Transformers issue 31 is what happens when the Decepticons on Earth continue failing at harvesting Earths resources. Within the Transformers fandom this story has been loathed by it’s readers. It’s been called bad, cheesy and corny. After reading it will I agree? Lets find out. But before we get into the story lets check out this cover art.

Transformers-Issue-31-Youseph

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The yellow background on the cover of issue 31 depicts the inside of a car wash. An over sized Ratbat dominates the page. Within his talons is a struggling Buster Witwicky, while Jessie tries to pull him free from the Decepticon’s grasp. The cover art here feels different. More mature maybe. The neatest part is that you can see the mechanics inside of Ratbat’s open mouth. Buster, is drawn much like a hero on an 80s movie poster. In some ways he reminds me of Bruce Campbell from the Evil Dead films or even Indian Jones. Indian Jones may have been the inspiration for this issue because written on the cover is “It’s Wet! It’s Wild! Its– THE CAR WASH OF DOOM!” The more I look at this cover the more its becoming one of my favorites. Maybe it’s because of the way Buster is welding a crow bar in one hand. Maybe its the way Jessie looks hanging onto him in a torn dress. It’s a well drawn, high energy cover. There is even textures within the Transformers logo. All three characters are extremely well detailed. More so than I have seen on past covers. It’s a cover that I think requires the reader to really look at it and take the time to really appreciate.

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We start off this issue with Shockwave’s in progress plan to capture an oil tanker. In this, the Decepticon hopes to demonstrate to auditor Ratbat, his superiority in leadership skills. Shockwave’s demonstration turns into a failure when it is learned that their time was wasted capturing the oil tanker. That’s because it is empty. Ratbat makes the suggestion that they should have the humans delivering fuel to the Decepticons, rather then wasting their energy gathering it themselves.

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Over at the Witwicky’s service station, business has been great. This is in part, thanks to the addition of a “Wash and Roll” automated car wash. Business is a little too good for Buster, because he has to spend every moment he has at the service station helping out his dad. Recent headlines in the local paper have been talking about a fuel shortage which makes Buster think its going to be a long time before he is able to get any time off from work at all.

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Under Decepticon influence, G.B. Blackrock holds a press conference at his corporate headquarters to discuss the success of the “Wash and Roll” car washes. He then makes the announcement for the “Wash and Roll” Mark II. Immediately after the press conference Mr. Blackrock pull out a Cassette from his Jacket. It quickly transformers into Ratbat.

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When evening hits, Jessie shows up at the service station to spend some time with Buster and to try out the new car wash. While the two are going through the car wash, Jessie starts making out with buster which protects him from the strobing lights within the car wash. Jessie is not so lucky and succumbs to the hypnotizing effects of the flashing lights.

Transformers-issue-31-car-wash-lights

Right away Buster notices something is not right with Jessie and decides to follow her after she abruptly leaves the service station. Buster tails Jessie all the way to a Blackrock’s Oil Storage facility where Jessie begins siphoning fuel from her car. Buster brakes Jessie of her hypnotic trance by flashing his car lights at her.

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Before the two can escape the facility they discover Buster’s father is among a large group of people arriving at the facility to siphon their gas thanks. Buster stays and watches as G.B. Blackrock addresses the assembling throng. The industrialist explains that the current “Wash and Roll” only hypnotize people temporarily. The new one will have a permanent effect on anyone who uses it.

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Just as Sparkplug attempts to become the first user of the new car wash, Buster blocks him resulting in Ratbat intervening. Jessie helps Buster escape from the Decepticon. With an idea to unhypontize everyone, Buster hurls a crowbar at the very large neon “Wash and Roll” sign. The resulting bright flash and sparks wakes everyone up and the Decepticons flee.

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We end this issue with G.B. Blackrock promising to dismantle all the “Wash and Roll” car washes that are out there. He also says that he will use all profits from the stolen gasoline and donate it to the poor.

