TOP 5 UPCOMING TITANS RETURNS TOYS I AM MOST EXCITED ABOUT

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5. TITANS RETURN TRIPLECHANGER MEGATRON

A good looking Megatron with a nice jet mode and “meh” tank mode that is passable, but unspectacular in any way. I love the bot mode, but he is a bit plain looking. I guess Takara will add some nice flourishes here and there with their version – but I will be quite satisfied with the vanilla Beige-Bot from Hasbro that I already pre-ordered. He looks like another fun toy along with Astro Train and other voyager class dolls. I mean action figure super-robots, or whatever you want to call them.

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4. TITANS RETURN DOUBLECROSS (A.K.A. TWINFERNO)

If you’ve read this blog, then you know I love Doublecross. He’s the character I use as my Avatar picture for this blog, and my favourite Generation 1 toy. The new update has a cool Headmasters cartoon look to him, rather than the look of the toy. I really dig it, and like Megs and a certain ninja six-changer – have already pre-ordered him. Can’t wait for this one to arrive! The dragon heads look just like the carton, and the bot mode is pretty cool, if I’m going to nitpick, his back is strangely hollow and empty, looks a bit rubbish, but I don’t display my figures backwards so I don’t care.

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3. TITANS RETURN BLACK SHADOW / SKY SHADOW

I’ve wanted  a nice modern Black Shadow / Sky Shadow toy that looks more like the IDW comics version for ages. The G1 toy is nice, but I don’t want it. This new version ticks the right kind of boxes for me. He looks like a total bad-ass, and I am equally excited for his inevitable retool into everyone’s favourite IDW sadist – Overlord!!!!! Who saw that coming (pre-tease/reveal) NOBODY that’s who. Black Shadow is a definite buy for me. Look at him! He’s friggin awesome! Check out that head, those details, that paint scheme! He’s kind of my number one most wanted, except two other toys somehow pushed him back to #3 on the list and man is he PISSED about it, look at that face! **drool** I’ll be all over him like jam on toast.

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2. TITANS RETURN SIXSHOT

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The original bad-ass six changing (actually seven modes, but the 7th mode is just as shit as his other modes) ninja bad-ass robot you send for when you absolutely, positively have to kill ever last mother fucker in the room. When it’s time for scorched earth baby and no survivors, you call Sixshot. Loyal, lethal another total bad-ass. The opportunity to have Sixshot, Megatron and Sky Shadow (and Overlord!!!) together in one modern toy line is like a dream come true.  I think Sky Shadow looks better as a toy, but man Sixshot would eat him for breakfast and shit him out by lunch.

Yeah, he’s awesome. I’ve preordered Sixshot already. I was tempted by DX-9’s very toon accurate Sixshot which is undeniably gorgeous, but I want a TOY to play with, rather than a MP style super-detailed statue of Sixshot that scales with nothing I own.  Who wants a six changer that you never change for fear of breaking it? No thanks. Titans Sixshot is chunky and cool, he’s a bit basic but he’s clearly going for the G1 toy look, and not so much the cartoon or comic book look as Dx9’s equally awesome toy is. If I was an MP collector, I’d be getting both, you can’t go wrong with either toy imo.

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Why did I use a render of Sixshot and not a photo from one of the toy convention press? Well on the day of the event (as EVERYBODY already knows…*sigh*) they lost his head and had to make another one, so the pictures on display show a model-makers last minute effort head, and not his actual head so THAT’s why.

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1. TITANS RETURN TRYPTICON

Will Titans Trypticon be gigantic and epic and awesome?

Probably.

Will he scale with…anything?

Unlikely.

Do I even care?

Hmmm. No.

Will the original Dino Tripper-CON be of a better build quality than Titans Return Fortress Maximus (a.k.a. the leaning tower of Iacon) – I sure hope so.

WHAT I WANT TO SEE: My fingers are crossed that Titans Trypticon will not only be worth owning, but something to get excited about. Not just another slavish remake/reimagining but a toy that actually screams “HOLY CRAP THIS IS AWESOME BUY ME YOU BASTARDS!” – a toy so exciting as to defy all logical sense and inspire sub-literate gibbering and foaming at the mouth, and misuse of the english language.

THINGS I DON’T WANT TO SEE: Naked Donald Trump with a dinosaur face. A giant ZOID-alike with Trypticons head. A boring alt-mode. A boring Dino-Godzilla bot with nothing that makes him unique. Lazy paint apps. No cool accessories.

What if anything could Trypticon be retooled into I wonder? Only one thing comes to mind – another Trypticon such as the Beast Wars Gigatron version of the Generation 1 toy. Mostly it was the same toy re-released with a few different bells and whistles and an overly inflated price tag. You know – like every Fanboy pants wetting variant ever. IT’s kind of cool, I dig the bigger horn – but what’s up with the green racing dots down his back? UGH!

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So far we have seen a teaser of a leg (WOW!)  for Titans Tripper-DON, which may or may not be indicative of his final scale. I’m guessing he will shorter than Titans Fortress Maximus, as Trypticon and dinosaurs/Godzilla in general tend to be longer than they are tall.

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So I’m guessing Trypticon will we rather long, and maybe hunched down a bit more like say the T-Rex in Jurassic Park, than the more upright Generation 1 toy that resembles Godzilla/Mechagodzilla. But who knows, he could end up being just as tall as Fort Max, while being long as well, making him a total pain in the ass to find a spot for in just about any collection space-wise.

I want him to be epic and awe-inspiring and scary and give you that HELL YEAH HE’S BACK!!! both fists pumping in the air Rocky type moment when the final toy is revealed and I’m cautiously optimistic we will get something like that.

