Q & A with Transformers Comic Writer Simon Furman

With Transformers  – Revenge of the Fallen doing the rounds on DVD and Blu-Ray we caught up with Simon Furman, one of the original Transformers comic writers for a quick interview.

How did you end up writing the Transformers comic in the first place?

At the time (late 1984, early 1985), it was just another freelance writing assignment (only my second!).  Marvel UK had just started publishing their own Transformers comic and because it was fortnightly instead of monthly, they knew they’d soon run out of US comic strip to reprint. So the editor at the time, Sheila Cranna, brought in a number of writers, myself among them. It was a pretty cool concept and the toys were fun, but I never envisaged I’d still be writing Transformers 25 years later!

What was the best and worst thing about working on the comic?

The best was working alongside a whole host of great, and at the time up and coming, artists, including Barry Kitson, Geoff Senior, Mike Collins, Doug Braithwaite, John Higgins and Bryan Hitch. The worst was having to shoehorn our stories into the US Transformers continuity, often without knowing in advance where their storyline was going. When the animated movie hit in 1985, we sort of adopted its future cast of Ultra Magnus, Galvatron, Rodimus Prime and others, and it really freed us up to push the UK story in new directions.

Obviously Transformers was a favourite toy for a lot of kids. What was the toy or toys you loved as a kid?

Yeah, I was too old to appreciate Transformers from a kid’s viewpoint, though I could see that any toy that was, in effect, two toys in one, was a brilliant idea. The toy I loved as a kid was Action Man. With all the different versions and different kit you could get for him, that was my ‘transformers’ right there. A couple of Action Man figures and my imagination (which was active from a very young age) and I was away!

What was your involvement, if any, with the live action films?

No direct involvement, though I did come close to some kind of consultancy role. I had good meetings with Don Murphy and Tom DeSanto, as well as discussions with Lorenzo DiBonaventura. Though, in the end, they came to nothing. But I did a lot of peripheral stuff on the first movie (Prequel comics for IDW, a movie guide for DK and other companion books, the new UK comic for Titan), and I created ‘The Fallen’ character that they adopted for the second. Oh, and I’m now writing the comic book sequel to Revenge of the Fallen. It’s called Transformers Nefarious and it comes out in early 2010.

Is there anything or any characters that you would have loved to have seen in the live action films?

I think they were sensible in the first movie to limit the (robot) cast numbers. I though the second got swamped in the amount and variety of new characters. I’d have loved to see them do the CG version of Grimlock, the big T-Rex. But I understand Bay is lukewarm on the idea of using the Dinobots.

Was there anything you wish had been done differently in regards to the live action films that were handled better in the comics or the animated show?

I think inevitably in the movies characterization suffers. Some characters get a line and that’s it. I understand completely that the younger-to-teen audience needs Sam and Mikaela and a relatable human cast, but I just feel that more non-combat screen time for the robots would have helped flesh them out into characters you can empathize with. Never understood the decision to keep Bumblebee confined to radio extract dialog. Again, it’s just so limiting.

If you had the choice to watch Transformers the Animated Film or either of the live action films which one would you go for and why?

It’s funny, but I ‘m just so aware, I’m not the target audience for the live action movies. I love them to bits for their sheer kinetic energy and the gob-smacking sophistication of the effects, but the animated movie managed more heart and soul in a few scenes that in the entire 5 hours plus of the two live-action movies combined. So, personal choice would be the animated movie. But the overall (wider) impetus for Transformers that the movies provide makes them just as essential.

I understand you’re working on a comic sequel to Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen what can you tell us about the story?

We get a little more up close and personal in Transformers Nefarious with the human/Autobot alliance (NEST) that you get little bits and pieces of in ROTF. We get right inside that organization and see what happens when a greater enemy, a human-based organization called The Initiative, forces desperate alliances with the likes of  (National Security Advisor) Theodore Galloway and the Decepticon, Soundwave (a little-utilized character from ROTF, but a big player in Nefarious). I won’t give away too much of the plot, but suffice to say The Initiative are mining the Transformers’ past and it threatens their future and the future of everyone on planet Earth.

I read somewhere that you said, a few years ago, that Marvel was your Spiritual Home is that still the case?

Yeah, I’d say so. I grew up reading Marvel comics, so I just know the characters and their often-convoluted histories better. But I’ve worked for any number of comic companies, including IDW, Dynamite, Wildstorm and Titan. I go wherever the work is.

Are there any Marvel character you love to write for?

Iron Man would be my first choice. I always loved both sides of that character. A run on Spider-Man would satisfy a long held ambition.

What are your fave comics at the moment?

A month or three ago I’d have struggled a bit to answer this, because I don’t read a whole lot of comics these days. I love the work Ed Brubaker’s doing on Captain America and, until recently Daredevil, and (as and when it came out) I always picked up Planetary. But I’ve just started doing an online comics review column, Comics Candy, so I’m reading a lot more again. Stuff I’d pick out would be The Unwritten, Red Herring, The Marvels Project, Kick Ass, Hellblazer and Sword. But the one I enjoyed most was Mark Millar and Steve McNiven’s Old Man Logan. Brilliant stuff. Makes a fantastic collected edition.

Many thanks for your time Simon.

Check out Simon’s blog here

GS Reporter: Nuge

Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is out now on DVD & Blu-ray

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