Four million years ago, they came from Cybertron, a world composed entirely of machinery... a world torn by an age-old war between the heroic Autobots and the evil Decepticons. These incredibly powerful living robots, capable of converting themselves into land and air vehicles, weapons and other mechanical forms, continue their conflict here on Earth. They are...THE TRANSFORMERS
— Introductory blurb of the US comic
As well as the Transformers cartoon, there was at the same time a comic published by Marvel Comics. It is sometimes stated that the comic came before the cartoon; in truth, both went into production at the same time, though the first issue of the comic was released some time before the first episode of the cartoon.The comic was initially set in the main Marvel Universe, but soon moved to a separate Alternate Universe along with the G.I. Joe comic to prevent Executive Meddling from Hasbro interfering with Marvel's own characters. Most of the early issues were written by Bob Budiansky; he and his successor, Simon Furman, would end up having more influence on the overall Transformers mythos than anyone else.In America, the comic was originally a four-issue limited series written by Jim Salicrup and published bi-monthly. When it became an ongoing series, it was printed monthly and written by Budiansky. It was printed on higher-quality paper than most other comics, and as a result was also more expensive. While it used the same characters, setting, and premise as the cartoon, it told a significantly different set of stories. In particular, while the Transformers in the cartoon were built by Quintessons, in the comic, they originally arose from "naturally-evolving gears and pulleys." This was later Retconned into the Transformers being created by the god Primus, a part of canon later cartoon series adopted.In the UK, the comic was published weekly for most of its run, and the American comics were commonly split in two in order to stretch the material. To make up for the dramatically shortened length, the UK comic also featured original material written by Simon Furman in the gaps between the American issues. These stories usually fit in with the American continuity, albeit with occasional twisting. After the movie, Furman started using the future cast in his stories, both the make Hasbro happy and to avoid stepping on Budiansky's toes. Each issue also featured a backup story to increase the page count; these ranged from the sensible (Iron Man, Action Force) to the silly (Planet Terry). Later on, after the comic went fortnightly, they were replaced by new Transformers material written by Furman; these were in colour at first, though later shifted to black and white as a cost-saving measure.In addition, 1987 brought the new Headmaster and Targetmaster toys. Since this resulted in the appearance of a large number of toys with two gimmicks between them, Budiansky wrote a four-issue spinoff entitled Transformers: Headmasters (not to be confused with the Transformers Headmastersanime), which introduced all the new characters as arrivals on the planet Nebulos. This series ended with the characters leaving Nebulos for Earth, to arrive in US issue 38 (UK 156). In the UK, it was reprinted in 16 parts as the backup strip in the main comic during the leadup.After Budiansky suffered Creator Breakdown as a result of trying to keep Hasbro happy, Furman was brought on to write both the US and UK comics. His focus on story arcs and Character Development was considered the high point of the comic's run; however, due to a communications breakdown, the UK comics at this point drifted out of sync with the US publication. Furman initially tried to tie his backup stories more closely to the main action, but Marvel UK frequently reprinted a classic story without warning, which resulted in the backup strip referencing events that had yet to occur in the main strip. As a result, Furman said "screw this" and simply turned the backup strip into a series of light-hearted romps that never even tried to maintain continuity with the US series.It finally ended after 80 issues in America (September, 1984-July, 1991) or 332 in Britain (September, 1984-January, 1992) due to declining interest in Transformers, though Marvel would later publish the short-lived Generation 2 comic as a sequel. Transformers: Classics is an alternate sequel by Fun Publications, set in an Alternate Timeline ignoring the events of Generation 2.Following what they've done with the Marvel continuity of the G.I. Joe comics, IDW Publishing announced the relaunch of the Marvel Transformers continuity under the title Transformers: Regeneration One, picking up 21 years after issue 80. Furman has returned to write the series, along with artists Andrew Wildman and Stephen Baskerville (who worked with Furman to produce most of the final issues of the Marvel US series, as well as numerous UK stories). A preview issue, 80.5, was distributed on Free Comic Book Day 2012, while the series proper (starting with issue 81) launched in July 2012. This series also ignores much Generation 2, though Furman has teased that elements from that series will still show up. Aside from the free issue, the series is slated for 20 issues, to conclude with issue #100.Due to a scheduling issue, Guido Guidi (who has been providing the "B" covers) has taken over Regeneration One art duties for Wildman on issues 93-99. In addition, an issue 0 was released betewen issues 94 and 95, exploring some of the backstory and linking some threads together. The special issue also featured several artists depicting different time periods.
