Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Big In Japan Episode #4: Ranma 1/2 Season One!

An All-New All-Anime Podcast on the Fanholes Podcast Network! Fanholes Presents, Big In Japan! This week Justin and Derek discuss the first season of the Ranma 1/2 series!

Big In Japan Episode #4: Ranma 1/2 Season One!

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Big In Japan Episode #3: One-Punch Man!

An All-New All-Anime Podcast on the Fanholes Podcast Network! Fanholes Presents, Big In Japan! This week Justin, Tony and Derek discuss the first season of the One-Punch Man series!

Big In Japan Episode #3: One-Punch Man!

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Fanholes Sentai Saturdays Episode #12 - Dekaranger/Gavan Double Dare!

In honor of the upcoming feature film, Uchuu Keiji Gavan vs. Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger, join Derek, Mike, Tony and Justin of the Fanholes Podcast, as they discuss the first episodes of Tokusou Sentai Dekaranger, "Fireball Newcomer", and Space Sheriff Gavan, "The Strange Fortress Beneath Tokyo" in the twelfth episode of what is now Fanholes tradition, Sentai Saturdays!

Fanholes Sentai Saturdays Episode #12 - Dekaranger/Gavan Double Dare!

Friday, June 9, 2017

Mike's Top 50 Favorite Transformers Characters Part 4: 20-11

20. Ironfist (G1)
First Appearance- Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers # 1 (2010)

Ironfist was first released as a toy exclusively in the UK in 1993.  For seventeen years, the only character information we had on him came from his bio card and tech specs, which painted him as an enthusiastic weapons aficionado.  Fast-forward to 2010, and TWO different sets of writers chose to finally feature Ironfist in official fiction.  Pete Sinclair and Jesse Wittenrich used Ironfist in the exclusive Transformers Fan Club magazine comic strips, keeping him fairly close to his original bio and weirdly writing him with an Australian accent... millions of years before there WAS an Australia.  However, it is undoubtedly Nick Roche and James Roberts’ portrayal of Ironfist in the IDW comics that sticks with fans, and that’s no different for me.

IDW's Ironfist is your typical geeky fanboy, specifically in regards to the legendary Autobot commando unit, the Wreckers.  He unexpectedly receives a shot at being part of the team he idolizes and basically was the main character/audience surrogate of the fan-favorite mini-series “Last Stand of the Wreckers.”  Through Ironfist, the reader learns what it means to be a Wrecker, the sacrifice of friends and self that one must endure, and ultimately... the price you must pay to fight the fight.

Ironfist worked very well as a protagonist because he was our people- a fan, like those reading the actual comic.  Under the pseudonym “Fisitron”, Ironfist wrote lists JUST LIKE THIS ONE YOU ARE READING NOW, as well as numerous essays, dramatic reinterpretations, and flat-out fanfiction about the Wreckers.  As Nick Roche once put it- “he’s a fanboy like you- he blogs, he squees.”  Frankly, it’s quite impossible not to relate to him in some fashion if you’re reading the story.  Some of the best drama of Last Stand came from seeing Ironfist confront the disparity of his idealized view of the Wreckers and their harsh reality.

The text story “Bullets”, featured in the Last Stand of the Wreckers trade, revealed much of Ironfist’s “home life” on the Autobot space station Kimia prior to becoming a Wrecker.  His toxic relationship with his conniving best friend Skyfall is revealed to be what eventually leads to Ironfist’s tragic demise at the end of Last Stand, although the comic story stands on its own without this additional information.  However, Ironfist does get the last laugh on the friend who set him up to die, in a manner that is wholly appropriate to his character.  Even in death, Ironfist has left a significant impact on the IDW Transformers universe in general.

Aside from his original toy, Ironfist’s popularity with the fandom has inspired homage toys in both the Animated and “Aligned” lines, although both are exclusives.  He’s yet to have a proper official G1 remake, but the third party version by Mecha Ideas called “Gauntlet” is a pretty perfect representation of his Nick Roche-designed self.  It’s usually fairly expensive on the aftermarket nowadays, but well-worth it if you’re looking for an Ironfist figure that faithfully captures him from Last Stand of the Wreckers in toy form.

Just don't ask him about that Netflix show.

19. Scrapper (G1)
First Appearance- The Transformers episode # 16- "Heavy Metal War" (1984)

Scrapper’s my favorite Constructicon and is usually considered the nominal leader of the bunch.  I say “usually” because back in the early days no one on the official side of things had really designated an ironclad leader of the first combiner team in Transformers.  Bob Budiansky did write in Scrapper’s original character bio that Megatron considered him to be the most valuable Constructicon, and he did have the highest rank of all six of them according to the toy tech specs.  However, even Budiansky seemed to not adhere to that whenever the Constructicons were used in his stories.  In fact, all of the Constructicons were shown in the leadership position at SOME point over the years.

In whatever case, most fans consider either Scrapper or Hook as Constructicon leader.  Scrapper seemed to get the most lines in the cartoon and often represented the whole group, but Hook was also sometimes prominent and forms the head of Devastator- a position that would later be reserved for most gestalt team leaders.  The Dreamwave “More Than Meets The Eye” profile books would establish that Megatron personally promoted Scrapper over Hook to lead the team, which suggests they might have been co-leaders at one point.  Similarly, in the Transformers Fan Club magazine comic stripes, Hook starts off as leader of the Constructicon guild in Cybertron’s past.  Once Megatron merges the various Decepticon groups into one faction under him, he names Scrapper as leader of the Constructicons.  I just usually like to imagine that Scrapper and Hook have a good working relationship and delegate leadership duties to each other based on the situation.

Unlike the snobbish Hook though, Scrapper’s the kinda guy you’d just love to work for... I mean, if you were part of a marauding army bent on universal conquest.  He’s professional and very skilled, but also has a sense of fun and humor about his job.  Scrapper had a couple of the best moments in IDW’s All Hail Megatron series (good moments being generally few and far between in that story), one of which I used as the main representation for this entry.  Look at it and you can tell that this is a guy who has good management skills!  Scrapper puts up with snobs like Hook, crazies like Mixmaster, and hangers-on like Scavenger and still maintains a largely-positive attitude.  It is these attributes, along with Michael Bell's usual stellar, if sometimes inconsistent voice work in the cartoon, that made him my favorite of the team.  I mean, who couldn’t love a guy who builds furniture out of PEOPLE just to get a laugh out of his buds?

I’m still pissed-off that, much like Dreadwind, Mike Costa cavalierly killed Scrapper off during his IDW run.  And all just to pump up his “SOOPER-KEWL BADAZZ-MUTHA” version of traditional Transformers human ally Spike Witwicky.  Scrapper’s long overdue for a proper return in IDW and currently his spot as Devastator’s right leg is being filled by the former Autobot Scoop.  Writer John Barber has hinted that Scrapper’s disembodied consciousness still exists within the combined Devastator mindscape, so now we just need his “ghost” to possess Scoop’s body and we’ll be all set!

I have some nostalgic fondness for Scrapper’s original toy mold, despite its simplicity.  It was the first Generation 2 Construction I bought along with Mixmaster, and before I received the rest for that Christmas, I would transform Scrapper and Mixmaster into legs and imagine the rest of Devastator atop them!  Scrapper’s also recently received an updated G1 toy in the Combiner Wars/Unite Warriors line, available in a giant gift set with the rest of his team.  I don’t own it currently, but it is on my list of things to buy one day.  At the very least, I won’t have to imagine Devastator when I finally do decide to get Scrapper this time!

18. Whirl (G1)
First Appearance- Milton Bradley mini-comic story “In The Transformers” (1985)

Whirl has become very visible in the fandom in recent years after James Roberts made him a main cast member in his IDW comics.  However, there was a time when Whirl only had a very scarce presence in Transformers fiction.  He and his fellow Autobot “Deluxe Vehicle” Roadbuster were poached from another Japanese toyline other than the usual Diaclone or Microman to be used in the 1985 range of Transformers figures.  Both of them had a slightly-different aesthetic than most other Transformers, appearing less “humanoid” in their features, and it was certainly more obvious with Whirl.  His single-optic and clawed hands made him look more like a robotic drone than a living, sentient character.  I was always intrigued by his appearance and especially his one-eyed visage.  I know I’m not the only one who wondered as a kid... were Whirl and the Decepticon Shockwave... SECRET BROTHERS???  Once I read his first appearance in the Marvel UK comics and heard him mention the “logic” of a situation, that it only added fuel to the fire of my speculation.

