So it's been all positive feedback to the site redesign! Or maybe the haters just don't want to take time to write. Either way, following on some great suggestions I've done a couple more tweaks, including access to the search in the footer, sticky "Home" and "Archive Home" icons at the top left, and some text edits (Dollface is my proofreader). More importantly, I've finally added in a few submissions that had been on stand-by while I was recoding... as well as some new Botch the Crab art!
Aaron Lockwood sent in the 1984 UK catalog (front + back) which you can naturally find in the Catalogs section.
Shawn MacKay submitted instruction scans for the four European-exclusive characters that were missing them: Clench, Pyro, Lightspeed and Fearswoop. You can check them out and all the other UK instructions on the Tech Specs page.
And Ginraii submitted an improved Metroplex! Because he loves him.
An then there's this...
BotchTheCrab.com has been redesigned!
The last redesign was back in 2005, and a lot has changed in that time. Perhaps most significantly, while desktop screen size continues to increase, many people are using their smartphones and tablets for the majority of their internet browsing. This has led to something called responsive web design wherein pages are designed and coded to dynamically alter their flow and presentation based on the size of the screen. This site now employs this strategy so that you can have an excellent viewing experience whether on your iPhone, your laptop, or a huge panoramic screen like the one I'm using now.
I've also simplified the site stylistically, streamlining the browsing experience and removing clutter. I've removed a lot of peripheral sidebar information (because let's face it, only a small minority of this site's visitors care about my bands). I've moved the navigation off the main screen to instead fly in from the left when you click that top-left universal "menu" icon. I've added "Continue to the next year" links at the bottom of each of the box art year pages because that's how the majority of visitors browse the Archive. Perhaps most significantly, I'm finally using an in-screen modal for displaying images (rather than opening a new window). Stuff like that.
Remember those "Find Your Fate" Transformers books from the '80s? You know, the "Choose Your Own Adventure" knock-offs that featured our favorite robots in disguise? Well, I have a complete set, and wouldn't you know that the penciled art heavily borrows from the Transformers box art, oftentimes reproducing the line art exactly. The Transformers art that isn't directly lifted from the box art is, like the box art itself, extremely faithful to the actual toys. I LOVE IT.
Remember back when everyone used Hotmail and kept their email in folders? Then Gmail came along and said, "Folders are dumb, use labels." And many of us said "labels are stupid!" but we eventually realized they made sense because, well, some emails belonged in more than one folder, really.
Back in 2005 when I first transitioned this site from simply being the home of the Transformers Box Art Archive (and its infrequently updated "What's New" page) to a full-fledged blog, the standard of the time was like Hotmail inasmuch as posts were grouped by Category. This worked fairly well: I was able to easily distinguish Archive posts from more general posts about Transformers and personal posts that had nothing at all to do with toy robots. And categories can be very handy, especially in a blog like this one: many of my close friends don't really care about Transformers, and many TF fans don't really care about me. Stick to the category you like!
As time went by, my topics strayed into new categories like religion and Gozilla and my marriage. Growing the list of categories was easy, and I even re-coded to allow the assignment of multiple categories to any given post, but occasionally I would become unsure of that system. I talk about New York City often; should that become a category? Does a single mention of Godzilla or comic books in a post qualify them for assignment in those respective categories? Do my wife's cats deserve a category of their own, or should that just default to the "Personal" category? Oh, and what if you were really interested in every post about comic books? That might be difficult to search for.
Of course, I wasn't the only blogger to have these issues, and so like the transition from email folders to labels, blogs started using "tags" instead of categories. The wisdom of this choice was immediately apparent to me. It allowed for granularity. Tags imply their own weight: "Transformers" is very general, but "Metroplex" is pretty specific. Let the reader decide their level of interest.
Now here comes the interesting part. ("Finally!" you say.) Coding and retrofitting the website to replace categories with tags was relatively easy.
Retroactively tagging every post ever written took time.
I've been working on a seemingly minor but very useful update to the Transformers Box Art Archive. It concerns the pop-up windows in which the character art appears when you click on a character's thumbnail. Traditionally the artwork always loaded at full size and the pop-up window enlarged to match it. If the artwork was larger than your computer screen, scrollbars appeared. Throughout the history of the Archive there's been a parallel growth in both the average viewer's screen size and, as higher resolution box art sources are acquired, the dimensions of the images themselves. Indeed, for the last couple of years I've been fortunate enough to acquire scans of a high enough quality that many of the new images I've uploaded are larger than even my own monitor. In short: there are some really big images in the Archive.
