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#21

Cyclonus

By Warcry

"Warriors such as you and I should meet their end in battle."

Percentage of vote: 32.0%
Average ranking: 14.6

Cyclonus was a character I was rooting for when we ran this poll, because he's one of my favourites. And as time went on and the votes rolled in, though, it became clear that the Cyclonus I loved was very different from the Cyclonus that a lot of other voters had in mind. In fact, we got eloquent, passionate submissions supporting the nomination of three different versions of the character. And unlike earlier characters on this list like Ravage or Blaster, I don't think you can make a strong argument that any one of the different iterations outshine the other. So instead, we're going to give some love to all three.

The first Cyclonus we'll talk about is my Cyclonus, the version from the 80s Sunbow cartoon. In spite of being a comic fan, this version of Cyclonus has always been a favourite. As a child his slick design played a big part in that (is anyone in the cartoon cooler-looking than Cyclonus?) but as I grew older and started to look at the show with adult eyes I quickly came to appreciate his cunning, loyalty and and intelligence. He had a depth of character and personality that literally nobody else on the cartoon could lay claim to, along with actual motivations that make sense but frequently blow up in his face. In a show where wacky vocal tics are usually what passes for personality, Cyclonus surpasses his peers so thoroughly that he feels like he accidentally got lost on the way to appearing in another, better cartoon.

"Cyclonus has always been a touch more complex
than most other villains, even in the original
cartoon. The comic gave him a chance to truly
shine as a Cybertronian patriot, with his own
personality."

--Zach Baringer (Icespark from TFW2005)

As Galvatron's loyal right hand, Cyclonus was the target of his master's abuse more often than not. But he absorbed it gladly, both to protect his fellow Decepticons from their leader's wrath and because he truly believed that only the powerful Galvatron could meld the fractious Decepticons into a coherent fighting force. Considering this is the cartoon Decepticons we're talking about, and considering that in the time that Galvatron was gone after the 1986 movie the Decepticons were reduced to scrapping amongst themselves for morsels of energon, Cyclonus seems to have been right.

His greatest failing as a character was probably his inability to whip the Decepticons into shape himself. He simply was not a leader of men, but unlike most high-ranking Decepticons he showed a surprising amount of maturity. He knew that he was no leader, so instead of trying to scramble for power himself he supported the one person who could inspire (or terrify) the Decepticons into unified action and did his best to cover for Galvatron's many manifest flaws. He was loyal to his master -- some would say too loyal -- but it's impossible to deny that Galvatron and Cyclonus made for a great team.

"One of the overlooked anchors of
the post-movie universe, one of the
first Cons with a decent side. Also
a great design."

--Patrick Anguirus Stinson

Another factor that makes Cartoon Cyclonus so fantastic is the performance that Harry Mudd Roger C. Carmel gave as his voice actor, at least in the early episodes. Cyclonus's intimidating baritone could have made him a generic scary bad guy, but Carmel's performance added layers of nuance to him. In spite of his undying loyalty to Galvatron, he frequently showed frustration and bafflement at his master's antics, and Carmel managed to convey just how much of a strain on him it was to serve as the madman's second in command.

Of course, at the same time that he was making a name for himself as a loyal follower in the cartoon Cyclonus was also a major character in the UK Marvel comics. The two portrayals, however, could not be more different. Since the comic version of Galvatron was less of a raving madman and more of a dangerously psychotic killing machine, his Scourge and Cyclonus spent far less time following him around and cleaning up his messes and far more time on their own. The two seemed to genuinely like each other, a rarity for Decepticons in the 80s, and spent a lot of time going on madcap adventures.

"While I really liked his character
in Marvel (and his friendship with Scourge),
I'm loving the IDW version."