Much like a few other characters on this list, Whirl’s scant appearances in fiction lent him some measure of “mystique” with me for years.  Why wasn’t he in the cartoon?  Why did he only really appear as a member of the Wreckers in their debut story “Target: 2006” and then vanish from the ranks of the team?  Roadbuster was already a favorite character of mine, but with Whirl all I had was this minor fascination.  Obviously, I wasn’t alone and James Roberts made it his mission to address in-fiction some of my (and probably everyone’s) ponderings about Whirl.

IDW Whirl and Shockwave ARE tied together... through the barbaric ritual of “empurata”, imposed by the corrupt pre-war government of Cybertron.  They both defied the Senate and were forced to have their previously-humanoid hands and head replaced with claws and a featureless face with a single optic sensor.  This would rob them of some of their individuality and in Whirl’s case- the use of his dexterous hands, which he made a living with as a watchmaker.  Also, Roberts paralleled Whirl’s disappearance from the Wreckers’ roster in the Marvel comics by having him be dishonorably discharged from the team in IDW.  The empurata and the old Senate’s continued abuse of him had rendered Whirl an unstable individual over the years... and his later removal from the Wreckers took away his outlet for violence and mayhem.  Whirl was a powder keg ready to explode and take everyone up with him.  Of course, this made him the perfect guy to bring along on a protracted journey to find “Cyberutopia” in Roberts’ comic stories!

Sarcasm aside, Whirl has since proven to be one of James Roberts’ most well-developed and complex, not to mention- funniest characters aboard the Lost Light.  His interactions with his stalwart “frienemy” Cyclonus are always a treat to read.  Whirl’s psychotic, Deadpool-esque sense of humor and total lack of tact provided many of the most laugh-out-loud moments over the course of Roberts’ run thus far.  In fact, when I read Whirl’s dialogue in IDW now, I have a hard time not hearing voice actor Nolan North’s Deadpool in my head.  Whirl also has a submerged, but clear sympathetic layer to him, as someone who had been used and abused to the point of being utterly broken.  Artist Alex Milne has managed to coax some actual heartstring-tugging expressions out of Whirl’s impersonal features over the years.

Whirl’s had a pretty-perfect remake of his original G1 toy in the Generations line.  He’s also got an upcoming third-party option that looks fairly neat, but there hasn’t been a toy that captures his Nick Roche-designed “More Than Meets The Eye”-self yet.  I’d really like a representation of that, as it is probably Whirl’s most famous portrayal in fiction so far.  Or perhaps “infamous” would be a better term; in the IDW comics, Whirl is not only responsible for first making Megatron decide to use violence to achieve his goals, but also for Megatron’s very EXISTENCE thanks to time travel.  So I guess the lesson is... don’t f**k with a watchmaker’s livelihood?

17. Trypticon (G1)
First Appearance- Scramble City: Mobilization (1986)

What little kid doesn’t like dinosaurs?  I mean, your parents always wanted you to read about educational stuff as a child, and dinosaurs were easily the coolest educational thing out there.  I went through a whole “dinosaur” phase much like virtually every other kid as a child, so of course any Transformers that turned into dinosaurs were automatically cool to me.  You’ve got the Dinobots out there, who were already popular, but then I was introduced to Trypticon and the equation was pretty simple; five robot dinosaurs fighting an even BIGGER robot dinosaur equals... AWESOME!

Marvel US # 27 was my first proper introduction to Trypticon, although I can remember seeing a ratty, torn-up catalog with a picture of his toy in it at some early point too.  As mentioned, he fights the Dinobots in that issue before being recalled to Cybertron and... never really being seen again in the US comic at least.  Trypticon was intelligent, well-spoken, and almost charming as written by Bob Budiansky, and his interactions with his diminutive minion Wipe-Out were quite amusing.  I soon thereafter saw the cartoon episodes that introduced Trypticon- the “Five Faces of Darkness” multi-parter, and he had a simplistic dolt-like personality on-screen.  The writers of the cartoon painted the Dinobots and Trypticon with the same “dinosaurs are dumb” brush, which probably was easier for the target audience to understand and it was no different with six year-old me.  I did wonder why certain characters were different in the comic than they were in the cartoon, but I probably didn’t get too hung-up on it at the time.

Over the years though, I came to appreciate Budiansky’s version of Trypticon a lot more, considering it was my first exposure to him.  Besides, cartoon Trypticon was always getting handily-defeated and thrown into random bodies of water by his Autobot opposite Metroplex.  At least in “limbo”, comic book Trypticon couldn’t be beaten up so easily.  This more mentally-refined version of Trypticon that existed virtually everywhere but in animation would eventually become my definite incarnation of the character and I’m always glad when he pops up.  When Trypticon was featured in the Dreamwave “War Within: The Dark Ages” mini-series as written by Simon Furman, he even almost seemed to have a genteel British accent.

I wonder if Furman had to resist writing “Cheerio” in that last Trypticon dialogue bubble?

As far as some other cool uses of Tryptsy go, in IDW’s “Transformers VS G.I.Joe” series by Tom Scioli and John Barber, Trypticon served as the roving capital city of the Decepticon army.  In dinosaur mode, he’d trudge across Cybertron’s surface, forever in pursuit of Metroplex, who took on the form of a massive crawling starfish.  I thought this was a cool take on him; Megatron even sat on a throne within Trypticon’s gaping maw.  And in the G1-inspired video game “War for Cybertron”, Trypticon serves as a giant space station that the Aerialbots must infiltrate in a later level.  Once they exit it, Trypticon transforms and you must battle him WHILE HE’S FALLING FROM ORBIT to Cybertron’s surface.

I’ve never owned Trypticon’s original toy, but a few of my friends have and I usually had fun playing with it.  I almost bought one of the multiple reissues of it at times, but never really ended up pulling the trigger.  We are, however, getting an enormous brand-new version of Trypticon in the Titans Return line very soon.  It looks pretty fantastic and out of all the Titan-Class figures thus far, this is the one I’m most sorely-tempted to purchase.  It’s usually only the matter of space that really stops me from deciding to do so... I just don’t know where I’d display or even store it at this time!  There’s an even larger and more expensive third party representation of his War For Cybertron-self out there, and that one has both space and money as deal-breakers for me.  However, one day I will own a Trypticon toy... one day.

A final point of interest... Trypticon’s name refers to the word “triptych”, which is a piece of art or a puzzle that unfolds in three segments... just like Trypticon’s transformation from dinosaur to battle station mode!  So being a dinosaur is not the ONLY educational part of him that Tryptsy can boast of!  I’d like to think my preferred version of him would approve of that little bit of culture.

16. Air Raid (G1)
First Appearance- The Transformers episode # 57- “The Key To Vector Sigma, Part 2” (1985)

Air Raid is my favorite Aerialbot and that’s quite frankly because... he always seemed the coolest to me.  He had a sleek black color scheme in jet mode and turned into an F-15 model, just like the original batch of Decepticon Seekers.  Plus, the first time I encountered the Aerialbots was in Marvel US # 21, their debut issue.  In that story, virtually all the Aerialbots are taken out one at a time by the Insecticons and second batch of Seekers... except for Air Raid, who swooped in and single-handedly swung the odds back in his team’s favor!

Air Raid’s main character conceit was his impulsiveness and rash behavior... but he always seemed to maintain a lighthearted attitude.  Besides, the rest of the Aerialbots had more severe character flaws and/or hang-ups, so it made Air Raid look super-chill in comparison.  Considering Silverbolt’s fear of heights, Skydive’s overthinking, Fireflight’s absentmindedness, and Slingshot’s insecurity, Air Raid’s tendency to leap in head-first doesn’t come off as such a bad thing.  In the cartoon, he’d often attack the enemy by his lonesome too, and sometimes pay for it... but more often than not, it’d have a net positive result.

In the episode “Fight or Flee”, he leads Cyclonus and Scourge on a wild goose chase that ends in an ambush by Air Raid’s fellow Aerialbots.  In the episode “The Ultimate Weapon”, he baits Trypticon into exhausting his flame breath, allowing Silverbolt to fly down the giant Decepticon’s gullet and shoot him up from the inside.  And in the G1-inspired video game “War For Cybertron”, he even swoops in at the last second to save Optimus, Bumblebee, and Sideswipe when they are moments away from being executed.

