Some collectors become well-known because of their unique collections, some enjoy recognition due to their creative talents and others because of their stature or longevity in the fan community. Robin Song, also known as Pastor Robin, has gained a lot of admirers for his talents and his collection due to the special modifications he has made to his Masterpiece and 3rd party Transformers figures. Going in a slightly different direction to our regular interviews, Robin Song discusses the work he has done on his toys and how the various experiences during his collecting have influenced the way he presents his collection, specifically the addition of electronics to his MP/3P figures.
1) Who are you and what do you collect?
My name is Robin Song; many folk simply know me as Pastor Robin from the Facebook page I maintain. I often get asked “are you a real pastor?” and the answer is yes, I really am a Christian pastor of a local church in Washington! I mostly collect MP/3P Transformers, however, I am largely known in the Transformers community for the LEDs and other mods that I customize into my figures. I’ve installed hundreds of LEDs into my figures so far and I’m always excited with the challenge of modding a new figure!
2) How has the collecting scene changed in the last 10 years?
Let’s put it this way: it’s gotten at least ONE pastor collecting! I’ve always been a fan of Transformers, but I honestly never saw myself getting back into collecting figures again. What really started it for me was the Alternators line (they were just too good to pass up!). But since then, the thing that really stands out for me in the collecting scene is noticing my personal attention to news coverage on figures. 10 years ago, I wasn’t a member of a single Transformers FB group; I didn’t have accounts on TFW2005, Seibertron or any TF-related website. I just didn’t care. Fast forward to today and I’ve got accounts everywhere and I’m reading the latest news every day. There’s just so many figures and so much news to keep track of, I have to manage it all on a personal spreadsheet.
3) How do you see, or hope to see the scene changing in 5 years’ time?
I have set personal limits to collecting MP/3P G1 Seasons 1-3 only for now! I’m actually looking forward to seeing the light at the end of this tunnel, as the number of needed figures on my spreadsheet gets smaller and smaller. Once I’m done, I *might* bite on the Beast Wars line… that or G1 Season 4. We’ll see! The oversized MP line is really starting to take off (and they look so good!) but I’ve got no room for them. Too bad. What I also hope to see in the next 5 years are MP-scaled figures of some of the more obscure characters from the G1 cartoon, namely Elita-One and her team, including Lancer & Greenlight.
4) What has been your single biggest success as a collector, or your greatest ever find?
My single biggest success as a collector would easily be the skills I’ve developed since building the LED enhanced collection display in my office. It all really started early last year, when I took a drill to the back of my MP-10 to install my first LED into a figure. All I wanted was to get his matrix to light up, the same way it did with MP-1. I used the parts from a remote controlled tealight to make it happen. You know, all I needed was to see that it was doable for me and from there, I started seeing the potential for lighting up LEDs across the other figures.
Before I became a pastor, I’d always been into electronics and computers as well as art. I was also used to making numerous banners and stage setups for various church events, so creating my own custom backdrops and designing the layout of the room was fairly easy and fun for me. That being said, in the process of building this display, I definitely went through my share of eggs to build this omelette. They include: breaking figures entirely, redoing the entire collection because of a discovered flaw, and burning out so many LEDs I’ve lost count (some of them, after they’d already been installed in the figure). But in spite of all the mistakes I’ve made, the real treat was discovering that I was actually improving in my technique and learning from my mistakes.
Nowadays, I would go back to modify an older I figure I did last year and I’d be appalled at how sloppy I was at this just 6 months ago. In the end, seeing the collection get completed is nice, but I’m really more excited about kind of things I can learn along the way. What started with a few LED bulbs into eyes and headlights was just the beginning; soon, I’d be playing with motors, neon wire and more! I often get asked by people if they could send me their figures for me to mod. But honestly, I’m much more interested in sharing my ideas so that more people could try it out for themselves. You can visit my page of ideas I share on Facebook.
5) What is the most surprising or outrageous collecting story you have heard?
As a pastor, I face my regular share of outrageous stories, so I do find myself a bit desensitized. But as you may have guessed, I’ve always been a light/LED enthusiast. What really draws my attention as a collector is seeing the work of others who install LEDs into their displays. There’s not too many that I’ve noticed in the Transformers community (yet!), but one that does stand out in my mind is a YouTube video posted by Ruben Alvarez titled “Custom Transformers Ark Playset/Diorama”. This playset was one of my earliest inspirations and still is to this day. I’m self-taught and so I’m still learning and developing the craft as I go along.
6) If you could pick one item from your collection to keep, what would it be?
MP-36 Megatron was the single-most involved project to date for me. Including all of his accessories, the project used a total of 39 individual LEDs. He’s really impressive to look at, but I never want to do that again! He would easily be my first pick. 2nd place would go to MP Inferno, with 20 LEDs used for him.
7) If you could have one item out of someone else’s collection, what would that be?
It would probably be the oversized MPP10 Optimus Prime. Not that I can’t afford him, but it’s more important to me that I stick to the limits of what I collect that I set for myself.
8 ) What advice would you give a new collector starting out today?
In the words of George Washington Carver, “When you can do the common things of life in an uncommon way, you will command the attention of the world.” As impressive as it may be to see an endless sea of plastic across 50 shelves, I am personally more inspired by collectors who go the extra mile to do something uncommon with their collections!
Many kind and gracious thanks to Robin Song for words and photographs.
All the best