(40th Anniv.) Ranking the 100 Marvel (US) G1/G2 Comic Covers: #35-31

Agent X

Kreon Bastard
Citizen
Yet Cerebros wasn't a thing until the main series when Fort Max got his in-universe size increase, after Headmasters #3.

By this time in the book, there were a LOT of characters and they rarely had time to fact check and/or correct 'cause toyz needed pimpin'!
 

LBD "Nytetrayn"

Broke the Matrix
Staff member
Council of Elders
Citizen
Yet Cerebros wasn't a thing until the main series when Fort Max got his in-universe size increase, after Headmasters #3.

By this time in the book, there were a LOT of characters and they rarely had time to fact check and/or correct 'cause toyz needed pimpin'!
Right, that's what I'm saying: It was so that when they did introduce Cerebros, he wouldn't be trucking around with a tiny Fort Max head...

...even though really, that would have been more accurate to the toy.
 

Magnusblitz

Active member
Citizen
Getting to the point where it's difficult to rank these. Lots of good covers I like here, but often they get pushed down due to one flaw here or there.

#60: The Transformers #35 - "Child's Play"
Frank Springer, Ian Akin, Brian Garvey

MarvelUS-35.jpg


This feels like it could've been higher - I mean, it's one big combiner hitting another big combiner with eight cars' worth of a train, that's pretty metal. Unfortunately, the colorist also made the decision to color Defensor and Bruticus like they're Rock 'Em Sock 'Em robots, in all-red and all-blue, which for me is a big negative.



#59: The Transformers #24 - "Afterdeath!"
Herb Trimpe

MarvelUS-24.jpg


I like the concept here, with Ethan Zachary sitting at the bottom looking up at the action on the screen, and the lineart here does a decent job of emulating the scan lines of TVs at the time. I'm less wild about the Countdown font text, which already feels 20 years retro even at the time this cover came out in 1986 (and is kinda difficult to read). I'm not sure if it's a positive or negative, but I think this cover actually downplays the fact Optimus dies in this issue, making the reader expect that he might just die in the game, if that.



#58: The Transformers #10 - "The Next Best Thing to Being There!"
Kyle Baker

MarvelUS-10.jpg


This one has a lot going for it - everyone is drawn well and colored correctly (with the exception of Hound, who is grey instead of green) - and this especially stands out in regards to issue #11. And the artist even managed to fit Soundwave (though not identifiable as such on the cover) hooked up to the giant radio transmitter in the back.

So why relatively low? Well... frankly, the star of the cover, Devastator, just looks sorta bored, stiffly backhanding some of the Autobots while staring off in the distance. To me, it just saps the potential dynamism of the cover. But I wouldn't be surprised if folks felt this one should be a lot higher.



#57: The Transformers #45 - "Monstercon from Mars!"
Bob Budiansky, Dave Hunt

MarvelUS-45.jpg


Another Budiansky cover lacking in robots but featuring humans and non-traditional Transformers like Skullgrin's Pretender shell. It's alright, it just doesn't really excite me too much (and the arrow feels a wee insulting, I know which one is Circuit Breaker thank you very much). I do really like the coloring on this one though, especially the nice sunset sky over the desert, and letting CB's energy sit over the logo.


#56: The Transformers #36 - "Spacehikers"
Frank Springer, Ian Akin, Brian Garvey

MarvelUS-36.jpg


This one definitely raises some interest about what's going on inside - why are the Dinobots making children walk the plank? In space? Is Sky-Lynx there to rescue them or eat them? In that respect, the issue is executed perfectly well... At the same time, I can't imagine too many readers at the time were thrilled to read a story about kids this young. (Give me more combiners hitting each other with trains!) Can't really blame the artist for this one, hard to make a cool cover out of the subject matter.
 

Magnusblitz

Active member
Citizen
#55: The Transformers #55 - "The Interplanetary Wrestling Championship!"
Jose Délbo, Danny Bulanadi

MarvelUS-55.jpg


Somewhat infamously, Budiansky's final issue. Like a lot of issues from around this time, the main story concept is somewhat silly, but I actually like the way the cover is composited, drawing the eye vertically from the crowd upward to Roadhandler.



