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Continuity Snarl / Transformers

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  • The original cartoon didn't need later material to create its own snarls. Most infamously, the Constructicons were given a throwaway origin in their debut of being created by Megatron on Earth in the modern day, then a season later got a spotlight episode that revealed them to have been former good guys brainwashed by Megatron on Cybertron long ago, and then a season after that, a flashback episode suggested that Megatron himself was created by the evil Constructicons. The movie also created a lot of continuity issues: where did the Matrix come from if it wasn't mentioned at all before? What was the later season 2 cast doing? Why does Cybertron have moons now?
    • The most infamous of the movie's continuity questions is Cyclonus. In the final cut of the film, the body of the Seeker Thundercracker gets turned into Scourge, while the Insecticons Kickback and Shrapnel get turned into his soldiers, the Sweeps. Then the bodies of the Insecticon Bombshell and the Seeker Skywarp are turned into "Cyclonus and his armada." The "armada" in question is one guy who looks identical to Cyclonus... and in the very next shot, he's no longer around, and Scourge now has three Sweeps instead of two. Outside of animation errors, the armada would never appear again. So where did Cyclonus's armada go? And who among Bombshell and Skywarp "really" became Cyclonus? The shot composition implies Bombshell, but thematically it makes more sense for Skywarp. Some retcons have claimed Bombshell, others Skywarp. (One comic even had a lot of fun having him complain about never getting any recognition in his previous form, but never getting to say just who he used to be, and he also complained about how he was supposed to get an armada of minions but it never happened.) A lot of this is down to script rewrites, which originally intended Cyclonus to have been created from neither character and for the armada to be a large number of minions.
  • The Japanese continuity for Generation 1 cartoon is notorious for its messiness, with themselves calling it "a great and terrifying beast". While Western Transformers media has several different major continuities under the Generation 1 umbrella, the large majority of Japanese G1 media is in the same continuity of their version of the cartoon. At first, this approach worked fine with the anime sequel series to the original cartoon and Beast Wars, as they all followed one another in a linear fashion note . Starting at the turn of the century, however, Takara began creating more and more stories within the continuity, squeezing them into the gaps between series and causing the timeline to grow out of control. Complicating things further is that many of these stories retcon the events of previous series in an attempt to make everything fit together. The Ask Vector Prime Facebook column would eventually handwave the continuity's problems, citing quantum instability caused by the partial destruction of Cybertron and, by extension, Primus, in Transformers: ★Headmasters as a possible cause.
    • In the three Japanese-exclusive Transformers anime series (Transformers: ★Headmasters, Transformers: Super-God Masterforce, and Transformers Victory), characters who died in The Transformers: The Movie show up alive and well, as if nothing happened. This is because the movie wouldn't hit Japan until 1989, leaving many of its events unknown to the Japanese audience/creators. These characters are Prowl, who appears in Headmasters, and Wheeljack, who appears in Victory. Prowl is especially bad, since he was explicitly name-checked as being deceased in the Japanese dub of "Dark Awakening". Later fiction would handwave these appearances by explaining them as being versions of themselves from the Binaltech universe, taking the place of the originals who really did die during the movie.
  • The UK version of The Transformers featured backup strips titled "Earthforce" throughout 1990, focusing on a unit of Autobots led by Grimlock. While it was largely its own thing, it often tied into events happening in the main book (such as Grimlock trying to revive his comrades and the approaching threat of Unicron), but such events were referred to before they happened in the main book, among many other problems that makes it impossible to reconcile the two. What makes this one particularly annoying is that Earthforce is also where Grimlock got most of his Character Development: he starts as a violent, tyrannical loon in the main book, then slowly mellows out into a more reasonable and goodnatured sort, until he becomes a mature (if crude) leader during the comic's last issues. Without Earthforce (which is where the middle bit happened), Grimlock kinda just completely revamps his style between appearances.
  • A simple question: is Beast Wars part of the Marvel comic timeline, or the original cartoon timeline? The series has enough callouts to each that it could be both, either, or neither. Even the writers seemed to be uncertain, with the Vok having one Word of God origin that definitely lands Beast Wars in the Marvel timeline, and another that could fit anywhere. Not helping matters is the expanded universe, which has seen many an Armed with Canon attempt to fix things up. They usually instead add more snarls.
