Two weeks have passed, and it's time for another edition of the Seibertron.com Creative Round-Up! Bringing together the output of Transtopia, find below a variety of creative productions - from customs to comics, artwork to additions, printing to paintjobs, via fiction, photography and more. Check it out, and if you like what you see, make sure to comment on the author's thread!
THE HELP DESK
Seibertronian WreckerJack is looking for some pointers for a TF Prime Ratchet fix-up - send yours here!
Howdy fellow Seibertronians and welcome to the Transformers Photo Challenge. This is a monthly Seibertron.com feature hosted by yours truly. Each challenge will have a theme and a description of any guidelines that need to be followed. To participate; setup some figures, snap a few pictures and post the images in the discussion below. The Transformers Photo Challenge is for all skill levels and is just about having fun. Previous challenges can be found here.
Female Transformers, aka fembots, have been around since G1 but still seem to generate much debate. With the most recent additions to this exclusive club (Windblade and Victorion (Pyra Magna, Stormclash, Skyburst, Dustup, Jumpstream and Rust Dust)) being the products of fan voting. There seems to be something intriguing about the concept of genders existing in a gender-less race of transforming robots. This challenge will be about exploring Cybertronian diversity.
As always, setup your fembots and show us what you got!
Keep your browsers pointed to Seibertron.com and keep and itchy trigger finger on that refresh button for the latest Transformer news, the largest Transformers galleries and the most Transformers fun you can have this side of a space bridge.
Every two weeks, Seibertron.com brings you a Top 5 list related to all things Transformers written by me, your fellow editor. These are my opinions (just like movie or game reviews hosted by sites are still just the opinion of one person) so what matters most is what you guys think of the topic or list, and I hope to see your own lists or comments on omissions and ranking. Let's have fun! All previous lists can be found here.
Top 5 Transformer Toys that will shed the most tears
Is there any worse feeling for a collector or child then a piece giving way and it remaining in your hand while you pull away the toy? Or hearing that snap sound? Transformers have so many pieces, unlike other action figures, that some are bound to fall off or break off and it can sometimes break a child's heart, or an adult's heart too. I hope once you have read this list (which is both personal and general) that you can share yours as well!
This is one of the best robot modes around and a really smart cool motorcycle transformer. Except there is one slight issue: he will break if you play with him too much! And it sucks too, it's one of the motorbike's handlebars, which then makes the sweet bike mold look totally uneven. And the added play value of having another Junkion ride the motorcycle kind of becomes moot since his bike is now inoperable. The sad fact about this breakage is that it will happen regardless of if you use it properly, just normal wear and tear will do the trick (though not transforming properly will make it happen sooner). You can't glue it back on because it is part of an automorph gimmick which also gets crushed when the handlebar breaks. So while he can still transform, your handlebar will never get back there and cant be fixed. In this day and age where breakage is supposed to be solved, this is kind of abhorrent. It happened to mine:
Why do the most fragile toys have to also be the most expensive ones? The initial Masterpiece Starscream mold is very fiddly and there are a lot of things that can happen to even make the manliest of men shed a tear. The transformation is tricky, involving careful thought and understanding of where parts are going to end up and how they need to get there. Although, I found the construction to be sturdy, it has plenty of points where excess force will cause it to break, if mishandled. And then Takara decided to make one version which was all clear plastic, genius! While clear plastic can be sturdy too, it wont bend. So if you turn something the wrong way, it wont start bending and resisting, letting you know you are doing something wrong, it will just snap. I broke the ghost version's arm while I transformed it the 4th time and the thin pointed ends of his tail fin fell off too after rubbing off something (it was like they were there one moment and gone the next). I am not the only one to have had problems with this mold, you can search online for a bunch of reports about broken Starscreams (or any seeker sporting the MP 03 mold). A common one is the wing connector pieces which appear to weaken the more it is transformed, which is something you never want to hear.
Another Masterpiece with similar negative points is MP 09 Rodimus, which is also very very delicate. The way it is built, it is inevitable that every single copy will eventually break if posed in robot mode on a shelf. There have been interesting reports of people just one day hearing a clunk coming from their shelves to see that some piece of their Rodimus had succumbed to gravity. A number of joints can break on this toy, here is an example from fellow Seibertronian Itscramtastic:
And there is this gut wrenching testimony I found online from a user called Robotmonkeys:
Worst purchase was Hasbro Masterpiece Rodimus. I bought it aftermarket at double the price in the summer of 2014. He was my first Mp since Mp 1. I had him for nearly a week when I decided to take him out of the box.
As I carefully removed him, his left arm stayed behind in the blister pack.
My heart sank! After trying all kinds of fixes, I finally got a replacement shoulder. To this day, his arm is limp and not fully assembled due to not being able to successfully push the pin all the way through.
Both these cases are very sad and while I doubt any child would experience this since these toys are collector oriented, big boys and girls can cry. And an expensive collectible breaking may be just that threshold.
Here is the first case of Gold Plastic Syndrome (GPS) I will address. To get a certain gold pigment or shiny effect in the plastic, different plastics are mixed together and the combinations break down more quickly making the toy crumble before your eyes. While this has happened to differently coloured toys, toys all made of gold plastic in the G2 era (early 90s of Transformer toys) famously suffered from this. G2 Electro is one of the best examples to the point where if you were to buy him mint today, he would probably break when you start handling him or transforming him. Take a good look at the photo below because that it the best way to see an unbroken G2 Electro these days.
This toy broke apart in my very hands. It was a sad and pathetic sight. I was unaware that he was prone to breakage and thought it was just my clumsy self. So I set to repair him with krazy glue. But as I would glue together one piece another piece would fall off. I tried some more but eventually gave up when I had his chest in my hands and his feet, and separate arms on the floor. Turns out I am not the only one this happened to, not by a long shot. I feel bad for all the kids who had their Megatron fall to pieces as they played with him in the 90s. Just look for Broken Megatron on e-bay and you will see plenty.
