Joe Ng
interviewed in: September 2004

Joe Ng started work at Dreamwave drawing characters for the MTMTE series. From there Joe progressed to being the regular penciler on Transformers Energon. Most recently Joe has become the third artist to work on the fan favourite series The War Within.


Many thanks for taking the time to talk to us. If it's okay with you we will get straight down to the questions.

1. You were a Transformers fan before you started at Dreamwave. What was it that originally got you into Transformers?

I was a huge Transformers fan when I was a kid. The original movie was one of my favourites growing up, and to have the original G1 Optimus Prime toy was one of my Holy Grail's when I was young. Beast Wars was actually what got me back into Transformers a few years ago, and I've become hooked back onto the license ever since.

2. As someone who has jumped from ‘fan’ to ‘professional’, do you view the fan community any differently now?

A little. It's very easy for a fan to criticize something that they don't find satisfactory to their standards. Whether it be with the toys, or the cartoon, or the comics. But I think now that I'm a part of the production process for these products, I can understand some of the limitations that the making of these products would have. But don't get me wrong, I still consider myself a 'fan'. I've made so many friends within the Transformers community, it's hard not to view myself as one.

3. Can you tell us a bit about how you get the job at Dreamwave? How long did it take from your initial contact to getting a regular gig?

A lot of people in the community know that I was a Transformers fan artist before I started working with Dreamwave, and basically, that's how I was noticed. Dreamwave's writers, editors, even the other artists, always look at the fan boards for new talent. After a long interview process with James McDonough, I started freelancing the MTMTE series for them. I think after about 4 or 5 months is when I got my first regular assignment.

4. Is drawing comics a dream come true for you? If so how does the reality compare to the fantasy?

Oh absolutely. I've been wanting to be a comic illustrator since I can remember! I'm still pinching myself in disbelief! It's hard to say that there really is a reality or fantasy to compare. I did a lot of research about being a comic artist back in college and I wasn't really surprised when I had to literally draw 2 pages a day at times or pull all nighters 3 nights straight! Mentally, I think I was prepared for the harsh realities of being a comic penciler, but physically, that's a different story.

5. What other artists (both within Transformers and on other titles) do you draw on for inspiration?

Jim Lee, Bryan Hitch, Travis Charest, Yoshiyuki Tomino, Pat Lee, Don Figueroa, are all artistic influences of mine. But I think my biggest influence would be my brother Danny. He's always been there to support me no matter what I do.

6. Once you have finished your pencils do you have any say in how your art is treated? For example do you get to choose where special effects such as motion blur are applied?

Yeah, I add little notes here and there for where to put special text, or symbols, or effects, but it really is a team effort. If the inker or colourist has an idea in mind to do something with my lines, then I'm certainly open to their ideas.

7. With regard to Energon, how much of your own interpretation were you allowed to apply to the characters? Did you find you had to make many changes to the toy designs to make them look plausible on the page?

A lot of the Energon toys were already very posable so it wasn't very hard to illustrate them moving and performing certain actions without performing too much 'surgery' to them. In terms of my own interpretations, things like joints or how I do the faces or hands, were pretty consistent to my style, much like how Don's hands are drawn a certain way, or Pat draws his joints a certain way.

8. In general, which are your favourite and least favourite characters to draw? Is there anyone you will miss drawing now you have left Energon behind?

I'm really beginning to enjoy drawing Shockwave. His design is so simple yet recognizable. He's quickly becoming one of my favourite Decepticons next to Soundwave. As for the least favourite... whichever one takes more time! Thankfully I don't really have a least favourite Transformer to draw... yet.

One Energon character that I was really starting to enjoy drawing was Skyblast. Probably because he looks very similar to Skyfire, who's design in the G1 cartoon I absolutely loved.

9. What's the main difference between working on War Within and Energon?

Probably the biggest difference so far between the two titles is that one is mostly based on Earth, and the other is mostly based on Cybertron. I find it so much easier to draw alien backgrounds than Earth backgrounds because with Cybertron, you can pretty much make stuff up! With Earth settings, they have to be believable, and look as if it would actually exist in real life. It saves a little time when drawing a Cybertronian background because I don't have to go rummaging through the internet for references of New York, or the Australian desert.

10. What are you most excited about in the upcoming War Within series?

Being able to draw some really cool G1 characters before they landed on Earth! I love drawing War Within Starscream, and Ultra Magnus. These are characters that I grew up wishing that I had the toys of, and now I get to depict them in a very important stage in their development as characters! That, to me, is beyond my wildest dreams.

11. How do you take criticism to your work (whether positive or negative)?

If it's very constructive criticism then I'll definitely listen to what people have to say. I always visit the message boards to see what they like or dislike about my art, and if it's a truly intellectual argument against how I do my job, then I'm definitely going to read through it and think about it. But if it's a comment like: "It sucks" or "My 5 year old son can draw better" then I just kind of laugh it off. It's no skin off my back.

12. Do you ever contribute to the plots? Do you have any aspirations to write as well as draw?

I'm a terrible writer, haha. I'll leave the scripting and stories to those that know how to do it. But if I think there's a visual that could be a little different than what's written in the script then Simon is more than welcome to hear my thoughts and he's always very positive about the ideas that I put in, no matter how miniscule they are.

13. Finally, what are your long-term goals as a comic artist? Any particular titles you would like to take a crack at?

I would love to draw G1, even if it's for one issue. That is the ultimate goal for a Transformers artist I think. But other than that, I really want to try doing a superhero book of some sort. Whether it be my own creation or an already existing character. I think drawing a Marvel or DC book is on any comic artists' wish list, but right now, I'm more than happy drawing for a great franchise like Transformers!

Mr Ng thank you very much for your time.

It was my pleasure! would like to stress that all opinions are Joe’s own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Dreamwave Productions.

Optimus Prime art
from Joe's site

The War Within: Age of Wrath - issue 1 internal art.

War Within: The Age of Wrath - Issue 4 - Joe's site, featuring lots of original work. - Dreamwave's official site.