25 Nights of Nineties Nostalgia: Punch/Counterpunch

Today is Transforming Thursday, and we return with a look at the Autobot spy Punch/Counterpunch. This was the first faction changer created for the transformer toy-line. He didn’t just have a typical car-mode, but was also able to switch from the Decepticon soldier Counterpunch to the loyal Autobot Punch.

Punch-Counterpunch via TFwiki
Punch-Counterpunch via TFwiki

Punch was part of the doomed fourth season of the original Transformers cartoon, appearing in the first episode, out of four, for that season. His first appearance could not have been any more laughable; Punch notices two Decepticons sneaking into the Autobot base, changes his faction, and then asks questions like he had totally been there the whole time. Immediately, the Decepticons tell him to buzz off and he complies but not before warning them that he thinks Punch is somewhere real close by. Counterpunch then ducks behind the door frame, changes back to Punch and immediately opens fire on them. It’s kind of hysterical how bad the creators tripped over Punch’s concept.

However, in Japan, Punch did a little more than show off his gimmick and then disappear. Japan was not satisfied with calling the show quits after three seasons, and instead of the four episode special the US got, they produced their own thirty-eight episode season of the TV show. In this iteration, the audience was introduced to Counterpunch first, and it was only later that we found out that he was in fact working for the Autobots the whole time. Throughout the series, he would be faced with problems like the danger of blowing his cover and coming up with ways of informing his comrades of the enemy’s plan, giving the guy way more depth and character. There are even some episodes where it seems that Punch is suffering from an identity crisis. Because of this, Punch is remembered fondly in Japan, while in America he sort of fell into obscurity. Which is nothing short of criminal considering how good his action figure was.

Punch’s toy accomplishes a lot considering it came out in 1987. The subtraction of metal and rubber parts allows the toy to survive the test of time better than his older brothers. Punch even cleans up better than them too, with barely any robot parts visible in his car mode. Even the robot-modes are pulled off well. The transformation may literally involve turning one robot’s back to the other robot’s front, but there were enough changes in the formation of the legs and arms that the two robots look distinct. Truly Punch/Counterpunch is an underappreciated classic.

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Al Baldino is half bear, half owl-bear, which makes him some sort of terrible fraction no one wants to think about. He's a co-host on the Line Cutters every Wednesday at 7pm EST.