The A to Z of THE TRANSFORMERS - A is for Autobots - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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The A to Z of THE TRANSFORMERS - A is for Autobots

Scott Harris and Stacy Przybysz begin a new series charting the A to Z of The Transformers.

This year is the 30TH anniversary of The Transformers, and with the sweet-looking new movie starring Mark Wahlberg and Grimlock on its way to cinemas this summer, we decided to show our appreciation of the iconic series about giant robots punching each other (or shooting each other in the equilibrium, if you prefer) with this, our A to Z of The Transformers.

“A” could stand for an awful lot of things. Aaron Archer (double for him), Aerialbots, Action Masters, Alpha Trion, Arcee, Ark, Armada, Astrotrain, Axalon, the list goes on, but we did not set out to write a definitive guide to the franchise. There are already two entire wikis designed exactly for that purpose (here and here), and they do a marvelous job of it already. We’re just two fans talking about our passion. Still, it can sometimes be difficult to figure out what deserves a spot in our list, so each entry in this A to Z will consist of up to three different subjects, and only the ones that we feel we can talk about the most.

So, without further ado, let’s roll for it!


Throughout the years, The Transformers have been reimagined, rebooted, revived and everything else in between. Originally cobbled together from a hodgepodge of Japanese toy lines such as Diaclone, Macross and Microman during the early 1980s and given a story to bind them all together, it started a cultural phenomenon that has spawned comic books, cartoons, movies and enough conflicting continuity to make even seasoned Whovians give up and go home. In spite of all this confusion, however, there is one thing that can always be counted on, one thing that is always at the heart of the great and seemingly never-ending interstellar conflict, and that is:

“Autobots wage their battle to destroy the evil forces of the Decepticons.”
-The Transformers theme song

The Autobots are the ultimate force for good in the universe. Under the leadership of the powerful robot Optimus Prime, they stand for law, order and peace across the stars. There are a few rules that the Autobots arguably always follow in their various incarnations, which we will look at more closely in the article below.

They are restricted to working on land. In the earliest versions of the story, the Decepticons’ power of flight gave them an edge on the battlefield. Although the Autobots could supplement this with equipment such as rocket packs and transport ships, only a handful of them have ever been capable of full flight under their own power. Generation 1 gave us the Aerialbots and others such as Jetfire/Skyfire, Powerglide, Cosmos and Blades to name a few, while Animated provided the combining twins Jetfire and Jetstorm. An even lesser number of them have adapted themselves for marine operations, with Seaspray and Broadside being the only original Autobots of note to do so. Their terrestrial design is seen in their frequent usage of cars, motorcycles, trucks and other such domestic vehicles as their alternate mode-of-choice.

Bluestreak, Huffer and Alpha Trion show off those baby blues.
In continuities where optic colour goes hand-in-hand with allegiance, the Autobots possess soft blue eyes in contrast to the harsh crimson ones of their Decepticon counterparts. Not all continuities maintain this rule, with the comics frequently depicting yellow as the most recurring optic colour for both factions, but that divergence remains just as iconic today as their famous badges.

Regardless of general backstory, and believe you me there are more than enough to choose from, the Autobots were never designed for combat. Whether it’s because they were built as general consumer goods as in the Generation 1 cartoon or that they were shrinking, feudalistic bureaucrats as seen in several later interpretations, it was the Decepticons who taught them the ferocity of warfare. They are a conclave of explorers, traders, engineers, scientists and scholars who have been forced to take up arms in order to ensure their own continued survival in the face of overwhelming odds. Certainly there were often more Autobot toys to be had than Decepticons, but only because the Autobots really needed the numbers. Their non-confrontational policy may also attest to their preferences in alternate modes, although over the years the Autobots have accepted a scattering of malcontents among their ranks and some take more combat-oriented configurations, such as Generation 1’s Warpath, on the basis that they have little choice in the matter. The Cyber-Ninja Corps introduced in Animated also suggests that the Autobots began studying martial arts as a means of stealing back an advantage from the aggressive Decepticon armies.

The eight Primes depicted in the Generation 1 cartoon. 
Upper: Primon, Prima, Prime Nova, Guardian Prime
Lower: Zeta Prime, Sentinel Prime, Optimus Prime, Rodimus Prime
Perhaps most importantly of all, the Autobots respect the hierarchy without question. He who carries the name of “Prime” is not only their supreme military commander, but a holy figure. The Prime is the bearer of the Matrix (of Leadership or otherwise) and epitomises everything the Autobot cause stands for. Although many Autobots show an understanding of the key difference between loyalty and obedience and have questioned their leader’s decision-making, they always keep in mind why that Prime is who he is instead of them.

The Autobots are instantly recognisable by their badge, which each member always displays somewhere on his body, typically on the chest or shoulders. It is equal parts organisational insignia and tribal marking. According to the Generation 1 comics, the badge is referred to colloquially as an “Autobrand” and represents the Last Autobot, an ancient guardian of their God-figure, Primus. Meanwhile in the cartoon, it was a slave brand used by the alien Quintessons and kept by the robots after they rebelled as proof of their struggle for freedom.

The Generation 2 line attempted to popularise a simpler variant of the badge in the early 1990s that more closely resembled the face of Optimus Prime, by now the beloved poster-bot for the franchise, but subsequent series have reverted to the original design, sometimes adding to it but never removing the core elements.

In both the live action films directed by Michael Bay and the recent Prime animated series, the word “Autobot” has been stated as a contraction of “autonomous robot life-form.” Seems legit.

Tomorrow Scott and Stacy take a look at Transformers Animated as they continue their A to Z of The Transformers.

Scott is a writer and life-long science-fiction fan who lives in Essex, England. He co-produces audio dramas based on the BBC's Doctor Who for C.P. Studios. Follow them on Twitter or Facebook. Stacy, also a writer, lives in Buffalo, N.Y. and prefers fantasy but is being patiently tutored in the Ways of Sci-Fi.

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