Simon Furman - Part 1 'The Past'
interviewed in: August 2004
|| Simon Furman began his association with the Transformers
when he wrote his first issue of the UK comic, issue
13, in 1985, and he has maintained his connection with the
Robots in Disguise ever since. Simon continued to work for Marvel
until the end of the Generation
2 series and thereafter maintained his ties by writing the
Wars episodes and convention comics. This lasted until the
Transformers' recent resurgence, which now sees Simon writing
both the War
Within and Energon
(previously Armada) for Dreamwave.
Much of Simon's original Marvel work has now been republished
by Titan Books, most recently in the Second
GenerationTPB and he has also recently written the epic
The Ultimate Guide for Dorling
Kindersley. Last but by no means least (phew!) Simon also
Productions with Andrew Wildman.
Thanks again for agreeing to do this interview for us.
As this is going to be a two-part interview we thought we would
attempt to split things into 'past and present'. If it's ok with
you we'll indulge our (not particularly well hidden) inner children
and start with the past, i.e. your time at Marvel...
1. First up, how confident were
you of utilising or killing off characters in the UK strip when
Bob Budiansky was still working on the US comic? For instance, removing
Skids to Limbo seemed a bold move, as was including the Autobot
Triple Changers and Deluxe Autobots as part of The Wreckers' line
up. Did you have any contact with Bob over such things?
To be honest, we took a lot of calculated (or, sometimes, not so
calculated) risks with the UK stories, because often we only had
the loosest idea of what was coming up in the next batch of US stories.
Sometimes we’d get overviews or scripts from the US office,
but generally we just saw finished issues (as actual comics) or
advance (Xeroxed) b/w pages, if we were lucky… as and when
they were circulated. To an extent, I’d try and anticipate
where Bob was going, and trust in the law of numbers. As new characters
were introduced (in the US series), others were necessarily sidelined,
so we tried to pick those out. Sometimes we got it right, other
times not. Our contact with Bob himself was almost non-existent
in the early days.
2. Several prominent characters
in the UK exclusive stories, such as Swoop and the Predacons were
unavailable in this country. Was this intentional, coincidence,
or were you unaware of the release schedules for the toys and simply
worked in characters as you saw fit?
We largely took our cue from what characters were being introduced
into the US storyline. If there was a release schedule for the toys
in the UK, we rarely saw it. There were odd occasions where Hasbro
UK would actually get it together and coordinate a story with a
toy release. The Special Teams (in UK #63-65) story was one such
instance, and in that case (because we were some way off reprinting
the corresponding US issues) we had to work them in somehow (chronologically
ahead of time). Same with Headmasters. But in the case of Swoop
and the Predacons, I don’t think I was consciously aware (at
the time) that we were dealing with toys not generally available
in the UK. They were just extant characters, and therefore fair
game. The advent of the Wreckers showed a definite change of mindset.
There we just went hell for leather for it, regardless. It could
have been messy, but it worked out OK. Those were characters Bob
had barely, if at all, touched on. They worked a bit like the movie
characters after that, where we felt they were pretty much ‘ours,’
to do with as we will.
3. Why do you feel continuity
suffered more instead of less, between Marvel UK and US when you
took over the US book?
The problem was, we were badly out of synch with the US material
reprints by the time I was also writing the US comic. I was trying
my hardest to craft semi-crossover stories (like the Deathbringer
two-parter with US #65) and then the UK comic would run a batch
of old UK reprint material and completely throw it out. I realised
I was making matters worse (and more confusing) and not better,
and pretty much stopped trying to directly tie the two together.
Looking back, as I try my hardest not to do, it’s very hard
to tie the Earthforce stories into a specific time frame (in terms
of the US continuity), because (if I’m brutally honest) I
didn’t try too hard to make it work in the first place. By
that point, I was just trying to tell a bunch of fun UK stories
that didn’t necessarily impact on the larger (US) storyline.
How was I to know 15 or so years later people would be trying to
reconcile it all?
4. The Marvel UK editorial originally
promised a monthly comic as of issue 333, complete with a new 5
page story each issue written by yourself. Do you know why this
never came to be, and what, if anything, had you planned story wise?
Would we have seen a continuation of Earthforce for example?
