Botcon 2012 in Retrospect


Primates, I have returned!

Welcome to the InsidePulse Botcon 2012 review. I am your host, Mike Kaye, and I am making my triumphant return to IP after a bit of a sabbatical.

I spent last weekend at everyone’s favorite Transformers convention in Dallas, TX. Now, I know what you’re thinking. You read all the coverage on the real TF sites about the panels, reveals, etc. That’s not what this column will be about. This is going to be a bit of a backstage look and general fan response to the entire weekend. I volunteer at the event and have been for the past few years (minus 2010. I got married. I know, I know, not a great excuse).

Speaking of, as a small update on me, I’m back living in CA and loving it. Jen and I eventually got married. I started working for a random company named Angelica that provides linen and garments to hospitals coast to coast. The sales pitch in a tough economy was “hospitals will always have dirty linen. I’ve held a couple different positions with them, but I’m currently in charge of one of our plants in Pomona.

Enough about me. That’s not what you came for. Let’s talk Transformers.

First, let’s talk about all the exclusives.

Box Set:

Gigatron (Overlord): Great mold for the figure and the head came out very cool (a little large for the body, but still nice). I’m dying to take a Generations Silverbolt and redeco it into the other half of him

Metalhwak: Here’s another figure I was a huge fan of, but it was polarizing. All the other Generations/Classics figures were given their pretender head (Bludgeon, Thunderwing, and Skullgrin come to mind). It made perfect sense to give him his human head. Others weren’t quiet as big a fan. Maybe we’ll end up with the Cyclonus repaint soon to make the other camp happy.

Shatter Glass Magnus: I think your selling point here is the Diaclone colors. The face is a little off, but it works in the storyline. Evil Prime rips off Magnus’s face, hence the Skeletor look.

SG Treadshot: This was a lackluster one for me. I originally liked the idea of another Action Master given it’s own mold. Apparently, this was more based off of Universe Treadshot. Random fact: I just checked TF Wiki because I couldn’t remember which line this figure was in. Apparently, he had beef with Ultra Magnus in the Universe bio too. They were buddies who choose opposing sides. This storyline also has them at each others throats. I wonder if that is a nice coincidence or if someone really remembers this random one off figure.

SG Soundwave: Meh. I liked it better when they used the white mold of the Takara Music Label figure. I did manage to grab the head band for this guy. I sold another one for $30 on eBay while I only paid $5.00 for it.

SG Tracks: This was a red Tracks in somewhat of a homage to Road Rage. Another “ok” figure as I’m not a huge fan of the mold.

Add Ons:

SG Prime: They made another SG Prime using the Magnus mold. I thought this was unnecessary and could have been used for other figures. That being said, he has a cool phrase on him. “I shall stand…the rest shall fall!”

Kick-Over (Off): I fell in love with this figure. I’m digging them using the Jazz mold to remake Action Masters. I think half of them could be Jazz Redecos.

SG Octopunch: Another random one for me. It’s one of those not horrible, but not a huge fan. However, this is I believe the first time Botcon has been able to use movie molds. They weren’t able to for a bit.

Spinister: Nice figure. This gives fanboys the Vortex they could never get in stores. His pink pants are cool too.

Junkions: Awesome. Nice use of the troop building set. Plus, each head was different (Wreck Gar, Junk Heap, and Scrap Iron from the Takara set). This leaves room for future “differences” in the troop builders, but also looks to have bumped the cost this year. They said during one of the panels that they were almost Shakticon colors.

Door Figure

Bard of Darkmount: This was ok since I do love the mold. How cool would it have been to have it in Blaster colors though? This is a reference to Blaster vs. Straxus from the comics. The character would have been similar, but with colors we could relate to.

 

Wednesday Night

I arrived at Botcon late on Wednesday. I was up at 5:00AM PST, so this won’t be a long passage.

Everyone’s favorite spike wearing, lift shoed, Transfan David Mack grabbed me from the airport. The obligatory stop by Walmart for water, gatoraid, and toys wasn’t far behind. Soundwave from TF Prime was mine!

We got to the hotel and immediately knew we were around Transfans. People were setting up shop playing with toys everywhere you looked. Plus, there was lots and lots of alcohol. I use to think it was just something my friends did there. I was wrong.

The hotel was located next to the Regency Tower. I didn’t realize it, but there was a lot of history very close by. We’ll get to that in a bit. We had a nice little coffee shop near the front desk along with a few over priced restaurants inside. The hotel would even set up a cafeteria style line right outside the show room each day to make sure Transfans didn’t have to go far.

DMack and I took the long trip up the glass elevator to the eleventh floor. We found room 1108 and konked out for the night.

 

Thursday

The day began with a cup of coffee and looking for Botcon spoilers. DMack and I were both signed up for the customizing class, so I was checking to see what figure we got to make.

Let’s start this with my guesses:

First, I thought there was no way on earth it would be a white G1 Prime as Magnus or Scourge/Nemesis Prime. Hasbro/Fun Pub could make too much money on that.

