FIVE QUESTIONS (AND ANSWERS)

April 28, 2007

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.

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ALL YOU DO IS TALK, TALK (4?)…

April 27, 2007

Yeah, I forgot about this one. If you’re not utterly overloaded with me (and others) talking T2 Infinity, scoot over to Newsarama and this thread for more. It’s a wonder I get any actual work done!


BRISTOL ROVER

April 27, 2007

The convention season (and my involvement with it) continues with the Bristol Comics Expo (in Bristol, naturally enough). The event runs across the weekend of the 12th and 13th of May, with the primary venues being the British Empire & Commonwealth Exhibition Hall and the Ramada Plaza Hotel. It’s the UK’s biggest comics event, and it’ll be packed to the rafters with creators, editors (UK & US) and dealers. I’ll be there (mostly on the Saturday), doing a signing and a panel. The signing will be at 3PM on the Draw The World Together table. I’ll be devaluing copies of the exclusive Comics Expo (variant cover) edition of Transformers Movie Prequel #3. The highly collectable comic features art by Andrew Wildman, who’ll also be there to scribble on your pristine copies. Then, at 5PM, over in the Ramada Park Suite, Andrew and I (plus special guests) will be ‘Talking Transformers.’ Expect info, teasers and spoliers on a whole heap of upcoming Transformers goodness, including Devastation, Beast Wars The Ascending and the TFUK comic (and maybe some stuff you’ve not even heard about yet!!). If anyone’s got more stuff to sign, I’ll try and find some time after the panel (in the bar!). Look forward to seeing you there! For more information check out the Comics Expo site.


DERRY DIARY (ADDENDUM)

April 24, 2007

In my list of creators attending the 2D convention in Derry I neglected to mention Stephen Mooney (Joss Whedon’s Angel), who joined us on the Friday night and all day Saturday. Sorry, Stephen, no slight intended. Stephen rounded out a trio of current IDW freelancers (myself and Rufus Dayglo being the others), and we had some excellent, if somewhat boozy chats on the Friday evening. Cheers, mate.


