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/

5 TRULY FORGETTABLE MOMENTS IN BOB BUDIANSKY’S MARVEL TRANSFORMERS COMICS RUN

5 TRULY FORGETTABLE MOMENTS IN BOB BUDIANSKY’S MARVEL TRANSFORMERS US COMICS RUN

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5. CARWASH OF DOOM (TFUS#31)

The story that saw Bob get some death threats, Car wash of Doom proves not to be  a masterpiece. Okay that didn’t really happen, but Bob did make that death threat comment himself as a joke in an interview. About rabid fans obsessing about comics he wrote a couple decades ago made for kids and expecting them to stand up to an adult’s taste and nasty-minded criticism today.

The Marvel Transformers comics were written for kids, and for that purpose they are fine. For adults the stories are ho-hum, with a few cool highlights for fans of all ages. Adults criticizing twenty plus year old comics written for kids is kind of a DUMB activity…

But here we are anyway…looks like I’m the dummy in this post.

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Poor young Buster just want to get his car clean and enjoy some quality time with his main girl, but what he doesn’t know is THIS  particular car wash (part of hid dads auto repair business) has been sabotaged with another hair brained Decepticon trap.

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The car wash is a sweet irresistible consumer deal that lures in all the customers so Ratbat can spring his trap. Sure Ratbat… nobody can resist a bargain priced car wash *cough*. Ratbat has some mad mind control mojo making the townspeople go crazy and they start chasing Buster.

All that is missing is some of that hillbilly chase music Grandpa Simpson is so fond of. Buster turns and runs – right back into the carwash – natures natural protection against evil flying predatorial micro-cassettes.

Wasn’t the whole carwash a trap to start with Buster? Did you learn nothing from the yokels chasing you while playing that damned hillbilly music?

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This Witwicky survival plan turns out not to be such a genius scheme after all as Ratbat follows Buster Witwicky into the carwash.

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The one part of the comic that is actually pretty scary, and very METAL – Ratbat starts eating and tearing at parts of Buster’s vehicle. Good thing he’s in the car wash then so he can’t just get out and run away. $%#^&5^# idiot!

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Ratbast smashes his way in, and it is the most exciting scene in an otherwise dull issue of Transformers. If Buster had died here, and Ratbat took over as one of the main characters, I don’t think there would have been any complaints from fans.

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Buster puts up a valiant but very *sudsy* fight, but then Ratbat gets him anyway and flies off with him. It’s a pretty cool sequence, but the rest of the story about the luxury car wash luring people in so Ratbat can use his mind control to accomplish…. *something?*… is pretty silly and pointless. The grand scheme never really plays out. So, let’s move on to the next bit of nonsensical 80s Marvel Transformers comic book then shall we.

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4. SATURDAY NIGHT MICROMASTER SMACKDOWN! (TFUS#55)

An issue that starts off with an epic cover and promises an exciting story. The cover artist did their job well. Too bad the story inside doesn’t live up to that promise.

Minicons come to town fresh from Cybertron (aka Hasbro Toy Catalog Land) and what to do with their free time? Why they try their metal fists and torsos at Pro-Wrestling of course.

Roadhandler checks out the backstage training area, and is greeted with a warm welcome from the other pro wrestlers.

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Roadhandler is being managed by the most trustworthy fellow in the biz “Swindler”

 

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Robots that weigh more than a ton and made out of who knows what kind of metal are perfectly safe for how wrestlers to wrestle for the fans. It doesn’t matter, it’s not like they are hooked on pain killers for their chronic back and knee pain or anything. Why not attempt to fling a ton or more of Autobot metal over your head? Remember this was the 80’s pal, and folks were tougher in those days!

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Roadhandler gets into the wrasslin’ game pretty fast, and learns how to help his opponent put on a good show. It’s all good fun for the kids and families.

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Just when Roadhandler gets the upper hand, his opponent ducks beneath the ring and emerges with… a jackhammer. The dirty cheat!

