As this week sees the release of the beautiful Transformers: Art of Prime hardcover book from IDW Publishing, Seibertron.com was able to sneak a quick Q&A with the author and curator, Jim Sorenson himself! Jim, thanks for agreeing to do this.
Jim - You're welcome!
Va'al - First things first - how did the idea for the Art of Prime book come about?
Jim - Well, it was something that I'd been pitching for quite a while, before the show actually aired. I was living in Los Angeles at the time the Prime show had been announced, and one of the people in my extended circle of friends was Christophe Vacher (Visual Effects Art Director on the series). I knew him, and I knew he was working on Prime. I pitched the idea, he seemed interested, we went back to the studios, and nothing really happened for a while. I kept checking with IDW too, who had expressed a vague interest, and I pitched the idea several times. Then around June of this year I got an email from my editor: we're going ahead with Art of Prime!
I wanted to do a book about Prime but what made me decide it would be an art book was possibly the actual conversations with Christophe. We both realised Prime wouldn't work in the style of an AllSpark Almanac, the tone of the show is very different. So we decided the book would look at the art, at the process. IDW already had a successful product in the Art of Fall of Cybertron book, they were willing to do it again.
What I believe is one of the main points about the show is that the stories, characters, acting, they're all good - but what is really outstanding is the visuals!
Va'al – Very good point, the visual elements of the show have been acknowledged by many, and won awards all over the place! You've worked on The Ark and AllSpark Almanac previously, and you said you knew that Art of Prime would be different – how so?
Jim - Having made the decision that it was going to be an art book focused us, directed us differently. What we were working on with previous books was the story perspective, the characters, the events. With this one, we approached it from a design perspective: in some ways I wanted to get out of the way of the creators. There is very little of my voice in the first half of the book, and that was a conscious decision – I didn't want the readers to read about what I felt about the images. I wanted them to hear from the creators, what they were proud of, what their perspective on the process was. I thought it'd be a lot better to get them to speak.
In the first three sections, I let Jose Lopez (Art Director/Characters and Props) talk as much as possible, something that I didn't want to do with the Almanacs, something I possibly would've done with The Ark if we had access to the creators. As it stands, the Prime creators were more than happy to do it, and it was an extra incentive that they were able to do it in their own office, in their own time and talking about their own work. I think the interviews really help the tone of the book – it makes a big impact.
Va'al – It sounds like you were really engaged in the work around and about the book. What was your favourite part about putting together Art of Prime?
Jim - Definitely getting the chance to work so closely with the creative staff. At this point I've done quite a lot of books, from anthologies to collections, Transformers, G.I. Joe, articles for fan magazines – I find it really exciting to turn raw material into a book. But I've done it before. This time I got a chance to really jump in, go to the studios, see the creators work (they were at work on Predacons Rising at the time). Definitely the highlight of putting it all together.
A secondary pleasure was getting to see the animatics for Predacons Rising about three months before anyone else: I contacted one of the producers, as I had a fair bit of material that I couldn't find on the show at the time, so I wondered if it was for Predacons Rising and if I could get a script or something to set it in context. I'm not sure they understood what I was asking for at first, but once they got it they sent the whole thing, with my name watermarked all over it!
Va'al - Well, some people just have that type of contacts, don't they? Once you placed all the material you had, was there anything taken out, or things you didn't include?
Jim – There was a lot that we just didn't have space for, as it's already a 200-page book. I possibly still have another 20 pages that I wanted to put in, but did not need to get in. I would've liked to have extra pages for Shockwave, the Insecticons, Vehicons. Maybe spend a little bit more time on Silas and Cylas and MECH. I had an extra page for Knockout - no, Breakdown. Knockout was one of the last pages to get finalized, as we only had black and white artwork for the car mode. So I contacted Mathias Dougherty (Production Manager) for a color image, I told him 'It's Knockout, man! He'll kill me if he doesn't look his best!'; he laughed, and set off to look for the gorgeous artwork you now see in the book.
So yes, a lot more little things, but nothing that the book can't live without. I'm really quite proud of this one.
Va'al – It definitely looks comprehensive, and stunning. But do you think it'll appeal to all fans of the franchise? How would you sell it to a new reader?
Jim - Even if you're not interested in art books, the focus for this one is on process. Any Transformers fan, any fan of animation in general will find the process that goes into the creation of a cartoon extremely fascinating, I believe.
And it's very rare to have an art book like this for a TV show, you usually only get them for movies. As I said, I'm really proud of the result.
Va'al – I've been reading through it, you definitely should be. Thanks again Jim, this was a great quick chat! Any last words?
Jim - Thanks for the interest! I really hope you all enjoy the book.
Transformers: Art of Prime is out this Wednesday with IDW Publishing. You can find a preview for it here!
With the end of the IDW Transformers: Prime - Beast Hunters comic series upon us, Seibertron.com has decided to sit down and talk to one of its creative team members, and in some ways, the face of it all: read on below for a full exclusive interview with cover, storyboard, videogame and concept artist Ken Christiansen!
Va'al - Ken, thanks for agreeing to do this. We've featured some of your work before on Seibertron.com, it's about time we got to meet the mind and man behind the artwork! Before we get into the nitty-gritty of your work with Transformers though, I need to ask: where did it all begin for you? How did you first encounter our favourite transforming robots?
KC - Well, thanks for having me! I really appreciate it when you guys post anything about my work, I've been a follower of the site for years.
The show was everything. It was the first episode which sucked me right in - I don't even remember the first figure I had, but I know it was the show that put me all in. I was 10 years old at the time of the launch, and I had slowed down on Star Wars, and was really into GI Joe toys and comics, with He-Man in the mix as well. But Transformers really took over, and knocked even the mighty Joes back a step.
Va'al - Ah, you're one of those! I admit, I like knowing that the current creators all started as fans, brings a lot more to the experience. I was going to ask which figure was your first, but you pre-empted me - so how about this: which was your favourite character or episode from the animated series?
KC - G1 Soundwave, is...and always will be...my favorite character. And he is an early toy I do remember getting, on a Christmas morning. Of course I loved his voice, and how he was Megatron's dependable commander, but the fact he had Transformers INSIDE of him really captured my imagination. And I really liked that, unlike a lot of the figures, he matched up pretty well to the box art, and animation model. I was a stickler for that kind of thing, even back then. Also, I always thought it was cool how he used Laserbeak and Ravage on the show, so they've become synonymous with any vision of Soundwave I have, I always want to try to figure out a way to include them in a figure pose, or a drawing/design I'm working on. (I figure Rumble and Frenzy can take care of themselves!)
Va'al - I think a lot of fans have a soft spot for Soundwave; he is terribly charismatic after all. You've mentioned your gateway, the toys and what it was that drew you in - but what about the artistic side? Did you read the comics as a kid, or did you start drawing based on box art and cartoons?
KC - I'll admit that I didn't really enjoy the comics, even though I still have the first 60 or so issues to this day - but yes, I did really enjoy the artwork. I loved the show and the toys, but I was always just lukewarm on the comics. That being said, I did probably draw most artistic inspiration from the comics, I remember drawing that cover corner Marvel Optimus Prime a lot. A lot. Another favorite image from those books was the reveal of Predaking, standing in a jungle. I drew that one a lot as well.
The box art images were another inspiration; I didn't have a massive collection by any means, but I did collect the trading cards, so even if I didn't have the toy and/or filecard, I did have nearly every character image from the cards. We had a project in the 4th or 5th Grade, where we wrote a story, and bound it into a book. Mine, of course, was about Autobots fighting Decepticons, carried into battle by the rocket of Omega Supreme. I designed characters back then too, usually military type vehicles, or cars that friends and family drove. I still have that little book, but I'm sure all those other drawings are long gone.
Va'al - That's some great, early KC art there. Must be worth a fortune by now! So if the comics didn't get to you as much back then, what brought you to their world later on? But I suppose, before we get to that, my question is: How did you start working for the franchise in general?
KC - I had been working freelance for about a year after leaving Disney Interactive, and I had just wrapped a series of projects for Activision in late 2005. One of the producers I had been working with asked "Hey, are you into Transformers at all?" I had heard, as did many other fans, that it was being shopped around as a movie, but I didn't know was finally happening, and Activision wanted to go after the franchise. The projects I had just finished were to lock down the Dreamworks games license for the next five or so movies, showing game play, etc. and this was going to be the same thing. Lots of storyboards and game play examples. But it just kept going and going, and it turned into character designs, and in-game production art - I was around for a lot of it, from the very beginning to helping out with marketing images.
The Transformers were a huge part of my childhood, and though I hadn't really followed the franchise overall since then, I did already have the 20th Anniversary MP Optimus Prime, and the Alternator Grimlock Mustang proudly displayed in my studio. Getting the chance to work on the franchise as a professional, really kind of blew my mind. And midway through the production, Hasbro said they were going to make some figures out of my designs... I kind of freaked out.
Va'al - That must be quite the phonecall/email! I've spotted some of the designs that made it into figures on your website - do you have any particular favourites? Which part of working with the new, movieverse, Transformers aesthetics did you enjoy the most?
KC - I was pretty honored that Hasbro/Paramount used the red car drone (AKA Swindle) in the press kits for the film. Of the drones, I think Payload (Armored Truck) and Long Arm (Tow Truck) are my favorites. Long Arm was originally to be an homage to Hoist, colored green and yellow, but was later changed to be the tow truck paint job from the film. I was glad to see the mold reused as a Hoist figure. All of those designs were done based on rough concepts I had seen at the production offices in early 2006. Not until late summer, a bit after I had wrapped on the drone characters, did I start to see marketing images and final movie models start showing up, and that's when I was tasked to do the Shockwave designs. So, that's why he's a little more in line with the film aesthetic - he's not a generic, energon created drone, he was meant to be a Cybertronian, and look more like the movie bots.
While I agreed with the design philosophy from the first movie, I thought that the bots should have shown a little more alt mode elements, so you can really see the connection between forms. With Shockwave I tried to bring it back a little bit to that, with clear iconic character details, and visible alt mode elements. And that's the design philosophy I took into my next Transformers project, the Revenge of the Fallen game.
Va'al - Those are good designs! And that Shockwave looks intriguing, but it looks like DotM Skyhammer took his mode later down the line. How did you find working with videogames, compared to the work you're currently doing on comic covers? And how did that transition happen?
KC - Maybe. To me, the transformation logic is totally different., around the canopy and fuselage. But I did work a bit on the alt mode of the Skyhammer toy, and was given direction to use a Russian Hind for inspiration, but I didn't work on the robot mode. I did three copter drawings, and when the toy came out, it looked like the designers used elements of all three.
I'm not a gamer, but when I'm into a game I like, I kind of get obsessed with it. I thought Luxoflux did a fantastic job with the gameplay of the Revenge game - especially given the short production time, notorious with movie tie-in games - and was really excited to see how they would build on the engine. Sadly, none of that was meant to be. It was the first time I felt that someone captured the essence of a Transformer, being both things at once. I know some people had issues with holding down the trigger, but I much preferred that, to the 'sit and wait to transform' style of other games. My entire career to that point was in the game industry. But after doing the games for so long, I was looking to expand out a little, I wanted to see if I could work directly with IDW and Hasbro.
I took the designs of Megatron, Optimus, and Starscream, from the DLC content of the Revenge game, and did full illustrations of them in comic cover format. I included Bumblebee, Jazz, and Soundwave designs, and pitched myself to Andy Schmidt at IDW, and for a meet up with Aaron Archer at BotCon 2009.
For IDW, Andy had me do the cover to the much-loved, revered, and indisputably go-to source of information, the Transformers: Continuum. Yikes, that one was a bit of a mess, I guess. I never kept up on the IDW relationship, maybe both sides needed that sting to heal a little. And I just got too busy following that meeting with Aaron to come back to the books. Years later, I met John Barber at BotCon 2012, and that's how I got involved with the Rage of the Dinobots and Beast Hunters covers.
Va'al - Ah, the IDW Aligned comics! As an artist who had worked on the movieverse and videogame aesthetics - though WfC and FoC are also part of the new continuity - how did you find adjusting to the sleeker, more rounded style of the two series? And how much were you involved in the series themselves?
