Cybertron's history is awfully short

Discussion in 'Transformers Comics Discussion' started by Dragonzzilla, Jul 6, 2015.

  1. theosteve

    theosteve Well-Known Member

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    Yes, The history of Cybertron is pretty poorly handled, and "information creep" is a very shoddy bandage—albeit perhaps as good as could be created to deal with the really ludicrous timeline already established.

    The lifespans involved also make very problematic the statement from the original Windblade miniseries about each colony "evolving" into their own unique variety of transformers. Evolution takes, what, hundreds, maybe thousands, of generations to occur. But it has only been a handful or so of generations since the diaspora.

    It's too bad that when the IDWverse was created, they didn't rethink the big picture. Without the concept of the transformers having crash landed on earth millions of years ago, there was no longer any need for such incredible timespans. The war could have been a few decades, or maybe a few hundred years long, rather than millions of years. Or the current crop of transformers (Optimus, Megatron, et al) could have been the most recent of several generations involved in the war. Either way would have allowed for a much more realistic or rational history.
     
  2. Haywired

    Haywired Hakunamatatacon

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    To be honest, they did. Or rather Furman did. His timeframe was shorter (not the first time anyone did this kind of correction, because DW's Armada books also had it shortened to the war being like 5000 yrs ago).
    And then nobody really cared to keep it in check and other writers just moved to a G 1-esque millions of years.
     
  3. theosteve

    theosteve Well-Known Member

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    AND
    It’s a big weakness of the popular side of the SF&F genre. All alien races--Klingons, Wookies, Elves, Dwarves, Vulcans, etc--are either just analogs for humans or distillations of one particular aspect of humanity. All Vulcans are logical, all Klingons are warlike, all Dwarves are gruff and greedy. Boring.

    That said, there is, I think, something to SF monocultures. Dominant cultures exert considerable pressure on the surrounding cultures to conform, both direct and indirect. Look at the influence of Great Britain and the US during their successive global dominance. Look at the loss of indigenous languages, the ubiquity of McDonalds, the fight by some cultures to maintain their culture in the face of a disinterest among "westernized" youth. I don't think it a huge stretch to envision a planet in which, if we assume the US/English speaking world were to maintain their economic dominance over the course of another century or so that virtually the entire planet would be a modern monoculture, with only some superficial vestiges of traditional cultures hanging on in certain regions, largely for tourism purposes. So perhaps a Klingon world a couple hundred years of relative development ahead of us would be very monoculture. That doesn't justify the narrow range of characterization (all Klingons warlike, angry, etc), but it might justify the lack of cultural variation. Same could be said for a Cybertron with millions of years of civilization on it.

    It also renders meaningless the distinctions of characters like Ironhide and Kup, who are partly defined by their age. How is Kup supposed to be the grizzled old veteran if Bumblebee and Hot Rod were likewise around since the beginning of the war?

    Like usual, I very much agree with you. I don't mind the idea of the spark being somehow generated by as yet unexplained processes, but it seems silly if the body itself was not constructed through mundane means. And that allows for the question of how/why they can transfer bodies, and why "cannibalism" isn't taboo, as we've discussed briefly before.

    ::snort::

    Indeed. Surely they know the market is now likely much older than the market was for the g1 cartoon and the Marvel comic when they were first released.

    That was something I liked about the original ongoing. Thundercracker in particular recognized there was something impressive about this ephemeral species capable of rapid change.
     
  4. Noideaforaname

    Noideaforaname Pico, let's go up to Zuma

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    "Monocultures" in Sci-Fi/Fantasy works is typically compensated by featuring a whole bunch of different races. When you got hobbits and dwarves encountering dragons, wizards, elves, ents, sentient spiders, and all manner of evil things, it doesn't feel culturally stagnant.

    Compare to Transformers, which at best has "good robots" and "bad robots".
     
  5. Autovolt 127

    Autovolt 127 Get In The Titan, Prime!

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    Considering he was in stasis more or less for the entire war, I don't really consider him four million years old mentally.

    Well IDW has shaken it up with the Galactic Council being the next possible threat, as well as humans who for the most part hate them all.
     
