Category Archives: Transformers Characters and Stories

Open letters to writers for the Transformers franchise.

Spotlight: Transformers – Female Autobots

In the beginning days of Thoughts on the Edge of Forever, I wrote a post called “Odd Girls Out.” This title did not win the article many views, so I modified it to read “Odd Girls Out: What Happened to the Original Female Autobots?”

The post has since picked up in views, for which I am thankful. The question is an honest one, readers; the Transformers franchise is naturally aimed at boys. There really are not that many girls who like cars and trucks and machines as much as boys do. Boys and girls are different and therefore have different amusements. It is totally, totally normal.

However, when it comes to characters, girls like those as much as boys do. This is probably why, in the original series, several of the male Autobots were paired off with a female counterpart in the episode The Search for Alpha Trion. In that episode, we were introduced to the leading ladies for Optimus Prime, Ironhide, Inferno, and Powerglide, who had accidentally been left behind on Cybertron when the male Autobots left to find a way to save their world. These ladies were Elita One, Chromia, Firestar, and Moonracer.

As with other franchises, Transformers was pushed to add more female characters to its roster as the years passed. So there have been many female Autobots in the franchise, readers. Most of them were added to the comics that followed the advent of the original Transformers television series in the ‘80s. I could not name them all for you for the simple reason that I do not know the half of them. I like the Transformers franchise, but I have not immersed myself in it for a while now.   Therefore, I am only going to discuss the female characters I know of, and why I like them. If you want to know how many more female Autobots there are, you will have to look them up.

So, first off, we have the most important female Autobot to ever grace the franchise…

Elita One

Elita One: Elita One is Optimus Prime’s girlfriend, for want of a better term, in the 1980s TV series and several of the comics. She has appeared sporadically throughout the subsequent Transformers’ media, including the absolutely awful Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, where she had no real speaking part and was killed in the final battle.

Though I have some gripes about her design and paint scheme in the original story (WHY did they have to paint her PINK?!?!?), as a character, Elita was made of some pretty interesting stuff. She had the regular sugar, spice, and everything nice, but she was also a good leader and a worthy counterpart for Optimus in that show. And she was quite capable of taking care of herself in most situations, too.

Regrettably, following portrayals of the character strayed away from this winning debut over the years. After all, these days a woman cannot be classy and a warrior; she has to be too tough to handle. This is the way the writers took the character, especially in the comics related to the Transformers films. It was sickening, after I first saw The Search for Alpha Trion, to read about how the writers had torn out everything that made Elita “strong enough” not only to be gentle but to be graceful and smart. (They also kept her pink color scheme – the one thing that should actually be changed! Pbbbbhhhh!)

If the writers ever wanted to go back to the original version of Elita’s character from the ‘80s, making only a few minor tweaks to her appearance and character to bring her up to date, I would ask them to do so. But they seem to find Elita One to be a total embarrassment to the franchise. Years after her first appearance, she is back collecting dust in the Transformers archives. Until someone pulls her out and places her in a new series, I will be missing this character very much.

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Chromia: In The Search for Alpha Trion, Chromia was to Elita One what Ironhide was to Optimus Prime.   The mentor of and wise subordinate to her commander, Chromia was a veteran of many battles and Ironhide’s longtime girlfriend. She had a rougher edge to her than Elita One; she spoke with a brisk, rough tone of command and she was not the least bit afraid of a two-bit Decepticon pushover. She was also extremely loyal and not prone to showing sentiment – at least, not until Ironhide had to say good-bye and go back to Earth. Then she gave him a smile and a big hug.

To some, Chromia might come off as a proto “Strong Female Character.” But that hug she gives Ironhide at the end of the episode hints at a soft side that she does not often show – but which differentiates her from the “SFC” trope.

Unlike Elita One, Chromia has been able to appear in later series and comics in a better light. She is the only female Autobot to survive the final battle in Revenge of the Fallen and was even considered as a guest character in the series Transformers: Animated. It is probably because of her rougher, battle-tested edge that she has received this treatment. Since she already seemed to be an Amazon warrior, the writers felt they did not need to make as many changes to her as they did to Elita One.

As I said above, I do not consider Chromia the stereotypical Amazon of modern impetus. She is a character I would like to see more of in the future – but I do not think there is much chance of her appearing on the small screen any time soon, unfortunately.

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Firestar and Moonracer: These two Autobots appeared in the same episode as Elita and Chromia. Firestar did not have a big speaking part, so I cannot say much about her – other than she liked to fight fires and appeared to be the perfect female counterpart to her boyfriend, Inferno.

Moonracer, on the other hand, was portrayed as the rookie member of Elita’s crew. She was eager to fight and tended to make mistakes more often than the other ladies. But she was the “best shot in the universe” as she told her boyfriend, Powerglide, before she successfully shot down a pole without actually looking at it.

Firestar and Moonracer both appeared in the comics after this, but I do not know enough about those appearances to say much about either of them. However, I would like it if the writers for new Transformers TV series would include them in the cast list. Why not use the female characters you have before you go off making new ones, or why not show us the originals in addition to the new ones? Some people have no sense.

Arcee (1986)

Arcee: Of all the original female Autobots, Arcee is the only one to return to the small screen with relative consistency. I do not watch her in the reruns of the third season of the 1980s Transformers series because I do not like Rodimus Prime/Hot Rod. It also strikes me that she comes across as something of a powederpuff in the original series. I may be wrong; I have never really watched her in that show and so I cannot say anything about her part there with certainty.

I can say that I was not impressed with her appearance in Transformers: Energon. The third Transformers series I was exposed to, I was very happy when a “girl Transformer” finally appeared on screen. But as Arcee became less and less involved with the main cast, and as she proved to be less and less of a fighter, I lost interest in her. This might have been around the time that I got tired of the color pink, too. I could never understand why a tough female Autobot would want to flaunt such a wimpy, frilly color on the battlefield.

My third introduction to Arcee was in Transformers: Animated in a flashback with Ratchet. She was still pink, which was exasperating, but she was also interesting because she added a new dimension to Ratchet’s crusty character. In the flashback, the two had been captured by a Decepticon bounty hunter. Since Arcee had vital Autobot information in her mind and could not escape the ship as easily as Ratchet could, she begged him to wipe her memories to keep the Decepticons from getting the information.

Ratchet was not eager to do this because he had fallen in love with Arcee, as she had fallen in love with him; the procedure was so dangerous he might make her forget him. But eventually Ratchet was forced to erase her memories just before he got the two of them away from the Decepticon. Jubilant at their escape, he told what he thought was a groggy Arcee that they had in fact made it out…

…only to find that the procedure had wiped Arcee’s entire memory. Not only did she no longer remember the important information or Ratchet, but she had forgotten her name and everything she had experienced prior to Ratchet’s address to her.

The fourth time I met Arcee was in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. That was a brief meeting because she and her “sisters,” Elita One and Chromia, had hardly any lines in the film. Arcee also died along with Elita in the final battle, so their entire part in the movie was nothing but a big waste of time.

Arcee (Transformers Prime)

The last time I saw Arcee was the only time I had a genuine respect for the character. This was Transformers Prime’s Arcee. Not only was she painted blue with only a few pink highlights, she was no powderpuff. She was strong, fast, and sharp, but more than that, much more, she was vulnerable.

At the beginning of the series, Arcee lost her partner on Team Prime, Cliffjumper. It was hinted, but never expressed, that she and he were an item. His loss hit her hard, making her snappy, angry, and bitter for the first few episodes of the series. So you can imagine how she came across to the human boy she was assigned to protect.

Jack Darby had his own problems as well. Abandoned years ago along with his mother by his father, Jack worked a dead end job and rode a bicycle everywhere he needed to go. The whole reason he and Arcee met was because he thought her motorcycle form was beautiful and he stopped to admire her. The interplay between the two characters at the beginning of the series was great, especially as Arcee thawed to Jack and developed a maternal, protective attitude toward him.

Unfortunately, I think the series drifted away from giving this relationship its due. I am all for having the Autobots’ and Decepticons’ interpersonal relationships shown to the audience, but I would like it balanced with a good showing of the Autobots’ interpersonal relationships with their human friends as well. Prime eventually tilted in favor of the former, leaving the promising friendship between Arcee and Jack hanging. If we ever get a chance for this kind of friendship to reappear in a Tranformers series again, I would like to see a better balance between the two relationship sets when we do.

Blackarachnia and Airazor: These two characters appeared in Transformers: Beast Wars, which I never saw. I cannot say anything in favor of or against Airazor; from what I understand, she was the little sister of the group, a sweet, kind, and naïve ‘bot that the rest of the gang loved. Blackarachnia I know a little more about because she sounded interesting. A Decepticon/Predacon who defected to the Autobots/Maximals out of love, Blackarachnia is a well-remembered ‘bot in the Transformers’ franchise.