This here is the second case of GPS I want to bring to our attention with this list. What makes this case extra sad is that he completes a combiner so without him, you don't get a nice G2 Superion. I will let Seibertron, the site owner himself, share a word regarding this toy and his gallery:
Seibertron wrote:Slingshot is everyone's favorite gold-plastic Transformer. The figure is a ticking time bomb before it literally crumbles in your hand. I somehow managed to take an entire photogallery of him with only one non-essential piece cracking. Fortunately, his arms, legs, wings and head stayed intact for the purpose of this gallery. I carefully wrapped him in bubble wrap after this and placed him in a small Ziploc tub intended for food in the fridge. Hopefully that'll keep him in decent shape until needed again but I wouldn't bet any Energon on it!
Honourable mentions: There are a ton of more toys that are prone to breakage, like the roofs on some G1 cars and Mirage breaking in half, that this list could go on and on and on. So instead of writing more, I would love it if we could turn the entire discussion into the Honourable Mentions section and share which toys of yours broke and which times it hurt the most in your childhood or adult lives. When your toy breaks, no matter if it's a known issue, it will hurt just as bad, so this list is more of a starting point for a discussion.
Pictures are more than welcome (of the broken toy, not of you crying).
Spoiler Warning! The contents of this review may, and likely will, spoil significant parts of this book, and possibly others in the IDW Transformers meta-series. "Trade paperback only" readers should wander away now! This is your one and only warning.
Synopsis and Credits
ALL HAIL OPTIMUS part 4! It's all-out war as OPTIMUS PRIME's forces move on GALVATRON's DECEPTICONS—with Earth caught in the middle! Unusual alliances have formed… and secrets will be revealed.
The story of All Hail Optimus continues with this week's release of The Transformers #53 from IDW Publishing, otherwise known as the book just about every Transformers fan is still calling Robots in Disguise. We join our heroes, I guess, back on Earth where they just did a thing and got attacked by humans and Prime lost an arm or something. Oh, and then he blackmailed some peace seeking Decepticons into joining what amounts to an Optimus Prime led invasion force using some wicked, cunning, downright messed up appeal to Soundwave's more logical side. That part of issue number 52 last month was really good, so I was excited to dive into this next chapter.
Still a fascinating pivot.
The story of Optimus Prime's descent to the dark side of The Force has been really fascinating to witness. While I still foresee some shenanigans on the horizon with a certain police car, if I go with the benefit of the doubt and Prime's head isn't being messed with (this book hasn't earned this benefit over the years, but I'm feeling generous) the subtlety of the character work has been pulled off pretty brilliantly. The normally consistent Optimus has become quite unpredictable, with each new move feeling more desperate even if the end goal is probably as ambiguously defined to this character as it is to readers.
A far less interesting pivot.
On the other hand, we have the leader of our "bad guys" for this arc in Galvatron. Galvatron has been a character in IDW that has been all over the place literally and figuratively. Right now, he feels about as inconsistent as ever. The wise, cunning, eugenics-endorsing guardian of Primus' will (albeit a possibly twisted version of it) has, for reasons I honestly cannot figure out, become an "80's Cartoon Supervillain" to borrow the words of your regular comics reviewer, Dr. Va'al.
Galvatron has gone from Beast Machines Megatron mixed with Armada Galvatron, with the full on David Kaye voice accompaniment, to the bizarre, shrill voiced G1 Season 3 version of the character with a higher pitched Frank Welker madman voice. It's been a quick pivot that is hard to follow and it's been one of the most disappointing aspects of this arc thus far. Sometimes there are shades of it all being a ruse, like during the excellent fight scene with Arcee earlier in the arc, but trust me when I say that really goes out the window in this chapter. See: Cobra Commander Level Cheesy Plan.
Please, make it end.
This book is in dire need of a bad guy with motivation, and he's standing right there making me want to punch him in the face. Just by standing there. I legitimately dislike this character. I read every issue of The Transformers rooting for him to die in the worst way possible. That has little to do with this exact issue of the book, but the fact that he's in there taking up space while the plot wanders in odd directions around him reeks of either poor planning or plans changed by someone in an office in Rhode Island.
Seeds of intrigue, perhaps?
There definitely is some planning going on, with characters that we know will be front and center in the Titans Return toyline (and presumably, story arc) getting some choice moments in this issue as well. Barber manages to get these characters in through smart, unobtrusive methods that a non-toy collector reader won't be caught off guard by. Yes, Mindwipe is around and yes, he's getting a toy soon but were he not, I don't think I'd read the book any differently.
While the majority of the Synergon™ is strong in this book, there are some moments towards the end (including the last page) that warrant mention, though I'll stop short of spoiling them. I'll just mention that I was interested in getting some official canon to go behind some more recent Transformers toy releases, this looked like it was going to deliver, but I ended up with disappointment instead.
Stay tuned next time for more Wacky Races!
Just like some members of Optimus' crew, this book alternates between serious and cartoonish, dramatic and funny, and even has a plot that advances forwards and backwards. I honestly can't say that the plot of this arc feels like it's moved forward much at all, and it's really falling victim to the trade paperback format pitfalls that IDW had previously done a tremendous job at avoiding. The glacial pace of progress continues to be just that for this part of the larger story, whether that feeling is intentional or not.
The art is handled in this issue by Priscilla Tramontano with colors by Josh Burcham and letters by series regular Tom B. Long, and it's definitely a highlight of this issue.
Maybe they just want to report about your silver arm?
From wisely used effects like those found in this panel, to purposeful stylistic differences in the pencils/inks based on the environment in which the action takes place (more on this shortly), the book has a style that is sure to please a majority of Transformers fans. It alternates between serious detail and cartoon-like sketchiness freely, and in some cases you may not even notice the jumps.
There was one case where I was first jarred by the changing depiction of certain characters from panel to panel, and that was with the Combiner characters once they go underwater. Initially, I thought this was just a product of deadlines being a thing that exists, with art that just had to get done at some point, and I was disappointed. Later, I thought this may have been a stylistic choice meant to evoke the original Transformers cartoon series. Upon investigating that train of thought further, I noticed that all of the details in the underwater scenes are more "cartoon-like", for better or worse. At least it's consistent with this, even if I'd prefer some more detail. It seems to fit with the back and forth tonal nature of this issue as well, so that's another thing going for it.
