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The Allspark.com Interviews Simon Furman


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#1 NightViper

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 09:05 AM

http://www.allspark..../view/10004/16/

QUOTE
Amongst Transformers fans, "Simon Furman" is practically a household name. The writer has been with the brand for twenty-seven years and has played a key role in developing its rich and diversified mythos and deep characterization for giant, talking, alien robots.

Recently he has had the opportunity to revisit the stories he worked on for the Marvel Comics production of Transformers in a new title from IDW Publishing called "Transformers: ReGeneration 1". The first issue, given the number 80.5 in reference to the 80-comic run from Marvel, is scheduled for release during Free Comic Book Day in May. The entire title from IDW will then span from #81 to #100.

The Allspark.com had the chance to chat with Simon Furman about the upcoming series, as well as reflect on the writer's career with the robots in disguise:

1) Since its been so many years since you wrote these particular versions of these characters and so many others have given their own takes on them over the years, do you think of them in the same way as before? For example, Optimus Prime has evolved greatly since the 1980's, taking on characteristics not present in the original representations of the character. (Example: His more aggressive tendencies in the live-action movies). Does Optimus in ReGeneration One take on these aspects, or is he the same as he was twenty years ago?

SF) I like to think this is the exact same Prime I was writing back then, but of course the wealth of Prime stuff I?ve written since can?t help but seep in by a kind of natural osmosis and influence this depiction. That said, and it applies to all characters in RG1, I?m trying to do something very definitive with Prime this time around. I?m taking a hard look at these characters and, given the kind of countdown of issues to #100, trying to make them count ? so every moment they?re on page says something about who and what they are (or will be). I want to show what really makes them tick. The whole Prime-Megatron dynamic really comes under the spotlight in the first arc. I asked myself fundamental questions about both characters and how almost inter-dependent they are. You almost can?t imagine Prime without Megatron and vice versa. All of RG1 is about progression and resolution. So expect Prime (and plenty of other characters) to go through some dramatic changes. But, to answer the last part of your question, I don?t feel entirely comfortable with the Optimus Prime of the movies. In my opinion, and certainly in the way IDW have always approached the character, Prime can only take a life if absolutely ALL other options have been exhausted.

2) Related to that question, did you go back and read any of the Marvel series to refresh yourself on the characterizations and events that had taken place?

SF) Yep. I re-read all 80 issues and Headmasters. Even the original TF/G.I. Joe crossover. I re-read a chunk of relevant UK stories and ?Another Time and Place?, the text story from one of the UK Annuals. Because, even if I wasn?t picking up story strands directly, I wanted to reference (often subtly) as much past content as possible, to really pull everything into this conclusion. There are tons of easter eggs littered through the first arc and beyond. You don?t need to know all the sources to enjoy the story, but if you do you?ll get the nods and winks to other stuff. My aim is to really tie up anything relevant but also to acknowledge what came before. So, there?s a kind of guest appearance by the Cosmic Carnival in #81. It serves the story, but it also feeds back into what?s been established in this universe. I?m trying to strike this balance throughout.

3) How much of the new series is based on unrealized ideas from the end of the Marvel comics run, and how much is based on new ideas?

SF) Mostly new ideas. If we?d had all the issues up to #100 back then, and could bank on that, the story would have unfolded quite differently. Prime would have come back much later than he did. Cybertron would have stayed in flux for much longer. The search for the Last Autobot would have been a kind of quest over a chunk of issues. But instead we had to accelerate all that stuff. So we?re starting off now from as level a playing field as possible, which serves to make it more of a ?jumping on point? for new readers. But some of the core underlying threads we?d have had to deal with back then still apply now. Grimlock?s quest to restore his transformation abilities and help others to whom Nucleon was more bane than blessing. The Megatron/Ratchet situation. The Galvatron paradox. The creatures under Cybertron. And so on. And both Andrew Wildman and I really want to make RG1 count, to be about something fundamental, even theological/philosophical. We?re taking the Transformers to the absolute nth degree ? on a truly universal level. #81-100 will be a journey, both for the characters and, I hope, the reader.

