Pre-TransForce 2004 - Paul Cannon Interview, 22nd July 2004
Paul Cannon is the owner and organiser of Transforce, Europe's largest and most successful Transformers Convention which ran from 1999 to 2003 and now returns in 2004. Paul appeared on the BBC Television show I Love ... 1984. We have interview Paul once before (May 2003) and you will find that interview in our Interview With Convention Organisers aera.
TF At The Moon: First of thank you for agreeing to this interview. To beginning we would like to ask if you can explain a little about the history of what Transforce is, in case people do not know.
Paul Cannon: Transforce is Europe's largest Transformers convention (so I'm told). We are in our fifth year now. Waaaaay back in 1999 lots of fans were contemplating a Botcon UK, most people said it would never happen, and they kept saying it. In the end I got bored of waiting and thought I'd have a go myself. How hard could it be (ha ha, I know now)? Transforce '99 took place in two shops in Croydon, A Place in Space and Otaku World (they are still there). Co-incidentally I squeezed in 99 people and we all had a good laugh. I rather enjoyed it, so we did it the following year on a much bigger scale, mostly with the assistance of my new 'partner in crime' Paul Wright. I did most of the organizing Paul paid most of the money. I liked the way that worked. We probably went too big, too soon as we lost a lot of money that year I think it was the two day thing that did that. Nobody was interested in the Sunday. However we both had smug grins on our faces when we saw the results of the days. I tried to book the venue again for 2004, but it's owned by someone else now.
TF At The Moon: Transforce still holds the attendance record for a Transformers Convention in Europe, we have the figures on our Conventions Trend page to show it. After the event in 2002 you (Paul) said that it would probably be the last TF convention you organise, yet two years on here you are again. What made you change your mind? Was it that you really want to do another or was the demand from the fans too much to ignore?
Paul Cannon: 2002 should have been the last one, and in my mind it was. I knew I was getting married the next year and there wouldn't't be time for one, I thought I would lose interest. But how can you lose interest in something that is just such great fun to do. 2004 started with an inbox full everyday of enquiries about when the next show would be. I would put people of by saying it was too early and announcements would be made later. Oops, shouldn't have said that, but I just couldn't help myself. Then I accidentally phoned 30 venues and viewed 12. OK, perhaps it was all coming together in my mind. I nearly didn't ring Canon's (where this years takes place), as they book out to a sports club on Saturdays. Thankfully I did as I was disappointed I couldn't use it in 2002. Being a bank holiday, the hall was available! Really I am carrying on for the fans. There are other shows. Auto Assembly which has grown in my year of absence, and OFTTFCE (what is it again?)!!! I began to feel there was less demand for a Transforce, perhaps I couldn't have been more wrong?
TF At The Moon: Yes Auto Assembly has done very well for itself over the last few years which can only be a good thing for conventions in general here in the UK although OTFCC Europe has once again been cancelled. On to our next question, what are the differences between this and the other Transforce's?
Paul Cannon: This time I'm spending more time on the show, and less on producing exclusives. I think now that Transformers is back on the map in this country (and it wasn't when I started in '99), there is less of a need for exclusives. I can go anywhere now and buy a Transformers T-shirt or comic. Of course I am not saying we won't have a couple of exclusives this year, but they will only be available at the show. And no, I'm keeping my lips sealed.
TF At The Moon: Something extra for people to look forward to then :-) When Transforce first started in 1999, there were only a few TF conventions in the world. Now there are so many it's closing in on the number of Hasbro re-issues. Do you think there is still a place for Transforce, and how do you think this (having more conventions) will affect the event / people's expectations?
Paul Cannon: I think that in general conventions are not very good. You pay lots of money to get in, and do not get very much from the day. I remember a 2000AD convention I went to (I was hunting Kev Hopgood), it was so poor, I only stayed an hour. Many I've been to are like that. They are so regular and repetitive, they become stale. Transforce tries to do something new each year. We've never taken ourselves too seriously (karaoke for goodness sake!), so it's stayed reasonably fresh. Many conventions are used to extract money from the fans, which is something I'm dead against. I'd rather lose a few hundred quid and have a big party, than take a few hundred and everyone hate the day. I will tell you on August 28th if there is still a demand for Transforce, at the moment it is certainly looking like there is a big demand.
