Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Passed Their Prime - My Buddy Optimus Always Rolls Out When I Need Him

I'm not sure if it's my generation, or maybe just my friends, but often when life gets a bit daunting, we turn to the past.  We look to our youth for comfort, when times were simpler.  Not having a major war to suffer through, my generation likes to look back, as James Earl Jones says in Field of Dreams, to a time when "all that once was good, and it could be again."
But this can be taken a tad too far.  The other day, my roommate and I were flipping channels and came upon early-80's stalwarts The A-Team and The Dukes of Hazzard.  While we passed them by, I did feel the need to mention that, as terrible as they may seem, I would have literally thrown a tantrum if I missed either one back in the 80's.  While I may have been too young to be seeing that kind of violence and sexual content, I still had to watch, and I think most of the country did, as well.  remember, we only had a few channels back then.  However, make no mistake, these were awful shows any way you slice it, so no matter how daunting life gets, I have yet to turn to them for a reminder of all that once was good and could be again.  Although I'm sure there is a sub-section of society that does, just as there is a sub-section that thinks that the entire A-Team was, in fact, gay.
Recently, I have been seeking that comfort in a more benign form: the original Transformers cartoon from 1984, having discovered that it runs in the wee hours on The Hub.  Bearing little resemblance to the ridiculous live-action movies, this series was a spin-off of the Hasbro toys, which were alien robots that turned into cars, jets, guns, et al.  The toys themselves were a tough sell to someone like me, because they were rather floppy and brittle, and they had to be able to actually transform into things, so the design was pretty pretty bad.  They all had wheels and windows all over the place.  Not to mention that it took several minutes for me to actually do this (while trying to duplicate the noise it made on the show).  My attention span in 1984 just didn't account for transforming things.

But with the show came a new way to enjoy the Transformers, and enjoy them I did.  Marvel also published the Transformers comic book, which told a similar story, but did go off on rather bizarre and stupid tangents at times.  And a lot of the characters were colored rather inexplicably.  But it didn't matter, I was hooked.  In 1986, with the release of the first Transformers: The Movie, which saw the destruction of most of the '84 toy line (deemed violent enough for a PG rating despite the fact that the characters being violated were robots), I remained loyal even though the entire series shifted into the then-future 2005 Transformers universe.
Even after the show was put to rest and I got a little too old for Transformers, I still followed the comic, actually becoming quite hooked on the final ten or so issues in the early 90's, before Marvel killed that off as well, due to lack of sales.  Despite the fact that I felt a bit silly being in high school and reading what will always be referred to as a "toy book," I tried to get my friends to buy it to keep it going.  So young...
Anyway, we all grew up and moved on.  College called, and for some, actual real life.  For others, we were pulled back in as the early part of this decade saw Dreamwave Productions revive the comic book franchise, selling millions of copies of their new version of the comics to folks like me, who now needed the comfort of that simpler time.  Unfortunately, while the artwork was spectacular, the stories were basic re-treads, and their sporadic release schedule lead to a quick death of this Transformers incarnation, and eventually for Dreamwave itself.
Recently, IDW Publishing, hot off their revival of the GI Joe comic franchise, started an all-new Transformers continuity, again having nothing to do with the crappy live-action movies.  In fact, these have actual stories, and despite the fact that I am almost 35, it is one of the comics I look forward to reading every month, far out-lasting its Dreamwave predecessor, proving the good stories will trump everything when it comes to comics.  And me.
In fact, it really proves a lot of things.  For one, nostalgia can only take someone so far, as I'm pretty much already done with the 80's cartoon re-runs.  It was fun, but it really wasn't a great show, and I'm obviously not just looking at them through rose-colored glasses.  Not that childless men in their mid-thirties were the target demographic anyway, so they served their purpose: nostalgia.  But the new comic series is clearly a different case, because I probably am the target demographic for that, and I really like it.  So, mission accomplished there as well.
When you really think about it, though, Optimus Prime and friends have been with me in some form or another my whole life.  And unlike my favorite bands or actors, they never get old.  I do, but they will remain 

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