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Unlike Titans Fort Max, who I knew I would buy the moment he was announced, I’ll be waiting for final reveals and possible reviews before buying Trypticon, especially seeing as there is a third party War for Cybertron Trypticon toy right around the corner, and I will likely choose one rather than both of these toys. Unless they both happen to be phenomenal. Then I gotta catch em all.

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He’s Bad He’s Cool…He’s Nobodies Fool

Fortunately I just purchased the Platinum Edition G1 reissue of the original Trypticon, so after several decades of “gotta have that” I will finally be able to enjoy the original toy. Really, if you are  a Trypticon fan, it’s good news all around, as soon enough there will be something to satisfy just about everybodies tastes. I guess the next sensible thing will have to a Legion class or Deluxe/Leader Trypticon, most likely from another third party just to keep things interesting. Iron Factory have done a FANTASTIC representation of Scorponok, and I really hope those guys are the first out the gate with a small scale Trippy-CON in the same size as their Scorponok. I’d buy the fuck out of that.

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Well that is another bunch of words sent off into the ether, some more posts on Marvels’s TF Comics will be following shortly. Already written them, but you know, editing and stuff.

Enjoy BOT-FANS!

5 Surprisingly Memorable Moments from Bob Budiansky’s Marvel Comics Transformers Run

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Bob Budiansky is a integral part of the early days of Transformers. He came up with many of the names of the original characters, writing basic names, outlines and bios that would be used as reference points for the Transformers characters. A Marvel Comics writer, editor and artist, he wrote or co-wrote issues #5-#55 of the Marvel US Transformers Comic Book.

While free to write his own stories in a different continuity than the cartoon, Bob’s stories also had to endure frequent cast cullings, that is whenever new toys came around, he was forced to write them into the story, leaving other characters in the dust, or having to abandon old stories in favor of entirely new ones. It’s not a job anyone would really ask for, but Budiansky did his best, and his stories breeze along at a breakneck pace. Here are 5 of the most surprisingly memorable highlights from Bob Budiansky’s Marvel Transformers comic book run.

 

5. DECEPTICON PRETENDER SKULLGRIN GETS A JOB AS A PROFESSIONAL ACTOR

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In one of the most surreal stories in any Transformers fiction – Decepticon Pretender Skullgrin  follows Shockwave’s orders to gain energy for the Decepticon cause by any means necessary on earth. Reasoning that there is no reason why he should not just earn the energy, rather than steal resources like other Decepticons, Skullgrin gets a job… as a professional actor.

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The irony of a Transformer “Pretender” becoming an actor is too delicious for words. Unlike some of the Autobot Pretenders, who had human disguises as outer shells, Skullgrin was a hideous monster, so perfect to play the part of… a hideous monster.

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The story is not unlike Frankenstein, or even King Kong – Skullgrin refuses to be a simple monster who terrorises, and instead develops feeling for humans, only for it all to go pear shaped in the third act when the humans inevitably turn on him.

Far from being just a comedy issue (the intended tone is never clear, but the scenario is ridiculous) Skullgrin shows his true colors again in a later issue (#54) that calls back to this story when he is reunited with his Decepticon Pretender brethren, now under the leadership of headmaster Scorponok.

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Skullgrins fellow Decepticons want to kill humans who are simply in the way during a battle. Skullgrin rather than admitting to his fleshbag sympathies, simply says that there is no need and instead he will keep the human prisoner – thus avoiding killing humans, despite the Decepticon mandate from leaders such as Megatron, Shockwave or Scorponok to kill, destroy and terrorize. It is an odd story about an evil monster who refuses to simply be a monster, we’ve seen it all before, but it is one of the most bizarre and memorable Transformers comic book stories ever written.

 

4. RATCHET STANDS UP TO THE MIGHTY LORD MEGATRON

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With the majority of the autobots temporarily out of action, Ratchet is on the run and desperate. When Megatron confronts him, he expects no challenge at all from a medic, instead a confined Ratchet stands up to Megatron, fighting him with everything he has in him.

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Knowing there is no way he could ever beat Megatron in battle, Ratchet takes a big gamble that he can take care of the traitorous Shockwave for Megatron, he tells Megatron Shockwave was previously defeated by the Dinobots, and Ratchet promises he can use that knowledge to beat Shockwave once again.

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Surprisingly it pays off, with Megatron doubting Ratchet’s ability to stop his adversary, but no doubt savoring the delayed satsisfaction of killing Ratchet, having nothing to lose by leaving the worm Ratchet dangling on Megatron’s hook just a little longer.

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Ratchet bargains for time, out-bluffing Megatron in a deadly game of cat and mouse, fortunately for Ratchet it’s the last page of the issue, so he is temporarily saved by the “to be continued next issue” box in the corner I conveniently cropped out.

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3. SHOCKWAVE SINGLE HANDEDLY KILLS NEARLY ALL THE AUTOBOTS

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It’s debatable if or how a Transformer can truly die. In most fiction, their bodies can be destroyed, but as long as their brain survives (or is copied/downloaded) and they have a spark (heart or energy/electromagnetic spirit) then they can revived from “death” seemingly an infinite amount of times. But even these simple details vary in each fiction.

When Shockwave “kills” the Autobots, they are effectively in stasis lock, meaning as good as dead, but not yet disassembled , and it was only a matter of time before he pulled them apart or committed some atrocious experiments on his dead/comatose victims. The point is that when Shockwave came to town, he trashed the majority of the Autobots single handedly, proving his superiority to Megatron for the first of several times during Budianky’s stories, and living up to his boasts as being more intelligent, capable and in a word… superior in every way as a Decepticon leader.