4) How would you sell this series to new fans who may not have been there during the original run and don't have the same emotional or nostalgic attachment to this universe?

SF) I would say, here?s your chance to see a Transformers story both begin (again, we?re on a pretty level playing field as we kick off) and end. Definitively. So you absolutely know that if you jump onboard at #81 (or even #80.5) you?re heading for a definite destination, story-wise. It?s a rarity, when you think about it, in the 27 year plus history of Transformers, to have a tale go all the way to an actual conclusion. And I?d also say that with a conclusion in sight, the gloves are off in terms of what we can and can?t do in RG1. So expect stuff to really matter, and characters to die and stay dead, and events to unfold that will fundamentally shake all your preconceptions about what Transformers is and what it can be. This is where it all began, and now we?re going to finish it in style. I believe that?s something readers will want to be onboard for.

5) What can we be sure we *won't* see in the new continuation?
Addendum: Are there any Transformers concepts that you dislike enough to purposefully avoid when you are writing a story? If so, can we have a few examples?

SF) Well, and no offence to Bob B, there probably won?t be another round of Interplanetary Wrestling, and the Car Wash of Doom has closed its doors for the final time, a sad victim of the current recession. But otherwise there?s almost nowhere we won?t go, no story thread we won?t pick up, IF (and only if) it serves the ongoing story. Sagas like Headmasters, Underbase and Return to Cybertron are defining in and of themselves, and the repercussions of those stories will reverberate through RG1. But I don?t w ant RG1 to be a backwards looking thing. So, often these will be nods or footnotes. Our plan is drive forwards with the cast and storylines we already had, and lace those into new storylines developed wholly for RG1. So a lot of what I?ll be feeding off is contained in my run (#56-80) on the US book. That was kind of where the momentum was at the end, and that?s where we?ll pick up.

6) You keep getting called back to write Transformers. How does it feel to be, much like Peter Cullen, a foundational part of such a large and popular franchise? Has Transformers simply become a part of yourself at this point?

SF) I long ago stopped trying to fight the Transformers tag. It?s simply been too good to me, and underpinned my whole career. So I love being a big part of Transformers, and my aim is to give as much possible back in terms of a truly defining Transformers story. I?m always happiest when Transformers is a part of my workload but not all of it. Currently I?m working on RG1, an animated TV show (Matt Hatter Chronicles) and a movie we can?t talk about ? yet. To me, that?s pretty much a perfect mix. The only thing I?d love to throw in there is a Death?s Head series, but I just can?t (and boy have I tried) convince Marvel to commission one. As for 2012, it just feels like a very big year for me and Transformers. It still amazes me that something I first wrote 27 years ago is still such a major thing in my life, work-wise and personally. But long may it last!

7 ) Were you surprised that you had such a following so many years after your initial work?

SF) Yes. Very. The focused TF ?fan community? just didn?t exist back in the early 90s. So I was astounded when I went to my first Botcon and people not only remembered but liked the stories we told at Marvel. In fact, I was rather caught out. And the next Botcon I made sure I?d gone back and re-read my stuff, so I could answer questions a little more authoritatively. Of course it?s very flattering that what I wrote back then (in kind of isolation) has been enjoyed by and influenced so many people. When I see the likes of James Roberts really emerging as a writer in his own right, and learn they grew up reading my stuff, I take that as the sincerest flattery.

8) One additional Question since it has come up amongst our users so often. As a major player in shaping the Transformers mythos, what is your take on modern fiction such as Michael Bay's movies. What do they do "right" and what do they do "wrong"?