    • The most infamous of these Armed with Canon attempts was probably Dawn of the Predacus, a comic which attempted to provide a definitive answer for how one war led into the other. Its wiki page has twenty different bullet points addressing the errors within it, with the most bizarre probably being that most the crew in the series were all active in the Great War and have all known each other for centuries, two things that definitely aren't the case in the cartoon.
    • And then there's Prowl II, who is what happens when the Beast Wars snarl and the Binaltech snarl make sweet, sweet love while neither side knows what the other is doing. The short version is that he was intended to simply be a future version of G1 Prowl, and by the end, he was an amnesiac future clone of another universe's G1 Prowl with the soul of his universe's Chip Chase, occupying a body that originally held the soul of the Chip from the other universe, while the actual G1 Prowl is dead and the one from another universe is now a lion on the Omniscient Council of Vagueness. And this is considered the "fixed" version.
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  • Transformers: Robots in Disguise was initially created as a Continuity Reboot. Its original form, Car Robots, focused on a bunch of entirely new characters (Fire Convoy, Gigatron, God Magnus, Mach Alert), which the dub changed to more familiar names (Optimus Prime, Megatron, Ultra Magnus, Prowl), making the reboot even more definitive. Then, years later, it was declared that Car Robots was actually a part of the G1 cartoon timeline: the cast were time travelers (something brought up in early promo material, but not the show) who showed up on Earth in a brief window when most of the G1 cast was out of commission (which was why they didn't appear). However, Robots in Disguise is still its own thing, and even has a distinct continuity family (Viron), as opposed to being in G1 (Primax). Basically, Fire Convoy and RID Optimus Prime are completely different people (one is a subcommander of a dimensional patrol group, the other is an incarnation of Optimus) despite being 99% the same character as presented.
  • In Japan, Transformers Cybertron is called Galaxy Force, and it appears it's unrelated to its Japanese predecessors, Micron Legend and Superlink. The US version tries to tie the three together, but there are still some problems, so a comic was produced that chalked all of this up to a big warp in time and space... even though some minor retcons and a few lines of explanation saying where the older characters might have gone to would have sufficed. Yeah, it wouldn't have been perfect, but come on, was it really necessary... especially since they've already let the original timeline rage out of control? Also, most people are fine with that comic not being canonized, because the warp in space is caused by the black hole in Cybertron, which formed when the Super Energon sun created to sustain all the restored planets at the end of Energon collapsed, annihilating the planets Energon was all about saving. It'd have made Energon the worst Shoot the Shaggy Dog Downer Ending in the history of fiction... and opened new holes with the continued existence of Cybertron and Jungle Planet.
    • What makes it worse is that it suffers from Xorneto syndrome (see the X-Men example) in that the right hand seems to not know what the left hand is doing. All of the Unicron Trilogy's continuity problems could be solved with the "black hole's effect on the multiverse makes Cybertron the Post-Crisis version of The 'Verse" statement (that comes from the aforementioned comic. Just stop before you get to the part that makes Evangelion look like Happily Ever After by comparison.) That didn't stop everyone with the ability to create official material from explaining their own pet peeve a different way, explaining some things that didn't need explaining, and making the bigger problems all the more glaring.
    • Worse, the show itself mentions none of this, and we're left with plot holes big enough for Unicron to fly through, even a few that would have been changed by a few lines. Starscream's back, not brainwashed into being ultra-loyal and not remembering anything, but also not a Noble Demon, instead more, well, The Starscream. Jetfire is now Australian. Wing Saber is now a hothead. Sideways is back and has a different origin and final plan, and nobody remembers him. Mini-cons have a different origin (including Jolt, who was major in Armada, as Hot Shot's Mini-con partner.) The biggest example is this: when Optimus and Leobreaker first combine, everyone is in total and absolute shock at the impossible - robots combining - happening. Guess what the main gimmick of both Armada and Energon was? (Hint: In Japan, Energon was called Super Link.) All it would take is a "Hey, Hot Shot, it's been a while!" from Jolt and similar acknowledgements of changes, or simply not going on about how combining, which used to happen all the time, is a shocking thing that has never happened before, and not giving Jetfire a new voice actor and style out of the blue, to either completely cure the problem or at least make it fit together much better.
