100 Letters

I sent my messages into the past and I got replies! More replies then I could have hopped for. I’m so excited to tell you about the results.

returned-letters-1

The people who’ve contacted me as a result of mailing out 100 letters to Transformers fans listed in the Marvel Transformers comic books of the 1980s.

Of the 100 letters I mailed out a few weeks ago, 10 people have responded to me.  39 of the letters have been returned. That leaves 51 floating out in the either somewhere. (I will update these numbers as more information comes in.)

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Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting my interviews with those who’ve responded to my letters. Sharing their story with you.

This was a really fun project and the fact that I got any responses is amazing to me. I’m looking forward to sharing them with you.

TransMissions Comic Penpals – 100 Stamps

I believe time travel is possible. I will prove it with 100 stamps. 100 stamps and 100 letters are all I need to send a message back to the 1980s. I think my odds are good that I’ll hear back from someone too.

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I’ve just finished reading and reviewing all 80 issues of Marvel Comics’ Transformers. A comic series which started in 1984 and ended it’s run in 1991. After reading each issue, I looked forward to reading the letters section in the back called TRANS MISSONS. Fans of the Transformers comic would write in and share their thoughts of the most recent issue they had read. Many of them shared their mailing address in hopes of becoming penpals with like minded fans. A neat idea that didn’t always have the intended results.

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Over the last few years I’ve posted my reviews of these comics, I also posted the letters section. Of course, I omitted peoples addresses, but that didn’t stop a few of those writers (Christine L. Leddon, Steve De Anda, and Jeb Hoge), from contacting me.

This gave me an idea. What are the chances that any of these writers (or family members of these writers), are still at these original addresses? It would be like reaching through time and asking, “Hello? Is anyone home?”

Because I was reading and reviewing these Transformers comics at a decent clip, I was able to enlist YouTube toy reviewer, Peaugh, to help me collect addresses from these old comics. Because of his help, I was able to jump on this project the moment I finished my review of all 80 issues of Transformers.

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Out of the 100 address that have been collected from the backs of these Transformers comics, I say my odds are good that at least one of them will come back to me. Of course, I hope I hear back from more than one. I would like to conduct more than one interview like I had with those writers who had contacted me previously.

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So with letters written, envelops addressed, and stamps applied. I send forth a message to the 1980s.

“Hello? Is anyone home?”

YOSHICAST #011 – Contacting Artists

Thanks for checking out episode #010 of the YOSHICAST! If you want to comment on what you’ve heard on this episode please send an e-mail, leave a comment below, Facebook me, Send me a tweet, or call me up and leave a voice mail. I’d love to hear from you. (360) 610-7047.

On this Episode of the YOSHICAST we go over how to contact an artist to commission a sketch cover. I’ll show off my Derek Yaniger sketch and the whole process to getting it.

SHOW NOTES:

00:09 – Derek Yaniger Sketch Cover
00:17 – Availability of Transformers: Regeneration One issue 96
00:50 – Who Is Derek Yaniger
02:33 – Contacting Derek Yaniger
02:39 – RoboPlastic Apocalypse / Please Save Me Robots (  )

 

Bob Budiansky’s Top 5 Best and Worst Transformers Comics (Part 3 of 3)

Bob_BudianskyIn 1984, the Transformers took over my 8-year-old world. I was consumed by the toys, cartoon, animated movie, comics and various merchandise. After the Transformers’ popularity waned in the late 80’s, the G1 comics, written by Bob Budiansky and Simon Furman, continued to hold my interest. Now, 31 years later, together with Youseph, Darryl, and Jeremy, I host the TransMissions Transformers-themed podcast where we continue to be captivated by Transformers in general, and for me, the current IDW comics in particular.

But those 80’s comics have always stuck with me. I have every comic of the original 80-issue run, plus the Headmasters and G.I. Joe crossover miniseries, the Transformers Universe miniseries, and the 1986 animated movie adaptation. Bob Budiansky is mainly responsible for building the Transformers universe from the ground up, and I treasure the stories he crafted in the comics greatly. I’m grateful to Youseph for giving me a new reason to revisit these comics as I present my picks for the top and bottom 5 issues in Bob Budiansky’s Transformers run.

Charles’ Top 5 favorite issues of Budiansky

Number 5: Issue #5 The New Order

Marvels Comics' Transformers Issue #5: The New Order
Marvels Comics’ Transformers Issue #5: The New Order

This issue officially marks the Transformers comic’s transition from a limited series to an ongoing comic that would continue for several years and 80 issues. At the end of the Transformers miniseries in issue #4, the Autobots snatch defeat from the jaws of victory when Shockwave shows up to beat them all. So in issue #5 will we see how the Autobots recover and fight back, eventually beating the Decepticons? Nope! Shockwave is still large and in charge, and the Autobots ARE (nearly) ALL DEAD.

Shockwave is a very different character in the comics than his incarnation in the G1 cartoon. His loyalty is ultimately to logic, rather than to Megatron, and determining the best course of action that will lead to victory for the Decepticons. As such, he sees Megatron’s leadership, with all the Decepticons poisoned and near death from the tainted fuel Sparkplug Witwicky made for them, as a colossal failure, which is why he takes command.