As such, I've altered the pop-up windows to provide automatic resizing of artwork that would otherwise be too big for your screen. If the artwork is larger than your screen dimensions, you will be able to toggle between two modes: FULL SIZE (the traditional way) or FIT TO WINDOW. The site remembers and employs your last choice when clicking on new characters. I've also added a "close" icon for convenience on all pop-windows.
So that you can try it out, I've uploaded several new pieces of improved artwork for the occasion! First there's the improved Dirge (top right), cleaned up by JP White from a transparency I own (helpfully scanned by Ryan Smythe). That one should definitely be larger than most all of your monitors.
Wow, it's been a while since I've stayed up until 2am coding improvements to this site, but that's exactly what I ended up doing. What can I say, now that my back is feeling better, I'm really in a coding mood. I'll probably feel like shit tomorrow. Anyway, let me tell you what I did this evening.
My primary goal was to create tools that made it as easy as possible for you, dear reader, to be alerted whenever there have been new posts or new replies on this site that might interest you. I know it can suck to re-visit a website frequently without finding anything fresh, or likewise to come back after a month and realize that you've missed a lot of updates and discussions that would have interested you. So here's what you can do now...
The Transformers Box Art Archive now has a Box Art History page! Just like the Archive itself, it is explicitly G1-centric, of course.
For some time I have wanted to have a page within the Box Art Archive that detailed the known history of the package art, from its earliest inception on the Diaclone packages (the ancestors of the Transformers) through to the very end of the Generation One line. However, I was reluctant to actually compose this history because, frankly, I felt there was likely a lot of other fans that were much more informed about the obscure details and trivia surrounding this topic. In other words, this is a perfect job for a wiki, and fortunately TFWiki does a great job of this with their Package art entry. That said, can you blame me for wanting to actually host the same information here on the Transformers Box Art Archive?
Enter Derik in Minnesota, who is one of the administrators and technical guys behind the TFWiki. Derik provided a no-frills feed version of that page, which I was then able grab and convert in real time (using an MSXML2.ServerXMLHTTP server object in classic ASP -- can you believe I'm still using classic ASP?). I scrub the page on-the-fly to eliminate everything post-G1, as well as to remove the edit links and re-point some of the art links to the corresponding images on this site.
The best part about this is that whenever the corresponding TFWiki page is updated with new or improved information, the Archive's "Box Art History" page will automatically update as well. Yay! It's the best of both worlds.
Special thanks to Derik for providing the no-frills version. If you're interested in Transformers, wikis, content licensing and other wacky stuff, be sure to check out Derik's LiveJournal site.
I've had the idea for over a year and the images for months, but I finally, finally, put up high-resolution scans of the 1984 through 1990 catalogs. You remember those folded-up inserts that came with boxed Transformers showing you in full color the army of Transformers available to own? Yup, those. COLLECT THEM ALL! it ordered, and I tried, I really tried.
It's about Thoroughness. Completionism. Pride. It's about setting standards for the things you collect and adhering to them. It's why all my Black Sabbath vinyl albums are contemporary pressings and not reissues. It's why I collected Walter Simonson's Thor comic run in single issues, but Garth Ennis' Punisher MAX run in trade (rather than mixing and matching.) And it's why all my toys have, or should have, all their weapons, parts, accessories, or whatever. It makes them whole and fully realized. Even if some of those guns and stuff aren't in the best shape, they nonetheless add character simply by their presence.
That's why, after a two-year search, I'm so glad I finally procured an extra shackle for my Snake Mountain to replace the broken shackle-stub that arrived embedded in the playset. Doesn't Man-E-Faces look so much happier now that both wrists are bound instead of just one?
Actually he doesn't seem happier at all.
While hunting for new toy acquisitions in Singapore, Heroic Decepticon came upon something very unique and — for TF box art enthusiasts like us — totally drool-worthy: a vintage 1990 poster for the Singapore market advertising the Transformers: Victory cartoon, featuring perfectly unobstructed box art prints of six of the major Victory characters. Of course he snatched it up and graciously submitted scans for all of us. Check them out: