Interview with John Barber and Kei Zama on IDW Optimus Prime Series

Interview with John Barber and Kei Zama on IDW Optimus Prime Series

Tuesday, December 13th, 2016 1:53pm CST

Categories: Comic Book News, Interviews
Posted by: Va'al   Views: 31,742

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From comics and entertainment site Comicosity, we have another interview with creators John Barber and Kei Zama about their upcoming (i.e. tomorrow) first book together: Optimus Prime #1! Part of the post-Revolution phase in the IDWverse, Reconstruction, you can find out more about the book below and here, check out the full preview here, and read our review once the book is released.

AL: Based on the cover I can assume Optimus won’t be alone in this series. Can you discuss who will be working with and/or against him in the series?

JB: There’s a big supporting cast. He’s still got a team on Earth—Soundwave is at his side, and we really see what’s going on psychologically betweem them in issue 3. Optimus blackmailed Soundwave to join him back before Revolution, but Soundwave has essentially come over to Optimus’ side pretty completely. How strong the bond is, how deep the trust between Autobot and Decepticon can be, is a big question. There’s a flashback story going on through the first six issues that goes back to Pre-War Cybertron, and we see how Soundwave and Optimus (then called Orion Pax) first met… and how deep the trust and mistrust goes.

Arcee is on Optimus’ side, but she’s a little wary of what he’s doing. She’s been around a long time, and she’s seen a lot of stuff happen, and is worried about Optimus overstepping the boundaries of right and wrong; but she’s really struggling to see if there is a real boundary between those things.

Pyra Magna, who leads the team that combines into Victorion, is becoming more hostile toward Optimus—and really, with good reason. She’s a strong believer in the Primes, and in the meaning of the Matrix of Leadership, which Optimus holds but doesn’t believe is a holy object. Pyra thinks she should have the Matrix, and is disturbed by Optimus’ attitude toward it.

Plus we’ve got some other favorites, Aileron (who’s a new character we introduced in the Transformers series and who had a key role in Revolution), Jetfire, Sky Lynx, Jazz. And a new G.I. Joe team featuring some surprising characters will be on-scene in the first story. Plus, Thundercracker and his dog Buster are still out there somewhere.

One of the big new additions, though, are the Colonist Soldiers—these are Transformers from Cybertron’s colony worlds who are fiercely loyal to Optimus Prime, who see him as a True Prime, a sort of space messiah figure. They’ll follow him anywhere… and Pyra Magna, in particular, is disturbed by that.

[..]

AL: Kei, you’re working with one of the most recognizable characters in pop culture with Optimus Prime. From a design perspective, can you discuss what elements of Prime’s look you are tweaking to make the design your own?

Kei Zama: I’m so honored to be able to draw him. At the same time, I’m feeling pressure to draw a character that’s everyone’s hero.

I’m always trying to draw him to look “heavy.”

In actuality he has big heavy metal body but on top of that he has struggled from pre-war to the current era and is now carrying the future of the Earth and universe—I don’t express him emotionally so much, but try to give just a glimpse of his hidden emotions and aggression.

And I try to draw him as a warrior. Not just with Optimus Prime, though—I usually add many scratches, bullet wounds, and rust on everyone’s body.

AL: Can you discuss the process of giving each Transformer a visual personality? Is it a challenge at times to infuse them with emotion considering facial limitations or vehicle modes, etc.?

KZ: I always think it’s difficult to express their emotions on their face, because head-parts or helmets often cover their features. Then I’m trying to express by gesture and lights/shadows/shadings, not only facial expressions.

I don’t think about alt-modes deeply. Instead of alt-mode, I try to add various personality on the robot mode. In Japan, a lot of robot characters are often drawn handsome or cool. I feel that’s boring, so I try to draw their appearance in various ways. For example, the colonists that entered in Optimus Prime #1 each have an individualistic design. There’s a cute boy, bad looking guy, tough girl, etc. Especially Gimlet, who’s my favorite!

Credit(s): Comicosity


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Re: Interview with John Barber and Kei Zama on IDW Optimus Prime Series (1847123)
Posted by steve2275 on December 14th, 2016 @ 1:26am CST
sounds like a good series
Re: Interview with John Barber and Kei Zama on IDW Optimus Prime Series (1847134)
Posted by Va'al on December 14th, 2016 @ 3:59am CST
Citizen Prime
(Spoiler free-ish)



Synopsis
REVOLUTION is over—but the danger to Earth is just beginning. As OPTIMUS PRIME pulls Earth into the larger universe, he’s painted a target on Earth… and a new alien incursion begins when a corkscrew shaped craft drills into our world!

