I’ve been a Transformers fan for over two
decades and there’s one conclusion I’ve come to:
Starscream can’t win.
No matter how hard he tries, he can’t become
the permanent leader of the Decepticons or have any lasting
victories in the grand scheme. Starscream is limited by the fact
he’s a personality in a toy concept and cannot ever be allowed to
truly evolve as a character. The same is true to an extent about
Optimus Prime, Megatron, Hot Rod and any other established
No matter where it goes, people remember
certain characters in a certain way. Starscream is a traitorous
back stabber. He connives and schemes but never truly succeeds.
The other Decepticons won’t take him seriously. Megatron always
comes back from the dead and gives him his comeuppance (in the
case of Galvatron, lethally so). Even when he does enact a scheme,
it’s doomed to fail because despite his ambitions, Starscream
simply isn’t up to the task of leadership and experiencing true
In traditional storytelling, characters have a
problem. Be it with another person, nature or an internal
conflict. The story typically follows them as they attempt to
address the problem. Most of the time they overcome their problem
and are changed by their experience. Occasionally, they fail and
must suffer the consequences of that failure. This is not true,
however, in mass media storytelling where a character’s story
never truly ends, people expect a certain archetype and the reset
button can be pressed at any time.
The above is a major factor in why I did the Balance of Power
storyline where Starscream breaks with the Decepticons permanently
and has some success as a new third power. Frankly, I got tired of
the same-old, same-old and wanted to see something different for a
change. I wrote a scheming, dangerous and competent Starscream who
has an ultimate fate at the end of his story.
It would be interesting to see an official
medium truly shake up the status quo in a permanent manner.
Imagine a comic series where Optimus Prime dies–and stays dead. Or
where the Great War winds down permanently in the course of the
story and the newly pacifist Transformers must deal with different
threats to their existence. The possibilities are endless. (IDW is
doing something different with their More Then Meets The Eye and Robots in Disguise comics
right now–but watch it be undone later when a new writer comes
along or the company wants to try and boost sales again. I’d love
something truly permanent in the story).
To relate this issue to comics (specifically Marvel and DC, but also companies like Image and whoever else has a
long running character/concept), I feel like character/concept
stagnation is a major contributor to why the field seems to be
slowly dying (that, and crappy storytelling, of course). If
nothing can ever truly change then nothing really matters. Any
story conflict is ultimately rendered irrelevant.
The companies will not give up a cash cow, of
course. That’s bad business. But why must innovation be brought to
a near-complete standstill in order to justify profit? In an era
where monthly comics are becoming more and more irrelevant in
favor of trade paperbacks, why don’t the comic companies just
abandon the monthly format all together and tell one-off stories
As Transformers goes, can’t Hasbro or its
creative partners give some of the usual cliches of the concept a
break? I’m not saying never use Starscream again, nor Optimus
Prime versus Megatron, nor Optimus Prime’s guilt and self-doubt.
But why not explore some new characters against the backdrop of
the war? Optimus, Starscream, etc. can still be there to have toys
(and protect trademarks, etc) but why not have some new guys do
something different for a year or two? Stop always giving fans
what they’ve come to expect. Try to innovate a little bit.
Surprise us sometimes. Either way, we’ll still be there–watching
the cartoon, reading the comic and buying the toys.
We’re good that way...
Til All Are One!
Issue #13, WINTER 2012
REVIEW: Recent TF
ARTICLE: Transformers Regeneration
20 years later, where do we go from here?
ARTICLE: Animated Eggs (by Johan Piest)
Prime: Darkness Rising DVD
Bacauldra (by Jay Gutzman)
PROFILE: Basalasar (by Jay Gutzman)
PROFILE: Beeper (by
PROFILE: Belle (by
PROFILE: Bob (by
Prime (by Jay Gutzman)
REVIEW: Transformers: Rescue Bots
Unless noted, this issue was produced by Tony "Thunder"
Klepack. Contributions for future issues are welcome and
(Some stock graphics were designed by Peter Phelps. Thanks
to him for his many efforts).
The Transformers are Copyright and Trademark 2012
Hasbro/Takara Tomy. All rights Reserved. The TransMasters
are a Non-profit club for and by Transfans.