Anniversary of Marvel’s The Transfomers #1 marks 34 years of the Robots in Disguise
With a new era for the brand on the horizon, this seems like a good moment to look back at what brought us here – a path that began 34 years ago today, when the first issue of Marvel Comics’ The Transformers hit newsstands.
2018 is marking a time of upheaval for the Transformers brand. IDW Publishing’s long-running comics universe – the longest consistently-running continuity in Transformers history – is coming to an end in September; the new cartoons Transformers: Cyberverse and Rescue Bots Academy are set to debut later in the year; and the Generations toyline’s “Prime Wars Trilogy” will end with 2018, to be succeeded by the upcoming “War for Cybertron” toyline. But it all started May 8, 1984 with Issue #1 of a four-part miniseries.
The Transformers cartoon is doubtless the most popular of the “Generation 1” media – and likely the best-known piece of Transformers media outside of the live action movies – but it never could have happened without the concurrently-running Marvel comic and its writer, Bob Budiansky. Taking a vague pitch from Hasbro based on an assortment of imported Japanese toys, Budiansky’s story bible and character bios built up the world of the Transformers and its memorable heroes and villains that captured the imaginations of the children of the ’80s – and this is without any particular investment in the work, which Bob admitted many years later that he had only seen as a work-for-hire gig!
Come 1989, Budiansky left The Transformers and moved on to other work, being replaced by Simon Furman, previously the writer of the UK-exclusive Transformers comic that weaved stories around the US issues. Furman took the series in a grittier direction than the light-hearted “culture clash” fare of Budiansky’s run, and many of the comic’s most acclaimed arcs come from Furman’s tenure.
Furman helmed the US title, along with writing spin-off “Earthforce” stories for the UK comic, until its end with issue 80 in 1991; and not only that, but the popularity of his writing was such that he was brought back to continue the series not once, but twice! Not only did Furman write the nineties-tastic Generation 2 maxiseries from 1993 to 1994, but he also was brought back by IDW Publishing in 2012 to take the universe in a different direction with The Transformers: Regeneration One.
Of course, Furman was also responsible for reimagining the entire Transformers universe from the ground up with 2005’s Infiltration, which kickstarted the long-running IDW continuity!
While we likely can’t expect any particular celebrations of the 34th anniversary of Transformers – it’s hardly a milestone, after all – next year’s War for Cybertron toyline is set to be a celebration of the brand’s 35th year. If you’re itching for a taste of the stories where it all began, you can check out the Transformers Classics collections and Regeneration One on Comixology; and, as always, you can join in the Transformers conversation on the Allspark forums – such as in our new Marvel Comics general discussion thread – or our Discord server!
(And though the cover of issue #1 says “September”, don’t be fooled – comics in the 1980s were almost always released months before their solictiation date, and May 8 is the earliest known date that The Transformers #1 was available!)