His recent Combiner Wars Deluxe-Class toy is a lovely updating of the original, but the first Air Raid toy I ever bought was his Generation 2 release.  It was my first Aerialbot toy in general, and even though he didn’t have his usual cool black color scheme, Air Raid’s new paint job appealed to me in an odd way too...

I guess Air Raid hangs with Spider-Man on weekends?  No wonder he’s so fond of last minute rescues and feats of singular daring.

15. Depth Charge (BW)
First Appearance- Beast Wars episode # 41- “Deep Metal” (1998)

I’ve never been a big fan of the third season of Beast Wars... I thought it was largely unfocused and suffered from having to promote more toys across fewer episodes.  However, Depth Charge was one of the better parts of season three, and managed a complete character arc by the end.  Depth Charge’s whole schtick was hunting down the cannibalistic killer known as Protoform X and he tracked him to prehistoric Earth... where the Beast Wars were taking place.  As most know, Protoform X was named Rampage by that point and had been allied with the Predacons... albeit under duress.  His seemingly-immortal life spark was held hostage and being used as a “leash” to keep him under Megatron’s control.  Before the Beast Wars, Rampage had destroyed several colonies and settlements that Depth Charge had lived in and protected.  Rampage took a perverse pleasure in making the law enforcer suffer and even oddly considered him an “old friend” by the time Depth Charge showed up on Earth.  Depth Charge took on a “lone wolf” role throughout most of the third season, keeping the other Maximals mostly at arm’s length while he undertook his mission of revenge against Rampage.

Admittedly, Depth Charge wasn’t the most original character, but he was compelling nonetheless.  He looked awesome, had a cool voice (the gravelly David Sobolov), and a bad boy attitude that clashed with Optimus Primal’s more rigid set of morals.  His “relationship” with Rampage was obviously akin to Batman and the Joker... only Depth Charge was more than willing to kill his eternal nemesis given the chance.  And he did get his chance, during the second-to-last episode of the season and Beast Wars entirely.  In “Nemesis, Part 1”, Depth Charge and Rampage have their final, fatal battle on the sea floor, surrounded by raw, unstable Energon deposits.  The fight climaxes in Depth Charge trying to force a stake of raw Energon into Rampage’s immortal spark.  In a moment that is still the subject of fan interpretation to this day, Rampage stops struggling and with an unhinged laugh, allows Depth Charge to pierce his spark.  The resulting explosion ignites all the Energon deposits in the area, and kills both Depth Charge and Rampage.

What was going through Rampage's mind there?  Was he happy to end his monstrous, long-suffering existence?  Perhaps he simply wanted to see if he had succeeded in twisting Depth Charge into a murderer like him.  Most likely... it was a mix of both, but in whatever case, it was a great scene and a rather twisted thing to show in a “children’s” cartoon.  Depth Charge would later return to life in the official Transformers convention exclusive “Universe” comics, profoundly haunted by his actions... but his story remained unfinished as those comics didn’t continue when the management changed hands in the following year.

I always had my “headcanon” that Depth Charge survived his “death” at the end of Beast Wars and what’s more... his new “Universe” body coloration was the result of Rampage’s immortal spark grafting onto his like a parasite thanks to the Energon explosion that seemingly killed them both.   I’ve even been lucky enough to have this idea portrayed in a few fan comics by a bunch of talented people.  I thought it’d be awesome if Depth Charge had to walk around with Rampage’s voice eternally echoing in his head, slowly driving him mad and forcing him to resist every second to avoid being taken over completely.  Ironically enough, the Batman video game “Arkham Knight” would eventually utilize this concept with Batman and the deceased Joker for much of its story and gameplay.  I guess good ideas are truly “universal”.

Depth Charge’s original Transmetal Ultra-Class toy is a good one with some fun weapons, including his “shark rifle” and what I like to call the “pizza disc” launcher in his chest.  Its Universe redeco is also a nice look, and seems vaguely reminiscent of Boba Fett and his spaceship Slave-1’s color palette.  Depth Charge also has an exclusive “Timelines” toy which is repainted from the Movie line deluxe figure Terradive and seems like an appropriate Cybertronian form for him.  It is even armed with an outrageous Aquaman-esque trident!

Wait, I thought Depth Charge was supposed to be Batman…?

14. Repugnus (G1)
First Appearance- Transformers: The Headmasters episode # 5- “Rebellion On Planet Beast” (1987)

The Monsterbots- Grotusque, Doublecross, and Repugnus, always seemed like they were originally intended by Hasbro to be replacements for the Dinobots.  The Dinobots were no longer on toy shelves by 1987, but kids were still hungry for some big scary beast guys on the Autobots’ side.  The Monsterbots were introduced and well... they never really took off for the most part.  They were in three episodes of the Japanese Headmasters cartoon (actually, only Doublecross featured without the other two in one of those episodes), never showed up in animation outside of their commercial in the West, and only sporadically appeared in the Marvel comic, usually in larger group scenes.  They had a few other cameo appearances here and there, but until the IDW comics, the Monsterbots were never really given a substantial opportunity to be in the spotlight.

You would think that Grotusque, the winged saber-toothed tiger, or Doublecross, the two-headed dragon, would catch my eye as a kid, but no... it was bright red-and-yellow giant-headed bug-monster Repugnus that I was interested in.  His bizarre bug-monster form just seemed simultaneously vicious and funny-looking, and his “McDonald’s” color scheme in robot mode weirdly appealed to me.

After reading his various bio write-ups over the years, whether it was in Marvel’s Transformers Universe or Dreamwave’s More Than Meets The Eye profile books, I also appreciated Repugnus as a character too.  Here was a guy who crossed every line, who did all the dirty work, who was an Autobot in name only.  Like I mentioned in Hardhead’s entry on this list, Autobots who didn’t exactly fit the “Heroic” qualifier weren’t so common years back, so Repugnus sounded like a pretty unique and cool character to me.  I really wanted some writer to use him in that murky, ugly capacity in some actual fiction one day, and eventually Simon Furman did to some extent in the IDW “Maximum Dinobots” mini-series.  There, the Monsterbots were a mercenary team with a reputation so foul that even the anarchic Dinobots were wary of having dealings with them.  Furman even made Repugnus the leader of the team, even though Grotusque has traditionally had the highest rank.  Nowadays, the Monsterbots have rejoined the larger Autobot cause and are part of the crew of the spaceship Lost Light, although James Roberts has yet to do anything significant with them.

I never owned an original Repugnus toy of my own, but a friend of mine did and I got to play with him on several occasions when I was younger.  His “spark-blasting” gimmick was sadly broken by the time I got my hands on him, so I never got to experience its incendiary magnificence.  My fellow Fanhole Derek assures me that the actual spark-blasting was nowhere near as... evident as was showcased in the Monsterbots’ original toy commercial.

Repugnus has had several other toys over the years, including a recolor of Beast Era toy Buzzclaw and a Titan Master mini-figure with a small version of his bug-monster form to ride in.  There’s also a ridiculously-chunky third party option, but honestly... I’d really love a whole-new Repugnus toy based on Nick Roche’s IDW design as seen above.  He’s just adorably-ugly... he's a-dugly.

13. Dirge (G1)
First Appearance- The Transformers episode # 31- “Dinobot Island, Part 2” (1985)

One of the second-year Decepticon jets, Dirge was always my favorite “Seeker” overall.  It was mostly because he had my favorite color scheme out of the six of them, but I actually had to ask my mom what the heck a “dirge” even WAS after I was first introduced to the character.  I was smart enough at that age to piece together that Ramjet rammed and Thrust ahhh...thrusted, but Dirge was kind of a mystery to me.  I remember my mom said the word meant “a sad song you play when someone dies” and I must have thought that was cool even at the age of six or seven years old.  Reading Dirge’s Marvel Transformers Universe profile certainly made him sound pretty cool, what with him able to draw out people’s deepest fears by broadcasting a special sonic frequency.  It seemed like a much better special ability to have than Dirge’s fellow “Conehead” jets.

I still think to this day that “Dirge” is a pretty awesome name for a bad guy, and I grew to like the character in general over the years.  Dirge’s usual deal was trying to appear gloomy and mysterious.  Voiced distinctly by actor Bud Davis in the original cartoon, he’d say eerie things like “Death comes to those who cross me” and “Let’s teach the humans a lesson in sorrow.”  However, the actual fact of the matter was that Dirge was kind of a screw-up and only projected his dreary persona to appear badass and cool to his buddies.  I could easily sympathize with the notion of trying too hard to impress your peers as a kid, so Dirge’s characterization spoke to me.  I also tend to be drawn to the depressing characters in Transformers, as you’ve probably seen on this list already with Dead End, Dreadwind, and Darkwing... and will see again.

