Early this year, Blizzard Senior Vice-president of Creative Design Chris Metzen and his pal Flint Dille (Transformers) joined up to write Transformers: Autocracy — a 12-issue digital comics available on iPhone and Comixology.
If you are a Chris Metzen fan, like myself, this will blow your socks off. IDW Publishing unveiled the Transformers: Autocracy (Paperback) last week at San Diego Comic Con. If you missed the digital version or waited for the paperback, here it is. Grab it while supplies last.
The sales went so great that IDW has pledged to the creative minds of Metzen and Dille for a second round.
According to a Twitter message, both authors and Livio Ramondelli (Artist) are joining up once more to create a Transformers: Autocracy sequel titled Transformers: Monstrosity (January 2013).
For those who missed it, Transformers: Autocracy was set after Chaos Theory and Megatron Origin. This story portrays Orion Pax and Megatron uniting to fight a common foe: Zeta Prime. A chaotic world that makes path to the birth of Optimus Prime from the ashes of Orion Pax. The moment in history when Orion Pax finds and dons the Matrix.
I’m nigh 40 years old. Back in the 80s, I didn’t miss a Transformers TV Series chapter. I loved to draw Optimus Prime, back then. It’s absolutely cool to read how Optimus Prime came to be his heroic self from the pen of Chris Metzen and Flint Dille. After reading the 12-issue digital comics, I wished to see more of Metzen/Dille, and my wishes were granted. Monstrosity continues the saga. As per Dille’s words: “Now that they have freedom, what do they do with it?”
Transformers: Autocracy (Paperback) Letter from Chris Metzen
We joked that one day we’d find enough time outside of our day jobs to collaborate on something epic!
Well, when the opportunity presented itself to work on a Transformers story for IDW, that collaboration kicked into high gear. I had a number of themes I wanted to chase in the story; ideas and things I’d wanted to see rendered since I was a kid (how Optimus got a lot of unfinished character business from the ’80s that he wanted to make good on (Hot Rod’s impetuousness getting Optimus killed, the root of Megatron’s evil). Writing Autocracy allowed us to scratch all those itches at once.
We knew Autocracy would be a fairly dark, gritty story about the fall of Cybertron’s former governmental system — a theme that both Flint and I were fascinated with. We had talked a lot over the years about the world we live in today and the challenges of developing pop fiction in the post-911 world. We talked a lot about what it means to be a good soldier — about what roles real (or fictional) heroes play in a society where achieving celebrity has seemingly become an end in and of itself — and about how the “cult of personality” shapes and breaks leaders’ careers on a daily basis. It seemed to us that this was all really interesting DNA for a story … a story of how a banged-up cop who’s lost his faith in justice opens his heart to his people — and leads them to real freedom.
Flint’s unbridled energy and constant stream of ideas really charged me up, and pushed me to reach deep to find the soul of this story. I learned a lot about franchise-storytelling from Flint over the course of developing this series (that I hope to leverage in my day job). But really, getting to work with one of my heroes on a franchise that he helped define has been a staggering honor. And, seeing Flint get to chase ideas he always wanted to tie up — and revel in the sheer geeky glory of the Transformers universe again — was great fun.
Of course, none of our highfalutin ideas would have come to life without the vision and talent of Livio Ramondelli. A newer artist on the Transformers scene, Livio turned out to be the perfect artist for this series — and the “missing third ingredient” to finalize our vision. Having grown up with Transformers himself, Livio’s instincts for these characters’ feelings and motivations really helped galvanize Autocracy’s core storyline. But it was his materful rendering of Cybertron’s scarred, immortal warriors — and the contrast between its stark urban collapse and hopeful, dawning horizons — that gave Autocracy its distinct visual authenticity.
Under Livio’s digital-brush, each page of this series literally strobed between darkness and light — and cut straight to the core of this beloved franchise; good vs evil — hope vs nihilism — all lovingly rendered in every detailed panel … Livio’s cinematic eye for storytelling and drama didn’t just define Autocracy’s look — it changed the way I’ll look at Transformers forever.
I also want to thank the very talented editorial team at IDW — who have kept the Transformers torch lit for years. First, to Scott Dunbier who suggested I take a swing at writing a Transfromers story “one day”. Props must be paid to Andy Schmidt (former series editor) for taking the chance on a couple of comics-newbies and allowing us to tell our story.
