Saturday, October 25, 2014

Big Looker Storybooks

I want to write a little about one of my favorite Transformers treasures; the Big Looker Storybooks from 1985-1986.

Marvel Books published six of these gems, with stories by various authors, but artwork chiefly done by John Speirs and Earl Norem. These books were a staple of my nighttime routines as a child, and have become the same with my own kids.

The Big Looker stories enjoy much admiration from longtime fans. While being a treasured memory for some, there is an outright appreciation for them as independent works of Transformers media. Anytime someone puts a brush to a canvas, you know you've made it big.

Robots with satchels. I'm in love.

The six books included "The Battle for Cybertron," "The Great Car Rally," "Decepticon Hijack," Insecticon Attack," "Car Show Blow Up," and "The Story of Wheelie, the Wild Boy of Quintesson." The stories were typical good guy/bad guy fair, but occasionally featured some decent prose (remember this is about robots):

'What a beautiful spot!' thought Grapple as he lay on his stomach. He dragged his fingers through the water, making little ripples....Grapple spotted a grasshopper and a beetle sitting by the side of the water. 'If only life was as simple as it is for those little insects,' he thought. 

Come here, often-often-often??
Spoiler alert, things don't go well for Grapple.  And those aren't ordinary bugs!!!

What really makes these books shine though, is the absolutely beautiful paintings that adorn their pages.  While many of the character designs differ wildly from their cartoon or action figure counterparts, in these books, they have a life and style of their own.  The models, particularly in Speirs' works, have a gaunt, at times wispy look about them, that makes the story of an energy starved and war-torn race seem so real. While the characters all have the appropriate stature, they fittingly lack the beefy, meched-up look of later interpretations.

Objects in a mirror are completely drawn of scale.

The landscapes are especially rich in Norem's paintings, who tends to me my favorite.  You will find dry deserts where living Jeeps take boys for rides, and lush swamplands where evil robotic insects are waiting to take over your mind.

This is what it's all about.

These books are emblematic of just how big of a craze Transformers were in those early years, and of one of the first all-out marketing blitzes to bombard kids into buying toys. That being said, there is something special about these books that make the whole story seem legit, and not like a half-hour commercial.

That was a close one.  Somebody get the wrench! 

*All images are property of Marvel Books. 


It's Halloween time.  Soon all the kids (and adults) will be running around in the twilight with their costumes on, many of them in the guise of our favorite robot heroes.

This year, my five-year-old son who is OBSESSED with Transformers opted for the obscure G1 minibot, Tailgate.  Now, while Tailgate has had a huge resurgence due to James Roberts' Robots in Disguise storyline, even garnered himself a new Generations Line release, my son is cognizant of neither of those facts.  Here is a character who has never been in a cartoon and didn't (mercifully) make it into the blockbuster live-action movies. The boy simply loved how he looked on the shelf.

So here's the funny part of all of this. As I was fixing up his costume, which, I think turned out

Show-accurate purists need not comment.
I was taking artistic liberties, okay?!

...I thought back a lot to my year as a transformer. It was 1987, and of all the 'bots, I was Pipes, Tailgate's case-mate (a toy that is shipped from the factory with another toy, usually around the same size) from the 1986 line of transformers .

I remember my dad making the arms out of baby-wipe containers from my younger brother, and sacrificing a beloved tech-spec meter reader for my visor. I was the cat's pajamas.

Has no fear of patterned linoleum. 

So anyway, a neat way for a father and son to connect through the decades.  I think we would have made great case-mates.