Category Archives: RID 2015

Appreciating the Unappreciated (or) Me Grimlock Not So Stupid

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Sometimes I read comments online that just bug me in their stupidity or ignorance.

Then I have to take a step back and look at why did that person say such a thing?

And was that person me perhaps? Was I mad at the time, pissed off about something and foaming at the mouth?

Sure. Why not.

Explains a certain amount of dumb comments I’ve written, or read by others, or ones I wrote myself. God damned EMOTIONS!!! ARGRHGGH!

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…Then there is the truly stupid, the inexcusable type stuff – best not read or engaged with. Not said with anger, but lacking in any intelligence at all, full of hate / prejudice / malice take your pick. It’s pops up just anywhere and everywhere – including online forums and hobbyist groups.

No problem, walk on by.

No need to engage with that level of stupid.

But then there is another kind of stupid. The kind of human behavior where we refuse to engage with anything new, and only live in the past. The kind of behavior that most of us capable not crazy people display on a regular basis.

I’m all for vintage toys, or enjoying the shit from your youth, nostalgia, whatever. It’s all good.

But I don’t understand folks who can’t appreciate anything new.

menasor_v_computron_by_dan_the_artguy-d8m68gc
“NO NEW STUFF, ONLY THE GREATEST HITS!”

 

“I only like Batman from the 70s”

“I only watch Transformers from them 80’s son, pass me a beer and don’t tell about that new shit”

But there is like a dozen or so Transformers shows over the years.

How in fuck do people know what they “don’t like” if they never try anything new?

Do they really hate ALL of them equally, without having ever watched any of them? What bizarre mind powers are they privy to that give them this kind of omniscience and where can I sign up?

It’s like asking one of my oldest friends to try some new food he have never tried.

Not gonna happen.

He doesn’t like that, and knows somehow even without trying it.

I guess that works. I don’t need to drink gasoline or murder somebody to know that I would not like those things.

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OUT WITH THE NEW, IN WITH THE STUPID

But I think it’s different when it comes to say a TV show, toy, comics etc.

If I don’t try anything new, well then I start to turn into a fossil. Being “against” something on principle is just so damn rigid.

It’s not that there is any need to “keep up with the new”, but if we are so rigid in our hobbies, how are we in other parts of our lives?

I try a lot of new shows, comics, media etc every year, and end up liking far more than if I stuck just to my old interests.

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“God damn malware, I just want my Game of Moans”

I used to be extremely introverted and shy as a kid. Not uncommon for us Nerdbots.

In my twenties, when people would ask me to go somewhere, or meet them “over there”, I’d be like “meh, I like it over here – think I’ll stay home”. Things are comfy, safe and familiar there.

At some point – probably after reading a motivational type book or whatever – I started saying “yes” to doing new things, to things I had never tried before. Like that awful Jim Carrey movie but without the hilarious consequences.

It was extremely uncomfortable for me, mostly due to my anxiety, particularly in social situations and around new people. I take longer than most to acclimatize, to get to that point of relaxed ease instead of freaking the fuck out and having to leave and go home.

I’m sure it has NOTHING to do with being relentlessly bullied as a child. Yup, nothing at all.

I had to REALLY push myself to do new things, and go new places.

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Anyhow, I started doing more and more new things, and while it was uncomfortable as fuck, sometimes I had a good time. Other times I was overly anxious, had a shit time and went home feeling miserable and wondering why I bothered?

But over the years, doing new things evened out – so that I can better pick the things that are good for me in some way (even if they make me a bit uncomfortable) – and avoid the time wasting activities that I really did not enjoy and won’t do again. Or time wasting people and situations that can be quite toxic and not good for my mental health.

The thing is, if I didn’t get out of my rather narrow comfort zone and try a heap of new shit, I would not have the diverse range of hobbies and interests I do now, and I would not have met some really cool people that I connected with.

I apply the same principle to new media, or really anything in life, I make myself try new things and some of it works out, some it don’t. There’s always discomfort, but life is not about avoiding the unpleasant, it’s about experiencing everything.

SHUT THE FUCK UP 80’S KID

I grew up watching (cue announcer dude) “THE TRANSFORMERS” in them 80’s, and I was literally born in 1980.

The old show to me was pure joy.

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Over the years, whenever the show was in reruns I would watch it – no matter how many times I watched it – I never get bored of that show. It’s a pure kind of love that is just not going to go away. It’s like for that for some other fans too. But I also watch other Transformers shows. And I just don’t get the old fans who hate on anything “not G1”, and whenever a new toy comes out the comments I see most often online are along the lines of “Not G1 enough” from the old fans, and “too much G1” from the newer fans. I hope I never get frozen in time like that, and unable to appreciate things from beyond my own childhood.

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It’s fine to like what you like, and develop your own tastes. And as we get older, we do tend to refine and be more selective in our tastes.

But I do get tired of people who dislike things on principle, without even trying out something new. It’s a kind of mental laziness. If you have first hand experience with anything, and whether you like or dislike it, I’m interested to hear your point of view. I don’t care if your view agrees with me or not. The more people with different contrasting points of view I can hear from, the more perspectives I’m able to appreciate and understand in life.

But if you have no experience of something, and insist on how rubbish it is etc – well that just doesn’t interest me. It’s an ignorant opinion. We all have them, but rarely do we own up to it.

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THEM NEWFORMERS ARE RUBBISH

Transformers Animated and Robots in Disguise (2015) are both kiddie looking shows, with an art style meant to entice children. The writing, dialogue and themes are aimed at a younger audience. They look on the surface like something I would not enjoy at all.

But I decided to give them a fair crack. After watching Transformers Prime last year, I was hungry for more TF shows. Watching both Animated and RID at first I was not terribly impressed. But about four or five episodes in, I had gotten to know the main characters, their world and I was hooked – finding surprising depth, good characterization, interesting visual designs and good dialogue in both shows.

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GrimStrong_Shipper#55″OMG, did you see the new episode? (O: “

Both shows have well written stories, great voice actors and lashings of humor, like hurt your gut belly laughter – a real surprise for the often humorless american Transformers shows (the humor in the Japanese version of ANY Transformers show is another matter entirely).

If I had gone with my initial ignorant view that the shows looked unappealing, and never watched them – I would have missed two great Transformers shows, not to mention the fun toys from both lines. Things don’t always work out this way of course. Sitting down recently to watch the English version of Transformers Armada was a painful experience.  Fans insist it gets good in the second half of the run, but I insist it’s consistently bland all the way through and criminally boring even in the better episodes. I wish Unicron had just eaten them all at the end. That would have been a pretty metal way to end a kids show. “Sorry little Billy, all your heroes just got eaten alive by the robot devil, thems the breaks, now quit crying – go outside and play with some dirt”.

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The Transformers Animated toy line is one of the most screen accurate of any Transformers toy line. Partly it was “advances in technology” if you want to believe that bullshit, but in reality it was a rare time at Hasbro where one department actually communicated with another, producing a show and toys with a uniform design, instead of making one (toy or animation model) conform to the other as is standard on most Transformers show. It was a level of co-operation that frankly Hasbro could do with more of, but in all likelihood probably will never be repeated – as far as having such great looking that toys that match their animation models of a uniformly high standard, rather than a conformity of low quality and poor aesthetic that doesn’t match it’s on screen representation.

At first those Animated toys didn’t appeal to me at all – due to the art style. But now that I have picked up a handful of them over the last year – I can say that I genuinely like them, and have decided to collect the entire line. As a lifelong fan of cartoons and comics – to my eyes Transformers Animated just does so many things right that are not obvious to the casual observer until the show is watched to completion.

