Please list characters by the media/incarnation that the darkhorse is most associated with. And let it be known, these characters have The Touch.
This page is for the Ensemble Darkhorse characters spanning all Transformers, Beast Wars, etc. media. Listed first are the characters who won fan voting in the Hall of Fame.
Hall of Fame selection process: Each year, starting in 2010, several characters and real life humans associated with the series are inducted into the Transformers Hall of Fame. One additional character is inducted, based on fan voting, out of 5 characters as choices. As the main characters are automatically inducted, and most of the choices are already on this page, this makes the winner a Breakout Character among the Ensemble Darkhorse characters. For 2010 and 2011, the choices were four G1 characters (each lumped with their other incarnations, if any) and one Beast Wars character.
2010 winner: Beast Wars' Dinobot, beating other characters Soundwave, Grimlock, Shockwave and Jazz.
2011 winner: Beast Wars' Waspinator, beating other characters Grimlock, Shockwave, Jazz and Erector.note Soundwave, the only voting option to not return, was automatically inducted
Chew Toy, and didn't take over the show. He was slated to be killed off at the start of the second season, but due to the unlucky Predacon's popularity among fans, he was spared. Waspinator continued as a supporting character, played for increasingly painful and humiliating comic relief, and his personality continued to develop. He also became just the third character outside of G1 to get an alternate version into another continuity (Wasp in Animated).
Don't let the last two years fool you; the fans aren't too formulaic. This selection also included several more major characters, proving the fan voting options weren't just about ensemble darkhorses. Wheeljack's not just popular for being one of the original Autobots from 1984. He was the first Transformer to ever speak, and is also a lovably wacky Mad Scientist with a Brooklyn accent. Even though some other popular 1984 'Bots, like Sideswipe, are basically cardboard cutouts, Wheeljack's got as much personality as Jazz, Bumblebee, Cliffjumper, Hound, Mirage, Prowl, Ironhide, Ratchet, and Optimus Prime.
Although it is connected to the various animated shows, most of the characters from the original G1 Transformers have been brought back in some form or another. Most notably are the "Seekers", Thundercracker and Skywarp in particular. Part of the reason for their popularity is the fact that they can be easily churned out via simply repainting a line's Starscream (which often leads to the awkward event where a line will feature all three of the original Seekers even when only Starscream appears in the actual cartoon being made to promote the line.
The popularity of the Seekers came out at it's clearest when Hasbro, having killed the popular Transformers Classic line to focus solely on the Broken Base Transformers live action movie, dumped the remaining Seeker figures (Dirge, Thrust, and Thundercracker) into an ultra-rare 2007 Botcon "Games of Deception" set. Needless to say, Transformer fans shat bricks over the fact that they were denied a chance to all the Classic versions of the Seekers, since Botcon sets are made in ultra-low quantity and the massive desire for the figures ensuring that the few that made it to the secondary market would sell for $100 and up PER FIGURE.
Hasbro finally rectified this in 2010-2011 by releasing arguably better versions in the mainstream toylines. Dirge received his proper delta wings, instead of reusing Ramjet's; Thrust's wings were modified a bit; and Thundercracker's wing paint was redone to match the previously-reissued Starscream's.
Skywarp remains pretty rare, though, since he was only released in a box set with Ultra Magnus, exclusive to Target.
Of course, no mention of Ensemble Darkhorse Transformers would be complete without Soundwave, who eventually became one of the few Transformers to survive all the way from "More Than Meets The Eye" to "The Rebirth" unchanged. His robotic but pretty vocoder-altered voice, his faceless look, the fact that he had a pretty dang articulate toy... Call him a snitch and the fanbase will eviscerate you.
Sideswipe is another example; he very rarely did more than be in the background or get any starring appearances in the cartoon or comics, but he's still one of the most popular characters. A likely factor is that he's a Cool Car (a Lamborghini), so his toys tend to be the best. Particularly, in his film appearances, the fans clamored for more of him.
Try playing the game, Transformers: War for Cybertron, Sideswipe is only playable in the second Autobot chapter, but damn is he entertaining to play. not because of any specific gameplay but his dialog and personality during the level make it extremely funny.
Erector. Only ever had one toy, and never appeared in fiction save for a Japanese magazine story, but he recently experienced such a rise in popularity that the fans voted him into the final nominees for the Transformers: Hall of Fame, competing with such insanely popular and famous characters as Grimlock, Jazz, Shockwave and Waspinator. Hasbro even wrote a completely new character bio for him, semingly having embraced his sudden importance, but handled him as more than a simple dick joke. Considering his reputation started because of his name, this can fully well be seen as a Crowning Moment of Awesome for the character.
Nightbeat was just one of the small Headmasters released in the later years of the original line. Then Simon Furman got his hands on him, turning Nightbeat into an awesome Deadpan Snarker detective who was capable of defeating a Matrix powered Thunderwing via shooting a harpoon into his back and tossing him out the airlock. He eventually got seen as the secondary signature character for Furman besides Grimlock and eventually got a new toy in 2014.
