In case you haven't heard, the book is out: Transformers Legacy: The Art of Transformers Packaging, by Jim Sorenson and Bill Forster, an officially licensed hardcover release of pretty much all the G1 and G2 Transformers package art. If you're reading this, if you're on this site, you are likely a fan of said art. You may be wondering what I think of the book. Allow me to share!
This book has a lot of art. If you can think of it, it's probably in there. From unused prototype art to promotional battle scenes, this volume is chock-full. Of course, the vast majority of fans (including myself) will focus on the first half of the book dealing with the earliest and most familiar Bots and Cons, but all the material is worth perusing. With the exception of Jetfire (no doubt omitted for legal, Robotech-related reasons), I cannot immediately discern any figure that's been excluded.
It's particularly nice to see all of the Pretender art, which followers of this site know has been singularly difficult to come by in its original black-background fashion. That includes the Dinoforce, seen in both robot/monster mode and separately in dinosaur mode.
In general, there is a large amount of character art in here that I have never seen look better. Pretty exquisite stuff!
There are also some pieces I don't think I've seen before at all (though you may have) such as the sweet picture of the Seekers from some Colorforms artwork (page 278) and a 1986 Japanese Scramble City display with Superion and Menasor that totally kicks ass.
One of my criteria for evaluating a new Transformer is heft. If I threw a particular toy at your head, how much would it hurt? Well, this book has heft. (Four pounds, actually.) You can really do some damage with it. That's a definite plus.
I have... mixed feelings about the presentation. Most of the box art is presented on dark backgrounds, usually reddish or purplish, often with the classic grid pattern behind it. These backgrounds are often so dark that I feel it detracts from the character art, forcing the eye to strain for definition. It has an obscuring effect, and when there are 3 or 4 characters on a page, that's not good. I won't lie, I would prefer all the art on white backgrounds -- as most of it was originally, and how it is presented on this site -- not for selfish reasons, but because I feel that's how the art stands out best. I am assuming the decision to use such colorful backgrounds was based on an assumption that fans (that is, potential buyers) would prefer a more florid presentation. Or, who knows, maybe the authors simply felt it looked better. In the end, I suppose, it's all personal preference.
One thing that Jim and I discussed in the context of this book (years ago now) was print resolution versus web resolution, and how he felt that since print resolution was higher, that spoke to how a book could present this artwork better than the web could. But resolution is also a matter of scale, and when you're fitting 5 minibots on a page, the advantages of high resolution begin to diminish. That said, as this book uses much better sources than the Archive has had access to, the quality is definitely better over all, even if the pages are a bit crowded. This book is 300 pages and, like I said, exhaustive in scope, but I have to admit that I would rather have had a book of that length that focused on a narrower set of characters so that each could receive greater individual focus -- a full page for each character -- rather than a larger headcount of characters that consequently have to share their limited page space. A full page for Warpath? THAT would really be taking advantage of the greater resolution that print (and the original sources) can support. But hey, it's not my book. I'll take what I can get.
Retails for $50, but you can get it on Amazon for less than $32. That's a fucking bargain, no question.
Yes, I wrote the afterword. I was honored to be asked to do so. Reading it now I've got some quibbles with what I wrote from a proof-reading perspective, but I feel I conveyed well enough my overall attachment to this art. Thanks for asking, Jim!
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WHAT NOW FOR THE ARCHIVE?
The Archive continues! The purpose of the Archive has always been two-fold: a source of both browsing pleasure and a resource for the online fan community.
Over the next weeks and months, I'm going to be cutting and scanning pages out of this book and, when necessary, offering them up for editing, starting with the USA pieces. Roadbuster and Slamdance come to mind, but I'll probably be focusing most on the Pretenders. (For selfish reasons: I've been using the Pretender art as a rotating background on my phone. I LOVE IT.)
I've fielded a lot of offers for help with scanning and editing. I guess my request is to be patient. Now that this book is out, it's not going anywhere. Nor do I have unlimited time to devout to a spree of new posts. I am also sticking to a long established rule regarding upgrading characters: I only do so if the improvement is significant. So if it's okay with you, I'll do the scanning to make sure no one wastes their time, and when I need some editing help -- and I will -- I'll ask you.
Actually, it's been quite some time since there have been any significant upgrades to the Archive because we had reached a certain saturation. With most every American/Japanese/European character accounted for, and without remarkably better scans becoming available online, things grew quiet. I am looking forward to adding and discussing improvements again. But like when we were kids, back when we might get only one new Transformers per month or so, I want to savor the specialness of that new character. I don't want an unobfuscated Roadbuster scan to be lost amidst 13 other new additions. Let's take our time. Yes, let's savor.
That said, I am 90% done with a full redesign of this site. I finish it (this month, I promise) then the site should be modernized and mobile-ready. I'm looking forward to showing it off!
So. What do you think of the book?