The Transformers are two rival groups of sentient shapechanging robots, the heroic Autobots and the villainous Decepticons.
History: Untold billions of years ago on a planet known as Cybertron; life evolved. But not organic life as we know it. Instead, machines emerged as the dominant species, evolving into highly complex and sentient mechanicals and machinery known as Cybertronians with the ability to convert themselves into various alternate physical forms for different purposes; to literally transform their own bodies into different configurations for construction, for long distance travel, and even for combat. For millennia, the Cybertronians existed peacefully. But it was not to last.
Dissatisfied with the tranquility and ennui, a power hungry tyrant known as Megatron became the leader of a faction of warriors and warmongers known as the Decepticons who threw the entire planet into chaos, overthrowing the peaceful and benevolent Cybertronians. Believing that only the strongest and the fittest deserved to rule, the Deceptions sought to impose their beliefs on the entire planet. However there were those who resisted, who demanded that strength and cruelty were not to be used to dominate others. Dedicated to the principles of peace and righteousness, they took up arms of their own and battled the Deceptions for their world. This faction became known as the Autobots. From their ranks arose Optimus Prime, the strongest, the wisest, and the most powerful Autobot of them all, the only match and counter to the tyrannical Megatron.
For centuries, both sides waged an endless war against each other and both sides found themselves inheriting a devastated world. The once plentiful energy was consumed and drained by the tireless fighting. The magnificent cities were smoldering wreckages and battlefields. The weak and the helpless were weeded out leaving only the most skillful, the most talented, and the luckiest warriors to stalk and hunt one another. Realizing that they and their world was doomed unless they gained a new source of energy, Optimus Prime handpicked a group of Autobots to accompany him on a mission to try and locate such a source.
Unknowingly, his plans were discovered by the scheming Megatron who saw this as an opportunity to rid himself of the core leadership of the Autobots. As Optimus Prime and the Autobots left Cybertron on their spacecraft known as the Ark, they were ambushed by a band of Decepticons led by Megatron who boarded their ship. Both sides were locked in brutal combat, neither realizing that the Ark was out of control and plunged into the atmosphere of a small planet in a distant solar system called Earth. It crashed and left the broken bodies of both Autobots and Decepticons to slumber away for several millions of years.
Time passed. Life evolved on the planet, unaware of the dormant Cybertronians who remained buried in the Ark. But unlike Cybertron, organic life was the dominant species on Earth. In the modern day, a volcanic eruption reactivated the slumbering Ark which initiated a scan of the planet and finds it full of life. The computer did not consider the strange organic beings known as humans as life forms; instead it misinterpreted that the machines that the human race had built and operated as a primitive machine race. Using the scans as templates, the Ark reformated the damaged occupants into new configurations to better disguise themselves in a potentially hostile environment.
Awakening, the Autobots and Decepticons began their battle anew. Megatron quickly realised that Earth was full of exploitable resources and its organic inhabitants are too primitive and weak to resist the might of the Decepticons. With a sufficient source of energy, the Decepticons could rebuild Cybertron to its former glory and go on to conquer the rest of the universe! The Autobots leapt to the defense of humanity, guilt ridden that they had involved an innocent race in their eons old struggle. And so the war continued between both sides. They were the Robots in Disguise and this was their saga. The saga of the Transformers!
Comments: The above profile information relates to the Generation One or G1 and draws upon the TV series for the majority of its information. The membership and sub-groups consist of the entire toyline that was released for this period, not just the individuals who appeared in the episodes.
The concept of transforming robots has long been a staple of Japanese toys. Jets, guns, cars, cameras, even animals such as dinosaurs and insects that could transform into robotic forms were all created and produced in Japan. A few were from certain TV series or shows, some were just simply toys with a special gimmick such as the Microman and Diaclone toys. In 1984 however, Hasbro conceived the idea of unifying all of the separate and different toys under one banner. With the help of Marvel Comics, they envisioned a complex backstory for the toyline, of two separate sects of robot warriors fighting each other in a war that had come to include the planet Earth as its battleground.
