BOTFAN JOHN watches Robots in Disguise 2015 Season One

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I’ve been slowly working my way through every Transformers TV show ever made over the least year or so (as you do).

Previously I had only watched the 80’s Marvel/Sunbow show, the 1986 theatrical film, and a few episodes (but not all) of Beast Wars.

While I’ve seen random episodes of various shows over the years, I have not followed/watched any Transformers show since…

well since when I was a kid really.

Mostly due to work / life commitments, but also out of general disinterest for most of the shows (or lack of options to watch any of them). Plus those years where I did not own a television and wandered the earth like Caine in Kung-Fu.

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This IS my happy face!

“THAT’S TOO MANY ROBOTS JOHN!”

Now in 2017 I am spoilt for choice.

Home PC, Tablet and fancypants TV – all of which I use to watch various shows.

Cartoons in particular look great on the small HD tablet screen, and subtitles are easier to read. As of April this year, I have now watched all of:

Transformers: Prime

Transformers Animated

Zone

Headmasters [sub]

half of Master Force and Victory, [sub]

few episodes in to Beast Wars,

Car Robots and Beast Wars II [sub]

While I am still working through some of the Japanese shows, I’ve just finished watching RID 2015 Season 1 – with no real prior knowledge of the show – other than still images online, and the odd toy I have picked up from the lines. Yes I am a toy addict, and buy way too many TF toys, so this show has me picking up even more.

Before you ask, I do intend to watch the “Unicron Trilogy” – last of all

…as I have a brain I *wish* to continue using and know the risks of it turning to mush while watching said non-trilogy.

May go with the native language of those shows too and hopefully my brain will not melt into a pile of protoplasmic goo during the process. But don’t get your hopes up too high, I’m not a miracle-bot.

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RID IN THE PLACE TO BE!

So far for a show aimed at a younger audience that I really did not have much expectations for – I’m loving this show.

It’s colorful, vibrant and fun. It’s funny, like Transformers Animated was. It’s exactly the kind of kids / all ages show that  I enjoy.

Because I’m stupid like that. Or smart. Take your pick.

FREE STATE OF MOANS

While I get some “fans” (COMPLAIN-A-TRON alert!) are not into it – as a fan of not just Transformers, but all forms of animation and super-robots – I can say that with super confidence and an invincible clenched fist ready to destroy my enemies in just one punch…

 

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…that RID 2015 is a really smart, well written, entertaining show that engages its audience.

Robots in Disguise uses character archetypes well, it uses character silhouettes and rather importantly COLOR very well. It might seem overly simple to say it here, but those factors are immensely important in creating animated characters that resonate with young children in televison and cinema.

Disney know this. Pixar knows. Studio Ghibli know this.

In fact I’d even say the visual design, color schemes and highlights are better than any other Transformers show in existence.

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Transformers Prime was a beautiful show too but it’s muted color palette, older age demographic, mature themes and desert-apocalypse-sheik visuals make it not so appealing to younger kids. I would have loved it as a kid, but then I like dark fucked up shit, horror and existentialist movies etc.

And I am sure there are plenty of kids that DO love TF:Prime, but it was the most mature sort of stories and themes we’ve seen yet in a Transformers… anything…outside of the 1986 movie, and, well, parts of Beast Wars. Yeah Beast Wars was the first of the TV shows to do more mature themes in a kids show, got to give credit where it’s due.

Anyway, you know what I’m getting at. In Transformers: Prime Bumblebee stabs Megatron in the chest with a giant sword! Predacons try to eat everything. Optimus died again. The earth was nearly terraformed into another Cybertron, yadda yadda yadda – the show was kinda dark thematically and visually.

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Moving on…

Robots in Disguise (yes the colorful one) is like Skittles and primary colored Transformers got together inside the Willy Wonka factory and exploded. It’s a day-glo technicolor dreamcoat of wild unfettered imagination. It has the cel-shaded visuals on top of 3D high polgyon count models look I love, with glowy-TRON inspired highlights giving us that beautiful energon glow that the War for Cybertron games were famous for.

The show is so pretty that I had to use “glow” in that last sentence twice, and I refuse to remove it, despite being terrible, terrible grammar.

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“TRON? Never heard of it fella”
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“ME GRIMLOCK AM NOT GLO-FRIEND!”

CHOCK FULL OF GLOWY GOODNESS

If Transfomers: Animated was a love letter to the franchise, then Robots in Disguise is an addendum to that love letter.

