Thursday, 16 January 2020



Prepare for double the comics and double the length of my posts as the changes to The Transformers UK that I've been wittering on about finally happens this month.  Marvel UK shook things up at the end of the comic's first year with a new, weekly, full-colour comic with one main Transformers strip usually around 11 pages and one back up of about five or six pages per issue.  Sandwiched between them would be the letters page in most issues, the Transformation editorial page on page two and Lew Stringer's cartoon near the back.  It's how we all remember it, though I do hope everyone's enjoyed the look back over the quite different issues from Year One.

But now, it's time to really launch into the world of these Cybertronians as it begins to open up and expand.  This is one truly epic comic and after a full 12 months we're only just getting started.

7th September 1985

#26: This has to be my favourite issue so far!  With the comic changing formats next issue we were treated to a complete US strip, all 22 pages of it, so that the new look would start with a new story. Warrior School stars one of the more fleshed out of the robots (if that's not a contradiction), as Ratchet gets schooled when he goes up against none other than Megatron himself.  The team of Johnson and Baker bring the best US art yet and it's such a shame they didn't stick with the series.  That transformation page is a particular highlight.

There's a lot happening, beginning with Ratchet having to rethink his very existence.  He was created as a medic, that's what his programming is, so to suddenly find himself having to stand up and fight is tough for the character.  It's brilliantly portrayed.  On top of that Buster Witwicky is beginning to have strange visions and experiences thanks to the Creation Matrix currently residing in his brain.  This definitely reminds me of Revenge of the Fallen and Sam Witwicky's struggle with the Matrix.  Finally, the story also shows Josie Beller starting her own journey to becoming Circuit Breaker.

The theme certainly is character transformation which is very apt.  There's even plenty of examples of the Transformers actually using their disguises to infiltrate us.  What an issue!

Anyone who collected Marvel UK comics will remember these Classified advertisements pages and then we have the hype for the new look weekly comic to come.  Strangely, while this issue is seen as the last fortnightly, it'd only be a week until the next issue and even the dates on the cover above only cover seven days.  With the likes of Oink! and even Marvel UK's own The Real Ghostbusters their "first weekly" issues were those which started the weekly schedule, whereas with The Transformers it was the first issue to be out only a week after the previous one.  It's strange and for me this means #26 is really the first weekly.

Oh well, it doesn't actually matter, the important thing is it's about to transform into what we all remember so fondly and I'm going to be reading double the amount of comics!

Cover by Mark Bright
Warrior School pencils by William Johnson, inks by Kyle Baker and colours by Nel Yomtov

@stealexandertoys - "An advert for Nostalgia Comics in a nostalgic comic.  Nothing was ever so perfect!"

14th September 1985

#27: For The Transformers UK's first birthday the comic was now officially weekly and in full colour for the first time since #1.  It dropped the amount of pages to 24 but fans didn't care; there was no more pointless filler, it was packed with everything they loved and they'd get their fix every single Saturday.  I have to say it does look rather lush in full colour.

Johnson and Baker are back and the art is superb as Ratchet explores the Savage Land for the bodies of the Dinobots.  This story would see their actual introduction to the comic after featuring in a flashback previously and this issue we finally got to see what happened millions of years ago when they were created by The Ark, a mystery we've been waiting to be resolved since #7.  More lovely transformations in this story too, these artists are just the best at these.

In the back up slot Machine Man has been replaced with... himself.  The Machine Man of 2020 story begins with our reluctant hero discovered dismantled in a junk yard.  He'll get a fresh lick of paint as the story develops but for now it really is a superb set up tale.  He found it difficult to fit in before as a futuristic robot, but now he's out of date!  It'll be interesting to see how the character develops from here.

Finally, Hasbro had eventually got around to fixing the colouring errors in their own adverts.  The issue as a whole is a great start to the new look and it's a format which would more or less remain for almost 200 issues!

Cover by Robin Smith
Repeat Performance: Part One pencils by William Johnson, inks by Kyle Baker and colours by Nel Yomtov
Machine Man of 2020: He Lives Again! breakdowns by Herb Trimpe, finishes and colours by Barry Windsor-Smith

@the-_inevitable.k - "Used to buy it every week before school and read it before the bus had arrived. 🙂 We were so lucky getting Machine Man 2020 as back up.  I bet it's not as widely remembered in America as it is here."
@gazmondo595 - "You know, I really didn't like Machine Man when I read it in the 80s.  I was so glad when it finished and they did the Sinister Six story.  I'd really like to read it again though!"
@theoinkblog - "I do prefer the 2020 storylines but there's something very likeable about the original MM character himself and I've really enjoyed reading these strips."
@philelzebub - "This was the first issue I picked up, back in the day. 😁"

21st September 1985

#28: The individual Dinobots get a full and proper introduction this week including getting the cover treatment for the first time, even if it's not Bright's best but I'm sure it got young readers excited.  They were already fan favourites though, so they needed a big story and a ferocious battle that could live up to the hype.  How about pitching them against Decepticon leader Megatron in a bit of Autobot deception by Ratchet?  That'll do.  This also sets in motion a chain of events for the Decepticons and Shockwave because Megatron would be lost in that snow for months.

