Generation One was just chock full of personality quirks, presumably to add depth to the characters as well as further engender unbridled consumerism. Heck, Ironhide’s misshapen oddity of a toy sure wasn’t going to sell itself. Solution? Give him a completely different robot mode and a southern accent in the cartoon. So, when you are the 1985 repaint – or rather a very slight retool to include a lightbar – of the 1984 toy of Sideswipe, you really need to up your game to grab some shelf space in the toy store and in the hearts of those kids. Red Alert went with a two-pronged approach.
First up: rampant Paranoia. Even in his new Generations’ release bio, Red Alert’s personality “quirk” is that he is a mentally unstable Paranoid schizophrenic waiting to happen. His Russian name was even Паникёр, which translates as “Alarmist”. This was compounded by his job, Autobot Security Director, leading to many a “Robot Who Called Wolf” situation. Granted, he tended to keep it under wraps for the most part. Luckily for Red, he was constantly paired with his good buddy Inferno, who tried his best to keep him on the sane side of unreasonably suspicious. Unfortunately for Red, his one starring episode was Season 2, Episode 17 “Auto Berserk” in which a blow to the head kicked his Paranoia into hyperdrive leading him to team up with Starscream to attempt to steal the Autobot weapon of destruction, the Negavator. Granted, a rocket to the back of the head might have that effect on just about anyone, who am I to judge? Besides, why were the supposedly peace-loving Autobots making such a destructive weapon anyway? Maybe there’s something to Red’s paranoia after all.
Mental illness aside, Sideswipe had already done the stock Lamborghini Countach LP500S thing a year earlier with a sexy red paintjob. In this department, Red Alert took the “Robots In Disguise” part of the tagline as more of a suggestion. He went with a red-on-white Fire Chief deco complete with lightbar, because face it, one would have to be paranoid to suspect a $100,000 auxillary Fire Department vehicle. Maybe this was just his attempt at reverse psychology.
My G1 Red Alert is the Commemorative Series IV re-(re-re-)issue from 2003 – the Toys R Us Exclusive release that saw Red Alert beat Sideswipe to the shelves by four series’. As a part of Generations’ series of homages – which stayed true to the G1 tradition of Red Alert being a slight retool of Sideswipe – Red has finally graced American shores. Ironically, one of the differences of the U.S. version – as opposed to the Japanese Henkei! Henkei! release last year – actually highlights an issue I never realized I had with the original Generation One toy: Red’s head isn’t, well, red. Unlike the Cartoon, his toy head is made of the same black plastic as the Sideswipe mold. In Japan they corrected it for his 2009 Henkei! Henkei! release, and Hasbro un-corrected it for the 2010 Generations release. However, being a toy-centric collector, I am actually glad that Hasbro saw fit to return Red to the status quo. I like consistency in my homages, it makes for a nice picture when they are standing next to each other on the shelf.
For added fun, with just a touch of crazy, here is Red’s “Knowing Is Half The Battle” PSA from 1985 in which he chides small children for riding their bikes at night without reflectors after almost running them over while he was clearly driving at night with his headlights off:
Basically, Red Alert teaches us that it’s ok to be completely crazy, as long as you have friends to bail your crazy tailpipe out in the end.
Of course, the internet can always be counted on to take a nice, harmless image of friendship and make it just a little bit… off.
And now you know.