BOTCON 2006: Horsing Around in Kentucky

By Tony “Thunder” Klepack

Day 1 (Wednesday): Got to Edmonton International Airport at 5 AM in the morning and was surprised how many people were already in line for the 7 AM flight to Chicago. Went through decently fast and then had to deal with US Customs. When they asked me why I was going to the States, I explained I was going there to bring in the funk and never stop! They politely asked me if it had a value over $200 and I said no, I didn’t think so. They stamped my passport and sent me through, unbeknownst to them to wreak havoc on the innocent American people.
    The wait for the plane was pretty short and boring as was the trip down to Chicago. I sat and read my book, The Sorcerer, volume two: Metamorphosis during the trip down (I mentioned the title because it’s author paid me to endorse it. It will make millions now! Millions, I tells ya!)
    We hit Chicago in the early afternoon (insert time zone madness here) and I went from the terminal I landed at to the next one via a shuttle bus they were running. Chicago is one of the largest airports out there and obviously the coolest–they have a freaking McDonalds inside the airport! You can’t tell me these guys ain’t cool cuz I sure won’t believe it. I had lots of time there–my plane got delayed by 45 minutes so I called back home (50¢ pay phones? Ouch!) and checked in and also passed on some souvenir t-shirts from Chicago (I had thought of getting them on the way back but that never happened). Oh yeah, I saw at least three TF fans waiting in Chicago for the Lexington flight but didn’t talk to them at first (I assumed they were busy doing whatever. Little did I realize I was wrong!)
    The flight to Lexington was quick (45 minutes) and uninteresting except for the fact that we had this smoking hot flight attendant. She was like some raven haired goddess sent to distract me from my holy mission to... er, attend a toy convention. Yeah... I knew she was digging the Thunder vibe I was giving off–poor, silly girl. If only she’d realized it was just a side-effect of the Axe body spray I’d used earlier in the day.
    I resisted her charms with a Vulcan mind focusing technique long enough to de-plane (guess I should’ve waited for the jet to land first, but hindsight is twenty-twenty, right?)
    We got our baggage quickly and I discovered that the airport was small. Smaller then my airport even (about half the size) and that the car rentals were right there when I came down. I should’ve planned to use my discount with AVIS to rent a car but didn’t (I would’ve needed a letter from my manager) and so I went with the original plan and went to wait for the shuttle to the Hyatt instead.
    Outside, I ran into those three TF fans again. We all stood waiting about half an hour for our shuttle. Finally, one of them went inside and called again. It turned out no one had actually called for pick-up! (The welcome/information woman had implied we didn’t need to). That settled, the shuttle arrived and we got on. Two other TF fans came along too and we all casually talked TFs. The three original guys were Frank (had a hat with a bunch of TF toy heads on it); Colin was a guy from Ottawa (fellow Canuck. Woo-hoo!) and the Japanese fan was Tomoya Hosono (I didn’t get the two fans who joined us afterwards names, though. One was from England, I think).
    We hit the Hyatt (boom!) and unloaded our junk. Colin was staying some distance away at the Holiday Inn Express (a mile away) and left pretty quick. I checked in and was happy to know I had a hotel reservation (Master Collector had made it for me, but the first time I’d called to check on it, everyone there was unaware of it). I went up to my room on the eighth floor and discovered that Frank had the very next room beside me (we never really spent any time together but that was kinda neat anyway).
    The rest of Wednesday night was pretty dull. I got there too late to catch the fast food joints in the food court–they all close at 6 PM (how dumb is that?) I got to the hotel at about 6:10 naturally so that option was closed to me. I settled for some chips and chocolate I got at the hotel’s smoke shop (I didn’t yet know the area and any potential restaurants very well). I walked down one street and explored it only to find absolutely nothing of interest (old churches, old houses, some historic site and lots of construction). I came back to the hotel and went down to the early pre-reg but that was exclusively for tour and customizing class people (there was another early guy there that wasn’t in either and I overheard them tell him that). I did see the exclusive recolor of Tigatron before many people, though.
    Went back to my room, fell asleep later on (how exciting!)

Day 2 (Thursday): Slow start to the morning. I went to bed about 2 am the previous night and woke up refreshed at 10 AM this morning. Went down to the food court and got a sub at Subway.
