Simon Furman is, to quote the man himself, “like unto a living god,” at least for Transformers fans. He started out writing for Marvel UK in the 80′s, and saw the Transformers comic through a legendary period, penning the most memorable TF comics in the franchise’s history.
Recently IDW gave Furman a chance to pick up his twenty-year-old story lines in an epic what-if series called ReGeneration One (think X-Men Forever, with giant robots). The series picked up in 2012 at issue #81, following the final issue, #80 released in 1991, and will conclude with issue #100 in March.
SE: How do you feel about ending it after all this time?
SF: Mixed emotions. Both Andrew (Wildman) and I were only interested in doing this if it was to bring it to conclusion. So it feels like job done. Finally. But it’s quite sad too, because you get invested in it and the characters all over again. You start seeing new angles and new story possibilities and you have to resist, because everything is supposed to be building to a wrap-up. You can’t risk opening any new doors. But mostly I feel satisfied that we’ve done the book proud and can be proud ourselves of what (even as purely Regeneration One) has become a substantial body of work. We originally envisioned a 5 or 6-issue limited series. So to get 20, plus an 80.5, an issue #0 and a giant-sized final issue is just incredible. We really can’t complain.
SE: Tell us a little of what we can expect in issue #100.
SF: A lot of connectivity. Issue #100 will – l hope – feel like the capstone to a 100-issue series, rather than just Regeneration One. The thing that’s been building, that comes to a head this issue, has its roots in the original series as much Regeneration One. So I hope readers feel the full impact of the ‘bigger picture’, the thing that’s been tick-ticking away in the background like a timebomb and now explodes. Certainly, as we join the story, the situation is already beyond dire. As one character puts it, “maybe we already lost this one.” And honestly, maybe they have. But there’s a still bigger picture that needs saving, even if it means a truly terrifying scale of sacrifice. Certainly there’s no halfhearted cop-outs here, no magical quick fixes. But there’s still a heck of a lot to strive for and some massive obstacles to overcome before they get there. It’s backs to the wall time, against an enemy that in many ways is homegrown, a part of themselves.
SE: You’ve also been involved in numerous other iterations of the Transformers, particularly the “ultimate TFs” IDW continuity. How have you liked the work James Roberts and John Barber are doing these days?
SF: James and John are doing great work. I feel, finally, that the IDW-verse is in safe hands.
In the wake of the "Dark Cybertron" crossover, the various Transformers are in disarray. And things are about to get even more interesting for the characters, as writer Mairghread Scott and artist Sarah Stone -- the first all-female creative team to ever work on a Transformers series -- will soon be hitting them with the imminent arrival of Windblade.
The first "fan-built bot" created through a number of polls on Hasbro's website, Windblade's design, features and abilities were all decided by the general public and brought to life by Hasbro designer Lenny Panzica. The sword-wielding, jet-powered female Transformer looks set to cause a whole load of trouble for the rest of Cyberton's sons and daughters in her own four-issue, self-titled miniseries due to kick off in April. Scott spoke to CBR about her plans for the character -- and just what her arrival means for IDW Publishing's Transformers Universe as a whole.
CBR News: Windblade arrived in the IDW Transformers continuity during the recent "Dark Cybertron" crossover event. Following that story, what kind of state are the Autobots and Decepticons in as this miniseries kicks off? How are they recovering -- or not -- from the event?
Mairghread Scott: I don't think it spoils anything to say that things get a little, well -- dark by the end of "Dark Cybertron" and the whole event has very much demoralized the entire planet. Fighting an endless war is tiring, but there are only so many times you can rebuild your home-world before you start to feel like things just aren't gonna get any better.
But, in a way, this is also the perfect time to introduce a new character like Windblade because she's seeing so many things for the first time. There's an old saying that "evil triumphs when good men do nothing," and "Transformers Windblade" is just as much about the danger of staying on the sidelines as it is about evil itself.
She was created after winning a fan-poll from Hasbro which asked fan to help create a new character. How exciting was it to have the chance to introduce and establish a character into continuity?
It was extremely exciting. The moment they announced Windblade, I told John Barber that I was calling dibs on her if she made it to the comics. It's nice to see that still works. But, in all seriousness, it really is amazing to feel like Sarah and I are getting to make a little bit of Transformers history. We get to bring in a whole new character (and hopefully a new readership) to our favorite brand; we're pulling out all the stops to make sure Windblade earns a spot in Transformers for a long time to come.
