This week, it's the most exciting of things to talk about, a genuinely good comic!
Nick Roche returns and sets the agenda for the rest of IDW, whilst Denton Tipton may not be able to Go bigger, but is still bang on target.
All as I look at All Hail Megatron issue 15!
Target 1986. By James Roberts. TF-25: A Celebration fanzine, 2009.
This is the third in the sequence of Ko-Fi sponsored posts, this time from Charles Murphey, who asked me to write a piece on any convention fiction of my choice. And though I have many fine examples (and I will no doubt be touching on the TFNation conclusion to Animated when I cover that series), I have picked a particular favourite from a very familiar name.
2009, ten years ago now, was the quarter century anniversary of the franchise. To celebrate, the TMUK group put out a fanzine at that year’s Auto Assembly convention that had a simple central gimmick. One piece for every year. Some were behind the scenes analysis, some quick comics and a few gag pieces. Plus fan fiction. All by people still recognisable from fandom like Andy Turnbull and even a post-IDW fame Nick Roche on the back cover.
The biggest section was given over to 2006. Which was clearly a year where nothing happened that anyone could think of something to write about. So instead, we got a combined prequel and sequel to the defining comic story of 1986, Target: 2006, written by James Roberts.
James is about a year away from his first professional credit as a consultant on Everything in the Right Place, but within fan circles this was still a fairly big deal. Eugenesis had not been read by a massive amount of people, but everyone in the community knew about the person who was insane enough to have self-published a door stop novel and there was a fascination about both it and him. And, considering this was his first return to fan fiction since (at the time he considered Eugenesis his final statement on Transformers), that gives a very good reason for him to have the most space in the special.
As we would expect from Roberts, the story is very smartly structured, switching first person narratives between Megatron in December 2005 (the story is set in TMUK continuity and keeps to the idea that the film starts over the new year to try and reconcile the two dates. The means the part of the fanzine celebrating 2006 is not only a tie-in to something from the wrong year, but only the last half page is actually set in 2006) as he muses on his destiny and Galvatron and tries to perfect a time machine, and January 1989 and Ravage wonders just why Galvatron seems more like a convincing Megatron than the actual Megatron.
I’m not going to go in-depth on the plot here, the story isn’t currently widely available, but as with Eugenesis there’s always a chance it might show up online at some point and I’d rather not ruin the whole thing.
Safe to say though, we do get a very carefully thought through time paradox about the creation of the time machine (this rather ignores the implication of the original comics that both Autobots and Decepticons had their own and instead makes it a bespoke invention of an Omega Supreme sized Decepticon called Bolt) and Megatron wondering if the Galvatron he met briefly in 1986 was really the future him and what is his actual destiny.
In 1986 Ravage also gets lots of good work. In particular the opening of his first person narration is lovely, in theory just being a rather breathless recap of the history of Galvatron as told to him by Scourge after waking up, but which still have some deft character moments to it to stop the whole thing being exposition.
Being James Roberts, there’s also some continuity patching, most notably explaining what happened to Omega Supreme during Target: 2006. Which is clearly a thing of Roberts as it was also going to be covered by a time and dimension hopping subplot that we would have seen in Lost Light if its run hadn’t been curtailed. I think I prefer the more throwaway nature of the gag here that takes a few seconds to sink in.
But it is the work on Megatron that stands out. This is not quite the take we would come to know from his IDW work, I don’t think More Than Meets the Eye Megatron would casually kill a lackey once they’ve outlived their usefulness, but there is a similar weariness and uncertainty about his place in the world and his legacy that is extremely well done and shows neatly why Roberts was able to take the extremely dubious idea of Autobot Megatron and make it work.
Coming back to this a decade later, its remarkable how fully formed Roberts writing seems, even more so than Eugenesis this fits comfortably in style alongside his professional work, especially the couple of short prose stories that were included in More Than Meets the Eye. There’s huge amounts of good and great fan fiction and art, but such a smooth transition from that to pro work is fairly unusual. He was and is clearly a major talent we’ll probably not quite realise how lucky we were to have on the franchise until a few years down the line when looking back on his overall work.
Is this fanzine worth tracking down for just this story? Well, that depends how rare it really is. I do know there were plentiful copies at the next couple of Auto Assemblies, but I suspect most of those have gone to people unwilling to part with them. But if you’re lucky enough to get hold of one, even beyond this centrepiece it’s a tremendously fun magazine with plenty of good material in it. And the story itself is a remarkable piece of work by any standard.
Happy double century! Honestly, today's Transformers comics, looking all pleased with their 50 issues, they just don't have the right stamina (though I do put in a subtle nod to More Than Meets the Eye meeting that milestone right at the end).
I should apologies upfront and say what follows is easily the most self indulgent thing I've ever written, and also the longest Transformation to date as a result. Take it in stages my friends, as someone I deeply admire and love helps me examine:
Time Wars Part 2!
And if you survive that, there's also a new Adendum to celebrate the big issue number, looking at James Roberts' great big fanfic novel, Eugenesis!
Yes, after weeks of talking about it, probably seeming like a crazy man, it's time for what stands a good chance of being the highlight of my year, the James Roberts and Lloyd Young interviews on IDW's Classics UK books!
These can be read HERE.
Just for fun, I've also made a short video pimping the feature that can be seen below. I've no idea why the onscreen captions aren't working, but I've left it as is because it's funnier to see me being so inept.
Thanks again to James and Lloyd, splendid chaps, both of them.
Stuart Webb. Who knows everything about nothing and not a lot about that.