Monday, September 30th 2013 9:41am CDT
Categories: Cartoon News
, Comic Book News
, Site Articles
, People News
Posted by: Va'al
Mairghread Scott, Va'al
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With the animated series of Prime: Beast Hunters
now behind us, and Predacons Rising
almost here, we are very happy to welcome show and comics writer Mairghread Scott for another interview with the minds and hands behind IDW!
- Thank you for agreeing to do this, Mairghread - you have the honour if being our first writer! My first question, before we jump into your work, is about origins: How did you first become a fan of Transformers?
- I actually grew up on Beast Wars
, which makes me a bit odd because I never really saw Optimus turn into a truck (although I knew he did) until the Michael Bay films. But in some way, I think Beast Wars
really was the best place to start when I worked on Prime
. The idea of being outmatched and outnumbered, the shifting alliances; these are all important elements of both shows. Plus, even though our CG technology has come a long way, we still face a lot of the same challenges in terms of characters and sets.
- At last, someone else who grew up in the Beast era! I thought I was the only one, by now. How involved were you with the franchise back then? Did you collect the toys as well as watch the show, or branch out into other aspects of the Transformers like comics or other cartoons?
- Neither. Comic books and action figures were 'boy things' and as a little girl I just sort of knew (and I'm sure my friends re-enforced) that I wasn't supposed to have either. I remember I looked for Airrazor a few times, but I could never find her on the shelf. On the bright side, it meant I got to play Beast Wars
a lot with just my sister. I was an Osprey (until Jurassic Park
, then I was a 'raptor for a while). I upgraded to puma-osprey with rocket launcher wings when everyone went all Fuzor/Transmetal. I feel like my sister was an orca because she was really into whales and I was always harrassing her about how she couldn't do anything in Beast-mode then. I wasn't the best sister.
- At least you played with her, though! I have to ask - were you ever able to track down an Airrazor figure later on in life? A lot of Transformer fans have their personal 'holy grail' toy, or so I'm told; would you say that was, or still is, yours? Or did you just outgrow the toy stage, and never really bothered?
- No, although I would take one if I came across it. I tend to collect characters I've written for, so my Holy Grail is a modified Rip Claw made to look like Ser-ket. I just picked up a G1 Sludge at BotCon and would love to give him a sister to play with.
- You heard that, customisers. Be ready to be inundated by offers now! Speaking of writing characters - you're a writer for essentially two parallel stories, one told in the animated series, one in the comics. How do you juggle the different approaches, if they are different? Are there similar challenges in the two media? Do you have a preference between the two?
- Well it does help that we have two different casts in each book and that they are both tailored to their medium. The Dinobots aren't nearly as talkative as, say, Optimus, and that works much better when you have the ultra-limited space of a comic. Since the Dinos don't do well in close-up or just talking, I try to think of the comics almost as an 80ish panel haiku instead of a TV script. I'm trying to pick out the best possible moments to suggest the movement, drama and staging that make Prime what it is instead of just transcribing an episode onto the page. When it comes to which I like more, I think I'd have to say comics, if only because I get to really interact with the fans in a way I never could if I just wrote TV. Talking to people who are passionate and nerdy about what you're passionate and nerdy about...it's the best.
- Communities of fans like the one for Transformers are indeed a gathering of multiple backgrounds and views with an extremely passionate dedication to the common interest! You're obviously welcome to join us on Seibertron any time, I know you write on other fansites at the moment. Speaking of fandoms, I was wondering about something. You've always been pretty determined and vocal about the female presence among the Transformers fans, but there are only a few named women creators in your position (alongside colourists Priscilla Tramontano and Joana Lafuente) - do you think the franchise is still a bit of a boys' club, or is that a misperception? Have you ever received criticism, from fans or peer creators, which was more about you as a woman than your work?
- It's funny, I used to be really worried about the role my gender played when it came to my writing and how others saw it. So much so that once I was brought in on a non-TF show to write an episode that had a lot of female characters in it and I actually asked point-blank if they'd picked me because I'm a woman. The response was they'd seen Hurt and they picked me because I could write revenge. So 'no' I've never felt that people see my gender as anything other than another aspect of who I am.
That said, Transformers is still thought of by the public, the media and the industry at large as being a male-oriented brand. It's not surprising: the industry category for Prime
is called 'boys action,' the toys for Transformers are in the blue-colored section at toy stores and in several TF comic books there are no female characters at all. This obviously makes it harder for women to feel like we want them to be involved in our brand and I want to change that. Everyone should feel allowed to like Transformers. If seeing my name on a comic makes a woman in the store give it a try, that's great. If writing Firestar means someone's daughter will read his Beast Hunter's issue with him -- awesome! But most importantly, if some little girl out there wants an Arcee as badly as I wanted an Airazor toy, I want her to know that she's not weird, or silly, or alone and if my work does that for her, that's the best thing of all.
- That's a great goal, and I agree wholeheartedly with your mission. It's also nice to read that the industry is changing its attitude towards pre-existing ideas, even if slowly. This is a franchise that, as you said, starts by being aimed at a young male audience, even though, in fact, there is a fairly big adult reception already - showing how there is also a good female reception should be next! You mentioned Firestar, a character who for now only shows up in a couple of issues of Beast Hunters
- was that entirely your idea (with Mike Johnson), or was it suggested by IDW/Hasbro? How did she come about? And for that matter, how was Zoom introduced too?
