Sunday, August 30, 2009

Review: War of the Worlds, the series ep 5

Episode 5 of War of the Worlds, the series is titled An Eye for and Eye. In it, our heroes go to Grover's Mill, site of the Martian invasion in Orson Welles radio broadcast of 1938. It seems that the radio broadcast was a government coverup of an alien scouting party, and the team wants to interview the veterans on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the invasion. Purely by coincidence, the aliens send a large force of bikers to Grover's Mill to secure the remains of the scout craft.

The four surviving veterans of the Grover's Mill militia are more than happy to talk to the team, though the one with the reputation for embellishment happens to observe some of the bikers eating his prize rosebuds (Welles and rosebuds, get it?), just like the Martians did way back when. The team investigates and sees the aliens mounting the heat ray of the scout ship on an automobile. They try to call in for reinforcements but "the birds are grounded and the infantry is at least four hours away." The team then builds a parabolic program and a mirror, and lure the aliens to a prepared area. There, the heat ray is reflected back at the aliens, destroying them all.

The Good: Incorporating the Orson Welles broadcast is a clever touch. In fact, the legendary performer is clearly beloved by the staff. Not only is his name whispered in reverent tones many times, but at the carnival of the broadcast they briefly feature a contest of Welles lookalikes.

Ironhorse's deep respect for the forgotten veterans of the battle of '38. Since Richard Chaves was a bona fide Vietnam vet, I expect that his performance here drew from those experiences. Speaking of which ...

Jeff Corey does a great job as Flannery, the main veteran of '38. He doesn't over-sell the part, but has a gentle and affable quality about him that works well. His grief for his friend, who gets inhabited by an alien, is also quite poignent.

The friend, by the way, played by John Ireland, is suitably nasty as an enemy once discovered. When Blackwood tries to open a dialogue, he responds that there can be no dialogue with fungus.

The heat beam mounted on the hearse (the aliens used a funeral as cover for digging up the graveyard where the ship was buried) was an interesting visual. Heck, the weird-ass vacuum cleaner / lawnmower machine they used to find it was kind of a hoot too.

Biker aliens worked well. Aliens can look like anyone, and the show was constantly looking for new sorts of people for the aliens to inhabit.

The Bad: For the first time, but certainly not the last, the aliens and the Blackwood Team converge on the same location within a few hours of each other, purely by happenstance. Also, neither team really had any reason to be in town exactly on the 50th anniversary of the broadcast, which adds in a third layer of coincidence.

"The birds are grounded." Excuse me? I guess it's nice that the writers are at least paying lip service to the idea that this is an official team, but it's hard to imagine an actual army ignoring an enemy getting their tentacles on a capital ship a mere 40 miles from New York City.

The show also employs the old sci-fi cliche of asking how long it will take Norton to build a parabola program, getting a response of a few weeks, then informing him that he has an hour. Ugh. Speaking of which, if mirrors can reflect heat beams, why didn't we just put mirrors on our tanks? Finally, and this is me being very pedantic, the beam fires, bounces around the mirror (very slowly), then bounces out at a different angle ... and hits the heat beam dead on. It'd have looked a lot better if it hit the car a little lower.

Finally, there were at least two dozen biker/aliens milling about. That seems like an awful lot for the purpose of digging out a buried scout craft. It seemed like the writers didn't have much for them to do besides mill around (ha ha!) and then get disintegrated. Also, since when does the heat ray spread? All those bikers obliterated in one shot? It was a bit much, and easily solved by just having a half a dozen of them.

The Ugly: We only got one alien death that left a body, a shotgun blast that for some reason blew John Ireland's character to pieces, but the final shot of the episode was a mauled alien biker driving away.

Overall, a very weak execution on a fairly weak plot. The best part of the episode was the love given to the 1938 broadcast, but that only goes so far.

Friday, August 28, 2009 has made a page for me! Nifty! You can check it out here.

