We return, once more, to the IDW ever-shifting stables and rosters of creatives, for another interview in the Seibertron.com folder of 'the minds behind the hands behind the robots' that we read and love and hate and hate to love and love to hate. This time round? It's an entirely new addition, for an entirely new title, riding the wave of an established story...
Readers, please welcome the co-artist on new title Transformers: Lost Light, the newly renamed brainchild of James Roberts and Alex Milne - Jack Lawrence!
Va'al - Jack, we are ever so grateful to have you find some time for us, with all the new workload you undoubtedly have! You are the latest victim collaborator of James Roberts after all... but, first things first: where does the Lawrence story begin? How did you first encounter Transformers?
Jack Lawrence - Right at the start. I want to say 1984 now of course, but I can't be sure whether it was end of '84 or early '85. My brother was into them first; the only ones available locally at first were the mini Autobots.
He got Bumblebee and Brawn, and not being interested in cars, I got a Skeletor to replace my broken one. Very soon after that I saw the TV show and it all snowballed from there!
Va'al - So you started from the toys, and went into the show - but it sounds like they didn't grab you immediately: do you remember what the actual turning point was for you? Was it a later toy? An episode, a comic issue, or magazine?
Jack - I remember the actual turning point exactly. It was a couple of weeks later, and we were on holiday here in the UK. My brother had Bumblebee and Brawn with him, and another kid here had Optimus Prime.
I was still pretty unimpressed, until I saw the leaflet that came with Prime and there were the Decepticons. I'd had no idea they existed until that point. Megatron, Soundwave and the Seekers just grabbed me and the obsession began!
Va'al - Another one for the bad boys, huh? So the toys have caught young Jack's eye - which was one was your favourite as a kid? Are there any you still kind of miss or would go back to obtain if you could?
Jack - I was 100% Decepticon until the Prime TV series. That show changed the whole thing for me and I've defected to the Autobots (even got the symbol tattooed on my leg to prove it!). As far as the toys go, Soundwave was the one I wanted the most, but didn't actually get him until I bought a second hand one when I was 13 or 14. He was SO hard to find.
But it was the characters and their personalities that kept me hooked rather than the toys themselves. Back during G1, I inevitably tended to be disappointed when I got a new toy. They never seemed to live up to their box art or the Bio card. Powermaster Optimus Prime really stands out for that; the illustration of him on the back of the packaging made him look just absolutely incredible and I was so excited to get him for my birthday. Of course, we all know he's kind of a brick, and kid me was hugely disappointed with his two points of articulation!
So there aren't really any toys I want to go back and get. I tend to look ahead rather than to the past. I absolutely love what Hasbro are doing with the toys now. I'm on the lookout for Weirdwolf, sorry, Wolfwire, at the moment, and I do want a really good Ratchet. He's one of my favourites, but the only version I have is the Prime toy. None of the others have really done it for me. I'm hoping Hasbro will do a nice, chunky one soon.
Va'al - That's fascinating, I can see some of my own thoughts about toys in there, too! If the toys could leave you a little disappointed, then, when did the art and fiction love start? Was it all with the G1 cartoon back in the day, or did something later really stoke the fire (before we reach Prime, as you just said)?
Jack - It was always the bio cards that fired my imagination and kept my love for them going. The mottos alone often gave such incredible insights to these complicated characters. I loved the show, but it was hard to catch over here, so I had all the videos they released and watched them over and over. The Movie still stands as one of my favourite films; I just love it.
I got the Marvel UK comic every week from about issue 23 I think, until it ended. It kept my interest because it was Transformers, but again, it never really lived up to the seeds that were planted in those bio cards. It actually wasn't until the entire Prime universe that it finally clicked into what it had always been in my head. The two video games and the TV series are absolutely perfect as far as I'm concerned.
As a matter of fact, Transformers did lose me in 2009 after Revenge of the Fallen. I did not enjoy the film, and the toys for that and the main line left me cold. The whole landscape of Transformers seemed to lack any of what I originally fell in love with. Not long after that decision, I started to see previews of Prime and a little fire reignited in me. Again, it was tough to catch over here, so as soon as the complete season DVD was released, I grabbed a copy and fell in love again.
Then, a couple of years later, MTMTE came out and was the book I'd always wanted to read, and the book I always knew James was capable of. It very quickly became my favourite comic; I actually stopped buying comics except that one because what was the point? It had everything I needed!
Va'al - So this is talking about the aesthetics and appeal that Transformers had and has on you - what about the interest in actually creating material (art, fiction, anything else), rather than just consuming it? When did that start?
Jack - Well, before I owned any of the toys, I was drawing them based on the photos in that first leaflet. I knew seriously that I wanted to be a comic artist from about the age of 12; Up until then it hadn't occurred to me that it was a job that I could aim for. At that point, it seemed only right that Transformers be one of the comics properties I was aiming to work on.
I got involved with TMUK, the UK-based fan club, in 1995 and started contributing to fanzines. I illustrated "Atonement", a Christmas Optimus Prime story written by James Roberts in 1997, and it's also how I met and became friends with Nick Roche all those years ago.
I've been working as a pro creator since 2003, mainly on UK books. The pay is good, and I sort of fell into a comfortable, but unsatisfying rut. Once IDW got the TF license, I planned on getting some samples together, but work was plentiful and I just couldn't find the time. I worked on Skylanders with them last year and loved every second of it. I knew then that I had to at least try for Transformers. So towards the end of last year, I decided to gamble; stop taking jobs on, work through what I had, then put something together to show IDW. The gamble paid off and, though I can't quite believe it, I'm working on my favourite comic book!
Va'al - For someone working in the robot field for so long, that's actually the first time I've heard that version of the story! We've established that you've been following the fiction for really quite some time - but why become part of its creative team? What really drew you towards making Transformers comics?
Jack - I enjoy drawing them and I have a burning need to create, so I've never really analysed why I want to work on Transformers; I just do. I can tell you I was hesitant to go for it for a long time for two reasons. Firstly, I was nervous that working on something I love would somehow taint it and I was NOT prepared to lose my love for them, and secondly, I wasn't confident that I could do them justice. I started to find, for some reason, that I was getting Transformers commission requests at conventions and as that became more common I realised that not only was it increasing my love for them, I was making people happy with what I was doing. People keep telling me I'm overly critical of my own work and that was obviously what I'd been doing.
