Sabrblade wrote:On the last day of BotCon 2016, I attended the Sunday morning panel that was hosted by Japanese Transformers artist/writer Hayato Sakamoto, writer/translator Andrew “Hydra” Hall, and writer/translator Ken Rose. At this panel, Sakamoto talked about his working as an artist for IDW’s Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye comic series, as well as his working as both a writer and an artist for the TakaraTomy’s Transformers: Unite Warriors and Transformers: Legends pack-in fiction. (For those interested, you can watch a full YouTube video recording of the panel HERE).
After the panel ended, I approached the three as they were exiting the room (heading back to Sakamoto-san’s booth in the Artist Alley room) to ask Sakamoto-san some questions about his Japanese G1 works. Having an affinity for continuity and lore, Sakamoto-san was quite enthusiastic to discuss these topics with me. I joined the three on their walk back to the Artist Alley, introducing myself to Andrew Hall who recognized my screenname. Once we got to Sakamoto-san’s booth, Ken Rose graciously acted as a translation middleman between the two of us.
Most of my questions originated from what was said during the panel about the continuity placements of Unite Warriors Offshoot and Legends, which then springboarded into a wider discussion of the Japanese G1 cartoon continuity as a whole. Here is a rundown of the things we discussed and the answers I was able to get (note that Sakamoto-san’s attention eventually became divided between myself and other fans who were wanting him to sign and/or draw something for them, so some of the answers I got were less clear than others):
* As said during the panel, Unite Warriors Offshoot and the specific Legends manga chapters that have G1 Megatron, Ultra Magnus, and Springer come into the Legends Universe all take place after G2. But more specifically, they all take place after the two e-HOBBY manga that came with Masterpiece MP-1B Convoy Black Ver. And Masterpiece MP-3G Starscream Ghost Ver.
* As the Legends manga chapter that has Springer go to the Legends Universe takes place in the 2030s, with Operation Combination and United EX set in the year 2035, that era of Legends (and I think Unite Warriors Offshoot as well) takes place in the late 2030s.
* Unite Warriors Offshoot takes place even after the post-G2/post-e-HOBBY era of Legends. However, Sakamoto-san does not yet know how long or short after Legends that UWO takes place, as Legends currently has Metroplex in the Legends Universe while UWO has him in the main JG1 universe, so Sakamoto does not yet know when Metroplex gets out of the Legends Universe and goes back to the JG1 universe. But he does at least know that UWO does come after Legends.
* Unlike the rest of the Unite Warriors fiction released so far, the Grand Galvatron comic does not take place in the same post-G2/post-e-HOBBY era as UWO. Though the comic does say that it takes place ten years after Galvatron’s death in 2011 (2021), Sakamoto further revealed that it takes place after the Masterforce cartoon.
* As stated at the panel, one of the things Sakamoto set out to do with the Legends manga was to show Ultra Magnus’s rebirth into his G2 Laser Ultra Magnus body. However, in the Legends manga that showed Ultra Magnus’s rebirth, Ultra Magnus is shown waking up from inside his coffin in his Legends toy body instead. When asked if Ultra Magnus was reborn in his G2 Laser Ultra Magnus body or his Legends toy body, Sakamoto said it was the former, and explained that manga chapter as being more of a retelling of Magnus’s rebirth than a literal depiction. He also explained that Ultra Magnus can change his physical form back and forth between his G2 Laser body and his Legends body by the power of the Reconfiguration Matrix. This explains how Magnus was able to appear in his G2 Laser body during the post-G2 e-HOBBY manga and then as his Legends body later on in the Legends manga.
* Reiterating something he said at the panel, when Alpha Trion sacrificed the last of his energy to recharge the Matrix in episode 3 of The Headmasters, he didn’t merely recharge the Matrix, he became the Matrix. A new Matrix, at that. And this Matrix being a new one is why Rodimus Prime (or rather, his animation model) looked different in The Headmasters compared to how he looked in season 3 of the G1 cartoon. And in the Legends manga, when Alpha Trion put himself into Ultra Magnus’s chest, Ultra Magnus came back to life by having the new Matrix (Alpha Trion) put into him.
