"Transformers Animated: The AllSpark Almanac": Send The Books!!
People tend to be attracted to franchises because they know that when one interpretation ends another will be along soon enough. However, what of those previous interpretations? If you enjoyed one, you might not want to see it just dropped down into the archives.
This has definitely been the case for fans of Transformers Animated, which earlier this year ended a disappointingly short three-season run. Initially controversial for its radical visual style, the series eventually gained a passionate fanbase for its likeable characters, multi-toned storytelling, and a bunch of references to everything from the recent live-action movies to the original Marvel comics. Said fanbase’s dedication has been further rewarded with IDW’s release of The AllSpark Almanac.
Written mainly from an in-universe perspective, The AllSpark Almanac serves as a guide to the first two seasons of the show and the accompanying comic book mini-series. It opens with a brief segment covering the aborted “Transformers: Hero,” the earliest stage of what would become Animated. I love seeing stuff like this, as it’s very rare that we get to hear of aborted/early concepts outside of minor snippets. This section of the book is marked in a black-and-yellow stripped barrier, signaling it as being written from a real world perspective. This simple system allows the author to easily switch between the two styles of writing.
You might think that the in-universe segments of the book would be tedious, but in fact they’re surprisingly well handled, giving us character commentary that not only adds new information but follows the show’s lead with a ton of obscure Transformers references. Clearly someone was making ample use of the Transformers Wiki. The references go even deeper. Serial numbers, quotes, lyrics and more from the deepest depths of pop culture are hidden throughout the book. You can tell a lot of fun was had in its writing.
Most of the text accompanies production art of the characters/vehicles/locations, including generously sized coloured images of characters, alt modes, step-by-step transformations, and even minor variations, such as Sentinel Prime’s early design, which was only used in the opening TV movie. Even the vast casts of extras and one-off characters get detailed pages. It’s clear that this isn’t a thrown-together, cash-in book but a genuine attempt to catalogue the enormous creative work that went into the series. Books like these often run the risk of simply telling fans what they already know, but The AllSpark Almanac is full of brand new, juicy information.
The second half of the book is mainly focused on covering the first two seasons episode by episode along with “The Arrival” comic book stories, which fill in gaps in between. Following the in-universe style, summaries are given via character’s personal logs, news reports and even the famous “Tech Specs” which have long been a feature of the toy boxes. Obviously they’re no replacement for watching the episodes, but they do a good and fun job of recording the specifics.
The rest of the book sprinkles in features on the real-world side of Animated, covering such things as the storyboarding of the opening sequence, how colour schemes were changed for different lighting, and the short lived UK comics produced by Titan. There’s even a brief feature on “Bee In The City,” the BotCon fan convention audio play which saw some of the cast interacting with characters from earlier series.
The tome is bookended by a few short writings from authors Jim Sorenson and Bill Forster, designer Derrick J. Wyatt, head writer Marty Isenberg, and Hasbro. These are nice little reads which add a personal touch to the “story” the book catalogues. Isenberg’s is an especially interesting read, given his prior involvement with the franchise.
In all, Transformers Animated: The AllSpark Almanac is definitely a great book. With all the hype for the lackluster live action movies it’d be easy for it to be ignored, which is a shame because to my mind it’s the stronger product. The entire book drips with love, from the writers to the consultants to the fans. It’s a fun and very informative tome that should please both young and old alike. Here’s hoping it sells well enough to secure a second volume and an Animated comic book continuation.