    I also took the time to walk around downtown some more, in the hopes of finding something of interest. I went the exact opposite direction from the previous night and found more construction (made it hard to get around on foot). I saw the police station, a big bus terminal, the court houses and some really old styled buildings but nothing interesting in terms of places to shop (like a comic shop or something along those lines). I went a certain distance (maybe ten blocks) and found nothing much. If I’d carried on, I would’ve eventually hit more residential area so I turned and went up a block to Main Street and back down that way. I did find the theater we were going to watch TF:TM at as well as another Subway (which was good–they opened much earlier and we used them twice during the trip). I headed back to the hotel...
    I was bored so I went up to my room and watched movies for a while (Spy Hard, some of A Lot Like Love–the first half of it wasn’t bad but they strung it out too long). It was afternoon when I eventually came back down and waited around the lobby for a while for Matthew to show up. He came not too much later after that (along with Eric from MN, who I recall from last year’s show). We dropped his bags up in the room and decided to cab it over to the Fayette Mall (the Bluegrass area’s biggest mall! Plug, plug).
    We got a cab from Hillbilly Cab (actually American Taxi–but my name was more accurate). At first, I thought our driver was a man but it turned out to be a really ugly woman (45-50ish). She yakked on her blue tooth phone for a while and smoked up a storm on the way there (charming).
    We looked around the mall briefly, checking out EB Games and Hot Topic. I bought some used PS2 games at EB Games (didn’t get a bag for them–apparently they can’t be bothered having them “carryin’ thangs” for customers). Hot Topic had nothing of interest... we went outside to this Mexican restaurant (I forget the name) and had an excellent meal (great place, great service) while discussing TF issues of the day.
    Afterward, since there was nothing else of interest to us in the mall, we went across the street to Target and looked around. We checked the toys over and I found some SW ornaments of interest, which I promptly bought. I also picked up the 3" Titanium Battlestar Galactica (have yet to see it where I live).
    It was getting on in time and the preregistration had begun back at the Hyatt. We called Hillbilly Cab and waited for about 30 minutes for the taxi to arrive. It finally did and this guy was even more of a character then the first cabbie. He turns on the rock music, asked what we were in town for and told us we should make sure to get out to the bars and get, tail (he put it more crudely but I don’t want to type what he actually said here). He was busy telling us about how many great women lived in Lexington and how they were all easy, etc. He asked Matthew what he did for a living and Matthew replied he worked at a Christian College (it was hilarious! I had to keep from laughing... but it was funny when Matthew told him that and he kind of tried to backtrack on what he’d just said). I love moments like this...  The guy also told us he had a wife and kids and might go check out Botcon (dunno if he ever did or not–likely, not).
    Eric went off to his registration session while Matthew and I went back to our room (Eric was in the earlier session; we were in the later one). We watched some TV and eventually came back down about 9:30 pm.
    The lines were halved by the time we hit them but unfortunately my line took forever to move while Matthew lucked out and got through in about half the time. I think everyone in my line stopped to look their toy sets over, smell them and maybe even bite ‘em to make sure they was real gold. Finally, I got to the front of the line and she gave me my set. I didn’t realize until I opened it that it was the 2005 set (the boxes look too much alike). Fortunately, I told her they’d put some of the wrong sets out and they quickly fixed it (I hope no one else got the wrong ones). Satisfied all was right in the world, we returned to our room and put our stuff down.
    We returned to the lobby and Matthew made for the MSTF panel while I had intended to return to the club store booth and get the other toys they’d put out (they had a Megatron! Sweet!) We parted and I looked at my watch to realize it was already 10 PM! The store was closed and I’d thought I’d run out of time to get my extra toys...
    I went to the MSTF presentation as well and sat through it. There were a lot more people then last year there. It was the same thing as usual, some funny stuff, some not so much... some people in the back seemed to be super hyper about it–possibly they’d gotten liquored up good before the session? (Something for me to try next time, perhaps?)
    We went back to our room and ended the day with a session of slumber.

