain his status as a new Generation One character. In the end, though, it does not matter, because to a great deal of the audience, he will appear to be a new character, regardless of what previous origins he may have. No matter the case, it all hangs on the shoulders of Brad Mick, whose pen is the key that will make us remember Sunstorm as we would remember Thunderwing, or causes us to blot him out for all eternity just as we do Wheelie.
Credit(s): Darth Bombshell
This article was last modified on Saturday, January 6th, 2007 7:36pm CST