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Roadhandler crushes the Jackhammer, and no that’s not a euphemism. His opponent is none too happy, but that’s nothing compared to what happens next.

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His buff opponent hurls him from the ring with a Herculean throw, but what’s this… Roadhandler transformers in mid air and lands safely in his alt mode.

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Roadhandler transforms once again and re-enters the rings, where he makes quick merciless work of his slick haired green speedo wearing opponent.

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The fans love their new champ, he goes on to win more matches and it seems this Bot has got it made living large, stylin’ and profilin’.

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Just when Roadhandler was living on Easy Street, a match goes sour with the surprise  opponent turns out to be be a no good villain, Stormcloud.

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Stormcloud makes for a vicious opponent, slamming Roadhandler to the the ground with so much force that it made the whole ring and the crowd momentarily disappear!

The lousy cheating Con transforms to alt mode and tries for a high stakes aerial attack, but Roadhandler is having none of it, and brings him smashing back down to the ground using one of the ropes ripped from the ring itself. I’ve never seen anything like this folks, in all my years as a commentator – what a match!

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The Saturday Night Micromaster Smackdown is a very silly story, but really perfect nonsense for eight year olds who love wresting and Transformers. It’s the kind of thing you would only ever see in a comic book (or maybe an episode of TF:animated) so in a way it’s quite good. You can tell I’m really cheating on my own list, as I love all the Transformers comics, even the bad ones.

Now let’s see what other  TV inspired horrors await the poor fools in our next story.

 

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3. STARSCREAMS FANTASY ISLAND (TFUS#47-49)

In a story that makes as much sense as the time Soundwave and Starscream ran a nightclub in the Sunbow cartoon, Starscream decides to run his own private fantasy island getaway.

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A luxury resort for humans to enjoy and show how nice the old Decepti-creeps can be.

A “magical island… with “friendly staff”. It seems the CONS have changed their creed, and are embracing their new LOVE of humanity!

It’s also the World’s Smallest Island apparently.

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Also the CONS have a giant underwater *murder-base* underneath the island.

*Whoops* – they forgot to mention that feature in the advertising campaign. Those fiends!

But don’t let a secret base stand in the way of good public relations. Frontman Starscream barks the immortal lines of dialog never to be heard again in any Transformers fiction, not even in a million million years:

“HI, I’M STARSCREAM. FLY ME!”

I guess Starscream doesn’t like to waste people’s time with small talk. But things get fishy pretty quickly.

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A red headed bikini lady is enjoying some sand, waves and fresh tunes on the beach courtesy of our main man Blaster. She’s actually there undercover to investigate the island for whatever forgettable reason. Something to do with that secret underwater Murder-Torture-Base perhaps.

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When Seacons Attack! No it’s not coming up next on the Discovery Channel, it’s what happens to the bikini lady who just wanted to enjoy some scuba snorkeling and the latest B-Boy mixes.

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She follows them to see what is up, only to discover the CLUB CON underwater murder-mayhem base, and also that Blaster is waterproof.

It’s great to sea the Seacons (however briefly) as they don’t turn up too often in any Transformers media other than those weird Japanese cartoons where they combine into King Poseidon.

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The red headed lady follows the Seacons underwater into a secret entrance to the CONS hidden base with Blaster snugly tucked under her arm – narrowly avoiding detection by any of the lurking local roughnecks.

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Jesse’s recon (hey I finally found her name) is complete, she confirms that Buster Witwicky is being held prisoner but is unable to free him. Instead Jesse has to make a hasty escapes. But the Seacons attack back on the beach. Blaster fights them off pretty much singlehanded – well enough for the two to make their getaway and blend in with the beach crowd.

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Some stupid kid distracts blaster, resulting in him taking some serious damage.

But the important thing is, everybody else on the beach pretty much ignored or forgot about everything that just happened. Starscream still loves humans, and invites them to return to his luxurious island resort (but downplays the murdery world domination aspects of the island-base) That’s good PR!

