This month’s Member Spotlight takes us across the big pond to the UK. Seibertron ponderer, Sledge, gives us the British perspective on collecting Transformers. Sledge reveals all - from the woes to the heydays; to the juicy scandals that tinge Transformers collectors in the UK. Sledge also gives us tips on Fan Fiction writing and uses his sorcery to make predictions about the upcoming Transformers movie. Stormrider: Top to the morning to you governor. So Sledge, what has it been like collecting Transformers in the U.K.? Sledge:
I think the expression is something like “it’s often been a headache, but it’s never been a bore." Right now, we’ve got things pretty good. A lot of high street stores are stocking a decent range of TF products. In the past, it’s been a mixed bag. The G1 days I remember as being pretty good, with more stuff on the shelves than six-year-old Sledge could ever hope to have bought for him. I can’t really comment on the Beast era as I had no interest in the toys. RID was pretty good, but the Unicron Trilogy era had a lot of problems. Some of the best stuff just never seemed to make it to our shores, whilst some mediocre stuff warmed shelves forever.Stormrider: Are you a member of the Disgruntled Brits? (What happened to that group anyway?)Sledge:
Well, I post in the ODB thread a fair bit. Don’t know if that makes me a member, or if they exist as any sort of group outside that thread. If there’s a secret handshake, they haven’t told me about it yet.Stormrider: You are obviously not disgruntled enough.We often hear tidbits about distribution problems with Hasbro UK. Is it true that the British love juicy scandals more than their Transformers? Can you elaborate? And why do Australians have fewer distribution problems when they have less people? Sledge:
We do seem to love us some scandal. There was a great one a couple of months ago where a rumour began that Hasbro UK were dropping the TF:Animated toyline. Cue days of gnashing of teeth, complaining and a few people saying “Told you Animated was rubbish." Turned out that Hasbro wasn’t planning to release wave 3.5 of the line, as it only introduced one new figure, and they’d just go straight to wave 4.
I think it’s a British thing that we really love having something to sink our teeth into and have a good moan about, so stuff like that really gets us excited. Heh, maybe if we did get everything we wanted, we’d be miserable as sin. Actually, I think that was the moral of a Star Trek episode.
As for why Aussies don’t have the same problems, I really don’t know. Something to do with being closer to China and Japan, maybe? Or just that the rest of the world hasn’t forgiven us for that whole British Empire thing.Stormrider: Collecting Transformers seems like a tough hobby to pursue in the U.K., is it not? How dedicated do you have to be? And how do purchase most of your stuff? Sledge:
I don’t think it’s as easy as it is in the States, if only because we pay double what the septics do. I think that does imply a certain level of dedication even before you factor in looking for the stuff you want. At the moment, collecting the mainline stuff is fairly manageable. TFA and Universe are showing up in high street stores, and I’ve seen most of what I want available locally. I do order a fair amount online though, simply because the prices can be so much better. I bought two Animated Voyagers and a Movie Deluxe from Play.com for less than the cost of a Voyager and Deluxe at normal retail prices. You just can’t ignore that sort of saving. That said, I keep a close eye on store websites for offers. If I can buy locally without getting ripped off, I will. I hope that this encourages stores to keep stocking Transformers, which increases the chances of kids seeing them and getting into them. And maybe encourages Hasbro UK to stop treating UK TF fans like lepers.Stormrider: Do exclusives kill you? Sledge:
Yes and no. Obviously, in an ideal world, everyone who wanted something would be able to buy it. That ain’t gonna happen. I just can’t afford a Fortress Maximus at the moment, for instance. What does kill me is when we in the UK don’t get the same chances at exclusives that America and Japan do, or if we’re going to get the same chance. All the lovely store exclusives (Movie Fracture, Universe comic twin packs, etc) America gets may or may not show up here. So you kinda have to play a guessing game as to what will show up and what you need to import. Then there are the Hasbro Toy Shop exclusives that Hasbro UK has no interest in stocking like Overkill, Dragstrip and Nemesis Prime. That really does annoy me, because I’d like to support the company, but all we get back from them is a flat “no." Not even advice on whether we can order from HTS US or some other solution. Gits.Stormrider: The Hasbro Toy Shop pre-order seems like a no brainer to make a profit: cut out the middle man; raise the retail price because it is labeled as “Special Edition”; and then have less overhead and risks because an exact number of figures will be produced and shipped based on the pre-order numbers. I think this would make a great question for our next round of questions to Hasbro. …Sledge, are you taking notes?Well, back to the interview - Have there ever been heydays in England? Sledge:
Right now is pretty good, exclusives aside. I’m able to find a lot of what I want in stores. Other than that, I guess maybe back in the end of G1/beginnings of G2 when we did get some exclusive stuff. Stormrider: What’s your typical reaction when you read comments from other members complaining about quality control problems with their toys that are not readily available in England?
