As a kid, few concepts got me as excited as the Transformers, from the amazing roster of toys to the dozens of episodes that comprised the original cartoon. In the years and decades since, the franchise has seen innumerable new toylines, not to mention the questionable quality of the live-action films that bear the franchise name. For me, and many fans like me, the series will always call back to the blocky and familiar faces of characters from the original first generation of Transformers, and I’m always on the lookout for ways to enjoy that original group of characters.
That’s why I’ve been following along with the ongoing webseries roll-out of the Prime Wars trilogy. This linked series of short web cartoons uses some of the aesthetics and character appearances of the original Transformers cartoon, but told without extensive continuity constraints. The storytelling is hit-and-miss, and the animation isn’t always great, but I can’t deny the fun of seeing some of these characters show up again, along with some new friends. We see Metroplex march across the surface of Cybertron. We observe Rodimus Prime’s conflicted relationship with the Matrix of Leadership. We witness a war-weary Megatron facing his own villainous past. We even get to see some of the Combiner robots go head-to-head, including a throwdown between Computron and Menasor. Even when the series misses the mark, it’s exciting to see a new take on these old characters.
The new cartoon webseries is still rolling out new episodes on a regular basis
Coinciding with that new cartoon, recent years have seen a flood of new mainline toys from Hasbro tied together with the Prime Wars trilogy concept. Many of these figures are direct reimaginings of classic characters from the original Generation 1 line-up, like Optimus Prime, Starscream, and Grimlock. We’ve even gotten some of the really massive Titan-sized characters from the old days, like Fortress Maximus and Trypticon. In addition, this new line of G1-inspired figures has given Hasbro the opportunity to roll out new characters as well; heroic characters like Windblade and the combiner Victorion are new additions to the roster, but alluding to the style and presentation of the original line-up. As a collector, I’ve been impressed by the sculpts, transformations, and colors on this most recent line, which has for the first time in years had me really excited to see what they toy manufacturer does next.
The latest Transformers toyline includes numerous homages to characters from the original G1 universe
Finally, if you are a Transformers fan looking to recapture some of the magic, I must point you toward IDW’s long-running ongoing comics set within the Generation 1 milieu. Spread across a number of differently-named subheads over the last several years, these comics tell the most nuanced and rich version of the mythology I’ve seen in my many years of loving the franchise, tackling everything from the the post-traumatic stress left behind after a long war, to gender roles among a robotic species, and even questions of inequality between different factions and castes of Transformers society. Some of those graphic novels are funny, and others tragic and melancholy in their storytelling. But if you have fond memories of the original 1980s characters, you owe it to yourself to track down some of these graphic novels and see what IDW does with them. Many of the collected editions are easy to track down in both print and digital format.
The long-running IDW-published Transformers comics include some of the best storytelling in the franchise’s history
Like a lot of pop-culture franchises, the Transformers characters have seen some dramatic ups and downs over their lifetime, and I’d be the last to declare everything that we’ve seen as a success. Even so, it makes me happy that the brand continues to find ways to speak to its original fans through storytelling and toylines that do honor to the original heroes and villains. If you share a similar childhood enthusiasm to my own, you might be surprised what’s out there that still speaks to you.