The subtle influences and easter eggs in RID  were a welcome surprise for me. Odd nods to other shows and obscure characters. Like in one episode – a minor non-essential to the plot mini-con happens to look like a tiny cute version of Destron leader Deathsaurus from the JG1 Victory cartoon.

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Anyhow, the colors!

RID is terribly successful at being bright and gaudy and catching the eye of its younger target audience in the show and toyline.

And that to me is a key part of what makes it great. Younger kids don’t have the finer discretion that adults do. They are more immediately engaged with their environment and all types of play. Most adults are turned off by either the art, or “kiddie” tone of the show, and may miss that it also has consistently good storytelling and character design at its heart, with all the other bells and whistles on top of that.

I prefer my Mad Max to Powerpuff Girls generally speaking, but hell I love both with a passion, each has its own purpose and equally beautiful unique rich aesthetic. You might think they are totally different things. But they are not. They are both “hero/heroine” stories in different clothing.

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I’m a story and character person.

I don’t care who made it, what it’s about or whatever.

Give me boring characters but a great story and I will read/watch it.

Give me a terrible production but with some amazing character who really pulls you into that world, and I’ll take a look.

Give me both and I am not leaving the house until I’ve finished that story. Sorry outside world, you can get fucked. Well at least until I’m done. I may need food and Robo-Snacks from time to time.

But some folks can’t see past a certain aesthetic, or a certain gimmick or hook, or a particular new interpretation of an old character they love – and so they miss out on good stuff that they may really enjoy because they never give it a chance.

I am not saying if you are diehard adult G1 fan that you will enjoy RID. Most likely you will not, based on the comments I’ve seen online from the more hardcore old school fans. I happen to BE one of those fans too, (I was born in 1980) but I also love other stuff.

Why limit myself? Why waste time hating anything? It’s just toxic, I’m too busy enjoying life and fun cartoons and toys.

the plays the thing

 

I don’t care who likes what or why. But it does bother me sometimes to read ignorant opinions about what Transformers media “should” or “should not be”.

As if everything should be made purely for specific fans, only to please them. It’s a rather immature and selfish attitude imo. It’s fine to have discretion and good taste. I get it. It’s fine to nit pick about shitty toys that fall apart in the damn packet. That’s quite legitimate in my world view. But some fans seem to think they should be consulted personally on everything that happens, as if they were CEO of Hasbro or something.

tell him hes dreaming whats he asking

However, Robots in Disguise was not made for me, nor older TF fans, yet – I still love it.

I love it like I love classic Disney Donald Duck cartoons, or the more modern Duck Tales, or Astro Boy or like I love Brad Bird’s Iron Giant film. RID is a cartoon that wears it influences on its sleeve. (And I am not saying those particular things are an influence at all, well maybe a little Iron Giant….).

 

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CON-FU

In contrast to our heroes, the CONS in this show are a rag tag non-group of escaped convicts spread throughout the country. Our heroes track them down one by one, usually getting their asses kicked by the tougher, more skilled and ruthless Con of the week. It’s a similar formula to that used in Transformers: Animated, and it works.

Adding a little spice to the mix are the varied Decepticon designs, which are mostly vehicle alt modes, with Beast-Bot modes. It’s an odd mix of Carbot and Beast, but it works. While our heroes are fairly standard humanoid designs the CONS are a diverse mix of weirdo’s and oddities.

A tree frog, a reindeer, wolf, giant worm-insect thing, a crab, a lobster guy named “Bisk” a dragon-eagle and host of other unique cool characters that make each encounter / battle between the Cons and Bots a little bit special. I didn’t even mention the mini-cons, who are both weapons and plot devices throughout the series.

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THE DEATH OF SERIOUS-NESS

The basic set up of RID is that some Autobots are accidentally stranded on earth (what are the chances?) and a prison ship of Decepticons has left stasis pods all over the place, and the Autobots track down a CON-of-the-week.

Our heroes live in a junk/scrapyard and are pretty much adopted and protected from the world at large by junkyard dweller Denny and his son Russell. These autobots are pretty green (inexperienced)  often losing in battle, forcing them to evolve better solo and team tactics. There is room for the characters to develop, and episodes play out great as solo stories, but also inter-connect like one long animated movie, similar to how Transformers: Prime rolled when it was on our screens.

The tone of the show is light hearted and fun, but more serious when it comes to battles.

