Smooth Talkin' With Don Figueroa

Don Figueroa

Hello and welcome to Smooth Talkin'. He has become one of the most well known Transformers artists ever and has only been drawing the professionally for a couple of years. His works include the web-comic Macromasters, Dreamwave’s War Within, Armada, and Generation One; he’s got a Beast Wars comic coming out from IDW in early 2006, ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Don Allen Figueroa!

Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: Thanks for joining us, Don.

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: Thank YOU for Having me:)

Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: Macromasters

IDW’s doing a “What if” or “Elseworlds” type series. Any chance your Macromasters could finally become something of an official TF entity?

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: That would be cool if possible. I would love to be able to do and finish my Macromasters story if given the chance. But after 4 years, it's going to require extensive updating, not only story wise, but designs as well. I would also need to condense it a lot to fit as a mini-series format, but I don't think I can go any less than 6 issues with it.

Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: Dreamwave

If you had to pick one of each, what would you say your personal high point and low point was at Dreamwave?

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: The War Within Series is possibly my favorite memory of DW. It was a great honor to retro-design almost all of the main characters. and it was a great relief that the designs were well received by the fandom..well, mostly.

It’s also great to see that some of the designs have inspired some toys, official and Fan made. I would love to see the story continue or at least see Volume 3 finished.

The low-point is-of course- losing my job, during the holiday no less. I always knew it could all end- just like that- so I saved some of my money. Still, being lied to and getting stiffed for that much money was really hard to take.

Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: Transformers have battled with bullets, lasers, pointy chunks of debris, axes made of pure energy, Cybertronian martial arts, and (famously), with their bare hands. With you on the art, they’ve also used the Steve Austin’s Stone Cold Stunner and the Jake “The Snake” Roberts’ DDT. Were these unique offensive maneuvers called for in James’ script or was that “all-Don?”

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: I'm a big wrestling fan, and I always thought it be cool to see giant robots bust-out some of the moves. so I asked James and Adam to include some crazy-ass WWF/E style fight scenes if possible and so when the opportunity arose. I asked them to let me handle the Sunstorm/Jetfire fight. They agreed as long as the outcome will be Jetfire ending up face-down and getting to use his antenna guns on Stormy.

Funny thing though is there was a scene in the beginning that Sunstorm got loose from Jetfire's Chokehold by doing the Ric Flair 'Nutshot' (y'know, when he swings his leg backwards to low-blow an aggressor) but Hasbro called and told DW that I had to edit it out and just have him elbow Jetfire. (As it was originally written) they said it was "too graphic"

Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: What work of yours did Dreamwave profit from without paying you?

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: Hmm, the amount adds up to about 2 or so month's worth of work, so that covers the last things I did for DW which are G1#10, G1#11, and some other stuff, like additional MTMTE stuff for the annual, various covers (I forgot which exactly). BW#1 didn’t isn’t even included on that because by the time I sent it, the place was shut down.

On the bright side, former Production manager Matt Moylan did later on sent back all my unused BW pages among other things...wheee!

Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: What are your thoughts on, in the immediate aftermath of Dreamwave’s bankruptcy, Rich Johnston publicizing the exact amounts owed to everyone at Dreamwave and airing all the other dirty laundry coming out of the situation? Were you glad people knew the truth or would you have rather it stayed private?

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: I think it should have stayed private IMO. But it didn’t really bother me much when it did become public because the Fans got to see where the owner's priorities were.

Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: Pat Lee

Dreamwave died. Within a year, Pat Lee has been the artist on House of M: Iron Man, the cover artist of the new Batman: Journey into Knight series, and has just started his run on Marvel Knights: Spider-Man. Does this just add insult to injury when he owes so many people money?

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: He was actually working on Marvel stuff months before the company went under. Remember FF/X-men? It didn’t bother me much then, lots of folks do that. I thought maybe DW was being sold to Marvel or something (like with Wildstorm and DC) or maybe taking in work for them to keep DW afloat. I just didn’t know that the captain was taking the only lifeboat after he steered the ship towards an iceberg.

Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: Another Pat Lee question: Newsarama recently interviewed Pat Lee on the Dreamwave bankruptcy. Would you care to comment on any of his, well, comments?

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: I don't think I can fault the Interviewer for what seems like a bunch of tee-ball questions, more likely Pat just picked and chose what he wanted to answer or perhaps there was an agreement beforehand that he can't be grilled on certain matters in the interview.

Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: Joe Quesada, Editor in Chief of Marvel Comics was asked about his decision to hire Pat Lee. He refused to defend his decision. As an artist, can you explain what the appeal to his artwork is?

