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Botcon 2008: Beastbot's Report

Venue: Cincinnati, Ohio, on, USA

Dates: April 24 - 27, 2008

Luckily for me, Botcon was the closest it's ever been this year-only about 3 hours' drive from my house (I live in Athens, Ohio, and Botcon is in Cincinnati). Because of this, I was able to get into the Transformers Customization class early Thursday morning, which meant me and my mom left the house late Wednesday afternoon. It was a fairly uneventful (and delightfully short) trip, though once we got to Cincinnati we went toy huntin'! Hasbro, having kind 'n generous hearts, released the first wave of Transformers Animated toys two months early in Cincinnati stores, just in time for Botcon! I stopped by a Toys "R" Us, ready for some Animated goodness, but to my dismay JUST as we exited our car out came two people with-I'm not kidding you-FOUR shopping carts FULL of Animated toys. At first I was a bit ticked off that he was some scalper who was going to sell them for three times the price in the dealer room, but apparently he had just finished taking orders for a Botcon Wednesday tour of Cincinnati-he had only purchased one set of toys for himself, and the others were for other Botcon tour goers, so that was fine by me. Toys "R" Us still had plenty of Animated toys left, though the "shortpacked" ones in the cases were gone because of the aforementioned near-buying-out of the store. I still managed to snag 2/3rds of the first wave, though, including Bulkhead, Prowl, Cybertron Mode Optimus Prime, Lockdown (my personal favorite so far-INCREDIBLE engineering), and "The Battle Begins" 2-pack featuring deluxe-sized "Battle Damaged" Optimus Prime vs. Cybertron Mode Megatron.

After checking a few more stores for the remaining three toys-Bumblebee, Starscream, and Voyager class Cybertron Mode Megatron-and coming up empty-handed, we decided we'd searched enough and, after a brief visit over one of my mom's friend's houses, we drove the short remaining distance to downtown Cincinnati, at the Hyatt Regency where we were to spend our exciting weekend. After checking in at the hotel, I went straight to preregistration-oh, how wonderful it is to be able to bypass the huge Thursday lines by being able to get my box set Wednesday, due to my being in the customization class! I was in and out of the line in 20 minutes or so, and got my "First 100" lapel pin as well as the core boxset and comic book. (In case you weren't aware the theme for this years' set, it's a "Shattered Glass" mirror-verse world, similar to the Star Trek episode of "Mirror, Mirror"-i.e., the Autobots are evil, and the Decepticons are heroic.) The boxset contained some great figures, namely Evil Optimus Prime (my favorite exclusive this year!), Evil Goldbug, Evil Grimlock, Evil Jazz, Heroic Starscream, and Heroic Minicon Razorclaw. I also picked up the cool "free" attendee exclusive, Evil Ricochet. (If you haven't seen pictures of these figures or the add-ons that I got the following day, check out Botcon.com.) After that, me and mom retired to our hotel rooms for the night, as we had an early morning the next day.

We got up bright and early Thursday morning, as my customization class started at 9:00 in the morning and didn't end until 5:00 that evening. After a tasty breakfast at the nearby mall, I said good-bye to my Mom and headed to my customization class. The custom toy we were building was going to be Evil Nightbeat, based off of the Energon Hot Shot mold, but with a new head mold. Let me tell you folks, you never appreciate just how incredibly complex a Transformer is until you have to put one together yourself. It's amazing these toys sell for as cheaply as they do. The parts came to us still on the mold sprues, like how you purchase model cars-we had to twist each part off, cut off any sharp bits of plastic, and then assemble them with screws and pins. Even though it was just a deluxe-sized toy, it took me over four hours to assemble it! The instructions laid out were very detailed, though, and the instructors were incredibly helpful-one time, when I completely screwed up on one of the wheels, one of the instructors hacked off the wheel without damaging the surrounding parts and gave me a spare one like it was no big deal. These guys were prepared, I tell you what!
After assembling the toy and taking a quick "owie" break (my thumbs were KILLING me after dremmeling in all those pins), it was time for the really fun part-painting! The instructors had an already-completed "base" Evil Nightbeat, but we were allowed to deviate from it quite a bit-after all, it was OUR Transformer. With my shaky hands, I painted "outside the lines" quite a bit, but I figured since they had blue paint, it wouldn't matter later. However, to my dismay, after "correcting" my errors by repainting over them with blue paint, the paint didn't quite match the plastic! The instructor told me this was common, as you can never get something like paint to completely match plastic. I soon discovered how to fix that, though, by lightly brushing all of the blue parts with the same blue paint, to give Evil Nightbeat a worn, "dirty" look to him. I continued that look by giving him a worn-looking chest, tires, and by sanding down his black plastic bits to look worn. Oh, and I gave him a robo-goatee-can't be an evil mirrorverse Autobot without a goatee, of course! You can check out the finished product in the included gallery of pictures-I'm quite proud of how he turned out, and he's the pride of my collection, since I made him, after all! (His tech specs refer to him as part of the Autobot "Special Police Force", i.e. the leader of a kind of Gestapo. That's what the special Autobot symbol on his hood represents. Oh, and the stripes on his sides are stickers-as much as I'd like to take credit for those, my painting isn't anywhere near that precise.)

