Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Secret Origin of the TRANSFORMERS – Part 2

I failed to mention it in the previous installment, but Knickerbocker Toys was a maker of “soft” toys—that is, plush toys and girls’ toys.  They produced the famous Holly Hobbie dolls, for instance.  In 1983, their business was sliding, though.   Mysterions was a last-ditch attempt to get into boys’ toys, obviated when Hasbro acquired them.

(ASIDE:  I had the pleasure of meeting the real Holly Hobbie once, creator of the eponymous character.  Brilliant, talented woman.  I have an autographed copy of her book.)

Once Hasbro signed off on the treatment, we began work on the comics.  I assigned the series to editor Bob Budiansky.  Bob was (and probably still is) smart, hardworking, creative, organized, detail-conscious and above all a good editor.    

And then I’m a little fuzzy on the details.  I’ve heard that Bob says a number of names we (Marvel) proposed for the robots were rejected by Hasbro.  I don’t doubt Bob, who is a solid citizen as well as a talented creator and effective editor.  I just don’t remember.  Maybe Bob or Jim Salicrup, if you read this, can shed some light.  I don’t think I was very hands-on at that point.

At any rate, Bob eventually was pressed into service creating names and dossiers for the robots and he did a terrific job.

Meanwhile, treachery was afoot….

Hasbro’s advertising agency was Griffin-Bacal.  They had great aspirations regarding the Hasbro account.  They wanted to run Hasbro’s entire marketing effort.  And they wanted to be Hasbro’s go-to creative resource, which WE were rapidly becoming.  This isn’t pure speculation.  Tom Griffin and Joe Bacal were fairly clear about that at several of our meetings.

I seem to recall that there was a personal relationship between one of the Hasbro top brass and either Tom or Joe.  College roommates or some such.  Whatever.  There was a connection that tilted the playing field.

Griffin-Bacal increasingly insinuated itself between Marvel and Hasbro.  We found ourselves dealing less and less with Bob Prupis and the Hasbro boys’ toys guys and more and more with G-B and Sunbow, their executive production arm.  Sunbow had been founded, I think, to oversee the production of the G.I. JOE commercials a couple of years earlier.  Sunbow not only came between Marvel and Hasbro, but also between Marvel Comics and our animation studio, Marvel Productions.

Sunbow’s creative efforts, as near as I could tell, consisted of removing our cover sheets from whatever we created and stapling on their cover sheets.

As described earlier, there was generally a strained relationship between Marvel Productions and Marvel Comics anyway.  Possibly because we brought in almost all their business, we did the foundation creative work for everything they worked on and we were successful, making money.  Meanwhile, they created little that was useful and they were losing money by the truckload.  Jealous, maybe?  Whatever.

P.S.  The studio actually managed to keep their staggering losses hidden for a while.  More on that later.

David DePatie, in particular, for some reason, hated the comics.  He hated the fact that the word “Marvel” was part of Marvel Productions’ name.  While he was top dog at Marvel Productions, he refused to have Spider-Man’s image as part of their logo or trade dress.  He wanted nothing to do with comics or comics people.

Therefore, I believe, he was delighted to have Sunbow elbow its way in between us.

In 1984, President Jim Galton hired an experienced children’s programming executive named Margaret Loesch, at first as Marvel’s liaison with the studio and the TV business.  She worked at 387 Park Avenue South with us publishing types for a few months. 

I liked her.  She was (is) scary smart, knew her business like we knew ours and she liked the comics!  She respected our creativity.

After a while, she was moved out to the West Coast and installed as the President and CEO of Marvel Productions.  Over DePatie.  Heeheehee.

Margaret “Marvelized” the studio, making Spider-Man part of their trade ID.  She even had installed a sculpted FIGURE OF SPIDER-MAN CRAWLING UP THE SIDE OF THEIR BUILDING!  Hoo-ha!

After a while, realizing how deep the animosity toward the comics people ran among some of her execs, Margaret invited me out to spend some time at the studio, and see whether we could forge more cooperation between our people and her people.  I think I tied it in with the San Diego trip that year.  1984?  1985?  I don’t remember.  Possibly, I had one or more of our editors along with me.

