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THE TRANSFORMERS: COMICS, BOOKS AND MANGA

IDW Publishing
(2005-now)
Devil's Due
(2003-2007)
Dreamwave
(2002-2004)
Club/Con
(2001-now)
Titan Books
(2001-now)
Marvel Comics
(1984-1994)
Japanese
Manga
Other Books
and Titles

MARVEL TRANSFORMERS COMICS GUIDE

Frequently Asked Questions (Marvel Comics)

Last Updated October 18, 2005

01. The Transformers [USA]

a) How long did the comic run for?
b) Why was the comic cancelled?
c) Were there any limited series?
d) Is it the same continuity as the cartoon?
e) Who wrote and drew the comics?
f) Is it true there was an alternate version of #4?
g) Where do "Man of Iron" and "The Big Broadcast of 2006!" fit?
h) Was there a second series of 'The Transformers Universe'?
i) Where do the 'Transformers the Movie', 'GI Joe and the Transformers' and 'Transformers Headmasters' series fit?
j) How similar is the 'Transformers the Movie' series to the film?

k) What is the origin of the Transformers?
l) How does the Matrix feature in the comic?
m) Are the Transformers part of the Marvel Universe?
n) What are the Cybertronian measurements of time used?
o) Are any of the comics available now?

02. The Transformers [UK]

a) How long did the comic run for?
b) How does it differ from the American series?
c) Why was the comic cancelled?
d) Were any of the reprints changed?
e) Is it the same continuity as the American series?
f) Who wrote and drew the UK series?

g) What were the Collected Comics and Specials?
h) What were the Transformers annuals?
i) What was the Transformers A to Z/Datafile?
j) Who hosted the letters page?
k) Where do "Man of Iron", "The Enemy Within!" and "Raiders of the Last Ark" fit in?
l) How does Transformers the Movie fit into the continuity?
m) How do the events of "Time Wars" alter the future?
n) Where do the Earthforce stories fit?
o) Do all the annual stories fit in with those in the comics?

p) What's going on with the two Megatrons?
q) And the several Galvatrons?
r) What's this about Swoop being Divebomb?
s) Who were the Wreckers?
t) Who is Death's Head?
u) Who were the Mayhem Attack Squad?
v) What are the some of the places shown or mentioned on Cybertron?
w) Are any of the stories available now?

03. Transformers Generation 2 [USA]

a) How long did the comic run for?
b) Why was the comic cancelled?
c) Who wrote and drew the comic?
d) Where does it fit in with the continuity?
e) Why are so few Generation 2 toys actually featured?
f) Who are Cybertronian Empire and the Liege Maximo?
g) How much of the second arc was planned?
h) What was the Halloween Special?
i) Are any of the comics available now?

04. Transformers Generation 2 [UK]

a) How long did the comic run for?
b) Why was the comic cancelled?
c) Was there any original material?
d) Why was the opening changed?
e) How does it fit in with continuity?
f) What was the Transformers Generation 2 Annual?
g) Are any of the comics available now?

5. Other Early Comics

a) Blackthorne - 'The Official How to Draw Transformers'
b) Blackthorne - 'Transformers in 3-D'
c) Toy Comics
d) Fan Comics


01. The Transformers [USA]

a) How long did the comic run for?

'The Transformers' debuted as a four-issue limited series, every 2 months, cover-dated from September 1984 to March 1985. At this time, Marvel comics were dated four months in advance of their release [a remnant from the competitive days of the 1960s, when both Marvel and DC fought to have the "newest" issue in the stands - this was brought back into line in late 1989, resulting in Transformers #59 to #61 having cover-dates which would seem to be bimonthly, though they were distributed monthly]. This limited series was a considerable success, and the conclusion was rewritten to allow a continuation. Issue 5 was dated June 1985, and the series then ran monthly until its cancellation at #80, dated July 1991. There was also a digest title, The Transformers Comics Magazine, which ran from January 1987 to July 1988, reprinting two issues at a time in a small, card-cover comic, with additional material in the form of Transformers Universe profiles. This series reprinted #1 to #20.

b) Why was the comic cancelled?

The Transformers toyline had been in decline since 1986/87, and when it was finally cancelled in America after a poor-selling range in 1990, the comic's days were numbered, its sales having also fallen until 1989, but then remained steady, if not huge. The title's editor at the time, Rob Tokar, has complained of the book receiving poor distribution despite positive feelings from retailers, suggesting that without Hasbro pushing them, Marvel perhaps weren't trying as much as they could have. Initially the title seemed doomed to end at #75, but when this turned out to be untrue an epilogue was hastily tagged on, and the comic continued. However, the reprieve was brief, and shortly before #79 was published, Tokar was told that #80 would be the final issue.

c) Were there any limited series?

Four in fact, not counting the original four-part limited series. In November 1986 a three-part adaptation of 'Transformers the Movie' was issued. The same month saw the first of a four part series named 'The Transformers Universe' released, containing profiles of all the Transformers seen in the comic so far, with a few that hadn't yet appeared, and an appendix of TF:TM characters in #4. The page and text layout aped the Marvel Universe series. In January 1987, these were joined by 'GI Joe and the Transformers', a four-part crossover with Hasbro's other Marvel toy comic franchise, which ran concurrent to 'Transformers' #24 through #27. The final Marvel Transformers limited series was 'The Transformers - Headmasters', a four-part story introducing the bulk of the 1987 toyline in a concurrent storyline in four parts, before dovetailing into the main series at #39.

d) Is it the same continuity as the cartoon?

Resoundingly, no. Aside from the innumerable rather sharp plot twists of the comic, with an ever-changing status quo compared to the reset buttons of the cartoon, so many things like origins of certain characters [e.g. the Aerialbots and Stunticons] and the nature of characters themselves [Grimlock, Ratbat, Shockwave etc.] just don't mesh, even to the most flexible minds. Any attempts to do so, such as setting all of Seasons 1 & 2 of the cartoon between a relative lull in the action [say, between issue #12 and #13 of the comic, for an arbitrary example] with convoluted theories for why characters are introduced twice, disappear or reappear are really much to ridiculous to consider, seeing as both continuities were written to be separate. That said, some elements of both universes, such as the two separate origins, have been meshed with varying degrees of success - for example, that the Quintessons arrived on a young Cybertron and simply took the credit for the Transformers.

e) Who wrote and drew the comics?

There were two main writers for the US comic - Bob Budiansky, who wrote #5 through to #15, #17 through to #32, #35 through to #42 and #44 through to #55, and Simon Furman who took over from #56 through to #80. Budiansky, who had previously written and drawn 'Ghost Rider' and the 'Sub-Mariner' limited series, was originally part of the editorial team assigned to creating the characters and setting for both the Transformers comic and cartoon. His initial work was to create nearly all of the main character profiles, taking over from Jim Shooter, and thus by extension the writer's bible and toy tech specs [work he'd continue until around 1988], and when the series was turned into an ongoing one, he took over the writing of the comic. Also during his run he would write the 'Headmasters' limited series, the 'Transformers Universe' series [a collection of his detailed character profiles, dusted up], draw a number of covers and do some of the art layout work for #55, as well as unofficially handling much of the editorial work such as liaising with Hasbro [at the time, Marvel writers could not, by policy, edit their own work]. Out of steam, he recommended Simon Furman, then writing the UK's Transformer book, as successor, and Furman would then stay on the title until its cancellation. The original four issues were written by 'committee' - Marvel editorial stalwarts Ralph Macchio, Bill Mantlo and Jim Salicrup taking credit at various places, though the plot followed much of editor Budiansky. Macchio was also the writer of the 'Transformers the Movie' series, and was credited with the adaptation of his own TV script, "The Big Broadcast of 2006!", for #43, though rumour has it that, again, Budiansky had a hand in the final draft. Issue 16 was written by Len Kaminski, while #33-34 were stopgap reprints of a UK story, "Man of Iron" [originally printed as UK #9-12], written by Marvel UK's Steve Parkhouse. Michael Higgins wrote 'GI Joe and the Transformers'.

Frank Springer pencilled the first four issue series, and would return for the 'Headmasters' mini and #44. When the book returned as a regular title, Alan Kupperberg took over for the first two regular issues [later returning for #43], being replaced by William Johnson for #7-8. Mike Manley drew #9, then Riccardo Villamonte #10. Herb Trimpe then did #11-12, later drawing a number of covers, #20 and the 'GI Joe and the Transformers' series, before Don Perlin took over for #13-15. Graham Nolan pencilled #16, then Perlin returned for #17-19, and a longer stint from #21-32, and then a swansong on #35. He also drew the 'Transformers the Movie' mini. Issues #33-34 were UK reprints, featuring the work of John Ridgway [#33] and Mike Collins [#34]. José Delbo would then join as regular artist, drawing #36-42, #45-54 and #56-60. Jim Fern pencilled over Budiansky's layouts for #55. The arrival of Simon Furman saw many of the Transformers UK pencilers now working on the US title. Geoff Senior was the first, with #61-62, returning for #65-66 and #75. Delbo would stay on for #63-64 and #67. Dwayne Turner pencilled #68, before Andrew Wildman took over, drawing the rest of the run, aside from #75. The artwork that the 'Transformers Universe' series utilised was originally designed by a team headed by Jon Romita, though his precise level of involvement is still to be determined - the credit given is that Ian Akin and Brian Garvey "embellished" the original model sheets. It is worth noting that the covers for #54 and #67 was drawn by Jim Lee, one of the founders of Image Comics, and the famous cover for #5 was by Mark Bright. Another big name who contributed cover art was Bill Sienkiwicz, best known in comics for his expressionist work in The New Mutants, who drew the covers for #1 and #65.

f) Is it true there was an alternate version of #4?

