IDW publishing is known as the 5th largest American comic book publishing company. This is a great feat, considering that they only appeared in the comic books scene sometime in 1999. Initially known for horror comics such as “30 Days of Night” and “Dark Days.” Just recently, they have acquired the Transformers license from Hasbro. We are very thankful to Chris Ryall, the Publisher/Editor-in-Chief of IDW who was delighted to answer a couple of questions that Cybertron Philippines
Well, I’d say that we’ve done every single thing exactly right, of course… but some fans might not agree. No, seriously, I’m really happy with the little (and ever-expanding) universe we’ve got growing here. It’s rolled out exactly as I wanted (funny how that works).
What do you think best sets apart IDW’s take on Transformers from anything that has gone before — Dreamwave and Marvel [aside from TF Generations of course]?
I hate to compare really, since we’re all so different and came along at different times in the marketplace. Marvel paved the way, Dreamwave re-ignited fan interest in Transformer comics, and now we’re just trying to expand from there. I do think we’re telling the most sophisticated stories and have the best artwork of any TF comics ever produced, but I’m a bit biased.
How has Transformers affected or influenced IDW before and after acquiring the license?
It hasn’t really affected our other titles, in that we’ve had our business model in place since long before doing Transformers comics. But I do think it’s expanded our audience in ways that other licenses wouldn’t have, so that’s a nice result from all this. It’s also given me the most direct fan interaction of anything we do, which is also a really good outcome from doing these comics.
In your own opinion, What is the single best contribution these individuals gave to the Transformers fiction?
Simon Furman, writing -
Simon has set the bar for TF writing so high that I don’t think anyone will ever be able to top what he’s done and is doing now. He’s writing so many different TF comics in many different styles. Remember when Chris Claremont was writing X-Men and New Mutants for Marvel in the ’80s? He created this entire fiefdom that he just dominated. There was no one really doing what he was doing or writing so many characters so well. Simon’s doing that here.
And if you can’t remember when Claremont was doing that, don’t tell me because it’ll just make me feel old.
Chris Ryall, writing - That name doesn’t even belong on this list.
> Denny O’Neil, writing - Well, I was a huge fan of a lot of Denny’s work, from Batman to GL/GA and beyond. Denny always brings a touch of class to his work.
> Bob Budiansky, writing - Bob is the godfather–he made TF comics much more than just toy tie-ins, the same way Bill Mantlo did with Rom Spaceknight. Without Bob’s work, there’d probably be little to no interest in TF comics today.
> Floro Dery, art - Hard for me to say, since I’ve spent the last couple years working with guys who are the best TF artists I’ve ever seen. I hate to compare to the past, since it’s hard not to suffer by comparison when compared to the guy who’s next on your list.
Don Figueroa, art - A phenomenon. Really, he does things on the page with these characters that is just inhumanly good. And fast. It should be physically and mentally impossible for someone to work as fast as Don does and include the level of detail that he does, and yet he does it every month. Working with Don is an absolute joy, and having him use that skill on scripts that I’ve even co-written is an honor. I could spend paragraphs gushing about him. And in person, he’s quiet and humble… he’s really a breed that’s hard to find. It’s obviously his super-powered Filipino blood, isn’t it?
Nick Roche, art - Nick’s enthusiastic and his art is fun, but if that’s all I had to say, it’d be like saying the unattractive girl had a great personality. Luckily, I have more to say. I feel like I’m spent right now, after raving about Don, so to do so for each of these guys following might sound disingenuous. But Nick’s got skills that allow him to draw in a cartoony style, a serious style, whatever’s needed and more. And he proved a very capable writer with his KUP book, too. Nick makes me happy for the future of the TF franchise.
EJ Su, art - Another wonder. Have you ever seen TF art that looked like if you built a model based on the designs on paper, it’d work perfectly? EJ’s technical prowess is amazing, and his ability to bring life and liveliness to the pages and not just focus on only being good technically is impressive, too. He makes these characters really come to life, and gives them distinct personalities. And his visual updates to the characters have added even more to his pages.
Guido Guidi, art - A guy I want to work with more and more, for the same reasons cited above. He’s so good and inventive and enthusiastic. Really, he’s a master, too, and just needs more chances to show that.
Robby Musso, art - A new artist who makes me wonder why he hadn’t been discovered until now. I think you’ll see a lot more from Robby.
> James Raiz, art - James brings a real sense of grandeur to the robots, and a sense of scale that is equally impressive.