Margaret called a meeting.  It included DePatie, Margaret, me and a few other people of hers and ours.  Margaret stated the goal: working better together.  I said that I thought we comics people could be a good creative resource for the studio, that we could, perhaps, do some development work for them.

DePatie, who had been simmering from the moment he walked into the room, blew up.  He launched into a diatribe about how ugly, amateurish, unreadable and stupid our comics were.  Complete crap.  There was nothing useful that we could possibly do.

I pointed out that we had created G.I. JOE and TRANSFORMERS.  DePatie said that we had NOTHING TO DO WITH TRANSFORMERS.

That took me by surprise.  I had my Hasbro file with me.  I pulled out my TRANSFORMERS treatment.  I said I wrote this.  HE CALLED ME A LIAR, insisted that SUNBOW had written that treatment, that Sunbow had done all the development.  He got up and stormed out of the room.

So much for cooperation.

Margaret apologized.  She said she’d address the situation.  But nothing much changed during the rest of my time at Marvel.

P.S.  As far as I know, with regard to G.I. JOE and TRANSFORMERS Sunbow never created or contributed anything.
_________________________________________________

Okay, now let’s see….

Other interesting (it says here) notes:

Sunbow or the studio people changed the human protagonist’s name from Spike to Buster because, I was told, Spike was too aggressive and violent-sounding.  What?

They pretty much ignored or glossed over my human interest stuff anyway.

You may wonder where Stan was during all of this.  Even before the studio was founded in 1981, Stan was moved out to the West Coast to try to develop film and television opportunities for Marvel.  Made sense.  Who in Hollywood wouldn’t take Stan Lee’s call?

When the studio started with DePatie in charge, Stan had an office in the studio headquarters building (there was another building where the some of the animators worked.)  I’d spend time with Stan whenever I went to LA.  He had a secretary.  Other than her, I think no one reported to him.  He had no apparent role in the work being done at the studio, no day to day responsibility.  DePatie, I think, actively excluded him.  Even Stan, I suppose, was one of us useless comics people to DePatie. 

We’d go to lunch in his Volkswagen Beetle convertible.  It was yellow, I think.  He had vanity plates that said “Marvel Comics” abbreviated somehow—you know, MRVLCOMX or something like that.  A few times he lamented to me that they just weren’t letting him help.

Idiots.

When I became Editor in Chief, and the executive table of organization was explained to me by Galton, several things jumped out.  One, everyone in the comics department reported to me.  Two, that nobody reported to Sol Brodsky, not even a secretary.  He was his own little island, off to the side.  And three, that nobody except Stan’s secretary reported to him.  Not even Sol.  Stan (and secretary) were on an island, too.

Why?  Well, though his title was “Publisher,” in fact, Stan had no day to day responsibilities, and certainly not publishing responsibilities.  Just as well.  Contracts, business and paperwork would have bored him to death, I think.  Stan’s job at that point was being Stan, the one, the only, the inimitable resident genius Stan Lee.  He was plenty busy, don’t get me wrong.  He was the face of Marvel.  He worked on the Spider-Man syndicated strip.  He was constantly pursuing opportunities, especially in other media, for Marvel.  He helped me a million times and continued teaching me until the day he left for California. 

The difference between Stan’s being at the House of Ideas, a lot of them his, and being at the studio was that we treated Stan as though he built the place, because he did.  He didn’t need a T.O. to make him important.  If he said something, if he weighed in on anything, we listened as if it were an E.F. Hutton commercial, and did as he said.

Out there in LA, no such luck.  Until Margaret came along.  Then, Stan got to do his stuff.  Even I got invited to a network pitch once.    

I’ll think of more tidbits later.

One last anecdote.

Marvel Productions’ work on the G.I. JOE and TRANSFORMERS cartoons was done work for hire.  There was no potential back-end revenue from syndication, as there typically is with a network animated show. 

Accounting for network animated shows is typically done according to an accepted formula that amortizes, or spreads the costs out over a prescribed number of years to book a significant portion of the costs during the syndication period, when most revenues are earned.

In 1986, the owner of Marvel was Cadence Management Incorporated.  CMI consisted, more or less, of the Cadence Industries board of directors, who had taken Cadence private in a leveraged buy-out.  (They screwed over the stockholders.  Then they screwed over one of their own.  Originally the “Gang of Seven,” there were only six of them at the end.  But that’s a tale for another time.)  Jim Galton was one of the CMI principals as well as President of the crown jewel of Cadence companies, Marvel.  CMI was in negotiations with New World Pictures to sell Marvel.