My Thoughts On This Issue

I say, to hell with what the fandom thinks of this issue. I really enjoyed it a lot. It was an issue with a good story. Even if the title feels copied from an Indiana Jones movie.  I think the only Autobots in this issue where shown in one panel of a flash back sequence. In this issue, Buster and Jessie are the heroes and I am ok with that.

Is it just me or is Ratbat crazy disproportionate compared to Soundwave’s other tape Decepticons? I guess, thinking about about it, his disproportion has been consistent. Like Megatron’s has been. It also seems weird having a Decepticon cassette not always housed in Soundwave. Ratbat has never been shown like that. I wonder if he ever will be?

This is one review, I would like to hear back from you guys on. What did you think of this issue? Did you think it was as awesome as I did? Leave your comments below.

Transmission Letters This Issue

Dear Don,
I just finished reading TRANSFORMERS #25 and I can’t resist writing you anymore. I just had to express what everyone else has been saying a few years now -Guys, you are terrific!
Ho, before I go any further, I would like to replay to a letter in TRANSMISSIONS from Barry Craig. He mentions that you never received any letters from girls. Well, I’m a girl (let’s be honest, I’m an older girl) and I really enjoy TRANSFORMERS.
Issue #25 made quite an impression on me. Since the beginning of the series, not only did I get more and more interested in the stories themselves, but in the physical and emotional portrayal of all the characters involved. I especially enjoy the merging of robotic characteristics with pure emotional behavior. In this issue, you showed this extremely well in the character of Megatron. seeing Megatron with a nervous breakdown because of his insecurities was put across so well that I really felt bad for him as his condition worsened.
I must admit that Megatron has always been my favorite character. I feel this way because, even thought he is nasty and evil, he has a huge amount of rage. I wonder how any of the other Transformers would act under the incredible strain of being the leader of the Decepticons. Optimus Prime may have been under a lot of pressure because he was the leader, but at least he was respected and liked by all of his peers. As for Megatron, not only must he decide how to battle the Autobots be he must always worry about all of the other Decepitcons who would like to see him dead. Even under all of this pressure Megatron was always able to cope… until the end.
Well, since Megatron is still alive somewhere, I have a feeling that we haven’t seen the last of him. I really hope he comes back because I can’t see the Decepticons going anywhere without him.
Nicole Cloutier
Montreal, Quebec Canada

Dear Marvel,
TRANSFORMERS #26 was just another in a long line of great comics. Hey, can’t you give those poor Autobots a break? right after the tragic death of Optimus Prime, you have to hurt them some more! Boy, that Mechanic must be pretty ingenious to figure out the sophisticated equipment. He is a great villain, Bob, I have a feeling that we’ll see more of him in the future. the next time we see him, thought, I hope the Autobots are more organized than they are now!
The artwork in this issue was great (as usual). Don Perlin did a great job with the new characters and Brett Breeding looked great over him. Keep up the great work.
Well, even though I, too, upset about the death of Optimus Prime and the breakdown of Megatron. I will still read your comic because I LOVE IT. Good bye!
DeWayne Chin
Bayside, NY

Thanks a lot for your kind words, DeWayne. Everyone agrees that Brett really did a good job filling in on the links during this issue. we’re glad you’re sticking with us. You won’t be sorry!

Dear Bob,
I must have read TRANSFORMERS #26 three times already and I can’t get over how good it was. you know, Ratchet has nothing to be ashamed of in his work. He did his best to bring Optimus Prime back to life. Nobody else could have done any better in the situation. Optimus was a great leader and knew that he had to uphold the Autobots’ principles at any cost. He knew that an Autobot must never cheat and that innocent lives must always be spared. Honor called for Prime to give his life and not even Ratchet could change that. thank you for a very well written and drawn issue. I was moved.
Ronald Carter
Brooklyn, NY

Dear Marvel,
I’m stunned! boy, did I get emotional after reading TRANSFORMERS #26. I finally realized that Optimus Prime is truly dead, as the leaderless Autobots shipped him out into space. It still remains to be seen in Megatron is really gone and if Shockwave can be a good leader to the Decepticons.
Too bad the Mechanic got away. I would have liked to see him get his just punishment for tampering with the Autobots. I for one would be happy if we never saw him again!
Brad Ries
Allegan, MI

