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#11

Ratchet

By zigzagger

"I've been held at gunpoint by the best—Megatron, Starscream, Killmaster—remember Killmaster? With the wand?—and I've never known anyone take so long to explain their grand plan."

Percentage of vote: 37.1%
Average ranking: 11.7

Ratchet is a healer, a cynic, a hero, and very much a personal favorite of mine. As it would turn out, he's quite a few of yours as well judging by all the loving submissions we received. And not just one iteration -- no, no, most of you combined-voted two, three, sometimes all iterations of the character. What that boils down to is; ya'll love Ratchet, doesn't matter which. I can most certainly appreciate that, because, hey, I love Ratchet too.

So, keeping in mind his importance in the franchise as a whole nowadays, let's break the rules and celebrate the legacy of the Autobot's chief medical officer.

Starting off with the original Sunbow animated series, Ratchet acted as the chief medical officer on board the Ark. He'd occasionally chime in and offer a few quips between fixing wounded colleagues (or just Ironhide) and helping Wheeljack equip the Dinobots with simple brains. Honestly, Ratchet never really stood out to me in the original series, being little more than one of the many smiling faces standing behind Optimus Prime.

But where Ratchet really left a lasting impression on me and -- again judging by the number of passionate votes we received -- many of you, was in the pages of the original Transformers comic published by Marvel.

"A hero, medic, the last Autobot standing after Shockwave's attack. A tragic end to a poignant character."

--Anonymous

"He's a smart arse doc who's first big mission (in the comics anyway) was to take on the Decepticons single-handedly."

--Mike Greenberg (Michron)

"My childhood hero."

--Osku

Can you feel the love? Oh Ratchet... you hold a warm and fuzzy place in my heart. And it all started with a little story called "Warrior School". I've been hooked ever since.

All gushing aside (okay, I lie... I've only just begun), Ratchet's history in the Marvel comics was a lengthy one, surviving near-close to the end of the original run. That's quite a feat considering what he went through. Transformers #7 (#26 in the UK) cast a compassionate, meek Ratchet as the sole surviving Autobot on Earth following Shockwave's attack. Forced into an alliance with Megatron, our reluctant warrior had to rely on his wits and words to save his friends -- and himself. To me it was far more interesting to see the pacifistic doctor standing up to Megatron than, say, reading the same boring Optimus/Megatron struggle that we were already seeing in the cartoons. And truly, the Megatron/Ratchet rivalry would turn out to be one of the most important relationships in the books.

"One of those characters virtually every author has managed to get exactly right. The poor, unlucky bastard."

--inflatable dalek

That said, this was the beginning of a series of misfortunes that would follow him throughout the rest of the comic. The Universe really hated Ratchet. He would be humiliated by the Mechanic, suffer survivors guilt, be fused with Megatron -- eventually culminating with the most epic of rants and heroic of sacrifices.

Truly he was the poster child of perseverance, somehow managing to outwit and smartass his way through the most impossible odds. Ratchet's plight was engaging, and we were rooting for him the entire time. He was our hero.

While other companies occasionally revisited the classic character -- Dreamwave's reimaging of Sunbow Ratchet, for example -- it would be some time until we'd see the good doctor appear prominently in any popular Transformers media.

In no small part due to the arrival of the live action movies, Ratchet has been made into a permanent fixture in Transformers media, gaining higher visibility much in the same way as characters like Bumblebee or Starscream have (though to a much lesser extent). But not without some slight revamping in the process. While his 'elevated' status has seen Ratchet regularly cast as the default medic, more recent incarnations of the character have also cast Ratchet as... well, the old guy, with some iterations placing more emphasis on this aspect than others. Clever marketing or not, this has effectively made Ratchet more 'recognizable' across multiple continuities.

"Barely a character in the original run despite his focus in the early comic, Ratchet became a fully realized, complex character in Animated and carried on with the same traits in MtMtE and Prime."

--Copper Bezel

Transformers: Animated saw the beginnings of this 'new' persona. Animated Ratchet was a gruff ol' war vet. He often acted as a mentor to his more youthful Autobot teammates, notably Optimus Prime, to whom he recognized the young leader's potential. Yeeeaaah... many have likened Animated Ratchet to G1 Kup, and understandably so. And indeed, his age was often played for laughs (e.g. grumbling about aching joints, war flashbacks -- he's old, get it?), but in spite of the series' decidedly lighthearted tone, Ratchet had a surprisingly rich character arc and backstory, complete with relationships and rivalries unique to him. He was the only character in the core cast who fought the Decepticons in the Great War, who actually experienced the horrors of it, and had the scars -- both mental and physical -- to prove it. That'd make anyone a touch bitter. With the attention and detail that went into developing his character and story, many have felt that Ratchet practically was the lead character in Transformers: Animated.

