Category Archives: Optimus Prime

Metroplex Heeds the Call of the Last Prime – EPIC MOMENTS IN TRANSFORMERS HISTORY PART #3

transformers-fall-of-cybertron-optimus-prime-metroplex-epic-1000

There are very few times I have gotten emotional when playing a video game.

Beating Ganondorf in Ocarina of Time or Aeris dying unexpectedly in Final Fantasy VII.

It’s mostly those moments and all the others are being pissed off at some respawning enemies and unfair difficulty spikes that turn a game from enjoyable and challenging to pure frustration (aka Gamer Rage).

No, I’m talking about more positive emotional experiences. The ones you get from being engrossed in a good book or watching a film… or even real life interactions, remember those?

“Metroplex heeds the call of the last Prime” is one of my personal top EPIC moments in Transformers History.

It is a moment when I knew the creators of the Fall of Cybertron and War for Cybertron video games had gotten things just right. The people at High Moon Studios were so immersed in Transformers lore.

High Moon Studios went beyond just creating an enjoyable game, to making something truly special that transcends its medium. Leaving you with fond memories of two epic action adventure games that show us something we had never seen before at the time – something new and exciting over two long games that take you through the trenches and the towers of Cybertron.

High Moon Studios took the Tranformers back to their homeworld of Cybertron and put us smack in the middle of their civil war. Every explosion, every command, every desperate scramble for territory and push for cover – you are there –  living it all first hand. War for Cybertron and Fall of Cybertron put you through grueling campaigns where you play as both the Autobots and the Decepticons.

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The level preceding Metroplex’s appearance sees Optimus Prime leave the immediate battlefield to activate a big mounted cannon to shoot tanks and other fun stuff. The vertical climb is somewhat suspicious after the more even terrain that preceded it. When the walls start moving and transforming by themselves, making paths for Optimus where previously there was a gaping chasm or solid wall, or a doorway where there was no doorway – then you know something is up.

The anticipation and surprise on playing this level of Fall of Cybertron for the first time was indescribably delicious. Small hints about what MIGHT be around the corner do not prepare you for the EPIC moment of when Prime first hears Metroplex’s voice talking to him inside a dark chamber as a disembodied voice.

I have to say that I’ve always loved Metroplex as a character and as a toy. So my experience was deeply emotional in a way that might not have happened for people without that deep love of Tranformers lore, and connection to this particular character.

Following the confusing twisting labyrinthine corridors Optimus Prime emerges into the daylight of the battlefield once again – in the palm of Metroplex’s hand – who lowers him safely to the ground in a moment that is epic, grandiose and spectacular in every sense of the word – it’s the kind of scale of amazement we first saw in games like the original God of War where they routinely did impossible things with the in game camera – that really made you sit back and realize you were experiencing something special.

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On the following level of the game you get to  command (but not directly control) Metroplex on the battlefield. Aiming the reticule on the battlefield results in a bombardment of missiles launched at long range targets. A tactical air strike from a slow walking Titan is something to behold. One epic exciting moment follows another for one of the best levels in any Transformers video game ever made.

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Low on energy after an eternity of deactivation, Metroplex sacrifices himself to ensure the safe passage of the Last Prime. It makes a triumphant experience bitter sweet, to see this unbeatable Titan humbled by a lack of energy, and drives home how selfless a character Metroplex is.

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It’s an amazing level in a thoroughly enjoyable game. Fall of Cybertron may just ape other successful action game formulas like Gears of War, but it’s the immersion in the world, the wonderful voice acting, the script and writing that really elevate both War for Cybertron and Fall of Cyberton, and the connection to the characters that make these games more than the sum of any of its parts, making the games More Than Meets The Eye.

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The Love of Chunky Plastic: A Brief Reminiscence on Transformers Armada

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I was watching Transformers: Armada the other day (*cringe*).

A show I have seen very little of.

It was a rainy sleepy day and I managed to watch ten episodes in a row.

Quite the achievement I’d say.

It’s not a good show, but then it’s not a bad show. Transformers Armada is a fine show for kids. The thing that really struck me about it is how old school the character designs are, and that to me is the thing that most appeals about the show and the toys.

The whole Unicron Trilogy era of shows and toys are not terribly popular these days and while the shows are a bit rubbish,  I think most of the toys are fantastic.

They are big and chunky and made of super strong plastic like the later phase Generation One and Generation Two toys of my youth. But they have some improved articulation, being post Beast era toys.

However, compared to the ball jointed Beast Wars era toys from ‘Wars to ‘Neo the Armada toys are kind of bricks by comparison. Bricks with articulation, but still bricks none the less. The characters have some cool redesigns and new looks, like the ever *fabulous* and stylish Starscream here below. But the toys are like taking a step back a decade or so, and then bolting on a couple of modern features post surgery as an afterthought.

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And I have to admit that is what I love about the Armada toys. Big strong clackety-clack ratchets that make you go a little bit deaf when you hear them. Satisfyingly chunky proportions and large alt modes for main cast / character toys. Toys that really felt like toys, that you could hurl at a wall in a hissy fit or bludgeon to death your enemies with – and they would still work just fine afterward, battle damage and all.

For me Tidalwave, Megatron and Starscream are the stand out toys in the line in their design, transformation and overall aesthetics. Overload, Demolishor and Jetfire are also great fun. And just look at the color clash and that practically nothing in the entire line has any kind of scale to it. It’s just mental sizes and proportions, but I love it’s technicolor madness and flipping the bird to any sort of coherency in the line.

They are such fun toys. But they are stark raving MAD, just look at them! It’s like Generation Two never ended.

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I like Big Bots and I Can Not Lie

Some of the modern Transformers toys are very pretty and poseable in comparison. But build wise they feel like delicate European Ballerinas, always just one chicken leg away from breaking something. They are not made of “Sterner Stuff”.

Another thing I love about Armada, it continues the very Japanese Super-Robot-Anime tradition of super modes for old Convoy Pants Prime himself.

The super mode for Armada Optimus Prime looks absolutely horrible to me, both in the show and the toy. But it’s still basically a cool toy in design and the play pattern. The toy is more centred around the base mode, and the super mode.

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With the “action figure” aspect basically dropped as his legs are not just giant bricks, but bricks that have been built into an impenetrable wall of immobility (for the sake of his trailer gimmick). The little cute Prime on his own (the truck cab) can still move about, and is still somewhat an action figure – but his robot super mode is just a joke. Fine for kids to play with though. And a very strong robust toy that stands up to being played with. But pretty damn ugly to my eyes.

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God do I hate the head on that thing. The grill pipe face bits nightmare. Sweet Primus! The super mode’s ugliness is somewhat hypnotizing, but it’s alt mode (which is also fugly) kind of entices you in with the option to have Jetfire on the trailer. It brings to Mind Star Convoy and his fun various combinations with others toys in the line. And Armada Prime’s Super-Pants Super-Modes are undeniably goofy with odd proportions, but it’s still a fun toy despite these issues.

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STAR CONVOY – Much better than Armada Prime by x 1 Million at least

I love that each of the Optimus Primes from the Armada / Energon / Cybertron  toy lines and shows have a fun super mode, as well as the Robots in Disguise(2001) Prime, making them the most Super-Robot-Anime flavored Transformers shows that have ever existed in Transformers media. Yes yes Dear Nerdbot 2.0’s… I’m not forgetting the JG1 Trilogy of shows. Ginrai and Star Saber got there first, as did Star Convoy – but they were not the Proud American Optimus toys most of are familiar with, they are more like exotic foreign delicacies you might see once in your lifetime, rather than something you could accidentally find down at the local chain store on a lazy weekend out and about and buy on a whim for the price of a cheap meal, and ramble on to your mates about it afterward.

