At any one time in the Transformers hobby and community, there are many things going on that inspire discussion, creativity, conflict or controversy. Sometimes it’s reaction to official product matters, announcements or events, and sometimes it is to do with fan-created content or situations. Occasionally it involves the communication between fans and creators. This week I’m going to have a little look at what’s been going on that I’ve been fortunate to enough to be involved in, a snapshot of just how active and positive our fan community can be when given the opportunity.
One current project that has become an annual highlight for a number of UK (and now international) Transformers fans is the TFW2005 UK Toy Discussion (UKTD) thread calendar. The UKTD is a very active and diverse thread on the TFW2005 forum and not at all exclusively British in its makeup, either. There is a huge amount of creative talent in the thread too, everything from toy photography (Sixo, Toybox Soapbox, Drinking About Robots and so many more) to Photoshop wizards who can re-create iconic comic covers with toys and spice up regular photography (Tikgnat, Kevin Gorman, Stevil33) as well as straight up brilliant artists (Jame5y, Dan Ghile, Avon etc).
All of this artistry and creative ability is captured annually when Tikgnat collects 12 images posted in the thread throughout the year that he deems the best and creates the calendar, usually with a very strong Transformers theme from a particular era of toy packaging. This year’s calendar is the third of its kind and is looking like the best yet. Even though it contains a number of thinly-veiled in-jokes, everyone should be able to enjoy and pre-order a copy at what amounts to cost price. You can see all of this year’s chosen contributions and also order a copy during the first print run of the calendar if you like what you see.
Another project that just took off is one dreamt up by some good friends of mine. Sebastian Harton, Bryce Rutledge and Brandon Yap – collectively known as Ocular Echo – have launched a Kickstarter campaign to produce what is currently two large volumes of a photographic Transformers Generation 1 toy resource called “Transformers G1 Unofficial Photographic Archive Volumes 1 & 2”. The books contain highly consistent, high-quality G1 photography, including accessories and all modes, some prominent variations, all presented beautifully upon each page where toys have been given room to breathe.
Whenever a project aims to be definitive and gets so much right, it is natural for potential customers to highlight areas where improvements could be made. While the authors have said publicly that they are investigating better rates for international shipping, currently they can be considered prohibitive for some who live outside North America. I may personally have preferred a straight up photographic reference without a price or rarity guide, but I’ll find it quite easy to enjoy the primary function of the book – the stunning photography and comprehensive approach to documentation of the figures – in spite of any content decisions I might personally have made differently. There’s a big buzz around this 100% collector-powered project, and if you keep an eye on the Ocular Echo page on Facebook, you may also win a vintage Transformer or two! You can back the project here on Kickstarter.
As an example of how accessible some of the official Transformers content creators are these days, this week I pinged IDW More Than Meets The Eye/Lost Light writer James Roberts on Twitter and asked him if he had any suggestions for a comic book re-creation photograph I could do featuring my MMC Turben figure (a toy whose original inspiration features heavily in the comics). I’ve been doing a lot more elaborate toy photography recently and for my 3rd party Transformers toy reviews in an attempt to add a real heavy dose of creativity and originality to some of the pictures. It means everything takes weeks to complete instead of mere days, but the results have brought me a lot of pleasure.
Anyway, Roberts suggested an iconic panel in issue 12 of MTMTE where Whirl and Cyclonus are standing back to back, having just disposed of a squad of Decepticons. It’s an immediately recognisable scene and one that fans can picture without needing the comic itself as a reference. There is such a strong following for these comics on Twitter and even pockets of TFW2005 that I received a really lovely warm response to the re-creation. It may have involved unscrewing and removing the sides of my Masterpiece MP-10 Convoy’s trailer, some imaginative substituting of Genericon corpses with Decepticon Titans Return figures, replacing a dog-shaped limb with a Pounce corpse, a sideways Titans Return Trypticon and a fair amount of Photoshop to add pooled blood, but I am very pleased with the result. I think it demonstrates my enthusiasm for the figure being reviewed in a unique way, it provides an interesting context for purchasing and owning the figure and the praise from James Roberts himself was most welcome too!
Speaking of the comics, Lost Light Fest is nearly upon us. Many many fan artists – and I suspect even some official ones – will participate in a month-long, daily art submission featuring a scheduled character from IDW’s Transformers comic titles. Every day in October will represent a different character’s spot in the limelight, and this year there is a dedicated Lost Light Fest Twitter account to help every prospective contributor follow the action and take part. Their schedule is up and you can use the #LostLightFest hashtag to check out last year’s work too. It’s not limited to artists in the conventional sense either, I expect toy photography will also be a significant part of the contributions. I’ll certainly be lobbing a few their way!
Finally, it was a year ago today on September 19 2016 that I innocently shared some images of my Masterpiece MP-31 Delta Magnus on the usual social media channels that I use. Using mostly all white backgrounds at the time meant that certain unnamed photo-violators were able to grab my images and paste Delta Magnus into all manner of hilarious scenarios. Some are unfit for sharing, but most of them consisted of photo abuse of the highest quality.
September 19th officially became Delta Magnus Day, and seeing as today is 1 year on from that fanfare, I celebrated by giving the ravenous beasts three new white background images of Delta to abuse. The results were not disappointing, so if you wish to enjoy the outcome, check out the #DeltaMagnusDay hashtag on Twitter. If nothing else was achieved, at least IDW artist Kei Zama’s day was improved by the comedy!
So that’s my snapshot. Today, as a Transformers fan, you can interact informally with the current writer of the best TF fiction available. You can join in with some good-natured artistic mocking and ruin my painstakingly-produced Masterpiece TF photos and enjoy some of the best and inspired art this community has to offer with Lost Light fest. You can back a fan-made book of the highest quality, documenting the toy history of Generation 1 Transformers in North America, Europe and Japan. You can also order yourself a wonderful community-made calendar featuring some gorgeous Transformers photography and artwork. If that’s not an active and positive fan community, I don’t know what is.
All the best