There are other female Transformers, but the majority of them are identified as male. Are you interested in writing and exploring that in this series? Do the other characters treat her differently for being a female, or do they not even notice?
Obviously, Starscream's gonna use any kind of wedge issue he can -- because he's Starscream.
But Cybertronians in general are less interested in that kind of thing, and that's something I really love about the brand. Think about it: If you're fighting another Transformer, it's a lot more crucial to know what they turn into (tank, jet, flash drive) than what pronoun they use. Characters who don't know Windblade are obviously curious about who she is, but who she is, is so much more than "female."
FCBD: For those who might be new to your comic book, give a quick rundown. What can we expect to see in terms of story and art?
Tom Scioli (writer/artist/colorist/letterer): "It’s the first chapter of TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE. It tells the story of the first encounter between the G.I. JOE team and the TRANSFORMERS of CYBERTRON. It’s got the scale and action of a summer superhero blockbuster, but with the unlimited budget that only the comics medium can provide. There’s a space battle. There’s an assault on an underground COBRA base built on the ruins of the ancient city of Koh-Buru-Lah. There are cool science fiction ideas, like the Doomsday Seed. The story culminates in a massive aerial battle between planes, helicopters, jet packs, and giant killer machines from space. We also establish the relationships between the characters in a compelling, sometimes funny, sometimes poignant, sometimes tragic manner. There are character origins, deaths and lasting consequences. It’s a story that readers will never forget."
John Barber (co-writer/hanger-on): "Yeah, Tom hit it right on the head. This is such a unique and different take on the characters—really honoring the past but pushing the comics aspect out there further than ever… there’s stuff you can literally only do in comics, and Tom’s pulled off a lot of storytelling bits that I’ve never seen before. But the story is really non-stop, relentless action. Funny, touching, thrilling… usually in the same panel."
FCBD: What has been your favorite part of book or character to tackle?
Tom: "I really enjoyed the research process. Having grown up in the eighties, I had a certain level of familiarity with the characters, but in preparation for this series I dived headfirst into it. I read piles of comics, watched hours of cartoons and movies. It was intoxicating. The character of SNAKE EYES is the breakout character of G.I. JOE, so I had a lot of fun writing for him. He’s fun to draw, too. In a way he’s the original template for the ’90s Image-style characters—all pouches, straps, guns, grenades, mystery and attitude. I like STARSCREAM, too. It took a lot of practice to figure out his visual representation. He’s the one from the original cartoon that had the most interesting story. He’s the second banana, living and plotting in MEGATRON’s shadow. How did this envious, jealous, scheming social climber get to be the right hand man to somebody he hates? The one character that really made an impression on me above all in the old G.I. JOE comics is DR. VENOM. He’s kind of an obscure character. He’s profoundly evil, genuinely frightening, but darkly funny. He’s the representation of the banality of evil. He’s very ordinary looking in the operatically-costumed world of G.I. JOE. He is a lot of fun to write."
John: "For me, already get to play in the G.I. JOE and TRANSFORMERS sandboxes every day, editing G.I. JOE and a couple TRANSFORMERS comics and writing TRANSFORMERS: ROBOTS IN DISGUISE. What’s been fun for me is coming at the characters from a totally different perspective… really coming at them from a unique point of view. I love this idea of approaching them in a grand, operatic tradition—the sense of scale is huge, and I the whole sense of story and of the construction of this world is so amazing and so wild, it’s a lot of fun to be a part of."
FCBD: Looking to the future of the book, is there anything you can tease about what's upcoming?
Tom: "We’re building toward a massive confrontation between the people of Earth and the people of CYBERTRON, a planet full of living, thinking, feeling, killer war-’bots."
John: "I can promise you this story doesn’t go the direction you think it’s going to go. There have been clashes between the TRANSFORMERS and G.I. JOE in comics before, but there has never been anything like TRANSFORMERS VS. G.I. JOE."
* The interpretation of Wheeljack's transformation was rather 'arcane' (new? innovative?).
* "Structure of the head and waist became great way stuffing"
* The removable shoulder cannon can be installed in the vehicle mode roof.
* The hand gun can be stored in the figure's 'underbody' (?).
* The wings on the robot's back are transformable, and do not need to be removed.