The Marvel series provides examples of:
A Day in the Limelight: Really, you'd be better off trying to find chapters that are not this, given the toy-advertising nature of the comic...
AlasPoorVillain: Scorponok, or more accurately, Lord Zarak. After angsting over whether or not he deserved to continue as Decepticon leader, feeling that he's only been masquerading as Scorponok all this time, he suddenly finds himself having to suck it up and help Optimus Prime rally against Unicron. He is blasted by the Chaos Bringer while ripping open Unicron's leg relentlessly alone amidst a sea of dead Transformers, and dies asking Prime is he did good. His death is ultimately what gives Optimus the strength to purify the Matrix and destroy Unicron.
Parodied ruthlessly by Furman. Starscream enacts the classic scene with the exact line mockingly in Victory, while another parody is made on a cover of Generation 2 this time Megatron carrying Bludgeon's head. In this case, however, Megatron does regret killing Bludgeon, considering him a worthy leader.
To a small extent Thunderwing, who, while a ruthless bastard, gets a tragic end when possessed by the Matrix. He regains his clarity and control of his mind briefly and painfully after remorselessly realising he had blasted his own Decepticon soldier- only for Prime to ruin it by bashing his face in and causing him to go berserk and be in the Matrix's thrall forever.
The "Rythyms of Darkness!" timeline from issue 67. Cybertron is gone, there's only a handful of Autobots left on Earth, and the corpse of Rodimus Prime is strung up between what's left of the Twin Towers. And it doesn't help that Galvatron is all too willing to exterminate his own troops for screwing up; just ask Cyclonus.
Despite its small death count, On the Edge of Extinction is actually truer to the spirit of the trope, since all characters, regardless of whether they were new toys, or key characters in the saga, could die. Heck, the two main characters (Optimus and Scorponok) bit the dust.
Regeneration One is definitely running with this trope. Oh, hello, Springer! Welcome to this continuity at last; now let's see your Ironhideimpression! And then there was Megatron's death. Welcome back, Scorponok! Nice new body, Grimlock! Hope you enjoy your death plummet into the Sonic Canyons together! Hey, look, it's Arcee! Oh, wait, already a corpse on Junkion. Holy hell.
Though it seems Grimlock was saved by Primus. Given that Grimlock is Simon Furman's favorite, you just had to know he wasn't going to die that easily.
Apocalypse How: Bludgeon apparently seeks Species Extinction on Klo. Generation 2 sees Societal Disruption on Earth at minimum, while Regeneration One sees Megatron carry it out to Species Extinction levels, with the threat of achieveing Total Extinction.
Arc Villain: Regeneration One has had Megatron for the first arc, and Scorponok for the second. Bludgeon (with help from Soundwave) is the primary foe in the third arc, with Galvatron acting as a wildcard. It's also been heavily implied that Unicron will return for the final arc.
Geoff Senior- The best-remembered artist in the whole run. At first, in Crisis of Command his art, while already head and shoulders over most of his peers, was not yet fully-developed and was not quite as unique and dynamic. In Victory, his art starts getting more awesome/stylized, with many of his visuals tics becoming more prominent and the signcature Senior side shot becoming more prevalent. The US run saw yet another art shift to a yet more refined, Mignola-esque style. His work in G2 was again very detailed, however, but this was more to fit in with Yaniger.
Andrew Wildman didn't really undergo art evolution, but when Baskerville started inking his stuff, it really came into its own.
Nel Yomtov never really cut down in block coloring (a lost art, mind you), but he started getting better at block coloring characters into color schemes that clashed less with the background, and overall bettered his coloring techniques.
Wildman and Senior gave the US comic a much needed shake-up in the art department with their unique, dynamic, refined art styles when they came in with Furman.
In the UK comic, the Transformers became drawn in an overall more organic/life-like manner over time, initially being very toy-based and emotionless.