The real turning point came when I'd become frustrated and dissatisfied with the stuff I was working on because it all seemed to lack emotional depth. I'm an emotional person, and respond to highly emotive storylines, passionate characters. James has brought a level of that to MTMTE that I rarely see in other comics and I just thought, "That. That's what I want." I'm honestly enjoying my job now more than I have at any time over the last 13 years.
Va'al - That's heartening to hear, as the More Than Meets The Eye fandom has been very vocal in both its appreciation and criticisms of the series! How does it feel to join the ranks alongside Alex Milne? Do the two of you cross paths at all?
Jack - So far, Alex and I haven't really crossed paths at all, other than some brief greetings on Twitter. I've been a fan of his work since the Dreamwave days though, and just love his MTMTE work. Love it.
I'm most excited to be playing in the same sandbox as James and Nick though; we've all known one another for so long, created stuff together as fans. I've rabidly consumed everything they've done at IDW and now the three of us have just been invited to a signing together in Manchester this December. It's really exciting.
Va'al - Yes! You're all TMUK alumni too, right? How are you finding working with James Roberts' scripts, now that you get to not only read them, but materialise them? Do you have any input in the creative process?
Jack - Before I got the script to issue 1, I had people warning me about the length of James's scripts and I had to really hold back from saying, "Look, I've worked in comics since 2003. I've worked to countless scripts; long, short, good, bad. Sometimes terrible! MTMTE, to me, has been the best comic on the shelves since day 1, bar none. Maybe, just MAYBE, part of that can be attributed to James's scripts?"
Nevertheless, I was prepared to settle in for a day and wade through a potentially unwieldy script. That's not the case at all. What I sat down to was 45 minutes of pure entertainment that I couldn't wait to get drawing and I told him as much as soon as I'd finished. And again, working on Lost Light is the most fun I've had in my career to date.
As for input in the creative process, I'm not interested in co-scripting with him; I am a writer, but in this I want to leave James to do what he does. The stuff I'm most interested in exploring creatively is body language and character work. In that I'm given tons of creative freedom.
Va'al - That last part is also very good to hear, but now I'm curious: how do you approach those elements? Do you use references (toys or models or other), do you do rough layouts and drafts, do you jot it all down and go back to it? And, I suppose relatedly, are you a digital or paper kind of artist when it comes to comics pages?
Jack - Usually, when I'm working on a toy line-based property, I buy all the toys and have them constantly at hand for reference. That's how I did it when I was working on Skylanders. But with Lost Light, the character designs are too far removed from the toys, so you can't really do that. I used Alex's designs as reference, kind of finding my own voice in them while keeping continuity with what came before in MTMTE. We'll find out if I was successful in December!
In terms of the process, I do thumbnail layouts which I scan and print out in blue line, then pencil over them. Then I scan the pencils and print those out in blue line and ink them. And yeah, always paper and ink! I love the physical relationship between artist and materials too much to ever go fully digital.
Va'al - That sounds like a very long, and careful process, actually - must come in handy for shows and events where paper sketching is only option available though. I'm curious about your work though: in building your own voice, do you look at any other artistic influence, in robot-designs or anything else in the comics or art world at large?
Jack - My influences for Transformers come mainly from the old box art, back during G1. But it's more an ingrained sort of thing, rather than constantly using it as reference now. As for my comics style, I'm pretty much set in my ways at this point. Besides, deadlines tend to necessitate a "get up and get on with it" attitude!
There are a few artists who have inspired or influenced me over the years; Ed McGuinness, Humberto Ramos, Ryan Ottley, Sean Galloway to name a few contemporary guys. John Romita Jr was THE guy who made me want to be a comic artist, so I have a deep love of clear, uncomplicated storytelling from him. I think, in some ways, my comic style is quite old-fashioned in terms of layout, etc. I like things to be clear. I did get a very simple piece of visual advice from Didier Crisse, ooh, about 10 years ago that I won't bore you with, but that echoes in my mind and I use every single day.
Va'al - I won't pry, but you have definitely piqued my curiosity even further... and I do think this is a good note to end on, actually! Is there anything you want to add to what we've discussed so far, any last words before we see your work in the comics next month?
Jack - No, I think we’ve covered just about everything. I don’t do blogs and stuff, but if you could add my Twitter account, that’d be great!
Va'al - In that case.. thank you for your time, Jack, and we'll see you soon aboard the Lost Light!
You can find Jack on Twitter, and can meet him and James Roberts at the Lost Light #1 signing in London, in December - more details on that event here.
From reading the comments it has come to our attention that buying our dear toys online is not the simplest endeavour, especially when the price range can be so wide along with all the differences between each online vendor. With Masterpiece toys, there is also the issue of having it imported for you or importing it yourself. Added to that, with a Masterpiece Megatron toy, you also have to deal with it turning into a gun and what that might entail. So here is a rundown of a range of online vendors (not an exhaustive list, I just picked those of which I know best) showing you what your options are, how you can get him for much cheaper than it seemed at first, but also what you are giving up with the cheaper price. I hope this helps.
Importing from Japan
We will now be looking at 4 Japanese sites where you can import the figure yourself. This means that you are to deal with possible customs fees (applicable to Canadians, Europeans, ect) and will be paying a hefty fee to ship the product from Japan. However, these sites get their products from Takara and thus will have the best prices online. None of these Japanese vendors will be opening the package to insert an orange plug into the barrel.
Nippon Yassan: We are starting with them because unlike every other Japanese vendor, they actually give you an estimate on the shipping, which you must pay up front. This gives us our best idea at what other places will charge for shipping. Here are the shipping quotes given for Masterpiece Megatron to ship to North America (or a similar distance from Japan).
Keep in mind, these are all estimates and they may fluctuate depending on vendor and the conversion rate. We can see that for 2-3 week shipping without a tracking number, it is 24.90 Yen ($22.82 USD), with 3$ more for tracking, and the 3-4 days shipping, called EMS, is 4500 Yen ($41.24). These estimated shipping prices will be used for the other sites as we go through the list.
