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#23

Blaster

By inflatable dalek

"I had to watch Scrounge die--all because defeating the Deceps was more important. No amount of Deceps I destroy'll ever bring my little buddy back... but it's the best I can do for him in the mean time."

Percentage of vote: 19.6%
Average ranking: 13.7

In theory this should be quite a tricky piece to write as Blaster is yet another character with wildly different portrayals across the various media, and coming up with a cohesive summation of his core appeal should therefore be very hard.

Luckily my job has been made easier by the fact that every single voter who specified which version of Blaster they were thinking of made it very clear they were pimping for the Marvel comics take. Sorry TV Blaster with your jive talking and tendency to rhyme, if the people who didn't declare a preference were actually thinking of you they should have been clearer as the rest of this feature is just going to ignore you.

We'll probably never be entirely sure why Bob Budiansky chose to completely ignore the fun loving character profile he wrote for Blaster when it came to introducing him to the American comic (it's likely the man himself doesn't remember at this stage), but the persona he's given does fit his first story like a glove.

The Return to Cybertron two parter stands out amidst the American stories it's surrounded by (which include Megatron teaming up with a gangster and Hoist going to a rock concert) by not only being almost entirely human-free but also being much, much darker and serious. Our first visit to 1980's Cybertron depicts the world as dominated by Decepticons who cheerfully melt down living beings for spare metal, where the Autobots are hiding underground in desperate, fragmented resistance cells where all hope seems lost.

This is the environment Blaster is introduced into, and he fits it like a glove. He's serious and brooding and, well, basically Wolverine (or, to go to the other comic company, as voter Rack'N'Ruin put it: "I AM BATMAN". I assume he was making a comment on Blaster's character rather than using this highly unusual way of revealing he is indeed Batman), and considering Wolverine is a popular character it's hardly surprising Blaster was an almost instant hit.

The key to his success was that beneath the cold exterior there was a caring softer side, a side his introductory story goes out of its way to destroy. Blaster has one person he cares about, his little pal Scrounge, an otherwise worthless nobody (though in possession of a special hand) who dies horribly in front of Blaster's eyes.

"Fantastic debut in The Smelting Pool.
A likeable bad-ass with a cool look.
My memory is probably wrong, but his
Action Master figure may have been the
last TF I bought first time round -
until buying the original figure years
later via a Yahoo auction."

--Shellsuitwarrior

This was Blaster's Gwen Stacey moment, the failure that came to define him for the rest of his time in the comic. It's a genuinely affecting moment and ensures that when Blaster helps coordinate the strike back against the Decepticon fortress of Darkmount and kills (at least as far as the American series is concerned) Lord Straxus as revenge for the loss there's a genuinely satisfying dramatic pay-off to the story.

Getting introduced in what is widely regarded as Budiansky's best story was a huge boost to Blaster, and I suspect that is what most of the voters were thinking of when they nominated him. However, once he arrived on Earth Blaster continued to be a major character, effectively forming the face of the Autobot resistance against their increasingly insane leader Grimlock.

He was never quite as successful again though. The character remained consistent, the brooding strong loner who carries a terrible loss, but it no longer really fit the stories in which he was taking part. The tone had reverted more to the lighter, comedic human-centric side, meaning Blaster started to feel more and more like he'd wandered in from another comic. It was hard to take his constant banging on about the death of Scrounge or his belittling of Goldbug seriously when it was happening in-between things like him deciding to put a spacesuit on a teddy bear.

"I don't know why Bob Budainsky picked the
boombox guy to be his Clint Eastwood stand-in,
but he was one of the more memorable characters
of that era."

--Anonymous

Still, with most of the Autobots seeming like sheep in their following of Grimlock Blaster still stood out as a strong character with a lot of personality. Sadly, following the conclusion of that storyline Blaster pretty much faded from view. He did get to be killed and resurrected but these things happened more in passing rather than through any particular focus on him and when Simon Furman came on the American book Blaster's few lines were written more in the style of his TV counterpart.

Modern comic authors have somewhat struggled with Blaster as well, veering wildly between his different personalities, ironically also a problem his counterpart Soundwave has suffered from. IDW did give him a Spotlight that just about managed to merge the two versions (cartoon Blaster is his public persona but inside he's Marvel), but ended on an "I'm coming to get you Soundwave!" cliffhanger that remains one of the few bits of old business John Barber has completely failed to revisit since taking over editing their books.

However much he might have faded or been misused since though, for those two glorious months in 1986 Blaster was a bold drastic departure from what we'd been used to and was extremely well written in one of the best Transformers stories of all time. He clearly made his mark, and no doubt Scrounge would be proud to see his big buddy do so well.

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