The battle for Cybertron has finally arrived. Machinima and Hasbro's Transformers: Combiner Wars animated series launched August 2 on go90 in the United States, with the second episode releasing yesterday. The program is launching internationally on Sohu in China and on Vimeo and YouTube in the rest of the world.
Taking place 40 years after the great war on Earth, the eight-episode digital series introduces all-new characters that, combined with characters fans have known for decades, will tell the Transformers storytelling in a new way.
The Autobots and Decepticons have disbanded and returned to Cybertron. With the days of Optimus Prime and Megatron over, Cybertron is now ruled by a triumvirate. However, an ancient technology has enabled a new threat, the power for multiple Transformers to combine into one massive, dangerous form: Combiners. Who will stand-up to this threat to ensure that the fragile peace that was 4 million years in the making remains?
You can check out the trailer below.
ComicBook.com joined a small handful of reporters talking to Calderon following his panel at Comic Con International: San Diego.
Rodimus Prime has also been called Hot Rod, did you think about that name?
That's what I was telling him, it's original name Hot Rod, it just sounded strange to me as a counsel member, so I thought the idea of these former enemies or former leaders and then there's Hot Rod.
Or Hot Rodimus.
Oh, I love Hot Rodimus.
One of the things that really strikes me is the idea of Starscream having to be responsible, because he's typically, essentially, a petulant child. How do you write something like that and keep him true to the character?
It is, you know, all of the original '80's versions of the characters are wonderfully two dimensional, because it's a kids' cartoon. In elevating it to an adult series, we had to find new nuance in all the characters. What we did is, we put Starscream in this unusual position of "What if you got what you always dreamed?"
And guess what? It's heavier than you expected. His character becomes quite sophisticated in the sense of "Oh, I'm the bad guy, I'm gonna rule the ... Wait I'm ruling, this is hard", and that actually grows him up and calms him down.
We did the same thing with is voice, and we took the original read which is very whiny and screamy, and took it down to, I'll call it a Game of Thrones, Varys level. Where he's trying to be sneaky a little bit, but actually he's very true in what he says. What he really means, no one really knows yet. It takes time in the story to figure out.
Did you ever read any of the IDW comics? Did that maybe inform the arc you incorporated for Starscream becoming the ruler of Cybertron?
Yeah, it really helped me a lot. What's good about the whole combiner wars effort is everyone is on the same mission, so when I read Starscream's monologues or his conversations, it kind of helped me inform "Oh, our Starscream is going to be very similar to that".
Victorion kind of comes off as utilitarian, can you kind of talk about her role?
Sure. We tried to create very specific ideas for all the Combiner Wars, and Hasbro had all these great explanations already. People have been reading it that way but I really see Victorion as more like a Paladin or like a Valkyrie.
So when a character is immaculately conceived, almost Heavenly, from the enigma combination, she wasn't built by real jobs, she wasn't like built in a factory. She has a divine sense of entitlement, which is not villainous, necessarily, just to be a super nerd, it's lawful good.
When a character is lawful good, you firmly believe in your mission, and her mission is good. She does want to save the galaxy, she does want to stop the Combiner Wars, that's a warrior, and those warriors don't have doubt or second thinks, or even humility. They are there to protect the universe and that's what she's about. I don't actually think of her as a villain at all.
The flip side of that is, and this goes back to the Starscream idea, somebody who believes themselves to have a divine mission can be insufferable at times, is that a dynamic that you're having fun with, with the other characters?
Yeah. All of these characters have a subtext, and a description, so the description is yes, I do this, but you kind of feel that something is there. Windblade is "I'm on a mission of revenge, I'm gonna kill them all" but wait a minute, what's under that? Optimus is like "I am no longer the leader of Cybertron, I'm giving up."
...Are you really? We always make sure there's a little bit of texture underneath, and that's again what makes our adult sensibilities because when you go from two to three dimensions in character, that's when you have to be more emotionally complex to understand that.
Is there a challenge that's inherent to doing something like this? When you look at web series, you have a lot of like "Okay, we just grew up this property that you like" and it's mostly played for laughs. Is there a challenge to doing this seriously and not feeling like another kind of web series that's trying to take a fun?
The great thing is, both Machinima and Hasbro, they have never used that word with me. They said "You are making a series." They always put it at a higher level, and the show is budgeted, and distributed in a very sophisticated way, that to me, is not like a webseries at all.
So I think about this as an adaptation, I just go "Hey, it's my job as a creator to make the best work I can" and I don't think about "Oh it's only for this category so let's have fun", I want to tell this combiner wars story, and I'm going to tell it in 40 minutes. That's almost a movie, so I really treat it like that. There's act breaks, there's a solid structure to the character development, there's resolution. That's what I'm worried about.