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.
Next spring, a war is coming to IDW’s Transformers comics – and it’s bigger than one single robot, or even the divide between Autobots and Decepticons. It’s the “Combiner Wars.”
Combiners are the term used to describe super-robots of sorts, made out of multiple Transformers combining together into one – and they’ve been a major part of the Transformers franchise, from the Destructicons’ Devastator to Predacons’ Predaking and numerous others. In the IDW Transformers line’s upcoming “Combiner Wars,” the technology that made Combiners possible has been found and it starts what IDW Senior Editor (and longtime Transformers writer) John Barber calls a “cold war” between Transformers factions.
Beginning in March “Combiner Wars” will crisscross between the main Transformers comic series (formerly subtitled Robots In Disguise) and the upcoming Transformers: Windblade ongoing series. The crossover will be written by Barber along with Mairghread Scott, and illustrated by Sarah Stone and Livio Ramondelli.
Newsarama: Mairghread, John, what is this “Combiner Wars” about?
John Barber: “Combiner Wars” is, in the comics, the cold war between factions on Cybertron and Earth growing hot. Starscream is the (mostly) legitimate ruler of Cybertron, but not everybody thinks he should be. And when one of his ultimate goals—contact with the missing ancient Cybertronian colonies, as seen in the Transformers: Windblade miniseries—starts to come to fruition, other parties—Optimus Prime, Windblade, Prowl—see an immediate danger to the sanctity of the galaxy.
Beyond that—“Combiner Wars” is a great example of Hasbro and IDW working together and building a huge storyline that goes between toys and comics and into other media. We on the comics have worked very closely with Hasbro’s Transformers brand team, especially Mark Webber and Sarah Carroll, plus Director, Global Publishing Michael Kelly—there’s pieces that come straight out of the comics (like the new Megatron toy for next year that gives you the option of giving him an Autobot symbol, like he has in the Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye comics) and some new things coming from the toy side that we get to debut in the comics. Plus, while the comics will come out from IDW first, they’ll be packed in with select Transformers Generations toys, which will get the comics to an all-new audience that might have never had the chance to read them before.
And beyond that—“Combiner Wars” is a great chance for Mairghread Scott (writer of the amazing Windblade series) and I to work together and to team with Sarah Stone (artist on that amazing Windblade series) and Livio Ramondelli (who’s just finished the Transformers: Punishment motion comic and is in the middle of Transformers: Primacy, the story of the early days of the war) and make a big, action-packed, character-packed story with huge ramifications for the comics in 2015.
Nrama: We’ve mentioned theWindblade miniseries and ongoing series, but what about Windblade herself – how does she factor into it all?
Scott: The end of Windblade saw our heroine striking a real devil's bargain with Starscream and she's still trying to maintain that very dangerous balance. So we see a really different side of Windblade, one trying to hold her own in the shadowy political world of Cybertron (a world Starscream is the undisputed master of) while still trying to hold onto some sort of moral compass. The question for Windblade in “Combiner Wars” is really: How far can you go in the name of good until you aren't good anymore? When does the end stop justifying the means?
Vulture.com wrote:Listening to it, one might think, With lyrics like "it's in the mighty hands of steel," this must be a song written about Optimus Prime. But no. Bush says he had never even heard of the Transformers until after the song was already finished. Bush had written it with visions in his head of other iron bodies: Sylvester Stallone and Lou Gossett Jr.
Vulture.com wrote:"We wrote the song with the Stallone movie Cobra in mind," Bush said in his amiable southern drawl, picked up during his childhood in northern Florida. "We wanted to get it on the soundtrack. But the record label, they got it in the Transformers movie instead. We thought, What in the hell is that? An animated movie about robots? Really?"
The veteran executive oversaw the 2010 launch of the kids cable network, a joint venture between Discovery Communications and toymaker Hasbro, and has run it ever since.