Art Shift: Most nortably, the UK comic shift from gorgeous hand-painted colors to the printing method more akin to those in the US, then black and white.
Kids in the UK st the time would be treated to constant art shifts as they got US stories between UK ones.
Ascended Extra: Xaaron, who even managed to cross the Atlantic to the US and remain a key character.
Asskicking Equals Authority: Most of the leaders of either faction are much stronger than their underlings. Often, Optimus, Megatron, Galvatron etc would be shown as capable of taking apart the entire armies of the opposing force.
Grimlock, most definitely.
Notable subversions in Xaaron for the Autobots and Ratbat for the Decepticons.
As You Know: Especiallly egregious in Furman's UK comics, which felt the need for the characters to remind the kids what happened the previous weeks.
Ax-Crazy: While several Decepticons could certainly fit this bill, special mention goes out to Megatron. In the wake of Optimus Prime's death-from-video-game, Megs is so obsessed with not having personally destroyed his foe that he crushes Brawl's head in for trying to console him. And when Brawl, the most Ax-Crazy of the Combaticons, is trying to be the voice of reason, you know Megatron has lost it.
Badass: Ooh, plenty. Would go into more detail if there was a whole page dedicated for this.
Optimus, obviously. Even if he does come off as a moron in Afterdeath. Once he becomes a Powermaster, he takes on whole new levels of badassery.
Megatron is initially NOT this early on, getting his cranial unit handed to him by Shockwave after the latter salvaged victory for the Decepticons. He does come back from poundings by the Dinobots and Omega Supreme, though, to retake command of the Decepticons, and even distracted by Optimus Prime's death, was not only able to survive the Predacons, but take down Predaking with one shot. After that, though, once he regains his senses, he drops a level or two, getting owned by Ratchet (again), and barely holding his own against Galvatron II.
Then in G2, he takes several levels in badass, and becomes an incredibly dangerous and powerful adversary.
Blaster. In the cartoon he's basically a "cool dude" but not much else. Here he takes down a gestalt, destroys Straxus and drives Galvatron off the slippery slope.
And then there's UK Galvatron. He basically lets the Autobots unload enough firepower to destroy a small city and then just stands there laughing madly. There are many stories which basically consist mostly of him going somewhere, meeting a shitload of foes and leaving a lot of kicked asses in his wake.
And Death's Head. He takes down the extremely powerful Cyclonus and Scourge with ease- Several times, kills Shockwave, does very well against Galvatron, and even fights off Unicron's mind control.
He also killed Bumblebee, traumatising many young British boys.
Like Megatron, Scorponok began as a wuss who was more interested in watching Autobots get humilated in wrestling shows than, you know, allowing for progression of the Decepticons. Then he grows a pair in the latter era of Marvel and finally becomes a respectable character who beats down Shockwave, and gets a Dying Moment of Awesome against Unicron.
The original, pre-Headmaster Scorponok, was a pretty ruthless warrior. His Nebulan Headmaster partner, Lord Zarak, wasn't, and had to learn through his experiences on Earth. In Regeneration One, the reborn Scorponok noted that Zarak didn't accept nearly as much of Scorponok's personality as he had of the Nebulan's.
Badass Bookworm: Shockwave is a calculating scientist who will kick your ass. The Dinobots learnt it the hard way.
Badass Normal: Ratchet. He bests Megatron twice despite being a weak, non-combat-ready medic through wits and force of will, and saves all the Autobots from Shockwave (save for Optimus Prime).
Also, Nightbeat, who's a detective who defeats the incredibly powerful Thunderwing twice (and once he was Matrix powered!) and the planet-destroying Deathbringer, also matrix-powered. For the latter he literally talked him to death.
And Xaaron, who leads the autobot resistance of Cybertron to great efficiency, without an ounce of fighting skill.
A villainous example is Ratbat, one of the weakest Decepticons who still manages to become leader, boss Shockwave around and come extremely close to total victory for the Decepticons.
Bad Boss: Grimlock during his first run as Autobot commander. He had no concern for humans, and was more concerned with punishing Blaster and Goldbug than stopping the Decepticons. He basically gave Shockwave and Ratbat free reign until Fortress Maximus arrived on Earth; even then, Fort Max had to worry about the Shockwave/Ratbat faction and the Scorponok faction on his own!
