Wednesday, February 28, 2007

A Taste of Things to Come

I've spent the past few days writing a script for what I hope to become my first attempt at a Photocomic. Setting up, taking, and editing the pictures will no doubt take me some time yet, so I really can't predict when it will be ready, but I do have a "teaser" shot done. I think you can figure out where I'm headed with this.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Talking in Circles

The following is a piece appearing on Slacktivist's blog today:
PAT: Ugh. This is Coke.

MIKE: What's wrong with Coke?

PAT: It's got caffeine in it. I can't have caffeine. I'm Jewish.

MIKE: You're what?

PAT: Jewish. We're not allowed to have caffeine.

MIKE: Dude, you're not Jewish. And even if you were that wouldn't mean you couldn't have caffeine.

PAT: Hey this is America, I can be whatever I want to be.

MIKE: Your name is Patrick Flynn.

PAT: Doesn't matter. Freedom of religion.

MIKE: OK, so if you're Jewish, how come you're eating a bacon cheeseburger?

PAT: We're allowed. We just can't have caffeine.

MIKE: You're trying to tell me a bacon cheeseburger is kosher?

PAT: Are you Jewish?

MIKE: No, but ...

PAT: Then what makes you think you have the right to tell us how to worship? You're being anti-Semitic.

MIKE: You're not Jewish.

PAT: Says you. Bigot.

MIKE: Look, you're free to believe whatever you want to believe. You want a cheeseburger? Eat a cheeseburger. Just don't say you're being Jewish.

PAT: Where do you get off lecturing me on my religion?

MIKE: I'm not telling you what to believe, I'm just saying you can't call it Jewish. That's not what "Jewish" means.

PAT: So you think all Jews have to believe the same thing?

MIKE: Not the exact same thing, maybe, but, you know, mostly, yeah.

PAT: And you're what, Catholic, right? So you think all Catholics believe the same thing?

MIKE: I'm not saying ... Look. The word "Catholic" means something, OK? Or a whole bunch of somethings. And that means there's also a whole bunch of somethings it doesn't mean.

PAT: First you're the expert on Judaism, and now you're the Pope.

MIKE: I'm just saying certain words mean certain things, otherwise what's the point in having them?

PAT: You really like telling other people what to believe, don't you?

MIKE: Believe whatever you want. But you know as well as I do that bacon is not kosher. Ask any rabbi, they'll tell you. Ask a hundred rabbis -- you won't find one that disagrees.

PAT: There's at least one. Me.

MIKE: So now you're a rabbi?

PAT: Yeah, and I'm telling you, as a rabbi, that we Jews can eat bacon cheeseburgers, but we can't have caffeine.

MIKE: You do realize, Rabbi Flynn, that the caffeine thing has nothing to do with Judaism, right? That's a Mormon thing. You can't just take something from Mormonism and start calling it Judaism.

PAT: Again with the pronouncements on other people's faith. What do you have against the freedom of religion?

MIKE: Look, OK, say I tell you I'm Catholic, right? Then suppose I tell you that I believe that there is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet. I mean ...

PAT: Hey, whatever man. Doesn't matter. Free country.

MIKE: But it does matter. That's what Muslims believe. If I believe what Muslims believe then I can't go around calling myself a Catholic, can I?

PAT: So now you're the expert on Islam too?

MIKE: Jesus Christ!

PAT: Hey, man, don't blaspheme in front of the rabbi. ...

This sounds an awful lot like some of the conversations I've had recently on the Allspark. Practically whenever a topic related to Christianity comes up, there are a group of vehement anti-Christians who assert that Christians believe such-and-such, and whenever someone points out the fallacy in their reasoning, it makes no difference whatsoever. It's just talking in circles.

It's one thing to dislike certain things that lots of Christians say or think. I might even agree with you. But I do take offense at all Christians being criticized for things that not all Christians even believe in the first place. Say that I'm an exception if you want to, but the very fact that I am an exception should prove the point that not all Christians are crazy hate-mongers (or whatever offensive thing about Christians someone wants to say at a given time). If you're going to say something about what it is to be Christian, you should be sure that what you're saying matches up with the facts.

Words mean certain things, otherwise what's the point in having them?

Friday, February 23, 2007

What Might Have Been - Part 3

I hope you've been enjoying the scripts posted this week. I'll have a few more comments during these installments, done as before in [bracketed italics], since these two drafts were especially rough (I'd barely started work on Part 4!). I'll also have some closing comments at the end.  (Links for Part 1 and Part 2, if you missed them)

Transformers: A Continuation
By Mark Baker-Wright

Part 3

(Picture: Fortress Maximus fighting Galvatron. Cosmos, Huffer, Brawn, Powerglide, Seaspray, and Warpath scattered around, trying to help Fortress Maximus)
Caption #1: A lot has happened in the past couple of days.

Caption #2: Fortress Maximus, with the help of Spike Witwicky, returned to operational status only to fight Galvatron moments later. That time, Fortress Maximus defeated Galvatron. Then, after returning to the Ark, Fortress Maximus fought Megatron, and again defeated him (sort of). Fortress Maximus, with the help of some recently revived Autobots, is fighting Galvatron once again. Megatron is about to join the battle.

Caption #3: See a pattern forming here?

(Picture: Warpath looking on as Fortress Maximus and Galvatron fight)
Warpath: Look at us. Just standing here, watching while our new leader fights for his life to save the Ark. Fortress Maximus helped give us back our lives...

(Picture: Warpath transforming into tank)
Warpath: Can we do less?

(Picture: Galvatron w/target sighted on him [Warpath's point of view])
Warpath: Hey! Decepticon!

(Picture: Galvatron looking up)
Galvatron: What?

(Picture: Cannon blast hits Galvatron, explosion. BLAM!)

(Picture: Galvatron still standing. Looks at Warpath)
Galvatron: So, this little gnat of an Autobot thinks he can defeat Galvatron? Ha! How foolish!

(Picture: Brawn w/Cosmos and Powerglide)
Brawn: C'mon Autobots! Let's show this Decep what we're really made of!

(Picture: Galvatron hit from all sides)

(Picture: Seaspray shot from blast from off picture)
Voice (off picture): Leave my brother alone!

(Picture: Fortress Maximus looking around)
Fortress Maximus: No! It can't be!

