As a child of the 80’s (born at half time) I was lucky enough to have grown up in a time of excellent kids cartoons. Thundercats, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, G.I. Joe to name but a few, by far one of the most iconic series from that era is the Transformers.
Chronicling the battles between the heroic Autobots and the maniacal Decepticons, two races of giant robots capable of transforming at will, they take the guises of earth based vehicles (for the most part!) to blend in and continue their battle! The series is currently enjoying its 30th year anniversary and it seems like theres barely a time when the robots in disguise aren’t present at some point, be it the latest animated series or another live action hollywood blockbuster. At time of writing we are but a few tantaslising days away from the release of the fourth live action movie from Director Michael Bay.
To celebrate the 30 years of transformers, I’ll be listing ten of my personal favourite transformers and why they stand tall compared to their brothers. I’ll be going across all media, including Transformers Animated, Beast Wars, Transformers Prime, the movies and the classic show. As such, there may be spoilers for those series and as such, I’d suggest not reading if you’ve yet to finish the show in question. Also if there’s an omission about a character, please leave comment below, I cant say I’ve digested all ‘former media and there’s a lot I’ve not seen. This list is not in any particular order other than order of thinking them up (which explains why Grimlock doesn’t automatically take centre stage) and is just intended as a bit of fun, highlighting characters I personally enjoyed.
As a kid, I often got Shockwave confused with Soundwave, both were scientists, both were blindly loyal to Megatron in the original cartoon (A surprisingly rare quality among the Decepticons!) and (to a four year old) they had similar names. It wasn’t til I got a little bit older that I realised Shockwave was a seperate and very important character.
Harsh and merciless, Shockwave believes in only one thing above all else. Logic. Cold, hard Logic. Put in charge of Megatrons operations on Cybertron while the war raged on Earth, However he is arguably more powerful than old bucket head. Armed in all of his incarnations with an arm mounted cannon that can match Megatrons, Shockwave follows his leader only because it seems logical, if he ever doubted him, it’d be within his power to usurp Megatron and take over. However Shockwave becomes more dangerous if his logic circuit is disabled (something he is able to do at will). In one of the IDW storylines, Shockwave finds himself battling the entire team of Dinobots, he finds himself unable to keep up because of their brash, irrational actions in combat. Deactivating his logic circuit, he goes berserk, defeating ALL of the dinobots and forcing Grimlock to remotely use his ship to detonate the volcano they were battling on to force a stalemate!
This isn’t his only tie to the dinobots however, in the Fall of Cybertron game for Ps3/Xbox 360, he kidnapped Grimlocks team, “Team Lightning Strike” and subjects them to horrific experiments, drastically reducing their intellect and improving their strength, forcing them into primitive, brutal dinosaur based alt modes.
When he arrived in Transformers Prime, not only did he arrive sporting a menacing tank mode and a colossal arm cannon, but a gigantic resurrected predacon dragon for Megatrons forces. In a team of blunderers, Shockwave stood apart from the other Decepticons in Prime, consistently succeeding in his objectives and forcing the Autobots to retreat, often single handedly in combat.
My inclusion in the movie-verse is….logical
Shockwave also successfully infiltrated the Autobots during Transformers Animated, posing as the well liked Longarm Prime until the time came to reveal himself and he struck, battling and viciously injuring Ultra Magnus and Blurr.
With both brains and brawn, Shockwave is a cunning tactician and a powerful warrior, his skill and intellect only matched by his loyalty.
#9 Beast Wars Inferno
As a kid, Beast Wars happened at a time I’d kind of left transformers behind. Snobbishly dismissing it as “Not real transformers” and uninterested in the fact that they “turned into rubbish animals”, the Cg show was left in memory and looked back on rather unkindly. It wasnt until many many years later that a friend convinced me to give it a try. I can never thank him enough for doing so.
Watching through Beast Wars as an adult, I was able to appreciate the character development of its cast, both villain and hero, as the story progressed. However one character, a predcaon infact, stood out above all others. His name was Inferno.
Joining Megatrons Predacon forces when his stasis pod falls from orbit (the way the show introduced new characters, every so often a stasis pod among the hundreds jettisoned in the pilot episode would fall to earth, prompting a race between the two groups to claim it and gain an advantage), Inferno takes the form of a fire ant. Utterly psychotic and insane, Inferno is dedicated only to protecting his colony (the stasis pod he arrived in) and his queen, in this case, Megatron.
Despite mildly embarrasing proclamations of loyalty to his queen, Inferno is a relentless fighter. Armed with blasters and flamethrowers, he fights to the end every time. So dedicated is he that, when the opportunity to kill Optimus Primal and Cheetor arrived, he willingly detonated a cave of raw energon just on the off chance the heroes would be caught in the blast. The resulting explosion vaporised him and the writers of the show have even said that he was supposed to die there as a third season of the show hadn’t been confirmed. When it was, Inferno, a favourite of the writers, was somehow revived from bieng atomised and continued his reign of terror.
With B-movie appeal in his alt mode, a firey dervish of death in his robot mode, Inferno always causes the maximals to think twice and panic during a battle.