No doubt I’ll be watching more Transformers Armada this week. (Sweet Zombie Jesus WHY?)

I don’t love it. But I don’t hate it.

It’s part of my mad quest to watch every Transformers TV show ever made in a row. Well it’s a marathon but a slow one over a year or so. I’m thinking of doing  diary style posts now and then of the various shows I’m watching. Now here’s a simply horrid Transformers Armada cartoon picture that’s been bizarrely stretched from 4:3 to widescreen on the Youtubes kids love these days to leave you with Phat Bot Nightmare Syndrome. UGH!

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Get on a low Energon diet already Fatimus Prime.

Wait, that was Energon Prime’s nick name. What can we call this mucle bound beefcake one then? Roid Rage Prime? Why not, that’ll do.

 

CREDITS

*Scavenger and Armada Starscream art by DareFi 

http://darefi.deviantart.com/gallery

*Star Convoy Triple combination image from Brr Icy Blog

http://brr-icy.blogspot.com.au/2014/01/return-of-convoy-triple-combination.html

*Armada mainline toys group shot from TFW2005

http://news.tfw2005.com/2014/04/27/30-years-of-transformers-in-30-days-2003-179744

*Animation screen capture of “Transformers Armada” from youtube

*Additional Armada toy photos courtesy of Seibertron Photo Galleries

https://www.seibertron.com/transformers-toys/galleries/

The CHEATERS Guide to Transformers Generation One Continuities PART#1 1984-1990


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THE TRANSFORMERS GENERATION ONE MATRIX

Transformers Generation One or G1 means different things to different fans in the various Transformers communities.

The majority of G1 fans think of the 1980’s Sunbow/Marvel/Hasbro cartoon when they hear the term, or the toys that cartoon was designed to sell. The American cartoon was the core fiction or tree trunk from which other branches would grow. For some fans who never saw the show, Generation 1 may mean the Marvel UK Transformers comic book, or the Marvel US Transformers comic book.

It surprised me to learn while doing research for this article that some fans had rarely if ever seen the 80’s cartoon, and had mainly grown up with their exposure to Transformers being one of the comic books, or whatever slender crop of toys appeared in their local region.

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Not leaving out our friends in Japan, some fans associate their Generation One with the three exclusive Japanese shows that followed on when the US cartoon ended – Headmasters, Masterforce and Victory, along with the TV-manga short comics that preceded them and tied in with those shows, and the one episode Original Video Animation – Transformers: ZONE.

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The one universal then in Generation One that all fans can agree on surely must be the toys? Seeing as how every major region in the world received different waves of toys, minor and major variants, odd confusing releases like Milton Bradley branded Transformers boxes in, hastily repacked actual Diaclone toys rebranded as Transformers and weird Mexican licensed variants and European oddities have been discovered  well over a decade after official G1 Transformer toys lines had ended, so what is and is not a “G1 toy” is a topic with room for debate.

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So even the topic of what qualifies as a G1 toy can still be surprisingly complex. With some fans arguing for releases falling squarely on the side of the very earliest releases, and others who have more expanded time frames that includes foreign and domestic releases and obscure licensed variants. You can find more on this interesting sub topic in Diaclone expert MAZ’s article Europe’s Strangest Attractions It’s a terrific read.

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The Grandest Generation One toy of all

The term Generation One then is a loaded term, that has gone on to mean far more than the toys it was first associated with.

Generation One can refer to any individual toy, toyline, cartoons, fiction or retro-active fiction set in the “G1” universe or related to it in any way.

For the purposes of this article, which explores the Generation One continuities of the 80s, I will specifically be talking about the toys, comics, manga and cartoons released from 1984-1990, with other sub topics relating to G1 being covered in PART#2 of this article. However PART#1 of this article will overlap somewhat with PART#2 covering a little of 1990-1995.

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A WORLD TRANSFORMED

The term G1 / Generation One didn’t exist in the eighties, and was a fan term later used to refer to and differentiate the older “original” toys when Generation Two was released, the term was later adopted into semi-official status by Hasbro.

The first two forms of actual Transformers Generation One fiction are the Marvel penned outlines/concepts by Jim Shooter and Denny ‘O Neil (made at the request of Hasbro. Along with that outline were the character bios written by Marvel man Bob Budiansky. Those profiles would later be expanded into full page bios during the Marvel US run of Transformers comics. The first issue of the comic book appeared several months before the cartoon, making if the first official Transformers fiction available to the public. The comic book was made as a pre-promotion for the toyline and the cartoon.

When the Marvel/Sunbow/Hasbro cartoon aired, it shared the basic ideas and outline the comic book did from Jim Shooter’s treatment – that of a warring alien robot race stranded on earth. Along with the comic, the cartoon, the Shooter outline, the Budiansky profiles/bios were Hasbro and Marvel internal documents that would be constantly added to eventually turning into a “show bible” with character profiles, animation model sheets for reference and other miscellaneous bits of information.

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Eventually Hasbro would go on to take more direct control over the brands fiction, while each subsequent Transformers cartoon would have it’s own reference material, Hasbro now has a large stock of Transformers Fiction reference material they can use for any part of the brand, of subline of fiction and toys. They even have nice color pretty picture in them too, instead of ugly xeroxes and faded looking pictures.

Most shows past a certain era tended to move their own internal reference documents into the digital format. So really, the old format “show bible” becomes a digital document in the modern era for most animated shows, however Hasbro has their own more general “Transformers Everything” internal references that cover everything relating to the brand, rather than just a specific show for example any licensee will be given if they are making a particular type of merchandise, however usually a licensee will get the specific references for what Hasbro wants from them, not just random pages of stuff,

A lot of the original documents and references from old cartoons sadly end up typically in the garbage, or sold / sneaked out the back door to be lost forever, or in the hands of private collectors. It’s typical of anything made for TV in the 80’s, nobody ever expected an average cartoon to last beyond a year or two, and reference materials are considered disposable.

Jim Shooter’s first hand version of events of those early meetings and bullshit sessions you can find on his blog. It’s a very entertaining and insightful read – as are the rest of his wild wacky stories, like office break time Wrestling and Marvel gunfights in the office that evolved into a Marvel Comics office paintball team.

The Secret Origin of the TRANSFORMERS – Part 1

http://jimshooter.com/2011/06/secret-origin-of-transformers-part-1.html/

The Secret Origin of the TRANSFORMERS – Part 2

http://jimshooter.com/2011/06/secret-origin-of-transformers-part-2.html/

Along with Jim Shooter’s expanded personal story of his fateful meeting with Hasbro, I recommend checking out Shooter’s original treatment (outline) that would be used as the basis for the first fiction of the Transformers brand for both the comic book and cartoon. This treatment, along with the four issue comic mini-series, the Budianksy penned character profiles (used on packaging) and the first cartoon story arc – More than Meets the Eye #1-3 – together make up the first ever forms of Transformers fiction.

Jim Shooter’s Original Transformers Treatment

http://transformingseminarian.blogspot.com.au/2010/06/jim-shooters-original-transformers.html

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Have you got the GUTS!

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GENERATION ONE IS DONE

After Generation One ended we had  Generation 2 between 1992-1994 (releases varied depending on what region of the world you were in) and over in Japan various toys based on the three Transformers Anime shows and OVA finished up. Japan continued with some exclusive toy releases most of which were only released in Japan, some of which made it to parts of Europe and Australia, or were released years later in commemorative editions in various territories.

A good number of classic Transformer toy designs and cartoon based models (as in model sheets) were also recycled into the various Takara/Sunrise commissioned  BRAVE super robot cartoons in Japan.

