For some time now I’ve wanted to introduce more diversity into our collector interviews, but of course that depends on the responses we get, and seeing the many high end vintage collections in our features so far can deter some from contributing. Not so Marian Hilditch. It’s with great pleasure that this month we feature someone whose path into the hobby does not follow the oft-described vintage route. Although Marian has a relationship with G1 Transformers, it was IDW’s Transformers comics that gave her access to Transformers toy collecting. In addition to being a phenomenal photographer and regular podcast contributor, Marian has a very specific theme for her TF collection based on her interests. Marian’s passion for IDW-based comic characters shines through in her exploits online, her excellence behind the lens and her words below.
1) Who are you and what do you collect?
I’m Marian aka Mort or MMortAH online, depending where you look. I’m a part-time photographer and Podcast Maximus comic reviewing co-host. I also transcribe the comic creator interviews for the lovely folks on the Transmissions podcast so they’re accessible to more people.
I’ve dipped in and out of collecting various toys and figures (vinyl, resin and plush), but I’m here to talk about Transformers! So… I’ve been around since G1 and I’d had various Transformers given me over the years by others, more notably my brother (who’s a long term TF collector and was trying to tempt me into it – he succeeded), but the first I bought myself was Animated Blurr, fresh out of production. He was too pretty to resist and within budget and I loved his character in Animated (having always hated his G1 self), so I thought, why not – just the one won’t hurt. Famous last words.
After that I bought the odd figure here and there, but it wasn’t till a couple of years ago when I was well into IDW’s More Than Meets the Eye and having attended a couple of Auto Assembly conventions here in the UK and seen all the toy goodness up close that I couldn’t help myself any more. But as I was conscious it could all get very out of hand (and I do have other expensive hobbies) I set some limits: I was only collecting the Lost Light crew. That was the line. My own DJD List if you will. If you weren’t on the List, you were safe. From me buying you. Then Mastermind Creations started doing the actual DJD so of course I had to get them and then, oh, wait, when did that Springer get here? I guess I’m collecting Wreckers now. And Deadlock is technically still Lost Light crew, yeah?
But I’ve mostly stuck to the List.
I’m also fairly particular about the figures themselves. My favourite Transformers character ever is Megatron and I don’t own a single Megatron figure (unless you count Kreo) because I’ve yet to see a G1 based Megs I truly like. There’s always something not quite right, which is ridiculous given how many Megatrons there are! Head sculpts and faces are particularly important to me as I do a lot of close-up photography. I like bringing the character’s personality out of the toy and if I can’t see them in there, then I can’t relate. It’s just a plastic thing.
2) How has the collecting scene changed in the last 5 years?
I’m in it! But there’s a reason for that. There are a lot more figures coming out in response to the comics and those are the characters I want. My second TF purchase was Generations Drift. I was on that the minute he was announced, because I was excited for the All Hail Megatron character. But he was rare in that respect at the time. You get a lot more of that now and mostly thanks to Third Party companies who are great for that.
Of course another thing 3Ps did was up the game; I wouldn’t have dreamt of such well sculpted, constructed and painted Transformers five years go. The Masterpiece line was as good as it got, and it is good, for the most part, but it just about holds its own next to the better 3Ps. That’s not a criticism of the official lines – they serve a greater customer base and they are what they are. But as someone who wants a certain level of sophistication, the official output is 95% miss. It’s good to have options.
3D printing is also coming into its own and is brilliant for those accessories or replacement parts. Getting Tailgate’s hoverboard or Brainstorm’s suitcase just adds that extra loveliness to it all.
With all that and the popularity of the comics comes a new type of collector – my type. A lot of MTMTE readers just get the characters they love. I’ve seen fans who don’t normally buy anything, pay £70 for a Cynicus figure; that kind of money would have only been spent by serious collectors before.
3) How do you see, or hope to see the scene changing in 5 years’ time?
I hope Hasbro/Takara realise there’s thirst for comic accurate toys and give us more (and they already are, but they just refuse to go all the way with designs). It would do my wallet some good to keep to official toys, that’s for sure. But if that’s not something they’re interested in, then I hope 3Ps continue to thrive and get the necessary sales to increase their output and fill those holes.
4) What has been your single biggest success as a collector, or your greatest ever find?
I don’t have holy grails (yet) so no big stories to tell there, but the things that get me the most excited are the ones I can get a signature on or pick up straight from the creators. Grabbing an Alex Milne sketchbook at Auto Assembly 2015 totally made my month and it was one of the last few left on his table (there’d been a queue first thing). He then drew a Vos for me inside which just sealed it.
Another happy purchase last year was the Death’s Head that Marvel did as part of their Infinite series. I’d seen someone get one at AA2014 and had Simon Furman sign it and I thought that was the best idea ever so I went straight in to pick one up, but they were all gone. I was gutted because Furman was doing a Death’s Head panel with Nick Roche that year and it would have all come together nicely. I ordered one online when I got home and it arrived damaged. I sent it back, but didn’t order another, thinking the moment had passed. Then at AA2015 I thought I’d take a look around and lo and behold, there were LOADS everywhere. I grabbed one right away and took it to Furman (even before I went for the Milne sketchbook!). He seemed pleased which made me even happier. I asked him to sign over the Marvel logo and so I’m now the proud owner of a ‘Simon Furman’s Death’s Head’ figure! Then everyone who saw it wanted one too – I guess he ended up signing a few that day.
5) What is the most surprising or outrageous collecting story you have heard?
It was on Transmissions the other day: G1 Overlord for nearly four figures. I mean, I’ve opened a small savings account of my own for when MMC release their Carnifex, so who am I kidding, but I expect him to be in the very low three figures. And yes, he’s on the List, alright?
6) If you could pick one item from your collection to keep, what would it be?
That is terribly hard to answer, even with a small collection. If it had to be a figure, I’d say probably Generations Drift for having been there at his beginning, but ultimately I think it’d be a comic book or a script. Possibly the script for MTMTE #16. Or maybe my Casey Coller signed Killing Joke AHM #1 cover? Or the issues I’ve had letters printed in? Hard choices.
7) If you could have one item out of someone else’s collection, what would that be?
A custom figure probably as I’m not into that myself. I’ve seen a really gorgeous Roller around, made from Generations Springer. It’s simply done, but he’s perfect. I would really quite fancy that.
8 ) What advice would you give a new collector starting out today?
Take it easy. Spend time with each figure when you buy it – get to know it, transform it a few times. Take some pictures. Overbuying is easily done and then you end up with figures in boxes for months and it stops being a hobby and becomes a habit. Find a nice place to display your collection – it doesn’t have to look like everyone else’s, see what works for you, in your space. Once you crack your display, you’ll get more out of it. And of course, have fun!
Many kind and gracious thanks to Marian Hilditch for words and photographs.
All the best