Transformers: Generation 1 (originally simply The Transformers) is the original incarnation of Transformers, and regarded as the most iconic incarnation by some. If you say "Transformers", it's more than likely people will believe that you're talking about this one (or the live-action movies, depending on the audience). It began in 1984 as a way to advertise Hasbro's Transformers toy line, which was made from altering Takara's Diaclonenote and Microchange lines through retools (mild alterations) and/or redecos (repaints), plus some licensed from other toy companies.
The original Japanese toys were not intelligent robots but remote controlled mechs used by human pilots. Under the Transformers brand every toy was a sentient robot, and the story was written to accommodate that. Characters were created that eventually became legend and are closely associated with further Transformers continuity lines. Such include Optimus Prime, Megatron, Starscream, Bumblebee and others who form general character types.
Since Transformers first aired, the FCC has enforced stricter regulations around children's programming; among other rules, a program may not use on-screen talent or 'identifiable program characteristics' (or display website addresses) to advertise during or adjacent to the 'host' program, even if the website contains primarily non-commercial program-related material. While these regulations have not substantially affected toy-related shows, they have largely curtailed the practice of creating a toy-related show specifically to promote and market a toy.
The Transformers cartoon
See main article: The Transformers
The show was initially written by Marvel Productions, and later Marvel in collaboration with Sunbow. Animation was done mostly in Japan by Toei Animation and in South Korea by AKOM (In one of their earlier projects), with several by an unknown studio.
The show concerned the war between two factions of sentient robots - the heroic Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, and the evil Decepticons, led by Megatron. In the three-part opening, the Autobots fled their home planet of Cybertron after the war drained it of much of its energy. The Decepticons followed and, after a short space battle, they crash-landed on Earth, where they lay dormant for four million years.
When they were revived, the Transformers took on the appearance of Earth vehicles as a form of disguise. The Decepticons immediately set out to steal all of Earth's energy and the Autobots, being generally good guys, tried to stop them. Most episodes involved the Decepticons either coming up with a new Evil Scheme to steal Earth's energy, or coming up with a new Evil Scheme to destroy the Autobots forever. Naturally, they failed every time.
Season One and Two
The first season was broadcast on Saturday mornings, and followed the above formula to a T. When it proved extremely popular, the show was given a weekday afternoon timeslot for the second season . This season still followed established conventions, but also mixed things up occasionally with excursions to alien worlds. A large number of new characters were introduced in this season, with the result that very few episodes featured all the characters. Instead, each episode focused on a few Autobots and Decepticons as a way of giving exposure to all the toys without making the episodes confusing. During this period, many characters had Day in the Limelight episodes; these are often considered to be the best episodes made.
When the show proved popular in America, Takara cancelled its plans for a new Diaclone line in favour of importing the American toys and cartoon. The cartoon was rebranded as Fight! Super Robot Life Form Transformer! and made a few changes, most notably changing Shockwave from a very cool, calm and logical robot to an angry, psychotic being. Additionally, one minute of footage was cut from each episode to incorporate the longer opening theme.
Transformers: The Movie (1986)
See main article: The Transformers: The Movie.
At the end of Season 2, an animated film was made, simply titled The Transformers: The Movie (1986), which was written so that it could be easily split into four 22-minute segments for subsequent TV broadcast. The movie skipped forward to the then far-off year 2005, by which time the Decepticons had conquered Cybertron. The plot concerned the Autobots' struggle to liberate their home planet and later save it from the Planet Eater, Unicron.
The movie introduced several plot elements which would go on to become important to the whole Transformers mythos — Unicron; and the Quintessons, a race of incredibly sinister and evil tentacled aliens who originally created the Transformers and were still bitter about being kicked off Cybertron after 11 million years, though their role with the creation of the Transformers has changed depending on the continuity. The movie also brought the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, an artifact carried by the Autobot leader which grants power and great wisdom, into the cartoon continuity.
The movie is infamous for killing off a large number of characters in order to give screen time to new toys. The deaths of Optimus Prime and Starscream in particular caused such consternation among fans that both characters were brought back in season three, after a fashion (Optimus was brought back by fan outcry, while Starscream came back because his toy was still available). And the replaced characters/toys such as Hot Rod and Ultra Magnus are subsequently disliked by some for being inferior copies of the older characters (Ultra Magnus, in particular, is essentially Optimus Prime painted white with a car carrier trailer that he can combine with to form a Super Mode). Interestingly, both of the aforementioned characters' deaths and revivals established now-time-honored traditions in Transformers fiction—that Starscream has an immortal spark (in G1 and related continuities) or is immortal by some other token (for example, in Animated, where he manages to stay alive because of an Allspark shard lodged in his forehead), and that Optimus Prime is prone to making Heroic Sacrifices from which he will fairly quickly return, to the point that Optimus dying and coming back has become expected and something of a Running Gag.
The movie would not be released in Japan until 1989, and so an OAV by the name of Scramble City was made to introduce the new characters. As a consequence of the movie not being released until 1989, several characters who died in the movie (ie Prowl, Ironhide, and Wheeljack) inexplicably show up alive in the Japanese-exclusive series The Headmasters and Victory (later fiction, though, would rectify this by saying that yes, Prowl and Wheeljack still die in the Japanese cartoon continuity, but they were replaced by their dimension-hopping counterparts from the BT World; still doesn't explain Ironhide's cameo, though).
Seasons Three and Onward
The third season (rebranded as Fight! Super Robot Life Form Transformer! 2010 in Japan) was released in 1987. This followed on where the movie left off, and focused on the new characters. In this season, the Autobots had reclaimed Cybertron, while the Decepticons had been exiled to the dead planet of Chaar. It began with a Five-Episode Pilot in which the Quintessons manipulated the Decepticons into attacking Cybertron as part of an Evil Scheme to destroy all Transformers, during which several new toys made their screen debuts.
They failed, and after that things settled back into the generally episodic format from the first two seasons. While the Decepticons were still a major threat, the Autobots tangled with the Quintessons just as often as their traditional enemies. This season also departed from the previous two by not having any faction restricted to Earth. Instead, the characters' adventures took place all over the galaxy, incorporating many strange alien worlds. At the end of the season, Optimus Prime was resurrected following fan complaints. This was unprecedented, as Prime's toy had been discontinued and could only be obtained via mail-order flyers that came with the toys, and he wouldn't have a new toy until the Powermaster Optimus Prime figure came out in 1988.