Josie Beller also continues her own transformation and we're beginning to see how the likeable, intelligent programmer is slowly being taken over by hatred and bigotry.  It's a particularly dark piece of character development when read today.  The end of the story had its final few panels removed to keep it in line with the UK's continuity, replaced here with a Fact File on Snarl to round off this Dinobots special.

Our old friend Machine Man gets to try out his new look in the year 2020 and it suits him, don't you think?  Despite a whole new creative team he definitely still feels like the old Aaron Stack I'd come to know and love over the course of the previous year.

Cover by Mark Bright
Repeat Performance: Part Two pencils by William Johnson, inks by Kyle Baker and colours by Nel Yomtov
Machine Man of 2020: He Lives Again! breakdowns by Herb Trimpe, finishes and colours by Barry Windsor-Smith

28th September 1985

#29: Hmm, the strip action above might seem a tad familiar to anyone who watched the cartoon series as a kid and that's because it's a complete rip-off of the second episode, here unofficially adapted by Simon Furman with no credit given to the writer of the episode.  It's told by Ratchet to the Dinobots to fit it into the continuity but the idea just feels rushed, like they had a couple of issues to fill suddenly with the move to a weekly release schedule.

But that doesn't take away from the lovely art and in particular Steve Whitaker's simply gorgeous colours.  It looks so, so much better than its animated inspiration but I do think it's a bit cheeky of Soundwave on his letters page to state the cartoon bases its tales on the comic!  The two mediums would have completely different stories, each going off in their own direction and the comic's was vastly superior, but coming out with that straight after this particular issue's story is a bit off.

There's more stunning artwork in this month's calendar and finally there's a credit for it in the shape of one Richard Fisher.  I thought it looked familiar and I've finally put my finger on it but we'll get back to that further down the line.  Much, much further down the line.  Finally, a quick advert for another Marvel UK comic as Captain Britain Monthly gives away a free poster.

Cover by John Ridgway
Decepticon Dam-Busters!: Part One art by John Stokes with colours by Steve Whitaker
Calendar artwork by Richard Fisher

@judahbensheriff - "I remember buying this with my pocket money!  Great memories."

It all feels so comfortingly familiar now and I couldn't be happier.  I've got some foggy memories of the basic plots of some the bigger events that occur during the run now that we're into the weeklies, but I couldn't tell you more than that.  That's the way I like it, I want to discover all of these characters and stories all over again as intended, in real time one issue at a time, once a week instead of bingeing.  It keeps the epic stories epic and the cliffhangers dramatic.  Things have just picked up a gear.

Wednesday, 15 January 2020



After the previous behind-the-scenes Frank Sidebottom photograph and Christmas card from co-editor Mark Rodgers, this time around we've a more detailed, official document from Mark to cartoonist Lew Stringer.  It appears the official memos had the piggy pink logo and a picture of Uncle Pigg on them.  This probably isn't surprising, I'd say all other comics would have something similar, or at least headed notepaper belonging to their publisher, but as Oink! was an independently produced comic (printed by IPC Magazines at the time of this) it had its own and it's cool to see it.

Mark was sending Lew information on upcoming issues and their themes.  Interesting to see that two of these were changed from previous ideas, the first being the 'Very Disgusting Issue'.  According to co-editor Tony Husband, IPC's Bob Paynter (Group Editor and a keen ally of the Oink! team) hinted the theme could cause problems because they were already in trouble over an earlier issue.  He still didn't tell them it couldn't be done, rather that it wasn't a good idea given the circumstances.  The team were also in trouble with some parents because kids were deliberately trashing their bedrooms to take part in the messy bedrooms competition, which was dropped early on from the comic.

Interestingly, it seems part of the 'April fool' idea came back later under a different theme.  Tony described it as a chance to have characters drawn by different artists than their original creators, for example to have Lew draw Banx's Burp, in turn to have Banx draw Tony's own Horace (Ugly Face) Watkins etc.  Apparently it ended up being too complicated so it was dropped before anything was requested from the cartoonists.  However, one of the ideas did pop up later and it appears certain aspects of the April Fool theme made it into #36.  The Oink! Goes Peculiar issue contained a Harry the Head strip drawn by the legendary J.T. Dogg and it's just a wonderful page.  Such a shame we didn't get a full issue with this idea, but I can appreciate the reasons why it was dropped and the Fantasy issue which replaced it is a favourite of mine.

On the first side of the memo you can also see the deadline dates for scripts and the finished strips so you can get an idea of how far in advance they worked.  For example the first issue on the list, with deadlines of the 7th and 14th November respectively was released into our tiny trotters on 10th January.  You can see deadlines are grouped together tightly, then there's a gap over Christmas.  The work for the next year's Holiday Special and Annual, to be released in April and August was also due before the end of November!

On the back of the page there's more from Mark to Lew, including a reminder that his strips didn't necessarily have to stick close to the issue's theme.  Though I do love how he finishes by saying if it did spark off an idea in Lew's head that touched upon the theme "it'd make us very happy".

