Friday, May 11, 2007

Jeffrey Brown has the BALLS to say what I've felt about robots!

Lately I've been wondering why exactly the whole 'shape changing alien robots from outer space' thing seemed less awesome and more silly to me everyday. I figured it was a sign of growing out of the mindset that made these comics and cartoons so captivating to me. I figured maybe at 33 I'm growing the hell up but I still felt disappointed in myself for thinking that giant alien robots with car parts on their chest isn't as life-changingly inspirational as I used to when I was ten. But yesterday I found out about a book coming out that has singlehandedly made this whole hobby fun and interesting again! Whoop de doo!

Jeffrey Brown's 'The Incredible Change Bots' is a 144 page graphic novel that skewers the crap out of the notion of transforming robots from outer space. At first glance it looks like a simple minded goof on the Transformers and other 80's toy license comics and cartoons. I suppose on the most superficial of levels it is and it does appeal to people like little kids and fans of MAD magazine. But there is a subtlety here beneath the obvious jokes that takes all the problems I've had with the alien robots genre and makes fun of those. It's robot nerd humor that Joe Pokemon casual fan isn't going to appreciate. It's a big relief to see this because for a while there all of this critical over analysis of the upcoming Transformers movie by my fellow scholars of toy robots had me feeling like I missed the day when the whole world decided we were incorporating Transformers comics into the theory of relativity. What ever happened to just having fun with this stuff? Transforming robots from outer space named Bumblebee is an idea made from funny!

From the Incredible Changebots preview pages I can see that at least some of the story is based on the events from the first issue of the original Transformers comic, or it at least makes many of its jokes at the expense of that origin story. It's as if Brown read Zobovor's list of Transformers comic bloopers and used it as the formula for this book. There are some jokes here will fly right over the heads of the casual robot fan who didn't grow up reading the original 20+ year old comic, but that's why I like it. I'm glad the material is deeper than the average "I had them all when I was a kid" scary fan can appreciate, although the book works for that level of audience, too.

While most HUR-HUR DOOD fans will find the robot named Balls (who turns into a golf cart) funny because of the name, what they fail to notice is the deeper levels on which this character is a brilliant satire. Balls has his steering wheel on his head! This was something I've always thought about. How is it that these supposedly alien life forms would know how to arrange their parts so that their robot forms are so impressive and intimidating? Like how is it that no Transformer got it wrong and put his driver's seat on his crotch in robot mode? And why is it that they go through all this trouble to adapt themselves and then at first sight of a human they start talking and changing into robots? Brown notices all the inconsistencies in the early Transformers comics narrative that only someone who paid the fuck attention would care to joke about. I am amazed that something this comic nerdy has found its way to the mass market. Plus I will be buying one.

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