By the way, I know that the past couple of weeks have been taken over by the new books coming out. I'm glad to host part of the discussion on them, but regular blog content will be returning next week. That's all the usual material: The Ark Addendum, War of the Worlds (the series) good/bad/ugly evaluations, Iván's Gallery, and of course reviews of the Marvel US and UK comic. To my existing readers, thanks for bearing with us as we promote the new books. To my new readers, I hope you stick around.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Complete Ark - Five Page Preview and Review Thread

With all the attention that The AllSpark Almanac has been getting, I wanted to make sure that at least a little love was devoted to this bad boy:  Transformers: The Complete Ark, due out tomorrow, Wednesday the 26th. For those of you who have one or both of the two Ark books, you'll have a very good idea of what to expect from this collection. It's a full-sized (not digest sized as reported earlier) compilation of the two Ark books, with a little bit of extra material included as a bonus. That's 416 pages of character model goodness.  You can get it at your local comic book shop, or you can preorder it from Amazon.

For those of you who don't know, The Ark was a collection of character models from the US G1 cartoon. It spanned all four years, from More than Meets the Eye to The Rebirth. The Ark II followed in that tradition, covering all of the Japanese G1 series: Headmasters, Masterforce, Victory, Zone, Battlestars and Operation Combination. Unlike The AllSpark Almanac, the tone of the book is academic, though I tried to include interesting observations and facts that I dug up in my research when appropriate.

There was a bit of overlap between the two books, so I removed redundant pages and added in about a dozen extra, especially around the Masterforce era. I also added in a few small bits here and there when I had room, such as alternate head designs for Optimus and Devastator; some new weapons and tools for Sideswipe, Cliffjumper, Brawn and Ratchet; new angles on Motormaster, Galvatron, the Predacons, and the Sharkticon; interiors for Cosmos, the Seekers, Shouki, and Cyclonus; alternate backs for the Dinobots; and even the occasional brand new model, like another Quintesson scientist or Spike in a Space Tuxedo. There's more, but I don't want this post to devolve into a huge list.

The Complete Ark will be out tomorrow, August 26th. It's also available for preorder on Here is a taste of what it's like:

I know this one isn't as new as The AllSpark Almanac, but if you pick up the collected version I'd love to hear your thoughts here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Iván's Gallery: Lady Mega

Well, it's certainly been an exciting week for us Disciples, but despite being on holiday on the island paradise that is Menorca Iván nevertheless found the time to update his gallery with a Masterforce standby - Lady Mega. Here's what the artist has to say about the piece:

My favourite female masterforce character , or human charcter.... oks, this picture is for a proyect, but i think that´s rejected , finally.

The idea is show to the people the world of this Queen... in the pin up, appears : Mega ( principal draw ) and the armor , Devil-Z and the jet ( Overlord´s Mega part )
Yeah, it´s funny but i think that´s loocks better in colour, perhaps in the future.

Friday, August 21, 2009

AllSpark Almanac signing August 22 in Burbank

Bill Forster, Derrick Wyatt and I did a signing of The AllSpark Almanac today at the Emerald Knights comic book shop in Burbank today. It was a huge success! Thanks to everyone who made it out. We blew through all of the copies of The AllSpark Almanacs that were ordered by the shop and had to dip into our personal stash, though the shop will be replacing them for us. We also brought along a few advanced copies of The Complete Ark as a special bonus for those who showed up.

And it was quite a turnout. We had about fifty folks all told and had to go more than twice as long as our allotted hour. We had some fun guests, like long time friends of the blog Brian, the once-and-future reviewer of Headmasters episodes, and Lonegamer, our tireless advocate over on, in the classic anime photo pose. (Lots of other friends-of-the-blog, like Sam Levine and G.B. Blackrock, were also attendance! Thanks for showing up in force.)

