Hello you lovely folks! Here at Seibertron.com we've decided to go find some of the best names in the Transformers comics industry, to bring you some fresh information about the people behind the scenes. IDW have been nice enough to provide us with contact information for their legion of creators, and our first volunteer is none other than Andrew Griffith! Read the whole interview below.
Va'al - It's an honour for me to actually interview my first professional comics artist for a website, and who should it be if not Andrew Griffith, one of the minds (and hands) behind the highly popular current IDW ongoing Transformers: Robots in Disguise. Andrew, thank you for this opportunity and for your time! Before we get to what you do, let's find out more about you: How did you first get into Transformers?
Andrew - Well, I've been into Transformers for about as as long as anyone could be. I still remember my older brother coming home from school one day talking about this new toy everyone at his school was excited about. He was able to talk our parents into going to the nearest mall, and when we arrived it seemed like an entire row of the department store's toy section was displaying these cars, planes and machines that transformed into crazy looking robots. What more could an eight year old boy ask for? My parents were generous enough to buy my brother Prowl and to buy me what I found out later was a miscolored (red) Bumblebee.
By that point I had already been into comics a bit, and I remember soon after that we stopped at a bookstore that sold comic books, where I picked up G.I. Joe #24 and my brother decided on the very first issue of Transformers. I'd sneak into his room when he wasn't home and read that thing every chance I got. It just felt so alien and foreign too me, it really blew me away. (IDW Editor and RID scribe) John Barber and I have talked about that a number of times, how we had very similar impressions from reading Transformers #1 as a kid. (And man, that Bill Sienkiewicz cover is still one of my favorite Transformers images ever, just for the sheer epicness and alien-ness of how the Transformers are depicted.)
Soon after I discovered the toys and the comics, the cartoon show debuted in an after-school time slot on one of the few channels we had at the time, and from then on I was hooked.
Va'al - Schools seem to be the catalyst for a lot of fans' discovery of the brand! And as for most people, it looks like it was toys-comics-cartoons for you too. I can sense a tendency towards the artistic side of things more than anything though - were comics the highlight of your first years as a fan, or did you prefer other aspects more?
Andrew - Wow, hard for me to say what the highlight was now that I think about it. I was into the toys for most of the run. After the US line ended I had no idea they were still going in Europe as G1.5 or whatever they call it. Then G2 came out, and I think I got Jazz but that was it.
As far as the comics go, I had gotten a few of the early issues, but then my Aunt and Uncle got me a two year subscription for my birthday and that really cemented the US comics as part of my youth. At some point after they brought Optimus Prime back I stopped reading, just got into different things. But I came back about ten issues or so before it ended when Simon and Andrew were doing it, which was funny because neither I or anyone I knew in the States were aware that extra comics had been being made in the UK.
And the show? Yeah, getting up early before school to see it or coming home to find it on was anyways a treat.
Va'al - I have memories of getting up stupidly early to watch Transformers, but that was Beast Wars. Different generations (and different countries, too)! So your comics passion dwindled and was then relit by the Wildfur combination on the Marvel run - is that also when you found your own artistic streak?
Andrew - Well I wouldn't say my interest in comics dwindled. I just found myself reading different comics more often. My very first comic I ever purchased was Secret Wars 8, where Spider-Man first got his black costume. And after that I was always into Marvel stuff, including Transformers and Joe. I also read DC to a lesser extent. So whenever I wasn't picking up Transformers issues, I was still reading comics pretty regularly.
And I was drawing them. I first realized I could draw better than the average kid around Kindergarten. Most kids were drawing stick figures and I was realizing people had actual thickness and dimension to their forms. I'd always take an art class when I had the option, and spent a lot of free time drawing at home. I was always drawing comics of my own, and even made a submission or two to Marvel in high school. Looking back I can see why I was rejected. My stuff had potential, but I didn't know the first thing about putting together a good submission or knowing what to show.
But I was aware of my artistic interest pretty early on.
Va'al - I think I'm still one of those people who draws stick figures, unfortunately. But my idea is that the world needs artists and fans, and the two don't always need to overlap! So you were rejected with your early attempts to Marvel - when did the breakthrough arrive? What was your first, official, published work? How long until you became a regular creator?
Andrew - Well, I kind of gave up the idea for a bit of being a comic book artist after that. I cycled through areas of focus in school, including English Literature and writing, drama, and music but ended up back with art. I did a lot of fine art and really got into painting, took a good number of painting and figure drawing classes but ended up concentrating in Graphic Design so I could get a job.
And I did design for quite a while. Eventually I got married and had a pretty good life living in California, making a good living at a startup in San Francisco and pursuing a Master's at an art school there. Yet, I found I wasn't content doing design and instead I was yearning to draw comics again.
When news of the live-action Transformers movie came out, it reignited my passion in the franchise. I started reading the Mosaics and before I knew it I was taking part in that project; drawing, coloring or even writing some.
Josh and Shaun, who ran the Mosaics ended up in charge of a contest on the IDW forums designed to find IDW's "next cover artist." I took part in the contest and did much better than I ever expected. I didn't win, but I did pretty well and got some attention from some people at IDW. That same contest helped launch the careers of now-regular names in Transformers comics like Casey Coller and Joana Lafuente.
After that contest, I did a "cover" for the pitch Josh and Shaun did that turned into Spotlight: Jazz.
Around that time I started getting emails from IDW editors, and Denton Tipton hired me to do covers for IDW's "Best of UK" reprint series. I started on those covers, my very first being for City of Fear #1. While City of Fear may have been my first commissioned work, technically the cover for Spotlight: Jazz that I had done before City of Fear was my first pro work as it ended up being used as a cover for the book when it came out some months later.
After I got started on the covers, I ended up being brought in to help with inking duties on Defiance, the prequel book for Revenge of the Fallen.
After Defiance and the Best of UK ended, I was fortunate enough to get work from companies like Hasbro and Shout! Factory. I was blown away to get to work on DVD covers for the reissue of the G1 cartoon series that came out around 2009, including the art for the "Matrix of Leadership" box set.
That kind of work kept me busy for a bit, but I spent a long time after Defiance ended checking my email often hoping for some kind of work from IDW.
After some time passed, I sent in some newer samples to IDW and established contact with Andy Schmidt now that he was editor. It was good that I did so because almost immediately they brought me in to help ink Last Stand of the Wreckers, another proud point in my career. Getting to work on one of the best received Transformers comics ever is definitely something I'm proud of.
They must have been happy with my efforts because my next assignment for IDW was getting to work on Foundation with John Barber.
Va'al - The live-action films were definitely a pivotal moment in the life of the franchise, whatever opinion people have about them. So you've been inker, cover, DVD and box artist before getting into your own inside art. How does it feel to work with the others as part of the same creative team? How much do you all influence each other, between colourists, pencillers, inkers, writers and editors? Is it any different from when you started in those same roles?
Andrew - Yeah, when I say the movies reignited my passion, I'm talking about around 2006, early 2007 when news was coming out about a movie getting made.
Well, being an inker can be an interesting experience, because it can be an entirely different thing depending on who you are inking. Nick Roche was a joy to ink, his pencils on Wreckers were very tight and I somehow felt like I was able to be expressive while still staying true to his style. And he was very communicative during the process. He really seemed to be happy with what I did.
The challenge of doing the box art was the difficulty in capturing the feel of the 80s cartoon art without making it look ridiculous. And what I mean by that is if you take a single freeze frame of the animation it usually looks very poorly drawn with very simple designs, yet when you see them in progression you can overlook some of those flaws. By the time I got to the Headmasters, Victory and Masterforce covers I think I had developed a style that worked pretty well to handle that problem.
Now that I work as the penciller and inker, or sometimes with an inker, it really ends up as a collaborative experience with John and Josh. John is very generous about hearing my input on his stories, and even takes my ideas and runs with them when they work or can improve what he's doing. He's been great to work with, and he knows when to tell me if there are specific details he need shown, or when to step back and say "just do what works." And Josh is probably my next closest collaborator. I feel like we've really gotten to know how each other's style better and better as we've gone along on RID. And when we have an inker like Brian Shearer on it seems like he fits right in, and everyone has a good sense of humor and you never know who's going to make a joke in an email at just the right time to take the stress away a little while we're trying to make a deadline. Usually it's Carlos. (The editor.)
Va'al - It's good to hear about the mutual appreciation you each have for each other, also with the editors. The results are always more than pleasing, and knowing that you all have fun making an issue makes it even more enjoyable! Robots in Disguise, the series you are currently working on, has reached a big turning point, with the new event - Dark Cybertron - about to really begin: do you have any teasers you're allowed to talk about? Or about the future of the series?
Andrew - Well, I think I should probably hold off on any tidbits for Dark Cybertron until IDW has a chance to make some reveals at BotCon in a few weeks.
I'm working on it right now though, and one thing I can definitely say is that Shockwave is definitely a main player in the story. And personally, I think fans who have been following the IDW continuity for a while now will be very pleasantly surprised with what James and John are cooking up.
Va'al - Ah, not spoiling anything, are you. Our readers should stay tuned for the Seibertron.com BotCon coverage, if they cannot make it to the event itself (like myself, sadly). Speaking of conventions, you've just been added to the IDW VIP BotCon tour, and you'll be attending Auto Assembly in the UK -- how does it feel to be a guest at such a big event, where people are turning up especially to see you?