(Picture of Action Master Megatron. Similar pose to first shot of Action Master Prime in issue #80)
Megatron: Yes! It can! It is! Megatron is back!

(Picture: Windcharger, w/Beachcomber behind, aiming at Megatron)

Windcharger: But not for long, Megacreep!

(Picture: Windcharger fires! Battle resumes. Autobots caught in middle by Megatron and Galvatron.)

(Scene change: Ratchet in repair bay)
Ratchet (thought to self): I hadn't planned on releasing this Autobot until the others were more adjusted, but he's the only one who can really help defeat Megatron.

(Picture: Life support pod w/nametag: "Omega Supreme")

(Scene change: Back to battle. Fortress Maximus surrounded by minicars w/Galvatron and Megatron on either side)
Fortress Maximus: Fight on, my brothers! We still outnumber the Decepticons! We can still defeat them!

(Picture: Galvatron fires at Brawn, barely misses)
Brawn: Whoa! A little too close for comfort!

(Picture: Powerglide transforms into plane)
Powerglide: It's time to kick some Deceps' tails!

(Picture: Megatron firing and gloating)
Megatron: Ha! You pathetic Autobots actually think you stand a chance! I'm more powerful than ever before! Nucleon has made me invincible!

Voice (off picture): Oh!?!

(Picture: Omega Supreme aiming at Megatron. Omega Supreme is almost twice as tall)
Omega Supreme: Shall we find out just how invincible?

(Picture: Megatron shooting several shots at Omega Supreme. No effect.)
Megatron: No! You won't defeat me again! No!

(Picture: Galvatron fighting Autobots. Watching Megatron and Omega Supreme)
Galvatron: (thought) Hmm. This new Autobot seems more than a match for my "younger" self. Perhaps I'd better back out to decide a way to best defeat this new threat.

(Picture: Galvatron flies away, Autobots still shooting. Megatron sees Galvatron's action)
Megatron: No! You can't leave me here alone!

(Picture: Megatron flies off, as well. In another picture, the Autobots gather around Omega Supreme.)
Brawn: I've never seen Megatron so scared of anything! What did you do to him Omega Supreme?

Omega Supreme: Megatron and I have met once before.* Of the eight Decepticons in his party, only he and one other survived.

Caption: *See Marvel US issue #19. How's that for good memory?
Fortress Maximus: Well, I'm certainly glad you showed up when you did. We weren't doing too well in that battle.

(Picture: Powerglide, a bit battered up, in robot mode)
Powerglide: Well, let's get back into the Ark. Doc Ratchet has some work to do.

(Scene change. New Jersey. Decepticon Headquarters. Still in a state of disrepair following the Decepticon Civil War of Marvel US issue #73)

Caption: Elsewhere

(Picture: Starscream in headquarters, has found something important)
Starscream: At last! I've found it! After our rather "surprise" landing on this planet, I knew I'd need to come here to heal, to plan an attack on the Earth, and to find this....

(Picture: Starscream's Pretender Shell in a storage closet)
Starscream: My Pretender Shell! I left it behind when Primus took us to Cybertron. Now, with its power, defeating the Autobots will be much easier.

[I intended to put a scene here, but never got around to writing it, where Ratchet tells Fortress Maximus that his link with Megatron is now severed, due to the completion of the nucleon's work. Also, as to why Starscream is alive and kicking, I'll explain that a bit more at the end. All he cares about is that he's alive.]

(Scene change: Back to the Ark. Huffer approaching Fortress Maximus and Ratchet)
Huffer: I don't know how to tell you guys this, but you messed up the Ark pretty bad. I don't see how we'll get it back together.

Ratchet: Maybe we won't need to. I've just finished repairing the long range sensors, and I detect an Autobot vessel coming towards Earth. We may be able to use it to get home.

[This was intended to be the Autobots making good on their promise to return the Neo-Knights to Earth. However, if this project had continued, I might have chosen to omit this dialogue, and have the return of these Autobots be a surprise, if and when I brought
them back at all.]

Huffer: Well, that may be. But the Decepticon threat to Earth still exists, and we need a base from which to fight them. The Ark is in no position to protect us.

Fortress Maximus: Perhaps I can help.

(Picture: Fortress Maximus surrounded by other Autobots, except Ratchet, in wide open field)
Caption: Later

Fortress Maximus: This looks to be a good spot.

(Picture: Fortress Maximus transforms to city mode, while head transforms into Cerebros, with appropriate caption explaining. A second picture would depict Cerebros pointing to the city)
Cerebros: In this mode, Fortress Maximus can serve as your headquarters while we wait for the Autobot ship to arrive. [This dialogue would have been changed if I had chosen not to mention the ship earlier. FM would have remained as the Autobot's new base for some time regardless.]

(Picture: Gasket and Grommet drive up)
Caption: As Cerebros speaks, two vehicles drive out of the city...

(Picture: Vehicles combine to form Cog)
Caption: ...and transform into one robot.

(Picture: Cog)
Cog: Although I'm still Fortress Maximus, in this mode you can call me Cog.

(Picture: Seaspray pointing to Cerebros)
Seaspray: But I thought he was Fortress Maximus!

(Picture: Cog and other Mini-Cars, focusing on Warpath and Cosmos)
Cog: This is Cerebros. He is controlled by Spike Witwicky, a human to whom I am binary bonded. Our minds are joined in our Fortress Maximus mode.

Warpath: Weird!

Cosmos: So what are we waiting for! Let's get in and try it out!

(Picture: As the Mini-Cars enter the base, focus on Cog and Omega Supreme)
Caption: As the rest of the Autobots enter Fortress Maximus' base mode, Cog stops Omega Supreme to talk to him.

Cog: Omega Supreme, with the rest of the Autobots setting up headquarters here, the Ark is left unprotected. I need you to protect the Ark while Ratchet revives the remaining Autobots.

Omega Supreme: I will protect the Ark with my life, commander.

(Scene change: Starscream, now in Pretender shell, at Decepticon Headquarters. Seated at controls for sensors)
Caption: Elsewhere

Starscream: Soon I will be ready to strike the Autobots' heart, the Ark. I can only assume that Ratchet, if he survived the crash, is reviving the Autobots still inside. I must make sure not to underestimate my enemies as I have done in the past.

Voice (off picture): That is fortunate, Starscream.