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The Underbase Saga starts out a very vanilla story, but the later chapters have one of the coolest moments in TFUS history- “Underbase Starscream”. But that one we will save for my upcoming list of “Epic Memorable Moments in Budiansky TFUS“, rather than the dodgy issues such as this one.

 

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3. THE BOSS / BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN COMES TO TOWN (TFUS#14)

Too cheap to pay for tickets the Autobots can’t stay away from the Bruce Springsteen concert in town and decide to gate crash. Did they have a mission too? Possibly, they stay in their vehicle alt modes as they are undercover, but really it’s just an excuse to listen to The Boss live without paying, having spent all their pocket money on Energon Lollipops at the gate – those cheap auto-bastards!

The Autobots narrowly avoid detection by some greedy-lazy Security guards, who can’t be bothered looking for the drivers they just saw in the vehicles. The Autobots used their holo-avatars rather haphazardly at times, and didn’t know they were supposed to pay to park in the concert stadium.

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With The Boss belting out some classics, the Autobots lie in wait, apparently with a tip off that Decepticons may be in the neighbourhood.

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SURPRISE FOOLS! The Cons turn up all right. Three familiar Seekers burst out of the ground, as flying jets typically do.

Carnage ensues with the Seeker’s attacking the stadium, and a weird cable thing that is part of the stage is going to topple over when…

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Hoist appears on stage to save the day. He grabs the broken scafolding and welds it back together that was about to crush Bruce Springsteen. He’s a swell guy that Hoist.

But watch out, the danger is not over yet!

Shockwave appears on the scene, looking a bit grey and determined to turn into his gun flight mode and shoot the stadium. Quick thinking yellow faced Bumblebee hurls an Energon cube at the purple one eyed monster.

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The results are spectacular, the explosion looking like it’s all part of the show. The other Cons have had enough, they turn their tailjets around and follow then leader Shockwave back home, presumably enjoying the Springsteen concert on their in flight radio.

Once again, the day is saved, thanks to the Autobots. The rest of the issue has various humans and military leaders planning what to do about the robot alien menace.

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Overall it’s not a bad issue at all. But the whole execution is just really vanilla. A lot of the Marvel Transformers comics had stories that were more serious in tone. But this issue feels more like one of the Sunbow cartoon episodes, with the Cons attacking a public concert. The only thing that makes different than other vanilla issues, is the appearance of Bruce Springsteen (they use a pseudonym in the issue) which really should make for a more memorable story, but it ends up being a couple of pages and a cool gimmick cover.

Let’s move on to one of the creepiest issues of TFUS up next.

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2. SKIDS IN LOVE…with a human?  (TFUS#20)

Rating high on the “EW! CREEP” factor, Skids falls in love with  a human, only for the human woman to shamelessly reciprocate in the second example of manbot and female human love in Transformers fiction. Inter-species romances are mainly the domain of science fiction, but it does come across as a bit creepy in a kids comic. Clearly Skids learned nothing from that doomed romance of Seaspray and his alien humanoid fish lady. But at least Skids didn’t change into a human for sake of inter-species love or anything.

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Charlene finds Skids overturned and abandoned in a ditch, and takes him to a mechanic. Skids is stuck in stasis lock with no way to communicate with her, other than through his radio – not unlike Bumblebee in the first live action Transformers film.

Being a cheapskate (and a thief) Charlene is not one to turn down a free ride and keeps Skids, because hey the “Finders Keepers” rule clearly applies when you find passenger-less cars in ditches.

But to Charlene’s surprise, Skids is eventually is able to transform again, and explains his situation, but can’t see to explain why his vehicle mode has a big butt, when his toy is a compact car.

 

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Charlene likes her free ride so much, that she continues to drive around a Transformer. But things get odd when strong country boy Wendell asks her a date, and instead Charlene replies that  she has already made plans. But we (the reader) know she don’t have no kinda plans, so is she just giving Wendell the brush off perhaps?