One great, moody page
Burcham's colors lend more to the tone of the story than perhaps the words themselves in this issue, with multiple instances where he takes what could be more instances of inconsistency and makes them a harmonious, fun to look at product. Between work here and on Sins of the Wreckers, comics fans continue to get a look at a colorist at the top of his game.
While the plot's overall direction and progress disappointed me, with this issue ending at a point of rising action just like the last countless many issues of this series, the art and many of the character beats pick this issue up from a potentially boring place.
Why not Zoidberg Tidal Whale?
That said, this book needs to resolve some plot threads soon, and find a more consistent voice. Solicits make me think it's going somewhere at long last, but I've been fooled by those plenty of times before. The more cartoon-styled look is not on accident, as the story reads like a Saturday morning show in many parts as well. I don't mind that, and it's a ton of fun, but what happens when this book wants me to take it seriously again? There are points within this issue where that seems to be the case, but it's a difficult, almost jarring shift in mood. That's probably intentional, and while I appreciate the inherent goofy side of Transformers and like the fun ways this issue uses that side, this feels like a weird place in an arc that was almost all serious business up to this point for that to come into the picture.
I'm conflicted by this issue, as there are parts I love and parts my eyes will just wander over when I pick up my physical copy this afternoon. I'll give this two different ones since different readers will likely find very different levels of appreciation of The Transformers #53
For readers looking for drama and serious plot advancement:
. and 1/2 - out of
For readers that like a fun tone interspersed with a looser overall plot:
THE DYING OF THE LIGHT part 4! Twilight’s last gleaming! The end is nigh. No chance of escape. No last-minute reprieve. But nothing loosens the tongue like imminent death, and the crew of the Lost Light use their final hours to say what—until now—was unsayable.
Geddit? lights dying?
The Light keeps dying, slowly, inexorably, irreparably, and we are witnesses to the events as they unfold, as James Roberts allows them to, and we are left without choice (other than not to read the story, of course) - in a manner very similar to the characters in this issue, faced with choices, the illusion of such, and a lot of emotions.
Average MTMTE reader
And with a lot of emotions, come a lot of storylines: we have Nightbeat's intrigue with the hollow planet, and his co-opting of Rung, we have whatever Minimus Ambus and Brainstorm are doing, we have Ratchet and Velocity, Nautica and her group, Chromedome recovering, Megatron being repaired, the DJD just waiting, Whirl and Cyclonus. I could go on.
New mystery; where are Rung's glasses?
Don't get me wrong, though, there are some stellar character moments for pretty much all of the cast members in the book. And it also manages to deal quite nicely, and deeply (and on multiple fronts) with big themes such as addiction, the overwhelming fears running through the whole cast of the issue, friendship and love, and the pain that the latter two can bring as side effects.
Not pictured: your gut
There's ..a lot in here. And not all of it necessarily meshes that well together. We see it in the opening preview, with Nautica's otherwise very touching moment as she sees the end coming - a moment which feels too short taken within the frame of the whole issue, and that is a real shame. But more below.
Alex Milne is the main artist on the book, though the Whirl/Cyclonus sequence is actually the talented hands of Hayato Sakamoto, and it shows. Not just the parallels, but the issues that come across in the script in terms of pacing are visually redeemed (for me at least) by punching the 'meanwhile' technique is a truly spectacular way. And one panel, that one panel, THAT PANEL, is almost painful.
Not showing it of course
Joana Lafuente's gradual transition in colour palettes, from the arrival on the beautifully lit Necroworld to now
Tom B. Long takes the letters and makes sure we know exactly where to look, what to hear, and how loudly (or softly). In a text that so much unsaid finally spoken, the indication is needed, welcome, and part of the emotional package. The covers, on the other hand, do very little to hint at anything happening inside this book, though great they are! Priscilla Tramontano brings a much happier Swerve memory (thumbnail), as Josh Burcham and Sakamoto show off the threat that awaits, and Milne and Josh Perez look at that thread from our side of the fence.
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
Reader, I cried. Much like the issue in this series that provided the template for the culprit image, I felt the same build up on the page, in the characters, and inside my emotional chamber, as I was led to the resolution of that particular arc. It doesn't end there, of course, but if I have to talk about one moment, that is the one that stuck. The art, as I said above, is mostly to blame.
There are, I repeat here, some severe pacing issues, trying to fit in a number of personal narratives that just do not survive the composition, either coming across as rushed, disjointed or even shoehorned in - which the visuals do wonders with. It's a collection of character moments, beautiful, each unique in their own way, and well-done taken separately. But we need the climax. It is time.
Back this nice sunny Sunday (in my part of the world at least) with the Seibertron.com Creative Round-Up! Collecting the output of Transtopia, and including a variety of creative endeavours - from customs to comics, artwork to additions, printing to paintjobs, via fiction, photography and more. Check it out below, and if you like what you see, make sure to comment on the author's thread!
Greetings Seibertronian beings, and welcome to another thrilling and enthralling visitation of the talent behind the IDW Publishing Transformers production, as we're till slim on the ground in terms of new comics this month! In the past, we have spoken to a lot of artists, some colourists, some inkers, some pencillers, but we have an all rounder coming up for this instalment - all the way from the Great White North.
Making his mark a very long time ago in the current Transformers mythos, he's become a fan-favourite, he is responsible for many tears, many crowd shots, many pairings and ships for the fandom; he is the hands behind death, love, stars and returns. Ladies and gentlebots: Alex Milne!
Va'al - Alex, thank you so much for giving us some of your time! You've practically become a staple in the Transformers fiction, and the first big name that many new readers encounter, visually, but we're curious to find out where it all started for you, before we reach today. So my first question is: When did young Alex get into Transformers, what is your origin story - as a fan?