- Bringing back Firestar was my idea. As soon as we got picked up I decided to start adding female characters until someone told me to stop (and, actually, a lot of the background characters are also female, even though it's not obvious). So far, Mike, IDW and Hasbro have all been fine with it, so I press onward. I'd love to bring back all the pre-existing TF ladies, but we'll see how many I can squeeze in before the end.
Zoom is Mike's creation and another good example of IDW and Hasbro giving us a fairly free hand. I'm sure if we tried to remake the book as the Firestar/Zoom show, they'd say something, but when it comes to adding more minor characters, we get a lot of control.
- I did notice some of the remains in Last Spark were mentioned as being female, actually, yes. You don't seem to have been told to stop bringing in characters so far! Are we to expect any other ones before the series ends? I realise we're only half-way through, and that leaves us with two story-arcs worth of potential new faces.
- Well, we just got preview images from Issue 5 and, I don't know if anyone's picked up on it, but they reveal Chromia, the blue Autobot next to Grimlock telling everyone to get under their beds (for protection in an earthquake). But don't worry, she does a lot more than that, but it's been fun to see her sneak into the sneak peek.
- Yes, I did spot Chromia, and I mentioned her (and Scrounge) in the review for issue 5
. And speaking of issue 5, we now have the announced point of contact between the animated series and the comics, and we're very close in its placement with the end of the TV series. Will the comics cross-over or spill into the upcoming Predacons Rising epilogue?
- While the two lines will merge in 7 and 8, the timeline between TV and comics means that we are following the show and not the other way around. That said, I've very excited at what Mike's cooking up, so you'll have to wait and see.
- Really not letting anything out of the bag, huh? Well, I think that moment of suspense is actually a good place to stop this time round. Mairghread, it's been an absolute pleasure talking to you, thanks again for doing this! Do you have any last words for the readers on Seibertron.com?
- Only to thank them for the chance to play with characters they know and love. Hopefully, we can bring more fans to planet Cybertron. And if anyone has any more burning questions, you can reach me on Twitter at @MairghreadScott
or Tumblr at mscottwrites.tumblr.com
You heard her, readers - head over to the social media to ask your questions, or post them along with your comments in this thread! Stay tuned for another interview soon, we have some really interesting guests coming up.
Wednesday, May 8th 2013 6:29pm CDT
Categories: Site Articles
Posted by: Blurrz
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The Seibertron.com member spotlights continue as my latest interview subject is a veteran site member from the Netherlands. Check out my interview with member alldarker
, as we discuss everything from his devoted Generation One toy collection, to the new Generations Blitzwing
, transitioning to IDW's Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye and even ending up at Seibertron.com's browser game, Heavy Metal War!
Q - Hi alldarker, good to have you here! For those who don't know you all too well, mind giving us some of your history with a little Transformers Spotlight: alldarker?
Hey Blurrz, thanks for having me! Back in 1984, my family moved to England for a couple of years, so I went to school in England, right when Transformers hit. I was only 9, but I remember my first experience with Transformers well: a friend brought Grimlock to school and showed him off. I wanted to hold him myself, of course, so I bragged that I could transform him without instructions. It went pretty well, until I got to his chest. My friend eventually had to show me how his chest moved upwards. Man, Grimlock just looked so cool. Of course, for my next birthday I also asked my parents for a Transformer. I was actually allowed to pick one out myself, and I chose Thundercracker (although even my parents liked the look of Dinobots more). I still sort of regret that choice: I should have gone for Grimlock or Sludge... Although I did get Slag for Christmas a little later.
I have to admit, in those years I ended up being into M.A.S.K. more than into Transformers, so I never had many TF's back then, and the ones I did get were pretty lackluster (Groove, Skydive, Flywheels), so I sort of lost touch. I also did not follow any of the fiction back then, so the concept of 'Cybertronian modes' really put me off when Hasbro moved to original designs instead of the Diaclone-based real world vehicle alt modes. When I went to university, I only kept my M.A.S.K. collection, and my few Transformers all went to charity.
It was Beast Wars that got me back. Optimus Primal just looked so cool and poseable, and his gimmicks were incredible! I bought him and Polar Claw as my first two BW Transformers, and soon wanted more. This was of course way before the Internet was a thing, so with my free student travel-card I traveled all over the Netherlands (we had moved back in 1988) to find Beast Wars TFs. The Transmetals were even nicer than the first year toys, so I often went toy-hunting instead of studying...
This was actually around the time that it was becoming increasingly difficult to find consecutive lines of Transformers in Dutch shops: computer games and consoles were definitely starting to take over and Transformers were shelf-warming: you could often find first season Beast Wars figures on the pegs years after they'd been introduced, while new series were being ordered less and less. As a student I needed to graduate and it was becoming expensive to find new Transformers, so I once again stopped collecting.
The RiD Car Brothers amazed me when I first saw them: not only were they vehicles again, but they were highly poseable! I had to get them, at inflated prices, from an import store. They were however probably the only TF's I bought in the period between 20000 and 2007: it was a period in which I focused mostly on getting my degree and on finishing up my M.A.S.K. collection (both of which feats of which I am still proud).