Andrew - I was recently at Wizard World Philadelphia as a guest and as part of Artist Alley, and I had more than one person come up and tell me that they came to the show just because I would be there. That's a very flattering and humbling thing to hear, and I am very conscious of the fact that these fans pay good money to come to these events in order to see myself and others. So I'm quite happy to sign books, or put a little extra effort into a commission or sketch.
Without the fans, we wouldn't have the opportunity to do this kind of work. Which is another reason I try to not take criticisms too personally. People are paying hard-earned money to read the books and pay for convention and VIP tour tickets, so they have every right to be critical if they feel the content isn't as good as it could or should be.
BotCon and Auto Assembly are two of the events I'm looking most forward to this summer. Always nice to meet and interact with other Transformers fans and to get to spend time with the other creators, just too many good people to list here that I'm looking forward to seeing. The VIP Tour looks to be a once in a lifetime chance for any Transformers comics fan who is coming out to it.
Va'al - Auto Assembly is something I'm really excited about too! The VIP tour sounds amazing, but it's in completely the wrong country for me at the moment. And I'm glad you pointed out the criticism issue - as a comics reviewer, I was a little nervous about talking to you. For no reason though, as this has been a really nice chat! Andrew, before we leave, one more question: you are now one of the people that fans go see at conventions, but are there any fandoms you are still a part of from this side of the fence? How deep does your inner geek go?
Andrew - Well my inner geek spreads pretty wide. I'm a big fan of a lot of geeky things when I think about it. I still collect comics. I love plenty of geeky movies. From Star Wars, to Star Trek, to Superhero movies, I enjoy them all. I geek out over scientific discoveries, or reading Stephen Hawking, or noticing a "Nikola Tesla died here" plaque on the New Yorker building in NYC. I'm even kind of a fanboy to things like Shakespeare and Renaissance artists. I love Woody Allen movies. I was (and still am to some degree) a huge music geek and always loved finding a great new record shop or radio station.
A few years ago when I did those DVD covers, I did a signing at San Diego Comic Con with Gregg Berger (who I don't have to tell any TF fans was the voice of Grimlock) and Earl Kress (writer of G1 episode B.O.T. and creator of Pinky and the Brain, and sadly no longer with us) as Leonard Nimoy was doing a signing a booth down from us. That's the kind of thing I can geek out over, especially as Greg Berger is plenty willing to do the Grimlock voice on request.
Va'al - There you have it: you never really stop being a fan. Andrew, thank you again for sitting down 'with' me and bearing through all the questions and time you've dedicated to our readers. It has been a pleasure! Any last words for the Seibertron.com community (and the rest of the Transformers fandom)?
Andrew - Boy... just keep reading! Keep enjoying and keep supporting the brand. Keep coming out to the conventions and saying hello. If you're coming to Botcon at the end of the month I'll be at the show. I won't be doing Artist Alley, but I'll be doing the IDW VIP Tour as well as the IDW panel. I'll probably do some appearances at the IDW booth too. And then about a month later I'll be at Auto Assembly the whole weekend, and will probably have some things to announce for that in the future.
Looking forward to seeing anyone who comes out!
And thanks for having me for an interview. I'd come back anytime.
For a look at more of Andrew's work, visit his deviantART page, follow him on Twitter or say hi to him in person at BotCon or Auto Assembly! And keep your peripherals tuned to Seibertron.com for our next interview, just in time for BotCon, too!
To coincide with today's release of IDW Publishing's Transformers: Monstrosity #7 the official Transformers facebook page has shared an interview with series artist Livio Ramondelli. He hints that there's a good chance a third digital series will be coming are way after the conclusion of the Monstrosity series. We've mirrored the interview below for those without facebook access.
Click here to download Transformers: Monstrosity #7.
Q:We’re halfway through MONSTROSITY. The first series that you worked on withChris Metzen and Flint Dille, AUTOCRACY, focused on Orion Pax becoming OptimusPrime. Why did the focus was shift to Megatron and what happens to him, whileshowing bits and pieces of Prime on Cybertron?
LIVIO RAMONDELLI: Itfelt like a natural progression in the story to shift things a bit more toMegatron’s story. He suffered a big defeat at the end of AUTOCRACY, and soseeing how his followers respond to that interested us. Plus, we wanted tocontrast that against Prime having a more political battle ahead of him, andshowing the hardships of leadership for a divided world.
Q:Megatron has obviously suffered prior to the series and gone through a littleredesign? How did you come to the design we see him in now?
LIVIO RAMONDELLI: Weknew that he’d repair himself with pieces he’d scavenged on Junkion, and so wedefinitely wanted him to be asymmetrical. By the end of his time on that world,he’s almost unrecognizable as Megatron… his colors have rusted and hisDecepticon logo has burned away. He really needs to find himself once again,essentially.
Q:There have been a few new characters making themselves know so far in theseries. What led to those characters coming into the series rather than others?Are any of them you just wanted to see in there?
LIVIO RAMONDELLI: Absolutely.Trypticon, Sharkticons and Quintessons were the ones I most wanted to include.I felt like they lent themselves well to the story we wanted to tell, and theyadded a more monstrous side. We knew they’d be in there from way early on. Andthen others like Dai Atlas and Bulkhead grew organically from the story, wherewe felt like we had a place for them that also felt natural.
Q:The Dynobots are going though a bit of a journey in the series. What is itabout this team that makes you want to creative something with them involvedafter all the previous material with them involved?
LIVIO RAMONDELLI: Ithink they’re a very classic part of the TF universe. Funny enough, they’re allover the place now in the various games and the TV shows, but when we firstdecided to use them they weren’t really around. And as Chris said it, MONSTROSITYis about a man becoming a monster (Megatron), and a monster becoming a man(Grimlock). I always loved that.
Q:We have the Quintessons making their first real appearance in the IDW universe,after being previously teased at the end of SPOTLIGHT: WHEELIE in 2008. Was thisa deliberate nod to the 1986 TRANSFORMERS animated movie (after the nods we sawin AUTOCRACY)?
LIVIO RAMONDELLI: Nota deliberate nod, exactly, since we use the Quintession Pentius in a verydifferent way, here. Though, of course, we drew from the movie since, visually,we felt there were some great things we could do that hadn’t been seen in [the IDWcomics] before. And we wanted to certainly tease the Quintessons without givingtoo much information about their race… certainly leaving more to be revealedabout them in future stories.
Q:Taking into account what you established in Autocracy, was there much researchthat had to be done about Megatron to see what was already established abouthim in the IDW world so you could figure him out?
LIVIO RAMONDELLI: MEGATRON:ORIGIN is a big favorite of mine, and so I knew a lot of his history prettywell. And then of course James wrote the great “Chaos Theory,” which furtheradded to it. Our take on him is meant to reflect those but also portray him asincreasingly dangerous… a truly growing threat. [Editor] John [Barber] is greatat jumping in and suggesting things or filling us in on some continuity we mayhave missed.
Q:With Dai Atlas, he has some backstory in the IDW universe, but also some gaps.When figuring out his role in this story, do you think it was the intention toshow he was more than we previously may have thought? He’s proven to be a hellof a fighter.
LIVIO RAMONDELLI: Wecertainly wanted to shed more light on him. And also, TRANSFORMERS: ROBOTS INDISGUISE #17 that I did with John [also on sale today!] will also give us bigmoments with him in the past. I think he was perfect to use in this prequelbecause we know he left Cybertron… and now we get to see the why and how of it.And there’s a sadness to seeing him and Prime trying to work things out becausewe know it doesn’t succeed. Their final moment together in Monstrosity is anemotional favorite of mine.
Q:Given that you worked with Flint and Chris before, has the creative processbeen any smoother for you all this time around, now you know how each otherbetter?
LIVIO RAMONDELLI: We’remuch closer just as friends by this point. In AUTOCRACY, it was really theirstory and I was coming in to draw it. But they embraced me warmly, and let mereally suggest a lot of stuff… it was the most fun I’ve ever had in my career.And now with this current series, it’s only gotten better. It’s a truecollaboration and I feel very much a part of the story. Chris and Flint areawesome guys, and I’m very thankful for their generosity and friendship.
Q:What is your favorite stage of the creative process when putting the seriestogether?
LIVIO RAMONDELLI: There’sa few… I love the early stages of just chatting about any insane idea andseeing if we can connect the dots. I also love when the issues start coming outand the reader responses arrive. And then finally finishing a series is a veryrewarding moment since you know that story will live on forever and hopefullybe passed around to new readers.
Q:Would you say working in a digital format, with less page space than a regularcomic, is a plus or a minus point for both you?
LIVIO RAMONDELLI: It’sboth. Certainly, there are times it can be a minus because you want to do bigmoney shots and sometimes don’t have the space. But as a plus, it makes usreally concentrate on the screen time and make every moment count. As a result,I think the pacing in these issues feels very fulfilling… we cover a lot ofstory and readers seem to really love that.
Q:Tease us about future issues of MONSTROSITY. What would you like to say aboutthe series to anyone looking to pick it up for the first time?
LIVIO RAMONDELLI: Obviously,the revelation that Trypticon has been discovered is a huge clue for the restof the series. We wouldn’t show something like that and have it not wake up.And we’re aiming for a level of destruction with Trypticon that hasn’t beenseen before. Optimus Prime will really be put to the test, as he has beenthroughout the series. Megatron will of course return to deal with his betrayalat Scorponok’s hands… and he isn’t the merciful kind.
