32 Years of Transformers and Still Going Strong

ultra magnus g1.jpg

 

I started watching Transformers when I was around 5 years old in 1985. I don’t particularly remember watching the show at that age but between the ages of 5-15, Transformers – the original G1 cartoon – was playing somewhere… or more like everywhere, all the time.

In constant reruns, in syndication that outlasted whatever popularity the first release of toys sparked.

The Transformers cartoon was always in the background of my life along with Ninja Turtles, Batman, and all the popular things that kids loved. When Beast Wars came along I didn’t really care for it, and just kept watching the G1 reruns. I loved the show. By age 15 I had seen every network screened episode in New Zealand several times.

When the animated film arrived in 1986, I didn’t see it until it was released for rental on VHS. Watching that gorgeously animated film with subperb voice acting, higher frame counts and a sweet soundtrack  was like five birthdays and Christmases all at once.

Like other perennial favourites Batman and the Ninja Turtles, I’ve never known a world without Transformers, they’ve just always kind of “been there”.
Beachcomber G1 TFW 2005

I never owned many Transformers when I was a kid just a handful of random toys. G1 Blaster, Beachcomber, Blot, the Protectobot car police guy I can never remember the name of (who looks way better in his Combiner Wars version). And my all time favourite Transformers toy – Doublecross, an Autobot Monsterbot who transformed from a cool looking robot into an even cooler looking two headed dragon.

Doublecross is still my single favourite toy to this day. Not just my favourite Transformer toy, my favouite toy, period. Followed in second (or maybe equal) place by Generation 1 Blaster. Both toys are fantastic molds, I still have them and they transform perfectly, the quality of them is amazing. Both toys were given to me by my deceased Grandfather. I can’t pick up Doublecross or Blaster without being amazed at how cool and brilliant they are every single time I pick them up. I love the Transformation, the colors, the character that these toys have even without any fiction.

Blaster alt mode boom box.jpg

I can’t pick them up Doublecross or Blaster without thinking of my grandfather, and the love and gratitude I have for him for being such a cool and loving guy who bought me Transformers, who bought me Archie Ninja Turtle comics, who spent time with me and who took me to the bakery sometimes on Sundays, where we would get big delicious oversized cinnamon biscuits with pink icing.

transformers doublecross g1 toy dragon mode-horz

So I loved the G1 show, and watched the endless reruns. But I never had more than a couple of toys, and those full color fold out catalogs, that had me salivating at all the amazing toys I craved, but sadly would never own. Well as far as my little kid self knew anyhow.

Fast forward to age 12 or so, and I became friends with a dude who had some really cool toys. Including a good number of well played with Generation 1  Transformers, and some Generation 2 redecos (recolors of old toys).

For whatever reason, he brought them over to my house, kind of let me borrow them, and kind of left them there and never asked for anything in return. It was really odd, and to this day I can’t figure out why he never wanted them back. Maybe he was bored of them or just saw how madly passionately I loved those toys.

Blaster1.jpg

Among the rabble that got repeatedly left at my house included two G1 Primes – no trailer, just the bot that was reissued many times with the usual rubber wheels that fell off or broke (strangely the rubber tyres on 20+ year old Beachcomber are near perfect, what’s that about?) A mostly complete G1 Ultra Magnus – with trailer, missiles, the white prime convoy and the clip on armor mode head, the nice shiny metallic face – not the rubbish blank UK style one that made him look like a zombie.

Scourge (the blue sweep dude from the movie with the Fu-Manchu mustache)….. and the rest of this bloody munch bunch…

Two autobot triple changers, some constructicons, combaticons, aerialbots, two headmasters (no heads OF COURSE!), Insecticons, G2 Sideswipe, two Predacons, Twintwist, the odd one with the helicopter / car that joins together and flips up. Plus those little tiny car guys like Bumblebee (in a lovely Gold redeco), Pipes and Wheelie.

John Sorensen Transformers pic 1

I had these toys from about age 13 up until my late 20’s. Then I sold most of them to another fan, it wasn’t easy to do. To go from around 5 toys to this  lot was like Transformers mecca to my younger self. To buy those even second hand then would have cost more than a years worth of pocket money ($5 a week back then, which I worked for, it wasn’t free!)

I kept the ones I really liked, but I was moving and they took up space and I probably would have given them away. The dude I contacted through a video game fan message board (HYPER forums, for your Aussie’s out there) insisted on giving me something for them other than postage – and he was super happy when he got them, having never owned any Generation 1 era Transformer toys at all. I never felt comfortable taking money for them, as I had gotten them for free.

But over 15 years had gone by, my friend had move away, and I moved to Australia to live, so I figure he was not coming back for them at this point. For whatever reason he left / gave them to me I am very grateful to him to this day.

I sold all of them except Ultra Magnus, who had disappeared years before, and I have no memory of what happened to him, but man do I wish I still had that toy. Best guess is I traded him to a friend or something. In a way it was nice, as the toys I no longer wanted went to a new home and got to be appreciated by someone who was really into them.

