Updated: Oct 16, 2022
I love Transformers. The cartoons and toys have been a big part of my life from some of my oldest memories. While I was a fan of a lot of the shows I watched before and after school and on the weekends, the Transformers’ continued presence on television and store shelves guaranteed it a place in my heart as I grew up and became an adult. I continued to pick up toys as they brought out entire lines with new gimmicks and I kept up on all the shows and comics, though I didn’t watch or read all of them with the same passion that I once did. I loved a lot of the characters and seeing the history of their world expand and evolve with each iteration.
With being a writer, my imagination of course took to creating my own Transformers stories. The first one was a self-insert story I wrote in 6th grade where I became a Headmaster partner for an original Autobot named Backtrack. Sure, a little kid can repair a damaged Cybertronian that not even their own medics could save. Sure, Backtrack died again in the end. Sure, I died along with him—I was probably dealing with something back then.
It wasn’t until around 2003 that I tried my hand again at fan-fiction. A friend of mine was really into writing X-Men and Wolverine stories and convinced me to give it a shot. I had a lot more writing experience under my belt, so I knew better than to throw myself into the story. Instead, I came up with something that I thought fit into the new comic IDW had just started making: The Prototytan Project.
It was a play on the origin of the Transformers as presented in the G1 cartoon, but humans play a much bigger part. I tweaked some things and switched around a few of the events to fit, but I pulled a lot from different episodes, Autobot Spike being the biggest influence. At the time, I was also barely getting into 3D-modeling and used some of that experience to create a lot of new characters.
My story starts over 4 million years ago as the Autobots and Decepticons are fighting on the Ark on their fateful trip to Earth. As the two ships lose control, five Autobots try to flee aboard an escape shuttle, but the craft is damaged in an explosion and it falls to the planet, similar to the Insecticons. The Autobots—Pipes, Swerve, Tailgate, Outback, and Hubcap—are found by a government survey team in the early 1980s (I know they show up in Five Faces of Evil, but it seemed like a good idea to take them from there and not use up any season 1 or 2 Autobots). They’re dissected and the scientists discover everything about the Transformers just in time for the ones on the Ark to awaken.
Autobot Spike serves as a catalyst for the story, as until then, the government felt they could trust the Autobots to help fight the Decepticons. But when Autobot Spike attacks an Air Force base, the general there (I call him McCorram) is brought in on the Prototytan Project: human-built Transformers. Look, I came up with this idea before all the Machination stuff happened in IDW.
These Transformers were the Prototytans, and using the knowledge obtained from the five dead Autobots, they were presented as a third faction of Transformers that had escaped Cybertron during the great war and found peace on Earth. Their mission is to get rid of the Autobots and Decepticons by any means possible. They even had their own faction symbol, a combination of the faces of the dead Autobots.
This is where I had a lot of fun, making up 15 original Transformers. I didn’t have any actual rule I went by except that like the Autobots, none of them had any military alt modes. Most of the Prototytans had vehicle modes that didn’t show up in Generation 1. Each of the Prototytans has full tech specs including function, motto, and stats. There’s a full bio listing their powers and weapons. I had a blast creating them and trying to design their transformations. I’ll go into them later.
Besides their robot bios, I came up with pilots for each of them. They were all military and most were already pilots, but my favorite thing is the Transformers’ war has impacted each of them. My favorite is a test pilot that tried to race Thundercracker, but when the plane malfunctioned and her parachute got tangled, Thundercracker saved her before stealing the plane’s experimental jet engine. He even threw in a dig at her, saying “You lose,” before taking off. Some others were Sparkplug’s brother, a bruiser that tried to fistfight Rumble and got his ass kicked, and General McCorram, who became their leader, Terramax.
Before they could face off against the genuine Transformers, the robots had two problems—power and control. A power source came up when the Decepticon shuttle was found, and the team stole the Heart of Cybertron from it before the Decepticons could get their hands on it. They split up the crystal among the Prototytans, providing them with enough power to function, but not so much that they’d overload like Megatron did.
To tackle the control problem, they went back to their origin and Autobot Spike’s Mind-Transference Device. Their first proper test, this time using remote control, was sneaking into the Ark and stealing the device while most of the Autobots were away on a mission. The plan goes off without a hitch, using electronic scramblers to keep Teletraan-1 from alerting the away Autobots and the bruiser beating up the skeleton crew left behind.
Of course, there’s the side-effect of the transference making the mind unstable, which caused Spike to go crazy. How would you fix that? You’d force the newly returned-to-Earth Dr. Arkeville to do it, using his own experience messing with the human mind. Yes, he escapes Cybertron and gets caught by the feds when he enters Earth’s orbit.
