Thursday, 5 February 2009

Transformers UK Comics - Target: 2006

Recently there has been a surge of interest in Transformer comics generally, from the ill-fated Dreamwave era, to the steady IDW era. But how did it all start? What about the ones in the eighties? Surely they were just for little kids, and not worthy of a read by serious comic readers? Here, I plan to show you guys some of the best Transformers comics, and heck, comics period, that I have read. Prepare to be educated.
One of the defining points of my childhood was this thing. A little bit of background though first. The US Transformer comic was... mediocre at best. But when it came to porting it over to the UK there came a problem. UK comics were half the size pagewise of the US versions, but came out weekly (and boy, do I miss those days). So someone had to write more tales. Enter Simon Furman

Mr Furman didn't just write filler stories to tread water until the US tales came out. He wrote massive, sweeping epics, small personal tales, which more importantly, didn't contradict the US comics but made a massive universe. It actually became a story about this huge civil war fought by gigantic robots. And since they were robots, Marvel UK didn't really care what he did. Some of my childhood nightmares were full of beheadings, eye-gougings and that one issue where the Autobot Micromaster military patrol were captured and dissected alive. Little Matty-Boy didn't sleep much that week.

He later did the same for the US comic when Marvel realised how popular his work was. There is a tale that he submitted a script which involved exploding sheep, robot nuns and every single character dying. When it got accepted without a change he realised he really could write whatever the hell he wanted

Titan publishing got most of the stories reprinted, currently IDW is reprinting some again. I'm going to push the Titan ones on you - firstly they are complete (IDW have had some rights issues, and some of their collections are missing issues) and secondly, they are in the correct size. The UK comics were printed on oversized paper, and whilst the Titan ones are similarly large, the IDW ones are American comic size. Which makes sense for the market, but wasn't what was originally intended.

Reading order:

The UK ones which are collected:

Dinobot Hunt
Second Generation (this one isn't as great as the rest)
Fallen Angel
The Legacy of Unicron
Space Pirates
City of Fear
Time Wars

Furman's US run (the earlier Bob Budansky US issues are generally a bit rubbish). Some of the art in the early issues are terrible, but it also has art by Geoff Senior who is amazing

Primal Scream
Matrix Quest
All Fall Down
End of the Road

Dark Designs
Rage In Heaven

So lets start this with a look at what is called the first great Transformer story, UK issues 78 - 88. Target: 2006. It is available in an oversized softcover and hardcover from Titan, and is well worth picking up (though the Hardcover was a convention exclusive and so is very very rare). The IDW version is undersized, but is more easily available.
TARGET: 2006
Target:2006 was a very epic idea. The first comic to take its cues from the movie (the first issue was drawn even before the animation cels were available, hence Galvatron looking like his toy) it successfully fuses the movie and the comic into something really special. Galvatron in the UK comics was the colour scheme of his toy, which in my opinion looks far superior to the purple of the cartoon. The art in this collection is the last example of the old UK style - a bit hit and miss with the artists, but gorgeously painted
To the story then. There is an Autobot uprising planned on Cybertron. Emirate Xaaron (think a hardcore version of Alpha Trion) has organised a trap for the top Decepticon killers, a trap called Operation Volcano. An elite squad of Autobots, known as the wreckers and led by Ultra Magnus will corner the Decepticons and kill them, effectively decapitating the Decepticon regime.

Unfortunately on Earth, Optimus Prime and two other Autobots mysteriously vanish in a flash of light, and Magnus is sent to Earth to investigate. But Volcano is still going ahead whether Magnus returns or not. And there are three other arrivals on Earth.. Galvatron, Cyclonus and Scourge

Galvatron has travelled from the future with time-travel technology borrowed from his master, Unicron. Now, if you remember Galvatron is a rebuilt version of the current Decepticon leader, Megatron. So Galvatron's first port of call on Earth is to get Megatron on his side.
This... does not really work out too well and so Galvatron defeats Megatron and buries him alive (given that Galvatron IS Megatron, he doesn't really want to go killing him) and then as the Autobots attack, he captures Jazz and tortues the poor 'Bot as bait for the rest

