There’s a lot of excitement in Chicago with the Blackhawk’s recent Stanley Cup victory. But fifty miles away from the city, the small town of St. Charles hosted this year’s BotCon, America’s official Transformers convention. Everybody who can name over 100 Decepticons prepares for a next-level fandom experience meeting each other and meeting with Hasbro to have the chance to give direct feedback about how the toy line has been operating.
Read the report on last year’s Botcon here.
With late opening of pre-registration, a location which really is beyond being called “Chicago” and major transit issues in the town it was being held in; a lot of people have given up on the convention and it’s organizers, Fun Publications. To keep people interested they needed a couple miracles – and thankfully a couple miracles happened.
The first miracle was the Guest of Honor; the legendary Frank Welker. He’s voiced maybe a literal thousand cartoon characters – from Freddie on the original Scooby-Doo to being the voice of the current Scooby. But of particular interest was the way he voices So Many Decepticons, and their leader, Megatron, in numerous unforgettable incarnations. He’s always been notoriously reclusive and it took the influence of his pal Peter Cullen to convince him to come to a convention and be hailed as a hero. In person he was sweeter and nicer than anyone would expect Megatron to be.
The other miracle was “Oil Master.” a whole new original figure (with the capability to hold a smaller figure) instead of the usual recolors and minor alterations of retail toys. If her were a character in the G1 Transformer show, odds are Oil Master would be voiced by Mr. Welker. And the rest of the exclusives were vibrant looking obscure tributes for die-hard fans to appreciate.
And for the people not into the exclusives, the dealers room had thousands of toys for sale, new and old, at every price point. And also in the dealer’s room were some of the artists from the various Transformers comic series, like Okay Guy Josh Perez!
Returning guests were the ever delightful Susan Blu, and fast-talker John Moschita, and fan-favorite Derrick J Wyatt. All of whom contributed to the script reading, which provided the salvation for a certain fan-favorite character. Another guest was Japanese toy designer Kojin Ono, who shared a lot of fascinating information about Transformers history which has never been publicly documented.
However while it had Frank Welker, and a monkey (who in the eighties would have likely been voiced by Frank Welker). There were a lot of absences of regular Botcon elements. No IDW, no Darby Pop, no Shout Factory, no Stan Bush! Very scant details regarding the new Transformers: Devastation game since the developers were all busy at e3. The city tour was cancelled because of Chicago’s Stanley Cup mayhem. The film fest didn’t even have any entries because entries were only accepted via Fax. Even MSTF and Cheets’ Tweaks were absent. Hasbro didn’t reveal the Masterpiece Optimus Primal, even though the same weekend it was revealed around the world at the Tokyo Toy Show. There’s valid individual reasons for each of these absences, but excuses pile up. But on the upside, this year the club store didn’t have much of a line-up.
So most exciting reveal of the show was the new Sky Lynx figure in the continuing Combiner Wars line and another iteration of Bruticus. And fans found clues regarding the “Titan Wars” in the distant future. San Diego Comic-Con might have more info about this. Nobody could say anything about the next film, and that’s okay since nobody was eager to ask.
There were a few cosplayers, nothing astonishing as some of the Transformer: Prime costumes from past years, but a reasonable number of girls wearing clothing clearly made to evoke their favorite seeker. The costuming panel was another bore but the cosplay contest finally received enough spotlight to almost make up for being completely forgotten last year.
With a lot of issues, many fans eagerly await some new organizers being given the reigns to host the official convention. But when and if somebody else takes charge, Fun Publications have created some solid traditions which the next company should continue with. And in the meantime, the organizers of the unofficial TFcon are putting on conventions to rival Botcon’s love of the brand in Mississauga, Ontario and Charlotte, North Carolina. Then next year’s TFcon USA is in the city of Chicago in what feels like an intentional one-up of Botcon being out in suburbia.
Despite the absent elements, there was enough love to fill the weekend. Would it have been worth a trip across the country? Perhaps not, but wisely it was in the mid-western United States. Next year will need to have a good number of confirmed exhibitors, guests, and a refined registration system before a lot of fans will commit to attending – but a lot of fans are dedicated attendees because that’s just their life-style.
-Michael Ryan, June 28th 2015
Hey you guys I’ve been writing for this website for a year now!