Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Extended Bios!

A conversation on #wiigii! (a Tranformers IRC channel) made me realize that some of the extended biographies, written by Bob Budiansky back in the day, have yet to be published.  Bob generally wrote out long bios for each character, then truncated them for the tech specs.  The longer versions, along with character models, made up the basis of the excellent Transformers Universe profile book.  Personally, I find it a real treat to read these entries for characters who didn't make it into Transformers Universe.

So, by the request of said #wiigii!-ites, here are a few that haven't yet seen the light of day (I don't think, anyway.) The odd parsing of some of the names is from the originals, it's not something I've introduced.  BTW, I had Whirl's extended bio in my hands... but somehow saved over it with Roadbuster's bios.  The original went to Japan, and so far hasn't turned up again.  Sorry, Transfandom.  But at least you can enjoy Swerve, Hubcap, Ransack, Chop Shop, Venom, Barrage.

1/12/2010 EDIT! Thanks to Steve Mapes of Transformers @ The Moon, I've got Whirl as well!  He deserved a post of his own.

Profile: If Autobots needed driver's licenses, Swerve's would have long been revoked. He's a definite menace on the highways. He doesn't mean to be, but he is so easily distracted that he rarely pays attention to where he's going for more than a half-minute at a time. Usually, he's too busy reading roadside billboards, changing his internal radio from the inter-Autobot frequency to a disco station, or looking for vanity license plates. It takes the frenzied honking of a nearby car's horn or the sudden approach of a telephone pole toward his front end to rouse Swerve from his stupor and save him from wrecking himself -- and, often, others as well. Although a loyal and brave Autobot, Swerve exhibits the same lack of concentration when being given orders by a superior. Invariably, his mind wanders and he only hears part of his instructions. It is not uncommon to hear Optimus Prime advising Swerve to "Keep your optical sensors on the road -- and your cerebro-circuitry on the plan!"

Abilities: Sensors in Swerve's hands allow him to determine a multitude of chemical and physical properties of metals: electrical and heat conductivity, melting point, tensile strength, coefficient of elasticity, ductility, brittleness, magnetism, and others. Miniature acetylene torches and lasers in his fingers allow him to fuse metals together into new alloys. Swerve is constantly trying to create stronger and lighter metals for use by the Autobots. In vehicle mode, Swerve can reach speeds of 120 mph and has a range of 500 miles.  Considering his careless driving habits, he luckily is extremely resistant to damage.

Weaknesses: Swerve's frequent lapses of concentration result in many accidents no one of which is usually severe. But the accrued effect of all of them often leaves him a walking (or driving) wreck.


Profile: Hub Cap has everybody's friendship but nobody's trust. He is affable, witty, generous, even charming -- it is no wonder that his fellow Autobots find him such pleasant company. But he's also a con artist. He is likely to enthusiastically accept some work detail one moment and then try to sucker someone else into doing it the next. Or he might try to smooth talk a comrade into trading his weapon for an inferior one. Hub Cap is surprisingly effective at his scams. Perhaps it's the smiling, sincere way he talks or perhaps it's because he looks small and unthreatening. Whatever the case, Hub Cap is living proof of the old Cybertronian adage, "You can't tell an Autobot by it's finish."

Abilities: Not only is Hub Cap adept at speaking, he's even better at listening. Equipment within his head module allows him to receive a broad spectrum of electromagnetic signals -- AM and FM radio, shortwave, UHF and VHF television broadcasts. He uses his phosphorescent windshield as a television screen when receiving TV signals. Amplifying circuits allow him to detect signals as weak as .000001 watts. His audio circuitry can hear a pin drop 500 yards away, and has a frequency range of 5 to 50,000 Hertz. In car mode, he can travel up to 90 mph and has a range of 1000 miles.

Weaknesses: Hub Cap is physically among the weakest of the Autobots. Even low-speed crashes can result in severe damage to his body.


Profile:  Venom will use his poisonous talents even on his fellow Decepticons at times. This is because Venom trusts no one. least of all his fellow Insecticons, any of whom, he feels, might be tempted to usurp his role as Insecticon Leader. What little self-esteem Venom has he draws from this title. So nervous is he about losing it that his behavior borders on paranoia: he would rather try to eliminate a comrade he barely suspects of coveting his position than risk letting him live. Some Decepticons say disparagingly that Venom would be better off if he were captured by the Autobots -- at least he would no longer have his fellow Decepticons to worry about.

Abilities:  The stinger mounted on Venom's head can discharge a variety of fluids harmful to both mechanical and organic life: acids that break down metal alloys, catalysts that alter molecular structures, toxins that paralyze human nervous systems, and several others. The stinger itself can penetrate ¼-inch steel. In insect form, Venom can fly 15 mph with a range of 300 miles. In robot form, he carries an electric-blaster gun, powerful enough to short-circuit a tank.

