We do realise we fall a little behind on keeping up the Creative Round-Up work, but lives outside of Seibertron can become heavy and busy. Nonetheless, with December just kicking off, here's the latest gathering of all the Transtopia productions in November! (Regular schedule returning soon, too.)
Days of Deception begins with… PEACE AND HAPPINESS! To be honest, there's not much we can say about this issue without giving away the life-changing events of last issue. What we can say is this: everything’s fine. There’s no conflict, no sadness, no angst. Why is this a problem?
Timelines have met each other and collapsed. Old friends and lovers are reunited, though something is obviously not quite right yet. Other friends and allies have revealed a different set of colours entirely. And as we explored some of the past events last issue, we delve once more in the days before the Decepticons were a thing - or do we?
Ah, good old days
James Roberts' script is heavy. This is an issue that will require time to spend on reading, rather than a quick skim-through. The play on the different time settings is clearly marked, and cleverly linked, though that is not the critical part of the connection between the two, as what they have in common may in fact be diverging once more, but further away than expected.
Megs channelling Roberts (and readers)
While in the present Megatron finally had a bit of a breakdown aboard the Lost Light, as the rest of the crew investigate Brainstorm's doings (and part of the yellow briefcase's secrets are sorta kinda revealed!), the past sees Rewind and Minimus Ambus dealing with Functionists, and the cunning and seditious Dominus Ambus himself.
Understatement of the Year
Does something feel off yet? It seems like something is a little off. No? Make sure you read *everything* that takes place in the issue, as details are constantly changing, for what seems to be a very good reason indeed in the grand scheme of things, and the upcoming Elegant Chaos event in particular, for which this issue a prelude of sorts.
Alex Milne and Brian Shearer, with the latter helping on inking duties, have some great visual fun, despite everything happening in the script as it already is. A lot of Unicron Trilogy body types have been spotted, without being subtle at all, already in the first couple of pages, and there may be a reason for all of it being there after all. Though character design does not stop at that, with some twisted ..er.. twists elsewhere, too.
Plus a Dredd Bot
On top of the busy script and busy backgrounds, colourist Joana Lafuente clearly had a busy time coordinating all the multiples of the same type of Cybertronian, yet marking them as individual entities (much to the ruling classes' disappointment, one might guess). I am very impressed at the result, especially with the final product in hand.
Tom B. Long keeps on keeping on with the fantastic letter work, making sure to maintain the space that Roberts does not leave to the art, and . The issue also comes with an excellent array of variant covers, on top of the ominous Milne/Josh Perez main one. In the thumbnail is the eerily appropriate Nick Roche/Josh Burcham Functionist, and make sure to keep an eye out for the Andrew Griffith 30th Anniversary special incentive art, too.
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
It's mind-bendy, it's space-bendy, it's time-bendy - it just pushes the envelope and watches it bend for most of the plotlines being teased up to this point, and some intriguing social commentary to boot. Out of all of this week's releases, this is the most dense and emotionally compromising, without any doubt, so be warned before you dive into it.
Everything is fine
We vaguely know what has happened with the Functionist Council in the past. We've seen something of Brainstorm's character so far. We know what Rewind used to do in the days of Dominus Ambus, and the House of Ambus overall - be ready to have all of that questioned. Again. And again. Elegant Chaos is here.
DRIFT RETURNS! Last year, TRANSFORMERS readers were shocked when DRIFT left the AUTOBOTS in disgrace… and now he’s alone, on a mission to clean up the darkest depths of the galaxy—until RATCHET shows up to try to bring him home!
Imagine: you're an ex Decepticon, who used to kill people for fun. Then you grew a conscience. So you traded guns for swords (that famous instrument of peace). Then you grew a bit too much of a conscience, and tried burying guilt beneath it and a veil of reborn spiritualism - and by ways of redemption, take the blame for something you didn't actually do, and are exiled. That's where we are with Drift, as Empire of Stone begins.
It's been some time since we saw him in action, other than flashbacks, and readers have been wary of the return of a character who has been fairly marmite-esque (that's British for divisive). What we find with this first issue back in Shane McCarthy's hands, is thankfully not a return to the character when he first introduced it, though some will complain it can feel that way in places.
Compared to other Transformers comics coming out this week, Empire of Stone is a lot slower in terms of narrative, though it does stand up quite well with the dialogue, and the chemistry between sulky Drift and grumpy Ratchet works nicely. And, as a set-up/catch-up issue, it does what it has to do without wandering too much around.
Honestly, these guys
However, that's about it so far. It's not a bad comic, the story can go in a very interesting direction with the next three issues, and Empire of Stone is a catchy enough title for a popular enough character like Drift - but I can see how it might not be on everyone's immediate buying list as yet. Still.. read on.
