Birth of a Fandom
Prologue Call of the Primitives
Before there was a public Internet (it was just a government tool back then), people of like minds were seeking each others company. What did they want? Transformers: those little robots that changed into vehicles, weapons, devices and mechanical animals. When the toys hit the shelves, they started a new craze. I myself didn’t jump on the TransFormers band wagon right away. I’d seen Go-Bots first and figured these TransFormers were just some rip-off on these cool little diecast toys (I had Cy-Kill and took him everywhere). The commercials looked interesting, but I had yet to see one in front of me. That changed one day on the school bus, when one of the kids brought Sideswipe and Optimus Prime for show and tell. I was impressed not only by how much larger than the Go-Bots the Transformers were, but at how much more detail they had as well. I wasn’t hooked, though, until the Dinobots came out. I’d been given a yellow jeep minispy by my cousin, but my first real Transformer was the Slag I got for my 11th birthday.
The most primitive fan gatherings, of course were childhood friends, playing in their rooms or yards; smashing those plastic and die-cast toys around. They would trade their toys, and oogle at the catalogues and compare Tech Specs. The Marvel comics were the first glimpse at the characters behind the toys. Later, they would report to their television sets ritually to watch the cartoon. Initially the cartoon only aired on the weekend as part of a Hasbro/Sunbow cartoon block called Super Saturday (or Super Sunday, depending on when local stations aired it). Season 1 was aired in this manner, and proved to be hugely popular. The second season of Transformers ushered in a new ritual; daily episodes. Heavily publicized on the Super Saturday/Sunday block was the fact that Transformers was getting a daily weekday series, and that started on a Monday afternoon with "Autobot Spike". Kids would argue over which character was better, and would site examples from the various episodes and comics, or they’d compare Tech Spec stats. Things were settled a little simpler then. When the question was asked "Who’s tougher, Devastator or Omega Supreme?" it was settled in a trial by combat. The two toys would be smashed into each other in mock battle, and the one left standing was the winner (Devastator always fell apart, heh). Contagion spread and many adults became caught up in this phenomenon (usually parents and sci-fi junkies). The toys especially caught a lot of interest, since they were a mix of the still popular Rubik’s Cube, toy cars, planes, guns, machines, etc.. and action figures. Friends would tell tales of the newest figures they’d spotted at the store (I remember that we couldn’t figure out what the heck Omega Supreme was supposed to be; some kind of dragon-thing? Who knew? I think that’s why they gave him a face in the cartoon). The commercial were like a drug mixed with hypnotism. No matter what you were doing or what aspect of the toys or characters you were arguing about at the time, when a TF commercial came on, everything ceased, and all eyes were locked on the screen until it was over, especially if it displayed a new toy. In a way, it really wasn’t very different than it is now. The fans had obsession and they had comraderie. The one thing that the earliest fans lacked, though was organization, but that was on the horizon.
Chapter 1 : TransMasters, Unite!
It all started in 1986, when young fans of The Transformers toys, cartoons and comics sought to get together with other fans that lived nearby. Great things usually rise from such humble beginnings. Even the mighty redwood grows from a tiny seed.
Quoted from the Transmaster FAQ
"The Transmasters fanclub began in 1986 shortly after the TF Movie. It was organized by several TF fans in a local area at the time (Dawn Reeder, Randi Darklord etc). They got in contact with each other and other fans through the original TF comic. The small group of fans expanded to as many as 40 fans before one fateful day (the day the club got a letter printed in issue #79 of the comic.) the second to last issue but the last issue with an actual letters page! The numbers quickly raised to at least 300 fans from various states, provinces and countries! As committed as the fans of the time were the club was set up to handle such an influx and it wasn't long before the club collapsed under it's own weight. Organizers of the club sort of vanished from sight or graciously bowed out to take real life matters into consideration over their hobby interests. Having joined the club in May of 1991 on the edge of all the newcomers, I was committed to keep things going. Upon the cancellation of the old newsletter and it's short lived predecessor I began my newsletter with the blessings of the old club officers and called it "Auto-Update". Beginning it just 2 years after I joined , in May of 1993, I attempted to bring together some of the fans I was in contact with and keep the club informed. Later I got in contact with the remnants of the club officers and became head officer creating a new questionnaire for new members and pushing the club with various places (The Fandom Directory, promoting the club at Botcon conventions etc.) Even with the short lived Generation 2 comic (and numerous letters I sent to get the club recognized were not printed other than one outdated one) the club didn't get the influx it needed. Another club was began by Liane Elliot (former head officer for Transmasters and it's newsletter of the time Trans Action) called Survivors and it lasted until recently.
The British branch of the club got an influx of new members similar to what we had in 1991 when they received a short lived Generation 2 comic that advertised the UK club and its Continued Generation 2 fanzine they created. They however were able to handle their influx of fans much better than we did (though I don't think they got as many fans as we did at once).
Through all of this the club has remained the powerful medium known as the Internet helped to connect many fans electronically but did little for the fanclub. It actually served to degrade it more as many fans cut down on the classic "snail mail" fanzines and newsletters .many fans could now set in their homes and scan through what was going on in the fan scene without participating as such. There is so much potential of the net to add to the club though. It is also important to note that TransMasters is the ONLY TF fanclub which was recognized by Hasbro in 1991 and given a legal contract to use the Transformers likenesses for our club in a non-profit manner!! (no kidding, I'll mail anyone who questions this a copy of the contract!). It is for this reason if no other that the club MUST survive! I beseech fans to answer the survey which I have posted here and help to bring the club back to its feet, make it a club for all of us to be proud of! Make the club work for YOU! I hope this history informs some fans and inspires them to continue the spirit, Keep Transforming!
--Tony "Auto Forse" Buchanan, 2000"
Liane Elliot, the former head of TransMasters is also known as Tetra Reris, author of the Transformers Book of the Dead and the text Review of the British Transformers Comics. Some of Liane’s letters were published in the Marvel Transformers comics letters page, "Transmissions".
Transmasters Mission Statement:
We, the members of TransMasters, resolve that our sole purpose for existing is to further the cause of Transformers. We commend any fan activity--newsletters, conventions, etc.--that is intended to spread the fame and increase the enjoyment of the Transformers for us all. Keep Transforming!"
Member Roster (Listed by Region. Note - Many Early Members are missing due to loss of records):
Sentinel & Bonecrusher
Transmasters continues, somewhat to this day. Many of its members you probably recognize, such as Jon Hartman (Founder of BotCon and the now defunct Tech Spec Archive), Kevin Lukis (one half of the Lukis Brothers, who founded Unicron.com), Raksha (infamous Decepticon sympathizer, founder of Con-Quest magazine and head of Alt.Toys.Transformers.Classic.Moderated or A.T.T.C.M., founder of Plumed-Serpent.com) Ironfire (also known as Benson Yee, Beast Wars consultant & founder of BWTF ) and Tut (founder of Tut's Tomb, writer/artist who anyone that’s been to a TF Con should know). Though the TransMasters survived the cancellation of the cartoons, comics and eventually the US toyline, into the age of the Information SuperHighway (that’s the Internet for you newbies), bigger things were on the horizon.
