And so, 2016 has drawn to a close and 2017 has dawned. While many revile 2016 for reasons outside of the fandom, within the Transformers fandom there has been a lot of things to get excited about, including big developments in the comics, a very big development in the toys, Michael Bay upsetting people before the new movie even comes out, and not one, not two, but three cartoons for fans to enjoy.
Read on to join us on a fond retrospective look-back at all of what has transpired in the year 2016.
A year of milestones
2016 was, for Transformers, a year filled with milestones. IDW’s ongoing comics More than Meets the Eye and the comic formerly known as Robots in Disguise both celebrated their 50th issues, Rescue Bots celebrated 100 episodes, Beast Wars celebrated 20 years of entertaining fans, and Transformers the Movie celebrated its 30th anniversary.
It is hard to believe that it has been 30 years that this fan was knee-high, going to the cinema to watch the animated spectacle that widened the scope of Transformers to a planet-hopping, galaxy-spanning space opera. The movie brought in a lot of elements which have stuck around in the franchise for many years since, including a slew of memorable new characters and settings, plus that pre-asskicking one-liner from Optimus Prime and a soundtrack that still serves as an anthem to the fans 30 years on.
The occasion was marked in style, with the movie getting a Blu-Ray release in the US from Shout Factory. The two disc set included a new 4K scan of the movie with an impressive restoration, albeit one that sometimes over saturated the colors (see Hot Rod for an example). Hasbro also joined in the celebration, by turning all of their special edition Platinum sets for the year into sets celebrating scenes and characters from the movie, including two sets that recreated the two big showdowns of the movie and a re-release of the Supreme class Unicron toy (using the 2010, “movie accurate” retool, naturally). Takara-Tomy also joined in with a few movie-themed toy releases, including a new deco version of Springer in the Legends line, a new Masterpiece Hot Rod, and reissues of some other toys who fit in with the movie such as Masterpiece Ultra Magnus, although none of this was overtly branded as a movie tie-in.
For all the attention lavished on the movie, very little was paid to Beast Wars. The franchise that brought Transformers back from the brink got very little official recognition from Hasbro, leaving it to Fun Publications to handle the celebration with a Beast Wars themed convention and exclusive set of toys. Takara-Tomy have also joined in with a Beast Wars entry into their Masterpiece line – Optimus Primal – with a Cheetor to follow in 2017.
And if Beast Wars got little recognition, the 15th anniversary of Robots in Disguise (the original) got even less recognition. While Robots in Disguise was only ever a filler series, it had a role in establishing the secondary “collector” line space. For, you see, limited toy releases bearing the Robots in Disguise name were made available alongside the Transformers Armada line. This concept was then later replaced by the Transformers Universe line which played the same role in the market as the “expanded universe” Robots in Disguise toys. This in turn led to the Classics and Generations lines which we enjoy and celebrate today, so as the line which started the trend, Robots in Disguise deserves recognition. Even if you do not buy into that tenuous web of associations, then you can also celebrate Robots in Disguise for introducing great characters and ideas such as Omega Prime, Ruination, Scourge, and Sky-Byte.
IDW’s comics at 50
As mentioned in our discussion of the milestones above, IDW’s Transformers comics Transformers (Robots in Disguise) and More than Meets the Eye both hit their 50th issue milestones in this past year. The two series launched nearly five years ago following the ending of Mike Costa’s ongoing series and presented on the one hand a story of political intrigue mixed with classic Transformers action, and a story of a group of bots with troubled pasts on a quest to find the Knights of Cybertron in the other.
For both books, issue 50 marked a turning point in the stories. Transformers had been running with a plot involving the Autobots returning to Earth, where Galvatron and his Decepticon followers had successfully infiltrated the planet and made themselves out to be allies to humanity. Galvatron, naturally, had sinister plans of his own, and to add further complications, Soundwave sought to establish a space colony for all Cybertronians following his understanding of the true conception of “the Decepticon way”, but was fundamentally opposed to following any Prime. Issue 50 saw this reach a head with Optimus Prime arriving on Earth to annex the planet as a part of the Cybertronian Council of Worlds, a move that sent shockwaves through both Earth and Cybertron. Galvatron naturally did not take this move sitting down, and launched his own counterstroke, which led to the culmination of nearly two years’ worth of stories involving the ancient Cybertronian villain and a dramatic showdown in the atmosphere of Jupiter.
