Transformers: Drift in 3D!

A couple of years ago a good mate of mine, Transformers writer Shane McCarthy came up with a new Autobot character for a minor role in IDW's All Hail Megatron comic book series. He was called Autobot Drift and was in part a homage to the japanese origins of transforming toys. Shane worked with the series artist, Guido Guidi on coming up with Drift's look (see his initial designs here) My small contribution as the resident petrol-head was to suggest that the drift car he transform into be a Nissan Silvia S15.

As is the norm with this type of work, the editors at IDW Publishing and Hasbro, the owners of the Transformers franchise needed to approve the inclusion before publication. From what I can tell, the marketing types got a bit excited. Okay, they got a lot excited. So excited that they decided "We're going to make this into a toy!"

So two years later, I find myself driving around to various toy stores all around Perth trying to find Autobot Drift (apparently there are Transformers collectors at Ozformers who keep track of this stuff - handy!). I managed to find one in Toyworld Claremont. Being Claremont I'm sure they added an extra 50% to the price, because, it's Claremont.

It was pretty surreal to see a 3D realisation of Shane & Guido's character there on the shelves in real life. I get the same kind of surreal buzz seeing my own design work in print.

The actual Drift toy is remarkably close to Guido's comic book design. The Hasbro designers have done a remarkable job for what must have been a complex engineering task. I was also really impressed by the pose-ability of the character and you can style some pretty neat poses when Drift brandishes his two-handed sword. Yes, Drift has three swords. It's doesn't get much more awesome, unless of course they were lightsabres. Or maybe flaming lightsabres... but I digress.

My one criticism probably says more about me than the toy, but transforming these toys seems so much more difficult than I remember.

When I was a kid you just folded them in half.

Oh, and Drift has a new comic mini-series coming out.

Rare Transformers Covers

On of the perks of designing cover art for comic book publishers like IDW is receiving complimentary copies of the comics you worked on.

With IDW I usually get two copies of the regular comic, and as in the case of Transformers: Last Stand of the Wreckers, where they print a limited run of variant covers based on my artwork, two copies of the variant covers.


The variant covers (pictured) for this series are my regular cover design minus the titles and other cover markings, printed on better paper with a matt varnish finish. The matt varnish feels really slick, although it reduces the blackness of the dark areas in the design, so tends to work better for designs that are lighter or more saturated. I design my covers with the titles in place as I believe that they are a fundamental part of the finished cover design, so sometimes this can leave a bit of an unbalanced space at the top when the titles are removed. But overall I think the variants are pretty neat to have. The rareness of them is an extra bonus!

I haven’t read LSotW all the way through yet (although I did read the script many months ago) but I’m looking forward to it. From all accounts this series has been really popular, particularly with the die-hard Transformers fans. I like this approach from IDW. They seem to be mixing accessible storylines that make it relatively easy for new readers to jump on board, with mini-series and single issue stories tailored for the hardcore fans.

I have some more IDW cover work coming up, but as with these things, nothing I can talk about just yet, sorry!

The T Party

Okay, so I don’t really consider myself one of those guys that dress up as their favourite sci-fi character at conventions or halloween, (or just for fun) but yes, I made an Optimus Prime costume. Out of cardboard. I recently had my (35th) birthday and held a dress up party to celebrate. My friends are a creative bunch, so I pitched it as a “dress as something starting with the letter T” Party.

The problem with holding a fancy-dress party is that as the host, you have to put in a big effort (yes, it’s in the hosting-a-party rules). So after briefly considering going as The Terminator, or a taxman, or a tennis player, the obvious choice became a Transformer.

And of course, if you’re going as a Transformer, there’s none more well-known or admired than Autobot leader and all-round nice bot Optimus Prime.

We started by raiding the cardboard bins outside a local shopping centre. They were located in a secure area so I sneaked in to find the bits I needed only to be surprised by a security guard. Fortunately she was only happy to help, and invited us to take as much as we wanted!

From there we sourced some cheap cricket gloves, some Milo tins, some card, glue, and acrylic paint from a craft store, flower pot stands, flashlightsand ice cube trays from a $2 shop, some velcro and elastic, and last but importantly, I borrowed a friend's cricket helmet.

So with the help of my gal and a helpful friend, we spent a day painting, cutting and taping. I drew up the windows in Adobe Illustrator, and printed them out along with the the Autobot logos previously supplied to me by IDW Publishing.

It was a lot of work, but I was pretty pleased with the finished costume. I must say though, I didn’t think far enough ahead to realise that when you’re wearing it, you can’t drink or eat unassisted: kinda important at a party!

And before you ask, no, it doesn’t transform... unless you count transforming from a costume back into a pile of boxes.

Yes, this makes me a geek.

Prime Wallpaper

I get lots of requests for this, so finally: desktop wallpaper! Optimus Prime from my cover to IDW Publishing’s All Hail Megatron, #9.

Download it now! This link will download a ZIP file containing wallpapers for the 7 most popular screen resolutions: 1920 x 1200 | 1920 x 1080 | 1680 x 1050 | 1440 x 900 | 1280 x 1024 | 1280 x 800 | 1024 x 768

Think of it as compensation if you missed out on a signed cover book!

Shout and Feel It

Just a quick thank you to all of you who posted the kind comments on my welcoming post. I was hoping that I’d get maybe 10 people come and say hi, so it’s pleasing to see currently more than 70! I don’t have that many relatives so I guess there are people out there who are actually keen to win a signed Transformers cover art book!


I’ll be randomly selecting 5 winners on March 12th, so if you haven’t said “Hi” yet there's still time! Tell your friends!

I’d also like to give a quick shout-out to design blog Australian Edge and Wordpress wizards Graph Paper Press for showcasing my work this week. Thanks guys!

The making of a comic book cover

To launch my new website and blog, I’ll be posting a few articles exploring my design process. Let me know if you’d like to see more of this kind of thing!

In the image above you can see the technique and creative process I used to construct one of my covers for IDW’s Transformers: All Hail Megatron.

I started with a basic sketch to put what was in my head on paper. [spoilers] This issue (AHM#9) featured the return of Autobot leader Optimus Prime, so I wanted something that would depict the return of the heroic leader. One of the overriding themes of All Hail Megatron was the concept of leadership; both different styles of leading and characters’ reactions to lack of, failure of, or objectionable leadership. To hint at this I used a propaganda style on many of the covers.

You can see this kind of defiant hero pose in these WWII propaganda posters:


Once I had the concept down on paper I began constructing the basic shapes of Optimus Prime in Adobe Illustrator. You can see that his stance and details evolved from the sketch.

Once I had the basic shapes and silhouette I pasted it into Photoshop and added the basic lighting and more detail. I reworked some of the shapes to better suit the composition of the page. One of the ideas I was keen to use was to have Prime blocking part of the title of the comic “All Hail Megatron” - an act of defiance against Megatron. (A second title was ultimately added in editing to make sure the comic’s title was clearly legible.)

The final step was to apply shading and textures which were sourced from scans of spray paint textures. I wanted the rough texture because it was closer to the style of many of the mid-century posters which were often airbrushed. You can get a sense of the texture in the detail shown below:

I made a late decision to turn his head to face away from the viewer because I felt he appeared stronger this way. Each artist has a different approach to drawing the characters. To illustrate my version of Optimus Prime I referenced Primes drawn by regular Transformers artists E.J Su and Guido Guidi but stylized the features and proportions to suit the style of the cover.

This cover for All Hail Megatron #9 was included in Comic Book Resources (CBR’s) 50 best covers of 2009