Friday, December 18th 2009 1:10pm EST
Categories: Game News
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Posted by: Counterpunch
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Greetings Seibertron. Counterpunch here bringing word down from the mountain.
The Staff here at Seibertron.com was privileged to participate in a conference call with Aaron Archer of Hasbro and Activision regarding the upcoming War for Cybertron game that you may have seen in our recent news cycles.
We were given free reign to ask questions and pry for information on your behalf and over the course of the interview found out some interesting and intriguing information. The conversation was free-flow and just presenting the questions as they were flatly asked would not really give you the same information that this article presentation will. A lot of what was said, wasn't said and knowing what was repeated or had emphasis placed upon it is just as important as the straight answer to the question. I will do my best to provide summary of the important topics and then I will simply bullet-point any other information that did not fit easily elsewhere.
This is a project that has been in development since 2007. Hasbro indicated to us, that the idea is to create a more linear story and that the game as a story-telling device is a "jumping off point". Specifically, they stated that the events of the game will live longer/carry-on past the life of the game itself. The basis of the story is the Cybertron Civil War. From our conversation and our inference at what was said, it appears that they are finally telling that part (the pre-Earth, Civil War) of the Transformers mythos the way they want it to be told. The word "canon" was used several times as we discussed this and when asked if this game/story was creating a canonical back-story for G1 ... we were not told "no". Of course, over the years, it has seemed that Hasbro has been careful to never truly define certain things, the origin of Prime, origin of the Constructicons, etc. The feeling that I and others had was that the plan was to tell a Cybertronian Civil War back story ... and if it so happens to make perfect sense as the canon G1 Civil War story ... well, that's how it is. Repeatedly, we were told that the effort is to tell great stories. Specifically, we were told that "Canon is a good word ... " I'm not sure there's a G1 fan out there who wouldn't consider the Transformer's Civil War Story to be the kind of great story they've been waiting on for years.
So, what else? What other specifics can we give? The story will be set on Cybertron. The Civil War will be hot and volatile. This will be the story of the Autobots and Decepticons before they left for Earth, before they really even know of other races. The setting and visualizations of Cybertron will be new and different. The one resounding piece of information seemed to be that this game will have a significant impact on the life and direction of the franchise over the next few years.
I know you all want to know about this, but there's not much to discuss. They weren't allowed to talk about the product yet. However, things that they aren't allowed to talk about are still things that exist. So, we know that there will be corresponding toys to the story and game.
(Click on the above image to view a 3000 pixel version)
The game itself is scheduled for a 2010 release date. Judging from the time it takes other games to hit the market, my personal opinion is that we'll see it sometime in late Fall or Winter of 2010. It seems to me that a summer release would be ambitious. We were told that the game platform provides for a very sizable audience for this story. The use of games as story platforms has taken off in recent years and seems to be in line with Hasbro's expansion of the brand ideal. The focus on gameplay discussion centered around the intensity of the combat and situation on Cybertron. This was described to us as a "Gamer's Game". The presentation of the in-game story is set to have dark overtones with large scale impact. Specific information on the game such as the number of playable characters or names of individual characters was not available for release yet. Along side this information becoming public, Activision plans on releasing a significant amount of assets (rendered pictures) and press info on Wednesday. At this point, we were told that on-line multi-player aspects of the game are key and are recognized as important play elements.
Other Information of Interest
* When asked if this game/story was meant to be the filler between now and Transformers 3, the answer was a fairly strong, "no". The movie universe was described as its own separate entity, which of course we all realize. The point seemed to be, that this storytelling event via the game and the things that are to come after it are not just distractions to hold us over until the next film, but are instead the firm foundations of the next few years of the franchise.
* Hasbro is co-developing the story alongside Activision. Creative control seems to be something that they are paying close attention to. Statements such as "We're really looking to leverage what's happened before" and "This era in Transformers is full of opportunity" show that the development teams on both sides are really looking into the things that long time fans have been after in regards to the story elements. We were told that "Anything that's taken place on Cybertron has been mostly in comics" and that they were eager to explore this new venue.
* The story and the game are not movie based.
* Character identity appears to be a recognized issue. If you've seen the pictures for Optimus Prime in the game, you will automatically recognize him. For core characters, the design teams are taking visual cues from those characters across the continuum of Transformers History. After all, most of the G1 gang did not have the most flattering Cybertronian modes when you think back on it.
* When asked if any of the design work borrowed from Transtech (because elements of the new Prime model do reference it ...) we were flatly told that Transtech hasn't been discussed in the office in 10 years (we know that's an exaggeration, but the point remains the same). I could hear the dreams of some of you shattering right there and then.
* Hasbro paid some genuine complements to High Moon in regards to the character designs.
* An emphasis on bringing some very obscure characters into focus for this story was highlighted to us. While no one was specifically named, we were told that they were referring to characters that hardcore, long-time fans would be interested in seeing.
Thanks for reading. I will be around to take questions on any of this, to clear it up, or to speculate along side you. I'm sure Seibertron, First Gen, and Mkall will also be happy to add their input into the discussion.
Thanks go out to Hasbro as well as Activision for making this possible and for reaching out to the community. It is greatly appreciated.
Sunday, November 15th 2009 10:03pm EST
Categories: Comic Book News
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Posted by: tigertracks 24
Mike Costa, IDW Publishing
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Mike Costa, writer of the new Transformers on going series set to debut this week is answering a few of the questions posed by Seibertron.com staffers i_amtrunks, Darth Bombshell, and tigertracks 24. Mike also contributed to the recently completed IDW title, G.I. Joe: Cobra, a book that surprised many fans with its seriousness, and more mature handling of this particular portion of the joe-verse.
Mr. Costa is living the dream that so many folks in our community would love to get to do...get paid to be creative with Transformers and have your work officially effect the Transformers mythos, effectively carving out your own little niche in our beloved franchise.