Weaknesses:   Being as suspicious as he is, Venom has few friends, and fewer still who will come to his aid in times of trouble. His stinger often gets stuck, in his target, which sometimes leads, to it breaking off.


Profile:  Only when the ground is scorched and leveled does Barrage cease his onslaught in a battle; merely winning is not enough to satisfy this Insecticon. He wallows joyously in the misery and ruin he causes. Merciless and cruel, he believes kindness only stirs hope in the hearts of the vanquished. So thoroughly rotten is Barrage's mechanical soul that even his fellow Decepticons consider him, on a personal level, very unpleasant company. On performing his function, however, they have nothing but praise and envy: Barrage encompasses all the worst qualities that symbolize the Decepticons.

Abilities:  In insect mode, Barrage can unleash a nearly non-stop torrent of explosive charges from the gun-mounts in his eyes. His antenna module can shoot discreet packets of high-energy photons; each packet can blanket a 100 sq. ft. area with a temperature of 3000 degrees for 30 seconds. He can fly 15 mph with a range of 400 miles. In robot mode he uses a sonic rifle, which can flatten a small brick building at a distance of 600 yards with the vibrations it produces.

Weaknesses:  Being virtually totally offensive-minded,  Barrage often leaves himself exposed to counterattacks.

Chop Shop

Profile:  Nothing that isn't bolted to the ground is safe from Chopshop's greedy grasp. He can carve up a moving bus and haul away its engine block before it rolls to a stop. And he can do all this while at his small insect size. Easily the sneakiest of the Insecticons, Chopshop prides himself on his subtle talents. No challenge is too great for him: the more difficult it is to steal something, the more he wants to steal it. Once he targets an object, it's as good as gone. And once he has it he will disassemble and reshape it with the consummate skill of a brain surgeon to fit it to Decepticon needs. Chopshop sums up his philosophy this way: "I take no prisoners, just spare parts."

Abilities:  In insect mode, Chopshop has two small jets on his back that allow him to fly in near silence at 30 mph. His range is 250 miles. His pincer-like antennae can slice through two-inch thick vanadium-steel plate. He can also use twin pinpoint lasers that protrude from his mouth assembly to carve up objects that require more precision. He can lift up to 30 tons with his six clawed legs, even while insect-size.  He can operate as an insect at either insect or normal size. As a robot he carries a high-powered photon cannon which can blind as well as blast opponents.

Weaknesses: His tremendous ego sometimes leads him to taking on a challenge that is too great for him, resulting in his eventual defeat. Frequent mechanical breakdowns in his legs are a result of his carrying off heavy objects during his burglary operations.


Profile:  With a fury unchecked by concern for the safety of innocents, Ransack enters into a battle like a howling tornado. If necessary, he will level an entire town to hunt down an enemy. The destruction and misery he leaves in his wake only serve to spur his manic cravings for more. Truly, he is one Insecticon whose mechanical heart is as cold as his metal hide. Among his fellow Decepticons he is known as a tough-talking, straight-to-the-point soldier who is always looking forward to the next conflagration. His comrades have the utmost confidence in his abilities to wage war--but they know enough to let him lead the way since Ransack won't take the time to shoot around them.

­Abilities:  Ransack can operate at normal size or shrink down to insect size when he's in his insect mode. His abilities are the same either way except he can leap 200 feet at insect size and 1.5 miles at normal size. A kick from his rear legs packs enough power to knock over a bulldozer and shatter a foot-thick steel vault. The vibrations produced by rubbing these legs against his tail assembly can crumble a brick wall. His antennae can shoot 80 Kilovolt electrical charges. In robot mode he carries a high-intensity concussion blaster gun. Each of his arms has two razor-sharp talons mounted on it which he can spin at 300 rpm and use as a buzzsaw.

Weaknesses:  Ransack's rear legs are susceptible to complete mechanical failure if any foreign matter gets into their joints.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ron Friedman auction - Hasbro Briefing Binder (pt 5 )

The next part of the Hasbro Briefing Binder concludes the tabbed portion of the binder.  There are two files: the first file encompasses two tabs; the first two pages are from a tab marked 'vehicles', and the rest are from a tab marked 'misc characters'.  The file after that is from the last tab in the binder, one marked 'backgrounds'. 

Vehicles and Misc Characters download link: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=IM7QAS03

Backgrounds download link: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=ZZPF6YJH

The backgrounds are black and white photocopies of what were undoubtedly color cells, back in the day.  It's a real shame that color printing was so expensive back then, because I can tell that these would have been glorious in full color.  Oh, and yes, the post-it notes are part of the copies, not something that I can move to unblock the image.  The misc character section includes nothing that hasn't been seen before.  The model sheets for the workmen from the first episode were in a Marvel Comics bible I purchased a few years ago, and so found their way into The Ark.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ron Friedman auction - Hasbro Briefing Binder (pt 4)

The Hasbro Briefing Binder rolls on!  We're up to the third tab, labeled 1985 product.  This is broken into two parts.  The reason is that halfway through this section the pages become double-sided, and I wanted to make it easy to reproduce that experience. 