Look at that grim menace from Fracture below! These CONS don’t mess around and kick a lot of Autobot-behind on a daily basis.

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Another element of the show I really enjoy is RID’s unashamed nostalgia and goofiness. It’s most apparent with Denny Clay – who lives in a junk yard full of Americana.

THIS SHOW IS FULL OF JUNK!

Curios, oddities and forgotten antiquities from America’s most successful economic years in the post World War II years litter his mancave / sanctum sanctorum.  This junk is better than money, gold or Treasure to Denny – they are artifacts and cultural knick nacks and out dated technology and raw materials for his inventions and contraptions. They also provide a convenient hiding space, and a place to train for the Autobots on the outskirts of the city.

The scrapyard is a strangely relevant idea for a Transformers show and yet rather odd. The only reason the core of the show is set in the junkyard, is that the Autobots ship is stranded there. Otherwise it just comes across as one of those wacky writer ideas somebody threw at a wall:

“Hey, what if they live in a junk yard?”

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It sounds stupid, but again, it works. Robots in Disguise: super-cybertronian tech – surrounded by earth junk and outdated technology. RID seems to specialize in the unorthodox, and is a better show for it. It takes chances and mostly succeeds.

Denny is like a visual mash up mix of comic actor Zach Galafiniakis and noted Transformers expert (Transformarian?) Chris McFeely – and Denny sometimes dresses like Magnum P.I. cosplaying Indiana Jones, as well as other odd “disguises”.

I swear I’m not making any of that up, just look at the screen grab here and below.

And I swear I have never EVER abused the power of the internet to ask annoying fanboy questions of Chris McFeely…..as far as you know.

Denny’s taste in fashion -like everything else – is antiquated and eccentric and loveable and unique. He also happens to possibly be named after the guy who named Optimus Prime. How that’s for obscure fan trivia.

Okay, so that’s not true. I totally made that bit up. I kind of wanted it to be true though, would have been cool. He’s REALLY named after those god awful diners where you can get rubbish food and bad service any time you like. And he really DOES look like a mash up of McFeely and Galafiniakis.

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Two “Orion Pax Combo’s” to go thanks Mista!

BUILD IT – TEST IT – BREAK IT- SMASH IT…REBUILD IT

Denny is the cliche prototypical lost in his own thoughts do-it-yourself backyard boffin mechanic/inventor who often works with Autobot Fixit on various projects.

He’s scatter brained, rambles on about stuff lost in his own world, kind of reckless how he keeps endangering his own son with his stupid projects and reckless ways. But he’s also a big kid at heart, and smart with anything mechanical.

Oh, this is Fixit if you didn’t already know…

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Fixit is a roughly human sized bot who is a good friend to Denny and Russell, when he is not also endangering their lives…he pretty much takes the place that Bumblebee traditionally has in Transformers fiction, with a soft spot for humans. Fixit is also a mechanical /engineering genius, but he has brain damage, and the one time Denny tried to fix him, Fixit tried to kill everyone, so Fixit lives on and makes peace with his defects.

Denny is mechanically smart, and a very loving nurturing father. He’s also his own worst enemy in that Doc Brown sort of way, where he just happens to be regularly working with dangerous things that could easily kill him.

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But what modern man doesn’t crave at least a little danger? I can think of mates who tinker in their own back yards, usually solo with heavy equipment and cars and what have you, and often with things that are quite dangerous. Yet they do alright.

The junkyard, aka The Treasure Yard or just  “Fortress of Socialization”, is also a mini-fortress, a base and well….

….um….. Home.

A home for Denny, his son Russell and the Cybertronian refugees who are stuck on earth, well at least the Bots (and one former Con, Grimlock) who reside there. They are a family of sorts, who always support each other, despite their differences. Their bravery and naivety go hand in hand.

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The latest Cosplayers from ComiCon

 

THE MORALITY AND HONOR….OF KICKING ASS

I love that Robots in Disguise emphasizes simple life lessons and moral stories, it’s a show that allows room for its lead characters to make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes. These Bots are not battle hardened soldiers. There is room to breathe, to explore new territory in this show.

The Autobots are green, inexperienced blunderers, who basically learn one mistake at a time, and they are terrible at fighting. Like, woefully incompetent.

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“I may have glowy bits, but I am utterly useless in combat”

So terrible that half way thorough the the first season, the lack of fighting skills from our Autobot heroes really started to bother me. The way they charged recklessly into battle, making the same stupid mistakes over and over, getting their whole teams robo-behinds kicked by one measly Con, damn it was irritating! And repetitive. I started to think it was some greedy/lazy writing.