The art team is really where the book, much like ReGeneration One before it, will gain traction with potential readers. Guido Guidi's linework and Stephen Baskerville's inking are a great combination, and the action sequences are very well choreographed, with the sword element added to the fights gives space to Guidi's art to play around with the space of and around the panels.
Also back from the ReGen team is colourist JP Bove, doing an amazingly dusty and gritty (in the soil, dirt sense) job of the patina covering some otherwise quite flamboyant roboformers. I will never tire of looking at Guidi backgrounds filled in with Bove's technicolour magic, and there are some excellent sets in the issue.
Drift in spaaaaaace
Unfortunately, the review copy does not fully credit the letterer or editors for the issue, and has some general technical difficulties in the credit page layouts - nonetheless, The Unknown Letterer's work is, while very very subtle, pleasingly appropriate, keeping dialogue in place and a limited amount of background noise. As for the covers, we've seen all of them by now throughout the last couple of months, from the Alex Milne/Josh Perez one to the multiple Guidi variants (including the thumbnail one).
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
As a first issue, and as I mentioned above, Drift: Empire of Stone #1 is a harmless, easily paced, fairly well-dialogued and definitely good looking book, preparing a stage that so far has very little impact on the wider universe of the Transformers, but according to solicits may change everything - again.
Is it? Is it really?
It does little more than that, however, other than re-establishing the at times quite moving relationship between Ratchet and Drift, and hopefully diving into more of Drift's story from this point onwards, as well as the presence of the Cybertronians we do find in the issue. Needless to say, I remain hopeful.
Days of Deception Or: Setting Up The Chess Board (Spoiler free-ish, for the first few parts)
Days of Deception begins! PROWL and the CONSTRUCTICONS hunt the world's deadliest game-three humans with a history of fighting CYBERTRONIANS! Lines are drawn as human and machine alike are drawn into-the ONYX INTERFACE!
But does it know why kids love Cinnamon Toast Crunch?
When we last left Robots in Disguise, a history lesson from Alpha Trion had concluded, with Optimus Prime wondering just what, if anything, out of what was learned that he should keep as a secret to the rest of his crew. Transformers #35 drops the subtitle and picks right up where we left off, and we check in with some old human "friends".
The pink helps out with camouflage when he takes his 12 year old sister to the mall
Of course, Prime and his crew are keeping a close watch on the humans, given their recent alliances with Galvatron's earthbound Decepticon crew. The interactions between Prime and the various crew members, and between said crew members themselves, continues the subtle but deeper-by-the-issue characterization that's been prevalent in the past several issues of Robots in Disguise that was sorely lacking in the book's earlier days.
Still so sassy!
Barber's tone indeed keeps up with what we've seen out of the past several months, injecting humor where needed and the right amount of snark (or lack thereof) in certain characters. You may also be surprised to see some returning faces not seen since Dark Cybertron, but then you'd look like a fool. Transformers is, after all, written by John "Continuity" Barber himself, and in his world, characters don't just exist to sell toys. At least, not in the long haul.
Even Galvatron's got jokes these days
By the end of the issue, pieces are in place for verbs to start happening. However, in typical Transformers style, you'll be left hanging for another month to find out just what those verbs are.
This issue features regular Transformers artist Andrew Griffith, colors by Josh Perez, and lettering by Tom Long. Unlike our esteemed comics editor Va'al, I'm not a great art critic, technically speaking. That said, I enjoyed the contrast of styles between the human-focused scenes vs. the scenes with our robotic cast. The sharp lines and vibrant colors of the Cybertronian crew are in distinct contrast to the almost mushy look of the human characters. The monochrome toned clothing featured on them throughout (at least mostly) helps with this as well.
So you think KFC is still open?
If I had to nitpick one thing with the art, it's that the humans aren't always the most convincing looking. Some of them feel a little rushed. Let's be honest though, if any of us were working on a comic book about Transformers, we'd probably rush through the pencils and ink on the human cast as well. Of course this isn't a blanket statement by any means, as Griffith shows that he can not only convey emotion through our favorite giant alien robots, but through the faces of good 'ol humans as well.
Thoughts Full blown spoilers ahead
No really, full on spoilers below. This is your last warning.
This issue is very much a case of a fact that impatient readers lament on a regular basis - to play a game of chess, you have to get the board set up correctly first. While this may just be a game that leads to another game, that "another game" being Combiner Wars, it's one that ought to be played. Plot points left dangling at the end of the Costa run, and even by the transition into All Hail Megatron, may finally get addressed. At the very least, we know what's going on with Jimmy Pink and what his motivations are for siding with that darn dastardly Spike.
