TRANSFORMERS ROBOTS IN DISGUISE Charges Towards Second Year
After the epic “Death of Optimus Prime” arc in IDW’s Transformers comics last year, the future of these shape-shifting robots was at a cross-roads. While Rodimus and a band of fellow Autobots took to the spaceways to find the fabled first Cybertronians, Bumblebee took on the tumultuous role of leader of Cybertron and set out to unify the long-fractured factions of Transformers, both Autobot, Decepticon and even non-aligned Transformers. This story is chronicled in the new series Transformers: Robots In Disguise which launched at the beginning of the year, and truly lives up the franchise’s “more than meets the eye” slogan (despite that actually being the title of the sister series) with politics entering the fray.
Newsarama: September was a big month for Transformers: Robots In Disguise, with both issue #9 and the 2012 Annual both coming out. Before we look to the future, can you get us up to speed on Transformers: Robots In Disguise, John?
John Barber: Well, I like to think every month is a big month for Transformers: Robots In Disguise... but issue 9 wrapped up a 2-parter by me and my regular collaborator, series artist Andrew Griffith. We pitted the Dinobots against their ally Ironhide. We got a big piece of Bumblebee's continuing attempts to make the government work back home, and the introduction of Superion, the combined form of the Aerialbots — which seems to have just spontaneously popped into being!
The Annual picks up right afterward — Bumblebee gets some help to look for the missing Ironhide — but Starscream's suspicious of Bee's motivations, thinking he might be using the missing Autobots to further his political goals... and they might not be very off-base. So the Annual picks up on the search for Ironhide, but we runs into something unexpected: Metrotitan, from September’s Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye Annual. Meanwhile, we flash back to ancient Cybertron, when Nova Prime — the first of the "modern" lineage of Primes — unites Cybertron in the so-called "Golden Age." The two stories and time periods bounce between each other.Guido Guidi did all the art in the ancient Cybertron scenes in the style of the original first issue of Transformers, from 1984. It's a really cool style; Guido just nailed that look. It looks like your memories of that issue (if you're like me, and picked it up as it came out) — I mean, we're not poking fun at it or anything, but we're using that style to tell our story. And then the present day pages are by Brendan Cahill, who drew issue 7, with colors by Joana LaFuente — and looks amazing, too. Everybody is doing the best work of their career on this one!
Interior #10Nrama: Transformers: Robots In Disguise #10 is scheduled to come out on October 10, and you’ve teased some ominous outside force that's successfully taken control of both the Dinobots and the Aerialbots. I know the Dinobots especially don't like being told what to do, so who or what is behind this?
Barber: Good question... Issue 8 basically posed the question "what the heck is going on here?" And issue 9 answers "something is controlling the Dinobots and the Aerialbots." But what, why, and how...? That's still a mystery. It'll be a mystery for a little while longer, into the second year of the series (which is coming at us full-speed!) and the answers will be... big.
Nrama: This is all happening in the wilderness of Cybertron. For people who haven’t been reading, imagining a wilderness on the home planet of the Transformers might seem weird. Can you tell us about this wilderness, and the terrain of Cybertron outside its big cities?
Interior #10Barber: For millions of years, Cybertron's been a dead world — destroyed by the unending war between Autobots and Decepticons. Recently—at the start of the two new ongoing Transformers series — Cybertron was reborn. It's still the mechanical, machine-based world we all know from the cartoons and movies — but now it's primordial. It's not a safe, welcoming place for the Transformers. All of the 'bots on Cybertron are huddled together into one settlement — I mean, it's a pretty big city, but it's been built from the ground up in the rubble of a crashed Autobot satellite. Outside the city boundaries is an unexplored frontier. Ironhide has been poking around, but an unusual signal has made it impossible to stay out past sundown every night.
