Go-Bots

gobotscover

Every day we are asked to pick a side, Liberal or Conservative, Instagram or Twitter, Coke or Pepsi. You get the idea. Back in the mid-eighties, we had to pick our favorite transforming robots, Transformers or Go-Bots. Transformers were big, flashy, and had lots of moving parts. Gobots, on the other hand, were smaller, less articulated, and nowhere near as popular as their larger competitors. Despite all that I really liked the tiny robots.

Go-Bots were marketed in the US by Tonka, who partnered with Bandai which had created the toy line in Japan. There they were known as Machine Robo. Go-Bots were about the size of a Matchbox car, maybe a little bigger, when they were in their vehicle form. When they were transformed into their robot form they were about three inches tall, with moveable arms and legs. They were so small they didn’t have knee joints so there was not much to be done when posing the figures other than to put them in a kind of Frankenstein stance with straight legs and outstretched arms.

leader1prison

In the last few years, IDW publishing has really tried to capitalize on the ’70s and 80’s toy nostalgia trend producing titles like ROM, Micronauts, Transformer’s, G.I. Joe, and My Little Pony to name a few. I’ve read several of these series and enjoyed them, so when the Go-Bots comic was solicited I was pretty excited. The series is written, drawn and lettered all by Tom Scioli. I am personally not very familiar with his work but his bio notes that he was co-creator of the “Godland” comic at Image, and he drew and co-scripted the “Transformers Vs. G.I. Joe” at IDW. The later series is described “as an insane adventure that the A.V. Club called #%$^&ing awesome”. After reading the first two issues of this series I would have to say the same thing.

The first thing that is notable about the comic is the cover. It is a portrait of one of the “good-guy” Go-Bots, Leader 1. What is so striking about the image is that it looks like something that a talented artist might draw in a notebook using colored pencils in high school. You can see the line work in the shading. It is not a highly polished, heavy inked, digitally enhanced, picture that you would find on any other mainstream comic.

page1gobots

When you open the comic right away you can tell you are in for something different. There is no opening splash page, instead, there are seven panels laid out unlike anything else you would see in traditional comics. The word balloons are large and plentiful, yet they don’t get in the way of anything. The lettering itself has the same hand done look that the art does and it has an almost childlike quality to it. That is not to say that it is messy, it looks like the same talented high school artist who drew the cover trying to write neatly and clearly and succeeding. The words that require emphasis are simply done with a heavier pencil line, instead of selecting the bold font on the computer. The coloring is soft and almost has the washed out look of watercolors. The ink work has a very light touch and does not take away from what I think might be colored pencils.

page5gobots

Every page of the story has a different panel layout with no page having less than seven panels. There is a lot of dialog. For me, this is reminiscent of older comics where the creative teams would fit whole stories into single issues.  The entire package is unlike else being done today and I really liked it.

The story is a wild adventure. In this world, Go-Bots are the robot companions of humans. They provide transportation, protection, and entertainment. We are first introduced to Leader 1 and his pilot Condor. They are on a rescue mission to free some prisoners from an enemy jail. After that, we meet A.J and her Go-Bot companion Scooter. He’s dropping her off at school. In A.J.’s class, we get a little bit of exposition about the history of Go-Bots who were created to solve a parking problem.

cykillfighting

From there we meet Matt Hunter, race car driver, and his car/pal the aptly named Turbo. After that, we really get into the story. Matt and Turbo are approached after a race by a mysterious bald man in a limo who has a business proposal for the two of them. The bald man takes them to a private arena where Go-Bots are battling each other to the death for the human crowd’s amusement. As the people in the arena chant “Kill-Kill-Kill” as Go-Bot with two wheels on his shoulders beheads his opponent. This fearsome Go-Bot, named Cy-Kill, wants more challengers and eventually decides he wants to fight Turbo. Matt and Turbo are disgusted and try to leave.

The crowd is not having that and they through Matt to the arena floor to face Cy-Kill. Matt mentions that Cy-Kill’s G chip will prevent him from harming a human. Cy-kill questions that theory and Matt trys to get away. Turbo saves Matt and they escape, returning later with the police. The arena is empty except for the bodies of dead Go-Bots and now humans.

racercardriver

These events kick off the whole series. From this point on there is a wave of Go-Bots “going bad” and revolting against the humans. The evil Go-Bots are led by Cy-Kill. It is an all-out revolution. Go-bots that once aided humans, like police cars, turn against them. The Go-Bots that still want to work with humans are brought together to by Leader-1. There is plenty of action and surprises throughout the next couple of issues. Eventually the Go-Bots head to outer space and to the homeworld Gobotron

The series has not been fully released but many of the memorable toys do make appearances in the comic. Screwhead, Scorp, Cop-Tur, Spacy, Zod, and the Command Center all show up. The series is dramatic and the art style provides an excellent juxtaposition for it. Because every page features a different panel layout this does not feel like any other mainstream comic. It is simply a ton of fun.

cykillvleader1

My brother and I had a couple of Gobots that I remember; Dive-dive, the submarine, Leader-1, the F-14, and Scorp, the scorpion were a few of them. Due to their smaller size, they fit in well with Kenner’s Star Wars figures and Hasbro’s G.I. Joe line. They were also less expensive than their larger cousins, the Transformers, which helped when asking for a new toy. Of course, there was a cartoon but I don’t have any real memory of watching it. Reading about it on the interwebs these days it is not well regarded.

fungobots

This comic brought back a lot of fond memories and led me down a couple of fun rabbit holes while I researched the history of Go-Bots. As I write there is one more issue due out and I cannot wait to see what happens. Tom Sciloi does not have a huge body of work, probably due to the fact that he has an unusual style, as he writes, draws, colors and hand letters all his work. He did the backup Super Powers stories in Cave Carson has Cybernetic Eye. I have to admit I did not know what the deal was with that story and didn’t know it was Sicoli when I read Cave Carson and did not pay much attention to it. After reading Go-Bots though I’ll have to go back and check it out.

