Welcome back to another month's recap of the photographs I've been taking of my Transformers UK comics collection for Instagram. Even with such a large task still ahead of me I'm relishing this series, not only looking forward to each Thursday's photos but also this monthly post on the blog. It's just as well, what with this continuing until 2024 and all that.
Now in December young Transformers fans had an additional treat in store from Marvel UK in the shape of the first annual (co-produced by Grandreams at the start) which, while they were available from the summer, would make perfect Christmas gifts and so it's on that day I'll be covering them every year, just like I did with the Oink! books. Of course there's also another four issues here too, which I photographed and shared on their actual release dates, just 32 years after the fact.
In the future I'd love to do a proper write-up on all of these like I did with Oink!, but that'd be an even bigger undertaking and would require me filling those pesky gaps from the first year and specials. For now this series is going to be large enough!
So on with the show. The Christmas issue and annual have already appeared in their own posts to celebrate their festiveness, but they're here again as part of the ongoing series so everything is back in order.
7th December 1986
7th December 1986
#39: 30 years ago today Transformers fans were shocked by this cover! Inside, Optimus Prime's head was finally reunited with his body, but reprogrammed by Shockwave. Despite the cover, this wouldn't happen until the final page of the lead story and readers had to wait a whole 7 days to find out what happened next. Also Jetfire's robot form is revealed, though he's still a blank slate and was under the control of Buster Witwicky, until he passed out during an air battle. Returned to the Decepticons, we see how they're going to remove the essence of the Creation Matrix from Buster's head and what the plan is. (Interesting to see the modern movies have more in common with the comics in their depiction of the Matrix of Leadership than the cartoon.)
Some nice humour here too in the scene between Shockwave and Rumble and can anyone confirm if Marvel kept their word from this letters page response as far as Tony Stark and Iron Man by the year 2020 goes?
The issue before the Christmas one brought us this great little Robo Capers strip from Lew Stringer, so I posted it up on Instagram on its own to signal the countdown to the much-anticipated seasonal issue to come. Robo Capers would continue until Marvel's Action Force was cancelled and merged with The Transformers, bringing with it none other than Combat Colin. You can read a quick preview of #2 of Lew's Combat Colin comic, due for release at the end of January 2018 and containing the first of the Transformers strips right here on the blog.
14th December 1986
14th December 1986
#40: This cover must've promised so much, but delivered a rather anti-climactic 1-page "fight" which was basically Optimus Prime tossing Shockwave into a swamp, to sink out of sight, unable to free himself. Much better was the superbly narrated build up for Prime which was brilliantly written. Can someone also explain what use a handle on a 100-foot gun has? At least 80s Megatron shrunk (albeit impossibly) so his gun mode could be handled by either another 'bot or a human.
A letter from a reader also points out something I'd never noticed before, right up until about 10 years ago when I read this. Anyone else?
Cover by Jeff Anderson
Cover by Jeff Anderson
21st December 1986
21st December 1986
#41: Thirty-two Christmases ago this issue popped up for festive Transformers fans across the UK. No snow on the logo yet unfortunately but the issue as a whole is a lot better than the one sentence previous editor Sheila Cranna gave us to celebrate the previous year! With Ian Rimmer now in charge, inside there's decorations everywhere and Ratchet takes over Soundwave's letters page for one issue, hilariously explained on the editorial page. There's also a Christmas competition including a Transformers train set! Shame the photo on the page is so bad, as it's never featured in the comic again.
The main story sees the return of Circuit Breaker and while the idea of Optimus Prime dressed up as Santa Claus at a party first seems silly, it's to thank Buster Witwicky for the hell they've put him through recently and it makes for some lovely contemplative moments for the character, as he develops beyond the stereotypical leader we were used to in the cartoon. Circuit Breaker also gets a taste of her own medicine after she rescues a drowning child and goes on to nearly kill Jazz (again) but is stopped by Buster and the church bells ringing in Christmas.
Harmless fun which I've a soft spot for because it would end up being the first Transformers story I'd read, albeit it two years later. Um, so stay tuned for that.
Cover: Mike Collins (pencils) and Mark Farmer (inks and possibly colours)
Christmas Breaker: James Hill (script), Will Simpson (art), Hart (colour), Starkings (letters)
TRANSFORMERS ANNUAL #1
ANN#1: MERRY CHRISTMAS!! The first Transformers Annual was released in the summer of '85 but let's face it, it was today fans got their mitts on it. Created a long time in advance, Sheila Cranna was still editor and it shows. Perfectly suiting the old fortnightlies, the fillers are a bit at odds with the newer weeklies, with basic games, puzzles and lots of pictures taken from the toy packaging. The strips and stories are also using the older comic models rather than the streamlined ones we were used to by now.
But on to the stories and here Sheila's team really surprised! Plague of the Insecticons starts out with some nice atmosphere-building scenes, though I have to admit the appearance of Ronald Reagan made me cringe a little, but actually it's all dealt with brilliantly, in much the same way as the modern movies integrate the governments of the world. The last page of the whole book is a downbeat one, which is all the more powerful in a book filled with such basic, childish fillers between the stories.
Also there's the story of Optimus Prime's first battle as Commander! Most of it is taken up with Prime awaiting the nod from the grand council of Autobot elders, led by Emirate Xaaron (an original UK comic creation who would eventually become a Hasbro toy) before he can finally strike back against Megatron, rather than constantly holding a defending position. It would be a huge turning point for the peace-loving Autobots and I love how it all comes down to politics in a kid's comicbook.
The real stand outs here are the text stories! Full of character, they take the time to get into the inner thoughts of the Transformers involved. Unable to wow us with spectacular action-packed art, they relied on some moody scene-setting illustrations and intriguing, gripping, well-written stories.
Storywise, a fantastic first annual and I'm sure it was a stocking filler from Santa which made many, many young people very, very happy. Heck, I'm 40 and they still read brilliantly today and that ending is a surprise, which I've now ruined for you if you're hunting it down on eBay. Whoops! Also interesting to see the new direction Sheila was going in before she moved on.
Have a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays folks!
Plague of the Insecticons
Simon Furman (script), Collins/Anderson (art), Gina Hart (colours), Starkings (letters)
And There Shall Come... A Leader
Simon Furman (script), John Stokes (art), Gina Hart (colours), Starkings (letters)
Unfortunately no credits on the text stories.
28th December 1986
#42: Yes it's Thursday again. You've lost all track of days this week, haven't you? Anyway, 32 years ago the UK's The Transformers from Marvel UK finished the year with #42 and a contemplative Optimus Prime, doubting his leadership and fighting with his team (after the previous US stories) in the British tale from Simon Furman, Crisis of Command!
Tensions are high and in the middle of it all Ravage has been snooping in The Ark and finds the Autobots divided. Nice to see Mirage and Hound using abilities detailed in the toys and Jazz transforming. Makes for some nice action. The Decepticons are also fighting internally over who should lead and in the end it's revealed Ravage getting captured was part of Soundwave's plan and we see him escape. (In the cartoon at one stage he was captured and the Autobots manufactured his escape, let's hope this isn't Furman stealing ideas again, eh? Although the means of capture certainly is!)
Elsewhere, there's a look at the other Marvel comics out in the UK at the time and the very last Machine Man before Iron Man makes a return next year, in just one week.
Cover by Will Simpson
That one week is now up! That's right the next issue is up on my Instagram feed today and you can check it out by clicking on the icon there. You don't need an account as I have it all set to public, but if you are signed up tap 'Follow' and these will appear in your timeline every Thursday.