You may well have recently come across some quite fantastic Transformers Marvel Comics cover re-creations online using actual Transformers toys and 3rd party figures. They are the work of the heavily Marvel UK-influenced collector, Kevin Gorman. As the fandom becomes more and more diverse, with a mix of entry points for enthusiasts, Kevin – like many collectors in the UK and Ireland – was inspired more by the stories of Simon Furman as opposed to the Sunbow Generation 1 cartoon. A healthy mix of toys and artwork in his collection, added to his excellent and prolific creative output, make Kevin Gorman an example of the talent and enthusiasm that really make the TF community special.
1) Who are you and what do you collect?
I’m Kevin and I collect mainly MP & 3P figures, comics & books and original comic art. In my non-TF life, I’m the I.T. Manager for a large pharmacy company in Northern Ireland.
As far the actual collection goes, it’s pretty much driven by a love of the old Marvel UK comics. Being in the UK, the cartoon wasn’t readily available outside of VHS collections like “Arrival from Cybertron” & “Desertion of the Dinobots.” The comic was “My” Transformers and it’s affected pretty much what my entire collecting outlook is these days. Simon Furman is a god in my eyes for what he’s done for the franchise. I still remember meeting him and wanting to do the Wayne’s World “we’re not worthy” bit! Sensibly I held myself back and stumbled through a few sentences of praise instead.
As you’ll see in the pics, the ’86 movie (& Marvel UK Future Cast) was a massive part of what made me love TFs too. These are the characters I have a real attachment too, even surpassing the ’84 bots.
I’ve got a couple of loose-ish rules to my collecting which help it stay manageable: 1 – If it’s not on the shelves, it’s up for sale. No boxes of stuff in the attic. Because of this I’ve had an ever-shifting collection (Sometimes I’ve cheated a bit by buying more shelves when I couldn’t part with some stuff!). 2 – I try not to have multiples of characters (this rule doesn’t get followed quite so strictly as the first one).
Transformers were a massive part of my childhood and the Marvel UK comic is the reason why. Every Saturday was Transformers comic time with issue 34 being the first one I got. That got me hooked and over the subsequent weeks I convinced my parents to put it on standing order with the newsagents. There’d be the trip into town to pick it up every Saturday morning and then the robot action could begin.
But like a lot of folks I got a bit older and TFs were forgotten, I moved onto other things, mainly music & comic collecting. The TFs were then all packed up in a large box that sat in my parent’s attic for the next 20 years.
I’d always kept an eye on TFs but got back into them properly because of a random visit to a toy shop in New York on a US holiday in the summer of, I think, 2006. It was either FAO Schwartz or the Times Square Toys’R’Us (the memory is a bit hazy). I was randomly wandering around mainly having a look at the comic figures when I caught a glimpse of the Titanium War Within Optimus Prime. I’d remembered Prime as this standard truck but now he was a cool space age vehicle with HotRod/Rodimus-esque arm guns. ALL interest was lost in the comic figures, I HAD to have this! I was just blown away by it, as my last experience of TF toys was around the time of the launch of G2. It was weighty, posable, fun to transform and most of all looked cool.
EBay was then visited and a few recent figures such as Alternators Shockblast were bought, along with a load of G1 stuff to rekindle all those old memories. Later I discovered CHUG stuff and the wallet was never safe again.
I’m very thankful that I’ve got a wife who’s very supportive of my plastic crack addiction and who even asked for the FansToys Dinos to be displayed in the dining room. Massive wife points there if you’re reading this! One thing does come to mind ,though, when I think of my wife and Transformers. I remember when I managed to convince her to watch the ’86 movie. Her reaction – “This is one of the most violent starts to a movie that I’ve seen”. Yes, it was the Decepticons boarding the shuttle scene and the Attack on Autobot City. I think I’ve seen it so many times that I’ve become immune to all the death and destruction! Really interesting seeing someone watch it for the first time.
2) How has the collecting scene changed in the last 10 years?
In one word – massively. I’d say that participation in the hobby has increased by a huge amount, the mass availability of the internet being the biggest reason and the spread of the fandom out of forums into other areas of social media such as Facebook/Twitter/Instagram. Also, even though I’m not a fan, the Bay movies should be praised for how much of the younger fans they’ve brought into the hobby. These will be the collectors of the next 10 years and beyond.
Another thing is adults being the right age now to relive their childhood and having the disposable income to actually buy everything they want. Why save up for a car when you can have Maketoys Pandinus and MMC Feral Rex!?
The biggest change to buying habits in the hobby I’ve seen is the rise of 3P. In the early days of 3P, it was a slow release schedule with mainly upgrade kits. I still remember getting the City Commander upgrade for Classics UM and being blown away by it. Recently, 3P have stepped up their releases to the point that it’s nearly impossible to buy everything and the output in total nearly rivals the amount of official product at this point. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about it to be honest, but that’s mainly down to the impact on my wallet!