Speaking of your own little niche, Mr. Costa, here are some questions relating to your work with the upcoming Transformers ongoing series...
-- What direction are the Costa written Tf stories going to take? Will we be heading back to a universal scope of war ala what Furman was working up to, or will we be getting an Earth-centric style story? Will the ongoing feature one large, over-arching plot with several ongoing subplots set up along the way?
All great questions. I'll try to give them great answers.
Here's the thing - Shane literally blew up the world in his last storyline. That is a really, really tough act to follow. I mean, I can't really blow up the world again. So rather than try to top that with spectacle - I guess I'd have to blow up the galaxy or something - I'm going to start small again, and then gradually expand the canvas. That's not to say that there won't be big events - there will be. They'll just be big character-events at first. No less status-quo changing, but we're staying Earth-centric in the beginning. You're going to find out why Earth is such an important place for the Transformers - and it's probably not the reason you think it is.
We'll definitely be building to events that, currently, are pretty far-off in the future. But the template I'm trying to follow is the one set by Bill Willingham in his Vertigo book FABLES. What that book does so well is juggle big storylines with smaller one, two or three-issue vingettes in between. With a cast as vast as Transformers, I feel like that's the best way to give as many characters the opportunity to shine as possible. But every issue will build on the next, even if it doesn't seem to at first. There's no guarantee how long I'll be on the book, of course (so... please, tell everyone to buy it and write glowing reviews online!) but hopefully I'll get to do all the things I have planned. That'll take quite a while.
-- Will the series be easy to get into for those who may have only become fans due to the live action movies?
I hope so. But the fact is, it's not a total reboot, like GI Joe was. These are still the same characters in the same continuity we've been seeing at IDW, so obviously there are many differences from the movie. I think we've struck a good balance though, between honoring previous continuity and being new-reader friendly. It would be great if fans of the movie jumped on. I think they'd really like what they'd see.
-- How much work have you had to do to correct errors of AHM, or has the CODA done this job for you?
AHM was planned quite a while before we consolidated our ideas for this new ongoing, so rather than start monkeying with Shane's story and forcing him to change his ending to better dovetail into our series, we created the CODA series to tie up the loose ends that the ongoing wouldn't have time to get to in the first few issues, and to work as a bridge between the two series'. Obviously all the issues are out now, so you guys can tell us how successful we've been in doing that.
We all have certain characters we want to see, but overall, we really know we want good characterization of whomever is in the story. The next set of questions revolve mainly around characters in your new series.
-- Will there be any lesser known personal favorite characters that you plan to bring to the fore in the ongoing series? Will you be able to use more of the obscure generation one characters, or even characters that were previously known only to the Japanese G1 universe (such as Victory Saber, Overlord, or Dai Atlas)? Are we following the same characters as were used in AHM? Will the cast start out small and then expand? Will the cast focus on a small group of characters or will we be moving all over the place and get to see different perspectives from different groups of characters?
The cast will definitely have it's core characters whom the major storylines follow, but we will break away from them occasionally to focus on other characters in the universe. Also, the core cast will definitely be evolving, expanding and contracting. It's not going to be "Optimus Prime and the Same Five Other Autobots" every month, but you'll definitely be able to tell who the important characters are by the end of the first arc.
Most of those "core" characters will come as no surprise to Transformers fans, but I'm definitely throwing some curve-balls in there as well. One of the major characters of my run will be someone I've had my eye on for quite a while. Shane in particular gave him some really interesting development in AHM. His inclusion in my cast will be the logical extension of what happened to him there.
As for the Japanese characters. Hm. Not a bad idea...
-- Can you please kill Drift ASAP? (Note this is a question submitted that not everyone agrees with.) Along these lines, will we see any more new IDW and creator originated characters in the near future, or will you be pulling from only currently existing Generation One Transformers?
I have no plans to kill Drift. But... I have no plans to use him right away either. So, everybody wins. Also, I can't speak for Zander or Nick, who are both doing auxiliary books, my intention is to exclusively use currently existing G1 Transformers. Of course I'll be creating supporting cast members, but the core cast will be recognizable faces for the time being.
-- What kind of Starscream are we going to get in the series, the Starscream of Infiltration, the Starscream of late AHM, or AHM #13 Starscream? They all were a bit different, there seemed to be no consistancy, or it was not explained well enough why he suddenly changes.
Every writer is going to have his or her own interpenetration of a character, and now you've seen mine of Starscream. I can tell you guys he's my favorite character, and that's why I was very excited to make him the star of my first-ever Transformers story in CODA #1. (Clever readers with an eye for pretentious writer-gags might even have noticed that I made sure his name was the first word written on the first page.) I'll agree there are some differences in how the character has been portrayed, but in a hugely collaborative medium like comics, those core character attributes are all you really need for a character. Brian Bendis doesn't write exactly the same Spider-Man as Stan Lee, or Gerry Conway, or David Michelinie. But he'll always be smart, guilt-ridden, wise-cracking and heroic. And Starscream's core attributes are always the same - he's ambitious, treacherous, manipulative and often cowardly. Anything after that is just an artifact of the medium.
And now Mike, we would like to know a bit more about you, and your feelings about the titles you have been involved with. Answer as honestly as you want (or at least as honestly as you feel you can to these questions).
-- Who is your personal favorite TF artist of all time? And what is your favorite previous TF story arc (from any series, comic or show)?
Guys... that first question isn't fair. I'm going to be working with a lot of great artists on this title (and I have already in CODA) and I can't make that call. I will, however, say that working with Don on my first stroyline is like getting Spider-Man and having John Romita draw it. And the man does not disappoint. When I saw the art he turned in for the first issue, my mind was blown. I'd really never seen anything like it on a book I've written. I couldn't be more thrilled about it.
