TV Review: The Transformers – Original Miniseries & Seasons 1 & 2 (1984-1986)

Also known as: Transformers: Generation 1, Transformers G1 (informal titles)
Release Date: September 17th, 1984 – January 9th, 1986
Directed by: various
Written by: various
Based on: Transformers by Hasbro and Takara Tomy
Music by: Johnny Douglas, Robert J. Walsh
Cast (voices): Peter Cullen, Frank Welker, Chris Latta, Michael Bell, Corey Burton, John Stephenson, Jack Angel, Casey Kasem, Scatman Crothers, Charlie Adler

Hasbro, Sunbow Productions, Marvel, Toei, AKOM, Claster Television, 65 Episodes, 22 Minutes (per episode)

Review:

“Sometimes even the wisest of man or machine can make an error.” – Optimus Prime

*Written in 2015.

The original Transformers television series, simply called The Transformers and now commonly referred to as Transformers G1 (for Generation One) was a sister show to Marvel/SunBow’s G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero.

It had the same art style, the same producers and directors and the voice cast of both shows were pretty much identical. It was also obvious to kids at the time but we didn’t care that Starscream and Cobra Commander had the same voice. All we cared about is that this show was just as badass as G.I. Joe.

Also, like G.I. Joe, this animated series was used as a vehicle to sell a tie-in toy line produced by Hasbro. It worked well, as the Transformers characters were some of the best-selling toys of all-time. In fact, after Star Wars, Hasbro’s G.I. Joe and Transformers lines have to be the hottest selling toys of the ’80s for boys.

In regards to the show, there were great multi-part episodes and many stand alone episodes. This was the typical format of male action cartoons of the era. We were treated to great stories, a rich mythos and interesting characters. The show was well executed and was one of the highlights of 1980s pop culture.

It has gone on to spin-off a bunch of other animated series, as well as live-action films (those are atrocious though), video games, comic books and thousands of toys. The franchise, born from this animated series, is still one of the most lucrative of all-time and continues to try and reinvent itself every few years.

In the end though, there has never been an incarnation of Transformers that has been as iconic and near perfect as the original animated series. And while people consider this era, the original miniseries and the first two seasons, which take place before the animated feature film, as the peak in Transformers entertainment, I am one of the weirdos that actually prefers the show after the film.

The reason why I wanted to single out the two halves with different reviews is that the second half, after the movie, is darker and has a slew of new characters and situations. The movie changed everything and it significantly altered the show’s tone. I will review the second half of this series at a later date.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: The other Marvel/Sunbow Transformers and G.I. Joe stuff.

Comic Review: Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye, Vol. 1

Published: June 26th, 2012
Written by: James Roberts
Art by: Nick Roche, Alex Milne
Based on: The Transformers by Hasbro

IDW Publishing, 128 Pages

Review:

This is the first Transformers comic book that I have read from IDW. I used to read the old Marvel stuff when I was a kid and I read some of the Devil’s Due stuff during the ’00s. But in my experience, IDW has done really well with all of the franchises from my youth and I don’t expect their handling of the Transformers property to be any different. They, at least, can’t do as bad of a job with the franchise as Michael Bay has.

So yes, it is better than Michael Bay’s Transformers movies and it benefits from tapping into the style of the original Generation 1 Transformers cartoon, comics and toys. However, I was pretty underwhelmed by this story, overall.

It is a good starting point, even if it takes place after a major war. The gist of the story has to do with rebuilding after a cataclysmic event on Cybertron. Other Cybertronians start returning and they want to live on a world free of war and conflict. Optimus Prime is rejected by the Cybertronians and he leaves to who knows where. The rest of the story deals with Rodimus Prime forming a team to go in search of the legendary Knights of Cybertron, who are believed to be able to unite Cybertron and bring about true peace. Rodimus’ team is comprised of 200 robots, some of which were even former Decepticons or have a shady past.

I really wanted to like this book and to get back into the Transformers universe again but it just didn’t resonate with me. I liked it for the most part but it didn’t leave me wanting to rush out and get the followup volume. I’ll probably read it eventually but there’s a lot of other comics that are much higher up on my priority list, at the moment.

The story just didn’t take off. Sure, this is a setup for the More Than Meets the Eye series but it moved slow, was pretty uneventful and even as an origin of sorts, I just didn’t care enough to get emotionally invested in the adventure to come.

That doesn’t mean that this series doesn’t shape up to be something great. At some point, I will find out if it picked up some steam and moved forward in a good way. But like I said, I’ve got other stuff to read first.