After all that assembling and painting, I realized it was 4:45 pm by the time I was done-boy, time flies when you're playing with toys!
After a short half-hour downtime back at the hotel room, it was time to pick up the rest of the Botcon exclusives-and lucky me, since I had gotten the main box set the previous day, I only had to stand in the Club Store line, cutting my wait time into a mere fraction of what it would otherwise have been. I picked up the remaining two attendee-exclusive sets-Evil Blurr, Good Sideswipe (used to be an evil Autobot, switched sides), Divebomb, and Whisper; and the larger pack, Evil Rodimus, Good Megatron, and Rampage (based off the G1 Predacon, now the BW character). The exclusive prices were even more expensive than normal, due to a combination of higher oil prices and China factory workers stealing a lot more of the toys than normal. The SMALLER pack ran me nearly $80, with the larger one being nearly $120. Ouch. Well, there went my plan to pick up Masterpiece Skywarp in the dealer room. I also got an AWESOME Botcon 2008 T-shirt with a great picture of Evil Optimus Prime on the back, with his motto, "'Till all are gone!" The thing was, it was on the BACK of the T-shirt! What is it with putting the cool stuff on the backs of T-shirts lately? I want to see what I'm wearing, dangit!
As I was waiting in line, I found Hacker and Dragonsflayme! We chatted for a short while, then parted ways so they could get their stuff and I could take my stuff back to the room. It was great to see some people I recognized, but alas, having a group of only three paled in comparison to the big BWINT groups we'd had in the previous couple of years. (I could've sworn The Crab said he was coming to Botcon this year, but we looked and looked and never found him-if you were there, Crab, sorry I missed you!)
I met back up with Hacker and Dragonsflayme at that night's MSTF, an annual Botcon tradition where a couple of the Botcon regulars make fun of Transformers episodes, Mystery Science Theater-style. I have to say, this MSTF was HILARIOUS, the best of any Botcon I've been too-there were tons of great jokes, and lots of "gotcha!" moments. For example, we were led to believe they were going to make fun of last years' TF movie-they even got 1 minute into the intro sequence-until the bit suddenly stopped, with the explanation being that they figured they might get sued by Paramount if they continued, heh. So another faux paus came up, with them saying they'd make fun of the TF Animated Movie for the THIRD time, though instead, much to our delight, they made fun of the G1 episode "War Dawn", before making fun of the first three episodes of Transformers Animated. (My favorite joke-as the Animated Autobots transformed for the first time on Earth in time with different-colored Anime-style backgrounds and then an "all together" group shot when they finished transforming, the dialogue went: "Cherry Optimus… Grapeity Prowl…. Lemony Bumblebee… Sour Apple Bulkhead… TOGETHER, WE ARE PART OF A COMPLETE BREAKFAST!") By the time MSTF was over, though, it was well past midnight, so we said our goodbyes and promised to meet up the next morning.

