Thundercracker and Buster The Transformers #38 2015 Longform 

Ten Transformers Who Deserve a Live-Action Paramount+ Spin-Off

By | April 17th, 2024
Posted in Longform | % Comments

Featured art by Andrew Griffith from “The Transformers” #38 (2015).

As we approach the 40th anniversary of Transformers, there remains one form of storytelling the series hasn’t really touched yet: live-action TV. For years, the idea was a non-starter, thanks to the enormous costs it would require, but with the way streaming shows are monetized, and how familiar the films’ techniques have become for effects artists, it might now be possible to have a Transformer star in a miniseries or special, similar in scope to the Bumblebee movie.

Now before we begin, we should note the live-action Transformers continuity is a mess, with Rise of the Beasts director Steven Caple Jr. and producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura apparently unable to agree on whether the film was still a prequel to Michael Bay’s pentalogy or not. Most of these suggestions are rooted in the notion they would take place before the first film from 2007, but it’s also possible they could be set afterwards, or even in a totally new continuity. In any case, here are eight Autobots, and two Decepticons who could star on Paramount+.

Arcee:

Arcee in Rise of the Beasts

The series’ most popular female character, Arcee got a good showing in Rise of the Beasts (where she was voiced by Liza Koshy), but her role still fell short of the prominence she’s had in other Transformers series, so she should be a priority for a spin-off. Whether you give her a male or female (or non-binary) human co-star, Arcee’s gender opens the door for a different dynamic from previous live-action entries, as she would definitely have some thoughts about how humans treat women and girls differently. If a miniseries also nodded to Arcee’s lesbian IDW counterpart(s) by writing in that she has a female partner she misses, that’d also be a pleasant and groundbreaking surprise, as well as a beautiful nod to the character’s original voice actress, Susan Blu (who is a lesbian.)

Blurr:

Art from the cover for 'The Transformers Spotlight: Blurr' (2008) by Casey Coller

There’s a lot of potential for the show to revolve around a racing/sports car-themed Autobot like Hot Rod or Mirage (who was played wonderfully by Pete Davidson in Beasts): the idea of a Transformer struggling to stay disguised, because it goes against their natural instincts, to stand out and be lauded for their speed, is a compelling one. Would Optimus Prime approve of them entering races? Would they reveal their identity to their owner to persuade them to race? Blurr has an edge with this premise because he literally possesses superspeed, which even affects his manner of speech, that I dare say might make him an even more relatable character for those who struggle with tedium, or have ADHD.

Grimlock:

Grimlock in Age of Extinction (2014)

Dinobot leader Grimlock was treated like a bozo instead of a king in the Michael Bay films, where he doesn’t even talk, despite being such a strong foil for Optimus (the Wolverine to his Cyclops, as it were.) As well as being very commercially appealing, Grim’s conspicuous alt mode would challenge writers to come up with a more interesting setting and background for the human lead than another middle American one; alternatively, you can give him a very comedic cover story, like being a museum animatronic, or theme park attraction. Whether he’s written as a brooding, mysterious antihero in hiding, or a loveable lug, Grimlock has enough hidden depths for a whole series, even if his T. rex form might be pricier than a vehicle.

Jazz:

Art from 'Optimus Prime' #8 (2017) by Casey Coller

Once upon a time, Autobot second-in-command Jazz (voiced by Scatman Crothers on the original show) was popular enough to be chosen for the line-up in the first live-action film: then he was unceremoniously killed off, and hasn’t even appeared in the “prequels.” Jazz deserves better, as his interest in human culture makes him such an appealing hero, as does his apparent identification with the African American community (he’s been voiced primarily by Black actors, like Crothers, since 1984.) We’re so familiar with Optimus Prime’s unconditional love for humanity, that pairing Jazz with a Black human protagonist would be a rich new way to explore another Transformer’s take on our species’ potential for good and evil.

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Kup:

Kup in Transformers: The Movie (1986)

Kup is old, even for a Transformer, which automatically makes him one of the most interesting Autobots. Naturally, him being a rambling, ill-tempered veteran is a potential comedy gold mine, regardless of whether his co-star is a young or old person, but there’s a lot of inherent pathos that would make it a very poignant series too: Kup probably witnessed the Golden Age of Cybertron and his people’s expansion among the stars, and is now hiding out as a refugee on another planet being destroyed by a similarly flawed species. Also, Kup’s age means there’s a strong possibility that he could bow out of a spin-off by actually dying, and it would feel like a completely natural ending.