* As he referred to the Grand Scourge comic to present the continuity placements of UWO and Legends during the panel, I asked him if the Grand Scourge comic is supposed to be a part of the main JG1 cartoon continuity or not, as the comic itself is rather vague on its own continuity, seemingly on purpose. Sakamoto’s answer is that he’s presently not sure if it is or not since he’s not the one writing it. As I type this answer, I suspect that Sakamoto is open to the possibility of the comic being on its own outside of the JG1 continuity, and is just taking precautions with the placements of UWO and Legends to allow the Grand Scourge comic to be slotted into the main timeline should the opportunity arise at a later date. But for right now, its placement in the main timeline (should it ever be included) remains undetermined.
* As stated at the panel, Sakamoto is among those responsible for creating the big JG1 timeline from 2007. He confirmed that he played a role in adding Car Robots to the timeline. His reasons given for including it were that RobotMasters Wrecker Hook is an amnesiac Car Robots Wrecker Hook (I did not get to ask if this was the official consensus or just his own personal consensus), Brave Maximus came back to Earth after Car Robots (and apparently so too did God Magnus, from what I was told, but didn’t get anything further about that), and that when the e-HOBBY G1 GoBots came to the Transformers universe, their technology was used to create the Spychangers.
* At the end of the Car Robots cartoon, Brave Maximus had taken all of the Destrongers back to Cybertron to stand trial before Vector Sigma. Since the characters of that cartoon were said to have come from the future, I asked if Brave Maximus took them back to the Cybertron of the cartoon’s present time or the Cybertron of future that the characters all came from. Sakamoto said it was the future.
* In the Legends manga that features Car Robots Black Convoy (RiD Scourge), he has his own Energon Matrix, as a means of explaining the molded-in Matrix on the toy. Sakamoto explains that Black Convoy was able to get an Energon Matrix of his own because the United EX fiction had the Energon Matrix technology being developed in the year 2035. And since Black Convoy had been taken back to Cybertron in the future, he was able to get his Energon Matrix during a point when Energon Matrix technology existed.
* When asked to tell more about how Black Convoy got his Energon Matrix, Sakamoto said that he’s waiting for a Unite Warriors Baldigus release before saying any more about that. I didn’t get to ask if he meant that there is a Unite Warriors Baldigus coming, or if he’s just wanting there to be one.
* Sakamoto told me an in-fiction reason for why Car Robots Ai and the human Ai Kuruma looks alike. Car Robots Ai's appearance is based on a scan made of Ai Kuruma.
* I asked Sakamoto if he could tell me what exactly a Spark Engine was, as it was only mentioned once in the Car Robots anime but never told what it was. Unfortunately, this question didn't get to be answered. I don't fully recall why it wasn't answered, but I think it was either due to the answer being tied with the Black Convoy question that he was waiting on a UW Baldigus release in order to answer, or was due to Sakamoto's attention becoming divided between my questions and other fans coming to his booth to ask for his autograph/artwork.
* When asked what future era the Car Robots characters hail from, Sakamoto said that it’s currently fuzzy on what era they came from. When I mentioned that some fans like to think that they come from the same era as the Beast Wars II and Beast Wars Neo cast, he said that that idea pretty much aligns with his own ideas (of note is that a small book of his original artwork that he had for sale at his booth contained a page of artwork that featured Big Convoy and JRX together on Cybertron, but it wasn’t official art, just one of his many personal art pieces).
* Sakamoto also asked me if I work on the TFWiki, and I said yeah. Sakamoto told me a few things that he’d like to see on the Wiki. Specifically, he’d like to see more images overall of artwork, especially more images of full-body character artwork. I told him that, while I do contribute to the Wiki, I’m not a member of its administrative staff, and that the Wiki does have some policies regarding what images it uses and such, but which are reasonable.