I’d also like to cite Josh Burcham, who is a huge part of our books, and a huge reason why the art looks as good as it does. Josh is amazing, too, and fast, and enthusiastic, and never fails to deliver something much more impressive than I was expecting. I’m really gifted by having him working on our books, too.
What has been your single, most favorite IDW Transformers issue? How about favorite series?
It’s hard for me to pick one, since once you work on one, it’s hard not to feel protective of it, and all of them. But among the most full realized books we’ve done are the Transformers Spotlight: Shockwave, Stormbringer, and really, since it got everything going, I love Infiltration #0. Like I say, can’t really pick.
> Do you have a favorite Transformers comic story during the pre-IDW era? How about favorite cartoon episode?
I’ve blocked out everything except for what we’re doing now.
Although we see that IDW presetns the Transformers in different approaches to storytelling, which approach to you personally enjoy writing and reading about: cosmic, universe/planet-threatening, multi-generation, multiple issue epics; or, character-specific vignettes and one-shots?
I like them all. I love stand-alone stories, and Simon’s been proving a real master of those with these Spotlight issues; I love cosmic stories when they’re earned, and I love multi-part tales. The whole “planet-threatening” thing feels done to me, though, at least for a while. Sorry, Unicron fans.
You call yourself Chrischarger. Is there a particular reason why Windcharger is close to your heart?
Up until a few months ago, I drove a red Honda S2000, so I thought it was fun that I actually “owned” my own Windcharger Alternator. But alas, that car is gone now, so maybe I need a new persona.
> FUTURE PROJECTS
In a Seibertron.com interview you mentioned that “there will be more Evolutions”. Can you shed any light on what those might be? Is the upcoming TF/Avengers crossover one of them, or its own beast entirely?
There aren’t other Evolutions books scheduled right now. It could be end of ‘07 or early ‘08 before we see another one, although the Movie Prequel/Adaptation and the New Avengers series both offer nice alternate takes on our current universe. Well, I should preface that statement, since the New Avengers story actually slots in nicely with what we’ve been doing.
> Not to take away from IDW’s current crop of excellent TF fiction, but has there been any word on the acquisition of former DW story material, for such series as the G1 ongoing and Energon? Even as a few ‘Evolutions’ minis, it would be nice to see those.
Anything unfinished when DW imploded will probably forever stay that way, unfortunately. Nothing we have any control over. But like I mentioned before, I do prefer to look forward and not back.
Another interesting series to re-publish under the Generations banner would be Marvel’s Transformers Universe profile books [the precursor to the DW MTMTE ones], plus individual profiles found in later issues of the US Marvel series). Does IDW plan to publish this in collected form as well?
For various reasons I won’t go into, no.
Are there any other properties that Transformers might cross over with in the future?
Sure, there are…
What is the possibility of an Annual for Transformers, or a similar book? A ‘Secret Files’ style book for each mini-series would be able to get profiles and vignette tales out in one shot.
Both good ideas, actually.
Will we see any more Stormbringer-type stories?
Depends what you mean by that, actually. You mean epic stories? Or tales set on Cybertron? Robot-only stories? Yes to all of the above.
When intervierwed by Seibertron.com, you mentioned that the TF Animated Movie adaptation wouldn’t be “the last way [to involve Bob Budiansky], by any means.” Is anything planned at this point?
Nope, nothing right now, although Bob was kind enough to write the introduction to a collection of animated art and model sheets (some of which were later colored and used in that Marvel handbook you mentioned) that we’re doing in May.
Which former TF writer or artist would you like to bring in to work on Transformers again, and what would your ideal project for them be?
I’ve already brought in every former TF writer I ever wanted to work with.
Which new-to-Transformers writer or artist would you like to bring in to work on Transformers? What would your ideal project for them be?
So many… my current pipe dream is getting Geof Darrow to do a TF wraparound cover. Pairing Alan Moore and Darrow on a TF book–that’d make for a good read, I think.
2007 PROJECTS: MOVIE PREQUEL AND BEYOND
What is the best feature of the Movie Prequel? What makes investing in reading up on four issues’ worth of backstory worth it [aside from the obvious benefit of HAVING the backstory]?
The best feature? Probably Don and Josh’s art. But really, overall, it was just a blast to work on. We’re telling a much more epic story than even the movie, and really helping build an entire universe. It’s so much more than just four issues of backstory. It does for the Transformers movie what Episodes 1-3 should have done for Star Wars.
> It’s apparent that [Cybertron Philippines’ Character of the Month] Bumblebee’s taking on a pretty hefty role with this go-around, and can be taken more seriously than from his ‘little buddy’ days. Your thoughts?
