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.


IDW

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.


IDW

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.

IDW
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

Thursday, 24 August 2017

Defining the work of Geoff Senior. Part 2/3

 - Leigh Gregurke



There is no one single rule or method that makes a page work. What exists is a range of tools employed by artists such as the mechanics of page flow, direction hierarchy and overall shape harmony. These may not be immediately implicit on a page but it is nearly always apparent when they are absent. 

You might not remember the pages that don't work because chances are if they were common in a book it wasn't great and you didn't make it far through. Many times I wade through a book, struggling because I find myself re-reading a page trying to find the rhythm, getting lost in the panels or struggling to identity the pace. Geoff Senior pages nearly always read easily and the information the writer wished to transmit is always clear.

In part one I touched on some of the more iconic pages of Geoff Senior but it's the absolute craft that appears on a regular basis that cements his legacy as the best. To spotlight the mechanics employed by Senior here are three different pages over three different eras of his career examined.


Leading the eye.


Marvel Comics


In a page from Matrix Quest, Senior employs a lot of spot blacked shadows to convey the sense of dread, tension and confinement perfectly suited to the horror themes Senior and Furman were exploring in a heavily Alien influenced 1990 issue. The shadows serve a dual purpose however not only of obfuscation and foreshadowing but acting as non obtrusive guiding lines.




The first down-stroke across the face is wonderful in giving us immediate tone but it also points us down to the left of the next panel. Clever work by the letterer Jim Massara filling the blank space draws us from Bumblebee's face towards the monitor; one of the major light sources of the page. Senior halts us, shows a new entrant to the scene; Grimlock again bathed in shadow contrasting against the negative space of the room beyond. It's the cast shadow of a cable or other piece of the environment that curves and almost tangents us directly into the pulled back shot giving us the room and context. A spot blacked element of foreground then drives us back across so the final panel reads almost in reverse. We find ourselves drawn to the connection between eye line, head-spike then the arm shunting out. By building movements across the page it builds pace, the arm although not using speed-lines or texture has direction and impact, it feels sudden, powerful and definitive. Senior provides us cause and effect, permission of eye movement blocked and controlled by suggested character movement.


Pausing the eye.

Marvel Comics

If you were to take the script of this page I think the first instinct might be to make the prominent panel the moment of Trailbreaker being shot; Senior resists however and provides us with engaging pacing and directional tools to build tension. The top panel is a trademark 86 Senior establishing shot, wide and flat and gives us the beat for the rest of the page. The dominant following panel switches the pace, completely stalling the eye, pulls the viewer up and away above the eye-line to show the predicament of the character. Even though we don't see through Scourge's eyes, we see the situation and each rack of steel leads the eye to a different direction. We don't get a clear read on where the action will be. It is the opposite effect to the clear road-map of the previous analyzed page and it is completely intentional. We feel the initial confusion, the maze, the viewers eye has to pause and explore the options we are trained to follow.

The narrative of Furman of course depicts the character of Scourge as the alpha hunter though, even when we are paused his hesitation is short lived. In that moment of pause we become the hunted and feel the tension of the hiding trio about to be revealed feel. You know that feeling when you are playing hide and seek? Waiting and knowing you are about to be found, that wait is agonizing. The panel is that wait. 

Scourge's shot mirrors the top panel but at a shorter size showing it's a shorter beat; the pace ramps up. The lettering insert lets us know that he reacts with terrifying speed but we already know that, we see it. The page isn't about a character being shot as much as it is about the tension beforehand, it shows us a character trait and puts us into the emotional state of three characters only pictured once in the final panel.



Directional hierarchy and shape harmony

Marvel Comics


Sometimes a page isn't always about the read order though, consider the above page that almost reads as though it could be filmed as a montage. The action all feels simultaneous. The effects of the subsequent panels to the left are shown affecting the initial. Every panel reads as upwards rising energy, every line is filled with a directional intent that starts from the bottom radiating towards the top. The directional hierarchy isn't subtle on this page and was not, I think, intended to be but there are other techniques at play hiding under the surface.




