With a new and critically well received Transformers movie lurking on the horizon with Bumblebee, you may ask yourself, where to start when it comes to Transformers? Given the reputation of the live action Transformer movies helmed by Michael Bay, hesitation about delving further into Transformers is understandable. If you’ve only seen those movies, you probably expect that anything else starring the titular robots would be equally clumsy in their stories of good versus evil.
However, I am here to tell you that you have nothing to fear! Today we’ll dip our toes in the water with some graphic novels and cartoons to get you prepared for Bumblebee.
My first recommendation is going to be something that will put you in the exact frame of mind for Bumblebee. A new graphic novel, Bumblebee- Win if You Dare, is an excellent introduction to Bumblebee’s character. The book opens with Bumblebee having just recovered from an injury. However, Optimus Prime refuses to clear him for duty because of how Bumblebee recklessly received those injuries in battle. While trying to get cleared for active duty again, Bumblebee is swept up in a plot that could give the Decepticons a technological advantage and it’s up to him and his new human allies to stop them.
This book is a perfect introduction to Bumblee and no prior Transformers knowledge is necessary to enjoy it. It showcases that, while he’s not the strongest in this world of power having robots, he’s creative enough and has the heart to go toe to toe with much stronger foes. This trade is a short read but the writer, James Asmus, utilizes every page well to tell a satisfying story that can not only delight younger readers but also entertain older readers and fans. Helping that story is the fluid style of the artwork from the art team of Marcelo Ferreira and Áthilla Fabbio.
If you enjoy this book, there is also a one shot tie in coming out December 19th called Bumblebee: Go for the Gold from the same creative team.
I went back and forth for which animated series to recommend. I could have recommended the darker toned Transformers: Prime or the bright and colorful fan favorite, Transformers Animated, but neither felt completely right for this article. It was in doing research for this article that I stumbled upon the newest Transformers show, Transformers Cyberverse.
Much like the new movie, this show starts with an injured Bumblebee alone on Earth. However, instead of Hailee Steinfeld finding him, fellow Autobot Windblade does and realizes his injuries have fractured his memories. Together, they go through his memories to try to find where the rest of missing Autobots are with Decepticons in close pursuit.
This show does have some hurdles overcome. The first couple episodes seem a bit rough, the animation is more minimalist than any recent Transformers show, and sometimes the limited voice cast for the show can be jarring (especially for the voice clips Bumblebee uses to speak with.) However, once you get past that, you have a solid show that kids can enjoy but older viewers can appreciate as well. Cyberverse’s greatest strength is that it lovingly picks some of the best elements of previous transformers shows and comics to create something unique and exciting. Where the show begins to shine is how it utilizes flashbacks as Bumblebee regains his memories. Cyberverse uses these memories to show us not just flashbacks to previous battles but also what life on Cybertron was like before the war. Pre-war scenes where you see Bumblebee admiring the gladiator and younger revolutionary leader Megatron and future Autobots and Decepticons hanging out together at a bar as friends, make the devastation on Cybertron that much more impactful.
Transformers Cyberverse currently airs on Cartoon Network but can also be found on Hasbro’s official youtube channel. At eleven minutes per episode, the show works as a nice intro to not only Bumblebee but also a lot of the best aspects of the recent IDW Transformers comics as well. Speaking of IDW comics…
Transformers: More than Meets the Eye is the odd one out on my list. Unlike my other two recommendations it has very little do with Bumblebee. If memory serves, he only appears in the first issue. It also is a title that deals with more mature topics than the other recommendations. However, I feel that it’s a good addition to this list in that shows the vast potential for the stories that can be told with Transformers.
The book is set in IDW comics where the Decepticons and Autobots have finally established an uneasy peace with Starscream as the new leader of a peaceful Cybertron. This premise lends itself to a wealth of story of opportunities and More Than Meets The Eye fully embraces those possibilities.
The book opens with Hot Rod, rash and loud former Prime, rallying others to join in his quest to find the lost Knights of Cybertron. What he manages to gather are a crew of second stringers who have their own reasons for running away from Cybertron. This group of misfits must come together if they are survive their journey into the dangerous reaches of space.
The writer, James Roberts, excels writing compelling and complex characters with genuine, heart and humor in the face of incredibly dire circumstances. With their flaws and faults, you can’t help but root for these bots. He also does an excellent job of exploring the implications of having your identity tied to a war and it’s factions and that suddenly coming to an end. Along with Roberts is the artwork of Alex Milne which gave more personality and fluidity to the bots. This winning combination has made this book a gold standard among fans when it comes to Transformers comics!
With that, we come to the end of our journey into Transformers media! Despite what Michael Bay did with the franchise, I hope you can see that Transformers can be… more than meets the eye!
I mean I couldn’t not end my article that way. Bumblebee would be disappointed in me if I did not.
-Stephanie Groce, Dame Patrol Host