I’m usually too cranky to do this sort of thing, but I’m totally giving Incredible Change-Botsby Jeffrey Brown five-stars just for making me laugh my ass off. I went to a local indy comic expo yesterday, which I was a little nervous about, because I’m a little old and with children to descend into what I imagined to be the belly of hipsterism like that. Some of the people manning booths – good lord, do you even have to shave??? But it was a nice crowd, I got to meet the author of some of my favorite kids books, and Richard found this book.
There’s probably a pretty narrow demographic of people who are going to enjoy the humor in here, because it’s an exhaustive riff off the Transformers cartoon, the one from the 80s. No aspect of the cartoon is left unfunny, from various jokes about the names: two Awesomebots named Wheeee and Balls, Balls being a golf cart, natch; the human who first meets Big Rig remarking how coincidental that he’s named Big Rig, when he looks exactly like big rig on Earth. (The continuing Balls jokes are especially nice, change-bots just shouting his name when something goes wrong. Balls! Yes?) There’s endless comic potential in the illogic of Saturday morning cartoons: the robot who says, “I forget how fragile you humans are…actually, I don’t, because my memory recall is perfect.” “Why didn’t you just radio us instead of running all the way back to base?” (These aren’t quotes, but paraphrases – too lazy to look it up.)
The story begins back on the Change-bot home planet, Electronocybercurcuitron. The Change-bots are bickering about election fraud, which has allowed the Fantasticons to win. The Fantasticons are the bad guys, and it’s a running joke how there’s absolutely no difference in their motivations or speeches. But good gravy, do not make this sound highfalutin. The Awesomebots rally together, “We’ll go to the Fantasticon Chamber of Commerce in peaceful protest…an extremely well-armed peaceful protest!” Thus begins the war that destroys their planet, after which they come to an agreement, build a rocket, and then crash-land on Earth, restarting hostilities.
Honest to God, have no idea why I’m giving you the plot. This is a scaffold of one-liners that connects with other short jokes to blend into a giant metallic body of a colossal mechajoke, which goes chee cha chu chee when it transforms. Bew! Bew! The art is a perfect match with the subject, kinda all-caps spaz art favored by young boys.
A lot of this humor is on well-traveled ground, like the romantic scene between what appears to be the only girl-Change-bot, Siren, who is a police car, and um, some other guy. It fades to black, and then you see the next panel, dark, with clank clank, then the next with clank clank clankclankclankclank. Robot Chicken has more or less run this joke into the ground with the recurring sketch of a robot humping a washing machine. Whatever. Still funny.
I read this straight through to the sequel, Incredible Change-Bots Two, which might have been even better. (That one has an extended riff on putting together Lego sets which had me crying – “Does anyone have a red, flat, four-piece?” “Don’t use your teeth.”) The later seasons/sequels to this kind of show always get so much more convoluted and weird – characters showing up out of nowhere, people returning from the dead without an explanation, time travel! Just totally my kind of stupid humor.