The Marvel G1 comic remains for many the definitive Transformers canon of their youth. Those of us who grew up with the 332-long expanded UK run were treated to a whole host of extra storylines never featured in the 80 issues released in the USA, and with so much extra ground to cover that meant we were also gifted hundreds of exclusive covers with gorgeous artwork. So today we’re running down 25 of the most insanely awesome Marvel UK-exclusive covers from the G1 comic!
There will be some SPOILERS ahead for the whole of the Marvel UK comic run!
#25: Issue #1 (Jerry Paris)
Let’s kick off with the very first issue! The storyline here may have been a reprint of the first half of #1 of the US comic, but there was still a UK-exclusive cover on the front featuring this amazing artwork of Soundwave and Buzzsaw giving Optimus Prime a thrashing. In no way does it depict events inside the issue itself, but hey – it looks stunning! In keeping with the character portrayals throughout much of the early UK run, both Prime & Soundwave look a lot more like their toy appearances than they would go on to do as the series continued, giving this first edition a supremely vintage feel. Shame that Prime’s right arm isn’t properly coloured, but this one definitely set the tone for what was to come!
#24: Issue #49 (Geoff Senior)
OK, fair warning – quite a bit of this list is going to feature Geoff Senior. I don’t apologise for it, it’s just how it is. But then, when the guy pumped out artwork as eye-catching as this over the course of the eight-year-run it’s somewhat inevitable! Whilst still relatively early Senior, this features a lot of his trademarks, including the “blocky” style he would come to be known for. It also shows his grasp of portraying intense action, which was often in contrast to the more static depictions by a number of other Transformers artists at the time. Perhaps it’s for this reason that covers like this truly stand out. Jetfire is portrayed here with his Decepticon insignia still intact… at least until this story!
#23: Issue #50 (John Higgins)
Dinobot Hunt remains one of the most memorable stories of the early UK run, and this cover is one of those images that is somehow burnt into my brain from childhood. Look, let’s be honest – giant robot dinosaurs was always going to be a subject which appealed to an impressionable youth, so perhaps it’s no surprise that this one made the list so easily. Major props given here for the experimental art style, something the UK comic would excel at until the end.
#22: Issue #81 (Will Simpson)
From the classic UK storyline Target: 2006, this scene memorably depicts Galvatron standing triumphant over the defeated bodies of a number of Autobots. It’s one of two such covers to make this list, but remains distinctive for the unusual and colourful art style which was very representative of some of the early UK run. Galvatron was still a relative unknown at this point, but would go on to become one of the biggest villains in the UK storyline, in stark comparison to how little-used he was for the majority of the US-produced material.
#21: Issue #88 (Geoff Senior)
Another Senior cover and another example of how well he captures dramatic action. The three Autobot triple changers have rarely looked so mean! I’m a big fan of the painted colours here too, especially that gorgeous sky.
#20: Issue #97 (Geoff Senior)
The Predacons were arguably at their most menacing in the G1 UK comic, and that’s portrayed expertly here by Geoff Senior, yet again. The way the artwork captures the feeling of motion and speed is really something!
#19: Issue #100 (Alan Davis / Thomas Davis)
Marvel UK never missed an opportunity to bring out some special artwork for an anniversary issue, and so #100 is one of two wraparound covers on this list. The front page is all about Optimus vs Megatron of course, and I love the composition of the Autobot leader smacking his foe’s fusion cannon to the side during battle.
I’d argue that the back cover portion is even more exciting, however, with Soundwave (in proper Marvel colours) being flipped overhead, Bumblebee getting on in the action and Jazz being whalloped in the mouth by… actually who is that anyway? Let me know if you have the answer, because I cannot figure it out! Regardless, this is a stunner.
EDIT: My good friend @_wilsonjim_ has the answer about the identity of the robot punching Jazz… Apparently he asked Alan Davis, the artist, directly about it but he had no idea. He basically sketched out a rough composition and his son decided which characters were to be in it. He did the cover as Thomas was a huge TF fan at the time, which is also why he gets a credit on this issue. Amazing!
#18: Issue #113 (Geoff Senior)
Woooof. Definitely one of the most iconic covers from the entire UK run. Rodimus Prime was a complex character and this statement artwork from Geoff Senior certainly sells a different side to the Autobot leader. It’s no surprise that this piece has been parodied and copied many times over, given how awe-inspiring it is. Fun fact: this issue marked the very first appearance of Death’s Head in any Marvel comic!
#17: Issue #117 (Geoff Senior / John Burns)
Hot on the heels of #113 is this piece from only 4 issues later, featuring Death’s Head on the cover this time. All three characters just look superb here, and the whole image just grabs you and leaves you wanting to read more.
#16: Issue #130 (Geoff Senior / John Burns)
Marvel UK often did things quite differently to the US, and here the series introduced the Headmasters to audiences in a fresh and unique way with this quirky cover that left you wondering just what was going on. I don’t think it’s coincidence that the Headmasters would become fan favourites.
