IDW Publishing: Beast Wars Sourcebook #1
Title: "Beast Wars Transformers Sourcebook #1"
Cover Price: $6.99 (US)
Publisher: IDW Publishing
Written by: Simon Furman and Ben Yee
Art by: Don Figueroa, Guido Guidi, Dan Khanna, Marcelo Matere, Robby Musso, Nick Roche, Rob Ruffolo
Colors by: Zak Atkinson, John Rauch, Andrew Elder, Guido Guidi, Kieren Oats, Rob Ruffolo
Design by: Mike Heisler and Neil Vyetake
Edits by: Dan Taylor
Since I co-authored this series of profiles, I'm not going to review it in my normal fashion since that would seen as biased at best. However I did want to talk about it now that it has been released, so this is more of a "inside look" at this issue. First I'll be providing some insight into the thinking Simon and I used in the development of this book, followed by addressing certain individual profiles I wrote and some of the motivation behind them.
I was approached about a year and a half or so ago to help Simon put this book together. Simon was in the midst of writing a lot of Transformers material for IDW, so he asked me to assist him in the writing of the profiles while he would write select profiles and perform editing duties. This was very generous of him and I will always be grateful for his faith in me. Once I agreed, the first task we set out on was deciding who would get profiles. If we only did the television show cast, there wouldn't have been enough to fill up one issue, no less three or four. By that point, the decision had been made to use Japanese characters in "The Gathering", so using Beast Wars the Second and Beast Wars Neo characters was a no brainer. Also, it is undeniable that fans love Japanese characters, and including them also allowed us to expand the IDW Beast Wars-verse beyond the television show. To this end, I created a spreadsheet that listed every single character alphabetically along with their sub-group and affiliation. Each row on the spreadsheet roughly equated to one profile and page worth of artwork with some exceptions such as Megatron and Optimus Primal, who will each take up quite a bit of room in a future issue. From this list, Simon and I divided up the profiles into which issue the characters would appear in. After that, we split up the characters between the two of us and set to work.
Cast of characters:
I have read some comments online about the use of Japanese characters versus US characters who share the same sculpt. The most often cited example is B'Boom and Apache. Quite simply, if you read their toy tech specs, they are not the same character. I grant their toys look extremely similar, but the G1 analogy I present to you is this: Just because Powermaster Optimus Prime and Ginrai use the same sculpt, with almost the exact same color scheme - are they the same character? Certainly not. And that is the rationale we used when using both Apache and B'Boom or Bighorn and Bonecrusher etc. In terms of artwork, we tried to suggest variations where we could. Despite claims that Apache and B'boom look exactly alike, you'll actually note the two artists used different proportions and the colorists used different shades of blue on each. These are minor changes, but enough to distinguish the two from each other despite the toys looking exactly the same.
As a general rule of thumb, if there was a toy we endeavored to make a profile for the toy. There are exceptions. For instance we did not create profiles for the Egg Beasts released in Japan. It was considered, but space limitations dictated that we use it on more prominant characters who appeared in the US and Japanese toy lines. I did insist however that the McDonalds Beast Wars toys be included (with the exception of the "Lion Head Optimus Primal" figure). I've always felt those guys should get some type of personality. This issue already touches on how we would treat the Transmetal McDonalds toys. You'll see how we used Scorponok's in a later issue!
History in the making:
Simon and I recognized early on that we needed to form some type of rough timeline to work with. We don't have precise dates such as "X happened on January 13, 2056" but we had a general timeline set up where the general events surrounding Beast Wars the Second and Neo both happened in this universe. That doesn't mean all the events happened exactly as seen in the animated series. I would consider those a separate universe from this one. Some of the elements in those shows would not work in a more serious Western based universe. Certain elements remained intact such as the Angolmois energy being Unicron's essence split up into capsules. In this universe, those two series happened before the Pax Cybertronia. Many are wondering how that works since it was assumed that the Pax Cybertronia was signed immediately after the Decepticons lost. However, that was never stated implicitly, and in general treaties need time to be worked up. After the Autobots and Decepticons stopped fighting, there was still a period of time where hostilities had to calm down while the Maximals and Predacons hammered out the details of the Pax Cybertronia.
Once this happened, we split up the characters into groups depending on where in the storyline they fit (such as the formation of the Pack). As you read through the profiles, you will see bits and pieces of this story mentioned, especially in the profiles of those who were prominent in this time frame.
Below are comments on some (not all) of the character profiles I worked on in this issue by name. Some are brief, others are long, but I hope they give you some insight into how I approached these profiles.
Way back when Beast Wars was still deep into season one, Bob Forward and Larry DiTillio wrote profiles of each character and they were put up on the Mainframe web site. Using some of the elements from these profiles, I wrote up profiles of my own to put on my web site, taking specific events from various episodes into account. I stressed the "Rhinox as an uncle" and "Cheetor as a sibling" elements in this profile because I always thought it was a great example of how Bob and Larry tried to make the robots in disguise more than just robots blasting each other. The Maximals were a (sometimes dysfunctional) family, and Airazor's relationship with these two Maximals exemplified that.
