Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Secrets of the Almanac II Part One

Hi! It's me Bill Forster. The other Almanac guy. Now that we have a new addition to the Almanacs coming out I thought I would share a few tales from the creation of the AllSpark Almanac II that have been banging around in my head. Let's see...Where to begin? Ah! Of course. The cover!
After hours of debate, several drawings and a couple of heated disagreements Jim and I settled on an idea for the cover of what was to be the second and FINAL AllSpark Almanac. Originally we played around with the idea of Sari and Bumblebee defacing Optimus’ trailer with graffiti, which would let us feature some fun encoded messages that the Almanacs have become known for. After some discussion we threw this idea in the trash compactor. I wouldn’t put it past BB, but Sari has more sense than that.
The second idea we had was a bit darker. We really liked it, but our editors weren’t keen. They felt it didn’t have the whimsy and lighthearted charm the cover of the first Almanac had. We needed to capture the mood. I’ll hold off on the details, on the theory that we may yet get to use it some day.
Well if the first Almanac was about the art and Sari and Bulkhead were painting the cover, then what was this Almanac about? The toys. For the first time Hasbro allowed an in depth look into the design and fabrication of its flagship property. We needed to focus that. A teenage Sari and Bumblebee seemed like the logical choice, but still there was some element missing. Ah, yes! Wreck Gar! I quickly sketched up a few stick figures and sitting around playing with their own toys. We had it. Marcello drew it up and did a great job, but he had left out something that Jim was keen to get in; Wreck-Gar playing with his own toy box. Marcello added it in, where some empty space that probably would have housed the logo went. This made us hunt for a place to put the name of the book. We settled on the toy boxes at the bottom.
Pg 7: In the first book we had drawings for both Derrick Wyatt and Marty Isenburg to accompany their intro and outro pages. This time around it was without question Matt Youngberg’s turn to give us his perspective. Only we didn’t have a caricature of him. I drew up and head shot for it. Somewhere along the lines Matt saw it and liked it, but insisted on coloring it himself. Who are we to argue? Matt Youngberg colored my drawing…that goes on the resume!
Pg 11: We kind of lucked out that there was a new Optimus Prime model to headline the Autobot chapter. Ideally your book always starts on Optimus.
Pg 12 – 13: Jim and I have some to makes certain “laws” pertaining to the Almanacs. For instance, Starscream is the only character allowed to talk about himself. Or Blitzwing always has three voices with three different distinctive fonts. With the Jetsetters we wanted something that made them stand out. In the first book we had a few pages where two characters got to narrate together. Jim wrote for Jetstorm and I provided the voice of Jetfire. That worked but looked awful on the page. Changing the color of the font gave it a dynamic look and made for easier reading. A new “law” is on the books.
Pg 20 - 21: If you believe it, I originally wrote about three more paragraphs on Rodimus. Jim edited it down to get it to fit o the page. His alt mode was drawn for the show but never used.
Pg 23: Javier Reyes drew up Hot Shot’s alt mode. Jim really wanted all of Rodimus’ team to have alt modes.
Pg 25: I hate Gradus. HE is just always a problem for me. I wrote about a dozen songs and we kept rejecting them before I came up with one that Jim and I both liked. I think I was inspired by the song Ultraman.
Pg 27: Jim and I split up the character pages to write. Sometimes what determines who writes for who is a matter of love. Jim always writes for Sentinel because Jim has a passion for the character. I wrote Starscream and the clones because I really love Screamer. Other times it’s the opposite. I just can’t write for a certain character or Jim has no interest in a particular bot. It gets divided. Though Jim’s writing chores are usually much more dense. Warpath ended up on my list. I had this idea that he and Flareup were an item. I wrote up his bio along side Flareup’s and it was like…4 pages. Jim pulled his hair out. “He’s sharing a page with Dug Base! There is no room for this!” I argued with him intensely until it was pointed out to me that I usually have the same argument when I am layout pages with his words. Warpath and Flareup were edited down. In retrospect, it reads a lot better now.
Dug Base was on my list. I had nothing! I couldn’t even figure out who was going to be providing the dialog. As almost a joke we decided on Wheelie. Jim came out the bio off the top of his head. “Perfect! Let’s use that! Keep me away from Grandus…and his repaints.”
Pg 31: Jim was thinking about G1 Pipes and Huffer and noticed that each of them has personalities based around Earth. He made a point of them NOT having these personalities in Animated, since they haven’t gotten to Earth yet. If they ever get to Earth, then they’ll start to act a lot more familiar.
Pgs 34-37: So Jim had expressed a disinterest in writing for what I have called the BumbleBots. The cameo characters with Bumblebee-esk vehicle modes. I jumped at it. Jim had it in his head that we would keep the images small and give only one line of dialog to each bot. I on the other hand went insane. Once again I wrote too much. A full page for each model. Jim and I butted heads and spent the evening yelling and shouting. The end result was a compromise. Imagine that! Two to three characters to a page with appropriate amount of dialog. I think the best rock bands in history are the ones with two musicians making outrageous demined only to compromise in the middle and create the best songs.
