Death is never permanent in comic books, especially so in Transformers. Characters are blown up, smelted down and trodden on by Unicron all the time, and yet, somehow, a few issues later they’re back on their feet. As Captain Lennox in Transformers (2007) said, “These things just don’t die.”
What message this gives to readers of Transformers is unclear. Are we free to leap from buildings or brave a plasma blast to the chest, safe in the knowledge that we’ll be back to normal in a month or so’s time.
No, wait. I get it now, they’re robots. Robots—or at least Transformers—are invincible. If they take a hit, then all they need to do is wait for the right spare parts to become available.
It’s actually quite handy. A writer’s favourite character can return at the drop of an imaginative idea (or at the behest of Hasbro with a not-so imaginative idea).
Of course, some characters never return. But they tend to be the ones that readers never clamour for in the letters pages.
So, how are Transformers brought back from the dead? All kinds of ways, actually: simple patch and weld jobs, weird green crystals, mystical beings, interstellar spaceships, giant human-looking shells, Nebulan scientists, alien wonder-fuel. The list is nearly endless. Nearly.
In no particular order, the five most interesting methods, resurrection gambits if you will—as documented in the Marvel Transformers comics—are examined.
1. Auntie’s Armatures
When the Transformers arrived on Earth four million years ago, they were already dead. (And if not at the hands of each other, then surely by the force of the impact.)
What had happened was Megatron and his Decepticons had stormed the Autobot spaceship, the Ark, and battle ensued between the two groups.
By the time 1984 clocked around, a volcanic eruption stirred the Ark’s computer (called “Auntie”) to life and she set about repairing all the deactivated Transformers.
Prior to their repair, she had to collect and match all the corresponding pieces of each Autobot and Decepticon. She was probably very good at jigsaw puzzles as well.
2. Cybertronian Psycho
Sometimes a Transformers brain, as well as his body, suffered severe trauma. And more so than any other robot, Megatron’s mind was the most traumatised.
After trying to kill himself and the Decepticon Spacebridge, Megatron (or, some say, a clone) reappeared in the sewers of London and was then blown up but good. Months later, Megatron’s rival, Shockwave sought a puppet to use against Galvatron.
Shockwave, indulging in some one-eyed irony, decided he would repair Megatron to be used as his pawn. Shockwave had in his possession a helmet known as the “Psycho Probe”.
This piece of equipment could delve into the wearer’s mind and exorcise any head-trapped demons, thus relieving them of any mental anquish and returning them to full operating capacity.
The best thing about the Psycho Probe was its apparent ease of use. Even Snap Trap, Seacon Leader with no previous history of medical skills or training, could use it as ably as any surgical engineer.
3. Tool, Die and Ratchet
Among the high-technology and mystical resurrectors of the Transformers universe, there is one Autobot who stands alone in the face of the never-ending task of reviving fallen comrades—Ratchet.
During the early months of the Transformers war on Earth, Ratchet was single-handedly responsible for reviving the entire Autobot army after they’d been deactivated by Shockwave. Well, all except Sunstreaker, that is.
From then on, it was left to Ratchet to patch up his fellow Autobots whenever they were taken down. Sadly for Ratchet, as the Autobot army increased in numbers, so did his workload.
Ratchet wasn’t infallible, however. His most famous failure was Optimus Prime, and poor Ratchet took it badly. To be fair, he tried to repair an utterly destroyed Optimus in front of the piercing gaze of every active Autobot. Talk about pressure.
Ratchet was later shown up by the Nebulan scientist, Hi-Q, who did revive Optimus Prime. And he made him bigger.
But Ratchet was never concerned with competing surgeons. After the Underbase massacre, it was left to the Autobots’ Chief Surgeon to repair and revive all of the slaughtered Autobots. It was not an easy task, and Ratchet was almost driven to madness had Megatron not tricked him into returning to Cybertron. There, Ratchet was tasked with reviving Starscream.
Decepticon leaders certainly had a habit of resurrecting their worst enemies.
Ratchet, this time, had a little help by way of the Pretender process, and, once again managed to outsmart Megatron and thwart his plans. As well as reviving Starscream, the Autobots Jazz, Bumblebee and Grimlock also returned as Pretenders.
All in all, the Autobots owe a great debt of gratitude to Ratchet and all of his one-man efforts in repairing them. Of course, if he hadn’t revived Grimlock as a Pretender (who subsequently, though indirectly, awoke the slumbering Primus), then Unicron would never had learned the location of Cybertron so he could destroy it.
Sometimes you can’t do right for doing wrong.
4. Re-generation, too
If the Autobots had Ratchet to patch them up, then who did the Decepticons rely on? Well, no one it would appear.
Decepticons would be heavily damaged one issue, and then appear later in perfect health. It was surely a miracle. Either that, or the Decepticons had developed super-secret re-generation technology.
Certain Decepticons, like Quake and Ruckus, were destroyed many times over in the course of the comics, but returned soon after at the peak of fitness. Tantrum was destroyed utterly by Scorponok in Marvel USA’s Transformers 49 and appeared fully-charged (and fully charging) the very next issue!
Secret technology, or, I dunno, careless writing?
5. Last Resort
Quite bizarrely, in the Transformers comics, the Matrix (though able to give life to Autobots) was never actually used to revive any one. (Optimus Prime got close in Transformers 250, though.)
But the Autobots didn’t need the Matrix when the Last Autobot was available for use during the climax of the first Transformers comic series.
Found underground by the Neo-Knights and Hi-Q on Cybertron, the Last Autobot traveled to Klo and revived all of the Autobots that Bludgeon’s Decepticons had killed.
With a wave of his hands and a crackle of energy, the tide was turned and the Autobots forced the Decepticons to retreat.
Sadly, the Last Autobot was never heard from again. Good job, too, as the Autobots would have grown to rely on him far too much, anyway.
After all, dying is supposed to be the easy part.
May your luster never dull, and your wires never cross!
— Graham (@grhmthmsn)