      • Oh, it gets worse: Takara has now decided that Galaxy Force is in continuity with Micron Legend and Superlink, just as Cybertron is in continuity with Armada and Energon. It should be noted, however, that many characters in Galaxy Force do not share names with anyone in Micron Legend and Super Link, whereas Cybertron, in a manner similar to Robots in Disguise, named many characters after familiar ones. This makes the Japanese Continuity Snarl and the American one different - sharing The 'Verse doesn't make Grand Convoy and Galaxy Convoy into one Optimus Prime or Hot Rod and Exillion into one Hot Shot. (This puts some Fridge Logic in the Japanese version, now full of Expy characters that coexist. Micron Legend's Ratchet and Galaxy Force's First Aid don't get in each other's way continuity-wise, but now that they're in the same universe, it means two unrelated characters happen to have highly similar head designs and replacements for their missing left hands by dumb luck and no one comments on it. Numerous similar examples exist.) The current consensus seems to be that Galaxy Force takes place in the same "continuity family" as the prior two shows, but not necessarily the same universe, similar to the Marvel comic and the original cartoon both being "G1" but clearly not depicting the same version of events.
  • Some characters are "multiversal singularities", meaning that every incarnation of a certain character (like, say, The Fallen) is the same being, instead of just some alternate version. This leads to some headache inducing retcons among other things, and may have been part of the reason why Fun Publications did away with the concept in 2015.
    • Sideways's whole existence is one of these. How bad is it? At TFWiki, many characters have a Disambiguation page (after all, think of how many unrelated incarnations of TF have an Optimus Prime?) Sideways is the only character whose disambig page has a "Fiction" section.
    • Out-of-universe, first we have the RID 2001 toy, then the Armada toy which uses the same bio, reworded to add Minicons. Then the Armada character, an agent and offshoot of Unicron. Then the Cybertron character: same name, same gimmick, different revelation about who he is. These are considered to be the same guy, officially. Then the explanation of Cybertron's differences from the connected Armada series — Unicron exists in all dimensions and as such, all are affected by the black hole — better known as the Unicron Singularity. As "multiversal singularities," Primus, Unicron, and their direct creations exist in all dimensions as the same person. This would mean that Sideways can exist in multiple universes and seem to have a complete, differing history in each, but it's always still him and he'll always be Unicron's herald. The Animated Expanded Universe makes Animated Sideways and Movie Sideways maybe the same guy, and colors him like Armada Sideways… without anything beyond colors to say that he's also that one. Movie Sideways is cut in half and reappears in the next movie (the likes of which is no big feat for Armada Sideways, who can take many forms and whose true form seems to be energy that looks like multicolored television static), and his toy bios treat him as a manipulator like Armada and Cybertron Sideways, suggesting that he is Armada Sideways or at least just like him… but toy bios say a lot about movie characters that clashes with the movies, and a lot of movie Decepticons have the same or similar body types. And then there's a completely different yellow-and-purple Unicron-connected motorbike guy, Tarantulas, who predates Sideways but has had several references made to further link the two. Canon as it was understood at the time of the Unicron Trilogy would seem to make Armada Sideways the true identity of all the others, but there just kept not being any sign of that in later appearances - or any acknowledgement of different series existing in The Multiverse in any television, film, or mainstream comic incarnation. Finally, they embraced the fact that sense cannot be made of it: the "Ask Vector Prime" column, where fans can ask things of the ancient Time Master and get in-character tongue-in-cheek answers, has Sideways take over for a little while when the question is asked - first he reminds us that he's a lying liar who lies, and tells us that all, some, or none of the past ideas of who he is are totally true… or not.
    Sideways: Everything you think you know about me was a lie told by me to confuse someone, or conjecture from someone who'd be in no position to know. So yeah, maybe I'm a fragment of Unicron, because maybe Planet X used to BE Unicron. And maybe I'm his avatar made manifest and untethered once he collapsed into a giant singularity. And maybe I'm from the Cybertronian Empire.note  And maybe I'm just an ordinary Autobot who went crazy from Powerlinxing to the wrong Mini-Cons. Maybe I'm all of those things, or none. And you know what the best part is? You'll. Never. Know.
