Later this month, writer Shane McCarthy returns to the samurai Transformer he created in “Drift: Empire of Stone,” a four-issue mini-series from IDW Publishing with artist Guido Guidi. As a former Decepticon who found sanctuary with the Autobots, Drift is currently on a journey of self-discovery, attempting to discover his place in the Galaxy. Along with Autobot medic Ratchet, who is along for the ride to help clear Drift’s name from a wrongful accusation, Drift will go through what McCarthy describes as “buddy cop meets space adventure.”
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The writer discussed re-visiting his samurai Transformer in the new IDW mini-series “Drift: Empire of Stone,” revealing why Drift finds himself without alliances yet again, his feelings on Michael Bay’s interpretation of the character in “Transformers: Age of Extinction” (and why it was “bordering on offensive”) and more.
CBR News: Shane, what’s the main story behind “Drift: Empire of Stone?”
Shane McCarthy: “Empire of Stone” takes place after Drift was booted off the Lost Light and sent on his way into the galaxy. It’s about what he’s been doing while he’s been gone and how he’s trying to be relevant and find his place in the galaxy now he’s neither Autobot or Decepticon. Knowing Drift was wrongly accused, Ratchet comes looking for him to bring him back and the two become well and truly caught up in something from Drift’s days as a Decepticon. While Drift is trying to save the galaxy, Ratchet is attempting to save Drift from himself. Buddy cop meets space adventure.
Did you have any particular inspirations for this new “Drift” series?
The big inspiration for this was to ask the real questions about what all of this would have done to Drift. It’s all well and good to say he was booted out of the Autobots but when you consider he’s been trying to find a place since day one — first the Decepticons, then the Circle of Light, then the Autobots — being kicked out of somewhere you thought you finally belonged is a big deal.
The truth is, he never really found himself at home with the ‘Bots and now it’s really about understanding who he is outside of all of this. I’m loving where we find Drift at the start of “Empire of Stone” and would kill to write more stories about that.
You wrote the first “Drift” mini for IDW, as well. What’s feel it like to return to the character?
It’s actually been a lot of fun coming back to Drift, a lot of fun. The biggest thing I was excited about this time was to realize this was the first time I’d been able to write Drift as I originally imagined him.
In “All Hail Megatron,” he appeared only very little. Then in the “Spotlight” and the first mini he was internally lost and hadn’t really become the character I’d first thought up. When I wrote the description for the toy (which was then chopped up for the packaging) and broke Drift down into a very concise description, the biggest feature was his cavalier attitude and humor in the face of adversity. Now I’m able to really let loose with that.
He won’t be the wacky hippie guy that’s been seen in the comics recently but, of course, the events and history of those books will all have an impact on “Empire of Stone” and the way Drift is written. That being said, there’s a liberal amount of humor in this. Drift tries his best in every situation but, yeah, often falls short.
How did you originally envision Drift as a character?
Well, the important thing to remember is that Drift sprang from the immediate perception I had of the IDW take on the war; that I didn’t see a huge difference between the Autobots and Decepticons at that point. Prime didn’t seem too bothered with taking human life and that really hit me. So out of that came a Transformer that had been a ‘Con but was also wary of what it meant to be an Autobot. He had a conscience brought about by the guilt of what he’d done during the war.
With that perspective and guilt on the inside, I imagined a character that covered it with a cavalier attitude and a good dose of humor. He does the best he can to do the most good but often gets in under his head. He’s flawed but strives for the best.
What separates Drift from your typical Autobot or Decepticon? He’s been on both sides of the fence so he must have a unique perspective.
I don’t tend to see any of the characters as typical so, to me, Drift is very much a part of that great roster. However, absolutely, his past and experience on both sides informs him in a way that a lot of the others aren’t.
The big thing that needs to be kept in mind is that he’s really not fully comfortable being an Autobot either. From his perspective both sides are at fault for how the war has panned out but he feels he can do the most good alongside the Autobots.
With Drift as lost as he is, can we take it for granted that he’ll head to the “good” side, so to speak?
Oh he’s well and truly on the good side. I see Drift as a casualty of this war but a different kind of casualty. The unrest on Cybertron put him on the street, the Autobots in their early form took his friend from him. The Decepticons promised an end to that unrest and thusly closure for him but that didn’t work out the way he’d intended. Now, having taken a step back, he sees both sides as responsible for the damage that has happened and only wants to do good; to fix a lot of the harm that’s been done.
He’s lost, not because he doesn’t know whether he’s good or bad but because he doesn’t know if or how he can make the difference he hopes he can.
Are you coordinating your story at all with IDW “Transformers” architects John Barber or James Roberts? Will it connect to either “Robots in Disguise” or “More than Meets the Eye?”
Nothing beyond having John as my editor, no. John let me know what happened prior to “Empire of Stone” and I read up on Drift’s appearances but, outside of that John’s left me completely alone. He’s a great guy to work with. Whilst the mini series takes place after the events on the Lost Light, the mini doesn’t connect with the major books.
What’s it like working with artist Guido Guidi?
Working with Gui is always a treat. He’s a great artist! As I was writing up “Empire of Stone” I was sending Guido ideas and letting him know what characters I’d be using that he’d need to design. As the scripts start coming through to him he sends through sketches and pages for John and I to look at. It’s like Christmas every time. I really enjoy working with Guido a lot and was over the moon when I found out we’d be able to work together. He was the one guy I really wanted for this and it’s fantastic to come together to work on the character we created.
What did you think of Drift’s characterization in this summer’s “Transformers: Age of Extinction?”
I really wasn’t a fan at all. I thought his treatment in the movie was a cheap, racial stereotype that was bordering on offensive. As a white guy, I’m really not sure how much I’m really able to be offended by that sort of thing but, yeah, it was shallow at best.
What did you think of “Transformers: Age of Extinction” in general?
Haha, I didn’t like it at all. In a word, painful.
What did you think of the first three “Transformer” films?
Well I hated the first one and didn’t watch the second one. The only reason I watched the latest movie was because I had free passes and my fiance dragged me along so I could see Drift on the big screen. I think the “Transformer” films are terrible cinema with no story or plot to speak of. And don’t get me started on the terrible, over sexualisation of women in those movies. It drives me crazy.
What other projects do you have coming up?
I’m currently working on some creator owned books that I’m excited about. One of which, wow, would I love to tell you who I’m working with. I’m very excited to be working with this particular artist and absolutely adore her work. We’ve just gotten started though so…stay tuned.
Can you tease that creator-owned project?
Hmmm, can I tease, can I tease. Well, again, I love the artist’s work; she’s amazing. It’s set in the future, it’s got a mix of crazy technology and working class characters. There’s a focus on strong female characters and overall character diversity. You’re going to see these people struggle but there’s going to be a strong sense of adventure and hope at the core of it. Oh and, yeah, nuclear powered motorbikes.
“Drift: Empire of Stone” #1 is scheduled for release on Nov. 26 from IDW Publishing.