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The sight of the Autobots strung up, hanging upside down like slabs of beef is disturbing, even more disturbing was Optimus Prime’s decapitated head that Shockwave questioned and tortured for information while keeping Optimus alive. Over the course of two and half issues Shockwave dominated everyone and everything in the Transformers world, making for one of the most memorable Marvel Transformers stories with horrifying consequences for anyone that dared to get in his way.

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2. GRIMLOCK BECOMES LEADER OF THE AUTOBOTS

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With Optimus Prime out of the picture Grimlock takes over as leader for no reason other than he chooses to. Grimlock insists he is the the strongest in physical strength and will power, not caring for the plight of the humans, Grimlock not only ignores them but actively encourages Autobots not to to help humans, as they are so inconsequential to his concerns.

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The autobots refuse to follow many of Grimlocks more nonsensical orders of course, proving just how unfit Grimlock is to lead. Later Grimlock realized the error of his ways, and quits as leader only for the other Autobots to refuse his resignation, and insist he stay on despite his shortcomings, as Grimlock did manage to trash most of their enemies while making a complete ass of himself as self-deputized leader.

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Grimlock’s reign was short but lasted several issues. He became more bossy, lazy, dominant, incompetent and slothful as King Grimlock’s leadership soared briefly before nose diving into the ground. The contrast of how good a leader Optimus Prime was, and how flawed Grimlock’s self indulgent leadership was, was driven home effectively. Grimlock continued to belittle any Autobot who questioned his decisions and of course Grimlock spent more time talking up how great he was, while accomplishing very little as leader, making his run as leader even shorter than Bumblebee’s.

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1.BLASTER FAILS TO SAVE HIS FRIEND SCROUNGE, WHO DIES A HORRIFIC DEATH

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Blaster fails to save his friend Scrounge from the smelting pits on a Decepticon dominated Cybertron. In a single issue Bob Budiansky introduces us to new character Scrounge – a nobody – we see his friendship with Blaster, the tension between the conservative Autobots cowering and hiding in fear from the brutal relentles Decepticons. We see Blaster’s reckless but brave heroism and Scrounge’s untimely death.

Issue #17 is the single saddest issue and moment I’ve read in any Transformers comic book (and I’ve read them all). In one short story we see the bravery, heroism and unbeatable determination of Blaster, contrasted with the lack of morale and hopelessness of the Autobots trapped on Cybertron hiding from the Decepticons.

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We see in the middle of an ongoing civil war, two friends who do their best for the Autobot cause. In most kids comics the hero triumphs, he saves the day and his friends. But in this story, Blaster fails to save his friend  Scrounge who dies a cruel, horrific and painful death, to be recycled into metal for the Decepticon war campaign.

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The smelting pit is the final death sentence and resting place for robots who are not only considered inferior, but beneath consideration, particularly not from the zealous war mongering Decepticons. It is as close to genocide as you will see in a kids comics produced solely to sell toys, and the serious tone makes it something that would never have aired were the same story conceived as an episode of the animated series.

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Well that’s it for this short list of Memorable Moments from Bob Budiansky’s Tranformers run for Marvel Comics. Stay tuned, I’ve got some more highlights saved for my next posts covering some of the cool battles, EPIC moments  and the best forgotten stuff from Bob Budiansky’s Transformers US Marvel comic book stories.

 

TOP 5 TITANS RETURNS TOYS (so far)

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MY TOP 5 TITANS RETURNS TOYS (so far)

Playing with Transformers toys for a kid is a chance to walk in a fictional world, even if for a moment, a chance to see the world through the eyes of their favourite character, to imagine their own battles and stories taking shape. In a kid’s imagination, characters come to life, reality bends a little and we find ourselves in the place where pure imagination, fiction and fantasy meet, it’s an in between place that is its own kind of magic, neither fully here, nor there.

As adults we have so many other considerations in our daily lives, and all kinds of boring “serious” stuff (as well as the good stuff). But messing about with Transformers is an excuse for valuable and often neglected “play time”.  In that spirit, here are my personal TOP 5 TITANS RETURNS TOYS (so far), the ones that to me are the most fun. It’s not about what is slavishly accurate to this or that, or the toy with the best paint job (hey it’s not a fashion contest alright), it’s a list of the toys that are not afraid to be toys.

5. TITANS RETURN CHROMEDOME

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I’ve only just started watching the Headmasters cartoon for the first time this year, and getting familiar with characters I’ve only seen previously in toy catalogs back in the 80s.

The Chromedome toy is a welcome surprise – as in how much I am enjoying this toy. I’m not a car guy, I love G1 and MP Sideswipe, he’s cool, sexy and red and goes fast – but other than that I don’t care for cars. Chromedome is not a character I expected to care for or like, but he is really growing on me. I like him in both the Headmasters cartoon and the IDW comics. How a weird two tones of Brown-mobile has captured my imagination so much, I don’t know.

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His head sculpt is wonderful, the details on such a budget priced toy are so very welcome and surprising with the overall trend of cheaper plastics, less detail etc than the glory days of the higher quality CHUG toys. Sure his limbs feel light and cheap and pop off far too easy like all the other Deluxes, but I don’t care. He’s awesome and I really dig this toy. He has so much personality to him. I like him so much so I’ve already pre-ordered his repaint character in the Wave 3 Deluxes. I also really like the drivers cockpit for the titan master, it’s my favourite out of the bunch, the little headmaster driver guy looks very cool in his sporty weird two-tone brown car.

4.TITANS RETURN HARDHEAD

Hardhead is just such a great looking toy – both the HASBRO and Takara versions look gorgeous. You really can’t go wrong with Hardhead. his cool long cannon gun can be held in hand or shoulder mounted, the gun fits well on his vehicle mode, he has loads of options for little Titan Masters climbing aboard, helming weapons.

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Hardhead is just such a fun Transformers toy to play with, with plenty of options for fan modes including a 4 legged mech or 2 legged Diaclone style battle suit. Hardhead is fun to pose and has loads of options for how to display the little titan masters. My favourite so far is the Space Jockey Mode from Alien. Plus if you put a green KO Megatron head on him, he looks pretty sweet.

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3. TITANS RETURN CEREBROS (the head of Fortress Maximus)

Fortress Maximus arrived before his other headmaster buddies, so I’ve had him the longest. I bought him as I’ve always wanted a Fortress Maximus, and the Titans Return version is much more affordable then the vintage or reissue Fort Max’s.  As cool as he is, I was pleasantly surprised by how nice Cerebros is. He’s a very nice desk-bot!

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Two dudes, who turns into bigger dudes, who turns into bigger dudes

His transformation is simple, clean and fun. His colors and head look cool, even if they are very different to the cartoon character. Overall he is just a great Retro-looking, feeling and transforming bot. He’s been on my PC desk for a while now with other headmasters, and he’s even staring at me with a stoic expression as I write this post.

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2. TITANS RETURN ASTROTRAIN

Titans Astro is not quite G1 Astro, not toy or toon, he is his own kind of thing.  A fresh new take on an old favourite. Amid the cries of “he’s too this” and “NOT ENOUGH OF THAT YOU CHEAP BASTARDS!!!” – it is easy to miss how great a toy he is.

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To look at him for what he is, rather than what he is not is to see a really well designed toy, with fun alt modes, and fun transformations between those modes. He is by far my favourite toy of the line so far. I also have Sentinel Prime, and enjoy that toy a lot too. They both have loads of cool poses, places to attach weapons and accessories (like the titan master mini vehicles) and Astro looks good with a good range of different heads.

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Astro Train has been my favourite character to play the head swap game with, he looks good with Galvatron’s head and my favourite head swap so far is Cerebros, with the grey and black head matching Astro’s colors nicely. It’s a bit of robot cosplay, or a new character altogether if you fancy a repaint, a head swap and bit of imagined fiction.

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1. TITANS RETURN BLASTER

I wanted to put AstroTrain at number one this list, he’s my favourite by far out of the line for so many reasons, particularly his very fun transformations. However Blaster wins out partly for sentimental reasons (I like him way more as a character over Astro) and partly because I really wanted a Marvel Comics style Blaster, in a modern style, with the bulk and size of the Generation One toy. Titans Return Blaster is all of those things. Fun to pose, a great looking toy, cool transformations, and an updated boombox mode that makes those Device Label and Fall of Cybertron Blaster toys look even more silly. Titans Blaster is cool, and he knows it. He’s got style, class and attitude. What is not to love?

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How the Death of Optimus Prime did not Affect Me at all (until it did)

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The Death of Optimus Prime is a major moment in the history of The Transformers.

For marketers and toy merchandisers, it was the excuse to introduce new toys.

For young kids, it may have been an upsetting experience to see their favourite hero die in a theatrical film The Transformers Movie (1986) that was more serious in tone than the TV series and toy commercials that spawned it.

Personally I was not affected by the death of Prime as a kid. I don’t know exactly what age I was when I saw the film, but it was somewhere in the range of age 7-9 on VHS / video rental at home rather than in a cinema.

I’d watched the odd horror film here and there when I was young, and did not really find them scary, finding them more interesting for the practical special effects than the stories. If a realistic violent human death did not affect me, what chance did an animated robot have?

The main reason Prime’s death did not affect me was not I didn’t like the character, but I did not relate to him in any meaningful way. Prime was the father figure and leader of the Autobots in the cartoon. Their combined wisdom and strength, the embodiment of their team spirit.

But Optimus Prime he was never my favourite Transformers character, Grimlock was my favourite, now then and forever. If it had been Grimlock dying in that infamous scene in the 1986 animated movie, I probably would have cried.

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Prime was popular, cool, the leader, the guy other Autobots came to for advice.
Grimlock was the outsider, the loner, the rebel, the guy who breaks the rules and who polite society will never truly accept.

I’ve felt like an outsider most of my life. I’ve been an outsider in many ways most of my life, more by circumstance than choice. It’s part of the reason I love character’s like Batman, Hellboy, Wolverine, The Incredible Hulk and Grimlock. They are the characters who are the flawed loners, who we basically are afraid of. I relate more to them than the Superman’s, Prime and Captain’s America’s of the world.

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As a kid I was shy, socially awkward and introverted, an outsider. Not one of the “in” crowd. So characters like Grimlock, or Marvel’s Incredible Hulk make more sense to me on that level. They are both characters with a very child like selfish demanding manner, and relatable to many kids.

I was not popular, outgoing or confident as a kid, I was shy, awkward and introverted. I’m still shy, socially awkward and introverted now, it’s part of who I am, and I am okay with that. But I am also bold, confident and outgoing when I want to be, but it took a lot of practice, and I’m thankful to inspiring characters like Optimus Prime, the epitome of self-confidence, modesty and respect

 

There is something very primal and yet empowering to the average eight year old boy about a kick-ass rule breaking robot who transforms into a giant t-Rex.

