The third Transformers movie comes out at the end of the month, and as someone whose entire childhood was dominated by the toys, the cartoons and comics, I’ve come up with a list of the top ten storylines. It’s all taken from ‘Generation 1′ Transformers (before Beast Wars, Armada, Michael Bay, etc, etc) and it’s worth point out from the start that the comics and the cartoons had mostly completely different storylines and even some different characters. Still, here they are…
1 – Target: 2006 (UK COMIC) – Right, to start off here, I’ll clear something up. The American comic was monthly, and was reprinted over here. However, we had weekly comics, so to fill the gap, UK writers would make their own stories around the American ones. They weren’t generally very good because nothing big could ever happen, as it would never be referred to in the American storylines. However, that all changed with Target: 2006. By now, Simon Furman was the main UK writer and the Movie had come out, which was going to be ignored in the US comics, giving Furman a lot of new characters to play with and freedom to create epic storylines (usually involving time-travel between the 1980s and the 2000s, bringing characters from the movie to the ‘present day’, etc) that wouldn’t be contradicted in the reprinted American stories. Still with me? Anyway, Target: 2006 took the Transformers comics to a whole new level.
2 – Time Wars (UK COMIC) – After Target: 2006, Furman took his storylines in ever more dramatic and apocalyptic directions. Time Wars follows on from those time-travelling tales with the universe threatening to collapse because the future Decepticons haven’t gone back to their time (well, to be fair, one of them had been decapitated by Megatron). Can Autobots and Decepticons from the present and future help avoid the end of the world? Can anyone actually beat the insane and near-indestructible Galvatron?
3 – Transformers: The Movie (CARTOON) – It’s a bit obvious, but there can’t be many other children’s TV shows that have made such a successful transition to a film. Sure, there may have been entirely cynical reasons for Hasbro wanting to kill off so many old characters, but from a story-telling perspective, having both Optimus Prime and Megatron ‘die’ in one massive battle so early on is remarkable and thrilling.
4 – Legacy of Unicron (UK COMIC) – Another classic Furman tale, this sees him come up with decent explanations for the existence of the Transformers, plus the mythology behind Unicron’s attack of Cybertron in the Movie as well as the power of the Matrix. Of course it also brings back the massive planet-eating monster (if only in head-form) as well as utilsing the excellent bounty hunter Death’s Head.
5 – The Return Of Optimus Prime (CARTOON) – Prime had already been back as a kind of zombie by the end of the third series, but this run of episodes saw him come back properly (against all logic and common sense) to save the Transformers from themselves after they were infected with a virus that made them all turn red and be even more violent than usual, attacking anyone and everyone. A fitting return for a hero.
6 – Five Faces Of Darkness (CARTOON)- The lengthy return to TV for Transformers after the movie. With new voices for so many of the new characters, not least new leaders Rodimus Prime and Galvatron, it was important to start series three well. As a sequel to the movie and set-up for the rest of the series, Five Faces of Darkness is great and certainly helps move things along…
7 – The Rebirth (CARTOON) – The end of the original cartoon, these episodes comprised the entire series four and introduced the Headmasters and Targetmasters. With Transformers landing on a planet called Nebulos after another massive battle, both Autobots and Decepticons gain ‘human’ partners to act as their heads and guns. Gimmicky, yes, but it was a good story and finished the American G1 cartoons well.
8 – Totaled (US COMIC) – The best of the American stories, Totaled was the climax of a series of stories focusing on life after Optimus Prime and Megatron. With Dinobot leader Grimlock’s hilariously totalitarian rule of the Autobots (and his crown) leading to confrontation with Blaster, the Decepticons choose the right moment to strike in a mass battle and cause the destruction of the Autobot‘s legendary ship the Ark.
9 – Starscream’s Ghost (CARTOON) – Personally I was always more disappointed by Starscream’s death than Prime’s in the Movie, so it was nice to see the cowardly Decepticon schemer back as a ghost (can robots have ghosts? Of course they bloody can, don’t ask stupid questions) haunting both sides and generally stirring things up nicely. With echoes of the movie as well as his brief return, this was one of the best storylines in the TV show.
10 – A Savage Circle (US COMIC) – With Furman now in charge of the US comic as well as the UK one, this storyline came just before the end. The Transformers had largely been wiped out by a Unicron attack on Cybertron, the action here takes place on a shuttle where Megatron and Galvatron come face to face (the present and future versions of the same character) and fight it out before teaming up against leadership rival Shockwave, while old favourites Ratchet and Starscream are also squaring off, leaving the Autobot medic to make a heroic sacrifice to wipe out four of his most dangerous enemies.
I went to the cinema yesterday to see The Hangover Part II (it was alright, about what you'd expect really) and was surprised to see huge posters advertising the imminent release of the third Transformers film. Obviously I'd known it was in production but had no idea it was so close to coming out. As someone who spent most of the first 10 years of my life obsessing over all things Transformers, how was I not more excited about this?