TransMissions: Mark Salom

My seventh response to the 100 letters I mailed out was not from Mark Salom, but from his sister-in-law, Fran Carpentier-Salom. Mark’s letter appeared in issue 7, entitled: Warrior School!

Transformers Issue 7“I am thrilled to tell you how happy I was to receive your letter for my dear brother-in-law (and Transformers fan) Mark Salom.” Fran wrote. “In fact, in Feb. 2012, Mark sustained a catastrophic fall in his home which rendered him a quadriplegic. His brother (my husband) and I had Mark treated at the renowned Kessler Institute, which is where the late actor Christopher Reeves sought treatment, but there was little that could be done for Mark. Thus, in May 2012, Mark moved full-time into a nursing home in Brooklyn. Rest assured, that he is as comfortable and, despite his situation, as happy as it is possible to be.”

As trilled as I was to get another response to the 100 letters I sent out, this one felt like a gut check. In the last few years I’ve gotten to be apart of the Transformers fandom through this blog and the TransMissions Podcast. Hearing Mark’s story and how he has been affected touched me more than any other response I’ve gotten thus far.

Mark is a Transformers fan. He’s one of us. He had a really shitty thing happen to him. I wish nothing be the best for him.

If I where a better writer, I could come up with a more eloquent way to introduce Mark’s original letter that was published in the 80s Marvel comic.

Dear Editor and Assistant Editor,
I am enjoying these new comic characters the TRANSFORMERS both in comic form and in animated cartoon (Channel 11-WPIX, Sundays at 10). It has come to my attention that between the comic and the animated cartoon there are (more or less) 11 different DECEPTICONS, 19 different AUTOBOTS and the 5 different DINOBOTS.
I would like in the future issues of the TRANSFORMERS (or in a special TRANSFORMERS Yearbook, like you did for G.I. JOE recently), a special reference section which has pictures and a brief information printout on al the above mentioned DECEPTICONS, AUTOBOTS, and DINOBOTS, and those robots you will yet bring to life, if any. Please follow up my thoughts when you get the series going again early in 1985.
Please try to keep the TRANSFORMERS animated cartoon going because it is really very good. Both children and adults can enjoy this show. – Mark Salom, Brooklyn, NY

Now 30 some odd years later and with the help of Fran and Mark’s trusty aide, Pauline,  Mark answers my questions.

How did you discover Transformers?

I discovered them in the early 80s. I discovered the comic series. also the movies, and the voice overs!!!

Where did I get my Transformers comics from?

I used to buy my Transformer comics in Manhattan—what most people call New York City. I live in Brooklyn, which is a borough of NYC, the same way that the Bronx and Queens and Staten Island are. The five boroughs, get it? On Saturdays, after synagogue services, I would take the subway from my home in Sheepshead Bay—the section of Brooklyn shown in the recent Bill Murray film Saint Vincent—into Manhattan to a special comic book store in midtown. That’s the good thing about Manhattan. It has something for everyone’s taste. Going to the comics store was a highpoint of my week. I actually have a big collection of old comics.”

Who are you today?

I am not sure how to answer this!

Are you still a Transformers fan?

I am still a big fan! But I don’t get much access to comic book stores and my cable tv service doesn’t seem to run the movies.

Many, many thanks go out to Mark, Fran and Pauline for their time and help. I wish the very best to all of them.

TransMissions: Mark Baker-Wright

My sixth response to the 100 letters I mailed out was from one Mark Baker-Wright. Mark’s letter appeared in issue 61, entitled: The Primal Scream.

Transformers_issue61_coverMark’s story starts out a little different then the others I’ve interviewed. See, mark found out about my little project from a facebook post about it. Mark even talks about having his letter show up in the Transformers comic on a blog post he wrote entitled: The Single Most Cataclysmically Important Transformers Story, Ever.

Mark’s Letter in the 80s Marvel comic reads:

Dear Transmissions,

After reading the several million letters you have printed by people begging you to bring back certain characters, I feel it is time to start giving your writers some advice. They shouldn’t pay so much attention to which new toys Hasbro are producing, and -most importantly- it shouldn’t matter that Hasbro is no longer producing certain characters as toys. Just because these characters aren’t made anymore doesn’t mean you have to kill them off in the comic!