Day 3 (Friday): We got up early Friday morning and went over to that Subway about five blocks away from the hotel and had subs for breakfast (said hi to Jarred while we were at it). While there, I pointed out the theater I’d found the previous day and we verified it was indeed the place where the TF movie was to be shown that night. Matthew and I also got some more pics of miscellaneous things around the city scape before returning to the hotel.
    At 9 AM was the “Voicing the Beast Wars” panel with Scott McNeil (Rattrap/Silverbolt/Dinobot and Waspinator), Blu Mankuma (Tigatron), Pauline Newstone (Airrazor) and Richard Newman (Rhinox/Tankor). It was the usual sort of thing for this panel–Scott dominated it, as usual, while adding the new trick of eating a box of donuts on stage into the mix (the man is a genius!) I felt bad for Pauline because she didn’t get nearly as many questions directed at her. Richard and Blu managed to hold their own. Scott told us Beast Wars holds a special place in his heart and wasn’t just a show, it was an experience. A precious, wonderful experience he will never forget (how sweet!)
    10 AM was the “Transformers Design Decisions - Hasbro” which was moderately interesting but a bit on the technical side. Mostly why they did this and that while not doing some other thing. How they come up with something cool but sometimes it’s impractical for cost or market considerations, etc.
    11 AM had “Board Wars” but I skipped that opening session and went over to the club store booth instead. I checked on whether or not I could still get the extra toys and it turned out I could, so I bought ‘em (I accidentally skipped the line too–hope no one thinks I did it on purpose. Really, though, lines are for peasants! Hah!) I got Megatron, Laserbeak, Buzzsaw and Waspinator as well as the convention T-shirt. I skipped out on the sweater (which I liked), the caps/toque (didn’t like) and the carrying bag (nice bag but far too expensive for me to justify buying). I considered getting another copy of the con comic but decided not to in favor of waiting for the upcoming general Diamond release instead.
    I took my toys up to my room and this may have been the occasion where I saw a fan from Saskatchewan on the elevator (or maybe that was later? I dunno). Anyway, it’s the province next to mine so that was cool. We need as many Canadians at this show as possible! Canada! Canada! Canada! WOOOO!
    Er, yes, anyway...
    I came back part way through the “Creating History” panel with Simon Furman and listened to him field questions from TF fans. Some of them were good, some not so good... the panel didn’t yield too much of interest (that I can recall, anyway) although he did say he wants to make this new IDW universe more logical and also that he had an old script of Marvel issue #80 for sale at the IDW table.
    Next was the “Official TCC newsletter and convention comic” panel with Pete Sinclair, Forest Lee, Lanny Lanthem and a couple of additional artists who’s names I forgot/didn’t hear. It was an okay panel but having to sit there and listen to all the gushing comments about that terrible club comic was hard to stomach (I just think it’s a mess in story terms. Conversely, as someone pointed out they only have six pages an issue every two months to work with–i.e. not much space to do anything good with). Pete asked everyone for contributions to “our” magazine (I’ll get right on that, Pete!) They also fielded the now-inevitable “when are you going to compile the comic” question. Matthew also asked if they might consider making the pages in the magazine bigger but Brian (who was also there) said it would cost more money (I knew he’d say that and even predicted it before we came to the panel). Brian also talked about the club Astrotrain exclusive a little and the troubles they’d had with Takara and getting the damn thing produced (he also mentioned another upcoming toy for next year).
    I also took the time to thank Brian for the free trip I’d won to this show (from last year’s draw). He asked if everything was good and I told him it was (my momma always told me to have mannahs!)
    At 2 PM was the opening of the dealer room for the private preview (that is, for badge holder/registrants). We saw Max Prohaska then–he’d gotten in later and was bringing back his exclusive toys set. I told him about the extra toys (Megaton, etc) and that if he wanted them he’d better act fast because they were really limited and would be sold out by the next day. He said he’d better go get them and presumably did.
    I went into the dealer room and bought a bunch of junk. Somehow, I missed that there was a shipping booth but later on Matthew told me it was there. I’ll describe my list of booty later (and maybe what I bought too!)
    We ran into Tony Tuski and Rose Ward sometime during the day in the lobby and said hi. That afternoon, we all went to dinner in the food court. Additionally, Rose’s shadow, Virginia was there and a woman named Barb, Max and some others (don’t know their names).