The page has intent to give us a feeling of a grouped barrage, a united front against the seemingly unbeatable foe in the giant planet eater Unicron. The directional choice gives us the stage of the battle. We know the players are on the ground, small.....even the normally heroically larger form of Optimus Prime and hulking brute of Scorponok are reduced to a head joining the directional choir and an insert panel. 

The first narrow panel gives us extra context of the results of the impact but we instinctively know from the story and the lore that Unicorn is upwards always, his size and celestial nature make it so. The second layer of shape harmony is subtle but one I think is entirely intentional, the other dominant shape coexisting with the straight directional lines are the circular forms depicting the effects of the weaponry, the curve of Scorponok's tail, the base and details of the planetary guns and the arc of the rising fighter jets. Senior I believe could have had the jets angling up and leftwards to create a stronger sense of directional hierarchy but instead having them accentuate that arc we see a hint towards both the spherical nature of Cybertron and of Unicron, two hugely dominant spherical forces at the heart of the book. Senior creates a page that not only reads unified in direction but in shape, no other visual element goes against the harmony causing friction or demanding the eye. Even Rick Parker's letters are kept tight and tidy to the borders to avoid contrasting the status quo. 

These are but some of the incredible works of Geoff Senior. Every page contains a number of techniques, tricks or tools to make them stand out and tell a story. Find a book that Senior worked on, find a page and take a look under the bonnet, why does it work?

The next and final installment of this examination of the work of Geoff Senior attempts to show you the mark making and line quality that defines a Senior. I hope to even teach you how to draw like Senior. Ambitious I know.

As always, keep it #Refined




follow Leigh @Ambushthem







Monday, 21 August 2017

RRCo. Report: TFNation 2017

- Dorian MacQuarrie


We are just over a week removed from TFNation 2017. Social media is still abuzz with friends both old and new sharing their experiences, there are still haul and reflection videos coming through on YouTube and the official TFNation account remains a presence on our timelines. 



Just like toy cars
Photo by Ben Watson

Building on the success of their debut last year, the team behind TFNation sought to put on a convention that catered to the myriad flavours of Transformers fans and I can safely say they succeeded in presenting a wide array of guests, panels and exclusive merchandise which extended beyond the brand we all know and love. There's always a chance that by trying to cater to the many you can dilute your product but when the guests range from the legendary Geoff Senior to the ever-popular James Roberts and you're offering a convention exclusive Transformers Animated comic, there was no lack of quality for the sake of quantity.

In the months leading up to TFNation, information regarding tickets, hotels, guests, merchandise and general advice for attendees was communicated through official social media platforms, showing from start to finish, the TFNation team had the attendee at the heart of the convention. This also helped to fuel the oh so important hype train, ensuring excitement was at a fever pitch.

Traditionally, the Friday of convention weekend has little to offer and outside of a screening of the 1986 Transformers: The Movie was mostly a bar experience where people could catch up with friends and welcome first timers. Last year TFNation set a precedent with their Rock Lords panel and presentation of the line, showing not only do they aim to cater to early arrivals but also to those would hold interests outside of Transformers specifically. This year was no different, with various panels starting from as early as 12pm, including a Q&A with popular Youtuber Thew Adams and a special look at the Brave series, including an eye watering showcase of many vintage Brave toys. I've never seen so much gold chrome in person.

Saturday morning and doors open. As with the previous year, the dealer room, staging area and signing stations for the multitude of guests were all in one large hall, allowing you to make multiple rounds of the various dealers, artists and writers.

For many attendees the dealer room is the main attraction of the convention. The opportunity to pick up toys normally only available online, the chance of stumbling across some rare gem from Transformers lines of old (or maybe even a cheeky Gobot or two) or even just the satisfaction of seeing such a vast selection of toys in person. This year Titans Return Trypticon was definitely one of the key toys to snatch up, also there was a surprise splash of Maketoys products available in limited number, Thunder Erebus and Galaxy Meteor, the latter of which, as Maketoys has recently announced, might not be available for some time now if at all at this point. Beyond those particular items there were impressive displays from Kapow Toys, The Spacebridge, In Demand Toys, Max and Me Love Toyz and of course, the ever eclectic mix from Toy-Fu. 