In addition to the introduction of Shockwave and the beginning of his rivalry with Megatron for Decepticon leadership, we are also introduced to Josie Beller (AKA Circuit Breaker), and her supervillain origin story. She’s a computer genius who works for tycoon G.B. Blackrock to build defense weapons for his offshore oil rigs that are getting continually attacked by Decepticons. As she’s manning the oil rig defense systems when Shockwave and other Decepticons attack, she gets a large dose of electrical feedback, nearly completely paralyzing her. Thus her hatred for all robots, and desire for revenge, is born.

This issue had to serve as a new “Number 1” since it’s a shift to a monthly comic, and needed to draw in new readers who might not have seen the original miniseries. I think it did this brilliantly, but also continues the story from where it left off. Ratchet’s dilemma as the last surviving Autobot is also a great touch.

Number 4: Issue #27 King of the Hill!

Transformers-issue-27-coverIn the aftermath of the tragic death of Optimus Prime, the Autobots are left to figure out who they should choose for their next leader. And Dinobot leader Grimlock has the perfect candidate: himself! The Dinobots have been AWOL for a few issues since they weren’t to fond of Prime’s “protect humans first” leadership style. But with Prime gone, Grimlock is ready to return to the fold. But the other Autobots swiftly reject his arrogance and declare him not fit to lead.

(cue Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer music) Then when Decepticon Trypticon shows up, the Autobots came to say, “Grimlock with your flaming breath so bright, save us from this citybot tonight!” Then how the Autobots loved him… Well, you get the idea. Despite being rejected, Grimlock still leads the Dinobots to rescue the Autobots from being pinned down in the Ark by Trypticon’s attack. After the battle, the Autobots are ready to gladly hand him leadership. And here’s the twist- Grimlock refuses! He’s learned humility and recognizes that his arrogance was why the Autobots originally rejected him. Of course, this only makes the Autobots more certain that he’s worthy.

It was a great story that showed real growth of Grimlock as a character. It’s unfortunate that he seemed to regress almost immediately in the next issue, when he’s barking orders at everyone, and seems more interested in trying on different crowns as King Grimlock than in actually fighting the Decepticons. But for one moment in this issue, Grimlock was worthy of the title he got.

Number 3: Issue #41 Totaled!

Transformers-Cover-41When there’s an Autobot Civil War, the Decepticons win! After finishing the Headmasters miniseries that introduced the 1987 Transformers toyline into the comic universe, Budiansky was faced with the task of integrating all these new bots and cons into a comic already filled to the brim with established characters and ongoing storylines. In this issue, the Earth-based and Nebulan-based Autobot groups finally meet, but it’s not exactly a party.

Grimlock is still leading the Earth-based Autobots, and he sees Fortress Maximus’ plan to rebuild Optimus Prime (from a copy of his mind stored on a floppy disk) as a challenge to his rulership of the Autobots. He invokes an ancient Autobot rite to resolve disputes by single combat (I thought the Autobots were the peace-loving good guys?) and since Fortress Maximus had been recently banged up fighting the Decepticons’ flying island/spaceship, Blaster steps up to settle the score.

What’s great about this story is how the Autobots are so wrapped up in their own internal drama, they’re caught completely by surprise when the Decepticons attack, damaging many Autobots, rescuing Decepticon prisoners, and completely wrecking the Ark, stranding the Autobots on the Moon. And we have another rare moment of character growth from Grimlock, after he’s been a terrible Autobot leader since he got the gig, as he realizes that his desire to dominate the Autobots has blinded him to the fact that they’re supposed to be fighting the Decepticons, not each other.

Number 2: Issue #25 Gone But Not Forgotten!

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While I was not impressed with the circumstances of Optimus Prime’s death in issue #24 (see my Bottom 5 list), seeing Megatron’s reaction in the aftermath was a great character study. Megatron’s depression and descent into madness (with a little push from Shockwave and the Predacons) was a great insight into his relationship with (and co-dependency on) the late Optimus Prime.

On top of that, the issue was completely focused on the Decepticons and their internal politics. Not a single Autobot featured in the story. Contrary to the cartoon, in the comics, it was always Shockwave, rather than Starscream (who didn’t get much focus in the early comics), who plotted against Megatron for control of the Decepticons, and he did a much better job for the most part. Here he finally bests Megatron, not with an epic one-on-one battle, but by using Megatron’s paranoia and insecurities against him.

And in the midst of this great story, Budiansky still manages to satisfy the Hasbro suits and introduce a new set of toys, the Predacons, and their gimmi– combined form, Predaking, into the comic!

Number 1: Issue #17 The Smelting Pool!

Transformers issue 17 CoverAfter sixteen issues of Transformers adventures on Earth, Budiansky finally returns us to Cybertron, and the situation is bleak. This issue shows us a Cybertron that has fallen into complete ruin in the 50,000 vorn (4 million Earth years) absence of Optimus Prime and Megatron. The Decepticons have all but conquered what’s left of the planet, and the Autobots are reduced to a small resistance cell that can barely stay alive, let alone help all the bots struggling and dying under Decepticon rule.

In this backdrop, Budiansky expertly weaves the tragic tale of the Autobots Blaster and Scrounge. Blaster has been hardened by the war to the point where he lives more to kill Decepticons than to help his fellow bots, while Scrounge’s desire to prove himself as a useful member of the Autobot resistance causes him to take risks that ultimately get him killed. And despite the fact that Blaster and Scrounge only share space on the page at the very end of the story, their friendship and devotion to each other and the Autobot cause shows through.

Budiansky was under constant pressure in the to continue to introduce new toys into the Transformers comic, and sometimes the story suffered for it. But The Smelting Pool! is Budiansky at his best, using the mandate to introduce new characters as a driving force to bring us to a new setting and tell an amazing story.

Charles’ 5 lest favorite issues of Budiansky

We love Bob Budiansky for breathing life into the Transformers, but no writer is perfect. And the demand by Hasbro to continually introduce new toys into the comic sometimes took its toll on the story. That leads me to my least-favorite Bob Budiansky stories from the G1 comics run.

Number 5: Issue #20 Showdown!

Transformers-issue-20-coverIn my opinion, some of Budiansky’s weakest stories were the ones featuring single human/Transformer pairings that tried to focus on a particular character, but ultimately didn’t go anywhere regarding the overall Autobot/Decepticon struggle. Issue #20, Showdown! is a good example.

After Skids (following orders from Optimus Prime to keep up with the convoy) cut him off on the road in issue #19, Jake Dalrymple had a bout of road rage and ran Skids off the road in retaliation. Laserbeak also fired a couple of shots to knock him offline, while the other Autobots left him for dead. But fear not, Skids is later rescued by human hottie Charlene, who gets him fixed up by a mechanic and uses him as her car, unaware that he’s actually a giant robot.

Unfortunately, Mr. Jake Dalrymple uses the same mechanic as Charlene and spots her driving Skids. Dalrymple’s road rage has not subsided so he’s still on a vendetta against Skids. He tries to run down Charlene, and Skids is forced to take control and reveal his true Autobot nature to her. But Skids doesn’t want to go back to the Autobots, he just wants to be Charlene’s car. Awww.

Skids shares a few happy days with Charlene, including a weirdly sexual carwashing scene (this is a comic meant for kids, right?), but ultimately he realizes (with some prodding from former Robot Master Donny Finkleberg) he can’t escape the war and his responsibility to help the Autobots protect Earth from the Decepticons.

This story just felt pointless to me, with the focus on Skids (and Ravage a little bit) being a wasted issue. His story doesn’t really advance the overall plot, and Skids himself is a bit boring (love triangle with Charlene and her human suitor Wendell notwithstanding). But on the bright side, it does heavily feature Lamborghini-driving Jake Dalrymple!

Number 4: Issue #15 I, Robot Master!

Transformers-Issue-15-CoverIn the Marvel G1 comic I don’t think there was any human character more annoying than Donny Finkleberg. A washed-up comic writer is recruited by government bureaucrat Walter Barnett to create a cover story about the giant robots tearing up the Pacific Northwest. Somehow, it’s more comforting to the American public that a cartoonish supervillain is actually the one controlling the giant robots to steal our natural resources, rather than that the robots themselves are aliens from another planet here to steal our natural resources. Of course, this doesn’t actually solve the problem of stopping the robots from stealing our natural resources. But hey, the I.I.I. (Intelligence and Information Institute, the agency tasked with handling the “Robot Problem”) is on a budget! And it’s during the cold war, so the military is too busy with the Soviets to worry about giant robots rampaging on American soil. Pointless propaganda is about the best they can do.

The absurdity is turned up to eleven when the government uses the opportunity of a disabled, frozen Megatron, not to lock him up a thousand feet underground in Area 51 or wherever, but to shoot more live propaganda video with Donny as Robot Master. Of course the Decepticons see this and immediately come to free and re-energize Megatron, who is not too happy at being used as a prop. But somehow Mr. Finkleberg manages to convince Megatron that the Decepticons can use the Robot Master gimmick to their advantage too, and Megatron lets Donny live. Come on, Megatron, you should’ve done us all a favor and just stepped on him.

Number 3: Issue #45 Monstercon from Mars!

Transformers-issue-45-coverThe introduction and initial portrayal of the Pretenders in the comic was pretty confusing. The Autobots’ Pretender shells looked like giant humans in armor, but is that supposed to fool anyone? We all know normal adult humans are around 5-6 feet in height, not 20 feet tall. It’s even worse with the Decepticons. Their shells are all weird monsters. I guess that would work if you’re taking them to other alien worlds with similar looking and sized alien species, but on Earth they stick out just as much as giant robots.

And this is what kills the story for me in issue #45. Skullgrin stays in his Pretender shell for most of the issue, and since he’s the rare Decepticon who likes hanging out with humans, he goes to Hollywood and becomes a monster movie star and gets a human girlfriend. Hey, since he’s just a giant skull monster-thing, and not one of those giant robots tearing up the countryside, the humans are totally okay with him hanging out, and he saves them a bunch in the movie special effects budget! Oh, and can you pay him in gasoline instead of dollars?

One human who is not fooled is Circuit Breaker, who returns to her relentless quest to kill all robots. Once Skullgrin reveals that he’s a robot inside his Pretender shell, she takes the opportunity to attack. At least Circuit Breaker is targeting a Decepticon this time (of course, it’s also the nicest, human-loving Decepticon). I know Budiansky was under pressure to keep introducing the increasingly absurd gimmicky Transformers in the later years of the G1 run, but the outlandish Pretenders on Earth just didn’t make any sense at all, and this story highlights why. See issues #52 and #53 for a slightly better use of the Pretender concept in an off-world alien setting.

