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Simon Furman Transformers interview



Thanks to Titan Books for giving us this opportunity to interview Simon!


1) How did the current trade paperback re-publications of your TF work come about?


1A) I'd always harboured the idea of getting my US TF run back in print in collected editions, but it wasn't really until 1997/1998 (when I attended two Botcons) that I realized that there may still be a market out there. Even so, it was another couple of years until the time seemed to be right. There was a lot of retro interest in all things 80s, TF included, and a new Gen 1 style toy line in the offing, so armed with enough potential sales information I felt confident enough to pitch the idea to Titan (without getting laughed out of the room).


2) I help run a chain of four comic book stores in America, and I just wanted to tell you that there is a great market here for collections of your U.K. stories. If these are on the horizon for the Titan collections, I think they would sell as many, if not more, than the recent American stories reprints.


2A) Right now, collections of UK material are just one of many options being looked at by Titan for next year. All I can say at this stage is big plans are afoot. On a personal level, I'd love to see it happen.


3) Would you write for a new Transformers comic book if given the opportunity?


3A) Absolutely.


4) Would you write a Transformers novel (>200 pages) if given the opportunity?


4A) Mmm. Time would be a problem. I'm very busy right now, and while I have written prose it eats hours in a working day. It would also have to be licensed, and thereby part of the official mythos. At the moment, probably not, but down the line... who knows.


5) Were there any complaints from Marvel or Hasbro for making a kid-targeted property a bit more adult and advanced? If not, where there any seemingly suppressed feelings as such?


5A) I don't think so. We had very good relationships with Hasbro at both Marvel US and UK. Sure, it helped once they weren't looking quite so closely at what we were doing, or continually foisting toy of the month on us, but overall we were allowed quite a bit of latitude. I certainly can't remember any rejected storylines. And let's face it, we weren't exactly doing Vertigo-style stuff, it was still first and foremost action/adventure. The TF stories that I wrote were simply supposed to be enjoyed by a range of ages. It's different, but like the Simpsons, which is pitched perfectly so kids can laugh at it and older viewers can appreciate the cultural references, I wanted TF to appeal to as wide a readership as possible.


6) Did Hasbro mandate a lot on the comic, and if so, did you ever feel cramped by such mandates? For example, what was Megatron's reasoning for reviving Starscream in G2? "Because I'm an idiot?" Or because Hasbro said, bring him back?


6A) Actually, I don't remember any big Hasbro input on Gen 2. We brought Starscream back because he's such a cool character, and I wanted him in the mix.


7) What did you think of Bob Budiansky's work, how did you feel about taking over from him in the US?


7A) I think Bob did stirling work under difficult conditions. He really did have a huge amount of back story and characters to compress into a single issue. With the UK stories, which often spun out of Bob's stuff (which was reprinted in the UK comic), we were lucky -- Bob had done all the hard work for us. I guess the only conscious decision I made on taking over from Bob was to move the story away from Earth, get the focus more on the Transformers than the human/nebulan supporting cast. I felt that Earth constrained the more epic feel of the TF saga, and that's what I wanted to inject into the comic.


8) What, if you could, would you go back and change about what you did on your run of Transformers comics?


8A) If we're talking UK here, there's a whole lot of stuff (especially in the early stories) I'd have changed, or at least done better. The story ideas were sound, but the execution was, in some cases, poor. The fact was, back in 1985, I'd only ever written a few comic stories (of any kind), so I was learning on my feet. Once I'd got the basic comic storytelling skills, things got better. US-wise, my only wish is that I'd got Andrew (Wildman) onto the book sooner. The run #69-80, drawn by Andrew and Geoff (Senior) is perhaps the one bit of comics work that I'd change nothing about. I sat and read the first two Titan collections, All Fall Down and End of the Road, and felt nothing but intense, smug satisfaction.


9) Which transformers character did you find the best or most enjoyable to write for?


