Transformers characters often meet all kinds of death and destruction in fiction, and we’re not just talking about the 1986 movie! The original Marvel comics produced some particularly nightmarish tales with plenty of intense and graphic imagery, so for our first COUNTDOWN list that’s exactly what we’re looking at. And yes, at least a few of them involve Optimus Prime having unspeakable things done to him.
We’ll be considering every story included in the extended UK run of the comic, including Generation 2. It goes without saying that there will be MAJOR SPOILERS ahead for the whole of the Marvel comic run!
#10: The Dinobots’ dream sequences
Victory (1986 UK Annual)
Let’s kick things off with an absolute banger from the relatively early days of the expanded UK run. The story sees the Dinobots lying comatose, having been taken out of commission in the equally-classic Dinobot Hunt! We explore some of their greatest fears as they lie dreaming, which translates to the entire story being filled with epic moments.
The title splash page of Grimlock slicing Megatron in two is a definite standout, both as one of the most fantastic pieces of artwork in the comic’s entire run and as pretty shocking in its own right. Sadly by the end of each dream the Dinobots have all come a cropper, such as Grimlock being blasted to pieces by a fusion cannon-wielding Starscream.
For me though it’s Sludge’s dream that really takes the cake, as a tender encounter with his human friend, Joy Meadows, is turned into pure nightmare fuel when she rips her own face off and reveals herself to be a robotic assassin. Sleep well, kids!
Artwork credit: Senior / Hart
#9: Scourge discovers Cyclonus’ corpse
Time Wars (UK #203)
Time Wars is one of those stories where pretty much any character could die at any time… and many do! So you’d think it might be hard to pick a standout shocking moment, but the sight of Cyclonus’ dismembered body having been strung up on a wall is definitely one. It all happens after Shockwave learns of his own death in the not-too-distant future and spirals into a crisis of despair. Now that’s not very logical!
Artwork credit: Reed / Peters
#8: Impactor’s death… and “resurrection”
Target: 2006 (UK #88), Legion of the Lost! (UK #166-7), Meltdown (UK #168-9)
There were many fantastic original characters in Marvel’s Transformers but Impactor is a fan-favourite. The leader of the Wreckers proves to be a a solid dude, sacrificing himself to save Emirate Xaaron’s life at the end of Target: 2006. It’s a shocking moment by itself and remains one of the best death scenes in the entire run.
Artwork credit: Simpson / Perkins / Hart
He was then resurrected some two years later… as a zombie! This nightmarish tale builds suspense by holding the introduction of “Zombiepactor” back until the end of the third issue, but when it happens it’s definitely one that sticks in the memory. Oh, and he gets to sacrifice himself a second time just for good measure. What a guy!
Artwork credit: Smith / Peters
#7: Optimus gets his face punched in before being eaten alive
A Rage in Heaven (Generation 2 #12)
Oh hey, it’s about time we mentioned one of the many moments that Optimus Prime suffered a terrible fate, eh? Yes, the Autobot leader is well-known for being put through some tragic circumstances, but nowhere is that better exemplified that in the Marvel Generation 2 run, with the worst saved until the final issue. First of all Prime comes face-to-face with new generation Decepticon, Jhiaxus, who promptly punches his face off. Ouch!
That splash page alone might not be enough to warrant inclusion on this list but it’s the follow up a few moments later that proves really shocking, as Prime realises the only way to win the day is to allow himself to be consumed alive by the Swarm, a cloudlike entity that munches on Transformers. Yikes!
Artwork credit: Senior / Mossoff
#6: The end of the road
End of the Road (UK #331, US #80)
The final story of the original Marvel Transformers run wraps things up pretty quickly come the end, but the story kicks off in a very dark and shocking place. As a kid the sight of many of your favourite heroes lying dead on the floor as the Decepticon army declares final victory made for a memorable issue, demonstrated in the first three panels which see Getaway cornered and ruthlessly slaughtered. Quite the way to start the story off.
Artwork credit: Wildman / Baskerville / Yomtov
#5: Shockwave is blown to bits by Death’s Head
The Legacy of Unicron (UK #147)
We’ve already mentioned Shockwave’s death in the future and here it is getting its own place on the list! Yep, it’s that time the bounty hunt– er, freelance peace keeping agent, Death’s Head, got the drop on the one-eyed Decepticon and blew him to tiny pieces before squashing his brain module between his fingers. Ice cold.
Artwork credit: Senior / White
#4: The Transformers… are all dead!
The Last Stand (UK #8, US #4)
This was the final story in the comic’s original four-issue limited series run in the US, and so naturally you might expect everything to wrap up neatly… and it does look like it’s going that way for a good moment as the Decepticons have been defeated and Optimus Prime is busy declaring victory for his team. Suddenly a blast from above changes all of that, as we meet Shockwave for the first time and you realise this isn’t going to be a happy ending at all! This may not be the most graphic entry on this list, but it was still pretty shocking in its own right.
Artwork credit: Springer / Esposito / Yomtov
#3: Unicron kills everyone
On the Edge of Extinction (UK #319-322, US #75)
Stories involving Unicron tend to include a fair amount of carnage, but On the Edge of Extinction gives the 1986 movie a run for its money in terms of how many characters meet their maker come the end. The whole thing is packed with shocking moments, starting with the usually calm and collected Brainstorm being rendered senseless with terror before being impaled and eaten.
Then comes the story’s biggest surprise as Unicron swiftly destroys the Transformers’ creator, Primus, with a mere blast of his eye lasers. Despite years of build-up to this moment, Primus proved to be no match for the Chaos Bringer, leaving the Autobots and Decepticons scrambling in their battle to survive.
However, it’s Scorponok’s death that packs the biggest punch here, as the Decepticon leader completes his character arc and sacrifices himself in battle. He’s left melting to death on the battlefield but finds a small moment of reassurance from his unlikely ally, Optimus Prime, before he goes. This remains one of the most memorable moments of the entire comic run.
Artwork credit: Senior / Yomtov
#2: Optimus Prime is… still alive!
Still Life (UK #323, US #76)
Following hot on the heels of the previous story, Optimus Prime (yes, him again!) has sacrificed himself to defeat Unicron and save Cybertron. Except, wait! The biggest shock here is that he’s not dead! Or maybe it’s just that he’s been left in a state worse than death for a few final agonising moments before finally shutting down anyway. This guy cannot catch a break.
Artwork credit: Wildman / Baskerville / Yomtov
#1: Galvatron loses half his face… before being destroyed by the time storm
Time Wars (UK #203/205)
Yes, it’s another Time Wars entry! There was no way the UK epic wasn’t going to earn itself a second spot on this list, and this time it’s Galvatron’s turn to have horrible things happening to him. First we have that moment half his face shot off, which definitely cannot be unseen.
Artwork credit: Reed / Peters
Then we have the peak of the story, when the storm caused by his own time travelling finally catches up with him, and Galvatron is torn apart piece-by-piece. It’s quite the gruesome end for a character that had become such a mainstay of the UK comics, and was both equally fitting and shocking.
Artwork credit: Sullivan / Peters
So, that’s our list! Do you agree with our choices? Let us know if not and of course feel free to suggest your own!