Chapter 2: Webworld
Personal Computers were growing less and less expensive and many homes had a PC or an Apple computer in their den. It wasn’t long before public BBS’(Bulletin Boards) arose (in the mid-80’s, actually) and people could exchange information locally (by dialing into another computer) or even abroad (if they called a computer using their long distance service; i.e. expensive!). It was very rudimentary, but then, in the early 90’s a service called Compuserve went nationwide and lo’ and behold, you could use their service to talk to people all across the US, and even in a few other countries.
People, as they always do, gravitated towards others of like interest A Transformers fan named Phil Zeman (of Altered States Magazine ) belonged to one such group titled "CCC", Comics Collectors’ Club, and amid rumors of the upcoming Generation 2 comic, started what is considered to be one of the first online TF clubs, the TFTA (TransFormers TransAction), which soon merged with the CCC to form the CMTF (CoMics Transformers), since both groups had the same members, with Phil and Josh Ali III as Co-Founders, though they both later reliquished their titles and let the group run itself. The CMTF Prodigy group eventually dwindled and disappeared, due to Prodigy’s shifting policies and rising rates.
Usenet arose as the place to trade information and to discuss just about anything as more and more people joined ISPs or accessed the new Internet from their schools and libraries. Occasionally someone would mention Transformers in the rec.arts.animation newsgroup, though there was no official place for Transformers fans to gather.
While Prodigy, and the CMTF faltered, Phil Zeman sought more information on the Generation 2 rumors he had heard. On Feb. 13, 1993, he posted this message on the rec.arts.animation newsgroup, where they learned that the "new TF series" was just half of the original episodes, with computer graphics added here and there.
Eventually he crossed online paths in the newsgroup with two other Transformers fans. Olatunji Nowlin posted this message seeking more information on Generation 2, and also that he was seeking to start a Transformers Mailing List. Steve Mar was working with Olatunji to create the mailing list and advertized the list in this message. The mailing list grew as it was advertized, and more and more fans gathered on the list. Messages were bounced around via mass-replies and email boxes soon filled to capacity, but TF information was being shared by fans who lived far apart from each other.
To Quote Phil Zeman from his Informal Fandom History:
"Over time, membership soared as repeated posts on Usenet advertised the list. Generation 2 was a great source of discussion on the list, but the original toys, cartoon, and series were not dismissed. In fact, I remember one day listening to "Dare to be Stupid" repeatedly over the course of an hour or two, writing down the lyrics, simply because someone on the list asked for them. No one had the lyrics handy, so I just did it. That was the spirit that existed there."
The TF Mailing list & CMTF were also where the first online Transformers Fan Fiction was born. The earliest known online FanFic is Phil Zeman’s "Reconstruction". Popularity, though was both the boon and the bane of the TF Mailing List. The more people that joined, the more difficult it became to keep discussions straight, since none of it was centralized. Something needed to be done to streamline Transformers discussion.
Chapter 3: A.T.T. Override
The idea of the mailing list was born on the Usenet, and soon the idea returned to the Usenet; not to bounce more messages, but rather to set up a home base. Discussion of a newsgroup began, and debates started over whether it should lean towards the cartoons & comics, or the toys. It was finally put to a vote and the newsgroup alt.toys.transformers was created on September 23, 1993. Eventually the fans on the mailing list moved completely to the newsgroup. Some of those fans were Swiper, MegaBee, Robert Jung, & Vulcana.
Some information was being repeated over and over, and file-sharing was in its infancy, so Jim Hoxsey started what is considered to be the first Transformers FTP site online, vela.acs.oakland.edu , in the pub/transformers directory. The Oakland site, as it was called became the repository for all kinds of TFdata: episode lists, transcripts, synopses, scanned box art and even a text Tech Spec list. The first TF Transcript placed online was Boris Ammerlaan’s "Dark Awakening".
Discussions grew in breadth and depth, as more and more "Transfans", as they called themselves, found the newsgroup. People argued over which continuity was the [i">right[/i"> continuity (there was a definite prejudice against the comics), and some even worked to merge the varying universes, though most preferred to keep them separate. Debates over which origin (Primus or Quintessons) was better, and terms such as "Seekers, "Gestal"t Combiners", "G1", "Sub-Space Pockets" and "Alt Modes" were coined and soon became common fan terminology. Various strife discussion grew on A.T.T., such as the infamous FIRRIB/RIBFIR (Frenzy is Red, Rumble is Blue/Rumble is Red, Frenzy is Blue) arguments that seemed to always flare up just when you thought they were dead and settled. This is also where the first Transfan flame wars started. Most fans agreed that the Autobots were the good guys and that the Decepticons were the bad guys, but a splinter group that was convinced that the Decepticons were right, and that everything put forth in the cartoons and comics was Autobot propaganda grew to almost cult status. Its leader was an intelligent and forceful woman named Jovanka Kink, also known as Raksha.
Raksha made it her purpose to "set things straight" about the Decepticons and to tell the truth about the Autobots. No amount of arguing could change her mind, because in her eyes, all of the sources of TF information were tainted by the natural human bias to favor "the good guys". Several groups began to form and the fandom began to polarize. Even among the gathering fans, a push for conformity began.
Chapter 4: Generation 2
In late 1993, the Transformers in the US got a relaunch, after almost 2 years of hiatus, as Transformers: Generation 2. I rarely got online at the time, so I was surprised when I first saw the toys. We were Christmas shopping for my toddler nephew in Toys R Us, when, just for nostalgia purposes, I decided to waltz down the aisle that I used to frequent daily (TRU was less than a quarter mile from my house). That’s when I saw the Dinobots. I wanted all three of them (Grimlock, Slag & Snarl) at once, but only had enough money for one, so I settled on Grimlock. It wasn’t long before I got enough money to go back and get the other two. All of my old Transformers (all 16 that had survived my childhood) were in a box, stored in a closet. Soon they were out of the closet (heh) and standing alongside the G2 Dinobots. I was so happy to see Transformers on the shelves again, that I didn’t even notice that they were missing their launchers, nor would I have cared. The Generation 2 repackaged reruns began to air around this time as well. The hobby that had consumed my youth wasn’t dead, as I has supposed. It was reborn.