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Scorponok and his menacing BRAVE counterpart “Zazorigun”

These Brave or “Yuusha” shows were created to fill the toy and toon void left by Transformers in Japan when their JG1 animes ended in 1990. JG1 Transformers would continue as a toyline and various Manga pages to tie in with those toys, but no new animation post 1990 until Beast Wars II.

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Shadow Maru from Brave and his inspiration / pre-deco Sixshot

While each Brave/Yuusha show was its own thing, not tying into the continuity of previous shows – they did play out the same themes with minor variations in the typical “monster/threat of the week” formula frequently used in super-robot and sentai shows.

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Meanwhile in the West post Generation Two, Beast Wars successfully relaunched the Transformers brand after the somewhat failed Generation Two brand as a new computer animated TV show, from the same company Mainframe who brought us the brilliant award winning ReBoot CG animated show.

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The new Beast Wars toyline was handed over to subsidiary Kenner (most famous for their Star Wars and Batman toys), but with the I.P. still owned by Hasbro. Beast Wars started as a completely independent story Lore-wise. A deliberate choice by the creators to start fresh and not be held back or connected to what had come before – but in later seasons decided to connect the dots of Beast Wars To Generation One, specifically the Marvel/Sunbow cartoon. This sub-topic I will get into in further depth in another post covering Transformers Generation One: Retro-Active-Lore.

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I WANT IT ALL… AND I WANT IT NOW!

So even when looking at just the toys it can be hard to say what exactly does G1 mean? When the original cartoon and toys were released the term Generation One didn’t exist, the same as the term World War One did not exist until we got WW2. Transformers had Generation Two, so the previous toys were retrospectively called Generation One.

We can be a bit more sensible and avoid at least *some* of the arguments over what is/is not”G1″ by noting that various Transformers toys were released in America in a specific time frame, and also exported to other parts of the world where the toy lines would vary. Most folks consider everything in a certain era (eg 1984-1990) to be Generation One. However, what it ultimately means to each of us is very personal. To those of us who crave cold hard facts, it can be a bit frustrating.

To poeple G1 is mainly the toys, or mainly the cartoon, to others it’s the lore that is set in that era, even if that lore is retroactive and created twenty years later (a topic for another upcoming post). The confusion arises when we confuse our own personal stories and feelings about Transformers, with objective measurable facts.

So, let’s get to it! Just what are the various Generation One continuities from 1984-1990? Let’s take a look at this collection of continuities that I’m calling The Transformers Matrix…

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Just what are the various Generation One continuities from 1984-1990? Let’s take a look …

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GENERATION ONE US CARTOON (1984-1987)

The Generation One US cartoon was created by Hasbro, Marvel and Sunbow. Hasbro imported and gained the rights to the Japanese Diaclone toy line (from Takara) of Transforming robot-vehicles, along with a few odd toys that were not Diaclones from other companies toy lines, (such as Shockwave and Roadbuster) and rebranded them in America as Transformers with new fiction, box art, logos, instruction sheets etc.

The cartoon was created mainly to tie in with and promote the imported re-branded toy line, as was the Marvel comic book. Many of the initial Transformers names and ideas (fiction) were created by Marvel at the request of Hasbro. Bob Budiansky created the majority of character names to be used in toy box profiles, the cartoon and the Marvel comics.

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The Transformers (also sometimes called The Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye) show ran for two seasons, had a theatrical tie in animated movie where Optimus died and Hot Rod gained the matrix and became the new Autobot leader. The show continued for a third season with a new post-movie cast of characters, and many of the old character died permanently in the theatrical movie. Season four The Rebirth was only three episodes long and meant to establish new stories and characters to tie in with new toys such as the Headmasters and Targetmasters but sadly, the show did not continue.

An interesting and well made fan-video exists that explores the ideas of what *might* have happened if The Rebirth had continued as a full season. It’s only 31 minutes long, but features surprisingly competent voice acting, new lines, new story and dialogue and we get to see characters together that previously appeared in The Rebirth or Headmasters edited together. It’s worth a look, I thoroughly enjoyed it, and frankly I hate most fan dubs of ANYTHING.

The Rebirth established Headmasters and Targetmasters as main characters amongst other new story elements. The Japanese continuity ignore the Rebirth episodes, instead creating their own new post Season 3 show, Headmasters, again loosely based around some of the toy lines such as Headmasters and Targetmasters.

While no new episodes of the Marvel/Sunbow toon were made after The Rebirth, a Season Five exists that broke the movie into parts, and recycled segments from old shows in an attempt to keep the show going. Season 5 is ignored by most people, and was only shown in some parts of the world. Later another new show Transformers Generation 2 aired, but was again only more recycled episodes of the old Transformers show with no new content, just new intros and show bumpers, as part of the somewhat failed relaunch of Transformers as a comic, cartoon and toy line for the Generation Two branding.

Transformarian and wearer of epic hats Jim Sorenson explains it in a way only a true hardcore fan who actually watched this recycled cartoon nonsense back in the day ever could – over on his Disciples of Boltax Blog, you can link to the full article if you like, but I particularly want you to read the bit I’ve quoted / screen grabbed below:

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Zob’s Thoughts on Transformers G1 Season Five

[Jim Sorensen Blog Post in full]

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THE ALMOST DEATH OF TRANSFORMERS

After the original toy lines died out, Generation Two was a somewhat failed attempt to revive the toy line. The toys sold, but the the passion, ingenuity and status that Transformers Fever had risen to in in the eighties was not coming back. Generation Two lead to the later Beast Wars TV show which did successfully revive the Transformers brand along with a new toyline.

Japan went with their Sunrise/Takara BRAVE shows as a substitute for Transformers (1990-1998) and eventually came back to the core brand with Beast Wars II (1998-1999).  But not until the release of the first Bayformer live action movie Transformers (2007) would Transformers reach and connect with a mass mainstream audience in record numbers once again. The Michael Bay live action movies brought in a whole new generation of toy hungry fans, and kick started the nostalgia for some of the older fans for the toys of their youth.

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JAPANESE GENERATION ONE [JG1] – CARTOONS AND MANGA (1987-1990)

The american branch of Transformers and the Japanese branch of Transformers parted ways at the end of the Generation One Sunbow/Marvel Productions cartoon, which had been localized in Japan, and curiously split in half with the the first version of the show being called Fight! Super Robot Life-Form Transformers and then rebranded as Transformers 2010 for Season 3.

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The post-US Season 3 episodes (aka Season 4) “The Rebirth” episodes were not played in Japan, instead a brand new show The Headmasters picked up where the US cartoon had finished after Season 3. Headmasters did share some of the concepts and characters as The Rebirth to tie in with the toyline. JG1 continued with two further Japanese exclusive shows Masterforce and Victory and short Manga comics and illustrations often by Ban Magami accompanied the various shows in Japanese magazines and promotional material.

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Japanese Generation One cartoons ended with the OVA Transformers: Zone, then continued in some very short Manga stories, that are more like basic concepts and outlines, settings, world building etc than actual full stories.

Some concepts were laid out for fiction to tie in with some of the later Japanese toy releases such as Star Convoy and Grandus, but those brief promotional images and few post anime pages of  manga were not animated. The fiction was more a handful of concepts in comic pages and an outline to tie in with the toys, that could have been used and expanded upon as the basis for a further show if one had been approved, and again was used in various promotional materials for the final lines of exclusive Japanese toys.

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DO YOU HAVE THE WILL…OF A WARRIOR!

After the original imported US Generation One cartoon ended, three new shows continued the Generation One stories. With new characters, and subtle differences to the “official” story of American Transformers Lore as outlined in Hasbro internal documents, the Marvel Productions show bible, toy box Bio’s etc.