After this, the American and Japanese continuities diverged. In America, a fourth season began, and pretty much ended, with a three-part episode entitled "The Rebirth". During these episodes, the action moved to the planet Nebulos and introduced the new Headmaster and Targetmaster toys as partnerships between Transformers and the native Nebulans. However, this season was aborted after the introduction despite some promising new characters and plot details, primarily due to waning interest in the cartoon and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1987) poised to catastrophically cut into Transformers' market share.
Like most shows made in the 1980s, Transformers: Generation 1 did not have especially strong continuity, which was at least partly due to the short production time per episode. However, there was a light storyline, with a few episodes building on events from previous ones. This continuity was strongest in season 3, which made the fact that episodes were routinely aired out of order all the more frustrating.
In 1992, selected episodes of the cartoon were re-edited and aired as the Generation 2 cartoon (which gave birth to the Generation 1 name). They were identical to the G1 episodes, save for the fact that instead of the classic "Autobot symbol zooms in and flips over to reveal Decepticon symbol" (or vice-versa), scenes were transitioned between by the "Cybernet Space Cube". There were additional gaudy CG effects added throughout the episodes, mainly borders and transitions, though in the case of "More than Meets the Eye, Part 1", it actually rectified a continuity error in the scene where the Decepticons board the Ark.
What made the show really special was the incredible quality of the voice acting. The huge number of characters made it difficult to firmly establish a distinct personality for each one. However, each character had a distinct, very fitting voice, which subtly indicated their personalities without needing to devote an entire episode to them. In fact, Peter Cullen's role as Optimus Prime was so respected that, when it was announced he would be reprising his role in 2007's live-action Transformers movie, fans immediately stopped complaining and started supporting the film.
Most episodes were produced in a very short space of time, with the result that a large number of animation errors crept in. Characters were often drawn the wrong size, sometimes for effect or by accident. Another constant problem was characters being drawn in the wrong colours, which was very confusing as many of the characters were identical save for different colours (they were often simply repainted toys). This problem was particularly bad in season 3, as many of the episodes were animated by AKOM, a Korean animation company which, while cheaper than Toei and produced animation with a slightly higher framerate, was also considerably sloppier, with characters using outdated animation models, Hanna-Barbera-esque shortcuts, rampant miscolorings. "Carnage in C-Minor" is the most egregious example.
Several episodes in the second season were produced by an unknown animation studio thought to be based in the Philippines, while the third season episode "Call of the Primitives" had a distinct, and notably more anime-esque art style, initially thought to have been animated by TMS Entertainment. In 2020, it was finally confirmed that it was instead done by semi-frequent Toei subcontractor Studio Look. They, in turn, passed the work along to an employed batch of students from a Tokyo vocational school called The International Animation Institute (Kokusai Animēshon Kenkyūjo)* . All this to say; the production on the cartoon was a bit of a mess.
Japanese ContinuityIn Japan, after the show ended in America, they continued the story and rebranded into Transformers: ★Headmasters, which was essentially a spinoff. This gave a completely new origin story for the Headmasters. They also continued with Transformers: Super-God Masterforce, Transformers Victory and Transformers Zone.
The most infamous addition to the Japanese continuity is Kiss Players, set between the movie, and Season 3, where Optimus Prime has been revived by Marissa Faireborn (who looks about 8 even though she's 20) kissing him. It's worse than it sounds.
As well as the cartoon, there have been several comics published over the years.
The first of these was published by Marvel Comics. It is sometimes stated that the comic came before the cartoon; while issue 1 of the comic hit the newsstands quite some time before the first episode of the cartoon aired, the cartoon went into production long before the comic.
The comic was initially set in the main Marvel Universe, but soon moved to a separate Alternate Universe along with the G.I. Joe comic to prevent Executive Meddling from Hasbro interfering with Marvel's own characters. It was initially written by Bob Budiansky; he and his successor, Simon Furman, would end up having more influence on the overall Transformers mythos than anyone else. During this time, instead of simply telling the artists what to draw, the writers simply gave them a plot outline and let them draw a strip. Budiansky and Furman then took the strip and added Speech Bubbles; this arrangement meant that the artists had much more influence on the story than is common nowadays.
In America, the comic was first published as a bimonthly miniseries, before being developing into an ongoing monthly title. It was printed on higher-quality paper than most other comics, and as a result was also more expensive. While it used the same characters, setting, and premise as the cartoon, it told a significantly different set of stories. In particular, while the Transformers in the cartoon were built by Quintessons, in the comic, they were created by the god Primus, a part of canon later cartoon series adopted.
In the UK, the comic was published weekly for most of its run, and the American comics were commonly split in two in order to stretch the material. These were interspersed with original stories, mostly written by Simon Furman, which were where concepts like Primus which later migrated to the US title made their first appearance. These stories usually fit in with the American continuity, albeit with occasional twisting. After Budiansky suffered Creator Breakdown as a result of trying to keep Hasbro happy, Furman was brought on to write both the US and UK comics. His focus on story arcs and Character Development was considered the high point of the comic's run; however, due to a communications breakdown, the UK comics at this point drifted out of sync with the US publication. They also stopped doing full length original stories and began printing even less American material in each issue, splitting the original issues into three or four parts. To make up for the dramatically shortened length, the UK comic also featured a secondary, backup strip in black and white, written by Furman.
It finally ended after 80 issues (in America) or 332 (in Britain) due to declining interest in Transformers, though Marvel would later publish the short-lived Generation 2 comic. In 2012, IDW Publishing announced The Transformers: Regeneration One, a relaunch of the Marvel Transformers continuity picking up 21 years after where issue 80 left off. This series ran for 22 issues (including #80.5, given away for Free Comic Book Day 2012, and issue #0, set between #94 and #95), concluding definitively with issue #100 in March 2014.
- Main Article: Transformers: Generation One
In 2002, a new comic was published by Dreamwave Productions, alongside an adaptation of the Unicron Trilogy (Armada, Energon, and Cybertron); this is the first to officially use the title Generation One. Simon Furman was brought back to write parts of it, as well as several lesser-known writers. It began as a set of mini-series which gave rise to a short-lived ongoing title. Ideas were taken from both the cartoon and the Marvel comic.