Despite his desired image, Dirge’s most enduring trait in fiction is probably his bad luck.  It’s a running gag among the fandom that his doom-laden name applies mostly to HIMSELF and his tendency to get wrecked or die a lot across multiple continuities.  Dirge was basically the proto-Waspinator, although that notion has only caught on in relatively-recent years.  He just looked too cool and had too much fan cred just by virtue of being a Seeker for most people to notice he was being trashed on a fairly consistent basis.

Dirge does get some respect on occasion- in the Dreamwave Armada comics, he was even selected as a herald of the dark god Unicron alongside such Decepticon heavyweights as Galvatron, Thunderwing, and Bludgeon.  One would imagine his fear-causing ability would aid in their destabilization of planets prior to Unicron’s arrival.  Dirge has also received some nice character development in the IDW comics under John Barber in recent years.  With the Autobot/Decepticon conflict more or less ceased and Cybertron enjoying a somewhat-stable period of peace, Dirge could finally drop his wartime facade and just focus on living a “normal” life.  He even opposes the eventual return of Megatron and the possible restart of hostilities, taking a point-blank fusion cannon blast for his defiance, as seen above.  In the aftermath, Dirge finally sees no need to keep up appearances with his old “friend” Starscream anymore.

Being a Seeker, Dirge has had tons of toys over the years.  Whenever one new Seeker figure is released, you know it’s basically only a matter of time before it is repainted/retooled into Dirge and all the others.  My favorite Dirge figure is probably his Deluxe-Class Generations release- a perfect modern remake of his original G1 toy.  He’s even getting a Masterpiece figure very soon, obviously repainted and retooled from Masterpiece Starscream.  Just be careful; toy-casting factory molds for Seekers are used and re-used so many times that by the time that the companies decide to produce Dirge, the mold has degraded.  Thus, the resulting figures might be more fragile and liable to break than the initial releases.  Do try to handle your Dirge figures with care... he’s suffered enough already.

12. Nightbeat (G1)
First Appearance- Transformers Comic-Magazine # 2 text story “Attack at Dawn” (1989)

The Autobot detective Nightbeat first rose to prominence under Simon Furman, who used him heavily in both the US and UK Marvel comics of the day.  Furman was obviously enamored with the detective/crime genre in fiction, because he latched on to the character and made sure Nightbeat was either the focus or front-and-center in virtually every story in which he appeared.  His repeated exposure and Furman gifting him with so many of the best lines and moments in stories quickly translated to the fans latching onto him too, and it was the same with me.  Nightbeat was clever, driven, quick with a wisecrack, and just plain likable.  Plus... is a good fictional detective guy ever not fun to read about or watch?  Sherlock Holmes, Columbo, The Question, Rorschach… even Batman; Nightbeat is certainly in good company.

Part of the fun of Nightbeat came with partnering him up with various other Autobots too, sometimes giving him one or more “Watsons” to go along with his Sherlock routine.  His original partners were fellow Autobot Headmasters Siren and Hosehead, who were usually unwillingly dragged along into certain danger as Nightbeat doggedly pursued a case.  Although he’s a lone operator by nature, Nightbeat never failed to make use of his less-than-enthusiastic teammates.

In the Transformers “Timelines” comic that came packaged with Nightbeat’s exclusive Fan Club toy, he even found himself leading a sort of team.  Along with Siren, the Nebulans Muzzle, Lug, and Quig, the human Minerva, and the Dinobots Slag and Sludge acting as muscle, Nightbeat had something of a roaming detective agency that sprung up around him.  In “Regeneration One,” another of the many follow-ups to the original Marvel US comic, Nightbeat and Bumblebee acted quite effectively as an investigative unit charged by Rodimus Prime to look into the history of the mysterious Transformer Jhiaxus.  In IDW continuity, Nightbeat has partnered with Hardhead (that didn’t end well- just read Hardhead’s entry on this list) and conscripted the psychologist Rung to act as his “assistant” on a quest to discover the mystery at the center of a hollow planet.  Nightbeat’s IDW incarnation is his most-current self, and James Roberts has done a nice job evoking the Benedict Cumberbatch version of Sherlock Holmes in him.

Nightbeat’s had a handful of toys…  his G1 toy is really only notable for being repainted and repurposed as a female character over in Japan and having a head design that is almost never used in fiction.  When Nightbeat and Siren’s original character models were being drawn-up, someone accidentally switched the toys’ heads... so Nightbeat almost always appeared with Siren’s head in fiction and vice-versa.  The “shades” that covered Siren’s eyes have since become one of Nightbeat’s physical trademarks, and most new toys of him will duplicate that.

His exclusive Fan Club toy was the reason I joined the Club that year... just to get my hands on a new Nightbeat!  Never mind that it was retooled and repainted from the crummy Energon Hot Shot mold... the fact that it was Nightbeat was enough for me.  The new head for it didn’t have Nightbeat’s antennae “ears”, so I had to rig-up some out of small G.I.Joe guns to glue to the sides.  I even used a hat and cloth trench coat from an old Toy Biz Marvel figure of the Thing to recreate Nightbeat’s look from the main picture of this entry... and to make some people laugh.

The Fan Club Nightbeat toy became obsolete when he got a new retail release in the “Generations” line some years later.  I ended up buying a third party upgrade kit for it to make him look more like his current IDW design.  Nightbeat also recently got a “Titan Master” mini-figure, with a head sculpt that mirrors his original non-mistake unvisored face.  I don’t mind that the Generations toy can’t interact with the Titan Master officially... I just consider the Titan Master a new figure of his original Headmaster partner, Muzzle!

The fact of the matter is that I’ll probably buy any new toy of Nightbeat that Hasbro puts out in the future.  I just have that built-in affection for the guy that many share, and I’d love to see him in an actual animated series one day.  Why hasn’t Hasbro pushed his obviously-popular character more into the public consciousness?  Sounds to me... like a mystery.

11. Razorbeast
First Appearance- Beast Wars two-pack mini-comic “Optimus Primal VS Megatron!” (1996)

I first saw Razorbeast as a toy on a peg, alongside Rattrap.  The first two episodes of the Beast Wars cartoon had aired on TV as a “special preview” already, but the actual series run was a few months away from starting.  I was unsure what to make of Beast Wars at that point, but I did enjoy the first two episodes and really had no idea at that point when or if there would be more.  I was at a retail store with my mom, my mom’s friend and her daughter.  My mom said I could get a figure, so I obviously chose Rattrap, as I had seen him on TV.  The daughter of my mom’s friend wasn’t really into Transformers, but if I was getting a toy, then clearly she should too!  Her mom let her get something and she picked Razorbeast.  Of course, dumb twelve-year old me totally missed this as a signal that she liked me and was trying to relate to me, but I had no time for love, Doctor Jones... not when there were new Transformers to be played with!  I haven’t talked to that girl in years, but I still have that Rattrap.  Ah, first love…

Ahem.  Well, in whatever case, I never got a Razorbeast.  That girl did, my best friend did, my cousins did... but I didn’t.  Why would I?  I looked at him and saw Pumbaa from The Lion King.  A warthog was hardly what I considered a cool beast mode and he wasn’t on the TV show so Razorbeast was an easy skip for me.  Fast-forward to 2006, and Simon Furman decides to use Razorbeast as the main character in his Beast Wars “The Gathering” IDW comic mini-series.  Furman admitted in an interview at the time that he initially selected the character based on the fact that he thought the name “Razorbeast” sounded cool, and he had no idea what the toy looked like or what it turned into until later.  He even said that he might have picked a different main character if he had seen Razorbeast’s toy beforehand.

Thankfully, artist and Transformers designing-machine extraordinaire Don Figueroa took was what a pretty dull and clumsy-looking figure and made Razorbeast look fairly dynamic in the comic.  Helping even more was Furman’s actual portrayal of the diminutive Maximal in his story; Razorbeast was a deep-cover espionage agent who had infiltrated the Predacon general Magmatron’s inner circle.  Once he discovers Magmatron’s plan, he breaks cover and attempts to gather some scattered Maximal allies in order to put a stop to it.  With nothing but his wits, some tech savvy, and a whole lot of on-the-fly improvisation, Razorbeast usually managed to stay one step ahead of more physically impressive foes like Magmatron.