For the first part of Friday, it was panel time! I sat through three or four hours' worth of panels with Hacker and Dragonsflayme, the topics ranging from IDW comics to a voice actor Q&A to a Q&A with the Transformers: Animated creative team. A bit of news from IDW-yes, they are considering another Beast Wars miniseries! The voice actors-David Kaye (BW Megatron, as well as Animated Optimus Prime, Lugnut, and Grimlock), Bumper Robinson (Animated Bumblebee and Blitzwing), and Tara Strong (Sari Sumdac)-were all great, gracious people. Bumper at first seemed shy compared to the others, but he quickly got used to being one of the stars of the show. What made the day for me, however, was the Animated Q&A panel. A bit of background explanation is required for this: Lugnut, a Decepticon on the show, transforms into a bomber plane. In robot mode, the bombs become his fists, so when he punches something there's a HUGE explosion. As soon as Lugnut's debut episode aired, there were lots of ideas among the fandom for names for that punch, and I contributed my own name for it-the Punch of Kill Everything. It caught on quite fast, especially when I discovered a week later that its acronym was P.O.K.E. Well, anyways, at the Animated panel I directed a question to Marty Isenberg, the head writer of Animated, just asking him to please name that punch, since an attack that awesome needed to be named. Marty said, "Well, I dunno, I rather like the fan name for it… what was it, the Punch of Kill Everything, right?" I seriously geeked out after that. Not only had Mr. Isenberg taken the time to read fan comments about the series on Transformers websites, but he had apparently liked my name for the punch enough where he remembered it off the top of his head roughly 2 months later! He liked it even more after I told him the attack's acronym, and said he'd like to work it into the show eventually, though "Kill" may not make it past the censors, so they may have to change it to "Krunch" or "Krush" or something like that. But egads, my name for Lugnut's punch may just appear on the show! EEEEEE!!! (I later got Marty's autograph-you can see what he wrote on it in the photos accompanying this report.)
I also met a young kid and his mother, who were sitting behind us. This was the kids' first Botcon, and he was just in awe of the whole thing. We hung out quite a bit throughout the rest of the convention, and I helped him and his mom with their purchases in the dealer room-ah, nothing like seeing kids at a Botcon, the real reason the franchise still exists!
After a quick lunch (Mmm, Cincinnati chili…), it was time for the dealer room! Ugh… I bought TOO MUCH. But it's sooo hard to stop when you've got thousands of toys staring you in the face, taunting you…. In the end, I ended up with the Wal-Mart Exclusive "Blue" Transmetal Rattrap, Henkei Megatron (basically his Classics version, but without the colors needed to pass U.S. safety laws), Voyager-class Movie Battle Damaged Prime, "Music Label" mp3 player Soundwave w/ Rumble & Frenzy headphones, and the Japanese Exclusive Movie "Black" Arcee w/ Allspark cube. All of which cost a lot more than it sounds.
We then had quite a bit of time to kill until the events that evening, so Dragonsflayme, Hacker, and myself decided to get a good dinner at a nearby restaurant-the "Rock Bottom Bar & Brewery", I believe it was called-which was a bit expensive, but great food nonetheless. Then I went back to Hacker and Dragonsflayme's hotel room for a while, and we just sorta hung out and surfed the web, watching funny online videos.

Then it was time to check out a special preview episode of Animated! When we got down to the panel room, though, things were running behind, so we got to see some fan-submitted Transformers videos from a contest that had been held a bit earlier in the evening, most of which were knee-slappingly hilarious. The preview episode of Animated was "Garbage In, Garbage Out", featuring none other than "Weird Al" Yankovic as the voice of Wreck-Gar! I barely stopped laughing at all throughout the entire episode, as did the rest of the audience. Apparently, Wreck-Gar does indeed "DARE TO BE STUPID!" Really, if you haven't checked out Animated yet, you really should. Even if the art style isn't up your alley, the writing is top-notch-I daresay it's become Beast Wars quality recently. After that, Hasbro treated us to a screening of the Transformers Live Action movie, but with their own commentary added in regarding the toy design, the process of making the movie, etc. To be honest, there were a few interesting bits, but most of it I already knew, so it wasn't all that enlightening for me. By the time that was over, it was past midnight again, so another day down the tubes!

