Friday, 8 November 2019

TRANSFORMERS INSTAGRAM: MONTH #4 of 89

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Month four and we're at our first Christmas in this epic read through, not that you'll get much in the way of celebrations from the actual issue on sale over the holidays. But we do get three issues this month which makes it a bit special I guess, so Happy Holidays! The month begins with a Marvel Comics crossover that works just brilliantly, then there are more references to the universe in a tale which brings probably the most popular Autobots to the comic for the first time and we conclude the original US comic mini-series. What could be next? Well that's a tale for the next month, in fact the next calendar year, but what a tale it'll be!

For now, let's enjoy our triple-bill of comics. Let's enjoy December 1984.

ISSUE 6
1st December 1984


#6: Imagine what it must've been like to walk into your newsagent as a kid and see that cover! Yes, Spider-Man stars in the first crossover event for the Transformers, bringing his wit and abilities to the strip to great effect. It's a really fun story which pairs up grumpy Autobot Gears with the sarcastic hero in a rescue mission which feels awesome in its scope thanks to it being told from the the point of view of Spidey. Because of this perspective it really gets across the size of the Decepticons, resulting in that panel with the tank which reminds me of the opening scene of Michael Bay's first movie! Marvel's Transformers: 23 years ahead of its time.


Elsewhere in the comic there's news about some new toy merchandising for my favourite thing ever, to which Transformers are actually a (very) close second: Knight Rider. Although, as with a lot of the show's coverage at the time it's clear our esteemed editor Shiela Cranna wasn't up to speed on the premise of the show as K.I.T.T.'s referred to simply as "The Knight 2000". Oh dear, not a great impression to make for the young readership.

Machine Man goes up against a superb villain in the shape of Kublai Khan (no, not that one) and for the cartoon series/TV advert pin-up is it just me or is Megatron giving off a sort of Dr. Evil vibe?

Finally, there's a page of coupons. Ah yes, The Transformers UK: the comic so good you'd want to subscribe twice!

Cover by Mike Zeck
Prisoner of War!: Part Two pencils by Frank Springer, inks by Kim DeMulder and Mike Esposito with colours by Nel Yomtov
Machine Man: Xanadu! art by Steve Ditko and colours by George Roussos

COMMENTS HIGHLIGHTS:
@the._inevitable.k - "I was/am a huge Spidey fan, so I don't have to imagine. I loved it. 🙂"
@dave_karmauk - "I did. Got my copy. I got it delivered from a local newsagent. That and The Dandy and The Beano."

ISSUE 7
15th December 1984


#7: Issue 7 gets another US cover and again it goes uncredited. It's a rather basic cover by Mark Texeira but the main thing to notice is how the UK editor plasters captions on to it with what seems like very little thought, covering up the most important parts. But at least it's still an actual cover image, something which will change next month unfortunately. There's a passing recognition that it's Christmastime too, but it's a far cry from future seasonal issues.

Inside, fan favourite modern day movie star Bumblebee gets the fact file treatment at last, looking somewhat different to what we're used to now. We welcome long-time US inkers Ian Akin and Brian Garvey to the strip and as it begins Jazz goes rather overboard to stop Sparkplug Witwicky from running off and taking his son with him! But to be fair to the Autobots we're still very alien to them and this may have been a reasonable action back on their homeward. They're still learning about us humans and for us readers the result is a series of enjoyable Vietnam flashbacks for the senior Witwicky, which then tie nicely back into the story.


Flashbacks are the theme this issue, as they continue with the Transformers themselves, or at least with old archive video from their crashed spaceship The Ark. The craft's computer fills us in on certain events from a few million years ago, including another example of the comic fitting in to the larger Marvel universe and this particular crossover also deals with the creation of the Dinobots! A great story behind a lacklustre cover, the first of many in this first year.

Finally, there are some quick adverts for Marvel UK's Captain Britain and Star Wars Ewoks comics to keep us in the context of the times.

Cover by Mark Texeira
The Last Stand: Part One pencils by Frank Springer, inks by Ian Akin and Brian Garvey and colours by Nel Yomtov

COMMENTS HIGHLIGHTS:
@selkie_76 - "[Jetfire gets a] sneaky first appearance on that page where Sparkplug and Buster attempt to flee, partially obscured by an arm. Not as jarring as Red Alert appearing years before he even arrived on Earth and toy-accurate in a story that features the near identical Sideswipe looking completely off-model."
@theoinkblog - "Yeah, I'll be mentioning the strange Sideswipe figure soon, however I wouldn't hold it against them with Red Alert. The awfully negative TF Archive site makes such a huge deal about things like Annual stories featuring characters not introduced yet, but there's nothing to say those stories couldn't simply slot in anywhere in the timeline. Plus, I doubt at the early stages anyone knew the comic would last so long or have such complexity, so they went the cartoon route of just assuming all the robots arrived at once, ready to be introduced when new toys came out. Of course that changes very soon in the comic, which obviously was for the better."

ISSUE 8
29th December 1984


#8: One more original UK cover this issue, the last for several months and it's just a poor copy of a panel from the strip. I'm surprised to be honest, because Barry Kitson is one of my favourite early artists and this just doesn't feel like his work at all. But he gets the credit inside.

The main strip rockets along to its shock finale, planting seeds to Shockwave's entrance early on. Sparkplug Witwicky's Vietnam flashbacks are expertly woven in and the strength of the Greatest Autobot Of All becomes painfully apparent to Starscream! Ratchet's trip to the hospital for the Witwickys brings some comic relief which will be hilariously built upon when this story continues. That won't be in a fortnight's time though, it'll be several months before we pick back up again from where this issue leaves off, even given the shock cliffhanger below.


For now that's the end of the US comic's original limited four-issue series. The final page was changed from a conclusive ending (which you'll see later) to this one with Shockwave apparently destroying all of the Transformers, Autobots and Decepticons alike. It was already a frustrating cliffhanger in the US where the bi-monthly comic took a break for a few months before coming back for its fifth issue and the start of its ongoing monthly run, never mind how long we'd have to wait over here. But we had something rather special to read between now and then as you'll see with the next issue.


Back to this issue for now though and there's a painted calendar of Optimus Prime by Richard Fisher, who would paint another in the series that was so good it was used as a cover hundreds of issues later! On this first calendar the colouring may be all over the place but it's still a piece of retro loveliness.

Then Doctor Who returns again to the Robot Round-up feature as it continues its fictional robotics series. Finally Machine Man's villain, Senator Brickman feels depressingly familiar. Unbelievably, people still fall for these comic book baddie tactics today, even when their own comics warned them decades ago!

Cover by Barry Kitson
The Last Stand!: Part Two pencils by Frank Springer, inks by Ian Akin and Brian Garvey, with colours by Nel Yomtov
Machine Man: The Man Who Could Walk Through Walls art by Steve Ditko and colours by Roger Slifer


We may be back to just two issues next time but it marks an important part of this whole project and of the comic's whole run. What would Marvel UK do now it'd be so long until the next strip made its way from the States? You know the answer already of course. It's time to introduce you to the British strips.


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