I'm sitting in the the New York Bar on the 52nd floor of the Park Hyatt Tokyo hotel that was made famous by Lost in Translation. (I'm drinking the "Soho" and it is indeed a fine drink, maybe even worth the ¥1900.) I figured it was the most appropriate place to finally begin telling you all about my Tokyo trip thus far. The prospect of attempting to regurgitate so much information has intimidated me for days, but to make matters worse each day I put it off adds more grist for the mill. I'm hoping that being in this luxurious setting, watching the sun set and the lights come up in Japan's capital, I can somehow muddle through. (This is a really good drink.)
I departed last Thursday morning, losing a day in the cross-oceanic flight. As I typically hate flying I was not relishing such a lengthy journey, but let me say right now that if I could I would fly no other airline than Korean Air. They actually made the 12-hour flight very comfortable with two meals, snacks, ample leg room, on-demand entertainment and ridiculously friendly service. I wish flying domestically was as enjoyable. It was Friday when I landed in Narita, the international airport located an hour outside of Japan. My first test: hitting an ATM for yen and finding the bus that would take me into Tokyo. No problem. The drive was terribly boring, but I stayed awake and alert because goddammit I was in Japan! Things got interesting when we actually hit the city. Did you know Tokyo has a magnificent Rainbow Bridge (apparently stolen from Asgard). Anyway, I made it in and Brian met me at the bus stop.
We've got some improvements to the Japanese-exclusive section of the Transformers Box Art Archive. First we have a dramatically improved entry for Road Fire, a toy from the tail end of Japanese G1 that is so rare probably none of us will ever own him -- with the possible exception of Jeremy Barlow, who scanned and edited this image. I don't know how else he could have gotten such a large, perfect scan. Demon pact? Something evil, no doubt.
Then we've got a very improved version of the Japanese variant of Motormaster, straight from his Japanese box. This is probably the best looking (though least accurate) of the three Motormaster variants. Three? Yeah, more on that here. Scan and edit are courtesy of Vito Adesso from his personal collection. Yes, a rare D-50, another one you and I will probably never own.
I decided to take this opportunity to do some color-correction on a number of other Cybertrons and Destrons such as Battle Gaea (you don't own him) and the extremely rare dino-cassettes: Dial and Saur and Graphy and Noise. At $500 per cassette, you almost definitely do not own them. I really wish there was box art for Legout (the combined form of Dial & Saur) and Decibel (Graphy & Noise) like there is with the American cassette gestalts Squawkbox and Slamdance, but it just wasn't meant to be.
Decepticon jets are great, but because they're supposed to be airborne, they're not as fun to send rolling across your kitchen floor. Kind of dispels the illusion, doesn't it? Decepticon cars, though... You can send those evil warriors careening across hardwood floors into cats and babies and ankles, immersed in the wheeled malevolence, cackling all the way. When the Stunticons were introduced in the cartoon as the Decepticons' response to Autobot road mastery, I loved it. More Decepticons is always a good thing, and 'Cons that intentionally collide into the likes of Jazz or Sideswipe are even better. And then, when they transform and merge into one giant super warrior... Decepti-Bliss. And now we have greatly improved box art for all of them!
Let's start off with the two archetypical maniacs of the outfit, Drag Strip (left) and Wildrider (right). These two lack any complexity beyond the desire to cause mayhem and suffering. They're exactly the sort of uncomplicated and unquestioning warriors you want on the front line. I was trying in vain to think of a word for someone who demonstrates bad sportsmanship over everything in life, gloating over his victories and correspondingly raging uncontrollably when he is beaten or slighted; whatever the word is, that's Drag Strip. Even his fellow Decepticons find him insufferable.
As a complement, Wildrider resembles a hyperactive and violent child. Racing along without fear or concern, if there's one Stunticon who truly "cackles", it's him. In fact, he's one of the few Decepticons whose actual function is TERRORIST.
It started back when we lived in NYC: the majority of our apartment was decorated and stylized by Heather, but I had a sanctuary, a space, a room that was filled with All Things Adam. There was my computer desk, my various musical instruments, and of course my bookcases of Transformers. I took to calling it The War Room in the spirit of Doctor Strangelove. By the time we left our railroad-style Brooklyn digs, the War Room was over-flowing.
When we moved to Portland I took the spare bedroom as my office and delighted in the wealth of breathing room my collection had gained. As the Classics line multiplied and the Animated line hit stores, I resorted to putting up shelves to host the figures, while off-setting the increased geekiness with more macabre imagery.
But my collection-displaying woes were not what was actually concerning me. Since my desktop computer was in that room, it meant that I was too often segregated from my roomie, my partner in life, my blushing bride. After all, what reason had she to join me in my plastic "man cave"? How can we share what we're watching or reading or playing if I'm ensconced and secluded in the War Room?