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Turns out those plans are rubbing herself up and down Skids while “washing” him doing her best attempt yet at being trailer trash. Not creepy at all. Get your freak on Charlene!

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Giving new meaning to the term Auto-Erotica, Charlene turns out to be a bit of a hussy. This is only their first date after all. I guess that’s how she rolls.

The story goes on (dear Primus why… just end it here…) and Charlene falls for Skids, making for one super-creepy KIDS story. Take another look at the panels just above before moving on, and tell me its’t not creepy-weird, someone was having a laugh drawing those panels. And for whatever reason Skids is not drawn as a small compact Japanese car – he seems to have Transmorphed himself into some kind of mini-van with a big phat caboose that brings all the country girls to the yard.

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1. AMERICAN GRAFFITI  – DECEPTICON  STYLE (TFUS#23)

In a throw away story that is a bit of fun CONS Runabout and Runamuck run around defacing major American landmarks and monuments. It’s two fun loving decepticons as serial pests. No world ending threat, no doomsday devices or plot MacGuffins, just some good old fashioned mayhem courtesy of two lovable rascals. It’s a bit of forgettable nonsense, but fun while it lasts.

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Yes, American landmarks are mysteriously being vandalised by some mysterious serial pests. But who who could be responsible for such tomfoolery?

Why Runabout and Runamuck of course, two loveable rascals that aim to misbehave!

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Little Jimmy the Idiot Boy Olsen wearing a Spider-Man T-shirt seems to think the antics of these troublesome CONS are awesome, and well – he’s not wrong.

Our two dapper carbot gents go to town painting various monuments and landmarks with giant cans of spray paint.

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Travelling around America, our troublesome twosome elude capture by the authorities, drawing crowd of onlookers

“They’re back, yippee” remarks the ginger kid. Guess he’s a CON fan.

 

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Some Commandos with amazing taste in fashion (orange pyjamas and motorbike helmets) turn up early to the party at Liberty Island, and hide out in Lady Liberties head in anticipation of our gruesome twosome.

 

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They also failed to bring any quality snacks or top shelf booze to the shindig. Runabout and Runamuck were stuck in traffic, but luckily they came prepared to party.

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But watch out, Omega Supreme has come to spoil the fun. And he’s sporting  a new ultra sheik bland head for… reasons… that I”m just not going to get into here.

*sigh*… Okay, he’s a FrankenBeiner.

It’s all stuff from another story and really just not very interesting, trust me on this one -just look at poor garishly colored Omega-Franken-Former and have a laugh, okay?

Circuit Breaker is controlling the Franken-Former and means to end this taggers party once and for all, busting out the heavily artillery.

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“Shoot first, ask questions later” remarks Runamuck, showing off his sweet Con style and attitude, not to mention that shiny car finish.

 

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As if being shot at while having a good time is not enough, poor Runabout and Runamuck are toasted to a nice crispy finish with either lasers or a flamethrower, it’s hard to say.

Their paint jobs ruined, they fall rather comically into the ocean accompanied by some no expenses spared neat sound effects. It seems Omega FrankenFormer was jealous of Runabout and Runamucks sweet color schemes and cool devil may care attitude. He revokes their License to Party and calls it a day.

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I’ve always found the bad guys more fun than the good guys, and toasting two tagger rascals seems a bit harsh when less violent methods could have been used. Oh well.

Runabout and Runamuck had a good run that lived up to their names and gave us a bit of fun while it lasted. I have to admit I quite like this issue, so why is it on this list? Well, it’s another gimmick cover and a few panels with a barely there story that was not fleshed out, so despite the cover it’s still kind of a forgettable story. But it’s great fun, and that’s what comics for kids are about right?