Grimlock is the leader of his own team of misfit rule breakers – the Dinobots, who mostly follow his lead, when they are not busy fighting each other. The Dinobots are their own sub-faction and family within the Transformers franchise and media. To kids like me who grew up loving anything to do with Dinosaurs, and had no interest in cars or trucks, Grimlock will always be King.

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Watching Transformers: The Movie  again this week, and I can say that the scene where Optimus Prime died did bring a tear to my eye, and any time I watch that movie as an adult it has the same effect. It may not be a graphic death, but it is an emotionally powerful death, that is both literal and symbolic. Prime’s death is the physical death of a genre defining super-robot icon.

Optimus Prime’s death is also the symbolic death of the old generations of Autobots, making way for the new guard. For new adventures in later seasons of the Transformers TV show that were not exclusively focused around earth, but other planets including Cybertron. Prime’s death is also the invitation for the collapse of the toy line and its subsequent reinvention many years later. All toy lines must end, and all things must come to an end.

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Prime’s death on the one hand was a mishandling of an iconic character mandated by a  toy company that did not appreciate how popular he had grown. Prime’s death was also a catharsis that all iconic characters go through. Batman and Superman have died multiple times in their respective fictions, you could even say that the death of a major literary character is merely part of their path to true iconic status.

Iconic characters may die in a particular story but are reborn in new media, in new stories, in new ideas. Reaching the status of pop cultural icon, or mythic archetype means permeating the mass consciousness of society, it means Prime exist for most people primarily as an idea, an idea is much harder to kill than even a fictional character. Death then can be seen as a prerequisite for rebirth in new media that may follow immediately, or many years or decades later.

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The IDEA of Optimus Prime transcends his medium and genre, Prime stands  for hope, for unity, for forgiveness, for unselfish leadership, for learning from ones mistakes, for living the true and the good of ones values in our own lifetimes.

…And yet when he died, I truly did not care.

But a few decades went by…

And now I do care for Prime the character, for Prime the idea and the values he represents. I feel deeply the pain of his literary death any time I watch that iconic film, but at the same time I know his new incarnations, new media, new TV shows, live action films and toys are always just around the corner. I know that you can’t keep a good Bot down for long.

Prime’s death then is a rebirth and re-invigoration of the Transformers characters and media.

The old dies and makes space for the new and the young. But the old also permeate the new world, the ideas and values of Transformers are not just silly stories, crass commercial marketing of plastic toys to children. They are modern mythologies and dramas and ideas and real emotions. The story tellers who work in modern day comic books and children’s animation know this, to me it’s part of what elevates the Transformers fiction above other similar TV shows from the era.

Super-Robot anime shows are a dime a dozen, and most of them have rather weak generic stories with the focus on the action. Transformers had the action AND some good stories, and some silly ones too.

Transformers the brand, the culture, the fiction and lore in all their manifestations are infused with the values and ideas that made it great to begin with, at that original conception. They went from being cold lifeless lumps of plastic, to engaging characters.

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Optimus Prime is the lynchpin of the franchise, some of his co-creator’s didn’t realize it when they killed him in 1986. But they sure know it now. As a character, he’s worth billions of dollars. He is also rather an inspiring figure to me and many other fans. Prime is the quintessential selfless hero, he’s also a soldier, alien and a sentient robot. So much more than a lump of plastic I think. So very much more than meets the eye.

So here’s to the Death and ongoing Life of Optimus Prime.

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*And yes Grimlock is STILL my favourite Transformers character.

5 THINGS I LOVE ABOUT TITANS RETURNS BLASTER

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5  TRANSFORMATION

Generation One Blaster has the same simple transformation as Soundwave. It’s simple fun and intuitive. Personally I’m a big fan of simple transformations, rather than needlessly complicated – these are kids toys after all – not rubiks cubes. Then again, some fans enjoy more complex transformations, no doubt people who may enjoy slide puzzles or the dreaded rubiks cubes (I hate both of those things), and Titans Return Blaster has enough complexity to satisfy that crowd, while still simple enough that once you learn how to switch between Bot, Base and Boom-box, it’s still fun and challenging without being a headache.

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4. PLAY VALUE

Blaster is now a triple changer, along with many other Voyager and Leader class figures in the Titans Return line. The base mode is a fun battle station, or in my mind, a night club with upper floor, the little Titan Masters enjoying the groove and phat beats. The base mode configuration is already proving popular with various fan modes popping up online.

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As fun as it is seeing Blaster fighting Soundwave in the cartoon, I like the idea of a music based battle in  a nightclub even more. So much so that I turned a bit of one of my favourite G1 episodes where Starscream and Soundwave run a nightclub into a 12 page parody comic (I’ll post the full 12 pages in another blog soon). Click on the below image to see it at full size.

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Sound-Dave vs the OughtNOT-Obots by Batfan John [click to see full size image]

3. PROPORTIONS AND AESTHETIC

Titans Blaster has a great overall aesthetic to him. He’s big and blocky like his G1 brother, he’s got nice modern articulation, and best of all he looks the shit. He’s stylish, has his own look that just can’t be beat, and is all around one classy Bot.

Check out the pics below to see him with my KFC Mirrorverse Transistor, Generation One Blaster and FOC / WFC Blaster. I think he fits in great with a Titans Return collection, a classics collection or just as a cool stand alone figure. He’s in that great place where he just works in almost any type of collection.

