Do you follow the blog on Instagram? If not, you really should because every single Thursday I'm taking photographs of Marvel UK's classic Transformers comic as I read a whopping 332 issues plus annuals and specials all in real time over the course of 7+ years. A few weeks ago I broke the one rule to read each issue on the date of its original release and I did so again last week too. Why? Well, the first was a special seasonal reprint collection and my will power was tested to the full in letting it sit there unread until this week. Last week's regular weekly issue was then kept back until today for the simple reason that this was when, 32 years ago, I got it and the next issue together and started collecting Transformers for the very first time!
I'd watched some of the cartoons on TV, a couple of the videos from the rental store and loved playing with my friends' Hasbro toys, but I wasn't into them myself. Not yet anyway. That all changed with the comics below and so to mark the occasion I held back these issues until now. They're all going up on Instagram today but I thought I'd make it an extra special day by posting them on the blog too. So here below are expanded versions of the three social media posts and afterwards why don't you nip on over to The Oink! Blog and Beyond's account to follow the rest of the adventures for the next few years?
COLLECTED COMICS #11
Winter Special 1988
CC#11: Normally I'd say "32 years ago today" but this comic had been out a few weeks already back in 1988. It wasn't until this week I received mine though. I was off school sick and to cheer me up my mum appeared back from the shops with it. Before this the only Transformers comic I'd ever received was the Movie Adaptation which I hadn't liked, but mum knew I loved the cartoon and I loved Christmas, so this seemed perfect.
In fact, it was so perfect that a couple of days later my parents and I were getting on a bus and I asked if I could get a comic. I really wanted an issue of the regular Transformers! It was a Saturday (this day 32 years ago) and my newsagent hadn't sent back the previous week's unsold titles yet, so I ended up with issues 192 and 193, which you'll also see today. Now you know why I delayed 192 until this week! Yep, this is the anniversary of me starting to collect Transformers comics for the very first time, which led on to the toys and videos and then as an adult that fascination is still strong thanks to the movies and the current IDW comics... and of course these classics right here!
So yes, a big day for me! What was it about the special that had me hooked from the off? Three complete Christmassy tales were always going to be a hit, but the art and the hints of more complex stories are the real reason. I met Circuit Breaker and loved the character from the off, her tragic hatred for the Transformers and having a mirror held up to that hatred here. A fellow Northern Ireland-er also brought my first taste of the artwork and how much better it was than the basic cartoon. Will Simpson's details are superb and reeled me in; those nightmarish visions and Optimus' oversized Santa outfit hugging his body for example.
I was also intrigued by the darker, subdued Prime, the backstory to Josie Beller and in The Gift the tale of the first Autobot created on Earth, who was actually a defected Decepticon. These things didn't happen when I watched them on TV-AM!
Starscream was always a favourite on TV and here he didn't disappoint. I didn't know at the time how he ended up stranded, but I loved how he was so down about his situation he couldn't even muster the will to kill the human who was determined to teach him about Christmas. While the evil Decepticon only uses the festive season to turn the tables on an Autobot in the end, there's still some great comedy moments and even a surprise nice ending.
Reading this today, eager to get my decorations up early this year to bring some festive joy to 2020, this has been a real treat and I'm beaming from ear-to-ear. The Holidays Are (most definitely) Coming.
Cover by Robin Smith
Christmas Breaker! art by Will Simpson, colours by Gina Hart
The Gift pencils by Martin Griffiths, inks by Tim Perkins and colours by Steve White
Stargazed pencils by Jeff Anderson, inks by Stephen Baskerville and colours by Euan Peters
12th November 1988
#192: 32 years ago today I stepped onto that bus (see the previous post) with my first two regular Transformers UK comics, the cover of the first by a fave Real Ghostbusters artist too! Two of my friends had been collecting these for a while and suddenly I felt like one of the cool kids. These pages were my first glimpse into Marvel UK's top-seller and the huge universe of stories it would tell, as well as the beginnings of a lifelong love of these characters. Fresh, interesting and hugely exciting, Ca$h and Car-nage! may be just another story to most, but to me it was a real page turner and instantly more complex than anything I'd read in my comics up to that point.
