Category Archives: Bob Budiansky

5 TRULY FORGETTABLE MOMENTS IN BOB BUDIANSKY’S MARVEL TRANSFORMERS COMICS RUN

5 TRULY FORGETTABLE MOMENTS IN BOB BUDIANSKY’S MARVEL TRANSFORMERS US COMICS RUN

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5. CARWASH OF DOOM (TFUS#31)

The story that saw Bob get some death threats, Car wash of Doom proves not to be  a masterpiece. Okay that didn’t really happen, but Bob did make that death threat comment himself as a joke in an interview. About rabid fans obsessing about comics he wrote a couple decades ago made for kids and expecting them to stand up to an adult’s taste and nasty-minded criticism today.

The Marvel Transformers comics were written for kids, and for that purpose they are fine. For adults the stories are ho-hum, with a few cool highlights for fans of all ages. Adults criticizing twenty plus year old comics written for kids is kind of a DUMB activity…

But here we are anyway…looks like I’m the dummy in this post.

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Poor young Buster just want to get his car clean and enjoy some quality time with his main girl, but what he doesn’t know is THIS  particular car wash (part of hid dads auto repair business) has been sabotaged with another hair brained Decepticon trap.

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The car wash is a sweet irresistible consumer deal that lures in all the customers so Ratbat can spring his trap. Sure Ratbat… nobody can resist a bargain priced car wash *cough*. Ratbat has some mad mind control mojo making the townspeople go crazy and they start chasing Buster.

All that is missing is some of that hillbilly chase music Grandpa Simpson is so fond of. Buster turns and runs – right back into the carwash – natures natural protection against evil flying predatorial micro-cassettes.

Wasn’t the whole carwash a trap to start with Buster? Did you learn nothing from the yokels chasing you while playing that damned hillbilly music?

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This Witwicky survival plan turns out not to be such a genius scheme after all as Ratbat follows Buster Witwicky into the carwash.

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The one part of the comic that is actually pretty scary, and very METAL – Ratbat starts eating and tearing at parts of Buster’s vehicle. Good thing he’s in the car wash then so he can’t just get out and run away. $%#^&5^# idiot!

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Ratbast smashes his way in, and it is the most exciting scene in an otherwise dull issue of Transformers. If Buster had died here, and Ratbat took over as one of the main characters, I don’t think there would have been any complaints from fans.

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Buster puts up a valiant but very *sudsy* fight, but then Ratbat gets him anyway and flies off with him. It’s a pretty cool sequence, but the rest of the story about the luxury car wash luring people in so Ratbat can use his mind control to accomplish…. *something?*… is pretty silly and pointless. The grand scheme never really plays out. So, let’s move on to the next bit of nonsensical 80s Marvel Transformers comic book then shall we.

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4. SATURDAY NIGHT MICROMASTER SMACKDOWN! (TFUS#55)

An issue that starts off with an epic cover and promises an exciting story. The cover artist did their job well. Too bad the story inside doesn’t live up to that promise.

Minicons come to town fresh from Cybertron (aka Hasbro Toy Catalog Land) and what to do with their free time? Why they try their metal fists and torsos at Pro-Wrestling of course.

Roadhandler checks out the backstage training area, and is greeted with a warm welcome from the other pro wrestlers.

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Roadhandler is being managed by the most trustworthy fellow in the biz “Swindler”

 

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Robots that weigh more than a ton and made out of who knows what kind of metal are perfectly safe for how wrestlers to wrestle for the fans. It doesn’t matter, it’s not like they are hooked on pain killers for their chronic back and knee pain or anything. Why not attempt to fling a ton or more of Autobot metal over your head? Remember this was the 80’s pal, and folks were tougher in those days!

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Roadhandler gets into the wrasslin’ game pretty fast, and learns how to help his opponent put on a good show. It’s all good fun for the kids and families.

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Just when Roadhandler gets the upper hand, his opponent ducks beneath the ring and emerges with… a jackhammer. The dirty cheat!

