Recently there have been quite a few threads asking where to start with TF comics both from people that are new to the hobby and from veterans who are just starting to look at the comic continuities. At the suggestion of i_amtrunks I'm starting this thread to provide an overview of the various TF titles and links to where you can find more detailed info. I'll try to avoid major spoilers and steer clear of price guides as this is intended as more of a jumping on point. This first post will look at the various continuities and the second post will contain a FAQ of some of the comic related questions that crop up most often, by neccessity the FAQ will have to contain more info that could be considered as spoilers which is why I'm keeping it seperate. I'll be adding info and updating this thread over the next week or so starting with the G1 titles.
GENERATION 1 & GENERATION 2 COMICS
Unsurprisingly there have been more G1 titles over the years than any other aspect of the Transformers franchise. All the various continuities and conflicting storylines can be more than a little overwhelming for the newcomer. The most important continuities are the original Marvel comics, The current output from IDW Publishing and, arguably, the Dreamwave Productions titles from a few years ago.
Transformers (Marvel US) ran for 80 issues with 2 writers first Bob Budiansky who wrote the personalities and abilities of the original TFs from 1984 and later Simon Furman who has written more TF fiction than anyone else in the business. The initial stories told of the TFs coming to Earth and adapting to their new environment. The continuity differs from the cartoons with details such as why the TFs left Cybertron being different, the Dinobots being members of the Ark crew rather than built on Earth and so on. New characters were introduced over time as various new toys came out, the main exceptions being the main cast of the 1986 movie who were not touched on at the time although some did show up in the Headmaster related material and later material written by Furman. The origin of the TFs is tackled by Furman in his stories and this is probably the biggest break from the cartoons. Here the TFs are the children of Primus, last of the gods of light, created as a final deffence against Unicron, last of the chaos gods. Quite a major departure from the cartoon backstory that the TFs were made by the Quintessons before they were driven from Cybertron. The final story arc dealt with Unicron's defeat at the hands of the combined Autobot and Decepticon forces.
-More details on this series can be found here: http://seibertron.com/comics/list.php?f_series=1
Transformers Headmasters (Marvel US) 4 issue miniseries that fits within the 80 issue run above and introduced the Headmaster characters on the planet of Nebulos before they journeyed to Earth and joined the cast of the main story. Both of these books and the Generation 2 comics (more on these in a little while) were collected by Titan Books a couple of years ago adding up to 16 volumes of material. See below for a run down of the Titan collections.
=More details on this series can be found here: http://seibertron.com/comics/list.php?f_series=8
Transformers Universe (Marvel US) 4 issue series of profile books detailing the original G1 cast in the Marvel continuity.
-More details on the series car be found here: http://seibertron.com/comics/list.php?f_series=10
-and the entries are archived here: http://seibertron.com/comics/universe/index.php
Transformers The Movie (Marvel US/IDW Publishing) 3 issue miniseries adaptation of the 86 movie not tying directly into the main run of marvel comics. Adapted by Budiansky this story has recently been redone with additional scenes and completely updated art by IDW Publishing as a 4 issue series.
-More details can be found here for the original Marvel series: http://seibertron.com/comics/list.php?f_series=9
-and here for the IDW version: http://seibertron.com/comics/list.php?f_series=47
Transformers (Marvel UK) 332 issues varying between fortnightly and weekly, both reprinting US material and producing new stories. Initially the UK originated material had to fit inbetween the US reprints but as Furman found his feet this took off on some tangents and deviated from what was being done in the states to a larger degree. Furman used the movie cast that the American comic wasn't utalising and set a lot of his stories in the future (well 2005 onwards, so the past to us now, but I digress) with time travel elements linking back to the main continuity. It was in these future stories that the concept of Primus was first introduced allowing Furman to introduce it again in a contempory setting once he was writing for the US book. In addition to the main run of UK comics there was also the Collected Comics title which reprinted fan favourite material and UK format hardcover Annuals. A lot of the UK material has also been collected in book form by Titan.