And giant Franken-Formers burning robots alive with flame throwers, that’s what the kids really want to see! Thanks 80’s Marvel. You really knew how to bring the pain.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go punch that annoying ginger headed Jimmy Olsen looking kid in the Spidey shirt from earlier…

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The Evening Squeaks Report: First Impressions of the Last Knight

Transformers Last Knight Optimus Prime Movie ticket first impressions film

I just literally got back from watching Transformers: The Last Knight at the cinema, and wanted to capture my first impressions of the film before they fade into sweet oblivion.

Transformers: The Last Knight for me was tremendous fun, so many of the things that irritated me in the previous films were absent or toned down, and so many of the things that I liked were improved upon or added to.

This is the first film that feels like its having a proper go at making its own lore (hodge-podged and cherry picked from the various TF media) rather than just hinting at stuff and leaving you guessing as the previous films did.

Sometimes you go to a restaurant and enjoy a good smorgasbord, everything on the menu is fantastic and your mouth is alive with excitement. Last Knight hits more than it misses with its Lore, and its vast volumes of humor and gags. It’s a big buffet and best enjoyed by jumping in and just going with the madness.

The thing I loved the most is that the new female characters are not only interesting but have something to do. They are no longer there just there as eye candy and both new characters are integral to the plot and themes of the film.

The decision to pile in so many things into one film, cramming it with exposition etc could (and should) have backfired, but it works. It’s messy and sloppy in places, but overall it works and creates a larger cohesive fiction for the live action version of the Transformers, and jumping off point for any future films or spin offs. The movie-verse feels like it’s really come into it’s own for the first time.

The Transformers BAYHEM Movieverse is now one of the longest running forms of Transformers fiction, along with Rescue Bots and the IDW Transformers Comics, these three forms of fiction are the longest running in Transformers media.

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I was very fortunate that my Mrs shouted the two of us to the movie and that she had any interest in going at all, as she had not seen the previous films. We often go and see Marvel films together, or just about any film Bat-ffleck is involved with – but most Marvel films have some human element to them that makes them appealing to a wider audience.

In contrast past Transformers movies have had:

*explosions, robo-balls, lingering shots of ladies bits that go on just a bit *too long* to be entirely comfortable about,

*More biggerERerERer explosions, Robots yelling at each other while things explode, Human military dudes yelling at each and the robots about all the explosions, then getting jealous and making some explosions of their own,

…and at some point usually after about five hours, the credits roll and you stumble about trying to remember where your butt is as it has gone totally numb. Like not just ordinary numb, but Lord of the Rings Extended Editions NUMB.

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But the big fancy ADD trailer at the cinema recently for Transformers: Last Knight  (and the Spider-Man one *glee*) really grabbed our attention.

I thought to myself, Maybe THIS one won’t be complete shit?

Then I reasoned well fuck it, I’ll watch it at least for some of those amazing animations and robot on robot carnage.

I was pleasantly surprised at how laugh out loud funny Last Knight was, and that the story was interesting all the way from beginning to end. The new characters were my favourite of any of the Transformers films. And they kept Simmons in there, even if only for a little bit. Go Simmons! Rock those beach shorts.

Now, the reason this is called The Squeeks Report is that my Mrs’ nick name for over a year or so has been “Squeeks” (not related to Transformers) and as we both loved the movie (and TF Squeaks!) I’m handing this bit over to her to give her impressions:

 

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SQUEAKS ON SQUEAKS

I really liked the new Squeaks character, he was very cute and appealing to both kids and adults. The young girl was a good character, I cared about her right away, she seems to love the Transformers and wanted to help them every step of the way.

The British lady was a bit boring in contrast, I didn’t care about her one or another. The movie was so funny, Anythony Hopkins character had so many funny lines, and his robot butler Cogman was also hilarious.

One of my favourite scenes was when Marky Mark was in the elevator, Cogman accidentally pushes him out of it and then on his communicator [to Anthony Hopkins] he says that Wahlburgers jumped out for some reason, and now he appears to be flying. The scene was just hilarious, the whole cinema was laughing really loud, like really loud belly laughter.

