Already well respected for his nearly Quixotic attempts to bring sanity to the Transformers movie continuity, John Barber’s tenure over IDW’s mainline Transformers comics has been viewed as something of a renaissance period for the brand.
Besides writing a tense sci-fi political thriller in the form of Transformers: Robots in Disguise, Barber has also served as the editor of the award-winning Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye as well as the Transformers: Windblade mini-series. Since then he’s added even more to his plate by writing Angry Birds Transformers and co-writing the latest Transformers vs. G.I. Joe series.
As the man behind one of my favorite shared universes in comics, I’ve been eager to meet Mr. Barber for some time. Little did I know how deep we’d get into the current Transformers line-up.
Mr. Barber was incredibly gracious with his time and considerable knowledge so please enjoy and, if so inclined, check out the newly renamed The Transformers #35, on sale today!
N: One thing that I was definitely curious about is that one of the weird figures for IDW in Transformers has been Galvatron, in that you couldn’t fall back on a G1 interpretation.
N: But so he was kind of Nova Prime’s Starscream for a while and then he kind of had this very ‘glorious leader against D-Void’ period. What made you settle on ‘Galvatron the Barbarian’ for your take?
B: I was kind of intrigued by the story that Simon [Furman] had set up of these characters being of a different age, y’know? These people that were there, that took off on the original Ark? I just kind of latched onto this idea of, ‘what was society like before they had the Golden Age?’ For me, it went back to doing the Robots in Disguise Annual and I had this idea of like Game of Thrones with Transformers, of this idea of these different tribes. And I played with that actually a bit in the movie universe stuff, but it was different in the main line stuff.
And Galvatron was one of those characters, kind of like Soundwave, where even within the IDW universe different writers had radically different takes on where he was. So, thinking about how you can sort of unify those, what kind of person would do all that stuff? And I came to the idea of ‘what if Galvatron’s kind of Conan’ and you had this guy who’s kind of really a rough guy, really a barbarian, but who becomes king?
“Galvatron was one of those characters where different writers had radically different takes. So, thinking about how you can sort of unify those, what kind of person would do all that stuff?”
I mean the story of Conan isn’t just Conan the Barbarian. There’s all these eras of Conan as he goes on; he eventually is King Conan. And the idea that Galvatron kind of went through all that, so he’s been different places in his life, appealed to me. And, in [issue #34] we’ll get kind of a larger grasp of how those early days with him and Nova functioned. We’ll be seeing some stuff, that I think may be surprising to some people, that we sort of hinted at. There’re definitely some hints that have been going on, but some of the ancient Cybertronian lore and history is gonna come up.
But, in short, it’s kind of the idea of this guy who, in his own mind, he’s noble, but it isn’t the usual nobility you get from a villain because he’s really, really brutal and he’s- he’s- like he’s genuinely not a nice guy, y’know, where, Soundwave, to me, he’s the good guy Decepticon.
B: Like he’s the guy that genuinely believes in the Decepticon cause and everything they had to do that was bad was a compromise that he had to make to a greater end goal, where Galvatron isn’t like that. He’s less compromising, but much more brutal and, like, the underlying…like-
N: He doesn’t feel like a guy who’s like thinking very much into the future.
B: Yeah. Like he does in his way. So, there are moments where you’re going to see him kind of doing stuff toward a larger goal, but it’s a very distinct, direct barbarian way of doing it. He’s not doing the Machiavellian playing guys off of each other the way Starscream does. Even when he does like straight up lie, his duplicity is a little more honest.
Just taking a step aside from Robots in Disguise for a second, I was just curious. You are not only a writer, but you’re an editor for IDW.
N: As someone with that very unique experience, what do you think that -whether it be professionals, aspiring, anywhere in the process – what do you think that writers need to know about editors and editors need to know about writers? You have seen both sides.
B: That’s a good question. Ideally, everybody’s out to make a good comic. And there are good fits with writers and editors, y’know?
It’s funny because I have friends on both sides of the table. So, every once in a while you’ll sort of hear somebody, a friend of mine, complaining about, y’know, that editor didn’t work out. Then there’ll be people who are having a great relationship with that editor. So it’s like any other relationship in life. There are fits and there are non-fits.
