I Want To Tell You About Transformers!

A Beginner’s Guide To The Wonderful And Expensive World Of Oh God Why Are There So Many Cool Toys: Hasbro and Takara Tomy’s Transformers

Introduction

This page is currently under construction!

When I first encountered Transformers in July 2009 via an impulse purchase of the 2007 film on DVD, I had no idea that I had walked into such a big thing – mostly because I was lucky enough to have a friend who knew exactly what Transformers were and how to guide me through the various continuities and toylines (thanks Brent!). But it’s occured to me recently that whilst we have wonderful resources like TFWiki and a very warm and welcoming fandom, there’s no one place that says to new fans hey. welcome. wanna know what a C.H.U.G. is? well then buckle up, you’re in for one heck of an infodump. I hope you brought popcorn, a notebook, and a pretty sturdy will to survive. (DARE TO BEEELIEEEVE YOU CAN SURRRRVIIII yeah I’ll shut up).

This isn’t going to be that, exactly – but what I hope to achieve is some sort of easy-to-read, skimmable springboard for new fans so that they know where to look next for the things they want and, most importantly, where they can find fellow fans to chill with if they so wish.

So…What is Transformers?

Oh yeah, that’s probably a good place to start. Duh.

Transformers is a global brand of cartoons, films, comic books, video games, and novels all centred around a race of ancient robotic beings who are, more often than not, at war with each other because war, war never chan- wait. Wrong franchise.

Developed as a vehicle to sell toys to children because that was America’s jam in the 1980’s (and 90’s, and 2000’s, and), Transformers has survived for nearly forty years by pulling a Doctor Who and changing the aesthetics and story structure for Optimus Prime & Co. to suit each new generation of kids. We’ve gone from Goofy Saturday Morning Cartoon to Goofy Saturday Morning Cartoon ft. Animals to Massive Blockbuster Smash Hit to Comics What Make You Think, and there’s no sign of the juggernaut slowing down any time soon.

Join us, if you will, for shenanigans. There is intrigue, laughs, sads, and irreparable damage to your wallet.

Contents

Each heading is a hyperlink that will take you to another post detailing that subject. Why yes, I am also here to explain how tables of contents are supposed to work. I’ve got to use my English degree for something, people.

CONSTRUCTION UPDATE 14/12/2018: Currently working on “The Lore”! “The Fandom & Where To Find Us” is pending. I might also be having a fidget with layouts and what-have-you, so bare with us. Bear with us? Bears. They are sometimes with us.

The Toys *now live*
Lines, Waves, And Size Classes: Nobody Knows What Hasbro Is Doing Any More, Really
Review? You Mean Someone Just Goes On The Internet and Talks About Toys? Rad!
Third Party? Is That A KO Or Nah?
Distribution? In My Area? Seems Unlikely. Where in the world do I buy these cool things?

Last update: 14/12/2018: added tfu.info as a suggested database; added Titan Master as a size class; added ohmyprimus under websites; added several brick and mortar shops based in Singapore.

The Lore 14/12/2018 – UNDER CONSTRUCTION
The Key Players (AKA March of the Bumblebees)
The Telly: Cartoons, CGI Cartoons, And Really Good CGI Cartoons
The Movies: So Much Controversy, So Little Time
The Comics: So Much Death, Wow
The Video Games: Smashy Smashy

The Fandom & Where to Find Us
That Big Ol’ Scary Place, The Internet

A Note On Forums
Fan Fiction Writers
Fan Artists
Conventions: Not As Scary As Previously Advertised?

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What Measure of a Megatron

Hi, I’m Becka.

Hi Becka.

And I just…really love Megatron.

What?

Well! I mean! He’s just such a great character, isn’t he? Such a cool villain with a really rad name and he’s normally all silver and angry and always mucking up his plans…

Ma’am, this is a Wendy’s.

…Okay, if I buy some of whatever a Wendy’s sells, can I carry on talking about Megatron?

No.

Fiiiine. I’ll just have to do it the old-fashioned bloggy way, then.


It’s July 2019, which means that Megatron has been my favourite Transformer for a decade now. Hugo Weaving’s particularly impressive olfactory skills were my first exposure to the character, sitting in my parents’ living room cheering on the cavalcade of robots whose importance to pop culture I did not quite understand at that point, and thinking the big silver guy all covered in ice like that pack of sausages I bought two years ago and left in the freezer “for emergencies” was pretty damn cool. The G1 cartoon soon followed, and then Transformers: Animated, and then a brief stint with Transformers: Prime (it’s awesome, but not for me), and finally a complete binge of Beast Wars. Recently I have dabbled tentatively with Beast Machines and am considering doing a full days’ marathon, but for now I am content with fast-forwarding through the episodes to find the Megatron parts.

(I’m sad they never made a toy of his adorable little traitorous drone).

But hitting my 10 year Transformers anniversary (Anniformersry? Sorry, Thew) made me wonder just why I liked this character so much – why I consider myself to be a moral person with good judgement, but it’s always the villain who attracts my attention. Usually this signifies that the protagonist/protagonist team of a franchise is just a bit wet, but the strength of Transformers has always been that the heroes are just as interesting as the villains – after all, they’re there to sell toys. You can’t sell a toy of Boring McVanillapants when Boring McVanillapants is a giant space robot and needs to be at least as interesting as a Furby.

I’ll admit I am that sort of person who always finds the villain more interesting than the protagonist, usually because the protagonist exists to maintain the status quo whilst the villain exists to shake it up (note I am not using ‘antagonist’ here because sometimes this includes characters who purport to be on the ‘good side’ but are so into maintaining the status quo that they loop right around to being the ‘bad side’ – the best current example I can think of is Heaven still wanting a holy war in Good Omens when Aziraphale and Crowley’s relationship proves that peace is achievable).

And villains just downright have more fun, usually because they don’t really care about how they appear to those around them. I’m not a sociopath advocating for The Joker to be our next messiah (because the people who do usually end up being those people who think that SJW is an insult and consider Superman being an immigrant story to be Modern Diversity Ruining Comics), but I am saying that watching Jack Nicholson fart around Gotham City doing ridiculous shit will always be infinitely more entertaining than watching Christian Bale brood in a cave.

Also, villains are just sexier.

So yesterday on Ye Olde Twitters Dot Com, I asked my followers who their favourite Megatron was and collated the responses together per Megatron to see what exactly the wider Transformers fandom (as represented by people who follow me, obviously not a scientific sample but still with more street cred than an Antivax blog) considers to be The Quintessential Megatron Qualities. I’ve gone through the 151 replies (no wonder my phone ran out of battery quicker than a Sega GameGear) and picked out the key words each respondee has applied to their Megatron of choice to deduce how to create The Ultimate Megatron, and not because I want to take over the world or anything. Have you seen the world? It’s a mess. Who wants to run a mess? I have a hard enough time remembering to hoover.

From my admittedly crap science brain (look I got a C at GCSE, what do you want from me?) here are the five key areas that must be fulfilled to create the ultimate Megatron:

  • Scary
  • Goofy
  • Competent
  • Sexy
  • Have An Arc

Bear with. I break these down below.

vlcsnap-2018-12-02-19h14m46s128

Let’s get judgemental.


The Scare Factor (Transformers: Prime)

A good villain has to be scary in order to lend gravitas to what they’re trying to achieve, and if that was purely what this contest was rated on then Transformers: Prime Megatron would have the whole shebang in the bag. And then he would probably put that bag in some sort of horrific blender and drink whatever came out because the guy is crazier than a bag full of cats.

Here’s his word cloud of the terms the responses used to describe him:

TFP Megs

Yeah, this, basically.

Whilst several people talked about his eventual redemptive arc in the Beast Hunters film, most focused on the fact that the guy was a big terrifying ball of spikes and malice who posed a legitimate threat to Optimus Prime and his merry band of resistance fighters by sheer brute force alone. Megatron may have had an entire army behind him and more brains on him than the usual depiction of the character, but it’s easy for his army to do their jobs when the enemy has already retreated because their general has just snorted a whole bunch of crystal meth and cracked a boulder in half with his head.

The Goofiness Factor (G1 & Unicron Trilogy)

Oh Frank Welker, what did we ever do to deserve you? Not enough, that’s what.

Despite the near legendary status of the G1 designs only a few responses mentioned G1 Megatron, which I find surprising, especially when you consider that Transformers as a fandom is still very much centred around the Sunbow cartoon from 1984-1986; even Hasbro itself is reverting to the aesthetics and world that cartoon brought, for better or worse.

But what isn’t surprising (at least to me) is how the fandom remembers the Big Grey Gun Man – despite the 1986 film ramping his threat status up from Ha Ha He’s Running Away to Holy Shit Now We’re Running Away, many still remember him as, uh, well:

G1 Megs

Iconic.

