Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"The Single Most Cataclysmically Important Transformers Story, Ever"

Issue #61 (in the US) of the original Marvel Comics Transformers series is referred to in the Transformers Wiki as "the single most..." (well, you read the title) because of an incident in the story where Primus, the creator of the Transformers, is awakened after untold ages of self-imposed unconsciousness, which in turn alerts the evil Unicron to his (and Cybertron's) whereabouts, not only in the era of the Marvel comic, but--as it turns out in later retellings--all over the Transformers multiverse. I consider this issue rather important, too, but for a far more mundane, and more personal, reason.

For me, Marvel US issue #61 is important because it was the first time I had ever gotten a letter published in an official Transformers publication. Now, this is hardly a unique situation. Quite a few of us "old timer" Transformers fans can say the same in regard to the Marvel comic alone (indeed, there's at least one other name on this very letter column that I came to recognize as another "well-known" Transformers fan once upon a time). But I did have the honor of being the first letter printed in this particular column. That, I suppose, puts me in an elite group of less than 80 people. At the age of 15, I considered this a "pretty big deal."

The incident also served as my introduction to the world of editorial adjustment to such letters. The essence of the letter is more or less what I wrote--having noticed that the Hasbro toyline was by that point being limited to only Micromasters and Pretenders, I was encouraging the writers not to tie themselves only to what Hasbro was producing--but the letter took out lines that I'd written, and even added words ("Powermasters and the like!") that I didn't write (an addition that made me wonder at the time if I they understood that I was trying to say "...this is all Hasbro's doing right now! They're not doing those other gimmicks anymore! Just Micromasters and Pretenders!"). They also got my ZIP code wrong (as anyone from KY will immediately recognize)!

What the editorial staff at Marvel understood (or didn't understand) at the time, I'll never know for sure. I certainly didn't understand then, as I do now, that Marvel was actually under orders from Hasbro to keep adding characters consistent with the toys being released at the time, and likewise to stop featuring characters that were no longer available.

Letter columns, although not yet entirely extinct, are less common in comics today. Most fans today are able to interact with creators through e-mail and the Internet. I certainly do more of my interaction with Transformers fans (and the occasional creator) in this way, and I'm still not shy about expressing my opinion on what direction the fiction should take (I'll leave it to others to decide whether I've gotten any wiser about what limitations such creators are under). I even still have the honor of seeing my name in print from time to time. I'll never be one of the Transformers "legends" like Simon Furman or Bob Budiansky, but I'm proud to be able to say that I'm making a contribution, however small.

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