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Roadhandler crushes the Jackhammer, and no that’s not a euphemism. His opponent is none too happy, but that’s nothing compared to what happens next.

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His buff opponent hurls him from the ring with a Herculean throw, but what’s this… Roadhandler transformers in mid air and lands safely in his alt mode.

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Roadhandler transforms once again and re-enters the rings, where he makes quick merciless work of his slick haired green speedo wearing opponent.

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The fans love their new champ, he goes on to win more matches and it seems this Bot has got it made living large, stylin’ and profilin’.

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Just when Roadhandler was living on Easy Street, a match goes sour with the surprise  opponent turns out to be be a no good villain, Stormcloud.

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Stormcloud makes for a vicious opponent, slamming Roadhandler to the the ground with so much force that it made the whole ring and the crowd momentarily disappear!

The lousy cheating Con transforms to alt mode and tries for a high stakes aerial attack, but Roadhandler is having none of it, and brings him smashing back down to the ground using one of the ropes ripped from the ring itself. I’ve never seen anything like this folks, in all my years as a commentator – what a match!

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The Saturday Night Micromaster Smackdown is a very silly story, but really perfect nonsense for eight year olds who love wresting and Transformers. It’s the kind of thing you would only ever see in a comic book (or maybe an episode of TF:animated) so in a way it’s quite good. You can tell I’m really cheating on my own list, as I love all the Transformers comics, even the bad ones.

Now let’s see what other  TV inspired horrors await the poor fools in our next story.

 

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3. STARSCREAMS FANTASY ISLAND (TFUS#47-49)

In a story that makes as much sense as the time Soundwave and Starscream ran a nightclub in the Sunbow cartoon, Starscream decides to run his own private fantasy island getaway.

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A luxury resort for humans to enjoy and show how nice the old Decepti-creeps can be.

A “magical island… with “friendly staff”. It seems the CONS have changed their creed, and are embracing their new LOVE of humanity!

It’s also the World’s Smallest Island apparently.

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Also the CONS have a giant underwater *murder-base* underneath the island.

*Whoops* – they forgot to mention that feature in the advertising campaign. Those fiends!

But don’t let a secret base stand in the way of good public relations. Frontman Starscream barks the immortal lines of dialog never to be heard again in any Transformers fiction, not even in a million million years:

“HI, I’M STARSCREAM. FLY ME!”

I guess Starscream doesn’t like to waste people’s time with small talk. But things get fishy pretty quickly.

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A red headed bikini lady is enjoying some sand, waves and fresh tunes on the beach courtesy of our main man Blaster. She’s actually there undercover to investigate the island for whatever forgettable reason. Something to do with that secret underwater Murder-Torture-Base perhaps.

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When Seacons Attack! No it’s not coming up next on the Discovery Channel, it’s what happens to the bikini lady who just wanted to enjoy some scuba snorkeling and the latest B-Boy mixes.

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She follows them to see what is up, only to discover the CLUB CON underwater murder-mayhem base, and also that Blaster is waterproof.

It’s great to sea the Seacons (however briefly) as they don’t turn up too often in any Transformers media other than those weird Japanese cartoons where they combine into King Poseidon.

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The red headed lady follows the Seacons underwater into a secret entrance to the CONS hidden base with Blaster snugly tucked under her arm – narrowly avoiding detection by any of the lurking local roughnecks.

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Jesse’s recon (hey I finally found her name) is complete, she confirms that Buster Witwicky is being held prisoner but is unable to free him. Instead Jesse has to make a hasty escapes. But the Seacons attack back on the beach. Blaster fights them off pretty much singlehanded – well enough for the two to make their getaway and blend in with the beach crowd.

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Some stupid kid distracts blaster, resulting in him taking some serious damage.

But the important thing is, everybody else on the beach pretty much ignored or forgot about everything that just happened. Starscream still loves humans, and invites them to return to his luxurious island resort (but downplays the murdery world domination aspects of the island-base) That’s good PR!

