Allspark Interview With ReGeneration One Writer Simon Furman

{mosimage} With the first five issues, and first story arc, of the Transformers: ReGeneration One comic now tied up, the have had the opportunity to chat with writer Simon Furman to gain a few insights into how he went about forming the story for this comic. He discussed his views of characterization, plot, the ever-present battle between Optimus and Megatron (until one of them dies), why he went with a near-barren Earth, gave a brief explanation of his interpretation of the Headmaster bonding process, and more! If that's not enough, IDW kindly shared a few preview pages from issue #86 to go with Simon's answers!

Read on to see the interview

Then discuss what Simon Furman had to say here

Thanks again to Mr. Furman and the great people over at IDW!


 Allspark: You're a writer who tends to let the characters lead the story. Between the real and fictional time gap and the many non-Marvel Transformers stories you've written in the interim, do you find that there are characters you approach differently now? Have new personality traits emerged or old ones become more prominent? Have any of them changed the story that character was going to tell?

Simon Furman: I think the intervening years of writing these characters (in different settings & continuities & incarnations) is bound to seep in by osmosis, but actually (now I can look back at the Loose Ends as a whole arc) not as much as I thought it might. It's strange how quickly I stepped back into the characters (as were, rather than as they've become). For instance, the Grimlock in Loose Ends (and much more in the upcoming Natural Selection arc) feels like the Grimlock from the Marvel Comic (rather than the IDW-verse or War Within or Beast Wars), and it doesn't feel it took any special effort to make that adjustment. I think it's more that I've changed as a writer and my ideas for RG1 are just bigger (and more impactful) than they might have been if the comic had just continued back in 1991. It also helps that we're building to towards a real, bona-fide conclusion, so incidents and events can have proper weight and gravitas, and lasting bearing on the characters themselves. Where before, even if someone were to die, you'd kind of suspect they'd be back soon enough. Not so with RG1. (Though that's not to say someone might not come 'back from the dead' within the 20-issue span). But to me, character (and character growth/progression) has always been paramount, and some characters are going to go through truly life-changing arcs in the course of RG1.

AS) In #85, Megatron uses a "you're just like me" quip to delay Optimus' attack. Recent interpretations of Optimus and Megatron have been controversial among fans because the two truly do appear to be different sides of the same coin – in other fiction, Optimus is more violent and ruthless and would not have hesitated to kill Megatron for his callous destruction of life on Earth (not to mention poor Springer). Was Megatron's ploy and Optimus' reaction your response to this? How do you think this compares to the original interpretation of  Optimus and Megatron from Marvel's run of comics?

SF) What I'm trying to say with Megatron/Optimus (and RG1 in general) is that there can't be one thing without the other. For every Optimus there's a Megatron. For every Grimlock there's a Scorponok. And, on a larger scale, for every Primus there's a Unicron. But when half of whichever equation is gone, there's imbalance. It's not as cut and dried as good and evil. It's that there are equal and opposite forces in the universe and it has to have both to function as a proper, well-oiled machine. Like matter and dark matter, say. To think of the universe as a linear timeline I think is very limited. There's a kind of cyclical motion to time and events that RG1 is very much involved in, and how certain incidents, big and small, can derail that — maybe catastrophically. I've seen on forums readers speculate that Zero Space (that crops up every now and then in RG1) is analogous to the Dead Universe in the IDW-verse, but it's absolutely not. It's a much more existential concept. I hope nothing I've done with Optimus and Megatron in RG1 makes them different to the characters they were in the original Marvel run. I think both are logical extensions of where we left them. Megatron deranged and self-destructive. Forced to share a mind with Ratchet. Having met his future counterpart. Off the deep end and flailing vindictively in RG1 felt right. And Optimus? He died. And came back. He can't just shrug that off and be who and what he was. It's changed him. But thankfully (as he pulls back initially from killing Megatron in rage) retains that crucial part that makes him who he is/was.

AS) Ratchet has been standing up to Megatron since Issue 7 of the original series. How hard was it to write his death in #85?

SF) Difficult. I've always had a real soft spot for Ratchet, but he's one those characters I (and other writers) somehow feel obliged to put through the worst kind of wringer. To me, I think Ratchet was dead (or should have died) in issue #70. In fact, so does he. When he takes the barrel of  Optimus Prime's gun and moves it so it lines up with his forehead, he's saying "put me out of my misery." And Prime doesn't. He 'saves' him. Which really just prolongs Ratchet's torment. I kind of said goodbye to Ratchet then. So 'finishing the job' was just tying up that loose end. And it's fitting that it's Kup who (finally) just does (without any big soul-searching, which I wanted to avoid) what Prime couldn't, as he's the one (back in #70) who played Devil's Advocate to Prime and wanted him to kill the Mega-Ratchet creature. Just play it back see what the consequences were to Prime's decision to spare them instead. Anyone notice that Andrew [Wildman] took the exact same angle in that panel where Kup's about to shoot Ratchet (as the one in #70, where Prime's about to shoot him – go look). The idea is, it could and should have happened there and then, but got critically delayed. But yeah, I suppose Ratchet stood up to Megatron one last and crucial time.