It was October.  I was at the Frankfurt Book Fair.  So were a number of other Marvel people—licensing execs, support staff and Jim Galton.

One day in the middle of the fair, Galton got a phone call at the Marvel “stand,” or booth.  He looked upset and left in a tremendous hurry.  Went back to his hotel, packed and got on the first flight to LA.

Seems that New World’s due diligence had uncovered the fact that the accounting for the G.I. JOE and TRANSFORMERS cartoons had been done as if there would be syndication revenues.  But, oops, there weren’t any to be had.  So all those amortized costs had to be re-booked to current operations.  That meant that the big losses the studio was showing were actually waaay bigger than Galton and his CMI cronies knew, and that was going to make a biiig dent in the sale price.

Oops. 

P.S.  Snide types at Cadence’s offices had always referred to the studio as “Galton’s Folly.”  And it was.


NEXT:  The Secret Origin of Jim Shooter, Editor in Chief

44 comments:

Gustavo said...

Great post! Please keep them coming, Mr. Shooter!

Bosch Fawstin said...

I think that all this could not only be a book, but a Comic Book. Thanks again for bringing us all in, it's fascinating stuff.

Louis Porter Jr. said...

Jesus almighty! And I thought my job was crazy!

niederklopfer said...

Wow! Great story sir.

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

Maybe my 12-year-old self would disagree, but this is more fascinating than the Transformers cartoon!

I grew up seeing the names Griffin, Bacal, and Sunbow in the credits. I'll never look at them the same way again.

I have long wondered about why the human protagonist's name was Spike in the cartoon and Buster in the comic. In your treatment, it was originally Spike but was then changed to Buster at Sunbow or Marvel Productions' request. Ironically, the "aggressive and violent-sounding" name was used in the cartoon, though the Buster name remained in the comic. A third name (Butch) appeared in a coloring book, but I wonder if this was just a mistake.

What I don't understand is how CMI could be unaware that there would be no back-end syndication revenue for G.I. Joe and Transformers. I suppose they were as uninterested in the cartoons as they were in the comics ... but even on a purely financial level?

I agree with Bosch. This would be a great comic book. I've seen a short biographical comic about you from the DEFIANT era. Now I'm imagining a thick volume, with logo and colors by JayJay, of course: Secret Origin: The Life Story of Jim Shooter. You could come up with a better title, I'm sure ...

Ian Hewett said...

I remember some later Marvel Productions shows having Spidey leaping onto the logo. Now I've read about DePatie's attitude, it just makes the memory of the ident seem more heroic, somehow.

Will said...

This blog is indeed one of my guilty pleasures. I check it a couple of times daily and read the comments as time allows.

I never cared for transformers, however the intricacies of the comic biz, production biz, personalities, politics and a view behind the curtain at Marvel working are just FABuloso ! Very compelling reading.

If you tell US this.. what do your cats know?
I'm sure they must know where ALL the bodies are AND their names.. Cant wait to read their blog as well...

On a more serious note, Do you ever get feedback from the folks you DO mention in your stories prominently?

I see where a couple of Industry Pro's cruise by and make a post here and there...

But I can see where someone says " Jim why are you telling THAT...." or "You got it wrong, it didn't go down that way..." or even "You say another word about that and you'll hear from my lawyer.." where someone doesn't come off looking as good as they otherwise might.

I can tell that you choose your words quite intentionally and carefully to leave room for err in human memory, give folks the benefit of the doubt more often than not, specify its Your recollection of events and give interpretations and opinions based on that. You do however stop short of calling people thieves and the like. And rightfully so.

Many have suggested that you charge for this blog, I might very well subscribe or buy it as well... However the cynic in me...I cant help but wonder if this is a way to to tell these stories that are better protected under 1st Amendment free speech, than say a book you make make money on. Less actionable.

Either way this stuff is GREAT reading.

General Tekno said...

A very fascinating read indeed. Especially all the bits about Sunbow essentially trying to wedge their way in between you and Hasbro.

kintounkal said...