(Picture: Starscream looking up)
Starscream: What? Who?

(Picture: Galvatron and Megatron)
Megatron: Because it would be a terrible mistake for you to underestimate us!

End of Part 3

Transformers: A Continuation
Part 4

(Scene: Inside the Decepticons' New Jersey Headquarters. Megatron, Galvatron, and Starscream [in Pretender shell] are examining Decepticon repair bays)
Megatron: I must say, you surprise me, Starscream. To think that most of these soldiers were deactivated at your hand. I would not have thought you capable of such a feat.

Starscream: Yes, Megatron. At the time, I controlled the powers of the Underbase and used them in an attempt to destroy all the Transformers. I would have succeeded if not for Optimus Prime's intervention.*

Caption: *See Marvel US issue #50

(Picture: Megatron putting Starscream in his place)
Megatron: And if not for my intervention, you would still be a tangled mass of circuits in Earth orbit.* I suggest you remember that, and weigh your loyalties accordingly.

Starscream: Yes, commander.

Caption: *US issue 57

(Picture: Megatron looking at bays, talking with Starscream. Galvatron should be visible in the distance, looking on.)
Megatron: Under the command of Scorponok, these Decepticons were allowed to lay here gathering rust while a civil war developed. Now, with so many of the Decepticons on Cybertron, I need these warriors more than ever. We need to start revival processes.

Starscream: If I may, commander, most of this base was destroyed in the recent battle. We have neither the resources nor the equipment to begin to revive these Decepticons.

Megatron: Until recently, I shared a mental bond with the Autobot surgeon, Ratchet. Apparently, both of us were revived by a substance called nucleon. I also know that the Autobots still have quantities of this nucleon, for they were using it to revive their comrades. We need to obtain some of this nucleon for our own uses.

Starscream: But how, Megatron? How?

Megatron: You are impatient, Starscream. That is why you will never lead the Decepticons. Wait and see. I have a plan.

[I see that Galvatron never says anything at all in this scene, despite being present. I probably would have revised the scene to include him better in a future draft.]

(Scene change: Northern Pacific Ocean. Seaspray, in hovercraft mode, traveling on water)
Caption: Off the west coast of Canada.

Seaspray (thought to self): This is great! I almost never got any assignments on Earth before! It always seemed like such a waste. They made me change my nice, Cybertronian form into this Earthen shape, and then I never got to use it!

(Picture: Rear view of hovercraft as Seaspray speeds by)
Seaspray (thought): I'd better not waste any time, though. I've got a mission to do. When we Autobots repaired the Ark and used it to become spaceborne, we left some equipment behind in Oregon.* We need that equipment if we are to repair our ship enough to even use it as a base, let alone get off the ground!

Caption: *See US issue #38

(Picture: Seaspray disappears in distance)

(Picture: Shockwave, in gun mode, follows)

And that's as far as I got. Where'd Shockwave come from? I'll get to that later....

You may have already noticed that I've ignored UK continuity in these scripts, as at the time I wrote them, I'd never seen them. I've also commented that G2 (Generation Two) hadn't even been considered a possibility at this time. Most of what's here still would have held up, with some modification, though. The biggest plot point that would have been difficult to dovetail into G2 would be Fortress Maximus' "why didn't I check?" bit in G2 issue #2. Indeed, that "checking" forms the entire starting point for my plot. Being a responsible Autobot, I don't see how Fortress Maximus could have avoided it. In fact, we know that he had to go back to the Ark to return the large Fortress Maximus body, seen deteriorating in storage there in the G2 comic. Why wouldn't Fortress Maximus have bothered to check for suspicious activity at that point? However, I think even this could be dealt with if I wanted to.

For future plans, Megatron would have been able to get a large enough supply of nucleon to revive the Decepticons in storage in New Jersey, while the Autobots would continue to revive more of their number in Canada. Shockwave would have succeeded in thwarting Seaspray's efforts to salvage any technology from Mt. St. Hilary, and would have used the equipment himself to set up his own base of operations from which to make life complicated for both groups of Transformers.

Starscream doesn't realize it yet, but he has also been doused with nucleon, enabling his survival. He would soon become an Action Master, but would lose the ability to control his Pretender suit in the process. I assume that Shockwave simply survived the crash, although he would logically conclude that he would need to lay low for a little while to assess the current situation after the unexpected arrival on Earth (especially if he witnessed the crazed Galvatron of Marvel US #79). He would eventually have to steal some nucleon to become an Action Master himself, in an effort to gain enough power to combat the already nucleon energized Megatron and the powerful-enough-without-nucleon Galvatron. The minicars and Omega Supreme would eventually lose their transforming powers, and I'd toyed with the idea of having at least one be stuck in vehicle mode. Most likely Seaspray. (Since most of THESE characters weren't Action Master toys, I figured I could get away with that!)

If I needed to dovetail with G2 (which I repeat, had not yet been created when I wrote these drafts), MUCH later, a cure for nucleon would be found, and the Transformers would regain their Transforming powers (actually, I probably would have eventually gotten around this anyway). Megatron would eventually be thought destroyed, and all the other Transformers would either be destroyed or go back to Cybertron. Megatron, though badly damaged, would remain on Earth, unknown to everyone else, to plot a return to power, eventually resurfacing in G.I. Joe to be turned into a tank. (Max's "why didn't I check?" could then refer to THIS incident, rather than the end of the US series)

Here is a list of Autobots and Decepticons not yet seen that I deemed available for rebirth in this series (when you see parentheses around a group name, assume that I mean all the individual members of the team, unless I specifically state otherwise). In almost all cases, they would have at least temporarily become Action Masters, despite the fact that no Action Master toys existed for the bulk of the characters:




1 The Constructicons were the only group that would have gotten stuck in Merged form as an Action Master. This was to keep in line with the fact that Action Master Devastator was actually made as a toy.

I hope you've enjoyed this look at what might have been. I'll be back next week with regular blogging.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

What Might Have Been - Part 2

As promised, here's the second part of the fan-fiction comic I attempted to create shortly after the original Marvel Transformers comic ended, before anyone thought that Transformers might see new life via Generation Two and the lines that followed. As before, I'll use [bracketed italics] to interject a couple of "behind the scenes" comments.  (If you missed Part 1, here it is)

Transformers: A Continuation
By Mark Baker-Wright

Part 2

(Picture: Fortress Maximus looking at frozen Ratchet)
Fortress Maximus: What happened?