And for anyone who hasn’t read ityet… I’d say it’s the story of a world coming apart at the seams, showing how asociety can destroy everything they love and not even be fully aware of it.
Q:Can you see the story that you’re telling branching out even further into thewar, maybe offering up a third digital series after this one?
LIVIO RAMONDELLI: Withoutsaying too much… I think there’s a very good possibility…
The lovely people behind the official Transformers Facebook page have been able to sit down with Simon Furman, and talked about today's release from IDW: ReGeneration One 91! Read the full commentary below, and make sure to pick up a (digital or print) copy. You can also read our review here!
TRANSFORMERS: REGENERATION ONE #91—the comic book that continues the original 1984 TRANSFORMERS series, courtesy IDW Publishing and Hasbro—launches an all-new story arc! “DESTINY” part one sets the stage, as BLUDGEON and SOUNDWAVE launch their ultimate assault against the universe, thanks to legendary writer Simon Furman—who we sat down with for a brief chat!—and artist Andrew Wildman. TRANSFORMERS: REGENERATION ONE #91 is out now at comic book stores everywhere, and for download at https://transformers.comixology.com/ or via the Comixology and iBooks apps on your computer or mobile device)!
PAGE 1: We’re on the world of Cresta Superior, with some beetle-like war machines in operation. What was your inspiration on the design of these machines? Did you have a specific look in mind or did you let artist Andrew Wildman design what he thought would work best?
SIMON FURMAN: A lot of the design of Bludgeon’s Blitz Engines comes (naturally enough) from Andrew. But of course I threw a bunch of ideas into the mix in the script too. My main requirement was that they in no way appeared humanoid. We went that route in Generation 2 (in which there’s a parallel story of Bludgeon and Matrix-infused clone troopers, one of a few G2 elements that are finding their way into the REGENERATION ONE mix… another big one of those says hi this very issue!), and I wanted these to be visually distinct and just generally big, threatening and armed to teeth.
They’re siege engines, tanks on legs basically. And Andrew took that and ran with it, creating these almost crab-like mechs that really look like they can just plough through anything (and anyone) in their way. They’re going to get a lot of action in #94-95, and to have even the slightest hope of combating them, the Autobots are going to have to wheel out a really BIG gun of their own.
PAGE 2: The machines are slaughtering the humanoid soldiers and breaking their way through into their base. Cresta Superior is a brand new world in TRANSFORMERS. Why create something new instead of using a previously established world for this scene?
SIMON FURMAN: One criticism I’ve seen leveled at RG1 is that we’re very focused down on just three worlds (Cybertron, Earth and Nebulos… and there’s a reason for that, trust me, which will become apparent in the final arc), so I took the opportunity to just remind readers that there are other worlds (and other mech species) out there (again, something that will form a big plot-point in the final arc), and lay in the idea that there are vast distances and gulfs of outer space that while maybe mapped aren’t well travelled or continually on the Cybertronian radar. Remember, a lot of RG1 (initially) was about Optimus Prime having (disastrously) taken his eye off the ball, allowed his sphere of awareness to focus too much on Cybertron (to the exclusion of all else). The business with Earth (and to an extent Nebulos) is going to turn out to be quite a micro-failing compared to what’s been happening out in the wider (macro-) universe.
PAGE 3: Bludgeon and Soundwave are talking, and we’re seeing that the machines are called Blitz Engines and are Bludgeon’s creations. Tell us about where Bludgeon is coming from in his point of view and how he sees the universe. And what he believes should happen to it.
SIMON FURMAN: Bludgeon’s a complex character. He has this whole martial arts style warrior code he adheres to (more or less) that skews his conventional motivations. Bludgeon is much more concerned with his wider legacy and how he’ll be regarded (by future generations) than the here and now. So while his current goal seems straightforward (return to Cybertron and the conquest of the same), it’s much more layered. Bludgeon believes in predestination, and that if that destiny is not forthcoming he must force the issue. He sees this life as merely stepping-stone to another (greater) destiny, and that makes him incredibly dangerous. Death holds no fear for him. Maybe even attracts him?
PAGE 4: Soundwave and Bludgeon are discussing their future plans, which would appear to involve Thunderwing. Even though Soundwave and Bludgeon are Decepticons and on the same side, are they really fighting for the same common cause or pursuing two very different agendas here?
SIMON FURMAN: There’s a certain amount of crossover in Bludgeon’s and Soundwave’s motivations/goals, but there’s also a whole side to what Bludgeon wants that Soundwave isn’t privy to. Soundwave is all about keeping Megatron’s banner raised over Cybertron, even post-mortem, whereas Bludgeon wants… well, that’d be telling.
PAGE 5: Looking at the aftermath of what Scorponok was doing in the previous issues. Is everything really back to normal on Cybertron? Can these guys just go back to the way things were before events of war took their toll on the population again?
SIMON FURMAN: I think that irrevocable damage has been done by Scorponok’s gene-engineering, but it’s not insurmountable. Part of the reason I wanted to do that particular arc was to show what a tenuous hold the Autobots have on the “heroic” side of their nature, that (actually) every day is a battle to hold onto the values and moral ideals they live by. (Grimlock, for example, walks that line a little more visibly.) They’re supremely powerful beings, appointed guardians/custodians of the entire universe. How could that degree of power, responsibility and status not go to your head? So every day is a struggle to keep on the side of right and virtue, and thanks to Scorponok that struggle is a little tougher, a little more evident.
The Seibertron.com member spotlights continue as my latest interview subject is a veteran site member from the Netherlands. Check out my interview with member alldarker, as we discuss everything from his devoted Generation One toy collection, to the new Generations Blitzwing and Springer, transitioning to IDW's Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye and even ending up at Seibertron.com's browser game, Heavy Metal War!
Q - Hi alldarker, good to have you here! For those who don't know you all too well, mind giving us some of your history with a little Transformers Spotlight: alldarker?
Hey Blurrz, thanks for having me! Back in 1984, my family moved to England for a couple of years, so I went to school in England, right when Transformers hit. I was only 9, but I remember my first experience with Transformers well: a friend brought Grimlock to school and showed him off. I wanted to hold him myself, of course, so I bragged that I could transform him without instructions. It went pretty well, until I got to his chest. My friend eventually had to show me how his chest moved upwards. Man, Grimlock just looked so cool. Of course, for my next birthday I also asked my parents for a Transformer. I was actually allowed to pick one out myself, and I chose Thundercracker (although even my parents liked the look of Dinobots more). I still sort of regret that choice: I should have gone for Grimlock or Sludge... Although I did get Slag for Christmas a little later.
I have to admit, in those years I ended up being into M.A.S.K. more than into Transformers, so I never had many TF's back then, and the ones I did get were pretty lackluster (Groove, Skydive, Flywheels), so I sort of lost touch. I also did not follow any of the fiction back then, so the concept of 'Cybertronian modes' really put me off when Hasbro moved to original designs instead of the Diaclone-based real world vehicle alt modes. When I went to university, I only kept my M.A.S.K. collection, and my few Transformers all went to charity.
It was Beast Wars that got me back. Optimus Primal just looked so cool and poseable, and his gimmicks were incredible! I bought him and Polar Claw as my first two BW Transformers, and soon wanted more. This was of course way before the Internet was a thing, so with my free student travel-card I traveled all over the Netherlands (we had moved back in 1988) to find Beast Wars TFs. The Transmetals were even nicer than the first year toys, so I often went toy-hunting instead of studying...
This was actually around the time that it was becoming increasingly difficult to find consecutive lines of Transformers in Dutch shops: computer games and consoles were definitely starting to take over and Transformers were shelf-warming: you could often find first season Beast Wars figures on the pegs years after they'd been introduced, while new series were being ordered less and less. As a student I needed to graduate and it was becoming expensive to find new Transformers, so I once again stopped collecting.
The RiD Car Brothers amazed me when I first saw them: not only were they vehicles again, but they were highly poseable! I had to get them, at inflated prices, from an import store. They were however probably the only TF's I bought in the period between 20000 and 2007: it was a period in which I focused mostly on getting my degree and on finishing up my M.A.S.K. collection (both of which feats of which I am still proud).
Once again though, my interest was rekindled in 2007 by the TF movie. This time I had a job, so it was a lot easier to buy them, and toy stores were once again stocking up on Transformers for the first time in years. Although I did enjoy some of the movie molds, I realized that they weren't the Transformers of my youth (why wasn't Ironhide red!!!), and I started to browse the internet for the G1 Transformers that I'd always wanted but never had. One thing led to another and soon I'd started a pretty nice G1 collection, all the while finding new Transformers to want, including the Japanese-only G1 TF's which I had never realized were also seriously nice (and buying them whenever I had the chance and available resources). Since 2007, I've also finally gotten around to the fiction (cartoons and comics), which has really enriched my understanding of both characters and toys, and made me appreciate the whole Cybertronian aspect of TF's.
Alldarker's Star Saber
Q - You've amassed quite the large Transformers collection. Out of all the figures you own, which one is your favorite, and why?
A large collection... Well, when I look at other people's collections, some of which run into thousands, the size of my collection seems pretty average. I use Shmax.com to catalogue my collection, and it says I have about 350 figures: 300 of which are G1.