What a gang of pals.
By the end of the issue, we've got Prime and Soundwave moving into their places, Galvatron setting some of his plans into motion, and human characters doing things. That's really all I can say to that story arc so far, they're just doing stuff. It's very cool to see Prowl and his friends start their pursuit of That One Guy that probably deserves to be stomped by a 'bot boot, but something about this human plot feels like it's been inserted just to wrap up some old plot lines and lead the main characters to their Macguffin for the next trade paperback. I don't actually hope to be wrong on that, which may be part of what frames my opinion there. Earth based stories in Transformers are cool when they focus on Transformers with the humans as a sideshow, character building device, or symbolic element. This succeeds in that so far, so I can forgive simpler details on why said humans are doing what they're doing.
Counterpunch sent me a movie that started like this once
Also, for all the great stuff going on with Prowl, there are some hints that - get this - something's manipulating his mind. If that seems familiar, well, it should. We've seen that movie and we know how it ends. I'm hoping there's some fun and creative end game that these hints are going to lead to. The shades of grey that Prowl demonstrates, along with his foil in More Than Meets The Eye in Megatron, has been a great thing to witness and hopefully this creative team avoids going into full blown Cerebro-shell gimmick land this time. His interactions with Optimus Prime in the past handful of issues have been something to remember and didn't feel cheap, so here's to hoping that they don't end up that way in retrospect.
Me too, little buddy
It'd be hard to give this issue any kind of "right around average" score. Scores are a bit silly anyway on totally subjective reviews such as this. While I certainly have some fears for the future after reading it, these also may be totally unfounded. The actual content is very enjoyable, and if you've been reading Robots in Disguise you can't afford to miss out on Transformers #35 simply due to the amount of set up that happens.
That said, this is part one of something bigger, and it certainly feels that way. It does its job well in that regard, but if you're looking for some pay off, this month is not the time you're going to get that satisfaction. I recommend this as part of a whole, though if you haven't been keeping up and don't intend to, this is a hard one to recommend to a casual Transformers comics reader.
. out of
For the regular IDW reader, this shouldn't be missed
. out of
For the occasional reader, this is just a poke above average
Good mourning, boils and ghouls, and welcome to this month's first Creative Roundup on Seibertron.com - and a look at some fangtastic work from the Transtopia section of the boards, from zombies to Zombees, to war torn vets, dark awakenings, horrible mutations and chilling tales of robots. All below, all in one handy post for your convenience. OOoOoooOOOOOoOoooooo...
THE DILEMMA! On a planet dedicated to Right and Wrong, four damaged AUTOBOTS must make an impossible choice: kill or cure? Whatever they decide, their lives will never be the same.
Make no Mistake
Last issue was a gigantic piece of everything happening, in quantum manners, with sonic wrenches, parallel timelines, lost loves rekindled, and purple-soaked betrayals. How does one issue later compare
or stand up to all that, with only four members of the main cast facing an impossible choice and maybe, just maybe, more impossible horrors?
Be happy in your work
Quite cleverly written, James Roberts' script uses the setting of the four Autobots on Ofsted XVII, and Trailcutter's new reading habits, as the frame for his journey into another type of past than Barber's in RID #34 - the origin of Megatron's ideology, body of work and cruelties he had to endure under the mind games of the functionists.
Be grateful for your alt mode
The two stories run quite nicely in parallel to each other, and easily distinguishable with the casts being so different as well as limited. And to keep them as relevant to each other as possible, the Megatron story has some very intriguing snippets from present day Trailcutter's current reading of 'Towards Peace', which somehow reflects onto the bots' situation, and the possibly dying Cybertronian in their care.
Be thankful for the system
What could've simply been a long flashback with some tenuous links to the present turns out to be a much more rounded story in multiple parts, bringing back some old ..er.. friends, from both the distant and the recent past. And thrown in for good measure are politics and some excellent world building, leading into the Days of Deception post-DC phase.
Atilio Rojo takes over from Alex Milne for this issue's setting-up of what's to come in Elegant Chaos. While there are some potential issues with his more rounded style, given the two stories unravelling in the issue, I personally thought it really worked with the more personal themes and touches to Megatron's problematic situation, with some excellent layouts and body language in crucial scenes.
Be mindful of your betters
What really helped Rojo's linework, though, was regular Joana Lafuente's amazing use of colours throughout. Not only is the Decepticon purple used very appropriately in the background of key moments for all the cast involved, the contrast between Messatine and Ofsted XVII, with such limited environments to deal with, and what actually happens on them, is really brought out.