Dear Bob and Don,
OH NO! Don’t fire Prime’s body into space! Don’t you remember the disk that Ethan Zachary made with him on it? Oh well, I guess it was just wishful thinking that i’d see Optimus Prime alive again. Anyway, keep up the good (but sometimes very depressing and sad) work.
David Bell
Little Creek, SD

Sorry, Dave, but Ethan didn’t tell anyone about the disk he made for Optimus. No one knows when Ethan will finally come around and tell the Autobots about it. we, too wonder if it’s already too late to save him. It sure doesn’t look too good for him right now!

Dear Marvel Maniacs,
Whew! What a relief! When I first looked at the cover of issue #26 I thought to myself, “Oh, no, not another Autobot killer a la circuit Breaker!” After the first few pages, however, my conception of the Mechanic totally changed. He was not the weapon-wielding, Autobot-annihilating assassin I thought he’d be. In fact, I realized that he’s nothing more than a common car thief with some knowledge about electronics. However, he has proven to be aa dangerous to the Autobots as any Decepticon. I’m willing to wager that we have yet to see the last of the elusive Mechanic. He’s a pretty smart guy.
I would like to compliment Bob Budiansky on another heart-warming, action-packed story. the Mechanic was another of the great characters you created. I hope to see a lot more of them in the future. Well, always and forever, make mine Marvel!
Christine Moffatt
Baton Rouge, La

Thanks for telling us what you thought of the Mechanic, Christine. we think he’s a pretty nasty villain, too. No one knows his whereabouts right now, but the Autobots probably have not seen the last of him!

Dear Sirs,
This letter has been long in coming. the events in questions happened almost a year about but I think this story should be of great interest to you.
In November of 1985, a friend of mine was taken seriously ill. In less than 2 weeks, she became comatose due to a disease known as Thrombonic Thrombocytopenic Purphura, or TTP, This disease has no reliable cure. The chances for her survival were 50-50. The real key to her survival was her sustained will to live.
By December, thought, we were ready to give up hope. I needed help, and found it in a program that is on TV here in Kansas: the TRANSFORMERS. Surrounded by machines of all types in her hospital room, my friend learned that machines can do good things for people. as a result, she lost her fear of the machines in the hospital. From that moment on, her illness became a symbolic battle between the Autobots and Decepticons. I watched every show and told her the story when I visited. Later, I discovered the Marvel comic book version and I noticed that the bright colors and beautiful pictures attracted her attention. Her life-giving machine was now Optimus Prime, and he was an ally to her. This kept her mind active an encouraged her not to give up.
Well, it worked! On New Year Day, 1986, Jane spoke for the first time in months. From then on, her recovery was very swift. Her illness is now in remission and she is leading a normal life. She still watches TRANSFORMERS, and we will both be forever in your debt for actually saving someone’s life. Thank you very much!
Christine L. Leddon
Witchita, KS

Thank you, Christine! All of us who work on the book feel great that we helped.

No New Ads This Issue

Youseph

The host of the YOSHICAST and TRANSMISSIONS Podcast. Transformers enthusiast and comic book collector.

This Post Has 15 Comments
  1. Would agree with you – great analysis of the cover. Totally reminded me of the pulpy 50s-style comic covers – even remember Def Leppard doing a parody of this with their video “Women” (Def Leppard and the Women of Doom! – or something like that).

    Anyway – I’ll always have a soft spot for Buster. Spike/Sparkplug in the series had an incredible bond – partly due to both sharing a love for mechanics, and part due to the unspoken plot point about there being no Mrs. Witwicky in their lives (assumed that Sparkplug was a widower) – and they really didn’t have anyone but themselves to rely on.