Download link: Part A - http://www.megaupload.com/?d=5GM3KM9U

Download link: Part B - http://www.megaupload.com/?d=AVHTH7ZP

Some more interesting bits here, like repeated reference to the four Dinobots.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Ron Friedman auction - Hasbro Briefing Binder (pt 3)

And now, the third part of the spoils of our little charitable collective endeavor.  I'm continuing to upload scans from the Hasbro Briefing Binder.  This is the second tab, marked Decepticons.  There are definitely some items of interest, like a corrected design for Rumble's gun, or the note that Megatron's head should be 20% bigger. 

Upload link: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=FAG28R90

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ron Friedman auction - Hasbro Briefing Binder (pt 2)

Following in the work I did yesterday, here's the first tab of material in the Transformers Briefing Binder.  The tab is labeled Autobots.  There are Budiansky's bios, some character models (B&W copies of the original colors, and some black&white ones), packaging pictures, and instruction copies.  One bit that I find interesting is the original wholesale prices.  $2.99 for a minibot, $6.99 for the Autobot cars, $15.99 for Optimus Prime.  I also like the handwritten observations appended to the bios, such as "as of 7/9/84, no 3 split so far in episodes" written on old Oppys bio.

Download link: http://www.megaupload.com/?d=1Z488W53

(This is taking the place of my usual Ark Addendum.  It will return in the not-too-distant future with more Predacon transformations.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ron Friedman auction - Hasbro Briefing Binder (pt 1)

I hope everyone enjoyed the early draft script of The Transformers: The Movie that I uploaded last week.  For those just tuning in, that was part of a collective charity drive effort that started on The AllSpark.  A bunch of us chipped in, got some rare Transformers artifacts, are sharing them with the world and selling the originals for charity.

This next one I'm going to have to break up into several parts.  I may get it all done before I go away for Xmas week, I may not, but I'll do my my best to keep you all in fresh material for as long as possible.  It's the Transformers 1984-85 briefing book that was given to Mr. Friedman to aid him in the task of writing the movie.  A lot of this is material that's been seen before, but it's interesting to see how it all fits together.  The first part is a collection of pages from a red three-ring binder.  I'm starting with the material before the first tab.  That is to say, this material is bound but not tabbed. (There's also unbound material that's a part of this lot.)

Enjoy!  http://www.megaupload.com/?d=6NKLDQFS

Friday, December 10, 2010

Review: War of the Worlds, the series ep 38

Candle in the Night is the thirty-eighth episode of War of the Worlds, the series. When the bleakness of their current situation threatens to destroy Debi's birthday, the gang scrambles to put together a last minute surprise party.  The aliens, meanwhile, deal with a runaway probe, the random wanderings of which make them destined to (almost) cross paths with the team again.  Despite a few hitches, the party goes off thanks to the Herculean efforts of all involved. 

The Good: Directing.  This episode is extremely well paced, with the problem presented early and then a struggle along the way gradually being introduced to us.  While staying true to the notion of 'Almost Tomorrow', the team and some friends nevertheless manage to pull together a great party, complete with a chocolate cake, music, decorations, and presents.  The premise is so saccharin that it'd have been VERY easy for this episode to slide into self indulgence, but somehow the plot manages to rise above it.  The tone moves from despair to optimism so gradually that you almost don't notice.  Using the photo album to contrast the past to the present, and then later adding back the happy picture of this event was a shrewd move.  Overall, just a great execution on a lot of little things that make the episode a joy to watch.

Gunther, as played by Sandy Webster.  Of all the guest stars in this episode, he shined the brightest.  His simple optimism and genuine goodness felt like a breath of fresh air amid this bleak and normally pessimistic series.  That contrast worked well here. It was ironic to have him look to the sky with hope at the end, when normally that direction leads to nothing but misery in this show.

And speaking of irony, the aliens, completely miss the point.  "What a vain notion, celebrating one's birth," muses Ardix.  "They only think of themselves, don't they," responds Malzor.  After forty minutes of watching Kincaid and all Debi's young friends work their assess off to make a great place for the party, and Harrison and Gunther manage to scrape together a cake, this assessment of the significance of Birthdays effectively underscores the difference in the alien perception of us and the reality.  These lines could easily have been spoken by the Advocacy of season one, which I also appreciated.  This scene felt very much like one of their episode post-mortems.