I think that’s everything we got to discuss before the convention ended. If I remember any more, I’ll add more to it.
AdamPrime wrote:Hi guys and gals,
I'm the editor of Toy Meets World magazine. Recently we had the great honor of chatting with IDW writer supremo James Roberts. He's a proper gent, so I thought I'd treat you all to the full interview.
TMW issue #1 is undergoing a 'trial launch' right now, and is available at selected retailers in the south west. We're listening to feedback, and will tweak the mag slightly for the proper nationwide rollout in a few weeks' time. If anyone would like an issue, and there is plenty to read about (such as interviews with Simon Furman, Stan Bush and My Little Pony's Nicole Oliver; reviews of all the coolest toys and books; and tonnes of retro fun with TF, He-Man, Sega, Power Rangers and much more!) then please contact me and I can send one out in the post.
Anyway, on the the interview:
When did you decide that you wanted to be a writer? Was it always going to be in comics, or was that something you pursued later in your career?
I’ve always wanted to write fiction for a living, but not comics necessarily. And that’s strange, I guess, because as a child I read comics to the exclusion of pretty much all else: Whizzer & Chips and Buster, then Marvel UK titles (including Transformers, of course), then 2000AD and what little Marvel US and DC stuff found its way to the Channel Islands. I was a member of an unofficial Transformers fan club – a group of pen pals, really – and even then, for most of the time at least, I contributed prose fiction rather than comic scripts. In my late teens I discovered authors like John Updike, Martin Amis, Graham Greene, George Orwell and Julian Barnes.
It's fair to say that the best TF writing has come from the Brits; previously, Simon Furman was considered the godfather of Transformers - were those big shoes to step into? Did he officially pass the torch?
Oh, I dunno – Nick Roche, John Barber and Mairghread Scott all write a mean TF story, and none of them are British. But thank you anyway! I was and am a huge Simon Furman fan – I’d hold him up alongside my more traditional literary heroes as being a formative influence – and I have him to thank for being a Transformers fan. More than the toys, more than the cartoon, more than the Marvel US material… if it wasn’t for Simon’s work on the British TF comic, we wouldn’t be having this conversation. I got his autograph back in 1991, just after #75 of the American Transformers comic came out; he signed the comic for me. I got him to sign it again 10 years later, when I was promoting an unofficial TF novel I’d written; and 10 years after that, in 2011, I had him sign it a third time – and by then I was writing TF stories professionally, and he asked me (tongue in cheek, but still…) to sign something for him.
Simon’s my TF dad, really. There was no “official” passing of the torch – I’m not sure how that would even work…! – but he did give me a copy of the script to the last Marvel US issue with a lovely note that essentially invited me to carry on what he started.
When you're writing a script, how do you keep to the page count for each issue? Do you supply the script that you feel is complete, and the artist squeezes it in to 20 pages?
No, it’s more complicated – and time-consuming – than that. It’s my job to break each issue down not only into pages, but panels. I have to work out the pacing and structure of each issue, how the story unfolds, how many panels I’ll need to do a scene justice. It’s a case of ‘Page 1, Panel 1’, then a description, for the artist, of what needs to go in the panel, and then the dialog that will go inside that panel. MTMTE is a dense comic – both in terms of plot and dialog – and a huge amount of my time is spent working out how best to tell the story over 20 pages. It’s all planned down to the last detail.
Your stories are characterised by an incredible amount of world-building and backstory. You have also introduced concepts relating to Transformer anatomy and beliefs such as Rossum's trinity, the Guiding Hand and so on. Does Hasbro or IDW ever try and reign you in? Or are you allowed to add as much depth as you like to the characters and universe?