A. “Quit your crying. At least you can get these toys."
B. “I’m glad we didn’t get that junk here."
C. “I’m still holding out for the Hasbro UK release. I know they won’t let me down."Sledge:
Probably a combination of A and C. It’s difficult to have a lot of sympathy for someone complaining that the paint apps on their Universe Overkill aren’t perfect when you’re still trying to buy one without auctioning off a kidney. On the other hand, it seems to me that a lot of the earliest releases suffer problems that have disappeared by the time we get the items in the UK. Plus by the time say, Animated Lockdown was out here, other people had broken theirs and figured out the best way to modify his hands.Stormrider: So what got you into Transformers? Describe your first toy experience.Sledge:
When I was about five, my parents bought me Mirage. G1 Mirage, as this was back in 1984. Sadly, Mirage had to go back to the shop as his rifle was missing, and I ended up with Sideswipe instead. Still got him, albeit with both arms broken off. I loved that toy, who wouldn’t? A red sports car that turns into a warrior robot, and that storyline and bio on the back of the box. I was sold. Then the cartoon happened and that was it. I know bashing the G1 cartoon has become quite popular in recent years, but it stands head and shoulders over what a lot of other shows were doing at the time. Watch a couple of episodes of GoBots on YouTube and you’ll see what I mean.Stormrider: How long have you been collecting? How many do you have now?Sledge:
Since ’84, with a break for the Beast era. As for a count, I really don’t know at the moment. I haven’t really got the space for a display (I am SO envious when I see people with shelves dedicated to showing off their collection). It’s a lot, and certainly enough that people ask me “don’t you have enough yet?"Stormrider: What do you think about repaints?Sledge:
Same as I think about any other toy, to be honest: if it’s good, I like it. I don’t really understand the anger repaints seem to attract from some people. Maybe its just having been with Transformers from the beginning that I remember the line was built on repaints. I’m more inclined to buy a repaint if it’s a character that is normally a repaint (Bluestreak and Smokescreen from Prowl for instance) or if it’s been modified in some way (Universe Sideswipe and Sunstreaker). And it’s not like we’re forced to buy them.Stormrider: Are you into the Masterpiece or Encore series? Universe? Or, perhaps the soon to be released - 25th Anniversary series? What figures would you like to see next?Sledge:
I’m kinda divided on the Masterpiece line. Prime remains one of my favorite TFs ever, such a perfect rendition of the character I watched and loved in the cartoon. I haven’t bought the others yet, because they seem to have moved away from the idea of “how can we make something as close to the cartoon model as possible” into being big Alternators. MP Starscream is a great rendition of an F-15, but he doesn’t work for me as a G1 Starscream. I’ve seen some mods people have done to improve him, but why should I have to modify a “masterpiece”? The original prototype pictures for that mold looked a lot better. Grimlock is looking pretty good, but I’ll wait for pictures of the finished item before getting really excited.
The Encore series doesn’t really interest me. Despite being a huge G1 fan, the toys just aren’t as much fun to play with as the new stuff. I’ve picked up a few reissues and pretty much always felt a little disappointed with them. “Ok, so now he can stand with his arms up or his arms down. Great. Um… ooh, RID Prime! Think I’ll play with him for a bit."Stormrider: What do you think about shoe formers that Takara came out with? Sledge:
That was pretty random. I’d love to have been in on the meeting that produced that, although I suspect my anti-drugs stance would have ruled me out.Stormrider: How about the Object formers that came out with the movie line last year?Sledge:
I thought the Real Gears were the best new molds in the Movie line. Spyshot 6 stands out for me. Basically a rectangle that turns into a robot, but they came up with an unexpected transformation and a great little robot mode. Plus it was great to see some everyday objects as TFs for the first time since G1.Stormrider: Have there been any periods that you have lost interest?Sledge:
I lost interest during Beast Wars/Machines. The organic thing just didn’t work for me. I think there are only three toys from that time that I own: Polar Claw, some sort of squid thing and Tankor. Tankor was on clearance, the squid thing was me thinking, “I guess I should at least try the new stuff," and Polar Claw is awesome. A polar bear who fires his leg as a bat. How do you get better than that? Mind, I have just bought the original bat Optimus Primal. He’s the goddamn Bat Prime.Stormrider: And I thought you said ‘no’ to drugs…?