Prowl thought Grimlock was this at first in his second stint, as Grimlock didn't show any interest in preserving the Autobot-Decepticon alliance post-Unicron, but Grimlock knew the Decepticons weren't going to keep the peace either.
Bad Future: "Rhythms of Darkness!", written in 1989 (cover date April 1990), set in a 2009 where Unicron has consumed Cybertron, and Galvatron rules North America, and is in the process of getting the humans to waste their remaining weapons so he can complete his conquest of Earth.
BFG: Megatron obviously. Galvatron and Shockwave are equally notable examples. And Omega Supreme's left arm is a BFG.
Big Bad: Constantly changing. Megatron only leads the Decepticons for a small part of the comic's run; Shockwave, Scorponok, Soundwave (in the UK series), and even Ratbat had noticeably longer terms.
Galvatron is the Big Bad in Marvel UK's prime, dominating several stories. Jhiaxus is the Big Bad of the G2 Run.
If you split the comics into arcs (abit nebulous in the US, but the UK comic was neatly split into various story arcs), there is usually one clear Big Bad per storyline.
Transformers #1-4 (The Transformers) - Megatron
Tranformers #5-12 (The New Order)- Shockwave
Transformers #14-25(Shockwave and Megatron's co-leadership)- Megatron/Shockwave
Transformers #17-18 (Return to Cybertron)- Straxus
Transformers #26-41 (Blaster and Goldbug desert)- Ratbat (although arguably also Grimlock)
Transformers Headmasters 4-parter and #38 (The Headmasters Saga)- Scorponok
Transformers #42- 46 (Random hijinks)- Scorponok
Transformers #47-50 (The Underbase Saga)- Starscream
#278-#289 (Transformers: Earthforce- End of the Road)- Starscream/Soundwave
Another Time and Place!- Bludgeon
Big Bad Duumvirate- Megatron and Shockwave from US #14-19, operating separately until #19, at which point Shockwave is relegated to The Dragon; Shockwave and Ratbat from #31-#39; Ratbat and Scorponok after that, up to #50.
Bigger Bad: Unicron, obviously, in both Legacy of Unicron and Issues 60-75 of the Marvel Run. In fact, Simon Furman's Marvel run was what established Unicron as more than simply a big robot or worse still, a fish-monkey's pet.
Liege Maximo in the G2 comics
Blatant Lies: In #103 of the UK run, a 'valiant' Deception (Octane,) back on Cybertron tells his superior, Straxus, of how he bravely stood up to the combined might of Optimus Prime (stranded there at the time,) and Ultra Magnus, when they attacked a slave-labor camp... except that in reality, he turned tail and fled soon as he was able. Straxus, being the intelligent Brain in a Jar that he is, (or rather, disembodied head in a jar,) doesn't believe a word of it, and easily infers what really went on.
Brick Joke: Issue 80, the final one of the US run, featured the legend "#80 in a four-issue limited series" above the title, referencing the series' origin as a mini-series that was expanded into an ongoing monthly title.note It was unusual for Marvel, as at the time The Transformers became an ongoing, ongoing series that were spawned from limited series usually restarted the numbering. The ongoing spinoffs, though, often occurred months after the original miniseries ended, while The Transformers #5 came out one month after #4. By the time #80 came out, Marvel wasn't using that style of legend for their miniseries anymore, but the creative team brought it back anyway.
First in Crisis of Command, where he wipes out the entire Decepticon army to save Bumblebee.
Also Time Wars when he escapes Limbo to battle Galvatron after all else have fallen.
Also when he saves Hot Rod and the Autobots from the malfunctioning Guardian Unit.
Ultra Magnus in Target: 2006.
Bond Villain Stupidity: Most of the Decepticon leaders at one point or another, but a rogue autobot, Flame is the one most played straight, since he really has no reason to leave Xaaron and the Wreckers alive.
Bring It: Galvatron to Hook, Line and Sinker in Primus' chamber.
A Savage Circle is more or less this, with the Ark once more falling to Earth, entombing all its occupants once more.