I’m encouraged to world-build – it’s almost part of the job description. IDW, Hasbro and readers (I hope) want to see the Transformers Universe expanded and enriched. I’d only be reined in – and it hasn’t really happened yet, touch wood – if I wanted to introduce a concept that was fundamentally at odds with what Hasbro felt Transformers was about, or if my editor thought, frankly, that it was a rubbish idea, or if anyone responsible for singing off my scripts feel that what I wanted to do was too… well, I was going to say “adult”, but that’s not what I mean. MTMTE has always operated on an adult level in terms of not talking down to its audience, and in terms of exploring mature themes.
MTMTE has an intriguing stance on politics, governments and social injustice. It makes for fascinating reading. Have you ever considered a place in Parliament?
I’m a political nerd and I do have strongly held beliefs about how society should be organized and how we could bring about a better quality of life for everybody. Maybe one day I’ll take the plunge and put my money where my mouth is.
MTMTE threw out the concepts of 'goodies' and 'baddies'. The Autobots and Decepticons are revealed to just be people - whether it's Rodimus' crew, the Scavengers or Deathsaurus - under the badge they're all basically the same. We're dreading the day when the war starts again - will the peace (and MTMTE as a comic) last?
You’re giving me too much credit. The decision to end the Autobot/Decepticon war was made by IDW’s editorial team back in 2010, and John Barber and I had a year in which to prepare two ongoings – John’s Robots in Disguise (now simply titled The Transformers) and MTMTE – which would explore postwar life in more detail. Neither John nor I knew how long the peace (and that’s a relative concept; there’s still lots of conflict in the Transformers Universe) would last. We didn’t know whether fans would demand a return to war, or whether we’d find it difficult to set stories in peacetime for too long. But here we are, in Year Five of each of the ongoings, and the war is still officially over.
It’s true that putting the war to bed has opened up a huge number of new storytelling avenues, most of them predicated on the idea that, once (overt) hostilities cease, and the red and purple badges are put to one side, you’re forced to see each Autobot and Decepticon as a Cybertronian – as a character defined by something other than who they used to take orders from. As I say, it’s opened up lots of new story possibilities. All that said, if the war started again – and it well might – that would mean MTMTE had to end. It would just create some interesting new tensions…
Have you petitioned Hasbro for a toy of Rung? We can imagine the packaging now - "Tranforms from ROBOT to ORNAMENT and back again!"
Ha! I’ve never petitioned Hasbro for anything. They do their thing and, from time to time, I learn that, for example, there’s to be a Minimus Ambus figure, or that another of the Lost Light crew – Brainstorm, Whirl, Chromedome, whoever – is being re-released as a toy. I would LOVE Rung to have a toy, but I damaged the chances of that ever happening when I decided, early on, that he should turn into something which happened to have a very limited play value. You see the sacrifices I make for the greater storytelling good?
With MTMTE, you've taken a few obscure characters, and a few prominent characters, and really made them your own. Characters such as Rewind, Whirl and Ultra Magnus will never be the same. Did you set out to do this from the beginning? Did you think to yourself "Now's the time for Brainstorm to shine!!"
Kind of, I guess. I deliberately selected lesser-known G1 characters, but characters I was fond of, to accompany the Big Four (Rodimus, Magnus, Ratchet and Drift) that were at the center of MTMTE Season 1. Autobots like Tailgate, Skids, Swerve, Brainstorm, Chromedome and Rewind were attractive to me principally because they hadn’t been explored in the past. They were recognizable (to more dedicated TF fans, admittedly), but they were almost blank canvasses. I knew that MTMTE – certainly in the early days – was all about secrets and hidden histories, and I couldn’t tell those type of stories with A List characters who had appeared in IDW comics for the last few years, or with characters who had very well-established personalities. I’m immensely proud of the fact that, through MTMTE, these D-listers have become well-loved and well-recognised characters in their own right.
This may sound silly, but do you take voices into consideration when writing a character? Most people would claim to "hear" the voices in their head when they read. Do you ever give it much thought?