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The Underbase Saga starts out a very vanilla story, but the later chapters have one of the coolest moments in TFUS history- “Underbase Starscream”. But that one we will save for my upcoming list of “Epic Memorable Moments in Budiansky TFUS“, rather than the dodgy issues such as this one.

 

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3. THE BOSS / BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN COMES TO TOWN (TFUS#14)

Too cheap to pay for tickets the Autobots can’t stay away from the Bruce Springsteen concert in town and decide to gate crash. Did they have a mission too? Possibly, they stay in their vehicle alt modes as they are undercover, but really it’s just an excuse to listen to The Boss live without paying, having spent all their pocket money on Energon Lollipops at the gate – those cheap auto-bastards!

The Autobots narrowly avoid detection by some greedy-lazy Security guards, who can’t be bothered looking for the drivers they just saw in the vehicles. The Autobots used their holo-avatars rather haphazardly at times, and didn’t know they were supposed to pay to park in the concert stadium.

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With The Boss belting out some classics, the Autobots lie in wait, apparently with a tip off that Decepticons may be in the neighbourhood.

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SURPRISE FOOLS! The Cons turn up all right. Three familiar Seekers burst out of the ground, as flying jets typically do.

Carnage ensues with the Seeker’s attacking the stadium, and a weird cable thing that is part of the stage is going to topple over when…

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Hoist appears on stage to save the day. He grabs the broken scafolding and welds it back together that was about to crush Bruce Springsteen. He’s a swell guy that Hoist.

But watch out, the danger is not over yet!

Shockwave appears on the scene, looking a bit grey and determined to turn into his gun flight mode and shoot the stadium. Quick thinking yellow faced Bumblebee hurls an Energon cube at the purple one eyed monster.

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The results are spectacular, the explosion looking like it’s all part of the show. The other Cons have had enough, they turn their tailjets around and follow then leader Shockwave back home, presumably enjoying the Springsteen concert on their in flight radio.

Once again, the day is saved, thanks to the Autobots. The rest of the issue has various humans and military leaders planning what to do about the robot alien menace.

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Overall it’s not a bad issue at all. But the whole execution is just really vanilla. A lot of the Marvel Transformers comics had stories that were more serious in tone. But this issue feels more like one of the Sunbow cartoon episodes, with the Cons attacking a public concert. The only thing that makes different than other vanilla issues, is the appearance of Bruce Springsteen (they use a pseudonym in the issue) which really should make for a more memorable story, but it ends up being a couple of pages and a cool gimmick cover.

Let’s move on to one of the creepiest issues of TFUS up next.

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2. SKIDS IN LOVE…with a human?  (TFUS#20)

Rating high on the “EW! CREEP” factor, Skids falls in love with  a human, only for the human woman to shamelessly reciprocate in the second example of manbot and female human love in Transformers fiction. Inter-species romances are mainly the domain of science fiction, but it does come across as a bit creepy in a kids comic. Clearly Skids learned nothing from that doomed romance of Seaspray and his alien humanoid fish lady. But at least Skids didn’t change into a human for sake of inter-species love or anything.

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Charlene finds Skids overturned and abandoned in a ditch, and takes him to a mechanic. Skids is stuck in stasis lock with no way to communicate with her, other than through his radio – not unlike Bumblebee in the first live action Transformers film.

Being a cheapskate (and a thief) Charlene is not one to turn down a free ride and keeps Skids, because hey the “Finders Keepers” rule clearly applies when you find passenger-less cars in ditches.

But to Charlene’s surprise, Skids is eventually is able to transform again, and explains his situation, but can’t see to explain why his vehicle mode has a big butt, when his toy is a compact car.

 

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Charlene likes her free ride so much, that she continues to drive around a Transformer. But things get odd when strong country boy Wendell asks her a date, and instead Charlene replies that  she has already made plans. But we (the reader) know she don’t have no kinda plans, so is she just giving Wendell the brush off perhaps?