  6. Negativedark

    Negativedark Stealth Gesalt

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    One things for certain to me. Cybertronians did not evolve naturally. For one thing, I hesitate to call what happens in IDW reproduction. It seems more like manufacturing. If they just built a body and programmed it, that would be reproduction. But the Cybertronian race is dependent on something totally outside their control, Vector Sigma igniting hot spots and generating sparks. So something happened in the past to make the first Transformers.
     
  7. SMOG

    SMOG Vocab-champion ArgueTitan

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    Well put, but I still have to counter that with a belief that there will always be cultural difference based on localized factors... geographic, ethnic, economic, historical, whatever... underlying the superimposition of the monoculture. This is maybe particularly likely when you consider the longevity of TFs, and the persistence of memory (info creep be damned... a TF's short-term memory still lasts longer than the Roman Empire after all. :)  ).

    And of course my secondary argument, which is just that an alien monoculture is boring as hell, and really unimaginative. :) 

    Yeah, and you could try to say that they were veterans of previous wars (like Nova's off-world campaigns), but in the grand view, that still isn't that long ago compared to the Great War. It's a problem.

    I feel like the source of the spark itself should probably be the only quasi-mystical or mysterious factor in a TF life-cycle. I like that a spark can be used as the source of randomization, as the seat of presumed sentience, etc... but I too prefer to mostly cleave to the industrial model.

    And also considering that, assuming I'm not just speaking for myself, a lot of these logical holes and ambiguities bothered me as a kid too. Not all of us looked at the G1 cartoon and said "that makes total sense". Part of what I liked about the TF fiction was that, reading the original bios and bits of the Marvel comics, you got a sense of a much larger, complex potential world.

    The only thing that I don't like about that is the way it reinforces the 'specialness' of humanity, which is itself a trope in fantasy and sci-fi. Oh, those crazy earthlings and their volatile, dynamic culture and short, productive lives! It's been played out in everything from Star Trek to LotR.

    I prefer to think that Thundercracker has been living with blinders on for so long, mainly interacting within the Cybertronian cultural view and paradigm of superiority and aloofness, that he never really stopped for long enough to actually look carefully at these "inferior" organic cultures. There's a whole universe out there, but Earth just happens to be the place where he looked past his own racial biases.

    Oh yeah... we need more of that... but I think we still need more development and variety on the Cybertronian front. The colonies are one aspect of that, but I'd also like to see it reflected in actual Cybertronian history as well. I mean, since this series is STILL always likely going to be a series that is MOSTLY about TFs, and not TFs meeting a plethora of other alien species.

    Yeah, there are implications there. There is also the question of Cybertronian "wildlife"... and where they come from. I think it's a very tricky balance... between maintaining their autonomy as a species (rather than making them Quintesson consumer goods gone wild), an overly organic model, the industrial theme, and the outright mystical (Primus, et al.). Too far in one direction, and I think you lose something. I think that's also partially a problem just because Hasbro has always been so inconsistent on that subject.

    zmog
     
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  8. GoLion

    GoLion Banned

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    That's the problem inherent to transformers, and a lot of other Sci-fi concepts. If you try to put them into such a realistic setting the absolute absurdity of their existence begins to creep in. There is definitely a fine line between fantasy and realism that the writers should strive for. If they miss it, it's a big miss, and comes across as hokey or uninteresting.

    I think that's why I prefer the old 89 Batman film over the newer versions. It's realistic, but it also doesn't take itself too seriously.

    Speaking of the writers getting timespans wrong. I never liked the idea of the beast wars only happening 200 years after the great war. That always seemed odd to me.

    Another thing that just came to me. Of course the colony worlds evolved faster. They had to change more rapidly to better deal with the alien environment they were thrust into. The home-world bots didn't have to change as rapidly while they were on world. Also, the colonists didn't have to deal with functionists and other entities keeping everything in place.

    I do think there was a wide variety of cultures before the functionists took over. after they came into power, though, the entire cybertronian society becamse one grand culture. As time has continue, however, some of those extinct cultures could come back.
     
