Monday, September 22, 2008


Here’s something that’s always sort of bugged me about Transformers.

They’re tagged as “Robots in Disguise”. And, in most of the different continuities, one of the very first thing the Cybertronians do is take on the form of the local vehicles or life forms to blend into the surroundings and prevent being pegged as the giant alien robots that they are. It seems like a reasonable practice, except for the fact that a lot of the time, most notably in Generation 1 and the Movie Universe, the Autobots and Decepticons tend to take on the exterior forms of the flashiest and most attention grabbing vehicles possible.

The Autobots in the Movie Universe are the best and clearest example here. Optimus Prime is not just a tractor trailer cab, but one with a brilliant fiery paint job that’s sure to turn heads on the highway. Bumblebee is a concept Camaro with racing stripes while Ratchet is a visually stunning Hummer ambulance. Ironhide and Jazz are probably the most low-key Autobots, but still, they are a fully tricked out GMC Topkick and a sleek Pontiac Solstice respectively. Any one of these vehicles surely stands out on any roadway. It seems to me, if the goal is to hide in plain sight, it would probably be better if humans weren’t ogling you for any reason.

Maybe nobody will notice.

Generation 1 is just as bad. The examples there are way too numerous to get into, but really all that needs to be seen are the dual Lamborghinis that are Sideswipe and Sunstreaker’s alternative modes. The Alternators line is pretty bad in this respect as well, but with ubiquitous vehicles like the Subaru Impreza, Jeep Wrangler, and Dodge Ram SRT-10, there is some potential for the Cybertronians to be able to drive around unnoticed.

In other continuities, it’s less flagrant. Robots in Disguise, the Unicron Trilogy, and the Animated universe all create a sort of near-future world where vehicles that we would consider bold and exciting are the norm. And all things considered, Beast Wars is pretty decent, if you discount the gigantic insects and rodents. Then again, after season one of the TV show, the whole thing pretty much goes out of the window with Fuzors and Transmetals.

So, you sort of have to look at the Cybertronians as having alternative combat or transportation modes as part of their racial attributes as opposed to a defense mechanism to camouflage themselves into a situation. Now don’t get me wrong, I completely understand why things are the way they are from a real-world and toy aspect…no kid wants a robot that turns into a Nissan Stanza with a missing hubcap and a fading blue paint job with a beige driver-side door. But in-story, the whole incognito thing doesn’t really work all that well. The Transformers might as well just take any alternative mode they take a liking too, and to hell with being inconspicuous.

Case in point.


Lord Zarak said...

Great article, Deino. Storywise, it does make some sense for the Autobots to pick flashier alt-modes. Knowing they may encounter Decepticons on the open road, they'd want vehicle modes with top performance capabilties, speed being the most essential. So the latest sports cars would be an ideal pick for an alt-mode. Plus, like many humans, there is a sense of ego as well, as Jazz surely demonstrates. Afterall, if you had the ability to pick any body you wanted, would you purposely choose a rusty old heap? Granted, Bumblebee did, but he seemed happy to ditch that mode.

Dave Reynolds said...

I dunno... I think it'd be kinda funny if the Autobots all picked rundown pieces of crap. They'd be the Ghettobots, with their leader Optimus Pimp versus the DeceptiMAN and their leader Crackatron.