Once again though, my interest was rekindled in 2007 by the TF movie. This time I had a job, so it was a lot easier to buy them, and toy stores were once again stocking up on Transformers for the first time in years. Although I did enjoy some of the movie molds, I realized that they weren't the Transformers of my youth (why wasn't Ironhide red!!!), and I started to browse the internet for the G1 Transformers that I'd always wanted but never had. One thing led to another and soon I'd started a pretty nice G1 collection, all the while finding new Transformers to want, including the Japanese-only G1 TF's which I had never realized were also seriously nice (and buying them whenever I had the chance and available resources). Since 2007, I've also finally gotten around to the fiction (cartoons and comics), which has really enriched my understanding of both characters and toys, and made me appreciate the whole Cybertronian aspect of TF's.
Alldarker's Star Saber
Q - You've amassed quite the large Transformers collection. Out of all the figures you own, which one is your favorite, and why?
A large collection... Well, when I look at other people's collections, some of which run into thousands, the size of my collection seems pretty average. I use Shmax.com to catalogue my collection, and it says I have about 350 figures: 300 of which are G1.
My favorite figure is one of the first ones I ever bought online: G1 Scorponok
. He's got everything that makes any toy look good: he's big, he's got the Headmaster gimmick, he's got a 'secret' compartment, he's a base, he's a triplechanger. I'm sure I would have loved having this toy when I was a kid, but even as an adult I can marvel at his qualities. Funnily enough, it was only after I had received Scorponok that I even found out about the moving scorpion legs feature it has. And due to getting into the fiction at a relatively late stage, I only really found out about his important role in the G1 comics after I had gotten him. That knowledge added to his coolness: Scorponok is not only a great figure, but he's also a very interesting character, a Decepticon leader who redeems himself and is not just purely evil.
Scorponok was also the figure which made me appreciate the blockier 1987 Transformers a lot more: in fact the Headmasters (both big and small) have become my favorite subgroup. Ironic perhaps, considering it was those blocky, unrealistic, primary colored Transformers which turned me off Transformers back in 1987!
Q - I guess it is safe to ask, have you ordered Encore 23 Fortress Maximus? How much does it mean to you, for you to finally own this plastic beast? And despite how big Fort Max is, is there a holy grail of Transformers figures out there for you?
When word got out that an actual reissue of Fortress Maximus would be happening, like many others I was ecstatic. I'd never expected to ever own him; I'd never even tried to find one because the vintage ones available were always either too expensive, incomplete, broken or yellowed (and often all four of those at the same time). I'll be honest, I do actually already own the Maximus mold in the form of Brave Maximus, which made an aching desire for Fortress Maximus a bit less painful. Although Fortress Maximus has the extra accessories, Brave Max definitely wins out on the color scheme. However, I'm also slightly ashamed to say that my Brave Max is still tied up on the cardboard and factory fresh in my storage unit. That fate would definitely not happen to Encore Fortress Max, though...
So yeah, once pre-orders for Encore Fortress Maximus went up, I ordered him on day one of availability, back in October of last year. After those 5 months of waiting, I finally received him two weeks ago, and I'll tell you, I was looking forward to Fortress Maximus's arrival day like I used to look forward to my birthday when I was a kid!!! Finally being able to take him out of the box, seeing that beast up close, holding him and almost literally wrestling with him to transform him was just such a pleasure. I even enjoyed stickering him up: I find it makes you really get to know a Transformer and its details. And there's quite a lot to admire on a Transformer as big as he is! So Fortress Maximus is the first real hands on experience for me with his form. And he is just glorious.
Alldarker's Fortress Maximus!
Fortress Maximus was never really a 'holy grail of Transformers' though. I never expected to own him, but like I said, I also never really had the ambition to own him either, until he became readily available as a reissue. However, there are still a couple of Transformers which I'd really, REALLY love to own one day. They are actually all Japanese Transformers, which makes just finding them available in a good condition difficult, let alone for a price I'd be willing to pay. First of these is Dinoking
. While I realize that even the sum of his parts still makes a puny combined Transformer, considering the money he goes for, I just love the dino-shells and the color schemes. Luckily, I do have Monstructor which is all sorts of fun in his own way (except that darn GPS), but having Dinoking alongside him... Oh yes, one day, I hope. And secondly, I'd love to acquire his boss, Deszaras (Deathsaurus)
. All that chrome, the Breastmasters... When I was young I would have found him completely ridiculous, but nowadays he's definitely a Transformer I'd be willing to lay down some cold hard cash for. Of course, if Takara would also consider reissuing those two... They'd certainly get my fond blessing and my money!
Q- You have quite the passion for Generation One toys, a passion that many fans here on this site can relate to. Most fans of the G1 series have translated their passion by making their collections more focused on the Classics figures. What made you stick with the G1 toyline? What role does the Classics/Universe/Generations and Masterpiece toylines play in your collection?
Yeah, Generation One has become my main collecting focus, but I do still very much appreciate the Classics/Universe/Generations/Henkei/United (and I hope I can be forgiven for using CHUG from here on!) toys that have been heavily inspired by G1, and also the Masterpieces.
When the CHUG toys first came out they just looked amazing. Finally Hasbro and Takara were giving a real tribute to the Generation One toys, and acknowledging both children AND the generations that had grown up in the '80's and '90's as customers.