My favorite figure is one of the first ones I ever bought online: G1 Scorponok. He's got everything that makes any toy look good: he's big, he's got the Headmaster gimmick, he's got a 'secret' compartment, he's a base, he's a triplechanger. I'm sure I would have loved having this toy when I was a kid, but even as an adult I can marvel at his qualities. Funnily enough, it was only after I had received Scorponok that I even found out about the moving scorpion legs feature it has. And due to getting into the fiction at a relatively late stage, I only really found out about his important role in the G1 comics after I had gotten him. That knowledge added to his coolness: Scorponok is not only a great figure, but he's also a very interesting character, a Decepticon leader who redeems himself and is not just purely evil.
Scorponok was also the figure which made me appreciate the blockier 1987 Transformers a lot more: in fact the Headmasters (both big and small) have become my favorite subgroup. Ironic perhaps, considering it was those blocky, unrealistic, primary colored Transformers which turned me off Transformers back in 1987!
Q - I guess it is safe to ask, have you ordered Encore 23 Fortress Maximus? How much does it mean to you, for you to finally own this plastic beast? And despite how big Fort Max is, is there a holy grail of Transformers figures out there for you?
When word got out that an actual reissue of Fortress Maximus would be happening, like many others I was ecstatic. I'd never expected to ever own him; I'd never even tried to find one because the vintage ones available were always either too expensive, incomplete, broken or yellowed (and often all four of those at the same time). I'll be honest, I do actually already own the Maximus mold in the form of Brave Maximus, which made an aching desire for Fortress Maximus a bit less painful. Although Fortress Maximus has the extra accessories, Brave Max definitely wins out on the color scheme. However, I'm also slightly ashamed to say that my Brave Max is still tied up on the cardboard and factory fresh in my storage unit. That fate would definitely not happen to Encore Fortress Max, though...
So yeah, once pre-orders for Encore Fortress Maximus went up, I ordered him on day one of availability, back in October of last year. After those 5 months of waiting, I finally received him two weeks ago, and I'll tell you, I was looking forward to Fortress Maximus's arrival day like I used to look forward to my birthday when I was a kid!!! Finally being able to take him out of the box, seeing that beast up close, holding him and almost literally wrestling with him to transform him was just such a pleasure. I even enjoyed stickering him up: I find it makes you really get to know a Transformer and its details. And there's quite a lot to admire on a Transformer as big as he is! So Fortress Maximus is the first real hands on experience for me with his form. And he is just glorious.
Alldarker's Fortress Maximus!
Fortress Maximus was never really a 'holy grail of Transformers' though. I never expected to own him, but like I said, I also never really had the ambition to own him either, until he became readily available as a reissue. However, there are still a couple of Transformers which I'd really, REALLY love to own one day. They are actually all Japanese Transformers, which makes just finding them available in a good condition difficult, let alone for a price I'd be willing to pay. First of these is Dinoking. While I realize that even the sum of his parts still makes a puny combined Transformer, considering the money he goes for, I just love the dino-shells and the color schemes. Luckily, I do have Monstructor which is all sorts of fun in his own way (except that darn GPS), but having Dinoking alongside him... Oh yes, one day, I hope. And secondly, I'd love to acquire his boss, Deszaras (Deathsaurus). All that chrome, the Breastmasters... When I was young I would have found him completely ridiculous, but nowadays he's definitely a Transformer I'd be willing to lay down some cold hard cash for. Of course, if Takara would also consider reissuing those two... They'd certainly get my fond blessing and my money!
Q- You have quite the passion for Generation One toys, a passion that many fans here on this site can relate to. Most fans of the G1 series have translated their passion by making their collections more focused on the Classics figures. What made you stick with the G1 toyline? What role does the Classics/Universe/Generations and Masterpiece toylines play in your collection?
Yeah, Generation One has become my main collecting focus, but I do still very much appreciate the Classics/Universe/Generations/Henkei/United (and I hope I can be forgiven for using CHUG from here on!) toys that have been heavily inspired by G1, and also the Masterpieces.
When the CHUG toys first came out they just looked amazing. Finally Hasbro and Takara were giving a real tribute to the Generation One toys, and acknowledging both children AND the generations that had grown up in the '80's and '90's as customers.
I personally was especially interested in the Classic Seekers, which in my eyes were just a huge improvement on the Generation One jets (molds which to this day I just do not really enjoy). I managed to get Starscream, Ramjet and the Skywarp/Ultra Magnus set, before the whole Botcon Games of Deception fiasco disillusioned me into ever getting a complete set of Classics Seekers. So I sold them all off (including the Skywarp / UM set!) and invested in the six Henkei Seekers. Even so, I never really became a completionist with the Classics line, so I only ever picked out the molds that really caught my eye or looked like strong improvements on their vintage counterparts, like Tracks, Jazz, Blurr and Kup. But, to be honest there were many 'CHUG's I never bothered to find, often because I was happy enough with the G1 version. Actually, this is where I have to again complain about Hasbro's total and utter lack of decent distribution in the Netherlands and Europe. I know in the US Hasbro distribution is also pretty poor, but here in the Netherlands, we only ever saw some distribution of the first Classics and Universe waves. It meant that I needed to import stuff at double the cost one would pay in the US, and that sort of forces you to be pretty picky in the molds you want. On the other hand, importing the Takara versions from Japan usually wasn't that much more expensive than importing from the US, while (especially in the first years) the Takara versions often looked better (even with the chrome overdoses!).
I only got into the Masterpieces pretty late in the game. For a long time, the only Masterpiece I owned was the original Takara MP-07 Thundercracker, an incredible grown-up version of my own very first G1 Transformer. However, I never really fell for the first MP Optimus Prime or for Megatron, and in hindsight, I guess I made a wise choice in not getting them. I also never got any version of Grimlock; in fact the first time I was tempted by another Masterpiece was when the pre-orders for Rodimus Prime went up. I had a pre-order in, but cancelled it even before the first reports came out of its poor quality and fragile nature. Once again I felt I made the right choice in not investing in the MP line. Then, when first MP-10 was shown, and relatively soon afterwards MP-11 to MP-16, I was just amazed. They all looked like they'd just stepped out of their G1 box-art. And I just knew I needed them!
To be fair, I can actually totally understand the people who feel that CHUG and even more so Masterpieces have over-classed their vintage ancestors. Many G1 toys were bricks... But I guess they look better to me through the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia. Without it, I'm sure I too would not find G1 Transformers very interesting any more. I guess I could compare it to the way I feel about Masters of the Universe. Some people grew up with them and still love Masters of the Universe toys. However, I never had any MotU toys as a kid, I never really enjoyed the cartoons and so personally, I just do not see the attraction.
But even though I had only a few Transformers when I was a kid, I do remember peering at the booklets showing all the toys, imagining how they'd al transform, how they'd look together, how they'd feel... And that still makes me love the original vintage Generation One toys to this day, as flawed as some most certainly are! I guess that's also the real attraction of the Masterpieces for me: they are like 3D images of the original box-art. They are the way the G1 'bricks' could only ever look in your wildest imagination. I guess Masterpieces are just a tribute to the man-child in each of us: with technology compensating the loss of our childish imagination that used to be able to make those G1 'bricks' come alive. The same goes for the Classics/Universe/Generations/Henkei/United/etc. toys: I like them because they are such creative re-imaginations of their G1 counterparts.
Q - Great insight! Lets say there is a fan in the Netherlands, who got into Transformers in the 80's and 90's, but never really had interest in collecting toys until now. As a savvy collecting veteran, what would you suggest to them to help start them off?
Generally speaking, collecting Transformers in the Netherlands is always going to be a pricy hobby, due to having to import a lot of stuff, especially newer Transformers. Although we used to have brick and mortar Toys 'R' Us stores here, they have all gone, so there's not even access to the TRU exclusives, including the Masterpieces, which do incidentally shown up in the UK. In other toy stores, you'd be lucky to find one or two TFPrime Transformers, some Activators and Bot Shots... It's pathetic.
However, although Hasbro has very little presence in the shops here, there are still good opportunities for new Dutch collectors. On our Dutch version of Craigslists (Marktplaats.nl) people do often offer interesting stuff from all era's of Transformers, sometimes for exorbitant prices, but sometime for very reasonable prices as well. Furthermore, twice yearly there are huge collectors fairs in Utrecht, which always include a whole hall dedicated to professional sellers of all sorts of good quality toys from past and present. Furthermore, the Dutch collectors community isn't huge and there are frequent get-togethers (like the B.O.T.S. Convention on June 9th in Aalsmeer), which also offer excellent opportunities for getting to know other fans and buying stuff. And of course there's eBay, which offers everything, although at a price. In the past, Dutch people have always been hesitant to get credit cards: even many shops and supermarkets do not accept credit cards here, but as far as I'm concerned, having a CC makes it a lot easier to acquire Transformers by way of the internet. And one more tip: despite some wonderful US-based internet retailers with access to almost every new Transformer that gets released from both the US and Japan, for us Europeans it's always going to be cheaper to import Japanese Transformers directly from Japan and Hong Kong, and US Transformers from the US!
Q- There are two figures that are showing up worldwide this month, and they are representations of characters that many fans have clamored for ever since the beginning of Classics in 2006. They are Blitzwing and Springer; what do you think of the two? Will you end up obtaining them?
That's an interesting question, to which I haven't got a definite answer. A couple of years ago would definitely have said yes. But nowadays, I am not so sure.