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While the show was uneven at times, the shift away from human villains in Season 1 to Decepticons in Season 2 was a welcome change.

Animated was a show were some people wanted to make it “a superhero” type show in its formula. That’s a fine standard, nothing wrong with it – however the over-emphasis on generic HUMAN super-villains in Season 1, and the under emphasis on the natural villains – the Decepticons- is a silly mistake in my opinion. The build up of Megatron, and focus on each new villain was great and masterfully done. But too many humans, and too few Cons for too long is dangerous territory.

It veers too close to becoming like the #1 thing most hardcore fans hate about the live action movies. The movies are about the human characters, and their journey – with the robots as background characters in their own damn film.

Frankly the idea of giant robots chasing around human sized villains in Animated is just silly. In size and strength alone it’s no contest – leaving the villains to rely on gimmicks and technology. My question is, if the writers / show runners wanted to make a “superhero” show, why not just make that, and not involve the Transformers at all? Despite these issues, Transformers Animated is still a great show.

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The Animated toy line was one of the last of the era of strong robust plastic, amazing transformations and electronic gimmicks (such as voice clips from the show in the leader figures). Leader Bulkhead is an amazing toy.

Rising production costs and other side issues means no mainline mass market Transformers will have that level of build quality again, particularly the stronger grades of plastic that we just don’t see on modern TF toys anymore outside of Masterpiece toys.

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RID Thermidoor – a great toy overall with typical hollow bits and thin plastic

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Another thing I really did not care for or appreciate over the last ten years is the live action Bayhem Transformers movies.

The plots are confusing and ridiculous with more holes than over ripe Swiss cheese. The characterization is almost non existent – with most robot dialogue being snappy one liners and bits of quotable dialogue, rather than any form of intelligent communication, lacking the rhythms of actual conversations. The humans barely fare any better, with stop start yelling, sound bites or long rambling bits of meaningless exposition.

“I love killing things”

EXPLOSION

“We gotta get that MacGuffin to save the day”

EXPLOSION (follow with lingering creepy close up of lady parts)

-add mysterious wheel of cheese in 3rd act

“Shit we killed everything and saved the day”

roll credits here…or whatever

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Cullen Prime’s moving speeches/eulogies/movie trailer sales pitches are repeated so often over the five movie they lose any sense of meaning or impact, becoming almost like elevator muzak. It’s just there in the background and to be expected, but you don’t really pay attention to it anymore.

The explosions are many, and some of the visual designs to my eyes are rather ugly. Each film seemingly becomes more savage and faux-adult, less kid friendly (WTF?), and while some characters use the same names, their personalities don’t really match any previous version.

Looking for any depth or meaning to events in the live action Transformers movies is like trying to get cow’s milk out of a Bull. It’s not going to end well.

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Re-watching all of the Bayhem movies a few months back before Last Knight was released I found more to enjoy overall, rather than loathe. Being hyper-aware of the films many many many many failings, I was able to look past them and focus on the things I liked about the films instead.

I WILL LET YOU DOWN, I WILL MAKE YOU HURT

The animation is world class, the mix of live action and CG gets better with each film, the design team(s) were able to come up with a lot of interesting ideas and concepts for transformers, at least in terms of visual character design. What was left on the design room floor was just as interesting as what made it into the movies.

Wheels on bots feet in bot mode is rather nifty. Arm gun transformations are sweet. There is some Mythology type stuff in there that doesn’t add up to much, buy hey they tried I guess.

The tubby John Goodman voiced Movie Hound is one of favorites from the movies – even if he is just Bulkhead with a beard and gun, and a little Ironhide/Ratchet/Kup personality thrown in for shits and giggles.

I swear I had other good stuff to say about the films, but damned if I can remember any of it just now.

So in summary………. I like robots?

We’re done here until next crime.

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IMAGE CREDITS

 

*Menasor vs Computron and 1980s villains group pic by dan the art guy

https://dan-the-artguy.deviantart.com/gallery/

*Bulkhead and Sari fan art by Sishamon 10

https://sishamon10.deviantart.com/

*Feeding Dinobots TF Animated fan art by Shohji / J_666

https://j-666.deviantart.com/gallery/

*Knight Optimus from official TLK movie promo art

*Optimus Prime Thumbs Up  by The Gearsmith / GrungeWerxShop

https://grungewerxshop.deviantart.com/art/Optimus-Prime-63578017

*Ironhide fan art by Matt / Mttkn14

https://mttkn14.deviantart.com/gallery/

*Optimus Prime screen grab from The Transformers

*Trypticon screen grab from The Transformers

*Grimlock Not Stupid art from Transformers Official Manga

Daily Cartoon! TRANSFORMERS S.3,E.24: “Grimlock’s New Brain”

*Homer Simpson Brain from The Simpsons Wikia

http://simpsons.wikia.com/wiki/Simpsons_Wiki

 

 

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BOTFAN JOHN’S BOTSMAS EVE WRAP UP 2016 – in August 2017??? Stop smoking that plastic crack son!

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No, I’m not going anywhere – nor am I high on Energon or Plastic Crack.

I wrote this blog in 2016 and never got around to posting it. Then I decided, what the heck, I love reading people’s year end wrap ups about whatever and figured hey, let’s just post it anyway….

And here we are in August 2017 with me talking about 2016…….so instead of the Year in ReviewYear of the Goat or the Year of Convoy Pants Maximus – it’s the Year In Retrospect. Sounds a bit fancy doesn’t it? Or is that just my imagination where I read “Year in retrospect” with a bored yawning upper class British voice.

2016 was the year I dove head first into a bottomless pit of Transformers toys like Scrooge McDuck in his money bin.

Yeah that didn’t really happen, but I did obsessively follow every new release, every announcement, every new toy review and tid bit of news and info on official and third party toys, so it kind felt like I was diving into a giant bin of toys. Or at least a plastic tub stacked in a corner.

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I bought a heap of TF toys this year, and now I am literally surrounded by them in every direction as I type.

I never had any intention to go mad for Transformers this year, in the previous 20 years I’ve owned just a handful of toys. But some little switch got flicked inside me, and all of a sudden Transformer toys and media were my personal crack.

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It’s nothing new. I’m an obsessive person, and I have no control over what holds my attention, the best I can do is redirect from one obsessive thing to another. Batman to Marvel, Marvel to Transformers, Transformers to JG1 Transformers cartoons and then back to Transformers comics or my somewhat neglected Batman Blog. If I’m in a reading mood I’ll read several thousand pages of comics in a week, or binge watch a Transformers TV show in addition to all the normal things like eat/sleep/work/repeat.

In 2016  I read the entire run of Marvel Transformers comics for the first time. The US run, the UK lot and the Regeneration One (IDW) sequel. I read all of Dreamwave, IDW Transformers #V1-4 and more.

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I read IDW’s Robots in Disguise (RID) and More Than Meets The Eye (MTMTE) all the way through….twice. And I loved it all.

The first time around I didn’t care for a lot of those IDW comic stories. The emphasis on deeper more meaningful stories was lost on me, I craved more giant robots beating the shit out of each other.

But second times’s the charm and now I have to say my appreciation for what IDW has done with the brand, lore and stories of Transformers media is REALLY FUCKING COOL.

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If you are too stupid busy robotic  silly to read them, well all I can say is you’re missing out on some the biggest loudest most exciting longest most ambitious long form continuous piece of Transformers stories in existence.