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The three Japanese exclusive shows that make up the core of JG1 post US Cartoon continuity were Headmasters, Masterforce and Victory.

All three were action heavy Transformers shows with new characters and various new memorable Autobot leaders and villains such as Star Sabre and God Ginrai. The animation was exciting, the look of the characters were more distinctive, a little more detailed and refined than the US cartoon. But while these shows featured some memorable stories, the quality of the writing was really not up to the standards of the American show, and often was aimed at a younger audience.

Various cultural differences mean that a lot of context is lost to Western audiences, and some aspects of the shows fall more in line with traditional Japanese Super Robot shows, rather than the good old US of A brand Transformers comfort food cartoon many fans grew up with. As the three JG1 shows continued, they grew more and more like other super-robot shows in tone and style, and less and less like the American Transformers fiction.

 

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Typical made for TV Japanese anime shows are produced on a limited budget, with mostly generic simple stories that can make it harder for Western audiences to enjoy them. However the animation and art style of the JG1 cartoons was generally of a higher quality than the US cartoon.

The US show was animated by various studios in Asia (as are many American cartoons today) as work for hire. Animation models and basic information is supplied, and the third party studios do whatever work is required, which meant a pretty sloppy job for the US show, which is full of many notorious mistakes in animation models, colors and continuity.

In contrast the JG1 trilogy of shows were from studios that were much more consistent in their output, of  higher standard overall and had a much closer relationship to the producers of the JG1 shows, so were not full of glaring errors like the American show was. They are visually rich, but for me, often a bit boring to watch as the stories are a bit sloppy.

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Most of the Japanese Transformers stories followed the usual super-robot and sentai pattern – that of the monster / threat /drama of the week, and the subsequent battle to overcome that threat, along with the various gimmicks, super modes and upgrades of their particular characters and show specific themes.

JG1 shows are distinctive enough to make them different from the typical super robot and sentai shows in Japan, there is just enough of a Transformers flavour to keep them interesting and unique, but at times they veer a little too much into super-robot-anime tropes. However to the average Western audience who has not watched other super-robot shows, the JG1 shows do come across as kooky, odd and a bit disjointed.

It’s fair to say they are an aquired taste and take a bit of work to understand properly, both in their story, themes and cultural context, and convoluted Lore that often contradicts itself (like pretty much every other form of Tranformers fiction ever…). There are many fans who love the JG1 toylines and art, but who pretty much ignore the shows.

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“Return of Convoy” Promotional material

While not for everyone – there are parts of Headmasters, Masterforce and Victory that I really enjoy, and parts that I really loathe and can’t stand – I do recommend the shows overall to any Transformers fans old or new, give them a go and see for yourself if they are fun for you.

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Overlord vs God Ginrai

 A BRAVE NEW VICTORY

After the third exclusive Japanese Transformer Anime show Victory ended, (OVA Transformers: Zone did not become a TV show) Takara commissioned a new transforming super-robot show – Brave Exkaiser (also known as “Yuusha”) to fill the void left by the end of the JG1 Transformers shows.

Brave would prove so popular that new unrelated Brave shows (new stories and characters) with similar themes were produced for nearly a decade, with many popular well engineered high quality toys selling based on those shows, that continued many of the ideas, concepts and evolved the Transformation schemes established in Diaclone and G1 Transformers toys, while also going off into their own new territory.

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The Brave shows are notable for not only reusing and re-purposing old Transformer toy designs, but also some of the animation models within the various shows and lore, such as ShadowMaru (pictured above on the left) who used both the toy and animation base model of Sixshot as the basis for his cartoon and toy mold appearance.

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“Ex-Kaiser” the lead character of the very first Brave TV show “Brave Exkaiser”

One key idea that kept the Brave shows fresh, is that each new show and toyline was some kids first ever super-robot show, and as the main target market for toys are kids (who get older and forget about the toys) having a new non-connected show and toyline each year or so meant keeping the newest youngsters entertained, while avoiding the problem of declining sales from the older kids who had moved on to other things.

Basically it’s the Super-Robot and Super Sentai / Power Rangers formula applied to a Transformers style series of shows. Nearly everybody combines or powers up to some new mode, lots of crazy demonic monsters, and big powerful laser and energy based attacks, giants swords etc. If you’ve ever seen Power Rangers or a Godzilla movie, then you have an idea what you are in for.

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Brave Exkaiser MAX Team by JP-V http://ailgara.deviantart.com/art/Brave-Exkaiser-Max-Team-565531984
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DeathSaurus of JG1’s TF: VICTORY is redesigned into Red Geist for a BRAVE anime show and toy

Brave anime shows typically had heroic super robots fighting an evil alien/demonic conquering force on earth. Some of the concept designs came from super-robot legend Kunio Okawara (Gatchaman, Time Bokan, Gundam, BRAVE). If you’ve never heard of Okawara, then you have to read this brilliant Forbes article about the super-robot legend whose influence can be felt directly or indirectly in just about every super robot and mecha anime from the original Gundam onwards.

Kunio Okawara, The Man Who Designed ‘Gundam’ and Created the Profession of Mechanical Design

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The epic battle of God Ginrai vs Overlord

BIG IN JAPAN

While Headmasters, Victory and Masterforce are stylistic departures from the American  Transformers stories (and leave some fans a bit confused as to the overall themes and ideas) there are many diehard fans who love each of these shows, each show being somebodies favourite over and above any other cartoon in Transformers media.

As the Generation One toys dried up and stopped being made, Takara continued making Generation One style super-robots with their new Brave/Yuusha shows, many of which included fun innovative gimmicks, the main gimmick being that nearly every toy either combined or had a super / powered-up mode.

Unlike the basic Scramble City combiners of the Diaclone years, Brave combiners were true marvels of engineering, fun to play with and aesthetically quite beautiful, though many are considered brick-like by today’s standards, Brave toys from various lines remain highly collectible and sought after by vintage collectors and super-robot fans, often selling for very high prices.

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“Transformers Victory” mainline toys
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“Victory Leo” from “Transformers Victory” in the typical shiny metallic style of 1980’s Transformers box art

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GENERATION ONE MARVEL US COMIC BOOK (1984-1991)

Bob Budiansky was involved with the Transformers four-issue mini-series and also went on to write the majority of issues from #5-#55 of the ongoing US Transformers comic, while Simon Furman took over from issues #56-80. Budiansky and Furman were free to write their own stories within certain limitations – new toys /characters had to appear frequently, old characters frequently disappeared without explanation, or were never mentioned again.

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Budiansky did not watch the animated show, and so followed his own stories and particular characterizations. The reason for overlap in why *some* characters were still similar to the television show is that Budiansky also wrote the initial character profiles that were later used as guidelines by the voice actors and production staff.

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Some notable differences in the comic included Shockwave and Scorponok featuring prominently as power hungry capable temporary leaders of the Decepticons. And on the Autobot side, Blaster was a more lethal, compassionate and dangerous warrior, even going toe to toe in a “fight to the death” with Grimlock while the other Autobots watched and cheered in a particularly memorable issue.

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Scorponok was featured heavily in TFUS, the bitter endless struggle for leadership of the Decepticons between Shockwave, Megatron and Scorponok being a major highlight from the run. Not to mention Thunderwing, Straxus, Starscream and Soundwave, all of whom made their own power plays for leadership during various stories.

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Simon Furmans’s stories were more epic and larger in scale than Budiansky’s more earth based storied, picking up some similar themes and ideas explored in his Transformers UK run, such as new battles with Unicron, a psychotic Thunderwing possessing an evil Matrix and other potentially world ending threats in typical comic book fashion.

