September 5, 2010

A 17th Anniversary 32 Years Ago and the Effects of Blogging

Filed under: collecting, comics, comment — fairplaythings @ 4:00 am

is post could really be called “The Long Road Back.” It’s one part nostalgia, one part anticipating the future, with a healthy dose of naval gazing. No toys will be harmed in the writing of this piece.

Comics are for Reading

No, he's not Franklin. Or the Super-Skrull.

No, he's not Franklin. Or the Super Skrull.

Back in the days when I had so much time and so few comics that I would devour each one over and over again with reckless abandon, one of the difficulties I faced was the multi-arch storyline. Because chances were I would only find one issue in the set, and thus be left in the dark as to how the story ended. This was the case with Fantastic Four #199, the penultimate chapter of a story arch leading into the monumental #200!

A half dozen years before Downshift, Camshaft and Overdrive.

Now I loved #199. I loved the art. I loved this mysterious “son” who, upon being passed the crown of Latveria by Doom, transforms into a handsome version of the Thing, complete with hair plugs and the powers of the Super Skrull, before being murdered by his “father” for daring to rise up against him. And I really loved the “Omni-bots”, red robots with hollow faces in Doom armour (I still love them in fact and want to kitbash some from 3 3/4″ Hasbro Doctor Dooms, or possibly some poor munny figure.) And I was so convinced for decade hence that the writer of this story (Marv Wolfman as it turns out) had really knocked it out of the park. And I was dying to read the the two bookend issues, 198 and 200, to find out how it began and how it end.

Because I honestly thought it was just that, a three part story, until I found out that it wasn’t. And then found out, after reading it all, that in fact I was right all along (but more on that later…)

The Undiscovered Story

More threat outside than inside.

More threat outside than inside.

The matter of the story’s length aside, it is 32 years later. In those intervening years, I have amassed a comic collection that (take my word for it) is quite extensive. And yet I’m talking to you about this particular comic, which means there must be something to it, something that makes me care about it, if I’m taking the time to write about it. And yet, I never really tried to finish the story. It was never front of mind at any of the comic shows, even though, unlike a particularly Legions of Superheroes story that I also want to rediscover (but for which I cannot remember the issue numbers in question to facilitate such an occurrence), I not only can remember the cover but can remember the issue number. In fact, it was only at what can only be described as a failure of a comic show in Nepean earlier this year (by failure, I mean a show whereby I was barely tempted to exchange interest payments for paper or plastic) that I elected to chase down 198 and 200. Getting them home for the first time, I was distressed to learn that my imagined three-issue arc was in fact five issues in length.

I waited so I could read about this guy? Really???

I waited so I could read about this guy? Really???

When I got them home, I discovered I wasn’t ready to begin because I still needed 196 and 197. I should also note that, like a surprising number of 1970s story runs, there is no trade collection for this story yet. And given the vintage of the comic in question, it was not like I could just walk to any of the local comic book shops and easily purchase the missing issues. So my efforts to embrace the story was halted until, long story short, I did eventually acquire the missing comics.

This week, I unburied them from the piles of the unread and opted to attack this story. Suffice to say it wasn’t the story I dreamed it would be.

It was me? Don't let me do it again!

It was me? Don

There was a lot of back story that I roughly gleaned from the text but which I was unaware (team is broken up, Sue Storm is an actress and Reed is without his powers), none of which is particularly earth-changing but which were somewhat off-putting… (Not as off-putting as finding out that Peter Parker was really a clone for twenty years and then wasn’t, but there you go.) It also seemed that the powers-that-be wanted to take what should have been a decent three issue arc and turn it into five, so you had whole side stories that didn’t seem to be necessary (Ben Grimm’s star gazing in Hollywood in 196, the entirety of 197), while at the same time there were places where it almost seemed as if a page had dropped off the printer when you turned the page, the disconnect from panel to panel being that abrupt. I should note too that, at 31 pages (with a supersize issue 200 at 45), they were hardly at a loss of printed pages.

Zorba was schooled in the spy game by Phil Ken Sebben.

Zorba was schooled in the spy game by Phil Ken Sebben.

