First Appearance- Marvel Transformers US # 42 (1988)
Getaway was a character that showed up in the Marvel comics a lot, but he never really seemed to live up to the potential of his Transformers Universe profile write-up for me. It states that Getaway is a legendary escape artist with no known weaknesses, and describes something known as “The Armornecking Incident” where Getaway once outwitted a vastly-superior force of Decepticons and saved the lives of his comrades while severely-damaged. There was a text story in a UK Annual where he got to showcase his exceptional skills as an escape artist, but other than that, Getaway just seemed to be your run-of-the-mill Autobot for the most part. He also tended to die or get thrashed a lot... which was totally intentional on Simon Furman’s part apparently. He once stated that it amused him that someone named “Getaway” could not get away, which is why more often than not... Getaway gets blown-up in Furman’s stories.
I always thought Getaway had a cool name, and like I said... his Transformers Universe entry and his later Dreamwave profile write-up made him sound like a really badass guy and frankly... good at everything. Just like Repugnus, I hoped that someone would eventually utilize Getaway and his impressive persona and skill-set the way they were sold in those bios.
When James Roberts introduced Getaway into the IDW “More Than Meets The Eye” comic, I was pretty excited. He was a secret agent, employed by Prowl’s Spec Ops organization, and a really charismatic guy. Getaway joined the crew of the Lost Light and I was happy another of my favorite obscure guys was finally getting his due! However, once “Season 2” of the comic began, we started to see a real dark side to Getaway as he cozied-up to the naive Tailgate in order to ultimately sacrifice him in the name of what Getaway considered to be justice.
Getaway’s plan was to use Tailgate as a pawn to facilitate the repentant Megatron’s removal from the Lost Light by getting the little guy killed. It involved a lot of uncomfortable emotional manipulation on Getaway’s part, made more so by the fact that Tailgate was basically the Transformers equivalent of a kid. It could be boiled down to “a secret agent taking advantage of an easy mark”, but most people saw the ugly parallels to child abuse. Getaway would even correctly predict the readership’s response to his plan- how Megatron’s vast crimes against countless beings were almost inconceivable and unrelatable to your average person, but causing harm to the “lovable” but singular Tailgate would invoke righteous fury much easier.
The realization I ultimately came to was that I didn’t even LIKE Tailgate as a character anymore at that point. I felt he had far outlived his usefulness to the plot and thus I probably would have been totally fine with Getaway getting him killed. I’m not gonna defend Getaway’s methods too resolutely, but frankly... I could see where he was coming from. Megatron’s whole redemption arc was interesting reading and all, but Getaway was absolutely right when he points out how insulting and sick it is in-universe to all those who have suffered and died at the former Decepticon leader’s hands and commands. Getaway later successfully orchestrated a mutiny against ship’s captain Rodimus and all those who he perceived were too sympathetic to Megatron, exiling them from the Lost Light.
I’ve always been a “Needs of the Many” kinda guy, so perhaps that’s why I’m willing to not write Getaway off, as most fans have already. Yes, his behavior towards Tailgate was deplorable and perhaps Getaway should pay for it one day. However, I certainly don’t think his crimes are comparable to Megatron’s. No matter how interesting Megatron is to read about, he’s still a genocidal tyrant and that’s quite a few rungs up the ladder from being “slimier James Bond”.
Getaway’s original toy is okay for its time, and he’s also had a homage repaint in the Movie-verse line that is a decent figure and which I used as my “Classics” Getaway for awhile. He just recently received a new toy in the “Titans Return” line, although it is simply a repaint of Chromedome’s mold with a new head and is so unremarkable that I haven’t been able to muster up any interest in buying it. I would really love a new Getaway figure based on Alex Milne’s comic design at some point. Perhaps some third party company will make one, or perhaps Takara will eventually make a new representation of Getaway’s across-the-ocean doppelganger Lightfoot that can substitute as him. In whatever case, the perfect Getaway toy- rather appropriately... continues to elude me. Bomp.
9. Buzzsaw (G1)
First Appearance- Marvel Transformers US # 1 (1984)
Despite being packaged with the original G1 Soundwave toy, Buzzsaw is largely known by a large portion of the fandom as “the forgotten cassette”. This is mostly down to his sparse appearances in the Sunbow cartoon- only three episodes, or four if you count the time Soundwave ejected Laserbeak but called him Buzzsaw in “Auto Berserk”. Conversely, Laserbeak appeared ALL the time and even kind of stole Buzzsaw’s listed primary function as a spy. Laserbeak was also fearless and dependable in combat on the show, which was at odds with his bio write-ups that described him as a coward who would only attack those who were already helpless or downed on the battlefield. But no- Laserbeak takes on Optimus Prime himself head-on at points and even managed to utterly defeat him in the episode “A Prime Problem”.
The “real world” reason for Buzzsaw’s lack of exposure in the cartoon can be traced back to the original cartoon’s production “bible”, which notes that since Buzzsaw's toy was already included with Soundwave... there was no real need to “sell” it on air to any serious extent. Kids were already gonna buy Soundwave and Buzzsaw was just a package deal... so he kind of got gypped out of any major animated exposure.
In the Marvel comics, however... it was a slightly-different story. Buzzsaw got some healthy usage there and it’s where I started to think he was pretty damn cool. As you can see in the main picture for this entry, which is from Marvel US # 9, Buzzsaw was portrayed as a lethal and stoic bird of prey. The fact that he was perched on Shockwave’s shoulder in that issue made me assume as a child that Buzzsaw was Shockwave’s “pet” of sorts, and conversely Laserbeak was Megatron’s. Since I thought Shockwave was a much cooler bad guy than Megatron, I naturally thought Buzzsaw must be much cooler than Laserbeak. And Buzzsaw kind of proved me right throughout his appearances in the Marvel comic- whenever he appeared, you knew someone was gonna get dismembered or messed-up.
Buzzsaw’s TFWiki page has even propagated the notion that he is an utter MURDERBIRD that you do not want to mess with on any level to meme-worthy levels. His diamond-hard, micro-serrated beak will carve you up and his mortar cannons will destroy what’s left! Don’t try to fight Buzzsaw, run, RUN!!! It’s your only chance for survival! I must admit, it is often gratifying to see a large portion of the fandom validate your childhood leanings.
Buzzsaw’s various bio write-ups also portray him as something of a tortured “artiste” with a sadistic creative streak. I like to think of myself as a creative person too, and prone to frustration when my “vision” hits a snag or is unappreciated... just like Buzzsaw. Of course, I don’t carve other PEOPLE up for art... but I can definitely relate to that larger creative aspect of Buzzsaw’s character. Also, that “mystique” I’ve mentioned in other entries on this list that comes from a character only sparsely appearing in stuff probably contributes to Buzzsaw’s appeal for me. I know I used to get excited during the few times he showed up in the original cartoon, and also in any subsequent fiction.