Another scene I *enjoyed* was in the submarine, the little Knight medallion thing is crawling all over Mark, and he takes  his shirt off showing off amazingly hot abs, arms and chest. Oh my god, he was so ripped! The English lady gets a good perv, and the scene was sexy, but also pretty funny and silly at the same time, a real crowd pleaser.

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Speaking of sexy, the scene where the English lady and Wahlburg are hunting around upstairs for an artifact while making a lot of loud banging, crashing and yelling noises that the ladies (Mums) downstairs mistake for rough sex was gut bustingly hilarious. Most of the people in the cinema really lost it during that scene. It was so funny.

“It’s like Tarzan is upstairs” said one the British mums in reference to Wahlberg crashing around. The mums / middle aged ladies were really drooling over Mark in that scene, and it was brilliant. It’s safe to say we don’t miss Shia or his crazy antics.

 

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Back to Botfan John:

Yeah, so the Mrs wants more Marky Mark if there are more of those mainline ridiculous live action movies, in contrast I am glad there was no Megan Foxy or Rosie Legginton as those characters were so generic and boring and had nothing to do, the actresses were utterly wasted in the previous films.

And Anthony Hopkins out crazies (real life) Shia in ANY FIVE MINUTES of time he appears on screen in Last Knight. His character is just so pleasingly unexpected, unpredictable and gets some of the funniest lines in the film. He’s pretty much Grampa Simpson, except the twist is all his impossible super crazy rambling run on stories are actually true.

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There is a lot to like in Last Knight and fuck it………I just have to say it.

They’ve DONE IT. They’ve rocked the Kasbah, they’ve Fast Fived  this mother fucking franchise, Wahlberg is their Rock, they turned everything up to eleven, they made the film a more global James Bondy international thing, they have recognised the vast Chinese and global audience, they have young and old cast members that make it a truly all ages film (bit violent for really little ones, but some were there in the cinema), it was funny as fuck and it could have been a big mess but it fucking worked!

[dramatic pause for masochists who hate the films but read to this point for some reason to click away to other sites….]

So.

Those stupid Bayhem movies…

They’ve turned me from doubter to believer.

Rather than dying a terrible terrible death, I want them to succeed and break more new territory.

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I also watched all the previous Transformers films in the week beforehand for the first time since they were released.

I enjoyed them more back to back, Last Knight even makes the other films make more sense in their Lore. I used to find them hard to follow, but now my criticisms are more things like excessive running time and minor nit picks like dumb dialogue and overly generic bland ethnic stereotypes.

I’ve gone from hardcore literally born in 1980 – “the decade of AWESOME” -Geewunner “Fuck those robo-bullshit Bayhem movies with a crooked broom” to genuinely enjoying them. I’ve also bought some of the new movie toys, which are all brilliant, well most of them are brilliant. Some of them are shit.

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So, Last Knight – it’s a films haters are gonna hate while sipping in their Hatorade and use as an excuse to foam at the mouth and spit vitriol in the direction of anyone silly enough to listen like they have been doing for the last ten years.

I don’t mind an intelligent film review – but nobody needs a critic to tell them how to enjoy or not to enjoy something. And the ones (fans or professionals) that disguise their caustic venom as a “review” are cowardly people I have no interest in engaging with on any level. They do a dis-service to the Transformers fandom and make us toy collectors and Transformers fans look like a pack of fifth generation inbred assholes. Thanks for that internet jerks!

I really loved the Last Knight. I expected it to be utter rubbish, but I’ve really turned a corner and can see even the older films with fresh new eyes. It’s a film that takes risks, and does interesting new things with the Transformers.

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SMUGGY McSMUGFACE

There is a certain *smugness* in the Transformers fandom about “hating” the live action films. Some of the comments I read online from fans are the exact same ones they were spouting ten years ago. Am I saying they are wrong, or their opinions don’t count?

