Wanting more this week in terms of Transformers fiction? Why not take a read at this lengthy interview with John Barber on WeeklyComicBookReview, editor and writer at IDW on at least, oh, all of the current series featuring robots, including those yet to come. Some snippets below, full piece here! [Note: Thumbnail is RI cover for Transformers #35, by Andrew Griffith. Fitting, non?]
Already well respected for his nearly Quixotic attempts to bring sanity to the Transformers movie continuity, John Barber’s tenure over IDW’s mainline Transformers comics has been viewed as something of a renaissance period for the brand.
Besides writing a tense sci-fi political thriller in the form of Transformers: Robots in Disguise, Barber has also served as the editor of the award-winning Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye as well as the Transformers: Windblade mini-series. Since then he’s added even more to his plate by writing Angry Birds Transformers and co-writing the latest Transformers vs. G.I. Joe series.
As the man behind one of my favorite shared universes in comics, I’ve been eager to meet Mr. Barber for some time. Little did I know how deep we’d get into the current Transformers line-up.
Mr. Barber was incredibly gracious with his time and considerable knowledge so please enjoy and, if so inclined, check out the newly renamed The Transformers #35, on sale today!
N: One thing that I was definitely curious about is that one of the weird figures for IDW in Transformers has been Galvatron, in that you couldn’t fall back on a G1 interpretation.
N: But so he was kind of Nova Prime’s Starscream for a while and then he kind of had this very ‘glorious leader against D-Void’ period. What made you settle on ‘Galvatron the Barbarian’ for your take?
B: I was kind of intrigued by the story that Simon [Furman] had set up of these characters being of a different age, y’know? These people that were there, that took off on the original Ark? I just kind of latched onto this idea of, ‘what was society like before they had the Golden Age?’ For me, it went back to doing the Robots in Disguise Annual and I had this idea of like Game of Thrones with Transformers, of this idea of these different tribes. And I played with that actually a bit in the movie universe stuff, but it was different in the main line stuff.
And Galvatron was one of those characters, kind of like Soundwave, where even within the IDW universe different writers had radically different takes on where he was. So, thinking about how you can sort of unify those, what kind of person would do all that stuff? And I came to the idea of ‘what if Galvatron’s kind of Conan’ and you had this guy who’s kind of really a rough guy, really a barbarian, but who becomes king?
“Galvatron was one of those characters where different writers had radically different takes. So, thinking about how you can sort of unify those, what kind of person would do all that stuff?”
I mean the story of Conan isn’t just Conan the Barbarian. There’s all these eras of Conan as he goes on; he eventually is King Conan. And the idea that Galvatron kind of went through all that, so he’s been different places in his life, appealed to me. And, in [issue #34] we’ll get kind of a larger grasp of how those early days with him and Nova functioned. We’ll be seeing some stuff, that I think may be surprising to some people, that we sort of hinted at. There’re definitely some hints that have been going on, but some of the ancient Cybertronian lore and history is gonna come up.
But, in short, it’s kind of the idea of this guy who, in his own mind, he’s noble, but it isn’t the usual nobility you get from a villain because he’s really, really brutal and he’s- he’s- like he’s genuinely not a nice guy, y’know, where, Soundwave, to me, he’s the good guy Decepticon.
B: Like he’s the guy that genuinely believes in the Decepticon cause and everything they had to do that was bad was a compromise that he had to make to a greater end goal, where Galvatron isn’t like that. He’s less compromising, but much more brutal and, like, the underlying…like-
N: He doesn’t feel like a guy who’s like thinking very much into the future.
B: Yeah. Like he does in his way. So, there are moments where you’re going to see him kind of doing stuff toward a larger goal, but it’s a very distinct, direct barbarian way of doing it. He’s not doing the Machiavellian playing guys off of each other the way Starscream does. Even when he does like straight up lie, his duplicity is a little more honest.
Just taking a step aside from Robots in Disguise for a second, I was just curious. You are not only a writer, but you’re an editor for IDW.
N: As someone with that very unique experience, what do you think that -whether it be professionals, aspiring, anywhere in the process – what do you think that writers need to know about editors and editors need to know about writers? You have seen both sides.
B: That’s a good question. Ideally, everybody’s out to make a good comic. And there are good fits with writers and editors, y’know?
It’s funny because I have friends on both sides of the table. So, every once in a while you’ll sort of hear somebody, a friend of mine, complaining about, y’know, that editor didn’t work out. Then there’ll be people who are having a great relationship with that editor. So it’s like any other relationship in life. There are fits and there are non-fits.
When you’re putting a creative team together for a comic, it’s sort of like putting a band together, y’know? Like everybody has to get along. You have to know what parts everybody’s playing and what everybody’s doing. On the Transformers books we’re really lucky, everybody gets along really well, I think, between James, me, Mairghread, Chris Metzen, Flint Dille, plus like Alex Milne, Andrew, Livio, Sarah, everybody; we all interact really well.
Currently up at Sequart.org, still in their Transformers week of criticism, reviews, readings and interviews, is the first part of a really quite in-depth conversation with True Believers Award nominee and IDW Transformers writer James Roberts - talking all things More Than Meets the Eye! Check out a very brief snippet below, and head here for the rest.
DAVID WHITTAKER: Ok, so starting at the beginning how did the concept of More Than Meets The Eye come about? Had you had any plans for what became More Than Meets The Eye as you were working on cooperative projects such as Last Stand of The Wreckers or Chaos Theory? I ask this because you have seemingly innocuous characters, such as Rung or Whirl appearing in those tales, who go on to become major players. So to speak.
JAMES ROBERTS: Well, the series’ core concept – Rodimus heads off in search of the legendary Knights of Cybertron – was decided back in 2010 by either Andy Schmidt (John Barber’s predecessor as editor of IDW’s Transformers titles) or Mike Costa (who wrote IDW’s first ongoing Transformers title from 2009 to 2011) – maybe both of them. I think Mike came up with the idea of the Knights, although I was never given more than the name when I was asked to write More Than Meets The Eye. Anyway, back in 2010 IDW decided that from January 2012 Mike’s ongoing series would split into two titles, More Than Meets The Eye and Robots In Disguise. One title would follow Rodimus and Drift on their quest, the other would focus on Bumblebee trying to make a go of things on a devastated Cybertron. The Autobots would have fallen out – there would have been some kind of schism – and some characters would side with Rodimus, some with Bumblebee. At the time this game-plan was decided, no one knew what it was that would precipitate the schism, or which characters (beyond Drift) would side with the two Autobot figureheads. It was all really up in the air.
Earlier today, at 2 pm San Diego time, IDW Publishing rounded up current Transformers writers John Barber (Robots in Disguise), Mairghread Scott (Windblade) and James Roberts (More Than Meets the Eye) for their Dawn of the Autobots live discussion panel, chaired by IDW Marketing and PR Manager Rosalind Morehead and Coordinator Kahlil Schweitzer. The full hour discussion can be seen in the YouTube video embedded below, but some of the highlights are listed after that!
- All speakers summed up their current status, and where the books are heading for now, after the Dark Cybertron event. Also, Barber commented on the quality of the art, with Sarah Stone, Alex Milne and Andrew Griffith getting a mention and collaboration with Flint Dille, Chris Metzen and Livio Ramondelli.
- They commented on Windblade being the first of the three titles to launch the new status quo, and the cast choices that Scott made for who stayed on Cybertron.
- Weirder, stranger, more violent territory lies ahead for the whole of Dawn of the Autobots, and More Than Meets the Eye in particular.
- Reign of Starscream on Cybertron after Windblade concludes? It will definitely still affect the two ongoings, and RID is not done with Cybertron, there will be movement between there and Earth (focus of the first arc at least).
- Scott talks about the role of Starscream in Windblade miniseries: he is the ruler, the 'dog that caught the car' but has to act more democratically because of Windblade and Metroplex. Though he is willing to do anything to keep that power.
- MTMTE's repercussions of Megatron's side switching: Tarn and the Decepticon Justice Division *will* find out and the paths will cross, though not as readers might expect. All of season 2 is about fallout, about Megatron's change.
- What parts of the message of issue one of MTMTE have we seen and will we see? A lot. Soon.
- How much of the Transformers universe so far and future is plotted and planned? Barber helps keeping track of events, looks, qualities, while Roberts has a deeper knowledge of the Transformers lore from before IDW.
- Grimlock! Currently in the hands of Roberts, somewhere with the Scavengers in MTMTE - he will get attention, and he will show up soon, coming to the fore, and going deeper into what happened to him on Garrus 9.
- More details on Caminus from Windblade miniseries? Just a little more, not too much (but plenty behind the scenes).
- Likely to see crossovers any time soon? Not yet, definite connections, and casts can talk to each other now (as opposed to Season 1), also with Primacy, but letting each book do its own thing for a while.
- With RID set on Earth now, Barber (and Griffith's) approach has moved to Marvel or plot style, with Barber sending the plot to Griffith, layouts are made, sent back for dialogue to be added. The stakes are definitely higher for the characters, and the writing now.
- Level of heartbreak in MTMTE on a scale of 1 to 10: it's going 'to break your soul'. New recruits, new interpersonal relationships, a lot of opportunities.
There were also a number of personal questions for the writers, from favourite characters to cast choices for the new season ('everyone you haven't yet is quite probably on the Lost Light'), difficulties or dislikes in writing certain characters, the reaction to Windblade #1 ('extremely positive'), Starsaber's potential return in MTMTE ('maybe') and more information about Rung, confirmation that all three will be attending BotCon 2014 this summer, choices for hypothetical animated films from arcs or plotlines, and a plug for Robots in Disguise #28, out tomorrow, more teasers for MTMTE #28 coming next week, and a glimpse at what awaits in Windblade #2!
