The most terrible things the Transformers have ever done

More than meets the eye indeed.

There's a fine line between Autobot and Decepticon. While they fight on opposite sides of the Great War, both creatures can transform from giant robots into motor vehicles in a split second. Both hail from the traveling planet Cybertron. Both crave Energon, which they need to survive. And, when you really get down to it, both can be downright nasty when they want to be.

That makes sense for the Decepticons—look at that name, of course they're evil—but the audacity of the Decepticons' crimes doesn't diminish the Autobots' transgressions. Throughout various pieces of Transformers media, Optimus Prime and his cronies get up to all kinds of mischief. They might be heroes, but that doesn't mean they're any good.

Organ theft

Pharma has things backwards. Autobots sacrifice themselves all the time in order to save others; Pharma sacrifices others in order to save himself. In IDW's Transformers: More than Meets The Eye #4 and #5, a group of Transformers—Pipes, Drift, and Pharma's old friend Ratchet, whose hands have been damaged in battle—head to the planet Messatine to investigate why patients at the Delphi medical facility keep dying, and uncover an entire underground organ-theft operation in the process.

At one point, Pharma was a brilliant scientist and one of the best medics in the Autobot army. It didn't last. After relocating to Delphi, which is in the middle of Decepticon territory, Pharma made a deal with the Decepticon Justice Division in order to keep the medical facility safe: Pharma would supply the DJD leader, a shape-shifting addict, with a steady supply of transformation cogs, and in return, the DJD would leave Pharma and his staff alone.

Of course, the way to get transformation cogs is to harvest them from other Transformers. At first, Pharma simply sold cogs from patients who died, but over time that wasn't enough, and Pharma crossed other lines. Autobots who arrived at the facility on the verge of death "slipped away." Those still clinging to life got an extra push at Pharma's hands. Still, demand for the cores continued to grow. With the scam in danger of being exposed, Pharma engineered a Decepticon attack on Delphi, infecting the survivors with a red rust plague, which slowly kills Transformers as they rust from the inside out.

After Pharma explained his scheme, Ratchet formulated a plan and stole the red rust antidote, saving the infected Transformers and (supposedly) killing Pharma. Proving that the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree, Ratchet also took a souvenir to remember Pharma by—two, in fact. After the battle, Ratchet stole Pharma's hands, which he used to replace his own.

Lobotomies

Megatron might be evil, but at least he's not crazy. You can't say the same for Galvatron (basically Megatron in a new and more powerful body, although his "sanity chips" are fried thanks to a brief stop in a wayward lava pit). Still, as bad as Galvatron is, nobody deserves to be stuck in a One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest-like mental institution—not even the leader of the Decepticons.

Many fans consider Webworld the most disturbing episode of the original Transformers cartoon, and with good reason. After Galvatron turns on his own forces during a battle against the Autobots, Decepticon generals threaten to rebel if Galvatron's insanity isn't treated. In order to keep the Decepticon's forces together, Cyclonus tricks Galvatron and takes him to Torkulon, a kind of interstellar insane asylum.

That's when the horror begins. First of all, the Torkuli tell Cyclonus that, if Galvatron is locked up on the planet permanently, he'll pay for his stay with "consciousness units"—i.e. body parts. Next, Galvatron is strapped into a bed and forced to talk about his problems, although before long Galvatron's rantings devolve into gibberish. Other attempts at therapy go about as well. Ultimately, the Torkuli decide that they only have one option: a full-on lobotomy.

See, Torkulon is a living planet, and can manifest itself as creatures called Alya. The insect-like monsters climb on top of Galvatron and burrow inside his body as the Transformer screams in pain. That should've been the end of Galvatron for good, but there's a catch: Galvatron is so crazy that the process backfires, spreading Galvatron's insanity to the planet itself and forcing the Torkuli to abandon their treatment (of course, Galvatron destroys them afterwards, because that's just the kind of guy he is).

Torture

In Transformers lore, the Autobots are the good guys, and their leader, the valiant Optimus Prime, is the best of the best—most of the time, anyway. In the trailer for Transformers: The Last Knight, Prime condemns humanity to death and beats the tar out of his longtime ally Bumblebee. In IDW's Transformers #22, he straps his archenemy, the Decepticon leader Megatron, into a variable voltage harness—a kind of reverse electric chair—and tortures him.

He doesn't just pull the trigger as part of a military operation. When Optimus Prime tortures Megatron, it's personal. To start with, the variable voltage harness isn't just a restraint—it's designed to make the wearer as uncomfortable as possible. Secondly, while Optimus Prime is theoretically the one leading Megatron's interrogation, the villain is in control all along. It's not hard for Megatron to get inside Optimus Prime's head—all he has to do is accuse Prime of prolonging the Autobot-Decepticon war in order to build his own reputation—and before long, Optimus flicks the switch.

