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View Full Version : Was Furman ostracized from Marvel?


dubbilex
2012-10-06, 06:38 AM
Comic book writer Kurt Busiek once wrote a lengthy article (http://busiek.com/site/2009/06/breaking_in_without_rules.php) about breaking into comics. In it, there's one point where he talks about how other people have broken in, and he mentions this bit that piqued my interest (bold emphasis mine):

Scott Lobdell worked nights, so he came in at Marvel and DC during the day, got into an office any way he could, and pitched idea after idea until they threw him out. If he sold a story, he'd write it the next morning and get into the offices again to deliver it, and keep pitching 'til he was thrown out. At one point, there was a rule at Marvel that Scott couldn't wander the halls unescorted, and if there wasn't anyone he had business with, he had to leave. He annoyed a lot of people. But he proved his dependability and his tenacity and his skill at writing publishable stuff, and that led to Alpha Flight—until he got fired from it by an editor who wanted to work with a buddy instead. But getting fired from Alpha Flight got him some emergency X-Men dialogue jobs, in part because someone felt he'd been unfairly fired (he'd doubled sales on the book with that "Northstar's gay!" issue, after all, and this was the thanks he got) and in part because they desperately needed someone who could do them overnight and have them be publishable. And that got him the regular gig on an A-list book, and from there he became a star.

What does this have to do with Simon Furman? Well, he was the writer who succeeded Lobdell on Alpha Flight. (And the editor at the time -- I just looked it up -- was Rob Tokar, who also edited Furman's US Transformers run.)

Hmm. Do we finally have an explanation for why Furman's burgeoning Marvel career dried up around this point, explaining why Transformers remains the pinnacle of his career? Was he seen around the offices (rightly or wrongly) as the beneficiary of nepotism, souring others from hiring him? It would explain the odd way his writing career just dwindled post-TF, no?

inflatable dalek
2012-10-06, 10:55 AM
I suspect if Alpah Flight had continued to be as successful as it was under Lobdell it wouldn't have been a problem for Furman. Jobs for mates may create some mean (and possibly unfair, Tokar had an established working relationship with Furman and the latter's fondness for Canada seems to be well known amongst those who worked with him. If Tokar- for whatever reason- was looking for a new writer leaning towards Furman would make sense) office gossip but good results are their own defence.

But the book seems to have been canned fairly quickly (how long a run did Furman actually do? Exact numbers never seem to be mentioned). He got given a chance on a mid-level book (which was considerably higher up the pole than he'd managed at Marvel US up to that point) and blew it.

That coupled with the perception he didn't have enough merit for the job in the first place likely dealt his career a big blow. throw in all the lower level books he worked on (Robocop and of course his Transformers stuff) having all come to low selling ends he likely never recovered from it.

Based on that quote, Lobdell himself seems to have annoyed a lot of people but managed to turn it into a career by delivering the results. Indeed, the person who would otherwise have got the X-Men fixes arguably has just as good a reason to be annoyed with Lobdell getting the work as an apology as he might for being usurped for someone's mate on Alpha Flight.

I've seen people argue that Furman's lack of success outside of Transformers is generally just down to bad luck outside his control, but the fact that Death's Head and Dragon's Claws are the only things he's done outside of Transformers that have anything like a good reputation despite ending due to low sales suggests quality may have paid a part in it.

I'm fairly sure I've read a couple of issues of Alpha Flight (back when I joined fandom everyone had, possibly the same two...) but can't for the life of me remember anything about them now.


What tends to be forgotten is that back when Dreamwave cam a-knocking, Furman was no longer a full time comics writer. The relaunch of the franchise basically gave him that career back (out of everything he's done since, I'd say Death's Head III is the only job he'd have definitely got without having a current Transformers workload to remind editors he was still alive), and I would argue at that stage he needed Transformers more than it needed him.

The wiki has a precies of the Neo Knights series he and Wildman pitched. Though as Dynamo was dropped, the other three redesigned and the name changed to Techno-X it winds up reading like more a totally new thing, suggesting someone at that time actually had enough self awareness to realise how rubbish and unpopular the Neo Knights actually were (something that got forgotten by the time of Circuit Smasher).


Speaking of which: the Furman/Wildman plan was to rework the Neo-Knights into a team called Techno-X, who would serve not only as a team but a base of operation for cameo appearances from every mechanical or cyborg superhero and supervillain in the Marvel universe. The art accompanying the pitch showed Circuit-Breaker and Thunderpunch would be getting redesigned costumes to better fit the early-90s "shoulderpads and guns" aesthetic, with Thunderpunch in particular undergoing a sort of binary-bonding uplink to a cartoonishly oversized semi-sentient cannon named Symbiosis.