Thanks to Seibertron.com staff member Supreme Convoy, we get a look at what was said during the 'IDW Publishing and Hasbro: Transformers, G.I. Joe and More!' panel event over at WonderCon, on Friday evening! Below is a summary of the main points made by the various speakers: John Barber moderated the panel, which consisted of editor Carlos Guzman, and writers Mairghread Scott, Tony Fleecs, and Flint Dille. They touched upon Dawn of the Autobots, the new Decepticon leadership, G.I. Joe specials and a new Flint Dille book, sequel to Monstrosity - Primacy. Read on below, and check out some of the G.I. Joe crossover images courtesy of Tom Scioli's Tumblr!
Dawn of the Autobots started on Wednesday. Megatron has joined the Autobots, and is now captain of the Lost Light in More than Meets the Eye.
Windblade just started. The lead character is apparently a descendant of Cybertron.
Robots in Disguise, written by John Barber and art by Andrew Griffith, is set back on Earth and stars Optimus Prime, Jazz and Sideswipe (among others). The planet is probably not going to have a welcoming reaction to the return of Optimus Prime and the Autobots.
In More than Meets the Eye, written by James Roberts and art by Alex Milne, Megatron is now leading the Lost Light. The book was called "Really crazy, really lot of fun."
Windblade, the four-issue mini series written by Mairghread Scott and art by Sarah Stone, is billed as new reader friendly. Windblade comes into conflict with Starscream. Really fun and Mairghread believes it's an "expressive, hopeful book."
We were reminded that Windblade is the result of a series of polls taken by the fans. She recently made debut in the Dark Cybertron event, along with Nautica and Chromia.
The new book was announced! Primacy, written by Flint Dille and Chris Metzen, and art by Livio Ramondelli. This will be the last part of the trilogy starting with Autocracy and Monstrosity. Dille described it as a war book and "carnage fest." This is the moment where we see the characters become what we're familiar with. Dille teased that Sharkticons and Quintessons might show up.
They mentioned Transformers vs GI Joe, written by John barber and Tom Scioli, and art by Scioli too. Barber says it's probably the craziest book he's worked on. Things get nuts.
As GI Joe corners Cobra Commander, Starscream purses Bumblebee and the story takes off from there. It's pure comics. Guzman said that he had no idea how Tom was going to draw some of the story elements until he sees the pages that get turned in.
GI Joe: The Real American Hero #200 was just released and the series is still going strong. The slideshow showed issue #201 will have a Liefeld cover. Guzman joked that the series probably going to make it to #300.
IDW Publishing is working on a deluxe hardcover anniversary edition of GI Joe #21, The Silent Interlude. IDW is going back and reshooting original art as well as recoloring it.. and adding even more extra material and commentaries.
IDW teased Fall of GI Joe for September 2014. They're not ready to make announcement just yet. Barber claimed it will please a lot of fans.
As for the background on the decision on making Megatron an Autobot, it goes back to September 2011. James Roberts, Phil Jimenez, and John Barber broke down Dark Cybertron at Hasbro. Barber seems to remember Mark Weber (Global Brand Development Manager for Hasbro) suggested Megatron being an Autobot and was shocked Hasbro allowed it.
As for who's leading the Decepticons.. They have lost the war. Lots of Decepticons might defect to Autobot side. Some believe Megatron sold out. Galvatron gathers and forms new Decepticon group on Cybertron with new agenda. Soundwave and Galvatron will lead group, for now.
Thought we were gone for long? We are always here, lurking, waiting, and pestering IDW Publishing creators until they agree to sit down and graciously talk to us about what they're doing with the Transformers! We have a really recent newcomer to the franchise, comics and Seibertron, so please extend a warm welcome to the artist behind the soon to appear Windblade mini-series: Sarah Stone!
Va'al - Sarah, it's a pleasure to be able to have a chat with you, thanks again for agreeing to do this! My first question, as has been with everyone we've interviewed, is the following: where did it all begin? What was your first encounter with our favourite Robots in Disguise?
Sarah - Hello Va'al, it is my pleasure. Thank you for inviting me!
Image by Madman Entertainment
It all began with Beast Wars for me. I was a little too young to experience G1 in all its glory, so by the time I was old enough to watch TV on my own, Beast Wars was what was on. I remember that it was absolutely incredible for me because I was obsessed with dinosaurs so it played right to my interests. I had just seen Jurassic Park so dinosaurs were my world. I wanted to be an archaeologist or draw dinosaurs for the rest of my life, so robot dinosaurs just blew my mind. Actually come to think about it, maybe this was the beginning of my love for the 'cons since I clearly preferred the Predacons.
Va'al - Another of my generation! I had no idea what Transformers really were in terms of fiction, other than the Beast Wars series. Was that your only exposure to the franchise though? Were you interested enough to track down older comics, did you spring for some of the toys?
Sarah - I never heard anything about the comics back then unfortunately, and didn't do much looking into it, though I kind of randomly remember having a Dinobot toy. He probably had lots of fun with all my other dinosaur toys (poor dude was all alone).
Transformers sort of dropped off of my radar after Beast Wars, I'm sad to say. The Michael Bay movies put them back on my radar, but I was left sort of wanting. I was considerably more interested in the robots than the human characters, so sadly even after the movie I fell off the Transformers train again. It wasn't until I discovered Transformers Prime that I fell off the deep end and rediscovered my intense love for the world again. Through the Prime fandom I ended up finding out about IDW's More Than Meets the Eye, and Robots in Disguise and well... now I'm ruined forever.
Va'al - This is getting eery now, that sounds very similar to my own experience - though I had a few more toys back then! Before we move into the comics, though... What was it in particular about the Transformers: Prime animated series that caught your eye? The stories, the artwork/animation, the characters, something else?
Sarah - Haha, that's crazy! Hmm, It was a combination of a lot of things I think. The sort of more organic designs, the darker tone, great writing, really expressive animations... it was like a quadruple combo to everything I didn't even know I wanted.
I think after watching one episode I ended up marathoning every episode I could get my hands on in a single night. The team did a fantastic job sucking me into the world and I was insatiable. I wanted more - I had to know more about these characters and their history.
Va'al - Binge-watching is apparently a good thing, under some aspects. Do we endorse it? Not necessarily. But still... So where did you head to find more? Was it the two ongoing series by Barber and Roberts and the respective artistic teams, or did you go via some other fiction first?
Sarah - Yeah, the ongoings were my next target. I had some friends that were kind enough to lend me some trades to read while I was traveling, and honestly it was becoming a little hard for me to go anywhere on the internet without bumping into awesome fan art (read: spoilers) of both series, so I knew I had to get on board fast or else I was going to get everything second-hand.
But outside the comics I started retroactively checking out the other series like Transformers: Animated and G1 just out of growing fondness for all of the characters. I'm also currently mid playthrough on Fall of Cybertron but I'm stuck because it makes me so motion sick! It's really the saddest thing.
Va'al - So you did effectively branch out as much as possible! That is impressive, even I haven't got into the games yet. Too focused on the comics. And life, I suppose. Who would you say your favourite character, present or past, in any part of the fiction, would be? And why?
Sarah - Gosh that's hard, I have so much love for so many of them. I guess I always end up having a soft spot for Starscream in almost any incarnation. I just have a thing for the really slimy, insufferable ones.
He's such a fascinating mix of horrible yet sympathetic, but always entertaining. He'll stir up trouble anywhere you inject him, and I love him for that. I really can't choose. I'm loving the IDW Robots in Disguise/Dark Cybertron one right now.
Va'al - I think a lot of fans have a soft spot for Starscream, to some extent. Voice actors notwithstanding. So now we know about you as a fan, let's find out about you as an artist! How did you start out, personally? How did you first venture into artistic endeavours?
Sarah - I've always been drawing, at least as long as I can remember holding pencils and crayons. As a kid I always drew my favorite video game characters and cartoons, before I even knew that was a thing. I grew up with so many animated movies, especially Disney movies, I dreamed of working for them and being an animator. I was fortunate and my parents were always extremely supportive and provided me with Photoshop and even a Wacom tablet at an early age.
It only took a few forays into dabbling with hand drawn and 3d animation before I realized that I am actually a terribly impatient person. Working on a few seconds of animation could take weeks, and an illustration I could finish in an evening or two, so I started slowly gravitating toward illustration as I got older.
Va'al - And if Disney was your influence and aspiration for the animation that never was, what would you say the influences are in your illustration work?
Sarah - That's a tough one, I always feel like I have a hard time pinpointing influences because I'm honestly inspired by so much. Concept art for games and movies have always found space on my shelf in art books, and there are just so many amazing illustrators putting their work up on the net, and I've had the privilege of working with many -- I'm constantly inspired. But I also love taking cues from some more classic work, like J.C. Leyendecker and my recent discovery of Richard Macdonald.
When it comes to illustrating Transformers though, some of the concept art that comes out of Jagex for Transformers Universe has really inspired me to push the rendering of metal and the different materials the bots are made of. And when it comes to the comics, I have to admit being a huge fangirl for Milne and how expressive his bots are. I can only hope to be able to bring life to them in a similar way.
Va'al - Well, I think the time has come to ask *the* question -- how did you make it to not only IDW, but your own mini-series with Mairghread Scott? Did you pitch? Were you selected?