We're locked in
Remember I mentioned those 'key, crucial scenes' in this issue? You can imagine they mostly revolve around Megatron - but it's Tom B. Long's lettering wizardry that makes sure they drive home, and firmly lodge into your reading mind. To visually complete the whole ensemble, the two main covers (A by Brendan Cahill, B by Nick Roche and Josh Burcham) shed different lights on the story, while Ken Christiansen's Anniversary variant continues a great streak of homage pieces - see thumbnail.
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
Four Autobots relaxing on a planet dedicated to Ethics, and finding more they ever wanted to know about it, with dire consequences for some old friends. A miner struggling against a corrupt senate and segregated control system, and facing the nastiest, most intrusive part of it. What do they have in common? Great writing, one set-up issue, an unsettling last page and, obviously, more horrors ahead.
In truth, it is about control
As I claimed above, the issue is extremely well put together visually too, as we see Megatron's writing taking centre stage, quite literally, as story and art converge into it and use it as source for their progression and layouts. Make sure to pick this one up, as the stage is now wider than ever - just not where you thought they might be.
CYBERTRON AT WAR! The giant city-sized Titans, METROPLEX and TRYPTICON, battle on a scale the universe has never seen—and the destruction they leave in their wake leaves CYBERTRON ready for the DECEPTICONS to strike!
Last time we delved in Cybertron's past in Transformers: Primacy, the battle between Trypticon and the Titan Metroplex had only just begun. Issue three of this four-issue mini-series takes us deep into the conflict raging on, above and around the city of Iacon and the entirety of the planet, in a 22-page long series of action sequences.
FIGHT FIGHT FIGHT
The book shows off Megatron's attack as the first proper act of full-out war, involving the big beast, the Junkions and Sharkticons he recruited, his Seekers, Combaticons and appearances from the expanded cast of the Decepticon ranks we're all used to, plus Blackwall (very briefly) - and it's a very Megatron centric plot, too, despite the main action taken over by the titans fighting.
Chin up, huh?
While the action is entertaining, Flint Dille and Chris Metzen's plot itself does not really result in much, and can feel a little cramped in some places and too distended in others, yet oddly still have a nice pacing in the single issue. I was, however, pleased to see the Omega/Nova Prime conundrum solved, if a little heavy-handedly.
The dialogue is still very much a Dille/Metzen product, and there's not a lot to expect from characterisation for the different characters other than what we've seen so far. On the other handm though, the ending has an interesting direction to it, and one that I'll be interested to see played out in the final issue of the series and trilogy.
This is the second helping of Livio Ramondelli this week and month, and it's quite hard not to compare his work here to the one in RID #34. The biggest difference? Primacy is a lot darker, and sometimes the contrast doesn't help with the dynamism of the action scenes. The lighting, given by gunfire, acid rain, optics and explosions, though, does wonders on some otherwise fairly dim pages.
One of the visual highlights of this issue, to me, is the fun that Chris Mowry clearly had with the sound effects pervading the battle scenes. All the punches, crunches, booms, kicks, shooms, and especially the TWERGs, look amazing, and really stand out on the background of Ramondelli's colours, adding extra action hues to the mix.
TWERG TWERG TWERG
And if you hadn't had enough of big page spreads on battles between Metroplex and Trypticon, the variant cover in the thumbnail, by Sarah Stone, gives you a little more of that. Because why not. The third part of the interlocking Ramondelli covers shows off the beginning of the Decepticon faction, and Ken Christiansen gives us another stunning 30th Anniversary collage from the Autobot side. Make sure to check them all out.
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
As I said above, do not expect too much from the plot of this issue of Primacy, despite some interesting developments towards the end. However, if you're into big blown full-on fighting with virtually all the cast of all the old Transformers characters, with curb-stomping, impaling, slicing, limb-ripping and one-liners - this is the book for you.
As the Autobot resistance takes a bit of a paler shade in their lack of preparation against the Decepticon uprising, I'm hoping we'll see more of an escalation next issue, with the conclusion veering the path of Primacy back onto the main IDW track, tying up some of the sub-plots ran so far, and some extra TWERG TWERG TWERG.
Dark Side of Future's Past - The Return (Spoiler free-ish)
THE ENIGMA! At last… the secret origins of CYBERTRON’s golden age are revealed to OPTIMUS PRIME—and what he learns changes everything about the AUTOBOTS’ mission on Earth!
They're off to meet Michael Bay!
After a month's pause to take a look at Cybertron and whatever mess is taking place over there, we return to Earth's orbit to check in with Alpha Trion, Optimus Prime and whatever mess is about to go down here - by looking at what happened a long time ago, in a galaxy far far away... if you're new to the Transformers, that is. Though there is plenty for veteran fans, too. Read on!
