It’s true that a large number of TFSource Collector Interviews over the last year and a half have come from a local group of London-based collectors who meet up regularly, but the fact that within that small group I have found some of the most knowledgeable, well-adjusted people with impressive collections has inspired me to document their opinions, experiences and collections. Such is the diversity within that group, and the UK fanbase, that I feel everyone can benefit from their features. Here, then, is the master of the sprawling Autobot City, keeper of ‘The Loft’, the Legends Class king, Kit Tang. Oh, he was in a Bond film, too. Beat that.
1) Who are you and what do you collect?
Hello everybody, my name is Kit Tang and I am a Transformers fan based in the UK, but you might know me better as that MIG pilot that got blown up in the Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies (but then soul crushingly miscredited as Vincent Wang. I’m not bitter… Not at all). Or I suppose maybe you know me as that annoying ‘tikgnat’ (what the hell kind of screen name is that?) guy on the TFW2005 forums who always brings the conversation down to a smutty level and kills threads dead.
Oh yeah… that guy.
I was a fan of Transformers as a kid in the 80’s (despite UK Saturday morning TV’s best attempts to butcher episodes by chopping them into 5 minute chunks and then spreading it over a few hours), grew out of it and was then reintroduced to the franchise as an adult. It’s a story which has parallels with many other older fans, my gateway drug back in 2000 was the Car Robots Super Fire Convoy review on IGN!
Ever since those halcyon days in 2000 (fifteen years ago!) I’ve collected… well pretty much everything Transformers related. From my early days of importing from overseas, (wait, what is this thing called ‘customs?) through the Armada/Energon/Cybertron ‘trilogy’, (wait, Energon Ironhide is still on the shelf?) past the Baysplosions of the Live Action films, (wait, what the hell is happening in the film now?) to the current days of Intellectual Property warfare (wait, that’s not a ‘real’ Transformer? where’s the rubsign?) and everything else in between (MP’s! Comics! Pat Lee! WST’s! BT/Alts! Kissplayers!), it’s been a rich and varied experience to say the least.
I used to be quite involved with the ‘Cool Stuff’ thread on TFW2005 but then no longer had the time for the Photoshop heavy pictures I used to do, so now I mainly focus on 3D pictures in my 3D vanity thread.
Crucially though, my involvement in this hobby has always, always, ALWAYS been about the fun and normally focused around the toys, as opposed to any surrounding media.
2) How has the collecting scene changed in the last 15 years?
Well, for a start I’m not going to claim ‘Imma betta kollecta’ or anything like that, aside from the fact that I’ve been collecting for such a long time I seem to be notoriously easy to please (hey! One Steps are cool!) so I’d say I was a pretty casual collector (especially nowadays).
As a fledgling collector in the UK back in 2000 I pretty much had to get everything imported. I was buying all these Japanese toys, but they were coming to me from America! But back then, that was the only way I knew how to do it. These days the world is a much smaller place, I could conceivably get my crap pretty cheaply straight from Japan, assuming I’d want my toys to run the dreaded customs gauntlet.
This is because the internet, which used to be a pretty barren place (eBay was pretty much my only port of call back then because it wasn’t the hive of scum and villainy that it is today) is now a leviathan shopping centre. These days our glowing screens are luminous gateways to mountains of plastic crack. And with so many options to choose from it can be hard to know where to start.
The product itself has grown into a myriad of choices too, back in 2000 all I had to choose from in UK shops was Beast Machines and leftover crumbs from Beast Wars. When transforming cars were reintroduced to the world with Car Robots it brought back in a bunch of fans (including myself). Remember, all we had in the early 2000’s was one main toy line at any one time and nothing else! It took HasTak a couple of years to realise they were sitting on a goldmine which they could milk by exploiting the happy memories of our childhoods.
At first we were teased with minute amounts of G1 related product (the little SCF PVC’s were the best G1 fans got back in the day) which folk like me lapped up and then suddenly the floodgates opened. Late 2003 were heady days, along with the mainline Armada stuff we were introduced to the brand new (!) Masterpiece and Binaltech lines. As a bonus we were given World’s Smallest Transformers, which is still a personal favourite of mine (why did the line end? WHY?). The choice of stuff we could buy expanded at a phenomenal rate and is still expanding with Hasbro attempting to open up new avenues of revenue.
Another thing that has totally changed, (and not for the better IMO) is the actual character roster of buying choices. Back then right up until the first Michael Bay film, every series had a huge number of different characters, some who were brand new and haven’t been used since. But in 2007 the live action films restricted robot roster resulted in Hasbro sticking to the same small core cast over and over again. Optimus Prime? Check. Bumblebee? Check. And there’s the toyline! Not cool Hasbro, not cool.
3) How do you see, or hope to see the scene changing in 5 years’ time?
I’m quite happy to plod along and enjoy the toys that come my way, but what I hope to see (ironically for someone who’s not particularly focused on supporting media)… is a shared storytelling universe.
A unified continuity is the biggest strength of the current Marvel movies. Every medium (film, TV, comics etc) has its own advantages and drawbacks to telling a story, but because Marvel have taken the time and effort to construct their ‘universe’ it’s allowed them to weave a complex and deeply involved story for fans to digest. They’re not even being totally draconian about it, stuff like the Ultimate Spider-man cartoon heavily reference the films (SHIELD? Nick Fury? Coulson?) but don’t actually tie in with the films! But do I care? I do not.