However, she was reimagined in an unflattering way all around in Transformers: Animated. In that series, Blackarachnia was Elita One. This combination of the two characters had been infected by giant organic spiders on a mission with the future Sentinel and Optimus Primes. She became a half-organic, half-technological being who held a grudge against Optimus for leaving her on the planet when it looked like she had died in a fight with the spiders.

Aside from my obvious dislike of this version of Elita One (the only one I know of that wasn’t PINK), the rebooting of Blackarachnia did not do justice to my impression of the Beast Wars character. Next time, Transformers writers, if Blackarachnia must be a half-organic, half-technological Transformer, can we PLEASE keep her original character arc in place? I am flexible on everything else, but making her Elita One – for Pete’s sake!!! X(

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Override: Now Override has a bizarre history outside of the U.S., so I am not even going to go there. She was a female Autobot in the Canadian translation of Transformers: Cybertron and in the Transformers canon that has been developed in America following the Transformers films. This is the version I am going to talk about, so if you want to dredge up the confusion surrounding the character in other countries, do it on someone else’s blog, reader(s). Are we clear?

Good. All right, the fact is that I really, really like Cybertron’s Override. She was everything I had wanted out of Arcee in Energon and more. The leader of the planet Velocitron, Override was the fastest racer on that world. She had been for years. By the time the Autobots met her in Cybertron, Override had begun to get bored because there was no real competition for her on Speed Planet.

Then Megatron and Hot Shot arrived on Velocitron in search of its Cyber Planet Key. Megatron raced Override for information about it and actually made her fight for the finish line (she won, though), while Hot Shot told her about the universe-eatng black hole that was the big bad of the series and asked her what she knew about the Key. At first, Override was torn. She did not know who to trust, as Megatron took advantage of her ignorance to claim that the Autobots were evil and he was the good guy. (Studiously leaving out the name of his organization in the process; even Megatron knows that the word “Decepticon” does not exactly inspire confidence in too many people.)

In order to solve the issue, Override let Hot Shot race her. Even the fastest of the Autobots could not keep pace with Override, but Hot Shot would not give up. There was too much at stake and he had never met anyone who could beat him before. He pushed and pushed himself to the breaking point as Override worried about which Transformer to believe. Finally, she decided to settle the issue the way that Velocitronians settle most problems – with the biggest race in Velocitronian society, the Speedia 5000.

Hot Shot eventually won the race, but before he did that, he saved Override from a boulder when she had an accident mid-race. The gallantry he demonstrated made an impression on Override and she began to favor the Autobots. This became full-blown allegiance to them on her part when Megatron tried to grab Velocitron’s Cyber Planet Key after Hot Shot won the race.

Override became a valued member of the team following these events and – unlike Energon’s Arcee – she did not fade into the background during the series. She was not as front and center as she had been during the Velocitron arc of the story, but she was never far away from the action. Also, unlike the Amazonian trope, she was not averse to receiving gentlemanly aid. After finishing with Velocitron, Hot Shot would again act to protect Override on Jungle Planet, while other male Autobots would also give her a hand from time to time as the story progressed. Override was happy to say thank you at these times, even though she could usually handle herself in a fight.

I was especially happy when Override got the chance to shoot her Decepticon counterpart, Thunderblast. Of all the galling female Decepticons I have ever seen (and I have not seen many), I would have to say that Thunderblast takes the absolute cake. She was such a petulant, snide, girly contrast to Override that I was somewhat disappointed when the two never had more than one direct confrontation. But I totally agree with Override’s comment when Thunderblast and she first met: “Sheesh, where did they find her?!

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Strongarm: I have mentioned Strongarm, of Robots in Disguise fame, a couple of times in other posts before today. The one that I can remember off the top of my head is “Robots in Disguise: Why Are the Autobots Always Outnumbered?” But I think I mentioned her elsewhere as well.

I have a lot of issues with Strongarm. Now these are my issues and mine alone; they do not have to be yours, readers. First, in Transformers: Energon, her name belonged to a male Omnicon. I think several other series in the franchise had a male character who was an Autobot named Strongarm as well. So the fact that the Robots in Disguise crew decided to saddle a female character with a MALE character’s name grinds my gears even now.

My other problem with Strongarm is that she swallowed the rule book. As of this season in the series, she has gotten better about reading from it. She rarely pulls out the regulation manual these days, though she can still cite it without looking at it. This makes her stiff and unlikeable; I am all for following the rules, but that does not mean I have to be beaten over the head with them. The fact that Strongarm devours regulations like her favorite food reminds me too much of Ultra Magnus, another Autobot with his nose contiually stuck in the system. (I am not the only one who is reminded of Ultra Magnus when Strongarm cites the legal code; another fan suggested that she could be Magnus’ daughter.)

This penchant for worshipping the rules and regulations stifles Strongarm’s creativity. She has been getting better recently, but not by much.

The other thing about Strongarm that bugs me is that, to me, she is so obviously meant to be the “Strong Female Character” on the Bee Team. This is evidenced by the fact that even for a Transformer, Strongarm has more bulk in one arm than Override or Elita One had in their entire bodies. I am not saying that all female Transformers should look like these girls, but the fact is that Strongarm’s muscle structure looks unnatural even for a Cybertronian.

When such an evident character design is presented in a show like this, I cannot help but feel that the writers are stabbing me in the eye with the cause celeb of the moment. The reason I feel this way toward the writers regarding Strongarm is because, a) she was the first female Autobot we saw in the series, so they had to be making a statement; b) she was supposed to be a cop ‘bot, so they wanted her to be all muscly and brawny to make the statement that “girls can be cops, too.”

I flat-out do not like the character the way she was created; the emphasis was on her physique, not her character, and it shows. That is lazy storytelling and it does not sit well with me. I do not like Strongarm; I merely tolerate her to watch a show I enjoy. This leads me to the second female Autobot we see in Robots in Disguise….

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Windblade: Windblade is a fan-made Transformers character. Hasbro had a series of polls prepared, and they used these to ask fans what kind of new Autobot toy they wanted made. The answers the fans gave to the questions built the framework the writers and toy creators used to design Windblade.

I have to say that Hasbro’s whole idea in this regard is fantastic. If Marvel would adopt a program like this, for stories as well as new characters, they might clean up a lot of their problems overnight – not to mention find some new talent for their dwindling reservoir of artists and writers. But I will not be holding my breath for them to try this; we fans are not the “in-crowd” they listen to these days.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Windblade is a much better character than Strongarm. I base this opinion solely on what I have seen of her in Robots in Disguise; I have not read any of the comics where she appears.

In the show Windblade at first comes across as somewhat arrogant and overconfident. This attitude of hers smoothes out as the series progresses; though she remains confident in her skills and keeps her whiplash-quick voice box, she shows a softer side as well. Windblade demonstrated protective, almost daughter-like feelings for Optimus Prime while working with him in season two. This made her confident, teasing banter seem less sharp than it had when she first arrived and (rightly) criticized Strongarm’s stiff behavior. She proved to be gentle as well as competent, and that means a lot in a female warrior character.

All in all, Windblade is a character I want to see more of. I think she can hold her own among the ranks of female Autobots already extant and shows promise of not falling into the “Strong Female Character” trope which gave us Strongarm.

However, this does NOT mean that I do not want Elita One, Chromia, Firestar, Moonracer, Override, Blackarachnia, or even Arcee back in future series. I maintain that Elita and her female friends are still “Odd Girls Out” and that they should be brought back in future stories. I do not want them to be “Strongarmed” versions of the originals or arachnoid manhaters; I want them to be the classy female characters they were when they were introduced – though I am all for ditching the pink color schemes. Until Hasbro does that, I will have to be satisfied with just having Windblade.

‘Til next time, readers: “Autobots, roll out!”

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Spotlight: Transformers – Hot Shot

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Transformers: Armada Hot Shot

It is not always easy to describe a character, readers, especially one you enjoy watching. I imagine there are plenty of real people whom we like that we also have difficulty describing. We cannot even describe ourselves accurately, since we hardly know ourselves! Now, describing a character that was featured in three different TV series – readers, that is a tall order. But it is an order that I am going to try to fill in this post about one of my favorite Autobots: Hot Shot.

Hot Shot is a young Autobot rookie in the series Transformers: Armada, a seasoned warrior in Transformers: Energon, and a cocky professional in Transformers: Cybertron. I never saw the original Japanese Transformers: Robots in Disguise all the way through, so I did not “meet” the version of Hot Shot in that series in any meaningful way. Therefore he is not part of today’s discussion.

