Category Archives: Marvel Comics

Sexy Fast Cars, Military Jets and Superheroes: The Unique Empowering Appeal of Hasbro’s Transformers

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Most toy lines manage to have a stand out cool car, a sleek military jet with missiles or some kind of super-hero or fantasy figure for a kid to role play with.

Transformers went ahead and put everything into one toyline.

IT’S A SUPERHERO!

IT’S A FAST CAR!

IT’S A KICK-ASS ROBOT!

Everything in one! The all new all exciting Trans-Morpher-Bots 5000 from HASBRO!

Talk about value  for money and stuffing as many features, ideas and values into one toyline and media property as possible.

Stronger than He-Man, faster than Road Runner, tougher than the Hulk, more heroic than Superman – Transformers are not to be fucked with.

Oh, and they also happen to be a race of super-smart sentient aliens, making their genre a mish-mash of pure classical science fiction, Japanese Super Robots and uniquely American Style Superheroes.

They also like to beat the shit out of each other and have non-stop battles, laser guns and explosions – what more could the average ten year old boy ask for?

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Like other 80’s co-productions, Transformers were Japanese import toys given Americanized fiction courtesy of Hasbro and Marvel Comics.

The 80’s had a number of import and co-productions linked to various toys, cartoons and other media. Golion was redubbed and written to become “Voltron, Defender of the Universe” in America. Thundercats was created in America in the pre-production and writing stages, but animated overseas – giving it a unique Anime flavor (superior animation quality) married to typical American tropes of heroism and Western storytelling.

Thundercats offered the best of both worlds to its potential audience, as did many other co-productions which through the magic of “Synergy” (a horrible 80’s business buzz word…  and also the name for JEM’s A.I. super-computer…) saw two different cultures co-operating across the ocean to create something new and exciting for kids to enjoy. Something better than what either culture solo might have come up with. These co-productions led to mixed results, with some great stand outs and plenty of wretched refuse littering up the airwaves and toy aisles of the eighties.

Fortunately in the case of Transformers, these formerly known as Diaclone and Micro Change Japanese robots were successfully launched in America with a new fiction attached to them that took off. They became so popular, that eventually even Japan started selling their old toys (from the same molds) in new packages as “Transformers”,  the brand had reached global recognition, something not easily achieved.

An interview with MAZ of TF-1 that appeared on Toybox Soapbox sums it up pretty well:

http://toyboxsoapbox.com/2018/01/08/interview-maz-talks-about-transformers-2018/

T.S.:What was it about Transformers that originally captivated you and made you a lifelong fan?

MAZ: In the first instance, my original exposure to Transformers came from the cartoon, specifically the 3-part pilot called “Arrival From Cybertron” in the UK. I watched that thing to death on VHS, and once I was shown where the Transformers toys were in Toys R Us in what must have been super-late 1985 or early 1986, I was hooked on the toys as much as I was on the fascinating cartoon. It sounds strange to say this today, but the appeal came from lovely looking cars and planes (two big favourites of mine as a child) that turned into heroic-looking robots with great power. I’d never seen their like before, and the toys were pretty special.

http://toyboxsoapbox.com/2018/01/08/interview-maz-talks-about-transformers-2018/

You can read the full Toybox Soapbox interview with MAZ at the link above and please do, it’s a great read, I’ve read it several times.

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OBEY THE LORE!

The Transformers lore would be a mix of toys, cartoon and comic books courtesy of Marvel Comics and Hasbro meetings that led to establishing the basic universe and fiction of the Transformers. Jim Shooter, Denny O Neil and Bob Budianksy would lay down the foundations that other Transformers fiction would be built on for years to come. Later Simon Furman became a key figure in creating Transformers fiction, a lot of which was adopted by Hasbro into future toy lines, lore and TV shows.

