Heroes & Villains: Celebrating the IDW Era of Transformers

It’s Tuesday night as I write this so you know that I’m trying like hell to come up with something to write about. I’ve perhaps been leaning a bit too heavily upon editorial input for topics the last couple of weeks, but January always seems to be a bit of a dead zone for when it comes to new releases. 

Usually, I just have to loudly declare that I’ve got nothing to write about and the universe will deliver some hot and fresh indie books to my inbox. This week, however, my pleas were not heard in time. I got some indie books…but no time to read them! My life is very difficult.

Oh, how I could go on about how my mortgage payment is going up $200 next week but next to copy and pasting an old term paper of mine from a couple decades ago about Voltaire’s Candide…there’s only so much I can do to make this column barely readable.

So… Transformers?

Last week the news broke that publisher IDW was going to be losing the publishing rights to Transformers and  G.I. Joe comics at the end of this year. While it’s pure speculation as to what this means for IDW’s future I can only react to the short term gut-punch I’m feeling as a fan. IDW has held the license to the property since 2005 which far outstrips Marvel’s tenure with Transformers that lasted from 1984 to 1994. 

Taking a step back I’m now realizing that Transformers is one of the comic book titles that I’ve read the longest. The title is right up there with X-Men, Spider-Man, or even Batman for titles that I’ve read most consistently over the last four decades. Not too shabby for a comic book tie-in to a glorified animated toy commercial. Of course, there were some gaps in my early comic book reading years. What I ended up reading was largely dependent on what the corner pharmacy had on the spinner rack when I was able to scrounge up seventy-five cents to get a new comic.

At any rate, I kept reading Transformers comics well beyond the point where they stopped being cool and eventually the property went into a bit of a dormant period in the mid-90’s. Thankfully, this coincided with my high school years and it was difficult enough being “casually” into Transformers at the time. I can only imagine the next circle of hell my life would have sunk to then if I was forced to juggle all of my other nerdly pursuits AND transforming robots. I don’t think I would have made it to college (community or otherwise).

Both Marvel and IDW are tied for publishers that have contributed the most to the overall Transformers mythos since its inception. If you’re not already in the know I’d encourage you to read up on the origins of the series on TFWiki.net or watch The Toys That Made Us on Netflix for the total scope of what Marvel contributed…Character names, places, all that sprung forth from Mighty Marvel.

IDW’s contributions to the Transformers lore offered a surprising amount of nuance to the Transformers. I will freely admit that my core interest in Transformers will always be “cool robots that transform into cool vehicles and sometimes other robots.” That alone will get me in the door but getting me to stick around for multiple issues, relaunches, crossovers, and so on…that’s something special.

For my money, Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye (and its subsequent relaunch Transformers: Lost Light) was IDW’s crowning achievement. The characterization in the book is second to none since the title features several robots from the original cartoon that never got a chance to shine. For example, the character of Skids got maybe a single line in the cartoon (go ahead and check, I’ll wait) and a single standout issue of the Marvel comic but MTMTE gives Skids a full and compelling arc. I don’t have all night to write this column or else I would continue on about how Chromedome and Rewind had one of the greatest love stories of all time. Lacking context I’m fully aware of how silly that last sentence reads but I would encourage you all to go out and pick up some trades to see for yourself.

There hasn’t been an announcement on where the Transformers license will land next and I’m more than a little sad that it won’t continue with IDW. I’m currently reading the Transformers: Beast Wars series which just launched in 2021 and it honestly seemed like it had literal years with of stories in it. Hope springs eternal that it could continue on at a new publisher since IDW notably picked up and did some comics from the Marvel-era, but I’m tempering my expectations by reminding myself that whoever has the property next will want to start fresh.

With all that said, I’ll be continuing to enjoy IDW’s output for the rest of the year and I’m hoping that they wrap up their legendary run on Transformers in a fittingly epic fashion.

One Reply to “Heroes & Villains: Celebrating the IDW Era of Transformers”

  1. For me, IDW’s best achievement was the backing of the American Library of Comics, printing books like Little Orphan Annie, Steve Canyon, Terry and the Pirates, the works of Berke Breathed, and so much more. I know some of them are moving to Clover Press, but I worry I won’t get any more Little Orphan Annie volumes. Ah well.

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