--Warewullf

After Galvatron time-jumped to the past the duo tried to kill Rodimus Prime, only to wind up with the bounty hunter Death's Head chasing them from world to world. Unfortunately, one of those worlds turned out to be host to Unicron's severed but still functional head. Under the Chaos Bringer's thrall the three of them siezed control of the Decepticons and began an all-out war with the Autobots, only for Cyclonus and Scourge to find themselves tossed into the past themselves. After trying and failing to secure Galvatron's time-jump equipment, they aligned themselves with Shockwave. Cyclonus then proved that he wasn't anywhere near as cunning as his cartoon self by revealing to Shockwave that they had killed him to seize command of the Decepticons in the future. This went about as well as you'd expect for Cyclonus, but it did provide us with one of the most enduring images of the whole UK run -- a brainwashed Megatron tearing Cyclonus's head off with his bare hands, strengthening the time storm destroying future-Quintessa and eventually setting in motion the Time Wars that nearly destroyed the universe.

Good work, Cyclonus!

"Time-lost warrior without a cause, mourning
a past era of a world, reluctantly being
dragged into living in the present."

--Anonymous

And that brings us to the most recent version of the character. The IDW version of Cyclonus is an ancient being, old and wise but also very conservative and traditional. The Cybertron he knew is long gone, and he harbours a deep resentment for the younger generation of Transformers who ruined it. A member of Nova Prime's original Ark crew that departed millions of years ago, he spent most of the intervening years as a ghoulish undead horror, which goes a long way to explain his dour, grim disposition.

"I really like the current version of Cyclonus
but its actually his character in his spotlight
that I loved the most - the proud Cybertronian
who detests what the children of his generation
did to their planet."

--Red Dave Prime

It wasn't until after the Chaos event left him a lone stranger in a strange land, though, that he began to get a lot of character focus. His tenure as a member of the Lost Light's crew has made him a favourite to a whole new generation of fans, along with giving old fans like myself a new version of an old favourite to fall in love with all over again. From James Roberts' pen, Cyclonus is a deeply honourable and religious character, a strongly moral person in his own way but not a straight-ahead hero. His old-timey take on the world makes him unknowable to a certain extent, both to the readers and to his fellow Transformers. He sees the world in a very different way than either the readers or the characters we've come to sympathize with, which allows him to come off as borderline villainous at times without actually necessarily being wrong, just very, very different.

Of course, all of that would just be window dressing if Roberts didn't actually do something with the interesting character he's carved out, but he absolutely does. Cyclonus has bounced off a lot of the characters in More Than Meets The Eye, creating weird friendships with many of them. Foremost among those is Tailgate, another refugee from the age of the First Ark. But unlike Cyclonus, Tailgate didn't live though the intervening years. In fact, he didn't live much at all. And as they've grown closer the bond between them has become almost parental in nature, with Cyclonus playing the jaded, world-weary father to the happy, excitable young son Tailgate. Cyclonus's rivalry with the brutal Autobot Whirl is the other major facet of the series, but much less heart-warming and way more disturbing. They seem to have managed not to kill each other so far, which is a good thing because they make a great -- and highly entertaining -- team.

But all of that does combine to pose an interesting question. Who is Cyclonus, anyway? If he has so many great incarnations, can we truly say that they're the same character? Is there any common ground that we can look to as the basis for a single, "true" depiction of the character? Well, it turns out my friend zigzagger answered that question before I even figured out it needed asking:

"From Galvatron's cruel but sycophantic lieutenant to the dour loner from James Roberts MTMTE, Cyclonus is always proud and unwavering in his convictions and I kind of admire that about him."

--zigzagger

I think that says it better than anything else. Cyclonus, no matter the circumstances or backstory, is a character who believes. When he dedicates himself to a cause he puts his all into it, whether that cause is Galvatron, the advancement of himself and Scourge, or Cybertron himself. But his belief is so strong, so unassailable, that he can keep going with it even when everyone can see it's a dead end. Following Galvatron in the cartoon, trying to establish his own power base in the UK comics and serving Nova Prime in the IDW books were all akin to chasing rainbows, but he threw himself into them with everything he had. And that, I think, is what you can boil all these different Cyclonuses down to: determination. If he believes something is worth fighting for then dammit, he's going to fight to the end! And woe betide anyone who gets in his way.

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