Welcome to the next in a series of interviews with different Aussie Transformer fans. Last time we chatted to Raymo, a country lad like me who is a big collector. Today we will be talking to Paul, a stalwart of the Aussie TF community who has been part of the online forums for nearly 20 years!
Transformers Allegiance, if you had one?
Your Techspec motto if you had one?
“Be kind, be brave and be yourself”
What existing, official Transformers character best describes you?
Beast Wars Rhinox, which for a while was a username I used with Ozformers. He’s big but quiet, smart and caring. Someone dependable and constant. Good with the tech. When needed he’ll take charge but he would happily just sit in the background.
Which special ability of any Transformers character would you want to have for yourself?
Skywarp’s teleporting ability would be great. I love to travel to new places but I hate the travel part of it.
How would you rate yourself on a C scale, C10 being MISB Mint perfection to the lowest C1 ‘junker not worth it even for parts’?
C6 – needs some repairs, some paint touch ups, but generally ok.
Fan/Collector since (year)?
I have some confusion over the exact starting point. I definitely was a fan in 1985, and I have proof of that. I think I may have got Ravage and Rumble as a Christmas present in 1984, but I think of Powerglide as my first Transformer and that would have been a 1985 purchase.
What drew you to Transformers, making you become a fan/collector?
Originally some combination of the cartoon and toys would have got 5 year old me interested, but the thing that cemented me as a fan/collector was the comics. I was given issues 79 and 80 of the UK comic as a Christmas present in 1986; Target 2006’s first official two parts days before I would have seen Transformers The Movie. I followed the comics as the definitive G1 story as a kid and that kept me going with TFs long past when others moved on as the cartoon finished.
When the Transformers comic ended, and I moved onto X-Men, I would plot out the new comic stories based on the toys (like the Turbomasters) that kept coming out. Nowadays there’s so many TF comics, more than I could have ever imagined there’d be. I buy Lost Light monthly but for the other series I wait for the hardcover IDW Collection series.
Alongside the comics I kept buying Transformers every year from when I started. I’d still get excited when each new year of toys would come out and buy several each year. The Movie year was a point where “toy collector” would probably have started to apply. I bought all the movie stuff because it was buy it or miss out with the rate those toys were flying off the shelf back then. It was also the year I started buying toys online and I quickly increased my TF count.
Do you think you will collect Transformers until you die?
I have seen so many say how they had TFs as a kid and then moved on, and then came back when older. I never had that gap and at this point, I can’t see myself ever having one unless something about my life drastically changes. I was so young when I became a fan I have barely any memories of a time when Transformers were part of my life and I can’t see a reason that I wouldn’t want to keep seeing the new figures 20, 30, 40 years from now.
Were your family/parents supportive of collecting toys or did you have to hide your passion from them and friends?
I wouldn’t say they were that supportive as I kept buying TFs into adulthood but they never gave me any grief about it either as they knew it was a hobby that made me happy.
Have you attended any fan-meets, Fairs, Conventions?
I’ve been to a lot of fan-meets. The first one was back in 2001 when some out of town visitors came to Melbourne. We didn’t really do a lot in Melbourne though until around the time the first movie came out. Around that time we started frequent lunchtime catchups, several visits to the Sandown Fair, and the Christmas get togethers.
Outside of Melbourne, I got to BotCon twice (2009 and 2011). It was an amazing experience to be in a place with so many others who shared my passion. I went to the OTCA convention in Sydney in 2006, as well as visiting the SupaNova booth in 2003, and attending the Parramatta Fair in 2008, and a catchup in QLD in 2010.
Any creative endeavours with Transformers (drawing, writing, customising, etc)?
My primary would be writing. All through my childhood I was coming up with Transformers stories, some written down, some as notes, and some just in my head. I only ever “published” two fan fic stories on A.T.T. just to force myself to complete them.
Back when I was at Uni in the late 90s I was mapping out a new TF comic book series, coming up with story beats and concepts but never actually completing a full story. The comic book series was going to be called More Than Meets The Eye, it was set after the Autobot/Decepticon war had finished, with a group of Autobots and some ex-Decepticons, including Megatron, aboard a space ship having space drama hijinx. Of course this now ACTUALLY EXISTS and is 1 million times better than I was planning or could ever have done!
I had one attempt at a custom figure, repainting and some stickers to make Cabcharge but it was enough to tell me it wasn’t my thing. I prefer to digibash (although it’s been a while) and some fun TF bios.
Favourite series/era/year, and why?
In some ways I hate to say this as I support the franchise moving forward, but G1’s 1985 line set such a high standard of ideas and characters will never be beaten for me. When it comes to Transformers toys that 1985 catalogue is always my starting point. Sure some of those toys don’t compare to their MP and Classicverse reimaginings, but they are the foundation of the brand (even more so than 1984’s). That said the 2008-2010 period where we had Animated, ROTF/HFTD and Generations 2.0 lines was a pretty close second
Least favourite series/era/year, and why?
