Friday, April 20, 2012

Regenerating History; or, One Life, Furnished in Early Furman

I don't usually do online petitions. A couple thousand people clicking a button on a web site aren't going to change the world. But at a time when IDW's Transformers ongoing comic was barely breaking 10,000 copies a month, the petition to bring Simon Furman and Andrew Wildman back to continue where they left off in Marvel's Transformers series seemed like it might have a chance. That's all history now; the comic, Regeneration One, is coming out within the next couple months, with a Free Comic Book Day teaser in mere weeks. I don't think I've ever been so excited about a comic book.

I didn't read the Transformers comic as a child. I grew up on a dirt road in rural Alabama, only aware of comic books as something kids in movies read. I didn't have many of the toys, either. The show, however, broadcast out of Columbus, GA, cost nothing to watch, and it made a huge impact on me. I tried growing up. After living in one place all my life my family moved three times between my tenth and twelfth birthdays. I came into adolescence confused and feeling like my "childhood" was more than two years past, but finally I was in civilization. Eventually I became a comic book reader. Then, in a Toys R Us on an early December night in 1992, I saw the Generation 2 rereleases, and I rediscovered Transformers.

Within days I pillaged the used book shop for all their back-issues, including all four issues of Transformers Universe. My comic collection came in fits and starts, and my teenage years were spent trying to complete it. Two years after it was canceled I was finally learning the other story of the Transformers, an at times completely new take on the Autobots and Decepticons. By then the cartoon was airing every morning on the fledgeling SciFi Channel, and I also watched and recorded that obsessively, but the comic was what bridged me from childhood nostalgia to teenage fan. Especially once I discovered Simon Furman.

My first Furman stories left me shell-shocked. When I finally found some end-run issues, 78 and 79, I discovered my favorite characters beaten, battered, dented and dying. Budiansky's stories were good, especially in the beginning, but they didn't prepare my teenage mind for the bleak-yet-humorous space opera of Furman's writing. Characters I had never heard of in my childhood, characters like Nightbeat and Bludgeon, became instant favorites. Splash pages by Geoff Senior and Andrew Wildman were copied into nickel-machine black and white to be hung in my locker and glued to my notebook. Lines of dialogue ("You can't just die! You have to run around a bit first, fight back! What fun is this?") were memorized and recited to marginally interested friends. Those same friends were begged for money when I found an issue I couldn't afford, even from the dollar bin. Related comics like Death's Head found homes in my collection. Parents were begged for rides to the comic shop every Wednesday for a year so I could get the latest issue of Generation 2. A fanzine was started. Fanfiction of stunning mediocrity was written. Transformers became a major part of my life, and most of that could be placed squarely at the feet of Simon Furman.

Until 2001's Robots In Disguise cartoon, there were only really two major Transformers continuities. There was the Japanese G1 cartoon, and the UK G1 comic book, but they were both just extensions of one or the other. Beast Wars and Beast Machines played at being tied to both. After Robots In Disguise, though, nothing ever seemed to have the same impact. The explosion of different continuities diluted the significance of anything that happened in any of them. I found it a lot harder to care about any of it enough to bother writing fanfiction, and I found it harder to care about anyone else's. None of it really seemed to matter anymore. That's not to say there wasn't any good fiction, but it stopped seeming as important. Okay, so this Starscream in this continuity died. So what?

Now one of the Two True Continuities - the one that  had the most influence on me - is returning. Does it all boil down to "I want to see the Marvel G1 universe return because that's where I wrote all my fanfic"? Well...maybe. But doesn't that just show how influential and important that universe was?

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