There are plenty of other great character moments in the show, especially for Kincaid.  He allows his ego to get him roped into a baseball game, a nice little vignette. Kincaid saving the twine from Debi's present was also a nice moment; they're on austerity here.  It's amusing that everyone predicted the starter motor on the Battle Wagon failing.  Oh, and there are limits to what he'll do.  When a street merchant asked five ("Hundred?" "No, thousand.") for some jewelery , Kincaid walks away.  When Nat later despairs that he doesn't have a gift for Debi, he remarks that he doesn't either.  Aside from Kincaid moments, Debi dancing with her mom was sweet, as was the general level of tension that Debi exhibited.

Nate, Debi's potential beau, has a nice arc himself.  He starts out the episode effortlessly lying to her over a video monitor about living in a big house, with servants and a pool.  When it starts to look like he'll be meeting her in person, he becomes visibly uncomfortable with this lie.  By the end, when the van breaks down in front of the library where he was living, he faces his fear and tells her the truth.  Naturally, she forgives him.  Ah, young puppy love. 

Oh, and the idea of living your social life primarily through an online presence seems very ahead of its time for 1990.  Nice to see the series get one right.

The aliens get in a few good moments as well, naturally.  Mana's casual arrogance about the success of the probe turns quickly to panic when it malfunctions.  Forest give a great understated reaction to that.  Ardix, later, is out of breath chasing the probe, an amusing bit.  Finally, when Gunther observes that Ardix isn't from around here, his "No.  Not quite." and plastic smile is priceless.  

The Bad: Coincidence, though absent this coincidence we'd lose our chance to see the alien reaction to the events of the episode that was oh so delightful.

The Ugly: Nothing, really, but why not go with the nicely broken down alien base shot at the end.  The alien organic technology in this season is always a bit ugly.

I'll bet you thought that I'd hate this episode, huh interwebs?  Well, nope, not at all.  It's actually one of my favorites of the season.  After three quarters of a season of misery and hopelessness, it's nice to see our heroes hit a home run.  The pacing is nice, which is important given the almost complete lack of action in this episode.  The characters all feel true to themselves, and I found myself rooting hard for the party to be a success.  All in all, it's a good story, better than the sum of its parts.   War of the Worlds: The Final Season, is available for purchase on DVD.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Heritage Auctions - The Transformers The Movie draft script

Last month, a group of dedicated fans pooled their resources to attempt to purchase a piece of Transformers history; scripts and other documents from Transformers movie writer Ron Friedman.  Many scripts were won by our coalition, but perhaps the most anticipated among the many documents we purchased was an early draft of The Transformers: The Movie, dated 4/27/1985.  I've scanned it in and done a preliminary OCR pass, so without further ado, here it is for download!

I've been way to busy to go through it, but there's definitely some neat stuff.  The battle for Autobot City would have involved all of the Ani-bots of the roboto-zoo, and other nifty stuff like that. 

as Ultra Magnus scans plan drawings on which show up on SPLIT SCREEN
VIEWS OF WAR SCREEN. Drawings show structure of city and levels
below ground at point of attack. Ultra Magnus runs his finger
to trace lines on huge screen like a laser-light "pointer"
But it's in the same quadrant
as the Roboto-zoo lab!
(smacks fist onto
board decisively, shouts
Activate the Ani-bots~

I look forward to perusing this document at my leisure, as I'm sure many of you are.  Oh, and soon we'll be auctioning off the original and giving the money to charity.  Transfans benefit, the Hasbro Children's Hospital benefits, everyone benefits.  There are times when I'm amazingly proud to be a part of this fandom.

Some more gems from this version of the script: Megatron was not to be ejected bodily from the shuttle.  Rather, his "Life-Spark" was to drift into space.  Yup, a decade before Beast Wars, we get something approximating Sparks.  Serendipidious!

(weakly shouting over din)
Help me ...... My Life Spark is
flickering .....

as he half crawls toward battling Decepticons, reaching out to them
but they're too busy clobbering each other to pay attention to

You must place my Life Spark in
the urn and deliver it to my
resting place .....

as he viciously delivers forearm blow to Dirge driving him backward
into row of coffin-niches, BREAKING A HERO STATUE AND URN and
causing that Hero's Life Spark TO BREAK LOOSE AND DRIFT UPWARD like a spark from a fireplace. The freed Life Sparks EMIT A
GHOSTLY, PLAINTIVE MOAN as they start rising up into dark space

reaching to touch Bonecrusher who is grappling with Thrust and
Hook, each trying to stab or blast the other

(weaker still)
My ... Life Spark... quickly....

and freeing more Life Sparks. Megatron is panting, groping to
grab at Hook who is now rolling over and over on the floor with
Dirge as Hook frees a laser weapon and tries to fire.

..before it escapes into ...
eternity ....

viciously but gets a thrust from a BRAZIER STAND which Dirge
uses like a lance. This makes Starscream spin back, his BLASTER


metal shards in a SHOWER OF SPARKS AND SMOKE out of which Megatron's
LIFE SPARK which is brighter and more distinct than the others as
it moves to the lead of the "pack" - below, the battle for leadership
still goes on but we leave the SOUNDS of battle and argument behind
and move UP, UP, UP TO

His Life Spark still looks like a little Megatron and he
turns and twists in "comet trail" of other old hero Sparks
STATUES. Throughout this sequence, all Sparks keep moving up
and out to bleaker and deeper SPACE

My Life Spark.... my precious
Spark.... It will decompose in
space and I shall cease to exist ....
Agggghhhhhhhhhhh ....