Despite most Pretenders being obscure, there are two that stand out.
Bludgeon is aSamurai Skeleton Tank Robot who, like most Decepticon leaders in the comics, was far more effective than Megatron. This popularity landed him a brand new Voyager class toy that skips the inner robot and goes straight from tank to skeletal samurai!
Straxus was a character created specifically for the Marvel Comics, a deranged tyrant who basically existed to be killed off by Blaster after he killed Blaster's best buddy. However, Simon Furman revived him and had him retroactively hijack a lot of badass Megatron moments. He eventually got a rather awesome Deluxe class toy in Generations.
And in yet another case of "Decepticon leader who's better than Megatron," we have Shockwave. In the cartoon, he was just a dull Yes-Man, essentially a poor man's Soundwave. In the comics, he was the Big Bad for most of Budiansky's run, and his reason for constantly and successfully usurping Megatron? It's because he simply deems it logical, whilst also averting the Straw Vulcan trope in actually being logical.
MeGrimlock! It helps that he is regarded as Simon Furman's signature character in the comics.
It wasn't always that way, though, particularly in the Marvel US comics; although he had a couple of Crowning Moments of Awesome (helping to take down Megatron in issue 8, and Trypticon in issue 27), he degenerated into a JerkassBad Boss that was later Flanderized into a variation of his season 3 cartoon self, before getting blasted by Starscream. Furman's takeover of the US book came just as the Classic Pretenders (including Grimlock) hit the shelves, allowing Furman to show the Grimlock he'd written in the UK book, creating the foundation for all future G1-based portrayals.
Even those who didn't much care for Mike Costa's run on IDW's Transformers ongoing seemed to like one character: Bob the Insecticon, a spiky yet adorable abomination of science who becomes Sunstreaker's pet. When Bob showed up in the fourth issue of James Roberts' ongoing, which followed Costa's, a number of fans were rather excited to see that he was still around.
Black Shadow is a surprisingly popular character, despite appearing in very little fiction (he originated in Japan in 1989, but didn't appear in any western fiction until the IDW continuity, where he still had a very minor role, and he didn't get a toy in the west until 2011). Part of his appeal is his function is the highly unusual "Space Gangster," coupled with being a more robotic retool of the already popular Thunderwing.
Cyclonus also has a share of fans, in part because he matches Whirl's badassness on the field and his Tsundere personality.
Swerve. He's gone from being used in past continuities as a filler character with no real distinct personality, to being a very chatty mischievous smartass with a Boisterous Bruiser personality packed into a minibot body.
Roberts' original character Rung, the Autobot psychologist, is also gaining a fangirl posse, due mainly to his adorkably gangly and goggle-eyed design and his equally Adorkable and slightly naive personality. It helps that he's a bit of a Take That to the Mary Sue concept, what with his frequent Butt Monkey moments.
Also in this vein, we have original character Ambulon, himself a bit of a Take That to the whole "Ex-Decepticons are cooler" notion that became so unpopular with Drift. His life frankly sucks, he's not that well-liked In-Universe, and to top it all off, his altmode is a leg... Naturally, he's very popular with the fandom, though unfortunately, it wasn't enough to save him.
Surprisingly, Drift of all 'bots has become this. It's kind of amazing that a former Creator's Pet has become popular among many of his haters due to having a good writer behind him. It doesn't hurt that he's become a hell of a Deadpan Snarker. Having had a spiritual reawakening that makes him "offensively upbeat" and that Ratchet absolutely hates gives him some extra points too.
Getaway *BOMP* became a huge hit with the fans after his introduction scenes in issue 20.
Banzai-Tron is far and away the most popular Action Master, surprising given that Action Masters are generally reviled. An interesting look and a neat bio were all well and good, including the incredibly badass motto of "To the victor go the profits," but what really sealed it was the fancomic Transformers: Chronicles, where he was basically Kenshiro as a Decepticon. Since then, he's received at least four toys, more than any Action Master by far, including a release in the super-high-end Alternity.
The Beast Warsseries, considering it resurrected Transformers as a franchise, introduced sparks and other concepts, and more. Take a look at who the Hall of Fame winners are.
Megatron's Rubber Ducky. No lines, not interaction with anyone else, but one of the 3 fully loyal Predacons. And the only one of those three (the others being Inferno and Scorponok) to get transmetallized.
In Beast Machines, this role was taken by Jetstorm due to his gleefully evil, sarcastic, arrogant personality. A keen sense of wit and the fact that his Voice Actor played him as a Large Ham didn't hurt, either.
Rampage and Depth Charge. The former for being an immortal psychopath, the latter for being the only one badass enough to take him on. They are drawn to each other like matter and antimatter, and are about as safe to be around when it happens. Put them in a scene together and watch the awesome.
Scourge, the leader of the Jungle Planet. Another Dinobot-like character with a three-headed dragon beast mode.
Signal Lancer, who is a minor joke character at best and doesn't even get named in the English dub, became famous and even a tad memetic when, in the show's final episode, he dramatically revealed his robot mode and left his spot to find his great destiny. His disguise was a mundane stoplight.
