Dreamwave Productions was a fairly unknown independent comic book publisher when it obtained the Transformers license in 2001. For a time, there was gigantic buzz surrounding Dreamwave's relaunch of the Generation One title, even pushing it past Marvel and DC's top titles. Many comic book fans had been away from Transformers for a long time and were overjoyed to see highly detailed manga-style art driving a childhood favorite.
Dreamwave published a good deal of Transformers books, including many varied miniseries, before capitulating to the notoriously fickle comic-buying public. Towards the end of 2004 delays started getting more and more frequent. This was followed by rumors of writers and artists leaving because they weren't being paid, which were then confirmed. In early January 2005, Dreamwave declared bankruptcy, and there were no Transformers comics to be had for more than half of 2005.
In 1998, Dreamwave would start to publish various
blatantly plagiarized originally created titles such as Darkminds and Warlands, as well as accepting work-for-hire assignments for other publishers such as the four-issue limited series Wolverine/Punisher: Revelation for Marvel. Other titles such as Shidima, Fate of the Blade or Arkanium would follow. Furthermore, Dreamwave also collaborated with VIBE and Wizard: The Comics Magazine on various projects, developed an advertising campaign for the Dr. Martens shoe label and created the production designs for the music video to Janet Jackson's song "Doesn't Really Matter".
Initially, the "hook" for Dreamwave's financial success was the drawing style of its president, Pat Lee, which many readers viewed as "manga-like" (although readers of actual Japanese Mangas had a different opinion on this matter).
Splitting from Image and getting the Transformers license
In 2001, issue #111 of Wizard: The Comics Magazine ran a feature named "Big 80s", featuring various popular properties of the 1980s such as Thundercats or Masters of the Universe in new interpretations by modern artists. Pat Lee and Dreamwave submitted their own take on the Transformers, one of Pat's personal favorites from his childhood days. That same year, a group of Dreamwave employees (including Alvin Lee, who had worked with Pat on the Wizard piece) departed from their company to form their own business, UDON Studios.
Shortly afterwards, Hasbro was offering the license for Transformers comics, with the premise being that the artwork should look close to the sample Dreamwave had done for Wizard. Several companies, including Marvel (with UDON being supposed to handle the art), were interested, but ultimately it was Dreamwave who offered Hasbro the biggest amount of money, thereby acquiring the license in December 2001 - money which Hasbro would ultimately never see in full. To commemorate the new flagship title, Dreamwave officially cut all ties with Image and became an independent publisher on their own.
Success of the Transformers titles
Dreamwave's launch title, Transformers: Generation One vol. 1, written by Chris Sarracini and drawn by Pat Lee, became an instant hit, dominating Diamond's sales charts for months. Dreamwave would soon expand their range of Transformers comics to include an ongoing Transformers: Armada series (which later evolved into Transformers: Energon to accompany the respective toylines), initially also written by Sarricini. Although the second Generation One volume was originally supposed to be written by Sarracini again, he was replaced by new writer James McDonough (who originally worked under the alias "Brad Mick"), thereby ultimately writing an entirely different story than what was originally intended. With issue #5 of the third Generation One volume (now an ongoing title), McDonough was joined by his longtime friend Adam Patyk, now forming a writing duo, eventually shifting out his "Brad Mick" alias.
Furthermore, Dreamwave hired fan-favorite Simon Furman to pen various Transformers: The War Within mini-series, the first official Transformers fiction ever to be not directly based on an existing toyline. Furman would be joined by artist Don Figueroa, whom Dreamwave had hired directly out of the fandom. More fan artists such as Guido Guidi and Joe Ng would soon follow Don into the professional comic book world. Meanwhile, Furman would later also take over the Armada title as a writer.
Trouble on the horizon
The first problems arose in 2003, when it turned out that Dreamwave had only acquired the license for distributing Transformers titles in the USA, which resulted in a temporary hold in the international distribution until the matter was settled.
Following the success of their Transformers titles, Dreamwave put their own titles Warlands and Darkminds on hold, instead focussing on other licensed books such as Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, numerous Capcom franchises such as MegaMan, and Duel Masters (a Hasbro-backed Japanese import card game/toyline). None of those titles would last particularly long, however, and some (mainly numerous Capcom titles) never even got the first issue out. This was also when rumors of creators not getting paid first came up. Rumors about a rigid "house style" committing other artists to draw in a style close to company president Pat Lee started to circulate as well, most evident in the second War Within miniseries, where the original pencils by artist Andrew Wildman were drastically reworked by the inker, with rather disappointing results.