Number 2: Issue #55 The Interplanetary Wrestling Championship!

Transformers_55_CoverThis issue was the last G1 Transformers comic written by Budiansky, and unfortunately it’s not a great way to go out. In the previous issue Budiansky introduced yet another new group of Transformers, the down-sized, energy-efficient Micromasters (who still transform into normal human-sized cars and planes somehow). Prime brought the Autobot Micromasters to Earth to help bolster his ranks after the disastrous Underbase Saga where Starscream killed off the ‘84-’86 toylines. But the Micromasters are rebellious young punks and are more interested in hanging out with humans and helping fight crime.

Also, since their main human friend is a lady with a TV talk show, the Micromasters become wrestlers after being challenged to a match by another wrestler live on the air. Right. It’s cool though, because wrestling is fake, and they put on a good show. They even get a fan club. But the Decepticons can’t let the Autobots become too popular with the humans, so they have to come and spoil all the fun. Roadhandler and the Autobot Micromasters realize they’re putting their human friends in danger since they’ll always be targeted by the Decepticons, so they rejoin the main Autobot forces again. Hmmm, that plot sounds kinda familiar…

Number 1: Issue #24 Afterdeath!

Transformers-issue-24-CoverAnyone who has the original 1986 Transformers Animated Movie remembers Optimus Prime’s climactic battle with Megatron, and his ultimate sacrifice and death scene. It was an epic, albeit traumatic moment for many 80’s kids. Suffice it to say, Prime’s death scene in the comics doesn’t hold a candle to it.

The premise is interesting; Optimus Prime and Megatron agree to a “virtual” battle in a video game world so that they don’t damage the energy doohickey of the month (here it’s a device called a hydrothermocline) that they’re fighting over. Of course, since he’s a huge jerk, Megatron throws in the added caveat that the leader of whichever side loses the virtual battle will be killed in real life.

In the end Optimus Prime wins the virtual battle (after some underhanded cheating by Megatron), but he compromises his principles to do it because he sacrifices the “lives” of some of the virtual inhabitants to “kill” Megatron. So because of Prime’s impeccable moral character (or abject stupidity) he declares that he lost, and tells human game master Ethan Zachary to destroy him and not Megatron. Compared to Prime’s heroic sacrifice in the movie, this is an empty, meaningless, pointless death.

But even that could be forgiven, if not for the fact that the plot turns on Megatron cheating by using the ‘afterdeath’ code (that Ethan Zachary used at the very beginning of the comic when Vortex was spying on him) to come back to life in the game after he is killed the first time. It should have been immediately recognized by Zachary, but somehow it never occurs to him that maybe Megatron cheated before Prime killed some of the virtual inhabitants. Finally, the idea that you can save the entire mind of alien robot Optimus Prime on a five-and-a-quarter inch floppy disk breaks my brain. That’s some damn good data compression!

Bob Budiansky’s Top 5 Best and Worst Transformers Comics (Part 1 of 3)

At this point my review of the classic Marvel Transformers comics, we have come to the end of Bob Budiansky’s writing for the series. Transformers issue 55 was his last. The man’s involvement from the beginning of the series now ends and Marvel UK writer, Simon Furman respectfully takes over. Building upon the ground work that Budiansky left behind, Furman takes the story to new and different highs. You’ll read about it in future reviews.

Bob BudianskyI’ve been flattered that so many people have been reading my reviews of these comics. I’m even more taken back that I’ve gotten requests to talk about Budiansky’s run of Transformers when I got to this point in the comic reviews. One of my readers who has been encouraging me to do this is Sean McCarthy. His enthusiasm for me to write this post prompted me to ask him to do the same thing. Tomorrow, I’ll be putting up Sean’s thoughts on Budiansky so everyone can take in a different view of his work.

And if that wasn’t enough, I’ve also asked my good friend and cohost of the TransMissions Podcast, Charles to do the same thing. His top five books will be posted just after Sean’s.

Bob Budiansky is largely credited as the man who breathed life into these transforming figures, and rightfully so. As an editor, writer and even a penciler at Marvel Comics, Budiansky was a very busy man when he was asked to come up with names and back stories for most of these Transformer alien robots. On top of that, the guy ended up writing almost all of the first 55 issues. as well as the Transformers Universe books and the movie adaptation comics.

With all of this Transformers work under his belt, it’s easy for one to see how his last penned issue of Transformers could be viewed as a writer venting his frustrations. I, on the other hand prefer to see Budiansky’s last issue as I did when I was a child. Another epic Transformers story of good vs. evil.

I don’t have any life changing stories to share with you about Budiansky’s work. As a kid, I didn’t have regular access to comics. The Transformers books I did get where random issues at random times throughout my childhood. Each one to me was a new story I had not yet read or seen on TV. I eagerly read them and took them for the stories they where and I didn’t spend any time trying to figure out if there was a hidden meaning behind each story. They where just good stories that I loved reading and that gave me a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. A feeling I still get when I pull open one of those old issues and smell the pages just before sitting back and rereading it.

With all of that said, here is my list of the top five best and worst, Budiansky Transformers stories.

