So there we are. The end. The End? They always said ‘It Never Ends’ and for Transformers that seems to be true. But for the Original Transformers storyline/continuity it very definitely has. Issue 100 of that seminal book final hit the stands on Wednesday 19th March. A very significant day for all those legions of people who, over the last thirty years, have enjoyed the ups and downs of the world of Autobots and Decepticons. After the hiatus of some twenty years it was a privilege to be involved in the continuation of The Transformers (not sure when the The was dropped) With the IDW book, Transformers Regeneration One. When it all finally ended I thought it would be great to write a piece about what it has been like for me to be involved in the book. After all, for many it is who I am. But rather than write one final farewell – which I did for issue 100 – I thought I would get some thoughts down as and when they occur. This is the first of those;
For me it started out as just another comics gig. A book that I knew nothing about and that only felt like a stepping stone onto other books. I wanted to draw Superheroes. This is something that I have mentioned in many interviews and Q&As. I was happy to be working for Marvel Comics but I didn’t want to do toy books. I wanted to draw Spider-Man and all the other characters that I had grown up with. At that time I guess I had been reading comics for, say, 20 years. When I consider that that was about 26 years ago it really does create context. Transformers have been a part of my life for longer than Marvel had at that point. Transformers has been there for all but a couple of years of my professional life as a comic artist. Its fair to say that without Transformers I would probably be yet another casualty of the big comics crash in the mid nineties. Many of us working in the comics industry back then were hanging on by our fingernails as we saw title after title get cancelled. Same happened to me. My final book for Marvel was the final issue of Force Works. I felt like it was unfinished business at Marvel but it was time to get out as the empire crumbled around us all. That is when I moved – sideways I guess – into Computer Game design and TV concept work and storyboarding. Things have been great for me in those areas but it is as a result of working on Transformers for Marvel and more recently for IDW that has enabled me to have a presence at some amazing conventions and that is great. So Transformers, it was very definitely time to move on. Time to draw a line under that work. But I salute you. Without you I wonder what life would look like now.
#TFRescueBots revelation with @LevarBurton
Spinning off that question, because I don't think my readers will forgive me if I don't ask this, Swerve, Cosmos, Tailgate, Skrapnel - we're getting that right? My understanding is that they were underordered originally but more are being made...
JJ: They were underordered, we're going to make sure there are more releases. We've already informed our U.S. Sales team about that. As we do more orders, we'll make sure the waves that come out...that the mix within the case pack will include those characters along with the new characters in the waves three and four so that all those characters get out there in a healthy supply.
Next Saturday, we're having a party at Toy Tokyo in NYC to kick off all the new and great Transformers releases that are coming from TLS this year, and it's during Toy Fair. We're having a big party featuring 30 of today's best customizers and artists taking their hand at customizing the 8" Optimus Prime DIY figure from The Loyal Subjects. Each Custom piece also is accompanied by an original piece of art (painting, illustration, sculpture, etc). All things Transformers, celebrating the 30 Year Anniversary and the big year that is 2014 for Transformers.
We're also releasing an exclusive Transformers Hoodie (Zip Up Shockwave Hoodie) and Tee (Slag). Only 24 pieces avail on site. We're also debuting the 3" Ultra Magnus, blister carded - an edition of 500. Only 48 pieces available on site, along with the Cybertron 2 pack set and the Rainmakers Set (again only 48 of each set available at the show).
Some serious Hasbro heavy hitters are included in the show and definitely the super stars that work on Transformers - most notably John Warden, Joshua Lamb and Mark Maher.
This is going to be a great night so everyone should come out and have an amazing time. Beverages (including the ones we love) and snack will be on hand as well as a few surprises.
Let's do this!
But as the brand evolved over the years, the toys became more complex, some involving dozens of steps to complete a single transformation. In the eyes of Brian D. Goldner, Hasbro’s chief executive, they had lost their magic.
“We’ve made incredibly sophisticated robots,” he said, “but it can be like a 1,000-piece puzzle.”
Enthralled by the special effects in three big-budget “Transformers” movies that enabled the robots to convert in a matter of seconds, Mr. Goldner decided the toys needed to return to their roots. So he challenged his design team to reconceive them. Now, on the 30th anniversary of the brand, Hasbro is revealing a new look for the toys, including simple maneuvers that will complete a transformation with the push of a button or flick of the wrist.
The remake of the line, which includes new branding and packaging, is meant to coincide with Paramount Pictures’ release of the fourth movie in the franchise, “Transformers: Age of Extinction.” Retailers will get their first look at the line in London this week at Toy Fair, an annual industry trade show.
