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#13

Prowl

By Blackjack

"For once, Grimlock, think with your brain instead of your fists!"

Percentage of vote: 38.1%
Average ranking: 12.3

Well, what can I say about Prowl? I could make "it's logical" jokes, but I have just went through all that with Shockwave and, well...

But yes, Prowl made it into the list and it is absolutely awesome. But there is a stark difference between the votes of the two. With Shockwave, there was a distinct feel of "he used to be really, really freaking awesome in the past, but recently he's...not really good." With Prowl it's the opposite, though. Granted, Prowl is one of the original members of the Autobot cast, and as such there really isn't too much hate on his original incarnations. But there aren't too many voting because of it either. Fellow writer Warcry describes Prowl best as being an 'Anti-Jazz', because 'you probably found him boring when you were a kid, but as an adult you appreciate the subtle touches to his character that make him one of the most morally grey Autobots.'

Prowl never really got a chance to shine in the cartoon. In the first season, he was constantly included in group scenes and acted as the second-in-command of the Autobots...sometimes. He seemed to alternate the role with Ironhide and Jazz, but those two eventually got their own spotlight focus episodes in season two whereas Prowl just never got much screentime. And when season two came with so many more new toys to promote he eventually disappeared completely into the background only to show up, have no dialogue and be killed for drama in the 1986 movie. He got killed by Scavenger, man. Poor Prowl. Breathing out orange smoke as your insides melt is a manly way to go out, though.

"The idea of taking emotion out of thought
or action is something that can be difficult
for us as humans to grasp. We like to think
we are capable of being logical like Spock...
I mean Prowl, but it's our inability to fully
comprehend that idea that makes him such a
compelling character."

--Anonymous

In the comic Prowl fills basically the same role, although the comic was far more consistent, using him multiple times as the Autobot second-in-command in a lot of the earlier stories. As more important characters started getting introduced, though, (Grimlock, Blaster, et cetera) poor Prowl was wounded off-screen, shoved into a stasis pod and mostly disappeared for a long, long time until Grimlock revived a lot of the wounded aboard the Ark near the end of the run. Prowl squeezed his way back into the limelight in the last few issues of the US comic, the Earthforce series and in Generation Two, and quickly had a rather definitive portrayal as a bit of a prick but he's the type that plays off the hot-headed Grimlock the best.

However, like an anonymous voter put it, 'IDW has fleshed out a lot of G1 characters, but none so masterfully as Prowl.' Introduced immediately as a no-nonsense functionary in IDW's very first mini, Prowl immediately stole back the spotlight it has been denied for so long. While he again gradually became sidelined by the introduction of other characters in later Furman runs and the McCarthy era, his presence has been established. He is forevermore that high-ranking officer that will always nag at you for not doing things the right way. Prowl was here to stay.

Nick Roche and James Roberts then came in with one of the All Hail Megatron coda issues, and one of the best stories ever told in Transformers in my opinion. What was supposed to be an explanation to how exactly Kup came back to sanity after having his brain fried by radiation ended up to be an issue-length explanation for what is undoubtedly one of the most popular incarnations of Prowl among the fandom. Prowl is depicted as believing that the ends justify the means, including employing unscrupulous characters like Brainstorm to develop advanced weaponry in an entire facility devoted to it, and installing countermeasures to make sure Kup...well, serves as a mouthpiece, of sorts. And I absolutely like this edge of him. Prowl works for the good of the Autobot cause, but he knows how unpopular he is among the troops, hence using a far more popular intermediary. He's a pragmatic master manipulator. As fellow writer inflatable dalek puts it, Prowl is "sensible, pragmatic, with a dry sense of humour and thought bubbles that show his surreal side." (Of course, then came Mike Costa, who showed up and suddenly portrayed him as an 'I love humans' hippie in ridiculously stark contrast to Prowl's established IDW personality, where he had been ready to condemn a group of (evil) humans to death for getting in his way.) Red Dave Prime feels that under R&R Prowl is "a wonderful creation a pragmatist who is slowly becoming the loose cannon he so hates." And indeed, with Prowl's schemes getting portrayed as less moral and more manipulative in later stories, Prowl has indeed started to turn even darker.

It starts off reasonably enough with wanting a good mouthpiece in Kup, but in Last Stand of the Wreckers he was revealed to have, in the past, manipulated Impactor into murdering Squadron X in a neutral territory and causing him to be court-martialed. And it's the brilliant way that Prowl does it. He doesn't tell Impactor to do such a thing but he knows the right buttons to press basically giving Impactor a direct order which Prowl knows Impactor will disobey because of how much he hates Squadron X...and thus in the end shoving all the guilt over killing a group of dangerous murderers onto a single soldier (who is a loose cannon to boot) and keeping his and the Autobot cause's hands clean.

"I like an Autobot that is morally grey.
A lot of layers to Prowl, especially in
recent incarnations where we've seen the
pragmatist angle taken to a whole new level."

--zigzagger

Of course, in the split of the cast into two titles Prowl was taken over by John Barber's Robots in Disguise title, and Red Dave Prime feels that Prowl "lost much of his bite" under Barber. I disagree...partially. On one hand, we get excellent characterization on his part as a chessmaster used to war has to deal with a peaceful time and an unstable government. He and his enforcer Arcee dealt with Decepticon schemes whilst Bumblebee parades around as a civilian leader. And we learn more about his backstory, about how he initially attempted to escape the war. And throughout all this of course Prowl has even more schemes running around...but all of his RID-era characterization are thrown out of the window in favour of a disgusting 'he's been mind-controlled!' twist. But he's still one of the strongest characters in the RID title. He's also gotten a fair amount of appearances in the Roberts-penned More than Meets the Eye, where he was the mastermind responsible for a fair bit of things that happened on board the Lost Light, and via flashbacks (where he flips tables!) Prowl's character continues to be developed. Indeed, as dalek puts it he might be slightly overdone and inconsistent more recently, but he's still awesome.

"It's taken Nick Roche and James Roberts to
really bring out the Machiavellian -ahem- logical
conclusion of Prowl's original characterisation,
but even before then butting heads with Grimlock
was a great match for the Autobot strategist."

--Denyer

At the end of the day, someone like Prowl represents an uncomfortable yet undeniable truth: that within every single force of good, you need people who can divorce themselves from emotion to consider the most efficient way to win a war. Because while ethics and ideals are good to have, war is no place for naivety. A case could also be made for keeping true to who you are in the toughest of times, and Prowl embodies that perfectly, I think. Even while doing all sorts of morally ambiguous things, when questioned by all around him, Prowl never gets drunk on power, never betrays the cause and never does anything that will harm it. He is the person that people trust to walk the fine line between pragmatism and outright evilness, and he walks it because he knows no one else would be able to handle it in either ability or moral standing. And it's portrayed beautifully. For both his projected personality to the troops and the outward appearance of a police car contrasts yet complements his morally grey tendencies. It's just beautiful.

Voter Copper Bezel puts it best, I think: "no one likes him, but we all need him." That sentiment, of course, is from a strictly in-universe point of view, because his portrayals have certainly endeared him to a lot of fans. And, for this writer, personally, he stands at number one.

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