The price of their Megatron is 16580 Yen ($151.94 USD). They have both a pay up front option (where you pay for both the figure and estimated shipping up front) and a pay later option. I have only ever used the pay upfront option (in fear that the yen would rise).
Here is a quote from them regarding this payment option:
"You will receive a notification for the deadline of the payment few weeks or few days before the release of the product, if it reaches the deadline without the payment, this pre-order will be automatically cancelled."
Since they do not have the item in hand to weigh, it can be that their shipping estimate is wrong and they are at liberty to ask you to pay more for shipping if it's more than expected. However, this rarely happens and is more an exception. For instance, it happened with Fortress Maximus, who is very in his own league. You cannot cancel an order with them. They will mark a low amount in the customs form to help the package get through customs quicker and avoid the buyer to pay extra duty upon arrival. I suggest you write to them to confirm you want them to do that. This comes in very handy for people living in countries that have strict duty laws and a heavy taxation.
Price Range of total from 2-3 week shipping to 3-4 day shipping: 19070 - 21080 Yen ($174.75 - $199.77 USD)
Anime Export: Their offer expires November 28th 2016. After that, you will not be able to get this toy for 16100 Yen ($147.54 USD). The reason it is lower than other Japanese sites is because they require you to pay up front. And as anyone who took a finance course might know, cash today is always worth more than cash tomorrow and since they can keep a healthy cash flow (and require less credit from their supplier), they can pass their savings onto you.You will only be charged for the figure and you will be charged for shipping later when the figure is in stock. You cannot cancel an order with them. Also, like Nippon Yassan, they will help you with customs but you must write to them to let them know you would like a lower amount written in the customs form for the product's worth.
Price Range of total from 2-3 week shipping to 3-4 day shipping: 18840- 2060 Yen ($172.65 - $188.77 USD)
Amiami: They are an in between as you will see. Their price is a bit higher, at 17280 Yen ($158.43 USD) but you do not need to pay right away. You are only required to pay when the item is in stock. Cancelling an order is ill seen for this company. If you really can't pay by the time an item is in stock, they can relinquish your order but you may not be welcome to buy from them again. They will write the full amount of the toy's worth on the customs form.
Price Range of total from 2-3 week shipping to 3-4 day shipping: 20020- 21780 Yen ($183.46 - $199.59 USD)
HLJ: They are pricier than others, at 18400 Yen ($168.61 USD) and that is because they offer the most perks. Like stateside vendors, you do not need to pay ahead of time and you can cancel your order at any time before it is in stock. They are used to catering to western consumers and are thus currently looking into whether or not an orange plug will be attached to the barrel:
"Specifics of its packaging are still in the planning stage. When more information is available in the New Year, we’ll determine how best to get this item safely to our customers worldwide. If it turns out to require modification, affected customers will be contacted."
They will write out the full amount of the product's worth on the customs form and since this product is above a price treshold, they will only use the pricier (and faster) shipping option.
EDIT: This policy of theirs seems to have changed and thus a cheaper shipping option may be available.
Price of total for 3-4 day shipping: 22900 Yen ($209.85 USD)
Buying from Importers
As you may notice from all that is above, importing from Japan is not the most sraightforward or streamlined way to get your toys, especially if you have to figure out local laws (like taxation or gun replicas). If you don't want the trouble of importing a product yourself, country specific importers can do it all for you, at a cost. That means they will be paying the high shipping fee you saw above and will thus raise their price to pass the cost onto the buyers. Also, since Takara is contractually not allowed to deal with vendors outside Japan, importers usually deal with an extra middleman which also increases their cost and yours. Their price should not be seen as just the worth of the toy but also the fee for their service of importing it. Many countries or areas have their own importers. Canada has Ages 3 and Up, the UK has Kapow, Australia has Premium Collectables, China has Robot Kingdom, ect.
There are quite a few of these importers dedicated for US customers, like BBTS, TFSource, AJ's Toy Chest, Chosen Prime, VNC Toys and others. All these US vendors are currently selling Megatron for $230 USD, and some offer free shipping. They typically allow you to cancel any preorder that isn't in stock yet and you do not have to pay in advance. To conform to the US law, since they are US vendors, they will be adding an orange plug. It is unknown at this time if it will be glued or not.
While some do ship internationally, they write out the full worth of the toy on the customs form, to conform with US law.
If you buy from Japan, make sure to pay in YEN. A few sites have their own currency conversion which is always less favourable than either Paypal or your own credit card exchange (I personally use an Amazon Visa card for these purchases since it charges no fees for conversion).
Australia has very strict laws and thus I would advise any Australians to look into their own country specific options for this toy (Premium Collectibles seems to be the best place for the least hassle, so head over there for more info. Griffin of OzFormers has put together a handy resource detailing the different laws around Australia and how it affects replica firearm Transformers.
USA customers are not charged duty and thus it does not matter if the price stated on the customs form is high. It would actually be advantageous for it to be as close to the worth of the toy so that it is properly insured.
All prices in this article including shipping are estimates
Reflections of a GI Joe comic by a mostly Transformers comics reader - GI JOE Revolution Issue #1 - by **************
G.I. Book Blurb:
Presently: It’s a clandestine mission to our favorite Transformers playwright’s old hideout… BIKINI ATOLL for an extraction that maybe you wouldn’t predict…
Besides BIKINI ATOLL, and the mention of what has been going on with Optimus Prime, Autobots, and Decepticons, there isn’t much here for Transformers fans except a little gem at the end that I want to hint at with a very vague image below. Next issue of REV should be of much more interest to Transformers readers.
It’s pretty obvious, it’s a REVOLUTION title so it’s going to be about all the main players and continuing that over-arching story-line. It’s the GI JOE ONESHOT though, so mostly, we get Joes. A handful of them to be precise. And a whole island full of zombie-like Dire Wraiths.
AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!!!! Big Hat, Parrot Guy, Nose Man, Darryl, and The Rock
Joe Colton’s death was not a shock to most people keeping up with the series. The fact that he was a Dire Wraith, also not a shock at all. And indeed like the body snatchers of old, and any number of newer horror, sci-fi related movies and materials; this revelation involving several shape changers has sown the seeds of distrust, nervousness, anxiety, and even panic amongst the humans who have been infiltrated: mainly the government and GI JOE.
Who do you trust? How far? With what? The handful of Joes chosen for the mission by Scarlett meant that she could, hopefully, trust her crew and they could trust each other. Whoops…
The only Joes to go on the mission with Scarlett are Rock ’N’ Roll (machine gunner/infantry), Quick Kick (silent weapons), Road Block (Heavy weapons support), Shipwreck and Polly (naval command infiltration/extraction), and Wild Bill (air combat commander/pilot). Seems like a pretty solid group- but to me it does feel lacking-. Seems we have no Mainframe, who featured previously in REVOLUTION and who had ties to ACTION MAN, and the EDC. I think I might need to do a re-read to see if he got lost somewhere and I missed it, but I think, Myles ‘Mayhem’ Manheim may be the culprit, if my memory is doing its thing correctly.
It's really no surprise, when we find out one of this inadequate group is a traitor, a Dire Wraith in disguise, and this traitor looks to take out the group and end the mission tout suite (Who do you take out of that group as traitor? There’s no ‘C” level member, no red shirt, or green shirt...). The result is a nice little bit of horrorfest, which would have been perfect, if distributed about two weeks ago around Halloween. But now is good too.
Friend, Foe, or alien?
It was a somewhat morbid, despairing story that I thought really read well as a tale of deception by the alien Dire Wraith element and the mind-twisting, gut wrenching consequences, with another decent enough twist at the end that won’t pay off until later. Lots of gun play and action, albeit featuring about 6 Joes that have never been listed amongst my personal favorites, but certainly are popular among lots of the Joe fandom. The story becomes most relevant at the end for TF fans, but may not be worth a purchase for those not into GI JOE, or who aren’t collecting all the individual issues of REVOLUTION. Ask your Joe collecting buddy, or REVOLUTION collecting roommate to see the final page, and then wonder about what happens next…
The art was enjoyable, and while a scratchier, lots-of-line-work, somewhat detail-heavy style, it was still pretty slick and appealing. While Scarlett stuck out as seeming a bit to manga/anime-ish at times, and faces lacked eyes or even entire faces in some panels, I did not find it to be off putting or even bad -somewhat adding to the horror and unsettling storyline-. Action scenes were well-executed and very upbeat, if not unrealistic at times (it's a comic, so...). The lettering and colors played well to create the creepy, overall dark feeling that the story pervaded. The dialogue was pretty clear military jargon when it needed to be, but also was able to help you to understand more about their personalities and relationships. Like Rock 'N' Roll is a bit of a jerk.
The comedian or just a jerk?
What does this face mean?
YOUR TAKE (Recommendations, or not)
Skip and borrow for TF fans.
Joe fans**- worth it- certainly if any of those characters are amongst your favorites.
REVOLUTION readers, of course, BUY IT!
No crossbow for this zombie killer!
**GI JOE toy fans might find new reason to buy those new two-packs of Zombie Troopers at TRU, if you can find them. They could make great stand-ins for the Dire Wraith zombie people that are found on BIKINI ATOLL, standing in the way of our heroes and their goal.**
Every two weeks, Seibertron.com brings you a Top 5 list related to all things Transformers written by me, your fellow editor. These are my opinions (just like movie or game reviews hosted by sites are still just the opinion of one person) so what matters most is what you guys think of the topic or list, and I hope to see your own lists or comments on omissions and ranking. Let's have fun! All previous lists can be found here.
Top 5 Most Annoying Transformers Toys
This list was strongly influenced by the community's opinion found in this thread. The idea with this list is that the idea of a difficult toy can mean different things to different people. The most common are how frustrating a toy can be to transform and how complex a toy is and those are very different. So, we will be splitting these lists on difficulty into 2. This first one is about those annoyingly hard Transformers that have one or several steps in the transformation that you get stuck on. The instructions won't help you here, you just have to find the right angle, or something along those lines. Of course, complex transformers can also be annoyingly difficult so there can and will be some overlap but for now, we are mainly looking at those really annoying Transformers toys.
Unless his arms are rotated just right, his front end just doesn't close up properly, and the rear of the shell is tricky to line up sometimes.
Here's what member MGrotusque had to say about the transformation:
I hated that BB transformation. I smashed the thing out of frustration. I got it to a point the last time i transformed it and lost track of what step i was doing and couldn't get is sorted again.
I SMASHED it good
This is a phenominal toy, no doubt. The detail and parts count is astounding and you could never see this repeated at the same price point today. However, inorder to achieve such a massive robot mode from a tight truck mode, there is no slack anywhere. Everything must be put just right with no margin of error. And there are some moments where you must ensure that at least three seperate parts all connect to different places at the same. You must not go over some steps or else you will be forced to go back and undo what you have done since. There is also the two very annoying gimmicks to this toy which will haunt you as you transform him: the electronics that light up his head and make him talk will go off whenever hi head is moved AND the spring swords will just keep undoing themselves. Both these things will keep happening over and over and over and over ...
It is so odd that Hasbro could have an amazingly designed leader class Transformer like the Optimus Prime above and such a total failure like Jetfire in the same line (and even with a possibility to combine them together). What is very annoying about this toy is how it is an overly simple design with a whole robot hiding under a jet. However, because the jet is made up of a bunch of panels, reverting to alt mode is far too time consuming for a very unsatisfying end result. I am certain this is one of the least transformed toys out there.
Now that I have said what is particularly annoying about this figure, I will leave you with these wise words from RK_Striker_JK_5:
ROTF jetfire is not only frustrating, it's just a horrible transformation and toy overall. Almost the entire robot body is slung underneath. It's a load of **(%$#$^* and a waste of money.