#15: Issue #134 (Lee Sullivan)
Cyclonus and Scourge are two of the most iconic characters from G1 and definitely two of the best-written characters from the UK comic. Oh, and they make for one hell of an eye-catching cover page, too. Stunning work from Lee Sullivan here.
#14: Issue #171 (Jerry Paris)
It’s Jerry Paris again, and with something very different this time. I always liked how the UK comic fleshed out Ultra Magnus considerably (beyond just being a stoic second-in-command solider-type), and this cover certainly gives you a strong hint that he’s not a force to be trifled with. You’ll also note that these events take place on the planet “Mil-Wal”, which is clearly a nod to Millwall Football Club. Apparently it put the comic in a bit of hot water come release time…
#13: Issue #186 (Andy Wildman)
Though Metroplex would feature fairly regularly in the third season of the G1 cartoon, I don’t think the idea of him was ever quite done justice in the same way as this one cover. Just the mere concept of a super giant city robot smashing it’s way through to defeat an army of Quintessons is awesome in itself.
#12: Issue #202 (Andy Wildman)
If you asked me to name my favourite G1 comic cover, this one would be a strong contender for sure. Megatron. Galvatron. Back-to-back, fighting alongside one another. That was Time Wars, beautifully captured in this one superb cover.
#11: Issue #205 (Andy Wildman)
OK this might actually be my favourite! I distinctly remember seeing this image for the first time and just being absolutely blown away by it. Oh, and have fun spotting all the little Easters eggs in the bottom pile of rubble!
#10: Issue #208 (Andy Wildman)
A perfect example of when the UK comic took the US-original material and ran with it. We’d often receive the original US cover on the first part of a split-up storyline, only for UK artists to then be drafted in to represent the remainder of the events in subsequent issues, meaning we ended up with beauties like this.
#9: Issue #209 (Geoff Senior)
March 1989. It’s a sunny day. A small Sixo is waiting patiently for the latest issue of Transformers to be delivered to his house, when suddenly it appears through the letterbox and hits the doormat. He sees this cover. His mind is blown. Thirty years later he makes a list of such covers and simply has to include it.
#8: Issue #224 (Geoff Senior)
It may be a representation of the B-plot material from this issue, but my word does this cover leave me wanting to know what is going on here. A fighting mad Rodimus? Galvatron seemingly down for the count? The other Autobots rushing to save him? Colour me intrigued.
#7: Issue #230 (Andy Wildman)
C’mon now, if Nightbeat in his trenchcoat and trilby hat doesn’t do it for you, then nothing will. One of the many brilliant examples of the UK comic making a feature out of an otherwise lesser-known character, and doing it with style.
#6: Issue #239 (Geoff Senior)
The Mayhem Attack Squad went from being B-list villains in UK back-up stories to some of the major players of the main US run pretty quickly, and this awesome cover gives you a fair idea of why that was. Even now I look at toys like Spinister or Snarler and think of images like this.
#5: Issue #250 (Andy Wildman)
The second wraparound cover on this list as Transformers UK wished us a happy Christmas back in 1989! Both front and back pages are an absolute delight featuring Autobots & Decepticons making merry together… just about.
The Micromasters might be doing their best to steal the show, but I also love grumpy Kup and Bumblebee quietly adoring a toy version of his own alt’ mode. Bless him.
#4: Issue #282 (Pete Venters)
Once you read the back-up story this image represents you’ll appreciate just how much creative freedom Pete Venters was presumably given to come up with this cover. Just… absolute nightmare fuel. Don’t even ask me what the smaller faces floating around Bludgeon are about, but yikes!
#3: Issue #305 (Richard Fisher)
Toward the end of the UK run the exclusive material had become mostly back-up strips due to Simon Furman pulling double duty by penning the main US storyline as well, and in lots of cases they simply just reprinted early issues to help lighten the workload. This meant the covers took to representing the US material more frequently, although they remained highly experimental in style. This wonderful Shockwave image is clearly intended as a homage to the classic US #5, but the beautiful hand-painted quality makes it unique.
#2: Issue #309 (Frances Farmer)
Megatron being fused with Ratchet is one of the most memorable parts of the G1 comic, and this cover represents it to suitably harrowing effect! Weirdly this isn’t just a reprint of a similar image used for US #70, but an entirely new creation which is arguably more shocking and certainly rendered more elaborately. Sleep well, kids!
#1: Issue #321 (Stewart Johnson)
And so we come to our final cover which hopefully can be forgiven for featuring a MASSIVE SPOILER RIGHT THERE ON THE FRONT PAGE! Still, it’s such wonderful artwork that we can let that one go, right? Another great example of a UK issue featuring an exclusive cover that depicts a US storyline, and another great representation of hand-painted artwork making it feel super special. We may have been just 11 issues from the end here, but my word they were still going strong!
So, that’s our list! Do you agree with our choices? Let us know if not and of course feel free to suggest your own!