If that weren’t enough, Marvel seemed convinced it had to make each issue stand alone even as it tried to convince everyone it was a five part story. So 196 find us literally coming in the middle of a mysterious stranger brainwashing Reed (and I thought this was a five-parter…) so he can lead the capture of the Ben, Johnny and Sue, a job that could have been carried out by any number of villains.

Brainwashing so carefully and pain-stakingly achieved, the real villain of the piece is quickly revealed to all but Reed, who seems to have completely shaken off the effects of his hypnosis (or at least not affected by it for the rest of the story). In 197, he is sent into space in a successful effort to rediscover his super powers, leaving him to combat the Red Ghost, a villain who has nothing to do with the larger story arc other than to eat up a number of pages in order to push us into the next issue. Reed needs his powers back so that, in 198, Reed can try an infiltrate Doom’s castle vowing to destroy his enemy once and for all, meet Zorba (no I’m not making this up) who is quickly set up as a freedom fighter and acceptable successor to the Latveria throne, and then be captured by doom to have his powers dumped along with the rest of Marvel’s first family into the body of his to-this-point-acting-totally-as-planned “son”.

Sometimes It Really Is Better Left Unsaid

Reed's snake thing. Even creepier when the clone does it.

Reed's snake thing. Even creepier when the clone does it.

Which brings us to 199. Oh the art (Kieth Pollard) is still terrific and memorable, if a little colour-dulled by sitting on a mass produced printing for 32 years. Overall, it is still a great issue, despite of the three previous issues’ efforts to undercut a lot of the suspense and coolness of the issue (the “son” is in fact a clone who, despite being nurtured for many many years, seemingly pops out of nowhere in the space of a handful of issues, infused with watered-down versions of the FF’s powers and is quickly eliminated from characters for future writers to exploit).

What was really surprising was that 200 could almost be a completely different story. In my head, based on the last panel of 199, there was going to be this immediate showdown between Reed and Doom that was going to be epic. In fact, it’s why I inevitably went back to get the back issues. I mean the book told me so! And yet 200 immediately decided to take a break and even bring in a little romance before returning to some odd plot of Doom to use an Alicia Masters original forcibly pushed on the delegates of the U.N. to take over their minds (and presumably their member countries). Why the U.N. plot? Seems they were considering kicking Latveria out of the club for human rights offences (clearly Latveria was giving Cambodia a run for its torture and murder money).

You know Phil would have made a play for Johnny.

You know Phil would have made a play for Johnny.

What are we left with? A story that really doesn’t hold together when you look at it in the light. Somehow Doom came to create a clone, “raise” him in secret over many years, intent on granting him all the powers of his four most hated adversaries, even at the expense of returning the powers to those said enemies who may have lost their special abilities, to be exactly ready to ascend to the Latverian thrown to prevent the U.N. from kicking it out of its club, even as he plans to gas said U.N. delegates to turn them into mindless slaves and use them to take over the world.

Wow. I waited for this? Worse yet, I feel the need to blog about it, with picture and everything? What is wrong with me?

What Is Wrong With Him

Do you think I can still get my free comics?

Do you think I can still get my free comics?

That question brings me to the second part of this ever-so-long post. Recently, in a post entitled “self imposed exile is the right of all toy robot archaeologist,” “Crazy” Steve put down keypad for a well-deserved break from blogging. In case you don’t know, Steve is the proprietor of Roboplastic Apocalypse, a site that while on the surface is another toy blog, is in fact evidence of extensive archival efforts to answer a number of mysteries in the toyverse, circa 1975 to 1990. (And he came up as part of my thinking about this post because, reading old comic books is an exercise in nostalgia, particularly when it comes to adverts such as this one for two free comics with proof of purchase from Mego’s Micronaut Battle Cruiser (I just bought a far-from-mint-boxed Battle Cruiser - I wonder if the offer is still valid…)

In a recent exchange of emails, Steven mused about how, though he missed his blogging in exile, it remained “so labor and time intensive I can’t afford it,” time that he could spend in his return to school and as father and husband, to say nothing of taking a lot of the work he had undertaken at the behest of the historical records’ side of the site and begin to bring it forward into the light. But it is his words about “labout and time intensive” that struck with me.

