I have recently had the pleasure to speak with Andy Wildman. He is known for his work upon many Transformers comics during his career. He is also a Chelsea Football fan. I am also reliably informed he dressed his Action Man figures in a Chelsea strip aged ten.
Paul: May I start by asking the earliest comic you recall from your childhood that you especially enjoyed? Or the comic you first bought for yourself?
Andrew: My earliest memory of comics is reading a British pre-school comic called PLAYHOUR. Some great characters in there such as 'Bunny Cuddles, the funny bunny who loves eating jam'. Then it was on to classic UK comic, THE DANDY along with football and war comics. But the discovery of Marvel Comics at the age of about 7 was a game-changer. I still have many of those first Marvels such as AVENGERS #44. Drawn by John Buscema, it blew me away and was what made me want to someday have a career as a Comic Book Artist.
Paul: You're known to most fans as a Transformers artist. Was that your first published work?
Andrew: My first published work was not Transformers. As far as I can remember it was for a He-Man comic published by London Editions, a Manchester based publishing company. I also did a BRAVESTARR comic for them and then moved to Marvel to work on Thundercats, some covers before then starting in Transformers.
Paul: We have to talk about Transformers though. How did you get the first professional Transformers job? And we're you already a fan of the Toys?
Andrew: While working on Thundercats I sometimes used to mail the pages in and sometimes used to take a trip to London and deliver them by hand. It was always great to visit the bustling Marvel UK offices. On one such occasion I dropped the Thundercats pages with Steve White, the Thundercats editor when the guy sitting at the desk next to him looked at my work and asked me if I wanted to draw the book, he was working on called Transformers. To be honest, I didn’t really know what it was. I also didn’t want to draw robots as I was on my own journey towards drawing superheroes for Marvel and Transformers felt like a backward step. But I was young and needed income, so I said yes. That person was Simon Furman and so began a long association with him and those “robots.”
Paul: Out of sheer curiosity because you are pretty well known for the Transformers comics do you have a big collection of the toys? If so, do you use them for reference for your art?
Andrew: I have a movie version Optimus Prime that I was given but other than that, no other toys so a no to the second part of your question. Plenty of other reference out there.
Paul: Which is your favourite transformer to draw?
Andrew: Favourite Transformer to draw has varied over the years. It used to be Galvatron as he had a more human physique, as does Kup. Any of the Transformers with faces are easier to get expression with. But I guess it will always be Optimus Prime. He is so familiar and even though he doesn’t have a face, I found a way to get a lot of emotion in those eyes.
Paul: I used to like Ratchet. The medical Transformer robot. Can you talk at all about your working relationship with Simon Furman and how much story influence you might have had over the years?
Andrew: When I met Simon back in, what, 88? he was 'the boss'. He was writing and editing the Transformers book. My first issue (I think) was a Christmas story. I put a lot into it. Detail and subtle references etc. After I had sent the pages in, I got a phone call from him. And he pulled it apart finishing by saying, 'make some changes and corrections, if you can't then I guess Baskerville can save it'. WTF?! thought I.
Andrew: So, I made the changes. And of course, he was absolutely right. The requested changes made the strip so much better. From then on, our working relationship was great. By the time we were coming towards the end of the Marvel US run we would chat about what could be done with it. Sadly, it was cancelled. We did work together on some other stuff such as 'The War Within' for Dreamwave and others. We got back together for ReGeneration One and that was more of a collaboration. Definitely written by Simon but we did chat a lot about it and float ideas…… And of course, there was our short-lived project THE ENGINE. An online comic book that was groundbreaking at the time. Still stands up well as a concept. I would love to do it as a graphic novel but we have now followed different paths.
Paul: Thank you, that so neatly brings me onto my next question. What is your opinion or experiences of online comics or comics being read on tablets or devices? How do you prefer your art to be appreciated? Is it on paper or on a screen?
Andrew: Personally, I prefer comics and graphic novels printed…. The Engine was done at a time when CoolBeans were developing web comics. One of the things I liked was that you could do interesting things online and have links and sound etc. But eventually I was torn between the question of, 'Is it moving comics or is it just rubbish animation?' The only real advantage of digital comics is that it saves trees and its instant easy distribution with no printing costs. Also, colours are vivid. But as with anything online, its not 'real'. and feels even more disposable than the printed version.
Paul: Can I ask what does the future hold for Andrew Wildman? Are there any creator owned projects on the horizon?
Andrew: I rarely do any commissioned comics work these days. There are a couple of Transformers images coming soon. One for IDW and some for a very special commission. My work these days is as a storyboard artist for TV and film. I do boards for Children’s animates tv shows and for live action TV and film. I have recently finished the boards for a Netflix movie of LUTHER, starring Idris Elba.
Andrew: Comics are a great narrative medium, so I keep my hand in with some creator owned work. A few years ago, I created my own graphic novel, HORIZON. It is very different from any of the work I did in mainstream comics although it does have some robots in it. Think Alice in Wonderland meets The Matrix meets Paperhouse. Currently I am work my way through a seven-part sci-fi comic book series called OXYGEN. I guess you could say that one The Martian meets Moon meets 2001. These books take a long time as they are a labour of love that I have to fit in when I can. All info about these projects and all other Wildman stuff at apwildman.com
Paul: Thank you for your time and your wonderful answers Andrew.