Yesterday I went over the basic approach for how I would do a run on Transformers comics if I was given open season to do what I want. Granted this is a bit limiting since I can’t really do whatever I want. The fans have to like the story or I might as well be making a fan comic in a spiral bound notebook. These things have to sell and while I won’t pander to any one group, including nostalgists, I do have a lot more freedom in this imaginary scenario to put my own spin on this new entry into the Transformer multiverse. My philosophy came down to one sentence:
Transformers is a kids toyline that adults also enjoy about living alien robots at war.
The emphasised parts are what’s important here. In the approach I would do an all-ages comic.
ALL-AGES MEANS ALL AGES, CHILD AND ADULT!
I used Beast Wars as my example of how this would work. The story would be dark when it needed to be and light when it needed to be. I also would base personalities and if possible designs a bit more on the toys and tech specs, but would keep note of iconic traits in order to not be a hypocrite. So now comes the fun part.
In this final installment we’ll go over the lore of this new Transformers universe I’d like to make, though not in great detail so nothing specific gets stolen on the off chance certain parties who will work on the continuity after IDW loses the license (rumors point to Skybound being in talks, which I also went into yesterday), get an idea stuck in their head, and forget where they saw it. This time we’ll lean more on the “living alien robots at war” part as well as one other philosophy I’ve brought up before: periodicals are like TV series, graphic novels are like movies.
What does that mean? No writing “for the trade”! The main comic would be the periodical, an ongoing serialized story of the Autobots, Decepticons, and factions to be added when we get there. Taking an idea from an early concept Dreamwave had (quickly dropped by the time they actually started making comics), each year would factor into a storyline. For example the first storyline would feature the 1984 characters, the second would add in 1985, and so on. This would eventually get to the later Japanese and US lines, give us new takes on the UK exclusive G1s, and get into the Beast lines, the Unicron trilogy, and so on. G1 characters brought back in other lines would see an eventual return or still hang around the periphery. This would be a shared universe of every major toy on the shelves and even the conventions. It would end up having a greater impact on Earth and charting a course away from our real world Transformerless reality where no space robot civil war is impacting our lives.
I wouldn’t be a slave to this idea however. This was just a broad example. 1984 may actually take up more than one storyline before it’s time to introduce the 1985 figures. When we start getting non-Earth vehicle modes the story would allow us to check in on Cybertron or other Autobot/Decepticon colonies from time to time. We may have a story on Earth, followed by another on Cybertron, and then on to Nebulos or Velocitron, depending on what year we’re in and what’s happening in the story itself as well as the figures. The story is the most important aspect but every toy/character is someone’s favorite and even if we can’t give him or her a focus story in the main series I want to at least be able to get them represented. I know someone out there has wanted to see Vroom in action since they were a kid because it was their first Transformer. Whirl fans finally got their reward so why not Vroom’s?
As we follow what the Transformers are doing in our time (or an alternate 1984 depending on how we go) I should note that a separate definitely kids line (possibly written by someone else as I’ll be busy, or if this pitch didn’t go through I do this instead) based on the current kids toy line after Cyberverse could also be made in periodical form to draw kids back to Transformers through that show and toys. Make it clear that it’s separate from the main series and we should be okay. Even one strictly for adults based on whatever replaces the War For Cybertron Trilogy could be considered, or maybe do a set of graphic novels, which leads us back to the main series and my other idea.
So if the periodical is our TV series and graphic novels our movie, what do we do for the graphic novel fans? Well, here’s where the deep diving into this continuity’s lore comes in. Part of the fun in the ongoing will be the culture clash between Cybertronians, Earthlings, Nebulans, and whatever other alien races come our way. However, since I want to put some actual effort into the culture instead of just emulating Earth while still keeping it something relatable to the audience, a series of graphic novels set in Cybertron’s past will be a good way to do this. Tentatively titled Transformers: The Early Cycles (a play on “cycle” being the usual replacement for “day”), the novels will present larger historical backstory into the early days of Cybertronian society going all the way back to the very creation of Cybertron itself.
So what origin do we go with? The accepted multiversal origin usually involves Primus and Unicron, both of whom have toys, so that fits into using the toys as the source material. However, so do the Quintessons finally, so I would get to combine the two origins. I won’t go into details here either, but I know exactly how I want to do this, and though most of them don’t have toys as of this writing, the 13 Primes would also play a role.
