Marvel's Transformers comics were always a bit harder-edged than the weekday afternoon cartoon version of the story. Because of that, some of the Transformers themselves were portrayed with more depth and more bad-assedness than they were on TV. In fact, some Transformers received their defining (and only, in a some cases) portrayals in the comic books. Some characters, like Megatron and Optimus Prime, were forces to be reckoned with in both the comics and the cartoons, although Megatron only really came into his own in the Generation 2 comics. But here are 10 Transformers that were badass not in the cartoons, but in the comics only.
Skids, a minivan from the second wave of Autobot cars, showed up for about 2.5 seconds in the cartoon. In the Marvel comics, he had a personality, which was a good start. After he got injured in battle by the Decepticon Ravage and left behind by the Autobots, Skids kinda said "Screw this" and happily went home with a cute blonde waitress named Charlene who had discovered him in car mode and decided to keep him. Life was good for ol' Skids for awhile, as he received regular hot, soapy washes from Charlene in her Daisy Duke cut-offs. He eventually revealed his true identity to her and the pair developed what seemed to be an understated, interspecies dating relationship. While Skids sadly decided to return to the less sexy world of the Autobots and relative anonymity, he did manage to defend his woman one last time by tossing an attacking Ravage down a mineshaft, which put the critter out of commission for almost the rest of the series. Ah, to live like Skids for a day.
Nightbeat was probably the greatest Transformers character than hardly anyone knew about. A latter-day Headmaster, he was the Autobots' Sam Spade, a brilliant detective who managed to be both cool and down on his luck. When Decepticon commander Thunderwing took possession of a corrupted Matrix and surprise-attacked the Autobots with it, Nightbeat saved the day by shooting Thunderwing through the chest with a harpoon and blasting him and the Matrix into space. Most fans choose to ignore Nightbeat's noble but fairly meaningless death in the Generation 2 comics.
8) Fortress Maximus
Fortress Maximus made it into the tail end of the U.S. Transformers cartoon, but came across like a gigantic robot drone. In the comics, though, he was a pacifist who was forced back into the war against the Decepticons due to circumstances and inevitability. He also ripped his own head off, as depicted on the front cover of many a Marvel Transformers comic, and became a Headmaster by bonding with a human in a robot suit. He was the stalwart almost-leader of the Autobots for several issues, before the disagreements between Fort Max and his partner Spike were too great for them to continue. They eventually realized they were stronger as one and pulled together to beat the almighty Galvatron into oblivion! They later tried the same thing with Megatron, sacrificing themselves to blow up the Autobot Ark to stop him, but Megatron escaped unscathed. G2 killed way too many characters in pointless deaths. Simon Furman wasn't perfect, Transformers fanboys.
By the time the Transformers Pretenders came out in the Western world, Marvel's comic books were the only place to see those characters in action. The toys consisted of gimpy robots that turned into unconvincing robots and hid in bizarre humanoid shells that had a whopping two points of articulation. But with writer Simon Furman at the helm, the Pretenders became some of the coolest characters in Transformers history. Case in point is Thunderwing, a short-term leader of the Decepticons. He was often cool-headed but prone to explosive outbursts, a solid, physically powerful leader who was feared by all. But he became obsessed with finding the lost Autobot Matrix, which had become corrupted. Because of this, it was a perfect match, and Thunderwing became an honest-to-goodness bearer of the Autobot Matrix of Leadership. Infused with power into an evil force of nature, he then awesomely snuck into the Autobots' ship and devastated several of them before the heroic Autobot Nightbeat managed to eject both Thunderwing and the Martrix into space. Thunderwing and the Matrix then merged into a demonic creature that stood up to Unicron. Sadly, this resulted in Thunderwing being blown to smithereens. But it did take a planet-eating deity to fully take him out, at least.
The Dinobot leader was certainly lovable in the cartoon, but a brightly lit bulb he was not. He wasn't Einstein in the comic books, either, but he possessed a savage, brutal cunning that most friends and foes overlooked because he talked like a moron. In the cartoon, he was the dimwitted result of an inane experiment of Wheejack's to replicate dinosaur life. In the comic, he and the Dinobots were sent to fight Shockwave on prehistoric Earth and all of them were trapped for millions of years in a tar pit. After the untimely and ridiculous death of Optimus Prime due his loss of a video game (long, awful story), Grimlock surpassed the other likely candidates and ascended to leader after he scored an impressive victory over Trypticon, the Decepticons' T-Rex cityformer. But leadership went to Grimlock's head and literally, as he began wearing a crown. He did manage to get the Autobots' crashed spaceship, the Ark, repaired, something it seemed no one else could be bothered with. But then Grimlock decided the Autobots should take flight and abandon Earth. After a short, tyrannical reign, Grimlock finally came to his senses and abdicated power back to a returning Optimus Prime. He went on to kick butt in many more issues, and remained a top authority among the Autobots.