Legacy Blog #16: The Transformers

My Beloved Daughter,

My next fandom came about in 1984.  A commercial, showing toy cars and guns that turned into robots and fought each other, came on during my morning cartoon watching.  The children yelling, “It’s the Autobot Commander!  Call in the Decepticon Leader!” burned itself into my memory.

But what really got my attention was the cartoon.  Coming from Cybertron, an empty husk of a metal planet, whose energy reserves were depleted by a war of millions of years, the Transformers were a race of robots who could change their forms.  The peace-loving Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, left their world to search for more energy.  The evil Decepticons, led by the megalomaniacal Megatron, followed them and attacked them, boarding their ship and causing it to crash on Earth four million years ago.  The ship came to rest in the side of a volcano in the Pacific Northwest of the U.S..  In the 1980s, the volcano erupted; causing the ship’s computer to activate and it reactivated the robots.  Since the crash (according to the comic book by Marvel) wiped the computer’s memory of the war, it activated both the good guys and bad guys and they continued their war on Earth.  Unlike Cybertron, our world is a living planet with many natural resources.  In the cartoon, the Nations gave the Autobots the energy they needed to survive, as the Autobots defended the Earth from the Decepticons.  The cartoon went on for three full seasons and had a single, week-long miniseries for the fourth season.  I’m told that the series continued in Japan but not in the U.S..

In the comics, the Autobots were mistrusted by the humans.  The first series existed in the Marvel Universe.  Spiderman even guest-starred in the third issue.  Seeing him web Megatron in the face was priceless and was the most memorable point in the comic for me.

The first Transformer toy that I bought was Jazz, a sort of rocker Autobot who was the second-in-command of the Autobots.  He was so complex in his transformation that I never figured out how to get him to turn into a robot.  I took him back and got Sideswipe.  I also got Bumblebee, who was one of the minicars.  The normal-sized cars were about nine dollars back then.  The minicars were about three.  Before the original series ended, around my freshman year of high school, I had over a hundred Transformers toys . . . ranging from all of the Aerialbots to Omega Supreme.  I never took very good care of them, so mine weren’t worth anything when I grew up.

The original television series spawned an animated movie in 1986.  The commander of the Autobots died in it.  This led to a major backlash from fans and he was brought back at the end of the third season.  Unfortunately, as I mentioned before, there were only five more episodes after that, ending the original series.

The second series started when I was a senior in high school.  Releasing mostly repaints of the original characters, it was refreshing to see them in Wal-Mart.  I replaced Sideswipe and Optimus Prime, both of which I had broken playing roughly as a child.  I still have these two in our basement.

I’ve followed this fandom over the course of my life.  The Thirtieth Anniversary Edition of the 1986 movie (vastly superior to the live action, Michael Bay movies) was released this year.  As of this writing, they continue to make new versions of the Transformers, so that new generations of children can join the battle of the heroic Autobots versus the evil Decepticons in “A World Transformed . . ..”

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