INTERVIEW: Mike Avila & F.J. DeSanto On ‘Transformers: War For Cybertron’ Series & Its Upcoming Art Book

Art books are great! Art books are fun! What’s there to not like about watching an idea or a concept design evolve through multiple stages, especially when it comes to an animated series. In addition to the stellar art, these art books also have interesting interviews and stories from production, which fans are otherwise oblivious to.

A perfect recipe, if you ask us.

So when, Mike Avila, the author of Wolverine: Creating Marvel’s Legendary Mutant, DC’s Wonder Woman Insights, Villains Of Gotham, The Art & Making of Aquaman, etc., worked on an art book focusing on the Transformers series, titled The Art and Making of Transformers: War For Cybertron Trilogy, we were visibly excited.

The art book provides behind-the-scenes look at the Transformers: War For Cybertron Trilogy‘s conception and gives readers insight into the exacting character design that brought the Autobots, Decepticons, Maximals, and Predacons to life.

Before the book’s release, we got a chance to ask some questions to both Mike and F.J. DeSanto, who was the showrunner for the series, to understand more about the upcoming book and also the series.

P.S. DeSanto also wrote the introduction for The Art and Making of Transformers: War For Cybertron Trilogy.

Mike’s Q&A:

AH: You have previously worked on DC projects and authored books like the art of making Aquaman, how different it is working on a live-action based book and an animated series based book like Transformers?

Mike: Working on a book like Aquaman helped prepare me for Transformers: WFC Trilogy in a way. When you’re dealing with such a CGI-heavy film, the VFX team and production designers are some of the most important people to get insight from. The animators are invaluable to understanding the creative process of a show like Transformers. 

AH: Does your previous work with DC books help you in making this book? 

Mike: I answered part of this earlier but I will add that both DC and Transformers are properties steeped in mythology and history. Trying to put together a book like this can be quite daunting. Working on Aquaman as well as my “Wolverine: Creating Marvel’s Legendary Mutant” book helped prepare me for understanding how to put decades of history involving the Autobots and Decepticons into the context of Transformers: WFC Trilogy.

AH: What should the fans of the series look for in the book?

Mike: War For Cybertron told a story that no other Transformers animated series had ever done. I wanted to find out how that story came together, and the writers, producers and the team from Hasbro offer a fully-formed view of how it came together. I think the passion that everyone working on the series has for these characters shines through in the book.

Also, the artwork in the book is incredible — and yes, there are some sweet shots of the toys! It’s a visually stunning show, so I knew I would have a lot of material to work with to create something fans will (hopefully) enjoy. I’m a big fan of “Making Of” books, so I tend to start each project with one simple question: “What would I want to see in a book about this show/movie?”

AH: What inspired you to make an art book for Transformers?

Mike: It’s Transformers. How could I say no to doing a book on such an incredible property with so much amazing history? Also, I’ve known F.J. DeSanto for a long time and when you get a chance to work with friends on something this fun, you do it.

AH: How was it working with the Japanese team in the series?

Mike: This book wouldn’t have worked without the insight provided by the Polygon Pictures team, especially Supervising Director Takashi Kamei and Art Director Yoshimitsu Saito. These guys are absolute legends who know Transformers inside out They provided some of the most interesting anecdotes in the book, especially with regards to the design of Cybertron.

AH: What’s your current favorite anime/manga?

Mike: I’m trying to catch up on the manga version of My Hero Academia. My daughter and I fell off track when she went off to summer. And I’m planning to finally start watching Attack on Titan (I know, I know…pathetic!)

F.J. DeSanto’s Q&A:

AH: You’ve written and Produced this series and are one of the very first promoters of anime in the US, what was your first reaction and thought process when Hasbro told you about the project? 

DeSanto: I was both excited and frightened at the same time. It was a very daunting prospect and something I never imagined ever happening. But it was my dream to produce something in Japan and I was very fortunate to be asked to produce this show and be trusted with such an amazing franchise.

AH: Which elements from Gen1 have you inculcated in the making of this series apart from the characters? 

DeSanto: We tried to make sure we connected the show to G1 from a story and character point of view whenever we could. We also snuck in some easter eggs for the die hard fans. For example the opening of the series with Wheeljack and Bumblebee was an homage to the opening of the G1 series. There is a lot in there

AH: What was the thought behind focusing on an inexperienced Optimus Prime? 

DeSanto: We wanted to show how the character evolved into the legend we all know him as. Thus, we decided to start him in a place that is unfamiliar and track that development as he learns and grows from the events of this series.

AH: How was it working with the Japanese team in the series? 

DeSanto: Absolutely amazing. You could not ask for a better team. Their dedication and attention to deal, not to mention their passion for Transformers as a franchise, really took this show to heights I never imagined possible.

AH: How closely did you work on the Cybertron series? Did you adopt a hands-on approach? 

DeSanto: As the show runner, it was my job to be hands on. This was too important not to manage it on every level day to day. That said, I worked really hard to allow the different creative voices involved with the show to utilize their talents to the benefit of the show. 

AH: What’s your current favorite anime/manga? 

DeSanto: Right now I am enjoying both the anime and manga versions of SPY FAMILY, and I am currently watching the new version of SPRIGGAN as I loved the original when I was younger.

Viz Media will release the art book in hardcover version on Sep 27, 2022. It is currently available for preorder or Amazon and Flipkart!

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