    • Although, Jim Sorenson, author of the Allspark Almanac, the guidebook that implied the connection between movie Sideways and Unicron Trilogy Sidways, later characterized the book as matching the Animated series' penchant for "in-jokes and Easter Eggs", possibly meaning he wasn't being serious about the connection. While writing for Ask Vector Prime, he made sure to classify Sideways as a non Singularity.
    • Indeed, the entire "multiversal singularities" concept turned into this pretty quick. For instance, the Unicron of the cartoon rather clearly isn't a multiversal god; he had a canon origin as having been created by a scientist. The Fallen, who was always intended to be one rather than retconned into one, ran into this when a version of him appeared in the live-action films as a completely incompatible figure. Vector Prime straight-up dies in Transformers Cybertron, yet nobody acknowledges this. Word of God on Transformers Animated is that Primus doesn't exist there, throwing into question how Animated fits into it. And then when Aligned kicked off, it created a list of the Thirteen that excluded Logos Prime (who is very obviously intended to be one) and added Alpha Trion (who has a long history in multiple continuities that's utterly incompatible with him being in the Thirteen, or being the same guy as all his alternate counterparts, including having clearly aged in his G1 appearances, and his Mirror Universe counterpart being evil.), prompting the explanation that the Aligned continuity is somehow separate from the others... which doesn't erase all the problems. Rather than making the Thirteen seem cooler, the whole thing ended up just raising hundreds of questions, so much so that the concept was erased by Cosmic Retcon. Good thing, too, because the eventual revelation that the Arisen was Optimus Prime would have handily snapped the entire system in half.
    • The Fallen's application ran into a particular case of this. In the Transformers multiverse, contradictory stories are explained as the result of the audience looking at a parallel universe — for instance, a toy bio where a character who is dead is treated as alive means that there's a universe where they survived or came back. This is also the case for multiple adaptations of the same story — the novelization of an episode's plot takes place in its own universe to the episode. Now combine that with the above information about The Fallen and the massive amount of ancillary material surrounding Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, and you have the apparent situation where the Fallen dies at the end of the movie, somehow survives, travels to the universe of the novelization, lives out his entire long history in the exact same manner and enacts the exact same scheme, dies in the exact same way, travels to the universe of the comic book adaptation, to the read-along storybook, to the video game, to the portable version of the video game, and so on and so forth, failing miserably every single time.
  • The Transformers film franchise had many comics based off it, and they were generally not known for being friendly with each other. Due to having to pull hairpin weaves between the storylines of films that were clearly written as they went, with said films ignoring any worldbuilding and characterization the comics set up, while also doing the nigh-obligatory toy plugs, you had a very tangled continuity. Massive casts appearing between the events of the film and then vanishing, dates and the overall timeline not matching up, and writers losing track of what everyone else but them had done. A lot of John Barber's early fame came from the fact that he managed to patch most of the holes left by the first three movies, pushing the various comic efforts into a relatively cohesive timeline. Thankfully for those writing the comics, they more or less ended after Transformers: Dark of the Moon, meaning they didn't have to deal with Transformers: Age of Extinction and Transformers: The Last Knight's retcons to the franchise's backstory.
    • A particular sufferer of this is Arcee. In Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, she appears as a trio of bike girls that get very little dialogue and seem to act as The Dividual, and two of them get blown up in the climax. Given just how vague the information on Arcee was, despite a patently strange concept, most writers seemed to have a very hard time keeping things straight—not helped by her bios referencing things that were cut from the film, such as a combination ability. The result was that whether Arcee was a single character with three bodies or three separate characters, whether they could combine, and whether any or all of them were alive or dead, were things that could vary depending on who was writing at the time. Oh, and if the three bodies do have separate names, it's anyone's guess as to what those names are and which bike has which name. Not helping things at all was that Arcee was a preestablished character in the comics (based on a cut concept from the first film that got a toy) who didn't have anything resembling the above lunacy.
  • The Transformers (IDW) ran into an issue with the Battle of Sherma Bridge, established as the second encounter between Optimus Prime and Megatron, when they published an entire mini-series, Autocracy, about them forming an Enemy Mine to deal with Zeta Prime. Officially, Sherma Bridge took place before that team-up, but its status as a battle doesn't fit with the Decepticons focusing on guerrilla ops rather than open warfare prior to the Autocracy series.