* Thansk to the Tomica branch of the company (model cars), the licensing was a lot easier to negotiate with car manufacturers.
* Color of the car mode is faithful to the actual vehicle. On the other hand, the robot mode colors are closer to the cartoon.
* Thanks to the sale numbers for MP- Lambor to Streak, they were able to add new parts to Smokescreen, and Wheeljack was developed without having to consider repurposing.
* The first three realistic cars of the Masterpiece line were supposed to become 'super cars'.
RC: I understand you were a fan long before your own name began appearing in the credit boxes, but was it Transformers specifically that really prompted your efforts to write, or had you gone the traditional route with university and the like?
JR: I was a fan when G1 was out, yes. Bit of a latecomer, though: I was ten in 1986 when I started collecting the toys and buying the UK comic. I wrote stories before I became a TF fan, although inevitably my love for the characters and concepts informed a lot of what I wrote in my formative years. I even edited a fanzine, Transtext, in my mid-teens, wherein I published both my own material and stories submitted by other fans.
I think what my love of Transformers did was encourage me to write science-fiction to the exclusion of all else, which wasn’t necessarily a good thing. I have since corrected that, but most of the fiction I wrote during my teenage years had a science-fiction bent.
RC: In the first issue of MTMTE Prowl received a message from the future listing all the things the crew of the Lost Light should avoid: don’t open the coffin, don’t let them take Skids, don’t go to Delphi and don’t look in the basement. These stories have all for the most part played out since. How far in advance are you coyly planning your work? And will we get a similar tease for stories yet to come?
JR: MTMTE #1 is mostly setup, as you’d expect. It’s designed as a grand pre-credits sequence in the tradition of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Magnolia, with the camera sweeping in and shadowing a character or two and then veering off to focus on someone else. By the issue’s end the crew of the Lost Light has been assembled, the ship has taken off, there’s been an accident, and our heroes have been thrown into deep space. With the message from the future at the very end of issue 1, I wanted to show that what you’ve just read is merely the beginning of a huge, sprawling, multiyear quest stuffed full of action, adventure and intrigue – I wanted readers to feel confident that we knew where we was going, that everything was mapped out, and that it was worth them investing their time in this series.
RC: James, it has been a blast talking with you. One last thing though, will we ever find out what is in Brainstorm’s briefcase? Might it be the soul of Marsellus Wallace?
JR: It’s a straight question, it deserves a straight answer. And the answer is “yes”.
I like mysteries, I like slow builds, I like inviting speculation… but I also like answers, concrete and logical and sometimes even face-palm-y. So yes, the mystery of Brainstorm’s briefcase will be revealed. It will be opened, and there will be consequences… big, frightening, quest-defining consequences.
This March, writer Simon Furman closes out his legendary "Transformers" run for a second time with "Transformers: Regeneration One" #100 from IDW Publishing featuring art by Guido Guidi. "Regeneration One," based on the classic Hasbro toys, is the continuation of Marvel Comics' original "Transformers" series which Furman concluded for the first time with issue #80 -- all the way back in 1991. IDW resurrected that series and its continuity with "Regeneration One" #81 in 2012, recruiting Furman to properly close out his "Transformers" saga with a final 20-issue maxi-series.
Furman recently discussed ending his legendary run with CBR News, revealing how #100 caps off the run that began in the '80s, why he turned Rodimus Prime into the "guts n' grit" Prime he always wanted, which infamous inside joke is making it to the final cover and much more.
So what exactly is going down in "Regeneration One" #100?
Perhaps not what people are thinking. We've been building to this big confrontation with Jhiaxus (a former Cybertronian senator from before the Great War who stole a bunch of secrets and deleted himself from Cybertronian history), but that is not the end. There's this other 'big bad' that's been staring us in the face and is a lot closer to home (in Cybertronian terms). It's one of those classic, 'even if they win... they lose' scenarios, as what they're fighting is essentially one of their own (in the most fundamental way possible) and the stakes are so much higher, the picture so much bigger than anyone (characters or readers) could have imagined.
Can we expect any familiar faces to reappear during the finale?
One or two, yeah, but largely we're not pulling any 'out of left field' stuff in terms of the characters featured. But there's a few surprises and one or two (haven't seen 'em for a while) cameos. Andrew [Wildman]'s cover to #100 kind of blows one of our big 'this series is a 100-issues old' twists, but there's yet more twists and turns.