It’s not a silly question and I do give it some thought, mainly because so many readers ask me “Who do you think X sounds like?” And I have to give a very dull – but truthful – response and say, “S/he has a British accent and sounds a bit like me.” I have an imagination deficit in this regard, because I really don’t ‘hear’ their literal voices. I do, of course, know their voices in terms of their character – what they would and wouldn’t do, what they’d say, how they’d say it, the rhythms of their speech and so on, but I don’t, say, write a line for Nautica and hear a certain actress’s voice. But I know that many fans DO, and that’s great!
Do you think that MTMTE, with its tales of space-faring derring do, has a wider appeal than regular Transformer comics? If something like Star Trek can have such universal appeal, there must be hope for Transformers. Could we see a TV version of MTMTE in the future, and would you want to be a part of it? Conversely, do you think its nature makes it LESS appealing to some Transformer fans?
MTMTE is an easy sell in terms of concept: a group of misfit Transformers head off into space in search of their mythical ancestors. It’s a traditional quest story and, as you say, very much in the Star Trek tradition. That might give it a better chance with the casual reader – the non-Transformers fan - than other Transformers comics, but I don’t know. Casual comic readers whose Transformers knowledge is informed by growing up in the 80s – people who think Transformers should be about Autobots versus Decepticons on Earth – may prefer something more in keeping with their childhood memories. I don’t know. I think many people have a preconceived idea of what Transformers is about and sometimes that dissuades them from giving IDW’s titles a chance; and unsurprisingly I wish more people would put such notions aside and pick up MTMTE or John’s Transformers, because they’d be pleasantly surprised.
Can I see MTMTE transferring to TV? I don’t know if I can see it happening, but I’d like it to. MTMTE almost reads as a TV show adapted for comics, with most of the stories being structured as if they were a 45-minute episode. And each story arc – the MTMTE fandom even calls them “seasons” – lasts about 22 issues.
If MTMTE ever transferred to the small screen I would love to be part of it. Even if I ended up hanging about making tea for the animators and actors.
TMW thanks Mr. Roberts very much for his time.
[...] One of the things with Optimus Prime is that he’s a good guy. Like, a really good, powerful, guy. So over the years, he'd sort of had doubt introduced to him in the IDW comic books, where he was a little more hesitating in his actions. As I was writing him, I started to realize he was maybe going down that direction again, and it seemed to me—as a character, from his point of view—he’d want to avoid that.
But at the same time, one of the looming questions has been “what does it mean to be Prime?” Starscream’s ruling Cybertron; Megatron’s an Autobot... Some people see him as a war leader, others see him as a messianic figure... Some ’bots are loyally on his side and will follow him anywhere, and others—old friends—start to doubt him.
Nrama: As the battle and the main story ended, the issue kicked into another gear with that dream sequence from Optimus. What can you say about that? Is it a premonition? Will some (or all) of it come true?
Barber: Some of Optimus's dream is literally true. Some is symbolic. Some is what he fears. Maybe some is leading him to what he needs to know. And a big part of it recalls an ancient prophesy from the days of the original Primes. Is it Optimus projecting himself onto this old tale? Or is it the prophecy asserting itself onto its object?
But what really comes next is all of the pieces of this series coming together. The politics of Cybertron, the ancient history of Earth and Cybertron, the relationship with Earth and its giant metal visitors. Optimus Prime, Starscream, Prowl, Arcee, Victorion—all those characters come together. Plus ghost-Bumblebee. Or hallucination-Bumblebee, whatever Starscream is seeing. Even poor dead Bumblebee has a role to play!
IDW looks to be setting up a major change to the status quo of its Transformers line, as longtime series writer John Barber and artist Andrew Griffith begins the "All Hail Optimus" arc.
But the battle lines are more than just Autobots vs. Decepticons, as different factions emerge against Optimus, Galvatron and Starscream... and that's not even including the humans of Earth, which as you can imagine might have issues with Optimus Prime annexing Earth.