I want to give special thanks to the current Transformers editor, John Barber, for not only keeping us on track, but for shaping this story with us from the get-go. John’s patience, encouragement, and creative support were instrumental in getting this project across the finish line!
And, I’d be remiss to not thank all the great writers whose stories paved the way for Autocracy — especially Simon Furman, James Roberts, Mike Costa, and Eric Holmes. It’s been a great honor to help weave this evolving mythology alongside such great talents!
On behalf of Flint and Livio, I dearly hope you enjoy this tale — collected here in print for the first-time ever! It’s been a very rewarding adventure so far!
The artwork by Livio Ramondelli is awesome, and well-complemented by the coloring and special effects. You don’t see this level of visual F/X in comics very often consecutively from panel to panel in merely 8-pages. It’s pure raw action.
Letters by Robbie Robbins add an extra depth to the story using noise F/X such as CHA-KOOOOM, KRAAK, CHAMMK, BWAM and others with special fonts.
Transformers: Autocracy # 3 quickly puts the 12-part series into high-speed heartbeat-rate.
In this issue, everyone gets their answer about StarScream’s massacre in Megatron: Origin. There were no survivors to relay who perpetrated the assassination of the Senate of Kaon — as you can read in this image.
In the previous issue, Zeta Prime ordered his best officer Orion Pax (later to be known as Optimus Prime) to capture the Decepticon spy Soundwave.
Orion Pax and his autobots team are now hunting down the spy to prevent critical classified info from falling into the hands of the Decepticons.
The aerial defences of Iacon won’t allow an emergency evac, thus Soundwave has no other option than to run for it toward the Kaon border — identified as a Decepticon-controlled territory in continuum consistency with the events of Megatron: Origins.
As Metzen said in the Autocracy # 3 video teaser, you will see Soundwave making use of its cassette minions in a surgical way to make his escape. He uses all of them, thwarting the Autobots hunt. Soundwave is definitely one of the more interesting Decepticons. Flint Dille and Chris Metzen make him shine in this story.
Something curious about the citizens of Iacon is how much they fear Zeta Prime’s forces: the Autobots. Something you should put attention to. The citizens fear the Autobots as much as they do the Decepticons.
The only autobot remaining in the hunt is Orion Pax, and you know what that means. “Crack!!!”, It’s Clobbering Time!!!
The end of this issue just makes you wish you could read Autocracy # 4 already, craving for more.
I don’t know if Livio Ramondelli created this front cover artwork with this in mind, but the metaphorical vibes of this image are mind-boggling. That’s a close up on Soundwave with Orion Pax (Optimus Prime)’s reflection in the middle of Soundwave’s chest. See the decepticon insignia on Orion Pax?
Throughout the story, you will see Orion Pax and the Autobots feared as much by the citizens as they fear the Decepticons. Zeta Prime has reached a point where he will rather massacre an entire district than to let the Decepticons continue their hit-and-run terrorist tactics. Zeta Prime is like Machiavelli: The end result justifies the means.
This is definitely not the heroe Optimus Prime we know and love. This was a time of desperate conflict. Orion Pax had been deactivated prior to all this, and reactivated by Zeta Prime to be his best officer. There is a hollowness within Orion Pax, and his loyalty to the law enforcement clouded his vision to see the truth.
In issue # 2, readers can find out what Zeta Prime’s plans are. It’s genocide. Not only the Decepticons, but the innocent citizens who will serve as fuel to the Vamparc Ribbon weapon wielded by the Omega Destructors. As Metzen implied, Autocracy # 3 starts to pave the ground to the truth. Orion Pax was not in the Senate room to hear Zeta Prime’s speech. He was ordered to hunt Soundwave who managed to infiltrate the Iacon Citadel and fled with the recording of Zeta Prime’s plans.
What will happen if Orion Pax sees the video footage? Will he side with the Decepticons? Will he turn against Zeta Prime? This front cover has an interesting vibe.
You can read Transformers: Autocracy # 3 for only $.99 cents in your iPhone, iPad, or at Comixology (PC,Mac,Android).
Check out our interview with Chris Metzen concerning Autocracy # 3.
Autocracy # 3 Teaser Video
A few hours before Autocracy # 3 went on sale, Chris Metzen and Flint Dille posted a video in YouTube to tease the release of this issue. Check it out!