I had a lot of fun guesses. One was the MetalHawk as Cyclonus mold everyone was cheering for. I also had a pipe dream of the Metalhwak mold as Pretender Starscream. By the way, everyone I spoke to at FunPub loved that idea, so if it happens I want my royalties. Of course, I never saw them from Alpha Trion as the Vector Prime mold…

Anyway, I was almost 100% positive we would be getting Actionmaster Rad from the Jazz mold. He was in the comic. We were getting a few other Jazz molds. I figured that was the most logical choice. At least I was right about the Jazz mold…

Boy, was I shocked.

Longarm out of a Jazz mold. Huh?

 

DMack and I didn’t get it. Two years ago Botcon set the “people who want to pay to do customizing class” world on fire by making G2 Sideswipe. People wanted that toy more than the figures they got in 2010. Last year we got Animated Minerva. Bad ass. This year we get…Longarm? It seemed like such a random character.

Then I started reading the comments. Transfans come up with all the variables in the comments section. People began to speculate on what the story line could be. Then, with a little prompting, it hit me. This was going to be Shockwave disguised as Longarm to infiltrate the Autobots (or vice versa) a la Animated Shockwave/Longarm. Ok, that’s not horrible.

It got better. I started reading hints that we would receive a Shockwave head. Ok, ok, now you’re starting to sell me on this. Then for the gravy: We got a Shockwave gun-for-a-hand.

Now, last year it only took me about four hours to put Minerva together and give her some paint. David was trying to tell me this year the mold was crazy and the Wednesday people were there until 8:00PM. Yeah, right.

God, I can be a stubborn dumbass sometimes.

The story goes that the mold was supposed to come with screws where we got pins. This made it infinitely more difficult. I trucked it along and put together mine (and a lot of Rose’s). I got almost to the end of putting it together and hit two major road blocks.

The first was this shoulder pin. I bent it. Twice. They had to rig mine together by the end.

The second was the doors/frame. This is where we were supposed to have the screws instead of pins. The Botcon volunteer team was there to help, but all 60 people in the room needed it.

It wouldn’t be Botcon without lines. Why not start today?

By the way, big shout out to Raven who helped me immensely. I wouldn’t have my Longarm/Shockwave without her help. All of the volunteers were very helpful, but she ended getting stuck with me and an almost broken toy.

It took about 15-20 min for the first line and about 45 min for the second line. I had to volunteer tonight, so we’re getting dangerously close to 5:00PM already. I booked it after that. I threw some arms and legs on this guy, made sure I had a good Shockwave head/gun, and then packed it up. I’ve come drastically father on my kitbashing ability than back in the day (more on that later too). I figured I’d put the finishing touches on it when I got home.

Plus, everyone’s favorite Magnus Mark, Tim, decided to make a reappearance at Botcon. Those of you from my Cybertronian Enquirer days may remember Timmy. He was a regular at Botcon with me for years.  He has a cameo down below.

The hotel ball rooms were set up on two different levels. Pre-registrant check in was upstairs while the convention dealerroom was downstairs. The original plan was to have the peeps get their box set, walk downstairs to the club store, buy their add ons, and have a good night. Unfortunately, the credit card machine disagreed. It couldn’t get connectivity downstairs.

I came right in the middle of this debauchery. First, Tim and I checked in and got my volunteer stuff. I luckily was able to by pass the lines and just grabbed it before the crowds hit. I swear, that is the main benefit of being a volunteer. You don’t have to spend half of your Botcon in lines.

I digress. Tim and I grabbed our stuff and got to see Karl Hartman and the rest of the FunPub crew for a second. Then I had the task of getting my Add Ons before having to work. Due to the above mentioned CC issues, they started carting up the Add Ons upstairs so people with CC could grab them. Becky let me jump in front of the Golden Ticket holders and spend a little over $300 to capture Shattered Glass (SG) Prime, Kick-Over (Off), SG Junkions, Octopunch, and Spinister. I even got the goofy little head band for Soundwave.

Thursday was a lot busier than I remember it.

Toys in hand, Tim and I made our way back to the room. I looked through a few of them, started to rearrange the room into a TF shrine, and hooked Tim up with my iPad and five years of TF info he needed to comprehend.

Prepare for a tangent (but a good one). Tim and I make our way down to the restaurant near the lobby. We’re sitting down and the nice cute server comes over to take our order. She says “are you guys with the Transformer convention?” I cringe knowing the conversation that will be coming next. She begins to tell us about the “drink specials for Botcon.” They have an Optimus Prime, a Megatron, and a Bumblebee drink all color coordinated for their respective Transformers. I told her I was embarrassed for her having to read those to us. She told us we looked normal compared to some of the people she’d seen. Tim and I of course agreed. Then we started talking about the capes and smelly people. She told us a horror story about a bunch of Transfans coming in early and literally stinking the place up. We apologized for our stinky Botcon people. It is so hard to be cool at a Transformers convention.

