EVENT COVERAGE: BotCon 2013
Transformers Convention Returns To Southern California With Machine Wars...
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“This is like heaven for Transformers geeks” was a statement I overheard this weekend at BotCon 2013, and I can’t say it’s a lie. The nearly 30 year old franchise has several conventions devoted to it, but every year Autobot and Decepticon fans flock to this one like nothing else. BotCon is the true home to Transformers fandom, and after a two year absence it returned in full force to Southern California, this time to the Town & Country Hotel and Convention Center in San Diego (which may be familiar to those of you who stay in Hotel Circle for Comic-Con). As in years prior, the grand meeting of Cybertronians offered official content from Transformers companies like Hasbro, IDW, and the Hub Channel as well as a lively exhibit hall, art, panels, nightly events, and much more.
Upon entering the Convention Center lobby, fans encountered the familiar welcome sign, schedule of events, and “information booth” (a deceptively simple title for the place where you could ask questions, get directions, exchange parts for your exclusives, etc.). From there a left turn took you toward the panel and meeting rooms, while a right put you into the exhibit hall. And that’s where a lot of the action took place. Unlike at some of the previous BotCons, this one had quite a large exhibit hall space, which in this case may have been a little too big since it wasn’t quite filled up. The first stop inside for collectors was of course the Exclusives Store where fans lined up to get their hands on a variety of unique goodies. Headlining these offerings was the Machine Wars: Termination boxed set with cool new versions of Hoist, Skywarp, Strika, Obsidian, and Megaplex! There were also limited edition 2-packs, attendee souvenir toys, Kreons, art, and apparel. Here too fans could sign up for the Transformers Club (and get a free toy), or take advantage of other special deals on Hasbro toys.
Once collectors secured their exclusives, many headed toward the far corner of the exhibit hall to get an eyeful of upcoming toys at the Hasbro area. A bit understated this year, this section consisted mainly of a series of display cases plus some Transformers Prime Beast Hunters and Construct-Bots branding. CLICK HERE to check out the full scoop on the items on display there.
Other “official” areas in the exhibit hall included a signing area that became totally thronged with fans upon the appearance of actors from various shows and the movies. Near the official store was also the BotCon Art Contest area with entries spread across categories like 3-D Custom Figure, Diorama, and 2-D Hand Drawn Art. As always I was impressed by the variety and skill of the participants, particularly the amazing Skyfire transforming toy and its larger non-transformable jet mode sibling. The Artist Alley featured an incredible array of talents ranging from elite professionals (like IDW’s Alex Milne, John-Paul Bove, Ken Christiansen, and lots more) to rising stars in the fan community. Here you could commission a sketch, get your toys repainted by experts, and enjoy unique art and plush figures.
Of course, many (most?) attendees were there to check out the merchandise and BUY BUY BUY! Lots of companies came prepared, and the sea of booths offered everything from brand new Transformers to expertly preserved Generation 1 toys and everything in between. There were classic Japanese robots, interesting art, superhero figures, a sizable amount of very well done custom toys, and so much more. Just a few of the standouts included Big Bad Toy Store where fans could get Metroplex, TFSource with all sorts of interesting “3rd Party” toys, and Robo Toy Fest for vintage items. A couple other Transformers-related companies were there as well. IDW Publishing presented their line of fantastic Transformers comic books and exclusives including a very unique item: a variant cover from their My Little Pony comic book available in both book form and lithograph! Also in attendance were fan favorite The Loyal Subjects with their awesome Transformers shirts, skateboard, and the new blind boxed vinyl figures available here for the first time. The exhibit hall was also the place to check out the fantastic Transformers cosplayers who consistently turn out cool and highly inventive costumes.
Beyond the exhibit hall BotCon offered a busy schedule of panels and other programming. We’ll get to the toys in a minute, but attendees also got to celebrate and learn about comic books with IDW and the larger world of Hasbro Publishing. They could listen and see tons of voice actors with Voices Behind Transformers Prime, Transformers G1 Retrospective, Rescue Bots Cast Q&A, and more. Even the movie universe was represented with several appearances by film actor and Transformers movie regular Glenn Morshower! There were meetings of the Transformers Collectors’ Club as well as hands on seminars like the Transformers Customizing Class and Transformers Costuming. The fan community could also participate in a variety of fun special events at BotCon like the Transformers Filmfest, Movie Night, Golden Ticket Reception, Cocktail Reception, Casino Night Dinner, Bingo, and the big Auction. There were even trips to see local hot spots like the San Diego Trolley Tour and Sea World Park Tour!