Buzzsaw and Laserbeak currently feature in John Barber’s IDW Transformers comics, where he humorously plays them as Statler and Waldorf from “The Muppets”. In most scenes the avian duo are in, they’re usually perched someplace high and ready to let loose with some cutting zingers about the situation or other characters. The objects of their ridicule should probably be thankful if those gibes are the only “cutting” Buzzsaw does…
Buzzsaw’s had a number of toys, most of which try to replicate or homage his original G1 cassette form. He did receive a Botcon exclusive toy with an actual humanoid robot mode- a repaint of Energon Divebomb that represents a “Beast Era” Buzzsaw. You can’t go wrong with his Masterpiece release though, an excellently-engineered recreation of the original figure. Mine’s always perched on top of my bookcase... y’know... to frighten potential burglars. You try and steal anything from my room, and Buzzsaw WILL TAKE YOUR FREAKIN' HAND OFF!!!
8. Snarl (G1)
First Appearance- The Transformers episode # 10- “War of the Dinobots” (1984)
I mentioned before on this list in Trypticon’s entry that as a child, I was fairly enthralled with dinosaurs, and one of my personal favorites was the Stegosaurus. Naturally, when I was introduced to the Dinobots, Snarl immediately stood out to me for transforming into one! At the time, I had read some Marvel comics in which the Dinobots appeared and rented the “F.H.E.” VHS releases of the episodes “War of the Dinobots” and “Heavy Metal War”. However, the original toys of the Dinobots had long since been gone from shelves, so there was no real way for me to ever get my hands on a toy of Snarl. Until, that is, the year 1990 when I finally received my very first Dinobot toy.
Yeah, that’s Action Master Snarl, who cannot even transform into his Stegosaurus mode! I received the “Transformers Legends” re-release of Pretender Grimlock (which was sans his Pretender shell) later that same year, but a transforming toy of my favorite Dinobot was still not in the cards yet. I did like my Action Master figures, but the larger story concept behind them was completely ignored by six year-old me, and instead I just had to use my imagination to have them transform. This pretty much involved putting Snarl on his fists and knees and pretending he was a Stegosaurus. I also recall later getting a separate Stegosaurus toy I owned and pretending Snarl converted into it. It wasn’t perfect, but I could live with it at the time. Finally in 1993, Generation 2 Snarl was released- a repaint of his first G1 toy, and I got to own a more “respectable” version of the character. The G2 version was released in three different colors, and I received the primarily-red colored one... which seemed close enough to his original color scheme for me.
Snarl was introduced in the cartoon alongside Swoop as part of a second batch of Dinobots. Optimus Prime just thought “hey, that first bunch of super-strong fire-breathing idiots worked out GREAT, let’s make more!” and that was that. Back then there wasn’t a whole lot of import in the cartoon about just making new soldiers... they just decided to do it and did it with little consequence or regard for resources. After that initial episode, Snarl and Swoop were integrated flawlessly with the other three and the Dinobots are treated as a quintet from then on. Except... for unknown reasons... Snarl was almost completely omitted from 1986's Transformers: The Movie. The original script for the movie insists that there are only FOUR Dinobots, and aside from a couple brief animation mistake cameos, Snarl is just flat-out missing from the team. That bugged the hell out of me (and many fans) as a kid, and to this day we have no solid reason as to why that occurred. Much like the previous entry on this list- Buzzsaw, perhaps it was Snarl’s absence from the movie that instead created a sort of intriguing appeal to him for me.
His preferred usage of the “Energo-sword” as his primary weapon (both in the cartoon and comics) also made Snarl somewhat unique in my eyes. The other Dinobots outside of Grimlock didn’t use their own swords as consistently as Snarl did, which made me think that maybe he was just a little bit better at it than they were. His Marvel Transformers Universe profile also stated that he secretly hated his Stegosaurus mode, which was kind of ironic considering it was the initial reason he became my favorite Dinobot. But that also kind of justified his Action Master toy to me... and that notion was reflected in a Botcon exclusive “Timelines” comic where Snarl was shown to have remained a non-transforming Action Master long after many had abandoned the concept.
Snarl’s had a fairly healthy career in the comics in general, showing up pretty much whenever the other Dinobots do and being one of “the guys”. Despite his description as a “miserable loner” in his various profiles, Snarl seemed to be the most-relied upon and trusted Dinobot by Grimlock. Slag and Swoop had their rebellious streaks, and Sludge was too dim much of the time. However, Snarl was usually in tune with what his commander required and often acted as his second on the battlefield and... uh... for other stuff.
Currently in IDW comics, John Barber likes to portray Snarl as sort of a “Silent Bob”-type. He doesn’t talk unless absolutely necessary and even when he doesn’t speak... the other Dinobots tend to understand whatever vibe he’s putting out, nicely indicating what a strong bond there is between all of them.
I’ve already spoken a bit about Snarl’s various toys, but there are a lot of third party options out there for him, including several Masterpiece-scale versions. There was a release of his Movie line incarnation with a G1-styled head... but I’m still waiting on an official new Snarl toy that fits in better with the “Classics/Generations” scale and aesthetic. Hopefully, Snarl (and the other three non-Grimlock Dinobots) will not remain forgotten again for long...
7. Rhinox (BW)
First Appearance- Beast Wars episode # 1- “Beast Wars, Part 1” (1996)
Rhinox once referred to himself as a “miracle worker” in the episode “Chain of Command”, and while he was being sarcastic... he was also totally right. Over the course of the Beast Wars cartoon, Rhinox was probably the chief problem-solver for the Maximals. Thanks to limited resources and personnel, he fulfilled a wide range of roles, from technician to inventor to even medic. And he handled all these tasks with the same dedication and finesse, all the while projecting an attitude of disappointment in himself for feeling like he hadn’t done ENOUGH. It’s this very lack of confidence in his own considerable abilities that prevent Rhinox from feeling like a “Marty Stu”-like character that has too many skills and is good at everything.
His most impressive feat might be resurrecting the dead... as Rhinox once used a rip in trans-dimensional space to reach into the Transformer afterlife itself and retrieve Optimus Primal’s recently-deceased Spark. Yes; Rhinox literally poached a soul from heaven... a feat usually reserved for ancient beings involved with the original creation of the Transformers, like the Quintessons or Alpha Trion.
Speaking of his other impressive attributes, Rhinox is also one of, if not THE physically-strongest Maximal in the series, perhaps only outclassed by the likes of Optimus Primal and later-season powerhouses like Depth Charge and Tigerhawk. He’s an excellent battlefield tactician and often took control if Optimus was disabled or unavailable. Even though it isn’t his preference, when Rhinox issues commands, EVERYONE listens- even the prideful and recalcitrant Dinobot. And of course, you cannot talk about Rhinox’s battlefield performance without mentioning his iconic firearm- the “Chaingun of Doom”. This intimidating weapon first made its appearance in the fourth episode of Beast Wars (the aforementioned “Chain of Command”) and made an immediate impression on the viewers... and poor Waspinator.
The beauty of that moment is that Rhinox’s original toy comes with a weapon that LOOKS like that... but it is sold in the instructions as some kind of melee instrument and can’t even be pointed towards the enemy when the figure holds it. Even if you saw or owned Rhinox’s toy before seeing “Chain of Command”, you’d probably have no clue that he could shoot with that thing. The writers and animators of Beast Wars sure were creative when it came to interpreting these things on-screen! This scene is also significant for beginning the trend of Waspinator being utterly butchered in nearly every subsequent battle in the series. One wonders if the chronically-unfortunate Predacon received some kind of permanent neurological damage from Rhinox’s attack too, considering that Waspinator’s relatively-simple mindset and bizarre speech patterns become much more evident after this event. Ah well, this ain’t the “Sympathy For Waspinator” entry, this is the “Rhinox Is Awesome” one!
