Looking at the picture above you could be forgiven for thinking that we have been taken over. Actually that picture is there because today we are doing an interview, yes – an interview!
Sat here a few weeks back, idly basking in the fuzzy, warm Christmas glow, eating too many peanuts and cheese footballs, I wondered who would be a good person to ask for a few thoughts on some of 2018’s Transformer related topics. It could only be a man in Iceland. But not the supermarket.
Almost everyone in the Transformers community knows Maz. His articles and photographs have underpinned the fandom for more years than times I’ve been to the gym. Whether he’s investigating copyright stamps underneath a Sunstreaker variant, hunting for Black Corvettes from Finland or putting out sumptuous pictures of the latest third party toy – he’s covered just about every corner of Transformers you can think of. And then uncovered some we didn’t know existed – so he knows his stuff.
I am very grateful that he was willing to take the time to indulge me and answer a few questions for this article. Join us as we chat about some things and agree to drink beer.
For the few people reading this who may not be aware of you, tell us who you are and what you do.
Hi, my name’s Maz! I’m originally from the UK but I live and work in Iceland. In my spare time I collect, photograph, review and write about Transformers and Diaclone toys.
What was it about Transformers that originally captivated you and made you a lifelong fan?
In the first instance, my original exposure to Transformers came from the cartoon, specifically the 3-part pilot called “Arrival From Cybertron” in the UK. I watched that thing to death on VHS, and once I was shown where the Transformers toys were in Toys R Us in what must have been super-late 1985 or early 1986, I was hooked on the toys as much as I was on the fascinating cartoon. It sounds strange to say this today, but the appeal came from lovely looking cars and planes (two big favourites of mine as a child) that turned into heroic-looking robots with great power. I’d never seen their like before, and the toys were pretty special.
What do you see in the Transformers of 2018 that keeps that connection alive?
The deepest connection for me in 2018 in terms of new toys will undoubtedly be what Masterpiece – or particularly good 3rd party manufacturers like MakeToys – produce. Should TakaraTomy pull out more signature G1 characters and Diaclone repaints for the Masterpiece line, that would be a highlight for the year. If MakeToys manage to get the rest of their MP-scale Headmasters out, again, massive highlight. Fiction wise, I hope to see IDW’s Lost Light continue to be marvellous, and my goodness it has started reaching the glorious heights again with the recent offerings. I will also be aiming to pick up more vintage G1 figures from the post-movie era, as well as choice reissue exclusives that I used to own, and hastily sold. Power Of The Primes is a toy line that I wrote off, and yet the mini-Pretenders (Prime Masters) and the newly-released Battletrap have sucked me back in to a degree, so together with TakaraTomy’s Legends line, I suspect there will be a few Generations scale toys added to my collection as well.
Outside of toys and media, I’d say the social aspect of the excellent TFNation show and my regular pub meet ups with collecting friends in London will also help keep my connection to Transformers strong in 2018.
Getting more of my collection displayed won’t hurt either!
This year looks to have a few incredible looking releases already lined up. LG Greatshot, the PotP Terrorcons and Maketoys Thunder Manus all feature highly on my “must have more than food” list. What figures, be they official or third party, are you most excited to get your mitts on this year?
As you say, LG Greatshot and Grand Maximus, MakeToys Thunder Manus and their Re:Master Highbrow are all toys for me to get excited about. I hope to see TakaraTomy pull out a few more Diaclone repaints in the Masterpiece line too. Deepcover, black Ironhide, blue MP-10, red and police Sunstreaker would all be big hits with me! I’d be interested to see if TakaraTomy introduce any new mechs in the Diaclone V2 line as well, something more than exclusive repaints of current releases, for sure.
In contrast to cavalcade of Power of the Primes toys, things seem rather quiet on the Masterpiece front. Dinobot and Targetmaster Hot Rod currently sit atop the release slate, but there’s not much to follow them. What do you think is in store for the line this year? MP Jazz and Mirage?
I think the diversification of the line into Beast Wars and Movie Masterpieces is what is responsible for fewer G1 MP figures. In addition to the two you have mentioned, there’s also MP Barricade and Ironhide (freshly announced) from the movies. If they’ve gotten that far in, it’s hard to imagine them not doing a Megatron, Ratchet, Jazz, Starscream or Soundwave. Beast Wars MPs will undoubtedly lead to Megatron and possibly more. In terms of G1, I would be amazed if we didn’t get a Steeljaw out of that Nightsalker mould, and therefore an MP Blaster eventually. Jazz, Mirage and Cliffjumper, I suspect, are still heavily tied up in licensing issues with car manufacturers.
Anyone who follows us both on Twitter will know we share a love of Takara’s Legends line. For me it’s heart breaking to hear that its demise is possibly on the cards, as Takara look to realign their offerings to match Hasbro’s. But on the other hand, as someone with the patience of Michael Douglas in Falling Down, it’s also a relief that I no longer feel I have to double dip and then struggle to sell off the Hasbro ones at a loss as they clutter the shelves of B&M bargains across the land. What’s your take on this possible shift in attitude from Takara? It seems in stark contrast to their approach since the inception of Classics.
I was initially disappointed that their PotP line would not be any different to Hasbro’s, but like you, I welcome less things to buy and store! If PotP is to align with Hasbro’s vision of mass release TFs, then maybe their Legends line could still run alongside it as a more collector focused offering, since we are always being told that’s who Takara is marketing them towards…even if they are being sold in regular retail outlets like TRU in Japan. I would be disappointed if it meant the end of higher end presentation and finish on mainline moulds, but we are already extremely fortunate to have gotten what we have out of LG – look at our shiny new Targetmasters and, not to forget, a new Greatshot toy for the first time since 1989.
