Saturday, 14 September 2019


Don't worry folks, I'm not starting the whole project all over again, but there is something special happening this month...

When I started my Transformers Instagram project two years ago(!) it was out of a desire to cover this epic comic in some form on each issue's original release date, such is the theme of the whole blog.  I settled on a photographic journey through my collection, showing these physical comics off in a way that hadn't been done before, covering aspects of them that people would have forgotten or never seen before, as well as highlighting the fantastic art.  But I only had ten issues from the first year.  Being prohibitively expensive I decided to plough on ahead with what I had.

Time to play catch up, the first year collection is finally complete!

What I had was every issue from #25 through to #332 and all but one annual.  It was too good an opportunity to miss and I was impatient to get started, so I covered the comics I did have from year one on a daily basis, then the posts went weekly and will continue going up on Instagram on the date of each issue all the way through to January 2024!  Phew.

Oh, and don't forget at the beginning of each month the previous one is rounded up here on the blog, of course!

But now, two years later I've done it, I've completed the collection of all the regular comics, specials and annuals released during the title's lifespan (just the handful of post-lifespan specials to get) and that includes all those year one beauties!  So what am I going to do with them all?  First up, I'm spending a super relaxing week out in the country cat sitting for a friend with the best reading material.

Sunshine, country air, a cool beer, my feline friend (off-camera)
and warring robots.  It's okay, you can admit you're jealous

Well, as coincidences go this September is a doozy, because just as I complete the comic's run it's also the 35th anniversary!  I couldn't let that go unmarked, so starting on the comic's birthday the blog and its Instagram are going Transformers crazy.

Starting Friday 20th September you'll see each and every issue from the first year of the comic get the same mini-review treatment as all the rest have had, but it'll be six days a week (with each Thursday reserved for the continuation of the run begun two years ago).  That's a handful of photos for each issue showcasing some gorgeous covers, strip artwork, special features, back ups and everything else these unique early issues contained, on a daily basis on Instagram.

Then over here on the blog as each month is completed it'll get rounded up as per usual.  Of course, with the first year being fortnightly, with only a couple of issues each month that means there's going to be a new blog post every couple of days for the most part!

Taking pride of place in the middle of my living room

On top of all this the previous posts are getting a makeover too.  Blogger has a habit of degrading any images it has to resize, including thumbnails, so I've taken the time to go into the HTML code of each page to give nice, crisp images for them all.  The photos of year one will also be of a higher quality as I've discovered a much better way (built into my Mac) of resizing the actual photos, rather than using the art package I was previously.

This will all be wrapped up in a new Transformers section on the blog, with clear navigation making it easy to jump about between issues, months and years, or to simply start at the beginning and read it all in order.  This is the main reason the blog has been so quiet recently; this has taken so much of my time these past weeks.  It'll all get revealed bit-by-bit over the course of a month from Friday 20th September.

Now on holiday away from the city, I'm enjoying my time relaxing with my furry pal and getting down to finally reading those first issues.  Come back this Friday for the introductory post and the first issue which makes up the first month's post, then all the way through to 23rd October there'll be daily Instagram posts and loads of blog updates, including something extra for those Lew Stringer/Combat Colin fans!

I'm excited to show these excellent, rare Marvel UK issues to you so I hope you'll come and join in.

Remember, the blog's Instagram is public so you don't need an account on the social media platform to enjoy the daily posts, just click the icon above to visit

Thursday, 12 September 2019



Cover by the always superb Michael Golden

Now at 40 pages with a complete US strip per issue, the UK's Jurassic Park comic from Dark Horse International seemed to be going from strength-to-strength to teenage men back in 1994.  But wait, where's the Dark Horse border gone and what's with that Manga logo on the cover?  Unbeknownst to me at the time, Dark Horse's UK arm had gone bankrupt and the Manga imprint had been formed to carry on their hit Manga Mania comic magazine.  They also took on Jurassic Park which gives some indication of its popularity at the time.  This also explains the large delay between #10 and #11, although the reprieve was to be short-lived but we'll get to that another time.