I personally was especially interested in the Classic Seekers, which in my eyes were just a huge improvement on the Generation One jets (molds which to this day I just do not really enjoy). I managed to get Starscream, Ramjet and the Skywarp/Ultra Magnus set, before the whole Botcon Games of Deception fiasco disillusioned me into ever getting a complete set of Classics Seekers. So I sold them all off (including the Skywarp / UM set!) and invested in the six Henkei Seekers. Even so, I never really became a completionist with the Classics line, so I only ever picked out the molds that really caught my eye or looked like strong improvements on their vintage counterparts, like Tracks, Jazz, Blurr and Kup. But, to be honest there were many 'CHUG's I never bothered to find, often because I was happy enough with the G1 version. Actually, this is where I have to again complain about Hasbro's total and utter lack of decent distribution in the Netherlands and Europe. I know in the US Hasbro distribution is also pretty poor, but here in the Netherlands, we only ever saw some distribution of the first Classics and Universe waves. It meant that I needed to import stuff at double the cost one would pay in the US, and that sort of forces you to be pretty picky in the molds you want. On the other hand, importing the Takara versions from Japan usually wasn't that much more expensive than importing from the US, while (especially in the first years) the Takara versions often looked better (even with the chrome overdoses!).
I only got into the Masterpieces pretty late in the game. For a long time, the only Masterpiece I owned was the original Takara MP-07 Thundercracker, an incredible grown-up version of my own very first G1 Transformer. However, I never really fell for the first MP Optimus Prime or for Megatron, and in hindsight, I guess I made a wise choice in not getting them. I also never got any version of Grimlock; in fact the first time I was tempted by another Masterpiece was when the pre-orders for Rodimus Prime went up. I had a pre-order in, but cancelled it even before the first reports came out of its poor quality and fragile nature. Once again I felt I made the right choice in not investing in the MP line. Then, when first MP-10 was shown, and relatively soon afterwards MP-11 to MP-16, I was just amazed. They all looked like they'd just stepped out of their G1 box-art. And I just knew I needed them!
To be fair, I can actually totally understand the people who feel that CHUG and even more so Masterpieces have over-classed their vintage ancestors. Many G1 toys were bricks... But I guess they look better to me through the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia. Without it, I'm sure I too would not find G1 Transformers very interesting any more. I guess I could compare it to the way I feel about Masters of the Universe. Some people grew up with them and still love Masters of the Universe toys. However, I never had any MotU toys as a kid, I never really enjoyed the cartoons and so personally, I just do not see the attraction.
But even though I had only a few Transformers when I was a kid, I do remember peering at the booklets showing all the toys, imagining how they'd al transform, how they'd look together, how they'd feel... And that still makes me love the original vintage Generation One toys to this day, as flawed as some most certainly are! I guess that's also the real attraction of the Masterpieces for me: they are like 3D images of the original box-art. They are the way the G1 'bricks' could only ever look in your wildest imagination. I guess Masterpieces are just a tribute to the man-child in each of us: with technology compensating the loss of our childish imagination that used to be able to make those G1 'bricks' come alive. The same goes for the Classics/Universe/Generations/Henkei/United/etc. toys: I like them because they are such creative re-imaginations of their G1 counterparts.
Q - Great insight! Lets say there is a fan in the Netherlands, who got into Transformers in the 80's and 90's, but never really had interest in collecting toys until now. As a savvy collecting veteran, what would you suggest to them to help start them off?
Generally speaking, collecting Transformers in the Netherlands is always going to be a pricy hobby, due to having to import a lot of stuff, especially newer Transformers. Although we used to have brick and mortar Toys 'R' Us stores here, they have all gone, so there's not even access to the TRU exclusives, including the Masterpieces, which do incidentally shown up in the UK. In other toy stores, you'd be lucky to find one or two TFPrime Transformers, some Activators and Bot Shots... It's pathetic.
However, although Hasbro has very little presence in the shops here, there are still good opportunities for new Dutch collectors. On our Dutch version of Craigslists (Marktplaats.nl) people do often offer interesting stuff from all era's of Transformers, sometimes for exorbitant prices, but sometime for very reasonable prices as well. Furthermore, twice yearly there are huge collectors fairs in Utrecht, which always include a whole hall dedicated to professional sellers of all sorts of good quality toys from past and present. Furthermore, the Dutch collectors community isn't huge and there are frequent get-togethers (like the B.O.T.S. Convention
on June 9th in Aalsmeer), which also offer excellent opportunities for getting to know other fans and buying stuff. And of course there's eBay, which offers everything, although at a price. In the past, Dutch people have always been hesitant to get credit cards: even many shops and supermarkets do not accept credit cards here, but as far as I'm concerned, having a CC makes it a lot easier to acquire Transformers by way of the internet. And one more tip: despite some wonderful US-based internet retailers with access to almost every new Transformer that gets released from both the US and Japan, for us Europeans it's always going to be cheaper to import Japanese Transformers directly from Japan and Hong Kong, and US Transformers from the US!
Q- There are two figures that are showing up worldwide this month, and they are representations of characters that many fans have clamored for ever since the beginning of Classics in 2006. They are Blitzwing and Springer; what do you think of the two? Will you end up obtaining them?