Rating: 6/10
Pairs well with: Other IDW Publishing Transformers collections.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers, Vol. 4

Published: January, 2007
Written by: Tim Seeley, Josh Blaylock
Art by: Andrew Wildman
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American HeroThe Transformers by Hasbro

Devil’s Due Publishing, 160 Pages

Review:

At long last, I have gotten to the fourth and final volume in Devil’s Due Publishing’s G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers epic crossover series. This is what everything was building towards, as it features the emergence of Cobra-La and Unicron, the two biggest threats in either franchise and the main antagonists of both franchises’ original motion pictures. Fans of both G.I. Joe and The Transformers should understand the scale of this threat. This is essentially the Infinity War story for the Hasbro/Marvel/Sunbow shared universe.

However, as enjoyable as this tale was, I was slightly disappointed with it. Don’t get me wrong, it had some really cool bits but it was fairly underwhelming. I liked it about the same as the previous story, which featured Serpentor. I felt that one was a step down from the previous two and while this one isn’t another step down, it just isn’t as good as the first two G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers crossover events.

Sure, we got to see Golobulus and Unicron in all their glory but neither was that difficult to defeat, after a massive buildup. Unicron was easily defeated by Flint and Cosmos, who flew into Unicron’s massive body, got to his brain and infected it with metal dissolving spores grown by the people of Cobra-La.

Most of the story takes place in Tibet, at the site of the Cobra-La stronghold. So the vast majority of what we see is just snow and caverns. There’s not a lot in terms of cool and nice looking landscapes. This certainly isn’t as beautiful of a book as the first volume in the crossover that saw a major battle take place on Cobra Island that featured G.I. Joe, Cobra, the Autobots and the Decepticons. And for the threat present in this story, this volume feels the least grandiose.

Still, this was a good way to wrap up this shared universe between the two franchises. We get more time with some of the beloved characters but some are noticeably missing, as this series liked to take some liberties and kill off fan favorites.

It kind of sucks that Megatron was killed very early on and we never got to see Galvatron in any of the volumes. Also, we never got to see Hot Rod become Rodimus Prime. While he shows some leadership skill at points, he’s just kind of an immature jackass most of the time.

G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers was a really good series, despite a few low points. I enjoy the franchises so there was a lot of stuff to sink my teeth into. Most of all, it was really fun and that’s mainly all I actually want out of these two great properties from my childhood.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: The other G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers collections.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers, Vol. 3

Published: September 13th, 2006
Written by: Tim Seeley, Josh Blaylock
Art by: Joe Ng
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American HeroThe Transformers by Hasbro

Devil’s Due Publishing, 140 Pages

Review:

After the first two G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers crossover events put out by Devil’s Due, the third one had it’s work cut out for it, as the previous installments would be hard to top. Well, this one was enjoyable but it fell short.

Reason being, I wasn’t too keen on how they handled the debut of Cobra leader Serpentor, who served as more of a Decepticon leader here with Cobra as an afterthought.

In fact, other than the setup and twist at the ending, Cobra was fairly nonexistent and this just saw G.I. Joe working with the Autobots to stop Serpentor, the new Decepticon ruler on Cybertron, who was essentially the “son” of Megatron.

The tease at the end of the second story that saw Dr. Mindbender encounter Cobra-La and had the mention of Unicron is held off until the fourth chapter, after this one. Which made this a bit of a letdown, as I was really anticipating the Cobra-La and Unicron story line, which would unify the threats of both G.I. Joe and the Transformers motion pictures. I mean, who wouldn’t be excited for Golobulus and Unicron working towards a common goal of ultimate destruction?

A big positive of this story, however, was seeing Hot Rod become a leader, as Optimus Prime was in pretty bad condition for part of the story. Also, it gave us General Hawk on the G.I. Joe side and finally pulled the trigger on the infatuation between Snake-Eyes and Scarlett.

It’s not that this chapter had a bad story, it just didn’t have that epic feel of the other chapters in this massive four-part crossover event. But it is decent filler until the larger than life conclusion, which this was working towards.

Rating: 7/10
Pairs well with: Other chapters in the G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers series by Devil’s Due.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers, Vol. 2

Published: May 25th, 2005
Written by: Dan Jolley, Josh Blaylock
Art by: Tim Seeley, E.J. Su, others
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American HeroThe Transformers by Hasbro

Devil’s Due Publishing, 128 Pages

Review:

I thought that the first G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers story would be hard to top but this one did it.

The story picks up sometime after the events of the first story. Here, we see Cobra Commander reveal to Destro that he still has control of Starscream and that he has learned about an alien computer on Cybertron that controls a network of wormholes for instant travel around that planet. With that device, Cobra could easily take over Earth. Cobra then finds themselves on Cybertron and a big fight breaks out between Cobra and G.I. Joe, which damages the alien computer, sending Transformers back to Earth at different points throughout time. G.I. Joe, Cobra and some of the Transformers then have to work together to save Earth, which will be ravaged by the power of the damaged computer for centuries. Members of G.I. Joe and Cobra break off into different groups and go to different points in time to rescue the displaced Transformers in an effort to set things right.

