Since their creation in the 1980s, the Transformers have managed to become cultural icons in themselves. One would be hard-pressed to find somebody that doesn’t recognize characters like Optimus Prime, Starscream, or Bumblebee. Over the years the franchise has grown, and the characters have evolved across nearly a dozen TV series.
In the world of comics, though, the old school still rules. The distinctive, blocky look that endeared many managed to live on as the Autobots and Decepticons wage a far larger, and more dangerous war. Over the years, the franchise changed hands, from Marvel, to Dreamwave, to IDW, with each bringing its own stable of talented artists to bring the tale to life.
Since his debut in the industry, Casey Coller has helped to make the world of Transformers jump from the page, and into the imaginations of readers across the country. He’s endeared readers with a distinct art style, that merges clean lines and sharp edges with an attention to detail that entices the viewer to look further into each image. We were given the an opportunity to speak with Mr. Coller during RI Comic Con. in which we had the chance to talk comics and, naturally, Transformers.
We would like to thank the staff at Mr. Coller for taking the time to answer our questions.
Anime Herald: How did you really get started in Transformers? How did you get started in the line?
Casey W. Coller: Well, I had always kind of been a fan of Transformers. I loved them when I was a kid, and I always liked to draw then when I was a kid, I would draw my own toys. And I can’t remember exactly what year it was, but I had a friend who told me about Transformers comic books. There were Transformers comics, and you know, I was an adult, and I kind of went and checked them out. It was when Dreamwave had the license, so I’m like “Oh, these are pretty cool!” So I kind of became aware of Transformers again as a franchise, and I… it was funny. At Christmas, randomly, I had always drawn pictures, but I hadn’t been drawing for a while. And them my mother of all people, I love my mother, my mother bought me for Christmas a new pad of paper and some pencils.
So, put those two things together, I thought “alright, well, you know what? I’m gonna try drawing some Transformers again!” So I started drawing it. I discovered kind of the whole fanart thing online, signed up for that. Then shortly after that I found out that there was a contest that IDW was running on their forums about, it was called “Are You The Next Transformers Cover Artist?” And five hundred and something people entered, and I ended up winning, and shortly after that they offered me my first cover art work. And I guess it’s history from there!
Anime Herald: And which one’s your favorite?
Casey W. Coller: Jazz would be my favorite. He was my first toy when I was a kid, and he’s got a lot of personality! I enjoy drawing transformers with a lot of personality, so I definitely have to put him at the top.
Anime Herald: Do you do any other comics, any other comic lines?
Casey W. Coller: The only other thing I’ve done professionally is a G.I. Joe cover. It was for New York Comic Con, exclusive cover back in 2010. Professionally, I’ve never done anything else.
Before I really got into this, I used to love a lot of the Marvel characters. Spidey, X-Men, Wolverine… stuff like that. Iron Man, I loved Iron Man, so I would always enjoy drawing those guys. Maybe someday I’ll do that professionally, too!
Anime Herald: And, if you did have one title you could do, a bucket list title, which one would it be?
Casey W. Coller: Oh boy! Um, I guess I’d have to put Spider-Man. I’ve always loved Spider-Man. He was, ah, that was just a character that I really enjoyed. Spider-Man and X-Men were my two top titles. X-Men is so complex and there is so much history that I’m not even aware of, so it would be, kind of, it would feel kind of like a daunting task to jump right into that and start drawing that and start drawing it. So I would say Spidey would be at the top of the list.
Anime Herald [Joe Motta]: Do you feel like you grew up, like, I know as a kid, the Spider-Man comics actually grew with the reader themselves. Seeing Peter Parker grow from a teeneager onto, and after the Shattered Dimensions, he turned into a scientist and everything. So is that part of the reason why you think, the fact that he grew along with you? Like, the X-Men kind of stood static.
