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 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 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 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’ 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 # 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.


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