As for my favorite Transformers storyline... that's hard. Recently, I really did like AHM a lot. It had a lot of really great, fan-pleasing bring-the-house down moments. From the older, original marvel run, it's probably issue #13, written by the legendary Bob Budiansky, where Megatron temporarily loses his memory and is found by a criminal who uses him on a crime spree. That was over 20 years ago but the story - and the cover image - have stayed with me even though I was probably 7 when I first read it.
And from the original cartoon - not counting the movie, which is actually the first movie I ever saw in theaters - it was probably The Return of Optimus Prime. That Hate Plague really scared me as a kid.
-- What's your personal opinion on the Transformers stories IDW has written thus far? Good, fair, poor, lame... How do they stack up to what has been done in the past by previous companies Marvel, and Dreamwave?
Here's the thing: There are two legends in the Transformers comic book canon. One is Bob Budiansky. The other is Simon Furman. For the past five years, Furman has basically been the driving force behind IDW's Transformers universe (not counting Shane's AHM of course.) I think anything he did for us here is pretty equal to what he did for Marvel back in the day.
--- If given the opportunity to write for the Movie-verse, would you take it? What kind of story would you like to do?
At the risk of bouncing myself out of later work opportunities, I'm going to be honest and say that, though I actually do think some of the ideas underpinning the Movie-verse are good ones, I much prefer the continuity I'm in. More characters to play with, really. And I like our Spike better than Sam (sorry Shia!)
--- Having written a GI Joe tale (GI Joe: Cobra), which franchise can you say you enjoy writing more?
This is a lame answer, but I enjoy them both in different ways. COBRA is a really dark espionage tale that I get a certain kind of evil satisfaction from. Writing about the bad guys is not only fun, but cathartic. They do stuff the good guys would never do, and finding motivations for chaos and mahem is a really rewarding challenge. But Transformers was always my first love, and the satisfaction I get from that is on a totally different level.
Back when I was in college, Wizard broke the news that Dreamwave had gotten the license for Transformers after Marvel lost it. I sat down at my job at the college library, and over two days I typed up a full pitch for a new ongoing Transformers series, planned up until about issue 60. It was the first comic book proposal I'd ever written. Of course, I never heard anything back about it. Obviously they already had their plans made before the announcement, even if I wasn't some totally unknown 19-year-old punk.
But to think that now, less than ten years alter I am actually writing a Transformers ongoing, starting at issue 1... well, that couldn't be more of a dream-come-true type situation.
--- GI JOE: Cobra was a very gritty, mature tale. Can we expect Transformers to start heading into a similar direction? In other words, you aren’t going to pull any punches with these robots, right. Humans will get squished, Robots will get atomized and not return, etc.
Humans will be getting squished and robots definitely get atomized, but this is not going to turn into a dark, gritty book like COBRA. COBRA is a very specific tone for a very specific book - if I was given the chance to write the G.I. JOE ongoing, I wouldn't use COBRA's tone there either. That tone works in that franchise specifically because we're only looking at a small corner of it, and the main book exists to give it context. Now I'm handling the flagship of Transformers, and my job is to keep that ship steady so creators like Zander, Chee, and Nick Roche can party below decks if they want.
I'm very lucky to have spent the last year watching how Chuck Dixon handles those kind of flagship responsibilities on G.I. JOE, and I have learned a lot from him - specifically how generous he is to creators like me, who handle the smaller books. I hope I can do as good a job as he does of both writing the main book, and staying involved with the smaller ones.
--- Should the next Transformers cartoon have a similar style to the very popular G.I.Joe Resolute cartoon that saw airtime recently?
As long as they don't make me look bad by being better than the comic, they can do whatever they want.
(But seriously, I think it would be great if they aimed at a slightly younger audience than Resolute did. I discovered the Transformers cartoon at age 6. It would be nice to have something that could be enjoyed for people that age again, now that the previous series is over.)
--- Can you comment on your feeling of the use of humans in Transformers storylines? At times, the stories seemed to forget that we buy Transformers because they are books about huge sentient robots that have the same faults, and strengths that humans do, not to see how humans react to said robots upon interaction.
It's a difficult line to walk. Sure, the hard-core fans want to see robot action, but for your average reader, they're going to pick up the book and say "who cares about all these robots? I have no idea what's going on." In my opinion, having human characters is a way of grounding the story in a familiar world, and having an instantly relatable character.
That's why the Transformers movies make sure they have a major plot line involving Sam Witwicky trying to get with the hottest girl on Earth - because that's a lot more relatable to audiences than an interstellar war between talking cars. Whether you think those subplots are brilliant or terrible, I can guarantee you those movies would not have been as successful worldwide if they didn't have a kid, his car, and his girlfriend along with Optimus and Megatron.
That said, my stories are definitely going to err on the side of more robots rather than more humans. But humans are definitely major characters, on par with the Autobots, and we will definitely be seeing some stories through their eyes. Just not as many.
--- Simon Furman started this whole IDW Transformers generation of comics and wrote many beloved issues for Marvel, Marvel UK, and Dreamwave as well. How do you feel about what Simon has written in the past for Transformers? Do you think he really deserves all the credit that he gets for what people expect in a Transformers story? Do you love Grimlock as much as Simon does? Any pressure trying to follow up this force in the world of TF lore?
I have not met a die-hard fan that doesn't credit Simon as having written some classic storyline that established these characters in comics for them. He is a living legend, and he really did set a template for how to write Transformers comics, the way that Chris Claremont defined X-Men comics for a generation. The pressure to follow that is huge, certainly. I really hope I don't blow it.
--- Who is your favorite Autobot? ...Favorite Decepticon? Do your favorites change when you have to consider writing them in stories? For example, HASBRO may tell you, you can’t write your favorite bot that way, so you strategically decide not to include him/her in the comic book.