For most of us, the highlight panel was the Hasbro Transformers Brand Team. On Saturday morning the guys behind our favorite toys gave us sneak peeks and hints at what we can look forward to at the end of this year and into 2014! Unfortunately there was no photography allowed, but I’ll give you a rundown of what we saw (much of which will be shown at SDCC in a few weeks):
Coming later this year, these small packs will include a Transformers Kreon figure with lots of extra parts for customizing.
- Legion Class: Divebomb (Predacon defector to the Autobots with red, white, and blue paint scheme), Rotgut (acid green beast), Ace Vehicon (white deco version of the Air Vehicon), Bluestreak
- Commander Class: Unicron Megatron (redeco in purple and gold), Ultra Magnus, Decepticon Bludgeon (with tank mode)
- Deluxe Class 2013: Nightshadow Bumblebee (redeco in dark colors, armor and missiles), Prowl
- Deluxe Class 2014: Will feature more simple transformation schemes and less articulation, getting back to the G1 ideal of fewer steps and easy to understand instruction sheets. Just as I was wondering aloud “does that mean the price point will drop?” the panelists explained that with less complexity they were able to add more plastic and make these larger, beefier toys! This wave will include a new Bumblebee, Windrazor (green, purple, and yellow bird), Smokescreen, Twinstrike
- Voyager 2014: Again, larger toys. Optimus Prime (green accents, Nexus Sword, and Vector Shield), Predaking (new deco, clear parts)
- Scout 2013: Wave 1 Ironhide & Starscream, Wave 2 Bumblebee & Thundercracker, Wave 3 Cliffjumper & Dead End, Wave 4 Silverbolt & Breakdown
- Elite 2013: Wave 1 Soundwave & Wheeljack, Wave 2 Megatron, Hound, and Optimus Prime, Wave 3 Smokescreen, Dragstrip, and Shockwave
Triplechangers: Blitzwing, Bumblebee (with 1st ever jet mode)
Ultimate: Megatron vs. Optimus Prime
Construct-Bots Beast Hunters (coming in 2014)
- Scout: Bumblebee, Starscream, Ripclaw
- Elite: Skystalker, Shockwave, Optimus Prime
- Triple Team: Beasts
- Unicron Megatron with mini-figures Ratbat and Barrage
Beast Hunters Predacons Rising (store exclusives at Target and other partners in 2014)
- Legion 2-Packs: Smokescreen vs., Cindersaur, Nightshadow Bumblebee vs. Blight
- Commander 2-Packs: Optimus Prime vs. Predaking, Shockwave & Bombshock
- Combiner Abominus (all five members in one box, redecos and clear parts)
- Deluxe: Skylynx, Nova Blast Bumblebee
- Voyager: Cryofire Predaking, Dark Steel
Generations (celebrating 30 thrilling years in 2014, including 30 “special” items offered throughout the year)
- Legends 2014: Wave 1 Swerve with Flanker, Cosmos with Payload, Wave 2 Tailgate with Groundpounder, Sharpshot with Reflector
- Deluxe 2014 based on current IDW comics characters in the Impact/Dark Cybertron storylines: Wave 1 Goldfire, Dreadwing, Skids, Waspinator (with wing flapping action). Wave 2 Skywarp, Scoop with two mini-figures, Starscream (with a design similar to the Armada version)
- Voyager 2014: Wave 1 Doubledealer (triplechanger), Rhinox (from Beast Wars). Wave 2 Whirl (including a pretty awesome “Guardian/Gerwalk” mode)
San Diego Comic-Con 2013 Exclusives
- Titan Guardians Action Figure Set ($40): non-transforming figures of Optimus Prime, Megatron, Starscream, Soundwave, Grimlock
Metroplex ($150): slight redeco of the Titan class toy with vac-metallized parts, a new sticker sheet, and 12 exclusive mini-figures
- Shockwave’s Laboratory ($50): diorama display base with Beast Hunters Voyager Shockwave in G1 deco and Commander scale proto-Predaking
Finally, the panel revealed this year’s inductees into the Hall of Fame: Ultra Magnus and Beast Wars Megatron!
All in all, BotCon 2013 was a great event that drew together Transformers fans from around the world. If you’re among that group but haven’t been able to make it to a BotCon, I highly recommend it and suggest that you try to get there next year. Hopefully I’ll see you in 2014!
Photos and Text by Scott Rubin