?Generation 1 Transformers are near and dear to many of our hearts, because they were the Transformers we grew up with in the ’80s. We fully believed that these robots could come to Earth, scan for what technology was out there, and mimic it to blend in. Hence, Decepticons started off as planes, and Autobots started off mostly as cars and jeeps.
Then toy people got involved and decided that cars and planes could only go so far, marketwise, and it might be a good idea to get… weird. The camouflage story gave way to Transformers who transformed into any random crap that looked cool because, and I hate to say this blasphemy, it sold more toys. Here’s nine of the best head scratchers from the early years of Transformers toys!
Special thanks to unicron.com and TFwiki.net for the images.
9) Sparkstalker = Some Kind of Dragon Dinosaur Thing
?Right off the bat, we have a Decepticon that eschews the whole “blending in” concept. Sparkstalker is… uh… well, it’s hard to say. He’s a dragon and he breathes fire, but he also has these little tentacles for arms. He’s bright purple and has what appear to be legs, if you could call two purple squares on hinges “legs.” And he has wings, but they’re too small to do anything useful. So he’s a dragon with completely useless arms. Transformers mythology says that he’s also a master cryptographer. I’ll buy that story over the idea that this guy is in any way mobile.
8) Mindwipe = Bat
?Nothing scares your enemies like a giant boxy bat with stereo speakers! Get ’em, Mindwipe! I’ll admit, if you slap bat wings on pretty much any item, you’ve caught my attention. And I owned a Mindwipe toy. But why include the wings at all? All Transformers can fly in robot mode, and it’s not like a bat the size of a hotel gym is really going to blend in anywhere, so why a bat? The simple laws of physics say that those little wings aren’t going to do much with that massive chest.
7) Chainclaw = A Bear Wearing a Hat
?The Pretender line of Transformers were supposed to be the ‘bots that blended in the best. As an example, Chainclaw really did have an outer shell that looked like a legit brown bear (the robot part was hidden in the shell like a robotic Kinder Egg). The bear has a backpack, sure, and it buckles around his anus, but it’s a passable bear. Camouflage win. But then, the bear has a hat. Why does bear need a hat? How can this be? If you’re already a robot hiding inside a bear skin (with backpack!), why hide behind a hat too?
6) Kup = A Nonfunctional Pickup Truck
?Yes, everyone loves old Kup and making fun of him is like busting on Ghandi, but what the fuck does he transform into? Imagine you’re a kid and you’re trying to explain to your parents what Transformers are. You hold up a robot and, right in front of your parents’ eyes, you transform it into a sea green piece of lumpy metal. Would you buy your kids more of this toy? He’s supposed to be a pickup truck, and all later editions of the figure make him a good-looking truck, but his G1 version? How can you cart anything around like that? Kup, you got no truck bed!
5) Overbite = Shark with Legs
?Not to be confused with Rippersnapper, the other walking shark (Cracked did an article on shitty Transformer disguises, and I didn’t want to cover their same turf, so I left Rippersnapper off). Unlike Mindwipe, Overbite gets to transform into something that could never pass for an Earth creature: a Mardi Gras shark that walks around on legs. Imagine how awful the discussions for this toy were.
“How about a…a…shark? But not a regular shark, a shark that’s like on land and stuff.”
“Know what? My marriage is falling apart and I’m hooked on blow. Just get the toys on shelves, okay? And if those toys aren’t painted like a Pride parade, you’re fired.”
4) Repugnus = Mayor McCheese
?I’m not going to bullshit you people. Repugnus looks like fucking Mayor McCheese with muttonchop sideburns and a fez. The toy itself spits sparks from its mouth, so you have a McDonalds mascot who vomits electricity, and he’s also a Shriner. I’m not going to comment on his fey little arms, but oh wait, I just did.
3) Astrotrain = A Space Shuttle and a Train
?If you’re going to double up on the transformations, at least make one of your disguises something useful. Trains are useful for carrying cargo over long distances, but only if you have the forethought to lay miles of track between your starting place and your destination. Space shuttles are the wonkiest vehicles imaginable and not very useful unless you’re carting something into orbit. Are Decepticons bringing humans into space disguised as a space train? I have no idea. But think of it this way: if you’re shipping something by rail, you need to be okay with it being sent into space too, because he might change his mind halfway through the delivery.
2) Venom = Cicada
?Hey, bugs can be creepy. Remember that scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? Lots of bugs, all of which were gross. Venom transformed into a cicada, an insect absent from Temple of Doom because it really, really sucks. At best, a cicada is really loud and annoying, and can freak you out a little bit if you’re poking it with a stick and it suddenly goes, “BZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ!!!!!!” At worst, it lives underground for 17 years and doesn’t bother anyone. Sound like an intimidating disguise? Or just an excuse for Venom to knock off work for nearly two decades? Also, not to be a dick, but cicadas do not produce venom, so this awesome name was 100% wasted.
1) Perceptor = Microscope
?For the one Transformer that could actually turn into something kids could use, Perceptor was the #1 most useless Autobot. While his comrades could drive to the beach on weekends, or fly across oceans, Perceptor was basically a tube with a couple of lenses attached. He’s the only Transformer that requires a sunny day to work properly. Space shuttles, helicopters, convoy trucks and…a piece of desk equipment that was invented less than a hundred years after the discovery of America. The real thing that bugs me is that in a world of giant super robots from space, why would anyone need a microscope anymore? We have them around our laboratories, sure, but unless you’re a microbiologist, they don’t get much use. I can imagine Perceptor hanging around the Autobots’ base just begging people for work. “Need anything looked at real close? I’m your man if you do!”