The way it introduces the human protagonists one by one, taking its time to set up the Roadjammers and the mysterious Z-Foundation felt like proper storytelling with real depth and pacing. Seeing Autobots imprisoned on Cybertron was a real shock too. Gone was the easily wrapped up tales in the cartoon which had no real consequence; here the Transformers were being treated in a mature fashion like proper comic stars. I've also included a picture of Sizzle because he'd end up being one of my favourite toys over the few years after this issue.
Also in 1988 I discovered Doctor Who with my first ever episodes, The Remembrance of the Daleks (what an introduction!) and he was celebrating 25 years in print too. The Action Force story may have already begun but it took no time at all for me to be just as addicted to their weekly adventures as the Cybertronians. Unmaskings ended up containing some real shocks and brilliant character moments so I couldn't have chosen a better time to jump on.
Finally, already a fan of Lew Stringer's from Oink! and his Blimey! It's Slimer strip in the early issues of The Real Ghostbusters, now he'd continue being a huge part of my childhood (and life in general) with Combat Colin. What an introduction to the comic this issue was! Still just as ace today I'm glad to say.
Cover by Stephen Baskerville
Ca$h and Car-nage!: Part One pencils by Jose Delbo, inks by Danny Bulandi and colour by Nel Yomtov
Action Force - Unmaskings: Part Two pencils by Rod Whigham, inks by Andy Mushynsky and colours by George Roussos
19th November 1988
#193: So, following on from today's other two posts, 32 years ago today I was so glad my newsagent had been able to give me two issues of Transformers because I got to experience a complete story, with both parts of Ca$h and Car-nage! The split over two issues worked a treat for me, with the previous issue's episode acting like the build up and this one the action-packed climax. One-by-one the Autobots Sizzle, Fizzle and Backstreet are immobilised by the Roadjammers for the Z-Foundation, whom they don't trust.
Just right, because the very-broad-shouldered goons of Mr Z are actually Nebulan Headmasters! In the photo above you can see their square 80s-style shoulder pads from last issue and then their reveal from this week's. Of course, Mr Z is obviously Lord Zarak and that meant I got to experience Scorponok on my first day of regular Transformers reading, the toy of which I was fascinated by at a friend's house. I couldn't believe my luck!
Within this issue there's a throwback to E.T.'s much delayed video release with free Weetabix stickers and an advert for a brand new Marvel UK comic. I owned the first issue of Death's Head and it'll be coming to the blog in the future (I have the complete collection, just waiting for the right time). To round things off though, I'm shocked to see my first Action Force story contained such important pages as those I've included here.
The revelation Cobra Commander has a son and the characterisations of Snake Eyes and Storm Shadow were a world away from the Pyramids of Darkness VHS cassette I'd rented numerous times from the video store.
I remember reading these two issues over and over again for the whole week, they were such complete packages and I can remember the excitement their discovery brought. I'd remain with the comic for the rest of its run and then, in my 30s collect the whole damn lot! Now that I'm into the issues I have memories of reading as a young teen, those excitement levels have returned at the ripe old age of 42!
Cover by Andy Wildman
Ca$h and Car-nage!: Part Two pencils by Joe Delbo, inks by Danny Bulandi and colour by Nel Yomtov
Action Force - Unmaskings: Part Three pencils by Rod Whigham, inks by Andy Mushynsky and colours by George Roussos
All of these weekly posts will be summed up on the blog in monthly round ups too, with expanded mini-reviews and comments from you lot on Instagram (as will happen with these above eventually). I've fallen somewhat behind on these when I discovered a better way of taking and editing photos on my iPhone and MacBook Pro for the blog last year, which resulted in me going back and redoing the round ups from the start! I'm slowly getting caught up though, so to follow the read through from the very beginning just click on the link below to go to the Transformers section of the site and enjoy!