TF At The Moon: TF Fans often appear very fickle, especially on conventions. How do you feel / deal with this as an organiser?
Paul Cannon: I like to take on board the views of the fans as much as I can, but you can never please everyone so I don't try to.
TF At The Moon: This is the 5th Transforce, do you have anything special planned to celebrate it?
Paul Cannon: Yes lots of beer. A movie preview (which may I add is about to be shattered by an announcement in a couple of days). In fact the show is structured more like a party this year with lots of music and merriness. There's more, but wait for the day!
TF At The Moon: You were right on that, only today it was confirmed that Dreamworks will be making the film. Transforce has always had close ties to Transmasters, the long running TF Fan club. Is there anything planned to celebrate Transmasters in the community, a bit like The Allspark in the Community at OTFCC 2003 in Chicago?
Paul Cannon: Transmasters again have their own area this year. They will be organising themselves. Check out the Hub forum, the heart of TMUK.
TF At The Moon: The locations of the TF conventions (not specifically Transforce) have often been criticised in the past for lacking space / facilities for the attendees / dealers. This year's location has was reported to have room for up to 800 people, so we assume space should not be an issue?
Paul Cannon: Space is not a problem this year.
Parking is not a problem this year.
The fact that nobody seems to know where the venue is might be a slight problem. Seriously, it is dead easy to find. I'll be adding a downloadable map/instructions to the website for those who get the train down. It's Mitcham Junction, not Carshalton.
TF At The Moon: Will the event be easily accessible for the disabled / those of limited mobility? This group of fans are often overlooked by many conventions, not just Transfomer ones.
Paul Cannon: I always look into this. I have to admit that I have to be reminded every now and again. It's amazing what you take for granted, and you shouldn't. This year's venue is easily accessible by all. There are some events on the second floor balcony I'm less sure about, but it all takes place on ground level with no steps. As far as I'm aware it should be fine for everyone, but I would welcome any suggestions on how I can improve access. Being a school governor, it's an issue I am aware of as it comes up in my general working day also.
TF At The Moon: That's good to hear and hopefully will easy any worries people might have had. Our next question if about the attendance figures, how are the preregistrants going?
Paul Cannon: OK. But I haven't broken even yet. I hope a lot of people are coming on the door. It will take 500 people to clear my Transforce debt, and we aren't anywhere near that.
TF At The Moon: Some come on people, pop over to the Transforce website and get those Pre-Registrations in. Transforce 2002 is still the largest TF Convention outside of the US / Japan. Do you think you can beat this record this year?
Paul Cannon: I'm quietly confident, but I'm not out to break any records.
TF At The Moon: Do you think the UK conventions will ever break the 'Magic Number' of 1000 attendees?
Paul Cannon: No. Not for a few years. There are more geeks in America.
TF At The Moon: What are your thoughts on Hasbro UK not attending conventions? Do you think this influences some attendees not to go? Their attendance and the number of attendees can be easily tracked by the BotCon stats on our site
Paul Cannon: Hasbro UK have never once returned my e-mails or phone calls inviting them to attend. I'd actually rather they were not involved after watching how things have gone in the US.
TF At The Moon: A major part of Transformer conventions is the dealer room. How many dealers have you got coming this year?
Paul Cannon: Lots. There is a huge range this year.
TF At The Moon: UK dealers are rapidly disappearing. Do you think this will affect future conventions?
Paul Cannon: Mmmm. I don't think so. I seem to find new dealers every year, so I'm not convinced they really are a dying breed.
TF At The Moon: What guests are confirmed for this event?
Paul Cannon: Simon Furman (writer), Andrew Wildman (illustrator), Bryan Hitch (illustrator), Lew Stringer (writer/illustrator), Metrodome DVD, Jack Lawrence (illustrator), Jeff Anderson (illustrator), Steve White (writer/editor/illustrator), and Simon Williams (Armada illustrator).
TF At The Moon: How do you go about choosing who to ask to the convention?
Paul Cannon: I get a lot of feedback from fans as to who they'd like to see. It's hard work tracking them down, and they can't always make it. I finally got hold of Dan Reed a few months again. I've always loved his art, but as he's back in the US he couldn't make it.
TF At The Moon: Is there anyone who you've ever regretting asking?
Paul Cannon: Nope.
TF At The Moon: Good answer. Is there going to be any media coverage this year, as there was in 2002?