For now, let's concentrate on the issue at hand and with all those lovely extra pages there was a lot to enjoy.  Manga decided to stop chopping up the main story and instead gave us a complete 26-page Jurassic Park story in the ongoing sequel to the movie.  However, on the contents page they still carried on naming the story 'Raptors Attack' after the US mini-series this particular story was from, even though the title of the actual story is clearly right there on page one of the strip (below).  It was rather confusing and even the back up strip, which we'll get to below, got the same strange treatment.  Let's see what the story had in store for us, though.

Writer・Steve Englehart  Penciller・Chaz Truog
Inker・Paul Fricke  Letterer・John Costanza
Colourist and Story Editor・Renée Witterstaetter

The first thing I noticed was the completely different art style as Chaz Truog (X-Men, Animal Man, Geronimo) and Paul Fricke (The Fly, Flash) took over pencilling and inking duties respectively and, while I was initially disappointed that at first glance it seemed more simplistic and less serious, I was soon won over with the dynamism of the whole thing.  Renée Witterstaetter's colours really shine with this new style too, differently coloured frames really making some of the pages pop.  It all comes together to form a style I adore and which I think suits the franchise perfectly.

Animals/Men is the first of a trilogy of stories that'd see the velociraptors escape the service of drug baron Rafael and take out into the world at large.  Let's face it, they were never really in his service, it was the other way around; Rafael was a means to an end for the 'raptors who in recent months could be seen flashing knowing looks to each other, hinting at what was to come.

With the hindsight of having since seen a further four movies in the series it's blatantly obvious when reading these now that they were planning their escape, but in the context of the time this was a thrilling ride.  What's particularly interesting this issue is the naming of the creatures.  Remember, this was originally published in the States in 1993, over here in 1994, long before Jurassic World was a glimmer in a producer's eye, yet below you'll find something rather familiar.

Did the writers of the fourth film, Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver, get some inspiration from Steve Englehart?  I think it might've been a coincidence the film's 'raptors were named after the first four letters of the alphabet for the same reasons, but it's an interesting coincidence nevertheless.  What isn't particularly interesting, or even good, is the return of game warden Robert Muldoon from the movie.  Yes, the man torn apart by the velociraptors (the "clever girl" scene) somehow survived?  Okay, so it happened behind shrubbery, but it was clear he died!  What fantastic, elaborate reason is given for his escape?

Hmm.  Okay.  That's just rubbish.  Plus, he's unscathed?  A couple of months ago Ian Malcolm was still rightly hospitalised in the comic, but while he's only just recovered we're meant to believe Muldoon got out of that particular scene without a scratch?  His return is hyped on the cover and I can remember looking forward to seeing who it'd be, but I was immediately disappointed and felt let down by the comic.  It was a ludicrous decision and seemed like one of those silly superhero 'returns' when a comic would bring a fan-favourite character back by retconning their demise, ruining any drama that had come out of it in the first place.

Thankfully, here this is confined to only one page this issue, but it does stick out like a sore thumb.  The rest of the story is superb, with the 'raptors doing the bidding of Rafael, very publicly killing some local government types in a town centre before turning on their captors at just the right moment.  They return to the compound to rescue their injured companion and go to attack Alan and Ellie, but the 'raptor Ellie had helped back to health (Ceila) stands in their way and hisses, stopping them.  The caption reads, "It seems raptors can remember a kindness... at least Ceila did", which again feels so familiar after the later films.

Rafael tries in vain to shock them into submission, before they kill him and take off into the jungle.  They're now on the loose and that's as good a cliffhanger as we could have hoped for back then!  Great stuff, full of dynamic art, tension and shocks.  Despite the unnecessary return of Muldoon this still reads as an incredible adventure and a very worthy sequel, which continues to build on the story month after month and I'm looking forward to seeing where it leads.

Story and Art・Mark Shultz  Colourist・Christine Couturier

Returning to the pages of Jurassic Park after being one of the two back up strips between #4 and #9, Xenozoic Tales has had a name change on the editorial page to Cadillacs and Dinosaurs.  This was purely because the cartoon of the same name (based on Xenozoic Tales) was being shown on the UK's Cartoon Network at the time, but these are still the original tales found in creator Mark Shultz's independent US comic.