Ah, the good old days
The frame of the issue is the conversation between Alpha Trion and Optimus, as they take a wander over the dark side of the moon (oh-ho), to discuss important things of importance, without anyone listening in - and we finally find out the role that Trion has played since forever in the shape of Cybertron and its lineage.
"..and now you tell me you're Professor X?!"
Which leads us nicely into a long flashback of the early days of Cybertron, with Galvatron running around chopping people to bits and decapitating others, stabbing, slashing and generally being his usual killing machine self. The 'twist' however, is that he has a perfectly good reason to do so, and we discover just how far the Enigma teased in the synopsis goes, and what it has to do with Earth and some old frie-- ene-- frenemies.
Plus this guy
John Barber's dialogue and characterisation in this issue are great: from Skylynx' wonderful quips, to characters calling out each other's pompous formalities, to seeds of deception and scheming planted in some key players of the past, to the roundedness of Galvatron and the deceitfulness of Alpha Trion, and that's without considering the source material being drawn upon for the flashback's plot, and really setting the stage for Combiner Wars.
In addition to all of that, Livio Ramondelli is really on top form with the artwork: there's a lighter, cleaner feel even to some of the busier battle scenes (though some make Galvatron look a bit too powerhouse-y, but that's writer's choice), there is a nice use of reference material again, in both toy form and pre-existing fiction, and some great body language deployed.
Also, the lighting and colour used for the contrast between the past and present is switched compared to usual, with dark used for Trion and Optimus' conversation on the Moon, and a lot of light shining over Galvatron's battles. Combine that with some great panel layouts, a cinematographic style of composition, angles and shots, and you have a visually pleasing issue indeed.
Keeping things in perspective
Tom B. Long returns on lettering, choosing some very well placed addition contrast in caption boxes and dialogue bubbles, with a smattering of great sound effects throughout the book. All serves to further identify the separation and similarity of the different stages, and it all works perfectly. The two main covers by Andrew Griffith and Josh Perez, and Casey Coller and Joana Lafuente also do a great job of hyping up the Galvatron element, and it is a great part of the issue - but don't miss out on the stunning Ken Christiansen 30th anniversary variant (thumbnail).
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
I have tried hard to not give away any of the major plot points, names of key characters, storylines or references, as I think this issue needs to be enjoyed as a new exploration of Cybertron's past in the comfort of personal reading. But I also believe fans of different Transformers continuities will really enjoy the various parts of fiction that are touched upon, and how Barber brings them all under the one issue.
Without leaping to conclusions
Ramondelli's art does some great things with Barber's writing, too, and accomplishes some nice visual clarity and dynamism needed for the warrior 'king' Galvatron. It also gets closer in its shading and hues as the past and present become darker and darker as they converge, with a great final sting tying us back to the running thread of RID so far. As we get ever closer to the beginning of Combiner Wars, this issue does great things to actually make me look forwards to it. Well played.
Courtesy of Seibertron.com resident voice actor jON3.0, we get a quick look at the now available Rovio Angry Birds Transformers, with screenshots from and a brief thought about the game. If you have a mobile device running on Android, you will have to wait until the 30th of this month to join in the fun, but you can still watch the trailer, the gameplay and listen to the soundtrack in the meantime!
Angry Birds Transformers is a 2D/3D animated sidescroller. The opening animation is so G1 it's nostalgic. The levels consist of running along while blasting laser at targets to destroy enemies. It's just not the challenge and strategy the original game was. It's cute and kids will love it but hardcore fans will quickly be bored with it although since it's free it's worth downloading just for the intro.
Autobirds, roll out!
Good morrow, fellow Transformers fans! Here at Seibertron.com we strive to bring you interesting, enthusiastic original content as well as the best news and toy galleries in the fandom. To that end, we went and checked in with the authors of this week's IDW Publishing release of Transformers: Legacy - The Art of Transformers Packaging: Bill Forster and Jim 'Lockwind' Sorenson! We had a chat with Sorenson already during the Twincast Podcast #100, but read on below for more juicy information about this incredible book, clocking in at 300 pages and for the measly price of $49.99. And we also happen to chat about the upcoming release of the Complete AllSpark Almanac, so make sure to read all the way!
Va'al – Bill, Jim, it is an incredible pleasure to be talking to both of you. The book looks incredible. Truly. I was a late collector, and grew up in Europe, so some of this is vaguely new to me! But incredible, still. And congratulations on seeing this project all the way through to publication, it must've taken years (and your Acknowledgements section confirms it). How long did it take?