We were also fortunate enough to have some of the actual creators of the show show up. Irineo Maramba was here, and appropriately enough is actually in the book himself with a character model.
Overall, a good time was had by all. Many pictures were taken, here are just a few:

Thanks again to everyone who showed up! We got to meet some terrific folks, with some terrific outfits, like the the Henchman #24 shirt (above) or the TK412 Stormtrooper outfit (where have I read that recently ... hmmm .... ) or the girl with the Decepticon symbol and flames (and the TMNT apparel - what's not to love?) I think a good time was had by all with the possible exception of the guy who arrived at 4:30 and found out that we were out of books. You guys all rock!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Reminder: Bill Forster on LA Ink

Don't forget, Bill's episode of LA Ink airs tonight at 7:00 PM PST, 10:00 PM EST on TLC, then again at 9:00 PM PST / 12:00 AM EST. In Feelings Rule, Bill gets Nick Roche's cover to The Ark II tattooed on his chest.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

AllSpark Almanac: Reaction Thread

Howdy, gang! This post is the official reaction thread for The AllSpark Almanac. Feel free to write reviews, ask question, air criticisms, discuss among yourselves, whatever. I'm eager to hear what you have to say. If you have especially strong opinions, reviews are especially helpful in getting the word out to casual fans.

I'm going to bump this thread to the top of my blog for a while so it doesn't get lost.

Marcelo Matere, the supremely talented cover artist, posted both the clean cover and the line-art over at his deviant art page. Check it out!

Meanwhile, people are twittering about the book. My favorite quote to date?
"I am going to lock myself in my room with the Allspark Almanac and MAKE WILD PASSIONATE LOVE TO IT" - David Willis
Mildly disturbing on one level perhaps, but flattering on another level. More tweets!
"My god... the AllSpark Almanac is GLORIOUS." -Michael Ivey aks GeneralTekno
Here are some non-tweet that I rather like, over at the IDW Forums:
"Epic succeed." - Michael Priest aka Thunderwing

"This shall go down as one of the greatest pieces of Transformers reference ever produced. Well done guys, worth every penny and then some!" - Shaun Knowler aka Beachcomber
Lots of love, over at the AllSpark forums.

"I'm still reeling from the awesome. Seriously, I was gearing up to attempt a review but then once I read the whole thing it's like sensory overload and now I just need to lie still in the afterglow for a while." - Thylacine2000

"I just can not put this book down... Loving it so so much!!! if you have any kind of soul at all you need this book! " -Geoff Sproul

"This... is quite possibly the best fan guide that I've ever read. I have spent two days going through it page by page, and I cannot wait to get back to the beginning and do it again. Every single page has some new fact, a reference, a picture, SOMETHING that makes me happy I bought the book. Every damn page." -Luke Thompson

"That's it, I'm just going to abandon all pretense and just start masturbating over this book right now." -Chris McFeely
As for that last one, um, you know, guys, when I set out to make the seminal guide to Transformers Animated, I didn't mean that quite so literally ...

In one of the most flatteringly possible tributes I can imagine, the aforementioned Chris McFeely has spent the last week or so making The AllSpark Almanac Annotated. You might want to check it out and, hey, possibly help him fill in any gaps.

There have also been seven reviews on as of today, 8/25/09, and so far all have been 5 stars.

Thanks for all the love, guys and gals of the interwebs!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The AllSpark Almanac 5 page preview and LA Ink

Well, it's almost time. Wednesday, August 19th The AllSpark Almanac comes out, and it's just around the corner. I know I've been hyping this book a lot, but it's only because I'm incredibly proud of the result. When I was a kid and I'd buy some crummy unofficial guidebook to something like, say, Quantum Leap, this was the kind of product I always hoped I'd get. I can't thank Bill, Marty, Derrick, Marcelo, and all the other folks who contributed enough.

A few notes on the preview. While it's traditional to do the first five pages of a book, in this instance I felt that that would be a disservice. You'd get the opening shot of the book, a two page spread of the credits, some sketches and the table of content. Even moving to the first five pages of 'content' (and I tried to make every single page, including the literary elements, content rich) doesn't solve the problem, since that would be mostly an interstitial block about Transformers: Hero, the earliest brainstorming around the project that eventually turned into Transformers: Animated. And if I skipped that, the first five pages of chapter one are all devoted to Optimus Prime. Now, I love the bossbot as much as the next guy, but that seemed like overkill. So instead, I give you Marcello's wonderful cover, the table of contents, the first page of chapter one, an interstitial page, and an episode guide page.