When you’re putting a creative team together for a comic, it’s sort of like putting a band together, y’know? Like everybody has to get along. You have to know what parts everybody’s playing and what everybody’s doing. On the Transformers books we’re really lucky, everybody gets along really well, I think, between James, me, Mairghread, Chris Metzen, Flint Dille, plus like Alex Milne, Andrew, Livio, Sarah, everybody; we all interact really well.
Trasformers Robots in Disguise – John Barber writing, Andrew Griffith main artist. Searching on Earth for 'mysterious object' - everyone loves Thundercracker and Buster.
Transformers More Than Meets The Eye – James Roberts writing, teases return of old favourites, more horror, sci-fi and personal drama.
Transformers Windblade – Mairghread Scott writing. Sarah Stone art. Recently concluded first solo adventure, will return. Response has been impressive and amazing.
Transformers Primacy – Writers Chris Metzen and Flint Dille, artist Livio Ramondelli. Final part of Cybertron Wars (Autocracy, Monstrosity), Ramondelli co-plotted volume this time.
Transformers Punishment – Barber written, Livio Ramondelli drawn digital comic - read the Seibertron.com review here! Shortly arriving on other OS, and possibly other formats too.
Drift: Empire of Stone. Writer Shane McCarthy, artist Guido Guidi.
The cross-franchise Combiner Wars event, announced yesterday, will take place in the comics too, with John Barber and Mairghread Scott on writing duties, across 2015. We've already seen some seeding of the event in the comics so far.
Hasbro's Michael Kelly explains the previously reported Transformers Humble Bundle, and its charity purpose.
Angry Birds Transformers crossover comic! Written by John Barber and art by Marcelo Ferreira. Covers by Livio Ramondelli, and Casey W. Coller & John-Paul Bove. Premise: All-Spark falls to Piggy Island, Transformers personalities merge with inhabitants. Very funny comic, panel says.
Transformers vs G.I. Joe - Tom Scioli and John Barber writing, Trypticon will show up in issue 2! Read the Seibertron.com review of issue #1 here - sold out at distributor level, Liefeld convention cover exclusive sold out.
Sarah Stone also doing covers for D&D comic series. 40th anniversary and coinciding with launch of 5th edition of the game.
The Fall of GI Joe. Karen Traviss writing, artist Steven Kurth. More realistic, hardcore take, Scarlett currently leading. Larry Hama still on Real American Hero.
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic - Power Ponies new series in fall, current run going really well, both readership and creators having fun.
Q: MLP comics follow the show?
Collaborating with the stories, nothing fixed.
Q: Transformers vs Ponies?
No plans - Tom Scioli imagine multi-franchise multiverse multi everything crossover.
Q: Plans for Grimlock in the current ongoings?
Definitely, and he's already in Primacy - was going to be in TF vs Joe.
Q: Are Shockwave and Bumblebee really dead?
We'll see the aftermath of Dark Cybertron/Crystal City in RID #33.
Q: Does Hasbro dictate characters in the comics?
There may be some guidance, but all stories come from creative teams, not top-down.
DAVID WHITTAKER: Ok, so starting at the beginning how did the concept of More Than Meets The Eye come about? Had you had any plans for what became More Than Meets The Eye as you were working on cooperative projects such as Last Stand of The Wreckers or Chaos Theory? I ask this because you have seemingly innocuous characters, such as Rung or Whirl appearing in those tales, who go on to become major players. So to speak.
JAMES ROBERTS: Well, the series’ core concept – Rodimus heads off in search of the legendary Knights of Cybertron – was decided back in 2010 by either Andy Schmidt (John Barber’s predecessor as editor of IDW’s Transformers titles) or Mike Costa (who wrote IDW’s first ongoing Transformers title from 2009 to 2011) – maybe both of them. I think Mike came up with the idea of the Knights, although I was never given more than the name when I was asked to write More Than Meets The Eye. Anyway, back in 2010 IDW decided that from January 2012 Mike’s ongoing series would split into two titles, More Than Meets The Eye and Robots In Disguise. One title would follow Rodimus and Drift on their quest, the other would focus on Bumblebee trying to make a go of things on a devastated Cybertron. The Autobots would have fallen out – there would have been some kind of schism – and some characters would side with Rodimus, some with Bumblebee. At the time this game-plan was decided, no one knew what it was that would precipitate the schism, or which characters (beyond Drift) would side with the two Autobot figureheads. It was all really up in the air.
