Unusually for something that started as a children's toy and an '80s cartoon, death of important characters is a prominent feature in Transformers. The reasons for it vary from plot development to the arrival of new toys. However, the fact that the majority of characters are machines means that death isn't automatically an absolute in the various Transformers universes—various characters that appear to have been killed have been known to pop up alive again at a later date, or go through some sort of revival. However, it's not unheard of for death to sometimes be permanent in Transformers.
Marvel comics continuity
The first time the concept of death was addressed in Transformers was when Gears appeared to fall to his death while he and Spider-Man were rescuing Sparkplug Witwicky. The Autobots coldly gathered up Gears's parts, which creeped out Spidey and Sparkplug, who were expecting some show of sadness for the Autobots' fallen comrade. Gears was rebuilt and back in tip-top shape without a problem. This easy cheating of death would be seen again in the storyline that followed, where Shockwave would viciously injure all Autobots bar Ratchet, only for them to be up and running later on (bar Sunstreaker).
Outright Transformer death would first be seen in the first story set on Cybertron. The story opens with a Decepticon killing civilians only for Blaster to kill it; Straxus, current commander of the Decepticons, was constantly throwing hordes of Transformers to their deaths in his smelting pool; and Blaster's ally Scrounge died a quite brutal death.
Soon death would be seen again and again, particularly in Furman's UK strips—generally these deaths would be of original characters who lacked toys, such as Impactor. This was a useful way of getting across a sense of genuine war and build reader tension, while simultaneously leaving the toy characters untouched.
Optimus Prime himself would end up outright dying to clear the way for new characters—following immediately on, Megatron was killed in a Space Bridge accident. The following issue would have the Transformers holding a funeral for Optimus, while a crossover story unceremoniously bumped off Dirge. This kill-spree was slightly undermined by Bob Budiansky leaving himself a get-out clause, and showing the reader that a back-up copy of Optimus Prime's mind could exist. Megatron, meanwhile, would turn up alive in Marvel UK so they could sneak around the US stories without contradicting their plots (he'd later be retconned as a clone).
Marvel UK stories set in the post-movie future got to be even more kill-happy—as they didn't have to bother meshing with the present day continuity, any character could be killed off. As well as minor ones such as Inferno, this would also include major character Shockwave.
Soon, Transformers was saddled with a large number of characters who no longer had toys—to thin the crowd, both Simon Furman and Budiansky began repeated cullings so the newer toys could get more "screen time". In Marvel UK, most of the Wreckers, Galvatron (and previously Cyclonus), and a few little-seen Decepticons would all be slaughtered . That paled before the most grandiose of slaughters, the Underbase Saga, where a super powered Starscream destroyed/deactivated dozens of Transformers, Autobot and Decepticon alike. Conveniently, only those with organic bits (Headmasters, Pretenders et al) could survive the Underbase. Many of these characters would remain dead until the climax of the Unicron saga, when they were revived by Nucleon; at the same time, the Unicron battle would kill off scores of characters who'd survived the Underbase!
American cartoon continuity
The Transformers: The Movie is infamous for the slaughter of a large number of season 1 and 2 characters, especially the likes of Optimus Prime and Starscream. The reason for this was the upcoming season 3 toy line. Some would die without getting a chance to say anything or even being named.
In this continuity, dead Transformers can still exist as ghosts. These ghosts are capable of possessing the forms of living Transformers.Or at least Starscream can; there's no evidence of any other Transformers being able to do the same.
When Matrix bearers die, their wisdom and spirits remain within the Matrix. A near-death experience allows the current Matrix bearer to make contact with these spirits.
Japanese cartoon continuity
The Japanese continuity did not skimp on showing death as a part of war. Aside from numerous generic robots (for example, the prison guards from Victory), notable characters were also killed. The most famous victim of this tendency was Ultra Magnus, who died in battle against Sixshot in The Headmasters. In Super-God Masterforce, Sixknight was killed by Devil Z and Black Zarak perished in the finale along with the Decepticon Emperor.
However, Transformers that have been mortally wounded can be rebuilt into new forms, as happened with Soundwave/Soundblaster and Ginrai/Victory Leo. Also, because of a different approach to censorship, human death was not unheard of. While not present in the first two seasons (which were simply translated from the American version) nor the following Headmasters cartoon, plenty of humans became unlucky collateral damage from Masterforce onwards. Besides victims such as Professor Gō early in the series, the Decepticons often slaughtered people in the course of their activities. Giga, for example, destroyed a passing airliner (presumably killing all aboard) simply to test his new Deathball toys. In Victory, Earth was spared much destruction until the latter half of the series, when Deathsaurus's forces began attacking in earnest (killing countless human soldiers in the process). In addition, Star Saber's adopted son, Jean Minakaze, was the sole survivor of a Decepticon attack.