“Our retail partners, they are getting very excited,” said Joshua Lamb, the senior design director for the toy line. “This rethinking of the brand is setting the stage long-term.”
The toys are expected to land on retail shelves in May, a few weeks before the release of the movie. Hasbro says it will build on the promotion for the movie with a marketing campaign of its own that will include ads on television and in theaters as well as on digital platforms, like mobile and social media.
Hasbro will continue to make complex Transformers for adult fans who have collected the toys since their inception 30 years ago. But the new design is intended to re-engage parents and children, who found the transformations too challenging.
Ken Christiansen wrote:The request was to keep him a long nose, as he now appears in the film series, and if I remember right, that was just about it. Of course I ventured the question. "I don't have to put those flames on him, do I?" But I did keep in line with the movie logic of the long nose, giving him more mass to work with in robot mode, and we added in a roof fairing over the extended cab to build it out even more.
Q: Hi John. Robots in Disguise is almost a year old now. Has everything panned out as smoothly as you had hoped in the story you are telling?
JOHN BARBER: Hi! Well, we’ve stuck pretty close to the original ideas. New things have definitely cropped up, new ideas pop in all the time, but the essential story Andrew Griffith and I set out to tell over the first year or so has gone according to plan. Along the way there’ve been some nice synchronicities, some characters have asserted themselves in ways that either made them bigger characters or that changed the way the story unfolded, but overall, yeah.
Q: You’ve been trying to make sense of some continuity issues that have cropped up. Is this something you really wanted to try in fix from past TF comics?
JOHN BARBER: It’s not really that I set out to fix things as much as sometimes little continuity things suggest interesting stories or directions. Like, with Metalhawk—when More Than Meets The Eye writer James Roberts and I were working on The Death of Optimus Prime, James had come up with the notion of having a character be the de facto leader of the neutral Cybertronians who were returning home. I thought it’d be cool to use an existing Transformers character that we hadn’t seen yet—somebody that would have resonance with some fans, but it wouldn’t be essential that anybody know who he is.
We bounced some ideas between us and Andy Schmidt, who was the editor then, and to Michael Kelly at Hasbro. Eventually, James suggested Metalhawk. A quick internet search showed that Metalhawk had appeared in one panel in the Drift limited series. Or, anyway, somebody that looked an awful lot like Metalhawk was there. Alex Milne had drawn him in as, basically, a random ’bot. Nobody called him Metalhawk, he didn’t do anything particularly important. And it would have been pretty easy to just ignore that. And, honestly—and I know some fans vehemently disagree with what I’m about to say—I think it would have been fair to just write that off as “somebody that looks like Metalhawk” if it got in the way of the story.
But it got me thinking, and I thought it could be kind of cool if that were Metalhawk, and even though he’s only got that one panel in the Drift comic, that battle had actually been a key part of Metalhawk’s life. And that created an opportunity to bring Turmoil (who I think is an awesome character who deserved more of an on-panel life) back and have it mean something personal to somebody that Turmoil was around. So that panel just suggested some depth to the then-just-being-developed-in-current-continuity Metalhawk.
Hopefully, in practice, it doesn’t matter to the RID reader if they ever see that panel, but I think it’s fun that that panel is there. It creates a wider, more coherent tapestry of stories, without being obtrusive or stopping us from moving forward.
Q: After seeing all of the previous TF work, how hard did you find it get into the characters heads and come up with their voices and point of views?
JOHN BARBER: Well, over my life I’ve spent a fair amount of time with these characters—reading the comics, watching the cartoons and movies, playing with the toys when I was young—so I had some thoughts about the characters. There were some that, over the years, had been portrayed in ways that didn’t exactly match up all the way, which is just the reality of what happens when you have an ongoing comic book universe with different writers and artists playing in the same sandbox.
But, again, that was an opportunity. Real people do contradictory things, real people change their approaches over the years. We react differently to different situations. So I tried to use those different reactions and figure out what might make these particular iterations of these guys tick.
I tried to give the characters distinct points of view and voices based on what we’d seen them do over the course of all the IDW-published comics, and also what the sort-of “classic” versions of the characters are. I like using the big characters, and some of them have developed really interesting backstories, but that’s mostly how I view the previous stories, in practical storytelling terms. I mean, not that my stories are better, I just mean that as a writer, you have to focus on the story you’re telling, not a previous story. As a reader, you shouldn’t need to know the details of the character’s lives to follow what they’re doing now, or to enjoy them as characters… but if you do want to know about their life stories—a lot of it’s been published!