DERRY DIARY

April 24, 2007

Right. Derry’s 2D comic convention. Overall impressions, very favourable. Small, yes, but well attended and enthusiastically managed throughout. Finding its feet, yes, but quickly shaping up into a very nice event indeed. But let’s rewind. For those of you not glued to my each and every blog entry, 2D was a three-day event staged at Derry’s Visual Arts Centre (VAC) and Sandino’s bar (more on that later). In attendance, guest-wise, myself, Garry Leach (Miracleman), John McCrea (Punisher), Charlie Adlard (The Walking Dead), Will Simpson (Vamps), Kev Sutherland (Beano), Mike Collins (Dr Who), Rufus Dayglo (2000 AD) and PJ Holden (2000 AD). Nice, varied line-up. Days one and two were aimed more at schools with day three (the Saturday) open to the public at large. The first day (Thursday), most of us guests were still en route to Derry. Kev Sutherland was the sole creator on duty on that day and his travelling comics masterclass the order of business. The rest of us made a brief appearance that evening as competition prizes were being doled out to students who’d created their own comics strips (a gallery of which were displayed in the VAC, along with many pieces of gorgeous full colour art from Will Simpson). Nothing much else was expected or demanded of us on day one other than eating and drinking (the latter at the aforementioned Sandinos bar). We duly obliged. Being a canny convention organizer, VAC’s artist in residence David Campbell supplied us with ‘beer tokens’ to ‘spend’ at Sandinos (a partner in the whole convention weekend). The look in the eyes of the creators (mine own included) as these were passed out was akin to biblical awe, proving just how shallow and easily bought we comics professionals are. The next day (Friday), we were on duty at the VAC from the get-go. By this point we’d got our bearings and realized that Derry, while undeniably impressive to look at with its inner walled city, was not as big as we’d thought, and we could easily stroll to the VAC from our B&B (where before we’d been piling into taxis). Anyway, first talk/workshop of the day was loosely titled ‘character design’ and after a few stumbling sentences from my fellow professionals and I we just sat back and let the kids draw. Actually, we wandered around and passed on what we hoped were useful tidbits of advice, while trying desperately to decipher the local accent (and often failing). Lunch was followed by another talk/workshop, this one entitled ‘working from a script.’ I led this one off by running a Powerpoint presentation I’d put together with artist Nick Roche for a previous convention in Belfast. This charted the evolution of a page (from Transformers Spotlight: Shockwave) from plot to script to thumbnails to pencils to inks and colour/lettering (for those versed in IDW Transformers and remotely interested, the featured page was the one with mammoths on it). Without Nick in attendance, Garry, John, Charlie and others offered commentary on some of the more art-centric stages of the presentation. That done, the kids got down and drew again, this time fashioning (with varying degrees of commitment) a page of comic strip. By 5PM the (school) day was done, and after stuffing a pizza down our necks it was on to Sandinos for the evening events (naturally attended by those of an older age bracket). Two discussion/Q&A panels were scheduled: ‘working with licensed properties’ and ‘breaking into comics’. I compered the ‘breaking into comics’ panel and then sat in on the ‘licensed’ panel (naturally enough). Setting the whole thing in an (upstairs) bar with plenty of (beer token-friendly) lubrication was a stroke of genius. The discussion, er, flowed with a good-natured ease, featuring much hilarity and general subversiveness. I think everyone, guests and creators enjoyed the evening. This all wrapped up around 9PM, after which we all headed downstairs for the rest of the evening. It was packed, and from then forwards Sandinos was re-named Sardinos. Saturday dawned with a few sore heads. Thankfully, we weren’t on duty until 1PM, so there was a recovery period in which some of us prowled the city walls (in a sightseeing kind of way). The afternoon was spent at VAC, meeting and greeting those who’d turned out to see us (more than any of us had expected). The artists sketched furiously, while I sat serene and signed any copies of Transformers thrust at me and reviewed a few portfolios. That done, it was back to Sandinos for the evening session of panels. This time the general topics, though we strayed from these often into digressions (rants), were ‘the state of the comics industry’ and ‘comics to movies.’ I compered both panels this time, though took pains to drop the upcoming Transformers movie into the proceedings at every opportunity. Other than a (verbal) wrestle with a persistent heckler and damaged eardrums from Kev Sutherland booming in my ear via a microphone, things went exceptionally well. The evening/weekend wrapped up with an extended session in Sandinos’ upstairs nightclub, and then it was home (for most of us) the next day. I have to admit, I went to Derry with some foreboding (and a sense that I really should have stayed home and finished the script for Terminator Infinity #3, which had, by that point, run late). I felt at best it might be disorganzied and at worst desolate (in terms of attendance). I couldn’t have been more wrong. The whole event ran like clockwork, and yet there was never a sense of being herded here and there, and plenty of people (of all ages) turned out for all the events. Credit to the organizers, in particular David Campbell and Aisleain McGill, for pulling together a very unique and well-rounded/thought out weekend of comics and chat. The whole thing had an air of a relaxed social gathering, making it somehow less wearing than most conventions. All I can say is, if you can make it Derry next year (as the next event is already on the way to being scheduled), do so. It’s a classy event, with something for everyone (though they really need to bring in more dealers!) and I imagine it will just get bigger and better. I’m looking forward to it already.


ALL YOU DO IS TALK, TALK (3)…

April 23, 2007

While I was off in Derry (more on that soon), the third (of three) recent interviews hit the web. This one, at Comic News i is much, much more than meets the eye. Check it out at: http://comicnewsi.com/article.php?catid=208&itemid=9670


ALL YOU DO IS TALK, TALK (2)…

April 19, 2007

The second of the three interviews I mentioned in the previous post is now up at Comic Book Resources. Again, it’s heavily Terminator-centric, but have patience Trans-fans, your time will come (and there’s always the IDW Q&A, see below). In the meantime, go to: http://www.comicbookresources.com/news/newsitem.cgi?id=10328