More than Meets the Eye, meanwhile, continued with its own spacefaring adventures and exploration of Megatron’s character. Was his change of heart and renouncing his galaxy-conquering ways truly genuine, and if it was, would other bots be able to accept his as a changed figure? The answer to the latter was a resounding “no”, as More than Meets the Eye 50 saw a mutiny on board the Lost Light headed up by Getaway strand the core cast of characters on the planet which had belonged to the enigmatic Necrobot. To make matters worse, Megatron’s own Decepticon internal affairs bureau, the Decepticon Justice Division, had arrived on planet with the one and only goal of exterminating Megatron for renouncing his Decepticon ways. Further complication was added when another bot who wanted to settle a score with Megatron arrived, and even the return of long-standing characters from when the book launched, Drift and Ratchet, could do little to turn the tide in favor of the heroes. By the time this arc, the Dying of the Light, was concluded, heroes lay dead, character’s resolves were tested, and the identities of the Decepticon Justice Division were revealed, along with the resolution of some long-standing mysteries in the series.
Sinful Wreckers & Combaticon brutality
Alongside the main Transformers books hitting 50, IDW had a third line of a miniseries, followed by the launch of a third ongoing book. Sins of the Wreckers was the anticipated follow-up to Last Stand of the Wreckers, and continued the story of Impactor while also delving into yet more of the darkness surrounding the Autobot Prowl. The miniseries never quite hit the same heights as Last Stand, delivering instead more character driven moments and less senseless deaths, however, it also introduced a few awesome elements into the universe including Beast Wars characters spearheaded by Tarantulas, who was the big villain of the whole thing. Springer, last seen comatose in Last Stand, was revived and some new details of his past revealed – and the whole saga did little to show Prowl in a positive light, even in the moments when you could see he meant well. By the end of the series, several Wreckers and Autobots lay dead, and Springer decided to walk away from the Wreckers to instead remain on Earth. Given the events over in the main ongoing, it will only be a matter of time before he is called to action once again.
Following the conclusion of Sins of the Wreckers, IDW launched its new ongoing, Til All Are One. With Transformers focusing on the action on Earth, and More than Meets the Eye set out in the galaxy, Til All Are One focused the action on Cybertron, blending the political maneuvering of an increasingly unhinged Starscream with action as Windblade, Ironhide, and the other main characters fight to maintain the fragile peace of Cybertron. The first arc of the series focused on that fight, using the Combaticons as viewpoint characters as they try to uncover Starscream’s dealings and the fate of their fallen comrade, Swindle, leading to Bruticus being unleashed upon Iacon. One element of this initial arc which pleased fans was the fact that a particular event from Windblade’s first miniseries, which had been ignored in her second seven issue series, came back to the fore with major consequences.
Titans Return… to comics
Back over in the two main ongoings, the 56th and 57th issues of each series were tie-ins to the new Titans Return toyline, in addition to being the final issues of each series. In Titans Return, it was revealed that one of Optimus Prime’s less than honorable forebears, Sentinel Prime, was alive and well, and plotting to purify Cybertron of what he saw as “corrupt” elements, being less than pleased with how things had developed in his absence. The Transformers portion of the plot focused around his battle with Optimus Prime and his abduction of Alpha Trion, in addition to providing some further development of details surrounding the increasingly complicated backstory of G.B. Blackrock. The final part of the tie-in ended with a warning to Optimus Prime, that Sentinel was in fact the herald of one of the ancient Primes, and they were not beneficent. This is a thread which is almost certainly going to be coming to the fore in future storylines leading into the eventual Power of the Primes tie-in.
