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#1

Optimus Prime

By Warcry

"Autobots, transform and roll out!"

Percentage of vote: 62.9%
Average ranking: 4.7

If you didn't see this one coming right from the start, I'm not sure what to tell you. Optimus Prime is literally synonymous with the Transformers franchise. He might not be the most interesting, edgiest or hippest character of the bunch, but I would have a hard time arguing against him being the greatest. I mean, this is Optimus Fucking Prime we're talking about here. And don't let the percentage of vote above trick you -- those are just the straight G1 votes. If we'd included all the votes we got for the Animated, Unicron Trilogy, Prime, Live Action and Robots in Disguise versions of the character, this would be perilously close to a unanimous choice. And if that wasn't enough, for fully one third of you he was the first character you thought of.

And you know what? I'm going to tell you why he's awesome in a moment. But before I do, we're going to do something a little different.

In each of the previous articles, we've chosen a handful of the best quotes from our voters and used them to illustrate the character we're talking about. But we're not going to do that here. This time, you're going to get them all. Because if any character deserves that kind of treatment, it's Optimus Prime.

This may take a while. If you're feeling hungry, you may want to go make a sandwich.

...

All ready? Okay, here we go. We'll start with the short and sweet...

Please note: if you've voted for more than one Optimus, you'll probably only be quoted once below. If we've managed to omit your quotes entirely, rest assured it was by accident. Blame, uh...let's say Blackjack. Yeah, that's the ticket!

"duh"

--Baron Fel

umm yeah

--Mike Greenberg (Michron)

Good man.

--Optimus Primeval

G2 mostly.

--Denyer

Duh, leader

--Shakeshift

Autobot Leader

--Anonymous

Leader. Mentor.

--Exillion

Well, I mean, obviously.

--Tahukanuva

The true tf super robot.

--Rafael Anguila (in reference to UT Prime specifically -ed)

The definition of a true hero

--Nemesis-Scourge

Preferably written by Simon Furman

--Anonymous

Integral to any transformers story

--Mark Lawrence

Shadowplay. Chaos Theory. Best Prime ever.

--Anonymous (about the IDW version)

Do we really need a reason at this point?

--tec

The good guy that keeps the franchise going

--Zach Baringer (Icespark from TFW2005)

The greatest Autobot Transformer of them all.

--Matthew Jones

Optimus was the icon for an entire generation.

--SkullGrin2014

Since others might forget to include him, you know. :)

--Copper Bezel

Hapless goon he may be, but he's a motherfunking icon yo.

--Brendocon

Any Cullen version. Not sure if that's just a coincidence.

--Anonymous

Probably our first and only psycho Prime. Don't agree? Give me your face.

--Anonymous (Guess which Prime he's talking about! Go on, I dare you! -ed)

Of course, a few of us were a bit more verbose...

An iconic character without whom no subsequent Primes would have existed.

--Sciflyer

The ultimate hero (cape optional). Own up...he's why were here in the first place.

--Rack'n Ruin

Freedom is the right of all sentient beings. For 30 years Prime has upheld this belief.

--Anonymous

What a boring choice...but when written well or used as a potent symbol he is spectacular.

--Patrick Anguirus Stinson

Would definitely rank him higher but he's pulled down by all his moments of reflection and angst.

--Shellsuitwarrior

Face of franchise. Timeless hero (g1). Humble team leader that grows into greatness (animated).

--Another TF Fan

It's Optimus Prime. Plus this owes a great deal to the expansion of the character done by IDW and Aligned.

--lastmaximal

Because Optimus Prime. Also, Powermaster Prime was my first version of him as a kid and I adore that toy.

--Warewullf

A bit of an obscure choice this, you may have to wiki it. Because of the way his faceplate moves up and down when he talks.

--inflatable dalek

The greatest one - or at least the most iconic. (G1) From nobody to saviour of the universe. Possibly the only Prime who we followed on that path.(Ani)

--HunterCham

Optimus Prime as a character isnt that interesting. The nature of copied from floppy disc and later on fused with an organic lifeform OP on the other hand is interesting.