This series of toys would later be called Generation One or G1 by the fans were originally separated into two groups; the cars became Autobots (from automobiles) and the rest were classified as the Decepticons included fighter jets, a gun, a camera, and even a tape deck and audio cassettes. It proved to be popular. So wildly popular that Hasbro decided to release a TV Special and a 4-part comic book miniseries (written and published by Marvel Comics) to promote it and the fans still clamored for more.
Hasbro soon exhausted the available Japanese toy models and would have to go and create new original models to be released, creating successive characters to the series including the combiners; a series of smaller robots which combined to form one gigantic gestalt of a super-robot warrior; and a series of robots who had humans for partners and literally transformed into different components such as the robot's head (the Head Masters), the robot's weapons (the Target Masters), and even the robot's engine (the Power Masters); and the Pretenders, robots who used an outer "shell" to disguise themselves and make them appear to be alien monsters or simple humanoids.
The TV series and the Marvel Comics line both had a similar origin story but they quickly diverged into different concepts. The TV series became geared for mainly children and juveniles with the Autobots and Decepticons battling it out every week. It lasted for three seasons and a brief fourth season before it was cancelled, producing a total of 98 episodes and at the height of its popularity produced "Transformers: The Movie" in 1986.
The Marvel Comics series lasted longer, probably a credit to a more complex and much more serious storyline. While the Autobots and human beings quickly became friends and allies in the TV series, the ones in the comics were much more distrustful of them. One such change in the Marvel Comics was "Sparkplug" Witwicky and his son, Buster who first met and befriended the Autobots although "Sparkplug" was much more distrustful and wary of the Autobots after he suffered a heart attack when one of the Autobots tried to attack him when they thought he had betrayed them to the Decepticons. Buster was also a much younger character, just a teenager than his counterpart Spike in the TV series who at times seemed much like a cheerleader for the Autobots. Buster played a much greater role in the Marvel comics after the Autobots were defeated and captured by the Decepticons, Optimus Prime hastily transferred his possession of the "Creation Matrix" to Buster to keep it out of Decepticons' hands. The Creation Matrix was the Master Program that bestowed the spark of sentience to mechanicals, without it, Cybertronians would just be robots, empty shells. The Creation Matrix bestowed life and a full personality to Transformers. Later when Spike became binary bonded to Fortress Maximus in the toyline and also the TV series, he was retroed into the continuity of the comics as Buster's older brother.
In the Marvel comics, the Autobots and Decepticons were both looked upon as threats by most humans. Although in the TV series, humans clearly looked upon the Autobots as friends and guardians; the Autobots were much more distrusted. Many were even unaware that there were even two separate sides or that both sides were bitterly and morally opposed to one another and grouped them together as dangerous and destructive alien machines and invaders. Although the Autobots would make a few allies and friends among humans, they would also become the targets of various government agencies and others who sought to destroy them as well.
First printed as a 4-issue miniseries, the comics lasted for approximately 8 years and produced 80 issues, not including four separate miniseries, one of the most popular one united the Transformers with the other giant 80's franchise, G.I. Joe. By 1990 however, the waning popularity of the Transformers toyline caused Hasbro to try and breath new life into the Transformers by introducing the Micromasters and the Action Masters. The Micromasters were clearly inspired by the success of the Micro Machines and were miniaturized vehicles, considerably smaller than the previous Transformer models. They proclaimed that the energy rationing on Cybertron forced them to create smaller and thus more energy-efficient bodies to continue their battles. The Micromasters had several different concepts, some were grouped together as individual teams, others had mini-bases, and the oddest ones of them all, the combiners which included a front-end and rear-end part of a vehicle that hooked up together and claimed that you could create new vehicles by combining different ones together (but really made just strange looking ones). The Action Masters on the other hand were the same size of the previous toys and were robotic humanoids that were much more articulated thus improving the playability with children. This improved articulation came at the cost of eliminating their ability to transform into other modes. To try and stay true to the idea of the Transformers, they also included mini-partners who did possess the ability to transform into different modes; transport vehicles, guns, and other such devices. These attempts failed and in less than a year, the Transformers quietly vanished and soon afterwards even the Marvel Comics series ended as well roughly a year later in 1991.