No, I’d say they are lazy and maybe braindead and living in the past. Not for hating a film, but for saying the same nonsense ten years later, not allowing any new thoughts or ideas into that old calcified corpus callosum.

Of course everyone is entitled to their point of view – I often talk a load of wank myself -but I get the sense some fans are truly living in the past, they have latched on to one single version of a multimedia brand, and cry foul of every interpretation that dares to differ in any way, as if we should have one singular boring crusty stuck in time vision of what Transformers media can or should be. I love the 80’s show more than anyone I’ve ever met, but I also love the other shows (well most of them). I’m not stuck in the past.

And the thing is, those kinds of fans are more interested in being RIGHT, than in having fun, or enjoying new experiences in life. That kind of rotten attitude can really infect your thinking, and it creeps over into other areas of your life. The irony of people being inflexible and unchanging while obsessed with media about alien robots who transform and constantly adapt to new circumstance is not lost on me.

“If you can prove you’re right, you’re set in concrete. you cannot move with the times or with other people. Being right is also being boring. Your mind is closed.” – Paul Arden

Personally, I didn’t at first care for the aesthetic of the live action movies, the art style of Transformers Prime or the look of characters in Robots in Disguise (2015), or Transformers: Animated. But I’ve since come to appreciate the talent, the artistry and hard work that went into those products, and they’ve added more joy to my life learning to enjoy something I thought I would never like. I’ve also started collecting all three main toylines from those shows and find them to be so much fun.

IT’S… THE VIBE

When we are young we crave new experiences constantly.

As we age, our views and tastes tend to set like plastic in a mold. But if you want to remain young, at least in your own mind, which the science of neuroplasticity tells is really the key thing – you’ve got to be open to new experiences. So that is the attitude I had going in to Last Knight, and I was pleasantly surprised.

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Last Knight is a fun over the top balls to the wall action movie, it’s dopey and silly and has some odd dialog and cringe worthy moments like pretty much every other big dumb blockbuster movie.

But it’s also gut bustingly funny. it’s got some of the best technical and beautifully fluid animation in any medium, in any context, PERIOD.

The voice actors are wonderfully hammy and yeah it bugs me at times, but that is the style they have gone with – so I get it and play along.

Last Knight is melodramatic and over the top, but it’s a film where that Cullen Prime voice over chimes in and he might as well be reading a cereal box while he does the laundry at this point – it really doesn’t matter WHAT he is saying – because whatever he says in that overly rehearsed iconic voice – Peter Cullen’s voice as Prime is so authentically deep and moving – that it touches your heart when he announces once and for all that earth is their new home, even in the most crassly commercial of films.

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I loved the new R2-D2 rip off Sqeeks and I think he should be in his own solo kids film, or tag along with Bumblebee in his solo movie, those two characters are loved by younger kids and it would be a shame to waste their potential.

Cogman was a wonderfully absurd character, he and Anthony Hopkins character are a great comic double team  in the old Hollywood style.

I also loved all the the trailer bits of Knights and World War Two and middle ages and swords and dragons and all kinds of crazy shit that managed to come together into a cohesive whole. They sandwiched in a heap of new characters, the old characters we love have their part to play and it was just a tremendously fun day out at the cinema for me and the Mrs.

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THE FINAL WORD

There are some cool new characters, a giant dragon, more of those cranky Cybertronian Knights, some redecos of older characters in new forms, super cute baby dinobots who inexplicably have no toys??? Don’t kids like toys? Primary market? COME ON!

There is a sweet new look for Megatron and just so much creative cool stuff crammed into the film – and I never felt bored the whole time. The overly bloated running time was worth it for me.

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Transformers: The Last Knight.

It’s a film you’ll love. Or you’ll hate it. Or you’ll ignore it and never watch it.

Makes no difference to me at all.

Also, fuck those internet jerks.