Rapture would now be wearing a coat, and the team would have been rounded out with the addition of new character Phase, a humanoid supercomputer. The Transformers would have been explained away as having actually been computer-simulated training programs, meant to teach Techno-X how to fight their "real" evil robot enemies, particularly Ultron; similarly, Dynamo would have been written out of the story as a mere invention of that simulated training program because the writing team could no longer think of anything to do with him.

G.B. Blackrock would have had a deep dark secret which would have been so deep and dark that even now, twenty years after the story was cancelled, we still can't tell you what it is. And he would have fought Tony Stark too.


What I find interesting about that is the entirety of the Marvel Transformers series would have been passed off as a holodeck simulation. Not tactfully ignored (as happened with Death's Head when he went solo) but outright stated to have never happened. Bobby Erwing in the shower. Just a prelude to the main event of the amazing Techno-X. I think that says a lot more about Furman's attitude towards Transformers in the immediate aftermath of the series end than any interview he's ever given.

Cliffjumper
2012-10-06, 11:52 AM
IIRC Alpha Flight V1 was 125 issues with Furman doing from about #111 up. The info will be out there somewhere, I think it's more a case of no-one really caring. He might not have done the last couple - I have half a memory that they knew it was ending and got a proper writer in to do a reunion type thing like Marvel often did at the time. I do recall that his issues featured very little actual genuine Alpha Flight, more focusing on Beta and Gamma Flights, who were less than good. He did do the Northstar solo series too - very nice black covers, shame about the rather weak contents.

What probably really screwed Furman at Marvel was that he just isn't particularly good. He fits Transformers well but little else. DH is a great concept but it's shagged out within 10 issues. His Action Force stuff is basically identical to his TF scripts. People joke about Furmanisms and all that but the truth is that a lot of his comics are the same. He was given a free reign to mold a brave new Transformers universe by IDW but instead he created a mash-up of all the bits he and other people had done before and he was fairly sure everyone liked.

And Furman wouldn't be interested in Transformers if it wasn't for the fact fandom is basically putting food in his mouth.

I will say that a couple of his What Ifs? are good, but then What Ifs? often tend to be because they're usually based on someone else's story so the guy actually scripting the things isn't contributing as much as whoever came up with the original premise.

relak
2012-10-06, 04:14 PM
[QUOTE]What tends to be forgotten is that back when Dreamwave cam a-knocking, Furman was no longer a full time comics writer. The relaunch of the franchise basically gave him that career back (out of everything he's done since, I'd say Death's Head III is the only job he'd have definitely got without having a current Transformers workload to remind editors he was still alive), and I would argue at that stage he needed Transformers more than it needed him.
Well he did get to write terminator for dynamite.

Cliffjumper
2012-10-06, 04:16 PM
Well, obviously he's Alan ****ing Moore then.

Re-read the paragraph you just quoted, this time taking in all the words. It's entirely possible his Terminator work was down to him being back in the saddle with Transformers and in the phone book of several other licence-renters.

inflatable dalek
2012-10-06, 05:47 PM
IIRC Alpha Flight V1 was 125 issues with Furman doing from about #111 up. The info will be out there somewhere, I think it's more a case of no-one really caring.

I hadn't realised it had been such a long running book, I thought it had been a short run thing that mainly flopped because Alpha Flight were so generally unpopular.

DH is a great concept but it's shagged out within 10 issues.

I think he's a great character with poor stories, which Dragon's Claws had great stories but poor (or at least very dull) characters. In a perfect world they'd have been merged together.

Considering the very obvious 2000AD influence and him basically being a one joke character Death's Head might have been better served by being a Tharg character with shorter story page lengths.


Re-read the paragraph you just quoted, this time taking in all the words. It's entirely possible his Terminator work was down to him being back in the saddle with Transformers and in the phone book of several other licence-renters.

Yeah, Terminator was the other thing Don did after his first hissy fit wasn't it? Obviously the guys at Dynamite just don't think any further than "Who does robots" when hiring.

Cliffjumper
2012-10-06, 06:17 PM
I hadn't realised it had been such a long running book, I thought it had been a short run thing that mainly flopped because Alpha Flight were so generally unpopular.

Up until around 1994/95 Marvel would let anything with half-decent sales just run because they were making enough from X-Men and Spider-Man. The 2099 universe ran for three, four years despite everyone hating it, there was a Namor monthly, just about every character in the Universe got their own mini-series, animated cartoons based on Marvel comics had their own separate comics...

By some strange coincidence the company all but collapsed a couple of years later. Odd, that. It does remain one of the most telling things about Furman's career that he managed to get a Marvel mutant title cancelled in the aforementioned climate.


The problem with DH is that he makes a lot of impact early on as a big nasty bastard but of course it's the nature of the medium that the edges gradually come off. By the end of his run he's a hero who complains a bit about being a hero and how really he's still a bastard even if he never does anything particularly bastardy, which is a trap the likes of Wolverine, Rogue, Gambit, the Punisher etc. have all fallen into at one point or another.

