Transformers UK: Issue #1

Story: The Transformers (Part 1)
Back-up strip: Machine Man
Cover date: 20th Sept, 1984
Price: 25p
Script: Ralph Macchio
Artwork: Frank Springer
Rating: Art / Story

New characters: Optimus Prime, Megatron, Ravage, Soundwave, Prowl, Rumble, Thundercracker, Starscream


Synopsis:

By Omega Steve


To Megatron and his followers the peace-loving Autobots are fools and ripe for conquest!

The story of the Transformers begins on their homeworld of Cybertron, more than four million years ago. At this time the planet is a mechanical paradise where a race of robotic beings known as Autobots live in peace and harmony. But every Eden has its serpent and on this world it is Megatron, leader of a faction called the Decepticons. They seek power and conquest through tyranny and regard their fellow Cybertronians as weak fools.

Megatron's forces grow in number and secretly undergo modifications to allow them to transform into fighting vehicles and weapons. Armed to the hilt, they attack the peace-loving Autobots and systematically destroy and conquer their cities. The Autobots are ill prepared for the onslaught and many are wiped out, but over time the survivors also gain the ability to transform and to fight back under the direction of the mighty Optimus Prime.

A global conflict rages for centuries until Cybertron is shaken from its orbit and sent hurtling into space. In time the planet enters Earth's solar system and is confronted with a field of deadly asteroids. Optimus Prime and his finest warriors board a specially constructed craft called the Ark and journey into space to blast a safe passage for their homeworld. Exhausted by their efforts, they are attacked by the scheming Megatron and Prime sets the Ark on a collision course with the Earth, hoping to destroy his enemies in the process.

The ship impacts into Mt St Hillary in a region that will eventually become Oregon, USA, and lays burried for four million years. In 1984 a freak eruption unearths the Ark and awakens 'Auntie' the ship's computer. She dispatches a probe to gather data about the inhabitants of Earth but it mistakes vehicles, planes and communication devices, as the dominant life on the planet. The probe returns to begin rebuilding the fallen Transformers.

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Comments:

Following the success of Transformers as a bi-monthly comic in the US the decision was taken to launch it as an ongoing concern in the UK. Kids on both sides of the Atlantic were hugely excited by Hasbro's toy robots who could be transformed into cars and planes, and cartoons and comics based on the series became inevitable. At the time Marvel UK was a small outpost of Stan Lee's empire that existed only to reprint comics from the US, but Transformers was to change all that. The catalyst was the fact that the UK comic was fortnightly and in time would be forced to come up with its own stories when US material ran out. This started it on a road that within a year would see Transformers as the flagship title of Marvel UK and pave the way for a host of other comics such as Thundercats, The Real Ghostbusters, Action Force, Dragons Claws and Death's Head that kids growing up in the 1980s came to love.

But this pilot story Bill Mantlo and Karate Kid-sounding Ralph Macchio was where it began for the US and UK comics. The story is an obligitary scene setter and a little slow moving at times, with the occasional bit of ropey artwork, but all of these things are ultimately forgivable - we are talking about the start of something very good here. The idea that this is beginning of an epic saga can be gathered by the sometimes-not-so-subtle biblical references that pop-up. The Eden paradise with its serpent Megatron, the exodus from Cybertron, and the Ark, which carries the two factions away. The writers actually thought they were working on a four-issue mini series so in some ways it is strange that they should inject an epic feel. I also detect the ghost of World War II in there, in that we have a dangerous faction led by a clearly twisted despot who have grand ambitions, but are dismissed as cranks by Autobot society. The peace lovers don't see the threat until it is too late and then they are left on the backfoot and struggling to arm.

The Transformers tend to be drawn more true to their toy forms than would later be the case, once artists got more familiar with them and relaxed. We also have a lot of non-descript robots seen battling on the Ark, Optimus Prime transforming into a cannon on Cybertron and having a few dopplegangers! While Megatron is drawn with bug-like eyes throughout. A nice twist about Earth machines being perceived as the dominant life, we are after all a very technological world. A promising start overall.

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