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Titans Return Blaster G1 Blaster KFC Transistor comparison.JPG

2. BUILD QUALITY

Leader class figures are obviously more expensive than Voyager and Deluxe figures. For the price you want something a bit MORE. Not all figures manage it, some are still a bit crap even at the higher price point. But Titans Return Blaster feels nice and solid, his joints are lovely, there is a sense that you are getting a classy looking figure that compares favorably to upmarket expensive toys, but still with the play value of the cheaper toys, toys that look great but you can also play with without fear of breaking them.

T.R. Blaster ticks all the right boxes for me. KFC Blaster is gorgeous, but I don’t transform him simply because I don’t want him to break, and value him as more of an action figure than Transformer. WFC Blaster is kind of fragile too, and his chest gimmick thing constantly jams. T.R. Blaster however I can’t wait to Transform repeatedly and take some silly photos with like this Chthulu inspired Blaster pic below.

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1. THE HELMET a.k.a. MARVEL COMICS STYLE BLASTER

The single feature that at first put me off the most Titans Return Blaster was the big mask over his head, along with being a Headmaster rather than just a regular robot. but the mask/helmet came to be the feature I now love the most.

The mask face is more like the Marvel Comics versions of Blaster than the G1 toon Blaster. Having just read the entire Marvel US Transformers run for the first time this year, I can say that I loved reading those comics, and one of the best stories in the entire run, was Blaster on Cybertron, as a pseudo-leader, soldier and with a very different characterization than the cartoon.

The US Marvel Comics Transformers issue #17 was a very dramatic action packed issue written by Bob Budiansky (who also wrote character profiles for toy boxes and created many names for the original G1 characters along with comic legend Denny ‘O Neil). Bob did not watch the cartoon, and was free to make up his own interpretation of the characters, personalities and stories within certain limits, such as the initial loose ideas and character bios written down  and shared between Hasbro / Marvel / Sunbow.

I love vanilla G1 Blaster just fine, and this new Titans Return version appeals to me as the Marvel version of Blaster, that is who he is to me. It’s cool to have a G1 Ultra Magnus, and IDW (Combiner Wars) style Magnus AND a movie style MP Ultra Magnus. As fans we can enjoy any or all of those interpretations of our favourite classic characters. It’s great to have options to choose between for different toy representations of character we love – or we can choose to buy them all.

Titans Blaster is a nice mix of the G1 toy, the cartoon model and the Marvel Comics version.

In this image below you can see Blaster’s face as he appeared in the G1 show and 1986 movie.

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Here is KFC Transistor, a third party MP style Blaster that has the white face of the cartoon model, but with the helmet and yellow eyes of the toy version.

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The Generation One toy has yellow eyes, pointy Prime-like antenna ears, and a silver helmet/visor that sits over the top half of his face.

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Marvel Comics Blaster has a yellow face, and full red helmet and visor with blue overlay on top of presumably his eyes and the top half of his face, and longer antenna ears, but with the slight curve on the end of the antenna’s like the cartoon model. Or maybe the visor is meant to be clear and blue is the glow of his eyes underneath. Hard to tell with the simple color palette of 80’s newsprint comics.

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The Titans Return version has a mix of these elements. The cartoon style ears which bend outward at the tip, the silver top half mask like the toy, a full visor overlay like the Marvel Comics version, and silver (or white) face under the helmet. All together it gives Blaster a cool unique look that faithfully blends previous different versions into a cohesive whole that works.

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Here’s a final face comparison with Titans Blaster, KFC Blaster, Generation One Blaster and the cartoon Blaster, all of which I dig, as Blaster is my all time favourite dude along with Prime, Grimlock, Shockwave and Soundwave.

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Thank to TFW2005.com for the base mode pic.You can find their full HD gallery of photos here

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Ideas in Plastic and the Super Fans who devote themselves to their Hobbies a.k.a. Why do we love Transformers?

 

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Where other people see lumps of cold lifeless plastic, of pins and screws and paint, we see characters, we see imaginary worlds, we see works of art, ideas and pure imagination made into three dimensional physical reality.

Transformer toys hold a unique appeal in being neither one thing, nor another, but both. A primary mode and an alt mode, and sometimes more than one alt mode.

Transformers sometimes take on forms native to the world or habitat they live in, whatever form makes the most sense within their own lore, or makes the most sense as a cool toy in our world.

Racing cars, heavy construction vehicles , military jets, engineering and emergency service vehicles are popular and practical alt modes. The more wild Transformers take on bestial forms such as the Dinobots and Predacons, their alt forms giving expression to their often tumultuous energies, more so than the restrained “civil” Transformers in more traditional post-industrial inspired forms.

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Grimlock AOE custom by FrogDNA – https://www.facebook.com/frogDNAcustoms/

 

Beast modes take on a different purpose in Beast Wars where Transformers inhabit a more primordial planet free of the burden of modern human civilization and industrialization. Animal, mammal and reptilian forms rather than combustion engine vehicles are the order of the day, to better fit into the environment.

The Hearts of Steel IDW comic book mini-series has Transformers awakening after “millions of years” of dormancy on earth at the beginning of – rather than post industrial revolution. Steam power is the order of the day, and the artists imaginations are allowed to run wild imagining new time and culture specific Terran alt modes for some of our favorite characters.

 

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IDW “Hearts of Steel” alternative fiction mini-series
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IDW comics “Hearts of Steel” Bumblebee

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IDW Hearts of Steel – Skywarp concept art

MANY FANS, MANY WORLDS

There are many types of Transformers fans, and sub groups within those groups.

There are the hardcore collectors with near warehouse sized toy collections and dedicated fancy beautiful displays, more living museum and cultural celebration than mere hobby.