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Here we go again


Story

What do we have here? A new title from John 'Continuity' Barber? Look at it this way: Revolution is over, Reconstruction is starting, corporate is backing out slightly just for a little bit, and it's time to patch up what's left of crossover events. Enter the same cast, a different title, and a lot of clashing personalities. Welcome back to Earth.

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The Status Quo


Barber has a penchant, has always had it, to play with story from an entry point. This series is probably the most promisingly enabling of that, with Optimus Prime being narrator and thread, as his personal story bleeds into his formation and current situation, shaping and being shaped by the context and the players around him.

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Flashbaaaaaacks


This is true for the flashbacks, in which we see his young idealist law-enforcer self. This is true for when we switch back to the current events, where those ideals are a little shakier, and other people are more likely to call him out on things, from Pyra Magna (more of her please), to Soundwave, and even to his older allies.

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Enemies, too


For a reader who's followed RID, Transformers, all the crossovers and events, and even before all that, back to earlier stories with red-blue-bot, some of this may feel familiar, sure. But it's an excellent first issue that doesn't compromise its jumping on point in any way. It has enough new stuff to keep regulars in, and enough grounding to bring new audiences along too. That's a win-win for me.

Art

Kei Zama's work on the pages is something to behold. It's not often that an excellent cover artist is also a truly great interior artist, and when it happens, they deserve all the praise they can get. One of the interviews about her cited a number of heavy influences, from Marvel G2 to 2000AD, but I also see some James Raiz in more TF-friendly terms, and it's definitely her own take on sequential narrative, with bold inks and shading to boot.

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LOUD DYNAMIC LINES


And if the lines are gritty, and bold, and heavy without crushing the page, Josh Burcham crushes the work with some of the best colours he's produced in his career. If you thought Sins of the Wreckers was good, this goes in a different, even better direction altogether, and the two styles work oh so very well.

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By contrast, simple and effective


With the old style coming back, and a lot of new faces, Tom B. Long has a lot on his lettering plate, but do we really have any doubts that he can make it work, even with new art and busy panels? Not at all. The flow is great, the captions fit, and nothing is sacrificed. Plus, IDW got Paul Pope (with Lovern Kindzierski) to do a variant cover. Sara Pitre Durocher tags the shiz out of graffiti art, regulars Casey Coller, Joana Lafuente, Andrew Griffith are still magnificent, and the Sonny Liew and Tim King are great additions/banes to completists. Nice touch on the UK-variant Zama cover too, with David Garcia Cruz on colours.

Thoughts
Spoilerish ahead

We know this by now: Roberts and the MTMTE Lost Light team work best with the fandom they created, Barber and his rotating titles and teams are in charge of the core mythology, lore, and backbone storylines for the IDW verse. Optimus Prime, in this first issue is very similar to the early RID books I loved so much - internal narration devices included - and yes, while full of stuff, leads directly from the general reader that bought Revolution.

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..but what about the fun, then?


If this is what Reconstruction is going to bring, I'm quite happy to cautiously join in for the ride, and for one, accept our benevolent diplomatic if ego-inflated robotic overlords. And if they look this good doing it, thanks to Zama and Burcham, it's definitely going to be a swish ride for a little while at least, despite the criss-crossing plotlines that the editorial team will have to keep track of (thanks, synergy - we will achieve Total Brand Awareness).

. :BOT: :BOT: :BOT: :BOT: ½ out of :BOT: :BOT: :BOT: :BOT: :BOT:
Re: Interview with John Barber and Kei Zama on IDW Optimus Prime Series (1847135)
Posted by Kurona on December 14th, 2016 @ 4:09am CST
One little detail I enjoyed about the issue is Jetfire being a Decepticon pre-war. You never really saw that whole part of his character after 1985 and... it actually fits in here. His whole deal of being a scientist yet being a big bulky jet built for combat jibes PERFECTLY with what's been built up about the Functionists and the pre-war Decepticon cause in IDW as of late. It's kind of one of those things that should have been obvious to you, but it wasn't and you're glad you got it.
Re: Interview with John Barber and Kei Zama on IDW Optimus Prime Series (1847170)
Posted by Va'al on December 14th, 2016 @ 10:16am CST
I also really like that they're exploring Earth outside of the usual territories, with Mexico and the Alps showing up in this issue. Let's hear it for global crises not meaning US-based!
Re: Interview with John Barber and Kei Zama on IDW Optimus Prime Series (1847223)
Posted by ScottyP on December 14th, 2016 @ 6:58pm CST
I absolutely just adore this issue. More superlatives later as it's almost dinner time.