My favorite Autobot is Blurr, and I make sure I gave him at least one scene in the first storyarc. My favorite Decepticon, as I mentioned above, is Starscream, all the way. And though Starscream and most of the other big Decepticons are going to be benched for a little while, they will be back in a big way.
But this is the way the story is working out. I don't want to shoehorn in tons of scenes with Blurr or Starscream just because I like them. I don't even think about it, really. When they're needed, they'll show up. And luckily, Hasbro has not questioned this at all. So far, they're happy with what I've been doing, and have been very supportive and helpful.
--- Who are your favorite GI Joe and Cobra characters?
To write, it's Tomax, Xamot and Hawk. As a fan, it's Flint. Back in the old cartoons, I was always wondering why he wasn't kicking Duke's butt.
--- ‘Rise of Cobra’, or ‘Transformers Revenge of the Fallen’, which movie is better?
You guys are just intent on getting me in some kind of trouble. The honest answer is, I have not yet seen GI JOE, so I can't say. But a friend of mine just got it (and REVENGE OF THE FALLEN) for me on Blu Ray, so definitely own both.
--- GI JOE and Transformers crossover, are you interested in writing/planning one especially now that IDW has both licenses?
If the right idea struck me, I’m definitely interested. But even though (or maybe because) I write for both sets of characters, their universes feel totally different to me. It would be like crossing Mickey Mouse over into the JLA. I'm not a good enough writer to make that work. We definitely have people out there who are though, so I suppose it is always a possibility.
--- Sienna Miller, Rachel Nichols, or Megan Fox?
I never kiss and tell. I'm a gentleman of the old school
--- Does gender exist in Transformers? Can you share where you stand on the whole fembot issue?
Gender definitely does exist. And where I stand on the fembot issue is this: A Cybertronian robot should have the right to marry anyone he or she desires, provided that they are consensual beings.
--- Who would be your ultimate Transformers comic book production crew? Artist, Writer (I would assume you would write it), inks, etc.? What might this ultimate story be about? Who would be featured?
Other than the book I'm working on (duh)... I'm going to say that the ultimate Transformers comic book would be anything that Nick Roche is working on. I first met him at BotCon this year, and I have learned so much from him, not just about who these characters are, but how to tell stories with them. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that there is no writer/artist double-threat working right now who knows and cares as much about Transformers as Nick. I will follow that guy anywhere. I am really, really lucky to have him as support on this book.
And finally, what can you tell us about Supreme Convoy that members of our community should know about him? He talks about you guys ‘geeking out’ together, what exactly does this involve?
I've known Supreme Convoy for probably two years now. He's a cool guy and part of the very cool circle of the writer/comic book fan friends I've made since moving out here to the Los Angeles. As for what our "geeking out" entails... once again, a gentleman never tells.
would like to say thank you to Mike Costa for answering our questions about the new Transformers ongoing series, and our questions about Transformers comics in general.
Be sure to check out Mike’s work in the new Transformers ongoing series, starting this November!!!
*TF Ongoing is set to be released this Wednesday, you can pick yours up at your local shop. Not sure if you want to or not, check out First Gen's review here
, or the 8 page preview here
for all of your Transformers news and resource needs.
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Friday, December 14th 2007 9:24pm EST
Categories: Comic Book News
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Posted by: Raymond T.
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Last year IDW
gave fans the chance to submit questions for Transformers writer
Simon Furman. The best 20 were picked out of the litter and were answered by the Transformers guru himself. This year, fans were again able to ask the writer their burning questions. The best 20 questions were put together and are online in the second Simon Fuman IDW A&Q session. The first 15 on the IDW forum and the last 5 on Simon Furman's Blogpage
The following 15 questions have been taken directly from the IDW Forum
1) Character-wise are there any aspects of a character ie: role, alt. mode, character that you haven't had an opportunity to explore but you still would like to either through an original character or through the expansion on an existing one?
SF) What I feel I used to do well but (in the new IDW/TF-verse) haven’t done much of recently is take a little used character and really kind of escalate/advance them into terms of motivation, role and overall story impact. I’m thinking of the likes of Bludgeon, Thunderwing and Carnivac, where characters with little or no depth ended up virtually carrying whole story arcs. The closest I’ve come of late is with Razorbeast, in Beast Wars (Gathering/Ascending), where a toy/character who otherwise came and went without much of ripple has become quite pivotal (even collectable!). So far, with the Spotlights, I’ve largely focused on already A-list characters (or the likes of Nightbeat, a character I'd already got to grips with in a previous incarnation). Moving forwards, what I’d like to do is bring in a character or two from the ‘B’ or ‘C’ list and really go at them from scratch, bring them thundering into the ‘A’ list in terms of the IDW/TF-verse. Sixshot more or less fits those criteria, but I found there were limitations with a ‘living weapon.’ I’m looking forward to doing more with the likes of Doubledealer, Banzaitron and Jhiaxus. Right now, I’m searching for ways to confound expectation, so pretty much every character I tackle in an IDW comic comes with a fresh coat of paint, so to speak. Whatever established profile/tech spec/biog the characters already have, I’m using that as a loose template and taking it in different directions, without necessarily reinventing the wheel. It’s a very exciting way of working, as it seems to really let the creative side of me loose.
2) In your years working in the comic industry how much does it differ today to when you broke into the industry (art, story and the general production of a comic)? How do you see it in the years to come? And what is your favourite part of working in that industry?
