FIVE QUESTIONS (AND ANSWERS)

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.

9 Responses to FIVE QUESTIONS (AND ANSWERS)

  1. Black Bumblebee says:

    Thanks for taking the time to answer everyone’s questions–we all appreciate it out in TF land

  2. Very cool, it’s good to see the tought process used when picking background characters.

  3. simon furman says:

    Cool. Thanks to all who’ve posted here and on the IDW site. I appreciate the feedback. Maybe we can do this again sometime soon.

  4. carnivac says:

    Good questions and answers there. Nice work with the IDW comics too, though the Marvel UK stuff is still my favorite TF continuity for developing some great characters that the cartoon never got to touch upon such as Bludgeon, Carnivac and Thunderwing and to be honest I doubt the cartoon show would have done them anywhere near as good as the comics, and artists such as Geoff Senior and Lee Sullivan made the comic art look somehow more animated that the actual show.

    Still read my old comics these days and enjoy them and I’m glad they’ve had stories collected and reprinted over the years. Bought the first issue of the new print of Target 2006 just to support it again🙂

    Someone told me recently that the Carnivac black and white stories were collected and colored in the 1991 annual. I never even knew there was a 1991 annual😦 Time to search ebay I guess.

    Anyways thanks to Simon Furman and the rest of the Marvel UK creative team for making those comics so darn superb despite them being a kids comic for a bunch of toys🙂

    Hope the IDW stuff continues for years too.

  5. B. Thompson says:

    Wow! Thanks very much for answering our questions.

    I would love to see you work on Iron Man. Outside of Transformers, Iron Man is my favorite comic character. His story potential is almost limitless.

  6. Orin Thomas says:

    I really enjoy that you post these interviews. I’ve been reading your stuff on and off since my mother purchased me the first few issues of Target 2006 (a great way to start!) in a small out of the way newsagency on the New South Wales central coast 20 years ago.

    It was a revalation to find out that you were the one that wrote Grim Grams. A girl in high school dumped me after I tried to give her the (what I thought was affectionate) nickname “Stubbie”. It isn’t that the letters page on the new TF comics is boring, but reading letters answered by Grimlock was *always* entertaining (Crocodile-Dun-Dinobot? Classic!).

  7. bassbot says:

    Chrischarger and Shock-dan are interesting to hear from, but definitely would love some TF characters take over the letters page!

  8. Big Gigg says:

    HiFi,

    Long time – long time. Nice to see you have been doing well and stuck with it.

    Always loved your work – Death’s Head rules !!

    Large.

  9. carnivac says:

    Yeah I’d like the original Death’s Head to return somehow.

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