Megatron and the Sparks move up and out FASTER, FASTER to:
Miasma like clouds - like the mist over a grnv~yard in an old
Frankenstein movie - swirl around Megatron's Life Spark and
other Sparks and debris

(furious now)
If I could be restored to function,
what vegence I would take upon
those who denied me my destiny .....
I would do anything for that
satisfaction ...Anything!

(from infinite distance,
a fearsome, sepulchral
voice made up of many,
overlaid voice of menacewhispering)

(startled, frightened)
Who calls "Megatron" here?

(louder, as if that voice
ITSELF could come and get him)
Come to me, Megatron ... Come to me!

More brutal deaths!

as we see Blaster in command. With him are WINDCHARGER, MIRAGE and
GEARS and all are practically back to back, FIRING UP AT

Keep feed in , 'em fusion fritters
'n laser latkes! We ain't finished

But not far from it! Our energy
is running low.

Then throw somethin' at 'em, babe!
Man, there ain't nothin' no Decepticon's
gonna get from me but flame and shame!

as Cyclonus swoops past and BOMBS GEARS TO PIECES, the force of
the blast THROWS WINDCHARGER UP and away from cover

Gears ! Oh, man ....
(looks up)

as several of Cyclonus' planes JET THROUGH HIM, ~RING HIM TO
PIECES which rain down on Blaster's position

as arm, leg , torso of Windcharger rain down 

I think the time has come to
hide my pride and .... run!

Blaster RUNS followed by Mirage and other in Autobot party as
they dodge behind rubble and duck as WALL OF CITY COMES FALLING
in the way of their pursuers and we

Why Blaster didn't join the others in the shuttles:

Blaster is accompanied by other Autobot survivors, TRAILBREAKER
and SUNSTREAKER among others - all show battle damage but are
still armed and alert - guerrilla fighters now.

The shuttles made it through
but we still go lots to do we're
gonna play guerrilla
and make every day a thrilla whoa!

Why did Ultra Magnus and the
others abandon us?
It isn't fair!

Fair 'n square ain't nowhere
when Decepticons're playin'
shake 'n bake with the universe!
(looks up)
Some thin , up there gobbled up
the third moon of Cybertron
and put the Decepticons back
together after we tore 'em apart ....

There the stars are still visible through the smoke and flame of
battle glow below

Ultra and the gang got to
find that somethin' and unsomethin'
it! They are our
only hope! Yeah!


The last of the Blaster plotline, which would have upped the stakes of the movie considerably.

in the distance we see the fiery glow of burning remains of Autobot
City and the COLD RAY "FEEDING STRAW" extending down from somewhere
AND SliEEPS in vehicular mode. Scourge is in mid-transform position,
his head sticking up from his vehicle, leading the ominous procession
which is accompanied by a BLEEPING, SCANNING NOISE as A SliEEP

Life forms sensed! Eliminate
at once!

which is now a flaming HULK as it FALLS FORWARD AND CLUNKS APART
head SEPARATES AND AN EYE ROLLS OUT and across dirt to
where Scourge, now in humanoid mode, scoops it up and looks at
it. The Eye BLINKS back at him.

One of our Troopers. He must have
been terminated yesterday.
(tosses the eye to
a Sweep)
Take it back to the spare parts
bank. A functioning unit may
have need of it!
Sweeps, Transform!

Scourge TRANSFORMS followed by Sweeps vehicles and they ROLL OFF.
HOLD ON ROADSIDE A BEAT then CHANGE ANGLE as Blaster pops up from
hiding accompanied by other Autobots including Sunstreaker.

Those ugly suckers'll be back!
We got to keep rollin' until we
can put together enough muscle
to boot their bustle! Yeah!

(turns, looks off,
reacts, drawing weapon)
They doubled back to attack!
Sunstreaker and other Autobot survivors crouch, ready for battle,
as DARK VEHICLE HURTLES TOWARD CAMERA and then almost fills screen

Mess 'em up!

as Wheeljack TRANSFORMS to humanoid mode

Hold it!

Blaster, Sunstreaker and other Autobots react happily, adlibbing,
"Wheeljack! ... He's still functioning .....Bey, Wheeljack~" etc.

Wheeljack! I figured you got
incinerated in the city! I sure am
glad to be respondin' to your
image on my optic readout circuitry!