I would agree that less is more with the guy - a big guest appearance every now and then is about the level (much like team-up buddy Arno Stark who was always terrific because you only saw him every couple of years, if that) for the concept. The solo series hangs together just about but it's not often I've found the urge to sit down and re-read it. The guest appearances in Transformers/Claws/What If however all make great issues of those comics.

dubbilex
2012-10-06, 06:58 PM
What probably really screwed Furman at Marvel was that he just isn't particularly good. He fits Transformers well but little else. DH is a great concept but it's shagged out within 10 issues. His Action Force stuff is basically identical to his TF scripts.

I'd say it's not that he fit Transformers especially well but that he shot his load with Transformers and didn't have much to offer afterward. If it had been some other sci-fi action-adventure property he cut his teeth on, it would have been that property his name is associated with today, I'd wager.

I think he actually wasn't a particularly good fit for Transformers.

With a humongous cast and the need to constantly introduce new toys, you want someone with a deft hand at characterization so that characters can remain distinct. Then you have Furman, who wrote 95% of the Autobots with the same interchangeable, generically heroic "personality." It's forgivable to some extent because, hey, humongous cast, but only to an extent. When even characters with prominent, co-starring roles never get personalities (e.g. Ultra Magnus), it just highlights where his writing's weak. Considering that James Roberts was able to give six new Decepticon characters stand-out personalities in just one issue, there's no excuse for how, after three issues of REGENERATION ONE, none of the Wreckers have yet to display a single shred of character. (That includes Springer; "leader" is not a personality.)

Also, you want someone good at world-building, since it's all about an alien species, but aside from the self-conscious attempt at making things epic that was all the Primus/Unicron stuff, Furman never showed any knack for that. It's telling that even after the gazillion issues he wrote, we still had pretty much no idea what Transformers did "off-duty." Other than drink at Maccadam's. Mike Costa was right in this respect; when it comes to Cybertronian culture, there was no there there.

So anyway, yeah. It's not that he was well-suited for TF because he wasn't. It's that it was his first major writing assignment, so it's where he offloaded all his good stuff. IMO.

I hadn't realised it had been such a long running book, I thought it had been a short run thing that mainly flopped because Alpha Flight were so generally unpopular.

It's especially amazing when you consider that the concept doesn't even have a premise beyond "They're Canadian." Over 100 issues off of that. Amazing.

inflatable dalek
2012-10-06, 07:13 PM
I don't know, I think Furman was very good at quick sketch characterisations back in the day. Not a lot of depth for most of them but he'd usually manage to get them to show whatever quirks had been thrown into their bios with a few lines. I'd actually say he was better at it than Budiansky, whose characters (with the odd exception like devolved Grimlock or Shockwave) tend to wind up speaking in a more formal less individualistic way.

It probably didn't happen with Alpha Flight though where (well, at least based on the various crossovers with the X-Men or Machine Man I've read) there was only one of them with a personality to share amongst the lot.

Cliffjumper
2012-10-06, 07:35 PM
IIRC Alpha Flight got a bit of hype when it started due to being Byrne's pet project when he was Marvel's hottest guy and then faded quickly after he left. The easiest way of measuring relative popularity of/the company's faith in Marvel properties around the time is really crossover showings - Wolverine was in everything because he was popular, for example. Alpha Flight really didn't - you can tell an unpopular Marvel title of the era because it's rarely very integrated into the universe; no-one wants to do crossovers with them, lend them their characters, borrow characters from them and so on. I think it's the Infinity War where Alpha Flight are included and do quite close to literally nothing.

The Northstar outing always struck me as a rather desperate publicity grab as much for Marvel as for the book. There's a very mixed message in there that they did it with a second-string character in a book very few people read rather than with someone more popular like, I dunno (random example) Iceman or something. It's a very safe decision because if it had gone down badly cancelling the title at that time it wouldn't have done them much harm. In fact I'd speculate it going down fairly well probably led to there being a last year or so for Furman to work on - having made the decision Marvel could hardly pull it immediately.

That it was then basically ignored until Chuck Austen (Chuck Austen!) picked it up best part of ten years later didn't help much either. I actually loved the first couple of issues of Uncanny he was in but then Chucky got bored and recruited other characters and all Jean-Paul did was turn up every now and then to make bitchy gay jokes.

I'd say it's not that he fit Transformers especially well but that he shot his load with Transformers and didn't have much to offer afterward. If it had been some other sci-fi action-adventure property he cut his teeth on, it would have been that property his name is associated with today, I'd wager.

