The Clifford J. Umper Patented Earthforce-o-meter

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The Clifford J. Umper Patented Earthforce-o-meter

Post by Cliffjumper » Wed Dec 21, 2011 9:13 pm

Recently re-read all the Earthforce strips as part of Big Project, and having found most of the Marvel material (apart from some of the later contrived self-conscious 'epics') a lot better than I expect to after all this time, found it pretty underwhelming - to the point where I can't work out why I've spend so many years both defending it and coming up with ridiculous ways of shoe-horning it into the main continuity.

So, the Good:

- Perchance to Dream: some ace character work; only the Ironhide one is average, and it's also the only one that's not neatly fitted around an older story. The Autobots just shooting Galvatron is a bit of a let-down, but the rest of it makes up for it.
- Starting Over: mmm, meta-nostalgia.
- Flashback: Worth the ridiculously contrived tech backdoor.
- Cry Wolf/Wolf in the Fold/Where Wolf: Tidy stuff, worthy tie-up of the Carnivac/Mayhem thread.
- Secrets: Possibly the best Soundwave story ever, and actually killing off Wildrider after some of the sillier stories is unexpected.
- Internal Affairs: Good scrap, some nice plot advancement for once.
- The House That Wheeljack Built: Prowl gets to kick arse. What exactly happened between him and Furman that saw him turned into a Rulebook Strawman when he returned to the US book?
- Divide and Conquer: far too short, natch, but exactly the sort of stuff that the book should have been. Is it me, or is this about the only time either side just comes up with the idea of just attacking the other?
- The 4,000,000 Year Itch: the funniest of the joke strips, with a really gritty undertone that shows just how far the Dinobots will go for each other.
- Shut Up: really, really well done. Could have made Inferno look like a tit, instead makes the Mayhems look very smart.
- Manoeuvres: More here because there's nothing really wrong with it apart from IDW Syndrome.

The Bad:
- Breakaway: silly.
- Once Upon a Time: all told while Prowl's hanging off a missile somewhere. Megatron and Shockwave sure didn't give a shit about that satellite.
- Life in the Fast Lane: screwed by the above. You wouldn't need to drive so fast if you hadn't sat about in your crappy shuttle letting Grimlock bang on about how badass and maverick he is, fools.
- Snow Fun: Funny the first time around. When you were 9. Not so much now.
- Mystery: Hey, guys - remember those two factions of Decepticons threatening the planet? Why not do something about it?
- The Bad Guys' Ball: Not too bad, but loses points for the last panel. Seriously, how the Hell is Jazz so popular? He's like your dad at the disco.
- Bugged: Just retarded.
- Making Tracks: Takes the sentiments from 'Itch' just a little bit too far.
- Assassins/External Forces/The Lesser Evil: A couple of good bits (Soundwave's recorded message for Starscream, Grimlock's thickness), but like so much of Earthforce nothing really happens despite early promise.
- Inside Story/Frontline/End of the Road: Wait, why do they get Irwin to do this? Is there literally no-one else avaliable apart from a journalist none of them have met before?

The Needlessly Confusing and Ugly:
- Two Steps Back: The first worrying sign Furman was making this up on the spot. Bonus fail points for using exactly the same ending as Perchance to Dream - Prowl two months before with Optimus Chapman.
- Desert Island Risks: What. The. ****. Random plot point that's never, ever mentioned again (Dreadwind did promise it'd be expanded on; however, by then Dreadwind was Euan Peters and knew nothing about anything). Comedy security system.
- The Living Nightlights: Wait, were did Mindwipe come from? I do like the random pairing of Wheeljack and Snarl, though.