Bill Forster – Thank you! I can share some of the feeling: Jim was the one finding the images and sending them over, it was really exciting for me too. The idea for the book was something that came to our minds since the Ark books. So the answer would probably be...
Jim Sorenson – Probably officially in 2006. But we pitched the idea before the second ark book, and we were talking to some Hasbro guys at the tour during BotCon 2007, only to find out they didn't really have any artwork available.
Then Andrew Hall (aka Hydra), who helped with the Ark 2, went to work for Part One, Takara's design firm, and dug into their archives. He discovered they had a ton of the material, so we thought the time had come to resubmitted the idea to IDW. We had good 40% of the material from Part One.
We also worked with Rik Alvarez at Hasbro, who found some more pieces, maybe another 10%, including some of the more unusual, unreleased paintings that show up in the book. But the biggest source of material were fans themselves, who came to help after a good beating of the drums on my part.
In fact, the initial intention was to have a smattering of pieces across the toy lines, rather than something more comprehensive, but what we've eventually achieved is almost the entirety for what was in scope. That's G1 and G2 in the US, and G1 for Japan. The Japanese G2 art we shied away from, as it was CG and the style didn't really mesh, but you can get a hint of that style because we used a Japanese CG mural as the chapter header for the G2 chapter. That choice was because they never made an airbrushed one. But still, for the eras we covered, we have maybe 90-95% of the art.
Va'al – That is really an impressive feat! And how did you go about dividing up the book into its chapters? Had you considered something by theme, before moving to series?
Bill – Well, we didn't want the same sort of background running through, we wanted to show how it changes, show the visual differences from one line to the next. So we decided to go for the different periods and toy gimmicks, and adding the purple and red backgrounds for the two Autobot and Decepticon factions.
Jim – We really wanted to impart a sense of momentum as you read the books. The Ark books work as reference, but didn't have a sense of progression. It's great for hardcore transformers fans, especially if you want to use it as a visual reference. If you look, you can see that we structued the book that way. We even have a by-character index in the back. However, for a more casual reader, we've seen them go through it and usually they spend a lot of time on the first few images but then accellerate as they go, so that they're just skimming over the last 100 pages or so looking for something different! The Almanacs already improved on that, and I think Bill has done a great job here with Legacy at giving a sense of dynamic progression, pulling the reader through the art.
Va'al – I would agree, I tried to just dip in, but ended up going from start to finish! So how did you divide the work between the two of you, what were your roles for the book?
Bill – Generally, Jim handles the writing, I do the art direction. But we both dabble in each other's worlds, and we get to do different things. In this one though, Jim was definitely the curator, and I the art director: he'd get the thematic display and progression where he wanted them, I'd then lay them out and show them off accordingly.
Jim – Yes, I find the pieces and organize them. Say, for example, with the Stunticons: I wanted them all in one section, or maybe the guys on one page and Menasor on another. It was then up to Bill to arrange them how they looked best, with that basic structurein mind. And he did so much work. We had great quality images, but Bill still had to do a gigantic amount of work cleaning them and cutting them out of their backgrounds.
Bill – I actually got nerve damage from the work, I had to use a mouse rather than a tablet and it messed up my hand quite bad!
Va'al - Whoah! That makes it even more impressive, sorry to hear about it though!
Bill - Another factor was that Jim had moved to Albuquerque, so it made sense to divide up the work.
Jim – But also, Legacy was much more difficult than other books we've worked on, and we each had to work on our own strengths. Bill's is visual, the flow, the backgrounds. I've gone from awful to professionally competent in that area, but Bill is beyond competent, he's exceptional. I bring a strong sense of context and a network of contacts to the job. I flew over to Japan, to different US cities to collect material. Not that he couldn't! He did it once or twice.
Bill – Yeah, with Action Master Shockwave. But Jim is the driving force, getting on planes, contacting people. I sit at a table and put it all painstakingly together.
Jim – Bill's name is first on this one, in the credits, and it really is reflective of the work that went into the project. This is an art book, a beautiful art book. It's playing to his strengths.
Bill – I thought it was alphabetical! Just kidding. I think it was really important to deliver something that would really visually strike the readers and fans.
Va'al – The visual element certainly does jump out! You mention throughout that a lot of the art shows off the 'transforming' nature of the characters, the movement. Take the Triggerbots and Triggercons for example.. you actually see the spring loaded weapons.
Jim – Oh yeah, remember those? They were a pain.
Bill – Yeah. I had no idea what to do about the background, how to show the motion lines.. I winged it in the end. I replicated the images, trying to figure out how to drop a background. It took forever to reconstruct them over the originals. I was sitting there for a day and a half for each image. At least there weren't too many of them!