Paul Cannon: There will be two different television companies there this year. So you are bound to get filmed at some point. Beware of journalists holding a microphone up to your face on the day, it's very likely.
TF At The Moon: What did you think of that Newspaper Article about Transformers and their fans, after they attended Transforce?
Paul Cannon: The Guardian one? It was fantastic! The writer is a fan you know, but he wrote in a tongue-in-cheek style. He, Simon Furman and I sat in the pub for an hour and a half and had a great time. The article was pretty much already written before the show. You can't be into toys and not expect people to take the piss a bit.
TF At The Moon: Yeah it was great to see not only Transformers, but the Transforce Convention in a national newspaper.
Do you have any exclusive merchandise planned?
Paul Cannon: Yes.
TF At The Moon: Ah you didn't slip then, foiled again *shakes fist* What activities do you hope to have? We know Jason (Transatlantic Toys) has been advertising a lot / asking for ideas / feedback. Have you had much of this?
Paul Cannon: I'll be putting a schedule up on the site very soon highlighting much of what is happening. Jason has been putting a lot of ideas out there, some well received, some not so well received. He's great at assessing people's interest in things. He will tell me if I've had a bad idea.
TF At The Moon: Does this mean that Transforce is back as a regular event?
Paul Cannon: I can't promise that, but I've only missed one year since 1999, so it looks likely.
TF At The Moon: Transformers was the Pokemon of it's day - do you remember that sentence? Hehehe
Paul Cannon: I'm getting a T-shirt printed this year.
TF At The Moon: *laughs*. In a sentence, why should people attend?
Paul Cannon: Because they will kick themselves if they don't.
TF At The Moon: Have you had any pre-registrants from overseas yet?
Paul Cannon: A few. Norway, Australia, the US and Sweden.
TF At The Moon: Australia WOW, someone has a long flight.
You have a lot of comic guests coming. We take it you are a big TF comic fan?
Paul Cannon: Transformers fandom in this country stemmed mainly from the excellent UK comic. The TV series was much disrespected in the way it was shown over here by the TV companies. The Marvel comic was by far the best story telling vehicle. It is reassuring to hear that the film will probably follow the comic continuity.
TF At The Moon: It is quiet funny how on the East side of 'the pond' the original comic is seen as the Transformers story, where as on the West side, the cartoon is often seen that way. Anyway, what do you think of Dreamwave's version?
Paul Cannon: It's a bit boring now isn't it? I like the War Within. I think it all blurs into itself. I can never remember which storyline is from which title. Dreamwave have brought a lot of the glamour back into Transformers. Beast Wars has to be their next title, however I wasn't impressed by the story in the summer special. Fingers crossed with that one.
TF At The Moon: What time does the event start and when is the planned closing time?
Paul Cannon: 10-6. 9am preregistrants.
TF At The Moon: How did Jason get involved this year?
Paul Cannon: Oh, he's always been involved. Jason is just being a lot more public about it this year. Perhaps this year he will get the credit he deserves.
TF At The Moon: Anything else to add?
Paul Cannon: I would like to thank the fans for their continued support. It's hard to believe that it was 20 years ago that this all started. I'm glad to be in the thick of it. I hope I'm still doing a good job.
TF At The Moon: We like to think so. Thank you once again for agreeing to this interview. We hope that its helped to clarify a few things for our readers and perhaps swayed a few more people to attend what will no doubt be another Transforce to remember. Come on people, what else do you have planned?
Date: 28th August 2004
Canon's Leisure Centre, Maderia Road, Mitcham, Surrey
Located next to Mitcham Common, just off the A23.
A 10 minute drive from central Croydon or Wimbledon, it is ideally placed for trains, Tramlink and buses.
Canon's leisure centre has on site parking for up to 200 cars.
Places to stay: Hotels
How to get there: Trains, Tube, Road
Bryan Hitch - Bryan is well known for his art on The Authority, and The Ultimates. Bryan is currently working as a designer on the new Dr Who television series for the BBC. Bryan's Transformers work included epics such as The Legacy of Unicron and Space Pirates.
Jeff Anderson - Jeff is highly regarded for his work on the UK comic, including stories such as 'Target 2006', 'Prey', 'Fallen Angel', 'Vicious Circle' and 'Grudge Match' among many more. Jeff has also worked on titles such as Judge Dredd, Mstech Wars, Shadow's Edge, and of course his epic 'The Graphic Bible'. The Transformers work Jeff is most proud of is the page that introduced the original Galvatron in 'Target 2006'.