KC - Well, doing a wide range of shape styles for what was then called 'tv show' was that first assignment I had from Archer at Hasbro, in 2009, as they were putting the studio together, and hiring the actual production team. I would call myself a concept artist before anything else, so something like coming up with new character designs/versions is what I like to do best. And then about a year later, I worked on some product ideas for the Prime line. At that point, I was working with final character design models from the production's art department. And, every once and awhile I would do some product development, or I was asked to do some character ideas for HasLabs to use as conversation starters for meetings with the show runners. So before the comics, I had a lot of experience working with the shows' aesthetic. I never was a part of the production of the actual show, with Hasbro Studios, but through Hasbro, Inc., I got to play in that universe a bit.
The Cybertron games, on the other hand, I had no experience with the art style. So that was the learning curve for me. I was asked to 'update' the FoC dinobots into a Prime style, with a heavy lean on the FoC style...visually meaning they didn't 'evolve' as much as Team Prime, for example. So I just eliminated some minor details from the FoC versions, and did a 'wrap metal' pass, in the Prime style, at the main form elements of the bots. John Barber OK'd the sketch of Grimlock I did as an example, and I was off and running.
I had nothing to do with what was inside the books; in most cases, I don't think any of the scripts were even completely written at the time I needed to have the cover done, about three months in advance. I'm sure an overview and series arc were long completed though. Barber, then Carlos Guzman, would give me their idea on what was going on in the book, and what they'd like to see on the cover. I'd do some sketches and we'd go from there. I met Mairghread Scott for the first time at BotCon 2013, and we chatted about what was coming up in #7, we pulled Carlos into the conversation, and I did a sketch of it right there at my table. For number 8, Carlos and I chatted at SDCC, and he told me what he was looking for, and Mike Johnson, through email, pretty much said what he'd like to see on the cover. I did those last sketches for Carlos to approve, and that wrapped the series when I turned in the final.
It was a lot of fun to do those covers. I loved the Fall of Cybertron game, so it was a real treat to get to draw those characters, and get reconnected with IDW.
Va'al - I always enjoy hearing stories of how creators come to join the IDW team, they never seem to be the same! So you were working on the comics covers, but still had quite a bit of involvement in other aspects of the Transformers universe. I've seen some designs for characters that never made it on the show, too. What were you doing between the comics? How were you being kept busy?
KC - Relatively, I'm a newbie to comics, with only 13 IDW covers to date. Concept art is my main source of income, since graduating from art school in 1997. Happily, now at least half my workload comes from Hasbro, covering many different brands. Mainly in that first year, it started off with early re-imaginings of core Transformers characters, mixed with some work on Dark of the Moon ideas, and then going back to work on designs for the 13 Primes, and filling out the brand bible, which had used a lot of that earlier character design work, done by myself and other great artists.
After that, HasLabs expanded into a lot of other brands and concepts, that kept me really busy, MASK, Inhumanoids, Micronauts, to name a few. Some of those ideas were teased in that NYCC giveaway comic, Unit:E, if you remember it. And as other designers move to other brands within Hasbro, I've been able to 'travel' with them, and do lot of work on stuff like Star Wars, etc. Always though, I try to stay connected to the big bots, with doing some Hasbro Inc. commissioned work, movie/tv show stuff or product design for example, or licensed work with IDW, and other publishers.
Va'al - So what you're telling us is.. you're everywhere! And we know that some of your art features in the upcoming Covenant of Primus - the result of all the concept work for the Aligned continuity - due early December. Anything you can tell us about that?
KC - Now everyone finally can see it! After years of working with Hasbro off and on, I've only been able to release a grand total of 8 Transformers images. Including Prima, of the 13, which was published previously in the Transformers: Vault. I'm so excited to see the rest of the designs coming out, along with some new art I was asked to contribute, alongside some other great Transformers artists.
Binder of Revelation - Art by Emiliano Santalucia
After working six or so months with Hasbro, they booked me to do four of the 13 Primes. By then I had a pretty good feel of what Aaron Archer was looking for from me, and I had gotten pretty tight with Eric Siebenaler who acted as my art director on previous projects. I was also then introduced to Rik Alvarez, who had sent me a giant document to work from, that he was putting together. A compiled history from the comics and games, and new stuff he had written - basically the bones of the Aligned Continuity. So, under those guys, I went to work. 4 became 6, then 8, then Eric asked if I wanted to do all 13. Of course! But then Takara chimed in, and they wanted to do some images, and they took over the designs of Micronus and Alpha Trion. So I ended up doing 11...and a second version of one of them.
I had never really heard much about it since then, other than Aaron and Rik teased some images at a couple of BotCons, but I really thought they would remain in the vault, the Brand Bible. Last November, I got an email from Tyler Freidenrich from Becker&Mayer, asking if I could do some illustrations for what would be the Covenant. I jumped at the chance, and got to contribute 7 illustrations, a new character design for Unicron, and the cover. And that's about all I can tell you about it. I know what I did, but I've only seen the same trailer for it as everyone else. I was asked to upload every Hasbro image I did related to the Aligned Continuity, beyond just the Primes, but I don't what, if anything more, was included in the book.
So, I'm just as excited as any other fan to see what's in there!
Va'al - I can assure you, a lot of us are really, really excited for this book. I'm not sure what else could hype it up more.. do you have any ideas?
KC - That's great to hear! Hmm...how about a contest for a free copy of the book? On my Facebook page, the Art of Ken Christiansen, I'll be running a 'Like Drive' contest. Participants enter their names into a drawing by making a comment in the page's Cover Photo comments section, saying they shared the page to at least five people. That Cover Photo, (containing all the contest info) signaling the beginning of the contest, will be posted on Monday, November 25th, at 9 AM PST, and ending Sunday, December 8th at midnight PST.
Monday, December 9th, (the day before the book is released) I'll draw the winning name, and announce it by 9 AM PST. That winner will receive a free copy of the Covenant of Primus... AND, I'll insert a custom black and white rendered portrait, of any character of their choosing.
Va'al - Hear that, readers? Head over to Ken's page for a chance to win what looks to be an amazing piece of Transformers lore. Ken, thanks again for agreeing to do this interview with us, we're looking forward to more of your amazing work soon! Any last words?
KC - Thank you - I can't tell you how much I appreciate it!
I do have a couple more things to add. I also put together a new website, kenchristiansen.com, which replaces to old site, badflip.com. Finally I have galleries collecting all the Transformers (and more!) work that I've done, in one easy to find place, rather than have to search through months and years of blog posts on the old Bad Flip Blog. I will keep that blog online, but it will go inactive. The new site has a blog built in, so that's how I'll continue, along with the Facebook page, to make announcements, and post new artwork. And once it's ready, there will also be a online store, to purchase original art, make commission inquiries, and get leftover convention prints and sketchbooks. It's coming very soon, but right now the only way to get that stuff is through the Art of Ken Christiansen on Facebook, or contact me at email@example.com.
There you have it, readers - we hope you enjoyed our voyage into the Christiansen world! Join the competition today, follow Ken's work and keep your eyes tuned for more exclusive content, coming soon, to Seibertron.com.
Hello you lovely folks! Here at Seibertron.com we've decided to go find some of the best names in the Transformers comics industry, to bring you some fresh information about the people behind the scenes. IDW have been nice enough to provide us with contact information for their legion of creators, and our first volunteer is none other than Andrew Griffith! Read the whole interview below.
Va'al - It's an honour for me to actually interview my first professional comics artist for a website, and who should it be if not Andrew Griffith, one of the minds (and hands) behind the highly popular current IDW ongoing Transformers: Robots in Disguise. Andrew, thank you for this opportunity and for your time! Before we get to what you do, let's find out more about you: How did you first get into Transformers?
Andrew - Well, I've been into Transformers for about as as long as anyone could be. I still remember my older brother coming home from school one day talking about this new toy everyone at his school was excited about. He was able to talk our parents into going to the nearest mall, and when we arrived it seemed like an entire row of the department store's toy section was displaying these cars, planes and machines that transformed into crazy looking robots. What more could an eight year old boy ask for? My parents were generous enough to buy my brother Prowl and to buy me what I found out later was a miscolored (red) Bumblebee.
By that point I had already been into comics a bit, and I remember soon after that we stopped at a bookstore that sold comic books, where I picked up G.I. Joe #24 and my brother decided on the very first issue of Transformers. I'd sneak into his room when he wasn't home and read that thing every chance I got. It just felt so alien and foreign too me, it really blew me away. (IDW Editor and RID scribe) John Barber and I have talked about that a number of times, how we had very similar impressions from reading Transformers #1 as a kid. (And man, that Bill Sienkiewicz cover is still one of my favorite Transformers images ever, just for the sheer epicness and alien-ness of how the Transformers are depicted.)
Soon after I discovered the toys and the comics, the cartoon show debuted in an after-school time slot on one of the few channels we had at the time, and from then on I was hooked.
Va'al - Schools seem to be the catalyst for a lot of fans' discovery of the brand! And as for most people, it looks like it was toys-comics-cartoons for you too. I can sense a tendency towards the artistic side of things more than anything though - were comics the highlight of your first years as a fan, or did you prefer other aspects more?
Andrew - Wow, hard for me to say what the highlight was now that I think about it. I was into the toys for most of the run. After the US line ended I had no idea they were still going in Europe as G1.5 or whatever they call it. Then G2 came out, and I think I got Jazz but that was it.
As far as the comics go, I had gotten a few of the early issues, but then my Aunt and Uncle got me a two year subscription for my birthday and that really cemented the US comics as part of my youth. At some point after they brought Optimus Prime back I stopped reading, just got into different things. But I came back about ten issues or so before it ended when Simon and Andrew were doing it, which was funny because neither I or anyone I knew in the States were aware that extra comics had been being made in the UK.
And the show? Yeah, getting up early before school to see it or coming home to find it on was anyways a treat.
Va'al - I have memories of getting up stupidly early to watch Transformers, but that was Beast Wars. Different generations (and different countries, too)! So your comics passion dwindled and was then relit by the Wildfur combination on the Marvel run - is that also when you found your own artistic streak?
Andrew - Well I wouldn't say my interest in comics dwindled. I just found myself reading different comics more often. My very first comic I ever purchased was Secret Wars 8, where Spider-Man first got his black costume. And after that I was always into Marvel stuff, including Transformers and Joe. I also read DC to a lesser extent. So whenever I wasn't picking up Transformers issues, I was still reading comics pretty regularly.
And I was drawing them. I first realized I could draw better than the average kid around Kindergarten. Most kids were drawing stick figures and I was realizing people had actual thickness and dimension to their forms. I'd always take an art class when I had the option, and spent a lot of free time drawing at home. I was always drawing comics of my own, and even made a submission or two to Marvel in high school. Looking back I can see why I was rejected. My stuff had potential, but I didn't know the first thing about putting together a good submission or knowing what to show.
But I was aware of my artistic interest pretty early on.
Va'al - I think I'm still one of those people who draws stick figures, unfortunately. But my idea is that the world needs artists and fans, and the two don't always need to overlap! So you were rejected with your early attempts to Marvel - when did the breakthrough arrive? What was your first, official, published work? How long until you became a regular creator?
Andrew - Well, I kind of gave up the idea for a bit of being a comic book artist after that. I cycled through areas of focus in school, including English Literature and writing, drama, and music but ended up back with art. I did a lot of fine art and really got into painting, took a good number of painting and figure drawing classes but ended up concentrating in Graphic Design so I could get a job.
And I did design for quite a while. Eventually I got married and had a pretty good life living in California, making a good living at a startup in San Francisco and pursuing a Master's at an art school there. Yet, I found I wasn't content doing design and instead I was yearning to draw comics again.
When news of the live-action Transformers movie came out, it reignited my passion in the franchise. I started reading the Mosaics and before I knew it I was taking part in that project; drawing, coloring or even writing some.
Josh and Shaun, who ran the Mosaics ended up in charge of a contest on the IDW forums designed to find IDW's "next cover artist." I took part in the contest and did much better than I ever expected. I didn't win, but I did pretty well and got some attention from some people at IDW. That same contest helped launch the careers of now-regular names in Transformers comics like Casey Coller and Joana Lafuente.