Galvatron comes across not only as a complete and utter heartless bastard, but just about invincible. Here we have a guy from the future forged in the fires of a god strutting about with a mysterious, single-minded purpose. So the Autobots decide to rescue their friend and defeat Galvatron. Who then decimates them once again

There are some utterly fantastic sequences in this story. Each issue is 11 pages long, and Furman is a master at structuring them. Perhaps the most powerful is a flashback as the Autobot Ironhide reflects on their defeat at the hands of Galvatron as he digs at a cliffside, willing himself to stop. And it is only at the end of the issue we find that he has unearthed Megatron to lead the Autobots against Galvatron.

And here is a great page as he rallies the Autobots in a trap to capture Scourge

So we have Megatron, leader of the Autobots fighting his future self, Galvatron. But what is Galvatron up to?

See, in the movie, Unicron is heading towards Cybertron to devour it, and controls Galvatron by mental torture. But in the past, Galvatron is free of Unicron's influence and so is busy constructing a gigantic cannon which he will bury beneath the Earth and is programmed to, in 20 years time as Unicron nears range, to reveal itself and destroy Unicron, freeing Galvatron from his influence and saving Cybertron. Pity Galvatron is such a bastard really.

Galvatron is none too happy about Megatron leading the Autobots. But this doesn't matter since the joint assault on Galvatron's weapon platform is once more in vain. Leaving no-one to stop Galvatron now except...

...Ultra Magnus.

Now, Magnus is NOT the whiny bitch of the cartoon and movie. The comic Magnus is noble, brave, very powerful and hardcore. He is also more importantly, very very likable. Again and again he fights Galvatron in an attempt to stop him, and again and again he is shown to be utterly outmatched. The comic Galvatron is a supreme badass.

After a whole issue which is just one very well written and drawn fight scene between Magnus and Galvatron, there can only be one winner...
...yes, well, I did tell you

I'm not going to tell you how it all ends though, if you're interested you really should go and get the trades, since they are utterly fantastic, and will blow your mind. Its simple, it still feels fresh, great characterisation, brilliant moments - go read this now!


  1. Target: 2006 is one of my all time favourite Transformers stories! The issue with Magnus v Galvatron: round one is perminently burned into my memory as one of the best drawn strips I have ever seen. I mean- look at the final page that you have posted in the article- just LOOK at it! The composition is perfect, the characters emotive and brilliantly rendered and the colours? Well, lets just remember that all of this was done well before computers and photoshop and it looks MAGNIFICENT! Shame you havent included my favourite bit- where Magnus drives to the end of an incomplete freeway bridge with Galvatron riding him all the way before slamming on the brakes and sending him sailing out for a dramatic (and fruitless) concrete swan dive.
    Furman never failed to create suspenseful, exciting stories- I think maybe because he was never afraid to kill off characters. This story alone left a good number of Autobots and Decepticons either dead or severely injured and reading a Furman script one could never be sure that your favourite would make it to the end...
    Great reading for a 7 yearold! Not like the watered-down souless tripe that kids get these days...

  2. What I like about Furman's original run is that it seemed so 'fresh' in that anything could happen. Literally. I do think Transformer comics and fiction in general has fallen into too much of a predictable pattern nowadays though, although Furman's IDW run did have the same feeling as his old stuff.

  3. "No, Jazz! I am Megatron! AHAHAHAHHAHAHAHAHAHA!"

    Splendid stuff.

  4. It's great stuff, seared into my brain as how Transformers comics should be. NO-ONE IS SAFE. Any character could be done in at a moment's notice, and every cliff-hanger made you weep that you had to wait seven whole days to find out what happened. A rotating team of artists who each brought something different to the mix, evocative painted colour.

    Damn I miss those days.

  5. If you want of know more about Transformers continuity check out this link

    This is an article I contributed. You should find the list of Marvel Comics especially interesting.

  6. I would hardly call Target 2006 'simple'. At the time of its inception, it was the most complex Transformers story ever, and was the most complex all the way to the Unicron saga, with the possible exception of Legacy of Unicron. If anything,its nearly brimming with subplots and such.