Firstly, G1 Blitzwing has always been a favorite toy of mine: he's probably the best G1 Triplechanger from that era, with both alt modes being recognizable real-life vehicles. However, I'm just not too keen on how the new version of Blitzwing looks. With what the Masterpieces have already shown us, I would have been hoping for some better defined alt modes, each one hiding away more of the other modes than what we have now. I've also read his reviews quite keenly, and it seems that Generations Blitzwing's quality control is a bit off. I guess that I might get him if he made to a brick & mortar store, but I'd don't think I'd take the trouble to import him through the internet.
The new Generations Springer definitely looks excellent from what I've seen, with both alt modes and the robot mode all very convincing. He really IS Springer, and I guess more so than FP Defender, which I did buy, and who looks good enough, but which does have some weird design issues. Again, the choice is influenced by how easy it will be to find him: I'd rather not pay over double US retail to get him to the Netherlands! But he's definitely tempting me the most out of these two.
I guess this question ties in with myself becoming less influenced by hypes that will take over in Transformers fandom. I've fallen victim to Transformers-hypes in the past, including buying early samples of the TFTM toys and several third party Transformers, just to be able to see what people were raving about. And as always, some hypes are justified, while some really just aren't.
I've found I've become a happier collector in relying more on my personal preferences and choices of molds to get, instead of depending on the hype of the month: I check out more reviews and judge new Transformers based on personal preferences, and based on that I decide which Transformers really appeal to me. I'm especially glad that I'm no longer a completionist when it comes to lines or series: not for G1, not for Masterpieces and not for Classics. It definitely makes collecting less stressful!
Q- That's certainly a hardy collecting mentality! One last set of toy related questions before we move on to other aspects of the fandom. There has been a craze going on recently, and I suppose it all started with the BotCon '11 set - that being G2 inspired repaints. Do you enjoy the effort put in from Hasbro and Takara, or are these just 'easy' repaints? Does G2 deserve the spotlight or is it better left in the dark?
Although I really couldn't appreciate the colorschemes back when it 'happened', G2 did have quite a strong presence in Europe. Even now, original G2 toys are easy to and cheap to find. As time went by, I've learned to like the gaudy colors: and despite the colors, some very fun toys were introduced back in those days.
So I have to admit I do actually really enjoy the new G2 repaints. And although I've never been to Botcon (but would certainly like to someday), I did get that 2011 Botcon set through eBay, and I feel it is actually a pretty good set (although many of the repaints aren't technically G2). I even picked up the Botcon Rapido/Cindersaur set due to liking both the original Rapido toy and the way they repainted the Universe Bluestreak mold into Timelines Rapido.
So yeah, in an age where repaints are pretty essential for making Takara and Hasbro's new molds economically viable, I certainly do approve of G2.
Alldarker's G2 Clench
Q - Do you have a favorite Transformers cartoon series? Specifically a favorite episode?
I'm ashamed to admit I've yet to watch either Animated or TFPrime, let alone the Armada, Energon and Cybertron cartoons (although I've understood they're best left unseen), so there's still some catching up to do. I've actually only ever watched the G1 cartoons and the Beast Wars cartoons in full, and I'm still working through Headmasters, so my answer to this question is based on a relatively limited back catalog.
The G1 cartoon holds a special place even despite all its flaws. Contrary to some, I always enjoyed the 'toy of the week' episodes, especially in season 2, which feature some of my favorite toys and characters. However, I recently started re-watching The Transformers, and I have to admit they are pretty exhausting to watch.
I guess the choice for favorite cartoon is still pretty easy though: Beast Wars is my absolute favorite Transformers series, and is still very easy to watch as an adult, with an excellent start in the first season, building up to a couple of very intense story arcs and featuring humor, excitement, tragedy, redemption and even romance. I guess my favorite episode is, perhaps slightly cliche'd: 'Code of Hero'. A painful but touching episode, especially for what is originally a children's cartoon.
Q - IDW has unleashed two highly acclaimed ongoing Transformers series, The Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye and The Transformers: Robots In Disguise. Which series do you prefer, and do you have a favorite issue so far?
I've been reading practically all the IDW releases since they started with 'Infiltration', and I'm keeping up by faithfully buying up the TPS as they are released. Last week I received volume three for both MTMTE and RID, so while I'm not exactly up to date, I'm never that far behind on what's happening (and I have to admit I do read spoilers on the various sites that review the comics month by month). However, reading the TPS makes it hard for me to point out a favorite issue: sometimes I'm just so engrossed in the story that I don't notice the issue change!
Now, I think most people will agree that not all of the IDW titles have been of the same constant quality. Quite a few titles have starting out strong, only to fizzle out in relatively lacklustre conclusions. However, as far as I'm concerned both MTMTE and RID have been on surprisingly long good streaks. When they first came forth from 'Ongoing' I was especially pleased with MTMTE. Right from the start this looked like a series that was really going somewhere, with a format that lends itself well to telling both short one-off stories and longer arcs, which to me seems beneficial to it longevity. Furthermore, it is using several characters that traditionally never got much attention before. I actually feel quite strongly about the relationship between toys and characters: strangely enough it can help me appreciate a toy even better if I get a feeling for the character it is portraying. I've also always found it interesting to see the way toys were formed into characters, and characters into toys, each influencing the other. So seeing quite a few underused Transformers get some 'prime' time (pun intended) is one of the things that keeps me very much invested in MTMTE. Apart from that, the way it is written is extremely entertaining: it is exciting, funny, cruel, gut-wrenching and at times it provides some good back story.
The Transformers: Robots In Disguise started off a bit more messy, I thought. It used characters that have always been more prominent in Transformers fiction, but especially in the first few issues it seemed that characters were behaving out of character. All in all, it took a bit more getting used to the story that was being told. However, Robots In Disguise definitely revealed a bigger, more intricate and exciting story as it went onward, and I'm actually pretty interested in how things will move on. Perhaps it's not the fastest moving story, but compared to how quickly and unconvincingly some earlier IDW titles wrapped up, this title is able to hold my attention.
Of the two, I guess MTMTE does have my preference, although I'm hoping both keep going strong and both are already riding high in my personal list of top IDW titles!
Q - Heavy Metal War. It is Seibertron.com's browser game and you are one of the top players. Tell us how awesome it is to have the top character, and how fulfilling it is to among many other things, to be able to kick Burn's butt
Ah yes, I'd definitely hoped this question was coming! HMW: my greatest glory! February 11th 2006 was the fateful day I actually signed up with Seibertron.com... And it was primarily to give Heavy Metal Wars a shot!
I've played ever since that day, even after the giant server crash which deleted all progress, which reset everyone's scores and which ended the HMW careers of many old timers with maxed out scores. It was the reset that gave one of the biggest boost to my current position in the game. It reset the tables, allowing a fresh start for everyone. Then, in about 2010, I got an iPhone, which made regular deployments a whole lot easier. And in the last two years, even more regular players than myself have unfortunately dropped out of the game, real life catching up on them, but effectively removing a lot of top competition from the game. Becoming the numrber one player was for a very long time a seemingly unreachable goal, so it was incredibly fulfilling to finally make it after 7 years.
I'll be honest, HMW is not the most exciting game around, but at least it's cheaper than Farmville, and unfortunately at least as addictive. There was a time when you could say: well, the game itself pretty much sucks, but the fun half of the game is in slagging off other competitors on the HMW forum. Nowadays, again unfortunately, the HMW forums have become a lot less active, which really is a shame, because topics could get pretty heated. Due to its rather addictive nature, HMW players are still relatively active, but I think many would LOVE an upgrade of the game. There have of course been several ill-fated attempts at creating the legendary, multi-feature 'HMW version 2.0', but the instigators have usually ended up like Spinal Tap drummers: MIA. A real upgrade would however have benefits all around: the game would become more exciting, hopefully also for less OCD players than I've always been, it would be a unique selling point for Seibertron.com and the HMW forums would liven up again. Right now, coming into the game is hardly worth it for competitive newcomers: catching up to the highest levels is practically impossible.
For me, the greatest joy in the game is currently most absolutely kicking Burn's ass around the room. It's not often you can have such fulfilling virtual interaction with a mod. In all honesty, Burn is enormously active in the HMW, both as a player and as a mod, and he is currently my biggest competitor, so it's no surprise he and I keep running into each others bots. I haven't kept score, but I'm guessing that we're probably each getting 50% of the wins in our matches... I'm also very glad he's doing a great (and probably thankless) job in doing what he can to keep the HMW alive, both the game and the HMW forum. But yeah... HMW 2.0 would be real nice!
Alldarker's Brave Maximus!
Q - Sadly our time has come to an end. I would like to say that this was certainly a very enjoyable interview! Any parting shots?
Thanks for having me! Nah, no parting shots, I think my answers are already tl;dr!!!
The official Transformers Facebook page has posted an interview with Autocracy, and now Monstrosity, artist Livio Ramondelli, to promote the release of issue 6 of the digital-first series, available today! Read the interview below, and find out how to get your copy.
TRANSFORMERS:MONSTROSITY #6 - the digital-first comic book from IDW Publishing and Hasbro is ready for download! In the early days of the Autobot/Decepticon war, a secretbelow the ruins of Cyberton may bring deliverence… but will it end theDinobots. Chris Metzen and Flint Dille write this mind-shattering sequel to last year’s hit TRANSFORMERS: AUTOCRACY, and now we sit down with superstar artist Livio Ramondeli to talk about this 8-page, 99¢ comic - available now at https://transformers.comixology.com/ or via the Comixology and iBooks apps on your computer or mobile device!