SF) Well, clearly they do an awful lot right. They are pitch perfect for today?s cinema-going audience. You just can?t argue with that kind of consistent and growing box office over the course of the three movies. And technically, they?re brilliant. I think they set a bar for all visual effects movies, and so often others pale by comparison. I?ve never seen live action and CG merged so seamlessly. But I?m probably not the audience for these movies. I love a good kinetic action movie as much as the next guy, but I need more. I need a compelling (and clear) story and character development/arcs. I need to feel for at least one character and follow them on a journey. The film has to say something to me. And so I think that if the movies need one thing it?s that ? a solid, emotional tug that transcends giant battling robots and speaks to the everyman (and woman). To me, the movies need strong character threads, and not just for the human cast. I want to care about the robots too, but often they come across as largely interchangeable with one another.

--Simon

------------------------------------

We'd like to thank Simon Furman for taking the time to answer a few of our questions and for providing what information he could share about his new projects. To stay up to date on everything he is working on, make sure you visit his blog: Simon Fuman - The Blog

Edited by NightViper, 22 February 2012 - 09:11 AM.


#2 Powered Convoy

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 09:10 AM

I love the sound of Regeneration and Simon's enthusiasm!

Randy

#3 ZacWilliam1

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 09:27 AM

QUOTE(Powered Convoy @ Feb 22 2012, 09:10 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
I love the sound of Regeneration and Simon's enthusiasm!

Randy


Can't wait to add a third MUST BUY, TF comic to my purchase list. If they stagger them right we'll only have one week a month when there's not an awesome TF book to buy. Expensive but awesome.

I hope Blaster and Fort Max can play a decent role in Regeneration. They were Budainsky's "stars" much more than Furman's but they feel so much a part of what the G1 comic was to me.

Despite Optimus Prime existing I always felt he was only a really big focus in the US comic toward the end. The leading men of the US comic to me were:
Buster Witwicky
Ratchet
Blaster
Goldbug
Fort Max/Galen/Spike
Optimus Prime
And then Grimlock

In roughly that order. I'd love to see them all get a curtain call.


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#4 Bug-Saw

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 09:50 AM

Another interview with Simon Furman? I think after the first 3, I've learned all I needed to know to figure out what makes the man tick.

#5 D.M

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 10:18 AM

QUOTE
For example, Optimus Prime has evolved greatly since the 1980's, taking on characteristics not present in the original representations of the character. (Example: His more aggressive tendencies in the live-action movies).


You sure have a strange definition of evolution. :\

Sorry, but... G1 Prime is a few dozen evolutionary steps above movie Prime.
In fact, every version of Optimus is way above movie Prime who's like a caveman compared to them.

Edited by D.M, 22 February 2012 - 10:23 AM.


#6 Mako Crab

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 10:27 AM

Captain CAVEBOT!!!



#7 Creature SH

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 10:28 AM

QUOTE(D.M @ Feb 22 2012, 04:18 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE
For example, Optimus Prime has evolved greatly since the 1980's, taking on characteristics not present in the original representations of the character. (Example: His more aggressive tendencies in the live-action movies).


You sure have a strange definition of evolution. :\

Sorry, but... G1 Prime is a few dozen evolutionary steps above movie Prime.
In fact, every version of Optimus is way above movie Prime who's like a caveman compared to them.


Nonono, it fits. Remember: Evolution is not about getting smarter and better. It's only about adapting to the environment to survive. And if a more aggressive, murderous bastard is fit to survive in the movie market, that's textbook evolution at work.





Okay, not really, but let's not strain the metaphor even further.



#8 NightViper

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 11:05 AM

QUOTE(D.M @ Feb 22 2012, 10:18 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE
For example, Optimus Prime has evolved greatly since the 1980's, taking on characteristics not present in the original representations of the character. (Example: His more aggressive tendencies in the live-action movies).


You sure have a strange definition of evolution. :\

Sorry, but... G1 Prime is a few dozen evolutionary steps above movie Prime.
In fact, every version of Optimus is way above movie Prime who's like a caveman compared to them.


Evolution. Devolution. Whatever you want to call it, the point is that the most common representation of the character in today's fiction is different from his representation in the 80's. Over the years, he has changed. In some ways subtly, in some ways not so subtle. So to provide a clear example, we chose one of the least subtle changes; his more aggressive/bad-ass qualities from the movies and Prime.