Razorbeast is a total pro and despite his unassuming stature, garners respect from his allies and enemies alike through his tenacity and refusal to accept defeat.  The Maximals that flocked to his side in “The Gathering” quickly come to consider him their leader, and his word is enough to get Maximal commander Lio Convoy to scramble his special operations unit “The Pack” to come from Cybertron and across time periods to Razorbeast’s assistance on prehistoric Earth.  Razorbeast even stares down old veterans like Ravage alone and not only fails to flinch... but smart-asses the former Decepticon.

Yeah, he was a pretty cool dude in both “The Gathering” and its follow-up series “The Ascending"...  where he unfortunately met his end.  Infected by the rage-inducing poison Angolmois by one of the dark god Unicron’s heralds, Razorbeast was ultimately put down by his own comrades before he could lose total control and attack them.  It was a tragic end to a likable hero, but at least he managed to help take a few of Unicron’s followers down with him before succumbing entirely to the Angolmois-rage.  If you look at the panel just before Razorbeast is infected with Angolmois, you can just barely see him shoving his pal Snarl (who made an appearance on this list earlier) out of the way before the attack comes.  This action goes completely unremarked on in the comic, which seems utterly fitting for the character of Razorbeast; something small that few people notice, yet has deep significance.

After reading Razorbeast’s adventures in these comics, I quickly rectified my past indifference and grabbed a loose figure of him off eBay.  He was... relatively-expensive, if I recall- another recipient of the “Furman Effect” where an old character receives some new focus in fiction years later and suddenly their toy is popular again!  Razorbeast is undoubtedly one of the most significant examples of this.  His original toy isn’t half-bad either... but I certainly wouldn’t say no to a new representation of Razorbeast in some future line.

Oh, and... Will Smith knew how cool Razorbeast was before anyone.







Friday, June 2, 2017

Fanholes Comic Books Mutha@#$%! Do You Read 'Em #10: Wonder Woman Tie-In Episode!

A Brand New Fanholes Podcast Spin-Off Show! Comic Books Mutha@#$%! Do You Read 'Em?!? Mike, Derek and Justin discuss some Wonder Womaan Graphic Novels! In honor of the release of the feature film Wonder Woman, in the first half of the show, they talk Grant Morrison's Wonder Woman: Earth One! In the second half they talk Wonder Woman: The True Amazon by Jill Thompson! Check it out!

Fanholes Comic Books Mutha@#$%! Do You Read 'Em #10: Wonder Woman Tie-In Episode!

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Fanholes Episode # 164: Moo Mesa Revival

In the first half of the show, Tony, Mike, Justin and Derek discuss the Netflix Original Animated Series, Voltron Legendary Defender, from DreamWorks Animation and World Events Productions.

Then, Mike and Derek take a lengthy break in a 'Fanholes Figure That!' segment to go over some of their most wanted Marvel Legends!

Finally, Mike and Derek wrap up the episode discussing the recently concluded revival of Samurai Jack! Check it out!

Fanholes Episode # 164: Moo Mesa Revival

Monday, May 29, 2017

Mike's Top 50 Favorite Transformers Characters Part 3: 30-21

30. Bombshell (G1)
First Appearance- The Transformers episode # 15- “A Plague of Insecticons” (1984)

Bombshell is my favorite Insecticon and I can remember really wanting his original toy back when I was much younger.  The closest I ever got for awhile was a trading card of him that featured his toy’s box art, which you can see above.  In the early nineties, I traded an X-Men action figure to a friend for his G1 Bombshell...but then near-immediately traded back the next day because the Bombshell was so rusty and loose that it was basically a marionette.  Still, I have always liked his character design and his distinct gimmick in fiction- the mind-controlling cerebro-shells.

A couple of my cherished childhood Transformers books both revolved around Bombshell using his cerebro-shells to wreak havoc on the Autobots; the painted storybook “Insecticon Attack” and the Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novel “Dinobots Strike Back” to be specific.  “Insecticon Attack” in particular featured some creepy visuals and frightened me a bit as a child.  Just look at Grapple’s cold, dead eyes! THEY FOLLOW YOU EVERYWHERE!!!


Bombshell’s voice actor on the original Sunbow cartoon, Michael Bell, always nailed it when it came to that character.  For many of his other characters, Bell would often vary in pitch and performance depending on the episode.  Sideswipe and Scrapper immediately come to mind in terms of this, as sometimes his Sideswipe would sound like his Prowl and sometimes his Scrapper would sound like Prowl...or even Bombshell (seriously, listen to Scrapper in “The Core”, Bell is totally doing his Bombshell voice there!)  However, he always remained consistent with Bombshell himself and the odd effects added to all the Insecticons' voices were very memorable.

In retrospect, my appreciation for Bombshell seems almost like a precursor to my attachment to the Beast Wars character Tarantulas, who is in fact farther up this list.  Bombshell and Tarantulas are both mad scientist bug-guys with creepy voices who sometimes pursue their own agendas in defiance of their leaders and deal in mind-altering “shells”, whether they be the cerebro-shells or the “shell program” that converts Maximals into Predacons.  More than once I wondered if Bombshell could have possibly become Tarantulas in the future...but it’s probably best that they remain separate characters.  Besides, Bombshell already has enough identity problems with fans alternately thinking he was transformed by Unicron into Cyclonus, a Sweep, or “Cyclonus’ armada” in Transformers: The Movie.

Bombshell's most recent Legends Class figure is a pretty good updating of his original toy, and I wouldn't say no to any other new, more-complex versions of him.  Even a version of his “Fall of Cybertron” video game design, despite it being tailored as a bulky “bruiser”-type character, would be cool.

29. Bruticus (G1)
First Appearance- The Transformers episode # 62- “Starscream’s Brigade” (1986)

The Combaticons are altogether my favorite combiner team and Bruticus is my favorite gestalt, so it's nice how that works out!  They debuted in a memorable episode of the original cartoon as a sort of “third faction” led by Starscream as he attempted a coup against Megatron.  The Combaticons combine into Bruticus towards the end of the episode and quickly prove their “new character cred” by completely flattening last year’s model combiner- Devastator.  Only a sneak attack by Menasor defeats Bruticus in the end, and Starscream and the Combaticons are exiled to deep space.  In one of the few non-two-parter stories that still maintained continuity from the last episode, “The Revenge of Bruticus” immediately follows up on the group as they attempt to conquer Cybertron and destroy Earth.

Thanks to so much screen-time and their status as a threat to both the Autobots and Decepticons, the Combaticons made an impression on many, myself included.  Bruticus himself, while not a deep character by any means, was a menacing presence in those first two episodes featuring him and lived up to his status as a gestalt super-warrior.  Of course, after the “new toy smell” had worn off, Bruticus and the Combaticons fell in line with Megatron and became like any other standard Decepticon sub-group.  Bruticus really has some embarrassing follow-up appearances on the cartoon, particularly the dreadful episode “B.O.T.”- where he’s destroyed by a SINGLE SHOT from his Autobot opposite number Defensor.  Still, he had a memorably-rumbly voice- the late great Roger C. Carmel, known to Star Trek fans as space con-man Harry Mudd.

I've always dug Bruticus’ design, although the Floro Dery character model kind of fails at emphasizing its coolest design cues in animation or in the Marvel comics.  Bruticus always looks cooler when an artist hews closer to the original toy’s sharper and more defined angles.  Having many of the individual Combaticons’ alt-mode weapons and attributes prominently displayed on Bruticus’ body gave him a much more menacing silhouette than the other Decepticon gestalts of the day to me.  In fact, Onslaught’s backpack cannons and Vortex’s rotor blades were sometimes utilized by Bruticus as integrated weapons in the combined form.

Bruticus is also a highlight of the G1-inspired Fall of Cybertron video game.  After playing levels as Vortex and Swindle, the Combaticons combine into Bruticus and you’re given control of the most powerful character in the game.  You’re virtually unkillable as Bruticus, with multiple layers of health and shield, and all of his singular attacks are devastating to the smaller enemies in your path.  It’s one of, if not THE funnest level in the campaign, and it lasts for far too brief a time.  The Combaticons in general come off as pretty cool in that game, and they’ve even got some play-time in the somewhat-inferior follow-up game “Rise of the Dark Spark” as well.

