interviewed in: August 2004
||Paul Cannon is the organiser and
owner of the popular UK convention Transforce,
which has been running (with a break in 2003) since 1999. Paul
also invented the Space Shuttle and vegetables.
Thanks again for agreeing to take the time for this interview,
we know that you are busy getting ready for Transforce. Firstly
we would like to ask some general questions, so people can get to
know you a bit, and then of course there will be questions about
the upcoming Transforce event.
and perhaps predictably, can you tell us what was it that got you
One Saturday in October 1984 I spied a new comic on the shelf of
my local newsagents. It was issue 2 of Transformers (UK). I was
drawn to the image of Jazz on the cover. Being a very young Star
Wars fanatic, I was into robots anyway, but this was something different
and far more exciting than good old R2D2 and C3PO. I picked up later
issues and every time I enjoyed it. I was never very flushed with
money when I was younger (a real Charlie bucket case), so I had
to rely on family buying me the odd copy. Eventually I managed to
convince my dear old Mum to get it reserved for me every week, and
so it began. That Christmas I got Optimus Prime, and for the next
six months my collection included Windcharger, Prime and Cosmos.
Desperate for more I managed to slowly build up a small collection
through, though it was never huge (until recently of course). Lego
filled the gap for a while. Have you ever seen a Lego Transformer?
You will if you come to this year's show.
Of course I collected for several years, then by 13 or so, didn't
buy the toys anymore. I got the comic until it started the black
and white reprints, and that was when I though enough is enough!
It wasn't until 1998 when I was walking past the 'Index catalogue'
shop when I saw Optimus Primal in the window. I cursed Hasbro for
the abomination Optimus 'Primal', I couldn't believe he was a MONKEY!
A few weeks later I found myself in Toys 'R' Us and spied the original
Dinosaur Megaton. Seemingly in a trance I bought it, took it home
and opened it in front of my girlfriend who just sighed. That was
it, it had begun again! Soon after I did the same as most others
and typed "Transformers" into a search engine and WOW!
2. Do you have any particular
favourite toys, cartoon episodes and/or comic issues?
Shockwave, Jetfire and G1 Megatron are my favourite toys, though
Optimal Optimus comes high up on the list, and that 20th Anniversary
I have to admit to having a sincere dislike of much of the cartoon
world. They got the story wrong for a start, I am a Furmanite through
and through. I always felt cheated by GMTV and TV in general because
they just couldn't show an episode of the cartoon all the way through!
If you didn't set the alarm on a Saturday morning, you'd miss Roland
Rat's famous introduction, "and now it's time for Transformers...
YEAAAAH". I was so looking forward to seeing the full episodes,
and when I did, they weren't that great. Who decided the Quintessons
created the Transformers - SHEESH! Beast Wars is the best thing
to ever hit our TV screens, nothing has surpassed it, and I don't
think anything ever will, though I'd like to be wrong about that.
The new movie perhaps?
Target 2006 is easily my favourite comic story. I liked Wanted:
Galvatron Dead or alive as it introduced my favourite character
Death's Head. As it happens Death's Head makes an appearance at
Transforc.... oh, you can wait and see.
3. And conversely is there anything
in Transformers continuity that you would happily set fire to and
drop out a 15th story window?
I've never liked the G1 season 3 cartoon (puttup), Transformers:
Robots in Disguise (puttup), Armada (puttup) or Energon (puttup).
I've never liked Japanese animation. We will of course be showing
Energon and some Japanese stuff at Transforce. In my opinion the
Transformers story is on pause at Beast Machines (even though that
had it's moments).
4. How much of your time does
Transforce take up? Do you have much time for other hobbies? Or
indeed life in general?
Yes, I spent around six months of the year on Transforce. I am
a primary school teacher in my normal life. But spend an hour or
so an evening most days leading up to the show, then from June onwards,
every spare moment. At the moment I am doing at least a six hour
day on Transforce alone.
5. What can you tell us about
the history of Transforce? At what point exactly did you give in
to the insane idea of organising a Transformers convention?
In 1998 I was meeting lots of new and interesting people through
TMUK (Transmaster UK). They were all talking about Botcon UK, and
how they didn't think it was going to happen. And we waited, and
we waited. In the end I'd had enough and had a go myself. Transforce
'99 was held in two shops in Church Street, Croydon. A Place in
Space and Otaku World. They are still there. It was £1 to
get in. I just about covered my costs and I think a fun day was
had by everyone. I am grateful to the people who were behind me
and pushed me to make it happen. Of course the moment (even second)
I went public on Transforce, Botcon Europe was announced. Of course
they though I nicked their idea and was stealing their thunder,
but that was certainly never my intention. It's like buses, you
wait ages for one, then two come along together (though ours was
6. How do you think Transforce
distinguishes itself from other conventions?
It tries to do it's own thing. I think all of the UK Transformers
conventions I've been to were good, other (non-Transformers) conventions
can be money making machines. Transforce to date has never made
a penny, we aren't out to make money, so it's putting on a good
show that matters to us, nothing else.
7. What should we expect in
the future for Transforce? You had a break last year, should we
expect that again at some point?
I had a break because it just wasn't possible to run the show and
get married. I asked some friends to take it on for the year, but
they just didn't want the responsibility or have the time. I even
put it up for sale at one point, but then pulled out at the last
minute when I wasn't entirely happy about the 'new owner'. I'd rather
Transforce was gone forever than took a nosedive. I can't foresee
another break in the near future, but I don't promise to run this
8. Obviously much of Transforce's
original inspiration comes from what we now know as Generation 1.
