I’ve mentioned in past reviews that one of my favorite Transformers is Gears. The original toy was a simple cute little thing which is partly what I liked about it. Another favorite of mine was an equally small bot who transformed into sports car named Windcharger. Gears and Windcharger were 2 of the only Transformers figures I held onto from my youth. The original Gears and Windcharger toys were released in the early days of the brand, way back in 1984. The cast was still relatively small back then so both characters had the occasional moment to shine in the comics and the cartoon. Transformers quickly became hugely popular and over the next couple of years the cast grew to be vast. Many old characters got swept aside in the media tie-ins to make room for new ones.
1986 saw the release of some of the original mini-cons repainted and given new names. A red and white repaint of Gears was named Swerve, and white and blue repaint of Windcharger was named Tailgate. I didn’t own either of those figures. Neither made appearances in the comic or cartoon so I had no attachment to them. I viewed them as knock-offs of two of my favorite characters.
But a funny thing happened when IDW split their core Transformers comic series into 2 new on-going series’ focusing on different groups of Transformers. The main cast (Bumblebee, Optimus, Starscream, etc.) carried on their adventures on Cybertron in “Robots in Disguise” while Hot Rod lead a ragtag group of robots into space in the sister-title “More Than Meets the Eye”. I’m not sure how IDW decided which characters would stay on Cybertron and which ones would go to space but I feel that the writer of MTMTE, James Roberts, had somewhat restrictive access to the character pool. Why else would he make second string nobodies like Swerve and Tailgate main characters in his book?
Perhaps because he’s a genius.
I absolutely love what Roberts has done with the cast of MTMTE. I’ve raved about him before in my Swerve reviews. He turned Swerve into one of my top 5 favorite Transformers by infusing him with an entertaining and lovable personality. I went from not giving a crap about the character a couple of years ago to owning 4 different versions of him now.
Mr. Roberts has also “transformed” Tailgate into one of my favorite characters. The artist on the book helped out a lot with that too because Tailgate is totally his own character now. When he showed up in the first issue of the book I had no idea that he was that old white Windcharger repaint. It wasn’t until I was a few issues into the series that I fell in love with the cast and wanted to know more about them. I actually thought Tailgate was a newly created character and was quite surprised when I found out on his TF-wiki page that he was indeed that old Windcharger repaint.
Alex Milne draws Tailgate in such a way that you would likely never connect him to the original design and yet it’s not too radical a departure either. If you were a big fan of the ’86 design I don’t think you’d be bothered by the changes Milne has made. Tailgate is very short, shorter than Swerve who’s a runt himself, and he has thin legs and tiny feet. It’s not the most masculine design and it’s quite top heavy but it’s a unique design that helps Tailgate stand out from the pack.
Tailgate has been through a lot in the comics. He was trapped underground for millions of years, he got stuck with Cyclonus as a roommate (the one Decepticon on Hot Rod’s ship), Cyclonus then convinced him to join the Decepticons which did not go over well with their shipmates, and then he was diagnosed with a terminal case of Cybercrosis. The Autobot medic, Ratchet, did all he could to save Tailgate but the disease was too far along by the time the cure was ready. Tailgate was left on a slab in the medical bay to die a slow and agonizing death. It was then that he pleaded to his unlikely friend Cyclonus to end his suffering. The evolution of Tailgate and Cyclonus’ friendship was as heartwarming to read about as the relationship between Chromedome and Rewind was. And just like the end of that couples journey, with Rewind’s sacrifice, seeing Cyclonus plunge his sword through Tailgate’s chest was a gut-wrenching read.
But fear not, Cyclonus’ act of mercy actually purged Tailgate of the disease and saved him. How you ask? Go read the comics, you won’t be disappointed.
Their portrayal in the comics really made me want figures of both Swerve and Tailgate. Hasbro gave me a very underwhelming comic-inaccurate version of Swerve so I had to turn to pricey third party manufactures to get my proper Swerve fix (though Hasbro did recently produce an excellent Swerve of their own). With Tailgate no third parties were answering the call so I had to wait and hope that eventually someone would produce a Tailgate figure based on his IDW appearance.
Is it weird that I’m surprised to see Hasbro (who owns the character) is the first out of the gate to produce a Tailgate figure? It’s a sign of the times I guess that I expected some third party company to release a pricey Tailgate figure long before Hasbro ever would. I was quite surprised when this affordable, and official, version of Tailgate was announced a few months back.
Now, I am relieved to get a Tailgate for so cheap ($10 or so) but I’d have paid a bit more to get a figure that was a bit better. This toy is part of the same Generations series that gave us excellent Swerve and Cosmos figures just a couple of months ago. The second wave, which consists of Tailgate and Shrapnel, is far less impressive.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a decent Tailgate figure that I think is a MUST-BUY if you’re a fan of IDWs comics. He looks pretty close to how he appears in the books but unfortunately he just wasn’t executed as well as Swerve or Cosmos. It seems to me that he wasn’t made with the same level of care and attention to detail. His articulation is alright but is somewhat hindered by the large unhidden areas of his alt mode.
His arms are particularly disappointing as they seem to completely fade into the door panels with little defining detail. From the back he just looks like a walking car. Little effort went into tucking away his recognizable car parts. And while the colors are comic accurate a few minor paint apps would have went a long way with this rather bland looking toy. Speaking of paint apps, he has a decent flame deco when in car mode. The car mode is quite good and pretty similar to that of the original toy.
The last thing I should mention is that he comes with an even smaller robot named, Groundbuster, who “transforms” into a bulldozer and also into Tailgate’s weapon. The transformation from vehicle to robot mode consists of lifting his arms and his weapon mode makes no sense what-so-ever. This little guy is nothing to call home about but as a kid I probably would’ve liked it anyway; he is pretty cute.