An alternative version was created, if not definitely distributed. Marvel initially intended there to be only a four-issue limited series, but sales were so good that at the last minute it was decided to switch to an ongoing series. This meant altering the fourth issue, and there are rumours that an unknown number of these had already been issued. This first version differed from the final version in the following ways: pages 10 & 11, featuring the tale of the Dinobots, were not included; neither were pages 21 & 22, featuring Shockwave. Instead there was a different final page, tying up the series. For a scan of this click here. However, I don't buy that this was printed. While the scan is proof that an alternate ending was made, I really can't see the idea of Marvel changing the comic mid-printing run - it'd certainly be unique, aside from correcting printing errors or the like. There's also the consideration that I've heard of no fans who either own or have even seen this first version. It seems more likely that at most a handful of pre-production copies for in-house use were produced in the original format. The fact that the last page is available is quite simple to attribute - the original mini-series was reprinted in the UK for a pair of slim hardback books named "The Complete Works", released in two volumes. The second of these ran the alternate page, presumably to give the story some closure. What probably happened is that the original ending was handed on to Marvel UK, should their comic not take off and Issue 8 be the last, and ending could be given. Of course, this wasn't the case, but Marvel UK probably again passed the page on to the publishers of "The Complete Works", who having cancelled plans for a third volume, used it to give closure to the series.

g) Where do "Man of Iron" and "The Big Broadcast of 2006!" fit?

Both were printed in the US as a stopgap measure. "Man of Iron", as mentioned above, was originally a UK story, though as portions were originally printed in black and white, Nel Yomtov was assigned to colour the comic, including the sections already done by Gina Hart, either to give a more uniform look or because of the different colouring processes [Marvel UK used filled art, while Marvel US still used block-colouring]. There's nothing outright to say the story couldn't have happened, with a possible gap being between #12 and #13. "The Big Broadcast of 2006!" really doesn't fit too well, being pretty insubstantial, but there's nothing to say that it isn't part of the timeline, though being set 15 years in the future compared to anything else means there's no real reason to see it as anything other than a Transformers "What If...?".

h) Was there a second series of 'The Transformers Universe'?

There was a second series of profiles, yes. Covering the bulk of new characters from 1987 to 1988, a second series was mooted, but eventually cancelled as the sales of the main title fell as the Transformers franchise began to run out of steam. Most of these profiles would see the light of day, though - ten were printed across #47-49 to bring the comic up to its normal page count after the first three sections of The Underbase saga came in under length, and more followed from #56 on as Furman's early stories suffered the same page count deficit, then remaining for most of not all of the comic's run. The ordering was a little scattershot - though some, such as the Seacons or Technobots, that were printed in the same issue were linked, or were relevant to the comic storyline [e.g. Fortress Maximus in #79], many weren't, and several key characters [e.g. Scorponok, plus some of the new arrivals like Thunderwing and Bludgeon] were omitted altogether. For a comprehensive list of which profiles were printed where, click here.

i) Where do the 'Transformers the Movie', 'GI Joe and the Transformers' and 'Transformers Headmasters' series fit?

'Transformers the Movie' is in a similar sort of category to "The Big Broadcast of 2006" - it's really a bit insubstantial, but there's nothing to really say it isn't part of the US timeline - there's enough time from its immediate chronological predecessor, #80, for most of the settings to be explained without too much stretching, or it can just be viewed as a snapshot of a possible future, or simply ignored altogether. 'GI Joe and the Transformers' fits neatly alongside #24 through to #27, handling the difficult job of intertwining it with a rather turbulent period on the main book. 'Headmasters' happens roughly parallel to the events of #32 and #35-37, where the final issue of 'Headmasters' links in to the main book, with the 'Headmasters' characters arriving in #38.

j) How similar is the 'Transformers the Movie' series to the film?

It's by-and-large a faithful adaptation, though there are a number of changes. Many of the action sequences are shortened or changed as the visuals wouldn't work well in the comic medium, or simply for expediency. Some of the more notable changes are: -

- Unicron devours Lithone by first cloaking it in a corrosive mist.
- Kranix flees Lithone in his spaceship mode, rather than via a shuttle.
- Arbulus is killed on Lithone's surface, rather than being sucked into Unicron.
- The Autobot shuttle is caught in an asteroid storm, a development that was cut from the film script.
- Hot Rod spots the shuttle is full of Decepticons after it lands, rather than while it's still in the sky.
- Autobot City's battle mode is named Fortress Maximus
- Hot Rod doesn't intervene in the Prime/Megatron battle - Megatron simply shoots him with the gun after his pleading.
- Megatron isn't knocked off the edge of a building by Prime.
- The Decepticons board Astrotrain in shuttle mode.
- The Matrix has a different appearance, being a rounded green cube.
- Hot Rod doesn't catch the Matrix as Prime hands it to Magnus.
- Aside from Megatron, it's unclear as to who is thrown out of Astrotrain - it includes at least one of the 1985 'conehead' jets.
- The destruction of Moonbase 2 isn't shown until much later, after the Sharkticon sequence.
- Ultra Magnus' shuttle escapes Autobot City by replicating a manoeuver used against Megatron off Beta 4, something not unnoticed by Galvatron. This sequence was excised from the film at the scripting stage.
- Something on the Quintessons' planet attacks Hot Rod's shuttle, rather than the straight crash in the film.
- Kup is unharmed following the crash.
- Grimlock stays with Hot Rod and Kup throughout their time on the planet
- The trio free themselves from their bonds though Kup's ingenuity, rather than them disappearing as they fall. A draft script for the film had the explanation that Kup was double-jointed thanks to Hot Rod's repairs, which were omitted from the comic, though this could be a reference to the script.
- Wheelie just turns up as the Sharkticons turn on the Quintessons. He talks properly, too.
- Ultra Magnus is drawn and quartered by four Sweeps, a sequence cut at the last minute from the script of the movie [though, I must stress, not animated, though the soundtrack suggests Stack thought this would be happening when he recorded his lines].
- There's actually an explanation, albeit rather heavy-handedly, of how Hot Rod and Kup tracked Magnus' team to Junk, once again cut from the movie at the scripting stage.
- The whole of Junk is a ship, rather than just a ship being buried under it.
- Rodimus Prime opens the Matrix after throwing Galvatron into space.
- There's no mention of what happens to the others inside Unicron, including the rescue of the Moonbase crews, though Bumblebee can be glimpsed leaving Unicron.
- The comic makes reference to the Autobots defeating the Decepticons on Cybertron before Rodimus' closing speech.

k) What is the origin of the Transformers?

According to #61, written by Simon Furman [who had previously used the same origin in UK #150] Unicron, a Chaos God, and Primus, a Light God, had battled at the dawn of the universe, and Unicron had nearly won before Primus tricked them into materialising inside space junk. Both were able to psionically alter their prisons - Unicron made his a giant transforming planet, with Primus becoming Cybertron, creating Transformers from the 'skin' of the planet, and storing his essence in the Creation Matrix, which is handed down the Autobot leaders.

l) How does the Matrix feature in the comic?

It's first mentioned in #5, and initially takes the form of a computer program stored in Optimus Prime's head. It can create Transformers, giving life to the Constructions, Jetfire, the Aerialbots, the Stunticons and presumably the Protectobots and Combaticons, before being sent into space with Optimus Prime's body in #28. However, it would seem at some point [note that it's not explicitly mentioned] it was transferred to a removable device, which is first mentioned in #62, featuring heavily in the 'Matrix Quest' arc that began in that issue and ended in #66, and looks like the same as in the Movie and cartoon. Like the Movie, it is the only thing that can destroy Unicron.

m) Are the Transformers part of the Marvel Universe?

When the series began it was initially planned it was envisioned as part of the Marvel Universe, as other franchise comics [such as 'Rom - Spaceknight' or 'The Micronauts' had been] before the logistics really sank in - Transformers were more than a match for most of Earth's heroes and would be around far too much for them to be worked sensibly into the universe. Despite Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Nick Fury, Dum-Dum Dugan, Robbie Robertson, Mister Fantastic, The Dazzler and Godzilla all getting appearances or mentions in the first four issues, the Savage Land being seen in #7-8, 'Transformers' own Circuit Breaker appearing in 'Secret Wars II' #3, or a sidelong reference to the UK series in 'The Incomplete Death's Head' #1 [though both this issue, and the 'Life and Times of Death's Head' trade paperback hint that the character travels across from a parallel universe after his encounters with the Transformers], 'Transformers' isn't part of the Marvel Universe. However, these characters are undoubtedly mentioned. A sensible theory is that this is that it's simply an alternate version of the Marvel Universe, where heroes are thinner on the ground, or at least generally keep well away from the Transformers.

n) What are the Cybertronian measurements of time used?