The four series I described above were written and animated in Japan before they came to the U.S. by way of Canada, where they were translated into English. Armada was the series where I first “met” Hot Shot, whom I liked at once. He was more relatable to me than Red Alert, whose focus, calm, and mostly unemotional demeanor in that series always put me in mind of a Star Trek Vulcan. Optimus, as I stated in the Spotlight! post describing his character, reminded me more of a father-figure than anything else. He was approachable, but you usually went to him when you had a problem or needed something explained.

Hot Shot was still young enough, as I was at the time, to enjoy a good game of tag with the Autobots’ human friends. He was young enough to mouth off at the bad guys, to take insults personally, and to make stunningly stupid mistakes. He also had heart, a determination to defeat the Decepticons, and an easy, endearing manner. I liked him right from the start, and I kept on liking him during Armada’s run.

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Left to right: Energon Inferno, Optimus Prime, and Hot Shot

Admittedly, my favoritism toward the character cooled during the second series: Energon. Hot Shot was an experienced ‘Bot by then, with a more serious and focused deportment than I was accustomed to seeing in him. He still retained his sense of humor and a degree of cockiness, not to mention that loyal spark. But the light-hearted elements of his character and the easy manner were missing. I was rather disappointed that my favorite Autobot had lost his friendlier characteristics in the span of time between Armada and Energon.

But what he lost in Energon, Hot Shot got a double dose of in Cybertron. In that series, he was as cocky and jovial as ever. He also possessed the same act-first-think-later attitude which had caused him so much pain in Armada. But in Cybertron there was a more professional temper to it. This time, instead of charging off like a little kid, he behaved more like a teenager on the very cusp of adulthood. He was a professional warrior who knew his business on the field of battle. So what if he threw in some flair while he did his job? It got done, right? And if it kept the ‘Con down longer, or softened him up more than the traditional attack would have, all the better. When he acted before thinking, it was usually because he was doing the right thing that needed to be done, even if it would get him in trouble with Optimus later on.

I think, though, that one of the things about his performance in Cybertron which REALLY got my attention was the lack of angst. Hot Shot still had his dour, “I’m the worst thing that ever happened to the team,” moments but they did not last nearly as long in Cybertron as they had in Armada. Hot Shot needed fewer wake up calls in Cybertron, both on the angst and the cocky fronts. If he got knocked down, he learned he could get right back up again if he had the determination to do so. Once he learned that, he was literally off to the races.

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Transformers: Cybertron Hot Shot

This also afforded Hot Shot a better teenager-to-adult story arc. Less angst and more determination to keep going no matter what meant that, when Megatron almost killed him and two friends in a battle, Hot Shot remained the only one stubbornly determined to get back up and rejoin the fight. His compatriots gave up at the knowledge of the amount of damage they had sustained, sure that they were going to die.

Only Hot Shot remained firm, saying the damage was “no biggie” and he would get up once the proper repairs were made. His determination and that of the human kids the Autobots had partnered with inspired Red Alert and Scattershot to fight through their injuries as well, which allowed the three of them to acquire enormous upgrades shortly thereafter. This meant that Hot Shot abandoned his favorite race car mode to become a large tank.

Though not as aerodynamic or as fast as his previous alternate mode, Hot Shot’s decision to become a tank was a sign that he had grown up. He was still cocky, still funny, and definitely endearing because of that. But he was also battle-tried and true, with more confidence for having beaten greater odds than he had previously. He wanted to, as Auntie Mame said, “Live, live, live!”, and he was going to do it no matter what happened to him.

It is not hard to see why Optimus always valued Hot Shot in these series. Though the two had their attitude differences (Optimus has never been what one could call cocky after he earned the mantle of Prime), their sparks were always in alignment. They always knew the right thing to do and were willing to do it, no matter the cost to themselves. They knew it would not be easy for them, but because it was the right, true, good, and just thing to do, they were willing to bear the pain and to do their duty.

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Optimus’ position as Hot Shot’s mentor and father-figure is likely one of the reasons I always associated him with that role. The two got on in that manner, and Hot Shot never failed Optimus, even when he made a spectacular mistake or disobeyed orders. Although he might be annoyed or disappointed, Optimus never stopped believing in Hot Shot, never gave up hope that he could become a great ‘Bot with the right encouragement. For his part, Hot Shot remained loyal to Optimus in everything, even when the two disagreed or Hot Shot goofed up magnificently.

I have always been saddened by the fact that Hot Shot is absent from the American Transformers series. This is understandable; the Japanese put Hot Shot in Bumblebee’s place for their stories. I do not know why they did this – maybe there was and remains some kind of licensing disagreement with their Hasbro branch and ours, or something like that. I cannot say. I only know that Bumblebee traditionally has a filial relationship with Optimus in America, for generally the same reasons that Hot Shot does in Japan.

While I admire and like Bumblebee, I have always missed having Hot Shot around in the American Transformers series. Bumblebee is not the same character as Hot Shot; the two are not interchangeable. What you gain with one, you lose with the other, and vice versa. Bumblebee has always had a cooler head than Hot Shot, shown by the fact that he is not a very big fan of racing as Hot Shot always has been. Bumblebee is more fascinated with the intricacies of human society and humanity itself. Hot Shot has never failed to befriend the humans present in the Japanese series, but he acts more like their big brother than an intrigued social scientist. He would happily spend a day just hanging out with humans, talking about their shared interests, while Bumblebee tends to be more concerned with finding out the whys and the hows of human life.

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I like Bumblebee pretty well, but I know which character I would rather have an afternoon chat with: Hot Shot. Until Japan’s Hasbro branch makes a new Transformers series, however, it seems unlikely that I will be seeing Hot Shot again anytime soon. Besides, I would hate to see our writers on this side of the Pacific manhandle such a great character. Even the Japanese had to try three times to get a version of him that struck just the right balance with this viewer!

Another character who may be associated with Hot Shot is Hot Rod. But the fact of the matter is that Hot Shot is NOTHING like Hot Rod. While they share similar names, have a fascination with racing, and both transform into race cars, that is about as far as the similarities between them go. Hot Rod is cocky, but his swagger strikes a far more abrasive tone than Hot Shot’s does. Hot Shot’s bravado is endearing while Hot Rod’s is aggravating; Hot Rod earns the mantle of Prime not through mentoring under Optimus, but through simple luck. Hot Shot earns his leadership skills in battle, taking pointers from Optimus and abiding by his commander’s wisdom. No matter which series you find him in, Hot Rod has either no relationship with Optimus or it is so strained that it is not worth being designated a relationship.

This is a difference for which I am thankful. I am no fan of Hot Rod, anymore than my friend who admires Optimus Prime is. We both find him irritating, with no redeemable qualities whatsoever. The idea that some would put Hot Shot and Hot Rod in the same class, and I think they might be tempted to do this, does not rest well with me. Compare apples and oranges if you must, readers, but at least admit that they are apples and oranges! They are both nutritious, round fruits, but that is where their likenesses end!

This is not a terribly extensive Spotlight! post, readers. Hot Shot deserves better than I have given him, but this is the best that I am capable of at this time. Suffice it to say that Hot Shot is an Autobot I wish we had more of in current and upcoming Transformers series. He is a worthwhile character and, while not interchangeable with Bumblebee, I think the two would be excellent friends in a series. There is no law saying Optimus cannot have two protégés, after all, and I think Hot Shot and Bee would get along like a house on fire!

Accordingly, I therefore cede the floor to Optimus Prime, so that he may have the last word:

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“Autobots, roll out!”

Fan Fiction Story for Transformers: Robots in Disguise

Merry Christmas, everyone! Waaaay back in January 2016, a friend requested that I write a fan fiction story for Transformers: Robots in Disguise.  At the time I was not prepared to write such a story, though I did promise to do it at some point.  I had meant to do it that month, but the project never got past the promise stage.

I remembered that promise to my friend a little while ago, and I knew it was well past time to deliver.  And so, without further ado, here is the story I promised my friend all those months back.  I hope you all enjoy it as much as my compadre does!

Let’s rev up and snowball out!

The Mithril Guardian

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Snowball Fight!

Disclaimer: I do not own these characters.

It started harmlessly enough, from what Drift said later.  Russell, Slipstream, and Jetstorm had been showing the newly returned Weaponizer Mini-Cons how to build a snowman.  Thankfully, they had received Optimus’ warning in time and returned to Earth safely to rejoin Bumblebee and his team – just in time for the first snow of the season.

With Sideswipe and Drift sparring nearby, and Denny out with Bumblebee to pick up more energon, Drift had been content to let his students have some fun.  He had not put it in those words, but Optimus was fairly sure that was what he meant.

Things had become more raucous when Grimlock, his arms behind his back, had told Russell that he had forgotten something to show the Mini-Cons.  Russell looked up at him in utter bewilderment.  “What’s that, Grim?” he had asked.

Grinning widely, Grimlock had brought both arms forward and thrown two giant snowballs at Sideswipe and Drift.

