Home > Misc. > Marvel’s Transformers (1984-1991)

Marvel’s Transformers (1984-1991)

Today finds me still sick, with the added problem of endless sneezing. I don’t know if it’s allergies, as the only thing I know I’m allergic to is penicillin, which makes me swell up instead of sneeze. I’ve decided that I’m allergic to this new year, which means I’m in for a doozy if this keeps up. The sneezing is keeping me from sleeping, so I’m hoping it goes away quickly.

But since I’ve been up, I decided to read through Marvel’s 80-issue Transformers comic. I remember buying issue #10 at a Target back when it was new, and finding it interesting since the story was different from the show, but also disappointed at that fact. I guess younger me wanted comic issues of the episodes, that silly kid. I think the Marvel run is interesting for a few different reasons, some good and some bad. I should note that I haven’t read through the UK run, so this is solely thoughts on the US run:

– I’m not sure of the dates, but the artwork in the first few issues leads me to believe that they were completed prior to the cartoon’s debut. Megatron looks slightly different from issue to issue, as well as characters like the seekers and even Prime himself. But the most obvious ones are Ratchet and Ironhide, who resemble their toy’s robot mode, which is nothing like the show’s robot mode. I believe a third-party line exists that features a show-accurate transformation and there’s also the Heroes of Cybertron PVC line, but that was all far after the end of both the show and the comic.

– I like that the comic’s story was willing to not mirror the show. It would’ve been easy to just fit episode plot into 23 pages and call it an issue, but they didn’t do that. Though, there are a good handful of issues that feel like they’re filler issues, but with a few panels or pages of plot pertaining to the overall story arc. The car wash issue and the concert issue are two that almost feel like throwaways, along with the majority of pages in the issues with the cannibal robots, for example.

– One constant that I disliked, though I know it’s a necessary evil in dealing with a toy property, is the need to include every toy in the line at some point. Sometimes there would be a tagline for the next issue that was like, “because you demanded it: Superion vs. Bruticus!” or whatever, and I was a kid then who enjoyed Transformers. Nobody liked either of those weenies, nor their teams. I also sort of dislike the panels where characters are introduced, because of the thing where 10 guys are in a conversation and they all have to refer to each other by their code name to introduce them to the reader. “I’m ready for action!” “Well you should relax, Hosebeast!” “Speak for yourself, Buttmonkey!” and so on. Maybe there wasn’t panel space for little boxes with their names instead, or maybe that came down from Hasbro? Also, and this is more a dig at the toys than the comic, because the artists were basing their art on toy designs, but I feel like, at least with G1 as a whole, it gets difficult to differentiate between characters in robot mode after about the second wave. There are specific ones that stand out, but for someone who isn’t a black belt in Transformers knowledge, there were many panels of a guy’s face where I would’ve had no idea who it was if they didn’t always say each other’s names. Maybe that’s why they did that. Maybe design more robot faces.

– Where are the girls? The movie had Arcee, the show had Elita-One, but I think the only female transformer shown was Wreck-Gar’s ladyfriend in the issue with a battle on Junkion. I guess there were human ladies, but does that count in a book about robots?

– Seeing different people in charge was a definite plus over the show. I like Ratbat having a large role for a period there, and seeing how both sides react to whomever is in charge makes the conversations less predictable. The only one I wasn’t too big on was Scorponok, but I think that’s more of me not digging on anything from Headmasters and beyond, than a problem with the writing. I could see the Autobots eventually being okay with the inclusion of a non-machine in their team, but the Decepticons being that accepting just never added up to me.

– I like that they took chances with the plot in this book. The animated movie made kids mad when they killed a bunch of characters, and you could argue that the show suffered for it and I’d agree. But in the comic, they have no problem taking a character out of commission for awhile, or permanently. Sunstreaker got worked only a few issues in, and I believe he isn’t shown until much later in the run, and even then it’s just in a non-speaking group shot. I realize part of this is giving attention to the newer characters, but old hands like Prowl managed to stick around in some capacity throughout the series, so it wasn’t a total push for these new toys. But to see several characters wiped at once, like in the first Shockwave attack or when Starscream gets the power of the Underbase, definitely something that never would’ve happened in the cartoon. Though, they did tend to give some characters multiple returns from the grave, but they’re the bigger fan favorite characters and they somehow managed to have them make sense in the context of the story, so it didn’t seem too goofy.

– I’m not sure I understand the ending. The Last Autobot reformats Hi-Q into Optimus Prime, but he’s not the bigger form any more. The Ark went to earth with Galvatron, Shockwave, Megatron, Ratchet, and Starscream all on board. Spike hops into Fortress Maximus and appears to beat Galvatron. So is Earth saved? Where did the other guys go? Are we just assuming they died in the blast Ratchet set up? This is the same series where Megatron appeared to die, Shockwave appeared to die, and Starscream did die. So a simple explosion killed them? Also, during the last moments when they think Cybertron is going to explode, it says “population: six.” Even if you assume everyone else died in the fight with Unicron, what about those robot-eating guys that were fighting the Dinobots? They would still count as part of the population, right? The Decepticons on the last planet surrender, but then it says there’s peace and the end, but would they just quit fighting like that, or surrender for now and fight more later?

– Why did Jazz play Madonna music with lyrics, but the guy in the concert issue isn’t just Bruce Springsteen? Likeness issues?

– More of a behind the scenes question, but I wonder why they decided to randomly wedge that two-issue arc of the UK run in there? It was interesting to get a look at how the property is treated slightly differently there, but if you were a Marvel reader back then and you enjoyed those issues, where would you go to get UK issues? I don’t remember ever seeing them on the old carousels, though I suppose a comic shop could’ve special ordered them? I’m also curious why the one issue has half-issue credits for two different guys. Was it some creative thing where the first guy bailed out and so someone had to finish the issue?

– Aside from the first 15ish issues or so, which I like purely for nostalgic reasons, the Simon Furman stuff is definitely the best. It’s a good run that takes into account for events that happened before he was writing, and made them work in the context of what he was doing. All in all, a cool series to read through.

Apparently there’s a continuation to this series called Regeneration One. I may have to look this up, just to see where it goes. But for now, I must go take medicine and attempt to sleep.

Categories: Misc.
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