Are Transformers superheroes? Let the debate begin!

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So yesterday we had quite a debate around the office about whether Transformers count as superheroes or not. It even came up in our team meeting, and the discussion got quite heated, with no clear winner. Transformers So we decided to take the debate to our blog and let you all weigh in. Tim and Mike both fought hard for their sides, so below you can see each of their arguments. Once you've decided which side of the line you fall on, take our poll and let us know whether YOU think Transformers should count as superheroes. And if you would like to expand upon your answer, tell us why you chose what you did in the comments. Let the debate begin!

Mike: The Transformers should absolutely be considered superheroes, and they have several physical qualities that make them so:

  • First, they have secret identities, and every great superhero, from Spiderman to Superman, has a secret identity. They can become cars and other vehicles, which helps them fit in perfectly among humans as much as Clark Kent does as a journalist.
  • Secondly, they have greatly enhanced abilities, far greater than those of any normal hero. Their super strength allows them to put up a fight where normal humans might not be able to, and they can transform, of all things, which gives them two useful bodies they can switch into at a whim. That’s something most superheroes can’t claim to have.
  • Thirdly, they, or at least Optimus Prime, has a unique supernatural ability, which is a common element among superheroes. Superman can fly, Peter Parker can climb walls, and Optimus Prime has the Creation Matrix. It’s an energy source that allows him to purify evil machinery, and it can also be used to gift life to new Transformers (good or evil).

I think all of these things, by themselves, make the case for the Transformers (or at least the Autobots) as superheroes.

Some would argue that Transformers are not superheroes because they lack human emotions and problems, but their non-humanness doesn’t mean they don’t have these things. In some continuities, Optimus is very hesitant to fight Megatron and the Decepticons, to such a point that the Decepticons are allowed to rampage for much longer than they should. Other Autobots have shown loyalty, joviality, anger, courage and even love, which are all qualities shared by humans. Several Autobots have significant others or had them in the past. And they often must, indeed, deal with death. The Transformers are machines, yes, but they also go about their everyday lives and deal with many of the same issues as humans.

Tim: Google defines the term "Superhero" as a "benevolent fictional character with superhuman powers, such as Superman."

Let me tell you, Transformers apologists: Transformers are no Superman.

The key word in that definition is superhuman, meaning a superhero can't be a machine. What powers or superhuman abilities do Transformers have anyway? They can turn into multiple things? Isn't it just their function as a machine? Where I come from that is certainly not a superhuman ability, unless you consider a printer to be a superhero because it can both print and fax (which really saved me when I needed to fax something I just printed).

My opponent will say that Transformers are similar to Superman as they are from another planet, meaning Superman isn't technically human either. Well, technically he's right, but the comparison ends there. Kal-El has all the human features and didn't start having his, that’s right, superhuman abilities until he came to Earth (it's because of the Earth's sun rays or something, look it up). Transformers were built with the ability to change into stuff but have no human qualities whatsoever.

Sure, Optimus Prime and the rest of the Transformers come down and protect the Earth from the Decepticons, which does in fact make them "heroes," just like firemen, doctors and policemen are heroes. But let me be clear: Transformers are definitely heroes for saving Earth, but because they are machines, they cannot be superheroes.

Lastly, I just want to disclose that I have a heavy bias against the Transformers because of the awful Michael Bay movies of the past decade. I don't think even Optimus Prime can protect those movies from sucking unless he can "transform" himself into an acting coach for Shia LaBeouf.

You've just been lawyered.

Comments (3) -

Sabin said...

If astro boy is considered superhero .. shouldn't transformers be considered one too?

July 30, 2012 at 10:57 AM

Tim said...

Hi Sabin, thanks for the comment! I would contend that Astro Boy is not a superhero either. My point was that I don't think any robot should be considered a superhero.

PS - I learned two things today: 1. Astro Boy was inducted into the Robot Hall of Fame in 2004 and 2. there is a Robot Hall of Fame.

July 30, 2012 at 12:14 PM

Mike said...

Something I was thinking about today...Batman has no superhuman powers.  He's just a wealthy guy that trains hard and has some cool tools.  Yet he's considered by most sources to be a superhero.  

Iron Man is the guy who built some cool armor.  In Iron Man's case, his armor is even robotic.

So if a superhero can be without superhuman powers, and even some robotic abilities (I guess in one version Tony Stark even has cybernetic implants), why not Transformers?

July 30, 2012 at 6:43 PM