Am I one of them?

Maybe.

But I’m trying to reform.

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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…

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And then in 2011 we got this….

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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….

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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.

 

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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!)

 

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CHROMIA model sheet (photo, not a scan)

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MOONRACER model sheet (photo, not a scan)

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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).

 

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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Nightbird, Black Arachnia and Slipstream from various Transformers toy lines

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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/

 

BULKHEAD PROFILE – If we can build it, he can SMASH it

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Sari and Bulkhead by J_666

 

NAME: Bulkhead

FACTION: Autobots

QUOTE: “I’m still picking shrapnel out of my backside!”

Loyal, goofy, charming and constantly aware of his clumsiness, Bulkhead has a child like innocent personality. He’s a fierce fighter, but sometimes his own size and strength works against him as he is still learning how to move around in more confined spaces on earth after his days in wide open spaces as a laborer-bot

A wrecking ball unleashed, Bulkhead rushes headlong into battle, with little thought of plan or strategy, if he gets his hand on any of the Cons, look out as he will smash them to smithereens. As a former laborer, Building stuff and Smashing Stuff is all Bulkhead knows how to do. His arm contains a tethered projectile wrecking ball, that comes in hands for smashing buildings of smashing cons, or can also be used as a mace like weapon up close and personal.

Bulkhead is a loyal friend, and often under estimates his own abilities. While seemingly of below average intelligence, he has an almost idiot savant ability when it comes to building space bridges, that even he can’t explain nor understand.

“I’m just good at Space Bridges”

Bulkhead is best friends with Bumblebee and Sari, and they bring out his most playful side, while his mentorship under Prowl brings out his attempts to focus him combat abilities, and use some strategy and smarts in his battles. Bulkhead may be  a bit simple, but his brute strength and giant robo-heart make him an asset to the Autobots, his courage and determination know no bounds.

Bulkhead always supports his Autobot brothers, he has their back on and off the battlefield. Just don’t ask him to do chores around the base if you want the walls to still be standing afterward.

Bulkhead is a fierce fighter who loves smashing stuff, but would probably prefer not to fight at all, and spend more time playing video games with his friends Bumblebee and Sari.

A gentle giant who loves building stuff and smashing Cons, Bulkhead would rather stay at home and laze around, but once he’s on the move, there is no stopping him. Bulkhead has an interest in various creative earth leisure activities such as music and art. While Bulkhead is big, tough and very strong, he has a soft emotional center at his core and a reverence for all forms of life.

“Look Miko, before I became a warrior I was a laborer-construction. I can build stuff, I can break stuff, and that’s it.”

bulkhead_and_grimlock_transformers_animated_by_ailgara- RESIZED
Bulkhead and Grimlock by Ailgara http://ailgara.deviantart.com/gallery/

 

CREDITS

Sari and Bulkhead (top image) by J-666

http://j-666.deviantart.com/art/Sari-and-Bulkhead-164214459

Bulkhead and Grimlock (lower image) by Ailgara

http://ailgara.deviantart.com/gallery/

 

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

powermaster-prime-manga-tv-magazine
Have you got the GUTS!

all-your-base-are-belong-to-us TRANSFORMERS GENERATION ONE.jpg

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.

Scorponok and Zazorigun

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.

reboot.jpg

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…

autobot-matrix

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.

transformers g1 megatron optimus prime.jpg

 

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.

TF 2010

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.

transformers-the-comics-cover-manga-collection

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.

Battlestars Catalogue Return of Convoy
“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.

commission__shadowmaru_by_ai_eye alex milne sixshot sixchanger

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

kunio okawara art exhibit.jpg

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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.

soundwave TFUS

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.

TF Us blaster vs straxus.jpg

 

dinobots vs shockwave marvel us transformers

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.

Transformers Blaster vs Grimlock.jpg

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.

TF US scorponok vs shockwave.jpg

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

 

Megatron brings the house down
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.