The More than Meets the Eye issues, meanwhile, took Sentinel’s crusade to the displaced Cybertronian moon, Luna-1, where he intended to raise an army of deceased Titans like Metroplex to lay waste to Cybertron to achieve his goals. Standing against him were Fortress Maximus, Red Alert, Prowl, and newcomer Cerebros. The finale of More than Meets the Eye succeeded in calling back to several key scenes and themes of the series while also finishing off the plot of Titans Return and defeating Sentinel Prime – with Fortress Maximus getting to take to battle as a Titan himself, cleverly inserting the classic city-sized version of the character into the series without compromising the existing interpretation of the bot.
While the four issues (and associated lead-in one-shot) concluded Titans Return as an arc, the story was not over, and is set to conclude in 2017 in the pages of Til All Are One. And while issue 57 of Transformers and More than Meets the Eye was the end of both of those books, each relaunched in December 2016 under new names: Optimus Prime and Lost Light.
The latter part of 2016 also saw IDW launch a full-on Hasbro comics universe. The company had been publishing Transformers and G.I. Joe comics for some time, but until now the two had occupied their own continuities. No longer was this the case, as IDW’s Revolution event retconned Transformers and G.I. Joe to share a common universe along with other Hasbro properties such as ROM, MASK, and Micronauts. The crossover grew organically out of Optimus Prime’s formal annexation of Earth, which prompted the US government to reactivate G.I. Joe, and Joe Colton – secretly an invading alien Dire Wraith – approached Miles “Mayhem” Mannheim for his advice and expertise, leading to the creation of MASK as a special anti-Cybertronian force. Because humans assume all space robots are the same, when ROM showed up and destroyed the Dire Wraiths inside of G.I. Joe including Colton, G.I. Joe’s Scarlett assumed that the Transformers were to blame and led G.I. Joe into combat with the Autobots. Things only grew more complicated from there with the arrival of the Micronauts and their villain, Baron Karza, who was working with the Dire Wraiths in an attempt to save his own dimension, Microspace, even if it was at the expense of the Earth.
The five issue miniseries ran fortnightly, and like most crossovers, threw in lots of great characters in various match-ups. It was further supported by various tie-in books, some of which were not important to understanding the plot, but others bridged various gaps in the story (for example, Action Man: Revolution was necessary to understanding the fate of Kup). One tie-in which stood alone and generally poked fun at the whole thing was James Roberts’ More than Meets the Eye: Revolution, which leaned heavily on the fourth wall and made use of the fan-favorite Scavengers.
Season 2 of Robots in Disguise
In the world of cartoons, 2016 brought a second season of the Transformers: Robots in Disguise series. The second season picked up the adventures of Bumblebee and team as they tried to track down fugitive Decepticons on Earth – and with a larger regular cast including Windblade and Optimus Prime, the Autobots divided into two teams, with Optimus leading Sideswipe, Windblade, and Drift on away missions while Bumblebee, Strongarm, and Grimlock handled matters closer to home. Quickly Bumblebee uncovered a new plot involving a “Decepticon Island”, and his rival from Season 1, Steeljaw, was heavily involved in matters.
The first part of the second season was very similar to the first season, with the Autobots fighting the Decepticon of the week and learning new tricks or overcoming personal issues to overcome the abilities of their foes. Frequently the bad guys now also had Mini-cons to back them up, which often added an extra dimension to battles. The mid-season finale was Decepticon Island, and saw both Autobot teams come together along with returning Transformers Prime character Ratchet for a showdown that would have served well for a grand finale.
This, however, was not the end of the series as six more episodes of the season aired in late 2016. The first three episodes saw a group of scavengers and their Mini-cons raiding sites of Transformers activity including the Autobot base from Transformers Prime. The remaining episodes upped tension considerably as old enemy Starscream arrived on Earth to claim the Mini-cons the scavengers were using, as they could boost his power beyond that of a Prime. Fortunately, Optimus arrived back on Earth in time to even the score.