That said, anyone else catch a slight nod to TF UK #99-100 with the Prime and Outback stuff, only with some fun contrast in their relationship? Of course, maybe this is nothing at all and just happenstance, but it made me chuckle regardless.
Re: Interview with John Barber and Kei Zama on IDW Optimus Prime Series (1847537)
Posted by D-Maximal_Primal on December 16th, 2016 @ 3:20pm CST
The interviews keep on rolling in for John Barber and the whole of IDW's Optimus Prime ongoing. Comic Book Resources were able to snag an interview with Mr. Continuity himself and ask him even more questions about the new ongoing and where it will be headed. You can check out the full interview HERE and catch a sneak peak below. Let us know what you think of this latest interview in the comments section below!

In Prime, you have this unique lead with literally millions of years of history. Will you be digging into that?

We’ll definitely be digging into Optimus Prime’s past. The first arc has a parallel story set before the war — back when Optimus was Orion Pax, a police officer on Cybertron. It’s another view, on another world, in another time, of a lot of the same issues at play in the present day: the relationship of a protector to the protected, and how Optimus/Orion looks at his enemies. Back then, Cybertron was on a downward curve, historically speaking. Orion’s on the precipice of a four-million-year-long war that he winds up being an essential part of.

.....

Optimus tends to have a crew around him. Will that be the case in here? Who can fans expect to see at his side?

Optimus still has a big crew with him. The real difference here is that Optimus’ actions are so big, the people around him can’t help but be pulled into the orbit of what he’s doing. Soundwave is still at his side, and Pyra Magna and the Torchbearers (who form Victorion) are there, but she’s not exactly standing at his side. Arcee is cautious toward him, but in a different way. And Aileron, who was a Colonist who sees Optimus as a space-messiah, has had her worldview shattered a bit. She sees Optimus is just a guy – a big, metal guy – dealing with things as best he can.

But then Optimus brings in a half-dozen new Colonists, all very eager to follow his every word. This decision doesn’t sit well with all of his crew, but it introduces some very obscure faces into the fold – characters like Oiler, Slide, Gimlet, Bump, Midnight Express, and Roulette. Don’t be worried if you don’t know them — nobody else on Optimus’ team knows them, either. But Aileron and Pyra are both colonists themselves, and seeing these hopeful ‘bots willing to lay down their lives for Optimus, right or wrong…well, they get a little uneasy with the situation.

.....

How does bringing in a new artist like Kei change your approach to Optimus and these other characters?

When I thought about what a comic drawn by her would look like, it was like a whole new approach to the Transformers opened up. I mean, I’ve been writing these characters for a while, and I’m always super-excited to get to do this stuff, but the idea of Kei’s vision of the characters, of the way she’d draw G.I. Joe characters, and how she’d approach all this…it seemed like such an exciting idea.

Carlos Guzman, our editor, didn’t take too much convincing, and he brought in Josh Burcham to color and Josh has brought a very unique, very cool color palette. The book has an amazingly distinct look to it. It doesn’t feel like anything else out there, which is amazing.


Re: Interview with John Barber and Kei Zama on IDW Optimus Prime Series (1847602)
Posted by Halfofme07 on December 17th, 2016 @ 9:07am CST
Trying to delete this....
Re: Interview with John Barber and Kei Zama on IDW Optimus Prime Series (1847745)
Posted by Va'al on December 18th, 2016 @ 2:49pm CST
Via the usual iTunes screenshot uploads, we have an early look at the next issue of the new IDW Publishing Transformers ongoing series - Optimus Prime #2 - in which we meet the newcomers to Earth in their corkscrew ship. Check the three pages mirrored out below!

NEW CYBERTRON! A massive corkscrew-shaped space ship has drilled into Earth, bringing with it a surprising disruption to OPTIMUS PRIME's plans. Meanwhile—ARCEE fields a dangerous offer that may be too good to resist!


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Re: Interview with John Barber and Kei Zama on IDW Optimus Prime Series (1847798)
Posted by Flashwave on December 18th, 2016 @ 11:26pm CST
Slag it, I read that entire preview parsing his name as "Rum Mage" and not the blatent "Rummage" Stupid, sneaky, tricky IDW and their tricks. And pulling a Bait and Switch by showing us the years-long teased Quintesson ship and then giving us the Junkions.
Re: Interview with John Barber and Kei Zama on IDW Optimus Prime Series (1847811)
Posted by Stuartmaximus on December 19th, 2016 @ 2:45am CST
Corkscrew ship? isn't that the same kinda ship that was in the original animated movie :-?
Re: Interview with John Barber and Kei Zama on IDW Optimus Prime Series (1847835)
Posted by #Sideways# on December 19th, 2016 @ 10:46am CST
Whew, the art is not the best. I can't tell what's happening half the time. Also, did Wreck-Gar just rip his own head off to prove a point?

