JB: What was your entry into the world of Transformers—as a fan, I mean? Do you have a favorite version of Transformers from over the years?
GB: I was parked in front of every episode of Transformers G1 in the 1980s but I couldn’t convince my mother to buy me any of the toys. She was a huge toy collector and had no problem showering me with Star Wars figures but Transformers just didn’t speak to her. After tons of pathetic begging she bought me one: Topspin, a Jumpstarter who sort-of-kind-of popped onto his feet when you pulled him backwards.
GB: I missed out when the movie was in theaters due to the same lack of parental interest—I saw it years later on TV and turned it off when Starscream died, because without Starscream around I just didn’t see the point. I returned to Transformers with Transformers: Prime, then jumped into the comics and bought my own toys, although my daughter’s plan to “share” the Bumblebee I got for my birthday isn’t working out in my favor. Now if only someone would take nine boxes of Star Wars figures off my hands.
JB: This new TRANSFORMERS ROBOTS IN DISGUISE comic is based on the all-new hit tv series airing on Cartoon Network. But this comic isn’t an adaptation—it’s all-new stories set in that world, but with… well, without giving anything away, some old friends you’re only going to see in the comic, right?
GB: The stories tie into the continuity the show shares with Transformers Prime and what happens in the cartoon will have consequences in the comic. But the comic will also feature new villains and explore different themes. There will be squabbles and there will be punching, but the first arc weaves in an element of mystery and betrayal. Bumblebee has to put the pieces together and he may not get them in the right order. I like resolving subplots in one or two issues within the context of a longer ongoing story, I’m not a fan of ending an issue without getting somewhere.
JB: What do you think of TRANSFORMERS ROBOTS IN DISGUISE artist Priscilla Tramontano’s work? Have you two had a chance to collaborate much yet?
GB: This will be my first time working with Priscilla, who I was familiar with mainly for her color work in the comics. I love the somewhat organic feel she brings to the characters that lets them act out their emotions, she’s the perfect choice.
JB: Any other messages for Transformers fans out there?
GB: Transformers Robots in Disguise is accessible to new readers and is all about action and fun. Plus Autobots punching weird Decepticons in the face.
As well as providing the making of text, how involved are you in the development of the book? Do you have a say in things like design, layout and covers as well?
The cover and contents page designs have been constant throughout, and were conceived entirely in-house at IDW. For every edition I'm asked to give Andy Wildman a detailed cover idea (let's face it, no one else involved in the production of the book would have asked for Nightstalker and an Autobot Overlord on the cover of Vol 2). You'll have noticed that with the covers we try to highlight the unique aspects of the UK stories, typically the characters that never featured in the US comics.
I'm responsible for selecting what should go in each volume, from the stories to the non-story scans: posters, letters pages, adverts etc. I re-read the 30 - 40 issues covered by each volume and flag up everything I think would be interesting to fans old and new, such as Transformation pages that trail or tease a big story, or announcements for new toys, or promotion about the original Movie and so on. Letters pages that disclose hitherto unknown 'in universe' facts are worth reprinting, too. I'll choose the front-papers - usually the inside cover of the annual, so that's easy - and the sequencing of the contents.
I'll submit the text - the foreword, the introductory essay, the story intros etc - and notate it to indicate which scans should go where.
At this point I must sing Lloyd Young's praises. The series wouldn't be a tenth as good as it is without him. Lloyd got in touch after Volume 1 and offered to use his complete collection of TFUK issues to provide high-quality scans of all the material that IDW didn't have. He spends hours and hours cleaning up and 'brightening' the strip pages, and digs up all sorts of rare free gifts and original art. I couldn't do any of this without him.
We’re now past the halfway point of the series, how advanced is the work on the remaining three books and do you think we’re likely to remain on a one volume a year schedule?
I'd love to be able to do more than one a year, but realistically... it's Volume 6 later this year, and Volume 7 in 2016. Maybe we'll get Volume 8 - the final one - out in 2016 too. I'd like that. As much as I love the project, I want to see it done! I can't relax until all eight volumes are on the shelf. I owe it to fans - and to myself.
As for how advanced work is on the remaining books, I know precisely which issues and annuals will be reprinted, and what special features we'll put in. I keep a list of non-story material we've not yet printed, and it's pretty long. I know exactly what's going in Volume 6. And I have my list of confirmed and prospective interviewees.