--Osku

Greatest leader of all time The voice of Peter Cullen in the cartoon is forever etched in my memory. The emotion of his death in TFTM was enough to make a 12-year old boy cry.

--BeavertonBoy

Whether angst-ridden, slightly more easy-going, or more hardened due to the realities of war, Optimus Prime is one of the great heroic leader characters of a generation (or more).

--Anonymous

Do I really need a reason to justify why Optimus Prime made it here I mean, I could give you one, but Im sure the other hundred people that voted for him already have that covered.

--Consecrated Prime

And a few of us just didn't know when to stop...

Of course we all love Prime. I'm less enamoured by the Crisis of Command style he was written with in IDW but as a confident and dedicated freedom fighter, he's the series main character.

--Red Dave Prime

All round boy-scout. Never does wrong, tells the truth and is a role model for youngsters everywhere. (G1) Another boy-scout, until he gets a mad on, then he can play rougher than even Megatron. Best vocals ever. Not a dry seat in the house, if you get my drift (movie)

--Anonymous

The main character. The hero. The inspiration. Optimus is obviously hugely important to the franchise as a whole. Held back a little, perhaps, by the fact that different writers choose to emphasize different parts of his persona until he feels like a totally different person.

--Warcry

There has to be an Optimus Prime somewhere in the list, but screw Warcry's suggestion that we vote for G1 Optimus Prime. Movie Optimus Prime trains a bunch of badass soldiers, fights people with a pair of flaming swords and flies around ripping people's faces with a jetpack. And yet since he is voiced by Peter Cullen (you do not argue with Peter Cullen's awesome voice) we all know he's the goddamn hero. GIVE ME YOUR FACE!

--Blackjack

Are you still with me? Do you need a minute to rest up before we go on?

For a lesser character, that would be all that needed to be said. But for someone of Optimus's pedigree it barely scratches the surface. To really get an idea of what Optimus Prime means to the franchise, we need to rewind to the very beginning and the dawn of the Transformers' popularity: 1984.

We'll start with the '80s cartoon because, let's be honest, it's the most iconic (am I allowed to use that word, or does Soundwave have a monopoly on it?) version of the character.

In a few of my previous articles I said that Optimus Prime was a perfect 80s father figure, and it's this version of the guy that I have in mind when I say that. Optimus Prime in the cartoon was dutiful, self-sacrificing, serious, wise and maybe a tiny bit boring. But he was also brave, kind, understanding and heroic beyond measure. When he showed up, both the audience and the Autobots knew that everything was going to be alright. He cared for his troops like they were his children (a good thing, since they often acted like children) and even treated the humans the same way, always going to great lengths to protect any innocent life. His kind, firm voice was always ready to call out wrongdoers wherever he found them, and those who didn't flee at the sight of him. As a child I definitely did see him through the same lens as my own father (though Dad is a much better shot with his trusty rifle, I have to say...) And I'm sure I wasn't the only one. If my old man had been a Transformer he'd have been a lot like Optimus, and if Optimus had been human he would be been a great dad to a little boy like me (though the boy would probably think he was a little lame -- sorry, Dad!).

I mentioned the voice earlier, and Peter Cullen's vocal performance in the cartoon is a huge reason not just for the success of the character or the show, but for the Transformers franchise as a whole. It's a nearly perfect vocal performance, one of the best in the entire franchise and one that's never been matched or even equalled for it's heroic, unflappable quality...except by Cullen himself when he returned to the role for the live-action movies and Transformers: Prime to voice a more mature, world-weary version of the character. With all respect to Gary Chalk, Neil Kaplan, David Kaye and all the others who've voiced the character over the decade, but as good as they were they were never doing anything but filling in for Cullen. The fandom cried out for Cullen to return pretty much since the dawn of the internet fandom, and while I thought it was a tad silly at the time I'm happy to admit that I was wrong -- Peter Cullen is the voice of Optimus Prime, and there can be no others. Cullen's modern return has served to cement him as the perfect, iconic voice of Optimus Prime, and like Kevin Conroy's Batman, I've come to associate him with the role so closely that anyone else just sounds wrong unless they go out of their way to impersonate him. And I doubt I'm the only one -- like Mel Blanc and Bugs Bunny, children born decades after Cullen's eventual death are still going to grow up associating his voice with the character.