You might not be so thrilled when
you hear what I've got to say....
(a beat to regain
his composure)
I've been tracking the shuttles .
Ultra Magnus and the Dinobots .
ever since they blasted off, and .
(lowers his head)

Well, go on! I hate suspense! Are
they all right?
(a beat, understands, hangs head)

(to Wheeljack)
You could be wrong, Jack!

(shakes his head)
The Decepticons used moleculon
devices. There's no mistaking the readouts ....

Adlib reactions of sadness and sorrow ... 
"Ultra Magnus .. everybody ...
lost!" etc.

(a beat, then with
I don't believe in readouts -
I believe in hope! So, far as
I'm concerned, everybody that
counts is still operational
somewhere~ Now let's get·us gone
whilst the gone-in' is good!
Roll, you Autobots!

as Autobots shout adlib "Roll:" "You got it:" etc. and some TRANSFORM
and start moving out as a SHUDDER GOES THROUGH THE LANDSCAPE,
ROAR AND CRACKING SOUND and then, all is still.

Wha... what was that?

The earth!s reaction to the
Decepticon energy drain .....
If depletion continues at its
present rate, this planet will
self-destruct within the next
forty eight hours.

On Blaster's reaction and reaction of others, the EARTH AGAIN

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

G.I. Joe: Renegades

So, Hasbro launched their new network with the Discovery Channel, The Hub.  This means that we get a plethora of new cartoons, and some old favorites mixed back into the broadcast schedule.  Today I wanted to share my thoughts on G.I. Joe: Renegades. 

Renegades is a very fresh take on the traditional G.I. Joe mythology.  While keeping many of the same characters and much of the basic imagery of the old Real American Hero version of the Joes, the story has been updated to be, if not more plausible, at least less absurd.  The short version is that a small team of heroes has stumbled onto the fact that Cobra Industries is really quite sinister, and gets branded as outlaws for their trouble.  This removes one of the main issues I've always had with the Joe mythology; namely, it's hard for me to imagine ANY force standing up against the U.S. Army, let alone some kind of non-governmental terrorist organization acting within United States borders.  By re-framing the conflict as they did, we get a more reasonable series of conflicts that's more resonant with 21st century life. Evil corporations are nothing new, in fiction or in real life, but after the wave of bank bailouts and financial scams and oil disasters, it's not so hard to imagine one bent on world domination.  Cobra Industries feels right to me.

That the mythology should be reimagined in this way is not at all surprising.  After all, Marty Isenberg is one of the show developers and story editors.  He was the head writer of Transformers Animated, and one of the key architects who build that brilliantly re-imagined iteration of the Transformers story.  Renegades, too, feels new and updated and modern, and yet not out of step with the emotional core of what went before.  Take a look at this video, the very first thirty seconds or so of the first episode:

Yeah, it's pretty nifty all right.  As someone who grew up with the Real American Hero version of the show, nods like this make me break out in a huge grin.  Renegades airs Saturdays at 3:00 on The Hub.  Check it out; you'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Ark Addendum - Headstrong's Transform

After taking a week off for Thanksgiving, The Ark Addendum is back with the third in our series of five Transformation sequences for the Predacons.  Why five, you ask, and not six?  Well, that's a good question.  It turns out that Predaking's page was a bit sparse, what with his lack of an alt mode and all.  In the first Ark book, I used the only bit of his transformation sequence I had to make the page a bit less empty.  By the time Transformers: The Complete Ark  (order it today!)  rolled around, I had picked up considerably more material on all of the Predacons.  I now had the backs of each of their beast modes, and managed to squeeze those onto the pages.  I also had transformation sequences for all of them, but no room to use them, so I let it be.  Hence, this series right here.

But what of Predaking?  His page was still light, despite having another angle on the front of his robot form that showcased his nifty sword.  For him, I included the complete tranformation sequence.  It's a bit smaller than what I include here, but I think you get the idea.  Anyway, hope you enjoy this, my third Predacon transformation sequence.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Review: War of the Worlds, the series ep 37

Path of Lies is the thirty-seventh episode of War of the Worlds, the series.  In it, the aliens use their medical tech to buy influence with Mr. Samuals, a frail business and publishing magnate.  At the same time, reporter Mark Trainer has twigged to their existence and becomes their prey.  The team attempts to keep him safe and unravel the web (or path) of lies, but sadly for them the aliens keep their foothold and the reporter has to go on the run.

The Good: Unsurprisingly, the alien interaction remains a high point.  Mana admits to a 'slight miscalculation' in a syrum to keep Mr. Samuals young and healthy, prompting a terrific understated reaction from Malzor.  Later, she chastises him for allowing Samuals to gain the upper hand during negotiations. (I also liked that Samuals first instinct upon figuring out what the aliens were was to cut off contact.  Finally, someone sensible.)

I always like a solid win for the aliens, and this episode certainly counts. The negatives are destroyed, Trainer goes into hiding with his boss and girlfriend dead, and the aliens solidify their influence in the business and political realm.  Oddly, the alien tasked to eliminate Trainer is namechecked, 'Salo.'  That seems familiar; have we heard it before?  (Sultan of Sarcasm, I'm looking at you.)

