Costa on "Transformers" and "Ironhide"

May sees the return of two major characters to the Transformers universe - one good, one very, very evil. Earlier this month, IDW Publishing released "Transformers: Ironhide" #1, sparking the return of the popular Autobot who died in the first issue of the current "Transformers" ongoing series. Next week's "Transformers" #7 follows the Decepticons exiled in space, who are floundering under Starscream's weak leadership...but Megatron still functions and may soon reclaim his place at the top. CBR News spoke with Mike Costa, who writes both series, about the recent and upcoming changes in the Transformers line.

Prior to the launch of the ongoing series, the sixteen-issue "All Hail Megatron" miniseries found the Decepticons ravaging the planet Earth while the Autobots were nearly helpless to prevent widespread destruction. Even after the threat of the evil robots was defeated - thanks in no small part to human Spike Witwicky, who incapacitated Megatron with a laser cannon shot to the head - global distrust of both races of Transformers forced the Autobots into hiding while most of the Decepticons, now lead by Starscream, fled into space. "Transformers" #1-6, set three years later, saw the Autobots attempting to adapt to their pariah status and, following the death of Ironhide and Optimus Prime's surrender to the United States military, internal disputes over the heroes' future further divided their ranks. Bumblebee emerged as the unlikely Autobot leader, but, as the opening arc concluded, has only begun to earn the sort of respect that Optimus Prime commanded.

To reveal that "Transformers" #7 sees the return of Megatron is not a spoiler, as the Decepticon leader appears on the cover and the solicitation text for the issue confirmed as much. But the circumstances behind the character's re-entry into the universe-spanning conflicts will hold ramifications for both teams of Transformers. That doesn't mean, however, that Megatron will simply rise up and overthrow the usurper Starscream, who despite an aeons-long yearning for the Decepticon crown has failed to take advantage of his newfound responsibilities. "Starscream is not doing great, and definitely does not have Megatron's interests at heart," Costa said of the leadership dynamic. "Starscream is really only focused on his own interests, which is staying in power. As for Megatron...he's not doing good. In fact, the Decepticons are still behaving as if he's dead, and he basically is. Dude took a head-shot from a laser-cannon. That requires a lot of bed-rest, even if you're Megatron.

"The Decepticons are having an even bigger problem with change than the Autobots have," the writer continued, adding that Starscream's ineffectual and self-aggrandizing has "created a power-vacuum where order has almost totally broken down. They are stranded in a temporary base not so much because they can't leave, but because they have no direction."

Up to this point, Megatron has been absent from the ongoing series, and Costa has also effectively sidelined Optimus Prime, as the Autobot commander surrendered to the humans in the first issue. The writer said that taking the leaders of both factions offstage has allowed him to explore new aspects of the Transformers universe. "The theme I've been working with since I took over has been 'change.' And not temporary, comic-booky change that'll go back to status quo after a few issues, but serious, lasting change that's actually created within the characters themselves," Costa said. "By removing the two figures who have kept both the Autobots and the Decepticons on the same path for so long is a catalyst for this for sure."

In another corner of the galaxy, "Transformers: Ironhide" examines a strange convergence of past battles and current struggles as the titular hero fights alongside Optimus Prime on Cybertron early in the war against the Decepticons, even as Ironhide awakens to a new mystery in his present. Costa said that the first two issues focus primarily on the character's past, while the final two will catch up on his unexpected resurrection. He added that the series will explore Ironhide's complex friendship with his commander Optimus Prime. "That itself sets up some big stuff for later, but I can't really get into that without blowing the central mystery set-up at the end of the first issue: Why is Ironhide on Cybertron all alone, and what's going on?"

Costa said, also, that the circumstances behind Ironhide's death and its aftermath would play a central role in the series. "His death turns out to be a crucial moment in the history of the planet Cybertron," the writer told CBR. "I know that sounds a little silly, but when you read the series you'll see what I mean. It has huge ramifications for the future of the Transformers universe."

With "change" as his mantra and faced with the extraordinarily vocal Transformers fan base, Costa acknowledges that not everything he's tried has been met with applause. "We're talking about discussions of comic books on the internet, right? So...why yes, I have seen some strong reactions in fact. How did you know?" he joked.

"I'm not going to say that this book has been universally loved, but we've been getting some really good reviews (particularly on issue 4, which I am especially proud of) and we're very pleased with sales, so that's ultimately the important thing. And a lot fans are intrigued with what we've been doing on the books and are loving it," Costa said. "But I don't want to give credence to either the people who want me immediately fired or the ones that think I'm writing the best Transformers comics of all time, because those are always the outliers.  I just hope that fans of the franchise are seeing something new and different in what we're doing, and that they stick around, because it's all going to weave together into something really, really big and (hopefully) really great."

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