Hundreds of years after the end of the Great War, a member of the Maximals named himself Optimus Primal in honor of the great Autobot, Optimus Prime. The relatively inexperienced but highly skilled Primal gained early command of an exploration ship, the Axalon, loaded with numerous stasis pods. His crew included Rhinox, Rattrap and Cheetor. He was also entrusted with a secret mission- to deposit the dormant Protoform X on some uninhabited world, thus keeping him from destroying or being destroyed.
However, the Axalon's mission was sidetracked by the crimes of the Predacon renegade Megatron and his crew, who stole the Golden Disk. The Axalon was sent after him, and pursued him via transwarp drive to an unknown planet. Both ships engaged in battle, and both crashed miles apart from one another on the planet. Learning the planet had abundant supplies of raw energon, Primal and his crew adopted animal-based alternate modes- Primal became a gorilla. The Maximals resolved to stop Megatron and his forces from claiming the energon and taking it back to Cybertron. Primal dubbed the resulting conflict the "Beast Wars."
Primal grew in skill as a leader as the war continued. Soon, an alien influence on the planet, known as the Vok, came to light. Primal seemingly died once investigating an alien probe, but was later released. A second probe confronted Primal, and he piloted a transwarp-modified stasis pod to take out the Planetbuster sent to cleanse the planet of the Transformers' influence. Unfortunately, due to Megatron's sabotage, Primal was blown to bits as a result.
Over the next several days, Rhinox tirelessly worked, ultimately retrieving Primal's spark and placing it into a Transmetal body. Primal was resurrected, and the Beast Wars continued. Primal's secret mission was revealed when they faced Protoform X, now transformed into Rampage. Soon, it was revealed that the mysterious planet was in fact prehistoric Earth, and that Megatron planned to change history, first by wiping out humanity's ancestors, and later, by destroying the Autobots in stasis lock aboard the Ark. Megatron nearly slew Optimus Prime, forcing Primal to contain Prime's spark within his own body to preserve it. As a result, Optimus Primal metamorphosed into a more powerful, Prime-esque form (nicknamed "Optimal Optimus"). Prime was repaired, and Primal returned his spark to him.
To protect history, Primal moved the Maximals into a base defending the Ark, and continued to fend off Megatron's attacks. He also had to deal with Depth Charge, a newly-arrived Maximal who resented Primal for his failure to contain Rampage. Ultimately, Primal and his troops were able to defeat Megatron for good, and the Maximals set course for home.
In mid-transit, Megatron- bolted to the top of the Maximals' shuttle- broke loose, being flung adrift in time-space. When the Maximals re-emerged from transwarp space, they found a Cybertron dominated by Megatron and his Vehicons. In addition, they were afflicted with a virus that reverted them to their original beast modes and locked them as animals. Primal led his Maximals to the Oracle, who selected Primal as the leader who would restore Cybertron to a balance of the mechanical and the organic. As part of the mission, Primal and the others were changed into technorganic beings, and had to re-learn the ability to transform. Primal gained the additional abilities to reformat other Transformers and commune with the Oracle.
Unfortunately, Primal misinterpreted his mission, becoming a fanatic obsessed with reviving the organic and destroying the technological. Deceived by a false Oracle message sent by Tankorr, Primal tried to use the Plasma Energy Chamber to wipe out all technology on Cybertron, opposed by Megatron's attempt to purge all the organic using the Key to Vector Sigma. Cybertron was nearly obliterated, but the Oracle contacted Primal, and showed him the folly of his ways- he was to bring balance, not simply uphold the organic. Chastened, Primal sacrficed himself to absorb the Plasma and Vector Sigma energies, saving the planet.
However, Optimus Primal was revived by the Oracle, and set about his true mission. Primal focused for a time on saving the sparks of Cybertron's population. Once that was done, he had to defend them against Megatron's attempts to absorb them into himself. Megatron succeeded in the end, absorbing the sparks, and tried to turn Cybertron's organic core to technomatter. Facing Megatron in final battle, Optimus Primal and Megatron fell into the core, and their energies finally restored the Transformer sparks and brought a technorganic balance to Cybertron.
Primal had a gorilla alternate mode during and after the Beast Wars. One or more of Primal's robot or vehicle modes always had the ability to fly.
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According to Transformers: The Ultimate Guide, Optimus Primal's original mechanical form turned into a sort of "monster truck."
- Beast Wars: "Beast Wars" (Parts 1 and 2) (1996)
- Beast Wars: "Chain of Command" (1996)
- Beast Wars: "Other Voices" (Parts 1 and 2) (1997)
- Beast Wars: "Aftermath" (1997)
- Beast Wars: "Coming of the Fuzors" (Parts 1 and 2) (1997)
- Beast Wars: "Bad Spark" (1998)
- Beast Wars: "Code of Hero" (1998)
- Beast Wars: "The Agenda" (Parts 1-3) (1998)
- Beast Wars: "Optimal Situation" (1998)
- Beast Wars: "Deep Metal" (1998)
- Beast Wars: "Nemesis" (Parts 1 and 2) (1999)
- Beast Machines: "The Reformatting" (1999)
- Beast Machines: "Revelations" (Parts 1-3) (1999)
- Beast Machines: "The Key" (1999)
- Beast Machines: "The Catalyst" (1999)
- Beast Machines: "End of the Line" (1999)
- Beast Machines: "Fallout" (2000)
- Beast Machines: "Sparkwar" (Parts 1-3) (2000)
- Beast Machines: "Endgame" (Parts 1-3) (2000)
- Transformers Universe #1-3 (2003-2004)
- Transformers: The Ultimate Guide (2004)