It wouldn’t be a day in my life without 20 ideas of wonder kicking back and forth in my head, none of them a plan for world peace and a good number of them related to plastic-as-culture. In 2009, I actually undertook one by creating the 365 day Transformers calendar, and was overwhelmed by the amount of work and organization it took to pull off, even setting aside two modest interruptions and the text and picture issues that arose in the final month of the project. This year, my early efforts to create something more original, content-wise, while taking advantage of “the collection” (the “Collectible of the Week”) came up short because of other pressures on my time and energy. In fact, my own writing has come up quite lax lately (if you exclude Twittering), something I seem to lament frequently, even as I pledge to do better.

Because you know I really do want to talk about the paper and plastic with which I surround myself, just as I want to create a fully-functioning, innovative, ever-updating virtual display for my creations (which I also want to keep creating), as well as embarking on other projects, while doing good work and hanging with friends and creating a great home and playing new games and everything else we want to do. And if I am going to do it, I am going to want to invest the energy and effort to make it as worthwhile outside my head as it seems to be inside of it. And as I think about Steve’s words, I think about the rules I think need to be considered as part of any worthwhile blog piece:

  • Have I said this before?
  • Does it have a good flow?
  • Can I say it better?
  • Does it go on too long?
  • Will it grab the reader’s / readers’ attention?
  • Is there enough eye candy to accompany the text?

Knowing When To Stop

I don’t exactly know if I succeeded against this list of criteria, particularly number one. The themes espoused in the second part of this post has been said before. And yet it seems like the stopping point for now, three hours after starting this post that is now in excess of some of my university essays. I guess when it is all said and done, I just wanted to reflect about a comic that I read, and talk about a recent exchange with a friend that got me thinking about the effort that goes into a blog that goes unaccounted for by even the bloggers themselves. So maybe I don’t need a conclusion at all. Maybe I just need to clear the idea from my head, and move on to the next…

Everyone's a critic.

July 8, 2010

Toy Magazines beget errors.

Filed under: collecting, comment — fairplaythings @ 12:19 am

I’m a sucker for toy magazines, even if they simply serve as flip books for toys I’ve mostly seen on the web and paper to cart around whenever I move. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of toy magazines on the market to start with, and those that do exist lack a certain spark.

The best toy magazine was the briefly-lived Super 7, which focused on Japanese toy culture from a North American perspective. Filled with all kinds of wonderful and wacky, it was a good source to learn new secrets on Transformers, Shogun Warriors and Micronauts, to say nothing of what was going on now and what was going on then in toys. It was a resource and a treasure, sorely missed.

Other magazines have come and gone too, White’s Guide to Collecting Figures and Go Figure! among them. Which brings us pretty much to the existing trio of Tomart’s, Lee’s Action Figure and Toy Review, and Toyfare.

Toyfare emerged from the toy section of Wizard and was really strong in the first few years. Unfortunately, it quickly became derivative. There are only so many fart jokes that a person is willing to endure for $5.95 a month, so Toyfare quickly fell aside a number of years ago. Only recently was it joined by Lee’s. Lee’s was a decent magazine but suffered from a lack of content. With a third of the magazine devoted to the toy stock market, and a focus on special features on past toy lines (which mostly consisted of a mint on card picture and small caption of each figure, which over time was repeated in different formats for subsequent editions) there was too little left to warrant $8.95 per issue.

Oh. Did I mention toy magazines never adjusted their prices even though the Canadian and U.S. dollar have nicely converged in recent years? Oh yes.

That leaves me reading Tomart’s right now. It’s a fine magazine that tries to put some thoughtful pieces together from time to time. Oh there’s a lot of toy porn in its pages, but it doesn’t rely on a price guide to round out its pages. And its historical features are much more interesting.

