If you know me in real life you know I’m a big fan (not a BIIIIG fan, despite what my mum says) of the Transformers franchise. Sure, the live action movies are a shonky pile of turd, but the comics, toys and all sorts of related media are among some of the best things you could possibly spend your well earned pocket moneys on. There’s something nice about lorries that turn into robots and toasters that transform into robots that easily fall off your mancave shelf every other day.
Anyway, it is with great pleasure, that I present one of my pals, Andy Turnbull, on the release date of a number of collected editions of his Unofficial Transformers spin-off comics, a selection of comedic tales that you can enjoy regardless of your exposure to the Transformers franchise, whether you’ve seen the movies, vaguely remember one that turned into a tape player in the 80s, or think that a transformer is merely an invention used to convert different types of voltage. So, here’s a bit of a question and answer session with him for you to read. Enjoy!
FUDGEY – What are these here books about then? Some sort of toy robots from the olden days?
ANDY TURNBULL – The Daily Straxus is my love letter to Marvel’s Transformers. The comic that probably influenced me more than any other. Other comics came and went, but I would always go back to Transformers. There was something about the world that had been built by Bob Budiansky and Simon Furman that sparked ideas and always made me want to read more. The origins of the Daily Straxus can be found in it’s precursor The Daily Longtooth. Over on the TMUK forum back in 2008 I did a daily strip featuring Longtooth to amuse fellow board members and to wind up my friend Ralph who hates Longtooth. I then wanted to do something a bit meatier and I cannot recall who suggested Straxus, I don’t think it was me but I was game. I wanted it to be something daft and irreverrent but if somehow you could see it fit somewhere in that Marvel era continuity, so I opted for him Post Blaster but pre Megatron clone swap body madness when he was in his tank. I think my love of Futurama with the heads in bowls had a part to play there.
F – How would you suggest a first time reader approach these books? Should they go back and read all the old Marvel Comics first?
A – I think the books should be accessible for a first time reader. The status quo is usually established in the first few strips, although as Book 2.2 is the middle section it’s not as new reader friendly, but there is a recap page. I’d certainly say though if you’ve read the Marvel UK tales you will get more out of them, simply because you can see all the callbacks, homages and outright theft on my part. The strips are still online to view in a number of places as well. The end of Book 1 of The Daily Straxus is almost a reset button anyway, what with my idea that you could squint and see it somehow taking place in the Marvel era.
F – Your books often tend to go off on mad unrelated tangents, how much is planned beforehand and how much develops organically?
A – When I start out there is usually an end point in mind and sometimes one or two stops along the way, but the structure isn’t too rigid. It became something of a running joke between myself, Gruffy and Mikey (my then Underbase co-hosts) that Book 2 of the Daily Straxus would be done in one or two weeks every time they asked and it ended up being an entire year when all was said and done. Also, there are a few people who will often chime in with ideas as to things they’d like to see and sometimes I’ll incorporate them, or sometimes I ignore the idea, but it sparks something else in mind.
I’m glad I have an end point when I write though, otherwise it could meander (even more than it often does).
F – How do you balance the long-form story-telling with one-joke-per-strip?
A – Balancing the Long form/with the daily gag is a battle. Sometimes I’m more successful than others. There are a few strips that don’t end on a conventional punchline, but have some quips and puns as part of the strip. That way I don’t feel I am totally abandoning the gags for the sake of advancing the story. I’m also wary sometimes of spending too long with a gag or diversion, so I might spike the joke quickly when I could perhaps have one or two more strips dedicated to the cheap gag. There are times I’ve been happy with that decision and times I look back and wish I’d just indulged myself a little more.
F – Your latest project, The Last Light, deals with the modern IDW More Than Meets The Eye comics, how hard is it to do your own thing while also sticking within someone else’s continuing continuity?
A – The Last Light – shock horror was only meant to be one gag. That was it. Then I started it, and thought I have a few more here..and then I’m doing it 3 days a week.
With The Last Light, I was very conscious of not cheapening anything of the stories already told, or going off and doing anything that would perhaps not fit with what might happen afterwards. Somewhat similar to what Simon Furman had to contend with when he was doing the short UK stories in and around the Marvel US Transformers stories.
I settled on using Magnus as a central POV character, to allow me to move between other characters. Relatively early on I thought it would be wise to home in on some of the lesser lights in MTMTE, which would give me a little more freedom. Boss for example we’ve seen him get shot and that’s about it, Xaaron. Well he’s been seen on the periphery of things but not being necessarily vital. That’s what put me in the direction of writing him like Francis Urquhart from House of Cards. The BBC version, not the inferior (but still enjoyable Netflix version).
It’s why I also had great fun shameless homaging Futurama’s Tales of Interest narrator with Thunderclash in the medbay. So that gives you an idea of when the story could be set for Book 1.
F – What’s your favourite Transformers toy?… character? …story?
A – Favourite Transformer Toy – it will be Masterpiece Ratchet, but right now it’s the 2001 Diaclone Reissue of Ultra Magnus. Tomorrow it may change, I am a fickle creature.
My favourite character is Ratchet (not Thunderclash, but he is a close second). His early Marvel appearances cemented him as a favourite. The Ratchet/Megatron dynamic was really interesting to me, doctor v warrior.
My favourite story – this is the point where you should say Target:2006 or Time Wars or Unicron, but it’s a dead heat between Crisis of Command, and Warrior School/Repeat Performance. The G2 storyline a close third. Crisis really sets the template for the Autobots and Optimus in terms of his character and how the elements of his army respond to him. Plus the 2nd part – Geoff Senior is here! Part 1 he was finding his feet, and then next week – BAM! Warrior School/Repeat Performance – Johnson/Baker knocking the art out of the park and we have what was then the darkest hour of the Autobots and only Ratchet can hope to save the day.
F – How would you write the ‘Transforming’ sound effect?
A – Oh crikey. I’d never try if I could avoid it.
If pushed though, I’d probably go with how I used to say it as a child CHEECHOOCHOOCHEEE and variations of that. Don’t you dare judge me!
F – So besides Transformers comics, what else do you do? Where can people find you?
A – Besides drawing Straxus/Last Light myself along with a couple of like-minded souls have set up A.R.K. Comics have started producing our own work. I’m involved in TF Nation and hope to see as many people as possible in August for the event. Aside from that I somehow find the time to work in a day job for an Evil Empire and have something almost like a social life. You can also find me on twitter at @andrewdturnbull
F – If you were a Transformer, what would you transform into?
A – If I were a Transformer I’d probably end up turning into a Battle Van. More specific details of the van cannot be shared right now, but others already know of said van.
F – What’s your favourite type of biscuit?
A – Whoa! You need some criteria to narrow down. If chocolate is involved then a Milk Chocolate Hob Nob.
No chocolate – then it’s a Fox Crunch Cream – the Rolls Royce of biscuits.
Everyone, if you want to have a looksie at Andy’s stuff head over to A.R.K. Comics store now and get your purchasing nozzles working their hardest.