Optimus Prime:

Some of you are probably thinking, “Optimus is already the main Transformer in nearly every film, why are you wasting space on this possibility?” Well it’s certainly a strong one, given he’s still the most iconic character in the series, and there’s always more you can explore about his character. Crafting a story where Optimus’s sole friend is a human would be an interesting challenge, given how front-and-center he is, but one can imagine him going it alone after intercepting transmissions (no pun intended) about a missing child, or giving a lift to someone fleeing a broken home, ala Verity Carlo from the IDW comics universe; such a situation would also require heavy use of the holomatter avatars introduced in that run, which would humanize Optimus even further.

Ratchet:

Art from 'The Transformers: Infiltration' #3 (2006) by E.J. Su

There are very distinct possibilities for shows starring an Autobot disguised as a first responder’s vehicle eg. Prowl and a human cop, Inferno (or another fire truck) and a firefighter, or Ratchet and a paramedic. The latter would be the most interesting and least controversial, as Ratchet is simply one of the most heroic Transformers, a medic who will still go above and beyond what’s expected for the Autobot cause and humankind, and has done since the original Marvel Comics run. Despite his often sarcastic, cynical demeanor, Ratchet is one of the Autobots with the most natural sympathy for humans, because he truly understands how flawed and foolish we really are, and seeing just how far he would go to save lives could make for a very dramatic and thrilling project.

Sea Spray:

Sea Spray in the mobile card game Transformers Legends

Sea Spray is a unique Autobot given he transforms into a hovercraft, which would automatically give a spin-off a very different setting; the notion he’d usually be ferrying someone out at sea would also be a rationale to save money, as he’s hardly going to transform and toss out a passenger on a whim, meaning this could play even more like a Knight Rider tribute. The character’s aquatic nature would also allow a variety of possible backgrounds for his human co-star, from search-and-rescue, to marine biology or archaeology, and sea construction (which a Decepticon would be bound to take an interest in targeting if they learn an Autobot is nearby.)

Swindle:

Art from 'The Transformers' #3 (2010) by Don Figueroa

The first Decepticon on our list, Combaticon jeep Swindle has always stood out for being a great example of nominative determinism: he’s a conman through and through, happy to play both sides to profit from the war as much as he can. He’s more than happy to sell Cybertronian weaponry to humans too, which is where a live-action spin-off would naturally begin: Swindle would need a human front, a Jesse Pinkman to his Walter White as it were, and a fall guy in case anything goes wrong. Would Swindle find it within his spark to save them if that happened though? Or would he be dealing with a vengeful human or two? And what about robots he’s screwed over in the past?

Thundercracker:

Art from 'The Transformers' #36 (2014) by Brendan Cahill

Decepticon jet Thundercracker was once Starscream and Skywarp’s third wheel, until IDW Publishing actually had him live up to his toy bio, by having him turn on his faction out of disgust with Megatron dishonoring the cause. After a period of seclusion, where he became addicted to our TV shows, Thundercracker was declared an ally of the Earth Defense Command, who gave the ex-Con a dog named Buster. It was by this point that Thundercracker decided his dream was to become… a screenwriter. Suffice to say, TC is the most sympathetic Decepticon in a wartime setting (before Megatron et al. start undergoing redemption arcs), and his IDW incarnation is so endearing, that he probably deserves a live-action spin-off the most. To borrow from Steven Spielberg, who said the 2007 movie was the story of a boy and his car, who doesn’t want to follow a dog and her plane?

Before we end, there’s one more prospect that Paramount and Hasbro should consider: could a show about Mini-Cons, like Blaster or Soundwave’s minions, allow for a full cast of robots given their smaller size? In any case, Rewind, Ratbat, Ravage et al. are interesting enough characters that they could lead their own spin-offs too. What about you? Do you think it’s finally time Jolt had his day in the Sun? Let’s hope whatever transpires, we’ll all be able to enjoy photoreal Transformers in a small screen project someday, and that it’s not just a remake of the “fifth season” of the original cartoon, where reruns were bookended by an Optimus Prime puppet sharing his past adventures with “Tommy Kennedy,” because seriously – who wants Michael Bay’s Optimus regaling kids with tales of his war crimes? Maybe Megatron, but we should be made of sterner stuff.


Christopher Chiu-Tabet

Chris was the news manager of Multiversity Comics. A writer from London on the autistic spectrum, he enjoys talking about his favourite films, TV shows, books, music, and games, plus history and religion. He is Lebanese/Chinese, although he can't speak Cantonese or Arabic. Give him a visit (and a tip if you like) on Ko-fi.

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