Rhinox also has something of a spiritual side and is almost in touch with the organic planet the Maximals are stranded on as the nomadic Tigatron was ...although these aspects of him are usually downplayed. He did once lead Cheetor, Rattrap, and Dinobot back to base after they were all blinded by an Energon explosion by relying solely on his beast mode senses and knowledge of the environment. Rhinox also seems to have a healthy respect for the metaphysical aspects of Transformer existence, and the nature of Sparks in general. I’ve often wondered how he reconciled this respect with his aforementioned “stealing” of Optimus Primal’s Spark from within the Matrix.
The morality of his actions is something that obviously does weigh on Rhinox... considering that when he is forcefully-stripped of that morality, he has no qualms with crossing any line to achieve his goals. Yes, Rhinox has turned evil twice, and he made for a pretty menacing bad guy both times. The first was in the Beast Wars episode “Dark Designs”, where he is temporarily reprogrammed into being a Predacon. Taking note of Rhinox’s obvious worth, Megatron kidnaps and brainwashes him... but the Predacon Rhinox proves too much for even him to handle. Rhinox easily takes out all the other Predacons, then confronts Megatron with the intent to usurp command. Only Rhinox’s own enhanced arrogance and Megatron’s quick-thinking foil this plot and Rhinox is soon rescued and returned to normal by his comrades.
In the follow-up series Beast Machines, Rhinox turns full-on villain as Megatron plugs his Spark into the body of the new Vehicon general Tankor and uses a “shell program” to overwrite Rhinox’s mind. However, after a bit of tampering with Tankor’s mind on the Maximals’ part, Rhinox’s original personality re-emerges and blends with Tankor’s brutish one. This new Rhinox, infused with Megatron’s ideology, opposes Optimus Primal and planned to take rulership of Cybertron from Megatron.
Unfortunately, Megatron’s foresight and cunning undo Rhinox’s plans and lead to the Rhinox/Tankor entity being destroyed when energies from the ancient Cybertronian artifacts known as the Key to Vector Sigma and the Plasma Energy Chamber clash. Rhinox/Tankor crumbles to pieces and Optimus Primal soon encounters his redeemed Spark in the Matrix... who urges him to not repeat their respective past mistakes.
It was a really sad and unsatisfying end to a great character... but then Beast Machines was pretty unsatisfying in general when it came to characterization. Rhinox’s fate is even sadder if you consider the later prose story “Singularity Ablyss” written by Beast Machines show-runner Bob Skir as canon. In it, Rhinox encounters a temporarily-deceased Megatron in the afterlife and attempts to redeem him and get him to accept being at rest. Instead, Megatron obliterates Rhinox’s Spark, savoring “the death cry of an angel” and is literally cast out of “heaven” to return to his life and conquer Cybertron.
A more optimistic version of Rhinox’s post-Beast Machines existence occurs in the Botcon exclusive “Universe” comics. There, Optimus Primal returns the favor once granted him and has Rhinox brought back to life by the Transformer god Primus himself to fight at his side once more. While this larger story was prematurely aborted due to behind-the-scenes shenanigans, a later Fan Club exclusive tale showed that Rhinox continued to fight at Primal’s side throughout the “Universe War” and even defeated an alternate dimension version of his former villainous identity Tankor. Yeah... I think I like that version of events better.
Rhinox has appeared in the current “IDW-verse” comics as an ancient pre-faction Transformer and follower of Onyx Prime, the chief representative of beast-type Cybertronians. I think this really works well for Rhinox, who has historically been shown to be so good at everything that it may as well have come from millions of years of experience. Rhinox “of the Mournsong” hasn’t shown up in current day yet, but I’m eager to see him reappear, possibly as an elder of the planet Eukaris- the current homeland of beast Transformers.
As far as toys go, Rhinox has had solid, if unexciting ones for years. His original figure is okay, but not really that show-accurate. His Transmetal release is kind of unremarkable, and the less said about his horrifyingly-cute fast food promotional toy, the better. He received a pre-Beast Wars Cybertronian toy as part of the Botcon 2006 exclusive set- a fitting repaint of the Cybertron Landmine Deluxe-Class mold. However, all these toys pale in comparison to his most recent Voyager-Class mold that was first released in the “Generations” line. A near-completely accurate reproduction of his cartoon self, it finally includes his iconic Chainguns of Doom and I liked it so much that I bought it again when Takara later repainted it to be even MORE screen-accurate in their “Legends” line.
So that’s really all there is to say about Rhinox and why I think he’s awesome should be evident by now. Yup, I’ve covered EVERYTHING significant that Rhinox ever did here with no respectable omissions.
Oh wait, there was that time he defeated the Predacons with a nuclear fart.
6. Onslaught (G1)
First Appearance- The Transformers episode # 62- “Starscream’s Brigade” (1986)
Truly, Onslaught is one meta-morphin’ dude-icus. I still haven’t exactly figured out what a “dude-icus” is, but it somehow seems like an appropriate appellation. His Generation 2 toy was in fact the first version of him I obtained, so I do have some fondness for the canary-yellow-with-purple-splotches color scheme. And as you can clearly see above... his G2 toy commercial is a stirring and elegant masterpiece of marketing art. I mean... do you know how difficult it is to find a good word that rhymes with “Bruticus”???
I always thought Onslaught was the coolest-looking gestalt team leader and I really wanted a toy of him after reading several of his Marvel comic book appearances and his Transformers Universe profile. His most impressive moment in the Marvel comics was easily when he spearheaded an attack on the massed Autobot forces gathered on Earth’s moon... an attack that very nearly wiped them all out.
His history in the original cartoon is also noteworthy, as Onslaught once masterminded a plan to send the Earth into the sun. As discussed before on this list, the Combaticons were a “third” faction for the first two episodes they appeared, arrayed against Autobot and Decepticon alike. However, once they were defeated and reprogrammed to serve Megatron... they became far less of a threat. Still, the portrayal of Onslaught as a master strategist always struck a chord with me, as he had that in common with a few of my other favorite characters- G1 Prowl in particular. The fact that his character write-up in bios stated that he got extremely frustrated and irate when his plans failed was something I could relate to. I absolutely hate it when things don’t go as planned (not that everyone doesn’t), but I do tend to dwell on failures like that to my mental detriment, and Onslaught does too. So this is probably another case of me seeing something of myself in a character.
As far as other portrayals of the character go, I did enjoy Onslaught’s sort of “origin tale” as told in the Transformers Fan Club exclusive comic strips. Serving as something of a prequel to the original cartoon, the multi-part story “The Coming Storm” had the Combaticons starting out as a special unit of the Autobot Elite Guard. They are eventually swayed to the “dark side” by Decepticon warlord Deathsaurus, who appeals to their baser natures and promises Onslaught the greater respect and autonomy he feels his team deserves. The Combaticons turn on the Elite Guard and with their newly-granted ability to combine into Bruticus, slaughter the Autobot defense force to nearly the last ‘bot. Onslaught is confronted by his former fellow unit commander Metalhawk after the massacre, who tries to appeal to their previous sense of friendship and camaraderie.