There are the customizers who customize parts for toys, or build entirely new toys from existing parts, then there are those who repaint existing toys in new vibrant color schemes, as homages to other characters, or as entirely new characters.

Some fans draw and design technical three dimensional parts for 3D printers often giving new life to new to old toys – a more desirable head, gun or what have you.

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G1 Omega Supreme. DEATH: IMMINENT – SARCASM: NOT APPRECIATED

There are fans who primarily enjoy the various animated TV shows, or the Marvel, Dreamwave and IDW comics.

Some fans are traditional artists who enjoy illustrating or doodling Transformer characters, illustrating pin-ups, making fan or professional comic art, often with a mix of traditional illustration and digital coloring.

There are those who love making videos and taking photos of toys, not just as a review, but as an artistic expression of who they are.

Some fans make stories and comics using toy photos, or their own illustrations, adding captions with simple software and sharing with online communities – while others use graphics engines and polygons to tell their stories, or create their art with Machinima style videos.

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“Galvatron” by Livio Ramondelli / DeviantART http://livioramondelli.deviantart.com/

Most fans are a mix of many types. The mono-fan is rare. Most Transformers fans enjoy their Transformers across multiple media and many lines of contrasting toys.

There are uber fans who consume everything, and casual fans who may dip in and out of the various lore, media and toys.

Some are lifelong fans, others more casually interested in particular toy line, show or comic book series.

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Devastator vs Dinobots by Livio Ramondelli / DeviantART http://livioramondelli.deviantart.com/

Everybody has their favourite characters, or favourite show, or favourite Lore / Transformers continuity. I love it all. Well some stuff more than other stuff.

It’s an obsession for me, and a lifelong one at that.

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Transformers: Fall of Cybertron – Optimus and Metroplex

I find it exciting to talk with and hear ideas from fans of different Transformers media, art, toys etc. Whatever type of fan you are, the thing that binds us is not how big a collection is, how vast the scope of our nerd knowledge, but the social sharing of ideas we care passionately about, the connection to other human beings that comes from shared passions can bond people for life, and yet just as easily we can make a frien-emy (not quite friend, not quite enemy) when we got lost in silly detail oriented nerd arguments, rather than enjoying each others company and shared passion, knowledge etc for amazing cool toys made out of plastic.

 

WHAT KIND OF FAN AM I?

“The annoying know it all” (who does’t really know that much at all….) would be one possible description.

 

I don’t know.

I love bits of everything.

My favourite stuff, if I narrowed it down would be:

*The G1 cartoon + Animated movie  

*All the Toys ‘What Ever Existed’

*The Marvel / Dreamwave / IDW comics

*The Fall of Cybertron / War for Cybertron & Transformers Devastation Games

*The online fan communities 

*The super-fans who create places online for communities and collectives to develop, who give shy awkward house bound nerds like me a place that feels welcoming rather than threatening

*The people who create and share all kinds of Transformers related content

*The people who inspire me to boldly go where no Transformers fan has gone before! (I don’t know what that means, just like the sound of it)

 

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Transformers: The Movie alternative art by tom Whalen / http://www.strongstuff.net/transformers/

What I love about Transformers is the diversity of fandom, the diversity of Lore and shows and ideas and oh… the TOYS! I hope Transformers the “global media brand” never goes away, and like Batman and TMNT, just keep getting reinvented over and over again for new generations to enjoy. You can’t bottle lightning, and to me Transformers are just magic.

Well I’m done for now, but more rambling and rumination to follow no doubt as I delve into Transformers ‘Lore’, philosophy and culture. I hope you enjoy this blog. Feel free to stop by any time, you will always be welcome.

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Prime Time – Optimus Prime: the Eternal Hero and Father Figure to the Autobots

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Optimus Prime is a beloved hero and partriarch to the Autobot family. He started out as a humble toy tie in, from piloted diaclone mecha to free thinking american mythic icon, he rose up from humble beginnings and slowly grew into a generation defining hero of the 80’s, whose popularity shows no signs of slowing down. He’s starred in live action modern movies, a string of follow up animated shows to the original Transformers cartoon and more new toys of Optimus Prime are made every year. Optimus is not just a great toy, or product, but a great character.

A great character is only as good as the storyteller. In the right hands Prime is a compelling hero, leader and father figure to the Autobots. In the wrong hands he’s just a boring soldier in a mindless war. The Prime most fans love belongs to no specific continuity, he is the IDEA of Prime, the Archetype of Prime that transcends any one form or medium.

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Prime is the morally strong political, military and spiritual leader of the Autobots, he never intended to be in that role, but fate put him there when he received The Matrix.

Prime has the toughness, bravery and resilience of a soldier fighting a civil war millions of years old tempered with the compassion of a wise spiritual leader. He is a humanitarian, but extends that care for life to all types of sentient species including robotic and organic life. Where the Decepticons care only for their own values and their own tribe, Prime is simultaneously an unwilling agent of war, and embassador of peace who stands in bold contrast to the dark agenda of the Decepticons.

If there is a way to end a conflict without violence, Prime will choose that option. The Decepticons in contrast will cling to their code of might makes right, that the strong CAN and SHOULD dominate the weak, take what they please and use the weak as slaves to suit their own end. This value system finds parallels in our own world history, and is not an uncommon value for self-righteous conquerors to hold.

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LEADER AND MYTHIC CHAMPION

As an autobot, Optimus Prime can live and die like any other sentient automaton. But as an Idea, Prime’s story and the struggle of the Autobots vs the Decepticons is told over and over again.