Alex Milne - I think it's the same as a lot of people in the fandom: I grew up with the original G1 cartoon and the toys. I remember getting Optimus Prime as a child and playing with him on the piano we had. My older brother got the 3 Decepticon jets which I thought were cooler looking at the time, but maybe that was only because my brother got them and not me. I lived in a townhouse complex growing up, and myself and the other kids would play outside with what toys we had and had little battles. Sometimes it was fun just setting up the bases and laying out all the character you' d have on your team.
I grew up with the show, I saw the 86 movie as a child, I had the comics. I think it's a pretty standard tale of most fans. I fell out of it when there was nothing on TV to keep watching, you know, the stupid young teen days when toys aren't cool to play with and everyone was trying their best to be cool and act tough. Thankfully that didn't last long and I got back into Transformers with Beast Wars and continued from there. I had a friend who worked at a comic book store who knew someone who had lived in Japan and had some recordings of the Headmasters series - he asked the guy to make a copy of them for me and I got to watch some of that. Didn't understand what they were saying, but that didn't matter to me: it was Transformers and I loved it.
Va'al - That does sound like your average story, indeed! I'm curious, though: during the 'falling out'/'too cool for toys' phase, did you get rid of all your Transformers stuff, or was it just hidden in a box somewhere? And I mean everything, from toys to comics to actual interest in the franchise.
Alex - I sold off a lot of my toys that I grew up with in a garage sale or yard sale to be more to the point, since we didn't have a garage. Most of the TF toys were broken by this point anyways and some were lost or I had traded with a friend for G.I. Joe figures. During this time I guess my interests were shifting more to comic collecting and into buying models.
I know I bumped up my collecting of Star Trek merchandise, trying to get hold of more show accurate props and costumes. By this time, also, there were a few anime shows airing on TV and some of the fan magazines showing up which caught my interest, so I started to find out if there were models for these sorts of things. I eventually found a few and that started me collecting Gundam model kits and that hasn't stop. Even now I have a large collection of them and continue to buy them. So I guess I never got into that "too cool for toys" phase. I just shifted my interests around to something else other than Transformers. In the end it didn't matter though, since that interest was probably just taking a long walk around back to the Transformers and gave me time to get excited about it again.
Va'al - We'll be coming back to anime and Gundam in particular later, but before we get there... if you were to choose something particularly significant from the Transformers at the time - a character, a toy, a storyline, a series, a comic issue, a writer/artist - is there anything that has stuck with you since? Or was it all very changing after all, before returning in full?
Alex - There are 2 things that have stuck with me and will probably always stick with me. The first is the 86 movie and more specifically the fight between Optimus and Megatron. This is the first time that we see characters we love and admire fighting and dying. There are actual consequences to their battles and that no, not everything is going to be fine at the end of this movie, a lot of characters aren't coming back from this. That has always stuck with me.
The second would be in Beast Wars when Dinobot dies. It's probably the only episode that gave me the same emotional impact as the 86 movie did. I guess the second one is a foot in foot out type deal. I was back, but not fully into Transformers again until really the 3rd season of Beast Wars when I actually started buying the toys again. So I think it counts for what you asked.
Va'al - Those are some cheery memories you keep there! It does go some way to explain some MTMTE moments, though... It seems so far that the toys were not as important as the fiction (but please correct me if I'm wrong) to you: is that what brought you closer to the visual side of things? When did young Alex start drawing, what was the spark?
Alex - For me, toys are toys. Yes I enjoyed them and I was upset when I couldn't get the ones I wanted as a child, but I enjoyed the ones I did get and was sad when I broke one or lost a part of one ( the head from Apeface stands out ). However I enjoyed the cartoon more since that's where you saw the characters come to life and you got to know their personalities and how they sounded. So I guess it's safe to assume that that toys were second to the fiction for me. It makes sense since I left collecting or having interest when there was nothing on TV for a while, and then came back when there was.
I did have the comics, but even they stopped for a while. I was never able to get issue 80 of the original Marvel US run when I growing up. The last issue for me was 79. I had a lot of gaps in the issues I had, I know I didn't have 78, and at the comic stores I shopped it was hard to find all of them. It was also hard when you only got 4 dollars for an allowance and you had to really choose what you were going to pick up. I know I liked buying Cobra figures at the time because they looked the coolest so my allowance just covered a figure. When I did get to the comic shop, there was a lot to choose from, but I remember seeing issue 79 on the shelf for new comics and I picked it up. It's one of the issues I remember the most from when I was a kid because it had Fort Max fighting Galvatron in it. I remember how brutal the fight was, it was just great and the last page that tempted you for issue 80. Yep, I wanted that issue but never found it.
As for when I started drawing... well, as my mom would like to remind me and embarrass me when people are around, it would have been when I was very young and she needed a way to stop me taking crayons and, as I like to think of it now, improving the walls of our home. So she gave me some colouring books to scribble in. I remember one of them was a Transformers colouring book. Then after that I would start to try and draw things I saw in colouring books, that would move to trying to what I saw in comic books and so on. I think that's a basic way for kids to get into drawing or art. You want to recreate what you see in front of you.
I remember one year, one of the big department stores in my area had a Transformers colouring contest going on and the grand prize was a Sixshot. I remember trying my best to keep the pencil crayon I was using in the lines and not make a mess of it. I handed it in and then there was nothing for a long time. I guess I didn't win and then my mom got a call and she told me I had won. As you can imagine I was super excited about it, and it's a fond memory I have of my younger years with art. I guess it's when I found something I enjoyed to do more than playing with toys: drawing and colouring. I know that when I was in Grade 7 that I wanted to draw comics, and that lasted all the way to the present day. There have been other things that I thought about doing as well, but comics has always been there.
Va'al - It sounds like you had a penchant for battles, teases, brutality, things that look cool, and the artist in you woke up! How long was it until you actively got into making sequential art? Did you ever self-publish or write your own stories too, before going professional?