The thing I really like about this specific tale in the G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers crossovers, is the entertainment value of the multiple squads of G.I. Joe and Cobra members. I also love the time travel part, as we get to see the past and a potential future where a crippled and slightly mad Duke leads a resistance force of reformed Dreadnoks against Shockwave’s Decepticon forces. I also like that Shockwave is the big villain of this story, as I always felt that he was too cool to be as underutilized as he was in the original cartoon.

But then there is the big badass ending! I don’t mean to spoil anything, so ignore the rest of this paragraph if you don’t want spoilers but Dusty shows up from prehistoric times with the Dinobots and they literally tear shit up! It’s absolutely friggin’ glorious!

The thing I also love about this series is the art. Devil’s Due Publishing always put out really dynamic comic books with great colors and fantastic illustrations. It’s unfortunate that they had money problems and weren’t paying some of their creative staff properly, which lead to some departures, such as Hack/Slash moving to Image Comics. I always liked how they handled the G.I. Joe and The Transformers franchises but they’ve also been in good hands since going to IDW Publishing and being rebooted.

G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers, Vol. 2 is a great example of Devil’s Due at their creative best, though. A solid story, amazing art and characters that are adored by every boy that grew up in the mid ’80s.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: Other chapters in the G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers series by Devil’s Due.

Comic Review: G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers, Vol. 1

Published: April 6th, 2004
Written by: Josh Blaylock
Art by: Mike S. Miller
Based on: G.I. Joe: A Real American HeroThe Transformers by Hasbro

Devil’s Due Publishing, 160 Pages

Review:

G.I. Joe and The Transformers have always existed in the same universe since the 1980s. Even if they only had a hint at a crossover when Cobra Commander appeared as a character named Snake in a very late episode of The Transformers cartoon, young boys in the ’80s knew that they occupied a similar space. The Transformers just exist a little bit further into the future, so they never really crossed over with the G.I. Joe and Cobra characters when those groups were at their peak.

The story here is interesting and Devil’s Due did a good job bringing these properties together in a practical and creative way. While it isn’t as fabulous as the old school Larry Hama G.I. Joe stories, it was well crafted and had the same sort of spirit.

In this chapter of this massive crossover that spanned four large stories, we meet the Transformers as they are unearthed by Cobra Commander and his Cobra minions. They crash landed on Earth at some point in the past. Cobra then uses the Transformers, Autobots and Decepticons, along with their alien technology to give them an advantage in their quest for world domination. G.I. Joe is formed after the initial Cobra attack and we also get to meet Autobots Wheeljack and Bumblebee, who have been lying in wait for the perfect moment to make their presence known. The Joes and the two Autobot heroes work together to free the other Autobots in an effort to protect Earth from Cobra and the Decepticons. Everything comes to a big awesome finale on Cobra Island in the Caribbean.

One real highlight for me was seeing two of my favorite childhood toys merged as one, as Cobra had Optimus Prime in the vehicle form of a H.I.S.S. tank.

This story is full of wonderful art, an engaging story that reinvents the mythos quite a bit while not necessarily betraying anything, great battles and just a whole lot of nostalgic fun. This is the comic book version of the crossover battles I would have on my bedroom floor as a kid in the ’80s.

Luckily, there are three sequels to this series.

Rating: 9/10
Pairs well with: The other G.I. Joe Vs. The Transformers collections.

Video Game Review: Transformers: Earth Wars (Phones & Tablets)

Transformers: Earth Wars is a real time strategy MMORPG. It’s kind of like Boom Beach but with Transformers characters, which immediately makes it superior. I also prefer the playing style of this game, even though I was quite the avid Boom Beach player for a year or so, at one point.

One thing that actually makes this a more fun experience than games like it, is that upgrading doesn’t seem to be as much of a resource depleted/time consuming hassle. I’ve progressed at a speed that has helped to keep me engaged and invested. I’ve now gotten to the point where some upgrades take a few days but you can upgrade up to five things at the same time. Plus, getting material isn’t as painstakingly difficult as it is in similar games. You can get building materials pretty quickly in battles and since you can upgrade your characters fairly quickly, acquiring more materials is pretty easy. I often times find myself with more materials than I need.

On the flip side, when your base is attacked by other players, it isn’t as catastrophic to your progress as it probably should be but I like this. Maybe those similar games could learn from this one, as not getting pillaged for your essential materials keeps you moving forward at a swift pace instead of constantly getting close to an important upgrade only to get hit by an attack and pretty much finding yourself back to square one. That is actually what eventually turned me off from Boom Beach, as I was stuck in an endless limbo.

Transformers: Earth Wars is a well balanced game for its style. You have to work at it but you are rewarded at a pace that is acceptable and keeps you wanting to play. The events and the alliance aspects of the game are also well crafted. It’s the first time where I’ve played a game like this and I wasn’t in an alliance that needed me to be engaged 24/7. That’s hard to do when you have a life. This game gives you a good mix of events, war and regular play, which is important if you need to battle for materials.