Shrapnel is a minor antagonist in the Transformers franchise, especially Generation One. The original version of the character is a member of the Insecticons subgroup. In the Marvel US comics, he is the secondary antagonist of the "Return to Cybertron" arc.
Shrapnel and the other Insecticons were introduced in the late first season episode "A Plague of Insecticons". They had arrived on Earth around the same time as the other Transformers and set up camp in a swamp until they were found by the Decepticons. Although they did not fully join him, they were happy to serve them if it benefited them. Shrapnel acted in a leadership role alongside Bombshell.
In the episode "Traitor", the Insecticons assisted the Decepticons in exchange for a small energon allowance. Mirage tried to turn the two groups against each other by making it look as though the Decepticons had stolen the energon back, but after a brief battle they realised they had been duped, although they were still routed by the Autobots. Shrapnel and the other Insecticons also appeared prominently in the episode "The Insecticon Syndrome" where they become temporarily invincible after absorbing the power of a nova power core. However, it came close to destroying them before they were returned to normal.
In The Transformers: The Movie, Shrapnel was part of the attack on Autobot City but suffered severe damage, being accidentally shot by Blitzwing, then rammed by Hot Rod, then rammed again by Optimus Prime. As a result, he was one of those ejected into space on the journey back to Cybertron and was reformatted into one of the Sweeps by Unicron. Despite this, he appears without explanation among the Decepticons on Junk later in the film and also in "Five Faces of Darkness".
Introduced in Issue #16, Shrapnel was one of the Decepticons who remained behind on Cybertron and served as the executive officer to Lord Straxus. He captured the Autobot spy Scrounge, who was sent to his death in the smelting pool. Having learned of the Autobots and Decepticons on Earth, the Cybertronian Decepticons constructed a space bridge in order to share resources with the faction led by Megatron and Shockwave. However, an attack by the Autobots saw the space bridge temporarily disabled, the Autobots escaping to Earth and Straxus apparently killed.
Shrapnel interrogated and killed an informer to learn the location of a meeting of Autobot leaders. By now, he seemed to have lost his executive officer position, with Dirge leading the mission to attack it, but they ended up being recalled without learning they were about to walk into a trap. Shrapnel was among the first reinforcements to join Megatron's depleted Earth Decepticons and took part in an early scheme to gain the power of a dam, using his electrical powers to control the equipment.
Shrapnel aided in other plans, including the hijack of an ultimately empty tanker. He was last seen in Issue #41 among the Decepticons sent by Ratbat to attack the Autobots gathered on the moon. Like most of the earlier Decepticons, he is often assumed to have been killed during the Underbase Saga.
In Marvel UK's Earthforce storyline, Shrapnel appears in the story "Bugged", sent by Megatron to spy on the rival Decepticon faction led by Shockwave. They were captured by Starscream but he let them go with the information Shockwave would leave on a solo patrol in order to engineer a showdown between the two leaders.