Alex - Well I did a few comics for myself back when I was in Grade 8. One I used as a school project that I had to read in front of the class. I did not enjoy doing that since I don't really like getting up in front of a large group of people. To this day I still don't but I've gotten use to it and it comes with the job. Oh well, maybe I should have tried harder with public speaking! Making those comics wasn't anything special, and they were pretty crap. You know, your generic super hero type comics that you found in the early 90s. I still have them, and I will show them to no one, but it's interesting to see what I drew like when I was 13 and compare it to something when I was 18 and then 21 and so on. I did self publish a small comic when I was in my last year of high school. It was very low budget, I used a photocopier at my mom's school (she was a teacher then) to print in black and white double sided, so it looked like a real comic. Then I went to a mall print shop to have the colour cover I had done printed and I stapled all the pages together and poof, I had a comic that I sold in high school for 2 bucks. What amazed me more was there were people at the school that actually bought it off of me. That was pretty cool and I felt like all my hard work was appreciated.
The comic was about 2 of my friends at the time who were in 3 of my classes. I made them superheroes, but they argued a lot between each other about random everyday crap that normal people argue about. Just they would do it in the middle of battling robots that were trying to take over a city. I also used 2 more of my friends as the bad guys in the comic, and I think I added myself in there as a cop for 2 panels at the end of the book asking what happened and how were we going to clean up the mess. If I remember correctly the comic had a superhero/robot/Frankenstein vibe to it. Wow, I really wish I still had a copy of it. It's a fun memory from high school when there weren't many. I did try to make a second issue where I was going to make it longer and actually try to write a good story, but that didn't happen due to exams and a part time job. I did more little one page comics when I was in college, but nothing I published.
Dreamwave Transformers: Energon #32 interior art
For my final year in college, I had to do a 1 month work placement which I ended up doing at Dreamwave Productions who had the Transformers license at the time. They had me do alt-modes for some of the characters in the Armada profile books and then one day when I was waiting for work to be assigned to me, I was doodling some Transformers and that got attention from the production manager who asked if I wanted to draw some robots, which I did. That lasted even after my work placement was done and then I was asked to do the final page for issue 3 of the profile book which was a page of sequential art and the rest is a long story that I'm sure lots of people know.
Va'al - We have indeed come to know your story behind the giant spreads and populated panels in Transformers comics, that is true! Your style has undoubtedly become one of the staples for readers and emulating fan artists, but how did you develop it? There are some influences of other mecha fiction/visuals - we mentioned your penchant for Gundam already - but it is very much your personal take on robots... care to talk about that?
Alex - I see this will be another long answer, lol. How I draw today has developed over my whole time working in comics. It's still something that is developing, and with every issue I work on I'm trying something new in a way trying to expand the visual language I use. I don't think I'll ever stop developing or changing how I work, I think as an artist you never stop learning, you're always growing and turning your talents in new directions to keep things interesting for yourself. I look back at what I've done and I can see all the changes I've made to how I work and the new ways I've decided to do things. Most times when I have someone at a convention come up to me and tell me how much they liked something I've done from a while ago I'm like oh, really? All I see are the mistakes and how I could do things now, and that goes for about everything I work on. At the time I work on it, I'm mostly happy with what I've done, but wait a while and it's lost its appeal for me and I'm just like, I could have done this, or this would have been visually better. I'm pretty stubborn and will work at something until I decide that I can't make it work and get sick of it, but it's something I have to work out for myself. So if people out there don't like what I'm doing or something I've changed, well it's something I have to work out myself to see if it's doesn't work and if I happy with the results from it. The best thing I've taken from working in the industry for the time I have is that you can't please everyone, so don't try to. Make sure you're happy with what you've done at the time and don't worry about the rest.
Like you mentioned I like Gundam, and I'll use influences from them in my work. I see how they do mecha and they have a lot of the mechanics worked out for a giant robot that has great range of motion. So I try and take some of those elements and add them into my work, like in the way the shoulders work or the other joints. I know that when Don Figueroa was working on TFs that I really enjoyed the way he did stuff (even when fans didn't) and he was another artist who inspired me. There are so many artist out there that I look at how they do things and I want to try that with my own work at times. I know that I love the work of Syd Mead, and I've always enjoyed his look of the future and the technical style of his work. I try to add some of that flare into my own work with the backgrounds I do.
A more recent large influence for me has been Sean Gordon Murphy. I really enjoy his work and the use of light and dark he uses. I look at his ink work and I would really like to do something like that for a Transformers book, but I know that most TF fans wouldn't like it as much since it would be too much of a departure from what they are used to, so I have to do little things here and there. His work however has given me a greater appreciation for traditional style inking and I'm trying to use more then just a tech pen when I ink. A tech pen gives you a lot of control, but it can be very stale looking, but there are a lot of straight lines on a TF so its what's comfortable to get that across. Another favourite artist and influence is Otomo Katsuhiro. I love the work he has done and have many art books by him where I just sit and try and digest all the line work he puts into a piece. His work is inspiring and dream shattering all at the same time. It inspires me to push myself to do as much as I can with my work, but shatters me in knowing I don't think I will ever get that good. However... one needs their dreams to go on, right?
Galvatron meets Gundam
One other out of all the artist that inspire me is Sarah Stone. I love the work she does and how she breaks down simple shapes of colour to make up a background. It has a very cinematic feel to it, and the rich colours that she uses are tasty for lack of a better word. I look at her work and it makes me want to get better at colouring on the computer so I can attempt to do something like that. I'd probably only do it once, since doing all the art for a book is a lot of work and with what I draw in an issue would probably eat up so much time for me to colour it myself. Oh well, a goal to set for future.
Va'al - Those are some seriously impressive references and influences, and going behind your process put a new perspective on all of your work! With the constant changes, how do you feel when your visuals are used a reference, either as fan art emulation or even toy designs? Is there anything physical/plastic you'd particularly like to see come out of your art?
