Having a group of like-minded Transformers collectors that you spend most of your hobby time with is a privilege. If you’re fortunate enough to count them as good friends outside of the hobby too, then you’ll find that a collective penchant for in-depth conversation and respectful exchange of opinions can spread to many different areas of interest. Let’s focus on Transformers, though, and a fascinating question I was asked by a fellow enthusiast.
In the past, many an article has been inspired by discussions that have taken place at our pub-based Transformers meet-ups. The most memorable for me was the question “If you lost all of your Transformers tomorrow, what would be the first one that you’d buy back?”. I’ve often found myself thinking back to that discussion, and article, and wondering how my answer would have changed throughout the years. If I had to answer that question today, the answer might even be a toy from 2017.
Coming back to the present, during a recent discussion with the aforementioned gang of collectors, I was asked to make a case for the following statement, regardless of whether I was against the argument or in favour of it.
“The UK Marvel G1 comic would have been better served with realistic, toy-accurate art.”
Now, unlike many UK collectors, I grew up with the G1 cartoon being more of an influence on me than the Marvel UK Transformers comics, 99.9% of which I have never read. But hey, I’m finally watching Beast Wars now, so it’s only a matter of time before I crack on this one too! Regardless of my preferred TF media and feelings of nostalgia, I had to defend that statement. As you may or may not know, celebrated artists such as Geoff Senior gave the UK comic a very specific and unique look and feel, distinguishing it from virtually every other representation of Transformers in popular media throughout the years. How could I possibly make a case for the comic having never gone that route and sticking to 100% toy accurate designs and feel? I’d be met with a lot of fervent UK opposition, there.
My argument, therefore, was that the Marvel UK Transformers comic would have been better served with more toy accurate art as this would have helped manage the enormous expectation gap between child-like wonder and the reality of toy manufacturer capability. The earlier management of this expectation would have led to far fewer critical comments and attitudes by fans on social platforms on the internet as adults, less broken friendships and broken childhoods, as well as a more accepting and low quality, imagination-measured society of adult toy collectors. In fact, it would have eliminated the entire need for adult collecting as all imagination and expectations of robotic heroes-made-plastic would have been met by the original toy line, as they would have been already 100% accurate to the source material.
You would have had it as a kid and that would have been it.
Now, you must keep in mind that my response had a certain amount of tongue-in-cheek mischief about it, making numerous references to funny episodes we’ve all had along the way with various…passionate fans on the subject of Transformers toys and media. It was part in-joke and part analysis, all aimed at defending the seemingly indefensible. All of that aside, it does conjure a fascinating scenario. Imagine if the original Transformers cartoon, toys and comics were completely consistent, aesthetically. Imagine how significant a portion of today’s collector-aimed Transformers toy market – and associated perpetual disagreement – wouldn’t exist. Would there have been a need for highly show-accurate or comic-accurate toy lines aimed at redressing the balance of characters from popular TF media with weaker representations? Would Masterpiece be any more than just more articulated versions of the vintage aesthetic? Would 3rd Party companies have to do anything else besides upscaling vintage figures and adding more articulation?
Of course, the answer is that we would probably still have an adult-populated Transformers toy collecting scene, but maybe a majority of it would be focused around newer directions. The sense of satisfaction and fulfilment of an original toy vision may well have been catered to long ago, since the original toy line would have been as comprehensive as it was in the 80s, and that whole “jumping off the screen” feel that so many want for their collections would have been achievable back when the brand was a global phenomenon.
The brand would have gone through reboots and face lifts, the Beast Wars and the Animateds and the live action movies may still have happened…but would original fans of Transformers have been so open to diversification? If the original toys, comics and cartoons were all highly consistent throughout the full duration their original and respective runs, would that actually have reinforced the whole “Geewun” mentality that so many fans love to poke fun at nowadays? Would fans have been even more resistant to change and new beginnings for Transformers? As Transformers fans, we have come to accept from a very young age that what we saw on a page or a screen did not necessarily marry up to what we played with as toys, and we’re probably much better off as a result.
Having said that, there are no shortage of other intellectual properties that did not have the screen accuracy issue or disparity in representation across original media that Transformers had, and they have rebooted their franchises with new looks, new backstories and new aesthetics. Some fail, some succeed, it’s not a given that the resistance will be overwhelming. If the overall quality of the live action TF movies is anything to go by, though, I suspect there would still be a fair amount of criticism of those, regardless of differences in consistency across original media!
Anyway, the point of the article is that it’s fun to have friends who like Transformers.
All the best