The idea of self-transforming Transformers toys was an idea that was impossible to resist in 1985, so when the Jumpstarters were released, they went straight to the top of the “must have” priority list. The cartoon had taught us that the Transformers were capable of transforming from one mode to the other in just seconds flat, but when we played with our toys, some of these figures had some pretty involved transformations that sometimes took some time. These two were the answer to that.
Now, Topspin and Twintwist never even appeared in the cartoon or the US Marvel comic, but their transforming gimmick was enough to ensure that they sold like crazy, so we didn’t care that we didn’t really know who they were. In fact, I personally never encountered them in any Transformers fiction until James Roberts’ The Last Stand of the Wreckers, and then I learned they were regulars in the UK Marvel comic going back to the late ’80s when they were first introduced as part of the Wreckers. So they actually do have quite a rich history, but we in the US were pretty much left guessing as to what their roles were in the Transformers story.
The Jumpstarters were released together in huge numbers. In ’85, the Transformers phenomenon was in full swing, so Hasbro was shipping everything in large quantities, and they were selling like crazy. Every kid I knew had both of these figures, and the whole appeal was their transformation.
This thing is, though, that for these guys to be able to transform all by themselves, their transformations would need to be pretty darn simple, and, well, they were pretty darn simple. They just kinda… stood up, or jumped up, rather. They were simple even by ’85 standards, but it was still really cool to watch them pull off their little trick, and lord knows I put it to use. These two were so much fun.
The gimmick worked like this: while in their alt modes, all you had to do was pull back and let them go. That would activate the action feature, and after traveling across the floor for a couple feet they “popped” up and landed on their feet — instant transformation! They also has these switches on the backs of their heads that were supposed to impact the transformation somehow, but I could never figure out what they did, exactly. Still can’t.
The sculpts are not bad at all considering they’re 28 years old now, and the two figures are not actually straight repaints of one another like they appear to be at first glance. Both figures share the same basic body shape, but there’s a lot of unique tooling and sculpting involved with both of them. The details really do a lot to make each figure unique.
As far as articulation goes, there isn’t much here to speak of. Their arms swivel at the shoulder, and that’s pretty much it. I can’t even get their heads to turn. That may just be mine, but I’m not sure.
These days one of the main gripes expressed about Hasbro’s figures is how recent figures feel and look “hollow.” Well, it turns out this isn’t a recent phenomenon because these two feel and look pretty hollow themselves. I suspect this was done intentionally because they needed to be pretty light in order for the transformation gimmick to work, but it still looks pretty bad regardless.
Incidentally, my Topspin suffered a little damage during his years in storage, but otherwise, these two are pretty much intact. Topspin’s left blaster snapped off at some point, but fortunately it doesn’t harm the figure’s overall appearance all that much.
Their alt modes are barely alt modes due to their super simple transformations. Their feet basically fold down over their heads and… that’s it. The black clip on their chests hold their feet in place until the trigger is hit while they travel across the floor. Topspin transforms into some kind of space cruiser, while Twin Twist transforms into a vehicle that’s meant for drilling or burrowing… or something. You just kind of have to go with it.
They each come with a blaster, which was their only accessory, but mine vanished a long time ago. Thankfully, Google image search comes through once again.
Both figures have seen updates this year, the better of which is definitely Mech Ideas’ Demolition Crue. Both figures are awesome and worthwhile updates, even if they do eschew the gimmick that made them special in the first place. You actually have to transform the updates by hand, and the transformations are much more complex, so it just feels weird. Because of this, sometimes it’s nice to just send the originals tearing across the floor and to watch them pop up on their own. After 28 years both figures work exactly like they’re supposed to — that’s pretty awesome.
If you never owned the Jumpstarters, I would probably recommend Mech Ideas’ updated versions unless you definitely want the G1 originals. Truth be told, both versions are awesome in their own way, so both are totally worth tracking down for the collection.