That's an interesting question, to which I haven't got a definite answer. A couple of years ago would definitely have said yes. But nowadays, I am not so sure.
Firstly, G1 Blitzwing
has always been a favorite toy of mine: he's probably the best G1 Triplechanger from that era, with both alt modes being recognizable real-life vehicles. However, I'm just not too keen on how the new version of Blitzwing looks. With what the Masterpieces have already shown us, I would have been hoping for some better defined alt modes, each one hiding away more of the other modes than what we have now. I've also read his reviews quite keenly, and it seems that Generations Blitzwing's quality control is a bit off. I guess that I might get him if he made to a brick & mortar store, but I'd don't think I'd take the trouble to import him through the internet.
The new Generations Springer definitely looks excellent from what I've seen, with both alt modes and the robot mode all very convincing. He really IS Springer, and I guess more so than FP Defender, which I did buy, and who looks good enough, but which does have some weird design issues. Again, the choice is influenced by how easy it will be to find him: I'd rather not pay over double US retail to get him to the Netherlands! But he's definitely tempting me the most out of these two.
I guess this question ties in with myself becoming less influenced by hypes that will take over in Transformers fandom. I've fallen victim to Transformers-hypes in the past, including buying early samples of the TFTM toys and several third party Transformers, just to be able to see what people were raving about. And as always, some hypes are justified, while some really just aren't.
I've found I've become a happier collector in relying more on my personal preferences and choices of molds to get, instead of depending on the hype of the month: I check out more reviews and judge new Transformers based on personal preferences, and based on that I decide which Transformers really appeal to me. I'm especially glad that I'm no longer a completionist when it comes to lines or series: not for G1, not for Masterpieces and not for Classics. It definitely makes collecting less stressful!
Q- That's certainly a hardy collecting mentality! One last set of toy related questions before we move on to other aspects of the fandom. There has been a craze going on recently, and I suppose it all started with the BotCon '11 set - that being G2 inspired repaints. Do you enjoy the effort put in from Hasbro and Takara, or are these just 'easy' repaints? Does G2 deserve the spotlight or is it better left in the dark?
Although I really couldn't appreciate the colorschemes back when it 'happened', G2 did have quite a strong presence in Europe. Even now, original G2 toys are easy to and cheap to find. As time went by, I've learned to like the gaudy colors: and despite the colors, some very fun toys were introduced back in those days.
So I have to admit I do actually really enjoy the new G2 repaints. And although I've never been to Botcon (but would certainly like to someday), I did get that 2011 Botcon set through eBay, and I feel it is actually a pretty good set (although many of the repaints aren't technically G2). I even picked up the Botcon Rapido/Cindersaur set due to liking both the original Rapido toy and the way they repainted the Universe Bluestreak mold into Timelines Rapido.
So yeah, in an age where repaints are pretty essential for making Takara and Hasbro's new molds economically viable, I certainly do approve of G2.
Alldarker's G2 Clench
Q - Do you have a favorite Transformers cartoon series? Specifically a favorite episode?
I'm ashamed to admit I've yet to watch either Animated or TFPrime, let alone the Armada, Energon and Cybertron cartoons (although I've understood they're best left unseen)
, so there's still some catching up to do. I've actually only ever watched the G1 cartoons and the Beast Wars cartoons in full, and I'm still working through Headmasters, so my answer to this question is based on a relatively limited back catalog.
The G1 cartoon holds a special place even despite all its flaws. Contrary to some, I always enjoyed the 'toy of the week' episodes, especially in season 2, which feature some of my favorite toys and characters. However, I recently started re-watching The Transformers, and I have to admit they are pretty exhausting to watch.
I guess the choice for favorite cartoon is still pretty easy though: Beast Wars is my absolute favorite Transformers series, and is still very easy to watch as an adult, with an excellent start in the first season, building up to a couple of very intense story arcs and featuring humor, excitement, tragedy, redemption and even romance. I guess my favorite episode is, perhaps slightly cliche'd: 'Code of Hero
'. A painful but touching episode, especially for what is originally a children's cartoon.
Q - IDW has unleashed two highly acclaimed ongoing Transformers series, The Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye and The Transformers: Robots In Disguise. Which series do you prefer, and do you have a favorite issue so far?
I've been reading practically all the IDW releases since they started with 'Infiltration', and I'm keeping up by faithfully buying up the TPS as they are released. Last week I received volume three for both MTMTE and RID, so while I'm not exactly up to date, I'm never that far behind on what's happening (and I have to admit I do read spoilers on the various sites that review the comics month by month)
. However, reading the TPS makes it hard for me to point out a favorite issue: sometimes I'm just so engrossed in the story that I don't notice the issue change!
Now, I think most people will agree that not all of the IDW titles have been of the same constant quality. Quite a few titles have starting out strong, only to fizzle out in relatively lacklustre conclusions. However, as far as I'm concerned both MTMTE and RID have been on surprisingly long good streaks. When they first came forth from 'Ongoing' I was especially pleased with MTMTE. Right from the start this looked like a series that was really going somewhere, with a format that lends itself well to telling both short one-off stories and longer arcs, which to me seems beneficial to it longevity. Furthermore, it is using several characters that traditionally never got much attention before. I actually feel quite strongly about the relationship between toys and characters: strangely enough it can help me appreciate a toy even better if I get a feeling for the character it is portraying. I've also always found it interesting to see the way toys were formed into characters, and characters into toys, each influencing the other. So seeing quite a few underused Transformers get some 'prime' time (pun intended)
is one of the things that keeps me very much invested in MTMTE. Apart from that, the way it is written is extremely entertaining: it is exciting, funny, cruel, gut-wrenching and at times it provides some good back story.