A Breem = 8.3 Earth minutes
An Orn = One Cybertronian lunar cycle
A Vorn = 83 Earth years

o) Are any of the comics available now?

Original issues of the various Marvel US Transformers series can be found for between US $3 to around US $15 in comic stores with decent stocks of back-issues, though it's a good idea to beware of any stores that have upped the prices in the wake of the Dreamwave-led Transformers nostalgia boom. None of the issues are especially rare, though decreasing sales and the desirability of the content means Furman's work from #56 on will be towards the top end of the scale, especially from #75 up, as will the original limited series, and the desirable 'Transformers Universe'. However, most of the issues from around #13 to #55 aren't typically valued at more than US $3-4 by respectable comic shops.

Until 2001, only two Transformers trade paperbacks were issued in America - "The Transformers Universe", issued in 1988, collected edited versions of nearly all of the mini-series [see here for the omissions], and "GI Joe vs. the Transformers", published in 1993, which contained the mini-series of the same name, and had a cover drawn by Andy Wildman. The former, which has a near-identical UK counterpart named "The Transformers Universe Vol. One", rarely sells for much more than cover, and can be found quite easily. The latter, released when both franchises weren't doing especially well, is considerably rarer, which added to the cover can give it a high price of up to $25. As a footnote, the UK did receive other reprints of US material in the 1986 in book format - two volumes named 'The Complete Works' were issued, the first containing #1 and #2, and the second containing #3 and the 'alternate version' of #4. These do not have a particularly high value, but may prove difficult to find for non-UK fans. Also in the UK in 1986, a softcover "Winter Special" was issued containing all three issues of 'Transformers the Movie'.

UK based company Titan has been issuing the Marvel comics worldwide in trade paperback format since 2001. Their first collection, 'All Fall Down', collected #69 to #74 in a new cover by Wildman, and was accompanied by a Geoff Senior-drawn hardback cover which was exclusive to the BotCon 2001 convention. It was followed by 'End of the Road', collecting #75 to #80. The Wildman cover linked with that for 'All Fall Down', and a hardback version with art by Bryan Hitch of "The Authority" and "The Ultimates" fame [he also cut his teeth on the UK Transformers series]. In early 2002, 'Primal Scream', collecting #56 through #62, was issued with the first part of another inter-linking Wildman cover, and a hardback variant with a cover by Dave Gibbons. It was followed by 'Matrix Quest', collecting #63-68, and completing the interlocking cover. The hardback cover was drawn by Dreamwave Transformers Generation 1 penciller Pat Lee.

Since 2003, Titan have began repackaging the US series in chronological order, each pair featuring interlocking Wildman covers. 'Beginnings' [#1-#6] came out in June, 'New Order' [#7-12] in August, 'Cybertron Redux' [#13-18] in November, Showdown [#19-24] in March 2004, 'Breakdown' [#25-30] in May, 'Treason' [#31-32 and #35-37] in July, 'Trial by Fire' [Headmasters #1-4 and #38-39] in September, and 'Maximum Force' [#40-42 and #44-45] in November. 'Dark Star' [#46-50] is slated for release in January 2005, with 'Last Stand' [#51-55] set to wrap up the reprints of US material in March. "Man of Iron" and "The Big Broadcast of 2006!" have been skipped, though an abridged version of the latter was included in Titan's 'Space Pirates' UK compilation. Any reprinting of 'The Transformers Universe' seems to have been dropped due to the obvious competition of Dreamwave's 'More Than Meets the Eye' series. 'Transformers the Movie' would seem to be dropped simply for not being all that popular, especially with the film itself being so freely available, while 'GI Joe and the Transformers' could well be a victim of copyright issues. Titan have also been issuing hardback versions of these books, with bonus material and unique covers. So far they have released 'Beginnings' [cover by Ron Garney], 'New Order' [cover by Barry Kitson], 'Cybertron Redux' [cover by Don Figueroa], 'Showdown' [cover by Alan Davis], 'Breakdown' [cover by Kev Walker], and 'Treason' [cover by Staz Johnson] in this format.

All of the Titan TPBs are currently still available, and if your local comic store doesn't stock them they can easily be ordered from the likes of Amazon. The hardbacks are generally trickier to find, but it will be difficult to assess their value in the near future.

At the time of writing, "Man of Iron", "The Big Broadcast of 2006", the GI Joe crossover, the Transformers Universe profiles and the TF:TM mini-series have yet to be reprinted.

02. The Transformers [UK]

a) How long did the comic run for?

In the UK, 'The Transformers', published by Marvel UK, ran for 332 issues, the first dated September 9th 1984 and the last dated 18th January 1992. The comic ran fortnightly for the first 26 issues, then weekly until #308. From #309 on, the comic was fortnightly once again. In addition to this, Marvel and Grandreams co-produced hardcover annuals, containing comic strips, text stories, profiles and quizzes from 1985 to 1991.

b) How does it differ from the American series?

Basically, the UK comic was weekly rather than monthly, so even after the US strips had been split in half, the Marvel UK staff needed to make two weeks' worth of material in-house. After reprinting the four-issue US limited series in TF #1-8, Marvel UK then ran home-made strips in the gaps between the US reprints. Issues 1-26 only featured about 5 or 6 pages of colour Transformers' strip, the rest being black & white. From Issue 27 onwards the comic was all-colour. To fill the other 11 pages of strip needed for the comic, a back-up strip was ran, with 'Planet Terry', 'Machine Man', 'Hercules', 'Robotix', 'Iron Man', 'Inhumanoids' and 'Spitfire and the Trouble Shooters', among the supporting titles. From issue 152 'Action Force Monthly' was merged with the title, though it would never be more than another back-up strip. From Issue 213 the format changed again, with the new distribution being a colour reprint of around a third of an American book, followed by a short black & white UK-made strip, and a reprint from another line, which started off as 'Visionaries' and later reverted to 'Action Force' [later retitled 'GI Joe: The Action Force']. By Issue 309 the format reverted to reprinting half of a US story, and a back-up strip. On occasion, the back-up strip was a reprint of an existing Transformers strip, sometimes recoloured. It is also worth noting that the UK book was large format [approx. 8.5" x 12"] rather than the smaller format US books [approx. 6.6" x 10"].

c) Why was the comic cancelled?

After its spectacular start and growing success, sales began to fall from around #200 onwards, combining with Furman's commitments to the Us comic to lead to a new format from #213 - one 5/6 page US reprint, one 5/6 page new UK story [in black and white from #215], and a non-Transformers back-up. At the same time, production costs were rising - hence the introduction of black and white strips [making the new material black and white, as opposed to GI Joe as suggested regularly in the letters page, allowed Marvel to save on both colouring staff, and the printing costs], and cheaper quality paper. After #289, there was no more original UK material, but the US reprints were upped to 11 pages. However, from #309 the comic was fortnightly, and sales were still slowly falling. With the cancellation of the US title, the UK version's days were numbered, without enough readers to balance the cost of new material. A relaunch as a monthly, with six new pages of strip and the rest being coloured versions of existing black-and-white strips, failed to materialise.

d) Were any of the reprints changed?

There were a number of changes in the US stories reprinted in the UK comic. For the first 26 issues a large number of pages, usually around 6 or 7 out of 11, were printed in black & white for financial reasons, though #1 was in full colour. These monochrome pages were usually taken from the master inking drawings of the US editions. As well as this, where the stories were split in half, a new 'Next:' box was inserted at the ends of all the parts, and a new title & credit box put at the start of each segment. As well as this, all American English words were Anglicised, including the title of the story from US #41, "Totaled!", reprinted as "Totalled!" in UK #174-175. Also, all "* As seen in issue #" captions in US stories were altered to refer to the UK numbers. At least, this was the plan, though often both types would slip through the net.

Also as the 'GI Joe and The Transformers' Limited series was not part of the standard UK continuity, references to it in "Gone But Not Forgotten", reprinted in UK #107, were removed. "The Big Broadcast of 2006", which was printed in the US as a stopgap, was based on the cartoon episode of the same name, which contradicted the post-Movie timeline put forward by the UK comics. Therefore it was given a new prologue and epilogue, by Simon Furman, Lee Sullivan [prologue] and Bryan Hitch [epilogue], and was presented as a story told by the captured Wreck-Gar to a Quintesson interrogator, leading onto the UK epic "Space Pirates". As a minor side-note, the last page in UK #324, a reprint of US #76, "Still Life", was erroneously coloured due to a printing error.

There were a handful of character name changes, too. The US 'Headmasters' mini-series features, among other things, a lot of art mistakes where character designs and colour schemes have been switched. One of the more notable was the switching of Cyclonus' distinctive design with a much simpler one, most likely intended for a Nebulan Targetmaster partner. While this was overlooked in the US [the 'Headmasters' serial was the first US comic appearance of Cyclonus and Scourge, aside from the Movie mini-series], Cyclonus and Scourge were central characters in the UK storylines, and the mistake would cause confusion. The decision was taken to re-title this squarer Cyclonus as Krunix, with Cyclonus appearing properly later in the serial when his role was more central, and the art better researched. Not to be confused with the Lithone, Kranix. Two other changes were made in the same fashion - for some reason in the Headmasters limited series, Hot Rod's Nebulan partner is named Sparks - in the UK printing this was amended to Firebolt; and the Seacon known in America as Overbite was released in Europe as Jawbreaker, and his name was changed to this in all his reprinted appearances.

e) Is it the same continuity as the American series?

