Updated: Jun 10, 2022
Being a guy that was born in the seventies and raised in the eighties, Transformers will always hold a special place in my heart. Just like GI Joe, which incidentally are both Marvel comics, I grew up watching, reading and playing with the Transformers. As any eighties kid worth his salt will tell you, Optimus Prime is their favorite. Sure you have a few psychopaths' out there that don't like Optimus, but they obviously have brain damage. In all of Nerdom there are only a few characters that are as instantly recognizable both visually and auditorily (Thank you Peter Cullen) as Optimus Prime.
He is a character that is so beloved that he defies the sentiment that people don't respond to morally upright characters. Such icons as Superman and Captain America are often criticized as being to good to be relatable. Optimus Prime, on the other hand, is a character that stands on the same moral mountain, but is universally beloved by all fans. He is a true hero and a good leader. A character that inspires those who are around him. I think we can all say that he is the kind of leader we all wish our politicians, kings, religious leaders, generals, teachers and bosses were.
You will find that the characters that mean the most to me, will be characters like him. Characters that have qualities that I wish to emulate. I feel that the best compliment I can give to a creator is to say that I wish I could be more like the character they created. Optimus is one such character. I want so desperately to be someone with the courage, fortitude, willingness to sacrifice, strength and optimism he possesses. To be able to stand against unbelievable darkness and not waver. To be a light that others can look to for hope and confidence.
He is not without his flaws, however. Having lived through a brutal civil war that decimated his planet and killed many of his people, Optimus has blood on his hands. There is a sadness to him that shows sometimes and he deals with a subtle PTSD that can sometimes cloud his judgment. Especially when he is dealing with his opposite, the leader of the Decepticons Megatron. They were once military brothers who fought alongside each other and his desire to see him restored can be a weakness for him. His unwavering conviction that his fight is a just one, is also a blind spot for him. Due to this unyielding conviction, he sometimes is unable to see when he is wrong. This is why he has the wisdom to surround himself with people who he trusts that will always tell him the truth.
As the show "The Goldburgs" parodied, the death of Optimus in the original 1986 animated film was an overwhelming shock to the fans. Kids and even some parents were inconsolable as he spoke his last words and his spark left him. What had we just seen? Some of us are still traumatized to this day from the shock of it. Just ask my therapist. All kidding aside, not even the death of Superman had this kind of effect on me. Maybe, it is because in the comic world characters die and come back all the time. In the Transformers world, however, that just didn't happen. He was dead, truly dead, and in our minds we had just lost our greatest hero.
Thankfully, he would return, not only in the animated show, but in comics, movies and toys. The Transformers have spanned three generations and they are still going strong, and the king of them all is Optimus Prime. My son followed in my footsteps by watching the live action films, and he had the toys to match. Yes, Optimus Prime was the first one I bought him. Hopefully, the legend of Optimus will continue to live on and I can share his continuing story of heroism and honor with my grandchildren and great grandchildren. Who knows, maybe even someday a great leader of men will rise up and they will quote Optimus as their greatest inspiration. You never know, it could happen. If it just so happens to be one of my generation, I can tell you with certainty, it will be.