That said, even the good can be bad sometimes. Take this recent issue - #188 - and the reason for this post. An eight page piece on JoeCon entitled “The Ultimate GIJoe Convention”, it’s a picture happy piece that nicely fellates Hasbro, the event and its organization. The trouble is that the authors get a little too hot and bothered with Hasbro and fail to give proper credit:

“Authenticity is a word you often hear in a conversation with a Hasbro design team member because they go to extreme measures that every detail of theirs are the best that can be done in the miniature scales in which they must work. That attention to detail is obvious in the exclusive convention sets and figurs offered this year…”

The problem of course is that Hasbro doesn’t design the Convention exclusives, Lanny and FunPub do. And while the exclusive Joes are a nice feather in Hasbro hats, in terms of giving something to the fans, they can’t take credit for more than giving the designs the go-ahead and letting the Convention organizers use their facilities.

It’s a little point. But little points are often the ones that drive me crazy. Credit where credit is due, Tomart’s!

February 12, 2010

Transformers: Animated

Filed under: Transformers, collecting, comment — fairplaythings @ 1:51 am

Yup. Still no Collectible of the Week. Basically I’m preoccupied with organizing bills (lame adult stuff) and haven’t had a chance to properly photograph the pictures for the next few Collectible entries. I’ll get there yet!

In the meantime, inspired by today’s shortpacked, I found that I suddenly had a lot to say on Takara’s upcoming release of Transformers: Animated. It’s not good and it coalesces around three themes: colour applications, size, and what could have been.

The Magnificent Time Delayed Colour Palette

I am sure I am not alone among Transformers fans who have scooped up domestic Hasbro releases, only to find a later and far superior release by Takara. You don’t need to look much further than Universe to see what I mean. Sometimes it’s subtle differences like with Optimus Prime, Inferno and Bumblebee, where you realize you’d prefer the Takara release but can live with Hasbro’s. Other times it is completely radical changes like with Megatron, Starscream and Powerglide, where one could argue that Takara’s look is sooo good that they’ve inspired Hasbro retroactively with reissues.

Most often, like for Ironhide, Ratchet and Smokescreen, it’s just enough to make you kick yourself for not waiting.

For the longest time, though, it looked like Takara would let Animated go the way of Beast Machines, which it only belated picked up ten years after the show went off the air and only as an exclusive for ToysRUs (and which featured the best renderings of unfortunately scaled figures like Silverbolt and Tankor). But less than three years after their debut in North America, Takara surprises us with the pick-up. And then decides to make them less than show accurate by using what looks like a vac-metal paint application.

Very shiny! Very wrong! They look like Transformers: CGI!

On the plus side, it means that I don’t regret picking up the line as it was released, and I don’t have to pay big import fees to get the Japanese market versions. In fact, the only case where I might be interested in such an effort is Shockwave, who would look really cool in vac-metal purple. But the rest can take a pass. And while Hasbro has been fairly consistent with the paint applications for this line, it would have nonetheless been nice to pick up a few particular characters (like Ratchet) who should have enjoyed a little more tender loving care.

It’s All About Size Going off the Cliff

I gotta say the strangest thing about Takara release is the use of Cliffjumper in his Activator mode. Despite what I said about the colour situation, I had presumed that Takara would take the opportunity to put out a Cliffjumper that was in scale with the rest of the line, particularly since Hasbro has already said they were not going to take such action for Cliffjumper and given that they never bothered to redo a Henkei version of the Universe deluxe rendering.

Cliffjumper would have been the clear import winner for the first wave from Takara. Their decision to go the easy route is unfortunate.

RIP Animated: Gone Before Your Time

If it was clear from Botcon 2009 that Animated was dead, the announcement of Transformers: Prime was the sound of Animated being lowered to its final resting place. And while I should never dismiss a show for which I’ve not yet seen an episode, I am very leery of the participation of Kurtzman and Ori (of TF: Boogalo fame)’s in the new cartoon (because it can’t all be Michael Bay’s fault, can it?)

But I can’t help but think that Animated might have been extended if Takara had gotten off the pot sooner and come to the party. So instead of a great show, we’re left with the great unknown. Although I’m quite sure the new toys for the new CGI cartoon would look good in vac-metal colours.

October 22, 2009

Revenge is best served sideways

Filed under: Transformers, collecting, comment — fairplaythings @ 1:20 am

Last night, I went out on what I thought was a vague mission to see what the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen blue-ray steel book looked like. Pretty box really, but not pretty enough to make me want to own a Blue Ray DVD when (a) I don’t yet own a Blue Ray player and (b) I clearly didn’t care for the movie in the first place. I standing by my “no more than one copy” rule, and only then because there is the cool transforming Bumbleshell edition out there at Target in the United States.