I think that's fair and unfair at the same time. I agree with the gist of shooting his bolt early (and I think the momentum and demands of the book also dovetailed with his skills). However, I think the eschewing of characterisation for action-orientated storylines on the whole was a conscious and valid approach to a book with such a massive cast. There are times when it works and times when it doesn't but overall I think the Marvel material stands up quite well, especially as the format means it's quite easy to pick and choose, and compares nicely to what Budiansky and Harry the Llama were doing in similar circumstances.

The problem with his newer stuff is that it falls between two stools - he wants to write more characterised stuff but he doesn't really have the skill for it, meaning we get cloned versions of previous incarnations (Nightbeat, Shockwave, Ratchet, Grimlock, Bludgeon etc, etc.) but none of the drive of the 1980s material to whisk the imperfections past us. It's a bit of a chemistry thing, and also while it's not particularly fair it's easier to forgive weak spots in a kids' tie-in comic made under commercial pressure than a sci-fi epic the writer's probably been preparing for ten years made with no significant constraints.

EDIT: Wikipedia has Furman as writer for Alpha Flight 110-112 & 114-130, with 130 being the last (I think I was thinking of Excalibur - another mutant comic allowed to run for a couple of years of unpopularity - with 125).

I actually like Lobdell as a nineties comic book writer, he wrote some good stuff at times though he was overstretched at various points.

Going back to the original post I don't think Furman's stock was all that high at Marvel USA in the first place. Transformers, like most licensed books, was seen as a bit of an obligation and probably not considered 'proper' comics work by most of the Bullpen, and IIRC Furman was largely hired because they couldn't think of anyone else to write the thing. His subsequent work seems to be largely Tokar throwing out jobs for his boy - maybe because he liked him, maybe because he was reliable, maybe because he felt bad dragging him across the Atlantic, who knows. But the way the likes of Moore, Morrison, Davis and Hitch were snatched away from Marvel UK fairly sharpish would suggest that Marvel USA were aware of what he was doing and weren't particularly interested.

dubbilex
2012-10-06, 08:32 PM
Wait, about that Techno-X thing, would that even have been possible for Marvel to publish? Doesn't Hasbro own the rights to all those characters (minus Circuit Breaker, who first appeared in SECRET WARS II, an appearance specifically done to secure her as Marvel's property instead of Hasbro's)?

It's a really interesting bit of trivia, that proposal. It makes me wonder if Furman specifically introduced the Neo-Knights with an eye towards their own series. It would explain the jarring nature of their existence when compared to, well, just about everything else in his run.

Red Dave Prime
2012-10-06, 09:32 PM
are techno-x showing up in regeneration one? That would be off the scale awesome. On a scale of one to ten, thats Joss Whedon.

Skyquake87
2012-10-06, 10:18 PM
Furman also did She Hulk too didn't he? Again, another title that started off as a Byrne pet project that quickly foundered after Dark Horse gave him the opportunity to develop his own stuff (Next Men, if anyone's interested). Can't recall if that was edited by Tokar without digging out #24 from upstairs (which I only own as it's the one with Death's Head in).

Interestingly, this issue of She-Hulk is perhaps the first time I noticed a real weakness in Furman's writing. That story and its attempts at timey-wimey really don't work, which means as lively as Furman's handling of She-Hulk , Radioactive Man and Whirlwind are, the central story falls apart because of the nonsensical paradox at the centre of it. Death's Head is included in another attempt to slip the character into the mainstream Marvel Universe (and works as well as Fantastic Four # 338 - although Furman didn't write that), but he doesn't make much of an impact , which is saying something for a book that was already pretty lightweight to begin with.

In Furman's defence, I think he took the work that was offered on the possibility that it might lead to another step up the ladder. Robocop was probably given to him as another licensed title to handle, before he was given work on some 'proper' books (well, in so much as Alpha Flight, She-Hulk and What-If..? are proper). As with all untested talent in any comic book company at the time, you had to earn your stripes working on the less well regarded stuff first. Lobdell making inroads simply by being annoying is an interesting approach (and one that largely worked out, his run on Generation X, if nothing else, still holds up well).

@ Cliffy. Hey! 2099 was pretty good. Well three of the books were (Spider-Man 2099, Doom 2099 and Ghost Rider 2099) - the mistake was falling into the trap in just doing futuristic takes on present day characters before handing the futureverse over to yet more bloody mutants with X-Men 2099 and X-Nation 2099 and unwanted dirge like Hulk 2099. As Marvel headed into bankruptcy, 2099 was closed off in the worst way possible - they effectively killed everyone. Ben Raab's two issues of Spider-Man 2099 are two of the most disgusting things I've ever read. After 43 issues of Peter David injecting some real passion into the series, we get two issues where most of the cast are just dispatched in a bloodbath. I really do not like how crass Marvel are with their properties.