Last summer, during the BotCon 2011 celebrated in Pasadena, CA through June 2-5, Chris Metzen and Flint Dille revealed they would launch Transformers: Autocracy — an 8-page digital format comic book spanning 12-parts. It sets the ground that ignited what will later be known as the great civil war of Cybertron. A world ruled by Zeta Prime. This is where the Optimus Prime we love and cherish was forged. At the time, he was the best officer of Zeta Prime. But things weren’t black and white in this era, and back then Optimus Prime was still known as Orion Pax.
Transformers: Autocracy launched on January 18th, and it’s published every two weeks in Comixology (PC/Mac), and the iPad and iPhone mobile platform.
In the eve of the launch of Transformers: Autocracy # 3 (available Wednesday, February 15th) I had the awesome opportunity to ask Chris Metzen and Flint Dille some questions about the digital comics.
When did you get hooked up with Transformers, and what’s your geek out story around the franchise?
Metzen: Well the opportunity to write a Transformers story for IDW popped a few years ago now. It’s taken awhile to get it (all) together. Thankfully the editors at IDW have been very patient!
As for favorite geek-out? There’s no question (IMHO) that the franchise’s greatest moment (across all media) is the throw-down mega-fisticuffs slug-fest between Prime and Megatron in the animated film. “Why throw away your life so recklessly?” Heh. Still makes me smile like an idiot?
Which Transformers stories did you read as background for Autocracy prior to writing the 12-part story?
Metzen: Ooof. Everything I could get my hands on! I had been reading the ongoing series/All Hail Megatron/etc. since it started, but needed to brush up on all the one-shots. Loved Maximum Dynobots and the Last Stand of the Wreckers tales as well. There was a lot to take in and I see lots of places where we missed a few notable details. ? It was a lot to cram for. My biggest inspiration (apart from the animated film) is Furman’s body of work on Transformers. That man paved some serious ground.
Some people are confused with what little they have read in the past 16 pages (spanning Transformers: Autocracy # 1-2) and what they know from Megatron: Origins. Especially concerning Starscream. In Megatron: Origins, Sentinel Prime is still alive. Starscream fights alongside the Deceptions against the Autobots and kills Kaon senators in front of everyone. Yet, in Autocracy, Starscream is a delegate with freedom to walk among the Senate and Zeta Prime as if no one knows what he did. Are fans going to get a clearer picture of what’s going on, or is there a retcon?
Metzen: Ok, lemmesee if I can clear this up… (fingers crossed)…
Autocracy takes place AFTER Chaos Theory, Megatron: Origins and Spotlight: Blurr. You’ll see it’s AFTER everything IDW’s tackled in that era. It’s the story of the end of that era – and the start of the WAR we all know and love.
As for Starscream and the senate of Kaon – no one survived that (very brazen) attack and all video coverage was quickly disposed of. Decepticons are very clever… and thorough! Thus, Starscream’s role as a Decepticon is still largely under wraps as Autocracy gets underway (at least as far as Zeta and these remaining senators are concerned). That entire attack was covered up pretty quick – so one has a clear picture of exactly which Decepticons were specifically involved.
I’ll also go out on a limb here and address the other lingering break – Sentinel WAS Zeta’s immediate predecessor – NOT Nominus. That was my bad… the mention of him getting whacked at the start of Chaos Theory was etched in my head as I was scripting Chapter 2 and I referred to the wrong guy… (do I get a last cigarette before the firing squad does away with me?)…
Why did you choose to write a story set in that time period? Whose was the initiative to do so, yours or the IDW editorial team?
Metzen: Well, Flint and I had pitched a really cool ‘present day’ hook that took a deep look at Optimus and what made him tick. It had some heavy flash-back elements from the old days. Some of the themes and hooks we pitched seemed similar to those that were being developed for Chaos Theory (which no one had seen yet), so the editor, Andy Schmidt, walked us through what Chaos Theory was going to be. We were hooked – and knew immediately that our story would fit far better into that pre-war era. From there – Autocracy really started to find its feet.
What can you tell us about Zeta Prime and his extreme measures to combat the Decepticons?