The basic premise of the Transformers was a race of warring sentient alien robots crash landed on earth. Megatron lead the EVIL Decepticons (Decepticon’s being synonymous with Deception and Destruction) while the peace loving Autobots would be led by Optimus Prime.

Optimus Prime was  a mixture of Abraham Lincoln and John Wayne wrapped in the colors of Superman. Prime also happens to be wearing the colors of the American flag. Optimus Prime is about as Apple Pie Americana as it gets for an alien robot.

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Unlike some cynical fictional characters, Optimus Prime is all heart. He really is the embodiment of a tough noble warrior mixed with compassion and true leadership skills. The kind of individual/character that can never exist in real life, because they are too perfect – the kind that only exist in “true” biographies – but who work wonderfully in fiction as a noble and inspiring figure of humanities own potentials for greatness en masse and as individuals.

Optimus Prims is the ambassador to The Transformers brand and media. It’s most well known icon and the most traditional super-hero like figure that appears in the fiction. When the live action movies made Optimus a ruthless killer, many fans felt betrayed that their iconic hero was being used in such a fashion.

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RESPECTABLE IN THE 80’S

It’s impossible to be a Transformers fan and not reminisce now and then on your first TF toy experiences. I remember seeing the Transformers cartoon as a kid and loving it. For years the show was in endless repeats wherever you went. In the morning, the afternoon, any time of day it might show up and I’d watch it again every time as it was just so much fun, it was magnetic and I was powerless to look away.

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The toys I would see in the stores, but we grew up pretty poor and Transformers were not something we generally could afford. Mostly it was window shopping and unfulfilled wishes. One time my Grandfather took me to a toy store on the way to visit one of his old friends. We stopped in some toy store and he let me choose what I wanted. I asked if I could get this cool looking dragon robot thing, and to my surprise he said Yes. That toy was G1 Doublecross, a toy I still have today and treasure like it was made of gold. I remember the box and that he was packaged in his dragon mode, which really made it more appealing and cool. I doubt I would have picked it if he had been packaged in his robot mode.

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The only other Transformers I had as a kid were Beachcomber and Streetwise, both small budget scale toys that I got on a birthday and pretty plain looking. They didn’t have two heads and breathe fire like Doublecross. They could not fly with cool dragon wings. I never even saw most of the other Transformers toys over the years. I do remember seeing the box for Metroplex in  a store, and recognized it from the pack in catalogs that I would ogle for hours. Most of my neighborhood friends also came from poor families. Some had a few He-man or G.I. Joe’s, but most folks didn’t have Transformers in that area. If you had Transformers you either had wealthy parents or Grandparents, that was how I saw it. They just were not affordable toys for anyone I knew where I grew up.

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Cars never appealed to me as a kid, neither did jets or Top Gun or any of that sort of thing. I’ve seen hundreds of hours of actual circuit racing, speedway and drag racing –  it was (and still is) my Father’s passion but not mine. I’m more interested in Dinosaurs, mythical monsters and scary disgusting creatures – foul beasts from the Underverse that want to eat you alive in one bite. That’s why I gravitate toward characters like Grimlock and Doublecross.

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One is a double headed dragon, the other a Tyrannosaurus Rex in their alt modes. Terrorcons, Predacons, Dinobots and Monsterbots are more exciting to me than Fast Cars and Jets. Grimlock beats Vin Diesel any day of the week, but if he wants to voice him in an animated film or show – I would not object. Vehicles are cool too, but I can see cars in real life any day of the week when I drive to work. I can’t see real life mythical beasts at the Mythical Beasts & Dragons show on Sunday. I can’t ride Grimlock to work. It comes back to the characters for me. Cool monsters are one thing, but what is their personality or their unique voice?

I can admire the real life screen used or replica Kitt, Mad Max’s Interceptor, the ’66 and ’89 Batmobiles – and other cool racing and sports cars. But there is no 1:1 scale Grimlock replica out there for me to go and enjoy on the weekend at a show. I wish there was, something that makes that fantasy world more real, more immersive even if for just a brief moment. I would of course get the real Grimlock to destroy all my enemies.