Glyph, Tap-Out, and Volks, I wrote up like they were having some high-school drama. The reason we talk about Tap-Out’s body transplant is because Derrick told us that this body type was post-war. Jim pointed out that Tap-Out has a bust at the Cyber Ninja Dojo, and said maybe he downgraded his body. Derrick signed off on it and there we go. Also, still on Tap-Out, each of these words is a legitimate alien word. Dentalla really does mean friend in Zentraedi. The Too doe nakotae is from War of the Worlds, the Series, which Jim is a big fan of. For some reason. It’s a terrible show. Jim did about 50 blog posts on it. I got to make fun of Klingons, who I hate.
Searchlight! Yes, he is Batman. The reason for this is that Jim told me that Searchlight was one of his favorite characters, and that I should do him justice. Jim emphasized his array of scanners, which I interpreted as a utility belt. The rest came naturally.
Carrera’s voice and personality was modeled after our friend Ted Close. He was a guy who could eat 20 burgers at a sitting and never gain weight. He also was interested in being a sports caster, but had a scratchy voice.
The story Chase tells of Furao saving a ship is a real story that happened during WWII. It was on the USS Intrepid, where I served as Art Director. The rudder was disabled, so they made a makeshift sail to allow the ship to sail the direction they wanted it to go. It's the only aircraft carrier to ever sail.
We wrote in Jackpot as a buddy to Hubcap as a nod to our friends Greg and Trent.
Bumper’s bio is written by Searchlight. I was channeling Frank Miller’s Dark Knight when I wrote it. In my mind, Bumper is Robin. The line “I’ve seen things you ‘bots wouldn’t believe” was lifted from Blade Runner.
Pg 38. We had two fembots without names. Score! Blank canvas on which to write our ideas into the universe. We came up with two names, Lightbright and something else, and were really proud of them. Then Derrick told us that he’d already told Monzo that he could name them. He was going to name them after My Little Ponies. We liked the name Lickety-Split, but the other one didn’t feel very Transformersy to us. We all compromised on Lickety-Split and Lightbright. I think Derrick and Monzo liked that it was a reference to another Hasbro property.
Lightbright we had a hard time coming up with a personality and alt mode for. Eventually I came up with hovercraft. Dug Base is supposed to speak like an old 60s Japanese mega-robot.
Lickety-Split’s original personality didn’t work with the new name, so we rewrote it completely. Jim had fun making a nod to Buzz Lightyear, who of course already was a Transformer.
Pg 39: Jim borrowed foreign names for Transformers to name the species for Zaur and Ramhorn. I think we both had fun referencing some obscure songs from the various Tranformers albums over the years.
Pg 44: Fanzone’s car got wrecked a few times in the series. We kind of lampshaded that in this bio.
Pg 45: The size comparison charts were a lot of work! I’m glad I didn’t have to do them. Jim went through each episode and matched up the scales in Photoshop. He eventually had a PSD file for an image 8 inches tall and maybe 15 feet long. At 300 DPI, it was a massive file. He sliced it up and made this page.
Pg 46: There weren’t all that many prominent new ‘Cons this season. Wasp was the biggest, and got to headline the section. We mirrored the Blackarachnia page from the first Almanac here. I think it’s little touches like this that help the books feel like a single coherent entity.
Pg 49: Jim and I loved putting Furmanisms in Cyclonus’ mouth. It felt right to us.
Pg 50: Derrick told us that Cyclonus was created from Skywarp, so we had the line about Starscream’s self preservation algorithms being commented out. Did you guys pick up on that?
Pg 54: The Legion Tentacles was a kiss players reference. I don’t like people who get upset about them, so I enjoyed nodding to them.
Pg 55: We didn’t name the cerebro-shells. They were called that on the model sheet.
Pg 57: Jim hated covering up the Laserbeak guitar model with the Ratbat model. He likes to show every model from every angle, unobstructed. In this case, the power of the image was more important than seeing 7 lines drawn straight. If you really want to see the guitar without the Ratbat neck in front of it, here it is. As a result of our criss-cross, the shadow’s don’t line up. Oh, well.
That said, Jim cut off Ratbat’s rear wing from behind so that he could have the image bigger.
Pg 60: Jim loves GoBots, so he was very keen to make the Tux limo actually be Tux. He contacted a guy named Laurent who draws awesome GoBots Animated style. Derrick Wyatt provided the head! We called him Stretch, since we wanted him to actually wind up in the GoBots universe. I don’t remember why that is 17 quantum-string vibration levels distant, but it has something to do with each Universe Stream corresponding to vibrating quantum strings.
Flip Sides! Is she Rosanna? Who knows! They certainly look a lot alike.
61: Jim drew the head for Magnificus. Did you notice that the body is wider than Perceptor’s body, and his lens is longer?
Well thanks for joining me. That covers all the character bio pages from the second Almanac. At some point I will do a part two...but I might save that for when we have another book to promote. In the mean time, get out there and pick up your copy of The AllSpark Almanac Addendum.


jeff p said...

Thanks, Bill!

When you say "new addition" is this a reference to the material in Timelines or does this have to do with Jim's reference of a teaser for...something?

Post No Bills said...

I am referring to the AllSpark Almanac Addendum in the Timelines book.