Three issues in and Marvel UK’s Transformers comic is settling in nicely. It’s been a month (and 35 years!) since the first issue and, while the format has been consistent, the comic/magazine is being subtly refined as it goes.
Bumblebee, friend or foe?
Jerry Paris returns as this issue’s cover artist with a painting of Buster and Sparkplug Witwicky’s first meeting with an Autobot: Bumblebee. The cover blurb, like the previous issues, is still all about the “alien invaders” angle… asking whether Bumblebee is a friend or a foe. You know he’s a friend, I know he’s a friend. But I suppose a first-time reader (or parent/family member seeing the comic in the newsagents) might be wondering.
Speaking of Bumblebee, his entire back side isn’t really based on the toy or character model (not that Jerry would have had access to it at that point) and it’s rendered like a best guess. Still it adds to the sinister and mysterious nature of the cover, which is what the comic seems to be going for during these early stages. It is, in fact, the first cover that depicts the story inside.
Also, and this is a spoiler, there is no “sting in the tale”… Bumblebee is a good guy and will not kill either Buster or his dad. (Though “heroic” Autobot Jazz will shoot at Sparkplug and cause him to have a heart attack, but that’s for another time!)
This issue’s free gift is an iron-on transfer. When I got this issue second-hand back in the 1990s it didn’t come with it, so I’m still on the look out for one. I don’t want to iron it onto anything, I just want that unhealthy sense of completion.
This issue’s Openers is very much a Transformers time capsule. (See also: the theme of this blog.) In the little blue “WOT, NO MEGATRON?” box, the comic’s editorial explains that a toy shop in Leeds (and by extensions the rest of them up and down the country) is indeed correct that Megatron is not part of the UK’s Transformers range. The good news is that Megatron *may* be available next year. We’ll keep our (trigger) fingers crossed.
This issue features the comic’s first fact file… on Hound! It’s only a very brief introduction to the character. Over the coming issues and years, this feature will evolve into “Fact File Interface” and then “Transformers AtoZ”. I loved those profiles, and I cut them out of the comic and filed them away in a ring binder. I wish now that I hadn’t.
And… aha!… one reader spotted the loss of full colour in issue 2 and wrote in to tell the editor about it. I knew someone would have noticed.
Power Play, Part 1
Transformers 3 reprints the first half of Marvel (US)’s second Transformers comic story “Power Play”. Again, partly in black and white.
Jim Salicrup takes over script writing duties for “Power Play” and gives a more grounded plot than “The Transformers”. It’s less epic, but no less dramatic. The set up is simple. Much like humans stranded on a desert island, the Autobots and Decepticons now stranded on Earth are looking for the two most important things for survival: food (well, fuel) and shelter. The more straightforward plot leaves plenty of space to get to know the cast a little better.
Each Autobot and Decepticon gets their moment, and here it’s done a little less clumsily. It also looks like the character model sheets have been finalised as artist Frank Springer has a much, much better grasp of what everyone’s supposed to look like now.
The differences between Autobot and Decepticon are nicely highlighted in their approach to getting the fuel they need. Needless to say, the ‘Cons are looking to just take what they want. Saying that, things aren’t quite as black and white; Mirage, of the Autobots, stands out as a dissenting voice.
Win a mini vehicle
This issue’s competition is to win one of 100 mini vehicles… including a yellow Cliffjumper! As with previous competitions, readers get to know the characters a bit better. In a nice tie in with the lead story, Bumblebee is described as being “in trouble” this issue. I wonder if anyone did actually win a yellow Cliffjumper (or a red Bumblebee for that matter). The mini vehicles are noted as costing £2.50 in the shops. That’s about £10 today.
The centre spread this issue features two stills from the Transformers animated television advert. If you follow the canon of the Centre Spread Universe (CSU), Jazz and Prowl are actually Decepticons. Update your fanfics accordingly.
Only the heroic Autobots can save Earth!
Transformers 3 features the second full page advert for Hasbro UK. This time its for the heroic Autobots… and it names each character! Let’s see: Sideswipe (he’s pretty smart, I want him), Ratchet (unusual robot mode, yes please), Hound (looks detailed, add him to the list), Mirage (slick as, definite yes), Bluestreak (another smart looking one, so go on then), and Jazz (aww yeah, the James Bond-like guy; definitely want that one!).
This is where it becomes clear that the UK range of Transformers is a lot smaller than the rest of the world. Just six “deluxe” Autobots? Yep, I’m afraid so. But also, it makes the range a bit more affordable. Eagle-eyed super fans like me noticed that the six Autobots in the advert are the same six as on the Hasbro UK 1984 catalogue. And, look! There’s that yellow Cliffjumper again!!
I also noticed that Jazz, Hound and Mirage were the cover stars of last issue so, like issue 1 as well, Marvel UK are making sure to promote the characters/toys that Hasbro UK are actually selling.
If I had been reading Transformers since the beginning I think I would have been about 50:50 on continuing with the comic after the first two issues. But this third issue feels and reads a lot more coherently and it’s shifting more towards being a bona fide Transformers comic than a general robot magazine that features them. I am confident that 7 year old me, having finished this issue, would have been hooked by now and tidying my bedroom before asking my parents for a subscription!
May your luster never dull, and your wires never cross.
— Graham (@grhmthmsn)
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