DARK FORCES RISE! JHIAXUS—the mysterious senator who deleted himself from Cybertronian history—is back… but as friend or foe? RODIMUS PRIME is forced to question the motives of Primus himself—does he drag the AUTOBOTS into a war they can’t win… or side with an “enemy” who seeks only one thing: universal order?
Because what could go wrong..?
And here he is. Been teased for some time now, we've been developing a back story, dealing with the aftermath of the battle with Galvatron (while Optimus keeps building things in Oklahoma, as you do) and the primordial Cybertronians settling in - and there's quite a message going on with that plot, too - and now, Simon Furman brings Jhiaxus slap bang in the middle of it.
Surprise, he's a show-off
And he seems nice enough, if you ignore the thick, constant judging of everything on Cybertron, and the fact that his minions are terrifying and evil, and he's insanely rational and evil and supervillain-esque. Have I mentioned the minions are terrifying and evil? And racist/specieist? Surely the apple doesn't fall that far from the tree..
Rodimus Prime deals with Jhiaxus, who goes in full-on explanation mode - yet, still works, quite nicely, too. He's been set up to be an arrogant, learned, self-centred ex-senator, and that's exactly what his character is like. And there seems to be a reason behind all his power, too.
He's backed up by Hasbro!
I'm impressed. Furman plays well with his fairly expanded cast, while never losing sight of the threat posed by Jhiaxus. The Dinobots are brought in for a "subplot" of sorts, that ties in with the rest, we get to look at the continuation of the Fort Max plot, even if just for a glimpse, and the conclusion is very very fan-worthy
Guido Guidi is still on art duties, with Stephen Baskerville inking the gorgeous linework. I still sometimes forget that this is not Wildman at his best, as Guidi has done an amazing job at emulating the style while still keeping his own touch in the art. The more organic characters look brilliant, and Jhiaxus' face is something to be in awe.
As for colours, JP Bove once again delivers some stunningly chromed and slick paintjobs to absolutely everything, from organic technobirds to possessed giant robots to gold-shining faces and rubble, guns, skies and more. I'm still not sure how he does what he does, but does it he does, and does it well.
Chris Mowry's letters do a great job of helping out with the more action-based sequences, too, without ever getting in the way of the artwork - which is always a good thing. And make sure you take a look at all the covers: other than Andrew Wildman's classic A cover, Guidi's Fortress Maximus is a thing to behold, and Geoff Senior's cover is a fun as always!
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
Ok, this was really fun. Furman's dialogue can get a little our of hand, especially reading this and Dark Cybertron together, but it still fits the characters. The action in this one is well-plotted and justified, and the storyline looks very promising. And I really hope other readers get the kick I got at the two revelatory point in the issue
Next: Another good plan
I'm running out of things to say about the artwork, though it never ceases to amaze me. This is what most older readers will remember from the earlier days, with the new injected into it. It's shiny, it's gritty, it's beautiful, it's face-y and it's all due to the more or less Italians (and Baskerville). Yes, I just went there.
UNDER FIRE! AUTOBOTS and DECEPTICONS unite to battle a common foe… but will it be enough to stop the DARK CYBERTRON prophecy from coming true? SHOCKWAVE’s plan reaches fruition—while in the Dead Universe, secrets are revealed!
Like: Bumblebee still has a face!
Will you look at that? We're almost halfway there. John Barber and James Roberts return for the fifth chapter of Dark Cybertron, and we get deeper into the story and what is actually going on in Shockwave's mind. Well, sort of. And be ready to miss all the characters you wanted to see more of, too!
Nope, not in here
The action only takes place in two locations, and that means two storylines, with one being left to one side for this issue (but they will be back!). And to be fair, there is quite a lot going on in the DU and on Cybertron right now, with Nova Prime and Galvatron coming through to this reality Alien-style through Megatron's body.
On the other side of the universe, Nightbeat does as Nightbeat is, we get some exposition and recapping about everyone and everything that has happened so far and find out that Cyclonus is - as we knew - really important for everything. Will it last though? Is there more going on?
I sense a recap coming
I'm intrigued by the various things going on, and confused by some of the details of the Regeneration Ore and the characters that come in touch with it - are they fully rebuilt/reformed? I liked the dialogue and the various digs at each of the writers and the characters themselves, and I really really enjoy the emotional level of some of the temporary deaths.
