Transformers: Generation 1 (1984–1993)
Generation One is a retroactive term for the Transformers characters that appeared between 1984 and 1993. The Transformers began with the 1980s Japanese toy lines Microman and Diaclone. The former utilized varying humanoid-type figures while the latter presented robots able to transform into everyday vehicles, electronic items or weapons. Hasbro, fresh from the success of the G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero toyline, which used the Microman technology to great success, bought the Diaclone toys, and partnered with Takara. Jim Shooter and Dennis O’Neil were hired by Hasbro to create the backstory; O’Neil also the created the name “Optimus Prime.” Afterwards, Bob Budiansky created most of the Transformers characters, giving names and personalities to many unnamed Diaclone figures. The primary concept of G1 is that the heroic Optimus Prime, the villainous Megatron, and their finest soldiers crash land on pre-historic Earth in the Ark and the Nemesis before awakening in 1985, Cybertron hurtling through the Neutral zone as an effect of the war. The Marvel comic was originally part of the main Marvel Universe, with appearances from Spider-Man and Nick Fury, plus some cameos, as well as a visit to the Savage Land.
The Transformers TV series began around the same time. Produced by Sunbow Productions and Marvel Productions, later Hasbro Productions, from the start it contradicted Budiansky’s backstories. The TV series shows the Autobots looking for new energy sources, and crash landing as the Decepticons attack. Marvel interpreted the Autobots as destroying a rogue asteroid approaching Cybertron. Shockwave is loyal to Megatron in the TV series, keeping Cybertron in a stalemate during his absence, but in the comic book he attempts to take command of the Decepticons.
The TV series would also differ wildly from the origins Budiansky had created for the Dinobots, the Decepticon turned Autobot Jetfire (known as Skyfire on TV), the Constructicons (who combine to form Devastator), and Omega Supreme. The Marvel comic establishes early on that Prime wields the Creation Matrix, which gives life to machines. In the second season, the two-part episode The Key to Vector Sigma introduced the ancient Vector Sigma computer, which served the same original purpose as the Creation Matrix (giving life to Transformers), and its guardian Alpha Trion.
In 1986, the cartoon became the film The Transformers: The Movie, which is set in the year 2005. It introduced the Matrix as the “Autobot Matrix of Leadership“, as a fatally wounded Prime gives it to Ultra Magnus; however, as Prime dies he drops the matrix, which is then caught by Hot Rod who subsequently becomes Rodimus Prime later on in the film. Unicron, a transformer who devours planets, fears its power and recreates a heavily damaged Megatron as Galvatron, as well as Bombshell becoming Cyclonus, one of the Seekers becoming Scourge and two other Insecticons becoming Scourge’s huntsmen, the Sweeps. Eventually, Rodimus Prime takes out the Matrix and destroys Unicron. In the United Kingdom, the weekly comic book interspliced original material to keep up with U.S. reprints, and The Movie provided much new material. Writer Simon Furman proceeded to expand the continuity with movie spin-offs involving the time travelling Galvatron. The Movie also featured guest voices from Leonard Nimoy as Galvatron, Scatman Crothers as Jazz, Casey Kasem as Cliffjumper, Orson Welles as Unicron and Eric Idle as the leader of the Junkions (Wreck-Gar, though unnamed in the movie). The Transformers theme tune for the film was performed by Lion with “Weird Al” Yankovic adding a song to the soundtrack.
The third season followed up The Movie film, with the revelation of the Quintessons having used Cybertron as a factory. Their robots rebel, and in time the workers become the Autobots and the soldiers become the Decepticons. It is the Autobots who develop transformation. Due to popular demand, Optimus Prime is resurrected at the conclusion of the third season, and the series ended with a three-episode story arc. However, the Japanese broadcast of the series was supplemented with a newly-produced OVA, Scramble City, before creating entirely new series to continue the storyline, ignoring the 1987 end of the American series. The extended Japanese run consisted of The Headmasters, Super-God Masterforce, Victory and Zone, then in illustrated magazine form as Battlestars: Return of Convoy and Operation: Combination. Just as the TV series was wrapping up, Marvel continued to expand its continuity. It followed The Movie’s example by killing Prime and Megatron, albeit in the present day. Dinobot leader Grimlock takes over as Autobot leader. There was a G.I. Joe crossover and the limited series The Transformers: Headmasters, which further expanded the scope to the planet Nebulon. It led on to the main title resurrecting Prime as a Powermaster.
In the United Kingdom, the mythology continued to grow. Primus was introduced as the creator of the Transformers, to serve his material body that is planet Cybertron and fight his nemesis Unicron. Female Autobot Arcee also appeared, despite the comic book stating the Transformers had no concept of gender, with her backstory of being built by the Autobots to quell human accusations of sexism. Soundwave, Megatron’s second-in-command, also broke the fourth wall in the letters page, criticising the cartoon continuity as an inaccurate representation of history. The UK also had a crossover in Action Force, the UK counterpart to G.I. Joe. The comic book featured a resurrected Megatron, whom Furman retconned to be a clone when he took over the U.S. comic book, which depicted Megatron as still dead. The U.S. comic would last for 80 issues until 1991, and the UK comic lasted 332 issues and several annuals, Until it will be replaced into as Dreamwave Productions type, later in after the 20th-Century.
In 2009, Shout! Factory released the entire G1 series in a 16-DVD box set called the Matrix of Leadership Edition. They also released the same content as individual seasons.