There’s always a lot to talk about regarding new Transformers movies, but here’s a very particular topic that got my brain working recently.
The big-screen bad guy taking on the already-familiar name Scourge makes it one of the franchise’s most repurposed monikers from over the years. However, it remains a true signature of every iteration, despite them all being so wildly different from one another.
In many ways, it’s the perfect example of a ‘name slap’ – whereby a well-known designation is re-used for a completely separate and wholly distinct new character, despite no apparent correlation with its incumbent. It’s also one of the less controversial examples from the new film, unlike instances such as Wheeljack, which is on the opposite end of the spectrum!
Yet ‘name slaps’ are nothing new for Transformers and have been a franchise staple since long before the live-action movies started plumbing the depths for inspiration. Let’s look at some of the most successful from over the years!
If you hear the name Grimlock, odds are your mind immediately goes to one of the many interpretations of the classic Dinobot leader. True, he’s been made over more times than I care to remember right now, but the fundamentals are largely the same – hulking T. Rex with a prickly attitude and an idiosyncratic vernacular. Yet that hasn’t always been the case, as evidenced by the 2001 Robots in Disguise series, which dared to take this fan-favourite franchise handle and apply it to a member of the construction-themed Build Team instead! Now an affable, good-natured dude who turns into a green excavator, this is about as far from the ’80s iteration of the character as you could imagine, yet somehow, it worked! Though he’s been all but forgotten since, his colour scheme was referenced in the 2015 namesake series, although now as a very unique green dinosaur instead!
#5: Knock Out
Chances are that the name Knock Out brings to mind the 2011 take from popular cartoon Transformers: Prime. His campy, grandiose and even pretentious stylings are highly memorable and make him distinct in the otherwise quite sultry Decepticon ranks, so perhaps there’s little surprise that he’s been a breakout character of sorts in the years since. However, despite being the most well-known example, there have been many Knock Outs in Transformers over the years – and yes, we mean that quite literally! It all started in 1990 with a Micromaster, who made up part of the Decepticon Constructor Squad and combined with his partner Grit to form a larger alternate mode. I guess it’s hard to be a truly memorable Knock Out when you’re the back half of a truck.
Admit it, the name Bulkhead has you conjuring either Transformers: Animated or Transformers: Prime to mind, doesn’t it? Or maybe even both! Despite being a wholly new character for the 2007 show, it somehow feels like Big Bulk has been a staple part of the franchise since the beginning, as ably demonstrated by what a hugely celebrated presence he’s become in the years since. Surprisingly though, he wasn’t the first Bulkhead on record, nor the first one of note, as that honour goes to the entirely separate Energon iteration from a few years prior. However, the two could not be more different! Energon Bulkhead is a grizzled old army veteran who’s never happier than when flinging himself into combat, although he’s also somewhat over-the-top and a bit preposterous, to boot! Oh, and let’s say nothing of his signature hip-swinging fast-fire attack action, shall we?
Surely one of the most successful name slaps of all time, as there’s an even chance that when you hear Inferno, you think of either of these characters at any given moment! However, they are wildly distinct from one another. For instance, they may both be red hot in their way, but one is a fire engine, and the other is a twisted firestarter! G1 Inferno is certainly rambunctious and fun-loving, but even he is a tame prospect next to his Beast Wars namesake, who it’s only fair to say is a few sandwiches short of a picnic. Believing himself to be a real fire ant, he deludedly and hopelessly would do anything for his ‘colony’ and his queen, Megatron! What’s most amazing about this example is that both of them have had new toys in fairly quick succession of late, showing how neither of them has a definitive claim to the name.
G1 Predaking may well be the most intimidating of all the classic combiners, with his colossal five-man gestalt form commonly presented as all but unstoppable on the battlefield. He’s a legendary presence in the classic era of Transformers and has been brought back to life in more recent form with a sizeable Titan toy, no less. Yet ask a different group of fans what character the name brings to mind and they’ll very likely mention the Transformers: Prime version instead, which is wildly distinct but no less dangerous! Formed from the genetic material of an ancient Cybertronian beast, this Predaking is as ruthless as they come, and just as intelligent! He’s seemingly the only member of Megatron’s forces who the Decepticon leader secretly fears and for good reason. Basically, don’t mess with anyone called Predaking, then.
Blackout may have become a name most synonymous with the early scenes of the 2007 live-action movie, but let’s put that undeniably epic opening to one side for a moment, as it’s actually been part of the franchise’s history for a lot longer beforehand. Again, this designation dates back to the G1 Micromaster era, with classic Blackout one-half of the two-bot combiner team that pilots the Decepticon’s Anti-Aircraft Base tank. He’s a bizarre-looking little thing and stands out as one of the more distinct Micromasters as a result, almost exhibiting Massive Go-Bot Energy (MBE) somehow. Still, the name has been recycled many times, first reappearing during Generation 2 for a sadly-unproduced new take on a black Seeker design before cropping up as both a Mini-Con and a Terrorcon during the Unicron Trilogy. It may be most commonly applied to a helicopter nowadays, but in reality, there’s been a steady slate of rolling Blackouts over the years.
So that’s our list! What are some of your favourite name slaps?