After that contest, I did a "cover" for the pitch Josh and Shaun did that turned into Spotlight: Jazz.
Around that time I started getting emails from IDW editors, and Denton Tipton hired me to do covers for IDW's "Best of UK" reprint series. I started on those covers, my very first being for City of Fear #1. While City of Fear may have been my first commissioned work, technically the cover for Spotlight: Jazz that I had done before City of Fear was my first pro work as it ended up being used as a cover for the book when it came out some months later.
After I got started on the covers, I ended up being brought in to help with inking duties on Defiance, the prequel book for Revenge of the Fallen.
After Defiance and the Best of UK ended, I was fortunate enough to get work from companies like Hasbro and Shout! Factory. I was blown away to get to work on DVD covers for the reissue of the G1 cartoon series that came out around 2009, including the art for the "Matrix of Leadership" box set.
That kind of work kept me busy for a bit, but I spent a long time after Defiance ended checking my email often hoping for some kind of work from IDW.
After some time passed, I sent in some newer samples to IDW and established contact with Andy Schmidt now that he was editor. It was good that I did so because almost immediately they brought me in to help ink Last Stand of the Wreckers, another proud point in my career. Getting to work on one of the best received Transformers comics ever is definitely something I'm proud of.
They must have been happy with my efforts because my next assignment for IDW was getting to work on Foundation with John Barber.
Va'al - The live-action films were definitely a pivotal moment in the life of the franchise, whatever opinion people have about them. So you've been inker, cover, DVD and box artist before getting into your own inside art. How does it feel to work with the others as part of the same creative team? How much do you all influence each other, between colourists, pencillers, inkers, writers and editors? Is it any different from when you started in those same roles?
Andrew - Yeah, when I say the movies reignited my passion, I'm talking about around 2006, early 2007 when news was coming out about a movie getting made.
Well, being an inker can be an interesting experience, because it can be an entirely different thing depending on who you are inking. Nick Roche was a joy to ink, his pencils on Wreckers were very tight and I somehow felt like I was able to be expressive while still staying true to his style. And he was very communicative during the process. He really seemed to be happy with what I did.
The challenge of doing the box art was the difficulty in capturing the feel of the 80s cartoon art without making it look ridiculous. And what I mean by that is if you take a single freeze frame of the animation it usually looks very poorly drawn with very simple designs, yet when you see them in progression you can overlook some of those flaws. By the time I got to the Headmasters, Victory and Masterforce covers I think I had developed a style that worked pretty well to handle that problem.
Now that I work as the penciller and inker, or sometimes with an inker, it really ends up as a collaborative experience with John and Josh. John is very generous about hearing my input on his stories, and even takes my ideas and runs with them when they work or can improve what he's doing. He's been great to work with, and he knows when to tell me if there are specific details he need shown, or when to step back and say "just do what works." And Josh is probably my next closest collaborator. I feel like we've really gotten to know how each other's style better and better as we've gone along on RID. And when we have an inker like Brian Shearer on it seems like he fits right in, and everyone has a good sense of humor and you never know who's going to make a joke in an email at just the right time to take the stress away a little while we're trying to make a deadline. Usually it's Carlos. (The editor.)
Va'al - It's good to hear about the mutual appreciation you each have for each other, also with the editors. The results are always more than pleasing, and knowing that you all have fun making an issue makes it even more enjoyable! Robots in Disguise, the series you are currently working on, has reached a big turning point, with the new event - Dark Cybertron - about to really begin: do you have any teasers you're allowed to talk about? Or about the future of the series?
Andrew - Well, I think I should probably hold off on any tidbits for Dark Cybertron until IDW has a chance to make some reveals at BotCon in a few weeks.
I'm working on it right now though, and one thing I can definitely say is that Shockwave is definitely a main player in the story. And personally, I think fans who have been following the IDW continuity for a while now will be very pleasantly surprised with what James and John are cooking up.
Va'al - Ah, not spoiling anything, are you. Our readers should stay tuned for the Seibertron.com BotCon coverage, if they cannot make it to the event itself (like myself, sadly). Speaking of conventions, you've just been added to the IDW VIP BotCon tour, and you'll be attending Auto Assembly in the UK -- how does it feel to be a guest at such a big event, where people are turning up especially to see you?
Andrew - I was recently at Wizard World Philadelphia as a guest and as part of Artist Alley, and I had more than one person come up and tell me that they came to the show just because I would be there. That's a very flattering and humbling thing to hear, and I am very conscious of the fact that these fans pay good money to come to these events in order to see myself and others. So I'm quite happy to sign books, or put a little extra effort into a commission or sketch.
Without the fans, we wouldn't have the opportunity to do this kind of work. Which is another reason I try to not take criticisms too personally. People are paying hard-earned money to read the books and pay for convention and VIP tour tickets, so they have every right to be critical if they feel the content isn't as good as it could or should be.
BotCon and Auto Assembly are two of the events I'm looking most forward to this summer. Always nice to meet and interact with other Transformers fans and to get to spend time with the other creators, just too many good people to list here that I'm looking forward to seeing. The VIP Tour looks to be a once in a lifetime chance for any Transformers comics fan who is coming out to it.
Va'al - Auto Assembly is something I'm really excited about too! The VIP tour sounds amazing, but it's in completely the wrong country for me at the moment. And I'm glad you pointed out the criticism issue - as a comics reviewer, I was a little nervous about talking to you. For no reason though, as this has been a really nice chat! Andrew, before we leave, one more question: you are now one of the people that fans go see at conventions, but are there any fandoms you are still a part of from this side of the fence? How deep does your inner geek go?
Andrew - Well my inner geek spreads pretty wide. I'm a big fan of a lot of geeky things when I think about it. I still collect comics. I love plenty of geeky movies. From Star Wars, to Star Trek, to Superhero movies, I enjoy them all. I geek out over scientific discoveries, or reading Stephen Hawking, or noticing a "Nikola Tesla died here" plaque on the New Yorker building in NYC. I'm even kind of a fanboy to things like Shakespeare and Renaissance artists. I love Woody Allen movies. I was (and still am to some degree) a huge music geek and always loved finding a great new record shop or radio station.
A few years ago when I did those DVD covers, I did a signing at San Diego Comic Con with Gregg Berger (who I don't have to tell any TF fans was the voice of Grimlock) and Earl Kress (writer of G1 episode B.O.T. and creator of Pinky and the Brain, and sadly no longer with us) as Leonard Nimoy was doing a signing a booth down from us. That's the kind of thing I can geek out over, especially as Greg Berger is plenty willing to do the Grimlock voice on request.
Va'al - There you have it: you never really stop being a fan. Andrew, thank you again for sitting down 'with' me and bearing through all the questions and time you've dedicated to our readers. It has been a pleasure! Any last words for the Seibertron.com community (and the rest of the Transformers fandom)?
Andrew - Boy... just keep reading! Keep enjoying and keep supporting the brand. Keep coming out to the conventions and saying hello. If you're coming to Botcon at the end of the month I'll be at the show. I won't be doing Artist Alley, but I'll be doing the IDW VIP Tour as well as the IDW panel. I'll probably do some appearances at the IDW booth too. And then about a month later I'll be at Auto Assembly the whole weekend, and will probably have some things to announce for that in the future.
Looking forward to seeing anyone who comes out!
And thanks for having me for an interview. I'd come back anytime.
For a look at more of Andrew's work, visit his deviantART page, follow him on Twitter or say hi to him in person at BotCon or Auto Assembly! And keep your peripherals tuned to Seibertron.com for our next interview, just in time for BotCon, too!
The Seibertron.com member spotlights continue as my latest interview subject is a veteran site member from the Netherlands. Check out my interview with member alldarker, as we discuss everything from his devoted Generation One toy collection, to the new Generations Blitzwing and Springer, transitioning to IDW's Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye and even ending up at Seibertron.com's browser game, Heavy Metal War!
Q - Hi alldarker, good to have you here! For those who don't know you all too well, mind giving us some of your history with a little Transformers Spotlight: alldarker?
Hey Blurrz, thanks for having me! Back in 1984, my family moved to England for a couple of years, so I went to school in England, right when Transformers hit. I was only 9, but I remember my first experience with Transformers well: a friend brought Grimlock to school and showed him off. I wanted to hold him myself, of course, so I bragged that I could transform him without instructions. It went pretty well, until I got to his chest. My friend eventually had to show me how his chest moved upwards. Man, Grimlock just looked so cool. Of course, for my next birthday I also asked my parents for a Transformer. I was actually allowed to pick one out myself, and I chose Thundercracker (although even my parents liked the look of Dinobots more). I still sort of regret that choice: I should have gone for Grimlock or Sludge... Although I did get Slag for Christmas a little later.
I have to admit, in those years I ended up being into M.A.S.K. more than into Transformers, so I never had many TF's back then, and the ones I did get were pretty lackluster (Groove, Skydive, Flywheels), so I sort of lost touch. I also did not follow any of the fiction back then, so the concept of 'Cybertronian modes' really put me off when Hasbro moved to original designs instead of the Diaclone-based real world vehicle alt modes. When I went to university, I only kept my M.A.S.K. collection, and my few Transformers all went to charity.
It was Beast Wars that got me back. Optimus Primal just looked so cool and poseable, and his gimmicks were incredible! I bought him and Polar Claw as my first two BW Transformers, and soon wanted more. This was of course way before the Internet was a thing, so with my free student travel-card I traveled all over the Netherlands (we had moved back in 1988) to find Beast Wars TFs. The Transmetals were even nicer than the first year toys, so I often went toy-hunting instead of studying...
This was actually around the time that it was becoming increasingly difficult to find consecutive lines of Transformers in Dutch shops: computer games and consoles were definitely starting to take over and Transformers were shelf-warming: you could often find first season Beast Wars figures on the pegs years after they'd been introduced, while new series were being ordered less and less. As a student I needed to graduate and it was becoming expensive to find new Transformers, so I once again stopped collecting.
The RiD Car Brothers amazed me when I first saw them: not only were they vehicles again, but they were highly poseable! I had to get them, at inflated prices, from an import store. They were however probably the only TF's I bought in the period between 20000 and 2007: it was a period in which I focused mostly on getting my degree and on finishing up my M.A.S.K. collection (both of which feats of which I am still proud).
Once again though, my interest was rekindled in 2007 by the TF movie. This time I had a job, so it was a lot easier to buy them, and toy stores were once again stocking up on Transformers for the first time in years. Although I did enjoy some of the movie molds, I realized that they weren't the Transformers of my youth (why wasn't Ironhide red!!!), and I started to browse the internet for the G1 Transformers that I'd always wanted but never had. One thing led to another and soon I'd started a pretty nice G1 collection, all the while finding new Transformers to want, including the Japanese-only G1 TF's which I had never realized were also seriously nice (and buying them whenever I had the chance and available resources). Since 2007, I've also finally gotten around to the fiction (cartoons and comics), which has really enriched my understanding of both characters and toys, and made me appreciate the whole Cybertronian aspect of TF's.
Alldarker's Star Saber
Q - You've amassed quite the large Transformers collection. Out of all the figures you own, which one is your favorite, and why?
A large collection... Well, when I look at other people's collections, some of which run into thousands, the size of my collection seems pretty average. I use Shmax.com to catalogue my collection, and it says I have about 350 figures: 300 of which are G1.
My favorite figure is one of the first ones I ever bought online: G1 Scorponok. He's got everything that makes any toy look good: he's big, he's got the Headmaster gimmick, he's got a 'secret' compartment, he's a base, he's a triplechanger. I'm sure I would have loved having this toy when I was a kid, but even as an adult I can marvel at his qualities. Funnily enough, it was only after I had received Scorponok that I even found out about the moving scorpion legs feature it has. And due to getting into the fiction at a relatively late stage, I only really found out about his important role in the G1 comics after I had gotten him. That knowledge added to his coolness: Scorponok is not only a great figure, but he's also a very interesting character, a Decepticon leader who redeems himself and is not just purely evil.