Then, also in late 1993, the Generation 2 comics came out, and we were greeted by a dark violent interpretation of the Transformers, and a menace so large that the Autobots & Decepticons had to lay down their petty civil war to combat not only Jhiaxus and the Cybertronian Empire, but the all-devouring Swarm. There was a Halloween teaser that came out in late October, and the first issue came out in November. All seemed good again.
The newsgroup and networking continued to grow, and these fans that lived so far apart decided that they would like to have a place to gather and meet in person, at least once. Two Indiana Transfans, Jon and Karl Hartman took it upon themselves to organize such an event, and on July 16th, 1994, at the Grand Wayne Center in Fort Wayne Indiana, BotCon was born. The first exclusive was the unreleased Generation 2 Stunticon Breakdown. Friends and rivals alike were finally able to meet, laugh, argue, play and trade in person.
The next fall (1994), I started college and saw some of my friends messing around in the library. When I asked what they were doing, the showed me the Robotech sites they were looking at. I got curious and pulled up a chair and started searching for Transformers online. I found lots of the aforementioned sites, newsgroups, and tons of fanfics. Sadly, though, the TF Generation 2 comic was cancelled around this time, leaving the fans feeling like we’d been left high and dry again by Marvel. Bitter old wounds, cut from the comics’ first cancellation in 1991, were reopened, and it felt kind of hopeless for the franchise. My friends and I downloaded tons of box art scans, and read every fanfic we could find, and oh how most of it was bad, but it was better than nothing, which is what we had. Sure some great toys kept coming out, and we still had the G2 reruns, as well as regular reruns on the SciFi channel, but there was just a general sense of forboding. It seemed like fanfic was all that we could truly count on to feed our desire for entertainment dealing with those alien robots from Cybertron. Also A.T.T.’s TF MUSHes (Multi-User Shared Hallucinations) and MUDs (Multi-User Dungeon/Dimension) started the first Transformers role-playing online.
More discussions and debates continued on A.T.T. I mainly lurked there, because a push for conformity was so strong that anyone who voice contrary opinions were summarily shouted down. Around this time Steve’O Stonebreaker’s Transformers FAQ was put together and helped spread the word of the existence of the Newsgroup, as well as teaching people Newsgroup etiquette. The FAQ, also though, put forth some of the ideas of the more prominent posters from A.T.T. as fact, rather than always dealing with questions with an even hand and an open mind. For the most part it does, but you can see influences to conform in certain parts. I was content to lurk on the newsgroup and form my own ideas about what was what in the realm of TFs. It was during 1994 that I started writing "Transformers: A History", as a reconciliation between the cartoon and comics, just to show that it [i">could[/i"> be done, despite what the "elite" on the newsgroup purported. On top of that, I added a disclaimer at the beginning of it, that stated that this was not the only interpretation, because I wanted to distance myself from the conformity and the newsgroup practice of pushing fanfic as canon.
With the Advent of the World Wide Web and HTML, Transformers sites began to sprout up here and there, with Oakland still remaining as the prominent TF information source. It seemed like things were leveling off for the fledgling Transfandom, but strange days were ahead.
Chapter 5: Mark of the Beast
As 1995 came to a close, it appeared that Hasbro/Kenner weren’t quite as done with Transformers as many of us believed, but it also looked like the Transformers we knew were long gone. Commercials started airing for a new line called "Beast Wars: Transformers", which featured Transformers that turned into organic creatures, such as spiders, predatory cats, insects and dinosaurs. The majority of the fans groaned at this development. Some screamed, "Organic Transformers? Blasphemy!". When the toys were finally released in 1996, the leaders, Optimus Primal(bat) and Megatron (gator), came out in a two-pack, and were the smallest of the figures. This brought a lot of ridicule to the new toyline. On top of that, the comic that came with the two-pack stated that these were indeed the Classic, or G1, Transformers, and that they, including Megatron, had taken on organic forms and changed their faction names.
They say that change is a good thing, but too much change brings revolt and rebellion, and that’s what grew on the newsgroups. Beast Wars hatred was at an all-time high, and droves of fans decried this "mockery" of their beloved Transformers, especially Raksha and her Decepticon supporters, who were extremely angry that Has/Ken would [i">dare[/i"> to make their hallowed Megatron organic.
Some fans embraced the new, but they found it very hard to share their views with such a narrow-minded group. One fan stood above the rest and became the foremost Beast Wars apologist, Benson Yee. He created the Beast Wars Fan Club page at acweb.com/ben/bw and there he defended these newest TFs. He, and other fans tried to set the more rabid G1 purists at ease, by suggesting that the "organics" on the "Beast Warriors" were made of synthoplasm, like Pretender Shells. That helped calm some down, and brought more over to the side of the Beast Wars apologists. But, just as a pendulum swings two ways, another polarization began. Some fans wouldn’t accept Beast Wars no matter what, and the ABWS (Anti-Beast Wars Society) arose on the news groups to "combat the influence of Beast Wars fans".
Other sites arose in favor of Beast Wars as well. The Axalon RPG started as a Beasties (Canadian Beast Wars) role-playing game, and later moved to beasties.gagames.com, and evolved into the site Axalon Underground, founded by a Canadian Beasties fan named Stephen. Benson Yee eventually purchased his own domain and opened beastwars.net . On top of the growing resentment for Beast Wars fans, the writers and editors for the new Beast Wars cartoon, Bob Forward and Larry DiTillio, found their way onto the newsgroup, and began picking the brains of the fans, even the most rabid ones, and also took note of the various attitudes and predjudices of the fandom as a whole. They asked question like "What makes a TF alive?" and "who created the Transformers". Fans shared comic scans, synopses, transcripts and copied episodes to give the new writing team a good feel for the universe they were entering. Finally the new Beast Wars series aired, as part of the Power Block, and took the fandom by surprise. Most of the fans were won over by the excellent animation, superb voice acting and great writing, including many, many references to the Classic series. Still you had some die-hard purists that would not bend to the new trends and continued to hate Beast Wars, despite its success; some going as far as to refuse to even watch an episode (lest they be converted heh).
Meanwhile the newsgroup continued to grow. Beast Wars was gathering so many new fans, that other discussions began to suffer. Soon the main newsgroup began to splinter off into specialized newsgroups. The first to split was A.T.T.M (alt.toys.transformers.marketplace), a fanfic newsgroup was created as A.T.T.F (alt.toys.transformers.fanfic) and had their FAQ created by Vulcana, then later many of the G1/G2 purists separated (led by Raksha & Skyflight) and formed A.T.T.C.M. (alt.toys.transformers.classic.moderated). Beast Wars eventually got it’s own syndicated series, airing 6 days a week in some areas, when it started its second season (a strange parallel to the original Transformers series).