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Post by StarscreamX » Tue Dec 27, 2011 9:09 pm

Cliffjumper wrote:
- Inside Story/Frontline/End of the Road: Wait, why do they get Irwin to do this? Is there literally no-one else avaliable apart from a journalist none of them have met before?
I always wondered about this, don't the Autobots already know a journalist who knows their the good guys? Joyce Meadows wasn't it? Couldn't Blaster just give her a call, ask her to bang out some 200 word puff piece for whichever made up newspaper she writes for and be done with it? And why are the Autobots so bothered with PR, when the only humans who can harm them (Circuit Breaker and RAAT) are nutters who wouldn't believe the Autobots are the good guys even if they saved an orphanage full of puppies?
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Post by Cliffjumper » Tue Dec 27, 2011 9:44 pm

Blaster was, IIRC, still dead, but yeah, Joyce is the obvious choice. Though thinking about it she hadn't bothered at any point since despite having a networked chat show. But then the Autobots have scores of allies, notably Walter Barnett (didn't the whole Triple-I thing end with them all realising the Autobots were alright?) and GB Blackrock as influential ones. Plus Action Force/G.I. Joe...

While the humans couldn't really do much harm, I guess it's more a case of just wanting to set the record straight for the Autobots (especially as they possibly have the idea of a permanent city in mind by then).

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Post by inflatable dalek » Wed Dec 28, 2011 8:25 pm

That'll be the Joyce Meadows who, last time we saw her, was told by a giant evil scary robot that if she ever tried to do a positive story on the Autobots again he'd come round her house and **** her up? You really think the chance to have Sludge wank off in her face again would be enough to overcome that? Odds are she's not even got the chat show now considering her bosses wouldn't have been happy with her totalling a company van with nothing to show for it.

If we take the American strips at face value, Tripple I/RAAT had basically been discredited in the eyes of the US Government at this point and Blackrock seems to have been having heart trouble and may not have been up to much before he recovered enough to decide he was suddenly going to be Professor X.

I've no problem with the Autobots going to someone they don't know, but why a tabloid hack and why the Fraggle Rock did Furman thing Irwin Spoon was a good name? Do you think he and hunter O'Nion hang out together?
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Post by Cliffjumper » Wed Dec 28, 2011 8:58 pm

inflatable dalek wrote:That'll be the Joyce Meadows who, last time we saw her, was told by a giant evil scary robot that if she ever tried to do a positive story on the Autobots again he'd come round her house and **** her up?
Yeh - she'd be asked by Earthforce, who by that stage were 20+ of the toughest Autobots alive (and certainly weren't overly bothered with Soundwave), plus Prime and the gang on the Ark should they need it. Plus her last interaction with scary robots was watching Onslaught traipse away with his tail between his legs after being stared down by the Throttlebots (having gunned down Swindle herself). "Ladies Night" happened after "In the National Interest". If Joy's career was on the skids, an exclusive interview with the Autobot leader would be handy thing to have,
If we take the American strips at face value, Tripple I/RAAT had basically been discredited in the eyes of the US Government at this point and Blackrock seems to have been having heart trouble and may not have been up to much before he recovered enough to decide he was suddenly going to be Professor X.
Yeh, I meant more they'd be more logical choices to help debug Superion that would be easier to find and contact than, say, Bomber Bill; the influence thing is more variable, but I'm not sure how heart trouble would stop Blackrock from doing a few interviews. The real stupidity comes from having to have the fixer of Superion and the PR fixer being the same person.

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Post by inflatable dalek » Wed Dec 28, 2011 9:06 pm

I'd completely forgotten Ladies Night existed. My world was a much happier place three minutes ago.
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Post by Cliffjumper » Wed Dec 28, 2011 9:18 pm

Time for a diversion...

The most frustrating part about Earthforce from a continuity point of view is the way it keeps chopping and changing; most of the stories could fit somewhere with a little imagination, but the overall plot keeps screwing it up.

For example, "Breakaway" and even "Two Steps Back" could slot on the end of the US run fairly easily. Sure, there'd be the odd background character who died in the Unicron war, but then there was in G2 (Joyride, for example) and no-one lost much sleep. And sure, Prime'd be in the wrong body, but no-one's ever claimed "Cosmical Carnival" happened before "Afterdeath".