That said, if anyone wants me to try and grab them a steel book edition, I’m happy to do so at cost + shipping. The package is $28, plus tax, plus shipping. Just leave me a note if you are interested.

Nemesis Crashing

Anyway, a stop into Toys ‘ R Us revealed the three pack “Gathering at the Nemesis” set featuring the voyager Megatron from the first movie, the Fallen and a vaguely G1 paint application Soundwave. And despite my feelings on the new movie, I might have been swayed enough to pick up the set at $74.99, except that I’d previously grabbed  the Fallen, the one figure in the set I was really keen on. Up until last night, the Fallen (for all the problems he introduced into the “plot” of the second movie) was the only on-screen Movie 2 figure in my collection aside from the deluxe Sideswipe procured as first editions at Botcon 2009, and bought well before I knew just how awful the film would turn out.

With respect to the other voyager figure on offer, I have the U.S. Best Buy tru-colour Voyager Megatron from the first film. So even though this Megatron is pretty close to screen accurate (at least much more so than the first release), I can’t really generate interest to put him on my shelf, particularly given that I turned down the Battle in the Box style gold version of the same Megatron versus Jazz two pack during my last Target order.

And Soundwave still looks terrible and undersized. Maybe if there is a leader class Soundwave, I’ll reconsider him. But not at that size.

Hole in the Sky

The toy line of course is causing me all kinds of mixed feelings, and I can’t really decide if I want to cut it out of my collection like a cancer or allow myself to pick and choose as much as I am inclined to do. Of course, given all the goodness that are the upcoming figures like Brakedown, Dirge and Bludgeon, among others, there is bound to be some TF2-labelled toys in the collection. And it’s true that I am resisting the likes of Deluxe Ravage and Devastator, to say nothing of Deluxe Mudflap and Skids, as well as those figures whom I already have in abundance in the same scale from the last film like Bumblebee and Prime.

But there is not a clear line, in which I can say I won’t buy anything, a situation made worse knowing that a portion of the profits go into Michael Bay’s pocket (although I don’t know if that agreement includes non-screen transformers.)

I am having big issues with the Legends scale figures, since I love this scale and have done as much as possible to gobble up the previous reiterations of this line. It feels like a big sucking black hole to leave out the TF2 figures and yet I cannot justify them at their regular price.

Unfortunately, I cannot resist the Fact Action Battlers. I expect to grab them all including the abominations that are Skids and Mudflap. That said, at $15.99, I’m going to try to pick them up on discount, although the Grindor repaint of Blackout almost came home last regardless of price.

The absence of TF2 Robot Heroes from my collection is a little easier to justify, not because I don’t love them because I absolutely do, but because the movie ones lack the fun that made their G1, BW, BM and even Movie 1 versions must haves in the collection. The hole bothers me, of course, but somehow not as much. The only set where I am waffling is the Battle of the Fallen set, and then only because the Fallen is so big and the Prime/Jetfire hybrid is well-done.

Gravity bots are definitely a no. I like the hot wheels-inspired RPMs but they are a lot of money. And they aren’t really transformers. Likewise the Robot Replicas, which despite my love of Action Masters, I avoided for the first film and will avoid for its sequel.

Compromise Bloody Compromise

As for the main line (so far), here is my list of yes, no and maybe (i.e., only if on sale), and what I have to date.

Basic: Brakedown, Dune Runner
Deluxe: Autobot Gears, Brawn, Breakaway, Dirge, Lockdown, Sideways, Smokescreen, Swerve, Thrust
Human Alliance: Barricade, Sideswipe
Voyager: Bludgeon, Long Haul (but basically because he looks so good in classic Construction green), Mindwipe
Leader: Starscream
Exclusives: The Fury of Fearswoop

