|"Transformers: Escalation" #1|
IDW Publishing has also been offering a unique vision of the Transformers, aimed at fans old and new, in their recent line of Transformers comic books. They've debuted to a strong response from fans, eschewing the ongoing series format for a series of mini-series, each telling an important chapter in this new mythology for the "Robots In Disguise." The success of IDW's comics can also be attributed to writer Simon Furman, whose legendary work on both the US and UK "Transformers" comic books has made him the definitive Transformers writer in the minds of many fans. With the new "Escalation" mini-series on the horizon, and a bevy of upcoming "Transformers Spotlight" one-shots to come, Furman is only going to add to his legacy. CBR News caught up with Furman to learn a little more about those projects, and discussed the appeal of the Transformers.
As a child in the eighties, you had lots of animated options for a battle between good and evil. From "Robotech" to "Voltron" to "Thundercats," epic struggles between good and evil appeared daily, in expertly marketed entertainment experiences, designed in large part to encourage toy sales. Decades later, while there's nostalgic affection for many of those animated properties, "Transformers" still reigns supreme, which doesn't surprise Furman. "'Transformers,' while broadly fitting the same basic pattern, laid out a much more multi-layered playing field, providing depth, reach and back story to otherwise two-dimensional characters and situations," Furman told CBR News. "There was a sweeping, cohesive scope to the saga (similar to 'Star Wars') that inspired imaginations to take what was presented (be it in cartoons, comics or on/in the toy packs themselves) and run with it, fashioning countless stories within stories. All the tools were there. And, I feel, there were values and themes running through Transformers that marked it out from the rest and truly resonated with the viewers. Speaking with the fans who are still fans to this day, you can tell Transformers really meant something to them, affected them (even shaped them). That's rare enough in fiction or filmmaking, but in animation it's largely unheard of."
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"I also looked for a more cinematic, real time/real world approach, playing up the whole 'robots in disguise' aspect of the characters. It struck me that what these beings do best was to blend in unnoticed, to operate sub-radar on an alien world. I went very much for a kind of conspiracy theory led 'they are among us' vibe, whereby the existence of the robots was rumored but rarely if ever confirmed by the population at large. It'd got so the man in the street barely batted an eyelid when the giant robots appeared and that seemed to me a great shame. The 'awe' factor was missing and I desperately wanted to put it back."
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Furman's initial Transformers series at IDW, "Escalation," introduced readers to the new world of the Transformers and did something very unexpected: put the hugely popular Autobot leader Optimus Prime and the villainous Decepticon leader Megatron on the sidelines. It was a move that divided many fans, as both characters have huge fanbases, but Furman said that the new "Escalation" mini-series will put a smile on the faces of those fans. "Having kept them to a bare minimum in 'Infiltration,' Optimus Prime and Megatron are going to take center stage in Escalation. And when they do come together in one-on-one combat, it'll be for the first time for many millennia, so expect major fireworks. Moving from their solo 'spotlight' issues, both Hot Rod and Nightbeat (plus Hardhead) arrive on Earth in 'Escalation,' and there are plenty of hints (and some hard and fast reveals) of other key characters lurking in the background throughout. By issue #6, the stage is set for a much bigger influx of characters, which in turn leads into the catastrophic 'Devastation' arc/series."
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Joining Furman on "Escalation" and "Infiltration" is artist E.J. Su, whose depiction of the robotic warriors has clicked with many fans. Furman said that the artist deserves all the praise for a lot of reasons, and added, "For my money, he's one of the best at crafting clear, panel to panel action/interaction. You never have to stop and wonder where to go next on the page, or what you're looking it. His linework is sharp, clear and unfussy, and his panels (even when a lot is happening) uncluttered. In many ways, he's perfect for the real world feel of Infiltration (and onwards). Everything's there, nothing is cheated or fudged. And his robots are just amazing. Detailed, but also lean and mean, and he's instinctively 'got' that sense I wanted of awe and majesty to them, his angles often from a low perspective, so they tower over us. There's also a sheer enthusiasm that I love. Tell EJ we need to bring this character's vehicle mode up to date, or turn a Cybertronian vehicle into its nearest approximate Earth vehicle, and he'll hit you with an array of options in no time at all. The other thing about EJ is his sheer level of consistency. It struck me most when I saw the 'Infiltration' TPB. Where often, in a collected edition, you see highs and lows of quality, with EJ it's just all highs, page after page of them. Trust me, this is a star in the making."
|"Transformers Spotlight: Hot Rod"||Page 1|
While the manipulative Shockwave has lots of fans, a future "Spotlight" star, Hot Rod, may be one the most controversial Transformer that Furman could tackle. The character made his debut in 1986's "Transformers: The Movie," supplanting Optimus as leader of the Autobots. Hot Rod was seen as a "whiny brat" by many fans, who only hated him more when he was transformed into the powerful Rodimus Prime and spent the third season of "Transformers" getting beat up and humiliated more than one would expect for Optimus' successor. When asked how he'll approach Hot Rod in the one-shot, Furman said, "The joy of these spotlights, in the context of our new G1 universe, is that I don't necessarily have to (and, in fact, am taking pains not to) do the characters as they've been down before. So, while I try and stay true to the essence of Hot Rod, I've kind of taken the bits I liked (brash, daredevil, rather hot-heated) and discarded those I didn't (whiny, etc). Funnily enough, there's still an element of him 'screwing up' in the story, but it's more the making of him (as well as his Achilles Heel!)."
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After "Escalation" and the current batch of "Spotlight" issues wrap up, Furman has a very clear idea of where to take the characters. The British scribe has spent a lot of time with these characters and you shouldn't expect that relationship to end any time soon, as he explained, "To paraphrase my own little epitaph to the various series of Transformers that have come and gone - it never ends. Right now, I have the next three or four story arcs mapped out (in my mind at least). And I do see an eventual 'end' (of sorts) to what we're building here. But it's a big, big universe, and I seriously doubt (as long as people keep buying the comics) we need to be completely finite in our thinking."