I was going to write a reposte about Death's Head (for obvious reasons), but I do think there's a lot of truth in what you and dalek said. His original book seems to jettison all the interesting world building in 8162 with the Undertaker and various mob based shenanigans the minute the book looks like its in trouble for a (really awful, unbearable) team up with the Doctor, and crossover with the Fantastic Four (good fun - and a shame Marvel US didn't show any interest in Geoff Senior) and Iron Man 2020. If that's not a slight hint of desperation, then I don't know what is. I would have like to have known what was actually planned for the 8162 era, but alas, we shall never know (or rather, I don't want to know lest it result in disappointment like Regeneration One or worst of all Death's Head 3.0). I think the character still has potential, a MAX limited series (a la Terror Inc - another one note character breifly revived to moderate success quickly squandered on a p*ss-poor second limited series) perhaps, and Keiron Gillan did a good job bringing the character back to life in S.W.O.R.D. (and in his original Transformers scale to boot). I don't necessarily think that Furman would be the best person to handle such a thing though - especially if Death's Head 3.0 is anything to go by.

Unrelated to this ramble: What If # 53 (what if Death's Head had lived?) is still Furman's greatest piece of work to me, if only because there's a real sense of how he felt about Paul Neary having his version of the character scrapped - shame not much else of his other comics work has this much fire in it.

Cliffjumper
2012-10-07, 04:20 AM
Well, he did four issues of She-Hulk which as you say by then was about the same level as Alpha Flight, especially as it was Marvel's overly self-conscious 'zany' title at the time and Furman's not spectacular at comedy for the most part.

IIRC the DH spot in F4 was written by someone else and always felt a bit random, like the writer had picked up an issue of the solo title and thrown him in without actually bothering to check much beyond that. It's certainly an instance where DH could have been just about anyone

I do like the What If but then generally the title's good fun whenever the writer realises all the reader wants is big-name characters being butchered in faintly implausible ways.

dubbilex
2012-10-07, 05:43 AM
Re: Furman's approach to characterization - Sorry, Inflatable Dalek, I just don't see these quick character sketches you're talking about. Are you approaching it from the perspective of someone who already knows what's on the tech specs? Maybe that makes a difference. If you know the tech specs, then you can go "Oh, Furman gave so-and-so that line 'cuz he's the hot-tempered one," whereas if you're ignorant of them, it just seems like an arbitrarily assigned line because the characterization is so brief.

I think it's perfectly understandable that Furman would take a more action-oriented approach over characterization, but action-oriented doesn't have to mean even major characters are completely indistinguishable ciphers. Part of the problem is that Furman often puts the spotlight on one or a few specific characters, which just emphasizes how interchangeable they are. I think the first instance I noticed this was in the "Target: 2006" issue narrated by Ironhide, where he makes the decision to get Megatron's help. When a character is the freakin' *narrator* of an issue, you'd think he'd evidence at least some tiny spark of an original personality. But no, Furman doesn't once give him anything other than Generic Autobot words and thoughts. I swear, it's like the only reason it's Ironhide in that role is because Furman randomly picked his name out of a bag.

It probably didn't happen with Alpha Flight though where (well, at least based on the various crossovers with the X-Men or Machine Man I've read) there was only one of them with a personality to share amongst the lot.

For what it's worth, even their creator agrees with you. John Byrne says he left the book because he created the characters as nothing more than a bunch of neat costumes and powers for the X-Men to fight, and the more he wrote them, the more obvious it became to him that that's *all* they were.

(Lobdell didn't make Northstar gay, by the way. He was intended to be from series' start, and Byrne and subsequent writers dropped hints here and there. All Lobdell did was have it explicitly stated.

Long before he took over the book, a previous writer, Bill Mantlo, did a story where the character was mysteriously ill. We would have found out he had AIDS. Then Marvel realized there it might be offensive if their only gay hero was also the only one with AIDS, so they changed course and revealed his sickness was due to him secretly being an elf from Asgard, hence the pointed ears. Yes, in attempt to *not* be offensive, they turned their only gay hero into a literal fairy. You can't make this stuff up...)

Skyquake87
2012-10-07, 09:17 AM
I think in the confines of the original Transformers UK stuff Furman was wrting, that brevity of characterisation is largely unnoticable on the then weekly publishing schedule Transformers was on. The UK comic only ever had 11 pages of orignal material (later dropping to five) to work with. Not that this excuses Furman (espcially as 2000AD - main rival at the time as weird as that sounds- only gave its roster of characters 5 -6 pages each an issue), but the way his stories barrel along this doesn't tend to register.

Its only now, reading this stuff in collected volumes is it more obvious that there are some failings on the characterisation front. I think the main problem is Furman clearly had favourites. Rodimus Prime, Shockwave, Soundwave, Grimlock and the original Galvatron all stood out, everyone else was pretty much interchangeable - and by his own admission, Furman did refer to the tech specs to get a quick 'hold' on a character. It's an approach I think is fair enough and works very well for his Transformers stuff. He also did (I feel) a good job with both Dragon's Claws and Death's Head whom all had well rounded characters in them. Again, the pacing perhaps help cover any cracks, but there's enough there to get ahold on what motivates and drives the characters.