My Top 5 favorite issues of Budiansky

  • Youseph-Transformers-issue-20 Number 5

Coming in at number 5 is issue 20, entitled: ‘Showdown’. What I love about this issue, besides a bikini dressed Charlene, there is character development. Something that doesn’t get a lot of time in early Transformers comics and is probably due to the fact that Hasbro was trying to sell some different toy each week. Making Budiansky’s job penning each issue more difficult.

This issue focuses on Skids, who misses his home world, dislikes war, and finds momentary peace with an earthling named Charlene and her life.

What I remember about this story is that it gave me some real insight into Cybertronians. That not all of them want to fight. It made me like Transformers even more.

  • Transformers-Issue-31-YousephNumber 4

At number 4 I present you issue 31, ‘Buster Witwicky and the Car Wash of Doom‘. An issue that got a lot of flack from fans, but I love it. The art and the story I found very entertaining within these pages. I remember when I first saw this cover and not liking. But more and more I find myself loving it now.

31 has a title that plays on Indiana Jones. By using G.B. Blackrock, Ratbat is able to put in place brain washing car wash stations all over. Once you have gone through the car was you are at Ratbat’s beck and call. Only through a flash of light can the hypnotic effect of the car wash be canceled out.

  • Youseph-Transformers-issue-017Number 3

Number 3 is issue 17, ‘The Smelting Pool‘. I’m cheating here because this is a two part issue. But what a two parter. In ‘The Smelting Pool’ we are introduced to to Blaster like a slap in the face. This bad ass Autobot is a clear choice to led the Autobots, but never seems to want the job. Which is to bad for readers because we can all imagine how things would have turned out for the Autobots if he had lead.

This and issue 18 are a good example of how Budiansky presents us with something we all want (a new Autobot who we all like and want to lead), but never gives it to us. We pick up issue after issue hoping he be the force to light our darkest hour in the absence of Optimus Prime.

  • Number 2

Youseph_Cover_Issue_25Issue 25 is a pretty amazing issue. Thinking back on this issue, one really can see how much light needs dark. How much evil needs good. How much Megatron, needs Optimus Prime. What I really like about this issue is that we get to see Megatron really good crazy over not feeling like he has a purpose after the death of Optimus Prime.

Budiansky’s wrote a great story here. Almost dark. Dark if you think about it’s target audience. It’s an issue that adds a lot of character depth and development to Megatron.

  • Youseph-Transformers-issue-13Number 1

Picking a number 1 Budiansky story is so hard. I wish I could travel back in time and ask my younger self this question because I believe I would have been more sure about my answer. As an adult, I find my favorite story is always changing. Currently it’s issue 13, ‘Shooting Star‘.

I love this one-issue-one-story. It’s not easy to do. Here we see an incapacitated Megaton in the hands of a human and what would happen if a human had that kind of power with in his fingers.

Now we move on to my 5 least favorite issues of Budiansky’s

  • Youseph-Transformers-issue-8Number 5

Coming in at number five is Transformers issue 8. ‘Repeat Performance‘. An issue with a pretty decent Dinobot cover, but a story leaving behind a lot of unanswered questions. Its these questions that leave a bad taste in my mouth for this issue.

  1. Which Transformers where reconfigured into the Dinobots?
  2. How does the ark know that Dinosaurs are the dominate life form, or even a life form?
  3. How come the Dinobots have no memory of their life before being Dinobots. It’s never talked about.
  • Number 4

Transformers-45-YousephPulling in at the 4th slot is Issue 45: Monstercon from Mars! This issue is very human heavy. On a level I can almost forgive that. I know Budiansky was most likely dealing with issues the arts had drawing robots when they would rather be drawing humans, or Spider-Man. Though, Jose Delbo, who drew this issue, I don’t think was one of those artists. But this issue might have been written before an artist was assigned to it. It’s fun to speculate like this. But I wish could know for sure.

This issue really isn’t needed. You could lose this issue and not miss anything. It just feels like filler or that it was phoned in.

  • Number 3

Yoshi_Transformers_Issue_54Landing at number 3 is Issue 54: King Con! This was a very wordy issue with a number of new Transformers introductions that I just feel hurt the book. Though the Transformers Introductions are not Budiansky’s fault, the issue suffers as a result of it.

The story, if you removed all the extra crap that had i believe Hasbro wanted in it, isn’t bad. It’s just a lot of dirty to sift through to get to the core. A shame.

  • Number 2

Youseph-Transformers-issue-22Sailing in at Number 2 is issue 22: Heavy Traffic! This is an issue where I feel like things are being jammed into place just to make the story work. For example, the Cerebro-shell that Bombshell shell uses to control a human in previous issue is used here on Optimus Prime. That doesn’t work for me. Yes, Budiansky nurfed just how much control Bombshell would have over prime, but still it sticks out as something being forced into play just to make the story work. For me, it doesn’t.

It’s also revealed here that Transformers have an on/off switch. Something that never came into play before and hasn’t since.

  • Number 1

Youseph_Transformers_Headmasters_4_CoverSucking at number 1 is…. The Head Masters mini series. All four issues. Suckage. I don’t like these books. They felt like tool just to sell even more transformers. I do think the Head Masters gimic is cool, but there is still so much potential to tell stories with the core group of Transformers on earth. But the stories where not written that way. They where written to sell toys and when Hasbro says you have to write about something, you can’t fight it.