Sarah - I really believe it's because I'm the luckiest girl on the planet, it's really kind of a crazy road. Mairghread had actually messaged me once on Tumblr to tell me that she loved the human Soundwave [see above - V.] illustration I did, which, knowing that she was a writer for Prime and being a fan, was enough to just make my day. Or week. I was really happy.
It wasn't until I was tabling at a comic convention over a year later that the stars aligned and Mairghread and her husband actually bumped into my table, entirely by accident. I tried not to freak out at her too much, and they both actually invited me to help out on a project pitch that they were looking for an artist for. I very excitedly obliged and kept in touch with them over the next month or so while we worked together, and one day Mairghread gave me a call and said something like, "Hey we're kind of looking for someone to work on something Transformers related... would you like me to throw your name in the hat?"
I said yes, of course, and I submitted some work and did a test page, and I suppose they liked it enough to take a chance with me. I'm eternally grateful to Mairghread for putting me under the eyes of the powers that be, and also to all the guys at IDW for giving me this chance.
Va'al - Wow, that does sound like a really lucky set of coincidences - but from what we've seen, they are working with the skills and output which is already of a really high standard. What's the most exciting part of working for IDW, on Transformers, and for a new character?
Sarah - Aside from the obvious of just working of something I absolutely adore (I used to draw this stuff just for fun, you mean I get paid to do it now?), I think it's just such an incredible time to be involved with what IDW is doing for Transformers. The stuff that Barber, Roberts, and Mairghread are doing is just really exciting, and it is crazy to be a part of it, even in the smallest way.
Windblade is just a puzzle piece (but hopefully a really cool puzzle piece) of an awesome picture they are painting, and I'm just really humbled to be working on it. It seems like kind of a cheesy answer, but I really am stoked.
Va'al - Surely you're the one painting it, and they're setting up the canvas! Sarah, may I say personally I am really looking forward to the new mini-series, and I know quite a few our readers are too. Before we let you get back to making art, and me to hunt down another creator to question, any final words to round off your first interview for the fandom?
Sarah - And thank you too, Va'al! It was really a pleasure, thank you for having me. I just want to say thank you to everyone who's been supporting and pre-ordering the mini-series, It means the world to me and I hope I don't let you down. If anyone's interested in seeing more of my stuff, you can check me out on my blog or DeviantART, or say hello on Twitter!
We will find out more of Sarah's work as Transformers: Dawn of the Autobots - Windblade hits. If you want to make sure you get your hands on this, and the other two ongoings - check out how to preorder the issues here! Thanks again for sticking with us for another interview on Seibertron.com, keep your optics tuned in, as there is still much much more to come.
Tell you what, I'm not sure how I landed this gig. And by this gig, I mean get onto the staff of Seibertron.com. I do know, however, how we got to the point that I'd be writing this article - but it's a story for a slow news day. Because today is the day when as many members of staff will be telling us all what they though of the year gone by, and give us a glimpse into their own robotic future. Buckle up, leave the cars, and get ready to boldly step back into the past, now in Technicolor – it's about to get bumpy as we follow our courageous heroes across time and space, and into the thick of
Transformers 2013 - A Year in Review
Because it may be that we are about to enter the thrilling, teasing, thundering, titillating 30th anniversary of the Transformers, but there has been plenty of goodness showing up in the past twelve months too! And it is all worthy of some credit and reflection, don't you think? I thought so. Let's get this party-piece started!
Cyber Bishop - Our fearless admin, with more power behind the Stormtrooper mask than you'd imagine.
El Duque - You could try summing up his news posts, but you'd lose count around 4000. It's more than that.
LOST Cybertronian - Quiet, efficient, deadly; our very own ninja news maker.
Mindmaster - The youngest and newest addition to the staff, but don't hold it against him.
Mkall - Not as awesome as Spiderman riding demolition derby cars, but close enough.
Seibertron - The man himself! The Primus to our website! The Loader of Galleries!
ScottyP - Substitute podcast host, blogger, holder of views, Twitterate.
Oh, and me - Va'al
As you may remember from the times of yore, we'll be discussing the year gone by looking at it in different categories, with as much input as possible from the staff members. Which categories? Here they are:
Transformers Figure of the Year
Favorite Transformers Toyline of 2013
Favorite 2013 Generations Figure
Favorite 2013 Transformers: Prime Beast Hunters Figure
Favorite 2013 Transformers Masterpiece Figure
Favorite 2013 Takara EZ, GO!, GT
Favorite 2013 Kre-O/BotShot Set
Favorite 2013 BotCon Exclusive Figure
Favorite 2013 Non-BotCon Exclusive Figure
Favorite 2013 Transformers Moment
What you're looking forward to in 2014 for Transformers
Rumble your frenzies, lock your grims, punch your counters and flip your tables: it's time to look at 2013 through different eyes.
Transformers Figure of the Year In which the staff all mention the same figures, and Va'al has no clue what to say.
Scotty P - In a year of contradictions and transition in the brand, there was a clear push on what the biggest, baddest, coolest figure of the year would be, and that's Metroplex. Sure, it isn't perfect, the stickers aren't great and there are some shortcuts taken in the engineering, but looking back on the year nothing puts an awesome stamp out there like this. A year ago I couldn't have imagined that we were on the cusp of having the biggest Transformer ever released come out. Actually, I did think that, but I thought it'd be the Fort Max reissue that filled that role.
Mkall - And not just for the figure, which is pretty awesome on its own, because it's a playset for proper-sized figures, not just legend-class figures, or cyberverse-class or whatever the nomenclature of the puny size of figure is. There are additional implications of his release. To me it demonstrated that Hasbro is willing to take greater risks with the Transformers brand. There is, of course, no guarantee that we'll see another Titan class figure in the coming years, but Metroplex's release gives us fans and collectors hope.
Seibertron - This is a really tough one for me. I really want to say Prowl or Soundwave from Takara Tomy's Transformers Masterpiece line. The vintage 1984 G1 Soundwave toy is hands down my favorite Transformers toy of all time. Soundwave is also one of my favorite characters. Masterpiece Prowl is quite simply an absolutely beautiful toy and it is an amazing feat having captured both the look and feel of the character from the character while giving the vintage toy a ton of nods. However, both toys have some glaring flaws that always come to mind when I think of them. Soundwave's faulty cassette mode with the half assed backside seems like a major oversight to me or a cost cutting measure (i.e. "Well, it's close enough and all anyone is going to care about is the robot mode"). For Prowl, his vintage Fairlady Z is his biggest weakness. Don't get me wrong, I love the Masterpieces. They're amazing toys. I just think I'd be happier with the Masterpiece line if they were updated versions of the toys. I'm all for getting faithful versions of these characters in a throwback line but I'd much rather see these guys done with modern vehicle modes where possible.
So with all of that said, my favorite for 2013 is Metroplex hands down. It's a toy I never thought we'd get. I never thought they'd be able to top Fortress Maximus. But they did it. They gave us a massive over 2 feet tall Metroplex that is just an amazing and fun toy. Nice work Hasbro!
El Duque - This is a tough one, because some really impressive figures came out this year. My top contenders would be the Takara Tomy Masterpiece Datsun Fairladies, Prowl, Bluestreak, and Smokescreen. That mold is a work of art, but I almost feel like it's not fair to compare the Masterpiece line with mainlines. The Generations Springer mold is also at the top of my list. This guy usurped FansProject's Defender from my Classics shelf, and that's quite an accomplishment! In the end though I have to go with Generations Metroplex. I never thought we would get a mainline figure in this scale ever again, especially considering how most molds seem to be shrinking. Metroplex stole the entire show at Toy Fair 2013. Keep in mind we hadn't even heard any rumors of a Titan Scale Metroplex at the time of the show, and a lot of the time they will announce things, but only show concept designs. Not only did they announce this guy, but they immediately hauled out the prototype, and jaws dropped. Is he a perfect figure? No. Is he an awesome figure? Absolutely!
LOST Cybertronian - As the Masterpiece line continues to achieve, this is the definitive Prowl. He looks gorgeous in his licensed alt mode and his robot mode looks like the G1 toy brought successfully into the 21st century
Burn - I don't care how big you are. You transform by effectively laying down. I also just spent three hours re-arranging my Transformers room to fit you. You're large, and you may be impressive, but Metroplex, you are NOT the father Figure of the Year.
No, I have to go with LOST Cybertronian and give that particular title to Masterpiece Prowl.
Mindmaster - One would have to be pure bonkers not to consider the gloriousness that is MP Soundwave and friends the figure of the year. I’ve stood in my local Toys “R” Us just drooling over him and his GEEWUN-y goodness. I'm in love with one of his main gimmicks, that being his deployment of his cassette minions. I mean, come on, who wouldn't want little dudes popping out of your chest? It's also really neat to see the evolution from the original Generation One toy released in 1984 to the present. How amazing is today's toy engineering to completely transform (pun intended) Soundwave?
Autobot032 - I don't have Rhinox in hand, yet, so I can't say definitively, but it's a toss up between Metroplex and Masterpiece Soundwave. Both are so good, so expensive.
Cyber Bishop - Generations of course. I love G1 and am excited about how they take classic characters and keep producing them in an updated modern form while keeping their essence alive and well.
Mindmaster - Seriously, if people don’t know I’m a sucker for Classics, then they must be new here. Classics is where my collecting really kicked off. Yeah, Armada was the proverbial hook that got me addicted to Transformers back in 2003, but once my then-idiot kid brain realized the importance of the Classics and other affiliated lines, I was all over them.
