Transformers #81, a petition-makers reflection

by Luke A Barnett

The first flyer created to promote the online petition

 Most of my friends offline and online know I’m a bit of a nut for Transformers. I’m sure it’s part of the way God made me – that I’m still a “child at heart.”  However, even though I enjoyed Transformers (the cartoon and toys) as a kid and raced home to watch Beast Wars (instead of doing homework), I only REALLY LOVED Transformers fiction as an adult when I could invest my own money into the property. Buying dvd’s, toys and comics with my own hard-earned cash was great. It stirred my parents to no end and my then girlfriend, now awesome wife, supported me (read: didn’t mind all that much).

Through this experience I became involved with the online Transformers fan community. There’s a whole journey there that I’ve taken, but this year marked a particular personal experience with Transformers and the wonderful creators and publishers that make them.

I’ve been lucky enough to moderate on IDW Publishings own forum’s twice (on their old board and recently “appointed” again by Comics Experience founder Andy Schmidt) and through this set up some fan Q+A’s with uber-Transformers comics writer Simon Furman. As every fan that has met him can attest to, Simon is a really excellent guy to interact with, chat to, gush over and even though we’ve only ever communicated through email he’s always been happy to give of his time to respond to our fan community in this way.

So then came the question of TRANSFORMERS #81. There are a number of links out there – Newsarama.com posted about it and I created a facebook page and twitter account – but the story is that creators Andy Wildman and Simon Furman were interested in continuing the original Marvel comics continuity of Transformers, but publishers IDW Publishing apparently weren’t quite sold on that idea.

[Note: I’ve always personally maintained that IDW’s run of TF comics have always displayed a desire to honour and extend the history of Transformers, and have often exceeded fans’ expectations – the goal of the petition was for Transformers #81 to be additional to any current Transformers comics output]

After this Q+A revealed that the creators were keen, the fans that read this started to murmur “hey, we’re keen, they’re keen, why isn’t this happened last month already?”

A friend on the IDW forums, Ron (a.k.a ‘DecepticonsRule’), started to chat about how we could catch the mood online in a very real way to show IDW there was an audience for a renewed “classics” Transformers series. I suggested a petition (amongst a swathe of other social harassment tools – I don’t I had anyone unfriend me because of this…) and it took off.

In April this year the petition went live and we bombarded as many forums, fan sites, twitter feeds and facebook pages as we could.

I very quickly whipped up a petition flyer that fans could download and photocopy to place in their local comic shop for all to see, comic stores were extremely supportive too and so were the current professional and fan artists that also loved the classic series.

Without too much wrangling, some awesome people GAVE us artwork to use to promote the petition. People like Josh Burcham, Guido Guidi, Kris Carter, Andrew Turnbull and many more – gave their time and talent to this cause. I cannot thank them enough. (Last thing to be created was a DeviantArt account to display the amazing talent and efforts – link!)

 

The first fortnight was huge, we received hundreds of ‘signatures’ proclaiming a love of the original series and that they would generously hand over money for this product!

I can’t remember the exact timeline but the petition reached almost 3000 signatures in about two months.

IDW Publishing heard (Chris Ryall has been very patient with me filling up his twitter feed – cheers!) and at San Diego Comic-Con 2011 they announced that Simon Furman and Andy Wildman would be producing Transformers #81* 20-issue series in 2012.

WOO!

(Here are some links regarding the announcement: Simon Furman’s blog, Newsarama announcement)

Not only have IDW continued to employ amazing creators on their own IDW-verse of Transformers comics (looking ahead to TWO ongoings launching in January 2012 is EPIC!) they have also backed a return to the classic rendition of the characters WITH the same creators (of course, this does not discount the efforts of multiple artists of the series).

Amongst the whirlwind of the excitement over this announcement was when I really started to reflect on what had happened essentially under our fingertips. With DecepticonsRule suggesting to me that we could actually get this thing going and his efforts with personal messages across forums, I wouldn’t have thought much about Simon’s response. And I realized why.

I didn’t grow up with this series.

Yep. It wasn’t the first comics or transformers stuff I loved, or even knew much about, and even as an adult fan I was too busy catching up to really get into everything of the 80’s. I think watching the four seasons of the cartoon drained me a bit? 😉

The nostalgia that so many fans had that they brought to support the petition wasn’t there for me.

It was the opportunity. I knew I could do the petition. This year I was in the unique position with my job that I actually had the time outside of work to fiddle with facebook/twitter harassment without avoiding marking students’ work. What I realized was that back in April I could leap at this thing and let the fans have an opportunity to tell IDW Publishing that we wanted something ADDITIONAL to what they were already doing, if they would simply produce it (ha, of course, not as simple as that I know). It seemed that we all just needed a place to let them know about it!

I honestly thought that the petition would have had to run at least until the end of the year. I was thinking about a short animated video promotion. I have a professional voice actor friend who was gonna help me with it. I hadn’t done any of that stuff before but it was exciting. But two months later, Chris Ryall and IDW Publishing made a whole bunch of fans dreams come true and gave the reigns of the perhaps long-overlooked but definitely not forgotten series of Transformers, with its untimely finish at #80 (it did reach over 300 issues in the UK).

With 2012 fast approaching I cannot wait the official release date of Furman and Wildman’s Transformers #81 from IDW Publishing, and I hope that everyone that signed the petition (and more!) heads out to buy this comic!!!

Roll out!

Luke

*The official title of this series is yet to be confirmed, there have been some reprints under the banner “Transformers Classics”.

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