Neither of the combatants had noticed the projectiles coming until they were hit.  There had been enough force in Grimlock’s throw to send the two flying sideways.  And from there, things had spiraled completely out of control.

At least, that was the way Bumblebee seemed to see it.

“Guys, I thought we agreed – ”  He had to stop talking as a snowball flew at his head.   Optimus reached up and plucked it from the air before it could hit him.  Bee ducked reflexively anyway.

Flicking a glance at Optimus, he muttered, “Thanks,” before turning again to try and interrupt the snowball battle.

Optimus hid a smile as he let his arm fall to his side, keeping a careful hold on the snowball.  Ever since he had briefed his former scout on the preliminaries of the situation on Cybertron, Bee had been on edge.  It was only natural that Bumblebee wanted his team to be prepared for the coming threats.

But according to Sideswipe, since their discussion Bumblebee had kept his team on a strict regimen of training exercises and patrols.  While Sideswipe was doubtless exaggerating the severity of Bee’s change in attitude, even Optimus could tell that the young commander had his servos in a knot lately.  He barely allowed himself or the team time to really relax.

Optimus felt something small and light settle on his left shoulder.  He knew it was Aerobolt before he turned to look at him.

The leader of the Weaponizer Mini-Cons turned to him, cocking his head like a true Earth bird.  “I do not understand this form of training,” he said.  “It seems to serve no real purpose.  Sideswipe and Drift could train by throwing objects of various weights at an inanimate target just as well as they throw these balls of snow at each other.  Grimlock could do the same.”

Optimus turned at a human shout from the battlefield.  He was just in time to see Russell pelting Grimlock’s leg with snowballs.

The big Dinobot raised his arms over his head in the manner of surrender and shouted, “Ah!!  No, noooo!!  Stop!  Arrgh!”  With a theatrical groan, he toppled onto his side.  “Ahhh!!!  I’m dead!”  Grimlock shut his eyes and went limp, letting his jaw hang open for extra effect.  Russell laughed so hard at the sight that he sat down in the snow.

Grimlock opened one eye and smiled.  Opening the other, he sat up.  “Was it that good?”

“Yes!” Russell gasped.  “You’re a great actor, Grim!”

“Hmm,” the Dinobot replied.  “I guess I am.”  Taking a handful of snow, he sprinkled it over Russell’s head.  The boy stood up and, quieting his laughter, stuck out his tongue in an attempt to catch the flakes.

Meanwhile, Sideswipe had decided to dump a large container of snow over Drift’s head.  “Something in your eyes, Drift?” he asked, laughing as the former bounty hunter scraped the snow from his face.  “Guess you’ll be having a – ”

His gloating cost him, leaving him totally unprepared for Drift’s lunge.  Grabbing his arm, Drift pulled it behind the younger ‘Bot’s back and thrust his head into a nearby snowdrift.  “I believe that your Christmas will be whiter, Sideswipe.”  The former bounty hunter smiled wickedly as Sideswipe’s free arm flailed, his voice muffled by the snow.

Standing up, Grimlock whipped snow up into the air with his tail, dowsing Russell with it.  Using his arms to keep the snow from his eyes, Russell did not notice his father sneaking up behind him.  Denny darted forward and grabbed hold of his son’s midsection.  Lifting him high over his head, Denny spun the boy around fast enough to startle a shout from him.  The two toppled into the snow, where they started wrestling and laughing.  Above them, Grimlock smiled.

“This is not a form of training,” Optimus explained to Aerobolt slowly.  “It is a form of human entertainment called a snowball fight.”

Aerobolt cocked his head.  His whole posture radiated confusion.  “Humans find it entertaining to be attacked with hard balls of snow?” he asked.

“The humans I have had contact with prefer to keep the snowballs soft enough that they do no permanent harm.”  Sideswipe had gotten free of Drift at last.  The two were rolling around in the snow now, just like Denny and Russell.

Slipstream and Jetstorm began throwing snowballs at Grimlock.  Optimus noticed for the first time that the rest of the Weaponizers were watching the fight from some distance away.  Tricerashot watched the fun, a scowl on his face.  But he was usually scowling.  The other Mini-Cons looked as confused as Aerobolt.  Only Sawtooth was watching the scene with bright eyes.  He was quivering with suppressed emotion – excitement, if Optimus had to guess.

“Humans find the winters dull without some form of entertainment, much as Sideswipe finds a daily routine stifling.”  Optimus hoped the comparison would suffice.  It was difficult enough to explain human behavior, especially when he still did not understand some of it himself.  “If the routine or the weather does not provide a change, they will find a way to make the change themselves.”

Aerobolt nodded, understanding dawning in his eyes.  “Ah.  With a lack of useful occupations, such as farming, humans are left only with caring for their basic needs during Earth’s winter.  I can see how that could be considered…drudgery.”

“Indeed.”  Optimus nodded to indicate the happy chaos before them.  “It seems Bumblebee’s team has come to the same conclusion regarding their newest routine.”  Bumblebee himself had given up trying to be heard over the shouting and laughter.  He turned to leave, only to be confronted by Strongarm, who had just returned from her patrol.  The two began talking quietly, but Optimus noticed how the young cadet’s eyes strayed to the fight every few seconds.  She wanted to join in the fun.

It surprised him when the Mini-Con gave an almost imperceptible sigh.  “I had not thought to see him so tense.”

He was referring to Bumblebee.  “I believe it is the situation on Cybertron which worries him most.  He, Strongarm, and Sideswipe left without official permission, and he already knows that the High Council is unhappy with that.”  Optimus paused.  “My subsequent return and involvement with him and the others here has angered them further.”

“You have not stated just why they are displeased with him.”  Aerobolt eyed him closely.  “If it were simply because he traveled to Earth without official authorization, then that should be easily rectified.”

“That is indeed a part of it.”  Optimus did not want to tell anyone just what the situation on Cybertron was until the others had arrived.  The situation may have changed since he returned to Earth.

But Aerobolt deserved to know at least the preliminaries, if not the details, before that happened.  They were partners, after all, and to hide anything from the Mini-Con could destroy the trust necessary to form the Power Surge Link they had forged in their last battle with Starscream.  They might need that bond in the future, if things did not change – and that was extremely unlikely.  “I cannot say more here,” he told him at last.  “And some of the details are still unclear.  I will tell you what I know so far later on, but there are many things which may change when our reinforcements arrive.”

“You speak as one expecting a battle,” Aerobolt said, his wings fluttering in a wary manner.  “We did not wish to become involved in a war.”

“Nor did I wish to involve you, since you have suffered so much during the previous war,” Optimus agreed, stifling a sigh.  “If you were discovered on your own, however…”  He let the sentence hang in the air.  The Mini-Cons believed they could take care of themselves, and against opponents such as the Decepticon Scavengers, he did not doubt that they could.

But if what he suspected was true, they would not be able to stand against what was coming alone.  Neither would he, Bumblebee, or his team.

Aerobolt was watching him.  “Is it Megatron?” he asked evenly, his tone very quiet.  That was not easy to manage, considering what the Decepticon leader had put him and the others through.

Optimus sighed.  “Perhaps.  We have no way of knowing for certain at the moment.  As I said, what I know now may change when the others arrive.”

Slowly, Aerobolt nodded.  “Yet what you know has obviously made Bumblebee anxious,” he observed.  “I do not think mere political machinations would upset him so.”

“Unless the intrigues were more than simple games,” Optimus told him calmly, adding a little edge to his tone.  If it really was as bad as Jazz had said, they were facing a great crisis, possibly another war.  It was not a thought Optimus relished.

The Mini-Con caught the edge in his tone and looked at him sharply.  Optimus stared back.  Finally, Aerobolt nodded.  “Indeed.  I see now the reason for Bumblebee’s distress.”

Optimus could not stop his instinctive glance in Bumblebee’s direction.  The younger ‘Bot was deep in conversation with Strongarm.  He felt his spark ache with empathy as he watched his former Scout.  He had been in Bumblebee’s place many times in the past.

Not long ago, he reflected, Bee would have joined in the snowball fight wholeheartedly.  But watching him now, Optimus was reminded of the more embittered or uptight ‘Bots whom he had commanded during the Great War.  With so many lost lives and lost battles, it was inevitable that some would come to see any form of amusement as a frivolous waste of time.

He was fairly sure that Bumblebee had not fallen that far in such a short amount of time.  The younger Autobot’s personality was too buoyant for that.  Even the loss of his voice box had not marred his spirit permanently.

It was a commander’s duty, Optimus reflected, to stay apart from the games his subordinates enjoyed on most occasions.  Arcee had once told Jack, Miko, and Rafael that “Primes don’t party.”  In part, it was because it was not expected of them.  A Prime was to comport himself at all times with as much dignity as possible, according to the records Optimus had read in his youth.  Besides, he had found that he enjoyed watching those under his command while they “partied” more than if he had joined in their games.