No Transformers show ever ran for more than a few years, (Rescue Bots being the only one to continue past Season 3) and the movies are loosely interconnected one off stories. Really there is nothing else that comes near the length of IDW comics run.

Except for bits of the Marvel US and UK comics stuff, but a lot of that was shoe horned together on the fly. The IDW-verse had some real thought and planning put into it. Hey, some of the world building was shoe-horned in too in IDW, relax about it man. It’s not perfect, there are parts I don’t like for sure, but overall it’s DAMN good and we are spoilt as fans that it even exists at all.

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I’ve seen a lot of different comic companies try and do their own Marvel-Method shared universe world building, and most of them fuck it up. I’m a lifelong Marvel Comics fan in case you didn’t get the hint. But IDW did a great job of tying together Transformers, RID and MTMTE with each other, and all the one shots, mini series and stuff they did. My hat is off to them. That Revolution nonsense I’m not so happy with, but that is the topic of my next post.

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So also in 2016 I watched the Japanese show Transformers: Headmasters for the first time ever, thanks to having constant internet access. I’ve started watching Victory and Masterforce, and I’m up to episode #20 of Brave Exkaiser. I’ve also been enjoying the dazzling Combattler V and other classic super-robot anime that I’ve never had the opportunity to view before. It’s great stuff. I also watched all of Transformers Animated for the first time and made a dent in Robots in Disguise 2015.

Just this last week or so I’ve started watching Transformers Prime, a brilliant award winning show that I’ve been meaning to watch for years, but only now had the time to fully engage with and appreciate.

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TF Prime is a show with real nuance to the characters, and it really rewards those who sit down and watch episodes back to back, pulling off serialised stories in a way that is nearly seamless, and possibly the best that has been done in any Transformers TV show. Beast Wars did a similar thing, the pacing just always felt too slow for me, the CGI was ground breaking for its time, but just looks ugly today. With Transformers Prime I feel like all the experiences and talent that went into Beast Wars and Transformers: More than Meets the Eye really paid off in Transformers Prime.

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I’ve never cared for the art style much of TF Prime, particularly Prime himself with his overly skeletal hips and exploding chest windows that can’t decide where to sit.

But Bulkhead is amazing, as is Ratchet. The character models are gorgeous and these two characters alone make the show worth watching for me, along with Megatron, Break-down and Knock-Out. The stories are well done, the action is brilliant, and the human characters for once don’t annoy me, and are integrated into the show in a pretty seamless way that makes sense. Of course the one who really steals the show is Iago… I mean Starscream.

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Another thing Transformers Prime does is sort of redeem the movie aesthetic (as in live action Bayhem Bayformer movies) for me, the post Bayformer design of Prime and Bumblebee in particular really stands out as incorporating elements of the live action movie designs, in a way that doesn’t give me a headache or make me feel like throwing up from looking at them with their millions of triangular face polygons that make their faces look like evil razoblades from hell.

Of course, now I must start a TF Prime toy collection, but that’s a good problem to have.

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S3 Galvatron joins the search party that is going out to look for….himself

 

In 2016 I bought loads of official brand new retail toys, the Titans Return, a few more Combiner Wars, and picked up old brilliant CHUGS by the boxful thanks to some local collectors in my state, and embraced some truly AMAZING stuff that is coming out like hotcakes from third parties.

My most recent third party efforts have been Unique Toys Allen aka G1 Springer and KFC Simba aka Victory Leo. While mid year, finding a HASBRO Titans Fortress ‘Mazimus on sale here in Australia for below full retail price at the time or release was brilliant, and my toy of the year as far as something that I looked forward to for over six months, and am still in love with. Once you look past how inferior the build quality is compared to the G1 toy, and his damn Leaning-Tower-of-Iacon status that makes him fall over REALLY easily despite having literally giant bot boot bricks for feet….. well all that aside he’s  a GREAT toy and a worth addition to any fans collection. I also briefly owned MMC’s version of Overlord for about a month or two, then traded him for a Generation’s Metroplex.

 

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I’ve gone a bit gonzo for fandom in 2016 and embraced various TF communities and collectives.

I love connecting with other fans, enjoying their amazing art – such as Chris McMasters Venomised Megatron picture below. I also enjoyed buying toys from local sellers in OZ via wonderful facebook groups such as TCCA – Transformers Collectors Club Australia and OTCA / OZFORMERS Forums – many a great deal is to be had. The great thing about buying from collectors, rather than soccer moms over on Gumtree (who also have some amazing do not miss deals, hello Energon Omega Supreme for $40 AUD) is that you know what you are getting, what condition it is in, what bits it is missing, or if its complete etc.

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Megatron-Venom by Chris McMasters https://www.instagram.com/ceedaflicks/

In 2016 I joined the TFW2005 forums in May. It’s been years since I’ve found any online niche hobby site forums that I wanted to be a part of and contribute to, or have the time for.

Many online nerd communities are insular, strange and often hostile. And while it is possible to have that experience at TFW2005, my overall experience so far has been most welcoming, and a number of people whom I have not met in person, but I think of as friends have found me on facebook and other sites, and I’m very grateful to them for their friendship.

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At Big Citybot Burger, we’ve got the Burgers Bots Crave

I also frequent the Australian OTCA / Ozformers forums, and I use the same name “BATFAN007” on all sites, including reddit and Seibertron.

So if you see that name around, it’s most likely me, usually talking a big load of rubbish. I also swear like a sailor and am usually a grumpy mother fucker on the best of days. So I’m not going out of my way to be obnoxious, that’s just how I am in real life even with my family and friends.

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In 2016 I took way to many photos (like it kept filling up the camera memory card) of toys and shared them on IMGUR, Facebook and TFW2005. Seeing other people’s fun photos made me want to take more photos than ever, and it was great fun.

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Well, that does it for now. 2016 for me was an awesome year for collecting Transformers toys and gave me something positive to focus on while other parts of my life have been unbearable and depressingly frustrating.

But never mind that, here’s RID Chubby Paws Grimlock having a panic attack…..

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ELITA 1 – REMEMBERS WHEN THE WAR WAS YOUNG

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One of my favourite episodes of the old Marvel/Sunbow Transformers cartoon is The Search for Alpha Trion. 

In the episode some of the Autobots (mostly red colored ones for no good reason) travel from earth to Cybertron sneakily via the Decepticons dodgy space bridge to search for their mentor.

I don’t know how much “searching” the Autobots actually do in that episode – they find Old Man Freeformer pretty quick if you ask me.

To nobodies surprise the Autobots meet up with the then unknown Autobot sage Alpha Trion and some Autobot fembot resistance fighters lead by the gloriously pink hued Elita-1.

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Before I talk more about the fembots, (female Transformers are the main topic of this post) I just wanted to note that yes Alpha Trion does have a beard and only Vector Sigma knows why. For no reason I guess other than to give him a wise old oriental look, like every kung-fu master from every 70s era Kung-Fu movie ever.

Because why does a Cybertronian automaton have facial hair? It’s loveably daft, but has become part of the iconic look of the elder Autobot.

The REAL reason Alpha Trion has a beard? Only Alpha Trion knows, and if you asked him he’d likely tell you it’s because he’s “lived so long I can’t remember”

 

DESIGNING THE IMAGINED FUTURE

So, back to Elita-1 and her Hellcats… Alpha’s Angels…. ..resistance fighters in the Cybertronian Civil War.