Metzen: Well… I believe Zeta started strong and wanted to be a Prime that really maintained order and security for the people. But Megatron really stoked the fires of unrest. I think there was a crazy escalation between Zeta’s conventional tactics and the Decepticons’ terror tactics. Over time, he concluded that fighting fire with fire was the only reasonable response to what Megatron represented. He wasn’t always a monster – but he sure became one in response to an increasingly lawless and darkening world.
Sounds like there’s a good story to be told there… 🙂
Autocracy # 2 was very harsh. How does Orion Pax copes with his orders knowing his duty to Zeta Prime makes him a harbinger of mass destruction upon the very citizens he’s sworn to protect?
Metzen: He doesn’t know yet how bad things are. He doesn’t know the extent of Zeta’s plans (he wasn’t in the room to hear any of this). In general, since he’s having trouble FEELING/Hearing his conscience – one could argue he’s operating through intense tunnel-vision. He doesn’t yet see how bad things are out there in the world – or what that means to him personally.
Obviously, he was in the zone when he stood up to the Senate… clear-minded, compassionate, selfless… But when his ‘heart’ got ripped out… Well, he just ain’t been the same since. However, can you imagine how PISSED he’d be if he saw that video footage Soundwave made off with???
I have been a subscriber of Marvel Digital for a few years. I love the digital library concept. Let’s say that fans — best editors when it comes to continuum inconsistencies — find some retcons, or mistakes in Autocracy. Are you actually able to correct these in Transformers: Autocracy digital at any time? If so, how do you feel about having that sort of control?
Metzen: See answer above regarding said Sentinel/Nominus snafu… Hell yes, I’d like to FIX bits and pieces of this!!!! ? We’ll see about modifying digital content. Not sure what IDW’s plan is for that.
You are working on Diablo III, and both StarCraft II and World of Warcraft expansions, and the next-gen MMO. How do you stretch time to fit writing Transformers: Autocracy?
Metzen: Well, I recently bought a new Mac for home use, so the timing was perfect. And hey – where there’s a will, there’s a way!
There’s a lot of good and awesome critic in the forums around the Transformers: Autocracy’s digital format. It’s only 8-pages, but it crams in so much from panel to panel. The story rolls out. No pun. How does your experience in video game storytelling this past fifteen years converges with comic book storytelling?
Metzen: With 8-page chapters, there’s no room to screw around or get self-indulgent. We have to make every page, every panel, every line count – and tell this story as effectively and excitingly as we can. In that way, it’s not all that different from writing games – where a player/viewer’s time is a precious commodity. The pacing does keep things tight. 🙂
Chaos Theory, Autocracy, and other relaunch stories — all of them seem to be leading to a major event set in the present borrowing from events and characters from the long past. Is this really what’s going on? Will you be part of that project or follow up projects?
Metzen: Well, IDW’s big relaunch event was CHAOS – and the two new ongoing series (More than Meets the Eye and Robots in Disguise, respectively) are keeping their hands full. That’s the only mega event I’ve been aware of. As for more down the line… well, let’s see how Autocracy does as it picks up steam. 🙂
What should we expect to see in Autocracy # 3, and how do the events affect the remaining issues of this 12-part story?
Metzen: Well, Orion’s going to be busy hunting down Soundwave… shenanigans certainly occur.
Soundwave, Soundwave, Soundwave… for those of you who are fans of this character – buckle up! This is HIS chapter! (maybe my second biggest franchise geek-out…)
Blizzard’s roots started developing DC The Death and Return of Superman in 1994 and DC League of Justice Task Force for Super Nintendo in 1995. If Activision asked Blizzard to work on one of their IP, is that door open?
Metzen: Geez, I dunno. I think we’re doing pretty well with the franchises we’re currently developing. From a story perspective, we’ve still got miles and miles to go with each of them!
Grab a digital copy of the Transformers: Autocracy #3 for only $.99 cents via iPhone, iPad or Comixology (PC/Mac)
Note: Check back later for Flint Dille’s answers.
Transformers: Autocracy # 3 – Chris & Flint Teaser (Video)
Meet the Writers
Chris Metzen is Blizzard Entertainment Senior Vice-president of Creative Development — responsible for developing and expanding the Warcraft, StarCraft and Diablo universes and directing the team of story writers for upcoming game content and licensed products such as novels and manga. Chris Metzen is loved by the lore community, and he has identified himself as a geek. The Transformers franchise is in a dear place near his geeky heart.