    That night was the Games night and Matthew assumed it was an “Attactix” thing so we didn’t go since neither of us was interested. We went down later for some reason and discovered it had actually been board games, not Attactix after all. Oh well...
    Rosemary also spent much of the weekend in her Soundwave costume and Friday was the first day I saw her wear it. Another friend of theirs had a Starscream costume too (anyone who was at Botcon saw them at some point or the other).
    That night was the theatrical showing of the latest version of Transformers: The Movie on DVD. Not everyone went (Rose and Tony) but many did and we were treated to a lovely old theater done in the classic design (this place wasn’t as big or nice as the Fort Wayne theater in 2000 but still pretty nice in its own way). The Hasbro people and Sony marketing woman introduced the new DVD and gave out a couple of posters of it in a raffle.
    The showing was somewhat disappointing, though. Although I enjoyed the Audiovox DVD and FBI warning scenes immensely, the actual movie was not that great. For one thing, the sound for about half the movie was terrible, being far too quiet. Also, for supposedly being re-mastered, the print sure had enough scratches and dirt on it (especially the first half of the movie). I could’ve sworn I’d seen the odd scene here and there that was new, but I was tired and likely imagining things. I almost fell asleep by the movie’s end, incidentally.

Day 4 (Saturday): We got up and went to Starbuck’s this morning for a muffin and coffee (well, I had a Jones Soda Cream Soda–the best in existence anywhere on Earth and surrounding star systems). We were asked about Botcon by some dork working there and told him what we could before leaving for the con.
    It was also the first big panel day and there were several of interest. “Cartoon Creation” with Aaron Archer and David McDermott was okay. Apparently, David is a freelancer that worked on the Cybertron cartoon dub and tried to make it appeal to U.S. fans (should’ve tried harder). They also discussed story considerations for both Hasbro and Takara, outlining the two companies different needs (this was also mentioned last year). Many fans seem to want a new domestically produced cartoon and I think even Aaron was amicable toward the idea. He didn’t say he hated the Japanese shows or anything but said he likes more stand alone episodes to help sell their toys versus a large, all encompassing arc like in the recent Japanese shows.
    I went to the dealer room this day and shipped all my toys with the shipping company that had come to the show. Later on, I bought a couple more toys and just brought them back with me on the plane. I also stopped in at one of the mall’s stores, Kathy’s Hallmark and bought two Lexington KY shirts as souvenirs.
    I came back half way through IDW’s panel, entitled “Transformers Comics - Past, Present and Future”. I misread my schedule and didn’t realize it was on (I enjoy comic panels a lot). I missed the slide show but got back to hear many questions people were asking. They run the gambit from stuff like “can you ever publish DW’s stuff” to “why a Sixshot spotlight” and so on. After hearing them this year, I’m far less confident that they’ll ever finish DW’s stuff off (but I don’t really care, anyway). They did promise to keep some of DW’s stuff in print, though.
    After that, was the “Hasbro New Product Unveiling” panel. The room was crammed to capacity and then some for that and unfortunately, we learned very little new or interesting. They confirmed a lot of stuff we already knew, like a Cliffjumper repaint of Classics Bumblebee, a TRU Soundwave reissue of the Soundblaster mold (but in blue); a Fallen 6" titanium toy, a new WWI Megatron 6" titanium (a true representation of him, this time). There was no big surprises like new movie based toys or anything, though (well, nothing beyond vague hints anyway). The panel also ended with a preview of the Transformers movie from next year. It was disappointing–all we saw was some cars driving around and some explosions (whoopie!) No actual Transformers, though... some fans I overheard were gushing about how great the commercial was–I guess they’re easily impressed. The thing also started by revealing that Michael Bay apparently only hires men and women named Michael Bay to work for him (talk about egotism!)
    1 PM was a repeat of the BW voice actor panel so I skipped it and went for lunch, I think. I looked around the dealer room some more too and came back towards the end of the Club Roundtable with Brian and the others. I caught little of interest but I know it was all the usual dumb questions and complaints anyway, so why bother?