Yeesh, Metalhawk has NO LUCK at all in Western fiction, does he?
Onslaught’s also had a notable career in the IDW comics, with his Combaticons (sans Swindle) starting off under Simon Furman as the Decepticon Secret Service’s elite strike team. The Combaticons were unfortunately turned into a bunch of aimless clowns during Mike Costa’s run, forced to work for the North Korean government during their time on Earth. Onslaught even admitted he didn’t have a plan at the time... and Onslaught’s WHOLE DEAL is that he always has plans! It actually pained me to see a character I liked kow-towing to some Kim Jong-il clone and a pathetic interpretation of a team that had previously been seen as impressive and competent under Furman.
Thankfully, Mairghread Scott would later give the Onslaught and the Combaticons some great spotlight time and character development in the later “Till All Are One” comic series. She explored the inter-personal relationships between team members and expanded on their original character bio write-ups in some interesting ways. We also got the best-ever depiction of what was going on in a gestalt warrior’s head during combination, in a brilliant two-page spread by artist Sara Pitre-Durocher. The Combaticons combine with the brain-dead Swindle so Onslaught can obtain some damning evidence on Starscream. With Vortex reveling in Bruticus’ power, Brawl being drawn into Swindle’s void of a mind, Blast Off desperately trying to maintain mental cohesion, and Onslaught determinedly searching for a lost memory, Scott and Pitre-Durocher produced an iconic piece of Transformers art.
As I stated, Onslaught’s G2 toy was my first version of him, and I’ve already talked about the various Combaticon toys I’ve owned in Bruticus’ entry on this list. Onslaught received a solo, non-combining toy in the ‘08 Universe line, an Ultra-Class figure that was pretty decent and gave him a new APC vehicle mode that was later repainted into Autobot Hardhead, as I’ve also mentioned before in this list. His most current Combiner Wars/Unite Warriors figure is a great modern representation of him and he’s got a veritable onslaught of third party toys out there too. You got a lot of meta-morphin’ dude-icuses out there, is what I’m saying. “Dude-icuses”… “Dude-ick-i”? Does someone know the proper plural for “dude-icus”?
5. Roadbuster (G1)
First Appearance- Milton Bradley mini-comic story “In The Transformers” (1985)
I first heard of Roadbuster as a simple mention in a Marvel Transformers storybook entitled “Battle For Earth”. Roadbuster is never depicted in illustrations, but the text described how he used his “linear blaster” to blow a hole in the wall of the Decepticons’ fortress and how prideful he was to have done so. That is pretty much Roadbuster’s key character attribute- his love of powerful weaponry.
I finally got to see what Roadbuster actually looked like when over my older cousin’s house one day. He was a comic collector and used to give me tons of issues... not to mention letting me shuffle through his many long boxes and read whatever I wanted. He didn’t really collect a lot of Transformers comics, but one thing he did have was a couple of the magazine-sized Marvel UK issues. I wasn’t allowed to keep those, but I did read them and the issue that stood out most to me was # 203- part four of the noteworthy “Time Wars” arc.
Having no access to any of the other parts of Time Wars, I had to rely on the “previously in Transformers” write-up before the story and just tough it out for the rest of the nonsense. Cuz that’s how we did it back in the day- none of this “EVERY ISSUE MUST BE NEW READER-FRIENDLY!” crud! Thankfully, robot-on-robot violence is a universal language for kids and I was fairly enthralled by the story being presented. Megatron and Galvatron had teamed-up and were slaughtering the Wreckers as Optimus Prime was trapped in a dimensional limbo and helpless to intervene. The destructive duo were utterly unstoppable and I was shocked to see the Autobot Sandstorm get blown-apart by Galvatron’s particle cannon. The issue ends with Roadbuster deploying an experimental “Pathblaster” weapon and targeting Galvatron with it.
As you can see, Roadbuster’s love of weaponry proves to be his undoing, as the overloading Pathblaster destroys him. Still, what my eight year-old mind had fixated on above anything else was that Roadbuster had been the only one to deal some damage to Galvatron in the issue. Coupled with the fact that this was the first time I had ever seen what Roadbuster actually LOOKED like, I probably “imprinted” on the character and liked him from then on.
Roadbuster does in fact look pretty unique and cool... owing to the fact that he, as discussed in Whirl’s entry on this list, has a sort of different design aesthetic than most other Transformers. While Roadbuster is more “humanoid” in features than Whirl, he still seems a little boxier and more robotic than your average Autobot. Original Transformers character design artist Floro Dery apparently never gave Roadbuster or Whirl a more streamlined design to be used in comics or animation, so most artists likely had to use the toys as reference when drawing the two “Deluxe Vehicles”. It certainly does add to both Roadbuster and Whirl’s visual charm on occasion.
As far as other fictional appearances go, Roadbuster is almost always a member of the Wreckers in any continuity in which he appears, and he usually even functions as the second-in-command to whomever is leading the Autobot commando team at the time, be it Impactor, Springer, or Kup. In fact, in “Regeneration One”- the IDW continuation to the Marvel US comics, Roadbuster gets to finally fulfill the occupation that is attributed to him in his tech specs and various bios. He’s the Autobot Ground Assault Commander!
Roadbuster’s most substantial career as a Wrecker (and an overall character, really) is probably in the main IDW continuity, having been with the team since they first appeared in the mini-series “Stormbringer” and in-canon for much longer before that. That career is marked by some rather violent and horrifying moments, as Roadbuster was once mentally-manipulated by the mad scientist Tarantulas (an IDW version of the Beast Wars character) into brutalizing Autobot cadets in his charge and “sacrificing” them to the death-god Mortilus. However, a positive thing that shines through is his friendship with Springer and dedication to protecting him. The text story “Zero Point” included in the hardcover release of the story “Last Stand of the Wreckers” showcases Roadbuster’s devotion to his then-comatose leader, as he maintains a bedside vigil next to Springer’s inert frame for years.
After Springer reawakens, the Wreckers must undertake a mission to rescue Prowl from Tarantulas. The twisted spider-bot eventually reveals his role in Roadbuster’s past sins and Roadbuster ultimately sacrifices himself to take Tarantulas out-of-play temporarily. That’s one thing about old “RB”… he always goes out with a BANG.
As far as toys go, Roadbuster’s original G1 figure is quite the substantial one... and has tons of tiny accessories that are likely to get lost. He received a figure in the ‘08 Universe line that was a repaint of the Cybertron Defense Hot Shot mold and could be considered a more “youthful” version of Roadbuster, considering it’s got an actual “face” and not the usual visor-and-mask look he usually sports. His figure in the Generations line is a good update of his original toy, and includes a bevy of mix-and-match weapons. My favorite representation of Roadbuster though, is the unofficial third party release by company Mastermind Creations called “Dicamus”. It’s an excellent interpretation of Roadbuster’s IDW look and even includes options for a Guido Guidi-designed IDW head or a more-traditional G1-styled head.