Every child who grew up in the 80s knew who Optimus Prime was, and most of us loved him. His leadership of the Autobots in the cartoon was a huge factor of course, but not the only reason. We also need to keep in mind that he was merchandised so heavily in the 80s that it'd make Movie Bumblebee jealous. His iconic well-known box art was slapped on everything from backpacks to holographic stickers -- hell, I'm pretty sure there's still a paper "birthday party" tablecloth sitting in a closet at my parents' house with that image emblazoned on it. Even those of us who were too young to watch the show while he was the lead still knew who he was.

And of course, the toys were a factor too. The original mold was both gorgeous and provided a very solid physical connection to the character that can't be underestimated (And of course, a few years later the Powermaster figure provided that same connection to kids my age -- and in spite of being a kid who grew up with Rodimus, no Christmas gift made young me happier than Powermaster Optimus Prime did). In 1984 and 1985, every kid either had an Optimus or wanted one. He was the must-have toy from the biggest must-have line of the 80s.

And then Hasbro went and killed him.

In retrospect it was a baffling decision, really. It's almost impossible to wrap your head around the thought process that must have been required for the suits to not realize how traumatic it would be for little boys to watch their hero die on-screen. I mean, if my father had watched Bugs Bunny get shot by Elmer Fudd and turned into stew when he was five, it probably would have been a tad horrifying for him, no? And if Lex Luthor had blown Superman's head off with a Kryptonite gun in Superfriends in the 70s, nobody would have been surprised by the legion of horrified kids that it would create. But I guess to Hasbro the cartoon was still just viewed as advertising, and nobody there stopped to think that to the children it was a cartoon first and foremost -- that Optimus Prime was a character to them and not just a lump of plastic. But the death of Optimus Prime didn't just traumatize a generation of little boys, no...it also traumatized a generation of toy execs as they realized their brilliant marketing scheme to move aside old product and make kids fall in love with the new had completely, utterly backfired.

Though it took a few years, killing Optimus Prime also struck a death blow to Generation One as a whole.

But while it was a terrible marketing decision, I have to admit that Optimus Prime had the best death ever. Showing up at the battered, broken Autobot City, he single-handedly charged through the entire Decepticon army, personally dealing mortal wounds to at least Thundercracker and Kickback before fighting his climactic duel against Megatron and laying the Decepticon leader low as well at the cost of his own life. As much as the subsequent death was scarring for the kids who watched, it's hard to deny that Optimus and Megatron's final battle was the single greatest shining moment of the entire cartoon.

The execs deserve a bit of credit, though. They figured out their mistake pretty quickly...though not quickly enough to stop Evil Zombie Optimus Prime from further traumatizing the children of the 80s. As a child, I memorized the order that the cartoon was shown in purely to avoid having to see Dark Awakening ever again -- ironically, as an adult it's one of my favourite moments of the show. But the third season of the cartoon ended with a happier, more permanent comeback as the aptly-named The Return of Optimus Prime brought him back to the series full time, taking back the mantle of Autobot leadership and saving the galaxy one more time.

Optimus's return ended with one of the most beautiful moments in the original cartoon, with Galvatron shaking his hand and promising an end to their conflict because of Prime's heroism. Of course, this was an 80s cartoon so that was all forgotten by the time the next story began. And that story was a bad one for Optimus: The Rebirth. Though Prime sometimes came off as goofy in the weaker episodes of the show this was the only time he appeared weak or ineffectual, spending the first two thirds of the story moping and talking with his dead mentor while Ultra Magnus, Hot Rod and Cerebros did most of the legwork leading in the field. And when he finally did break out of his funk and take action, he accomplished absolutely nothing and wound up watching as Spike Witwicky saved the day. It's easy to laugh at how useless he was here, especially in light of the way people call Rodimus ineffectual, but the truth is that the writers just didn't have a clue what to do with him in a story that was centred around introducing a whole year's worth of new toys that did not include him. Unfortunately this was the end of the road for the G1 cartoon continuity, meaning that our final lasting image of Optimus isn't that of a conquering hero but a helpless, pouting failure. If we were talking about a better show I might call it pointed meta-commentary on how our heroes never look as perfect when we grow up, but since this is the G1 cartoon the truth is, they just didn't care.