As per usual the comic is being selective with which stories it was bringing into the mainstream UK comic market, what with a lot of the originals being in black and white.  As such, after the colour strips from the first four issues of Xenozoic, we'd now jump forward to #6 with this story, Foundling.  Originally published in May 1988 it's mainly told in flashback from Hannah Dundee's point of view as she narrates to hero, Jack Tenrec.  The story concerns a missing boy and Hannah being asked to track him down in the dangerous, dinosaur-laden America of the future.

It's quite light on the dinosaur (or Cadillac, for that matter) front, but it's an intriguing little story.  Shultz is superb at telling small, confined stories each with their own beginning, middle and end, that somehow feel much bigger than their page count.  Foundling feels epic in the way it's told and the outcome, which is rather downbeat and has a surprise twist which feeds into certain ongoing charter arcs, is not what you'd expect.

I really love the way Mark subtly changes his art style (as does colourist Christine Couturier) while the story is being relayed and it's only when it returns to Hannah and Jack that this really hits the reader.  It's a shame these stories never got a complete run over on this side of the pond.   Each contained strip adds so much depth to these characters and this setting, while raising so many questions about what we're doing to ourselves with climate change.  It's easy to forget these were written 30 years ago!

The last few pages are all advertisements, the first of which are for the aforementioned Manga Mania and the imprint's new Street Fighter II comic which, like the publisher itself, wouldn't last long.

While my favourite time with the Jurassic Park comic will still be those issues which contained three strips, there's something to be said for these final editions which gave us a complete main strip, which would normally have taken three months to read, while maintaining the back up as well.  It's the classic format from the likes of Transformers and it works brilliantly, but whether it was designed to last or just to round things off to a suitable point we'll never know.  I'll talk more about that in a couple of months.

Finally for this month there was big news for fans of the movie on the back page.  Do you remember renting videos from a local store?  I do.  Our local video shop was closed on Sundays so I'd be there every Saturday morning when it opened at 11am, when I'd rent a video for the usual price and be able to keep it until the Monday, when I'd return it after ensuring it was rewound of course!  I never did rent Jurassic Park though, that was straight on to the Christmas list and I waited (im)patiently for that big day.

As for the comic on the blog, the next big day will be 6th October 2019.

Friday, 6 September 2019



Below are no more than nine issues of Marvel UK goodness, all released in one month, making August 1987 the most jam-packed of the entire Transformers UK run.  The reason?  That'd be the Transformers/Action Force crossover which began in one title before transferring to the other, with the one story taking part over all of these comics:

Over five Saturdays, four of which would see young readers pick up two comics at once, this event brought much in the way of action but did it bring much in the way of story?  You'll find out below as we make our way through this London-based adventure while simultaneously making our way through a hypnotising carwash in America.  Nope, you didn't read that wrong.

1st August 1987

#125: To say "this was an exciting week" is pretty much a given now with this comic, but for this particular week it was for more readers than normal, because it was the start of the classic crossover event with Action Force (the UK's G.I. Joe) comic.  Ancient Relics is very fondly remembered to this day and it's easy to see why.  It's atmospheric, great fun and includes none other than the return of Megatron, whose exact reentry to the series I was struggling to remember until now.  What's not to love?

As I read the modern day G.I. Joe continuation it's even more fun for me to see characters like Scarlett, Barbecue, Airtight, Bazooka and Flint amongst the Robots in Disguise.  Next week the story spills over into their own comic so this is going to be a somewhat longer blog post than normal!

After the high energy of the main strip, The Iron Man of 2020's surprisingly downbeat ending feels all the more dramatic.  A brilliant issue, one of the very best so far.  I'm looking forward to the extra comics over the next few weeks, but of course you're reading this on the blog now so you don't have to wait to see the highlights, just scroll down.

Cover by Jeff Anderson
Ancient Relics!: Part One pencils by Geoff Senior, inks by Dave Harwood, colour by Steve White
The Iron Man of 2020: Man of the Year pencils by Mark Beachum, inks by Bob Wiacek and colours by Bob Sharen

8th August 1987

#126: On this particular day we got two comics for the price of, well, two.  But that's not the point, as today the Transformers and Action Force crossover made its way into the pages of the latter comic which you'll see below.

