Dreamwave G1 read-through

The originals... ok, not exactly, but the original named "The TransFormers" anyway. Take THAT, Diaclone!
Generation 1, Generation 2 - Removable fists? Check. Unlicensed vehicle modes? Check. Kickass tape deck robot with transforming cassette minions? DOUBLE CHECK!!!
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andersonh1
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Dreamwave G1 read-through

Post by andersonh1 »

They've just started a thread for this over on TFW2005, and since I'm participating, I thought I'd post my thoughts here as well.

Transformers Preview issue
April 2002
Writer - Chris Sarracini, Pencils - Pat Lee, Inks Rob Armstrong

The cover on my copy of this book has Optimus Prime running at the reader, gun in hand, with his open trailer and its battle components visible, with Roller up in the air. It's a good dynamic cover that really evoked memories of the fun I used to have watching or reading Transformers back in the day. But the cover does not reflect the contents of the book at all, and I don't think that bothered me then or now, because I knew this was a teaser story that would not throw us right into the action.

If this issue were to be given a title, it would probably be "Second Chances." The story is six pages of two men walking in an Arctic snowstorm having a conversation. The first, Ratzenberg, hates being out in the weather, while "Lazarus" (no heavy symbolism there!) says the walk will all be worth it. Ratzenberg has financing that Lazarus wants for his mysterious venture. Lazarus sums up a short history of the Transformers arriving on Earth, and the whole thing is written in a way that saves the reveal that he's talking about Transformers until the final panel, which doesn't really work on one level, given that the readers already know what he's talking about. But it works on a story level as Ratzenberg catches the sight of Soundwave being excavated from the Arctic ice and can't wait to make out the check.

I don't quite know how to evaluate this story. I guess that it's written for someone new to the property to explain briefly what Transformers are and what they can do and what drives them. But it also came out during the 80s nostalgia boom, and is clearly geared towards those who remember the 80s animated series. So it tries to thread the needle, and the "thank God for second chances" is a meta comment if there ever was one. "Your childhood favorites are back" the book is saying. And indeed they were, I was excited to read new Transformers comics for the first time since Generation 2 had ended.

Then we have six pages of rough sketches. Five are figures only, while the last are a couple of action scenes with Predaking. Just about all the sketches are recognizable as the early stage of the finished covers we would get later.

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Re: Dreamwave G1 read-through

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And since it's here, even though this is a G1 read-through, I'll comment on the Armada preview as well. For the record, I really enjoyed the Armada ongoing, and I think it was far better than the animated series.

Writer - Chris Sarracini, Pencils - James Raiz, Inks Rob Armstrong, Erik Sander

First off, James Raiz's art is vastly better than Pat Lee's, and I was always glad to see him turn up drawing a few issues here and there for IDW. The story follows two aliens, Fflaxl and Bix, who work for the Universal Peacekeeping Committee. They've been sent to Cybertron to investigate reports of a civil war between "the planet's two main tribes", the Autobots and Decepticons, and a third group, the Minicons. Fflaxl thinks this should be easy to sort out once they sit everyone at a table and talk it through. But unseen by him, Optimus Prime comes flying through the air (having clearly been punched or thrown) and flattens Bix. Megatron is close behind, and the two metal titans completely ignore the tiny organic alien as they taunt each other and Megatron forces a mini-con to become a weapon for him. The fight moves on, leaving a shocked Fflaxl to beat a hasty retreat, concluding that he's sure everything will work out in the end. Poor Bix is presumably dead, his fate is not addressed.

This is a vastly better preview than the G1 story, with action, some humor, and some actual Transformers in it! The art is better, the dialogue is nowhere near as pretentious, and I may well have been more enthused for this series than my sentimental favorite G1 at the time. Even now it makes me want to read the main Armada series, and maybe I will.

Following that is an interesting spread detailing a proposed RID series when Dreamwave was making their pitch to Hasbro, I presume. It's a great "what might have been" for the series that immediately preceded Armada. There's also a sketch for the triple gatefold Armada cover, which I may have. Following that are some line art from interior pages of the upcoming Armada comic, and the art is so good I just wish James Raiz had been on G1 rather than Pat Lee.