    The next panel was Paul Hitchens’ “From Drawing Board to toy” panel. He actually spoke clearly this year which helped a lot. A lot of his concept drawings of old Microchange/Diaclone stuff wasn’t new to me but his prototype pics were. He had to keep telling people to stop taking pics (they’d come in late, not hear him having said that and do it anyway). I’m not sure why he was so worried–he said himself that he’d put the pics online anyway, so what’s the difference one way or the other, really (no, I didn’t take any pics myself–I can hear people fine). A good panel if you’re into the toy designs workings...
    I skipped the Peter Cullen panel. Its not that I didn’t want to hear it but I was really tired even during Paul’s panel and wanted to get out of the ever more crowded panel room before it was chock full of Cullen fans. I also didn’t want to nod off during the panel... I came back later and listened from outside the panel room but couldn’t hear much so I just gave up on it.
    That night was the Casino night and awards party dinner. We all lined up on the lower level of the hotel around the perimeter of the food court and eventually piled in to the lower ballroom/whatever it was called. Brian told us all we didn’t have to rush, the buffet would be open all night. So what does everyone do? Piles up in a thick line around the buffet tables like the food was going to run away from them, of course! I got some potatoes, some salad and then closed in on the exposed desert table. Of course, everyone eventually scattered away from the buffet tables but by then everyone had eaten and no one cared anymore. A lot of people complained that it should’ve been organized better (I agree). There also wasn’t enough seating and I ended up standing for some of the dinner until Rose came and found me and told me I could join them at their table.
    They had a guy who is a TF fan playing his music but I never heard it so I can’t say if it’s anything good or not. Matthew said it had been hard to hear over all the other noise.
    There were several casino games being played but I didn’t bother with them. For one thing, I’m not much of a gambler (I know, and here you thought I was perfect. I am, almost, except for this one weakness). Also, even if I had wanted to play the games, were would I have sat? Every game table was full to the brim as well!
    I went upstairs for a few minutes then came back down and talked to Matthew and this guy who had designed the Devastator statue in the art contest. Also got some pics and hung around until they did the awards. The Devastator guy was hoping he’d win in his category and I told him he was a shoe-in for it (I was right, naturally. He won top prize). The only travesty in the art contest was that whoever did that beautiful Tigatron painting didn’t win anything.
    They also announced next year’s Botcon location and time. Summer, so all those whiners out there can shut up for once and it will be in Rhode Island–so Hasbro doesn’t have to do any traveling to get to the show (they didn’t say that but its an obvious advantage for them). Summer, so they can capitalize on the movie’s opening (that left me wondering when the GIJOE con is going to be happening, though). Matthew said he already has plans for that time next year (some festival he goes to) so he’ll be missing his first Botcon in ten years. As for me, I’m still up in the air on whether I plan to go or not...

    We went to the lobby and talked with Tim Finn and Steve Stonebraker for a while about comics, etc. Tim also gave Matthew a copy of some fanzine he’d made (a series of comic strips, from what I could tell). Rose and Tony had drinks with the Hasbro people and they told her how wonderful her Soundwave costume was, etc.

Day 5 (Sunday): We went to some kind of coffee bar/deli place in the little mall on Sunday and had muffins for breakfast again. We were joined there by Tomoya and we talked Japanese TFs with him. Matthew wanted to know if the 80s TF shows were any good or not and he gave his opinions (basically, no). He said he liked G1 best and Beast Wars while he felt the other shows were done up to be comedies and that it undermined the seriousness of the idea (his English isn’t perfect but good enough to communicate his ideas).
    We went to the dealer room and off to our separate things... Matthew went and got some of the voice actors autographs. I gave the dealer room a couple of last looks over before heading to the panel room. Oh yeah, I got a pick of Colin and Rose before I left (he was leaving Sunday afternoon so I wanted to get one of him before he left).
    I went to the IDW table and talked with Simon (at least I think that was Sunday. I may have my days confused). I bought a copy of his comic script and had him autograph it. I also told him I’ve been enjoying the TF comics so far and asked about Shockwave’s seeding of the worlds with Energon and how the other TFs have/can survive on other worlds without energon (apparently they’ve been adapting to other fuel sources as well). Unlike in Botcon 98, I managed to converse with him without coming across like a nutcase fan so that was cool. He also said his “The Engine” web comic is on hiatus but not necessarily forgotten. They’ve just been too busy to get anywhere near it.