There's only one divergence in the comic - the 'GI Joe and the Transformers' mini-series was dropped for the UK [many claim on quality grounds; however, it seems the mammoth task of converting it to fit in with the European equivalent of the GI Joe toyline, Action Force, may have played a part too, as would the factor that Marvel UK's GI Joe reprints, as Action Force, were behind their Transformers reprints and this would have confused readers]. Its' only long-term event, the destruction of Bumblebee and his subsequent resurrection as Goldbug, was dealt with in a different story from #113-118, and references to it in US #25 were edited for the reprint in #107. The series was eventually reprinted in the UK in #265-281 as a stopgap, though it sits outside of UK continuity.

While the rest of the US stories are undoubtedly part of the UK continuity, it's surprising how many will still argue that it's not vice-versa, when the worst that it means is there's an extra ninety-odd Transformers comic stories. Sure, it makes it less complicated, but it also makes it a heck of a lot less fun, and even good. Common sense aside, there are only actually two real references to the UK comic in the US material - in US #57, Dreadwind makes a sidelong reference to UK #218, and the character of Deathbringer [featured in #235-236] appears in US #66. There are theories that Furman was actually blocked from referencing his UK work, though there would be little point to him doing so anyway... So if you really want to dig your heels in, the UK stuff isn't the same continuity, it's only really you that's losing out, and few comic fans will credit your feelings...

f) Who wrote and drew the UK series?

Nearly all of the UK exclusive stories were penned by Simon Furman, who debuted on the series with #13. Having previously written for the horror magazine 'Scream!' and edited 'Captain Britain', 'Transformers' was one of his first comic writing jobs, and he would be the UK series' primary writer until it was cancelled. He wrote the final new UK strip for #289, by which time he had been writing the US series for some time. Only a handful of the 104 UK-made comic stories weren't written by him. The first of these was Marvel UK's first indigenous story, 'Man of Iron' [#9-12] was written by Steve Parkhouse, whose other work included 'Doctor Who Weekly/Monthly/Magazine'. James Hill wrote the seasonal #41, and three of the other 'Christmas stories' were only plotted by Furman, with Hill [#93], Ian Rimmer [#145] and Dan Abnett [#198] scripting. Abnett would also script #188-189 from outlines by Furman. The only other story not credited to Furman is "Crisis of Command", printed in #42-44 - Mike Collins is given as the writer for #42 and #44, and Hill for #43. Finally, artist Barry Kitson came up with the plot idea for #59-60. As well as this, the US writers all receive their credits for the reprints [see here for information on the American writing teams].

The UK stories utilised a wide range of artists and pencillers. John Ridgway made his Transformers debut with #9, but would stop working on the book after contributing to the first two stories. Mike Collins started on #11, and would last work as penciller on #21. John Stokes took over for #29, and would remain a semi-regular for the next year, later returning for #221-222 and #259. Kitson debuted on #31, and would do several issues up to #64. Will Simpson first drew the strip for Transformers on #41, and would remain on the rotating art team until #131. Geoff Senior then drew #42-43. After a short sabbatical [aside from the occasional cover], returned to the art team on #83, remaining until #138, when work for 'Dragon's Claws' among other titles, interfered. Aside from the cover for #209 he wouldn't return until #232, but after #247 followed Furman to the American title. Jeff Anderson, having inked the strip as early as #18, first pencilled the comic with #65, and would then remain on the art team for most of the rest of the UK run, his last work for the title being #284. Ron Smith would draw #82, but not return to the book, while Martin Griffiths similarly only drew #93. The next new artist on the title was Dan Reed from #115, who would remain on the team until #220. Bryan Hitch would be the next new arrival on #151, mainly contributing covers - his final work for the title was an epilogue page for #181. For #160, Lee Sullivan, who had been doing covers for most of the year, stepped up to main artist, and would be a semi-regular for the next two years, mixing the series in with his work on other titles. His final Transformers strip would be in #238. Robin Smith drew #168-169 before moving on, though he would later draw #1-2 of Fleetway's 'Transformers Generation 2' series. Dougie Braithwaite then pencilled #184-185, his only work for the title. Andy Wildman would debut on #198, and remain a regular contributor until #265, after which he followed Furman to America. Art Wetherall would only draw #224, while Simon Coleby would start on #227, but would draw just three more issues before his last, #277. Staz debuted on #243, and would remain for longer, drawing the final UK strip in #289, and then remaining to do work on a number of covers. Cam Smith debuted on #253, but would only last until the following issue. Pete Knifton joined for #264, staying until the penultimate British strip, #288. John Marshall also joined the team on #268, staying until #286.

Also of note are the artists who drew the special wraparound anniversary covers - Alan Davis, at the time already well-known in the UK thanks to 'Captain Britain' and about to break America big-time with 'Excalibur', drew #100; Jerry Paris, who had drawn the cover for #1, drew #150; Lee Sullivan drew #200; Andy Wildman drew #250 and #300 by Staz.

g) What were the Collected Comics and Specials?

Transformers Collected Comics was a reprint title providing Transformers holiday specials for Marvel. After reprinting the first four US issues in full colour in late 1985, these dealt with UK stories only. Issues #3 and #4 contained full-colour versions of "Man of Iron" and "The Enemy Within" respectively, initially printed whole stories and from #4 to #12 [excepting #7] featured new covers. They appeared around three to four times a year, in the principle holiday periods - Spring, Easter, Summer, Autumn, Winter. Eighteen issues were produced in the numbered Collected Comics series. Three of the last four issues printed incomplete sagas, and from 1992 the Specials were no longer numbered. They did appear twice a year, though, with the last coming out in Summer 1994 before the license switched to Fleetway. There was also an unnumbered Winter 1986 Special, collecting the 'Transformers the Movie' mini-series in a single softcover book.

h) What were the Transformers annuals?

UK annuals in general are not to be confused with those along the lines of Marvel annuals for US titles such as 'X-Men' or 'The Amazing Spider-Man'. Rather than simply being a bumper-sized extra issue, these were large format hardcover books containing five or six [initially original] stories, plus a number of puzzle and/or fact pages. They were typically aimed at the Christmas gift market, a long UK tradition for comics such as 'Victor' and 'Warlord', as well as TV shows like 'Doctor Who' or 'Thunderbirds'. These were published by Marvel in association with Grandreams, and utilised the same creative staff as the comic. The story content was usually split around half strip stories and half illustrated text stories. The books ran until 1991, although from 1990 each featured just a single new text story, with the rest being UK reprints. The 1991 version, though, does include colour versions of #229, #237-239 and #272-274.

i) What was the Transformers A to Z/Datafile?

It consisted of edited 'Transformers Universe' profiles mounted two to a page on a background, often printed in Transformers UK comics from #94 on. The material was generally culled from the first series, though Powermaster Optimus Prime was among those used. Edits ranged from cutting the text down so it would fit, to total rewrites [e.g. Galvatron and Ultra Magnus].

j) Who hosted the letters page?

The first 'hosted' letters page was in #22, named "Soundwaves" and hosted by the editor in the guise of Soundwave - previous editor Sheila Cranna had simply answered letters herself. The following Christmas issue, #41, the page was briefly hijacked by Ratchet for "Rat-Chat". "Soundwaves" then resumed from #42 to #73. From #74 the page was "Grim-Grams", hosted Grimlock - the changeover was marked by a one-page special version of side-feature Robo Capers by Lew Stringer [also artist/writer on 'Action Force Weekly' side-show 'Combat Colin', which would transfer to Transformers with #152 and remain until the cancellation]. The host is widely believed to be Simon Furman, by then effectively editing the title. "Grim-Grams" ran until #182, when another changeover strip by Furman and Stringer announced the arrival of Dreadwind for "Tread Tidings". It is likely that initially Furman was Dreadwind as well, though it is probable he left the job when he moved to the American title. Blaster then took over for "Darn and Blast" from #300, though Dreadwind would return to take the cover of #301 [possibly the only comic cover in history in reference to a letters page...] and feature in a bizarre text story inspired by "A Christmas Carol".

k) Where do "Man of Iron", "The Enemy Within!" and "Raiders of the Last Ark" fit in?

Well, cynically they don't. The last page of #21 [the forth and final part of "Raiders of the Last Ark"], and subsequent 'Robot War' plot recaps in the comic all claim the cycle happens between #6 and #7, but there's simply no gap - as soon as the Transformers reawaken, there's a steady flow of plot, and besides the Autobots aren't nearly out of fuel the whole time and there's a lack of Witwickies. Because of its small cast, and the convenient non-mention of who's Decepticon commander, "Man of Iron" is easiest to fit in, and can broadly be placed between #40 [the return of Optimus Prime] to anywhere before the Decepticon jets are deactivated in #71. However, so as not to overdo it, I personally tend to slot them in directly after #40. The other two are a little trickier, as Megatron's leading the Decepticons, something he doesn't do between #8 and #56. The best bet would be somewhere like between #56 and #57. The only real problems are the appearance of Sunstreaker [seriously damaged by Shockwave in #22] and the fact you have to follow that none of the more recent additions to the cast appear. It's not great, but it's better than "it fits there despite all logic to the contrary because Robot war said so!" or "They don't happen!". You choose the latter and you have to lose "The Wrath of Grimlock" and God knows what else.

l) How does Transformers the Movie fit into the continuity?