The main draw of the Dreamwave comic was the highly detailed, manga-influenced artwork of Pat Lee - which, as it turned out, included a lot of Dull Surprise and vaguely sexual poses. However, most of the actual drawing, colouring, and inking was done by uncredited and frequently unpaid guest artists while Lee was buying fast cars and sponsoring his girlfriend's Miss World campaign. Following a series of unethical business practises, scandals, and outright crime, Dreamwave declared bankruptcy, leaving both the G1 and Unicron Trilogy stories unfinished.
For better or for worse, this was the first American Transformers comic to be published in Japan.
In 2005, IDW picked up the license, and began by reprinting available stories originally published by Marvel and Dreamwave.
They also began publishing a new continuity, alongside stories based on Beast Wars, the live-action films and Animated. In a break with tradition, this series sees the Transformers as recent arrivals on Earth instead of having been in stasis for several million years beforehand.
The comic has so far consisted of a series of Limited Series, primarily written by Simon Furman. In this continuity, the disguise aspect of transformation is emphasised for once, as Transformers use it to infiltrate the societies of other planets and manipulate governments to their own ends. Combat is much more cloak-and-dagger than usual, with both sides going to great measures to avoid detection - at least, that's the plan.
As well as the limited series, there have been a number of 'Spotlight' issues, which follow the adventures of a single Transformer. These usually occur elsewhere in space or time, and tie into the main plot in some way. They tell a side story about the expanding Dead Universe, which eventually took over the main story.
Furman's stories were followed by All Hail Megatron!, a 16-issue maxi-series. The first twelve issues were written by Shane McCarthy and take place on an Earth under Decepticon control. This was an attempt to draw in new fans who were put off by the complexity of Furman's series, though sales have been largely unchanged and fan reaction has not been kind to some of the changes introduced. For example, many 80s characters in this series were given modern altmodes as part of the whole "stealth" aspect, but reverted to 1985 designs for All Hail Megatron. A particularly egregious case is Astrotrain—under Furman's run, one of his altmodes was a modern train, but McCarthy reverted him to the steam train he had used in the cartoon, which was anachronistic in 1985!
The current main series is an ongoing book set three years after the events of "All Hail Megatron". The series is written by Mike Costa, and features the return of Don Figueroa as artist. However, the positive fan reaction to Figueroa as an artist was quickly diminished when he revealed a new, vaguely movie-ish art style that has been the subject of very violent backlash. The main series is accompanied by several concurrent mini-series, such as solo stories focusing on Bumblebee and Ironhide, The Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers and the Cross Through Infestation.
Finally, as noted above, in 2012 IDW launched Transformers: Regeneration One, a 20-issue series that continues after the end of the Marvel comic book series, going from issue #81 to issue #100.
However, it never ends, and soon after the conclusion of IDW's initial G1 continuity, a new one would be made for 2019. However, this time it would actually end as after 2022 passes, IDW will lose the license to publish Transformers comics.
The official fanclub for Transformers has also on occasion created its own stories under its Transformers: Timelines label which use Generation 1 series as a foundation for new continuities. Classics uses the US Marvel comic as a jumping point, ignoring Generation 2 and the UK issues and instead continuing the storyline from the events of issue 80. Wings of Honor, meanwhile, uses the cartoon as its source, with both prequel stories involving the new Elite Guard that take place long before the first episode, and "Generation 2 Redux" sequel stories which take place after season 3, ignoring "The Rebirth" and the Japanese series.
The toyline was, to say the least, eclectic. Most of the toys were originally from Takara's Diaclone and Microchange lines of transforming robot toys. Diaclone was a series of vehicles that transformed into Humongous Mecha, to be piloted by the Diaclone action figures. When Diaclone was converted into Transformers, the story involved sentient robots, and the pilot figures were not sold outside Japan. This meant that a lot of early Transformers toys had mysterious cockpits which drove many young boys (and some girls) to madness as they tried to figure out the purpose of these. (An epic retcon planned for Beast Wars, the eventual sequel to G1, was that these cockpits were the locations of the Cybertronians' "sparks", their equivalent to souls, which would be shown as tiny glowing humanoid figures in the cockpits. Hasbro, the toy company, scrapped this idea due to fears that children would think that the sparks were people and that the robots were just regular, piloted mecha.)
The Microchange line was a line of robots which transformed into 1:1 scale household items and guns. They had far greater articulation than the Diaclone toys. When Microchange was combined with Diaclone to create Transformers, the result was guns the same size as trucks and bigger than tanks, who were supposed to transform in order to disguise themselves. The cartoon got around this potential Plot Hole by showing characters clearly changing size as they transformed, which ended up being a minor plot point in a few episodes. However, this usually just raised more questions than it answered. Even more disconcerting are the Minicars, part of the Microchange line as 1:1 representation of Choro-Q toys (also known as Penny Racers in America). This resulted in a military jeep (Hound) being larger than a Range Rover (Brawn), and Jazz and Cliffjumper (both Porsches) being wildly different sizes, even in vehicle modes in the cartoon (where Cliffjumper's proportions made him look more like Bumblebee).
As well as Diaclone and Microchange, quite a few other, completely unrelated transforming robot toys were brought into the Transformers line by Hasbro. For example, Jetfire is easily recognisable as a Valkyrie from Macross. This served to make the toys even more eclectic. As part of Hasbro and Takara's distribution agreement, toys not originally made by Takara could only receive limited screentime to avoid advertising rival products.
After the movie, HasTak started producing the first toys designed specifically for the Transformers line, such as Rodimus Prime and Galvatron. Plenty more of Takara's toys would be adapted into Transformers, but from then on, the majority of new toys would be designed as Transformers from the beginning.
In 1987, the Headmaster and Targetmaster toys were introduced. These were the first gimmicks originally designed for the Transformers brand. Headmasters consisted of two robots, a small robot that transformed into a head and a larger, headless robot that transformed into a vehicle. These had to combine to form the complete robot. Targetmasters were small robots that transformed into guns; each gun could be used by most Transformers, but was generally associated with one particular full-sized one.