In mid-2004, Dreamwave announced the "addition" of new creators, failing to mention that this also meant the departure of Adam Patyk and James McDonough from the company. Although Dreamwave tried to contain this delicate bit of information by asking websites to consider any public statements by the two regarding their current situation with Dreamwave as "private" and thus delete them, some sites ignored that request, thereby revealing that Patyk and McDonough were owed a significant amount of money for their work. At the same time, Pat Lee would start to do contractual work for Marvel and DC again, such as issues of House of M or Superman/Batman.
While other artists and writers, including Simon Furman, at least temporarily joined the fold of creators not getting paid by Dreamwave, Chris Sarracini was asked to rewrite the stories previously submitted by Patyk and McDonough. Likewise, a long-since announced Beast Wars title McDonough and Patyk had previously worked on was now supposed to be written by Furman instead. However, those stories would ultimately never be published, as Hasbro had already declined to renew Dreamwave's license to publish Transformers comics by this point. Following numerous rumors, including one posted by Ben Yee on his own website BWTF.com, Dreamwave officially declared bankruptcy on January 4, 2005, blaming the weak Canadian Dollar and other scapegoats for the company's failure, including a vastly incorrect claim about Dreamwave being the "only Canadian independent comics publisher".
By this time, Pat and Roger had already spent four months secretly moving most of Dreamwave's assets to a new company named Dream Engine, whose website domain was registered to Roger's name. The existence of Dream Engine first became public in early January 2005.
The overall amount of Dreamwave's debt was far over a million dollars. While former Dreamwave employees never saw a single cent of the money they were owed for their work, Pat Lee repeated the performance a year later with Dream Engine, ultimately resulting in him departing from the new company and once again starting a new business, Pat Lee Productions. Meanwhile, a Canadian entrepreneur named Christian Dery acquired the remaining Dreamwave assets, including the name "Dreamwave" and the rights to their "original" titles such as Warlands or Darkminds, in August 2005. Ultimately, however, no new Dreamwave comics would ever see the light of day, and the "new" Dreamwave ended up not paying employees either. Eventually, Dreamwave II would close shop in mid-2006, selling back the remaining Dreamwave properties to Roger Lee and Dream Engine.
- Prime Directive (G1 Volume 1)
- War and Peace (G1 Volume 2)
- Generation One Ongoing (G1 Volume 3)
- The War Within
- The War Within: The Dark Ages
- The War Within: Age of Wrath
- More Than Meets The Eye (G1)
- More Than Meets The Eye (Armada)
- 20th Anniversary Transformers Summer Special
See also: Unreleased Dreamwave issues
- ↑ Lying in the Gutters confirming that other publishers were interested in the Transformers license
- ↑ TFormers confirms that Dreamwave acquired the Transformers comic license
- ↑ TFormers citing a Wizard Edge article that hints at the originally proposed plot for Dreamwave's Transformers: Generation One vol. 2
- ↑ Newsarama reporting on problems resulting from Dreamwave's lack of a license for an international release of their Transformers titles
- ↑ Lying in the Gutters reporting on early rumors of Dreamwave artists not getting paid
- ↑ The infamous "Dreamwave adds Transformers' creators" press release
- ↑ Lying in the Gutters reporting on Dreamwave's attempt to contain information about Patyk and McDonough's firing
- ↑ TFormers.com quoting a statement by Patyk and McDonough
- ↑ Lying in the Gutters reporting that even Simon Furman was temporarily not paid, and the stories by Patyk and McDonough were being rewritten
- ↑ Lying in the Gutters reporting that Hasbro had revoked Dreamwave's Transformers license
- ↑ Dreamwave's final press release
- ↑ Lying in the Gutters discovering the existence of Dream Engine
- ↑ Lying in the Gutters' list of Dreamwave's creditors
- ↑ Lying in the Gutters reporting on trouble with the "new" Dreamwave
- ↑ Lying in the Gutters reporting on the final fate of the "new" Dreamwave