Robots in Disguise season 2 was a decent advancement over the first season. The humor flowed better, and the characters were further developed, especially latecomers like Optimus Prime and Windblade. The season did well introducing both new villains and bringing back previous favorites for new encounters, though the initial 13 episodes relied a bit too much on episodic “baddie of the week” stories. The final six episodes in the Starscream / scavengers arc fared better, with strong connections to Transformers Prime and a resolution for why Starscream is not Predacon chow. More perhaps could have been done with Starscream’s crew, who were underdeveloped and had potential to be an evil version of the Bee team. Additionally, both the final showdown with Starscream and the finale of Decepticon Island involved the heroes getting mega power boosts to save the day, the same as in season 1’s finale, which made for cool battle sequences but is in danger of being overused and becoming a deus ex machina for the writers. Overall though the season was an immensely enjoyable experience, especially the last six episodes.
Combiner Wars Animated
Machinima’s Combiner Wars CGI animated series was a second way that Transformers fans got to see their favorite Robots in Disguise in animated action in 2016. The eight five-minute CGI animated shorts were released online from August 2016 onwards, and chronicled Windblade teaming up with Optimus Prime and Megatron to destroy the Enigma of Combination, which was in the hands of Cybertron’s ruling council. The plot’s overall shape and tone was similar to that of the IDW comics story from 2015 – a Cybertron, with Starscream involved in its ruling council, comes into contact with the Enigma which has the capability to create and control combiners, prompting action on different fronts to stop it. The 40 minute total runtime and five-minute chunks meant that the storytelling was simplified and focused, centering mainly on Windblade, her quest for vengeance, and how this drew in Optimus Prime and Megatron.
The series was criticised on a range of fronts, from Windblade stealing the series with her central role and disproportionate power level (she proves to be capable of slaying a combiner all on her own, and can hold her own alongside heavyweights like Optimus Prime and Megatron). The titular combiners mostly never being shown as individuals or having on-screen combinations was another point of complaint. The series was also criticised for its weak story, which is a legitimate complaint as there are some significant plot holes present in the series unless you read the comics and assume certain points based on those. However, given that each episode lasted just five minutes, in which it needed to set a scene, progress the overall plot, and then set up a cliffhanger for the next episode, it was never going to be as in-depth as a full 20 minute episode, and the series as a whole was more enjoyable when experienced in a single 40 minute sitting. Some of the good points of the series included the voicework of the main characters, with a solid Peter Cullen inspired Optimus Prime performance from Jon Bailey, and an absolutely fantastic performance from Jason Marnocha as Megatron, who stole scenes with his dry wit and snarky responses to the other characters, and his scenes where he played off of Bailey’s Optimus Prime are some of the highlights of the series.
Rescue Bots at 100
2016 saw Transformers Rescue Bots enter into its fourth 26 episode season with a three year timeskip which brought the series into line with the timeframe of Robots in Disguise, its sister-show in the aligned continuity. The show adopted a new normal in its season opening, “New Normal” where the people of Griffin Rock became aware of the Rescue Bots’ existence as alien robots, following the defeat of an alien invasion. As the season continued, new characters were introduced including a female Rescue Bot, Quickshadow, voiced by Alex Kingston. The season’s finale, which might also be the series finale, saw all of the Rescue Bots united against their old foe Dr. Morocco, who became the an evil Transformer when he uploaded himself into his latest Morbot. The series closed with the various members of the Rescue Bots being assigned to new missions worldwide by Optimus Prime, seemingly drawing a line under the series and showing the heroes all going their own ways.
Most notable though is that, in this final season, Rescue Bots eclipsed Transformers Generation 1’s 98 episode run to become the longest running Transformers series, with 104 episodes produced. It is also the only Transformers series to date to have had four full-length seasons. While the 100th episode of the series was not anything special to commemorate the century milestone, episode 98 was a very special episode, with a guest appearance by Sideswipe from Robots in Disguise hunting a rogue Mini-Con who had escaped from the Alchemoor, giving the show its first and only Decepticon, albeit a not particularly evil or destructive one. This connection with Robots in Disguise gave the show its firmest connection yet with the wider ongoing Transformers cartoon continuity, and was a good and subtle way to celebrate the show overtaking Generation 1 as the longest running Transformers series.
A new movie draws near!