It's a mixed bag of a preview comic. It whets the appetite for both upcoming series, no doubt, with the Armada story and art far stronger than the G1 story and art. I'm not sure that's what was intended, since nostalgia for the 80s and the original Transformers is what drove the revival in the first place, but that's what it did for me, then and now.

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Re: Dreamwave G1 read-through

Post by Dominic »

I mostly agree.


The G1 preview was a different type of preview.

"Armada" was an introduction to something new. G1 was a return. (The line about how "some of them could even fly" was some of the best anti_Furman I have even seen. ("Giant space robots, some of them could fly. That should be more than enough wonder and craziness. No need for time travel and cosmic jabber.)

Raiz is under appreciated. Those first 5 issues of "Armada" were gorgeous. And, Saracinni was incomparably better than Furman.

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Re: Dreamwave G1 read-through

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Transformers #1
May 2002
Writer - Chris Sarracini, Pencils - Pat Lee, Inks Rob Armstrong

One of the things that strikes me about this first issue is how often it seems like the writers are trying to put a movie on the page rather than using traditional comic book storytelling, and by that I mean in part trying to convey a series of events a bit at a time, like animation keyframing. Page 2 is a good example with five panels that are nearly identical with the man smoking in the foreground, and the man in the background keeping watch while the giant hand comes out and grabs him. While it admittedly works on one level, comics and movies are two different mediums and storytelling like this often feels like a waste of a page to me. Page 4 which is a dark jungle with an explosion in the middle feels like a waste of a splash page since we don't know exactly what has been destroyed or who it affects (though we'll learn before the end of the issue). The stakes are unclear at this point. I don't want to spend a lot of time on this topic going forward, but it will still apply. In places the visual panel to panel storytelling and the pacing feel like someone is storyboarding a film rather than making the best use of the comic book page, which may be why the book feels like it's flying by with not enough content.

The appearance of Spike (who still looks very young here, though he's clearly an adult) works better as we learn a lot about his life as he gets ready for his day with his blue collar job and young son and wife (she's still sleeping when he gets up) before General Hallo and "friend" show up and invite themselves in. Here we get a cliche that always annoys me: the General who flaunts the law and is an authority unto himself, seemingly answering to no one, not even his commander in chief, and who violates a citizen's civil rights and does whatever he wants. I really enjoyed the introduction to Spike and his family here, but not the general.

Lazarus is still in the Antarctic and still enjoying keeping his customers in the dark, which makes sense given what he's doing, and it's nice to see Hound, even if he's not himself at the moment. The book is still stalling to hold off on the full reveal of a Transformer until closer to the end of the issue, so we only see partial renderings like the hand in the jungle at the beginning of the book, and here Hound's torso and arms and Starscream's legs.

Spike's portions of the book remain the most effective. I've always thought Dreamwave's series took place in a version of the Sunbow animated series universe, between the last season 2 episode and the movie, but there are bits of the Marvel G1 mixed in with the mention here of Buster as Spike's brother. We learn that Sparkplug died when a ship exploded, and all aboard had been thought dead, human and Transformer alike, until a satellite image reveals Megatron in South America, causing the explosion from early in the issue. And with that we finally get the full reveal of Megatron, with Lazarus claiming complete control over "the beasts" making them "intelligent killing machines who only do what you tell them to do." And he's selling them to whoever can pay his fee. And right off the bat, when he commands Megatron to kneel, it becomes clear that the process isn't as flawless as Lazarus claims. Despite the fact that he's the worst of the worst, I always root for Megatron over Lazarus at this point in the story, because it just doesn't seem right for Megatron to be humbled by someone like an arms dealer. So I'm cheering at the glowing red eyes.