El Duque - I gotta go with the Generations line. Again, I feel like I'm betraying the Masterpiece line, which I love, but to be honest I've gotten more pure enjoyment out of the Generations line. Being a kid who grew op on G1 and seeing Transformers: The Movie in the theater, it's hard to not love being able to go to a retail store and find updated representations of old favorites. Springer, Blitzwing, Sandstorm, Skids, Trailbreaker, Hoist, Orion Pax, Metroplex, and even FoC Grimlock. Pure fun, and that's what this hobby is all about for me!
Autobot032 - I can't answer one over the other. It's a 50/50 on Generations and Beast Hunters. I'm quite partial to Primeverse. I even went to the trouble of Reprolabeling my Smokescreen. (I'm that in love with the toys/show.) Generations has been pretty solid, all the way through. Thrilling 30 is lumped in with Generations and Masterpiece, so I just let my current answer speak for that as well.
Mkall - Under normal circumstances, I'd give this to Generations. However with the first half of this year's Generations line being used to finish off the Fall of Cybertron line, which resulted in some pretty cheap-feeling figures, I give this to the Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters, because when it comes to number of figures per line acquired, I have more Predacons from that line than acquired Generations figures. Besides, there's something pretty cool about having this many dragon-based figures standing side-by-side.
Va'al - I was going to say Generations, because of the gems from the Fall of Cybertron line such as Starscream and Grimlock, the new Legends figures and toys I've only heard good thing about like Sandstorm and Springer (I don't buy that many toys, so a lot of my sources are other people's comments). But I've recently come to find myself really warming up to the beasties from the Beast Hunters line. Grimwing, Predaking, Ripclaw, the awkward Dreadwing (Shockwave, who's not a beast, but is still beautiful, and the little Air Vehicon) - they're actually really really good, and I enjoyed them so much I even did some customising. So yeah, Beast Hunters.
ScottyP - There's never been a better year to be a Masterpiece collector, except maybe 2012 for some folks! The year started with Red Alert, continued with Soundwave and tons of cassettes, then kept going strong with Black Convoy, Tigertrack, Prowl, Acid Storm, and Bluestreak. The quality and value of these figures is unparalleled. The future of Masterpiece is bright, but this has definitely been a banner year for this line.
LOST Cybertronian - I think Masterpiece will continue to dominate this category as long as Takara keeps pumping out all of this awesomeness. Both Hasbro and Takara released Soundwave. While Takara kept his minions separate, Hasbro 1-uped them by releasing them all in one affordable package. Hasbro added to our MP Seeker collection with Acid Storm. We can't forget about Black Convoy and Tigertrack. Then there was the 1-2-3 punch of the Datsun trio. It was a huge year for Masterpiece.
Burn - Have to go with Masterpiece. Takara Tomy have really ramped up and taken this more seriously. The engineering has improved and we now have a definite direction of where the line is going.
Favorite 2013 Generations Figure In which staff cheat, favourites and best are distinguished and Burn begins to ramble..
ScottyP - Hey, we're picking favorites and not necessarily the best in this part, right? Truth be told I'm a complete sucker for Grimlock. I got over the tail, and now this is one of my favorite molds. A Space T-Rex with light up eyes and mouth, that transforms into the best Grimlock robot mode we've seen outside of the Masterpiece figure. I've put the Takara version here due to the amazing detail and color that really makes their version pop.
Autobot032 - As of right now? (Which could change at any minute) It's looking to be Metroplex. He's massive, he still transforms, he interacts with the little figures and he's just an imposing sight to behold. Though, there are some real gems in the Generation line, so it's kinda hard to pick just one.
LOST Cybertronian - Metroplex takes gold in this category. It had the whole package. A faithful update to the original toy. Able to achieve all three modes. Not to mention being huge and with electronics to boot.
Mindmaster - Springer's been the one character that every Classics collector's been asking for since the advent of Classics Astrotrain. When Hasbro didn't deliver, Fansproject took it upon themselves to make a decent Springer, but it had a couple issues. Finally, Hasbro unveiled and released their own Springer this year. Springer, as well as his retool Sandstorm, are truly marvels of toy engineering, showing that when their mind is set, Hasbro can make one kickass toy. And kicked ass, their Springer has.
Mkall - Even though I said that Metroplex was the Figure of the year, he's not my favourite. That title goes to voyager-class Springer. This figure is pretty much perfect in every mode. There is nothing I can say to diminish this figure in any way. Even his Sandstorm repaint/remold is pretty good.
Cyber Bishop - Possibly one of my favorite Transformer figures of all time, can't say anything bad about him at all. Great looking robot mode and two superb alt forms.
El Duque - I'm going to cheat a little here. Since Generations Metroplex was my 2013 figure of the year, he should by default be my Generations 2013 Favorite, but like I said I'm going to cheat! My 2013 Generations favorite of the year is the Springer/Sandstorm mold. It's just a great mold, and one of the best remolds of all time. As I said before this Springer replaced FansProject's Defender on my Classics shelf, that's saying something. And the Sandstorm remold is brilliant.
Va'al - As I said above, it's going to have to be Fall of Cybertron Starscream. I was going to say Grimlock, but the chest issue leaves a gaping hole in the enjoyment of the whole package. Starcream, on the other hand, is absolutely stunning, with a simple but still good transformation, lovely aesthetics, still fits in with the comics and has excellent light (and chest) piping!
Burn - When Va'al first shot the e-mail around to all the Seibertron.com staff regarding this Year in Review feature, I was one of the first to put my hand up. "How hard could it be?" I thought.
Then I thought some more and it occurred to me that thanks to my awesome memory, I couldn't remember what was released this year! Turned out I wasn't the only one having that problem. A list was tracked down and I started going through it and that's when I realised something.
I really hadn't paid much attention to Transformers this year.
(to be continued..)
Favorite 2013 Transformers: Prime Beast Hunters Figure In which we unleash the kraken Predacons, and deal with it right now. And Burn ends his ramble. Logical.
Mindmaster - Out of the entire Beast Hunters line, there’s just no contest when compared to Shockwave. Without that dreadful-looking armor, the figure itself is a great representation of his show model. If Generations wasn't my priority right now, I'd definitely set some aside to pick up Shockwave, or maybe even his SDCC exclusive deco.
Seibertron - Gotta love that you can take the silly Beast Hunters armor off and have him stand side-by-side with the Transformers Prime figures pre-Beast Hunters.
Cyber Bishop - Ok so he is not a gun and his alt form may not be the best but his bot mode is awesome and screams shockwave more than any recent figure released under that name.
Autobot032 - Oooh. This is a tough one. There were a lot of good ones, honestly. I'm going to go with Ultra Magnus. I know it's a redeco of the Prime mold, but seriously, it's like this mold was MADE for Magnus. First Edition was made for Optimus. They shouldn't share a mold. Though, I must admit, the beast molds definitely are eye catching. And well worth the money spent.
El Duque - I'll go with Voyager Ultra Magnus. The Robots in Disguise Voyager/Powerizer Optimus Prime really felt kind of useless with the superior First Edition Voyager version on my shelf, but Beast Hunters Ultra Magnus breathed new life into the mold. In my eyes it gave Ultra Magnus the unique mold he deserved in comparison to Optimus Prime, plus you get a get jet pack and the Forge of Solus Prime to boot.
Va'al - I've fallen really fond of the Predacons, but Shockwave is also really really good, and one of the most impressive official iterations of the character. I still have to fall onto the beasts, though. Voyager Predaking is an interesting take with excellently original engineering, though really lacks in paint and the wings only really work in dragon mode - so Grimwing it is. I was going to hold out for Darksteel, but I doubt we'll ever see him in the EU. This mold is gorgeous, even with its simple transformation.
LOST Cybertronian - Grimwing is my favourite in this category. A completely new character that looks imposing in both robot and alt modes. He definitely gives the Autobots a run for their money.
ScottyP - Again, favorite, not best. A massive dragon based on a super cool character from the Beast Hunters TV show. No other version of Predaking really brings the presence of the character out like this toy. Imposing on a shelf, and a great companion piece for the large Beast Hunters Prime that came out.
Mkall - Can Abominus be counted as a single figure? Since I'm answering this, I will say "yes." Abominus, and likewise the five cyberverse-class figures that comprise him are all downright fun to play with. All of the other Predacon figures (of which are the only Beast Hunters figures I collected) have flaws that prevent me from enjoying them as much.
Burn - (Previously, in Burn's responses: "I really hadn't paid much attention to Transformers this year".) Blasphemy I know, but I've had lots going on in other parts of my life, so much so my TF collecting went into auto-mode. I picked up Prime figures when I could (I was importing the Takara Tomy versions but stopped), while lines like Generations, Masterpiece, and of course my regular love interest, Kabaya, all became pre-ordered (actually that's not entirely true, I dropped the ball a little on Kabaya)
So if that's the case, what the heck am I doing here? Because Va'al asked. And while I may give him a lot of crap, I just went through our Facebook conversations for the year and he's listened to a LOT of moaning ranging from work, women, comics, and Transformers. So I owe him I guess.
Aaaaw, ain't that nice of Burn?
Favorite 2013 Transformers Masterpiece Figure In which table-flippers and chrazzimatic boxes go head to head, and Mindmaster is the odd one out.
Seibertron - It's a gorgeous toy. Just wish it had a modern Fairlady Z alt mode. Sorry Soundwave ... his bell bottom legs and the half assed backside of his alt mode bug me.
LOST Cybertronian - Being my favourite Transformer of the year, Prowl also takes number one as my favourite Masterpiece of the year. You can check out my reasoning above.
ScottyP - There is no better example of the direction and intention of the current Masterpiece line than Prowl. Perfect scale with the other Autobots, a super realistic licensed alt mode, and an amazingly clever transformation that ends up in a nearly flawless representation of the character. If this is the future, then I like the future. A lot. Would like to note that Smokescreen has not come out as I write this, and he may unseat Prowl as my "favorite" of the year.