In the latest Transformers story featuring the Scraplets the mythical cure turns out to be water.  Well, it would be a mythical chemical on a metal planet inhabited by robots, wouldn't it?  Goldbug's new human friend is quite the physical ally and I love him taking on giant robots many times his size to save his new friend.  Also, the Scraplets show their true forms and poor Blitzwing should've stayed in bed.

At this time of the year the Transformers Annual would be released into newsagents across the land, but this teasing advertisement below was all most of us would get until Christmas, just as it is in 2019.  In the back up we leave The Iron Man of 2020, rejoin the Invincible Iron Man of 1987 and Lew Stringer's Robo-Capers provides more belly laughs to round things off.

Cover by Lee Sullivan
The Cure!: Part One pencils by Don Perlin, inks by Ian Akin and Brian Garvey, colour by Nel Yomtov
The Invincible Iron Man: Deep Trouble art by Bob Layton and colour by Bob Sharen
Robo-Capers by Lew Stringer

@the._inevitable.k - "That was an odd Iron Man story to give us.  I think that was the only one from what I remember."
@theoinkblog - "It was probably chosen because it began and ended in England.  There'd been previous ones in the back up slot such as The Night of the Octopus."

8th August 1987

AF#24: So here's our second comic of the week as the Transformers and Action Force crossover continues in the pages of the latter's own publication.  G.I. Joe, Megatron and Grimlock in the same story?  Yes please!

It looks like Wild Bill has flown his last flight thanks to the crazed Decepticon leader.  As I've said previously I'm currently reading IDW's continuation of Marvel's original 'Joe line and it's become a favourite read of mine, so to have these two franchises together is a thrill, especially in the hands of these classic creators.

The comic itself has a great set up, with a five-page UK strip and in the middle there's eight pages of US G.I. Joe.  Seeing Destro and Firefly, who have been particularly ruthless lately in the new comic, high tailing it up a tree is a sight to behold.  Though I have to say that's a bit of overkill on the poor bear, especially since it's a member of Action Force responsible!

There's also a back up strip in the shape of Master of Kung-Fu who takes up about 4 or 5 pages at the rear of the comic, rounded off with probably the first Combat Colin strip many Transformers fans would've come across.

Cover by Jeff Anderson
Ancient Relics!: Part Two pencils by Geoff Senior, inks by Dave Harwood, colour by Steve White
The Mountain: Part Three pencils by Frank Springer, inks by Andy Mushynsky, colour by George Roussos
Master of Kung-Fu! pencils by Paul Gulacy, inks by Dan Adkins, colour by Janice Cohen
Combat Colin by Lew Stringer

@ian_snow - "Always loved Geoff Senior's art as a kid, specifically in Transformers.  He's the one artist that for me seemed to capture the scale of the Transformers characters."
@theoinkblog - "He was always a favourite of mine, but then again so are Andy Wildman, Lee Sullivan, Dan Reed... etc. etc. etc. 😂😂😂"

15th August 1987

#127: It appears the latest Combiner Transformer had arrived, in a way.  The Scraplets became the latest robots to join together to form a formidable foe, although this monstrous combination took a lot more than the usual five or six robots to put together.

I always enjoy a good story with plenty of human/Cybertronian interaction and with new human companion Charlie Fong and G.B. Blackrock back that's exactly what we get.  Just how funny is Goldbug trying to use a payphone to call Blackrock for help.  I have to say I've liked this story a lot with its horror, characterisation and humour in spades.

In the back up strip, The Invincible Iron Man is in the UK and the story involves another certain fascination I have: the Titanic (built just around the corner from me, by the way).  A chemical weapon was on board and its canisters are eroding in the salt water, so it's Iron Man to the rescue.  I'm very glad this was the story chosen to replace the cancelled Inhumanoids; I almost forgive Marvel for not bringing them back.  Almost.

Cover by Robin Smith
The Cure!: Part Two pencils by Don Perlin, inks by Ian Akin and Brian Garvey, colour by Nel Yomtov
Iron Man: Deep Trouble! art by Bob Layton and colour by Bob Sharen

@the._inevitable.k - "It looks like Tony Stark is gathering water for Goldbug 😂"
@isen_skurge - "Good old Robin Smith and The Cure 🤔"

15th August 1987

AF#25: Another double dose for Transformers fans as Ancient Relics continues, although after the summing up of the previous episodes we end up with less than four pages of new story.  But what a fun little tale it is anyway.  Harwood's inks work brilliantly with Senior's pencils, creating a unique melding of styles which is just perfect for a crossover.

