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#12

Shockwave

By Blackjack

"Logic says I must assume command of the Decepticons."

Percentage of vote: 48.5%
Average ranking: 12.8%

Ah, Shockwave. "Logically, he has to be in", as Rack'n'Ruin puts it. And indeed, as I sort through a mountain of votes with reasons around the variations of "it's only logical" I do find that, yes, it is indeed logical for Shockwave to be in this list. Shockwave simply exudes coolness, from his ever-cold personality to his cool design… and I doubt Shockwave would be so successful if he had been designed differently. A single unblinking yellow eye set within a hexagonal face, a powerful silhouette, a gun for one hand, the entirely purple deco… Shockwave's simple design manages to exude dangerous power and it is bloody effective.

The Transformers' fiction was initially never supposed to branch out beyond the first four comics published by Marvel, and the general concept back then was relatively simple and familiar: the Autobots fight the Decepticons for oil, and after some setbacks the Autobots win in the last issue. Well, Shockwave isn't having any of that. He bursts in, defeats all the Autobots in one shot and proceeds to announce that, no, the story's not going to end so quickly. The next issues basically built Shockwave up to be one the most awesome villains ever to grace Transformers comic book history. Shockwave proceeded to ruthlessly, efficiently put Megatron in his place, beating the original Decepticon leader down until he submitted to his authority. All that while stringing up the disembodied corpses of the Autobots upside-down in a room. All in a day's work!

Lets just all take a moment to truly enjoy that. -- ed.




Okay, now back to the article!

Yet unlike most Decepticons, Shockwave's personality is completely different and completely alien. He is basically your definition of a walking computer. Efficient, emotionless, without any sense of passion, and further Marvel issues would elaborate on that. He makes it clear that the reason he took over was no mere hunger for power or actual desire for leadership, but rather the fact that he was simply the most logical choice to lead the Decepticons at that time with Megatron being a raving lunatic.

Granted, there are several times when all this logic-based personality comes crumbling down, and a lot of these moments are seen in UK material, where Shockwave had a fair bit more screentime, especially in the gaps where he's supposed to be out of the action in the US comic. In the UK story Robot Buster, Shockwave shows a far more vulnerable side when his record of constantly being buried (in a tar pit and later a swamp) suddenly causes him to snap and goes off the handle when he was blinded in a battle. Another time when he snapped was through a series of defeats -- first, by tumbling down through space in what was supposed to be his (later retconned) death scene in the US comics, then being told by some time-travelling Decepticons that he will meet his death within twenty years before having a mind-controlled Megatron break free of his command. The combined revelation caused Shockwave to have a little mental breakdown and he hides in his little castle before Ravage manages to out-logic Shockwave and snap him back to action, just in time to save all of reality by launching a corpse at a time rift and shooting at said rift to close it.

Is he truly emotionless? Is he just taking the most efficient routes to do things and is merely good at suppressing emotions? Is he actually developing said emotions as he is involved in the war on Earth? I don't think Shockwave himself knows. One thing is certain, though. He is perfectly sane, and it is indeed a stark contrast to Megatron, who ends up going completely cuckoo before Shockwave tricks him into blowing himself out of almost the rest of the comic's original run. And this sanity and efficiency makes Shockwave, as Osku puts it, the only 'Con that still feels like a scary character.

"Emotionless, fairly sane
and quite terrifying. Possibly
the best Decepticon leader."

--Shellsuitwarrior

I'm not going to detail every single thing he's done, but suffice to say Marvel Shockwave had a long run. He had an on-and-off deal going on with the comics, basically being defeated as all bad guys are, yet never really getting himself killed. Shockwave always returns. You just cannot stop Shockwave. And unlike most villains, he never suffers from villain decay. Every time he shows up, he will not hesitate to fight against anyone who opposes him, be it Autobot or Decepticon. Optimus Prime? Megatron? A different Megatron? Scorponok? Galvatron? Shockwave does not care, he will beat them all to the ground without showing a hint of emotion. And that was Shockwave's personality. He was cold and emotionless. An 'evil Mr. Spock', as voter Mike Greenberg puts it. Because when you're leading the mob of angry rebels that is the Decepticon army, you need a calm head that can direct them...not another rabid dog.

And while Shockwave's characterization was not always consistent in the long-lasting Marvel run, both Bob Budiasky and Simon Furman had lovingly crafted one of the best villains of all time. When you say Marvel continuity, despite all the other interesting Decepticon leaders like Scorponok or Ratbat, I will first and foremost associate Decepticon leadership with Shockwave.

"His brutal application of logic
and starring role in the Marvel
Comics cemented him as the more
effective Decepticon leader. His
more alien looks instantly set him
apart from the more anthropomorphised
brethren too which gives him a
weird and frightening appeal. Plus,
he turns into a massive ray gun."