#9 Cyoti

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 11:36 AM

QUOTE(D.M @ Feb 22 2012, 11:18 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE
For example, Optimus Prime has evolved greatly since the 1980's, taking on characteristics not present in the original representations of the character. (Example: His more aggressive tendencies in the live-action movies).


You sure have a strange definition of evolution. :\

Sorry, but... G1 Prime is a few dozen evolutionary steps above movie Prime.
In fact, every version of Optimus is way above movie Prime who's like a caveman compared to them.


It's not Bay's fault the audience responds so positively to this more aggressive and Bauer-ish OP.

Edited by Cyoti, 22 February 2012 - 11:37 AM.


#10 G.B.Blackrock

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 12:41 PM

QUOTE(ZacWilliam1 @ Feb 22 2012, 06:27 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Despite Optimus Prime existing I always felt he was only a really big focus in the US comic toward the end. The leading men of the US comic to me were:
Buster Witwicky
Ratchet
Blaster
Goldbug
Fort Max/Galen/Spike
Optimus Prime
And then Grimlock

In roughly that order. I'd love to see them all get a curtain call.


-ZacWilliam, TF comics havn't been this cool in sooo long...


Noting the conspicuous lack of a certain multimillionaire tycoon on that list...

But seriously, I'd like to see a break-down of how many issues each of these characters appeared in (and, going further, how prominent a role each human had in each). Buster, for example, has two or three definitive arcs, but largely falls off the scene after getting the Creation Matrix back to Prime (Car Wash of Doom being a significant exception, if a one-shot. I do recognize that he's an important plot device later, leading to Spike's role with Fortress Maximus, but he's less an important actor in those events, and he really DOES disappear after being rescued).

I don't think I actually disagree with your late placement of Grimlock. He's become SO important in recent years, but he really didn't do much for nearly two full years after being introduced. Then he was a one-note horrible leader for a while, before disappearing again. When he came back as a Pretender, he again did little. It is only once Grimlock starts the quest for Nucleon that he truly comes into his own in the Marvel comic.

(There is, admittedly, a US bias to these remarks. Deal with it)

Edited by G.B.Blackrock, 22 February 2012 - 12:44 PM.

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#11 ZacWilliam1

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 12:52 PM

QUOTE(G.B.Blackrock @ Feb 22 2012, 12:41 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
(There is, admittedly, a US bias to these remarks. Deal with it)


True. I'm not as 100% familiar with the UK issues as with the US but I think if you included them you'd have to add Springer, Ultra Magnus, and Rodimus to the lead character list and Grimlock would be in there much earlier.


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#12 gargunkle

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 01:06 PM

If RG1 does really well, anyone think they'd continue it further than #100?
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#13 Primer Prime

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 01:23 PM

The only issue BB wrote from Grimlock's perspective was the one about Trypticon. After that pretty much all of BB's Grimlock-centric stuff was with him as the antagonist, opposite Blaster as BB's most prominent protagonist. After the Powermasters return, I only recall Grimlock having one line of dialogue (sans whatever trash talk he spouts in issue 50) and that's pretty much just him yes-manning Optimus.

Though as far as that list of main characters go, don't you think you should include Ratchet? He had a prominent role in two pretty huge arcs as well as in the first Mechanic issue. Since Furman established him as Prime's bff, I hope there's at least some acknowledgement about his fate at the end of US79... but I feel like the time for that would have been at the end of the original run where there was unfortunately not enough space. Based on the article it sounds like Furman's including "Another Time and Place" which means if there's going to be any acknowledgement of Ratchet's fate, it'll be consigned to a single panel in 80.5.

Otherwise... aside from the garrishly bright and shiny look of the colors I'm really stoked about this.

#14 Creedence

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 01:27 PM

QUOTE(D.M @ Feb 22 2012, 09:18 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
You sure have a strange definition of evolution. :\

Sorry, but... G1 Prime is a few dozen evolutionary steps above movie Prime.
In fact, every version of Optimus is way above movie Prime who's like a caveman compared to them.