Could we see spinoffs or miniseries set in this continuity down the line or are you putting a definitive end to all of it?
It's a definitive end. Sort of. Y'know, it's splitting hairs but how definitive does it have to be to be classed as definitive? This is "Transformers." Which never ends. But it is an end. Until anyone with the power to make it happen says different.
CBR News: Paul and Ed, how do your respective "X-Files: Conspiracy" one-shots, "Transformers" and "TMNT," tie into the main event?
Paul Crilley: I have to be careful what I say here. The Transformers are already somehow involved and follow a lead that brings them in contact with the Lone Gunmen. Bumblebee and Langly become best buddies, and this is where we find out some of the backstory to the contagion.
So for the purposes of "Conspiracy," do all these franchises exist in the same universe?
Crilley: They are happening in the same universe, and there is an element of dimension hopping happening.
Will Mulder and Scully be appearing in either of your stories?
Crilley: Mulder appears in the "Transformers" issue, too. He's helping the Lone Gunmen with their part of the investigation while following his own leads that tie up in the second bookend.
Paul, you're also writing the main "X-Files: Conspiracy" series. Did IDW give you the pick of the litter for which properties to use?
Crilley: No, I was given the list of properties to use, then I had to come up with a story featuring them all that made sense. Each of the characters had to earn their place, so there had to be logical reason for each of the properties to be in the crossover.
Paul, which Transformers will be in your story? How did you decide who to include?
Crilley: Our story features Optimus, Bumblebee and Ratchet. I couldn't include too many, because it was just the one issue and I didn't want to crowd the story. As to the why, well, Optimus was a lock, for obvious reasons. And, um -- Bumblebee is my son's favorite Transformer, so I had to include him. And Ratchet, because I kinda liked him in the old cartoons.
So was it fairly soon after "CSI" when the publishing division took over from creative services as the dominate focus of the company?
Looking back on it, it feels like it all happened quickly, but honestly it happened over many years. We still do creative service work today at IDW -- it's the quiet part of our business. Typically our clients, we're doing stuff for them that they don't necessarily want the world to know. Although now that we've become "IDW," and that's a brand, sometimes we have creative service clients who want to work with us specifically we are IDW, whereas 15 years ago, we were just four guys that were helping them get work done.
As far as how that transition happened, it was a pretty slow business. What helped us was bringing on Chris Ryall [in 2004] who's still our editor-in-chief and chief creative officer. He really brought his vision to the publishing. Chris is one of the smartest people I've ever met; he just knows how to get stuff done. When he came on board, he was really pushing me to build the business, and was really the driving force behind us going after "Transformers" as a license. If you look at that transition from creative service to becoming a publishing company, and then a bigger publishing company, that key hire in the early days was certainly Chris Ryall.
Speaking of " Transformers," licensed projects have certainly become a big part of IDW's identity, but from what you were saying, at the time, the first "CSI" comic was something of a risk -- that seems to have definitely paid off.
Certainly, nobody else was looking at "CSI" as a comic book back in those days -- it just wasn't something that anybody was considering. I think what our approach to it was to try and bring great talent to it. Max Allan Collins wrote those comics for us; I felt like he was just the perfect guy to write those comics, and he was. Gabe Rodriguez -- it wasn't hard to identify early on that Gabe was going to become a superstar. And Ash did us a favor by doing the flashback sequences.
I think that's really been the way that we approach our licensed books, even today -- we come to them with the intention of making great comics. If you look at our books today, our "[Teenage Mutant Ninja] Turtles" books are regularly on best-of lists. The "My Little Pony" books are loved. "Judge Dredd" -- these are books that we're bringing top-notch creative talent to. Maybe before, if you look back to the way licensed comics were perceived, they were thought as not necessarily being able to be great comics, and that was always our goal -- to try and make great comics out of them.
Looking at the past 15 years, what do you see as some of the biggest triumphs for IDW? Maybe some things that took you by surprise?