SF) For me, the main difference is structure. Everything now is about the trade (paperback). With that in mind, stories are pretty much always arcs, be they four or six or more issues. I kind of miss the more rambling, unfolding nature of an ongoing comic. When we came to do the Titan reprints of the Marvel Transformers series, it was a challenge to break up the storyline(s) into cohesive (vaguely standalone) volumes. And, in fact, it often didn’t work. If you look at All Fall Down and End of the Road, there’s a distinct ‘To be continued…’ at the end of the first of those volumes. And I think because of distinct story arcs, there’s a natural tendency not to make single issues as self-supportive as they used to be. Which is also a shame. It’s why I love the Spotlights so much. They seem to hark back to a different era, where, as well as being part of a larger structure, each single issue also had to be semi-complete in and of itself. What I don’t miss about the ‘good old days’ is thought bubbles. It’s weird how old-fashioned they seem now. I much prefer narrative captions. They seem, to me, more grown-up (in a good sense of the word). Because, and this is a shame, comics are just no longer pitched at (or as accessible to) kids. Even ‘kids’ comics are just more sophisticated. I think back to the (Marvel) UK Transformers stories and compare them to the (Titan) UK stories of today, and there’s a big creative gulf. The one is not necessarily better than the other, just different. It’s no point getting misty-eyed with nostalgia, as a writer you have to move and evolve with the times, which I hope I’ll continue to do (wherever, and in whatever form comics go/take). The best bit is just being IN the industry. They’ll have to take me out in a box!
3) What one change would you make to the Transformers history you've created? (eg. do you wish maybe you hadn't made Magnus quite so scared of Galvatron? Do you wish you hadn't killed off Cyclonus? Not used Unicron in a particular story, etc).
SF) It sort of depends which Transformers history is being referenced. And even then, the only places I’d maybe want to go back and change/revisit are where external circumstances (such as imminent or sudden cancellation) dictated that either a story not go the way it was originally intended or not be completed at all. Certainly, the IDW/TF-verse is too new and still evolving to be the subject of retroactive second-guessing. New opportunities and avenues to explore are plentiful and ongoing there, and it’s probably the most well thought out/cohesive long-term structure I’ve ever had the luxury of working within. If I had to pick points to revisit, it’d be: with the original Marvel UK stories, I’d have loved to be able to play out the Ultra Magnus/Galvatron ‘rematch’ as originally set up. But the imminent change to black & white 5-page stories meant that Time Wars pretty much had to wrap up everything (and with two Primes in the mix, Ultra Magnus kind of got sidelined). With the Marvel US stories, I’d love to have been able to do the full post-Unicron storyline I had mapped out, with wasteland Cybertron and the quest for the Last Autobot unfolding over multiple issues (instead of, like, one). But again, it wasn’t to be. Once I knew issue #80 was our last, everything had to be condensed/accelerated (to an ultimately unsatisfying degree). I wish I could have continued Transformers Energon, I wish I could have wrapped up War Within v3, but really these things were just not meant to be, I guess. Largely, I try not to look back, only forwards. What’s out there already is out there, end of story. Truthfully, I’m not sure I’d want to tamper even if I could.
4) Will we be seeing more of the Micromasters in the future? (ie. why they are small and such and related to the Dead Universe?)
SF) Definitely more Micromasters in Revelation (and beyond)! This time around, in the IDW/TF-verse, I’m trying to apply thought and logic to concepts that previously were maybe just thrown into the mix without much due care and attention. If it’s Pretenders, it’s well why would Transformers need an outer shell? As a disguise element it always seemed slightly redundant to me in the original storylines. If it's Headmasters, what is it about a human/Transformer hybrid that makes them special? Why bother unless the end product is markedly better, and it cuts both ways (after all, it’s a kind of symbiosis)? I’m asking myself all the tough questions that were maybe skipped over in the rush of new product lines, and the same applies to Micromasters. Why is small better? What new, interesting abilities do pint-sized Transformers bring to the mix? And, as always, who is responsible? What’s their bottom line? The whole Jhiaxus/Nemesis Prime/Dead Universe storyline is about to explode, big time, and Micromasters are an integral part of what’s to come.
5) It's a very loose term, though. Can you define "brothers" in a TF sense? Is it merely some trivial notion of 'created around the same time' or 'somewhat looky-likey designs', or that they share some E.S.P., or what?
SF) What defines a ‘brother’ is going to feed into and be explored in two ’08 storylines. In the ‘ongoing.’ Sideswipe is about to step up and make his presence felt, most notably when he meets Sunstreaker again and realises he’s no longer just Sunstreaker! There is a bond between lots of characters, it’s just that in some cases it’s more pronounced, and the pair (or more) of characters in question are aware of it (even if it’s purely subliminal). Then, in a kind of standalone (but, of course, very connected) series, we’ll start to understand exactly where that link/bond came from. It’s connected to the lineage idea introduced in Spotlight Optimus Prime and to the eventual concept/realization of Combiners. Whatever it is, in some Transformers the bond is very strong, almost like in twins, in others it’s so watered down they don’t even know it’s there. A lot of ‘fundamental’ stuff, in terms of what makes a Transformer tick, is planned for next year.
6) If you were to radically reinvent the concept, allowing you to disregard anything and everything, for a one-off ‘Evolutions’ type story, what would it look like?
SF) It would probably not be terribly different to what we’ve done for the IDW/TF-verse. In many ways, it’s a reinvention/update of the classic G1 era, cutting out some elements, making others more contemporary, dropping in new ideas/designs/rationales, etc. So if I was handed carte blanche to do an Evolutions-style story, I’m not quite sure what I’d do with it. Even with Beast Wars, where I thought the abrupt leap into Beast Machines missed major storytelling opportunities, I got to drop The Gathering and The Ascending into that mix (and maybe more to come). The idea of just taking a different era and setting Transformers (G1) there doesn’t greatly appeal to me. Trying to re-do or re-style classic G1 stories doesn’t greatly appeal either. I feel (strongly) Transformers (as a whole) needs to keep moving forwards, evolving, in a way that doesn’t limit it to hardcore fan appreciation. That’s why I was so pro the new movie makeover. The quickest way to kill it dead would have been to make it a retro G1 piece, harking back entirely to the 80s (either in look or sensibilities). What I did enjoy recently was doing the ‘classic G1’ mini-comic for Madman’s DVD release of the entire animated series. That, in essence, ‘plugged a hole’ if you like, between the end of the animated show and the animated movie and felt more pertinent. Mostly, though, it’s my preference to keep looking upwards and onwards.
