Simon Furman - Part 2 'The Present'
interviewed in: August 2004
||Simon Furman began his association
with the Transformers in 1985 when he wrote his first issue
for Marvel Comics. You can read more about Simon's time with
More recently Simon has worked with Dreamwave comics to produce
the acclaimed War
Within, the third volume of which debuts this month, and
the ongoing Energon
series (previously Armada) for
Dreamwave. This year Simon has also penned the epic Transformers:
The Ultimate Guide for Dorling
Kindersley. Last but by no means least (phew!) Simon also
Productions with artist Andrew
Wildman – you can read Simon's full biography on their site
Hello again Simon
Thanks once more for taking the time to do this. The first
part of our interview dealt with your time at Marvel, so if it's
ok with you we would now like to move onto your recent work and
your current projects.
1. First up, now that the Ultimate Guide is out, what are
your feelings for that project? Do you think there is any scope
for a second volume?
The problem with the Ultimate Guide was not what to include, but
rather what to leave out. I could have filled three volumes easily.
So is there scope for a second volume — absolutely. Would
DK want to do one… I don’t know. I think it’s
sold pretty well, so maybe. My best, most realistic, guess would
be some kind of updated/revised/expanded edition of what we’ve
got already. With the movie coming out in 2006, that’d be
the ideal time, and by that point we’d be able to include
a fuller Energon section and a Cybertron section. My main problem
with the edition as it stands is the lack of a proper Robots in
Disguise section. We had problems when we came to do the planned
round-up of the animated series, because the rights to the imagery
lay (strangely) in other hands. I’d really like to rip the
guts out of that section and do it again, in much more detail. But
my overall feelings on the book? Well… DK do wonderful looking
books, and in that department I think it’s a stunner. On the
writing side, I’m happy with the way it’s turned out,
but I guess it’s not really for me to say. The feedback I’ve
had so far has been good, though.
2. Moving onto your comics work,
can you tell us which volume of War Within you feel has been the
They all have merits and demerits. Vol 1 holds up pretty well,
I think, even though we were clearly feeling our way a bit with
the whole War Within concept. Vol 2 is a little unfocused at times
(and maybe a little too decompressed in terms of storytelling…
I’m not sure I got the pacing right over the six issues).
But in terms of digging into the mythos, it’s the one with
the most pre-apocalyptic oomph (and I think the brooding atmosphere
of fear and distrust came through well). As for Vol 3, I have hopes
that this will be the best and most cohesive of the trio. I’m
trying to move the story on in significant leaps and bounds in this
one, and lay down the broader operating parameters of the series
as a whole (as if it were an ongoing entity of its own rather than
just a precursor to G1). I’m also trying to shake up the knee-jerk
expectations of readers with Vol 3. We’re dealing with a large
gulf of time and I want to make it clear whole lifetimes are lived,
and characters come and go, in sometimes dramatically altered forms.
Basically with Vol 3, expect the unexpected. One thing I have no
complaints on whatsoever is the art… on all three volumes
to date. I was so blessed with Don on Vol 1. I suspect now that
no other artist would have done as much as he did with as much enthusiasm.
He really established the look and feel of the whole series. With
Vol 2, Andrew took amazing strides as an artist, adapting his already
expression and motion-filled panels to incorporate the Dreamwave/Don
style. Somehow he managed to do it and still be recognisably Wildman
at the same time. And on Vol 3, Joe Ng has clearly reached a maturity
and cohesiveness in terms of his artwork that is going to blow everyone
away. Everything from his layouts to his individual panels to his
character delineation has come together in a way that’s very
much his own.
3. What should we look forward
to in the third instalment?
Well, just off the top of my head… Ultra Magnus, Turbomasters,
Sharkticons, Allicons, the return of Megatron, the death of a major
character (kind of), Blaster, Perceptor, Seeker clones by the bucketload,
the search for Optimus Prime, Nightbeat, Siren, Raindance &
Grandslam (plus Slamdance!), Starscream, the High Council eradicated,
the Autobots enslaved, Quintessa revealed… need I go on?
4. At this stage do you know
what involvement you will have in Transformers: Cybertron? Has the
announcement of the next TF series had any bearing on your plans
At this year’s OTFCC I had a chance to sit down and chat
with Aaron Archer, who filled me in on the broad story strokes of
Cybertron, and how the (animated) Energon series wraps up. So I
know roughly how I need to end Dreamwave’s Energon. Of course,
our getting to that point (in the comic) will bear scant resemblance
to the TV series. Hasbro has been very accommodating, pretty much
letting us tell the story we want to tell. All I have to ensure
is that the larger end-moves are similar enough that we lead into
Cybertron with the same basic set-up intact, the same imperatives
in the story to come. Funnily enough, what I had planned fitted
so neatly into the main conceit of Cybertron that I barely have
to tinker with my final story arc at all. As for Cybertron, at this
point I kind of assume (from brief chats with Dreamwave, again at
OTFCC) that I’m going to be writing Cybertron. But that’s
not confirmed. Hopefully I’ll be able to say one way or the
5. With regard to your work
at Dreamwave so far, do you have a particular favourite issue?
It’s hard to pick a single issue of either Armada/Energon
or War Within, as all of them are very much part of an evolving
whole. With Armada, I can pretty much see and chart my level of
involvement/excitement with the whole series. Kind of a muted beginning
(well, I only thought I was doing a fill-in), the beginnings of
a proper story direction (with the Mini-Con Moonbase arc), the sheer
‘look at me’ buzz of World’s Collide and its G1
credentials, the rather rushed wrap up to Armada (sorry) and then
into Energon, the scale and scope of which I’m upping with
every story arc (and getting more and more excited about myself).