Barber: At the start of the series, Galvatron is poised to wreak havoc on the Earth with an army of disaffected Decepticons. This isn’t the first time the Earth’s been in this dangerous position—among other things, Earth’s useful to the Transformers because it has this substance called Ore-13 which can be converted to energon, their lifeblood. Optimus has tried battling on Earth to defend it; he’s tried leaving Earth behind to keep it out of the Cybertronian’s war. Neither of those really worked. So now, he’s looking at Earth and seeing the Decepticons striking again, and he’s seeing there are people starving on Earth and people being disenfranchised in many ways.
"Transformers #50" preview
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And Optimus’ motto has always been, “Freedom is the right of all sentient beings.” It’s pointed out to him that he could act to make the people of Earth more free… and free from this eons-long Cybertronian war, that—while it’s technically over—is still endangering the planet.
So he decides to annex Earth into Cybertron’s council of worlds. Whether Earth wants to come or not; and whether the council wants Earth or not. He’s going to pull Earth into the cosmic community and try to improve life on the planet.
So, yeah—a lot of his friends see this as… not a good move. I think all of his enemies see this as bad. But Optimus has loyal allies, plus followers who view him as a messianic figure for being a Prime, and carrying (what’s left of) the Matrix of Leadership. Optimus has been unwilling to use that good will to his advantage… until now.
Nrama: Last question -- Transformers #50 looks to be extra-sized. Overall, what should fans expect?
Barber: There’s a 30-page story by me and Andrew, then Casey W. Coller drew a 10-pager that deals with the fallout. Plus some rambling reminisces by me. And some nice special guest covers, by Jonathan Hickman and Mike Choi and our regular gang of Transformers superstars like Andrew Griffith, Casey W. Coller, and Alex Milne.
In March, IDW Publishing is revisiting classic moments from it's most popular franchises in a series of thematic one-shots subtitled "Deviations," and for the Transformers it doesn't get any bigger than the original Transformers: The Movie. Transformers: Deviations revisits the classic G1 era to ask "what if Optimus Prime didn't die and was there to stand against Unicron?"
Transformers: Deviations is by writer Brandon Easton and veteran Transformers artist Priscilla Tramantano, and we spoke to them about this unique opportunity -- and oh yeah, we talk about that epic soundtrack as well.
Newsarama: Brandon, what is Transformers: Deviations about?
Brandon Easton: This is a spin on the extremely popular alternate universe concept seen in sci-fi stories and graphic novels for decades. The idea that we get to peek into a different continuity where events took a strange turn and a whole new reality is born is difficult to resist. In Transformers Deviations, we speculate on the one of the biggest moments in Transformers history – the death of Optimus Prime from the classic Transformers: The Movie (1986).
The story explores the events of the original Generation One Transformers timeline if Optimus Prime had not been critically injured by Megatron in their fateful battle in Autobot City. Anyone who knows the movie and the subsequent stories from the third season of the classic TV series knows that Optimus’ death was a central point in the saga and if he survives a wholly divergent and complex wall of dominoes tumble erratically. We get a universe that deviates from the original timeline in a very interesting way.
So in a nutshell, it’s “What if Optimus Prime survived?”
Nrama: Who are the characters that take center stage in this one?
Easton: Without ruining too much, I will say that Optimus, Hot Rod and Starscream get a lot of “screen time.” There’s a lot more I could say, but I’d rather have people check out the book when it hits the stores.
Tramontano: Grimlock is a favorite of mine and he plays a big part in the movie so it'll be cool to revisit that. But I'm looking forward to the Starscream coronation gag. It´s such an iconic scene, probably my favorite scene out of the 1986 movie, and I want to see how fans will react to this new spin Brandon gave to it!
Nrama: And is there anyone you wish you could have drawn but didn't?
Tramontano: Well, I love Galvatron but sadly he won't be in this.
Nrama: This is an interesting concept -- the idea of an alternate history. What does this offer for you two as a writer and artist respectively, and do you see potential for doing it more with Transformers?