    I caught the tail end of the “Faction Feud - The Board Wars” game show and waited for the
re-run of the “Transformers Comics - Past, Present and Future” panel. I watched the whole thing this time and Chris Ryall offered to kill off the human cast in the comics but I seriously hope he doesn’t as I could grow to like them. He also showed us some art and unused ideas they’ve had and some panel previews of upcoming stuff. I asked if they’d approached Bob Budiansky to do anything actually new and he said Bob’s not doing anything new at the moment (other then the TF movie adaption) but they’d love to see his take on something. Furman told us Geoff Senior’s too busy to do any new comics (he’s running his own business now).
    I also attended some of the final “Creating History” panel and a bit of the TF board wars game thing in its final round. During the “Creating History” panel (I think) someone asked if they could get Manny Galan back to do more artwork. I can only assume that person was high on something. I went up to Simon after the panel and told him I always thought Galan’s artwork stunk. He agreed with me but tried to sound diplomatic at the same time. Oh yeah, I also asked (during the panel) if he could keep the whole dimension hopping in his comics to a minimum because its become overused and he said he’d try (because someone asked about if/when Galvatron will come to this comic universe and he hinted Galvatron would be from another universe and not Megatron–or at least, not our Megatron). He also said he wanted to make Megatron more logical and calculating and less of the insane moron he often was in the original book.
    I milled about for a while during the day, went to the dealer room several times, snapped pics of stuff, went back and forth to the panel room and my own room a few times. I also hunted down the hidden Video/Courtesy room and watched a couple of episodes of “My Little Transformer” (Transformers toys and My Little Pony–don’t ask!)
    Also saw Lanny Lathem in the dealer room, shook his hand and told him they did a great job on the show this year (and last year’s too). He said thanks and was glad to hear it (I was glad to say it!)
    By the end of the day, I was done with Botcon–I’d done my final round of the dealer room and didn’t care to stay for the trip winner announcement (I was ineligible since I won last year, so there was no concern I’d miss out on my name being called).
    We got together with Tony, Rose and their cadre of fan elite and watched some TF and GIJOE episodes respectively. We made fun of the bad writing and plot logic holes and ordered pizza. Unfortunately, the pizza got lost on its first run until Rose called the pizza place back, mad as hell and demanded they bring it back to us, which they did. Finally, we said our goodbyes to them and went back to our room and to sleep early (Matthew had to be up at 6:15 AM and so did I apparently).

Day 6 (Monday): Matthew left real early (7 AM) for his 9 AM flight (I think it was at 9, anyway). Like with last year, I never really fell back asleep after he got up and so I showered and got my stuff ready. I went over to that far Subway one last time and had breakfast then returned to the mall/food court (which was still closed). I checked out a sports memorabilia store and then went back to my room and watched TV for a while to kill time. I also booked a spot on the 12:10 PM shuttle to the airport.
    Finally, I checked out about 11 AM and sat around the outside for about an hour. I said goodbye to Kyle, the two guys who did Devastator (never got their names). Also talked to another Canadian fan who was from Winnipeg apparently. Hoped the shuttle and rode back to the airport with Eric and another fan from Texas (I know him by sight but not his name).
    I wasn’t leaving for five hours and waited around the airport for two hours. Then around 3 PM decided to check-in. The guy at the United counter told me that there were thunderstorms in Chicago, delaying the flights (I recall seeing that screen say that the 1 PM flight was delayed as well). He offered to give me an alternate route and I accepted (for some reason). I hopped a US Airways flight to Charlotte, NC (first time on US Airways and to NC, for that matter). They have a big airport but I wasn’t there very long (I had time to stop at the bathroom then walk to my gate) before taking a 3 hr. flight to Phoenix, AZ. I got there literally when my connecting flight to Edmonton was boarding and ran through the airport to my next flight (I’ve literally been to Phoenix for two minutes!) Fortunately, I got my flight and made it back to Edmonton aboard the America West flight (same company as US Airways, apparently).
    Went through customs, got my car and went home. My tour of the United States was over! Finished! But Botcon never truly ends...  Boo-yah! (I just wanted to end it on that note. :)
(End Transmission).

