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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

OTHER TRANSFORMERS BOOKS AND SERIES

Ladybird Storybooks

The heroic warriors, the Autobots, and their enemies, the evil Decepticons, have landed on Earth from their own planet of Cybertron.

The battle between the forces of good and evil continues on Earth as the Transformers change to robots and back again, in an attempt to outwit or deceive each other in their struggle for power.


-- Introduction to Autobots' Lightning Strike, the first Transformers Ladybird book.

The first Ladybird books were published in Britain by Wills & Hepworth in 1915, and over the following decades the slim red spine books became a mainstay of British children's printing. Across numerous series (of which Transformers is number 853, the 85 referring to the year the first book was published), they covered everything from fairy tales to guides to modern life. The books are so ingrained in British culture that the expression "The Ladybird guide to..." has come to mean a simple way to inform on a subject.

Though the books' most successful period was the 60's and 70's, by the mid-80's they were still going strong and producing series based on properties such as Action Force, He-Man and, of course, Transformers.

A total of eleven books, including what would now be called a Junior Novelisation of the 86 film, were published between 1985 and 1988. All except the Movie book contained original stories and new illustrations. Each book is 44 pages, with the exception of the Movie book which was a bumper 52 pages. The first two years' books were also released in the Talk and Read format, where the book came with a cassette of narrator Peter Marinker reading the story with added music and sound effects. The idea was to encourage children to read along, resulting in the memorable catchphrase "When you hear this sound, turn the page".

Despite being produced in the UK, there is very little crossover with the staff of the local comic (indeed, this may be the most sustained run of British Transformers fiction to have no involvement from Simon Furman). Artist Mike Collins, who illustrated the first four books, is the only person to have worked on both. As far as I am aware, the Ladybird Books remain the only Transformers work for the writer John Grant (who produced all the books) and artists Graham Potts, Richard Dunn, Barry Rowell and Glen Steward.

The fiction as well is fairly separate from anything else; it's a generic G1 set up that could just about fit in any continuity, though the take on Headmasters is fairly unique to these books. The only real exception to this is that the introductory text to the 1987 books uses Target: 2006 as an explanation of why Galvatron is in the present day, though the stories that spin out from this starting point aren't compatible with that story. Other than that, there is very little cross-continuity between the books; new characters appear and old ones vanish with little explanation, and the drastic change from Earth to Nebulos between books 6 and 8 is especially jarring. The assumption seems to have been the reader will already be familiar with the set up from the cartoon/comics/toys and no further explanation is required.

There are several recurring themes and plot devices through out the series. The Decepticons are usually hoisted by their own petards at the end through them misunderstanding the situation, many with them causing something to collapse on themselves. The books also have a strong educational theme, informing on everything from lightning to concrete. There's also a strong emphasis on the importance of teamwork.

By 1988 the popularity of both Transformers and the Ladybird books were in decline, so the range came to an end. However, they still hold a special place in the hearts of many British fans. Just about everyone would have owned at least one, or borrowed several from the library and these would have been amongst their first books. Though they are unlikely to ever be reprinted, the sheer number published makes them fairly easy to get hold of cheaply (though the tape versions are harder to acquire), and are well worth tracking down -- at their best they're the equal of any of the written fiction published since. Indeed, even the worst is far more entertaining than Ghosts of Yesterday...

Titles Published:

1985:

Autobots' Lightning Strike.
Megatron's Fight For Power.
Autobots Fight Back.
Laserbeak's Fury.
1986:

Galvatron's Air Attack.
Decepticon Hideout.

Transformers The Movie
1987/8:

Decepticons At The Pole.
Autobots Strike Oil.
Autobot Hostage.
Decepticons Underground

[N.B: The exact publishing date of the later books is a little uncertain. Despite a copyright date of 1988 in Decepticons at the Pole and Autobots Strike Oil, it seems they may have actually been published in late 1987. Certainly they were in a separate printing wave to the last two books; if anyone can shed any extra light on this, please get in touch.]

Further Reading:

Ladybird Books on Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ladybird_Books

The current Ladybird website: http://www.ladybird.co.uk/

The guide to TF Ladybird books at Teletraan 1: http://transformers.wikia.com/wiki/Ladybird_Books

The Secret Cavern of Read Along Treasures [Contains MP3's of the Talk and Read versions of Autobots Lightning Strike and the Movie book, along with various other Transformer and other audio franchise audio adventures]: http://www.mdp156.com/cavern/audio1.html

 

Other Comics Guide Index | Ladybird Book Guide |
 
 
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