    Buster/Sparkplug have a similar bond – widower, Buster has to help his dad otherwise, they have no business, despite Buster knowing little (and caring less) about cars. The proportion to Ratbat is indeed a headscratcher, and Ratbat’s energy-efficient obsession has turned him into a Decepticon version of one of the “efficiency experts” in the movie “Office Space.”

    The comic for this is a solid B. Corny as hell, but enjoyable. The letters were also interesting as more and more kids talk about Issue 26 – again, almost all of them focused exclusively on Optimus Prime’s funeral and not the Mechanic (proving it would have been a fantastic issue to just focus on that, but I’ve already made that point).

    And to briefly touch on Prime’s death, this issue takes place a whopping 7 months after that issue. And with zero mention of Optimus and the plots now moving along (albeit a bit clunky sometimes) that had zero to deal with either Megatron or Prime, it did begin to seem like The Transformers writers were set on moving on and continuing with a Megatron/Prime-less universe, despite the pleas of fans in the Transmission section.

    1. I really do enjoy reading your in sights on this issue. You are right, we are not hearing anything from the writers about Megatron or Prime. They do continue to post reminders and hope in the letters section from fans. It makes me wonder if they had to hunt for letters to post that did not mention those two. It would be interesting to know what the thinking was at Marvel during this time. I imagine the simplest answer is the right one. Hasbro was done with making the toy and they wanted to move on to new toys they could sell. I can’t help but think that if they kept Megatron and Prime on the store shelves they would keep selling throughout the whole run of the cartoon and comic.

      1. I would love to read a one-off post maybe about Bob Budiansky – sort of break down his 3-5 best moments on the comic and 3-5 absolute worst, because he’s that sort of writer. With him, we got some of the most fleshed out character developments in the series (see Ratchet being forced to become a warrior and single-handedly rescue all the Autobots who were in ‘storage’ under Shockwave, his excellent handling of Prime’s memorial for good; Robot Master, the Circus-oriented story for bad).

  2. The cover was the best part of this issue. Ratbat as leader is lame. The idea of the car wash was ok but having zero autobots was unforgivable.

    1. I dunno… I’m in the tiny majority that liked the idea of Ratbat as leader. It certainly emphasized the importance of fuel resources to the Decepticons, and turned the “Con leader is whoever has the biggest cannon” on its head. I approve of the outside-the-box thinking. Of course, it was only a matter of time before a Big Cannon took him out. =)

  3. The first Star Wars film I saw was Return of the Jedi – I loved it, fans hated it.

    The first Indiana Jones film I saw was Temple of Doom – I loved it, fans hated it.

    The first Star Trek film I saw was The Search for Spock – I loved it, fans hated it.

    The first Transformer comic I owned and read was Car Wash of Doom – I loved it, fans hated it.

    Why do I always love what others hate? This is the issue that got me into the comics it will always be my favorite however, issue 50 is a close second! Now on to issue 32. I am trying to catch up with you 🙂

  4. I was almost not allowed to buy this issue with Jessie on the cover (it’s odd because she is not skimpily dressed really). Anyway, I had no problem with this issue except the use of Blackrock to monologue on Ratbat’s plan (that seemed weird to me). I personally like Ratbat as leader. I think someone as cunning as he would have been able to lead the Decepticons to near victory on Cybertron after the 1984 bots left on the Ark. (People like Straxus are good as terror governors, but I can’t see him as a good general) If you remember the toy of Ratbat, the wings expanded more than Laserbeak’s and Buzzaw, so he was the biggest cassette. And since size matters not to transformations (with Megatron becoming a gun), I never batted an eye at his size. I REALLY like Ratbat’s biting sarcasm to Shockwave with the tanker-you captured part of it, but then he also said that someone could go lick the walls clean for a few dozen clicks of energy (scathing!). To me, Soundwave or Ratbat would make great leaders. Shockwave has logic, but they have more flair, and Megatron’s schemes never seem to work!

    I do think the “makeout” scene is unnecessary-this kind of thing really shouldn’t be in comics. It definitely gives kids bad ideas. I am pretty sure that in the UK version, Soundwave was answering letters at this time, and he had some funny things to say about this issue

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