Aside from having Underoos and watching the Superfriends and Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, the Transformers were my first real hook into this entire comic book hobby I grew up to write about today. The first comic series I ever collected was Marvel's original Transformers, which ran from 1984 to 1991, spanning 80 issues, plus a Headmasters miniseries and four handbook-style Transformers Universe issues, as well as a 4-issue adaptation of the original The Transformers: The Movie. Now that IDW is publishing Transformers comics using those original Generation 1 characters, Newsarama is reporting that fans are now petitioning them to go the whole nine yards and start a new series to pick up with issue #81 – right where the original left off. There's a Twitter account for the campaign and everything.
The bulk of the original series was admittedly a bit pedestrian, as original writer Bob Budiansky had a lot of mandates to introduce new characters (re: new toys) all the time and didn't have a lot of room to actually flesh out stories – although one notable exception is Transformers #25, when Megatron completely loses his mind because Optimus Prime was dead and he wasn't the one to kill him. However, the last 25 issues of the original series, as written by Simon Furman after the heyday of the property had started to fade a bit and thus he was given more freedom with storytelling, really started to do some interesting things.
This new petition was inspired by a recent email Q&A with Furman, who was asked about revisiting that original work that really won him a fan following among the Transfaithful. “I actually would like to pick up the baton from Marvel issue #80 and run with it again," he responded. "There was a lot we never got to do, that I’d like to revisit or just to take the next big steps with all that we’d set up in the previous 20 or so issues.”
“The end, when it came, was sudden (the title was selling 70,000+ when it was cancelled — those were the days!) and a lot had to be crushed into an issue or two, so there’s still so much we never really got to do or explore,” he continued. “The idea of actually getting to grips again with characters and situations we kind of left hanging is hugely exciting.” By comparison, the current Transformers ongoing series sold 10,265 in February, although their tie in with the cross-over event Infestation nearly reached 13,000.
Andrew Wildman, along with Geoff Senior, did the penciling through the bulk of Furman's original run that also helped make the later issues stand out from the more generic earlier stuff, bringing their own styles to bear instead of just trying their damnedest to copy exactly what the original cartoon series was doing. Wildman has stated that he'd be on board to re-team with Furman and pick up with an IDW Transformers #81. He also noted that there were already plans to do just that until the economic woes hit hard and precluded the company from riskier ventures like this.
For their part, IDW hasn't committed to anything, although the fact that they were already developing this idea proves they're open to it. IDW Editor-In-Chief Chris Ryall promised the fans via Twitter an exclusive cover to #81 if they can get the petition to 10,000 pre-orders. Currently, they've got just over 1200 signers.
The original run climaxed with a double-sized epic Unicron story in issue #75, with some really interesting art from Senior. "Fans really responded to that," Furman said, stressing that while he loves the current G1 IDW comics, he'd try to hearken back to that old-school style of storytelling if he were to pick up with an issue #81. "I just think people would like to recapture some of that full tilt, no-holds-barred, gung-ho space-opera spirit that epitomized the Transformers comic back then." As opposed to the Earth-bound intrigue and sociopolitical stories being told in the new series.
The final page of Marvel's Transformers #80. If you're wondering why there's a skull-faced guy and a dork with a mustache and a helmet as Decepticons… those are the Pretenders. We try not to think about them.
It also bears mentioning that 1993 saw an attempt at a revival of the franchise at Marvel with Transformers: Generation 2 – coinciding with a new toy line that was just obnoxiously gaudy repaints of the original toys. It only lasted 12 issues, and it balanced some good art from Senior with some horrendous stuff from Manny Galan. Furman wrote that series as well, which found the Autobot/Decepticon war dwarfed by a new breed of Cybertronian that had cast aside the petty emotions of the conflict and simply set out to terraform other planets and make them into new Cybertrons, regardless of what indiginous life might be occupying them at the time. Furman appreciates some of that material, but he thought the series was very "90s" and wouldn't use that as a jumping off point.
“I think there’s lots of great stuff in G2, and I certainly don’t want to disregard it completely (I think there’s material there that could easily fold into whatever we might do with a G1 continuation), but given a straight choice, I’d opt for G1 #81 over G2 #13," Furman explained, "just because that original run had a defining, epochal quality to it that just inspires me to see if it can be pushed to another level."
So if you're an old-school fan and you want to see more of the classic stuff, head on over and sign that petition. If the X-Men can do it with Chris Claremont, and G.I. Joe can do it with Larry Hama, then Transformers can do it with Simon Furman.