Monday, January 13, 2014

The Transformers Thunderous Thirty #24 - Soundwave

Few Transformers fans old enough to remember can imagine Soundwave without remembering the electronically-enhanced monotone of his 1980s cartoon voice. Easily one of the most memorable characters of original era, the challenge for me is less "what do I say about Soundwave?" and more "what do I say that I haven't said already?" One element of Soundwave's character I seem to have ignored up until now makes Soundwave an interesting study in contrasts.

For fans who remember Soundwave almost exclusively from the 1980s cartoon, Soundwave was perhaps the most loyal Decepticon of the bunch, utterly reliable to do whatever Megatron needed him to do, and always able to boost Decepticon battle forces with the touch of a finger to the eject button that would release cassette-form troops from his chest compartment.

Contrast this with the following words from Soundwave's original Tech Specs bio: "Uses anything he hears for blackmail to advance his status. Opportunist. Despised by all other Decepticons." Doesn't really sound like the same character, does it?

Of course, it's possible to reconcile these ideas, as the TF Wiki attempts to do in the introductory paragraph to the page on Soundwave. But the fact remains that some depictions of Soundwave's character highlighted certain personality traits, while other depictions focused on others, resulting in the apparent contrasts of being a loyal officer in one continuity, while a power-hungry schemer in the other.

It goes without saying that a few things have changed since the 1980s. Soundwave's aforementioned ability to eject cassette-form Transformers stems from the fact that the character was created to be the "tape player guy." Cassette tapes and tape players are all-but unknown to children of today, so modern interpretations of the character have had to come up with something new. The "War for Cybertron" and "Fall of Cybertron" video games (which, as I've said before, I consider to be G1 even if the TFWiki doesn't) have gone with a vehicle mode, seen here to the right of the more traditional tape player version of the character.

Despite the alt-mode change, Soundwave retains the interaction with the (now formerly) cassette-form characters, perhaps the one group that does seem to be consistently loyal to Soundwave in most fictional depictions (at least, this seems to be true for the five cassettes introduced in 1984. The fact is, the cassettes introduced later seldom got as much fictional attention, and the most prominent Decepticon example of an exception: Ratbat, is most remembered totally apart from being Soundwave's minion).  Since those cassettes make up fully half of the Decepticon line-up of 1984, it seems safe to say that Soundwave can defend himself against almost anything that the Decepticons who "despise" him for his blackmailing activities might come up with. He's not going anywhere.

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