Confessions of a Comic Book Guy is a weekly column by Steve Bennett of Super-Fly Comics and Games in Yellow Springs, Ohio. This week, Bennett discusses the reaction to the first non-binary Transformer, and the Transformers and Barbie licensing team-up.
Back in December of 2022 (see “Confessions Of A Comic Book Guy -- Bring On The Bad Guys''), I wrote how in November Transformers: Earthspark, the animated series, had just introduced the first non-binary Transformer, Nightshade, voiced by non-binary actor and writer Z Infante. The news got some online attention, but there was very little in the way of negative backlash (as far as I could tell). I just kind of assumed this kind of inclusion had gotten so ubiquitous it wasn’t considered that big of a deal anymore. But I was, as I so often am, so very wrong.
On Thursday, May 11, the Libs of TikTok Twitter account posted a 71-second clip from an episode of Transformers: Earthspark where a non-binary human named Sam encounters Nightshade. After exchanging pronouns (Sam’s are she/they, Nightshade’s they/them), Sam explains what “non-binary” means and Nightshade says “I always knew my pronouns felt right, but what a wonderful word for a wonderful experience.”
It is, in my estimation, a genuinely sweet scene featuring one of those rare moments when there’s sincere interaction between a human and a godlike metal giant usually seen flying or fighting overhead. In spite of the fact the episode had been streaming on Paramount+ since last November, within less than 24 hours of being posted, the video garnered 5.5 million views and numerous online headlines. The responses were pretty much what one would expect. Some saw it as a positive "affirmation of non-gender or non-binary sexuality in a children's cartoon," and others were unhappy to see the inclusion of non-binary characters included in a TV cartoon series certified TV-Y7 that had a core target audience of children ages 2 to 11.
Most notably, on Laura Ingraham’s The Ingraham Angle show the pundit accused Transformers: Earthspark of “shoving these inane pronouns down the throats of seven-year-olds,” calling them “destructive and corrosive lies.” And Megyn Kelly, the host of the podcast The Megyn Kelly Show, retweeted the Transformers clip, adding the caption, "This is DISGUSTING.”
Since the focus of this column is Transformers, I should mention that back in late April it was announced that Mattel and Hasbro have inked a Transformers/Barbie deal tied to the new movies on their way this summer (see "Hasbro and Mattel Team Up"). This will result in products like Barbie-branded Monopoly sets and Transformers-branded Hot Wheel cars.
This will be nice for the toy collectors among us I’m sure, but I’m naturally thinking comics (especially since the My Little Pony/Transformers: Friendship In Disguise! series was so weird and wonderful). Hopefully someone at IDW is at this very moment pursuing the license for a Barbie/Transformers miniseries. Along with the fact that its freak factor will undoubtedly result in big sales, just imagine a comic book where Barbie’s Corvette is Optimus Prime!
The opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the writer, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial staff of ICv2.com.