Of course, both titles quickly foundered at ten issues. It's interesting to hear Furman's own thoughts on this. I can't remember if its in the DH or Dragon's Claws collections, but he does make mention that the smaller US format used for these books saw them lost on the UK newsstand (some element of truth - you really had to pick through W H Smith's racks to find these. other newssagents are available), but they were easy enough to find until the sales start dropping off and fewer copies are ordered by retailers (never did find # 8 & 9 of Death's Head at the time - #10 seemed oddly prevalent though). And its certainly interesting to measure their success against the original Knights Of Pendragon. Another Marvel UK US format book largely unsupported by the parent company that did manage to succeed and find an audience running for an impressive 18 issues (er, by M:UK standards) that arguably could have continued were it not for a forced rebranding as part of Marvel's Genesis '92 push into full on US comicbooks. Maybe DH And Dragon's Claws foundered because, ultimately, there weren't doing anything that much different to what you could find in 2000AD?

For myself, I thought both titles were great (I still do) and they did very much work as bridge for me from younger audience stufff like Transformers and the Beano to the more grown up American stuff. Although I couldn't find any US stuff I liked until Marvel UK launched Havoc in 1991, pointing me in the direction of the sort non-superheroy stuff I enjoyed at the time :)

Aside: I don't know if anyone else felt the same, but it took me a long time to warm to US superheroes. Its only in the last decade that I've read more Mainstream Marvel stuff. I just found as a young 'un the idea of costumed crime fighters and their lantern jaws all a bit ...silly. But some poor kid watches his sister get shot in a cemetary and ends up turning into a flaming demonic biker? Or a pacificist scientist whose brain ends dumped in a military cyborg? or a hero hunter whom hunts heroes? Or some poor homeless bum whom gets run over and ends up as the imaginary friend of his social worker? Yes please!

Warcry
2012-10-08, 04:56 AM
Interestingly, this issue of She-Hulk is perhaps the first time I noticed a real weakness in Furman's writing. That story and its attempts at timey-wimey really don't work, which means as lively as Furman's handling of She-Hulk , Radioactive Man and Whirlwind are, the central story falls apart because of the nonsensical paradox at the centre of it. Death's Head is included in another attempt to slip the character into the mainstream Marvel Universe (and works as well as Fantastic Four # 338 - although Furman didn't write that), but he doesn't make much of an impact , which is saying something for a book that was already pretty lightweight to begin with.
I've never read any of Furman's non-TF stuff, but after reading this paragraph I felt compelled to pop in and say how uncannily similar this sounds to Furman's first Beast Wars miniseries. The poor grasp of time travel, the shoehorning of a popular character who has no real impact on the story...

Like any inexperienced writer, Furman definitely had a limited bag of tricks when he was writing back in the 80s (though I think he made the most of what he had). His biggest problem is that he hasn't picked up many new tricks since then so he can't write much that seems fresh to fans of his original stories. The lack of editorial oversight at IDW doesn't help, and neither does his seeming rejection of G2 -- probably the only good story he's ever written that didn't comfortably fit the Furman mold.

inflatable dalek
2012-10-08, 08:14 PM
Wait, about that Techno-X thing, would that even have been possible for Marvel to publish? Doesn't Hasbro own the rights to all those characters (minus Circuit Breaker, who first appeared in SECRET WARS II, an appearance specifically done to secure her as Marvel's property instead of Hasbro's)?

A good point actually. My first thought was that, considering Furman had made sure to get Death's Head under Marvel copyright a few years earlier, some sort of sneaky dancing round the edges had been done to ensure they weren't owned by Hasbro.

But... G.B. Blackrock is in the pitch and he definitely under Hasbro ownership. So the exact mechanics of it have left me somewhat puzzled, Marvel did still have good relations with Hasbro at the time (keeping up the GI Joe book from them through the end of G2) so if it had gone forward Marvel/Furman may have assumed the toy company would be OK with doing a simple deal on the ownership.


It's a really interesting bit of trivia, that proposal. It makes me wonder if Furman specifically introduced the Neo-Knights with an eye towards their own series. It would explain the jarring nature of their existence when compared to, well, just about everything else in his run.

I'd say almost certainly, it wasn't the first time he'd done it after all, when he saw the Death's Head design he went out of his way to work out how he could easily become a solo Marvel hero before he'd even seen any reader feedback (and it's telling that even before he'd seen the design half that issue was given over to a non-Transformers character having his own little mini-adventure and getting to take part in vital exposition. I think he had itchy feet even then).

The Doctor Who: A Cold Day in Hell trade is worth a look as the interviews making of exras have some very interesting stuff about Marvel UK's apporach at the time, Richard Starkings was very much trying to create a shared Marvel UK Universe that included everything they published, licensed tie ins and all.