The designs of the female autobots are fairly basic.

chromia elita 1 search for alpha trion transformers
High ears, pointy ears or round ears, the options really are limitless

In super-robot terms they are not going to win any design awards – but there is an undeniable Retro-Futuristic feel and charm to them. Their bold colors make them even more memorable, and well I just love them for what they are. I hope some day toon-accurate toys get made based on these kick-ass fem-bots, in addition to the various modernized versions and redecos available.

Nothing much happens in the episode, Shockwave is in there, doing dastardly things as usual, and the story is nothing remarkable. It’s really notable for introducing the first in-fiction female Transformers.

I’ll admit the fembot designs are kind of goofy, like someone was making their first ever attempt at Retro-Futurism in robot form – but I still like them.

Did Floro Dery design them? I have no idea who did, totally in the dark. Can’t even find the light switch. Dery did a lot of  character design work for the original Transformers show and movie (he also lied and exaggerated a fair about what he actually did) – and the female Autobots do come across as similar to his more organic looking Floro-Formers – such as his ’86 animated  movie designs; Cyclonus, Galvatron, Blur etc.

The wise Sage Alpa Trion also has a more humanoid curvy look to him than the big ‘n boxy 1984 O.G. Transformers crowd.

Elita 1 the search for alpha trion transformers

PINKIE PINKERTON AND THE PINK SQUAD

Female Transformers in Transformers fiction were never mentioned before the Alpha Trion / Elita-1 episode (because they didn’t exist). All the toys up until then were basically male looking mecha, and the voices of the characters were male voice actors. It was sort of *assumed* that Transformers were either ALL male, or sexless despite having the physical characteristics and voices of males. Many people either forgot, or never saw the Search for Alpha Trion episode, and later erroneously assumed Arcee to be the first female Transformer in Transfromers: The Movie (1986).

Beast Wars (1996) was notable for being the the first Transformers TV show to have ongoing female characters, such as Black Arachnia.

One sidenote is that Ratchet was originally written to be a female character. The name was inspired by Nurse Ratched in the film version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest – but was changed to a male character to fall in line with the rest of the toy line and characters.

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Also in the non-canon mini-comics that accompanied the European release of Joustra Diaclone toys, the Pre-Transformers Ratchet toy / Joustra Ambulance was also female. MAZ over at the excellent blog TF-1 covers pretty much everything you could ever want to know about Diaclone toys. I recommend checking out the full article on the Joustra Diaclone Ambulance 

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Image credit: MAZ / TF-1.com Blog http://www.tf-1.com/articles/pretf/joustraamb_template.html

 

Until The Search for Alpha Trion episode, female Transformers had never been mentioned, or part of the lore (as far as I know, feel free to prove me wrong).

Diaclone toys – the pre-Transformers robot toys from Japan – were piloted mecha, “gender” had no context here (other than the pilots obviously).

Only when the very manly voices of Peter Cullen as Optimus Prime and Frank Welker as Megatron were added to the new HASBRO/Sunbow/Marvel Productions cartoon do we get to know our imported Japanese super-robots as re-branded iconic American heroes and villains, with strong hyper-masculine male archetypes in the typical over the top nineteen-eighties action hero fashion.

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The lack of female characters (or female voice artists) in Transformers was more marketing decision than anything else.

BOYS WILL BE BOYS (OUR MARKETING EXPERTS TOLD US SO)

Boys – and their parents- tended to buy “boys toys”.

Gender roles and buying habits in decades gone by were assumed to be fixed and unchanging. Something we know not to be true today where girls, women and even some 90 year old women play video games or watch Marvel movies like the Avengers.

even my local Kmart now has about 50/50 split for boys and girls Tshirts with superhero emblems. DC are even getting into the Barbie market with their line of DC Superhero Girls dolls. Times are different from the dawn of Transformers in the eighties when these types of products and characters were previously only marketed to boys.

To be fair, a large number of specialist market action figures and geeky stuff is still primarily marketed to boys today, and most girls and women would likely care more about being treated decently as a human beings in society, over being concerned about the latest mass market toy in a chain-store.

Transformers, like G.I. Joe are about war, combat and power fantasies, and the expression of endless non-stop action and role playing. The fairer sex has been marginalized in most if not all arenas of life for as long as anybody can remember – and of course by male toy/marketing executives with no interest in engaging females in the warrior narrative of fighting super-robots who followed the market and trends of the time.

You’d think that if we temporarily fast forward time a little from them backwards eighties, things would be a little different – and they mostly are –

But in 2007 we got this…

Megan-Fox-Transformers-Photos-HD-Wallpaper.jpg

And then in 2011 we got this….

transformers movie 1 rosie huntington.jpg

I have no issue with beautiful women in movies hovering around cars, heck they’ve gotta sell those cars somehow, right?

Whether it’s great cinema or junk cinema women being shown primarily as fetishized objects, as eye candy accessories rather than as integral to the plot, than as actual human beings is nothing new.

And nothing really bothers me in the Transformers Bayhem movies in the portrayal of any of the male or female characters, other than the characters all being dumber than bricks. The Transformers Bayhem movies are mainstream movies with simple character archetypes used as shorthand so your brain can go on holiday while explosions happen every five seconds. There is nothing terribly offensive about them. And they did manage to get a female autobot in a film for about five minutes there, I forget which one (Arcee, I forget which film she was in).

I mostly hate the script, the dialogue and how dumb the movies are despite how impressive their (horribly edited) visual spectacle is to watch. No, I just use these examples to show that while some forms of Transformers fiction such as the IDW comics or Transformers: Prime or Transformers RID 2015 are more progressive with female characters (human and robot) being essential elements of the show in vital roles, other aspects of Transformers fiction such as the live action movies reduce females to eye candy. Well, not even progressive, but ordinary in the sense of having a balance of legitimate female characters, rather than as an afterthought in the fiction.

 

Transformers prime tf rid robots in disguise main cast.jpg

TF_Holiday2015 transformers idw comics.jpg

Nothing wrong with eye-candy, I like it, but I’ll take an Ellen Ripley in Alien over a Megan Fox in Transformers any day of the week. Not because of looks, talent or any of that. But because the CHARACTER is interesting. A good story starts with a good character, it’s why Strongarm in RID 2015 is a great character – it all comes from the quality writing, rather than any gimmicks. Megan Fox was alright in Transformers, but her character did not have a whole lot to do, nor did most of the various female characters in the films so far, including blink-and-you’ll-miss-her Arcee.

sound wave acceptable in the 80s ministry of decepticons small xl

ACCEPTABLE IN THE 80’S?

Girls have been expected for the longest time to enjoy Barbie, and frilly “girl” things, and that was that.  And boys have always been expected to enjoy “manly” things, despite some dudes being really into Barbie or My Little Pony or JEM.

I used to know  a guy who had a prominent living room display of vintage original Barbie and tall G.I. Joe dolls, and they they did look quite spectacular the way he had them displayed in glass cabinets.

The closest Pre-Transformers toys have gotten to a female character was the cancelled Waruder mecha “Beet Papil” – who transformed into a Ladybug.

Some of the other Waruder Japanese toys were re-purposed later on as Insecticons and Deluxe Insecticons under the Transformers brand. If this full toy line line had been incorporated into Transformers, we might have seen the first female transformer.

