TotL – 6 Best TRANSFORMERS Properties
This week Outright Geekery released the debut episode of INSTRUMENT OF DESTRUCTION, a Transformers podcast dedicated to all things associated with Hasbro’s very special brand of robot toys. No. Scratch that. The Transformers aren’t just a series of robot toys. The Transformers is a world-wide, muliti-media franchise that’s reached billion dollar Hollywood Blockbuster status. Beyond that, however, The Transformers is a franchise that has continued to find a way to be fresh and appealing, making changes along its lifespan that can only be described as cultural evolution. Since the debut of the franchise in 1984, there’s never been a period without a Transformers something for rabid fans to consume. It’s truly a one of a kind franchise, and while we’ll be talking about them every week on the IoD Podcast, this week’s Top o’ the Lot is all about the things that make up the main thing. So, without further ado, we love the 80’s, we love the comics, and there’s always room for Beast Wars, in Outright Geekery’s Top o’ the Lot: 6 Best TRANSFORMERS Properties.
6. Beast Wars
In 1996, the American/Canadian series Beast Wars: Transformers premiered, and nothing was ever the same…literally. A true sequel to the original series, Beast Wars pitted the Maximals against the Predicons, two warring factions of robots that changed into animals. Beast Wars was set in the future of the original series, and these two factions were the Autobots and Decepticons of that previous generation evolved into beasties. There was even a sequel series to this called Beast Machines that explained the evolutionary process that saw the cars, tape players, and guns we all knew from the ’80s turned into reptiles and mammals was known as The Great Upgrade. Weird but so cool!
The show was pretty good actually, and there are even some elements that were saved after Beast Wars was pretty much erased from all continuity…or was it? As great as TF continuity is, it’s not all cut and dry. While there’s nothing better than the G1 cartoon as far as animation goes, Beast Wars makes this list because it’s solid, fun, and a compelling twist on some old faves.
5. Marvel Comics
1984 saw the height of both the Transformers as a cartoon/toy franchise, and Marvel Comics as a license whoring book publisher that just couldn’t get enough 3rd party stuff on shelves. But that was a really good thing! TRANSFORMERS #1 debuted in September 1984 as the first part to a planned 4-issue limited series, but, due to its radical success, the series went to 80 issues, as well as spawning a British offshoot series that ran a whopping 332 issues. While it’s all very loose even to this day, there are many plot elements from these books that persists into the modern day, a true testament to the success of these runs.
Back in the day, Marvel is where you went for the TF stories when the TF stories ended on the TV. It was TF that you could watch anytime, anywhere; a limitation lost on today’s modern culture. These were some of the very first comics I ever owned, introduced me to Marvel Comics, and is quite possibly the only reason this website exists. A true testament to why the Marvel Comics line made this list, but coming in at number 5 shows just how awesome the rest of this Lot is.
4. The Transformers G1 Cartoon
Weekday afternoons of my youth were made for two things: Homework and cartoons. He-Man, Thundercats, Voltron, G.I. Joe, and, of course, The Transformers. It was by far my favorite of them all (with the Joes a close second), and I could not get enough. The twisted sci-fi hero stories were as action-packed as they were formulaic and simple, but I didn’t care. Young me soaked up every minute and all the reruns as many times as I could. Back in those days you had to wait until what you wanted to see came on a broadcast like some kind of a caveman. We got it much easier today, as I stream this stuff on my phone on the daily.
The Transformers is something that’s difficult to do today for a lot of reasons, but I think the most integral one is that they did such a great job with this series. Sure, it’s got it’s flaws and foibles, but for what it was it still stands up as a fun, action-packed joyride, and you just cannot beat those awesome characters. Megatron, Optimus, and the rest of the gang are timeless pieces of popular culture that may very well live on forever.
3. The Transformers: The Movie (1986)
In 1986 I was a 9 year old boy full of virgin innocence and blissful ignorance. In my mind the heroes always won, the villains always lost, there simply was no gray area, and there sure as hell wasn’t any death. That all changed on one faithful afternoon when my father took me to see The Transformers animated movie. I just wasn’t ready for what was depicted on that big screen. Ironhide, one of my all-time faves, was murdered by Megatron and his thugs within the first 15 minutes of the movie, along with 4-5 other Autobots, and it was not pretty. Then, it happened.
One shall stand, one shall fall…and they both fell! Within the span of the first 1/4 of this film, Optimus Prime dies, and Megatron is replaced by the much better voiced, but quite inferior, Galvatron. Hot Rod becomes a new leader, Ultra Magus gets so bummed out, Galvatron is the shit, and all’s well that ends well, but there was a good 3-4 months where I was beside myself with the awe-inspiring plot of this very grownup children’s movie. I watch it annually.
2. Transformers G1 Toys
While this includes everything that came out with the release of the aforementioned Transformers movie, it doesn’t include anything after that. The Generation 1 style, form, and function was easily the best and was never quite topped even as TF toys got more and more complex. There was a cerebral silliness to the entire line, as most times the bots that looked great in one mode didn’t look quite as awesome in the other, size made absolutely no difference whatsoever, and logic was overly ignored in favor of overall coolness.
Tape decks and guns that fit into the hands of both humans and bots some of the time transformed into giant robots, while cars, trucks, planes, and trains were all, somehow, the same size. Here’s a microscope, and a camera, and, screw it, a train/space shuttle somehow. I don’t know how it all worked, but it just did. Cool was better than logic, and, for the most part, it still is.
1. IDW Comics
I cannot stress this enough: The IDW Comics line of Transformers comics are, by far, the greatest thing to ever happen to the franchise. They’ve taken a long history of continuity full of war and mistrust, and flipped everything on its head, moving the entire franchise forward in remarkable ways. These are the same robots we’ve grown to love over decades, but the Cybertronian Civil War has ended, Starscream is the democratically elected leader of the planet, and Megatron is now and Autobot, and that’s just in the first half of the current run. There are deep and important morality tales being told in each and every issue, and it may just be the greatest ongoing series in comics today.
As I mentioned above, I got into comics, in part, because of my love for Transformers, and, with IDW’s current stock of ongoing and limited series, that passion has moved in the opposite direction. Previously my passion for the Transformers franchise instilled a passion for comic books as a medium, and now that passion for comics has reignited a passion for The Transformers. A perfect symmetry. IDW recently reached issue #50 with their flagship TF title, the sister series will reach #50 today, and a constant slate of miniseries are being released, showing both the passion of the fans and the dedication of the publisher to keep this brand and this franchise going forever. Here’s to another 50 issues and beyond.
Be sure to catch our Transformers podcast INSTRUMENTS OF DESTRUCTION.