The Transformers did not disappear entirely however. In 1992, Hasbro made a halfhearted attempt to bring back the Transformers. Instead of totally new toys, they instead brought back the more popular classic toys (with a different color scheme) and later even retooled several new toys with some of the most popular characters names with new concepts such as parts that light up and a built-in sound chip with pre-recorded sound effects. They even tapped Marvel Comics to restart their comic book line but quickly cancelled the project a mere 12 issues into the second run. By 1995 the toys vanished again. This was the G2 or Generation 2.
In 1996, Mainframe Entertainment which also produced such 3D computer graphic cartoons such as "Action Man" and "ReBoot" was tapped to release a new cartoon series based on a new series of robot toys entitled "Transformers: the Beast Wars" which lasted for four years ending in 1999 with 52 episodes. While some decried it as nothing like the original Transformers, it was a bold attempt to create a viable future look into the Transformers universe about 300 years after the G1 TV series with new partially organic and partially technological transformers with 3D computer graphics. While this 3D graphics was superb at times, it flopped just as often in appearing unnatural. It did however reintroduce the Transformers to a new generation of children and while it did occasionally tapped a few of the classic characters of the original TV series, it primarily focused on new and totally separate characters, proving popular enough to bring back the series after it was finished. Mainframe Entertainment agreed to wrap up the storylines in this sequel series, renamed into "Transformers: The Beast Machines". It only lasted one year and only 26 episodes.
The Beast Wars and Beast Machines also revived the franchise in Japan although the toys were not as popular as the TV shows in Japan. Due to the poor toy sales of the Beast Machines, Japan decided to return the Transformers back to their roots and in 2000, released a new TV series known as "Transformers: Car Robots" specifically developed by Japan and refocused on the original concept of Robots in Disguise. The Autobots, led by Fire Convoy (who was renamed Optimus Prime in the American version) are the secret defenders of the planet Earth and have completely integrated themselves within human society, even acting as vehicles for them; trains, fire engines, police cars, etc. when they find themselves facing a new alien menace called the Decepticons. This is a completely alternate universe of the original TV series and relaunched the Transformers back to their former heights of popularity. The Car Robots series lasted roughly a year although it did include 39 episodes was such a popular success that it immediately spawned a series of sequels (with a new storyline and not based on the prior Car Robots version) including "Transformers: Micron Legend" which was released from 2002 to 2003 and successively, "Transformers: SuperLink" in 2004 and "Transformers: Galaxy Force" in 2005. In reverse, these TV series have come back to America where Micron Legend became Transformers: Armada and SuperLink became Transformers: Energon. Transformers: Galaxy Force has yet to be released to the US and is currently to be titled as Transformers: Cybertron.
There was also a resurgence of the old 80's series in comic books including the Transformers and in 2002, Dreamwave Productions began releasing several Transformers comic mini-series and reintroduced old and new fans to the Generation 1 and what occurred after the end of that series as well as a comic version of the Transformers: Armada TV series. They also attempted to try and unify the various disparate Transformer universes into a cohesive whole and was well thought of for their stories which expanded on the backstory of the Transformers. Dreamwave Productions again also produced several mini-series that united the Transformers and G.I. Joe once again. Unfortunately the company declared bankruptcy in January of 2005, ending the current release of Transformer comics.
But the Transformers live on, clearly able to transform themselves to capture the fascination for a new generation.
Profile by Michael Higuchi
Michael notes "I didn't make a mistake in not including Unicron under the Enemies entry for Optimus. He died before any of the Transformers ever faced Unicron in the 1986 Movie. And since Unicron was dead for a while after he was resurrected, Optimus never even faced Unicron so I didn't think he fit into the Enemies entry."
Any Additions/Corrections? Please let me know.
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