It seems that the general consensus of Sunbow Megatron that, whilst certainly recognisable, he’s just a bit of a doof and not taken anywhere near as seriously as the Megatrons who followed him.

The Unicron Trilogy Megatron seems to have had the same fate, although not quite as badly as his sample pool was tiny:

Ut Megatron

Not as iconic, but still very Megatron.

Oh, and a grand total of one person talked about G1 Marvel Comics Megatron. They described him as a “putz”. Really, there’s not a lot more I can say about that. Except that “putz” is a good word.

Putz.

The Competency Factor (Transformers: Animated)

You probably expected Beast Wars to appear in the subheading above, but you’d be wrong. Whilst he was the most intelligent Megatron to grace our eyeballs in 1996, the silky voiced Tyrannosaurus Rex has a category all of his own below.

Instead, sheer bloody competency falls instead squarely on the broad shoulders of the equally seductive Transformers: Animated Megatron, whomst Transformers Twitter decided by an overwhelming majority was a) the best one and also b) the most terrifying one because of just how capable he was – even when reduced to just a head in Professor Sumdac’s laboratory.

TFA Megs

So he’s a bit brainy then, eh?

Most Megatrons have a temper that eventually snaps and ruins their plans – but TFA Megatron is the cool, calm, stoic, patient plotter that our ideal Megatron candidate clearly needs to be at spark. He’s not the brute archetype exemplified by G1 and TFP Megatron; he’s the guy who sits and bides his time and then strikes when he deems the  iron is hot enough, even if he has to set it on fire himself to do so.

The Sex Appeal Factor (Beast Wars)

We live in the blessed time of galactic hyper space year 2019, in which people are free to fancy consenting adults of their choice so long as they’re not weird about it, and therefore naturally some of the answers mentioned the, ah, aesthetics of certain Megatrons.

Whatever it was we as a race did to deserve Frank Welker, take that and double it for David Kaye: Transformers Twitter is incredibly thirsty for the man’s vocal chords, and with good reason. Beast Wars may have had some slightly dodgy (unfinished, badly textured) CGI when it first premiered in 1996, but it did boast an incredibly impressive voice cast that helped to make it the memorable show that it was. Scott McNeil is the one we all whisper about in hallowed tones as we consider that most of the show is just him having a nice natter to himself, but we also can’t drop enough praise on Gary Chalk and David Kaye for giving us another unforgettable Prime/Megatron pairing.

Beast Wars Megatron is interesting because whilst I have (jokingly – everyone fancies every Megatron, it seems) put him under the sexy subheading, he also exemplifies the first two qualities we have discussed: he’s terrifying, and he’s also goofy as hell.

BW Megs

He’ll kill you, but you’ll have a whale of a time with the whole experience.

I’m not sure how many of these answers carry the above forward to Beast Machines, the black sheep of the franchise in which Megatron develops a taste for tying himself to the ceiling and wearing a shower curtain he found in B&M Bargains and everything is Grimdark and Very Serious, but in the meantime we can all universally agree that whilst TFA Megatron might be the quickest to secure a victory, BW Megatron would have the most fun doing it.

The Character Arc Factor (IDW 2.0 &Bayverse)

Transformers Twitter identified having a character/redemptive arc to be an essential ingredient for two Megatrons: More Than Meets The Eye/Lost Light’s Autobot Megatron, who probably doesn’t surprise you, and Bayverse Megatron, who probably does. Several also mentioned TFP Megatron’s arc, but it is less pronounced that the other two (and certainly more rushed), so I have left it with a mention above.

If there’s one thing you can say for MTMTE/Lost Light’s Autobot Megatron, it’s that he’s the giant robot version of the popular British toast-improver Marmite (shut up it is). You either love the fact that the writers tried something new with a tired old character and in doing so raised some significant questions about the morality of forgiveness, or you think a mass-murdering genocidal maniac being spared prison time wasn’t that great an idea in the first place. Whichever half of the coin you find yourself on, the arc itself has become an important part of IDW Megatron’s character now that that universe’s story is complete and finished, and arguably it does flesh him out in a way that had not been properly explored before.

IDW

This is so sad, Alexa, play The Touch.

But also of consideration is Bayverse Megatron. A lot of fans like to snigger behind their hands at the Michael Bay films for having ridiculous stories that make no sense, because those fans apparently have never watched the original G1 cartoon. (A lot more people take issue with Bay’s casual use of racism and misogyny and – yeah, that’s the real issue to discuss right there). But if you watch Transformers, Revenge of the Fallen, and Dark of the Moon – the Shia Trilogy – you will notice that this Megatron has the best character arc of any of the other characters. Tumblr user trinarysuns has created a fascinating breakdown of the evolution of this Megatron which first tipped me off to this, but it was also mentioned by other Twitter users among the consensus that Bay Megatron is a babe:

Bay

This is remarkably less tragic, Alexa, play Death Of Optimus Prime.

Perhaps I should have put him under the ‘sexy’ subheading after all.

Conclusion

Well, there we have it: the essential ingredients of what makes Megatron…Megatron. These aspects may be shared amongst a handful of different interpretations, but slap them all together and you’ll have yourself the best possible incarnation of the giant metal man with the good legs.

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Pictured: good legs.

In terms of popularity, TFA and BW Megatrons were by far the most mentioned and discussed (and, to my mind, are the closest to possessing all aspects mentioned), with TFP Megatron taking second place. G1 and Unicron Trilogy were hardly mentioned, and RID was woefully under-represented.

The Machinima Megatron was mentioned twice, but the data here is far from clear as he was defined as:

  • Having >:3c energy
  • Being an asshole

And being An Old Person I don’t know if these two qualifiers are mutually exclusive or not.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, the police are here to escort me out of this Wendy’s. Apparently I’ve been hogging all the free wifi.

 

Breaking Up With the Bay Movies

In 2008, I was a second year university student with social awkwardness up the wazoo, no IRL friends, very low self-esteem, and depression that had yet to find the right medication. In short, I was a bit of a mess. This might not seem relevant to multimillion blockbuster action movies, but I promise it is – I’m afraid I’m gonna go a bit Please Just Get To The Recipe at the beginning, but it’ll all make sense at the end. Maybe.

Anyway, 2008. I was back home staying with my folks over summer and mum and I had Done Capitalism Good and popped into town for a spot of shopping. We were in HMV, looking for a movie to bung on the box that night, when I spotted a title that piqued my interest:

  • Has giant robots (we all love sci-fi)
  • Explosions (we all love action)
  • Michael Bay (The Rock was one of my favourite action movies at the time)
  • Shia Labeouf (we had just watched Constantine again the previous week) and Hugo Weaving (my parents are huge LOTR fans)

And it was called…Transformers. Neither mum or I knew what this meant, because we had somehow lived for 47 and 19 years respectively without ever having heard of Hasbro’s once-juggernaut toy franchise (imagine, if you will, a world in which I didn’t know who Megatron was. That’s how grim my life was in 2008). I very nearly put the film back. It was £7, and did I want to spend £7 on a movie I’d probably only ever watch once?

Did I also mention that whenever I have a depressive episode I buy a load of crap to make me feel better?

So I bought the movie. And we watched it. And we loved it. I clearly remember dad making his “I am impressed with this movie” noise when Blackout first transforms. I remember feeling a tingly sense of awe when Optimus Prime introduces himself. I loved the music (like or loathe the Bay films, we can all agree that Steve Jablonsky rocks). I even liked the human characters, although always Mikaela before Sam. And when Megatron wrenched himself free of the ice at the end I think some part of my mind that had been shut off for years opened with a loud crack and screamed THAT ONE. I LIKE THAT ONE.

The rest is history.

Six movies, multiple cartoons, a few comics, and gods alone know how much money I’ve spent on toys later, and I’m a firm Transformers fan. I love the lore, I love the world, I love the fact that any character I like will typically have at least one toy for my shelf, but above all else – I love the community. That shy 19 year old whose own head was trying to do her in found a place she fitted and belonged, and because of that I was willing to give the Bay films a lot of goodwill. Had I not picked up that DVD, I would not have found my place in the world. So yeah, they’re a bit ‘splodey. And yeah, they’re a bit sexist. And yeah, they’re…really quite racist. But! Without them I wouldn’t be here! So, to my mind, that made them OK.

That’s not to say I didn’t understand the criticism, or that I was blind to it. I understood full well that Skids and Mudflap were, to put it politely, Problematic As Fuck. I understood that Bay treats his female characters as either harpies or sex goddesses with very little agency (at least, as far as the camera work was concerned). I hated the comic relief characters as much as everybody else. And I began to tire of the repetative action scenes that had very little coherency. But, with each instalment, I was also content to go to the cinema and spend my £12 and be entertained for a couple of hours – especially if I got to see my robots.