Q: Is the way you’re working on pages for MONSTROSITY changed at all from when you did AUTOCRACY last year?
LIVIO RAMONDELLI: It’s a sort of constant evolution, but I’m not doing anything intentionally different than AUTOCRACY. I’m just trying to make the art look better and better, as well as clearer. I’m always trying new little things here and there to really pop highlights on the characters, and make the images brighter in general. Even when dealing with dark shadows.
Q: It’s clear you sure like playing with light and colors on your pages. Was this something you taught yourself or something you learned at school?
LIVIO RAMONDELLI: Definitely both. I studied color in school, but I spend more time thinking about it now. I’m always looking for new ways to balance out the colors and play with light. It’s tricky with TRANSFORMERS because they’re so bright, and you’re always fighting pages looking like clashing colors. Sometimes it works better than others.
Q: How much leeway does the script give you — do you follow what’s on the script page, or do what you feel is best to make it work?
LIVIO RAMONDELLI: The scripts always call for specific shots, but the page layouts (and the size of the panels) is my call. Also Chris and Flint are great at letting me change things when I feel like something might work better. I’m always looking to make each shot important, and so I’ll sometimes cut out panels that I feel we can cover in a line of dialogue and that gives us the space for more money shots. For example, in MONSTROSITY #5 we initially saw a couple panels of Scorponok and Blitzwing about to blast the door open to the refinery. But I suggested that we just show the door exploding, which gave us a cool reveal, more space, and didn’t cost us anything since your mind fills in what came before.
Q: In this issue, we hear about a sixth member of the Dynobots team — Skar. Was it a surprise to see this new character appear and how much did you enjoy the process of designing this previously unseen team member?
LIVIO RAMONDELLI: It was tricky, because you’re adding something to a classic group of characters and trying to make it feel natural, which is always hard. At first I actually designed Skar to look closer to Swoop (since Swoop tends to stand out differently from the other Dinobots, and it made sense to me that another would look like him). But it was Chris’s desire to really see Skar as Grimlock’s close friend as well as resemble him a bit physically. Like he could have been as strong as Grimlock, and tragically didn’t make it. So he ended up being a bit of a cross between Grimlock and Swoop — his head has some Swoop elements to it. I wasn’t surprised by the reveal as I knew from the beginning of the story Skar would appear. It was just a question of hopefully making it natural.
Like every comic book Wednesday, the Official Transformers Facebook page has interviewed one of the creators of this week's IDW release: Spotlight: Hoist. We've mirrored both the interview with writer James Roberts and the images from the first five pages below!
TRANSFORMERS SPOTLIGHT: HOIST rises to the top of this week’s new comic book releases, courtesy IDW Publishing and Hasbro! Written by TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE scribe James Roberts—and set firmly in that series’ timeline—and drawn by rising TRANSFORMERS superstar Agustin Padilla (TRANSFORMERS PRIME: RAGE OF THE DINOBOTS and TF:MTMTE #16), this one-shot comic book story delves into the personality of one of the longest-running TRANSFORMERS characters. We sat down with writer James Roberts to talk about the issue—available today at comic book stores everywhere, and at https://transformers.comixology.com/ or via the Comixology and iBooks apps on your computer or mobile device!
PAGE 1: What was it that stood out about Hoist as a character that would allow you to tell this story about him and all that he is?
JAMES ROBERTS: Truthfully? What stood out for me, going back and re-reading previous stories that he’s been in (and there aren’t many, and I’m afraid I didn’t seek out the G1 TV episodes), is that nothing much stands out! He’s the archetypal “background ’bot”–competent, pleasant, hardworking, straightforward. But that’s not a bad thing when you’re settling down to write a SPOTLIGHT about someone. It gives you more of a canvas. Having said that, I sort of made his vanilla-ness a plot point in itself. I deliberately put him with three characters (excluding Bob [the Insecticon] for a moment–sorry, Bob) who are larger-than-life, and let the story play out from there. If I’ve done by job properly, Hoist will be a more fully-rounded character by Page 22.
PAGE 2: How was the collaborative process for you with artist Agustin Padilla? Was there a lot of give and take on how the pages turned out?
JAMES ROBERTS: This was the first time I’d worked with Agustin (we collaborated again on MTMTE #16), and while he and I would communicate very little (English is his second language and he works with—I don’t know what the word would be? An intermediary?—who passes his pages back and forth.
Anyway, Agustin would submit the rough page breakdowns and then respond to any feedback, and in the art itself he’d make choices that improve on how I saw things play out in my head. I love what he’s done—the art has a real Geoff Senior vibe about it—all those heavy blacks, all those close ups, all that weight—so I was a happy little scribbler.
And the first three pages of this SPOTLIGHT are uncharted territory for me: pages without dialog. But Agustin makes them look so beautiful and kinetic and alive (that shot of Hoist in midair on Page 1!)… it’s enough to make me wonder why I don’t go for the silent treatment more often.
Special mention, also, to Joana Lafuente’s scrumptious color work. Together, Agustin and Joana create pages that invite close scrutiny and then slap you in the face—in a good way.
PAGE 3: This issue is set between issues of TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEET THE EYE. Is it hard to find a gap for the story to slot seamlessly into?
JAMES ROBERTS: So far, there are two big gaps in MTMTE where you can squeeze any number of “lost” stories: the gap between issues #5 and #6, which is where the Hoist and Trailcutter SPOTLIGHTS take place, and the gap between issues #12 and #13. So for any fanfic writers out there: go fill those gaps! I didn’t deliberately create those gaps, incidentally, but I’m glad they exist.
PAGE 4: Swerve and Sunstreaker are revealed inside of Hoist’s craft. Sunstreaker hasn’t had a lot of page time in MTMTE—why bring him along for this trip with Swerve and Hoist?
JAMES ROBERTS: I think you’ve answered your own question! The fact that Sunstreaker doesn’t get much page time was a big reason for making him one of the crew. And I know that he has a lot of fans out there, and people had been clamoring to see more of him, and Bob, so I thought that doing this would people happy. Same with Perceptor, to be honest. I almost put Hound in there too, but it would have been too crowded. I do want to write a little off-shoot story featuring the likes of Hound, Huffer, Gears and so on—all the classic G1 characters that we only see in the background of MTMTE. Maybe one day.
PAGE 5: This comic is going to be included with a toy—do you feel a sense or pride this could be someone’s introduction to Transformers through your work? What would the boy inside you say?
JAMES ROBERTS: The fact that this will be someone’s first TF comic—and maybe their first introduction to any TF continuity—was a little daunting. I wanted to write something that would appeal to the uninitiated and to regular readers. I didn’t want the former to feel left out or the latter to feel they were reading something that didn’t complement the style of story they’re used to.
Of course, my most fervent wish is that a boy or girl buys Hoist, reads the comic, and dives headlong into the IDW books, old and new. Hoist as an entry point into Everything Else. I like that!
One of the users over on the IDW discussion boards has been able to chat to Transformers artist Livio Ramondelli. They talked mostly about the current digital-first Monstrosity series, sequel to Autocracy, but there are some tidbits about the upcoming Robots in Disguise issue 17 too!
You can read the whole interview here. Warning: there are some minor spoilers about both series!
We are in the middle of Monstrosity. For those unfamilar with the story what's the basic premise of it?
Monstrosity deals with a few parallel stories running and eventually colliding into one another. Most centrally, you have Optimus Prime attempting to unify a very divided world. You have Megatron being betrayed and marooned on a dangerous world and seeking to reclaim his throne. You have the Dinobots on the run, attempting to leave the planet under mysterious reasons. And lastly, you have the self proclaimed Decepticon leader Scorponok proving to be a very dangerous and unpredictable threat to all the other factions.
How far into the series are you? Do you know how it ends?
I'd prefer not to say how far I'm at exactly, except to say I'm on the last 4 issues of it. And yep, I've known how it ended since before we even started it. Flint, Chris and I plotted it all out in pretty good detail when Autocracy finished.
You are involved with an upcoming RiD issue involving Shockwave. Do you enjoy drawing him?
Yeah, Shockwave is one of my absolute favorites to draw. And RID 17 has Shockwave on essentially every single page (in one form or another!), so it's been a real blast.
Seibertron.com: How long was the development process on this game? Did Hasbro approach DeNA or did DeNA approach Hasbro about the idea?
DeNA: It has taken almost a full year since the idea was born. We were looking for a strong intellectual property (IP) that would work great with the card battle game design system. Both myself and other members of the team are huge Transformers fans and we felt that we could make a great card battle game with the Transformers license. So we approached Hasbro about the idea, and thus TRANSFORMERS: LEGENDS was born.
Seibertron.com: Can you tell us about your experience working with Hasbro? Maybe tell us a little bit about the approval process, etc.
DeNA: Our relationship with Hasbro has been fantastic. Both companies are very excited about the game. Our team at DeNA comes up with the characters we want to make and the themes of the Episodes. We then send those ideas to Hasbro so they can help make sure everything is authentic to the Transformers Universe. It's great to have access to such a valuable resource. Once the theme and characters are approved then we start creating the art.
Seibertron.com: Are there any other games that the development team used as inspirations for the Transformers Legends game?