But then as the story progressed, the characters started using more strategy in their battle, and they started fighting better in close range, instead of like a pack of un-coordinated idiots.

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“Be on the look out for a giant green Dinosaur in the port, he is Captionless, repeat, Caption-Less”

So this gang of no hopers who could not fight their way out of a paper bag…

I realized just how GREEN these guys (and gals) were, and that their lack of combat experience was an essential element of the show. It gives more room for the characters to grow in different directions. Their cups are empty rather than overflowing.

We already know Grimlock is a big strong bruiser, but what happens when a smaller opponent merely sidesteps his attacks? He has to get smarter in his attack, and use effective teamwork to succeed – not unlike team sports – where incremental skill progression both on and off the field is necessary to improve both as a single unit, and as part of a team. It’s a joy to see these slack-jawed bumblers improve throughout the season into a real team of kick ass Autobots.

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TOTAL DOMINATION

When fembot Strongarm faces down Steeljaw, and he expects another easy win to his (and our surprise) not only does Strongarm hold her own, but totally dominates her opponent who is double her size in height and likely stronger too. Previously Strongarm was among the worst in combat, but with persistence, practice and determination she improves, and takes advantage of her foes over-confidence.

I genuinely enjoyed that masterful fight scene as much as I’ve enjoyed a good Ronda Rousey fight in days gone by in the UFC. I was literally jumping out of my seat and cheering on Strongarm.

To see Strongarm move beyond her old limitations and progress and learn new ways  of being, of expressing herself themselves is just awe-inspiring. I also love that we now have a modern Transformers show with a strong tough female character who can stand side by side with any of the male characters and not look weak or pathetic, or be the boring “damsel in distress” cliche. Well two fembots characters, Windblade is in the mix now too in later episodes.

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“PLEASE SIR, MAY WE HAVE SOME MORE ENERGON?”
Transformers Robots in Disguise 2015 CONS thunderhoof overload
“MOORRRRRREE!!!”

 

COLD IN THE SPARK

However you look at it, RID has a lot of heart (or Spark if you prefer).

It’s fun colorful and nostalgic – yet contemporary.

It has engaging characters who grow and learn through each season.

RID is simply gorgeous, a visually stunning show that is super stylish and cool.

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Of course kids are growing (literally) and learning new things all the time, I wish more adults were like that. As human beings, we never stop learning, and I believe that the more open and loving and happy we are in life, the more enjoyable life is. One you stop playing, you stop learning, you get old and boring and rigid very fast.

Robots in Disguise is a happy show. RID is surprisingly very smart and well made.

It’s the opposite of cynical lazy shows made on a super low budget. The characters are wonderfully expressive, the body language is masterful and the fights have real impact to them, you can really feel the weight of the characters smashing together. It’s got fun, vibrant memorable characters, and the most diverse innovative original CONS yet seen in any Transformers show so far.

RID has passion, guts and heart (and great action and humor).

What more could you ask for?

 

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CONFESSION TIME: Confession time: I finished Robots in Disguise Season One while writing this article and started binging on Season 2, and could not resist adding some images from those episodes, so you caught. Now hand me my cup of dark energon poison and shut up already, I got me shows to watch.

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SUPERIOR SOUNDWAVE – Communications and Intel specialist – Megatron’s Loyal Servant


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NAME: Soundwave

FACTION: Decepticons

QUOTE: “Autobots Inferior, Soundwave Superior”

Soundwave is perhaps the most loyal of all Decepticons. Not just loyal to lord Megatron, but to the Decepticon cause. Whoever is in charge, Soundwave is a loyal follower and advisor, the opportunity for Soundwave to lead the Decepticons has risen in some rare stories, but while he will lead in the absence of any truly powerful ruler, his preference as as an advisor, chief aide and intelligence / ops specialist for whatever campaign the Decepticons are waging.

 

OPERATION: INFILTRATION

While Soundwave and his cassettes are recon specialists gaining enemy
intelligence by stealth and cunning, when confronted on the battlefield or
one to one, Soundwave is a dangerous and capable combatant.

His hand to hand combat skills and unorthodox arsenal of weapons – including sense shattering sonic sounds and audio amplifications that can bring even the most powerful of Autobots to their knees instantly.

