io9: What’s the journey for you as a writer been like on More Than Meets The Eye over the last 50 issues?
Roberts: Obviously it’s great to be given an opportunity to tell stories featuring characters that you loved growing up, and to add new layers to the mythos. When I think about MTMTE reaching issue 50, it’s not so much that I’m amazed that I’m writing a Transformers comic that’s lasted that long... it’s more that I’m writing an ongoing comic book that’s racked up that many issues. In 2016, that’s a rarity.
io9: You’ve said in the past that you’ve written the final line of MTMTE already. Where do you see yourself going as a writer after this comes to a close?
Roberts: After MTMTE, who knows? I don’t think I’d move on to more Transformers stories right away—in fact I may find I’ve used up all my best ideas and it’s time to move on. (All of this presumes, of course, that IDW wants me to stick around!) The Transformers script I’m working on right now is the75th, if you count the issues I co-write with Nick Roche and John Barber, and the last thing I want is to find myself running on empty in a few years’ time.
io9: Finally, looking back at your 50 issues so far, what’s been your favorite part of the process working on an ongoing series like this?
Roberts: Watching the MTMTE fandom grow and take shape, I think. No-one knew if the book was going to be successful—the first story arc was tailored to 12 issues just in case the whole thing tanked. But I like to think that pretty early on the book found its voice, and that it was a voice that resonated with people who were ready to get very invested in a bunch of sarcastic, mopey, affable, ridiculous and relatable losers.
[...] One of the things with Optimus Prime is that he’s a good guy. Like, a really good, powerful, guy. So over the years, he'd sort of had doubt introduced to him in the IDW comic books, where he was a little more hesitating in his actions. As I was writing him, I started to realize he was maybe going down that direction again, and it seemed to me—as a character, from his point of view—he’d want to avoid that.
But at the same time, one of the looming questions has been “what does it mean to be Prime?” Starscream’s ruling Cybertron; Megatron’s an Autobot... Some people see him as a war leader, others see him as a messianic figure... Some ’bots are loyally on his side and will follow him anywhere, and others—old friends—start to doubt him.
Nrama: As the battle and the main story ended, the issue kicked into another gear with that dream sequence from Optimus. What can you say about that? Is it a premonition? Will some (or all) of it come true?
Barber: Some of Optimus's dream is literally true. Some is symbolic. Some is what he fears. Maybe some is leading him to what he needs to know. And a big part of it recalls an ancient prophesy from the days of the original Primes. Is it Optimus projecting himself onto this old tale? Or is it the prophecy asserting itself onto its object?
But what really comes next is all of the pieces of this series coming together. The politics of Cybertron, the ancient history of Earth and Cybertron, the relationship with Earth and its giant metal visitors. Optimus Prime, Starscream, Prowl, Arcee, Victorion—all those characters come together. Plus ghost-Bumblebee. Or hallucination-Bumblebee, whatever Starscream is seeing. Even poor dead Bumblebee has a role to play!
IDW looks to be setting up a major change to the status quo of its Transformers line, as longtime series writer John Barber and artist Andrew Griffith begins the "All Hail Optimus" arc.
But the battle lines are more than just Autobots vs. Decepticons, as different factions emerge against Optimus, Galvatron and Starscream... and that's not even including the humans of Earth, which as you can imagine might have issues with Optimus Prime annexing Earth.
Barber: At the start of the series, Galvatron is poised to wreak havoc on the Earth with an army of disaffected Decepticons. This isn’t the first time the Earth’s been in this dangerous position—among other things, Earth’s useful to the Transformers because it has this substance called Ore-13 which can be converted to energon, their lifeblood. Optimus has tried battling on Earth to defend it; he’s tried leaving Earth behind to keep it out of the Cybertronian’s war. Neither of those really worked. So now, he’s looking at Earth and seeing the Decepticons striking again, and he’s seeing there are people starving on Earth and people being disenfranchised in many ways.
"Transformers #50" preview
[Pin It] CREDIT: IDW Publishing
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And Optimus’ motto has always been, “Freedom is the right of all sentient beings.” It’s pointed out to him that he could act to make the people of Earth more free… and free from this eons-long Cybertronian war, that—while it’s technically over—is still endangering the planet.
So he decides to annex Earth into Cybertron’s council of worlds. Whether Earth wants to come or not; and whether the council wants Earth or not. He’s going to pull Earth into the cosmic community and try to improve life on the planet.
So, yeah—a lot of his friends see this as… not a good move. I think all of his enemies see this as bad. But Optimus has loyal allies, plus followers who view him as a messianic figure for being a Prime, and carrying (what’s left of) the Matrix of Leadership. Optimus has been unwilling to use that good will to his advantage… until now.
Nrama: Last question -- Transformers #50 looks to be extra-sized. Overall, what should fans expect?
Barber: There’s a 30-page story by me and Andrew, then Casey W. Coller drew a 10-pager that deals with the fallout. Plus some rambling reminisces by me. And some nice special guest covers, by Jonathan Hickman and Mike Choi and our regular gang of Transformers superstars like Andrew Griffith, Casey W. Coller, and Alex Milne.
Paramount will sandwich a Bumblebee movie between its next two Transformers pics. The three films will roll out in successive summers beginning with a Michael Bay-helmed Transformers 5 on June 23, 2017, followed by the Bumblebee spinoff June 8, 2018. Another stand-alone will arrive June 28, 2019.
The studio announced the dates for the three movies Feb. 12 but was vague about whether or not the trio would include a spinoff, simply calling the films Transformers 5, 6 and 7.