Two storylines, two artists: Livio Ramondelli for the DU, Robert Gill for Cybertron. I'm still unsure about the latter's Shockwave, especially the chest proportions, but I'm enjoying the rest of the cast. As for Ramondelli, his style definitely fits the tone of the DU, but Orion gets some shape malfunctions every now and then. What is it with robochests this issue?
I actually think that Romulo Fajardo Jr's colours really fit Gill's style, and there are some seriously gorgeous panels in here, with some nice cross-hatched shadings too. The effects of Skywarp's teleport malfunction are brilliantly rendered, too. Ramondelli's colours also make some scenes pop quite nicely, and his skies are glorious.
And it's Tom B. Long back on lettering, too. That first Metalhawk panel has an excellent sound to it, and so do some of the punches when Ironhide is involved. Let's also not forget Casey Coller's great cover with Joana Lafuente, Phil Jimenez and Fajardo's Rattrap and the great DU shot from Marcelo Matere and Priscilla Tramontano!
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
I really enjoyed reading through this one, Shockwave is really letting himself go, there's some good humour without jarring with the overall tone, a couple of surprises and some really good uses of characters (including Megatron). I am, however, confused at Nova Prime's presence at different moments, and at what exactly happened between scenes. I can see this one working a lot better in its trade version.
Big words, Shockers
This issue proves it, working with two art styles is better than three, especially when the settings are so different. I really like the spreads and wider panels, and Metalhawk and Galvatron both look brilliant in it. One minor note: for the issue that comes with Rattrap (from the B cover) it really has very very little of the furry critter in it.
THE FIGHT FOR CYBERTRON! GRIMLOCK and his DINOBOTS meet up with old allies and try to stop the new threat to the planet. But as things get heated, the outcome becomes uncertain. A new beginning… or the end of the DINOBOTS?
WILL THEY SURVIVE?!
And here we are. After seven issues, a previous mini-series, three seasons of a TV series and an epilogue, Beast Hunters actually ends in all its iterations. Mike Johnson writes the final issue, continuing the story where we left it last month, with plot by him and Mairghread Scott. I'm almost a little sad about it.
So is Bulkhead
We're dealing with the Dinobots, Firestar, Chromia and a whole lotta bots on Cybertron and the whole of the cast of Forged and a grumpy Predacon, just as Arcee, Bulkhead and Bumblebee show up again, after the events of Predacons Rising. Or at least, that's what it looks like from the various references to 'Optimus' sacrifice'.
Guess who died. Again
The dialogue does seem to have improved, and what I really liked was the fact that the characters didn't blurt out the whole story of Predacons Rising or the series, assuming the presence of a knowledgeable readership. Though as some have pointed out, how do the Dinobots not know what happened? How far were they from the actions of Unicron/Megatron and Optimus Prime?
All the recap we need
The story does have a conclusion to it, and a vague sense of closure, but I can't help but feel as though something is still missing from it. Maybe using the two-arc stories detracted from what could've been a long running plot, with a bit more to it. It promised so much to begin with!
Agustin Padilla on art doesn't disappoint, to be fair, though I've seen complaints about the main Prime cast. I like that we get to see a different incarnation of them, other than the show. I enjoy seeing different takes on the same character, especially after such a long time in the same aesthetic. I like the big vast landscapes, and even the simple urban backdrops.
My usual points of merit for the amazing colourwork and lettering still stand for this final issue too. Priscilla Tramontano does some brilliant work with shadows and different light sources, and keep an eye on the changing sky, in tone with the narration. Tom B. Long also gets more stage space, with a lot of LOUD NOISES part of the more action-packed scenes.
After Boom Boom Pow..
So while the artwork may not be anything surprising, or disappointing or overwhelming either way, it's good, it suits the story and its tone and works really well with the main cast. I've enjoyed the team's work on this run, as I've really enjoyed Ken Christiansen's covers. Maybe we'll see Padilla elsewhere?
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
All in all, it wasn't a bad issue, conclusion or series. My biggest complaint was the fact that, for me, it didn't live up to the first two issues and what they had set out to do. I would probably not have read this at all, had they not been as good. But the series was good, not amazingly so, but good, with a warm glow at the end. And I really hope to see Scott working on more comics.
We need more Firestar
As I've said above, there have been a few minor complaints about the series, in terms of art too - but personally I never had that bother me as much. I think Padilla, Tramontano and Long fitted the themes and tones of the stories told perfectly. I'd be interested to see them work with other arts and colours, even if just out of curiosity, but a sketchy Grimlock will always look good to me!
