Looking back at comics – Transformers “Generation 1” US #1

Original release date: May 8th 1984

I did not read this issue during the time the series was recent, the German TF comics mainly reprinted UK issues and with the Hungarian TF comics I only started at the second magazine, translating to US issue #3 (each magazine bundled 2 US issues, though some were skipped and only printed after they got to #80), so this is going to be effectively my first in-depth look at this and the next issue.

Cover

Depicts a huge Optimus Prime crushing a jet (presumably one of the Decepticons) in his hand, Lazerbeak and a flying bot that kind of looks like Gears mid-transformation(?). Optimus is standing on land with streets and a bridge which makes it look like he is extremely tall, his arms look very stumpy and while his body makes him recognizable, his face is… well… just LOOK AT IT

G1_Comic_US1_OP

In the background you can see the sun and two human heads (Buster and Sparkplug Witwicky as we will find out), drawn in a far more realistic style compared to the Transformers.

The top left of the cover page shows a box with the comic price, the word Marvel and a small Optimus Prime that is much more close to his actual appearance later on in the comics and cartoons.

Overall the cover most likely caught peoples’ attention when browsing through the store just by its mix of art styles and the way the Transformers looked on it.

Story synopsis

War between the Autobots and Decepticons breaks out on Cybertron, the Autobots build a spaceship (the Ark) to clear an asteroid field that threatens Cybertron, a group of Decepticons attack them on the Ark and overpower them, Optimus Prime makes the Ark crash on Earth, where they awaken 4 million years later. The Ark rebuilds them while only recognizing our technology as “life”, ignoring all carbon-based lifeforms. The Decepticons leave the Ark to fight at another time, Optimus decides they have to protect life on Earth and defeat the Decepticons before they can leave, since they are the cause for the Decepticons’ presence on Earth. Meanwhile, Buster goes to a drive-in theatre where a reconnaissance group of Autobots also arrive. Decepticons spot them and attack, during the fight the Autobots find out that the humans are the actual dominant lifeforms on Earth, prompting them to return to base in order to inform Optimus and find out what to do next. During the attack Bumblebee was injured, Buster noticed him crying out in pain. Not knowing what else to do, Buster drives Bumblebee to his dads’ repair shop, where Sparkplug finds him. The comic ends on Bumblebee weakly stating that he is dying.

Thoughts on Content

The introductory part states for Cybertron, that it is a “word whose origins where lost in the past”… well that’s certainly gonna change later on (for the better). We also get an origin for the Transformers that is slightly different from what is most often used nowadays: “Life had evolved here”, “the interaction of naturally occurring gears, levers and pulleys that miraculously brought forth sentient beings”… well I am SO glad they changed THAT (and so are quite a few other people I am sure)! Apparently the war that erupts on Cybertron shakes it out of its orbit… uhm, that seems kind of improbable, would have expected the planet to be torn to shreds first if the war is THAT extreme.

This issue has lots and lots of text throughout, describing what’s happening, dialogue written in a rather unnatural, stilted way, describing characters and their characteristics, for example during their introductions. This… probably could have been handled better.

The art wasn’t great either, which was mostly caused by very early character designs being used and lots of characters being drawn very close to their respective toys instead of their later “final” models (especially noticeable with Ironhide and Ratchet). There were some inconsistencies in how things where drawn on top of that (like Optimus Primes face in closeups).

Besides the standard character introductions, I did notice some things being set up in this issue, Megatron mentions “one of our mightiest is missing” and Starscream questions Megatrons leadership. The relationship between Buster and Sparkplug seems a bit strained due to the father wanting his some to be more interested in car repairs, not reading books. Jesse is shown to be Busters girlfriend (they are kissing during the car theatre movie) and “O” is there in the same car, so he’s most likely a friend of both, though his nickname is not explained.

Conclusion

Art and dialogue both had problems, making for a rocky start in this first issue, thankfully the scenario and plot itself helped out quite a bit.

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