I enjoy the aliases.  Mr. Malcom is back, and now Ardix (Huzza for his return) is calling himself Dr. Adelson. Kincaid trots out "John Wolf" again, though now Harrison is "Harry Porter."    Little touches like that are fun.

Solid action this episode, with a few good firefights sprinkled in.  Though, I wonder why the aliens are using conventional weapons and not their Brussels sprout cannons.  Naturally, this means we see more of the battle wagon I love so much.

The aliens are leaning on Samuals for, among other things, use of a telecommunication satellite.  We never see what this is all about, and I like that.  Malzor must have some schemes that go off in the background, without a ton of drama.  Maybe this is one of them.

The Bad: The episode suffers from having a few too many characters.  The reporter plot and the Samuals plot are connected, but not as strongly as they could be.  Each one features a small cast of supporting characters, and then there are our main heroes and villains to juggle.  Trainer and Samuals wind up the stars, with everyone else relegated to a secondary role.  I think this one could have been streamlined quite a bit in the outline phase.  Trainer and his girlfriend and editor and publisher, Samuals and his traitorous butler, it's all a bit much.

A frequent sin of this show, coincidence, is as bad as ever.  The only reason our heroes get involved is because Trainer walks into Plato's, the gang's favorite strip joint.  I've decided that I like that the gang hangs out here.  Maybe I'm just prurient, I dunno.

The dystopian future seems more ill-defined than usual this time out.  When Trainer shows his editor the photos, he replies "maybe it's just a military robot or security cyborg that got loose."  Excuse me?  We've had no hint of ANYTHING like this before.  Also, The Midtown Herald is called the last surviving newspaper in the state.  That's not as much of a stretch, but it's still a big leap from the journalistic misadventures of Cash McCullough in My Soul to Keep.

Speaking of the McCulloughs, Suzanne has nothing to do in this episode.  I mean, nothing.  And it's been a while since we've seen Debi, though that changes next week.

The Ugly: Just an alien corpse, though it winds up on film and becomes the focus of the episode.

This is one of the weaker season two offerings.  Despite the well executed action, it failed to hold my interest.  The alien goal was much less threatening than usual, just keeping their own existence secret, so the stakes felt low.  That wouldn't have been so bad if we cared more about the characters, but the proliferation of them meant that that was difficult. It's a fairly typical plot, perhaps a dash more pessimistic than usual, but the execution could have been much stronger.  War of the Worlds: The Final Season, is available  for purchase on DVD.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Review: Marvel G1 #76: Still Life!

The seventy-sixth issue of the US G1 Marvel Comics run of Transformers is titled Still Life, to me conjuring images of those born dead.  It is brought to us by the team that had been producing such powerhouse work from #70-#74, with a nice Geoff Senior break for #75.  That is to say, it was written by Simon Furman, drawn by Andrew Wildman, inked by Stephen Baskerville, lettered by Rick Parker, and colored by Nel Yomtov.  Editor Rob Tokar and Tom DeFalco are credited as 'Need a Life.'    The cover is also a Wildman/Baskerville collaboration.

I don't care for the cover.  Dinobots chat in the foreground, while a few steps behind Grimlock stands frozen.  Behind him, a robotic demon rises from an inferno.  The whole thing seems awkward.  Wildman attempts to convey Grimlock's motionless status, but I don't think it quite comes across.  That's probably why the dialog is there.  The demon looks pretty cool, and probably should have been the real focus of the cover rather than Grimlock's predicament.  What IS fantastic about the cover is the Marvel box, which has replaced the usual Optimus Prime figure with a mangled version.  Macabre, guys, macabre!

The book, though, is nothing but strength.  We open on a brutalized landscape, interrupted with panel after panel of the dead.  The battle was won, though at a very high cost.  Some beings stand clustered around a body, which when we zoom in on  we see is Optimus, delightfully mangled as on the cover.  (Actually, they borrowed this specific image rather than drawing a new one.  I suspect that the cover was done by Rob Tokar, whose involvement on the book continued to grow as things progressed.)  Despite his horrible injuries, Optimus is alive, sustained by the very matrix energy that set off the chain reaction that killed him.  Optimus calls for Prowl to come closer and whispers to him.  Prowl starts to protest, but Prime insists… and the passes.  Prowl's grief is beautifully realized by Wildman's art, though I wonder if it's Prime's passing he mourns or what Prime told him.  It's a touching scene.  Wheeljack's pain manifests itself in some overly specific details about the process, where Prowl just cuts loose.  Even Bludgeon hangs his head respectfully.  Wildman's tendency to humanize the robots, especially around their eyes, helps sell the pain here. 