We're down on customs this week, but there's plenty more stuff to feast your creative appetites on! And of course, all of this is in celebration of our very own BURN, whose birthday it is today! Yay Burn! We love Burn!
Check out Transtopia's offerings for the past week, y'all.
THE HELP DESK
A couple of old questions still seeking answers!
User megatronus is looking for tips on how to convert TW Hardbone into a Shockwave figure.
And hokieken is asking for help with dismantling FoC Grimlock - any ideas?
TRAPPED! Alone on a strange world, the crew of the Lost Light struggle against an unknown enemy—but what does this have to do with SHOCKWAVE’s master plan? Answer: everything. Meanwhile, OPTIMUS PRIME finds an old friend in the Dead Universe!
And Prowl insults Ravage
Underwater, outerspace, aftermath. Boy, there's a lot of stuff going on. The Necrotitan boomed, the mini-nites swarmed, Cyclonus is doomed, and all for the sake of my own rhymes. Though something really is up with Cyclonus. Did John Barber and James Roberts deliver on all fronts this issue? Maybe. Are we moving in full-on Infinite Crisis? Possibly.
Crossing universes, everything is connected, the Ammonites turn out to be pretty cool (well, it is their in-pack issue after all). The tones shift adequately and appropriately between the different sets, but actually all maintain the established darker undertones to them, which is good for a sense of continuity.
Quick! We need a re-cap!
I think I figured out what worked in this issue. The settings are clearly fine, we're all expecting them by now, and there's not too much stalling. But the dialogue is better. A lot better. The interaction between characters, interrupting each other, arguing, the whole thing - it's working, it feels like a cast.
Or a family - Daddimus!
Interesting. There are so many revelations, reveals, twists and turns that I almost got tired of them on the first couple of reads. It felt crammed. And yet.. I enjoyed it, I like just how devious Shockwave is, and his treatment of Megatron. I like Magnus commanding the Lost Light. I even like the very little happenings in the Dead Universe. Onwards!
Oh wow. How many artists again? Nick Roche, James Raiz, Livio Ramondelli, Atilio Rojo and Robert Gill - five. Five art styles. Two for the Lost Light, two for Cybertron, one for the Dead Universe. I don't mind them as much as I did with chapter 2, Rojo and Gill blend well together, I have no clue why Raiz and Roche did two parts for the same thing (well, I do, but still), though.. they fit the tones, really well, too. And Ramondelli's Dead Universe is definitely dark, I'll give you that.
Darkness, darkness everywhere
With so many artists, just one colourist - even if it is Josh Perez - would not have been enough, so I'm glad to see a second: Romulo Fajardo Jr. There's definitely a different texture to some of the colours, if I've spotted the pages right, but they still manage to work with Perez' already established stuff. Good to see wide-spread damage, after the Necroboom (my word).
Oh anothe-- VA-KOOM
And good to see Gilberto Lazcano on letters again, too! Some good work in terms of giving voices where needed, and not getting in the way of the action with sound effects. I appreciate that in lettering. A shout out to Raiz' cover, which is stunningly powerful, and Casey Coller's main cover, too!
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
It was fun. I said above, I got annoyed at all the reveals crammed into one issue, but then reread them all and couldn't stop chuckling. I almost want Barber and Roberts to leave Megatron in his current state, before it all goes combiner-shaped again. Dialogue has picked up, action has picked up, pick this one up.
Will this actually happen..?
Five artists and two colourists? Could be very very bad. But it wasn't! Sometimes it feels a little odd, especially with the final pages and the later Shockwave moments, but it didn't stop me from having a good read. I'd rather it were toned down again next time, though (I know I know, time constraints). NEXT!
STARSCREAM UNDER FIRE! The all-new, all-redesigned, all-leader-of-the-planet STARSCREAM makes his move! Will he stand up for CYBERTRON, or fall under SHOCKWAVE’s onslaught? Meanwhile—the Lost Light receives a desperate call from help from an old friend!
His fabulous, sassy move
PREVIOUSLY, in the reviews: People in the Dead Universe, people on Cybertron, people on the Lost Light! Orion Pax, Starscream, Ultra Magnus! Got it? Got it! (!) But, on the other hand, the Roll Call page has shifted, and that's a nifty little placeholder, actually, giving a sense of the different scenes and their cast.
Dead people in the universe?
