There’s no doubt about it, Transformers was my Star Wars. The very first slice of pop culture I grabbed with both hands and decided ‘belonged’ to me. From about 1984 right through to the end of the decade, I had a deep hunger for those tasty robots in disguise – and the weekly Marvel UK comic provided regular, reliable nourishment.
Established to support the cartoon series and toy line that already had kids like me wide-eyed with wonder and parents paralysed with fear they wouldn’t be able to find an Optimus Prime in time for Christmas, the comic started out by using content from Marvel’s US comic series. However, after eight issues, Marvel gave its UK base of operations a shot at producing original material, initially with writer Steve Parkhouse concocting plots designed to avoid conflict with those happening in America.
Over the next few years – and completely unknown to me at the time – the magazine flipped between original British stories and reprints of those from the US. With Bob Budianski ‘over there’ and Simon Furman (who replaced Parkhouse) ‘over here’ heading up the writing, the comic went from strength to strength. It rode the creative highs of things like Transformers: The Movie (1986), while propping up commercial lows like the ‘Pretenders’ toy line that seemed to signal the death of the phenomenon just a few years later.
But while the Transformers brand was clearly in trouble by the end of the 80s, that was no bad thing for Furman – and for readers like me. With less attention from the Americans and no-one from Hasbro looking over his shoulder, the UK team had a pretty free creative reign to take the series into more interesting territory than ever before. And I remember all too fondly enjoying truly thrilling storylines like ‘Time Wars’ and ‘Target: 2006’, not to mention the incredible artwork being done by people like Lee Sullivan and Geoff Senior (see below).
Transformers: The Definitive G1 Collection pulls together all of the above and a whole lot more besides into one collection of hardback books, which then combine like Devastator month-by-month into one giant, shelf-straddling behemoth. You buy issue one at the knock-down price of £1.99 in store (back issues are available online but I don’t know what the pricing is), then sign up to get the next two books at £6.99. After that, each issue costs £9.99 and you get two delivered to your door every month. Now let’s be clear, the publisher plans to put out 80 of these things in total, so it’s a commitment. But I have to say, it’s a commitment I’m more than happy to make.
Each book is bound beautifully in a hardback cover showcasing individual character artwork on the front panel and a panoramic spine that builds into the image above as the set grows. This consistency is certainly cat nip for collectors and completists, but what’s struck me overall is that Hachette Partworks – the company behind the G1 Collection – has really taken the time to ensure these book feel of a really high quality. They feel good in the hand, they look good on the shelf and the colour and print absolutely pops on every thick glossy page inside.
In addition to classic storylines like ‘Target: 2006’ (covered in issue 1), UK stories like ‘Race With the Devil’ and ‘Survivors’ (issue 3) are colourised for the first time. Not only that, but there are later runs like ‘The War Within’ (issue #5) – a six-part series published by Dreamwave Productions in 2002 – so there’s a really nice spread of newer stuff to enjoy too. I’ll be honest, at first I was a bit miffed that it wasn’t all in chronological order, but now I’ve had a few books through I can say the variation in these regular, carefully selected works is actually really appreciated.
But perhaps the best thing about the series so far, is the insight provided with each book about what was going on ‘behind the scenes’ at Marvel UK. In each issue, Furman himself offers an editorial piece offering a peek behind the curtain to explain what was going on with Hasbro, Marvel US and Marvel UK and how the stories you’re about to enjoy slotted into the wider concerns of each party. Add in reprinted covers, artist biographies, original sketches and loads more… and that £20 monthly price tag starts to feel like a genuine bargain.
I’m absolutely delighted with Transformers The Definitive G1 Collection. So much so, I’ve already found myself looking forward to the books dropping through my letterbox just like the Transformers pyjama-clad kid I was all those years ago. And, if you’re looking to rekindle some memories of those strips or are a comic fan who’s always been curious about the series, I would definitely recommend you think about checking it out.
Find out more about Transformers The Definitive G1 Collection here and subscribe… Honestly, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.