Meet Bob Budiansky. So far in this week’s retro reviews of the Marvel Comics run of The Transformers, he’s taken on the role of editor. Tomorrow we get into issue #5, where he switched from editor to writer. Issue #5 was the first issue I saw and issue #6 was the first one I picked up. I know own the entirety of his run, and he is very much the reason I’m into the franchise. Literally, since he practically created it. However, the question is why I enjoy his run so much. Well, that’s what this article is all about, but first let’s watch his Transformers Hall of Fame video so anyone who doesn’t know who he is and what he’s done for the franchise can get caught up.
One slight change here. As I’ve discussed in the past, Budiansky created the Creation Matrix, not the Matrix of Leadership (unless he also worked on the movie, in which case never mind). At any rate, Bob came on for issue 5 and wrote most of the comics from there out. (He missed issue #16 due to his work on Transformers Universe, a Transformers version of The Official Handbook to the Marvel Universe.) However, what is it about his run that I enjoyed?
There is a huge tone shift between issues #4 & #5. The dialog was less stiff. Shockwave appears but he takes over as leader of the Decepticons and proves himself quite competent. The Autobots (except for Ratchet) don’t appear until issue #9, but they seem more lifelike and with more life in general than the early issues. The story arc featuring Ratchet having to battle Megatron did more for the character than the cartoon did, and his dealings with The Mechanic (a human who stole his medical tools to use as weapons) improved on that. He certainly handled Optimus Prime’s death better than Optimus did Ratchet’s under Simon Furman.
What I think I like most, however, is the more human side. While the Bay films focused too much on the humans, Furman in the past and IDW right now focused too little. In both cases (remember, I’m talking current IDW, not the just completed Mike Costa run), the Transformers were removed from Earth (although at least Furman allowed for a potential return, unlike Costa and IDW who screwed up ANY possibility of a decent Earth-based series) and took out what I liked about the series–the human/Transformer interaction. Whether it was the Decepticons ruining things for G.B. Blackrock, a fun moment with Ratchet and Buster over a traffic light, or watching the various ways humans reacted to the actions of the Transformers (which ranged from serious to humorous to tragic to “hey, I want that gear”) and how the Transformers, both Autobot and Decepticon, reacted to the humans, their culture, and trying to understand human biology versus Cybertronian “biology”. These were the moments that “fleshed” out the stories and made even the most bizarre stories seem believable, at least while you were reading it. You could nitpick, but it’s still believable for the world of the Transformers.
(Another good example would be the fanfics of Scott Kampa. Read “Lost Shaker Assault” and you’ll never listen to the chorus to “Margarettaville” the same way again. Yes, I linked to an Alan Jackson cover. You all know Jimmy Buffet’s version by now and I like Alan Jackson. In fact, even though this posting was already late I had to stop and read “Lost Shaker Assault” again.)
That’s not to say that Budiansky was perfect. My biggest gripe was that the humans going against the Autobots took too long. I’ll get into it more in individual comic reviews, but it was to the Autobots’ detriment that they didn’t make an alliance with the humans like their cartoon counterpart, a mistake that IDW made as well. Dreamwave and Devil’s Due (look for my reviews of G.I. Joe Versus The Transformers here at the Spotlight, which I just decided to repost over at Reviewers Unknown the next few weeks) were good enough to make those ties, while Budiansky eventually had the anti-Transformer group RATT (not to be confused with the music group) realize that the Autobots were the good guys and separate from the Decepticons.
I’ll get more into the ups and downs of Budiansky’s stories as I review each comic. These are some of my favorite Transformers stories coming up so don’t be surprised if a bit of gushing happens.