An article written by Dwight Jon Zimmerman in Marvel Age #17 accidentally included two rejected Autobot names. The yellow Lamborghini Countach LP500S named "Sunstreaker" was originally called "Spin-Out". Meanwhile, the red Pontiac Firebird Trans Am sports car known as "Windcharger" was going to be "Blow-Out". You can find scans for the cover, inside contents listing, and all 3 pages at:http://tfarchive.com/comics/gallery.php?g2_itemId=1812

As far as I know, no other proposed Transformers names have been revealed.

Dale Bagwell said...

Crazy stuff man. How did you not want to quit? All of this unwarranted crap could not have been good for your health.

Also, what the hell was DePatie's problem. The name says MARVEL production because it was created out of Marvel Comics. Did he seriously not realize that when he went to work there? It boggles the mind how people like that can turn their nose up at a comic book company, despite the fact that he had a job that assisted/dealt with a comic company. If he didn't like his job, he should've went elsewhere.

kintounkal said...

Actually, allow me to correct my post above. The red Porsche 924 automobile known as "Cliffjumper" was going to be "Blow-Out". That makes a lot more sense because his tech spec mentioned "his recklessness often leads to actual blow-outs and situations too dangerous for him to handle."

David Aspmo said...

In a recent interview with Budiansky, he happened to have some of the earlier written development work on hand. When asked about rejected names, he did a quick look though if it and found that the original name assigned to "Starscream" was "Ulchtar".

Also, since the name "Spike" ended up in the cartoon, while "Buster" was in the comic, could Jim maybe have the rejected name switched in his memory? The same (odd) reasoning could apply to either one.

David Aspmo said...

Ah, I just went through the comments on Part 1 that were posted this morning, and saw that a link to the treatment had been included. It appears this is where the "Ulchtar" name originated (and this treatment is clearly what Budiansky was looking over, because he was surprised to see the name "Prowl" already on it).

And it's got "Spike" crossed out in favor of "Buster", so apparently that was the rejected name. Strange that it ended up in the cartoon, then (perhaps they were working off an uncorrected version of the treatment, and no one caught it).

David Aspmo said...

I'm still curious about what inspired Jim to make the Transformers aliens, rather than Earth-originated constructs. And, for that matter, how the Go-Bots (the other significant cars-turn-into-robots toys from the 80s) also ended up being aliens in their backstory (perhaps something to do with the unused Mysterions pitch?). It just seems so counter-intuitive to me.

Evil King Macrocranios said...

At Botcon 2010 Budiansky inferred that the name "Headlights" was rejected by a female Hasbro staffer who found it offensive because it's slang for "boobs".

Marc Miyake said...

David,

The name "Ulchtar" has bugged me ever since I learned of it because it's the odd man out. Unlike other TF names, it doesn't sound like anything in English and it's hard to spell. Bob Budiansky pronounced it as "ULK-tar" and thought it might have be an O'Neil creation.

Since Jim has said that the Mysterions had a totally different backstory, I've wondered if they were created on Earth unlike the TFs. In Takara's original Japanese backstories, the cars and planes (from the Diaclone toy line) were created by humans in the near future whereas the nonvehicles (from the Microman toy line) were created by Microman aliens in the present. (Why would future humans would create robots that transformed into *old* cars and planes? This point was never addressed, though the reason for the "old" vehicles was obvious - they were recognizable to Japanese children in 1983.)

The similarity between the Gobots' and TFs' backstories bothers me: e.g., Gobotron is a differently shaped Cybertron. Coincidence? I vaguely recall TF-ish elements in the original 1982 backstory for Bandai's Machine Robo line (the basis of the Gobots) that might have influenced Tonka, but it's been almost 30 years and I could be wrong. My MR stuff is in storage and Googling in Japanese isn't helping. Sorry.

A Painter said...

I've only been reading this blog for a few days. It's fascinating stuff.

Griffin Bacal and Claster productions worked on G.I. Joe, Transformers, and, nearer to my heart, Star Blazers. However, on Star Blazers, there was a production company named Sunwagon. Does anyone know of Sunwagon = Sunbow? I've always been curious.