It was around this time that I stumbled across the first TF Chatroom in my wanderings across the web, Station 8 Transformers, run by Danicron. It probably wasn’t the first TF Chatroom, it was just the first in my experience. From there many of those that were discontented with the newsgroup gathered and would chat without fear of flames. There I met Transfans such as Angelstarr, Relayer, TimX, Skyfire (who would later become PrimeZ), G-Force and most notable of all, an enigmatic, caustic self-proclaimed "Transfanatic" who called himself –decepticon.
More websites developed and sprouted up, including an offshoot of Axalon Underground called the Alliance (founded by Cyberraptor), Transfans.com, which gave many fans a view of the MarvelUK Transformers series, and Planet Sabretron, showcasing the Japanese TF Cartoons and Manga. We soon outgrew Station 8, and moved to G-Force’s newly created Primus Comics site at members.spree.com/sci-fi/primuscomics . This ambitious site tried to create a new standard of Transformers fanfic, by planning to produce a steady flow of fan comics, based in various continuities. Neale Davidson, artist HMB3 and myself laid out plans for many comics, but management issues caused many to leave, so Primus comics developed more into a webring of TF sites. Beast Wars Season Two came to a close, leaving fan approval at an all time high with the cliffhanger in "The Agenda" leaning heavily on G1 references. Credits showed that Benson Yee was a consultant on the popular three-part story.
From there many of us moved over to Benson Yee’s board at Beastwars.net. He used a freeboard as his Message board, supplied by a company called Sitepowerup. ATT continued to grow, and a Transfan named Renaud Lefebvre started a new TF newsgroup named rec.toys.transformers moderated and rec.toys.transformers.marketplace . He also established a new Beast Wars website called Bigbot.com. Eventually many of us left Beastwars.net due to the constant trolls and lack of moderation. Frustrated with the constant flame wars on his board, Yee shut down his board and posted this message:
"Dear Discussion Board User,
The Beast Wars Transformers (Unofficial) FAQ page General Discussion Board is currently closed due to the extreme immature behavior of its participants. Upon leaving for only two days, I discovered that several individuals saw fit to begin a witch hunt for one board member. Meanwhile, others continued to try to post inconsiderate or outright vulgar posts. I do not wish for this web site to become a haven for hate, immaturity and negative feeling, but in allowing the boards to remain an open and free community, these boards have to be closed down until further notice.
Please do not send me hate mail or angry letters. If you wish to write something mature, feel free to do so. Any hate mail or angry letters will result in a complaint to your ISP.
We moved to Bigbot, which also had a Sitepowerup Board, but far fewer troubles and more like-minded fans. There we met Zabgoth, the Vizier, Herr Hast (members of the quite angry Cult of the Fist), Matt & Nubby Thumb, Rumble, Deszaras, LeChuck, Prime’s Spare Tire as well as a plethora of Hacker/Transfans who called themselves "The Sweeps", each with a number or Greek Letter designation, among others. A beauty pageant was held for the best looking Destron/Decepticon leader, and the Black Zarak figure won. As a joke I made an acceptance speech, declaring the virtues of G1 and protection from trolls. When I came back, most of the board had changed their names to variations of the Zarak moniker (GreyZarak, WhiteZarak, PrimeZarak, TerminalZarak, ZabZarak, etc…) and the Cult of Zarak was born. Bigbot’s board was completely unmoderated, but somehow through unity (and some help from the skills of GreyZarak/-decepticon and the Sweeps) we kept the board Troll free, even sending the Hacker/Troll Ahriman (who destroyed the Moon Base 1 site) packing.
Soon, though, we began to get visits from other fan sites, but they weren’t very friendly. First Rob Yee and Robert Jung came and flamed us for supposedly threatening Benson Yee’s life (no one we know did it), then a group from Transfans.com came and attacked us in an attempt to run the Cult of Zarak off of BigBot’s board, their attack fell apart pretty quickly, and we made new friends of our enemies, Trium Shockwave, Transbot9, Triumverate Xaaron and IANT (I Am Not Telling). A few weeks later we were assaulted by a group called The Dominion of Monkeys, from Axalon Underground, led by Unholy62 and Tigerhawk (also known as Chronoscythe). The attackers included Prowl/Boss, Icefang, Starshooter, Dr. Archeville, Bladewing and Roadbuster, among many others. Amidst the fighting, a truce was made between AUG’s Devastator and GreyZarak (though many suspect that GreyZarak was the force pointing all of the attacks towards BigBot. He just liked playing games like that). Finally we were attacked by two spammers who went by the names "Mr. Happy Meal" and "Mr. Happy Daze", who thought that "All Zaraks must die". Suddenly peace broke out and we were friends with them as well, as the both became known as Shadow Panther and Vienticus Prime. Soon we tired of BigBot’s board and each built our own, though we still frequented Renaud’s board. I created the Scorpion’s Nest, Zabgoth created Blasphemous Babble, Shadow Panther created Maximal Carnage (Zab’s and Shad’s boards later merged to become ICOM ), Deszaras made his own board which eventually became Suicidalist, and Rod Prime created the Board of Prime. Unfortunately, Sitepowerup soon went out of business, so many of those boards disappeared. Some moved to the new free board, EZBoard, while many others migrated to Mainframe’s Beast Wars board, Transfans.com and Axalon Underground.
As season three of Beast Wars was beginning, the fans were delivered a shocking message:
"Message from Bob Forward (10/21/98)
As you may have heard, Season Three will be the last season of Beast Wars story-edited by Larry and myself. I sincerely hope this won’t detract from the enjoyment of the series. We’ve had three great seasons and worked with a lot of really terrific people at Mainframe and Hasbro. We’ve met hundreds of TF fans and appreciated their input and support. All in all, we can hardly complain.
I can assure you that the change is nothing personal, and we are not taking it that way. Hasbro has new plans for the series and it was felt that taking an entirely fresh approach with a new creative team would be the best way to
This is very common in the animation industry -- I myself have been hired to replace excellent story editors for precisely the same reason. Larry and I are actually looking forward to some time off. The characters had become so real to us that I, for one, often found myself dreaming about them. In the cartoon industry, this is known as "time to get off the show."
Never fear, you will not be left with an unresolved "cliffhanger" ending. Though the news comes too late to tie up all the threads, Simon and I are revising our season finale to be an actual closure of the current Beast Wars series. This will give the new show -- whatever it may be entitled -- a "clean slate" to start from.
Please give the new series a chance. Although I am not privy to the storyline, it should certainly look spectacular, and will most likely be excellent in its own right. After all, it will be animated by the fine artists at Mainframe, and will no doubt continue to draw upon the rich history and traditions of the Transformers.
Larry and I feel privileged to have been at least one small part of that history, and hope that you will enjoy watching Season Three as much as we enjoyed working on it. You were all truly part of our inspiration.
