The Big Broadcast of 2006

Wreck-Gar recants an fictional encounter between Rodimus Prime and Galvatron as part of an attempt to trick a Quintesson interrogator

As Starscream famously said in Transformers: The Movie: “Oh how it pains me to do this.” That’s what I was thinking as I sat down to review this because it’s one of the worst issues of the entire series. Starscream was of course talking about throwing a battered Megatron out of the airlock, but believe me if you’ve read this story, you’d see why it wants jettisoning into space too!

This 1988 story has been adapted from the third series of the Sunbow cartoons which normally I’m a fan of, but this episode is unfortunately one of the worst.

The background to this story is that the Marvel team behind the US Transformers comic (having taken leave of their senses) decided to take a break from their normally high standard stories and make things easy on themselves. Rather than coming up with an original story they decided to cannibalise one from the cartoons, and by choosing a post Movie episode they were able to feature the likes of Rodimus Prime, Galvatron and Ultra Magnus in the comic for the first time.

Some US readers might have been pleased about that but those who watched the cartoons and bought the comics probably felt a tad ripped off.

Over at Marvel UK the production team obviously faced a dilemma. They had always slavishly reprinted the US stories and built their own continuity around it. But unlike America the UK comic regularly featured the ‘future’ Autobots and Decepticons and this instalment did not fit with any of the other stories.

The simple answer would have been to ‘skip’ this one, but Simon Furman has chosen to run with it and explain it away as a story made-up by the Autobots’ TV-talking ally Wreck-Gar to trick his Quintesson-employed torturer. This will allow Simon to take the central elements of the Quintessons and their cannister and create a coherent story around it. It’s also worth noting that there have been other cartoon adaptations in Transformers including ‘Decepticon Dambusters’ and the Movie adaptation, both of them average, but this one manages to be worse. Anyway, here’s what happens…

On a distant planet, Earth date 2008, Junkion leader Wreck-Gar finds himself at the mercy of a torturer with a high reputation for getting answers. Painfully shackled against a wall with his moustache singed, and what looks like electrodes on his nipples, Wreck-Gar screams out in pain as he is once again asked for the location of a missing “canister”. His sinister hosts remain out of sight, as Wreck-Gar offers to spill the beans…  

It is the year 2006, and a large spacecraft soars over the planet of Junk, deploying Sharkticon soldiers for a missing object. Nearby, Wreck-Gar and his lady friend (?) enjoy their favourite pastime of old Television broadcasts. Moments later a Sharkticon lifts a large canister over his head, only for Wreck-Gar (wasn’t he just watching TV?) to blast it free and for the invader to be captured.

The Quintessons decide on a different approach, by exploiting the Junkions’ strange obsession with primitive Earth TV. The next morning the Junkions hear a strange music and are drawn to its source – not a Trojan Horse but it’s equivalent in this context – a giant TV screen! Watching from above, the Quintessons will use their ‘gift’ to infuse the Junkions with hypnotic commands!

Rodimus Prime and Ultra Magnus are on Cybertron when Sky Lynx arrives to warn them on strange goings-on happening on Junk. They send the Aerialbots to investigate, meanwhile Galvatron has also been tipped off about the situation, but seems strangely distracted (turns out later, he’s been watching the broadcast too).

The Quintessons cloak their ship in a giant cloud of gas to retrieve their cannister, but they near Junk they are engaged by the Aerialbots in their combined form Superion, repelling the giant robot but at the cost of their forcefield.

Wreck-Gar and his people, rather than becoming violent as they were supposed to, adopt a share and care attitude, and start broadcasting the message to the wider galaxy. On distant worlds, populations of cat people attack their K9 neighbours (daft).

Ships attack Junk with Omega Supreme arriving to get involved in the melee, and Rodimus Prime and Galvatron also arrive on Junk and do battle with one another. During the fight, a stray blast blows the canister out of the Quintesson tractor beam and hurtling off into space. Finally, the Autobots come up with a plan to counteract the hypnotic messages using Omega Supreme and Blaster – who cringingly says “Hey dude I need altitude” – to soars over the battlefield holding playing music and breaking the hypnotic spell. With peace restored, the Quintessons are left to scour the galaxy for their missing canister before anyone else finds it.

Back in the real world the torturer is satisfied he’s extracted another confession. That is until a Quintesson enters the chamber and informs the smug torturer he’s fallen for a story that’s full of absurdities and contradictions (I second that) and sentences him to death (are you listening writer Ralph Macchio?)!

Interesting this story was not written by Bob Budiansky, but instead by Ralph Macchio who we haven’t seen since the start of the series. It may be that Bob was away and the editors thought it would be easier to adapt a TV episode rather than ask someone else to pick up Bob’s storylines. Whatever the reason I’m glad this was a one off. After four years of the comic, including some great stories, fans had come to expect a lot better than this.

The artwork by Alan Kupperberg is poor and must rate as some of the worst for a long time, with some truly terrible character renditions. The best part by a long way are the two pages of UK story, with Lee Sullivan’s work looking way superior. It would have made more sense to run a couple of pages of this and go straight into Space Pirates, bypassing Big Broadcast altogether. Certainly, the way the two-parter is dismissed as a figment of imagination, leaves you wondering what the point was.

When you look at the rest of the material from 1988 (or any other year for that matter) you’ll see ample evidence of intelligent writing, well thought-out plots and a fair stab at characterisation. The characters in this two parter are flat as cardboard (with the exception of the add on bits with Wreck-Gar and the torturer). Wreck-Gar and his girlfriend sitting on their thrones watching exercise videos is naff, the dialogue is terrible, and even the Rodimus versus Galvatron battle is flat compared to the gritty showdown in TFUK#120.

We have flying Autobots, cat and dog people, and Galvatron being hypnotised by a pool of water! The part about Earth having an embassy on Cygnus 7 (wherever that is) is an unlikely development for only 18 years in the future at the time of publication, and I could also mention Cyclonus and Scourge following their leader around and getting scared when he leaves without them. That is the stuff of the playground.

A final point: I thought the Planet of Junk was a collection of rubbish in space, but here it is a spherical world? The UK editors must have feared a deluge of letters regarding this issue’s story, because they took the unusual step of running a blurb on p2 asking everyone to read p14 before writing in!

Interesting this story was printed before The Cosmic Carnival over in the States. We can assume it went straight into the US continuity as an alternate future, but even so it still doesn’t explain why it appeared at all. The story lacks substance to the extreme, and progresses with about the same subtlety as any similar cartoon episode – ie none! The strange hypnotic television scenario is exactly the kind of thing you would expect from the cartoon series too (I know it’s been done before in the comic with hypnotising car washes, but let’s just leave that for now).

This story finally introduces the Quintessons into the comic but not much is revealed about the elusive canister either, or what’s so important about it. Readers are left hoping that will be explained in the issues which follow.

Review by Adam Hogg

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