Any joke I can make about a “badass female” is ruined by IDW’s origin.

Here we are at the final installment until the next comic license comes out. Yes, I’m pre-empting Saturday Night Showcase to get this done because it’s the last one. I’ve already looked at Marvel US’s run, the Dreamwave run, and after a brief overview of IDW’s run via Transformers: The Basics I looked at everything I thought IDW got right that came to mind. Now though it’s time for the ill deeds. There’s a lot more of these.

I grant you that any review is balanced with the reviewer’s opinion. Things I hate may be things you like. That’s fine. We all have our own tastes, though there will be things on this list that are actually bad from a technical perspective. Much of it however is my personal bias and what I want to see out of a Transformers universe. Where do we start? How about the one longtime BW readers knows is coming.

What they did to Arcee

I made a whole article about Arcee’s history, including what was done in IDW, that actually earned this site a research credit at TV Tropes. Simon Furman is one of those writers who do not believe Transformers should have a gender despite the use of male pronouns and the first wave of Autobot Pretenders using male humans as their template. (Yes, I know, boys line.) However he still insisted on putting Arcee into IDW’s Transformers universe. His solution?

Arcee is a girl because Jhiaxus was bored and opted to force Arcee to be a girl to see if he could introduce gender to Transformers. He could have just not used her but instead he did this to her. Years later, IDW failed to do the smart thing and say “let’s never speak of this again”, probably to make…certain movements happy. So they tried to retcon this into Arcee WANTING to be a girl rather than being forced.

This is like saying the rape victim “wanted it”. This is why I warn about the dangers of retcons, kids. Whatever the case, Arcee was not the loving, caring, yet skid plate-kicking warrior we know her as. She makes the Bride from Kill Bill look less vengeance happy. (Granted I haven’t watched the films so that analogy may not actually fit but it’s the rightful vengeance character coming to mind at the moment.) She also became Prowl’s personal assassin, cold and murder-happy, probably only working with him so she could stab something or shoot something. Basically they doubled down and completely ruined Arcee with their take on her. Thankfully the Cyberverse TV show was around, though they may have overcorrected with how they depicted her. At any rate I think we can all agree IDW handled this wrong. They should have told Furman “no”, but they’re the types who think Furman is THE Transformers guy. Maybe that’s why we also got…

This scene right here? It’s a rare case of Prowl being good in a comic book.

They also ruined Prowl

I don’t know why Simon Furman hates Prowl so much. He hated Prowl in G1, he hated him here, and he’s hated him in any story he’s in, especially if he’s opposite Furman’s pet character Grimlock. However, I’ve come to expect it from him by now. What bothers me is that even in stories he didn’t write, especially after the war, Prowl is still a jerk, untrusting, not ready to give up the faction differences between Autobot and Decepticon, manipulating people because he’s so sure he’s in the right that he doesn’t care about anyone else, and bossing bots around like he’s in charge. I hate this interpretation of Prowl, a logical strategist who doesn’t treat the others like scrap metal. It started with Furman but it didn’t end with him. In his Spotlight story he’s a good cop, by the book, but had to learn that there’s more to being an Autobot than that. Of course it’s not just Prowl that gets the short end.


I admit I was amused by this bit.

The crew of The Lost Light are kind of insane!

In something out of Tom King’s wildest fantasy, every member of Hot Rod’s search for the “Lost Knights Of Cybertron” have serious mental issues they need to work out, even Hot Rod himself and characters like Ratchet. Whirl is psycho. Cyclonus is lost. Brainstorm can’t handle loss and anyone close to him that gets killed he programs himself to forget. Rung, the psychiatrist created for the comic, has his own emotional issues. At every step I find myself caring less and less. I don’t pick up a Transformers story to watch robots working through their problems on a ship in deep space to find something that may not exist. Of course you don’t have to be nuts to be on this ship, though it helps. Ultra Magnus is just filled with whatever virus hit Prowl.