Alex - it's all very enjoyable to see people taking an interest in the work I do and using something I created in a piece of art or in a toy form. As for fan art it's all very nice and I'm glad people enjoy it enough to try and re-draw a character model of mine. I think the only thing that bugs me, and this has popped up a couple times recently is when fans ask me how to draw in the MTMTE style. There is no MTMTE style. There is the way I draw and my own style of art, but that's not beholden to just MTMTE. I would draw that way if I did work on any of the other Transformer titles. It's just the style I've developed for myself. So it's a bit upsetting to have people ask about drawing in this style thinking this the the key to drawing MTMTE when it's really just my way of drawing and no one asks any of the other artist that help out on the book to draw like me. I guess I've been drawing the book so long that people just associate my style of art with MTMTE. It's a good and bad thing IMO.
It is nice to see fans drawing the characters in the book, but it's hard to see if it's due to the art or the characterization? Do people like them because of the way I've drawn them or is it because of they way they act and speak in the book? It's a bit easier if it's just a background character that has no dialog and I can do what I want in the background with them. Then it's more because of the art then the story. A bit harder when you have a main character, because then you add James [Roberts] into the mix and I think it's the story and the characterization that they really like and the visuals don't mean as much. I guess it's just nice either way to have people interested in what James and I work on, and I think it's safe to say we're both thankful for that.
Now when having something I drew get a toy, well that's pretty awesome. To me it doesn't matter if it's a Hasbro official toy or a 3rd party product, I just like seeing something I've drawn turned into a toy. Official toys are nice since it shows me that Hasbro also likes the work I do enough to have some of the design elements I've done for the comic in the toys they make. I know I was super happy to see Skids and Trailbreaker with elements of the comic designs in the toys. I'm also super happy to see 3rd party toys try and make more comic accurate versions of the characters, like Tailgate and Swerve with their comic accurate alt modes and the DJD that are being produced. If there were more toys based on designs I've done, I'd like to see Thunderclash, Firestar and her crew that I've designed. Possibly Deathsaurus. There are a few too many to list!
Va'al - It must be such a good feeling indeed to hold your designs in hand - here's to more! Before we bring this interview to a close, I have another people-shaped question: you're an artist, and you've named several artists, but you've also brought in your partner in crime on MTMTE James Roberts. What's it like working with him on the series, how much control and input do you have? And, of course, how different is it working with different writers?
Alex - This is the time when James fears what I will say. :p Well I've been working with James for what, about 5 years now? It feels like more, but I'm sure we started working together back in 2011 on the Chaos Theory 2 issues (Trasformers: Ongoing issues 22 and 23). At this point in my career I had already worked with 7-8 different writes on different books so I like to think at this point I'm pretty flexible to work with anyone. I know I was excited to work with James since he had worked on LSOTW with Nick Roche and I enjoyed that, so I was interested to see what he was going to do on his own. I have to say that the scripts were very detailed, maybe a little overboard at times? I could tell that this would be great if it was something like a movie or TV show, but it was going to be hard to fit it all in a single page or single panel. However that didn't stop me from trying my best to try and get it all in there. I think after working so long together James can write less in the panel descriptions and just give me the important information that needs to be shown and I can handle the rest now.
I can say that most of the time we work smoothly together on the series, however there might be times that we bump heads and have very different ways of wanting to do things. I think this is natural with anyone one who is a creative person. It can be frustrating at times, but it's nothing that can't be worked out most of the time.
Alex 'The Machine' Milne and James 'JRo' Roberts
I'm not sure how much input I have when it comes to the series. I have some ideas that I will talk with James about and he seems to like some of them, but then later he writes something totally different that makes sure that those idea can't happen, so that irks me a bit. I'd like to feel like there is more collaboration between the 2 of us, but for right now it's he's the writer and I'm the artist. This is fine for now, but like just about every artist, we all have a need to grow and do more than what people merely think we can do, and I'm ready to do more.
However, I don't want to be all negative: at the end of the day I do enjoy working with James. We seems to work well together even if we have different ways of doing and seeing things. I think this is proven by when I see people talk about the issues and they talk about something going on in the backgrounds and attribute it to James and setting something up and it was just something I did to have fun in the background with a couple characters. I guess we think alike at times, so that's neat when people can't tell if it was scripted or not.
I know one thing. I'm always excited to work on a new issue and see what James has come up with. There have been times with other writers that I've kind of gotten bored near the end of the project, but that hasn't happened with MTMTE. I'm always excited to work on it and I try to push myself to do better with each issue and I think James does also, even if others can't see what he's doing yet. So I guess you're stuck with us for a while longer. Hopefully.
Skids in MTMTE #21
Working with different writers is just about finding a balance between your person vision for the project and what the writers vision is. It takes a bit of time to get comfortable working with someone and to start to know what they want and how to handle things that will make them happy. You do want to try and make the writer happy since you are illustrating their story, yet you also have to be happy working on the project. If the two are out of balance, then you will end up with a mess and things not working out. I can't really say that I have had a bad time working with any writer. Most are pretty easy to work with and they all have interesting takes on ideas and characters. As a comics artist it's your job to find that common middle ground that you can share and work together. It's tough at the beginning, but given time it works out and you end up having fun and hopefully creating something fans will enjoy.
Va'al - I can assure you, fans very much enjoy your work, be it on MTMTE or in the art you produce outside of the series! One last thing, if you're up for it - quick question round!
V - Paper or digital?
A - Paper V - Colours or grayscale?
A - Colours V - Cygate or Chromewind?
A - Chromewind V - Nautica or Ratchet?
A - Nautica V - Overlord or Tarn?
A - Tarn
Alex, this has been an absolute pleasure, and I cannot thank you enough for taking the time to go through it! Any last things you want to let the readers know?
Alex - Thanks for wanting to talk with me and letting me ramble on.
I would just like to take this opportunity to thank all the fans who like and have supported the work I do. It does mean a lot, and hopefully I will continue to do work you enjoy. For those who don't like what I do, sorry, I can't please everyone but I'm sure there is someone who does do work you can enjoy.