The original Combaticons/Bruticus toy molds are known for their longevity, being repainted, retooled, and re-released many times over the years.  I’ve owned at least two versions of the original Bruticus mold, but I’m always tempted to pick him up again when he’s reissued, having a lot of fondness for those toys.  The most current Combiner Wars Combaticons are pretty excellent remakes of the originals...although I had to spring for the Japanese “Unite Warriors” version of them to get the as-of-yet unreleased in the USA shuttle-mode Blast Off.  There’s tons of other official and third-party options for this overall concept too.  Basically, you’re never going to want for options when it comes to Bruticus in toy form and I think that says a lot for his popularity.

28. Chromedome (G1)
First Appearance- Marvel Transformers: Headmasters # 1 (1987) 

One of the original Autobot Headmasters, Chromedome has had some really disparate portrayals across the various G1 continuities.  He was present, but not very prominent in either the Marvel comics or the Sunbow cartoon.  He was, however, virtually the main character of the Japanese Headmasters cartoon, and currently has a HUGE presence in the fandom's collective eyes thanks to IDW’s comics.  I’ve always liked Chromedome’s basic character design, but what initially caught my interest in regards to him was reading his Marvel Transformers Universe profile.  Chromedome’s given occupation as a computer programmer must have come at just the right time for me.  I think my family had only recently gotten our first home computer and I was pretty enthralled with it.  Reading that Universe profile in the back of Marvel issue # 48 seemed to confirm for me that maybe this “computer” thing was catching on!  Never mind that I read the issue probably about five years after it was actually published...

When I finally got to watch bootlegs of the Japanese Headmasters series years after that, I was kind of disappointed by the fact that Chromedome just seemed to be your standard young and brash dime-a-dozen anime protagonist dude who won the day with BURNING SPIRIT and whathaveyou.  It was the bizarre “Billy and Sparkle” English dub I watched too, so of course...I couldn't take it all that seriously at the time.  However, nowadays I can fully appreciate that dub for being a work of comic genius, and the voice actors’ harried and inept line readings put a smile on my face every time I watch any given clip of it.

Thankfully in modern times, James Roberts has given Chromedome a starring role in the IDW comics, and spent a lot of time making him a rich, complex character.  Also, he's given him an occupation that's a lot more specific and unique than just “computer programmer”.  IDW Chromedome is a “mnemosurgeon”- a specialist in memory retrieval and alternation, with abilities that have proven to be both a blessing and a curse for him.  His relationship with Rewind, his “Conjunx Endura” (the Transformer equivalent of a spouse), provided many of the most touching moments in Roberts’ continuing run of stories.

I’ve never owned Chromedome’s original toy, but the recent “Titans Return” deluxe figure is a pretty good modern version of it.  His body is based on the G1 figure, but I'm happy that Hasbro went with artist Alex Milne's version of Chromedome's face, and not the original toy/Japanese animation model with two optics instead of a visor.  The Titans Return toy IS a bit stout for my liking- Chromedome’s usually portrayed as a bit lankier.  I wouldn’t say no to another new toy version of him that is based more on Milne’s more jazzed-up body design.  I’m sure Rewind prefers that look for “Domey” too.

27. Brawn (G1)
First Appearance- Marvel Transformers US issue # 1 (1984)

Plan “B” stands for “BRAWN”.

The above series of panels from the first issue of Dreamwave’s Transformers: Generation One ongoing series is the perfect encapsulation of Brawn as a character.  He’s a scrappy little tough guy who is much stronger than he looks and routinely takes on far superior foes while delivering some macho quips.  In fact, the Fanholes once crowned Brawn “King of the season 1 cartoon one-liners”.  Whether he’s asking if anyone is interested in a magazine subscription in a room full of Decepticons or warning them to “prepare for a very large headache”, Brawn always has some snappy wisecrack to drop just before clobbering his enemies.

Brawn was usually everyone's buddy (except maybe Perceptor, and even then Brawn warmed up to him eventually!) and a reliable teammate on the battlefield.  Unlike his fellow Mini-Bots Gears and Huffer, Brawn never came off as whiny or annoying, or even as abrasive as Cliffjumper.  I was always happy to see him tagging along with any random assortment of Autobots.  Brawn just livened up the scene whenever he showed up on the original cartoon, and that’s in no small part to the performance of his voice actor, the talented and versatile Corey Burton.

Brawn's also done a “Fastball Special” with Optimus Prime TWICE, and he played both the pitcher and ball roles!

My primary enjoyment of Brawn is primarily derived from his appearance on the cartoon, but he’s had some minor significance in the comics too, being the focus of Simon Furman’s very first written Transformers work.  “The Enemy Within” (Marvel UK # 13-17) is a somewhat-bizarre early tale, made more so by Brawn being drawn with his awkward toy-accurate design for the entire arc, rather than his more streamlined and humanoid Floro Dery character model.  Still, it has its charm and it certainly sells Brawn’s chief attribute- his overwhelming physical strength and toughness, quite well.

Speaking of toughness, Brawn is the subject of one of the earliest fandom-wide memes in Transformers.  In Transformers: The Movie, Brawn was seemingly killed by a shot from Megatron that struck him in the shoulder.  Any fan worth their salt would tell you that such a paltry wound wouldn’t be enough to kill the mighty Brawn, and thus “Brawn Lives!” became a popular rallying cry for that notion.  It would even be made manifest to a degree in official canon, as Brawn’s later death by apparent atomization in the Generation 2-era comics would be retconned-away years after in the Botcon Universe comics.  In those convention-exclusive stories, Brawn is shown to have been teleported away by Unicron the instant before he was destroyed to participate in the so-called “Universe War”.  This would have led to an exclusive Brawn figure retooled from Energon Strongarm at the following year’s convention...but sadly those plans were canceled.

Thankfully, Brawn’s got several good options for toys at present.  He’s a popular choice for third-party companies to make their own versions of, but Brawn’s most current official “Titans Return” Legends-class figure is pretty damned perfect.  It captures his cartoon self beautifully, and his roof detaches to become an arm-mounted shield (you know, to protect that pesky Achilles shoulder!)  Brawn’s also been given a smaller “Titan Master” toy- a miniature version of himself that can even ride inside the larger Legends figure.  Yes; Brawn can drive Brawn, and don’t worry; HE’LL get the door!

26. Dead End (G1)
First Appearance- The Transformers episode # 56- “The Key To Vector Sigma, Part 1” (1985)

What’s the point in telling you about Dead End?  He’s my favorite Stunticon, but that isn’t saying much- they’re all a bunch of crazies and uncultured thugs.  Dead End at least likes to keep himself looking good, so he “leaves an attractive corpse”.  I guess that’s a positive attribute...to be the prettiest weed among the weeds.  Dead End’s voice actor on the original cartoon, Philip Clarke, did infuse him with a lot of personality with his subtle and nuanced performance.  And now he’s dead.

I always did prefer Dead End’s Floro Dery head design with the visor and mouthplate over the regular-faced toy design...because why would anyone want to look at those perpetually-down-turned features?  It’s a good thing the recent “Combiner Wars” Dead End figure went with that design.  It’s almost like the designers CARED about Dead End’s feelings or something, but that’s impossible.  That toy’s a passable update of the original Dead End, but once he had a toy in the “Alternators” line that was just a repainted Sunstreaker.  What a cruel joke...Sunstreaker can actually back up his vanities.  Dead End also received a couple of Movie line homage toys...that both looked more like his fellow Stunticon Wildrider.  Typical.

It’s notable that the only significant time in canon that Dead End was truly optimistic was BEFORE he actually became a Decepticon…

That’s from his brief cameo in IDW’s Megatron: Origin # 3 and look; that homage-stealing putz Wildrider is already trying to take the wind out of his sails.  From the very beginning, all of Dead End’s dreams were stomped on and now he is nothing more than the bleeding wreckage of their shattered remains.

Would it be insensitive to say that I find Dead End’s attitude kind of funny?  That I can sometimes relate to mopey people with obsessive-compulsive worries about their physical appearance and when I liken myself to such a person, I feel better by comparison?  It probably is a little mean, but when you get right down to it...the sun is going to burn out in a few billion years anyhow.

Just face it; we’re DOOMED.

25. Megatron (Animated)
First Appearance- Transformers Animated episode # 1- “Transform and Roll Out, Part 1” (2007)

When you ask most Transformers fans who their favorite incarnation of Megatron is, about 90% of them will likely say either “G1” or “Beast Wars”.  However, this is MY favorite version of Megatron, and it’s because I think he merges the best attributes of both the G1 and Beast Wars versions...and the whole is even greater than the sum of its parts.  Animated Megatron is dangerous, resourceful, articulate, cold yet charismatic..and he managed to be all that while remaining nothing more than a damaged, decapitated head for the first third of the series.