I loved the G.I. Joe comic, but I have to admit the Transformers comic left me cold. I collected up until the 20s before selling them all for a dollar to a friend. I haven't really missed them. I'm surprised that the comic has such a following. The only thing I remember is Circuitbreaker (who cameoed in SWII), "Brick Springstern", and a guest appearance by Spider-man.

Art

kintounkal said...

Yeah, I hadn't seen Jim's treatment in years until JayJay provided a link to it in the comments section for yesterday's blog.

While browsing the Transformers TV Series 1984-1987 trivia category at the Internet Movie Database, I noticed the following facts:
-----------------------------------------
"The evil group of animal-based Transformers that eventually became the Predacons originally started out as a benevolent group of Autobots, called "Anibots". Razorclaw's original name was to be Simba, Headstrong's was Clump, Tantrum's Thump, Divebomb was Shriek, while Rampage was Pardo, and would have turned into a leopard, rather than a tiger. Their combined form would have been called "Dragon Beast", as opposed to Predaking. They would have first appeared in The Transformers: The Movie (1986) to fight Devastator, but after several script rewrites, during which the Anibots became the Predacons, they had been written out of the story, and debuted later in the cartoon's third season."

"Trailbreaker was originally to be called Guzzle."
---------------
I have no idea where these rumors come from but they're intriguing. I'm relieved to hear Razorclaw doesn't share the same name as Disney's Lion King. :)

I find Ulchtar's point of view towards the war as a holy mission to be fascinating. Bob Budiansky never hinted at that in Marvel comics but Sunstorm from Dreamwave continuity definitely incorporated this aspect of Ulchtar's personality.

Likewise, Starscream's contempt for anything that can't lift itself from the ground has never really been highlighted until recently. I love this the way Starscream reacted to meeting Knock Out in Transformers: Prime episode 10 ("Deus ex Machina"). Here's a transcript:
--------------------------------------------
S: "It's about time, Knock Out. I do not enjoy being kept waiting!"
KO: "Ah, it was a long drive, Starscream. I'm still picking bugs out of my grille."
S: "Yes, right, you're one of those."
KO: "Come again?"
S: "Never understood why any self-respecting Decepticon would choose 'automobile' as his vehicle mode when he could have flight!"
KO: "I like the way I look in steel-belted radials."
----------
In many ways, pieces from Jim's treatment are getting used more and more every year.

jimshooter said...

No, I don't have the names switched. My name for the guy was Spike. We (the comics people) were ordered to change it to conform with the cartoon. If they, then went back to Spike, well, isn't that typical. I didn't know that.

jimshooter said...

Having them be sapient mechanicals from another world seemed fresh in 1983. Honestly, I don't remember the whole thought process that led me to where I arrived, but it came out okay.

astro-l said...

Yep, Jim, they totally used "Spike" in the cartoon. I guess you could feel proud that they eventually saw the light?

kintounkal, the Anibot stuff comes from an early draft of The Transformers: The Movie that was recently auctioned off. The winner scanned it and put it online. While the script doesn't explicitly identify the Anibots as Predacons-to-be, their specific animal modes and the fact that they combined are too coincidental to mean anything else.

There are actually a lot of preliminary names and whatnot that have been found in old scripts. The Dinobots, for instance, went through several name-changes, one of which was even turned into a plot point in the Marvel UK comic: Some early behind-the-scenes material had called Swoop "Divebomb," so when that name was officially used on a Predacon a year later, it inspired the comic writer to create an ancient rivalry between the two characters based a mutual desire to be called that.

kintounkal said...

Did Jim earn any money from Hasbro releasing the Headmaster leader known as "Fortress Maximus" in 1987? For those who don't collect the toys, Fortress Maximus is the tallest and heaviest Transformer ever created measuring 56 centimeters. That meant his box was even bigger. Not surpringly, Fortress Maximus was also the most expensive. Toys 'R Us stickers indicate he cost $89.99 US with most retailers charging upwards of $100 US. That's not so steep nowadays but keep in mind Transformers comics cost only $1 US at the time.

The tech spec for Fortress Maximus states "Head transforms to semi-autonomous Cerebros, who is binary-bonded to the Nebulan leader, Spike." That proved the toy included was undeniably Spike Witwicky not the Nebulan man named "Galen" who was introduced in Transformers: Headmasters #1 ("Ring of Hate!") and died in Transformers #38 ("Trial by Fire!").

