What was life like on Cybertron before the Autobot/Decepticon War? IDW Publishing turns back the clock for a "bold new era" that's actually an old era - when Optimus Prime and Megatron got along.
Well, "got along" might be a touch strong.
Prose author Brian Ruckley ("The Goddess World" trilogy) partners with artists Angel Hernandez and Ron Joseph for this eye opening "Year One" style story of the Transformers people have known and loved for almost 40 years.
Newsarama: Brian, where do we pick up with this new series? We know we are back on Cybertron before the Fall, but is that still a ways off?
Brian Ruckley: We start off basically in a time of peace and prosperity, on a Cybertron that’s a living, changing planet filled with wonders and different forms of life, cool technology and a more-or-less content population.
At the point the story actually starts, there’s been no substantial conflict on Cybertron – no war – for a crazy long time. There hasn’t even been a murder within the lifetime of most of the planet’s inhabitants. How long will we have to wait for everything to go wrong? That’s something readers’ll just have to wait and see...
Nrama: And who makes up our cast this time around?
Ruckley: The idea as far as cast is concerned is to build it up step-by-step, rather than overload the book with a host of characters right from page one.
The huge potential cast is one of my favorite things about the Transformers universe, and I’ve got plans for lots of them, but early on, we’ll be spending most of our time with a more focused selection. Folks like Bumblebee, Chromia, Windblade, Prowl, and a new character called Rubble. Megatron’s in there, Wheeljack’s in there, Optimus Prime is there. Some others.
The events taking place, and the world, are fairly epic, but we’ll be experiencing them mostly as they impact certain key individuals.
Nrama: Is it safe to assume that the ideological divides between the Autobots and Decepticons are back?
Ruckley: There are absolutely ideological divides on Cybertron. Exactly what they are, and who they’re between, I wouldn’t want to spoil. But you can safely assume Optimus Prime and Megatron do not agree about everything. Which isn’t to say they’re necessarily mortal enemies as this point either, of course. Or that they’re the ones actually running things.
Nrama: How is Cyberton as a culture fairing around the time of this run? Are they in decline or is this a story of a perfect society?
Ruckley: It’s doing pretty well, really. There are some tensions, some issues, but overall Cybertron is a peaceful, prosperous place. Even if everything’s not quite as rosy as it once was, though, it’s still pretty idyllic. There’s plenty of traffic and trade with other civilizations. It’s not a particularly oppressive place, there are no real shortages of anything, and there’s plenty of spectacularly advanced technology.
All in all, not perfect but not bad at all.
Nrama: Would you characterize this new comic as “user friendly”? I know the previous volumes had large followings but are you working for accessibility for new readers as you script?
Ruckley: I’m certainly trying for something that’s accessible, even if a reader knows essentially nothing about past Transformers storylines (although honestly, it kind of feels like pretty much every potential reader on the planet knows at least something about Transformers these days). But yes, the goal is to come up with something that absolutely works as someone’s first-ever Transformers comic, while also delivering something a bit fresh, a bit intriguing, for the reader who’s read every Transformers comic ever published.
Nrama: Has the current political climate fed into this new volume? It is kind of hard to not find comparisons to Brexit and various other political divides.
Ruckley: I think “kind of hard” is right. I’m sure some readers will see comparisons, influences, and so on in there - but it won’t really be because I’ve put them there in a deliberate, pointed way. I’m inevitably influenced by what I see around me, and what I know of history - you can’t not be, as a writer - and I might well be borrowing the odd idea, a few tactics, a few preoccupations, from here and there in history, or even current affairs. But I’m not going for a commentary on any particular viewpoint or agenda.
A lot of political divides tend to look a bit similar when you see them from far enough way, in distance and in time. They lose some of their black and white, get a bit gray. That, rather than anything specific about current events, might be the biggest influence.
Nrama: The Transformers comics have famously crossed over with other IDW/Hasbro titles. With the relaunch, is that a tradition we can expect to continue?
Ruckley: Well, that’s a bit above my pay grade in the long run, but I can say that it isn’t something I’ve been asked to think about. I’m 100% focused on Transformers at the moment, and as far as I know so are IDW and Hasbro, as far as this series is concerned.
Nrama: In terms of artwork, was there a certain look or tone you were going for this new series?
Ruckley: All I’ll say about that, as a writer, is that being the artist on a Transformers comic has always struck me as a huge challenge, and I’m dazzled by the artists who bring this stuff to life. You need to blend precise linework with emotional beats, big-scale spectacle with more subtle moments. It’s not easy, and we’re lucky to have a couple of seriously talented artists working on this, in Angel and Ron.
Nrama: What about the Cybertronian relationship with Earth? Or are we mainly in space for this first arc? No spoilers of course!
Ruckley: I don’t mind spoiling that aspect of the first arc: no Earth. This is all about what’s going on with Cybertron and its inhabitants. Not all of those inhabitants necessarily convert, but I can promise that none of them are human, and the chances are good (maybe not 100%, but good) that no one living on Cybertron has the slightest idea that a planet called Earth even exists.
Nrama: Before we wrap up, I have to ask - if you were part of the Transformers universe, what vehicle and faction would you be?
Ruckley: The vehicle bit’s a “no contest” kind of thing: I’d want to be able to fly. Some kind of jet plane, or possibly a helicopter. Heavily armed preferably, but the ability to fly is the main thing.
Faction-wise? That’s a bit harder to answer. Generally speaking, I guess I’d like to think I’m on the side of Optimus Prime, because he’s Optimus Prime and as a rule he seems a pretty decent sort of robot.