BOY VS GIRL VS i-ROBOT

Like a lot of eighties conceived power fantasy fiction, the primary market for the cartoon, comic books and Transformers toys was boys.  Girls had Barbie, Minnie Mouse, My Little Pony and that sort of thing. Power suited marketers, advertisers and focus groups told the toy “experts” what kids wanted. Nobody could foresee that over thirty years later Transformers would be still be around as a multimedia empire, and now with a significant amount of female fans.

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If you’re a girl and you like Transformers, He-Man and Voltron, that’s fine. If you’re you’re a guy and like My Little Pony, Care Bears or Barbie, well that’s okay. Some people will “judge” you for it, but fuck em! Don’t listen to them. Enjoy what you enjoy. One of the most impressive collections I’ve ever seen was an old mate who collected mostly vintage Barbie and G.I. Joe. Not 80’s Joe, the vintage original full sized dolls with cloth clothing. He had them in lovely display cabinets with lighting and they looked fantastic. Ordinarily I would not even look at dolls, but his passion for his collection and the presentation was simply stunning, and made you appreciate the toys.

We are aloud to like whatever the fuck we like. It’s not up to marketers, the media, your parents, your family and other forms of social conditioning to tell you what you should enjoy

We choose our own toys and make up the stories that appeal to us. No human being can tell you the “correct” way to play, as play is intrinsic to human nature both for kids and adults. As adults we unfortunately associate Play mostly with children due to the success of those dictatorial marketers and toy merchants and well meaning social psychologists (often on the payroll). They have hijacked a natural free human experience in order to sell us their shit.

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GIRL VS BOY VS TOY AISLE

It makes a certain kind of sense / convenience to put Barbie with Barbie, G.I. Joe with G.I. Joe and Ninja Turtles with other Ninja Turtles. People generally don’t have a hard time figuring out how to find toys in a toy section. But do they HAVE to have “Boys Toys” and “Girls Toys” written on the catalog? Not really, it’s kind of redundant and more aimed at saving time for busy parents. But there are some cultural conditions / bias that also play into this grouping with some rather odd origins.

In (circa) 1900 white dresses and undyed fabrics were the in thing for baby boys and girls. White plain fabrics could be easily bleached when soiled, and both sexes wore dresses for the first few years of their lives. As clothing dyes became more available, (and cheaper to produce) clever marketers came up with the idea of pink for boys, and blue for girls. This trend grew as more stores stocked the new dyed gender specific fabrics. The “Genderisation” didn’t occur right away, but slowly grew as marketers and stores picked up the idea and ran with it. Any time you can create a new market segment with clear distinctions (a line of clothes for boys, a line for girls, instead of clothes for both) that means more potential profit. Advertising is subtle social conditioning, and so over time people came to associate certain colors with gender.

 

The march toward gender-specific clothes was neither linear nor rapid. Pink and blue arrived, along with other pastels, as colors for babies in the mid-19th century, yet the two colors were not promoted as gender signifiers until just before World War I—and even then, it took time for popular culture to sort things out.
Read more: SmithsonianMag.com

That eventually Pink became associated with Girls / Feminine and Blue for Boys / Masculine (the reverse of what it had been) shows how the whole idea was a social construct in the first place, truly having nothing to do with sex at all. To go one step further, many of the characteristics often associated with male and female turn out to be the creation of culture. The simple version is, if it’s considered Masculine or Feminine – it’s a creation of culture and social conditioning, but if it’s Male and Female (Sex) then we are talking Biology, the confusion comes when we erroneously mix qualities from one to another, and then consider them to be immutable truths or facts.