Throughout 2016, news came forward relating to a new Transformers live-action movie. Michael Bay returns to direct the fifth instalment of the Transfomers film franchise, and the year has seen a slow but steady build of information as actors were cast for the new movie, the cars being featured as Cybertronians were revealed, and even the various robots who will be joining the cast were shown off, from new forms for Bumblebee and Hound, to the confirmation that the villain cast will include Megatron (not Galvatron), a revived / survived Barricade, and Onslaught. The Autobots are also getting a new addition in the form of Hot Rod, and a new mascot character named Squeaks. On location filming took place as well, with Michael Bay courting controversy by using the stately home of British wartime Prime Minister Winston Churchill as a Nazi headquarters. Time will tell if this potentially short sequence will be worth the controversy when Transformers 5 arrives in 2017.
By far the biggest development on the movie front, though, was the confirmation that Transformers was expanding from a series of movies into a full-on franchise, following the example of Marvel and Star Wars. 2017 will see Transformers 5, named The Last Knight, followed by a spin-off featuring Bumblebee planned for 2018 and then a further movie (expected to be a full sequel) in 2019.
Lovely toys (Combiner Wars giftsets)
We’ve now reached the part of the retrospective where we talk about the toys! It is a tribute to the evolving multimedia nature of the franchise that there is so much to talk about before we come to this. In 2016 once again the toys were mainly dominated by the Generations and Robots in Disguise lines, with Masterpiece also playing a major role in getting many collectors to open their wallets.
Combiner Wars continued in the early part of the year, transitioning from individual releases to boxed sets. The first giftset releases were inspired by Transformers: Generation 2, and offered three out of the four main combiners in their Generation 2 decos. Defensor was omitted, and later giftsets included Victorion, an all-new fan-voted combiner, Computron, and Liokaiser. Computron and Victorion are the most notable of these, for having dedicated hand and foot parts instead of the “hand-foot guns” of the earlier releases, which really helped their poseability. Fun Publications also joined in the combiner fun, offering a Botcon exclusive combiner set, Predacus, and a second combiner through their Figure Subscription Service based on the Mayhem Attack Squad from the Marvel Comics. This latter combiner, Thunder Mayhem, was accompanied by reuses of other Combiner Wars toys decoed as Impactor and Diaclone style blue Bluestreak, who will combine with other figures being offered in next year’s final Figure Subscription Service to form Wreckage, one last combiner from the Collectors Club.
A selection of the year’s releases in the Generations line (guest-starring Unite Warriors Computron)
The main thrust of Hasbro’s collector oriented line launching in mid-2016 was Titans Return. Launching Hasbro’s “toy ecology” concept, the line was tied together with the concept of Headmasters, here renamed as Titan Masters. Every toy in every size class was compatible with the Titan Masters in some way, be it the small individually packed Titan Masters who came will small vehicles to ride in, the Legends who transform into vehicles with spots for the Titan Masters to ride in, or the larger size classes who can use the Titan Masters as their heads.
As might be expected from a line of Headmasters, right out of the gate, Hasbro was introducing updated versions of the remaining six classic Headmasters who had not received updated toys. Brainstorm, the seventh, had a new toy in 2013, but was also released in the same style and scale as his six fellow classic Headmasters as an exclusive through the San Diego Comic Con and Walgreens. The line also brought back the most gigantic of all the Headmasters, Fortress Maximus, as the line’s Titan Class figure. This one was well-received by fans who’d desired a new Fortress Maximus since 2013’s Metroplex, and few were disappointed with the end result. Fort Max had three distinct versions released, with the mainline release featuring an animation accurate Cerebros inspired by the 1987 Rebirth animated episodes, while the SDCC and Japanese releases skewed more to toy accuracy.
