Today I’m looking at someone who is a surprisingly controversial figure in Transformers. The character in question is the Leader of the Autobots in the 3rd season of the cartoon, Rodimus Prime.
Created for Transformers The Movie, Hot Rod is also one of the first characters made specifically for the Transformers rather than being imported into the toy line from elsewhere.
We are first introduced to him fishing with Daniel the child of previous lead human Sam Witwicky. Early on we can see he’s clearly the friend to the human character and from what we see, a much better one than Bumblebee was. Being a little quick to action and much more youthful show he’s more a teen like robot than what went before (and thankfully not a hip young dude like we would have seen in the 90s).
His actions ultimately save the residents of Autobot City as when he and Daniel go to check up on the incoming shuttle from Cybertron’s moon. They are the ones that spot the big hole in it and alert the defenders of the city by firing on them causing Megatron’s forces to be revealed earlier than he intended, still early enough to do considerable damage though.
Sadly it’s when Hot Rod interferes with Megatron and Optimus’ final battle that people wrongfully conclude Optimus died because of his action. Watching that scene again Hot Rod saw Megatron was going for a concealed weapon and attacked him to prevent him from using it, so Optimus would have suffered fatal wounds without him, and Megatron probably coming out much less wounded. But people still shocked from Optimus’ death were looking for someone to blame and the start of the Hate against Rodimus began.
The rest of the film is actually a really good story of how Hot Rod becomes Rodimus Prime the new leader of the Autobots. Clearly affected by Prime’s death he stops acting as carefree as he was and takes to heart his friend the old bot Kup’s lessons showing compassion, diplomacy and other leadership skills before finally grabbing the matrix off Galvatorn and becoming upgraded by its power into Rodimus Prime.
Season 3 had him deal with very different issues than Optimus. The Autobots had won, they held Cybertron completely. The Decepticons were a threat but it wasn’t a fight for their own planet anymore. He also had to deal with the battles against the machinations of the Quintessons revealed to be the ancient creators of the Transformers in the 5 part opening “The Five Faces of Darkness”. The Autobots were now more space peace keepers than a race fighting a civil war. But unfortunately a lot of the character development of Rodimus was ignored in the movie as he kept comparing himself to Optimus (something that no doubt aided the Rodimus hate).
The anger at the loss of Optimus lead to the finale of season 3 featuring his full return and becoming the leader of the Autobots again, even fighting a hate plague infected Rodimus for the matrix. This returned him to being Hot Rod for the remainder of the series where in the 3 parter “The Rebirth” he became a Targetmaster, receiving a slightly altered version of the toy to be able to hold the new gun.
Sadly because of hate against the character due to the perception that he was the cause of Optimus’s death (though he is partially responsible in the sense they wanted to kill him off just to replace him) he didn’t get as much attention in the later years. The Marvel comic didn’t make use of him because they didn’t use the movie and season 3 characters however he did appear in the UK comics which liked to use them. They didn’t need to worry about interfering with the continuity as that stuff was in the future.
He didn’t get mentioned in Beast Wars to my knowledge (I’d have to look over an entire series every episode for multiple quotes. I’m not doing that). Mostly what we got was when the friend to the humans Autobot had a power upgrade in the anime years and they would receive Hot Rod’s colour scheme such as Sideburn in RiD (2001) and Hot Shot in Armada.
A version of Rodimus did appear in Energon referred to just as Rodimus rather than having Prime in his name. He was the leader of a group of Autobots that left Cybertron during the war and was aligned with the character Alpha Q to try and rebuild the worlds destroyed by Unicron. He would in the later parts of the series become the main Powerlinx partner with previous main friend to the kids character, Hot Shot (who was now back to his old yellow colour scheme having lost his Hot Rod colours between series somehow). This Rodimus was very different from the much younger acting one of G1 even acting older and more mature than Optimus.
I should explain that he is often called Rodimus now more than Hot Rod since Rodimus is much MUCH easier to trademark.
He appeared in a smaller but not insignificant role at the start of season 3 of Transformers Animated equipped with a bow weapon and referred to as Rodimus Minor (Since Prime was a military rank in this continuity and Minor was a stage below it). He fought valiantly against Strika’s team of Decepticons but was incapacitated by Oil Slick using a vial of Cosmic Rust. He showed up in the background at the end of season 3 so we can take it that he got better.
So it seems Hot Rod/Rodimus is starting to redeem himself in the eyes of the fan base. More and More fans are coming round to realizing he isn’t responsible for Optimus’ death and giving him a second chance. In IDW he appeared in its first half as Hot Rod starting in his own spotlight before appearing in the main story with escalation. He rose in importance as during the second half he became the lead character in his own series called ‘More Than Meets The Eye’, where he and a group of characters (not just Autobots) after the war ended took the ship, The Lost Light, to find the legendary Knights of Cybertron. It was relaunched and rebranded ‘Transformers Lost Light’ in 2016 and continued until that continuity of Transformers ended.
He also appeared in the currently most recent series ‘Cyberverse’ as an up and coming potential future leader of the Autobots, even becoming the lead character in the 3rd seasons Quintessons arc where he led the Cybertronian resistance against the aliens, making a frienemy in Soundwave. So it’s safe to say the years of both the company and the fans disliking him may be over.
He was also in the movie The Last Knight where he was French for some reason and the terrible Prime Wars series where he ended up possessed by Unicron because there was a toy of that… both were bad so I’m not going into depth.
I should probably say now that when I first saw Transformers, Season 3 episodes were the ones currently shown or easy to get my hands on so for me, Rodimus Prime was my Prime. It might be why I never did feel that dislike towards him. Maybe if I had grown up with Optimus first then saw a movie that was all about showing off the new guy I might have felt differently. But instead I saw the movie much later and saw how he got to that position. I’m happy that it seems that he is finally getting the attention he deserves and maybe when Hasbro realize they have done Optimus to death, maybe they can give Rodimus another go?