Scattershot and Vector Prime maintain strong popualarity after the show: the first appearing in Transformers: War for Cybertron and the second for being one of the Thirteen original primes and a powerful sacrifice.
Who became one of the most popular Transformers Animated characters after his ten second appearance in the pilot episode? Not Prowl, not Bumblebee, not Megatron... it's the wacky, Split Personality villain Blitzwing. The fact that he's made appearances in almost every one of the The Arrival tie-in comics may show that the writers are listening to the fandom.
Ratchet's pretty popular for getting some of the best character development.
Ninjabot Prowl was the last main character to get a back story and spent much of his first and second season appearances proving less thanbadass points, but thanks to his excellent character development, Nature Hero/Ninja/Stoic Warrior/general awesomen-ess, and that sweetsamurai armor he picked up in season three (and that Dinobot-esque Heroic Sacrifice in the finale, complete with a Big Damn Hero moment from beyond the grave probably didn't hurt either), Prowl is one of the most popular characters from Animated.
Normally, the Transformers Token Human is a Scrappy, but what happens when you give a token human real plot development and make her half Cybertronian? Sari Sumdac!
There's also Captain Fanzone, the badass police captain who's Born In The Wrong Era and gives some of the show's funniest moments.
Dispensor, the Mountain Dew vending machine turned into a homicidal robot by the power of the Allspark, despite being Product Placement, not being named, and barely appearing for more than a few seconds. Dispensor eventually got his own (short flash) game, where he infiltrates human facilities Looney Tunes style and takes over the world in the name of Mountain Dew. He also got a toy, although, tragically, it doesn't transform and isn't poseable.
As of Takara's Age of Extinction lead-in toyline, Dispensor has graduated to full Transformer-dom (even if it is now as a delivery truck for a Bland-Name ProductShout-Out to both MTMTE and TV Tropes itself, "Mood Wiplash (sic)").
Flatline quickly became this in the Extended Universe comic book tie-ins. Essentially the Decepticon equivalent to Josef Mengele, he's arguably more vile than his universe's Megatron - Which is saying something. A lot of fans want to see a toy of him that turns into a hearse.
The Wreckers (Roadbuster, Topspin, and Leadfoot). They're a trio of jerkasses that change into heavily modified NASCAR stock cars covered in firepower.
To a lesser degree there's also Glenn from the first film, due to Anthony Anderson's hilarious performance.
Hound, from the fourth installment. He's a big jolly fatbot chomping on a bullet cigar who happens to be carrying a small arsenal. He also got some of the best lines.
Lockdown was already another show's Ensemble Darkhorse before his epic portrayal here, but he quickly beat out Megatron's first iteration as the the most popular Big Bad of any of the four films. Some of the more frequently cited reasons include his enormous Badassery, Deadpan Snarker tendencies, face-gun, faithfulness to his original incarnation, and Mark Ryan's performance.
Metroplex, the Humongous Mecha Autobot city. The fact he gets to slam Megatron into the ground, four times, in fact, probably helps.
Grimlock again, though he's a favorite no matter what continuity he appears in. He's just as awesomely powerful as the trailers made him out to be, culminating in biting off and eating Shockwave's left arm.
Dreadwing. His Noble Demon personality and sense of honor remind people of the aforementioned Dinobot. Not to mention that he can hold his own in a fight with Optimus Prime.
His brother Skyquake isn't far behind him in this regard, though he's less Noble and more Demon.
The Prime version of Wheeljack is also quite popular. He's gone from a Gadgeteer Genius to a Genius Bruiser, cutting through waves of Vehicons with his swords and being an established member of the Wreckers. The creators took notice of this and gave him more screentime in season 2, around the time his toy started shipping.
Steve, a Fan Nickname for any Vehicon that does anything noteworthy, hitting Starscream.
Arcee developed quite the following due to her being well written badass Action Girl that is defined by her own merits and not by being a girl.
Ratchet and Bulkhead got a following for much the same reasons their counterparts in Animated were liked.
Starscream, thanks how hilarious he could be, but at the same time could still come off as threat at times even a Magnificant Bastard.
Shockwave's badassery when he easily stomped Bulkhead and Wheeljack earned him this.
Knockout has proven to be VERY popular for his eccentric scene-stealing personality.
Ravage is one of the biggest examples of this. He was originally just a joke in Shortpacked! about how a Mirror Universe Ravage would be a Motor MouthKeet instead of a silent assassin. Then his creator started up a Twitter feed in which he was portrayed as the living incarnation of LOLCats. Eventually, the little guy became so popular, he was made canon and received a toy at Botcon 2010!
Abominus, who defeats Computron with interpretive dance while politely critiquing his diction, hit the ground running for the title of "Best Gestalt Ever." Then we learned that his components are what make him a Cultured Badass - a Renaissance man, a famous actor, a captain of industry, a psychologist, and a children's entertainer, complete with cute hand puppet. It helps that he looks fantastic◊.