When Hasbro first introduced the Transformers franchise in the 1980s, the company always viewed the property as a toy line first, a multimedia endeavor second, and concept third. Which is understandable given that Hasbro’s primary focus was as a toy company. The television and comics side of The Transformers was crafted to advertise their new product line. Over time, though, The Transformers proved capable of transcending their original mandate. Characters like Optimus Prime, Ironhide and Ratchet proved so endearing in the popular show that children wanted to learn increasingly more about these characters and the universe in which they inhabited. Through the years, The Transformers morphed into a fully realized universe complete with continuity, philosophy and a diehard fan base that is equal to any in media. While their popularity has waned at times, they have experienced a resurgence under IDW Publishing. With comics like Transformers: More Than Meets the Eye and Transformers: Robots in Disguise, their universe has expanded onto levels that fans have never before seen from their favorite characters. Now, following the newly created Hasbro Universe of comics, The Transformers’ legacy is developing even further with a new title called, The Transformers: The Lost Light, under the adept craftsmanship of James Roberts.
To set the scene, Rodimus has convinced many Transformers to seek out the legendary Knights of Cybertron. These include such well-known characters as Ultra Magnus, Cyclonus and even Megatron (at one point). Along the way, there is a bunch of craziness, humor, time traveling, The Decepticon Justice Division and assorted entertaining nonsense. The crew of the Lost Light is still deep in space searching, but now the crew is being led by the stoic Cyclonus.
The first question I had for Roberts was about his creative process.
“Lost Light, like More Than Meets the Eye before it, is a densely-plotted book with storylines that play out over months and months – sometimes years,” he said. “So, it’s essential that I have a very clear idea what’s going to happen and when. I spend a lot of time mapping out the story arcs, and then I obsess over the structure of each issue, making sure the scenes are properly balanced and the pacing feels right. The first few drafts of the script are usually in longhand – I have a tower of notebooks full of my barely legible handwriting. I refine the dialog when typing everything up, and then edit it all again by hand – by which I mean I take a red pen to the printout. That’s the best bit; it means I’m nearly done.”
So what’s the distinction between these two series?
“After the Revolution event [which formally brought all of IDW’s Hasbro properties under one roof, continuity-wise], many titles were re-launched, some with new titles,” Roberts said. Had MTMTE continued with its old title and numbering, the stories you’re now reading in Lost Light would probably have played out in roughly the same way. … Visually, of course, the two series look very different. Alex Milne was the principal artist on MTMTE, and Jack Lawrence has assumed that role for Lost Light. I can’t overstate the extent to which Alex’s lines defined the ‘feel’ of MTMTE – his contribution to the way the book read was massive. Jack is also supremely talented, and he’s already given Lost Light a visual language that’s all its own.”
Anode is a new character introduced in Lost Light, an adventurer who serves as an audience surrogate. I asked about the purpose of her character in the overall big picture of this series.
“I used to divide MTMTE into ‘seasons’, like TV shows,” Roberts explained. “It was always my intention, as MTMTE wound on, to introduce new female characters — and in so doing address a longstanding imbalance — and the plan was for Anode to show up in Season 3 of MTMTE. That became Season 1 of Lost Light. And as I say, the circumstances of her arrival altered a little, too – she was going to cross paths with the crew of the Lost Light under the mutineer Getaway’s command, as opposed to being rescued by the time-traveling Necrobot. I was in a bit of a bind when MTMTE ended, because it ended on the mother of all cliffhangers: the main cast, and the planet on which they’d been left stranded by Getaway, had apparently blown up. So, they were dead, their ship had been stolen, they were falling behind on their quest … I had an obligation with Lost Light to pick up where I’d left off, but it was far from a neat jumping on point for new readers. Anode, being a totally new character – and someone who was unfamiliar with our regulars and their backstory – was my way of re-introducing all the series’ key concepts without it being too clunky. But Anode was and is more than just a means to an end. I wanted a driven, funny, independent, ebullient, cheeky new character, with a unique set of skills.”
One significant change that occurred, and was previously mentioned, is that Hasbro has united all its titles into one universe. That means that G.I. Joe, The Transformers and even Rom occupy the interlocking universe, among other titles of the brand. I asked Roberts how tightly tied are all these different titles.
“Lost Light takes place a long way away from Earth and Cybertron, so physically the characters are far removed from the largely Earth-based casts of G I Joe, Action Man, M.A.S.K. etc.,” he said. “And the fact that the Lost Light is about a quest means that we can’t have the cast popping back to Earth every few months without the momentum being lost. All that said, the Hasbro universe is just that – a universe – and the likes of Micronauts and ROM in particular are intergalactic in nature. So, who knows – paths may cross.”
At the end of issue one, our heroes find themselves on the Cybertron of a different universe. How will this new universe reflect their own?
“We’ve visited this universe before, briefly, in the prologue to the Elegant Chaos storyline, and it’s a universe that our heroes created,” Roberts said. “It’s a universe where Megatron died at birth, so to speak, and without him to create the Decepticons, the Functionist Council took over. The Functionists believe that ‘you are your alt mode’: what you turn into – what Primus, the Cybertronians’ ‘god’, intended you to be – defines your life choices and your life expectancy. Your job is an extension of your alt mode. Your place in society is dictated by the ubiquity of your alt mode. And when society no longer has a need for what you turn into – when you’re redundant – you’re disposed of. So, the universe that our heroes find themselves stranded in is a hellish place – a theocratic, totalitarian crapstorm, in Rodimus’ words.”
So, what readers look forward to in upcoming issues of IDW’s Transformers: The Lost Light?
“After the Dissolution arc we’re following a smaller group of characters to a place we’ve mentioned more than once but never actually visited,” according to Roberts. “After that, we catch up with Getaway and his fellow mutineers – the titular Lost Light finally makes an appearance. Then we’re into Year 2, and I won’t say anything about what’s going to happen then. But I will say that Lost Light is going to be revisiting and resolving more and more MTMTE-era mysteries. I like posing questions, but I like giving answers, too. And as will become apparent as the series continues, there’s something on the horizon, getting gradually closer – and that’s the grand finale itself.”