The 30th anniversary of the Transformers is this year, and in preparation for the event toymaker Hasbro held an online poll to let the public create the first “Fan-Built Bot,” who would not only be made into a toy but would also feature in the IDW’s current Transformers comics. Among other options, fans got to vote once a day on the new character’s vehicle mode, weapon of choice, faction and gender. The winner’s name is Windblade, and after decades of Hasbro fussing over whether or not female Transformers toys would sell, the fans spoke out and demanded one. But a recent announcement from IDW shows the comic publisher plans to take it even further: The comic she’ll be headlining will be written and drawn by female creators. Mairghread Scott, who recently wrote for both the Transformers Prime TV series and comics, has been announced as the writer on the new four-issue series. Joining her will be artist Sarah Stone, who has done work for RPG publishers Wizards of the Coast and Paizo. Gender in the world of giant sexless alien robots is a funny thing. The original Transformers cartoon’s cast was a robo-sausage party until the second season, where a single episode introduced a hidden sorority back on the rarely-visited home world. In the next season pink, Princess Leia-bunned Arcee was added to the regular cast, but while a prototype exists she was never released as a toy. In the years between, female characters have popped up occasionally but sparingly, with most shows having only one (or two) as a “token” to the cast. When Cartoon Network ran dubs of a Japanese Transformers series in 2005 one of the Autobots was dubbed as a female at their request, and they were concerned enough about representation in a later series they produced themselves, 2007’s Transformers Animated, that they requested the main human character be a girl. (All of this is a huge departure from CN’s current stance on inclusivity, which I wrote about recently.) In IDW’s comics they’ve declared the whole Transformer race genderless as well as sexless, which is nice because it gave us asexual, agender robot marriage that might as well just be gay marriage but not so nice for people who can still see that they’re still all giant robot men. After all, Transformers has never exactly been hard sci-fi; they’re not giant alien robots so much as they’re people who happen to be giant alien robots, and as hard as it seems to be for our culture to understand, just over half of all people are women. Scott won’t have the power to go back and change everything that’s gone before, not even within IDW. The one exception to the rule in their comics is a version of Arcee who was driven mad by a twisted experiment to give them gender – not exactly woman- OR trans-friendly, but also not the work of anyone still involved with their Transformers books. Scott and current editor John Barber are already planning to move forward. On Tumblr she wrote, “Hopefully John, (fellow Transformers writer) James (Roberts) and I have come up with a way around this Gordian Knot that will satisfy the fan-base, but satisfying-or-no, the most immediate imperative is to ENSURE this story does not continue to keep women readers, fans and characters at arm’s length from the brand. I’ve often said that everyone should feel that they are allowed to like Transformers and it is my complete and utter privilege to take this next step to make that happen.” Transformers: Windblade will be on shelves at Central Ohio’s many independent comic shops this spring.

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