Exclusive Seibertron.com Interview With Mike Costa
Sunday, November 15th, 2009 9:03PM CSTCategories: Comic Book News, Site Articles, People News, Company News, Interviews
Posted by: Tigertrack Views: 159,437
Mr. Costa is living the dream that so many folks in our community would love to get to do...get paid to be creative with Transformers and have your work officially effect the Transformers mythos, effectively carving out your own little niche in our beloved franchise.
Speaking of your own little niche, Mr. Costa, here are some questions relating to your work with the upcoming Transformers ongoing series...
-- What direction are the Costa written Tf stories going to take? Will we be heading back to a universal scope of war ala what Furman was working up to, or will we be getting an Earth-centric style story? Will the ongoing feature one large, over-arching plot with several ongoing subplots set up along the way?
All great questions. I'll try to give them great answers.
Here's the thing - Shane literally blew up the world in his last storyline. That is a really, really tough act to follow. I mean, I can't really blow up the world again. So rather than try to top that with spectacle - I guess I'd have to blow up the galaxy or something - I'm going to start small again, and then gradually expand the canvas. That's not to say that there won't be big events - there will be. They'll just be big character-events at first. No less status-quo changing, but we're staying Earth-centric in the beginning. You're going to find out why Earth is such an important place for the Transformers - and it's probably not the reason you think it is.
We'll definitely be building to events that, currently, are pretty far-off in the future. But the template I'm trying to follow is the one set by Bill Willingham in his Vertigo book FABLES. What that book does so well is juggle big storylines with smaller one, two or three-issue vingettes in between. With a cast as vast as Transformers, I feel like that's the best way to give as many characters the opportunity to shine as possible. But every issue will build on the next, even if it doesn't seem to at first. There's no guarantee how long I'll be on the book, of course (so... please, tell everyone to buy it and write glowing reviews online!) but hopefully I'll get to do all the things I have planned. That'll take quite a while.
-- Will the series be easy to get into for those who may have only become fans due to the live action movies?
I hope so. But the fact is, it's not a total reboot, like GI Joe was. These are still the same characters in the same continuity we've been seeing at IDW, so obviously there are many differences from the movie. I think we've struck a good balance though, between honoring previous continuity and being new-reader friendly. It would be great if fans of the movie jumped on. I think they'd really like what they'd see.
-- How much work have you had to do to correct errors of AHM, or has the CODA done this job for you?
AHM was planned quite a while before we consolidated our ideas for this new ongoing, so rather than start monkeying with Shane's story and forcing him to change his ending to better dovetail into our series, we created the CODA series to tie up the loose ends that the ongoing wouldn't have time to get to in the first few issues, and to work as a bridge between the two series'. Obviously all the issues are out now, so you guys can tell us how successful we've been in doing that.
We all have certain characters we want to see, but overall, we really know we want good characterization of whomever is in the story. The next set of questions revolve mainly around characters in your new series.
-- Will there be any lesser known personal favorite characters that you plan to bring to the fore in the ongoing series? Will you be able to use more of the obscure generation one characters, or even characters that were previously known only to the Japanese G1 universe (such as Victory Saber, Overlord, or Dai Atlas)? Are we following the same characters as were used in AHM? Will the cast start out small and then expand? Will the cast focus on a small group of characters or will we be moving all over the place and get to see different perspectives from different groups of characters?
The cast will definitely have it's core characters whom the major storylines follow, but we will break away from them occasionally to focus on other characters in the universe. Also, the core cast will definitely be evolving, expanding and contracting. It's not going to be "Optimus Prime and the Same Five Other Autobots" every month, but you'll definitely be able to tell who the important characters are by the end of the first arc.
Most of those "core" characters will come as no surprise to Transformers fans, but I'm definitely throwing some curve-balls in there as well. One of the major characters of my run will be someone I've had my eye on for quite a while. Shane in particular gave him some really interesting development in AHM. His inclusion in my cast will be the logical extension of what happened to him there.
As for the Japanese characters. Hm. Not a bad idea...
-- Can you please kill Drift ASAP? (Note this is a question submitted that not everyone agrees with.) Along these lines, will we see any more new IDW and creator originated characters in the near future, or will you be pulling from only currently existing Generation One Transformers?