Are you into any of the more recent Transformers cartoons?Sledge:
I loved RID, and must get round to picking it up on DVD. A really fun series, and Neil Kaplan’s Prime was a good homage to Peter Cullen. The Unicron Trilogy stuff didn’t work for me at all (too many kids, the Pokemon aspects of Armada, etc). I’ve only caught two episodes of Animated so far, what with it being on a channel I keep forgetting about, but I like what I’ve seen. The human villains need to go, but it’s a fun show.Stormrider:
Who is your favorite character?Sledge:
I want to come out with something either badass like Thunderwing or obscure like Phaser, but it’s G1 Optimus Prime. From the cartoon, not the more emo version from the comics. Prime had a sense of humour and a real temper that he worked to keep in check. Compare that to most of the leader characters from ‘80s cartoons and it’s difficult not to love the guy. And of course, Peter Cullen could probably make a reading of the phone book sound awesome.Stormrider: When you watch the G1 cartoons, what is your reaction when you hear the British voices for Perceptor and Sky Lynx? Do their voices seem sophisticated and/or pompous? Or do their voices seem normal to British folks?Sledge:
Sky Lynx’s voice always seemed right to me. A bit pompous, but then he seems to have the talent to back it up. Perceptor… not so sure. I’ve never liked the character, so I’m not sure how to judge his voice. I don’t think either voice would be considered “normal” to a Brit, Sky Lynx seeming a bit upper class and Perceptor being a boffin. I wonder if we’ll ever see a TF talking like a chav?Stormrider: Maybe Ali G can be the next guest star for TF Animated?
You’re an rational type of guy, what do you think of the fandom in general? Sledge:
I am? Blimey. Then again, looking at some of the people around here…
I guess the fandom is a microcosm of society really. There’s some intelligent people, some dumb people and a lot of people wondering why everyone keeps shouting at each other when they’re all supposed to like the same thing. I think a lot of the fandom doesn’t appreciate how lucky we are that Hasbro listens to us as much as they do, which gets quite irritating when you get the three millionth “Why don’t they make a figure that me and three other people want?" thread.Stormrider: It's time for some dark archane devination. Ok, I am giving you a crystal ball. Here you go….don’t drop it. Now, I want you to gaze deeply into the crystal ball and tell us what you foresee for Revenge of the Fallen.Sledge:
Woah, that thing's slippery. Ok, I’ll rest it against this Animated Bulkhead. Let’s see…Stormrider: Ignore the slippery feeling. I was just doing the dishes.Sledge:
Revenge of the Fallen will do very well. It’ll have plenty of explosions, not much characterisation and will divide the fandom again. It’ll probably set up for a sequel, because Hollywood thinks in terms of trilogies these days. The toys will continue the look of the first movie. I will complain about this, but end up buying them anyway. Damn you, Hasbro!Stormrider: Wow, you saw all that? I didn’t think that thing actually worked. I bought it at some flea market years ago. So I take it you’re not looking forward to the movie toys?Sledge:
Not really. I know I’ll end up buying some of them, but the look they’ve gone with for the movies doesn’t really work for me. The pics we’ve seen of what appears to be Soundwave look bloody awful to me, but I’m pretty sure that’s a protoform type thing intended for release as a preview. Time will tell…Stormrider: I have heard that you have done some Fan Fiction writing, is that correct? Tell us a little about it.Sedge:
I’ve dabbled. My first was a story about Prime and Megatron inadvertently going on holiday to the same planet where they’re not allowed to fight. I posted it on one of the newsgroups back in about 2000 and I think it was liked. Few years later, my humourous take on the script of The Transformers: The Movie went up on Fanfiction.net to favourable comments until it was taken down for reasons I never found out. Right now, I’ve got other stuff in various stages of completion from “just needs a little more tweaking” to “hey, that’s a good idea for a story. I’ll make a note of that and come back later."
I think fanfic writing is the adult equivalent of playing with Transformers on your bedroom floor. In some ways it’s even more fun, because it’s easier to stage big fights and you’re not limited by what toys you own.Stormrider: So what kind of support is there for people that want to get into fan fiction writing? Any tips for folks? Are there certain areas to stay away from?Sledge:
I’m not sure there’s much in the way of support, but I haven’t really looked for any. As for tips, where to start?
1) If someone wants to start writing, I think they should start by reading. It almost doesn’t matter what, just read, see what works and what doesn’t.
2) Read some fanfiction and see what concepts keep cropping up. There’s nothing wrong with doing an idea someone else has written about, but you need to bring something new to it.
3) Be prepared to junk large sections of text when you read it back and think, “this is terrible."
4) Be prepared for criticism, and listen to it, unless it’s jerks telling you “u suck fag."
5) If you’re writing in G1, please try not to make up characters. There are so many characters who’ve never done anything in any cartoon or comic that there’s bound to be one who’s ideal for the story you want to tell. Give Kick-Off some time rather than creating a gritty new ex-gladiator Autobot.
6) Most importantly: spell check. Seriously. You’re on a computer. Run the damn thing through a spell checker. Personally, I’m not going to bother reading something if the title and intro blurb is littered with blatant spelling mistakes.
7) Have fun. Very few people are going to get paid for this, so have fun with it. Play. You can do all the adventures you wanted to act out as a kid without the sudden “damn, I don’t have a Hound toy” moments.Stormrider: Okay, it’s time for our word association game. I will say a word or phrase. You need to respond:PerceptorSledge:
Stormrider: Well there you have it folks. British collecting in a complex little nutshell. Up next - CounterPunch grabs the next Seibertron member in for questioning. Stay alert, you may be next.
PS - Sledge will post some pictures soon from his collection.