Thursday, 19 October 2017

Third Party and the CHUG Renaissance

 - Dorian MacQuarrie

It could be said, that in the world of Third Party toys, Masterpiece reigns supreme. With multiple companies making versions of fan favourite characters designed to populate your MP shelf, an awful lot of resources are poured into cashing in on the popularity of Masterpiece Transformers. Just how much money there is in an MP Springer analogue when there are half a dozen on the market is up for debate but as a whole, Masterpiece is the cash cow of the day. 

Yet cast your mind back to the earliest days of Third Party toys, from the lowliest resin garage kit to the game-changing City Commander from Fansproject, every Third Party release revolved around Classics, Henkei, Universe 2.0 and Generations toys. Due to the accessibility of mainline toys versus the scant few Masterpiece offerings at the time there was no other choice for burgeoning Third Party companies but to cater to the CHUG collectors but this also allowed for a vast array of products. Whether it was an improved head sculpt and G1 accurate gun or of course an armour kit to turn a white Optimus Prime into a true Ultra Magnus, the scene eventually moved onto fully fledged figures intended to fill out your CHUG shelves, representing characters which, at the time, Hasbro and Takara were never going to release. At its peak, CHUG focused toys so utterly dominated the scene that it was seen as the final destination for Third Party toys. 

Even with the vast amount of releases from a myriad of companies show that 3PMP (a phrase I often use on forums and social media) is well and truly leading the charge I would say we are actually experiencing a renaissance in Third Party CHUG toys, with one major's paving the way for a level of self-determination for Third Party companies we have never seen before. 

As it currently stands, the major non-Masterpiece lines on offer from Third Party companies are MMC's Reformatted, Maketoys Cross Dimension (and formerly their Manga Mech and Combiner lines), Planet X's Fall of Cybertron offerings and of course the numerous different legends scale releases from DX9, Iron Factory, Mech Planet etc. This isn't an exhaustive list but it's what I would consider the big hitters at the moment. 

Each have a very clear focus, zooming in on a particular aesthetic and sometimes a particular set of characters, allowing collectors to place their bets with a company and have a higher chance of seeing Fall of Cybertron Megatron released or maybe the full Decepticon Justice Division. Or perhaps in the case of Maketoys' Cross Dimension line, we just wait and see what wonders they drop on us and squee in anticipation.

There is plenty on offer for the discerning CHUG enthusiast who seeks to step into the world of Third Party toys but I would say at this point, CHUG is an incorrect and misleading term. They are often deemed CHUG as they are non-Masterpiece toys, being defined by what they are not rather than what they are. The question is then, what are they? Were you to take a number of toys from the various ranges mentioned previously, you would find they share very little in aesthetics. They are no longer CHUG-focused toys and if you are able to fit them in to a CHUG shelf, it's not with the same level of aesthetic integration as with the early days of Third Party toys. So again, what are they?

As MMC release more and more IDW styled toys they will begin to stand alone as a display of comic accurate releases, not to mention the extra height and bulk most MMC toys carry over those from other companies which often puts them in their own scale. Were you to take Takara's LG Skids, heavily based on the IDW design, it would look drastically out of place alongside MMC's releases. Maketoys' Cross Dimension could be considered Neo-Classics, Hyper Anime Classics, the mainline style turned up to 11 and packed full of articulation but when actually put alongside mainline toys from the past ten years, they clearly do not share a similar enough aesthetic. Sure the same could be said for the mainline toys that make up the many releases which fall under the CHUG banner but nothing so much as putting Striker Manus alongside Universe 2.0 Sunstreaker, or even placing Rioter Despotron in the centre of your CHUG Decepticon shelf and realising that he's packing far more detail and design work than half of the Decepticon toys Rioter stands alongside. Even on my own shelves I ensure Striker Manus stands near other, very particular Third Party toys which then in turn stand next to Hasbro and Takara releases, almost acting as an aesthetic buffer between the super-robo styling of Striker Manus and the clunky design of Henkei Prowl.  