With the Pretenders, who also have some motion, they also had a half fade from black to white in the backgrounds. I was originally going to do a grid background, but then the images didn't pop right. In the end, I just went for black background to show off the artwork.
Jim – It's probably what the original package makers had to do, the same as Bill, but with an exacto knife! We left a few of the original backgrounds in tact; Grand from Grand Maximus, Metalhawk, Roadblock, Skyhammer. We couldn't do it with everyone though, unless each Pretender got a full page, and that was too much. They just didn't look as good if not on pure black.
Bill – I remembered how I did it, actually. I work in InDesign among other programs, and I remember having to put motion lines on the actual page background, and make a solid image out of them or the transparency would not work. When I sent them to Jim, he was not allowed to move anything, because they were part of the background!
Jim – I never touched anything in this book! Normally we both tweak a lot images, even if just by millimeters. It may seem trivial, but it was crucial to us. This one I didn't touch anything
Bill – And you really see that with the yellow boxes containing the names – doing it just right, avoiding the lines in the background, gives it that little more visual dynamic. IDW had to make a few changes in a few places, but I always had to go over their work to make it visually consistent. And I would know what Jim might have a problem with, and we both avoid doing things that the other will have issues with. We're good at it by now.
Va'al – I have to say, it does read like a labour of love, there's a lot of passion gone into this book. It's something that looks and feels like a true celebration of an unsung aspect of the Transformers toys. But as we were talking about names: Why were individual Targetmaster names pointed out, but not the Headmasters? For instance, there's Targetmaster Cyclonus with Nightstick, but it doesn't say Headmaster Brainstorm with Arcana, just Brainstorm. Was that a choice?
Bill – I don't like words. Ever. So I'd rather avoid them. But for Targetmasters it became a style choice, using the words to balance the page. Titles, names, descriptions, I can use them to my advantage. Jim might add something in revisions, but that was what made sense to me visually.
Jim – The book came to me with some of the Targetmasters named, and for the sake of consistency, we decided to label all of them. And in the artwork itself, the guns are really prominent. Whereas the Headmasters, it doesn't feel like they're as important, not overly proportioned. It doesn't feel like Chromedome with Stylor. Same with Powermasters. Other than Prime's engine, you can't really see them. So yes, definitely a conscious choice, if only in retrospect. Or maybe I'm rationalizing.
Va'al – That sounds like a reasonable one, too. And what about those three unreleased G2 Gobot names, are they the official ones?
Jim – Well, they were the names written on the artwork. Maybe they wouldn't be named like that on the box, except for Hound maybe. But we had to name them somehow, and those were the names we had. I'm actually about 95% sure that the police car would have been named Prowl, but I didn't have any documentation to support that and I didn't want to make that declaration. This wasn't like the Almanacs, where we were working collaboratively with the creators. This one felt more like archaeology, documenting the history of the brand as we unearthed it.
Bill – I was tempted to label Hound Hulk, actually, because of a comment made by my girlfriend..
Jim – Jillian. She helped work on the book.
Bill – Yeah, as I was working on him she asked if it was a Hulk Transformer. It's the purple pants.
Va'al – Hah! Yes, I can see that. But speaking of unreleased goodies, what about the pitched US Multiforce releases, do you know if they were planned for G1 or G2?
Jim – Definitely G1. I realize the book structure might not make it clear, as it's a lot of G2 unused artwork, but they would've been G1, probably with new original names. Same for the three Decepticon jets, Quickswitch, Monstructor. A lot of the unused section was drawn from G2 because there were many more unreleased G2 toys than unreleased G1 toys.
Va'al – So what is missing? What about more of the European releases, did you use of all of the material you collected?
Jim - We included everything we had that we were legally able to reproduce. We're missing some Action Masters. But that is also due to the lack of interest in the community, I feel, about them. Since so much of the book came from fans, I think that the distributed collective effort just wasn't as strong for finding Action Master art. The other gaps are at the tail end of G2, but I can mostly live with that, because that's where digital coloring is coming into play. Like, Starscream, Thundercracker, Skywaryp, all repaints but because it's paintings they just made 3 different images. It's basically the same level of effort to make a new image as to recolor an old one. By G2, digital recoloring was feasible so they didn't bother to make a new painting for ATB Megatron and Starscream, they just recolored Dreadwing and Smokescreen.
The one mold we are missing from G2 is Roadblock. That was frustrating, because Hasbro did have it in 2007, when we started thinking about the book, but by the time we pitched in 2011-12, they didn't have it any more.