I’m also taking more time leaps, allowing stuff to have happened
off camera (so to speak) and dropping the reader into a suddenly
much bigger picture. For pure enjoyment (and a change of pace),
I really enjoyed the Energon Summer Special story. It was a (rare)
chance these days to do something offbeat, something more like the
5-page UK b/w stories. So rather than whole issues, I tend to think
along the lines of great imagery… Rad hardwired into an orbital
mine (a crowd-pleaser if ever there was), Galvatron revealed in
‘Worlds Collide,’ Unicron’s Four Horsemen riding
out towards us at the end of Energon #19, Optimus Prime’s
debut appearance in War Within v1 #1, Devestator and Defensor mixing
it up in War Within v2 #2 & 3, the ‘death’ scenes
in War Within v3 #1, the scenes of massed Terrorcon clones blitzing
LA, Tokyo, Toronto and Moscow in Energon #26.
6. How do you feel Dreamwave's
output is going compared to Marvel's?
It has a more cohesive feel now. Before, with the Marvel run,
there was a certain amount of randomness and contradiction and even
weariness that crept in, but now there’s a real gameplan,
be it in War Within or G1 or Micromasters or even the Ultimate Guide.
Everything that happens in War Within will pay off in G1, and vice
versa. Same with Micromasters. Brad (James), Adam and I are all
working to ensure that it’s a complete, rounded picture…
that we’re not just making stuff up as we go along. The great
thing is, all the Dreamwave writers (and artists) KNOW Transformers,
inside and out, drawing on all previous variations and incarnations
while still creating something brand new. And with the most definitive
Who’s Who ever compiled (in the More Than Meets The Eye series),
it’s difficult to go far wrong.
7. The original UK comic ran
for an incredible 332 issues, however sadly the recent Armada UK
run was unable to come close to replicating this success. Can you
tell us why you think this was and maybe give us some insight into
the different environments that these comics were produced in?
The Armada UK comic began life with a huge misconception as to
the audience it should have been aimed at. It was originally pitched
at an age group slightly above pre-school, so the stories were,
by necessity, simpler, the art more open and the colours bordering
on primary. The original Marvel UK comic was pitched squarely at
the boy’s action/adventure market (which is the real niche
Transformers as a whole occupies… apologies to the many female
fans/readers), and if anything veered even older than that. I like
to think that a lot of the original UK comic’s success was
down to the fact that the stories had real depth, that they addressed
serious issues (albeit in a fantastic setting). Kids, in my experience,
hate being talked (or written) down to. They’re smart…
smarter (and more savvy) now it seems than even 20 years ago. So
the tack for the Panini comic was just all wrong. It didn’t
excite new readers and it put off the older fans. But even, in today’s
market, if Panini had put out a more boy’s action/adventure
orientated title, it may still have failed. Comics in the UK (and
maybe more generally) need so much more to survive these days, in
a fairly limited (but intensely competitive) market. They battle
for shelf space in busy High Street outlets, covers dominated by
free gifts and cover mounts. It’s hard to figure what would
work… but I sure hope someone tries.
8. How much attention do you
pay to the rest of the comics industry? If so, which titles hold
your interest the most? Is it difficult to read comics when you're
also a writer, or is it easy to hop onto the reader's side of the
I do keep an eye on what’s happening in the larger comics
industry (of which I still consider myself a part), but I’ve
skinnied my actual reading down to just a few titles. Planetary,
Straczynski’s Amazing Spider-Man and Supreme Power, Ultimates
(largely because of Bryan’s breathtaking art), Waid’s
Fantastic Four and other stuff like Lucifer and The Losers. If nothing
else, I keep an eye on things because I still do some editorial
consultancy for Titan and I need to know what’s what. But
to be brutally honest (and this is a trap I swore I’d never
get into) I don’t buy comics anymore, I wait for the trades.
The main problem, as I see it, with a lot of comics these days is
that the storytelling’s become so decompressed you get whole
issues where nothing much happens, and I hate that. I was weaned
on Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, who together fitted more story, imagination,
style and content into six pages than most people, myself included,
manage in six issues.
9. Moving away from comics for
a second - What kind of approach would you ideally want the makers
of the new Transformers movie to take?
I guess I just want it to remain true to the underpinning ideals
of Transformers as a concept while not feeling tied by the weight
of continuity and fan expectation that comes with the project. There’s
some key notes I feel the movie has to hit, but it has to do that
in a new and contemporary way that will excite a whole different
audience. It’s got to look at itself as the first chapter
in a franchise that has legs of its own, and isn’t just a
retro 80s homage to be enjoyed by 20-30 somethings.
10. Do you ever browse Transformers
message boards? If so what are your thoughts?
I take a peek from time to time. It’s good to know what’s
going on in the world of Transformers and see what people are thinking/wanting.
But I put on a full bio-suit when I look at threads that deal with
me or my work, because the old adage ‘you can’t please
all the people all the time’ applies wholeheartedly to Transformers
fandom. The posts veer so dramatically, almost schizophrenically,
from adoration to pure bile that you can find yourself left feeling
quite down. So… I try to distance myself from a lot of opinions
expressed, try to step back to the point of a distanced bystander.
I do pay heed, but I try not let it impact on my own self-belief.
The anonymity of the web has a way of bringing out the best and
worst in people (not just in TF forums by any means), and some days
you need your creative immune system functioning at full capacity
just to stay in the game.
11. Finally, can you tell us
what reactions you get from people when you tell them what your
It’s either… ‘wow, that’s the best job
in the world!’ or ‘Huh?’ (and there’s a
kind of embarrassed silence). It tends to be largely those polar
Mr Furman, thank you very much for your time.
Don't forget to check out part 1 of our interview with
Transformers the Ultimate Guide
The War Within Volume 3 Issue 1
out this month
out this week
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.
find Simon's Dreamwave TPB's here