I confess I don’t know. I didn’t even, to the best
of my somewhat unreliable memory, remember ever being approached
with that possibility. They probably just assumed I’d do it…
and they were probably right. Certainly, I’d have liked to
do more, as I felt it all tailed off a bit. Those last few UK stories
have ‘limited lifespan, why bother?’ written all over
them. I’m not proud of that. But, like I say, who’d
have thought anyone would even notice?
5. Moving on to Generation 2,
what further plans did you originally have for it beyond the 12
issue arc? Would Jhiaxus still have met his end in issue 12?
Oh yeah. Jhiaxus was only ever meant to be a one-arc character.
I continually wanted to shift the focus and scale of the saga, and
I didn’t want to keep running with non-toy characters to the
extent where Hasbro might kick up a fuss. The next story arc would
have been something like ‘Alignment’ turned out to be,
though whether I’d have wrapped the Liege Maximo story in
the next 12-issue chunk is debatable. I definitely wanted to keep
upping the scale and scope of the threat. I do remember having Galvatron
very much in mind to be the wild card in whatever happened next.
6. Do you think there will ever
be an official continuation of the G2 storyline? Do you think one
is needed after Alignment?
I feel now, after Alignment, I’ve done with G2. I’ve
told that story, brought it to a (to me, at least) satisfactory
conclusion. I think the question now, as far as Dreamwave continuity
goes, is what exactly is G2? It’s… G1 really, just a
bit later on. Given there’s a G1 ongoing book, I assume any
G2 characters will appear there in due course. It was fun to use
the G2(ish) Turbomasters in War Within 3, which starts to move everything
into a cohesive G1 (rather than G1/G2).
7. Looking back on your Marvel
work, do you see any missed opportunities, or anything you would
have done differently?
No, not really. I’m sure (as the writer I am now) I’d
approach certain storytelling aspects differently, but I’m
a firm believer in once it’s done, it’s done (even to
the extent where after I send a script off, bar a dialogue polish
at artwork stage, that’s it… I don’t start running
back over it in my mind wondering if I should have done this or
that differently). So no, there’s nothing I’d change.
I can see now how things might have been done better or to greater
effect, but I can happily treat them as an archaeologist treats
artefacts recovered from a dig site. Those stories there come from
the ’87 era, and show developmental stage ‘B’
of writer Simon Furman. They’re frozen now in time. There’s
a few old stories I’d rather never saw the light of day in
trade paperback collections (some of my very earliest work for TF
UK), but even these are just me learning to stand upright. As for
missed opportunities, I’ve written so much Transformers stuff,
I’m pretty sure I covered all or most of the bases somewhere
along the line. And anything I didn’t do then, thanks to Dreamwave
and OTFCC and iBooks and Panini UK and so on, I can do now…
8. You brought Andrew Wildman
back to Transformers after all these years. Are there any other
Marvel UK artists you think its possible to work with again?
Well, I’ve already worked again with Lee Sullivan (on the
Wildfur produced Transformers mini-comic for the Atari game release),
and it’s not so terribly long ago that I last worked with
Geoff (Senior), on the Botcon 2000 comic. Plus, Geoff’s done
covers for the Titan reprints, as has Lee and a bunch of other,
former Transformers, artists (Barry Kitson, Bryan Hitch). I’m
in touch with most of the artists from back then, so anything’s
9. And now, if we may be so
bold, the fanboy questions. Firstly - why didn't the Autobots just
set Omega Supreme on Galvatron in Target 2006?
Er… pass. He was off on a special mission… somewhere…
doing something else… honest.
10. How come Galvatron had memories
in Time Wars, even though that Megatron was just a clone?
Hang on… Galvatron is created from Megatron in the future,
by which point he’s no longer a clone. Right? I’m confused
now. Don’t ask me questions like this!
11. And last but by no means
least, whatever happened to present day Ultra Magnus after Deadly
He settled down on Cybertron and raised two Scraplets and a Mechannibal.
Don't forget to check out part 2 of our interview with
Next Generation TPB from
Simon's first issue for
Marvel, UK #13
...and his last G2 #12.
Books: You can see a full list of Titan's Transformers
Andrew Wildman and Simon Furman's production company. The
site includes updates on their current activities as well
as information on services and properties.
The Engine: Industrial Strength: Andrew and Simon's online
graphical story telling project. Check it out.
Dreamwaveprod.com: check out DW's site here.
DK.com: Dorling Kindersley's website, with specific infromation
about the top notch Transformers: The Ultimate Guide here.