At the same time, supernatural forces irrefutably exist in this universe and are capable of reversing the process of death. Optimus Prime died a second time Zodiac energy as Star Convoy ; the evil entity Dark Nova took Galvatron's remains and reformatted them as Super Megatron. The demonic being Violen Jygar resurrected many Decepticons to serve as his Demon Generals .but was brought back by
The Kiss Players, infected by Galvatron's cells, are capable of resurrecting dead Transformers like Optimus by kissing him and channelling the cells into him; however, once the cells were taken out, Optimus died again.
The Generation 2 comic had less oversight from Hasbro, a whole lot of inherited characters that didn't have toys, and an existence in the extreeeeeme and violent 1990s US comic industry. The result was the Transformer equivalent of the Battle of the Somme—almost every issue would have a known Transformer or three being killed off. Even the crossover with G.I. Joe, setting up Megatron's new toy, killed off four.
Even characters who had previously been major ones in the Marvel Comics would be killed, with Nightbeat, Bludgeon, Spike Witwicky and Fortress Maximus all dying alongside lesser-seen characters like Skullgrin and Red Alert. Amusingly, some of these characters (such as Dirge, Joyride and Quake) had died in earlier G1 issues and had returned from the dead without explanation solely to be bumped off.
In addition, the Transformers would slaughter large numbers of Cybertronian Empire soldiers, and many alien planets were shown being exterminated. Earth didn't escape unscathed either, with widespread devastation, open slaughter of humans and the obliteration of San Francisco. Oh, and Prime dies and comes back again.
Beast Wars, being a CGI cartoon, could not afford to have too many characters in the show at any one time—once they reached seven-a-side by Season 1, any new character coming in would mean an old one going out. This led to some quite arbitrary deaths, such as Terrorsaur and Scorponok falling into lava and going unmourned, or Tigatron and Airazor suddenly being dragged into space by the Vok. Dinobot, by contrast, had an episode devoted to his heroic sacrifice and his death served as the end to his plot arc for that season, and has become one of the most popular episodes.
One problem Beast Wars had with killing characters is that every character on the show would be blown up real good during the series, only to be put back together again—this would mean when they were actually being killed, they'd sometimes be suffering less damage than they had in battles where they lived. In addition, Optimus Primal and Blackarachnia both died and came back with brand new bodies, showing death to be a potential revolving door. At one point, Inferno was clearly vaporised in an explosion—but, because it was decided not to kill him when Season 3 started, he was suddenly merely a bit singed.
The character of Dinobot II presents interesting questions about Transformer death. While cloned from the original Dinobot and possessing the same voice, same look (albeit an eerie skeletal version) and same skills, he had a different personality & memories and was clearly a different character, even carrying a different Spark (half of Rampage's). However, in the season finale, the destruction of Rampage caused him to gain an increasing number of Dinobot's memories that he could not have and start gaining Dinobot's personality. He also viewed his Spark as being "different… at last complete". How all this occured was not explained; based on the visual of him turning into the original Dinobot & back again when Rampage was destroyed, it could be assumed the original was influencing him.
The final three episodes would kill seven characters, including the majority of the Predacons and two of the Maximals—including Tigerhawk, who only appeared two episodes before his death—to pave the way for Beast Machines. Other characters who met their end were Depth Charge, Inferno, Quickstrike and Transmutate. Waspinator, despite his bad luck, always survived. Former Decepticon-turned-Predacon Ravage also died when his ship exploded.
IDW comics continuity
IDW's Beast Wars comics would introduce a large number of unused toys into the fiction—a large number of which were then massacred in the second miniseries. Many of them had hardly got a chance to show any characterization. The exception is Razorbeast, who had been the main character in the previous story and had to be euthanised by one of his friends.
The premise of Beast Machines was that Megatron had taken over Cybertron and removed the Sparks from everyone, leaving massive graveyards across the planet. However, this hadn't actually killed anyone—as long as the Sparks survived, they could be put in a new body and live again, and everyone was restored at the end of the series.
The series would also introduce the concept of the Allspark—a dimension composed of Transformer Sparks, the home of every one that will or can ever be. When a Transformer dies, their Spark returns to it and all of their knowledge and life experience is added to the Allspark. Rhinox's spirit would be seen within in it, advising Optimus Primal to move on.