#54: The Transformers: Headmasters #4 - "Brothers in Armor!!"
Frank Springer, Danny Bulanadi

MarvelHeadmasters-4.jpg


Another one where I like how the angle and Firebolt's motion draws the eye vertically across the image, and it's a pretty cool way to show off the Targetmaster gimmick right away. I also like the choice of Hot Rod as the central Autobot Targetmaster (I suspect a lot of kids who had watched the Movie the previous year were happy to finally see him feature in the US comics). Unfortunately, everyone else on the cover is colored quite incorrectly, including a bright orange Kup.



#53: The Transformers #20 - "Showdown!"
Herb Trimpe

MarvelUS-20.jpg


I have a soft spot for this cover - one, I like that Skids got a whole issue basically to himself (after basically being "blink and you'll miss" in the cartoon), and two, I just like the cowboy duel gimmick. Alas, it loses points for being somewhat bait-y (Megatron only appears in a dream sequence; Skids really spends the issue really fighting robosexuality Ravage)



#52: The Transformers #30 - "The Cure!"
Herb Trimpe

MarvelUS-30.jpg


A pretty decent cover (though some of the Throttlebots in the back are miscolored). Not sure it really sells me on caring about the Throttlebots, though it does make Rollbar look kinda cool.



#51: The Transformers #4 - "The Last Stand"
Mark Texeira

MarvelUS-04.jpg


Rounding out the bottom half is a cover that is actually somewhat iconic, in my view - I just absolutely love the design here with the Decepticons closing in on the beleagured-looking Autobots, really selling the "last stand" tagline here. But (turning into a broken record here) it is also somewhat greviously miscolored, with a brown Megatron and blue/green seeker. Prime's head also looks a bit cartoony for my tastes, and the text is somewhat difficult to read (mostly a coloring issue). With a few tweaks this one could've been a lot higher.

And with that, halfway there!
 

LBD "Nytetrayn"

Broke the Matrix
Staff member
Council of Elders
Citizen
Unfortunately, the colorist also made the decision to color Defensor and Bruticus like they're Rock 'Em Sock 'Em robots, in all-red and all-blue, which for me is a big negative.
...this actually makes me like this one more than I did before, as I never made that association before.
and the arrow feels a wee insulting, I know which one is Circuit Breaker thank you very much
FWIW, I think this might have been my first... ahem... exposure to the character.
#56: The Transformers #36 - "Spacehikers"
I seem to recall liking this story arc, so I like the cover here.

Of course, if memory serves, it was part of the big "Blaster and Goldbug go sling their hook" story that kept me coming back when I first started reading for realsies.
 

The Predaking

Administrator
Staff member
Council of Elders
Citizen
As we get closer and closer to the #1 spot, I wonder if I can guess what will be there. Like I have an idea what is going to be there, but I am curious to find out if I am right.
 

Magnusblitz

Active member
Citizen
Back from intermission.

#50: The Transformers #77 - "Exodus!"
Andrew Wildman

MarvelUS-77.jpg


Something I noticed is that Wildman was pretty good about variety in his cover compositions, as I don't think there's really a repeated motif or design layout across his covers. I admit I'm a bit of a sucker for the "one guy shoots towards the reader at another guy" setup, but I can also appreciate trying something different. This one certainly isn't as action-y as the typical cover but I think is still intriguing in its own way, hinting at a more quiet burn political plotline (which we might've gotten had the series not wrapped up, Furman learned as he was writing the next issue, #78).

The close-up shot I think benefits from Wildman's very human-esque faces, showing some great emotion on both Prowl and Bludgeon (despite the latter being mostly skull!) I also really dig how Bludgeon's head ornament wraps around the logo. It does get let down a bit by the weird background, though, not to mention the miscolored faction symbols (blue and green??)