-More details can be found on the individual issues here: http://seibertron.com/comics/list.php?f_series=3
-and the UK annuals here: http://seibertron.com/comics/list.php?f_series=21
Transformers Generation 2 (Marvel US) 12 Issues picking up the story some time after the original 80 issue run. The story was introduced by means of guest appearances by Trasnsformers characters in Marvel's GI Joe comic. It's a direct continuation and a cracking read so I thought I'd better mention it alongside the G1 books. There was also a UK version of the G2 title but it was short lived and aside from redoing the introduction to remove the GI Joe connection featured only reprinted US material.
-More details on the GI Joe comics that act as an introduction can be found here: http://seibertron.com/comics/list.php?f_series=11
-and on the main book here: http://seibertron.com/comics/list.php?f_series=2
The various Marvel books have mostly seen collected form through Titan Books. The main series of 16 books collects the US G1 run with the exception of the Man of Iron story (the only story that the US title reprinted from the UK book) and an issue based on one of the third season cartoon episodes (that was out of comic continuity anyway), the Headmasters mini (inserted into the main books at the correct point) and the G2 run. The publication order of these collections was a little off as the last six volumes (Furman's work) were put out first and then the earlier books (Budianski's) followed. The correct reading order for these collected editions is:
Trial by Fire,
All Fall Down,
End of the Road,
Rage in Heaven
Transformers The War Within (Dreamwave) 3 6 issue arcs (the last arc never finished due to the compasny going out of business) set in Cybertron's distant past. Written by Furman and highly recomended. This is where the pre earth designs that have been featured in the recent Titanium toy line originated. Completely seperate to the Marvel comics these stories tie in with Dreamwave's G1 continuity.
-More details on volume 1 can be found here: http://seibertron.com/comics/list.php?f_series=6
-on volume 2 here: http://seibertron.com/comics/list.php?f_series=26
-and on the unfinished volume 3 here: http://seibertron.com/comics/list.php?f_series=31
Transformers Micromasters (Dreamwave) 4 issues set between the War Within books and the main Dreamwave G1 continuity, after Prime and Megatron have left Cybertron but long before their reawakening on Earth. Focusing on the newly created and anarchic Micromasters characters these comics tried to evoke a more 'punk' sensability than is usually found in TF fiction.
-More details on the series can be found here: http://seibertron.com/comics/list.php?f_series=32
Transformers Generation 1 (Dreamwave) 2 6 issue arcs and an ongoing title that made it to 8 issues before the company disappeared. Drawing influence mainly from the cartoon and in theory filling in some story from between the end of the second season and the movie. The later stuff was basicly building up to retell the movie story. Most of the Dreamwave material has been collected in book form at some stage and IDW have some of it still in print, although there are various legal difficulties with the rights to some of this material.
-More details on volume 1 can be found here: http://seibertron.com/comics/list.php?f_series=4
-on volume 2 here: http://seibertron.com/comics/list.php?f_series=7
-and on the unfinished volume 3 here: http://seibertron.com/comics/list.php?f_series=27
Megatron Origin (IDW Publishing) 4 issue mini, currently being published. Sets up some backstory to the totally reimagined IDW continuity for G1.
-More details on this series can be found here: http://seibertron.com/comics/list.php?f_series=54
Transformers Infiltration, Stormbringer, Escalation, Devastation, Revalation etc (IDW) Mainly 6 issue arcs (Stormbringer is 4) telling the contempary TF storys in the new IDW continuity. Written by Furman these are quite intricate and interlinked across the IDW G1 titles with lots of subplots and things being set up to pay off storywise somewhere down the line. The first 3 arcs are already out and are all available as collections , the last couple (and more beyond) are forthcoming.
-More details can be found on Infiltration here: http://seibertron.com/comics/list.php?f_series=38
-on Stormbringer here: http://seibertron.com/comics/list.php?f_series=44
-and on Escalation here: http://seibertron.com/comics/list.php?f_series=49
Spotlight titles (IDW) These focus on a specific character telling a story within a single issue that links in to the main IDW continuity without having to distract too much from the main story thrust of the (...)tion titles. Mostly written by Furman.
-More details on the Spotlight titles can be found here: http://seibertron.com/comics/list.php?f_series=48
BEAST WARS & BEAST MACHINES
ROBOTS IN DISGUISE
ARMADA, ENERGON & CYBERTRON