People will see right from the start that this Bumblebee is worth taking seriously. He proves a good soldier and a huge asset to the Autobots right from the start. He’s the focus of the movie for good reason.
How does a character get to win Character of the Month, by the way?
What interests you most about the upcoming Movie?
All along, it was the allure of seeing giant transforming robots come to life. And now, I’d say seeing the characters and world I’ve lived with while doing this prequel for the last half-year come to life and sort of “finish” the story we started in the prequel gives it all kinds of added lustre for me.
> What 2007 IDW project has you most excited? Aside from the Movie Prequel there’s BW: The Ascending, the Best Of art books, the BW profile books, the US relaunch of Target 2006, more Spotlights, TF: Devastation…
E) All of the above. And there’s something else with Don in the works that no one knows about that has me excited, too. I really like where the story goes in Devastation, so that and Beast Wars have me really geeked out. Matched only by seeing my name as co-writer in the Prequel comics…
Word association time! Say the first idea [or spoiler, heh] that comes to mind with regard to this Transformer or Transformer-related concept.
Optimus Prime: Captain America
Megatron: Metallica’s “Trapped Under Ice”
Allspark/Matrix: Hoover Dam
Captain America: Optimus Prime. Dead Optimus Prime.
Ore-13 Energon: Steroids
Iron Man: Bastard
Mass-shifting: Escalation #3, page 3
Spider-Man: They killed Aunt May AGAIN?
Planet Cybertron: Good place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there
Some additional interview questions:
> Nick Roche WILL be even more visible this year, we hope?
He’ll be doing covers for Target: 2006, variant covers for Devastation, and we’re always looking for more for him to do.
> Escalation has built upon Infiltration’s rep for great action so far, and EJ does draw a very easy-to-follow but no less high-energy action scene. Given the name, Devastation will hopefully bring out more of the best of EJ as he goes along! Are there any non-’mainline’ [as this feels like the central story arc at the moment] projects for EJ in the future?
Right now, we keep him plenty busy with just the involved main story, so he can’t really take on anything else.
> Guido’s been a favorite over here for quite some time, as he manages to infuse animation-model looks with such liveliness and emotion and bring so much life and fun to a page. Did he come up with the Hearts of Steel redesigns himself?
He did, yeah. He’s amazing, the amount of designwork he does before a project begins.
> James ’style is a blend of sharp and energetic that we hope to see more of. Will he be taking part in any TF projects in the future?
There’s nothing scheduled at the moment, but I’m certainly open to it.
> Just a thought… what is the most valid [constructive] criticism you hear about IDW’s material? How do you respond to it?
I don’t know if I can single out any one thing, since I read everything and respond to as many comments and criticisms as possible. I take it all en masse–it’s all helpful in one way or another.
> Which former TF writer or artist would you like to bring in to work on Transformers again, and what would your ideal project for them be?
I’ve already brought in every former TF writer I ever wanted to work with.
> This keeps the door open to people like Larry diTillio and Bob Skir in the future, hopefully?
Possibly, but there are way more talented TF artists and writers than we have projects for right now. I don’t want to glut the market, and there’s only so much space to fill.
> MORE ON MOORE AND DARROW
My current pipe dream is getting Geof Darrow to do a TF wraparound cover. Pairing Alan Moore and Darrow on a TF book–that’d make for a good read, I think.
> A cerebral, well-laid out one, to be sure. Great choices. What are your favorite works from the two?
I couldn’t pick a favorite Alan Moore project–they’re all so brilliant and intimidating in their own way. How can you pick, say Watchmen over From Hell over Promethea over Lost Girls over The 49ers? I don’t try to pick a favorite; I just try to savor each one. Comics is really lucky to have had him working on projects as long as he has, and I just hope it continues. Same with Darrow, who I first noticed with Frank Miller’s Hard Boiled project.
TOP SECRET DON FIGUEROA 2007 PROJECT
> Is it part of the Infiltration/Escalation/Devastation story flow? Or more of an offshoot/side-tale like Stormbringer or the Spotlights? Or is it a Beast Wars story, or something completely new?
It’s a Spotlight issue. But there’s also something completely new in the works, a little further down the line.
BEAST WARS PROFILES
> Speaking of Beast Wars… could you let slip a few names of the artists we can look forward to for August’s profile books?
All the usual suspects: Don, Nick, Guido, along with Robby Musso, Rob Ruffolo, and others. Some new folks, too.
> This has been a great interview — thanks for your time! Would you like to say anything to IDW’s and Transformers’ Filipino fanbase?
Thanks for the gift of Don! And for all the support, too.