Scorponok was also the figure which made me appreciate the blockier 1987 Transformers a lot more: in fact the Headmasters (both big and small) have become my favorite subgroup. Ironic perhaps, considering it was those blocky, unrealistic, primary colored Transformers which turned me off Transformers back in 1987!
Q - I guess it is safe to ask, have you ordered Encore 23 Fortress Maximus? How much does it mean to you, for you to finally own this plastic beast? And despite how big Fort Max is, is there a holy grail of Transformers figures out there for you?
When word got out that an actual reissue of Fortress Maximus would be happening, like many others I was ecstatic. I'd never expected to ever own him; I'd never even tried to find one because the vintage ones available were always either too expensive, incomplete, broken or yellowed (and often all four of those at the same time). I'll be honest, I do actually already own the Maximus mold in the form of Brave Maximus, which made an aching desire for Fortress Maximus a bit less painful. Although Fortress Maximus has the extra accessories, Brave Max definitely wins out on the color scheme. However, I'm also slightly ashamed to say that my Brave Max is still tied up on the cardboard and factory fresh in my storage unit. That fate would definitely not happen to Encore Fortress Max, though...
So yeah, once pre-orders for Encore Fortress Maximus went up, I ordered him on day one of availability, back in October of last year. After those 5 months of waiting, I finally received him two weeks ago, and I'll tell you, I was looking forward to Fortress Maximus's arrival day like I used to look forward to my birthday when I was a kid!!! Finally being able to take him out of the box, seeing that beast up close, holding him and almost literally wrestling with him to transform him was just such a pleasure. I even enjoyed stickering him up: I find it makes you really get to know a Transformer and its details. And there's quite a lot to admire on a Transformer as big as he is! So Fortress Maximus is the first real hands on experience for me with his form. And he is just glorious.
Alldarker's Fortress Maximus!
Fortress Maximus was never really a 'holy grail of Transformers' though. I never expected to own him, but like I said, I also never really had the ambition to own him either, until he became readily available as a reissue. However, there are still a couple of Transformers which I'd really, REALLY love to own one day. They are actually all Japanese Transformers, which makes just finding them available in a good condition difficult, let alone for a price I'd be willing to pay. First of these is Dinoking. While I realize that even the sum of his parts still makes a puny combined Transformer, considering the money he goes for, I just love the dino-shells and the color schemes. Luckily, I do have Monstructor which is all sorts of fun in his own way (except that darn GPS), but having Dinoking alongside him... Oh yes, one day, I hope. And secondly, I'd love to acquire his boss, Deszaras (Deathsaurus). All that chrome, the Breastmasters... When I was young I would have found him completely ridiculous, but nowadays he's definitely a Transformer I'd be willing to lay down some cold hard cash for. Of course, if Takara would also consider reissuing those two... They'd certainly get my fond blessing and my money!
Q- You have quite the passion for Generation One toys, a passion that many fans here on this site can relate to. Most fans of the G1 series have translated their passion by making their collections more focused on the Classics figures. What made you stick with the G1 toyline? What role does the Classics/Universe/Generations and Masterpiece toylines play in your collection?
Yeah, Generation One has become my main collecting focus, but I do still very much appreciate the Classics/Universe/Generations/Henkei/United (and I hope I can be forgiven for using CHUG from here on!) toys that have been heavily inspired by G1, and also the Masterpieces.
When the CHUG toys first came out they just looked amazing. Finally Hasbro and Takara were giving a real tribute to the Generation One toys, and acknowledging both children AND the generations that had grown up in the '80's and '90's as customers.
I personally was especially interested in the Classic Seekers, which in my eyes were just a huge improvement on the Generation One jets (molds which to this day I just do not really enjoy). I managed to get Starscream, Ramjet and the Skywarp/Ultra Magnus set, before the whole Botcon Games of Deception fiasco disillusioned me into ever getting a complete set of Classics Seekers. So I sold them all off (including the Skywarp / UM set!) and invested in the six Henkei Seekers. Even so, I never really became a completionist with the Classics line, so I only ever picked out the molds that really caught my eye or looked like strong improvements on their vintage counterparts, like Tracks, Jazz, Blurr and Kup. But, to be honest there were many 'CHUG's I never bothered to find, often because I was happy enough with the G1 version. Actually, this is where I have to again complain about Hasbro's total and utter lack of decent distribution in the Netherlands and Europe. I know in the US Hasbro distribution is also pretty poor, but here in the Netherlands, we only ever saw some distribution of the first Classics and Universe waves. It meant that I needed to import stuff at double the cost one would pay in the US, and that sort of forces you to be pretty picky in the molds you want. On the other hand, importing the Takara versions from Japan usually wasn't that much more expensive than importing from the US, while (especially in the first years) the Takara versions often looked better (even with the chrome overdoses!).
I only got into the Masterpieces pretty late in the game. For a long time, the only Masterpiece I owned was the original Takara MP-07 Thundercracker, an incredible grown-up version of my own very first G1 Transformer. However, I never really fell for the first MP Optimus Prime or for Megatron, and in hindsight, I guess I made a wise choice in not getting them. I also never got any version of Grimlock; in fact the first time I was tempted by another Masterpiece was when the pre-orders for Rodimus Prime went up. I had a pre-order in, but cancelled it even before the first reports came out of its poor quality and fragile nature. Once again I felt I made the right choice in not investing in the MP line. Then, when first MP-10 was shown, and relatively soon afterwards MP-11 to MP-16, I was just amazed. They all looked like they'd just stepped out of their G1 box-art. And I just knew I needed them!
To be fair, I can actually totally understand the people who feel that CHUG and even more so Masterpieces have over-classed their vintage ancestors. Many G1 toys were bricks... But I guess they look better to me through the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia. Without it, I'm sure I too would not find G1 Transformers very interesting any more. I guess I could compare it to the way I feel about Masters of the Universe. Some people grew up with them and still love Masters of the Universe toys. However, I never had any MotU toys as a kid, I never really enjoyed the cartoons and so personally, I just do not see the attraction.
But even though I had only a few Transformers when I was a kid, I do remember peering at the booklets showing all the toys, imagining how they'd al transform, how they'd look together, how they'd feel... And that still makes me love the original vintage Generation One toys to this day, as flawed as some most certainly are! I guess that's also the real attraction of the Masterpieces for me: they are like 3D images of the original box-art. They are the way the G1 'bricks' could only ever look in your wildest imagination. I guess Masterpieces are just a tribute to the man-child in each of us: with technology compensating the loss of our childish imagination that used to be able to make those G1 'bricks' come alive. The same goes for the Classics/Universe/Generations/Henkei/United/etc. toys: I like them because they are such creative re-imaginations of their G1 counterparts.
Q - Great insight! Lets say there is a fan in the Netherlands, who got into Transformers in the 80's and 90's, but never really had interest in collecting toys until now. As a savvy collecting veteran, what would you suggest to them to help start them off?
Generally speaking, collecting Transformers in the Netherlands is always going to be a pricy hobby, due to having to import a lot of stuff, especially newer Transformers. Although we used to have brick and mortar Toys 'R' Us stores here, they have all gone, so there's not even access to the TRU exclusives, including the Masterpieces, which do incidentally shown up in the UK. In other toy stores, you'd be lucky to find one or two TFPrime Transformers, some Activators and Bot Shots... It's pathetic.
However, although Hasbro has very little presence in the shops here, there are still good opportunities for new Dutch collectors. On our Dutch version of Craigslists (Marktplaats.nl) people do often offer interesting stuff from all era's of Transformers, sometimes for exorbitant prices, but sometime for very reasonable prices as well. Furthermore, twice yearly there are huge collectors fairs in Utrecht, which always include a whole hall dedicated to professional sellers of all sorts of good quality toys from past and present. Furthermore, the Dutch collectors community isn't huge and there are frequent get-togethers (like the B.O.T.S. Convention on June 9th in Aalsmeer), which also offer excellent opportunities for getting to know other fans and buying stuff. And of course there's eBay, which offers everything, although at a price. In the past, Dutch people have always been hesitant to get credit cards: even many shops and supermarkets do not accept credit cards here, but as far as I'm concerned, having a CC makes it a lot easier to acquire Transformers by way of the internet. And one more tip: despite some wonderful US-based internet retailers with access to almost every new Transformer that gets released from both the US and Japan, for us Europeans it's always going to be cheaper to import Japanese Transformers directly from Japan and Hong Kong, and US Transformers from the US!
Q- There are two figures that are showing up worldwide this month, and they are representations of characters that many fans have clamored for ever since the beginning of Classics in 2006. They are Blitzwing and Springer; what do you think of the two? Will you end up obtaining them?
That's an interesting question, to which I haven't got a definite answer. A couple of years ago would definitely have said yes. But nowadays, I am not so sure.
Firstly, G1 Blitzwing has always been a favorite toy of mine: he's probably the best G1 Triplechanger from that era, with both alt modes being recognizable real-life vehicles. However, I'm just not too keen on how the new version of Blitzwing looks. With what the Masterpieces have already shown us, I would have been hoping for some better defined alt modes, each one hiding away more of the other modes than what we have now. I've also read his reviews quite keenly, and it seems that Generations Blitzwing's quality control is a bit off. I guess that I might get him if he made to a brick & mortar store, but I'd don't think I'd take the trouble to import him through the internet.
The new Generations Springer definitely looks excellent from what I've seen, with both alt modes and the robot mode all very convincing. He really IS Springer, and I guess more so than FP Defender, which I did buy, and who looks good enough, but which does have some weird design issues. Again, the choice is influenced by how easy it will be to find him: I'd rather not pay over double US retail to get him to the Netherlands! But he's definitely tempting me the most out of these two.
I guess this question ties in with myself becoming less influenced by hypes that will take over in Transformers fandom. I've fallen victim to Transformers-hypes in the past, including buying early samples of the TFTM toys and several third party Transformers, just to be able to see what people were raving about. And as always, some hypes are justified, while some really just aren't.
I've found I've become a happier collector in relying more on my personal preferences and choices of molds to get, instead of depending on the hype of the month: I check out more reviews and judge new Transformers based on personal preferences, and based on that I decide which Transformers really appeal to me. I'm especially glad that I'm no longer a completionist when it comes to lines or series: not for G1, not for Masterpieces and not for Classics. It definitely makes collecting less stressful!
Q- That's certainly a hardy collecting mentality! One last set of toy related questions before we move on to other aspects of the fandom. There has been a craze going on recently, and I suppose it all started with the BotCon '11 set - that being G2 inspired repaints. Do you enjoy the effort put in from Hasbro and Takara, or are these just 'easy' repaints? Does G2 deserve the spotlight or is it better left in the dark?
Although I really couldn't appreciate the colorschemes back when it 'happened', G2 did have quite a strong presence in Europe. Even now, original G2 toys are easy to and cheap to find. As time went by, I've learned to like the gaudy colors: and despite the colors, some very fun toys were introduced back in those days.
So I have to admit I do actually really enjoy the new G2 repaints. And although I've never been to Botcon (but would certainly like to someday), I did get that 2011 Botcon set through eBay, and I feel it is actually a pretty good set (although many of the repaints aren't technically G2). I even picked up the Botcon Rapido/Cindersaur set due to liking both the original Rapido toy and the way they repainted the Universe Bluestreak mold into Timelines Rapido.
So yeah, in an age where repaints are pretty essential for making Takara and Hasbro's new molds economically viable, I certainly do approve of G2.
Alldarker's G2 Clench
Q - Do you have a favorite Transformers cartoon series? Specifically a favorite episode?
I'm ashamed to admit I've yet to watch either Animated or TFPrime, let alone the Armada, Energon and Cybertron cartoons (although I've understood they're best left unseen), so there's still some catching up to do. I've actually only ever watched the G1 cartoons and the Beast Wars cartoons in full, and I'm still working through Headmasters, so my answer to this question is based on a relatively limited back catalog.
The G1 cartoon holds a special place even despite all its flaws. Contrary to some, I always enjoyed the 'toy of the week' episodes, especially in season 2, which feature some of my favorite toys and characters. However, I recently started re-watching The Transformers, and I have to admit they are pretty exhausting to watch.
