GoBots are the Rodney Dangerfields of '80s toys: they get no respect... and they're completely dead and never coming back. They've never been able to escape the reputation of being low-rent Transformers knockoffs, despite hitting U.S. toy shelves first and being a popular line that outlasted many other '80s toylines.
Nerdy historians have debated exactly why GoBots sucked for years. Some think it was because the Hanna-Barbera Challenge of the GoBots cartoon was apparently written for particularly slow 4-year-olds. Others think it was because the toys provided almost no information about the characters kids were buying, so kids never got as emotionally attached as they did to their Optimus Prime. It might even be that some GoBots were so simple that they transformed by just folding in half. But, whatever the exact reason was for their suckage, GoBots don't have a tenth of the nostalgic appeal of Transformers and we certainly aren't going to see them on the big screen peeing on John Turturro any time soon. But that doesn't mean they weren't sometimes occasionally interesting. Here are the eight instances of them being interesting we could find.
8) They're Not Actually Robots
While you'd assume that GoBots are actually robots by the fact that their slogan "Mighty Robots, Mighty Vehicles," it turns out GoBots are actually part meatbag. Yep, the Challenge of the GoBots cartoon established that they were originally organic aliens identical to humans, but after an asteroid collided with Gobotron, they were forced to put their brains into robot bodies (why they put them in bodies that transformed into limousines and dune buggies is anyone's guess). The cartoon even introduced two GoBots who had been put into cryogenic suspension before falling prey to the disease who still had most of their fleshy bits. So, it should be "Mighty Cyborgs, Mighty Vehicles"... although the "mighty" part is up for debate.
7) The Cartoon Was Written by Putzie from Grease
Like all '80s shows, there were a bunch of freelance writers that contributed to the simplistic mess that was Challenge of the GoBots, but 22 episodes were written by Kelly Ward, who is best (or only) known for playing the blonde T-Bird in the movie Grease. Ward was also associate story editor for the series, as well as the voice of Fitor (above). He stopped acting after the movie Rock Lords: War of the Rock Lords (can you ever top playing opposite Margot Kidder and Telly Savalas?) and ended up becoming a voice director on Legion of Superheroes and the Watchmen motion comics. Take that, Travolta!
6) They're Transformers Now
In 1991, Hasbro bought up Tonka, and the rights to the GoBots toyline. But before mind fills with dreams of reissues, they don't own the rights to the toys themselves, which had been licensed from Bandai. But Hasbro has used GoBot names on Transformers, first with the 1993 G2 "GoBots" figure, then with a whole line of "GoBots" in 1995. Takara later made E-hobby exclusive re-deco of mini-cons in Go-Bots colors, although they dropped the specific Go-Bot names for fear of annoying Bandai. Since then, a bunch of GoBot-inspired Transformers figures like Leader-1, Bugbite and Cop-Tur. In fact, the Wal-Mart exclusive figure Fracture is clearly based on the GoBot Crasher and would've been called that, if they could've trademarked the name. If only they could have included put in that fingernails-on-blackboard voice of hers, too!
5) In Britain, They Murdered an Entire Town
In the U.K., GoBots were released under the Robo Machines name and a Robo Machines comic strip ran in the comic magazine Eagle that featured a story line that was more 2000 A.D. than Hanna-Barbera. The strip starts on the planet Robotron, where the humanoid scientist Stron-Domez created two transforming robots, Cy-Kill and Tank, and used them to try to assassinate Robotron's president. After he fails, he flees to Earth and security leader Ex-El follows him and creates modifies robots to fight him: Leader-1, Hans-Cuff and Dozer. So far, so good. But then Stron-Domez sends his robots out to start murdering British civilians, destroying the village of Cholkham. So if you ever thought it was a shame that Cy-Kill never lived up to his name, let's see what you think of him setting someone on fire.
4) You Were Buying Some Girl GoBots
While the Transformers only featured female Transformers in one or two episodes of the series, GoBots came right out and had strong female bots from the start, most notably the Renegade Crasher, although it should be noted that she spoke in a voice that would've made any Hollywood & Vine drag queen proud. Now of course, you couldn't tell from the toys (although Sparky always seemed looked a little femme to me), but you have to give them credit for actually making some female regular characters like Small Foot, Pathfinder and Snoop. And despite what you're thinking, we're pretty sure Scooter was a boy... but we sure ain't checking under his hood.
3) Psycho Is Short for Psychoroid
The weirdest entry from the Super GoBots line is easily the futuristic super car Psycho, which puzzled kids back in the '80s as to just what it was and also why it was called Psycho. Well it turns out Psycho is based on the space car Psychoroid from the anime Cobra: Space Adventure. Interestingly, the original car didn't transform, that was added by Bandai when they added it to the Machine Robo DX line. Looks like a car that just flies through space just wasn't sci-fi enough for Bandai.
2) They Were Voiced by Transformers
To make a living as a voice actor in the '80s you really had to hustle...and by hustle, we mean you took any job you could. So, it's not surprising that there was some overlap between the Transformers and GoBot series, although it's a little surprising who did it. Peter Cullen (Optimus Prime) and Frank Welker (Megatron) were both regular voice actors on Challenge of the GoBots, with Cullen playing Pincher, Spoiler and Tank and Welker playing Blaster, Rest-Q, Zeemon and that annoying little bastard Scooter. In the Rock Lords movie, they even had the two voice one two-headed Rock Lord, Sticks and Stones (above), with the two heads arguing constantly with each other. Other crossovers were Arthur Burghardt (GoBots: Cop-Tur, Turbo; Transformers: Devastator), Phillip L. Clarke (GoBots: Dr. Go, Herr Fiend, Tork; Transformers: Dead End, Tantrum), Richard Gautier (GoBots: Klaws; Transformers: Rodimus Prime/Hot Rod). Now, of course Gautier was the TV Rodimus... Do you think Judd Nelson would stoop to appear in a GoBots film? Well, sure he would now, but we mean 1980s Judd Nelson.
1) The Go-Bots Included Robotech Vehicles and, Uh...Turbo Teen?
One of the licensees that jumped on the GoBots money train was Monogram model kids, who put out a line of transforming GoBots model kits. Yep, rather than just buying a regular and durable GoBot, you could build a same size fragile model kit and watch it be destroyed. What a bargain! But rather than sculpt Leader-1 and Cy-Kill models, Monogram just repainted some models from Genesis Climber Mospeada (the Invid Invasion part of Robotech for you non-anime nerds) and slapped the character names on them. Leader-1 kind of works (in a super futuristic way), but it's hard to ignore the rider you need to build into the Cy-Kill kit. The finished model ends up looking like someone who put together an unconvincing Cy-Kill cosplay outfit (note: if you hate being laughed at, do not attempt to go to comic con in a Cy-Kill outfit).
And perhaps the oddest moment of the GoBots history was when Monogram took the mold of the "Trans Am" GoBot model kit, slapped a kid's head on it and made a Turbo Teen model kit. Which is the only Turbo Teen merchandise ever made... and I think everyone's okay with that.