Alright, I will make a short attempt to really quickly explain the concept of Transformers in a really simple way for someone who does not know anything about them, or has seen Michael Bay´s movies and understandably enough still don´t have a clue. Here goes…
It started in Japan…
First, many sci-fi franchises started off with a piece of fiction; a movie, a novel, a comic, and eventually toys were produced as merchandize. With Transformers, it´s the other way around. In the early 80s, American toy manufacturing company Hasbro were looking for The Next Big Thing, they went looking for it at a toy fair in Tokyo, Japan, and boy did they find it…
For some years, robot-crazy Japan had seen a trend with toys transforming from toy vehicles and replicas of everyday objects, to robots! A variety of companies were producing these, but the majority of the toys which were to become Transformers were produced by Takara. They had a variety of Toylines, one was Diaclone, with its sub-line Car Robo where robots turned into realistic cars:
Another was the Micro Change, a subline of Microman, with robots transforming into everyday objects such as cassette recorders, guns(!) and toy cars, really meant to resemble actual toy cars.
A new toyline
Hasbro bought the rights for the above toy lines, repainted some of them and let Marvel Comics come up with a whole new back story, which included two warring factions: heroic Autobots and evil Decepticons. Toy-wise, the Car Robo toys and the Micro Change cars came to make up the majority of the Autobots, whereas the Micro Change robots turning into small objects, as well as some robots turning into F-15 Jet fighters from Diaclone came to make up the ranks of the Decepticons.
War on Cybertron – More than meets the eye
The back story goes something like this: On the distant planet Cybertron only mechanical life exists (the whole planet is mechanical) and is inhabited by Transformers, humanoid-looking robots with the capacity to change themselves into vehicles, weapons and other objects. Having lived long in peace, a civil war is now raging, with two factions fighting for dominance: The evil Decepticons, led by Megatron, who wishes to take over the planet by violence, and the heroic Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, who are trying to stop them from doing so.
Optimus Prime with Autobot faction symbol, to the left, Megatron with faction symbol on his chest, to the right.
War on Earth – Robots in Disguise
The conflict soon sends the Autobots fleeing into space with the Decepticons in close pursuit; after some fighting all of them eventually crash on Earth. There they initially lie dormant for millions of years until they finally wake up in the 1980´s and find themselves stranded on an strange, organic and alien planet. They get adapted so they can transform themselves into cars, planes etc (which they initially believe are the planets intelligent life!) in order to blend into their new environment, and then take up their fighting again. The Transformers´ civil war has now moved to Earth, and humans are in the crossfire…
The cover for the first issue of the Transformers Marvel Comic
Supported by a Marvel comic book and an animated series the Transformers was an instant hit in every market it was introduced to, capturing the imaginations of millions of children worldwide. This year the franchise celebrates its 30th anniversary, and while legions of original fans from the 80s have grown up they are as enthusiastic as ever, and generations of new fans have joined the fandom, not least thanks to major Hollywood blockbuster movies which have (once again) turned Transformers into a household name worldwide. Not a bad feat for a franchise starting off as a humble toy brand…
There, all you need to know, for now… 😉
Pictures borrowed from http://strongstuff.net/
Thanks Tekering for some valuable input on this post!