The Decepticons bomb an English castle. Afterwards the castle curator's son Sammy is startled by Jazz in the woods (!) while his father Roy discovers a reference to a 'Man of Iron' similar to Jazz that is over 900 years old...
Jazz, "Man of Iron"
Starscream, Thundercracker, Skywarp
George Cousins, Captain Peter Whitley, Roy Harker, Mrs Harker, Sammy Harker, Godwin the Strongarm, The Priest Aethelric
"Man of Iron", George Cousins, Captain Peter Whitley, Roy Harker, Mrs Harker, Sammy Harker, Godwin the Strongarm, The Priest Aethelric
Stansham Castle/Castle of Stenshame, Number Ten Millbank Road, Eldric's Cross (nr Castle of Stenshame), Stansham Woods/Stanewood, Stansham, Southern England.
A quiet August day at Stansham Castle is shattered by a sonic boom, as three mysterious jets fly over. One jet breaks off and drops two bombs on the castle. The first bomb goes off, but the second one buries itself deep in the ground.
The castle's attendant, George Cousins, immediately phones in the police, who bring in the army. The army Captain then announces that either it was a miracle that no one was hurt, or the pilots knew exactly what they were doing.
Roy Harker (the castle's curator) is also phoned in, and is on his way out of his house when his wife tells him to call his son (Sammy) home, who has been playing in the woods near the castle all day.
Half a mile from the castle, Roy stops his car and calls for Sammy, who is hiding from him, playing Indian Brave. Following his father, Sammy fires an arrow, pretending that it is a signal for reinforcements, but it gets stuck in a high branch.
Climbing the tree, he reaches for the branch, but stops stunned when before him stands Jazz. Frightened, Sammy jumps out of the tree and runs for his father, who has already started his car, continuing to the castle.
Sammy, seeing this, then turns to see that Jazz has started following him. Running again, he heads for home. Jazz, meanwhile, has transformed into his Porsche mode and has continued following Sammy, right to his gate. He then radios his position to "Autobot Leader", who advises him to maintain surveillance, and engage and restrain in the event of a 'security uprate.'
At the Castle, Roy is bemused as to why the castle was the planes' target, to which Captain Whitley replies that the planes are a mystery to the Air Force too, as according to George, they were unmarked, revealing no identity or nationality. He adds that uncovering the second bomb might shed some light on the whole thing.
George tells Roy that his wife's just called, saying that Sammy came home in a state of shock and the doctor has been called in.
Next, a retelling of events at the Castle of Stenshame circa 1017. The castle was surrounded and besieged by Godwin the Strongarm and his forces, who plundered the neighbouring village, burning houses, etc. Godwin gathered his most fearsome force to breach the castle's main gate, which they did. Suddenly, there was a great shaking, and from the ruined gate emerged "an apparition sent by God himself", a "Man of Iron." The Man of Iron was impervious to Godwin's forces, who were terrified and ran from him. He crossed the stream at Eldric's Cross and continued towards the abbey. He was stopped by the Priest Aethelric, who beseeched him to return from where he had come, which he did, disappearing into Stanewood.
We are then shown that this retelling is being narrated by Roy, to Sammy. According to the parish records, the Man of Iron appeared three times in all, each visitation being preceded by an earth tremor.
Roy then shows Sammy a drawing and asks if the robot he saw in the woods looked like it. Sammy replies that it does, to which Roy reveals that the drawing was taken from a manuscript completed in 1070. Over nine hundred years ago!
Man of Iron is the first non-US story for the UK comics, and it is set in England, not the US. The story moves smoothly, with each segment being 'led in' by the previous one, in a manner reminiscent of the film Star Wars, and introducing each new character in a single storyline.
The story also appears to be told from the human perspective, with the Transformers having only minimal 'airtime' when required. This was completely inconsistent with how the US storylines were handled, and Man of Iron would be the only story to do so.
It works well, proving that Transformer stories focusing mainly on the human aspects can be good, but sadly this turned out to be a rarity amongst them.
Unlike the US stories, which were line drawings coloured by finely-spaced dots, Man of Iron was partly painted, partly black and white. The painted style would be a trend that would continue for many of the early UK stories, and the majority of the covers.
Artwise, its not a bad effort from Ridgway, given that there is hardly any real Transformer action.
Man of Iron is Parkhouse's only Transformers story, possibly because during the next US story arc, he had moved on to long-term projects with Doctor Who Magazine and 2000AD.
Man of Iron Part 1 was reprinted in US issue 33 (recoloured by Nel Yomtov) and Collected Comics 3 (in full colour), where it was given the subheading "Chapter One: First Encounter".
Jazz is seen as cautious, not exactly hesitant, but certainly reliant on his superiors for explicit instructions on how to proceed. He also appears indifferent to toys as he steps on Sammy's bow, most likely breaking it. However, the unsubtle way he scares Sammy, proceeding to stalk him through the woods, goes against the later caution he applies.
The Man of Iron is shown to be possibly Autobot in origin, as his appearance is not unlike Jazz, and in 1017 he left "no man harmed, except by the fear that had pierced their hearts". Conversely, piercing the men's hearts with fear seems more like a Decepticon trait, if done purposely, but if done by accident, due to their mistaken belief that he was sent by God, it is not conclusive. He remains a mystery that will no doubt be unravelled in the rest of the story.
Published after the concluding part of the US story The Last Stand, Man of Iron does not really fit into the continuity, as the Autobots appear to have recovered from Shockwave's attack. Also, there is the small matter of the Decepticons' recovery from poisoned fuel, and also a complete absence of Decepticon leadership.
A likely time for this story to occur would be during the events of Prisoner of War (issues 5 and 6), as that story predominantly featured Gears, Spider-Man, Megatron and Ravage, allowing all this story's cast to have relocated to the UK for the necessary time.
The initial 'BOOOOOOM' implies that Thundercracker is one of the two jets, as he has the ability to generate destructive sonic booms when in flight.
Being the greatest Decepticon flyer, Starscream is the most likely candidate for the jet that breaks off to bomb the castle, as he would no doubt also be the marksman of the trio.
The Man of Iron is shown to be quite a small robot, as the kneeling priest reaches his mid-thigh, which implies that standing tall, the priest would reach his waist. This means that an approximate range for his height would be between 12 and 15 feet. This would also explain why he is referred as "being a man...of great height and girth", instead of a giant.
Jazz refers to himself as "Codename Jazz", and his superior as "Autobot Leader."
"Bombs! Oh, dear God he's bombing us! The stupid ..." George Cousins.
"Until we dig up that second bomb, the whole thing remains a mystery..." Captain Peter Whitley.
The Decepticon jets are shown in a dusty grey-brown colour, when they should ideally be white, blue and black, for Starscream, Skywarp and Thundercracker, as the other three Seekers were introduced at a later date, and the jets show a generic similarity, also in toy form.
1017 is half a century before the Norman invasion, which brought moated stone castles, instead of the Anglo-Saxon wooden motte-and-bailey. It's not impossible that Normans would be present in Southern England at that time, but its unlikely that they would have a such a foothold as the Castle appears to be.