One of my early jobs out of college, I found myself with an entire month and nothing to do. Lucky for me, I had the internet and I’d just stumbled across a cache of digital comics that included the entire original run of Transformers, all 80 issues! As I pored over the virtual long boxes, I noticed that there was a decided tonal shift after the toy line had run its course and Hasbro apparently handed the creators the reigns and said “here, do whatever you want.” While the comic had mostly been darker than its source material (characters died, were grievously injured, actually had a tortured thought or two), once the safeties were off, it became brutal. Events like the death(s) of Optimus Prime became robot torture porn that never would have passed censors if the characters had been flesh and blood (I’m assuming that a walking skeleton with bits of sinew and muscle hanging off it as it stumbled to its death would raise a few eyebrows).
The comic quickly became much more than a tie-in to a cartoon and toy line and more of a rumination on the horrors of war (yes, with giant transforming robots). Any character could die, at any time, or since they weren’t limited by human physiology, kept in-between life and death, like the Megatron/Ratchet hybrid that shambled about for a large portion of the run:
Recently, the original writer, Simon Furman was given the opportunity to go back and take an additional 20 issues to finish up the story he’d started 30 years ago. The resultant series, Transformers: Regeneration One was still just as brutal and unforgiving, taking things like that robo-zombie up there, who’s fate had never been fully tied up, and bringing them to their ugly conclusions. Even things I’d taken for granted, like the Transformers’ seemingly endless capacity to heal or regenerate, something that was necessary based on the amount of damage that was inflicted upon them every issue, was dismantled. The final issue not only brought the story to its end; but unequivocally put its foot down and said to me “These characters? This universe that you were introduced to in your childhood? No more.” There will be other Transformers stories; but the ones I grew up with, the ones that entertained me in my early adulthood, are finally gone.
It’s a special thing, to be able to craft a universe. It’s even more special to be able to say when and were it will end. I hope I have the same opportunity some day.