In 1988, the Powermasters (known as Godmasters in Japan) and Pretenders were introduced. Pretenders were simple but well-articulated Transformers who came with an outer humanoid or monstrous plastic shell for disguise. Powermasters, like Headmasters, comprised two robots. The small robot transformed into the engine of the bigger one, which could not transform without its smaller partner. A few of the American toys were missing from the Japanese Transformers: Super-God Masterforce line, which in turn had its own group of exclusive toys.
The 1989 line introduced increasingly complex Pretenders, as well as the very small Micromasters, who were primarily sold in teams. Few American toys from this year were sold in Japan, which got its own mostly exclusive Transformers Victory line. The European release also got the Motorvators, redecos of the Japanese Brainmasters which were not released in America. This was another two-robot gimmick; in this case, the smaller robot fits into a compartment in the bigger robots chest, and when the compartment is closed, a face concealed inside the smaller robot is pushed up into the larger robot's head.
In 1990, the Action Masters were introduced; since these didn't transform at all, the line did fairly poorly. (Yes, Transformers that didn't transform.) The Japan-exclusive Transformers Zone line introduced Transformers with motors, but also did fairly poorly. New Transformers would not be seen for two years, with the appearance of the Transformers: Generation 2 comic, though G1 toys have continued to be re-released right up to the present day.
Yes, the show and comic themselves were basically commercials. But there were also much, much shorter, animated commercials that aired, usually with original animation, showing the next cool toy. The Generation 1 commercials are fondly remembered, although the Generation 2 commercials are mostly remembered for their (early) (bad) CGI and raps. Example:
A note on the title: Both the cartoon and comic were originally just called The Transformers. However, when the Transformers: Generation 2 comic was published, fans began using Generation 1 or G1 to refer specifically to the original cartoon and comic as opposed to Transformers as a whole. After a while, Hasbro and Takara started using the term themselves, making it official.
Transformers: Prime Wars Trilogy takes place in Generation 1.
This series provides examples of:
- 20 Minutes into the Future
- Aborted Arc: The subplot of Blitzwing possibly doing a HeelFace Turn in Five Faces of Darkness just goes nowhere... Blitzwing appears later on with the Decepticons as if nothing happened. However, he never gets a line again, and is reduced to being an extra in battle scenes.
- Adaptational Villainy: Some Diaclone and Microman figures were initially heroes in their own toyline. Famously, the Microman gun transformer would become Megatron.
- A Day in the Limelight: Almost every Autobot and Decepticon got at least one episode to take center stage in, notably Perceptor, Powerglide, Octane, and Scourge.
- Alternate Universe: The core foundation for the animated series, Marvel U.S., Marvel U.K. and neo-G1 incarnations, such as Hearts of Steel all co-existing as "Generation One". The Binaltech storyline resulted in the creation of a new parallel universe.
- Audience Shift: Most current material based on Generation 1, specifically comics, toys, games (such as Transformers: Devastation) and re-releases of the animated series, is aimed towards fans who grew up with the franchise rather than the children that it was originally intended for. The comic series by Dreamwave and later IDW are particularly Darker and Edgier, with frequent character deaths and even different characterizations.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Receiving the Matrix of Leadership usually results in the new Prime receiving a much stronger body (Orion Pax/Optronix becoming Optimus Prime, Hot Rod becoming Rodimus Prime).
- Subverted with Ultra Magnus, who was Optimus Prime's original choice to succeed him and the Matrix rejected him.
- Bizarro Universe: G1 Cliffjumper finds himself in the Shattered Glass universe, which is primarily (but not entirely) derived or influenced by G1.
- Blood for Mortar: The Constructicon foreman Scrapper likes to take the bodies of fallen Autobots and make them part of whatever construction he's currently working on.
- Came Back Wrong: Optimus Prime in the 3rd season episode "Dark Awakening", as his chassis was recovered by the Quintessons and reprogrammed into a Manchurian Agent.
- Cassandra Truth: Starscream falls victim to this numerous times. He'll warn Megatron that his latest Evil Plan is doomed to fail, and even though he ends up being right most of the time, Megatron continues to ignore him.
- Chuck Cunningham Syndrome:
- Many of the original Transformers who weren't killed off in the movie (or said/implied to have died before or immediately after) ended up being eligible for this trope.
- Spike's father, Sparkplug, is never seen again, or even mentioned after the last episode of Season 2. Ditto for Chip Chase.
- Skyfire disappears without explanation shortly after the beginning of Season 2. The behind-the-scenes reason is that he was clearly a Macross VF-1 Valkyrie and Hasbro did not want to promote a rival toy company's product.
- Colour-Coded for Your Convenience: Autobot guns fire yellow energy bolts, while Decepticon guns fire purple energy bolts. In addition, Autobots have blue eyes and Decepticons have red. And of course, the traditional colour for Autobots is red, whereas for Decepticons it is purple, as shown in their insignias.
- Combining Mecha The various combiner teams, consiing of five characters capable of forming one larger one.
- Continuity Drift: The Movie (or "Five Faces of Darkness" right after it) establishes the Quintessons as the creators of the Transformers. When Primus was established as the origin of the Transformers, the Quintessons being the creators was dropped, and were more interested in their destruction.
- Continuity Snarl: The Constructicons built Megatron, the Constructicons were once peaceful and were brainwashed by Megatron into becoming Decepticons, and the Constructicons were built by Megatron.
- Cool Train: Astrotrain is a Decepticon who can transform into a steam train or a space shuttle.
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Abraham Dante of the Machination works with Skorponok to expand his business empire... which he and Skorponok both intend to become a far more LITERAL empire.
- Creepy Old-Fashioned Diving Suit: Octopunch is a Decepticon Pretender (in other words, a villainous robot inside an organic power shell). While Autobot Pretender Shells were designed to look like humans in armor, Decepticon Shells were designed to look like monsters. Octopunch's shell is designed to look like a man-mutant hybrid in an old-fashioned diving helmet with a horrifying visage barely visible beneath it and he's known as "the terror of the deep."
- Crossover: The Transformers comic book had several crossovers with G.I. Joe and one with Spider-Man, not to mention the appearance of several characters in other continuities, like Death's Head and Octus.