Be a huge tease and give us a hint of an exciting and new fact we’ll be learning in volume 6.
There's interesting stuff in Volume 6 (did you know that a TF character appeared on the cover of another Marvel UK publication in the late 80s?), but it's in Volume 7 that there's a real revelation. Wait until you find out what was originally planned for after issue 212...
I understand you and James first came into contact about this series via the TMUK forum, had you known each other before this, and what has the process of working with him (and IDW generally) been like?
As fate would have it, it was only a short time after finding all of the free gifts from the UK series and joining the TMUK forum that I was introduced to the one and only James Roberts. It was prior to Volume 1 of Transformers Classics UK being released and I received an email with an introduction. At the time I probably had to re-read it, it’s not often you’re approached to contribute to something that’s dear to you. After James explained what he was trying to achieve, there was no doubt that I wanted to be involved.
I couldn’t do this interview without highlighting the sheer passion that James has put into these books. He really has gone to the ends of earth to interview key contributors in its rich history to dig up information that would have potentially been lost forever. Each time we work on a new volume and I’m hunting around for items to include, I sit back and think, how the bloody hell is James going to fill this issue out? But testament to his unrelenting passion for the series, he does. Quite often, we’ll be nearing our cutoff dates to collate everything we need to hand off to the IDW guys, who then stitch the book together, and James will message me at the eleventh hour saying he’s found space for one last thing. That ‘one last thing’ often turns into the ‘tenth last thing’ but that’s what I love about this project, we’re always pushing to get the best content we can in.
This is where the guys over at IDW obviously do a great job as well and as James said earlier, are always kind enough to push the page count up if there’s more great content to include. As the books lay flat on my table you can visibly see the thickness change from the first few volumes. Without these guys, the books wouldn’t happen either. Shout out to Justin Eisinger.
And finally, you’ve contributed to an officially licensed Transformers book about the comic you love and have had your name in the credits alongside the great and the good who worked on the original series. On a scale of one to ten, how much of a good feeling is that?
It’s nothing short of amazing; I give it a 1984 out of 10 (the year that changed it all for me). What an absolute privilege to contribute to not only something you’ve loved since childhood, but to have your name in the same publication as the guys who shaped the original series and those who continue to work on the existing stories. I pinch myself from time to time.
During my years working in the games industry, I was also fortunate enough to work on a Transformers game. Although I was working as a 3d artist at the time, my good friend and fellow 3d artist/ photographer Jamie Andy Evans was given the role of advert photographer. Long story short, like a child attempting with their dear life to answer a questions in class, my arm went immediately up. I said to Jamie, “I have to get my face in this game; I don’t care what it takes”. It’s safe to say, I’m now immortalized on a mobile phone billboard. Sadly, Jamie passed away mid way through 2014, far too young and I’ll be forever thankful to him for taking those photos. RIP mate.
I’ll sign off now by once again thanking James Roberts and IDW, not only for including me in this epic journey of theirs but just because these guys rock it hard for TF’s! I’m certainly looking forward to meeting James and the gang in the flesh, we’ve only been working together for 4 years now after all.
TR: Did your writing process change when you began scripting the movie as opposed to the TV show?
Flint Dille: Well, it did from the point of view that we knew this was going to be a very big movie. Of course, the purpose of the movie was not only to have something in theaters, but also to introduce next year's product line. Which meant that we had to first kill off the old product line to make way for the new toys.
TR: So Optimus Prime had to die?
FD: Exactly. We just didn't realize that it was going to bother anybody! :laughs: But I'd argue that had we not killed him, we wouldn't be talking about Transformers right now. Still, we didn't know the can of worms that we were opening when we wrote those scenes.
Topless Robot: The film world recently lost Leonard Nimoy, who voiced Galvatron in the Transformers animated feature. Can you talk about what he was like to work with?
Wally Burr: Very professional. Business-like. He came in and was ready to work. I asked him if I could give him the profile of what the show was about, to help get him up to speed. And he said "Go ahead." So I did. And when I finished with the full explanation, he said, "Okay, get your director and let's do this." :laughs: He didn't realize that I was the director! He must have thought I was a production assistant or somebody hired by the studio to hold his hand until he was ready to be used.