The book ends with the revelation that General Hallo also has a Transformer, and it's Optimus Prime, much to Spike's shock. Despite my complaints about the pacing in places and some cliched story elements, the ending of the issue is great, and really had me ready to read more. The article about the Ark blowing up with Transformers and an astronaut crew of humans on board is genuinely effective in conveying the tragedy of the situation, and exactly what happened to Sparkplug.

So I wrote a bit more than I might have intended, but despite my complaints about elements that don't quite work for me, I enjoyed the issue and I think the book generally works pretty well. Pat Lee has a unique drawing style, that's for sure. The colors are rich and there are some definite Photoshop effects going on here and there. The book ends on a high note, promising some good Transformers action coming up, and all in all I don't mind spending an issue on Lazarus's business venture before we see what Megatron will do to wreak havoc on him.

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Re: Dreamwave G1 read-through

Post by Dominic »

Comics being story-boards has been a thing for years. It is not great. But, it is better than the endless jabber of the Silver Age.

The slow reveals of named characters worked at the time, because the series was a revival of a property that had been functionally non-existent for long enough that even die-hards like myself had moved on. I was *almost* out of comics when this dropped in '02.

I agree about the "corrupt army man" cliche. It was old in the 90s. And, it was out of step for mid-late '02.

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Re: Dreamwave G1 read-through

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I was still in high school when this series started. The copy of the first issue I have is the 3rd printing which has Omega Supreme on the cover. As I recall, I was just starting to read monthly issues around the time so I missed the preview issue, and I think I got the first two or three issues at the same time.

It was an interesting story choice to barely show any of the Transformers in the first issue. I liked how it had mirrored the real world. The G1 Transformers had been out of the mainstream for several years by that point (save for cameos in BW/BM), just as they'd been missing in this story for several years following the destruction of the Ark II. It does make for a slow start to the story, but it was an effective way of reintroducing the characters.

I didn't understand why Pat Lee was billed as a "super-star" artist, like he was the greatest to ever grace comics with his talent. I mean, the art is... passable, but obviously flawed. It certainly doesn't match the reputation. But then, I found out he and his brother owned Dreamwave, so it was a title he'd given himself. Then to find out years later much of his work was largely filled in by ghost artists he failed to give proper credit to... It's a shame when they had so many talented Transformers artists working for them.

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Re: Dreamwave G1 read-through

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Dominic wrote:
Wed Aug 10, 2022 6:48 pm
"Armada" was an introduction to something new. G1 was a return. (The line about how "some of them could even fly" was some of the best anti_Furman I have even seen. ("Giant space robots, some of them could fly. That should be more than enough wonder and craziness. No need for time travel and cosmic jabber.)

Raiz is under appreciated. Those first 5 issues of "Armada" were gorgeous. And, Saracinni was incomparably better than Furman.
Furman has written some good stories, but it's hard to compare him and Sarracini, given how much more Furman has written. I guess I'd have to pick the best of both and see which one I thought was consistently better.
Sparky Prime wrote:
Tue Aug 16, 2022 10:02 pm
I was still in high school when this series started. The copy of the first issue I have is the 3rd printing which has Omega Supreme on the cover. As I recall, I was just starting to read monthly issues around the time so I missed the preview issue, and I think I got the first two or three issues at the same time.

It was an interesting story choice to barely show any of the Transformers in the first issue. I liked how it had mirrored the real world. The G1 Transformers had been out of the mainstream for several years by that point (save for cameos in BW/BM), just as they'd been missing in this story for several years following the destruction of the Ark II. It does make for a slow start to the story, but it was an effective way of reintroducing the characters.

I didn't understand why Pat Lee was billed as a "super-star" artist, like he was the greatest to ever grace comics with his talent. I mean, the art is... passable, but obviously flawed. It certainly doesn't match the reputation. But then, I found out he and his brother owned Dreamwave, so it was a title he'd given himself. Then to find out years later much of his work was largely filled in by ghost artists he failed to give proper credit to... It's a shame when they had so many talented Transformers artists working for them.
I'm not sure I realized that Pat Lee had given himself that label. Wow. Just self-promotion on his part? If only he'd paid his employees...

