Recent events have helped me choose my next look at my problems with Simon Furman’s approach to Transformers. Mairghread Scott, who you may recall has gotten the most praise from me above any of the other IDW Transformers writers (one-time appearances aside), will be hitting the mainstream IDW G1 Universe with Windblade, which will not only introduce another new character, ala Drift, but will attempt to bring female Transformers into this new continuity without…well, I’ll get to that.
Now some comment was made and Furman took offense and supposedly it’s all worked out. I won’t dwell on it too much. I don’t think Simon Furman necessarily hates women, but he does seem to have an issue with female Transformers–and frankly he isn’t the only one. Budiansky never used them during his run and even confirmed in one story that Cybertronians understand the concept of genders but don’t have them themselves. The toyline never had a female Transformer, despite their introduction in the cartoon, until Japan’s “Masterforce” line as far as I’m aware. Many fans hate the fact that they’re there to begin with. And yet others have embraced the idea, some even going so far as creating Transformers erotica and I wish to Primus I wasn’t dead serious.
However, while I probably wouldn’t have cared had they not been introduced, they have been and can’t be ignored. I want to use this opportunity to, rather than just bash Furman’s use of Arcee (although I totally will) to defend the female Transformer idea and having no clue what will happen in Windblade try to figure out why they exist and how they could be used to enhance the story rather than be used like virtually every other female character in action-style comics.
Let’s start with the introduction of female Transformers. In the original series episode “The Search For Alpha Trion” we are first introduced to female Transformers, focusing on four characters’ Chromia, Moonracer, Firestar, and Optimus Prime’s mate, Elita One. (No, I’m not counting Nightbird. She was built by a human and reprogrammed by the Decepticons. You might as well claim BOT as a Decepticon because he had a Combaticon as a brain.) In the later episode “War Dawn” we met Orion Pax and Ariel, who would respectively become Optimus Prime and Elita One. The earliest in Cybertronian history that we see a female Autobot was in the season 3 episode “Forever Is A Long Time Coming“, as one of the pre-Transformers rebelling against the Quintessons. I’m not going to list every female Transformer since then, but the Japanese series that were produced after Hasbro stopped producing the series had at least one in every group by the end of that series and they were represented in the toyline. And then there’s Arcee, which we’ll get to.
Hasbro, however, never gave us a female Transformer until Beast Wars with Airrazor and Blackarachnia, due to the belief that boys don’t want girl characters in their toybox, which many a toy collector and a number of boys growing up (if the ad media makes a good character out of her) would disagree with. My cousin had a Teela and I have Princess Leia, two very strong female characters and Leia could hold her own in the battles that happened on my bedroom floor. The closest thing we’ve had to a proper G1 Arcee figure is a “Heroes Of Cybertron” figurine which stand on my computer desk and her counterpart in Transformers Animated which I sadly never had the opportunity to own. There were also namesakes, but we’re talking G1 Arcee here. First introduced in the movie, Arcee was the first non-human female character in the series to have a prominent role on the show.
Now I understand that they’re robots and they don’t reproduce, at least like humans do and that’s where I can start explaining them. The Quintesson origin makes female Transformers easier to understand. I don’t think they would bother with female robots in their “war machines” group (although we’ve covered the first official female Decepticons), but the domestics would certainly have their fair share as customers would want that option. However, there is a way to make them work within the Primus origin as well.
Simon Furman…did not attempt this. Let’s count the failures.
Issue #234 of the UK Transformers comic featured a back-up tale in which Optimus Prime introduced a new female Autobot…to a group of feminists angry that the Autobots thus far have only been based on male types. Guess what? That didn’t work. To Furman’s credit, the story does have the male Autobots wanting to protect her only to have her kick the tail of every Decepticon who showed up to destroy her at this meeting, which at least shows Furman doesn’t hate women. I think. One could bring up the dialog but if there’s one thing I’ve learned about Simon Furman’s dialog it’s that I’d rather none of his characters spoke.
That said, THIS is the reason Furman gives? Now in the comics there were no female Transformers, but she did show up in the movie and thus in the adaptation. Furman, considering the adaptation, if not the movie itself, to be canon in his stories at the time, was then forced to use her. I’m not sure why. He could have just written her out and never bothered with her again unless he knew she was a fan favorite character. This solution, however? Not digging it. It’s one robot to appease some militant feminists. That might work as a joke but this is Arcee’s official origin, so we’re meant to take it seriously. At least, I’m not laughing.
Apparently he killed Arcee off in the pages of Regeneration One so that doesn’t really help his case, but here’s where it really hurts.
I could have sworn I reviewed this comic. Apparently I keep forgetting when IDW’s G1 stories started getting reviewed. Anyway, I’ve mentioned this comic before as the worst thing done to any incarnation of Arcee and a I stand by that. Just read it for yourselves.
I’m not going to get into the rape conversation, but I do need to bring up that in comics lately, rape is a plot device that happens to women. The sad thing is that it’s used to “toughen” a woman or show her vulnerable side or both. Rape, whether it involves sex, control, or some combination of the two, is a violation of the victim, usually women but in the real world it also happens to men outside of the prison walls.
However, even TV crime dramas, which features vile things happening to every gender and age group the FCC will let them use, has never done forced sex change. I don’t pretend to understand transgender behavior other than at least some (and I have no actual figures to claim any majorities) can be medically proven to have been born the wrong gender–and I don’t know how that works either. I do at least accept the possibility. And I’m sure any transgendered person would find this insulting if someone wrote a story about forcing a sex change on another person unless it was magic for the point of hijinks.
That, as you recall, was my biggest problem with the “Decepticon Justice Division” in the More Than Meets The Eye comic. Their actions were grotesque and if they had been humans it would have been sick and repulsive. Yes, robots were used in kid-friendly science fiction shows (be it all-ages or actual kids shows) as someone who could be shot or smashed in a serious show and not freak the kiddies out, but there comes a point where, since the Transformers are living machines and characters we’re supposed to care about as if they’re humans, you can still go too far. Forget kids shows, if you wouldn’t do it to a human in a story you shouldn’t do it to a Transformer or a Droid from Star Wars, although a Transformers or droid has the better chance of surviving it. I think the line is drawn at “shoving someone through the fan blade in your chest so they can die in horrible agony” or “forced sex change just because you’re bored”!
It also doesn’t help that Arcee is now a berserker psycho out to torture Jhiaxus at every possible turn and later happily serve as Prowl’s hit mech and slaughter as many Decepticons as she can. Arcee used to be such a nice girl. Furman likes giving her a bad attitude even in the UK G1 comic.
So how could the Primus origin work? Again, I don’t know what Scott is going to go with, but it is possible that Primus or the 13 or however creation works in this continuity created gender on purpose in the hopes of getting organic races to more easily accept Cybertronians as living being even though they are machines. We’ve already seen there are two ways to create a spark in this continuity, and the last story arc for More Than Meets The Eye dealt with a fanatic trying to eliminate everyone created by the “wrong” process. Maybe females are part of a third method that mimics organic reproduction involving the creation of the spark, and then having the protoform adjust to match the gender the spark is encoded with. Maybe there’s a reason Arcee was chose for Jhiaxus’s twisted experiment? There are ways to do this and it should be looked into.
This remains my biggest beef with Furman. You have two options with Arcee, don’t use her (the one I wish he went with) or come up with a NON-insulting reason for her existence in a supposedly sexless form of life. It can be done and I can’t wait to see what Mairghread Scott is going to come up with.