Set the wayback machine for May 8th, 2010. Janice and I were in Portland, OR, bombing around the city after having had a wonderful second show of w00tstock the night before. In a failed attempt to catch up with Brian Bendis as he biked around handing out early copies of Siege #4, we found ourselves at Excalibur Comics. The disappointment of missing him was rapidly quenched by being presented with what had to be the most well-stocked comic shop I’ve ever been in. I have never seen so many trades and back issues under one roof outside of a convention. It being late afternoon on a Sunday, we were the only people there, too. Heaven.
The night before, we’d seen Matt Fraction’s w00tstock presentation. It was a fun and inspirational piece of work, and one of the things that stuck out the most for me was hearing him talking about remembering the first comics he’d ever read by their covers. At the age when a lot of us discovered comics, a great cover was an easy sell, regardless of what was contained inside. One of those covers he flipped past on the screen mid-speech was of Transformers #2:
Transformers was one of the first comic series I ever bought, so to see him present it on stage like that was personally amusing. For completion’s sake, what was the other first series I ever bought, again based almost solely on its cover?
Art Adams was completely baffled by this admission when I related it to him at SDCC one year. And yet, somehow, I didn’t become a Marvel Zombie… although the years haven’t exactly been kind to my favorite Marvel character, so it’s probably for the best.
So, cut back to Sunday afternoon at Excalibur. Once I checked the walls of trades for a few things, I turned to the rows and rows of long boxes that filled the room. It was time to play a little “I wonder if they have this?” Think of an old title, scan to its location in the stacks, repeat. I forget almost everything else I looked for- well, except for the copy of Beta Ray Bill: Godhunter #3 that I actually bought- but it wasn’t long before I went looking for the original Transformers series. They didn’t have #1, sadly (else I might’ve walked out with 1-4) but they did have #2, and so I closed the circle a bit from the night before. There are a few covers from that early TF run, though, that are just as iconic. Transformers #9 comes to mind:
I was fond of Circuit Breaker when this issue was new. Obviously, my tastes ran towards B-list Marvel characters in 1986. All the more reason it’s probably best I didn’t follow them.
There was one specific book I was looking for, though: Transformers #5. The first four issues were presented as a miniseries that left things a bit open-ended in case of a continuing series. I remember there being a pause between those first four and the rest of the series; my childhood memories make it seem like much longer than it probably was in reality. Either way, I’m guessing they needed a hook to start things back up, and boy howdy, did this next issue make a good one. Excalibur *did* have a copy of this, and I was so excited I snapped a pic and sent it to Twitter:
Three friends of mine almost immediately tweeted back approval, so I guess I’m not the only one who feels this way. The cover art, drawn and inked by Mark Bright with colors by Nelson Yomtov, was compelling; it made you want to grab the book, tear into it, and find out what the hell had happened. It went a long way towards setting the benchmark in my young mind not only for great comic art, but for great sci-fi art in general.
I didn’t grab it, for some reason. We already had about $50 of books in hand, and it was getting late. Unlike my issues of Longshot, my collection of Transformers comics didn’t survive my ascent into adulthood. I’m sure I could find a copy somewhere here in LA, and I know I could find a copy at SDCC in July. It feels unsporting somehow, though. Like it would be more earned if I managed to find my way back to Excalibur and find that copy again. More like seeing it on the rack for the first time when I was 12. That might be worth the risk.