In the 55 issues so far I have seen many characters (good and bad) killed off: Shockwave, Megatron and (everyone’s favorite) Starscream, to name some Decepticons, and Jazz, Blasters and Sunstreaker, on the Autobot side. Please stop this trend before all we’re left with are Pretenders, Micromasters, Powermasters and the like!

I’d better just add this I’ve just flicked to the final page of issue #56, and seen Megatron! So perhaps this letter was unnecessary.

Mark Wright
Louisvill, KY

mark-baker-wrightMark gave me some of his time to answer my questions. So here is Mark, 3o-ish years later.

How did you discover the Transformers?

I *think* I saw Bumblebee in the toy store before I even knew what Transformers were, but won’t swear to it. I first became familiar with the franchise through friends at school, and through the cartoon mini-series which aired a couple of times before the series proper began.

Where did you get your Transformers comics from?

For the most part, I either got my comics from the grocery store or via subscription (especially once I figured out that subscriptions were cheaper than getting the issues from the store!). I got every issue as it came out starting with issue #8, but did have to go back by various means to collect issues #1-7 (especially comic shops. But the closest to me was on the opposite end of town, so this was by no means convenient) I’m quite proud of having every Transformers-related comic Marvel US ever put out (with this caveat: I only have one issue of the “digests” that only collected a couple of previously-released issues, as well as only one of the “collected comics” softcovers… In this case the one that collected issues 1-3 in a slightly-edited form. I don’t know how many “collected comics” were released).

What compelled you to write to Marvel’s Transformers?

My letter itself (as well as my blog entry) gets to this fairly well. It was clear at this point in time that the Transformers toy line was focused on just a couple of line-wide gimmicks each year (at the time that I wrote, this would have been Pretenders and Micromasters. A year or so later, it was just Action Masters and Micromasters), and I was afraid that the comics would be following suit (which, to a degree, of course they were).

What was it like to see your letter printed in the back of the comic?

I was pretty excited to see my letter printed. After all, I was just 15 at the time, and this was like becoming famous!

Who are you today and are you still a Transformers fan?

I’m still a Transformers fan, and keep pretty active in the online community. Besides my blog, Blackrock’s Toybox, I’m pretty well-known on several of the more prominent message boards, where I’ve used the moniker “G.B. Blackrock” for many years now. I work as support staff in higher education, having completed almost 15 years on the staff of Fuller Theological Seminary, and now working at Azusa Pacific University for just over a year.

Many thanks goes out to Mark Baker-Wright for his time to respond to me. I really enjoyed his responses to my questions.

TransMissions: Brendan Crispin

My fifth response to the 100 letters I mailed out was from one Brendan Crispin. Crispin’s letter appeared in issue 63, entitled: Kings of the Wild Frontier.

Transformers_issue63_coverBrendan Crispin, responded to my letter for an interview by saying, “My mother forwarded the letter you sent to my old address which you found in the fan letters page of issue #63. Yep, my mother still lives in the same house. It’s wild to think you are contacting me more than 25 years after the Transformers comic book published my letter.”

Crispin’s letter in the 80s Marvel comic reads:

Dear Transmissions,

For a long time I’ve felt that the Transformers series was somewhat disappointing, while at the same time being full of potential. In the last few issues I’ve perceived crucial changes that lead me to believe you’re finally tapping that elusive potential. And best yet, it’s leading somewhere! Megatron’s revival, although not captivating for me, was an essential step in your progression. And now that Megatron’s revival, although not captivating for me, was an essential step in your progression. And now that Megatron’s overseeing the restoration of Starscream–this is almost too much! Optimus Prime unleashed? Never! Really? I’d love to see Prime kick Megaton into the next time zone.

One Suggestion: I’m sure a lot of Transformers fans would like to contact others, including me. So why don’t you devote a page each issue to addresses of TF fans who’d like to correspond? Give it a try, eh?

Brendan Crispin
Madison, WI

Now, 30ish years later we get to hear from Brendan Crispin again.

Youseph: How did I discover Transformers?

My cousin who was a few years younger than myself came over to my house and brought his Constructicon Bonecrusher figure with him. I remember how eagerly he told me about Bonecrusher. I don’t remember specifics, but I imagine he told me about the character’s quotation and info from Bonecrusher’s profile as printed on the back of the toy packaging. Probably also that Bonecrusher combined with other Constructicons to form a larger robot. I was about 13 years old then. I quickly became enamored with Transformers.

