THE AUTOBOT HIERARCHY
As of November 17, 2018
This is my idea of a military-style explanatory organizational Autobot chart. It includes every Autobot that made an appearance in the G1 cartoon series and I've done my best to find a logical spot for everyone. It's quite comprehensive, as the sheer number of extant Autobot characters would properly seem to demand. Most recently, my inter-character scaling finally seems to be falling into place, which needed to be reflected here as well. I'm also starting to understand better how light would affect these avatars if they were three-dimensional and have started to apply that insight to the shading. Some of the characters have been updated as such and more is to come.
I've arranged characters within each division according to the general area of expertise they bring to the fold. The TACTICAL DIVISION subtitle, for example, hints at the sequence of abilities I like to sort them by. However, the need to fit everyone and keep certain sub-groupings natural does make for the odd exception.
I've received some surprisingly critical remarks about the piece, so I want to enlighten visitors about the conditions I apply to my choice of arrangement and labeling. The primary condition: My work in general is based on the U.S. G1 continuity as shown in the original 1980s TV series. I usually consider any retroactive references added to later franchises, such as BEAST MACHINES and ROBOTS IN DISGUISE, beyond the purview of my output and consequently beside the point. If a BEAST MACHINES toy tech spec suggests the purpose of an obscure one-off G1 character was such and such, I disregard it because the original episode(s) didn't mention or display it. If an episode of ROBOTS IN DISGUISE says DION became ULTRA MAGNUS (a confirmed nod to a favourite fan theory incorporated into translated dialogue for an imported Japanese TV series, no less), I discount it because the original WAR DAWN episode ultimately left his fate unknown.
I've made a single exception to the rule, but I'll get to that a bit later.
Now, in rendering these avatars, I've relied upon the following three sources:
VISUAL REPRESENTATION: THE U.S. G1 TV SERIES (and a little bit of the comic book)
The TV series represents 95% of my visual references. In the few cases where a character's cartoon series representation is too limited to be used, I've drawn on THE TRANSFORMERS: UNIVERSE or appearances from the original comic book. I would've preferred all of my references to be intrinsic to the TV show, but I've accepted this source as the finalized character models were used for all of the G1 media permutations.
FUNCTIONS AND TITLES: THE TRANSFORMERS: UNIVERSE
THE TRANSFORMERS: UNIVERSE forms the basis of both the original comic book and TV series characters and the latter medium, though it tends to be less concretely stated, follows the functions and titles in the former. That's how I'm able to determine, for example, that TAILGATE is a scout and TANTRUM is a fueler.
FUNCTIONS AND TITLES: TOY TECHNICAL SPECIFICATIONS
A time or two, a character was on the show but received no TRANSFORMERS: UNIVERSE profile. For their functions, I consulted their toy tech specs. That way, to name one, I could tell SWERVE was a metallurgist.
Thanks for hanging in there and for the thoughtful reply. I can be slow to respond -- you know, this "real life" thing is pretty insistent -- and this will be a long answer, but you'll bear with me, won't you?
Shortly before your first comment, I was alerted to a Facebook thread of strident reactions to my grouping of the female Autobots. It was quite a surprise. Times have changed, to be sure, because I was effectively labeled a misogynist on the basis of what was intended to be an innocuously entertaining, yet informative, chart. I'm sure the hearts of those who criticized me are in the right place, but I'm not so sure of the relevance of the arena they picked to express themselves about gender inequity. This organizational map is a million miles removed from a political or social statement -- and it isn't one by accident, either.
I'm well into my forties, but still hold innocent affection for THE TRANSFORMERS. I love the TV series for the joy and excitement it brought to the kid I once was. So I always try to present things honestly and faithfully as they pertain to the G1 cartoon. There is no "agenda" behind what I do, but I sometimes have to get creative when there isn't enough contemporaneous material to go on, even in the behind-the-scenes content of official productions like THE SEARCH FOR ALPHA TRION. When I find myself having to fill in gaps, I try to make what I put in as reasonable as possible.
Strangely enough, I've hardly had complaints about the (officially non-existent) functions I gave the female Autobots. The only hot-button issue seems to be the way I ordered them. I'm not sure why it appears arbitrary. I grant there are many ways to do it and I chose one that pleased me and seemed proper to many aspects, some of which are certainly based on personal preferences, but never to the end of "degrading" (as one detractor put it) characters. I gave them their own division because I wanted to single them out as a special and exclusive class of Autobot.
"Female Division" was a prosaic choice. Beyond the fact that the cartoon episode unabashedly referred to them as "female Autobots" (and it's worth noting that a woman I know to be a passionate feminist wrote SEARCH), there's no disgrace in my mind to acknowledging their "otherness" directly.
It's a lot like this: I don't understand how come it's offensive or awkward to many people to refer to (and this is just one of many examples) a woman working on-camera in films and television -- or indeed onstage -- as "an actress." All that word means is: a woman who acts. Yet many insist on calling her "actor," apparently to bring her up to some "equal" level. Is she, or should she be, somehow ashamed of being a lady of the arts? Must the female Autobots hide among the others in order to be their colleagues? Can't they be celebrated for their distinctiveness?
You mention segregation. If that's what it says to you, my friend, your interpretation is your prerogative and I would never argue against it. That said, I can't be responsible for what your eyes see. This work is not a device to further antithetical leanings. If I wanted to treat these beings (fictional or not) with condescension or derision, I would have made that intent crystal clear.
However, I do agree with you that there ought to be a subtitle, if only for diagraphical consistency. I have given that some thought as well, but it's more difficult than you might think to summarize them in a way that properly encompasses them without turning too ornate. Similarly to you, someone from the Facebook thread suggested they be labeled "Cybertronian Rebellion Specialists," though the following claim that "that was their actual function against Shockwave" is too categorical -- and difficult for me to countenance given the fact that we're not just talking about the four named characters in SEARCH.
ARCEE is an officially defined warrior, but she was demonstrably absent from dealings with SHOCKWAVE and couldn't easily be said to be a part of "The Resistance." BETA exhibited authority during the slave rebellion against the Quintessons and is in a way more akin to ELITA ONE's group, though in her time, the populace segment she came from consisted of scientists and labourers. So the subtitle must account for both, right? The last of them, ARIEL, could be said to be a little incongruous here as she is pre-ELITA, but I like her design and think it should be seen as well (same deal with ORION PAX / OPTIMUS PRIME). I could put her under "Other Operatives," which would sort of work, but then I would lose the visual unity. So I haven't quite figured out how best to do it yet. One day, the right description may come to me.
Some have called the overview flawed. That's fine. I don't mind that some seem to look down their nose at me for not making it perfect to their eyes, because I didn't make it for them. I made it for me. What I do find a little bemusing is that they have seemingly no compunctions about ascribing some odious underlying motive to me. As if they know the first thing about me, right?
I'm sure this is much more of a response than you imagined receiving, but I decided to make use of this to explain how I work to someone I'm pretty sure would understand. It also gives me something readily quotable if someone else questions something I've submitted in the future.
Thanks again for commenting so fairly.