With the Headmasters covered, you might wonder what else Hasbro would use their line of Headmasters for, and the answer seems to be “whatever cool stuff they want”, with the likes of Powermaster Optimus Prime, Hot Rod, Monsterbot Doublecross (rechristened Twinferno), Soundwave and minions, Galvatron, Scourge, and Triggerhappy all getting the Headmaster treatment. The Voyagers deserve special credit for bringing in triple-changing as a line-wide gimmick, which has led to the seeds being sown for many of the classic Triple Changers getting Voyager class releases. Astrotrain has arrived and Broadside is on the cards, with the Voyager class Optimus Prime and Megatron being very clearly intended to do double duty as Octane and Blitzwing. The Titans Return Voyager class also deserves credit for releasing a good version of Galvatron into the classics line – though not without flaws – and the first commercial release Alpha Trion toy for the US market. Alpha Trion here was depicted pretty far from his classic look, but instead he got a cool Viking warlord design and a lion mode to go with it. The Legends size class has produced some interesting new toys as well, finally delivering on a rumored Sharkticon from three years prior, as well as new animation inspired versions of Bumblebee and Wheelie, and a Kickback to complete the Insecticons. The aforementioned minions of Soundwave were also released in the size class, transforming from their robot or animal forms into both vehicles and also into tablets, which could plug into the Leader class Soundwave and Blaster figures.
Unite! Legendary Warriors
Takara-Tomy, meanwhile, also carried on with their equivalents of these lines. Their Combiner Wars analog, Unite Warriors, continued through the year. The Unite Warriors line offered up some interesting releases including Bruticus, who was styled like the animation version and featured an all-new version of Blast Off as a space shuttle, as opposed to Hasbro’s harrier jet version, as well as a Vortex with four rotors. While fans loved the more accurate take on Bruticus offered here, some were critical of the design of Blast Off and the deco as a whole.
Unite Warriors also offered its own version of Computron, which was dramatically different to the Hasbro version, using different molds to the Hasbro release, new weapons for all of the figures, and a remolded Scattershot to give Computron an accurate torso. One of the best releases of the Unite Warriors line, the only flaws of this Computron was that he lacked Scrounge, and did not have the better hands and feet of the Hasbro version.
The Unite Warriors line was rounded out with some slightly more “out-there” choices, such as Grand Galvatron – a vehicle for releasing Hasbro’s Cyclonus in the Unite Warriors line, along with molds such as Rook and Offroad who’d not seen a Japanese release. The set was a continuity crossover combiner, with Cyclonus possessed by Galvatron and combining with Starscream’s Ghost, Transformers Prime’s Breakdown, Armada’s Thrust, and a version of Roller who’d lost his Optimus Prime and become bitter as a result. Exclusive versions of Sky Reign – redubbed Lynxmaster and swapping out Smokescreen for Ratchet – and planned 2017 releases including female Decepticon combiner Megatronia and Car Robots homage Baldigus round out the line. Megatronia as her name implies is a female Megatron combiner with the torso being the female Megatron, Megaempress. The set is a recolor of Victorion for the Japanese market and includes Victorion’s new hands and feet, as well as a simple but striking deco. Baldigus, meanwhile, is a straight-up redeco of Takara-Tomy’s Bruticus, but with Computron’s new hands and feet, and extra guns, intended to homage the Car Robots character of the same name who was also a Bruticus redeco.
Titans Return, meanwhile, debutted in Japan as a part of the Transformers Legends line. The main Headmasters all got retooled heads and tweaked decos to better homage their Headmasters cartoon appearances, while the rest of the line released in Japan also received updated decos, to a greater or lesser extent. Notably, the line took a different approach to the Titan Masters, bundling the little Headmaster figures in with Legends class releases, and including their minivehicles with some – but not all – of the Deluxe class figures being released in Japan. Special mention also goes to the Japanese release of Powermaster Optimus Prime, Super Ginrai, who received extensive remolding including new feet to better resemble his appearance in the Masterforce cartoon and enable a future combination into his ultimate form, God Ginrai.
As in the US, the centrepiece of the line was Fortress Maximus, who was redecoed to be fully animation / toy accurate, and featured the gigantic Master Sword (the sword was also bundled in with the SDCC version that Hasbro offered, and some of Hasbro Asia’s outlets also ran a promotion where the sword was offered individually). Takara-Tomy’s Fortress Maximus sported a soundchip like the US version, except theirs included a few bars of the 1987 Headmasters theme song, to the delight of many fans.