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Both writers contributed immensely to the Transformers brand and fiction, and both have their fans and detractors. Both Budiansky and Furman also killed Optimus Prime multiple times, but otherwise ignored events of the cartoons and 1986 animated theatrical film.

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Bob Budiansky’s box profiles were expanded in the back pages of the ongoing TF-US comic to full pages with illustrations. Later those same profiles were collected into their own one off comic books and republished as “Transformers Universe” (these profiles were also reprinted years later in IDW’s Transformers Classics US Vol#8).

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Marvel Universe Stunticon BREAKDOWN Profile

Simon Furman would return to write the Generation Two Marvel US comic to tie in with the toy line. The stories were mostly self contained and not really connected to anything before or after the story, with only minor references to other fiction. Generation Two had a brief few issues in the UK, and also a short run in the US comic, where the UK stories were reprinted, before continuing with some new content for several issues.

G2 Marvel US ran only a handful of issues before it was cancelled, and notably Megatron turned up in Marvel’s ongoing G.I. Joe comic. The Joe comic had a battered G1 Megatron rebuilt by Cobra into the tank alt mode he is famous for in Generation Two. It was pretty cool but I only read those G.I. Joe issues for Megatron, the rest of it was pretty boring.

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An unlikely alliance of Megatron and Cobra

 

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When Megatron brings down the house, he really brings down the house
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“Strike me down and I shall return in an even more powerful form!”

The Marvel G2 comics I quite like and have read several times. They are often erroneously labelled as crap and “too much” like other Marvel 90’s comics that over the top in violence and dark themes.

But, well, the issue I take with that is that mainstream Marvel comics in the early nineties were a lot of crap (I was there, I read them), and the dark uber violent themes were more of a pervaisive post Watchmen and Dark Knight tone, they were not actually very graphic at all in violence.

Except Tranformers Generation Two, it was GLORIOUSLY violent, likely the MOST graphically violent piece of Transformers fiction ever depicted. However, there were no angry self-loathing super-hero style battles. Instead their was grand machine on machine carnage with splatter style horror and gore, just with robots instead of humans.

Horror violence and super-hero violence are very different. I STILL cringe when I read any retrospective’s that erroneously lump Transformers G2 comics in with other typical Marvel Comics of the era. If anything it’s atypical, surprisingly well written with some very ethically challenging themes explored. The art is alternative, but very expressive, and a really unique style that throws a lot of people off, as they don’t recognise it as horror fiction style art, rather than super-hero fiction style art from a very competent artist.

Take a look at the page below and tell me it doesn’t remind you of Zombie films or splatter-gore horror movies….

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Further down the road, Furman would return to the Marvel Transformers comics fiction again, this time for a new publisher IDW. Transformers: Regeneration One was an interesting project that I quite enjoyed. It picked up where the Marvel TFUS stories had first ended, mostly ignoring his own brief G2 comics.

Regeneration One tied up some of the loose ends from the Marvel US run, and let Furman finish those stories for good. He also went to write Transformers stories for both Dreamwave and IDW comics.prime burning.jpg

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GENERATION ONE MARVEL UK COMIC BOOK (1984-1991)

The UK Transformers comics were created as original content filler material to fit around reprints of the American Marvel Transformers comic book in the UK.

The UK, like Japan, often serializes stories in comics and magazines, with several unrelated stories or features in each issue. So the entire UK run incorporates reprints of the US Transformers comics along with new material, and some new cover art for the shorter page counts as reprints were often split in half. Other materials could include tie in stuff like promotional art, redesigned ad layouts for toy stock photos and oddities like Marvel UK’s bounty hunter Death’s Head becoming part of the later stories, and taking a key role in the battle with Unicron.

Transformers UK became one of the most popular licensed comic books ever published in that region, following on the trails of other popular licensed Marvel books such as Star Wars, KISS, Conan and Dr Who.

TFUK also kicks a LOT of ass, big action, cool fun stories, lovely art. ‘Nuff said!

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Simon Furman creation “Death’s Head” strikes a bargain

Most jarring to new readers is the early stories that use the toys as the basis for the art, rather than the animation models. Marvel UK had to use whatever materials they were supplied with, eventually the art switched to be more in line with the animation models, when Marvel US finally passed on some reference materials that they had neglected to even mention to Marvel UK.

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Brawn, Bee, Jazz and Mirage with toy based likenesses

The art changed for the better in the UK stories – but still with its own distinctive look often much richer in colors than the American comics, including some painted covers that are bloody good medicine for the eyes.

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Marvel Megatron UK (early toy appearance) Megatron UK (later version) and Megatron US

The reason the early comics had toy likenesses is that Marvel UK were not supplied with or even aware of any model sheets or character style guides. They had to make do with box art that were already illustrations based on the toys, and the actual toys themselves.

The majority of the TFUK run was written by Simon Furman, who would later go on to write the TFUS comic when Budiansky left, writing some of the most memorable US and UK stories. Some fans prefer the UK comic over both the US comic or cartoon for its rich art and unique stories. A significant number of issues featured painted covers, and sometimes interior painted art as well.

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While the early Marvel UK stories are rather bland, (“Man of Iron” being the exception) the later stories are more enjoyably complex with greater depth to the characters, and longer story arcs that pay off.

Simon Furman later found his groove with more intricate plots, and getting away from the generic simplistic first stories that were if anything experimental (even by his own words) -and a bit boring with some lovely art.

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Transformers Marvel UK (or TFUK for short  – the naughtiest abbreviation in TF lore) will always be remembered mostly for Simon Furman’s contributions, and expansions of Transformers new ideas and lore, that were later incorporated into other  shows and media.

Furman’s stories were recognised and loved by some fans, and it was a natural fit that he wrote the second third of the Transformers Marvel US comic book, giving us some of the most epic stories in that book.

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Furman notably went on to be a key writer in the early IDW Transformers relaunch, as well as some stories for Dreamwave such as The War Within, and the IDW penned sequel to Marvel Transformers US titled Transformers: Regeneration One.

Furman also did most of the lore related material for the DK guide book Transformers: The Ultimate Guide, as well as being a TV writer on Beast Wars and writing various club comics and one off stories. Many of Furman’s original ideas have been adopted by Hasbro into various media such as later cartoons and the live action movies. A good number of key concepts in any modern Transformers Lore were first established by Simon Furman.

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The Transformers UK comics have some great stories and ideas thrown about including a time travelling Galvatron who goes back in time and fights Megatron, frequent clashes of Galvatron with Ultra Magnus, Deaths Head the bounty hunter teaming up with and fighting various Autobots and Decepticons – but ultimately proving himself to be a hero rather than then a merciless bounty hunter.

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The UK stories also featured the first appearance and origins of Primus, established as Unicron’s equal and opposite force in the universe. Primus was another Furman creation, and unrelated to “Unvorsum” the Cybertron planet-former from the scrapped draft of Transformers: The Movie (1986). Primus went on to star in the Unicron Trilogy of cartoons and received his own impressive planet-former toy (a remold of Armada Unicron).

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That’s just Primus!

 

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TRANSFORMERS UK GENERATION TWO

When Generation 2 launched, only a handful of UK Transformer comics were ever published, those same comics were reprinted in the US run of G2, which then went on and continued with some new stories, but only for a very short run before it was cancelled.

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That’s right baby, he’s back! You can’t keep a good dictator tyrant dead for long

Some fans gloss over the G2 UK_US comics as afterthoughts, and even Simon Furman himself wrote “around” them when he penned Regeneration One for IDW (the sequel to the Marvel US stories). Short and sweet as they are, they feature some lovely art and are well worth reading, even if they are bit of a let down after the epic final runs of Furman TFUK and TFUS.

