TFW2005: Hi Mr. Matere, thank you for agreeing to do this with us! You’re a very well respected artist around here and it’s an honor to have this interview with you!
First of all, as you were growing up, is toy design and comic art what you hoped you’d be doing in your future career?
Matere: Actually no! I did always want to work with drawings and illustration, but in Brazil it’s not so easy to make a living doing that. You have to draw a lot of stuff, not only things that you want or like (in my case Transformers!) So, I’m very happy and pleased doing what I do now for Hasbro and IDW!
TFW2005: I spent nearly my entire childhood scribbling out crude Optimus Prime drawings, and I’m sure many fans could say the same. Were Transformers influential to your art early on at all?Matere: I always really liked the designs of Prowl, Rumble/Frenzy and Grimlock. I had a TF sticker book and I used that as an early reference. Later on I found the classic TF comics.
TFW2005: What were your other inspirations? How would you say your style developed over the years?Matere: I think most of my inspirations/references have come from comic creators like Jim Lee, J. Scott Campbell and Joe Madureira. Then I discovered some manga artists and the studio Ox artwork. Nowadays I’m following some concept artists, particularly guys that work for traditional 2D and 3d animation. They have a great sense of movement that I’ve been trying to put in my some of my works, particularly in the Animated stuff!
TFW2005: Could you tell us a little about how you first came into your working relationship with Hasbro? How did that lead to your work with packaging art?
Matere: Sure! It was back in 2002 I think. I had posted several drawings at TFW2005’s fan art boards and after I posted one of my Cosmos drawings I received a PM from Aaron Archer asking if I was interested to do work for them. Dreamwave was behind on some of the Mini-con artwork for the Armada website, so they asked me to do one as a test.
The assignment was Jolt, Hot Shot’s partner. They approved that one really fast! After that they started sending me more and more Mini-cons. When I finished all of those, they started sending me some Armada package art. I started with the repaints of BW Rhinox, Terrorsaur, and Megatron.
From there, when the first Universe line was created I was moved to that. I think I did most of those packages. Then they sent me Energon stuff and later Alternators. It was like a natural move from line to line as I started working on the Cybertron and BW 10th anniversary lines, Star Wars TFs and recently Classics 2.0, Marvel TFs , Animated, and the Revenge of the Fallen Fast Action Battlers.
TFW2005: What specific reference point are you generally given for the characters featured on card and box art? Amidst the likes of prototypes and production sketches, what is usually most helpful?Matere: They usually send me a lot of pictures from the grey models, the deco sheets with the color specifications and sometimes a few 2d sketches. For Animated I usually ask for all the 2D references that they have. That way I can match the cartoon style and details instead of only the toy details.
TFW2005: How much freedom are you usually given in the composition of the finished piece? We’ve heard Hasbro specifically requested the more static poses for the Universe/Classics 2.0 Toys. Are you always assigned to capture specific moods like that or have there been exceptions?Matere: For the composition, sometimes (well, most of the time) I have to follow a lot of guidelines. They have a specific space for the artwork so I have to do the illustration to fit there in accommodation to the toy display, the box lettering and the rest of the layout. It’s not so easy.
There are some exceptions though: I can change the position of a weapon or a limb of the robot to fit better on the package. I can even change a little bit of the overall design where needed.
For Universe I first sent them two poses. One was pretty close to the 25th anniversary Prime and the other showed more of the robot’s face and chest. They chose the second one because it was totally different from what they had done before. They have to do that. Every time they have to create something new for the kids. It enhances the feel of a new toy with a new style of illustration.
TFW2005: Another of the Universe art’s quirks is the movie-style turbine eyes the characters are sporting. Is this to serve as a connection point for children only used to that look for Transformers? How do you feel about that style over the traditional but less detailed “glow”?Matere: Yes, Hasbro requested that I try to connect this new line with the movie style. The things that I really liked about the movie design were the eyes, the hands and the robot’s expressions, so I tried to put them into these illustrations. I like the final result, with classic characters still different from what we have done with other package artwork.
TFW2005: There’s already been a notable progression in the more current Universe artwork with somewhat livelier facial expressions and gestures. Is this a result of your personal input?Matere: A little bit. Hasbro asked me to try to put more facial expressions on them, particularly after the fist wave. Once I started to change them it looked a little bit weird only altering the expressions and keeping the bodies totally static, so I started adding in more gestures. Some of them worked really well.
TFW2005: We’ve seen Universe style art featuring the original Classics Optimus and Megatron. Was this strictly for promotion?Matere: No, those were my first test for the Universe line. I first did Optimus’ head and chest. Hasbro liked it a lot and then asked me to work on a Megatron chest shot. It was approved. After that I had to finish Prime’s body. They told me that those might be used for package art…but not for sure. It was really weird and cool when I saw those pics on SDCC Hasbro’s booth. Like “Hey! I did that!” 😀
Universe Packaging Concept – Optimus Prime
TFW2005: As a whole, what is generally the main goal of the packaging art? Is it often requested that the piece highlight a specific action feature or gimmick of the toy, or is it more often about simply capturing the character and adding to shelf presence?Matere: It’s a mix of all of that. For some I have to focus more on the toy’s gimmick, like the Fast Action Battlers. Usually though I try to capture the character the most and then add something needed or requested.
Fast Action Battlers Optimus Prime
TFW2005: Shifting to design, we’ve heard about your involvement in the Robot Heroes line. Which of the toys did you design, and which were most fun?Matere: I love that line. I did the design for most of them, like 99%, but I only did the initial concepts. Bill Rawley, the guy who takes care of the line, usually changes some parts of the toy when needed, like expressions or weapons.
