Two Series, Two Missions For IDW's "Transformers"

When it comes to its Transformers franchise, IDW Publishing is hoping to make everything old new again.

Just around the corner for the robots in disguise is a new, reader-focused relaunch in the wake of the current "Chaos" crossover and December's touted "Death of Optimus Prime" one-shot. The stories will see an end to the long-standing war between Autobots and Decepticons and a shift for the Universe's story focus away from earth and towards the planet Cybertron full time. But while the building blocks of the new stories may hold a bit in common with the '80s classic "Transformers: The Movie," the result is something far different.

To help prepare readers for the next phase of the line, IDW's Senior Editor and incoming series writer John Barber was joined by Hasbro's Director of Global Brand Licensing & Publishing Michael Kelly yesterday in a special press call. During the proceedings, the pair revealed new information about the two core Transformers titles that will launch in January with new #1s: "Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye" by James Roberts and Nick Roche followed soon after by "Transformers: Robots In Disguise" by Barber and Andrew Griffith.

Barber joked that he had signed on to write the book before being hired in IDW's Editorial department "So I didn't hire myself" but the conversation soon moved on to the new status quo of the new series.

"Faced with a brand new Cybertron...the Autobots are faced with trying to solve a piece of the war being over. They come to a disagreement as to how to go about forging their new future," the editor said of the setup for both series. "'More Than Meets The Eye' focuses on Rodimus, who calls for his fellow Transformers to leave Cybertron in search of the Knights of Cybertron. They're a legendary lost tribe of Transformers who the story goes were the guardians of the original Cybertronian culture. No one knows if they were real anymore, but they've been kind of lost in the mists of history or myth. Some of the people who go with Rodimus are believers. Some just want freedom from Cybertron. And some have their own reasons that we'll get to as the series goes on. They travel on a quest to the stars, going through the galaxy trying to restore Cybertron to its glory days. On the way, of course, things don't go right. They find fresh dangers and the remnants of a Millennia-long war that are still scattered throughout the galaxy. 'More Than Meets The Eye' focuses on the journey of these Transformers as they try to rebuild their culture and return to the lost heights of the Golden Age of Cybertron."

Shifting focus to the "Robots In Disguise," Barber explained that the series he writes himself will keep the story on Cybertron moving forward. "With Optimus Prime gone, Bumblebee still finds himself in command of the Autobots," he said. "When the Autobots voted him leader back on earth, nobody thought it would last this long, and now he really has to face a future where there's nobody backing him up. It's Bumblebee without the guiding hand of Prime behind him. With only about half the Autobots remaining on Cybertron and surviving Decepticons still on the planet serving as prisoners of war in a way that really can't be maintained, two factions will be vying for control of the world.

"But the big twist is that they're no longer alone. Thousands of long lost, neutral Transformers are back, and this is everybody that left the planet -- everybody who over the course of the Millennia-long war got fed up with choosing a side. By the end of 'Chaos,' they've been called back home, and more are arriving every day. It's a struggle for Bee to maintain control over the planet when there's a growing population who really doesn't care about Autobots and Decepticons. 'Robots In Disguise' follows the story of the rebuilding of Cybertron as Bumblebee rather than trying to go back to a Golden Age, wants to build a new future and a new world for Transformers to live on in peace. Again, it's an action comic, and things don't go right."

Each of the book will bring along with it familiar faces to long-standing Transformers fans just as it opens up the Universe to those who have been away for a while. In "More Than Meets The Eye," Rodimus will be joined by Ratchet, Ultra Magnus and Drift who with their leader will form up on interlocking variant covers to issue #1 by Alex Milne. And back on Cybertron in "Robots In Disguise," Bumblebee will be joined by Ironhide, Prowl and Wheeljack as drawn across four covers by Marcelo Matere. Each #1 issue will also have a cover drawn by its interior artist along with retailer incentives for a gatefold edition of combining covers or hand-drawn sketch variants. IDW will also release temporary tattoos to promote the books.

Barber revealed a few more Transformers who would be lurking at the edges of each series, saying, "You'll see a lot of your favorite characters divided between these two series. But we really wanted to focus in on a few characters. I think if we get too sprawling with the number of characters, you kind of lose touch with everybody. So there will be a lot of characters showing up, but we'll focus in on a core cast for each of the books."

The writer also teased that Metalhawk would show up and said, "There are definitely a lot of characters coming in that we haven't seen or maybe have been underused...I do want to focus on a core cast, [though]. As much as hardcore Transformers fans have seen these characters over and over again, some of these characters are the most recognizable characters in fiction...Bumblebee is somebody that everybody knows. It's almost like having Spider-Man on the team.

"In a lot of ways, I feel like some of those characters have been underused in the IDW Universe," he continued. "There are still unique stories that you can tell with these characters that add new depth and new insight into the characters. We're not going to get too bogged down." As far as villains go, the writer/editor revealed that Starscream would play a role in "Robots In Disguise" while the IDW version of Cyclonus will show up in "More Than Meets The Eye."

"They're two comics in one universe," Barber said, adding that the two series will cover the entire Transformers Universe. While "Robots In Disguise" will address some issues raised in "More Than Meets The Eye" after their first issues, the stories will stay a bit apart to let fans dig into the stories. "Going back to 'Death of Optimus Prime,' James Roberts and I have been working really closely together to coordinate not just the characters that will be appearing but the concepts we're dealing with. There will be characters who are friends who are separated who might be experiencing similar things or events from one book carrying over to the other, so there's some overlap. But it won't be 'You have to read More Than Meets The Eye #1 and then Robots in Disguise #2 and [on and on]' to get a coherent story. But between the two, you'll get a very cohesive view of the universe and a very exciting one."

The participants also offered up some broader thoughts on how the new series will work on a macro level for where the franchise has gone and where it will be in the future. "It's spectacular to be a part of this, and I think we've got some great stories to share with people who grew up with this at any point in the last 25 years and fallen in love with the characters," said Barber. "The main gist is that this is a very different direction from where we've gone before. By no means do we throw out what's gone before, but this offers up some new storytelling possibilities that we haven't seen before."

Kelly added, "It's amazing when I think back on when we started the ongoing series that we've come this far," he said. "It's almost three years that I've been working on these comics with IDW, and to be at the point now where we've gone back into space and to Cybertron and the events of 'Chaos' is just really exciting to see it come full circle. To have not only this culmination of three years of comic book storytelling for people who have been on board but also offer this great jumping on point for new fans, I have to say it's amazing. You look at it and say, 'Wow, we really pulled it all together.' And here we are. We're starting again in a new, exciting direction and want everybody to come with us."

Stay tuned to CBR News for more on IDW and Hasbro's Transformers Universe.

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