Optimus Primal was outright killed, but would come back to life again after deciding not to join with the Allspark but continue his mission; this could be seen an in-universe explanation for why some Transformers return to life while others stay dead. Primal would die properly later on, taking Megatron with him.
The original Vehicon generals contained the Sparks of existing Beast Wars characters but possessed completely different personalities—most notably Thrust, the brooding, loyal and fearless general who had Waspinator's Spark. Overriding the general's shell programs to bring back the original characters could be seen as killing the Vehicons.
Megatron would also have the opportunity to allow himself to pass on and rejoin the Allspark. However, his repeated returns to life (during "Spark of Darkness") convinced him he could still achieve godhood and so he rejected passing on. He also erased Rhinox's Spark, showing that even the dead can be killed. 
Robots in Disguise
The Robots in Disguise franchise is unique in that almost nobody dies. The exception is Megatron—he was completely destroyed, but then reborn as Galvatron due to the Orb of Sigma and energy drained from Predacon sparks. While possessing the same voice, personality and general form of Megatron, Galvatron declares himself to be a different person and his former self to be dead.
The BotCon comic The Wreckers would use death quite a lot in its second issue, for one very specific reason—they'd brought in too many bloody characters in the first issue. A few massacres later and the cast was down to a more manageable level.
Universe's multiverse-spanning story allows for a lot of death in character backstories—Smokescreen is killed by another Smokescreen, Unicron's generals all killed Megatron in their home dimensions, and Megazarak has killed everyone on his Cybertron. Conversely, it also allowed for a whole load of character resurrections—Optimus Primal, Depth Charge, Rhinox and Tarantulas all returned from the dead. One of the Wreckers, meanwhile, is a revived Tigatron.
Both Galvatron and Starscream would make heroic sacrifices in Armada to stop Unicron—only to return from the dead for the Energon cartoon. And then sacrificed themselves again at the end of that one —and came back again for the next cartoon!
Alpha Quintesson and Unicron possessed the ability to create new Transformers—Terrorcons and Scorponok—out of the remains of the dead. Scorponok was an odd case: it was originally presented that he was a recreated version of an inhabitant of Alpha Q's homeworld, but later retconned that he was, in fact, merely created in that being's image, and actually animated by the Spark of a dead Decepticon. This retcon, however, did not make it into the Energon, since the episode featuring it was not dubbed. Scorponok was later killed, but in both the fan club comics and Cybertron toy tech specs, he became an undead monster.
In the Unicron Trilogy cartoons, resurrection often altered the basic personality of a Transformer. Tidal Wave became more intelligent as Mirage, as well as gaining a crush on Galvatron; Demolishor devolved in intelligence and became more ape-like; the morally conflicted Starscream, who sacrificed himself for the greater good, would became an ambitious power-hungry traitor like those other Starscreams. This has not occurred in other canons, where death and rebirth rarely seems to cause any real problems for anyone. Galvatron dies again for the last time after a fight with Optimus. Vector Prime also dies.
While it can be safely assumed people did die in the Autobot-Decepticon war, it was only shown on panel when the Unicron plotline took over. In addition, Unicron was shown to be able to kill and rebuild Transformers into his loyal servants, doing it to Rhinox and his fellow Beast Warriors. While his body had died, Megatron's consciousness remained within Unicron's spark core, and from here was able to return to life with a new body.
The live-action movie would feature death galore in its climactic battle scenes, with almost every Decepticon being wiped out and Jazz being killed in battle. Not to mention the humans; almost an entire military base is wiped out by Blackout; Scorponok's enjoyment of stabbing; possible demises caused by Frenzy on Air Force One; Frenzy accidentally kills himself through decapitation while fighting four humans; Bonecrusher hatefully sweeping away traffic before getting impaled through his head which is then ripped off by Optimus; and countless possible casualties in Mission City, including Brawl who is killed by pulse cannon blasts from Bumblebee with Mikaela's help, Blackout who is killed by Will Lennox and the Air Force and Megatron who gets killed by Sam with the Allspark, but not before he kills Jazz.
Starscream blew up an F-22 Raptor to obtain his alternate mode. He kills countless Sector 7 soldiers when searching for Frenzy's body in the Hoover Dam, and takes a human along while leaving Earth to see if he can survive the trip. He doesn't.