Only 2 Hasbro toys exist based specifically on Spike Witwicky (not Sam Witwicky from the movies). The other Spike toy is just a 2 inch PVC figure sold with Bumblebee as "Autobot Espionage Team" in 2003. For some reason, he isn't even named on the packaging.

Marc Miyake said...

Dear Jim,

"Having them be sapient mechanicals from another world seemed fresh in 1983" to me. So fresh that I was initially hostile to the idea. I was used to giant robots with pilots from all the anime I watched as a child. I suspect a lot of boys in Japan had the same reaction at first. But the comic changed my mind. And the Japanese embraced the Transformers to the point where several Transformers TV series were made for the Japanese market after the American series ended.

jimshooter said...

I was never paid a dime for any work I did on TRANSFORMERS or any uses of same. It was work for hire, all part of my staff job, the way I saw it.

mrbrooks said...

Jim I have a question.... How you feel about how simon furman changed the overall story/continuity of The Transformers from what you created to the cluster ... it is today? And how do you feel about the storyline he wrote for the first Transformers live action movie released in 2007?
By the way... You and Bob did great work putting this all together. I like sports and a few other things but the only thing on this planet I'm addicted to is Transformers (with a splash of G.I. Joe) lol... What you have done is appreciated more than I can ever express.

mrbrooks said...

Mr. Shooter... One more question.
There was a Ultimate Guide to The Transformers released a couple years ago. Why didn't Mr. Budiansky or yourself participate in that? Seeing as how you are the creator I think you would have been able to fill in the continuity that has so many holes from various writers and their outlandish stories.
As you can tell I am no fan of simon furman and his extreme lack of creativity.

kintounkal said...

mrbrooks,

Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman wrote the screenplay for the first live action Transformers movie with story assistance from John Rogers. Simon Furman only co-wrote the prequel comics. It sounds like you're blaming Mr. Furman for Marvel continuity being ignored at Dreamwave and IDW Publishing. What makes you so convinced that was his decision to make? You're making a *lot* of assumptions here. For instance, Bob Budiansky has been offered the chance to write more Transformers stories. He isn't interested.

Diablien said...

@mrbrooks - Jim obviously doesn't know or care to know anything about the current Transformers media universe. His posts are more geared towards the false attribution of the original concepts of the entire brand. It was just a job to him, one he did well yet thanklessly.

I would be surprised if he knew, or cared, who Simon Furman even is. Next.

Thunder said...

I read somewhere in an interview with Bob Budiansky that he wanted to name the character "Buster" after an old college friend (or something) which is how Buster came to be in the comic.

kintounkal said...

Diablen,

Well, Jim Shooter has met Simon Furman at least. Chuckdawg1999 managed to identify Simon in the photo taken on Jim's visit to Marvel UK. This pic can be seen in the blog titled 'Look, Up in the Sky...!'

jimshooter said...

Dear mrbrooks,

I haven't kept up with what happened in the comics and I haven't seen the movies. If the TRANSFORMER comics went wrong, well, that series isn't alone. With a major motion picture, many hands are stirring the pot, so if that wasn't what it ought to have been, it may not have been Simon's fault.

jimshooter said...

Nobody asked me to participate in the Ultimate Guide project. I don't know about Bob. I can understand their ignoring me because I'm big and mean and scary, but Bob? Dunno.

jimshooter said...

Dear Diablien,

I wish I had more time to keep up with the comics. Some of them anyway.

I met Simon at Marvel's U.K. office, and bumped into him here and there along the way. He seemed like a nice guy. I don't know him well.

jimshooter said...

Dear Thunder,

The name Buster came from the animation people, not Bob, though possibly he preferred it.

kintounkal said...

Ben's World of Transformers conducted an interview with Bob in February 2004. Benson "Wonko the Sane" Yee pointed out "This is one of those particular story points that you may or may not recall. When the comic book series began, we were introduced to Buster Witwicky. Meanwhile, the cartoon introduced Spike Witwicky. Then later you brought Spike in as Buster's brother. Was that purely out of necessity because he became (a part of) the head of Fortress Maximus?"

Bob replied "Okay, I didn't create the name Buster Witwicky. Buster goes back to Jim Shooter's original treatment. I think there were some names he threw together from somebody he knew in Pittsburg where he grew up or something like that.

