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Interview - IDW Talks Transformers Comics

Fans have been wondering for months who the next Transformers license holder would be. Many of the fans expected a big well known studio to pick up the title. When it was announced, fans were surprised to find a fresh new face in comics was now holding the cards. IDW comics who publishes comics series like 24, CSI, Angel, Metal Gear Solid, Castlevania and more will be rolling out the new Transformers comics in early 2006. We talked with Chris Ryall Editor-in-Chief at IDW about what they have planned for their newest comicbook series.

TFormers: For the fans who don't know, tell us more about IDW. What you guys do now and your philosophy about creating comics?

Chris: We’re known in the comic world for doing primarily three things now—we’ve made a name for ourselves as a horror publisher (you’re welcome, Dark Horse) through titles like 30 Days of Night; we publish art books by folks like Ashley Wood and Scott Hampton, along with many of Ash’s other projects like Popbot, and we do many books based on licensed properties like Dawn/Shaun/Land of the Dead, 24, CSI, Angel, Metal Gear Solid, Castlevania…

TFormers: Can you tell us why IDW sought the Transformers license?

Chris: Well, we’ve been doing more and more licensed books, as mentioned, and the Transformers is pretty much the ultimate license, one of the premiere properties in all of comics. At least, it can be once again, if done properly.

TFormers: What is your background with Transformers and how are you preparing to take on this property?

Chris: I think about 90% of people reading comics now have grown up on Transformers and I’m no different. What’s different is, I’m not approaching this a fan who wants to offer up his take on TF comics. I’m looking at it from a more broad sense, as in, “what’s worked for Transformers comics all these years? What hasn’t worked? What did the fans like and dislike?� And “how can we relaunch these comics and bring back the fans who were let down before as well as appealing to people who might check out the books for the first time?� Basically, we’re preparing to take the property into the future and build a good, long relationship with both Hasbro and the fans?

TFormers: What is different about the Transformers comics than the other titles IDW has released so far?

Chris: What is different about our coming title/s? Well, that pretty much merits a “wait and see� answer at this point… but our main point is that this is IDW’s take on Transformers, not just an extension of what Dreamwave was doing? I don’t think there’d be much fun in that, even for fans of the DW material.

Of course, this is just the first title I’m referring to. We have a lot of other things planned as well, titles we’ll be talking more about as the books get closer to launching.

TFormers: Will you be starting new or can we expect to see the old comics continue from where they left off?

Chris: Many of the DW books didn’t really “leave off� as much as they were just abandoned mid-stream. It’d be nigh impossible to pick up from unfinished stories. All of that material and its status is tied up in bankruptcy court right now. So from that perspective, if we want to get TF comics back into the hands of fans any time soon, we need to relaunch things. Otherwise, we wait until a decision is made, and that can take months or longer. Not that we want to just pick up directly from those books for our direction. That wouldn’t really be fair to the creators on those books, either, us just assuming we knew where things were headed.

Incidentally, we do plan to address all the unfinished material as soon as we’re able, as well as collecting various DW books in TPB form and keeping those tales in print, too, in one form or another. For starters…

TFormers: What do you plan to do different from the other Transformers comics we've seen created do far?

Chris: Everything and nothing. I mean, the characters will be essentially the same, but the direction will be our own, and will not be the same as what DW, or Marvel, r anyone else was doing.

Think of it like the old Marvel series was Sean Connery’s James Bond. And Dreamwave was George Lazenby… okay, I kid, they were Roger Moore. And we’re going to be the Daniel Craig version.

TFormers: Are you are a Transformers fan? What do you like most about them?

Chris: I don’t think any of us would have signed on for such an important property if we weren’t—doing comics based on characters you don’t like is too much like work. And what do I like best? They’re giant, transforming robots. There might be nothing better than that in the world.

TFormers: Simon Furman has already said he's on board with you. Are there any other Transformers heavy weights we can expect to see working the panels?

Chris: By “heavy weights,� do you mean “past TF creators�? Or “heavy weights in the comic industry�? Because the answer is “yes�…

TFormers: Have any well-known Transformers artists signed on?

Chris: I’ll just say I’ve had long conversations with great TF artists new and old…

TFormers: What is your target age audience for the new comics?

Chris: Anyone who likes comics—if you want a demographic grouping, I’d say maybe 12+. But they won’t be too hard to understand for younger kids, and they won’t talk down to adults, either. When I was a kid, I never felt like comics were written for 10-year-old Chris. I just jumped on, and if I understood, great. I liked the idea of being challenged by comic, and I resented it, even as a kid, when comics talked “down� to me. So we won’t do that here, either.

TFormers: Will the comics follow the classic cannon or start new ones?

Chris: Is there one classic cannon at this point? We’re restarting the continuity in much the same way Ultimate Spider-Man did. You’ll see familiar characters and settings, but filtered through a new scope, with a lot of the baggage stripped away.

TFormers: Are there any plans for a comic to be tied in with the movie?

Chris: Yep!

TFormers: When can we expect to see the first publication?

Chris: The introductory 0 issue ($0.99 for 24 pages, including a 16-page prelude to the first story arc) launches in October. The main book debuts in January 2006 with the six-part “Infiltration,� with more to follow from there. 2006 is going to be maybe the best year ever for Transformers fans.

TFormers: How does IDW plan to cater to the ever-demanding Transformers adult fan base?

Chris: I’ve monitored all the message boards—many of them, anyway, and already interacted on various forums. And what I’ve seen is that nearly everyone has strong views on just what the comics should be. If we tried to cater to everyone… well, 90% of them would hate us.

All we can do is put out the very best TF comic, knowing everything we know about what works and what doesn’t, and hope they like it. I’m pretty confident they will.

TFormers: What is your personal interest in Transformers? Do you collect the toys as well?

Chris: I just added a new prize to my bookcase here at the office—when we were at Hasbro, we talked cars and I mentioned how I’d just recently bought a Honda S2000. The next morning at the meeting, they presented me with a Transforming S2000… same color, even. I love it.

TFormers: Finally, Are you Autobot or Decepticon?

Chris: Aren’t we all a little bit of both?

TFormers: Thanks Chris for taking the time to answer our questions. The fans really appreciate it. Stay tuned for this fall when the #0 comic preview comes out. Check out more information about IDW and the many titles they publish at:

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