Interviews: Simon Furman (May 2013)

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1. I think I would be remiss if I did not open this interview by congratulating you on the current run of “Regeneration One” by IDW. I’m not sure there are many comic book titles (if any) that “picked up” a story over ten years after the original book’s cancellation! How are you feeling about the book and the reception it’s received?
I'm really enjoying writing Regeneration One. In many ways, it's my dream Transformers job. And the larger part of the reaction to it has been fantastic, incentivising and humbling. But it's also been a strange experience, as a vocal minority of readers have come to RG1 fully expecting it to be a seamless, picture perfect continuation, as if I (and Transformers itself) just hadn't had the intervening 20 years; without anything having moved on (in terms of comic writing in general, the expanding universe that is Transformers, or my own personal approach to storytelling). And furthermore they're expecting to have the exact same reaction to it that they had back then, discounting the fact that they're twenty years older too, and their immersion in Transformers and comic books in general has made them far more aware of what goes on beyond the proscenium arch than 20 years ago. We've striven to make RG1 as faithful to the 'spirit' of that original run as possible, but it simultaneously needs to exist as a modern lection-friendly comic book. Some of the criticisms have seemed to contradict each other. Either my pacing is too slow, or I'm putting in too much (in terms of parallel story strands). And yet when I look back on my run on the original Marvel TF comic, it seems (to me) I was doing exactly the same amount of parallel story advancement then, while building to bigger and bigger events. Exactly what's happening with RG1. I think some people (and I stress 'some') have leapt to judgment on this book. The amount of times I've had criticism about stuff that hasn't even happened in the book yet, just people leaping ahead and assuming what I'm going to do. Sigh. I should be thicker-skinned about this by now. I know the old adage that you can't please all the people all time applies to Transformers fans by a factor of 10, but even so, I wish people would reserve judgement (a little) until they have a chance to see how it all turns out. Though there are peaks and crescendos along the way, each successive arc builds in intensity and scale and pace (a little how I'd envisioned G2 would have gone if we'd had more arcs). But overall I'm having a blast, and I feel RG1 is going to be one of the bodies of work I'm most proud of. But I'm kind of braced too, for the flak.

2. Can you tell us the genesis of “Regeneration One” and how it came to be?
Well, somewhere in my cerebellum, it had always lurked, like unfinished business. But initially the idea was raised between myself, (IDW editor) Andy Schmidt and Andrew Wildman (as a project Andrew and I could work on independently of the core IDW-verse Transformers books), and envisioned as a five or six part limited series. I did a few versions of a treatment for it. But it kind of stalled. I don't think Hasbro were very convinced about the idea of going back to something they thought had been competently wrapped 20 years before. Then the fan petition started up, and started to basin real profile and traction, and so the thing came back on the table again. (IDW Editor-in-Chief) Chris Ryall asked for a list of 5 things that hadn't been properly tied up from the original Marvel run he could take to Hasbro. I have gave him 10 things. And that seemed to blow away any final obstacles. The biggest surprise was that we had 20 (plus) issues to do it in, taking us all the way up to #100 (and the 30th anniversary of Transformers itself). So I pretty much threw away that original pitch and went wild, tossing bigger, better stuff into a new treatment that pulled in anything and everything I felt still needed some 'closure'. And that was RG1.

3. You’ve stated that “Regeneration One” has a definite beginning, middle and end with little possibility of an ongoing series. Is there any specific reason for that?
That was kind of the deal. Bring it to a definitive conclusion. And it suited both myself and Andrew too. An ongoing commitment without the ongoing commitment. Perfect. And we realised that RG1 would be something of a first. The first Transformers story in its entire 30 year history to have an end. A final, unequivocal wrap up, where everything's been addressed, every i dotted and evert T crossed. That felt good. That felt like the way to celebrate Transformers' 30th anniversary in style.

4. How has it been collaborating again with Andrew Wildman, Geoff Senior and Stephen Baskerville? Was there a sense of nostalgia or more of a “new adventure” when you undertook the title?
A bit of both actually. It's been fun on a nostalgia level, especially working with Andrew, Stephen and Geoff again (and maybe some other guys before the end of the run!!), but I didn't want RG1 to be just a somewhat self-gratifying exercise in nostalgia. A thing that would look automatically retro/dated. I wanted it to stand on its own two feet and be somewhat self-supporting. It helps (a lot) if you read the preceding 80 issues (or at least the chunk from #60-80), but I insisted we start with a semi-level playing field and give new readers or lapsed readers a solid shot at getting into the book too. So we took that idea of everything old is new again and really ran with it. I mean, there's a ton of references to this issue or that issue littered throughout, but (hopefully) you don't feel you've missed something essential. If it is essential, we've rehashed it or flashed back to it. And maybe even filled in a few gaps too.

5. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to say you are one of the most influential writers in the history of “Transformers”. Does it amaze you that elements you created such as the “Thirteen” original Transformers and Primus have become part of current “Transformers” canon?
It's amazing and flattering and satisfying to have contributed so much to the entire phenomenon that is Transformers. My proudest moment was entering the Transformers Hall of Fame in 2012. That really was quite an experience. But on the flip side, Transformers has been very giving to me. It's kind of defined my career, given me a profile I may not have had otherwise. With a few gaps, it's been around almost my entire professional career. So whatever I've given/contributed to the whole thing I give happily, knowing that I've got a hell of a lot back in return. And so, yes, when a character I created (the Fallen) ends up in the title of a blockbuster Hollywood movie, it does amaze me. When Primus is cited in other TF continuities I'm filled with a sense of pride. In the end, I'm just one of many who've crafted what Transformers has become over it's 30-year history, but I'm extremely pleased to be in that group.

6. Aside from “Regeneration One”, what else should fans be looking out for from you in 2013?
More Matt Hatter Chronicles (the animated TV show on which I was both lead writer and script supervisor), with season 3 & 4 imminent (at least in terms of my involvement). A stage show I'm working on. Several movie scripts. And a project Geoff (Senior) and I are developing between us. Plus a few things I can't even hint at right now. It's shaping up to be a very busy year!