I have no plans to kill Drift. But... I have no plans to use him right away either. So, everybody wins. Also, I can't speak for Zander or Nick, who are both doing auxiliary books, my intention is to exclusively use currently existing G1 Transformers. Of course I'll be creating supporting cast members, but the core cast will be recognizable faces for the time being.
-- What kind of Starscream are we going to get in the series, the Starscream of Infiltration, the Starscream of late AHM, or AHM #13 Starscream? They all were a bit different, there seemed to be no consistancy, or it was not explained well enough why he suddenly changes.
Every writer is going to have his or her own interpenetration of a character, and now you've seen mine of Starscream. I can tell you guys he's my favorite character, and that's why I was very excited to make him the star of my first-ever Transformers story in CODA #1. (Clever readers with an eye for pretentious writer-gags might even have noticed that I made sure his name was the first word written on the first page.) I'll agree there are some differences in how the character has been portrayed, but in a hugely collaborative medium like comics, those core character attributes are all you really need for a character. Brian Bendis doesn't write exactly the same Spider-Man as Stan Lee, or Gerry Conway, or David Michelinie. But he'll always be smart, guilt-ridden, wise-cracking and heroic. And Starscream's core attributes are always the same - he's ambitious, treacherous, manipulative and often cowardly. Anything after that is just an artifact of the medium.
And now Mike, we would like to know a bit more about you, and your feelings about the titles you have been involved with. Answer as honestly as you want (or at least as honestly as you feel you can to these questions).
-- Who is your personal favorite TF artist of all time? And what is your favorite previous TF story arc (from any series, comic or show)?
Guys... that first question isn't fair. I'm going to be working with a lot of great artists on this title (and I have already in CODA) and I can't make that call. I will, however, say that working with Don on my first stroyline is like getting Spider-Man and having John Romita draw it. And the man does not disappoint. When I saw the art he turned in for the first issue, my mind was blown. I'd really never seen anything like it on a book I've written. I couldn't be more thrilled about it.
As for my favorite Transformers storyline... that's hard. Recently, I really did like AHM a lot. It had a lot of really great, fan-pleasing bring-the-house down moments. From the older, original marvel run, it's probably issue #13, written by the legendary Bob Budiansky, where Megatron temporarily loses his memory and is found by a criminal who uses him on a crime spree. That was over 20 years ago but the story - and the cover image - have stayed with me even though I was probably 7 when I first read it.
And from the original cartoon - not counting the movie, which is actually the first movie I ever saw in theaters - it was probably The Return of Optimus Prime. That Hate Plague really scared me as a kid.
-- What's your personal opinion on the Transformers stories IDW has written thus far? Good, fair, poor, lame... How do they stack up to what has been done in the past by previous companies Marvel, and Dreamwave?
Here's the thing: There are two legends in the Transformers comic book canon. One is Bob Budiansky. The other is Simon Furman. For the past five years, Furman has basically been the driving force behind IDW's Transformers universe (not counting Shane's AHM of course.) I think anything he did for us here is pretty equal to what he did for Marvel back in the day.
--- If given the opportunity to write for the Movie-verse, would you take it? What kind of story would you like to do?
At the risk of bouncing myself out of later work opportunities, I'm going to be honest and say that, though I actually do think some of the ideas underpinning the Movie-verse are good ones, I much prefer the continuity I'm in. More characters to play with, really. And I like our Spike better than Sam (sorry Shia!)
--- Having written a GI Joe tale (GI Joe: Cobra), which franchise can you say you enjoy writing more?
This is a lame answer, but I enjoy them both in different ways. COBRA is a really dark espionage tale that I get a certain kind of evil satisfaction from. Writing about the bad guys is not only fun, but cathartic. They do stuff the good guys would never do, and finding motivations for chaos and mahem is a really rewarding challenge. But Transformers was always my first love, and the satisfaction I get from that is on a totally different level.
Back when I was in college, Wizard broke the news that Dreamwave had gotten the license for Transformers after Marvel lost it. I sat down at my job at the college library, and over two days I typed up a full pitch for a new ongoing Transformers series, planned up until about issue 60. It was the first comic book proposal I'd ever written. Of course, I never heard anything back about it. Obviously they already had their plans made before the announcement, even if I wasn't some totally unknown 19-year-old punk.