‘Till all are one --
*Note: Mr. Forward's statement is not saying that Beast Wars Transformers has been cancelled or has ceased production. Beast Wars will continue, but Bob Forward and Larry DiTillio are moving on to other pursuits. Beast Wars will have a fourth season under a new creative team."
Finally, Beast Wars came to an end, again filled with references to Classic Transformers stories. During the third season of Beast Wars, Hasbro bought Benson Yee’s Beastwars.net domain name from him for an undisclosed, but purportedly handsome, amount. Benson Yee relaunched his Unofficial Beast Wars FAQ page as BWTF.com. He later caused some controversy when he gave favorable reviews to the Animorphs toys, which Hasbro had placed the "Transformers" brand name upon, much to the fandoms disdain. Hasbro used the domains names they purchased to launch Transformers.com as the official site for information about the Transformers Brand.
Steven, founder of Axalon Underground, decided to pass his duties on to a young admin named Optimal Hero. Optimal Hero soon decided that the site was quite a lot to handle, so he sold Axalon Underground to another admin, Catwalk, and myself.
One controversial episode, titled "Dark Glass" was never produced because it was deemed "too dark". The story dealt with Transmetal2 Dinobot having the original Dinobot’s memories uploaded to him, and then he goes on a suicide run to stop Megatron, but eventually loses to the new Dinobot’s persona, which is fed by Rampage’s evil. Two Transfans, Jason Moser & Dave "Deus ex Machina" Reynolds took what they could find of a synopsis of the episode and created a CGI Web Comic called, of course, "Dark Glass", which caught the eye of many Transfans. That wasn’t the only time that "Dark Glass" got lots of attention. The episode’s writer, Chrisy Marx, gave a copy of a script to a friend, in confidence, who then copied it and sold it at a convention, getting the the writer in a lot of hot water. Beast Wars, as we knew it, was over, and the fandom eagerly awaited what would come next.
Chapter 6: The Downward Spiral
When Beast Wars came to a close, the fans said goodbye to DiTillio & Forward, as they were no longer in charge of writing for the television show, but there was some promise on the horizon, when Hasbro announced that the next TF series, tentatively titled "Beast Hunters", would not be syndicated, but aired on FOX on Saturday mornings. The idea of a fourth season of Beast Wars was tossed aside, and a new series was proposed. They also announced the name of one of their head writers/story editors, Robert N. "Bob" Skir. Many people were enthusiastic about the new series, because Skir had worked on some good animated series, like FOX’s X-Men animated series and Batman: The Animated Series. I myself contacted Skir immediately, and offered any of my resources (all of the US & Japanese cartoons and all of the US & UK comics) to help him with the series, should he have questions about continuity.
Skir’s response was:
Thanks for the kind offer!
Marty and I have the show's universe pretty much nailed down, but we really
appreciate you offering your services.
If we hit a wall or need some info, we'll certainly contact you.
In the meantime, thanks for being such a loyal fan. I'm greatly heartened
to be working on a project that has garnered such a faithful following.
All the best.
- Bob Skir "
(BTW: He never corresponded again)
Several other things were set in motion, though. Not much information was available about the new series, just a few sketches of the Beast Hunters logo with a couple of sketches of 3 creatures : a savage looking gorilla, a rat, and some strange bird-legged humanoid (which turned out to be Cheetor, everyone thought it was some weird raptor. heh). A fan who happened to also be a journalist received some publicity info for the series, which was renamed "Beast Machines" because he was writing an article on the new series. Some of the info was shown to Renaud Lefebvre in confidence, and Renaud, refusing to believe that it was authentic, reported the journalist to Mainframe, causing the fan to get into a great deal of trouble. Later Renaud somehow ended up hosting Bob Skir’s official Q&A site as well as Beast Machines forums, called Bottalk, which was developed into an extension of BigBot.com (home of a bunch of Transformer site links and a Transfan online-dating service).
Botcon 99 rolled around, and the fans got to see their first peek of Beast Machines, as the first episode was shown at the convention. Interest and confusion were the main reactions to the episode "The Reformatting", until, at the end, Optimus Primal transformed, not by shifting and rearranging his components, but with flashing lights and morphing similar to Terminator 2’s T-1000. An audible gasp went across the room as it grew silent. Some applauded the new episode, but many left the room grumbling and disliking the direction that the new show appeared to be going.
When Beast Machine’s first season premiered, Bottalk’s forums soon exploded with activity. It was the place to be if you wanted to hear from the creative staff. Skir’s Q&A sessions proved to be very popular, again because you could hear directly from the staff of the show. Problems soon developed though, as many fans grew unhappy with Beast Machines and began to voice their displeasure on Bottalk’s forums. Negative posts were being edited or outright deleted. If posters protested this treatment, they were banned. Soon, Renaud went on a campaign of mass banning, since the more he unfairly banned, the more fans protested. The fans banned in the initial purges formed two new boards; Dewtropolis and The Allspark.
Divisions grew on Bottalk, due mostly because even posting the words "Allspark", "Dewtropolis" or any of the names of the people who were banned would result in the poster being banned as well. For awhile, the new influx of Beast Machines fans (and later Action Man fans) kept the population of Bottalk stable, though Dewtropolis and the Allspark continued to grow. On Axalon Underground, Tigerhawk and Unholy62 (leaders of the Dominion of Monkeys) tried to stage a coup to oust the owners, Catwalk and myself. When that failed they attempted to gain FTP access by pretending to be the former owners. This resulted in both being banned. Unholy62 left the online fandom, while Tigerhawk went to the Allspark and changed his name to Chronoscythe. Most of the members of the DOM (Dominion of Monkeys) split off and created the TFE (The Fnord Empire), though later they merged with the remaining DOM members to form the FnorDom, led by Dr. Archeville.
Tensions grew between the Allspark and Bottalk, and it appeared that someone going by the name "UserX" hacked into the Allspark’s EZ Board and wreaked havok, while at the same time a person named DraconianX tried to cause strife on Axalon Underground. Both were suspected of having ties to Bottalk, though no definitive proof was uncovered.
Things settled down a bit, and one of the Allspark’s admins, Maximal General Proudwolf, attempted to bridge the gaps that existed between the fan communities, in the hopes of creating unity in the fandom, even with Bottalk. On the topic of unifications, Transfans united together so that the Transformers G1 action figure line could win Toyfare Magazine’s Titanic Toy Tussle. Toyfare was notorious for talking down to Transfans and and mocking Transformers, while constantly praising MacFarlane and Star Wars toys. It was nice to see them, rather ungraciously, have to admit that Transformers G1 is the best action figure line, ever, as it beat out 63 other competitors, including Star Wars, GI Joe, Spawn, Thundercats and Masters of the Universe. At the same time an ambitious fan named Aerosurge decided to start an online Fandom news magazine called "The Matrix". More Transformers sites continued to emerge on the web, most notable were Prime Saber’s TF Index, Botch the Crab’s Box Art Archive, TFW2005 and Seibertron.com. The fandom continued to grow and apparently prosper, despite, or perhaps because of, the discontent fueled by Beast Machines. Once more the fandom began to polarize. Now the Beast Wars fans were uniting with the G1 fans as both groups strongly disliked Beast Machines, while another group appeared that loved and defended Beast Machines.