Nowadays the big thing I’m seeing is the 3P “insert character here” wars. I’m torn over this to a big degree. On one hand, we’ve never had it so good as far as choice in characters is concerned, but on the other hand it breeds a culture of placeholder figures until the next slightly improved one is released. Recently we’ve had occasions where 2 figures of the same character are released in very close proximity. See the Megatron releases of DX9 and Maketoys late last summer as the prime example.
And one of the biggest changes recently for me personally is TF meetups in the pub starting up here in Belfast. Can’t go wrong with, and I’ll quote you here after you saw my pub pics on Twitter, “Bots, Buds & Beer!”. Every hobby is much better when you add a social part to it and Transformers are no different.
3) How do you see, or hope to see the scene changing in 5 years’ time?
The biggest thing I think will be the branching out of Has/Tak into other TF properties such as Beast Wars (which has already started) and eventually the Unicron Trilogy. We’re already seeing Has/Tak get towards the end of revisiting the 80’s with Titans Return, the strong Micromaster element to the Titan Masters and base modes of the larger figures. I really don’t think we’ll see Pretenders make an appearance (fully prepared to be wrong about this!).
There’s a massive number of fans out there with “their” Transformers not being G1 but one of the other toy lines. I’m genuinely interested in seeing what comes out of revisiting these properties with modern figure design, both Has/Tak and 3P.
It’s also interesting to see companies like Maketoys striding out in new directions with old characters in new forms, such as Striker Manus and Rioter Despotron. It’s something I think we’ll see more of as 3P designers try to put their own spin on well loved characters.
4) What has been your single biggest success as a collector, or your greatest ever find?
My biggest success would probably be getting my hands on original pages of Target:2006. Two pages in particular stand out from the rest. A Ron Smith Wreckers page from their debut in issue 82 and the Jeff Anderson “Digging My Own Grave” page from issue 81. Seeing them in their full glory in my hands was one of the most exhilarating moments I’ve had as a TF fan. I was back to being a 7 year old in Downpatrick in my parents’ house, but I wasn’t reading the comic, I was holding the original art, it just blew me away. Can’t even remember how long I stared at it.
Also, what amazed me was the size of the things in hand. The UK comic was already in a larger format than standard US comics but the original art pages are about twice the size again. Just absolutely stunning.
5) What is the most surprising or outrageous collecting story you have heard?
I don’t really have any personal stories, but the stuff that always comes to mind are the insane prices that unreleased G2 stuff always goes for. I’ve also heard of some insane prices paid for prototypes and unreleased stuff. I can totally understand wanting stuff like that but it’s so far out of my price range I just look at it with fascination.
So those or, as Ben Parfitt mentioned in his interview, your transition from Titans Return hate to completionism!
6) If you could pick one item from your collection to keep, what would it be?
This may be cheating but MP Soundwave. And why is that cheating? Because obviously he needs all his tapes with him! It’d be unfair to spilt them!
Soundwave has always been my favourite Decepticon, and maybe favourite Transformer of all. He wins this accolade because of one image in particular. The cover to Marvel UK Issue 1 (also used on The Complete Works Pt1 cover). If you’re not familiar with this image, it’s got Soundwave and Buzzsaw fighting Optimus Prime in space above Earth and ABSOLUTELY KICKING HIS ASS. Saw it as a six year old kid and it made quite the impression. Probably why I’ve always been more of a Decepticon fan than an Autobot one.
7) If you could have one item out of someone else’s collection, what would that be?
As far as figures go, there’s nothing that really exists as a grail to me. Even though it’s not all that rare, maybe the Takara release of the Supreme class Unicron in ’86 Movie Colours from 2010. It’s one of those things that’s eluded me at every chance I’ve had at finding one at a decent price. Outside of figures, the things that really get me wanting are original Marvel UK (and to a lesser extent US) pages. There’s some incredibly beautiful painted UK Comic covers out there that I’ve seen pics of that I’m quite covetous of.
And any page Geoff Senior did for Marvel UK as his stuff is unbelievably hard to track down.
(Oh, you said one thing…….. um, I’ll go for a Geoff Senior page!)
8 ) What advice would you give a new collector starting out today?
The main thing I would say is don’t buy everything you can at once. Appreciate the figure when it arrives, before it gets put onto a shelf and gets forgotten about. There’s been many times that I’ve been massively excited for a figure but it arrives at the same time as a few others and doesn’t get the love it deserves. This was especially true when I started out collecting CHUG stuff. I’d end up buying lots or a few single figs on eBay, transform them once and forget about them.
Also, I’d say just have fun with your collection. Don’t let it be a mill stone around your neck that drags you down because of some constantly moving endpoint.
On the point of having fun with your collection, over the last year or so, I’ve been able to merge two of my favourite things that I have fun with, Transformers and photography. I’ve been doing a bit of a project to recreate all the old comic covers with modern figures. I’m 89 covers into a 332 issue list, so I’ll probably have them all finished sometime around November 2019! It’s made me revisit figures that have sat on a shelf unloved for many years. I’ve always been a believer in them not being shelf statues but something that I can pick up and play around with and this project is perfect for this.
Many kind and gracious thanks to Kevin Gorman for words and photographs.
All the best