Basic: Ejector, Scalpel
Deluxe: Skids, Wheelie, Blazemaster, Bumblebee, Cannon Bumblebee, Deep Desert Brawl, Interrogator Barricade, Mudflap, Ravage, Soundwave, Stalker Scorponok, Strike Mission Sideswipe, Tuner Mudflap
Voyager: Deep Desert Ratchet, Defender Optimus Prime, Demolisher, Ironhide, Megatron, Mixmaster, Optimus Prime, Stratosphere
Exclusives: “Burning” The Fallen, Gathering at the Nemesis
Leader: Devastator, Shadow Command Megatron

Basic: Dead End, Knock Out, Nightbeat, Ransack, Reverb, Rollbar, Scattershot, Sonar, Wideload<
Deluxe: Arcee, Armorhide, Ratchet, Skids+Mudflap, Chromia, Rampage
Human Alliance: Bumblebee, Skids
Voyager: Grindor, Starscream, Recon Ironhide
Exclusives: Superion, Super Tuner Throwdown (Blowpipe vs. Sideways)
Leader: Jetfire, Megatron, Optimus Prime

Basic: Depthchage, Dirt Boss
Deluxe: Dead End, Jolt, Sideswipe
Voyager: The Fallen,
Exclusives: Ramjet, Skywarp, Whirl + Bludgeon two pack, Straightaway Shootout

You notice two things on this list - Starscream and the Mudflap and Skids two-pack. On Starscream, even though the figure is just a repaint, the repainted symbols are really nice. But I think my solution will be to get the upcoming Leader scale version of the character which gives me a different scale but all the bells and whistles that are appealing about this look. Although I am a sucker for seekers.”

As for Mudflaps and Skids, despite my loathing of these characters, the ice cream truck idea was pretty neat. So I’m torn there. Maybe it’s a sales package only.

My wavering on toys seems to have taken me away from the conclusion of the trip last night, which, again, was to simply see the steel box of the Fallen in its native environment, the sale’s shelf at FutureShop. We then went next door to BestBuy where I remembered the real reason for the trip, which was to see the new Shout! Production of the original cartoon in all its 16 disc glory.

And lo, there it was, on sale at $99 and giving me hope that the GIJoe companion set would be similarly featured for the release of the Rise of Cobra.

The plan was to simply buy one for my nephew for Christmas and tuck it away until the holidays. Because I own all the Rhino Generation One DVDs (which I can’t really part with because they are signed by the likes of Michael Bell), a problem I don’t have with the Rhino incomplete GIJoe collection. And yet, the draw of special features and the oh-so-matrixy box and the price was too much and I surrendered.

Upon getting to the cash, I was surprised when the cashier paused me to run and get a special add-on. Yes, the Revenge of the Fallen promotional t-shirt came with each package, so I got a free shirt I’ll likely never wear. But still, it’s something, right?

So then we went home and I popped in the special features during my Halloween costume work, and it was all worth it. I can’t wait to see the scripts when I have time to load the DVDs into a computer.

August 18, 2009

Killing in the name of Optimus Prime

Filed under: Transformers, comment — fairplaythings @ 5:21 pm

I’ve already spoken extensive on Transformers: Revenge of the Bay here, here, here and here. I’m so done with that movie. The only redeeming thing about it is that the urge to buy toys based on the movie is very limited. Even the usually adorable Robot Heroes are of little interest to me. Aside from some G1 repaints, this represents the first line that will not be extensively represented on the shelf (and what will be represented will definitely be non-screen formers).

However, I was checking out seibertron.com today, and drooling over Jim ’s always-awesome repaints, when I stumbled upon his rant against the critics. Now this is not to pick on Mr. Saotome, who is simply echoing a lot of the backlash in the fan community to the near-universal derision to the film by critics, but it seems every time that damn film comes up among fans of said film and my opinions are made known, I hit variations of the following points:

(1) “Oh you’re just a G1 purist”;
(2) “You are suppose to suspend disbelief / put your brain on the shelf and enjoy the ride;” or
(3) “You are old and you just don’t get it.”