But the toy was never made (as part of the BEETRAS line, or at all) and of course was never directly related to the American Transformers brand. It’s more an oddity/curio thanks to curious internet detectives who took the time to scan the images for other fans to enjoy.

beetras1
Armored Insect Battalion Beetras by Takatoku

Sadly, this is the best imagine around online of the Waruders I could find. I blew up Ms Bug below for a closer look at those shapely curves and cool colors, but it’s a bit blurry. Still, at lest we can see the deco and basic highlights which are more smooth, detailed and organic looking than your average american Transformer toys of the 80’s era, and even a pixelated image like this is infinitely more impressive than Megan Fox in Transformers ‘Splosionfest 2007.

Beet Papil is More Robocop/Metropolis smooth sexy Mecha streamlined legs and joints than your typical boxy square super-robot. Very cool.

beetras ladybug beet papil 2

I really like the fembot Ladybug design overall. No joke, I would love for someone to make this toy today, it would be an instant buy for me.

Two changes I would make however – some hinges on the bug shell that allowed it to move up higher in robot mode, so it looked like a cape or cool royal robe, rather than a jacket she’s about to throw on the ground. Or add double hinges on the vertical axis in the middle of each wing, and let it collapse away neatly behind Ms Bug’s back.

beetras ladybuy beet papil

While looking up reference images, I found this cool fan-made profile, that re-imagines (or imagineers if you prefer) the cancelled BEET PAPIL toy design into a Transformers style character profile. The profile of Firebomb was created by Hellbat on DeviantARt

An unexpected find, and very cool!

firebomb_by_hellbat
FIREBOMB Character Profile by HELLBAT http://hellbat.deviantart.com/art/Firebomb-438061295

So mecha buglady aside, back to Cybertron… where our heroes and fembots are looking a bit frisky….

red bots get the fembots.jpg

What I liked about The Search for Alpha Trion is that in one single episode, we got a lot of lore and world building. Most of it is implied, but it’s there if you want it to be.

The details are sparse, but *some* of the greater space saga and lore of the Transformers (expanded on in later fiction such as the 1986 theatrical film and shows such as Beast Wars) is laid down here.

The later ramifications of this episode include Alpha Trion becoming a major significant  figure in Transformers fiction (larger mythology) who ties into both Prime, The Matrix and one of the many origins of the Transformers as a race of sentient alien robots.

We find out that not only do female Transformers exist, but apparently a bunch of them, who all seem to have romantic ties to our heroes made obvious by their affection in the show, and the way then run into each others arms. Sorry skeptics – you greet friends with handshakes and hugs, and maybe a kiss on the cheek. Running into someones arms dramatically is usually reserved for your beloved. So don’t play that “they were just really really really good friends” card with me.

 

ROLL CALL RUMBLE

So just who are these dashing fighting fembots?

We don’t get a good look in the episode at the characters at the same time in full view, so fortunately thanks to some lovely fan art from Dan-the-Art-Guy we see a full view of the basic character models.

From left to right in the image below image we have Moonracer, Firestorm, Elita-1 and Chromia.

Elita-1 is their squad leader in pink, slightly in the foreground.

 

Alpha Trions Angels
Fan art of Moonracer, Firestar, Elita-1 and Chromia

 

Thanks to an anonymous fan online who sent me some further images upon request, below is a photo of the model sheets / guides for Chromia and Moonracer which he bought in a private online auction. Model sheets are just guidleines, and so are typically more colorful and detailed, while in show models will be simplified so that they can be animated smoothly (and cheaply!)

 

Chromia g1 model sheet sample
CHROMIA model sheet (photo, not a scan)

moonracer g1 model sheet sample
MOONRACER model sheet (photo, not a scan)

 

Firestar model g1 transformers fembot
FIRESTAR model sheet (photo, not a scan)

 

Oh, before I forget – there are some other female characters in the background in various scenes too. We don’t get a whole lot of info about them, but they are there. The green character in the image below is called Greenlight.

The search for alpha trion transformers g1 firestar chromia
The World’s Smallest Energon Cubes
GReenlight female Autobot transformers
GREENLIGHT (image from TFWIKI http://tfwiki.net/wiki/Greenlight)

 

PRO-BOTS AND ROBOPHOBES

The fighting fembots are mostly forgotten relics from Generation One lore. Chromia would go on star in IDW comics many years later, along with other new female characters such as Windblade. Elita-1 has had some nods from third party and official figures, but mainly as redecos. A few fans have made their own custom versions from various molds, but often they lack a certain something. So far no figure has really gotten close to the original version.

chromia_and_windblade_by_raikoh_illust transformers idw
Chromia and Windblade by Raikoh

Windblade, Nauticaa and Chromia are the main female characters in the IDW comic book continiuty, which is like a sort Ultimate Marvel reboots of old school character, with new ones mixed in from other shows. The three main IDW fembots follow on from the general flow of the old school G1 fembots.

The sleek more humanoid forms recall Floro Dery’s “Floro-Former”movie designed original characters such as Galvatron, Hot Rod and Blur. Chromia (in blue) in IDW quite similar to her old school appearance, with a few tweaks to modernize her look, but is for all intents and purposes is a new character that is more of an homage to the old character.

The curves of Dery designed Floro-Formers give a real contrast to the square jawed and square shouldered Abe Lincoln / John Wayne body type used for Optimus Prime, and would set the basic look or jumping off point for later designs in various Transformers media. The art for these new wave fembots tends to vary in the comics and animation according to whoever the artist is, and the style of the particular book or show.

Nauticaa Brainstorm idw
Nauticaa and Brainstorm as featured in IDW comics

SIEGE ON IACON

Free of the robots in disguise earth vehicle design motif, the fembots of Cybertron and 1986 movie-bots were able to be designed with more freedom and experimentation.

curvy legged floro formers 1.jpg

Note the curvy legs (on both male and female characters) that stand in stark contrast to the old school square legged super robots style (see Megaton on the left of same image). These new wave bots had smooth lines rather than hard edges, part of the look no doubt influenced by 1950’s concept cars and Retro-Futurism (a topic for another upcoming post).

 

optimus prime galvatron elita 1 getter robo voltes v
Big ‘n Boxy and Robo-Sexy

The square shouldered look of Prime is a staple of super-robot anime, not to mention overly male machismo characters – while the more humanoid look of rounded shoulders are sometimes seen in super-robots, but those curves are more commonly in real-mecha designs where the robot is basically a suit of armor fitting around human anatomy, that has to make both aesthetic and practical movement considerations for human joints etc.

In the above image, we can the contrast of Square and Boxy vs Organic and Round (humanoid) styles in contrast.

The curves tell us two things – that these robots have a more humanoid appearance, mimicking human anatomy and rounded joints, and of course emphasizing feminine curves whether for a male or female character, much in the way 1950’s concept cars used the same motif of sleek curves instead of hard angles. This sort of thing may bother some fans who want to see Galvatron as the ultimate mentally unstable bad-ass villain, and ignore his thigh high sexy ladies street walker boots that once seen, can not be un-seen.

 

THE SEARCH FOR ELITA-1

The Search for Alpha Trion  episode unexpectedly gives us a whole new context to view the Transformers media and Cybertronian civil war through.

In the context of Transformers (the Sunbow/Marvel cartoon), the Autobots and Decepticons were at war. The Autobot group we know as our familiar heroes left – they evacuated the resource depleted Cybertron and became stranded on earth when their ship crash landed after being attacked by Decepticons.

Both the Autobots and Decepticons crash on earth and have a kip for a while (stasis lock), then our lazy snoozers get up a few million years later and resume their quarrelsome shenanigans.