Of course, he's only one out of many Optimuses.

On a personal note, having grown up with Rodimus Prime as my childhood hero I find now that I tend to view Optimus the same way he did: as the perfect embodiment of what an Autobot is meant to be, as something impossible to live up to but always to be strived toward. Because of that, I'm very, very fond of Cartoon Optimus. But the more "mature" versions that we see in the comics often leave me cold, because the writers seem to make a point of deconstructing the cartoon's perfect, heroic image.

Nowhere was that more true than in the Marvel comics. Though Bob Budiansky didn't do much with Optimus beyond making him a generic heroic leader (and honestly couldn't, since Optimus spent most of the book's first year as a headless body before being sidelined for newer toys in the second year and eventually written out entirely in the stupidest way imaginable), Simon Furman wound up using him quite a bit more. And to be honest, it's hard to read Furman's work and not wonder whether the man actually liked Optimus at all. His version of Prime was prone to self-doubt and soul-searching, which isn't a bad thing in and of itself. But Furman's Prime was often paralysed by those doubts, a weak, neurotic shell of his heroic cartoon self.

Comic Optimus was weighed down by the pressures of command, and sometimes it proved to be too much for him to bear. He abandoned his authority or his troops at least four times that I can remember, three times under Furman's pen and once when written by Budiansky -- by faking his death to "test" his Autobots after Target: 2006, committing suicide over a video game, walking out after Ratchet died and basically abdicating responsibility for dealing with the Decepticons to Grimlock between the G1 and G2 comics.

But in spite of his weaknesses, flaws and all too real fears, Marvel Optimus always came through when he needed to. He protected the humans from Megatron, helped to put down Galvatron when his mere presence threatened to destroy the universe, he turned the corrupted Matrix away from evil through sheer force of will in order to beat Unicron and used the light of that same Matrix to turn the all-consuming Swarm to the side of angels. And in spite of my knee-jerk personal dislike, in the final accounting he was just as much the hero as the cartoon version ever was.

And in fact, it was his very weaknesses that created Marvel Prime's most outstanding trait -- his strength of will. Because it's easy to be a hero when you have no doubts, when you know with all your heart that your cause is just and your actions righteous. It's a whole lot harder when you're just a normal well-meaning guy trying to muddle along as best you can while everyone looks to you as if you were some sort of messiah. But muddle through he did, and along the way he picked up the wisdom and the willpower necessary to make the right decision and do what needs to be done, no matter how much he -- or sometimes even his comrades -- doubt his course of action.

At no time is that more clear than in the scene illustrated to the right, when Optimus Prime humbles himself before Decepticon leader Scorponok, surrendering himself and his troops to the enemy and at the same time extending them the hand of friendship. Kup and many of the other Autobots thought him mad, but through sheer force of will Optimus not only earns the allegiance of the Decepticons as allies in the battle against Unicron but also triggers the redemption of the brutal Scorponok and his conniving Nebulan partner Zarak. Both of whom were inspired by Optimus to do good with the power that they wielded, and though it eventually cost them their shared life they died as heroes, good people who wholly deserved to have Optimus Prime sit by them and call them "friend" as they died.

ReGeneration One allegedly fits in here, but I'm going to just go on blissfully pretending it doesn't exist.

After the Marvel series ended, the legacy of G1 Optimus Prime was picked up in the Dreamwave comics. And though very little of note happened with the character in the modern day books, the Dreamwave era was notable for The War Within, a series that chronicled Optimus's first days as a Prime. Though quite popular at the time, the series seems to be somewhat forgotten by fans now. But it's portrayal of Optimus as a lowly archivist who was "chosen" by the Matrix to serve as his people's leader lives on as part of the "Aligned" story bible, which provided the building blocks for both the War for Cybertron and Transformers: Prime versions of the character.