Fast forward a few decades, and we move beyond gender specific clothing, to various toy lines marketed specifically to boys or girls. We’ve all pretty much had the experience of walking into a modern chain-store toy section and find the action figure (boys) aisle, and the dolls / Barbie pink (girls) aisles. Don’t get me started on Babies ‘R Us (the sub section and brand of Toys ‘R Us). That toys are grouped together is NOT a negative thing. If you have to find a Barbie to buy for your niece, would you rather it was easy to find and next to all the other Barbie’s, or would you prefer you had to look through all the Lego sets, Beanie Babies and Star Wars stuff to find it?

I prefer things to be easy to find, the issue is not the way toys are displayed – but that we create unrealistic expectations for children that if they don’t enjoy the toys “approved” for their Gender (as decided by marketers and Mad Men) then they are shunned by their peers, or the irrational fear that it’s going to make them grow up the wrong way.

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MEGATRON: Confident enough with pink plasma

BACK IN BLACK

American superheroes are intrinsically linked to the colors red and blue – it’s the most famous Superhero of all – Superman – who is adorned in a heroic version of the American flag itself, the trope goes beyond mere symbolism and is rooted in our very subconscious psyche over the decades from repeated exposure. It’s that combination of colors that mean even those unable to read can see and know those symbols as representing America and the superhero ideal.

Other icons who wear those patriotic symbolic colors include Spider-Man and Optimus Prime. Superheroes over the decades have traditionally been marketed to Boys, sure girls have Wonder Woman, Batgirl and Lois Lane, but the sales of of comic books over the decades have predominantly been boys and men. Boys are expected to like action, and whether by nature or nurture that dynamic plays out.

It’s no accident that Optimus Prime wears the primary red and blue colors. He’s an American icon, for better or worse. A Japanese super robot re-purposed, wrapped in the american flag and his personality calls back to archetypes like cowboys and superheroes. The Transformers toys and fiction are all about action. Now and then there is a message about the environment or war and conflict in there somewhere – but that is not the main appeal for kids.

The primary appeal is to play with these powerful incredible robots that turn into vehicles that only adults drive or fly in the real world. When a kid plays with a Transformer, they get to fly that Top Gun jet, or drive a big truck, a construction vehicle or military jeep. Then it turns into a robot/action figure and the fantasy play continues. Transformers are magic for any kid that gets to enjoy them, and I hope they are around for many more years to come. It takes a certain kind of magic to combine vehicles, robots and superheroes into one fantastic toy. It’s a magnificent obsession for many kids and adults, for myself and many others it will probably be a lifelong one.

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IMAGE CREDITS

Optimus Prime image from Transformers Visual Works

Optimus punching Megatron from “Tranformers: Regeneration One” by IDW Publishing

Optimus vs Seekers from Transformers Visual Works

Megatron punching Optimus comic panel From IDW Transformers Comics

Megatron panel from IDW Transformers Comics

‘Wayne’ screen capture from Wayne’s World

Fans Hobby Lazer Prime / Gunfighter courtesty of Fans Hobby

https://www.facebook.com/Fans-hobby-1263389377007663/

Buster / Prime comic panel from Marvel Comics The Transformers

 

 

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BOTFAN JOHN’S BOTSMAS EVE WRAP UP 2016 – in August 2017??? Stop smoking that plastic crack son!

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No, I’m not going anywhere – nor am I high on Energon or Plastic Crack.

I wrote this blog in 2016 and never got around to posting it. Then I decided, what the heck, I love reading people’s year end wrap ups about whatever and figured hey, let’s just post it anyway….

And here we are in August 2017 with me talking about 2016…….so instead of the Year in ReviewYear of the Goat or the Year of Convoy Pants Maximus – it’s the Year In Retrospect. Sounds a bit fancy doesn’t it? Or is that just my imagination where I read “Year in retrospect” with a bored yawning upper class British voice.

2016 was the year I dove head first into a bottomless pit of Transformers toys like Scrooge McDuck in his money bin.