But truly, I'm hoping that Wreck-Gar eventually could be the Deadpool of this universe: Breaking the fourth wall whenever possible and being rather insane comic relief.
Re: Interview with John Barber and Kei Zama on IDW Optimus Prime Series (1847858)
Posted by ricemazter on December 19th, 2016 @ 1:31pm CST
#Sideways# wrote:Whew, the art is not the best. I can't tell what's happening half the time. Also, did Wreck-Gar just rip his own head off to prove a point?

But truly, I'm hoping that Wreck-Gar eventually could be the Deadpool of this universe: Breaking the fourth wall whenever possible and being rather insane comic relief.


I'm not sure, but I think the problem might be the coloring rather than the line work. There's barely any contrast between shades. Everything has the same lighting despite being different colors. This isn't so much a problem with characters who aren't Junkions. The other Autobots are only made up of one or two primary colors anyway.
Re: Interview with John Barber and Kei Zama on IDW Optimus Prime Series (1847881)
Posted by D-Maximal_Primal on December 19th, 2016 @ 2:52pm CST
#Sideways# wrote:I'm hoping that Wreck-Gar eventually could be the Deadpool of this universe: Breaking the fourth wall whenever possible and being rather insane comic relief.

I kinda agree, given the vibe I'm getting from him.
Re: Interview with John Barber and Kei Zama on IDW Optimus Prime Series (1849653)
Posted by Va'al on December 30th, 2016 @ 12:54pm CST
Via another surprising choice for a reveal, we have the IDW Publishing Transformers Optimus Prime #2 full issue preview. The images come courtesy of comics website Comic Crusaders, and can be seen below - head back to Seibertron.com for our review once the book is out next week!

NEW CYBERTRON! A massive corkscrew-shaped space ship has drilled into Earth, bringing with it a surprising disruption to OPTIMUS PRIME’s plans. Meanwhile—ARCEE fields a dangerous offer that may be too good to resist!

Optimus Prime #2
John Barber (w) • Kei Zama (a & c)
FC • 32 pages • $3.99


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Re: Interview with John Barber and Kei Zama on IDW Optimus Prime Series (1849693)
Posted by Sabrewing on December 30th, 2016 @ 3:31pm CST
It becomes even better if you read it in Eric's voice.
Re: Interview with John Barber and Kei Zama on IDW Optimus Prime Series (1849698)
Posted by Bounti76 on December 30th, 2016 @ 3:46pm CST
I don't know.....compared from Issue #1 to this......the art style is just cluttered, there's no better word for it. There's too much crammed into every panel, too much going on to follow the narrative without multiple re-readings, etc. If it continues this way, I may just unsubscribe from the book and catch up with it on the wiki.
Re: Interview with John Barber and Kei Zama on IDW Optimus Prime Series (1849826)
Posted by Va'al on December 31st, 2016 @ 6:43am CST
Re: Interview with John Barber and Kei Zama on IDW Optimus Prime Series (1849974)
Posted by Va'al on January 1st, 2017 @ 11:31am CST
Let's start the new year with some contemplation and good art, with two new incentive covers for upcoming issues of IDW Publishing Transformers comics - first up, Optimus Prime #3's retailer incentive cover by Joana Lafuente, with Earth, Optimus and a lot of spaaace. Check it out below via Previews World!

Optimus Prime #3
John Barber (w) • Kei Zama (a & c)
An uneasy peace between Optimus Prime and the newly arrived Junkions is threatened by Soundwave’s discovery within their massive ship…
FC • 32 pages • $3.99


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Re: Interview with John Barber and Kei Zama on IDW Optimus Prime Series (1850368)
Posted by D-Maximal_Primal on January 3rd, 2017 @ 11:27pm CST
Bounti76 wrote:I don't know.....compared from Issue #1 to this......the art style is just cluttered, there's no better word for it. There's too much crammed into every panel, too much going on to follow the narrative without multiple re-readings, etc. If it continues this way, I may just unsubscribe from the book and catch up with it on the wiki.

I'm in a similar situation with the art, it feels cluttered as you said, and not as clear as I'd like to see. it's not bad, but it feels...unrefined
Re: Interview with John Barber and Kei Zama on IDW Optimus Prime Series (1850399)
Posted by Va'al on January 4th, 2017 @ 3:17am CST
D-Maximus_Prime wrote:
Bounti76 wrote:I don't know.....compared from Issue #1 to this......the art style is just cluttered, there's no better word for it. There's too much crammed into every panel, too much going on to follow the narrative without multiple re-readings, etc. If it continues this way, I may just unsubscribe from the book and catch up with it on the wiki.

I'm in a similar situation with the art, it feels cluttered as you said, and not as clear as I'd like to see. it's not bad, but it feels...unrefined


Disagree, review coming up soon. :-D

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