Paul Cannon
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.



Hi Paul

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.

1. Firstly, and perhaps predictably, can you tell us what was it that got you into Transformers?

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 Prime... YUM!
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 first).

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 show forever.

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 old(er).

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 your impressions?

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 OTFCC Europe?

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. Fingers crossed.

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

Transforce 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...).

Transforce website
Transforce trailer