#8 Hardshell (prime)
I’ve got a lot of love for Insecticons, as my prior entry proved. It doesn’t matter who, Kickback, Tarantulas, Chopshop, Shrapnel, I think they’re excellent. Almost always sadistic and cruel, they have the added bonus of turning into gigantic metal insects. When it was announced there would be an Insecticon in (then) next weeks episode of Transformers Prime, I waited eagerly. Cruelly teased by sneak peeks and teaser videos, the Prime Insecticon turned up as a feral monstrosity that fought Megatron and almost bested the Decepticon leader (until he reminded everyone why Prime Megatron needs to be FEARED). While this was slightly cheapened by the revelation that there were hundreds of Insecticons and the subsequent lowering of the strength, when Megatron asked who among the Insecticons was strongest, Hardshell stepped forward.
Towering above his brothers and covered in scars from countless battles with the Autobots that he exterminated, Hardshell is an extremely powerful fighter. He comes dangerously close to straight up killing several important cast members, including Wheeljack and he leaves Bulkhead needing rehabilitation after just narrowly escaping death at the Insecticons hands. Its only as a result of Miko launching a sneak attack with Wheeljacks ship that the Insecticon is finally defeated (a personal point of contention for me but one I’ve grown to live with).
“I am mightiest among the Insecticons!”
Transforming into a colossal beetle and uttering a horrific battle cry, the Prime insection causes endless grief for the Autobots.
#7 Hot Rod
My strongest childhood memory of Transformers is the animated movie. Episodes have faded into obscurity in my brain but I can almost recite the film word for word despite going decades between seeing it. Introduced in the movie as the next wave of Transformers, leading the charge for me was Hot Rod. Everyone else turned into trucks or weird looking cars, Hot Rod turned into a sleek sporty car with FLAMES on the bonet. For a five year old brain, this was it, this was the guy. Watching him take over the Autobots, eventually besting Galvatron and becoming Rodimus Prime, I could watch it again and again. Growing up, I kind of went off the character during his stint as a Prime before Optimus returns to take leadership back, But as Hot Rod he was the man.
With guns everywhere, buzzsaws and a hot temper to match, he was always a favourite. He wasnt stuffy and strict like some of the older Autobots, his youth meant he hadn’t really seen the horrors of war like his comrades. He was always up for a fight but was quick to befriend people. His solution when surrounded by sharkticons was to “give them one humoungous repair bill!”. He saves the day more times than I can count and I can even forgive the fact that he got Optimus killed….just about.
No list can be complete without Grimlock. You’d be hard pressed to find a transformers fan that genuinely dislikes Grimlock unless it was part of some ironic hipster-esque dismissal. He transforms into a giant robot T-rex, breathes fire, actively devours his enemies and wields a firey sword in his robot form. There’s nothing to dislike about him. He can be lovably goofy and unrelentingly savage depending on which iteration you’re watching. He’s undeniably the biggest draw for the fourth and latest transformers movie and its understandable why.
Me Grimlock want to munch metal!
One reason I personally like Grimlock is the few bits I’ve seen him in the comics. Grimlock is a badass in these few times I’ve seen, he argues with Optimus Prime, mockingly refers to Ultra Magnus as “Little prime” and flat out walks away from humans in need because they’d fired upon him earlier.
His character takes a somewhat tragic turn in Fall of Cybertron. A headstrong and Wanting to take the fight to the Decepticons and criticising Optimus for wanting to flee, he is captured by Shockwave along with his team and experimented upon. As you play as the newly freed Grimlock, you watch him try to piece his mind back together, fuelled by a new found and unfamiliar fury. This accounts for his caveman like speech, the testing from Shockwave has left him mentally damaged. However, when he does transform, he’s nigh on indestructible, cutting a swath of fire and teeth through the Decepticons and saving the day for the Autobots escape bid.
Even Animated Grimlock can be forgiven for bieng essentially comic relief as he gave us an amazing toy!
Grimlock isn’t a difficult sell, afterall, he Grimlock no bozo, HIM KING!
As a kid, I had two Blitzwing toys, one complete, one broken. As a result, I was convinced they were two similarly coloured but different transformers. The concept of a transformer that could turn into two vehicles was a largely foreign concept for me. As far as I was concerned, I had purple and beige decepticon # 1 who became a tank and purple and beige decepticon # 2 who became a jet. As I grew up, I realised they were indeed the same guy, after his incredibly stylish entrance in the movie, screaming into shot as a plane before landing, turning into a tank and firing on Hot Rod.
Jet! Tank! Jet! Tank!! JET!! TANK!!!
It wasn’t until Transformers Animated that my love of Blitzwing would be rekindled in a big way. Now sporting a mean three way split personality, he retains his dual modes after an unresolved argument with himself over whether to have a jet or a plane as his alt mode. He has three personalities, Icy, a stern tactician, Hothead, a brutish thug and the third (and my personal favourite) an unbridled psychopath Random. I liked the character of Blitzwing and would LOVE to see him in a darker incarnation such as Prime or the ‘of Cybertron’ games, he was incredibly weaponised but suffered bieng a character in Animated, meaning he had to conform to the shows much lighter tone and his weapons were given elemental properties such as fire and ice rather than proper blasters ( a fact that’s saved the lives of the Autobots many times over).
Cruel and calculating, he’ll switch mid sentence, threatening to smash his enemies then swapping to a sing song half way through. Dangerously unhinged, Blitzwing is one of my favourite decepticons.
If you’ve read this far, thank you and stay tuned to the site for part two of my endless gushing over the Robots in disguise!
Blitzwing cha cha cha – http://arok318.deviantart.com/