The book also contains a couple of incredibly mediocre stories by Furman that show he didn't really have the knack of Who (the companion he created lasted one story before being sent back to their own planet. Literally).




I was going to write a reposte about Death's Head (for obvious reasons), but I do think there's a lot of truth in what you and dalek said. His original book seems to jettison all the interesting world building in 8162 with the Undertaker and various mob based shenanigans the minute the book looks like its in trouble for a (really awful, unbearable) team up with the Doctor, and crossover with the Fantastic Four (good fun - and a shame Marvel US didn't show any interest in Geoff Senior) and Iron Man 2020.

I think part of the problem Death's Head had in his own book is most of his villains were rubbish. A good anti-hero works when they're up against someone who is even more of a bastard than they are (Wolverine has the even more feral and nuts Sabbretooth, Judge Dredd gets the "All life izzzzz a crime" Judge Death and so on). Closest DH came to someone like that during his original run is Big Shot... who looks more than a bit silly and isn't that exciting an antagonist.

Re: Furman's approach to characterization - Sorry, Inflatable Dalek, I just don't see these quick character sketches you're talking about. Are you approaching it from the perspective of someone who already knows what's on the tech specs? Maybe that makes a difference. If you know the tech specs, then you can go "Oh, Furman gave so-and-so that line 'cuz he's the hot-tempered one," whereas if you're ignorant of them, it just seems like an arbitrarily assigned line because the characterization is so brief.

I have the tech spech perspective now, but certainly didn't back in ye olde days and even then always thought the "proper" coloured stories did much better character work that the "Lots of dots" colours one.

Something like the Hunting Party probably shows Furman at his best when it came to characters, Needlenose, Spinster and Snarler and all quickly laid out in five pages and feel like distinctive characters very quickly. Or how the Sparlklebots manage to all get a little bit of individuality despite débuting in a plot packed issue full of big hitters.

He did have his misses as well (Triggerbots, ouch) and not everyone got focus, but considering we're talking about a series that introduced 30ish characters in its first issue and only went up from there I don't think it would have been possible for anyone to balance the characters better than he managed.

I think the first instance I noticed this was in the "Target: 2006" issue narrated by Ironhide, where he makes the decision to get Megatron's help. When a character is the freakin' *narrator* of an issue, you'd think he'd evidence at least some tiny spark of an original personality. But no, Furman doesn't once give him anything other than Generic Autobot words and thoughts. I swear, it's like the only reason it's Ironhide in that role is because Furman randomly picked his name out of a bag.

I don't know, with that example it's Ironhide as the no-nonsense pragmatist who does what he thinks needs to be done. Of the Autobots featured in that story he'd be the only one I could easily see digging Megatron. There's also a lack of flourish or embellishment to his narration that fits his character as well (compared to Ultra Magnus' narration a few issues later as he explains his fight with Galvatron where even in a totally serious situation there's a bit of dry sardonic wit which isn't there for Ironhide).

The current "G1" version of Ironhide, the out and out angry hothead wouldn't behave like that, but that was never what the Marvel version was like (being more an exaggeration of how he was in the cartoon). Same as Furman's current take on Ultra Magnus wouldn't be cracking self aware jokes at Galvatron as they fought (as I suspect we'll see at some point in Reg).

Even in Perchance to Dream where he's insubordinate and ends up annoyed with the humans his take down of the terrorists is still well done in a cool efficient way.




I've never read any of Furman's non-TF stuff, but after reading this paragraph I felt compelled to pop in and say how uncannily similar this sounds to Furman's first Beast Wars miniseries. The poor grasp of time travel, the shoehorning of a popular character who has no real impact on the story....

That's harsh on the She Hulk story which is very very very very very very silly but ultimately harmless.

inflatable dalek
2012-10-09, 07:29 AM
Bugger, I only went and forgot Ironhide was written his his hicksville jackass persona in Dinobot Hunt ("Ah hate yah because yah are more worried about rescuing ah friends than painting off yah Decepticon badge"). There goes a large part of the point I thought I was making...

Skyquake87
2012-10-09, 07:39 AM
I'd also counter that if a character is 'thinking' (which those narration boxes effectively are - thoughts) is he really going to be 'thinking' in his hayseed voice? I wouldn't have thought so.

I think your point still stands though Dalek, the country bumpkin deep south voice wasn't used for Ironhide (in the main) in the Marvel comics. I think vocal inflections like that are a bit unnecessary in comics (cf. Rogue and Gambit in X-Men). It might be how they sound, but it can be equally as lazy short hand given a character a comedy local dialect speech pattern as it can having them with interchangeable personalities.

inflatable dalek
2012-10-09, 08:02 AM
Thinking about it, first person narration is probably the big difference in style between Budiansky and Furman, as far as I recall Uncle Bob hardly ever (if at all) used it, whilst it was (and still is) a staple of Furman's.