At least you’ve been selling off the Hasbro duplicates, I still have everything from both lines!
Ultimately, there has to be a reason for a change of direction. If the current business model is not profitable then of course things are going to face change. If TakaraTomy as a company are not profitable, and LG is going to be sacrificed for the Hasbro retail and manufacturing model, then it might keep other collector-aimed things like Masterpiece and Diaclone afloat. I’d be willing to say goodbye to TF Legends under those circumstances. In truth, I know very little for sure about TakaraTomy’s financial health, let alone any potential and lasting change of direction with any certainty.
With the Dinobots notably absent from Takara’s early PotP line up, do you think there is still scope for separate Unite Warriors releases and does that in turn leave the door open for Takara to keep the Legends line alive?
As long as we still have TakaraTomy Mall, there’s always hope for collector-aimed products, same goes for the Tokyo Toy Show, Wonderfest etc. I’m afraid I have no idea how PotP’s Dinobot moulds would fit into that. What you say about Unite Warriors would make sense, though. However, if they are going to brand PotP the same way Hasbro is, I’d be surprised to see prominent figures like the Dinobots branded separately. I’ve honestly not been following that particular development, though.
Hasbro have doubled down on a stronger G1 tone over the last couple of iterations of Generations, making more of an effort to target collectors. Ultimately do you think this could lead to a rebirth of the collectors’ club this year, or have we moved on to these figures being released as exclusives as Arcee and Grotusque were in Titans Return?
In terms of character choices and homages, yes the collector targeting is very strong, but in terms of in-built play pattern and longevity, I think Titans Return and Power Of The Primes have done something a little more fresh, taking a leaf out of the V2 Diaclone line. The amount of interchangeable bits, figures and their integration with the many base modes throughout TR, LG and PotP is amazing. This has added a new dimension to Generations where figures are more than just individual re-interpretations, or part of a sub-set, they are far more of an orchestrated series of toys with shared concepts that play out beautifully – even if it is heavily based on successes of the past.
As for the avenue of release, I suspect Arcee and Grotusque have fallen victim to the typical and inevitable end-of-line wrap-up. Things that may have been due for release in regular retail assortments find themselves being released as show, store or online exclusives, although Arcee and Grotusque have been made available through Toys R Us in the US.
I’m not convinced this is the beginning of another dedicated collector’s club or outlet for us to access particular toys and exclusives directly. I could be wrong, though, depends on the route Hasbro goes down with their new HASCON show.
Third parties continued their rise in 2017 with some stellar releases – what do you think is in store for them this year? And why is it more Devastators? (That joke is SO 2016)
Devastator will always sell! Also, I think people are still taking cracks at him because you’d be hard pressed to get consensus on which is the best Masterpiece-scale Devastator to go with. None have waltzed in and stolen the crown the way other figures have in the 3P MP scene. There are lingering issues and compromises with all of them, and certainly that is why I have never committed to a set, although if I wanted a Dev, I’d go with Unite Warriors.
Fans Toys will no doubt continue to address 1986 and 1987 figures as advertised, as well as combiners it seems. MakeToys are buffing out their Galaxy Force Masterpiece line and continuing with Re:Master, thank goodness! Cross Dimension has gotten me by the neck again thanks to Thunder Erebus. MMC also continue to put out great stuff in Reformatted, but maybe they ought to leave Ocular Max to die, or work hard to recapture the magic of Sphinx and Jaguar, with the quality and durability to match! Fans Hobby are fascinating, I love the characters they are releasing and their ethos for each release. A very fun and promising outfit whose toys are quite often rich in fun. It’s all going quite late-era G1, and I am perfectly fine with this!
With the majority of third parties so heavily focused on mining the Masterpiece corner of the market, how do you think third parties sustain and grow in the future?
Well they can either fight over the Masterpiece-scale scraps, or they can carve out a niche for themselves the way MMC have with Reformatted, the way Iron Factory and DX9 are with legends scale toys, or go big like Wei Jiang have with the retools and oversized figures they are putting out. I also hope to see great success for Mayhem Mekanics and their Unrustable Bastards line (great first toy, believe me), because that should encourage 3Ps to go original again and not just aim at filling gaps in official MP collections. Or, you know, stealing IP shit.
If you could choose one thing, what would you like to see this year? Yes, you can say more Diaclone 😉
Are we talking realistic or fantasy land? If we are talking the latter, I’d like to see G1 reissues return, but of higher quality than some of the Platinum Edition stuff we have received. The coneheads were rubbish quality, as was the Chronicles Megatron. Victory Saber, Deathsaurus, Liokaiser, Greatshot, Dai Atlas, Grand Maximus, Artfire, Scorponok etc, these are G1 figures that deserve reissuing!
More Diaclone-themed Masterpiece releases would thrill me no end, too. Maybe one or two more Titans Return box sets with figures that are noticeable by their absence?
New Diaclone mechs would be awesome, but seriously, tone down the repaints guys. We have enough Powered Suits and Dia-Battles variants now. Please.
And finally, at TFNation shall we sit down with a couple of beers and do this again?
You got it.
You can find more from Maz at his website here: TF Square One
Alternatively he also writes regular articles over at the TF Source blog here: TF Source Blog