TR: What about Orson Welles? He came with quite a reputation, I imagine.
WB: With Mister Welles, I was intimidated in advance. Because if you've ever heard any of the outtake reels on him, he could be pretty tough. And he had a right to be! He could look at any script and say, instantly, I know what you need here. The problem was, he didn't want to be directed. But somebody had to coordinate the session, and that's what a voice director does. We coordinator of the cast. Otherwise, they'd overlap each other. The voice director keeps the characters straight, and so on. So I thought I was going to have a lot of problems with Mister Welles. And I did. At one point he was rather slow in his delivery, so I gently said "Mister Welles, this is sounding great. I'm wondering if I can ask you to pick up the tempo just a little bit." And he said, in that voice of his, "I'm reading this as rapidly as I possibly can. And furthermore, I'll do the slating from now on." Well, the voice director usually slates from the recording booth.
Topless Robot: You both voiced a number of different characters throughout the Transformers film. Did you have any particular favorites to play?
Neil Ross: Yes, I think so. My favorite was called Springer. He could turn into a helicopter at will, and he was just a good, fun, solid hero-type to play. He also didn't involve any throat ripping.
TR: Throat ripping?
NR: :speaks in a painfully scratchy voice: "That's when some of the characters sound like this!"
Powered Convoy wrote:The Allspark in collaboration with SydneyY is happy to present a translation of the latest Interview with TakaraTomy Designer Hisashi Yuki from Figure King #205. In the interview he talks about his work on Unite Warriors Superion and MP-24 Masterpiece Star Saber.
Disclaimer: The original of this interview was published in Figure King magazine issue #205. The reason I provide this translation is solely to help non-Japanese fans who are unable to read this insightful interview. Hope you'll enjoy and pardon the grammar errors and/or typo.
Hisashi Yuki on Unite Warriors Superion, MP Star Saber and "Adventure"
- How did "Combiners" become the theme?
Y: In "Generations" series overseas, popular characters were picked without a particular theme. (Generations figures) are packed with IDW comics overseas, but there wasn't much connection between the characters, their designs and the contents of the comics. Then Hasbro changed their direction and decided to develop a series with the "Combiners" theme and connect the comics to it. TakaraTomy had been suggesting combiners to Hasbro for a while, and this time it was fit for what Hasbro was looking for.
- So the situation is different from when "Generations" Bruticus was developed.
Y: The purpose was to create a high priced product firstly, and Bruticus from the game was selected.
- It seems that the Japanese fans and the overseas fans see "combiners" differently. How was the reaction of the overseas fans?
Y: I think knowledgeable and enthusiastic fans overseas were pleased that they were finally getting combiners. I was at BotCon when "Combiner Wars" was announced, and when the silhouettes were revealed there were cheers.
- How did you proceed with the development of Superion?
Y: Due to the scheduling, 3 or 4 people are working with the products including Superion. Since it was being re-made as a current product, an extra effort seems to have been made to have as few excess parts as possible. The head and the chest plate were excess parts in the original toy, but now they are incorporated into Silverbolt. As for the base mode, it was omitted at the beginning because of the various factors that would have been required to form the runway. The wrist transformation gimmick is an idea which had been thought of a long time ago, but wasn't realized in a product until now.
- This Superion's legs are back-to-front.
Y: It is due to the joint movement. If the nose of the jet is at the back of the leg, it gets in the way when the knee is bent. Though it is possible to combine them back-to front. It is not the official way, however I think using such tricks is also a part of combiner robot fun.
- How did you decide on the direction of Japanese "Unite Warriors" development?
Y: This can be said for "Legends" series as well, but the concept for the current domestic products is that we want (the customers) to remember the Transformers from the past. We do not want someone who had (Transformers toy) long time ago to feel (the new ones are) somewhat wrong. When we first learned of Overseas Superion's specifics, we thought, "huh? There's a wrong guy in the team" (*laugh) So it was decided to make Japanese Superion consisting of all jets.
- How come is it sold as a set?
Y: I believe the concept works only when the five robots are present and they should be to played with as a whole team. Although some in the (developer) team suggested to sell them separately. The 5 robot combiners are to be released one by one this year and because of that they are marketed separately from "Legends". Hasbro's lineup is gearing toward combiner warriors and we are considering developing "Legends" series that is different from the overseas.