I guess the choice for favorite cartoon is still pretty easy though: Beast Wars is my absolute favorite Transformers series, and is still very easy to watch as an adult, with an excellent start in the first season, building up to a couple of very intense story arcs and featuring humor, excitement, tragedy, redemption and even romance. I guess my favorite episode is, perhaps slightly cliche'd: 'Code of Hero'. A painful but touching episode, especially for what is originally a children's cartoon.
Q - IDW has unleashed two highly acclaimed ongoing Transformers series, The Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye and The Transformers: Robots In Disguise. Which series do you prefer, and do you have a favorite issue so far?
I've been reading practically all the IDW releases since they started with 'Infiltration', and I'm keeping up by faithfully buying up the TPS as they are released. Last week I received volume three for both MTMTE and RID, so while I'm not exactly up to date, I'm never that far behind on what's happening (and I have to admit I do read spoilers on the various sites that review the comics month by month). However, reading the TPS makes it hard for me to point out a favorite issue: sometimes I'm just so engrossed in the story that I don't notice the issue change!
Now, I think most people will agree that not all of the IDW titles have been of the same constant quality. Quite a few titles have starting out strong, only to fizzle out in relatively lacklustre conclusions. However, as far as I'm concerned both MTMTE and RID have been on surprisingly long good streaks. When they first came forth from 'Ongoing' I was especially pleased with MTMTE. Right from the start this looked like a series that was really going somewhere, with a format that lends itself well to telling both short one-off stories and longer arcs, which to me seems beneficial to it longevity. Furthermore, it is using several characters that traditionally never got much attention before. I actually feel quite strongly about the relationship between toys and characters: strangely enough it can help me appreciate a toy even better if I get a feeling for the character it is portraying. I've also always found it interesting to see the way toys were formed into characters, and characters into toys, each influencing the other. So seeing quite a few underused Transformers get some 'prime' time (pun intended) is one of the things that keeps me very much invested in MTMTE. Apart from that, the way it is written is extremely entertaining: it is exciting, funny, cruel, gut-wrenching and at times it provides some good back story.
The Transformers: Robots In Disguise started off a bit more messy, I thought. It used characters that have always been more prominent in Transformers fiction, but especially in the first few issues it seemed that characters were behaving out of character. All in all, it took a bit more getting used to the story that was being told. However, Robots In Disguise definitely revealed a bigger, more intricate and exciting story as it went onward, and I'm actually pretty interested in how things will move on. Perhaps it's not the fastest moving story, but compared to how quickly and unconvincingly some earlier IDW titles wrapped up, this title is able to hold my attention.
Of the two, I guess MTMTE does have my preference, although I'm hoping both keep going strong and both are already riding high in my personal list of top IDW titles!
Q - Heavy Metal War. It is Seibertron.com's browser game and you are one of the top players. Tell us how awesome it is to have the top character, and how fulfilling it is to among many other things, to be able to kick Burn's butt
Ah yes, I'd definitely hoped this question was coming! HMW: my greatest glory! February 11th 2006 was the fateful day I actually signed up with Seibertron.com... And it was primarily to give Heavy Metal Wars a shot!
I've played ever since that day, even after the giant server crash which deleted all progress, which reset everyone's scores and which ended the HMW careers of many old timers with maxed out scores. It was the reset that gave one of the biggest boost to my current position in the game. It reset the tables, allowing a fresh start for everyone. Then, in about 2010, I got an iPhone, which made regular deployments a whole lot easier. And in the last two years, even more regular players than myself have unfortunately dropped out of the game, real life catching up on them, but effectively removing a lot of top competition from the game. Becoming the numrber one player was for a very long time a seemingly unreachable goal, so it was incredibly fulfilling to finally make it after 7 years.
I'll be honest, HMW is not the most exciting game around, but at least it's cheaper than Farmville, and unfortunately at least as addictive. There was a time when you could say: well, the game itself pretty much sucks, but the fun half of the game is in slagging off other competitors on the HMW forum. Nowadays, again unfortunately, the HMW forums have become a lot less active, which really is a shame, because topics could get pretty heated. Due to its rather addictive nature, HMW players are still relatively active, but I think many would LOVE an upgrade of the game. There have of course been several ill-fated attempts at creating the legendary, multi-feature 'HMW version 2.0', but the instigators have usually ended up like Spinal Tap drummers: MIA. A real upgrade would however have benefits all around: the game would become more exciting, hopefully also for less OCD players than I've always been, it would be a unique selling point for Seibertron.com and the HMW forums would liven up again. Right now, coming into the game is hardly worth it for competitive newcomers: catching up to the highest levels is practically impossible.
For me, the greatest joy in the game is currently most absolutely kicking Burn's ass around the room. It's not often you can have such fulfilling virtual interaction with a mod. In all honesty, Burn is enormously active in the HMW, both as a player and as a mod, and he is currently my biggest competitor, so it's no surprise he and I keep running into each others bots. I haven't kept score, but I'm guessing that we're probably each getting 50% of the wins in our matches... I'm also very glad he's doing a great (and probably thankless) job in doing what he can to keep the HMW alive, both the game and the HMW forum. But yeah... HMW 2.0 would be real nice!
Alldarker's Brave Maximus!
Q - Sadly our time has come to an end. I would like to say that this was certainly a very enjoyable interview! Any parting shots?
Thanks for having me! Nah, no parting shots, I think my answers are already tl;dr!!!
The official Transformers Facebook page has uploaded a five page commentary to today's Transformers: Robots in Disguise #16. For those of you without Facebook access, we've mirrored the interview with writer John Barber below.
TRANSFORMERS: ROBOTS IN DISGUISE #16 hits the stands today, courtesy of IDW Publishing and Hasbro! This is it—the climax of the first big ROBOTS IN DISGUISE story. The fate of Cybertron’s leadership is decided, as Bumblebee and the Autobots battle Megatron’s forces in the city of Iacon. Artist Andrew Griffith—along with inker Brian Shearer and colorist Josh Perez—pulled out all the stops on this one; and we sat down with writer John Barber to talk about this monumental issue. TF:RID #16 is available at comic book stores everywhere and at https://transformers.comixology.com/?r=seibertron or via the Comixology and iBooks apps on your computer or mobile device!
PAGE 1- The might against Megatron continues with Bumblebee and his team. Considering the different factions trying to live together on their home world, was there ever a right or wrong in the decisions he took? Or was it simply that he wasn’t strong enough to hold them all together?
JOHN BARBER: That’s a good question. Bumblebee was trying to do what was right, and here—battling Megatron—it’s clear what needs to get done. But would Megatron have had support, would the Decepticon masses have followed him, had it not been for Bumblebee’s policies? He locked them up, he put in the Identification/Deterrence chips, and even once those were gone, he still clearly didn’t welcome them with open arms. I mean, Bumblebee had reason to be angry at the Decepticons, and reasons to not trust them. So maybe he never had a chance.
There isn’t really a clear-cut answer, as to whether Bee was right or wrong, and that’s one of the big themes of the series. I hope the readers will argue about it.
Was Bumblebee too weak? That’s how he sees himself, and how some of the others see him. Maybe he was just in the wrong place at the wrong time, though. Could anybody have accomplished what he set out to do? Again—I don’t mean to evade the question, it’s that the question is the main thing about the series. I don’t want to cop out on anything, but the question is more interesting to me. And hey, if I had the actual answer, I should be ruling the world myself.
PAGE 2- Megatron, Devastator and the other Decepticons pile on the pressure. You think right now Starscream is regretting the things that he has done prior to this issue, and not done what might have previously done before?
JOHN BARBER: Starscream thought he was playing everything correctly for a while—up to issue 11—then he had a crisis of… well, not “conscious,” as this issue will demonstrate… but a crisis of faith in himself. I’m sure that, in his head, he’s running through every action he’s ever taken, but I don’t think he has Bumblebee’s capacity for self-reflection. He’s more likely to see any failure as a failure of circumstance, not of himself. But this was a big fall—he was about to gain control of the city, and then Megatron showed up and ruined everything, so it’s a crushing blow.
Anyway—he definitely doesn’t have Bee’s capacity for beating himself up over his decisions.Actually, his ego probably protects him a little here (like Prowl’s does).
What is why, at this point in the story, even if it doesn’t look like it, he is actively looking for any opportunity amidst all the action.
PAGE 3- Arcee and Sideswipe do their best to carry on the fight back. With Arcee, was the plan always to make her as ambiguous as possible until she was forced into making a decision on where she truly stood?
JOHN BARBER: Yeah—Issue 18 is where we actually get into her head, and see how she thinks. She just approaches things from a way that other Cybertronians don’t. Her worldview is skewed by all the events in her life—I mean, everybody’s is; it’s just that her event are just a little more unusual.
So, yeah, she was definitely keeping quiet about what she knew, who she would side with, all that—until she had an opportunity to strike most effectively. Which, I don’t think exactly worked out—she definitely didn’t want out-of-control Prowl-Devastator running around, so it’s not like she actually succeeded in her plan. But things could have been worse.
Nevertheless, from my perspective, she’d have been better off going to Bumblebee in issue 4. But she didn’t think he’d trust her, and Bee definitely didn’t act like he was looking to trust Prowl’s secret warrior. So she didn’t think that was a legitimate possibility. And now, hey, look what all that mistrust has sown.
PAGE 4- Ironhide and the Dinobots pile in to provide reinforcements? Considering what is happening to his friends, do you think Ironhide is certain that the visions of the future he saw are going to come true, despite the devastation around him? They seem to have been driving his recent actions.
JOHN BARBER: Ironhide has come to realize that, even if he believes what he saw, there are multiple ways of looking at “fate.” He can just sit back and let the future happen, or he can take an active role. And if he takes an active role, he has to be himself. Beyond that—well, there’s more to come.
PAGE 5- Ironhide literally tries to knock some sense into Prowl/ Devastator’s head, and Bumblebee can see the tide of battle turning. This issue marks the end of the current arc in the series. In the grand scheme of things to come, how important are the issues we’ll find within these pages?
JOHN BARBER: Very. I mean, this issue is the close of the first big RID story arc. The story of Bumblebee versus Starscream versus Metalhawk struggling for control of Iacon comes to a close this issue. And however it works out, any one of them (or none of them) “winning” control of the city will change the face of Cybertron. There’s a lot going on in this issue, a lot of stories coming to a close, and it all matters a lot.
But it’s not the end of the series, and there are still going to be big, pointed questions looming. Where’s Shockwave? Why did what happened to the Aerialbots happen—and what’s the status of them now? Not to give anything away, but how does Starscream justify his actions? What’s up with Ironhide’s vision of the future? What does Jhiaxus want with Gorlam Prime? Lots and lots of other questions…
Not everything ends here—we’re back with another issue in a few weeks—but all that comes will be built on what we’ve done here. And there will be impacts felt in our sister series, TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE, too. But I can’t talk about that without spoiling anything. I can say, that events from MTMTE spill into RID next issue… but if you’ve followed what MTMTE revealed about Shockwave, I don’t think that will be a surprise. Anyway—this comic, RID #16, will have repercussions in the comics—and maybe beyond—for some time to come.
But I do want to thank all the readers who’ve read this series—and read MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE, and all the other Transformers comics, too—from the beginning, or who’ve come in during the run, or who are just joining us. Thanks for being there, hope you’ve enjoyed the ride so far, and it just gets better from here on out.
Hi Seibertronians! I think that once a month is an opportune interval to take a break from the flurry of Transformers news and shine more light on the awesome members of our community. When I initially planned to interview this Autobot, he was only a normal, hard-working maintenance 'bot. However our reigning Magnus has promoted this 'bot to the rank of Prime, so please give a warm welcome to my newest interview experiment subject and coincidentally, newest staff member, Va'al!
Blurrz: HiVa'al! Iwilltrytoslowdownmyspeechsoyoucancomprehendme. Before we dive into deep and thought provoking Transformers talk, let us give our fellow Transformers fans a little information on Spotlight: Va'al. Where are you from? Who is your favorite Transformers character? And lastly, why 'Va'al'?