Only for the UK readers- the end of the issue right before the proper introduction of Ratchet (The Lesser of Two Evils in the US) has the blurb 'The Last Autobot?' (Ratchet, obviously). At the end of 'A Savage Circle', where Ratchet exits, stage right, we are treated to a blurb telling us the next issue is called 'The Last Autobot!'.
In the first issue, an offhand mention is given to Megatron's desire to turn Cybertron into a spacecraft and never mentioned again. 150+ issues in the UK later and its the central plot of the City of Fear storyline.
Cerebus Syndrome- Largely averted in the UK stories. In the US stories however, Furman's arrival marks the entrance of darker, more mature storylines.
G2 is definitely this even to the original US run.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: Ultra Magnus in the UK comics. He's left behind on Cybertron and never seen or mentioned again, not even when the characters return there. (The post-movie version of Magnus may well have had a bridge dropped on him, since he is last seen being carried away injured after having a trio of Decepticons tear into him, but he isn't mentioned again either so it's hard to be sure.)
Enemy Civil War: At various points, there has been Megatron vs Shockwave, Shockwave vs Ratbat, Ratbat vs Scorponok, Scorponok vs Shockwave again, Scorponok vs Megatron, and Scorponok vs Megatron vs Galvatron.
Enemy Mine: In several UK stories, Autobots and Decepticons must join forces against a greater threat, such as Flame and Unicron. The US series saw them join forces against Starscream in the Underbase saga.
A particularly unique example is in Time Wars where the Autobots and Decepticons of two eras band together to stop the Con's own leaders- Galvatron and Megatron.
Enemy Within: Megatron finds the strength to face and defeat his demons in the form of Straxus in Salvage!. Then it is retconned away. For shame, Furman.
Executive Meddling: The reason female Transformers didn't appear from the very start. Budiansky was ready willing and able, but the Hasbro execs thought there shouldn't be girls among "toys for boys" in a comic book "for boys". (Human female characters were obviously exempt from this reasoning).
Gladiator Games: Popular on Cybertron before the Decepticon uprising. Megatron himself started off as a gladiator.
Ultra Magnus becomes an unwilling participant of one in Deadly Games
In The Fall and Rise of the Decepticon Empire, Megatron is subjected to this by the Decepticon Tirumvirate...only to rile the audiences in his favor and have them blow the Tirumvirate's heads off.
Godzilla Threshold: After Optimus mysteriously vanishes, three nigh-invincible Decepticons turn up and kick everyone's ass, with one of them (ole' Galvy) just literally laughing off the Autobots' full prowess, Ironhide despairs enough for him to free Megatron and ask for his leadership to stop the 2006 Decepticons.
Used again in the Unicron Saga, with Prime surrendering to the 'cons to convince them to work with him to defeat Unicron.
And also in Time Wars.
And in G2.
And in Space Pirates. Funnily enough all of these are written by Simon Furman.
Grievous Harm with a Body- Apeface incapacitates Rampage with his arm. Sounds normal? Well, mind you, that arm had been recently ripped off by Rampage...
Galvatron incapacitates Kup and Blurr for several issues by throwing Magnus at them.
The Grim Reaper: Deathbringers are a unique variant, who basically euthanize planets which are already dying.
Honor Before Reason: Optimus Prime asks a human to destroy him because he endangered bystanders in a video game fight against the Decepticons... even though Megatron was cheating at the time. It Makes Sense in Context, but Optimus' action was still stupid.
Averted in the Ratchet/Megatron two parter Warrior School/Repeat Performances'', in which the two make a deal, with Ratchet promising to defeat Shockwave if Megatron frees the autobots. Despite both making an oath, Ratchet knows Megatron will betray him, so he frees the Dinobots and sets a trap for him instead.
Gut Punch: Xaaron's death in On the Edge of Extinction! indicates that yes, major characters can and will die.
Shockwave's death in the Legacy of Unicron showed that the gloves were off- in a future timeline, noone was safe.
The Heartless: The Limbo creatures in both G2 and Resurrection! feed off negative emotions and subject their victims to death Freddy-Krueger style in their dreams.
Hero Antagonist: The Wreckers and Ultra Magnus in Prey!, who believe that the real Optimus is a Decepticon impersonator due to bad intel.
