To compare the two adaptations, here’s what the second issue of Marvel’s adaptation was doing.
Transformers: The Movie #2
Marvel (January, 1987)“Judgement Day!” ADAPTATION: Ralph Macchio BREAKDOWNS: Don Perlin FINISHES: Ian Akin & Brian Garvey COLORIST: Nel Yomtov LETTERER: Janice Chiang EDITOR: Bob Budiansky
Unicron sends Galvatron and his new troops to destroy the Matrix, but first he stops in at Starscream’s coronation to reclaim leadership of the Decepticons and destroy Starscream. As someone who is part of the reviewing community where Galvatron’s “this is bad comedy” line has become a meme for bad jokes in a movie, its absence in favor of finishing the caption’s catch-up exposition from the previous issue feels strange. Then Unicron attacks the first Cybertron moon, taking Jazz and Cliffjumper with it. It may be to put a better cliffhanger at the end of the comic or maybe someone read the draft after it was sent to Macchio and realized having Unicron wait so long to go after the second moon was a bit silly, but whatever the case the attack on the second moon is kept until the end of the comic rather than immediately. Galvatron still gets mad about Unicron snacking on Cybertron’s moons but Unicron forces him to go after the Matrix.
The Autobots manage to escape the Decepticon assault force using a trick that both sides remembers being done to Galvatron (or maybe to Megatron) off Beta Four, using asteroids smashing into each other to create an asteroid field behind them. The “resting” moment still has Hot Rod training and getting his butt kicks (and the training droid giving him a raspberry) but the more interesting moment of Hot Rod trying to get Kup to discuss a solution to the giant monster planet and the Decepticons while the Dinobots try to get Kup to tell another war story. Actually, Kup isn’t the storyteller he was in the movie and third season TV show. The Cons appear again, firing “moleculon missiles”, which I don’t remember the movie naming. At any case, a giant claw comes out of a nearby planetoid and crushes the ship with Hot Rod, Kup, and the Dinobots, with them falling to the surface. As I recall hearing, Grimlock did join Hot Rod and Kup in the earlier script but that was changed to him joining the rest of the Dinobots. I can see why as he offers nothing and the way the adaptation plays it you actually think Grimlock was forced into the adaptation as an afterthought.
Ultra Magnus saves the other ship with Perceptor, Springer, Arcee, and Daniel by faking their destruction. (I’ll be honest, while you can blame the Decepticon surprise attack as to why Daniel has to join them it’s not as straightforward here. The meta reason is to have the kid character save his dad at the end of course.) The plan results in damaging the emergency shuttle cockpit thing and they have to set down for repairs, while Hot Rod’s team is captured. The whole “universal greeting” scene is out and I don’t miss it to be honest with you. Yeah, it’s a fun thing for fans to discuss today but otherwise I don’t think it mattered to the movie or the series that followed.
Meeting Kranix, they learn the name of Unicron and the Quintessons. With the exception of Grimlock being there the trial scene happens like it does in the movie. Then the strangest thing in this adaptation happens if you know the Dinobots. They show up like they do in the movie (except for the Grimlock thing of course) and then Sludge starts the exposition dump about how they found them…and sounds so unlike Sludge. I keep reading it in a more sophisticated voice. Without the meeting Wheelie scene he just appears next to them offering a ship with no explanation except another exposition dump, sans Wheelie’s rhyming bit. It’s just such a weirdly done scene considering both the movie and the television series.
Like I said, this must not have been considered a proper cliffhanger for the comic because it ends with Spike and Bumblebee’s failure to blow up Unicron (for some reason Spike knows his name). This afternoon we’ll see the final issue of this adaptation and go over its changes as well.