A new Action Force story starts as well and I can't help but laugh at Snake Eyes recuperating in a hospital bed in full tactical gear!  How apt for him.  Destro then shows The Baroness how much he trusts her, but will we get to see what made this deadly killer faint?  Don't be daft, of course we won't.  The back up, Master of Kung-Fu reads really well and it's tempting to collect the comic to read more.  Some lovely visuals here from Paul Gulacy and Dan Adkins.

There's also an advertisement for the Transformers Complete Works, released a year ago so they must've still been about.  Obviously placed in there for the crossover fans and finally there's a very tricky question in the competition!

Cover by Jeff Anderson
Ancient Relics!: Part Three pencils by Geoff Senior, inks by Dave Harwood, colour by Steve White
Celebration!: Part One pencils by Frank Springer, inks by Andy Mushynsky, colour by George Roussos
Master of Kung-Fu! pencils by Paul Gulacy, inks by Dan Adkins, colour by Janice Cohen

@rudy_zissou - "Obviously Snake Eyes "rests" in full combat gear... lol."

22nd August 1987

#128: A rather funny cover that sets up the reader for a bit of silliness inside with the strangest story title of the whole run, somewhat inspired by a certain series of Spielberg movies.  It's gloriously silly, like an episode of the cartoon, with Ratbat's plan of a hypnotising car wash franchise thanks to G.B. Blackrock being under the control of an Insecticon's probe, but it's fun and that's the point, right?  I'll have to wait until next week to see what the point is but in the meantime there's a lot of enjoy.

First up, who'd have thought their little toy cassette would give the Decepticon commander Shockwave a run for his money?  Ratbat's actually become a main character in the series, surprisingly.  His and Shockwave's personalities (one programmed for logic, the other for auditing) are perfect to bounce off each other, so I'm looking forward to seeing exactly where this leads.

In The Invincible Iron Man, Tony Stark makes it down to the Titanic in a story originally published not long after its discovery and which also involves some Cold War conflict, so it was certainly a topical tale.  We also get the first look at the Headmasters in the latest Hasbro advert.  The Christmas push had officially begun.

Cover by Dave Hine and John Burns
Buster Witwicky and the Car Wash of Doom!: Part One (phew!) pencils by Don Perlin, inks by Jim Fern, colour by Nel Yomtov
Iron Man: Deep Trouble! art by Bob Layton and colour by Bob Sharen

@the._inevitable.k - "The toy adverts and storyline definitely worked on me 😂  Bi-annual trips to Toys-R-Us way out of town were common."
@theoinkblog - "Yeah, there were no local toy shops to me either.  My birthday is at Christmas so I got bumper stocks of TFs then lol, but during the year trips to get a new 'bot felt like a day out!"
@captainalexis - "Maybe there was a problem at the newsagent but I never had this issue 🤔  Imagine launching into part two of that 🤣"
@rudy_zissou - "I wonder what made them choose Weirdwolf and Highbrow [for the Headmasters advertisement]?"

22nd August 1987

AF#26: As the crossover nears its conclusion next week the recently discovered former Decepticon leader feels the full force of Dinobot fury!  Almost defeated by Megatron, Grimlock snaps and does what he does best.  A few times recently in the main comic he's found himself respecting some of us humans and the personnel of Action Force seem to be the latest.

It appears this multipart story is no more than one big fight scene, which is disappointing, but as far as fight scenes go it's up there with the very best.  I just wish it'd been a deeper story.

A free poster inside the issue surprised me because I hadn't realised it was still there after all these years.  It's not exactly on a level with those Thunderbirds cutaways we were treated to in the 90s but I'm sure fans still loved these series of supplements and adorned their walls with them accordingly.

Then, Hasbro continued its marketing push for their latest lines of toys, showcasing mini robotic companions.  The Headmasters featured above and here we have the Targetmasters getting the back page treatment.