Youseph: Where did I get my Transformers comics from?

I started collecting the original Transformers comic book series from very early on. I don’t remember which issue was the first I bought, but I’m pretty sure it was one of the first 8 issues and that I bought it at a Waldenbooks which was a mall-based bookstore chain. I don’t recall if I ever paid for a subscription to have the comics sent to me in the mail, but I would’ve bought issues at various comic book stores and other stores that sold comic books back then such as grocery stores, drug stores, KMart and maybe even gas station convenience stores. I did buy the first several issues of the series which I had missed, and I collected the entire series till the end.

Youseph: Who are you today?

No one extraordinary, but I wish I could once again experience the anticipation and thrill of discovering new Transformers characters in the TV cartoon and when the new season’s toyline was released.

Youseph: Are you still a Transformers fan?

Yes and no. I’m not an ‘active’ fan, but I still strongly and fondly remember my teenage years as a Generation 1 Transformers fan. If new Transformers toys and cartoons were still being produced in the style of Generation 1, I’d undoubtedly still be buying some figures and watching the cartoon. :D But sadly, G1 went down an unfortunate path leading to Pretenders and Action Masters.

A huge thanks goes out to Brendan Crispin for his time to respond to me. I really enjoyed his responses to my questions.

TransMissions: Ulysses Stockdale

The fouth response from the 100 letters I mailed out was from one Ulysses Stockdale. Ulysses’s letter appeared in issue 26 entitled: Funeral For A Friend.

Transformers-issue-26-coverUlysses responded to my letter for an interview by calling me up. It was truly a lot of fun to talk with him. After I asked my interview questions Ulysses had several of his own and was pleased to learn of the recent Transformers: The Movie blue-ray release.

Ulysses’s letter in the 80s Marvel comic read:

“Dear Transmissions,
I have just read TRANSFORMERS THE MOVIE, and I very much want to congratulate you for doing a very superb job on this movie. The plot was great, I love every minute of it. But there is something I need to have answered. I was very saddened to see Ironhide’s death along with the other Autobots on the ship, as well as Optimus Prime’s death. What I want to know is will Optimus and the other Autobots ever be brought back to life by the Creation Matrix, or by something else? they survived ten millions years, so couldn’t they live another million? O hate to see Optimus go, he is my favorite Autobot. Please don’t get me wrong about this, but we both know that no Autobot, not even Rodimus Prime could ever be as wise and as strong as the great Optimus Prime. I would very much like to see a sequel to these movie (even if it does kill you) because only you guys can do it the best. Buy the way, keep up the good work on the TRANSFORMERS comic books, the artwork is great.
Ulysses Stockdale
Heiskell, TN”

Now, 30ish years later we get to hear from Ulysses again.

Youseph: How did you discover the Transformers?

The original cartoon of course. That just caught my attention. I was a big anime fan when I was young. They used to show Star Blazers, Tranzor Z, the american version of the anime. When I saw Transformers it really caught my attention. I’d seen the toys prior to the TV show, but I didn’t pay much attention to the toys. They kinda looked a little less than neat so to speak. But the cartoon really caught my attention. That’s how I got into it.

Youseph: Where did you get your Transformers comics from?

Anywhere I could score them. My parents where not exactly fond of me buying comic books in general. They thought I could use my time much more wisely. I was a kid and that kind of stuff…. You gotta let a kid be a kid. That kind of stuff is a gold mine for a kid.

I found my comic books at 7-11’s or gas stations. Anywhere that they had a comic book rack. I collected them out of order. Whatever I could find I would buy and fill in the gaps later.

Youseph: What compelled you to write to to Marvel’s Transformers?

Primarily it was the movie. I’d never seen such a well done animated movie. I really really enjoyed the movie and of course my love for the Transformers. I was heart broken that Optimus was killed off in that movie. And of course the next thing I did, I had to have a movie adaptation of the comic book so I went out and found those. The movie was primarily what prompted me to write.

Youseph: What was it like to see your letter printed in the back of the comic?

It had to be pointed out to me that I was even in the letters section. As a kid, it was like hitting the lottery. Not that I got anything from it, but wow, My name is out there. My letter is out their, in print now. It was really cool as a kid, but as I look back on it, it was a bit humbling that someone would take the time to respond to me.