Similar to MMC and their current IDW styled toys, as Maketoys release more and more Cross Dimension (and combiners, maybe? Please? #MaketoysLiokaiserPLZ) they will start to stand apart from any CHUG toys they might share shelf space with and little by little, they become an entity unto their own, CHUG toys only in that they are not Masterpiece and not because of any shared aesthetic or intention to fill in the gaps missing on your CHUG shelf. While yes, these companies will always fall back to Transformers characters and designs for inspiration,the toys themselves won't need a Hasbro or Takara toy line to fit into in order to justify a purchase or give the toy a purpose, they will be simply added to an already established line, be it Reformatted or Cross Dimension or whatever new lines appear in the next few years. That is quite a remarkable shift away from the gap fillers of yesteryear and actually, even the current 3PMP offerings. 

Personally I think there is a stigma around paying top dollar for a toy people see as intended to stand alongside mainline figures, which are often seen as lesser in terms of design, build and of course, price point. Third Party toys are an adult-collector focused product and when held hand in hand with Hasbro mainline toys, there is a gulf of intent and purpose some collectors struggle to bridge. Masterpiece toys on the other hand are of course adult-collector focused so 3PMP toys can be more easily reconciled with the 'serious business' line of Masterpiece. 

Time and again I have seen negative comments about paying £50 - £80 for what amounts to only a CHUG toy but paying the same for a 3PMP toy is more acceptable as the price is more equatable with Takara MPs and of course, the intent of the toy, to be an adult collectable, in some ways justifies the price. Rarely is there more or better engineering put into one than the other beyond the capabilities of the company making the toy. Fanstoys Tesla does not stand head and shoulders above Perfect Effect's Warden just because it is Masterpiece focused and should be seen to have a higher quality of paint, build, design and engineering as dictated by the label 'Masterpiece' but unfortunately I do think some people see it this way. For the record, Perfect Effect's Warden is a very literal masterpiece of a toy. 

The introduction and subsequent rise of 3PMP, has brought a legion of new collectors who before wouldn't have shown much interest in Third Party toys. I like to imagine these same collectors watching jealously, as early adopters of Third Party toys enjoyed the fruits of labour from Fansproject, TFC and Maketoys, biding their time, waiting for a product which appealed to their collecting sensibilities. This influx of new collectors means new customers so of course there is a lot of money to be had if a company can nail the Masterpiece aesthetic and have the right characters at the right time. It's only natural for the Third Party scene to turn away from its CHUG roots and devote more time and money into releasing toys that appeal to these particular collectors. 

To echo my earlier words, we may be experiencing a renaissance in CHUG focused Third Party toys, with the best releases from the best companies, with levels of design, engineering and character choice which are stunning to behold. But! And this is a very big But, with a capital B, it is not going to last. Once MMC have filled out their ranks of IDW styled toys you won't have a CHUG shelf, you will have an IDW shelf. Eventually you will have a Cross Dimension shelf and maybe one day you'll even have a Lost Exo Realm shelf at which point these toys should no longer be labelled CHUG as really, the only trait they'll share with actual CHUG toys is that they are not 'Masterpiece' toys. Maybe the hard work of the marketing teams at MMC or Maketoys will score a victory and we will indeed call them Reformatted toys and Cross Dimension toys and those labels will carry with them the traits of those lines, be it comic accurate and super sturdy or super-robo with anime flair. At that point calling them CHUG toys will be a massive disservice to the designers behind releases such as MMC's Carnifex or Maketoys' Thunder Erebus as they are truly, in their own right, masterpiece toys. 

As always, keep it #Refined.

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Render Robos Right : Panel Design and Tone in Till All Are One

- Leigh Gregurke

My eye is immediately drawn to panel design as it can be such a vital element of a page, assisting telling a story or capturing tone. There are books where a few pages in I get the feeling that while the art and storytelling is great, the panel design is functionary and a second consideration, it doesn't necessarily detract from a work but it definitely adds when it is present. Sometimes the best moments are when the panel design is functionary and tight and then an important sequence is partnered with a wonderfully contrasting use of shape and form enabling that moment to pop and add weight to the artists decision making.