He looked at Bumblebee again and caught him glancing toward the fight as Drift kicked Sideswipe off of him and into a snow bank, sending a plume of powder into the sky.  Primes may indeed have to excuse themselves from such high-spirited play, but Bumblebee was not a Prime.

Optimus found himself fingering the snowball he had caught before it could hit Bumblebee.  An idea began to form in his mind.

Just then, Grimlock gave a mighty roar and dove at Slipstream and Jetstorm.  The maneuver lacked his usual speed and force, giving the two Mini-Cons time to move aside.  They did, and Grimlock’s head disappeared into the snowdrift behind them.  Denny and Russell, having their own snowball fight some little distance away, stopped at the sight.

Grimlock brought his head up and out of the snow bank.   He moved so quickly that he showered Denny and Russell with a light film of snow, making them shout and laugh.  Slipstream and Jetstorm avoided the cloud of powder, flipping out of range to land one atop the other next to Grimlock’s leg.  It protected them from the backwash of snow.

What they did not realize was that Grimlock’s charge had been a feint to allow him a chance to fill his mouth with snow.  Bringing his head up, Grimlock twisted his neck so that his closed jaws hung over the two.  Then he opened his mouth and allowed the snow to cascade onto them.  The two shouted in surprise.

Their dual shout, though, was drowned out by Strongarm’s sudden shriek.  Optimus looked over and smiled as he watched Sawtooth pick up a snowball with his tail.  He had a pile of them near that appendage.  With everyone concentrating on the others, he had been free to slip away and make his own snowballs.  He flipped this new snowball at Strongarm, who managed to block this projectile.

Sawtooth paused as a thought seemed to strike him.  “Did I hit too hard?” he asked, concerned.

“No,” Strongarm replied.  “You just hit me when I wasn’t expecting it.”

“Oh.  My apologies.”

“Don’t worry about it,” she said, waving one hand.  Reaching out with her other hand at the same time, she clutched some snow from one of the racks holding Denny’s car collection and threw it at him.

Sawtooth never saw it coming.  It hit him in the chest and sent him skidding backward along the ground.  He shook his head, then turned to stare at her.  A slow smile spread across his face.

Strongarm smiled back.  In an instant, the two were going at it nuts and bolts, throwing, diving, and catching snowballs.  They looked less like warriors and more like human children.

Optimus glanced at Aerobolt to see his reaction.  The Mini-Con shrugged his wings, looking caught between anger and confusion.  He thought, however, that he detected a gleam of delight in the other’s eye.  “I had not thought Sawtooth would be interested in such a game.”

“It is in times such as this that commanders learn the most about their subordinates,” Optimus replied softly.  “I have found it informative and pleasant, watching my Autobots at their pastimes.”

“Have you?” asked Aerobolt.  “It does not strike you as…undignified?”

Optimus smiled.  “Dignity at times may be put aside by most.  In times such as this, it relieves the stress that would otherwise threaten to divide a strong unit.  Also, it has sometimes provided an Autobot with the perspective necessary to win a battle.”

“Hmmm,” Aerobolt murmured thoughtfully.

Strongarm and Sawtooth’s snowball fight seemed to give Grimlock an idea.  Leaning down, he picked up some snow and began packing it into a ball.  Slipstream and Jetstorm, excavating themselves from the snow he had dumped on them, looked up at him.

“Do-de-do,” Grimlock hummed.  “Da-da-da.”  He looked down at the two, then over at the Weaponizers, who were watching Sawtooth and Strongarm in confusion.

The Mini-Cons understood him.  Reaching down, they began packing their own snowballs.  “Hey, Tricerashot!” Grimlock called.

“What?” the Dino Mini-Con growled.  His growl morphed into a gasp as he saw the snowball arcing through the air toward him.  Before he had time to move, it hit him in the head.  “Arrgh!” he shouted.

The other Weaponizers started and stared at him in shock.  Slipstream and Jetstorm’s battle cries therefore caught them unawares.  Before any of the other Mini-Cons had time to move, Drift’s students began bombarding them heavily with snowballs. They turned the remains of the pile Grimlock had dropped on them into a fort to defend against returning snowballs.

Denny and Russell shared a look.  Then they ran over to join Slipstream and Jetstorm.  In a few seconds, both sets of Mini-Cons and the humans were trading snowballs at a furious rate.

But Tricerashot, having cleared his eyes of the snow, had a bigger target in mind.  As Grimlock watched his handy work in action, the Dino Mini rolled a large ball of snow with his horns.  Carefully picking it up on his snout, he lobbed it a Grimlock’s shin.

The Dinobot grunted with the impact, then turned to look at Tricerashot.  “Fair is fair!” he called smugly.  “You wanted a snowball fight – well, you’ve got one!”

Grinning widely, Grimlock picked up some more snow and packed it into a ball.  Tricerashot rolled another ball, picked it up on his horns, and threw it at Grimlock…

…Just as the bigger ‘Bot lobbed his own snowball at the Mini.

The results were comical.  Tricerashot’s projectile hit Grimlock in his snout, obscuring his vision, while the Dinobot’s snowball covered Tricerashot completely.  It took them a few minutes to burrow out of the snow.  They looked at each other and started laughing.

Aerobolt cocked his head.  Optimus caught the smile which flitted across his face.  “I’d no idea Tricerashot could laugh,” he muttered.

Optimus smiled a little himself.  “As I said, a commander often learns more about his subordinates at play than in battle.”  He looked back at the battlefield and saw a snowball coming toward him.  Shifting to the left, he let it pass.  “Well aimed, Sideswipe,” he complemented.

“Daw – you weren’t supposed to move!” the younger ‘Bot lamented.  He grunted as Drift hit him in the back with a larger snowball.  “Hey, Bee!  Give a ‘Bot a hand?!”

“We’re supposed to be studying battle tactics, not playing,” Bumblebee retorted.

“Come on.  Snowball fights are all about battle tactics!”  To prove his point, Sideswipe feinted left.  Drift blocked his real punch from his right, but Sideswipe used his still-moving left hand to snatch a handful of snow and shove it onto the samurai’s head.  Sputtering, Drift backed up, allowing Sideswipe to knock him over with a well-placed kick.  “See?” he said.

Drift’s response was to kick his legs out from under him from his position on the ground, and Sideswipe landed with a loud “Ooomf!” in the torn-up snow.  Strongarm and Sawtooth laughed as he scrambled to his feet and lunged at the other Autobot.

But Drift was ready for him.  Throwing loose powder in Sideswipe’s eyes, he ducked behind him and kicked him into a snow pile.  “He is indeed correct, Bumblebee.  I am now engaged in lecturing Sideswipe to avoid gloating over his opponents before they are unconscious.”

“I’ll show you unconscious!” Sideswipe growled playfully as he pulled himself free of the snow, one hand clutched tightly on a white something.  Pivoting on his right foot, he threw a malformed snowball into Drift’s chest.  There was enough force behind the throw to send the other ‘Bot skidding backward.

Bumblebee sighed as the two continued to spar.  “He has a point, Bumblebee,” Optimus remonstrated gently.  “The surrounding territory can be an advantage in a battle, and it is unlikely our opponents will have had experience with snow or snowball fights.”

The former Scout closed the distance between them.  “Optimus, if you’re right, snowballs aren’t going to help us.”  He glanced at the laughing, happy scene, and Optimus recognized the fear in his eyes.  Bumblebee was wondering if he would lose any of his teammates in the coming conflict.

He had faced that same fear and lived through it many times over the years himself.  Often the Autobots he had watched having fun moments before lay dead within the opening phase of a battle.  Some of them had been friends of his and others had been friends of Bumblebee’s.  Neither of them wanted to see his team suffer the same fate as so many units of Autobots had in the War.

Optimus hoped fervently that they could in fact survive this situation without casualties or another war.  He had seen enough death and destruction over the eons; he did not wish to see more.  And these young Autobots, who did not know what it was to truly lose a compatriot, would hopefully never have to learn the grief that came with the loss.  Sideswipe’s near-miss in the battle against Starscream was the closest they had come to true injury and death.  He desperately wanted that to be as close as they came to actually losing someone.

Shaking the phantoms of fear away, Optimus turned his head slightly to avoid another snowball.  This one had been a stray; Sideswipe had his hands full with Drift and was in no position to think of throwing snowballs at anyone but him.  “Excessive stress from too much training is not helpful either, Bumblebee,” Optimus chided gently.  “I learned that in the War.”

