Are Transformers Part of the Marvel Universe?

Transformers, robots in disguise, is one of the most popular pop culture franchises in history. The whole franchise debuted in 1984 with the popular toy line of the same name, but the toy line soon expanded to become a popular anime series and a comic book series as well. Today, the battles of the Autobots against the Decepticons are quite well-known and have become somewhat of a symbol of modern pop culture. That is why I have decided to talk about this franchise in today’s article, which is going to focus on the early Transformers comics from the 1980s

Today, Transformers aren’t part of Marvel’s slate and they are not in the Marvel Universe. The comic books were published by Marvel, though, from 1984 to 1991, which is when they were part of Marvel’s fictional universe. The rights to the comic books are currently owned by IDW Publishing. 

In today’s article, I am going to tell you everything you need to know about the history of the Transformers comic book, focusing primarily on the 1980s series published by Marvel Comics. You are also going to find out how the ownership of the comic book changed and who the current owner of the comic books is. We’re starting, so enjoy!

Is Transformers a Marvel Comic?

Following the success of the Transformers animated television series, Marvel Comics produced the first Transformers comic book series published from 1984 to 1991, with a total of eighty issues, as well as four spin-off miniseries. 

Subsequently, a second series was launched, titled Transformers: Generation 2 and published in 1993, with a total of twelve issues. 

The first Marvel series started with the crash of the Ark on Earth and chronicled the events of a near future in which the Autobots and the Decepticons are convinced by an emissary of Primus to bury the hatchet forever. In 1992, in a 12-issue miniseries, Generation 2, the united Transformers battle against the renegade Decepticons who have disappeared millennia ago ad have never given up their weapons. 

A longer series sponsored by Marvel but quite independent was also published in England; here, as in the last issues of Generation 1 and Generation 2, the writer Simon Furman was responsible for the evolution of the series. But the crisis of the American comics that started in the early nineties forced Marvel UK to cancel the series. 

The characters would disappear from the US market for a long time after this. Marvel’s run on the Transformers comic book stopped here, but the franchise was later acquired by Dreamwave Productions, who published the comic book from 2002 to 2004. As of 2005, the rights passed to IDW Publishing which, starting in 2006, launched a fourth series, as well as several limited series. In addition to these three major publishers, there have been many smaller ones with varying degrees of success.

In Japan, the Transformers have always had a more modest but, despite this, more lasting success. During the 1990s until 2000, a manga inspired by Generation 1 and the subsequent Beast Wars was produced in Japan but has, so far, not published in the West. 

Credit Marvel Comics / IDW Publishing

Are the Transformers part of the Marvel Universe?

Strictly speaking, today, the Transformer are not part of Marvel’s fictional universe. Since the comic book franchise is owned by IDW Publishing and the film series is owned by Paramount and DreamWorks, there is really no basis to claim that the Transformers are, in any way, part of Marvel. 

Historically, though, the situation wasn’t that clear, as Marvel owned the rights to the Transformers comic book from 1984 until the early 1990s. In that period, the Transformers were part of Marvel’s fictional universe, although we have to state that Marvel never really capitalized on that during the 1980s, although there have been some small-scale crossovers that I am going to talk about in the next section. 

The fact is that Marvel never really considered the Transformers comic book as a major asset, like a lot of its superhero comic book series. The Transformers were always more of a toy line and a television series than an actual comic book series, which is why it makes sense that Marvel never really had such high hopes for the series. When compared to the likes of Spider-Man, the Avengers or the X-Men, the Transformers comic book series couldn’t really match the sales, or the popularity for that matter. 

Have the Transformers had any crossovers?

Early in the first series, Marvel produced several crossovers, so the answer to this question is actually affirmative, despite the fact that people don’t really know this. 

After some initial appearances of Spider-Man (with the black symbiote costume in the early stories) in the Transformers comic books, Marvel decided to connect the narrative universe of the Transformers comic books but not with that of its famous and popular superheroes, but with that of the special team of the American army, the G.I. Joe.

This resulted in a special, four-issue miniseries set at the same time as Generation 1’s issues #23-24; subsequently, the opponents of the G.I. Joe, the Cobra terrorist group, will kick off the events that will introduce the Generation 2 series. 

According to the Death’s Head character sheet (in the original comic book series, Death’s Head is a robotic killer met by both the Transformers and other Marvel characters) in the third volume of the All-New Official Handbook of the Marvel Universe A to Z, Transformers are assumed to exist in the Marvel Universe, or, more precisely, Earth-120185 (Marvel UK) and Earth-91274 (Marvel USA). 

Another major crossover event happened in 2007, in the New Avengers/Transformers, U.S., 2007 four-issue series, written by Stuart Moore and illustrated by Tyler Kirkman. Besides the Transformers, the narrative also featured mainstream characters such as Captain America, Iron Man, Wolverine, and – once again – Spider-Man, who has already had a history of crossovers with the Transformers comic book. Although short-lives, this series is one of the more interesting Transformers/Marvel crossovers.

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