- Death Is Cheap: Optimus Prime dies and eventually comes back at least once in every continuity.
- Deadpan Snarker: Gears and Huffer are both unceasingly grouchy because they frankly couldn't care less about the war and absolutely hate the lush, green landscape of Earth almost as much as they hate the people who live there. They're the good guys, by the way. It's worth noting that, according to his tech specs, Gears does this intentionally as a form of mood-leavening. A satire of Huffer and Mirage's own apathy towards organics?
- Depending on the Artist: In the Marvel comic, Jose Delbo would draw Soundwave with an actual face. Not to mention color him purple, as opposed to being blue.
- Depending on the Writer:
- Comic writers tend to portray Shockwave as being a cold-blooded usurper who constantly is plotting against Megatron AND SUCCEEDING, while the Gen1 cartoon portrayed him as super-loyal servant of Megatron.
- Speech patterns for characters also depend on writer; Blurr, the various Dinobots, and Weirdwolf most notably.
- Soundwave and Blaster's cassettes are either attack drones used to gain an edge in battle or individual robots waiting to be ordered.
- Dirty Coward: Decepticons are known to ditch the field the moment they lose their advantage.
- Dumb Muscle:
- Most combined robots, but also the Dinobots, Slugfest, and Overkill. And Headstrong, Tantrum, Rampage, the Firecons (except for Sparkstalker), Beastbox, Brawl... Note that almost all of these are Decepticons.
- It is claimed that Menasor (the combined form of the Stunticons) would be the ultimate Decepticon weapon if it wasn't for the fact he is a combination of a nihilist, a psychopath, a paranoid schizophrenic, and an egomaniac, held together by a sadistic bully whom the other four despise and fear.
- Early Installment Weirdness:
- Ironhide and Ratchet were supposed to be mounted drones that can split in two as opposed to looking like sentient or mecha robots in their original Diaclone incarnations. This is why they lack actual heads and faces in their initial release. Later reissues attempt to alleviate this with attachable cardboard of their cartoon faces, but this made the transformation◊ rather awkward◊.
- The original 1984 characters had a lot of "superpowers" that were inherent to them and not the property of a weapon they had — Frenzy had devastating sonic powers, Skywarp could teleport, Windcharger had Magnetism Manipulation, etc. As the line (and overall franchise) continued, these became rarer among characters.
- In the three-episode pilot More Than Meets the Eye the Autobots are consistently shown to be capable of independent flight without the use of jetpacks, something that would never happen again. Skyfire and the Aerialbots come into the story much later on, but they are shown to only be capable of flight in their vehicle mode (even when the location of their jets would logically make it possible in robot mode).
- Enemy Civil War: Starscream constantly tries to usurp Megatron and never succeeds. He did come within an ace in the episode Starscream's Brigade. In the Marvel comic, it was even worse, with Megatron, Starscream, Shockwave, Soundwave, Ratbat (yes, one of the tape guys), Scorponok, Thunderwing, and Bludgeon all vying for leadership.
- Energetic and Soft-Spoken Duo: Siren is an exuberant Autobot with No Indoor Voice. His Headmaster partner Quig is a very quiet former librarian who jumps whenever Siren begins to speak in his ear-splittingly loud voice.
- Even Evil Has Standards: Doctor Arkeville, who happily enslaves human beings by the hundreds with his hyno-chip implants draws the line at cold-blooded murder and is visibly horrified by Megatron's callous proposal of leaving them to die in favor of gathering energy, showing clear concern for the safety and welfare of his slaves over his conquest of Earth.
- "Everybody Dies" Ending: The movie was made to off the old characters to the soundtrack of the '80s. The comic also had an extremely high death toll, particularly in "Dark Star!" In both cases the motivation was to clear space for new toys.
- Evil Laugh: Megatron and various other Decepticons. Soundwave laughs on two occasions and it's downright chilling.
- Evil Makes You Ugly: An odd subversion in "The Burden Hardest to Bear". Scourge uses the Matrix and gets uglier, even though the Matrix itself is a force for good.
- Excited Title! Two-Part Episode Name!: All over the place in the Japanese series. The original cartoon even gets renamed to "Fight! Super Robot Lifeform Transformers".
- The Faceless: Several Transformers lack human facial features. They have a faceplate instead of a mouth (like Optimus), or a kind of "visor" instead of individual eyes (Trailbreaker). The prize winner is Shockwave, who only has a hexagonal cylinder for a head with a single yellow eye.
- Fake Ultimate Hero: The Autobots, believe it or not. Most of their victories over the Decepticons are due to their human allies.
- Family-Unfriendly Death: In the UK Time Wars comic, there were plenty. Galvatron gets sucked into a vortex and we watch as his metal skin is torn clean off his skull and his eyes pop out and he screams in pain. And Cyclonus gets his head pulled off... by Megatron! Fizzle burns, then drowns, and Shockwave has his arm shot off, collapses to the floor and is shot point blank in the face. After that his brain chip is pulled out and crushed, just to make it clear that he's dead for good.
- Fate Worse than Death: In "Countdown to Extinction," Dr. Archeville gets turned into an immobile cyborg, trapped in a chair on Cybertron.
- Faux Action Girl: Arcee. Touted as "a forceful female Autobot", but she only fires her gun twice, and misses both times. Just to add insult to injury, being a girl AND pink meant Hasbro, who viewed Transformers as a boy's toy, canclled Arcee's toy during production due to the assumption that boys would see Arcee as a girl's toy. Still, that's better than what Headmasters did to her.
- Fictionary: The universal greeting. "Bah-weep-Graaaaagnah wheep ni ni bong!"