Va'al: Hi! Well, this is nice. I've never really been interviewed before -- is this going to be my 15 minutes of fame, and then back to obscurity? You know, fame over, finished. Where I'm from is an easy question, it's the answer that's a bit trickier: I'm half-Tuscan, on my dad's side, half-Yorkshire, on my mum's - that's half-Italian half-English, for non-Europeans! But there's Turkish, French, Dutch and Irish blood in me. Grew up in Italy, and moved to the UK in 2008. My screen name is actually a blend of my second name and my first (Alex), and I'm quite proud of it. It gets annoying when websites don't allow apostrophes though. I have to stick an 'h' in there instead. As for my favourite Transformers character... this one's a pickle, I've been trying to figure it out. I always thought it'd be Soundwave, and my collection seems to prove that. But reading the recent More Than Meets the Eye comics series, I discovered Vos. A linguist, a sadist, a Decepticon. After my own spark. Literally. As an afterthought, though, I think The Fallen, deserves an honourable mention. He's a part of the background mythology of the other characters, and he's modelled on various mythemes from different cultures, something I'm particularly interested in. Plus, he's on fire, baby.
What got you into Transformers? Do you remember your first toy?
I wrote about this in my collection thread, but I'm still trying to locate things in time really. As I was born in 1989, in Italy, I didn't catch a lot of original stuff. First series I remember watching, and following, was Beast Wars; it stopped airing after the last episode of season 1. I was extremely disappointed. I'm sure it was on TV after that, but I never found it again (I finally caught up three years ago).
The thing that really got me back into the toys (I had a few as a kid, especially Beast Wars, though, were the three recent Michael Bay films. When the Revenge of the Fallen toyline came out in the UK, I fell in love with Sideways and Sideswipe, and it just kept going from there.
My first toy, on the other hand, was a present my dad got me during one of his business trips: G2 Sideswipe, known to me as 'Freccia' ('Arrow'). I loved it, but have no idea where it went. I think my fondest memory of a Transformer toy was Beast Wars Optimus Primal, which my mum bought me on a surprise trip to the toy shop for one of my birthdays. He's still alive and kicking, although missing all his missiles bar one, and only has half a sword left.
That's an interesting point you bring up, as I believe a fair number of us Transformers fans were brought back into the hobby from the Transformers Movies! For those who have yet to dive into your collection thread, what is your favorite Transformers line that you have collected? And why so?
For a while, the only line I was collecting were the movie-related ones: Revenge of the Fallen, Hunt for the Decepticons, Reveal the Shield, Dark of the Moon. Then some Generation started appearing across the UK. I can't remember which one I picked up first, but some of them were absolutely stunning! So different from the movie lines!
Then Power Core Combiners showed up. That was a troubled relationship, to say the least. I bought the Crankcase and Destrons 5-pack on a whim. Played around with him, then decided to give him to my brother for Christmas. As I was wrapping the figures, I had a strange feeling of regret. I put them to one side, and got him something else. The following day I found Bombshock and the Combaticons on sale. I bought a couple more after that, didn't like them that much, sold them again. Then missed them, horribly, a couple of months later. You know where this is going...
I've said this before, PCCs are not only desirable, they are adorable.
Well, as long as you have your kidneys! It is interesting to get the perspective of fans who aren't exactly in the heartland of the Transformers fandom. Do you feel like the Hasbros in Europe are providing enough content for the fans who want to keep up with their fellow fans in North America or Asia? If there is one thing you could change about the way the company works in Europe, whether that be distribution, toy content or something else, what would that be?
I've spoken to several other European fans, from Italy, Germany, France, the Netherlands and, of course, the UK. And no, I don't think there is a particularly good service. Entire waves not arriving, surplus of earlier waves at the cost of later ones, store exclusives, even distribution within the same country! And the prices are pretty ridiculous too.
If I were to change something, just magically change it, I'm not considering any real-life application here, it would probably be distribution. I'd like to ensure that the different branches across Europe have similar stock at similar times, rather than the current situation: if I go visit my girlfriend in Manchester (north of England), I will find a lot more selection than here in Norwich (south-east). As soon as I go back to Italy to visit family, they're still a series or two behind, even.
However, I only realised all of this once I joined Seibertron.com. Had I not been wanting to keep up to date with the franchise, I never would have known, and possibly never cared, either.
I'll have a go at what you said though: do you really think that the "core" of the fandom is in the US or Asia? For the toys, maybe, but in terms of comics... Simon Furman, Andrew Wildman, John-Paul Bove, Nick Roche, Livio Ramondelli (although he now lives in L.A.), Guido Guidi, James Roberts. All from Europe, and at the core of the current, and in my opinion, extremely successful, three series!
Good insight! I think it would be incorrect for fans in general to underestimate the European contributions to the Transformers brand! Let us get one more toy-related question in before we head into more comic-heavy discussion. What is your Transformers toy holy grail?
Ah. Er... Hm. I'm not actually sure I have one, as of now. I'm getting to a point where I feel like quitting collecting the toys for a bit, to save some extra money while I'm still getting some for my studies. And that thought tends to push out most of the others!
I really like the mythology currently being explored by both the animated series Transformers: Prime and the comics series, and the focus on the different origin stories of Cybertron and its inahbitants. It's not really a grail, more of a "I'd like to see a figure of...": Nova Prime and The Fallen, and possibly the Decepticon Justice Division.
(Although I am patiently waiting for Maketoys to deliver their stand-in for The Fallen... and it's PCC compatible! Double win!)
There's a Transformers fan who has yet to read IDW Transformers comics. What issue or series do you hook them with, and why?
How did you guess I'm into the comics? The easy thing would be to start with the "official" jumping-on point of the two most recent series, Robots in Disguise and More Than Meets the Eye. Maybe even The Death of Optimus Prime, to get some pointers about how previous stuff ended and the series begin. And a lot of fans seem to prefer either one or the other, whilst still reading both (and they do call to each other, every now and then). The problem with recent IDW stuff? It's all connected. The writers are quite explicitly trying to patch up some continuity troubles from the previous series, and most of the Spotlight comics are set back then too. So if you haven't read any of the IDW stuff, I'd cheat, and suggest the IDW Omnibus reprint of Dreamwave's The War Within, published as Transformers: War Within. Simon Furman, Don Figueroa and Andrew Wildman shaped a really good prequel to pretty much the whole story we all know. Shame it was never finished (although I do have the first three issues of the third part of the story, plus the scripts and summary of the ending). It does introduce The Fallen, though.
Good ole' Dreamwave! So lets move along to the current side of Transformers comics, mostly looking at Robots In Disguise and More Than Meets The Eye. I'm rather sure if we started discussion on the series itself we'd end up writing a novel, so sadly I guess instead off looking at each series at a whole, I guess I'll just rephrase this question, first focusing on RID, what was your favorite issue in RID so far, and why?
These may contain spoilers, if reader's haven't caught up with the series yet!
As much as issue 14 contains a gigantic turn of events, I still think that issues 12 and 13 work, on a different level. The build-up is insane: Prowl is recovering from being blown up, disappears and reappears beefed up; Wheeljack is trying to keep everything under control, unsuccessfully (and he quotes Ghostbusters); Megatron returns, gets almost blown to pieces by the Autobots, then is taken in for recovery by Wheeljack and Jetfire; Starscream gives a heck of a speech, only to find out that no one cares, especially not the Decepticons; Arcee reveals herself to Blurr and his bar clientele (including a Sky-Bite/Jazz spoken word-music double act). And that's just issue 12!
Special mention goes to the Annual, especially for the flashback sequences drawn and coloured by Guidi. Wow.
(As an aside, and I know not everyone will agree, but I really enjoy how Griffith is trying to give characters their toy counterpart look, where possible.)
RID's sister comic, More Than Meets The Eye. Favorite issue so far, and why?
For this one, there are three big contenders: issue 6, with the introduction of the Decepticon Justice Division; issue 12, exploring the various relationships between the characters on the Lost Light; issue 13, because it's stupidly fun. Oh wait, 7, too. But Shadowplay is amazing as well. Blast.
Ok, focusing on just one issue. I'd say 12. It expands on Tailgate, Cyclonus, Whirl, and especially Chromedome and Rewind. It was really moving, and I'm not embarassed to say it, the way in which Chromedome talks about Rewind's past and how he found him. Really good character development. And useful to the plot, in the light of issue 14, which I've only just read.
But Shadowplay - That's a story by itself. That is something that needs reading. Takes up from where Chaos Theory left, and wow, does it have a kick and a half.
(Again, special mention to the Annual, for its further look at the mythology behind Cybertronian culture.)
They are certainly a series that fans can get into! This is probably not talked about much, despite him being such a dynamic character - with Megatron's resurrection/reappearance in our two Ongoings, what role do you see Orion Pax/Optimus Prime playing in the near future? Is he a character that belongs back with the rest of the cast, or should he remain an outcast? In a related note, any comments on the art of Ramondelli?
Ah, yes. I was initially disappointed with his return so early in the series, but I do like that he's doing his own thing at the moment! He's chasing Jhiaxus and Bludgeon, dangerous characters, who are chasing Shockwave's plans. That's three of the sharpest, most dangerous Decepticon minds he's after. I think he has his hands full as it is, to be honest. Having said that, his stories do appear in the same series as Megatron, but with Overlord back again in MTMTE, the Decepticon leader also might have his hands full.
Ramondelli's work is something very different from the rest of the artistic cast. His cover art is superb, Autocracy was executed brilliantly, and I enjoyed every moment of it, and I'm really looking forward to the Monstrosity TPB. Chaos, on the other hand, was a bit confusing at times. He does shine on spreads and splash pages though, and he's excellent at talking with fans. And he does all his work on paper (then scans it and colours it)!
We touched on this prior, so let us say you get a cushy job at Hasbro R&D, you are assigned character selection for 2014 Generations Waves 3 and 4. We already know you love the DJD, so they're Wave 3. Who is in Wave 4?
So we have Tarn, Vos, Helex, Tesarus and Kaon (with The Pet!) as wave 3, with Vos and Kaon as Deluxe, and the other three as Voyagers. I think we need some love for Rung, Swerve, Tailgate and Rewind. But throw in Metalhawk and Jhiaxus, too, from Robots in Disguise. And I suppose Prowl, at this point, is a must.
But for some real fanservice, you want Overlord. Deluxe size tank, Deluxe size jet, Voyager(ish, probably a little bigger) robot mode.
Do it Hasbro!
Time for word association, I give you a phrase, name or a word and you respond with one word of your choice!
-2009-2011 Ongoing Series
-Power Core Combiners
-Hasbro Masterpiece Soundwave w/ 5 Cassettes
Looks like this wraps things up. Thanks for sitting in on this one Va'al. Any last words for the community?
It was fun! Thanks for the opportunity.
Last words: Read the comics - love Power Core Combiners.
"Just a normal interview," they said. "Everything will be alright," they said. Well as this innocent Autobot reporter found out, his assigned interview subject happened to live in a no-so-alright star system controlled by Unicron. It also turned out that my interviewee was not-so-normal either. Among the list of his many credentials is some sort of secret 'Agent of Unicron', so I was not entirely sure if we were going to play Casino Royale, or there was going to be some Skyfall. Luckily I found my subject in his natural habitat, and coincidentally, he happens to Twincast/Podcast and Seibertron.com staff member, Razorclaw0000!
Blurrz: Every Transformers fan has a different origin. When and how did it begin for you?
Razorclaw0000: In my Universe, the Vok also created something greater from the sparks of Air Razor and Tigatron, but here, the Vok meant business. Instead of that sniveling Tigerhawk trying to stop Megatron from interfering with time, I just disposed of him. Tigerhawk is not me and I am not he. However, the Vok are not kind to their creations, and cast me adrift. Then, millennia later the Dark God Unicron found me and bestowed the mantle of General upon me. To feed the Chaos Bringer's thirst, I oversaw the Cauldron - a great Arena which put the ancient gladiatorial games at Kaon to shame. At that time, I also began amassing a vast collection of Microns and Minicons to please Unicron.