You could probably even claim the Ark was relaunched and the Perchance Autobots were all deactivated by the Nucleon, but the Decepticon situation really screws everything up - Bludgeon being at the same status he was in US issues published at the time (i.e. leader of the Mayhem Attack Squad), while Megatron's botched chronology (Straxatron leaves Earth with Ravage, kills the Triad, hangs around with Ravage doing ****-all, Realatron returns from memory loss, Straxatron kills himself, Realatron hangs around with Ravage doing ****-all until dramatic reveal to Ratchet) just can't be made to plausibly fit because we're told where he is for most of the time (ditto the Classic Pretenders).

It's like an insoluble Rubik's Cube; you can wangle about half of it into place but that just makes the rest even more disordered and frustrating.

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Post by inflatable dalek » Thu Dec 29, 2011 8:46 pm

The theory I've always liked (possibly because it was the first one I came across on the internet) is the one I found on dear old Ratbat's site, that placed the Earthforce stories concurrently with Matrix Quest. For me it runs smoother than any of the others and only really requires the following fudges:

That Matrix Quest happened roughly in "Real time". The stories themselves definately aren't all happening at once as Thunderwing has to get from planet to planet, and when you factor in that even with the shuttles being faster than the pod it still had a three year head start on the Autobots meaning a likely lengthy journey time five months minimum between Bird of Prey and Dark Creation (the first "Post Earthforce" story in this theory) works fine.

That Megatron escaped from the Ark at some point. Somewhat problematic considering he shows no sign of the Ratchet joining, but you could put that down to Ratchet being still in stasis. Plus it's easier to assume Megatron escaped and then was recaptured rather than the Ark happening to crash twice in the same place with the same Transformers aboard.

That, despite what the "*See upcoming US issues" box claims all of Grimlock's forces were brought back by the body shop. And that something terrible happened right after the end of the Earthforce strips that put most of them offline again, presumably whatever happened to allow them to recapture Megatron. Earthforce is destroyed/disbanded and Grimlock returns to the Ark in a sulk before getting sent off with Bumblebee and Jazz to follow another Matrix lead.

Now, that's not perfect, but most of the problems are those that would exist no matter where you put the stories, such as everyone being surprised Shockwave isn't dead. The big problem is this means not only is Perchance Galvatron the third of four in the comic but that there were two of him on the Ark when it crashed.

And nicely, the cast just about works with this theory, I don't think there's much crossover between the Questers and the Earthforcers and most of them should be alive at this point.

Mind, once I've finished 1984 I'm starting on Eugenesis, and according to the notes that works from the principle that Earthforce happened between 80 and G2 (and it would seem a lot of the TFUK fiction was devoted to making the various splinter UK continuities all tie in together), so if it's as good as everyone says that may change my mind.
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Post by StarscreamX » Fri Dec 30, 2011 7:20 pm

Cliffjumper wrote:Time for a diversion...

The most frustrating part about Earthforce from a continuity point of view is the way it keeps chopping and changing; most of the stories could fit somewhere with a little imagination, but the overall plot keeps screwing it up.

For example, "Breakaway" and even "Two Steps Back" could slot on the end of the US run fairly easily. Sure, there'd be the odd background character who died in the Unicron war, but then there was in G2 (Joyride, for example) and no-one lost much sleep. And sure, Prime'd be in the wrong body, but no-one's ever claimed "Cosmical Carnival" happened before "Afterdeath".

You could probably even claim the Ark was relaunched and the Perchance Autobots were all deactivated by the Nucleon, but the Decepticon situation really screws everything up - Bludgeon being at the same status he was in US issues published at the time (i.e. leader of the Mayhem Attack Squad), while Megatron's botched chronology (Straxatron leaves Earth with Ravage, kills the Triad, hangs around with Ravage doing ****-all, Realatron returns from memory loss, Straxatron kills himself, Realatron hangs around with Ravage doing ****-all until dramatic reveal to Ratchet) just can't be made to plausibly fit because we're told where he is for most of the time (ditto the Classic Pretenders).