Youseph: Who are you today and are you still a Transformers fan?

A happily married man with a wife who understand I’m still a kid at heart and has no problem with my fascination with transformers. Yeah, I still love transformers. I have all the blue rays for the most recent movies.

I really have to thank Ulysses for his phone call and his time. I had a lot of fun chatting with him. He still has my number, so who knows. Maybe I’ll hear from him again down the road.

100 Letters Project Interview On The TransMissions Podcast

I was recently interviewed on the TransMissions Podcast (episode 149. Time code: 00:56:33), regarding the 100 Letters project I started. Thought I’m a cohost on the podcast, I try not to bring my personal projects onto the show unless the rest of the cohorts ask me to. That’s just what happened here.

TransMissions Logo

It’s worth listening to because we touch on things that even I was unaware of that is directly related to the current IDW Publishing Transformers books.

TransMissions: Tori Bergquist

The Third response from the 100 letters I mailed out was from one Tori Bergquist. Tori’s letter appeared in issue 37. Among other things Tori complimented my favorite story line, ‘Man of Iron’.

Transformers-37-Cover“I received your letter from my folks, who still live on their ranch in Arizona.” Tori wrote. “Actually, until you mentioned it I had completely forgotten ever writing to the Marvel Transformers comic (or getting published) so this brings back some ancient and buried memories.”

Tori’s letter in the 80s Marvel comic read:

Dear Bob, Parkhouse, etc,

Congratulations, Mr. Parkhouse on an excellent story! The British have come and “Man of Iron” was worth the interruption on the fate of Blaster. It was especially interesting to see how you fellows overseas portray everyone’s favorite mechanical men… although I did miss the usual snide comments the Decepticons usually hurl at the Autobots during their battles.

It was also nice to see the old characters again especially Mirage and Starscream (my favorites), not to mention ol’ Op (even if it was brief). Another interesting thing about “Man of Iron” was the way the characters were drawn… they look exactly like the figures!

Okay, Bob. Where’s the Megster? He shows up all decked out in red, orange and blue on the cover of issue #33, and I begin to think that maybe he’ll return next issue, thrust into a time wrap back to the fourteenth century, and not a Cyberton at all! Since he didn’t return, I guess I can continue to make it a safe bet he’s on Cybertron, in the hands of his fellow Decepts, giving him a new “galvatronic” body?
To close off, I would like to add my name to the (hopefully) growing lists of people who demand to have you guys make the HEADMASTERS as an unlimited series. You started it, but that doesn’t mean you have to finish it! Until Shockwave learns to meaning of “personality,” Make Mine Marvel.

Tori Bergquist
Sam Simon, AZ

Tori_ Bergquist
Tori Bergquist (2016)

Now, 30ish years later we get to hear from Tori again.

Youseph: How did you discover the Transformers?

I grew up in Rural Southern Arizona, and the first Transformers experience I had was discovering a few figures, specifically Ironhide, Sideswipe and Bluestreak in a local store, the kind which later would close down as Walmart took over. The figures were amazing, and I recall cutting out the stat cards on the back. Shortly after that I discovered the first issue of the Marvel Comic, then the TV series. I collected every issue for the next seven-odd years, and recorded every episode of the TV show on VHS. I also collected almost every figure released through 1988, missing only about two or three, as I recall.

Youseph: Where did you get your Transformers comics from?

Initially I bought them at a local grocery store in the nearest “big” town (Wilcox). As my interest in comics expanded I started ordering shipments from Mile High Comics which was the best way to get a lot of obscure titles couple of weeks. Sometimes I’d grab issues, especially import copies of the UK edition of Transformers, from comic shops in the nearest big city (Tucson).

Youseph: What compelled you to write to Marvel’s Transformers?

I was doing a lot of writing projects back then, but my love of the comic and what they were doing with it was a big motivator. The TV series felt a bit “canned” to me, lots of filler episodes with an occasional cool story, but the comic was an amazing ride every issue, and I always thought of it as the “definitive” Transformers. I decided to write to them and see if I could get my letter published….I think I wrote it as carefully as I could to see if it would meet the typical criteria Marvel looked for in letters they would publish, and that paid off. Oddly, until this interview came up I had pretty much forgotten I had written that letter (and been published).

