It’s no secret that I’m a big fan of the original Transformers (often referred to as “Generation One” by fans), and that I have been for basically my entire life. And this year, Hasbro is opening up the Transformers Hall of Fame. Optimus Prime, Megatron, Bumblebee, and Starscream are all being inducted, and by heading over to www.Transformers.com, you can vote for the fifth entrant (between Soundwave, Grimlock, Jazz, Shockwave, and… Beast Wars’ Dinobot?) I thought this would be a good enough time to share some highlights of my personal Transfandom.
The Transformers debuted in September 1984, just a few months after I had turned 2 years old. I often like to explain to people that “Transformers was my favorite pop culture thing that wasn’t Sesame Street or Mr. Rogers Neighborhood.”
And, as a young child, what’s not to like? Imagine yourself as a pre-preschool kid, watching a show where seemingly normal cars and trucks can turn into gigantic robots and protect you from the forces of evil. That’s just an awesome thought.
I remember watching the first two seasons in two of my several childhood homes, and I had a few of the toys; I had Optimus Prime, of course, as well as the Autobots’ boombox, Blaster. I had Bumblebee and Cliffjumper, Brawn, Hoist, and Prowl (except that I couldn’t pronounce “Prowl,” so I pretended it was Bluestreak, since they both turned into Nissan Datsun Fairlady Zs, anyways).
In 1986, a friend of mine from school had the Transformers movie on tape, and when I spent the night at his house, one weekend, we watched it at least twice. It was sad that Optimus Prime died, but I was excited to see what the Autobots’ new leader, Rodimus Prime, was going to do! Unlike most of today’s fans, I have nothing but fond memories of the post-movie Season 3 episodes, and thoroughly enjoyed my time spent with Rodimus, Ultra Magnus, Kup, Springer, and Arcee fighting against Galvatron, Cyclonus, Scourge, and the Quintessons. I recall getting the toys for Rodimus, Magnus, Kup, Blur, Wheelie, Wreck-Gar, and a few of the Mini-Vehicles. I never had too many of the Decepticons, but I did manage to score Trypticon, the Decepticons’ motorized city that transformed into a giant T-Rex.
But, alas, as with all fads, the Transformers cartoon came to an end in 1987. I bought some of the toys that looked cool afterwards, but without a show to tell me who and what the characters were, I mostly didn’t care, anymore. And just a few months later, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles made its television debut. I was all over that like a fat kid on cake.
When Hasbro tried to revitalize the franchise in 1992 with Generation 2, I watched it for a few weeks, but was disappointed that the cartoons were just re-airings of the old cartoon with CGI transitions replacing the original ones. I got some of the G2 toys, including Decepticon leader Megatron (who was inexplicably a green-and-purple tank), but it just wasn’t the same.
In the spring of 1996, I was fascinated with “Japanimation” (what we called anime before it had a proper name), and watched Sailor Moon in the mornings before going to Jr. High, as it was the only anime that I could find on television at the time. But for two days, Sailor Moon was replaced with a show called “Beast Wars: Transformers” – It was a new take on the Transformers. The show was completely done in CGI, and the characters all turned into different animals. After the two-part opener, we were back to Sailor Moon on Wednesday. Curious.
I recalled that I’d picked up the Optimus Prime vs Megatron 2-pack (Where they were a bat and an alligator, respectively, instead of the gorilla and tyrannosaurus that they were in the cartoon) with my Christmas money in 1995, and suddenly had a reason to play with these bizarre Transformers.
But without the show to watch, I again quickly lost interest. However, later in 1996, Beast Wars appeared on television as the last show I could watch before having to leave for school in the mornings. Its complex and intricate storylines kicked the ass of everything else I was watching, and with enough references to the original Transformers, I was hooked.
In 1997, we got our first Internet-capable computer, and by Christmas 1998, I was researching as much as I could about the Transformers. When I started working for Blockbuster in August of 2000, I used my first paycheck to buy a copy of Kid Rhino’s re-release of the 1986 movie. By the end of the year, I’d bought the entirety of the G1 cartoon from eBay, along with the 35 or so episodes of the StarTV dub of the Japanese-only “Headmasters” season.
In 2001, I bought the “Special Collector’s Edition” of the movie, which re-instated Spike’s “Oh, SHIT, what’re we gonna do now!” as well as the original, theatrical credits opening (as opposed to the Star Wars-like scrolling text that accompanied the previous home video releases).
Over the last 10 years, I’ve purchased nearly every G1-inspired Transformers comic, and several of the newer G1-themed toys, as well as the 20th Anniversary Edition DVD. I played the Heavy Metal War game on Seibertron.com for months, creating a number of my own Transformers with their own backstories and abilities.
The live-action movies and more recent interpretations of the franchise (Armada, Energon, Cybertron, Animated, etc.) haven’t done much for me. But I’m all for their existence, as they help to fund the G1 stuff that I want to continue being produced.
My Transfandom has taken a bit of a backseat over the last couple of years, but I’ll never not be a fan. Even if I recognize that the cartoon I fell in love with as a child isn’t actually very good.
‘Til all are one.