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By inflatable dalek

"Ah, so these are Primus' children, his ultimate defence against my coming! Pathetic. But tasty."

Percentage of vote: 22.7%
Average ranking: 13.5

One of the things we'd decided to do when launching this poll was to throw it open to all the characters of the franchise, regardless of whether they were Transformers or not. Though a couple came close, very close, yes?, Unicron is the only such character to have made the final list. Alright, he is a big robot who transforms into something else, but he's not actually a Cybertronian. Assuming people weren't just forgetting that fact, it really speaks volumes as to the impact the series' version of the devil has had over the years.

A large part of that impact comes from the man who played him, and indeed two of our voters, Mark Greenberg and Another TF Fan, specifically highlighted the fact Orson Welles voiced him as a major reason for nominating him. Welles may have been dying when he was doing his performance and the final result is very modulated, but he is still by far and away the most significant and culturally important actor to have ever been involved in Transformers and that adds a gravitas and weight to his presence in the 1986 film.

"The biggest of big bads. Unicron casts a huge shadow,
figuratively and literally. He's been overused in the
last decade to his own detriment, but he's still
Transformer Satan and that carries a lot of weight."


There are obviously other, visual cues as to why Unicron wound up so memorable: He's a planet sized robot after all and that's not something you see every day. Though his origins were frustratingly vague in the film (and the cartoon had him built by a monkey) he's also become a key part of the creation myth for the Transformers themselves, literally the devil to their God. Again, that has helped to make him hugely important to the entire franchise.

What's easy to forget amidst all that though, is his actual character. One of the fun things about the film is, even though in terms of role Unicron is barely more than a McGuffin in search of a McGuffin, is how writer Ron Friedman has put a great deal of effort into making him more than just Galvatron's vague and undefined boss. He's sarcastic, with a very nice line in dry humour ("Then it pleases me to be the first") and is a pure sadist. Effectively he's a good old fashioned Bond villain, and hugely entertaining and memorable as a result.

"He's become a bit too much of the always
there bad guy but let's be fair to him -
as the devil of the Transformers he's
a great idea."

--Red Dave Prime

This carried over into the place that contained the bulk of his fictional appearances for the next decade: The Simon Furman written Marvel comics. His first cameo showing at the end of British story Target: 2006 effectively set up how the character would be treated by Furman, he continues the humour (placing the idea of where to build Autobot City in Smokescreen's mind seemingly for shits and giggles) and sadism (almost gleefully torturing Galvatron), and adds another key component of his character: The love of the long game. Through his mind control of the oblivious Hot Rod and company he shows a love of manoeuvring behind the scenes and carefully putting his pawns into place before acting. Again, he's the classic Bond villain and this power and self control in using it adds to his strength of character.

This is most obvious in the Legacy of Unicron story, where despite not having a body he manages to play both Autobots and Decepticons into a battle that comes very close to seeing both sides destroy each other in a way that wouldn't have needed him to raise a finger (luckily considering his circumstances at the time).

This is also of course where the definitive Transformers origin story was first revealed, and in his conversations with Death's Head as he delivers what could otherwise be dull exposition Unicron continues to show a dry, sadistic wit. The origin itself was also mind blowing at the time, and it's very easy to see why this epic, Universe shattering Wagner style story of gods and monsters has surpassed "They're SPACE vacuum cleaners built by SPACE squid things".

A couple of years later when Furman went over to the American comic he decided to learn a trick from the makers of The Avengers when that effectively became an American television program: Remake your old stories for the new audience. So he retold his Primus based creation myth, and as such brought Unicron into the American stories and began a huge long running arc that culminated in a massive "Unicron Vs. Everyone" fight that was akin to the end of the film if it had been written on an even larger scale.

The Edge of Extinction is probably the peak of Unicron's appearances in all fiction, solidifying everything that makes him a memorable character. Again, the dark humour and sadism is there (not the pure gloating in his frying of "Xaaron", or the little joke he makes whilst eating Brainstorm), as is the gravitas of being the ultimate demon of these robots.

His explosion at the end of that story marked the end of the golden age of Unicron. Though he cameod in Beast Wars and was apparently heavily involved in one of the Japanese Beast shows (if anyone has ever really watched it, let us know) his next substantial showing was in the early noughties trilogy of cartoons now known as The Unicron Trilogy (clue's in the name).

Though this meant we finally got a toy of the big orange mug, the results were mixed to say the least. Not only was the quality of the shows not brilliant, it coincided with a period of every single bit of Transformers media of the time being focused around him.

If you were bored of him plotting in the background in the cartoons he was plotting in the background of the Dreamwave ongoing. And The War Within. And IDW's Beast Wars books. The later being the lowest point as it tied directly into his appearances in the Japanese shows with few concessions for those unfamiliar with them despite being written by someone who came across as not knowing anything about Japanese Beast Wars and was relying on a fan who clearly didn't like them very much (Lets make everyone deathly serious!) for all his knowledge.

What hasn't helped is the attempt, in Western fiction mostly led by Furman, to try and claim that every single appearance of Unicron ever was in fact the same Unicron regardless of continuity. This has never been less that unconvincing bollocks thanks to the poor execution, the way it contradicts the origins of cartoon and Marvel Unicron and that it drains all power away from the character. He's supposed to be destroying Every Single Universe Ever but can't even get out of the Marvel one. What a failure.

"Big, ugly and manipulative. Lurks for
simply ages, then drops bombshells
everywhere - quite adult for a kids show."


Tellingly, many of the people voting for him bemoaned his over exposure in the first decade of the century, Copper Bezel being most direct with "He belongs on this list. I don't like him." He has however been almost completely absent since the Movies and where he did show up (a surprisingly decent new take from Furman in the British film comic and a rather fun twist in the Prime cartoon) he's been well used and with a fresh take on him. Still, many fans clearly haven't recovered from their Unicron fatigue yet.

Despite the diminishing returns Unicron is still a hugely significant and important character, so let's raise a glass of Paul Masson Champagne to him.

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