Bill – It probably disappeared after that Hasbro tour! We even asked fans who were there if they had any high quality digital photos of it, because we might have been able to use it, but no dice.
Jim – We also would've loved to include more European releases, but no one had that artwork. There is a bit, but not that much. In fact, some of those images in the book actually came from Hasbro US rather than UK, like Pyro and Clench.
Va'al – I will not comment on Hasbro UK, here. I think my question at this point, though, is : what about the artists of the original artwork? Did you find out who they were?
Jim – They're all in the Acknowledgements section, we did contact them but not everyone remembered what they actually worked on. We didn't think it made sense to do attributions if we only knew about 40% of the total. But they are there, and they did help with the book.
Va'al – So the credit is where it's due, excellent news! Of course, Legacy is not the only project you're working on at the moment, especially with its imminent release – what is the status of the Complete Allspark Almanac?
Jim – We'll say as much as we can, but a lot of it is still in the air. The two Almanacs are probably our most popular books, going for really high prices on the secondary market – we're really pleased that IDW are doing a collected volume. We're hoping it will also include the material we produced for the Club, the editors are definitely on board with the idea, but we're still looking at practical aspects like cost, clearances and whatnot, so we have yet to receive confirmation on that.
As far as I know, the combined version – a whopping 472 pages - is ready, sitting in the IDW servers. Maybe it's not what goes to press, but that is my ideal of the book. The chapters from the two volumes are integrated, to combine the separate chapters in the two books.
Bill – Jim loves order. Loves it.
Jim – And now I had the chance to correct some oversights from the first two volumes, like getting Starscream next to Megatron, though he's not next to all his clones as a result. So there are tradeoffs. But each chapter is bigger, even the ones that didn't have an analog in each book. We shifted things around, little things like moving the Tigatron stadium from 'Settings' to the 'Detroit' chapter. All the Elite Guard guys are together. Ironhide is now with the rest of Rodimus' team. Etc.
Bill – What we can definitely say is that the cover is amazing. Once we have Hasbro's approval, IDW will show it.
Jim – Yeah, we were both spitballing ideas with the artist, and then he comes up with something that blew our minds. He sketched ours, and they were perfectly fine, but his was better.
Va'al – Intriguing... can you say who it is?
Jim – Not really, but you can probably guess.
Va'al – A teaser! And apart from the Club stuff, is there any additional extra material?
Jim – Maybe a teeny tiny bit, but that's really not the focus of the book.
Va'al – I see. Bill, what sbout your role this time round? Any major changes?
Bill – I was mostly recovering from Legacy, and Jim, a lovable control freak, took the lead on this one, including designs. Which he then ran past me, and we've become so attuned to one another that he did exactly what I would've done!
Jim – Derrick J. Wyatt had a lot do say about the Complete version, too. But Bill did a lot of writing work in the Almanac the first time round, especially volume two. So it is definitely both of us working on it. Then it goes to Marty Isenberg and Derrick, then IDW, then Hasbro – but it all feels pretty good, and not stretched out thin.
Bill – Yeah, and we both like submitting stuff to Marty and Derrick. We work in their world rather than trying to fit in our own.
Jim – Before we were talking about arguments, and knowing what the other person will like or not like. We were working on the logo for the Complete Allspark Almanac – we wanted something so you could see at a glance what it is, but also not visually dominate the artwork, it needs a balance. But Bill wanted something.. you tell the story, Bill.
Bill – I sent Jim two versions of the logo and told him: One's correct, one's not incorrect. He obviously chose the 'wrong' one. I had made one specifically for him, I wanted the other, and of course he chose that one!
Jim – Usually I'm the one that wants more time on the words, and Bill wants bigger images. But we always strive for a balance between image and picture.
Bill – And sometimes it can be a question of three words, for me.
Jim – Which could be the difference between eight or nine lines! But I think the audience is the winner in the end. It's funny, when I look back on books I see the flaws, but I don't even see the arguments now.
Bill – That's because Jim usually wins! I only remember the arguments when they're really stupid, to be honest. I think we spent two hours arguing over a line by Cliffjumper, which was too 'organic' for the Animated universe, and it made sense not to have it in the end. But two hours, over 'cruising for a bruising'!
Va'al – I may side with Bill on that one, this time. But I also think it's time to bring this chat to an end – so thank you both for taking some time to talk to us, and we'll be showering you with more compliments about the book as soon as more readers get their hands on them!
Jim – Thank you!
Bill – No problem at all!
Make sure to pick up a copy of Transformers Legacy from IDW Publishing, then, and let us know what you think of it! Keep your optics on Seibertron.com and thanks for reading.
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