Ratchet: I don't know. I was coming out to help you fight Megatron when, all of a sudden, I froze in my tracks. I can't move.

(Picture: Megatron [also frozen])
Megatron: No! This can't be! I will not be thwarted a victory in this way! I am Megatron!

(Picture: Fortress Maximus picking up Megatron)
Fortress Maximus: Fortunately, Megatron seems to have frozen over, as well. I'm going to put him in the Ark's brig while we reviveour comrades.

(Picture: Fortress Maximus carrying Megatron, walking by Ratchet)
Fortress Maximus: Now, don't go anywhere, I'll be right back.

Ratchet: Very funny.

(Scene change: Galvatron moving through wilderness)
Galvatron: (thought to self) No sign of that Autobot anywhere! How foolish of him to think that a simple bath could destroy the mighty Galvatron!

(Picture: Galvatron in deep thought)
Galvatron: (thought) But what was that Autobot doing on Earth anyway? I thought all of the Autobots were on Cybertron. Perhaps I should recheck the Ark and remove any Autobot scavengers trying tofind out what happened to their ship.

(Scene change: Fortress Maximus and Ratchet in Ark [life support section] Ratchet still frozen.)
Fortress Maximus: At least Megatron shouldn't bother us for a while.

Ratchet: Don't bet on it! Most of the Ark was destroyed by the crash. I'd barely gotten enough of these life-support systems working to give me status reports on the Autobots. The nucleon is doing allthe work. If Megatron were to become mobile, he could escape easily.

(Picture: Fortress Maximus looking at readouts)
Fortress Maximus: We'll worry about him later. I see that some of the Autobots are ready to be released.

Ratchet: Yes, go ahead. But I'd rather only release a few at a time. We don't want thirty Autobots running around confused at once. Start with some of the smaller ones.

(Picture: Fortress Maximus with the recently released Autobots) [OK, I admit it. I changed this just now to preserve the suspense until the Autobots are actually introduced.]
Caption: Soon

Fortress Maximus: Doctor Ratchet, allow me to present to recently revived Autobots...








and Warpath.

Brawn: Hold on there, Doc. What's going, on? Where is everybody? And why are you acting like a statue?

Ratchet: Optimus Prime and the other Autobots have all left Earth for unknown reasons. Fortress Maximus was left behind and requires our help to combat a renewed Decepticon threat. As for my... condition.... It seems to be a side effect of the nucleon which revived us. Fortress Maximus and I are working on a way to reverse theprocess.

Huffer: What? So you mean the rest of us are going to end up frozen just like you? I think I'd rather have stayed deactivated!

Ratchet: I'm sorry, but I had no choice. Right now, Fortress Maximus is the only one who can help me, and we have reason to believe that at the Decepticons may still be at large. We hope to be able to figure out how to reactivate my motion circuits before anyone else suffers my fate.

(Picture: Huffer seems not to be listening, and is looking at the Ark around him)
Huffer: And will you look at this mess! I spend all that time fixing the Ark back up so we can fly it back to Cybertron, and what do youguys do? You crash it again! More work for me, I guess!

Fortress Maximus: I'm afraid that all of your expertise won't help this ship. The Ark is grounded for good.

(Picture: Whole group. Ark shakes!)
Seaspray: Watch out!

(Picture: Autobots pick themselves up)
Powerglide: What was that?

Fortress Maximus: I don't know, but I'm going to find out. Autobots, come with me! Beachcomber and Windcharger, stay with Ratchet!

(Picture: Others leaving, focus on Windcharger and Beachcomber with Ratchet)
Windcharger: Figures. I just get back to operational status and already I'm being assigned the boring jobs.

Beachcomber: Don't worry. I'm sure something will happen. At least we're reasonably safe here.

(Picture: Ark shakes again)
(Picture: Beachcomber)
Beachcomber: Did I say safe? Allow me to rephrase that.

(Picture: Galvatron just outside of the Ark)
Galvatron: Autobot! I know you're in there! Are you going to come out, or do I have to go in there after you?

(Picture: Fortress Maximus emerges from Ark)
Fortress Maximus: Here I am. So, Decepticon, it seems that I didn't destroy you after all.

(Picture: Galvatron preparing to attack)
Galvatron: Did you seriously think that an ice bath was all that was required to destroy me? Foolish Autobot! You won't get the chance to make the same mistake again.

[I feel compelled to point out that, at the time I wrote this, I had not seen the Japanese Headmasters series, during which Galvatron was indeed apparently destroyed in a similar arctic bath, despite having survived the destruction of Cybertron itself earlier in the series. I still feel that being thrown in frozen water should not have destroyed a Transformer as demonstrably powerful as Galvatron when Shockwave was shown to have been thrown in a swamp back in Marvel TF US #12, yet returned only two issues later. Galvatron is TONS more powerful than Shockwave is!]

(Picture: Fortress Maximus)
Fortress Maximus: I won't have to. This time I'll make sure I finish the job!

(Picture: image of Spike in Fortress Maximus's mind)
Spike: (thought) Watch out, Fortress Maximus. Remember, you're not the Decepticon.

(Scene change back to Ark. Windcharger, Beachcomber & Ratchet. Ratchet is trembling, and loose plates are falling off of him.)
Beachcomber: Uh, Windcharger? What's happening to Doc Ratchet?

Windcharger: I think... Oh, no! He's falling apart!

(Picture: Ratchet breaks out of shell. Is now an Action Master. A second picture shows off Action Master Ratchet) [I never did determine how AM Ratchet would look different than his pre-AM counterpart....]
Ratchet: No, Windcharger, I'm just fine. But we need to get to Fortress Maximus.

Windcharger: Why?

Ratchet (close-up): Because he needs to know that Megatron has just escaped!

End of Part 2

Here's Part 3

Monday, February 19, 2007

What Might Have Been - Part 1

While chatting on one of the Transformers message boards recently, I was reminded of a fan-comic I worked on over a decade ago, a year or two after the original Transformers comic ceased publication. To set up the context, I was a member of the Transmasters, at the time one of the only Transformers fan-groups in existence. Based largely in the UK, they had a couple of fan-comics being put together, and a "Continued Generation Two" comic that Matt Dallas put out later became rather popular.