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The Generation Two comics are a good bit of fun, and well worth reading. The UK portion is a little bland, but the story continued -somewhat – in the US version by Furman, and is a really unique piece of storytelling that takes risk, and throws in a lot of interesting concepts, it’s a shame the stories are mostly forgotten today, but you can still track down at least the US version reprints in two tidy volumes from Titan Books.

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Free Dinobot stickers from the Generation Two Marvel UK comic

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THE LORDS OF TRANSFORMERS

So, looking back at 1984-1990, and 1990-1992 we have four main simultaneous continuities that are some of the branches on the tree of “Generation One”.

If trees are not your thing, then perhaps a delicious Pie graph. Some of these continuities overlap, but each is its own unique thing, with a particular vision and authorial style, and each with their own pros and cons as far as how they make sense with each other (mostly they don’t, and were never intended to) or fit into the larger puzzle of Transformers lore from 1984-2017.

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All four of those continuities grew out of Hasbro’s design documents, the Transformers show bible/internal guide book (that is, when they bothered to actually share their resource material…lazy buggers!)

The key distinction is that each continuity was based on the same source material but free to do its own thing, giving us a rich more layered look at Transformers fiction that laid down the foundation for future shows, toy bios (and live action films) to pilfer from. It’s a richer universe of fiction for having multiple different strands of stories and lore, in different countries and regions etc, rather than one bland homogeneous single continuity.

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Like a lot of science fiction, there are too many ideas in Transformers to limit them to just one form of fiction.

This article is not meant to be definitive, but more of an overview, so some minor details  are left out to make it easier to understand, and I will be covering some other sub-topics in another installment of this series where I will look at post-modern G1 continuity, which includes various continuities set during G1 and G1 retro active lore, and eventually I will move on to the shambolic mess that is the modern Aligned Continuity where I will likely swear a fair bit while writing.

If you can’t remember everything in this article, I hope my infographic below gives you a quick point of reference that is a bit easier on the eyes

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COLLECTORS SPOTLIGHT – Dave Stevens of TUWA – Transformers United West Australia

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DAVE STEVENS / Transformers United West Australia ROCKS the Party

DAVE STEVENS of Transformers United West Australia is a true champion of Transformers toys. His knowledge, passion and enthusiasm for Transformers and other toys know no bounds!

It is always a pleasure to meet another collector and Transformers fan face to face.

Even more special to visit them in their own home and get a guided tour of their personal collection.

I’ve met Dave Stevens previously in person at a busy shopping center where I traded him a Carnifex (IDW style Overlord from MMC) for his Generations Metroplex – a trade we were both very happy with, and yes that got some jaws dropping to the floor from other fans out there online.

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I had the pleasure of meeting Dave today for a second time, in his own home. A drive on a wet and windy Sunday to pick up a couple of toys I was buying from him, was also a rare invitation to talk with a man about his amazing toy collection.

The size of anybodies collection is not what holds my interest, I’m more interested in what specific pieces they have held on to, or re-aquired once lost – and what their focus is now due to the usual constraints of money, time, interest and the dreaded SPACE to display kick ass toys.

I took some photos while visiting with Dave, and I’ve uploaded them all at a nice screen filling size, so please do click on any image in this article to see the full screen version, as all the toys are rather lovely and drool worthy!

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Dave’s collection has some nice variety, and you can see the love over the years that has gone into various main and sublines of Transformers.

His Masterpiece Seekers are a force not to messed with, they stand ready to go to war at a moments notice, his Beast Wars toys look sharp, showing off some of their chrome / Transmetal highlights, and I particularly enjoyed getting a close look at Optimus Primal, a toy I look forward to buying myself later this year.

Dave also has the Masterpiece Optimus Primal, along with a nice shelf of official and third party Masterpiece style toys.

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MP Jazz, Sideswipe, Ironhide and Prime and hiding in back a cheeky Spark Toys War Within Optimus Prime.

Getting to see DX9’s Galvatron up close was a real treat, and the Overlord that formerly lived at my place now has a very fitting home. Both are truly spectacular toys.

Dave has collected many toys from various lines, and like a lot of collectors who have been around a while, had gone through several downsizings, or streamlining of his collection over the years.

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Masterpiece Soundwave lurks creepily in the shadows, while Apollyon Megatron shines in all his glory.

It was a true joy to spend a couple hours with Dave this afternoon and get the guided tour of his beautiful collection. Any chance to talk about geeky topics like Batman, Ninja Turtles, Dino Riders, Toxic Crusaders and Transformers is not one I am going to turn down (curse those retail stores that stopped selling Toxic Crusaders action figures just when I started buying them)

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In the main living room area is a very large cabinet proudly displaying mainly Transformers with a few key pieces from other toylines.

A McFarlane toys Robocop, a large Assassin’s Creed figure, some Mortal Kombat toys including a large very kick-ass Sub-Zero, some Batman Arkham Asylum series toys and a few Gears of War figures and other treasures make for a lovely display that draws your eye in for a closer look.

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Further down the large cabinet, in big and beefy town is Titans Returns Fortress Maximus (one of my all time fav toys!) and two of the Gigapower Dinobots, that Dave insisted I get a look at, and feel how damn heavy they are. You could probably kill someone with those Dinobots, they really are that solid and impressive.

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The Gigapower Dinobots are truly lovely toys, and I am still torn on whether to get them or the Fans Toys versions of the Dinobots. Perhaps the only answer for a dino-fan like me is both? Dave pointed out to me that the line has the more flat regular colors, and the more reflective high gloss options, making for even more painful buying decisions for fans out there when picking up these behemoths.

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I noticed that whenever Dave talks about Transformers, or toy collecting, he had a big infectious smile on his face, his enthusiasm was refreshing and I can think of no better way to spend a windy rainy Sunday afternoon than talking about toys!

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Over the other side of the cabinet is some of the lovely anniversary Ninja Turtles toys, Alternator Smokescreen and a super expensive third party Nova Prime, that Dave somehow got for an absolute steal leaving me rather jealous, as I love any version of Nova Prime – but would not pay the absurd full retail price it goes for.

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Over in one of the bedrooms, is nice tall shelf with some very very cool toys.

Armada Unicron sits at the top, with the next top most shelf displaying some CHUG toys from various lines, and a couple others mixed in there. On the next tier is Combiner Wars Victorion and some very nice Beast Wars toys, Optimus Primal and Transmetal Rattrap being my favourites. Not pictured were some Ultra class Beast Wars toys that Dave pulled out of storage to show me, and they were very cool.

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The next tier has the mighty Star Sabre from Transformers Victory (another of my all time fav toys, the BEST Masterpiece toy ever if you ask me) next to a 3P Shockwave, Road Rage, Ghost Starscream, Ultra Magnus, a 3P Chromedome, Wheelie and RID Omega Prime (another toy I also love).

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Moving down the shelf we have a lovely Generation One themed display, a mix of some vintage and reissue toys.  It never ceases to amaze me the power these formerly Diaclone toys have in a collection.

The tiny toys just have some lovely details to them, and whenever you see them in person, they just you back to another time, there is a bit of magic about true vintage toys that you just don’t get with some of the later lines, and seeing the mainline toys here together really is something special.

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Powermaster Prime and Menasor are two stand outs that grabbed my eye. I have my own Powermaster Prime, but while in overall good condition, he is rather dirty and the stickers are a bit faded, Dave’s PMP looks just gorgeous in contrast.

