Fan Built Combiner Name and Gender Announced, Female Transformers Strike Back
Despite the occasional debate that springs up from time to time, most Transformers fans recognize that the majority of Transformers characters are built to look, act, and sound “male”. This has led to even more debates about “female” Transformers characters and why they seem to be so rare among the Cybertronian species of living robots. Hasbro and Takara Tomy, it would seem, want to squash these debates once and for all.
Our first glimpse at feminine robots came in 1985 with an episode of the G1 cartoon “The Search For Alpha Trion” in which a band of “female Autobots” attack the Decepticon headquarters on Cybertron to steal a supply of energon – the Transformers’ main fuel source. With this assault, we are introduced to Elita-1, Chromia, Firestar, and Moonracer, all four of whom are quickly exploited by Megatron to lure their Autobot boyfriends back to Cybertron so that Megatron can get his revenge on Optimus Prime, Ironhide, Inferno, and Powerglide. There are also two more female Autobots featured in the episode, but since they apparently do not have boyfriends, they are relegated to being nameless background characters (although they were later given names by the Transformers Collectors’ Club – Lancer and Greenlight are no longer simply “the other two females”.)
The next female Transformer that we’re introduced to in the second season of the G1 cartoon is actually the same as one of the previous characters. “War Dawn” tells us that Ariel is Elita-1 before being severely damaged and needing to be rebuilt. This episode gives brief showcase to Orion Pax’s (Optimus Prime’s name before he became the leader of the Autobots) and Ariel’s relationship as well as the early days of the Autobot-Decepticon war where Megatron and his army would callously target civilians in order to fuel his growing war machine.
Then came Arcee. Introduced in the 1986 animated Transformers movie and then recurring through out the third series of the G1 cartoon as well as the Headmasters cartoon that aired in Japan, Arcee was a character that, despite her overly-girly pink paint job and super model physique, proved she could stand toe-to-toe with the rest of the Autobot warriors. A few moments between herself and the Autobots Hot Rod and Springer aside, Arcee was her own character and not an “Autobot’s girlfriend”.
“Forever Is a Long Time Coming” is the episode that gave us our last female Transformers character (that wasn’t an animation model reuse) in the US-run of the G1 cartoon. Beta was a strong, capable warrior that fought alongside A3, one of the founding Autobots. She fought valiantly and victoriously… and was forgotten as soon as the episode ended.
Masterforce, another Transformers cartoon that aired in Japan, brought with it another female Autobot. Eventually. Minerva was a half-French school girl and daughter to an Ambassador to Japan. Independent, able to overcome her fears, and feminine all at once, Minerva would receive a Transtector – a Transformers-sized robot body she could pilot from within the head component – and become one of the Headmaster Juniors alongside Cab and Shuta Go. The three would occasionally fight the Decepticons alongside their Autobot friends, but their main mission was more of a support role – They would provide aid and, if need be, rescue to any other human caught in the crossfire. At the end of the series, the Transtectors were imbued with their own life modeled on their human partners’ characters. Minerva the full-fledged, living Autobot would then reappear in Victory, the sequel to Masterforce.
Reading this list, it may seem as though Transformers started out with a number of female characters to counter the designed-as-male robots, but consider that these nine characters were awash in a sea of hundreds of male characters that filled the casts. And that Minerva was the only one of the nine to receive product support from the associated toy lines.
Since the 80’s, however, female characters in Transformers have been steadily making a push towards progression. Beast Wars brought us two more female warriors in the forms of Blackarachnia and Airrazor with each receiving multiple toys and full story lines in the cartoon. Blackarachnia would even carry over to Beast Machines, the direct sequel to Beast Wars. She was joined by Botanica and Strika, two more strong characters given significant motivation and characterization. Override – ruler of the Speed Planet – and Thunderblast were introduced in Transformers Cybertron, a new Blackarachnia appeared in Transformers Animated along with a new Arcee, the female clone of Starscream, and the “blink and you miss them” Flare-Up and Red Alert, and Transformers Prime gave us another strong female character named Arcee who fought the twisted spider-like Decepticon Airachnid. Also in Transformers Prime was the mysterious Solus Prime who forged the mystic artifacts that populated Transformers lore. In the new cartoon, Robots in Disguise, we have the eager young cadet Strongarm who will soon be joined by the skillful Windblade.
And that’s just the cartoons! The comics and Collectors’ Club have greatly expanded the cast of female Transformers as well. And last year’s Fan Built Bot poll run by Hasbro proved that fans still want more female characters to try to even the odds against their male cast mates. Windblade would be the result of said poll and would be featured in a number of IDW comic books and would get a toy of her own. As well as inspire the aforementioned Windblade who will be appearing in the Robots In Disguise cartoon.
That brings us to the second Fan Built Bot poll from Hasbro… And those results have just been revealed via USA Today! The object of this poll was to allow fans to build their very own team of combiner robots – Transformers that can attach to other members of the team to become a larger robot – and again one of the options was to allow fans to choose the gender of the robots. And the fans once again spoke! The USA Today article reveals that female Autobots once again won the poll… Only this time since it was for an entire team, there will be SIX female warriors! They will combine into the colossal robot named “Victorion” and toys of the characters will be available at retail next year. They will also be featured in the pages of IDW’s comic books.
If that wasn’t enough, the article also goes on to say that the cast of the Transformers Rescue Bots cartoon will also be expanded to include yet another new female Autobot character!
It seems as though Hasbro, Takara Tomy, and their various licensees are set to undo the heavily male-dominated casts that the brand started with 30 years ago, and they’re doing so with tenacity!