I want to close with something one of my friends said when we were talking about this comic, that I think really sum it all up very well. “He’s [Sicoli] put into comic book form what it used to be like to play with actions figures as a kid”. I could not have said it better.

cykillleader1fighting

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2 Responses to Go-Bots

  1. Hey J.J!

    I want to start by saying I am a fan of your writing style. Its conversational and the type of talk you would have with a friend growing up! I prefer this style to a basic recap panel for panel like is far too prominent in todays blogosphere.

    Now on to the subject matter. I am an unapologetic Go-Bots fan and even as a kid I was scorned by Transformers fans who have a self entitled priviledge when speaking on the topic of Go-Bots Vs Transformers. Us Go-Bots fans are few and far between. I was excited when I saw that you were writing on this topic as I had just completed the Go-Bots comics myself and have some very definitive comments about it.

    From the cover I could see that this was going to not be what I was expecting. As a huge viewer of the Go-Bots cartoon series the Challenge Of The Go-Bots character models were exactly what I pictured when someone was going to take a crack at one of my favorite toy franchises.

    Ill let the cat out of the bag early..I hated this book. The artwork was almost stunning to me..stunning In that I was shocked how outlandishly amaturish this book looked.

    I think the Scioli art is something that many people hang their hat on as being “unique” and “Different” which I like from time to time. I just wish it wasnt on my Go-Bots. These robot heroes get a bad enough rap as it is so hard to see them presented in artwork that looks like a dollar store coloring book.

    The muted colors just clash with the inks. The visual looks like something out of a paint with water kids book. Its just a very awkward painful visual. Its so bad it hurts me because its my Go-Bots. The inks are almost washed away and I just want to grab a black marker and ink that art myself. I almost feel angry about it!

    The panel layouts are a throw back and I did enjoy that. It felt like as if Go-Bots were done by STAR comics! That was win.

    Then there is the lettering. Wow. Just distracting and shameful. Absolutely shameful. This book looks and feels like something a friend would draw in the margins of an exercise book in primary school. Horrific. I really wanted this book to be great but so far every aspect besides panel layout has not only been a fair but embarrassing.

    So a final note on the character models. The Go-Bots depicted on the page are directly taken from the actual Tonka Toys mostly and not the animated series versions one would expect. Despite having the human characters from the show its a mixed bag of indecisiveness They do not look or act like I expected and it is just the final nail in my loathing of this product. The book further marginalizes the Go-Bots even further and sets back their cause and reputation another 10 years. This book is like a movie you are really hyped to see..you have watched the trailers and you and your friends are pumped to see it. The day finally arrives you get in the theater with your popcorn and drink the movie begins..2 hours later you walk out with your friends none of which will admit they didnt like the movie and everyone is in agreement that the movie was “Really Good Right??” Meanwhile each of you have a dulled silence about it and months later everyone cracks and admits it sucks. Thats whats happening with this. Its Go-Bots..its gotta be good…right? Sadly for me..that answer is a NO!

    Now..I agree with your comment at the end. It feels like what it was like to play with your toys as kids..and that is on the money it is exactly that.

    This was a skewering of this book I know but you must understand..I love Go-Bots and my expectations are far exceeding this letdown of a series. One day..if I may have to do the damn thing myself. Go-Bots and their fans will get their due! Sadly this is NOT our day!

    I loved your review J.J. so this is not a criticism of your work or views
    I am glad you enjoyed it and thankful you shared this well written post!

    Great work my friend!
    GUARDIANS…Roll Out!!

    Ooops…that sound too familiar

    Later..

    Hero

    Like

    • C., first of all, thank you very much for the feedback, I appreciate it very much. Second of all, I completely understand your feeling about this comic. When I read the first issue, I put it down, and said out loud, “what the f*uck was that?”. I could not believe what I had just read. I actually thought I had been punked. I read the second and third issues and it really started to grow on me. I went back and read it all again and I really started to enjoy it.

      Scioli’s work is bizarre! It looks like something that ought to be in an underground Comix, not a regular comic about transforming robots. If I were as big a Go-Bot as you are and was looking forward to this comic as much as you were I would probably feel exactly like you did.

      I think one of the things that helped with my feelings towards the book is that I was looking at it as just another book IDW was putting out to capitalize on a trend. Their ROM book was okay, not great. The start of the MIrconauts series was enjoyable but wasn’t going to break any sales records. This was probably going to be disappointing too. I often find if I have really low expectations it works out in my favor.

      Thanks again for taking the time to visit and comment.

      Like

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