7:00PM hit and it was time for work. My first station was something new. I was in charge of the dealer room loading docks. I basically had two jobs: Make sure everyone has a dealer badge and don’t let people take photos of the Hasbro stuff. Easy enough.

I basically stood by the door and made sure people had the exhibitor badge and helped them find their booths. It was more exciting than it sounds. I never have gotten the opportunity to watch the set up in the back. People literally brought in dollies full of boxes of Transformers. It also gave me a glimpse at the Hasbro and Jaggex teams setting up shop. It was a combination of people rushing around, figuring out the best set up, and chatting with other dealer/friends they haven’t seen in a year.

I got to see my buddy Dahveed, who traditionally only has 3rd party stuff. Due to the decree that “No 3rd Party toys hall pass the hallowed walls of Botcon,” I had no clue why he was even there. He apparently had a few legit toys to put on display.

The 3rd Party issue made me feel like I was working the black market. If you can picture some skeevy dude walking up to a dealer and whispering in his ear “Hey, you got any of the good stuff? Looking for a Kold Convoy for my Diaclone City Commander Trailer.” Yep, that was me over the weekend. It was like a drug deal for plastic toys.

I finished Dealer room security detail and made my way to the fabled add on figure lines. DMack was working the end of the lines and I was supposed to work the front. Traditionally, you have about two people at the beginning and two at the front. This year we had three and three. I believe this was due to last years 2:00AM-give-you-a-wrist-band-for-the-next-day issue.


Not this year. The line was done by 10:30PM. Tim will disagree, but the line moved amazingly well compared to last year.

 

Friday

I star my day on Friday working the Custom Art Work Sign in with Raven. I basically had to make sure people signed a waiver, filled out their place card, and walked to the back in a timely fashion. Raven walked them to the back for me. I know, sounds glamorous. Raven had this great plush figure of Perceptor. It had three sound boxes in it with real quotes from Paul Eiding (his G1 Voice Actor).

 

It did give me a chance to put my own custom on display again this year:

 

 

Yes, that would be Animated Hot Spot. I really thought we’d end up with this repaint last year considering the Voyager Prime mold being used so heavily. Instead, we got a random Toxitron. I decided that wasn’t going to fly and made my own version. I had a little paint left over after making this guy the year before:

 

 

OTFCC Defensor. This is one of the few toys I was craving and really had no way to get my hands on it. OTFCC Defensor was one of Glenn Hallit’s last great pipe dreams. I believe it was planned for the last OTFCC, but never came to fruition due to financial constraints. I saw the original model when we toured Hasbro a few years ago. Ever since then I’ve been dying to have one. As you can see, I got a little better at this whole customer thing. It’s light years away from my Nemesis Prime from a few years back. The head was made by RumbleFrenzy, whose work you can normally see on eBay.

I submitted both to the contest. I thought I would be in consideration for Defensor considering the number of paint aps I put on that sucker. Then reality hit when I saw the judging card. They’re looking for something original. In other words, slapping paint on a figure isn’t going to win you dealer bucks (the winner gets money to use in the dealer room).  I decided to submit Hot Spot just for shits and giggles.

Here’s an amazing Grandus figure that was in the contest. I’m shocked it didn’t win first.

A couple of memorable things happened while I worked the line. Both are two irritating traits of some Transfans. The first was one of the worst smelling people I’ve ever met in my life. They literally made my eyes water and my nostrils burn. These are the people who give the quasi-normal Transfans a crappy name.

The next was a group of individuals lining up for the dealer room at 10:30AM. The dealer room didn’t open until 2:00PM. Becky and I couldn’t believe it. See, for those who don’t go to Botcon this may not seem that weird. If you go to conventions you should almost expect to stand in lines. However, the dealer room does not require you to line up. It’s a room about the size of the gym full of toys. There is no advantage to begin “FIRST!” The only logical reason I’ve heard from people is getting in there first to look for an in particular toy. I have to tell you that traditionally you actually find that this is the most expensive time to buy a figure AND most dealers have multiple of each figure. In other words, these people wasted about four hours of Botcon in line for something they didn’t need to be in line for.

My shift was over and I had officially finished all my volunteer work by Friday morning. That’s always nice. FunPub gives the volunteers an extra door figure for helping out. This year that would have been SG Bard of Darkmount. It’s more or less worth about $100. I’d do it for free just to for the perk of skipping all the lines.

I helped out in the club store for a few minutes since there wasn’t much else going on. If you bought a comic there, I was probably the one who put it on the rack. Same goes with the T Shirts. I know it adds to their value.

Timmy the history buff then took me on a walk around TX. A few blocks from our hotel was the JFK assassination site. I can’t relay how underwhelming it was. The area was incredibly small compared to what you imagine in your mind. It was a small two lane road with a small piece of grass on either side (AKA the grassy knoll). See the X? That’s where one of the bullets hit. They still have them marked.

 

 

The depository wasn’t that large either.