I kept my G1 Blaster – which I still love as a toy design, for the cool character, the transformation, and because my grandfather gave it to me, I will never part with it.

I kept G1 Soundwave, and all the autobot/decepticon cassettes my friend had given me but sold the second Soundwave I had with one of the cassette doubles. Kept G2 diecast Lambor/Sideswipe- he was not going anywhere, and it was painful to sell those two Predacons, but I had no way to get any more of them, and I really wanted Predaking but it was not going to happen. This was before ebay was crazy with Transformers, and now you can find loads of message boards to buy old toys from collectors easily. and then I lived in East Victoria, rural, not near any cities, swap meets, markets etc for old collectibles.

g1 sandstorm toy art

Oh and I kept G1 Sandstorm, the only triple changer I had ever seen or held – well other than the dopey Autobot aircraft carrier one I sold, who barely transforms into anything other than from a beige brick… into a slightly different looking beige brick.

But the rest I sold. Two headmasters with no heads, 3 Insecticons, but two of them were the same. Pipes, some other little cars, two Wheelies with no window piece on top. Gold chromed Bumblebee.

Some G2 coloured Combaticons, Constructicons and Aerialbots, Blot, because he was well.. boring, Twintwist – who still worked just fine, and that car/helicopter gimmick toy that combined two vehicles into one robot.

Oh and that HORRIBLE Diaclone toy that made it into the Transformers toys, Slapdash or something. I could look it up easily but I’m not going to – I hate that stupid toy. It’s the horrible red car thing with gangly black legs and yellow feet in in the bottom right of the image below.

I’d feel sorry for him if he weren’t so…crap.

It’s like he’s heard of this idea of fun, back on Cybertron and tried his best but something went wrong along the way. When me made it to earth all fun went out the window as he stunk up the place. He doesn’t work as a car – assuming it is a car, I honestly don’t know what it is meant to be, but it does have wheels – he doesn’t work as a robot (assuming it is a robot) – he doesn’t work as a toy. He’s just stupid. I feel sorry for any kid that got him as a gift and had to try and pretend it was fun. He’s less fun than an actual Pretender.

Scourge was a nice toy, really well designed and I liked him. But I had no connection to the character and figured hey, let someone else enjoy him. And he was in great play-worthy condition, still transformed perfectly, no broken bits or anything, just some sticker wear and the usual grime that gives well loved toys that pre-played look.

John Sorensen Transformers pic 2

I sold all these toys for the princely sum or around $30 Australian, and wondered if I was being greedy selling them at that price. These were old beat up toys all loose in well worn condition, they all transformed fine and were perfectly playable. I didn’t have any Gestalt connector pieces or accessories for the Aerialbots, Constructicons or Combaticons, if I had been able to make them into a Gestalt of any sort, I would have kept them for sure. But I hated the G2 colors at the time. Those colors have sine grown on my and I find myself craving a piece of juicy delicious Combiner Wars Fruiticus.

When I sold this rabble it was before the live action movies came around, and before ebay prices for Transformers went absolutely bananas with collectors driving prices up by being well… collectors and hoarders in my opinion. I’ve always liked Transformers as toys to play with and have fun, I’m not a collector at all. I just love the toys. I don’t ever buy anything to re-sell and nothing stays in a box. I don’t care about the VALUE of any toy, ever. It only needs to satisfy two criteria for me (1) Does it looks cool (2) Do I like it enough to pay the asking price. All other considerations are irrelevant.

 

YOU’VE GOT THE TOUCH… YOU’VE GOT THE POWER!

Looking back on my early years as a rabid fan of the cartoon (as all my friends were when I was a kid) and then seeing that passion stay with me unsurprisingly until I’m an adult, and meeting other people who are as crazy about Transformers as I am, I wonder what inspires that passion and dedication?

Why does Transformers inspire such passion and devotion (and madness and hostility) from its fans? Why do so many people obsess over collecting the toys, endlessly debate every minor difference of every toy variant that comes along, argue about Megatron’s facial expressions, Overlord’s LIPS for fucks sake  (I’m not joking on that one)- why do people love the comics, the animation or the live action Bayhem movies? I don’t know.

But for better or worse I’m one of them. Well I obsess over the toys, comics, games and animation, the same way I obsess about Batman and Ninja Turtles. The ‘Bayhem’ movies I can do without thanks. I gave them a chance, they started off a little bit entertaining with a lot of flaws, and then proceeded to not so much go downhill as fall into a gaping chasm avalance of:  “WHHHHHYYYYY!!!”

Doublecross art 1.jpg

While I respect people who collect in different ways, and have known friends who do that sort of thing, the MISB collectors, that hunt ebay, flea markets, comic book shops, buy from private collectors and travel to Japan to find sealed Transformers and Diaclone stuff collectors.