Tramontano: As a fan, it's very common for us to play within established universe, drawing fan art, writing fanfics and so on. Imagining what could have been if something had happened differently is part of the fun. I like this idea a great deal. Now, as an artist, things get more complicated because you're dealing with something that people love with all their hearts and you have to be able to tell them you're not trying to replace the original material but just add a new version. I sincerely hope people are open-minded about this book and like the result. Reading Brandon's script, I know I did (as an artist and as a fan).
Easton: Alternate history stories are a sub-genre of speculative fiction and they’re great ways to explore socio-political concepts without alienating readers. I would point to the works of Harry Turtledove or Bryce Zabel to see some compelling takes on how different the world would be if a critical moment in history went in another direction.
Personally, as a writer of speculative fiction and a former U.S. History teacher, I adore alternate histories because they allow us to engage in a different kind of world-building exercise that forces us to work within grounded constraints while still pushing the boundaries of what is/was possible.
Optimus Prime and the Autobots have always had a peaceful relationship with the people of Earth -- but in 2016 that's going to change.
In a new arc kicking off with February's Transformers #50, Optimus Prime is annexing Earth to be a part of Cybertron's Council of Worlds. Humanity is up in arms, not to mention the Decepticons, in this arc titled "All Hail Optimus."
Announced just before IDW Publishing's New York Comic-Con Panel "IDW & Top Shelf: Best Panel Of All Time", the creators of Transformers talked with Newsarama about this shocking event, from what it means to where it goes for the Robots in Disguise and the humans like you and I.
Newsarama: John, Andrew -- what can you tell readers about Transformers #50?
John Barber: Transformers #50 is the biggest thing we’ve done. It’s called "All Hail Optimus," and Optimus Prime annexes planet Earth to become to become part of Cybertron’s Council of Worlds—he takes control of Earth to protect it from invasion. Meanwhile, Optimus has thousands of Cybertronian followers who view him as the “True Prime”—they see him as having a power above any elected office, above any “normal” being—and now Optimus is using the power they’ve handed to him. And he’s using it for good—at least as far as he sees it. Not everybody agrees with him.
It’s a powerful move on Optimus Prime’s part, and one that there’s no moving back from. The humans know the Cybertronians are there, are among them, and the people of Earth are forced to become part of a cosmic community.
Andrew and I started working together about… six years ago? And we’ve never stopped. Most of that time’s been on this Transformers series, and this storyline brings together everything we’ve started. It’s amazing to get to work on something so big, and get to collaborate with somebody for so long. It’s been a long, great trip—and it’s about to get even better!
Andrew Griffith: Yeah, what's great to me about getting to this point is that while a landmark issue like #50 is usually a climax of a story, in our case it's the start of a new storyline that also serves as natural culmination of events that have been building in both Transformers and Windblade.
And I also see it as a bit of a landmark in my time working with John. So hard to believe we and colorist Josh Perez have made it to #50 as the core creative team along with Livio, Casey, Brendan, Guido, Sara and all of the other contributors to the series. Quite a feat in today's comics industry. And the same can be said of Transformers.
Nrama: Who's on Optimus' side in all this?
Barber: The team of Autobots on Earth—at least the ones who’ve survived to #50—are all with him, plus a new character named Aileron—she comes from Caminus and is amazing to be around this world of Primes and of grand cosmic events. Victorion—the new female Combiner we introduced this summer will be playing a big role. Is she on his side? That’s a complex answer. Sunstreaker will play a role, and so will the ancient Alpha Trion.
But his biggest supporters are the Colonists who’ve arrived on Cybertron, who’ve lived their whole lives thinking Primes were a myth—and now here they are standing on the same ground as one. And many are willing to do whatever he says—which isn’t something Optimus Prime has been comfortable with in the past.
Griffith: It's always nice to be able to draw familiar favorites like Optimus Prime, Sideswipe and Arcee. But it's even better sometimes to get to work with new characters to our book like Sunstreaker and Victorion. I know Josh and myself are particularly excited to get to help establish new characters like Aerlion, Victorion and the Torchbearers. I'm really happy that our cast can consist of childhood favorites like Optimus Prime while also embracing the newest and most diverse of characters to join the continuity.