#49: The Transformers #27 - "King of the Hill!"
Herb Trimpe

MarvelUS-27.jpg


I admittedly had this one far lower in my original rankings, hovering more in the 70s range. As I kept finalizing the batches though, I kept bumping it up and up. Yes, there's a lot of nitpicks I have with it - the Dinobots are colored 2 or 3 different shades of grey, and Rachel simultaneously appears to be too large and kinda disappears into the bottom of the image due to the colors. But it's still a pretty awesome shot of robot dinosaurs fighting a giant godzilla robot! The scaling works pretty well here, and the overall design works a lot better for me than similar concepts in #10 (Devastator) or #19 (Omega Supreme). And that orange sky contrasts beautifully with Trypticon's blue/grey/lavender colors.



#48: The Transformers #21 - "Aerialbots over America!"
Herb Trimpe

MarvelUS-21.jpg


I really dig the vertical layout here, with the Aerialbots descending almost vertically from above while the coneheads are fanned out along the ground firing straight up. A good role reversal too (usually it's the flying 'Cons firing down at the ground-bound Autobots) which also helps sell the concept of the Aerialbots being something different. Honestly, in terms of layout alone, this would probably be top 10 for me.

Unfortunately, it's got a few quibbles that keep me from ranking it higher. The coloring job isn't too hot, with all three Seekers having a lot of noticeable errors, and Fireflight lacking all his red. The latter is especially a bummer because all the white Aerialbots fail to stand out against the white sky - I wonder if a blue (or other color) sky would've made things pop a lot more. There's also a few parts that just look shoddy, like the weird perspective on Fireflight and Air Raid, or the human under Thrust looking like he was composited in afterwards.



#47: The Transformers #28 - "Mechanical Difficulties!"
Ian Akin

MarvelUS-28.jpg


The highest-ranked of Ian Akin's covers (pencils-wise). I like the dynamism here of the tree trunk, even if the Mechanic himself is so small as to be easily overlooked at first. Some of the coloring choices are off (such as Blaster's white gloves and Goldbug's blue helmet, which matches the toy but was gold in the comic) but I do otherwise like it, especially the cyan blue sky at the top.



#46: Transformers: Generation 2 #3 - "Primal Fear!"
Derek Yaniger

MarvelUSG2-03.jpg


Speaking of colors, I absolutely adore the teal background here. In general, Yaniger usually used a color fill for his backgrounds, with some choices that really popped and stood out, at least to me. I also really like the way Optimus is drawn here. I'm decidedly cooler on Jhiaxus, who looks like he's in terrible pain and probably near-death - bit of overkill, I'd say (especially to have your main villain on the ropes in issue three!) While it's a striking image, I think it fails to sell the story concept inside, which is that the two sides end up fighting on a planet harboring an organism causes a berserker rage. The cover text ("killing frenzy!") represents this, but Optimus just looks steely determined and Jhiaxus looks horrified. Still, the overall vibe is definitely peak G2.
 

Magnusblitz

Active member
Citizen
#45: Transformers: Generation 2 #9 - "Swarm"
Derek Yaniger

MarvelUSG2-09.jpg


Each G2 artist drew the Swarm somewhat differently - Manny Galan tended to draw it as a dark tendril-y blob (usually grey or dark purple with black dashes), appearing quite substantially physical. Geoff Senior drew it as a more wispy, singular color (or yellow/red in Jhiaxus' death scene). Yaniger only ever got to draw it on his covers, and here it has a much more aerosol appearance, usually just done with negative coloring as above. I think for the cover art, it works decently enough (especially given how Yaniger liked to color his backgrounds as discussed above), but I do wonder how it would've looked on the interior art.

This is a decent enough cover (though the guy in the forefront's weird three-fingered hand freaks me out). But what I really like most of all is the color balance, with nicely contrasting mustardy yellows against the bright teal of the Cybertronian troops, rounded out by a nice purple in the title.



#44: Transformers: Generation 2 #11 - "Dark Shadows!"
Derek Yaniger

MarvelUSG2-11.jpg


Continuing on with the mini run of G2 covers here. Yaniger chose to essentially draw Warworld-Starscream as the background, which is an interesting choice that I think works well. I certainly prefer it to the "Starscream just big" interior artwork we get from Galan, which feels a bit goofy to me. And weirdly, I don't think I've ever noticed just how large Starscream's jaw is in this picture until just now. The word bubble's a bit awkward though, especially with those trademark symbols.