TFW2005: Did you find it difficult to make these serious, warring robots look “cute” or were you able to just let loose?Matere: The first ones yes, because I was still finding the style. Now I love to work on them! I’ve always liked to draw fun stuff like Looney Tunes with cartoony styles, so it’s not too complicated for me to work on them. Sometimes it’s a challenge, particularly with the movie guys. I have to make them fun and at the same keep most of the details. Overall though it’s been really cool.
Robot Heroes – Movie Ironhide
Robot Heroes – Movie Dispensor
TFW2005: You’ve also done design work for exclusives such as the OTFCC Roulette/Shadow Striker heads. What was that experience like? How much input were you given?Matere: That was only my second job for Hasbro so it was awesome for me to do design work for exclusive toys. I had never expected do it so soon. I couldn’t sleep well for a few days. It was hard at first trying to figure out how I could make them cool and functional at the same time. I even bought the base molds to see how much detail I had to work in. I first did several head designs, the OTFCC guys chose one, and then I had to do the different angles as needed. I really like those toys, they mean a lot to me.
TFW2005: As a final design related question, were you at all responsible for the somewhat more classically styled head on the movie line’s Cyber Stompin’ Bumblebee? If so, was this a form of fan nod or merely a personal design preference?Matere: Yes, and it’s a bit of both! At that time, I didn’t much like some of the movie aesthetic (as a fan of course) so I tried to put as much classic style into the toy design as possible. Some of it was approved, but I had to rework the head and face to make it somewhat closer to the movie design. After re-watching the movie I changed my mind and now I really dig some of the robot’s details, particularly their eyes and Prime’s hands.
TFW2005: You’ve also had experience with penciling Transformers comics! What are your thoughts on the place of comic books in this particular franchise?Matere: Drawing Transformers was a dream come true for me. I always wanted to draw comics and at the same time was a huge TF fan…but you know, I had never planned in my life to draw a TF comic! That’s weird, heh.
I was really enjoying the Dreamwave TF universe before the company closed, mostly because I’m a huge G1 fan and those stories were sort of following a more classic G1 storyline. Now after working on a few IDW books and following most of their series, I think IDW is doing a great job reinventing the franchise. They’re keeping most of the old attributes and mixing in new concepts and situations. It’s been really fun to read and be a part of the modern TF comics.
TFW2005: What was it like to work on the Spotlight comics for such huge fan favorites as Grimlock and Soundwave? Any pressure there at all, or did it simply allow you to get into the gig even more?Matere: Those were great experiences for me. There was pressure mostly from trying to do my best on two of my favorite characters, like drawing them the best way I could and trying to put some of the old G1 feeling on them, you know what I mean?
TFW2005: Yes, and you’ve done a wonderful job!
So far, have you encountered the famed “Marvel style” of writing where you merely get plot points, freeing you to flesh out the panels at your own pace, or has it been stricter than that?
Matere: I’ve been working with writers that describe most of the scenes and panels in the way they want. But – at the same time I have had the freedom to change or adapt where needed without any problems.
TFW2005: Would you say you’re naturally tempted to push those boundaries as an artist?Matere: I’ve been doing it a lot lately, specifically trying new things in some action scenes. I feel that IDW likes it a lot when we try something fresh and more artistic.
TFW2005: That’s great that they’re open to your input!
When you’re not laboring over your own comics, are there other books you actively follow just for fun?Matere: Besides TFs I’ve been following most of the latest Marvel stuff, manga like Naruto and Death Note, the Robot’s vs IDW books, and I generally like any new stuff that I can find when I’m out buying comics really. I always try to find something new that can inspire me in some way.
TFW2005: That’s definitely important!
Now, let’s wrap up with some reflection on your work so far, and where it might lead! Of all the work you’ve done on Transformers, from packaging, to design, to comics, what are you proudest of, or what is your personal favorite?
Matere: It’s really hard to decide. I like a lot of stuff that I’ve worked on so far. All the package art since Armada has been fun, as well as the Robot Heroes concepts (especially the latest movie 2 ones…they will rock!) One situation that comes to mind is when I did the concepts for the Beast Wars Optimus Primal and Megatron 10th anniversary toys and Hasbro also asked me to do the package art for them. That was an incredible experience for me.
I think my proudest so far though is the work I’ve been doing for the Marvel/Transformers Crossovers. I started with the initial concepts to seal the line’s basic idea and now I’m even working on the designs, transformations, AND package art for them. I’m working on almost every process for those toys
I’m really enjoying working on the Animated box art too!
Marvel Crossover Transformers – Wolverine Concept Art
TFW2005: What would be your “dream assignment” for the future of your Transformers based career? Are there any favorite characters you’d love to design toys for, or perhaps specific types of comic stories you’d like to pencil?Matere: Well, I’ve already gotten it. I really wanted to work on the Dinobots comics because they are my favorite TF team (Lucky Nick!) I think I’d also like to do designs for the next TF movie!
TFW2005: We’d also love to hear about your “dream” project as an artist in general, outside of the Transformers franchise!Matere: Doing my own graphic novel is my goal to the future. I don’t know when…but I really want to get into that. I’d also like to work with concept art for movies and video-games, maybe some animation stuff as well. That would be awesome for sure.
TFW2005: We all certainly wish you the best of luck with that!
Finally, are you able to give us a small tease of anything exciting you’re currently working on?Matere: Hmm…I think so! Next year I’m gonna work in something…really BIG for IDW. I’m also working on the TF Animated package art for 2009 and the Revenge of the Fallen Fast Action Battlers line. Those are really cool!
Roadbuster Ultra Magnus Box Art
TFW2005: Sounds great! Thank you so much for taking the time to sit down with us Mr. Matere!Matere: Thank YOU so much for the opportunity! TFW2005 was really important for me to start working with Transformers and Hasbro. Many thanks guys!