Then there’s…the Decepticon Justice Division. A group of robots Megatron created to hunt down Decepticon traitors and built them into torture devices. This was considered a good thing. Sadistic nightmare fuel. This was based on a toyline for kids, right? Oh, we’ll come back to that. I hate the DJD the same way I hate the Neo-Knights, but for different reasons. The DJD is one of the reasons I stopped reading this comic long before Megatron’s reformation so I can’t really comment on that. I can however comment on the Autobots’ issue as a whole.

Not from IDW but still appropriate.

The Autobots are basically horrible

Whether it’s the War For Cybertron tie-in, Megatron’s IDW origin where this started, or anything involving a Prime before Optimus, until it was Optimus itself, the Autobots are not the clean-cut good guys. This may be fine for you, but this is my listing so hear me out, and I’m starting in a weird location. Back when I was on, the Transformers newsgroup, every election cycle some putz would make a post asking if the Autobots were Democrats or Republicans or if the Decepticons were one of those parties, as if that was the only option. To me, the Autobots would be Democrats or Republicans based on their personalities, and this is of course assume they even cared to be judge by Earth labels of “liberal” or “conservative”. It was just an excuse to trash whatever political party you disagreed with by slapping them with the Decepticon label.

Decepticons, contrarily, would not be part of either group. The Autobots represent the better natures of humanity, or at least the US since they were created during the Cold War. The Decepticons are neither Democrat nor Republican. They’re tyrants, dictators, gangsters, con artists, gang bangers, anarchists, thieves…the worst natures of humanity. As Professor Geek would say, this is the mythology surrounding Transformers, with the Autobots being the best of us and what we should strive to be, with something for all political proclivities including none, and the Decepticons the worst of us. I got into Bumblebee because I can connect to his low self-esteem at times and thus when he overcomes it and proves to himself that he’s actually useful and his friends honestly like him I can root for that and hope to see that in myself.

In IDW’s world, however, the Autobots exist on a caste system, the Primes of the past are cruel and controlling, and the only reason to root against the Decepticons is that they’re somehow worse while the Autobots in the war are at least trying to be better. Well, some of them are. We also went over Prowl, Arcee, and Ultra Magnus. There’s also Getaway, who I’ve heard bad things about that run counter to his original G1 profile. Whirl may reform over time but at the start he’s a total jerk. Optimus loses his way and annex’s Earth into a Cybertronian Empire “for their own good”. I expect that when I pick up a Transformers comic I’m rooting for the Autobots, or the Maximals, or the Mini-Cons. I shouldn’t need a guidebook to tell me who the heroes are. That’s what the faction symbol is for.

“Nintendo Switch, you say? What does it switch into?”

Did we forget Transformers IS A KIDS PROPERTY!!!!!!!!

IDW sure did! Outside of a tie-in to Transformers Animated IDW really didn’t make this run very kid friendly, especially as it went on. Again, the Decepticon Justice Division! Even the Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters wasn’t every exciting for the younger crowd, this franchise’s target audience. Like so many other comic creators they told the kid to drop dead.

“But kids already have so much stuff…”

Yeah, we can question that. Outside of Disney Junior and Cartoonito shows, all made for preschool through elementary school kids, and that research-impaired League Of Super Pets, how many superhero properties are there for kids now? It’s all made for adults from comics to video games to TV shows both live-action and animated (Power Rangers is all you get, kids) to movies. There’s this weird habit of taking kids shows and making them more adult. I’m not talking about the internet’s porn obsession, I mean shows that look like they’re for kids but they’re for the adults making them, the anti-Bluey stuff out there.

“They’re just aging stuff up with the audi….”