The Transformers: Robots In Disguise started off a bit more messy, I thought. It used characters that have always been more prominent in Transformers fiction, but especially in the first few issues it seemed that characters were behaving out of character. All in all, it took a bit more getting used to the story that was being told. However, Robots In Disguise definitely revealed a bigger, more intricate and exciting story as it went onward, and I'm actually pretty interested in how things will move on. Perhaps it's not the fastest moving story, but compared to how quickly and unconvincingly some earlier IDW titles wrapped up, this title is able to hold my attention.
Of the two, I guess MTMTE does have my preference, although I'm hoping both keep going strong and both are already riding high in my personal list of top IDW titles!
Q - Heavy Metal War. It is Seibertron.com's browser game and you are one of the top players. Tell us how awesome it is to have the top character, and how fulfilling it is to among many other things, to be able to kick Burn's butt
Ah yes, I'd definitely hoped this question was coming! HMW: my greatest glory! February 11th 2006 was the fateful day I actually signed up with Seibertron.com... And it was primarily to give Heavy Metal Wars a shot!
I've played ever since that day, even after the giant server crash which deleted all progress, which reset everyone's scores and which ended the HMW careers of many old timers with maxed out scores. It was the reset that gave one of the biggest boost to my current position in the game. It reset the tables, allowing a fresh start for everyone. Then, in about 2010, I got an iPhone, which made regular deployments a whole lot easier. And in the last two years, even more regular players than myself have unfortunately dropped out of the game, real life catching up on them, but effectively removing a lot of top competition from the game. Becoming the numrber one player was for a very long time a seemingly unreachable goal, so it was incredibly fulfilling to finally make it after 7 years.
I'll be honest, HMW is not the most exciting game around, but at least it's cheaper than Farmville, and unfortunately at least as addictive. There was a time when you could say: well, the game itself pretty much sucks, but the fun half of the game is in slagging off other competitors on the HMW forum. Nowadays, again unfortunately, the HMW forums have become a lot less active, which really is a shame, because topics could get pretty heated. Due to its rather addictive nature, HMW players are still relatively active, but I think many would LOVE an upgrade of the game. There have of course been several ill-fated attempts at creating the legendary, multi-feature 'HMW version 2.0', but the instigators have usually ended up like Spinal Tap drummers: MIA. A real upgrade would however have benefits all around: the game would become more exciting, hopefully also for less OCD players than I've always been, it would be a unique selling point for Seibertron.com and the HMW forums would liven up again. Right now, coming into the game is hardly worth it for competitive newcomers: catching up to the highest levels is practically impossible.
For me, the greatest joy in the game is currently most absolutely kicking Burn's ass around the room. It's not often you can have such fulfilling virtual interaction with a mod. In all honesty, Burn is enormously active in the HMW, both as a player and as a mod, and he is currently my biggest competitor, so it's no surprise he and I keep running into each others bots. I haven't kept score, but I'm guessing that we're probably each getting 50% of the wins in our matches... I'm also very glad he's doing a great (and probably thankless)
job in doing what he can to keep the HMW alive, both the game and the HMW forum. But yeah... HMW 2.0 would be real nice!
Alldarker's Brave Maximus!
Q - Sadly our time has come to an end. I would like to say that this was certainly a very enjoyable interview! Any parting shots?
Thanks for having me! Nah, no parting shots, I think my answers are already tl;dr!!!
Previous Interviews - Counterpunch / El Duque / Razorclaw0000 / Va'al
Check out alldarker's flickr!
Sunday, March 31st 2013 5:59pm CDT
Categories: Site Articles
Posted by: Blurrz
Discuss This Topic · Permanent Link
Hi Seibertronians! I think that once a month is an opportune interval to take a break from the flurry of Transformers news and shine more light on the awesome members of our community. When I initially planned to interview this Autobot, he was only a normal, hard-working maintenance 'bot. However our reigning Magnus has promoted this 'bot to the rank of Prime, so please give a warm welcome to my newest interview experiment
subject and coincidentally, newest staff member, Va'al
Blurrz: HiVa'al! Iwilltrytoslowdownmyspeechsoyoucancomprehendme. Before we dive into deep and thought provoking Transformers talk, let us give our fellow Transformers fans a little information on Spotlight: Va'al. Where are you from? Who is your favorite Transformers character? And lastly, why 'Va'al'?
