The dam battle is especially iconic in Japan because it was part of the intro of the Japanese dub of the cartoon
And that made it especially well known and iconic in Japan and that has bled over in to the toys.
Which is why a lot of Japanese exclusives of Optimus Prime and Megatron carry either an axe or a flail.
It seems weird and sacrilegious for the comic to put down the cartoon, because over here, the order was reversed. The cartoon came out before the comic, and was generally regarded as the “real” story, with better art and the “true” characterisation.
From the one panel you showed, it looks like the art here was more faithful than in the comic of “The Big Broadcast of 2006.”
Yeah this is one of the ways in which US and UK fans traditionally diverged - for us the cartoon was only on for a short period, cut up because of limited slots and on its last terrestrial outing in the summer of 1987 was rather outdated compared to the comics who were at the time featuring a lot of toys released that year. And the UK broadcast is one of the few places where Transformers actually lost to GoBots which was picked up instead after the initial run.
Compared to other 1980s toy cartoons like Masters of the Universe, Thundercats and Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles, Transformers got a poor showing on TV and so bigger ratings for those broadcasts than the comic circulation did not translate into a strong cartoon based element of fandom here. By contrast the comic was fairly easy to find for at least most of the run, appears to have had its peak when the cartoon was off air and even managed to co-opt the Movie without the rest of the cartoon coming with it.
And putting down the cartoon was very much a stock theme of the letterspages, especially under Grimlock who bitterly complained about his characterisation, to the point it became a part of the UK fan mindset. The DVD releases of the full series have eroded this but there are still times when you can see the comic either taking too much from the cartoon or implicitly saying why parts of the cartoon's set-up just can't work.
Stuart Webb. Who knows everything about nothing and not a lot about that.
Action Force/G.I. Joe