But that was still a few years away. When I started work on my own fan-comic, the only Transmasters fan-comics I was aware of dealt with the Japanese line of toys. Generation Two did not yet exist, and Transformers fans had every reason to believe that they would never see official Transformers products ever again.

So I decided to try my hand at putting a comic together myself, explicitly taking place in the same continuity as the original Marvel (US) comic, and attempting to tie up loose ends that I felt that comic has left unattended. Through the Transmasters, I found an artist (whose name, sadly, I no longer remember*) willing to help me draw the first issue, which I received pages for. Not long after that, we both decided that other commitments needed priority. As a result, the fan comic was never actually produced.

At the time, I knew very little about copyright concerns, and trademarks, and that kind of thing. I know now, for example, that Hasbro retains the rights to all the Transformers characters and basic concepts, although they've generally been kind enough to allow fans to produce fan-fiction so long as no profit is made on such work without their consent.

But before we finally threw in the towel, I had put together scripts for four short issues. This week, I'll share some updated drafts of that work. Especially observant Transformers fans might recognize these scripts from the time I had them posted on an "Action Masters Power Plans Archive" I maintained for a few years. Although the scripts are largely unchanged, I've made some attempt to format them so that they'll be more readable this time around. I've added a few comments in bracketed italics, [like so], so that more modern readers might understand some of what I was thinking over a decade ago when I put together these rough drafts.

Here's part 1. Enjoy!

Transformers: A Continuation
By Mark Baker-Wright

Part 1

(As the story opens, Fortress Maximus is shown returning to the Ark after the battle with Galvatron [Marvel TF US #79]. Artist is reminded to depict Fortress Maximus with torn out eye, etc.)

Caption: He is Fortress Maximus, the Last Autobot on Earth. When the Decepticon Galvatron threatened the people of Earth, he was their only protector. Galvatron was beaten. Now, Fortress Maximus must go back to the Ark to discover what happened.

[I gave instructions to the artist to make "Back to the Ark" the title of the story, with lettering intentionally mimicking the "Back to the Future" logo. Although there was precedent for this kind of thing with comic issues titled "Buster Witwicky and the Car Wash of Doom" and "The Cure," I now believe this wasn't the smartest thing to do. Ah, well. We move on....]

(picture of Fortress Maximus's head with Spike's image [a la #79].)
Spike: Okay, so that Decepticon is gone, why do you still need me?

Fortress Maximus: I still need to investigate the Ark. After all, if one Decepticon survived the crash, so may have other Transformers.

(Picture: Fortress Maximus approaches Ark)
Fortress Maximus: The Ark was once the Autobots headquarters. Apparently, the Decepticons had taken it over to attack the earth. Obviously, something went wrong. Perhaps there were Autobots on board that stopped the Decepticons from arriving safely.

(Picture: Fortress Maximus in Ark. Ratchet in picture, on ground, unseen by Fortress Maximus. Ratchet is pretty beat up from crash.)
Caption: Fortress Maximus enters the Ark and searches for survivors. Eventually he arrives at Level 4: Subsection B

Fortress Maximus: Whatever went on in here, it seems to be the cause of the Ark's crash landing.

Ratchet: F-Fort-ress Mmmax-i-mus!

Fortress Maximus (running to Ratchet's side): Ratchet! You're alive! What happened to you?

Ratchet: Mmegatron! Sstill bonded to Megatron!

Fortress Maximus: Megatron! Maybe you'd better start from the beginning.

(Picture: split scenes with Ratchet trying to stop Megatron from entering portal [Marvel TF US #59], fused "Ratchet-Megatron monster" on Ark [#70], and "battle" with Starscream on Ark [#78])
Caption: Ratchet explains that he and Megatron had been fused in an accident with the trans-time dimensional portal. Later, their bodies had been separated, but their minds were still together. Starscream, having taken over the Ark with Shockwave, had tried to destroy Ratchet, but Ratchet caused him to detonate a section of the medical lab containing Nucleon, causing the Ark to crash.

(Picture: Fortress Maximus and Ratchet [both standing by now])
Fortress Maximus: It's a wonder any of you survived.

Ratchet: Nucleon is a substance that restores deactivated Transformers. It must have kept us alive.

Fortress Maximus: And where are the Decepticons?

(Picture: Ratchet with image of Megatron in mind)
Ratchet: I'm not sure. I get images from Megatron. I think he's run off...disoriented. He does not know...where he is. The others must have run off elsewhere.

(Picture: Fortress Maximus with Ratchet)
Fortress Maximus: I met one of them earlier. It wasn't Megatron, Shockwave, or Starscream. I didn't recognize him. Did you see him?

(Picture: Ratchet, image of Galvatron in mind)
Ratchet: Not directly. I...sensed him through Megatron. He seemed to sense a kinship with the other Decepticon, but I never caught his name.

(Picture: Fortress Maximus) [From here on out, I'm going to forego announcing picture changes when the only purpose was to instruct the artist who to draw for dialogue purposes.]
Fortress Maximus: And the other Autobots?

Ratchet: I haven't seen any others. There may be others still in life-support.

Fortress Maximus: Well, there's one way to find out.

(Scene change: Canadian woods. Megatron wandering violently through the wilderness)
Caption: His is Megatron. Once the greatest Decepticon leader of all time. Now, he is fighting to regain his sanity.

Caption: He does not know where he is, nor does he care. He merely needs to get away from the Autobot, Ratchet, to whom his mind has been linked.

(Picture: Megatron, with image of Fortress Maximus in his mind)
Caption: Now, through the link, Megatron knows that other Autobots still exist on Earth. He must stop Ratchet and the new Autobot from reviving the other Autobots in the Ark.

(Scene change: Ark, Fortress Maximus and Ratchet inspecting life support pods)
Ratchet: This is unbelievable. There are some 20 to 30 Autobots still in stasis here. They appear unharmed by the crash. Apparently, the nucleon protected them as well.

(Picture: Ratchet, close-up on his hand)
Ratchet: Judging from these readings, they should be ready to be released in a day or so... HEY!!!

(Picture: Fortress Maximus showing concern. Ratchet's hand should be locked in same position as last picture)
Fortress Maximus: What's wrong?

