This particular Evil Decepticon is hardly a character you might associate with glad tidings and good cheer but to me, Starscream means Christmas.
Thirty years ago, in 1987, the then-latest issue of the weekly Marvel UK Transformers comic was delivered. It was the Christmas issue and, as per tradition, its lead story was a festive tale. This time around it featured Starscream of all people!
Even now I find it a bit of an odd choice: Starscream’s toy was already three years old (a long out of date product in the eyes of Hasbro, surely?) and hadn’t been seen as a character in the comic’s pages for over a year.
I usually read and re-read my weekly Transformers comic over and over, but being off school for the fortnight for Christmas I think I obsessively re-read this particular edition many more times than was usual (or healthy). As a mischievous ten year old boy it was likely a good distraction for me and kept me from getting under my mum’s feet while she prepared for the big day.
And guess what? When the big day did eventually come along, Starscream was one of the Transformers toys I received! It was a complete surprise (as all Transformers were back then) and even now I wonder if my mum had seen Starscream in the comic and made a last-minute dash to the shops to track one down. However it happened, it was a Christmas miracle in my young eyes!
As it turned out, 1987 was a bumper Christmas for Transformers: Starscream, Onslaught and Chromedome, the 1987 Transformers annual, and Transformers The Movie on VHS. I was so Transformers-obsessed at that point I ungratefully shunned the other (non TF-branded) gifts I received that day. (And, in the New Year when I visited my dad, I received the Headmaster Mindwipe and the Targetmaster Blurr.)
As well as adding Starscream and Chromedome to my ever-growing collection of Transformers, receiving Onslaught was probably the most exciting of the three as it meant I had finally completed my Combaticons set. So, really, I could also add the character of Bruticus (the Combaticons’ combined form) to the list of Transformers I got that day!
It occurred to me that my year-long quest to collect the Combaticons, buying each limb–Blast Off, Vortex, Swindle, Brawl–as and when I could afford them with my pocket money had not gone unnoticed! It was yet another Christmas miracle!
Three Years Later…
My second “Starscream’s Christmas” was in 1990. A lot had changed in the intervening years. Transformers was something I had been expected to “grow out of” by that point. I was no longer getting the weekly comic, and no longer getting the toys as often (and those I did, I bought for myself).
The Classics reissues of that year had gone some way to making other people seeing Transformers as something more like collectibles than toys.
On Christmas Eve in 1990, one of our neighbours needed to do some last minute shopping and invited my mum and me along. The three of us, fighting the crowds, went into Woolworths in Grantham and I instinctively pushed my way to the back of the store to the toy department. There was a Pretender Classics Starscream (released the previous year) on clearance for very little money.
I didn’t receive any Transformers at all for Christmas in 1988 or 1989 so, feeling particularly defiant for a 13 year-old, I grabbed Starscream and took it to the till and bought it with my pocket money. When I met back up with my mum and our neighbour I was expecting unfettered wrath or, worse, yet another lecture. But, no. Nothing. Maybe because we were in polite company.
But, as I had done in 1987 with her choices of Starscream and Onslaught, I had yet again underestimated my mother. Despite the drought (Transformers-wise) of the previous two Christmases, I was very surprised to receive on the Christmas morning of 1990 Action Master Shockwave (one of my all-time favourite characters from the comic) and the Transformers Universe book!
Even though I was receiving a lot more “grown up” gifts, I had a couple of Transformers items to cherish in my early teenage years that helped bridge the magic of childhood with the expectations of looming adulthood.
The Transformers Universe book, just like the weekly comics, was addictively read and re-read. As per the court-approved arrangement at the time my mum would have me over Christmas and my dad would see me for New Year. My dad was about to be deployed to Operation Desert Storm in the Gulf War so he took me, along with my step-family, up to Scotland for the week after Christmas. I packed Pretender Starscream (without the shell) and the Transformers Universe book to read.
Incidentally, I found (and bought) the 1990 Transformers annual and the Micromaster Air Patrol in Woolworths in Inverness. While I no longer played with my Transformers toys the way I did as a child I still did display the team of Autobots facing off against Starscream on a shelf.
I had my nose buried in the Transformers Universe for the duration of the trip. Everyone assumed I was a typical teenager sulking but, no, the truth was I was reading all about the Transformers characters from 1984 to 1986 (including Starscream himself!) I loved and missed and re-living my fondest Christmas memories.
— Graham (@grhmthmsn)