A Rose By Any Other Name Would Still Be More Than Meets The Eye

In today's review of the Transformers Classics Ultimate Battle: Optimus Prime vs. Megatron review, I briefly mentioned how the Transfomers got their names.

Most fans know that the Transformers have different names in Japan than they do in the rest of the world. And honestly, the US names utilize a lot more creativity - it takes more thought to name the Lamborghini "Sideswipe" than it does to name him "Lambor." But where did those new names come from? mostly, from Bob Budianski.

Bob Budianski is to Transformers what Larry Hama is to GI Joe: the American godfather.

The story starts, as so much in the action figure world, with Star Wars. When the Star Wars line exploded in the industry, Hasbro struck upon the idea that their nearly forgotten line of 12" soldier dolls could be reworked into small plastic figures. They went to Marvel Comics, which had done a Star Wars comic, and asked them to come up with a history for the characters. Marvel gave the job to Larry Hama, who more or less guided the line until the end.

Anyway, GI Joe was a huge success, so Hasbro took their next property to Marvel, too. This one was a mish-mash of various transforming robot toy lines (that had, in an extremely roundabout way, grown out of GI Joe) from Japan. Marvel editors Denny O'Neil and Jim Shooter took the assignment, coming up with names and personalities for the first 28 characters. Hasbro rejected most of the submissions and, facing a tight deadline, Shooter tapped another editor, Bob Budiansky, to take over the project. Eventually. Everyone else he asked wanted no part of it.

One of the names Hasbro kept was "Optimus Prime," which came from Denny O'Neil. That started a trend of giving the more important characters Latin-root names, like Fortress Maximus or Omega Supreme. More mundane characters got more mundane names, but still better than what they got in Japan.

Anyway, one of the character names that Budiansky had to re-do was the evil leader, and he came up with Megatron - which was apparently also rejected, because Hasbro said it was too reminiscent of "megaton," as in nuclear weapons (nukes being the big boogeyman then that terrorists are today). Budianski went back to Hasbro with the name, reminding them that you might want a scary name for the evil leader, and this time they accepted.

Budianski pretty much guided the Transformers storyline (with Hasbro's final approval, of course) for years, until fatigue set in, brought on, in part, by Hasbro's insistence that the comic introduce more and more characters at a faster pace. He suggested that UK writer Simon Fuhrman take over the chores from there, starting another fine tradition.

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