The basic events of Transformers the Movie are vital towards the 21st century setting introduced from #113 onwards. However, it is a mistake to assume that Transformers the Movie as constructed by the UK comic stories [which I will call 'the Comic Movie'] is the same as the film, or the comic book adaptation. There are several points which don't gel with the former - aside from several contradictory characterisations [the Dinobots, Soundwave, Ratbat, Ravage] there are a few direct differences - the Comic Movie happens in 2006, and the Decepticon turned into Cyclonus is possibly named as Life Spark, who definitely isn't thrown from Astrotrain in the film. The comic adaptation, already debatable for UK canonicity as it was only printed as a Special outside of the comic itself, can be similarly discharged because there's nowhere that Hot Rod, Kup and Blurr can timejump. So what does happen in the Comic Movie?

- The battle at Autobot City takes place in 2006, with Megatron leading the Decepticons.
- Megatron and Optimus Prime fight to the death.
- Optimus passes the Matrix to Ultra Magnus.
- After being thrown out into space, Megatron and others are turned into Galvatron, Cyclonus and Scourge respectively.
- Galvatron kills Starscream.
- Galvatron, Cyclonus and Scourge timejump to 1986.
- Kup, Hot Rod and Blurr timejump to 1986.
- The Autobots meet Wreck-Gar and the Junkions on Junk, and Wheelie on Quintesson.
- Hot Rod battles Galvatron inside Unicron, opening the Matrix, becoming and destroying the Chaos Bringer.
- Rodimus hurls Galvatron into space.

m) How do the events of "Time Wars" alter the future?

In simple terms, "Time Wars" would seem to be the crux of the "post-Movie" future in the comic changing from the future to a future. While it is possible, on the finite official material of the UK comic, to stick to the view that the future is set in stone, it does require something of a stretch, compounded by the US run effectively moving the coming of Unicron forward 15 years. While in the case of the latter it could be convincingly argued that there is evidence that Unicron can't simply be killed [#146-151 and #227 both demonstrate this], that in the Comic Movie [see here] there's no evidence that anyone meets or hears of Unicron for the first time, and "Target 2006" hints at his ability to control the minds of Transformers anyway. On the other hand, during various points of the UK comic, the likes of Optimus Prime, Megatron [admittedly complicated by the clone affair] and Shockwave all get fairly good looks at their destiny, and the latter two at least actively seek to avoid it - all Megatron would have to do is kill Starscream, and the whole future is changed beyond recognition. Things are further complicated by #224, where Rodimus recounts returning to the future after "Time Wars" only to find Galvatron inexplicably alive and well, and ruling Cybertron. It would seem his memories as Megatron [this was still before the clone ret-con] dissuaded him from time-jumping the second time following his defeat in Unicron, though it starts to slip into the classic paradox - if he didn't go back in time, how is Rodimus travelling back to Cybertron having battled him in 1989? It could be that Rodimus has slipped into an alternate future. Then again, the decrepit Rodimus of 2356, tainted by the Matrix, maybe isn't the most reliable source. I currently fence-sit on the two main theories, tending to use the first for fanfic, and the second for guides.

n) Where do the Earthforce stories fit?

Nowhere cleanly. The problem is that Furman's idea of where they fit is rather skewed. Some events, such as the Survivors thread from #272-274, clearly follow on from earlier stories, as do the likes of #268 or several of the "Perchance to Dream" flashbacks. Initially, the stories were pitched as a companion piece to the US material he was writing [e.g. the explicit mention of the Dinobots' resurrection in #262, when the events of the story and the rest of Earthforce can't fit with those of the US storyline], whether it was a present day alternate reality [#267 is clearly dated as happening on April 1st 1990], in which case the point of divergence is hard to pinpoint unless it simply carries on more or less from the UK stories, ignoring the later US issues, or whether it's set after #332. As someone who tries not to subscribe to alternate realities at every turn, I've always tended towards the latter, with some minor tweaking - for this to work, there's clearly some sort of 'bridge' story arc missing, but aside from the dating of #267 and Prime still having his Powermaster body, there's not an awful lot that can't be rectified, albeit at the cost of Generation 2 [which, to be fair, was printed in an effectively separate comic, and clearly written following on from the US series only]. The one approach, though, that I really don't have time for is dismissal of Earthforce as having no value beyond hawking Hasbro UK's extensive reissues at the time... while this was clearly the driving force behind the stories, once you start thinking like that, any Transformers media is performing the same basic function however it's dressed up, and there's no point in dismissing one thing for advertising toys then lauding another for basically doing the same in a way that slots neatly into a timeline.

o) Do all the annual stories fit in with those in the comics?

There's no simple answer to this. Some do, and some don't. A simple rundown story by story is the quickest way.

1985
"Plague of the Insecticons": Doesn't fit. Warpath doesn't meet Optimus Prime until #104 at the earliest, by which time Ravage has been underground for 21 issues.
"Missing in Action": Doesn't fit. Inferno won't reach Earth until #188.
"And There Shall Come... A Leader!": Fits nicely before the flashback in "The Flames of Boltax!" and after "State Games".
"Hunted!": Doesn't fit. The Jumpstarters are never part of the Earth forces.

1986
"To a Power Unknown!": Fits somewhere between #65 and #70.
"Victory!": Set somewhere between #50 and #65.
"State Games": Fits, before pretty much everything else but the first page of #1 and the origin flashbacks.
"The Mission": Can fit pretty much anywhere between #54 and #106.
"The Return of the Transformers": Null and void; sequel to "Missing in Action!".

1987
"What's in a Name?": Fits; present day stuff during #136, flashbacks either before or after the flashback in "The Flames of Boltax".
"Vicious Circle!": Fits; follows directly on from #120.
"Ark Duty": Fits in the 21st century timeline, before the flashback in #225.
"The Headmasters Saga": Is an odd one. The basic events are the same as the Headmasters mini-series, but there are a few changes - see here for more information.

1988
"Altered Image!": Fits; happens somewhere between #189 and #200.
"All in the Minds!": Fits; happens somewhere between #193 and #200.
"Peace": Alternate future, rendered more unlikely by the presence of Roadbuster and Sandstorm.
"Prime Bomb": Fits, somewhere between #210 and #297.

1989
"Destiny of the Dinobots": Fits with Earthforce, between #286 and #287.
"Trigger-Happy": Doesn't fit; Spinister never serves under Megatron
"Dreadwing Down!": Fits, between #194 and #207.
"The Chain Gang!": Fits, between #162 and #235.

1990
"The Magnificent Six": Fits between the Earthforce stories in #260 and #261.

1991
"Another Time and Place": Possible alternate future following on from #332.

p) What's going on with the two Megatrons?

Basically, there's probably the biggest ret-con in the comic's history [I personally don't count Primus/Unicron and the origin as a ret-con, as in the comic neither were suggested to be any different]. The rough story goes like this - in #108, the comic reprinted Megatron's 'death' on the Spacebridge, where he seems destroyed. The character then turns up in #125, with identical scars from his battle with the Predacons, and was taken into the Thames by Centurion in Action Force #27. Initially it just seems like the usual cunning leap Furman took from time to time to allow a different angle without being contradicted by Budiansky's US work - a similar gambit would be used when Shockwave for one was written out. Shockwave then resurrected this Megatron in #160, and the character would feature in handful of UK stories before being involved in the Time Wars. Surviving this, he heads to Cybertron with Ravage, taking over a group of Decepticons. Next thing we know, another Megatron turns up in #243-244, telling the one we've been following for the past two years is a clone created by Straxus, upon which the clone kills itself. The problem is that US #56 features the return of Megatron, and the following issue his explanation of what he's been doing completely contradicts this.

Basically, this undermines six or seven decent UK stories which featured this clone, and UK #243-244 was Furman's attempt to cover up the continuity problem. Confusingly, US #57 was written by Furman also, which raises the question of why exactly he'd so openly contradict his previous work - it's possible that the issue was already rather developed when he took over, that he saw an angle for a UK story [unlikely considering the work involved], that the US team had a draconian approach to referencing UK storylines [unlikely, as even if they did, it would be easy to rework the explanation to something like "I laid low on Earth, returned to Cybertron but was attacked and lost my memory, etc."], or that Furman made a mistake [highly unlikely, considering his Claremont-esque approach to his own back material]. Aside from the undermining of by far the best writing Megatron had received up to this point, there's also several holes in the idea itself - why would Straxus go to the effort of trying to take over Megatron's mind when he can build an exact clone? Why build a clone that clearly has a dominant copy of Megatron's personality inside it's head? Why did it have exactly the same scars in #125? Why would Straxus build a clone of Megatron, when building himself a unique body would be more useful, or at least more fitting with his arrogant personality?

q) And the several Galvatrons?