Now the important question is: We have Sunstreaker coming up. What about Bob?
Nrama: John, I noticed Jonathan Hickman is listed as doing a cover. Can you talk about Hickman's involvement in the title and at IDW?
Barber: I’ve known Jonathan Hickman since he started writing comics, and he’s great—I love his writing, but I also love his drawing and his design sense. I talked to him at Comic-Con International: San Diego last summer, and he’d been doing some variant covers, and I asked if he’d do one for Transformers, and he said yes!
That’s all there really is to it, but years ago, I did make him listen to my Transformers plans in a bar. He’s probably blocked that memory out.
Griffith: Jonathan Hickman's doing a cover for our book? How rad is that? Can't wait to see it!
CBR News spoke with Scott and Howell about what's next for "Transformers: Windblade," what it means for their title character to learn that Prime may not be the 100% altruistic hero she once believed him to be, and why giant, battling robots provide the perfect allegory to explore themes like politics, war, gender and more.
Starscream has been handling this all magnificently, maneuvering everything into place. Has it been fun to get to have him outpace the others and show off his political agility?
Scott: Starscream is one of my favorite characters and I've had a great time revealing just how cunning he is. He also has a big advantage because everyone else in the book wears their heart on their sleeve. Windblade wants to save Caminus. Optimus wants to save Cybertron. And Starscream just wants to do whatever's best for Starscream. That makes him a lot more flexible than our other characters, and he uses that flexibility to its fullest extent. When Starscream sent Swindle and Menasor to Caminus, I saw a lot of people exclaiming that this would be Starscream's last mistake, and by the end of "Combiner Wars" he'd be ousted from power. I think underestimating Starscream is a lot of people's biggest mistake.
Scott: So at the end of "Combiner Wars," Caminus and Cybertron are now connected via SpaceBridge, and the Cybertronians have learned of at least four other colonies. Windblade's new mission is to make first contact with these worlds and somehow convince them to ally with Cybertron's new Council of Worlds, but each colony will have its own unique challenges she'll have to deal with. We're also kicking open a lot of doors to continuities that haven't been explored much in IDW. We're including a whole lot of new Transformers, many of which fans will know from other iterations of the brand throughout the years.
The Transformers comics seem to handle sci-fi as allegory more capably than anyone else is able to right now. What is it about the Universe which makes them so suitable to introduce themes of politics, war, gender and the like?
Howell: I think it's because when you get to see huge talking robots fighting, you can be sneaky with some bigger themes like political disputes and rivalries or the cause and costs of war. Everyone reads it to have fun, but they come away with a little bit more than that -- or at least that's the hope, anyway.
Scott: When you are dealing with alien robots, you have just enough distance between you and the subject that you can explore difficult ideas and themes much more comfortably. "Transformers" as a brand has always dealt with war, battle fatigue, prejudice and factionalism. And while our main goal is to tell a really great story, it's always my hope that we're giving people the chance to explore the rationale, emotions and beliefs of people they wouldn't get the chance to do in real life.
Was it a conscious choice to pick characters from so many different versions of the franchise and unite them here?
Scott: My goal for introducing more diversity to the brand has always been about opening as many doors as possible. I never want a writer to think "I can't introduce Character X because they have no place in this universe." So Caminus got the ball rolling on introducing female Transformers, but now all these other colonies will have female Transformers, too. My next thought was how can we push this further and introduce more bots. I realized that we had a lot of G1 and G2 bots but what if you grew up with "Beast Wars" or "Animated" or any of the later generations of Transformers? I wanted something for those viewers, too. These colonies have allowed me to open even more doors and create a whole universe of possibilities for future stories and future characters. I want any fan no matter their age or what iteration of the brand they grew up with to be able to see their favorite Transformer fitting in to the story.
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