 

 

I can’t fathom how the event took place. Tim tells me it was a different time, but it still seems strange that we missed this one. Regardless, neat piece of history to see.

Back to Transformers.

I started looking through my figures when I got back. I noticed a lot of the new faces had little nicks on them. There wasn’t any that were too bad, but the Metalhawk and SG Magnus needed a change. I took them to the information booth and swapped them out for new figures. That’s one of the really nice things at Botcon. You can walk to the information booth to mix and match parts/figures from the Botcon sets that have defects.

Gary Chalk playing Pinball cracked me up for some reason.

The voice actor list left a little for me to be desired. I’ve met David Kaye and Gary Chalk so many times during the Beast Wars Era that I have every conceivable figure signed by them. I got to meet Dan Gilvezan at “Botcon” 2004. I had all things Bumblebee signed by him there. Buster Jones was a different story. This was a late edition to the team and he was a pimp. The guy walked around in a suit or tuxedo every day. That’s smooth…

Anyway, I normally try to have the voice actors sign their figure’s original box. I picked up a decent Blaster box on ebay. Decent box, crappy insert. Can’t win them all. I luckily caught Buster before he was doing autographs and got him to sign it.

I was officially done with standing in line all weekend.

On to the dealer room. No, I did not wait in any line. Actually, Tim and I went and chatted with Karl Hartman for a bit waiting for the line to die down. Then we casually walked in to see the largest gathering of Transformers and fans in 2012.

The first thing I noticed about the dealer room was that it didn’t have a lot of variety. Maybe I was looking for third party nonsense or the rarities that only the insane, hardcore fan looks for. Regardless, everything looked like Generations, TakaraTomy variations, sprinkled with a little G1 figures.

I only had a few things on my hit list and I got them all:

Simon Furman’s signed scripts: Simon Furman printed copies of a few comics that never made the light of day under Dreamwave. I got all four and a half of them with signatures. They were War Within 4, 5, and an intro to 6, Beast Wars 1, and Transformers 80. 80 obviously saw print, but still a neat piece. He was selling them at $8 a piece or three for $20. I asked Simon how much for all four? He says “Well, three for $20 and one more, so $28.” Yep, no discount on four. I’m a sucker so I got them anyway. Simon put his John Hancock on all of them and I was a happy camper.

I’ve been craving picking up some of the Arms Micron Prime figures. These are basically the TakaraTomy version of the TF Prime figures with Targetmasters. I was really hunting for Megs, but decided not to grab him. The figure really didn’t have great silver paint aps I was hoping for. Plus, a new version is coming out soon with a Ratbat looking Micron along with the fusion cannon.  I was craving a Ratchet for the killer sword. I passed at first to grab Skywarp since he’s (at the moment) a Japanese exclusive. Then I snagged one for next to nothing at the end of the convention. These get major cool points from me because you have to apply the stickers a la G1. Plus, you have to build the Micron from the pegs up. It’s a turn off to some fans, but I’m digging it.

I wanted some “art” for my walls and decided to grab a few pieces of animation. These are primarily from Beast Wars II with the Big Convoy from Neo.  I almost got a nice one of LioConvoy, but negotiated too much. I walked off and returned to some duder buying it before I could. No worries as I picked up a nice one of him and Galvatron on ebay.

In the same vein, I picked up a piece of comic line art from Livio Ramondelli (the artist). I bought the original comic line art used for Transformers Ongoing #22 Chaos Part 1 page 7. It’s a nice page with Megs strung up on the wall and Prime speaking with him. I don’t have a pic since I’m having a custom frame made for it at Michaels. This was really the jewel I got at the convention. Very cool.

D, Tim, and I were planning a nice little dinner after that. The Reunion tower has a Wolf Gang Pucks at the top. We almost made it, except Timmy only brought sandals. It worked out for the better since we ended up at a nice Texas BBQ restaurant. Fried Apple Pie a la Mode. Yum…

 

 

Saturday

I went to more panels at this convention than I ever have in the past. It’s a combination of owning almost everything in the dealer room and honestly not having a burning desire for any of the “normal” line toys.

I’m not going to recap the entire panel for you. If you’d like to read over them go to TFW2005.com or Seibertron. Both of those had exception play by plays up of the whole weekend.

IDW Panel

This weekend was all about the Regeneration One comic. Simon Furman was pimping that thing at every corner. They are restarting the original G1 comic with issue 80.5 on free comic book day (last weekend). It’s an interesting premise that Cybertron is at peace, but has civil unrest from the remaining Decepticons. It’s not far off from the new comic lines.

Skybyte is going to make a cameo in Robots in Disguise. Not sure how this guy got so far over…

We’re finally going to catch up with Prime out in outer space. Of course, he’s now Orion Pax. I’ve been impressed how well they’ve done with telling the two sides of the new story without Prime as a crutch.

Autocracy is getting a TPB version. I’m almost a little disappointed. The comic had a slight exclusive feel since all the people in the non-tablet stone age didn’t have access to it.

