• INTERVIEW: MLP Comic Editor Bobby Curnow on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #50 and Beyond!

    "We choose what holds us back, and what moves us forward."—Splinter

    Fifty issues of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. That is absolutely incredible to think about. Four years ago I made a vow to collect every single comic cover in what I had initially assumed was going to be a very short lived series.

    Fifty-one months later and boy was I proven wrong!

    To celebrate, IDW My Little Pony Comic Editor Bobby Curnow was kind enough to sit down and discuss what it means to have hit such an incredible milestone. We also take a moment to reflect on some of what's happened to bring the series to this point, and then look towards the future with hints of what's to come later this year!

    Be sure to check it out after the break!

    Fifty issues of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. That is an incredible achievement for any comic series to reach, let alone a licensed comic property. Bobby, how does it feel to have the comic finally reach this milestone?

    It feels good! Monthly comics are such a constant whirlwind of activity, one rarely gets the chance to take stock of how far we've come. #50 is a good opportunity to sit back and say, "Huh! We've been doing this for a little while now!" But that lasts about five seconds, then it's on to thinking about reaching #100. Which is both a little daunting and very exciting.

    This is the second comic series you've worked on that’s hit this milestone—with TMNT quickly approaching its seventy-fifth issue. Very few editors in the industry get to work on books that reach a single milestone issue, let alone two. What are some of the lessons you’ve learned when it comes to running comics to hit those milestones?

    There's various boring organizational and planning tricks that one picks up along the way, but the most helpful things have been finessing the collaboration of a book—between the creators, licensor (Hasbro, in this case) and fan input. We've been blessed with fantastic creators and a great partner in Hasbro. I never have to chase anyone down because they've blown a deadline and gone silent. Hasbro is always eager to help us out in whatever way possible, and makes sure to give us everything we need to succeed. So I guess the biggest advice I could give is: surround yourself with good, reliable people! I'll take this opportunity to thank the fans as well. Obviously we wouldn't be here talking to each other without the fan support.

    Long story short, the biggest lesson I’ve learned is try to get lucky with a great property, creators, and fans! Those are the major factors that contribute to a long-running licensed comic series.

    There wasn’t anything special done to celebrate the series reaching its twenty-fifth issue. Did something happen to cause this to change for the fiftieth? Feedback from the fans? An idea from one of the artists to celebrate the occasion?

    We did have an extra 3-page back-up story by Sara Richard (in addition to Katie Cook's regular back-up story) in #25 as a little shout out to that milestone. For #50, nothing special prompted the 10-page back up story. Just seemed like a good time to add a little extra.

    Looking back on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, what has been some of the most memorable moments you’ve experienced?

    I wish I had more interesting anecdotes. Most of the actual work on the comics, on my end, blends into a blur after a couple years. Then there's the various stories that work better in print than you imagine and those that maybe don't work as well. Pride and frustration with both of those.

    Meeting fans at a convention is a high point and my favorite memories over the past four years. It's great to joke around with both fans and creators at the shows. We've had a couple letters from parents of children who are going through tough times, for a variety of reasons, who have said that the comics have been an important coping tool, and in some instances, reading comprehension aide. That's always extremely satisfying to hear.

    Which story have you worked on that stands out as something you're most proud of?

    The very first story arc still stands out in my mind, because we really didn't know how much the comic was going to take off and be a big thing. Being able to enjoy that story as a reader, and feel like it was working, was a nice feeling of accomplishment. Pulling off the weekly "FIENDship is Magic" event on top of the normal monthly books was a tricky thing that I was proud to accomplish.

    Now, aside from the stories you wrote yourself, which story do you feel you had the most impact on as an editor?

    Nothing specifically comes to mind. "FIENDship is Magic" is the only thing that came from me, in terms of overall concept. But as with everything else, the individual stories came from the creators, and I try and keep as light a touch as possible when it comes to editorial input.

    Aside from the solicitation blurb giving us the most basic of plot details, what can you tell us about this oversized issue of My Little Pony? Is there a special surprise contained within those extra eight pages?

    I think we'll get some nice insight into Discord/Accord. And Andy did a fantastic final page that is very much a "thank you" to everyone who has read the book. MLP #50 also has a 10 page back-up story by Jeremy Whitley and Jay Fosgitt, featuring Celestia and Discord. Just a fun slice-of-life adventure to help balance the 'big events' of the storyline that culminates in #50.

    How did the concept for Chaos Theory—Discord a being of chaos turning into a being of order—come together? Was this a result of another round of the comic writers spit-balling ideas to you and hoping that something sticks, or was it something else like what happened with the following arc?

    It was just an idea Ted Anderson had. We never had an ongoing story arc heavily featuring Discord, so the storyline leading up to #50 seemed like a good place to do it.

    Andy Price has been on the book since issue one. Was the fact that he's the original artist on the comic a contributing factor to having him be the artist on this milestone issue?

    It worked out schedule-wise, and I know Andy loves drawing Discord (well, everyone does!) but also there was a nice bit of symmetry to him starting and finishing this run of fifty issues.

    Writer James Asmus revealed on Twitter that the arc that starts in issue fifty-one will be tying in with Season 7 of the show. First question, if you can tell us, how did that happen?