So that’s all the backstory for the Prototytans: A new faction built by humans and everything about them is linked to Generation 1 cartoon lore, with a little fudging here and there. So, who were the Prototytans? I will not go over everyone here, but I have some favorites:
Terramax, the leader, who was the general at the Air Force base that started all this, transformed into a long-nose cement truck. I wanted him to have aspects of both Optimus and Megatron, so he has a heavy-duty truck similar to Prime. For Megatron, I gave Terramax a third mode as a mobile battle platform, with the cement drum becoming a facsimile of Megatron’s Fusion Cannon.
Shadowcaster, formerly McCorram’s personal pilot, is a Cessna Citation III, giving the Prototytans a bit of air support in robot and vehicle mode. She can seed the clouds with her engines, creating dark skies wherever she goes.
Feedback, the team's engineer, transforms into an ambulance-themed Smart car. Her ability is connecting to other Prototytans using cables (similar to Prime Soundwave's but they come from her palms) that allow her to upgrade their systems, usually self-repair or firepower.
Reaper used to be McCorram's mentor and has a really dark sense of humor, so a Hearse fits him perfectly. I admit Cybertronians wouldn't know the significance of a robotic Grim Reaper, but I couldn't resist. His power is broadcasting depressing subliminal messages through the tire/speakers on his arms and legs.
The last one I wanted to share is Trailhead, a 4x4 pickup with suction-style pads on her wheels and hands that allows her to climb to new heights in each mode. She carries an ATV in her bed that can convert into a wrist-mounted gun, a hammer, or a shield. Coincidentally, these are the only ones that I have sketched, but some others are:
Binder, Sparkplug’s older brother, who joined the program to watch over him, is the team’s medic and transforms into an Air Crane Copter. He has the option of carrying a portable med unit or his other Prototytans in vehicle mode and his name refers to his ability to force anyone under his blades to the ground with downward force. Sightline is a sniper that transforms into a Karmann Ghia and has limited camouflage abilities while his spotter, Murmur, is a Delorean with sound dampeners in vehicle and robot mode.
One of the biggest things I changed was the continuity of two episodes in season 1—the appearances of the Dinobots and the Constructicons. I did this so that the first “season” of my story could focus on the core casts of all three factions, with no additional cast members showing up. In my season 2, both of the sub-factions would make their first appearances and influence a second wave of Prototytans called the Beastytans. This group would not only furnish some firepower to the Prototytans in the form of military vehicle modes, but they would transform into animal modes instead of humans. The pilots of these new Beastytans would each be a combination of two of the Prototytan pilots, creating new personalities. On top of that, the six new Transformers could merge into one, creating a dragon called Leviatron.
I had a few other ideas for the story, including Terramax’s first battle with Megatron, that the Heart of Cybertron shards powering the Prototytans would create actual sparks for them, and that in the end, Terramax would prove his worthiness to possess the Matrix of Leadership and sacrifice himself to kill Unicron like in the Marvel comic.
Beyond just the story, I planned on breaking into the Shapeways 3D printing world by making some accessories for the at-the-time new Reveal the Shield Legends figures, including a Megatron pistol that would fit into the different hands the figures had and an axe and rifle for Optimus that could also plug in on the top of his cab in vehicle mode. That would lead to new versions of established characters (I ended up changing Megatron from a pistol to a G6 Rhino self-propelled howitzer) and later into the Prototytans themselves. Of course, besides the first few weapons, nothing else ever came to fruition.
This is about as far as I got into Prototytans before deciding I’d be better off coming up with my own story and creating the world of Old School Evil. Creating each of the characters here helped me to come up with all the new cartoons and their heroes and villains. It helped me visualize a lot of concepts, like the character and insignia designs. Most of all, it got me figuring out how to take one cartoon idea and build upon that to create whole new cartoons that were all mine.
I still think about the Prototytans all the time. I can picture the transformations in my mind, and I’m still developing some concepts and characters, changing one of the Prototytans from a big construction crane into a smaller utility truck that has a small crane mounted on the bed. Leviatron’s name is a similarly recent change from the uninspired Behemoth. I still feel the urge to 3D print them and try to sell them like I planned when the idea first popped into my head. But the time I could put into them would take away from Old School Evil and that needs to stay my priority.
I haven’t let the Prototytans go though—I’ve adapted a lot of the characters for one of Old School Evil’s own cartoons, still named the Prototytans. Instead of traditional transforming robots, the characters here are robots that can merge with vehicles, turning them into pieces of armor and weapons. It’s a pretty cool idea and along with a lot of the other toys I hope to make one day for Old School Evil, it would make for some decent figures. I can’t help but prefer the original idea, though, and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to let it go.