Takara-Tomy’s Masterpiece line of Transformers continued strongly in 2016, with several great additions to the series coming throughout the year. The Autobot car Masterpieces gave way to larger figures, with a great array of accessories, including a range of characters fans had been waiting to get the Masterpiece treatment for some time, along with a few surprises.
The year kicked off in style with the release of Masterpiece Ironhide, who marked the Masterpiece series’ transition from cars to larger releases, and included a huge amount of accessories. He was closely followed by Shockwave and a new Masterpiece Hot Rod, who was this time designed to be only the young Autobot without the feature of turning into Rodimus Prime as well. A retooled Ironhide as Ratchet followed, giving fans a Masterpiece version of the Autobot medic as he appeared in the original cartoon. Fans were also able to fill out there Decepticon ranks with two Takara-Tomy Mall exclusive releases with Ramjet arriving in March, and his brother in arms Thrust arriving in October. Dirge is set to arrive in 2017 to round out the Decepticon jet army.
Following the year’s strong start, the middle of the year was occupied by some redecos of earlier releases, including a Tokyo Toy Show exclusive “Black Tracks” in the form of Loud Pedal and a new release of Masterpiece Red Alert, this time in colors more closely resembling the original show deco. Diaclone fans were also pleased to receive a Powered Convoy deco of Masterpiece Ultra Magnus in the form of Delta Magnus. Hasbro’s sole Masterpiece release of 2016, Bumblebee, was also released in the middle of the year, and he was substantially unchanged from his original Japanese release.
The end of the year saw two new molds release. The first one was Masterpiece Optimus Primal, the first Beast Wars Masterpiece to be released. A fantastically realised offering, Primal was screen accurate to the original depiction of the Maximal commander down to the main beats of his transformation, and featured interchangeable faces. He was followed by Inferno, giving Generation 1 fans a Masterpiece version of the Autobot firetruck, and as with Ironhide he came with a wide array of accessories and alternate faces, including an alternate head to reflect how he was drawn differently in some of his animated appearances. Both toys were extremely well received and reckoned to be among the best releases of the year.
Prime of Mini-cons – a Transformers Adventure starring the Robots in Disguise
The Robots in Disguise line also continued into 2016, with the main complaint about the line – a lack of baddies – being addressed with many Decepticons getting plastic representations, including Steeljaw’s pack and some of the most memorable of the other villains. The Autobots were not ignored, either, with Windblade and guest-character Ratchet receiving toys in addition to many of the main Autobots getting “special mission” redecos.
What marked the 2016 assortment of Robots in Disguise, though, was the line’s increased emphasis on Mini-Cons. From more waves of single-packed Mini-Cons, to four packs, to “VS packs” where a roughly Legends sized toy was bundled with a Mini-Con, the little guys were omnipresent throughout the line’s second year, and this was further emphasised in Japan where the line got a new subtitle, “Transformers Adventure: Prime of Micron”. Capping off the year’s Mini-Con offerings were the Mini-Con Weaponizers, which took the place of the previous Deployer type Mini-Cons later in the year and turned into weapons for the larger robots to wield, and their interplayability with other toys was reflected by the other toys taking on a Weaponizers subline branding. There is perhaps some grand coincidence that the line has brought in Mini-Cons, a staple of the Transformers Armada series, the year after its lighter, more comedy based introduction (a la Robots in Disguise 2001) and will next year be bringing in a series based around the different heroes combining together (in the style of Transformers Energon).
Unfortunately the line has proven less successful in the US than the Generations line, and while size classes such as the Warriors have been appearing on a regular basis, the Mini-Cons and other size classes such as Deployers and Three-Step changers have been sluggish to get to retail in the US. Hopefully these fortunes will be improved in 2017 with more of the planned toys making it to US retail and not being crowded out by Movie toys.