- From Nobody to Nightmare: Starscream in the US comics. Mainly because of the fact that the writers decided to give Starscream's entire personality and gimmick to Shockwave, the character was largely a non-entity in the US comic and, for added insult to injury, was casually killed off in Transformers #19. However, his corpse was retrieved in Transformers #41 (along with all of the other wave one Decepticons killed by Omega Supreme) and resurrected by the time we see him up and running in Transformers #48. By which time, Starscream has his personality back and is scheming to beat Ratbat and Scorponok to the cosmic power that is the Underbase. And upon getting it, Starscream goes on the biggest killing spree in Transformers history (killing more Transformers than Unicron in Transformers #75) as he basically kills off just about EVERY Transformer from the first two years of the Transformers toyline before being destroyed by the power. At which point, Megatron resurrects him and gives him a Pretender shell and sends him to kill Optimus Prime and Scorponok. He has Scorponok shitting his pants until Prime shames him into attacking him (wounding him) and Scorponok takes him with him, at which point he decides to basically recruit Starscream into his army; a move that is uniformily treated with shock and horror, as all of the rank and file Decepticons (including Soundwave, the only Decepticon Scorponok could rebuild because of the damage Starscream did to his victims bodies) are scared shitless of Starscream and see him as a mass murdering monster.
- Frankenslation: The original toyline rebranded the unrelated Microchange and Diaclone toylines. Transformers was soon re-imported to Japan, where ir proved much more popular than the source toys.
- General Failure: Megatron, although this was averted in The Transformers: The Movie when he Took a Level in Badass and actually managed to kill Optimus, among other things.
- Genius Loci:
- Unicron and Cybertron. The former is the physical manifestation of the God of Evil in the form of a transforming planet. The latter is the dormant shell of Primus, the creator of the Cybertronian race; Vector Sigma is believed to be an interface that allows Cybertronians to communicate with their sleeping god.
- The Dead Universe is a living sentient death, an all consuming darkness with shades of Eldritch Abominations that acts through the luckless Cybertronians that stumble into it.
- Genius Cripple: Chip Chase. Ultra-genius and mysteriously immune to acid. Also, Josie Beller/Circuit Breaker.
- Grievous Harm with a Body: Rare case of it being done intentionally by the body. Broadside transforms to aircraft carrier mode and flattens Devastator in Carnage in C-Minor. It's not uncommon for many transformers (especially Optimus and Motormaster) to ram into things in their vehicle mode. Bonus points for Ramjet, who's a plane and is reinforced to allow him to do it a lot without seriously hurting himself.
- Hammerspace: Each Cybertronian has access to a personal subspace pocket where they can displace their weapons, alt-mode parts (most notably Optimus Prime's trailer), and even mass during size-changing transformations.
- Omega Supreme's Entire Body: This is no better illustrated then in Key to Vector Sigma when Prime orders him to rocket mode and he fires his arms (leaving the rest of his robot mode body on Cybertron) but lands on Earth, creating the full platform and returning to robot mode. You know, the massive robot he left on Cybertron when he fired his arms.
- Handicapped Badass: Circuit Breaker. She's an Ax-Crazy chick whose Berserk Button are giant robots. Also, she wears a Stripperiffic Powered Armor. Which she designed IN HOSPITAL! WHILE PARALYZED!
- Have a Gay Old Time: One episode has Optimus quip "Amazing. A booby trap that actually catches boobies". He means it in the sense of "a silly person".
- Heroes With Bad Publicity: The Autobots are frequently afflicted with this, as the humans often fear them as much as they do the Decepticons. In the humans' defense, it isn't always easy for them to distinguish between the huge, destructively-powered robots that want to enslave them and the huge, destructively-powered robots that want to protect them. Needless to say, the Decepticons actively exploit this by causing chaos and then framing the Autobots for it.
- Humongous Mecha: Taken to greater and greater levels with the Gestalts (combiners), the fortress robots Metroplex and Trypticon, the even larger city Transformers Fortress Maximus and Skorponok, and the final ridiculous level with Unicron, a robot the size of a planet.
- Idiot Ball:
- Starscream plays with the idiot ball regularly. In fact, the only reason the war continued on Earth was because he was trying to assure the Autobots were trapped and opened fire on the mountain the Ark was trapped in. The resulting tremors then awakened the ship's computer, and managed to reactivate Optimus.
- Megatron is no flawless leader either simply for letting Starscream stay on the team. While it's been said Megs admires ambition from his troops and respects conniving behavior, he only really admires smart conniving behavior. The only reason he does keep Starscream around is because of how good he is at his job when he actually does it (though Megatron'll never admit it).
- I Don't Pay You to Think: Scourge says this to one of his Sweeps in Five Faces of Darkness, Part 3Sweep 1: I think that plasma bath fried Galvatron's circuits.
Scourge: It's not your place to think! Where he leads, all Decepticons must follow!
- Insistent Terminology: Death's Head is not a bounty hunter. He is a freelance peacekeeping agent.
- Jobber: Devastator in later episodes of the cartoon. One notable example from the comic is when Omega Supreme, one of the strongest Autobots, is defeated in a single shot by the comparatively small Buzzsaw.
- Joker Immunity: Starscream. Even killing the bastard doesn't keep him down.
- Kibbles and Bits: Prowl has door wings hanging off his shoulders, Scavenger has a shovel "tail", Hot Rod has a big spoiler on his back. It's easier listing characters who don't have kibble.
- Killed Off for Real: If your name isn't Optimus Prime or Starscream, consider yourself dead.
- Kitsch Collection: Pipes's love of Earth culture lends itself directly to this. He collects everything of Earth's fascinating technology he can find (nose hair clippers, patent rulers, compasses) and proudly displays his collections to his fellow Autobots, who humor him because he's an alright guy besides all that.
- Lady of War: Elita One, the leader of the female Autobots and Optimus Prime's girlfriend.
- Lawyer-Friendly Cameo: Not so much a cameo as an expy, but Jetfire somewhat counts as his character model was modified from his first appearance to his in-show appearance (most likely for Takara to avoid a lawsuit from Tatsunoko Production). This is subverted as not only was Hasbro immune to this (they were given the license for the mold), but all of the character's appearances were either cut from various episodes or moved to towards the end of the series in Japan.
- Magnetism Manipulation: Several Transformers had magnetic abilities that they used for various purposes.
- Ravage uses it to cling to objects in his tiny alt-mode, making him an excellent spy.
- Windcharger actually has a relatively realistic portrayal: he can make each of his arms the pole of an electromagnet and use it to manipulate metal. The closer the metal is, the more powerful his pull.
- Tailgate has a powerful magnet in his front bumper, which he uses to follow other vehicles while saving fuel.