So that’s what I would want Hasbro to do, pull a J.K Rowling and take creative control of their creation. Get rid of the entirely separate storylines that are running in the movies, the cartoon and the comics and have them all run together. Let people use their talents to tell a unified story.
Now I know this opinion will be highly controversial, people who have invested time and interest in these disparate universes are probably spitting teeth at their screens, why the hell would this guy even suggest our chosen stories should end? Well, here’s why. For UK fans back in the 80’s, there was a shared universe for Transformers. UKers had the cartoon which tied into the ’86 Movie. We had US reprint comics and we had original UK comic stories too. Marvel UK (by their own admission) went to huge lengths to try and marry all of this together and for one (all too brief) period, we had that unified universe that everyone today seems to think is such a good idea.
Sure, it didn’t have perfect continuity and it all unravelled a bit later on, but that period between late 1986 (‘Target 2006’) and 1989 (‘Time Wars’) was magical to this 8 year old kid. It was a place where Optimus Prime on TV shared the same world as the far off in the distance 2005 Rodimus Prime. That dude Megatron on TV fighting alongside Galvatron? What!? It felt right. It all made sense and that, that is why I want to inflict a unified universe on you. I want everyone to feel what a whole nation of kids felt during that time. But I suppose you had to ‘be there’. Like Woodstock.
4) What has been your single biggest success as a collector, or your greatest ever find?
Mmm, hard to say. My biggest success has been borne through merely being in the hobby for a long time. I collected Optimus Prime figures since the beginning because (in my head) Optimus Prime would be the flagship toy of every line. So adding my childhood Optimus onto all the Optimus purchases made as an adult has mysteriously resulted in me owning well over a hundred Optimuses. By that same token my Legends/Cyberverse collection has mysteriously appeared as well…
My greatest ever find? Well, it was quite early on, a vintage cassette lot on eBay. All sixteen US released G1 cassettes for what worked out at £250. What made this a stellar deal though was I already had six cassettes from my childhood. So the new doubles I then sold back on eBay… for £25 each. Which basically boiled down to me buying the ten cassettes that I was missing for a tenner each. Bargainus.
I suppose my second best find was an eBay auction of a bunch of Transformers. There was quite a lot of them all stuffed into dirty plastic bags. Most obvious in that lot were a load of Throttlebots, but I thought maybe I spied something else? So I took the risk, and for a super bargain price (nobody likes Throttlebots… but me) I netted a mint complete G1 Menasor that was hidden in amongst everything, all guns, parts, everything. I was a very happy boy that day I can tell you.
5) What is the most surprising or outrageous collecting story you have heard?
I don’t really remember outrageous stories or anything like that, my limited brainpower precludes me from engaging in such intellectual luxuries. But what does surprise me about this fandom (or is that people in general?) is its ability to get so worked up over what essentially boils down to a bunch of toys. I think the first time it really hit my radar was when everyone went insane over Masterpiece Soundwave’s visor, red or yellow? Yellow or Red? Red or yellow? WHY>? WHY dammit HASBLO WHY??!?!?
6) If you could pick one item from your collection to keep, what would it be?
Oooh, more controversy time. There are many toys that I love and would try my absolute damnedest to hold onto, my MP-1 Convoy, my G1 Wheelie (my first ever Transformer) but the one piece I would honestly keep if disaster befell me… would be my 2007 Legends Optimus Prime. Why, I hear a collective fandom cry out? Because I got married that year in Greece to my beautiful wife with him in my pocket. True story.
7) If you could have one item out of someone else’s collection, what would that be?
Hmmm. The problem here is because I’ve taken a more casual approach to collecting there isn’t much out there that I’m overly fussed about that I haven’t already bought… if you see what I mean. If there was something I really wanted, I would have bought it already. Plus I don’t know that much about other people’s collections… I mean they must be full of Legends and One Steps like mine too, right?
8 ) What advice would you give a new collector starting out today?
When I started collecting back in 2000, it was really easy to buy everything you wanted, mainly because there wasn’t actually that much of it. In 2000 I ended picking up Super Fire Convoy, God Magnus, Black Battle Convoy and Super versions of Mach Alert, Speedbreaker and Wildride and my wallet barely noticed. These days however, even official toys aren’t that cheap and if you’re collecting that plus all of the Third Party/Intellectual Property Infringing stuff out there? Well you must be incredibly rich and I hate you.
I think the only meaningful advice to a new collector is to collect within your means, seriously don’t go getting yourself into massive debt over what amounts to a bunch of plastic toys. Remember, the pictures you see of people with massive super ginormous collections, those collections don’t happen overnight. Start slow, and keep it slow. Always give yourself time to truly appreciate the figure you have in your hands before you move on to the next one. Be gentle, make them last. And always remember to treat a lady with respect, women are people too. Wait, what am I talking about again?
In the grand scheme of life prioritise this as a hobby as something to enjoy but not something you have to keep up with (at one point I was buying almost everything I saw in shops!) because that way leads to collector burnout. Unfortunately I’ve been there, I touched it and got scared, so I took a few steps back to a place I’m much happier with. Just buy the things you actually want, as opposed to the stuff everyone else seems to be buying. Assuming you do that, before you realise it you’ll (suddenly be old and) have a decent collection that you can be proud of, rather than a huge collection of toys you can’t really remember anymore.
And first and foremost, have fun. Because if it’s not fun, well then it’s not a hobby anymore.
Many kind and gracious thanks to Kit Tang for words and images
All the best