Q: Can you say much about your grand plan when you started writing RID? Did you have this time of peace on the re-born Cybertron well plotted out?
JOHN BARBER: Yeah, the big arc of the first year or so, definitely. It’s really about 16 issues that will get you a big climax to the story begun in issue 1. But not an end to the RID saga, I should add. That definitely keeps going!
Like I said, some of it changed a little, but the broad strokes are the same.
There were certain stories I wanted to hit—RID was never meant to be only about the political struggle. I wanted to have a story about somebody coming home trying to fit in on this world; a wilderness story; a story about the city surviving the changed environment of the planet. I feel like we did pretty well hitting those stories and still moving forward with a big, macro story about the power struggle in Iacon.
Q: Have you had to change or adapt how you write the stories, maybe based on something you’ve seen coming up in maybe an issue of More Than Meets the Eye (RID’s sister title)?
JOHN BARBER: We toss ideas back and forth all the time, James and I. So yeah, we’re constantly affecting what each other are doing. We’ve managed to not screw each other up, though, with our stories. If that’s what you mean.
Q: Have you found it difficult to keep a track of events in RID, especially with issues such as the time travelling space ship causing chaos (at least for the characters)?
JOHN BARBER: Yeah… it’s funny. I really intentionally focused in on five key players—Bumblebee, Ironhide, Prowl, Wheeljack, and Starscream—with Metalhawk playing a huge outsider role for most of the series. But as the series went on, a lot of other characters became important, too. So keeping track of where everybody is and where they wind up by issue 16 has been constantly on my mind.
Issue 10, with the time-traveling space-ship… that was it’s own beast. That was hard to keep track of on a totally different level. And I’m happy people came along for that ride.
Q: Is there any one stand-out moment from the first year of RID that you are most proud of over the others?
JOHN BARBER: Yes, but I can’t say what it is yet without giving things away.
Q: A certain character re-appears in issue 11 of RID. Had the return of this character been in your mind right from the very start?
JOHN BARBER: Yes, absolutely. Don’t miss today’s issue! Everything changes here.
Q: Between writing RID and editing the books across the TF license, would you say its one of the most challenging jobs you’ve done in comics?
JOHN BARBER: Sure, yeah. I mean, I edit more than just the Transformers comics, too—I work on G.I. Joe with Carlos Guzman, and on Dungeons & Dragons, and on a few other comics, too. So it’s a lot of good stuff to get to do. There’s definitely a lot of Transformers comics across a lot of timelines, but it’s a good challenge.
Q: Anything you can say about season 2 of RID? Can you say about possible happenings or characters that may reappear?
JOHN BARBER: Two words: purple reign.
Transformers: Robots in Disguise #11 Andrew Griffith Interview
As the Transformers: Robots in Disguise comic book series from IDW Publishing and Hasbro approaches the end of its first year, we thought we’d sit down with the series artist, Andrew Griffith, for his thoughts on the first nine issues of the series (the first five of which have been collected in a paperback) as well as the future of the series! Back issues (and last week’s giant-sized annual) are available at comic book stores everywhere, and digitally at http://read.idwpublishing.com/ —or download it on Comixology on your mobile device!
Q: Hi, Andrew. As we’re approaching the end of Robots in Disguise’s first year—how has it has been for you?
ANDREW GRIFFITH: Oh, it's been fantastic. I’m enjoying working on this book as much now as when I first began. I mean, nothing can beat the initial thrill of getting a call to take on the art chores for an ongoing Transformers series, but the fun and challenge of it has not dwindled a bit. I even recently tweeted the fact that it's been a year and a half since I got that call and I'm still as excited to be on the book now as I was then.
Q: You and writer John Barber have been working very closely on the look and feel on this book. Has it changed much from where you started out to where you are now?
ANDREW GRIFFITH: John Barber the writer? For a second, I was afraid you were asking me about the John Barber responsible for the development of rail gun technology. No really, look it up. Same name.
Parenthetical humor aside, John’s a dream to work with. We’ve been working together since July of 2010 when we started the Dark of the Moon movie prequel series Foundation, and I feel like it didn’t take us long at all to meld with each other’s storytelling ideas. I really notice as I read his scripts that he’s writing them specifically for me—he’s gotten to know what he has to detail out for me, and what he can let me take hold of and run with.
