Denny O’Neil, Marvel, and the origin of the Transformers

Transformers #1

Did you know that Denny O’Neil — the comic book writer who was responsible for landmark stories such as the de-powered Wonder Woman and the Green Lantern/Green Arrow stories where Speedy was revealed to be a drug addict — is the same guy who played a part in the creation the Transformers backstory and named Optimus Prime? It’s true! You can find this and more interesting things about the origins of the Transformers at Comic Book Urban Legends Revealed – Who created Optimus Prime?

Bob Budiansky:My recollection is different, but only slightly. Shooter and O’Neil came up with the backstory, that’s true. I had nothing to do with that. Shooter brought me in when most of the initial names and at least some of the character profiles were rejected by Hasbro. For whatever reason, Denny declined to revise them. So, facing an imminent deadline, Shooter scoured the Marvel editorial offices looking for someone who could write at least basic English. The first few Marvel editors Shooter approached, all with more writing experience than me, wanted nothing to do with Transformers. I was probably Shooter’s third or fourth choice. I turned around the revisions over a couple of days — right before Thanksgiving of 1983 — and Hasbro was very pleased with what I wrote. I renamed most of the characters (Optimus Prime was Denny’s, Megatron was mine), and revised some character profiles.

One of the reasons I think that the Transformers has endured for this long is that they had the right guys putting together the founding mythology. So kudos to both Denny O’Neil and Bob Budiansky for their hard work.

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