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: He's a big name, I heard he's pretty fast and he's got a team behind him that do inks, colors and background art.
[Luthor w/ Otis] what more can anyone ask? [/Luthor w/ Otis]

Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: Final Pat Lee Question: Do you think that the TF fanbase has criticized Pat Lee too harshly? Would cutting back on the near-endless Pat Lee be something you’d personally like to see?

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: I think Lisa Simpson and Paul Anka summed it up best in a Song once...

Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: Devil’s Due

While the TF license was up for grabs, you signed a highly publicized exclusive contract with Devil’s Due; what happened with that?

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: Well, When I first heard about DW closing, I dropped Josh Blaylock a line -having done some cover work for him before-I told him I'm available to do stuff. Fed-Ex was also coming after me due to some BS technicalities about sender responsibilities, so I could really use some work then.

I didn't expect him to sign me exclusively specially since he didn’t have anything for me to work on at that moment. And I truly appreciate him for that. I knew he was going for the TF license as well so that was probably a reason why I got signed. It would have been cool if they did get it, but I'm just glad I have a job again.

I once pitched DW a new TF/Joe story during the first one but that was declined in favor of TF/J: Divided Front. So when I got hired by DD, I also pitched it to them including designs for Megs as Destro's Dominator and Prime as the Joe's Rolling Thunder. But, again, it too was rejected in favor of continuing their J/TF series. No biggie, I like Cobra-la and since I was scheduled to do it, I was all for it.

Hasbro later rejected that story saying Cobra-la can't be used. (Bummer, I liked Cobra-la.. but apparently, the Joe-fans don't) so I pitched my idea again but Josh shot down once more. Saying he's come up with a new J/TF story. But Hasbro then told us we couldn’t have a J/TF story 'til 2006. And so I was relegated to character designs for the Aftermath imprint (which none was ever used). I still tried to pitch him other ideas but they were either ignored or shot down completely. Still, I was also able to work on some TF related stuff for Hasbro

At this time, the TF license went to IDW and I figured I failed Josh (one Optimus Prime promo art wasn’t gonna cut it anyway) and it looks like I'm gonna be on the outs soon. IDW's Chris Ryall did drop me a line but I still have a couple of months on my contract. So I just sat out the rest of my time basically doing random art.

Though surprisingly, Josh offered to sign me an additional one-year Contract and a chance to help develop my own comic/storyline. I put it into consideration but after the six months of frustration and creative control on the "Don F. project" that wasn’t up to what I've hoped for. I eventually declined and just let my contract run out.

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Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: Crisis?

For years, a “Crisis on Infinite Cybertrons” project has been speculated on. Do you know anything about how that would have gone down? Would you like to see that project actually happen someday?

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: The only "TF: Crisis.." I know of was that awesome spread Jake Isenberg did based on the George Perez/Alex Ross collaboration. I never heard of a storyline about it, official or otherwise. Though, I don’t think I'd want to see something like that. As with the original DC 'Crisis' story line, by condensing all the TF continuities into one main Universe, you have to erase lots of characters and would render years of stories void.

Lost of fans like the older stuff, but there are also lots of fans that like the newer TF lines. But hey, if there is one and if the script's good enough, it might work, I dunno

Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: How would you handle that project, art-wise?

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: Same way I would always do, with Lots and lots of "unnecessary" details, cameos and Easter-eggs.

Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: IDW

Your Beast Wars mini-series will make its debut right in time for the 10th anniversary of Beast Wars. The question that’s been floating around is: Is this series the same one that you and Simon Furman started with Dreamwave? That is, are the pages you’ve already drawn being used for IDW’s series

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: There are some scenes that are similar to the old one, but it is a brand NEW Story. None of the DW pages were reused.

Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: Do you have any TF projects lined up after Beast Wars?

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: Maybe. I hope so; I'm not a bit tired of drawing Transformers yet

Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: How would you compare IDW’s approach to the Transformers artwork to that of Dreamwave?

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: It's always nice to see different takes on TFs. I always tried to develop my own style, even during my time at DW. Which why I'm puzzled as to why some folks think I draw like Pat. We don’t even draw Prime's head the same way. If anything, my artwork was more influenced by James Raiz' and Guido's works

Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: Dreamwave was notorious for (among other things) demanding their artists to conform to their “house” style. You’ve mentioned before that they actually altered your artwork on occasion. Do you expect anything similar from IDW?

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: I don’t think this will be the case in IDW, They've let me draw the way I've always done which will eventually help me develop more and hopefully improve.

Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: Few TF fans agree on anything. However, the OTFCC ’04 Mega Litho is widely praised as a spectacular piece of Transformers art (which, I’m proud to say, I purchased the first one available for at OTFCC). You’ve mentioned that there were plans to make further lithographs to accompany it. Is there any chance that these might be produced by IDW?

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: Thanks, Glad you liked it. It was one of those projects I did that was quite a task but it was enjoyable at the same time. Espen did an amazing job coloring that monster. I only wished it was inked, but nobody would touch it. I'll probably take a stab at it one day.

After seeing the finished product. I asked James McD (who was the Creative Manager at the time) that I would like to continue it every year. I would have done two half-sized Lithos that would attach on the left and right side of the original. I would have continued with G2, BW and Maybe MW characters, then the same next year with BM and then the subsequent series. It would eventually be book-ended with Primus and Unicron

I don’t know if it would have been possible to do so then, but if IDW, Hasbro and the Botcon folks are cool with the idea, I'm game.

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Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: As both an artist and a TF fan, what’s your opinion of the multiple covers that have been (and are continuing to be) produced from Devil’s Due (Nearly 10 covers for TF vs. GI:Joe #1e, Dreamwave (eight covers for G1 issue #1), and now, IDW (at least four covers for each issue)? At some point does it seem too much or is it just a chance for fans to have more choices?

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: Alternate covers -usually- only happens on the 1st or #0 issues of a series, thank goodness. The different covers are just there to provide the fans choices on their purchases. It’s not a prerequisite to buy all the available covers to enjoy that particular issue, but some fans do prefer certain characters, artist or even allegiances on the covers. The choice is also theirs whether to buy all of it or not.

Though there ARE covers that are made to be part of a larger image and it would require that you purchase the other parts to complete the puzzle. But again, it's not mandatory

Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: Fandom

Any crazy fan stories you’d care to share with those same fans?

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: I haven’t been to a lot of conventions but when I do go, the people who would come by the table are really nice. Most of the acquaintances I've met are through the Internet. Some I consider good friends and I would chat with them occasionally on AIM.

Though there are some folks who I'd rather not have met. like this one guy who AIMed me when I first started working on The Macromasters. This fellow started off like a really nice chap but he would always try and push his own characters and storyline with mine. When I refused he got really upset. He would even try to have me change some of the name of my OWN characters. (He didn’t quite like the name "Maraudimus Prime" he thought it sounded stupid) the last straw was when he insisted I put in his own "Prime" character and be this super, unstoppable, demi-god that would basically be the lead character. I told him thanks, but no thanks..

Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: Movie

The Transformers Movie is supposed to hit theaters on July 4th 2007. Have you had any involvement with the project? Would you even be able to tell us if you have?

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: I've asked some folks if I can be the "Squished pedestrian #2".... no response yet

Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: Misc.

What is the Transformer, in your personal collection, you’ve blown the most dough on?

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: A complete, mint G1 Fortress Maximus, worth every penny IMO. The only toy I ever had buyer's remorse afterwards was Star Convoy. Not because he was eventually reissued two years later, but I didn’t think the toy was all that great. Nice looking robot mode though

Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: Better Optimus Prime voice: Cullen or Chalk?

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: As much as I've enjoyed Peter Cullen as THE Prime, Garry Chalk has been A Prime for much longer now I think. I've gotten used to hearing him as Optimus Prime

Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: Better Megatron voice: Welker or Kaye?

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: I like David Kaye's take. He's got a more regal, narcissistic, evil-genius sounding voice, Frank Welker's Megs sounds very evil alright, but I like the cold, calculating tone of BW Megs

Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: What is your opinion of the Armada/Energon/Cybertron cartoon series’?

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: I didn’t really caught much of Armada and Energon due to Cartoon Network putting them on 6AM, my VCR's long gone and I didn’t have TiVo at the time so I only seen it on occasion. I'll get the DVDs when it comes out though.

I've been enjoying Cybertron so far, that last new episode when Megs Gunned down Hotshot and Co. was probably one of the best eps I've seen in a while. The show's got great animation but too many reused stock-footage, I don't mind the Transformation sequences, but that scene where the Autobots leave the base got old real fast.

Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: Once and for all, and this is the big question, how should we pronounce your last name?

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: Fig-eh-row-uh

Professor Smooth Professor Smooth: Thank you so much for taking the time for the interview. Don’s Beast Wars comic comes out from IDW in early 2006, pick it up.

Don Figueroa Don Figueroa: Thank you, it's been a pleasure.

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Transformers Podcast: Twincast / Podcast #334 - Pulsecon 2023
Twincast / Podcast #334:
"Pulsecon 2023"
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Posted: Sunday, September 24th, 2023

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