Animated Megatron is every bit the smooth talker that BW Megs was, expertly manipulating the human scientist Issac Sumdac into doing his bidding and eventually facilitating his restoration to full health.  Whereas most of BW Megatron’s handful of followers are only loyal to him because of stupidity, brainwashing, or enslavement, Animated Megatron inspires genuine fealty in an entire army of Decepticons who truly believe him to be the foremost freedom fighter of their cause.  And he can easily sway those on the fence, like the Constructicons, to his side by sheer force of personality and some canny charm.

Like his G1 self, Animated Megatron wields a powerful fusion cannon and can dominate lesser combatants with his overwhelming physical strength.  UN-like G1 Megatron, this Megatron disposed of his treacherous lieutenant Starscream after the FIRST instance of betrayal.  Even though Starscream managed to miraculously survive this, he remained at odds with Megatron for the remainder of the series, with the two only working together when forced by circumstance.  When Starscream first returned, resurrected by a life-giving AllSpark fragment, Megatron immediately killed him again...and again...and again...in a murderous montage that is one of the funniest scenes of the entire show.

A very big part of why Animated Megatron is so cool is his prolific voice actor- Corey Burton, whom I’ve mentioned before in this list and will mention again.  A returning performer from the original cartoon, as well as numerous other animated projects, Burton gets to show off his unbelievable range once again in voicing Megatron, Ratchet, and Shockwave in this series.  He lends Megatron a palpable sense of icy menace, as well as a weathered-but-lasting pride in his Decepticon heritage and cause.  The Decepticons of Animated even have their own rallying cry to mirror the Autobots' "Transform and roll out!", a variation that is entirely fitting on multiple levels and which Corey Burton's Megatron always delivers with due gravitas- "Transform and RISE UP!!!"

This older, almost wearier-sounding Megatron has inspired many fans to “hear” Corey Burton’s voice in their heads when reading the current version of G1 Megatron in IDW’s comics.  Just listen to this interpretation of a scene from IDW’s More Than Meets The Eye comic by talented fan Chris McFeely and hear how perfectly it fits-

Megatron’s had several toys in the Animated toyline, including two of his original Cybertronian design.  They’re okay, but if you can instantly tell which end of his spaceship mode is supposed to be the front, you’re a far better judge of alien vehicle modes than I.  Megatron’s also got a beautiful Leader-Class figure that captures his Earthen form to a tee.  It has Corey Burton-voiced sound clips that activate when you press down on its head and various other cool sound effects.  Megatron’s mouth even moves when you press down on the head, so you can do impressions of him talking while doing that...not that I've ever done it...ahem ahurm ahah

24. Darkwing and Dreadwind
First Appearance- Marvel Transformers US # 42 (1988)

There are numerous duo-acts in the Transformers universe...two characters connected either by toy gimmick, family bond, or some other reason.  Sometimes it’s hard to imagine one character without the other, and that’s the case here with Darkwing and Dreadwind.  They get to share this spot on my list because these two guys ought to never be separated.

Both of them have miserable attitudes, but Dreadwind usually turns that unhappiness on himself, whereas Darkwing wants to share their misery with others.  It seems like the only kicks they get are spreading sorrow...or wallowing in their own.  In the Marvel UK comics, there is even a short strip of them getting utterly sloshed together at Maccadam’s Old Oil House as they lament being hunted by the metal-eating Mecannibals.  I happen to like the more cynical and depressing characters in the Transformers universe (as mentioned in Dead End’s entry) and this pair of buddies united in their total dedication to the bleak side of existence have always provided some laughs for me.

I found it kind of offensive to my sensibilities when writer Mike Costa cavalierly killed Dreadwind off during his run in IDW comics, and even further- implied that Darkwing had abandoned his partner to die.  Never mind being unfaithful to their portrayals in previous continuities, this didn’t even seem to jibe with Simon Furman’s earlier work in the IDW universe.  In the mini-series “Transformers: Stormbringer”, Darkwing is in charge of a Decepticon unit on planet Nebulos that finds itself facing down the monstrously-powerful Thunderwing.  Before deciding to take Thunderwing on, we get this little character moment for the duo that nicely showcases their “bromance”.

No matter how it shakes out, Darkwing and Dreadwind are leaving together.  It would be almost touching if they weren’t leaving the rest of their team to hang.  Mike Costa also referred to Darkwing and Dreadwind as “brothers” in his story, which I think is kind of a misread of their relationship.  I prefer to think of this duo as two dudes who are only friends because of their shared “glass half-empty” philosophy and that no one else would tolerate their company.

Darkwing and Dreadwind have fairly solid G1 Powermaster toys, and they have received more modern figures in recent years...although the last Darkwing was just a repaint and the last Dreadwind was a Botcon exclusive that is ridiculously expensive on the aftermarket now.  These last toys were fairly out-of-scale with one another and couldn’t really “interact” as their old figures did.  Darkwing and Dreadwind are way overdue for some new toys- ones that replicate the combined “superjet” gimmick of their originals.  The Generation 2 Dreadwing stealth bomber figure was repurposed in the Marvel G2 comics as a new body for Darkwing, and he even comes with a new partner jet- Smokescreen, to combine with.  Those figures are some of my personal favorite Transformers toys ever, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want new versions of the originals.

The current “Titans Return” line is heavily poaching from Darkwing and Dreadwind’s original era of figures, so you’d think they would be on a short-list for new versions.  However, as of this writing- nothing yet.  I guess that’s just Darkwing and Dreadwind’s luck.

23. Ironhide (Movie)
First Appearance- Transformers: Ghosts of Yesterday novel (2007)

Much like I wrote in my entry for Movie Starscream, this is a case where the original G1 character never really struck a chord with me.  I actually always kind of found G1 Ironhide to be pretty obnoxious in the Sunbow cartoon.  Too overly-folksy, I guess...and I was always questioning why Optimus Prime would sometimes listen to Ironhide’s advice when more-qualified people like Prowl and Jazz were in the room.  However, Movie Ironhide is kind of a blend of several different G1 characters, and that mixture actually makes him more appealing to me.

Movie Ironhide obviously has G1 Ironhide’s name and usual role as Optimus Prime’s close friend and battlefield second.  His mentor/student relationship with Sideswipe and his general “been there, done that” attitude has echoes of G1 Kup, and he does turn into a pickup truck.  Finally, his love of guns and heavy artillery makes him a lot like G1 Roadbuster, who is farther up on this very list.  I also dig Movie Ironhide’s character design and black color scheme- he just looks badass, and he has some of the best action beats in the live action films.

Like with most Movie-verse characters, the tie-in fiction fleshes Ironhide out much more than the actual films, as we see in the IDW mini-series "Defiance".  In the pre-war days, when Cybertron was split among multiple tribes and factions, Ironhide was a “Thetacon”- a mortal enemy of Sentinel Prime and his followers.  Once Sentinel Prime proved able to recharge the AllSpark and revitalize Cybertron, the Thetacons formed an alliance with his faction, and Ironhide became their chief representative.  Ironhide became acquainted with Sentinel’s chief science officer Optimus and was employed by the Cybertronian Defense Force under Megatron.  When Megatron forged the Defense Force into the Decepticons and began the Great War, Ironhide decided that he had no interest in conquest and joined the Autobots, now under Optimus’ leadership.  It was Ironhide’s experience with soldiering and combat that helped shaped Optimus’ group of scientists and civilians into a force that could fight back against the Decepticons.

Ironhide’s Thetacon heritage added an extra layer to his eventual betrayal and murder at the hands of the revived Sentinel Prime in the third film.  Sentinel had expressed a disdain for the Thetacon tribe despite them allying with him in the past, and in the IDW comic adaptation of Dark of the Moon, even coldly adds “I never did like your kind” as he is dispensing with Ironhide.  It was a sad end for the character, but it was an effective moment in the film at least, and evocative of G1 Ironhide’s death in Transformers: The Movie.