That's not what evolution means.

#15 G.B.Blackrock

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 01:36 PM

QUOTE(gargunkle @ Feb 22 2012, 10:06 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
If RG1 does really well, anyone think they'd continue it further than #100?

Oddly enough, no. I think this is actually pretty definitive, and sales won't make that much of a difference.

Even more oddly, I'm pretty okay with that, and I say that as a person who holds the Marvel G1 continuity in higher regard than perhaps any other version of Transformers ever done.
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#16 G.B.Blackrock

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 01:38 PM

QUOTE(Optimus Primary @ Feb 22 2012, 10:23 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
Though as far as that list of main characters go, don't you think you should include Ratchet? He had a prominent role in two pretty huge arcs as well as in the first Mechanic issue. Since Furman established him as Prime's bff, I hope there's at least some acknowledgement about his fate at the end of US79... but I feel like the time for that would have been at the end of the original run where there was unfortunately not enough space. Based on the article it sounds like Furman's including "Another Time and Place" which means if there's going to be any acknowledgement of Ratchet's fate, it'll be consigned to a single panel in 80.5.

You referencing ZacWilliam's list? Ratchet's always been on it.

Also, I don't read the article as including AT&P. That is, although he says he went back and re-read it, I don't see him saying AT&P will be in continuity at all. Rather, he says he's looking to lay Easter eggs.

Edited by G.B.Blackrock, 22 February 2012 - 01:40 PM.

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#17 Somebody

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 02:10 PM

QUOTE(ZacWilliam1 @ Feb 22 2012, 05:52 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE(G.B.Blackrock @ Feb 22 2012, 12:41 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
(There is, admittedly, a US bias to these remarks. Deal with it)

True. I'm not as 100% familiar with the UK issues as with the US but I think if you included them you'd have to add Springer, Ultra Magnus, and Rodimus to the lead character list and Grimlock would be in there much earlier.

-ZacWilliam, if I'm not forgetting anyone...

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#18 BB Shockwave

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 02:25 PM

This is all kinds of awesome. Man, I hope that someday, I can attend some conference and meet Simon in person. His TF stories were kind of a defining element of my youth.

Some highlights:

QUOTE
The whole Prime-Megatron dynamic really comes under the spotlight in the first arc. I asked myself fundamental questions about both characters and how almost inter-dependent they are. You almost can’t imagine Prime without Megatron and vice versa. All of RG1 is about progression and resolution. So expect Prime (and plenty of other characters) to go through some dramatic changes.


Basically, "What'd you be without me, Prime?" icon-arcee.gif

QUOTE
But, to answer the last part of your question, I don’t feel entirely comfortable with the Optimus Prime of the movies. In my opinion, and certainly in the way IDW have always approached the character, Prime can only take a life if absolutely ALL other options have been exhausted.


Look DeSanto, somebody who gets what Optimus' key defining features are! Hire him for scriptwriter, for Primus's sake!

QUOTE
Yep. I re-read all 80 issues and Headmasters. Even the original TF/G.I. Joe crossover. I re-read a chunk of relevant UK stories and ‘Another Time and Place’, the text story from one of the UK Annuals. Because, even if I wasn’t picking up story strands directly, I wanted to reference (often subtly) as much past content as possible, to really pull everything into this conclusion. There are tons of easter eggs littered through the first arc and beyond. You don’t need to know all the sources to enjoy the story, but if you do you’ll get the nods and winks to other stuff. My aim is to really tie up anything relevant but also to acknowledge what came before. So, there’s a kind of guest appearance by the Cosmic Carnival in #81.


The Cosmic Carneval? Man, maybe we will finally find out whatever happened to Big Top! icon-fire.gif And whether he ran out of cigars in that cage...

QUOTE
But some of the core underlying threads we’d have had to deal with back then still apply now. Grimlock’s quest to restore his transformation abilities and help others to whom Nucleon was more bane than blessing. The Megatron/Ratchet situation. The Galvatron paradox. The creatures under Cybertron. And so on.