There are between two and five Galvatrons in the comic continuity, depending on your view of timelines: -

Galvatron I: The version who timejumps back to 1986, and then again to 1987 following his defeat inside Unicron, and features from #78 through to his destruction in #205.

Galvatron II: The version in #224, who would seem to be an alternate version closely related to [I] but probably didn't timejump the second time, if at all.

Galvatron III: The version glimpsed in #227, who may or may not be a later version of [II], [IV] or [V].

Galvatron IV: The version featured in #255-260, who states he's not the same one as [I]. Possibly the same as [II] or [III] having time-jumped at a later date, or [V] if Earthforce is based after #332. The latter won't work with "Perchance to Dream" being based alongside the later stories, at some point before #319, as there's no time for Galvatron to get to the Ark in the previous stories, plus Prowl, Wheeljack, Ironhide, Silverbolt and Sunstreaker were all clearly revived by the Nucleon.

Galvatron V: The version plucked from an alternate reality by Unicron in #301, and knocked into a lake by Fortress Maximus in #330. It should be noted that it's incredibly unlikely that his defeat was fatal, considering the toughness shown by Galvatron in previous issues [in #320, he's punched by Unicron, for instance, and is unscathed]. Possibly the same as [II], [III] or [IV].

r) What's this about Swoop being Divebomb?

Basically, there was a throwaway comment in #46 where Optimus Prime says Swoop was called Divebomb on Cybertron. Then in 1986 Hasbro released the Predacons, with Swoop's "opposite number" being named Divebomb. Furman then constructed a story around the idea in #135-136 and the 1987 annual story "What's in a Name?" whereby Swoop and Divebomb have a running grudge, with Divebomb having stolen his name from the future Dinobot during a fight on Cybertron to rub in the humiliation of defeat. Divebomb's original name isn't given. The idea is most likely a serendipity, based on Swoop's character profile where his preferred method of attack is clearly the World War 2-popularised process of 'dive-bombing' a target in all but name. It is, however, a staggering coincidence, though with the story being written in early 1986 at the latest it seems unlikely that Furman would have information about a late 1986 toy range [it's near-impossible to imagine how different Transformers news is now, where each new figure is heard of months and months before release - Furman had very little idea what the American comic would be doing two months down the line, let alone the toyline]. To the best of my knowledge, Furman has yet to discuss the origin of the idea in an interview, and tends to ret-con his own thinking processes for his own reason anyway...

s) Who were the Wreckers?

The Wreckers were the Autobots' crack commando squad while Cybertron was under Decepticon control. They were initially led by a new Furman creation, Impactor, and consisted of Roadbuster, Whirl, Topspin, Twin Twist and another new character, Rack 'n' Ruin. The four existing characters weren't to be featured in any significant way in the US comic, and Whirl and Roadbuster, Deluxe Vehicles based on Takatoku toys from the series 'Machine Soldier Dorvack', were then owned by Bandai, and like the Deluxe Insecticons and Jetfire [see here], were avoided. However, Furman just seems to have thought he could get away with it in the UK. They first appeared in the "Target: 2006" storyline, with Impactor and Roadbuster debuting in #78, with the team getting a full introduction in #82. In #84 Springer, Sandstorm and Broadside joined them, with the former taking over the leadership of the team when Impactor died in TF #88. The team were next seen in the 'Return to Cybertron' storyline, printed in #98-104. Between this and their next appearance, in #165, Whirl disappeared.

The team were back in action for the last 4 parts of the Flame storyline, from #165-169, and then journeyed to Earth to battle the temporally displaced Galvatron in #172-173. Sandstorm and Broadside were the placed into the Cybertronian Autobots' Advance Surveillance Unit to search for Galvatron on Earth, appearing in #188, TF #198 and #200. They were reunited with the rest of the team in #201, the third part of "Time Wars", and the Wreckers then made a joint attempt with their Decepticon counterparts, the Mayhem Attack squad [see here] to attack Galvatron. However, Galvatron had forged an alliance with his past self, Megatron, and the two squads were taken by surprise by this development. Megatron killed Topspin in #201, and Galvatron killed Sandstorm in #202, with Roadbuster killed by weapon feedback at the end of the same issue. Galvatron destroyed Rack 'n' Ruin and Twin Twist in #203. The remaining Wreckers, Springer and Broadside, formed the Survivors with Inferno, Skids and Decepticon deserters Carnivac and Catilla in #222.

The Wreckers are not to be confused with the set of Beast Wars/Beast Machines repaints who were featured in the 2001 BotCon Exclusive comic. Under any circumstances. The subgroup has also appeared in two of Dreamwave's comics - in two issues of the second series of Generation 1, led by Ultra Magnus and including Roadbuster, Whirl, Twin Twist and Topspin, with Whirl and Roadbuster killed by Menasor [this appearance was largely implied in the original comics, but confirmed by 'More Than Meets the Eye' #8], and in 'War Within - The Dark Ages', where they're an Autobot faction led by Springer, including Sandstorm, Roadbuster, Whirl, Twin Twist, Topspin and Broadside].

t) Who is Death's Head?

Death's Head is possibly Furman's finest original creation. First intended as a plot device to introduce the UK's future stories set after the events of Transformers: The Movie, Geoff Senior's design for the character was so impressive that Furman gave him guest-star status in the 8-issue plotline which began with "Galvatron: Wanted · Dead or Alive" [#113-114]. The cybernetic bounty hunter was referred to by Furman as "the ultimate capitalist". He was popular with readers, and made two further TF guest appearances, in "Headhunt" [#133-134] and "Legacy of Unicron" [#146-151]. The latter saw him disappear into Unicron's time-portal, and he resurfaced in Marvel UK's 'Doctor Who Magazine', making an appearance in #135, "Crossroads in Time", where he was reduced to human size. The character then guested in Marvel UK's 'Dragon's Claws' #5, where his original body was largely destroyed. After this, Death's Head was given his own 10-issue series by Marvel UK, and his own graphic novel ['The Body in Question'], as well as a new body, and made guest appearances in the US in 'Fantastic Four', 'Sensational She-Hulk' and 'Marvel Comics Presents', before upgrading into Death's Head II, written by #188-189 scripter Dan Abnett. The original character's adventures would be reprinted in 'The Incomplete Death's Head', and Furman would resurrect the original character in 'What If...?' #56.

u) Who were the Mayhem Attack Squad?

The first Mayhem Attack Squad clearly seen appear in #201, though there is a fan theory that Shrapnel, Bombshell, Kickback, Blitzwing, Astrotrain, Octane, Dirge, Thrust and Ramjet were a Mayhem Squad. However, there is no official material pointing to this. The team was basically the Decepticon equivalent of the Wreckers, with a similar compliment of overlooked characters.

The squad in #201 were led by Carnivac, and consisted of Catilla, Flywheels, Battletrap, Chopshop and Venom, with Snarler later revealed as the group's co-ordinator. Carnivac explicitly states the number of his group, scuppering fan theories the that the other two Deluxe Insecticons, Barrage and Ransack, are hanging around in the background and just aren't seen. They formed an uneasy alliance with the Autobot Wreckers in order to destroy Galvatron, but were taken unawares by his alliance with Megatron. Galvatron killed Battletrap and Venom, and one of the rogue Decepticons killed Chopshop the same issue. Flywheels disappeared at some point in the "Time Wars" saga, and is generally presumed dead, though no-one's likely to start a war if you think otherwise. Carnivac and Catilla later joined with a group of Autobots to form the Survivors.

Snarler formed a second Mayhem squad to hunt the deserters, formed in #229 and consisting of Spinister, Needlenose, Bludgeon, Stranglehold and Octopunch. They travelled to Earth in the Earthforce era, and targeted the Survivors group. Led by Snarler, they attacked Carnivac in#237, and in #239 Bludgeon killed Catilla. The group next appeared in #272, as Carnivac planned to take revenge on them for the death of Catilla, killing Needlenose the same issue. Carnivac then killed Snarler and Spinister in #274, with the remnants captured by Earthforce and the Survivors. The remaining trio escaped Earthbase in #282, and in #284 Shockwave assigned them to assassinate Starscream. A combination of Starscream, Soundwave and the Autobot Earthforce stopped them.

v) What are the some of the places shown or mentioned on Cybertron?

The main ones shown in the comic, including the US material, are:

Iacon: Autobot Capital, and in pre-war days, the biggest of the city states. Home of Optimus Prime, and several Autobases after the war began. Mentioned in too many stories to list, from #1 on.

Tarn: Home of Megatron and Shockwave, and involved in the start of the civil war in response to sabotage of a power plant by agents from Vos. Destroyed by a photon missile from Vos soon after the outbreak of war, with many of the refugees among the first Decepticons. Mentioned in "State Games".

Vos: Home of Starscream, and instigator of the civil war after an attempt to sabotage Tarn's power generation. Destroyed by a Tarn photon missile soon after the outbreak of the war, with many of the refugees among the first Decepticons. Mentioned in "State Games".

Kalis: A city which would later become the site of a resistance Autobase. Featured in #164-169.

Tyrest: Another city, home of the Jekka Amphitheatre. Featured in #170-171.

Polyhex: Home of Straxus' Fortress Decepticon, and base for the Decepticons on Cybertron from #66.