Do you think lines such as Armada or Energon will inspire someone
else in the same way 20 years down the line?
I didn't think so at first, but then actually I have much contact
from the younger generation who have the same look in their eyes
I once had when I was their age about G1. They have the same tone
in their voice when they are talking about this new generation.
I've never yet come across anyone who didn't prefer G2, young or
9. What are the best things
about organising the convention?
Getting to meet (and work with) your childhood heroes. Meeting
all the fans who share your interest. Seeing the effect it's having
on people. When I hear someone say, or read on a forum about how
excited people are getting over the show, that does it for me. I
suppose I'm nervously excited myself at the moment.
10. And the worst? Or should
we leave that until we get to the questions about Alignment?
Always worrying about how you are going to pay for everything.
I hate cutting corners, but to do things properly you need to spend.
Oh yes, also I need to spend more time in the sunshine, I don't
see a lot of that at the height of summer. Perhaps next time I should
run Transforce on my laptop.
11. As a convention organiser,
you have a good view of the fandom in the UK and Europe. What are
I think it is generally a very nice community. I can't stand all
that 'my ego is bigger than your ego' nonsense you get in 'certain'
countries. I think fandom is well organised over here. Fiction plots
generally tie in to a stable continuity. I never see flame wars.
I only ever see nice people enjoying their hobby.
12. Were you concerned at all
about organising the convention this year with the uncertainty around
Other conventions don't really have any impact on Transforce. We
try to co-ordinate dates so they are spread throughout the year.
Transforce as a rule is always the summer convention. Is there a
OTFCC Europe this year? I haven't heard or read anything. there's
room for us all. I have plenty of time for Jason and his crew and
Sven and Simon. I think OTFCC would do better to move back to their
Decepticon roots, there is just too much pressure on them from the
big 'H' (and by that I mean Hasbro).
13. Over the 2001 and 2002 conventions
you made available, as a convention exclusive, a Simon Furman penned
story called Alignment, which concluded the Cybertronian Empire
story begun in G2 Issue. There has been some comment on the jolly
old internet since then from some that they do not consider this
story to be official or 'canon'. What is your reaction to that?
It was a book written by Simon Furman. It was his conclusion of
the story he started in the Generation 2 comic. Furman has indeed
stated that it was 'professional fanfiction' as it was not backed
by the big 'H'. However I'm sure that he, nor I, nor anyone could
not consider this a part of the Transformers mythology. I think
other stories that are considered 'canon' by those same people are
so poor, I'm not going to lose sleep over it anymore. I am happy
with it, and that's all that matters. Funnily enough I read mixed
reviews of the book, most people really liked it, many people didn't.
My favourite 'review' of the book said something like 'I did a poo
on a piece of paper and it turned out better than Alignment'. That
was class! Not sure I agree, and I wouldn't like Simon to see that
either. Remind me never to borrow a book from the man who said that.
14. Still on the subject of Alignment, whilst some people don't
see it as official, you have still had problems with piracy of the
material. How do you feel about that, and the fact that many fans
seem to think they are entitled to a free copy of Alignment, regardless
of the money you put into it?
I do actually think people have the right to read the story as I
think it is something rather special (whether it is 'canon' or not).
I do consider it an important part of the Transformers story and
I wouldn't want to keep it from people. I was miffed before as it
was assumed I'd put it on the website right after the show, but
there are so many new fans who missed out, I think they deserve
a chance to see what they missed out on. I have downloaded my fair
share of MP3's, but I only download tracks which I CANNOT buy (they
are deleted). I disagree with getting something for free when you
can buy it in a shop. It was made clear to people for a long time
how they could get their own copy of Alignment, but some were either
too lazy or ignorant to bother. And then when it didn't land in
their laps after the show, they didn't like it. But you can't hold
grudges forever. It's just not healthy.
15. Whilst it has been illegally
circulated, there remains a demand for Alignment, any plans to republish
in some form?
It kind of makes it a cult collectible doesn't it? Though the form
it was published in upset me greatly! Limited copies will be on
sale at Transforce 2004. It will most likely be available after
that on the website. Perhaps a Christmas present for everyone?
16. On a similar subject, are
there any plans to bring Eugenesis back to the convention?
Ah, now James Roberts is the man to ask about that. When he self-published
it in 2001 he did so at a loss, and even though every copy sold
out, he didn't make back his expenditure. I don't think a reprint
will be likely unless it is signed up by some clever publisher.
17. And finally, and most importantly,
what drink should people buy you on the day?
I'm a Stella man myself, but as I'm driving, I'll be sticking to
the coke. I may dump the car and find the pub after the show, in
which case, you're on!
Mr Cannon, thank you very much for your time.
You are more than welcome, it's been a pleasure.
Transforce Exclusive Target 2006 sketch
Final Transforce 2002 cover by Lee Sullivan
Transformers Alignment Transforce 2001
is being held at Canon's Leisure Centre in Mitcham, Surrey,
on August 28th. Pre-registration closes on August 14th. Guests
include writer Simon Furman, artists Andrew Wildman, Jeff
Anderson and comics superstar Bryan Hitch. See you there (or
more probably, in the pub afterwards...).