Budiansky is a great writer. I would love the chance for him to write more G1 stories. A lot of these picks for worst Budiansky stories are not his fault but the results of the constraints he had to work in. At least, that is what I believe.

So how do you feel about my top 5 best and worst Budiansky stories? Lets talk about it below in the comments.

ON TO PART 2 –>

TransMissions: Christine L. Leddon

I’ve posted a couple of interviews now with people who’ve written into Marvel Comics’ The Transformers back in the 80s. Of all the Transmissions letters I’ve read the one from issue 31 ‘Car Wash of Doom’, by Christine L. Leddon was the most real for me.

Ever since I read Christine’s letter, I’ve hopped I would have the opportunity to interview her. Just read her heart wrenching e-mail and you’ll see why I’ve been hoping for this interview.

Photo of Christine taken about the time she wrote her original letter to Marvel.
Photo of Christine taken about the time she wrote her original letter to Marvel.

Dear Sirs,
This letter has been long in coming. the events in questions happened almost a year about but I think this story should be of great interest to you.
In November of 1985, a friend of mine was taken seriously ill. In less than 2 weeks, she became comatose due to a disease known as Thrombonic Thrombocytopenic Purphura, or TTP, This disease has no reliable cure. The chances for her survival were 50-50. The real key to her survival was her sustained will to live.
By December, thought, we were ready to give up hope. I needed help, and found it in a program that is on TV here in Kansas: the TRANSFORMERS. Surrounded by machines of all types in her hospital room, my friend learned that machines can do good things for people. as a result, she lost her fear of the machines in the hospital. From that moment on, her illness became a symbolic battle between the Autobots and Decepticons. I watched every show and told her the story when I visited. Later, I discovered the Marvel comic book version and I noticed that the bright colors and beautiful pictures attracted her attention. Her life-giving machine was now Optimus Prime, and he was an ally to her. This kept her mind active an encouraged her not to give up.
Well, it worked! On New Year Day, 1986, Jane spoke for the first time in months. From then on, her recovery was very swift. Her illness is now in remission and she is leading a normal life. She still watches TRANSFORMERS, and we will both be forever in your debt for actually saving someone’s life. Thank you very much!
Christine L. Leddon
Witchita, KS

It’s taken a lot of effort to contact Christine. I had recently given up on ever getting a hold of her until a few weeks ago when she responded to one of my early messages. It took a little time but below is the results of that interview.

Youseph: How did you discover the Transformers?

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Christine Today

Christine: As a child growing up in Southern California I enjoyed watching Japanese science fiction TV shows and cartoons with my friends (I was a fan of “Kimba the White Lion” long before Disney’s “Lion King” ever aired and I thought “Johhny Sokko” and “Gigantor” were the best.) For me, “Transformers” was just another iteration of the kinds of shows I watched (and enjoyed) growing up.  It was a bit of the spirit of California transplanted here to Kansas…

Youseph: Where did you get your Transformers comics from?

Christine: At that time, there were two comic book shops in Wichita I frequented:  Agents of Comics and Prairie Dog Comics.  Of the two, only Prairie Dog Comics is still in business.

Youseph: What compelled you to write to them? (you kind of answer this question in your original letter but if you want to add details to it, I encourage you to do so.)

Christine: As for the details of the situation, I think the letter pretty much speaks for itself.  As for the philosophy behind the letter, let me just say that I have long been a believer that children develop many of their “qualities” (both positive and negative) as adults from the kind of literature, art, TV and social interaction they are exposed to (the old “Nature” vs’ “Nurture” argument).   As I saw it then (and as I do now) Transformers communicated the values of perseverance, loyalty, honor, friendship and courage in a uniquely powerful and creative way. 

If the truth be told, the incident in the magazine wasn’t the first (or only) time I used Optimus & Company to help someone overcome an illness; it was simply the only time I wrote the magazine about it.  (Hint:  If you ever meet Peter Cullen, ask him about the cross-stitch picture a fan once sent him….)

Youseph: Was your original letter edited by Marvel in anyway?

Christine: Not much editing was done that I recall, but I have been unable to locate the original letter to verify exactly how much.  ( I know I have the letter somewhere, but I have 30+ years of accumulated “stuff” to get through to find it).

Youseph: Can you tell us how your friend is doing? Are you still in contact with her? Is she still a fan?

Christine: Unfortunately, the disease process that my friend endured was a brutal one, and changed her personality in unexpected ways.  Shortly after she recovered she and her husband divorced and she moved out of state.  I’m afraid we’ve long since lost touch.

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

Christine: It was a bit of a shock, actually; I really didn’t think they’d print it.  It was a nice, sweet “human interest” story, but really not the kind of thing you would expect fans to want to read.  The response to it, however, was amazing.   Even HASBRO replied to it and sent both my friend and I a nice letter and gift (I still have my toys safely stored away in their boxes). 