General Miscellaneous Comments: I bought a lot of reissues this time around. G1 Smokescreen, G1 Grapple, G1 Astrotrain, G1 Thundercracker, G1 Dirge, G1 Inferno. I also found a seller selling cheap Tap Outs from Botcon 2002 ($10 each. I’ve seen them for as much as $40 online. I used to have one but sold it). I also got the 1/10 Robotech toy of Rick Fokker’s fighter (it looks a bit like Jetfire and it’s relatively cheap). I bought three used PS2 games at EB games–Midway Treasures, vol.1; Contra: Shattered Soldier and Maximo: Ghosts to Glory. I bought ten UK TF and GIJOE comics from Matthew (extras he brought) and the TF Spotlight: Nightbeat from IDW. I got the extra Botcon exclusive toys (Megatron/Waspinator and Laserbeak/Buzzsaw). Titanium Battlestar Galactica and some Star Wars car thingies at Target. A signed script of issue #80 of Transformers. Plus, I got every freebie going–Autobot/Decepticon magnets from Hasbro; Autobot keychain from Hasbro; art postcards from IDW; TF movie posters from MC; cards advertising the XBOX 360 game of the upcoming movie and anything else I could get but may have forgotten.
    I think this year’s show was largely successful and they obviously acted on many suggestions we made last year (like putting the line signs for pre-registration where we could see them). I still would’ve liked a mic for the audience to ask questions but it seemed like everyone was louder this time around–a few people were still hard to hear but it wasn’t as bad as last year. I think the smorg ended up unintentionally being a mess... maybe if they do it again next time they could have us come in with segments or perhaps call certain tables up at a time? It just didn’t work as it was...  Also, I’d like to see something other then a casino thing next year–it’s an okay idea but in the name of variety I would like something different.
    I liked the convention facilities very much (we had the hotel with attached convention center. A little mall/food court area and also a sports arena on the far end) but not the fact the food court closed so early all the time (not the show organizers fault, but...) I also found the area of the downtown to be quite boring–you needed a car to get anywhere good (I’m kicking myself for not renting a car like I’d thought about doing before I came). Compare this to Texas last year and the mall/retail common across the street and one can see why it would be a letdown. I understand they might want to keep the money flowing to the dealers at the show but I like coming to the States and shopping generally too.
    My favorite toys from the show include Optimus Primal, Megatron, Waspinator and Cheetor/Tigatron. I do wonder if they’ll have a year with less then five in a set–they did say they’d vary things in the 2005 organizers panel but so far we have the same formula. I’d be happy to see a year with a set of three deluxes (or megas) and then the optional toys.
    That first day to day and a half, far too many people left their cell phones on in the panel room–it got annoying very fast. As time went on, I think people finally got the hint and set them to vibrate/off. For next year, maybe they can post a sign or two and remind people to shut them off.  Also, that very last row of seats in the panel room made navigating the back of the room very difficult (too tight!) Next year I hope they don’t leave it like that... it would’ve also been nice to have had the panel room a little closer to the actual sales room (last year was too close. This year was too far).
    Lexington is siren capital of the south eastern United States. I swear I heard at least three sirens every damn day–it was extremely annoying (all heard when I/we were in the hotel room). It seemed to rain a lot while we were there and one night (Thursday) we even had sleet (but it didn’t accumulate or anything).
    Jon and Karl Hartman sold their massive collection at the show and many were lined up for a piece of that action. I skimmed their both Sunday and saw what was left... interesting but beyond my price range mostly.
    Only saw Scott McNeil twice all weekend... wonder where he got to most of the time (part of me thinks he was in his room eating Krispy Kreme donuts). Scott, we want to help you beat this thing–this terrible habit you have but you’ve got to accept our help. Okay, buddy? Okay.
    For no apparent reason, I felt compelled to mention here that I handed out a couple of copies of my latest fanzine, TF: BOP #28 at the show. (shameless plug :)
    I had a good time (although I wish I could’ve seen/done more) and spent a decent amount of money. Still uncertain about whether or not I’ll be there next year or not (but I am leaning to maybe).
    Hear the thunder...

Tony “Thunder” Klepack