Mars Attacks: The Transformers Creator Commentary with Shane McCarthy, Matt Frank, Josh Perez
A new threat goes head-to-head with the Autobots, as MARS ATTACKS: THE TRANSFORMERS hits the stands today! This titanic crossover comic book—courtesy of IDW Publishing, Hasbro, and Topps—has more action than any single issue should be able to hold! To celebrate this titanic team-up, we sat down with writer Shane McCarthy (TRANSFORMERS: ALL HAIL MEGATRON), artist Matt Frank (TRANSFORMERS SPOTLIGHT: TRAILCUTTER) and colorist Josh Perez (TRANSFORMERS: ROBOTS IN DISGUISE)! Don’t miss MARS ATTACKS: THE TRANSFORMERS, at comic book stores everywhere, and for download at https://transformers.comixology.com/
or via the Comixology app on your mobile device!
Q: How did you all come to be involved in the MARS ATTACKS: THE TRANSFORMERS crossover?
SHANE MCCARTHY: It was all a bit out of the blue actually. I got an email from [IDW Editor] Carlos Guzman asking if I’d be interested in doing the book. The idea seemed so crazy I couldn’t pass it up.
MATT FRANK: I had been working primarily on Godzilla stuff for the last two years, and somebody must have said “Hey, this guy sure can blow stuff up real good!” and I was asked to make the SDCC exclusive cover for the first issue of the new Mars Attacks series. Apparently it caught on, as I was asked to do a few more covers... and I had also been doing more TRANSFORMERS stuff recently, so I was lucky enough to be asked to do this!
JOSH PEREZ: I brainwashed everyone into thinking I should have a part in this book! Man, I shouldn’t have squandered that wish on that… NAH. Seriously, I think Matt and Carlos wanted me on this book, and I’ve worked with Matt before on Godzilla covers AND Shane before on the DRIFT mini-series.
Q: What were your approaches to working crossover of this nature? Was it something that you found difficult to do?
SHANE MCCARTHY: It wasn’t too difficult once I found the tone I’d like to use when approaching the story. It could have gone a few different ways but I really wanted to go for all out fun. The only stipulation that was given to me by Carlos was that it would be set in the G1 universe, so I figured we could take that a step further and make it a real Mars Attacks Saturday Morning Cartoons. Mixing the two properties was a gold mine for humor, so it was a real pleasure to cut loose and find the fun in all of this.
MATT FRANK: Shane did all the heavy lifting, so it wasn't all that hard for me! Actually, it presented an interesting artistic opportunity – the universe is most emphatically based on the Generation 1 cartoon, so the Transformers and the world around them are relatively simple with that ’80s-animation-style. On the other hand, the Martians are a bit more graphically diverse, so their crazy over-saturated aesthetic is “invading” the cartoon world of the TRANSFORMERS! Thankfully, with Josh’s coloring, they don't look aggressively out-of-place, so it all meshes very well.
JOSH PEREZ: I approached this with glee and smiles. I LOVE that the style of the writing AND the art (both of which are really great in this issue!) were that “’80s G1 Transformers cartoon” style. Rendering the Transformers using their cartoon palettes was fun and made a lot of the work go by quickly! I always love doing cel-shaded books when and where I can, so this issue was fun and easier than the more rendered-looking stuff I do elsewhere—and Matt/Shane gave me a TON of space creatively to do all kinds of fun stuff with the book!
Q: Obviously you all knew about TRANSFORMERS, did you have to do much research on Mars Attacks to prepare yourself for working on this story?
SHANE MCCARTHY: I did a lot of research in finding the right tone and taking elements from the Mars Attacks universe that would suit that. I went right back to the original trading cards and used that as a launching pad for the whole project.
MATT FRANK: We got some nice design documents from Topps, and I had already done some boning-up when working on the earlier covers, so there wasn’t much of a transition for me. A few things I DID research were some of the TRANSFORMERS I had never drawn before... which turned out to be most of them! I had never drawn Prowl or Astrotrain, for example, but thankfully I was gifted a copy of The Complete Ark recently by Chris Mowry, so I had plenty of reference material!
JOSH PEREZ: I always love working with the Transformers brand, and have been for some time now, so I know most of these guys inside-and-out; but the most I knew about Mars Attacks was the movie Tim Burton worked on. I’ve known about the old cards from ’62, but I never really got to look through them, nor have I ever had the chance to work with the Mars Attacks Martians and all that goodness. After receiving some nice references from Topps and IDW, I went CRAZY and ordered a set of the old cards; those are GREAT to look through! I would love to do something with Mars Attacks that’s “painted up” all nice and pretty and graphic like the cards from the ’60s!