“After five years at the Hub Network as its founding President & CEO, I am announcing that I will be leaving at the end of the year when my contract expires,” Loesch said in a statement to Deadline. “I am very proud of the work we have done and the accomplishments we have achieved at the Hub. The network is now in excellent financial shape, its ratings are up year-to-year, our programming has won more than 30 awards, including 12 Daytime Emmys, and the Hub Network has become a TV home for quality programming that kids and their families come together to enjoy. I will be working closely with our parent companies, Discovery and Hasbro, to assist in the leadership transition. I want to thank both companies for the opportunity they extended me and thank my wonderful team at the Hub. I have loved my job and am proud of the achievements we’ve made. While my career has spanned over four decades, I look forward to evaluating future opportunities and writing the next chapter.”
Auditioning with director Michael Bay for the role of Optimus Prime in 2007’s live-action movie adaptation of the beloved animated series “Transformers,” Canadian-born vocal artist Peter Cullen was aware that his previous accomplishments hardly guaranteed his place in a big-budget Hollywood movie.
“It’s kind of surreal to audition for a character that you basically created,” said Cullen, who originated the Autobot’s stentorian voice in TV performances from 1984 to ‘87. “But I didn’t expect Michael to know what I knew about ‘Transformers.’ I was ready for anything.”
Contractually obligated to continue voicing Optimus in at least two more “Transformers” sequels, Cullen has no plans to retire his robot-in-disguise alter ego anytime soon. Moreover, having based the characterization on his older brother, a decorated Marine Corps officer who served in Vietnam, the actor feels a sense of responsibility to the franchise’s faithful.
“My brother said, ‘Peter, be a real hero. Don’t do all the bravado stuff and pretend to be tough. Be strong enough to be gentle. Be understanding — and calm,’” Cullen said. “When I began the audition, his voice came right out. I read the lines the way I could hear my brother doing it.
“Now, maintaining those characteristics — courage, trustworthiness, integrity, loyalty — you’re responsible for something to the kids who watch Optimus Prime. I want to be a positive influence rather than just fighting and sock, bang, boom!”
Before Mark Wahlberg ever attempted to test his mettle vis-a-vis giant metamorphosing robots from outer space, and before he befriended a heroic battle-bot named Optimus Prime on-screen, the actor prepared for his latest part with an unlikely foil: a talking teddy bear with an outsize taste for prostitutes and cocaine.
Which is to say that before Wahlberg signed on to appear in Paramount Pictures’ mega-budget sci-fi thriller “Transformers: Age of Extinction,” he got a first taste of acting opposite computer-generated imagery in a certain raunch-comedy that became 2012’s surprise breakout hit.
“‘Ted’ was definitely a good warmup,” Wahlberg said of the movie in which he plays a Boston bro who co-habitates with his hard-swearing, magically alive plush toy. “With ‘Ted,’ it was a more intimate setting. But this movie is much bigger and more intense. You’ve got eight Autobots talking to you at the same time. There’s nothing but a pole or a stick really there. You’ve got to believe and totally commit. The most difficult part of acting is when you look ridiculous and have to confront the risk of looking foolish. You’ve got to be on the whole time. You can’t phone it in.”
Optimus Prime has undergone quite a few vehicular makeovers in the past 30 years of Transformers projects, yet his earnest and heroic voice has never wavered, thanks to Peter Cullen.
For the big-budget Transformers: Age of Extinction, the actor once again reprises the role he's been playing since the 1980s Transformers cartoon. Now Prime and his Autobots have a new human ally (Mark Wahlberg) but they are in conflict with the evil Decepticons as well as the U.S. government.
"He is exactly who he was from the very original concept," Cullen says of Prime. "I've always felt a hero should have the qualities that are inspiring and helpful and fatherly and at the same time (be) courageous. I don't see those character traits changing at all."
Transformers is more than a lifetime gig as a transforming big rig for Cullen. It's also a family affair: His son Clay is a stuntman on Age of Extinction, and Cullen's brother Larry, a Marine who served in the Vietnam War and died in 2011, continues to be the inspirational foundation for Optimus' steady and strong tone.
"Though Larry's gone," Peter Cullen says, "he lives on in my mind as Optimus Prime because he was my hero."
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