Welcome to another entry in Render Robos Right where I talk about a book that had that exact panel design pop, IDW's Till All Are One, penned by Mairghread Scott with art by Sara Pitre-Durocher.  Sadly now cancelled, I am late to the work and in my slow pace have only finished the first 4 is however excellent and while I am lucky to have issues ahead of me still to read I hope the talent involved lands in suitable projects.

Till All Are One begins as a dense investigation story against a backdrop of political intrigue, pressure and social change; the work is heavy with dialogue, talking figures all stacked into often reasonably simple 4 to 6 page panel designs.  Akin to Milne on MTMTE credit has to be given to Pitre-Durocher for her ability to create a cohesive visual balance, often in those 4 to 6 panels are up to 9 characters often sharing tight physical proximity. The social and political tension reads well in those tight spaces, I wouldn't say it's cinematic but it has a single camera high quality television sense of capturing multiple talking characters avoiding A and B shots and instead utilizing great blocking to get the characters together. 

Deep into issue two it hit one of the panel design pop moments that really sold me on the storytelling of this team. Breaking away from the cramped character heavy shots a wonderful piece of panel design. Don't read the dialogue, just look at the page and soak in the emotion it conveys.


More than any page previously this is about negative space and focused panel design as a storytelling tool. Pitre-Durocher narrows in on one character and keeps them central throughout then the shrinking panel and increasing borders mirror the characters emotional state, the walls close in and the character shrinks. The contrast from the first panel, bold chest puffed, chin thrusting and arm open exudes confidence and status. The final panel has final eyes downward, shoulders shrugged, defeated and trapped by the borders, diminishing in status both narratively and physically on the page. Each panel shrinks, funneling downwards, echoing the confidence of the central character. I love the way the panel borders feel like the mob, the audience is in the gutters slowly chocking the protagonist.

The creative team all contribute to the focus as upon further inspection I noticed Tom Long's lettering all funnels in a similar direction keeping the shape harmony to the panel borders while also keeping tight to the right of the page for eye line direction and ease of reading, your eyes never leave the path downwards and never cross the central fulcrum.

Tramontano's colour work also gives a nice contrast to some of the high saturated pages previously through the second panels usage of colour layer and desaturation of hues. It allows the focus to stay on the important central figure and tells us a little of the mood.

It might seem a little obvious or perhaps you are wondering if the panel really does change the page that much? Consider the following edited example:

I apologise for butchering the image a little but I wanted to show what the page would look like without the diminishing panel size design.  It lacks the same feeling of escalation of pressure and tension and while it tells much of the same story it doesn't tell the mood. It feels more like a camera push and close up and lacks the depth and information that the gutters provide.

I like to draw upon examples other artists using similar techniques so here is some classic Arthur Adams on Fantastic Four. Using similar diminished of panels in this case to represent the shrinking of physical space the page is an excellent fit for the character and the creative, physics warping of the book.

Marvel. Arthur Adams.

I know I am late to Till All Are One but it might be one of my favourite Transformers comics of recent time. While sad to hear of its demise I encourage you to pick it up and show support for the creators. I had not given much attention to the work of Sara Pitre-Durcoher previously but find myself tremendously impressed as with the rest of the creative team. The panel design in this book is great, it sits idle and functional letting the story do the work but when the right scene arises the artist is allowed to give the punch required to make the important pieces stand out.