I'd also like to thank the colourists I've worked with over the years. I'm sure I haven't made their lives easy with the lines I give them to colour. Thanks for all your hard work Joana, Josh Burcham and Josh Perez and the rest
Now it's time to get back to ruining people's lives with MTMTE.
That was quite the ride, and quite the read, I'm sure! If you've made it this far, make sure to keep an eye on Alex's guest appearances at a number of conventions this season, and you can follow his work as it happens by taking a look at his Tumblr page, deviantArt, Twitter and Instagram accounts - and of course, by reading Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye every month!
As we saw in yesterday's gallery, Robots in Disguise is keeping the Legion Class alive and strong with its very varied assortment of Autobots and Decepticons. This class even includes characters we cannot get in any other class such as Clampdown, whose gallery is now up for you to see. Accompanying this crustacean Decepticon is mob boss Thunderhoof, who surprisingly sports as many paint applications as his warrior class counterpart. To keep these Decepticons in check, this 6th wave of Legion Class figures also has Windblade and Drift. It's interesting they came together in the same wave since they are both part of Optimus' stealth team on the show.
These are, refreshingly, all new molds. Enjoy the new galleries for the Wave 6 Legion Class assortment and let us know what you think of these toys!
Every two weeks, Seibertron.com brings you a Top List related to all things Transformers. To celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Beast Wars this year, Shajaki is counting down the Top 10 Best Beast Wars Episodes from the original computer animated series. These are one person's opinions (just like movie or game reviews hosted by sites are still just the opinion of one person) so what matters most is what you guys think of the topic or list, and I hope to see your own lists or comments on omissions and ranking. Let's have fun! All previous lists can be found here.
Top 10 Best Beast Wars Episodes
This list was seriously a labor of love. It seems the Transformers were introduced to me at the perfect stages of my life. G1 was a toy commercial, great for the first 5 years of my kiddie life. But Beast Wars with it's more developed stories and themes came out in 1996, and I was just old enough to really appreciate it. But enough of this, there's a lot of words coming at you so let's get started!
(Season 1, Episode 7)
This may have been the first example (or just the first time I noticed) how great Megatrons war strategies were in this show. The most important thing was numbers, followed by flyers. In Season 1 the Maximals were at quite a disadvantage in those regards. In this episode Megatron dispatches his two flyers to take out Optimus Primal rather than making it a straight race to the newly fallen stasis pod thus forcing the remaining Maximals to pursue on foot. Also comes Dinobot's first real test of loyalty as he's not only left alone and in charge of the base and a half-scrapped Primal, but tempted by Megatron to rejoin the Predacons with a big fat raise. To which he poetically replies "EAT SLAG!". Good 'ol Dinobot.
(Season 1, Episode 6)
Did anyone else think that Terrorsaur was basically the Beast Wars version of Starscream? I sure did, which made "Possession" a little confusing to me. But I digress. The screechy traitor finally has his day in this episode when he stumbles upon a floating mountain of Energon, which he gets accidentally super charged by. So naturally he hightails it straight to Megatron and tears him to pieces. Thankfully he does so quickly because the charge not only fades but puts him at a critical low amount of energy forcing him to crawl back to mountain for another hit. Unfortunately for him however, a flying gorilla battle and rat bomb kinda ruin his future plans. And it seems his new "followers" would rather rebuild Megatron than submit to his command. Really, this episode just feels like a terrific throwback to the what(?) every 12 minutes that Starscream tried to overthrow Megatron in the original Transformers. And you gotta love that.
(Season 2, Episodes 2 & 3)
These episodes are quite significant, as they re-set in motion what started in the series pilot. We are formally introduced to the realization (by Waspinator of all characters) that they are indeed on prehistoric earth, which has grave implications. The Fuzor's also make their debut, which is one of the most creative concepts to come from the franchise. The Maximals fight heroically to what is thought to be their deaths, until the triumphant return of (a now) Transmetal Optimus Primal. And the Spaghetti Western setting adds a bit of well deserved drama and suspense.
(Season 1, Episode 10)
Dinobot is attacked by a flower. AND. Oprimus Primal is a stone coldbad-ass. A botched attempt at turning Optimus into a wimp, turns him into a rage monster. And once he's armed to the teeth he blasts his way single handedly into the Predacon base and through each Pred as well. It's actually kind of frightening to see what Primal is capable of once he's let lose of all restraint, and he preforms some pretty gruesome acts. He impales Tarantulas to a wall after walking straight into a barrage of bullets, and Robo-Cop's Waspinator through another. This is also one of the few episodes that Optimus goes "full face-plate" and you know when that happens, look out.
(Season 2, Episode 4)
This episode has a number of notable moments, namely a laughing Inferno crushing Waspinator with a jamming station tower (kidding). Far more notable than that though, is Blackarachnia squaring off against Tarantulas. She really showcases her fierce spirit here, her willingness to destroy herself along with her cranial stowaway to regain her freedom (by way of a cracked Energon cube to sever their psychic link) is beyond brave. Another highlight is the awesome fight scene at the end. I recall being impressed with its choreography, it really felt like it was a step up.
(Season 3, Episode 7)
The new Dinobot is starting to come into his own as he stalks a misunderstanding Blackarachnia in this episode. Thinking that she's about to be forcefully re-wired back into a Maximal, she goes on the lamb only to be followed by the deadly Transmetal 2 Raptor. After a little cat-and-mouse'ing, he brilliantly leads her into a jamming zone preventing her from calling for backup.
But when they start fighting for real, it's intense. When he's swiping his massive claws as he slowly closes in, the speed in which he sprints and crashes through tree debris like it were paper, is simply terrifying. The Widow gets the upper hand, if only to demonstrate that he's near invincible like his Spark brother Rampage. But even though Dinobot doesn't fall for her side switching deception later, her and a party crashing Silverbolt manage to best him by triple dose cyber venom'ing him to the face and off a cliff into the jungle below. Invincible or not, he'll need time to recover from that.
