Today I’m gonna review what is probably the second most recognizable Transformer character after Optimus Prime: Bumblebee. I feel Bumblebee always got a bad rap. He seemed to be that character that Hasbro shoehorned into the series for us kids to relate to when really all they accomplished is making him seem lame. In the cartoons he palled around with the Spike the human kid and acted very naïve and innocent. He was smaller than a lot of the other transformers, and his alt mode was a cutesy Volkswagen Beetle so we bought into the characterization of him being kind of a kid himself. The only problem with that is Bumblebee is millions of years old. Maybe robots don’t mature as fast as people but after a few million years I feel Bumblebee should have overcome his wide eyed innocence. Besides it’s not like he was living millions of years in ignorant bliss out in a meadow somewhere, this dude was a soldier in an intergalactic war. He should probably be a little “harder” than the cartoons made him out to be, all of the Autobots probably should have been for that matter. He wasn’t quite as simple in the Marvel comic book series but he did still hang around with a human kid named Buster. That kinda thing tends to lessen your credibility as a tough guy. I never didn’t like Bumblebee growing up, in fact his forced relatable-ness probably worked in making him more relatable than most of the other Transformers.
It was pretty sad when in the G.I. Joe and the Transformers comic published by Marvel in 1987, the Joes mistook Bumblebee for a threat and blew him to pieces. It made for a very memorable cover anyway.
He was later resurrected as Goldbug which didn’t really take. In modern interpretations of the Transformers comics Bumblebee and Goldbug are actually different characters. Bumblebee has appeared in almost all of the various versions of Transformers over the decades. He had the starring role in the live-action Transformers movies by Michael Bay in which he was a mute who could communicate only through radio broadcasts and he was changed (or should I say transformed) from a Volkswagen to a Camero. The change in cars really bugged me at first but I’m over it now. I still think the mute thing is dumb and do not like seeing that trait carried over into other media. Overall I’ve come to terms with the fact that the Transformers appearing on movie screens and TV screens are no longer my Transformers, they belong to the kids now. My Transformers are those known by fans as G1 or Generation 1 . That wide-eyed, kid-friendly, yellow Beetle from the 80s…that’s my Bumblebee.
Luckily I’m not forced to throw in those old 80s cartoons to revisit my Bumblebee. Thank god that in the comic book world G1 still reigns supreme. There have been comics based on the movies and the various animated series like Energon and Armada, even the long running and respected series “Beast Wars” has had comic stories published but they always seem to fall by the wayside and the G1 comics keep trucking along(more puns, yay!). Since 2006 IDW has published the Transformers comics and they’ve been doing a great job. It started out a little rocky but they soon found their footing and the comic has been a great read the past couple of years. Bumblebee is actually treated very respectfully in the modern comics. Though some of his teammates doubt and underestimate him, he was actually made the leader of the Autobots by Optimus Prime. He’s new to the role of leader so we still get to watch him grow and fumble things from time to time but he’s not portrayed as a kid any longer. I highly recommend you check out what IDW has been up to if you haven’t yet or if you’ve stepped away for a while.
As far as action figures go it took a while for Bumblebee to get some respect in that department as well. His original G1 figure was alright. It was a Japanese import as all of the early Transformers toys were. The toy line was comprised of robots from a number of different Japanese properties which were not related to one another over there. Hasbro brought them over, slapped new names and personalities on them and the Transformers were born. The fact that they came from different lines is the reason that Transformers came in such a variety of shapes and sizes which didn’t really match up. The original Bumblebee toy was from a Japanese line of penny racers or SDF (super deformed) cars hence his short and stumpy stature. As I mentioned in my previous Cliffjumper post a mix up along the way resulted in the 2 characters shipping to America in the wrong colors and with the wrong face.
Doug owned the original Bumblebee except he was a red Beetle and he had a visor and faceplate instead of the yellow paintjob and horned human-like face he was known to have in the comics and cartoon. The next Bumblebee toy was the crappy Throttlebot version known as Goldbug. It wasn’t until 2006 that Hasbro released a Bumblebee toy that finally did the character justice, this one from the Transformers Classics line. My only real complaint about this toy is that he doesn’t transform into a Beetle but instead some sort of Honda Civic kinda thing. This doesn’t bother me too much though because I never transform my Transformers anyway. This version was finally a good size (not too big, not too small), was well articulated and could be posed and even <gasp> played with, plus he had a beautiful face sculpt. I absolutely love this version of Bumblebee. He was the first Classics figure I got and I’ve bought many more since, I only wish there were more available. Other than guns Transformers usually don’t have much need for accessories but this Bumblebee actually comes with a pretty cool one, a small jet-ski on a trailer that can be towed in his car mode or you can transform it into a winged jet-pack for his robot mode. A few more decent Bumblebee figures have come since including a Cybertronian version of him inspired by the War for Cybertron video game and I even like the recently released version based off of his current appearance in Transformers : Prime. However if you own only one Bumblebee figure make it this one. 8 out of 10.