As always, keep it #refined

Follow Leigh on Twitter @ambushthem

Till All are One. IDW publishing. Written- Mairghread Scott Art- Sara Pitre-Durocher
Colours- Priscilla Tramontano Lettering - Tom B Long

Wednesday, 20 September 2017

RID 2015 - In Retrospect

- Ben Watson

If you're reading this, the chances are you're a seasoned enough Transformers fan to not have taken much notice of Robots in Disguise. It's just the latest iteration of the franchise, it's just the newest flash in a pan right? It'll only last five minutes then something new will come along that'll be just as short lived....Oh wait, it's actually lasted three years. Whoops. Yes, today I'll be breaking down a bit of a broader stroke look at the latest in the long line of cartoon tie-in toylines.

Having technically started around the Christmas of 2014, RID 2015 is indeed now in its third year of occupying supermarket shelves across the globe. It doesn't seem that long? I feel ya buddy. But it's a point worth thinking about. This kind of longevity hasn't been seen in a general kid-centric main line in... I don't know how long. What was the last media married toyline that lasted more than two years? Beast Wars? Dude, that's two decades ago. As such - while it really didn't feel it in 2015 - RID is now something noteworthy. But you probably don't care for the line at all, so why's that a good thing? 

A lot of long form consistency on Hasbro's part can be traced back to the end of 2014. The Age of Extinction line ushered in brand wide design unification that we're still going to be seeing at least into the next year. All the packaging is similar, the logo hasn't changed, Transformers are currently sat at a comfortable plateau that has existed since the last movie. In terms of a child's timeframe, that's forever. There are kids knee-deep in their first helping of love for Transformers that won't have known anything but what is still on shelves today. To them RID is Transformers. Anything Generations they might have seen will similarly have been consistent over the years stretching back to Combiner Wars. Right now - to the kids of the world - Transformers today is one thing and they can expect it to still be tomorrow. 

You can probably tell I'm struggling to get my point across here. That's because I haven't lived in a time when these concepts could apply. I'm talking about the G1 days when Transformers was just "Transformers" not "Beast Wars" or "Energon" or "Prime". RID represents a kind of clean sweep for the franchise. Yes, it's still a distinct line, because us matured goofs need to know where it fits in our overarching histories. However it's been the singular form the franchise has taken from a core media merchandising standpoint for as many years as the entire Unicron Trilogy lasted. Stop and think about that. Feel it. In the playground consciousness, RID must simply be "Transformers".

Of course this year's brief supplement to the regular assortments we have been getting - The Last Knight - has probably shaken that status quo. These kids probably only know of movie stuff from what's been left hanging around from AOE. And (especially considering the content of the film - of any of the films) it isn't for them. They don't know it. They seem to not want it if the state of the TF sections in my local stores is anything to go by. And herein lies a possible issue. If kids really are loving RID (and it must have lasted this long for a good reason) will they be happy to move on to the not-even-in-production-yet Cyberverse series or drop the franchise completely? 

This is where the same long term consistency Hasbro have been working with will need to continue, to allow those kids who really want to carry on loving TFs to seamlessly get on track with the next big thing. While all of us veterans are itching to get there and know what the designs and core concepts and most importantly toys are going to be like, there are kids out there who are growing up with RID. Remember when your first line ended? How did that feel? And here's where such extraordinary longevity also shows its nature as a double edged sword. Heck, even I'm used to RID now and truth be told, I don't really want to see it go anywhere just yet. I'm settled in and my adult perception of time tells me I've not really been for very long. 

"What?!" you decry, "But it's all cheap baby crap!" Yeah, well it isn't. While the greater volume of the line as a whole is One Step Changers and whatever other simplified gimmick guff you can pull off a Tesco's shelf, it has a rock solid core set to appeal to all TF fans. Age of Extinction was generally a huge letdown because of its lack of one thing (at wider retail): regular plain Transformers. A purest vein of mid price-point Deluxe goodness was brought back in RID with the Warriors assortment (along with Legions too). And as the kind of fan I am, this is where I found something worth enjoying in the series. 