Ratchet: I don't know. My hand just... froze up all of a sudden.

(Picture: Megatron. Similar pose. Hand locked in same position as Ratchet's)
Megatron: (thought to himself) What? My hand... won't move.

(Picture: Megatron. Can move hand again)
Megatron: (thought) There! That's better.

(Picture: Ratchet. Similar pose. Can move hand again)
Ratchet: It's okay. I can move it now.

(Picture: Fortress Maximus pointing to torn out eye)
Fortress Maximus: Then, if you have nothing else to do, could you patch up my face, Doctor?

(Scene change: Ice lake)
Caption: Elsewhere

(Picture: Galvatron's fist comes crashing up through the ice)

(Scene change: Outside of Ark. Megatron approaches)
Caption: Some time later

Megatron: Now's my chance to rid the Earth of those accursed Autobots once and for all!!

(Scene change: Inside Ark. Ratchet and Fortress Maximus working in repair bay. Both have repaired their own damage. Ratchet looks up suddenly.)
Ratchet: Fortress Maximus! Megatron is here! He's trying to destroy us before the others can be revived!

Fortress Maximus: I'm on my way!

(Picture: Image of Spike in Fortress Maximus's mind)
Spike: And let's hope you don't get beat up quite so bad this time.

(Picture: Ratchet calling out while checking on readouts)
Ratchet: You'll need help. I'll be out just after I check on these Autobots. Even if Megatron destroys us, they must survive!

(Picture: Megatron has entered the Ark, but is still torn within himself)
Megatron: I must find Ratchet. Destroy him. End this torture that my life has become.

Fortress Maximus (unseen): Not today, Decepticon!

(Picture: Megatron looks up)
Megatron: Who dares?

Fortress Maximus: (still unseen by Megatron) I do...

(Picture: Fortress Maximus about to fire. Megatron sees him now)
Fortress Maximus: ... Fortress Maximus!

(Picture: Fortress Maximus fires. Megatron is thrown back against wall. Megatron prepares to retailiate)
Megatron: No! I am Megatron! I am unstoppable! No Autobot can stop me!

(Picture: Fortress Maximus gives Megatron a punch to the jaw. Ratchet can be seen approaching in the distance)

Fortress Maximus: Your days of destruction are over, Megatron!

(Picture: Megatron gets up)
Megatron: Never! You're dead, Autobot!

(Picture: Megatron prepares to hurl himself toward Fortress Maximus)
Megatron: I'll tear you limb from...

(Picture: Megatron in same pose as before. Has frozen. Another picture follows, with Megatron in the same pose.)
Megatron: What the...? What's wrong with me? I can't move!

(Picture: Fortress Maximus looking at frozen Megatron. Ratchet is behind Fortress Maximus, unseen by him)
Fortress Maximus: Well, Megatron, it looks like you're all talk and no action. Ratchet, help me take this Decepticon inside.

(Picture: Should be full page. Fortress Maximus turns to see Ratchet, also frozen)
Fortress Maximus: Ratchet!?!?

Ratchet: Uh, Fortress Maximus...

End of Part 1

Here's Part 2

*UPDATE - March 2, 2012: It took me five years, but I've found some old records that give me the name of the artist: Matt Kuhns. I don't know if he's still active in the fandom or not, but I wanted to give him the credit he's due, and offer my apologies that it took me so long.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Tent Making

Earlier this week, I was privileged to sit in during a luncheon in which we honored a professor for serving the seminary for 30 years. I have said before how much I appreciate being able to witness these events, a privilege that few people who have not themselves risen to the teaching ranks of higher education are able to have.

The professor we honored this time has long had a reputation of advocacy for higher wages for those who work at the seminary, a subject near and dear to my own heart, especially as I've been struggling to earn enough in this high-cost-of-living area to get by. My wife works also (in fact, she's currently earning more than I do), but her ability to contribute financially is affected by the fact that she is pursuing a PhD (perhaps someday to be honored at a luncheon like this herself?), and so her current job is expected only to be temporary.

Although there are many aspects of my current job that I value greatly, this is not where I feel my call lies. I entered seminary to gain the skills needed to pursue a call to ordained ministry. Although my career path has not gone as I expected, it is still where feel led to serve. However, I am not at all sure how best to proceed. I can find part-time work with some ease, but none of those jobs can even match my current overall salary. Full-time work is much harder to come by without finishing my ordination exams which, in a best-case scenario, could take a couple of years, and would ideally mean my taking some time off to take a refresher course on Reformed theology.

Although loans are, on some level, an option, I have enough debt already, and do not enjoy the thought of adding to it. (My wife is concerned about this already, as regards PhD tuition.)

A poster I saw outside of one of my professor's offices the other day got me thinking. It commented on the fact that many of the earliest "evangelists" earned their living by working "in the seafood industry," referencing the fact that some of Jesus' disciples were fishermen. I'm also reminded that the Apostle Paul was a tent maker. Indeed, to this day, many Christians refer to "tent making" to describe secular jobs that finance their ministry work.

I've held multiple jobs in the past, including some 10-hour-a-week ministry positions while I was working full-time here at the seminary. I've also volunteered my services on many occasions to churches I've been connected to. In both cases, I found myself fighting burnout by the end of a year working so many hours. Yet, most churches I've been to have depended heavily on the efforts of volunteers, and a great many of those volunteers have been people who have faithfully volunteered week in and week out for years while working full-time at another job whereby they earn their living. I have the greatest respect for these people. I've always wondered if I must be doing something wrong by not being able to sustain the level of activity that such people seem able to do.

I see no easy answers. I know that I can't stay in this job forever. Although it (barely, if that) provides a living, it is not where I feel called. Sooner or later, I will need to move on to something else, and perhaps to take some risks financially in order to better prepare myself for where God is leading me. I have been in a few discussions recently about the nature of work, and whether or not life requires us just to "bite the bullet" and do work we hate in order to get by. Although I don't expect life to be "easy," this kind of thinking bothers me greatly. We have been given talents and gifts for a reason, and we must use them faithfully. But I do not believe the God requires us to do work that we hate just so that we can earn enough money just to continue surviving. God calls us to be willing to give up our lives, but is this the kind sacrifice that is necessary? What happened to God caring for God's people? How much are Christians permitted to "hold out" until we find a good "fit" where we feel God is leading us?