John Barber and James Roberts keep weaving the tale of this previously unknown prophecy telling of the advent of a Dark Cybertron, with cyclopses, titans, comets and the such. So it all makes sense. Or does it? I'm not sure how far I can buy into a long-standing legend that has never really been heard of before, though.
I like what they're doing with Rattrap, even the very explicit reveals about his character or potential ulterior motives. What I also like is the Magnus-driven plot aboard the Lost Light, pointing to a different use of his character, now that all the layers have been sliced off. And Brainstorm is still great.
The plot is actually unexpected at this point, I was not anticipating the Necrotitan's involvement so soon, nor was I expecting its aftermath so quickly. I am extremely intrigued by what on earth is Shockwave planning, that's for sure. Will we ever know?
I feel a lot better about the artwork in this issue, even if it is the same two artists: James Raiz for Lost Light Scenes, Atilio Rojo for Cybertron scenes. The latter's linework looks much better, inexplicably, since last week's issue, and there are some brilliant shots of some (sigh) 'old friends'. Raiz really works well with Magnus and Brainstorm, and the inks don't look as dark as previously, though it can get a bit cluttered at times.
Where we're going, we don't need no chairs
I was going to say something about the colours and how they work with the lines but HOLY HOTPANTS BATMAN. Josh Perez takes splash and spreads to new levels, and you'll see what I mean when you read it! The colours are good all over, but those scenes are ridiculously good. Tom B. Long is equally impressive in his lettering, and never gets in the way unless needed. But when he is, he adds some great personality to the noises and sounds.
Wait for it...
As I said, the two different styles work a lot better for me in this issue, for some reason. Maybe it's the script transition, maybe it's the colours, maybe it's the tone getting darker, but whatever it is, it works. Make sure to check out Nick Roche's cover B for some added goodness, too.
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
It's getting there, oh is it getting there. We're finally clocking into what might be happening, we get some good action out of it, the characters are being set.. and yet, it feels like we're going back to previous Barber-isms. We'll have to see how it all plays out, but I am not impressed or surprised at the final pages, nor at the big event of the issue. Hm. I like it, but I'm annoyed at it, too.
Well put, Arcee
The art seems to blend better for me, and Perez' work on the two styles definitely contributes to that. I'm glad we only have two artists this time round, and I'd rather this were the case from here on. I have a feeling this issue will only pass readers' judgement once we see how the aftermath evolves.
ZERO INITIATIVE! As RODIMUS PRIME urgently struggles to comprehend the what, why, and wherefore of SPIKE WITWICKY, GALVATRON, JHIAXUS, and a DARK MATRIX creature, and specifically how they contribute to the final dissolution of time, space and everything in between! Unless NIGHTBEAT and BUMBLEBEE can shake loose some answers, the future—is cancelled.
Oh and Starscream shows up, I guess
We've had adventures in time and space, we've had Hot Rod become Rodimus Prime, we've had Bludgeon dying his death, Galvatron fighting Ultra Magnus - it is now time to start dragging them all together, into the final arc of Transformers: ReGeneration One. This is it, people. This is the actual end. Again.
Aw, he looks so sad
Simon Furman at the helm (duh) we get a story that ties together the events of the past arc and Issue Zero, attempting to neatly place everything in its own space, while still making sense of the whole. More or less. It's good to get back to Spike, actually, and his resentment towards Cybertronians, and I am interesting to see if it will play any actual impactful role in the plot to come.
"SAY THAT TO MY FACE!"
Though at times the dialogue and interaction between the two 'main' characters, Bumblebee and Nightbeat, can feel a bit G1esque at its most childish, the older readers will definitely enjoy some of the references, even if not direct ones. And by 'main' I mean the ones teased in the solicits, as Rodimus still takes the spotlight.
Gee, kids! What fun we'll have!
Furman does a really good job with Rodimus, especially by using the characters around him to help flesh out his newfound leader personality and the burden of responsibilities that come with it -- and then he garbles the gurgling waters by throwing in all the plot elements he needs from Zero Space in the final two acts of the issue. Buckle up. It gets bumpy.
Guido Guidi is still going strong, though with some very marked differences between the opening pages and the rest of the issue. We get to see a variety of styles and poses, all about different cast members, organic, mech and both together, which is always good, and the final page is something magnificent. But after this issue, the one word that to me describes Guidi's work is FACE. He loves giant faces. He really really does.
