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 Marvel here. 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 runs Wildfur Productions with artist Andrew Wildman – you can read Simon's full biography on their site here.



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 most effective?

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 for Energon?

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 other soon.

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 fence?

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 job is?

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 extremes.

Mr Furman, thank you very much for your time.

Don't forget to check out part 1 of our interview with Simon here!

Transformers the Ultimate Guide
out now

The War Within Volume 3 Issue 1
out this month

Energon 27
out this week

Titan Books: You can see a full list of Titan's Transformers TPB's here. 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.
: check out DW's site here.
: Dorling Kindersley's website, with specific infromation about the top notch Transformers: The Ultimate Guide here. and find Simon's Dreamwave TPB's here