Spike... can't speak for everyone of course, but judging from responses on the board and my own opinion, the wide-spread dislike comes from these causes:
From the beginning of the ongoing onwards he featured heavily in the series, to the point where people started to wonder sarcastically if the series was stil called "The Transformers" or "Spike and the Transformers". Considering we buy the books primarily to read about giant robots from outer space (although by no means do I want to discount the human factor), the attention given to the character in the story seemed chafing. At times it very much felt he
was the main character, the one driving the story and the Transformers were there as a supporting cast. I think it was also telling that Mike Costa mentioned in his interview that he would like to return some time and continue the story about Spike
And on top of that, he wasn't a very likable character. People complained that he was a total jerk. We were told it was intentional, that we were supposed
to dislike him, but the problem was that he was disliked to the point that people stopped liking the book. I think the problem was not so much that he was a jerk, but that he was a jerk with no redeemable features. On the one hand, he was presented as being too perfect - women flock to him, he can take out a Transformer all by himself, etc. etc. - on the other hand his personality characteristics were all negative - he's got no morals, he's arrogant, sleeps around - on the job
- keeps secrets, etc. etc. That's not a good combination.
I've thought a lot about the jerk-type character in Transformers and I suspect that might be at the root of the problem. Because usually response to jerks is actually quite favourable - they're either characters we love (Prowl) or characters-we-love-to-hate (Animated's Sentinel Prime). And I think that what it boils down to is that those characters might be jerks, but they either have redeeming features that offset it and actually supply depth to the characters, or they don't get away with being a jerk. Presenting:
Prowl: he's always been a prick, but he rose to new heights with Nick Roche's story Everything In Its Right Place, which established him as a scheming force behind the throne, pretty much. Apart from the fact that this story was exceedingly well written and received, it also made Prowl, well, almost evil
, adding a lot of moral grey to a universe that usually tends to be pretty clear-cut in terms of good and evil. But it also gave him a motive for his actions: everything he does is for the Autobot cause (redeeming feature). His actions, while evil, are not evil for evil's sake, but serve a higher moral purpose, which is good.
And while what he did to Kup and whatever else he has done may have remained undiscovered as yet, there are people around him who are aware of it, and don't approve, which causes a lot of tension, suggesting that one day there will be pay-off. And I, for one, want to see that pay-off someday. I would like to see Prowl fall hard and be made to answer for the things he's done. Not because I hate the character but because seeing Prowl sweat just makes for the way more interesting story. It's fun to see him flip a table in frustration because someone he relied on looked him in the face and told him, screw it, I'm off. It's fun to see him feel control slipping away bit by bit. It's fun to see his mask slipping and see him loosing control.
Sentinel Prime: a jerk who doesn't have many positive features - he's arrogant, whiny, prepared to let his best friend take the fall to save himself - as I recall he was based on the character Major Frank Burns from M*A*S*H - he is the character-we-love-to-hate in Transformers Animated and about as far on the other side of the jerk-spectrum from Prowl as you can get. Why do we love him? Because his jerkitude is offset by the fact that he's got a pretty weak personality, leading to him falling hard and often, after which he'll have to crawl to the very character he's been a jerk to most (Optimus Prime) begging for help. And it's played to comedy effect, which means he is the character who amuses, instead of irritating, the audience. We love to laugh at jerks, because they don't get away with it.
Well, Spike "gets away with it". In fact, in the end, he literally
got away, meaning we never even got the satisfying conclusion of seeing him fall. Yeah, he might be a fugitive now, on the run from the law, but we never know, he might actually enjoy that, it might fit with the romantic image we've been told he's got of himself. And we never actually see him sweat over it, we never see him actually have be confronted with what he's done. So basically Spike ended up annoying readers from start to finish and even his story wasn't brought to a satisfying conclusion.
Comments and questions after the break.