AS) For years fans have been speculating if the Transformers heads left on Nebulos could be used to bring those Headmasters characters who had died back to life. It seems that Scorponok's return would verify that they indeed can be used in such a way. How does that work? Does the "master" have to die/be decommissioned in order for the "head" to function? (We wouldn’t want two of the “same” character running around… Or would we?) What memories and experience do the original heads have of the time during which the Transformer was bonded with the Nebulon? (Or human, in Spike's case.)

SF) It's best, I certainly found (given no hard and fast rules), to consider the Headmaster heads (and the bodies they were attached to) as distinct characters in their own right, who owed more to the Nebulans at the helm than the original TF minds they shared space with. In a way, it's Zarak and Gort and other Nebulans who died in #75 or whenever. We know the original (still functional) heads of Scorponok, Highbrow and others remained on Nebulos, and I think therefore it's safe to assume that to 'live' they kind of had to split/retain part of their spark somehow (and no, 
I don't get into that). So though Zarak or whoever died, the original heads lived on, and were capable of being restored to full co nsciousness. But yes, they are all irrevocably changed by the Headmaster process. When we meet Scorponok again, he's different to either the Zarak-piloted version or the 'bot he was back in the Great War. Zarak may be gone, but his personality and knowledge (to a less influential degree) still have bearing on Scorponok's current state of mind. I know the Spark Chamber is a larger conceit that has kind of been grafted into Marvel G1/RG1, but I always took it that there are two (crucial) parts to each Transformer: a Spark and a brain module (and the cranium that houses it). So they can only be killed either by destroying one or the other.

AS) With Scorponok returning, what are your thoughts about the character? In the original comic series in the 80's, we saw Scorponok becoming a noble warrior struggling with the morality of the conflict between Autobots and Decepticons. Eventually he sided with Optimus Prime – even sacrificing himself to save the Autobot Commander – in his "final" battle. Was this internal battle that the Decepticon leader waged with himself caused by Zarak and Scorponok being at odds with one another? Or was it a shared conflict, common to both psyches? How does the Scorponok that has returned differ from the one bonded with Zarak?

SF) See above. But the Scorponok in RG1 is going to be far more like the original version from Headmasters mini-series than the more conflicted/ambiguous Zarak version who sacrificed himself in #75. He's a badass basically, but a more cerebral badass. That's all I'm willing to say for now.

AS) There have been complaints from some circles about having Earth be a wasteland. It seems like one of the things that truly set the Marvel Comic approach to the Transformers apart from other treatments were the human characters that they encountered. With much of life on Earth destroyed, we lost that dynamic (For the most part. Obviously a few humans did manage to survive and be featured in ReGeneration One). What were some of the reasons that lead you to take the route of a mostly barren Earth for this first story arc?

 SF) Though the Earth story rumbles on in RG1 (right to issue #100), I wanted to draw a line under it to a large extent. It felt to me that to have too many stories set on Earth, featuring humans, would dilute the impact of the real story, which has to be about the Transformers, their world, and their role in the much bigger (universal) picture. And by that I don't mean Transformers 4. I agree that the humans bring perspective to the Transformers and their struggle (and 'humanise' both), but I felt that with Marvel G1 that job was done. We get that now. We can turn the focus much more on the robots without the human support network. Ultimately, this is the story of the Transformers that happened to include their Earth experiences, not the story of Earth with Transformers in it, and I wanted to take the book in much bigger, bolder (more cosmic) directions for its epic conclusion. Something that had already started to happen back in 1990/1991. It has to be about them now.

AS) Since we've come to the end of the first story, we have to wonder what's next. What kind of hints and teases can you give of the next story arc and others yet to come? (If you can't give any, you can't fault us for trying!)

SF) If you look closely at Loose Ends, the seeds of almost everything that is to come are there. Grimlock-Scorponok. Soundwave(-Thunderwing)-Bludgeon. Zero Space-Jhiaxus. Earth-Nebulos. Hot Rod-Primordials-Primus. Galvatron-Ultra Magnus??? Well, maybe that last one wasn't seeded, but those two stars will move into alignment soon enough.