Someone is going to point out that the quote I took from Beast Wars should be "She stoops to conquer", a reference to an Irish romance play. Airazor would say this line and I loved it, but it was felt that "swoops" made more sense in the context of her beast form, so we changed the quote just slightly.
Working in Airazor's Transmetal form was easy since the Botcon comic from a few years back already touched on a potential way this could have happened. In our timeline however, it is the Vok who are mainly responsible for her transformation since they were the ones who created Tigerhawk to begin with. The abilities are largely taken from the toy tech specs. I believe artwork was done for her Transmetal form (though I have not seen it). If so, it should be published in a future trade paperback.
Apache was introduced in the Beast Wars the Second series in what is perhaps one of the most politically incorrect ways possible. Not only does his name allude to some connection with native americans, but then he is shown getting drunk off cans of Cybertronian beverages while crying (portraying a bad stereotype). I had to discard that part of his characterization and go more for what he appeared as in the series: Lioconvoy's right hand bot. However, I have a problem with making profiles "perfect", so I wanted to lean towards more of a characterization where he had leadership ability, but was not 100% sure of himself. In terms of a G1 archetype, he is close to Ultra Magnus in that respect.
As a side note, artist Nick Roche did draw a third mode for Apache, complete with Diver sitting on top as a "driver". However due to space limitations this was not published. My personal preference would have been to shrink down Apache's robot mode and squeeze it in, but I had no editorial control over the pictures in this issue other than suggesting what pictures needed to be drawn.
It was an interesting challenge to include Arachnid in the profiles. Was the thing sentient? Was it just a base that could transform? And why does he look so much like Tarantulas? I decided that this base existed during the Beast Wars, but somewhere along the line disappeared (was destroyed etc.). I left this open ended just in case Simon ever wanted to use the base in a story. Having Tarantulas be the one who created the base made sense since his manical sense of humor would probably have him make such a thing in his own image and it used some of his colors to boot. I wanted to give the base a bit of personality, hence the line about it playing with its prey.
In answer to everyone's first question, yep, that's G1 Jazz's motto. Using G1 related mottos is something the Beast Wars tech specs used a couple of times, and I thought it would be a nice tip of the hat to both G1 and the Beast Wars tech specs to use a couple here and there. Somehow, it fit with his vain personality. He literally thinks he looks better and has more style than everyone else. The idea was to take a relatively positive motto and twist its meaning a bit. Much of this personality came directly from the Japanese tech spec for the character including his vanity and the whole thing about him losing feathers in battle. Much like the G1 Marvel profile entries, I thought it was important to preserve personality quirks wherever possible. Also, the names for all of his weapons come directly from the toy tech spec as well (I'm particularly fond of the name "Gundread" for a weapon).
Out of all the Autoroller profiles, Autolauncher's is the one that exemplifies a lot of what we have tried to accomplish with this series. You have his personality, but on top of that we give an idea of the role he served during the war as one of Galvatron's bodyguards. On top of that, you see something else I tried to do where possible: mention of another character within another's tech spec. The idea behind this is to create a more cohesive universe where some characters are bound to each other in some way (for better or worse). The rivalry with Mantis came straight out of his toy tech spec, and it was an element I thought was very important to keep intact.
If every single bad guy is just a power hungry maniac, the profiles would get very one-note after a while. In that respect Bazooka offered a great chance to write a different type of personality for a Predacon. He was described as a "rustic samurai type" in his toy tech spec, and that is what gave me the idea to make him a Predacon whose word is his bond. Like Dinobot, he holds honor sacred, but his definition of it is very strict. Like Archadis, I also used the name of his weapon (the "Gigaton Stamp") to keep his personality somewhat close to his source material.
First off, I have no clue what happened with BB's artwork. The pencils and inks are spectacular, but why a guy who is black, purple and silver suddenly wound up looking like Sunstorm reincarnated is beyond me. The hope is that this guy will be color corrected for the trade paperback. No, his orange colors do not indicate some upcoming storyline or anything, it's just a straight forward error.
To say that BB was not the most well defined character in Beast Wars the Second would be an understatement. Most of the time he caused havoc, looked intimidating and said "Roger!" a lot. What I decided to focus on was his relationship with Starscream. Why would he be so loyal to the guy? Why was he always so quiet? To explain this, I made up a back history between the two, basically making them both former POW's who kept each other's spirits up. The idea was to also add a slightly sinister edge to the good intentions of the Maximal government with mention of a "re-education camp" scenario. Building on that, I figured BB would have retreated into himself and become a bot of few words just to survive. To a Predacon, he is almost a heroic figure and I like that grey area when it comes to "bad guys".
