This is the big one! It’s the first issue of Transformers to feature the two leaders, Optimus Prime and Megatron, on the cover as it’s their first big fight inside!
But remember, Megatron isn’t available in the UK yet, so I don’t know how you’re going to recreate that on your bedroom floor. Maybe you have a family member visiting North American this side of Christmas to get one for you. It’ll be fine. 35 years ago, you could probably take Megatron on a plane with very little fuss.
I say it’s the big one but really we’re just 4 issues in. Sorry. I’ll calm it down.
A new Machine Man story starts inside!
This issue’s cover is actually a reuse of the cover of the second issue of the American Transformers comic. The artist goes uncredited here (to be fair, the British editorial team may not have even known) but according to the TFWiki, it’s Michael Golden.
Even if you’re not that familiar with comics, you can plainly see that the style of this issue’s cover is a lot different… it’s got that “Marvel” look to it, and the mechanical colouring is not as sophisticated as the painted covers from the first three (British) issues.
Megatron is pretty much portrayed in his final character model here. Though the head looks like it may have been redrawn or modified. I don’t know. His neck seems to have retreated too far into his chest anyhow.
Interestingly, the cover to the first American Transformers comic was painted (by Bill Sienkiewicz), but never used for the British edition. They didn’t even use it as a poster or centre page spread. Shame, really.
This issue’s Openers features the comic’s second character profile. This time it’s Gears, a proud anti-social misfit. I like him already.
Readers’ letters are coming in. There’s one little kid who’s lucky to have an auntie who buys their comic for them, and another who really isn’t keen on Machine Man. Same here. I mean about Machine Man, not that I have an auntie who buys me comics.
If you get your letter published, you get £5 in return. That’s pretty generous for 1984. Enough for a couple of Mini Autobots (at the then RRP of £2.49). I’d have gone for that yellow Cliffjumper they showed in last issue’s competition and waited for eBay to be invented so I could make a tonne of money. All for a letter to a children’s comic. Foolproof.
Power Play, Part 2
Transformers 4 reprints the second half of Marvel (US)’s second Transformers comic story “Power Play”. Again, partly in black and white. The character models are looking less like the toys and more like the model sheets used for the animated television adverts. You can tell it’s the advert models, and not the cartoon proper, by Megatron’s helmet shape. And there is something quite peculiar about the livery on Optimus Prime’s trailer…
Eagled eyed readers will notice a blocked out part halfway through the stripe on Optimus’s trailer. (For example, look closely look at panel 6 on the lefthand page above.) A look at the original artwork will reveal why!
You can see that the word “DIACLONE” has been blanked out prior to publication! It seems that the artist, Frank Springer, was making use of the Diaclone versions of the “Transformers” toys as reference. It gives a good indication as to how far ahead production by Marvel et al was at that point to make sure everything was ready for the initial launch of the toy line.
“Power Play” ends on a remarkably desolate note: Sparkplug is abducted by the Decepticons and the Autobots are too fuel-starved to do anything about it. I think it is this cliffhanger ending that really provides the ignition of the series. “The Transformers” was the history lesson, but this second chapter gets to the heart of the concept and gives a compelling story that hooks readers.
I always like to think of that first mini-series (4 issues in the US, 8 issues here in the UK) as if it were a live-action Transformers movie. And if so, the cliffhanger to “Power Play” would make an excellent midpoint for the movie where the plot turns on its axis and everything ramps up.
There are a few nice touches of character: Mirage’s longing to return home is so strong that he even tries to reason with a Decepticon, the two Autobot “brothers” Sunstreaker and Sideswipe actually relish battle, and Starscream wastes no time in undermining Megatron at every opportunity.
“Power Play”, I think, actually works better as an introductory story than “The Transformers” did! It hits the ground running, it paints its characters and its plot well, and it provides enough exposition to keep new readers informed. “Power Play”, to me, is the real start of the Transformers’ story on Earth.
The centre spread this issue again features two stills from the Transformers animated television advert. Soundwave is a nice sort of lilac colour. This could maybe explain his purple colour scheme in the Marvel comics.
Where walk the gods
The remainder of Transformers 4 consists of Machine Man. Clocking in at 10 pages this issue, it’s no wonder readers like Malcolm wrote in to complain. 10 pages. It’s a bit much.
Transformers 4 takes us into November of 1984 and for most kids, Christmas will be on the horizon. Hopefully a lot of them will be asking for Transformers: Autobots if they were good, and Decepticons if they were bad.
Personally, if it meant getting Decepticons, I would have been very bad indeed.
I think by now that the comic has done a pretty good job at introducing the first year’s range of characters/toys to kids and parents through its stories, adverts, competitions and fact files. And it’s deftly managed expectations where it comes to Megatron’s availability in the UK. That is, don’t expect one!
May your luster never dull, and your wires never cross.
— Graham (@grhmthmsn)
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