And they were my robots; the Bayformers were my first, my comparison point, my G1, and therefore I could appreciate all that came before and after by benchmarking them against the Bayverse. In all honesty, I think I love all versions of Transformers because my nostalgia is strictly tied to something that only happened a decade ago, and therefore none of the changes the franchise has endured really resonate with me all that much; my inner child was as grown up as my outer child when I first popped in that DVD, so there was nothing to ‘betray’.

Hell, I even enjoyed The Last Knight, which was less a film and more a bunch of expensive shots strung together with Sir Anthony Hopkins hired to give it a lick of authenticity. But I also recognised that the franchise at this point was beginning to creak and show signs of fatigue, and the Box Office seemed to agree with this; something had to change. The films had to take on a new direction. And I was stoked for Bumblebee doing just that.

And I was right to be stoked for Bumblebee. The film is beautiful, a love letter to both the much-coveted G1 aesthetic and story with a grateful nod to the mainstream-appeal the Bay films had used to reignite the brand at a time when it wasn’t faring too well. It had genuine heart and soul, human characters who cared about the Transformers as well as each other, and  a comforting familiarity with other films like The Iron Giant and ET. I disagree vehemently that it’s meant to be a Bay prequel owing to the sheer amount of stuff we now know was cut and the glaring continuity errors the bigwigs at Paramount seem dead-set on ignoring or retconning somehow, but it’s all moot anyway if it doesn’t rake in the cash. If you’re on the fence, go see it. It’s not a waste of anyone’s time.

But that’s not the point.

The point is that a week ago, I rewatched Dark of the Moon – which I had not seen for a couple of years at that point, but had fond memories of. Megatron as a brooding desert nomad! Optimus betrayed by his old friend and mentor, Mr Spock! Ironhide’s betrayal! That bangin’ soundtrack! Yeah! Let’s do this!!

But as I watched it, curled up in bed in the dark with the last of my Christmas chocolate and my Twitter pals keeping me company, a slow, creeping, unwelcome horror crept upon me.

I hated it.

Not disliked. Not was annoyed by. Actively hated what I was sitting through. It was obnoxious, irritating, badly paced, and worst of all it was so loud – by the time the final fight in Chicago blazed onto my laptop screen I had a headache and had to turn the film off out of genuine irritation of what it was doing to my eyes and ears. Worse still, all the parts I’d remembered fondly were just…not really there. They happened, sure, but they lacked the emotional investment I’d made in them when I first saw the film.

And…well…I had seen them done better. On Boxing Day, when I saw Bumblebee. I had seen that it was possible to make a live action Transformers film that wasn’t just a crazy irritating mess that glorified the army to the exclusion of character depth and genuine emotion. I had seen that it was possible to have a human protagonist who actually had a sense of chemistry with a CGI robot. I had seen that it was possible to have a family dynamic that was broken, but that all parties were working to fix. And, worst of all, I had seen that it was possible to create action set pieces that were clear to follow and exciting because you could work out what was going on.

I now have no desire to revisit any of the other films. I might occasionally watch a few robot-centric scenes on YouTube when the fancy takes me, but the prospect of watching any of them again beginning to end just makes me feel vaguely disquieted. I could make a generic statement like “Bumblebee ruined the Bay films for me”, but I don’t think that’s fair to me or to Travis Knight for making such a kickass movie. I think the problems I now have with the Bay franchise were always there, but I was just so grateful to them for existing and drawing me into this world that I was willing to overlook them. But now that I’m here – now that I know better? I don’t know. I just don’t think I need the films any more.

That’s not to say I’m disparaging anyone who continues to like them. If you do, more power to you! And I still love the designs of the robots – I’ve always been into weird alien aesthetics being applied to recognisable people-like things – and I am fervently waiting to see what other goodies the Studio Series toyline will be bringing us because damn son those toy designers have been knocking it out of the goddamn park. But I think…as far as the films are concerned…I’m done. I’ve taken what I can from them, and they have nothing more to offer me.

It’s a depressing thought. Kinda like the first time you stop and think “wait, how many calories does this Happy Meal have?” or “but you said getting a degree would help me get a job?” or “wait, you mean I have to pay for petrol to make the car go? But I already paid for the car?” Those sometimes unwanted adult thoughts of realising the world isn’t quite as polished as child!you thought it would be, and that now you’re leaving childhood behind you can never go back to the more simplistic reality that had cushioned you.

I’m sorry, Mr Bay. I just…I don’t like your movies any more. And I really, really hope that Bumblebee is a sign to Hasbro that it’s time to move on from them, because we need that change. We need people to like Transformers films again. Such are the ways of the $.

Top 12 Transformers of 2018

Aight, we all know how this works: I pick my 12 favourite Transformers from 2018 and write all about them in a really longwinded way because I suck at shortform and hmmm? What was that? Why 12? Ah, well, that does have a short answer: 6 Megatrons, 6 non-Megatrons. Why 6? Because odd numbers make me nervous and I can’t be arsed to do 8 apiece.

But before I start – a quick guide explaining my personal criteria when assessing a toy. It’s a simple, three-part process:

  • Is it fun to play with and pose?
  • Does it look like the character it’s meant to look like in the continuity that it’s referencing?
  • If not, does it carry its own style well?

Begin.

The Megatrons

6. Honorable Mention: Beast Wars Transmetal Megatron [1998]

Ah, Transmetal Megatron. How I love thee. Let me count the ways: 1) you haven’t broken yet 2) please don’t break 3) no I’m never putting you back in dinosaur mode you shed enough plastic as it was transforming to robot mode 4) Hasbro why did you use this goddamn plastic to make such a beautiful toy I can never play with again 5) *incoherent screaming*

20181222_132051-01

Don’t move. His ability to stay in one piece is based on movement.

Or, to put it another way, had I bought the Japanese Metals version instead which didn’t have any problems of the Crumbly variety, Transmetal Megatron would have easily scraped the #2 slot on my Megatron list. As it stands he is at the back of a shelf and I worry that one day he will simply turn to dust, not unlike Spider-Man in Infinity War and oh no now I’m sad all over again.

5. Cyberverse Leader Class Megatron [2018]

Cyberverse Leader Class Megatron is the dumbest thing Hasbro have ever made, and I love him.

Just. Just look at him:

20181222_132148-01

He still doesn’t understand why Optimus won’t take him seriously.

Yes, I know the head is meant to be down for the tank mode. But that would utterly ruin this figure. This figure’s chief, crowning glory is that it is entirely nonsensical. And that’s brilliant. He’s a big old chunk of Megatron who is broad and tall and heavy and can’t really move around that much, but that’s okay because what he lacks in posability he more than makes up for in personality. He just screams grumpy old man having a bad day so he’s gonna make you have a bad day, and that’s quintessential Megatronness, that is.

I’ve entered him at #5 because his lack of posability makes his playability rather limited – there’s only so many ways to move a robot with no elbows or knees – but when you do pick him up you’ll find it hard to put him back down again.

And he has a turret that looks like a –

20181222_132208-01

Firework. Why, what did you think I was going to say?

4. Mastermind Creations (MMC) Tyrantron (IDW Autobot Megatron) [2017]

I haven’t read the IDW comics. Before I get six zillion tweets telling me to read them, yes, I know they’re amazing and I love what they have done for the Transformers universe and that they actually took time to look at social issues that would plague a robot society but I just. don’t. want. to. read. them. I am happy admiring their character designs and arcs from afar and buying good toys and generally getting on with my life.

I’m also still on the fence about Autobot Megatron as a thing in itself. On the one hand, it was an excellent opportunity to study the concept of redemption using a character who is so morally reprehensible, who has done things that most of us can only have nightmares about after we’ve really gunned the cheese that evening, who has killed more people than there are stars in the sky and therefore any punishment visited upon him will never reach the magnitude of the fuckshittery that he unleashed upon the universe even if you were to kill and revive him a million times…but on the other hand, I really feel like just pretending he was a poetic woobie who made a mistake and is all better now is a depiction that really didn’t do Megatron as a character any justice.

And that’s all I’ve got to say about that.

MMC Tyrantron, on the other hand, I just plain love.

My first thought as I took him out of the package is “he looks like he just stepped off a comicbook page”, and that for me is his chief strength. He’s unique against other Transformers in my collection because of his style, but that style isn’t so exaggerated that it looks out of place. (Ditto for his extra accessories which allow you to transform hahaha him into his younger miner self which are an excellent addition that wasn’t needed but is very much appreciated). His champagne-coloured paintwork is also a unique shade of silver that I haven’t seen before or since, and he just generally looks nice. Add to that some really good posability and expressiveness, and it’s no wonder he’s one of my favourite toys to work with when I’m making photocomics.

20181222_133747-01

Alas, poor me. And also this dead dude whose head I found I guess.

He just looks so up himself all the time. It’s great.