Honestly, even going back to "30 Days of Night," having that book be the No. 1 graphic novel was a huge surprise for us. But the early days of "Transformers" -- those books just found an audience really quickly, and really gave us the freedom to start to grow the business, because we were starting to generate real revenue from those. That was certainly a big step forward for us. Doing "Angel" with Joss Whedon and Brian Lynch, those comics were a big step forward for us. It was all driven by the creative -- what Joss Whedon and [late artist Franco Urru] were doing with those comics, they were just good comics, whether you liked "Angel" or you don't even know "Angel." So that was a big step forward for us. We did "Metal Gear Solid" with Ash Wood -- even today, that book still sells like crazy for us. If you look at the art that Ash did; it's a video game adaptation, which would seem on its face to be something that would not be worth your time. But what Ash brought to that is just extraordinary. That art's unbelievable. Every page could be hung in a gallery.
Now that Dark Cybertron is well and underway, we here at Iacon Underground were fortunate enough to get to ask IDW writers John Barber and James Roberts some questions about the series so far and both Robots in Disguise and going forward!
IU: Thank you both so much for taking the time to talk to us! Now that we’re halfway into the event, what’s your favorite part of DARK CYBERTRON so far? What upcoming part of the series are you looking forward to finally seeing the light of day?
John: Well, we’re a little past halfway, but that’s my fault for not writing this quicker… it’s funny, because of the way this comic came together, that so much of it kinda crushes together in my head… it’s hard to remember what’s out, what’s done but not out, and what’s still in progress… Early on, I think the combination of Phil Jimenez and Andrew Griffith in issue 1 was really exciting to see. I’ve known Phil a little bit for a while, but never actually worked with him or even spent any real time talking to him before we started this comic—and it turned out we grew up really close by each other. And Andrew, I love working with. That first issue coming together was really cool.
As far as looking ahead—I think the last act of the story, the last third is really strong. Issue 9 is really crazy action, and I think James and I found a good rhythm to the writing there. And issue 10 is a lot of fun, there’s sort of a breath to take, before the end comes.
James: We’ve just signed off Part 9, and it was even more frenetic and action-packed than it seemed at the script stage. Andrew had the unenviable task of cramming about 50 characters over those 22 pages, and the majority of panels – I’ll say it again: the majority of panels – have about five people in. It’s testament to his artistry that he can make all that look natural and not cluttered.
I think Part 10 is going to be popular, particularly with those people who were anticipating a more traditional crossover where the two casts mix it up early on. MTMTE and RiD have always been defined, in part, by their separateness, by the two stories happening at arm’s length from each other, so John and I wanted to approach the reunification of the overall cast slowly — really build to it so that it forms part of the climax of the story. And really, issues nine through 12 are the climax. 88 pages of everything colliding.
Part 10 is also special because Alex Milne is back on pencils for. I’m flagging up that fact not to disparage the likes of Livio Ramondelli or James Riaz or Atilio Rojo, super-talents one and all, but because Alex makes his “comeback” in an issue of MTMTE, and for lots of people, MTMTE is Alex. So that just feels right. And, y’know, in Part 10 John and I had fun mixing up the casts and – really important, this – playing with some core post-CHAOS continuity. We get to reference and progress plots that began in the first 22 issues of the two ongoings.
So yeah, Part 10 I’m looking forward to (even if Parts 11 and 12 are the ones that will kick people in the guts); as for my favorite moment so far… Phil and Andrew drawing the Lost Light crew in Part 1. Seeing those pages take shape made the crossover seem real to me. Oh, and working with John over an extended period – as two writers, rather than writer and editor – has been fun, especially as we entered the final furlong and all the scenes started to blend. In a good way!
IU: Are you planning more crossovers for the future, or are you happy to have your respective books to yourselves for a while?
John: I think we’re good for a while. I don’t think we’re eager to do another massive event like this, but we’ll continue to have little bits that carry over from one series to the others. DARK CYBERTRON was a big deal to us; we’d been apart for about two years, which—in comic book terms—is an eternity, so doing something really big to draw everything together and tell a huge-scale story was very appealing, but it’s not something we want to overdo.
James: We’re both very aware that repeating these events too often might affect the forward momentum of our books. That said, unlike “Year One” (or however we’re referring to the period of time between CHAOS and DARK CYBERTRON), when the two casts were cut adrift and unable to communicate, at least now they can keep in touch with each other. So there’s more scope for… I don’t know what you’d call it. Everyday crossovers. Ground-level crossovers. But fans of huge, tum-thumping, after-this-nothing-will-be-the-same epics needn’t despair: you can have those without yoking the two books together.
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