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Moving down to the next tier we have Blaster, Blitzwing, some Insecticons, Reflector, Jetfire/Skyfire, Devastator, Kup, Tracks, Grapple, Smokescreen, Ratchet, Defensor, Cyclonus and Wheelie.

This was the first time I’ve seen the Takatoku Toys Valkyrie mold up close and in person, and it sure is a sight to behold. I think the pre-TF Takatoku toys such as Jetfire, Shockwave and Roadbuster/Dorvack are some of the finest toys available to humanity, and one of the rare cases where the pre-TF versions look just as good, if not better than their American Transformers counterparts.

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Moving down to the lower shelf, some wicked Generation Two Turbo Masters, some of the most under rated Transformers toys ever made in my opinion. Also featured is the lovely redeco of RID Gigatron, that has convinced me I must pick up this alt color scheme to go with my regular purple and black one. A couple of WFC/FOC toys that Dave has done some nice repaints and highlights on rounds out the shelf along with other Bits and Bots.

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As we both talked (well rambled) on enthusiastically about Transformers and other toys, I noticed that Dave had a big smile on his face whenever he talks about his collections and Transformers in general.  His enthusiasm for Transformers shines through when he talks about his collection, and it was a real joy to get to spend some time with him today, and he was a most gracious and welcoming host. I turned up to buy a couple of toys, and it was a welcome surprise to be invited in to talk with him and view his amazing collection.

Big thanks to Dave Stevens of Tranformers United West Australia, which is a club affiliated with TCAA Transformers Collectors Club Australia. Dave is passionate about Transformers and shares his enthusiasm with anyone fortunate enough to meet him, and has been involved with various club meets and other pop-culture expos where he waves the flag for Transformers fans old and new, helping to keep this hobby alive for one and all.

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ADDENDUM

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“Pedro was here 2017”

While writing this article, a certain somebody climbed on to my lap and swished his tail back and forth on the keyboard for a minute or so, which makes this the first article Pedro has officially contributed to, he is a rather vain cat, and seems to be craving internet fame these days, as well as cat biscuits. Expect to see more of him no doubt as he contributes to further articles on this Transformers blog.

How the Death of Optimus Prime did not Affect Me at all (until it did)

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The Death of Optimus Prime is a major moment in the history of The Transformers.

For marketers and toy merchandisers, it was the excuse to introduce new toys.

For young kids, it may have been an upsetting experience to see their favourite hero die in a theatrical film The Transformers Movie (1986) that was more serious in tone than the TV series and toy commercials that spawned it.

Personally I was not affected by the death of Prime as a kid. I don’t know exactly what age I was when I saw the film, but it was somewhere in the range of age 7-9 on VHS / video rental at home rather than in a cinema.

I’d watched the odd horror film here and there when I was young, and did not really find them scary, finding them more interesting for the practical special effects than the stories. If a realistic violent human death did not affect me, what chance did an animated robot have?

The main reason Prime’s death did not affect me was not I didn’t like the character, but I did not relate to him in any meaningful way. Prime was the father figure and leader of the Autobots in the cartoon. Their combined wisdom and strength, the embodiment of their team spirit.

But Optimus Prime he was never my favourite Transformers character, Grimlock was my favourite, now then and forever. If it had been Grimlock dying in that infamous scene in the 1986 animated movie, I probably would have cried.

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Prime was popular, cool, the leader, the guy other Autobots came to for advice.
Grimlock was the outsider, the loner, the rebel, the guy who breaks the rules and who polite society will never truly accept.

I’ve felt like an outsider most of my life. I’ve been an outsider in many ways most of my life, more by circumstance than choice. It’s part of the reason I love character’s like Batman, Hellboy, Wolverine, The Incredible Hulk and Grimlock. They are the characters who are the flawed loners, who we basically are afraid of. I relate more to them than the Superman’s, Prime and Captain’s America’s of the world.

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As a kid I was shy, socially awkward and introverted, an outsider. Not one of the “in” crowd. So characters like Grimlock, or Marvel’s Incredible Hulk make more sense to me on that level. They are both characters with a very child like selfish demanding manner, and relatable to many kids.

I was not popular, outgoing or confident as a kid, I was shy, awkward and introverted. I’m still shy, socially awkward and introverted now, it’s part of who I am, and I am okay with that. But I am also bold, confident and outgoing when I want to be, but it took a lot of practice, and I’m thankful to inspiring characters like Optimus Prime, the epitome of self-confidence, modesty and respect

 

There is something very primal and yet empowering to the average eight year old boy about a kick-ass rule breaking robot who transforms into a giant t-Rex.

Grimlock is the leader of his own team of misfit rule breakers – the Dinobots, who mostly follow his lead, when they are not busy fighting each other. The Dinobots are their own sub-faction and family within the Transformers franchise and media. To kids like me who grew up loving anything to do with Dinosaurs, and had no interest in cars or trucks, Grimlock will always be King.

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Watching Transformers: The Movie  again this week, and I can say that the scene where Optimus Prime died did bring a tear to my eye, and any time I watch that movie as an adult it has the same effect. It may not be a graphic death, but it is an emotionally powerful death, that is both literal and symbolic. Prime’s death is the physical death of a genre defining super-robot icon.

Optimus Prime’s death is also the symbolic death of the old generations of Autobots, making way for the new guard. For new adventures in later seasons of the Transformers TV show that were not exclusively focused around earth, but other planets including Cybertron. Prime’s death is also the invitation for the collapse of the toy line and its subsequent reinvention many years later. All toy lines must end, and all things must come to an end.

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Prime’s death on the one hand was a mishandling of an iconic character mandated by a  toy company that did not appreciate how popular he had grown. Prime’s death was also a catharsis that all iconic characters go through. Batman and Superman have died multiple times in their respective fictions, you could even say that the death of a major literary character is merely part of their path to true iconic status.

Iconic characters may die in a particular story but are reborn in new media, in new stories, in new ideas. Reaching the status of pop cultural icon, or mythic archetype means permeating the mass consciousness of society, it means Prime exist for most people primarily as an idea, an idea is much harder to kill than even a fictional character. Death then can be seen as a prerequisite for rebirth in new media that may follow immediately, or many years or decades later.

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The IDEA of Optimus Prime transcends his medium and genre, Prime stands  for hope, for unity, for forgiveness, for unselfish leadership, for learning from ones mistakes, for living the true and the good of ones values in our own lifetimes.

…And yet when he died, I truly did not care.

But a few decades went by…

And now I do care for Prime the character, for Prime the idea and the values he represents. I feel deeply the pain of his literary death any time I watch that iconic film, but at the same time I know his new incarnations, new media, new TV shows, live action films and toys are always just around the corner. I know that you can’t keep a good Bot down for long.

Prime’s death then is a rebirth and re-invigoration of the Transformers characters and media.

The old dies and makes space for the new and the young. But the old also permeate the new world, the ideas and values of Transformers are not just silly stories, crass commercial marketing of plastic toys to children. They are modern mythologies and dramas and ideas and real emotions. The story tellers who work in modern day comic books and children’s animation know this, to me it’s part of what elevates the Transformers fiction above other similar TV shows from the era.

Super-Robot anime shows are a dime a dozen, and most of them have rather weak generic stories with the focus on the action. Transformers had the action AND some good stories, and some silly ones too.

Transformers the brand, the culture, the fiction and lore in all their manifestations are infused with the values and ideas that made it great to begin with, at that original conception. They went from being cold lifeless lumps of plastic, to engaging characters.

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Optimus Prime is the lynchpin of the franchise, some of his co-creator’s didn’t realize it when they killed him in 1986. But they sure know it now. As a character, he’s worth billions of dollars. He is also rather an inspiring figure to me and many other fans. Prime is the quintessential selfless hero, he’s also a soldier, alien and a sentient robot. So much more than a lump of plastic I think. So very much more than meets the eye.