Cover by Jeff Anderson
Ancient Relics!: Part Three pencils by Geoff Senior, inks by Dave Harwood, colour by Steve White

@rudy_zissou - "Absolutely stunning cover!!  But the real highlight is the drawn toy Targetmasters page.  I would look at these for hours.  I also actually really enjoy the simplicity of the cover."
@theoinkblog - "It's amazing to think back and remember we relied on illustrations rather than any photos at all, isn't it?

29th August 1987

#129: It may have been a daft premise, but the Buster Witwicky and the Car Wash of Doom story did bring us a brilliant Robin Smith cover, which focussed on the highlight of the whole tale; a scary showdown between Buster and Ratbat inside a claustrophobic car wash!  The whole tale is a bit out there (it's all an excuse for the Decepticons to drain our cars of fuel) but this scene is excellent and filled with tension.  It's a nice surprise in a strip which initially seemed so throwaway.

Showdowns are the order of the day with Iron Man too.  He's up against a rather tech savvy KGB in their Leviathan craft, racing about the abandoned wreck of the Titanic.  Talk about "out there"!  It's a suitably far-fetched finale for the high-tech superhero, which leaves room for a new secondary strip in the comic and that leads me to the back page.

The big news for me this week came with the full-page Next Issue feature.  Next week it's all about the Headmasters and the Targetmasters, a unique set of Transformers that I really enjoyed both in their toy and strip forms as a kid.

It's going to be cover-to-cover Transformers for a whole sixteen weeks.  So not only do I finally get to become reacquainted with some amazing characters but the origin story will also last right up until the Christmas issue.  So it's official, next week the countdown to my favourite time of the year begins!

Cover by Robin Smith
Buster Witwicky and the Car Wash of Doom: Part Two pencils by Don Perlin, inks by Jim Fern, colour by Nel Yomtov
The Invincible Iron Man: Deep Trouble art by Bob Layton and colour by Bob Sharen

@the._inevitable.k - "I love the Headmaster/Targetmasters storyline, though don't remember it lasting so long!"
@regulon_four - "That cover makes it worth owning, weird story or not 😂"

29th August 1987

AF#27: This issue concluded the crossover in explosive form.  What it lacked in depth it made up for in action for the young 'uns, with Megatron and Grimlock battling on top of giant gas tanks, both seemed destined to die at the hands of our human heroes.  But a swift sacrifice by Guardian (is he still controlled by Professor Morris?) sees him and Megs explode in a huge fireball, but not before a shadowy shape splashes into the Thames.

"To be continued" and all that.

There's a rather surprising turn for Cobra Commander in the US strip I have to say!  I can't wait to get back to collecting the graphic novels from IDW to find out where that leads.  Then on the letters page (Mail Call) the friendly rivalry between Marvel UK editors is apparent in the response to one reader's letter.

The explosive action continues but with a comedy slant in Lew Stringer's Combat Colin once again, bringing the chortles to round off our final foray into the world of the Action Force comic, though the characters themselves will return later in the run when the comic would merge into Transformers.  That should be around January next year if memory serves.

Cover by Jeff Anderson
Ancient Relics!: Part Five pencils by Geoff Senior, inks by Dave Harwood, colour by Steve White
Celebration! pencils by Frank Springer, inks by Andy Mushynsky and colour by George Roussos
Combat Colin by Lew Stringer

@gazmondo595 - "For years and years I only had the one half of this story arc, the one that was published in Transformers UK.  I dropped lucky earlier in the year, I got every issue of Action Force weekly and every issue of Action Force Monthly off eBay!"
@martin.s.wright.14 - "Blimey!  I had that comic.  I used to get Action Force and Eagle delivered every Saturday.  Good times 😀"

I told you this would be a long blog post.  It seems like every single month this series just keeps getting better and better, but at the end of each one I'm looking forward to something else the next time.  It's been a great month with loads to read and experience, but September all the way through to December promises an epic Transformers comic like nothing we've experienced before.  But before the next post there's something else to look out for.

Watch out for a month-long event beginning here on Friday 20th September, with a special preview post the week before!  Again, you didn't read that wrong, it's a big event and the reason behind it equally so.  Watch out for all to be revealed on Friday 13th (it won't be an unlucky day!).  Subscribe now to the blog or follow its Instagram feed (or my own Twitter) so you know when to come back!