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The ‘Bots are back in town! Well, they will be sooner or later, anyway — attending the San Diego Comic-Con is keeping creator Jeffrey Brown from polishing off the last few pages of Incredible Change-Bots Two, the sequel to his loving parody of the Transformers and Go-Bots of ’80s action-figure and cartoon fame, until August. (And yes, the “two” is fully spelled out.) But it’s not keeping him from talking to us about the upcoming Top Shelf release, one of, like, a bajillion books the publisher talked up at its panel today.
How long have you been planning Incredible Change-Bots Two? Did you need to see how the first volume did, or were you full-steam-ahead from the jump?
I started thinking about it shortly after finishing the first on. The book was so much fun to write, and draw, and the characters were already kind of taking on their own life. Plus people really liked the first one, and I hope that someday I’ll make enough things that people like, that they’ll like me too.
What’s the basic scoop on the sequel, storywise? Any new ‘Bots to look forward to?
At the end of the first book, Shootertron was defeated and left in a pile of rubble on Earth while the other Change-Bots headed into space to find a new home. Shootertron wakes up, but has lost his memory, but the other Change-Bots end up back on Earth because of some miscalculations, and a run-in with Shootertron becomes inevitable. There’s lots of new ‘Bots, but they mostly get killed off right away, because there’s not enough room in the book. I liked how the old cartoons did that too, introduce a new character and then the character disappears at the end of the episode.
The thing that’s interesting to me about Incredible Change-Bots was that even though a lot of the people who both read and make superhero comics AND parodies of superhero comics also read/played with/watched Transformers, it’s a really under-parodied subgenre. Was that part of the attraction of it for you?
Maybe not consciously, but feeling like I wasn’t repeating something else definitely helped encourage me to work on it. It made it easier to build the Change-Bots from scratch when there wasn’t a significant parody that I would have to avoid repeating certain ideas.
Over the past few years a lot of alternative comics have come out that address ’80s action-figure-style action-adventure-fantasy franchises head-on, from the He-Man/D&D-isms of Prison Pit to the video-game tropes of Scott Pilgrim. Do you see Incredible Change-Bots in that light at all, or is it more the comedy that drives it?
To some extent it’s certainly still driven by the 80’s cartoon, but especially in the new book, there’s a lot of jokes that could probably be written without the robots, I’m just using them there instead of with this particular story and characters. I think the reason I was able to write a second book was due to the fact that I’m thinking less and less about addressing the past and more letting the characters and humor drive the story.
It seems like Michael Bay’s Transformers movies might be even more ripe for parody — or perhaps “deserving of satire” is the way to put it — than the originals. Will Change-Bots Two address the live-action movies in any way?
Not really… I almost slipped a joke in here and there, but they ended up not fitting. My love of the original Transformers cartoon is still the primary inspiration. I’ve watched the new films, but it’s almost like they’re trying to be self-conscious parodies of themselves at this point. I think even the IDW comics have less to do with the films than the original mythology. I’m content to let the films exist as a separate thing on their own.
What else have you got coming down the pike?
The new cat book, Cats Are Weird, is just coming out from Chronicle. Next I plan on working on the long planned autobiographical book dealing with religion and fatherhood, as well as a kid’s book about dinosaurs. I think, anyway, there’s a dozen projects I’d really like to be doing, so once Change-Bots Two is wrapped up I’ll figure out exactly what I’m doing.
Does San Diego allow you to indulge both the autobio and action-comedy sides of yourself? Like, will you be bouncing between the small-press area and the Hasbro booth?
I would bounce by the Hasbro booth, but it’s always so crowded! I definitely let my geek fan boy side have more fun here at Comic-Con, and one of the things I love is that you can go from small press to mainstream and see some toys along the way. This convention is always kind of inspiring to me, both in writing fun comics like Change-Bots and writing more ‘serious’ work like the autobiographical books. It’s also exhausting, but still worth it.