The search for alpha trion ironhide chromia transformers g1

Prime, Ironhide, Inferno and Powerglide being reunited with their female compatriots (or more likely partners / girlfriends) on Cybertron was like soldiers coming back from the war. Women during our real world WW2 were at home, and running the factories, and doing just about everything else useful in society while the majority of men were sent away overseas.

The Search for Alpha Trion had that sort of feel about it for me, and made sense in the context that their war had moved to earth, and they had no clue what has happening back on Cybertron. The Autobots did not see their compatriots for “million of years” due to being stranded on earth during the civil war era.

One thing to note here is this episode isthat Cybertron itself was not as empty and barren as we were lead to believe. We know Shockwave was there, fighting against Elita-1 and her underground resistance but there is something more hinted at, and it only raises more questions.

inferno_and_firestar_by_jp_v-
inferno_and_firestar_by_jp_v

Was the sector Shockwave resides in mostly empty due to his having taken strategic control of assets like the spacebridge? Was Elita-1’s fighting force the ONLY underground resistance, what other power struggles may have been taking place off screen, on other parts of Cybertron? Did other Autobots and Decepticreeps evacuate Cybertron like our Heroes did in the first episode of the show, and where might they be now?

What is implied is that perhaps what we are seeing is just a small window into the world of Transformers and Cybertron, that there may have been other evacuations, and more battles still going on both overt and covert. It seems obvious when you think about it, the planet was at war and obviously the population was bigger than just our humble heroes and their foes.

 

ORIGINAL-FORMER

The Transformers Origins as outlined by Jim Shooter was intended to encapsulate the beginning of the shared Transformers lore for the comics, cartoon and toy line. Expansive world building was still a long way off. Nobody could have predicted the success of the Transformers brand in the short or long term. What we take for granted today with multiple shows, movies and mass media projects was mostly not even considered in the early days, there was no reason to, other than the general plot of the shows which often contradicted every other episode.

Enough lore was created week to week to get a show together and something for the characters to do, episodes were made intentionally to be screened in any order (as happens on syndicated network TV, particularly with repeats), the exception being several multi part episodes that suffered cruel confusing fates when played out of order.

alpha trions angels.jpg

FEMBOTS ARE GO!

The legacy of female characters continued in the Transformers franchise with notable characters such a Black Arachnia in Beast Wars (year), Arcee in Transformers: The Movie (1986), Airachnid and a new version of Arcee in Transformers: Prime (year), Strongarm and Windblade in Robots in Disguise (2015), and of course fun characters such as Nauticaa and Chromia in the IDW comics, with each of these various characters receiving *mostly* decent toys.

That about does it for this rambling article, below is some images of toys and art of various female Transformers.

The legacy of The Search for Alpha Trion is introducing the first ever female Transformers to the fiction, and it way too long for HASBRO to catch up and realize how appealing female characters and toys were to both male and female audiences members of all ages.

windblade arcee chromic chug2

Windblade, G1 Arcee and Chromia toys (above). Arcee was notable for not receiving  a 1986 move tie in toy (her toy was cancelled) and did not receive a proper toy until well after a decade after her appearance in the cinema.

RID 1 Strongarm Sideswipe toys deluxe

Strongarm and Sideswipe from Transformers Robots in Disguise toy line. Strongarm and Grimlock are easily my favourite character from Robots in Disguise.

strongarm_ready_for_duty_by_raikoh_illust- transformers RID.jpg

Strongarm as featured in the Robots in Disguise cartoon. This is some lovely fan art by Raikoh. The RID show has some fantastic visual design, including the bright energon glow highlights on characters giving it a really unique look.

Femme_Cons1.jpg

Nightbird, Black Arachnia and Slipstream from various Transformers toy lines

arcee_by_goddessmechanic
arcee_by_goddessmechanic

Some fan art of Arcee by Goddess Mechanic. On the left is Arcee from Transformers: Animated, in the middle Transformers:Prime and on the right classic movie or comic book Arcee.

CREDITS

*Diaclone images and art from MAZ / TF-1 Blog

http://www.tf-1.com/articles/pretf/joustraamb_template.html

*Elita 1 / Optimus Prime “You’ve got the ipod touch” by Catussnake 

http://catussnake.deviantart.com/

*Arcee’s by Goddess Mechanic

http://goddessmechanic.deviantart.com/gallery/

*Alpha Trion model sheet image sourced from TFWIKI.com

*Ratchet fan art by Thuddleston / Terry Huddleston 

http://thuddleston.deviantart.com/

*Team Elita fembot image by Dan-The-Art-Guy

http://dan-the-artguy.deviantart.com/art/femme-bots-203076618

*BEETRAS toy images from The Pre-Transformers Page

http://1501bc.com/pretf/beetras.html

*Firebomb character profile by Hellbat

http://hellbat.deviantart.com/art/Firebomb-438061295

*GREENLIGHT  image from TFWIKI http://tfwiki.net/wiki/Greenlight

*Chromia and Windblade by Raikoh

*Strongarm fan art by Raikoh

http://raikoh-illust.deviantart.com/

*Optimus Prime and Elita-1 image by Yhykurama

http://yhykurama.deviantart.com/

*Black and White manga art from TFWIKI

http://tfwiki.net/wiki/Female_Transformer#Generation_1

Inferno and Firestar by JP_V

http://jp-v.deviantart.com/

 

BOTFAN JOHN watches Robots in Disguise 2015 Season One

rid grimlock.jpg

 

I’ve been slowly working my way through every Transformers TV show ever made over the least year or so (as you do).

Previously I had only watched the 80’s Marvel/Sunbow show, the 1986 theatrical film, and a few episodes (but not all) of Beast Wars.

While I’ve seen random episodes of various shows over the years, I have not followed/watched any Transformers show since…

well since when I was a kid really.

Mostly due to work / life commitments, but also out of general disinterest for most of the shows (or lack of options to watch any of them). Plus those years where I did not own a television and wandered the earth like Caine in Kung-Fu.

Transformers Robots in Disguise 2015 Thunderhoof angry face.jpg
This IS my happy face!

“THAT’S TOO MANY ROBOTS JOHN!”

Now in 2017 I am spoilt for choice.

Home PC, Tablet and fancypants TV – all of which I use to watch various shows.

Cartoons in particular look great on the small HD tablet screen, and subtitles are easier to read. As of April this year, I have now watched all of:

Transformers: Prime

Transformers Animated

Zone

Headmasters [sub]

half of Master Force and Victory, [sub]

few episodes in to Beast Wars,

Car Robots and Beast Wars II [sub]

While I am still working through some of the Japanese shows, I’ve just finished watching RID 2015 Season 1 – with no real prior knowledge of the show – other than still images online, and the odd toy I have picked up from the lines. Yes I am a toy addict, and buy way too many TF toys, so this show has me picking up even more.

Before you ask, I do intend to watch the “Unicron Trilogy” – last of all

…as I have a brain I *wish* to continue using and know the risks of it turning to mush while watching said non-trilogy.

May go with the native language of those shows too and hopefully my brain will not melt into a pile of protoplasmic goo during the process. But don’t get your hopes up too high, I’m not a miracle-bot.

Transformers Robots in Disguise 2015 crab car guy con.jpg

RID IN THE PLACE TO BE!

So far for a show aimed at a younger audience that I really did not have much expectations for – I’m loving this show.

It’s colorful, vibrant and fun. It’s funny, like Transformers Animated was. It’s exactly the kind of kids / all ages show that  I enjoy.