The other sighed.  “You’re right, of course.  It’s just…”

“It is never easy waiting for a battle.”  Optimus put his free hand on Bumblebee’s shoulder.  The younger ‘Bot looked up at him, and for a moment, Optimus saw the eager, trusting young Scout he had commanded for so long staring back at him.  Bumblebee had grown and strengthened during his absence.  But a part of him was still that hopeful, never-give-up young ‘Bot who had dared to face down Megatron at the price of his voice box.

But the rest was the grown Autobot who had saved Optimus’ life by running Megatron through with the Star Saber, whose sense of righteousness and commitment to what was good and true in the universe mirrored his own.  Optimus knew he could have asked for no better successor than Bumblebee.  Nor could he ask for a better subordinate.  “You, Bulkhead, and the others needed rest and relaxation during the War from time to time as well.  Do not begrudge your own team the freedom to enjoy themselves while they can.”

Bumblebee’s eyes turned to regard the fight still raging in the midst of the scrap yard.  He sighed, and as his shoulders slumped Optimus felt the tension leave him.  “You’re right.”  He shook his head.  “I don’t know what I was thinking.”

Smiling slightly, Optimus hefted the snowball he had caught earlier and held it out to Bumblebee.  “Perhaps it is best to think only of the present moment.  I believe this belongs to Sideswipe, does it not?”

The younger ‘Bot looked at the snowball for a long minute.  Slowly, a smile spread across his face and he took it from Optimus’ grasp.  “I do believe it does.”  Switching the projectile to his other hand, Bumblebee cocked his arm and threw the snowball.

It splattered on Sideswipe’s head, startling a yell from him.  Shooting Optimus a playful grin, Bumblebee transformed, raced forward a short distance, and then swung to a stop.  The maneuver threw snow over Grimlock, the Weaponizers, Denny, Russell, Slipstream, and Jetstorm.  Strongarm and Sawtooth both ended up with a face full of snow courtesy of the slide as well.  Sideswipe was too busy brushing snow from the top of his head to notice some had landed on his feet.  Drift was far enough away that the snow Bumblebee kicked up did not touch him.

“You guys gonna sit there all day?” Bumblebee asked.  “Or are we going to go show Fixit how to have a snowball fight?”

The others shared a look.  Grimlock grinned, to be answered by similar smiles from Strongarm and Sideswipe.  Drift did not grin, but Optimus could see the corners of his mouth turning up in a smile.

“Then let’s rev up and roll out!” Bumblebee shouted, peeling out of the yard.  Grimlock chased after him as Strongarm and Sideswipe transformed to follow, Strongarm pausing only long enough for Sawtooth to climb onto her roof.  Drift transformed and drove over to Denny and Russell, who hopped in as soon as his door was open.  Slipstream and Jetstorm jumped onto his roof and he raced toward the Command Center.

The Weaponizers shared a look.  As one, they turned to Aerobolt.

Flicking a glance at Optimus, he nodded once to them.  The band took off after the other Autobots.  All of them were smiling, even Tricerashot.

As the roars and shouts began in the Command Center, Optimus’ partner turned to look at him.  “Shall we watch the festivities?” he asked.

“I believe we shall,” Optimus answered.  Transforming to vehicle mode, he let Aerobolt fly ahead of him.  Smiling privately to himself, Optimus drove toward the Command Center.  The threats they faced were as dangerous as any they had known in the Great War.  But this was a new era, with new soldiers who had already proved that they were worthy warriors and true friends.  Though the road ahead would be dangerous and dark, with Autobots such as these at his side, Optimus knew in his spark that they would succeed.

But for now, they were going to have a little fun.

THE END

Robots in Disguise: Why are the Autobots Always Outnumbered?

You want to know what the most popular post on this blog has been for the last three years, readers? It is the post titled “Why Are the Autobots Always Outnumbered?”

I have no idea why this post is so frequently read. In some ways, it is rather annoying. I would really like it if something else would get looked at rather than that post. But apparently no one is as interested in anything else as they are in “Why Are the Autobots Always Outnumbered?”

*Sigh*

Anyway, this post is something like a sequel to “Why Are the Autobots Always Outnumbered?” It is also a look at the latest Transformers series to hit the airwaves: Transformers: Robots in Disguise.

First and foremost, I have to say that the Autobots have not always been outnumbered. In the 1980s TV series and a couple of sequel TV series, there have either been an equal number of Autobots and Decepticons, or more ‘Bots than ‘Cons. My problem with the later series is that there have been fewer and fewer Autobots. The 1980s series had a long roster, and few ‘Bots from that series appear in newer shows today.

This goes for the original female Autobots as much as for the male ones. Transformers Prime had one female Autobot, the perennially popular and recognizable Arcee. Arcee is a great character (Prime had an especially intriguing take on her, not least because she barely had any PINK in her armor!), but the original characters are either shunted aside to make room for new characters or they are left out completely.

As an example, both Transformers Prime and Transformers: Robots in Disguise have character rosters that include old stand-bys Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. These are two great characters, and I certainly cannot imagine a Transformers series that does not have Optimus Prime as the leader of the Autobots. I much prefer him to all the other potential supreme leaders of the group, quite frankly.

But other ‘Bots from the original series are either never brought in or are killed off, as in the case of Cliffjumper and Seaspray in Prime. If the writers do not want to bring them in, they certainly do not have to. But why bring them in only to kill them off? Especially when most of their target audience (children aged seven and up) either barely got to know them or have no idea who the particular characters were?

I simply think it would be a good idea to include as many original characters in the new Transformers series as possible. Luckily, Transformers: Robots in Disguise, is doing that fairly well. The current Autobot roster consists of such originals as Bumblebee, Sideswipe, Grimlock, Optimus Prime, and Jazz. Slipstream and Jetstorm, whose names have been applied to characters in previous series, appear in the show as Mini-Cons. The newcomers in the series are Autobot bounty hunter/samurai Drift, Decepticon hunter Windblade, Mini-con Fixit, and Elite Guard cadet Strongarm. (Previously, characters named Strongarm were male. I am sorry, but would it not have been better to bring in an original female Autobot instead of retrofitting a male Autobot’s name for a female character? Anyone…?) The only newcomer in Prime was Bulkhead, who in that series was a former Wrecker, while the ‘stand-bys’ included new versions of Wheeljack, Ratchet, Arcee, Ultra Magnus, and Smokescreen.

And, as I said in “Why Are the Autobots Always Outnumbered?,” it is rather irritating that the Decepticons end up outnumbering the Autobots in the newer stories because the Autobots are too stupid, wishy-washy, or otherwise ignorant of the coming Great War. Robots in Disguise seems to recognize that fact, being helped along by the detail that the series takes place after the close of the war between the Autobots and Decepticons. Now, the Autobots rule the rejuvenated Cybertron and the Decepticons have been reduced to the criminal class. Their alternate modes are vehicle and animal, much like those in the Japanese show also titled Robots in Disguise.

And in this new Robots in Disguise series, Bumblebee’s team roster is up to the task of re-incarcerating the Decepticon(s) they face each episode, escaped criminal(s) from the wrecked prison ship, the Alchemor. Though there are technically about two hundred or more Decepticons loose on Earth after the crash of the Alchemor, this discrepancy in Autobot/Decepticon numbers is compensated for by the fact that ‘Cons are notoriously bad team players. Only a strong, terrifying leader like Megatron or, in this series, Steeljaw, is capable of keeping a unit of Decepticons together for any length of time.

And a couple of the ‘Cons in this series are also certifiable nutjobs, so they are unwilling to be part of a gang for very long. This makes them much easier for the Autobots to handle.

The only irritating thing about the shift in tactics for the Autobots in Robots in Disguise is how by-the-book Cybertronian society has become post-war. This is demonstrated best by Strongarm, an Elite Guard cadet and Bumblebee’s protégé. She believes that following the rule book will help her advance in her career, not realizing that such rigidity stifles creativity – her own as much as anyone else’s. (Though it is nice that it is a female Autobot who is so by-the-book and not a male Autobot.)

The opposite is brought out in Sideswipe, who in this series is an Autobot ‘punk’ who has been nabbed several times for minor infractions of the law. As he once put it, one apparently “can’t turn left on Cybertron without breaking some law!”

Bumblebee is in the middle. He follows the rules every hero follows and is flexible enough that he is willing to bend or break the rules when he has to. In this way he is less rigid than Strongarm; however, he also recognizes the importance of laws and rules, something the high-spirited Sideswipe is still learning.

Unfortunately, this regulation-bound version of Cybertron is a trap that I did not realize the writers might fall into if they followed my advice in “Why Are the Autobots Always Outnumbered?” I should have seen it coming, but I did not. The result is that the new Cybertron has too many rules and regulations on the books. Now that the Autobots are in charge, the writers have made Cybertron something of a “regulation nation” in Robots in Disguise. Instead of keeping order, most Autobots seem focused on being orderly.