Cut to the Autobot/Decepticon headquarters.  Prowl informs Grimlock that he's been named the new (old, actually, but who's counting) Autobot leader.  The Dinobot (now Autobot) leader gruffly tells Prowl that he'll "get right on it," but has something important to do first.   Prowl explodes (verbally) at him, telling him that the peace process needs work here and now, but Grimlock is more concerned about tracking down the missing Ark and those injured Autobots still onboard.  Prowl makes Grimlock vow to uphold the Autobot Code before allowing his new leader to stomp off.  As Blaster brings some unspoken bad news to Prowl's attention, Bludgeon and Krok decide to examine… options.  It's an extremely dense three pages, centered around the confrontation between Prowl and Grimlock but introducing other new story elements seamlessly along the way.  Prowl is one of my all-time favorite Autobots, and I love the tension between him and Grimlock.  Their leadership styles are so different that they just couldn't possibly get along.  In some ways, I like to think of the Autobot leadership as Prime, Prowl, and Grimlock, sort of mirroring Megatron, Shockwave, and Starscream.  Come to think of it, I'm surprised no one has ever done a brilliant Shockwave vs Prowl book. Hmmm.....

There are two interludes interspersed through the main plot.  After Prime's death, Hi-Q flees from the Demon on the cover while musing about the nature of the pain he and Optimus had been experiencing.  They thought it was incompatibility, but Hi-Q now realizes that it's so much more!  The other sideplot focuses in on the schemers Shockwave and Starscream.  They're responsible for the missing Ark, and what's more is Shockwave suspects that there may be serious imminent danger to Cybertron itself from the recent quakes.   A dark and sinister figure watches them from the shadows... it looks like Galvatron survived Unicron's blow.  Really, how could he not?  I love this style of storytelling, with a bit of buildup for future plots to keep the main one fresh.  Oh, and Tokar's having some fun with the book, commenting on the 'elsewheres' with notes like 'Or, elsewhere once removed.'  Perhaps the knowledge of cancellation allowed him to be a bit more whimsical.  Anyway, it works.

Into the field go the Dinobots, where Grimlock explains his philosophy to his troops.  We get a page and a half of him just pontificating about how the Autobot/Decepticon war is actually a racial one when he finally seizes up for good, building on the Nucleon plotline that has been popping up here and there.  This become a major tactical disadvantage when Hi-Q shows up with the demons close behind.  The Dinobots resolve to fend off the creatures, despite Grimlock's orders to retreat and leave him to his fate.  Hi-Q, though, manages to save the day when he sees that Grimlock's immobility is the first stage of a kind of chrysalis, and uses his own Powermaster abilities to accelerate the process.  This inadvertently causes his own metamorphosis to come to completion, but we'll get to that.  In a gorgeous blaze of light, Grimlock's new design is revealed.  Everyone does a great job here, especially Yomtov.  All of the robot forms have been getting progressively more and more dinged since issue #71 and the non-stop action that the 'bots have seen, so it's nice to see a beautiful, shiny new form.  I also like the flow from philosophy to battle, in true comic book form.

Yes, Grimlock's an Action Master now, though thankfully they never use this name.  He drives off the beasts, then prepares to execute one until Hi-Q gives an impassioned speech about the sanctity of life.  It's so much more powerful than Prowl's angry rhetoric, though the message is the same.  Grimlock lays down his sword and allows the creature to flee.  After all, they're 'still life.'  Back to base they head, no Ark to show for their efforts, when we learn that Grimlock can no longer Transform.  Thus we learn the price of Nucleon.  Slag notes that Hi-Q sounded a lot like Optimus Prime when he was pontificating.  "What do you mean 'like', Slag?" asks the Nebulon.  "I AM Optimus Prime."

What a weird cliffhanger to end on.  By this point, the axe has fallen and Furman knew he had to start wrapping things up, so the seeds of Optimus' resurrection are planted early.  Amazingly, the clunker of a concept that is Action Masters manages to be pretty cool.  It's hard to believe how much pathos Furman managed to wring from that concept. 

I'm glad to see the return of the Demons.  They haven't shown up before in the US, but there was a three issue UK storyline centered around them that was rather fun. They work very well with Wildman's style, though I kind of wish I'd gotten to see Delbo's take on them.  He always had a lot of fun with monsters.  This is a terrific battle, very dynamic.  I like how the battle breaks through the panels, keeping your eye moving rapidly.

Overall, a strong book.  It's natural that we'd slow down a bit after the thrill-ride that we've been experiencing since issue #69, while starting to build up some new ideas.  Cracks are showing in the Autobot/Decepticon alliance already, and seriously, what the hell is going on with Hi-Q?  He IS Optimus Prime?  How?  What does that mean?  It's interesting stuff. Still Life! is available in IDW's  Classic Transformers Vol. 6 at Amazon.com. Oh, and please forgive my week off, I was in NY visiting relatives for Thanksgiving and had no time to blog.