All the way up to the most recent series, Transformers has been infested with bugs and it’s mostly these guys’ fault.
In fact, as far as I am aware, Robots in Disguise is the only continuity group in which we see no evidence of Transformers with insect alt modes. Even then, “Insecticons” are named in a couple pieces of dialogue of the English dub, though the references make them sound more like wildlife, like the “Petro-rabbits” from G1. X-Brawn opens episode 21 being chased by Decepticons and stating,
“They’re on me like an Insecticon on a power core.”
The three “original” Insecticons; Kickback, Shrapnel, and Bombshell weren’t the only Insecticons from G1 but because they were the only ones to make it into the cartoon, people tend to forget about the other four.
Back in my Windcharger post, I raved a bit about the wonderfully talented Matt Kuphaldt. Another piece that I particularly like is his Shrapnel image, showing off Shrapnel’s lightning powers.
Shrapnel was shown to be something of a leader of the Insecticons in the cartoon but is most often remembered as the guy that repeats the ends of his sentences, sentences (a form of palilalia I discuss in my Warpath post.)
All three of mine are original G1 that I hunted down separately — acquiring the last one right before Hasbro decided to reissue all three of them. My Shrapnel came with the later released gun variation that includes the panels in the back and the more detailed barrel.
Shrapnel’s alt mode is a robot stag beetle.
This was particularly funny when Shrapnel had his gender swapped in two foreign dubs, one in France and in Russia, seeing as only male Stag Beetles have those really big antler-like antennae. Together the three Insecticons originally formed the “Insecter Robo” releases of Diaclone, mechs piloted by the Diaclone villains, the Waruder. This is why they include cockpits in their alt modes.
This is also why all three received Diaclone-inspired repaints through E-Hobby in 2004. They also received releases in the uber-cute Robot Heroes line. Both Shrapnel (released as just “Insecticon”) and Kickback are battling it out for who can be the most cheerful Insecticon.
The only reason Robot Heroes Bombshell (released as Hardshell) isn’t in the running is because he has a faceplate rather than a big, cheesy smile.
He then passed on his new name to a couple Hardshells, both the lead Insecticon from Transformers Prime as well as an Insecticon clearly designed after G1 Bombshell.
Bombshell’s power has been one of the most widely used conventions in the history of Transformers fiction. Shrapnel’s electric attacks were nice, but Bombshell has the ability to implant mind controlling “cerebro-shells” into the heads of robots or humans using his “stinger”.
This is, of course, setting aside completely the fact that he is supposed to be a Rhinoceros Beetle therefore that thing in the front is a horn, not a stinger. It ends up over his head in robot mode, so he can take over people’s minds in either mode.
My favourite of the Insecticons is Kickback. Partially because of his alt mode, but mostly because his alt mode is what gives him his power. Shrapnel channels electricity, Bombshell controls minds, Kickback… kicks things. Really hard.
See, it’s ’cause he’s a grasshopper. In my book, that’s awesome. A Transforming Grasshopper. That definitely ranks up there with wonderful oddities like a transforming locust.
Kickback was one of a handful of G1 ‘bots to make it into the Sector Seven promotional material for the first of the live action movies. Though he appears at the height of an actual grasshopper, he demonstrates that kicking prowess of his by kicking a camera to death.
In a nice piece of engineering, his robot arms are formed from both of his front alt mode legs, but he still retains a little bit of elbow movement.
His Robot Heroes release has gigantic, awkward hands. He looks like he’s ready to gleefully assist Skywarp in pushing some folks down a flight of stairs.
Kickback would go on to be the only one of the Insecticons homaged in Fall of Cybertron to receive a toy release.
I’ve always liked the G1 Insecticons in general because rather than simply being a sub-group within the Decepticons, they spent a good portion of the cartoon considering themselves to be an entirely separate faction; forcing Megatron to bribe them into working for him. That takes some serious ball bearings.
Megatron most valued them because of their ability to clone themselves, creating drone-level copies as a swarm of Insecticons. This idea would get turned on its head in the IDW comics series, having the Insecticons instead be created by the Decepticons.
The process of creating the three hyper-intelligent Insecticons resulted in roughly three thousand mutated, seemingly mindless, Transformer-devouring Insecticons, collectively called “The Swarm”.
From the Swarm, however, came my favourite Insecticon of all time. Bob, the domesticated pet of Sunstreaker.
Isn’t he just adorable? Why have we never gotten a toy of Bob?