9A) Favourites, in no particular order: Galvatron, Megatron, Starscream, Grimlock. I always favoured the bad guys (so much more interesting), or at least the anti-heroes. I did, however, like Nightbeat, because he gave me the chance to do a detective/noir-type story (The Big Shutdown, in UK #230-231, Matrix Quest 1 in US #62).


10) Which character do you feel is most closely related to you that you have written?


10 A) Not sure any of them were exactly based on personal experience. The one I think I 'understood' most of all was Grimlock. I loved the fact that he was willing to project an image to world that really wasn't him at all, and all the real, important stuff was buried under the surface. Not that I do that myself, you understand ('lie down on the couch and tell me about your mother...'), but I could empathise.


11) What were your main inspirations for your Transformers stories?


11A) I think, for the epic/adventure stuff, Star Wars and Indiana Jones, for all the sub-plot, intertwined stories I think Chris Claremont (when he was really cooking on X-Men), for my approach to scripting, definitely Alan Moore, I loved the way he weaved comic book pages, the way he used dialogue and visual hand in hand, to complement and spark off each other. But overall, my literary influences are more hard-boiled pulp/crime fiction, the embattled, cynical loner up against impossible odds for nothing more than his tattered pride. How that quite gels with TF I don't know, but hey, there it is.


12) What is your take on the GI Joe/Transformers crossovers, especially given how their realities split later down the line (when Bludgeon destroyed the world, basically) and Transfans opinions on that in general?


12A) Some of these crossovers worked, but on balance I'm not a big fan. Even the ones I've done (UK #125 and US G2 #2) have looked a little forced. I don't actually think (beyond the fact that they share a mutual toy company) that TF and GI Joe are a natural fit in any way. We tried to be clever on the UK comic, re-do a bit of continuity by creating Goldbug ourself (and ignore the US crossover story), but they ended up running the crossover in the comic anyway. Let's face it,k TF continuity is a thorny enough subject as it, and GI Joe just complicates it further. There are plenty of quote-unquote alternate realities out there (I should know, I'm responsible for a lot of them), can we, er, forget the GI Joe one?


13) Would you like to bring Deaths Head back? I'm sure we all miss him, yes?


13A) I certainly do, and yes, I'd love to bring him back. If only I could find the time to structure a pitch to Marvel US.


14) Do you prefer color or black and white comics?


14A) Colour probably, but I still have a UK-born and bred bias for black and white, an affection that goes back to early childhood... when all comics (or so I thought back then) were black and white. Sometimes colour (unless it's very good) can muddy good artwork, lose the fine detail in the linework. A couple of cases in point, Alan Moore's run on Swamp Thing looked so much better in black and white (early Titan editions) than colour. Miracleman (Marvelman) likewise. The stuff in Warrior was classic, the colour Eclipse comics somehow less so. Just my opinion, mind.


15) What's your opinion of the Japanese Transformers TV series (The Headmasters, Masterforce, Zone, etc.)?


15A) Er, pass. I've never seen any of the Japanese shows. I have trouble sorting out the US TV/comic continuity, more continuity curves I don't need. Still, I'd be curious to see an episode or two. Anyone want to send me a tape, do it care of Titan Books, 144 Southwark St, London SE1 0UP, UK. I'll send you a signed copy of All Fall Down in return.


16) Why was Metroplex never involved in a comic story-line?


16A) He was. In UK comic #186-187 (the final segments of a story called Space Pirates).


17) Where there any plans to bring back Shockwave after the crash on the Ark?


17A) I'm sure, if the Gen 1 series had continued, we'd have brought him back. He was too good a character to lose for long.


18) Reading your work, you rarely used combiners (Bruticus, Devastator, etc). Also, you seemed to have very little problem with killing off gestalt components (i.e. Hotspot in G2 #1. No more Defensor). Did you not care for gestalts? If not, how come?