I'm not at all sure. In the meantime, I guess I'll keep making tents.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

eBay Alert

Yeah, I know today's Valentine's Day, and although I don't want to sound like such events are unimportant, the fact is that I don't have anything profound to say on the subject of love at the moment. My wife and I intend to have a special evening together, going to a nice place to eat, but that's really nobody's business but our own. :)

However, Karl Hartman did alert the Allspark about a current auction on eBay. The title doesn't make it clear, but if you look at the picture, this is an opportunity to get all four G2 Stunticons (which you may remember I called some of the rarest Transformers of all time) at once. Since these are loose, they should go for a bit lower overall price than the several thousand they sold for last summer, but the bid is already up to $690, it definitely won't go for cheap.

If that's too pricey for your tastes, you still might want to check out his other auctions. There's some pretty neat TF swag in there!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Why Sniping is Cowardly

In my recent post on the Allspark, I caused some offense at calling snipers cowardly, and was told to “get off of [my] soapbox.” I fully admit that I’m on a soapbox here, and stand by my conviction that sniping is a cowardly practice, and that those who argue for sniping while suggesting that bidders should simply bid their maximum are being disingenuous. Let me explain why I believe that this is so:

Let’s assume an auction with a minimum bid of $5, and posit three bidders:

Bidder #1 – willing to pay $10
Bidder #2 – willing to pay $25
Bidder #3 – willing to pay $50

We’ll also assume that proxy bid amounts are in increments of $1 at all levels, for the sake of simplicity.

Also for the sake of simplicity, we’ll ignore the time limit for now, assuming that the auction closes after all three bidders have had a chance to place their bids. As will later become clear, having a time limit will not affect this argument at all.

Possible outcomes:

If Bidder order is 1, 2, 3
When Bidder #1 bids – amount appears as minimum = $5
When Bidder #2 bids – amount appears as $11, with Bidder #2 winning (just enough to beat Bidder #1, but no further)
When Bidder #3 bids – auction is sold to Bidder #3 at $26 (just enough to beat Bidder #2, but no further)

If Bidder order is 1, 3, 2
When Bidder #1 bids – amount appears as minimum = $5
When Bidder #3 bids – amount appears as $11 with Bidder #3 winning (just enough to beat Bidder #1, but no further)
When Bidder #2 bids – auction is sold to Bidder #3 at $26 (just enough to beat Bidder #2, but no further)

If Bidder order is 2, 1, 3
When Bidder #2 bids – amount appears as minimum = $5
When Bidder #1 bids – amount appears as $11, with Bidder #2 still winning.
When Bidder #3 bids – auction is sold to Bidder #3 at $26

If Bidder order is 2, 3, 1
When Bidder #2 bids – amount appears as minimum = $5
When Bidder #3 bids – amount appears as $26, with Bidder #3 winning.
Bidder #1 does not bother to bid, since the amount already appears higher than the $10 he was willing to pay. Bidder #3 wins the auction at $26.

If Bidder order is 3, 1, 2
When Bidder #3 bids – amount appears as minimum = $5
When Bidder #1 bids – amount appears as $11, with Bidder #3 still winning.
When Bidder #2 bids – auction is sold to Bidder #3 at $26

If Bidder order is 3, 2, 1
When Bidder #3 bids – amount appears as minimum = $5
When Bidder #2 bids – amount appears as $26, with Bidder #3 still winning.
Bidder #1 does not bother to bid, since amount already appears higher than the $10 he was willing to pay. Bidder #3 wins the auction at $26.

In absolutely all cases, the result is the same. Bidder #3, the person willing to pay the most, wins the auction at $26. This is what would happen no matter how many people bid, if all people really did bid their actual maximum, as is suggested by eBay. Furthermore, the result remains the same no matter when the clock runs out, so sniping is meaningless if people actually do bid their actual maximum.

Why have a clock at all? Let assume that there’s a Bidder #4 out there, who might have been willing to bid $100, but didn’t know that the auction existed until a month later. Is it reasonable to make the seller wait until all potential bidders have seen the site? The auction would go on forever! Bidder #4 didn’t know about the auction when it was in progress, so Bidder #4 misses out. All the clock does, in reality, is sets a limit on the auction so that it does actually end. People have a limited time to become aware of the auction’s existence and decide whether or not they wish to bid. This is necessary, at least in part, due to the potentially infinite number of bidders that could come into an auction given an indefinite amount of time. But the argument still holds: the bidder willing to pay the highest price (so long as he/she is aware of the auction while it is in progress) wins and pays the same amount, regardless of how early or late that bid is placed.

But back to the issue of sniping, and the advice that bidders should bid their actual maximum. I actually think that this is good advice. But for whatever reason, people do not bid their actual maximum. My contention is that snipers actually depend on this fact when they snipe, or they would not actually be paying anything less for having sniped than they would if they bid early. This is why I call the practice cowardly.

Snipers know that not everyone bids their actual maximum, and are afraid of someone coming along later who honestly is willing to pay more than they are. This is why I say that snipers who argue that people should just bid the maximum they’re willing to pay are being disingenuous.

But, as I've said before, snipers are here to stay, and until and unless eBay decides to change their system (such as by automatically extending the time for an extra few minutes after the latest bid), simply encouraging bidders to bid the maximum amount they're willing to pay up front is the most anyone can do about the situation.

Friday, February 09, 2007

More 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime Poses

My brother pointed out that, if I'm trying to showcase his ability to come up with creative poses for 20th Anniversary Prime, I should include some other pictures he sent me some time ago. For your enjoyment, here's Prime the gamer!

20th Anniversary Optimus Prime: A Noble Defender

Although I'm quite happy with my 20th Anniversary Optimus Prime, I must confess that I lack imagination when it comes to finding ways to pose the figure for photos. My brother does not have that problem. Give Optimus Prime a sword and shield (taken from a Legend of Zelda figure), and you have a truly noble warrior!

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

"Sniper" Psychology

There is a thread currently in progress on the Allspark about "sniping." I've commented on the matter before, calling it "dishonest and cowardly." I've also encouraged people to bid whatever they're honest maximum is on an auction, because unless eBay changes their system, "sniping" isn't going to go anywhere, and eBayers must accept that fact.