Alternatively, I've always been fond of Transformers, since I was very small. I was just a few years too late to catch G1 at its pinnacle, and ended up seeing reruns in syndication. My first few toys were Minibots, Perceptor, Blitzwing, Groundshaker, and Iguanus. We were not a financially stable family though, and toys that weren't from a dollar store were a sparse luxury, so I ended up with many anonymous robots from various low cost Chinese lines.
I stayed a fan for a long time, and saw some of Beast Wars as a teenager. Rampage was a fantastic character and the toy always excited me. It was a few years later, in my senior year of high school when I finally had a small job and a bit of money that I stumbled on a Rampage in a Boscov's Department Store, covered in dust, and had to buy it. I was hooked, but money was still tight. I ended up finding some good deals on clearance in Kay-Bee, a Scarem and Sonar, and a Transmetals Scavenger, which were my only toys for a few years.
By 2002, I had a fairly stable job, ironically at a Boscov's, while I was putting myself through undergrad. One day, I happened to stroll over to the toy area, and saw Armada Starscream. The design was interesting. There's a presence to that figure, with the stocky lower legs, smirk, and sword that mean business. I ended up buying it, but I felt slightly disappointed by the slightly less complex transformation. Within months, I ended up buying nearly every domestic Armada figure, skipping some repaints. I was hooked. There were some stinkers, like Scavenger, and some real winners, like Jetfire and Tidalwave that looked great, even if articulation was weak. I also started backfilling with clearance RID figures, and even a few Beast Machines figures hiding out here and there.
In 2003, I ordered my first Japanese figure: the reissue God Ginrai with God Bomber, on clearance at HLJ, along with a color set of Micromaster Six Wing. My fiancee (and currently my wife) was relatively annoyed but didn't complain too much. For years, I ended up picking up most of the domestic products, through Energon, Alternators, and Cybertron, along with a few pieces here and there from older or foreign lines, like a Sonokong Big Convoy. Right as Classics began to hit store shelves, we bought a house, and I took a large pause for nearly a year.
When the 2007 movie came up, on Memorial Day weekend, I found the movie prequel book "Ghost of Yesterday" and Protoform Prime and Starscream, and decided to pick them up. I was excited by the fiction, and intrigued by the molds. My collecting desires rekindled and I was on a mad dash to grab the Classics I'd missed.
Unicron's glory reigns supreme in Razorclaw0000's collection!
Q: Sounds like Unicron will have Bards singing your tale! So let's get more into the little guys. What does collecting mini-cons mean to you?
A: When I was growing up, and we were poor, I did end up with a handful of Minibots, namely Powerglide, Brawn, Outback, Huffer, and two poor Seasprays that never managed to keep all the propellers. I think there's something about Minicons and Microns that pulls me back to those points, and there's some gleeful irony in the stupid prices a few of them are worth. I'm also borderline OCD, so the "gotta catch 'em all" aspect tickles my fancy. Finally, I think a few of them are so outright gorgeous and unique, like the DVD Sonic Attack team (girly planes!), Micron Booster Green Emergency team (minty fresh team!) , the Platinum team, and the US Giant Planet Team. They're fun to fiddle with, and don't take up much space, unlike other parts of my collection...
A mere glimpse into his collection - Razorclaw0000's work in progress Mini-con shelf!
Q: Like myself, you are an avid video game enthusiast. How are you feeling about Fall Of Cybertron the game, itself?
A: I think it looks good. I got chills when I heard the original trailer, featuring "The Humbling River" by Puscifer. I'm a huge Maynard James Keenan fan, so that was a nice treat. The visuals look great, and I'm intrigued by some of the characters, like the Combaticons. However, I was somewhat unimpressed with WFC. I'm a big fan of real cover shooters, like Mass Effect and Gears of War, with nice clean snap in cover mechanics. Standing behind a pillar isn't quite the same, and I'm a bit spoiled. I'm sure I'll pick it up, though, just to support High Moon and the property.
Q: Leaning more towards the Fall Of Cybertron toyline. How does it fit within your collection? Do you feel that WFC/FOC has done justice on the Pre-Earth Transformers? Do you think FOC toyline is a step backwards or forwards for the Transformers toy franchise?
A: I built up a shelf last year with Welcome to 2010 Primus, the War for Cybertron Generations Deluxes, BotCon Alpha Trion, and Universe 2.0 Blaster with Renderform's DJ Rockblast head. I'm pretty happy with it, and I have no problems adding a *few* more figures to it, particularly Shockwave, Starscream, and Bruticus. I'm not crazy that the mainline Bruticus has the inferior, pseudo-G2 color scheme, because I'd rather keep the SDCC MISB. The big thing that irritates me, though, is that large Soundwave with the annoying disk gimmick we saw at BotCon. I like the concept, but the execution is poor, and I can't help but think of all those development dollars that could have gone to more Neo-G1 figures, or Prime figures, or anything. Too much, too late?
Q: As we all know you have a nose for completion in regards to collecting toys. What made you lean towards this way of collecting? What was the most arguably painful and frustrating purchase you had to go through because of this mentality?
A: Completionism is a special kind of hell that only a dedicated few can put themselves through. It takes an understanding spouse, a dash of luck, and a whole heap of obsessive-compulsion. There's a special kind of yearning that enforces the "Gotta Catch 'Em All" feeling of toys, and makes you ignore the common sense that tells you one Backstop was enough, and you don't need two others in even worse decos.
Some of the hardest things to find in my collection are obscure non-Micron figures and items from the Micron Trilogy (the Japanese equivalent of the Unicron Trilogy here). I've been working for a long time on finding the last Force Chip (Cyber-key) that was not paired with a larger figure during Galaxy Force. If you know anyone looking to part with "Ignition Prize", send 'em my way! The Superlink Energon Weapons are also a bear to track down. Many of the hardest items are difficult to search for, and were often overlooked by sites like Seibertron when they were first released. Even getting photos is extremely difficult...
One of my happiest moments was tracking down the three rarest US Minicons, though. At the start of Cybertron, Wal-Mart released the Wave One deluxes in special tiny boxes, paired with a palette-flipped set of the Armada Road Destruction Team, along with "Tiny Tin" storage boxes. Each Minicon in the team was paired with two different deluxes. I've managed to complete a full set of the six deluxes, sealed, along with a loose set of the Minicons for display. Yes, that does mean I own the team three times...
Razorclaw0000's specials. Prototype Razorclaw and BotCon 2010 Customizing Class G2 Sideswipe
Q: Mini-cons certainly perpetuate happiness among certain members of the Seibertron.com staff! So among your massive collection, which one is your holy grail?
A: Shining Unicron is certainly the top of the "grail" list. Dragoyell is another Lucky Draw that tickles my fancy. For non-Micron Trilogy, I'd certainly love a Black Fire Convoy or the gorgeous Lucky Draw Micron Legends Megatron.
However, if we're looking for 'attainable' grails, it would probably be the Space Galaxy Team. They're still one of the most elusive sets of Microns ever produced that weren't Lucky Draws, and command absurd dollars in the after market, if they even show up at all.
If we step down from that, I'll be very happy when I wrap up the last three DVD Microns, Impulsor, Quench, and Freeboot, that I need.
I don't want to die! Plot shield please?
Q: What is your opinion of Shattered Glass? Are you a devoted fan or strongly opposing it? What do you think of the upcoming e-hobby/TFCC crossover?
A: I'm not a fan at this point. It was clever at the beginning, especially since I'm a big fan of Star Trek, where the idea really blossomed from. However, I think it's been taken a bit too far by now, and is stunting the creativity of the club. To be fair, though, it's a nice avenue to get repaints we may not otherwise, like Road Rage. I'd just like to see some other property developed by the club already. Wings was promising, but seems to have petered out. I didn't join the Shattered Glass Collector's Club.
Q: On the topic of the club, which figure is your favorite of the upcoming 2012 Subscription service, and why?
A: I'm the odd man out, and I'm really digging Circuit. I enjoy that mold immensely; it's one of my favorites out of the amazing NEST Global Alliance/Hunt for the Decepticons/Reveal the Shield era. I'm also really enjoying the trend of giving us Action Masters. I love Double Punch, Slicer, Kick Off, and Thundercracker, and I'm really looking forward to more homages to that era.
Blurrz: Whelp, looks like Unicron calls. Thanks for stopping by Razorclaw0000!
Razorclaw0000 left this here.. What is this? I don't even..
Ain't It Cool News caught up with IDW Senior Editor John Barber to discuss their upcoming Transformers Prime: Rage of the Dinobots mini-series, which is scheduled to release in November. Click here to see how the Dinobots factor into the Prime universe and the Aligned continuity.
Tying in with the video game TRANSFORMERS PRIME: FALL OF CYBERTRON, comes the IDW comic book TRANSFORMERS PRIME: RAGE OF THE DINOBOTS. Hitting shelves in November and taking place in the 'Prime' Universe, Transformers readers can get to meet everyone's favourite robotic T-Rex, Grimlock for the first time, in this incarnation of the Transformers. In RAGE OF THE DINOBOTS, the Grimlock and co are forced to battle Shockwave with the very fate of Cybertron hanging in the balance. Written by Mike Johnson (Star Trek) and Mairghread Scott, the writer of the TRANSFORMERS: PRIME animated series. Artist Agustin Padilla (Dungeons & Dragons) provides pencils while Ken Christiansen provides covers. I spoke to IDW Senior Editor John Barber about the book and the Transformers legacy on the screen and in comics.
JOHN BARBER (JB): Well, the Prime Universe is the timeline where theTransformers: Prime TV series from Hasbro Studiostakes place, along with the FALL OF CYBERTRON video games from Activision and the novels that Random House publishes, like Exiles and Exodus by Alex Irvine. So if you’re familiar with any of those, you’re already familiar with the characters. The team at Hasbro takes special care to ensure there is continuity between a wide variety of storytelling platforms for the brand.
Earlier today, popular game site Kotaku hosted a live Q&A interview session with Matt Tieger, the game director of the highly anticipated Transformers Fall of Cybertron game. The session ran for about an hour starting at 10am PT. Fans quickly bombarded Tieger but he addressed many of the questions presented to him.
MrOpto: How did you first get the Transformers license? Did Hasbro put out offers or did you go them?
Matt Tieger: ATVI already had a relationship with Hasbro, but what they were looking for was someone to make a non-movie based game. They both felt that we would be a great fit and War for Cybertron was born. The success of that game allowed us to make Fall of Cybertron.
bigduo209: I love games that use Sci-fi inspired weaponry/abilities and not just future-looking guns (Ratchet and Clank, Bioshock), how many crazy weapons have you made for Fall of Cybertron?
Matt Tieger: The great thing about this game world is that there are absolutely shotguns and sniper rifles, but also lightning guns, acid guns, and 'tron' disk guns. The guns are divided into Primary and Heavy weapons. Many (but not all) of the more sci-fi guns fall into the heavy weapons category. In SP there is a Teletraan Store where you can buy and upgrade those weapons. In MP the weapons are divided between the classes based on countless play testing hours - so not every class can use every weapon. As to the exact number of them, since you explore and find blueprints to unlock them i don't want to spoil anything, so ill say quite a few more than we ever had in War for Cybertron.
Jason Schreier: How would you convince a non-Transformers fan that he/she should play your game?
snowtires: Play the demo, it's awesome.
Matt Tieger: Good Question, and one that I often think about. The worst compliment we get about War is, "what a great game, too bad nobody knew about it." What i would say is this (in my most passionate game dev voice. "forget Transformers, forget Michael Bay, forget the toys, and consider for a moment a game that allows you access to your vehicle at any moment in time, a game where the core tactical choices are movement based, and now imagine a game where each character is a unique experience with different vehicles or special abilities. This game offers something that no other game can, huge variety and tactical variety. Oh yeah and it happens to be Transformers"
SaburoDaimando: What are some of the lessons you learned on designing Fall of Cybertron compared to War for Cybertron?