Larger size classes seemed to be missing at first, "No Voyager Grimlock or Optimus?" but after these years of this being the norm, I can't help but feel there's something wholesome about just having a host of deluxes. It's consistency again. To me, RID means a box full of fun colourful deluxe guys. No need to worry about expensive boxsets or more massive figures, RID is at its core, the most important TF price-point and nothing more. And even in this limited range, it offers imaginative new design. If Generations mines the beginnings of the brand, RID is pushing its frontier into the future.

At first the animalistic Decepticons were a bit of an annoyance to me. I'll still take overblown military vehicle villains over anything else, but this represented a new direction that proved a source of really unique new character design. For me, where the line really started to come into its own was (admittedly oxymoronically) where it put out more G1 feeling pieces like gold Grimlock and Starscream. Then it ran with the ball of more "classical" TF designs and scored with brand new hits like Blastwave and Stormshot. 

The line will always play second fiddle to Generations as long as it continues but RID has for the last few years.been a dependable source of easily obtained fun (unless you want Ratchet...). There's a comfort in that. There's a security in that. Chances are if you want to wander into a shop and pick up a TF on a whim and your timing is right, RID has your back with something not necessarily a must-have but not totally throwaway either. It's not the greatest, but for an almost unequalled span of time it's provided a steady stream of figures pushing what's seen as "the average" just a little but higher. For that, it's worth a note in the annals of TF history and maybe before it leaves us, a little of your time. If you've left it this late, that is. 

Follow Ben on Twitter @Waspshot23

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Render Robos Right - Alex Milne on Rom vs Transformers Shining Armor and contrasting complexity

 - Leigh Gregurke

I admit I underappreciated Alex Milne when he was on More Than Meets the Eye. 
It wasn't until he moved on from that book that I went back and thought about what he provided to that story. He defined a visual style for a number of now major characters and moments that I imagine will be remembered for many years. I was interested in checking out ROM vs Transformers Shining Armor on the back of Milne at the art helm of a Transformers book again, it was an opportunity to see with a fresh eye what exactly Milne does that works so well.  

Welcome to Render Robos Right a now titled series of articles wherein I discuss, analyze and examine the art of transformers comics in a detail I think you wont find anywhere else.
So what style and traits do we associate with Alex Milne? My initial thoughts were high levels of detail. Not necessarily surface detail and rendering but the amount of figures, objects.....I think of complex backgrounds, sprawling sci-fi city-spaces and detail heavy space vessel interiors. 

Here's the thing I discovered though....I think Milne's best work is when he contrasts that busyness and excess with isolated moments, when an action or moment is spotlighted and we blur or cut away all that noise to see what is meaningful on a page.


This page from ROM vs Transformers Shining Armor hits all those Alex Milne beats. Setting the scene with an appropriate usage of detail. Content heavy scenes with depth from the foreground right to the back giving depth. The panel that really leaps though, is that isolated image against the stark contrasting background. The removal of all the noise, the extra information; the page gains urgency and momentum, everything else is turned down while we focus in on the key moment.


I wanted to draw some attention to importance of 'Value' in sequential art and how it relates to the isolation of content against blank grounds. I refer to the light and dark qualities of the images on the page and the relationship they form. Stripping the hues from the same page but retaining the value; it really highlights the importance of that negative white space in adding value diversity and visual interest to the page. Look at both images and you see the importance of the first panel having the contrast between ROM's lighter tone and the darker environment, without that the top of the page could become a little muddy or lost. Getting the values right is tricky as it depends not only on the artist but the colourist often even more so. In this case Josh Perez is equally at work making sure the page reads clearly.

Think of the technique not as removing detail or background but making the choice to use a solid ground and engaging negative space. Sometimes it can be disguised to not feel as obvious also such as the following page from MTMTE.

The final panel gives us a white ground with the addition of two windows. They may indicate the space the scene is in and give some contextual reminder of the outer but in essence they are abstract forms designed to stage the characters and give focus. This allows the viewer to be pulled back away from the detail and information and take in a few key elements such as the characters stances and postures and the crucial writing. 

