See here for the prologue to this article series.
Dang it, Sony, stop killing my articles!
Every Transformers fan, especially those who grew up with the original generation, knows this scene. Here’s a neat version in stop-motion. It was not only a part of our childhood dieing (although he got better–what, you thought that joke only worked in comics?) but the first time anyone had ever heard of the Autobot Matrix of Leadership? Where did it come from? Who knows.
Years earlier in the pages of the Marvel comic, Shockwave had managed to defeat the Autobots and held prisoner Optimus Prime.
So we have the Autobot Matrix of Leadership, a physical object, and the Creation Matrix, a program encoded into the mind of the Autobot leader. Two totally different things.
Unless your Simon Furman. It is because of Furman in my opinion that the concept of the Matrix has been so screwed up, yet still a part of Transformers lore because so many official writers take cues from Furman. Part of it he actually can’t be blamed for, which is why I’m starting with this as the first official Furman File.
The rather complex history of the Matrix begins with the comic as Bob Budiansky, who switched from the editor of the miniseries to the writer of the ongoing with this issue, wanted to explain where Transformers came from. (If you ask me, he also wanted a way to introduce new Transformers while they were still cut off from Cybertron.) Hasbro had decreed that there were no such things as genders because they’re robots, at least according to the TF Wiki, although nobody told the cartoon writers this. Female Autobots would appear in the season two episode “The Search For Alpha Trion” featured three female Autobots and later Arcee would be introduced in the movie.
At any rate, as you saw there and numerous times during Budiansky’s run (up until Optimus Prime’s death in issue #24, after which it was never brought up again) the Creation Matrix was referred to as a “computer program”. One that had some rather surprising results when transferred to a human mind.
When Buster had the Matrix transferred into his brain he developed supernatural powers, able to levitate metal and control machines. None of these powers were ever shown to be used by Optimus Prime, at least in the US stories as far as I know. Buster was also said to be able to give life to machines as Prime would do in later stories, but was never actually seen doing so.
Over in the UK, however, things were a bit different. While Marvel UK would reprint the US comics, the format they used meant original stories also had to be produced. (If American readers recall the two-part “Man of Iron”, it was a reprint of one of these UK stories) Simon Furman would later become the writer of these stories. One of the ways he got around continuity errors would come in the form of Transformers: The Movie. The adaptation (which featured a different look for the Matrix) was taken as canon by Furman despite not only contradictions at the time but in later stories (such as Cyclonus and Scourge showing up in the regular comic NOT being a creation of Unicron in the future) that he would then have to retcon. Better to call it an alternate future if you ask me, but you will STILL find fans who think they can combine the comic and cartoon. Don’t get me started.
However, these were the UK stories and he’d have to deal with it later. It’s when he began doing the US stories that things started getting troublesome. Deciding to reintroduce the Matrix to fit his 2006 stories, which I remind you most of the Marvel US readers had never heard of outside of “Man of Iron”, it became a physical object that nobody seemed to notice, even Ratchet while trying (and failing) to repair him. Now it becomes part of Furman’s “Unicron and Primus are gods” concept which he also brought over from the UK. (At least they’re back-story made sense, whether or not I agree with it in the Transformers mythos.)
This brings up the question, though, that if the Creation Matrix, now a portion of Primus’s lifeforce (which explains why it gave Transformers life–which I reject because it’s now less of a unique form of life because a Transformer has a lifeforce instead of the fully machine origins that even the Movieverse All-Spark allows for) was in his chest, then how did Buster link head to head, as he does in issue #6 to transfer the Matrix, when said Matrix is in his chest? One theory I’ve heard from fans is that some residual Matrix energy was in Prime’s head but was transferred to Buster. Something about that theory really doesn’t click with me.
So this was a minor issue, but one that still bugs me. Furman completely re-conceptualized what the Creation Matrix was to make the Movie adaptation canon and work with stories most of us in the US (including me) had never read and added an element to the franchise I never felt it needed, but I’ll get more into that next time with Unicron and Primus.