When asked for her thoughts on Beast Wars fans reaction to Beast Machines, Raksha said:
"I'm utterly dying of laughter. Especially because so many fans
of the BW universe are all up in arms about the whole thing. *Now* they
know how it feels, when some hack writer gets hold of something you love,
and utterly desecrates it!
BM is *so* absurdly far removed from anything that was ever Transformers,
that none if it can disturb me in the least. And best of all, it makes
very clear, as a direct continuation of BW, that the whole entire nonsense
can be easily written off and dismissed. Nothing in BM can ever peeve me
off as much as some of the outright sacrilige that existed in BW, so even
that final scene evokes only a shrug from me and little else. I've seen
far far worse, and lived to tell the tale. BM is just worth a good laugh,
in relation to what came before.
BotCon 2000 arrived, and Bob Skir decided to cancel, due to death threats and threats of violence he had received for his story in Beast Machines. An Allspark poster, named Kalidor, bought the domain to Allspark.com and made ambiguous comments to the Allspark’s Council of Elders that he owned the domain and could point them anywhere he wished, and also pointed out that he could create a lot of havok and chaos on the Allspark if he so chose. The CoE (Council of Elders) felt somewhat shocked and threatened by these statements, and on the same token, Kalidor felt snubbed by the CoE. When they returned, Kalidor made some scathing posts stating:
"For the most part, I found my fellow Allsparkers to be the most snobbish, wet towels at Botcon. With the exception of few folks who were really, really great, for the most part, I had an easier time making friends with people who I just happened to run into and start chatting with. Hell, the voice actors were nicer to me than some of you guys were.
At least Venus (Terzo) bought me a beer.
So to everyone who was cool, it was great meeting you -- wish we could have done more.
To everyone who acted like an ass towards me --- bite my ass."
"Like I said, several of you were really cool, and I appreciate that. But for the most part, all I saw was a bunch of cranky brats who wanted to stay in thier high school-like clique world and to hell with the rest of the people at botcon."
Tempers flared, harsh words were exchanged both ways. Some people threatened to leave the Allspark, others threaten to ban those involved. The honeymoon was over on the Allspark. Internal strife continued to build, including a near riot over the banning of Deszaras, until a sizable chunk of the CoE and a number of Allsparkers (among them Maximal General Proudwolf, Demona, Swoop/Tim Formas and Hudson among others) left the Allspark. For awhile they settled at Axalon Underground, where administrative changes had left me solely in charge, until they created a new place for themselves: Iacon Harbor.
Internal strife and administrative upsets became commonplace at the Allspark after this. Many Allsparkers served on the CoE for a time, only to be deposed or booted out during the next wave of fan politics, (notable names for in & out admins in the CoE are Skywarp, Chronoscythe, Bottlerocket, & PrimeZ). The Head administrator, Op87 was absent most of the time, so chaos became the norm. Bottlerocket (aka Zac Shipley) opened his own board dedicated to online insults and fighting called Flame War Central and also started the TFNews. Eventually Kalidor and Vindicator Decepticon wound up in charge of the CoE and the Allspark.
Beast Machines’ first season ended in the US, but Season 2 immediately proceeded on Canada’s YTV. Many fans in the US bought copies of the 2nd season on video tape or burned to VCD, while others shared digitized copies of Beast Machines online. The series finale was viewed by many of the fans almost a full year before its release in the US, and outrage roared across the fandom, as fans who followed the franchise for a decade and a half saw Cybertron changed from the metallic world of machines and iron towers, to a lushly forested planet covered in flowers. Fans who had given the maligned series a chance and had watched it with an open mind suddenly turned on the series, feeling they had been betrayed by the writing staff. Fearing where the show was headed, over and over fans wrote in ahead of time pleading with Skir & Isenberg not to reformat the planet, and they were ignored. This left a very dedicated, but very scarce group of Skir & Beast Machines fans online.
Chapter 7: Rebirth
When Beast Machines premiered in the US, there wasn’t much interest among the fans, mainly because most had already watched them either on video tapes or online. What did have their attention was the new series in Japan, Transformers: Car Robots. The new Japanese series featured, in anime form, Beast Wars-like Destrongers battling Autobot-like Cybertrons. It was a reach back to not only what was good in Beast Wars, but what was good in Classic Transformers. The toys caused quite a buzz, too, as the Cybertrons had realistic vehicle modes, like G1 initially had, but had the posability that Beast Wars was well known for. Fans fought over the toys in bidding battles on eBay, and one site rose above even Bottalk, by supplying the fandom with downloadable Car Robots episodes: TFW2005.
3H productions (Jon Hartman, Karl Hartman and Glen Hallit), the company that ran BotCon, opened a new website named BotCon Beyond, which detailed characters and upcoming storylines connected to the convention and its merchandise. One of the more popular features was "Apelinq’s Journals", a first person story of one of the key players in BotCon’s mythos.
BotCon 2001 arrived, as did a surprise at the convention. The first day of the con, two huge robots; Optimus Prime and Megatron, flanked by Proudwolf Prime and Demonatrix heralded the coming of a new site: Transfandom.com. The site was a combination of TFW2005, TFNews and Aerosurge’s Matrix magazine. Also the Colony Alliance, a board spawned from the Allspark by Gundam Girl, was merged with TFD thanks to TM2 Dinobot & DS Punch. Iacon Harbor also became loosely affiliated with TFD.
Meanwhile, on the Allspark trouble was brewing again. Op87, in what appeared to be a practical joke and also a desperate act to stop the constant infighting, gave access of his admin account to Deszaras, who promptly went in and deleted the Local users from the EZBoard, or at least that’s the explanation Deszaras and Op87 gave. This caused another uproar among the denizens of the Allspark who demanded retribution upon Deszaras, who didn’t care if he was punished or not. At the same time, a group of discontented former CoE members and other unhappy Allsparkers formed a group named after the elite Decepticon troops, the Mayhem Attack Squad. In a coincidence some members of the Cult of Zarak were on the Allspark arguing with some of the heavy-handed staff of the Allspark. When the MAS came in to assault those same heavy-handed staff members, Chronoscythe became furious when he saw the Zaraks and attacked them as well as the Allspark staff, putting the Zaraks in the strange position of being allied with the staff members they were just combatting.
