Here we go. As promised, those 20 questions now have the appropriate (or inappropriate, you judge) answers. Thanks to everyone who posted (sorry I couldn’t answer ‘em all) and thanks also to Chris Ryall at IDW and Luke (Bassbot). Click here to go to questions (& answers) #1-15 (over at the IDW forums) and read on for #16-20. Enjoy!
16) How does the Matrix work in the IDW universe (i.e. power of Primus, souls of all the Transformers, sacred battery, etc)?
SF) Well, we’ve yet to actually meet the Matrix in the IDW/TF-verse. So we may be getting ahead of ourselves here. What do we know about it so far? Well, according to Spotlight Galvatron, the Matrix was (and maybe is) “carried” by Nova Prime, and he (Nova Prime) disappeared into the Dead Universe (along with the Matrix, we assume). Nova describes a bottomless well and a resonant tug on the Matrix. What happened next we don’t know (yet). But what is the Matrix (hm, that sounds familiar somehow)? Not telling. Not yet. But ’08 holds the answers: what it is, where it came from, what is does (then and now!). The Matrix (and what it’s become) will figure large in all that happens post-Devastation. The Matrix has been gone from the IDW/TF-verse for a long time, and its return will not necessarily be a thing of celebration.
17) Was it always the intention to introduce Acree to the IDW-verse, or was it as case of being suddenly struck with a workable idea? If so, what inspired the idea and story?
SF) I think once the nature of IDW/TF-verse Jhiaxus started to properly take shape, so the idea of doing an Arcee story became both workable and desirable (in the context of both a Spotlight and the larger story). To an extent, I wasn’t willing to go anywhere near Arcee (as a character) until I had worked out the whys and wherefores (in the IDW/TF-verse) of quote-unquote female Transformers and the whole issue of gender. Back when I was writing the first clutch of Spotlights, the idea of Arcee started to germinate. The Nightbeat Spotlight opened a door, and the involvement of Hot Rod just somehow made me want to get Arcee in there too, somehow, even though the two aren’t linked in the IDW/TF-verse. But even then I didn’t really have all the answers I needed (for myself) to properly introduce/write the character. I’ve been vocal about my resistance to the idea of gender in Transformers, so if Arcee existed (and she was a she), then I really needed to know exactly why that was (and how she and others react to that fact). Arcee, Combiners and Micromasters all have a common point of origin, in terms of forcing the evolution the Cybertronian race. Once I had that in mind, Arcee just seemed to work (and I had the motivation on both sides) as both a concept and a character.
18) As more people chip into building this new IDW/TF-verse continuity, are there any guidelines for what creators should/shouldn’t include to avoid clashing with other books?
SF) My main rule of thumb has always been (and remains), if it’s been done that way before, don’t do it again. It applies equally to me and, I hope, the other writers contributing to the IDW/TF-verse. Mostly, other than looking at what’s been established so far in the ‘ongoing’ arcs, the Spotlights and so forth and making sure new story elements don’t blow it all (in terms of the over-arcing story) out of the water, it’s just a matter of continually thinking outside of the box, and not falling back on classic G1 (knee-jerk) story/character traditions. Defy expectations. Turn characters on their heads. Assign them roles and functions that don’t necessarily match their classic G1 counterparts. And try and keep the story rolling onwards, rather than keep dipping back into what’s gone before (or if you do go back, make sure it has some present day/future resonance/pay off). On the IDW forums there’s a great thread, which painstakingly details who’s appeared, when and where. It’s very helpful, not least to me. The great thing about the way the IDW/TF-verse is set up is there are stories to tell that don’t necessarily have to be set on Earth. It’s been established that the war is spread out across many worlds, many frontiers, and that there are disparate groups of Decepticons (Infiltration units) and Autobots (Tactical Response units) involved, and that the ‘staged’ process established in Infiltration, Escalation and the like is underway on those other worlds too. So it’s reasonably straightforward to assemble a cast on some far-flung world and tell whatever kind of story you want to tell.
19) What goes into writing a new character who’s not been featured before? With, say, Sixshot was there a process involved in how he would act or did you look at tech specs or previous appearances in other mediums to get a basic idea?
I do at least start with the tech specs. Then, largely, I look for whatever it is in that character that interests or intrigues me, or seems to open the door to some kind of dramatic conflict (and if it’s not there, then I’ll start to rethink or flesh out the character more) and subsequent resolution (to a degree). With the Spotlights in particular I look for a way to give the reader an almost instant insight into what makes the character tick, and why we should care about or empathise with them. Good guy or bad guy, it’s necessary that the reader become involved with the character quickly. So if there’s nothing much there in terms of tech specs or previous appearances to start with, I’ll introduce something to lift the character out of a kind of template role. Taking Sixshot as an example, having divined that he’s this ‘living weapon,’ I thought, so what does that mean? (Both to us and to him.) Why should we care? How does he view himself? Is he happy being a living weapon? Might he, if given a way out, take it? And so forth. When addressing any character, I’m continually asking myself questions about them. First job really is to get myself interested. Once I am, it’s that much easier to get other people interested. Sometimes I actually prefer it when there’s little or nothing already there in black and white and I can just build the character from the ground up.
20) In Spotlight: Shockwave, did Shockwave beat the Dynobots or did he just destroy their organic covering forcing them into stasis lock? Any chance of a rematch?
SF) I think the answer to the first part of this question is that Shockwave beat the Dynobots by destroying their organic covering, at which point they went into stasis lock. Did he beat them? Yes. Would he, if they too had been resistant to the high levels of energon? Hard to say. Maybe, maybe not. Grimlock, clearly, had foreseen the possibility of losing and planned an appropriate no-win scenario before ever setting foot on the planet. So maybe he won. Either which way, we do have something of another grudge match in the offing. Only this time it’s the Dynobots versus… ah, but that’d be telling. Whatever the case, stuff is set in motion in Spotlight Grimlock that will have huge repercussions. Will Shockwave figure in any of this? Maybe. Are the Dynobots coming back in 08? Definitely.