But to think that now, less than ten years alter I am actually writing a Transformers ongoing, starting at issue 1... well, that couldn't be more of a dream-come-true type situation.
--- GI JOE: Cobra was a very gritty, mature tale. Can we expect Transformers to start heading into a similar direction? In other words, you aren’t going to pull any punches with these robots, right. Humans will get squished, Robots will get atomized and not return, etc.
Humans will be getting squished and robots definitely get atomized, but this is not going to turn into a dark, gritty book like COBRA. COBRA is a very specific tone for a very specific book - if I was given the chance to write the G.I. JOE ongoing, I wouldn't use COBRA's tone there either. That tone works in that franchise specifically because we're only looking at a small corner of it, and the main book exists to give it context. Now I'm handling the flagship of Transformers, and my job is to keep that ship steady so creators like Zander, Chee, and Nick Roche can party below decks if they want.
I'm very lucky to have spent the last year watching how Chuck Dixon handles those kind of flagship responsibilities on G.I. JOE, and I have learned a lot from him - specifically how generous he is to creators like me, who handle the smaller books. I hope I can do as good a job as he does of both writing the main book, and staying involved with the smaller ones.
--- Should the next Transformers cartoon have a similar style to the very popular G.I.Joe Resolute cartoon that saw airtime recently?
As long as they don't make me look bad by being better than the comic, they can do whatever they want.
(But seriously, I think it would be great if they aimed at a slightly younger audience than Resolute did. I discovered the Transformers cartoon at age 6. It would be nice to have something that could be enjoyed for people that age again, now that the previous series is over.)
--- Can you comment on your feeling of the use of humans in Transformers storylines? At times, the stories seemed to forget that we buy Transformers because they are books about huge sentient robots that have the same faults, and strengths that humans do, not to see how humans react to said robots upon interaction.
It's a difficult line to walk. Sure, the hard-core fans want to see robot action, but for your average reader, they're going to pick up the book and say "who cares about all these robots? I have no idea what's going on." In my opinion, having human characters is a way of grounding the story in a familiar world, and having an instantly relatable character.
That's why the Transformers movies make sure they have a major plot line involving Sam Witwicky trying to get with the hottest girl on Earth - because that's a lot more relatable to audiences than an interstellar war between talking cars. Whether you think those subplots are brilliant or terrible, I can guarantee you those movies would not have been as successful worldwide if they didn't have a kid, his car, and his girlfriend along with Optimus and Megatron.
That said, my stories are definitely going to err on the side of more robots rather than more humans. But humans are definitely major characters, on par with the Autobots, and we will definitely be seeing some stories through their eyes. Just not as many.
--- Simon Furman started this whole IDW Transformers generation of comics and wrote many beloved issues for Marvel, Marvel UK, and Dreamwave as well. How do you feel about what Simon has written in the past for Transformers? Do you think he really deserves all the credit that he gets for what people expect in a Transformers story? Do you love Grimlock as much as Simon does? Any pressure trying to follow up this force in the world of TF lore?
I have not met a die-hard fan that doesn't credit Simon as having written some classic storyline that established these characters in comics for them. He is a living legend, and he really did set a template for how to write Transformers comics, the way that Chris Claremont defined X-Men comics for a generation. The pressure to follow that is huge, certainly. I really hope I don't blow it.
--- Who is your favorite Autobot? ...Favorite Decepticon? Do your favorites change when you have to consider writing them in stories? For example, HASBRO may tell you, you can’t write your favorite bot that way, so you strategically decide not to include him/her in the comic book.
My favorite Autobot is Blurr, and I make sure I gave him at least one scene in the first storyarc. My favorite Decepticon, as I mentioned above, is Starscream, all the way. And though Starscream and most of the other big Decepticons are going to be benched for a little while, they will be back in a big way.
But this is the way the story is working out. I don't want to shoehorn in tons of scenes with Blurr or Starscream just because I like them. I don't even think about it, really. When they're needed, they'll show up. And luckily, Hasbro has not questioned this at all. So far, they're happy with what I've been doing, and have been very supportive and helpful.
