Comics Prehistory: Transformers #5

Transformers 5Okay, so I cheated a bit with my last post and simply reblogged a very old post about Superman: The Secret Years, but in rereading that old post, I saw the very roots of this series as well as “Origin Story” itself–three of those four issues came from Amazing Comics, and that started me on the road to eventually becoming a collector because I knew exactly where I could get any comic at any time.  Not only that, but I had followed an entire series from beginning to end, which was a big deal when I was seven.

On the day in March 1985 when I bought Superman: The Secret Years #4, which was a few weeks after the issue had hit the stands, I also bought Transformers #5.  My friend Christ had come over to my house and for some reason, my dad decided to take us to the comic book store.  I grabbed the Superman book while he grad a comic that he said had “Superman’s dad” in it that I think was Crisis on Infinite Earths #3; we both, however, saw Shockwave on the cover of Transformers #5 standing in front of the phrase “Are All Dead,” which he had carved into a wall and almost immediately grabbed a copy.  In fact, I think I remember being slightly scared of that cover and even to this day I think there is something ominous about it.

Plus, Shockwave was one of the toys that had recently been introduced along with the autobot Jetfire, which was and still is my favorite-looking Transformers toy (mainly because it was modeled after the Valkyrie fighter from Robotech).  They had shared a commercial and in our minds, that made them big.

Unknown to us at the time, in terms of The Transformers comic book, Shockwave was big–at the end of issue #4 (the last issue of what was then a four-issue miniseries), with the Autobots on the verge of a major victory, Shockwave shows up on Earth and just blasts everyone who is left standing completely to hell.  When issue #5 opens, he is watching The Honeymooners (and the opening of Ed asking “What’sa matter, Ralphie Boy?” and Ralph saying “Homina homina homina” cracked the two of us up) among other shows, including a news broadcast about an offshore oil rig, and he decides that Earth will be easy to conquer.  And by the way, the opening splash page, which is drawn by Alan Kupperberg, is incredible.

Then, we get an image scarier than the cover–a two-page splash of Shockwave walking under the seemingly dead bodies of the Autobots.  Moreover, we see him reviving and repairing his fellow Decepticons and telling Megatron–who is also under repair–that he is going to lead the group now, especially since Megatron’s rather incompetent excuse for leadership is what got them all there to begin with.

It’s a dynamic that I was unfamiliar with, to be honest.  I had been watching the cartoon every day after school and if you had asked me to name the Decepticon most likely to pose a threat to Megatron, I would say that probably would have been Starscream and not Shockwave.  But the comic and the cartoon had a lot of difference in continuities, which is something I would discover years later when I collected the comics.

There isn’t much else to this issue.  Spike and Buster find the one surviving Autobot, Ratchet, and begin to work toward helping the good guys get back to life, and the next issue’s main event, which is a fight between Megatron and Shockwave in one of those classic, “AND ONLY ONE SHALL LEAD!” Marvel cover moments.  But I think it is probably one of the most important issues of the series.  This was the first issue of the ongoing comic book (and if this were today, it would have been a new issue #1), so this storyline was going to be the big test of whether or not The Transformers could sustain a following.  Bob Budianscky provides a transition piece that is full of tension and leaves you wanting action, but also complicates the world even further.  It was only because of my sporadic comics buying habits, however, that I wouldn’t get issue #6, or any other Transformers comic book until 1987.

Next Time:  Superman #410

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