Monday, August 01, 2005

On Giant Robots

Throughout my formative years I was obsessed with giant robots. Damn it, throughout all of my years, formative or not, I've been obsessed with them and the people close to me have been forced to deal with it.

(Which reminds me, at the Bristol Comics Expo earlier this year I had the good fortune to meet Andrew Wildman, known for his artwork on the Marvel UK Transformers title. When I asked him what he thought about plans for a Transformers movie, he turned to my Beloved and said something like 'I can see you're thinking, Please God, let it tank, let this nightmare end.' Which highlights the burden we manchildren place on the shoulders of our significant others.)

Now all things giant robot have made a comeback with a big chunk of my generation remembering '80s cartoons with fondness. Which comes as a surprise to me as I remember getting nothing but grief from other kids about it back when we were actual kids.

What I find interesting about my own interest in Tranformers is that I've carried it non-stop since I was about 4. I mean, I loved Thundercats too, and Scooby-Doo, and MASK, and Zoids, but none of these other ones stuck with me in quite the same way. Part of it, I suppose, is down to imprinting at a young age - the earliest video I can remember my father renting for me (repeatedly) was Mazinger Z (The recent Mazinkaiser update is worth watching for the theme tune alone.) But it's mostly down to the Transformer comics written by Simon Furman.

Almost everything I like about recent comics- character development, humour, tragedy, action and epic scope- was all being done about twenty years ago in the pages of a British toy tie-in magazine. In the introduction to one of the recent trade paperback reprints of Furman's run (I can't recall the author off hand, either Wildman or Furman himself), it was noted that the creative team had greater freedom on that book than on any other work they did, mainly because Marvel could care less what the hell was done on a low-priority comic about toys.

The body of work that Furman and the artists completed was riveting when I was a kid, and still stands up today. And I don't mean in a slightly embarressed, oh-well-you've-got-to-laugh nostalgic kind of way. We are talking stuff that is epic in scope. And harsh - seriously, you wouldn't believe the body count. It's incredible to me that Furman never got more mainstream work at any of the big comic publishers, although it's good to see he's been picked to write the newly relaunched Transformers title at IDW.

And I can't finish without mentioning the artists either, the first ones I can remember specifically looking out for week after week. Andy Wildman, an incredible artist and adept at giving character to what are essentially big lumps of metal. Dan Reed, who drew the transformations as these cosmic, organic, Kirby-dot kind of things. And Geoff Senior, who was my favourite artist for years. I always preferred it when he inked his own work because he has this great, scratchy style.

So that's how it all started. Stay tuned; I can see oversized automata becoming a theme around these parts.


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