The Dead End: A derelict region, home to many Empties. Seen prominently in #66-69, and #249-258

w) Are any of the stories available now?

UK back-issues are harder to get than American ones, due to less numbers being produced, their much smaller distribution and their increased desirability. They will most likely cost more in America due to having been imported at a relatively sizeable price. In the UK, they can be found for around £3 [about $5] up, with issues below #50 and after around #300 fetching up to several times more, though generally it can depend on the story featured - aside from the issues mentioned, those featuring original strip rather than US reprints will cost more. Reprint issues will likely provide less value for money, due to the lower number of Transformers pages and the incomplete nature of the stories in most odd issues. Things like the inclusion of relevant free gifts [e.g. the booklet given away with #200] can also increase prices, as can the wraparound covers for #100, #150, #200, #250 and #300. Even reprints such as the Collected Comics or Specials are hard to find, often boosted by the fact they feature 100% Transformers material, and usually full stories. Annuals are probably easier to find than original issues as they sold in considerable numbers [they were specifically designed as gifts for the Christmas period], and generally wear much better. However, due to the quality of the package, they tend to be especially susceptible to dealer mark-ups.

Thankfully, Titan have added selected UK stories to their reprint programme, also preserving the large-format pages. The first release, 'Target 2006', collected #78-88 and was released in September 2002, with a new cover by Geoff Senior. At the Transforce 2002 UK convention, a hardback version with a cover by Lee Sullivan was available. The second book, 'Fallen Angel', was released in November with a Senior cover, collecting #101-102, #113-120 and the 1987 annual story 'Vicious Circle'. 'Legacy of Unicron' followed in January 2003, with another Senior cover, compiling #133-134, #137-138 and #146-151. In April, 'Space Pirates' came out with another new cover by Senior, containing #160-161, #172-172, an abridged version of "The Big Broadcast of 2006!" based on #180-181, and #182-187. In July, 'Time Wars' was issued, including #130-131, #189, the 1988 annual stories "Altered Image!" and "All in the Minds!" and #199-205. This was followed by 'City of Fear' in October, reprinting #132, #164-171 and #213-214. In January 2004, 'Dinobot Hunt' was released, containing #46-50, the 1986 annual story "Victory!" and #74-77. March saw the release of 'Second Generation', which contained #59-65, #93, #145 and #198. The series was brought to what seems to be a conclusion in March, with 'Prey', containing #96-100, #103-104, "What's in a Name?" from the 1987 annual, #135-136, and "Chain Gang" from the 1989 annual.

While it's nice to have the stories available in this format, and available worldwide, the rather arbitrary selection of reprints has annoyed some, myself included. Lots of the books contain reprints that don't fit with the other stories included, and frustratingly several arcs which could have been bundled together have been spread across several collections. The fractured nature of some of the UK stories themselves once removed from their context among US reprints, and Titan's inability to get any kind of systematic approach to the reprints in order, point to the so-far borne-out idea that the "big-gun" plot arcs will be reprinted, while much of the smaller-scale material will be ignored. Furman, who edits the TPB series, has gone on record to say that the first three UK arcs, "Man of Iron", "The Enemy Within" and "Raiders of the Last Ark" will not.

More recently, Titan have produced a series of smaller, black and white budget compilations, reprinting the UK-only black and white strips featured between #215 and #289. 'Aspects of Evil' contains # 223-227, #235-236, #240, #245-247, and #251-254; 'Way of the Warrior' contains # 219-222, #229, #237-239, #249-250, #272-274, and #282-283. 'Fallen Star' is due for release on 30 November 2005, contains # 215-218, #243-244, #248, #268, #270, #275-277 and #284-286, while 'Earthforce' will conclude the programme, reprinting #228, #234, #261-267, #269, #271 and #278-281.

This will leave "Man of Iron", "Enemy Within", "Raider of the Last Ark", "Decepticon Dam-Busters", "The Wrath of Guardian", "The Wrath of Grimlock", "Crisis of Command" and "Ancient Relics" yet to be reprinted, and they seem likely to remain that way for the foreseeable future.

03. Transformers Generation 2 [USA]

a) How long did the comic run for?

The new series was preceded by a 5-issue guest-star spot in 'GI Joe starring Snake-Eyes' [the current name of Marvel's regular 'GI Joe' comic] running from #138 to #142, dated from July to November 1993. 'Transformers: Generation 2' title ran for 12 issues from November 1993 to October 1994, and was again published by Marvel. A Halloween Special was also issued in October 1993.

b) Why was the comic cancelled?

Sadly, the series had a sales pattern all too familiar with titles launched at around the same time [e.g. 'Fantastic Force', 'Force Works', 'Death's Head II'], that of very respectable sales early on [boosted by a foil-embossed gatefold variant of #1], followed by sharp, inexorable decline. Hasbro negotiated a twelve-issue confirmed run for the series, before cancellation or recommission, and without this guarantee it seems unlikely the series would have reached double figures. Despite the positive reception of the series by fans, it really didn't seem to be selling beyond the fanbase built towards the end of the original series, not helped by the fact that while fairly successful, the Generation 2 line was nowhere near as popular as the franchise had been in the mid-1980s. Marvel then obligingly pulled the plug when the opportunity arose.

c) Who wrote and drew the comic?

Rob Tokar, editor towards the end of the original series, was assigned to the new book, and immediately contacted Simon Furman as writer. Furman, who had worked on 'The Sensational She-Hulk' and 'Alpha Flight' since, readily agreed. Derek Yaniger was initially to draw the series, but his painstaking approach was simply too slow. It took all of the team's head-start to get #1 in on time, and by #2 his work was supplemented by that of Andy Wildman and Manny Galan, as well as a reprint of Halloween Special "Ghosts", drawn by Geoff Senior. For #3, a new format was introduced - Galan would draw a 16/17 page main story, with Yaniger handling a connected 5/6 page story. This stayed until #5, where Galan was required to draw the whole story. The torturous deadlines he endured catching up, often including drawing four or five pages a day, would later lead to him quitting the comic business soon after the end of the series. From #6-8, the split art resumed, before Galan again handled all of #9. Senior then took over Yaniger's shorter strip work for #10-11, before the double-size #12 was split into four chapters, with Galan and Senior drawing a pair each. Yaniger drew all twelve covers, while Senior drew the cover for the Halloween Special. Larry Hama wrote the 'GI Joe' lead-up, with artwork by Wildman [#138], Chris Batista [#139-140] and William Rosado & Jesse Orozco [#141-142].

d) Where does it fit in with the continuity?

The lead-up and main series fit easily on some time after US #80, with "Ghosts" most likely happening somewhere between. With the UK stuff it's slightly more complicated - either another possible future, or maybe slotting in somewhere after Earthforce if you're of an inclusionist mind - though there are all sorts of problems to work through taking this route [the very final deaths of Spike and Smokescreen, to name but two; the total lack of any reference to the Empire, etc.].

e) Why are so few Generation 2 toys actually featured?

Furman, with the acclaim from his original run on the US book, was basically given total creative freedom by Hasbro. The only change likely to be forced was Megatron's new body, which allowed a greater narrative freedom, and also revamped the character after his less than impressive earlier incarnation. Aside from this, it seems Furman was largely left to feature who he wants, and most of the Generation 2 characters featured fulfil plot purposes [e.g. Rotorforce and the Laser-Rods are tangible results of Bludgeon's mission].

f) Who are Cybertronian Empire and the Liege Maximo?

The Cybertronian Empire were a group of Decepticons who left the planet after the departure of Megatron and Optimus Prime, radically increasing their numbers through rediscovering the process of cellular reproduction. They then set about conquering and Cyberforming a large number of planets. One group, under the command of Liege Centuro Jhiaxus, became embroiled in a battle with the Autobots and Megatron's Decepticons, and most were destroyed either by them, or the Swarm, a by-product of the reproduction process. They tended to have a slightly generic look, probably from the cellular cloning, and aside from Jhiaxus, only three characters were named - Rook, Jhiaxus' aide, who escapes the final battle; Mindset, a squad leader killed by the Swarm; and the Liege Maximo. While it's only a title, the Liege Maximo was right at the top of the Empire, and was based at the Hub.

g) How much of the second arc was planned?

Not an awful lot. Furman would have stayed on, but it seems the comic's cancellation was seen from far enough for no real work to be done towards further issues. The writer has since admitted that several things, such as the Liege Maximo and his claim to have spawned Megatron, were just thrown in to tantalise. However, the UK semi-official fanzine 'Transformers Continued Generation 2' [see here], and the other output of British fan group Transmasters UK, have produced a vast body of work following on from the end of the series. While it's not official, if you want to hear some fantastic solutions and continuations of the mysteries of the series, it's well worth a read. Furman himself continued the story of the Liege Maximo in the UK convention Transforce's text story "Alignment" from 2001/2002.

h) What was the Halloween Special?

An eight-page comic strip produced on poor-quality paper, and given away in toy and comic stores as a promotional item in America. Due to its frailty, the Special is now very collectable and expensive, containing the new story "Ghosts" by Simon Furman and Geoff Senior. It would be a great deal more collectable and expensive if not for Derek Yaniger's slow work-rate, which saw the story reprinted in issue 2 in order to make up the page count needed.

i) Are any of the comics available now?