(Season 1, Episode 21)
This was a great way to bring G1 lore into this new of of Transformers. After introducing the concept of the "spark" and spark mutations, this helps make sense of "Starscreams Ghost" from the original series. The intelligent strategies used by both sides in this episode also make for some great story telling. Screamer attacking where they least expect, the Maximals pretending to be gravely injured to regain access to their base, and the king of deception using the Maximals in an attempt to rule over both sides. Not to mention, Doug Parker does a phenomenal take on Starscream and really brings life to the icon.
(Season 3, Episodes 12-13)
If I wanted to save myself some time (and many words) I could simply sum up "Nemesis" in one word: EPIC. But for fun, here's the rest of my words. It seems like this is the end for Megatron, but ironically some leftovers from the enigmatic traitor Tarantulas will revitalize his campaign.
There were two ancient Cybertronian ships that came to Earth, the Ark and the Nemesis. The Ark is currently housing the deposed Maximals, and Megatron has just found the behemoth Decepticon warship. Meanwhile in irrelevant-town, Inferno and Quickstrike attack some humans in an attempt to steal their caves while Waspinator declares his resignation from the Predacons (and later their loyalty is rewarded by being flambeed my Megs himself). Jump back to Megatron and Dinobot trying to fire up the Nemesis, and the grudge match of the millennium is about to go down: Depth Charge & Rampage. They cross raw Energon blades until Depth Charge has the upper hand and Rampage... disturbingly submits and allows the blade to pierce his spark. Why? Perhaps all immortals wish for death. Maybe he knew his arch enemy would also die in the process. Or even that he sees life as a cruel joke, signified by his unsettling laughter in his final moments.
We may never know, but Primal mistook their explosive demise as mission accomplished. And yet, the Nemesis rose....
The newly reborn Tigerhawk sacrifices himself by taking the full force of the Nemesis while Primal regroups with the rest of the team.
All the while, the taint of Protoform X has been fading and Dinobot is becoming self aware.... as in, his former self. This ultimately leads him to defy the great dragon in his moment of triumph.
When the Ark can't move and Primal is down, it's Dinobots dissent that buys Rhinox enough time to crash the newly discovered Autobot shuttle through Megatrons control room, plastering him on the windshield. And it's that very shuttle that carries the crew (and roof'ly constrained Megatron) back to Cybertron, leaving a happy and intact Waspinator behind. That marked the end of the Beast Wars and what many feel to be the most impressive pieces of TF lore even to this day.
They give resonance to the notion that the situation is more grand than the (seemingly) simple conflict going on on prehistoric Earth, as Megatron's actions have had consequences on Cybertron that we haven't even seen. Second, Ravage.
Talk about throwbacks! Not only is he formidable, but still Decepticon to the core. Which we see when Megatron reveals the hidden message on the golden disk and turns the Jaguar to his cause. It's his predecessor, the original Megatron and Ravages former Commander instructing his descendants to find the Ark in the distant past and destroy the Autobots, thus altering history in favor of the Decepticons.
When I first saw this scene, it sent shivers down my spine. Which actually happened again when Ravage yells "DECEPTICONS FOREVER" and transforms into cassette mode.
Fortunately for the Maximals, Rattrap decides to show off his exceptional saboteur skills and single handedly takes down Tarantulas, Ravage, his ship, and in turn Rampage as well.
But the chills continue as we see the legendary Ark, ancient Autobots and Decepticons, and Optimus Prime himself as (BW) Megatron tries to wipe him out of existence. "Optimal Situation" aside, Megatron actually succeeds, and to me that gives him legendary status.
(Season 2, Episode 9)
Has a character shown this level of depth before in the franchise? Every TF fan out there has likely either seen this episode or at least heard of it, for it brings us the final fate of the much beloved character Dinobot. Some might even argue that it was felt even more than the death of Optimus Prime in Transformers The Movie, I know it was for me.
Megatron discovers that he can change the future, and decides to start by exterminating the human race at its earliest roots. In an effort to save the future and past alike, Dinobot engages the entire Predacon team with total disregard for his own well-being.... and is triumphant. He cuts Inferno in half, blasts Blackarachnia with his stolen gun, squashes Waspinator, forces a backfire on Rampage with the bugs head, and beats Quickstrike with his bare hands. This brings him to the point of no return, where he's about to go into stasis lock but over rides the command as there's still one maniacal Predacon to deal with: Megatron. A villainous speech rock/stick beat-down later, Dinobot subdues his former Leader and destroys the Golden Disk once in his possession with the last ounce of his remaining energy. Megatron furiously flees when the Maximals arrive, but it's far too late for the heroic raptor. He wanted his story to be told truely, and be judged accordingly with the good and the bad. And his former comrades solute him as his spark joins the matrix.
One of the greatest strengths of the Beast Wars series, is it's limited cast. Because of this, we were subject to some incredible character depth and development. Dinobot was no exception. He was in fact the first winner of the Fans Choice Transformers Hall of Fame in 2010. It's no wonder this single episode is held in such high regard. His complexity made him an incredibly interesting character and he was one of the driving forces for the series and the stories within. His strong sense of honor and deep contemplation of his ultimate fate are what motivates him into action. He does some things that he's not proud of, but tries to make amends by giving his own life to save many others. The acceptance of his destiny can be heard in one of his most famous (and final) lines:
Dinobot wrote:The question that has haunted my being has been answered: The future is not fixed. My choices are my own. And yet, how ironic, for I now find I have no choice at all. I am a warrior... let the battle be joined.
(Season 3, Episodes 5-6)
These episodes are dear to my heart, as it is the return (sort of) of my most favorite Transformers character: Dinobot. I can't even describe how much I loved his Transmetal 2 form, he looks like if you touched him, regardless of where, you'd be bleeding. The new look, and the fact that he mostly growls and only has two lines makes him kinda terrifying. And him tearing up Depth Charge was was bad-ass. But the reason this doesn't make the top 10 is because it left me wanting soooo much more. Which we get in "Proving Grounds"!
And now, some LAWL's!
Thanks for reading folks and stay tuned for my upcoming Top Beast Machines list (whenever that comes out)! Shajaki out!
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