It's like an insoluble Rubik's Cube; you can wangle about half of it into place but that just makes the rest even more disordered and frustrating.
Did Furman ever explain how Ravage went from chilling out on Cybertron with Megatron to hanging out on Earth and helping Shockwave with his barking mad plan to take command of the Decepticon army?
I know we got 'Two Megatrons' to try and make Megatron's timeline fit with the US material but did we ever get 'Two Ravages' where it turns out the Ravage who was around for the Timewars wasn't the real deal?
inflatable dalek wrote: I've no problem with the Autobots going to someone they don't know, but why a tabloid hack and why the Fraggle Rock did Furman thing Irwin Spoon was a good name? Do you think he and hunter O'Nion hang out together?
They chill out with Abraham Dante and Butch Witwicky and have a good ol' chinwag about how much they hate their parents for giving them these bloody stupid names
It's good fun. Jimmy Pink applied for membership. They still haven't got back to him
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Post by Housewife2000 » Wed Jun 27, 2012 2:42 pm

I realise I’m resurrecting an old thread here, but I’ve been re-reading Earthforce myself recently, and I was struck by a thought (and apologies if this has been voiced elsewhere): were these stories actually intended to run between / contemporaneously with The Price of Life (#309, 310 – Grimlock resurrects the Dinobots) and Surrender (#311, 312 – Prime white flags to Scorponok)?

That would mean the Galvatron in Perchance to Dream (#255-260) is the same one brought back to the present in Rhythms of Darkness (#298, 301) – which simplifies things. In Two Steps Back (#262), the 3rd Earthforce story, the Decepticons wants to know how Grimlock revived the Dinobots without the Matrix – he did it with Nucleon.

The biggest clunker becomes the presence of Megatron in Earthforce continuity, and I wonder if it had been Furman’s intention to bring back Megatron earlier than A Savage Circle (#327, 328) so he could be a third Decepticon leader vying for power in All this and Civil War 2 (#313, 314) – and as alluded to in Aspects of Evil: Scorponok (#223). Instead, he ended up holding Megatron back and focussing more on Scorponok, who had frankly become a more interesting character with a more interesting arc.

In fact, if you replace the Megatron in the Earthforce stories with Scorponok, it fits a little easier into established US continuity. You have to imagine that the two bookending US stories (The Price of Life and Surrender) don’t run into one another quite as sequentially as they end up being portrayed, and some cataclysm puts the Classic Autobots back into stasis for Grimlock to revive them with Nucleon (which he’s conveniently kept safely tucked away… but that cataclysm could easily be Galvatron’s revival between the end of Perchance to Dream and his arrival on Cybertron in Surrender).

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Post by inflatable dalek » Wed Jun 27, 2012 3:29 pm

I honestly don't think Furman had any plans whatsoever for Earthforce to fit in with the American series, for various reasons (the synching up of the British and American material had been badly thrown off by the three strip format and sudden unexpected reprints, the US editor didn't want any links in that material and the both books were on the brink of cancellation anyway so worrying about doing a story that contradicts a US issue that might never be seen in the UK is small potatoes).

That doesn't mean we can't have fun trying of course (and your ideas are workable), just that no one was thinking in those terms at the time.
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Post by Terome » Fri Jun 29, 2012 1:54 pm

Personally, I'd like an ongoing of short Earthforce-type stories where continuity isn't really a consideration. Would make a good webcomic.

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Post by Cyberstrike nTo » Mon Jul 02, 2012 9:26 pm

I was under the impression that Earthforce was a stand-alone mini-universe that Furman picked what he wanted in and out of the continuity.
Cliffjumper wrote:Two Steps Back: The first worrying sign Furman was making this up on the spot.
Now to be fair I think Furman was doing that back at the start of Earthforce or at least with "Starting Over". Probably because probably didn't know when the final run of the US issues would be reprinted and if the book was going to be canceled before or after the US material had been published in the UK, and he played it safe by avoiding long storylines like Target: 2006 instead focusing one-offs and 2 or 3 parters because there was a chance he wouldn't be able to finish it.
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