I'll be the first to admit, I am slow to respond to emails, slow to post new scans and edits, slow to update this site... Please understand, when you spend 40 hours weekly on a computer just for your job, spending more time on a computer at home is hard. I start getting this pain in my shoulder and neck. My lower back starts to spasm. My concentration wanders. And concentration is important! I may not do as much actual background removal of edits as I used to, but I still do a lot of clone-stamping to weed out imperfections in the scans, color level corrections, resolution adjustments, and so forth. After all, we have standards to uphold. Plus there's the coordination of attribution (who scanned what, who edited what). So forgive me if I seem at times to be delinquent or remiss. But let's turn our attention over to some pretty, pretty updates!
First up, there was an auction not to long ago (several people brought it to my attention) for a handful of original TF box art pieces. The accompanying photos for a few of them were of better quality than what we had in the Archive, and Jeremy Barlow of Soundwave's Oblivion was kind enough to grab and clean them up. The greatest improvement comes for the Aerialbot Air Raid, but the scans of Astrotrain and Blitzwing are even better than the already-great entries we had. Thanks, Jeremy!
Remember when triple-changers were a bold and exciting new addition to the variety of the Transformers? Three modes! Wow! Decepticons Blitzwing and Astrotrain won us over with their devious multiplicity, so it was no surprise that more triple-changers would eventually arrive in stores and fiction. And here they are! It pleases me to present new, improved art for all four 1986 triple-changers: the Autobots Sandstorm, Broadside and Springer, as well as the Decepticon Octane. Thanks once more to the fowl Cosmic Duck for editing these scans (and to Shrike for some helpful feedback).
Springer was the most prominent of these four, the "Han Solo" of the 1986 movie and the third season. Strangely, Springer's triple-mode feature was not really utilized in the animation as you almost never (if ever) saw him transform into his Cybertronian car mode; it was always robot to helicopter and back. Springer was never the most interesting bot for me, being a little generic in his "tough but kind" persona. He's got a sword, though. (From his helicopter blades, of course.) Swords are awesome. Can't argue with that.
Sometime in the last year or so I started reading The Agitator, a blog by a libertarian journalist named Radley Balko that deals primarily with police misconduct, the drug war, and civil liberties. I find the site extremely compelling because I care a great deal about all of these issues and share Balko's views on ending the drug war, not sacrificing liberty for security, and greater accountability of the police force. I am an anti-authoritarian, and I believe that so long as my actions do not bring harm to others, the government and the police should not be telling me what to do or how to live my life. With all that said, I am nonetheless surprised by just how angry I become when reading about the various injustices Balko brings to my attention.
But the part I want to mention in particular is police misconduct. Let me tell you a little anecdote from my youth. It's about a day in middle school when I was arguing with one of the class bullies that blessed our little institution. For some reason, circumstances were such that no punches could be thrown, so I had an uncommon opportunity to simply argue with him. At one point I asked what he intended to do with his seemingly worthless life. He replied, "I'm going to be a cop, just like my Dad!" It immediately became clear to me that this bully would grow up to become a complete asshole of a cop, reveling in the sanctioned authority he would wield over everyone else. I imagined his father -- who was doubtlessly also a bully, because bullies are typically bullied into existence by their bully fathers -- this father was probably already one of those asshole power-trip cops. After all, what decent cop who truly believed his duty was to protect and serve would raise such a mean-spirited, petty and unkind son? This was the moment when I realized that not all police officers are epitomized by goodwill toward their fellow man.
Imagine my surprise when I opened the mail yesterday and found another mailing from Nielson, this time containing a booklet for recording a week's worth of television viewing -- and $30! Amazing! I was so appreciative, I immediately filled out the whole week's television viewing in advance (nothing! nada! zilch!) and used the "additional comments" field to reiterate that while I still don't/can't watch television, I am only too happy to keep taking their free money.
He hears all. Not just through his audio sensors, which can supposedly "hear a fly sneeze". Soundwave is also listening to the rest of the electromagnetic spectrum. If it's broadcasting, he's receiving. Properly calibrated, Soundwave can even read minds. Plus he's got his little cache of subordinate cassette spies; do they report to him, or does he just read their minds, too? Does he know everything they know? Are they unable to keep secrets from him?
What does he do with all this information?
In the cartoon, he was always portrayed as a loyal and unquestioning servant to Megatron, but his motivation is left unclear. Indeed, Soundwave spoke tersely, and only when necessary, revealing little of himself. Some may interpret that as devotion, but couldn't it simply be a conscious choice by one who knows the value of revealed secrets?