- Any other point of interest besides changing a member?
Y: The color scheme is closer to the cartoon image. Actually I combined the images evoked by the cartoon and the original toy well so that the end result is not too far off from either. I like Hasbro version's black wrists and ankles, but still chose white in accordance with the original. As for the paint applications, I made it as close to the original as possible such as the patterns on the wings. If you are not familiar, they are all minor changes, but I did not want to compromise after we went as far as changing a member to stick to the original. When it comes to the Japanese versions, one of our unofficial objectives is to give them deluxe deco so that the fans all over the world would want them, too. I would be happy if they buy Transformers as souvenirs when they visit Japan. (*laugh)
- Also MP Star Saber is going to be released in March at last.
Y: I was particular about constructing it using the colors of molded parts. You will notice it when you see the actual item. This is not only because of the cost, but I also wanted it to be a toy that you can play with freely without worrying about chipping the paint. If this concept is received favorably, I think Masterpiece series will be able to have wider range of lineup.
- I was amazed at the volume of it when I handled the sample.
Y: Giving (MP Star Saber) the impression of the volume as close to the original as possible was one of the concepts since the beginning of the development. The people who played (with the original) must have considered it very big and I didn't want them to think it became smaller as a Masterpiece.
- I can't help wondering about Victory Leo....
Y: I'd like to know that as well. (*laughs) In fact I haven't done anything so far. When I developed Star Saber I drew a rough sketch, but I can't go any further until the company gives the green light. This Star Saber is also considered to be the 30th anniversary celebration item, so first of all I hope the people who voted (for Star Saber) or owned Star Saber long time ago will be satisfied with it when they have it in their hands.
- Tell us about your current work.
Y: I am working on the localized series such as "Adventure", "Legends" and "Unite Warriors". As for "Adventure" toys, more colors are added to make them cartoon accurate as well as homage to the past series. Their release dates are not far behind their overseas counterparts, and I hope the Japanese versions will be purchased with confidence. Also, some characters who were not able to release previously will be added to the line up this time. I made Dreadwing's color scheme closer to his appearance in "Beast Hunters".
- "Adventure" seems to be marketed ambitiously, for example (the toys) are released close to their overseas versions.
Y: We are taking various ambitious approaches such as the way the show is broadcast; as well as showing on Animax, it will be broadcast online so that the viewers will benefit from being able to watch it any time. The preceding show, "Q-Transformer" has been played online more than our expectations.
- This year is the 30th anniversary of Transformers arriving in Japan. What do you suggest the fans to pay attention to?
Y: Firstly I hope you will take notice of "Adventure". The story is interesting, and the picture is bright. It is a typical Transformers show in a good way. There will be many merchandise, too, and I hope you will watch the show and discover your own hero. (note by Sydney: in the original text,Mr.Yuki uses the phrase "boku ga erabu boku no hero" (My hero, chosen by me), which was a catch phrase for G1 toy advertisement) Also, the other cartoon, "Q-Transformer" is received favorably by female audience. If "Q" Bumblebee is your favorite, I hope you will take a look at "Adventure" Bumblebee as well (note by Powered Convoy: QTF Bumblebee and Adventure Bumblebee share the same voice actor).
- Very colorful lineup worthy of the 30th anniversary indeed.
Y: We had 2 major lines last year; "30th Anniversary" and "the Movie". This year we are aiming for a wider variety. I will be happy if you can meet many different kind of Transformers and enjoy them.
If you were to pitch the story to a new reader that hasn’t had the fortune of reading prior IDW Transformers comics, what is Combiner Wars and why should you be reading the current Transformers stories?
Mairghread Scott: Combiner Wars is about a world on the verge of imperial takeover. Cybertron has recently discovered one of a series of long lost colony worlds (this is where Windblade comes from), and they’re reaching out to them once more. But with the rise of the combiners, Cybertron (and more accurately Starscream) has military power no one’s ever seen before. He could easily turn these colonies into conquered worlds, creating a vast empire even Megatron never imagined.
John Barber: If you’ve never read Transformers, you probably wouldn’t guess what the IDW Transformers books are like. I mean, there’s a lot of action, yeah—and Combiner Wars definitely has some serious fighting—but a lot more personal interactions and political machinations go on than somebody might expect. I think word of mouth has spread about what we’re doing in these books, and hopefully something like Combiner Wars will give new readers a good place to take a look at this universe.
What do you want to do after Combiner Wars? Windblade Returns has been confirmed to not just be a miniseries, but little more besides that has been stated.
MS: That’s by design. Actually, the comic is named Transformers: Windblade; “Windblade Returns” was just a title card put up to announce our comeback. And we haven’t said much about it because Combiner Wars is so linked in with Windblade’s story that saying too much could spoil this event. I will tell you one thing. There’s this old saying I keep thinking of as I write it: “God never gives you more than you can handle.” Windblade is a lot stronger than she was when we first introduced her, but that just means her problems have grown that much bigger with her. I want to believe that Windblade really can build a better future for Cybertron and Caminus. But, as a writer, it’s my job to push her as hard as possible and see if she actually does.
JB: The next set of issues of Transformers deals with the ramifications of what happens in Combiner Wars back on Earth, and the rest of our solar system. With the changes in CW, we’ll see Arcee taking on a new role, and get some good Cosmos stuff, finally. And see what happened to Kup when he was in the Dead Universe. Plus, somebody will return. I won’t say who.
James Roberts, writer and mastermind, talks robots, disguises, and the scope and humanity of IDW’s Cybertronian comics universe. Robot gender, robot psychology, and entry points for new readers — this sprawling conversation with WWAC staffer, Rachel Stevens, has it all.
CBR News: This is the first big "Transformers" crossover since last year's "Dark Cybertron" epic. While we understand the basic gist of the crossover, what more can you tell us about "Combiner Wars?" Who, exactly is combining? Who is warring?
Mairghread Scott: "Combiner Wars" starts when Starscream (a rather evil guy and ruler of Cybertron) gains the ability to make a Combiner (a super-powerful giant) and seems poised to build a new Cybertronian empire.
Let that sink in.
Because when we talk about empire in "Transformers," we're not talking a few countries in Europe. We're speaking of whole planets who might be about to bow to the power of one man. Combiners are the ultimate weapons of Transformers, and Starscream can now make as many as he wants.
So you have two very different wars happening at the same time. Windblade and Optimus Prime are fighting a war for influence (Can they get people to see the danger Starscream poses?), while others take a much more literal war with every weapon they have.
John Barber: Meanwhile, on Earth, Prowl is sitting at the head of the up-to-now only really properly-functioning Combiner -- the other attempts have basically failed outright or driven the component people mad -- and he's not keen on Optimus Prime's leadership of the Autobots, or Starscream's ruling of Cybertron.
To put it in a real world setting: It's six issues (one "Opening Salvo" and five actual parts, just like most of the Combiners have) that starts in "Transformers" #39, goes to the new "Transformers: Windblade" #1, back to "Transformers" #40 and alternated until it's done. Mairghread and I are writing it, and the art is by the amazing Sarah Stone and Livio Ramondelli, alternating issues
Diversity is a big issue in comics -- and everywhere, really -- and something that I know is important to both of you, but how exactly do you promote diversity through stories about giant sexless, raceless robots?
Scott: The term "sexless" is debatable in my view. I want to be clear: There are Transformers who are inherently male and inherently female. That doesn't mean the same thing as it does in humans, but Transformers that call themselves "she" aren't doing it because they like the 'sh' sound. They are female, and we're going to meet a lot more of them.
The term "raceless" is also misleading. Transformers have a long history of racial tension against cassettes, animalistic transformers, headmasters, etc. They are just as noble as humans and we're pushing the envelope to make them at least as diverse as we are. So what can you expect in terms of Transformers in the future? More! More body types, more races, more LGBTQ, more religions and creeds and classes. More conflict about all of the above. Working with robots doesn't stop us from exploring diversity. It offers us the chance to push the boundaries of diversity in a lot of interesting, allegorical ways.
Barber: Yeah, what Mairghread said there. One of the things that non-"Transformers" fans might not realize is how wide-ranging and inclusive the "Transformers" fanbase is. I mean, it's self-evident if you're part of the "Transformers" world, but "Transformers" readers, "Transformers" fans encompass the entire spectrum of people. And it's important to have the characters in the comic be reflective of that.
It's sometimes a complex line to walk, between the out-and-out science-fiction-ness of the "Transformers" universe and its relationship with the real world, but it's important.
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