3. The Last Knight (TLK) Voyager Megatron & Wei Jiang Rendsora [2018]

20181222_132409-01

The Last Knight Voyager Megatron is the best non-Studio Series Movie toy that Hasbro has ever made. Yeah, I’m serious. He’s a legend. In robot mode, he has no kibble. In vehicle mode, he has no kibble. The transformation is staggeringly simple but also employs a lot of moves I simply haven’t seen before. He’s super duper posable and comes with a really cool sword. And he’s the best plastic incarnation of my favourite Movie Megatron design. What’s not to love?

vlcsnap-2018-12-13-21h18m56s320

You will love this version of Megatron or so help me we will be having words.

Whilst a lot of folks have opted to buy Wei Jiang’s KO upscale because a) tall and b) diecast, I can’t give Rendsora this win on his own. After all, it’s Hasbro who have done all the hard work here; Wei Jiang copied their homework verbatim and tried to pass it off as their own essay because it’s in different handwriting with a fancier pen. Both lads are valid, but if you’re looking for a recommendation then I would suggest that you get the pair. Next to Rendsora the Voyager’s smaller size is charming, whilst next to the Voyager Rendsora’s slightly altered colour palette really pops. They’re complementary in the best way.

20181222_132457-01

Transformers: The Last Knight Part 2: There Are Two Knights Now, Suck It Earth

2. Perfect Effect Mega Doragon (Beast Wars Transmetal 2 Megatron) [2018]

I’ll be frank: when I first saw Mega Doragon’s solicitation images late last year, I had two simultaneous thoughts: 1) there is no way the toy will be that sexy in real life because that is a) illegal and b) impossible, and 2) I really need to get back to watching Beast Wars so I can understand why Megatron was turned into a sexy dragon man from being a sexy dinosaur man.

At the time of writing this post I am unfortunately still only on The Agenda Part 2 because I actually suck at watching television (I blame Netflix’s easy binge seshes that actually make me nervous about gunning whole shows now because of that emptiness you feel afterwards) but I am more than happy to report that yes, it is possible for a toy to be this sexy IRL. Every time I look at Mega Doragon I have to stop and go “…how??” to myself whilst basking in his majesty because Primus he is gorgeous.

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Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful. Hate me because I’m an asshole.

And because he is gorgeous I am willing to forgive some of the flaws which would otherwise keep me from enjoying another figure not quite so gorgeous – for example, the ‘shield’ on his right arm which for me is just a tiny bit too big and restricts his movement, and the fact that once his dragon-tail is equipped it’s quite difficult to move his head without popping one of the balljoints out. These are minor complaints, but Mega Doragon cost £140 and minor niggles become major ones the more pennies you shell out on a toy. I have seen many people over on TFW2005 complaining that he also has a balancing issue because of the heavy wings on his back, but honestly I have never had this – I’ve stood him up on thick carpet, thin carpet, and my desk and had no issues.

So if he’s so absolutely stunning why don’t you just marry him, Becka, why isn’t he in my #1 spot? That’s actually quite simple: his playability, for me, isn’t great. He is bursting with personality and has a really quite good range of joints, not to mention is the only figure I’ve spent over £100 on this year that I have actually had the guts to transform because the process is intuitive and fun, but I just don’t want to do any of the usual things I do with my toys with him – i.e. photocomics and taking them to work as my #deskbot. For a start, both his paint and his wings are incredibly delicate and have already been scratched despite me being more careful than usual, which on a toy this good-looking just makes me feel guilty. My MP36 has a lot of chips and paint-rub but for some reason that just makes him feel like he’s mine; on Mega Doragon, it makes me feel like I’ve just spilt custard on the Mona Lisa. And then tried to lick it off and made it all worse.

(No that doesn’t mean I lick my toys it’s a metaphor jesus chri-)

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Second place? Second place. That will not do, no. We’ll show them, won’t we Ducky-Poo? Yeeees. Yes, we will.

Secondly, whilst I have had no balance issues with him and love posing him and taking photos of him, he just doesn’t work well with other figures in my collection. Perfect Effect have given him a very distinct style, but it’s so distinct that he feels like he’s from a whole other toyline and doesn’t really “fit” in Transformers. Don’t get me wrong, Mega Doragon is beautiful and I recommend him to everyone. It’s just that, like the character he’s based on, he’s just too damn beautiful for his own good.

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I really wish Beast Wars had been made in the 2010’s so that Megatron could have been an Instagram-obsessed selfie fanatic. Yes, I’m serious.

1. Generations: War for Cybertron: Siege Voyager Class Megatron [2018]

I have to admit, Siege as a concept made me wary. The early product shots looked both similar enough to feel like a re-tread, and stylistically different enough to rankle my They Changed It Now I Have To Reconsider If I Like It buzzer. (I really do try to ignore that buzzer, but we all have one and you know as well as I do that the volume control sometimes goes a little haywire when knee-jerking is involved). Titans Return and Power of the Primes, whilst plagued with QC issues and slavishly adhearing to the headmaster gimmick even when it didn’t make sense, had managed to dig a bit deeper into the Hasbro archives than usual and spat out more interesting characters like Krok and Sky Shadow as a result, making it feel like the Transformers universe itself was a tiny bit bigger than usual. Going back to the same Generation One Season One Cartoon Cast after that, especially as Siege was announced roughly around the IDW comics coming to an end, the Bumblebee Movie being pegged as a soft reboot, and Hasbro’s push towards homogenising the brand  made me all kinds of nervous. G1 might be my favourite continuity, but it’s not the only continuity and it certainly hasn’t been the thing keeping Transformers alive all these years. My inner Beast Wars fan was particularly miffed by this direction.

This miffment (if that’s not a word I’m copyrighting it, it’s my word now) lasted right up until I received Siege Megatron from Kapow Toys. I wouldn’t say I fell in love the moment I laid eyes on the packaging, but I fell in love the moment I laid my eyes on the packaging. Transformers packaging, for me, has been so boring for so long – seeing the oddly-shaped Siege box plastered with interesting colours and font choices really set it apart from…well, most other boxes containing robots I’ve received this year.

And handling Siege Megatron for the first time made me realise that Hasbro has this Siege toy line thing sorted. They’ve obviously gone back and looked at the Unicron Trilogy and its obsession with Minicons and translated that over to just how many weapons it’s possible to plug into a single figure (Cog, naturally, is taking this To The Extreme) and as a result created a line with really, really good playability. You’ll notice in the photo that Siege Megatron is holding his sword, and is the only figure to be pictured holding a weapon that isn’t attached somehow – that’s because it just feels wrong taking it off him. This is a figure that is meant to be holding a sword at all times. And that statement is coming from me, a person who immediately confiscates all packaged weapons as soon as a toy is out of its packaging to throw them into a different box and never look at them again.

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Compensating for something there are we, hmmmm?

Siege Megatron also carries what I would call “The Essence Of G1 Megatronness”;  sure, he’s a tank now – with the Decidedly Not Cartoon Accurate treads discreetly folded against his back – but he has the calculating scowl, the bucket head, the dull grey plastic, and the body proportions that just scream Generation One but he still feels like a different, new toy. This isn’t just MP36’s robot mode downscaled, but his own thing. And hell, I even like the mud splashes. I like that. Even if they make no sense because there’s no mud on a planet made of metal come on Hasbro that’s basic ecology that is.

The Non-Megatrons

6. Ultra Maxmas (IDW Optimus Prime) [2017]

I’m gonna be perfectly honest here: it’s the ears. I mean, the antennae. I mean…the adorable antennae ears. I have been assured by a friend (hi Andrew!) who loves Third Party toys for their engineering that Ultra Maxmas is exquisite and I fully believe him, but I am all about his personality and for me his personality is 99.9% them antennae-ears.

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Ssshh. He can hear you.

He’s also a hefty lad with a surprising amount of diecast, and the lankiest Prime to date. And he’s quite faithful to that one time in IDW comics that Optimus Prime had really long antennae-ears. What I’m trying to say is: wow he cute, look them ears! Awwww.

5. MMC Boreas (IDW MTMTE/LL Cyclonus) [2017]

As I said way up in my MMC Tyrantron review, I don’t read the IDW comics. But I do love me a good Cyclonus, and I feel like the teasing and release of Fans Toys Quietus has overshadowed this poor boy somewhat when he’s perfectly brilliant all on his own. He has oodles of personality, helped by his plentiful posability and some really quite wonderful wrist tilts, and is a lovely shade of blue that never photographs well but is a pleasure to look like in the real world.

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…And now I have to address his only, glaring flaw: he has a weird head. There’s no way around this one. The head is far too narrow and has a shape not unlike an almond, which when combined with the sculpt they’ve chosen makes it just look increasingly odd the more you stare at it. This is irrelevant when looking at the figure head-on, but any kind of sideways turn immediately clues you in and it is just a very strange design choice.

