Recently, the IDW message board asked fans to post their questions (largely about Transformers, though there are some more general.. and weird… ones) in a thread and I’d answer the 20 selected (by moderator Bassbot). Well, questions (and answers) #1-15 have now been posted on the IDW site in this thread. The final five, #16-20, appear exclusively here:
16. Do you have an affinity for the extras (meaning the non-speaking or bit parts) that you cast or is it just random? Like, why pick the Technobots over say…the Aerialbots? Why Wheeljack and Jazz and not Mirage and Trailbreaker? Why Astrotrain and not Octane? Why Dogfight and not Powerglide? Why the Predacons and not the Constructicons? Is it a random roll of the dice, and if not, what influences you in giving someone a gig?
SF) It’s never (or rarely) just a random throw of the dice. Somehow, either that character should serve the story (even in a very minor way) or, by their presence, bring out something in another character or provide the spur for some bit of action/drama/conflict. For example, Dogfight. In Stormbringer he plays a relatively minor role. His purpose was to show a kind of idealistic zeal that counterpoints Prime’s more worldly-wise (somewhat jaded/realistic) attitude. Why Dogfight? I was looking for a slightly gung-ho character, with, shall we say, a zest for battle. The Autobots in Infiltration, for example, are all chosen because they fulfill a specific role (medic, engineer, intelligence, etc), making the most rounded/balanced unit. The Technobots seemed a perfect fit both for Jetfire and a science vessel/mission. And so on. It may sometimes seem random, but there’s generally a bit of thought gone into my ‘team’ selection.
17. Which artist that you have never worked with would you like to see draw Transformers?
SF) Wow. Where do I begin? When we were doing the hardback variant covers for the Titan collections, I deliberately sought out creators who weren’t necessarily associated with Transformers. Guys like Howard Chaykin, Dave Gibbons, Alan Davis, John Byrne and Peter Snejbjerg. What we got back were some amazing and different visual interpretations, all of which had something new to offer. So, really, the possibilities are (virtually) endless. We tried (and failed) to get Geof Darrow to do one of the Titan covers. I’d have loved to have seen that happen. Having seen Steve Epting do his ‘Sleeper’ robot in Captain America, I’m thinking he’d do great Transformers (and I just love his art). Other than that… John Romita Jr, Salvador Larroca, Darick Robertson, David Finch and Jim Starlin. I could go on…
18. You’ve said you’d like to write Iron Man, so who’s the character that interests you most in each of the different comic companies (Marvel, Image, DC, IDW (natch), Wildstorm, Top Cow, etc) that you’d like to have a crack at and what format would it take (one shot, mini, or ongoing arc).
SF) I guess I’d like to do a proper in-continuity Spider-Man story. He’s always been my favorite character. Probably just a one-shot. I’d be daunted by the prospect of anything longer. As for the other companies, I’m just not all that up on what they’re doing. I’d like to do something in a western vein, maybe Jonah Hex. A mini-series there, maybe. Not so sure when we get to the other companies. I’d be up for some IDW Angel. Loved the TV show. Honestly, I could probably turn my hand to most things. The challenge with some titles would be to make it interesting… to me and the reader.
19. What is your favorite format to write stories in: Spotlight/one-shot, 4-issue arc, 6-issue arc, or ongoing series and why?
SF) They all have their pluses and minuses. The one-shots are challenging. We’re so used these days to writing for trades, it’s something of a lost art to tell a sharp, concise and interesting story (which is also self-contained) in 22-pages. But they’re a lot of work, probably the most heavy in terms of scripting hours. Four-issue mini is, I guess, the ideal length for a series. You get in, do your thing, and get out. Short and sharp but with room to breathe. Six issue arcs are probably too long, but in the case of Infiltration, Escalation and Devastation et al, I view them as an ongoing, so while I tend to wrap some things up, a lot more rolls on into the next. Terminator 2 – Infinity is five issues. Dynamite gave me some latitude to pace the story out first then decide on how many issues (either four, five or six). That was a nice way to work. I hate padding or trying to squeeze a story into too few issues. Finished product-wise, it’s the one-shots I think have the edge. There’s something very all-round satisfying about them, something that ongoings or limited series tend to lack.
20. How do you approach writing a character? Do you go to the toy bio, previous comics/shows, or do you just look at their face and say: “I think this guy looks like a jerk so I’m gonna make him one!”? Why do you use whichever approach you use?
SF) With Infiltration, Escalation and Devastation, I tend to ‘glance’ at the toy bio and then (more or less) start over on the character. I don’t want to lose the essence of them, but neither do I just want to just trot out the same old strengths, weaknesses, etc. Sometimes I do look for a particular character trait or a particular alt. mode or talent to fulfill the particular requirements of a story. But even then I try and put a new spin on things. It was great doing the Beast Wars Profiles book (with Ben Yee). While we scavenged whatever toy bios there were, often we just were just looking at the character and going, “so, what do you do?” We really put flesh on the bones on both the little used US characters and, particularly, the Japanese characters. When I came to do Heinrad, I really had to get creative. I mean, the guy’s got a clock in chest. What’s all that about? Anyway, it all came in very handy as I started to plan/write Beast Wars The Ascending. I had a much better overall idea about what the various characters were going to do and say. Of course, sometimes I just impose a trait on a character because it suits my needs at the times. So it’s a mixture.