Next spring, a war is coming to IDW’s Transformers comics – and it’s bigger than one single robot, or even the divide between Autobots and Decepticons. It’s the “Combiner Wars.”
Combiners are the term used to describe super-robots of sorts, made out of multiple Transformers combining together into one – and they’ve been a major part of the Transformers franchise, from the Destructicons’ Devastator to Predacons’ Predaking and numerous others. In the IDW Transformers line’s upcoming “Combiner Wars,” the technology that made Combiners possible has been found and it starts what IDW Senior Editor (and longtime Transformers writer) John Barber calls a “cold war” between Transformers factions.
Beginning in March “Combiner Wars” will crisscross between the main Transformers comic series (formerly subtitled Robots In Disguise) and the upcoming Transformers: Windblade ongoing series. The crossover will be written by Barber along with Mairghread Scott, and illustrated by Sarah Stone and Livio Ramondelli.
Newsarama: Mairghread, John, what is this “Combiner Wars” about?
John Barber: “Combiner Wars” is, in the comics, the cold war between factions on Cybertron and Earth growing hot. Starscream is the (mostly) legitimate ruler of Cybertron, but not everybody thinks he should be. And when one of his ultimate goals—contact with the missing ancient Cybertronian colonies, as seen in the Transformers: Windblade miniseries—starts to come to fruition, other parties—Optimus Prime, Windblade, Prowl—see an immediate danger to the sanctity of the galaxy.
Beyond that—“Combiner Wars” is a great example of Hasbro and IDW working together and building a huge storyline that goes between toys and comics and into other media. We on the comics have worked very closely with Hasbro’s Transformers brand team, especially Mark Webber and Sarah Carroll, plus Director, Global Publishing Michael Kelly—there’s pieces that come straight out of the comics (like the new Megatron toy for next year that gives you the option of giving him an Autobot symbol, like he has in the Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye comics) and some new things coming from the toy side that we get to debut in the comics. Plus, while the comics will come out from IDW first, they’ll be packed in with select Transformers Generations toys, which will get the comics to an all-new audience that might have never had the chance to read them before.
And beyond that—“Combiner Wars” is a great chance for Mairghread Scott (writer of the amazing Windblade series) and I to work together and to team with Sarah Stone (artist on that amazing Windblade series) and Livio Ramondelli (who’s just finished the Transformers: Punishment motion comic and is in the middle of Transformers: Primacy, the story of the early days of the war) and make a big, action-packed, character-packed story with huge ramifications for the comics in 2015.
Nrama: Combiners have been a big part of Transformers since the early days, with Devastator and the Constructicons. How is this becoming a “Combiner Wars”?
Barber: In the comics right now, Prowl commands the Constructicons. And that’s maybe not a really healthy relationship. He’s a little unstable, and while he’s ostensibly on Optimus Prime’s side, everybody’s getting a little nervous around him. So Starscream wants a combiner of his own, to protect Cybertron if Devastator goes rogue. Which is actually kind of reasonable. Thing is… that sort of action tends to lead to an arms race.
The incapacitated form of the combined Aerialbots, Superion, has been in Starscream’s care since he took over Cybertron. He’s gonna get serious about getting Superion up and at ‘em… but somebody, somewhere, gets the idea that maybe it’s time for the Stunticons to make a return as Menasor. And after that… well, I’m sworn to secrecy.
Mairghread Scott: I'd also like to add: we've tried to really highlight the feeling of an actual war just in its infancy. Not only is everyone working at cross-purposes to each other, and pushing their own agenda, but the rapid fallout and ever-shifting ties should really give our readers that sense you so rarely get in a fictional war: we don't know who's going to win. In fact, what 'winning' even means will be constantly changing. There's no straight-up good and evil here. There are only people acting in the moment - good and evil are things that get decided long after the fighting is done. That's what's going to be special about this series.
Nrama: Can you tell us about the SpaceBridge and these lost Cyberteronian colonies being talked about online?
Scott: We introduced the idea that Metroplex has an almost-functional SpaceBridge in Windblade #4 and the ignition point for “Combiner Wars” is when that SpaceBridge comes online. All the colonies hinted at in Windblade are now suddenly accessible, but even though these characters are all Cybertronian they haven't seen or interacted with Cybertron for millions of years. It's a "first contact" situation and the stress of that: are the Cybertronians coming as conquerors or friends? Will these colonies see them as long-lost allies or hostile invaders? These are some of the major tensions in the “Combiner Wars”.
Nrama: And what is the most famous Transformer, Optimus Prime, in all of this?
Barber: Optimus Prime has returned to Earth to look for the missing sage, Alpha Trion. But while he’s there, he learns something perhaps more important. So, burdened with this secret knowledge—and knowing his friend, Prowl is becoming increasingly erratic—and knowing his homeworld is being run by Starscream (of all people)… well, Optimus Prime is in a sort of awkward place.
Plus—he’s the Prime, which means he the leader of the Autobots—but Starscream is the leader of Cybertron. The war between the Autobots and Decepticons is over… so what does being “Prime” even mean, anymore?
Nrama: We’ve mentioned theWindblade miniseries and ongoing series, but what about Windblade herself – how does she factor into it all?
Scott: The end of Windblade saw our heroine striking a real devil's bargain with Starscream and she's still trying to maintain that very dangerous balance. So we see a really different side of Windblade, one trying to hold her own in the shadowy political world of Cybertron (a world Starscream is the undisputed master of) while still trying to hold onto some sort of moral compass. The question for Windblade in “Combiner Wars” is really: How far can you go in the name of good until you aren't good anymore? When does the end stop justifying the means?
Nrama: So John, Mairghread, individually, which combiner set from Transformers continuity is your personal favorite --- and will they appear in this series?
Barber: I hate to give an obvious answer, but the Constructicons were my favorite growing up. That was the one set I had all the toys of, and I loved looking at the different origin stories in the comic book and the cartoon (which actually had a couple origins of ‘em itself). Plus, they made it all the way to the 1986 Transformers movie, which was—and is—a favorite of mine. The whole idea that they could change modes and form together was mind-blowing to me; they were the first toys I saw like that. I remember when somebody brought Mixmaster to lunch at school (this would have been maybe second grade) and I was floored by the whole idea. I mean, I vividly remember that day. So, yeah, I guess Constructicons. And the Prowl-led Constructicon team plays a role, like I said, in setting the “Combiner Wars” in motion… but whether they actually take part in the wars themselves, we’ll have to wait and see!
Scott: It has to be Superion. Just the fact that he's named himself Superion is a testament to the ego of each of his individual 'Bots. Anyone with the, um, fortitude to do that is a character I want to write.