The Transformers Interview
On April 4th, Dreamwave Productions released the first issue of 'Transformers: Generation 1', a new 6-issue mini-series starring the "Robots in Disguise" from the classic TV cartoon and toy line from the 1980s.
The series' writer, Chris Sarracini, and penciller, Pat Lee, visited my local comic shop in Orlando, where I had a chance to talk about the book, their future plans, and their audience.
MD: Does this new series have any connection to the old 'Transformers' series published by Marvel?
Chris: The story takes place after the end of the old comic. There's a "dead zone" of time between the end of the old comic book and the time of 'Transformers: The Movie', (which took place in the early 21st Century). We're trying to shoehorn our story into that time. It takes place in the present day, April 2002, so there might be some overlap with the future seen in the movie.
MD: What audience did you have in mind for this book?
Chris: Well, this book has a harder, darker edge than the old comic. This isn't meant for kids.
MD: Yeah, I saw that when the book opened with Megatron crushing two men to death.
Chris: (laughs) Yeah, this book will deal with more adult themes. We wrote this for the fans who grew up with the original toys and cartoon in the 1980s.
MD: But not everyone who first watched the cartoon is still a fan. And that group gets smaller as the fans grow up. Aren't you worried that your target audience is too small? I mean, What about potential younger readers who watch the new "Transformers" cartoon on Fox?
Chris: No, we're really not worried about that. This series was written for someone who may have never read the old comic, but just remembers the "Transformers" from TV. We wanted to write a story you could just pick up and read without knowing anything about these characters.
The news article we included at the end of the book should explain who the Transformers are, what happened before, and the ARK II disaster that led the characters to this point. That article was an important detail for us. It was a specific and strategic point for us. We didn't want the book to get tangled up in the old continuity, and we don't want the reader to get lost in the old story. The new series will address questions older fans may have like, "What happened to Sparkplug?" but new readers don't have to know who Sparkplug was. We wanted to write a story that rewarded old fans, but could still be enjoyed by new fans.
Something else we wanted to do with this book is focus on the Transformers' relationship to humans. We wanted to show more interactions with humans than what was seen in the cartoon. We definitely don't want to retell old stories. We're trying to be faithful to the heart of the original, but take it in a different direction. We're trying to do a combination of what was seen in the cartoon and the comic book, and I think we've got a pretty good grasp on that.
We are working on another comic called "Transformers: Armada", (based on the upcoming toy line from Hasbro), which is aimed at younger readers. It's a much brighter comic, with a different approach than 'Generation 1'. It's coming out in July. I'm writing it, with art by a great new talent, James Raiz.
MD: I noticed that Lazarus, (an arms dealer in the book), has control of both Megatron and a heroic autobot. Will we see a mix of both "good" and "bad" Transformers working for him?
Chris: Yes, you'll see more of that in issue #2. Issue #2 is an explosion of Transformers!
MD: How much creative input does Hasbro have on the book? Do they tell you, "This character has to look like this", or "That character wouldn't act that way"?
Chris: No, they've been very cooperative. They've given us a lot of freedom, but I'm not really in a position to speak on their behalf. (Their agreement does have limits. During the signing, Pat Lee described, in detail, one of the toys from the upcoming 'Transformers: Armada' line from Hasbro. Chris asked me not to repeat it, as that information might be considered secret and proprietary.)
MD: Will we see any of the "future" Transformers from the movie?
Chris: Not in this series. This book focuses on the Generation 1 characters. We may use them in a later series, but we'll let people sit and wait on that one.
MD: What are you plans for the next year?
Chris: After this mini-series, Dreamwave is publishing another Transformers mini-series written by Simon Fuhrman, who fans really liked from the old series. His story deals with Cybertron, the Transformers homeworld.
We are working on another comic called "Transformers: Armada", (based on the upcoming toy line from Hasbro), which is aimed at younger readers. It's a much brighter comic, with a different approach than 'Generation 1'. It's coming out in July. I'm writing it, with art by a great new talent, James Raiz. You can see a preview story with art by Raiz, and another 'Generation 1' in the preview book coming out this month.
MD: What else can we see from Dreamwave?
Chris: 'Darkminds: Macropolis' #3 is coming out in May. That's been getting a great response. I'm also writing a new series called 'Fate of the Blade', coming out in the fall. It's an adult-themed book with a female protagonist. There's also 'TM: Armada'. You can see what that book will look like in the Transformers preview book coming out later this month. The preview book also has a new 'Generation 1' story.
MD: So, Chris, Pat: What are your favorite Transformers?
Pat: Sideswipe. I've been asked this question about 50 times! (He laughs. The comic shop manager asks who is Pat's favorite Anime character?) I'd say Ju-Bei from "Ninja Scroll".
MD: Really? I hated "Ninja Scroll". I must be the only person on Earth who didn't like it. How about you, Chris? What's your favorite Anime character?
Chris: I don't know. (laughs) I don't watch a lot of Anime!
MD: (I am unprepared for Pat Lee, as I have little knowledge about the artistic side of comics. I make up a few on the spot.) Pat, how much do you use computers in your work?
Pat: Oh, I use computers a lot. All the coloring and lettering is done on computer. It really helps getting the book out on time. Comics deal with speed, so we have to find shortcuts without sacrificing quality. Computers make it easier, and the comic still looks good. They help keep us on time. I feel that if you're doing a monthly series, the book can't ship more than a week late.
MD: What are you working on for the next year?
Pat: I'm working on some projects that I can't talk about right now. But when they come out, people will be interested in them. I can tell you that I'm planning to do at least 6 'Transformers' comics per year.
Thanks to Chris and Pat for taking the time to talk with me, especially after the long and noisy line of fans they had earlier that day. Thanks also to the managers of the Coliseum of Comics stores in Orlando, FL.
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