Next to the main convention haul was the much lauded Forge, a space for artists from within the community to sell their wares including prints, badges and commission pieces to name a few. This represents a key pillar of the TFNation experience, the community. It is said time and again that the community makes the convention and the team behind TFNation have supported the multitude of artists and creators by providing the space and the means to sell their wares and showcase their talents. 

Over the weekend there are many opportunities to interact with guests, through panels hosted in the main hall or one of the secondary rooms, signing stations which also serve as pick up points for commissions and prints or even at the hotel bar. There is a very relaxed environment surrounding the interaction with guests. Other conventions often operate on a system of premium tickets and paid-for photo opportunities and autographs, not so with TFNation, where you only have to queue up to meet the likes of Simon Furman or Kei Zama and if you're lucky you'll even have a chance to buy them a drink at the bar. The accessibility of the guest experience is yet another unique aspect of TFNation compared to other conventions around the UK. 

As Saturday trading comes to a end, and the main convention hall closes, preparing for another day's trading on Sunday, the secondary hall opens up for the evening's entertainment. Starting with the cosplay competition, attendees are treated to a plethora of various characters from the Transformers franchise. From Sideswipe to Censere the Necrobot, from humanised "Pretenders" to full robot-regalia, the quality of work and craftsmanship on display is astounding. Every year the cosplayers improve and innovate, with increasingly elaborate costumes and evermore obscure characters. 

Following the pageantry of the cosplay competition, the script reading provides some humour and light hearted situational comedy, bringing together the voice actors in attendance and anyone capable of a good Beast Wars Megatron. It's a special event and not one you'd easily find at other conventions. While the entertainment continues, downstairs at the bar other attendees are catching up with old friends, sharing experiences with new ones and of course, tinkering away with their purchases from the day. Try to imagine the entire bar of a hotel, crammed full of Transformers fans of all kinds playing with toys, it's slightly bizarre to be honest. 

This is the heart of the convention, this is the reason many people travel from far and wide, to take part in the most welcoming, accommodating, exciting and satisfying weekend of the year. For many people their love of Transformers might be a private affair or at the very least they might be very limited in speaking about their hobby to friends and family. At TFNation, regardless of whether you're a fan of G1, Bayverse, Animated, MTMTE or even Kiss Players, you'll find common ground with the hundreds of others in attendance. Over the weekend I had the opportunity to talk to some of the organisers and through our conversations I came to the realisation that TFNation is more akin to seeing your favourite band. Sure you might prefer a different album from the fan next to you but you're all still there to see that one band. In this case everyone present is a Transformers fan and that sort of common denominator allows for unparalleled levels of interaction between complete strangers. 

Sunday morning and once again, doors open. Given the options for weekend, Saturday only and Sunday only tickets, the experience of welcoming newcomers and old friends starts all over again. For those who arrived in the previous days the dealer room is less of a focus, allowing more time to peruse the Forge or spend time at a panel in the main hall or of course, a return to the bar for a drink and some more socialising. For those who may have train or plane tickets booked for the Sunday evening, time can weigh heavily on the afternoon. The desire to spend every remaining moment with friends versus the very real need to rest after a weekend of indulgence can create something of a dull mood. Thankfully the Hilton is well placed with opportunities to explore the surrounding lake and foot paths for a chance to recharge and create a little head space before diving back in for the last few hours. 

The closing ceremony of TFNation is a bittersweet moment. Full of cheers, smiles and joy but also the sad realistion that it's all over for another year. In the final moments, the feeling that it has only taken place over the weekend yet somehow your entire world was this one weekend at this one hotel is palpable. The final farewells are more akin to the what is experienced at a family gathering, hugs, handshakes and I'm sure for some people a little sorrow. While a handful remain until the Monday morning, taking up the mantle of "survivors" many head home, their journey back to reality and whatever work, education or other activities make up their day. 

This was TFNation's second year and it was clear that the team are learning from their experiences and are dedicated to providing the best convention experience possible. With plans to deliver a bigger and better event year on year I can only guess at what will be in store for 2018. Enormous praise must go to everyone involved with setting up and running the convention. Their hard work ensures that attendees can enjoy what for many is the best weekend of the year, safe in the knowledge that their tastes are being catered to and that the TFNation team keep them at the heart of all their work. 

Until next time, keep it #Refined.