“Sex sells” – not a maxim many could or would dispute. It’s permeates just about every facet of society (whether we like it out not), and yes, that includes (albeit in some odd ways) animation about robots. So let’s get between the metal sheets and discover just what revs the engines of THE TRANSFORMERS.
The Transformers – Excited to be on Earth.
Mommy, Where Do Baby Robots Come From?
Jeremy W. Kaufmann (guest blogger)
Remember the ’80s? Remember the Transformers? American toy leviathan Hasbro imported several Japanese transforming robot toy lines from Japan and with the help of an advertising agency, a comic book company, and an animation studio, made millions of dollars. The formula is pretty simple. What do boys like? Cars, jets, guns, dinosaurs, boomboxes. All of those things now transformed into robots, so that made them ten times better. Kids like aliens, too, so these living robots came from space. But what happens when a year or two go by and you need to sell new toys? You can’t keep saying reinforcements from their home planet are showing up day after day, right? We need reproduction!
And that’s when things got weird.
You can’t exactly tell five-year-old kids about the mechanics of sex in your half hour cartoon or your twenty-four page comic book and anyway, where do robot babies come from? I’m glad you asked.
Comic writer Bob Budianksy – the guy who wrote all those bios on the toy boxes and named the majority of the Transformers until the early 1990s – was told there were no female Transformers, so sexual dimorphism and therefore sexual intercourse, was out. Instead, he invented the Creation Matrix, a magic computer program running on noble leader Optimus Prime’s computerized brain. With it, Optimus had the ability to breathe life into non-living metal objects and give them personalities and stupid names. Well, maybe not that last one. Naturally Optimus managed to get his head severed and kidnapped by the bad guys (don’t ask) because of this super sexy program. So what did he do to preserve his brain-sperm? He transferred it into the mind of a teenage boy named Buster who exclusively wore pink t-shirts, because it was 1985. Now you have a teenage boy with the ability to create Transformers. Sounds like the best thing ever! But don’t worry. After creating a new toy – I mean, giving life to a cool jet so it can save the day, he gave the power back to Optimus. Later, under writer Simon Furman, the Creation Matrix became a physical object that the bad guys could steal. It also contained the essence of the Transformers’ god (seriously, don’t ask).
For television, writer Donald F. Glut contributed an easier solution the problem. They just built some new robots! Sure, they were really, really stupid, but that’s fine because they transformed into dinosaurs! What’s that? You need to sell more new toys that aren’t dinosaurs? Fine! David Wise explained where smarter robots come from: the mystical disco ball supercomputer Vector Sigma that lives deep within the Transformers’ home planet. Sure, why not? We’ve had gods and teenage boys, why not a disco computer?
Beth Bornstein introduced female Transformers, which brought sexuality back to the table. The 1986 big animated failure, Transformers: The Movie, followed up on this topic with spunky pink lady robot Arcee. Imagine if Princess Leia transformed into a convertible. There were vague hints of romance, but Arcee didn’t actually have sex with any gentleman robots. The 1997 computer animated follow up show, Beast Wars Transformers, would make this a lot more explicit with two romances. The affair between a falcon named Airazor and her tiger boyfriend, Tigatron, seems anatomically impossible. That’s nowhere near as bizarre as the giant spider woman Blackarachnia who loves a dog/eagle monster (not kidding) named Silverbolt. Of course, in Beast Wars, when the robots transformed, they had actual organic folds with skin and hair and shells, so it’s a lot grosser than the ’80s cartoon. If this sounds like a furry sex fic, well I don’t know what to tell you. A wisecracking rat character makes repeated references to robot strip clubs and eventually a super alien sort of turns the bird and the tiger into one creature. That method of reproduction will only lead to gradual extinction, guys! Direct sequel Beast Machines Transformers also depicted the very sexy-sounding “spark merging”. But how sexy is a psychedelic hallucination where two robot souls combine? Are you turned on yet?
Maybe you would prefer a more visceral way to make robot babies? Let’s rewind to the less successful 1993 relaunch, Transformers: Generation 2. While there was a TV show, it was a rerun of the original cartoon with distracting CG graphics splattered all over the vintage animation. The only new story was the short-lived twelve issue comic book by returning scribe Simon Furman. Because it was the ’90s, everyone was brightly colored and covered with sixteen hundred guns. Robot gore spilled onto the streets. Generation 2 introduced “budding”, a truly disturbing type of asexual reproduction where a tumor grows on a robot’s body until it congeals into an entirely new being that drops off and goes on to live its life. This truly nasty-looking act is so ungodly that the energy used in budding became an evil cloud monster that roamed the galaxy devouring entire planets. You can bring this up next time a fundamentalist tries to tell you that sex is evil.
In recent years, we have seen a couple of riffs on older methods of robot reproduction, like the live action Michael Bay films use of the Allspark (a magic outer space cube that can turn any non-living metal into a screaming, hysterical robot mess). I have to say my favorite characters in the Bay movies are the transforming Mountain Dew vending machine, the robot toaster, and the murderous cybernetic Xbox. The contemporary comics from IDW also give you two more reproductive options: a disco supercomputer pulse wave that made all kinds of crap come to life or siphoning god energy out of the Matrix. Neither is as exciting as Mountain Dew robots or horrible pustule-based life forms.
Next time you’re thinking about how awful childbirth is with stretched vaginas or slicing open your abdomen and shoving your guts to the side, remember that you could gestate a fetus in a horrible cyst on your back or take an inanimate baby to a glowing disco ball and pray for life. Don’t ever say sci-fi for kids ain’t weird.
Transforming vibrator – Source unknown
Jeremy W. Kaufmann is a troublemaker. Born in the flaming ruins of Michigan, Jeremy escaped certain death at the hands of his tormentors for the greener (or at least less-on-fire) pastures of California. Now from his secret catacombs beneath San Francisco, he writes torrid tales of dinosaurs, robots, and monsters. He wrote the graphic novel Golden Gate Riot published by Front Froid in 2012. He has a BA in cinema and no sense of propriety. He makes podcasts at Destroy All Podcasts and music as Violence Mars. He is a rascal. Follow him on Twitter if you dare.
“Arcee’s secret weapon” by Lordstevie
The Transformers – envisioned the future of robot-human relations.
All images copyright their respective owners.