Of course, in the UK stories it had the advantage of allowing him to structure stories as flashbacks so he could quickly skip through them in the page count, but he did keep it up in the US and beyond as well (not to always great success mind, Long bloody Tooth).

I'd actually say Target: 2006 is an all round good showing for characterisation, old hands like Hound, Ironhide, Prowl (is a sensible advisory role to Prime rather than the "I am a cock and I look like a cock and I am a cock" persona he's morphed into) and Starscream all get some nice moments amongst the new arrivals- some for the last time pre-Earthforce.

And, allowing that Galvatron is kept deliberately enigmatic for most of it, only Blurr does badly out of the new boys, being basically the Hosehead of Hot Rod's group. Everyone else manages either a solo scene or at least some lines that go beyond purfuctory exposition (Hot Rod's amazement at going back such a long way as 1986 and Kup's reaction to that actually sets up their relationship and attitudes with a wonderful economy of words).

A thought that just popped into my head...: The Cyclonus scene with Hound where he thinks wistfully about being recreated with a far away look in his eyes is likely the root of how Roberts is writing him in More Than Meets the Eye. Which has a degree of irony to it as Cyclonus would pretty much never be written as that introspective again in Marvel (though of course, the expression that adds so much there might be entirely down to Will Simpson. That couple of pages are probably my favourite art of his).

I think one of the advantages Furman had at the time is that, either by accident or design, the characters who did have a crossover in personality types rarely interacted, making it less obvious when reuses were going on. Well, at least to kids at the time anyway.

I mean, how many of us at the time spotted that Nightbeat, Siren and Hosehead were basically just a rejigging of the Kup, Hot Rod and- yes- Blurr dynamic from Target: 2006? At least before Furman himself made a joke of it in On the Edge of Extinction?

Cyberstrike nTo
2012-11-05, 07:33 PM
@ Cliffy. Hey! 2099 was pretty good. Well three of the books were (Spider-Man 2099, Doom 2099 and Ghost Rider 2099) - the mistake was falling into the trap in just doing futuristic takes on present day characters before handing the futureverse over to yet more bloody mutants with X-Men 2099 and X-Nation 2099 and unwanted dirge like Hulk 2099. As Marvel headed into bankruptcy, 2099 was closed off in the worst way possible - they effectively killed everyone. Ben Raab's two issues of Spider-Man 2099 are two of the most disgusting things I've ever read. After 43 issues of Peter David injecting some real passion into the series, we get two issues where most of the cast are just dispatched in a bloodbath. I really do not like how crass Marvel are with their properties.

I agree with you on the issues of Spider-Man 2099 written by Peter David and Doom 2099 #1-25 they were both awesome reads.

Death's Head
2012-11-06, 07:51 PM
(though of course, the expression that adds so much there might be entirely down to Will Simpson. That couple of pages are probably my favourite art of his)

Simpson never seems to get the credit he deserves. Him and Jeff Anderson. Both top drawer.

inflatable dalek
2012-11-06, 07:55 PM
Simpson never seems to get the credit he deserves. Him and Jeff Anderson. Both top drawer.

Simpson generally isn't a favourite of mine, though I do think Furman was too harsh on him in the Classics book. Anderson was basically the backbone of the book really wasn't he? Whilst I generally find him workmanlike he did have moments of genius (he did a very good mad Galvatron face).

Death's Head
2012-11-07, 11:50 PM
Yeah, he had very neat, clear work and there was never any confusion as to what was going on, something I find plagues even the best of modern TF comics. That splash-page of the Optimus FC's mangled corpse at the end of Prey always sticks in my mind as his finest hour. Overshadowed by being followed up by Senior at his best, I suppose.

Death's Head
2012-11-07, 11:56 PM
To add to that, I often found the Earthforce mainstays Staz and Pete Knifton to be quite reminiscent of Anderson's clean lines. I'm probably one of the few people who enjoys the black and white art (or indeed, Earthforce at all!).

inflatable dalek
2012-11-08, 06:34 PM
I''ve lots of time for Earthforce, very much my era of the comic. Love Staz's stuff as well. Even if he did tend to draw PM Prime's head in scale with the toy making it look too small for his body.

Denyer
2012-11-08, 08:48 PM
Mixed writing-wise (i.e. it was good when Furman could be arsed) and some good contributions by Senior and others. Most of it was drawn for B&W so it's got lovely shadow work.

Cliffjumper
2012-11-08, 09:04 PM
I like Earthforce as episodes but reading them in a big block is pretty irritating due to the fluctuating continuity and the general feeling of missed opportunity - "Snow Fun", "Mystery" etc. were hilarious when I was 9 and only read them once. Now, not so much.