There’s some I don’t like such as Dark of the Moon, Energon, Beast Machines*, but to pick one I’d say Armada. It’s a toy line I didn’t buy much of at the time, although I did pick up some later, but I currently have only one figure from the line in my collection (and that’s a repaint from Cybertron). The Mini-Con gimmick meant all the figures are limited in some way and they feel bulky and plastic-y after the Car Robots/RID toys the year before. The supporting fiction was also pretty poor (the cartoon did get better towards the end).
(*If you can find a fan who loved Beast Machines the best keep them MISB – they are so rare they are worth a fortune!)
Collect any comics (which ones)?
Transformers comics are what got me in to this game. I currently buy Lost Light each month and other series digitally when they are on sale. I buy all the IDW hardcover collections and am currently enjoying the Definitive G1 Collection coming in each month. I’m also anxiously waiting the long-delayed next volume of the Classics UK series. I would love to complete my actual UK comic collection but those remaining issues are getting harder to find and I’ve pretty much accepted that won’t happen.
Favourite Comic issue/story, and why?
Transformers 75 “On the Edge of Extinction!” – such a great climax to Simon Furman’s run on Marvel US. Funny and sad, violent but triumphant with some of Geoff Senior’s finest TF art too.
Favourite Cartoon episode/story, and why?
Beast Wars “The Agenda” – it raised the stakes of the series by linking it to the previous series in a way we wouldn’t have expected. It respects the past while being something new and has a great cliffhanger ending.
Favourite Character, and why?
G1 Ratchet. He was one of the most fleshed out Transformers in the comic, conflicted between wanting to save lives and also having to be a warrior. Not afraid to backchat his commanders and never getting the chance he wanted to just have a party. I find the cartoon Ratchet pretty bland and I’m a little annoyed Animated makes people think of Ratchet as old and grumpy, but James Roberts done a good job having a mix of both in MTMTE/Lost Light.
Sexiest Transformers (robot) Character?
G1 Sideswipe. That vehicle mode and that athletic robot mode.
Which Transformers character would you want to exist for real?
G1 Jazz. If a Transformer came to Earth I’d hope it was one that loved Earth culture and wanted to expierence it all.
Approx TFs toy collection count (or give a range like 200s, 300s, etc)?
A little over 650 toys at the moment.
Sealed collector or out-of-packaging collector?
Primarily out-of-packaging, but as I have a growing backlog I am kind of a sealed collector by accident. Nearly all my MP toys for instance are sealed awaiting a good glass display for them.
How much do you think you’ve spent on your collecting habit?
Far too much to even think about, tens of thousands of dollars? It’s a scary thought.
Any rare/expensive figures in your collection?
The most expensive figure in my collection is my original Fort Max, purchased from another Ozformer member not long before the Encore was announced* , as these things often go. I guess the most rare TF in my collection is a G1 Overlord I purchased from an European seller – who sent me the toy in wrapped shoe boxes! — which I think is still pretty rare for people to have.
(*Me too – 5 months before, wasn’t it a kick in the guts!)
What interesting Licensed Merchandise items do you have?
I’ve got all the colouring books and story books from my childhood. I’ve got some miscellaneous stamp sets, puzzles and things like that from the heyday of G1 merchandise. Some of the more random things are some of the chocolate wrappers with temporary tattoos. I also have a Transformer balloon from the Royal Melbourne Show that’s still intact.
One toy you most want?
Of existing toys the thing I’d most like to get is a G1 Swoop. It’s the only one of the Dinobots I don’t have (although three of the ones I do have are G2 versions) but with his fragile nature and the knock off versions around I am reluctant to purchase one, but if an Encore came out I’d jump on it. Same goes for the original Mirage and Wheeljack toys too the only 1984 figures I’ve not been able to get.
Favourite toy in your early years of collecting (if it was more than 10 years ago)?
In my early years I think Beachcomber was my favourite toy, followed closely by Prowl and Ravage.
Worst toy(s) ever in your opinion?
Supreme Devastator from ROTF. Ugly and too big for it’s own good and no robot modes for the constructions? Totally inferior to the Legends-sized version.
Toy(s) that were most disappointing when you got them?
First one that comes to mind is TF Prime First Edition Vehicon. The other First Edition deluxe toys were so good, but this one was clunky and disappointing – especially when the TF Prime’s regular line came out with such a perfect Vehicon toy.
Thoughts on gimmick and non-convertable Transformers toys?
I know they are not for me so I don’t even bother given them a try. I do at times think there are far too many clogging up the toy aisles. Because the gimmick toys are often the same characters also released as deluxes, voyagers, they seem less important to me, like they don’t count. I’d rather the Autobot and Decepticon ranks be boosted by new characters/subgroups built around gimmicks. The way we got toys and characters like the Throttlebots, Triggerbots, Battlechargers etc in the G1 years.
Thoughts on unlicensed fan-project figures/accessories?