  9. theosteve

    theosteve Well-Known Member

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    Certainly a valid proposition.

    No argument here.

    Yep, and frankly I don't think there is any way to avoid the spark being somewhat mystical or mysterious. There is not even any pseudo-scientific concept of the spark which makes any sense. If you say they are Cybertronians are just an AI, which can be programmed, then you have the whole problem of why they just don't program as many people as they need, not to mention the problem of the ones with unique abilities, why you don't just reprogram the "bad" ones, etc.

    True. Its why I didn't make it past probably the first season of the tv series. I liked (and obviously still like) the concept, but the execution was far too childish.

    That said, one wonders how far they can be pushed beyond their juvenile toy origins.

    I assumed Thundercracker's observations weren't necessarily about something uniquely human, but rather about short-lived biological species, and it was just on earth that he ever took the chance to stop and observe (because it was on earth that his disaffection Megatron/the Decepticons occurred). But I can see what you mean, and agree that it is far too prevalent in the SF&F genres, including and especially in the super hero comic subgenre of which Transformers is loosely part.
     
  10. paul5409

    paul5409 Adequate Member

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    This thread has been a good read thus far. Just a few thoughts to the topic at hand:

    What if Transformers originated as an organic species? Look at the state of human technology. In roughly 200 years, our world has become barely recognizable from what it was for thousands of years. Allow me to single out prosthetic limbs as a point of focus. To this day, no one would willingly have a perfectly good arm removed in favor of a prosthesis. Would that mentality change in say, 100 years, if a prosthetic arm is not only indistinguishable from an organic arm, but also allows for greatly enhanced strength and durability? Of course there would be people willing to undergo such a procedure. Look around you, we are addicted to tech. Once the magic genie was released from the bottle, we have been on a fast march to see where it leads. It is my opinion that eventually humanity may reach a point of trans humanism where there will be the option of replacing the human body with an artificial construct. To bridge that gap, the human essence will need to be transferred to the new vessel. Advances in science almost assuredly allow for such a possibility on a long enough time scale. Once the point is reached when humans choose to transfer into an artificial replica of their former selves, how many years would pass before the nostalgia of maintaining a human appearance would erode? Would there be people looking to modify their body like we currently would a sports car with flashes of chrome or an expensive paint job? Upon entering an artificial body that lacks the organic component of procreation, would sexual desire ebb and outward appearance become inconsequential, as finding a mate would no longer be a consideration? This possibility would easily explain the Transformers having the appearance of two genders if they originated as organics. They do not appear to procreate, so why two genders? Simple: when transferring from their organic form of birth, most people would choose a vessel similar to what they were, either male or female. Having an identifying outward gender would allow for a small sense of comfort during one's transformation (pun not intended, but noted). As mentioned above, this outward appearance would be of no consideration in time due to the lack of a functional gender.

    Taking things a step further, once people acclimate to their new body as technology continues to advance at a rapid pace, when would they first decide to modify themselves for their own utilitarian benefit? i.e. "It sure would be nice if I had wheels.... or wings."

    Consider the ramifications of such a physical body in regards to space exploration. Organics, to be blunt, are fragile. We are dependent on oxygen, water, food, sleep, a moderate temperature range. Lets not forget that time is always working against us as well. Not a good mix for exploring beyond the boundaries of earth without substantial preparation and protection. Even with the best laid plans, we can only travel so far before our clock winds down. Now, change the equation and exchange the human body for a human robot that for all intents and purposes, is immortal (provided replacement parts or the ability to manufacture them, perpetual power source, etc.). 10,000 years to the nearest inhabitable planet? Not a big deal. Keep in mind that our idea of an inhabitable planet would greatly change based upon our new, much less fragile form.