After Dreamwave came IDW, who gave us a new spin on the Identikit Furman Prime at first: an Optimus who was, much like in the 80s Marvel comics, riddled with self-doubt and fear. But Furman wrote him as more distant and dispassionate than previous versions, an Optimus who didn't get the luxury of sleeping through four million years of war like the 80s version. He'd lived through every single one of those years, in command of an Autobot force much larger and more widespread than we'd seen before. It promised an interesting turn on the familiar character, but Furman's meandering run was cut short and like most of his ideas, it never really saw fruition.

But as the character has passed from one writer to the next he has slowly decayed from "flawed but ultimately heroic" into something resembling the useless, bumbling Optimus from The Return of Optimus Prime. He abandoned his troops on a hostile alien world, surrendering himself to those same hostile aliens (spoiler alert: I mean us) in order to hang out with the wholly insufferable Spike Witwicky as his prisoner for six issues. After he returned, he refused to reclaim his command but didn't actually take orders from new leader Bumblebee, instead spending the rest of Mike Costa's run undermining the other Autobot's command in what often felt like a very deliberate, callous way while heaping praise and glory on the rebellious, self-righteous Rodimus.

Then once Costa's run ended he abandoned his Autobots entirely, denying his identity as Optimus Prime in favour of calling himself Orion Pax and leaving his followers behind to find their own fate. But since he'd basically destroyed Bumblebee's credibility at the same time as he'd made Rodimus look awesome, the Autobots naturally wound up torn between the two potential leaders -- a divide that Prime made sure to exacerbate before leaving by bequeathing one half of the Matrix to each of them. Of course, this being a toy property it was only a matter of time before he became Optimus Prime again and retook command, but by the time he did he seemed bitter, disillusioned with the legacy of the Primes that he carried on (even though he'd known about their corruption long before accepting the mantle).

What ultimately saves the character, for me, is his portrayal in the flashback comics set before he became a Prime. While IDW Optimus is a bitter old coot fundamentally broken by the life he's led, Orion Pax was a phenomenally badass super-cop, action hero and all around good guy. Not yet beaten down by millions of years of war, Pax is an optimistic do-gooder with all the easy confidence and charm of the 80s cartoon character. He was an inspiration who gathered most of the soon-to-be Autobots into his orbit not because of any authority he'd been granted over him but by pure, heroic charisma. His friendship with the not-yet-evil Shockwave and the frank admiration he shows for the young, idealistic Megatron juxtapose nicely with his frequent outbursts of ridiculously awesome heroics, turning Pax into a deep, three-dimensional character in his own right and showing all those folks who've tried in the past to create a more "grown up" version of cartoon Prime just how it's done.

The contrast between the well-adjusted, idealistic Pax and the grim, war-weary Optimus isn't commented on in the comic itself, unfortunately. But if you ignore the wildly off-base characterization of the Costa-era books and the cleanup that followed immediately afterwards, the picture painted by the two versions of the character is all too realistic and honestly very compelling. Seeing a straight-arrow hero like Pax descend into a jaded veteran like Prime drives home the horrors of the Transformers' war far more effectively than any other fiction ever has. And in fact, if he continues along the same path he's going to end up a lot like the next Optimus we're going to discuss today: the live-action movie character.

I've been known to say a lot about Movie Prime, some good and some not so good. And I certainly could go on at length now...but I don't need to, because my friend Clay volunteered to discuss the character and did so far more eloquently than I ever could. So over to him:

It's a dark road from "freedom is right of all sentient beings" to "we will kill them all."

The movie version of Optimus Prime offers a more tragic characterization of his generation one counterpart, although it occurs slowly over three films. When we meet him in the first movie, his failsafe plan to defeat Megatron is that if he cannot defeat him outright, he will sacrifice himself to the Allspark cube to deny Megatron the means of victory. He favors the original Optimus at this point with his willingness to martyr himself to both win the day and spare his enemy. However, we're shown that Prime's self-destructive choice doesn't stem from a lack of ability to forcefully stop Megatron. In the heat of battle on a crowded interstate, Prime decapitates Bonecrusher in seconds in what remains the shortest fight scene in all three movies so far. Prime's plan to merge the cube with the spark in his chest is therefore qualified as a choice. He strangely doesn't consider jamming the cube into Megatron, but Sam does. Upon Megatron's death, Prime seems genuinely heartbroken that he couldn't make amends with his brother instead.