The MAS and the Zaraks battled back and forth across several boards with slanderous accusations flying both ways. The MAS eventually backed down when threads from their private forum on Flame War Central were posted publically, many showing them speaking badly of the people they depended upon as allies. Support for the MAS fell away, and the attack was finally over, but the intrigue had just begun.
Vindicator had become quite paranoid during all of the attacks and wanted assurances that he would not be removed from his admin position. He feared this because many on the Allspark felt that he was too unstable to hold the position, while others continued to have confidence in him. Kalidor assured him that his position was secure, and that they needed to reorganize the CoE to keep the EZBoard stable. To do that Kalidor suggested that they allow Shwiggie to become a third admin over the message board. Vindicator refused, citing Shwiggie’s comments of no confidence in Vindicator. Vindicator feared that once Shwiggie was in place, that he would be forced to leave. Kalidor and Shwiggie spoke with me. They asked me if I & PrimeZ could convince Vindicator to trust them to honor their word and allow Shwiggie to become an admin. Finally Vindicator relented and Shwiggie was made an admin. Things hadn’t been settled long before it was slipped that they were indeed planning on removing Vindicator from the CoE, as he feared, When Vindicator found out, he changed the password to the EZOp account, effectively cementing his place on the board. If he had stopped there, thing may have been different, but he didn’t. He then kicked the entire CoE out, and replaced them all with people he felt he could trust, namely Blue Phoenix, PrimeZ & Tarantulas.
Enraged by Vindicator’s actions, Kalidor appealed to Vanchau, the owner of EZBoard, and Vanchau made the Allspark hold an election of who they wished to rule: Kalidor or Vindicator. The vote was overwhelmingly for Kalidor. Vanchau changed the password to the EZOp account and gave it to Kalidor.
Kalidor promptly shut down the EZBoard and setup an Ikonboard under the Allspark.com domain, and proceeded to lead an exodus to his server. Vindicator and PrimeZ saw this and went to Vanchau, showing him how Kalidor was removing the community, which Vanchau had hoped to keep, since EZBoard is partially funded by advertizing. Frustrated and irritated, Vanchau gave the EZOp account back to Vindicator, and swore never to get involved in board politics again.
Again, Kalidor was enraged by what Vindicator had done. He and his supporters came to the EZBoard flaming Vindicator and his staff. The majority of Allsparkers didn’t care who ran the board or where it was run, as long as things were normal. Vindicator banned the members of the "Kalspark" that flamed. The Allspark EZBoard contunued to run, though at merely a fraction of the population. The Allspark.COMmunity, as Kalidor’s Allspark became called, held on to a majority of the users, and eventually gained a fair-sized population of older, more prominent A.T.T. posters, such as M. Sipher & Walkertron. Both Allsparks declared themselves as the "one, true Allspark".
Months pass. After a while, the stress of losing most of the population and the constant ridicule from the Allspark.COMmunity got to Vindicator, so he left the board in a highly emotional state, giving the EZOp account over to PrimeZ and Tarantulas. A few weeks later, Vindicator returned, and demanded that they give him control over the site again. Sensing his instability, Tarantulas and PrimeZ refused, and offered Vindicator an regular admin position on the board, but cited his emotional outbursts and instability as reasons for them to safeguard the EZOp account. Vindicator became furious with them, and left after a tirade, calling them traitors and claiming that he was merely testing their loyalty when he gave them the EZOp account. They still offered him a regular admin position, but he refused and continued to flame them until they had to ban him. Blue Phoenix grew angry because of Prime Z’s & Tarantulas’ refusal to hand over the account, so she quit as well and returned to her own board, Blue’s Club. Vindicator went over to the Allspark.COMmunity, and begged for Kalidor’s forgiveness. Kalidor allowed him to post and interact on his board, though most of the Allsparkers there disliked Vindicator severely and many either ignored him or were openly hostile towards him. Kalidor, Vindicator and others then villified PrimeZ and Tarantulas, because they owned the EZBoard Allspark. Later the EZOps opened up Allspark.net and Allspark.tv.
2001 also saw the release of the Car Robots cartoon and figures under the name "Transformers: Robots in Diguise". Unfortunately the September 11, 2001 attacks on the Pentagon and World Trade Center Towers occurred. Because of the high emotions from such a devastating loss of life, much of the series was never aired, due to the destruction of buildings involved in the series. The fandom seemed somewhat divided on how RiD is perceived. Overall the toys were received well; the main contention is with the translation and voice acting, since the most common complaint is that it’s not as good as the Japanese version, but that remains a matter of taste. The division over this choice is not as harsh as it was over Beast Wars or Beast Machines.
In 2002 the world of comic books was rocked when a splinter company from Image Comics, called Dreamwave, produced the first official comic book featuring the Classic Transformers characters since the Generation 2 comic was cancelled in 1994. The first issue broke record sales in the industry, and showed that the original Transformers’ following was still alive and well. The comic ran as a 6 issue limited series, and was followed up by the return of veteran TF writer Simon Furman in the Transformers: The War Within comics.
Elsewhere in the fandom, Deszaras’s Suicidalist board and Zac Shipley’s board merged to become MaximumLetdown.com, which later became Powet.com. At BotCon 2002, Deszaras and Zac decided to play a prank on Axalon Underground, and more specifically on Tarantulas and myself, for our involvement in alleged hacking incidents during the MAS-Zarak conflict. They made a huge batch of flyers designed to look like they were advertizing Axalon Underground, but the text below the header was full of humorous insults and sexual innuendos directed at Tarantulas, myself and the RPG section of Axalon Underground. The 2002 convention was blanketed in the flyers (they can even be seen in the convention footage on one of the DVD sets, though only the site name is legible). Personally, I found the flyers humorous and they brought a lot of traffic to the site. Since then there have been no more conflicts between the groups, though there have been some pranks passed back and forth.
Something not humorous at all, though, occurred at the close of BotCon 2002. Glen Hallit, friend and business partner to Jon & Karl Hartman (BotCon’s founders) forced a hostile takeover of the convention. Initially Hallit tried to make it sound like it was an amicable split, though an interview with Jon Hartman showed that it was anything but amicable. Hallit then took the company, 3H Productions, and gained full official liscencing from Hasbro. He intended on leasing the BotCon name from the Hartmans, but they decided not to let him use the name of the convention they created. So, in 2003, the next convention would be called the OTFCC (The Official TransFormers brand Collectors Convention). On top of this, the Unicron statues promised by 3H to be ready for Pre-Registrants were not at the convention, do to financial conflicts with the statues’ producers, Hard Hero.
In 2002 several sites emerged in the forefront, particularly where TF news was involved, namely Transfandom.com, TFormers.com and Seibertron.com.
