The Interviews Transformers Writer Simon Furman

{mosimage} IDW's upcoming "Transformers: ReGeneration 1" comic series continues to stir excitement within the Transformers fandom. The help stir that excitement even more, the has managed to get its writer, Simon Furman, to take a few minutes to answer some of the most frequently asked questions about the new title.

Click here to read the interview

Then discuss it here


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 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!

 ) 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.



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