    Now, relating back to the Transformers mythos, what if Cybertronians didn't originate from Cybertron? Perhaps they were explorers from a world that underwent the possible evolution I have described above. At some point, they decided upon finding a permanent home (Cybertron), and stopped roaming the universe. Perhaps they have only been there for a few million years and this would explain the lack of substantial explanation for their deep history roots. They have them, but not based around their current form or planet. What if the Knights of Cybertron, in the course of time since their departure from Cybertron, have found their true "home". A world wherein Transformers as we know them, are born organic but transition to their near-immortal form upon impending death or terminal illness/injury. What a mind job to discover that our favorite bots actually began life as "people". I'm not condoning the idea, but it does plug a few holes and my mind tends to wander :) 

    Seeing as how the Transformers are the product of human imagination, wouldn't it be entertaining to consider that the concept is a small glimpse into a possible path for human evolution? And... is it really all that far fetched?
     
  11. MelficeCyrum

    MelficeCyrum Well-Known Member

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    As mentioned earlier, even Aligned isn't immune to this problem. While the Covenant of Primus (whether you love it or hate it) introduced and spoke about some rather interesting and detailed time periods, at NO point during the narrative is a sense of scale ever given to those events. So what we've got is a series of sequential "eras" of history without a context as to how long any given era lasted.

    Which, as mentioned before, is particularly ridiculous when the narrative claims that people like Perceptor and Ratchet have been around since the goddamn dawn of Cybertronian civilization, and Optimus might be one of the single oldest living Cybertronians ever. Either their history is a whirlwind blitz of events occuring one after the other or is entirely too long, and they're all old as the dirt that formed over Unicron's body to create planet Earth.

    Part of this can be blamed on the fact the Covenant is written as an editoral designed to only include the "important stuff" for the reader to digest (producing a hilarious image of Alpha Trion skipping entire sections and scratching because "nothing interesting happened"), and the fact that the narrative never pins down even a vague hint as to the passage of time. It's literally just "Things happened. Cool things too."

    I'm perfectly okay with a war lasting millions of years I just wish they'd be a little more concrete on how much actual conflict happened. Most of the written media would have the average reader believe the war was a never-ending series of skirmishes and battles that didn't end until most of the population was dead. But a war like that wouldn't last millions of years.

    I always considered the timeframe problem to be similar to the issue of scale. We make abstract hand motions in the direction of the history books and go "Stuff happened. Try not to read too closely."
     
  12. Haywired

    Haywired Hakunamatatacon

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    This could be handled in a somewhat Marvel/DC comic book "science" where both companies have species of so-called "energy creatures" in their universes.

    Making Cybertronians essentially a kind of embryonic "energy creatures" (sparks) who need a manufactured physical body for survival and interaction with more "physical" world.
    Maybe they weren't always that way and gradually evolved to rely on their physical bodies more and more. Or maybe Cybertron was initially a planet made of burning gases and plasmas when their ancestors could survive without physical bodies, but then the planet changed.

    Though I think Vector Sigma being a manufacturing plant also makes sense.
    Even if there's Primus somewhere, nobody said a space "god" couldn't go with a productin route.

    Or even if they were organics who did port their brain records into mechanic shells, leaving nothing organic behind, sparks being just records of what was in their brains.

    But the problem with every route would be... Why there's nothing, not a person nor a record, from a pre-robot bodies generations.
     
  13. paul5409

    paul5409 Adequate Member

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    What if they were not allowed to remember? What if the knowledge of their past organic existence was too much for a mind to bear and led to psychological homesick disorders? If an evolution to a robotic form was instituted as a means to save the species or for the purpose of long term space exploration, wiping memories that hinder that purpose would be crucial if they posed a threat to the mental well-being of the population moving forward.
     
  14. Zenstrive

    Zenstrive Well-Known Member

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    Let's ask ourselves this: If they are truly originally mechanical and no one else has been in their planet, why should they have visible COCKPITS in their cybertronian alt forms? I suspect the Cybetronians as we know is a product of an extinct or simply moved on civilization and they left Vector Sigma as main computer, and Sparks are simply mechanical matter-energy converter imbued with randomly-spliced "intelligence and growth logarithm".
     
  15. Negativedark

    Negativedark Stealth Gesalt

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    Actually lets not forget the Gobots were a race of organic beings who transffered into more resielent robot bodies to survive.

    Pretty much any origin given at this point is likely to end up a voodoo shark to some degree.
     
