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#25

Wheeljack

By inflatable dalek

"All the comforts of home...if you like living in an auto-robotic factory."

Percentage of vote: 25.8%
Average ranking: 15.6

A good way to stand out from the crowd in life is to have a gimmick. The Sphinx had his riddle, Jesus had his beard, but both those fictional characters have nothing on Wheeljack, with his highly memorable and iconic flashing ears. Seriously, was I the only person who loved those as a kid?

Editor's note: I'm going to get complaints about that, aren't I? Well, I'll have you know that TFArchive.com does endorse blasphemy, because the staff are all secretly Unicron worshippers. We have the little helmets and everything. Now, carrying on...

But Wheeljack had more going for him than the mighty glowing ear muffler. He was of course the first character to appear in the cartoon- considering his comic counterpart has also made this list you have to wonder if both he and Ravage imprinted on fans like birds- an achievement that was the specific reason for at least one anonymous voter nominating him.

What made Wheeljack stand out as a character beyond visual gimmicks and appearing first on chronological order lists is his fairly unique placement in the Autobots. He wasn't the only Autobot scientist, indeed Perceptor has generally been the default G1 brainbot over the years, but he was the one who made it fun. Kids (and letís face it, a lot of adults) love mucking about with bits and bobs to see what they can make and the cheerful, enthusiastic way Wheeljack threw himself into his inventions made him hugely appealing to young fans, something that's stuck with them in the years since as several voters specifically mentioned loving his mad scientist shtick.

"I always liked Wheeljack for his Mad
Scientist attitude. Plus his design is
quite nice, with his shoulder rocket,
little back wings and his ears that
blink when he talks."

--Nemesis-Scourge

In a series where the Autobots, whatever weaknesses their tech specs may have given them, tended towards being perfect heroes the fact he was allowed to be flawed and make mistakes added to his appeal as well. There's something hugely endearing about the fact that no matter how badly his latest invention blows up in his face he always dusts himself down and gets right back to it. No doubt his last words in his unseen death scene in Transformers: The Movie were "Here Windcharger, hold this a second will yoouuuaaarrrrgggggghhhhhhhhhhhh!"

It probably happened hours before the Decepticon attack as well.

Wheeljack's stand out moments were generally in the cartoon (where, if I may blaspheme, he benefited from Chris Latta's best vocal performance), though he did manage a few nice scenes in the later British black and white comics, most notably joining in with Prowl in a good bitch about all the terrible toys that had come out in the late 1980's. But following his dead on the floor exit from the series he was mostly reduced to background appearances and the odd line with the aforementioned Perceptor having seemingly filled his role.

"Probably the only character I've really
liked in RID, and one of my favs from
the animated world. Comes across like
a kindly uncle or something. I dunno I've
always liked the guy."

--Red Dave Prime

However, Wheeljack has enjoyed a renaissance in the last couple of years thanks to becoming one of the main leads in IDW's Robots in Disguise ongoing. In a comic where the theoretical heroes often stand out for being stupid, self-serving or just plain annoying Wheeljack was the closest thing to a conventional lead the book had, getting to actually be sensible and likeable. He also kept up his mad scientist tradition, but with a more successful hit rate than before and actually got to save the day several times, most notably being responsible for shutting down the whole deeply stupid "Devastator needs a head transplant" storyline, something he managed to achieve from beyond the grave.

Indeed, he was so successfully built up as a main character his death was genuinely surprising and shocking (though in a recurrent flaw for IDW it soon turned out he was Only Mostly Dead), a sure sign of how well he had been written. Let's just forgive him for being behind the cartoon Dinobots' origins, okay?

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