So here’s to the Death and ongoing Life of Optimus Prime.

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*And yes Grimlock is STILL my favourite Transformers character.

Prime Time – Optimus Prime: the Eternal Hero and Father Figure to the Autobots

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Optimus Prime is a beloved hero and partriarch to the Autobot family. He started out as a humble toy tie in, from piloted diaclone mecha to free thinking american mythic icon, he rose up from humble beginnings and slowly grew into a generation defining hero of the 80’s, whose popularity shows no signs of slowing down. He’s starred in live action modern movies, a string of follow up animated shows to the original Transformers cartoon and more new toys of Optimus Prime are made every year. Optimus is not just a great toy, or product, but a great character.

A great character is only as good as the storyteller. In the right hands Prime is a compelling hero, leader and father figure to the Autobots. In the wrong hands he’s just a boring soldier in a mindless war. The Prime most fans love belongs to no specific continuity, he is the IDEA of Prime, the Archetype of Prime that transcends any one form or medium.

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Prime is the morally strong political, military and spiritual leader of the Autobots, he never intended to be in that role, but fate put him there when he received The Matrix.

Prime has the toughness, bravery and resilience of a soldier fighting a civil war millions of years old tempered with the compassion of a wise spiritual leader. He is a humanitarian, but extends that care for life to all types of sentient species including robotic and organic life. Where the Decepticons care only for their own values and their own tribe, Prime is simultaneously an unwilling agent of war, and embassador of peace who stands in bold contrast to the dark agenda of the Decepticons.

If there is a way to end a conflict without violence, Prime will choose that option. The Decepticons in contrast will cling to their code of might makes right, that the strong CAN and SHOULD dominate the weak, take what they please and use the weak as slaves to suit their own end. This value system finds parallels in our own world history, and is not an uncommon value for self-righteous conquerors to hold.

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LEADER AND MYTHIC CHAMPION

As an autobot, Optimus Prime can live and die like any other sentient automaton. But as an Idea, Prime’s story and the struggle of the Autobots vs the Decepticons is told over and over again.

Stories told over and over become myths and fables. And mythic characters can never truly die. They may die in any given version of a story such as in his most famous death scene in Transfromers: The Movie (1986) but as long as somebody, somewhere is telling their story, a mythic character lives on, they are immortal as long as even one person cares enough to tell that story.

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As new generations of story tellers tell their own version, the mythic archetype grows stronger, Prime’s details may differ in one story to the next, but the core values of what he represents remain essentially the same, his tale is the basic story of all timeless Heroes. Mythic characters can experience death but seemingly only grow stronger from it, the death of the character is never the death of the parent IDEA, and so keeps being reborn in new forms for new generations to enjoy.

 

LEADERS ARE BORN, NOT MADE?

Are true leaders chosen by destiny rather than voted for? There are 101 maxims about Leaders and Leadership, and most of them are garbage designed to sell cheap paperback books on leadership that simply don’t reflect the real world. Whatever your view on leaders, Optimus Prime (formerly Orion Pax) never asked nor expected to be a leader.

Nobody could really expect Prime to live up to the presssures of leadership. Most leaders fulfill their role for only a short period of time, before stepping down. The Autobot / Decepticon war raged for millions of years, so every mistake to be made, every lesson to be learned in Leadership Prime embodies simply as he has no other real moral choice to make. As dutiful citizen of Cybertron, his compassion causes him to not only care for others, but along with his humility, question himself and his actions, rather than blindly making decisions in a dictatorial style such as the ruthless Megatron.

A former civil servant Orion Pax became Optimus Prime when the “Matrix of Leadership” was bestowed upon him. What other choice did he have when a wise mentor figure handed him a technological semi-msytical object with the “Matrix of LEADERSHIP” title attached to it? Prime didn’t receive the Matrix of Tacos or the Matrix of Horse Thievery – the lore laid down however clumsily in Transformers is that it was specifically the Matrix of LEADERSHIP. Whether it was fate, chance or just circumstance that thrust Prime into that role is debatable, but once embraced, he was clearly the right Bot for the job.

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FATHER FIGURE

Optimus Prime, never chose nor expected to be leader of the Autobots. He never expected to leave his home planet of Cyberton and to crash land on planet Earth. But once the Matrix was part of him, at some point he had to say to himself, from the deepest part of his spark, “YES” to being the Autobot leader, to do any less would be to leave his compatriots rudderless in a war that would inevitably cost them their lives.

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Thrust into the role of father figure, mentor, military and spiritual leader to the  Autobots, Optimus Prime is the emotional and spiritual glue that holds the Autobots together. More than a faction, the Autobots are a family, and Prime their elder Patriarch. He is their leader, mentor and friend. More compassionate, level headed and capable of thriving under combat than most Transformers, Prime is uniquely qualified to lead. Prime respects all types of life, metal and organic, and unlike many other Transformers, is unwilling to let the Autobots war with the Decepticons take human or other sentient lives.

 

FROM THE ORDINARY TO THE EXTRAORDINARY

When Orion Pax became Optimus Prime, the bearer of the Autobot Matrix, inheritor to the “key” of Cybertron he left behind the world of the ordinary and mundane, and moved into the world of the extraordinary. fulfilling the part of his life’s journey that all true Hero’s must. Most classical Heroes start off fairly ordinary, (think of Luke Skywalker before Ben Kenobi came around, and Bruce Wayne before the death of his parents) before undergoing a process of inner and outer transformation from the every day being they were, to a semi-mythic champion, to one who acts on he behalf of and in service to others, as their voice, their will and their champion for the greater good.

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Batman had his years of training, and deep psychological journey, and of course the wealth gadgets and costume. Spider-Man had his radioactive Spider-Bite, later the costume, and accepting the call to be a Hero, the dying words of his Uncle motivating him to action.

Superman was a regular baby on Krypton. Under earths sun, his powers manifested making him a living demi-god, he didn’t become a hero until he put on the costume, accepted the call and dedicated himself to the service of humanity.

 

We want our heroes to be infallible bastions of moral virtue.

 

So all good and true heroes must make their own choice. They must not only have the ability, the good fate and incredible circumstance to be a hero, a MacGuffin plot point of magical object – they must also accept internally the role they have to play in life for better or worse.

Optimus Prime’s outer transformation was from Orion Pax to Optimus Prime, but his inner transformation was perhaps slower, there were  few opportunities for Optimus to sit down and study histories greatest Cybertronian leaders during the middle of a civil war. Prime was forced to learn most of life’s lessons the hard way, making plenty of mistakes along the way. He became a great leader through making mistakes, never giving up on his cause and his compatriots, and rising to whatever challenged in lief came his way.

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Prime is not infallible – but his ethics, his values, charisma, and uncompromising vision and compassion for all Autobots, all Cybertronians and all Life elevate him to being a natural Leader, with or without the Matrix. Above all else, Optimus Prime is a bearer of Hope and Compassion, tempered with Humility and incredible Courage and Determination -it’s what elevates him above other Primes, other Cybertronian leaders.

Though he is a sentient alien robotic lifeform, his VALUES are what make him appealing to humans both in fiction and in the real world. Other robots in cartoons are  a dime a dozen, but Prime is the bearer of the Matrix, the tireless champion of free will and the right of all sentient beings to live their own life free of tyranny. He’s the best parts of the great Heroes of myth and legend. And he also turns into a really cool truck.

Prime the Autobot may live and die, but Optimus Prime the heroic ideal and archetype lives on, having reached his own form of immortality through popular culture.

 

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