Hank McCoy (Before the Fur)

At New York Comic Con this year we here at Omnicomic observed what a big presence Transformers had at the show this year. Transformers has gotten BIG. I mean it’s gotten Star Wars big.

People have always loved it, but lately, it’s like we REALLY love it. And beyond Michael Bay’s decent film adaptations we love it with new toys, new shows, new comics and games, fan club meetings and cons exclusively ABOUT Transformers (Bot-Con, I believe it’s called). Hell, there’s even a Transformers MMO on the way. Why did it take so long to find this love?

It’s kind of funny, isn’t it? Optimus Prime and Megatron were icons in every child’s mind in the 80’s and then? The 90’s? Almost nothing. A cartoon show called Beast Wars (underrated, I’ll admit) that felt like it couldn’t make up its mind about whether it wanted to be like the old show or break away and be something different altogether.

But now, suddenly, everywhere you go it's Transformers THIS, Transformers THAT. Did you know that Megatron and Prime are actually brothers, blah blah blah! Why did it take so long? Well, I’ve got a theory. And maybe I’m way off here, but…

The thing is Transformers was some serious stuff to watch when you were a kid! How many other cartoon movies did you see characters get completely smoked on screen? It was violent!

The cartoon show did a little better job of containing the all-out craziness that you saw in the movie, but at the end of the day, Transformers was a cartoon show about giant robots with guns blowing the metal guts out of each other. But it was marketed to kids and that was the problem.

What I sort of remember as a child of the 80’s was this sudden movement among parents to contain violence in children’s programming. To be fair, there was a LOT of this going on that probably DID need to be contained. Megatron’s G1 figure really DID transform into a (futuristic) handheld gun. Suddenly, it wasn’t so ‘in’ to be buying your children toy guns for their birthday.

So what was big in the 90’s? Ducktales. Animaniacs. Shows that were witty and that appealed to kids' socialization. Less violent. And, ultimately, this was probably good for kids.

Oooohhh, but the Transformers fans, we never grew up, did we? We BOUGHT the Transformers movie DVD in college, in our twenties, and watched it. In fact it just seemed to get better as we got older. We sat around with our friends and said things like:

“Remember that part where Brawn just like ate it?”

And they said: “Ha ha, yeah that was awesome. Why don’t they make cartoons like that anymore?”

And then somebody was like: “Yeah, and remember when Bumblebee was like ‘Oohh, *^%!’”.

And then you and your first friend went: “Huh? Wait, I don’t remember that and I’ve seen this movie a hundred times!"

And they said: “You know when Unicron eats that moon and they get sucked in!”

And then you found that part on the DVD to check and it wasn’t there but you looked around on the internet. Eventually you find out that they really did have that line in the theatrical release but they took it out later, and everyone was like: “AAAHHH, THAT’S what happened…”

And that’s really what it comes down to, isn’t it? You might not love every move he makes, but Michael Bay is no dummy. Ultimately, Trasnformers kind of works better with adult sensibilities about war, life and death that were always just clawing to get to the surface in the cartoon show. It wasn’t a show about teaching kids to be safe or how to respect each other. It was a show about gigantic robots engaged in intergalactic WAR.

Nowadays it’s kind of like all the children of the 80’s grew up and just embraced Transformers that WAY. You don’t go read Marvel Comics The Punisher and expect for it to be anything other than gritty and brutal. At the same time, I don’t think anyone really expects Optimus Prime to be a role model on how to share in a pleasant way in your kindergarden lunch room or something.

I mean, it's not that Prime is a bad role model exactly. He’s just more of a role model of how to retain nobility and your values in the face of overwhelming odds of a brutal conflict. I guess Prime would be a good role model if…you led your dodgeball team to victory, knowing full well that over half of them would be struck down by a brutal reign of opposing fire as you charged headlong towards the front line, but that such a sacrifice was necessary for the greater good.

I guess that’s the kind of educational situation that is even remotely applicable to Transformers.

So yeah. Anyway, long story short, we like Transformers as a story about war as an exercise in coolness more than an exercise in philosophy. And we just don’t pull any punches anymore, I think. I mean okay, I hear Transformers Animated is very cute, but you know. I hear Transformers Prime is more what you’ve come to expect.

The irony is: would you love the story of the Transformers--with all of it’s adult sensibilities and complexity--if you weren’t exposed to it as a child? I mean, there are plenty of other war stories (Mobile Suit Gundam in any of its billion incarnations, countless other anime style war shows), but there’s something that pulls you from childhood when you see Prime and Megatron.

So Transformers has this amazing capacity, I think, to pull you from that place of wonder from your childhood but capitalize on really adult themes. Is it any wonder it’s raking in the big bucks, these days? Isn’t it funny how things turn out?