7) Given that you're well-known for taking obscure characters and breathing new life into them (Bludgeon, Nightbeat, Thunderwing etc.), are there any underdeveloped Transformers you'd like to give the same treatment in future?
Yes. And, assuming the Spotlights continue, I hope to do just that. The IDW/TF-verse is just so brimming with potential right now, I feel there is this vast pool of characters waiting for their chance to shine, to step out from (often limited) profile/tech specs, or simply just to be completely re-thought/re-made from the ground up. I think it's important that the main players have been established, either as the title character in a Spotlight or the main supporting character in a Spotlight (such as Ultra Magnus/Scorponok), but that done it’s time to move other, maybe more minor characters into major roles. After the trio of Blaster, Arcee and Grimlock Spotlights, I’m involved (rather than outright writing) in one more Spotlight (in what will be volume 3). That one definitely feels more in the spirit of minor character given due credit, gravitas and screen time. And, as always with the Spotlights, it plays into something much bigger. Can’t say any more at the moment, but I think it’ll surprise a few people.
8) What exactly does it take to kill a Transformer in IDW continuity? The amount of damage a TF can take before dying has always seemed to be fairly inconsistent to me, and so I'm curious as to what your take on the matter is.
SF) I think if I have played fairly fast and loose so far in the IDW/TF-verse, it’s with the actual mechanics (literal and otherwise) of how much injury a Transformer can sustain before it becomes critical. The two key elements to me are neural processor (brain) and Spark core (‘soul’). Take out either one of those, and you’re dead, gone, etc. Mind you, both are heavily shielded. Even a headshot (such as in Spotlight Ultra Magnus) might not necessarily destroy the processor. In Escalation #5, Megatron digs his hand into Optimus Prime’s chest cavity and squeezes his Spark core, meaning to crush it. Had he followed through, Prime would be dead. We have to assume that when Megatron shoots Starscream (in Infiltration #6) he misses (or fails to destroy) his spark core. EJ made it more graphic (and a much bigger torso hole/wound) than I’d maybe anticipated (in the writing), and so a certain degree of dramatic license may have to be applied there (especially if we ever actually place the Spark core specifically in some kind of internal cross-section). Though presumably there’s some room for manoeuvre here, what with different sizes and shapes of Transformers and all. Though we haven’t shown it as such, in the case of disembodied heads (such as Sunstreaker in Devastation), I’m working on the principle that the head is still hooked up to the Spark core (which has either been removed to a place of safekeeping or the original body preserved). The one can’t function without the other. I do mean to pay stricter attention to the physical limits of Transformers in upcoming arcs and series.
9) Now that IDW has the licence to produce Doctor Who comics, do you want to write for the series again? If you could, what elements would you explore, like in Axis of Insanity you explored the Doctor's curiosity and the dynamics between Peri and Erimem.
SF) I’ve always had a soft spot for the Doctor. Over the years I’ve done a fair few Doctor Who stories, whether in Doctor Who Monthly/Magazine (in the 80s) or in audio drama. And I’m currently doing some new (junior) Who for the UK (more details on my blog as and when I can trumpet this officially), as well as some Torchwood comic work (again, watch my blog for more details). So the short answer is yes, I’m always up for more Who. And, in fact, I have talked to Chris Ryall about doing some IDW-Who. But if I do, it’ll be later rather than sooner in 08, as story arcs (by other creators) are already in progress or upcoming (and I’m snowed under right now). What would I do, story-wise? I’d like to put the Doctor in a situation where he’s just totally and utterly out of his depth. Sometimes I feel the just always seems to know what’s what and what to do about it. I think if I get to do an IDW arc, I’d put the Doctor completely out of any kind of comfort zone, in a situation where he’s got to more or less think/act on a wing and a prayer. I loved the Human Nature/Family of Blood two-parter in series 3 of the new TV show. It showed the Doctor in a refreshingly new light. It’s that kind of thing I’d like to tap into any story I might write. Beyond the companionship, why does he have a companion? It’s for situations exactly like that.
10) What are some of the best experiences you’ve had working with artists? Any particular issues, old or new, where you were especially blown away?
SF) Too many ‘blown away’ experiences to list. Some notables would include: my very first strip work (a ‘Library of Death’ story in UK comic Scream), drawn by (of all people) Steve Dillon. What a way to start out. Story was truly dire, by the way, but hey, it looked good! Transformers UK #113: Geoff (Senior) was forever blowing me away with his artwork, and in fact #113 isn’t his best TF work (I’d reserve the likes of Target: 2006 pt 8 and Edge of Extinction in US #75 for that distinction), but it was inspirational inasmuch as it pretty much pushed me into rethinking what was supposed to be a minor (disposable) supporting character (Death’s Head) and turning him into what’s become, I guess, my signature creation. For all the wrong reasons, I remember a Dan Reed UK job where he was so late with the pages I thought I was going to have to run with a reprint filler story. He had to physically bring the pages (from Paris, where he was living at the time), at which point he lost the splash page (in customs) and had to redraw it with me standing over him looking at my watch. I still shudder to this day. The first page of Transformers (US) #56 is another of what I’d call personal landmarks. It wasn’t just my first page of Transformers US, it was my first work for Marvel US (something I’d always dreamed of). Good, bad or indifferent (art-wise), that page was always going to be special. My collaborations with Andrew Wildman have always been memorable, not least because we actually developed our own IPs. Some of the ones that got away, like the (proposed) Neo-Knights series, I remember vividly. Again, for all the wrong reasons, I remember working with Pat Lee and how kind of disappointed I was to find how little of the art was actually him. He gave me an original art page of Armada, and there’s so little art on it! The good side of Dreamwave was my first collaboration with Don Figueroa on War Within v1. His art blew me away (in terms of its amazing detail and dynamism) and then blew me away again (because this was when I first realized that the new generation of TF artists were utterly passionate about the work).