In fact, Optimus Prime is so angry that he cranks the variable voltage harness up to a lethal level, and Megatron only survives because another Autobot—Omega Supreme—cut the power before Megatron could receive a full dose. While Megatron remains in prison, Optimus Prime is the real loser: Megatron forced him to cross a line he thought he never world, and as a result, his self-confidence is completely shattered.

Cannibalism

A Transformer's body is made out of metal. Its life force, or "spark," is entirely different. While the outer casings can be replaced when damaged, once a Transformer's spark is snuffed out, that's it. The Transformer is dead.

That's why Megatron's plot in Beast Machines: Transformers is so horrifying. Megatron's done many bad things over the years—including conquering other planets—but in Beast Machines, the would-be despot's end goal is to gather as many sparks as possible so that he can eat them. Essentially, that makes Megatron a cannibal, who has no problem eating his own people if it makes him more powerful.

Megatron's plan comes to light in "Sparkwar Part III: The Siege," when the Maximals (the Beast Wars and Beast Machines equivalent of the Autobots) race to stop Megatron before he can feast on all of the souls on Cybertron—and feast he does. While the Maximals plan their assault, Megatron transforms into his glowing red spark form and starts consuming captured souls, while telling his underling that the Maximals no longer pose a threat. Once the Maximals infiltrate Megatron's base, they discover the villain lording over a canister filled with the sparks of every resident of Cybertron, and a few seconds later, Megatron starts chowing down.

The heroes stop him, of course—that's kinda their thing—but not before Megatron is able to eat a number of other sparks, making him more dangerous than ever.

Animal cruelty

It's one of the most basic screenwriting rules: you can kill as many humans as you want, but cute animals are off limits. Apparently, the producers behind the Japanese Transformers cartoon Transformers: Super-God Masterforce didn't get the memo, because the fifth episode of the series contains one of the most needlessly cruel acts in Transformers history.

But let's back up a little. After the first Transformers cartoon ended its Japanese run, producers decided to keep the franchise going with its own set of animated spinoffs, launching a whole new and entirely separate continuity. The first Japan-exclusive Transformers series was The Headmasters. Super-God Masterforce is its follow-up. In Super-God Masterforce, the Transformers recruit children, who they refer to as Headmaster Juniors, and bind them with mindless machines, turning the kids into mini-Transformers.

That brings us to Rage!! Little Devils with No Need for Rules. In the episode, one of the Decepticon Juniors, Wilder, takes his cronies to America in order to exact revenge on a biker gang, the Cool Guys. After conquering the Cool Guys and crowning himself their leader, Wilder goes on a rampage, challenging police and causing general chaos. Naturally, civilians get caught in the middle. When Autobots and their Headmasters intervene, a puppy named Pis catches their attention, and leads them to his owner, who's trapped under some rubble.

You can probably see where this is going. One of the Cool Guys rats out the Autobots and the Decepticon Juniors attack, and when Pis tries to defend his owner from Wilder's assault, Wilder—in robot form—kicks the animal and kills it. That gives one of the Autobot Juniors, Minerva, the courage she needs to stand up to the villains, but it's far too late for the little pup, and the episode ends with Pris' funeral. Did we mention that this is a show for children? Because believe it or not, it is.

Disfigurement

If the Transformers have a mean streak—and the evidence indicates that they do—at least they come by it honestly. In IDW's ongoing Transformers: More than Meets the Eye comic series, flashbacks to a time before the Optimus Prime, Megatron, and the rest got caught up in the Third Cybertronian War show that Cybertron's original residents had a pretty unforgiving justice system. On old Cybertron, if a criminal was found guilty of a crime, authorities could sentence them to "empurata"—a process in which the Transformer's hands and heads were stripped away and replaced with blank, featureless models, robbing them of their identities and making sure the rest of Cyberton shunned them.

It gets worse. While the Senate argued that only the worst criminals suffered empurata, most of its victims were Transformers who were "constructed cold," or made from artificial sparks. So not only is empurata incredibly harsh, it's also racist. Despite the Senate's claims, it wasn't just performed on criminals, either. During the Clampdown, when the Senate assumed control of Cybertron, an empathetic and kind politician known as Shockwave was subjected to both empurata and a lobotomy-like procedure called shadowplay, which robbed him of all emotion and transformed him into a killing machine. The reason? As one Transformer put it, "Spite."

Yikes.

Zombification

In the '80s, Transformers: The Movie was a traumatic experience for many children. These days, it's a traumatic experience for many adults. After all, that's the film that features the wholesale slaughter of most of the Transformers during an attack on Autobot City, sees Megatron make a deal with the figurative devil, and features the death of the Autobots' leader, Optimus Prime.

As bad as Transformers: The Movie is, however, the third season episode "Dark Awakening" is even worse. While pursued by Decepticon forces, a group of Autobots led by Rodimus Prime hide out on the Autobot Mausoleum, seeking safety among the bodies of their dead friends. If that sounds like the setup for a robot-fueled horror film to you, well, you're right. While browsing rooms full of Transformers' bodies, one of the Autobots' human allies finds Optimus Prime wandering around, alive and well.