--- Who are your favorite GI Joe and Cobra characters?
To write, it's Tomax, Xamot and Hawk. As a fan, it's Flint. Back in the old cartoons, I was always wondering why he wasn't kicking Duke's butt.
--- ‘Rise of Cobra’, or ‘Transformers Revenge of the Fallen’, which movie is better?
You guys are just intent on getting me in some kind of trouble. The honest answer is, I have not yet seen GI JOE, so I can't say. But a friend of mine just got it (and REVENGE OF THE FALLEN) for me on Blu Ray, so definitely own both.
--- GI JOE and Transformers crossover, are you interested in writing/planning one especially now that IDW has both licenses?
If the right idea struck me, I’m definitely interested. But even though (or maybe because) I write for both sets of characters, their universes feel totally different to me. It would be like crossing Mickey Mouse over into the JLA. I'm not a good enough writer to make that work. We definitely have people out there who are though, so I suppose it is always a possibility.
--- Sienna Miller, Rachel Nichols, or Megan Fox?
I never kiss and tell. I'm a gentleman of the old school
--- Does gender exist in Transformers? Can you share where you stand on the whole fembot issue?
Gender definitely does exist. And where I stand on the fembot issue is this: A Cybertronian robot should have the right to marry anyone he or she desires, provided that they are consensual beings.
--- Who would be your ultimate Transformers comic book production crew? Artist, Writer (I would assume you would write it), inks, etc.? What might this ultimate story be about? Who would be featured?
Other than the book I'm working on (duh)... I'm going to say that the ultimate Transformers comic book would be anything that Nick Roche is working on. I first met him at BotCon this year, and I have learned so much from him, not just about who these characters are, but how to tell stories with them. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that there is no writer/artist double-threat working right now who knows and cares as much about Transformers as Nick. I will follow that guy anywhere. I am really, really lucky to have him as support on this book.
And finally, what can you tell us about Supreme Convoy that members of our community should know about him? He talks about you guys ‘geeking out’ together, what exactly does this involve?
I've known Supreme Convoy for probably two years now. He's a cool guy and part of the very cool circle of the writer/comic book fan friends I've made since moving out here to the Los Angeles. As for what our "geeking out" entails... once again, a gentleman never tells.
Seibertron.com would like to say thank you to Mike Costa for answering our questions about the new Transformers ongoing series, and our questions about Transformers comics in general.
Be sure to check out Mike’s work in the new Transformers ongoing series, starting this November!!!
*TF Ongoing is set to be released this Wednesday, you can pick yours up at your local shop. Not sure if you want to or not, check out First Gen's review here, or the 8 page preview here.
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Posted by Delicon on November 15th, 2009 @ 10:14pm CST
Also, congrats to the Seibertron.com staff on some really cool questions.
Posted by Mr_Xevoz on November 15th, 2009 @ 10:16pm CST
Posted by Anonymous. on November 15th, 2009 @ 10:30pm CST
Mr_Xevoz wrote:Did the pic of Ironhide need to be on the front page? I haven't read that issue yet
Agreed. That picture really wasn't necessary. [/color]
Posted by Heckfire on November 15th, 2009 @ 10:58pm CST
...and TF slashers everywhere squee-ed.
Seriously, I haven't read his COBRA book, but, like I said elsewhere, I'm willing to give him a shot. It looks like he's got an interesting new take on the concept, and a decent amount of respect for both the fans and the franchise without becoming slavish to them/us. I wanna see what he can do, basically...the TF books have felt kinda slapdash because of the "series of miniseries/spotlights" format, so getting some consistency and stability for the first time since Marvel will be a nice change.
Posted by First Gen on November 16th, 2009 @ 7:37am CST
Blurrz wrote:Mr_Xevoz wrote:Did the pic of Ironhide need to be on the front page? I haven't read that issue yet
Agreed. That picture really wasn't necessary. [/color]
Guys, seriously? Not only has that been posted at least twice prior, but given that this was an interview with the writer of the book, isn't it assumed that spoilers are present?
Really, must we tag everything with SPOILER? I mean, we are a Transformers news site, you come here for this info.