“She Has to Adapt Right Now” Mairghread Scott and Sarah Stone on Transformers: Windblade [Interview]

Next month sees a launch which The Beat has been following on and off for the last few weeks. A new Transformers miniseries will be launching at IDW in April, chronicling the introduction of Windblade. A female Transformer – causing raised eyebrows from fans who think Transformers are genderless despite being obvious blatant big male robots – Windblade will be entering the IDW Universe in the immediate aftermath of the crossover event storyline Dark Cybertron.

Written by Mairghread Scott and illustrated by Sarah Stone, the miniseries has already garnered a lot of attention, as Windblade was chosen to be created as part of a fan vote, and this miniseries will be the first Transformers comic with a female writer and artist onboard. But, y’know, beyond that – there’s a story here, and a character. So! In order to find out more about who Windblade actually is, I spoke to both Mairghread and Sarah about their plans for the characters, and the miniseries as a whole. Read on!

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Steve: How did you first get involved with Transformers? Were you fans before you started working on the comics?

Mairghread: I watched Beast Wars as a child but I really fell away from the fandom until the Bay films and being hired on Transformers Prime. In a way it’s been a real blessing because I still have my childhood love of the Beast Wars transformers but I get to explore all the rest of the Transformers lore (the main lore, really) as an adult when I can appreciate it and the work it took to keep things rolling this far.

Sarah: I was! I grew up with Beast Wars originally, but sort of rediscovered my love for Transformers with Transformers Prime and that’s when I really got lost in it. From there I realized I needed more and learned about what IDW was doing with RiD and MTMTE, and I’ve been really hooked.

Steve: What do you think it is about the franchise which has had such enduring appeal?

Mairghread: First, it’s just AWESOME! Even if you don’t like Transformers (and you should) you have to admit that you can’t beat the brand for fantastic and mind-blowing action. But, underneath that, is a really core appeal that a lot of people miss. Transformers themselves are surprisingly human.

In fact, I think because they’re aliens we often write them as more human (emotive, social, flawed, a little irrational at times) than many characters that are actually human. That combination is super-rare and it’s something I just can’t get enough of.

Steve: This miniseries comes about following the end of the Dark Cybertron crossover event, which saw things get very bad for all the Transformers. What kind of world is Windblade entering into as your story begins?

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Mairghread: It’s a world that mirrors our own in a lot of ways.  The war is over, but there are huge problems that everyone knows about but no one has been able to solve yet.  The leadership is corrupt, but not freakishly evil.  People are focused on making it day-to-day and the milestones characters set for themselves are getting smaller all the time. No one’s really dreaming the big dream anymore and that’s something Windblade is going to change – or try to, at least.

Steve: What do you think defines Windblade as a character? When you sat down with the character, what did you want to emphasize about her personality?

Sarah: What stands out for Windblade to me is her determination despite being completely overwhelmed. She’s thrust into this situation and conflict that most Cybertronians have had centuries to get adjusted to, but she has to adapt right now, and you can tell she’s behind the curve and it’s taking its toll. I wanted her to show signs of this weathering but she’s still trying her hardest anyway. She’s not perfect – she gets shaken up and lost, and I think we can all relate to that a little bit.

Mairghread: Our book starts a bit after the end of Dark Cybertron, so no one is in active triage-mode anymore as they would be during a huge life-or-death struggle like that was. Plus Windblade is an optimist. She really believes that she can help make Cybertron better, that everyone can help Cybertron be better.  Whether or not she’s right, that’s a whole different story.

Steve: How have you both found the collaborative process?

Mairghread: Fantastic. Sarah never thinks of what can’t be done, only how we can accomplish it. That kind of mindset is what’s given Transformers Windblade such a unique look. It is definitely going to be a comic that surprises people and is a great introduction to even those who’ve never been to Cybertron before… plus Issue 1 and 2 are still available for pre-order. So if you’ve ever thought about dipping your toe in the TF pool – now is definitely the time!

Sarah: I love working with Mairghread because she likes focusing on similar things that I do, and she’s really enabled and encouraged me to really push things where I might have been a bit to timid to otherwise. We have a lot of fun going through scripts and thumbnails to really push body language and interactions. Really I’m just trying to do justice to her script and these characters, and hope that in some way I succeed on the page.

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Steve: One of the details I noticed in the preview pages of issue #1 is that you’re using her jet flames to convey her movement and transformations. How do you approach her body language and movements? She’s a giant robot sure, but she seems pretty deft and light-footed.

Sarah: Mairghread had to really extrapolate a lot off of a pre-existing design for a character that we didn’t know much about. What kind of a bot has this kind of makeup, or has such an elaborate sword? She guided me a lot when we first started, and we wanted Windblade to be graceful and kind of ceremonial. Since wind is kind of her element and she functions as sort of a diplomat, it seemed fitting.

I wanted her to feel light, especially compared to Chromia, her bodyguard, who is the exact opposite. I love them because they’re such great foils for each other – where Windblade is tactful and graceful, Chromia is both tactless and graceless. Windblade can sit down politely with her legs together, but Chromia sits like a total guy. They both serve to point out how different they are from one another, and it’s really fun.

Steve: Is it difficult to draw personality onto a robotic character? That question may be a little racist against robots, sorry

Sarah: It might be, but I live for it. It’s arguably one of my favorite parts of drawing the bots. I really love taking atypical features and giving them expression, just like we read expressions on animals without the same cues that we get from people. I love thinking about how personality can be expressed through their different features.

How does this guy hold his wings, can his helmet be used as sort of a brooding brow, does this part move when they’re scared? Stuff like that makes my job really fun.

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Steve: One thing that comes across quickly in the preview is that she has quite a wry sense of humour about her. What’s her personality like? Do you want her to bring a sense of freshness with her, a lightness of tone?

Mairghread: She’s definitely in a younger mindset than most transformers. But more than anything she’s a three-dimensional character. She takes her job very seriously but that doesn’t mean she takes herself seriously (although she probably should, if I’m looking at her from a ‘mom’ perspective).

I wanted her to like Cybertron and like life; there’s enough dourness in the real world. Transformers Windblade is still a dramatic read, and we do get a little dark, but I’ve worked hard to make sure it never loses the optimism and hope that Windblade as a character has.

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Many thanks to Mairghread and Sarah for their time! The first issues of the series are still available for pre-order – today is the last day they will be – and issue #1 is due in stores this April. You can find Sarah at various places around the internet - on her blog, her DeviantArt, and Twitter. Mairghread is on twitter here, and you can find her Tumblr here

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