You might notice the Master Chief from the “Halo” franchise atop Dicamus above. I always thought it’d be cool to reinterpret Roadbuster as a sort of Autobot “super-soldier” in fiction and he obviously shares some visual similarities with the Master Chief. He even transforms into a sort of “Warthog” jeep too! Maybe they could get Chief’s voice actor Steve Downes to voice Roadbuster if he ever appears in an animated show. Until then, you can always count on Roadbuster to... Finish The Fight... and also not to have a substantial fear of any roads.
4. Shockwave (G1)
First Appearance- The Transformers episode # 1- "More Than Meets The Eye, Part 1" (1984)
Ha-ha, you thought I was gonna use the “ALL ARE DEAD” Marvel US issue # 5 cover as the main picture for this entry, didn’t you?? While a truly iconic Shockwave image and probably one of the best all-around pieces of Transformers artwork ever, I picked the cover to Marvel US issue # 6 instead of # 5 because of what it represents for Shockwave and my lasting notions of him. Marvel US # 6 was one of the very first pieces of Transformers fiction I was ever exposed to and because of it, I remember briefly thinking as a child that Shockwave- not Megatron, was the main Decepticon bad guy! After all, he looked a lot cooler than Megatron- certainly a lot more alien and hostile with his singular optic and gun-hand, and he totally made Megatron his bitch in that issue!
Yeah, Shockwave really dominated those first twelve issues of the Marvel comic under Bob Budiansky, seizing leadership of the Decepticons, defeating the Autobots, and reducing Optimus Prime to a mere decapitated head. Marvel US # 12 was another early issue I read and I remember thinking it was a big deal since Prime’s head is finally rejoined with his body and he defeats Shockwave. After that, Megatron and Shockwave sort of jockeyed for leadership until Megatron’s supposed “death” in issue # 25- a death that Shockwave expertly orchestrated by taking advantage of Megatron’s tenuous mental state. His methodical approach to leadership and treachery, as well as his dedication to logic always appealed to me, and was why Shockwave stood out as my first favorite villain in the franchise.
Later comics by Simon Furman would reinforce this feeling, as Shockwave is one of those characters that, whenever he appears in one of Furman’s stories, will always receive some great dialogue and badass or interesting scenes. One of my personal favorite Shockwave moments occurs in the landmark issue of Marvel US # 75, as Cybertron is being attacked by the monstrous chaos god Unicron. The cold, rational Shockwave’s reaction to his planet literally being eaten by the Transformers’ equivalent of Satan certainly sold the severity of the situation.
Shockwave routinely appeared on the original Sunbow cartoon as well (voiced by the inestimably-versatile Corey Burton), where his main role appeared to be serving as an incompetent bouncer for Cybertron’s end of the Decepticon Space Bridge. Like seriously… whenever any Autobots needed to reach Cybertron, all they had to do was get aboard the Bridge on Earth, and then trounce or even just run past Shockwave on the other side while he went “heeeey c'mon stop, you guuuuuys!” Megatron left Shockwave in charge of the planet in the very first episode after the bulk of Decepticons head out into space, and the dummy lets Cybertron sink into famine and apparent near-abandonment.
As planetary Energon levels are depleted, Shockwave’s only plan is seemingly to try and randomly contact the (as far as he knows) lost in space Megatron every few million years or so. Shockwave doesn’t even NOTICE that there are still Autobot resistance groups stealing supplies and Energon reserves from the Decepticon stores until he runs smack-dab into them in the episode “The Search For Alpha Trion”. He’s also slavishly-loyal to Megatron and aside from a somewhat insincere-sounding farewell directed towards his leader in the episode “Roll For It”, never evidenced the ambitions for leadership of his comic counterpart.
Yeah, as you can tell, I’m not a fan of cartoon Shockwave. Marvel comic Shockwave was a force to be reckoned with by the Autobots and kept Megatron on his toes mentally and physically. He wielded incredible destructive potential in his flying “space gun” alternate mode and was a powerhouse in robot mode, capable of outfighting all five Dinobots at once. Cartoon Shockwave was a wet noodle in combat and couldn’t aim for crap. In fact, here’s a succinct and tasteful diagram demonstrating the chief difference between cartoon and comic book Shockwave-
It’s no wonder that most modern versions of Shockwave, be they G1-continuity or not, borrow more heavily from the Marvel comics incarnation. The Dreamwave comics under writers James McDonough and Adam Patyk presented Shockwave as a master planner with a finger (or a gun-hand) in every pie. The amount of plot points and events that Shockwave was responsible for in that continuity got to be so noticeably-ridiculous that it spawned the meme “SHOCKWAVE DID IT” among the fandom. In the second Generation One mini-series entitled “War and Peace”, the final issue is mostly dedicated to Shockwave expositing on everything that has happened so far that he originally set into motion. It’s… a lot of text per page.
The IDW comics have similarly given Shockwave a large part in shaping the events of that continuity with his schemes and ambitions. Writers James Roberts and John Barber have also crafted a compelling “origin tale” for Shockwave too, with Roberts starting off by establishing a Cybertronian Senator whose name the readers were initially not made privy to. We follow this mystery Senator over the course of various stories set in the past where he befriends Orion Pax (he-who-will-become Optimus Prime) and speaks of his desire to topple the corrupt government of Cybertron. We’re given the impression that this is a guy who is emotionally-expressive, passionate about his goals, and possesses a certain zest for life. When he is captured by agents of the Senate, we finally learn his name after they lobotomize him using a procedure called “shadowplay” and make him undergo the “empurata” procedure, as previously elaborated on in Whirl’s entry on this list.
This new emotionally-gutted and physically-mutilated Shockwave goes on to join Megatron’s Decepticons and eventually nearly causes the destruction of the entire universe by causing everything to collapse into a singularity with Cybertron at the center. This “Dark Cybertron” apocalypse is only foiled at the last moment by Optimus Prime and Megatron teaming-up and appealing to Shockwave’s severed emotions, which Shockwave unwittingly reacquires through the temporal distortion his own scheme is causing. The “real” Shockwave comes to the forefront upon hearing the words of his former friend Orion, and mournfully asks Prime and Megatron to halt the Dark Cybertron event by ending his life, which they do. And that’s pretty much where we left Shockwave as of the writing of this entry... but you just can’t keep a good villain down for long!
As you might expect of a signature character in the franchise, Shockwave’s had a lot of toys over the years. I mentioned it before in Movie Shockwave’s entry on this list, that all you really need to make a decent Shockwave toy is to nail the single-optic look and give him a gun-arm. I’ve owned virtually every G1 Shockwave toy released except ironically, the original and the Masterpiece version. The original is infamous for having a prominent, gray-colored knock-off that was made available at Radio Shack back in the eighties, humorously known as “Shackwave” by the fandom. The Masterpiece toy is something I would like to own one day... but being as it is modeled more heavily on the Sunbow cartoon version of Shockwave, I haven’t been able to “pull the trigger” on it yet. There are plenty of third party options for Shockwave as well, but what I would like more than anything is a nice Voyager-Class G1 Shockwave that fits in with the “Classics/Generations” aesthetic and scale.
Interrogative: why haven’t they produced such an item yet? Statement: it would only be logical.
