P R E - H I S T O R Y

Before we move onto the specifics of the Norwegian book, a bit of backstory may be in order for the benefit of those whose first meeting whatsoever happens to be right here.

It all began in Japan (where anything having to do with robotics has been a great part of their culture for many years) in the 1970s, when several companies launched the idea of robot toys with amazing technical abilities. Most of these toy designs were manufactured by TAKARA, a company successful enough to sustain itself to this day. However, it was the American toy company HASBRO that would bring the concept to the western world at the beginning of the 1980s. In order to stand apart from their competitors, HASBRO commissioned MARVEL COMICS to create a unique storyline of a race of robots from the planet Cybertron that not only were stunning in being mechanical aliens, but also in being capable of independent thought and having real emotions.

The close working relationship HASBRO and MARVEL COMICS established not only gave each toy its own individual description of personality, abilities, and weaknesses (Tech Specs, or technical specifications, that were printed on the packaging). It also resulted in MARVEL transferring the entire "mythos" to comic book form. An artist by the name of Floro Dery interpreted the toy box art and created the models that would become the visual guidelines both for the comic book and the animated cartoon that would première a few months after the comic's debut. The comic was launched in the U.S. in May of 1984, but only as a limited 4-issue mini-series to see whether the market would take to it. The book proved so instantly popular that MARVEL quickly decided to make it a regular monthly release. It would only be a few months until Great Britain followed suit.

As noted, Floro Dery was behind the visual aspect of THE TRANSFORMERS, but it would be up to another MARVEL employee, Robert Budiansky, to fashion the personalities and lay the foundation for the entire TRANSFORMERS universe, which affected both the comic and the animated cartoon. Budiansky also acted as the book's original Editor in Chief and wrote most of the first 55of a total of 80 regular TRANSFORMERS issues published in the U.S. Budiansky's character profiles and Dery's models were also gathered into a mini-series of four issues, released under the title of TRANSFORMERS: UNIVERSE. Profiles developed after the release of the mini-series were published in various American issues, starting mid-1988.

Optimus Prime

Optimus Prime, leader of the good. (ART: Don Perlin)

In broad terms, the comic book tells the story of a race of robots from the planet of Cybertron, a world ravaged to the edge of extinction by millions of years of war between the race's two opposing factions: the peaceloving Autobots and the power-hungry Decepticons. An Autobot expedition, led by the powerful Optimus Prime, leaves Cybertron to find new sources of energy. The Decepticons follow and board the Autobot spaceship, and the ensuing battle causes the ship and the warring groups to crash on Earth, where, four million years later, they awaken to a world nearly too alien to comprehend. The Autobot ship's computer modifies them to emulate what it believes to be the rulers of Earth -- cars, jet planes, and so on.

The Decepticons, commanded by the evil and mighty Megatron, waste no time plundering the planet's resources, and it's up to the Autobots to prevent them from doing so. Thus begins a war that would eventually reach unexpected dimensions, and where the two sides would renew their leadership -- the Autobots with Grimlock and Fortress Maximus, and the Decepticons with Shockwave, Starscream, Scorponok, and Pretenders Thunderwing and Bludgeon.


Megatron, tyrant of the evil. (ART: Don Perlin)

Robert Budiansky's strength lay not only in establishing the basis for a vast TRANSFORMERS universe; he also had an ability to put the character in focus, bring out their traits, and show us what made these characters think and feel the way the did. Some of his story ideas may have been lacking, but one should be aware that HASBRO was the deciding party. HASBRO's wishes would have been his command, no matter how constricting their decisions may have been to his artistic liberty. Additionally, the pace at which the book was being developed meant that creativity occasionally had to take a backseat to making the deadline.

It's also worth noting that the visual aspect of the comic book didn't stop with Floro Dery. Many artists worked on the book, Don Perlin, William Johnson, Frank Springer, Geoff Senior, José Delbo, and Andrew Wildman being perhaps the best-remembered. Their interpretations were all distinct from one another and interesting in different ways. Examples of their ideas of various key characters can be seen both on this page and other pages of the guide.


Shockwave, logic-driven usurper. (ART: Don Perlin)

In the U.K., they were not satisfied simply to republish the American issues. They soon wrote and illustrated their own stories, slipping them inbetween American-written stories, putting their own spin on things as well as shedding light on aspects that Budiansky never explored. Budiansky's British counterpart was Simon Furman, who wrote nearly all the U.K. books before taking over as writer for the U.S. series in 1989. In many ways, Furman was Budiansky's diametrical opposite, writing overwhelming stories where the fate of the entire universe lay in the hands of these robotic warriors of Cybertron. His characterizations, in return, were somewhat singular -- most of them seemed to live by the motto, "I'd rather stand my ground and die than live with the knowledge that I ran."

Furman also brought religion into the proceedings in the form of a Transformers god, a concept upon which Budiansky had never touched. Furman stayed on as writer until the book was cancelled in 1991. In the U.K., it lasted until early 1992. All in all, it's safe to say that this was a comic book with ambition, a series always growing. It was a series that children and adults alike could enjoy.