They’re going to release Legacy: The Box Art of the TFs. They asked fans for any rare box art they might have. Could be cool.

They’re going to have a Dinobots month and a Decepticon month. Basically, the comics will all revolve around either faction.

Primus is going to show up in the annuals. I’m interested to see how Primus is portrayed in the new comics. I’m more interested to see if Cybertron will ever transform into him making it officially canon.

TCC Round Table

This was the moment I was personally waiting for. For those of you who don’t know, FunPub had a couple issue. The first was a small issue with their server getting hacked. Someone cracked it and stole everyone’s CC’s. I personally had to cancel three of mine. Now, it wasn’t so much that it got hacked. That crap happens. FunPub initially came out and had a statement that basically said it wasn’t their fault. That upset a lot of people. They eventually came out with a much more PC statement that said they were looking into it and to please check your credit history.

Second was the Drift issue. Drift started to show up with two left or right guns. FunPub’s Pete made a comment to someone that said something like “we never promised a right and a left, only two guns.” He went on to say that they wouldn’t replace them and to come to Botcon and trade them out.

That left a lot of peeps very unhappy.

Brian did the right thing. He started out with a PR statement apologizing again for the CC debacle and thanked everyone for their support. It deflated all the people with web muscles out there. That’s great, because then we got a huge announcement.

The TF Club would now be doing a figure subscription service.  They would have six figures over the course of a year sent to you. No more waiting by your computer while their site crashes. No more trying to get it for list pricing rather than aftermarket nonsensical prices. Now you’d pay a set fee and have them delivered to you each month (or so).

The first six figures will be:

Scourge: As in RiD with the cool upside down demonic Autobot symbols. This will be made out of the G2 Classics Prime Mold. Note: I know the line has gone on to be call Universe, Reveal the Shield, and probably other nonsense. I’m still going to call it classic.

Slipstream: Starscream’s fruity side finally gets it’s own figure. This was a big fan fav. She’s a TF Prime SS redeco

Action Master Jackpot: Random, but not bad. I’m kind of digging giving the non-G1 Action Masters a transformable toy. Kick Off came off well. This guy will now be a redeco of Animated Jazz.

Action Master Circuit: If you don’t remember this guy, you aren’t alone. He was a little random European repaint of our Action Master Axer. That makes it kind of cool that they redecoed Movie Axer as the new Circuit.

G1 Breakdown: Take the classic mold of Sideswipe, throw the G2 Breakdown head on it, give it the G1 colors. And to think I almost bought the third party version…

Ultra Mammoth: This is a Ultra Magnus repaint of the Beast Wars Neo’s Big Convoy. I’ve sene this customized before, but I like how it came off as a “real” figure. A little random, but I liked it.

However, there were a lot of fans not as happy with this. Their reasoning was simple: Botcon had gone corporate. From the “Do not bring any Third Party Figures to sell” to the massive amount of exclusives we already had, old fans started feeling like it was more about the money than the show.

I can see this line of thinking. A lot of Transfans aren’t loaded. Botcon back in the day probably cost a cheaper hotel stay, flight, $40 entry, and an optional exclusive figure or two for about $65. Now you’re talking hotel, flight, $350 set, three add ons for about $100 each, club subscription for $40 (with a free toy), and now the subscription service. It adds up.

This is where fans have to decide which pieces they want. I even had to learn that it can’t be Pokemon and I can’t catch them all. Even I discriminate between which figures I buy. Transfans will have to do the same for the Botcon sets.

Off my little rant, they also revealed the free figure next year. It’s a redeco of Movie Terradive. A little random, but the head and trident work. I don’t think this will be anywhere near as popular as the Runamuck/Runabout idea, but it works. Much better than Sideburn and Dion. Eh…maybe not, but at least on par.

Another note is that Brian talked about how expensive the boxes are. This is why the free figures normally don’t have boxes. This came about I believe from a question about the subscription guys.

Hasbro Panel

Overall the Hasbro panel was a little weak. I’m guessing that’s why we only got one this year and not two panels.

We’ll be seeing a few figures coming out related to the TF Ride at Universal. We have EVAC (a little dunebuggy like duder that your ride in during the ride) and a Prime/Megs/BB exclusive for the park. I can’t imagine how they’ll redeco yet another Bumblebee…

Kreo Figures will start coming with clear parts in the quest for Energon. I dig the little figures, but I’m not paying for a whole set to get them.

Rescuebots got some screams. Sure. They’re not bad, but they are made for the 0-2 age group.

We will be seeing an interesting figure from the Exiles book. Thundertron looks similar to a blue deco of LioConvoy. I haven’t read these books yet, but I’d like to. I’m waiting to get them on my iPad.

Bumblebee is getting a Battle Suit/Play set for the Legion figures a la Prime. Meh…

We’ll be seeing the new Masterpiece Prime from overseas. It is supposed to be a straight redeco from the animated series. It even comes with the trailer and Spike. I dug this. I can now pick up the figure for a non-import price.