Sometimes I like his art, at other times I really don't. I'm not a big fan of the way he draws people. Some of his transformer designs are good, some aren't as good, and I think he's better at poster poses than sequential storytelling.


Transformers #2
Written by Chris Sarracini, Pencils by Pat Lee, Inks by Rob Armstrong

The cover on my copy is the one with Thundercracker, Starscream and Skywarp, plus Ramjet in the background. And that might be Dirge behind him, though he's not using the "Conehead" configuration. We open with Spike and General Hallo discussing Optimus Prime, picking up right where last issue left off. Hallo hopes that Spike can reactivate Optimus, because nothing they've tried has worked. Turns out that Optimus left Spike a tiny piece of the Matrix, which Spike wears on a chain around his neck, as a promise that he would return to Earth and bring Spike's dad back safely. That didn't happen of course, and Spike is resentful, but this is the type of gesture I can easily believe that Optimus would make. Spike hesitates but inserts the object, and though we don't see what happens directly, judging by Spike and Hallo's reaction, the Matrix was reignited. And of course we all know that Optimus will be front and center in the story, so it's not a surprise.

In the Arctic, a massive container of Transformers is air-dropped into an oil refinery, and we get five pages of nearly dialogue-free action as Soundwave, Grimlock, Starscream, Frenzy, Bumblebee, Ravage and Prowl tear the place apart. The men working at the refinery try to escape, but it appears to be hopeless. Say what you will about Pat Lee's art, I think this sequence works for me. The angled panels, the way the pages are black instead of white, the zombified expressions on the faces of the Transformers that have faces, all of these really sell the idea that these familiar characters are not themselves. Seeing Autobot, Dinobot and Decepticon side by side does that as well. Meanwhile Laserbeak is recording all of this so Lazarus can show it to his audience of prospective buyers, who respond with enthusiasm. They offer millions, but Lazarus wants to sell the "deluxe model"... Megatron himself.

So imagine Lazarus's utter shock when Megatron speaks, and reveals that he's very much aware of what's going on. "I don't know what's larger. Your arrogance or your stupidity." Again, for all my problems with Pat Lee's art style, I like how Megatron is drawn here. And then we cut away at this crucial moment to find Optimus, Spike and Hallo at the spot in the arctic where Optimus was found, where he uses the Matrix to remotely revive a number of Autobots from the sea floor, including Huffer, Mirage, Jazz, Sunstreaker, Sideswipe, Wheeljack and Superion. This was just as good as gold back when this book was first published, I loved seeing these guys again and could not wait to see where the story went. However it never felt right then or now for Optimus to say "welcome back, boys", and I think that's a misjudged line. Too informal for Prime.

And then there's the final pages where the helicopters return from destroying the refinery with the cargo of Transformers, only to find Megatron destroying their headquarters. I remember being glad to finally see the original Megatron back after years of the Beast Wars/Beast Machines version (which I do like, to be fair, I just enjoyed seeing the original again), and the RID version. "He's the one who wears a cannon on his arm," I remember telling my wife in an attempt to describe just how bad news this guy was. He doesn't just carry a gun, he IS a gun, and he is armed with a cannon. The last thing we see is Megatron aiming that cannon straight at the helicopter as we see the whole thing from the point of view of looking out the cockpit alongside the pilot. Megatron is shooting at us! Great cliffhanger, I really liked it.

There's an ad for an Armada 2002-2003 calendar, an ad for a Soundwave poster (complete with all his cassettes) and a GREAT two-page spread of the RID cast by James Raiz dead center in the book. I don't mind breaks in the story when they look this good. Some Titan collections of the Marvel G1 series are advertised at the end of the book. There's another two page poster at the end showing Decepticons with Cobra, in an early Transformers/GI Joe crossover depiction. Armada's first issue is advertised on the inside back cover, and all of Dreamwave's coming attractions as well. The ads really take me back.