For the cover, [edited - the cover has been moved to the reaction thread] you've probably seen it before ... though this version corrects a slight off-model instance. The original is still on Amazon, if you'd care to spot the difference.

The Table of Contents should give you a good idea of how much love we gave to each topic. It's also fairly representative of how I tried to handle literary elements; in this case, I showcased some of the early logo ideas.

The first page of chapter one (actually page 15) has been shown before, at BotCon 2009, but I thought it worth repeating.

The second interstitial page, page 89, shows off the Transforms of five of the characters. Oddly, the only transformation reference for Ratchet was photos of the toy, so I wound up using Starscream's sequence to round out the page.

Finally, page 126, a fairly representative episode guide page. Lost and Found was one of my favorite episodes, and there was a request for more Lugnut in the previews so I thought why not?

It's a busy week for us though. Not only do we have The AllSpark Almanac coming out, but Bill's television appearance on LA Ink is this Thursday. Feelings Rule, the episode where Bill gets Nick Roche's cover to The Ark II permanently inked onto his skin, airs at 10:00 EST (7:00 PST), and again at 12:00 AM EST (9:00 PST) on TLC. Once again, a huge thank-you to the folks at IDW and Hasbro, specifically Hasbro's ace legal department, for putting in the work necessary to make this happen.

Lastly, reminder. As mentioned last week, Bill, Derrick Wyatt and I will be at the Emerald Knights comic book shop in Burbank this Saturday, the 22nd, from 2:00 to 3:00 pm. If you'd like us to sign your books, or for Derrick to sign DVDs or toys, or just to say 'hi', we'd love to meet you.

That's it from me! Tomorrow I'll post up a review thread where you can come by and let us know what you thought. Good, bad or ugly, I'd love to hear your thoughts on The AllSpark Almanac. It should be available at your good old LCS, or of course for preorder at

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bachelor Party!!! (or, God Save the Queen)

You may have noticed that there was no War of the Worlds, the Series review this weekend. That's because I'm getting married in a few weeks, and this weekend was the bachelor party!

Since I am a tremendous geek, my best man David (who also happens to be my brother) and my long-term friend and coauthor Bill decided that the perfect bachelor party activity would be ... a Renaissance Faire! (BTW, screw you, spellcheck, I really DO want to say 'faire'.) So, despite some minor car trouble, a core group of six of us trundled off to Big Bear Mountain, to Rim of the World Drive (yup, it's really called that) to let the festivities commence.

There was jousting! I love a good joust. For the first Joust, knights Sir Michael and Sir Edwards vied for the privilege of defending England's honor against Prince Killem of Scottland. We in the crowd were split into two sections, to give us more of a stake in the match. Our champion, Sir Edward, won by unseating his opponent. In the next match, though, Prince Killem bested Sir Edward and taunted us a bit. It was all in good fun. This was a german form of jousting that gives 1 point per valid hit, 5 points per broken lance (Sentinel Prime? Are you in trouble?), and 10 points for an unhorsing. While we gave good natured cheers and jeers to our champion and his opponent, we went fairly quiet when there was an unhorsing. Two horses traveling at 20 miles an hour each is quite a blow. But once the knight got back to his feet, we all gave a rousing cheer.

There was music! Bawdy wenches performed for our titillation, roguish bards strummed their instruments for our amusement, and family-friendly troupes harmonized together for the many children present. Me, I favor the bawdy wenches of the Salty Satyr Stage, but then, it was a bachelor party.

There was a jail, and a brace of stocks. My D&D buddy Rob put himself in a stock for a picture, but then a guardsman wouldn't let him out immediately. It would seem that a half an hour is the minimum, unless the prisoner performs a song for the constable. Twinkle Twinkle Little Star effected Rob's emancipation.

There were animals! Of course there were horses, but there were also owls, kestrels, raccoons, possums and more. They were brought in from a local hardcore animal shelter that deals specifically with unusual wild animals who are for whatever reason unable to fend for themselves. It was quite a menagerie.

There was royalty! Queen Elizabeth made her way around the faire grounds with quiet dignity, though there were occasional incidents. Sir Killem, it seems, is a bit of an agitator!