THE TRUE Believers Comic Awards were established in 2014 to provide a worldwide platform for professionals and non-professionals alike to voice their opinions of the work being done in the medium.
Headed by Cassandra Conroy and her father Mike, the self-styled People's Choice Awards provide fans around the world with a fresh opportunity to honour their favourite writers, artists and titles of the previous year. "I'm delighted to give a voice to both the fans and professionals" said Cassandra.
The True Believer Comic Awards will be held annually in July at the London Film and Comic Con.
The 2014 prizes will be handed out as part of this year's London Film & Comic Con with the inaugural ceremony being held at Earls Court on Saturday, July 12th. In attendance will be legendary Marvel Universe co-creator Stan Lee, who is making his last ever official European convention appearance.
Kelly Sue DeConnick
Favourite American Comicbook: Colour
Transformers: More than Meets the Eye
Favourite Single Story
“Cybertronian Homesick Blues”, Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye #13
“Kingdoms Fall” Infinity #3
“Pizza is my Business”, Hawkeye #11
“The End” Locke & Key: Alpha #2
Afterlife with Archie #1
Favourite Continued Story
Batman #21 on – Zero Year
Fables #125-129 – Snow White
The Walking Dead #115 on – All Out War
Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye – Remain in Light #17-21
Dawn of the Autobots started on Wednesday. Megatron has joined the Autobots, and is now captain of the Lost Light in More than Meets the Eye.
Windblade just started. The lead character is apparently a descendant of Cybertron.
Robots in Disguise, written by John Barber and art by Andrew Griffith, is set back on Earth and stars Optimus Prime, Jazz and Sideswipe (among others). The planet is probably not going to have a welcoming reaction to the return of Optimus Prime and the Autobots.
In More than Meets the Eye, written by James Roberts and art by Alex Milne, Megatron is now leading the Lost Light. The book was called "Really crazy, really lot of fun."
Windblade, the four-issue mini series written by Mairghread Scott and art by Sarah Stone, is billed as new reader friendly. Windblade comes into conflict with Starscream. Really fun and Mairghread believes it's an "expressive, hopeful book."
We were reminded that Windblade is the result of a series of polls taken by the fans. She recently made debut in the Dark Cybertron event, along with Nautica and Chromia.
The new book was announced! Primacy, written by Flint Dille and Chris Metzen, and art by Livio Ramondelli. This will be the last part of the trilogy starting with Autocracy and Monstrosity. Dille described it as a war book and "carnage fest." This is the moment where we see the characters become what we're familiar with. Dille teased that Sharkticons and Quintessons might show up.
They mentioned Transformers vs GI Joe, written by John barber and Tom Scioli, and art by Scioli too. Barber says it's probably the craziest book he's worked on. Things get nuts.
As GI Joe corners Cobra Commander, Starscream purses Bumblebee and the story takes off from there. It's pure comics. Guzman said that he had no idea how Tom was going to draw some of the story elements until he sees the pages that get turned in.
GI Joe: The Real American Hero #200 was just released and the series is still going strong. The slideshow showed issue #201 will have a Liefeld cover. Guzman joked that the series probably going to make it to #300.
IDW Publishing is working on a deluxe hardcover anniversary edition of GI Joe #21, The Silent Interlude. IDW is going back and reshooting original art as well as recoloring it.. and adding even more extra material and commentaries.
IDW teased Fall of GI Joe for September 2014. They're not ready to make announcement just yet. Barber claimed it will please a lot of fans.
As for the background on the decision on making Megatron an Autobot, it goes back to September 2011. James Roberts, Phil Jimenez, and John Barber broke down Dark Cybertron at Hasbro. Barber seems to remember Mark Weber (Global Brand Development Manager for Hasbro) suggested Megatron being an Autobot and was shocked Hasbro allowed it.
As for who's leading the Decepticons.. They have lost the war. Lots of Decepticons might defect to Autobot side. Some believe Megatron sold out. Galvatron gathers and forms new Decepticon group on Cybertron with new agenda. Soundwave and Galvatron will lead group, for now.
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