Matt Tieger: When we developed WFC we looked for similar games that tackled similar level design issues and frankly, found none. So we blazed a trail and learned alot. With FOC we again did a survey and found WFC to be the only comparable game, so we set out to exceed it in every way. As one example, the driving got a bit stale in WFC, it might seem like a small thing but in FOC we added terrain, so instead of all flat metal surfaces, you now had hills - which innately make driving more fun. We also bowed down to the gods of player choice, and for much of the game you can tackle problems as you see fit - stay in vehicle the whole time, Transform constantly, etc. We had some of that in WFC, but now it is the rule in FOC.
Mike Fahey: WHERE IS OUR BEAST WARS GAME!?!?! ALL CAPS!>!!>!??
Hlokk: Most important question! Notice the all caps!
Matt Tieger: I get asked this alot. Lets see how this game does. We do have Dinobots and Insecticons, so i'd say its in the realm of possibility - someday.
Marquis_Gabriel: When taking on a IP, especially one with tie in's to a movie. What are your expectations?
Matt Tieger: just to make sure - we are not related to the movies in anyway, we are a distinct storyline. We do this by telling their story before they ever reach Earth. With any game you need to find the 'heart' of what makes that game so unique (original or licensed). Strip everything else away and Transformers are about 'transforming' (i know sounds simple, right?). By focusing on that single concept and making everything else supportive to that, we stay true to the license while still making a great game.
KnickKnackMyWack246: How does this universe connect (if at all) to any Transformers stories other than G1? A friend of mine suggested it's a prequel to Transformers Prime while another believes it's a prequel to the Michael Bay films. Can you clarify?
CodeMonkey76: It's a prequel to the G1 television series
Matt Tieger: G1 is our primary touchstone, meaning that we look to G1 for visual ques, abilities, VO quotes, etc. We look to not violate the Movie universe, but aren't beholden to it (and we do in-fact stay in the distant past to help with that). Prime has the most relevance with our game, there are many things introduced in WFC that are not part of the Prime show, like Dark Energon. There are a few elements that have the same 'visual DNA' like the Nemesis for example.
Emmerson: With how the Transformers scaled in the first game, with Scorpinok and Omega Supreme being the biggest we had seen. Then in the second game with having combiners, and then summoning Metroplex, how can you guys top that in terms of Transformers power and scale? How will you handle the issue like Fortress Maximus and Unicron?
Matt Tieger: Quick edit : last game didn't have Scorpinok in it (although that would have been cool) it had Trypticon. Your essential question is, "How do we keep ratcheting up from here?" Honestly, I dunno - you made some good suggestions, what we will do is wait and see what the reaction from this game is before thinking that far ahead.
Brian Erice: Im curious about the campaign design change for FOC. Why did you move away from the two split campaigns that were in WFC?
Matt Tieger: Excellent question. Game Director is often thought of as the best job ever, and some days it is, but often we have to make excruciatingly tough calls - the campaign change was one of those. In WFC, you had 2 separate campaigns that you could play in either order, so we never knew how you were going to play. What this meant for the game that there were functionally 2 first levels, 2 second levels, 2 3rd levels - you get the picture. and when you had played 50% of the game you had really played 100% of the game. We believe that one of the primary reasons for the major criticism of the game, "The gameplay got repetitive", was in-fact because it DID get repetitive based on the campaign structure. So we made a single interwoven campaign where we could pace it well.
Mungry: Hey Matt, huge fan and I love everything about the game we have seen so far! My questions is about multiplayer. I am wondering if their will be killstreak rewards in the game and if we can expect new multiplayer game modes as the game progresses through its life? Thx - SoooMungry
Matt Tieger: SoooMungry - I'm actually a fan of yours. At the studio we watch your Youtube channel and read the comments - thank you for your excitement for the game. Regarding Killstreaks, we had them in for a while during our dev of the game, we took them out for balance reasons. Let me explain, every game has a very unique MP pace and with all the changes from WFC, what we were seeing was runaway gamers, specifically due to killstreaks. By removing them, they game was more competitive. Along a similar vein we removed double jump, many gamers initial reaction were negative until the played it for a bit and realized that the streamlined approach actually made it better. remember this isn't WFC2 this is FOC.
DinoDinoBot: What made you guys change your mind about releasing it on PC after you said you wouldn't? And what do you think is the best addition or special feature in this version?
Thanks for the Q&A.
Matt Tieger: coming off of WFC we needed to laser our focus on FOC. Reducing the number of platforms that we ship on was one way to do that - and it was the right call for the dev team. The fan outcry wasn't lost on us, however and once we saw how much PC gamers wanted it we started looking for solutions. The short version is that, a PC version exists because of the fans.
czen2: Is there any plans to include other combiners like the aerial bots ,protectobots, or even transformers like ultra magnus ,hot rod,cup, etc.
Matt Tieger: Yes and no. The curse of Transformers is that there are so many of them. Last time I spoke with Hasbro i asked them how many there are, their response was in excess of 11,000! We simply cant put that many into the game. What we do have is customization in MP. There are millions of combinations and enough color choices that you can make, and name, a garage full of Transformers.
Emmerson: As my favorite Transformer(s) ever, I have to ask, Where is Devastator? Any chance on seeing him in the new game?
Matt Tieger: Devastator isn't in this game. however, who knows where we go from here
Leebee: how did you guys approach designing multiplayer this time around? what features did you guys want to add to make it fresh from the last game? how often did you guys release new builds to tweak overpowered/underpowered stuff? will keeping the MP suite fresh and balanced be a priority for you guys after release?
I'm a huge fan of asymmetrical competitive multiplayer design, and I love giant robots. you could say that I'm a huge fan of your games. :3
cheers, and thank you.
Matt Tieger: We host 5pm MP matches for the team, EVERY night through the ENTIRE project. Now not everyone can play every night and sometimes the build breaks, but more often than not the team is playing. What that means is that it gets tweaked every day, we try all sorts of stuff, game modes, who has what gun, footspeed adjustments, everything. the 'secret sauce' is countless hours by a dedicated team.
James De Moss: Will we see humans in the franchise? I know WfC and FoC take place waaaaaaay before humans were in the picture, but will the franchise ever go that far into the future?
Matt Tieger: Certainly not is this game, but we will have to see.
Aidil42: During development, with all ideas flying around, do you sometimes wish you're not tied up to an already established franchise?
Matt Tieger: In this case, i'd say no. The harder decisions are what not to put in.
FullmetalPrime: Are there any characters, save the Dinobots of course, that you'd like to have included into this months Fall of Cybertron?
Matt Tieger: Triple changers. I always thought that concept was a cool one. We just didn't have the bandwith to do it right, that I am not sure how much fun Astrotrain's train mode would be.
CFNexus: Any chance there could be a Transformers MMO in the future? Ive been thinking about 1 for years. I have already thought of character creation, mechanics and plenty of other things. I think and MMO has some very interesting things going for it.
Callum F, Northern Ireland.
Matt Tieger: It is definitely a big enough universe, but at HMS we aren't geared for MMOs.
mandrate: Is Co-op has been taken out for a more immersive single player storyline?
Matt Tieger: I mentioned earlier about tough decisions - this was the other big one. We do however recognize that Co-op is part of fan expectations, so we really put a lot of focus on Escalation. It is crazy addictive 4 player online Co-op, trust me you will like it.
Zurick: Will there be a 3rd game in the series?
Matt Tieger: Maybe. Lets see what the fans are saying about this one first.
dinowho: Why you no give autobots combiners? AerialBots! Thanks for revitalizing the Transformers to the glory they deserve
Matt Tieger: Deceptions get Bruticus, Autobots get Dinobots - sounds pretty fair to me!
Glenn Beck: Pre-order G1 DLC has been shown played to "The Touch." Make us all happy and tell us you have some Stan Bush somewhere in the game.
Matt Tieger: you will be happy.
Trax0r: How come it took 25 years for a designer to finally make a great Transformers game (WFC)? It seems like its the perfect premise and platform for a good story/fighting/shooter, and yet until, WFC, the ones that did come out were total shit.
Matt Tieger: Transformation is a tough concept to wrap you brain around. It sounds simple enough, but when you start to really knuckle down with the geometry and the mechanics it is a unique problem with no real parallels. We took this as an opportunity to do something different, I am glad you feel that we succeeded.
opieman2010: From what I can understand, War and this game are considered the "revised" official canon for the Transformers, as well as the Prime cartoon. How involved was Hasbro, outside of just overseeing the story? Were any other writers brought in to work on this that have also contributed to the Transformers story?
Matt Tieger: Hasbro was very involved, but the story starts and ends here are HMS. We have some very talented writers, a studio full of G1 fans, and a design staff that is passionate about bringing the story out in the world.
Cabbagetroll: Any hints to what else you guys are working on? Maybe a little bit of news about Deadpool?
Matt Tieger: No can do.
frizzlestick: The first level of the demo had you playing as Bumblebee, but for some reason his voicebox was smashed. I really enjoyed Johnny Yong Bosch as Bumblebee in the first game, so will he still have a voice or is this a reflection of the Bay-era where he never speaks?
Also, Dinobots are awesome, but they did get messed up by Devastator in the 80's film.
Matt Tieger: BB does not have a voice in FOC. This is one element that is in fact a reflection of the Bay movies. Per a comic that was a 'movie prequel' he has his voice box crushed by Megatron, in the game there is a VO that allude to that fact.
Chris Zombiechild: Are there any other cartoon series from the same era that you would like to make a game for?
Matt Tieger: Thundercats, Dinoriders, He-Man. Not sure that anybody other than me would want to play them, but they could be awesome. Also Big Trouble in Little China would make an amazing video game.
djs2879: How soon do you expect the Dinobot DLC to come out after launch?
Matt Tieger: not soon enough by most peoples standards, but it will happen.
Anubis_Arcane: Will we be able to use our custom built transformers for escalation mode? A few of my friends and I were wondering if that might be a possibility down the road.
Matt Tieger: in Escalation you play as the named characters, we chose this for 2 reasons. 1 so that you could use the official iconic characters with your friends and 2 because that mode requires an extreme level of balance within the team, we needed to set the rules.
montymonster50: I love the WFC multiplayer, but I thought it died out (relatively) quickly. Are there any plans to expand the multiplayer to keep players involved for a longer period of time?
Matt Tieger: Tell your friends about it. Seriously, we are very hopeful that the community can reach a much larger self-sustaining size this time around. ATVI has gotten behind the product in a big way, so if you love it help us get the message out there.
Seibertron.com: Are there any Easter Eggs in the game that die-hard Transformers fans can look forward to? (other than Stan Bush's "The Touch")
Matt Tieger: tons of them, keep your eyes open
TheBigTsk: Will the MP skills that were so popular in the first game be back? Right now there doesn't seem to be much info and the info that is out there looks bleak.
Matt Tieger: This game stands on the shoulders of WFC, but it isn't WFC2. Things are slightly different, and in our opinion significantly better. What I suggest you do is try the demo, you initial reaction might be that you miss something specific, but i'd bet that after a few matches you will realize the clarity of the MP experience and see how much better this game is. WFC had really good MP, FOC has great MP.
mannoroth0913: My question has to be: Is Grimlock as amazing in game as the trailers make him out to be, because there's no way I can miss a chance to play as the King
Matt Tieger: Yep. Not only is the gameplay fun, it is very unique compared to every other playable character and the story is exceptional - you get to see how they are created in a brand new official cannon story.
Atomic3xplosion3564: Is it possible for you guys to make a movie?
Matt Tieger: LOL. I hear that alot. Thanks for the vote of confidence.
Liquid-X: Will we get some version of Starscream in a cape and crown?
Matt Tieger: smells like an easter egg to me.
opieman2010: What does an Easter egg smell like? Probably a lot like a regular, hard boiled egg.
Popular game site Kotaku will be hosting a live Q&A with Matt Tieger, the game director on the highly anticipated Transformers Fall of Cybertron game. Kotaku said it best: "That's probably a fun job, but let's not assume anything. How about you ask him yourself?" Tieger, whose team at High Moon Studios is releasing Transformers: Fall of Cybertron this month, will be joining Kotaku live to answer your best questions in just a few minutes, starting at 1pm ET (12pm CT / 11am MT / 10am PT). Join Seibertron.com in this Q&A to find out the answers to all of your burning questions.
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