As with the rest of American society, gender has recently been a hot topic in the world of Transformers. In the fandom, the comic books, the cartoons and the toys themselves, the brand is responding to a call for greater gender parity among our favorite robots in disguise. There was even a recent article about female Transformers on USAToday.com. While the evolutionary rationale behind gender diversity in Cybertronians has not been truly explained in the fiction -- at least, no more than the traditional maleness of our classic characters has been explained -- the fact is that female Transformers are growing in both number and prominence. They are here to stay. And I have some thoughts to share on this topic. And some mixed feelings, both regretful and hopeful.
First, let me start off by saying that I consider myself a feminist. I believe that women can be just as capable as men in any area of employment or recreation. I don't believe in pigeon-holing women (or men) within traditional stereotypes of appearance or occupation or interests. I certainly don't believe in paying them less than men for the same job.
Ho-hum. Anyone who's read this site for any length of time is aware that I have no love for the Bayformer movies. As is now our tradition, Dollface and I sallied forth to the theater, armed ourselves with beer and snacks, and dug in for yet another installment. I went also armed with the foreknowledge that Age of Extinction was garnering the lowest rating yet in the series on both Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic — which, considering how poorly reviewed the previous three installments were, is almost a feat in itself. But perhaps my greatest dread was watching my most-disliked actor, "Marky" Mark Wahlberg, for over 150 minutes.
So what did I think? Spoilers ahead ...
Honestly, I'd have to say that more than anything I was bored. There was barely anything interesting about what was going on. I knew the core characters were never in any real jeopardy — hell, they barely got dirty. I had no investment in any of the Autobots, they were just hollow tin men (the gruff sergeant, the wildly stereotypical samurai, the Aussie hothead, etc). Stanley Tucci had the best dialogue in the film and his character had a little bit of depth, but not enough to carry things. It's always nice seeing Kelsey Grammar play a bad-ass, but his role had little meat. In general, the movie was just an excuse to go from one pointless action scene to another. I was bored.
When the first version of Masterpiece Optimus Prime came out waaaay back in 2003, despite the adulation heaped upon that figure by so many Transformers fans, I wasn't interested. It wasn't that I thought the figure was bad or that upsized, high-quality renditions of classic Transformers wasn't a great idea. It's just that one of the things I enjoy the very most about the Transformers is their diversity. Cars, jets, dinosaurs, tanks, cassettes, spaceships, microscopes, monsters... the sheer variety of forms is part of what originally drew me to them. A standalone Optimus didn't interest me without the promise of future accompaniment. After all, what good is a military leader without soldiers or an enemy to combat? Sure enough, it took 3 years before Starscream, the next Masterpiece figure, was released. Megatron was released the year following, then the next two years were occupied by the obligatory repaints of Starscream into Skywarp and Thundercracker. A Grimlock appeared in 2009, then a disappointing Rodimus Prime in 2011, but 8 years had passed since the initial release and I was not regretting my decision to pass on the thinly-numbered (and expensive!) Masterpiece line.
In the meantime, the Classics line was putting out figures rapidly. Though smaller and arguably less exquisite than their Masterpiece counterparts, they were far more numerous and I was steadily building a large collection of modernized versions of the vintage toys I so loved. I had my armies! What did I need with a few isolated specialty pieces?
But when I learned of an impending Masterpiece Soundwave figure, my love of the character and of his cassette minions made the figure difficult to ignore. Plus, an unofficial Masterpiece-scale Shockwave was being produced by a third party company, and he's pretty much my favorite Transformer ever. The pace and variety of new Masterpiece figures was improving as well: Sideswipe and his remold of Red Alert; Prowl and his remolds of Bluestreak and Smokescreen; impending releases of Wheeljack, Bumblebee and Ultra Magnus. Add to this the fact that revised and improved Masterpiece versions of Optimus Prime and the Decepticon jets had been recently released and it was starting to look like two diverse armies were being built. Two armies I could get behind.
One fun aspect of being a Transformers fan over the years is that many friends and acquaintances have given me their old childhood Transformers and Transformers-related items because they know that my adult self will appreciate them tremendously more than their adult selves do. From Skywarp to Ramjet, from Skids to Wheeljack, from lunchboxes to freakin' Piranacon, I have gladly received these tokens of their childhood, each now imbued with a little story of their acquisition, and each containing an insight into what type of young Transformers fan that person was. Did they add the stickers, and if so, were they done correctly and well? Were they compelled to gnaw on swords and antennas? Did they manage to keep all the guns and accessories? Or did they just smash them to bits?
