Welcome back reader it's day 4 of our 17 day commemoration with 2002 being our focus for this article.
Click the headline to read this article in full as well as seeing a new gallery of the toy we chose to be our spotlight for the year 2002.
Around the world
The Euro is introduced in France, Spain, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Finland, Luxembourg, Belgium, Austria, Ireland and the Netherlands. The Golden Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II takes place within the UK before Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother, dies at the age of 101. The Winter Olympics are held in Salt Lake City. NASA's 2001 Mars Odyssey space probe begins to map the surface of Mars using thermal emission imaging. The 2002 FIFA World Cup is co-hosted by South Korea and Japan with Brazil coming out the winners as they beat Germany to win their 5th championship.
In the February of this year we switch domains from our original domain www.transformers.themoon.co.uk to our current domain www.transformertoys.co.uk. Later in the year we changed hosting providers from our free account with Freeola to a paid co-located server. The move is a step in our project we dubbed "Project Nixon" named after an in-joke used by members of our message board over the instant chat service ICQ. We start to re-write the website from static HTML to a (W/L)AMP based dynamic system though the project is delayed by 6 months resulting in only one area going live before the end of the year, that being our "Toy Shop Locator". This area of the website allowed visitors to enter a postcode and have it determine their nearest independent toy store based on reports we were given. We decided not to list major chains such as Argos, Toys R Us, Woolworths, The Entertainer and most Toymasters.
We hold our first few pub meets this year at the Penderel's Oak in Holborn with site visitors and members of our message board, or Moonians as we referred to them. Holborn is chosen as it is fairly quiet on Saturday evenings and it is well situated between Kings Cross and Tottenham Court Road. There is something about Holborn as a destination for Transformers pub meets, fellow UK websites TheTransformers.net, TFArchive and TransFans would hold meets within the area as would Moonbase2 and other members of the Podcast / YouTube generation during the rise of the social meets.
Our message board grows with members of Transfans helping to cross promote boards as well as an influx of visitors to our website. Along with the message board and pub-meets we start holding weekly live chats via various chat rooms including IRC, externally hosted chat platforms and embedded platforms.
We continue to add new image galleries to the website with photographs taken at a resolution of 1280x1024 using a digital camera. At this point we still have the largest gallery of photographed Transformers figures on the internet. Not bad for a site run entirely by two brothers from outer London.
With Dreamwave announcing that they have acquired the license from Hasbro Inc. to release Transformers comics it is not long before they start to look for fan-based online distributors. We are asked if we would like to become the UKs first "Official Dreamwave Online Distributor" we jump at the chance as it will mean that we can help fellow fans gain access to the comics if they are not picked up by retailers. The partner sites work with the US "Super-Site" Transfandom who act as a go between as they are granted a Diamond account within the US. We start taking orders for the comics along with other US and European websites placing orders with Alex Weiner, better known by his internet name of Tony Bacala (TFW2005.com). Various sites experience problems with this method including late shipment and missing orders. The arrangement collapses and most fansites stop distributing the comics. Alongside fellow UK fan and distributor Steve Bax (OneShallStand.com), we see the writing on the wall and both open up direct UK based Diamond Distribution accounts. We expand our online offering to start taking orders on any product listed within the UK Previews book. On the downside UK distribution is behind the US, but we are in full control of things.
Alongside selling the comics we also start importing the Japanese Collector's Edition figures and e-Hobby exclusives direct from e-Hobby and selling them at cost to visitors of our website. This means that we are able to offer the figures cheaper than it would cost individuals to buy them from e-Hobby themselves as we split shipping and customs charges across the orders. This proves to be fairly popular though between toy orders, comics orders, new image galleries, news, converting the website to PHP and work, our lives become 100% focused on Transformers from the time the time we wake up until the time we go to sleep. It's exhausting and we ultimately loose a couple of thousand pounds due to comic shipments being damaged within the US.
At the end of 2001 and the start of 2002 we launch a Dinosaur website which is hosted as a subfolder to the main Transformers site. It is short-lived, contains information on Dinosaurs, news on latest discovers and a global programming guide. It signals our second attempt at launching a second website, the first being He-man @ The Moon though we also toy with the idea of G.I-Joe @ The Moon due to our love of that brand as well as interest from fellow board members.
During the run-up to Transforce 2002 we are approached by the organisers and named as the "Official Suggestion Site" for the event. That basically meant that we ran a dedicated forum where anyone could post suggestions for things that that would like to see from the event.
During Transforce 2002 we were interviewed for a Guardian newspaper supplement that was published in September covering Transformers in pop-culture.
Sven Harvey and Simon Plumbe decide that Auto Assembly will take a break after just two years.
NederBotcon(Dutchbot) hold their fourth show with 180 attendees in total.
Botcon 2002 takes place in the US and breaks the two thousand attendee figure for the first time with 2100 official attendees. The Transformers: Armada line is announced as is news that 3H have acquired the official Transformers convention license and that Botcon would make its debut in Europe with a show taking place in the UK. Botcon 2002 would be the final show with the Hartman's as part of 3H, due to well documented events with Glen Hallet, the fallout from those events help cause problems for the European show. The event was being run with the assistance of Jason Joiner (Showmasters and at the time the UK Transformers dealer "OffWorld") and was initially going to be called Botcon Europe but then was then renamed as "DeceptiCon", a name Jason had planned to use for shows in previous years, before finally becoming OTFCC Europe. Glen had decided to rename the whole group as OTFCC (Official Transformers Collectors Convention) due to the Hartman's owning the rights to the name "Botcon", this meant that the European show would be the first event to use the new name.