El Duque - Again, I'm going to cheat a little! Rather than pick one figure, I'm going to pick a mold that has three figures, which is obviously the Datsun Fairlady (Prowl, Bluestreak, Smokescreen). It's a beautiful mold that delivers exactly what I wanted in both modes. A close runner up would be Soundwave and crew, but I feel the Fairlday was more of an engineering feat. Soundwave didn't have to conform to any licensee specifications, that and his boxy alt mode make him seem a little less impressive that the Fairladies.
Cyber Bishop - Besides MP Grimlock this guy is absolutely perfect in every way and the fact that for $120 you can get Soundwave and all his minions (MP Prowl is a close second though).
Va'al - Alas, I've only just been able to get my hands on a Masterpiece Optimus Prime, and I'm not planning on any other figures from the line at all. Soundwave does look fun though, especially with all the minions included!
Autobot032 - Well, for me, there were only two: Soundwave and Red Alert. Soundwave is impressive, no doubt. So is the Lamborghini mold. (Both are just...excellent.) But I'd have to say the most impressive? Absolutely? Would have to be Laserbeak/Buzzsaw. Just a fantastic design. Such an intelligent design.
Mindmaster - The area under the jurisdiction of Hasbro Asia saw a reissue of the coveted MP11 Starscream this year. I know what everyone's thinking: "Hey, wait a minute! Is M&M dumb? MP11 Starscream was released in 2012!" It still counts, people.
Easily the best Starscream ever. He doesn't require the removal of his null rays, intricate but not frustratingly complicated transformation, coronation gear, and the best part: fixes all the issues of MP03, such as his stability and the risk of breaking the joints in his wings. It'll be the crown jewel of my collection, once I get the monies for it.
Favorite 2013 Transformers Takara EZ, GO!, Super GT Figure In which we look at repainted beasties, (il)logical homages and El Duque's marriage gets in trouble
Mindmaster – I admit, Bakudora really surprised me. A clear homage to Victory Deathsaurus, Bakudora's deco really fits the mold much better than Ripclaw's ever did. And the headsculpt... boy, I sure hope to God that if there is a Generations Star Saber in the works, then Hasbro would at least have the decency to use a slightly redecoed Bakudora as a Generations Deathsaurus.
ScottyP - This was a hard one to come up with. As much as I've loved Takara's Masterpiece stuff this year, their "mainline" offerings have been a massive disappointment to me outside of Generations. The Predacon redecos/remolds they've done are an exception to this, and Bakudora truly embodies that. I don't see this toy as an homage but as a different take on the "character" that Hasbro released. The blue deco is fantastic looking and the paint details really pop. Plus, this mold is cool as hell. Dat tail.
Seibertron - I've got to go with Bakudora. It's not any where near the top of any of my lists, but there's just something really striking about this figure. The head and the color scheme really make it stand out to me.
Mkall - I liked Transformers GO! line, but I only love it enough to get the Predacons from that series. Of those, I am thoroughly impressed with Dragotron, the demonic red repainting of the Supreme-class Predaking. His colouring is intense and he, unlike his voyager-self, is just a blast to play with. I have him lording over my Predacon faction, and there's nowhere else I'd rather place him.
LOST Cybertronian - Transformers Go! Budora uses an awesome base figure in Grimwing and takes it to the next level. Giving him a new beast and robot head and an excellent paint job, there is just no better looking figure in the Go! Toyline.
Va'al - The only one I picked up was Go! Shockwave, as he turned out being cheaper than buying the regular one as they're both imports here in the UK. So he's definitely my favourite out of the one I have! The -dora creatures look really well done, too, though
El Duque - Picking Super GT Star Saber here. The entire line was a fun reuse of the Alternity Convoy mold with an awesome racing theme. Though, my wife did question why there were Race Queens on my shelf.
Favorite 2013 Transformers KreO/Botshot Set In which we don't have much to say, but we all think they're adorable.
Transformers Bot Shots Jump Shot Optimus Prime.
ScottyP - I don't have much to say here. The Jump Shot gimmick is fun, and this is a miniature Galaxy Convoy. What's not to like about that?
Transformers Kre-O Microchanger combiner Abominus
LOST Cybertronian - There wasn't very many of the larger sets released this year. I am going to have to go with Microchanger combiner Abominus. Abominus in cute cuddly Kreon form? Nuff said.
Kreon Microchanger Rodimus Prime
Seibertron - C'mon ... he's awesome!
El Duque - This one is tough, because... well I stopped collecting both. I think they're both great lines, they just weren't for me. With so much great product coming out, I had to get a little more selective about my collecting. That being said, I am familiar with all the product since I've posted news on most of it. I think the Kre-O Microchanger combiners are really neat little sets. I can't tell you how many times these have tempted me when I see them at retail. Must... resist..!
Favorite 2013 BotCon Exclusive Figure In which we clearly disagree. Well, Seibertron and Mkall do, at least.
Mindmaster - To be honest, I was initially against the choice of Hunt for the Decepticons Terradive as Machine Wars Starscream. But the more I looked at him, the more I just couldn’t handle how awesome it looked. The deco is really slick, the paint on the head really helped separate the details quite nicely, and the green on him really helped the figure pop even more. I really wish I had the money to afford him when he was available.
Autobot032 - I kinda liked the Starscream figure. It was a good mold choice to work with, plus the colors just stood out on it. Still too pricey for my tastes.
Seibertron - There were a ton of missed opportunities with this set. Including Obsidian and Strika in this set was a mistake. They're nice figures, but they would have been better as souvenir add-ons instead of as part of the main set. Featuring Obsidian on the box set takes away from the Machine Wars aspect. If I had to pick a figure, Machine Wars Starscream would probably be the one I'd choose. To be honest though, none of them really stand out to me. Even Sunstorm was a let down after having waited so long for an official figure and then to get one with the wrong colors. Sunstorm needs white, not black!
LOST Cybertronian - The Rainmakers set gave us our very first official Sunstorm using the classics seeker mold. This despite the fact that Sunstorm technically wasn't a Rainmaker. I have been waiting years for Hasbro or Takara to bring Sunstorm with that mold. Mission accomplished.
El Duque - Taking the Rainmaker three-pack on this one. I wasn't all that impressed with the box set or the over all theme, but I am a Seeker junkie. We finally got an official Sunstorm, and to be perfectly honest I buy whatever Seeker molds they produce. I don't really know why, but I will.
ScottyP - As someone that grew up with G2 toys, I've really loved some of the updated G2 stuff that's come out of Fun Publications. Electro is a particular favorite, because you just can't mess around with G2 Electro toys these days without them turning into a pile of gold clumps. The headsculpt is fantastic as well, and even though it's a G2 character it still manages to not look out of place with the rest of this year's Botcon set.
Mkall - Earlier in this year, I was very vocal in my dislike in how this year's Botcon series was handled. I then regressed and purchased the who set, including exclusives. I'm mercurial, I'm allowed to change, that said, most of them still don't interest me all that much. HOWEVER I must express my enjoyment of the Strika and Obsidian figures. Not only do they employ previous molds that I enjoy, but they both have new, accurate heads and proper paint applications that homage the Beast Machines series from which the original characters hail from. They are the peak of that year, which didn't provide much competition.
Favorite 2013 Non BotCon Exclusive Figure In which we encounter snakes and planes but no Samuel L Jackson, and Metroplex shows up, again.
El Duque - This is a redeco/remold fans have been wanting for years and they finally delivered. I think most of us were already using Energon Omega Supreme for our Classics collections anyway, so finally having him in the proper colors is nice. The new head and claw arm are really make the figure feel like a Classics Omega Supreme.
LOST Cybertronian - They took the already great Energon Omega Supreme and gave him his traditional claw and a head that I know is suppose to represent War for Cybertron but also carries over for the G1 fans.
Mkall - Looking back through my year of purchases, it surprises me that there weren't that many non-Botcon exclusive figures that appealed to me. It seemed that this year was all about pimping Bruticus and Metroplex. Thus I believe that my favourite exclusive would be the BBTS/Amazon G2 Bruticus. I bought it because G2 Bruticus was the first and only combiner I was able to fully assemble as a kid, and though Onslaught's arm didn't last too long due to the constant playtimes I had with it, getting this allowed me to relive my nostalgia. Yes there are the naysayers against these figures and I agree with many of their qualms. For once, though nostalgia trumps logic.
ScottyP - That's a 2013 release, really! Came out in January in Japan and in March domestically through Fun Publications and other e-tailers. This set has it all. G1 goodness, awesome extra stickers, an amazing looking box, a fun pack in comic, and oh my, some of the best cassette decos we've ever seen. Solarbot alone is almost worth the price of admission for this set. At the time I write this it's beginning to go clearance at stores that still have it (it not selling out already is a blight on this fandom, c'mon guys), so if you haven't given this a look, get at it!
Seibertron - I really enjoy seeing obscure references. Getting a 2nd version of Magnificus helps build this character's legitimacy in my mind. He's no longer just a one-time repaint that e-Hobby brought back from Takara's Micro Change line. The comic that accompanies him helps build his legitimacy as well and is a big part of why this set was so awesome to me. I also like that Magnificus has the secondary head which itself is a nod to the vintage Perceptor's head.
