Transformers: Where Do I Start?

Although they were born outside of comics as a Japanese toy line, the Transformers became what they are because of comics.

Originally two unconnected Japanese two lines, its owners Hasbro came to Marvel in 1983 hoping to replicate the success of G.I. Joe and have comic creators fashion distinct characters, personalities and an over-arching storyarc to a group of plastic transforming robot toys. Together, Jim Shooter, Dennis O’Neil, Bob Budiansky created what has become the key tenants, characters and conflicts we see now in comics, movies, video games, and yes, toys.

In this week’s Where Do I Start?, we look at the menagerie of Transformers comics released in the 28 years from Marvel to Dreamwave and IDW. Now let’s transform and roll out!

The Transformers Classics Vol. 1: This is the beginning, and what a beginning it is. After some missteps in the first four issues, writer/editor Bob Budiansky took charge and took these robots in disguise to great heights as it developed a layered story sense with shifting loyalties, complex back-and-forths and great characterization. This edition collects the first thirteen issues of the “Generation 1″ series, and is a must-have for any Transformers fan, especially fans of Ratchet.

Classic The Transformers, Vol. 5: Just a few issues into it, and writer Simon Furman already started firing on all cylinders with the epic “Matrix Quest” storyarc collected in this edition. Furman brings the Matrix into the forefront, as well as planting the seeds for the inevitable face-off with the planet-sized Unicron.

The Transformers: War Within Omnibus: Although as a whole the Dreamwave era of Transformers was more miss than hit, this far-reaching storyline worked as a prequel to the Autobot and Decepticon struggle on Earth, showing the civil war on Cybertron with tons of backstory. This might not be the first Transformers comic you should read, but it’s in effect the secret origin of the Transformers as we know it.

The Transformers: Last Stand Of The Wreckers: A group of Transformers as a special ops team going behind enemy lines? Sign me up.  Writer/artist Nick Roche and co-writer James Robert jump on board and do one of the most violent robot-on-robot action Transformers have ever seen. As the wreckers go after a Decepticon prison, the Autobot team is really broken down as a characters  and people, despite their metallic exterior.

The Transformers: The IDW Collection Vol. 1: After the mishandling of Transformers by Dreamwave, IDW’s takeover of the comics line signaled the beginning of a new golden age for this storied concept. This immense book collects the first fifteen Transformers comics IDW published, the Infiltration and Megatron Origin miniseries to five one-off spotlight issues. It provides a more nuanced take on these colorful alien robots, and really shows how the key characters tick.

Comments

  1. Grandturk says:

    I remember reading some of the first Transformers issues as a kid. Maybe time to revisit. Last Stand of the Wreckers has me intrigued.

  2. daningotham daningotham says:

    The Transformers series in the ’80s was the very first comics I ever read as a kid. I remember my Mom buying me a ‘Transformers 3 pack’ of comics at K-mart. It was issues #7, #8 and #9 of that series. I’ve been reading comics pretty much ever since.

    • rocrusso rocrusso says:

      i remember those three packs!!!! i am almost positive i still have my Transformers comics from them in my parents attic

    • cosmo cosmo says:

      I remember those 3 packs as well. Transformers & G..I Joe were what got me into comics originally with their Marvel runs. I recall those Simon Furman issues being really good.

    • BC1 BC1 says:

      Same here. I had that same set and the one that followed, and those were creepy and trippy as hell. The disembodied head of Optimus, Buster Witwicky with the Creation Matrix, Circuit Breaker, even worked in the Savage Land! Those just weren’t good Transformers stories, they were good comics, period.

    • I used to love those three packs. Remember when you could actually find comics in stores and stuff?

  3. I remeber getting the dreamwave books as a kid the art was terrible and the owner of Dreamwave was a a***whole he still owes alot of artist and others money used company money to buy a “company” porshe and supposedly used other company money on his girlfriend .

  4. I’ll tell you how I started. Transformers Regeneration-One 100-Page Spectacular then Transformers Regeneration-One 82. I’ve never looked back.

    What I’m saying is Transformers Regeneration-One is AMAZING.

  5. The recent editions of Transformers Classics are great because they FINALLY include issues 3 and 9, which include characters owned by Marvel comics, one of whom is some guy called “Spider-Man” or something.

  6. DFWRob DFWRob says:

    I really loved the Dreamwave Transformers G1 and War Within series. In fact I can safely say that seeing that very first preview issue with Soundwaves hand being dug out of the artic is what got me back into comics in 2001 and I haven’t looked back.

    I was really dissapointed when Dreamwave just dissapeared without bringing closure to their stories. It wasn’t till a few years later I started to hear about what a mess Dreamwave had been as a company.

    But compared to 95% of the work that IDW has done in the 4-5 years they have had the transformers license the Dreamwave stuff still blows it away.

  7. neums neums says:

    I’d argue that All Hail Megatron should be on this list. That was a great story, and I wouldn’t be shocked if it was revealed that some of the stuff in there was inspiration for the invasion of Chicago in Dark of the Moon.

  8. nihar says:

    The Transformers was the first comic I ever bought too. I religiously followed it as a kid and it was a gateway into all other things comic for me. The current “Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye” series is the best TF comics I’ve ever read, and is really up there with some of the best comics coming out today. It is totally and completely sci-fi. It follows a band of transformers on a cosmic journey in outer space lead by rodimus prime. Writer James Roberts (of last stand of the wreckers) has struck what i think is a really unique tone for the book. It’s funny, engaging, and kind of out there. It’s definitely a direction I haven’t seen before. I think even if you aren’t a Transformers super-fan I think it’s worth reading. The other Robots in Disguise series is pretty good too but rarely matches the consistency of More Than Meets the Eye. Is anyone else reading this series?

    • neums neums says:

      I’m reading both. More Than Meets the Eye has that “heroes on the run” vibe that I dig. Robots in Disguise has more political intrigue to it. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but I dig it, too.

  9. stuclach stuclach says:

    Last Stand of the Wreckers is outstanding. It does an incredible job making these robots feel real.