Va'al: Hi! Well, this is nice. I've never really been interviewed before -- is this going to be my 15 minutes of fame, and then back to obscurity? You know, fame over, finished. Where I'm from is an easy question, it's the answer that's a bit trickier: I'm half-Tuscan, on my dad's side, half-Yorkshire, on my mum's - that's half-Italian half-English, for non-Europeans! But there's Turkish, French, Dutch and Irish blood in me. Grew up in Italy, and moved to the UK in 2008. My screen name is actually a blend of my second name and my first (Alex), and I'm quite proud of it. It gets annoying when websites don't allow apostrophes though. I have to stick an 'h' in there instead. As for my favourite Transformers character... this one's a pickle, I've been trying to figure it out. I always thought it'd be Soundwave, and my collection seems to prove that. But reading the recent More Than Meets the Eye comics series, I discovered Vos. A linguist, a sadist, a Decepticon. After my own spark. Literally. As an afterthought, though, I think The Fallen, deserves an honourable mention. He's a part of the background mythology of the other characters, and he's modelled on various mythemes from different cultures, something I'm particularly interested in. Plus, he's on fire, baby.
What got you into Transformers? Do you remember your first toy?
I wrote about this in my collection thread, but I'm still trying to locate things in time really. As I was born in 1989, in Italy, I didn't catch a lot of original stuff. First series I remember watching, and following, was Beast Wars; it stopped airing after the last episode of season 1. I was extremely disappointed. I'm sure it was on TV after that, but I never found it again (I finally caught up three years ago).
The thing that really got me back into the toys (I had a few as a kid, especially Beast Wars, though, were the three recent Michael Bay films. When the Revenge of the Fallen toyline came out in the UK, I fell in love with Sideways and Sideswipe, and it just kept going from there.
My first toy, on the other hand, was a present my dad got me during one of his business trips: G2 Sideswipe, known to me as 'Freccia' ('Arrow'). I loved it, but have no idea where it went. I think my fondest memory of a Transformer toy was Beast Wars Optimus Primal, which my mum bought me on a surprise trip to the toy shop for one of my birthdays. He's still alive and kicking, although missing all his missiles bar one, and only has half a sword left.
That's an interesting point you bring up, as I believe a fair number of us Transformers fans were brought back into the hobby from the Transformers Movies! For those who have yet to dive into your collection thread, what is your favorite Transformers line that you have collected? And why so?
For a while, the only line I was collecting were the movie-related ones: Revenge of the Fallen, Hunt for the Decepticons, Reveal the Shield, Dark of the Moon. Then some Generation started appearing across the UK. I can't remember which one I picked up first, but some of them were absolutely stunning! So different from the movie lines!
Then Power Core Combiners showed up. That was a troubled relationship, to say the least. I bought the Crankcase and Destrons 5-pack on a whim. Played around with him, then decided to give him to my brother for Christmas. As I was wrapping the figures, I had a strange feeling of regret. I put them to one side, and got him something else. The following day I found Bombshock and the Combaticons on sale. I bought a couple more after that, didn't like them that much, sold them again. Then missed them, horribly, a couple of months later. You know where this is going...
I've said this before, PCCs are not only desirable, they are adorable.
Well, as long as you have your kidneys! It is interesting to get the perspective of fans who aren't exactly in the heartland of the Transformers fandom. Do you feel like the Hasbros in Europe are providing enough content for the fans who want to keep up with their fellow fans in North America or Asia? If there is one thing you could change about the way the company works in Europe, whether that be distribution, toy content or something else, what would that be?
I've spoken to several other European fans, from Italy, Germany, France, the Netherlands and, of course, the UK. And no, I don't think there is a particularly good service. Entire waves not arriving, surplus of earlier waves at the cost of later ones, store exclusives, even distribution within the same country! And the prices are pretty ridiculous too.
If I were to change something, just magically change it, I'm not considering any real-life application here, it would probably be distribution. I'd like to ensure that the different branches across Europe have similar stock at similar times, rather than the current situation: if I go visit my girlfriend in Manchester (north of England), I will find a lot more selection than here in Norwich (south-east). As soon as I go back to Italy to visit family, they're still a series or two behind, even.
However, I only realised all of this once I joined Seibertron.com. Had I not been wanting to keep up to date with the franchise, I never would have known, and possibly never cared, either.
I'll have a go at what you said though: do you really think that the "core" of the fandom is in the US or Asia? For the toys, maybe, but in terms of comics... Simon Furman, Andrew Wildman, John-Paul Bove, Nick Roche, Livio Ramondelli (although he now lives in L.A.), Guido Guidi, James Roberts. All from Europe, and at the core of the current, and in my opinion, extremely successful, three series!
Good insight! I think it would be incorrect for fans in general to underestimate the European contributions to the Transformers brand! Let us get one more toy-related question in before we head into more comic-heavy discussion. What is your Transformers toy holy grail?
Ah. Er... Hm. I'm not actually sure I have one, as of now. I'm getting to a point where I feel like quitting collecting the toys for a bit, to save some extra money while I'm still getting some for my studies. And that thought tends to push out most of the others!
I really like the mythology currently being explored by both the animated series Transformers: Prime and the comics series, and the focus on the different origin stories of Cybertron and its inahbitants. It's not really a grail, more of a "I'd like to see a figure of...": Nova Prime and The Fallen, and possibly the Decepticon Justice Division.
(Although I am patiently waiting for Maketoys to deliver their stand-in for The Fallen... and it's PCC compatible! Double win!)
There's a Transformers fan who has yet to read IDW Transformers comics. What issue or series do you hook them with, and why?