Like most of the Movie-verse main cast, Ironhide’s had tons of toys across multiple size-classes.  His original Voyager-Class figure is a bit fidgety, but fairly decent and has been reused and retooled many times.  My favorite version of Movie Ironhide in toy form is the “Recon” Voyager variant, which comes with an absolute arsenal of spare weapons, including hunting knives and a massive crossbow.  It was actually the first figure to utilize the “C-joint” connectors that have since become widespread across several Transformers toylines and allows for multiple weapons to be attached or swapped among different figures.  Ironhide’s also got solid toys at smaller and larger price-points; although I’ve never owned the Leader-Class figure, I hear good things.  You certainly have your options with Mr. TopKick here, up to and including the actual gas-guzzling beast of a pickup truck he transforms into on-screen.

On a final note, Ironhide is infamous for having blown up the planet Kaiba-5, as mentioned by Optimus Prime in the ‘07 Transformers film tie-in video game.  “That hunk of rock was going to blow up anyway,” Ironhide assures us.  What a rascal.

22. Ratbat (G1)
First Appearance- Scramble City: Mobilization (1986) 

Ratbat is usually one of Soundwave’s “Mini-Cassettes” or “Recordicons” or whatever you want to call them.  You know; the tape guys that launch out of Soundwave when he hits the button on his shoulder.  He was significant for being the first new cassette character after the initial batch in the first year of Transformers.  While US audiences were first introduced to him in Transformers: The Movie, Ratbat actually first appeared on-screen in the Japanese exclusive animated special “Scramble City.”  In most animated stuff, Ratbat was pretty much the same as Soundwave’s other flying minions, Laserbeak and Buzzsaw...except they’re birds and he’s a bat.  Those guys were treated as robot animals for the most part, with zero opportunity for characterization or development.  They went “squawk squawk” or “squeak squeak” and that was the end of it.

However, in the Marvel comics, all those “animals” were fully-realized characters with actual dialogue and the like.  And as any knowledgeable Transformers fan will tell you...one of the most bizarre things about the original Marvel comic was that Ratbat was the main Decepticon leader for a not-inconsiderable stint of time.  He even did a pretty good job, coming close to completely wiping out the Autobots when they were gathered on the moon to watch Grimlock and Blaster battle for leadership in Marvel US # 41, one of my personal favorite issues of all time.  And one time he toppled the towering Autobot commander Fortress Maximus over.  Ratbat really likes punching above his weight class!

Ratbat also once uhhh...opened a car wash...but it was OF DOOM!  The carwash scheme was to brainwash humans into stealing fuel for the Decepticons, and it was kind of foretelling of Ratbat’s future leadership style.  After taking command, Ratbat had his Decepticons open and staff “Club Con”- an island vacation resort for humans which was just a front to distract the Autobots from a search in the nearby waters to locate some ancient- ehhhhhh, y’know...it doesn’t matter.  CLUB FREAKIN’ CON.

Ratbat was basically an accountant or high-level business executive trying to run an army, and despite his successes, he was pretty bad with people.  You just know that under Ratbat, the Decepticons probably had to deal with relentless memos, efficiency evaluations, and meetings that involved spreadsheets, pie charts and line graphs.  Ratbat promoted the treacherous Starscream to second-in-command, and Starscream promptly betrayed him and stole the Underbase, a storehouse of vast cosmic power, out from under him.  An alliance with rival Decepticon leader Scorponok ended with Scorponok shooting Ratbat in the back and killing him, after Ratbat was dumb enough to screech his own power-hungry ambitions aloud.

Still, I and many fans retain a sort of fascination with Ratbat’s time being the leader of the Decepticons.  Writer Bob Budiansky has said that he went in that direction to confound expectations and shake things up, and the idea must have been effective to some extent, considering people still talk about it to this day.  Indeed, later G1 fiction usually makes a point of giving Ratbat a humanoid robot mode and a position of authority at some point in the past before becoming his more familiar cassette-self.  In the Dreamwave comics, he was leader of his own faction- the “Ultracons” in the past, complete with their very own Ratbat-like faction symbol.  And in the IDW comics, Ratbat was one of the corrupt members of the Cybertronian Senate that inspired Megatron to rebel and begin the Great War.  The concept of “the honorable Senator Ratbat” always amused the hell out of me.

“VOTE RATBAT! A name you can...clearly not trust.”

Ratbat's got a surprising history of having good toys. Well, his original G1 toy is a little fragile, but quite unique among its Mini-Cassette brethren.  He's got two great toy versions of his pre-cassette humanoid bodies, repainted and retooled from existing molds but still managing to be excellent representations of his past Dreamwave and IDW-selves.  His Masterpiece toy faithfully captures and updates his original design with much-improved engineering.  And of course, all of these toys are extremely fuel-efficient...just the way Ratbat likes it.

21. Sunstreaker (G1)
First Appearance- Marvel Transformers US # 1 (1984)

The above image, from the children’s storybook “The Decepticons’ Secret Weapon”, is the main picture on Sunstreaker’s TFWiki page, and rightfully so.  It perfectly sums up Sunstreaker’s main character conceit, which is...conceit.  Sunstreaker is better-looking, faster, and can fight better than you and he wants you to know it.  Ironically, about the first time I was ever properly introduced to Sunstreaker was in Marvel US # 10, as seen below.

Yeah, Sunstreaker was killed...or at least grievously maimed by Shockwave in Marvel US # 5, and he remained completely off the table in the Marvel comics all the way until Marvel US # 41...in which he was damaged AGAIN and put back into stasis.  Then he was restored by the miracle power source Nucleon in Marvel US # 74, survived the massive battle with Unicron in # 75, and was killed AGAIN in issue # 80.  At least the ancient “Last Autobot” resurrected him almost immediately after that last one, but man...Sunstreaker had NO luck in the Marvel comics.  He featured a little more across the pond in the UK comics, but he’s mostly known for having sat a HUGE chunk of Marvel in general out.

Sunstreaker had some better luck in the original cartoon, starring in several episodes and being voiced by the previously-lauded-on-this-list Corey Burton, who really played up his vanity.  You’d often hear Sunstreaker complain about something scratching his bodywork or scorching his “selenium shin-guards.”  He and his brother Sideswipe even invented an aerial martial art called “jet judo” with which to take on Decepticon fliers.

Appropriately, my eye was usually drawn to Sunstreaker due to his appearance.  He was always “that yellow Autobot who wasn’t Bumblebee” on the cartoon to me and he had a fairly-unique head design that stood out among the other Autobots.  I also did own that aforementioned children’s storybook, where Sunstreaker is captured by Devastator, forcing the Autobots to mount a rescue that involved wheeling a giant “Trojan Devastator” statue to the Decepticons’ door in order to infiltrate their base.  His scarce appearances in the Marvel comic probably also somehow added to Sunstreaker’s “mystique” to me.

Sunstreaker’s since had a good career in subsequent Transformers comics, although writers still do seem to like putting him through the wringer.  Simon Furman even made him a Headmaster in the earlier IDW comics, physically and mentally bonded to Hunter O’Nion- one of the main human characters at the time.  While this situation didn’t last for very long and was truncated by forces beyond Furman’s control, it was still an intriguing concept and could have had legs far beyond the time it did last.  The egotistical, disdainful, borderline-sociopath Sunstreaker forced to share literal head-space with a human teenager?  The story possibilities and opportunities for character development were limitless!  However, follow-up writer Shane McCarthy decided it wasn’t “GEEWUN” enough, and instead had Sunstreaker betray the Autobots and he and Hunter both be horribly tortured and killed.  Cuz yeah…that sure was a step-up from Furman’s ideas…

I think the prematurely-aborted Dreamwave comics written by James McDonough and Adam Patyk had the best take on Sunstreaker.  They really focused in on the “sociopath” part of Sunstreaker’s original character bio, and portrayed him as cold and guarded.  There was a serious sense of tension in the room with their Sunstreaker present that I enjoyed, even as fleeting as his appearance was.  Dreamwave insiders also claimed that McDonough and Patyk were writing Sunstreaker from the position that he was gay.  I’m...fairly certain that “narcissistic sociopath” isn’t the most positive portrayal of a gay character one could manage...

Sunstreaker’s had a lot of toys, and his striking visual design ensured that most all of them looked pretty neat.  I bought his “Alternators” release and thought it had a really good head sculpt.  And his 2008 Universe Deluxe-Class toy is one of my favorite figures in that size class ever.  That mold has some fantastic engineering and was made with Sideswipe in mind too, featuring a different transformation for each brother’s respective figure.  Just be gentle transforming Sunstreaker, because if you scratch his paint...there will be hell to pay.