Thanks to Lew for sharing this, I think it's a wonderful insight into the friendly working nature of Oink!, in particular Mark's style and working relationship, as well as being an interesting look into the making of our favourite comic.

Below are the eight issues outlined by Mark above, just click on their covers to read their full blog post reviews.

Issue 19
10th January 1987

Issue 20
24th January 1987

Issue 21
7th February 1987

Issue 22
21st February 1987

Issue 23
7th March 1987

Issue 24
21st March 1987

Issue 25
4th April 1987

Issue 26
18th April 1987

More next month!

Tuesday, 14 January 2020



Here we are in the final calendar month of Marvel UK's Transformers' first year.  Well, okay so the comic launch on 20th September so technically the first year doesn't end until then, but when you're rounding up the comic month-by-month and need to separate them into years this is where we end year one.  It also works out nicely for the end of the fortnightly issues.  It's certainly been a bit of a rollercoaster ride.  Normally this would be in relation to the actual ongoing story (and later years' plots could definitely be described that way) but in this instance it's been the actual physical comic that's had its twists and turns.

Beginning as a larger version of the comic that we all remember, complete with main story, back up and some extra features, it's changed and morphed along the way until it's come full circle back to that winning formula.  Just in time for the biggest transformation of all next month.  But for now, here's my final selection of year one photos and highlights.

10th August 1985

#24: A glorious painted cover from UK artist Robin Smith welcomes us to a thrilling issue of Transformers which sets up a lot for many future stories.  Shockwave's attack on G.B. Blackrock's innovative oil platform is handled brilliantly, superbly conveying the Decepticon leader's immense size and power.  But the humans aren't beaten yet.  However, that's probably only because they don't know exactly what, or rather who, they're actually dealing with yet.

After a brief on-camera appearance in a news story last time we're now properly introduced to future Autobot ally Mr Blackrock for the first time, before seeing the fateful sequence of events that would create possibly the Transformers' deadliest human foe, Circuit Breaker.  While Shockwave did attack the rig, what happens to Josie Beller is actually an accident.  Or rather, the result of one disastrous accident after another.  For me, that makes what comes later with the character even more interesting from a storyline angle.

The UK's cliffhanger at the halfway point sees a dramatic turn of events for Buster Witwicky as Optimus Prime entrusts him with the Creation Matrix program to keep it out of the hands (hand) of Shockwave, who wishes to use it to create new Decepticons.  While we know the Matrix later as a solid object, clearly that's just the receptacle when it's passed on, the program itself would imbed itself into the Autobot.  Seems a but too much for poor Buster though!  What happens next to him shows the movies did their research and would take inspiration from the comics too.

To end with there's another competition for more Transformers merchandise.  This time it's a transfer set up for grabs and it would test less the reader's Transformers knowledge and more their archaeological.

Cover by Robin Smith
The Worse of Two Evils: Part One art by Alan Kupperberg and colours by Nel Yomtov

@timotron1 - "This had an epic impact on me as a kid."

24th August 1985

#25: It was a real Clash of the Titans this issue when the inevitable moment Transformers fans had been clamouring for finally occurred: Megatron vs Shockwave!  It didn't disappoint.

Throughout the strip the fight goes back and forth, the reader never sure who will ultimately triumph. In the backs of their minds was probably the assumption it would eventually be Megatron, though, so what happens is still a surprise.  It's a truly epic fight as you can see and takes up most of the pages of the story this issue and its ending is a real shock.

Elsewhere in the back up Machine Man comes to a somewhat downbeat ending, but one which I think is all the more satisfying because of it.  After everything he's been through it'd have been too easy, never mind unbelievable, to have had a happy ending.  Instead we get this really rather mature end before a relaunch in a couple of issues when it leaps all the way forward to 2020.  Well, it was a leap forward at the time.  To prepare the readership the comic provided an interesting catch up for those not accustomed to collecting several Marvel comics at once.

The fact files have become more regular but still aren't the format we'd become accustomed to quite yet, but they're still a lot better than they were.  Finally, Secret Wars was going weekly after proving to be something of a hit.  Who'd have guessed?

Cover by Alan Kupperberg
The Worse of Two Evils: Part Two art by Alan Kupperberg with colours by Nel Yomtov
Machine Man: Jolted by Jack O'Lantern! art by Steve Ditko

@the._inevitable.k - "I actually don't remember Shockwave vs Megatron!  [I collected it] right from the start.  It came out not long after I bought 'Cassette Man' and Jazz.  Can remember most of it, but not that(!)."
@theoinkblog - "There was me thinking this was an unforgettable story! 😂"
@darth_tater77 - "Haha, I remember the free plane!"

Onwards and upwards.  Next month includes the final fortnightly issue, although really I see it as the first weekly.  You'll see what I mean.  Basically, from next month's round up there's at least four issues in every post and that's for the next five years plus of this comic!  This is not a small undertaking and will be a massive, personal look back at these physical comics when it's done.  I'm really enjoying it so far and looking forward to double the Transformers art, action and adventure from now on.