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Marvel's hit with a myth

When Hasbro merged and renamed two Japanese lines to introduce Transformers to the United States, the company turned to Marvel Comics to create the robots' mythos. Marvel had already done so with Hasbro's reintroduction of G.I. Joe action figures in 1982, launching a longrunning comic-book franchise.

Editor in chief Jim Shooter wrote an initial five-page treatment, and had celebrated comics writer Denny O'Neil devise character names and profiles. It was O'Neil who dubbed the Autobot leader Optimus Prime.

"But Shooter wanted changes, and for whatever reason, Denny and Shooter decided not to go forward," recalls former Marvel editor Bob Budiansky. "It was, I believe, the weekend before Thanksgiving of 1983, and [Shooter] was in a tremendous hurry - people were taking vacations, Hasbro had a deadline - and I was probably the third or fourth editor he asked" to create names and profiles.

Budiansky, who did it over that weekend, went on to edit the first four issues of "Transformers" and then write nearly all of the next 51 (plus two spin-off miniseries) - giving names and profiles to dozens of original Transformers, including Megatron himself. Who almost wasn't called Megatron.

"I knew he was the lead villain," Budiansky recalls, "and at the time 'mega' had connotations of 'megaton,' as in nuclear weapons. And 'tron' sounded technical. So I put those two [affixes] together."

But when he submitted the name, "Hasbro rejected it! So I spoke to the account manager and asked why. She said, 'We think it sounds too scary.' I said, 'He's the head of the bad guys. Don't you think he should sound scary?' And they said, 'Yes, you're right.' "

-- FRANK LOVECE

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