Transformers: Prime, while there are some parallels to his Animated counterpart, approached Ratchet's age differently. The grumpy levels were toned down a smidge... well, certainly less over-the-top than his Animated counterpart, at any rate.

Portrayed as Optimus Prime's closest and oldest confidant, Prime Ratchet was motivated by the loss of his home world. He was much more pragmatic and resourceful than the previous incarnation, relying on his ingenuity to make do with the limited resources the Autobots had available. He's prideful and was not too shy to question Prime's decisions, especially when concerning the use of said limited resources to protect the inhabitants of Earth.

Ratchet's also quite snarky. Oh ho ho, is he snarky. "No point in long good-byes. Here's the door." Ha! I love it! Jeffrey Combs' voice most definitely was a highlight of Transformers: Prime for me. He conveyed Ratchet's dry wit brilliantly. It really helped make the character.

"Dahrhhk Energon. Jeffrey Combs, man."

--lastmaximal

Over time, his relationship with the three young humans - Raf in particular - would soften, forcing him to reevaluate his stance on humanity and recognize his own arrogance. He may not have had the extended background, but Prime Ratchet's faults and eccentricities, his loyalty to Optimus, his frustrations of not being able to better further the Autobot's cause made for a much more relatable character. Accompanied by Combs' voice, it was those little touches that made Ratchet feel alive.

"Just love this guy for so many reasons I can't list them all, but A (comic) taking on Megatron with the Dinobots and saving all the other Autobots, and B (MTMTE) being a grumpy old atheist bastard who shot Overlord in the face. In. The. Face."

--Rack n Ruin

Interestingly, Ratchet's most recent portrayal in the IDW comics seems to have blended elements from all incarnations of the character. Though, it took us awhile to get there. Ratchet was one of the very first Transformers we met in IDW's G1 universe, playing a lead role before we were even introduced to folks like Optimus Prime. In the early days, IDW Ratchet, written by Simon Furman, started off as a more adventurous and heroic take of the Marvel character -- an all-around compassionate fellow, a little reckless, and not too afraid to backtalk his superiors.

Sadly, with the truncation of the "-ation" series, Ratchet was relegated to the background and remained sinfully underused for a few years after. He has seen something of a renaissance lately in the pages of More Than Meets The Eye. Writer James Roberts has saw fit to return to the fine Marvel-esque tradition of placing our beloved medic in constant peril, while adding a few new twists to the classic G1 character. In addition to adding an origin -- something that had not really been explored before -- Ratchet's characterization underwent a slight tweaking, seeming to combine elements from all iterations of the medical officer.

These days, while he continues to have plenty of adventures, Ratchet, to paraphrase the 'Meet the Crew' pages from MTMTE, has become a world-weary medic in search of a successor, kind, but not as kind as he once was, and a rationalist. It is quite possibly the most diverse depiction of the character. Which to me is wonderful; he's like the best of all worlds!

"His elderly, cranky nature provides a grandfatherly sense of maturity to the character, and his moral code as a doctor makes him an excellent role model."

--Zach Baringer (Icespark from TFW2005)

Ratchet has proven time and again that he is more capable, more dedicated and more determined than most, often relying on his wits to overcome one crisis after another. That alone is why Ratchet is one of the franchise's greatest characters, and he has the legacy to prove it.



"The Hippocratic Oath personified in every continuity, who has to reconcile crankiness with compassion."

--Patrick Anguirus Stinson




"Whether he's a gruff old veteran or a reckless adventure-doctor in the vein of Jack from Lost, Ratchet has been a huge part of nearly every incarnation of Transformers."

--Warcry




"I love the various versions of G1 Ratchet, his Animated incarnation, the exceedingly spectacular Prime one and even the background wallflower Movie version, so I'm cheating by wrapping them all up in a single vote. What's not to like about Ratchet, though he's a medic and a great guy, yet he makes no qualms about snarking and generally being a jerk as long as it doesn't harm somebody. Also, if your name is Megatron, doesn't matter which one of them you are, Ratchet will kick your ass."

--Blackjack


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