Interview – Transformers Animated: The Complete Allspark Almanac Author Jim Sorenson

Jim Sorenson, one of the authors behind IDW Publishing’s soon-to-be-released Transformers Animated: The Complete Allspark Almanac, was kind enough to take a few minutes and answer a few of our questions about the book as well as his thoughts on Animated in general and his other current projects.
The Complete Almanac is set to be released next week, March 10th, and can be ordered through most book stores, comic book stores, and
Read on to see the interview. You can then discuss it in our Complete Almanac thread in the Transformers Discussion forum.
1ALLSPARK: We may as well start with this one – What were you most looking forward to with this chance to revisit the earlier separate volumes? Had there been this one thing that kept you awake at night all these years that you’ve finally got a chance to correct?
JIM SORENSON: Hmmmm… I was probably most looking forward to getting all of the material back in front of a mass audience. V1 and 2 sell out their print runs consistently and then soar in price on the secondary market. The Stunti-Con Job isn’t the easiest book to come by and hasn’t been collected in any kind of anthology. So it’s gratifying to me that, at least for a while, anyone who wants to read the material will be able to do so.
In terms of things keeping me up at night, no one thing. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done on both volumes and the fanclub material, warts and all. When typos or continuity hiccups creep in, they niggle, but that’s about it. I’m happy to have the chance to fix them or recontextualize bits that maybe didn’t work 100%, but I wasn’t fretting over them.
AS: And then the errors get documented on the TFWiki for everyone to see for the rest of time. Heh.
JS: Glibax/Gilbax. How did my spellcheck miss that one?
AS: Haha! You’ll just have to feed your spellcheck an entire dictionary of Cybertronian words
JS: You think I haven’t? I type in g..a.. and autocorrect pops up Galvatron.
AS: Heh. So you mentioned the Club materials. Would you care to give a rundown of what’s in the Collected Almanac compared to the separate Volumes 1 and 2? What’s in the Collected version that will make owners of the individual books have to spend their money all over again?
JS: 99.5% of volume 1. Missing only a bit of art that was updated or created specifically to match the cover of the book.
99% of volume 2. Missing only a bit of art that was updated.
95% of the fanclub material. Missing a bit of art created as title elements and some general material on BotCon. All of the Animated-specific BotCon content is still there.
And then we created about 10 pages of new material with help from Derrick J. Wyatt. Mostly new characters but there’s also a new page of Transformations, and we added a cover gallery with some cool preliminary sketches.
Oh, and, as my preview shows, we did sprinkle in other new content here and there.
JS: Indeed.
AS: That’s all sound quite interesting and I’m sure fans will love it! Were there any challenges getting all of that to fit and flow together into the one, single reference?
JS: I think that what you’re describing was, in many ways, the crux of what I was doing. Trying to combine V1 at 220 pages and V2 at 224 pages and 22 pages of fanclub material into a coherent volume. Plus elements like the covers, the inside front and rear covers, and the new material Derrick had made in the three year interval between this volume and the last of the original material.

I’d say it was challenging, but a fun challenge. I live for structure, so finding the best structure for all of this material was enjoyable. I used excel to map out where everything goes. I made a four column document with page numbers on the far left and right and content in the middle two columns. That’s so I can get all of the facing elements correct.4

One issue was with the episode guide pages. The guides from V1 had to end on the right (let’s say) but then the guides for V2 had to START on the right. So I was short a page. I wound up using a poster from the fanclub as an element to plug that gap.

Another challenge was the way we used interstitial pages. We had one slotted between each chapter. But most chapters showed up in both V1 and V2, meaning we had extras. Some of them were combined. I had one interstitial block about shorts and another about the credits. Since both were from Studio 4°C I made that one new block. Some others were pulled together and made their own chapter in Part II. I combined the interstitial pages on BotCon, The Arrival, Titan, and Bee in the City into a chapter in Part II called Expanded Universe.

And, finally, consideration had to be paid to what page order to go with when combining chapters. Chapter 1: Autobots contained guys from V1, V2, the fanclub, and brand new characters. So I wanted to have a progression of characters that felt logical. Just like in V1 we started with the core cast, then moved on to the Elite Guard. And that presented the first obstacle. There were new Elite Guard guys in V2 and post-2011. Do I separate them?

I decided, no, keep the whole Elite Guard together. So after Magnus and Sentinel and Jazz and Blurr, we run the jet twins, and guys like Dai Atlas, along with newbies like Erector. The rest of the chapter (and, indeed, the chapters beyond) proceeded the same way. Ironhide felt he should be part of Rodimus’ crew despite being introduced back in V1.