Because I’m stupid like that. Or smart. Take your pick.

FREE STATE OF MOANS

While I get some “fans” (COMPLAIN-A-TRON alert!) are not into it – as a fan of not just Transformers, but all forms of animation and super-robots – I can say that with super confidence and an invincible clenched fist ready to destroy my enemies in just one punch…

 

hokuto no ken manga.jpg

…that RID 2015 is a really smart, well written, entertaining show that engages its audience.

Robots in Disguise uses character archetypes well, it uses character silhouettes and rather importantly COLOR very well. It might seem overly simple to say it here, but those factors are immensely important in creating animated characters that resonate with young children in televison and cinema.

Disney know this. Pixar knows. Studio Ghibli know this.

In fact I’d even say the visual design, color schemes and highlights are better than any other Transformers show in existence.

Transformers Robots in Disguise 2015 colorful cons.jpg

Transformers Prime was a beautiful show too but it’s muted color palette, older age demographic, mature themes and desert-apocalypse-sheik visuals make it not so appealing to younger kids. I would have loved it as a kid, but then I like dark fucked up shit, horror and existentialist movies etc.

And I am sure there are plenty of kids that DO love TF:Prime, but it was the most mature sort of stories and themes we’ve seen yet in a Transformers… anything…outside of the 1986 movie, and, well, parts of Beast Wars. Yeah Beast Wars was the first of the TV shows to do more mature themes in a kids show, got to give credit where it’s due.

Anyway, you know what I’m getting at. In Transformers: Prime Bumblebee stabs Megatron in the chest with a giant sword! Predacons try to eat everything. Optimus died again. The earth was nearly terraformed into another Cybertron, yadda yadda yadda – the show was kinda dark thematically and visually.

Transformers Robots in Disguise 2015 autobots heroes.jpg

Moving on…

Robots in Disguise (yes the colorful one) is like Skittles and primary colored Transformers got together inside the Willy Wonka factory and exploded. It’s a day-glo technicolor dreamcoat of wild unfettered imagination. It has the cel-shaded visuals on top of 3D high polgyon count models look I love, with glowy-TRON inspired highlights giving us that beautiful energon glow that the War for Cybertron games were famous for.

The show is so pretty that I had to use “glow” in that last sentence twice, and I refuse to remove it, despite being terrible, terrible grammar.

Transformers Robots in Disguise 2015 autobot glow.jpg
“TRON? Never heard of it fella”
grimlock rid tron glow.png
“ME GRIMLOCK AM NOT GLO-FRIEND!”

CHOCK FULL OF GLOWY GOODNESS

If Transfomers: Animated was a love letter to the franchise, then Robots in Disguise is an addendum to that love letter.

The subtle influences and easter eggs in RID  were a welcome surprise for me. Odd nods to other shows and obscure characters. Like in one episode – a minor non-essential to the plot mini-con happens to look like a tiny cute version of Destron leader Deathsaurus from the JG1 Victory cartoon.

Transformers Robots in Disguise 2015 steeljaw crab dude con.jpg

Anyhow, the colors!

RID is terribly successful at being bright and gaudy and catching the eye of its younger target audience in the show and toyline.

And that to me is a key part of what makes it great. Younger kids don’t have the finer discretion that adults do. They are more immediately engaged with their environment and all types of play. Most adults are turned off by either the art, or “kiddie” tone of the show, and may miss that it also has consistently good storytelling and character design at its heart, with all the other bells and whistles on top of that.

I prefer my Mad Max to Powerpuff Girls generally speaking, but hell I love both with a passion, each has its own purpose and equally beautiful unique rich aesthetic. You might think they are totally different things. But they are not. They are both “hero/heroine” stories in different clothing.

mad max fury road max furyiosa powerpuff girls 1

I’m a story and character person.

I don’t care who made it, what it’s about or whatever.

Give me boring characters but a great story and I will read/watch it.

Give me a terrible production but with some amazing character who really pulls you into that world, and I’ll take a look.

Give me both and I am not leaving the house until I’ve finished that story. Sorry outside world, you can get fucked. Well at least until I’m done. I may need food and Robo-Snacks from time to time.

But some folks can’t see past a certain aesthetic, or a certain gimmick or hook, or a particular new interpretation of an old character they love – and so they miss out on good stuff that they may really enjoy because they never give it a chance.

I am not saying if you are diehard adult G1 fan that you will enjoy RID. Most likely you will not, based on the comments I’ve seen online from the more hardcore old school fans. I happen to BE one of those fans too, (I was born in 1980) but I also love other stuff.

Why limit myself? Why waste time hating anything? It’s just toxic, I’m too busy enjoying life and fun cartoons and toys.

the plays the thing

 

I don’t care who likes what or why. But it does bother me sometimes to read ignorant opinions about what Transformers media “should” or “should not be”.

As if everything should be made purely for specific fans, only to please them. It’s a rather immature and selfish attitude imo. It’s fine to have discretion and good taste. I get it. It’s fine to nit pick about shitty toys that fall apart in the damn packet. That’s quite legitimate in my world view. But some fans seem to think they should be consulted personally on everything that happens, as if they were CEO of Hasbro or something.

tell him hes dreaming whats he asking

However, Robots in Disguise was not made for me, nor older TF fans, yet – I still love it.

I love it like I love classic Disney Donald Duck cartoons, or the more modern Duck Tales, or Astro Boy or like I love Brad Bird’s Iron Giant film. RID is a cartoon that wears it influences on its sleeve. (And I am not saying those particular things are an influence at all, well maybe a little Iron Giant….).

 

rid cons 2015 thunderhoof steeljaw.jpg

CON-FU

In contrast to our heroes, the CONS in this show are a rag tag non-group of escaped convicts spread throughout the country. Our heroes track them down one by one, usually getting their asses kicked by the tougher, more skilled and ruthless Con of the week. It’s a similar formula to that used in Transformers: Animated, and it works.

Adding a little spice to the mix are the varied Decepticon designs, which are mostly vehicle alt modes, with Beast-Bot modes. It’s an odd mix of Carbot and Beast, but it works. While our heroes are fairly standard humanoid designs the CONS are a diverse mix of weirdo’s and oddities.

A tree frog, a reindeer, wolf, giant worm-insect thing, a crab, a lobster guy named “Bisk” a dragon-eagle and host of other unique cool characters that make each encounter / battle between the Cons and Bots a little bit special. I didn’t even mention the mini-cons, who are both weapons and plot devices throughout the series.

strongarm sideswipe junkyard rid 2015.jpg

THE DEATH OF SERIOUS-NESS

The basic set up of RID is that some Autobots are accidentally stranded on earth (what are the chances?) and a prison ship of Decepticons has left stasis pods all over the place, and the Autobots track down a CON-of-the-week.

Our heroes live in a junk/scrapyard and are pretty much adopted and protected from the world at large by junkyard dweller Denny and his son Russell. These autobots are pretty green (inexperienced)  often losing in battle, forcing them to evolve better solo and team tactics. There is room for the characters to develop, and episodes play out great as solo stories, but also inter-connect like one long animated movie, similar to how Transformers: Prime rolled when it was on our screens.

The tone of the show is light hearted and fun, but more serious when it comes to battles.

Look at that grim menace from Fracture below! These CONS don’t mess around and kick a lot of Autobot-behind on a daily basis.

Transformers Robots in Disguise 2015 fracture vs sideswipe.jpg

Another element of the show I really enjoy is RID’s unashamed nostalgia and goofiness. It’s most apparent with Denny Clay – who lives in a junk yard full of Americana.