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

Christine: Am I still a fan?  Yes, I will always have a place in my heart for Optimus, Bumblebee, Blaster, Hot Rod, Ultra Magnus (and even Megatron).  As I deal with my own disease now (I have developed Rheumatoid Arthritis) I often reach for the “Transformers – The Movie” soundtrack when exercising, and frequently listen to Stan Bush’s “The Touch” when needing a bit of encouragement or determination.   At home, there’s a cross-stitch of Optimus in my office, and at work his figure sits on my cadenza to remind me to (as Optimus once told Buster Witwicky in the cartoon): “hold on to your dreams, the future is built on dreams….” 

I want to sincerely thank Christine for her time. It was a real pleasure to get the chance to correspond.

Transformers Review Issue 18: The Bridge to Nowhere!

Youseph-Transformers-issue-18Issue 18 of Marvel’s Transformers continues the Cybertron story started in the last issue with the Autobots trying to stop the Decepticons from activating the space bridge to Earth. This issue also marks the return of Robot-Master and truths between Megatron and Shockwave.

The bright cover of issue 18 depicts the Decepticon fortress, Darkmount in white with a bright green background. Lord Straxus and Blaster battle it out front and center, over the space bridge with Straxus striking blaster on the head with a mighty swing with what appears to be an energy charged, Axe? Pick axe? War hammer? Blaster fires back at Straxus, with his weapon, missing his intended target. The Transformers logo at the top of the comic is white this time. “BLASTER AND STRAXUX BATTLE…” Hangs just below the Transformers logo in bright Yellow. “…BETWEEN TWO WORLDS!” rests at the bottom of the book, almost center.

The comic opens up on a couple out for a drive through the Columbia River Gorge. Seemingly, out of know were, they come across a large bridge. They discover that the bridge only goes about half way across to the other side. Strange metal creatures appear on the bridge and quickly explode in front of them. The couple flees just in time before the bridge disappears into nothing.

We jump back to Cybertron, where Straxus is upset because the space bridge has returned from earth without being commanded to. Straxus contacts Spanner, a scientist held hostage who designed the space bridge. Spanner is able to identify the flaw that caused the space bridge to return. Straxus has no concerns over the fact one of his own soldiers perished in the test. Blaster is watching the scene unfold in the background, while hunting for Spanner. The space bridge is shut down until repairs can be completed.

Transformers-18-Decepticons

From the coal mine on Earth, Donny Finkleberg (a.k.a. Robot-Master) continues to make television broadcasts for the Decepticons to convince the human race that Autobots are evil. Finkleberg complains about his working conditions do Megatron who is getting tired of his complaining.

Shockwave arrives shortly after and he and Megatron argue about who is to leave the Deceoptions. A message from Straxus comes in stating he is planning to open the space bridge. Because of this new information Megatron and Shockwave agree to a truce. Finkleberg feels the need to warn the Autobots.

Transformers-18-Megatron-vs-Shockwave

Transformers-80-good-job-blaster

On Cybertron, the Autobots mount a full scale attack on Darkmount having been unable to located Spanner. With the Decepticons engaged in the battle, Blaster tries to destroy the space bridge. He only hesitates when he discovers that Spanner himself has actually been rebuilt into the space bridge itself. This hesitation allows the Decepticons to discover Blaster and attack him, which stops him from completing his plan.

The bridge activates under Straxus’ orders and battle between the Autobots and Decepticons continues on the bridge. Blaster is able to disable the bridge systems and kicks Straxus over the bridge, killing him. The Autobots flee over the bridge before it disappears stranding the Transformers on earth.

My Thoughts On This Issue

I really like the cover art with this issue. Maybe it’s my nostalgia for this book talking, but I remember this being one of the first Transformers comic books I picked up that day I discovered them at Stamp & Coin. My eyes love the white city with the green background.

The story it’s self takes place mostly in Cybertron. revealing more of the Transformers’ home word. Something that has not been shown since the first issue of the comic.

I don’t have a lot more to add about this issue other than it was solid and the ending really left me wanting more. With these new Autobots from Cybertron, now stuck on earth I am eager to pick up issue 19 and read what happens next.

Transmission Letters This Issue

Transformers-Issue-18-TransmissionsDear Transmissions,
TRANSFORMERS #13 was an exceptional comic. The story was great! It was a big change from the usual types of issues. I liked it because it dealt with human emotions. I also enjoyed the small amount of inhumanity thrown in by Megatron after he reverted back to his normal self. The fact that he almost killed the man who revived him shows that he is the best leader for the Decepticons. This is because he doesn’t let feelings stand in the way of victory.
the art in this issue was great also. I especially liked the way that all of the robots were drawn. I hope that the present artist, Don Perlin, Stays on the book forever. the only thing I didn’t like about this issue was that there was no letter column. I hope to see it back in these pages soon!
Shannon Smith
St. Paul, VA

Dear Sirs,
First, I would like to say that I am 23 years old and have been reading your comics since the late sixties. recently, my eight year=old cousin, Shingo, urged me to read his copy of TRANSFORMERS #13. I hadn’t been reading comics lately and Shingo hoped that this would renew my interest in them. He promised me that it was THE coolest comic available and that it was way cooler than (my old personal favorite) the FANTASTIC FOUR, or any of the other “old” comics that I’d read during my youth. cooler than the FF? That would have to be a pretty impressive book, I thought.
After reading the comic, I was impressed! I told Shingo that TRANSFORMERS was at least as cool as the FF, et. al., if not cooler. Shingo hesitantly agreed (perhaps, sympathetic of my childhood heroes) and we concurred that Marvel’s latest effort is state of the art. Your staff is fantastic!
Keep up the great work, guys, on all of your books. Shingo and I will both be reading your comics for a long time to come.
John Kamatani
San Mateo

Wow, Jon, we all had to put our sweaters on after reading your letter! We had no idea we were that cool. But seriously, thanks. We hope that both you and Shingo keep reading TRANSFORMERS and FANTASTIC FOUR, for a long time to come.