I cannot thank RK_Striker_JK_5 for sending me this toy so I could experience it for myself. He was pretty sure it would make this list and he wasn't wrong. This is THE panel former for all ages. It makes Jetfire look like a piece of cake. I tried doing it without the instructions but kept having one or two pannels misaligned. This was the best I could do before having to use the instructions:
Even with the instructions, this guy is a hassle. This is a perfect Transformer to show the difference between a difficult transformation and an annoying one. He isn't that difficult but the fact that his alt mode is a globe which i made up of panels that must fit perfectly together from all sides at the same time makes it beyond annoying to play with.
This toy has a gorgeous car mode and a rather cool robot mode. It has a big problem though: getting from one mode to the next. It just isn't fun. The automorph gimmick doesnt really work everything is super tight and very small and fiddly. And worst of all, the die cast doors keep falling off. They are heavier than every other part and either get in the way or fall off while the serve nothing in the robot mode (aside from a side skirt, maybe). They double the time it would otherwise take to transform this toy and make you rethink if you will ever transform it again.
Honourable mentions: Here is a list of other Transformers that came up in the discussion of annoying toys, listing the parts about them that are the most frustrating.
It's your friendly neighborhood megatronus here, and I'm honored to bring you a momentous, subjective, and totally non-scientific Top 5 'Black Convoy' toys list!
Before we get into the nitty gritty, a few disclaimers. First, many modern 'Black Convoy' toys are overseas or convention exclusives (or both!), and I apologize if some of my selections are inaccessible as a result. Second, the brief history below represents my own limited knowledge - if I'm wrong on the facts, I welcome your corrections. Finally, as with all Top 5 lists, this list is solely representative of the author's opinions and sensibilities. I invite you to disagree with my choices and post your own personal favorites in the thread below.
Let's dive into a brief history and taxonomy of black Optimus Prime repaints. From my amateur perspective, the platonic ideal of 'Black Convoy' draws from 3 main sources:
History Lesson 1: 2001 C-307X Nucleon Quest Optimus Prime
Released as a TRU exclusive in Japan circa 2001, this redeco of Takara's 1988 Super Ginrai was later recolored into Fire Guts Super Ginrai (2002) and Commemorative Series II Powermaster Optimus Prime (2003). Like his brethren, Nucleon Quest Optimus Prime is a good guy; his tech spec states he's merely Convoy in sexy black undergarments:
Tech Spec wrote:Abilities: In order for him to extract the super-energy "Nucleon" that exists in black holes, his entire structure is now protected by a phase modulation shield. He can now carry out activity in super-gravitic environments.
Despite remaining the same Prime we all know and love, this impressive 'Black Convoy' introduces details that would become hallmarks of 'Black Convoy' toys to come, notably the red chest and chrome/silver accents.
Nucleon Quest? Would could possibly go wrong???
History Lesson 2: 2001 Robots in Disguise Scourge
This character is a titan in the minds of many 'Black Convoy' collectors. He's not a Prime at all, however, but rather an entirely separate character in the vaulted Robots In Disguise cartoon of the early aughts. A protoform corrupted with Decepticon programming scanned Optimus Prime, and thusly the no-good copy cat doppelgänger Scourge emerged, to great fan fare.
Despite his grim if unoriginal (gasp! evil clone!) backstory and distinct character model (in other words, he's not a straight redeco of RID Optimus figure), Scourge is notable for his use of the G2 Optimus Prime mold - a figure ahead of its time. Plus, Scourge introduces prominent teals to the 'Black Convoy' equation.
Stand tall, not-quite-Prime. Stand tall.
History Lesson 3: 2003 Armada Nemesis Prime
Nemesis Prime marries the simple black redeco concept a la Nucleon Quest Convoy and the evil doppelgänger aspects of Scourge (in fact, his Japanese name is 'Scourge'). Throw in a Unicronian origin (this is Transformers Armada after all) and behold! You have the makings of an epic destroyer.
Unlike RID Scourge, Armada Nemesis Prime is entity of Unicron. But, like RID Scourge, Nemesis takes form by scanning Optimus Prime, the most respected of the Transformers, and becoming his duplicate. Plus, Nemesis can reconstruct himself - he's one bad mama jama.
Nemesis blends design cues from both Nucleon Convoy AND Scourge - we now have the teals and red chest in a single glorious repaint. Well, actually, multiple repaints; the Nemesis Prime character would see other black, red, and teal incarnations within his native Unicron Trilogy continuity (*cough* Universe Nemesis Prime *cough* (2003) *cough*), grounding the Nemesis character into the fandom's collective consciousness.
Will you be my Nemesis?
The rest... is history!
Did I say history? What I meant was complicated. The rest is complicated.
Post-Armada, a gaggle of 'Black Convoy' toys took on a muted teal and blue deco reminiscent of Scourge's infamous RID cartoon appearance. That's right, I'm looking at you, Nightwatch Optimus Prime (2008), Binaltech Nemesis Prime (2007) and SDCC Nemesis Prime (2008). Interestingly, the two Nemesis bios introduced non-Unicronian origins by way of Dr. Arkeville and Straxus, respectively, further muddling the difference between the formerly distinctive Scourge and Nemesis Prime characters.
But, yes! Even after all that mishigas, evil 'Black Convoy' toys since 2009 have generally rolled up a Scourge-type evil clone backstory in a straight Nemesis-style repaint. There are exceptions (i.e. Lawson exclusives), but black, red, and teal dominate the 'Black Convoy' scene - be it a Nemesis, Scourge, Dark Side, or even just a boring (but beautiful), run-of-the-mill black version of Optimus Prime.
Finally, dear readers, we arrive at the main event - the list of Top 5 'Black Convoy' toys!
Behold! That long slog did not go to waste; it makes my explanation of inclusion criteria that much simpler. You see, for the purposes of this list, I will only consider 'Black Convoys' that check the following two boxes:
***Predominantly black, teal, and red color scheme
***Wicked... looking - that is to say, they may be Autobot aligned, but I could reasonably fudge them for inclusion on a Nemesis shelf for their sheer bad-ass-ery.
To the list!
#5: AD-31B Movie Advanced Black Knight Optimus Prime
The simplified style of AOE (a conversation best left for another day) gave us an underwhelming Leader Class Optimus Prime: smaller, lighter, and less complex. Takara jumped on the opportunity, and remolded Optimus's chest, gave him articulated wrists & hands, and bequeathed him a brand new head sculpt with an interchangeable face. In so doing, Takara saved this figure in the hearts and minds of many collectors.
