Reading Order: Transformers

It started so  innocently. What would be a good starting point in reading Transformer comics books?

I learned in probably the most difficult and frustrating way that there isn’t one starting point for Transformers.

No.  Transformers have several “continuities”.  This effectively means that reboots exist in parallel with others. Plus, the stories don’t necessarily belong to one continuity, but tend to align with one, or break ground on a new one altogether. The relationships between the continuities are so complex they require written guides and flowcharts. Not exactly stuff for beginners, or people short on time. (I am both).

I discovered “continuities” after reading a handful of Transformer comics. My initial reaction can be summed up in this observation: If you have to explain what a “continuity” is, then your story isn’t continuous.

One of the more noticeable consequences to this approach to story telling is the proliferation of conflicting story lines and character development. This isn’t the usual drift that occurs when telling stories in one medium (say a comic book) and then adapting it to another (movies). 

But here is the problem: The stories are amazing. It didn’t cross my mind that it would be possible to enjoy the variety of historical context. Mainly, I just thought it was unnecessary. Without knowing what I was doing I planned to exclusively read comic books aligning with the Transformers Prime continuity. Instead, I wound up reading something altogether different.

So my real problem is that the Transformers comics aren’t clearly labeled which would help greatly in understanding

  1. There are multiple continuities
  2. There are multiple continuity families (I’m still trying to understand that one)
  3. A story aligns with a continuity
  4. If the characters and history will be consistent with other issues.

But perhaps there is some genius behind this approach. It seems remarkably easy to cross-pollinate readers. After-all if a reader had an easy way out of a story line (at a conclusion), they may just take it and move onto something else.

Returning to the reading order:

I started with IDW’s More Than Meets the Eye, and have started on Robots In Disguise. The kindle versions bundle about 4 issues into one ebook. 

I also read the graphic novel Autocracy, and Rage of the Dinobots.

Looking back, I’d say that this was probably a good place to start, but at the time (not understanding the various continuities) I felt lost.

What do you think? Is this a common occurrence in comic books? Let me know in the comments.