#43: The Transformers #39 - "The Desert Island of Space!"
José Delbo, Dave Hunt

MarvelUS-39.jpg


It's kinda silly if you stop and think about it too hard (an island palm tree missile in space?) but I'm still entertained by Fort Max getting slagged, even the pun.



#42: The Transformers #65 - "Dark Creation"
Bill Sienkiewicz

MarvelUS-65.jpg


One of the two covers from Sienkiewicz (the other being #1, which you probably couldn't guess from comparing the styles), this rounds out the Matrix Quest covers, with this one being an Alien homage. The Matrixspawn creature is pretty damn cool, and definitely something different for a Transformers book. I'm not quite sure how I feel about the use of Grimlock's Pretender shell here, though - on one hand, it allows him to better show his sheer terror; on the other hand, it also doesn't really say 'Transformers' to me.



#41: The Transformers #42 - "People Power!"
José Delbo, Dave Hunt

MarvelUS-42.jpg


This one could be lower (hello, miscolored Powermasters) but it gets bonus points from me for delivering on selling the glorious (first) return of Optimus Prime in his new body. Yes, he technically first showed up alive back in #40, but he was still convinced he was a video game character at that point, and this is his real return to form. Delbo puts him front and center as he should, draws him pretty well (though some of those shapes on his crotch are threatening to split apart) and even shows off his Powermaster gimmick to boot. C'mon kids, go get your parents to take you to the store and buy Powermaster Optimus Prime right now!
 

LBD "Nytetrayn"

Broke the Matrix
Staff member
Council of Elders
Citizen
I always wondered if Hi-Q was leaping down from Optimus's chest, or leaping up on to it.

Visually, it looks to me like the former. Which... well, doesn't seem like a great idea in the middle of battle...?
 

Magnusblitz

Active member
Citizen
#40: The Transformers #74 - "The Void!"
Andrew Wildman

MarvelUS-74.jpg


One thing that can definitely be appreciated with Wildman is that there's always going to be an attention to detail, and here it can be seen in all the little ways Optimus and Scorponok are being damaged (Scorponok's antennae is an especially good example, as Wildman was quite consistent in carrying it over issue to issue). The color contrast is nice too between the red/blue Optimus, green/purple Scorponok, and the yellow Unicron cultists. I do think something could've been done to jazz up the background a bit though, but it's a solid cover.



#39: The Transformers #72 - "...All This and Civil War 2"
Andrew Wildman

MarvelUS-72.jpg


Another Wildman fight scene, this time with Scorpy beating up Shockwave. See what I mentioned about the antennae? Although Shockwave is a bit pale here, this one edges out #74 for me by giving a sense of location by having them standing in the water and the nice sunset-colored skyline behind.



#38: The Transformers #16 - "Plight of the Bumblebee!"

Herb Trimpe

MarvelUS-16.jpg


The jump in art styles feels a bit jarring after two Wildman covers eh? This one definitely has that more old-school flavor (and the classic "shooting towards the reader" angle). It's a little wonky and the perspective is a bit weird, but I appreciate that all the characters are identifiable and properly colored, and it does give a real sense of Bumblebee being in trouble... though, this issue came out in January 1986, so little did we know we were still a year out from Bumblebee being in real trouble. But more on that later...



#37: The Transformers #29 - "Crater Critters"
Bob Budiansky, Ian Akin, Brian Garvey

MarvelUS-29.jpg


Another Budiansky cover continuing the trend of not needing to draw many actual Transformers, as all we get here is Blaster's big noggin being assaulted by a bunch of Scraplet gremlins. It's a creative angle, and does a good job of showing off the difference in scale with the Scraplets, not to mention the amount of care that went into giving each Scraplet a unique appearance and coloring. Could've done without the Triple Changers bubble in the corner, though I almost wonder if something like that was contractually obligated by Hasbro.



#36: The Transformers #53 - "Recipe for Disaster!"
Jim Lee

MarvelUS-53.jpg


This was a really hard cover to rank - I know some people love it, and others might argue it belongs near the bottom. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge fan of Jim Lee (especially on X-Men), but I think the question of "how much sex appeal is appropriate" probably has a different answer between the context of spandex superhero stories and giant alien robot stories. Certainly up for debate though.