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Darling I love you, but why.

He’s otherwise still very lovely though, especially if you perform a teeny bit of custom work and deploy the IDW face on the alternate head with two horns.

4. Power of the Primes Legends Slash [2018]

“We’re going to make a new dinobot,” said Hasbro. “And she’ll be a girl!”

“Oh god,” said Becka, remembering the last time a company made a dinobot who was also a girl.

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“It’s okay,” said Hasbro, “we’re not Third Party! We’re not going to give her really obvious boobs which makes no sense either for a dinosaur nor for a lizard dinosaur. We’re going to make her wiry and cute and fun, with a bajillion joints and so much pizzazz that she’ll instantly improve any shelf she’s put on just by virtue of being there. And you can open her mouth in dinosaur mode so that it looks like she’s just told a really bad joke!”

“Oh good,” said Becka, forking over a wodge of cash in Forbidden Planet.

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3. Studio Series Voyager Starscream [2018]

Dorito Starscream is valid and has been since 2007. Literally in my case, considering he was my first introduction to Starscream as a character, and as I began with the Bayverse I’ve never experienced the aversion to their designs that plague so many other fans. I have had, however, an incredibly odd relationship to the Movie toys in that they look like the characters, which is great, but they’re also kibble-laden messes that make them incredibly hard to pose and transform, which is not great.

This is why if I had to give an award for Best Toyline of 2018, I’d firmly stick that hypothetical medal to the chasses of all the figures released under the Studio Series line. Hasbro have clearly learned from a decade of Movie toy engineering and are currently in the midst of releasing The Most Bestest Versions of every character to have ever graced our screens. For full disclosure, I currently own Starscream, Megatron, Ironhide, Ratchet, Bumblebee (VW Beatle), and Optimus Prime (Revenge of the Fallen) and I love them all to pieces.

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Look at him. Adorable.

But Starscream juuuuust stands a few inches above the rest in terms of – well, everything. He’s fun to pose in robot mode, his transformation is a delight (he’s essentially the Dark of the Moon Deluxe but blown up with a few slight alterations), and I really love the oatmealish colours they’ve chosen for him – they make his design pop. He also seems the most cohesive, and whilst mine has a mild QC issue (his, uh, pelvic flap keeps falling down) he’s the one I pick up and play with the most.

Will I be buying the version with the RotF tattoos? Jury’s still out. He looks brilliant, but then again who knows how many characters we’ll be having to buy by then. We might even get a 2007 Leader Class Megatron! (Shout out to my fellow lack-of-2007-Megatron-sufferererer Vangelus. We’ll get there. One day).

2. Power of the Primes Deluxe Blot & Rippersnapper [2018]

Blot and Rippersnapper are a Big Highlight for me in Galactic Hyper Space Year 2018 because, to be honest, I’m not all that bothered about Transformers what turn into monsters and stuffs – Beast Wars included. I like that show for its lore and characters, but the aesthetics are still a wee bit iffy for me. I like Transformers that are actually trying to hide, as opposed to Transformers who pull a half-arsed gorilla out of another half-arsed gorilla and no I’m not salty about Season One Monkey Dad turning into some bright blue gorilla nonsense in Season TwO YOU ARE SHUT UP

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What d’you want to do today, Rippersnapper?

But these boys are lovely and really show off the simple yet adaptable engineering that has gone into the Combiner Wars/Titans Return/Power of the Primes trilogy lines. They both essentially do the same thing – turn from a boxy robot into some kind of monster – but feel so different and their colour schemes mark them out as unique against the rest of my toy shelves.

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The same thing we do every day, Blot: try to be taken seriously.

Plus, they’re just damned adorable. Look at them. Aww.

1. Power of the Primes Leader Class Optimus Prime [2018] & Powermaster Optimus Prime [1988]

Power of the Primes Leader Class Optimus Prime and Powermaster Optimus Prime are the exact same toy, just displaced by 30 years each way. What you basically have here is a time machine that lets you look back into the imaginations of the toy designers in the 1980’s (Powermaster Prime) whilst also being able to guess how their toys would have ended up had they employed the use of ball joints (PotP Prime).

For those not in the know, both toys feature a smaller robot who turns into the cab of a truck, who can then curl up and fold into the trailer of the truck to make a larger robot. In essence, you have Orion Pax transforming into Optimus Prime – although Powermaster Prime, as I understand it, is just Optimus Prime turning into a taller Optimus Prime. Presumably to trample all over Rodimus Prime’s dreams and confidence, idk.

I got Power of the Primes Optimus Prime first because, to me, he’s the closest in aesthetics we’ve gotten to the G1 cartoon and I do love me some screen accuracy. (Yes, I am including MP44 in that assessement – there’s just something about him that doesn’t look right to me). When a friend then offered their Powermaster Prime for sale I only bought him because of the PotP figure, and I am so glad that I did. Both toys are hours of fun – just…you have the little robot, and you can make him a truck, and you can make the armour the trailer, then boop! Suddenly! Big robot! Stomp stomp stomp! Evil cackling! OPTIMUS CAN BE THE BAD GUY IF I WANT HIM TO BE, MUM.

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The man, the legend, the brick.

I also really dig the aesthetics of Powermaster Prime – he’s peak 1980’s Square Robot and his blank flace is very reminscent of the original 80’s artwork for G1 Optimus Prime. He’s so…of his time, you know? But in a way that’s also perfectly timeless. I’m pushing 30 so I can’t speak for The Youth Of Today, but I do have the feeling that if you were to show ol’ Powermaster Prime to a modern kid they’d still dig his gimmicks. Right before they break the legs, of course. Thanks for the heads-up on that, Sixo!

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So, that was 2018 in Transformers for me. I have to admit I bought way too many this year and I’m going to look to cutting down on spending in 2019 in anticipation of several Very Good But Expensive Boys being released in the first quarter (hellooooo MP Beast Wars Megatron and Unique Toys R-03 Mega!), but I’m pleased with them all and really looking forward to the direction the franchise is taking now – especially with the Bumblebee Movie getting rave reviews.

I hope everyone reading this will have or has had a very excellent holiday season!

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I Want To Tell You About Transformers!: The Lore

“I am: THE LORE.” – Sylvester Stallone as Alpha Trion

UNDER CONTRUCTION – LAST UPDATE 18/12/18

“Look,” I hear you say, because you are the imaginary person I just made up and therefore I control your thought processes and speech patterns, “Transformers is a franchise all about alien robots who turn into cars, right? How complicated can the story around that be? Wasn’t this whole thing started to sell toys?”

The answers to the above, in no particular order, are: yes, yes, and incredibly to the point where I regularly have to look things up on TFWiki to make sure I’m not going mad, misremembering, or confusing Transformers with Go-Bots or Power Rangers again.

Transformers has existed in various forms since 1984, and in the grand tradition of shows like Doctor Who has survived for nearly forty years by regularly switching up characters, aesthetics, and lore. This is, of course, incredibly confusing if you discover the franchise by watching Transformers: Prime on Netflix only to find your beloved Knock Out doesn’t exist in most other continuities and that Optimus Prime used to smile quite regularly. Well. Sound like he did, anyway. He didn’t really have a mouth until Transformers: Animated.

Confused yet? Good. It gets worse.

The Key Players (AKA March of the Bumblebees)

Backstory

A very, very basic premise of most Transformers fiction is as follows.

Millions of years ago on a planet called Cybertron, a race of sentient machines known as Transformers or Cybertronians were at war. They were at war a lot. Like, all the time. A super duper serious war. You know how Americans love baseball? Well Transformers love war. It’s kind-of their thing.

The Good Guys are the Autobots, who believe in truth, freedom, And The American Way™. They are led by Optimus Prime, a noble Chosen One who was upgraded from a younger Orion Pax by a Cosmic Macguffin known as The Matrix. Wherever Optimus goes, you are almost always gaurunteed to find a Bumblebee (inexpensive kid-appeal boy) or a Ratchet (grumpy medic) not far behind.

The Autobots fight against the Bad Guys, the Decepticons. More recently the source of the war has been over the Decepticons being an oppressed under-class who finally rose up to challenge Autobot supremacy under the leadership of an ex-Gladiator called Megatron (formerly Megatronus but he shortened his name so he could get through autographs quicker. Maybe). Megatron has a loyal lieutenant called Soundwave who is way overdue a promotion, and a backstabbing lieutenant called Starscream who is way overdue an ass-kicking.

So, war. War never changes. The Autobots and the Decepticons fight over their homeworld for millions of years, eventually ruining it, and at some point one faction or the other decides to strike out into the galaxy to either find help or hide some sort of Macguffin. Their travels almost always end up on Earth, where the Decepticons try to enslave the planet/extract its energy whilst the Autobots fight for the Freedom of All Sentient Beings.

