Transformers fans are a strange bunch, and nothing brings out the strange in people quite like social media. However, the internet community has also shone a light on a certain mentality in Transformers collectors which, I guess, is completely in line with the definition of a collector; the need to see things completed in sets, subsets, years etc. This is not true of all collectors, but a fair number of fans have an idea of what a complete collection looks like and this can manifest itself in how they communicate online in response to certain types of media, whether it is posted officially or by fellow fans and collectors.
Anyone who takes Transformers photographs and shares them online will be familiar with this phenomenon. If you post a group picture of Masterpiece Bumblebee, BadCube Grump, Brawny, X-Transbots Boost and Cubex Huff, somebody will ask “Where’s Cliffjumper?” If you happen to post a picture of Ultra Magnus, Hot Rod, Kup, Blurr, Wheelie, Perceptor and Springer, somebody will inevitably ask you “No Arcee?”, regardless of the fact that no Masterpiece-scale or Generation 1 Arcee toy is available. And then there’s the timeless classic, a picture of Decepticon Masterpiece seekers accompanied by Soundwave will draw an inevitable “Where’s Dirge?”.
Now as often as this happens – quite literally on 99% of group shot images posted by those who spend a lot of time sharing toy photography – one cannot take it to heart or grow too weary. The reasons for such comments are varied. Not all people who enjoy Transformers on social media have an encyclopaedic knowledge of releases down the years, and therefore may be unaware that certain characters have not been officially or unofficially attempted at a particular scale.
With the 3rd Party scene being as prolific and active as it is now, for anyone who does not really spend a lot of time researching or talking about the unofficial releases, it can all seem confusing and assumptions about releases are easy to make. We sometimes take the level of involvement and invested time of others for granted, thinking it must be similar or greater than our own, especially if they’ve decided to engage with Transformers on any given social media platform.
From the point of view of the photographer or just someone who is sharing pictures of their collection, there is an assumption that if you have an active social media outlet for your work or hobby, then you probably have a complete collection of a particular set/subset/concept of Transformers. If not, why not? Surely any self-respecting Masterpiece collector has a MP-36 Megatron now? And before that, surely X-Transbots Apollyon? If you are sharing a picture of well known characters from Transformers Victory, why no Perceptor? Why no Victory Leo?
With a toyline so broad and diverse, characters, series, concepts and scales are voraciously categorised and documented by fans in such a way that we are programmed to expect certain characters and toys to be displayed and photographed together. For one recent photograph of G1 Transformers from 1987 and 1988, I had only a certain amount of space to dedicate to the toys in the picture and therefore chose Needlenose over Spinister. This meant that of the Decepticon Targetmasters, Spinister was the only one missing. It just so happened that Misfire, Crankcase and Krok were also in the picture, so Spinister ended up being the sole missing IDW More Than Meets The Eye Scavenger character too. I knew this when I took the photo, and almost deliberately carried on anyway, knowing full well what I could expect.
On occasion, I have felt a little strange that people expect my collection to be so complete that the composition of a photograph depends solely upon my memory of who goes with who. Do those making the comments believe I have forgotten a certain character? Do they believe I am simply are unaware of the fact that a certain group of Transformers has another member? Do they realise that sometimes a photo of Transformers has a personal or creative significance to the taker and the line-up is completely deliberate? Maybe the association between certain characters is so strong in our collective minds that this is an irresistible reflex reaction, even when the title of a photograph is “The search for Dirge” or “Looking forward to Dirge coming out in May”.
This in itself can be a great source of inspiration. Challenging long-held unspoken rules about what should be displayed with what, and who should be photographed with who has been something that’s gently crept into my group photography. You’ll not find many collectors who would suggest MMC Terminus Hexatron as a Masterpiece Sixshot, but I still chucked him into a shot with established MP/3PMP Decepticons and I think he looked fantastic. Of course, I got the now-customary “Where’s Dirge?”, but that’s how we know you’re paying attention!
A picture of heroic Cybertrons from Transformers Victory was inspired by the lovely Masterpiece MP-24 Starsaber that I had not picked up in a while. Again, trying to show that the Hextaron mould works with MPs in some situations, I parked MMC Grandus Hexatron in the middle of the picture, flanked by Masterpiece Wheeljack and Generation 1 reissue God Ginrai!
Maybe this whole phenomenon is a result of where we are with the hobby today. Think back 10 years to what was available then, and it is incomparable to what’s on offer currently. Nearly every significant member of the Transformers cartoon cast from 1984 to 1987 is available in some form or other at a scale we desire. When something is so nearly complete and perfect, the eyes are immediately drawn to what’s missing. With the belief that all this stuff is available, it’s no surprise that people are compelled to want to know why certain characters are left out of photo shoots or photographs. We crave that perfect shot with a full crew, a full roster of Ark-based Autobots or Earth-based early Decepticons. Something inside us wants to see it done and dusted, the big picture.
There have been a number of great Transformers series that broke away from the accepted G1 cast list, things like Robots In Disguise (both toons of the same name), Transformers Animated and the Unicron Trilogy. However, there has been such a comprehensive return to Generation 1 with respect to the toys offered by Hasbro and Takara that those old expectations and character associations remain profoundly strong, and so expectations and preconceptions are evident in the reactions of those on social media.
So the next time you see a group shot photograph of Transformers toys, feel free to ask why a certain expected toy or character is missing from the display. At the same time, keep in mind that whoever took the photo may have reasons for the specific composition of a gang of bots in a pic. They may just not own the toy, may not like the toy, or has not yet been attracted by any iteration of a particular character at the required scale or aesthetic. Maybe do away with the word “required” altogether. The missing toy may not even have been released yet.
Speaking of which, TakaraTomy, it’s now May. Where’s Dirge?
All the best