Let me cut you off because I hate that premise. Nobody “aged up” Sesame Street. There are a few gags for the parents watching with their kids, if they still do that, but it’s a show for kids as is the various spin-offs Sesame Workshop is putting out. Transformers was not made for people who grew up in the 1980s. It was made in the 1980s for kids. I have no problem with they courting the adult collector’s market but while they still make toys and shows for kids, comics and video games have none to speak of in early 2023 and it’s something I hope the next license holder addresses by giving each age group their own comic.

“I thought we sprayed for Decepticons!”

Lightning round!

  • Why is it Bob Budiansky, the guy who practically made Transformers what they are by writing the early comics after editing them, and the profiles of every Generation One toy and comic character, only get an adaptation of the original animated movie? Yes, this is with access to the final showing instead of the latest script available like the Marvel miniseries, and it’s one of the few stories Budiansky didn’t work on during his run because he could only do so much at one time, but this is a token offer. Unless he didn’t want to really do more stories, given him a better miniseries. Something in the main timeline, an Evolutions, a Spotlight…SOMETHING! Transformers would not exist in it’s current G1 form without him!!!
  • Look, my love of Bumblebee is so big that two websites can’t contain it. However, even I know making Bumblebee leader of the Autobots…TWICE…is not a good idea. That’s not where his character lies. It works for Aligned Continuity Bumblebee because he had a different path from his G1 namesake but as much as I love Da Bee, he wasn’t programmed to lead the entire Autobot party. Maybe a small force, which is what Aligned Bee did as well, but you made Goldbug a separate character and he never met the Throttlebots.
  • Yell at Dreamwave if you want for forcing Andrew Wildman to fit into their house style (which led to him drawing robots instead of cosplaying humans so that’s actually a good thing), but at least there was consistency. There was one point where in two different comics a character would be based on a completely different toy, thus having a different alt mode and body design, despite the intention of it being the same character with no modifications. Even when the models were consistent, and Starscream at some point has shared the body of all his other continuity namesakes because he has issues, the art often wasn’t. I am not a Nick Roche fan, and he wasn’t even the worst artist…unless the art I’m thinking of was by him.

Considering he kills you in the Bay films I wouldn’t be so disappointed.

In conclusion…

IDW’s run on Transformers did the unthinkable, the opposite of a miracle. It made me lose interest in a Transformers run. I was one of those simps who would buy any story with Transformers as it was my #1 favorite fiction. It’s the only toyline besides early Star Wars I collected, and even that was only as a kid. Transformers I bought as an adult, especially if it was a good Bumblebee figure. I’ve enjoyed every version of this franchise’s story until IDW and the Michael Bay movies. It actually curbed, but not eliminated, my interest in the Transformers multiverse, and given that these articles have been alongside a big comic organizing project that includes Transformers comics this may be a benefit in hindsight. I don’t just mindlessly collect Transformers stories and just complain about one or two bad episodes. Even something like “BOT” or “Carnage In C-Minor” is more enjoyable because they feel like Transformers to me. Not good stories mind you–IDW wins that game even if I didn’t like the stories personally, but better than IDW and Bay were doing as far as adaptation. Being good isn’t always enough when you’re part of a long franchise that has a certain tone and style to it, “multiversal continuity” that says “these are the characters”. I can take multiple characters named Prowl, the “Bob” of Cybertron, but when you show me this particular Prowl I have expectations and what I want to see that makes him G1 Prowl versus one of the Beast Wars versions or the Animated version.

I don’t hate IDW, though I do dislike everything I listed above. It just isn’t what I wanted out of Transformers, and I didn’t even mention Jazz killing a human or their creepy take on the Micromasters. Overall I’m just not a fan of this run and I’m not disappointed they aren’t doing Transformers. I do worry that some of what they’ve done has corrupted multiversal continuity going forward if the next writers were inspired to follow their formula rather than a more classic take. I may end up losing another favorite franchise, and given this was my #1, it hurts on a Superman level.


About ShadowWing Tronix

A would be comic writer looking to organize his living space as well as his thoughts. So I have a blog for each goal. :)

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