Tag Archives: Transformers Prime

MORE Favorite Animated Intro Themes

Here are a few more animated introductory themes for you to enjoy, readers! It has been a while since I saw most of them, but they are still entertaining cartoons. I certainly recommend them for the young ones in your life. 😉

Catch ya later!

The Mithril Guardian

Transformers Prime

 

Transformers: Robots in Disguise (2015)

 

Rescue Heroes

 

Speed Buggy

 

Hong Kong Phooey

 

Tom and Jerry

 

The Superfriends

 

The Justice League

 

Young Justice

 

Batman (1990s)

 

Batman (2005)

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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.

Image result for chromia

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.

Image result for Firestar transformersImage result for Firestar and Moonracer

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(

Image result for Override transformers

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?!

Image result for Strongarm transformers

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….

Image result for Windblade transformers

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!”

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

More Autobots: Transformers Prime (Series)

Transformers Prime

Some time ago there was a Transformers series on the air called Transformers Prime. The series concluded in 2013 and a new series is scheduled to take its place this year.

If you have read one of my past Transformers’ posts (“Why Are the Autobots Always Outnumbered?”) then you will know that I kept tabs on this series for the entirety of its run. One of the things that I found interesting in this Transformers series, as in previous Transformers stories, was the friendships that the Autobots established with the three young humans who discovered them in the first episode.

These three youths – Jack Darby (16), Miko Nakadai (15 – ish) and Rafael Esquivel (12 – and a quarter!) formed friendships with the Autobots Arcee, Bulkhead, and Bumblebee respectively. Rafael, or Raf, was the only human who could understand Bumblebee’s beeps and buzzes (in this series, our young Autobot warrior’s voice box had – again – been destroyed by Megatron). As the youngest of the three children, Raf naturally enjoyed the company of the youngest Autobot on Team Prime.

Meanwhile Bulkhead, a former construction ‘Bot who joined the Wreckers during the war, was given charge of the hyperactive, ever-adventurous (even at her own expense) Miko, a Japanese exchange student living in the U.S.   Bulkhead’s friendship with Miko bordered on the comic since, while all humans are delicate by Autobot standards, Bulkhead had to be even more careful than most when handling a human because of his huge size and weight. This caution usually made their friendship appear ironic; the great big Wrecker tiptoeing around his human charge, whose biggest delight was watching things get smashed, crunched, and all-around destroyed by the tremendous Autobot.

But the irony was mostly an illusion. He may have enjoyed building things once upon a time, but Bulkhead also enjoyed breaking things – as long as they were not Miko or things Ratchet needed in his work. Miko also found time to acquaint Bulkhead with heavy metal music, and the two enjoyed listening to it almost regularly.

The last human to be paired off with an Autobot was also, initially, the most reluctant, a sentiment his Autobot guardian at first shared completely. Arcee and Jack did not get along well for several episodes. In part, this was due to the fact that in the first episode of the series, Arcee’s close friend Cliffjumper was offed by Starscream. Seething with pain and fury, the last thing Arcee wanted at the time was to be assigned to human-watching duty.

Jack, meanwhile, had a tenth-rate job, a single mom who worried about him non-stop and a ten-speed bike when he would have preferred a motorcycle. The last thing in the universe that he wanted was to be drawn into an intergalactic battle between two alien, robotic races. But, thanks to taking the time to check out Arcee’s alternate motorcycle mode, that is exactly what he got.

This was the friendship that really piqued my interest in the series. Watching Arcee and Jack becoming friends through their particular interior injuries and side-by-side battles with the Decepticons led me to the conclusion that the Transformers writers were finally moving in to more appealing character waters. This idea was strengthened when Jack was later given the responsibility of restoring Optimus Prime’s memories; it seems that humans can possess enough “spark” to qualify as Primes in certain situations. This was something I was hoping that Transformers Prime would explore in-depth throughout its second and third seasons….

But instead the series focused more and more on the Autobots and their problems alone. While I sympathize with those who enjoy the Autobots as characters themselves and who find the humans in the series annoying, and though I understand that the writers had a fixed number of episodes in which to tell their story, the trimming down of the kids’ characters and relationships with the Autobots was very irksome for me. I had initially been fascinated by the series precisely because of the children’s friendships with their Autobot allies. Watching those friendships slowly becoming trivialized until they were cut out entirely was no fun.

Not to mention the fact that it would have been a lot more fun if more Autobots had joined the team on Earth. But the only new additions to the team’s roster were Wheeljack, Smokescreen, and Ultra Magnus (who came across as a real stiff rule-reader). Wheeljack came in with an interesting revamp to his back story; in Prime, he was a battle-tried Wrecker who enjoyed watching stuff blow up almost as much as Miko did. He never quite received the character time I would have liked to see him get, but what we viewers did see of him was pretty good.

The same cannot be said for Smokescreen – at least, not by me. Smokescreen would have been more tolerable if he had only been an eager Elite Guard cadet, but he had the added problem of being extremely self-confident. This lead to him landing in trouble on more than one occasion; in one event, he dragged Jack along for the ride, though Jack willingly went along with him. I was not pleased with that, either, since it ruined Jack’s character as portrayed from the beginning of the series. Jack was the most level-headed and Prime-like youth the Autobots had on their side. Watching him run off to do something terribly stupid at Smokescreen’s behest was not fun. Also, Smokescreen’s store of uber self-confidence lost its charm very quickly.