Casey W. Coller: Yeah, right. That’s true. I guess you could say that. It’s nothing that I was ever really aware of, but I think probably subconsciously, that kind of played a factor. I mean, they do a good job of showing all of the aspects of Peter’s life, and I think through the years, I could kind of identify with a lot of them. So, yeah, I guess you could say that.
Anime Herald: I couldn’t help but notice that you have a really distinct art style. It’s actually fantastic, I love it.
Casey W. Coller: Thanks!
Anime Herald: I’m just wondering about how you came to develop that style. How you managed to evolve over the years, and what your base influence on your style was.
Casey W. Coller: You know back, in the day my big influence was, in the ’90s, all the guys who left Marvel for Image. Most of those guys I was a big fan of. As far as Transformers go, I really had a good appreciation for most of the guys who were doing it professionally. I feel like I don’t try to work like any of them in particular, but I find things I like about their style that I kind of, you know, not take into my own but always think of. Like Nick’s expressions, his characters are so expressive, not just in the faces but the body language, and I love that! So I try to pull that into my style. Guys like Alex and Don are so detailed and people go crazy over the detail in their work, so I try to make mine pretty detailed. You know, EJ with all the technical stuff. I don’t want to miss anybody, but I think I have an appreciation for what all those guys do, and I don’t want to rip any of them off. I feel like I have my own core style, but I find things that I appreciate about all of those artists.
Anime Herald: So you kind of find the best aspects that really stood out to you, and try to incorporate them into your own?
Casey W. Coller: Not necessarily – I guess I should just clarify, and say I’m not trying to steal anything from their style. But when I look at their artwork, what makes me react, like “Wow, that’s cool!” What makes me feel something, and that’s what I want to make other people feel when they look at my artwork.
Anime Herald: I see. I just have a couple more questions: What is your favorite medium to work with? Like, what kind of materials: digital, paper, paints?
Casey W. Coller: (laughs) You know, I’m starting to get used to digital a little bit, but it’s still a work in progress. I definitely do all of my finished stuff on paper. For Transformers, I use the Micron pens just because there’s so many straight lines. I like to work with a brush, and I used to work with a quill pen and stuff like that, but for all the straight lines and the perspective you need to do with the robots, I like the Microns, and my straight-edge, and some paper. That’s it!
Anime Herald: Do you have any publisher that you’d really like to be working for? I know you’re working with IDW, but is there a publisher that you’ve always kind of dreamed of going to?
Casey W. Coller: Yeah. To be honest, I used to, with the Spidey and X-Men thing as you can imagine, I used to love Marvel Comics. I like DC Comics, but I was always a Marvel guy. So it would be pretty cool to work for them. I haven’t really been actively purusing it. To do that, I’d have to put a portfolio of new work together ’cause they can’t really look at my Transformers work and tell how well I would draw their characters because they’re still robots to human-type things are a little different. Maybe someday I would actively pursue that.
And I have grown to appreciate DC, especially their Vertigo line. I loved 100 Bullets, and a lot of other stuff that they did, so… I would say as of right now, there’s not one thing that I’m like “Oh my god, I have to work for them someday!” But it would be cool to work for Marvel or DC one day. It’d be great! But actually, I really have to say that IDW has been teriffic to me. All of the editors that I’ve worked with have been great. They’ve been really flexible with my schedule, they’ve been willing to listen to my ideas, they’ve offered me up some really great opportunities, so they’ve been teriffic. I have no problems working for them.
Anime Herald: And do you have anything that you’d like to say to our readers, a personal message or the like?
Casey W. Coller: Yeah, I mean, if there’s anybody out there that’s a fan of my work, I’d like to say thanks! The one thing in kind of doing comics that I’ve really come to appreciate is the fact that I sit there in my house all by myself, doing these pictures of robots, and then I scan it and send it, and it’s the last I see of it. When I go to conventions and actually meet the people that really like my work, it’s pretty cool! It’s been kind of like my favorite thing about doing this. It’s just been really cool to actually produce something that that people appreciate, and actually meet them. That’s been teriffic, so thank you!