There’s a lot of spoiled fandoms. Marvel fans have tons of media to swim in, Star Wars fans are on the edge of a new era. But nobody can deny the Transformers fandom has it extremely good, with toys, comics, shows, movies, videogames, and other branded material we devour. And like any fandom with disposable income, we annually get together at a giant official convention, Botcon. Botcon 2014 was held June 5th to the 8th in Pasedena, California. It’s the 30th year of Transformers, and the 21st year of Botcon, and the 11th under the current management, Fun Publications Inc.
Being so close to Hollywood, and with the release of the upcoming Transformers film, everybody expected plenty of hype for the fourth Michael Bay film. Yet there wasn’t a single person involved in the movies on the guest list. So to take advantage of the location, all Primus Package (deluxe ticket) holders were treated to a bus ride to Universal Studios where we were let to roam the park, and stay after hours to enjoy the park without lines. Sadly a lot of this prime time was used for Hasbro’s rather dull Dinobot Clip Show, but there was enough time to get a few rides on the new Transformers ride in. Stan Bush put on an outdoor concert and thankfully his music holds up much, much better than the Jurassic Park ride (which didn’t even have Protoceratops Andrewsi).
Skipping the lines at Universal Studioes makes up for the plentiful lines at Botcon, where you can expect a bit of a wait to pick up your registration package, get inside the dealer’s room, or get an autograph. Thankfully after ten years, the lines actually have started to move at a steady rate and when you’re in line, at least the guy behind you is capable of carrying a discussion about Stunticons.
It wouldn’t be a Botcon without exclusives. Hats, clothing, prints, posters, and of course TOYS, 6 with the deluxe “Primus Package” preregistration ticket ($395 USD), 7 more to be purchased at the convention itself ($391 USD). A set of six miniature “Kreons” (off-brand Lego people) ($49). Although with so many exclusives, commemorative appeal of the individual of the figures is slightly diminished.
As always, there were plenty of guests, with a particular emphasis on females:. Some highlights of the guest list include:
Voice of Arcee “Susan Blu” who told an amazing story about Gary Chalk which I won’t spoil. “Jem” star Samantha Newark (pictured left) who doesn’t age at all and I will gladly see again at Jemcon later this summer. Maighread Scott and Sarah Stone are the creative talent between the wonderful Windblade comic which is already confirmed for an eventual sequel. John Barber and James Roberts are the responsible parties for the two current Transformer ongoings and plenty of their artists. The cast of the “Resuce Bots” show were there, but the sad truth is, it’s pretty much sexy Steve Blum and his entourage.
A huge draw to Botcon is the news, first glimpses of figures which won’t be on shelves for months (and then they’ll stay on shelves for a few days or a few years). More Dinobots, more girls, more Kre-O. The store shelf space left by diminished interest in G.I. Joe won’t stay empty. But there was barely a bit or piece revealed about the upcoming “Robots In Disguise” show, although we’re all more interested in remembering Animated anyway.
The dealer’s room actually wasn’t the largest. It didn’t have everything Transformers for sale, although it did have more than enough to empty a wallet. “Alpha Prime Toys” seemed like they had the best prices. Collectors remember, haggling is an option and the best deals are on sunday. Unlike the past two years when IP Protection attempted to unsuccessfully discourage sale of “3rd Party” accessories (and fairly so), this year they were in open display.
JAGEX once again was exhibiting, and it seems the very long road to the Chinese Democracy that is the Transformers Universe online game is finally about to come to an end. The game has lost the Character Creation element but still looks very addictive and won’t have a pay-to-win business model.
When not stalking a guest or looking at toys, there was always an event or panel in the other building. The Botcon Retrospective used crowd response to be more fun than it had any right to be, and finally held late in the evening (like it should be), the “MSTF” movie parody event had lots of laughs, as did the script reading. On the other hand, the Film Fest had embarrassingly few entries, possibly because of the very, very dated submission process.
Somehow there was no Cosplay event. Not even a designated meeting space. This isn’t a hard event to arrange, just pick an area, write it on the schedule, and the cosplayers know how to pose. There wasn’t a “Classy” event like a Hall of Fame Dinner or Casino Night dinner so I brought my nice new vest for nothing.
Overall, Fub Publications put on a very good convention despite repeat signs that they’r e out of touch with the fandom. While I typically avoid linear ranking, I feel safe in saying Botcon is a B- and with my bank account diminished I think I can skip next year (unless it’s somewhere closer). Thankfully I’ll always be able to make it to TFcon, which is an event about community instead of hype. Botcon might have no had as much music and dancing as the Wow Jam festival two blocks away, but it had a ton more personality than the Craft Market in the same building.
-Michael Ryan, June 26, 2014
Really you guys Allspark is like ten years old how are we not good at meet-ups yet.