Then, they painted him black.
Still an Autobot, sure. But now this is an Optimus worthy of "GIVE ME YOUR FACE!" Between the Takara upgrades, sharp deco, translucent red weapons, and a mean looking face, this figure quickly became one of my favorite 'Black Convoy' toys.
#4: Universe Nemesis Prime
A lot has been written about Beast Wars Neo Big Convoy - such is the fate of kibble-tastic shell-formers. But that does not change the fact that this Big Convoy redeco is a beast! Also, he plays an important in the fiction: Nemesis Prime from Armada underwent several iterations within the Unicron Trilogy continuity, and this, boys and girls, is one of them.
Not to mention that this Nemesis Prime - one of the first - is an incredibly fun toy. Between the viking-esque horns, massive gun, and blood red matrix, this surprisingly well articulated recycle of the older Beast Wares Neo figure is the perfect vessel for a bad as bones Nemesis.
Speaking of which, he gets major points for the PG13 blood on those horns, which look evil as all heck. You don't want to be caught out alone on the icy tundra, that's for sure.
#3: Transformers GO! Hunter Nemesis Prime
When Optimus received his life-saving upgrade at the outset of Transformers Prime: Beast Hunters, I knew we'd get a big beefy toy to match Prime's new on-screen chassis. What I didn't realize at the time was how awesome a Nemesis Optimus's new beefy template would make.
In this age of 'big-bads' being physically bigger (and badder), having a brute of a Nemesis is wonderful. He looks tough, a look accentuated by his jagged chest spikes and Megatron-esque pylon shoulders. Nemesis's sword, which in his hands resembles more of a hatchet or machette, only enhances and rounds out this characterization. Then you have the great battle mask, a significant improvement over the original toy's Optimus face, which I can only describe, generously, as derpy. All together, this Nemesis just kills it, in the best way possible.
#2: Tokyo Toy Show United Black Optimus Prime
This one's a Classic. Literally.
Coming some years off the heals of the previous reigning black Classics Prime, SDCC Nemesis Prime (see Blue Period, above), this figure updates this 'Black Convoy' with the more modern, distinctly Nemesis deco. The teals and reds pop, and the greys add some dimension to Prime's black palette.
One of the reasons I selected this figure is just how well the Classics Prime mold has held up all these years. Especially in an environment where so many current lines (Combiner Wars, Titans Return) hark back to G1, the Classics sensibility of updating characters in new ways gives this 'Black Convoy' a sense of being more a Prime look-a-like than the genuine article, which suits this sinister, Decepticon-branded evil Prime just fine on my shelf.
#1: Tokyo Toy Show United Darkside Optimus Prime
Welcome to the dark side! For me, it was really no contest - I love this 'Black Convoy', a lovely and fantastically well done redeco of the War For Cybertron deluxe Optimus Prime figure.
The perennially-popular War For Cybertron design grants this Prime a uniquely organic look. From the panel lines on his battle mask, to the contours of his chest cavity, all the way down to his leg panels, this Prime exudes elegance. His flared out shoulders blend naturally with back wheel kibble that fills out his form and complements his rather graceful stature. All this, combined with a sharp-as-a-knife metallic paint job, and this Darkside 'Black Convoy' packs an out-sized punch for a relatively small deluxe figure.
And yet, with all of these wonderful design cues, we still have a mean, dark, or perhaps downright evil expression. Through the prism of his organic lines, his glare screams of a singular focus and unbridled rage. Of all of the 'Black Convoys' on my list, I consider this one to be the most dangerous. #1, all the way.
Photo Credit: ThunderCougar @ DeviantArt
Yes, there were several 'Black Convoy' figures that didn't make the cut - they were lean, they were mean, but the each had something that made me say,'ehhh...' They are:
-Jetwing Optimus Prime, Black Version: this mold is awesome, this figure is awesome. You know what's not awesome? His lack of battle mask. Had to deduct some badass points for that.
-RID Scourge: yes, he's a progenitor of the 'Black Convoy' genre, and he has aged well - but still, he's a tad too old school for my tastes. I know he would easily make others' lists, just not mine.
-TFCC TFSS 1.0 -OR- LG EX Scourge: the black versions of RTS Laser Prime figure are fierce, but in a scrappy way. I have a harder time finding this mold menacing, even if he checks off several boxes.
-TA01 Animated Optimus Prime, Black Version: this figure is very nearly the complete package, but his huge Autobot symbol really throws me off. His giant axe alone made this figure the hardest call.
-MP10B Black Convoy: this mold is a benchmark in design, and he even has the molded Decepticon symbol. My issue is his head sculpt; it's too neutral, too gentle. Not evil enough - my puppy dog looks meaner than MP10B.
Don't give me that look.
That's my list! I hope you enjoyed it.
Did I miss your favorite 'Black Convoy'? Share it with us below, and stay tuned to Seibertron.com for all the latest Transformers news, and the best galleries around!
THUNDERCRACKER AND BUSTER SAVE THE WORLD! A DECEPTICON who wants to be a screenwriter. A dog who wants to, I don’t know, eat stuff and chase squirrels or whatever dogs want to do. A White House under siege by DIRE WRAITHS. And the phone call that brings them all together.
I am still catching up on schedules and timings, so apologies for the slightly late review again! And, with that out of the way, a word of warning: I have not had the easiest time with this comic or its review. I spoke to other staff members, and took a look around other readers to form a better idea of it. I'm still unsure about some aspects, too. BUT - read on for more!
The Transformers ongoing dips its toes in the Revolution pool by letting John Barber bring us back to one of the unsung heroes of the series, Thundercracker - and it's definitely the most apt choice that could've been made for the setting and plot: Earth lover, dealing with Earth issues and truths and things that may not be what they seem.
