In case anyone has been wondering what happened to this article series, I had received an e-mail from a political satire blog of the same name curious about the usage. I replied, stating that I was writing about Simon Furman and his questionable altering of the Transformers comics. I didn’t hear back from him, but while I was waiting I was distracted by other events and just never got back to it.
One of the other things that held me back was trying to decide what I wanted to talk about next, his ruining of Optimus Prime or his total destruction of Arcee. However, while posting the previous installment over to Reviewers Unknown I discovered what I had already planned for the next installment: Unicron and Primus. This is probably my least harsh rant because I admit it’s more of personal taste but it does get to the heart of my general issues with Furman’s take on Transformers, right at the origin of our favorite robots in disguise. But can I find reconciliation with this issue? After all, there are TWO origin stories for the Transformers and I don’t think they have to be mutually exclusive.
The whole story of course starts with Transformers: The Movie, The debut of both Unicron and the Quintessons. In the film, Unicron is this big threat that, instead of forcing Autobot and Decepticon to work together (which may be cliched but would have made an interesting movie on its own), changes the game by making more powerful Decepticons in the form of Galvatron and his forces. The Quintessons show up as a side threat for Hot Rod and his crew, splitting them up from Ultra Magnus and the others.
In the first post movie episode, however, we learn that the Quintessons are the actual creators of the Transformers. Originally, they didn’t even transform. This was developed later during the war between Autobot and Decepticons, “descendants” of the labor and war machines the Quintessons created. Long story short the robots gained self-awareness and decided they didn’t like being slaves, chasing their creators off of Cybertron and forming their own society.
Unicron’s origins are unconnected to the Quintessons, although as I recall the original Marvel adaptation said they worked for Unicron. (This would be based on an early draft of the movie.) In the later episode “Call Of The Primatives” we learn that Unicron was the creation of Primacon, who turned on his master much as the Cybertronian robots did to the Quintessons. Only Unicron went on a galactic killing spree, going all Galactus on the universe.
And as usual, then came Simon Furman.
Now I’ve never had confirmation about this and I may not be properly remembering a conversation from the old alt.toys.transformers days on Usenet so take this reasoning lightly for now, but I believe the UK never had the TV series. Whether or not I’m right on that, the point remains that in the UK Furman kept the movie…or at least the comic adaptation…canon to his UK-exclusive stories, eventually making an alternate continuity due to conflicts with what Budiansky was doing in the US comics at the time. When Furman came to the US series he brought his concepts with him and as you may have guessed by now I wasn’t happy with that.
In Furman’s version, Unicron was a devourer of the multiverse, destroying realities so he could essentially get a good night’s sleep. (Not the best way to deal with noisy neighbors but it does play into a British sci-fi trope that there was a universe before this one and in some stories they left some junk behind that somehow survived the Big Bang. I’m not sure how you do that but we’re getting off topic now.) To oppose him came Primus. The two had a great battle and at the end the two became merged with asteroids for all time. This is when things begin to lose me.
Unicron was able to change his prison into a mobile planet and was coming for Primus. To protect reality, Primus forged his prison into the planet that would come to be known as Cybertron, and created transforming robots to protect him. And here’s a question that has never been answered to my satisfaction: why robots? Or rather HOW robots since technology didn’t exist at the dawn of creation so how would Primus even know what a robot is much less how to build an army of them? And they are pure technology. Bumblebee has been repaired by humans twice and almost completely rebuilt by humans once, plus a human with limited engineering skills put six Autobot brains into toy cars with limited side effects. I just recently reviewed US #20, where Skids is repaired despite being shot with a missile. In the comics your average mechanic, although confused initially by the insides, can repair an Autobot in vehicle mode and in the Cybertron cartoon a kid can repair one in robot mode. (The Autobot, not the kid, although he does turn one dead Cybertronian insect into a fully functioning mech. Because Japan.)