You know “collectors” collectors, the guys who would seal the real life Dr Who and Xena in a mylar pouch like that Halloween episode on The Simpsons – while I respect these types of collectors and their endless dedication, and the fantastic photos and sharing that allows other hobbyists to learn about this history of this hobby, toys and media – that sort of thing never made any sense to me. Nobody ever designed a Transformer toy as a commodity to be traded in the future, or locked away from sunlight, never to be played with.

The point of any toy to me is to be played with. So I open new boxes of toys right away, usually throwing the box in the rubbish. I think collecting something, keeping it pristine in the hope of on-selling it one day is kind of selfish. I’m incapable of being that type of “Collector”. It’s appealing to me as collecting diseases. I’m here to ENJOY the hell out of everything, not seal it away. However I like that there are those who whether on purpose or by accident, have kept things in such pristine condition, that they (the toys)are old enough and significant enough to quality as cultural artifacts – well at least to nerds anyhow.

Toy Motor master boxed no touching

It also potentially means someone who wanted to enjoy that toy missed out on it, and if the point is to resell the thing, why not just invest in actual you know, like real world investments? Which have a much better return, in a shorter period of time than buying some toy or comic or trading card, holding on to it for 30+ years and maybe reselling it for more than you paid for it.

I mean no disrespect to anyone, but when someone mistakes me for that type of collector, I feel a little bit insulted. I’m a toy enthusiast, I’m not interested in running a toy or comic or card mausoleum. So if you are that type of collector, please don’t take offense, I have nothing against you, I’m just making a distinction that type of collecting doesn’t appeal to me personally. I look forward to the day when I’m retired and I give away my entire collections of toys and comics. I would NEVER sell them.

Andy-Takes-His-Toys-To-The-Grave-With-Him-In-Toy-Story-19-Comic-By-Berkeley-Mews.jpg

A crypt for toys? No thanks, they go on my bookshelf, on top of my printer and computer desk, anywhere I can put them really. And I’m more likely to give something away than sell it, as I have done every time I’ve moved over the years. Last time I moved I think I gave away several hundred dollars worth of Marvel hardcover trades. Some with the Punisher even, and he is like my favourite dude next to Batman. I guess I have sold the odd thing here and there (like that munch bunch back up earlier in the article) but mostly I just give shit away as its easier, less of a hassle, and IT FEELS GOOD. Especially to give stuff to a kid who may not have much, and maybe pass on some of that fun I had with said toys.

What I do know is that Transformers is a property that seems to inspire rabid devotion from its fans. I don’t understand it all, I’m just saying it’s a thing that is very noticeable. There are many fandoms, and many types of fan. But certain things attract a kind of hardcore audience that just goes beyond other stuff. Your Batman, Beatles, KISS, Transformers type of fan. Your FANATICS. Your Toy Whisperers and eccentrics and kooky weirdos that haunt those Saturday morning flea markets who seemed to have escaped from another century and often are lacking in personal grooming habits.

transformers-comic megatron prime watch movie by MATT MOYLAN.jpg

Transformers fans, like Batman fans tend to be hardcore and in different camps. Some love just Generation 1, some are Masterpiece collectors, some love collecting CHUG toys, (Classics, Henkei, Universe, Generations) some are just live action movie fans, – (I feel sick even typing that), but to each their own.

Some are fans mainly of the Marvel comics, or the IDW comics. And many (fuck it, no ALL OF THEM) love to argue about which is the true and the good, the best, the most accurate of the Transformers in any media. They’ll start politely, but any hardcore fan won’t take much to digress into frothing at the mouth while talking about the precise angle that Megatron’s head should be in relation to his legs and torso and eyes and lips and feet and oh jesus, shut up! Nobody cares! I find the over fetishization of the EXACT “correct” look of any given character in toy, cartoon or comics a bit disturbing.

 

COME WITH ME AND YOU’LL BE… IN A WORLD OF PURE IMAGINATION

 

Transformer toys are more than just simple lumps of molded plastic, pins and screws or the odd bit of die cast metal and ball jointed limb. The toys represent characters and ideas. They have successfully made the perilous journey from the realm of pure imagination into our flesh and blood and bolts world – a real physical thing.

Not all ideas last, but for whatever reason the idea of Transformers is strong and popular, and shows no signs of going away. Despite over 30 years of endless toy lines, propped up like the Ninja Turtles or Power Rangers with regular new TV shows, live action movies ever now and then to bring in new fans, Transformers won’t die, it seemingly just keeps going. New mass media products get the attention of the public consciousness who unknowingly subsidize  niche nerd interests, and new shows and movies means new toy lines – for better or worse. I’M ALL FOR IT AND ALL IN!

I’ll have more to ramble on about in my next posts where I’ll delve into the dark and deviant world of KO’s (Bootleg Toys) and illicit salacious 3rd Party Products. But for now here’s a few cool pics of recent toys I’ve been getting into. Some old, some new, ALL AWESOME!

 

Sky Racer

 

ROLL CREDITS: Thanks to Seibertron.com and TFW.com for their respective images

 

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