With this number of T’s in the title I should have posted it yesterday. Who doesn’t love Transformers? And by Transformers I mean the toy, comic, and animated franchise about robots who turned into vehicles, tape decks, animals, cities, and even microscopes. I am not referring to the bastardized version presented by Michael Bay which gleefully tried to destroy my childhood. The fact that there’s a sequel on the way makes me angry enough to punt-kick babies, but also presents the opportunity for the following list. Here are, in my humble opinion, the best 10 Transformers of all-time based on their body of work including toys and appearances in both comics and television.
Now of course not everyone could make the list and those just missing it included Unicron, Bumblebee, Starscream & the other original jets, Astrotrain, Ironhide/Ratchet (horrible toys!), Sunstreaker and Sideswipe. A couple of these really hurt me (okay Bumblebee didn’t), but you’ve got to make the cut somewhere. We begin with…
Yeah, Rodimus Prime was kind of a douche, but Hot Rod was a fun character. Created for the Transformers movie (the good animated one, not the crappy Michael Bay version), the character (voiced by Judd freakin’ Nelson!) became the leader of the Autobots on the cartoon series following the film before finally going back to his original form when Optimus Prime returned from the dead. The character has lived on in the UK comic, various Japanese magna editions, and current IDW storylines. Add that to the fact that Hot Rod made an excellent toy (even if you had to be extra careful not to snap the top of the car off when you transformed him) and he makes an easy inclusion on the list.
I’m not big on the Beast Wars turn the franchise took and I’ve got to admit creating characters like Razorclaw and the Predacons probably led them down that road. That said, this toy was simply awesome. Along with the other Predacons they formed Predaking (one of the coolest of the combined robots). The character, along with the other Predacons, made limited appearances in comics in the Marvel UK line, Beast Wars, and IDW, along with making appearances in the post-movie cartoon. Razorclaw was elevated to the ranks of the most powerful Decepticons in the Dreamwave Production universe.
8. Jazz :
My first draft of this list didn’t include Optimus Prime’s #2 soldier and the coolest cop car around, but I found a way to sneak him onto the list. The character can be found in all aspects of the Transformers universe including comics, cartoons (voiced by Scatman Crothers) , and a pretty kick ass toy (a Martini Porsche 935 Turbo cop car). Where Optimus Prime was always more strictly business, and Bumbleebee was as close to anti-cool as a transforming robot could get, Jazz was actually one of the few early Autobots who was acted as cool as he looked.
He was the first of the combining Transformer toys. The different Constructicons together formed Devastator, the mightiest of warriors (well, for a little while at least). The franchise would further this idea in both good ways (Predacons, Stutacons, Arialbots, Cobaticons) and bad (Protectabots, Terrorcons). Although the original combining robots didn’t fit together as well as some of the later models they got more air play than all of the other groups combined and are the only ones who make an appearance in the animated movie.
Arguably the best Transformer toy of all-time (made from a mold of Robotech’s VF-1 Valkyrie) the character is only prevented from scoring higher on this list by the cartoon’s portrayal of him (under the name Skyfire) as slightly less powerful than Bumblebee. Sadly (or perhaps thankfully considering the animated wussification of the character) a fight over the Jetfire’s rights and likeness kept him from having a larger role on the show. A former Decepticon, the character’s yearning for scientific advancement and knowledge led him move to the other side and finally gave the Autobots someone who could fly. The character appeared in both Marvel’s US and UK comic titles as well as resurfacing in both Devil’s Due Publishing and IDW’s more recent series.
Not many of the characters transformed into guns, but two of them made this list. Although relegated to a role of little more than lighthouse keeper on the animated show in the comics Shockwave was infused with Starscream’s lust for power. The cold and calculating character was also one of the least humanized of any of the characters. Although the toy looked awesome it was one of the few Transformers which wasn’t well made and could easily break during transformation as the legs would lock into position (sadly I know this from personal experience). It’s also the only early character to be produced in multiple colors (both gray and purple).
I love me some Soundwave, and for many reasons. First, this the first Transformer I ever owned. Second, he’s the only Transformer (Roller doesn’t count) who had other robots which could fit inside of him (Lazerbeak, Ravage, Rumble, Frenzy). Add to that a kick ass voice on the cartoon (somewhat reminiscent of the old Cylons from the original Battlestar Galactica) and you had one of the best of the original Transformers. Truth be told, I transformed my Soundwave so often the joints in his knees wore out and he was no longer able to stand. Although the character was pretty bland in both the show and comic he was a staple of both and one of the few Decepticons completely loyal to Megatron.
3. Optimus Prime:
The final three are each equally awesome and I’m prepared to admit they can be organized in any order. Optimus Prime was a must-have as the leader of the Autobots, and aside from that, he was just damn cool! How cool was he? Cool enough to come back from the dead! There are many memorable moments with Optimus from the old TV-series (including some best forgotten – Orion Pax?), but his climactic battle with Megatron following the “You’ve Got the Touch” montage is how I remember him most. Whenever I hear Peter Cullen’s voice (who went on to do other voice work including movie trailers) it’s all I can do to not scream out, “It’s Optimus Prime!” One of the few Transformers that kept his coolness in various incarnations. Well, until Michael Bay got his hands on him.
Speaking of Megatron, the Deception leader was the perfect villain and foil for Prime on page or screen. He sported a laser canon on his arm and turned into a gun! What more could a kid want? Although the toy itself was cool I much preferred the look of Megatron in robot form on the animated TV-show (and don’t get me started on the bastardization of the character shown in the recent film). You can’t talk about the Transformers without mentioning Megatron, leader of the Decepticons. Sadly the later versions of the character have chipped away at his legacy. Galvatron is okay (even voiced by Leonard Nimoy he’s certainly no Megatron) and his later incarnations as a tank and jet are simply pitiful compared to the original. How much do I love me some Megatron? A small figure sits just below my computer screen posed to strike at any moment. That’s how much.
Question: What’s cooler than a robot that turns into a dinosaur? Answer: NOTHING!