On the Transformers side, a whole lot of toys die bloody in "The Reign of Starscream Issue Number Three"—coincidentally after they'd been on the shelves for a while.
From the ninth issue of Transformers Comic, the movie-based comic strip took place in an alternate universe where the Decepticons won in the film. As a result, human casualties are quite high; thousands of NATO sailors are killed in battle, Starscream bombs humans to spread terror, and Sam Witwicky is established to have died.
Shockingly for a Furman-written alternate universe, Transformer deaths have so far been few. No Autobots are yet confirmed as dead (though Longarm was shot down and not seen since…), while Decepticon casualties so far include Bonecrusher, Frenzy and Megatron following the initial story. Many Decepticon drones, however, are wiped out by the heroes.
The All Spark is shown to be capable of raising the dead, here being used to bring back Jazz. Any corruption of the All Spark, however, corrupts the resurrected.
Revenge of the Fallen film
In the second film, even more characters, human and robot, are killed. In the opening fight in Shanghai, Decepticon Sideways is sliced in half by Sideswipe (in his car mode, more embarrassing for the guy), and Demolisher is shot in the face by Optimus Prime, right after rolls over lots of traffic with his huge wheels.
During the mission to revive Megatron, The Doctor orders the Constucticons to "kill ze little one!", on proper name terms Scrapmetal, for parts to rebuild their leader.
Mikala runs over Alice.
Later in the forest battle, Optimus kills Grindor by ripping his head apart. When his back was turned, Megatron stabs Optimus in the back and blasts his chest open, killing him in a most brutal fashion.
In the Egypt battle, Bumblebee kills Skipjack by blasting him in the back of the head, while also killing Ravage by ripping him in half; Sam breaks an Insecticon apart; Devastator is shot down by a rail gun upon Agent Simmons's orders which blasts him into pieces; Jetfire kills Mixmaster and Scorponok by cutting Mixmaster in half and then stomping off his head and then crushing Scorponok's head with his fist after being mortally wounded in the process. While running to revive Optimus with the Matrix of Leadership, Sam is shot by Megatron and dies, but is resurrected by the Six Primes. He then resurrects Optimus. Some Decepticons are killed in the battle by the NEST team and the Autobots and the rest, including those are killed in a massive airstrike by the US Airforce such as Long Haul. Later in the battle, Jetfire rips out his spark, killing himself to strengthen Optimus. Before this The Fallen attacks and steals the matrix, and in the IMAX version of the film, The Fallen can be seen decapitating a soldier of the far left of the screen. Optimus kills The Fallen by punching through his chest and pulling out and crushing his spark.
Severe physical damage does not kill Transformers in the Animated universe — Megatron survived despite being reduced to a severed head, while Lugnut and Blitzwing remained conscious despite being in bits and the dismembered Soundwave has been hinted to still function.
Transformer death is, however, possible — a combination of physical damage and AllSpark energy outright killed Optimus Prime. He was resurrected immediately afterward by the Key, which contained AllSpark energy.
Starscream also was killed Megatron, anyway.only to be brought back to life by AllSpark energy. In his case, despite his Spark being extinguished, an AllSpark shard has embedded in his head and makes him immortal as a zombie — kill him, and he'll just come back two minutes later. This has possibly made him the most tenacious (and annoying) Starscream to date. To
Similarly, Omega Supreme had died long ago saving Cybertron in the Great War, but with AllSpark energy he was able to be revived. (Worryingly, the Autobots had used his remains to make a spaceship; it is unknown if this is common. Although it is possible he just died in vehicle mode.)
It's up for debate as to whether Blurr was killed, though he's not the first to be crushed into a cube and he didn't turn gray like other dead guys did.
Unlike all the others, Yoketron actually stays dead.
In the end, two guys died, Prowl dies while saving the city from the Starscream Supremes, while Starscream dies when the AllSpark fragment got pulled of from his head.
- ↑ However, due to an editorial caveat in the foreword, all the prose stories in Transformers Legends are "What If?" stories that are not to be considered as actually occurring in the continuities they are based on. As a result, the events depicted in "Singularity Ablyss" technically belong to a Micro-continuity and are therefore not canon for the mainstream Beast Machines continuity.
- Dirge (G1) — the unlucky guy who gets killed off in many continuities (but less than Optimus Prime).
- Quake — the unlucky guy who gets killed over and over in the same continuity, but doesn't seem to mind.
- Waspinator — the unlucky guy from Beast Wars who gets sliced, diced, and fricasseed every other episode only to be fully functional in time to get slagged again.