Generations will see the release of Fall of Cybertron Kickback, Stascream, and Sideswipe. We’ll also see a Magnus redeco of Prime and Firefly redeco of Shockwave. All of these were very nice.

A huge reveal was a Voyager class FOC Soundwave. It wasn’t so much Soundwave, but the fact he comes with a disk that not only transforms into Laserbeak, but also fits in his chest. We’re going to see a redeco as Soundblaster w/ Buzzsaw and add on cassette characters (as disks). We get Rumble, Frenzy, Ratbat, and Ravage.

Karl and I were chatting earlier in the day and he said he’d love to do a redeco of the new Generations Bruticus with G1 colors. We’ll, Hasbro beat him to the punch. We’ll be getting it in an awesome box at Comic-Con.

The other Comic-Con exclusive was the Terrorcon TF Prime Cliffjumper. The big deal on this was the packaging. They were toying with a lot of ideas with one of them being a tomb for him. They ended up with a big zombie head with a box that turns into his body.

Overall, no huge reveals other than Soundwave. The rest left me and others feeling a little underwhelmed.

Peter Cullen

So I tell Tim how cool a Peter Cullen Panel will be. He’s a real humble, nice man from what I can tell. Cullen’s panel actually seemed very sad. He spoke a lot about his brother, who was the basis of the Prime voice. He was in the armed services and recently passed away.

The rest was a lot of people talking about how Prime was their father figure. They thanked Cullen for being Prime and helping them all through tough times of their life. I can relate to this, but I feel the line blurs for a lot of fans. They can’t differentiate between the character and the man who was paid to say lines into a microphone. Granted, Peter Cullen the man is a great individual. I’m happy he has seen new found success as Prime with the movies, video games, TF Prime, etc.

It wasn’t all I had promised Timmy. This panel came off a lot more sad and emotional than I sold him on.

My big complaint on Botcon this year was the Cullen signatures. Hasbro told FunPub that Cullen could only sign X amount of autographs this year. FunPub came up with the idea for a raffle. You were automatically entered if you had a Primus package or you could buy a wristband for autographs at the door.

In theory, it would have worked great. The problem was that out of 125 people who won an autograph, only 75 showed up. FunPub posted on their Twitter account, but I’m not sure everyone had access to it, knew how the system worked, or just forgot about it. Either way, I brought a TF Prime Optimus Prime and didn’t get it signed. Boo…

Cocktails, Dinner, and Gambling

The night started about 6:30 with cocktails outside the ball room. Tim, D, Pablo, and I chilled for a bit outside waiting on dinner. It was interesting to see what people wear. It’s supposed to be business casual, but that never happens. You had a combination of people who hadn’t changed all weekend with others that went as far as tuxedos.

The dinner opens along with the Hall of Fame ceremony. A few things stand out about this HOF. The first was the acoustics. It was very difficult to hear anything that was said up on the stage. The next was the videos. The past two years have seen the character montages put to a classic song. It made for a fun little clip show. This year’s videos were basically show to midi music playing in the background. It was very strange compared to the fun videos of the past. My only guess is that someone put the kibosh on using music without having a license for it.

Then Wheeljack won. I’m really not sure how the hell he beat out Beast Wars Megs especially with David Kaye there. How great would his acceptance speech have been? He could have done the whole thing in character with the voice. I know, fanboy pipe dream.

The fan’s choice award was also renamed the Hartman award. Nice touch and the Hartmans deserve it.

Next up was the charity gambling. We had a choice of craps or blackjack. Well, I normally make money in Vegas playing poker, get drunk, and lose it to craps. I figured Blackjack was the better choice.

I didn’t do to badly, but sadly didn’t make anywhere near what some of the people were making. Tim convinced me that if I didn’t go big then there was no point. I put my stack all on the last hand…and lost.

I didn’t even bother with the auction. Why bother? I’d just be torturing myself.

Instead, we went to the bar. Yes, the bar covered with the medical people for the other convention. I swear we’re going to end up on a site similar to “People of Walmart.”

Karl was watching the game downstairs, so I bought him a drink and chatted for a bit. That is, until he remembered he was supposed to be working the auction.

We spent a few more minutes hanging out with Pablo, his family, and D before calling it a night.

 

Sunday

Tim and I packed up our show and got ready for the trip home. Each year Botcon gives the fans a survey to take. You get a little gold ticket when you turn it in for a raffle. The raffle is a chance for a paid trip to the following year’s Botcon. Tim is leaving early and figures he’ll submit my name twice. Unfortunately, FunPub was ready for that and no double name in the raffle for Mikey.

My friend Gregg had a display up of 95% of all the minicons ever made. This was hard as hell for him to put up let alone keep up. He told me he almost gave up twice when the entire table dominoed

I skipped out on most of the panels this day in favor of working some deals on the floor. I was able to grab the 3rd Party GoldBug add on along with a Bumblebee for it. I also tried to negotiate for a few other items which were hit and miss. Nothing really noteworthy that I didn’t talk about earlier.