A lot of buildings get blown up.

In the Beast Era (don’t worry, I’ll explain later), the Autobots eventually evolve into the Maximals, and have a significant key player called Optimus Primal (no relation), whilst the Decepticons evolve into the Predacons who have a key player called, er, Megatron (…no relation). Later still, the Predacons became Vehicons.

Biology of The Transformers

Transformers are sentient machines who do not require human pilots. They can transform between Robot Mode and Vehicle Mode (or alt-mode) using a piece of internal, inbuilt hardware called their t-cog. They have visible souls called sparks which usually reside in their chest and are hella cool I mean they can see their own souls just by opening their chest holy moly that’s SO AWESOME.

Ahem.

Like organic creatures they require energy to live, most commonly consumed by a blue-or-pink liquid called energon. They can apparently live for millions of years so long as they remain undamaged and have an adequate supply of energy. If a Transformer is badly damaged then they can go into a state known as stasis lock and remain in this condition for quite some time, which is a brilliant excuse for over-sleeping on a Monday.

Sometimes an entire group of Transformers can merge with one another to form a Combiner, or Gestalt, which is just like a really huge robot made of smaller robots. If you’re a Power Rangers fan, then – just think of the Zords all coming togerher. Each Transformer usually has its own duty in forming the Gestalt, and the resulting fusion has its own personality. The most famous Combiner is most likely Devastator, who is formed out of construction vehicles called Constructicons because irony is great.

So, that’s the lowdown on what the Transformers are, but what about all them cool films and telly episodes and comics then eh? Well, I hope to cover that below. I really did try to keep each entry short, but, uh, I’m not so good at being short. Unless we’re talking height. I’m OK at that.

The Telly: Cartoons, CGI Cartoons, And Really Good CGI Cartoons

Generation One: The Transformers (G1)
1984 – 1987

Developed as a Saturday Morning Cartoon by Hasbro in order to sell their new range of fancy robot toys to all the little girls and boys, “The Transformers” told the story of how the Autobots and Decepticons brought their war to Earth…by accidentally crashing their ship, the Ark, into a volcano four million years ago. The Autobots and Decepticons are reawakened when said volcano gets a bit rumbly in the modern day, and voila! Robot war!! ON MODERN EARTH!! …Well, 1984, anyway.

For Seasons 1 and 2, the Autobots typically aimed to prevent the Decepticons from destroying the planet or enslaving its populace through a series of outlandish plots and schemes that grew more ridiculous as the series progressed. They had human friends called Sparkplug (a mechanic), Spike (his son), Carly (Spike’s girlfriend, I guess, she deserved better, it’s fine), and Chip Chase (interestingly one of the only disabled characters I’ve ever seen who is just played as a regular person). Raoul, a Dodgy Youth what stole cars and breakdanced, also appeared in two episodes as Autobot Tracks’s friend. Oh, and Autobot Powerglide has a human girlfriend called Astoria Carlton-Ritz that one time. Look, it was the 80’s. A human dating a robot apparently just made more sense back then.

After the 1986 film killed most of the cast in order to make way for new toys (brutal, yes), Season 3 was instead based on Cybertron itself and followed Rodimus Prime (Optimus’s replacement) and his efforts to stop Galvatron (Megatron’s upgrade) from destroying the galaxy’s new fragile peace. This extreme change in style, including the mass murder of many, many beloved characters from Seasons 1 and 2 such as Optimus Prime himself is widely pointed to as being why the franchise started to stall around this time. Apparently Hasbro hadn’t considered that slaughtering latchkey kids’ beloved father icons was perhaps not the greatest thing to do…on the big screen…in the dark…in graphic detail.

Season 4 is only five episodes long and is usually referred to as The Rebirth. It introduces Headmasters (Autobots whose heads can detach to become little people because why not) and Targetmasters (little people who turn into guns for Decepticons to wield because okay this one makes a little more sense?? I guess??).

IMPORTANT:

The above only summarises the Western Transformers continuity. In Japan Season 4/The Rebirth was replaced by a full series called Headmasters which continued on from Season 3 and introduces the Headmasters/Targetmasters in a different way. They then went on to have two further series: Super God Masterforce, and Victory.

So Wait Like What The Heck Is Generation Two Then

There was technically no new Transformers media produced for television in the West in the early 1990’s, but the brand’s toys were relaunched as Generation Two (G2) with a bright neon toyline and, well, the kiddos had to watch something or how else would they know to bug mum or dad for those snazzy yellow Constructions?? So Hasbro repackaged the Generation 1 episodes from Seasons 1 and 2 and rebroadcast them with a healthy smattering of terrible, terrible CGI.

Ah, the 1990’s. I do not miss you.

The Beast Era: Beast Wars (BW)
1996 – 1999

EXTREME. NINETIES. CGI. ACTION.

Initially appearing to be a brand new continuity only for Season 2 to sneakily reveal that it had been a sequel to The Transformers all along (mwahaha, etc.), Beast Wars is possibly the most extreme, hah, transformation that Transformers has ever undergone. (It’s a pun. Do you. Do you get it? Transformation? Yes? Like the robots?? Aren’t you glad you clicked on that link?)

When Megatron – no, not that Megatron, a different one – steals an artifact called the Golden Disk from Cybertron and flees in his vessel the Darksyde with his motly Predacon crew, Optimus Primal and his science team give chase in their ship – the Axalon. During their skirmish, the vessels are dragged through some sort of spacewarp and crash on prehistoric Earth. As there are local dumps of pure energon that would damage Maximals and Predacons alike without protection, both crews are forced to adopt organic-based ‘beast modes‘ obtained from their ships scanning the local wildlife.

Season 1 is an odd mix of standalone episodes with a little bit of arc-building, and CGI that has…not aged well, owing to rushed production. But Seasons 2 and 3? They are All About That Storyline – as in, full on, trying to change history, characters dying, new characters appearing and dying, mystical stuff involving fate and destiny, it’s all very cool. Also there’s lots of death. Don’t watch Code of Hero if you don’t have any tissues in the house, it’s brutal.

Beast Wars is responsible for a lot of lore-building in the general Transformers mythos, and introduced long-standing concepts such as sparks to the franchise. On a personal note I have noticed that a lot of the things fans of the G1 cartoon insist were in there (such as terms like stasis lock) are actually misremembered from Beast Wars.

The Beast Era: Beast Machines (BM)
1999 – 2000

EXTREME. ALMOST NOUGHTIES. CGI. ACTION.

Beast Machines was the direct sequel to Beast Wars and picks up almost immediately after that series’ finale. The Maximals return to Cybertron to discover that Megatron (the Beast Wars one, not the other one, god this is confusing) got there first and has managed to enslave almost the entire populace by extracting their sparks and placing them in emotionless shells known as Vehicons. The series follows Optimus Primal’s attempts to find a balance between technology and organic life whilst Megatron tries to erase anything organic from existence because he’s now a massive germaphobe, or something.

Beast Machines has had a real Marmite effect on the fandom in general: there are lovers and haters, and not many inbetweeners.

Robots in Disguise (RiD)
2001

Created in Japan and ported over to America with an English dub, Robots in Disguise  was the first total reboot the franchise underwent on the telly. The previous continuity of The Transformers -> Beast Wars -> Beast Machines was thrown out and replaced with a brand spanking new cast of characters and supporting canon.

The Decepticons show up on Earth and kidnap a famous scientist, boo! But it’s okay, because Optimus Prime and co. show up to help the scientist’s son find his dad again, yay! But Megatron has created an evil clone of Optimus Prime called Scourge (or Nemesis Prime), boo! And he’s on a quest to find the ancient Fortress Maximus, boo! But that’s okay because Fortress Maximus can only be controlled by human children! Yaa…what?

Help! I’m confused!

Yep, you probably are. Robots in Disguise (2001) should not be mistaken for the cartoon Robots in Disguise (2015) nor the IDW comic Robots in Disguise (2012). And neither do these three separate medias have anything to do with one another. They’re all just references to the franchise’s official strapline. Confusing, confusing references. Thanks Hasbro.

The Unicron Trilogy (UT)
2002 – 2005

Comprising three different cartoons that ran sequentially – Armada, Energon, and Cybertron – the Unicron Trilogy was a co-production between the USA and Japan. It is once again a total reboot and has nothing to do with either The Transformers, the Beast Era, or Robots in Disguise.

The Autobots, lead once again by Optimus Prime, and the Decepticons, lead once again by Megatron, are all after a race of beings called Minicons: tiny, human-sized robots who, when plugged into an Autobot or Decepticon via a process known as Powerlinxing, power up that robot’s abilities. Nothing about this was a Pokemon rip-off. Honest.