Yeah that didn’t really happen, but I did obsessively follow every new release, every announcement, every new toy review and tid bit of news and info on official and third party toys, so it kind felt like I was diving into a giant bin of toys. Or at least a plastic tub stacked in a corner.

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I bought a heap of TF toys this year, and now I am literally surrounded by them in every direction as I type.

I never had any intention to go mad for Transformers this year, in the previous 20 years I’ve owned just a handful of toys. But some little switch got flicked inside me, and all of a sudden Transformer toys and media were my personal crack.

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It’s nothing new. I’m an obsessive person, and I have no control over what holds my attention, the best I can do is redirect from one obsessive thing to another. Batman to Marvel, Marvel to Transformers, Transformers to JG1 Transformers cartoons and then back to Transformers comics or my somewhat neglected Batman Blog. If I’m in a reading mood I’ll read several thousand pages of comics in a week, or binge watch a Transformers TV show in addition to all the normal things like eat/sleep/work/repeat.

In 2016  I read the entire run of Marvel Transformers comics for the first time. The US run, the UK lot and the Regeneration One (IDW) sequel. I read all of Dreamwave, IDW Transformers #V1-4 and more.

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I read IDW’s Robots in Disguise (RID) and More Than Meets The Eye (MTMTE) all the way through….twice. And I loved it all.

The first time around I didn’t care for a lot of those IDW comic stories. The emphasis on deeper more meaningful stories was lost on me, I craved more giant robots beating the shit out of each other.

But second times’s the charm and now I have to say my appreciation for what IDW has done with the brand, lore and stories of Transformers media is REALLY FUCKING COOL.

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If you are too stupid busy robotic  silly to read them, well all I can say is you’re missing out on some the biggest loudest most exciting longest most ambitious long form continuous piece of Transformers stories in existence.

No Transformers show ever ran for more than a few years, (Rescue Bots being the only one to continue past Season 3) and the movies are loosely interconnected one off stories. Really there is nothing else that comes near the length of IDW comics run.

Except for bits of the Marvel US and UK comics stuff, but a lot of that was shoe horned together on the fly. The IDW-verse had some real thought and planning put into it. Hey, some of the world building was shoe-horned in too in IDW, relax about it man. It’s not perfect, there are parts I don’t like for sure, but overall it’s DAMN good and we are spoilt as fans that it even exists at all.

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I’ve seen a lot of different comic companies try and do their own Marvel-Method shared universe world building, and most of them fuck it up. I’m a lifelong Marvel Comics fan in case you didn’t get the hint. But IDW did a great job of tying together Transformers, RID and MTMTE with each other, and all the one shots, mini series and stuff they did. My hat is off to them. That Revolution nonsense I’m not so happy with, but that is the topic of my next post.

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So also in 2016 I watched the Japanese show Transformers: Headmasters for the first time ever, thanks to having constant internet access. I’ve started watching Victory and Masterforce, and I’m up to episode #20 of Brave Exkaiser. I’ve also been enjoying the dazzling Combattler V and other classic super-robot anime that I’ve never had the opportunity to view before. It’s great stuff. I also watched all of Transformers Animated for the first time and made a dent in Robots in Disguise 2015.

Just this last week or so I’ve started watching Transformers Prime, a brilliant award winning show that I’ve been meaning to watch for years, but only now had the time to fully engage with and appreciate.

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TF Prime is a show with real nuance to the characters, and it really rewards those who sit down and watch episodes back to back, pulling off serialised stories in a way that is nearly seamless, and possibly the best that has been done in any Transformers TV show. Beast Wars did a similar thing, the pacing just always felt too slow for me, the CGI was ground breaking for its time, but just looks ugly today. With Transformers Prime I feel like all the experiences and talent that went into Beast Wars and Transformers: More than Meets the Eye really paid off in Transformers Prime.

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I’ve never cared for the art style much of TF Prime, particularly Prime himself with his overly skeletal hips and exploding chest windows that can’t decide where to sit.