A good portion of Saturday was Panel Day for me. I was in the panel room pretty much from 10 until 4, I think, with Hacker and Dragonsflayme popping in and out depending on which panels interested them. Hasbro designer panels, another voice actor panel, TF Club panels-Saturday was definitely when a lot of the important territory was covered. Now, a TON of new toys and products were shown for the upcoming year, so I won't go through all of them here. (You know it's bad when the Hasbro execs say, "Next year is Transformers' 25th anniversary. We've got Animated, the Universe line, and the Movie line as well. Start saving NOW.") Given that this is Beast Wars International, I'll just cover the new product that's related to the "Beast Era" of Beast Wars and Beast Machines. First, two more Robot Heroes 2-packs were shown off, due out late this year or early next year-a Transmetal Megatron vs. Silverbolt 2-pack, which you can see an official image of if you follow the link below-- click on the "TRANSFORMERS UNIVERSE- New product revealed at Botcon" link, and scroll all the way down (direct link didn't work, sorry): http://www.hasbro.com/transformers/universe/ , and a Beast Machines Cheetor vs. Tankor 2-pack! Also of note is that we're getting a new Jetstorm (based off of the Beast Machines Vehicon) in Animated. He's definitely more humanoid than his former persona, but some definite homage to BM Jetstorm are there, such as the jaw/visor design, and his overall colors. Finally, as the Universe line enters into next year's 25th anniversary, it will be fully celebrating the history of Transformers, and this will include new versions of certain characters from pretty much every prior Transformers line, from G1 through the "Unicron Trilogy" of Armada/Energon/Cybertron. Of particular note to Beast Wars fans is a brand new, deluxe-sized version of BW CHEETOR coming out early next year! Now, no pictures were allowed at these panels, so I can't show you any pictures (same goes for the BM Cheetor/Tankor 2-pack or Animated Jetstorm), but I can give a brief description from memory. Based off of his original Beast Wars self, 25th Anniversary Cheetor looks very similar to the original toy in robot mode, with a cheetah head that fits into his chest much better, and it appeared from the one shot that his front cheetah legs actually fold onto his back instead of sticking out from behind his shoulders. His "gut gun" and tail gun have been eschewed in favor of better articulation and beast mode proportions, though he does come with a "tail whip" weapon. Speaking of his beast mode, this is where the figure is a REAL improvement, in my opinion. Cheetor actually has proportions very similar to a real cheetah in this mode, being overall slimmer, and it appears that all four of his cheetah legs can move at the appropriate points, though I gauged this from just one picture, mind you. His tail can also move at a few points, too, and the Hasbro team mentioned that one of Cheetor's gimmicks is that the color of his cheetah eyes can change from green to red-a nod to the original toy, which was released with three different eye colors (green, red, and blue). If you're interested in non-Beast-era related toys revealed at Botcon, check out one of the major TF sites like TFW2005.com, you'll find all the info you need there.

After the panels, I went to the dealer room for a bit, looked at all the awesome new toys put out in the display cases, chatted with Hacker and Dragonsflayme for a bit, and then we parted ways for a few hours before meeting back again that night for the Casino night and dinner! Unlike previous Saturday-night dinners, the Botcon folks had really planned this one out well, as there was plenty of food for everyone and several lines so you didn't have to wait too long to get your chow. After eating, we decided to play Bingo to see if we could get lucky and win some prizes-alas, none of us did, though we did get some free Autobot/Decepticon lapel pins. We all cashed in our default "$25,000" Casino Night "gift certificates", hoping to pool together to get something from the auction that one of us liked, but everything we wanted sold for waaaay more than we had, or was for a "Kids Only" auction, so no luck there, either. Still, the time wasn't a total waste-there was a HILARIOUS voice actor script reading, with all three guests, the head Animated writer Marty Isenberg, and the two winners of a prior "Transformers Idol" voice competition acting out a great skit, which mostly focused on Animated characters but also had a certain megalomanical Predacon in it as well. One Transfan was nice enough to record the whole shebang and put it on Youtube-you can find it in three parts:

After that, it was time to call it a night and get ready for the last day of Botcon.

Sunday is always the slowest day of Botcon, as many of the panels are "repeat" panels and most people have already bought most of what they wanted from the Dealer Room. On the upside, though, many of the Dealers usually mark down their stuff on Sundays, and I managed to scrounge together money to purchase one additional marked-down toy-Movie "Allspark Power" Barricade w/ Frenzy. There was an additional Animated panel that day, with a premiere showing of the late-Season 2 episode "Black Friday", starring Blackarachnia, Optimus Prime, and the Dinobots-and, as expected from Animated, it was fantastic. I also asked the panel if Animated Waspinator was going to appear on the show, whose toy has shown up in store computer listings, but of whom we've heard nothing else about at Botcon. Marty Isenberg gave the odd answer of "I could say both yes and no to that question and be telling the truth either way." So I guess we'll find out what THAT means eventually, huh? After the panels and one last look through the dealer room, I hung out with Hacker and Dragonsflayme for a bit before we parted ways, as they had to get back to the airport before Botcon ended at 3:30. I stayed until the end, though, hoping to win one of the two free trips to next years' convention, but alas, no luck there. I did find it amusing that BOTH of the guys who won both had goatees, though. Mirror Universe wins again!
After that drawing, it was time to say good-bye to Botcon again for another year, as me and my mom packed up our stuff and prepared to drive home. I had a blast, but I definitely missed all of you who couldn't make it this year-here's hoping I'll see you next year, y'hear?

Photographs can be seen here!


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