Endings and beginnings – Botcon and TFNation
Sadly, 2016 marked the end of the official Transformers convention, Botcon. The final convention took place earlier than usual, in early April rather than in June, and was held in Louisville, Kentucky. The convention featured appearances from voice actors Judd Nelson, David Kaye, and Venus Terzo, in a celebration of 20 years of Beast Wars as well as 30 years of the movie. Scott McNeil, who also voiced several major characters on the show, was also due to attend, but due to personal matters could not make it to the show. As well as the Beast Wars alumni, veteran Generation 1 voice actor Gregg Berger and former Hasbro Transformers team leader Aaron Archer were in attendance. The convention exclusive toys were also a celebration of Beast Wars, with the boxed set being the aforementioned combiner Predacus, and the at-show toys including the first ever Golden Ticket toy in the form of the Flash Sentry, plus a three pack of Reflectors, and individual souvenir figures of Airazor, Tigatron, Unit-3 (a homage to the McDonalds Happy Meal toy Under 3), and the crown jewel of the set, Transmetal 3 Megatron. Megatron was a remold of the Robots in Disguise (2001) Megatron, a concept originally mooted by previous Transformers convention licensees 3H, so it was a nice parting gift for the final convention to offer this toy so fans could finally own this design over 10 years after it was originally offered.
Unfortunately while the final convention was by all accounts a fun occasion, it was marred by controversy. In the interests of keeping this article as a positive reflection, we will not go into the full details here, but the main issue was in the way that news was broken of Fun Publications’ license being revoked. There was speculation ahead of time relating to the expiration date of memberships of the related Transformers Collectors Club, but the real blow was a letter from Hasbro distributed to attendees of the convention on the first day of the event, informing them that this was indeed the final Botcon.
With the demise of Botcon, we turn to what is next, which is the debut in 2017 of an all-Hasbro brand event, HasCon, of which Transformers is just a part. After years of mooting the possibility of a merged Transformers and G.I. Joe convention, it seems that the loss of the convention license from Fun Publications has resulted in Hasbro bringing this idea forward for all of its brands. The format of the convention is unknown at this time, and it might well be something to celebrate in its own right this time next year, but for now, we reflect sadly on the passing of the official convention dedicated to all things Transformers.
Fortunately, even with the future of an official Transformers convention in question, fan-run Transformers conventions still stand tall as the places to be. In Canada in 2016, this took the form of TFcon 2016, with Frank Welker attending as a guest of honor. TFcon also returned to Chicago in October 2016, with a wide array of guests including Michael Bell, Gregg Berger, Garry Chalk and Richard Newman, and with the end of Botcon is poised in 2017 to become the largest Transformers convention in the US. Smaller Transformers conventions across the US are also available for fans to attend, including CybFest NW and Dairycon.
Europe should not be overlooked either, with the rise of a new Transformers convention in the UK. TFNation made its debut in August 2016 to the delight of UK Transformers fans, bringing back many familiar faces from the Auto Assembly staff as well as some new faces and innovations, improving the convention experience beyond the already great times had at Auto Assembly. TFNation 2017 has been confirmed for August 2017, which has many UK Transformers fans excited, and rightfully so.
Ahead to 2017, Last Knights and Power of the Primes
And that was 2016! While in the real world there were events which were not to everyone’s liking, in the Transformers world there was plenty to be happy about. 2017 is looking to be an even better year, with Robots in Disguise and Titans Return continuing early on, as well as plenty of Transformers comic action from IDW.
Looking further on, more great things await. Transformers 5, aka Transformers: The Last Knight, is due to arrive in theaters in the summer of 2017, and will provide some amazing eye-candy even if the plot proves to be below par. Machinima are also reportedly working on a sequel to their Combiner Wars animation, which will be based on Titans Return, and beyond that, there is the conclusion to the trilogy known as the Prime Wars – Power of the Primes. Little is known about this other than it will continue in all media – animation, comics, and the Generations toyline – where Titans Return is leaving off. Given that Titans Return and Combiner Wars have delivered some awesome updates to many classic characters, hopes and expectations for what we might receive from Power of the Primes are high.
Truthfully, it is a good time to be enjoying all that Transformers has to offer.