As noted in yesterday’s video set IDW is the longest running licensee of Transformers comics. That means doing the review the same way I did the others would be a tad more difficult to pull off. There’s more to discuss for one thing, which means more to do right and more to screw up. It also means more to catch non-readers up on, which is why I did the video set yesterday–and now that I think about it I should have done the same for Dreamwave, which Chris McFeely also went over for The Basics. Even for an overview those videos help out.
Because of all that I’m doing a two-part finale to this set of articles. We’ve already looked at Marvel and Dreamwave, but for this last one I’m going to stop in various periods or titles. Part 1 will focus on all the stuff I liked about IDW’s run while part 2, and our final part of this series, will focus on everything I don’t like. Let’s see which list is longer.
Trying To Do Something Different
I may not like a lot of the things they did, or most of it really, but I can appreciate the attempt to try to be different, to form their own universe and their own take on Transformers. Most of it wasn’t for me, and some of it really wasn’t very good, but there were things that worked. For example:
- Early on they came up with the idea of Decepticons stealthily corrupting a planet from within using fake people. This explained why the Transformers operated in disguise. The Decepticons to infiltrate the planets and conquer it from within and the Autobots to not panic the natives as they attempted to stop them. And this was from Simon Furman, a guy who should be notorious for not really utilizing the whole “robots in disguise” angle of transforming, if he used it at all.
- New human characters Verity Carlo, who was our gateway into this new world and would later become the first human on any version of the Wreckers, Hunter O’Nion, or “what if we used Sam’s college roommate as a decent character”, and Jimmy Pink, who sadly vanished rather quickly. They were great characters and should be on a list of human allies done correctly.
- The concept of the Autobots using hologram-like “holographic matter” avatars is something picked up by the Bay films and Transformers Animated, though we saw early ideas of the concept with Hound in the G1 cartoon and the Mini-Cons in Transformers: Cybertron both using holograms to trick people. It allowed for more interaction with people than the short-lived puppet facsimiles idea of the Marvel run. The holomatter avatars could even leave the vehicle. I hope to see them come back in the future.
- Transformers: Spotlight allowed the characters who weren’t getting enough focus, if they showed up at all, in the main series to get a solo introduction and some character development. It’s something else I’d like to see more of and wish had continued in the IDW run.
- Transformers Evolution was also a great idea, but sadly never got past the first miniseries, Hearts Of Steel. This imagined the Transformers waking up during the Industrial Revolution and was a great standalone story. I would have liked to see other “what if” scenarios apart from the main series, something that can explore the main series through these alternate takes. In fact, let’s talk more about that.
Hearts Of Steel
This was a fun idea. Transformers: Evolutions was supposed…well, I just said what it was supposed to be. Hearts Of Steel had the Transformers arriving in dinosaur times and everyone getting a dino mode. In other words everyone was a Dinobot. Forced into stasis during the Ice Age, Bumblebee is the first to awaken when railway construction is going on near their cave. He ends up befriending John Henry, the folk hero famous for killing himself to prove a man could outdo the rail-setting machine that was going to put him and his workmates out of a job. The story features other famous people of the time, but not in the “look who’s here and here’s that reference that shows it’s in the time period” sort of way. The choices make sense for the story and was fun.
I wish more stories had been made with this idea. Not just the time period but imagine if they ended up in a fantasy setting or making it an idea for a crossover with another property? We would see toys made of famous vehicles as Transformers like Back To The Future, Top Gun, Ghosbusters, and the “Crossovers” toyline that came out of Star Wars Transformers. Sadly outside of expensive third-party unlicensed toys, Hasbro never gave us the Transformers as steam trains and steampunk airplanes, and that’s so very sad.
Showing more of Cybertron
Marvel spent most of its time on Earth and even when everyone moved to Cybertron they ended up going exploring elsewhere. Dreamwave never had time to do a lot with Cybertron. Despite my issues with Robots In Disguise the fact that it took place on Cybertron and featured Cybertronian culture, something it also did in prequel comics set before the war, we got to see more of the place than we usually do.
Knowing when to end (the main continuity)
I can put these two with the same picture because to the left was the start of the “2.0” period, where they did a massive reboot. Again, not happy with what they came up with and it wasn’t what I was looking for, but credit for knowing when the regular series ran its course. 2.0 only happened because IDW wasn’t ready to lose the license yet but went as far as they could with their original continuity. I didn’t read much of it because I don’t have the funds and I wasn’t impressed with what I heard about it early on, and it’s a shame to fans of this period that IDW started this so soon to the license expiring and not being renewed, but at least they knew it was time for something new.
IDW wasn’t about to end their continuity when they still had something they could do with it. So they made separate series and specials set in the continuities of Transformers Animated, the Bay films, and the Aligned Continuity. They actually improved on parts of the first Bay film, like not being as blatantly obvious when showing off Mikala’s body, and original stories fleshed out toys Hasbro created for the movie line that weren’t in the movie.
One compliant I’ll be making tomorrow is how kids were not really accepted based on some of the things they did in the main line. So the Animated and Prime comics were a bit more kid-friendly because they were based on the kids lines and shows. Prime less-so as they actually deviated from the show to see the Dinobots from the Full Moon games that were part of the continuity surviving on Cybertron, but at least they didn’t have the Decepticon Justice Division and some of the other nightmare fuel and lunatics that populated IDW’s main series.
Windblade the “Cityspeaker”
If we’re going to be stuck with quasi-spiritual stuff, Windblade and the “titans” are a good way to go about it. Created by fans by voting for various features of the character and alternate mode, Windblade would be given the title of “Cityspeaker”, being able to communicate with the group of Transformers known as “titans”, or as we fans used to know them, “cityformers”. You know, Metroplex, Trypticon, Scorponok and Fortress Maximus outside of IDWs continuity…the ones who supposedly turned into cities but really looked like big buildings.
Windblade soon became a fan favorite for reasons other than being voted on. She appeared in two different Transformers cartoons, and the IDW take of titans is how we know the cityformers today and that’s a good thing in my opinion. Even Rescue Bots Academy, the show for the youngest kids, introduced a cityformer named Citadel Secundus, who befriended the Decepticon turned Autobot Wedge and became part of the Academy itself. It’s too bad that continuity is gone now because I’d like to see how the new students were doing. IDW did add some interesting things to multiversal mythology of the Transformers and I hope those elements continue on.
Unless I’ve forgotten something that’s all the good stuff. However, as Dinobot once said, you must tell a tale truly, the ill deeds along with the good. We’ll end this bunch of articles with the ill.