“There are characters in the Transformers universe that can be and should be made into their own movies,” Paramount Pictures chairman and CEO Brad Grey told The Hollywood Reporter. “We will make the first movie with Michael and go right into a Bumblebee movie, which will be at a lower cost.”
Considering the Transformers franchise has spawned $3.8 billion in worldwide box office since 2007, it should come as no surprise that Paramount is looking to pick up the pace on its robot juggernaut.
The Transformers Generations franchise offers us a sneak peek at the beginning of their “TITANS RETURN” product with these images of upcoming packaging artwork. There’s only so much room on a box or a blister card, so the scintillating character images developed by our artists sometimes gets maneuvered and cropped from the full glory of the original piece. The Hasbro Pulse has secured the full character artwork that will adorn the packaging for this July’s “TITANS RETURN” Deluxe Generations Wave 1.
The original artwork for their packaging was created by Ken Christiansen, a longtime contributor to the Transformers brand. Ken’s dynamic art style is well-known and appreciated by Transformers fans, and he took some time to talk to us about his work on the “TITANS RETURN” images:
HASBRO PULSE: You've been providing phenomenal artwork for Transformers toys over the years - is this the first time you've worked on a Power Master toy? How different is it to draw a Transformer with a removable head?
KEN CHRISTIANSEN: Thanks very much. I was really thinking about it, and up until working on Titans Retun, it's possible I hadn't drawn a Power Master since I was a little kid, and the original toys were on shelves, back in the 1980s! Drawing a removable head isn't much of a stretch when I'm working on Transformers - it's just another part that is in a different place during a transformation. Though the real magic of the removable head is that it's going to be yet another level of transformation, into a new character!
HASBRO PULSE: Your personal art style is a fantastic match for the aspirational nature of a franchise rooted in metal parts and straight edges - what artists have influenced your style and development?
KEN CHRISTIANSEN: My personal art influences as I was growing up were Drew Struzan, Frank Frazetta, and more to the point of the question, famed industrial and futurist designer Syd Mead. But the direct influence on my Transformers work to this day, is the original box back art on the first line of Transformers, the incredible battle scene that gave life and energy to the very idea of the Transformers. And now that I get to opportunity to contribute to the packaging art, I hope I can inspire the next generation of kids.
HASBRO PULSE: The first wave of Titans Return figures features four fan favorite characters in Blurr, Skullcruncher, Hardhead and Scourge. Do you have a favorite among these "first four?"
KEN CHISTIANSEN: I'm excited about all of them, but for me Skullcruncher is a real standout. I think the design team did an amazing job, and I can't wait to get my hands on him!
These four Transformers will have their toy versions unveiled at New York Toy Fair, and are expected to be available in stores this August.
The studio [Space Ape Games] has, so far, made its name as something of a specialist in what its founders call 'build and battlers', the mid-core asynchronous multiplayer genre established to such great success by Supercell and Clash of Clans. It's already had two successes in the genre: Samurai Siege and Rival Kingdoms, but now Earner and Hade are looking to take the next step with the attachment of a globally recognised IP in the shifting shape of Hasbro's Transformers for its new game Earth Wars.
"I guess you could say it's the modern take on classic Transformers, where the characters are bigger, chunkier and more colourful, rather than the [Michael] Bay-style, which uses more organic characters," says product owner Chris White when I ask if they're tying Earth Wars to the Bay-directed films. "It works very well for us because they're very readable when they're small."
"Talking to a lot of the Transformer fans we have over the course of development, it's amazing how many of them haven't played any games in this genre before," says White. "Whereas you'd expect everyone to have played Clash of Clans, they actually haven't, so we're introducing them to the genre for the first time. One really interesting thing we saw during development, when we were getting Transformers fans in, is that, as a developer you've obviously seen a lot of games, a lot of tutorials. You start to think that everyone must know how this works, that you need to teach the player something different. Actually, there's tons of Transformers fans out there that don't know the mechanics of the genre, or indeed any game.
"It's easy to be cynical, having played tons of games in the genre and developed a few of them, but then you realise that maybe in some areas you've actually gone a little too far with the innovation and you need to dial it back a bit and give people something they're more familiar with."
"Transformers is huge in Asia," Earner corrects me. "We have the rights to launch the game globally, we secured the rights via Takara to introduce the game to Japan, which is the only territory where Hasbro doesn't have the rights, but there's a long and productive relationship between the two. So it's not so much that we don't have plans for Asia, it's that Asia requires an extra amount of detail. We won't go live in those countries on day one because we want to put real time into it.
"A pleasant surprise for me, having spent a week in China last year: we always knew that China had become excited about what we call 'Bay-led' Transformers. Bay-led is a country or person whose introduction to the brand comes from the recent films. France is Bay-led, believe it or not, as is China. We suspected that, as a result they might not recognise some of the characters, such as Grimlock. But the mid-core player on the coast of China is also male, 28-45. They know this stuff and they love it, so we're extremely optimistic about it, but like you say, they're a different market, you can't just come at it straight."
he plans to be back in Chicago sometime later this year. The film is scheduled for a 2017 release, with plans already in the works for two more "Transformers" movies after that. Billion-dollar revenues will do that.
"You going to blow up Michigan Avenue again?" Richards asks Bay in his interview (at the 5:40 mark). "No, we're gonna find a new street," Bay said. "But I love Chicago." And then, referring to some of the city's systemic problems, including gun violence, added dryly: "We'll come in with some Transformers to even it out."
Bay continued to say, presumably about Transformers 5...did a really good job of going back in time and connecting things in history and how it relates to different spinoffs...
And when Weintraub probed Bay for additional info, he received the following statement...I guess this will be my last one...
...I can't tease SHIZZLESNIT ...
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