I did get to see the Shockwave 3rd Party figure based on Hearts of Steel. This thing is massive. I’m really thinking about adding him to my Kollection. It’s heavy and about the size of a leader class figure when you transform it. Highly Recommended. You can see him in the center of the shelf above.


The same guy also had a proto of the Seeker mold from Hearts of Steel.

I did stop by the Fall of Cybertron display numerous times. This game looks great. The addition of the Dinobots, Bruticus, and a new weapon system make this sucker look like a must have. I did get to ask a fun question with the designers. My pet peeve with the first game was the lack of a side-by-side multi-player mode. I asked them if this one would have it and why the other didn’t. The bottom line was time, money, and energy. They could either focus on the Dinobots and Bruticus or the side by side. They went with the figures. Apparently, the future of gaming isn’t having your buddy come over to play video games with you. It’s calling him, telling him to jump on line, then kicking his ass in a Deathmatch with 20 other people. Too bad. Sal and I had such fun with head shots in HALO.

Rose (Screamer or the chick who always wears the Baroness outfit) put on a costume panel too. As always, people had some crazy costumes. My fav was this little tiny kid in a perfect Prime outfit

 

 

After that, they drew for the free trip next year and guess who won? Nope, not me.

Ok, now for Tim’s take on things:

A Casual Fan’s Venture to Botcon (or how to sell your soul to Corporate America in seven easy years)

 

Warren Buffet, in reference to business, once said something along the lines of, “Rule No.1: Never lose money. Rule No.2: Never forget rule No.1.” Make sense, no? The same should be applied to any profit producing entity, whether it be a restaurant, start-up, or, as in this case, a convention.  The team of Brian Savage/Fun Pub and Hasbro have adopted Buffet’s advice whole heartily and applied said lesson to their annual Transformers convention.  What was once very grass-rooted and fan-driven (yet gushing money like a stuck pig) has been polished and brought into the twenty-first century, ready to compete for convention dollars with the big boys.  I would imagine Hasbro is howling in delight at the growth of their little convention baby.  By far, most of fans I spoke with were thrilled by the changes and hand-in-glove cooperation taking place.  More exclusives, prettier boxing, CULLEN! (who we will discuss later), by god, this is all so amazing!  And it is… it’s shiny, bright, loud, everything a Transformers convention should be.  But it was desperately missing a sense of self from my perspective.  It was missing someone who was the face of the effort.  Someone like…. well, I’m getting ahead of myself.

 

  I need to preface everything I’m about to say with the fact that I have not been to a Botcon in six years. From 2000 to 2006 I attended six, the last two being Fun Pub productions.  1600 people attended the first one in Ft. Wayne and there was nearly double that in Lexington.  A lot had changed. My impression (emphasis on MY) on the shift was that Fun Pub was taking the best ideas of 3H and applying their own knowledge from their Joe conventions.  Things were becoming more accommodating to Hasbro.  Even Hasbro’s presence at the convention itself seemed more overwhelming than in the past, where it had been as more of a guest rather than a partner.  When I left Lexington, I knew that with the movie coming out within the year, what was once a fan driven gathering of nerds was going to become something else.  Six years later I came back to find my prophecy mostly tight.

 

(The following observations are very stream of though and may or may not make complete sense. I make no promises.)

 

  Dallas. Botcon ’12. 

 

Thursday – Wow. This thing got big. Nice hotel, convention center. The first one in Chicago still blows all of the others out of the water. Heard the custom class was a bit of a mess with parts needing drilling and things not fitting.  First line of the weekend is for packages.  It’s long.  It will be a repeated theme.  Toys are a but underwhelming.  I miss the different sized toys with different gimmicks (I’m thinking of the voice chips, deleux sizes, custom boxing for EACH toy) but these are alright… I guess.  The volunteers are helpful and seem to be enjoying themselves (see how they feel on Sunday though).  I can’t stand in the line for the one extra set of loose exclusives… I did for 45 minutes and moved a total of twenty feet.  No joke.  Apparently these people are “shopping” once they get to the front.  Its not the best system.  Maybe they should have several display cases leading up to the cashiers so you can shop before you get to the front.  I went to the bar instead.  Much less of a line.  Two hours later I returned, still got my toys, and only stood for twenty minutes. 

 

Friday – People were lining up so ungodly early for things.  I can’t comprehend how they can justify this.  At least at a movie you get choice of seat.  Funny story… taking the elevator up, random guy asks me to hold it for him… gets in and its Mr. Chalk.  I had met him years ago, maybe even shared a drink with him, don’t really remember. Super nice guy though.  I will admit its nice to see the voice actors still comfortable just walking around and bsing with the fans.  They haven’t become “untouchable” yet.  Well, except for one.  Got to talk to Karl Hartman for a while.  He’s such a nice, down to earth guy.  Talked for about 45 minutes about this and that, some Transformers stuff, some just life stuff.  Really wanted to ask about Glenn and the demise of 3H…. chickened out.  Floor opened.  Still can’t put my finger on it, but things just seemed different than in years past.  Since I stopped attending in ’06, there have been as many different toy lines released as there was in the previous 21 years.  Sale tables just look cluttered with movie toys, Armada, Energon, RID, Animated, this, that, it kinda made me sad.  Maybe not sad, but at least long for the simplicity of G1, G2, Machine Wars, Beast Wars, and Beast Machines… with a smather of Japanese stuff thrown in for good measure. 