At times I think Alex Milne can sometimes can get a little too busy, page flow suffers and I am not sure where my eye should be focusing but more often than not he absolutely nails the balance between the two.

I suggest you take a look at a few pages of any Milne work and find for yourself how a busy packed page can be focused down in single solid backed panel. Think about how it impacts the page and how it might read differently with the same background content as another panel.

As always, keep it #refined

Follow Leigh on Twitter @ambushthem

Thursday, 7 September 2017

My Daughter Doesn't Care About Your Bullshit

-mantis nine nines

My daughter is 8, the same age I was when Transformers launched, so she is too young to know of the online fandom. And her life is better for it. I know, it sounds very hypocritical coming from a blogging YouTuber, but the truth is the truth. Here’s the thing, I get so much joy out of the TF/nerd internet community that I forget the dark depths and lunacy waiting just around every corner. We all know the saying DON’T READ THE COMMENTS but we do it anyway with a sinking feeling in our stomachs. One day that will be my kids too, but until that day it allows me to see some truths about the way society caretakes things behind the scenes. 

Which leads me back to the title. See, my daughter doesn’t care about your bullshit. Windblade is her favorite character right now, and she is stoked to get the Titans Return version. When I see fans still arguing, years after the fact, that Windblade is a BS product Hasbro pushes just because of those damn SJWs blah blah it makes me realize how impotent and out of touch this rage is. It’s from people who despite being often much younger than me have become relics and they don’t even know it. Much as I didn’t realize how wrong and dumb I was to rage against the Beast Era, then the Unicron era, then the Bayformers, and so on. Just about the time a person feels the entitlement swell in their chest, leading them to decry and attack the new and different, they no longer matter anyway. The kids have taken over, and they are all that matters.

The angry arguments these days are usually over gender, sexuality, morality, race, more relevant social issues than in the past. In my time it was Trukk not Munky! How can a robot be an animal?!?! Blergh! No matter what the central debate is though, the truth remains the same, we are never more out of touch with our childhood than when we seek to quantify and control it. My taste and experience with Transformers is that diecast, real world vehicles, and nice blocky bots are what was cool and necessary about the property. 90's kids disagreed and found something in Beastformers I was blind to. Then both sides of that argument saw the blatant Pokemon ripoff happening in Armada and screamed to the heavens. This of course failed to change anything, and these days I know fans for whom Hot Shot is a favorite character. They didn't care then that he was supposed to be "Bumblebee" if not for legal issues, and they don't care now. My rage never reached them and what did they care what a 20 year-old thought about TFs? Each time the franchise changes hands it changes shape, re adapting to be what it needs to be to survive another permutation of the fandom.

So if you want to have any real influence, stop wasting your energy yelling at the clouds and get creative! That’s what the people who currently drive the brand did. Not just the artists, actors, special effects wizards and authors, but the investors and financiers as well. The reason we see increased diversity in our favorite properties is not a vast conspiracy, its simple math. Diversity reflects the buying public, so even the most regressive mind realizes investment must be made or risk falling behind those that do.

When I look at the work of Mairghread Scott, Sarah Stone, Sara Pitre-Durocher, Kei Zama, Joanna Lafuente, and many others, its excellence stands for itself, regardless of gender. Yet there was still backlash in the beginning, so much wasted energy blasted forth in message boards and social media. People unable to understand that they are seeing these things not because someone is trying to change the status quo, but because they are representing it.

We all want our voice heard, we all have ideas for the way our favorite properties and storylines should be handled. Those with the passion, commitment and talent to do so will make their vision a reality and help shape the future. Every story you have ever read, every toy you have played with, every video game you love, was created by one or more people who spent more hours than they intended thinking through and seriously contemplating every aspect. This has led to our current world, one in which an 8 year-old girl has characters that she can relate to in all the cool nerd stuff she is aware of. It doesn't matter what you think of Rey, or Windblade, or Strongarm, or any other character that offends your sensibilities. 

Because my daughter cares about #refined and cool characters, not your bullshit.