The Aerialbots got fed up with Bumblebee's government, and stormed out — and weren't seen again, until Ironhide took the Dinobots out to find them... and that was our first real look at what's going on outside the city proper. There are giant atavistic turbofoxes, metal-eating plants, lava floes, all kinds of fun stuff. Plus, insane Dinobots and Superion, now...
Nrama: Superion, who is the combined Aerialbots.
While all this is going on in the jungle, back at the capital Bumblebee’s trying to ride out a rebellion in his ranks as Starscream is wanting elections for him to become leader. What is Bumblebee dealing with?
Barber: Bumblebee's dealing with a population that doesn't support him and with problems that don't have easy solutions. He came into power with the best of intentions, but he's started to realize that if he wants the right outcome, he might not be able to do the right thing to get there. Starscream's calls for elections will get... well, he'll get a boost in the Annual, let's say.
But all his attempts to draw the separate factions together since the Autobots defeated the Decepticons haven't resulted in the utopia he's dreamed of. The old resentments still stand; and new ones have formed. But all this is coming to a head.
Interior #10Nrama: All this politics in Transformers, at the same time the United States are dealing with politics with the upcoming election. How would you compare what’s happening in the book with what’s going on in real life… or would you?
Barber: Well, nothing in Transformers: Robots In Disguise is meant to track exactly with any particular thing in real life. It's about trying to form a stable, coherent government after a period of war — something that's happened a lot in human history.
It would've been cool to have timed the elections on Cybertron with the elections in the U.S., but I think that would've created some false parallels.
The basic idea is that Bumblebee is an honest 'bot who has people's best interests at heart, but he's realizing that good intentions aren't going to get things done. His big political rivals are a little more of a question mark — or, a pair of question marks. Starscream has always been a schemer, but he seems to be playing by the rules now... still, has he turned over a new leaf for real? And the other big political rival is Metalhawk, who came in as the representative on the unaligned Cybertronians — 'bots who are neither Autobot nor Decepticon. In the Annual, we get into his head and we see a little of what makes him tick. It's been a period of learning about him slowly over the past nine issues.
Barber: I think all the times on Cybertron have seemed to be pretty trying... one of the things that James Roberts brought to the table, way back when the two of us were planning out Transformers: Robots In Disguise and Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye, was the idea that there were a bunch of non-Autobots, non-Decepticons — civilians, basically—that had left Cybertron during the war. When the Autobots won, they started to come home. And they see not the good guys versus bad guys—they just see shades of gray. They see two sides that destroyed their planet by fighting.
So these guys are trying to make a home for themselves — build a normal life. We see a few of them looking at this huge conflict, looking at this endless war, and wanting to just get on with opening a store, or finding something to do that doesn't involve killing or getting killed. They thought they had a sanctuary, but things aren't stable yet. They're liable to grab hold of anybody that can provide that stability for them — whether it's Bumblebee or somebody else.
Nrama: In September's Transformers: Robots In Disguise #9, Blurr mentions when he fought alongside Optimus Prime… and in the solicits I hear Optimus is coming back. What can you tell us about that?
All this comes together in issue 10, which Livio Ramondelli painted—and it's the craziest issue of anything I've ever written. It's got time crashing in on itself, answers to long-standing questions, and sets up the big story for year two of Transformers: Robots in Disguise. But, set-up aside, this issue is an experience on its own terms.
Nrama: Speaking of "year two," these issues are culminating the first year of Transformers: Robots In Disguise, and it seems you’re building to something big. Am I making things up, or are you up to something here?
Barber: Definitely. Issue 15 ends the story that began in issue 1. The series goes on—and I don't want to over-promise here—and mysteries continue into year two. Not everything gets answered; the mystery of what's happening in the Cybertronian wilderness is a big, big part of next year's story-lines...
But by issue 15, there will be lots of answers, characters will fall, revelations will occur, and somebody important will return... One side will win, and somebody will lose. It'll be a different landscape, come issue 16, as little strands we've planted over the last year all finally come together.Got a comment? There's lots of conversation on Newsarama's FACEBOOK and TWITTER!