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Turns out those plans are rubbing herself up and down Skids while “washing” him doing her best attempt yet at being trailer trash. Not creepy at all. Get your freak on Charlene!

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Giving new meaning to the term Auto-Erotica, Charlene turns out to be a bit of a hussy. This is only their first date after all. I guess that’s how she rolls.

The story goes on (dear Primus why… just end it here…) and Charlene falls for Skids, making for one super-creepy KIDS story. Take another look at the panels just above before moving on, and tell me its’t not creepy-weird, someone was having a laugh drawing those panels. And for whatever reason Skids is not drawn as a small compact Japanese car – he seems to have Transmorphed himself into some kind of mini-van with a big phat caboose that brings all the country girls to the yard.

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1. AMERICAN GRAFFITI  – DECEPTICON  STYLE (TFUS#23)

In a throw away story that is a bit of fun CONS Runabout and Runamuck run around defacing major American landmarks and monuments. It’s two fun loving decepticons as serial pests. No world ending threat, no doomsday devices or plot MacGuffins, just some good old fashioned mayhem courtesy of two lovable rascals. It’s a bit of forgettable nonsense, but fun while it lasts.

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Yes, American landmarks are mysteriously being vandalised by some mysterious serial pests. But who who could be responsible for such tomfoolery?

Why Runabout and Runamuck of course, two loveable rascals that aim to misbehave!

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Little Jimmy the Idiot Boy Olsen wearing a Spider-Man T-shirt seems to think the antics of these troublesome CONS are awesome, and well – he’s not wrong.

Our two dapper carbot gents go to town painting various monuments and landmarks with giant cans of spray paint.

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Travelling around America, our troublesome twosome elude capture by the authorities, drawing crowd of onlookers

“They’re back, yippee” remarks the ginger kid. Guess he’s a CON fan.

 

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Some Commandos with amazing taste in fashion (orange pyjamas and motorbike helmets) turn up early to the party at Liberty Island, and hide out in Lady Liberties head in anticipation of our gruesome twosome.

 

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They also failed to bring any quality snacks or top shelf booze to the shindig. Runabout and Runamuck were stuck in traffic, but luckily they came prepared to party.

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But watch out, Omega Supreme has come to spoil the fun. And he’s sporting  a new ultra sheik bland head for… reasons… that I”m just not going to get into here.

*sigh*… Okay, he’s a FrankenBeiner.

It’s all stuff from another story and really just not very interesting, trust me on this one -just look at poor garishly colored Omega-Franken-Former and have a laugh, okay?

Circuit Breaker is controlling the Franken-Former and means to end this taggers party once and for all, busting out the heavily artillery.

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“Shoot first, ask questions later” remarks Runamuck, showing off his sweet Con style and attitude, not to mention that shiny car finish.

 

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As if being shot at while having a good time is not enough, poor Runabout and Runamuck are toasted to a nice crispy finish with either lasers or a flamethrower, it’s hard to say.

Their paint jobs ruined, they fall rather comically into the ocean accompanied by some no expenses spared neat sound effects. It seems Omega FrankenFormer was jealous of Runabout and Runamucks sweet color schemes and cool devil may care attitude. He revokes their License to Party and calls it a day.

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I’ve always found the bad guys more fun than the good guys, and toasting two tagger rascals seems a bit harsh when less violent methods could have been used. Oh well.

Runabout and Runamuck had a good run that lived up to their names and gave us a bit of fun while it lasted. I have to admit I quite like this issue, so why is it on this list? Well, it’s another gimmick cover and a few panels with a barely there story that was not fleshed out, so despite the cover it’s still kind of a forgettable story. But it’s great fun, and that’s what comics for kids are about right?