DeNA: We’re fortunate at DeNA that our parent company in Japan is an established leader in developing mobile card battle games like the popular title Blood Brothers. The TRANSFORMERS: LEGENDS development team is based in DeNA’s San Francisco office, and it has been great to leverage our Japanese colleagues’ expertise in mobile game design with our San Francisco-based team’s knowledge of making games in the West.
Seibertron.com: The artwork of the Transformers is beautiful. Can you share some information with us about the artists involved with the game such as their names, backgrounds, past experience, other games or projects they have worked on in the past?
DeNA: Our internal art team has quite a diverse background with experience in developing PC/Mac, AAA console, and of course mobile games. Here are some quick bios of the internal art team:
Steve Abeyta (Art Director) DeNA: Eliminate, We Rule, We Farm, Quests and Sorcery, TRANSFORMERS: LEGENDS
Bungie Software: Oni, Halo, Halo 2
Worked freelance for quite a few years as well as an Animator/Artist
Graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Architecture from UC Berkeley, but quickly switched industries and started at Bungie as an Animator
Sunghoon Kim (Senior Artist) DeNA: We City, Quests and Sorcery, TRANSFORMERS: LEGENDS
Highimpactgames LLC.: Ratchet and Clank and Jak and Daxter
Graduate of Savannah College of Art and Design, majored in Animation
Hongik Univ. in Seoul, majored in Industrial Design
Brian White (Senior Artist) DeNA: Quests & Sorcery and TRANSFORMERS: LEGENDS
Perpetual Entertainment: Star Trek Online
Linden Lab: Second Life
EA: Sim City, The Sims2, etc.
Graduate of RISD: Industrial Design
We're also very lucky to work with some excellent external sketch artists including Transformers comic veterans Guido Guidi and Dan Khanna. They were instrumental in helping develop the new angle on the Transformers robots. Additionally, we work with some extremely talented painters. It was a challenge to get all the different parts of the pipeline to create a cohesive look but we're happy with the results and excited about some new twists we have coming up.
Seibertron.com: Are there any plans to have a book tie-in that showcases the artwork from the game? I'm sure a lot of Seibertronians out there would be very excited about a Transformers Legends book.
DeNA: Stay tuned to find out!
Seibertron.com: For the programming and computer geeks out there, can you tell us a little bit about what's going on behind the scenes programming wise? What programming language was the game developed in? Anything cool from a programming perspective that the developers would like to share or rave about? Any brand spankin' new technologies being used that the programmers are excited about implementing?
Seibertron.com: Will the upcoming iPhone version be identical as the Android version or will there be some differences between the two? If there are any differences, what can you tell us about what to expect?
DeNA: They will be exactly the same. In fact you will be able to access the same account on both devices. So if you want to play on your Android phone on your way home from work and your iPad when you get home, you can!
Seibertron.com: Some of the character designs appear to originate with the toys. Some of the characters have not received a toy in modern times. Can you tell us about the design process and where the character designs came from? Maybe provide a few examples to demonstrate various sources ...
DeNA: We use as much reference as we can but get our key elements from the toys. When developing a look for a character we follow one guideline - the character must be instantly recognizable. So even though we will adjust proportions and levels of articulation, the character must have the identifying features that define it. We may do a new angle on those features, but the original integrity of them must be kept in tact.
Seibertron.com: From what I've seen so far, Transformers Legends is very G1 based. Are there any plans to integrate popular characters from other series such as Blackout (Movie/Animated), Barricade (Movie), Jolt (Movie), Strika (Animated/Beast Machines), Obsidian (Beast Machines), Bulkhead (Animated/Prime), and other popular favorites?
DeNA: Right now we are really focused on G1. There are so many great story lines that we can still explore, but that doesn't mean we can't start incorporating different characters and styles of Transformers. That is one of the great things about the brand; the Transformers Universe is so broad.
Seibertron.com: Are there any plans to roll out other versions or editions of the game such as Beast Wars or the live action Movie universe?
DeNA: We have been exploring ideas around Beast Wars. You’ll have to stay tuned for upcoming Episodes to find out. As for the movie universe, that is an interesting idea but we're focused on G1 for now as there are so many interesting storylines to explore. The movies are great on their own of course, and I personally can't wait to see Transformers 4.
Seibertron.com: Is there any hint or suggestion about the game that the developers would like to share with everyone? Maybe a tip for something that they think players might be overlooking or something.
DeNA: TRANSFORMERS characters are already very powerful by nature, but you can push their strength to even much greater heights by following these tips:
Upgrade your cards to make them more powerful. Use redundant cards you collect throughout the game to upgrade your favorite cards. The redundant cards are converted into XP, which is used to level up your selected card. With every next level the stats of your card increases. Maxed out cards also receive an extra bonus in battle.
Trans-Scan is an excellent way to increase the power of a TRANSFORMERS character card. Trans-Scan is the process of combining the Alt mode and the Robot mode of a character card. If you upgrade both the Robot Mode and the Alt Mode to Max Level before performing the Trans-Scan, you will get the largest stat increase - a 10% bonus per card on all stats! Cards that have been Trans-Scanned also receive a bonus during combat.
Weapons are cards that can be equipped by TRANSFORMERS character cards. Every TRANSFORMERS character card has a Specialization and Class. By equipping weapons that match these roles the power of the character card gets boosted. But every TRANSFORMERS character card from rarity 3 and up also has its own unique signature weapon card. Matching the character with its unique own weapon card boosts the stats of character cards significantly, over 150% and more. Obtain the matching weapon card that belongs to your strongest character cards to unlock the full potential of your deck. Some weapons also have special abilities that really put the power in your card’s punch; triple attacks, increased critical strikes or increase card’s attack power by a multitude!
Recommend is an easy and quick way to make sure you have the strongest deck possible. When you hit recommend the game selects and equips the most powerful character and weapon cards available. Checking the Deck Power stat is an excellent and easy way to monitor the increase of your deck’s power.
Rarity determines the power of a card; the higher the number on the card frame the stronger the card. Try to collect as much high rarity cards as possible to make your deck stronger.
Always make sure you not only have the strong Team, but also make sure you put your strongest cards in the AUTOBOT and DECEPTICON Squads. These squads are used for boss battles and by winning boss battles you can capture it’s weapon. You don’t want to miss out on these opportunities by losing the battle - so always bring your strongest cards with you!
Seibertron.com: Will DeNA be attending BotCon (the official Transformers convention), San Diego Comic-Con or any other events where fans can interact directly with DeNA? I'm sure everyone at Seibertron.com would love to see Transformers Legends represented properly at BotCon.
DeNA: We're always excited to meet our players and get their feedback on the game. We are still in the midst of planning our events presence for this year, but San Diego Comic-Con and BotCon are definitely on our radar. In the meantime, if you have any thoughts or suggestions on other events we should bring the game to, please feel free to leave us a note on our feedback page in the game: https://transformerslegends.uservoice.com/forums/188000-transformers-legends-1-0
Seibertron.com: Are there plans to release the game for other Android based devices such as the Kindle?
DeNA: There are no plans at this time. But I've passed the suggestion along!
Seibertron.com: Does the Transformers Legends team have a consensus on a favorite character? What about their favorite allegiance: Autobots or Deceptions? Why?
DeNA: There is no consensus. We all have our favorites. Below are the team’s answers to the last two questions.
Character: Skywarp. He was my favorite toy as a kid.
Faction: Decepticons all the way. I always wanted them to win just once in the cartoon and I like fighter jets as well.
Faction: Decpticons hands down. They have the cool tech.
Character: Jazz. I always like him in the cartoon.
Faction: I root for the Autobots on the show, but my initial selection in the game was Decepticons. Being a jet is way cooler!
Faction: Decepticons, because 'good is dumb'.
Character: soundwave (me love gadgets)
Faction: Decepticon (muhahahaha)
Character: Optimus Prime
Faction: Autobots... sanctimoniousness.
Character: Without much doubt that would be Devastator. He is this incredibly powerful Gestalt, and his combined physical power is only rivaled and surpassed by a few. Mentally though, that's a different story. His limited psyche is quite primitive and he only really gets anything done when all parts agree, which is rare, and so more often then not he's a giant of uncontrolled rage and fury. For the most part he's as dumb as a box of hammers and only capable of destruction and little else, but considering how Decepticons go, that's not much of a problem.
Faction: Decepticons. They got the cool jets. They've got Devastator. How many more reasons do you need?
Character: Have to agree with Bert, I think Devastator is pretty cool because he literally ate a pyramid in the 2nd movie and sometimes I'm that hungry too
Faction: Whichever has more girl ones
Character: Laserbeak: As a Chilean I have to choose Laserbeak. He can transform into a Condor, the national bird of Chile, which is really awesome and beautiful.
Faction: Decepticon. Being the good guy is too easy, and Decepticons always had the best transformations (in my opinion).
Character: My favorite character is Autobot Jazz and it is transformed from the car, and cars are my best interest.
I painted the car version and I was very excited while I was painting.
Faction: however, I love the most characters in Decepticon because many of them have strong personality in style.
Faction: I'd have to say the Autobots. They're working to protect the universe, which is a plus, and they have some of the most memorable members: Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Jazz, and of course Grimlock (technically). Oh, and Daniel Witwicky. Never mind lets go with Decepticons.
Character: Steeljaw. He was the toy I could always carry with me wherever I went, and he's literally a magnetic cassette tape that turns into a lion. That's either ridiculous, awesome, or a little of both. I'm not qualified to judge.
Faction: Autobots. Evil is only fun when it's competent.