--Simon Hall (Skyquake87)

Shockwave's portrayal in the Marvel comics, both US and UK, is clearly the most iconic version of the character as a fair portion of his voters specified that his Marvel comics portrayal was who they were voting for. But what about the cartoon? As an anonymous voter puts it, "any version except Cartoon, that was just some old geezer." As in the Marvel comics, Shockwave appeared very early in Sunbow's cartoon, but let's be honest – instead of being a fiercely independent character, Cartoon Shockwave was an extremely subservient and relatively minor guest character who never does anything of importance. I think Nemesis Scourge puts it the best: "[Marvel Shockwave is] so much better and more interesting than his cartoon counterpart. I am so happy they used this Shockwave for (almost) all other interpretations of the character."

And indeed, there are many interpretations of Shockwave. Throughout the continuous reboots of the franchise, Shockwave has had major appearances in the Animated and Prime cartoons, as an extremely devious and dangerous Decepticon double-agent in the former and a physically imposing and powerful scientist in the latter. He also showed up in the third live-action movie as a decoy main villain but like the original cartoon Shockwave doesn't manage to do anything but stand around and look cool. I won't delve too much into non-G1 Shockwaves, though, since this article is all about the big purple cyclops.

My two fellow writers Warcry and inflatable dalek agree with me that Shockwave, despite his quintessential importance in the original Marvel run, has had his characterization drift around so much in modern Dreamwave and later IDW interpretations that it really is hard to rate him higher than the more impactful or consistent characters ranked above him. I suppose it's the curse of being featured so much. In the end future writers will only pick the bits they remember and like, resulting in a mismatched characterization. In the IDW comics alone he's flip-flopped between being a cloistered enigmatic scientist, an independent agent with his own views, a mere pawn in a larger game, a loyal Decepticon lieutenant, a long-term chessmaster and a subservient student, always ever-consumed by logic in what he does.

"Mainly for the Marvel version,
overall he'd have placed higher
if successive versions hadn't
tried so hard to ruin him."

--inflatable dalek

Of course, that is not to say that modern Shockwave is all bad. While there are a lot of interpretations, one thing remains certain: his cold logic and high intelligence. Some of our voters have expressed their likes for Shockwave's role in Dreamwave's War and Peace arc. Whatever you may say about Dreamwave's quality in comics, it is undeniable that Shockwave ruling over Cybertron as basically the absolute ruler of the entire planet is awesome. And it is testament to Marvel Shockwave's enduring popularity that the almost-slavishly cartoon-homaging Dreamwave would instead choose an interpretation the Marvel comics' version of the character instead of the show's doormat.

IDW introduces Shockwave in his own Spotlight comic, and as an anonymous voter I can get behind puts it, "Spotlight: Shockwave is an absolutely perfect comic book." And it's the first time we see an alternate interpretation of Shockwave. He's still working on the same logic-based mindset as he has been, but this time he's a scientist instead of a military leader. A very smart one too, and this one comic was enough to influence several future Shockwaves into likewise being scientists as well, most notably the Prime version of the character.

He had a decent showing in the Maximum Dinobots series where he proceeded to renew his old habits of picking fights with everyone else in the comic, before he was taken out of commission for several real-life years. Last Stand of the Wreckers returned Shockwave into the fray though, as he struck a deal with resident villain Overlord and exchanged words in a truly memorable conversation. And while subsequent appearances after that were extremely disappointing (including his supposed big break in Dark Cybertron) as he never did anything beyond lurking in the background and doing banal technical stuff, writer James Roberts refused to give up on Shockwave and, against all odds, crafted a wonderful backstory for him which (sort of) explains his deeds in the IDW series. He used to be this random senator, see, who had grandiose, complicated plans for the Cybertronian race, including 'seeding' potential candidates to become Primes. It's a nice parallel to how Shockwave likes to play upon long-term cards like seeding planets with energon, and it's likewise easy to extrapolate that both energon and Prime candidates are both experiments to fuel Shockwave's curiousity. The Senator ended up getting lobotomized and turned into the soulless Decepticon we all grew to know and love. And while IDW Shockwave is distinctly a different entity than the Marvel Shockwave (and far less consistently written) he is still interesting, albeit in a different way, and hopefully Dark Cybertron and the stories after it will fully allow Shockwave to grow as a character beyond just being a plot device.

Or not. :( -- ed

Shockwave is one of the most memorable faces in the franchise for being an absolutely grand and effective villain, responsible for a lot of the most memorable moments in it… and consistency or not, it has never been in doubt that he would be part of this list. The question is just how high on it would he be.

After all, it's only logical.

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