    • The Transformers: All Hail Megatron was pretty infamous for generating these, due in part to initial uncertainty over whether it was a Soft Reboot or a full-on one. Characters shown to be dead or critically injured show up alive, Megatron suddenly has obtaining the Matrix being his main motivation when he'd never cared about it before, the Insecticons are suddenly recent creations when they showed up earlier, a lot of characters shift to cartoon-inspired characterizations... it required another four issues just to try and clear things up a little, which actually ended up raising some more questions (since when did Scourge exist?) John Barber devoted a good portion of his early run to explaining most of the stranger errors, usually in pretty crazy ways.
  • The Aligned Continuity, despite its intent to tie everything together, formed a Continuity Snarl after only a few months of existence. According to the powers that be, the video game Transformers: War for Cybertron, the novel Exodus, and the TV series Transformers: Prime are all part of the same continuity. The problem is, the plots for Exodus and War for Cybertron are so disparate and contradictory as to be completely incompatible. The Prime cartoon largely chose to quietly sweep these discrepancies under the rug and ignore them, and encourage the fans to do the same. War's sequel Transformers: Fall of Cybertron makes some attempts, though Prime's sequel, Robots in Disguise makes things worse as Bumblebee, Sideswipe, and Grimlock don't seem to recognize each other. Producer Adam Beechen later said that Grimlock is a common name among Dinobots and that RiD!Grimlock isn't FoC!Grimlock, but a different character. takes this a step further and presents the Sideswipes, as well as both versions of Kickback as separate characters as well.
    • Later statements by Hasbro have clarified that War For Cybertron, Exodus, and Prime are part of the same continuity in the same way that the original Transformers cartoon and the Marvel, Dreamwave, and IDW comics are all part of the G1 continuity — that is, they share similarities in aesthetics and characterization, but are not necessarily consistent with one another. The fandom generally uses the term "continuity family" to refer to such an arrangement, and this difference in terminology is part of the reason some fans continue to grumble about discrepancies in canon between the three works.
    • Even that doesn't satisfy all, just because War for Cybertron is so G1 Prequel-y (its main cast is G1 characters and only G1 characters and their pre-Earth designs were largely based on The War Within, Dreamwave's G1 prequel), and in terms of its aesthetics and characterization, it has essentially nothing to do with Prime aside from the broadest strokes. In fact, by several accounts, it wasn't intended to be Aligned at all in its early stages, and was essentially rebranded as part of the new continuity later in development. There were some occasional attempts at Arc Welding, but for the most part, the Cybertron duology and Prime didn't make too much effort to hook their plots together.
    • The Aligned continuity gained a new one when both The Art of Prime and The Covenant of Primus decided to address the dead Prime whose arm Megatron stole for his Badass Transplant in "Alpha; Omega". According to notes for Megatron's design in Art of Prime, he stole it from Sentinel Zeta Prime, but according to The Covenant of Primus, it came from the Liege Maximo, one of the original Thirteen. For what it's worth, has decided to go with the The Covenant of Primus explanation.
    • Speaking of "Sentinel Zeta Prime," he is an attempt to clean up a minor one. One source says the Prime before Optimus is Sentinel Prime and one says it's Zeta Prime, so Hasbro decided, "why not make them the same guy?"
    • Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark is a plot that involves both the Transformers Film Series and the Aligned universe, with the Aligned part being an interquel between War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron and the film section taking place roughly around Transformers: Age of Extinction. Among the problems is that Aligned!Megatron is shown in his rebuilt form from FoC—despite only getting it that that story, Lockdown having different motivations (being greedy and missing the war in the game, hired by Quintessa to capture Optimus in the movie), Stinger being with Lockdown, the Dinobots already being with the Autobots, and Movie!Optimus and movie!Bumblebee already in the forms they gain in the movie. It also portrayed the Aligned continuity family as being connected to the main multiverse after Word of God stated that it wasn't; "Ask Vector Prime" dealt with this by treating it as a portion of the multiverse that had been cut off from the rest and was now connecting to it.

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