11) In 2008, are there any plans for a mini-series of Primus and Unicron story and fit the core continuity?
SF) I shall restate categorically what I’ve said before. No Primus. No Unicron. I’m just not going there (outside of Beast Wars, and then not directly). BUT, that’s not saying we won’t at point start poking and prodding around the pre-history of the Transformers and begin to ground what’s happening in the present with stuff that goes all the way back to the very beginning. There’s stuff I’ve laid into the IDW/TF-verse already that pays into the timelost roots of the Cybertronian race and I don’t intend to let that mystery drag on too long. The Dead Universe wasn’t always dead. That’s all I’ll say for the time being.
12) Marvel G1 question: whatever happened to Professor Morris? I believe the last we saw of him was when Centurion was beheaded by Galvatron. Later, when Wheeljack rebuilt him, Morris was never mentioned again. So was he trapped in his underground bunker when Centurion was sent to the bottom of the Thames or what?
SF) OK. This question sent me scurrying back to my collected editions of the UK stories (and de-archiving the original issues that featured ‘Ancient Relics’ the Transformers/Action Force crossover). We last see Professor Morris (in person) in issue #102 (‘Fallen Angel pt 2’), when he mentally communicates with Swoop, asking permission to mind-share again (following on from events in The Icarus Theory in UK #45/46). We ‘assume’ that’s him communicating through Centurion later in ‘Ancient Relics’ (though I confess it’s not clear). However, it’s still something of a loose end, as we never really know if Morris was ever extracted from that bunker (after Centurion disappeared into the Thames… to be extracted later in ‘Salvage pt 1’ in TF-UK #160). Let’s assume so, eh? Maybe Swoop was feeling charitable and (after the events of ‘Ancient Relics’) freed him. Or maybe Triple III finally broke in or RAAT got involved. Whatever the case, let’s hope Morris got out somehow. He only had enough food and water for a year!!
13) Have you ever considered that maybe all the various storylines from all the previous companies (Marvel, DW, Club exclusives, etc) could be brought together in a huge storyline that could redefine the future of Transformers and use all the characters from all the comics, toys, manga and anime available (G1 to Galaxy Force, Beast Wars, and back), just like DC is actually doing in their Countdown comic series?
SF) Some kind of big ‘Crisis on Infinite Transformers’ was considered (and then rejected) when IDW first picked up the license. Chris Ryall and I discussed several options, of which that was one. Another was a way of running G1 and Cybertron comics in tandem, with a sort of crossover story that simultaneously launched both titles (the original pitch for which can be seen as an ‘extra’ in the Best of Simon Furman book). Both were ultimately rejected in favour of the complete reboot of the G1 line that now forms the IDW/TF-verse and I believe it was the right way to go. Even if we’d gone the ‘Crisis on Infinite Transformers’ route and effectively cleaned house, it would still have been a confusing and off-putting (especially to new readers) way to start. Though part of me still loves the idea of doing something on that scale I don’t think (this far on and in) it’d be something IDW would ever consider.
14) You have been involved with Transformers more or less since the beginning. How do you feel about how the line has grown and evolved since its inception? Has it improved, degraded, remained true to the original vision, forgotten it, reshaped it for the better?
SF) I think, as with all properties that have been around as long as Transformers has, there have been both highs and lows. The great thing about Transformers as a whole is how easy it is to ‘transform’ itself for each new generation (whether they be young kids or adults, fans or newbies) without losing the core concepts and ideals that underpin it. I’m not going to get into what I feel those highs and lows are, but I do think that even 23 years on from when it first hit toy shops in the west, Transformers is still delivering across a wide variety of media. Whether it's the IDW/TF-verse, the new movie franchise, Transformers Animated, the passion the creators and toy designers and moviemakers bring to each is undiminished by time. In fact, I’d go as far as to say we’re in something of a golden age right now, where the sheer momentum delivered by the first (new) movie is pushing everyone involved to be that much more on their game when it comes to new product. There will always be those who hanker for what they see as the original and best, the G1 of the 80s (be it toy, comic or cartoon), but clearly the main reason Transformers has survived and thrived is because things haven’t stopped still, haven’t remained stuck in the nostalgia era. The long-time fans are incredibly important, but it’s even more important that new generations are given an easy access point into what otherwise could be a daunting and off-putting 23-year (and counting) history.
15) When writing dialogue for the Transformers, do you imagine it being spoken by the voice-actors that played the respective characters in the cartoon?
SF) Sometimes, but increasingly not. I pretty much always write dialogue for Optimus Prime with Peter Cullen in mind as I do so. He’s just so completely attached to the character in my opinion. But when it comes to the IDW/TF-verse, I try not to go in with any vocal preconceptions, because it may subliminally make me write a given character as if its their classic G1 equivalent (which it’s not). However, when I write Beast Wars characters in comic form I absolutely do think of their voice actor counterparts. How can you not think of David Kaye (“Yess”) when writing BW Megatron or Scott McNeill with Rattrap? So it depends. The (new) movie voice cast didn’t really have enough screen time (or make enough impact on me) to affect the way I write any surrounding prequel/roll over movie comic material. So, strangely, those I do tend to base more on their original animated counterparts. (New) movie Starscream I write just like his G1 counterpart. I have Chris Latta’s whiny, shrill delivery in mind when I write him. Mostly, though, when it comes to writing dialogue for Transformers, I try to approach each character as I’ve previously set them up (with any accompanying vocal tics) and not be too influenced by ‘outside’ sources. That said, while writing Torchwood stories recently, I had each of main actor’s voices nailed to my subconscious.