Mindmaster - You people didn’t think I’d get out of this without at least listing one version of Generations Metroplex, did you? Yeah, even though I said I liked the GEEWUN-ified Beast Hunters Shockwave (which is still in-stock at Hasbro Toy Shop, oddly) more, I really felt that SDCC pulled off a really cool homage by using the deco of the original toy. 10/10 would do stuff I would later regret doing to get my grubby hands on this particular version of Metroplex.
Favorite 2013 Transformers Moment In which we get mushy, soppy, and fanboyish. Burn talks to strangers. Mindmaster and myself say almost the same thing, and and we talk about comics, cartoons and conventions.
ScottyP - I'd never been to a small Transformers convention before, and Charticon 2013 was everything I could have expected and more. Cool panels, competent accommodations, fun events, fantastic (if unofficial) exclusives, and a massive dealer room to boot. Seriously, this dealer room was as big as Botcon's and I didn't have to travel across country to get to it. Plus, no other convention this year featured the following people in the same place at the same time: Counterpunch, Razorclaw0000, Jon 3.0, alexison, Superquad7, GetRightRobot, Arkvander, Daimchoc, bsutton, Flywheels, Gatchaman, the Lostreasures crew, and Aaron Archer, plus the 50 other people I forgot to list. Truly a memorable time and it's likely going to replace my Botcon trip in 2015. No offense to Funpub, this is just closer, cheaper, and fills the same void. No worries Pete and Brian, I'll pick up a non-attending set at the very least.
Seibertron - Recording the Seibertron.com Twincast/Podcast with about 2 dozen fellow Seibertronians at BotCon 2013. Now that was a fun night! Looking forward to doing it again at BotCon 2014.
El Duque - Toy Fair 2013 for sure. Ryan/Seibertron and I flew into what was being referred to as "Snowmageddon". The weather was so bad I feared my flight would be cancelled, but luckily we both made it. The first night was insane, New York City was on lock down so we pretty much had run of the city. The following day's Hasbro Media Day was intense. As I mentioned before, this where they revealed Generations Metroplex in all his Titan scale glory. Not to mention we got our first looks at Generations Springer, Blitzwing, the IDW Deluxes, and Beast Hunters Shockwave. It was an incredible event that I was lucky enough to make part in.
LOST Cybertronian - Since I am not caught up on the comics, Transformers Prime came to an end and I didn't attend BotCon, my favourite Transformers moment was attending the Greg Berger panel at TF Expo 2013 in Wichita, KS. What's better than having a professional and dedicated Transformers convention in your own city? Grimlock was my favourite character as a kid and there is nothing like listening to Greg tell stories about his time as Grimlock. He is a genuinely nice guy.
Autobot032 - The return of Transformers Prime to the air waves. It was hard to be patient during that pretty long hiatus. It was driving me nuts wanting to know how it would all end. Also saddened that it would, in fact, end. (Still very unhappy about that. Nothing you can do, though.) Sadly, the season was their weakest one yet and let me down pretty much all the way through.
Cyber Bishop - I have been enjoying the Regeneration one story line and how it is finishing up the original Marvel Transformer saga.
Mkall - I work shift work away from home. I'm gone for 4 weeks straight, and I'm back for 2. My absolute favourite Transformers-related moment is making the monthly pilgrimage to my local comic book shop, picking up the bushel of comics waiting for me, trundling home, and curling up on my couch to read them. I do miss Dreamwave's stories, but IDW isn't afraid to do things that we're not used to seeing in other Transformers mediums. I look forward to the gritty storylines of RID and MTMTE makes me chuckle every time. Keep going IDW, you're doing fine.
Va'al - Not only joining the Seibertron.com staff, but also swiftly getting promoted to comics person. Being able to read everything that IDW is offering, discussing things in detail, making sure the community on the site is active in the comics, art and creative side of things - and being recognised and complimented by the likes of Andrew Griffith, Alex Milne, James Roberts, JP Bove and Jim Sorenson for my work with reviews and interviews, at Auto Assembly and online! It feels good, I can tell you that (Bonus moment: being asked by Roberts to proofread the prose stories for More Than Meets the Eye Volume 5).
Mindmaster - Going to also have to say joining the Seibertron staff. It's nice to work with others who are just as devoted to this awesome hobby as myself. It also gives me something to do, other than browse Imgur or play some Halo/Assassin's Creed. Also, I get to see stuff ahead of time before others do. Handy, since I can get impatient when there's something I'm dying to see.
Burn - Receiving an incredibly large box at work containing an incredibly large Fortress Maximus re-issue. I mean really, how many of us have wanted this guy for decades and were over-joyed to finally receive him? The guy in Freight wanted to steal him off me. I told him no. Should have seen his reaction when Metroplex turned up!
What you're looking forward to in 2014 for Transformers In which Mkall mentions unmentionables, we all admit to actually being intrigued by Age of Extinction, and where our journey ends.
El Duque - BotCon 2014 has the potential to be great, it's the 30th Anniversary and a movie year. It's always fun to hang out with great people who share the same interests, which is really what makes BotCon fun.
Seibertron - BotCon 2014... Transformers 30th Anniversary, BotCon's 20th Anniversary, Seibertron.com's 14th Anniversary, getting to see all of our Seibertronian friends, and of course... hopefully a sneak peak at Transformers 4 Age of Extinction. What's not to love about that week?
ScottyP - I'm just going to make a list without much explanation: Botcon 2014; The conclusion of Dark Cybertron and then "Season 2" of the amazing MTMTE comic; Generations toys; Tentatively, Age of Extinction - movies always bring a few new awesome people into, or back into, this hobby; Although we've heard nothing about any of it, the potential for some more cool G1 reissues to tag along to the 30th has to be realized to some extent, and that's got me excited; The continuing wacky misadventures of the Twincast/Podcast.
Va'al - Counterintuitively, I'm looking forward to the end of ReGeneration One, just to see how they conclude what they started so long ago! That, and Dark Cybertron, and this new Windblade mini. A completely new artist, working with a good writer on a new, quasi-fan-made character - that has me intrigued. I'm also curious about what Auto Assembly will bring, and the rumoured Generations toys (Jhiaxus please?). And yes, go on, Age of Extinction, maybe, a little.
Burn - Obviously we have a movie coming up, I look forward to it, I don't expect much of it, I'm sure many of you will give me a headache when I wake up each morning and have to deal with the flame wars that will inevitably erupt each day. But what I'm looking forward to the most, is one particular figure. Masterpiece Wheeljack. We've seen the silhouette, and if he comes remotely close to some of the digital colourings we've seen, he's going to be one hell of a figure. It's also a reason why I just spent three hours re-organising my Transformers room so I can fit all the Masterpieces in as well! Oh and new episodes of Rescue Bots. Shut up, I like it.
So bring on 2014, hopefully my life will settle down enough for me to get back to enjoying TF's more than I didn't this year!
LOST Cybertronian - I am honestly look forward to Age of Extinction. I enjoy the movies for what they are and they give us some really great toys. I am also looking forward to attending TF Expo 2014.
Autobot032 - Age Of Extinction, for sure. I definitely want to see what Generations/Thrilling 30/Masterpiece has in store for us. If it's even half as good as we're all thinking it'll be, then this will be THE year for Transformers. They want to make good on the anniversary (and I can't blame them), so I think this year they might just pull out all the stops. I'm looking forward to being wowed. (C'mon Hasbro, don't fail me now!)
Cyber Bishop - More Generations figures, hopefully a decent Galvatron or Arcee.. And Whirl.. So much awesomeness coming down the pike it is not funny.
Mindmaster - Too easy. More Generations figures (specifically that smexy Armada Starscream), BotCon 2014 and what will be shown there, and Masterpiece Star Saber. Oh, and I’m hoping that the mystery of the “Grimlock testshot with a Beast Wars Megatron head” will be solved like Dreadwing was.
Mkall - There was a leaked list put out a couple months back, highlighting all the upcoming Transformers figures and products that will be released, most likely through to the middle of the year, if not further. On that list was a healthy assortment of awesome-sounding Generations figures. What I'm most looking forward to is seeing these images for the first time. Nothing quite matches the energy of the fandom when seeing a figure for the first time.
There's also the movie, which I'll see because however it ends up, it'll be entertaining. Other than that, I can look forward to taking the line off, because I don't collect movie figures. This'll allow me to actually save some money, but who am I kidding? It'll all go to figures of an... how shall I put it... unofficial nature.
BONUS FEATURE: Goat of the Year 2013
Linkin Park Soundwave
ScottyP - This is exactly the opposite of the SG Soundwave vs Blaster release I talked about above. The box is amazing and the molds are G1 fun happy times, but everything else stinks. The price is too high, it has no place on a shelf, it has literally two of the same toy, and it's just damn ugly. This is not how to do a high priced exclusive.
And so, with 2014 upon us, our favourite giant space transforming robots turning 30, Michael Bay exploding his way into cinemas this summer, Seibertron.com turning 14, we leave our heroes to return to their daily lives in their various time zones. We looked at 2013 with both affection and disdain, contempt and satisfaction, fear and loathing... but eventually took the best out of it all with us, in our minds and on our shelves.
But what did you, our community of fellow Seibertronians, think? What was your 2013 in Transformers? Do you have other suggestions? Do you disagree with the staff picks? Let us know your own take on the categories, or create your own. And don't forget to check out the latest podcast episode, which has even more views on 2013!
For now, that's all from Autobot032, Burn, Cyber Bishop, El Duque, LOST Cybertronian, Mindmaster, Mkall, Seibertron, ScottyP and myself, the brokeback Brit with girly arms, Va'al.
As this week sees the release of the beautiful Transformers: Art of Prime hardcover book from IDW Publishing, Seibertron.com was able to sneak a quick Q&A with the author and curator, Jim Sorenson himself! Jim, thanks for agreeing to do this.