From there we see the early days of Cybertronian society, learn how their culture works. Rather than having a corrupt system that orders your job based on your alt mode like IDW stuck us with, we know Transformers on Cybertron can change their alt mode. We’ve seen it happen literally from the first comic and TV episode while Beast Wars in Japan gave us built-in scanners to alter their forms rather than using external equipment like a pod or tiny satellite drone. Instead protoforms would choose their alt mode and thus choose what they want to do with their lives, even changing alt modes if they want or having multiple forms, like Triple Changers and the like. Cybertronian society wouldn’t be perfect mind you. Some choices may be looked down upon as would some lifestyles based on that choice. How do the animal based Cybertronians get treated versus certain vehicles? What did your favorite characters do before the war? What games and forms of art did they come up with (some of which we actually have in continuity like Cube)? This is the stuff I would explore better in the graphic novels. While I’d still find ways to get some action in I would have more time to explore this stuff versus the ongoing war story, where I’d get to do some exploration but not enough since I have to move things along.
This is also where most of your early line mixing would occur, assuring the readers its coming. While stories in the ongoing may draw a character in from another line early, or at least get them mentioned, this is a pre-war Cybertron. Each toyline represents a different military unit but that’s not an issue except for those in the pre-war military. I could see Prowl being part of the Cybertronian equivalent of a police officer, which I’m thinking would be called something like the Enforcers. (Shout out to SWAT Kats. Military would be the Guard or something. Some characters should be young by the time we get them into the main story and thus wouldn’t be here, like any of the Hot Shots (Unicron trilogy and Rescue Bots Academy) but there are plenty of existing figures that would be around pre-war. We might even see the origins and early adventures of Optimus Prime or Kup as the war approaches or begins. Imagine young Kup being more like Hot Rod than he is today.
And yes, I will explain so many characters named Optimus Prime. Short version is they won’t all be Optimus, but they will be a new take on Prime…or rather revisiting an old Prime concept while still keeping the new. Trust me, it will totally work and has in my collection. We’ll also explain shared names and new bodies depending on what version of the character the related toy is supposed to be. Energon Prowl isn’t the G1 Prowl, but Machine Wars is.
This is also where we explore historical concepts that factor in later, like the forming of the Rescue Bots, the arrival of the Mini-Cons as Unicron tries to disrupt a time of truce or something, the launch of the Ark, the groups that flee the war and start up Cybertronian colonies (especially the ones for the Energon period of the characters). Note that those weren’t in properly historical order, just off the top of my head module. Yes, terminology would also be explored since these are “super robot lifeforms” and thus would have their own expressions, curse words, and what passes for wildlife and mythology. As graphic novels coming out every few months it’s a chance to “flesh” out the culture described in the ongoing.
There is one final idea but I’d need more help than a boss art team to pull it off. If the graphic novels are meant to expand on Cybertronian society and the ongoing is meant to be a continuous story we still may not have time to give characters an individual focus. There was a comic that gave Skids some focus and IDW’s “Transformers Spotlight” series was a great way to give characters individual exploration, so why not do that again? I’m thinking in this case something more along the lines of minicomics or if the site could actually tell such stories Webtoons. (DC and Marvel are using them the same way Hollywood is trying to use YouTube so it is an option.) These would be shorter stories either in present day or in the character’s past, a cross between the ongoing and The Early Cycles. Learn why Mirage went from hunting turbofoxes to hunting Decepticons. What happened to the Rescue Bots and how does it tie into multiforming as it would be seen during the Great War? What was Rattrap’s life like growing up? All these could be revealed in special shorter stories, and then collected like a box set in print later. I wouldn’t want to focus only on the more famous characters however. Vroom and Omega Spreem are getting their own spotlight comics as well.
So, that’s pretty much it. An all-ages running series that tells an ongoing story, a series of graphic novels that goes into the history and culture, and if possible one-shot spotlight comics for characters that could use or never had a focus story. Everyone gets at least one form of comic they prefer but there’s also the possibility of fans getting into all three. Put these where kids can find them, even just as previews to draw them to the comic shop, and you have the potential for some great Transformers stories. I even have ideas for the first storyline or two that will make a more accurate take on the Witwickys and how the Earth Transformers make contact with Cybertron. I’m totally up to make this happen if Skybound or whoever else tries for the license gets it. I see potential here…do you?