That man is writing so many different things now, as well as editing a few more, that I don’t know how he manages to keep each book straight—but working closely with him for so long I haven’t seen any less commitment or intensity from him on the part of RID. It’s kind of amazing. He just chugs right along. As far as the look and feel, I think it’s stayed pretty consistent over the issues. We’re really been trying to do some world building, with Iacon changing constantly as more ships arrive, ships are converted into buildings, and civilization takes hold. Meanwhile, this relatively settled section is surrounded by an entire planet that's been reborn and essentially unexplored. We've been working to establish a mix of strange structures naturally forming, ruined husks of ancient Cybertronian structures, and bizarre alien landscapes. Hopefully that comes across in the books.
Q: What characters have you been finding more of a challenge to draw, and do any of them come as a surprise to you? I bet there are some you can do with your eyes closed.
ANDREW GRIFFITH: I don’t know what it is, but for some reason whenever I draw a Sweep's decapitated head in RID (specifically in issue 5) it never looks right to me. Something about the boxiness of the helmet, I think.
Q: You did a different design for Starscream before going for the War for Cybertron designs. How many of the characters did you re-design that weren’t used?
ANDREW GRIFFITH: Well, truth to be told, not too many. I knew the series was going to feature Bumblebee, so my thought was to nail down (no pun intended) Bee’s look, and then base the aesthetic of the rest of the characters off of his appearance. I ended up doing about three Bumblebee designs that were never good enough that I’d want show them to anybody, and then I did some of characters like Prowl and Starscream. The Starscream one is the one you’re talking about, but looking back I don’t think the Prowl one would have worked well at all for his role in the series and I don’t know that I’d ever want to show him off. Just not a very good design in retrospect.
Q: Any stand out issues for you during this first year that surprised you?
ANDREW GRIFFITH: You know, I really enjoyed #4. When I first read that issue, I was instantly eager to draw it. On one level it read as a fairly straightforward action issue, but underneath there were a to of things going on, some of which has yet to be revealed to the reader. But I think eventually people will be able to look back at that issue and see it in a different light and say “ooooohhhhhhh.”
Q: Would you say that you’ve changed much as an artist during the year as you’ve done more and more issues?
ANDREW GRIFFITH: Well, I hope so. I always want to be improving as an artist. I definitely feel like I can confidently turn out a competent page at a faster rate than I could have at the beginning. And there are certain things I wish I would have drawn differently in the first few issues, like Bumblebee and Prowl’s heads. I don’t know what it is about Bee, if I’m not careful I just end up making his head wider and wider and wider.
Q: You went to San Diego Comic Con this year, met the fans, signed many things and talked giant robots. How’d you find it? Was it a fun experience?
ANDREW GRIFFITH: Well, I’ve gone to a number of conventions this year, and from all the fans I’ve talked to, they are all really excited about what is going on in Transfomers comics, so it's been really encouraging. That’s a very rewarding thing to hear, that what you're pouring your heart and soul and time into is being appreciated. The highlight of SDCC for me is always getting to see the people there that I never get to see otherwise, and getting to meet and talk with [legendary G.I. Joe writer] Larry Hama and [legendary Transformers writer] Flint Dille for example. But the best part was probably finally meeting John Barber and [editor] Carlos Guzman, who I’d been working closely with for two years by that point but had never met in person.
Q: From the characters you’ve designed for the series, which one of them would you like to see turned into a toy? If you were given the choice.
ANDREW GRIFFITH: I’m pretty happy with what I’ve come up with for the Constructicons, they retain enough of their G1 appearance while still looking like Cybertronian in nature. It’d be pretty awesome for me to see a Generations-line Devastator combiner based on them, similar to the combining Fall of Cybertron Bruticus toy that’s out.
Q: As we’re wrapping up the first year, there’s still to more issues to go until we hit #12. is there anything little snippets you can say without giving to much away?
ANDREW GRIFFITH: Well, I can’t say too much without IDW snipers placed across the street filling me with tranquilizers and shipping me off to Siberia, but I can promise that issues 11 to 15 are ones not to be missed. By the end of that arc, you'll have a lot of questions answered, some long unseen characters make an appearance, and some resolution to the first year’s over-arching story. Basically, it’s good stuff. I just hope I can draw it as well as it’s written.
Q: Heading into year 2, you’ve probably been talking with John Barber about the future. Anything you can say about what the fans could possibly expect?