I personally thought the name Buster was somehow not cool. But it was the character, so I used it. I could understand why the TV series decided to change his name. It was a name that I was kind of stuck with. If it was a character I created I would have never named him that, but Witwicky probably, but that to me was less of an issue, but I went along with it. I liked the idea of the character though. Shooter had a way of meshing a lot of things that on the surface wouldn't fit, so he made Buster the son of a mechanic so that worked really well because obviously a bunch of robotic characters could use a mechanic every so often. And I remember turning that into a storyline early on with some of the earlier issues."

As mutant fans might recall, Buster wasn't the first Witwicky to appear in a Marvel comic. Dazzler #31 ("Tidal Wave!") written by Jim introduced a health club owner named Mr. Witwicky 7 months before Transformers #1 hit the stands.

Rycochet said...

@Mrbrooks Simon Furman is not the only person to have written Transformers since the mid 80's so blaming him alone for the state of modern Transformers fiction is rather absurd, especially when you credit him for writing things and for decisions he had no involvement with.

The Ultimate guide was never intended to be a thorough, detailed look into Transformers with contributions from every party involved since it's inception. It was always intended to be a children's book aimed at introducing children to the various branches of the continuity tree and providing a basic outline, nothing more.

Thankyou for the insight into the early days of Transformers, Mr. Shooter. Like most fans I'd be fascinated to hear more about what you created for the Mysterians, the rival to Transformers that never was.

Jared said...

LOVED this! Any chance for a similar GI JOE article?

Transforming Seminarian said...

Am loving this behind-the-scenes stuff. And thanks to the person who yesterday linked to my transcription of the treatment revealed at last year's BotCon.

JayJayJackson said...

Thanks for posting it. That's very cool!

jimshooter said...

Dear Jared,

It's on the list. Soon.

Matt said...

How in the world could there be no syndication revenues? Those shows ran for years and years! What, for free?

Diacanu said...

Well, if there was a ROM story, how about a Crystar story?
That was a different animal, cuz the toy and comic were made together.
I'd assume things went smoother than Transformers, but I'd probably be wrong.
Lol.
And it'd be a kick to hear, cuz, I was the only kid on my block into Crystar.
If it weren't for the Wiki page staring at me, I'd think I dreamt the thing.

Mark Bellomo said...

Mr. Shooter --

Thanks for clarifying MANY things with these two posts.

JediJones said...

Matt, I think the key point in what Jim said about the syndication revenues was that "Marvel Productions’ work on the G.I. JOE and TRANSFORMERS cartoons was done work for hire." It's confusing to me too because for years I assumed Marvel owned Sunbow since their names appeared on all those cartoons together. But Jim explains that Griffin-Bacal owned Sunbow, and were a separate entity from Marvel and Hasbro.

So it sounds like Sunbow contracted Marvel Productions to create the cartoons as "work-for-hire." Which I think means that Marvel got paid a one-time fee and they would not get a piece of any of the syndication revenues that Sunbow earned from the shows later. Then it sounds like Marvel Productions screwed up their own accounting, assuming they would get a piece of that money.

It's too bad Marvel's animation studio had problems because they made some of my favorite cartoons of the 1980s like Spider-Man and his Amazing Friends, Dungeons & Dragons, G.I. Joe, etc. Supposedly Hasbro opted to go with DIC instead of Sunbow when they brought back the G.I. Joe cartoon after a 2-year absence in 1989 because DIC charged them a lower price. The show accordingly became cheaper and lousier and ended after producing less than half the episodes Sunbow/Marvel did.

I think failing to invest the money necessary to maintain the quality of the cartoon was a bad mistake by Hasbro since the Joe toy line seemed to start declining in sales right after the Sunbow/Marvel series ended. The DIC series didn't seem to help it and the toy line was cancelled in 1994.

It appears Sunbow and Marvel Productions stopped working together after 1987. Sunbow without Marvel's help produced some short-lived mid-'90s Joe cartoons which I haven't seen, but they were tie-ins to redesigned Joe toy lines which were instant flops on the market. Marvel Productions seemed to continue on in some form for years but got swallowed up and reorganized by so many mergers and acquisitions along the way that I can't keep track of them.