But I must admit to being more than a little frustrated that "people should just bid their maximum" seems to be the mantra of most of the posts defending "sniping." I think that this is a bit disingenuous. The following comments are edited from a post I made on page 4 of the Allspark thread:
It must be acknowledged that there is a "psychology" to eBay that actively encourages sniping. Many people say that they snipe because it tends to get them auctions for less money overall. IF everybody bid their maximum, it theoretically wouldn't matter what time you placed the bid. 2 days early or 2 seconds early, it would all work out the same in the final bid.

But we all know that the reality isn't this way. Snipers do what they do because, as eBay is set up, it tends to result in lower prices for the person who bids at the last minute than for the person who bids early. This is because an auction that is bid on early stands far more chance of being bid on later by a competitive person. Yet a similar auction (we'll call it "Item 1a") might go the entire auction length without even getting a first bid because the minimum bid is too high, even though the first item with multiple bids results in a final price higher than Item 1a's minimum.

The fact is, sniping works because of the way the system is set up. It is a cowardly practice, and is not performed by people who are honestly "bidding the maximum they're willing to bid," the way that sniper-apologists are telling sniper-foes to do. This is because snipers know that, if they actually did this themselves, they would end up paying higher prices. This is an abuse of the system, and it is in eBay's power to do something about it by the simple act of setting up a nominal automatic extension after the most recent bid.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Promises, Promises: Generation One Soundwave Reissue

If you follow Transformers, then you probably know by now that the reissue of the original Generation One Soundwave toy is starting to show up at Toys R Us. I picked mine up this past weekend, but my brother had already received the one that he pre-ordered online about a week ago. While telling me about the toy over the phone, he noticed a couple of odd points about the packaging.

If you click on the picture to your right, you'll notice that this toy is called a "reproduction" of the original. Even more explicitly, the box says that this reissue is "identical to the original toy."

But, of course, it isn't identical to the original. In fact, no version of Soundwave has ever looked like this. The most glaring feature of this new toy not shared by any previous Soundwave is the cassette player door that makes up Soundwave's chest. As you can see by the picture on the left, the current toy has an enlarged door, capable of handling two cassettes at once.

Now, to be fair, this isn't an entirely new feature. The double-cassette door was created for a Japanese-only version of Soundwave called "Soundblaster," which came out in a darker color scheme: black where Soundwave is blue. Until now, however, "Soundwave," in the original blue color scheme, has always only been able to hold a single cassette at a time. What we have here, for the first time, is essentially Soundblaster in Soundwave colors.

A look at other parts of the package may explain some of this discrepancy. If you click on the picture on the right, you'll see a couple of oddities. First of all, the package says that you can fit "Laserbeak or Battle Ravage" (emphasis mine) into the tape deck. Next, you'll see that the door on the tape deck on the photo doesn't extend out as far as it does on the actual toy. This is how the door looked on the original Soundwave. Apparently, Hasbro had originally decided to do Soundwave in a manner more faithful to the original, able to hold only one cassette at a time.

However, even this "best of intentions" would not have made this version of Soundwave "identical to the original." If you click on this link, you'll see a picture of the original Soundwave. Pay close attention to the area immediately below the cassette door. Now, look at the cassette door on the picture from the package just above, and on the picture of the new toy just above that. Look at the bottom of the cassette door, where the hinges are. On the new version of Soundwave, whether on the actual toy, or on the "one cassette only" version of the door shown on the package, the hinges actually come out from below the door itself, on either side of the silver arrow "buttons" on the tape deck. But on the original Soundwave, that area is filled with solid plastic, the hinges being up within the door cavity itself. This is an artifact of the changes made to the mold in the late 1980's to create Soundblaster. If you look closely at the robot mode image of the Soundblaster toy (linked above), you can see the red hinges still visible below the door itself, although I admit that it's difficult to see on those pictures.

So, even if the picture on the package was an accurate depiction of the toy inside, it still wouldn't be "identical to the original." Now, you might say I'm being nitpicky, and you might even be right. But if Hasbro's going to make a promise in such strong terms on their packaging, I'd at least like for them to know what they're talking about. This is a very nice reissue of an extremely popular toy, and I highly recommend getting it if you're a Transformers fan. But it most certainly isn't "identical to the original."

Friday, February 02, 2007

My Story: McGregor Hall

This past weekend, I got an e-mail from one of my former roommates at Montreat College. While doing the usual "catching up on what we've been up to over the past few years" routine, I had occasion to look through some old blog posts (I seem to be doing that a fair bit recently. Must be something about bringing in the New Year). I see that I've mentioned being a Resident Assistant, but that I never said more about that time. Allow me to rectify that error....

After my third year of college, which saw me juggling the roles of actor, editor, and politician simultaneously, I was ready to take a bit of a break. But I've always been much happier being "involved" than I have been just sitting around, and so I applied for the role of Resident Assistant in my dorm, a role that several of my friends (including the one that I heard from last week) had held at various times in the previous two years. Without exception, every one of them was glad that they weren't filling this role any more, but I didn't take the hint.

As it turned out, I almost didn't get the position, because I had only intended to spend a half a year more at the college, having accumulated enough credits to graduate early. They wanted to have RAs that could commit to a full year, and I could certainly understand their position. But sometime in the middle of the summer, I got a phone call indicating that they were short on RAs that year, and that the college was willing to offer me the position even if I could only stay for half a year.

Even better, I was assigned the dormitory that I had already been living in for the previous two years, which was arguably the best dorm on campus. McGregor Hall was, at the time, a kind of an "honors dorm," which only upperclassmen with a certain GPA could live in. It also had the peculiar distinction of being the only "co-ed" dorm on campus (one arm of the L-shaped building housed men, while the other arm housed women).

While it would be a lie to say that the year went by without incident (there was one particularly stressful night during which my counterpart in the dorm had to deal with an incident of drunken partying that could well have ended far more tragically if she hadn't been available), it would also be a lie to say that I was too heavily involved in resolving such major incidents. Although I did have some minor counseling responsibilities, mostly I was available for making sure that people's rooms were maintained with light bulbs and toilet paper, and that requests for repairs were sent to the appropriate channels. Not all that different from what I do nowadays, come to think of it....

In fact, I ended up staying the whole year, in large part due to having started a relationship at the beginning of the year. But I've already talked about that turned out.


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