"We didn't have the refs for him, so I had to draw him from the toy. A few days later we got the refs from the film and he looked completely different. Pros that we were we just said 'it'll do' and left it".
We're glad you did Jeff. This will be Jeff's first appearance at a Transformers convention.
Steve White - Steve is currently the editior for Titan Publishing. In the past he has worked in a considerable number of roles within the comic industry. Steve has written Action Force, Ghostbusters and Knights of Pendragon, Hypersonic (for Dark Horse), among others, as well as edited Death's Head, The Punisher and Action Force. He was colourist for Transformers, Action Force, Dragon's Claws and Sonic the Hedgehog. Steve has also provided covers for 2000AD and cards for Magic the Gathering. Lew Stringer based his character 'Semi-automatic Steve' on Steve White, or so he says.
Simon Williams - Simon is a relative newcomer to Transformers. He was a strip and cover artist on the UK Armada comic, sharing the load with Lee Sullivan and Andrew Wildman. Simon is currently working on Spectacular Spiderman for Panini and artwork for the Transformers Season 3/4 boxed set for Metrodome as well as his own very entertaining Discotronic Funk Commandos.
Simon Furman - Simon Furman is a writer for comics and animation. He has been associated with Transformers for 20 years now, from his position as writer on the original UK generation 1 comic, to generation 2, Beast Wars and Alignment. More recently Simon has written the War Within, Armada and Energon for Dreamwave. Other than Transformers, Simon's work includes Death's Head, Alpha Flight, Turok, Robocop and What If? He has written for animated TV shows such as Beast Wars, Dan Dare, Roswell Conspiracies and X-Men: Evolution and the upcoming Legend of the Dragon. On top of this Simon still finds time to edit the range of Titan Transformers reprints and Wallace & Gromit graphic novels. His recent writing work includes Doll, a manga title for Tokyopop; Transformers: The Ultimate Guide for Dorling Kindersley, a and a Dr. Who audio adventure for Big Finish.
Andrew Wildman - Andrew Wildman first started work in the realm of comics on UK titles such as Ghostbusters, Thundercats and Galaxy Rangers. Eventually he moved on to UK, and eventually and US Transformers where he became the series permanent artist. Andrew worked on a variety of othe Marvel US titles, including Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2099, GI Joe, X-Men Adventures, The Hulk, Venom and Fantastic Four Unplugged. Andrew worked for a while at UK based computer game company Rebellion. Andrew recently drew Transformers Armada for Marvel UK (Panini) and Transformers The War Within for Dreamwave productions. He is also currently working on a new childrens TV animated series, Legend of The Dragon.
Lew Stringer - Lew produced the popular "back up" strips for several of the Marvel UK weeklies. Captain Wally and Snail-Man appeared in Spider-Man, and Robo Capers featured in Transformers. When Action Force joined the Transformers weekly, Combat Colin replaced Robo Capers. Combat Colin is to date still Lew's favourite creation. Currently Lew is producing Suburban Satanists for Herman Hedning comic (Sweden and Norway), "Team Toxic" for TOXIC magazine, "Horror Bags" for LUCKY BAG COMIC, the infamous "Tranny Magnet" (and sometimes others) for VIZ. Also artwork for Ronald McDonald Magazine (Free in McDonalds with kids meals). Lew produced a brand new Combat Colin story for Transforce 2000.
Metrodome - Metrodome produce the UK's Transformers DVDs. So far they have been responsible for the re-release of Transformers: The Movie and Season 1, 2 and forthcoming season 3 boxed sets of the Generation 1 TV series.
Jack Lawrence - Jack Lawrence first appeared in 1995, illustrating several TMUK (Transmasters UK) fanzines, including CG2, Beast Wars and Transmasters UK. After spending a few years as an animator and character designer for a UK based New Media company, Jack made the transition to professional comic creator in May 2003, with the launch of his creator-owned title, Darkham Vale, which is published by the UK's leading comic book company, APComics. Jack writes Darkham Vale, as well as providing the art, colours and letters. Alongside his comic book work, Jack is involved with character, vehicle and prop designs for UK based Treehouse Animations. He is currently working on the second volume of Darkham Vale.