- Meaningful Name: Jazz is the guy who loves music, Starscream has No Indoor Voice, Astrotrain is a robot going from a train to a shuttle, Mirage can make himself invisible. This is actually subverted in "Enter the Nightbird", where one Autobot who can't jump over a cliff is the guy named "Cliffjumper".
- Mechanical Evolution: The first issue of the original Marvel comic book series (briefly) describes the Transformers as evolving from "naturally-occurring levers and pulleys."
- Mechanical Lifeform: Pretty much the entire "ecosystems" on Cybertron, Junkion, and Quintessa consist of these.
- Medieval Stasis: In four million years, nothing has changed on Cybertron. It seems when Shockwave told Megatron that "Cybertron will remain as it is until your return," he wasn't kidding.
- Merchandise-Driven: To an even more ludicrous degree than G.I. Joe. Apparently, Hasbro wanted to repeat the formula used for the latter.
- The Movie: You got the Touch! You got the power! YEAH! *guitar solo*
- My Master, Right or Wrong: Cyclonus, in Season 3 of the cartoon.
- Mythology Gag: Dreamwave's War Within comic has Grimlock accidentally call Swoop "Divebomb". Divebomb was a prototype name for Swoop, and was given as being his original name in the Marvel comic.
- Actually, the book came a few years earlier.
- Never Say "Die": At least partially justified, since we're talking about robots, albeit sapient ones. Averted in The Movie: "DIE, AUTOBOTS!" And four of them do in less than a minute. Also subverted in the series itself on several occasions.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: Really all over the place, but Ironhide is the king of this. He'll use a random power that's never been seen before and then never use it again.
- There are also characters as the plot demands. They need to be ferried around space? Well, that's why Cosmos is there. Is this its own trope?
- Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Before Optimus is fully resurrected the first time, he's sort of turned into a zombie by sufficiently Advanced Aliens. And then there was that Ninja Robot built by the Japanese.
- No Water Proofing In The Future: One issue of the comic features a fight for Decepticon leadership between Megatron and Shockwave. The fight ends when Shockwave attacks with a water tower, short-circuiting Megatron. Possibly justified in that Megatron was not fully repaired from severe damage incurred earlier.
- Averted with scraplets: water was the best way to kill off the tiny robotic parasites, but Transformers treated with water are completely fine.
- Off-Model: Nearly every episode of the cartoon (even the larger-budget movie) had various kinds of animation errors. In the comics, some characters used older models throughout much of its run instead of revised models that came later on. The toys also have this issue due to their background of being from different Japanese toy lines, with the most glaring example being Jetfire, whose toy is a repackaged VF-1 from Super Dimension Fortress Macross, and Ironhide and Ratchet, both of whom had figures made without proper heads due to their Diaclone heritage.
- Our Ghosts Are Different:
- Although ghostly vehicles have precedent in folklore, Starscream was probably the first case in which this trope was ever applied to a sentient robot.
- Mindwipe's tech specs state that he'd rather try to contact the electromagnetic essences of long-dead Decepticons than speak to a living one.
- Palette Swap: A lot of characters are just recolors of each other. There's Starscream/Skywarp/Thundercracker, Rumble/Frenzy, Laserbeak/Buzzsaw, Bumblebee/Cliffjumper, Prowl/Bluestreak/Smokescreen, and Ironhide/Ratchet (though some of these pairings slightly subvert the trope by having very minor differences in head or face shape, or having different accessories such as police/ambulance lights). More than made up for by all of these pairings, except maybe Rumble and Frenzy, having radically different personality types that even the cartoon did a relatively good job of playing up.
- Parental Abandonment: We never hear about Spike's mother/Sparkplug's wife.
- Perfect Pacifist People: The first issue of the Marvel comic series says Cybertron was a pacifist utopia; Megatron forms the Decepticons to overthrow their decadent lifestyle. Ret-Conned away in later stories.
- Planet of Hats: Planet of the giant mechs who make a rather awesome toy franchise.
- Princesses Prefer Pink: A princess in Daniel's dream world wears a pink medieval-like outfit.
- Product-Promotion Parade: Happens several times in both the original Marvel comic book series and the Marvel/Sunbow animated series.
- Real Men Wear Pink: Scourge and the Sweeps have pink claws, and Depending on the Artist, pink toe tips as well.
- Red Eyes, Take Warning: The Decepticons except Shockwave; his eye is yellow.
- As well as the "destabilized" Autobots in "Attack of the Autobots."
- Also, in "Auto Berserk", when Red Alert's logic circuits are damaged, his blue eyes flash red.
- Refused the Call: Rodimus Prime is tired of leading the Autobots and allows the Decepticons to steal the Matrix of Leadership in "The Burden Hardest to Bear". A human kendo sensei convinces Rodimus to take his responsibilities more seriously.
- Remaster: The cartoon is notable for having had two DVD-release remasters. The first, by Kid Rhino, was a botched job, containing more goofs than the original versions. The second, by Shout! Factory, is a marked improvement.
- Robo Family:
- Sideswipe and Sunstreaker are considered brothers.
- Popular fanon states that Starscream, Thundercracker, and Skywarp are brothers. This is the case in some of the comics.
- Quickswitch was said to be Sixshot's son, in the commercial that introduced him.
- Robo Speak:
- Soundwave: superior. Rumble, Laserbeak, Ravage: Eject. Operation: Sell toys.
- Mention of Omega Supreme: not immediately visible. Problem: rectified.
- Robot Buddy: Inverted - the Transformers have human buddies.
- Rogue Planet:
- Cybertron wanders through space without an orbit, which is why the characters tend to rely on a teleportation device to make it back and forth.
- Unicron's vehicle mode, itself a planet, flies through space of its own volition.
- Sham Supernatural:
- The Pretender Bomb-Burst sells himself as a terrifying, vampiric hunter who stalks the night, helped by his monstrous Pretender shell (a form of bio-technological body armour that hides a Transformer in a biological shell). In fact, his Pretender shell is actually quite energy inefficient, so he has to hunt down and prey on unsuspecting Autobots. On the other hand, he is a genuinely stealthy, cunning and powerful hunter (his Pretender shell even gets stronger the more Energon it drains from a victim).