Back issues of 'Transformers Generation 2' are considerably harder to come by than most other Transformers comics. The 'GI Joe' issues and #1 are all quite easy to find for around $3-4 each. Anyone thinking of buying a copy of #1 should note that the comic isn't especially rare, and as a legacy of the days when 'limited edition' at Marvel meant a five or six digit figure, the gatefold version is probably actually more widespread than the standard edition. I've seen copies marked up to as much as $40 since the Dreamwave series appeared... From then on, the issues get successively rarer and more expensive, though #12 still isn't worth more than around $15. As with any collecting of Transformers back issues, it would be advisable to check a general comics price guide before collecting, rather than a Transformers merchandise price guide or something like Wizard.

Titan have also added Generation 2 to their reprint programme, producing two books each containing six issues of the series, and each having half of a large cover illustration by Andrew Wildman. In September 2002, 'Dark Designs' was released, collecting #1-6 [including "Ghosts", printed in the order it appeared as part of #2], bolstered by a hardcover edition illustrated by John Byrne. 'A Rage in Heaven' then appeared in November, compiling #7-12, and with a hardback cover by Phil Jiminez.

At the time of writing, 'GI Joe' #138-142 are still unavailable. It seems unlikely they will be part of a Titan series as Marvel are currently reprinting their series of 'GI Joe' in chronological order, though there may be a Marvel release when they get there.

04. Transformers Generation 2 [UK]

a) How long did the comic run for?


With Marvel UK in utter turmoil by then, the license was instead handed to Fleetway. Their monthly series began in October 1994, which ran for five issues until February 1995. It's also notable that the comic was made up of mainly gatefold pages, with the action folding out to reveal posters and the like.

b) Why was the comic cancelled?

Sales started off poor, and got worse. It's true the comic did suffer from hampered distribution, but the juvenile tone [the comic contained a large number of activity pages] did not attract many of the fans who had grown up with the original series. The low amount of actual comic strip [as little as 11 pages] spread over a month probably did little to sustain readers either. Also, Transformers as a whole was on the decline in the UK. Unlike in America, Britain had received toys without a break since 1984, with the Generation 2 franchise continuing a pattern of steady decline, rather than the brief boost it managed in the USA. It did, however, lead to the semi-official continuation 'Transformers Continued Generation 2' by UK fan-group Transmasters UK [with contact details given out in #5], who picked up the saga after the conclusion of the American series. Their archive, The Underbase, is well worth a look.

c) Was there any original material?

Issues #1-2 did contain original comic strip material. These two stories concern Bludgeon leading an assault on Earth [London, to be precise] to attract the attention of Optimus Prime. It does so, but the Autobots drive Bludgeon off. In issue 2 Megatron also turns up, fighting Prime before pulling out when Bludgeon's forces attack him. These stories were drawn by Robin Smith [who also drew UK #168-169] and credited to Simon Furman. Furman has since denied writing the stories at several conventions, before reclaiming them in the introduction for the 'Dark Designs' TPB. The precise truth might never be known. The issues did feature, aside from Bludgeon, entirely Generation 2 toys [all character from the previous series are in their G2 schemes and/or bodies], with the characters featuring their UK names [e.g. US Windrazor becomes Tornado]. There were also original covers for #1 and #2, though the artist is unknown. The remainder of the issues reprinted US #4 [main story in #3, secondary in #4] and #5 [secondary story in #4, main story in #5]. Contrary to popular belief, only one page [the first of US #4] was actually dropped for the UK. These issues featured covers based on US work, recoloured.

d) Why was the opening changed?

There appear to be two reasons. Firstly, to remove the need for the 'GI Joe' run-up which would have padded out the opening issues if reprinted without much Transformer involvement, and as 'GI Joe' hadn't been printed in the country since being dropped from 'The Transformers' after #308, would have been confusing. It is also unlikely Fleetway were interested in purchasing the rights to the line for this purpose alone, and ;'GI Joe' certainly wasn't popular enough in the UK at the time to warrant its own series. Also, it seems likely the level of violence in the comic material itself was a factor, though Red Alert's incredibly gory death in #4, easily the equal of anything else in the series, was retained for the UK reprint.

e) How does it fit in with continuity?

Well, quite easily, if unpopularly. While the editorial of #1 hints at a new continuity, referencing the 1994 annual story "The Dinobots", the material itself would seem to replace #2-5 of the American series, with the 'GI Joe' run-up not happening. The events of the two UK exclusive strips cannot be slotted realistically into the US series, as Bludgeon would then turn up twice with different results. Sadly, due to declining quality control and Fleetway, he does this in the UK series anyway, but two wrongs don't make a right and all that.

f) What was the Transformers Generation 2 Annual?

Also known as the 1994 annual, this was similar in concept to the Marvel/Grandreams collaborations from 1985 to 1991, though Marvel weren't involved. There was just one strip story, "The Dinobots", plus two text stories. See here for more information.

g) Are any of the comics available now?

Back issues of UK Generation 2 are very difficult to find, though they're not particularly valuable due to not being especially desirable. While #1 and #2 do have exclusive strip material, and are more valuable than the scarcer later three issues, most fans will settle for digital versions. The original US versions of the strips in #3-5 are available in the TPB 'Dark Designs'. Any release of the other material doesn't seem likely in the foreseeable future.

05. Other Early Comics

a) Blackthorne - 'The Official How to Draw Transformers'


The first issue of this comic, published in November 1987, created by Andrea LaFrance, gave detailed step-by-step instructions of how to draw Optimus Prime and Megatron, with black and white inner pages. While informative [though I've never tried it myself], it follows the same 'break it up into smaller geometric shapes' approach most art books aimed at kids do, and is little more than a curio for the completist. Three more issues were released - #2 covered Predaking, #3 detailed Headstrong and Tantrum, and #4 featured Mindwipe and Crosshairs.

b) Blackthorne - 'Transformers in 3-D'

One of several titles published by Blackthorne to cash in the on 80s 3-D fad, these comics feature artwork that is intended to look three-dimensional though those coloured cardboard glasses [a pair of which was given away with each issue]. Their Transformers title ran for three issues. It didn't really follow any strict continuity even within itself, but the general set-up is similar to that after the end of the American cartoon - it generally features a mix of the then-current toys. It ran from October to December 2002. The first story was written by Tim Tombolski, who also drew it with Bob Versandi. The second featured Andrea LaFrance as writer and Dennis Francis on pencils. The third and final issue neglected to mention Christian names, but was written by 'Williams' and drawn by 'Fuget'. It was set to be the first part in a three-part storyline. Despite being quite hard to find, and featuring interesting artwork, these books are not really much more valuable than most items of 80s Transformers merchandise.

c) Toy Comics

There have been several of these. The first, stretching a point slightly, was on Rhino's 1980s video cassettes of the animated series, featuring comic renditions of the plot set-up for the episode on the tape. The second execution was a short strip explaining "Decoy" Transformers, given away with toys in 1987. The third was given away with the Basic toys of Optimus Primal and Megatron in 1996, explaining the basics of 'Beast Wars' [though it's present day setting would be changed for the animated series]. The most recent example were the four toy comics produced by Dreamwave for 'Transformers Armada'. Each one contained an eight-page original strip, and was a Flipbook with a catalogue on the back. They were written by Chris Sarracini, with the first, third and fourth drawn by James Raiz, and the second by Guido Guidi. However, they do not fit with the Armada comic continuity.

d) Fan Comics

Over the past ten years, a large number of fan comics have been produced. Here are some highly recommended examples: -

Since the termination of Fleetway's Generation 2 series in 1995, UK based fanfic movement the Hub began to make a Transformers fanfic fanzine, Continued Generation 2, which often includes new comic material following on from the last Marvel series, and has since evolved into something much more, including the publishing of the novel 'Eugenesis'. To visit their website click here.

Another artist/fan, the talented Senex Prime, recently began a Transformers fan comic named 'Divergence', following on from the events of "Time Wars" [UK #199-205]. The first two parts are available here.

Harry Beejan, whose superb 'Diversion' strip is also available, recently returned with a new story named 'The Straxus Factor', which takes place in the cartoon continuity, between Season 2 and Transformers The Movie. Read them here.

Current official artist Don Figueroa was known in fandom before partly for his excellent 'Macromasters' online comic. Though it's sadly incomplete, and unlikely to ever be finished, it can be read here.

A new online comic named "Time Traveller" was recently made available from writer Herve' Creach, and is available here. [also incomplete]


With thanks to Denyer, Brendocon, Jetfire 2.1, Osku, Death's Head, Josh Maki, Ozz, Best First, Spiderfrommars, Papa Snarl, Legion, Rebis, Metal Vendetta, Hound, Bombshell, Liam Kavanagh, Senex Prime, Crespo, James Wilson, Rapido, Steve-o Stonebreaker, Tengu and Stone-Cold Skywarp.

 
 
[the-hub.co.uk]
[transfans.co.uk]
[oneshallstand]
[unicron.com]
[counter-x.net]
[ntfa.net]
[allspark.com]
[transformertoys.co.uk]
[tfu.info]
[botchthecrab.com]
[obscure_tf]
[tfradio.net]
 

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