3. Tarantulas (BW)
First Appearance- Beast Wars two-pack mini-comic “Optimus Primal VS Megatron!” (1996)
Being a big fan of Spider-Man, of course I was gonna take note of the first Transformer that turned into a spider. It didn’t matter that Tarantulas was a bad guy- I immediately liked him in the cartoon’s opening two-parter because I thought his beast mode was cool. His toy’s back-of-box bio write-up claimed he was some kind of ninja… but the actual cartoon rarely if ever played him as such. Ninjas are quiet, after all, and Tarantulas was always giggling that creepy giggle of his. Ninjas also don’t usually have machine gun legs on their arms either.
What really started to solidify Tarantulas’ place as one of my favorite Beast Wars characters was episode three of the series- “The Web”. In it, Tarantulas comes off as one of the scarier threats among the Predacons… capturing the “kid-appeal” character Cheetor and planning on EATING him. Tarantulas was also somewhat dismissive of Megatron’s second-in-command Scorponok, and had already established his own personal lair separate from the Predacons’ base by this third episode, which certainly gave him a lot of cred in my eyes. I was sure this creepy spider-guy was going places! I also enjoyed his battle with Rattrap in that same episode, and thought the two kind of established a little bit of a rivalry. Indeed, Rattrap and Tarantulas would go boto-a-boto many more times over the course of the series, and their two differing brands of deviousness made for some entertaining fights.
Tarantulas would spend most of the first half of season one being Megatron’s chief scientist and inventor, but the episode “Spider’s Game” revealed a whole new level to him. Having somehow discovered that the planet the Maximals and Predacons were currently on was going to be destroyed, Tarantulas’ new priority was to find a way off of it. While it had previously been hinted that Tarantulas had some separate agendas from Megatron, this episode firmly established that he was operating on a different playing field than the rest of those embroiled in the Beast Wars. The planetary destruction was eventually averted, but Tarantulas continued to operate in the shadows, his larger goals and ambitions a mystery to the audience.
His conversion into a “Transmetal” form upped his physical threat factor and he flat-out told Megatron he wouldn’t be following the Predacon leader’s commands any longer, although their purposes would align many more times until the end of the series. Tarantulas was eventually revealed to be a spy for the Predacon Secret Police, placed as a mole in Megatron’s rogue organization. The so-called “Tri-Predacus Council” certainly had… let’s say eccentric tastes in regards to choosing their double-agents.
Tarantulas’ fascination/fear of the alien Vok that visited the Beast Wars’ planet (revealed to be prehistoric Earth) would eventually prove his undoing. Attempting to take control of the Vok’s emissary Tigerhawk, Tarantulas instead unleashed the Vok presence within the powerful Transformer. The Vok tried to inhabit Tarantulas’ form and in a panic, he caused his own apparent demise in one of the more graphic death scenes in the series.
I say “apparent” demise, because if you take the Botcon exclusive comics as canon, Tarantulas survives and what more- succeeds in enslaving the Vok that tried to kill him. Revealing yet ANOTHER layer of his treacherous ambitions, Tarantulas stood revealed as a spawn of the chaos-bringer Unicron himself. He would have gone on to serve as Unicron’s chief herald during the “Universe War”, had those comics continued.
Many fans are split on whether to consider Tarantulas a spawn of Unicron or not. Some feel it makes him “bigger” than the creators of the cartoon intended him to be, which was a cannibalistic double-agent with a few screws loose. Some would prefer him to be tied to the “Generation 2” Marvel comic, and the Cybertronian Empire introduced there which had differing origins from your standard Transformers, a hereditary trait that Tarantulas had also claimed. Me personally... I kind of like the “Unicron spawn” origin, but perhaps I would have downplayed it to Tarantulas being connected to those Unicron cultists from near the end of the US Marvel comic… a notion that writer James Roberts carried forth in his epic fan-novel “Eugenesis”.
As far as other portrayals of Tarantulas go, he was eventually introduced into the IDW comic universe in the mini-series "Sins of the Wreckers" as a neutral scientist that had once been in Autobot strategist Prowl’s employ. They fell out and Tarantulas (or Mesothulas, as he was known) was cast into a mind-bending dimensional prison called the “Noisemaze”, which drove him insane. Once he escaped, he remodeled himself based on a species of Earth spider and set upon a path of blackmail and revenge against Prowl. While still a creepy, amoral psychopath, this version of Tarantulas as portrayed by writer/artist Nick Roche had something of an interesting element of tragedy to him, wanting to be reunited with an artificial “son” he had created in his lab prior to Prowl’s betrayal. By the end of the series, Tarantulas finds out the truth of what happened to “Ostaros” and what he’ll do with that knowledge in the future is currently anyone’s guess.
I’ve obviously always thought Tarantulas had a cool design- for both his original and Transmetal forms. His Transmetal figure is probably one of my favorite Transformers toys ever and was perhaps one of the first times I felt that the toy-to-screen accuracy was very nearly perfect. The only incongruity with that figure is that his robot mode head has two optics instead of a visor like on the show, and that problem is easily solved with steady hands and a dab of yellow paint in-between his eyes. I also bought the “Fox Kids” repaint of Transmetal Tarantulas, which was used in the Botcon comics as his “Vok-powered zombie” form, as seen above. His original toy is pretty good too, if you buy the later more screen-accurate “10th Anniversary” recolor, but I wouldn’t say no to an eventual Masterpiece version of that design. Nor would I turn down a plastic interpretation of his IDW-self, with its weird merge of organic and Transmetal aesthetics. Tarantulas has a couple of exclusive, non-spider alt-mode toys as well, but I’m not quite as interested in those.
On a final note, Tarantulas kind of appeals to me on a personal level. Let’s face it; were I evil, skilled in the sciences (both physical and Dark), and cackled a lot more, I'd probably be Tarantulas. The guy plotted his nefarious schemes while cackling and typing on his computer in a dark cave. If that’s all being a supervillain requires, I could totally handle that.
2. Thunderwing (G1)
First Appearance- Transformers Marvel UK # 230 (1989)
Big surprise here, right? As some may know, I use the screen name “Thunderwing” for many online forums and the Fanholes Podcast… in fact, I’ve used it since the very first time I joined a Transformers message board back in the dawning days of the Internet itself! At the time, I was certain I had picked a character so obscure he must have been long forgotten by fans, and that I might actually be Thunderwing’s only fan! Of course, I was wrong- the Internet connected me with tons of people who remembered Thunderwing and his brief stint as THE main Decepticon villain in the Marvel comics.
I always thought he was super-awesome for taking the Creation Matrix, holy font of Transformer life and symbol of Autobot leadership and wielding it as a weapon against the Autobots. I remember I read the issues that comprised the conclusion to the epic “Matrix Quest” storyline before I had seen the cartoon episode “The Burden Hardest To Bear”. I had no idea that in that episode, the Decepticon Scourge took control of the Matrix and did very much the same, so until I saw that... I thought Thunderwing was the only “bad guy” to really accomplish such a feat. Sure, Shockwave had stolen and used the Creation Matrix in the earliest issues of the Marvel comic to create new Decepticon soldiers, but I didn’t imagine that anyone could channel destructive power with it until I saw Thunderwing do it. The Creation Matrix had been corrupted by the time Thunderwing acquired it and seeks new and darker experiences, goading Thunderwing to slay its former host Optimus Prime and driving him to fire on his own troops.