Hopeless War: The entire story, essentially, and the tragedy of the Autobot-Decepticon war (well summd up by Soundwave's Killing Joke homage in Space Spirates) Also, the key idea behind the first half of G2, the fist issue of which and also the Marvel UK future timeline where we learn the only 2 outcomes to the war are either its eternal conitnuation or self-destruction of both races.
Hope Spot: Various through the Wanted: Galvatron arc, first with Galvatron's temporary defeat at Magnus' hands, then his temporary KO after Rodimus Prime frying him with his own siphon's power. Problem is, Galvy is easy to knock down but taking him out is a whole 'nother story....
Then when they supposedly finally get him back to the future, he is revealed a few panels later to have succeeded to interefering with the time travel device such that it would not affect him...
The greatest one, however is easily the the Autobots' victory at the end of the first mini...only for them to be obliterated by Shockwave.
In a similar vein, the ending of the first issue of Matrix Quest, Birds of Prey!, where Nightbeat and his team restores Pzazz before being blasted in the back by the Decepticons.
In Dark Creation, after getting their asses thrashed, it appears that Bumblebee finally manages to retrieve the Matrix while Thunderwing is distracted in combat with the Matrix-spawn creature, and the issue even appears to end with Optimus welcoming his warriors home....only to find out Thunderwing had managed to recapture the Matrix and had hijacked the Autobots' ship.
Human Aliens: The Nebulans even refer to themselves as humans a few times.
Mechanical Evolution: Issue 1 makes an offhand mention about Transformers evolving from naturally-occurring simple machines.
Mental World: Used more frequently than you would expect from a series about robots. First used in Resurrection!, although this is influenced by Limbo beings. Next utilised in Salvage, where Megatron engages in (what should have been) his final battle against Straxus.
Mexican Standoff: Galvatron and Rodimus have a brief one in the UK Story Fire on High. Roddy wins, but it does little more than annoy Galvatron.
Mind Screw: With the Decepticon leader already losing his head, Shockwave uses the idea that Optimus may still live to push Megatron over the edge and kill himself.
Misfit Mobilization Moment: Happens in issue #79. Spike Witwicky, mentally fused with the Autobot Fortress Maximus, goes to Canada to stop a crazed, rampaging Galvatron. The Misfit Mobilization Moment occurs when the war-weary Spike accepts his fate and coordinates with Fortress Maximus to win the fight.
Also the sudden arrival of Thunderwing while the Autobots are celebrating Pzazz's ressurection.
Between Scorponok's epic last stand against Unicron and his heartwrenching death is a comedy sequence where Grimlock punches Unicron across the face with the Ark and Prowl takes the piss out of him before Grimmy takes the piss out of Wheeljack
Mythology Gag: A pretty elaborate one. In the early stages of planning the toyline, Swoop was to be called Divebomb. Later, when the Predacons were introduced, the flying one was called Divebomb. Furman used this coincidence to give them a backstory - Swoop was originally called Divebomb, but was defeated by a Decepticon who rubbed salt into the wound by stealing his name. Swoop is still bitter about it.
Salicrup's offhand mention in the first issue of the Transformers evolving from naturally-occurring wheels, levers, and pulleys in issue 1 is replaced by a story about them being created by Primus during Furman's run.
When Simon Furman reintroduced Megatron to the US series, he concocted a story about how he was blasted back to Cybertron at the end of "Gone But Not Forgotten!"; since this conflicted with established continuity, a short UK story established that the Megatron seen in "Ancient Relics!" and "Time Wars!" was actually a clone with Straxus' mind who thought he was Megatron.
You Keep Using That Word: The comic has a character named Emirate Xaaron. An emirate is not a person, but a place that is ruled by an emir. (No, Xaaron's not one of the "big enough to be a Genius Loci" bots.)
You're Insane!: UK Issue #117; Galvatorn is about to siphon all the energy of a soon-to-erupt volcano and, instead of offing Ultra Magnus when he had the chance, drags his beaten arse to the volcano, shows him his fancy energy-stealing device, and then gloats about it. Ultra Magnus has this to say: "You're insane. Completely and utterly insane!"