At this point I own about, oh, 85-90% of all US-released G1 Transformers. Of the remaining 10-15%, there's about 5 or 6 that I really want. Then there are the ones that I'm willing to get if they're not too expensive: grabbing a Triggerbot for $2, or taking Groundpounder off someone's hands for a single buck. Then there are the ones that, through some combination of expense, rarity and lack of interest, I will probably never, ever get. Case in point! The two latest improved entries in the Archive:
Pretenders are weird. As such, it makes sense that the most appropriate fiction involving them would come from the Japanese, who have a strong track record of churning out some of the weirdest things in the world. I'm referring, of course, to Transformers: Super-God Masterforce, the Japanese cartoon that followed the original G1 series and featured the Pretenders, the Junior Headmasters, the Powermasters and (squee!) the Seacons. The show happily embraces the whole robots-become-people thing and doubles-down with kids-become-robots. Plus, the Seacon Tentakil seems far more appropriate in a Japanese context. (Because, you know: the Japanese have a thing for tentacles.)
Happily, the Destron (Decepticon) Pretenders featured in Masterforce, who in the show are said to have taken the form of demons, have all just gotten a serious upgrade in the Archive! Here they are listed first by their English names followed by their Japanese designations.
Two more characters have had their box art entries greatly improved by new scans! On the right we have GRAND, the Headmaster of Grand Maximus, who was the Japanese Masterforce redeco of Fortress Maximus, meaning that Grand is a redeco of Fort Max's Headmaster, Cerebros … except Grand has one thing Cerebros doesn't: a Pretender shell. Perhaps the shell is intended to make up for the fact that he was given the unoriginal and slightly ridiculous name of "Grand". I don't know, don't ask me. I'm not a scientist.
Did you know that the word "shelled" simultaneously means both "having or enclosed in a shell" and "having the shell removed"? It's true. This means I get to write the following sentence:
While the shelled Grand in the foreground dominates the image, I'm just as interested in the shelled Grand behind him (in robot mode, below his head mode) as the American Cerebros never had any box art. Grand was scanned from the excellent Transformers Legacy: The Art of Transformers Packaging. You've bought that already, right?
So let's try a little experiment. As we all know, the marvelous Transformers Legacy: The Art of Transformers Packaging book finally came out a few months ago. I had always intended to start improving some of the sub-par entries in our Archive by scanning from the book, but my sub-par scanner was not up to the task. Getting a good scan of these pages is difficult! Plus the pages are larger than your typical letter- or legal-sized scanner. So I bit the bullet, purchased a Mustek A3 1200S oversize scanner, and got to work. In one day I scanned over 20 characters! And then I did some color comparisons and realized my settings were all wrong so I deleted them all. (Sigh) I recalibrated and then in another day I scanned over 20 characters! Now I need your help.
The Archive has always been a collaborative effort. The site would not be where it is today without the efforts of fellow fans scanning and editing whenever and wherever they could. Well, I'm asking for your help again. This time we're going to experiment with a more free-flowing format.
I am always on the lookout for synchronicities. I enjoy them. I'm not a believer in fate, so there's no spiritual element to it. There are such things as coincidences! The only greater significance any coincidence possesses is that which we invent for it. And this is a good thing! I believe that the universe is best understood as a confluence of disparate ideas. Creativity itself is the invention of new connections between previously unconnected things. In both the entertainment I consume and the music I create, I seek cross-relevancy of disparate ideas that will lead to a higher personal notion of meaning.
And then sometimes it's just wacky happenstance. Such is the case in this, the convergence in my life of Longtooth and Moby Dick...
Several months ago I decided to finally read Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. [Though the whale's name is always written as "Moby Dick" in the book, the name is hyphenated in the title.] I finally finished the book over the weekend. It was excellent, definitely one of the most superbly composed works I've ever enjoyed. The first 20 or so chapters all focus on the narrator, Ishmael, his scholarly musings, his acquaintances, and what brings him to the fateful voyage. These chapters have a wayfaring, rather comical bent. After this, Ishmael becomes merely an observer, focusing instead on Ahab, the mates, the crew, the ship, and whaling itself in very, very specific detail. There are several chapters on cetology and whale flensing. There's a whole chapter discussing whether a whale's spout is water, air or vapor. You learn about seagoing carpentry, cooking, and metalwork. One chapter is entirely focused on describing the rope-rigging in the hunting boats. It's extremely detailed. And in the very end, they find and confront that damn whale. If you have patience and a love of brilliant prose, I highly recommend the book.