It’s very shades of the “Dark Phoenix Saga” from X-Men, although Thunderwing was already an evil person before the Dark Matrix entity possesses him, unlike Jean Grey. The similarities are not surprising, considering writer Simon Furman has consistently listed Chris Claremont’s X-Men run as one of his writing inspirations.
Aside from Matrix Quest, which is obviously Thunderwing’s most prominent storyline, he also showed up a number of times in the Marvel UK comics under Furman before appearing in the US comic. Furman actually used the UK comics to develop Thunderwing and build him up as the next major Decepticon leader before bringing him into the US storyline. By the time the readers reached Matrix Quest, Thunderwing had been firmly established as a relentless and powerful threat to the Autobots. Possessing the most powerful “Pretender” exo-shell ever created, he barely ever appeared outside of it and had no real reason to- the guy was a physical match for the upper echelon of Autobot warriors, including Optimus Prime and Grimlock. Artist Geoff Senior always expertly depicted the raw power and durability that Thunderwing had at his disposal and his expressionistic stylings played no small part in my fascination with the character.
Thunderwing’s other most prominent role in fiction is in the main IDW comic continuity. There, he is presented as a former Decepticon scientist who created and sealed himself within a monstrous exo-carapace in order to survive what he believed was Cybertron’s imminent destruction. Bonding with his creation drove Thunderwing mad and reduced him to a near-mindless monster which threatened Autobot and Decepticon alike. It is Thunderwing’s terrible rampage across the planet and the joint efforts to stop him which ironically brings forth the very cataclysm that he himself feared, and Cybertron is left desolate and abandoned for hundreds of years afterward. In modern day, Thunderwing is found and reawakened by the Decepticon fanatic Bludgeon, who covets his power and attempts to duplicate it. Bludgeon unleashes the feral Thunderwing on the planet Nebulos, where he goes on a Godzilla-esque rampage before returning to Cybertron.
These events were depicted in the mini-series “Stormbringer”- one of IDW’s earliest efforts with the Transformers comic license. I can remember being really excited to see promo images of a shadowed Thunderwing in their press for the series, and it was definitely something that helped legitimize IDW’s then-new continuity for me. While we’re only given brief glimpses into Thunderwing’s actual personality and characterization before he becomes a bestial walking WMD, the fact that my main favorite Decepticon was getting so much spotlight was enough for me at the time, not to mention his badass new design by artist Don Figueroa. However, I hope that maybe one day we’ll learn more about Thunderwing the CHARACTER, not just Thunderwing the monster in IDW continuity.
As you can tell by now, a common theme with Thunderwing is being involved with a cataclysmic threat... or BEING the cataclysmic threat himself, and his other usages in fiction reflect this as well. In the Dreamwave Armada comics, he serves as a herald of the chaos-bringer Unicron, sent to worlds ahead of time with his fellow heralds to prepare them for their master’s dreaded arrival. In “Regeneration One”, one of the follow-ups to the original Marvel US continuity, Thunderwing’s corpse, still infused with residual Creation Matrix energy, is used to power a horde of self-regenerating “Blitz Engines” that lay siege to Cybertron. In the alternate future of “Beast Wars: Uprising”, Thunderwing’s name is spoken of as the “Last Decepticon Emperor” who fused with the cosmic Underbase’s powers and the Grand Mal floating fortress to devastate Cybertron and again... required the Autobot and Decepticon armies unite to oppose him.
In the Transformers Fan Club exclusive magazine storylines, Thunderwing’s aberrantly-powerful “Point One Percenter” life-Spark was sealed inside a special container and became known as the “Matrix of Malice”. Possessed by Bludgeon, the Matrix of Malice enabled him to combine with his subordinates- the Mayhem Attack Squad, and become a gestalt with the vengeful Thunderwing’s personality and visage. Known as “Thunder Mayhem”, this combined entity slaughtered the Autobot and Decepticon population of Cybertron, reducing the Transformer race to possible double-digits by any hopeful estimates. Arriving on Earth, Thunder Mayhem was eventually stopped by a ragtag band of surviving Autobots and the mighty gestalt warrior called Wreckage... but the damage had already been done.
Yep, whenever Thunderwing is around, you can be sure an apocalypse will likely follow. That kind of limits his usage in stories sometimes and potential for character development… but at least he always looks cool! The Transformers: Prime video game even introduced their continuity’s version of Thunderwing as, you guessed it- a giant apocalyptic-level threat and servant of Unicron. Voiced by noted screen and voice actor Robin Atkin Downes, this remains Thunderwing’s only “talkie” appearance as of the writing of this entry… and it’s not even G1 Thunderwing. Ah well, at least Downes is a terrific choice to portray my favorite Decepticon on-screen!
I’ve never owned Thunderwing’s original G1 Mega Pretender toy, and it is still pretty expensive on the aftermarket. Maybe one day I’ll acquire it, but Thunderwing did receive a nice modern figure in the Generations toyline in 2010. While a good remake and likeness akin to his original Pretender shell, it is only a Deluxe-Class figure and when compared to other figures in the same range, doesn’t possess the sheer presence and heft that someone like Thunderwing usually commands. He’s also received a “Titan Master” mini-figure that transforms into an approximation of his Pretender shell head... but currently there is no dedicated figure to connect it to in the current line. Hasbro did make a new Leader-Class figure of Thunderwing’s Japanese retool/redeco Black Shadow… so perhaps one day they will repaint that "back" into Thunderwing’s body.
The Thunder Mayhem combiner is a great set of figures, with a Thunderwing head sculpt modeled on Geoff Senior’s art, but I would like a closer representation of Marvel comics Thunderwing. My current favorite plastic representation of the character in general is probably the unofficial third party figure known as Garatron’s “GOD-01 Thunderstorm”. A reproduction of his Don Figueroa Stormbringer design, Thunderstorm is massive, heavy, and imposing as hell. It can even convert into the armored juggernaut “Ultra Mode” that Thunderwing briefly deploys in Stormbringer, although it lacks an “inner robot” figure. As good as it is though, it is still a third party figure… so you might say… it’s the real “Pretender”.
1. Prowl (G1)
First Appearance- Transformers Marvel US # 1 (1984)
Quite similarly to G1 Shockwave, Prowl became my favorite Autobot character of the early days thanks to the first bits of Transformers fiction I was exposed to. Like Shockwave, Prowl was actually the leader of his faction for the bulk of the first twelve issues of the Marvel comic. Issues # 9 and # 10 were some of the first issues I read and they featured Prowl in command of the Autobots thanks to Optimus Prime being held captive as a decapitated head by the Decepticons. Shockwave eventually returns a fake head to the Autobots in issue # 12, who reunite it with Prime’s body and are immediately “betrayed” as the false Optimus Prime begins to fire on them. As the Decepticons join the fray, the Autobots are nearly decimated before the real Optimus Prime is able to reassert control of his body. The image of a wounded Prowl with his back to the reader, desperately trying to mount a counterattack as his comrades are slaughtered always struck a cord with me.