The latter half of 2002 saw the emergence of a new line and a new continuity for Transformers. The New series, called Armada, completely replaced the formerly planned Transtech line of Technorganic vehicles and robots. The Armada toyline was comprised of completely mechanical Vehicle Transformers, Autobots and Decepticons, as they battled over a third smaller race of robots, the Minicons. The cartoon received very low reviews due to constant scripting errors and annoyance at the large part that human children played in the series. Simon Furman took over, from James Raiz, as writer of the Armada comic, which has received much better reviews. The toys received good reviews, especially the Minicons. The story and toyline brought back the evil demigod Unicron, and produced the first mass-released figure of the Chaos Bringer. Following Takara’s successful lead in reissuing G1 Transformers in 2001, Hasbro began reissuing G1 Transformers (retooled slightly to line up with today’s safety standards) as Toys R Us exclusives. On top of that, Hasbro also released a PVC line of miniature figures called "Heroes of Cybertron"; another step that followed Takara’s release of mini-G1 cartoon based PVC figures.
The first OTFCC arrived in the summer of 2003 in Chicago. Despite the public cries for boycott and protests over Hallit’s convention coup, many people turned out for the event. The convention was essentially quiet, aside from some pranks pulled between the Zaraks and MaximumLetdown crowd. TFW2005 and The Allspark.COMmunity held a rave/dance party at the convention, though the only two people seen on the dance floor were aDam/Chopperface69 & Zac Shipley and a remote controlled Transmetal Tarantulas. Outside the party, Kalidor confronted Tarantulas (from the Allspark.tv) and told him that "the right thing to do would be to give the EZBoard up" to him. Tarantulas laughed at him and said that he had no intention of giving up the EZBoard. On a side note, the collector’s plates pre-sold to convention pre-registrants were not ready at the time of the convention, so no one received them.
The end of 2003 held many surprises. The continuation of the Armada story line was released as "Transformers: Energon" where it brought forth characters like Alpha-Q, a Quintesson (not seen since Season 3 of G1), Rodimus, Skyblast (an Energon version of Skyfire) Also, Megatron arose from the ruins of Unicron in a very Galvatron-like body. The comic was penned by Simon Furman and received good reviews. He also wrote more additions to the War Within stories, the six-issue series War Within: The Dark Ages. Transformers Generation 1 Volume 2 comics were also released, two cross-over comic series with GI Joe, an Profile series named "More Than Meets the Eye", for both G1 & Armada/Energon, as well as a trilogy of Transformers novels, aimed for a more mature audience. A line of realistic 1/24 scale die-cast Transformers were relased in Japan under the name Binaltech. The story that comes with the toys tells of a continuation of the G1 story. The figures were beginning to release in the US, sans die-cast under the brand name Alternators.
Near the end of 2003, conflicts arose within Transfandom, from creative differences. Tempers flared and the staff of TFW2005 and Iacon Harbor left the site. Transfandom opened up their own message board to replace the two that had left. Proudwolf Prime stayed on board with Aerosurge, Stormrider, Machina, Lord Zarak and Trium Shockwave. Transfans.com relaunched itself as Transfans.net, though they no longer carryied the UK comic scans, due to copyright laws.
Energon ran strong throughout 2004 and Dreamwave released a G1 based Micromasters comics, as well as an ongoing Transformers G1 series, another War Within series (the Age of Wrath), and another GI Joe Crossover (from Devil’s Due comics).
On March 8, 2004 Hasbro released this statement regardling prototypes being sold online:
"Q: There has been some discussion as to what happens to the prototypes/mockups after they are presented at Toy Fair and various other events that Hasbro attends. Are they put away for possible future use? Are they discarded? Do fans have the opportunity to acquire them?
A: Prototype toys are not made for prolonged play and have not passed safety requirements. Hasbro does not sell or store prototype toys for this reason. Prototype samples are created for production proofing, internal presentations or Toy Fair and are not cleared through Quality Assurance. Hasbro does not sell or give away prototypes at all. Any prototypes that fans may have seen for sale on websites have been obtained through unauthorized means."
Though seen mostly as lip-service towards Lucasfilm, due to a prototype leak of a Star Wars figure, some sites, such as BWTF and Transfandom, have chosen not to allow pictures of prototypes to be displayed on their pages or forums. Many other sites still allow prototype pics and discussions, and sales on eBay of prototypes continue, all without any action by Hasbro to stop any of them, nor to reward the sites that try to lead by example.
It seemed that trouble was brewing in 2004, though. The new Fan Club, run by Glen Hallit’s 3H productions was unable to meet their end of a deal to get a Skywarp Mega PVC figure created. The Sentinel Maximus exclusives were not ready when it came time for the convention to be held, and 3H lost their contract with the convention hotel, and had to quickly find another hotel shortly before the convention. Also, checks paid to the celebrity guests bounced when they tried to cash them and the collector’s plates as well as some of the Unicron statues from 2003 still had not been received by many of the previous year’s pre-registrants.
The Hartmans held BotCon 2004, celebrating the tenth anniversary of the convention, and 20th anniversary for the Transformers, in California. Since they lacked Hasbro’s official backing, they had a custom made G2 Breakdown Actionmaster figure produced for their pre-registrants (it was a surprise exclusive). They also had various voice talents from G1 attending such as Peter cullen (G1 Optimus Prime, Ironhide, Slugslinger) and Dan Gilvezan (G1 Bumblebee). In addition to that, they also had executives in charge of the upcoming Transformers live-action movie present, which allowed the original voice talent to meet with the movie producers.
Energon played itself out over the rest of the year, bring back more returns, such as Omega Supreme, Arcee, and Shockblast (Energon’s version of Shockwave). Near the end of 2004 it became clear that 3H had lost the license to the Official Transformers convention. 3H went under and their obligations to ship out withheld merchandise was passed along to Hasbro, who made sure that the fans received the items they paid for. Not long afterward Dreamwave Comics also went under. This left the comics, fanclub and the convention licenses open. The fanclub and convention licenses have since been picked up by Fun Publications, while the comic license is still up in the air. 2004 ended with server difficulties for both Transfandom and Axalon Underground. Transfandom bounced back rather quickly in the beginning of 2005 and is doing well, while Axalon Underground is setup on a temporary board while the main site is reloaded.
Epilogue: Forever is a Long Time Coming
The fandom now awaits the coming of the new TF franchise, Cybertron/Galaxy Force, as well as the upcoming live-action movie with Don Murphy and Steven Spielberg at the helm. A.T.T. and the other newsgroups are doing fine. Don Murphy’s website continues to be the hot spot for information on the upcoming movie. 2005, both Allsparks, BWTF, Bottalk, Seibertron, TFormers and many other TF sites continue to thrive online.