Jim - You're welcome!
Va'al - First things first - how did the idea for the Art of Prime book come about?
Jim - Well, it was something that I'd been pitching for quite a while, before the show actually aired. I was living in Los Angeles at the time the Prime show had been announced, and one of the people in my extended circle of friends was Christophe Vacher (Visual Effects Art Director on the series). I knew him, and I knew he was working on Prime. I pitched the idea, he seemed interested, we went back to the studios, and nothing really happened for a while. I kept checking with IDW too, who had expressed a vague interest, and I pitched the idea several times. Then around June of this year I got an email from my editor: we're going ahead with Art of Prime!
I wanted to do a book about Prime but what made me decide it would be an art book was possibly the actual conversations with Christophe. We both realised Prime wouldn't work in the style of an AllSpark Almanac, the tone of the show is very different. So we decided the book would look at the art, at the process. IDW already had a successful product in the Art of Fall of Cybertron book, they were willing to do it again.
What I believe is one of the main points about the show is that the stories, characters, acting, they're all good - but what is really outstanding is the visuals!
Va'al – Very good point, the visual elements of the show have been acknowledged by many, and won awards all over the place! You've worked on The Ark and AllSpark Almanac previously, and you said you knew that Art of Prime would be different – how so?
Jim - Having made the decision that it was going to be an art book focused us, directed us differently. What we were working on with previous books was the story perspective, the characters, the events. With this one, we approached it from a design perspective: in some ways I wanted to get out of the way of the creators. There is very little of my voice in the first half of the book, and that was a conscious decision – I didn't want the readers to read about what I felt about the images. I wanted them to hear from the creators, what they were proud of, what their perspective on the process was. I thought it'd be a lot better to get them to speak.
In the first three sections, I let Jose Lopez (Art Director/Characters and Props) talk as much as possible, something that I didn't want to do with the Almanacs, something I possibly would've done with The Ark if we had access to the creators. As it stands, the Prime creators were more than happy to do it, and it was an extra incentive that they were able to do it in their own office, in their own time and talking about their own work. I think the interviews really help the tone of the book – it makes a big impact.
Va'al – It sounds like you were really engaged in the work around and about the book. What was your favourite part about putting together Art of Prime?
Jim - Definitely getting the chance to work so closely with the creative staff. At this point I've done quite a lot of books, from anthologies to collections, Transformers, G.I. Joe, articles for fan magazines – I find it really exciting to turn raw material into a book. But I've done it before. This time I got a chance to really jump in, go to the studios, see the creators work (they were at work on Predacons Rising at the time). Definitely the highlight of putting it all together.
A secondary pleasure was getting to see the animatics for Predacons Rising about three months before anyone else: I contacted one of the producers, as I had a fair bit of material that I couldn't find on the show at the time, so I wondered if it was for Predacons Rising and if I could get a script or something to set it in context. I'm not sure they understood what I was asking for at first, but once they got it they sent the whole thing, with my name watermarked all over it!
Va'al - Well, some people just have that type of contacts, don't they? Once you placed all the material you had, was there anything taken out, or things you didn't include?
Jim – There was a lot that we just didn't have space for, as it's already a 200-page book. I possibly still have another 20 pages that I wanted to put in, but did not need to get in. I would've liked to have extra pages for Shockwave, the Insecticons, Vehicons. Maybe spend a little bit more time on Silas and Cylas and MECH. I had an extra page for Knockout - no, Breakdown. Knockout was one of the last pages to get finalized, as we only had black and white artwork for the car mode. So I contacted Mathias Dougherty (Production Manager) for a color image, I told him 'It's Knockout, man! He'll kill me if he doesn't look his best!'; he laughed, and set off to look for the gorgeous artwork you now see in the book.
So yes, a lot more little things, but nothing that the book can't live without. I'm really quite proud of this one.
Va'al – It definitely looks comprehensive, and stunning. But do you think it'll appeal to all fans of the franchise? How would you sell it to a new reader?
Jim - Even if you're not interested in art books, the focus for this one is on process. Any Transformers fan, any fan of animation in general will find the process that goes into the creation of a cartoon extremely fascinating, I believe.
And it's very rare to have an art book like this for a TV show, you usually only get them for movies. As I said, I'm really proud of the result.
Va'al – I've been reading through it, you definitely should be. Thanks again Jim, this was a great quick chat! Any last words?
Jim - Thanks for the interest! I really hope you all enjoy the book.
Transformers: Art of Prime is out this Wednesday with IDW Publishing. You can find a preview for it here!
With the end of the IDW Transformers: Prime - Beast Hunters comic series upon us, Seibertron.com has decided to sit down and talk to one of its creative team members, and in some ways, the face of it all: read on below for a full exclusive interview with cover, storyboard, videogame and concept artist Ken Christiansen!
Va'al - Ken, thanks for agreeing to do this. We've featured some of your work before on Seibertron.com, it's about time we got to meet the mind and man behind the artwork! Before we get into the nitty-gritty of your work with Transformers though, I need to ask: where did it all begin for you? How did you first encounter our favourite transforming robots?
KC - Well, thanks for having me! I really appreciate it when you guys post anything about my work, I've been a follower of the site for years.
The show was everything. It was the first episode which sucked me right in - I don't even remember the first figure I had, but I know it was the show that put me all in. I was 10 years old at the time of the launch, and I had slowed down on Star Wars, and was really into GI Joe toys and comics, with He-Man in the mix as well. But Transformers really took over, and knocked even the mighty Joes back a step.
Va'al - Ah, you're one of those! I admit, I like knowing that the current creators all started as fans, brings a lot more to the experience. I was going to ask which figure was your first, but you pre-empted me - so how about this: which was your favourite character or episode from the animated series?
KC - G1 Soundwave, is...and always will be...my favorite character. And he is an early toy I do remember getting, on a Christmas morning. Of course I loved his voice, and how he was Megatron's dependable commander, but the fact he had Transformers INSIDE of him really captured my imagination. And I really liked that, unlike a lot of the figures, he matched up pretty well to the box art, and animation model. I was a stickler for that kind of thing, even back then. Also, I always thought it was cool how he used Laserbeak and Ravage on the show, so they've become synonymous with any vision of Soundwave I have, I always want to try to figure out a way to include them in a figure pose, or a drawing/design I'm working on. (I figure Rumble and Frenzy can take care of themselves!)
Va'al - I think a lot of fans have a soft spot for Soundwave; he is terribly charismatic after all. You've mentioned your gateway, the toys and what it was that drew you in - but what about the artistic side? Did you read the comics as a kid, or did you start drawing based on box art and cartoons?
KC - I'll admit that I didn't really enjoy the comics, even though I still have the first 60 or so issues to this day - but yes, I did really enjoy the artwork. I loved the show and the toys, but I was always just lukewarm on the comics. That being said, I did probably draw most artistic inspiration from the comics, I remember drawing that cover corner Marvel Optimus Prime a lot. A lot. Another favorite image from those books was the reveal of Predaking, standing in a jungle. I drew that one a lot as well.
The box art images were another inspiration; I didn't have a massive collection by any means, but I did collect the trading cards, so even if I didn't have the toy and/or filecard, I did have nearly every character image from the cards. We had a project in the 4th or 5th Grade, where we wrote a story, and bound it into a book. Mine, of course, was about Autobots fighting Decepticons, carried into battle by the rocket of Omega Supreme. I designed characters back then too, usually military type vehicles, or cars that friends and family drove. I still have that little book, but I'm sure all those other drawings are long gone.
Va'al - That's some great, early KC art there. Must be worth a fortune by now! So if the comics didn't get to you as much back then, what brought you to their world later on? But I suppose, before we get to that, my question is: How did you start working for the franchise in general?
KC - I had been working freelance for about a year after leaving Disney Interactive, and I had just wrapped a series of projects for Activision in late 2005. One of the producers I had been working with asked "Hey, are you into Transformers at all?" I had heard, as did many other fans, that it was being shopped around as a movie, but I didn't know was finally happening, and Activision wanted to go after the franchise. The projects I had just finished were to lock down the Dreamworks games license for the next five or so movies, showing game play, etc. and this was going to be the same thing. Lots of storyboards and game play examples. But it just kept going and going, and it turned into character designs, and in-game production art - I was around for a lot of it, from the very beginning to helping out with marketing images.
The Transformers were a huge part of my childhood, and though I hadn't really followed the franchise overall since then, I did already have the 20th Anniversary MP Optimus Prime, and the Alternator Grimlock Mustang proudly displayed in my studio. Getting the chance to work on the franchise as a professional, really kind of blew my mind. And midway through the production, Hasbro said they were going to make some figures out of my designs... I kind of freaked out.
Va'al - That must be quite the phonecall/email! I've spotted some of the designs that made it into figures on your website - do you have any particular favourites? Which part of working with the new, movieverse, Transformers aesthetics did you enjoy the most?
KC - I was pretty honored that Hasbro/Paramount used the red car drone (AKA Swindle) in the press kits for the film. Of the drones, I think Payload (Armored Truck) and Long Arm (Tow Truck) are my favorites. Long Arm was originally to be an homage to Hoist, colored green and yellow, but was later changed to be the tow truck paint job from the film. I was glad to see the mold reused as a Hoist figure. All of those designs were done based on rough concepts I had seen at the production offices in early 2006. Not until late summer, a bit after I had wrapped on the drone characters, did I start to see marketing images and final movie models start showing up, and that's when I was tasked to do the Shockwave designs. So, that's why he's a little more in line with the film aesthetic - he's not a generic, energon created drone, he was meant to be a Cybertronian, and look more like the movie bots.