18A) This might be a US/UK comic thing. In the UK comic I used the combiners (Devastator particularly). It's true, though, they never featured much (if at all) in my US run, and the components became cannon fodder. It wasn't a conscious decision, but the range (as much as I went with what was hot, toy-wise) had moved on, so I felt at liberty to ignore or waste as many of them as I wanted. POWER! It's a terrible thing.


19) First of all, I'd like to thank you for all the great Transformers stories in both the US and UK comics. But there's one thing I'd like to know: if the Generation 2 comic had continued for another year, what would the next story arc have been?


19A) The next story arc would have been the battle against the Liege Maximo. I'd kind of resigned myself to never telling that story, until I was approached by Paul Cannon (who organises UK convention Transforce) to write a big, two part text story for Transforce 2001/2002. I decided, in non-official form, to get that story off my chest, and so Alignment was born. The first part was published in the convention booklet for 2001's con, and the conclusion (which actually isn't written yet) will appear in 2002's.


20) Does it make you happy that your Transformer comics were some of the source material for Beast Wars and Beast Machines as well as a little bit of RiD (Robots in Disguise)?


20A) Absolutely. I was delighted when I met Bob Forward (script editor on Beast Wars with Larry DiTillio) and he told me he'd used elements of the comic mythology in the series. I didn't realize it extended to Beast Machines/Robots in Disguise.


21) How much influence did you have for the script on the last episode of BW?


21A) A fair bit, but it changed a lot from our (Bob Forward and mine's) original intention. We'd originally intended it to feature Gen 1 characters (Megatron's 'ghost' was suggested, some Decepticon jets), but this got progressively watered down and then, when it became the last episode, and so much had to be wrapped up, we had to change tack completely. Nemesis was very much a joint affair, but a whole lot of my script made it into the screen.


22) Dear Simon Furman! I am 26 year old Asian American living in the United States of America. I am big fan of your work. I really like your writing on the Marvel Transformers comic books series back in 1989-1991. I have all the Marvel comics US issues! I have Transformers Issues#56-8O which are the best written Transformers comics ever made. I loved the way you combined the personalities of the Transformers characters and combined them into a well written story. I love such issues as Primal Scream! That one featured the Origin of Unicron and Primus! Primus was the creator of all Transformer in your comics but is it ironic that you made him look like Hot Rod/Rodimus Prime! I also like the Six part miniseries: The Matrix Quest! I liked the fact you introduced the Autobot Headmasters, NightBeat, Siren, and Hosehead into the story. I also liked the fifth issues of the Matrix quest where you introduced the Classic Pretenders! It was great to see Grimlock, Jazz, and Bumblebee fighting Thunderwing and his Decepticons for the Matrix. I also like Transformers #69! The Gathering storm. It was well written where you introduced all the most familiar Transformers characters coming together. You brought the evil Galvatron from a Parallel Universe into our Universe. Then you reintroduced Starscream, Shockwave, and ravage into the story plotting revenge against Scorponok! Then you have Optimus Prime and Nightbeat worry about whether Ratchet and Megatron survived the explosion from issue #57! I also like that fact that Grimlock wanted to revive the Dinobots and wanted to use the Nucleon to revive them. Issue#69 was very nice which lead to the Action Masters storyline in issue#76. I also liked Surrender, Civil War 2, the Coming of Unicron! I especially liked the fact you introduced Unicron into an entirely different story than the story in the Transformers: The Movie! I also liked the End of Road storyline. The final issue in Transformers#80 was awesome! You concluded the Transformers: Generation one storyline with such grace and finesse! The defeat of The Decepticons on Klo! The introduction of the last Autobot! The rebirth of Optimus Prime as Action Master Optimus Prime! I also liked the way you involved the Neo Knights into story. You concluded the story with the defeat of Bludgeon and the Decepticons. The fact that Cybertron repaired itself from the Onslaught of Unicron was also a great idea! I really love your work on these comics Simon! You, Andrew Wildman, Geoff Senior, Lee Sullivan and the rest of the UK Transformers comics staff have proved your value to the Transformers community! I Love the writing and the art! The art by Andrew Wildman, Geoff Senior is very stunning to the fans eyes! Visually impressive! They are a really wonderful read for Transformers fans! They were very well written stories. I am very glad Titan books decided to republish them into bookshelf format. I bet you're very happy about your stories getting republished for future Transfans, Beast Wars fans, and RiD fans to read! I hope you have a bright future writing new Transformers stories! I look forward to reading them! Thank you! Take care!