Q: What lessons did you take from the previous books you’ve worked on into this one?
SHANE MCCARTHY: Like any project you need to find what interests you and what you think will interest the artist first, especially given we’re the ones that need to feel that excitement to transfer energy onto the page. Once you’ve done that it’s about having a lot fun. The real lesson I took into this was to just enjoy it.
MATT FRANK: For a while I've been struggling with how to differentiate my own TRANSFORMERS “style” from the greats, and several folks began to mention how much they liked the expressions I had been giving these giant robots. So I definitely try to push that as much as I can without making them over-the-top comedic. I had also learned a lot from the previous one-shots I’d worked on, such as busting my hump for tight deadlines without letting the work suffer. The key is a lot of energy drinks and to sleep in 4-hour increments!
JOSH PEREZ: I got to use cel-shading! I actually used it a lot differently for this book than I have in previous; I tried to make my cel-cuts feel similar to those of the cartoon. I watched the G1 series a lot (like I really needed an excuse to do that) to try and match the value shapes that the cartoon used. Again, I absolutely love it when I get a chance to cel-render a book.
Q: How have you found collaborating on the book to be like, and also with IDW editor, Carlos Guzman?
SHANE MCCARTHY: I was thrilled to work with Matt on this. I hadn’t seen his work before so when the first pages started coming through I was blown away. He really captured the spirit of the humor and went a long way to making everything I did look a whole lot better. I’d certainly love to work with him again. Josh is always a pleasure to work with as his colours just escalate any project into the stratosphere. Carlos was another new variable for me and, no surprise, he was fantastic to work with. I need boundaries when I write but hate when someone tries to do my job for me; Carlos was brilliant in setting the parameters and pointing out potential problems but letting me do the fixing. He’s a great team leader.
MATT FRANK: I’d worked with Carlos on Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters, and he’s a fine editor with a good head on his shoulders (maybe he can use that quote for his autobiography). He also does a good job of keeping me on track when the deadline’s rushing up to meet us! Josh and I have collaborated since God-Knows-When, and our first major work together was Godzilla: Legends issue 1, so I was thrilled that he was stepping in to help. This was the first time Shane and I had crossed paths, and it was quite an honor—I’m a big fan of All Hail Megatron and I’ve found his work to be reliably snappy and natural in its storytelling structure.
JOSH PEREZ: Let me just say that IDW’s editors are amazing. I’ve worked with Carlos before, but since sometime last year (towards the end of 2011), I’ve been lucky to work with him as often as I do now. As Matt said, he definitely knows how to keep a crew on track—even if we (read: me, myself, and I) can be a pain to deal with sometimes. It’s because of Carlos that I had the insane pleasure to work with two very fun brands: TRANSFORMERS AND Mars Attacks. Thanks man!
Q: After everything is in place, how pleased are all you with the final product? Did you get the same feeling what you saw you’re any of your previous published work?
SHANE MCCARTHY: I’m very pleased with it. I think the whole team did a fantastic job and were all on the same page with how it should be done. It was an effortless pleasure and I hope the fans get a good laugh out of it.
MATT FRANK: It was a riotous good time. My only real caveat is that I’d love to have more time to polish things up or make certain scenes look juuuuuuust right, but deadlines are saviours just as much as they can be destroyers—without them us darn artists will just tweak stuff into oblivion. Overall, I’m QUITE pleased with the final product and am adding it to my personal lexicon of favorite projects!
JOSH PEREZ: While I really do love how the whole book turned out (Shane and Matt are amazing people!), I will always look at my work once it’s all done and see different ways I could have approached what I did… but that’s what it’s like doing anything artistic! You always want to do better than you did before—or at least you should, anyway. I think this book turned out fantastic and I certainly hope everyone will find it enjoyable!
Q: Will we be seeing any of you again on more Transformers books in the near future?
SHANE MCCARTHY: Who knows! I’m doing a lot of creator-owned work these days but I’ll always make time for a journey back to Cybertron whenever possible.
MATT FRANK: I’m actually in the middle of doing a new story for the Transformers Collectors Club, and the subject matter is something I’ve been dying to do for a good while now...but you’ll have to stay tuned, as I’m unsure when I can really talk about it! But it’s gonna be AWESOMELICIOUS, which is not a word! [Editor’s note—plus the just-announced TRANSFORMERS SPOTLIGHT: TRAILCUTTER from IDW and Hasbro, out in April!]
JOSH PEREZ: You can catch my digital-crayon skills in the ongoing Tranformers comic book series: in interiors for TRANSFORMERS: ROBOTS IN DISGUISE and on covers for TRANSFORMERS: MORE THAN MEETS THE EYE. And hopefully on whatever-else Transformers-related!