And giant Franken-Formers burning robots alive with flame throwers, that’s what the kids really want to see! Thanks 80’s Marvel. You really knew how to bring the pain.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go punch that annoying ginger headed Jimmy Olsen looking kid in the Spidey shirt from earlier…

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5 Surprisingly Memorable Moments from Bob Budiansky’s Marvel Comics Transformers Run

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Bob Budiansky is a integral part of the early days of Transformers. He came up with many of the names of the original characters, writing basic names, outlines and bios that would be used as reference points for the Transformers characters. A Marvel Comics writer, editor and artist, he wrote or co-wrote issues #5-#55 of the Marvel US Transformers Comic Book.

While free to write his own stories in a different continuity than the cartoon, Bob’s stories also had to endure frequent cast cullings, that is whenever new toys came around, he was forced to write them into the story, leaving other characters in the dust, or having to abandon old stories in favor of entirely new ones. It’s not a job anyone would really ask for, but Budiansky did his best, and his stories breeze along at a breakneck pace. Here are 5 of the most surprisingly memorable highlights from Bob Budiansky’s Marvel Transformers comic book run.

 

5. DECEPTICON PRETENDER SKULLGRIN GETS A JOB AS A PROFESSIONAL ACTOR

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In one of the most surreal stories in any Transformers fiction – Decepticon Pretender Skullgrin  follows Shockwave’s orders to gain energy for the Decepticon cause by any means necessary on earth. Reasoning that there is no reason why he should not just earn the energy, rather than steal resources like other Decepticons, Skullgrin gets a job… as a professional actor.

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The irony of a Transformer “Pretender” becoming an actor is too delicious for words. Unlike some of the Autobot Pretenders, who had human disguises as outer shells, Skullgrin was a hideous monster, so perfect to play the part of… a hideous monster.

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The story is not unlike Frankenstein, or even King Kong – Skullgrin refuses to be a simple monster who terrorises, and instead develops feeling for humans, only for it all to go pear shaped in the third act when the humans inevitably turn on him.

Far from being just a comedy issue (the intended tone is never clear, but the scenario is ridiculous) Skullgrin shows his true colors again in a later issue (#54) that calls back to this story when he is reunited with his Decepticon Pretender brethren, now under the leadership of headmaster Scorponok.

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Skullgrins fellow Decepticons want to kill humans who are simply in the way during a battle. Skullgrin rather than admitting to his fleshbag sympathies, simply says that there is no need and instead he will keep the human prisoner – thus avoiding killing humans, despite the Decepticon mandate from leaders such as Megatron, Shockwave or Scorponok to kill, destroy and terrorize. It is an odd story about an evil monster who refuses to simply be a monster, we’ve seen it all before, but it is one of the most bizarre and memorable Transformers comic book stories ever written.

 

4. RATCHET STANDS UP TO THE MIGHTY LORD MEGATRON

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With the majority of the autobots temporarily out of action, Ratchet is on the run and desperate. When Megatron confronts him, he expects no challenge at all from a medic, instead a confined Ratchet stands up to Megatron, fighting him with everything he has in him.

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Knowing there is no way he could ever beat Megatron in battle, Ratchet takes a big gamble that he can take care of the traitorous Shockwave for Megatron, he tells Megatron Shockwave was previously defeated by the Dinobots, and Ratchet promises he can use that knowledge to beat Shockwave once again.

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Surprisingly it pays off, with Megatron doubting Ratchet’s ability to stop his adversary, but no doubt savoring the delayed satsisfaction of killing Ratchet, having nothing to lose by leaving the worm Ratchet dangling on Megatron’s hook just a little longer.

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Ratchet bargains for time, out-bluffing Megatron in a deadly game of cat and mouse, fortunately for Ratchet it’s the last page of the issue, so he is temporarily saved by the “to be continued next issue” box in the corner I conveniently cropped out.

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3. SHOCKWAVE SINGLE HANDEDLY KILLS NEARLY ALL THE AUTOBOTS

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It’s debatable if or how a Transformer can truly die. In most fiction, their bodies can be destroyed, but as long as their brain survives (or is copied/downloaded) and they have a spark (heart or energy/electromagnetic spirit) then they can revived from “death” seemingly an infinite amount of times. But even these simple details vary in each fiction.

