Simon Furman and Bob Budiansky Talk Transformers at TFNation 2017

Have a little TFNation panel coverage, courtesy of our own Jalaguy’s live tweets. Could we do any less? The seminal Transformers writers discuss their careers and memories of the Transformers franchise.
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First off, here are some thoughts from Simon Furman on his career at Marvel:

  • Simon Furman was a freelancer brought in to help create new material for Marvel UK’s Transformers comic.
  • Marvel UK didn’t expect more than four US issues, so did new strips to expand it.
  • Ultimately, the US continued, and the UK kept doing their new material, placed between US stories.
  • When US was running behind, UK ended up phoning the US office to find out upcoming storylines.
  • Hasbro UK often wanted to promote toys before the US strips with them were available, causing odd workarounds like future dream sequences.
  • In 1987, Furman was sent to the US offices to meet the TF team there, and met Budiansky for the first time.
  • At its peak, Marvel UK TF was selling 200,000 copies! Became more self-assured, longer runs of new material.

Budiansky chimed in on how Furman came to the US side of the Marvel stories:

  • By 1989, Budiansky was tapped out on TF, and had been asking his editor to find a replacement writer for the series.
  • That year, Budiansky came on holiday to the UK, and over lunch in Covent Garden, asked Furman if he’d be interested in writing the US strip.
  • Budiansky technically didn’t have the authority to offer the job!
  • Furman had long wanted to graduate to Marvel US, so it was an exciting door-opener.
  • Furman was careful to keep a sense of continuity with Budiansky’s run at first, but gradually intro’d new stories and characters.
  • By ’89/’90, Hasbro wasn’t watching so closely, had a bit more freedom. Fewer new chars mandated, went wild with space operas and more!

Then the duo talked about where their careers went post-Transformers.

  • After leaving TFs, Budiansky worked on a title called Sleepwalker. Furman went on to do Alpha Flight and more for Marvel US.
  • They worked together again on the four-issue Brute Force mini-series, Bob as editor and Furman as writer.
  • Neither predicted the ongoing life of the TF brand beyond the end of the ’80s!
  • Bob, Simon and other Marvel staff from the time still like to meet up.

Then a bit on the appearance of other Marvel characters in TF, original characters, and some of the writers’ influences:

  • Spider-Man’s appearance in TF #3 was intended to boost sales. Hasbro initially rejected it – they didn’t have Spidey toy license!
  • They compromised by using the symbiote suit for Spidey, for which there was no action figure on sale!
  • Circuit Breaker and Death’s Head were both cases where chars had brief intros in other Marvel books so Marvel kept the ownership of them.
  • Bob read DC’s Metal Men as a child, and took from it the idea that robots could never really die, and could always be rebuilt.
  • Marvel UK wanted to keep Megatron in their stories due to his popularity, so used novel solutions to overwrite his US death.
  • Hasbro was fine with mass character deaths – they were old product, who cares!
  • Judging by fan letters, readers were fine with the writer change on the US book.
  • Budiansky was bemused to discover people critiquing his TF work online in the late ’90s!
  • Bob approached TFs as a ‘fish out of water’ story. How would giant robots intersect with the everyday world? Skiing, rock concert, etc.
  • Furman: human perspective important. Took the same approach starting the IDW G1 universe.
  • IDW briefly talked about a TF/Terminator crossover in the main IDW universe, with Dynamite Comics!
  • Bob’s experience as an editor helped when he went on to writing comics.
  • Furman thought Headmasters was a really weird concept to try and introduce into the stories.