But Bulkhead is amazing, as is Ratchet. The character models are gorgeous and these two characters alone make the show worth watching for me, along with Megatron, Break-down and Knock-Out. The stories are well done, the action is brilliant, and the human characters for once don’t annoy me, and are integrated into the show in a pretty seamless way that makes sense. Of course the one who really steals the show is Iago… I mean Starscream.

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Another thing Transformers Prime does is sort of redeem the movie aesthetic (as in live action Bayhem Bayformer movies) for me, the post Bayformer design of Prime and Bumblebee in particular really stands out as incorporating elements of the live action movie designs, in a way that doesn’t give me a headache or make me feel like throwing up from looking at them with their millions of triangular face polygons that make their faces look like evil razoblades from hell.

Of course, now I must start a TF Prime toy collection, but that’s a good problem to have.

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S3 Galvatron joins the search party that is going out to look for….himself

 

In 2016 I bought loads of official brand new retail toys, the Titans Return, a few more Combiner Wars, and picked up old brilliant CHUGS by the boxful thanks to some local collectors in my state, and embraced some truly AMAZING stuff that is coming out like hotcakes from third parties.

My most recent third party efforts have been Unique Toys Allen aka G1 Springer and KFC Simba aka Victory Leo. While mid year, finding a HASBRO Titans Fortress ‘Mazimus on sale here in Australia for below full retail price at the time or release was brilliant, and my toy of the year as far as something that I looked forward to for over six months, and am still in love with. Once you look past how inferior the build quality is compared to the G1 toy, and his damn Leaning-Tower-of-Iacon status that makes him fall over REALLY easily despite having literally giant bot boot bricks for feet….. well all that aside he’s  a GREAT toy and a worth addition to any fans collection. I also briefly owned MMC’s version of Overlord for about a month or two, then traded him for a Generation’s Metroplex.

 

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I’ve gone a bit gonzo for fandom in 2016 and embraced various TF communities and collectives.

I love connecting with other fans, enjoying their amazing art – such as Chris McMasters Venomised Megatron picture below. I also enjoyed buying toys from local sellers in OZ via wonderful facebook groups such as TCCA – Transformers Collectors Club Australia and OTCA / OZFORMERS Forums – many a great deal is to be had. The great thing about buying from collectors, rather than soccer moms over on Gumtree (who also have some amazing do not miss deals, hello Energon Omega Supreme for $40 AUD) is that you know what you are getting, what condition it is in, what bits it is missing, or if its complete etc.

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Megatron-Venom by Chris McMasters https://www.instagram.com/ceedaflicks/

In 2016 I joined the TFW2005 forums in May. It’s been years since I’ve found any online niche hobby site forums that I wanted to be a part of and contribute to, or have the time for.

Many online nerd communities are insular, strange and often hostile. And while it is possible to have that experience at TFW2005, my overall experience so far has been most welcoming, and a number of people whom I have not met in person, but I think of as friends have found me on facebook and other sites, and I’m very grateful to them for their friendship.

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At Big Citybot Burger, we’ve got the Burgers Bots Crave

I also frequent the Australian OTCA / Ozformers forums, and I use the same name “BATFAN007” on all sites, including reddit and Seibertron.

So if you see that name around, it’s most likely me, usually talking a big load of rubbish. I also swear like a sailor and am usually a grumpy mother fucker on the best of days. So I’m not going out of my way to be obnoxious, that’s just how I am in real life even with my family and friends.

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In 2016 I took way to many photos (like it kept filling up the camera memory card) of toys and shared them on IMGUR, Facebook and TFW2005. Seeing other people’s fun photos made me want to take more photos than ever, and it was great fun.

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Well, that does it for now. 2016 for me was an awesome year for collecting Transformers toys and gave me something positive to focus on while other parts of my life have been unbearable and depressingly frustrating.

But never mind that, here’s RID Chubby Paws Grimlock having a panic attack…..

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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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