 

Saturday – Went to two three panels.  First was IDW… it was what it was.  I had just caught up on a lot of the books so I don’t feel qualified to really comment on their direction.  Looked cool though.  Second one was the Fun Pub.  They opened with an apology for the credit card snafu everyone got put through.  I wasn’t affected but I still felt like their apology was a sort of “It could have happened to anyone.”  Kinda weak to be honest.  If I had gone through what Mike had, I would have been hot and not satisfied by their shoulder shrug.  They went over a few things on how they choose their molds, blah blah.  The big news was the subscription toys.  Cool idea.  The Ultra Magnus Beast Wars toy is really cool now that I think back on it.  The last panel I attended was the Cullen panel.  I freely admit I did not stay the entire time, and left maybe 45 minutes into it.  Because honestly I couldn’t stomach it for much longer than that.  I knew Transfans looked towards Cullen as a quasi-father figure.  I get it.  Prime was a badass who cared, was never wrong, and always won (except for when he died).  Ultimate do gooder.  And it might be that there is a bit of celebrity worship involved, but the honest to god emotion the fans were pouring on him was misplaced in my opinion.  Cullen voiced a cartoon for three years… a cartoon that was solely made to sell toys. Thats it.  No one’s life was suppose to be affected.  They even killed prime… so that they could create NEW toys to sell.  Father figure be damned.  Now I get that Cullen appreciates the affection and does consider these fans part of his “family.”  But until the build up to the movie casting and the grass roots campaign to get him in, I’m willing to bet Transformers was just another job to him on his lengthy resume.  I sound bitter and I don’t mean to be… I just wish the fans would take a step back and remember that when they needed a father figure, they chose to personify a cartoon and a voice.  But as they got older, they should have realized the qualities that they were worshipping were scripted and the strength they needed came from within, not from a Saturday morning cartoon block.  But I digress… So yeah, the Hall of Fame.  This is goofy.  I say it lasts another five years and then they are going to run out of “characters” that make sense to induct.  Trust me… HOF 2017… inducting Shai LeBeouf, Cliff Jumper, and Vince DiColla’s daughter.  Dinner was awful but more prompt than in years past.  Only receiving the ticket thingy was a bit underwhelming too.  I got a plate in 2000 and 2001.  Saw someone was trying to sell one for a buy it now of $1000.  If you’re thinking of buying it, I’ll sell mine for $750 no questions asked.  It’s a plate.  Casino was a blast… possibly my favorite part of the weekend.  Drinks and fake money.  We played with a ten year old kid who was smashing it at blackjack.  Playing splits and everything. 

 

Sunday – had an early flight, left after one go around on the floor which seemed desolate.  Nothing to really comment on here.

 

  Overall impressions of the weekend was positive.  I had fun.  But it was a fun of my own creations with my old friend, sharing memories and stories from years past.  Fun Pub HAS TO address the lines and general nothingness that happens during the down periods.  I have in the past stated that I though Glenn Hallit did an amazing job (minus that dreadful mystery theater dinner… that was soooo bad) evolving from year to year. He kept things fan based and allow Hasbro in when it was beneficial to the fans, not the company.  Did he get in over his head? Oh yeah.  Did he basically bankrupt himself and his family trying to deliver the impossible for us? Better believe it.  But every year things were different, new, exciting.  And he had MUCH less to work with.  I think his toys were better, actor choices were better (with the exception of Cullen… who himself was great, just the hero worship that was weird), and he presented himself as the face of the movement.  Did he screw the hartmans? Maybe, I didn’t have the guts to ask.  Did he screw the fans out of a toy? Pretty much.  Is Brian Savage putting on better shows? Honestly, yeah.  But they seem impersonal.  I miss sitting in the lobby listening to Vince Dicolla play a duet with a fan on the hotel piano while five feet away three guys are building a new version of Fort Max and Capeman is lightsaber dueling in the corner.  This year I got… well, more normal people.  Wow.  I just realize how much I miss my extreme nerds.  The nerds who drove the bus to dorkville.  I miss Glenn.  I miss the small mom and pop booths on the floor selling knock offs and so much japanese stuff it hurts your eyes.  I had fun… but I had more fun remembering how much fun I use to have.

 

Thanks, Timmy.

 

Primates, it was fun to be back writing a column. My next venture on IP will probably be for ComicCon in San Deigo. Until then..

Much Love from the Botconer Extraordinaire,

K

 

 

 

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