That is not the solution to the problem I brought up in my last post. Too much regulation breeds characters like Sideswipe who, if you tell him “it’s the law,” but do not explain why, go out and cause trouble because he feels he is being squashed to death by a bunch of regulations. It also breeds characters like Strongarm who live, breathe, eat, and dream about the rule book.

Neither attitude is proper for life, something Bee has been training the “two teenagers” to realize. You cannot live without law and order, but you also cannot kneel down and worship the rule book. One attitude leads to anarchy while the other leads to a police state, wherein only the police are happy. What is necessary is a balance between these two viewpoints.

And this, from what I remember of my research, is the problem that I was trying to address in the original “Why Are the Autobots Always Outnumbered?” post. If the writers make most of the Autobots by-the-book characters like Strongarm, then of course they are going to be devastated in a war! They have no flexibility or capacity to think beyond the instructions in the book, so how can they react to life-threatening situations?

Meanwhile the Decepticons, who want to take over Cybertron, are not going to cut such ‘Bots any slack. Their pride demands that they be in charge of everything, and if someone is going to stand there and quote the rule book to them, they will not be quoting it for long. The ‘Cons will see to that.

This is why Ultra Magnus has always been an inferior leader when compared to Optimus Prime. He has too much rigidity in his outlook on life, too much dogmatic love of the rule book, to think on his feet and face the enemy when they strike at him. In contrast, Optimus knows the difference between right and wrong, maintains that outlook on the battlefield, and is prepared for the Decepticons to play dirty. Because he knows that they will. Experience and an understanding of his enemy, namely Megatron, assure him of this.

And this is the attitude I would rather the writers took toward the Autobots and Decepticons the next time they tell a story about the Autobot/Decepticon Great War. No more rigidity; just an understanding of good versus evil. That does not eliminate characters like Strongarm or Ultra Magnus, but it does give the Autobots a much better chance of survival as a race!

Well, readers, this is the successor to “Why Are the Autobots Always Outnumbered?” If this post tops the charts for the next three years…!! Do you think you could look over some of the other posts? Please?!

Let’s roll out!

The Mithril Guardian

Transformers Prime

Spotlight: Transformers – Optimus Prime

The Original Optimus Prime

The Original Optimus Prime

A friend of mine is very into the Transformers franchise. I would be remiss if I did not admit that part of this fascination is my fault; I was – and remain – a fan of the Transformers mythos myself. I have not abandoned the franchise, though I must admit, I think my enthusiasm for it has cooled a fair bit. The writers for Transformers, whether they are working on the TV shows or its other media, seem to be writing things higgledy-piggledy these days. It makes the stories somewhat confusing.

Anyway, my friend’s favorite Transformer is the Autobot leader, Optimus Prime. (This post is written about that character in part to please my friend.) I can relate to my friend’s love of the Autobot leader, in a small way. He was never my favorite Autobot, but I could not imagine any other leader for the Autobots than him.

I first got to know Optimus, really and truly, through the Japanese series Transformers: Armada. It came out around 2001, having been translated into English in Canada, much as the Zoids series were. Though Transformers is an American story idea, it is very popular in Japan as well. The Japanese have created at least four TV series for the franchise (that I know of).

The voice actor for Optimus Prime in the Armada series was Gary Chalk. A Canadian actor, Mr. Chalk’s voice was the one that I thought fit Optimus best. Since hearing Peter Cullen voice the character again, Mr. Chalk has slipped into second place.

I bring up Mr. Chalk because, as I said, he was the Optimus I knew and loved for – ooh, goodness, eight or so years. He voiced Optimus over three TV series that I watched almost regularly when they came out: Transformers: Armada, Transformers: Energon, and Transformers: Cybertron. (I lost interest in Energon after one episode, and so I stopped watching it. Armada and Cybertron I watched from beginning to end.)

Voices are something which has always enthralled me. I can remember, when I was five years old, listening to people on TV, on the radio, or in the room just because I liked the sound of their voices. The words blurred together and became meaningless as I simply sat and listened to the tone and resonance of their voices.

In the case of Mr. Chalk’s performance as Optimus Prime, his calm, gentle, fatherly manner in Armada struck me deeply. I came to regard him rather like I regarded Professor X of the X-Men. But my affection for Optimus was and is much deeper and warmer than it has been or ever will be for the Prof. (Sorry, Charles.)

That brings me to the point of this post. I do not know how others view Optimus Prime, but he seems to have the same sort of publicity problem these days that Cap does. Once, he had no such trouble at all, but I will mention that in a bit.

Since the 1984 series, Optimus Prime has transformed into a red, white, and blue truck. The truck model has varied – he was Freightliner in the original series, but over the years he has also transformed into firetrucks, Peterbuilts, and now a Western Star with six outrageous smoke stacks in Transformers: Age of Extinction. But his paint scheme has never shifted from his original red, white, and blue – even when the red dominates the other two colors.

This tells me that Optimus was conceived as a ra-ra America kind of character. To some degree, the writers have left him that way. His paint scheme is still red, white, and blue, after all. The only other character in a modern franchise that wears the same colors and is as popular is Captain America. Just like Cap, Optimus values friends, freedom, and fidelity above all else. He is a kind, compassionate leader who respects life. And not just Cybertronian life; Optimus has always taken special interest in and care of the humans who interact with the Autobots and Decepticons in the franchise serials.

Peter Cullen, the voice actor for Optimus Prime in the original series as well as the new shows Transformers Prime, Transformers: Robots in Disguise, and Transformers: Rescue Bots likes to tell the story of how he became Optimus Prime. Mr. Cullen says he based Optimus’ voice after the voice of his older brother, a veteran U.S. Marine captain who served in Vietnam.

The day that Mr. Cullen was to audition for the part of Optimus Prime, he spoke to his older brother, Larry. When Larry was told his younger brother was going to voice a truck, both Larry and Peter Cullen got a laugh out of it. Mr. Cullen has since admitted that at the time they “had no idea” what they were in for. After having their good laugh, Captain Cullen sobered and asked his brother to portray the character not as a typical shouting Hollywood hero, but as someone “strong enough to be gentle.”

His older brother’s request stayed with Mr. Cullen, and when he read over the script for the first episode of Transformers, he said it was like hearing Larry Cullen speak. So he imitated his brother’s voice, adding a dash of John Wayne just to make it interesting, and Optimus Prime rolled into the hearts of viewers everywhere. Children all over the U.S. wrote letters to Optimus Prime and sent them to the studio, which for some bizarre reason never passed the notes on to Mr. Cullen.

My point in bringing this up, readers, is the request Peter Cullen’s brother made of him: “Be strong enough to be gentle.”

I think that this is why I have always had a particular fondness for Optimus Prime. Even when Gary Chalk was voicing Optimus, the character did not lack for gentleness in his speech. Or at least, he did not in Transformers: Armada. In the latter two series, Energon and Cybertron, Mr. Chalk stopped imitating Mr. Cullen after a point. He did not lose much of the gentleness in his voice, but his characterization of Optimus became more… in tune with popular attitudes. This is something Mr. Cullen prefers to avoid when voicing Optimus Prime. I do not know why Mr. Chalk began reading his lines this way; I simply know that his voice changed over the years. Not by much, but it did.

It is this strength, this firm but gentle quality which Optimus Prime has that I remember and love most. This is the reason I have never lost my particular love for the character, though I have lost my patience with his, ummm…..handlers. (Mr. Cullen has never been among those, thankfully.) When asked to voice Optimus in comedy skits, he has declined, stating he has too much respect for the character to treat him so trivially. It is too bad other, similar characters do not have performers who treat them so!!!

Optimus’ character is rooted in “Peace through strength.” He is a kind character who maintains his dignity in everything he does. Optimus Prime is not only strong enough to fight Megatron and the Decepticons; he is strong enough to be gentle to those weaker than himself, whether they are humans or Autobots.

This is not quite the post I hoped it would be, readers. I seem to have a great deal of trouble describing Optimus, much as some people have a hard time discussing Captain America. It is perhaps because they are so alike; there is never a doubt where Cap stands on an issue. Just as you never have to guess where Optimus will be standing in an argument – at the head of his Autobots.

I still regard Optimus the same way I did as a child. He is a father-type character, one whose strength of arms is equaled only by the strength in his spark. There is really nothing more to say.

Autobots, roll out!

The Mithril Guardian

Transformers Prime

Vote for Your Favorite Autobot Today!

The Original Optimus Prime

The Original Optimus Prime

Hello, readers! Today, at the request of a friend, I have decided to put up another poll. In this poll you get to vote for your favorite Autobot (sorry, Decepticon fans, but I tend to dislike those clowns with the purple insignias).

