Metroplex: Even the packaging of the transforming city is huge. (Jevon Phillips / Los Angeles Times)Link
Cosplayers dress up as Autobots. (Jevon Phillips / Los Angeles Times)Link
Reiko as Black Arachnia and George as Silverbolt bring a much different cosplay spirit to the Botcon. (Jevon Phillips / Los Angeles Times)Link
On the other hand, a cosplayer dressed as a G1 Ironhide was stopped multiple times for photos before he could even get into the convention doors. (Jevon Phillips / Los Angeles Times)Link
Soundblaster and Soundwave -- separate, but very similar. (Jevon Phillips / Los Angeles Times)Link
Most vendors are not there just for the love of their fellow collectors -- and sales were brisk. (Jevon Phillips / Los Angeles Times)Link
For 20 years, robots have never had to be in disguise at Botcon – the annual celebration of all things Transformers that took place at the Pasadena Convention Center last weekend.
Botcon isn’t necessarily a hype machine for the June 27 release of “Transformers: Age of Extinction” — the convention began in 1994, long before Michael Bay took the helm of the film franchise — but it does transform nicely into one. Overall, though, it is geared more toward the group of stalwart fans that have the same sensibilities that helped rocket the mechanical aliens to popularity some 30 years ago when it began as a Hasbro toy line in 1984.
For the record: In an earlier version of this post, it was stated that Pirate Clone Pounce and Pirate Clone Wingspan were Autobots. They are, of course, Decepticons. Also, in the attached photo gallery, Silverbolt was misidentified as Silver Bull.
Though the toys established the franchise, the story lines the public grew to be acquainted with was built up by an animated series and Marvel Comics title that also launched in 1984. The comics and cartoons continued to construct the world, adding a 1986 animated feature, Generation 2, Beast Hunters and other characters and plots that have drawn a fervent following of fans.
A smallish gathering — when compared with the Comic-Cons and Wonder-Cons of the world — Botcon celebrates the Transformers movies, cartoons, comics, art, cosplay and especially the toys themselves. Artist tables featuring fan art and sculptures, some being judged for an art contest, make up a corner of the convention, while the bulk of it is dedicated to retail sales vendors. Hasbro — which also has other hit titles like My Little Pony — occupied the largest booth and had the most fan traffic.
Panels featured comics writers, voice actors and even a class on customizing your toys. The voice actors are roundly celebrated as the cartoons continue to also be a huge part of the franchise’s success: Just this past weekend, the Hub Network’s “Transformers Prime Beast Hunters” won an Emmy for outstanding individual achievement in animation. Fans of the franchise’s numerous cartoon series were treated to a live script reading on Saturday by many popular voice actors, including Jack Angel (Ultra Magnus) and Susan Blu (Arcee).
Five lessons learned from visiting Botcon:
1. Cosplay is alive and well. Arcee and Optimus and Bumblebee … oh my! To be a Transformer cosplayer, detail is really key — unless you go with the first generation, or G1, versions of characters. The more complex creations from Bay’s films have upped the ante, but nostalgia is still appreciated. And steampunk characters, which seem to cross any genre and make it their own, can pop up anywhere.
2. Metroplex is ALL. Metroplex is not just a vehicle, but a city that transforms. It’s easily the largest Transformers toy that is made, though Unicron, being a planet, should dwarf it whenever they get around to that “scaled” creation. Metroplex was going for $200, $300 and more at the convention depending on variations and special versions (Comic-Con editions were hot sellers for any figure).
3. The hottest of the exclusives: Pirate Clone Pounce and Pirate Clone Wingspan. What? Haven’t heard of them? Well, in terms of Botcon-exclusive items, this Decepticon duo was the most-requested thing selling at the exclusives desk.
4. Soundwave is not Soundblaster. Though the toys are extremely similar, save for the coloring going from black to blue, the cassette-turned-robot Soundblaster is actually a rebuilt, newer version of Soundwave, a fan favorite of the originals who was eventually destroyed in battle.
5. Voice actors are into it. At a script reading on Saturday for a fictional episode made up for the con, the actors went over-the-top in expressing the personalities, wittiness and humor of characters thrown together from different shows in different years. Blades (Parvesh Cheen) and Snarl (Hal Rayle) were standout characters helping create an involving hour for the crowd that was rewarded with loud applause.
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