When Shockwave “kills” the Autobots, they are effectively in stasis lock, meaning as good as dead, but not yet disassembled , and it was only a matter of time before he pulled them apart or committed some atrocious experiments on his dead/comatose victims. The point is that when Shockwave came to town, he trashed the majority of the Autobots single handedly, proving his superiority to Megatron for the first of several times during Budianky’s stories, and living up to his boasts as being more intelligent, capable and in a word… superior in every way as a Decepticon leader.

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The sight of the Autobots strung up, hanging upside down like slabs of beef is disturbing, even more disturbing was Optimus Prime’s decapitated head that Shockwave questioned and tortured for information while keeping Optimus alive. Over the course of two and half issues Shockwave dominated everyone and everything in the Transformers world, making for one of the most memorable Marvel Transformers stories with horrifying consequences for anyone that dared to get in his way.

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2. GRIMLOCK BECOMES LEADER OF THE AUTOBOTS

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With Optimus Prime out of the picture Grimlock takes over as leader for no reason other than he chooses to. Grimlock insists he is the the strongest in physical strength and will power, not caring for the plight of the humans, Grimlock not only ignores them but actively encourages Autobots not to to help humans, as they are so inconsequential to his concerns.

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The autobots refuse to follow many of Grimlocks more nonsensical orders of course, proving just how unfit Grimlock is to lead. Later Grimlock realized the error of his ways, and quits as leader only for the other Autobots to refuse his resignation, and insist he stay on despite his shortcomings, as Grimlock did manage to trash most of their enemies while making a complete ass of himself as self-deputized leader.

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Grimlock’s reign was short but lasted several issues. He became more bossy, lazy, dominant, incompetent and slothful as King Grimlock’s leadership soared briefly before nose diving into the ground. The contrast of how good a leader Optimus Prime was, and how flawed Grimlock’s self indulgent leadership was, was driven home effectively. Grimlock continued to belittle any Autobot who questioned his decisions and of course Grimlock spent more time talking up how great he was, while accomplishing very little as leader, making his run as leader even shorter than Bumblebee’s.

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1.BLASTER FAILS TO SAVE HIS FRIEND SCROUNGE, WHO DIES A HORRIFIC DEATH

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Blaster fails to save his friend Scrounge from the smelting pits on a Decepticon dominated Cybertron. In a single issue Bob Budiansky introduces us to new character Scrounge – a nobody – we see his friendship with Blaster, the tension between the conservative Autobots cowering and hiding in fear from the brutal relentles Decepticons. We see Blaster’s reckless but brave heroism and Scrounge’s untimely death.

Issue #17 is the single saddest issue and moment I’ve read in any Transformers comic book (and I’ve read them all). In one short story we see the bravery, heroism and unbeatable determination of Blaster, contrasted with the lack of morale and hopelessness of the Autobots trapped on Cybertron hiding from the Decepticons.

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We see in the middle of an ongoing civil war, two friends who do their best for the Autobot cause. In most kids comics the hero triumphs, he saves the day and his friends. But in this story, Blaster fails to save his friend  Scrounge who dies a cruel, horrific and painful death, to be recycled into metal for the Decepticon war campaign.

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The smelting pit is the final death sentence and resting place for robots who are not only considered inferior, but beneath consideration, particularly not from the zealous war mongering Decepticons. It is as close to genocide as you will see in a kids comics produced solely to sell toys, and the serious tone makes it something that would never have aired were the same story conceived as an episode of the animated series.

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Well that’s it for this short list of Memorable Moments from Bob Budiansky’s Tranformers run for Marvel Comics. Stay tuned, I’ve got some more highlights saved for my next posts covering some of the cool battles, EPIC moments  and the best forgotten stuff from Bob Budiansky’s Transformers US Marvel comic book stories.

It’s a scene recreated in stunning pin up art with all the emotion, horror and desperation of the origianal scene by Casey Coller and John Paul Bove