Youseph: What was it like to see your letter printed in the back of the comic?

In thinking back I recall being ecstatic. I had written other fan letters and also published a fanzine on sci-fi and fantasy gaming. I’d received at various times either no response or once even a negative response (from author Piers Anthony, who disliked that I was critical of his latest Xanth novel at the time). But the Transformers crew actually published my letter and it felt very affirming to my devotion to the series.

Youseph: Who are you today and are you still a Transformers fan?

Today I am a manager for a company focused on healthcare benefits for the State of New Mexico. I am also a published game designer for various role playing games (the paper and pencil kind). I have a wife and five year old son who (you guessed it) also loves Transformers, although the shows these days are a bit different than the original. I remain a Transformers fan although I stopped collecting the figures ages ago, unfortunately. I enjoyed the movies that came out, even if they were a new revision with Michael Bay at the helm, and really love the video games that have been released in recent years, including Fall of Cybertron, War for Cybertron, Devasation and even Rise of the Dark Spark. I’m looking forward to seeing if Hasbro can turn the Transformers into a franchise series for film, too.

Many thanks goes out to Tori for his time and the information he shared with me. I have a few more of these interviews to share with you so stay tuned.

TransMissions: Liane Elliot

The second response I got from the 100 letters I mailed out was from one Liane Elliot. Someone who was very active in the fandom back in the day. “I was quite surprised to see your letter as it has been so long since my address was in the Marvel ‘Transformers’ comic.” She responded.

Her letter in the 80s Marvel comic read:

Dear Transmissions,
I am a member of a Transformers fan club called the TransMasters. The club started in 1984, and our current membership stands at 45, and we’re looking to expand still further. We have several talented artists and most every member has written Transformer related stories. We are an international club with members in the US, UK, and Canada. If possible, we’d like to open up a line of communication between ourselves and a concerned party at Marvel. I await your response expectantly.
Liane Elliot
Gig Harbor, WA

Now, 30ish years later we get to hear from Liane once again.

Youseph: How did you discover the Transformers?

Transformers was part of the afternoon cartoon lineup. I’d catch it right after getting home from school.

Youseph: Where did you get your Transformers comics from?

I originally discovered there was a comic in a shop at the B & I in Tacoma. But the shop keeper didn’t have back issues so I ended up at O’Learys’ comic shop. When it closed up, due to the health of the owner, I went to Lady Jayne’s comic shop until she closed. Then to Comic Book Inc until I became unemployed and couldn’t afford comics anymore.

Youseph: What compelled you to write to the comic?

Simply put I felt that any true fan would want to be included in a fan club so wrote in to let those fans know that one existed. It got a number of responses and every once in a great while I still get a letter, like your own. You are lucky that I’m one of those people that stick around where they grew up.

Youseph: What was it like to see your letter printed in the back of the comic?

I was thrilled to see it and looked forward to hearing from fans who wanted to be part of the fan club.

Youseph: Who are you today and are you still a Transformers fan?

I’m not sure what you mean by ‘who’. I’m still me. I’m just older, wiser and all that comes from 30 years of living. Yes I am still a fan.

I asked Liane to give me some background history on the TransMasters fan club.

The history… hoo boy… this should cover it nicely I think. http://transmasters.angelfire.com/history.html
As it states in that I left the club, I cannot recall what about, but I was really ticked off enough to give up and leave. I stayed in contact with those members that joined my Survivors fan club. So named after the UK Transformers story where the remaining Autobot “Wreckers” joined with the surviving Decepticon “Mayhem Attack Squad”. I ran Survivors for a number of years along with a fanzine I called Overlord II. I stopped the fanzine and soon let the club die after feeling like my feelings or opinions didn’t matter to the Internet generation of fans. Suffice it to say there was enough trolling done on me to make me want nothing to do with the fandom and I disappeared from it for 10 years (1995-2005). Wrote them all off entirely. I was still a fan, just not into socializing with kids who were being mean and nasty to someone who should have been respected at the very least.
 
Here’s some FaceBook links for you.
 
I want to thank Liane so much for her time and the information she shared with me. I’m really amazed this letter mailing effort has worked so well. Stay tuned as I still have more letter responses to share soon.