Stephen Baskerville does some good stuff with Guidi's pencils, and works on finishes in the later pages. He's a master chameleon, adding just that little touch of his own to his blend-in inks. And of course, JP Bove glistens again with his amazing colours, as we've seen in Issue Zero. I'll stop before going into full-on gushing.
Oklahoma has never looked to beautiful. Sorry Oklahoma.
Chris Mowry on letters does a brilliant job too, completing but not covering the action, and helping out with the character's voices. The artistic team on the issue does a really good job of working with the script, and it always knocks up the enjoyment of the story. And don't miss out on the covers - Geoff Senior and Guidi dazzle once again!
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
As a first issue of a final arc it does all it needs to do, and does it well. We may be getting tired of the 'beginning of the end of the beginning of the..' trope, but hey, it's true, and at least this is the *actual* end. The dialogue can be a bit.. Furmanesque, including Furmanisms, but it's what I've come to expect.
The art is always brilliant, from pencils to inks to colours to letters, and really helps deliver a comic that could feel very out of place in the newer readership. I am actually really intrigued as to what is to come, and will be looking forward, trepidantly, to next month. You coming along?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
THE DEAD UNIVERSE! ORION PAX—the ’bot who was once OPTIMUS PRIME—joins RODIMUS and the crew of the Lost Light in a desperate bid to outmaneuver SHOCKWAVE—by returning to the legendary Dead Universe! Meanwhile, BUMBLEBEE faces down the biggest—literally biggest—threat he’s ever seen on CYBERTRON!
After the setting up and minor reveals in DC#1, it's time to get things going. But first - We get another brief 'Previously' page, which while nice (and bit melodramatic), did not feel as necessary this time round. We'll see if it becomes customary, and if it overstays its welcome in the next issues. The Roll Call page was nice, on the other hand, even if just to convey a sense of the cast, and its major players.
Drama! Excitement! Exclamation marks!
While Bumblebee/Goldbugfire and the Auto/Dinobots stand around on Cybertron not doing much, Orion Pax and his crew now aboard the Lost Light concoct their plan to approach the Dead Universe, to which we've been introduced for so long now it feels like that relative you always dread at family reunions - though Brainstorm seems fascinated by it.
Unsurprisingly, to be fair
It seems as though the dialogue has picked up again, and it may or may not be more of Roberts' words than Barber's this time round. But it does feel welcome. The two writers manage to approach the characters of Orion and Starscream in a good, more nuanced way, giving us a better look at what might be happening below the surface.
..that also works
It is gaining some momentum, and we're developing a much better sense of what is at stake and what may happen, with the focus shifting to other characters than the ones we're all execting (though I worry about falling back onto the same ones eventually) - but I feel it'll work a lot better in TPB format than as a single issue.
Now, the artwork. I'm having some trouble making my mind up about this. I welcome the introduction of new names into the franchise, and it's good to see variation between different styles. But having three artists (Raiz, Rojo and Ramondelli) with very different styles in the same story does not convince me as much. They all do an impressive job, though Rojo's faces can seem a little off in proportion, but I feel as though Raiz and Rojo could've been swapped, with the latter on the Lost Light and the former, darker style, on Cybertron.
Though that is a gloriously dark Starscream
The colours, however, are Perez' usual goodness. They play really well with the sources of light and shadows in the panels, and the two different art-styles, without jarring with Raiz' darker or Rojo's lighter lines. Ramondelli, as usual, colours his own art, and does an equally good job in terms of tone and mood setting. The new letterer, Gilberto Lazcano, is intriguingly light-touched, and I would like to see more from him in the future.
Red meets orange, in dim light
The three styles work by themselves, with some shining moments for each, but I have a hard time deciding whether I like their juxtaposition or not. I have nothing to complain about the colours, and even though I chose not to show any Ramondelli images in the review, his work is good and definitely well suited to the tone of that part of the story. The cover by EJ Su is also excellent!
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
The story seems to be gaining its ground, and seeding some future plot elements nicely. It still reads as a bit jumbled though, even if just because of the sheer scale of the cast and settings for the action to take place. I'm fully confident, though, that by next month, once this and RID have had a chance to settle, we'll be back to the usual, expected greatness.
There's a prophecy with PUNS!
The confusion is not entirely helped out by having so many artists work on different parts; even if it does make clear where we are, the styles don't always work with the tone. The colours, on the other hand, always suit the style. I am curious to see what will happen as this goes on, and if it is to be the new standard to differentiate settings.
. ½ out of
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