So yeah, the First One looks great in classic Jim Lee style, but Cloudburst decidedly less so, with a missing arm and some weird angles going on in his torso. But you're probably not buying this comic for Cloudburst are you?
 

LBD "Nytetrayn"

Broke the Matrix
Staff member
Council of Elders
Citizen
#37: The Transformers #29 - "Crater Critters"
Bob Budiansky, Ian Akin, Brian Garvey

MarvelUS-29.jpg


Another Budiansky cover continuing the trend of not needing to draw many actual Transformers, as all we get here is Blaster's big noggin being assaulted by a bunch of Scraplet gremlins. It's a creative angle, and does a good job of showing off the difference in scale with the Scraplets, not to mention the amount of care that went into giving each Scraplet a unique appearance and coloring. Could've done without the Triple Changers bubble in the corner, though I almost wonder if something like that was contractually obligated by Hasbro.

Ah, my first issue.

Well, I technically had a few issues from the early teens before this, but this was the one that really got me started.

Hasbro really missed a trick by not releasing Scraplet toys in the vein of M.U.S.C.L.E. or something.

Perhaps even more so now, by homogenizing them into a singular design.

But you're probably not buying this comic for Cloudburst are you?

I mean, at the time...?
 

Magnusblitz

Active member
Citizen
#35: The Transformers #76 - "Still Life!"
Andrew Wildman

MarvelUS-76.jpg


Great composition here, with the demonic primordial looming behind the frozen Grimlock (even has some hellfire behind him). This also might be the coolest Sludge has ever looked with the aviator sunglasses look. The Optimus corpse in the corner box is a bit edgy but I think it works. The cover is a bit on the busy side, probably because it's trying to convey Grimlock being frozen (a bit hard in a single image) and there's some slight weirdness in the coloring (such as Grimlock's legs being different from his arms) but I dig it.



#34: G.I. Joe and the Transformers #3 - "Ashes, Ashes..."
Al Milgrom

JoeTF3.jpg


Floating disembodied heads always run the risk of looking a bit goofball to me, but I really like the concept of having Shockwave threatening the Earth while everyone looks on with varying degrees of shock (Dirge and Omega Supreme's stoic looks especially fit). It's a cool enough idea to excuse that Shockwave has two hands, as the picture wouldn't really work with the one gun hand.



#33: The Transformers #41 - "Totaled!"
José Delbo, Dave Hunt

MarvelUS-41.jpg


Delbo gets a lot of guff, but I gotta say hats off to this one, taking the time to fit in so many characters into the giant melee (and this is in addition to all the group shots inside the issue itself!) For a book that's meant To Sell Toys, it's especially appropriate. It's not perfect - some of the characters fit together wonky (such as the fliers), scale is a bit off and some folks are miscolored - but it's still a great scene. And hats off to the editor or whomever decided to let the art stand on its own without any sort of text covering it up.



#32: Transformers: Generation 2 #6 - "The Gathering Darkness"
Derek Yaniger

MarvelUSG2-06.jpg


A pretty cool John Wick-style (I'm sure the pose predates that, I just can't think of another example) shot of Optimus surrounded by a whooole lotta guns, which is perfect for Yaniger, who probably had more fun detailing all those guns than the guys holding em. I also like that everyone got individually colored (you just know they'd have been block colored in the Yomtov days), although the Seeker doesn't seem to be anyone identifiable.


#31: Transformers: Generation 2 #2 - "All or Nothing!"
Derek Yaniger

MarvelUSG2-02.jpg


This one holds a special place for me as the first Transformers comic I ever got - I was a 90's kid growing up on the repeats (and VHS tapes) of the original cartoon, and my dad saw this one the shelf one day and decided to bring it home for me. Needless to say, I was very confused (why is Megatron a green tank? Who the hell is Fort Max? Where is the ax he's getting?) but I was also immediately hooked by the glorious 90's EXTREEEEMEness of it all.
 


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