I never truly leave Cybertron…if only in my spark.
For those of you who weren’t around at the time I was reviewing the various comics, Transformers Armada is based on the toyline in which the Autobots and Decepticons were joined…quite literally…by, or rather to, a third faction called the Mini-Con. If you only know them from the recent Robots In Disguise series it’s a modified version of the original concept. By connecting to certain “hardpoints” on the larger figures the Mini-Con would activate hidden weapons and such, but on the “dead points” kids could pretend they were giving them a huge burst of power, which extended for the next few toylines until the 2010s RID. (Interestingly a couple of toys from the 2000s RID, which came from Car Robot, were able to accept Mini-Cons due to the molding.) To me the gimmick was never fully showcased however.
I wrote about the little Transformers and my love of them over at The Clutter Reports, where I noted that these were small Transformers who turned into vehicles that had things like headlights or little jets. (And as we’ve seen in Rescue Bots and Rescue Bots Academy headlights can double as water cannons, but since they’re headLIGHTS you could argue they’d make for good lasers.) Some of them not only turned into weapon-bearing vehicles but the toy itself may have launching projectiles. The helicopters had spinning blades. One Mini-Con team had a gimmick that they turned into mounted or hand-held weapons, but the only ones anyone following the media would know are the ones that combined into the superpowerful weapons like the Star Saber, Requiem Blaster, and Skyboom Shield. There was so much more play and fight scene potential in the Mini-Cons that was never realized, nor was their non-weapon potential realized outside of being referred to as “smart tools” in the cartoon. This has constantly bothered me but with the gimmick altered after Power Core Combiners (which didn’t even have a non-toy appearance) to what it became in Robots In Disguise it’s just more wasted potential. It’s a sore spot for me because I really love the classic Mini-Con toys and wish we could see the full extent of the gimmick beyond robo-steroids.
Enough about that though, because this getting too long intro hasn’t even touched on UK comics. I’m not from the UK and I’ve only seen a small number of comics from the UK but they don’t appear to come in the traditional comic size but in more of a magazine format. Someone actually from the UK (Gary?) can correct me if I’m wrong. I’m not sure how because my memory is only slightly less damaged than Sam Beckett but I ended up with the first issue of Panini Comics’ Transformers Armada, a comic adapting the toys into comics for the UK rather than simply reprinting the US comics from Dreamwave. And it does appear to be a magazine, as you’ll see from the cover. There are a few character profiles and an activities section that includes how to draw Megatron. Not that this is the artist I would choose to draw Megatron but I’ll get to that. I’ll be focusing on the comic story, which makes four versions of the origin of the Mini-Cons on Earth I own, along with the Dreamwave comic, the cartoon, and a junior novel I may get to some day. Also, this is Simon Furman’s chance to do his own telling of the origin since he came in during the second story arc of the US comic. How well did he do?
I also don’t remember if this had a sticker album but I get the feeling it didn’t.
Transformers Armada #1
Panini Comics (May, 2003)
WRITER: Simon Furman
PENCILER: Jon Mitchell
INKER: Bambos Georgiou, and Martin Griffiths
LETTERER: Neil Porter
Oddly there is no coloring (or in this case colouring) credit despite the whole magazine being in full color.