The following last five questions were taken directly from Simon Furman's Blog
16) How does the Matrix work in the IDW universe (i.e. power of Primus, souls of all the Transformers, sacred battery, etc)?
SF) Well, we’ve yet to actually meet the Matrix in the IDW/TF-verse. So we may be getting ahead of ourselves here. What do we know about it so far? Well, according to Spotlight Galvatron, the Matrix was (and maybe is) “carried” by Nova Prime, and he (Nova Prime) disappeared into the Dead Universe (along with the Matrix, we assume). Nova describes a bottomless well and a resonant tug on the Matrix. What happened next we don’t know (yet). But what is the Matrix (hm, that sounds familiar somehow)? Not telling. Not yet. But ’08 holds the answers: what it is, where it came from, what is does (then and now!). The Matrix (and what it’s become) will figure large in all that happens post-Devastation. The Matrix has been gone from the IDW/TF-verse for a long time, and its return will not necessarily be a thing of celebration.
17) Was it always the intention to introduce Acree to the IDW-verse, or was it as case of being suddenly struck with a workable idea? If so, what inspired the idea and story?
SF) I think once the nature of IDW/TF-verse Jhiaxus started to properly take shape, so the idea of doing an Arcee story became both workable and desirable (in the context of both a Spotlight and the larger story). To an extent, I wasn’t willing to go anywhere near Arcee (as a character) until I had worked out the whys and wherefores (in the IDW/TF-verse) of quote-unquote female Transformers and the whole issue of gender. Back when I was writing the first clutch of Spotlights, the idea of Arcee started to germinate. The Nightbeat Spotlight opened a door, and the involvement of Hot Rod just somehow made me want to get Arcee in there too, somehow, even though the two aren’t linked in the IDW/TF-verse. But even then I didn’t really have all the answers I needed (for myself) to properly introduce/write the character. I’ve been vocal about my resistance to the idea of gender in Transformers, so if Arcee existed (and she was a she), then I really needed to know exactly why that was (and how she and others react to that fact). Arcee, Combiners and Micromasters all have a common point of origin, in terms of forcing the evolution the Cybertronian race. Once I had that in mind, Arcee just seemed to work (and I had the motivation on both sides) as both a concept and a character.
18) As more people chip into building this new IDW/TF-verse continuity, are there any guidelines for what creators should/shouldn’t include to avoid clashing with other books?
SF) My main rule of thumb has always been (and remains), if it’s been done that way before, don’t do it again. It applies equally to me and, I hope, the other writers contributing to the IDW/TF-verse. Mostly, other than looking at what’s been established so far in the ‘ongoing’ arcs, the Spotlights and so forth and making sure new story elements don’t blow it all (in terms of the over-arcing story) out of the water, it’s just a matter of continually thinking outside of the box, and not falling back on classic G1 (knee-jerk) story/character traditions. Defy expectations. Turn characters on their heads. Assign them roles and functions that don’t necessarily match their classic G1 counterparts. And try and keep the story rolling onwards, rather than keep dipping back into what’s gone before (or if you do go back, make sure it has some present day/future resonance/pay off). On the IDW forums there’s a great thread, which painstakingly details who’s appeared, when and where. It’s very helpful, not least to me. The great thing about the way the IDW/TF-verse is set up is there are stories to tell that don’t necessarily have to be set on Earth. It’s been established that the war is spread out across many worlds, many frontiers, and that there are disparate groups of Decepticons (Infiltration units) and Autobots (Tactical Response units) involved, and that the ‘staged’ process established in Infiltration, Escalation and the like is underway on those other worlds too. So it’s reasonably straightforward to assemble a cast on some far-flung world and tell whatever kind of story you want to tell.
19) What goes into writing a new character who’s not been featured before? With, say, Sixshot was there a process involved in how he would act or did you look at tech specs or previous appearances in other mediums to get a basic idea?
I do at least start with the tech specs. Then, largely, I look for whatever it is in that character that interests or intrigues me, or seems to open the door to some kind of dramatic conflict (and if it’s not there, then I’ll start to rethink or flesh out the character more) and subsequent resolution (to a degree). With the Spotlights in particular I look for a way to give the reader an almost instant insight into what makes the character tick, and why we should care about or empathise with them. Good guy or bad guy, it’s necessary that the reader become involved with the character quickly. So if there’s nothing much there in terms of tech specs or previous appearances to start with, I’ll introduce something to lift the character out of a kind of template role. Taking Sixshot as an example, having divined that he’s this ‘living weapon,’ I thought, so what does that mean? (Both to us and to him.) Why should we care? How does he view himself? Is he happy being a living weapon? Might he, if given a way out, take it? And so forth. When addressing any character, I’m continually asking myself questions about them. First job really is to get myself interested. Once I am, it’s that much easier to get other people interested. Sometimes I actually prefer it when there’s little or nothing already there in black and white and I can just build the character from the ground up.
20) In Spotlight: Shockwave, did Shockwave beat the Dynobots or did he just destroy their organic covering forcing them into stasis lock? Any chance of a rematch?
SF) I think the answer to the first part of this question is that Shockwave beat the Dynobots by destroying their organic covering, at which point they went into stasis lock. Did he beat them? Yes. Would he, if they too had been resistant to the high levels of energon? Hard to say. Maybe, maybe not. Grimlock, clearly, had foreseen the possibility of losing and planned an appropriate no-win scenario before ever setting foot on the planet. So maybe he won. Either which way, we do have something of another grudge match in the offing. Only this time it’s the Dynobots versus… ah, but that’d be telling. Whatever the case, stuff is set in motion in Spotlight Grimlock that will have huge repercussions. Will Shockwave figure in any of this? Maybe. Are the Dynobots coming back in 08? Definitely.