Sky High! That's right, another Pretender has gotten the deluxe treatment with an updated scan straight from his original art and thus on the original black-to-white gradient background. He looks ten times cooler now. I may still have no desire to collect the Autobot "giant astronaut" Pretenders, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate this kick-ass rendering. It's only too bad we can't see the chest of the Pretender shell and its hawk-like face. This art was scanned by snipebot. It was one of several that he won when all those transparencies were being auctioned off back in 2007. Why is it only now being posted...? Look, up in the air! It's Sky High! Go, Sky High, go!
Sky High is now the 19th Pretender whose Archive entry comes from the original source featuring the original background. Sadly, there are still 22 Pretenders whose entries are not as handsome as Sky High's. Scanned from their boxes instead of the original art, they are thus on a white background that doesn't do justice to the whole "shell-to-robot" ghost effect. We may never have original source scans for all or even most of them. All we can do is crawl into our protective outer shells and hope.
All right, children, now for some show-and-tell. I don't have any boa constrictors to show, or feather boas, or Rocky Balboas. What I do have are pictures of Transformers (and some with Godzilla). Gather 'round, everyone.
>>> The picture on the right links to the Back of the Box Art for Transformers: Victory! This improved picture was donated by Ginraii, who is from Amsterdam, a place that (for now) has the friendliest coffee shops in all of Europe! Ginraii is working on a super-secret project involving Transformers box art and coffee. (Remember: coffee is for adults!)
Two improved pieces have been donated to the Back of the Box Art gallery. First, Rickie Westbrook pointed me to a greatly improved version of the 1988 Back of the Box image, featuring Powermasters and Pretenders, that was sitting in the Wallpapers section of Madman's sweet Transformers site. I figure I provided back-of-the-box image for Madman's DVD sets, it's totally fair to borrow back from them! Secondly, Ginraii offered up a more complete version of the 1990 Back of the Box Art featuring the Action Masters. Thanks, guys!
Of course, the real "widescreen action" news this week is that the third live-action Transformers movie is hitting theaters. Like the previous two movies, I feel obliged to see this new film at least once, but as I did not like the first movie or the second one, and since I really hate Michael Bay movies and the "Bayformer" aesthetic, I expect to once again be underwhelmed. It doesn't help that I am a very critical viewer. Special effects are all well and good, but nothing is more important than a good script. Sadly, that's where the Bay movies fail the most spectacularly.
So! Aren't you even more excited now? Yeah, I know how to warm up a crowd.
I'm consistently surprised by how persistently enduring the character of Thunderwing remains. After all, Thunderwing arrived at the tail end of G1, one of the oft-maligned Pretenders, and never appeared in a single cartoon episode. Nearly all the credit for his characterization has been in both the classic and modern comic books, all penned by Simon Furman, the most prolific Transformers writer of all time.
Furman is a big fan of taking neglected and under-utilizied Transformers and instilling new life and characterization into them. In the original comic series, Thunderwing's affinity and obsession for the Autobot Matrix drove him to steal it (and become possessed by it) during the "Matrix Quest" storyline. In recent IDW comics continuity, Thunderwing was recast as the victim of his own "polydermal grafting" process (read: modernized Pretender) and simultaneously became insane but so uncontrollably powerful and invulnerable that he mindlessly turned Cybertron into an irradiated, uninhabitable husk.
Dudes. Dudes. Somebody has to clean up this image of Waverider for me (right). You know, edit out the text and the little captioned pictures, fix the parts obscured by those white indicator lines, clean up the white base so that the pictures from the opposite page aren't bleeding through, etc. Since this is a Pretender, the black-to-white gradient background has to be maintained, just like Groundbreaker or Splashdown. The existing entry for Waverider is not that great, but probably still worth consulting.
I got this from a page on X-Entertainment of Mildly Interesting 80's Print Ads. You know you're curious.
But seriously. Dude. Somebody clean up this picture for me. I'm jonesing.
More box art updates soon, and a discussion of the retirement of the War Room...
UPDATE: Dude, it's been edited! Devastator of kitbashing resource Sector 70 labored over the print ad and managed to edit it down to just the art (left). Show your appreciation for his efforts by checking out Devastator's most excellent kitbashes of numerous gestalt team members. Thanks!