The trilogy has a lot of fond fans who will be the first to tell you to buy and love the toys but leave the shows as a happy, somewhat fuzzy, memory due to the bad dubbing and animation quality. There’s also a human character called Rad who is so annoying that he once gave me an actual headache. As in, I had to take paracetamol because of this guy.

The series should be notable for trying to do something with a little more depth with fan-favourite character Starscream, and also for giving everyone an actual Unicron toy – something they had been wanting since the 1986 film.

Transformers: Animated (TFA)
2007 – 2009

Transformers Animated took a good long hard stare at all of the continuities that came before it, nodded to itself, and said aloud: I am gonna take all of these concepts and I am gonna use ’em to make something awesome. And lo, did it come to pass.

Animated follows a crew of Autobot maintenance workers – Optimus Prime, Bumblebee, Ratchet, and series newcomer Bulkhead – who crash on Earth in the modern day after finding Macguffin the AllSpark and subsequently being attacked by Megatron for ownership of it. The series is set during what is actually a time of peace, with Cybertron intact and being ruled over by a proper government and everything, and the main struggle of the protagonists is both to survive and to prove to their…somewhat incompetent council that Megatron is still alive and still very much a threat.

The show is somewhat unique in having regular human super villains as well as a looming Decepticon threat, and is stylistically incredibly different to what came before (to the point where some fans refer to it as Chinformers).

Unfortunately the series was cancelled before a lot of plot lines could be resolved, because Hasbro doesn’t want us to have nice things.

Transformers: Prime (TFP)
2010 – 2013

A grittier, darker, edgier, and CGIer series than Animated, Transformers: Prime could not be farther from the aesthetics of the show that came before it. Rebooting continuity again, Cybertron is now a ruined lump of space metal that has been largely abandoned whilst the Autobots and Decepticons battle one another in a series of skirmishes across space. These battles, of course, come to Earth – where the Autobots are assisted by schoolchildren and the US government in ensuring Megatron can’t a) conquer the planet or b) keep huffing all that Dark Energon he’s found what makes him incredibly powerful like.

The show really puts a lens on the fact that Cybertronian culture was kinda sorta a bit of an asshole to Decepticons, who rose out of the mines and gladiator pits under Megatron’s guidance to challenge Autobot authority but, er, at some point went a bit wrong when Megatron’s ego inflated to roughly the size of Mars and he decided he should be in charge of everything, actually. It’s the first television series to turn Optimus Prime from a lighthearted older-brother-or-dad figure into a tired war veteran, and the first television continuity to feature Bumblebee as unable to speak.

TFP was resolved with a television movie called Beast Hunters.

 

I Want To Tell You About Transformers! The Toys

Introduction

“Plastic crack” is the term fans frequently use to refer to their beloved plastic/diecast robots, and for good reason: once you’ve bought one, it’s impossible to not buy more. I mean, for a start, that one robot would just be kinda lonely. And odd numbers are unlucky. And you can’t have Optimus Prime without Megatron, or Soundwave without Blaster, or Bumblebee without the crushing sense that you’re contributing to a wider problem but damnit he’s just too cute.

Unfortunately, new fans coming to the franchise will quickly discover that a lot of toy purchases are wrapped up in jargon, exclusivity, arguments over size classes, or that their favourite character simply hasn’t been made by Hasbro or Takara – but, er, is available on the internet. Nudge nudge wink wink. Say no more.

Helpful Links

If you’re looking for all of the (official) toys made of your favourite character, you can’t go wrong with TFWiki – just look up your favourite dude or dudette and click on the Toys section.

There are also comprehensive databases to be found at:

Lines, Waves, And Size Classes: Nobody Knows What Hasbro Is Doing Any More, Really

Surely a robot is just a robot? I mean, how many toys of Optimus Prime can there be?! Ha ha ha. Ha. Ha. Ha. Oh boy.

Lines

Until recently, Transformers lines have been pretty easy to follow. If a toy is called Armada [Character], then they’re from Armada. If they’re called G1 [Character], they’re from the original 1980’s toyline. And if they’re called C.H.U.G. [Character], then they’re…um…they’re…ah. This is where it gets a bit more difficult.

In the 2000’s, Hasbro began to release anniversary lines and things got all messed up. Sure, you want a G1 Thundercracker – as in, a Thundercracker from the G1 cartoon – but you want him a bit more modern (i.e. to have knees and elbows and not the relative weight to become a rather handy murder weapon) so what you actually want is a Generations Thundercracker, because that’s the line that G1 character was re-released under with this hip new thing called movement and oh no I’ve gone cross-eyed.

It’s like this. If you’re after the original toy of the original character from the media they were originally in, you need to search for Media + Character name. If not, you might be looking for someone from…

Anniversary Lines

Anniversary lines created new toys for old characters, typically from Generation 1 but also from Beast Wars, the Unicron Trilogy, modern comics, and…well, no, actually, that’s about it. Hmm.

In the early 2000’s, this was limited to the Alternity/Binaltech lines – realistic car alt-modes (with tiny seats and steering wheels and everything!) with horrendously complex transformations that sliced fingers and frustrated braincels. They also turned everyone into a car, regardless of whether they had been a car to begin with.

Fortunately, these were soon replaced by…

ClassicsHasbro anniversary line
HenkeiTakara annisary line, typically with different paint jobs
UniverseHasbro anniversary line that took over from Classics
GenerationsHasbro anniversary line that took over from Universe

The above are typically referred to as C.H.U.G. After Generations, C.H.U.G. gave way to…

Combiner Wars – anniversary line with a kinda tie-in cartoon from Machinima but not really
Titans Return – ditto
Power of the Primes – strong ditto

For the film series helmed by Michael Bay, there is now a separate anniversary line called Studio Series (shortened to StudSer) which is as of 2018 producing new toys of how the characters were represented in those films.

Masterpiece can also be considered as an anniversary line aimed solely at adult fans due to their price point and complexity.

The current retail line is Transformers: Siege, which is not currently based on any one piece of Transformers canon but instead a general “the Autobots and Decepticons are at war on Cybertron and it’s very muddy there…on that big metal planet. Lots of mud, yes”. I’m considering it to be an anniversary line until further notice.

Size Classes

Size always matters to Transformers fans, and it’s one of our favourite things to argue about.

It’s like this: Hasbro want to sell to everyone at every price point. So they have to make sure that they’re producing toys of the most characters at the most price points, right? But to make a figure cheaper, you have to make it both smaller and less complex. Maths, innit.

There are typically five size classes in play currently:

Like, Ant Man Tiny (less than 1″)
Since the success of turning everyone into Headmasters in the Titans Return range (don’t worry, I’ll go over this in the Lore section), Hasbro has been producing Titan Masters. These tiny, tiny robots fold in half to form the head of a Deluxe or Voyager class Transformer.

Small (circa 3″)
Referred to as Basic (Beast Wars), Legend, Legion, or Scout Class, these small figures have retailed at around £10 – £12 through the years and are the least complex type of Transformers that aren’t one-step changers (toys that transform at the touch of a button). Lots of parents get confused by them on Amazon, apparently.

Medium (circa 6″)
Referred to as Deluxe or Warrior class figures, these are what I would consider “standard” Transformers toys for kiddos and teens and adults alike. They have between a medium and mildly difficult level of transformation, and comprise the most characters in any given line. They currently retail at between £18 and £25.

Large (circa 7″ – 8″)
Referred to as Mega (Beast Wars) or Voyager class, these figures are a tiny bit bigger than Deluxe/Warrior toys but feature a more complex transformation. They tend to comprise characters that are larger in the fiction, such as Optimus Prime or Blackout, and retail at around £30.

Larger Still (circa 10″)
Ultra (Beast Wars) or Leader Class figures are taller than Voyagers and more complex to boot. They’re the largest figures available in a main line and tend to be based on The Mainest of Main Characters instead of characters that are tall – given that we have had Optimus Prime and Starscream Leader Class figures. They retail for around £50.

Basically A Coffee Table (circa 24″)
Completely and utterly impractical but an utter delight to own, Titan class figures Fortress Maximus, Metroplex, and Trypticon are massive robots who turn into massive cities or bases for your smaller toys. They’re adorable and ideal for placing in a shopping trolley child seat to freak out other parents.

Masterpiece and Third Party figures do not have size classes applied to them, although Masterpieces can be roughly equivalent to either Voyager or Leader Class (except for MP G1 Bumblebee who is TINY).

Waves

When Hasbro release a new line, they don’t release all of the figures all at once. Instead, they release them in waves – typically comprising figures from several size classes – a few weeks or months apart.

To make it more confusing those waves are released in cases, which are the boxes the toys are shipped to retailers in. If a figure is referred to as shortpacked, then it’s a toy that only appears once per case. In other words…hard to find, thanks Hasbro, DIDN’T WANT IT ANYWAY.