Sadly, the number of friends who still have old TFs to part with only diminishes with time. Furthermore, as my G1 collection has reached voluminous proportions, the odds of acquiring something I don't already have are slim. Which brings me to Howie!
I love new art of our site mascot, Botch the Decepticon Cassette-Crab. I've had some of these for a while and have been remiss in promptly posting them. I'm happy to finally share them with you!
First up is a sketch of Botch that I commissioned from Matt Kuphaldt, a TF fan who is actually responsible for some official Transformers artwork, including some Dreamwave "More Than Meets The Eye" profiles. Matt was doing sketches and selling prints at CybCon this year and I introduced myself and requested this Botch sketch:
There's no question I've been horribly delinquent in updating this blog. I've been really focused on my band, social obligations, house stuff, etc. Still, I'm averaging less than one posting per month for 2013, and I should really do better than that. I have things to talk about, both Transformers-related and personal! I just haven't been in the mindset to talk about them.
In the interim, to tide you over, let me present this video by Romain Revert that features box art from this site. It is short but sweet. Other people have created montages of the box art, but somehow for me those montages always served to reinforce the unavoidably static nature of the images: individually they seem dynamic, but grouped they inexplicably seem frozen in time. This video doesn't suffer from that. Enjoy:
Check this out. From an eBay auction that I happened to see, it's unpublished Garbage Pail Kids art featuring a distressed GPK Optimus Prime:
Why am I collecting Transformer Kreons?
Do I really love cute and/or kitsch versions of Transformers that much?
Though I immediately saw the appeal when they first debuted, I resisted because the brick sets were too expensive to buy just to get hold of the little Lego-style TF figure that came in the package.
Let me briefly tell you why the new third-party Alicon is AWESOME (despite what some reviewers have been saying).
First let me begin by saying that I love pretty much all the third-party toys I own. From FansProject Crossfire (Bruticus) to iGear Rager (Huffer), from TFC Toys Hercules (Devastator) to ToyWorld Hegemon (Megatron)... I love my third-party toys. Each of them sit in my TF Classics case and make my "modernized" G1 collection that much more complete and perfect.
But my Alicon won't be joining them. Why? Because he's not a Classics-style Transformer; he's a G1-style Transformer! Everything about him -- the colors, the angles and contours, the feel of the plastic, the style of transformation -- screams GEEWUN. An improved G1, to be sure: he has greater articulation in his arms and legs than most any G1 toy ever had. He comes with no instructions, but that's okay because his transformation is fairly intuitive. (His box art effectively answers any question about where certain pieces should go.) He has a very little bit of accessory kibble, just enough to be G1-endearing. (It did take me a little while to figure out I had to remove the forward-facing spikes on his shoulders.) He is a soul brother and companion to my G1 Sharkticon. They were made for each other.
My lovely wife Heather, aka Dollface, has long been an enabler of my Transformers addiction, supporting my purchases, lending an ear when I babble about them, helping me dust and clean them, and more. I've long wanted her to do a guest-post here, offering a spouse's-eye view on the topic. After all, she's a writer! For instance, she recently started a horror movie review site, Movies In The Dark. Unbelievably, despite having watched nearly 700 horror movies, she'd never seen Transformers: The Movie, the bone-chilling 1986 animated feature. Eager to correct this oversight, and unwilling to pass up such an elegant synergistic opportunity, I happily present to you Dollface's sensational review...
When Adam and I started dating back in 1999 I thought he was the coolest guy I'd ever met. He was handsome, intelligent, funny, and he was a fucking rock star. And then he introduced me to his Transformers collection. At first I didn't know what to make of it. Sure, I grew up in the '80s and was aware that Transformers existed. But when I went to the toy store I was in the Barbie aisle. When I bought comic books at the drug store I was reaching for Archie. And when I was watching cartoons my channel was fixed to Scooby-Doo. I didn't have brothers and what male cousins I did have were playing with He-Man. I myself owned the Crystal Castle. Transformers were just that "boy's show" that I had to channel surf through to get to Duck Tales.
Not in my wildest imagination would I have anticipated that when I grew up and started dating boys (ewww, yuck!) that I would eventually meet one who, as an adult, collected these transforming robots. But there I stood, 21 years old in Astoria, Queens, in some boy's bedroom staring at a bookcase full of Transformers and thinking to myself, "huh."