Following issue # 12, Prowl only made scant further appearances in the Marvel US comic until nearly the end after Simon Furman took over from Bob Budiansky on writing duties. In these later issues, Furman mostly used Prowl as a foil for then-Autobot leader Grimlock. Acting again as second-in-command, Prowl’s advice was usually ignored by Grimlock, even though it was fairly valid most of the time and the only reason Grimlock’s brash actions and plans succeeded was because Furman was obviously playing favorites. Still, most people tend to remember Prowl as kind of a prick thanks to these issues, and that characterization usually sticks with him to modern day, for better or worse. Hey, if being right most of the time makes you a prick, then I say let Prowl be a prick!
Prowl had more of a career in the Marvel UK comics, appearing consistently throughout when he was absent from the US stories. Furman even had him get along better with Grimlock during the later “Earthforce” tales, where a smaller Earthbound force of Autobots were led by the Dinobot commander while Optimus Prime and the bulk of the Autobots were off in space. Prowl was as reliable and stalwart as ever, accomplishing such heroic feats as leaping aboard a rocket Megatron had launched into Earth’s stratosphere in order to defuse it. He also foiled a time-traveling plot by Megatron to recover the deceased Seacons in the past and braved the defenses of the Autobots’ own base after Wheeljack’s new security systems went haywire. However, my favorite bit of those stories is Prowl and Wheeljack’s discussion about how much things have changed in the Transformers universe since they first arrived on Earth. Anyone longing for the “simpler” days of Autobot versus Decepticon can surely appreciate their feelings.
Prowl’s status as the nominal second-in-command when Optimus Prime was up and about was never really reflected in the original cartoon. Prime would rather take advice from the ornery Ironhide or the Autobots’ human companions and it always annoyed me. There were moments when Prowl got to shine though, like in “The Ultimate Doom, Part 1”, where he uses those strategist skills of his and comes up with the plan to infiltrate the Decepticon base and rescue their human ally “Sparkplug” Witwicky. In the episodes “Dinobot Island, Part 2” and “Triple Takeover”, Prowl is shown leading his own squads, indicating that SOMEONE working on the cartoon was paying attention.
Prowl was voiced by Michael Bell, who seemed to specialize in portraying straight-laced, upright leader-type characters like Prowl. He also voiced Duke in the original G.I.Joe cartoon as well as Cyclops in the solitary episode of an early X-Men show that was never continued. Being that Prowl is my favorite Transformers character and Cyclops is my favorite X-Men character, I can’t help but see them as connected not only through characterization, but through the talented Mr. Bell himself as well.
Of course, I can’t talk about Prowl’s cartoon career and not bring up his death in Transformers: The Movie. I was about five when my grandparents took me to a local, run-down movie theater in the neighborhood called “The Castle”. This theater almost never played first-run movies and instead specialized in showing older ones at a discount price. My grandparents would usually take me there to see various classic Disney animated movies, which were in regular rotation. For whatever reason, one week they actually had Transformers: The Movie playing on the big screen, about three years after it had long-since exited newer theaters. Having just gotten into Transformers recently, I was super-psyched to see it and my grandpa took me, probably assuming it’d contain the same kind of kid-appropriate material as most Disney movies.
Yeah, I got to that far before I started crying and we had to leave. My favorite guy was graphically executed on a giant screen in front of my innocent eyes and I would never be the same! Ironically, I must have gotten over it pretty quickly, because it probably wasn’t more than a year or two later that I decided I was a big boy now and I had to see The Movie! The video rental place closest to my house- “Major Video”, had the F.H.E. VHS release and one weekend I finally had my parents rent it for me.
Honestly, I was still probably pretty scared by some of the imagery and violence in The Movie, but I sat the whole way through the VHS and eventually came to grips with Prowl’s death. It certainly helped that I could always revisit Prowl through the various other VHS episodes the store had available, as well as the Marvel comics I had already acquired. And later that year, I saw “Action Master” Prowl with his Turbo Cycle on a toy shelf and suddenly all was made well again! I was able to finagle my parents’ into getting it for me and I finally had my first toy of my favorite character! It didn’t matter that he had died in front of my eyes; now he could go on all sorts of new adventures during playtime!
Speaking of new adventures, Prowl’s had a very healthy career in more modern fiction. In the Dreamwave comics, writers tended to portray him much like his early Marvel self… a bit uptight, but not exactly a jerk about it. His leadership skills were put to the test on more than one occasion, as he often found himself in command of the Autobots during Optimus Prime’s frequent absences once again. Even if some may think Prowl lacks that certain “spark” to be a truly exceptional leader, he always got the job done and delivered some inspirational, if brief Prime-worthy dialogue in the “War Within” series.
His current incarnation in the IDW comics has gone through many changes, both physical and character-wise. In particular, Prowl’s moral compass has been all-over-the-map across the span of the many series he featured in. Most writers really enjoy writing Prowl as a manipulative chessmaster or even “anti-hero” who gives no slags about what others think of him, and sometimes that can get kind of overwhelming and makes Prowl hard to relate to. Other writers would prefer to write Prowl as “that nice police car guy” from the original cartoon who didn't have a lot of “bite” to him. I think the trick is balancing Prowl’s more positive qualities with his shadier ones, and closely toeing that “gray” line he usually operates on without crossing it too often.
This seems like a popular trope to apply to guys like Prowl- see how far the straight-laced hero can stray into darkness. I’m clearly a fan of these types of characters, whether it is X-Men’s Cyclops, Leonardo from Ninja Turtles, or Wesley Wyndam-Pryce from the Buffy-verse. You just gotta handle it delicately, because once you tip over that line too far… a character can become downright unpleasant to read about.
Prowl’s probably already crossed that line several times over thanks to IDW writers Nick Roche, James Roberts, and John Barber, although several instances of mental manipulation and brain damage may account for some of Prowl’s more erratic behavior in recent years. He’s had his memories altered by Chromedome, his mind controlled by Bombshell, and been part of an unstable gestalt hive-mind with the Constructicons in a very short span of time. Prowl’s currently free of all that though, and perhaps thinking clearer… so perhaps he can start working towards some small manner of redemption in his own way soon. Forgiveness from those he’s manipulated and abused through his Machiavellian schemes however… is probably a long way out.
I think Nick Roche got exactly the right balance for Prowl’s moral leanings in the story “Everything in its Right Place” within the pages of All Hail Megatron # 15. While he’s shown to be capable of some ugly manipulations of his own allies, Prowl removes emotion and ambition from the equation and is steadfast in his adhesion to “the greater good”. The story’s a really fascinating look at his character in general and probably my favorite specific portrayal of him, if you kind of “freeze it” in the moment and don’t take into account what comes after.
Prowl’s had scads of toys and I own most of them. In fact, I’m very likely to buy any toy even NAMED “Prowl” in any line. As far as G1 stuff goes, you can’t really beat his Masterpiece figure and its excellent updating of his original toy. His ‘08 Universe Deluxe-Class release is also a great update and fits in well with any Classics/Generations collection. I still have a lot of affection for his Action Master toy, although I’ve long since lost my original, and even his Beast Wars and Alternators figures have some charm to them. Prowl’s got some nice third party options too, including an upcoming release I’m looking forward to based on his upgraded Cybertronian form from the IDW Robots in Disguise comic series, as designed by artist Andrew Griffith.
Prick or no, Prowl’s always been my boy. He is my favorite Transformers character! And if you’ve got anything bad to say about him, you can just face…