Stories told over and over become myths and fables. And mythic characters can never truly die. They may die in any given version of a story such as in his most famous death scene in Transfromers: The Movie (1986) but as long as somebody, somewhere is telling their story, a mythic character lives on, they are immortal as long as even one person cares enough to tell that story.

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As new generations of story tellers tell their own version, the mythic archetype grows stronger, Prime’s details may differ in one story to the next, but the core values of what he represents remain essentially the same, his tale is the basic story of all timeless Heroes. Mythic characters can experience death but seemingly only grow stronger from it, the death of the character is never the death of the parent IDEA, and so keeps being reborn in new forms for new generations to enjoy.

 

LEADERS ARE BORN, NOT MADE?

Are true leaders chosen by destiny rather than voted for? There are 101 maxims about Leaders and Leadership, and most of them are garbage designed to sell cheap paperback books on leadership that simply don’t reflect the real world. Whatever your view on leaders, Optimus Prime (formerly Orion Pax) never asked nor expected to be a leader.

Nobody could really expect Prime to live up to the presssures of leadership. Most leaders fulfill their role for only a short period of time, before stepping down. The Autobot / Decepticon war raged for millions of years, so every mistake to be made, every lesson to be learned in Leadership Prime embodies simply as he has no other real moral choice to make. As dutiful citizen of Cybertron, his compassion causes him to not only care for others, but along with his humility, question himself and his actions, rather than blindly making decisions in a dictatorial style such as the ruthless Megatron.

A former civil servant Orion Pax became Optimus Prime when the “Matrix of Leadership” was bestowed upon him. What other choice did he have when a wise mentor figure handed him a technological semi-msytical object with the “Matrix of LEADERSHIP” title attached to it? Prime didn’t receive the Matrix of Tacos or the Matrix of Horse Thievery – the lore laid down however clumsily in Transformers is that it was specifically the Matrix of LEADERSHIP. Whether it was fate, chance or just circumstance that thrust Prime into that role is debatable, but once embraced, he was clearly the right Bot for the job.

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FATHER FIGURE

Optimus Prime, never chose nor expected to be leader of the Autobots. He never expected to leave his home planet of Cyberton and to crash land on planet Earth. But once the Matrix was part of him, at some point he had to say to himself, from the deepest part of his spark, “YES” to being the Autobot leader, to do any less would be to leave his compatriots rudderless in a war that would inevitably cost them their lives.

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Thrust into the role of father figure, mentor, military and spiritual leader to the  Autobots, Optimus Prime is the emotional and spiritual glue that holds the Autobots together. More than a faction, the Autobots are a family, and Prime their elder Patriarch. He is their leader, mentor and friend. More compassionate, level headed and capable of thriving under combat than most Transformers, Prime is uniquely qualified to lead. Prime respects all types of life, metal and organic, and unlike many other Transformers, is unwilling to let the Autobots war with the Decepticons take human or other sentient lives.

 

FROM THE ORDINARY TO THE EXTRAORDINARY

When Orion Pax became Optimus Prime, the bearer of the Autobot Matrix, inheritor to the “key” of Cybertron he left behind the world of the ordinary and mundane, and moved into the world of the extraordinary. fulfilling the part of his life’s journey that all true Hero’s must. Most classical Heroes start off fairly ordinary, (think of Luke Skywalker before Ben Kenobi came around, and Bruce Wayne before the death of his parents) before undergoing a process of inner and outer transformation from the every day being they were, to a semi-mythic champion, to one who acts on he behalf of and in service to others, as their voice, their will and their champion for the greater good.

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Batman had his years of training, and deep psychological journey, and of course the wealth gadgets and costume. Spider-Man had his radioactive Spider-Bite, later the costume, and accepting the call to be a Hero, the dying words of his Uncle motivating him to action.

Superman was a regular baby on Krypton. Under earths sun, his powers manifested making him a living demi-god, he didn’t become a hero until he put on the costume, accepted the call and dedicated himself to the service of humanity.

 

We want our heroes to be infallible bastions of moral virtue.

 

So all good and true heroes must make their own choice. They must not only have the ability, the good fate and incredible circumstance to be a hero, a MacGuffin plot point of magical object – they must also accept internally the role they have to play in life for better or worse.

Optimus Prime’s outer transformation was from Orion Pax to Optimus Prime, but his inner transformation was perhaps slower, there were  few opportunities for Optimus to sit down and study histories greatest Cybertronian leaders during the middle of a civil war. Prime was forced to learn most of life’s lessons the hard way, making plenty of mistakes along the way. He became a great leader through making mistakes, never giving up on his cause and his compatriots, and rising to whatever challenged in lief came his way.

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Prime is not infallible – but his ethics, his values, charisma, and uncompromising vision and compassion for all Autobots, all Cybertronians and all Life elevate him to being a natural Leader, with or without the Matrix. Above all else, Optimus Prime is a bearer of Hope and Compassion, tempered with Humility and incredible Courage and Determination -it’s what elevates him above other Primes, other Cybertronian leaders.

Though he is a sentient alien robotic lifeform, his VALUES are what make him appealing to humans both in fiction and in the real world. Other robots in cartoons are  a dime a dozen, but Prime is the bearer of the Matrix, the tireless champion of free will and the right of all sentient beings to live their own life free of tyranny. He’s the best parts of the great Heroes of myth and legend. And he also turns into a really cool truck.

Prime the Autobot may live and die, but Optimus Prime the heroic ideal and archetype lives on, having reached his own form of immortality through popular culture.

 

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