Character: Unicron. Go big or go home! Unless you live on Unicron, because you're already home. But you probably have a very short lifespan.
Faction: Decepticons. Evil is only fun when it's INcompetent.
Faction: Autobots because red > purple
Character: Jetfire. He came in this huge box, and you could only buy him one hour away from where I lived. I spent all my allowance on him and even though he repeatedly bruised my finger when I popped open the metal front landing gear, he was always my favorite Transformer.
Seibertron.com: From all of us here at Seibertron.com and from Transformers fans around the world, thank you to DeNA for taking this time to answer all of our questions about TRANSFORMERS: LEGENDS. Keep up the great work!
The people over at Comic Book Resources have sat down with IDW Transformers' writer extraordinaire and fan-favourite James Roberts, discussing the upcoming May titles, the MTMTE Remain in Light arc, his relationship with John Barber and the future of the IDW ongoings.
Roberts said the "Transformers: Hoist" & "Trailcutter" one-shots stand alone but are also "firmly rooted" in the "MTMTE" Universe
This May, writer James Roberts presents two "Transformers" stories from IDW Publishing, "Transformers Spotlight: Hoist" drawn by Agustin Padilla and "Transformers: More than Meets the Eye" #17, kicking off the "Remain in Light" storyline drawn by Alex Milne. Earlier this month "Transformers Spotlight: Trailcutter" was released with art by Matt Frank.
Roberts has been busy carving out his own corner of IDW's Transformers Universe after orchestrating the popular "Death of Optimus Prime" storyline with co-writer John Barber. After that story's success, Roberts launched the popular ongoing series "Transformers: More than Meets the Eye" alongside Barber's own "Transformers: Robots in Disguise."
Roberts spoke with CBR News about his upcoming "Transformers" titles, dishing details on what goes down in "Spotlight: Hoist" and "Trailcutter," as well as expanding on the "Remain in Light" story and the next "Transformers" event, "Dark Cybertron."
Roberts describes the "Trailcutter" one-shot as "Home Alone" meets "Transformers"
"Spotlight: Trailcutter" is basically "Transformers" meets "Home Alone." Trailcutter is part of the crew of the Lost Light, an Autobot starship looking for the legendary Knights of Cybertron.[...]
It's a sitcom in space. [...] "Spotlight: Hoist" is more of a bottle episode.
There's a metaphorical ticking clock for the Transformers appearing in the "Hoist" one-shot
John Barber said it very well: "The 'Transformers' comics are about people. Metal people, sure -- and metal people whose problems frequently involve the fate of the world being at stake -- but they're relatable people with real emotions acting like people act."
"MTMTE" #17 begins the "Remain in Light" storyline where Roberts says the series moves up "several gears" and "we go widescreen."
My plans for "More Than Meets The Eye" stretch far into the future. Coming later this year is the first proper crossover event since John and I started writing the two ongoings. It's huge, involving hundreds of characters and -- like the end of the war -- it marks another turning point in the Transformers Universe.[...]
One last thing: things are coming full circle as John and I are collaborating -- I'm talking plot and script -- on the next huge "Transformers" event: "Dark Cybertron." It all kicks off in the autumn, with the countdown starting in May.
"Transformers Spotlight: Hoist" and "Transformers: More than Meets the Eye" #17 are due this May. "Transformers Spotlight: Trailcutter" is available now, and we here at Seibertron have previewed and reviewed it!
The official Transformers Facebook page has uploaded a five page commentary to today's Transformers: Robots in Disguise #16. For those of you without Facebook access, we've mirrored the interview with writer John Barber below.
TRANSFORMERS: ROBOTS IN DISGUISE #16 hits the stands today, courtesy of IDW Publishing and Hasbro! This is it—the climax of the first big ROBOTS IN DISGUISE story. The fate of Cybertron’s leadership is decided, as Bumblebee and the Autobots battle Megatron’s forces in the city of Iacon. Artist Andrew Griffith—along with inker Brian Shearer and colorist Josh Perez—pulled out all the stops on this one; and we sat down with writer John Barber to talk about this monumental issue. TF:RID #16 is available at comic book stores everywhere and at https://transformers.comixology.com/ or via the Comixology and iBooks apps on your computer or mobile device!
PAGE 1- The might against Megatron continues with Bumblebee and his team. Considering the different factions trying to live together on their home world, was there ever a right or wrong in the decisions he took? Or was it simply that he wasn’t strong enough to hold them all together?
JOHN BARBER: That’s a good question. Bumblebee was trying to do what was right, and here—battling Megatron—it’s clear what needs to get done. But would Megatron have had support, would the Decepticon masses have followed him, had it not been for Bumblebee’s policies? He locked them up, he put in the Identification/Deterrence chips, and even once those were gone, he still clearly didn’t welcome them with open arms. I mean, Bumblebee had reason to be angry at the Decepticons, and reasons to not trust them. So maybe he never had a chance.
There isn’t really a clear-cut answer, as to whether Bee was right or wrong, and that’s one of the big themes of the series. I hope the readers will argue about it.
Was Bumblebee too weak? That’s how he sees himself, and how some of the others see him. Maybe he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, though. Could anybody have accomplished what he set out to do? Again—I don’t mean to evade the question, it’s that the question is the main thing about the series. I don’t want to cop out on anything, but the question is more interesting to me. And hey, if I had the actual answer, I should be ruling the world myself.
PAGE 2- Megatron, Devastator and the other Decepticons pile on the pressure. You think right now Starscream is regretting the things that he has done prior to this issue, and not done what might have previously done before?
JOHN BARBER: Starscream thought he was playing everything correctly for a while—up to issue 11—then he had a crisis of… well, not “conscious,” as this issue will demonstrate… but a crisis of faith in himself. I’m sure that, in his head, he’s running through every action he’s ever taken, but I don’t think he has Bumblebee’s capacity for self-reflection. He’s more likely to see any failure as a failure of circumstance, not of himself. But this was a big fall—he was about to gain control of the city, and then Megatron showed up and ruined everything, so it’s a crushing blow.
Anyway—he definitely doesn’t have Bee’s capacity for beating himself up over his decisions.Actually, his ego probably protects him a little here (like Prowl’s does).
What is why, at this point in the story, even if it doesn’t look like it, he is actively looking for any opportunity amidst all the action.
PAGE 3- Arcee and Sideswipe do their best to carry on the fight back. With Arcee, was the plan always to make her as ambiguous as possible until she was forced into making a decision on where she truly stood?
JOHN BARBER: Yeah—Issue 18 is where we actually get into her head, and see how she thinks. She just approaches things from a way that other Cybertronians don’t. Her worldview is skewed by all the events in her life—I mean, everybody’s is; it’s just that her event are just a little more unusual.
So, yeah, she was definitely keeping quiet about what she knew, who she would side with, all that—until she had an opportunity to strike most effectively. Which, I don’t think exactly worked out—she definitely didn’t want out-of-control Prowl-Devastator running around, so it’s not like she actually succeeded in her plan. But things could have been worse.
Nevertheless, from my perspective, she’d have been better off going to Bumblebee in issue 4. But she didn’t think he’d trust her, and Bee definitely didn’t act like he was looking to trust Prowl’s secret warrior. So she didn’t think that was a legitimate possibility. And now, hey, look what all that mistrust has sown.
PAGE 4- Ironhide and the Dinobots pile in to provide reinforcements? Considering what is happening to his friends, do you think Ironhide is certain that the visions of the future he saw are going to come true, despite the devastation around him? They seem to have been driving his recent actions.
JOHN BARBER: Ironhide has come to realize that, even if he believes what he saw, there are multiple ways of looking at “fate.” He can just sit back and let the future happen, or he can take an active role. And if he takes an active role, he has to be himself. Beyond that—well, there’s more to come.
PAGE 5- Ironhide literally tries to knock some sense into Prowl/ Devastator’s head, and Bumblebee can see the tide of battle turning. This issue marks the end of the current arc in the series. In the grand scheme of things to come, how important are the issues we’ll find within these pages?
JOHN BARBER: Very. I mean, this issue is the close of the first big RID story arc. The story of Bumblebee versus Starscream versus Metalhawk struggling for control of Iacon comes to a close this issue. And however it works out, any one of them (or none of them) “winning” control of the city will change the face of Cybertron. There’s a lot going on in this issue, a lot of stories coming to a close, and it all matters a lot.
But it’s not the end of the series, and there are still going to be big, pointed questions looming. Where’s Shockwave? Why did what happened to the Aerialbots happen—and what’s the status of them now? Not to give anything away, but how does Starscream justify his actions? What’s up with Ironhide’s vision of the future? What does Jhiaxus want with Gorlam Prime? Lots and lots of other questions…
Not everything ends here—we’re back with another issue in a few weeks—but all that comes will be built on what we’ve done here. And there will be impacts felt in our sister series, TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE, too. But I can’t talk about that without spoiling anything. I can say, that events from MTMTE spill into RID next issue… but if you’ve followed what MTMTE revealed about Shockwave, I don’t think that will be a surprise. Anyway—this comic, RID #16, will have repercussions in the comics—and maybe beyond—for some time to come.
But I do want to thank all the readers who’ve read this series—and read MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE, and all the other Transformers comics, too—from the beginning, or who’ve come in during the run, or who are just joining us. Thanks for being there, hope you’ve enjoyed the ride so far, and it just gets better from here on out.
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