22A) Thanks for all the kind thoughts. I am indeed very happy that Titan reprinting those stories. It's very much my intention to get as much of my TF work as possible back into print, so it can be enjoyed again (by me, if no one else!).


23) This is probably going to be different from your usual mails. usually you probably receive mails on how great your work on the TF comic was. Though I loved your work most of the time on the TF comic, I at times did not like the way you handled certain characters. The character I'm mainly talking about is Rodimus Prime. In the comic, many times he was proclaimed as a titan of titans, or the greatest of Primes. It was funny, though unlike other prominent characters like Optimus Prime, Ultra Magnus, Fortress Maximus, Grimlock etc, who many times were shown in the heat of battle kicking ass. Magnus in many of his encounters with Galvatron. Grimlock in the earth force issues. Fortress Maximus defeating Galvatron in issue 79 of the US comic. However in every appearance of Rodimus Prime, you turned him into a punching bag.Though you handled his character fairly well, we never saw him in an issue where he went all out. His first appearance in Galvatron wanted dead or alive and burning sky he got WHIPPED BY Galvatron, and never even got in one punch. Considering he managed to beat Galvatron in the movie. It was surprising to see him loose so easily. even Magnus who got trounced against Galvatron put up a good fight, and dished out a lot of punishment. It was funny that Rodimus, Magnus, and other bots could not handle Galvatron, yet in later issues Magnus defeats Galvatron in hand to hand combat. but that's not the point. later on , the next appearance of Rodimus Prime is WHEN THE BOUNTY HUNTER DEATHS HEAD is sent to kill him. Once again, Rodimus Prime is easily dispatched and severely injured, without a single bit of offense on his part. Then again in "Legacy of Unicron", Rodimus Prime stands there and gets knocked around by Unicron. but by far my biggest complaint is how the character of Rodimus prime is humiliated in "Time Wars". he and several others get swatted by Galvatron. then at the end he's all riled up," ok Galvatron it ends now, just you and me" "SLAP" , one little love tap and Rodimus prime is out, and still unconscious next issue when prime arrives. Not that I'm saying that Rodimus prime is tough enough to beat Galvatron, Deaths Head or Unicron etc. But in every physical encounter, he was easily swatted down, and did not even get in a punch. funny thing is, I'm not a Rodimus Prime fan. but it is rather silly, when he's the chosen one, and is Prime's successor and throughout the comic called a TITAN AMONG TITANS. What were you thinking? In all his appearances , he literally got defeated in hand to hand combat, without a single bit of offense on his part. I'm just curious on this. it seemed like you really hated this character. you showed him to so physically and mentally weak. granted he's supposed to be young and trying to handle the burden of leadership, but how come the chosen one from the movie becomes a 99 pound weakling. I wish you could answer my queries on how come you portrayed Rodimus Prime so negatively. Thanks for your time.


23A) I'll let you in on a secret, I never cared that much for the character of Rodimus Prime, and maybe that came out in my treatment of him. When you look at it, he did have a hard time of it, didn't he? It goes back to what I was saying about the bad guys. They're definitely my favourites. Poor Rodimus. Wonder if I'll ever get to put things right and do a Rodimus story where he kicks ass. Nah, I'd probably still stick it to him... some characters just have it coming!!


24) What's next for Simon Furman?


24A) More animation work, I'm developing a series for a UK-based company right now. And, of course, more from Wildfur, the company I run with Andrew Wildman. The Engine: Industrial Strength is up and running now at www.whorunstheengine.net, and the plan for 2002 is to get new properties/characters up on the www.wildfur.net site.


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