Due to poor organisation ticket sales were not available until two weeks before the event took place. Even so 240 people attended the event which, whilst less than the previous year's Transforce, was the largest debuting Transformers show in Europe. The show had the only officially licensed European exclusive in Rook though the toys release was delayed until the middle of the following year. It was also the first UK show to have voice actors as guests in the form of Wayne "Wankus" Lewis and Neil Kaplan. Unfortunately for the US actors, this wasn't well planned by the organisers as the Robots In Disguise show had not aired within the UK so very few people knew who they were and even less cared. The show is generally regarded as a huge failure so much so that Glen swore never to run an event outside the US again.
Transforce took place a few months prior to OTFCC Europe and once again broke its own European attendance record with 400 attendees. It would take another 3 years for a European show to break this figure.
Cybcon took place for the third year with an official attendance of 2. That's not a typo.
TransformersCon started in North America with 190 people in attendance
Transformers: Robots in Disguise concluded within the US with the airing of episodes 33-39. Transformers: Armada took its place with episodes 1-16 airing before the end of the year. The show saw the return of Gary Chalk and David Kaye as the voices of Optimus Prime and Megatron.
Dreamwave released the first 6 issues of their Generation One and Armada comics along with the first 3 issues of The War Within.
Transformers: Headmasters was released on DVD in Japan.
Beast Wars Volumes 1 and 2 along with Gen1 seasons 1&2 were released on DVD in the US by Rhinomation.
Titan Books released four more graphic novels Primal Scream, Matrix Quest, Dark Design and Target: 2006.
TFExchange is forced to move domains and becomes TFormers.com which it still uses today.
Friction between staff continues to rise over at Transfandom, the "super-site" combination of Transformers World 2005, Matric Magazine and Transformers News, with things coming to a head as the year ended.
In general Transfandom.com, Seibertron.com and TFormers.com are now all established as the main three fansites though competition between the sites for hits and affiliate money leads to all three often ignoring the other sites existence as well as other sites at time.
With many original fans now in their early 20s, Transformers suddenly starts to become part of general popular culture, with T-shirts and posters being released. This boom is pushed by the extremely successful launch of Dreamwaves' comic book series though the real explosion is over the next 18 months.
This resurgence and global press coverage brings back more fans and results in more websites appearing online. Many of these smaller sites focus on specific areas of the fandom or specific regional fans. Whilst their reach is small, they become a vital source of news for the 1st and 2 nd tier websites. 2nd tier sites openly credit the smaller sites where as more popular resources tended to be less open regarding the origins of stories or images. This is often not down to the owners or even the staff, but due to the popularity of those sites and their message boards, members compete for the attention of staff in the hopes of gaining moderator status. It's an interesting time for Transformers fans with both the positive and negative sides coming to the forefront. This was the period when the "Board Wars" tend to really kick off.
We largely stayed out of it as we were too busy working on our own projects to post that much on other sites and we have never understood the competitive nature of fans and fan sites, when the reason most start in the first place is to celebrate and promote the brand. We have the odd "board refugee" join who were welcomed with comedic posts regarding zombies, cheese and spoof interviews using gifs.
Transformers: Robots In Disguise continued at the start of the year with mainly recolours being released alongside some new moulds. Figures released included Air Attack Optimus Primal, Croytek and Megabolt Megatron
The "Unicron Trilogy" starts with Transformers Armada a show that sees a return to full vehicle vs vehicle Transformers and the introduction of the Mini-Cons.
The toys would be blockier than the Robots In Disguise figures with less complicated designs. This was a deliberate decision to aim the line more towards the American child market that, it was felt, preferred more solid figures. The toys would incorporate action gimmicks which would be unlocked by attaching a Mini-con partner.
The US also saw its first wave of re-issues being released in the form of the Commemorative Series line. The first figures are Optimus Prime, Rodimus Major and Ultra Magnus. Brawn and Windcharger are released as keychain mini-bots.
In Japan the Transformers Collection is released along with the start of the reissues of the Micromaster combiners with the release of Six Tubro and Sixliner. The Collectors Editions toys continued with the New Year Convoy, Fire Guts God Ginrai, gold Meister, Silver Streak, Anime Streak, Crosscut and Road Rage, Megaplex and Sixshot. Japan also saw its domestic release of Armada under the banner Legend of the Micron, more commonly referred to as Micron Legend.
In 2002 we continued to build upon the previous 5 years and bought a total of 177 Transformers. The toys included SCF figures, Beast Machines Silverbolt, Greatshot, some more European exclusive ActionMasters, Robots In Disguise figures, the G2 Aerialbots, Big Black Convoy, more Beast Wars II figures including God Neptune, some pre-Transformers, Armada figures and out first testshots in the form of Supreme Cheetor, Beast Machines Jetstorm (deluxe), BM Snarl, SM, Scavenger, Reissue Jazz (prototype) and the Hard Hero Botcon Unicron Statue
Toy Spotlight for 2002
We have chosen Armada Unicron to be our toy spotlight for 2002 even though the toy was not released until 2003. It's a cop out we know. Up until this point there had not been an official transforming Unicron toy released, so he proved extremely popular amongst fans. In our opinion the "Welcome to Transformers 2010" version is the definitive release of the toy but it is the Armada release that finally gave fans a large Unicron figure.
We would not be suprised if the 2017 Transformers line see's a new Unicron figure released, it would have been 15 years since the Armada version and Hasbro are looking to release at least one large figure per year throughout the "Prime Wars".