Now not all the Autobots who were ever written about, appeared in a show, or the like, made it into this poll. That is too tall an order for me to fill! But I put down as many as I could remember (and I can remember a great many), including several Female Autobots. (If you read “Odd Girls Out,” then you know I wish we could see more of the original Autobot ladies on the newer series’ battlefields!) This poll will be open for up to a month, possibly a little more, and then I am shutting it down. Previously, I left my polls open for a week only, but when those posts began receiving more looks long after a week had passed, I decided that I would leave any new polls open for a longer period of time.

However, I WILL NOT LEAVE THESE POLLS OPEN CONSTANTLY!!! They will only be open for a month, more or less. Then they are closed down until I decide if/when to reopen them.

So, readers, make hay while the sun shines and vote for your favorite Autobot with all conceivable speed! “Autobots, roll out!”

Later,

The Mithril Guardian

Transformers Prime

Transformers: Age of Extinction

Well, readers, here I am. Transformers: Age of Extinction has been out since last year, but I did not see it until recently. I was much preoccupied with other things when the film first came out, so I did not watch it in theaters. Plus, I was rather disappointed with the first three Transformers movies (especially Revenge of the Fallen), so I was not sure I wanted to see Age of Extinction.

But curiosity got the better of me, and one day I tried looking up some of the scenes from the film. I did this several times until I decided I should just rent the DVD and watch the movie. And that is what I did.

All things considered, I enjoyed Transformers: Age of Extinction more than the first three Transformers films. Age of Extinction’s lead human character, Cade Yeager (portrayed by Mark Walhberg), is a human who can roll with the punches in the film and is much less intimidated by his situation. Shia Labeouf’s character was too busy having a panic attack every time the flak started flying; I do not know what the scriptwriters were thinking with the first three Transformers films and, judging by the results, I am not sure I want to know.

Walhberg’s Cade Yeager was the big selling point of Extinction in my opinion, as I mentioned above. He did not whine about being thrust into an alien war, he jumped in and started shooting – several times!

The other great thing about Cade being the movie’s lead human, and the wonderful thing about his more mature approach to the battle, is how he bonds with Optimus Prime. Like Cade, Optimus is front and center in Age of Extinction. The Autobot leader’s previous roles in the prior Transformers films were somewhat distant and trimmed down. Optimus had a big part in each film, but none of those films managed to give us an idea of what really and truly drives him.

Yes, Optimus fights for truth, justice, and freedom in all the films. But he does not do this for himself; he does it for his Autobots. And humans, once the Autobots land on Earth.

This is where Age of Extinction gets really interesting. Optimus’ desire to protect and defend those who are not able to look out for themselves is sorely tested when a special CIA unit begins hunting down and destroying all the Cybertronians on Earth, without the knowledge of the government. Autobots and Decepticons alike are targeted and taken down, their remains hauled away to be studied and duplicated by a private company. Optimus himself narrowly escapes capture in Mexico City. He races across the border, severely injured, and finally goes into stasis inside an old theater in Paris, Texas.

Cade finds him there and, mistaking the Autobot leader for a wrecked semi-truck, buys him from the proprietor of the crumbling theater. He hauls the “truck” to the home he shares with his daughter, Tessa. Trying to earn enough money to pay off the mortgage, the electric bill (Cade is siphoning electricity off of the grid via his neighbor), as well as acquire enough money to put Tessa through college, Cade turns toward Optimus and decides to strip him down for parts. When he begins poking under the hood, however, he realizes he has not bought a truck but a Transformer.

Further prodding leads him to discover a missile in the Autobot’s engine. He pulls it out and learns the missile is live – though it does not blow up in his face. With the missile out of his engine, Optimus awakens and transforms.

Having been betrayed by humans, Optimus is not a happy camper when he comes to. But he is also not in a position to really defend himself either, let alone escape. Still, he is determined to protect his Autobots.

Drawn to the Autobot leader by sheer curiosity, Cade points out that Optimus will not get far in his current condition and offers to repair him. Personally, I think Cade was also moved by Optimus’ constant murmurs about returning to his Autobots. As a father, Cade understands what it is like to worry about someone he is supposed to take care of. The fact that this alien being cares about others of his kind in a similar way leads him to realize that Optimus is not a monster or a lump of mindless metal. He is, in essence, a father who is very much concerned about the Autobots under his command, as they are the closest thing he has to children.

I thought this theme was repeated several times in the film. It first recurred when the CIA arrive at Cade’s property and discover the missile he dug out of Optimus’ engine in the trash. When Cade slips and mentions he knows nothing about “him” in reference to the “truck” he had bought, the CIA pin him and Tessa to the ground. Threatening to kill Tessa unless Cade tells them where Optimus is, Cade says he was in the barn, even though the agents had already cleared the building. Whether Cade was aware that Optimus had ducked into his barn’s cellar or not, he gave the CIA agents no more information but begged them to release his daughter.

Hidden in the cellar, Optimus hears Tessa’s screams and Cade’s pleas. Knowing that Cade is still protecting him, even with the threat to his daughter’s life, Optimus busts out of the cellar and buys the Yeagers time to escape.

Optimus is, of course, naturally inclined to defend those who cannot defend themselves. But the interesting thing about this is he has been betrayed by humans, and although he allows Cade to begin repairing him, he is still wary of the human. So was it his natural protective instinct which made him come to the Yeagers’ defense, or was it hearing a human father trying desperately to protect his daughter?

Personally, I think it was the latter. Optimus would do whatever was necessary to protect his Autobots, and anyone with a cork eye could see Cade was willing to do anything he needed to do to keep his daughter safe.

Viewers do not have to wait much longer for more hints of Cade and Optimus’ growing friendship. After escaping the CIA, Optimus takes Cade, Tessa, and the girl’s now not-so-secret boyfriend, Shane, to the Nevada desert. There they meet up with the remaining Autobots – Crosshairs, Hound, Drift, and Bumblebee. When the humans make camp with the Autobots that night, Drift insults and starts a fight with Bee, prompting Crosshairs to say that he has been waiting for the other ‘Bots to kill each other off so he could go off on his own. Noting the dismal state of discipline among the Autobots, Cade turns to Optimus and says bluntly, “Well, it looks like you’ve been missed.”

While it is possible that Cade was being sarcastic, pointing out that Crosshairs and Drift were unconcerned about Optimus’ return, I have a different theory. To me, it sounded as if Cade was talking to Optimus as a fellow father, implying something like this in his statement, “See what the kids get up to while we dads are away? You leave ‘em alone for five minutes and they start a brawl which wrecks half the living room.”

Later, while working on infiltrating KSI, the company dismantling dead Autobots and Decepticons, Cade chides Tessa and Shane for getting cozy on a nearby couch. Tessa marches out in a fury and Cade mutters something like, “She never listens.”

Optimus’ reply is: “Yeah. I had the same problem with Bumblebee.”

In contrast to the friendship between Bee and Sam in the preceding Transformers movies, Cade and Optimus’ friendship is given much more attention and development in this film. Bee and Sam were too busy being teenagers in their separate worlds after the first Transformers film to really be friends. Sam had to leave Bumblebee behind when he went to college in Revenge of the Fallen, and in Dark of the Moon, he is barely allowed to contact any of the Autobots, let alone Bee.

It is possible that any sequel Transformers films will similarly separate Cade and Optimus, but for now I will not get into that. Suffice it to say that, in Age of Extinction, Optimus and Cade gain a great respect for each other because of the fact that they are both in positions of authority and care for those under their charge. Cade respects Optimus for this; he also understands his feelings of betrayal and bitter resentment towards humans.

For his part, Optimus learns from Cade that humans are prone to making mistakes. But mistakes, Cade points out, are how humans learn. If Optimus pays attention only to those humans who persist in error, then he will condemn not only them but all mankind – especially the innocent humans who learn from their mistakes – to an evil fate.

It is Cade’s hopefulness, his willingness to pick himself up and dust himself off after making a mistake, which leads Optimus to realize that, while humans and Cybertronians are very different from each other, they do have one thing in common. They are equally capable of good and evil. There are humans who are as evil as Decepticons. The wheat and the thorns grow up together; until harvest time, there is no way to separate them without hurting the wheat.

Optimus learns the lesson well, telling the Autobots before he leaves Earth to protect the Yeagers and to “protect all they can be.”

On the whole, Age of Extinction is a definite improvement over the previous Transformers films. It is a bit too long, but it is much better than the first three movies and gives me hope that any sequel Transformer installments will only get better.

So, readers, “Let’s roll out!”

Later,

The Mithril Guardian

http://borg.com/2014/01/02/all-the-movies-youll-want-to-see-in-2014/

http://borg.com/2014/02/03/super-bowl-reveals-the-latest-genre-movie-trailers/

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http://borg.com/2014/12/29/borg-coms-best-movies-of-2014/

http://borg.com/2014/11/03/transformers-age-of-extinction-comes-to-blu-ray-in-stunning-3d-imax/