Set on Cybertron and the political in-fighting between Starscream and Windblade to craft a new era for Transformers on Cybertron and beyond, the series has a broader scope than any Transformers series before. Picking up thematically from her last series, Transformers: Windblade, Scott and artist Alex Milne (nope --Va'al) are looking to delve deeper into the heart of being a Transformer.
Newsarama: "Till All Are One" is a very hallowed phrase in the Transformers mythos. What does it mean here for this new series?
Mairghread Scott: “Till All Are One” is a double-edged sword in our series. Our characters' main challenge right now is integration: Autobots and Decepticons, colonists and Cybertronians, various religious and political factions. These people know they need help to survive, but getting that help from former enemies is a hard pill to swallow. On the other hand, the threat of empire is always there. If Cybertron falls back under a totalitarian government and 'all' are forced to become 'one' it can be just as damaging. So everyone is working toward this single phrase, but in very different ways.
Nrama: How did this series come about? Is it something you pitched to do, or something IDW asked you to work on specifically?
Scott: We weren't sure when Windblade ended if we'd be able to do any more so we crammed as much plot in as we could. So when John Barber asked what I'd do with an ongoing, it took me a minute to figure out which of the many toys I'd grabbed I'd like to play with first. I'm glad I took the time to find it.
Till All Are One is going to explore and spotlight a variety of characters from across the spectrum of Transformers works, but in a single cohesive story. My goal isn't to hit everyone at once, but to bounce back and forth, to touch on the people that are rebuilding this world so that we're less of a classic 'team' book and more the story of a people and their struggles. Of course, some characters will always be at the heart of things, Windblade and Starscream in particular. But I've always been a character-focused writer and I want it to feel like Cybertron as a planet is changing and growing, not just a single character or a handful of them.
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.
What came first, the lyrics or the music?
Lisa: The music actually came first for this one. I was borrowing a baritone guitar from a friend, and I was so inspired by it! I wrote this guitar riff and verse melody but never finished the song. The musical idea was always there in the back of my mind, and I knew it was special for the right situation. When the opportunity came up, to be a part of this special album inspired by one of my favorite childhood toys, I was so excited to put the two together! I brought the idea to my writing partner Joshua Bartholomew, and he was really inspired by it, too. He picked up a bass, and I picked up a guitar, and it all came together pretty quickly.
Lisa Harriton and Joshua Bartholomew with custom white and red JD-Xi synths on a recent visit to the Roland U.S. office.
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.
As you can see in the video, Kirkman says that he loves Transformers, and became a part of the writing team after a casual lunch wth di Bonaventura, who optioned his comic Invincible (the comic adaption list that Perri mentions in the video is Dave Trumbore’s 10 Comic Books That Need an R-Rated Adaptation). Still, though he’s no longer a part of the project (which is a bummer because it seems insane and his involvement made it seem somehow less so), he says,
“I have heard from the people that are in that room there are a lot of amazing Transformers things coming, and I’m very happy as a fan to see what comes from that.”
Now, it seems like reality is finally catching up with us. When Transformers vs. GI Joe #13 hits shelves in June, it’ll be an extra-sized 48-page final issue that ends the series — and possibly the entire universe.
We reached out for comment, and Tom Scioli had this to say about the book’s epic conclusion:
I’ll say it. It’s the greatest crossover of all time. This is the new standard by which all crossovers will be judged.
What a rare privilege in comics to begin something and to end it exactly as you envisioned. To create a universe and then torch it in the most explosive way imaginable. In the end, the creative challenge is the only thing that matters. When you push the limits, the world gets bigger. We wanted to see just how much juice you can squeeze out of these concepts and out of the comics page itself. How much story can fit into a comic book before the staples pop out? I look forward to seeing how the next generation of cartoonists builds on these innovations, the way we built on the work of those who came before us. I look forward to seeing the inevitable movie adaptation of this comic.
Transformers vs. G.I. JOE #13: Armageddon
Tom Scioli & John Barber (w) • Tom Scioli (a & c)
THE END IS NIGH! Final battle erupts—the forces of G.I. JOE and the AUTOBOTS head-to-head (or head-to-toe, depending on the size difference) with the DECEPTICOBRA alliance! The fate of the universe hangs on every decision!
FC • 48 pages • $7.99
·One of the most talked-about comics of the 21st century—see what everybody’s been yelling about!
·Visionary writer-artist Tom Scioli’s canvas has never been so big!
·Far-flung cosmic action in the scintillating Scioli style!
·The epic conclusion!
io9: What’s the journey for you as a writer been like on More Than Meets The Eye over the last 50 issues?
Roberts: Obviously it’s great to be given an opportunity to tell stories featuring characters that you loved growing up, and to add new layers to the mythos. When I think about MTMTE reaching issue 50, it’s not so much that I’m amazed that I’m writing a Transformers comic that’s lasted that long... it’s more that I’m writing an ongoing comic book that’s racked up that many issues. In 2016, that’s a rarity.
io9: You’ve said in the past that you’ve written the final line of MTMTE already. Where do you see yourself going as a writer after this comes to a close?
Roberts: After MTMTE, who knows? I don’t think I’d move on to more Transformers stories right away—in fact I may find I’ve used up all my best ideas and it’s time to move on. (All of this presumes, of course, that IDW wants me to stick around!) The Transformers script I’m working on right now is the75th, if you count the issues I co-write with Nick Roche and John Barber, and the last thing I want is to find myself running on empty in a few years’ time.
io9: Finally, looking back at your 50 issues so far, what’s been your favorite part of the process working on an ongoing series like this?
Roberts: Watching the MTMTE fandom grow and take shape, I think. No-one knew if the book was going to be successful—the first story arc was tailored to 12 issues just in case the whole thing tanked. But I like to think that pretty early on the book found its voice, and that it was a voice that resonated with people who were ready to get very invested in a bunch of sarcastic, mopey, affable, ridiculous and relatable losers.
[...] 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!
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