Big Convoy is easily one of my favorite Beast Wars toys ever. I just love the insane amount of weaponry built into a "good guy" figure. I also liked his portrayal as a loner forced into a leadership role in the Beast Wars Neo series. As such, I wanted to emphasize both of these qualities in his profile. I wrestled a bit with the whole "Matrix" thing. For a time I was going to omit it entirely, but I thought that something so significant in the action figure itself could not be ignored. In one of the early episodes of Beast Wars Neo, there is a part where Big Convoy's chest glows (an allusion to his Matrix) and he says the quote "All for one and one for all", and for me that helped to embody not only his motto but also his connection to Vector Sigma (which was portrayed slightly different in the cartoon than in G1). My only regret here is that there is no picture of his funky beast mode with the cannon sticking out of his head and that the robot mode illustration isn't larger. I saw Nick Roche's original pencil and ink of this piece and it is spectacular.
It's not a stretch to say that the characters portrayed in the Beast Wars Neo series were unconventional at best. Break (along with Stampy) are probably two of the furthest things from what a typical Transformer would be. I know whenever I've told people that they made a penguin Transformer they think I'm joking, until I show it to them! Break is definitely unconventional in personality as well. I loved his portrayal in the series, burning with confidence and enthusiasm. It's that aspect of him I wanted to emphasize from everything to his personality to his motto. His motto was something I had a bit of fun with. Originally I wanted it to be a bit more "Japanese subtitle-like" saying something along the lines of "My burning heart will extinguish the darkness of evil" but I think the same feel gets across by referencing his Spark instead. There is a picture of his Targetmaster mode floating out there by the way, so I really hope it makes it into the trade paperback. I absolutely adore Nick Roche's take on Break's beast mode as it shows him in a happy go lucky state. It's easily my favorite beast mode picture in the entire issue.
Cheetor's profile practically wrote itself. Bob and Larry did such a great job of developing the character on the television show all I really needed to do was describe him. Where I could, I made sure to put in references to things that happened on the television show. For instance, his involvement in saving Airazor and his dreams which sometimes borderlined on being psychic. I think it would have been easy to equate Cheetor character-wise to Hot Rod and Bumblebee in G1, but when it came to his attitude about himself overall, I think Sunstreaker's quote was the best fit for this guy. Seriously, while writing this I could hear Ian Corlett's voice saying the motto with a smirk and a laugh.
Unlike the Dreamwave "More than meets the eye" profile books, we chose to keep the characters listed alphabetically, just as the G1 Marvel Universe profile books were written. As such, Coelagon winds up being the first of the Seacons to appear in this series. While the God Neptune toy set did not have any bios for the individual Seacons, the Japanese publication TV Magazine did publish short bios on them, thus giving me the basis to work off of.
In Coelagon's case, he was said to be an older Transformer, and I rolled with that, imprinting much of the "Kup" archetype onto him, but on the opposite side of the fence. It seems often that it is easy to make bad guys the opposite of good guys and make it as simple as that. In this case, I thought, "Why not have a 'bad guy' who respects history just as much as a 'good guy' such as Kup would?". I liked the idea of him being a mentor to his fellow Predacons rather than just another guy looking to take over leadership. He's had his glory days, so now he just wants to help the younger generation have theirs. This makes him one of the more distinct Predacons in this book (in my opinion of course).
Truthfully, I debated for quite some time whether or not the first Cybershark should be the same character as the Transmetal II Cybershark. In the end, it seemed to make sense and it also seemed the toys were meant to be related to each other. Cybershark's personality was inspired by old classic movies showing swashbuckling heroes who laughed in the face of danger. Since some Autobots had become legendary (such as G1 Countdown), why couldn't a Maximal who traveled from world to world doing good while having adventures? His motto is really meant to represent this adventurous spirit while having an air of seriousness. My only regret is that for some odd reason his robot mode pic is from his Transmetal 2 form while his beast mode pic is from his original form. I'm hoping all four pictures drawn for him are shown in a future trade paperback, but still it would have made more sense to use two pictures from the same toy/form.
Some fans have asked if this guy is G1 Dead End reborn, and the answer is no. The fact that he once had a rather sullen attitude was more of a result of his name than anything else. With a name like Dead End, you kind of figure this guy was not the most enthusiastic character around. Still, I recognized that it would be a bit too easy to just slide him into the archetype of being a depressed warrior and chose instead to elevate him a bit by giving him something to believe in. Once he had that, he latched onto it and became the ideal soldier, something that I enjoy seeing in an army rather than just a bunch of misfits (which is sort of what we got in the Beast Wars TV show).
Dirge represents one of those characters that I had to discard most of his TV show and tech spec persona. I only latched onto two things: the mention of him launching insults and his "cooking". The thing is, just saying he insults people doesn't go very far in terms of character. I really wanted to make him odious, thus the mention of how even other Predacons don't like being around the guy. As for "cooking", it seemed a bit too much of a stretch to use that word, so instead I translated that to his creation of energy mixtures in an attempt to boost performance. For a jet based Transformer, that seemed to make a world of sense. For his motto, I thought of an irritating Decepticon that I always found funny as a kid: Blot, the Terrorcon. Dirge's motto is a variation on Blot's, and I think it fits him perfectly.
So there you have it, a look into the thought processes behind this series. For the upcoming issues I will do something similar, touching upon the profiles I worked on and how I approached them. I hope you enjoy this and the subsequent issues in the Beast Wars Transformers Sourcebook series.