Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The Darker Side of Transformers #6

Spotlight: Kup

IDW feature a lot on this countdown and that's because they are responsible for some pretty horrific moments in the Transformers franchise. In fact there could be a countdown of about 25 IDW moments alone, that's how dark the comic universe currently is.

It wasn't always that way though. While the comic series was aimed at a more mature audience and brought us a more 'global' view of where Transformers fitted in to Earth, playing heavily on the Robots in Disguise theme and a shadow war, it was still fairly PG. In April 2007 IDW released Spotlight: Kup and a brand new benchmark was set, higher even than Marvel UK's efforts during the 1980s.

Clearly not a love story

Now bear with me.

In 1954, the book I Am Legend was released from horror author Richard Matheson, an author you may not have heard of but you'll probably know his work (See footnote). The story follows a lone survivor, Robert Neville, after a virus outbreak which has decimated mankind, wiping out all but a small number who have been mutated by the illness. During the day Neville scavenges for supplies and shores up his home before the sun sets and the creatures come to assault his home at night while they repeatedly call his name to drive him insane.

William Campbell Goult is not wrong.
The story popularised the idea of an apocalypse caused by pandemic illness and also helped form the idea of a zombie apocalypse long before George A Romero's Dawn of the Dead. The book has been adapted as the movies The Last Man on Earth (starring Vincent Price), The Omega Man (Charlton Heston) and I Am Legend (Will Smith) so many will be familiar with the story.

Artist and writer Nick Roche wrote Spotlight: Kup as a Transformers version of I Am Legend, featuring Kup and Outback stranded on an alien world where at night they are hunted by terrible creatures. The planet is covered in crystals which are explosive so Kup can't use his rifle to defend their position and has to resort to fending off the relentless monsters with just a club. To make matters even worse, Kup's spark is also failing and exertion is bringing it close to meltdown; the resulting explosion will not only kill him but will likely destroy the planet thanks to the crystals.

It'd be easy for Roche to have simply reproduced I Am Legend but instead of using the book's shocking finale, Roche creates his own twists and turns.

Early on it's clear Kup isn't in his right mind as we discover that contrary to his belief, Outback is very much dead and Kup's club is fashioned from one of Outback's arms.

Yeah this nicely sets the tone.

What follows is a tense edge-of-your-seat ride that pitches Kup against the creatures with reveals along the way worthy of Matheson himself. There are no spoilers in this article deliberately as this is a comic worth reading to fully appreciate the horror Roche has expertly crafted and crammed into only 22 pages. Just don't read it at night.


Matheson isn't as well known as Stephen King, Dean Koontz, Clive Barker, James Herbert or Anne Rice but his work was massively influential and he is responsible for some incredibly well known stories and films. Matheson wrote The Shrinking Man (remade as the film The Incredible Shrinking Man), Duel (adapted as a movie by Stephen King), numerous Twilight Zone episodes, including Button, Button (later remade as The Box), Little Girl Lost (parodied by The Simpsons where Homer falls through a portal into the 'real' world) and arguably the most famous Twilight Zone sketch - Nightmare at 20,000 Feet; a story which features a passenger on a plane (William Shatner) who tries to alert others to a monster on the wing of the plane...a monster it seems only he can see (again parodied by The Simpsons). Matheson also wrote Fanatic/Die, Die My Darling (inspiring the classic Misfits song) and adapted The Devil Rides out for Hammer. His love story Bid Time Return was adapted into the Christopher Reeves film Somewhere in Time; he also wrote A Stir of Echoes, adapted into the fantastic Kevin Bacon film and even an episode of the original Star Trek series.