I think some of them look great (Green Giant, Quantron, Lost Exo-Realm) but the cost and perceived fragileness of them put me off. They look good on the shelf but don’t look like toys to play with. I have owned some but I much prefer to spend my money on the regular Transformers.
Thoughts on the Transformers Brand over the last five years?
I think there’s a bit of stagnation. I think the diversification is good for the brand in theory, but it does create so many buying options that must compete with each other for parent dollars. I think Hasbro’s push for a “shared universe” has hurt the comics and I wonder if they’ll pull back from it. G1 fans are generally being treated pretty well but that also means the line isn’t progressing into new areas either, just retreading the same concepts.
Which single TFs toy should every fan own?
I think it’s MP10 Convoy/Optimus Prime. It’s the most iconic Transformer character. The toy captures the feel of the classic figure combined with a great cartoon accurate design. (And if you don’t like red that toy comes in pretty much every colour now!)
Which Transformers toy/product would you give as a wedding present?
If I was buying someone a present today, I’d go get either the Crash Combiner PrimeStrong (for a male/female union) or Dragbreak (for a male/male union) or Skyhammer (for a female/female union).
Michael from Melbourne
You’ve been part of the online fandom for a very long time – how has it changed? How is it different? What trends have you noticed? What prediction can you make about where fandom is going? Any other insights?
The biggest shift was the movies. They increased Transformers fandom considerably both in numbers and visibility. It brought back fans from the earlier years and brought in young fans who are just becoming adults today. Some of them telling the same story about how their parents got rid of their childhood toys and they are coming back into being a fan, it’s just now they are talking about a Leader Movie Optimus Prime toy not a G1 Optimus Prime.
At the same time the rise in social media has broadened the places for fans to discuss TFs so what was once pretty centralised has become pretty splintered, but I think people find the place that best suits them: a forum, a facebook page, a twitter group, whatever it is. Of course social media has also raised the amount of “internet outrage” that also means there’s a lot more negativity around too, the nerd rage and entitlement stuff. On the positive side there’s a lot more diversity about thanks to the various channels open to people which is great.
Dallas from Sydney
Over the last couple years you’ve put in a massive effort in reducing and streamlining your collection. I’ve seen you take lot of consideration in what you keep and what you move on .
– are there any big regrets?
No big regrets, when I make up my mind to move a Transformer on it is well considered. I think about what about the toy makes me want to keep it and if I can’t think of that reason, it’s good to go.
– are there any you’ve sold and then decided to re-purchase?
There’s been one or two I’ve thought about briefly, Generations Blurr was one, but when I really think about it I’m happy not to have the toy.
– of all the lines you’ve cleared out which one did you keep the least toys from and which one did you keep the most. Titans return doesn’t count because it’s too recent.
I didn’t keep any of the Armada toys (although I have two repaints from later lines – Longrack and the CHUG Unicron). In fact the Unicron Trilogy is a very small part of my collection now (1 Energon toy and 3 from Cybertron). I stripped my Alternators down to two figures as well (Smokescreen and Decepticharge).
– a large % of my collection is not on display for various reasons, is any of yours off display or are you trimming down to the point where you can keep it all on display?
I have the most recent purchases on display while they are still my new stuff that I want to fiddle with.
Nearly everything else is sorted into various by toyline storage tubs. I don’t think I’ll ever have everything on display, but I’d like to have a good space that I could rotate series every couple of months.
– As time goes by, will you have to trim further to make room for new purchases or are you leaving some shelf space now the you can fill up later?
The lines I have most from are the CHUG ones but I sometimes think I’m not been harsh enough with those and with some of the recent lines providing new versions of characters I will need to revist. It is much easier to be critical of the older toys then the more recent ones.
– based on your long term selection of favorite toys from each line you’ve kept are you finding patterns in the types of transformers you prefer? is it a certain level of complexity, poseability or is it character or alt mode based preference?
The ones I keep tend to have a fun or clever transformation and looks great in one or both of the alt modes, or it has some special sentimental value to me (which is why I’ve not sold any of my childhood toys (anything prior to Beast Wars). Character can play a part in it as well. Poseability not so much but is always nice to have. A transformation that’s frustrating to the point where the toy is not fun to change, is often the main reason I’ve got rid of something.
If you could go back in time to meet your 20 year old self, what would be the one thing you would tell him about Transformers in the future?*
(*Great question! Tempted to answer it myself)
As a 20 year old I wasn’t all that keen on the current toyline, Beast Machines, and it didn’t really seem like the future of the brand was all that strong. I would tell him to cast those fears aside, that there would be so much new stuff to come, new toylines, new cartoons, comics, movies and video games, than he could ever imagine there could be so relax and enjoy all the unexpected shapes Transformers will take over the next two decades.
Got any other questions for Paul? Pop them in the comments section below and I’m sure he will do his best to answer them for you!
TF Fan Interview: Raymo
TF Fan Interview: Lisamarie