The device used in the script - using the infamous Josh Boyfriend screenplay as running introspective commentary - is well placed, and nicely executed. Sometimes, however, I felt like some of the action was forced for the sake of a joke or a twist in the words, and it jerked me out of the enjoyment. On the other hand, we also get some very nice Faireborn characterisation, and some good moments with sounboards Buster, DOC, Bob, too.
..and Marissa Faireborn
The plot itself, while obviously not irrelevant, is nothing to write home about, and the book truly is about Thundercracker's place in the conflict, in the story, in the factions, and in relation to the characters around him since we've seen him return in the IDWverse. But for me, sometimes, that doesn't land fantastically. Yet more thoughts below.
It's good to see the other hand responsible for this incarnation of the big blue back in action on the title, and Andrew Griffith brings all of his experience into the visual side of the book, with some great layouts and accompanying presence to the wordings - including some of the human features that I still at times find a little off putting (some of the jawlines, mainly), though never too distracting.
A relatively new colour collaborator joins Griffith on the book: Teyowisonte Thomas Deer. We've seen in on covers and in action on Till All Are One, but the style he uses with this linework is more muted, perhaps a little grittier and definitely fitting the Dire Wraiths plot side of the story - and a pleasure to watch, really. Some of the contrasts in palette are top notch.
Lettering wise, we also have a new name: Gilberto Lazcano. And he really does bring it all: the screenplay captions, the Dire Wraith dialogue, the differences in volume and the sound effects are incredible, and incredibly well balanced, something that is very much needed with this type of issue. And of course, we once more have a whole lotta covers, so you can pick and choose, from Matere to Griffith and Lafuente, to Christiansen to Ramondelli (thumbnailed), to Tyndall and Moss, via Coller and Bove.
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
The script device, while amusing and introspective as I said above, can also lead to some crowded panels, and the visual team are good at making sure they're not over crowded, but still. It got in the way at times, and I kept thinking something was off - though I still cannot figure out what or why (there are definitely some editing issues, that much is true).
This issue, more or less
The dialogue is good, but the words are busy; the art is busy, but it does everything pretty much right; the lettering, the colouring, the layouts are clearer than what the script might create, and the story is impacting the Revolution plot somewhat tangentially, and it leaves a great hook for Thundercracker from here on. So please bear with me as I try placing my finger on what didn't work for me.
You thought we had forgotten about the creative side of Seibertron.com? Think again! It's time for the Transtopia Round-up! We have rounded up all we could find in Transformers featuring in customization jobs, creations, fanart, comics, paints, builds, stickers, WIPs and more, with a lot of Titans Return showing up by now, and all collected below for ease of browsing. If you like what you see, make sure to also comment on the original thread, and send the author some robo-love.
THEY CAME FROM MICROSPACE! What terror reaches through the tendrils of entropy into our universe—and why does ROM want to kill it? Meanwhile, M.A.S.K.’s MATT TRAKKER makes a startling discovery about the TRANSFORMERS—but will G.I. JOE’s SCARLETT believe him?
..does it really matter?
Is this review a week late? Yes, yes it is, my apologies. I'm sure that whoever was wanting to read the third issue in the core story of Revolution has done so already - if you're a fan of any of the other franchises involved, make sure to check Tigertrack's guide to who this book might appeal to here - but nonetheless, we have a series to follow, a rep to maintain, and finally a spare afternoon to catch up!
DRAMATIC RECAP CONCLUSION
And, admittedly, there's not that much more that can be said as we hectically stumble across the midpoint in the story, really. There was some brief discussion at Seibertron HQ, and the points raised are essentially the same as for the previous two issues: a lot of new material, a lot of old material reused, not enough space, time, or any other dimension to allow it to fit properly.
..or aliens, sure
If, on one side, the Micronauts are finally close to finding out the much larger world out there - i.e. here - the fact that they are now part of that wider universe also waters down the charm that the title had kept while operating more or less on its own. They have yet to properly interact with the rest of the IDWverse, but I'm dreading what might happen at this point.
Like, literally anything
The biggest sore note in Barber and Bunn's script, I'm sorry to say, is still GI Joe - and in particular, Scarlett. They have been proven incompetent, non-existing, pointless, replaceable, and the result? They're all angry, or sassy, or mouthy, or angry caricatures of the already tropey ensemble that they risk to be given the nature of their original characterisation.
Much like the previous two issues, Fico Ossio's art has some wildly swinging reactions, in terms of consistency, in terms of clarity, in terms of getting the newly developed designs (which I still like!) to shine on the page instead of just making them flashier and bolder. Again, it's a shame, because the style can really work if taken at a slower pace and more neutral layouts.
Similarly on the colours: Sebastian Cheng does some excellent work with lighting, and shades of different colours according to light sources, environments, characters and adding some sheen and chrome where it really can work - but I can't help but feel that sometimes it's just a little too vibrant, tripping into flashy for flash's sake.
Best example of *everything* or what?
I also still have nothing else to add to the stellar work - that follows suit from the previous two comments - that Tom B. Long does on the lettering, not only following the visual narrative, but helping out with character and voice establishing too. And as for the covers, there are at least 8 variants (the thumbnailed one by Brandon Easton), and they're all worth a look, for sure! Make sure to check them out where you can.
Thoughts Spoilerish ahead
As I said above, I have very little to add to previous comments that staff have made about the book, in the previous two reviews. If anything, we now have virtually all players on board for the ride, so it can only move forwards from here - with the final two issues, somehow. A lot of story, a lot of characters, a lot of patience to keep up with something that is not as engaging as it really wants to and deserves to be.
Me, keeping up
I am actually going to say, though, that one of our comics readers on staff made an extremely good comment on the boards, and I'll use it to close off this review. Kurona, take it away:
it feels like some sort of labour of love; some well-intentioned fans of these series who wanted to do something awesome and bring them all together in some ultimate universe of great team-ups and diversity and all around fun. But then they had no clue how to do it and hastily ended up writing something really generic and disappointing.
This is what it feels like to me. Like someone had a really great idea and was really excited to do it but fell short at executing it. I can't say I feel rage at the guys behind this; just... a lot of pity, honestly.
