Sunday, September 13, 2015

TRANSFORMERS BY DREAMWAVE

Art by Pat Lee
In 2001, after drawing a picture for WIZARD magazine which apparently impressed Hasbro, young Pat Lee, president of Dreamwave Productions, landed the Transformers license. Eighties revivals were huge in the early 2000s, with the likes of G.I. JOE, MASTERS OF THE UNIVERSE, ROBOTECH, THUNDERCATS, and more finding homes at various comic book publishing houses, and Dreamwave's TRANSFORMERS was at the forefront of this movement.

At the time, Marvel's star was beginning to fall for me, thanks to the recently installed editorial regime of Joe Quesada and his overlord, Bill Jemas. I found myself, for practically the first time ever, branching out to other publishers for comics. And as a lifelong fan of the original Generation One Transformers, some of my attention went to Dreamwave. I recall being distinctly unimpressed with their first limited series, but when they changed writers for their second, and kept that team when they launched an ongoing series, TRANSFORMERS: GENERATION ONE, in 2004, I was won over. The ongoing quickly became the number one series, from any publisher, that I looked forward to every month. The characters as scripted by James McDonough and Adam Patyk were just the Transformers I wanted to read about, being heavily influenced by the eighties cartoon series -- and the artwork by Don Figueroa was just about perfect.

And then it all came crashing apart. The ongoing series ended with issue 10, after 11 was solicited and delayed for months. Dreamwave went out of business due to questionable financial practices (to say the least), which left many of their creators unpaid (to this day!) for completed and published work.

So here's the thing: Since I really, really liked Dreamwave's GENERATION ONE comics, I want to write about them here. But, for the most part, my mission statement over the past two years has been to cover things in collected edition format or occasionally digital comics. But due to the legal quagmire surrounding Dreamwave's Transformers material, the ongoing cannot currently be reprinted by anyone. IDW has published the first two limited series in trade paperbacks, but nothing from the ongoing run.

This is my blog, though, and I get to bend the rules if I want! So, for basically the first time ever (barring the STREET FIGHTER "Free Comic Book Day" installment from a few weeks back), I'm about to review some physical single issue comics. This coming Friday I'll look at the original Dreamwave TRANSFORMERS limited series in one fell swoop. Following that, we'll cover one issue a week of the second mini, WAR AND PEACE, and then the subsequent ongoing, which will fill my Fridays into the beginning of next year.

Art by Don Figueroa
Are the Dreamwave G1 comics as great as I remember? I've seen a lot of disdain for them around the internet -- and not simply because they were published by a bunch of lying scammers, but legitimate criticisms of the story content. However most of these complaints seem to be issues over the series' strong, almost fanatical devotion to the original Generation One continuity and characterization -- which was exactly what I loved about these comics at the time. As far as I'm concerned, there's a right way (slavish imitation of the original cartoon series) and wrong way (anything else) to do TRANSFORMERS -- and once McDonough and Patyk came on the scene, they got it absolutely right.

So -- another September, another Transformers marathon. Let's find out if my ten year-plus memories are accurate, or if these things are as bad as everyone thinks.

2 comments:

  1. I was a huge fan of Dreamwave's output back in the day, from Dark Minds to Warlands but especially Transformers. I honestly don't remember much about the stories at this point, but I remember LOVING the art (I still have a Soundwave poster from this era hanging in my garage, greeting me when I pull in every day). It's the Lee's dicked over so many people in the end.

    In 2001, after drawing a picture for WIZARD magazine which apparently impressed Hasbro, young Pat Lee, president of Dreamwave Productions, landed the Transformers license.

    Man, that just boggles my mind to this day. That someone could get a gig like that not only just based on one piece of art, but that Hasbro reached out to the artist, rather than the opposite.

    As far as I'm concerned, there's a right way (slavish imitation of the original cartoon series) and wrong way (anything else) to do TRANSFORMERS

    Not a fan of the original comic then? As with GI Joe, the cartoon was my point of entry into Transformers (and the default version of characters), but there's some decent stuff in the Marvel run as well.

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    1. It's not that I'm not a fan of the original comic; I read it sporadically as a kid and it became a monthly "must-read" for me when Simon Furman took over as writer -- but it, and all other versions, will always be a distant second place to me behind the cartoons. For the most part, the TV show is what defined the Transformers for me.

      (Though there are aspects of other continuities I like, and the comics certainly have us many more characters than the TV show, running as it did for a few years longer, so my preferred characterizations of guys like Fortress Maximus, Thunderwing, etc. come from Marvel rather than Sunbow.)

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