The next two movies, Revenge of the Fallen and Dark of the Moon, show a marked shift in Prime's character from the original incarnation in the 1980s. Even before his death and resurrection, Optimus displays less idealism and more pragmatism, executing a large Decepticon in the opening sequence. His more noble attributes, fighting to protect those that can't protect themselves, carry him through the forest battle until his demise at the hands of Megatron. Upon his reanimation, Optimus deals decisively with the immediate threat, the Fallen, tellingly taking satisfaction in his victory, declaring, "I rise, you fall." But he also allows Megatron to escape with his life, revealing the lingering thread of forgiveness in Prime's character. In the third film, Optimus is betrayed by someone he once held in high esteem, Sentinel Prime. After the Decepticon's destruction of Chicago and a lengthy battle to stop the import of Cybertron, Optimus defeats both Megatron and Sentinel Prime one-handed (literally), executing the later as he begs for his life.

The Optimus Prime of the live-action films experiences a huge character shift over the course of three films. While at first he acts similarly to his generation one counterpart, the movie Prime undergoes a tragic juxtaposition of his righteous idealism for a colder, harsher tendency to act pragmatically. Over the course of three films we see Prime change from a despairing, self-sacrificial method of resolving conflict to a hardened, heavy handed, and judgmental approach. He trades his idealism and forgiveness for the finality of victory over Megatron, the Fallen, and Sentinel Prime. At first it seems that he would rather pay the price himself for the mistakes his brethren make, playing the beast of burden. By the end of the third film, he has done this, but not in the neatly suicidal way of the martyr. Instead, he's traded off a part of himself to win: what made Prime Prime, the noble, righteous pillar is fragmented, and a vicious protector, as violent as those he's smote, remains. Obviously given the style and nature of the movies, we are given precisely no insight into Prime's internal thoughts, but it's easy (and perhaps correct) to infer that he, for lack of a better way to put it, has matured, trading away some of his desire to revert back to the way things were in order to protect those he cares about with any degree of success. I think that the Optimus Prime of the movies resonates with people because he offers this catharsis: like an owner putting down his own dog, he now has to live himself, and that's his sacrifice. His final scene shows him gazing upon the dead at his feet, perhaps longing for the redemption he had offered Megatron in the first movie. Prime then sees Sam, and nods.

--Clay

What more needs to be said than that? Nothing, perhaps, but another quick nod to Peter Cullen and the aged, world-weary quality that he so effortlessly brings to his modern portrayal of Optimus. That same quality carries over to the Transformers: Prime version of the character, making the modern Optimus very nearly as iconic as the original character from the 80s.

And speaking of Prime Prime, Blackjack has asked to say a few words about him:

The Optimus Prime from the newer Prime series, voiced by Peter Cullen, is far more aged and world-weary, and while not exactly an Ultra Magnus in terms of strictness, Prime Optimus Prime (god that just doesn't roll off the tongue well does it) is still the embodiment of seriousness. He delivers every single line with that deadpan gravitas, and despite several "he's saying this in such a serious tone so it's funny" lines, Optimus is still the epitome of stoic leadership. And while being far more static than the Animated or Movie versions of Optimus, it's rather evident that Prime's Optimus has suffered through a far longer war that he has all but become emotionless to deal with it. Between the destruction of Cybertron, the loss of Megatron, who was like a brother to him before the war, and the countless deaths he's undoubtedly seen through it...Prime's Optimus has gone through enough hell, and knows all too well that sometimes sacrifices have to be made to rescue lives, such as the unhesitating way in which he sacrificed any chance of restoring Cybertron to save Earth's population, as well as at least three near-death situations. as with all other versions of the character Optimus is still the unwavering pillar of goodness that fights for freedom, his friends, other sentient beings and even those comrades who have fallen into the darkness… and despite all the terrible things he's been through Optimus doesn't lose hope. And that is probably what embodies this particular incarnation of the character the best.