- The Decepticon Headmaster Mindwipe likewise sells himself as a terrible creature of the night, helped by his bat alternate mode. He claims to be a master of dark mystic arts, trying to get in touch with ancient spirits but unaware he's actually picking up reruns of old sitcoms. He's genuinely dangerous, as his special power is to hypnotise an enemy simply by making eye contact. Luckily, he's also a bit of a Dirty Coward.
- Shared Universe: The third season of the cartoon strongly implied that it was set in the same universe as G.I. Joe, and in fact the writers eventually confirmed the popular fan theory that Marissa Faireborn, a character in the post-movie season, was indeed the daughter of Flint and Lady Jaye. Then, of course, there were the full-blown crossovers in the comics.
- Shout-Out: The original three Microchange cassette toys that became the first Cassetticons were a bird, a panther, and a humanoid robot.
- The Starscream:
- Provides the Trope Namer. Starscream is constantly trying to usurp Megatron's positon as leader of the Decepticons.
- Several combiner teams have at least one member who also behaves this way internally; Particularly, Hook of the Constructicons, who gives Starscream himself a run for his money as far as "being The Starscream" goes.
- According to the More Than Meets The Eye profile books, there are at least two Micromaster teams that consist entirely of one leader and three Starscreams.
- Stealth Pun: Warpath is a tank who randomly makes exclamations. Looks like he has Tourette's, which is a homophone for "turrets."
- Take That!: The comics by IDW and Dreamwave feature a lot of jabs against the forgotten competitor Challenge Of The Go Bots, mostly in the form of background characters resembling the Go Bots being killed in various ways. A few wrecked Gundam bodies can also be seen during a scene in the Movie.
- Somewhat inverted later, as the GoBots have started coming into the Transformers universe from theirs to seek either help or a new home (their universe is being destroyed as a result of one of Unicron's "deaths").
- The concept of rubsigns (originally a gimmick in and of itself) was one to its competitors and knockoffs. With the commercial going out of its way to proclaim "Only the Transformers are real Transformers". This was due to the fact the rubsign decals were costly to produce back in the 80s. Now, not so much, since anyone can buy reproductions of them anywhere and the actual bootleg copies of the old toys have them too, so when they're used officially it's more for a nostalgia gimmick
- Tank Goodness: Warpath, Blitzwing, Brawl, and G2 Megatron have battle tank alt-modes.
- Technology Marches On: In many ways. What the Transformers themselves had as technology then is fairly standard to us now, and in relativity, artists and writers have had to go to much greater lengths to make Transformers appear more advanced than we are.
- Soundwave's alternate mode is a perfect example. He turns into a cassette player; an useful disguise back then, nowadays not so much. Of course, some more... nostalgic fans (luckily a minority) disagree with any attempt at modernization.
- Through a Face Full of Metal: Blushing is used as a visual device for robots; a simple example would be Seaspray's humanoid love interest noticing him blushing at her in "Sea Change."
- Time Skip: The Movie takes place twenty years after the first two seasons of the cartoon.
- Took a Level in Badass: Scourge after he gets the Matrix in The Burden Hardest To Bear. Inverted for Scourge and the Sweeps after the Movie.
- Underlighting: It used underlighting frequently for the yellow Autobot gunshots, the purple Decepticon gunshots, and sometimes the red and blue glowing eyes.
- Unlikely Hero: Brash "teenager" Hot Rod becomes the new Autobot leader, Rodimus Prime.
- Unsettling Gender Reveal / Gender Bender : Arcee, who was a test subject to Mad Scientist Jhiaxus. By messing with Arcee's CNA, Jhiaxus introduced gender into a previously genderless race. This explains why Arcee is so Ax-Crazy.
- Verbal Tic:
- Me Grimlock and other Dinobots speak like cavemen.
- Shrapnel repeats the last word of every sentence, sentence. Sometimes even the last two syllables of every sentence, whether they form a single word, or two.
- Wheelie speaks in rhyme every single time.
- Blurr talks really fast and often repeats himself because he's so fast and the speed at which he talks reflects the speed at which he moves and by speaking so fast he gets a lot of words in due to speaking so fast but he often doesn't have a lot to say so he ends up repeating himself while speaking real fast.
- Omega Supreme: giant. Favorite punctuation mark: colon.
- Talk in backwards Yoda speak Weirdwolf loves to.
- Warpath is BAM!! fond of putting loud POW!! exclamations into his BOOM!! sentences. This could be considered Robo-Tourette's syndrome.
- Seaspray sounds like he's permanently underwater. Or gargling.
- Villain Decay: Particularly prevalent with combiner teams, but also with characters representing other gimmicks, such as Triple-Changers. Devastator was unstoppable in early episodes, and in more than one episode unbeatable even by the entire Autobot team. Later, he could be broken up by a single shot from Perceptor. This effect was largely symmetrical, as Autobot combiners were also brought in to replace the formerly formidable older ones. Multiple Autobot characters have been referred to as their "last line of defence", including Omega Supreme and Metroplex.
- Vocal Evolution: Going back and watching the three-part premiere of the Generation 1 series, Optimus Prime's and Starscream's voices seem almost unrecognizable. Optimus had a softer, smoother tone compared to the iconic, deep-sounding voice that is typically associated with the character. In a similar twist, Starscream had a lighter, more easy-on-the-ears rasp (even when screaming), than the sharp, grating and loud voice provided in earlier episodes.
- Weaksauce Weakness: Megatron orders his troops to retreat after being sprayed by... Fire-retardant foam. Apparently it can short circuit cybertronians, although Ironhide can actually shoot the stuff from his forearms. Why he never used it to drive away the Decepticons once and for all is left unanswered.
- Who Names Their Kid "Dude"?: Sparkplug and Spike Witwicky. Spike isn't quite so unfeasible, but Sparkplug? Really?
- The Worf Effect:
- Starscream, using the power of the Underbase, kills many Transformers (Autobot and Decepticon alike!) effortlessly.
- Devastator gives the Autobots a good run for their money, until the appearance of Bruticus, who defeats him without much trouble. In post-movie appearances, even Perceptor would defeat him.
- The Stunticons were introduced as being equipped with forcefields that rendered them nigh invulnerable, until episodes later when for unknown reasons were no longer equipped with them and in equal terms with the Autobots.