    I'm very excited about the future of the comics. Last fall I went to the Hasbro studio offices in Los Angeles (A brief humorous aside: this was actually the very last meeting in that office, they were moving to a new location immediately after—boxes everywhere! They were very gracious to make time for me, it was obviously a hectic day). We discussed the upcoming season of the show and ways that the comics could be more closely involved. For this first story arc starting in #51, we'll basically just be touching on some themes that will be present in the season. But as we go on, we'll directly tie into some of the episodes of the season—providing backstory, or expanding on characters or events. At the same time, the stories will work on their own. Our aim is to have something that works as comics without knowledge of the episodes, but if you're watching season 7, you'll maybe get more enjoyment out of getting “the whole picture”.

    Second question, does this mean that this arc is canon to the show and will be referenced in season 7?

    I don't know that there will be any reference to the comics in season 7. We'll be playing off of them more than they are to us. I'm always hesitant to use the term “canon” as there are inevitably going to be minor contradictions between the two mediums. But we have much more knowledge of what's going on in the show, ahead of time, than we have in the past, so it's our aim to make the divisions between the comic world and the show world as seamless as possible, while still preserving the unique style and storytelling possibilities in the two mediums.

    What's the name of arc for Friendship is Magic #51 – #53? I'm currently calling it “Pagemaster,” but I have a feeling there is something more official just waiting to be announced.

    We often don't have titles for the stories in the comics, but James Asmus' unofficial title is “From the Shadows”. I'm really excited for people to read this story. There's going to be some hidden levels at work in regards to the antagonist that will reveal themselves in the future.

    Does the Season Seven connection the comics now have only apply to the Friendship is Magic line, or is that also true for Friends Forever?

    Well, something that's a bit of announcement is that Friends Forever will be ending with issue #38. We'll have a new sister series* debuting immediately after that issue, which will also tie into the show to some degree. Perhaps we can talk more about this new series in a month or two!

    [*Editors Note: The recently announced My Little Pony: Legends of Magic comic book series.]

    How much more involved with the show staff are you now? I know before you were getting the scripts for the upcoming seasons, but are you, just as a shot in the dark here, working directly with the show writers and attending production meetings?

    I'd say it's just more in depth pre-planning between us in the comics and the central show runners. As mentioned we had a good couple-hour brainstorming session in the fall, and I imagine we'll follow up on that once or twice more this year. We're also talking to a couple show writers about being more involved with the comics, but we'll see how that shakes out. They obviously have a very time-consuming first priority to producing the show.

    In Season Six we had the Filly Scout Uniforms from Friendship is Magic #24, Ogres and Oubliettes from Friendship is Magic #11 & #12, and a dialogue reference to Friends Forever #18 all appear in the television show. What are your thoughts on seeing ideas from the comic make their way onto the show?

    It's always a real pleasant surprise to see. We're all huge fans of the show, obviously, so when we see them winking back at us, it’s a big smile. It's not something they are obliged to do, so it's always appreciated.

    Taking what has appeared in Season Six into consideration, what do you think the likelihood is of ideas or characters that originally appeared in the comic showing up in the show?

    I really couldn't say, it's totally up to the show folk!

    What is the status of the IDW MLP Comics that have been produced prior to this arc? Canon to the show? Deemed legends like the Star Wars Expanded Universe? Or is this something that we’re just going to have to see how the arc turns out to get an answer?

    We've always aimed to be as “canon” as possible, and fit into what is established in the show as much as possible. But of course there have been things that don’t line up, be it because of different production schedules or just different creators involved or other factors. Ultimately it's up to the show, which is the primary engine moving MLP forward, to decide how much the comics were, or are going to be, canon.

    2017 is looking to be a big, big year for My Little Pony, and IDW is starting it off with a huge milestone issue. In March we have a “What If…?” comic starring Prince Blueblood in place of Twilight Sparkle. Spring will see the release of Season 7 of the cartoon. Hasbro’s first convention, Hascon, happens in September. And in October—on literally the first day of New York Comic Con—My Little Pony: The Movie hits theaters worldwide. Bobby, I know you can’t say much, but what can you tease us with about some of the stuff coming out from IDW for the rest of the year?

    I think we've covered a lot of it—a new direction for the ongoing that is more tied into the events of season 7, a new sister-series following Friends Forever, and I think it’s likely we’ll be doing something pretty interesting involving the movie at some point as well! I’m really excited to see this stuff get off the ground and in people’s hands. It definitely feels like a new chapter for IDW MLP.

    At this point only Hasbro knows what the future of the franchise is beyond 2017. However, you're basically the keymaster for ponies at IDW. Where do you see the My Little Pony Comics at the end of 2017 and beyond?

    2017 is going to be an interesting transition year as we experiment with new stories and new creators, pushing out of our comfort zone a bit. It’s going to be a challenge, but I'm excited to see what kind of creative synergy we can get out of our increased coordination with the show. The scope of Equestria is really opening this year across all media, and that provides a lot of interesting story potential. But MLP always has a bedrock of engaging, layered, and changing characters at its core. Those characters will continue to be the beating heart of both the show and the comics and I hope we can dive ever deeper into them.

    My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #50 will be available at comic book shops everywhere on February 1st, 2017 .

    My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic #50—GEM OF THE MONTH
    Ted Anderson (w) • Andy Price (a, mc, sc) • Sara Richard (ric) • Heather Breckel (c) • Jeremy Whitley (w) • Jay Fosgitt (a)

    "Chaos Theory" Part 3 (of 3). Discord's new form threatens to take over all of Equestria! When the Elements of Harmony prove ineffective, the final gambit rests in Starlight Glimmer's hoofs!

    FC • 40 pages • $5.99

    Bullet points:
    • The landmark 50th issue of My Little Pony!
    • Part of IDW’s Artist’s Edition Cover Month!