Except that he's not really. As it turns out, this isn't Optimus himself—it's just his body, which has been reanimated by the Quintessons, the alien race that created the Transformers in the first place. Zombie Optimus locks his former allies in the morgue and makes off with their ship, heading to Cybertron to lead the rest of the Autobots into a Quintesson trap. Thankfully, Rodimus—who transformed back into Hot Rod after his zombified mentor stole the Autobots' Leadership Matrix—arrives in time to stop the plot, and Optimus dies again while saving all of the Autobots from the Quintessons' clutches. Because scarring kids for life is apparently okay, as long as you're trying to sell a few more toys, right?

Betrayal

Despite their best efforts, the Decepticons rarely win. In All Hail Megatron, they do. In IDW's 16-part epic, the Decepticons launch a full-scale attack on America, conquering New York and bringing the United States military to its knees. Air Force One crashes on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. From there, the battle spreads across Earth, and then the entire galaxy.

And where are the Autobots during all this, you ask? Stuck on Cybertron, thanks to a traitor who helped the Decepticons ambush Optimus Prime and provided the evil Transformers the the override codes for the Autobots' ship, the Trion. As suspicion and resentment overtake the Autobot ranks, Optimus Prime hovers near death, leaving the Autobots unable to respond to Megatron's growing threat.

As Megatron conquers Beijing and decimates Israel, the Autobots scramble to figure out who betrayed them. Finally, as the Decepticon's Insecticon swarm closes in to deliver the killing blow, Sunstreaker comes clean. After a traumatic experience with the human Headmaster Hunter O'Nion, Sunstreaker turned his back on humanity and struck a deal with Megatron's conniving second-in-command, Starscream. In exchange for help killing Megatron and conquering Earth, Starscream promises to wipe out humanity and end the war between the Autobots and Decepticons once and for all. Sunstreaker agrees.

Of course, it doesn't work out that way. Megatron has his sights set on the galaxy, not just one planet. Sunstreaker apologizes for putting the Autobots in danger—that was never his goal, he says—and sacrifices himself to save his people, although not before the Decepticons wipe out roughly an eighth of Earth's population.

Imprisonment

You would think being a Transformer would be fun. Half of the time, you're a giant, ass-kicking robot! The rest of the time you're a truck, or a plane, or a cassette recorder (well, two out of three ain't bad)!

It's not, as Spike Witwicky learns in the aptly named "Autobot Spike." While fighting off the Decepticons, Megatron injures Spike (Bumblebee doesn't fare so well either), and the boy falls into a coma. At the hospital, the doctors say they can operate on Spike, but need his mind to be put "somewhere else."

As luck would have it, Spike's dad, Sparkplug, just built a robot of his own, and he and Wheeljack transfer Spike's consciousness into his new metal body. Spike does not take it well. When he's activated, Spike freaks out, running aimlessly through the Autobots' base while yelling, "Why? Why?!" The Autobots subdue Spike, but the peace is short-lived: in order to calm Spike down, the Autobots show him a movie. Unfortunately, that movie is Frankenstein. Spike erupts in another outburst and flees, suffering from a minor mental breakdown that gives Megatron all he needs to turn Spike against his friends.

In the battle that follows, Spike helps the Decepticons fight the Autobots and nearly kills his father, but eventually comes to his senses and saves the day. Spike returns to his body, and Bumblebee idly wonders what it would be like to put a Transformer's mind into a human, showing that he's learned absolutely nothing from the entire adventure.

Sexual harassment

Even by Transformers standards, Transformers: Kiss Players is weird. The manga and toy line (there's no associated cartoon) stars a handful of pretty young women who fuse with Transformers by kissing them. Okay, you're saying, that's awfully cute. A little too twee, maybe, but there's nothing inherently wrong with a Transformers toy line for girls.

Except Kiss Players is absolutely not for girls, or kids, or anyone except for dirty old men. Not a page of the manga goes by without a panty shot, or one of the Kiss Players covered in "goo," or some other kind of lewd fanservice. Even worse, while the characters are all supposed to be in their early 20s, the art makes them look like small children. It's about a hundred different kinds of ick, and even without understanding Japanese, it is very, very uncomfortable.

Still, you might say, that's the artist and the writers being terrible, not the Transformers themselves. Well, fear not: In Kiss Players, the Transformers are just as bad as you'd expect. Starscream has a phallus-like tongue that he chases the Kiss Players around with. Wheelie—one of the good guys!—constantly looks up girls' skirts, and has to be beaten into submission to make him stop.

Ironically, while Michael Bay's Transformers films take some generous liberties with the series canon, in this case, it gets Wheelie exactly right. After all, who's the Transformer who raids Rosie Huntington-Whiteley's panty drawer or Dark of the Moon and humps Megan Fox's leg in Revenge of the Fallen? That's right: it's Wheelie.