What follows below is a fairly rambling account of how I was introduced (and reintroduced) to the wonderful world of the Transformers. You can either read on or just enjoy the photo of me with Simon Furman and Andrew Wildman instead.
I was massively into Transformers as a young lad, and I avidly collected the figures and the comics. I think that my first ever Transformer was Ironhide - my dad had bought him for me while he was on a business trip overseas. From then on, I was hooked, and the following 6 or 7 years of birthdays and christmases were decided there and then. I used to buy small figures by saving up pocket money or doing jobs around the house. My favourite Christmas was probably when I got Optimus Prime, it was the best present I have ever received. I also remember getting Ultra Magnus and Scorponok in subsequent Christmases. Those 3 are probably my favourite figures. I still have them all, but I have lost Scorponok's head (Lord Zarak). At least I wasn't the only one.
My interest in Transformers toys began to wane because 1) I got older, and 2) I got sick of all the gimmicks. The original Transformers line was great, and I also liked the Headmaster and Powermaster ranges. I always disliked the Targetmasters because I didn't see the point in having really ugly, bulky guns that turned into humanoids. I also didn't like the Pretenders, who were just tiny and poorly-articulated robots who were stuffed into really chubby guys (the pretender beasts were ok) The final nail in the coffin for me were the Action Masters, who were Transformers that didn't transform! I wasn't really aware of Generation 2 (I thought that the garishly-coloured toys were actually knock-offs) and I also make no apology that I hated the toys of the 'Beast' era.
I stuck with the comics until the bitter end. The UK comics were pretty much brilliant throughout the entire run, with my favourite epics being Target:2006, The Legacy of Unicron and Time Wars. I always thought that the US comics ignored the Movie characters too much, and, to be frank, all colouring in US comics during that era absolutely sucked. Ironically, my favourite short stories had no colour at all, and were better for it. My favourite short story is probably 'Shut Up', where we first glimpse Bludgeon's telekinetic powers; he plunges his sword into Inferno's back without even touching it. Simon Furman wrote and weaved an incredibly rich universe, ably assisted by the artistic talents of Andrew (Andy) Wildman, Geoff Senior, Lee Sullivan, Jeff Anderson and a host of others.
Some time in 2002, I went to Hamley's when I was working in London. I couldn't believe what I saw - actual Transformers who didn't change into Badgers or Monkeys! I was really pleased to see them back. It felt like the wilderness of the Mid-to-late 1990's was finally over. I noticed quite a few old Generation 1 repaints there, along with some guy called Scourge. Once I got over the shock that he wasn't a blue spacecraft, I was really interested. Optimus Prime gone evil! I didn't know about G2 at all at the time, so for me, he looked like a new figure. I almost bought him, but I was broke, and the robot mode on the box was mis-transformed so he looked really stumpy.
I nearly got back into Transformers in about 2003, when I saw Masterpiece Optimus Prime for the first time. I really wanted him, but couldn't justify the expense, having no disposable income at the time. About this time, I started re-reading all my old comics, which really bought the characters back into focus for me. A few years later, I purchased my first Transformer as an adult - Music Label Soundwave. I missed out on Soundwave the first time, and always wished I had got him, and all of his cassettes. I tried to convince myself that I would use Soundwave as an actual mp3 player, but I always really knew that I just wanted him because he was awesome.
At around the same time I was in Tesco (A Supermarket) when I noticed Silverstreak (the Alternators version) I liked the fact that it was a replica of a real car, and thought that I could display it without being embarassed of it being an action figure! Anyway, I bought him and thoroughly enjoyed transforming him, but I wasn't really compelled to buy more. I bought a Mighty Muggs version of Boba Fett (He was always my favourite Star Wars Character)online and liked him so much when he turned up that I wanted another one to display. It was then that I noticed Mighty Muggs Optimus Prime, and decided to get him as well. So I finally had an Optimus Prime back in my life.
I got a PVR, which allowed me to browse loads of weird and wonderful channels that I had never heard of, and I series linked a show called Transformers: Robots in Disguise. It was then that I realised what the toyline I had seen in Hamley's was about. Despite it's flaws, I really enjoyed the cartoon, and I had Transformers on the brain again. A little while later, I made another trip to Tesco and saw a familiar face there - Starscream. Starcream is another figure I didn't have originally, so I snapped him up. I was so disappointred with the horrible plastic and paint that I vowed never to buy a Transformer again.
By the time I hit 30 I finally had some disposable income (but not enough!) and I decided to look for Masterpiece Optimus Prime again. However, I still felt it was too much money, and I decided to buy Hybrid-style Optimus instead, which at least has a trailer as well. Boy, was it small. I was still happy with it, but I knew what I really wanted was masterpiece Optimus Prime. Unfortunately, by the time I made this realisation, I couldn't find one. Luckily, I got wind of the 'Last Shot' version, and managed to get him off of eBay. I was so pleased when I finally got him, around 8 years from when I first saw him!
Unfortunately, to my warped mind, finally getting Masterpiece Optimus had firmly established me as a Transformer collector again. I started going on forums, and finding out about all of the cool 'classics' toys that I had missed. So now, I have amassed a larger modern collection than my original one. I am also enjoying getting into the various Dreamwave TF comics as well. It feels like I am home.