  16. SMOG

    SMOG Vocab-champion ArgueTitan

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    Yeah, that's kind of wack. I mean, 200 years? Seriously? And the whole society changes over, and there's this whole new generation, and the factions shift to Maximal and Predacon? I don't buy it.

    Well, also, oppressive regimes rarely manage to actually stamp out pre-existing cultures completely, at least not without an ethnic cleansing or an assimilation program... that usually has to be accomplished over successive generations. But certainly the Functionists would have tried.

    Though if I recall correctly, the Functionists in the actual timeline never quite achieved the kind of hegemonic power they demonstrated in the alternate timeline. They never got that powerful.

    Not sure if you're aware of this, but what you're describing... the "post-human" origin for the TFs, seems to be pretty much where Simon Furman was heading in his IDW run, before the reins were taken away from him.

    Also, it's a bit like the '80s Go-Bots fiction. :) 

    Sure, it can "work" as a premise (though the sparks kind of work against that now)... but I have to admit that it kind of rubs me the wrong way for some reason. I guess I've always liked the notion of a machine race based on an industrial mechanical metaphor of life, and taking that away seems to rob Transformers of that aspec. Mind you, in my weaker moments, the origin I'm most fond of is the utterly conceptual/allegorical Marvel #1 version... the "thousands of tiny gears and levers" atechnogenesis origin of the species. :) 

    In a way, it's almost better if they keep the history LONG, but then DON'T populate it in detail, but rather leave a really large margin of "long ago" ancient history that can be drawn upon for stories, as needed. I think that being mysterious can work too... but it's kind of hard when half your race has been hanging around since the dawn of recorded history (or longer). :) 

    Again, the really long lifespans seem like the biggest problem.

    zmog
     
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  17. SMOG

    SMOG Vocab-champion ArgueTitan

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    I always assumed that they DIDN'T actually have real cockpits until they got to a planet like Earth where they had to fit in with local machinery and vehicles.

    The tendency since to put human-sized cockpits on Cybertronian alt-modes annoys the hell out of me every time. :( 

    zmog
     
  18. paul5409

    paul5409 Adequate Member

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    Furman building towards a reveal of organic origins would explain my failure to remember. Thank you for the synopsis. There have been so many different concepts in TF lore since Marvel G1 that most of it is a blur to me and I gravitate to whatever struck a chord while disregarding other published ideas to my personal dumping ground of short term memory. It doesn't make the published accounts any less valid in terms of canon, but I simply don't remember. Like you, I would greatly prefer an evolution origin devoid of organic species involvement. Others here have postulated the organic origin concept and I ran with it to the point of plausibility in my mind. Even if it doesn't represent my ideal interpretation, I am always more than eager to explore different options and arrive at my own conclusions. I keep the ones I enjoy and discard the rest.

    My personal preference for TF origins aside, the thought of IDW sparks working against the possibility of an organic past is easily countered with imagination and creative writing. If TF's had no memory of their organic past, they may still contain a subconscious desire to reproduce. This desire could have been the impetus for a technological breakthrough that allowed for the mimicry of organic-born sparks via Vector Sigma. Now, the real question would be, where are the ones responsible for this discovery that allowed for the continuation of new Transformer life?

    When discussing a work of fiction, the only limitations are the possibilities that we don't conceive :) 
     
  19. Kaijumaster

    Kaijumaster 335

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    only read the first page, but part of the problem (as usual) is Mike Costa. Before his run the entire history of Cybertron that had been referenced was....maybe 10, 20 thousand years. Now that's a heck of a long time....but it's not TEN MILLION years! The fact that Costa says "Oh it was 4 million in 1984, so it must be that now" and no Editor stopped him, jacked up IDW something fierce!
     
  20. SMOG

    SMOG Vocab-champion ArgueTitan

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    Well, I'd throw "bad ideas, badly done" in there as well. :wink: 

    I mean, sure... with enough twisting and turning and imagination, ANY plot is feasible. Comic books as a medium have been demonstrating this for decades... but of course the results are uneven when you push the sensible or intuitive limits sometimes. :) 

    zmog