We've come to expect the unexpected of IDW and James Roberts since ongoing Transformers comic series More Than Meets The Eye (MTMTE) began, and now well into its second 'season', the surprises and unexpected twists have not slowed down. From the set of Friends to charisma vampires, the creators of MTMTE have taken this Transformers title to completely new levels while arguably never losing touch with what makes it so popular and essential at its core. If you're not averse to the risk of possible spoilers, you can see the freshly revealed preview of MTMTE #45's first page above, featuring a photograph of actual G1 Transformers toys in the bottom panel. That photo, like all the other panels on the page, depicts Spinister, Crankcase, Krok and Misfire - the beloved Scavengers (absent since issue 8 - kinda) - in all sorts of bizarre situations that have occurred off-panel throughout most of season 1 and 2 while we've been concentrating elsewhere. But where did that photo come from, and how did it come about?
In late June, I was contacted by MTMTE writer James Roberts about a photo project he wanted my assistance with, and frankly with my enthusiasm for the series (despite being a late joiner) I would have been insane to turn away from any such opportunity. James had kindly mentioned in the past how he liked some of the toy photography I had done for this blog and my articles elsewhere. I was asked whether I would be able to provide a photograph for an upcoming issue of MTMTE.
"So, I'm in the middle of writing the two-part Scavengers story for MTMTE #45 and #46. Because it's been about two years (in-universe) since we last saw the Scavengers properly, #45 is going to open with a ... recap page which hints at all the madcap adventures that Krok & Co have had that we've not been privy to.
"Anyway, I'd love for this ... recap page to climax with a single panel where Misfire, Krok, Crankcase and Spinister are literally photographed in toy form, against a real backdrop (grass is best, I think). And Krok will be saying: "I know what's happened. It's obvious what's happened. What I want to know is how we can make it un-happen!"
James had also expressed an admiration for my collection, which gave me heart palpitations because I had long since been using pictures of other people's G1 collections or my old collection, and in June my G1 collection was the smallest it had ever been, less than double figures! When I realised what was required for the photo - G1 toys of the Scavengers - I had to go shopping. I was able to snag Crankcase, Krok and Spinister in one fell swoop from UK TF dealer Paul "The Spacebridge" Hitchens, and Misfire came from another fine UK gentleman named Paul via Twitter. I had considered borrowing the necessary figures off friends, but when it dawned on me that these toys could become a little bit well known for featuring in the comic itself (should they be used), I knew I had to buy them and keep them. It took a couple of weeks but the toys arrived pre-deadline and I started to take some layout images for James to decide what he preferred.
It was decided that the best configuration was image 3, with Krok facing Crankcase and the Targetmasters flanking them. The thing is, with an opportunity like this for my work to be featured in what is rapidly becoming known as the definitive Transformers fiction of our time, the extra mile seemed entirely necessary. James didn't require it, but I suggested taking my Crankcase and removing a suitable portion of his helmet to simulate the awful head injury he features in the comic. I even bought a spare Crankcase off eBay US (which came bloody fast) as a spare should things go awry, and plus it had better stickers to transplant. Crankcase followed me to work one day and with the use of the construction department's bench grinder...
...Crankcase had his war wound!
Next, I needed to fulfil the other part of my obligation, taking an image of the Scavengers outside but making sure that any obvious Earth-identifiers were not visible in the photograph. Cue 6am trip on a Saturday with superhero Stevil33 to Alexandra Palace, North London on a beautiful summer morning for sneaking around the golf course, getting covered in dew and generally freezing my (exposed) ass off.
The uneven terrain in 3 separate locations, despite makeshift weeding by Steve and myself, together with the wind made photography a far harder proposition than I prepared for. I imagine had I actually sat down and thought the whole thing through more carefully, I could have come up with a more elegant solution to the mission, but the above was the result. Ironically, G1 Misfire with those comically large feet that he actually made fun of ex-Scavenger Flywheels for, simply would not stand up. The number of ruined photos that featured Misfire taking a dive forwards or backwards beggared belief! Here he is, mid-topple:
With three prime locations chosen, and over a hundred photographs, I set about making a shortlist for James to look through and select a winner. Here's a taster of what I sent and what other images /locations were in contention to be featured in the MTMTE #45 recap:
I won't lie, some images needed rogue weeds and blades of grass removing via photoshop. Mercifully, James and seemingly IDW were pleased with the outcome and the last image in this article was selected for use in MTMTE #45, although interestingly James had originally suggested the first image out of the above two would be the one.
I want to extend my deepest gratitude to James Roberts and IDW for what has been an incredibly enjoyable, entertaining and exciting project that I really had no right to be privileged enough to be considered for. I could spend half a day reciting more worthy toy photographers and fans who have been dedicated supporters of MTMTE or Transformers comics from day 1, not some latecomer who didn't even own the necessary toys (and had never previously owned them!).
To know that something I've done has been featured in the pages of what is easily now my favourite comic series of all time, my definitive Transformers fiction, is a feeling I cannot adequately describe. Maybe the only appropriate phrase is "Wam, Bam, In the van!".
James Roberts himself does have a lot to answer for, though. This project reminded me quite profoundly how much I love Generation 1 Transformers, something I'd buried under mounds of Masterpiece, 3rd party, Animated, TFP Wheeljacks and RID2015. The purchase of Misfire and Spinister specifically ended my forays into other more recent Transformers lines and set me back on the trail of Generation 1 toys I had previously owned or had yet to own. I'm now looking at a shelf full of all 1987 Headmasters and Targetmasters, and it fills me with joy.
He's also guaranteed that I will continue to collect every single cover variant of every MTMTE issue. Thank you, James! No, sincerely, thank you.
Enjoy MTMTE #45 (preview)!
All the best