Follow Dan on Twitter @mantisninenines

Thursday, 31 August 2017

Gorilla Gorilla Gorilla

- Ben Watson

You may have caught my recent article outlining my thoughts on Beast Wars twenty years on and now after a TFNation haul-based development, I'm going to reassess how I'm feeling about that. But before you can shout "Revisionist sentiment!" I can tell you it all comes down to three words; Masterpiece Optimus Primal. 

In my previous piece I mentioned how I was relatively unfazed by the coming of Masterpiece figures aimed, laser-like directly at me but after handling the original version of MP Primal, when met with the newer one at a good price - you bet I went for it. What we have here is the MP-38 Convoy (Beast Wars) Legendary Commander Ver. In other words; a toy accurate Masterpiece Optimus Primal. This kind of accuracy is my main concern with the wider MP line at large as I hold little desire for cartoon centric design. (But then it turns out this deco pulls double duty and is actually screen accurate to that one time Optimus appeared in the Beast Wars II anime? Go figure.) To see Masterpiece finally render that which I regard as the ultimate goal of the line - a perfect version of a toy beloved from years ago - I couldn't really say no to the boss monkey. 

Of course, on the one hand suddenly gaining a stylistically totally different MP figure only exacerbates my previous issue of design dissonance. This guy sure ain't gonna fit in with the handful of car based Masterpieces I already own and by virtue of his MP status then won't really gel with most other regular TFs either. Primal exists in a strange singularity in my collection, above and beyond all his peers. But by a little touch of convention magic, right now it simply couldn't be a problem. 

The fact this figure is a stone-cold stunner with incredible engineering and accessories obviously helps but the one thing that's letting me feel like I didn't just shell out for a random action figure is that it's part of a con haul. This is an effect I've always thought about expounding my feelings on and now is definitely the time. Nothing ever feels weirdly out of place or one of a kind when you come home from a convention with an armful of diverse delights. After spending a weekend picking up bots of all shapes, sizes and styles, these disparate pieces all have one thing in common that irrevocably links them to each other in your collection: they all came from the same con. 

For weeks now I've had all the components of the cash crater that is my TFN haul stood around the surfaces of my home in little gangs, not yet content to release them into the wild of my wider collection. And standing at the head of the pack is MP Primal. A for-the-time-being surrogate Prime leading haulmate Autobots, Omnicons, Spychangers and Mini-cons into battle upon my coffee table. Right here, right now, Primal has his place all thanks to that sentimental force surrounding and binding him to the other figures I got within hours of him. 

So what are my feelings towards Beast Wars now? I'm still very aware of that stylistic gulf but choose to wade across it at least partway because if there's one thing this figure has shown me, it's that journey is worth it. MP-38 is a true masterpiece. Perfectly realising the first Optimus I ever knew while packing in everything worthwhile from his original toy and then some. Light up eyes, a metal chain mace, pop-out cannons, different faces? Forget about it. And thanks to some factory error, I even got an extra sword! 

Masterpiece Optimus Primal has well and truly dispelled any doubts I had about my continuing love for my first Transformers series. To tell you this figure feels right is simultaneously succinct and a towering understatement. While I hugely appreciate the toy stylings of this version, I didn't get my hands on an OG (here meaning Original Gorilla obvs) Primal until I was in the swing of purely vehicle based lines. I saw the monkey man on my telly screen long, long before realising the weirdery of that spring open gun arm or spiky skull mace. 

So to have a figure which captures the best of both worlds, with proper wrist guns and a jetpack bumflap but also bright blue swords and a toothy mask face is simply sublime. This is the most complete representation of this design we are ever going to see. The rumoured Power of The Primes Optimal Optimus housing a gorilla that's on its way will surely be huge fun (and now an instant pick-up for me) but it will not come within dung flinging distance of the simian spectacle of this awesome ape. Simply put: no other Primal will ever be as #refined. 

Follow Ben on Twitter @Waspshot23