There were feats of skill. Sword swallowing, juggling, knife throwing, prestidigitation, archery and more. I even chucked a few throwing axes ... with little success, I'm afraid.

There was a sailing ship! Keen.

And finally, there was the occasional wastrel, passed out from too much mead.

We naturally did all of the other requisite bachelor party activities, but the high point was the festival. Thank you to Bill and David, Marty and Harrison and Rob, for kicking the ass of the sixteenth century.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Review: Marvel G1 #29: Crater Critters

Crater Critters (What, no exclamation for that? Boo!!!) is the twenty-ninth issue in the Marvel US G1 ongoing series. Once again, the creative line-up is relatively stable, with only the cover artist changing. Budiansky is still on writing duties, Perlin on pencils, Akin and Garvey on inks, Yomtov on colors and and Chiang on letters. The cover was by none other than Bob Budiansky. In fact, an early sketch of the cover that he saved appeared in the Titan collection containing this issue.

The cover is a good one, well thought out and nicely composed. Blaster's head, tilted backwards, fills the lower portion of the image, and he's surrounded by hordes of tiny mechanical men. "Scrapped -- by the Scraplets!" we're told, and things certainly don't look good for him. Almost as an afterthought, the bottom right corner of the image lets us know that this issue introduces the Triple Changers. It's clear what aspect of the story Bob thought was truly interesting.

Moving into the meat of the issue, we start out with a fiery meteor crashing down to Earth in the Arizona desert. Budiansky writes "Somewhere in the American southwest, something falls. Something big. Something unexpected. Something deadly ... " He builds suspense nicely, no? Chiang did a great job here on the logo for the issue, exclamation mark or no. She's drawing a bit from the colonial font from the original Battlestar Galactica, and it immediately sets a science fiction tone for the issue.

On page two, we're treated to the actual impact, first with a bang (technically, a BA WOOOM, and again Chiang shows her chops by splitting out the BA from the WOOOM and orienting them differently), then with a whimper, er, crater. Anticipation, climax, aftermath,all in the space of a page and a third. Nicely done. The suspense is heightened by three similar horizontal panels. First we just see some rocks and smoke, then we see a green mechanical hand pulling its way out of a depression, and finally we see that the hand is attached to an injured arm, along with a groan. We see the hapless mechanoid it's attached to - he's groaning about getting help, but then he's suddenly pulled backwards with a shriek. A nut comes off his hand as it's yanked back, and as it lands with a plink and a plunk, something strange starts to happen to it ... but that'll have to wait. All told, the first two pages are masterfully done, a great synthesis of art and writing and lettering. Kudos to all involved.

Blaster and Goldbug are determined to make it on their own, but fighting Decepticons is difficult if you can't find Decepticons. To that end, they track down one of the few allies they have left, G.B. Blackrock. Poor Mr. Blackrock is on a date, and tries to tell the Autobots to wait, though Goldbug drives onto his foot (!) until Blackrock relents. His date gets annoyed and tells him to buzz off (she prefers limos to Beetles ... who'd a thunk it?), leaving him in a foul mood. The Autobots get him to fuel them up, then explain their plight. Being a straight shooter, Blackrock calls them the deserters they are, and expresses reluctance to help a guy he's never met before and an old ally who suddenly looks completely different. This prompts Blaster to, for some reason, retell the story of Scrounge. Well, the real reason is that it's thematically relevant to the story later, but right here it feels a bit awkward. Goldbug expresses disbelieve that Blaster could have left a fellow Autobot to die, which prompts Blaster to practically dare him to go back to the safety of Grimlock and the Ark. Perhaps as much to get away from two argumentative Autobots, Blackrock gives them the information they want. Oil tankers missing in the Caribbean are a bit far for two wayward Autobots, but the radio-emitting meteor may be just the thing.