I enjoyed the way the action picked up this issue, and of course more Transformers is better than the hints and teases we've had up until now, but the slow reveal and pacing was a good choice I think, particularly given how long it had been at the time this was published since we'd seen these characters in print.

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Re: Dreamwave G1 read-through

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Great RID poster by James Raiz in the center of the book. I wonder what an RID series drawn by Raiz and written by Sarracini would have looked like. We almost got one, or at least they were pitching one according to the extras back in the preview.

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Re: Dreamwave G1 read-through

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andersonh1 wrote:
Sat Aug 20, 2022 2:38 pm
Great RID poster by James Raiz in the center of the book. I wonder what an RID series drawn by Raiz and written by Sarracini would have looked like. We almost got one, or at least they were pitching one according to the extras back in the preview.
They were thinking of an RiD series that far back? I remember when the Summer Special issue was released in 2004, they'd put it up to the fans to vote between Beast Wars or RiD getting a mini-series. Although, rather than Raiz, they had Rob Ruffolo do the art for the RiD story in that issue which... was really bad. Beast Wars won the vote, not that it really mattered since Dreamwave went under before releasing a single issue.

Speaking of which, Don Figueroa has posted quite a bit of old artwork from his Dreamwave and IDW days on his twitter account recently. Some of which are some pages from the unreleased Dreamwave Beast Wars comic that have never been seen before.
I'm not sure I realized that Pat Lee had given himself that label. Wow. Just self-promotion on his part? If only he'd paid his employees...

Sometimes I like his art, at other times I really don't. I'm not a big fan of the way he draws people. Some of his transformer designs are good, some aren't as good, and I think he's better at poster poses than sequential storytelling.
I dunno if Pat Lee actually gave it to himself, but it was in the press release when Dreamwave announced they'd gotten the Transformers license. As one of the owners of the company, I have to assume he had something to do with giving himself that label.

He's not the worst artist... But yeah, his work on posters was usually better than his comic book art. And he couldn't draw humans very well at all.

Transformers #2
I have the Autobots cover for this issue featuring Prowl, Mirage and Jazz.

I always found the sequence of reviving Optimus Prime odd in this issue. I mean, I like the idea that Optimus gave Spike a small fragment of the Matrix as a promise that he'd return for it someday, with his father. Now here Spike is ready to hold up his side of the bargain, but obviously Optimus cannot return his father to him. That's all good. But, why is the Matrix shown to be completely empty? Optimus isn't shown to be damaged or anything. I think it'd have made more sense if the crystal in the Matrix was still there, albeit darkened, and simply needed a 'jump start' from the fragment Spike had.

Optimus using the Matrix to revive the remaining Autobots still in stasis lock in the ocean is a nice touch.

I also like that Megatron completely breaks free of the control Lazarus had over him here. We had a hint of it in the previous issue, but apparently by seer force of will alone, Megatron has restored himself.

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Re: Dreamwave G1 read-through

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Sparky Prime wrote:
Wed Aug 24, 2022 8:26 pm
They were thinking of an RiD series that far back? I remember when the Summer Special issue was released in 2004, they'd put it up to the fans to vote between Beast Wars or RiD getting a mini-series. Although, rather than Raiz, they had Rob Ruffolo do the art for the RiD story in that issue which... was really bad. Beast Wars won the vote, not that it really mattered since Dreamwave went under before releasing a single issue.
In the back of the preview issue, there are some black and white and color examples of the art of James Raiz. One of the drawings is Prowl, X-Brawn and Sideburn, and another is a page of line art featuring RID Megatron fighting Optimus. The drawings are labeled "Transformers: Robots in Disguise Artwork by James Raiz for proposal purposes for Hasbro." There's also another page of story panels and Sideburn transforming. It may be more of a pitch to Hasbro, i.e. "here's what we could do with Transformers" given when RID was the current property than a serious proposal for a series, and by the time Dreamwave got the license RID had been replaced by Armada. Raiz gives the date he was offered the chance to draw Transformers for Dreamwave as July 2001, and the awarding of the license as November 2001.

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