While I agreed with the design philosophy from the first movie, I thought that the bots should have shown a little more alt mode elements, so you can really see the connection between forms. With Shockwave I tried to bring it back a little bit to that, with clear iconic character details, and visible alt mode elements. And that's the design philosophy I took into my next Transformers project, the Revenge of the Fallen game.
Va'al - Those are good designs! And that Shockwave looks intriguing, but it looks like DotM Skyhammer took his mode later down the line. How did you find working with videogames, compared to the work you're currently doing on comic covers? And how did that transition happen?
KC - Maybe. To me, the transformation logic is totally different., around the canopy and fuselage. But I did work a bit on the alt mode of the Skyhammer toy, and was given direction to use a Russian Hind for inspiration, but I didn't work on the robot mode. I did three copter drawings, and when the toy came out, it looked like the designers used elements of all three.
I'm not a gamer, but when I'm into a game I like, I kind of get obsessed with it. I thought Luxoflux did a fantastic job with the gameplay of the Revenge game - especially given the short production time, notorious with movie tie-in games - and was really excited to see how they would build on the engine. Sadly, none of that was meant to be. It was the first time I felt that someone captured the essence of a Transformer, being both things at once. I know some people had issues with holding down the trigger, but I much preferred that, to the 'sit and wait to transform' style of other games. My entire career to that point was in the game industry. But after doing the games for so long, I was looking to expand out a little, I wanted to see if I could work directly with IDW and Hasbro.
I took the designs of Megatron, Optimus, and Starscream, from the DLC content of the Revenge game, and did full illustrations of them in comic cover format. I included Bumblebee, Jazz, and Soundwave designs, and pitched myself to Andy Schmidt at IDW, and for a meet up with Aaron Archer at BotCon 2009.
For IDW, Andy had me do the cover to the much-loved, revered, and indisputably go-to source of information, the Transformers: Continuum. Yikes, that one was a bit of a mess, I guess. I never kept up on the IDW relationship, maybe both sides needed that sting to heal a little. And I just got too busy following that meeting with Aaron to come back to the books. Years later, I met John Barber at BotCon 2012, and that's how I got involved with the Rage of the Dinobots and Beast Hunters covers.
Va'al - Ah, the IDW Aligned comics! As an artist who had worked on the movieverse and videogame aesthetics - though WfC and FoC are also part of the new continuity - how did you find adjusting to the sleeker, more rounded style of the two series? And how much were you involved in the series themselves?
KC - Well, doing a wide range of shape styles for what was then called 'tv show' was that first assignment I had from Archer at Hasbro, in 2009, as they were putting the studio together, and hiring the actual production team. I would call myself a concept artist before anything else, so something like coming up with new character designs/versions is what I like to do best. And then about a year later, I worked on some product ideas for the Prime line. At that point, I was working with final character design models from the production's art department. And, every once and awhile I would do some product development, or I was asked to do some character ideas for HasLabs to use as conversation starters for meetings with the show runners. So before the comics, I had a lot of experience working with the shows' aesthetic. I never was a part of the production of the actual show, with Hasbro Studios, but through Hasbro, Inc., I got to play in that universe a bit.
The Cybertron games, on the other hand, I had no experience with the art style. So that was the learning curve for me. I was asked to 'update' the FoC dinobots into a Prime style, with a heavy lean on the FoC style...visually meaning they didn't 'evolve' as much as Team Prime, for example. So I just eliminated some minor details from the FoC versions, and did a 'wrap metal' pass, in the Prime style, at the main form elements of the bots. John Barber OK'd the sketch of Grimlock I did as an example, and I was off and running.
I had nothing to do with what was inside the books; in most cases, I don't think any of the scripts were even completely written at the time I needed to have the cover done, about three months in advance. I'm sure an overview and series arc were long completed though. Barber, then Carlos Guzman, would give me their idea on what was going on in the book, and what they'd like to see on the cover. I'd do some sketches and we'd go from there. I met Mairghread Scott for the first time at BotCon 2013, and we chatted about what was coming up in #7, we pulled Carlos into the conversation, and I did a sketch of it right there at my table. For number 8, Carlos and I chatted at SDCC, and he told me what he was looking for, and Mike Johnson, through email, pretty much said what he'd like to see on the cover. I did those last sketches for Carlos to approve, and that wrapped the series when I turned in the final.
It was a lot of fun to do those covers. I loved the Fall of Cybertron game, so it was a real treat to get to draw those characters, and get reconnected with IDW.
Va'al - I always enjoy hearing stories of how creators come to join the IDW team, they never seem to be the same! So you were working on the comics covers, but still had quite a bit of involvement in other aspects of the Transformers universe. I've seen some designs for characters that never made it on the show, too. What were you doing between the comics? How were you being kept busy?
KC - Relatively, I'm a newbie to comics, with only 13 IDW covers to date. Concept art is my main source of income, since graduating from art school in 1997. Happily, now at least half my workload comes from Hasbro, covering many different brands. Mainly in that first year, it started off with early re-imaginings of core Transformers characters, mixed with some work on Dark of the Moon ideas, and then going back to work on designs for the 13 Primes, and filling out the brand bible, which had used a lot of that earlier character design work, done by myself and other great artists.
After that, HasLabs expanded into a lot of other brands and concepts, that kept me really busy, MASK, Inhumanoids, Micronauts, to name a few. Some of those ideas were teased in that NYCC giveaway comic, Unit:E, if you remember it. And as other designers move to other brands within Hasbro, I've been able to 'travel' with them, and do lot of work on stuff like Star Wars, etc. Always though, I try to stay connected to the big bots, with doing some Hasbro Inc. commissioned work, movie/tv show stuff or product design for example, or licensed work with IDW, and other publishers.
Va'al - So what you're telling us is.. you're everywhere! And we know that some of your art features in the upcoming Covenant of Primus - the result of all the concept work for the Aligned continuity - due early December. Anything you can tell us about that?
KC - Now everyone finally can see it! After years of working with Hasbro off and on, I've only been able to release a grand total of 8 Transformers images. Including Prima, of the 13, which was published previously in the Transformers: Vault. I'm so excited to see the rest of the designs coming out, along with some new art I was asked to contribute, alongside some other great Transformers artists.
Binder of Revelation - Art by Emiliano Santalucia
After working six or so months with Hasbro, they booked me to do four of the 13 Primes. By then I had a pretty good feel of what Aaron Archer was looking for from me, and I had gotten pretty tight with Eric Siebenaler who acted as my art director on previous projects. I was also then introduced to Rik Alvarez, who had sent me a giant document to work from, that he was putting together. A compiled history from the comics and games, and new stuff he had written - basically the bones of the Aligned Continuity. So, under those guys, I went to work. 4 became 6, then 8, then Eric asked if I wanted to do all 13. Of course! But then Takara chimed in, and they wanted to do some images, and they took over the designs of Micronus and Alpha Trion. So I ended up doing 11...and a second version of one of them.
I had never really heard much about it since then, other than Aaron and Rik teased some images at a couple of BotCons, but I really thought they would remain in the vault, the Brand Bible. Last November, I got an email from Tyler Freidenrich from Becker&Mayer, asking if I could do some illustrations for what would be the Covenant. I jumped at the chance, and got to contribute 7 illustrations, a new character design for Unicron, and the cover. And that's about all I can tell you about it. I know what I did, but I've only seen the same trailer for it as everyone else. I was asked to upload every Hasbro image I did related to the Aligned Continuity, beyond just the Primes, but I don't what, if anything more, was included in the book.
So, I'm just as excited as any other fan to see what's in there!
Va'al - I can assure you, a lot of us are really, really excited for this book. I'm not sure what else could hype it up more.. do you have any ideas?
KC - That's great to hear! Hmm...how about a contest for a free copy of the book? On my Facebook page, the Art of Ken Christiansen, I'll be running a 'Like Drive' contest. Participants enter their names into a drawing by making a comment in the page's Cover Photo comments section, saying they shared the page to at least five people. That Cover Photo, (containing all the contest info) signaling the beginning of the contest, will be posted on Monday, November 25th, at 9 AM PST, and ending Sunday, December 8th at midnight PST.
Monday, December 9th, (the day before the book is released) I'll draw the winning name, and announce it by 9 AM PST. That winner will receive a free copy of the Covenant of Primus... AND, I'll insert a custom black and white rendered portrait, of any character of their choosing.
Va'al - Hear that, readers? Head over to Ken's page for a chance to win what looks to be an amazing piece of Transformers lore. Ken, thanks again for agreeing to do this interview with us, we're looking forward to more of your amazing work soon! Any last words?
KC - Thank you - I can't tell you how much I appreciate it!
I do have a couple more things to add. I also put together a new website, kenchristiansen.com, which replaces to old site, badflip.com. Finally I have galleries collecting all the Transformers (and more!) work that I've done, in one easy to find place, rather than have to search through months and years of blog posts on the old Bad Flip Blog. I will keep that blog online, but it will go inactive. The new site has a blog built in, so that's how I'll continue, along with the Facebook page, to make announcements, and post new artwork. And once it's ready, there will also be a online store, to purchase original art, make commission inquiries, and get leftover convention prints and sketchbooks. It's coming very soon, but right now the only way to get that stuff is through the Art of Ken Christiansen on Facebook, or contact me at email@example.com.
There you have it, readers - we hope you enjoyed our voyage into the Christiansen world! Join the competition today, follow Ken's work and keep your eyes tuned for more exclusive content, coming soon, to Seibertron.com.
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!
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!!!