Those who mistake Soundwave as just an intelligence agent, are bound to
fall before his might and Superior skills both on and off the combat field.
That Soundwave is always in the background, appearing to do little or nothing is
part of his modus operandi. Well versed in the are art of Deception, Soundwave
is the prototypical Decepticon. Where others may falter in their beliefs,
attitude, or fall prey to their own ego (such as Starscream), Soundwave is
busy making the Decepticons the best they can be as a true loyalist.

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RAVAGE, LASERBEAK: EJECT. OPERATION: OBSERVE AND REPORT

Soundwaves minibot cassettes appear weak and powerless, but this is part of their deception. Laserbeak and Ravage specialize in stealth and observation, but when cornered can prove just as deadly as Soundwave himself.

Rumble and Frenzy on the other hand are all about total devastation and discombobulation, the terrible two use their pile drivers to shake the ground apart beneath the feet of their enemies, while their ultra-sonic audio output can temporarily cripple all but the most powerful of Autobots. Rumble and Frenzy constantly run their motormouths not just to taunt their enemy, but to further confuse and distract them. Though tiny in size, they are deadly combatants that only a fool would underestimate.

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Megatron trusts Soundwave like no other Decepticon, and likewise his minion Ravage is also trusted by Megatron implicitly, perhaps more than most other Cons who fall in line due to Megatron’s dominant strength and mercilessness, and less out of personal allegiance to the cause or feelings of friendship toward Megatron. Soundwave and Ravage not only think of Megatron as their leader, but perhaps as their friend, that is – if such a thing as friendship can ever truly exist in the Decepticon ranks, where only the strong and cunning shall survive.

Whoever should ultimately claim leadership of the Decepticons, (Scorponok, Starscream, Shockwave, Thunderwing, or any other pretender to Megatron’s Throne) Soundwave will be there to back up that leadership not with bravado and heroic nonsense, but with a Cybertronian lifetime as VP to the head honcho, with the incomparable time tested skills and intelligence to turn the Decepticons from a group of rag tag outcast rebels into a well oiled engine of pure destruction and domination.

Whether in times of peace or war, expect Soundwave to remain true to his values.

“As you command, Lord Megatron”

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IRON ASS Iron Hide – The Old War Horse – Prime’s Right Hand Bot

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NAME: Ironhide

FACTION: Autobots

QUOTE: “Let’s go already Prime, when are we going to start busting Deceptichops?”

Iron ass Ironhide, the old war dog, the good old Bot, mentor, soldier, friend to all Autobots.

Old ‘Iron Ass’ Ironhide is one tough customer. As Prime’s right hand hand Bot, he’s the go to guy for training new recruits during war time, and a square shoulder to lean on for practical advise in times of crisis.

Ironhide is like the elder brother and mentor to many of the younger Autobots. His hackneyed expressions and battle worn scars, his impatience for actions over words and “never say die” attitude earn him instant respect from all Autobots. Even if his brothers love to make fun of the “old timer” to his face, it’s out of appreciation and love for their elder.

Ironhide is one of the oldest and crankiest soldiers in the Autobot family, seemingly as old as time itself and crankier than a Sharkticon at feeding time. Ironhide always has Prime’s back, and supports the Autobots as a loyal soldier, even when he disagrees with Primes orders or the direction of his brothers.

The first Bot on the battlefield, and the last to leave it – Ironhide is the soldier that all Autobots aspire to be like, or would hope to have at their side, or in command of their unit. Ironhide has seen more dead Cybertronians and and saved more sparks than any Autobot can ever remember.

While seemingly average in intelligence, strength and skill, his combat experience is unparalleled. Ironhide could win most small battles by himself while powering down or about to go into Stasis Lock… with one arm riveted behind his back, and he’d be happy to do it, just as likely to complain his enemies audio sensors into submission as beat them with his bare hands.

A combat veteran who is just as capable in charge of a large or small group of Autobots – Ironhide is at his best when calling the shots as one of Prime’s lieutenants, but even Prime knows to ask advice of old Iron Ass Ironhide in a tricky situation.

“I’m itching to kick some decepticon butt, kick some cans, come on Prime! Let’s go already”

ironhide-transformers-kick ass art by Livio Ramondelli

IMAGE CREDITS:

“Old Man Ironhide” (first image) art pencilled by Guido and colored by Ha-Hee Prime

“Old War Dog” (second image) pencils by Livio Ramondelli

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.