Dirtboss felt like he belonged with Mixmaster and Scrapper. Wasp’s two Autobot entries felt like they needed to be run back-to-back, whereas Optimus got to both open AND close the first chapter. His Wingblade form felt like an ending, whereas his V1 entry was definitely designed to kick things off.

And some things got moved around. We didn’t have a dedicated chapter for Detroit in V2, so things like the stadium and Fossil Fuel gas stations and refineries got moved to a more logical chapter. Likewise, Boot Camp and Trypticon Prison felt more at home in the Cybertron chapter.

Overall, it’s the kind of puzzle I enjoy. Especially because there’s no one right answer, just a spectrum of more-and-less logical solutions.

AS: Wow, so there is quite a bit of restructuring that went on rather than a straight compilation from the various sources.

JS: Quite a bit from my end, yes, but it should be fairly invisible from the reader’s perspective. If you’re not reading them side-by-side and taking notes, it’ll just feel like one complete whole.

AS: Very nice.

JS: Thank you.

AS: You mentioned that a lot of the new material was new characters. Care to give any hints?

JS: I can say with certainty that all of the many fans of Skipjack will be thrilled.

AS: animated_new_charactersOr reignite the Skipjack is red, Rampage is yellow/Rampage is red, Skipjack is yellow debates!
Okay, those didn’t really ever happen….

JS: I’ll also say this: we made an implicit promise at the end of The Stunti-Con Job. (Referring to the image on the right.)

JS: And we only had a chance to examine 11 of those guys. This volume rectifies that.
Rectifies it AND showcases plenty of new designs.

AS: Oh. Now that is quite the tease!

AS: So we’ve been talking about Animated this whole while and avoiding the elephant in the room: it’s a show that went off the air back in 2009. Six years ago. It’s been kept alive through BotCon, the Club, a few much belated DVD releases and, of course, your Almanacs. But what do you see in the future for this world? Is this pretty much its last hurrah, so to speak, or will it continue to scratch a place for itself in publishers’ or others’ offerings?
JS: I’m not sure that’s for me to say. I think that it’s very likely this is MY last hurrah in the universe.

Thanks to the help of Derrick Wyatt and Pete Sinclair, this volume is forward-looking. It’s very likely that, even if there is more Animated in the future, this volume will be able to remain comprehensive for a good long while.

7But I tend to think that, barring something unforeseen and unlikely, I’m not going to be penning
new pages.

AS: That’s an unfortunate answer for a number of fans, I’m sure.

JS: I don’t think it’s an unfortunate answer really. I think getting to combine the Animated guidebooks Bill and I have made (with the invaluable assistance of folks like Matt Youngberg, Eric Seibenaler, Marty Isenberg, and of course Derrick Wyatt) has been an amazing experience.

If this is my swan song in the universe, it’s because I’ve likely said all there is to say. Animated was an amazing expression of Transformers joy, and its impact continues to be felt in other lines. Characters like Bulkhead, Lugnut, and Lockdown have been forever defined by their Animated appearances. Echoes of the aesthetic can be seen in Robots in Disguise.

AS: That is very true. To the extent that Takara Tomy are adding Animated toys into their Transformers Adventure (The name for Robots in Disguise in Japan) offerings.

JS: I come not to bury Animated, but to praise it. The nature of Transformers is such that franchises come and go. It creates a rich tapestry.

Animated was 42 episodes, 7 comics, a few years of toys. That this could support a FOUR HUNDRED AND SEVENTY-TWO PAGE BOOK is pretty incredible. Saying I don’t think I’ll need to make more shouldn’t be cause for sadness.

AS: That is all very true. Animated was a fantastic series and its impacts are certainly still being felt, whether directly or indirectly. And more then likely will be continued to be felt in the future either by design influence or character influence.

AS: Speaking of the future: what do you have planned next to which you will add your name as author? Transformers or otherwise.

JS: I’m having a blast working on the Beast Wars Uprising universe and am currently working on a space opera piece set there. I think the fans will really dig it.

Bill Forster and I have a number of art books we’d love to do with IDW, though there’s nothing I can talk about specifically yet.

AS: I’m sure that whatever comes to pass, Transformers fans will be enthused. We here at the certainly will be keeping a watchful eye on what develops.

AS: As we come to a close, let’s try to celebrate Animate and not mourn it. What is your best pitch to get fans excited by the Complete Almanac? And as an added, if somewhat cheesy, challenge, limit it to a Twitter’s-length response.

JS: 472 pages of everything that makes Animated great. Amazing art, whimsical personalities, new characters, sheer unadulterated fun. Don’t miss it!

AS: Nice. Thanks for taking the time to talk with us. Best of luck to you and Bill Forster in your future endeavors!

JS: Thank you! Thanks for letting me ramble.