--Blackjack

Sad news for Animated fans: Yes, your Optimus is cool. No, I'm not going to talk about him. I've barely seen the show and wouldn't have anything meaningful to say. I'd be sorry about that, but you didn't get any of your characters on the list, so nyah!

...

Wait...I'm not allowed to off-handedly dismiss a whole chunk of the fandom for my own petty amusement? You guys are no fun.

Well, in that case...back over to Blackjack!

As opposed to the more war-weary incarnations we're more familiar with, Animated's take on Optimus Prime is fairly stark in comparison and actually feels more like a reimagination of Optimus Primal than Optimus Prime himself. Trying to make the unruly members of his squad get along, being stuck on a planet with no ability to contact Cybertron and generally being placed on a situation against insurmountable odds where the rest of the Autobot army is no help is a resoundingly familiar situation to that of Optimus Primal. And like Primal, Animated Optimus Prime is no supreme leader, merely the commander of a small band of misfits that's thrust into a war against Decepticon warlords. It's certainly an interesting, if clichéd, concept of itself, but it is certainly a fun take to see Optimus Prime's starting out from an insecure dropout spouting idealistic speeches no one cares about grow and mature both in personality and skill as a warrior and a leader.

However, it's unfair to pass off Animated Optimus Prime as a mere copy of Optimus Primal. He certainly starts off with more naivety than Primal, and a fair bit of a Messiah complex, launching himself against Megatron and Starscream (back when they were actual threats) without any regard for his own safety. This Optimus Prime wanted extremely badly to prove himself, to be a hero, but as the series progresses Optimus learns to fight not for glory or destiny, but for all the right reasons. In between his character growth and his acceptance of his greater role as someone beyond "just another cog in the machine", we learn more about Optimus Prime's past...that he was a dropout from the Elite Guard, mostly because he opted to take the fall for a tragic mission went wrong which led to the apparent death of his teammate Elita-One and earned him the enmity of his other teammate Sentinel Prime, who would be a constant thorn in his side as the series progressed. And the series took ample time to explore Optimus and Sentinel's relationship as well, eventually leading from hostile rivalry to grudging mutual respect. Animated Optimus Prime might have been relatively straightforward, but he's certainly a rather entertaining take on the concept of Optimus Prime, and let's not forget that David Kaye, a.k.a. Beast Wars Megatron, going on the vocals as a more expressive Optimus Prime is certainly a unique way to make him memorable.

--Blackjack

And of course, there are a few other Optimuses out there as well...

Dalek, you want to take this one?

There are of course two other prominent versions of Optimus Prime that weren't as heavily favoured by our voters, from the Robots in Disguise and Unicron Trilogy cartoons respectively. This isn't automatically because of the qualities of both shows (RID is quite fun, and the UT shows end after 22 minutes if nothing else), after all it's incredibly hard to mess up Optimus Prime and both Neil Kaplan and Gary Chalk provide excellent work on the voices, the later actually being the longest serving actor in the role.

However, unlike the Movie/Animated/Prime versions the Prime's between Primal and the return of Peter Cullen were very much a case of back to basics, a firm re-establishing of the core "Optimus-ey" style of the original series character with none of the attempts to reinvent and refresh the character of the more recent versions. Meaning that they've managed to get a bit lost in the shuffle as the original cartoon Optimus is very much fandom's first choice for a "Traditional" Prime. But there's nothing wrong with traditional and these two versions were just as important to kids watching at the time as any other.

--inflatable dalek

We've prattled on for long enough, so I'll just close with this: Optimus Prime as a character has gone through so many different portrayals and reinventions that, on the whole, there's at least one version that everyone can love. But at the heart of all those portrayals, no matter how idealistic or grim, is an unbreakable core of self-sacrificing heroism that made the character the hero of the 1980s. He's carried on in style ever since, and honestly...if you can't at least find something to like in the character I'm not sure why you're still reading.

Though his place as #1 seemed inevitable, even obligatory, it was well-earned. For all he's been and all he continues to go through, I don't think there can be any doubt that Optimus is the greatest Transformer of all time.

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