How did you guess I'm into the comics? The easy thing would be to start with the "official" jumping-on point of the two most recent series, Robots in Disguise and More Than Meets the Eye. Maybe even The Death of Optimus Prime, to get some pointers about how previous stuff ended and the series begin. And a lot of fans seem to prefer either one or the other, whilst still reading both (and they do call to each other, every now and then). The problem with recent IDW stuff? It's all connected. The writers are quite explicitly trying to patch up some continuity troubles from the previous series, and most of the Spotlight comics are set back then too. So if you haven't read any of the IDW stuff, I'd cheat, and suggest the IDW Omnibus reprint of Dreamwave's The War Within, published as Transformers: War Within. Simon Furman, Don Figueroa and Andrew Wildman shaped a really good prequel to pretty much the whole story we all know. Shame it was never finished (although I do have the first three issues of the third part of the story, plus the scripts and summary of the ending). It does introduce The Fallen, though.
Good ole' Dreamwave! So lets move along to the current side of Transformers comics, mostly looking at Robots In Disguise and More Than Meets The Eye. I'm rather sure if we started discussion on the series itself we'd end up writing a novel, so sadly I guess instead off looking at each series at a whole, I guess I'll just rephrase this question, first focusing on RID, what was your favorite issue in RID so far, and why?
These may contain spoilers, if reader's haven't caught up with the series yet!
As much as issue 14 contains a gigantic turn of events, I still think that issues 12 and 13 work, on a different level. The build-up is insane: Prowl is recovering from being blown up, disappears and reappears beefed up; Wheeljack is trying to keep everything under control, unsuccessfully (and he quotes Ghostbusters); Megatron returns, gets almost blown to pieces by the Autobots, then is taken in for recovery by Wheeljack and Jetfire; Starscream gives a heck of a speech, only to find out that no one cares, especially not the Decepticons; Arcee reveals herself to Blurr and his bar clientele (including a Sky-Bite/Jazz spoken word-music double act). And that's just issue 12!
Special mention goes to the Annual, especially for the flashback sequences drawn and coloured by Guidi. Wow.
(As an aside, and I know not everyone will agree, but I really enjoy how Griffith is trying to give characters their toy counterpart look, where possible.)
RID's sister comic, More Than Meets The Eye. Favorite issue so far, and why?
For this one, there are three big contenders: issue 6, with the introduction of the Decepticon Justice Division; issue 12, exploring the various relationships between the characters on the Lost Light; issue 13, because it's stupidly fun. Oh wait, 7, too. But Shadowplay is amazing as well. Blast.
Ok, focusing on just one issue. I'd say 12. It expands on Tailgate, Cyclonus, Whirl, and especially Chromedome and Rewind. It was really moving, and I'm not embarassed to say it, the way in which Chromedome talks about Rewind's past and how he found him. Really good character development. And useful to the plot, in the light of issue 14, which I've only just read.
But Shadowplay - That's a story by itself. That is something that needs reading. Takes up from where Chaos Theory left, and wow, does it have a kick and a half.
(Again, special mention to the Annual, for its further look at the mythology behind Cybertronian culture.)
They are certainly a series that fans can get into! This is probably not talked about much, despite him being such a dynamic character - with Megatron's resurrection/reappearance in our two Ongoings, what role do you see Orion Pax/Optimus Prime playing in the near future? Is he a character that belongs back with the rest of the cast, or should he remain an outcast? In a related note, any comments on the art of Ramondelli?
Ah, yes. I was initially disappointed with his return so early in the series, but I do like that he's doing his own thing at the moment! He's chasing Jhiaxus and Bludgeon, dangerous characters, who are chasing Shockwave's plans. That's three of the sharpest, most dangerous Decepticon minds he's after. I think he has his hands full as it is, to be honest. Having said that, his stories do appear in the same series as Megatron, but with Overlord back again in MTMTE, the Decepticon leader also might have his hands full.
Ramondelli's work is something very different from the rest of the artistic cast. His cover art is superb, Autocracy was executed brilliantly, and I enjoyed every moment of it, and I'm really looking forward to the Monstrosity TPB. Chaos, on the other hand, was a bit confusing at times. He does shine on spreads and splash pages though, and he's excellent at talking with fans. And he does all his work on paper (then scans it and colours it)!
We touched on this prior, so let us say you get a cushy job at Hasbro R&D, you are assigned character selection for 2014 Generations Waves 3 and 4. We already know you love the DJD, so they're Wave 3. Who is in Wave 4?
So we have Tarn, Vos, Helex, Tesarus and Kaon (with The Pet!) as wave 3, with Vos and Kaon as Deluxe, and the other three as Voyagers. I think we need some love for Rung, Swerve, Tailgate and Rewind. But throw in Metalhawk and Jhiaxus, too, from Robots in Disguise. And I suppose Prowl, at this point, is a must.
But for some real fanservice, you want Overlord. Deluxe size tank, Deluxe size jet, Voyager(ish, probably a little bigger) robot mode.
Do it Hasbro!
Time for word association, I give you a phrase, name or a word and you respond with one word of your choice!
-2009-2011 Ongoing Series
-Power Core Combiners
-Hasbro Masterpiece Soundwave w/ 5 Cassettes
Looks like this wraps things up. Thanks for sitting in on this one Va'al. Any last words for the community?
It was fun! Thanks for the opportunity.
Last words: Read the comics - love Power Core Combiners.
Previous Interviews - Counterpunch / El Duque / Razorclaw0000