This is my big issue with the Primus origin; the fact that they are physical robots but that’s it. Yes, Transformers are living robots, but under Furman they feel more like living being in robotic shells. We’ll get into the gender thing when I get into the hell Furman put on poor Arcee, but lack of gender is the only thing robotic about Transformers in the comics. But what really doesn’t work for me is that machines shouldn’t really have a god or religion. Robots tend to know who built them. I can scientifically explain away the spark, which is a Beast Wars concept, but I don’t know. It’s probably just me but I tend to prefer the Quintesson origin.
Not that it matters. Every comic and cartoon since had embraced the Simon Furman origin for Primus and Unicron, but I favor the Quints. Under the Primus origin the Transformers are now this special race created to save all reality or some such and I don’t think that was necessary. The Quintesson origin is on the surface less grand but these were robots created as a slave race who grew to realize what they were and overthrew the creator/masters, forming their own world and culture. It’s a more triumphant story than “created to save the universe but decided to blow each other up instead”.
But there’s no reason the two origins need to conflict with each other. Try this: when the Quintessons discovered what they thought was a power source they actually found one of the shards of Primus. (While Unicron has been shown in some comics to be able to move between realities, I still have this theory that Unicron and Primus’ lifeforces where “shredded” and spread throughout the multiverse. Some have Unicron but no Primus, some have Primus but no Unicron, and some have either both or neither. Unicron’s shards are trying to come together and that somehow results in his shards traversing the multiverse.) So when the Quints try to tap that source to energize their robots, possibly Energon being Primus’ “blood” just like “Dark Energon” in the War For Cybertron/Prime universe being Unicron’s blood, he sees what the Quintessons are planning for the universe and uses the robots to stop him, thus the Quintessons created the future Transformers but Primus gave them life and possibly uses Vector Sigma or the Creation Matrix (a rant I’ve already made) to continue the process. So the Autobot/Decepticon war drained Primus of his energy, getting what’s befallen the planet in the movieverse, IDWVerse and Primeverse.
As for Unicron, maybe he isn’t able to form his body into a mobile planet, so either he drags the Quintessons or Primacon into shaping his prison as the Quintessons did to Primus. Only Unicron’s new housing is able to continue his “consume the multiverse” game and strengthen him thanks to all the stars and planets he absorbed. Now imagine all the Unicron shards not destroyed by Autobots or Minicons coming together more powerful than ever. The Transformers may not be “uber-special” in my version but now they must rise up and fulfill a destiny by fate rather than by design. This works better for me.
As a last minute addition, I found this in the TF Wiki (where I’ve been getting the pics) about the Primus origin in IDW continuity:
The IDW universe is the confusing one. Writer Simon Furman outright said that the IDW universe would have “no Primus. No Unicron”. In accordance with this, the Furman-penned Stormbringer, rather than have Transformers swear by Primus, instead had them swear by Primacron, but a monkeywrench was thrown into the works when Primus’s name was heard being taken in vain in Eric Holmes‘s Megatron Origin #4. Furman attempted to justify this on his blog by claiming that this was not the Primus, but simply “something or someone” called Primus that had existed some point.
With Furman’s removal as the primary architect of the IDW universe, things got changed: “Chaos Theory Part 2” by James Roberts refers to a Primus. However, he is not only referred to as a being that Optimus doesn’t believe in, he’s mentioned in conjunction with two other gods, Mortilus and Adaptus, that Optimus also didn’t believe in. This then led to a whole new version of the Primus creation myth in the 2012 More Than Meets The Eye annual: Primus was once again one of several gods and he had taken the form of Vector Sigma after a vicious battle against Mortilus, and there is no mention of the Thirteen, who had been inserted into the origin story since 2005.
So Furman’s even backing off of the Primus origin and it’s other writers demanding its use. Interesting.
Well, now it’s back to deciding if I’m going to complain about Furman’s Arcee or Optimus Prime. The Furman Files are back.