There are a lot of good and bad elements in the above exchange. Goldbug's high-handed treatment of Blackrock seems deplorable, but it also highlights how desperate the two Autobots are on their own. Low on fuel, low on intelligence (the military kind), low on allies ... it's no wonder they aren't keen to wait for Blackrock to finish his date. While bringing up Scrounge is awkward, the argument that follows highlight the tension the two of them must surely be feeling. And Blackrock's casual mention of missing oil tankers in the Caribbean highlight the success of Shockwave's leadership and the failure of Grimlock's. Shockwave's more subtle missions are meeting with success, especially in the face of Grimlock's disinterest in human affairs.

Hanging upside down in his 'plush offices', Ratbat prepares to spend some fuel. He had sent a package to earth by 'low energy-cost space freighter', but something's happened along the way. He dispatches the Triple Changers (all three of them, an advantage of their late introduction) to Earth via space bridge to investigate. The bridge startles some scientists, who quickly comply with orders to get lost. The three Cons approach the body of the pilot, who warns them off. Mistaking his words to be a plea for mercy in the face of failure, the Decepticons get close enough to become infected themselves ... with the deadly Scraplets.

Hours later, the scientists have called in the national guard. One young researcher, Charlie Fong, thinks that despite the risks of robots, the knowledge of what's in that crater is worth pursuing. Sensing a kindred spirit, Goldbug and Blaster call him over and convince him to help them. The three of them bluff their way past a national guardsman (Charlie did most of the bluffing, with the other two in alt modes) and make their way down. As they arrive, we see a lone nut transform into a tiny robot, who starts to make his way towards the two robots. Before the Scraplet can infect Goldbug, though, the two Autobots are engaging in a pitched battle with the Decepticon Triple Changers. Blaster trots out his trusty (say it with me) electro-scrambler gun, keeping them off balance.

A stray shot sends Charlie into the crater, though Goldbug helps to break his fall. Once inside the crater, the almost completely disintegrated freighter pilot tells of his unfortunate encounter with space dust that turned out to be so much worse. He warns Goldbug to get away just before his head falls off. Gruesome! As nuts, bolts, screws and washers transform into tiny but deadly parasites, Fong springs into action, crushing some and sweeping others away.

Blaster's battle with the Triple Changers seems to be at a stand-still. In their weakened state, he's a fair match for the three of them. At least, until he himself gets infected. He's still ready to fight on to victory with Goldbug's help, but Charlie convinces him of the futility of that after overhearing that there is a legend of a cure for Scraplets. After all, with a cure, Blaster is doomed whether he wins of not. Reluctantly, Goldbug agrees and drives off. Blaster, furious, accuses Goldbug of cowardice and threatens to hunt him down, even if it means going through Grimlock.

It's all too much for Goldbug, who stops to argue with Charlie again. This proves to be a flaw - perhaps a fatal flaw - when a lone Scraplet affixes himself to Goldbug's foot. Charlie tries to pull it out, but it quickly reproduces. Realizing that they had better leave (me, I'd have amputated part of that foot) quickly, they drive off into the desert. But within two and a half hours, Goldbug can barely sputter on. He pleads with Charlie not to let him die with Blaster thinking himself betrayed. "But this time, Charlie Fong offers no reassuring response. He can't talk. His throat is too parched from thirst ... or is it ... from despair ...?"

To Be Continued!

(... although, the tension might have been undercut a bit with the next time ... "Introducing the Throttlebots .. in 'The Cure!'")

What a great issue! Two Autobot deserters, questioning their decision but bravely soldiering on. It works really well. The visuals on the Scraplets are great. I love how everything in Transformers is, well, a transformer. A disease that looks like small tools, what a great idea. Bob's prose, especially in the opening and closing, is nicely melodramatic as only comics can be. Perlin's art, supported by the inking of Akin and Garvey, does an especially good job of conveying robots in various states of decay. Basically, everything comes together to make a whole bigger than the sum of its parts. I'll wager that most of you remember the twist introduced in part 2, whereas I'm guessing that most of you don't remember, say, exactly how the Mechannibals were defeated in THAT two-parter. I think that's a testimony to the strength of this stealth-classic Transformers tale.

Crater Critters is available for purchase from IDW Publishing as part of Classic Transformers Volume 2 .