So there we are. The end. The End? They always said ‘It Never Ends’ and for Transformers that seems to be true. But for the Original Transformers storyline/continuity it very definitely has. Issue 100 of that seminal book final hit the stands on Wednesday 19th March. A very significant day for all those legions of people who, over the last thirty years, have enjoyed the ups and downs of the world of Autobots and Decepticons. After the hiatus of some twenty years it was a privilege to be involved in the continuation of The Transformers (not sure when the The was dropped) With the IDW book, Transformers Regeneration One. When it all finally ended I thought it would be great to write a piece about what it has been like for me to be involved in the book. After all, for many it is who I am. But rather than write one final farewell – which I did for issue 100 – I thought I would get some thoughts down as and when they occur. This is the first of those;
For me it started out as just another comics gig. A book that I knew nothing about and that only felt like a stepping stone onto other books. I wanted to draw Superheroes. This is something that I have mentioned in many interviews and Q&As. I was happy to be working for Marvel Comics but I didn’t want to do toy books. I wanted to draw Spider-Man and all the other characters that I had grown up with. At that time I guess I had been reading comics for, say, 20 years. When I consider that that was about 26 years ago it really does create context. Transformers have been a part of my life for longer than Marvel had at that point. Transformers has been there for all but a couple of years of my professional life as a comic artist. Its fair to say that without Transformers I would probably be yet another casualty of the big comics crash in the mid nineties. Many of us working in the comics industry back then were hanging on by our fingernails as we saw title after title get cancelled. Same happened to me. My final book for Marvel was the final issue of Force Works. I felt like it was unfinished business at Marvel but it was time to get out as the empire crumbled around us all. That is when I moved – sideways I guess – into Computer Game design and TV concept work and storyboarding. Things have been great for me in those areas but it is as a result of working on Transformers for Marvel and more recently for IDW that has enabled me to have a presence at some amazing conventions and that is great. So Transformers, it was very definitely time to move on. Time to draw a line under that work. But I salute you. Without you I wonder what life would look like now.
Some of you may have heard the Transmissions Podcast where – among many other things – they discuss Transformers Regeneration One #100. Its always interesting to hear what readers and aficionados make of the work one does. They really get under the skin of the whole issue with story, art etc. They mention right at the end that I am going to be saying more about my thoughts and feelings around Transformers. And I will. As much as they discuss the content of the book and also acknowledge the fact that we all had a chance to say something in the extra pages that the book had, they don’t discuss what we said. Maybe at some point they may or maybe that will be covered elsewhere. For those of you who have not read any of that extra material, below is my piece. Slightly different from what you will have read in the book though. This is the unedited piece. Hasbro asked for some changes to be made to what I had written before it went to publication. Some of you may spot them. I am happy with the changes that they asked for but I thought it might be interesting to show exactly what I wrote, grammatical errors and all…
As you will see, as far as I am concerned it is all very great to read, enjoy and discuss all the events of the story but with Transformers there is definitely More Than Meets The Eye.
It Never Ends?
There we are then. That’s it. All done and dusted.
It seems amazing that we ever got to this point. This comic book that has – in one form or another – been there for so long. As many of you will know I first drew Transformers back in the dim and distant 1988. at the time I was working on whatever anyone was throwing at me. I was young(ish) and had a growing family to feed. At that time Transformers was just another paid gig. It very rapidly became more than that as it became the thing that opened to the door to Marvel Comics. Once in that door Transformers suddenly became a victim of Marvel’s decision to not do toy books anymore. No matter, I was in and had the opportunity to move through the ranks at Marvel and the pleasure of working on some of the characters that I had grown up with such as Spider-Man and the X-Men. Those jobs came and went but after all these years it is still Transformers that comes knocking at the door. When something is that insistent and becomes for many the thing that defines you it is always worth having a look under the hood. See what’s really there. What is it about this book that it seems to have attached itself to me?
Then I saw it;
When IDW asked me if I wanted to do some interior art for a Transformers book I said no. When they asked me what it would take to get me to do some interior art for a Transformers book I pondered the question and responded that I would only do it if I could work with Simon and if we could have the opportunity to do something that really had some weight to it. Out of this and Simon’s parallel conversations with IDW the idea for RegenerationOne was born.
I am going to break the flow here to give out a few acknowledgments. We have gathered a great team together for this journey. Guido has done a great job stepping in when I had to step away, JP Bove’s interior colours have perfectly captured that synthesis of being a bit like the old stuff but definitely new and fresh and I think now stand alongside the amazing Mr Nel Yomtov for the amount of uninterrupted output of pages. Jason Cardy’s cover colours have given cinematic impact that have pulled readers in like a movie poster outside your favorite multiplex. Stephen Baskerville, what can I say. A consummate professional. No matter what I throw at Stephen he unfailingly does his thing and makes these books look the way they ‘should’. As for the words, well a huge acknowledgment to Jim Shooter and Bob Budiansky for creating this beast. Without them we wouldn’t be here. We may well be creating a book about battling robots but for sure it wouldn’t be this one. And lastly, Simon Furman. My long time partner in crime. The man who not only brought me into the Transformers hold but who, as a result of that opened the door to many a subsequent opportunity. Thanks Mr F, my acknowledgment and respect to you.
So there we were. The idea to finally complete the Transformers story was not only an opportunity but a privilege. What needs to really be gotten here is that this book is the conclusion of the definitive Transformers storyline. Let me just emphasise that. THIS book is THE CONCLUSION of THE DEFINITIVE TRANSFORMERS STORYLINE. It is not possible to over emphasise that. Back in 1983 something huge that has become part of popular culture began. At Marvel Comics Jim Shooter and Bob Budiansky wrote a treatment for Transformers. There was nothing before that other than some ill defined toys. That treatment became the Marvel Transformers book and that storyline – the definitive one – fell silent in 1991, reared its head again in 2012 and the no kidding, final conclusion of that whole storyline is what you now hold in your hands.
But what really makes this concept resonate and give it its longevity is the fact that this is NOT a book about robots. quite the opposite. The term ‘robot’ was first used in the 1921 play ‘R.U.R. Rossum’s Universal Robots’ by the Czech writer, Karel Čapek. But these were human clones devoid of emotion. Transformers are if anything the opposite of that. They are sentient beings. They may be mechanical in their structure but they contain very human emotions and concerns. They are also from one source, The Matrix (later called The Allspark). This original singular source is what binds them and gives a unifying purpose to their lives. These themes are key to the popularity of Transformers in that it is an expression of much of what defines us as human beings. It has its roots in Hinduism, Buddhism, Enlightenment, Pantheism and subsequently many themes of Modern Philosophy. And that is what made me want to do this book. That is why we love it. A book about cool robots? yes, but about so much more. Its about us. About you and me. About the human condition. Its about separation, loss, pain, conflict and the pursuit of unification and oneness. Throughout its long life its always been there in that now familiar mantra; ‘Till All Are One’.
And here we finally are.