Review? You Mean Someone Just Goes On The Internet and Talks About Toys? Rad!

So. You see this figure online. Looks pretty cool, right? But…does it have knees? Elbows? Stand up properly? What does the back look like? What does the paint look like up close? Does it have lightpiping? Can’t anyone answer these questions??

Well the good news is: YES. YES THEY CAN. For if the Transformers fandom is good at one thing, it’s irresponsibly spending mo- er, I mean, it’s posting about toys online! Below you will find a couple of lists of toy reviewers who use their passion to inform others and make their bank accounts weep, as well as several useful places for new toy buyers to refer to.

For these lists, I have chosen reviewers who are mostly factual with a bit of personal flair.

Written Reviewers

Video Reviewers

Third Party? Is That A KO or Nah?

*tugs at collar*

So. As with any industry, everybody’s trying to get in on the action. And some folk think they can do the action better than the people who originally started the action. And what I’m basically trying to say here is that sometimes it’s possible to get Transformers toys that weren’t made by Hasbro or Takara or one of their licensed partners.

These naughty, naughty toys come in two different flavours: Third Party, and Knock Offs (KOs).

A Third Party (3P) figure is a toy produced that is either not based on an original Hasbro/Takara mold, or one that borrows some of the engineering work but is ultimately a brand new toy. Whilst Third Party figures come in all manner of size classes, they typically tend to be aimed at adult collectors and feature more advanced transformations than the standard Hasbro/Takara fare (barring the Masterpiece line). Most Third Party companies focus on G1-centric characters and there is an ongoing joke about just how many Devastators, Dinobots, Optimus Primes, and Megatrons that have been produced over the years.

A Knock Off (KO) is just exactly what you think it is: a figure that has been bootlegged. KOs have been a part of Transformers since the beginning and are a continuing problem when buying online, especially on sites like eBay. Many also feature artwork stolen from fan artists. It is possible to have a KO of a Third Party figure.

However recently KO companies like Wei Jiang have become almost their own Third Party company – taking an existing Hasbro toy, up-scaling the figure, adding die-cast components and new paint apps, and releasing it for sale at a price that is often lower than the original. (An example would be Hasbro’s Voyager Megatron from The Last Knight, which Wei Jiang released at 200% of its original size with diecast wing tips and film-accurate paint apps under the name “Rendsora” for roughly the same amount of dough).

As you can imagine, Third Party and KO figures are something of a grey area in the fandom.

Some fans have argued that as 3P companies are taking intellectual property that isn’t theirs (in this case, characters from the Transformers media), buying any toy they produce is wrong as it was not theirs to make and none of the proceeds from the sale goes back into the Hasbro/Takara ecosystem.

Others reason that if there is a character Hasbro and Takara simply haven’t made (for example, the IDW characters are few and far between on official pegs), or haven’t recently updated, then buying a 3P or KO version of that character is harmless as there was no money lost in the first instance. Others still buy 3P figures because they appreciate that the majority are aimed solely at adult collectors and are therefore more complex and enjoyable.

Neither are wrong, neither are right, and so long as they keep producing Megatrons of some kind I’ll be more than happy.

Distribution? In My Area? Seems Unlikely. Where in the world do I buy these cool things?

It is becoming unfortunately harder to find Transformers at retail – there have been plenty of theories as to why this is, but the long and the short of it is that fans all over the world are increasingly turning to the internet to spend their pennies, dollars, and yen. Thanks to the responses on this Twitter thread, I have started to compile a list of brick ‘n’ mortar and online websites that should hopefully help you find the robot you’re looking for!

A Quick Note on Exclusives: Sometimes, Hasbro or Takara will release a figure that is only obtainable from certain shops. On the list below I have marked stores known to have carried exclusives with an asterisk (*). Exclusives like these can also be obtained through various online stores.

Brick and mortar shops that are independent stores as opposed to chains are marked in green. I am in the process of including their location and website/social media links.

Please note that this post is not actively promoting any of these stores, be they physical or online. It is intended only as a collated resource. If you have any suggestions for this list please tweet me @tainkirrahe on Twitter.

Online Stores

  • Ages Three and Up
    Based in Canada, ships internationally
    Stocks Hasbro and Takara toys, including Masterpiece, as well as Third Party figures and other robot-based properties like Gundam
  • Amazon (.com, .co.uk, or .jp)
    Do I really need to explain what Amazon is?
    Be wary of scalpers in the Used & New section – always make sure to benchmark the prices against completed listings on eBay
  • AmiAmi
    Based in Japan, ships internationally
    Stocks Hasbro and Takara toys, including Masterpiece, as well as other robot-based properties like Gundam
  • Archonia
    Based in Belgium, ships to Europe and the UK
    Stocks Hasbro and Takara toys, including Masterpiece, as well as other Transformers-related media such as DVDs, books, and comics
  • Big Bad Toy Store (BBTS)
    Based in America, ships internationally
    Stocks Hasbro, Takara, and Third Party Transformers, as well as apparel and decals
  • Hasbro Toyshop
    Operated by Hasbro. Based in America, ships to America and Canada
    Stocks…Hasbro Transformers, shockingly
  • HobbyLink Japan (HLJ)
    Based in Japan, ships internationally
    Stocks Hasbro, Takara, and Third Party Transformers
  • In Demand Toys (ID Toys)
    Based in the UK, ships to the UK
    Stocks Hasbro and Takara Transformers
  • Kapow Toys
    Based in the UK, ships to the UK and Europe
    Stocks Hasbro, Takara, and some Third Party Transformers
  • Oh My Primus
    Based in Singapore, ships internationally
    Stocks Hasbro, Takara, and Third Party Transformers
  • Nottingham Robot Company (Notts Bots Co.)
    Based in the UK, ships to the UK, America, and Europe
    Stocks Hasbro Transformers
  • RobotKingdom
    Based in Hong Kong, ships internationally
    Stocks Hasbro, Takara, and Third Party Transformers
  • Taobao
    I’m not able to offer any guidance on this one as the page is entirely in Chinese – please contact me @tainkirrahe if you have any information
  • TF Source
    Based in America, ships internationally
    Stocks Hasbro, Takara, and Third Party Transformers
  • TFS-Express & Transbridge UK
    Based in the UK, ships to the UK
    Stocks Hasbro and Third Party figures
  • The Chosen Prime
    Based in the US, ships to the US
    Stocks Hasbro, Takara, and Third Party Transformers
  • The Falcon Hanger
    Based in Singapore, ships overseas
    Stocks Hasbro and Takara Transformers
  • The Little Toy Company
    Based in Australia, ships internationally
    Stocks Hasbro, Takara, and Third Party Transformers

eBay

Lots of Transformers are sold on eBay every day, most of them directly to me (if they are Megatrons). And this may be the easiest way of finding an older figure for your collection! But as with any eBay purchase, it is important to check the seller’s feedback to ensure that the figure you are buying is not a Knock Off – especially if they are shipping from China or Hong Kong.

Scalpers are also ever-present on the site so make sure you benchmark what is being charged for a figure against completed listings or other websites, especially if it’s a figure that has only just hit retail.

Australia

  • Big W
  • EB Games
  • KMart
  • Myer
  • Target
  • Toyworld

Canada

  • Ages Three and Up (Burnaby, British Columbia) [Facebook]

North America

  • Gateway Comics (Fredericksburg, Virginia) [Facebook]
  • Marshall’s
  • Ollie’s
  • Records & Rarities (Springfield, Virginia) [Facebook]
  • Ross
  • Target*
  • TJ Maxx
  • Tosche Station (Springfield, Virgina) [Website]
  • Victory Comics (Washington, Virgina) [Website]
  • Walgreens*
  • Walmart*

Europe
For the United Kingdom, see below

  • BR Leksaker (Sweden)
  • Lekia (Sweden)

Japan

  • Bic Camera
  • Mandarake
  • Yodobashi

Singapore

  • BHG
  • Isetan
  • Kiddy Palace
  • Metro
  • Movie Replicas Collection [Facebook]
  • OG
  • Robo Robo Toyshop [Facebook]
  • Simply Toys
  • The Adelphi – large shopping mall
  • Toy Closets [Facebook]
  • Toys Outpost
  • Unrivalled Collectibles [Facebook]

United Kingdom & Ireland

  • All the Cool Stuff (Fordingbridge, England) [Website]
  • Asda*/Walmart
  • Argos – Argos only sell by Size Class with no individual listings, so you may need to visit your local store to ascertain what they have in stock
  • B&M Bargains
  • Dublin City Comics (Dublin, Ireland) [Facebook] [Twitter]
  • Home Bargains
  • Orbital Comics (London, England) [Website]
  • Sainsbury’s*
  • Smyths
  • Tescos
  • The Entertainer
  • TK Maxx
  • Toymaster (Ireland)