On this last point, allow me to elaborate the sentiment. To quote Mr. Saotome: “With each thumbs down and one-star rating they vengefully toss forth, these popular movie critics threaten the market and future of the genre we know and love. They have no business reviewing movies they do not understand and lack the intelligence and open mindedness to accept such films into the fray. This frame of mind is dangerous and impedes any sort of progress for the future of such films. True enough the critics of yesterday live to enjoy the classics, movies they claim have beautiful insight in to humanity and where a Patsy Cline score can be heard playing in the background. And that’s all well and good for that is their schoolyard playground where they can rule as king of the sandbox. But they fail terribly when they try to grasp the spectacular, or try and understand the love someone holds in their heart just to see their favourite giant robots walk across the screen for the first time. The movie critics will scream and yell, casting down upon the directors and producers of this abomination to Hollywood’s credit.”

Allow me then to rebut all three of these arguments.

G1 Purist

While it is true that my entry into the fandom comes by way of Generation One, no one can argue I am a purist. Allow me to demonstrate my credentials:

1. I am an enthusiastic collector of non-transforming Action Masters.
2. Not only do I like Generation Two, but, against my better judgment, I actually wanted to see General Optimus and Sergeant Hound released.
3. I embraced Beast Wars long before it was known to have G1 reference points and consider it one of the greatest story accomplishments aimed at a “kid’s” market.
4. I enjoyed and enjoy Beast Machines and, contrary to many fans, consider it to be sadly underrated.
5. While I find the cartoons for Robots in Disguise / Car Robots (2000) and the Armada-Energon-Cybertron trilogy (2002-2006) hard to deal with, I do enjoy the latter’s comic book run through Dreamwave.
6. I think Transformers: Animated is the best possible reimagination of a series I could imagine, and was greatly saddened by its conclusion.

It goes without saying that I have a collection of Transformers that easily enters into four digits and spans all generations prior to the movie. Interestingly, of all those lines, it is probably Generation One itself where there are the biggest gaps. So much for a purist.

But can I add more to this resume? Of course I can. Because I ACTUALLY ENJOYED THE FIRST MOVIE.

Yes, one can say that out loud and not be struck down.

Was Transformers a cinemagraphic epic? No, but it had a great first act and an enjoyable third act, both of which allow me to sit through the fart jokes and attempts at humour in the second act. It had enough touchpoints of my childhood, done in a way that I felt respected that memory, that I felt like watching the movie eight times in the theatre.

All this to say I can deal with variations and new thinking on childhood memories.

When I am asked to elaborate on my problems with the movie, however, I don’t focus on all my issues. The nonsensical plot. The plot chasms. The inherent sexism. The idiot robot twins. The inability to feel for the robots. The inability to distinguish one robot from another. I focus on the big ones for me. They used the sequel to turn Optimus Prime into a remorseless killer and Megatron into a toadie.

Optimus Prime is a hero. He is not an executioner. Like Superman, he would find a way to prevail without taking the easy way out through murder. Watching this Optimus Prime was worse than watching him die. He was already dead to me.

And Megatron? A second banana? Not Megatron. Never Megatron.

Brain on Shelf

I can tolerate plot holes and I can enjoy popcorn, but movie enjoyment does not mean I have to accept a film that insults my intelligence. If you look at films like Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter, Batman and Ironman, Superman and Star Trek, you can see how popular stories can be told on the big screen without offending their fans. Some films may be better than other but there is an effort to remain true to the essence of the characters. Take Watchman. Regardless of one’s thoughts on the movie, here is a film that respects where it came from and tries to ensure it can live up to its inspiration. I might have issues with this scene or that plot point, but I respect that. Because in a way, it is showing respect to me, as someone who went to see the film.

A good film means that I can immerse myself in the experience as oppose to checking my watch, and contemplate whether I should try and get my money back.

We Are the Future

It’s interesting to me to see how many people have embraced this film. I cannot honestly begin to tell if it is because there is safety in numbers or that they just don’t see many movies. Because the critics that are so invisorated by the fans of this film are willing to take unpopulist positions and have seen and studied enough films to have valid opinions. There is nothing wrong with Roger Ebert’s writings on the film, but to say he’s missing the context of the movie is misreading what makes a good or a great film. A popular film is different than a great film. And a great film does not rely solely on the lowest common denominators of big tits, fast cars and mondo explosions to be great.

Michael Bay didn’t destroy my childhood. It’s still safely in a box, in my house and in my heart. He just embarassed me and ruined what could have been.

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