All the same, Transformers Prime remains a pretty solid series. It had its faults (as mentioned above), but every series will falter in certain respects and rise in others. Prime by and large treated its audience and characters with respect, and if parts of it got trimmed down as time went on, that is probably most attributable to the time frame the writers’ (or their bosses) set for themselves. They had a big story they wanted to tell and not as many episodes in which to tell it as well as they could have. That they accomplished what they have with the series is a fine achievement in itself. Let us hope the 2015 Transformers series does as well in its own way, too.

Later,

The Mithril Guardian

Why are the Autobots Always Outnumbered?

Image

Hello, Transformers Writers!

Today’s title gets the ball rolling. Lately ‘reboots’ of the Transformers’ genre have the Autobots as the minority in the war for Cybertron – and later, on Earth.

Why?

To my mind, there are three answers.

First, you think this is the price the Autobots have to pay for being principled combatants. Since they are less ruthless in battle they are therefore more likely to be killed by the murderous (in some cases bordering on psychotic) Decepticons. Autobots don’t kill needlessly. Decepticons slaughter Autobots in droves, but you write the story so that the Autobots will not respond in kind. This leads to fewer and fewer Autobots while somehow the number of Decepticons either remains stable or continues to grow.

Second, you perceive the Autobots’ principles in the same way as the Decepticons – as weaknesses. Therefore, you have Autobot casualties in direct proportion to their ethics. After all, if an Autobot will not stab a Decepticon in the back then what’s to stop the ‘Con from doing that to him when he (the Autobot) turns around? (A good knock on the head works pretty well from what I’ve seen.)

Third, you consider the Decepticons to be stronger. Therefore you write that they get control of more resources than the Autobots, build bigger and more powerful weapons, and subsequently destroy more Autobots. The Autobots, who largely want peace on Cybertron, would consequently pursue strategic positions and weapons of war in a more ‘principled’ manner than the Decepticons.

These ideas, fellow writers, are false. War is a battle for survival. If either side wishes to survive, they have to fight for it and fight for it aggressively.

This makes the decimation of Autobot forces seem a bit out of proportion, doesn’t it? Being a principled people does not mean that the Autobots would not inflict massive casualties of their own on Decepticon forces. While many Autobots would indeed be more inclined toward peace, that does not mean that they would be willing to forfeit their lives in some delusion that the Decepticons would spare them for that desire. If anything, it would prompt the ‘Cons to finish them on the spot.

War inflicts heavy casualties, but not necessarily to one side. If the two forces are equally matched, and I see no reason why the Autobots would lack either the weaponry to battle the Decepticons or the will power to do so, then the Autobots would not become nearly extinct in the fight for Cybertron as you have portrayed. Their numbers would nearly match those of the Decepticons.

Unfortunately for us Autobot fans, the same would go for the Decepticons. They would not suffer near total annihilation either. Both sides should be able to meet as equals in the number of combatants and the potency of their weapons. If the Autobots want peace, then it stands to reason that they will fight for it. Anyone who wants something enough is usually willing to work hard to get it. The Autobots are, and should be, no exception.

If there are an equal number of Autobot and Decepticon warriors in a story, that means there would be a greater number of sales for merchandise resulting from the shows. One thing that can be guaranteed in any story is the viewers’ desire to be a part of it. Many children have armies of toys of their favorite ‘Bots and ‘Cons, which they send into battle whenever they get the chance. If there are as many Autobots in a story as there are Decepticons, then those armies of toys can only get larger.

So, to quote a well-known Transformer line, fellow writers, “Autobots, roll out!”

Sincerely,

Mithril (An Exasperated Fan)

Optimus Prime and Death

The Original Optimus Prime

The Original Optimus Prime

Hello, fellow writers!

I’m pretty sure you’ve guessed today’s topic from the title.  Why, in almost every television series, book series, and comic line, does Optimus Prime have to die at least once?  There is no real reason that I can see for making this a tradition in the genre; it is unnecessary in the extreme.

To make room for new toys, in the 1986 animated movie Transformers: The Movie, Hasbro killed Optimus Prime despite his great popularity.  They came to rue this when children stopped watching the series and, to save sales, finally brought him back at the end of the series.  Since that time Optimus has been killed and revived, phoenix fashion, for at least twenty years.  He cannot die permanently (unless the series is ending) because of the possibility of another unprecedented fan revolt.

So why yo-yo him back and forth between life and death?  The first few times, and for new viewers or fans, it has the desirable effect of drawing them into the story.  But the rest of us react with either an eye roll or a deep sigh of, “Here we go again.”

Please, does this have to go on?  There has to be a better way of selling more toy models of his ‘upgraded’ forms than killing Optimus Prime and bringing him back.  It’s gotten more than a little tiresome to watch, and his death speeches are so recycled that they’re hardly prose anymore.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have no problem with Optimus narrowly surviving a near miss or getting severely injured and having to fight his way back onto his feet.  Being ‘dead’ for five minutes (instead of for an entire episode, line of stories, or a whole film) also works just fine, as it did in Transformers: Prime.  All characters get hurt, and Optimus is no less vulnerable than his soldiers, mentally or physically (though he may outlast many of them).  My issue is with his constantly leaving for the great beyond and then getting yanked back via crazier and crazier methods.

Are you listening, fellow writers at Marvel Comics?  That goes for you guys playing tug o’ war with your characters, too!

We’ve seen Optimus die enough.  The first time in Transformers: the Movie, later in various television shows, and finally coming full circle in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.  We get the point.  So does Optimus; he has more holes in him than a pincushion. 

I think we could do with a rest, fellow writers.  Don’t you?

Sincerely,

Mithril (A Very Tired Fan)