I am dying to know whatever will happen to Ratchet. Will he continue to share a mindlink with Megs? Will Megatron be afraid to kill Ratchet, not knowing whether that'd kill him too? So many possibilities.

QUOTE
And I’d also say that with a conclusion in sight, the gloves are off in terms of what we can and can’t do in RG1. So expect stuff to really matter, and characters to die and stay dead, and events to unfold that will fundamentally shake all your preconceptions about what Transformers is and what it can be. This is where it all began, and now we’re going to finish it in style. I believe that’s something readers will want to be onboard for.


The Furminator has arrived! Let's all draw up a poll and place our bets about who will survive #100!

QUOTE
Well, and no offence to Bob B, there probably won’t be another round of Interplanetary Wrestling, and the Car Wash of Doom has closed its doors for the final time, a sad victim of the current recession.


That is just hilarious. Ratbat meets the recession! icon-fire.gif

Last but not least, Furman about Bay and the movies!

QUOTE
8) One additional Question since it has come up amongst our users so often. As a major player in shaping the Transformers mythos, what is your take on modern fiction such as Michael Bay's movies. What do they do "right" and what do they do "wrong"?

SF) Well, clearly they do an awful lot right. They are pitch perfect for today’s cinema-going audience. You just can’t argue with that kind of consistent and growing box office over the course of the three movies. And technically, they’re brilliant. I think they set a bar for all visual effects movies, and so often others pale by comparison. I’ve never seen live action and CG merged so seamlessly. But I’m probably not the audience for these movies. I love a good kinetic action movie as much as the next guy, but I need more. I need a compelling (and clear) story and character development/arcs. I need to feel for at least one character and follow them on a journey. The film has to say something to me. And so I think that if the movies need one thing it’s that – a solid, emotional tug that transcends giant battling robots and speaks to the everyman (and woman). To me, the movies need strong character threads, and not just for the human cast. I want to care about the robots too, but often they come across as largely interchangeable with one another.


Thanks again to everyone who made the interview possible!

QUOTE(G.B.Blackrock @ Feb 22 2012, 07:36 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
QUOTE(gargunkle @ Feb 22 2012, 10:06 AM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
If RG1 does really well, anyone think they'd continue it further than #100?

Oddly enough, no. I think this is actually pretty definitive, and sales won't make that much of a difference.

Even more oddly, I'm pretty okay with that, and I say that as a person who holds the Marvel G1 continuity in higher regard than perhaps any other version of Transformers ever done.


I second that - if anyone can finish a series well, it is Fuman. It'll be epic and definitive for sure.

(And although IDW's Furman/Roche/Roberts material comes close, for me too the Marvel US/UK continuity will be bets version of Transformers. Mostly because it doesn't suffer from myriads of retcons and reboots, but also because it was where the characters we know and love today first gained their defining features.

Edited by BB Shockwave, 22 February 2012 - 02:38 PM.


#19 G.B.Blackrock

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 02:59 PM

QUOTE
The whole Prime-Megatron dynamic really comes under the spotlight in the first arc. I asked myself fundamental questions about both characters and how almost inter-dependent they are. You almost can?t imagine Prime without Megatron and vice versa.


And yet most of the Marvel G1 comic did so just fine...


Actually, I'm pretty excited to see how Furman deals with this particular aspect, but I just had to comment on his assertion that you can't have one without the other, given exactly which continuity we're talking about here....
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#20 Primer Prime

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Posted 22 February 2012 - 03:02 PM

QUOTE(G.B.Blackrock @ Feb 22 2012, 12:38 PM) <{POST_SNAPBACK}>
You referencing ZacWilliam's list? Ratchet's always been on it.

Also, I don't read the article as including AT&P. That is, although he says he went back and re-read it, I don't see him saying AT&P will be in continuity at all. Rather, he says he's looking to lay Easter eggs.


I just misread. On both counts. Oops. Furman did say he was going to revisit Prime's and Megatron's relationship... so it only makes sense that he would do SOMETHING with the fallout of "Still Life."




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