Transformers Prime – What makes a Wheeljack?

With each new incarnation of Transformers, characters may change but most of them are just variations on their G1 versions. Optimus is a leader, Ratchet is a medic, Ironhide is tough, Bumblebee is the most kid friendly.

One could make an argument that Bumblebee has changed from his original archetype, what with him going from a chubby and inexperienced bot to a warrior who can’t speak, and there’s truth in that, but he’s still the one most marketed towards kids.

Arcee has gone through a change in Prime, from a pink girl character who… Uh… Who… Well, she went from a pink girl who turned into a car and became a character who is more than just a blue girl who turns into a motorcycle. They made her a warrior, gave her backstory, and character development because of her relationship with Jack and various vendettas over dead partners.

That’s an example of a drastic change to a character that’s for the better.

Wheeljack… Not so much. He already had an awesome character archetype. He was an inventor who built crazy inventions that sometimes backfired, a mad scientist who took risks. He was the “Screw it, lets try it!” to Perceptor’s “It should be thoroughly analyzed and tested before we even build a prototype.”

He was awesome.

Again, this is talking about his archetype, his overall concept. G1 wasn’t great at times, but I think its concepts were better than its material.

And that’s where the problem with Transformers Prime Wheeljack comes in. That show has a character that’s called Wheeljack, and it even looks like Wheeljack, but it’s not Wheeljack.

Look, variation is great. Seeing the same story in each Transformers incarnation would be boring, but when you’ve got an established character in the mythos, why would you change it so drastically?

On Prime, Wheeljack is a former Wrecker, a hardened loner type who’s good in a fight and doesn’t take crap from other bots.

Are there no other bots like that in the mythos? Sure there are, but they aren’t big name characters. Their toys don’t sell as well as the main cast of G1 does.

As a character on Prime, I don’t mind Wheeljack. I just hate that they used Wheeljack for that character.

And there’s ways they could’ve blended Wheeljack’s archetype with this new character, like bad experiences in the war causing him to leave behind his crazy inventions for things that ‘always get results,’ becoming a battle hardened warrior and a bitter shell of what he was.

Maybe one of the bad experiences that caused him to go down that path was that one of his inventions blew up and killed a bunch of bots he knew.

It would even give them lots of opportunities for character development, like having an episode where if Wheeljack wants to save his friends, he has to return to what he left behind and invent something on the fly and hope it works.

Instead, we got a generic gruff loner character. Woo.

Like I said, I don’t mind that character, but it could have been better. It could’ve even still been Wheeljack.

Hang on, time to go load my personal canon cannon!


So what do you think, dear readers?

~Matt Booker

6 thoughts on “Transformers Prime – What makes a Wheeljack?

  1. I agree. I haven’t been interested enough to watch most of Prime, but it strikes me that the Autobots could use a lighter member, like a slightly mad scientist. The biggest problem with Wheeljack specifically is that he’s never featured in US media outside of G1. We haven’t had 30 years of slight Wheeljack variations for this version to be drastically different from, or to track the evolution through. If they ever manage to get some fresh writers on the show, a few backstory-fleshing retcons for all the characters would be welcome, and Wheeljack should be at the top of the list. And I dislike the nickname “Jackie” for him. I’ll never use it.

  2. My thoughts exactly, paying a little tribute to the old character concept for G1-era dinosaurs like us would have been great, and given us an anchoring point for the new character. It wouldn’t have taken away any room for additional character development; if TF Prime Wheeljack’s backstory was just as you’d written above, he’d be ten times better and deeper.

  3. Wheeljack is Wheeljack, no more no less…
    very agree with you, they could have used Sideswipe / Sunstreaker / etc as the gruff loner

    but then, somebody up there must be loving WJ as much as we do :D
    then got shot down trying to make WJ a mad scientist, hence he became warrior …

  4. I think somewhere along the way, someone on the writing staff of Prime took a serious liking or had one to begin with for Drift and wanted that character(or at least the basic premise) in prime bad enough they decided to strip down an existing character that had some similarities, mind you those similarities were in paint job only, but still.

    I truly like and still want my mad scientist WJ back, that’s how he’s always been to me and should have been in this series as well. They have enough warriors as it is with the initial characters, not to mention killing off CJ damned early(mistake IMHO), but I digress. I guess they figure the kids and in the show along with Ratchet add enough “brains” component to the series and are hanging their hats on that instead of with a tried, true and tested long standing character.

  5. I do like how Ratchet is annoyed with “Wheeljack”. Honestly, I’m not really a fan of the show because of it’s frequent sloppy writing, but it’s nowhere near as bad as A\E\C and it does have some pretty great moments.

    And Ratchet. Prime Ratchet is awesome. :)

    You’ve all made some pretty good points about Wheeljack, and it’s nice to know I’m not alone on this.

    Transformers is a strange property, since they pretty much keep the archetypes of most characters and the basis for the story and reinvent it every few years. On the one hand, you want new stories to be told so it’s not just the same thing over and over, but on the other hand fans that aren’t new to the concept want their favorite characters to be homaged when they show up.

    While it’s easy for some people to argue\troll that the changes to the characters shouldn’t matter if everything else is changed, I think it’s important to note that changes for the better are much more widely accepted with fans.

    Who is complaining that Ratchet has grown into a cantankerous vet? His G1 profile described him as someone who likes to party, and his personality in the G1 cartoon wasn’t exactly distinct. (He got more spotlight in the comics but I haven’t read much of them.)

    They’ve added to what was there, starting with Animated and continuing with Prime. For most people, that’s a good thing.

    It’s the same thing they did with Arcee, as I mentioned in the blog post.

    But Wheeljack? His mad scientist shenanigans were featured prominently in G1. There was already something there, an archetype that’s distinct and with storytelling potential, even if you didn’t know about the character before.

    This isn’t about, “That’s not the Wheeljack I remember. Waaaaah!” It’s about a confusing and downright stupid decision to take an interesting character archetype and make it something else.

    You can tell great stories with a loner warrior character. But why not use one of the existing ones, and also tell great stories about a mad scientist?

    But hey, we got a cool Wheeljack toy out of this. :)

    ~Matt Booker

  6. Good postings, these have been my thoughts on Wheeljack in Prime as well. I like the character, but not as Wheeljack. He reminds me more of Animated Prowl…

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