BotCon 1997 was the start of the 3H Productions reign over the official Transformers convention. 3H was a partnership that featured the return of BotCon founders, Jon and Karl Hartman, along with their partner Glen Hallit. Most fans are very familiar with 3H and can recall the conventions under their organization as well as the breakup that eventually occurred between the group, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s revisit the convention that was BotCon 1997.
Photo courtesy of the BotCon archives at www.botcon.com
BotCon 1997 was held in Rochester, New York from July 18 to the 20. The show welcomed over 760 collectors and fans, which is nearly double the attendance from the year prior. BotCon at this point really began to take on a house hold name among fans (according to BotCon’s website there were 389 pre-registrants, another growing and encouraging number for the show’s popularity).
The convention’s popularity was undoubtedly due in large part to the prior years’ successes as well as failures, especially from 1996 (and let’s be honest, you probably do learn more from your mistakes!). BotCon was seeing a larger attendance size, more days added to the convention schedule, more special events and bigger name guests, and most importantly the creativity of the BotCon toy exclusives were really becoming apparent. The BotCon 1997 toys showcased this with featuring “Energon armor” to explain their new paint decos.
BotCon 1997 was the kick starter for the “modern day” BotCon, for lack of a better term. This year’s show brought with it historic Transformers stars such as legendary voice actor David Kaye (Beast Wars Megatron, Animated Optimus Prime), celebrated comic writer Simon Furman (Transformers Marvel UK, Regeneration), and of course the most recognizable name of them all, Peter Cullen, THE Optimus Prime (G1, Live Action Trilogy, Prime). It became a staple of the show from this point forward to bring in the people who really gave personality and substance to the Transformers we know today; voice actors, comic book writers and artists, designers, and many other personalities. Each new BotCon features these types of Transformers stars and it all started in 1997.
The stars of the Transformers were present, the dealer room was booming, and the after-hours/additional events were surely fun, but it’s always about the toys, right? BotCon 1997 continued the Beast Wars storyline with two, COUNT THEM TWO, show exclusives: Predacon Fractyl and Maximal Packrat. These exclusives were a redeco of Beast Wars Rattrap and Terrorsaur. These two figures came packaged together in a two-pack, BotCon’s very first “box set.”
Although they were sold as a set, according to sources there were 600 Packrats produced and a smaller 570 Fractyls produced. The 3H website actually sold the excess Packrats through their website; they were sold in the original BotCon packaging but with an empty spot where Fractyl normally would be. There’s no explanation for the differing production numbers of the toy exclusives.
Packrat and Fractyl not only received awesome toy representations, but were also featured in the first BotCon comic professionally inked and published – yet another staple for every BotCon to follow. Writer Simon Furman (who ironically at the time was unaware of any Transformers fan base) and artist Andrew Wildman were the heads of creative team for the BotCon 1997 comic “Ground Zero.” Each box set was packaged with this BotCon issue and sold individually as well. As a fan I always appreciate when my Transformers toys can be supported with great fiction and media!
To complete your BotCon collection and add these to your shelves, you’ll need to be patient. The secondary market does not see these guys pop up too often on any of the popular auction sites or Transformers retail sites. Although one or two sets of these figures are available even now, the price is relatively set in stone; you’d be very fortunate to acquire these exclusives for anything less than a modern day BotCon Primus box set. I better start saving up now, I need these two characters for my Beast Wars shelf as they look surprisingly great together!
BotCon 1997 and their organizers, 3H Productions, really set the tone moving forward for future Transformers conventions. Perhaps it’s not the most memorable BotCon, but it very well could be the convention that started the traditions that thousands of fans continue to enjoy today. Big name Transformers stars (Peter Cullen, David Kaye – who doesn’t enjoy seeing these great folks?), dinners and special events, and of course multiple toy exclusives for one show. Could BotCon 1998 continue these patterns, these traditions, and top 1997?
A huge thank you goes out to the man who has it all, Transformers collector Shannon, and all of you who took the time to read this edition of TFsource’s Countdown to BotCon!
Til All Are One,