The Reverend's review: Skullcruncher
: Swamp Warrior
First Cartoon Appearance
: "The Rebirth, Pt 1"
"Autobots are like bad fuel - weak and greasy."
Has a habit of grinding his teeth before he strikes -- annoying his friends and tipping off his enemies. Binary-bonded to Grax, a Nebulan industrialist who's joined up to eliminate his competition. In robot mode, uses softening ray gun -- gives metal the consistency of rubber, making his enemies easier to chew when he reverts to alligator mode.
Let me confess: I don't like alligators. My wife, being a Louisiana native, finds this a little odd - but we have a deal worked out; I kill any spider she sees, and someday if an alligator gets in the house it's her job to strangle that nasty bugger. Skullcruncher was one of the original three Decepticon Headmasters, alongside Weirdwolf and Mindwipe. He appeared in "The Rebirth", often miscolored, but I don't recall him having any lines. I do remember Grax shrieking "I'm to be bonded with that creature??" In the Japanese "Headmasters" series, he often appeared with his comrades in a somewhat bumbling, comic-relief role.
Skullcruncher's instructions label his alternate mode as an alligator, although his tapering snout indicates he's actually a crocodile. And a monstrous specimen he is, although his green and pink coloring might indicate he's got the mange. His front half is largely green, with a grey panel on his back, white stickers marking his eyes, clumsy reptile forelimbs, white paws with three toes each, and a rubsign on the top of his head. His jaws open via a hinge at the back of his head, and although his lower jaw is pink, he does have a molded row of teeth on each side of his jaws. He's also got a ridge running down the middle of his snout that, in combination with the nice beveling at the front, makes him look like he's got nostrils. There's a bit of chrome on the "elbow" of each forelimb. Halfway down his back, the primary color shifts to pink and the reptile mode gets a little more detailed, with two rows of small pink humps running down his back. His rear limbs are shorter than his forelimbs, but they're fatter and more robotic looking. His body terminates in a pink tapered tail. The beast itself, for all its unusual appearance in places, hugs the ground like a proper crocodilian, and it definitely gives off the appearance of being armored. All in all, the colors are weird, but he's actually a better representation of the reptile than I think most of us would expect out of the G1 line. I guess you can say he's somewhere in the middle between "semi-realistic animal" and "totally mechanical animal" appearances.
Now, before I get too deep into this, it should be noted that the first generation of Decepticon Headmasters had little cockpits in their alternate mode for their partners to sit in. Mindwipe and Weirdwolf both feature little compartments in their bodies for this. Skullcruncher? Well, open up those gaping jaws again. Inside the reptiles mouth... there's a slightly detailed seat cushion etching for Grax to sit on! That's right, the Headmaster partner rides along inside the croc's mouth. A robotic croc whose Tech Specs already indicate he likes to eat his opponents. Grax sits with his back to Skullcruncher's monstrous gullet, patiently peering out the little tinted canopy in the middle of the crocodile's head. Grax obviously loves to live dangerously. And don't alligators/crocodiles spend a lot of time in the water? Does Grax's exosuit protect against that? This also begs the question of what Grax actually DOES in combat while Skullcruncher utilizes his alternate mode. I guess he hops out and taunts those who are in the middle of getting eaten.
Outside of those niggling questions, though, Skullcruncher interesting enough to buttress any Decepticon strike team. His reptile mode's head doesn't swivel, so you won't be able to have him "bite off" the Rodimus Prime leg you secretly broke off years ago. But his jaws do open very far, allowing you cram a lot of Autobot limbs and torsos in there. The mouth itself is relatively roomy, too, so I suppose he could carry some marbles or something else of interest if you so desire. If you've got any of those old M.U.S.C.L.E. figures laying around, I guess Skullcruncher and Gnaw could have a chomp fest. Poseability in the mode is a little limited, but as alligators/crocodiles don't use their limbs for much of anything except getting around, this is one case where you won't miss it that badly. He's also very sturdy here - long, but compact - and the only thing really betraying his nature as a Transformer is that you can see his fists hiding within his front "paws".
Since Grax stays in his humanoid mode here, I might as well note him too. As a first-generation Headmaster, Grax is nicely put together; his sculpted, muscular body is black in color, with green limbs and a gold-colored face. He has joints at his shoulders, hips and knees. Although the knees are joined together by a single joint, he's still superior to the later Headmasters, who could do nothing but stiffly bend over. It really is too bad he didn't at least come with a small rifle or something of his own, but at least you can pretend he has GoBot-style fist-blasters or something. And against later Headmasters like Muzzle and Quig, he's got one mean cross-bodyblock.
The transformation here doesn't take a lot to figure out, especially if you had any Dinobots. Remove Grax from Skullcruncher's mouth and put him aside, so he can recline in a half seated position while all this goes on (Nebulans have it so easy!!!). Pull off the end of Skullcruncher's tail, then separate the two halves of what's left of his rump and swing them out to the sides. This allows you to rotate back the entire rear part of the alligator/crocodile, forming Skullcruncher's legs. Stand him on those legs, then twist the front half of the reptile around 180 degrees. Fold down the monstrous head so it looks down Skullcruncher's back and swing down the forelimbs. You can see that the white front paws are encasing his fists, so just swing those paws down so you can fit his white ray gun into one of them. This sort of makes him look link he's wearing cufflinks - a well-dressed Decepticon indeed! Finally, pick up Grax (thus interrupting his half-reclined stupor), and fold up his legs to create Skullcruncher's head. Plugging him into the requisite spot activates Skullcruncher's built-in Tech Specs meter, which can be seen by opening the gray plate in his chest. That is, if you're a fan of that gimmick.
Skullcruncher is a modestly tall fellow, rather slender in appearance, but of relatively nice proportions. Despite the fact that he's got a massive reptile head hanging off his back, he really doesn't look bad or boxy. He does have the hind legs of the alligator mode sticking out of his shins, but those legs are so small it's not as spoiling to his appearance as it could be. He has some articulation at the knees and can also move at the shoulders, elbows and wrists. His coloring is still primarily green and pink, but he does have some flecks of grey at the chest and hips. His head is largely black with a gold face visible below his goggles. Although his arms are a little on the skinny side, he still looks relatively strong, and although his white ray gun isn't the most intimidating on the Decepticon weapon rack, it's still nicely rendered. BTW, the instructions say you can insert his leftover tail piece into the fist that's not holding his gun (they call it a "tail/laser"). Personally, I think this looks ridiculous and it stinks of "afterthought", but if you dig it, go ahead and have him hold it. Skullcruncher's tall enough and his arms are long enough for a little brawling, so you can have him whack Kup over the head with the tailpiece if you like.
: 3. Easy stuff and requires no instructions.
: 8. Here's where Skullcruncher shines. You can leave him crammed in the toy box without worry. Very solid, very stable, although I'm sure that the reptile mode's limbs get loose over time, making him slither rather than hug the ground.
: 7. It's hard to imagine Skullcruncher as a "standout" piece, but he is a great supporting Decepticon for display.
: 4. Of the three original (non-Triple Changer) Decepticon Headmasters, he seems to be the least popular, so you can probably pick him up complete for a good price.
: 6. Looks great packed in with other Decepticons. On his own... probably a little lackluster. Still, he's one of the better-designed Headmasters (partner's cockpit not withstanding).