THIS SHOW IS FULL OF JUNK!

Curios, oddities and forgotten antiquities from America’s most successful economic years in the post World War II years litter his mancave / sanctum sanctorum.  This junk is better than money, gold or Treasure to Denny – they are artifacts and cultural knick nacks and out dated technology and raw materials for his inventions and contraptions. They also provide a convenient hiding space, and a place to train for the Autobots on the outskirts of the city.

The scrapyard is a strangely relevant idea for a Transformers show and yet rather odd. The only reason the core of the show is set in the junkyard, is that the Autobots ship is stranded there. Otherwise it just comes across as one of those wacky writer ideas somebody threw at a wall:

“Hey, what if they live in a junk yard?”

junkyard rid toon.jpg

It sounds stupid, but again, it works. Robots in Disguise: super-cybertronian tech – surrounded by earth junk and outdated technology. RID seems to specialize in the unorthodox, and is a better show for it. It takes chances and mostly succeeds.

Denny is like a visual mash up mix of comic actor Zach Galafiniakis and noted Transformers expert (Transformarian?) Chris McFeely – and Denny sometimes dresses like Magnum P.I. cosplaying Indiana Jones, as well as other odd “disguises”.

I swear I’m not making any of that up, just look at the screen grab here and below.

And I swear I have never EVER abused the power of the internet to ask annoying fanboy questions of Chris McFeely…..as far as you know.

Denny’s taste in fashion -like everything else – is antiquated and eccentric and loveable and unique. He also happens to possibly be named after the guy who named Optimus Prime. How that’s for obscure fan trivia.

Okay, so that’s not true. I totally made that bit up. I kind of wanted it to be true though, would have been cool. He’s REALLY named after those god awful diners where you can get rubbish food and bad service any time you like. And he really DOES look like a mash up of McFeely and Galafiniakis.

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Two “Orion Pax Combo’s” to go thanks Mista!

BUILD IT – TEST IT – BREAK IT- SMASH IT…REBUILD IT

Denny is the cliche prototypical lost in his own thoughts do-it-yourself backyard boffin mechanic/inventor who often works with Autobot Fixit on various projects.

He’s scatter brained, rambles on about stuff lost in his own world, kind of reckless how he keeps endangering his own son with his stupid projects and reckless ways. But he’s also a big kid at heart, and smart with anything mechanical.

Oh, this is Fixit if you didn’t already know…

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Fixit is a roughly human sized bot who is a good friend to Denny and Russell, when he is not also endangering their lives…he pretty much takes the place that Bumblebee traditionally has in Transformers fiction, with a soft spot for humans. Fixit is also a mechanical /engineering genius, but he has brain damage, and the one time Denny tried to fix him, Fixit tried to kill everyone, so Fixit lives on and makes peace with his defects.

Denny is mechanically smart, and a very loving nurturing father. He’s also his own worst enemy in that Doc Brown sort of way, where he just happens to be regularly working with dangerous things that could easily kill him.

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But what modern man doesn’t crave at least a little danger? I can think of mates who tinker in their own back yards, usually solo with heavy equipment and cars and what have you, and often with things that are quite dangerous. Yet they do alright.

The junkyard, aka The Treasure Yard or just  “Fortress of Socialization”, is also a mini-fortress, a base and well….

….um….. Home.

A home for Denny, his son Russell and the Cybertronian refugees who are stuck on earth, well at least the Bots (and one former Con, Grimlock) who reside there. They are a family of sorts, who always support each other, despite their differences. Their bravery and naivety go hand in hand.

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The latest Cosplayers from ComiCon

 

THE MORALITY AND HONOR….OF KICKING ASS

I love that Robots in Disguise emphasizes simple life lessons and moral stories, it’s a show that allows room for its lead characters to make mistakes, and learn from those mistakes. These Bots are not battle hardened soldiers. There is room to breathe, to explore new territory in this show.

The Autobots are green, inexperienced blunderers, who basically learn one mistake at a time, and they are terrible at fighting. Like, woefully incompetent.

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“I may have glowy bits, but I am utterly useless in combat”

So terrible that half way thorough the the first season, the lack of fighting skills from our Autobot heroes really started to bother me. The way they charged recklessly into battle, making the same stupid mistakes over and over, getting their whole teams robo-behinds kicked by one measly Con, damn it was irritating! And repetitive. I started to think it was some greedy/lazy writing.

But then as the story progressed, the characters started using more strategy in their battle, and they started fighting better in close range, instead of like a pack of un-coordinated idiots.

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“Be on the look out for a giant green Dinosaur in the port, he is Captionless, repeat, Caption-Less”

So this gang of no hopers who could not fight their way out of a paper bag…

I realized just how GREEN these guys (and gals) were, and that their lack of combat experience was an essential element of the show. It gives more room for the characters to grow in different directions. Their cups are empty rather than overflowing.

We already know Grimlock is a big strong bruiser, but what happens when a smaller opponent merely sidesteps his attacks? He has to get smarter in his attack, and use effective teamwork to succeed – not unlike team sports – where incremental skill progression both on and off the field is necessary to improve both as a single unit, and as part of a team. It’s a joy to see these slack-jawed bumblers improve throughout the season into a real team of kick ass Autobots.

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TOTAL DOMINATION

When fembot Strongarm faces down Steeljaw, and he expects another easy win to his (and our surprise) not only does Strongarm hold her own, but totally dominates her opponent who is double her size in height and likely stronger too. Previously Strongarm was among the worst in combat, but with persistence, practice and determination she improves, and takes advantage of her foes over-confidence.

I genuinely enjoyed that masterful fight scene as much as I’ve enjoyed a good Ronda Rousey fight in days gone by in the UFC. I was literally jumping out of my seat and cheering on Strongarm.

To see Strongarm move beyond her old limitations and progress and learn new ways  of being, of expressing herself themselves is just awe-inspiring. I also love that we now have a modern Transformers show with a strong tough female character who can stand side by side with any of the male characters and not look weak or pathetic, or be the boring “damsel in distress” cliche. Well two fembots characters, Windblade is in the mix now too in later episodes.

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“PLEASE SIR, MAY WE HAVE SOME MORE ENERGON?”
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“MOORRRRRREE!!!”

 

COLD IN THE SPARK

However you look at it, RID has a lot of heart (or Spark if you prefer).

It’s fun colorful and nostalgic – yet contemporary.

It has engaging characters who grow and learn through each season.

RID is simply gorgeous, a visually stunning show that is super stylish and cool.

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Of course kids are growing (literally) and learning new things all the time, I wish more adults were like that. As human beings, we never stop learning, and I believe that the more open and loving and happy we are in life, the more enjoyable life is. One you stop playing, you stop learning, you get old and boring and rigid very fast.

Robots in Disguise is a happy show. RID is surprisingly very smart and well made.

It’s the opposite of cynical lazy shows made on a super low budget. The characters are wonderfully expressive, the body language is masterful and the fights have real impact to them, you can really feel the weight of the characters smashing together. It’s got fun, vibrant memorable characters, and the most diverse innovative original CONS yet seen in any Transformers show so far.

RID has passion, guts and heart (and great action and humor).

What more could you ask for?

 

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CONFESSION TIME: Confession time: I finished Robots in Disguise Season One while writing this article and started binging on Season 2, and could not resist adding some images from those episodes, so you caught. Now hand me my cup of dark energon poison and shut up already, I got me shows to watch.

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