ANDREW GRIFFITH: Yeah, we had a chance at SDCC to sit down and bounce ideas off of each other. A bit early to see if he uses any of mine. [Laughs] In all seriousness, one of the great things about John is how he’s so open to collaboration between us, and if he likes an idea I have, he’s not too proud to use it in the story. If it seems like I’m avoiding spoilers as far as where the story is going, I am. It’s hard to discuss it without giving too much away. But I will say that John and I are both excited about where things are headed.
PAGE 1- Ironhide is setting out the mission for this issue. It seems like Ironhide is changing as a character as much as Cybertron itself continues to evolve.
JOHN BARBER: Yeah, he’s evolving as he tries to make sense of the vision of the future that he had in “Chaos.” I wanted to make that something that really impacts the character. He’s still the old battle-ready roughneck, but he’s seen something that’s really changed his perception of the universe. And yeah, it’s continually changing—his ideas about what he saw—and we’re also seeing more aspects of what he know, and what he thinks.
ANDREW GRIFFITH: I was surprised you didn't ask about the obvious visual reference to the movie Patton, which I give full credit for to John. I think John's shown a real good handle on Ironhide's character, which is something worthy of note considering he's a battle-hardened and weary warrior who's been killed, resurrected and presented with a vision of where he ends up billions of years in the future. Whether or not what he saw is real or a dream, that's gotta leave a mark on a guy. And it's been fun to see old Ironhide explore his metaphysical side.
PAGES 2 and 3- The Dinobots are revealed along with Sky Lynx. As a team they appear to be a natural fit. What made you want to bring them back now and Sky Lynx, what draws you to him as a character.
JOHN BARBER: I love the Dinobots—I’ve never made any bones about that! (Er, get it? Bones? Dinosaurs? Sorry.) The thing that drew me to Sky Lynx is about 100 billion emails and phone calls from Andrew asking when he’d play a big role. What works here is that Lynx has such a different personality than the Dinobots. I mean, going back to his original G1 personality—we haven’t really seen him much in the IDW comics. I think he’s such an odd Transformer… people get drawn to him because he wasn’t a car or a jet that changes into a humanoid robot-mode… he’s a bird, he’s a cat, he’s a space shuttle, and he’s an odd combination of all those. I’d actually tried to get Mirage in this issue, too, after Andrew suggested it, but he didn’t really work. The story was better without him. No offence, because he’s a great character that I’d like to see more of—he just wasn’t playing out in the story the way he needed to.
ANDREW GRIFFITH- Did I lobby for Sky Lynx to play a bigger part? Really? Ok, OK. Yeah, it's coming back to me now. What can I say, I always enjoyed his toy and thought of all of the characters that have yet to make much of a mark on IDW's comics that he's one with a lot of room for exploration of his character. And yeah, when you see the Dinobots and Sky Lynx together, it does just somehow feel natural, doesn't it?
PAGE 4- Bumblebee reflects, quickly, on how far they’ve come since everyone returned to Cybertron. Has anything changed in the way the characters are reacting so far from how it was initially imagined?
JOHN BARBER: Sure—some characters have asserted themselves in different ways than I would have anticipated, but in the main, the idea here is that normal life now is so different than it has been for the past four million years. Even these quiet moments are full of frustrations and… is it hope? Is it impending doom?
ANDREW GRIFFITH: I'm actually impressed with how closely things are playing out compared to what John had originally discussed when I came onboard, in terms of the overall ideas and story arc. But of course as things have evolved and new ideas have come along, I think they story has only improved. Of course when you see the finished product in retrospect, I think it can affect how things go in the future. A specific character in the background might inspire John to write that character in to a scene later and add some depth to their initial appearance, for example. I can't say if that specifically has happened, but sometimes John has gone back and expanded on things I drew in of my own volition. It's great being able to contribute to the storytelling in that way.
PAGE 5- The prospect of new elections is looming, something which is being reflected across some nations on our own planet today. Have these events influenced the progress and possible outcome of this story thread?
JOHN BARBER: Not really specifically. I mean, this isn’t an analogue to any specific instance. It’s really about the idea of building a nation. The same problems occur over and over in history. It’s more about the exploration of the idea, not about any one place. Of course free elections are the right thing to do, but without the framework of a solid, stable government, they can make things worse, is the hard, terrible reality that Bee’s dealing with.
ANDREW GRIFFITH: As I've been drawing this series, I've looked to places like Deadwood or Rome (The TV series) for how a fairly primitive and unsettled city might be convincingly be portrayed, but I haven't really tried to allude to any specific contemporary political situation.
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