Almost exactly a year ago there was an eBay auction for an original piece of Transformers artwork that I'd never seen before. It was by the late great Fred Carillo, a comics and animation professional who was one of the many extremely talented Filipino background designers and character model artists who worked on the original Transformers animated series and movie. The piece showed Optimus Prime with Blaster and Grapple to his right and Bluestreak to his left, all walking toward the viewer and some of them are waving their hands and guns in the air as if they're in some sort of Autobot parade. Since I knew original Transformer art sells for crazy money I gave up thinking about winning the auction. I did at least want to find out more about the picture like where it was first published in the hopes that I could track down the original comic or magazine it came from. The auction description said that it was art from 1984 done for an issue of Variety magazine. I didn't know anything about Variety magazine other than that it was some sort of entertainment tabloid and I thought it was an unusual place to find a unique and original piece of Transformer artwork. I asked my fellow Transformer Illuminati if they'd ever heard of or seen this particular drawing and the Variety article it was from. Nobody did and so I ended up with a bit of a mystery on my hands. What issue of Variety was it from? In what context was it published? Was it in an article or just a standalone picture? Could this art really be from 1984 with those 1985 characters in it? And why is it that whenever I see a Transformer with a missile for a hand I feel like he's flipping me off?
I DID FIND A VARIETY, BUT MOSTLY OF SUCKY DISAPPOINTMENT
I pretty much gave up on finding that old issue of Variety because even on eBay back issues are really hard to find. Plus I was living in Rapid City, South Dakota at the time and the main library there didn't have back issues of Variety. There was an inter-library loan system where I could possibly get materials from libraries outside of South Dakota, but that cost money and even if I could get microfilms of Variety loaned to me from a different library, what issue would I ask for? Ordering every issue of a weekly magazine from an entire year could get expensive. Then I moved down to south Florida and asked the downtown Miami library if they had it, but they didn't. So I kind of gave up on finding it and the image of Optimus leading his Autobot parade began to fade in my mind. Then last week just as I was getting ready to leave during my visit to the downtown Houston library I remembered the picture and I asked the librarian if they had back issues of Variety. Sure enough they did and it wasn't on microfilm-they had hardbound collected issues of the actual magazine! Although I was running out of time had to I sit down and look through as many Varietys as I could, hoping to find that drawing!
|Variety, 01 May 1985||Variety, 19 June 1985|
NICE GUYS FINISH CLASTER
Searching though Variety was an intimidating task because it was a giant sized weekly publication. It was the size of a large road atlas and each issue had on average about 125 pages. I didn't know where to start so I figured I would try looking from September through December of 1985 because I figured some 1985 robots were in the drawing so 1985 had to be the true year of publication. Also since Variety was an entertainment magazine I figured it was a cartoon related article I was looking for, and the new cartoon season started in September. I found absolutely nothing Transformers in those months. So I tried the same months but from 1984, thinking maybe the auction description could be right. Again I failed to find anything. At this point I had looked through a little over 3,000 pages and although I found a couple cool Voltron ads I was feeling frustrated. Then I asked the librarian for all the rest of the Variety issues from 1984 and 1985 which would mean over 7,000 more pages to look through. I really started wondering if finding the ad would be worth it. I wondered if finding anything could be worth hours and hours of looking through 10,000 pages of magazine. I looked through 11 of the 12 months of 1984, excluding only January then I moved on to 1985 and got all the way through May before I found anything Transformers but it turned out to only be a generic blurb for the upcoming 1985 season with a very common promotional image I'd seen a million times before. Under any other circumstances I'd think that ad was pretty cool but that day anything short of my goal was wasting my time. It was getting late and I knew my wife would be pissed because I was in danger of not making it back in time for dinner. But I kept on flipping through the pages AND THEN IT HAPPENED!
|Variety, 29 May 1985||enlarged|
WHERE DID THEY GET ALL THOSE WONDERFUL TOEIs
8,000 pages into my journey I found the Autobot parade! It was Prime, Grapple, Blaster and Bluestreak just as I'd remembered them! All of my questions were answered. The art appeared in an ad Marvel studios took out in Variety on May 29th of 1985 to thank the Toei animation studios for helping them on Transformers and other projects. I was so relieved! I took my pictures, finished off looking through the issues from June '85 and then I quit satisfied. I left July and August 1985 unsearched. I was really tired and my mind was fried and my hands were covered in ink and I smelled like toy robots newspaper ads. Even though I was kind of late for dinner I finally solved the mystery. Or so I thought. Days later once I got back to my home computer in Florida I pulled out the original Fred Carrillo art from the eBay auction and to my horror I realized it was totally different from the Variety ad I found. The angle of the characters was different, the number of characters was different and stylistically it didn't even look like Fred Carillo drew it. There were still enough similarities between the two drawings to say that maybe this was the ultimate final published version of the project he may have been working on but for whatever reason his drawing wasn't used. I don't know! Instead of solving my mystery I now have like a tryptzillion other questions. Did Carillo's art ever really get used in Variety and I just missed it? Or was his version an unpublished submission meant for this ad but wasn't used at all? Did I find what I was looking for even if it didn't look like what I was looking for? All I know is that it's not the same drawing. I also know Houston is over 1,000 miles away from me and my brain is still a little fried and although I've showered a couple times since then I still kind of smell like toy robots newspaper ads so I need a break.
I DON'T KNOW IF IT'S THE SPICE OF LIFE BUT IT SURE IS GOOD FOR ROBOTS ADS
I was lucky because I did just barely make it back to the other side of town in time to go out to dinner with my relatives on that last night in Houston so I'm glad I did the right thing by them. But there's still a little twinge of doubt and I wonder what was in those last two months of 1985 issues I didn't look through. In an extremely fortunate turn of events, I called and found out yesterday that the Fort Lauderdale library carries Variety on microfilm. Maybe one of these days I'll get to find out once and for all if that art was published during those last 8 issues I've yet to look through. I also wonder if there are Transformers or other cartoon robots ads in years beyond 1985 and what other interesting stuff Variety has buried in its pages. I figure if I do find anything good in Lauderdale I can write down the dates, then go to Houston and get my pictures more quickly. My relatives are probably getting tired of me spending more time at the library than with them, but honestly there's this really great restaurant downtown that I think they need to check out.