Dear Mike,
I thoroughly enjoyed TRANSFORMERS #13. It was totally awesome! I was wondering what had happened to Megatron, and you people definitely read my mind in making this issue. Megatron acted exactly the way I thought he would in such a situation. You handled it beautifully.
I sincerely hope that the comic will stay this good. It is a pleasure to read, and I eagerly anticipate the release of TRANSFORMERS #14. Thank you for a job well done. you have made one TRANSFORMERS fan very happy.
Milo Rogers
Vorhees, NJ

Hey, Shingo–does this meanMilo thinks we’re cool?

Dear Bob,
TRANSFORMERS 13# was great. you guys were sooo right about that being a really off-beat story. Megatron is my favorite character and I have been worrying about what was going on with him. Boy if I had Megatron as my servant, that would be great. He is the coolest Decepticon around.
On a different subject, though, I was wondering why there aren’t any female Transformers? hey, we’re in the eighties now, Bob. Male dominance is a thing of the past. Robots shouldn’t be any different from humans. you have me thinking that you guys are male chauvinist or something! Come on, guys, let’s have some female Autobots tangling with Megatron and Shockwave. Maybe you can even have a love interest for Optimus Prime! Please consider my suggestions. I think that you would really benefit from the addition of a Female Transformer.
JoAnn teen
Honolulu, HA

That settles it, Shingo, you’ve officially started a craze–even people in Hawaii think we’re cool! Our Transformers comic just might put Emerson Air conditioners out of business!
But seriously, JoAnn, you’ve got a point. there definitely seems to be a serious lack of femininity within the pages of TRANSFORMERS. But, in the near future, you will be seeing a female Autobot. It will not be in these pages thought, but in the upcoming TRANSFORMERS film (which Marvel just happens to be adopting in a three-issue limited series–so be on the lookout).

Dear Guys,
Words cannot describe how I feel about your TRANSFORMERS comic. TRANSFORMERS #14 is just another in a long line of great issues. I really love what Bob Budiansky is doing with the book. The art by Don Perlin is really impressive, too.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading this issue of TRANSFORMERS. I like seeing the Autobots in human situations and watching how they deal with people. It was fun to have the Autobots at a gas station and at the gates of the concert arena. I often wonder how I would act if I heard a car talk but saw no driver. It’s kind of scary in a way! I also really enjoyed the plot of the Decepticons to take the sound from the concert to further their own evil ends. That was a good idea, Bob.
In upcoming issues, I would like to see more big fight scenes. Now don’t get me wrong, guys, it’s good to see character development once in a while, but to me, nothing beats some good combat between two giant robots. Listen, I want to see Optimus Prime bang some Decepticons heads. that really makes my day! Well, gotta run. Keep up the good work. I know you will!
Robtert Fuentes
Boise, ID

Dear Bob and Mike,
I Just finished TRANSFORMERS #14. It was incredible. Right now, thought, I have a few questions for you.
1. Will Megatron become the Decepticon leader again? I sure hope so
2. Will we see the Aerialbots, Stunticons, and Omega Supreme?
3. Where is Circuit Breaker?
4. Will Optimus Prime always be the Autobot Commander?
5. Will TRANSFORMERS ever be a weekly comic?
6. Why don’t the Autobots prove to all of the nations that they are actually the good guys, and they are trying to help mankind fight the Decepticons?
Well, I just ran out of Questions. Thank you for listening.
George Hanson
Hallock, MN

Wow, that’s a lot of questions, George, but we’ll try and answer all of them:
1. Well, by this time you know the answer to this question.
2. They’re on the way, George, so keep your eyes open for ’em.
3. She is not around right now, but you can be sure that the Transformers have not seen the last of her.
4. Until a more qualified Autobot comes along, Optimus Prime will remain in command. so far, there have been no complaints. Except, of course from the Decepticons.
5. What’re you tryin’ to do – KILL US?!
6. The Autobots have been trying to explain themselves to mankind for a while. Hopefully, mankind will eventually listen – we’re going to need all the help the Autobots can give!

Dear Mike,
I am a hardcore TRANSFORMERS fan. As such, I have every issue ever put out by you guys and I think that they are all great! As a renowned authority on TRANSFORMERS. I congratulate all of you. The story, the art, the personalities of each Transformer, everything is perfect. I hope that you bring in new characters soon like the Stunticons and Insecticons. that would really make me happy.
TRANSFORMERS #14 was great! I loved the fact that you added the Constructicons to the group. Well, keep up the spectacular work, guys, and as Optimus Prime would say, “May your luster never dull, and your wires never cross.”
Colin Braumiller
Orlando, FL

Wait a minute! We just realized something – if Shingo thinks we’re so cool, how come he didn’t write to us himself?! How about it, Shingo, we want to hear from you directly! Well- We’re waiting!

New Ads This Issue.