Every two weeks, Seibertron.com brings you a Top 5 list related to all things Transformers written by me, your fellow editor. These are my opinions (just like movie or game reviews hosted by sites are still just the opinion of one person) so what matters most is what you guys think of the topic or list, and I hope to see your own lists or comments on omissions and ranking. Let's have fun! All previous lists can be found here.
Top 5 Best Personal Weapons
This is actually a list inspired by a request from Seibertron's own Rodimus Prime, the first request I ever got. What I tried my best to do with this list was have a strong link between how special the weapon is in toy form and in the fiction and how it's associated to the character. It was tricky but I am very satisfied with this list, even though I didn't include Optimus Prime's Ion Blaster. So of course, there will be a lot of varying opinions.
Armada Starscream was a major update from the G1 character and a very different interpretation. One of the biggest changes was making him more of a master swordsman and this was reflected in his sleeker look and the need to incorporate the sword theme in his toy. One of his wings could actually become a sword!
The sword motif became such an important component of the character at the time that the first Masterpiece Starscream toy took influence from this change in the character by integrating sword sheaths in the design. When a new version of the character was released in toy form for the generations line, the swords were also the biggest change and update between the toys. Instead of having his wing become a sword, Hasbro found a way of storing not one but two swords under his wings for a more complete swordsman look in robot mode.
This is just a really fun weapon that is perfectly associated with the character. He's a flying dog and thus has feathered wings. And in robot mode his largest feathers become swords, or batons, and they still look like feathers. And that effect is perfectly recreated in the toy. It's such a unique weapon for this big softy!
The G1 Springer toy was pretty smart to not only have the helicopter transform into a car and a robot but to have its propeller transform into a sword for the robot. Not only did it simultaneously reduce kibble in robot mode while being able to store the weapon in alt mode by being part of the transformation, but it also made for a pretty cool weapon. Since then, Springer has been linked to that sword. The triple changer generations update of Springer kept that very same motif and the propeller sword looked even better than ever. It's a little engineering marvel on that toy. The Springer release that really seals the deal in terms of his association with his sword is the GDO retool of Hunt For The Decepticons Tomahawk. That's because unlike a standard retool of changing the colour and the head, but they also added a sword to the package, made just for him.
I don't know if anyone predicted this would be first but when this topic was brought up by fellow board member Rodimus Prime, my first thought was this entry, the number one spot: The Chainguns of Doom. The Beast Wars toys were made before the show and thus the character model was based off the toy with some changes, and his personality was totally different than the brutish beast depicted in the toy's bio and tech specs. Instead, Beast Wars Rhinox was a calm and gentle giant, as well as the backbone of the team. However, the toy did come with a pretty cool weapon that was assembled using four components hidden all throughout the beast mode such as chains, a saw blade and a motor. While this badass weapon may have conflicted with the kind of character he was initially portrayed to be, it made for a greater impact when the showrunners had Rhinox use not one but two of these weapons on the show as part of his main artillery. He may be calm and strategic but he would not stand for tyranny and understood that you needed to cover your friends sometimes, by using giant machine guns with chains and spiked balls attached to them. Not only did he have a big brain but he had the firepower to go with it, helping him protect his friends and all he held dear. The Generations figure updated him to finally be the right size, as well as making him more accurate to how he looked like on the show including, you guessed it, giving him TWO chainguns of doom!
You know, I didn't think of this at first. All these other weapons could be wielded by others and usually have 5 mm pegs. But with Megatron, that fusion cannon is just fused to the guy. It's an extension of his body and what he unleashes his immense firepower from. It is probably the most powerful weapon (bar the Matrix) and definitely the most personal one. Also far more iconic than Optimus' black rifle, personal opinion of course. And now, here is a showcase of the many interpretations, enjoy!
If anyone cares, I was going to put Optimus' Ion Blaster here but I changed my mind. Even though I have my fair share of Optimus toys, which include his blaster, I never really liked it with Optimus. It feels so impersonal and partly uncharacteristic, and it was never a great looking or distinctive gun. It's just a big black gun that this wise and honourable emissary of peace (which is what he's been portrayed as in recent attempts to carry on G1 fiction) carries around with him. Would he really use a big gun to just blast someone's head off?
Well, the third Bay movie answered that quite well. BUT though his actions are hard to debate (there isn't much subtlety to Optimus murdering a defeated Sentinel Prime), I found it really interesting how he did it using Megatron's gun. You see, that giant impersonal gun is something Megatron would have lieing around and suits him far more than Optimus. My favourite part of all this is how this whole scenario played out in the toyline. This big shotgun in the pictures below did not come with the Megatron toy in the Dark of the Moon toyline (for the film this scene comes from). It didn't come with Optimus either. It actually came from the next movie's toyline (Age of Extinction), three years later, even though it was never featured in that film. And it came as Optimus' gun without any mention of Megatron, even though it is compatible with the old Megatron toy (see the pictures). So not only was that murder scene fans were up in arms about reinforced by cementing Optimus' connection with this giant shotgun, but it could also now be reenacted three years later with official Hasbro merchansidise. This gets the number 5 spot because it's just such an odd choice to go the extra mile in adding to Optimus' connection with this weapon and this attitude of his, even though it's uncharacteristic of the character to begin with. In the end, it's pretty awesome how this all played out.
Maybe this time around they get a proper paint job or a premium deco? Or imagine if they're more-or-less to scale (say it with me everyone -- big ass Dinobots!!!!)? Maybe it's a character that didn't get a proper toy (i.e. Dino/Mirage) or didn't get a proper figure altogether outside of a 1-Step (i.e. Stinger)? Or maybe scale was a thing to you so you wanted a Leader Class Bonecrusher to reenact the scene where Optimus Prime rips his head off. Or maybe Movie 1 Megatron or ROTF Megatron needs to be remolded or given a new figure to better take on the absolutely amazing ROTF Leader Class Optimus Prime. Or even better yet ... how about a proper triplechanger Drift?
With all of that said, I thought it'd be interesting to have a discussion with some of you about this. Toss your ideas out here. If you're not into the movies, please sit this one out. Just looking for people who like the movie toys and feel like they didn't get something they really wanted from the movie toy lines over the past decade.
Without further ado, please share your ideas in our on-going discussion on our forums!
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